Archive | August, 2011

Green Bean Casserole with Caramelized Onions

30 Aug

This casserole contains all of the richness of a traditional green bean casserole with a good deal less of the fat, calories, preservatives, and additives.  Though there is a fair amount of fat and cholesterol from the cheese, I lightened it up by omitting any cream (or cream-based soups) and instead making use of 1% milk, cutting way down on the butter you might find in a traditional casserole, and setting aside the fried onions in favor of more flavorful caramelized onions.  Consequently, this had all of the flavors and textures that I love about a green casserole with a lot less of the guilt.  I substituted tomatoes for mushrooms in this casserole to add a layer of bright, summery flavor as a foil to the richness of the cheese and sweetness of the caramelized onions.  The homemade tomato bread crumbs added a lovely crunch that contrasted with the soft tomatoes and creamy sauce.  I also refrained from cooking the green beans into oblivion, leaving a nice bit of crunch.  If you like them soft, increase the blanching time accordingly.

Green Bean Casserole with Caramelized Onions

1 medium onion, sliced 1/8″ thick

1 tbs. olive oil

1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 – 1 1/2″ pieces

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 tbs. unsalted butter

1 tbs. all natural, whole wheat flour

1/2 cup 1% milk

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup farmer’s cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Gouda cheese, shredded

1/2 cup homemade tomato bread crumbs

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375º.

Heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat.  Add onions and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Sauté 30-45 minutes until onions are golden brown.  Set aside.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add trimmed green beans and cook 4 minutes.  Drain and transfer immediately to an ice bath to stop cooking and maintain color and crisp.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  While whisking, add flour.  Cook about a minute, continuously whisking, until a smooth, light golden brown paste forms.  Slowly pour in milk, whisking continuously, until thickened and milk is heated through, about a minute.  Remove from heat and whisk in plain Greek yogurt, and cheese.  Stir continuously until cheese is melted.

Spray a small casserole dish with with non-stick cooking spray (I used a 3″ wide x 9″ long x 3″ deep casserole).  Add green beans, garlic, tomatoes, and cheese/yogurt mixture to the pan.  Using a pair of tongs, toss thoroughly to combine.  Top the casserole in an even layer with the caramelized onions.  Top with bread crumbs and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Transfer cast iron pan to oven and bake, uncovered, 20-30 minutes.  Let stand 8-10 minutes until cream sauce sets.

Spice Rubbed Grilled Chicken Thighs and Brussels Sprouts

29 Aug

This chicken may look a little charred, but I guarantee you it is about as delicious as it gets.  The brine keeps the meat flavorful and moist, while the rub crisps up and darkens to form a delightful, crunchy coating.  Chicken thighs are an excellent choice for the grill because they are extremely forgiving.  Dark meat tends to retain moisture and refrain from drying out.  Furthermore, the bones in the thighs keep the meat moist and add a heck of a lot of flavor.  These had a light heat from the brine and the rub with notes of garlic, star anise, and parsley.

These Brussels sprouts are also a home run.  I kept very close to Alton Brown’s original recipe, merely decreasing the amount of Brussels sprouts based on what I had on hand and adding a few squeezes of lemon juice for a hint of citrus brightness.  Zak had requested that I grill Brussels sprouts along with this chicken, and I’m so glad he did.  We both absolutely loved these, and I am going to continue to make variations on them in the future as my go-to sprouts recipe.  Zak liked them even more than the version served by Michael Symon at Lolita, although I don’t know if I agree.  I certainly did love them, however, and suggest you give them a try, even if you aren’t a huge Brussels sprouts fan.  The heat of the paprika and caramelization from the grill was beyond delicious – my only regret is that I didn’t double the recipe!

Spice Rubbed Grilled Chicken Thighs and Brussels Sprouts


3 lbs. chicken thighs

2-3 cups water per lb. of thighs

1/2 cup kosher salt per lb. of thighs

1/2 cup sugar per lb. of thighs

3 cups fresh flat leaf parsley, stems included, loosely packed

1/2 lemon

5-6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

2 cloves star anise

1 tbs. whole black peppercorns

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

To begin, in a medium or large saucepan heat water.  A little at a time, add kosher salt and sugar while whisking until dissolved.  It may be necessary to add more water to the saucepan in order to dissolve all of the salt and sugar.  Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, transfer the water to a container large enough to hold the brining solution and chicken.  This can be done in a large ziplock bag, though I prefer to use a large stock pot.

Add all other brine ingredients and allow brining solution to cool to room temperature, placing solution in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes or adding ice if necessary.  Once the solution is room temperature or cool to the touch, add the chicken to the solution.  Place the chicken in the refrigerator and let soak in brining solution about one hour per pound (round up to the nearest hour).  I soaked this for just over three hours.

Remove chicken from brining solution.  See “spice rub” below for further cooking instructions.

Spice Rub:

1 tbs. freshly cracked black pepper

1 tbs. garlic powder

1 tbs. dried parsley

1 tbs. paprika

Combine all ingredients well.

Blot chicken dry with paper towels.  Massage rub thoroughly on both sides of each chicken thigh.  Let sit about an hour, refrigerated.

Preheat grill to medium-high, using charcoal or gas as preferred.

Place chicken, skin down, on the hottest part of the grill.  Grill, about 10 minutes, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp around the edges.  Flip the chicken and move to the cooler part of the grill.  Cover the grill and cook about forty five minutes to an hour, flipping as necessary.  Depending on the heat and size of your grill, cooking the chicken may make more or less time.  Watch carefully and check internal temperature often.

Check internal temperature and make sure it reaches 165°.

Grilled Brussels Sprouts:

Adapted from Alton Brown

.63 lbs. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and any scraggly leaves removed

2 tbs. olive oil

1 tbs. minced garlic

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. paprika

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 quarter of a lemon

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Place Brussels sprouts in a large microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for three minutes.  Add olive oil, garlic, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Squeeze lemon quarter over sprouts and toss to combine.  Allow to cool until easily handled.

Skewer 4-5 Brussels sprouts onto each skewer, leaving about 1/2″ between sprouts.  Reserve spice liquid.

Place skewers on the grill and cover.  Cook about 5 minutes.  Brush with spice liquid.  Turn skewers and cook, covered, another 5 minutes.

Slow Cooker Tomato Soup

28 Aug

Though I already have a recipe posted for a healthy tomato soup, I wanted to make another version that is a bit easier.  First, I decided to skip the usual step of blanching the tomatoes.  While it lends a bit to consistency, it isn’t absolutely essential.  Second, I decided to make use of a slow cooker, which makes the process very hands off, with the exception of processing the ingredients toward the end.  Though most tomato soup recipes call for water or chicken broth as the base, I prefer to use beef stock in a tomato soup.  It adds an additional depth of richness and comfort that pairs well with the brightness of fresh summer tomatoes.  The basil adds another layer of delicious, herbaceous flavor and really knocks this super-simple soup out of the park.  If you’re a fan of rich, hearty tomato soup but don’t like the idea of all of the sodium and additives in a can or the fat and calories that come from cream or a rue¹, this version is absolutely perfect for you.

Slow Cooker Tomato Soup

1 tbs. olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

2 bay leaves

3 cups homemade beef stock

Half dozen multi-colored cherry tomatoes

3 medium tomatoes, seeds removed

About a dozen large basil leaves

1 tbs. tomato paste

Splash red wine vinegar

Set slow cooker to high.  Add olive oil, onions and bay leaves.  Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Let cook, covered, about an hour until lightly caramelized.

Add beef stock, tomatoes, and basil.  Cover and let cook at least 4-6 hours.

Remove bay leaves.  Transfer contents of slow cooker, working in batches if necessary, to a food processor or blender.  Blend until mostly smooth or desired consistency.  Return to the slow cooker and switch setting to low.  Stir in tomato paste and red wine vinegar.  Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.  Simmer another hour or so until thickened.  Serve.

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Geauga Family Farms CSA – Week Eleven

27 Aug

Summer CSA – Week Eleven

In our share this week, we received a watermelon, a bunch of beets with greens, a pint of grape tomatoes, four large tomatoes, some green beans, a patty pan squash, five peaches, and two green bell peppers.  I didn’t order any extras this week.  I’m very excited for the reappearance of beets, since we’re such huge fans in this household.  I’m also happy to see patty pan squash, because I’ve never worked with it and love experimenting with new ingredients.

As leftovers, we have a watermelon, a few cherry tomatoes, a cucumber, and a tiny bit of the basil.  The whole grilled lemon-parsley barramundi did not use any CSA ingredients, but I can’t feel too badly because it was such a success.   The baba ghanouj used the eggplant from last week.  The peach tart comprised of a bunch of the peaches from both last week and the week before.  The cabbage and rice casserole made use of the entire cabbage, most of a green pepper, and two fresh tomatoes from the CSA.  The fresh and delicious basil and parsley pesto used the majority of the CSA basil.  Cherry tomatoes, green bell pepper, and basil and parsley pesto all made an appearance in the roasted tomato and pepper pesto frittata.  I also made a slow cooker tomato soup that used CSA tomatoes, the recipe for which I will be posting in the next several days.

For this week, I plan to make some sort of watermelon-based cocktail.  As for the peaches, I plan to make some form of peach jam.  I’m hoping to make some form of a lightened-up green bean casserole.  I will almost certainly be roasting up the beets and sautéeing their greens.  I’m considering doing polenta and tomato stuffed green peppers, though I haven’t decided.  I am certainly planning on knocking out the peach jam and the green bean casserole tomorrow so I don’t have to worry about cooking as much during the week.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pesto Frittata

26 Aug

One of the best things about a really delicious and fresh pesto is its versatility.  It can used in it’s classic form on pasta, of course.  However, it’s also an excellent addition as a sandwich spread, as a topping to chicken or fish, or, as demonstrated in this application, mixed into eggs.  Here I roasted some gorgeous cherry tomatoes and a fresh bell pepper and created a lovely pesto-flavored baked frittata.  I added some baking soda to puff this up and give the other ingredients some room to breathe, so to speak.  This turned out absolutely delicious and reheated very well as leftovers the next day.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Pesto Frittata

1 tbs. olive oil

1/2 cup multi-colored cherry tomatoes

1 green bell pepper

1/4 cup basil and parsley pesto

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

4 tbs. all natural, whole-wheat flour, divided

1/4 tsp. baking soda

Cooking spray

5 jumbo, cage-free brown eggs

2 tbs. milk

1 cup farmer’s cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 400º.

Place tomatoes and pepper on a tinfoil lined baking sheet and coat with olive oil.  Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Roast about 15 minutes.  Remove tomatoes and set aside in a medium mixing bowl.  Rotate pepper and roast another 10-15 minutes.  Remove pepper from oven and place in a zip lock bag.  Once cool enough to handle, remove charred outer skin, stem, and seeds.  Chop.

Toss tomatoes and peppers with 2 tbs. flour and baking soda.  Let cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs.  Add to vegetable mixture and stir well combine.  Add pesto and 3/4 cups of cheese and stir to combine.

Spray your casserole dish liberally with non-stick cooking spray.  Coat the sides and bottom of the baking dish well with the extra 2 tbs. of flour (use more if necessary).  This will form a light “crust” for your frittata, so try to make it as uniform as possible and be sure it extends to at least where your vegetable-egg mixture will fall in the casserole dish.

Pour the vegetable-egg combination into your casserole dish and use a spoon to make sure it’s even.  Bake in oven, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes until eggs are set.  Add remaining cheese to top and let melt, roughly another 5-8  minutes.

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