07.19.2017

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I swear we haven’t eaten inside our house in almost a week. I am constantly carting smoothies, bowls of yogurt, sandwiches, and platters of fruit outside to gobble down on the porch or in the yard. We’ve spread blankets, set up beach chairs, and gathered around picnic tables to chow down. Sometimes it’s just us and sometimes we’re surrounded by friends. It’s true that summer food just tastes better out in the fresh air, I’m sure of it. The best type of food to eat outside, in my opinion, is one-pot dishes that are good warm or at room temperature. Things that travel well, don’t need anything more than a serving spoon, and require only one trip from the kitchen to the grass.

Here, I’m sharing my favorite summer picnic crowd please – Tomato & Basil Strata. This dish is perfect for brunch, a picnic lunch (served with a big green salad and fresh berries), or a beach dinner (served with grilled steak and corn on the cob). You can assemble it ahead of time and bake it off whenever you have a free moment or a cool kitchen. The classic combination of tomatoes, basil, and rich Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese (similar to cheddar – nutty and somewhat sweet hard cheese) is a summer entertaining home run.

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Tomato-Basil Strata

Serves 8 to 10

 1 yellow onion cut into thin ribbons

 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

8 cups cubed French or Italian bread cut into 1-inch chunks

 6 ounces coarsely grated Kerrygold® Dubliner Cheese (2 cups)

 3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

 8 large eggs

 2 3/4 cups milk

 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

 1 teaspoon salt

 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

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Cook the onion in the butter over medium-high heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and starting to caramelize. Now build the strata in layers. Butter a 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Start with the bread – spread 1/2 of the cubes in the bottom of the dish, top with 1/2 of the vegetables mixture and 1/2 of the cheese. Repeat the layering with remaining bread, vegetables, cheese, and top with torn basil.

Next, whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl and pour it evenly over the strata. Cover with foil and chill the strata for at least 8 hours or up to a day.

Before baking, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in the middle of the oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let it stand 5 minutes before serving.

This recipe is sponsored by Kerrygold® USA and Martha Stewart Living.

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05.24.2017

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I just opened our family calendar, glanced at the next two weeks, and let out a low, painful howl. This end of the school year stuff is no joke – concerts, water days, celebrations! It’s all good stuff but makes for a lot of busy afternoons and late nights. Dylan is playing the part of a 3-headed marker eating monster in his school musical and Gray will have his first violin performance next week. I will undoubtedly cry and both – it would be shocking if I didn’t.

In an attempt to plan some meals for these crazy spring days, I spent some time with my friend and fellow island gal Susie Middleton’s new book Simple Green Suppers a few weeks ago and folded down a handful of tempting weeknight dinner ideas. Last night I finally got around to cooking from it and started here with Cauliflower, Chickpea & Spinach Curry. The simple and satisfying dinner made our whole house smell amazing and was the best lunch today. I served it with a pot of rice but I’d like to try it with garlic naan bread next time.

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Indian Curry with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Spinach, Tomatoes & Coconut Milk from Simple Green Suppers

3 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and dried

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups cauliflower florets (1-to 1 1/2-inch pieces, cut so that most have a flat side)

1 cup sliced yellow onion (about 1 medium-large onion, cut lengthwise)

1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons Asian chili-garlic paste (I left this out due to kids’ heat tolerance)

2 teaspoons curry powder

2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar (I omitted)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

3 cups packed baby spinach

1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

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1. In a large (12-inch) nonstick stir-fry pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chickpeas and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are golden and browned in spots, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the chickpeas to a plate.

2. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the cauliflower and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir, cover, and cook, uncovering to stir occasionally, until the cauliflower pieces are browned in spots (they will be softened but still crisp), about 5 minutes. (If the cauliflower is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. If your pan does not have a lid, use a baking sheet or the bottom of a large skillet). Transfer the cauliflower to the plate with the chickpeas.

3. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, the onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions are browned in spots but haven’t lost all their stiffness, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chili-garlic paste, curry powder, brown sugar, and cumin. Stir well to combine, and fry the spices for 30 seconds. Add the spinach, tomatoes, and coconut milk and stir well to incorporate the spices with the liquids and to soften the spinach. Add the cooked cauliflower and chickpeas and simmer, stirring, for 1 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and remove the pan from the heat. Serve hot or very warm in two or three bowls.

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01.10.2017

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Our first big snow fall hit this weekend and all I can think about is cooking and eating soup and biscuits so forgive me for another soup suggestion. This Spicy Tomato Soup is from Barabara Lynch and it is spicy. If you don’t love a serious kick of heat I would cut the red pepper flakes in half. At its core, this recipe is a 5-ingredient vegan soup built from simple pantry items. And where there is soup there is dipping. Biscuits make mean dippers – especially when they’re covered with everything bagel seed mix. If you’d rather use your biscuits to hold fried eggs, red onion, cheese, and spinach then I’m not stopping you. We started our fair share of mornings that way too.

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Barbara Lynch’s Spicy Tomato Soup

serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices

teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste — I used a 1/2 teaspoon and it was almost too spicy for me)

2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Crème fraîche, for garnish (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. (If you’re in a hurry, you can skip the simmer time — just add a bit less water.) Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool briefly, about 5 minutes.

3. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap from the blender lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam from the hot soup to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off).

4. Pour the blended soup through the strainer, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula or ladle; discard the solids. Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

5. Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat on medium low until hot. If you choose, serve topped with a tablespoon of crème fraîche.

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Everything Biscuits from Small Victories

Makes 12 biscuits

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons onion flakes

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-in cubes and chilled

1 ½ cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. (You can skip this if you’d like, since all of the butter in the dough will keep the biscuits from sticking, but I love anything that makes cleaning up easier).

2. In a small bowl, stir together the poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and onion flakes. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk more than you think you should — this isn’t just to combine the ingredients but also to aerate them. Plus, how much easier is it to clean a whisk than a sifter, amiright?? Using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture, rubbing it between your fingers until the mixture turns into coarse crumbs. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the buttermilk until the mixture becomes a shaggy dough — no need to overmix here. Stir in half of the poppy seed mixture.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it out so that it’s about 1 in thick. Using a 2½-in round cutter (or a juice glass), stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Pat the dough scraps together (do not overwork the dough), reroll, and cut out more biscuits. You should end up with a dozen biscuits. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill the biscuits for about 1 hour. Baking them from cold will yield flakier biscuits (the butter will be slower to melt and will create more distinct layers); but if you don’t have time, don’t worry—the biscuits will still be very good.

4. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450°F. Right before baking, brush each biscuit lightly with buttermilk and then sprinkle evenly with the remaining poppy seed mixture.

5. Bake the biscuits until they’re risen and golden, 15 to 20 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through baking. Serve warm

10.25.2016

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3 Ways to Spiffy Up Hot Dogs into Family Dinners, Well Beyond the Cookout by me is up on Food52 today.

Sure, hot dogs are a quick-to-prepare crowd favorite, but can they be a nutritious and interesting family dinner, too? The answer is-thankfully!-yes. Today, there’s a wide variety of farm-raised, grass-fed, all-beef hot dogs that make for speedy, satisfying, and anything-but-boring meals.

So, let’s plan a modern hot dog dinner, one perfect for a busy weeknight. First, visit your farmers market and pick out some locally-grown dogs. If you don’t have luck finding a local source, see the list of quality national brands below.

Next, tell the kids it’s hot dog night and pat yourself on the back when they actually jump up and down in excitement (rather than scowl) over the dinner plans. Pick a cooking method and topping combination from the suggestions below. Maybe you crisp the dogs on a griddle and slather them with leftover chili, or grill them and top with tangy Greek salad. Look to your leftovers and needy produce for hot dog topping and sauce inspiration…click here to read the whole story.

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Photography by Elizabeth Cecil.

 

09.26.2016

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How to Build an Entire Meal on a Humble Sheet Pan by me is up on Food52 and because it’s Monday morning I’m hoping this article will provide some dinner direction for the week.

Whether you are searching for a way to cook an unusual CSA vegetable, prepare fish for a crowd, or assemble a meal ahead of time, sheet pan dinners are your answer. And once you start crafting your own combinations of protein, vegetable, herbs, and sauce, you will be hooked on this foolproof technique.

Here, I’ll share 12 tips for getting started, some basic time and temperature guidelines to abide by, a few time-saving ideas, and two simple roast chicken sheet pan recipes. (If a roast chicken dinner two-ways isn’t a good place to start, then I don’t know what is.)…click here to read the whole story.

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Photos by Elizabeth Cecil.