Tag Archives: Lynda Balslev

Thanksgiving Sides: Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Walnuts and Farro

If one vegetable symbolizes Fall and Thanksgiving, it’s the Brussels sprout. When these little crucifers appear in the market, it means it’s time to pull on our sweaters and plan our holiday menus. Yet, if one vegetable symbolizes dinner challenges, it’s also the Brussels sprout, because when these mini-cabbages appear on the table you can be sure they will elicit strong reactions from those who love them – and those who hate them. Hence the eternal question: in the spirit of holiday togetherness, how can we serve these hardy sprouts for everyone to enjoy?

This recipe might be the answer. Like all traditions that bear repeating, it’s worth sharing once again. It has a few simple techniques that may, just may, win over any steadfast sprout-hater. The trick is to roast the Brussels sprouts, which softens their assertive and firm cabbagey properties and accentuates their natural sweetness. Grapes are roasted along with the sprouts, so they coat the sprouts with their winey juices and lend more sweetness. A good shellacking of pomegranate balsamic vinegar towards the end of the roasting provides a lip smacking caramelized finish. Finally, the sprouts, grapes, and juices are tossed with farro and toasted walnuts, creating a rustic and satisfying dish, which is nutty, sweet, and not too dense with sprouts – but with just enough to satisfy the lovers and appease the haters at your dinner table. So give it a try and let me know.

Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Farro

Pomegranate balsamic vinegar is available in specialty stores and well-stocked supermarkets. You can make your own by whisking together 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses.

Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved (or quartered if large)
3/4 pound seedless red grapes
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 cup cooked farro, warm or at room temperature
1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Toss the Brussels sprouts, grapes, thyme sprigs, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle the pomegranate balsamic vinegar over and stir to coat. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast until the sprouts are tender and the grapes have begun to shrivel, about 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven, discard the thyme sprigs, and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the farro and walnuts and toss to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

30 minute Baked Pasta with Chorizo, Kale, and Roasted Tomatoes

Easy one pot pasta dinner in 30 minutes

Who doesn’t like a steaming creamy mac ‘n cheese, coated in bechamel, rippling with cheese and crowned with crispy breadcrumbs? I would never throw shade at this comforting classic – and goodness knows we can all do with a little comfort these days – but I will say that you can have your baked pasta and cheese, and riff a little, too. What you get out of the deal is variety, an excuse to use up any lingering vegetables in your fridge, and an opportunity to add some extra goodies, like sausage if you’re so inclined. Simply mound them into a baking dish along with the al dente pasta and gads of cheese, bake until melty and golden,  and no one, I dare say, will dream of objecting.

I make dishes like this when I am looking for a quick solution for an easy dinner. It can be on the table in about 30 minutes, and it’s likely to be devoured in half that time. It’s lighter than mac ‘n cheese, and loaded with veggies. To moisten the pasta (there’s no bechamel sauce, after all) I toss the pasta with some of the pasta cooking water and add fresh mozzarella for creaminess.

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Kale, and Roasted Tomatoes

Serves 4

12 ounces pasta, such as gemelli or farfalle
Salt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces chorizo or hot Italian sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 bunch lacinato kale leaves, tough ribs discarded, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
1 (8-ounce) fresh mozzarella, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or part Parmesan)

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until 1 to 2 minutes short of al dente. Scoop out 1/2 cup water, then drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon oil to prevent sticking.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown the slices on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a plate lined with a paper towel and pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from the skillet.
3. Add the tomatoes to the skillet and sauté until they release their juices and soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the kale and sauté until the leaves soften, about 3 minutes.
Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved water and stir to combine. If the pasta seems too dry, add the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the pasta is moist but not wet. Stir in the mozzarella and 1 cup Pecorino.
4. Sprinkle the remaining Pecorino over the top of the pasta and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the top begins to color and the cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Carrot Hummus

Move over chickpea hummus, there’s a new ingredient town.

Who doesn’t like a good hummus? Mild, nutty, and agreeably versatile, this creamy Levantine dip is a go-to for snacks, spreads, and party dips. It’s also a wonderful starting point for variations, such as carrot hummus.

Carrot hummus, you say? You bet: Picture your favorite Middle Eastern hummus – the ubiquitous blend of chickpeas, sesame paste (tahini), olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Then, send it further west to North Africa, picking up a few more ingredients along the way, such as coriander, mint, and harissa, a fiery Moroccan chile paste. Now, add the carrots, but before you do, roast them first, softening the carrots to a blending consistency, coloring them with a little char, and coaxing out their ample natural sugars. Give it all a good long blitz with the usual hummus ingredients in a food processor until thick, creamy, and smooth. Take a taste – it will be mildly sweet, slightly nutty, and a tad smoky, vividly colored and bright with citrus. Scrape it into a bowl and lick the spoon, then decorate the top with a shower of chopped crunchy pistachios and fragrant mint. Chances are you will never go back. 

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Makes about 2 cups
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Carrots:
1/2 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Hummus:
1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 to 2 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

Garnish:
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the carrots in a small baking dish. Add the oil, salt, cumin, and black pepper and stir to coat. Roast in the oven until the carrots are tender, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove and cool slightly.

2. Transfer the carrots and any pan juices to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining dip ingredients and process until smooth. If too thick, add additional olive oil or warm water to your desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

3. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl and garnish with the pistachios, mint, and extra black pepper. Serve with pita wedges, baguette, and/or cruditées.

Homemade Crispy Salmon Fish Cakes

Homemade smoky salmon fish cakes

Calling these “fish cakes” really doesn’t do these crispy succulent patties justice. The “fish” part is right, but “cake” infers flour, fat, and eggs with a bread-like crumb. These Salmon Fish Cakes have none of that.

When my family and I lived in Denmark, a favorite family outing was to our local harbor where the fish market sold fish cakes or fiskefrikadeller, created from the daily catches hauled in on the fishing boats. When the fish were fileted, all the extra pieces were reserved for fist sized fish patties sold by the bagful with containers of remoulade, or tartar sauce, meant to be devoured family-style at the picnic tables perched over the sea. Every harbor with a fish market sold fish cakes, and the recipes were similar, made with white fish, such as plaice or cod, simply spiced and bound together with flour and egg, then pan or, more often, deep fried. Their flavor was mild, thanks to the white fish and simple seasonings, and they were very easy to eat, best washed down with a cold Danish beer (or juice for the kids) in the summer sun.

While nothing could beat fresh fiskefrikadeller at the seashore during the summer, at home I would make my own fish cakes with the goal to create a more healthy and tasty family dinner. I wanted something lighter and brighter, with more fish flavor and less filler. After many renditions, I arrived at this recipe, which I now use as a template. While I vary the fish at times, depending on what’s fresh and available, the amounts remain constant, as does the inclusion of some, if not all, salmon to the mix. I find that salmon’s thick and buttery flesh yields a rich, tasty, and sturdy fish cake, and for deeper flavor I’ll often add cold smoked salmon, which adds a salty, smoky (and addictive) edge to the cakes. Fresh herbs, lemon, and chopped chiles balance out the richness of the fish, while the binder is kept to a minimum – just a dollop of Greek yogurt and Panko breadcrumbs, which do double duty as a crisp coating for the patties. The results are fresh, vibrant, and flavorful, and prove that you that can, indeed, take the cake out of the fish cake.

Salmon Fish Cakes with Lemon-Chile Yogurt Sauce

The fish cakes may be formed up to 4 hours in advance and refrigerated until pan frying. If desired, more salmon may be substituted for the halibut for a 100 percent salmon fish cake.

Makes  about 16 (2-inch) cakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Fish cakes:
1 pound salmon fillet, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
8 ounces thick white fish filet, such as halibut or cod, skin and pin bones removed, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 ounces cold smoked salmon filet, skin and pin bones removed, coarsely chopped
1 small red jalapeno or fresno chile, stemmed and seeded, minced
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs, plus 1 1/2 cups for rolling
1/4 cup coarsely grated yellow onion, with juices
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley and/or cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Canola or grapeseed oil for pan frying
Lemon wedges

1. Combine the salmon, white fish, and smoked salmon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 3 to 4 times to finely chop without over processing – the consistency should be slightly chunky and not mushy. Transfer the fish to a large bowl. Add the 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, the onion, parsley, yogurt, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.

2. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl. Using a soup spoon, scoop out a generous amount of the salmon mixture. With a light hand, carefully form the mixture into a plump two-inch patty. Gently roll the patty in the breadcrumbs to evenly coat and place on platter, lightly pressing the patty to slightly flatten into about a 1/2 inch-thick cake. Repeat with the remaining fish, adding more breadcrumbs to the bowl as needed. Loosely cover the platter with plastic and refrigerate the fish cakes for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.

3. Whisk to sauce ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until use.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. In batches, carefully add the fish cakes to the pan without overcrowding. Fry the cakes until golden brown and cooked through, turning once with a spatula, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the cakes to a plate lined with a paper towel and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining fish cakes. Transfer the cakes to a warm serving platter and garnish with the parsley or cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges and the yogurt sauce.

Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, and Basil Parfaits

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Parfaits

It’s peak summer season, which means it’s peak tomato season. The farmer’s market tables are piled high with tomatoes galore, and if you have a garden, chances are your tomato plants are weighed down with ripe cherries, robust Beefsteaks, and sassy Early Girls ready for the picking. The best way to enjoy a fresh picked tomato, in my opinion, is as simply as possible, so its natural sweetness and sun-kissed flavor shine through.

In our kitchen, a favorite preparation is the Italian Caprese salad, a platter of thick slices of vine-ripened tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella, and just-plucked basil leaves. All that’s needed is a drizzle of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar and the ingredients speak for themselves. Another equally popular preparation is tomato bruschetta – thick slices of grilled garlicky bread topped with a jumble of juicy chopped tomatoes, basil, and, ahem, more garlic. This is finger licking hands-on fare, best served family-style accompanied by a pile of napkins to wipe up the sweet dribbling juices.

This past weekend, I combined these two recipes into one for a simple yet elegant presentation, including burrata cheese, grilled bread, and fresh basil, layered into small glasses. It was a smart and fun way to portion the tomatoes and dress things up for entertaining, while saving our summer whites from wayward juices. I am a sucker for heirloom tomatoes with their variety of colors, patterns, and bulbous shapes, and these glasses perfectly displayed them like confetti. A dollop of creamy burrata and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar resulted in a fresh and savory parfait that is as beautiful to look at as delicious to eat.

Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, and Basil Parfaits

Choose firm yet ripe tomatoes with a range of colors, and be sure to use a good extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. You will need six (8-ounce) glasses for this recipe.

Serves 6 as an appetizer.
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Crostini:
6 baguette slices, cut on the diagonal, about 4 inches in length and 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Sea salt

Parfaits:
2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 burrata, about 8 ounces
6 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup small basil leaves (or large leaves, chopped)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Make the crostini: Preheat the oven broiler or prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Lightly brush each bread slice with the oil. Broil or grill the bread until crisp and golden on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside while you assemble the verrines.
2. Combine the tomatoes, oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and gently stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. Divide the tomatoes between six (8-ounce) glasses.
3. Cut the burrata into 6 wedges and place one wedge in each glass. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar in each glass, and garnish with the basil and black pepper. Top each glass with a crostini and serve immediately.

A Summer Salad for Meat Lovers (it has something to do with bacon)

BLT Salad with Bacon Ends and Avocado

A big refreshing bowl of salad is a great dinner in the heat of summer. Too veggie, you say? No worries, there is a happy meaty answer to that: Bacon ends. Yep, contemplate that. I did my own contemplating when I spied a bag of bacon ends for the first time at the farmers market and had to examine them. The bag was hefty, lumpy, and thick with triangular hunks of bacon jumbled in vacuum-packed togetherness. It was bacon indeed, but not the typical neatly fanned slices I usually buy in the deli department. After asking a few questions, I learned that when those tidy pre-sliced bacon packages are created, all of the irregular hunks and ends are discarded in order to produce supermarket-packaged perfection. I knew I was onto something revelatory, so I snagged a package. Now I am here to tell you that you want those ends. They are veritable chunks of heaven for bacon lovers, evoking salty pork-induced delirium.

I find the best way to cook bacon ends is in the oven or on a grill. While the ends cook, their fat renders, leaving behind crispy chunks of meaty bacon you can sink your teeth into. Honestly, they are addictively good. The danger is gobbling them all up in one go (not recommendable, by the way – just saying). So try to exert some restraint (after taste testing a few pieces, of course, as any cook should), and add them to salads, pasta, eggs – goodness, wherever you want your bacon. I like the salad option, as the fresh vegetables and leafy lettuce nicely balance out the hunks of salty meat. I call it a deconstructed BLT in a bowl and toss it with homemade croutons, brushed with the rendered bacon fat and toasted on the grill. Got your attention, right?

As for finding these ends, ask your butcher or the nice people in your supermarket’s meat department if they have a stash. You can be sure they know exactly what you are asking about – they just might not want to share.

BLT Salad with Bacon Ends and Avocado

Serves 4 as a main course salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Grilling Time: 30 minutes

1 1/2 to 2 pounds bacon ends, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups coarsely torn bite-size pieces of country or sourdough bread

Dressing:
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1 large head lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
Corn kernels cut from one ear of corn
1 large Hass avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. Prepare the grill for indirect medium heat (about 400°F for a gas grill). Trim any excess fat from the bacon ends. Cut the ends into 1 inch chunks and arrange  on a grill rack (or grate) set over a grill pan to capture the rendered fat. Grill until the fat is rendered and the ends are crispy golden, about 25 minutes. (You can do this in the oven with a broiler pan, if you like.) Transfer the ends to a plate.
2. Toss the bread in the rendered fat. Spread the bread on a grill pan or the grates and grill until golden and crisp, turning as needed, 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
3. Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
4. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the bacon, half of the croutons and dressing to your taste and toss to combine. Garnish with the remaining croutons and serve with any remaining dressing.

Strawberry Cake and TasteFood News

strawberry cake tastefoodIt’s almost summer, and we deserve cake.

I am so excited to share with you 2 pieces of good news about TasteFood. It’s been a little quiet here on the blog lately, in large part due to 3 book projects I’ve been busy working on. I am happy to announce that the first book The Little Pink Book of Rosé, is now available for pre-order! It’s a light and sparkly little gift book, filled with quips, quotes and fun facts about rosé (my favorite summer wine), as well as 20 sweet, savory, and drinkable rosé recipes which I developed.

Now for the second piece of big news: As of June 8, TasteFood will be a syndicated weekly column coming to a newspaper near you! This means that you will be able to read TasteFood in many of your local papers throughout the U.S. each week. Once the dust settles, I’ll be developing a newsletter that will tie in news about my cookbooks, blog, and column. Finally and most importantly, I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment, ask questions, let me know about recipes, cuisines, or cooking topics you would like to read about, either here on the blog or the email address provided in my column – your feedback is highly valued!

So, now it’s time for cake…

Strawberry Cake

While nothing beats fresh sun-sweetened strawberries, au natural or swiped through a dollop of whipped cream, put aside a pint or two to make this simple cake. It’s light and simple, gently sweetened and generously studded with as many strawberries you can fit. I halved the jumbo-sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they’ll begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess. Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180C). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) pie or gratin dish.
2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Combine the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and almond extracts, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Add the flour and mix to thoroughly combine without over-mixing. 4. Pour  the batter into the prepared dish and spread evenly. Arrange the strawberries, cut-sides down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy – and reserve the rest for serving. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Bake the cake until the top is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Cool slightly and serve lukewarm or at room temperature with whipped cream and extra strawberries (if you haven’t already eaten them!)

Easy Grilled Broccoli and Carrots

broccoli carrots

In a matter of a few weeks our farmers market has transformed into the vegetarian equivalent of a candy store. New leaves, baby shoots and spring bulbs are on display in miniature form as their growing season is in full force. In general, I like my veggies cooked simply, and at this time of year their freshness demands it. All that’s needed is a quick steam, saute, or a turn on the grill and you will have a simple and delicious side to any meal.

Broccoli and carrots pretty much sum up the ingredient list for this veggie side I made recently – plus a pinch salt and splash of olive oil for good measure. Everything converged on the grill, which in itself is another ingredient to the dish, adding char to complete the flavor profile. On the grill? Yes, if you are careful and lay the vegetables perpendicular to the grates to prevent them from slipping through. Better yet, if you have a cast iron skillet (which you should), preheat the skillet (or a griddle) on the grill, then sear the vegetables until they wilt and char, and you are good to go. Vegetables simply never tasted so good.

Grilled Broccolini and Carrots
Serves 4 to 6 as a simple side dish

1 pound baby broccoli (broccolini), ends trimmed
1 pound baby carrots, trimmed, halved lengthwise if thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. If using a skillet or griddle, preheat on the grill for 10 minutes.
2. Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil – just enough to coat without soaking – and lightly season with salt, then turn to coat.
3. Lay the vegetables perpendicular to the grill grates (or spread in the skillet) and cook until bright in color, crisp-tender, and lightly charred, turning as needed, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness of the stalks.
4. Transfer to a serving bowl and season with additional salt and black pepper, if desired.  Serve warm.
5. Other options: sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes over for a nice bite and drizzle with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice before serving.

Grilled Cheese and Chutney Sandwich

grilled-cheese-chutney-tastefood

I like to call this a grilled ploughman’s sandwich. I lived in England for a few years, and of the many fond memories I have from that experience, a simple one is the Ploughman’s Lunch – the ubiquitous pub meal which is essentially a cheese board. It’s a presentation that’s refreshingly basic – and delicious, a satisfying and delightfully hearty combination of slabs of sharp cheese (usually aged cheddar), a dollop of spicy-sweet-savory chutney (or pickle), smears of piquant mustard, and wedges of fresh fruit (often apple), heaped on a platter with thick slices of country-style bread. Ready to assemble and devour to your taste.

I used the ploughman’s lunch as inspiration for this grilled cheese sandwich, essentially layering all of the traditional ingredients into a double-fisted melty sandwich, oozing cheese and balanced with fresh greens, crisp fruit, and a homemade apple-chile chutney similar to piccalli, which is the English version of Indian spiced pickles. Happy New Year!

apple chutney tastefood

Ploughman’s Grilled Cheese with Apple Chile Chutney

Makes one hefty sandwich

2 slices sourdough or ciabatta bread, cut 1/2-inch thick
Salted butter, softened
2 ounces coarsely grated aged hard cheese, such as sharp Cheddar or Gruyere
Red onion slices
Thinly sliced apple, such as Granny Smith or Fuji
Baby kale leaves or arugula
2 tablespoons Apple Chile Chutney (recipe below)

Butter one side of each bread slice. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add one bread slice to the skillet, butter-side down. Mound the cheese evenly over the bread. Cover the pan and cook until the cheese is mostly melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Place a layer of onion over the cheese, then top with apple slices and kale leaves. Spread 1 to 2 spoonfuls of chutney over the kale, but not entirely to the edges. Place the second bread slice over the chutney, butter side up. Using a spatula, carefully flip the sandwich and gently press down. Cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the bread is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cut in half. Eat immediately.

Apple Chile Chutney

Add a mix of mild and hot chile peppers for flavor and heat. I used a red jalapeño and sweet Hungarian and Gypsy peppers in this batch. Makes about 2 cups.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion chopped
2 to 3 red chile peppers, depending on size and heat, stemmed and seeded, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger, with juices
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the chutney thickens, about 20 minutes. Cool completely, then transfer to a jar and refrigerate. The chutney will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Comfort Food Necessities: Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine

short-rib-braise-tastefood

It’s the time of year when we need a recipe like this: A pot of slow cooked, melt-in-your mouth, braised short ribs, blanketed in a rich, fortified, and deeply spiced sauce, evoking warmth, heat, and comfort. You can say it’s due to the climate, the holiday season, or even current events, but this braise will satisfy your craving and smooth your mood, focusing your attention solely on the task of digging into this heart (and belly) warming stew, one spoonful at a time.

I make variations of this recipe under the guise of other comfort-food terms, such as Beef Bourguignon and Irish Stew. The ingredients shift slightly, but the principle is the same: Braising chunks of meat by first thoroughly browning them in a pan, then submerging the pieces into an aromatic stock of broth and wine, before banishing the whole lot to the oven for a couple of hours to simmer, marinate, and acquiesce into fork tender morsels swimming in a heady concoction of heat and spirits. The key is time and patience, which, frankly, is a rewarding exercise in itself. Ideally, you will exert even more time and patience in this process, and begin making this dish one day in advance of serving. This way, the stew can chill overnight, further intensifying the flavor, while allowing the persnickety fat to rise to the top of the stew so that it can be deftly removed the following day before rewarming.

This short rib recipe is a favorite, with a rich and smoky sauce  spiked with the heat of chipotle, and balanced by nuggets of sweet carrot, onion, and baby turnips. I made it recently and captured the photo with my iPhone – we were too famished and greedy to wait for me to fiddle with a camera before tucking in.

Red Wine and Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

Serves 4 to 6.

Dry rub:
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 pounds short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (750 ml) bottle heavy-bodied red wine
1/4 cup chipotles in adobo, chopped with juices
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef stock (or chicken stock)

2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices
8 ounces pearl or small cippoline onions, peeled
1 bunch baby (Tokyo) turnips, trimmed and scrubbed (optional)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Braise:
1. Combine the dry rub spices in a small bowl. Arrange the ribs on a rimmed baking tray. Rub the spices all over the ribs. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour (or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before browning).
2. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches without crowding the pan, brown the ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes. (This step is very important, so take the time to do it well). Transfer to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining ribs.
4. Drain off the fat from the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, and garlic and sauté over medium heat until softened without coloring, about 3 minutes, stirring up the brown bits in the pan with a wooden spoon.
5. Add the cumin, paprika, and coriander and cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste and stir to create a nice slurry.
6. Add the wine, chipotles, and bay leaf and return the ribs and any collected juices to the pot. Pour in the stock. If the ribs are not completely covered with the liquid, add more stock or wine to top off the ribs. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven and braise until the ribs are very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring every hour or so.
7. Remove the pot from the oven. Uncover and let the braise cool slightly. At this point you can remove the bones and cut away any gristle from the ribs or proceed with the bones intact – it’s up to you and how you like to serve the ribs. Return the meat to the pot, then cover and refrigerate overnight. (This step is helpful because it will allow the fat to congeal on the top of the stew, which can be easily removed the next day, while allowing the flavors to develop overnight. Alternatively, proceed with Step 2 of the finishing process and skim fat with a spoon while the sauce reduces.)

Finish:
1. At least 1 hour before serving, remove the pot from the refrigerator and lift off the layer of fat on the surface of the stew.
2. Sauté the carrots, onions, and turnips (if using) in 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until they are crisp tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Lightly season with salt.
3. Gently reheat the braise over medium-low heat until the stock is liquid enough to remove the ribs. Carefully remove the ribs from the sauce and arrange in a baking dish.
4. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer over medium heat until reduced by about half and thickened to a rich sauce consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Return the beef to the pot and add the vegetables, vinegar, and sugar. Simmer until thoroughly heated, 5 to 7 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or keep warm until serving.