Savory galette makes a fantastic meal

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Happy new year! Last month I treated myself to a new cookbook: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Smitten Kitchen blog, it’s a great one, filled with well-composed photos and recipes that are manageable for the average cook. Sometimes I head there when I’m looking for inspiration.

The first recipe I tried from the cookbook was the recipe for a Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette. While the galette didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped—I halved the recipe and forgot to use half the olive oil, so that overpowered the flavors and made it oily—I loved the recipe for the pastry part. It had a lovely flakiness about it. Since I still had half of it in the fridge, I decided to make my own combination with leftover chicken, spinach, and Parmesan. It was fantastic.

I’ve never had a savory galette before, but I figured the pastry wasn’t sweet and could be used with a different set of ingredients. In all honesty, I liked my combination better than the one with butternut squash because it wasn’t as heavy or sweet.

Keep in mind that I mostly cook for myself, so this galette could serve up to three — or you could have leftovers, which is what I did. I enjoyed every bite.Savorygalette010415

Pastry
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons ice water

In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Filling
One chicken thigh, baked with lemon, chopped
1 packed cup of fresh spinach, torn into smaller pieces
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface or between two pieces of parchment paper, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread filling over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the edges of the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. If you want to give it that shiny edge, you can make an egg wash by whisking one egg and two tablespoons of water together and brushing the mixture over the top of the pastry.

Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

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Turn broccoli and cheese into a healthy soup

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After all those holiday sweets, I’ve been craving vegetable-loaded meals that are good for me. Broccoli is one of my go-to vegetables, but I usually just roast it or steam it. This time around, I was craving soup and decided to try my hand at broccoli-and-cheese soup.

One of my friends recommended the broccoli-and-cheese soup recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. I trust that publication, so I searched for the recipe and found the recipe from the March/April 2011 edition on another blogger’s site.

The baking soda in this recipe might seem unusual, but it speeds up the release of the broccoli’s sulfurous compounds, according to America’s Test Kitchen. Adding the cheese a bit at a time keeps it from becoming a gloppy mass in the soup. The spinach brightens the green color of the soup, too.

Overall, this recipe only took about 40 minutes from start to finish. It was a vegetable soup, but with a bit of saltiness and a slightly cheesy flavor. It was like an adult version of broccoli with cheese sauce that my mom used to serve. It was delicious.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces; stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/4-in thick slices
1 medium onion, rough chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups baby spinach
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Ground black pepper

Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 6 minutes.

Add 1 cup water and baking soda. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring once during cooking.

Add broth and 2 cups water; increase heat to medium-high. When mixture begins to simmer, stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute (the spinach will give the soup a bright green color).

Add cheese a handful at a time, allowing each handful to melt before adding more.

Using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can also process in a food processor or a blender.

Return soup to Dutch oven, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Adjust consistency of soup with up to 1 cup water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

A sweeter spin on scalloped potatoes

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Some vegetables stump me when it comes to figuring out new ways to prepare them. Sweet potatoes are one I struggle with. Outside of baking them or cutting them up into small pieces and frying them, I didn’t really know what else to do with them — that is, until I saw a recipe for Pumpkin Scalloped Potatoes on Pinterest.

The sauce for this recipe is sweet, and the thyme lends a really nice flavor to it. The first time I made this, I used both Yukon Gold potatoes and yams, but the combination of the sweeter sauce and the Yukon Gold potatoes didn’t taste quite right to me. I liked the idea of making a pumpkin cream sauce with herbs for the potatoes, so I made the dish a second time only using yams. It was much better.

I used a mandolin slicer to cut the potatoes, and it was really nice to have all the pieces cut uniformly. I used cheddar and Parmesan, since that’s what I had in the fridge. The cheese added a much-needed savory flavor to the dish, which helps balance the overall taste.

This dish is a great way to make the most of fall flavors. It’s a nice comfort food for cold days, too. I may consider making it for Thanksgiving this year.

1scallopedsweetpotatoes111013Ingredients
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1/3 teaspoon dried thyme)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated is best!)
2 large yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch slices
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces Fontina, Havarti or cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, pumpkin, thyme, garlic and nutmeg and heat over medium-low heat. While the cream sauce is warming, prepare the potatoes.

Create three rows of potatoes along the bottom of the dish, overlapping slightly and alternating the two types of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove the cream from heat (fishing out the thyme and garlic and discarding those) and spoon 1/3 of the cream sauce over the potatoes. Combine the two cheeses in a medium bowl. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheeses over the potatoes too. Create a second layer of potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1/3 more of the sauce and 1/3 more of the cheese. Create a third layer of potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remainder of the sauce.

Bake the potatoes, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is slightly browned and bubbly.

Broccoli bites take snacks back to basics

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I recently saw this broccoli bites recipe on Pinterest. It seemed simple enough, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

This is a nice, basic recipe that only calls for four ingredients, which leaves plenty of room to experiment with other flavors and additions. It doesn’t require any special equipment, either. Mix it with your hands, form it into patties and bake. That’s it.

Next time I make these, I will likely use 1/2 cup of cheddar and 1/2 cup Parmesan, because I wanted more bite to them. Or, I might try a sharper cheddar — medium didn’t offer the flavorful punch I wanted.

The most difficult thing to figure out was what to serve them with. I tried sour cream, but it wasn’t quite right. So I tried a bit of mayonnaise with worcestershire, which was better; but I think ranch dressing might be the best option — I just didn’t have any on hand.

2broccolibitesFor something to snack on, these are pretty hearty and filling.

Ingredients
1 head of fresh broccoli, cut and steamed
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs
1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form small patties and place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn over patties and bake for another 10 minutes.

Let cool for up to 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Experimenting with eggplant

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I never ate eggplant as a kid. Mom never made it, so for most of my life it has been somewhat of a foreign vegetable. After seeing it at the farmers market on a regular basis, I decided to purchase one and figure out what to do with it.

While browsing Pinterest a couple weeks ago, I saw a recipe for mini pizzas that used slices of zucchini for crust. I decided to see if I could do the same thing with eggplant. It seemed like a good starting point and it was. It gave me a bit of experience seeing how eggplant bakes, and I learned that it has a lot of moisture that can be cumbersome if not drained a ahead of time. I made the pizzas two ways — first in the oven and second in a frying pan. I preferred the way it came out of the oven, because it had less moisture in the end. The pizzas are simple enough to throw together on a whim, and they taste good, too. I stuck with basic toppings, but you can easily put whatever you want on them.

After getting that bit of experience under my belt, I felt ready to tackle something a little more ambitious. I had never made Eggplant Parmesan, so I decided to consult my cookbooks to see how it was done. It turns out everybody has their own version. One book called for large slices of eggplant, another called for long sticks of eggplant; one book recommended frying the eggplant in oil, and another said baking it was better because frying it made it too soggy. It sounded like each recipe had its issues, so after checking out the basic methods and ingredients, I decided to come up with my own method.

I chose to approach the eggplant like I would homemade fish sticks. I breaded it in panko, which I like because it gives foods a nice crunch, and chose to bake it in a thin layer of olive oil. It worked surprisingly well. I like a bit of heat to sauce, so the garlic and red pepper flakes took care of that. I didn’t have mozzarella, so I went with fresh Asiago I picked up at the store, and I liked how it complemented the sauce. I’m proud of how this experiment turned out, and will definitely be making this version of Eggplant Parmesan again.

eggplant2Eggplant mini pizzas
Olive oil
Sea salt
Three 1/4- to 1/3-inch slices of eggplant, drained on a paper towel for 30 to 45 minutes
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 cup grated cheese
About 12 slices of pepperoni

Put enough olive oil in the bottom of a pie pan to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Put the pan in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F.

Once the pan is preheated, add the eggplant slices. Cook for 5 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and turn over the eggplant slices. Spoon tomato sauce onto each slice. Top with cheese and pepperoni. Put back in oven and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Eggplant Parmesan
2/3 of an eggplant, cut into 1-inch-wide sticks and drained in a colander or pan lined with paper towels for 1 hour or overnight
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup panko (or breadcrumbs)
Olive oil
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic or 1 clove fresh minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Dash salt
3/4 cup Asiago, grated or cut into small cubes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine flour, white pepper and salt in a resealable freezer bag. Beat the egg in a pie pan and set aside.

Put five sticks of eggplant into the resealable bag with the flour mixture, seal the bag and shake to coat. Remove and repeat with the remaining eggplant, doing about five sticks at a time. Once all the eggplant has been coated with flour, dispose of any remaining flour mixture.

Put the panko in the same resealable bag. Coat each piece of eggplant in the beaten egg and set aside. Put five sticks of eggplant into the bag of panko. Seal the bag and shake to coat the eggplant. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass pan or cookie sheet. Place the panko-covered eggplant sticks in a single layer in the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until bottom of eggplant is slightly browned.

Meanwhile, combine the tomato sauce, basil, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt in a small saucepan or microwavable dish and heat until hot. Set aside.

Once the eggplant has baked for 15 minutes, turn it over and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the other side of the eggplant is slightly browned. Remove eggplant from the pan. Coat the bottom of the pan evenly with half of the sauce. Put the eggplant back in the pan in a single layer. Pour remaining sauce over eggplant. Sprinkle cheeses over eggplant and return to oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.