Heirloom Squash Medley with Arugula-Tahini Vinaigrette, Fried Sage, Pomegranate and Pumpkin Seeds

November 23, 2022

I love winter squash–so sweet and nutty, rich and warm. Simply roasting the many varieties will give you a platter full of deep flavors and silky textures. But adding Chef Sarah Stegner’s brilliant green arugula-tahini vinaigrette, plus fried sage leaves, pomegranate, and pumpkin seeds puts this dish in another realm of delicious: Perfect for your Thanksgiving table.

“There are so many kinds of squash to work with!” says Stegner of Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook, IL. “Each of the local farms I source squash from seems to have one type it specializes in: Froggy Meadow grows beautiful Black Futsu and Blue Hubbard. Three Sisters does giant Butternut. And Nichols—while offering some of the more traditional squashes such as Acorn and Delicata, also grows Butterkins with really intense flavor.” 

Stegner created this medley as the opening course for a special dinner celebrating Native American Heritage Month.  Simply roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper, the squash is very easy to make at home.  So is the vinaigrette and garnish.  

“A lot of home cooks shy away from fresh sage because it has such a powerful flavor,” notes Stegner. “But frying it transforms the herb and perfectly mellows it.” Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Verdant Veg + Chevre Tart

November 4, 2022

I love vegetable tarts—so versatile and pretty. I first made this one with brilliant yellow and green zucchini, patty pan squash, uncured garlic tops, sugar snap peas and tarragon—plus fresh farm eggs and chevre from the cheesemonger. But it works just fine substituting green onion for the uncured garlic tops, and omitting the patty pan, for fall and winter brunch or lunch.  Serve the finished tart hot or room temperature. I like to add a little smear of Dijon mustard, and a fresh lettuce salad. Continue Reading…

Festive Roast

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Grapes, Shallots, Fingerlings, Pomegranate & Herbs

October 20, 2022

I often hum in the kitchen, especially when the meal prep is for a special gathering. For this delicious pork loin dish–with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme all fragrantly present, it had to be Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”

I first encountered a version of this recipe 17 years ago, in acclaimed chef Suzanne Goin’s James Beard Award winning cookbook, “Sunday Suppers at Lucques.” Goin’s Los Angeles restaurant Lucques lasted for nearly 21 years, closing in 2020, but the beautiful recipes in her cookbook live on! The New York Times did a version of the loin 16 years ago, replacing spring onions and haricot verts with shallots, grapes and fingerling potatoes, which I liked very much. Ours has a tart/sweet sauce made with fresh-pressed pomegranate juice and white wine to go over the top.

Honoring Goin’s practice of using best possible ingredients, I make this with farm-sourced produce, and use French Dijon for the mustard marinade (Maille is good—Bornier, even better!) I use champagne grapes, but seedless red grapes (choose small, firm ones) works as well. Continue Reading…

Hot Stuff

Chile Rellenos (Stuffed Poblano Peppers) with Rojo Sauce

September 26, 2022

Chile relleno, that egg-puffed, cheese-filled, roasted poblano marvel, is what I order when we get special Mexican food-to-go. But stuffed peppers taste best when they’re minutes out of the fryer, and to-go anything is often lukewarm by the time you get it home. So last week, finding great green stacks of perfect poblanos next to the tomatoes and garlic at the farm stand, I headed back to the kitchen to make this dish. Continue Reading…

Vintage Veg

Spinach Souffle

September 9, 2022

As a child, the dreaded words, “Eat your spinach!” had me pushing the boiled mass around on my plate, trying to figure out how to slip it into a napkin and beat a hasty retreat before being found out 🙂 But as an adult, I learned spinach could be quick sauteed with garlic (delicious!) eaten fresh in a salad, swirled in a soup, tucked into spanikopita, or folded in a fluffy omelet. So much better than boiled! This gluten-free souffle is another way to work spinach magic and is a more lightly textured alternative to creamed spinach.  It does have 1/3 cup of half-and-half in it, but that scant bit of dairy is balanced out by 12 cups of fresh spinach and there is no egg yolk, flour or cheese in the recipe. Three whipped egg whites give the souffle its lift. As it bakes, the souffle will puff up a bit, and crown. It makes a good side dish with poultry or roast beef. I like to make it in 2, two-cup casserole dishes, but you can put it all in one 4-cup baking dish if you prefer. Continue Reading…

Baked Treats

Peanut Butter + Banana Muffins

September 3, 2022

When I was in kindergarten, my best friend’s mom—a prima ballerina from Australia, took it upon herself to teach the girls in our class ballet.  I loved leaping across the dark wooden floorboards in my pink leotard, (my tights forever bagging at the knee and ankle,) doing my utmost to transform into a swan. Afterward, Yvonne’s mom would make us toasted peanut butter and banana sandwiches at their apartment. Those flavors together still bring me back. Here, they are combined in a delicious muffin recipe adapted from baker Jessica Grossman’s original, with swirls of peanut butter cream cheese frosting on top.

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Cake Walk

New York Crustless Cheesecake with Candied Lemon Wheels

September 3, 2022

I’ve made many cheesecakes over the years, but this one is Dad’s favorite—perfect for his 96th birthday! Smooth and creamy, with a little lemon in the batter and glistening wheels of candied lemon on top, it is both pretty to look at and delicious to eat at special gatherings. Made the day ahead of your event and chilled overnight, you’ll add the garnishes right before you serve.

When ready to begin, set all of your ingredients out for ½ hour or so to bring them to room temperature. To speed prep, I use two mixing bowls for my stand mixer, one to beat the sour cream and eggs, the other to whip the cream cheese and butter to a perfectly smooth consistency. You’ll combine the two mixtures with a bit of cornstarch, lemon and vanilla and pour into a 9 x 3-inch springform pan. Set in a pan of boiling water, the cake takes 2 and a quarter hours to bake, and another 12 hours to restfully chill.  Note: An added bonus with this recipe? Save the lemon-simple syrup after making the candied lemons! It is delicious in a cocktail, or with your iced tea. Continue Reading…

Rice Entrees

Asian Salmon, Rice + Egg Bowl

September 3, 2022

When I have the chance to make a special breakfast or brunch, this is my favorite. Perfectly sauteed fillet of salmon, over short grain sushi rice, with a little soy/rice vinegar sauce, toasted seaweed laver, sizzled green onion, and a sunny egg with toasted black sesame sprinkles. A garnish of freshly shredded carrot and red and white cabbage adds a bit of crunch. Note: I toast the sesame seeds and prepare the rice (using a rice cooker) ahead of time to streamline prep. You’ll need just one pan for everything else. Continue Reading…

American Classica

Southern Squash Casserole

September 1, 2022

Squash casserole is a classic Southern comfort dish. Nearly every community cookbook south of the Mason-Dixon line has a version—most with mayonnaise in them and many telling you to boil the squash, which can easily overcook it. So, I was delighted to see the New York Times’ give it a go. Their recipe mixed the traditional cracker crumb topping right in with the squash—a great way to soak up the excess liquid rather than having to strain it out. But, theirs also had you boil and puree the squash, for a result that was disappointingly pudding-like. For ours, we kept the lovely squash texture by cutting the veg into small cubes. We left out the old-school mayonnaise, included some home-pickled cherry peppers, and gilded the dish with a toasted brioche crumb topper. It is SO good!

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