Autumn Hash

Now that the chilly, misty mornings that are par for the course for Seattle fall are here, I welcome them for the opportunity for some serious cooking therapy. Today was one of those days, much needed after three weeks of work and family crises. So when my husband took our girls out for a walk, I opted to stay at home, crank up my iTunes library, and exercise my long-ignored creative cooking muscles. In other words, I dived in with very little plan, figuring something will work itself out in the end.

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With tons of potatoes from our CSA, I knew I wanted to make a hash. On my dinner rotation is a hash of crispy potatoes under a mixture of chicken, pesto, mushrooms, and spinach or roasted broccoli, topped with melted cheese.  I automatically took a container of pesto out of my freezer to thaw, but not having many of the other ingredients on hand, I opted to swap the chicken for some apple sage vegan sausage, and took out some kale to add some kind of green vegetable to the mix. While looking in the fridge, I decided to take out some shredded parsnips, leftover from the spiced parsnip babycakes that I was making for a preschool Halloween party because I couldn’t think of what else I would use those for this week.

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I started cooking the potatoes in one pan and the crumbled sausage in the other, but something just didn’t feel right. I needed to edit down my ingredients. I decided to hone in on the sausage and the parsnips because both could have a sweet and savory element that could play off of each other. And after that, things started to click into place. I put away the pesto, figuring that the sage in the sausage would either be overpowered or at the least, get nothing from the basil in the pesto. The kale seemed like one vegetable too many, but that hash could use some more aromatics in the form of leeks and fennel, both sitting in my fridge with no particular plans to use this week. And since the sausage had apple and sage in it, why not add some cheddar to the Monterey jack cheese I was planning for the top of the hash since cheddar is such a natural playmate for those flavors.

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This hash had a great mix of textures: crispy, salty potatoes, parsnip ribbons that were still slightly crisp, gooey melted cheese. There was a hint of sweetness from the parsnips and the apple in the sausage but it was balanced by the boldness of the sage. The adults in our household devoured it– believe me, it’s even better with a drizzle of Sriracha. The kids? Well, not so much: our preschooler ate half of it with minimal prodding, but our 6-year-old barely ate a forkful at lunch and was not pleased when her plate was returned to her as a snack later that afternoon. I know that I said that I would post about what was generally liked by both our kids and my husband and me, but I don’t care– that 45 minutes was the first time in weeks that I felt like myself again and I want to remember that feeling and carry it with me to give me strength when needed.

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Autumn Hash

Ingredients

1.5 lbs potatoes (red skin or Yukon golds)

Olive oil

Canola oil

Apple sage sausage (I used vegan Field Roast, but I bet chicken-apple sausage would be tasty too.)

Half a medium yellow onion, diced

1/2 medium leek, trimmed of dark green and root ends, thinly sliced, and placed in a bowl of water to clean off dirt.

1/4 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced crosswise

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup shredded parsnip (about 1 medium parsnip)

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

salt and pepper

1 cup mix of shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese

1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Put potatoes in the bottom of a big pot and cover with cold water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and continue boiling for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Drain and let cool until you can touch them. Dice potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover the bottom of a 12 inch skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high until oil is shiny and slick. Add the potatoes and spread them out so they’re in a single layer. Let cook undisturbed for 10 minutes then flip them over with a spatula. Potatoes should be golden brown on one side. Continue cooking undisturbed for another 5-7 minutes, adjusting heat if necessary to keep potatoes from burning. Stir around again, then season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are crispy golden on most sides but still tender in the middle.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of canola oil in another large skillet over medium heat. Crumble sausage and cook until browned. Add diced onion and garlic and cook until onion softens, about 5-7 minutes. Scoop up the sliced leeks so that you leave any dirt behind in the bowl of water and add the leeks and fennel to the sausage and onion mixture. Continue to cook until fennel is softened, another 5-7 minutes. Add the shredded parsnip and mix in, seasoning with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Cook for just 3-4 minutes or until parsnip has wilted slightly but is still crisp tender.

Add the sausage mixture to the potatoes and mix until combined. Top with shredded cheese then bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until cheese has melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve right away. Who am I to judge if you want to add a fried egg with a runny yolk on top of each serving?

Makes 6 servings

CSA Count: 4 (potatoes, parsnip, fennel, leek)

Kid rating (out of 2 empty plates): 1/2 (1.5 if you count the cleaned plate after what was essentially 7 hours of not eating and bribed with a cracker)

Note for the working parent: You can boil the potatoes the night before, cool them, then store in the refrigerator overnight. Dice up the cold potatoes and proceed with directions as written for a dinner that should come together in roughly 30-40 minutes.

 

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Ricotta Stuffed Pancakes

Is it just me or haven’t the berries this season been phenomenal? Plump, sweet blueberries. Juicy, tangy raspberries. Ruby red strawberries. It’s no wonder that the baby has been devouring berries, smacking her lips and savoring the textures and juiciness of each berry as she squishes them before popping them in her mouth. I fear for us when berry season is over.

But for now, it seems like that end is nowhere in sight. Last week we received a flat of strawberries (our first bulk share shipment) plus an additional pint as part of our regular share. All of the strawberries were perfectly ripe. We sailed through two pints in a single day, but couldn’t keep up that rate of consumption without some variation to keep things interesting. So as I stood in front of an open refrigerator on Saturday morning staring at the remaining 6 pints of strawberries, I spied a container of ricotta cheese and instantly knew what I needed to do. Pancakes sandwiching a sweetened ricotta filling and layered with macerated strawberries.

I lightened the ricotta by folding in some whipped cream then brightened the flavors with some lemon zest and a touch of almond extract. The strawberries, although sweet on their own, turned glistening thanks to the juices released from tossing them with a little bit of light brown sugar. I stacked my pancakes with layers of ricotta and strawberries in between. I even made a little baby sized one for the baby! John, who usually takes care of feeding her solids since I take care of the… er… liquids, took a look at the beautiful miniature pancake sandwich and rather alarmed, asked, “How is she supposed to eat this???” Well, like we ate it. It’s beautiful to look at but even better when you demolish it. Each bite cut from the stack, squishes out some of the ricotta filling, mixing it with the berry juices into a delightful sludge that ends up mimicking syrup. Smashy smashy!

Pancakes

  • 8 oz all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 oz of milk, plus a splash more
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved (quartered for larger berries)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Ricotta filling

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1.5 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

To make pancakes, preheat a griddle over medium heat and preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a large bowl, combine butter, 8 oz milk, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon until just combined. There should still be lumps. Add a splash more milk to thin out the batter if you wish. Reduce the heat under the griddle to medium low then lightly butter with 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Pour out pancakes to about 4 inches in diameter (about 1/3 cup). Cook until the edges have solidified and bubbles in the center of the pancake pop and make little holes. Flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Continue cooking pancakes in batches, placing finished pancakes in the low heat oven. I got six 4-inch pancakes and two 3-inch pancakes.

While pancakes cook, combine strawberries and brown sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.

To make the ricotta filling, add the heavy cram to a chilled metal bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Place ricotta in a medium bowl and add the sugar, almond extract, and lemon zest, mixing until combined. Add the whipped cream and gently fold it in.

To serve– plate a pancake, top it with 2 tablespoons of the ricotta filling, a heaping spoonful of strawberries, then repeat two more times.

Yields 2 servings and 1 baby sized one.

CSA Count: 1

Strawberries

Muffin Tin Frittatas

I think that so far, I’ve been lucky that having a baby around the house hasn’t affected my finding time to cook too much. Sure some things have changed: we don’t eat dinner until 8:30 at night so I can still make food from scratch but start after she goes to bed; I certainly don’t blog about my efforts as often; and dinner plans with friends have now become brunches, squeezed in between her morning and mid-day naps.

I also fully anticipate that this will likely change once she’s more mobile and I can’t just plop her down in a Bumbo chair or exersaucer and entertain her by explaining what I’m doing as I cook. I’ll have to find fast but tasty ways to still cook from scratch if I can. These mini frittatas should fit the bill. Quick assembly, hands off co0king in the oven, lovely colors, easily portable to friends’ houses, and delicious warm or at room temperature. Plus it has a frou frou sounding name to keep the foodie in me happy if I have to eat on the run, chasing down the little tornado of destruction that my backwards crawling daughter is on the verge of becoming.

I also like how versatile these are– you can load them up with whatever ingredients you want. When I made these for a potluck brunch with friends, I made one batch with cheddar, bacon, and chives and another batch with smoked salmon, cream cheese, fresh dill, and diced red onion. These cooked beautifully. They puffed up, got crispy on the outside and yet were tender on the inside. Perfect for brunch with or without little kiddos running around, and although lately our brunches have been with little babies and toddlers, that doesn’t stop us from pairing these with mimosas and dousing them with Sriracha. Parenthood doesn’t have to change everything, you know.

  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • cooking spray
  • filling ingredients of your choice. Examples: 4 ounces cooked, crumbled bacon, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives. Also pictured here, 4 ounces crumbled smoked salmon, 3 ounces cream cheese, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill, and 1/4 cup finely diced red onion.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Take a muffin tin and lightly coat with cooking spray. Beat together eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well combined. Add filling ingredients* then pour into muffin tin, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the eggs have just set and are a little quivery when you gently shake the muffin tin. Remove from oven and let cook for about 5 minutes. Using an offset spatula, gently loosen the frittatas from the muffin tins and set on a serving platter. Sprinkle with any additional chives or other fresh herbs, depending on what ingredients you used (cilantro for a southwestern theme would be good, parsley for an Italian theme, you get it.) Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 9 frittatas.

*If doing bacon, cheddar and chives, add 3/4 cup of cheese to the eggs and reserve the last 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top of the frittatas in the last few minutes of baking so that there’s a gooey cheese layer on top.

Mushroom Leek Quiche

I love making quiches. I love how versatile they are, making for a hearty breakfast or a light lunch or dinner. In fact, I frequently make quiches and think about blogging my efforts. Problem is, as practiced of a pie baker I may be, I suck at blind baked crusts. I think it’s because I never use enough pie weights, so the crust always falls down from the sides and I end up with a flat disk at the bottom of my pie plate. I suppose I could just make a crustless quiche, but it’s the buttery, flaky crust I love most about quiches. Hell, I’ve even served my quiches upside down before, topping the baked quiche custard with the crust disk just to keep that flaky goodness in the picture. Besides, a crustless quiche would feel like giving in and not challenging myself.

Inspired by spring, I decided to make a quiche with light and bright flavors. With leeks readily available at the local produce stand, I thought how perfect they would be for a spring-inspired quiche: subtle, almost sweet onion flavor and soft, pale greens dotting the bright, yellow custard.  For some meaty flavor without actually using meat, I chose crimini mushrooms, figuring they would add firm texture and an earthy flavor.

The mushrooms and leeks got a quick saute in some melted butter along with some minced garlic. To brighten the flavors some more, I added some lemon zest and chopped fresh basil. To round out the flavors of this quiche, I chose Gruyère for its combination of sharpness and nuttiness.

After prepping my filling all that was left was to hold my breath, cross my fingers, open the oven, and check on my blind baked crust. This time, I over compensated by using 1.5 portion of a double crust recipe and added some leftover split peas to my pie weights. Lo and behold– those were the tricks I needed. My crust held its shape, and although it wasn’t prettily fluted at the edges, frankly, that was a marked improvement over a flat disk that I’ll take any day. I say this with the hope that you won’t judge when you see the final plated picture. All that mattered to me, as all that should matter to you, is that here was a brightly flavored quiche with a soft custard and flaky crust, perfect for a spring-time meal.

Note: Save your dough scraps for future pies or quiches or in a handy trick I learned from my mother-in-law, cut them into pieces and sprinkle a mix of cinnamon brown sugar on them then bake off for a sweet snack.

  • 1.5 portion of your favorite double crust recipe. I’ve been partial to this one from King Arthur Flour lately.
  • Cooking spray
  • egg yolk mixed with a large pinch of salt
  • 1 large leek, trimmed of dark green part and root end
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms, scrubbed clean
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced (yields about 1 teaspoon)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1.5 cups half and half
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

Roll out pie dough to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Lightly spray the pie plate with cooking spray then place crust in pie plate, trim edges leaving a half-inch over-hang, then roll the crust edges inward. Flute the edges if you want to/can. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Take a piece of aluminum foil that is large enough to cover the bottom of your pie crust and hang over the sides and spray the shiny side with a little cooking spray. Place the sprayed side down on the pie crust and fill the pie to the brim and the edges of the crust with pie weights, be they store-bought, uncooked rice, dry beans, or a mix. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then remove the foil from the pie pan and prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, covering the entire bottom of the crust with little holes. Return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it and flattening any bubbles in the crust with a wooden spoon if necessary. Remove from oven again and brush with the egg yolk and salt mixture before baking for 2-5 minutes more.

While preparing the crust, make your quiche filling. Start by cutting the trimmed leek in half, lengthwise then cutting both halves cross-wise so that you have 1/4 inch thick slices. Add the sliced leeks to a bowl of water and swish around to let the dirt settle to the bottom. Use a strainer to remove the leeks from the rinsing water and set aside. Trim stems from mushrooms and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. When the foam subsides, add the leeks, mushrooms, and garlic, then saute until mushrooms begin to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat and mix in basil and lemon zest. Let this cool slightly while you mix together the custard.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and half and half. Season with a/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and the nutmeg. Whisk together until combined.

Reduce heat of oven to 375 degrees F. While crust is still hot, add the mushroom-leek mixture to the crust then top with the shredded Gruyère cheese. Pour in the custard mixture then bake for 25-35 minutes or until quiche is golden and custard has set. Slice into wedges and serve while warm.

Pesto & Peppered Bacon Breakfast Sandwich

I know that I’ve posted breakfast ideas for pancakes or chocolatey oatmeal in the past, but that might give a false impression. When it comes to breakfast, I usually tend toward the savory rather than the sweet. It might be an attempt to balance the breakfasts of chocolate donuts and orange juice that my father would secretly feed me when he’d drive me to kindergarten. It might be my love for bacon and cheese. It might be the thrill of repurposing leftovers from a week’s worth of dinners to create something entirely new and delicious.

This breakfast sandwich is definitely an example of tasty re-purposing. I woke up on a Saturday confronted with a loaf of beautiful bread that I had asked John to pick up when I panicked about having to stretch a meal to feed 5 when my parents and uncle showed up unexpectedly for dinner. Turns out we didn’t need an extra loaf of bread but this chewy, whole wheat artisan bread was too beautiful to waste. With a freezer well stocked with pesto thanks to our CSA bulk share I knew I had the basics for a delicious breakfast sandwich.

To tell the truth, I’m a little surprised that this is the first breakfast sandwich idea that I’m posting here. Breakfast sandwiches are consumed on a nearly weekly basis in our household. I’m always striving to make one that competes with my favorite restaurant one– grilled sourdough with bacon, eggs, arugula, and tomato aioli. That might be an impossible task though if only because that sandwich can come with sweet potato fries instead of hash browns. Sweet potato fries for breakfast aside, I made this sandwich with softly scrambled eggs, crispy peppered bacon, a handful of arugula and slices of that hearty bread, toasted on the griddle with layers of sweet basil pesto and melted, sharp provolone cheese.  A breakfast sandwich so good, you don’t need to have sweet potato fries. You can still want sweet potato fries, mind you, but you don’t need them to be satisfied with this sandwich.

For two sandwiches:

  • 4 strips peppered bacon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium garlic clove, smashed
  • 4 slices hearty, crusty bread of your choice
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 4 slices sharp provolone cheese
  • canola oil
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula, washed and dried

Cook bacon over medium low heat until crisp and cooked through. Drain on paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Preheat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Place butter and garlic clove in a microwave safe bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and cook in the microwave for 1 minute on 40 % power or until melted, being careful as the butter can splatter. Brush one side of each of the slices of bread then spread the other side with pesto and a slice of cheese. Toast on the griddle or in the skillet until the cheese is melted and the buttered side is golden brown, about 5-6 minutes on medium low heat. While bread toasts, heat about 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Beat the eggs with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the eggs to the pan and gently stir until eggs reach your desired degree of doneness.

To assemble sandwich: Place one slice of the grilled bread on a plate then add half of the eggs. Top with half of the arugula and the bacon then top with another piece of grilled bread.

CSA Count (It’s been awhile, but it’s off-season): 1

Basil

Nutella Surprise Oatmeal

I am so excited that spring is here! That said, I’m sad about letting go of cold weather mornings for one reason only– this oatmeal, the oatmeal combination that was my breakfast obsession this past winter.

It starts off innocently enough with plain old rolled oats cooking on the stove top. Although here’s a trick I learned from John: rather than bringing the milk to a boil per the package directions before adding the oatmeal, I combine them and heat them together so that the oatmeal ends up creamier, I presume because the starches have a longer time to release and seep into the milk, giving this the consistency of a loose pudding. A small handful of light brown sugar and some dashes of cinnamon also help here.

This oatmeal is garnished with toasted pecans and dried cherries. Looks pretty healthy and delicious on its own, no? But here’s what makes this oatmeal decadent– I hide a spoonful of chocolate hazelnut spread in the bottom of the bowl. The heat of the oatmeal melts the chocolatey spread and as you stir in the oatmeal garnish, the secret star ingredient is revealed. Oatmeal, spiked with cinnamon, with tart cherries and buttery pecans swirled with heavenly chocolate and hazelnut! Call me gullible, but even though I was the one who’d make my oatmeal and knew well enough about that little puddle of Nutella awaiting me at the bottom of my bowl, I’d still be giddy and delighted every time I ate this. Nutella Surprise Oatmeal– definitely worth enduring cold weather for.

For 2 servings:

  • 1.5 cups rolled oats, not instant
  • 3 cups skim milk
  • big pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon plus a couple more dashes of cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate hazelnut spread

In a medium saucepan, combine oats, skim milk, salt, brown sugar, and teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until oatmeal achieves your desired consistency– for me, it’s creamy, but not too thick, cooking for about 15 minutes. While oatmeal cooks, combine the dried cherries, pecans, and a couple of dashes of ground cinnamon in a small bowl.

Place 1 tablespoon of chocolate hazelnut spread in each bowl, then divide the oatmeal between the bowls. Top with the cherries and pecans then serve immediately.