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Crème fraîche, Garlic & Herb Mashed Potatoes

November 18, 2021

You guys. These are the BEST mashed potatoes. I am thrilled to share them, crazy about them, and hope someone out there gets to try them.

But first a little back story:

After we had our twins, we decided to get our Thanksgiving meal from a good restaurant. It felt smart and easy and we all enjoyed the day and still cooked a few sides and apps. It was so good we did it again when they were 1. The next year, my sister passed away right before Thanksgiving, and in our grief, we got it again. The next year Covid still had us turned upside-down so we ordered it again, but a big hole was felt by my sister and me and my mom (even though she had still always made her stuffing because we can’t have Thanksgiving without it). We missed our traditions.

So this year we are finally taking it back, and it feels like we have emerged from some kind of tunnel and I can see the light.

So with that backstory, I was so exited to find some ways to update the classics on our families Thanksgiving menu. When I saw this post from Ali’s Kitchen it looked beautiful! She used scallions and cilantro, but I had so many herbs on my deck I decided to use a combination of scallions, thyme, parsley, and cilantro. Then I thought about the chicken that I made from Mimi Thorisson’s cookbook with creme fraiche, shallots, garlic and lots of herbs. Ali’s potatoes call for buttermilk but I thought they would be so good with creme fraiche.

I was right. Oh my gosh, the tang it gives the potatoes is almost like a hint of lemon. (Some lemon zest would be a fun addition to these flavors too).

So let’s talk mashed potatoes. My no-fail way to make them is always to peel and cube Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes, and then put them in a pan with water, then put that over medium high heat and bring that to a boil. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a knife and they feel tender.

Once you have mashed the potatoes, stir in the butter, salt and pepper, and creme fraiche. I really can’t get over how good these are with this tangy, creamy addition.

To make the herby mixture, heat 3 T. oil in a pan, and add scallions, garlic and shallots. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the rest of the herbs, salt and red pepper flakes. (These are optional but I almost recommend serving kids some of the potatoes with out the herby mixture and letting the adults have it with the heat.) Keep in mind you can use any combination of your favorite herbs here, but this combination was really good.

I hope you get to try these they are swoon – worthy. And I hope your Thanksgiving is full of food, family and fun.

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Crème fraîche, Garlic & Herb Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

5 lbs. Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 T. unsalted butter (add more to taste if preferred)

2   7-8 oz packages Crème fraîche

3 T. salt, divided + more to taste

milk, if needed for texture

pepper

For the Herby Garnish:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced, to yield a heaping half cup or so
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped thyme
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional but so good)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:

Place potatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt in a saucepan and cover with cold water.

Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until fork tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Return the potatoes to the pan and sprinkle 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp pepper over them and add 2 T. butter. Mash the potatoes, stirring to incorporate the butter and salt. When mashed, stir in the creme fraiche and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

To make herb topping, heat pan over medium heat with 3 T. olive oil. Add scallions, shallots, and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes, then add parsley, cilantro, and thyme. Add salt and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes more until onions are browned a little and everything is fragrant.

When you are ready to serve, put hot potatoes in a bowl and swirl it around to create peaks and valleys. Spoon herby topping while it is warm all over. If needed, put tin foil over it until you are ready to serve.

 

 

Greek Panzanella + Notes from a Lake Kitchen

July 27, 2019

We’re spending a month by the lake in our new (to us) camp about an hour north of Portland, Maine, near Sunday River and it has made me think a lot about food. We’ve had the house since January, but then it felt more like a ski house kitchen, and I had crock pots of short ribs and spaghetti and meatballs on heavy rotation. This summer we’re here for a whole month because our kitchen and floors are getting redone after we had a leak (and why this blog is so silent lately!). It definitely feels like the longest vacation we’ve ever had, which has been lovely and the days are passing like caramel melts in your mouth, sweet and slow.

I wasn’t sure this would be the case. A summer version of The Shining did cross my mind when I was packing my six kids to come up here. But walks by the lake every morning, swimming and reading every afternoon have given us such great family time and enough structure without any stress which feels…amazing. As Winnie the Pooh says in the recent Christopher Robin movie, “doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” And of course he is right.

When you’re on vacation, you want to eat delicious food but don’t want to clean up. Going out to eat is how many people resolve this but going out to eat with the twins gives me indigestion and makes me want to take a nap immediately, so we avoid it.

At home we rely on our pizza delivery place, but here they a) don’t deliver and b) don’t always know what the difference is between 30 minutes and 75.  So we’ve been making our own. It’s swayed us mightily since they are always easy and good. I’m somewhat obsessed with the margherita pizza we’ve been making and I don’t see that obsession going away anytime soon, though sautéed Brussels sprouts with pancetta is a close second.

For breakfast I’ve been living off of avocado toasts (the twins love it) and my favorite mushroom and goat cheese fritatta.

For dinners I wanted to try out a few new recipes and promptly realized why a stocked pantry is so necessary to cooking. Buying all the asian condiments like hoisin sauce and fish sauce and rice wine vinegar will add to your bill considerably. And may make you wish you did in fact go out to eat. But still this 30 minute Asian beef bowl – which was born from my 13-year olds craving a dish he had had on vacation one time – was worth all the condiments, and it was really good with some broccoli and red peppers sautéed with soy sauce and sesame oil drizzled on it. And this thai chicken flatbread pizza was so good too.

It’s the rhythms of food that always appeal to me, and that stands out so much here. Chopping an onion, mixing a vinaigrette, turning yesterdays meal of roast chicken or grilled veggies into something delicious. Forming these little rituals that will become ways to connect us to our time here through the years. And that’s what seasonal eating is, just relishing the present moment with all its delights. When our neighbor, Bobbie, who has a camp right next to us invited me over for a visit, she offered me some raspberry pie with her fresh raspberries picked from her patch at home. It was like summer sunshine exploded in your mouth. And another friend and her mom were here for a visit and she made raspberry jam that we’ve been spreading on toast. It’s making me want to go home and plant as many raspberry bushes as I can fit into our yard.

I love finding treasures offered up by the local food stores. The road to the ski mountain Sunday River is loaded with wonderful markets and organic offerings, and I found Miso and fresh greens and the best rosé in a can which fits perfectly into the stroller cup holders. I also found great asiago bread at the store in town and toasted it’s delicious – it’s a lot like the cheese bread we get in Pemaquid, Maine. They also have great ciabatta bread and another bakery sells pain au chocolat too. These are the beginnings of our food memories here, and they’re making me so happy.

I turned the leftover bread into panzanella salad this week and decided to make it a greek version – I have a long standing love of Greek salad and could eat it for lunch every day so I always have the makings on hand.

And I don’t know about you but I can’t get enough cucumbers and tomatoes in the summer, preferably with some kind of vinegar.

So much goodness in one bowl. I love the briney olives with the creamy salty feta and chewy bread that’s absorbed all the vinegar.

 

In short, eating on vacation in July is the essence of simple. And the best part is all the walking and swimming and playing in the sun keeps you feeling great.

Next week I’ll be back in my newly refurbished kitchen and taking all the inspiration from this month with me. Stop back here if you want to see what it looks like!

Well, I just heard a splash that means the kids are swimming and I think I’ll go join them. They made up a new game that involves racing off the dock, and that’s pretty much what we dreamed of when we bought this place.

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Greek Panzanella Salad

Ingredients

1 small French bread or ciabatta loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large shallot, diced or 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

8-10 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup Greek olives (or more if you love them like me)

8 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

For the vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons Red wine vinegar

1/2 t. dried oregano

1/4 cup good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Make the vinaigrette, then mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and pour vinaigrette over them. Toss to coat, and enjoy!

Pane Cotta

January 15, 2019

I first saw this dish called Pane Cotta on the author Jane Green’s Instagram page – she had it at a restaurant and it was so good she went home and made it and posted a rough recipe of it! It translates to Baked Bread, it’s an Italian peasant meal (read: rustic and delicious). 

This was one of the most original things I’ve eaten lately, with totally surprising flavors and textures that worked so well together. The braised escarole mixed with the pancetta and leeks were all somewhat delicate, then mixed with the sharp saltiness of the melted cheese, the meatiness of the white beans (you can use any kind here) and cubes of herby, garlicky bread…

The recipe calls for herbs and garlic and it’s really forgiving – I just sprinkled on some garlic salt, olive oil, and thyme. While the bread is toasting, everything else cooks in the same pan. First you cook some pancetta, then in the same pan you add some butter and some leeks…

Then you braise some escarole in chicken broth, and add some white beans…

Then the thing that really ties the whole dish together is the cheese. I tasted it a little with just parm, and just asiago, then with both of them together, and I liked them combined. But don’t let having only one kind of cheese keep you from making this because its just delicious.

Oh, I forgot to tell you the best part! My kids loved it. This seems like it should be a grown up dish, but really its just a twist on things kids love anyway – bread and cheese. If your kid won’t touch anything green, then I can’t speak for them, but mine will and they asked for seconds.

Like many peasant dishes, it was meant to use up left overs, and I think that is what this dish will be for my kitchen – an amazing way to use up a loaf of bread that is starting to get hard. But really it is nice enough to bring to a pot luck or serve for company, or just to have a nice side dish for a roast over the weekend.

Hope you try this soon, it is such a special dish, and will transport you to Italy for a minute or five, I promise.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Pane Cotta (printer version here):

Ingredients:

3 cups day-old bread, torn up into crouton sized pieces

2 T. olive oil

2 minced garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon garlic salt

Fresh herbs, salt and pepper

8 oz. pancetta, diced

2 leeks, sliced (white and light green parts only)

2 T. butter

1 head of escarole, rinsed and torn into small pieces

1 cup chicken stock

1 can white beans, rinsed

1 cup of parmesan and/or asiago (I used ½ cup of each)

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Place bread on cookie sheet, and toss with olive oil, garlic salt (or minced garlic), fresh herbs if desired, salt and pepper.

While that bakes, cook pancetta on medium high heat until browned, then remove and set aside. Place butter in same pan, and add sliced leeks. Saute until soft, then remove from pan and set aside (can put them on same plate as pancetta). Add escarole with a cup of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer with the lid on for a few minutes until escarole is soft. Mix in a can of rinsed white beans, and add all the other ingredients (bread, pancetta, leeks, etc) to the same pan. Top with grated parmesan and/or asiago cheese, and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.

 

A Southern Dinner

February 26, 2017

(Hi Food Lovers – just a note to say as I completed my edits for my book I got behind on everything, including blogging here. I am attempting to make it up to you with not just one recipe, but a whole meal. These recipes are truly all new favorites on our rotation, and it feels so good to be back sharing a love of food with you here.) 

It’s hard to step your baby toe into a love of food without feeling the effects of Southern Cuisine on America. Southern Cooking has become synonymous with cooking with soul, or love, or heart, or something approximating all three. But you don’t need to get philosophical to know that southern food just tastes good. With its mixture of rich fatty meat, an ample supply of butter and cheese, and tangy, vinegary liquids, most of which have been cooked long and slow, its hard not to end up with something that will make your belly and your soul very happy.

So when my southern friend Christy sent me her recipe for Collard Greens around New Years, followed up with some lovely gifts and priceless staples like grits and seasoning they use in their kitchen to achieve that authentic flavor, I knew I wanted to see if my Northern Kitchen could make those flavors appear.

Turns out, it can. I thought I’d use some of these gifts for a whole southern meal, complete with a rib recipe that we’ve been loving. The result was amazing fall-apart ribs, collard greens that were so flavorful, they tasted like they were from a restaurant in the south, and baked cheddar grits that were so good they’ll make your toes curl. Or at least make you want to curl up for a nap. All of these make up such quintessential comfort food, it’s no wonder it’s called soul food.

So let’s start with the my favorite:

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Collard Greens à la Christy

 

This recipe has a short cut that I highly recommend: buy the seasoning packet from Uncle Wiley’s which my friend sent me. Whatever kind of magic is in there, it sure makes for some delicious greens. If you don’t want to bother, just play around with your garlic powder, salt and pepper until it tastes seasoned. The salt pork adds some salt too so go easy at the start of it simmering.

This recipe delivers you a huge pot of good for you greens, plus a whole bunch of broth that I sipped for the next three days and just made me feel amazing. I was writing a lot that week, and I would get so excited when I brought up a hot, salty mug to sip while I worked. Christy said it’s called “pot likker” and all I know is its pretty life affirming. Or at least during editing season. I found my collard greens at my local store so hope yours carries it too.

Collard Greens à la Christy (printer version here):

When I got the photo of the recipe, it was officially titled “Collards and Peas” which just sounds like a great dish, doesn’t it? She said her husband traditionally makes the peas separate from the collards by boiling them in a little chicken broth, which is what I did. Then you just serve it together. But here is the cast of characters:

“Collards and Peas” 

3/4 container of peas, soaked overnight, then cooked in chicken broth (can use frozen)

1/2 an onion

3 bunches collards, sliced

1 salted pork pack (I had a large package and just used a slice that was about one inch thick and it was just right)

garlic, salt and pepper (or use Uncle Wiley’s seasoning packet)

3 stalks celery (I sliced them and loved them, but you don’t have to if you want to just use it for flavor)

dollop of chicken bullion

Optional: add a splash of malt vinegar at the end.

Directions:

Trim collards from stems which are bitter. Then chop them up and place them in a huge pot of water. Add pork, onion, spices, and a huge dollop of chicken bullion. There is no right or wrong ratio for the peas and collards, essentially just throw everything into a pot, bring to a boil, then simmer until leaves are tender. You can also served with black-eyed peas and diced tomato. 

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Oven-To-Grill-Ribs

So you’re going to want to pin this recipe too.

I don’t know about you, but after having eaten great ribs from friends and restaurants, I was sort of in the camp that I would let them make them and I’ll happily eat them.

But then I found this recipe from Chef Charlie McKenna in Better Homes & Gardens, who has some deep southern roots and an award winning BBQ restaurant in Chicago. He made ribs seem…doable. So when my daughter asked for ribs for her birthday a while ago, I tried them, and they were SO easy and SO good: falling of the bone, smokey, juicy, and well-seasoned.

The secret is you flavor them up with mustard and the rub, then cook them low for 2 hours, sealed in a tin foil envelope, so they stay really juicy. Then flash grill them for 10 minutes with BBQ sauce. The rub mixture makes enough for 3-4 rack of ribs, and I store mine in a tightly sealed jar. And I have made my own sauce, but in a pinch, I have used a good jar too.

I love that you can cook these all year round if you use an indoor grill pan. One rack of ribs feeds our family very comfortably.

Oven-to-Grill Ribs (printer version here):

Ingredients

  • 13 1/2 pound rack pork loin back ribs
  • 1/4cup yellow mustard
  • 1cup BBQ Rub
  • 1/2cup BBQ Sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. With a pastry brush, spread the mustard all over both sides of the ribs. Generously sprinkle the rub all over both sides of the ribs.
  2. Place ribs in the middle of a double thickness of heavy foil cut 6 inches longer than the ribs. Wrap ribs in the foil. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until tender (the two middle bones of the rack should start to pull apart easily).
  3. Remove ribs to a tray (discard liquid in foil packet). Spread the sauce all over both sides of the ribs. Grill on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat for 15 minutes, brushing with additional sauce every 5 minutes, turning once. Adjust heat as necessary to prevent burning.

BBQ Rub

Directions

  1.  Place celery seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds in a spice grinder and grind until fine. Mix together with remaining ingredients. Store leftovers in a dry, cool place.

BBQ Sauce

Directions

  1.  Whisk all ingredients together in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill up to 2 weeks.

Recipe originally printed in Better Homes and Gardens.

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Baked Cheesy Grits

Normally I test totally new recipes like this, but turns out Baked Grits are very easy and with the help of butter and cheese turn out delicious no matter what you do. (Ok, scorching the bottom of pan might not work). I merged a number of recipes online, which were all very similar, keeping notes as I went, and they turned out just the way I was hoping. Maybe it was the authentic grits sent from Georgia? Now my mind is dreaming about fried polenta.

Baked Cheesy Grits (printer version here):

5 cups chicken broth

1 1/4 cups grits, rinsed

4T.  Butter

1/2 t. garlic salt

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

1 cup (4 oz) sharp cheddar, divided

1 cup (4 oz) monterey jack

1/2 cup milk

3 eggs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bring chicken broth just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; gradually whisk in butter and grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until grits are done. Remove from heat.
  2. Add seasoning, milk, half the cheddar cheese and all of the monteray jack cheese. Stir until completely combined and cheese is melted. Taste for seasoning, adjusting if needed. Add eggs and combine well. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining half cup of cheddar cheese.
  3. Bake, covered, at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until mixture is set. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

I hope you take a trip to the South via your taste buds and try these out! They are delicious and memorable, and with friends like Christy, definitely Soul Food.

xoxo, Katie

Cranberry Pear Chutney

November 16, 2016

Are you in as much shock as I am that Thanksgiving is next week?

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Luckily my first attempt at getting ready for it was this easy Cranberry Pear Chutney that is LOADED with flavor. It also nicely solves the whole cranberry debate: We think the pilgrims used them, so we have to have them, but how? Cranberry bread? Not if there is pie around. In a can? Um, I am just going to pass on that one. My mom loves this fresh chunky side salad with chopped cranberries, orange zest, and sugar, but it is just a little too hard to eat raw cranberries for moi. image

Enter Cranberry Pear Chutney. You may have gathered from the sheer number of curries I have posted on this site that I love everything about Indian food, but especially their condiments. And chutney is tops. The acid with sweet with vinegar. YUM.

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And I just want to use pear in everything right now, so I am so happy to put these gorgeous things to work:

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There is so much going on from all these flavors. It is like fireworks in your mouth. Even if Aunt Flo brings frozen peas, this will bring some excitement to your plate. And can you even IMAGINE a leftover turkey sandwich with stuffing and CHUTNEY? Good thing this recipe makes two ball jars because I might have to keep one just to make a left over Thanksgiving sandwich. I already warned my mom to skip the can and the pseudo-salsa and to make room for this guy (and you know I am bringing that Turkey bowl to serve it in too.)

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I also feel like this makes the best gift if you are going to someone else’s house. I am planning on bringing it over to win some daughter points looking like this:

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I might even make these for Christmas gifts too if they look that cute.

But the best part is this comes together SO fast. 20 minutes tops.

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Hope this rocks your Thanksgiving as much as it will mine.

Happy Eating, xoxo Katie

Cranberry Pear Chutney (printer version here):

Ingredients:

1 bag cranberries

Zest of 1 orange

3 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped or grated

3 Bosc (they stay firmer but use whatever you have) pears, diced

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3 Tablespoons lemon

3 Tablespoons Apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups Apple cider

1/2 water

Pinch of salt

Directions:

In medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except pears. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until cranberries soften. Add pears and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Swiss Pumpkin

October 20, 2016

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Now that the leaves are starting to look like the color of pumpkins, I am so excited to share this recipe that I actually guest posted on the Ella Claire Blog last year. It is so so good.

I found this recipe in Ruth Reichl’s food memoir Comfort Me with Apples (a sequel to Tender at the Bone). I am a big fan of food memoirs at the moment since I am writing one of my own about growing up in a big Irish family in Chicago (I am one of eight) and we had a huge passion for food. In Comfort Me with Apples, one of the lasting images I had was how her husband said he wanted a divorce, and all she could do was make Cream of Mushroom soup. I just feel like food does that healing thing. She ended up being the editor for Gourmet Magazine and remarrying and having a son. So her story ends well.image

Happily, when I made this recipe it was a great story. I made it for my husband for a date night at home. The smell when you take this out of the oven is like nothing else – a mix between pumpkin pie, creamy squash soup, and French onion soup. The fragrance will transport you. After we took the first bite, we just looked up at each other, silent, the fire roaring, and then in unison went, “mmmmhhh”. Or something close to blubbering adults. It warms your insides like nothing I have ever had – the pillow soft pumpkin, creamy buttery soup, and nutmeg infused bread tastes like heaven, all mixed with the saltiness of the gruyere cheese. It is such a special dish. The best part? I wrote all this a year ago, and I can still go back to that exact moment we tasted this and I am there.

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This dish is perfect for Holiday parties or special family winter dinners. I’m not hosting Thanksgiving this year but if I was, everyone should start with a little Swiss Pumpkin on their plate. But it also seems like something you could easily bring to a family with an illness or a new baby since it has its own (disposable) transporting vehicle.

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I hope you get to taste it. Or at least read Ruth Reichl. Happy fall everyone!

xoxo, Katie

Savory Baked Pumpkin (serves 4) 

**Slightly altered from Ruth Reichl’s original recipe.

2 small pumpkins (about 6 – 8 inches in diameter)

Sliced French bread; several pieces, toasted

Grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese (about 4 oz)

Half and half, about 2 cups

2 eggs

1 1/2 t. salt, 1 t. pepper

1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg (makes all the difference)

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top off of your pumpkin leaving the stem intact. With a spoon, scrape out the innards of the pumpkin and discard. (You can reserve the seeds if you like for a latter use.)

Next, rinse the pumpkin both inside and out and pat dry. Place a layer of your toasted bread on the very bottom of the pumpkin cavity. If you need to break up your toasted bread to fit, that is fine. You just want a light layer; you do not need to pack it in. Over the top of your bread sprinkle a bit of your cheese; just enough to cover the bread. You will want to repeat this until you fill the cavity of the pumpkin to its rim, about 2-3 times.

Then, pour the half and half mixture over the layered bread and cheese and into the pumpkin cavity. I like to do this slowly to be sure the half and half is filling in the crevices and not ready to overflow the pumpkin filling. Place the pumpkin top you cut off back onto the pumpkin and place on a baking sheet.

Finally, place the pumpkin on the baking sheet into the center of your oven for about 2 hours. Your baking time will depend on the size of your pumpkin and how much you fill it, so I always check it after one and a half hours of baking. You want to bake it until a knife can easily pierce through the flesh of your pumpkin. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and wait about 15 minutes before serving.