Roasted Fennel on Flatbread + Olives and Raisins

My new favorite vegetable is fennel.  In my Christmas dinner, it appeared in a salad with oranges and an orange vinaigrette.    For  friends’ New Year’s Eve dinner, I brought a bean and roasted fennel dip.

Tonight, it’s Grilled Fennel Flatbread with Olives and Sultanas from Food52.  

This calls for making a yeast crust.  Mine is underway…dough is sitting and I’m waiting.  

What intrigues me about the flavors is the salty-sweet combination:  olives and feta, and sultanas or golden raisins and a drizzle of honey.  

 This was a big hit last might with M.  It was delicious.  Even my crust was good. (Yeast is something I’ve not really mastered.)

Next time I might slice the fennel a little thinner.  

Though as usual, I did make some changes to the recipe.

The topping is a paste of the Kalmata olives, raisins, some olive oil with fresh thyme - but I had no thyme.  Spread this paste on the dough.

The recipe calls for 2 bulbs of fennel — which is really a meaningless measure.  Bulbs vary in size/weight.   I used just one bulb and it was plenty.  Mix the sliced fennel with lemon juice, red pepper flakes (I didn’t include), Parmesan and more raisins. This mixture goes on top of the olive paste.

Top the fennel mix with more Parmesan, crumbled feta and then drizzle with honey.

Bake at 500 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  The crust gets very crispy and the fennel and cheese gets browned.

This is a nice choice over pizza.  It has great flavors and very sturdy crispy crust.  Loved it!   

Farro with Roasted Acorn Squash

For Thanksgiving, I bought squash and fruit to arrange in a bowl on the dining room table.  

That’s over.  

Time to eat them!

I found this recipe in Epicurious for roasted acorn squash mixed with farro.  I like this site because the reviews can be very helpful.  

While the recipe calls for cooking the farro for one hour, someone kindly points out that farro grain comes several ways. Thank you Happygoin for the following  explanation.

I cook with farro often and learned about it through trial and error. Farro is sold either whole, pearled or semi-pearled. It’s important to know what type of farro you’re cooking with. Whole grain farro includes the husk of the grain, and requires pre-soaking for several hours or overnight before using. If you use whole grain farro without soaking it, it will take much longer and signficantly more liquid than your recipe may say. Pearled or semi-pearled farro requires no soaking and cooks in about 20-25 minutes. The trade-off though is fewer nutrients.

by Happygoin on 06/21/12

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And I didn’t use fresh kale.  I have a bag of frozen, chopped kale from Trader Joes.  I banged the frozen on the edge of the counter top to break it up, and poured some into a bowl.  Microwaved it for a little bit,  then let it sit until I mixed it in with the squash and farro.  I’m sure fresh leaves would have a different texture, but these taste just as good.

The recipe is a bit like making risotto.  But since I have pearled farro, I’m not standing over the pot stirring slavishly.

The squash is soft but the grains of farro are a little chewy — nice contrast. Toasting the grains comes through in the flavor, too.  It’s worth doing. 

Pasta with Dried Mushrooms & Asparagus

Another make-it-up-on-the-spot dinner.  I have the ingredients…just can’t find a recipe that uses them all!

I have some fresh asparagus, dried mushrooms, a shallot and dried pappardelle.

I’ve made a portobello mushroom creamy pasta, so I’m using that recipe as a guide.

Soak the dried mushrooms and save that mushroom water.  Blanch the asparagus then cut stalks into smaller pieces. 

Saute the re-hydrated mushrooms in butter and oil.  After a bit, add the sliced shallot.  Saute a few more minutes and then add a cup of beef broth and the mushroom water, about a cup of that, so two cups of liquid total.  Then add a small amount of sherry, salt, pepper and thyme — building flavor.  Let this simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the asparagus pieces and let them cook till tender — a couple of minutes more. 

I’m adding a little milk and 1/2 & 1/2 to give the sauce very little creaminess. 

Boil the pasta until it is not quite done.  Strain and add to the pan of mushroom sauce to cook it till it’s tender.

From pantry to table - just under a half an hour.  Thinking on my feet tonight!

Seconds tasted even better — the pasta absorbed more of the sauce, delicious.

Curried Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup

I have to quickly put a dinner together.  It’s cold outside. So, it will be soup. 

I have lots of carrots.  (My 5 pound bag survived the Super Storm Sandy.)  And I bought a few sweet potatoes today.  

I’m working from this recipe from Food52. Curried Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup From my quick search of recipes online, many comments about sweet potato soup was that it was a little tasteless.   Curry is the answer.

I don’t have curry paste that the recipe calls for, just curry powder.  I’m using 2 heaping teaspoons with the onions.  I use Penzeys Spices Sweet Curry Powder, “spicy and rich, not hot.”

Carrots and sweet potatoes sauteing in with the onion and curry.

Surprisingly, I even have coconut milk!  A can has been lurking in the pantry for awhile.

I’ve got Trader Joes frozen Indian bread, Tandoor Naan, and a box of vegetable samosas.  Nice!  

Wonderful taste and texture!  Am adding this to the regular rotation!

Dinner: Sunday, May 6 2012

It’s been awhile.  I keep making dinners I’ve already posted about.  No need to bore you.  You really don’t want to hear about another quiche! 

Yesterday, I walked my very first race, the Long Branch Half Marathon.  When I got home with some very tired muscles, I wanted to make a celebratory dinner.

What better than a steak!  This was my opportunity to try the Nathan Myhrvold modernist cuisine recipe for cooking steak created for Melissa Clark at the NY Times.  Seared frozen steak

(I tried the salmon submerged in warm water technique a few months ago, and was thrilled with the results.)

This procedure is easy and doesn’t resemble any other way you’ve made a steak before.

Start by putting your steak on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for an hour.  You do this, in part to get a totally flat surface for searing.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.

Heat a cast iron skillet till very hot…10 minutes. Salt and pepper the meat. Put oil in pan, heat  and sear only one side of the steak and the edges.  You want a crispy, browned crust.

Put the steak on a baking pan and put into the 200 degree oven.  Ready for the oven.

The recipe called for the steak to reach an internal temp of 122 degrees if you wanted rare meat.  My steak was about 1” thick while the recipe is based on a 1 ½” steak.

After 30 minutes, I took the temperature and it was way beyond 122 degrees on my thermometer. Thermometer misplacement perhaps. 

I let the steak sit for 10 minutes. 

Then I sliced into it.  No running juices, maybe because I was patient enough.

It was perfectly rare, from top to bottom. 

The steak was delicious.  A porterhouse.  This technique is wonderful.  With this technique, I don’t think you could overcook steak if you check it often enough.  It can’t run away from you.

 My half marathon celebration dinner…fresh asparagus and leftover risotto.  All prepared and eaten in less time than it took me to walk the 13.1 miles!

Dinner: Wednesday April 4, 2012

Lately, I’ve been making the usuals for dinner, nothing to blog about.  Many times, I’ve already written about a particular recipe or meal.

Tonight is one of those meals: Pasta with Oven Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, a recipe from the New York Times.  It can’t be any easier. 

At Trader Joe’s I got these heirloom cherry tomatoes.  And that’s why I posted tonight’s dinner.

Don’t they look wonderful?  


Pour on olive oil on the tomatoes,  season with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cover with bread crumbs and grated Parmesan. Put into a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Ready for the pasta!

Dinner: Tuesday March 27, 2012

Tonight I’m making a spinach ricotta pie for dinner.  Thought I’d do a frittata, but when I was going through my recipe book I saw this.   I have not made it in ages.

 Easy!!!!  And I don’t follow the recipe.  First, I just don’t put this mixture into a pie crust as called for.  The filling reminds me of a cheese layer in lasagna.  No need of a crust for that flavor.

One 15 oz. package of ricotta cheese, add 3 eggs, grated mozzarella cheese (but I’ve used sharp white cheddar and that was good), about 1 cup of Parmesan cheese.  In addition to  a package of frozen spinach, for this one I sautéed some fresh baby bella mushrooms.  While this recipe does not call for it, I include sauté some onions and garlic. 

Mushrooms underway


Drying out the spinach after squeezing by adding it to the onions in a hot pan. 


Mixing bowl and the ricotta, waiting for everything else.

Everything is mixed and put into a 9 inch pie dish. Ready for the 350 degree oven.


After 30 - 35 minutes.  

Delicious.  Good for taking to work for lunch —- eminently portable.

Dinner: Monday March 19, 2012

Leftovers after the St. Patrick’s Day are MS’s favorite.  The first re-purposed dinner is always Ruben sandwiches.

I lost track of time today, so at 6:00 I dashed out to get rye bread and horseradish for the Thousand Island dressing.  But I forgot to get sauerkraut.

Oh, well.  I have Swiss cheese and the leftover cabbage.  I sliced it thinly and put it on the sandwiches.

The homemade Thousand Island dressing is almost the best part of this sandwich.  It starts with mayonnaise.  Then add chili sauce, grated onion, a little Worchestershire, and horseradish.  (I always add more horseradish than the recipe calls for because we love the heat.)

The first side is complete.  The leftover potatoes are heating up behind the sandwiches.

This dinner is a wonderful replay of corned beef.  But sadly, CS couldn’t enjoy it with us.  I took her back to school yesterday.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2012

As my family and many of my friends know, I’m not big celebrator of St. Partick’s Day. 

I don’t intentionally wear green.  Avoid the parades.  Never tasted Guinness.  I let my name speak for itself.

But I do love corned beef.  And cabbage that has not been boiled-to-death is delicious.  Boiled potatoes and butter are divine.

For years, I bought the supermarket packaged corned beef.  But I have seen the light.

The other option is infinitely better.  Corn your own beef brisket.  I use a recipe from Bon Appetit, March 2008.

How?  Brine the brisket in a mixture of water, beer, brown sugar and spices for 8 days.  Though, because I started late, my brisket only had 6 days brining in the refrigerator.

Out of the refrigerator and ready for the big pot.


I started simmering the beef about 3:30 in another spiced mixture: water, beer, bay leaves and allspice.  It simmered for nearly 3 hours till it was tender.


The big experiment this St. Patrick’s Day was oven roasting the cabbage rather than steaming it.   I cut a small head into 6 wedges.  Oiled them lightly and then into a 425 degree oven – checking about every 10 minutes till tender – about half an hour.

I loved how the cabbage got crispy and caramelized on some edges.


 The potatoes are basic and so very good, perfect with butter.


MS and CS loved it! It was a great day for anyone who loves corned beef.  


Dinner: Thursday March 15, 2012

Last Saturday MS and the daughter went to New York City.  They went to the Upper Westside to explore and stopped at a few favorite spots.  Happily for me their visit included Zabar’s. 

Among the goodies they brought back included fresh potato gnocchi and a wedge of Grana Padano Parmasan. 

Tonight for the gnocchi, I’m making the easy tomato sauce from Marcel Hazan.  One can (2 pounds plus) of crushed tomatoes.  Add an onion cut in half,  half a stick of butter, a little salt and sugar.  


After 45 minutes at a simmer — transformation.


The gnocchi are ready once they pop to the surface of the boiling water.

 My plate, topped by freshly grated Parmesan.


Thanks for shopping for dinner tonight M and CS!