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Duck with sweet potato hash

This was a bit of improvisation, after seeing some good looking sweet potatoes in the local market. It turned out well enough to share:1 duck breast

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 small turnips, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 2 tsp Za’atar
  • 2 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 12 oz fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • additional Aleppo pepper
  • Greek-style yogurt

Score the duck breast skin and salt the breast on both sides. Place the duck n a deep-sided pan large enough to hold the potato and turnip, skin side down. Turn the heat on to low and render the fat from the breast. As the fat renders, gradually increase the heat to medium to crisp the skin and cook the duck. Keep it skin-side down for 15 minutes or so, then flip and cook the other side for another 7 minutes, which should bring the duck to medium-rare. Remove to a plate.

While the duck is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the sweet potato and turnip. Cook until slightly softened, 5-7 minutes, then drain.

Add the onion to the duck dripping and cook until caramelized, 20-25 minutes. When the onion is dark and fragrant, add the garlic and spices, stir, then add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze any onion. Stir for a moment, then add the potato and turnip. Increase the heat to medium high and stir, making sure to coat all of the potato and turnip with the spices. Continue to cook until the potatoes and turnips are tender 5-10 minutes longer. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper. Add in the spinach and lime juice, stir and cook until the spinach is just wilted, 1-2 minutes more.

To serve, thinly slice the duck breast. Put the sweet potato in a shallow bowl, place the duck breast on one side, garnish with the yogurt, mint, pepper and parsley. Serve immediately

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Shakshuka

An improvisational comfort food originating in North Africa, there are as many shakshuka recipes as there are cooks. I’d read three or four before settling on the one that I made, but feel free to wing it. Adding olives or feta is commonplace, as is saffron, if you’re feeling wealthy.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp high-smoke-point oil, like safflower
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh moderately hot peppers: Anaheim, cayenne, or jalapeno, diced.
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 28 oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes (or 6 to 8 fresh paste tomatoes, if you can find them)
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs

In a large, lidded pan, heat the oil over moderate heat and add the cumin and paprika and cook until fragrant. Turn the heat to high, add the onion and saute until soft and slightly charred, add the peppers and continue to cook until the peppers are slightly soft and the onion is very tender. Add the thyme, bay, tomato, and sugar, reduce the heat, stir well and simmer, breaking the tomatoes down, until you have a thick-ish sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Make four wells in the sauce, crack an egg into each, lower the heat to low, cover the pan and poach the eggs in the sauce, until the whites are just set and the yolks are soft, roughly 10 minutes. Serve in bowls with pita to mop up the sauce.

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi

It is the time of year when the good veg. in the grocery stores seem limited to cabbage, squash, and sweet potato. I was looking for some way to combine sweet potato and radicchio, and the best option seemed to be making the sweet potato  into gnocchi. Most of the recipes I read had added sugar, or maple syrup. This seems excessive as the sweet potato is usually sweet enough on its own.

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and then bake in a 400 degree oven until tender, 40 minutes or so. Let cool, then peel and mash. Add the ricotta, egg, and salt to the mashed sweet potato and mix well. add two cups of flour and stir until thoroughly incorporated. The dough will be sticky. Add just enough of the remaining flour, in 1/4 cup increments, until the dough is workable by hand. Turn out onto a floured work surface, knead for two minutes or so, then divide into 8 equal segments.

Set out a cookie sheet lined with parchment dusted with flour (or a Silpat, if you have one) and bring a gallon of water with two tbsp salt to a boil on the stove.

Roll each of the 8 segments into a “snake” roughly 3/4″ thick. Cut into equal segments. Press each flat, then, with a floured fork, press lightly and roll into the traditional gnocchi shape. Set each gnocchi on the cookie sheet while you process the rest of the dough.

When the water is boiling, add all of the gnocchi at once. Stir gently to prevent them from sticking together and boil until cooked, 3-5 minutes. Drain. At this point, you can use them in any gnocchi recipe (pan sauteed with browned butter, sage, and garlic, for instance) or you can spread them on a cookie sheet, let them cool, and freeze them. To use the frozen gnocchi, thaw and either bake them or saute them.  The sweet potato pairs well with bitter greens, like radicchio or broccoli rabe, and umami-rich flavors, like wild mushrooms. I baked mine in brown butter with radicchio, lamb sausage, and goat cheese.

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Squash, leek, and bacon galette

There are a plethora of squash, so it is time to get inventive. I’ve never cared for squash puree, the disappointing younger brother to mashed potatoes. I prefer my squash to retain a bit of texture and to share the stage with other autumnal flavors: Sage, leek, and smoky bacon.

The crust

  • 1 cup rolled oats (NOT instant oats!)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 14 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
  • up to 1/4 cup cold water

Heat a skillet over medium low heat, toss the oats in and toast gently until lightly browned and fragrant, 10-15 minutes. Put in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Allow the oats to cool. Add flour, salt and butter, pulse in the food processor until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with a few larger bits of butter still visible. Gradually add water and pulse until dough forms. Turn out onto a floured work surface, roll to 1/2″ thick, fold in thirds, wrap in plastic, and chill in fridge for 1/2 hour.

The filling

  • 4 slices smoky bacon, cut into lardons
  • 2 leeks, quartered and sliced, white and pale green parts only (roughly 2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 delicata squash, halved, peeled, seeded, and sliced into thin semicircles (roughly 2 cups)
  • 2 tsp fresh sage, minced
  • 1 itsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 4 oz. good goat cheese, crumbled.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg., beaten with 1 tbsp water

In a large pan, brown the bacon over medium heat, remove to paper towels to drain, pour off all but 1 or 2 tbsp of the dripping. Return the pan to the heat, add the leeks and garlic, saute until the leaks soften, 10 minutes or so.  Place leek, bacon, squash, and herbs in a bowl and toss thoroughly.

Assembling the tart

Folded galette

Preheat the oven to 375.

Take the crust from the fridge. Roll out to a 15″ circle (you can neaten the edges if you choose, it’ll make for a cleaner looking galette. I left mine rough). Transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Brush the middle 12″ with the egg wash, saving some back. Mound the leek, bacon and squash mixture in the middle 12″ of crust. Scatter the goat cheese on top of it.  Fold the outer edge of the crust over the filling, pinching the creases lightly to hold it together. Brush the crust with the remaining egg wash.

Bake until the squash is soft and the cheese is browned and melted, 1 hour. Cool for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.

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Artichoke, Leek, & Bean Gratin

A variation on a Deborah Madison recipe in “The Savory Way.” While her recipe calls for cannellini beans, I prefer a darker bean. My go-to is Borlotti (which I grow each year, in part, for this casserole) but pintos or soldier beans are a good substitute.

  • 1 cup dried beans, washed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large leeks
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 14 oz cans of artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 oz good goat cheese (Humboldt Fog is best, others will do in a pinch.)
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • olive oil

Place the beans and bay leaf in a heavy pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender. 2-3 hours. Drain, reserving the bean liquor.

While the beans are cooking, prep the veg: quarter the leeks lengthwise and slice into 1/2″ pieces. Wash well and drain. Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for 3 minutes or so. Add the garlic, rosemary, and artichoke hearts and saute for another 4 minutes. Add the water, cover, reduce the the heat to medium low and simmer until the leeks and artichokes are tender. Season with salt and pepper, add the beans.

Preheat the oven to 400. Put the bean mixture in a roomy casserole. Add enough of the reserved bean liquor to cover the mixture. crumble the cheese and spread it evenly on top of the bean mixture. Moisten the bread crumbs with olive oil, then spread on top of the casserole. Bake until the top is browned and the casserole is bubbly, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 4 as a main course.

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Slow Cooker Posole

While I enjoy a good bowl of chili, I love posole more. Even though this stew cooks in a slow cooker, there is a lot of stovetop prep, too, this is a three pan meal, and expect to spend about an hour on prep.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dried hominy (preferred) or 2 14 oz. cans of hominy
    2 lbs pork shoulder
  • 5 dried New Mexico red chiles (or a mix of poblano and guajillo chiles)
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 paste tomatoes
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp epazote

Preparation

The Hominy

If using dried, the night before, wash the hominy well, then cover in cold water and soak overnight. The following day, drain the hominy,  and place in a slow cooker.  Cover with 3 quarts of boiling water, add the cumin, oregano, epazote, salt to taste, and cook on high until tender: 6 hours.

The Pork

In a dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp oil until shimmering, add the pork and brown on all sides. Chop one onion, add to the pork, and cook until tender. Cover the pork with water, salt to taste, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the pork is tender, 90 minutes or so. Remove the pork from the liquid and shred with two forks. Add the pork and cooking liquid to the hominy.

The Chili Sauce

Heat a dry cast-iron skillet until hot. Split and seed the peppers, then toast in the skillet, pressing down with a spatula and flipping each pepper once. They toast quickly, 10 seconds a side is usually sufficient.  Toast the garlic in the skillet as well until the skins are slightly blackened and the garlic is fragrant. Peel the cloves and leave them whole. Place the peppers in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak until soft, 10-15 minutes. Slice the onion in half and place directly over a gas flame to char, flipping once, 2-3 minutes a side. Chop. Put the peppers, garlic, onion, and tomatoes in a blender or food processor, add enough of the pepper soaking liquid so you can puree all of the ingredients. Strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium heat until shimmering, pour in the chili sauce and cook stirring, until it darkens and thickens slightly, 10 minutes or so.

Putting it all together

Add the chili sauce to the hominy, stir well. Continue to cook until the hominy is tender.  Taste for salt. Serve with fresh cilantro and sour cream for garnishes accompanied by warm flour tortillas.

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Molasses Spice Cookies

This is a recipe from “Cooks Illustrated” dating back over 20 years. They’re my go-to autumn cookie. I’ll make these before chocolate chip, or oatmeal. They are flavorful without being overly sweet. Tender without being cloying. You can double the recipe, it’ll still fit in a standard Kitchen-Aid mixer bowl. The dough also freezes well. Shape the cookies into balls before freezing and you can thaw and bake a few at a time.

Molasses Spice Cookies

Ingredients

2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt, plus additional 1/4 tsp for rolling
12 tbsp (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (dark is better)
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup molasses.

Instructions

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment (or Silpat sheet liners). Put 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp salt in a wide, shallow bowl for rolling.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt, set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add brown and white sugars, beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to medium, add egg yolk and vanilla. Beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to medium low, add molasses and beat until incorporated, pausing to scrape down sides. add flour/spice mixture, beat on lowest setting until incorporated, roughly 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

cookie factory

Using a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon measure, scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough. Roll between your palms into a 1-1/2″ ball. Drop ball in rolling sugar, roll to coat, and set on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough , spacing the balls 2″ apart. (Note: if you want to freeze these, roll them, don’t sugar them, bag them and freeze them at this point).

Bake one sheet at a time,  until the cookies are set on the edges, but still look slightly puffy in the centers (this will keep them tender and chewy), approximately 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through cooking to ensure even baking.

Transfer cookie sheet to a cooling rack, let the cookies rest for five minutes or so, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 24 cookies.

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Gluten Free Sweet Potato Pecan Tea Bread

This is a nice autumnal change from pumpkin spice… everything. If you want a vegan version, swap out the butter for coconut oil. The lack of gluten makes this crumblier than a typical tea bread, so be gentle when cutting it.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked sweet potato, mashed coarsely, approximately 8 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups gluten free flour (spelt flour, or King Arthur gluten free flour)
  • 2-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks) or equal amount coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut flakes (preferably unsweetened).

Cook, peel, and mash the sweet potatoes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, lightly grease a 9 x 5″ loaf pan.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, soda, powder and salt.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. add the sugar and brown sugar, beat until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on medium, until well mixed. Add the sweet potato and vanilla and beat until just mixed. Gradually add the flour, beating on low until just incorporated. Fold in the nuts. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean, 60 – 80 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.

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“The Primo:” A summer cocktail

Summer drinks. When I have fresh fruit and herbs, I make a plethora of simple syrups and shrubs for mixing. Inspired by a local bar, I’ve been working on a grapefruit & basil cocktail, which finally seems to be ready to share. This recipe is for two drinks. It would scale up pretty easily, assuming you have something big enough to make it in.

Ingredients

  • 4 large, fresh basil leaves
  • 1 keffir lime leaf (fresh is best, dried will work in a pinch)
  • pinch salt
  • 3 oz basil simple syrup
  • 4 oz. vodka
  • 6 oz grapefruit juice
  • bitters
  • lemon twist
  • fresh basil leaves

Instructions

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the basil, lime leaf, and salt until the leaves have expressed their oils. Add in the simple syrup, vodka, and grapefruit juice, then add ice to the shaker and shake until well chilled. Rinse two martini glasses with a splash of bitters. Pour out the cocktail, garnish with a twist of lemon and a fresh basil leaf. Makes two.

Basil Simple Syrup

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, stems and all

Instructions

Add all ingredients to a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer over low heat until the syrup thickens slightly, approximately 40 minutes. Cool, then jar. It will keep in the fridge for several weeks.

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Pickled Radishes

Radishes are in, so it is time to preserve some of the harvest.  This recipe works well as either a fridge pickle or a water-processed canned pickle. If you plan on water-processing, cut the radishes on the thick side to preserve their crunch.

Spicy Pickled Radishes

Ingredients

  • Approximately 12 radishes (depending on variety and size, this could be up to 24)
  • ¾ apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup or light brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (flavorful without being overly spicy, if you want a hotter pickle, use coarsely ground dried serrano or thai bird chiles)
  • ½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 12 black peppercorns

Instructions

Wash the radishes, trim off the tops, the bottoms, and any blemishes or discolorations. Using a chef’s knife, thinly slice the radishes into rounds (If you plan on preserving these with a water bath or pressure cooker, make the rounds thicker). Toss with 1 tsp. kosher salt and place in a colander to sweat while you make the brine.

Make the brine: In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water,  maple syrup or sugar and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat.

Rinse the radishes under cold water and pat them dry. Have two 8 oz jars and lids washed and ready (if you are using a water bath, put the lids and cans in a pot of water and bring to a boil, keep them there until you are ready to pack your pickles). Fill each jar with radishes and top with the dry spices. Press gently with a clean wooden spoon to pack everything lightly, then cover with the hot brine. For fridge pickles, top the jar with a lid, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for 2-3 days to allow the flavors to meld. For processed pickles, leave 1/4″ head space at the top of the jar when filling with brine. Press gently to expel any trapped air, then place a lid and a ring on the can. Water process in boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool (you should hear the lids *tink* as the vacuum seal sets while they cool). Store in a cool, dark place for at least a week. Refrigerate after opening.