Category Archives: comfort food

butternut squash & apple soup du jour

seriously, how can it be November? we’ve officially come face to face with blustery cold days and frequent rain storms. on my regular trip to the market, i find butternut squash on sale for just $0.99/lbs! without a recipe in mind, i decided to pick one up.

the lonely squash stared at me from the counter for some 9 days as the search for an appetizing meal played on. and then suddenly, déjà vu. this time, last year, butternut squash, counter. i recalled last year trying out a butternut squash soup recipe on some friends, which was given a mediocre review of a bit too thick for soup and more resemblant of a baby food.

how gross, i thought. but i’m sure i can do better. so this time around, i decided to axe up the recipe by replacing sauteed apples with apple sauce and a touch of apple juice, and one additional cup of chicken stock.

the result was dreamy. the perfect creamy soup, hold the cream. a healthy take on fall with a warm cup of butternut squash & apple soup, finished with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

butternut squash soup

one butternut squash (2 1/2 lbs or so)

2 cups of water

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp butter

1 cup applesauce

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic

1/4 c apple juice

2  1/4 c chicken stock

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp white pepper

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp coriander

preheat oven to 400°. slice squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. place sliced side down into baking pan with two cups of water. bake at 400° for 45-50 minutes, or until the squash is tender. remove from oven and allow to cool, until the pulp can be easily removed from the skins. this should give you approximately 3c of pulp.

saute diced onions in butter until translucent (5 mins). add applesauce and minced garlic. simmer for another 5 minutes. add chicken stock, apple juice, squash pulp, salt, pepper, and spices. whisk ingredients together and bring to a boil. lower heat to medium and reduce for about 10 minutes.

puree the soup in your food processor or food mill. keep warm over low heat and serve immediately. top with creme fraiche and cinnamon for a special treat. enjoy!

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halibut cheek sliders; cherry compote

for anyone who hasn’t had the luxury of indulging in halibut cheeks, i’m sorry. they aren’t easy to come by, but when you stumble across them they are a must have. this mild white fish cheek compares favorably against lobster tail, without the added work.

the halibut cheeks can be sautéed in a white wine, lemon, garlic, and butter pan for about 5-7 minutes – until thoroughly cooked. the texture is much different from a fillet with the shape and density resembling miniature lobster tails.

i served my sliders with mustard greens, red onion, cheeks, and cherry compote – though the dish would also complement well with garlicky aioli. the delicious juicy bing cherries were irresistible at the market. in fact, i used the remaining cherries to whip up an unforgettable cherry almond scone (coming soon…).

 

halibut cheek sliders

3/4 lbs of halibut cheek

1 lemon

3 garlic cloves – minced

1/2 c white wine (dry)

2tbsp butter

salt/pepper

slider buns (recommended: brioche rolls)

mustard greens

saute garlic and butter, add juice from one lemon and 1/2 c white wine. lightly salt and pepper your cheeks. simmer the sauce and add the cheeks, cooking for about 5-7 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. slice red onion and rinse mustard greens. serve cheeks on toasted slider buns with greens, onion, and a dollop of cherry compote.

cherry compote

1 c. pitted bing cherries

1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 c minced onion

1/4 balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

1/4 c water and 1/4 c sugar dissolved

saute minced onion with olive oil and fine lemon zest. add the sugar-water, cherries, balsamic and a squeeze of lemon juice. simmer to a reduction.

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baba’s pirozhki

i’ve risen from dormancy. i almost forgot about you, blog. but i’m back. my computer and life ‘tasks’ have been salvaged from disarray (for now…). i have been back piling recipes to share with you, and am particularly excited about this one.

my babaushka (aka baba, grammy, grams, grand-ma-ma, etc.) more often than not prepared a dense russian cuisine for family meals. as children, our favorite meal was always baba’s pirozhki. the same crispy deep-fried dough and various fillings gave the  seven-year old in me just enough excitement to keep me coming back for more. often she would prepare three or four different pirozhki and each bite sized popper would be a surprising delight.

what didn’t occur to me, until i began recreating baba’s pirozhki, was that our ‘russian’ cuisine was actually russian with a chinese twist. my baba, 1/2 russian and 1/2 chinese made a minced meat pirozhki with soy and oyster sauce! she then served the meal with a homemade dipping soy sauce alongside.

i know, it sounds amazing weird. but believe me, it’s good. the pirozhki dough takes a few hours to rise and is easy to work with. i flattened a golf ball sized glob of dough and put one spoonful of filling in each dumpling.

don’t let the deep-frying scare you away from this recipe. we find that only ~10% of the oil used in the cooking process remains in the food after crisping on a paper towel. OK, it’s not a great statistic, but it could be worse.

the recipe my baba kept of course calls for 10 cups of flour and enough to feed an army of people. i cut the recipe into 1/4 and still have leftovers! it should feed 4-6 easily. the rolls also freeze very well. the result will be best if you reheat them in the oven @ 350 degrees.

pirozhki (пирожок)

dough

2 1/2 c flour

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1/2 c milk

1/4 c warm water

1 tsp cooking oil

1/2 yeast packet

2 tbsp butter

melt butter in a microwave safe bowl. add 1/4 cup of milk. separately, dissolve 1/2 packet of yeast with warm water. allow to proof for ten minutes. add 1/4 c milk, oil, and eggs to yeast mixture. transfer to a large bowl. sift flour and salt together. add buttermilk mixture to yeast mixture. begin slowly adding flour until dough can be kneaded (approximately 2 1/2 cups). knead dough and allow to rise in a warm covered bowl for 3 hours or until it has doubled in size.

filling

1 yellow onion

1 tsp dill

2 garlic gloves

1 tbsp oil

bunch of fresh thyme or herbs of choice

salt

black pepper

3/4 lbs minced pork

1/2 lbs minced beef

2 hardboiled eggs

saute onions and garlic in oil. add dill, pepper and salt. add minced meat once the onions are translucent. if desired, add about 2 tablespoons of soy or oyster sauce to the meat mixture. cook meat until browned (10-15 minutes over medium). drain the meat mixture. dice the hardboiled eggs into small pieces and add to meat pan. mix in a 1/8 c of flour for thickening and set aside until dough is ready.

when the dough is done rising, take a small amount of dough (golf ball size) and flatten it like the picture shows. add one scoop of filling. Close and pinch the dough together. allow pirzohki to rise for another ten minutes prior to deep-frying. deep fry until golden brown on each side in 3 cups of vegetable oil.

be sure to try them with soy sauce! other popular side sauces are sour cream, horseradish, or mustard. enjoy!

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shrimp scampi & linguine

with warmer days finally sprinkling in around seattle’s tiresome gray hues, it hit me like a brick. oh dear – summer. you know, that short-lived 6-week season when short shorts, tank tops, and summer dresses come out to play haunt all of us with our pasty legs and bloated winter bellies.

ugh, I must start eating lighter meals and researching this year’s best streak-free sunless tanner. seattle’s summer slogan ought to be warning: don’t blink or you might miss it. what I find most unusual is the volume of high end speed boats and convertibles that seem to rise from the dead just long enough to get their annual tune-up.

the joys of shrimp scampi were calling to me – a dish that I first made with the help of a good friend, and would proceed to make many of times thereafter. citrusy lemons and garlic galore, sub parsley for what some would refer to as ‘you love it or you hate it’, cilantro. this dish is quick, easy, and light.

 shrimp scampi

1 lbs shrimp – veined and peeled

1/4 c butter

1/2 c chopped cilantro

2 shallots

2 lemons, for juice and peel

4-6 garlic cloves

1 c white wine

linguine

boil 2 quarts of water for linguine. cook per package instructions. 

sauté shrimp for about 1 minute in steaming water until just cooked. remove from pan and set aside. melt butter until foaming, add garlic and shallots. sauté 3 minutes until shallots become translucent. add white wine and lemon juice from two small/medium lemons, continue simmer. add 1/2 tablespoon of grated lemon peel. add cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. add back the shrimp to reheat over medium heat for 2 minutes.

combine shrimp and sauce with strained linguine noodles. serve and enjoy with a delicious crusty bread or side salad!

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chocolate black raspberry cupcakes; champagne frosting

easter weekend and book club tonight. my first book club ever. i’ve never considered going in the past, because i figure if i don’t have time to read the book – why go? as if reading the book was a mandatory requirement of attendance or something. i’ve since been informed ‘book club’ is more a rendition of Sex In the City – a total excuse for a room full of ladies to drink wine and indulge in delicious treats while ranting and raving about everything under the sun. thus, my cupcakes and i will be there.

as much as i am craving chocolate peanut butter cake – i needed to make something a bit more ‘girly’. in lieu of Easter pastels, and managing to include my daily dose of chocolate, raspberry and champagne fit the bill.

why chocolate stout? well to be honest, the stout (such as Guinness) complements dark chocolate so well that the end result is simply a richer moister chocolate cupcake.

critic approved!

chocolate cupcake

1 c stout (such as Guinness)

1 stick unsalted butter

3/4 c pressed cocoa powder

1/2 c canola or grapeseed oil

1/3 c sour cream

1/3 c milk

2 eggs

2 c flour

2 c sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

chocolate raspberry ganache

6 oz dark chocolate (high quality)

1 c heavy cream

1/2 c seedless black raspberry preserve

raspberry whipped cream frosting (optional)

1 c heavy whip cream

1/3 c seedless black raspberry preserves

6 tbsp powdered sugar

champagne frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter

4 tbsp champagne

3 c powdered sugar

2 tbsp heavy cream

pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. line 24 muffin cups with your favorite cupcake liners.

melt butter in a sauce pan. add oil, cocoa powder, and stout. whisk until thoroughly combined. let cool.

sift flour, sugar, soda, and salt together. in a separate bowl, beat sour cream, milk and eggs. add stout sauce. slowly fold in flour mixture until just combined. pour batter into your cupcake liners, filling each 3/4 way to top. bake for 15-17 minutes, until the centers are clean on a toothpick. let cool.

while the cupcakes are baking, chop dark chocolate chunks and put in a heat proof bowl or double boiler. heat heavy cream for ganache in a sauce pan until just bubbling at the edges. pour over heavy cream over the chocolate chunks and stir until chocolate is melted (may need to heat over double broiler. add raspberry preserves until smooth.  allow to cool for a few minutes, but not too long that the chocolate begins to settle.

using an apple corer, gently remove the centers of the cupcakes. push the corer down until it feels like you are about 1/2 way to the bottom.  fill with ganache. allow to cool completely.

now, you do not need to make both frosting recipe’s, so take your pick.

raspberry whipped cream frosting:

whip on high heavy cream, preserves, and powdered sugar for 5 minutes or until peaks are forming. fill plastic sandwich bag or a piping bag. frost cupcakes in the design of your choice!

champagne frosting:

whip butter and heavy cream until light and fluffy. begin adding powdered sugar 1 tsbp at a time. whip on high until powdered sugar is fully incorporated. alternate between powdered sugar and champagne. using a piping bag to frost your cupcakes – enjoy!

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pots de creme

traditionally, pots de creme (pronounced ‘poh duh crem’) would be baked and served in individual ramekins. in lieu of attempting to simplify the prep, the ‘no bake’ version sounded like the way to go. since we’re skipping the baking, i’m piggy backing off of Ree Drummond’s fab idea to class these little treats up in martini glasses.

i have to say, we indulged in an incredibly delicious home cooked meal last night. My boyfriend treated us to duck ‘farrotto’ cooked with parmesan brodo – simply amazing, which was followed by rich pots de creme [and a long walk rest on the couch].

there was one glitch to the recipe. six individual pots de creme’s, two people… maybe next time i will half the recipe? nahh.

chocolate espresso pots de creme

12 oz mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (high quality chocolate is best)

5 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 c heavy cream

8 oz Americano or hot coffee [keep heated until ready to incorporate]

pinch of salt

place chocolate chips in the blender. crack raw eggs over the chocolate chips. add vanilla and heavy cream. begin blending. slowly add hot coffee (which will melt the chocolate and help set the eggs), and continue blending for 1-2 minutes. The mixture will grow as the eggs expand. chocolate will be bubbly on top when you are done blending. pour mixture into the serving glasses of your choice. chill for 3 hours.

vanilla bean whipped cream

one vanilla bean

1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

5 tbsp powdered sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

slice open the bean pod lengthwise. remove beans from the vanilla bean pod with a spoon or a knife. add to heavy whipping cream and let stand (refrigerated overnight for best results). add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and whip until peaks begin to form. dollop a healthy spoonful atop each pots de creme just before serving.

cheers!

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strawberry freezer jam

finally! strawberry season has come. i was surprised to see plump red juicy berries at the market for $2 a pint already, so i had to give it a go. Seattle weather has been pretty sub-par this spring, and the temperatures have been burrrrzy cold.

that said, i wasn’t shocked to find out after biting into the first berry that they were barely ripe and actually rather bitter. ok, ok, so nobody is drooling at the thought of bitter berries exploding on their tongue. but we shall NOT give up too soon. this, in fact is the perfect berry to whip up some simple strawberry jam.

Jeti sheepishly standing around the corner, giving me the, ‘dammit mom, where is the meat in this one? hellllloooo, i’m a dog! i don’t like fruit! this is bullshit…’ stare.

the best things about fresh strawberry freezer jam:

1) can it, wrap a bow around it, and pass it out to all of your friends.

2) use it on pancakes, toast, pb&j, cake fillings, ice cream… anywhere.

3) it never goes bad.

strawberry freezer jam

1 pint fresh strawberries

1 c sugar

1 lemon wedge

2 tsp cornstarch

wash thoroughly and remove greens from strawberries. coarsely chop. toss the strawberries into your food processor and pulse 3-5 times. transport the strawberries into a sauce pan and heat on medium. add sugar, juice from one lemon wedge, and cornstarch. mix thoroughly. continue to cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes. once the consistency becomes soupy, remove from heat. allow to cool at room temperature before storing. store in jars, and place in the fridge or freezer until use.

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