Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Not Your Mama's Green Bean Casserole

I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's of 2010 quite sick due to my pregnancy, and was unable to enjoy the delicious meals and treats throughout the season. That was my reasoning for pigging out this past holiday season. However, I tried to keep it semi-healthy, beginning with this dish! I'm a huge green bean casserole fan. The canned beans and condensed soup version just don't cut it though, fresh beans, a quick cream sauce, and a sprinkle of fresh onions are a million times tastier! 

I used Alton Brown's "Not Your Mama's Green Bean Casserole" as my starting point, but green bean casserole really isn't rocket science. This side dish will definitely be gracing our table all year long, not just at the holidays. Here's an extra tip - make double, or triple the onions - you won't be able to stop snacking on them while making the rest of the dish! 

Not Your Mama's Green Bean Casserole
from Alton Brown (slightly adapted from link above)

2 yellow onions, sliced 1/4" thick, separated into rings
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. Italian style breadcrumbs
1/4 c. panko breadcrumbs

2 lbs. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1" segments
1 tbsp. butter
8 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp. flour
1-2 c. 2% milk

Preheat oven to 450*
Add onions to a bowl, toss in flour, remove and place in another bowl, toss in buttermilk, remove and place in a final bowl of breadcrumbs, toss gently to coat.
Spread out on a lined cookie sheet, bake for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes to ensure even crisping.
Remove from the oven, set aside.

Bring 1" of water to a boil, place a steamer basket over water and steam beans for 7-10 minutes, until tender and still bright green.

In a deep saute' pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add mushrooms, onions and garlic.
Saute' for 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and mushrooms are soft.
Sprinkle with flour, stir to coat, add 1 c. milk and nutmeg, whisk and bring to a bubble, cook to desired thickness of sauce, adding more milk as necessary.
Add green beans, toss to coat in sauce, taste and adjust seasonings.
Remove from heat, pour into a dish, top with onions and serve immediately.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Butternut Squash Gratin with Poblanos and Cream

When I first saw this recipe on Elly's blog months ago, I starred it in my Google reader. Then, when she had it listed in her Favorites from 2011 post, I decided it was about time I make it! It's an unusual combination, poblanos and butternut, but it's a match made in heaven. Coincidentally, butternut squash is one of my absolute favorite foods, and poblanos are one of my husbands. Not so surprisingly, we both absolute loved this, and it will be a staple in our "what do you want for dinner this week...?" conversations.

When it comes to poblanos, in my opinion, it's a crap shoot. Sometimes they're pretty spicy, like an overgrown jalapeno, and sometimes they're really mild and almost sweet. Just as I had hoped, JJ picked out 2 of each, so our dish was a little spicy, a little sweet, and super cheesy. I made this dish pretty much as written, but didn't have any farmer's cheese (Elly used queso fresco) so I used goat cheese. I also omitted the cream completely, so the dish actually wasn't exceptionally rich, and the vegetables really were the star of the show. 

Butternut Squash Gratin with Poblanos and Cream
adapted from Elly Says Opa and Food and Wine

4 poblano peppers
1 large butternut squash, about 2 lbs, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp. EVOO
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. light sour cream
1 c. shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese

Heat broiler to high. Slice poblanos in half, seed and place skin side up on a lined cookie sheet.
Broil for 5-10 minutes, until entire skin is charred and blistered. 
Remove from the broiler, turn broiler off and oven on to 400*
Place poblanos in a tupperware container and set aside. 
Place butternut squash slices on another lined cookie sheet, season with salt and pepper, roast for 25 minutes, or until edges begin to crisp.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, add EVOO, onion and garlic, saute' for 5 minutes.
Peel skin off poblanos, slice and add to the onions and garlic. 
Turn heat off, season with salt and pepper. 
Add sour cream, use a spatula to fold it in the vegetable mixture.
Remove squash from the oven.
Grease a casserole dish. 
Place a layer of squash, followed by 1/2 the poblano mixture, and a sprinkle of the cheeses.
Top with another layer of squash, poblanos and cheese.
Finish with one final layer of squash and the remaining cheese.
Place the casserole in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and brown. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vegetarian Zuppe Toscana

If you read many food blogs, you'll see lots of 2011 "best of" and "top 10" posts... not here! While 2011 was a wonderful year for me personally, it was very quiet on the blog front because of pregnancy + newborn. This year, I plan to make blogging a top priority as I have been cooking up some delicious dishes and want to share them with you!  

On New Years Day, I planned to make Black Eye Peas, Collared Greens and Cornbread for dinner. I put the peas in the crockpot with vegetable stock, garlic and onions and let it cook while we went to church and the beach. Yes, we went to the beach on January 1! It was a gorgeous day and I knew we'd be watching football all afternoon. I told JJ it was time we take Violet to the beach and enjoy the day before planting ourselves in front of the TV. No need to be jealous, friends in the north, it's now in the 40-50's here...

After we got home from the beach, we both grabbed a bowl of peas from the crock pot. And then another, and another. And soon enough, 1/3 of our dinner was consumed at lunch time. So I had to go to plan B. 

Zuppe Toscana is one of my favorites, but I never thought to make a vegetarian version. It's usually made with sausage, so I used the flavors of sausage for the broth (as I did with this soup), and lentils for meaty part of the soup. I also have seen cream or milk in Zuppe Toscana, but I found the starch from the potatoes made the broth thick enough that it was unnecessary. This soup was just as delicious as it's meaty counterpart, and much healthier. 

Happy New Year!

Vegetarian Zuppe Toscana
Veggie by Season Original

2 tbsp. EVOO
1 yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 c. sherry
4 c. vegetable stock (I love these stock cubes)
4 small/medium russet potatoes, sliced in 1/4" rounds
1 1/2 c. brown lentils
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground fennel seed
1 tsp. dried rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 c. kale leaves, chopped
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat.
Add EVOO, onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and saute' for 5 minutes.
Add sherry, scrape bits off the pan.
Add stock, potatoes, lentils, oregano, fennel, sage and red pepper flakes.
Bring to a simmer, then turn to low and cover.
Simmer for 30 minutes, until potatoes and lentils are tender.
Add kale to the top, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Kale should be wilted, carefully mix into the soup - some potatoes will break, but try to keep them as in tact as possible. 
Taste, adjust seasonings, and be sure lentils are tender.
Serve with grated parmesan.