Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Every year we sit down and give thanks for all that is good in our lives. I am particularly thankful for many things this year: that my parents and Larry's are with us this year, and in relatively good health. The same goes for our respective siblings and their families. Larry and I are both thankful that our daughter Elinor has graduated from college and is striking out on her own in Denver. (Although we would be more thankful if she was in New York - but finding her own voice and path are important.)

I was thinking in this week's post it would be fun to come up with a couple of  ideas for your leftovers this weekend. Bear in mind that you should really try to use up your leftovers within 3 or 4 days. After that you run the risk of your food developing bacteria and making you sick. (We don't want that!)

I'm starting with three leftover ingredients: turkey (of course!), acorn squash and my sweet potato's from last week.  


Let's first talk about the binder I will be using: it's a Velouté Sauce. Velouté is one of the five Mother Sauces. It's made with a vegetable, chicken or beef stock and thickened using butter and flour. "Velouté" translated means "velvety" which is your goal with this sauce.

First up is my Tex-Mex Pot Pie. I have a recipe for this below as well, but you can add whatever ingredients you have on hand. (Use my list as a guideline for quantities.) Since I am using the sweet potatoes I created last week I wanted to use ingredients that would work with the base chipotle flavor.

First I sautéed the red onion and bell pepper; then added the black beans. At the last minute I remembered I had some frozen corn and added that too. Once the beans and corn were warmed up I tossed in the turkey, stock and chili powder. Tasted for seasoning and was quite happy. Before I go any further let me say that this concoction can be easily used in a warm corn tortilla and topped with a little salsa and cheese too.


After I placed the filling in an oven-proof ramekin I got to work on my topping. I simply placed the potatoes in the bowl of my mixer and whipped them with a little Fat Free Half and Half. No fuss!

Then pipe the potatoes over the filling and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Every part of this works in unison - needless to say I was very happy when I dug into it!

My second idea is a play on Turkey Tetrazzini. After doing a little research on this dish I found a few fun facts about how the dish was created. The dish is named after an opera singer from the turn of the century named Luisa TetrazziniIt seems that a chef in San Francisco created and named the dish after her. I could not find definitive  information that the story was true, but I did enjoy reading a little about her.

With tetrazzini in mind I decided to go the vegetable route for this dish. (You can find any number of recipes on line and in cookbooks for the turkey version.) I used acorn squash, but this would work perfectly with any squash or even a vegetable like green beans or broccoli. The other ingredient of note is a relatively new Barilla pasta product called Barilla Plus. It's a multigrain pasta that has great flavor; unlike whole grain pastas that, in my opinion, taste like cardboard. The flavor of this is subtle enough that your family won't even know you are using it - and it ends up being a great option with it's legume/grain blend of flax seed, oats, barley, lentils and chickpeas. With it's "hint of nutty flavor" it works beautifully with this dish.

I added vidalia onion to the roux to give the sauce more flavor. In addition, the sauce is slightly thinner because you are going to finish cooking the pasta in it, and then it will thicken it up. The squash get's mixed in at the end and topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and parsley.

I hope you enjoy these leftover Thanksgiving recipes, and please consider passing along any others you have for me. It's always great to hear what people come up with from their table.

I wish you all a peaceful Thanksgiving filled with fun, family and good food!

Buon Appetito!

Velouté Sauce
Makes 2 cups

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper

In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the stock, ½ cup at a time incorporating after each addition to keep it  smooth. Season with salt and pepper. 

Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 15 minutes. 

Remove from the heat and serve. If not using right away place in a bowl and cover with a layer of plastic wrap (don't worry, it won't melt!) to keep a skin from forming. Cool completely and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.  

Leftover Turkey Tex-Mex Pot Pies 
Makes 4 - 8 ounce ramekins

1/2 cup red onion, 1/4" dice
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, 1/4" dice
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 cups chopped cooked turkey, or chicken
1 cup room temperature veloute sauce (recipe above)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese (I like Sargento Reduced Fat 4 Cheese Mexican)

2 1/2 cups leftover sweet potato chunks
1/4 cup Fat Free Half and Half 
Toasted pepitas for garnish

Saute the onion, pepper and garlic over medium heat with olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Cook until golden brown. Stir in the beans, corn, turkey and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the veloute sauce and chili powder combining well. Add in the cilantro and divide evenly between 4 - 8 ounce oven proof ramekins. Top with 2 tablespoons each of cheese and set aside. 

Place the sweet potatoes in the bowl of a standing mixer with the cream. Whip for 2 minutes on medium speed to get them soft and fluffy. Scrap out and into a pastry bag or a 1 quart zip lock bag and cut off a corner. 

Pipe the potatoes over the turkey filling making a circular design. Top with a few toasted pepitas and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes and serve. 

Squash Tetrazzini
Serves 8-10

11/2 cups of Vidalia onion, 1/4" dice, about 1/2 of an onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt
Ground white pepper
4 tablespoons flour
4 cups vegetable stock
1 box Barilla Plus Spaghetti
4 cups cooked squash, cut in 2" pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Sweat the onion and garlic with the butter over medium heat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and whisk to incorporate. Cook for 1 minute.

Add the room temperature stock 1 cup at a time, whisking to incorporate. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat, whisking frequently so the bottom does not burn. 

Meanwhile, put a medium pot of water on to boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Once it begins to boil add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes drain the pasta reserving 2 cups of pasta water and add to the sauce. It'e very important to save a little of the pasta water - you may need it to thin out the pasta later. 

Continue cooking another 4 minutes in the sauce and taste. The pasta should be al dente. Turn off the heat and add the squash and half of the cheese. Toss to combine. 

Pour the pasta into a shallow serving bowl and toss in the parsley. If the pasta seems a little stiff add a little of the pasta water to loosen it up. Top with remaining cheese and serve. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sweet Potatoes from the Farm

On one of my trips this summer to Amawalk Farm I noticed they had a potato patch growing.

Sweet potatoes to be exact. It was the first time they were trying them and at the time, they were not exactly sure what they would be getting in the Fall. Never fear ... the yield was magnificent. Beautiful and delicious sweet potatoes! I went back in October and bought 20 pounds!

So what exactly are they, and how are they different from yams? The names seem to be used interchangeably by many people and they kind of look similar, right? Well, not really. First, they hail from different parts of the world: yams from Africa and Asia, and sweets from South America. Yams are dry and starchier in texture, where sweets are, well sweeter and creamier. So there is really no need to add sugar, or even marshmallows, which I think mask their beautiful flavor in the end. Sweets are loaded with great nutrients: complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene, Vitamins A, B6, C, Iron, Calcium ... wow!

I've been literally planning this post for months, truth be told. Ever since I saw the patch of leaves growing at Amawalk, I knew I wanted to create something with this great veggie. This week I have four different ways to use your sweet potatoes. A couple are inspired by recipes I came across in my research and a couple from experimenting!

First up is Sweet Potato Hash. One of Larry's favorite dishes. There once was a little restaurant in Port Chester named the Crossroads Cafe, who made his favorite rendition of this dish. They closed several years ago and ever since I've been trying to replicate it. He thinks this one came very close!

I have no real recipe for this, only general amounts. For four servings I used 1 small onion (about a cup) diced, 1 pound of sweet potatoes cubed, one pound of Gaia's Breath Farm Boudin Blanc Sausage, a bunch of their red kale and eggs.

After sautéing the onion with extra virgin olive oil, I added the sweet potatoes and cooked until they got nice and crisp. In another pan I cooked the sausage. Once the sweets were done I added the sausage to them and the finely sliced kale and wilted it. Then I made four little wells right in the pan, adding a bit of oil to keep them from sticking, and crack the eggs right in. Cover and cooked for about 3 minutes. To make life super easy I just move the whole pan to the table and served. Delicious!

Moving on to lunch I decided to make a soup. I have a really wonderful book by vegetarian cookbook author Anna Thomas, called Love Soup. She has a kale and sweet potato recipe in the book that I slightly adapted. The recipe is below, but basically this one is leek, sweet potato, Yukon gold potato and kale. I used half the kale she suggests and chicken stock in mine.

With Thanksgiving around the corner I was determined to do something other than gob up these beautiful potatoes with marshmallows. As a kid growing up the 60s and 70s never a Thanksgiving would pass without my Grandmother taking sweet potatoes from a can, covering them with marshmallows and broiling. Even back then I knew there was something just so wrong about that! (Sorry Grandma!) This year we'll be heading to my Aunt Donna's house and I promised my cousin Maria that I would make them sans marshmallows!

After noodling around on the web I kept coming up with a recipe that Mark Bittman created for Cooking Light last year. Link after link touted this recipe. All I needed to see was his name and how could I go wrong? The only thing I changed from his original recipe was doubling the cranberry sauce  and adding some beets. I was just too amazing to not have more! The garnish is pepita seeds (picture above) that are toasted and scallions. 

I also want to show you a little trick for chipotle peppers, that also works with tomato paste. Drop them on a sheet of plastic wrap and cover. Then place in a freezer bag. Snip the sections off as needed, straight from the freezer!

Back to this dish: you can make it as spicy or mild as you like - but do use the chipotle peppers. The contrast to spicy and sweet is what makes it so special. I had some beets in the 'fridge and added them as well, but simply using the sweets is just perfect!

Last, but not least, a Sweet Potato Pie. I found lots of recipes in books and on line - but I let my creativity lead me on this one! I wanted to really mix up the spices and let the crust do a little of the heavy lifting, too. After taste testing several ginger snap cookies I found the Walker brand to have the best flavor. I combined them with unsweetened coconut and butter. The crust is sticky, so keeping it cold and having patience is a must!

While my potatoes were baking I worked on the crust. Here is a little tip I use when teaching kids to roll out crust: I place it in a big zip lock bag, cutting the sides open and roll. This method works beautifully with sticky doughs!

I added ricotta cheese to the filling which gave it texture and richness, along with Chinese Five Spice which worked beautifully with the crust.

It's a must to left this completely cool and pop in the 'fridge to set up. The crust is a bit crumbly straight from the oven. I promise you won't be disappointed! The result is amazing ... warm, spicy and exotic!

I hope you will give a few, if not all of these a try. If I were to choose one I would suggest the cranberry chipotle recipe. They are completely addictive!

Buon Appetito!

Kale and Sweet Potato Soup (adapted from Love Soup by Anna Thomas)
Makes 2 quarts

2 cups thinly sliced leek, white and light green only, about 2
1½ cups Vidalia onion, ¼” dice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper
2 cups sweet potato, ½“ dice, about 2 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup Yukon gold or white potato, 1/2“ dice
6 cups thinly sliced kale, about 6oz.
½ cup thinly sliced scallion, divided
1½ tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
Zest 1 medium lemon
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Thoroughly rinse the leek under cool water to get rid of all the sand that might be lurking about. In a heavy bottom pot over medium heat sweat the onion with ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper. Once they get translucent add in the leeks and cook for about 10 minutes until they get caramelized.

Add in 5 cups of water, the sweet potato, Yukon gold potato, kale and 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/5 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.

Add ¼ cup scallion, thyme, stock, lemon zest and juice. Simmer another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry-Chipotle Dressing (adapted from a Cooking Light recipe by Mark Bittman)
Serves 8

2½ lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cup fresh cranberries
½ cup water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon chipotle chile, finely minced, (canned variety)
½ cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
¾ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 450°.

Place sweet potatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until tender, turning after 15 minutes.

Place remaining 1 tablespoon oil, cranberries, water, and honey in a saucepan. Add chopped chipotle and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce. Place pan over medium-low heat; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Mash with a potato masher or fork until chunky.

Place pepitas in a medium skillet; cook over medium heat 4 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan frequently. Combine potatoes, pepitas, onions, and cilantro in a bowl. Add cranberry mixture to bowl; toss gently to coat.

Cooks Note: Feel free to also add beets to this recipe. Just make sure you cut them the same size as the potatoes to ensure even cooking.

Spiced Sweet Potato-Ricotta Pie with a Ginger-Coconut Crust
Makes 1 - 9” pie

2 lbs sweet potatoes, approximately 3 cups
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup whole milk ricotta
3 whole eggs
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Rinse the sweet potatoes and place on a foil lined cookie sheet in a pre-heated 425 degree oven. Bake until the center is soft, about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size. Remove from oven slit open and allow the potatoes to cool. When cool enough to handle scoop out the center and place in a bowl, discarding the skin.
Cooks note: skip down to the crust recipe at this point and start working on it.

When the potatoes are completely cool place in the bowl of an automatic mixer. Using the paddle attachment beat the potatoes on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, ricotta and eggs and continue to beat for 3-4 minutes. Add the salt, vanilla and spices blending well.

Place the filling into a cold Gingersnap-Coconut pie-crust shell (recipe below) and smooth out the top. Bake in a pre-heat 375 degree oven for 40 - 50 minutes, or until the filling is set and an knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool completely. The crust sets up the best if you cool and place in the ‘fridge for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Serve with freshly whipped heavy cream, or simply by itself.

Ginger-Coconut Crust
Makes 1 pie crust

9 Walkers Stem Ginger Biscuits
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened coconut
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick of butter, frozen and chopped up
1-2 tablespoons ice water

Break up the biscuits and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 3 or 4 times and add in the flour, coconut and salt. Process until the cookies are finely chopped. Remove and measure. You should have 1¼ cups of dry mix. If not, add a little more flour to have it equal 1¼ cup. Place back into the food processor. Add in the frozen butter pieces and pulse 5-10 times or just until the butter is incorporated into to the dry mix. Open the lid and drizzle in 1 tablespoon of water, then pulse 1 time. If the mix needs a bit more to pull together add another tablespoon.

Remove the dough and place on a cutting board. Working quickly form it into a disk and place in a large zip lock bag and set in the ‘fridge to chill.

When the dough is firm after about 15-20 minutes) take the bag and slit the sides, keeping the dough inside. Roll the dough to ¼” thick. Place on a cookie sheet and put back in the ‘fridge to chill for about 5 minutes.

Once it’s cold again, but slightly pliable peel back one side of the plastic and place in a metal pie plate. Press down slightly. Gently peel back the other side of the plastic and discard. Working quickly, with damp fingers smooth out the dough in the pan. When it looks smooth and even take the plate and put in the freezer until ready to bake.

Cooks note: Don’t despair if the dough gets a little sticky on you. The cooler it is, the easier to manage – hence the in and out in the ‘fridge. I promise that patience will be rewarded with a very delicious crust!

Recipe created by Maria Reina of Bella Cucina Maria.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fingerlings and Sprouts

It's been quite a couple of weeks for many of us in the Northeast. Hurricane Sandy swept through and left a path of heartbreaking destruction to millions. Many friends and family close to us were affected as we watched helplessly from afar. Most have had their power restored, but the clean-up continues. I send warm vibes from my kitchen for a speedy recovery to all.

Just before the hurricane hit I took a run down to the Larchmont Farmers Market to pick up my CSA Basket from Gaia's Breath Farm. At the Newgate Farms table I picked up a very cool Brussels sprout branch and fingerlings from Gaia's Breath. The hurricane hit Westchester around dinner time on the 29th and at just about 5:30 our lights flickered a few times and went out. Not to come back for many days. I literally was just about to start up some dinner for us, so I switched gears quickly pulling out my camp stove. I lovingly call it my "Barbie Doll Camp Stove" used exclusively for my Farmers Market demos. As luck would have it, several days before JL and her husband Dave came for dinner and she brought me 3 butane canisters. (Golden!) I had a little leftover rotisserie chicken and salad, so we were good to go.

Before I get into the recipe, lets talk about the sprouts. When speaking of them to people I find their reaction similar to beets. People either love them, or hate them. There are plenty of recipes in books and on-line, but typically you see them roasted or sauteed in some kind of fat: extra virgin or pork; then tossed with a vinegar like balsamic or citrus. I've even seen them tossed in a dijon marinade and roasted. The goal is to get them deliciously golden brown and crisped, or caramelized.  I decided to go simple that night since I was working by candlelight and lantern!

I also had a bag of fingerling potatoes that I need to get cooked up as well, so I thought "why not combine them?"  Fingerling potatoes are beautiful little spuds that look like stubby fingers, hence the name! Since they are small the cook quickly and have a lovely creamy center. They tend to be a little more expensive that other potatoes, so generally you don't see these ones pureed into soups. They are just too pretty to not eat in their natural state.

I had a combo of colors on my fingerlings: white, pink and purple. Since we were eating in semi-darkness I decided to save the pretty  colored ones for later and just used the whites.

With time not on my side that night I wanted to get everything cooked up quickly. (I needed to be judicious in my butane use!) So I decided to blanch the potatoes and sprouts first, then sauté to finish cooking and add a beautiful golden color.

I really have no real recipe for this other than I cut the potatoes into 2" slices. The sprouts were small enough to just clean and keep whole. I blanched them separately in boiling salted water for 2 minutes each and drained. I sautéed a shallot in a little olive oil until it became soft and then added the potatoes and sprouts.

I'm going to share one of my little secrets with you. I keep a package of pre-cooked bacon in the freezer. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cooking up bacon and pancetta for all sorts of dishes, but every now and then Larry and I have a hankering for a BLT sandwich and the last thing I'm interested in doing is cooking 6 slices of bacon for a sandwich. The pre-cooked variety is fast and easy!

While I was sautéing the potatoes and sprouts Larry asked me if I was sautéing them with pancetta (his favorite) and when I said "no" I got the sad-puppy-dog eyes, so I reached for the pre-cooked bacon. I chopped and tossed in a few slices and they crisped up beautifully!

This super simple dish literally came together in just under 20 minutes - maybe 30 minutes tops. While the sauté was happening I made a salad and sliced up a little chicken. A perfect storm meal!

After the power was restored I celebrated by cranking up the oven and roasting a few things. The rest of my fingerings included! This is just about the easiest way to prepare them: slice them in half lengthwise and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and an assortment of fresh herbs.

I happened to have a little sage, thyme and rosemary handy, but you can use whatever you have. You can even use dry herbs too. I decided to toss in some sliced shallot and garlic, just because I had them - but you can go straightforward with just the spuds. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees and lay all the potatoes cut-side down on the tray. That way you will get the cut side crisped!

Once they are done toss with a little fresh parsley, a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of oil. Simple and delicious!

This month I'm devoting my posts mainly to potatoes and showing you some simple and easy side dishes for the holidays. I hope you will give these two tasty veggies above a try, and look for sweet potatoes next week!

Buon Appetito

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh Herbs
Serves 4 - 6

1/2 cup sliced shallot
3-6 whole garlic cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper
2 tablespoons of finely minced fresh herbs: sage, rosemary and or thyme, or 1 tablespoon of Herbs de Provence
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, garnish
2 lbs of fingerling potatoes, cleaned and sliced lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and lightly oil a heavy, rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl toss the potatoes, shallot and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and the fresh herbs. (Reserve the parsley for later.) Lay the potatoes out on the sheet, cut side down and spread the onion and garlic around.

Reduce the heat to 425 degrees and bake the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, or until they are tender and the cut side is golden and crisp. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and parsley and serve.