Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Salad with Orange Vinaigrette and Honey-Toasted Pecans

We are three weeks into this year's CSA, and so naturally, we are drowning in greens.

Spinach. Arugula. Mustard. Lettuces of every kind. Literally pounds of these greens have made their way into our fridge over the past few weeks. And though I have definitely gotten creative about adding greens into just about every meal and blanching spinach to freeze for later, with the hot weather we've been having (it's been in the nineties all week), we've been enjoying a bunch of salads, too.

Or maybe I should say, many servings of this one salad.

Because it's pretty much the only one I've been making.

But yes, it is that good.

You can sub any protein for the boiled eggs--grilled chicken or shrimp would be equally delightful, I'm sure, probably even better than the egg. But eggs don't need to be defrosted before you use them, so. You know.

A note on nuts: The DDH and I are not particularly big nut eaters. Neither of us go out of our way to put them on anything, we don't snack on them plain, and please for the love of all that is holy, keep them the heck away from our baked goods.

But the thing about CSAs is they make you try things you don't normally eat. In this case, our farmer's father has a bunch of pecan trees on his land, and so pecans regularly make their way into our CSA bags, especially early in the season when there isn't much else on offer. Except greens, obviously.

And it turns out that if you toast them in honey and butter, even a die-hard pecan-hater like the DDH will gobble them down. So while the dressing is all well and good for any salad, the pecans really make it special. And delicious.

Salad with Orange Vinaigrette and Honey-Toasted Pecans

Boil eggs, approximately 2 per person being served.

In a small bowl or convenient dressing shaker, combine:

1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk or shake until thoroughly combined. Set aside. 

In a different small bowl, put some pecans, shelled. Ours arrive cracked and blown, so I still have to pick out all the shells and I just do this until I get bored. But if you like measurements, aim for about a quarter cup.

Add enough honey to coat the pecans. It's about a 2:1 ratio, so for a 1/4 cup pecans I use about 1/8 cup (aka 2 Tablespoons) honey. But this is all sort of to taste, so feel free to use a little more or a little less.

Mix the honey and pecans until thoroughly coated.

In a small skillet, heat about 2 Tablespoons butter over medium heat.

Once the butter is melted and foamy, add the pecans. Cook until browned and toasty.  There's a fine line between a browned pecan and a burnt pecan. Your best tool here is actually your nose; the pecans will just start to smell pecan-y and toasty. Stir them about; you'll notice the underside should be a little darker than the top. Give them another thirty seconds or so after your stir, then turn off the heat.

Separate your greens--spinach is especially good here, or the sort of thing called "premium greens mix" at the grocery store, but really just any sort of salad green will do--into each person's bowl. Top each serving with two sliced eggs and some pecans. Drizzle the dressing over the lot of it. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake

Am I the only person who goes crazy buying fresh cranberries when they're on sale at Christmas, only to have a freezer full of unused cranberries come February?

Please say I'm not.

Anyway, I had to make a coffee cake to bring to a church brunch the other day. I'm not really much of a cake person.

But I am a cranberry-orange person. And a streusel person.

I'm also a butter person; the 9x13 version of this recipe uses an entire pound of butter. Sorry, not sorry.

This is a fairly sweet coffee cake; you could probably cut the sugar in the cake by at least a half cup, since you still have the streusel. It's also very dense and heavy; surprisingly hefty and filling for a cake.

You can easily halve the recipe for an 8x8 cake if you want something a little more suitable for a family, but the 9x13 size works great if you're bringing it to a brunch, as I was.

Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9x13 inch pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 3 tsp. baking powder, 2 tsp. baking soda, and 1 tsp. salt.

In a different, small bowl, combine 2 cups sugar and the zest of 2 large oranges (or 4 tangerines/clementines). Rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until fragrant; it will clump together a little bit as the sugar moistens from the zest.

Cream 2 sticks (1 cup) butter and the sugar mixture until fluffy, about three minutes.

Add in 4 large eggs, one at a time, beating each one into the mixture before adding the next. Beat until smooth.

Beat in 2 cups plain Greek yogurt and 2 tsp. vanilla extract. Beat until well combined.

Add the dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing until just combined.

Fold in 2 cups fresh cranberries.

For the streusel:

In a separate bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Whisk together.

Cut 2 sticks (1 cup) butter into small pieces. Add the butter pieces to the flour/brown sugar mixture. Cut butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or your fingertips. You're looking for an even mixture of large crumbs--you know what streusel looks like.

Pour half of the coffee cake batter into the pan and top with half of the streusel. Spoon the remaining batter over the streusel, using a spatula to spread it gently across the pan. Top with the remaining streusel.

Bake until golden brown and it passes the toothpick test, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Cottage Pie

Or, if you prefer, shepherd's pie. But shepherd's pie is traditionally made with lamb or mutton (hence the shepherd). If it's beef, it's cottage pie. #themoreyouknow

I posted recently on a Facebook group I'm in, saying that I had a pound of beef defrosted in the fridge and asking what I should make with it. My default ground beef dish, honestly, is spaghetti with meat sauce, but as delicious as that is, I wasn't really feeling it.

The responses came back overwhelmingly in favor of shepherd's pie. By which I knew they meant cottage pie. But whatever.

What with one thing and another, I didn't get around to making it before the DDH came home, and I was going to give up and just make spaghetti anyway. However, the DDH vehemently vetoed that idea, so cottage pie it was.

Luckily, it's pretty easy, and only takes about an hour, start to finish.

Cottage Pie

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Set approx. 3 pounds potatoes, chopped to boil. Once the water boils, let them boil for about twenty minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, melt 4 Tbs. butter in a large skillet on medium-high heat.

Add 1 onion, diced, 3 carrots, diced, and 3 cloves garlic, minced. Saute about five minutes or until the onions have softened and the carrots are beginning to get tender.

Add 1 pound ground beef. Cook another five minutes or until beef is browned.

Add 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, 1 tsp. Worcestersire sauce, and 1/2 cup beef broth. Stir. Turn heat down to medium and simmer for about ten minutes. You can add up to additional 1/2 cup beef broth as necessary to keep the mixture moist.

(If you want to add additional vegetables like peas and corn, or if you're using a bag of frozen mixed veggies instead of the carrots, now would be the time to add them.)

By now the potatoes should be about done. Drain them, then mash them with 4 Tbs. butter and a sprinkling of salt to taste.

 Spread the beef mixture in the bottom of a 7x11 casserole dish (or any dish that holds about two quarts. If you use a 9x13, you'll have a much thinner casserole; if you want that size, I'd use more like 1.5 pounds beef and 4 pounds of potatoes. This recipe would probably more or less fit in a 9x9 square pan as well, but it would be thicker. Anyway. I know the 7x11 isn't the most common size, but I like it for meals for two adults/one toddler, and also because it fits in my toaster oven and I hate my real oven.)

Ok, so we spread the beef and veggies, right? Top with mashed potatoes. Spread them to cover up the beef mixture, but then rough up the surface so there are some good ridges. Those are the parts that will get all brown and crispy and delicious.

The DDH claims the whole thing should have been topped with cheese, and he liberally grated Colby-Jack all over his portions, but I like it as is.

Bake at 400 degrees for thirty minutes or until nicely browned on top.

Try not to eat three servings the way I did.

Definitely don't leave your dog unattended so that he jumps up on the counters and eats all the leftovers. -_-


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