Creamed spinach

Buy more fresh spinach than you can possibly imagine eating and serving, because steaming it shrinks the volume a huge amount.

Ingredients — for about 4 people:

fresh spinach, 1 #, pick over to remove and discard large stems
Heavy cream, 1/2 c (I only buy NON ultra-pasteurized)
Garlic cloves, 3, peeled and smashed with side of knife blade
Nutmeg, freshly grated
S&P

Directions:

Pick over spinach, pinching off and discarding long, thick stems.
Put spinach in a large-ish pot, sprinkle with salt, and pour on a healthy splash of water. You’re not going to get all the spinach in at once.
Cover and steam a few minutes until it reduces in volume. Add more spinach on top, and continue steaming, covered. Continue adding more until all the spinach is in the pot. Cook until well-wilted but not mush.

While the spinach is cooking: Put cream in small saucepan with garlic cloves. Cook over low-medium heat to reduce, and infuse cream with garlic. Add S&P while cooking. Keep warm/keep on low. Cover to hold and wait for spinach.

When spinach is done, drain it well, and return to the pot. Stir in cream and grate fresh nutmeg on top — not too much. Serve in a bowl and make everyone happy.

This is ideal as part of a stereotypical “meat and potatoes” dinner — perhaps London broil and roasted potatoes.

 

Pan seared brussels sprouts with maple syrup and mustard

I love Brussels sprouts. Especially after the first frost when their flavor intensifies. Heck I’ll eat ‘em whenever (except spring and summer).
But the problem is the challenge in cooking them well. I grew up detesting them because when they are steamed to mush they taste vile, thanks to their cabbage lineage, and stink cabbage-like too with an unappealing mush. Then I grew up and happily threw them into a steamer to just tender, douse in butter and enjoy as a side dish for dinner. Pretty good.

One great way was to stick in a earthenware covered pot with pancetta, S&P, and bake the life out of ‘em. Somehow they went past the vile mushy stage to pure indulgence. Very good.

Then I tried the cut-in-half-and-roast technique which was invariably frustrating and somewhat stressful because they burned and also didn’t soften. But I know that roasting vegetables is great for flavor.
Then . . .. enter Dorie Greenspan, the doyenne of home baking, out with her here’s-what-I-like-to-cook-at-home cookbook with a new twist on Brussels sprouts cooking technique: Par-cook ‘em (hold for a day in fridge if you like) and then cut in half and sauté over high heat. Stir in mustard-maple syrup mixture, cooked bacon or pancetta, and then sprinkle with apple cider vinegar. Brilliant.

Here’s how:

Toss brussels sprouts with slivered garlic, shallots, S&P, and steam until just barely tender.
Dump into bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Hold at room temp or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Mix together: 1 T Dijon mustard (grainy/smooth combo is best)
2 T maple syrup
Cut Brussels sprouts in half
Cook 1 slice of bacon, or equivalent pancetta, diced, until crispy.
Pour out fat leaving 1 T in pan.
Add 1 T olive oil, and sauté over high heat, stirring to get sprouts caramelized in spots.
Turn heat down to medium low, and Add in mustard mixture, stirring.
Remove from heat and put in bowl.
Sprinkle apple cider vinegar on top.

Goes great with Fennel-encrusted pork chops and roasted sweet potato wedges (with thyme).

Roasted sweet mini-peppers

For when you purchase those sweet little sweet peppers.

Roast 1# peppers in 425 degree oven for 20+ minutes. Fit in a snug vessel, toss with olive oil and salt, and then balsamic vinegar. Roast until wilted; remove and let cool. Remove stems. Thanks Alexandra!

Make a pasta sauce:

Sauté 1/2 onion, diced or semi-sliced, in olive oil. Add marjoram and cream and salt and reduce. Set aside.

Cook pasta — trumpets are good.
Meanwhile slice 1/2 # peppers. Mix into cream, adding more cream if too thick.

Toss together: pasta, cream sauce. Voila!

Other ideas:

Ricotta with peppers.
Quinoa and peppers — cold salad

And here’s another idea to make a sauce with peppers and tomatoes.

A weirdly interesting, or interestingly weird and delicious broccoli sandwich

Years ago I would visit Manhattan and stay near the No. 6 Sub shop on Broadway around 27th Street, which is about the size of a closet, where Tyler Kord or his staff would sling a dyno-mite roasted broccoli sub. It was delicious. I tried to get there every visit. Addictive, even.

The sandwich consists of roasted broccoli, pickled lychees, pine nuts, ricotta salata, and fried shallots. I just learned the components recently having purchased Kord’s “A Super Upsetting Cookbook about Sandwiches” in which he irreverently describes his food preferences and techniques. Of course I homed in on the broccoli sub and soon got to work crafting my own version.

I was unclear about the lychees and in various stores I checked out canned lychees and found there were all in sugar syrup and thought: Hmm, that can’t be right. Well turns it is right — you make pickles with ‘em if you are fully on the Kord train. Me, here’s what I did for one person at home:

Baguette
Roasted broccoli
Pine nuts, lightly toasted
Mayo mixed with honey and apple cider — sweet and tart, kinda like lychee pickles (!?)
Feta (Kord calls for ricotta salata)
Pickled cherry peppers

Spread mayo on bread, layer on remaining ingredients. Grab a bunch of napkins and chow down!

Kord also calls for fried shallots, which I was going to do as he recommends — double fried slices after dipping in corn starch — but I had enough food prep steps and was hungry.

Oven-Roasted broccoli

Roasted broccoli, y’all!

I have hitched my wagon to this roasted-vegetable train and am on board with most but broccoli just didn’t seem to work for me. It burned and yet did not soften.

Then into my life came wacky Tyler Kord — yes that’s a person’s name — the genius behind the No. 7 Sub shop on Broadway on the east side of Manhattan with the powerhouse deliciousness of the wacky broccoli sub. It has broccoli, lychee nuts and ricotta salata and is a powerhouse of flavor. Craving flavor- level. I still remember it though I have not been staying nearly across the street from the closet of a sub shop for several years. Turns out Kord has a cookbook. And in it he confesses to a wild mad love of broccoli. He has a technique for roasting broccoli, which actually works.

Take out a big stalk of broccoli. Cut off the lower end of the stem (my direction). Peel the stem with a vegetable peeler. Then, started at the bottom of the stem, slice stem into 1/4” slices, all the way up to the florets and into the florets. Cut any florets wider than 2” in half.

Toss broccoli with olive oil, S&P and roast in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring sometime in the interim. Pretty darn good! And look Ma! No butter!

Served with roasted (marinated) chicken thighs, and roasted garlic potatoes. A low stress, wait-for-you dinner.

Make-ahead broccoli for dinner

I like broccoli cooked but not cooked-the-life-out-of it. That’s tricky when you’re steaming it. It gets cooked and then if you let it hang around while other dishes finish up, the broccoli can quickly zip past the cooked-properly to the overdone zone. And anyway, plain, overcooked broccoli is not a welcome sight on one’s dinner plate.

One solution is to blanch the broccoli, drain and let sit out, and later  re-warm in garlic-infused olive oil with hot pepper flakes and perhaps some shavings of parmesan.

Directions:

Parboil broccoli sections in salted water for about 4 minutes. Drain and set out on sheet pan to sit at room temp while you cook the rest of dinner.

Slice garlic and sauté gently over medium low heat in a good quantity of olive oil with salt until golden or just barely golden. Put all in a small bowl and set aside.

When ready for broccoli, heat the pan, add olive oil, hot pepper flakes, and turn broccoli in oil, adding garlic and garlic-infused oil, and salt.

Put into serving bowl and shave on some parmesan, which will melt from the hot broccoli.

Pasta with roasted cauliflower

When there’s nothing in the house to cook but there is some cauliflower and perhaps njuda, you can make a quick and easy dinner. Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put up pot of water to boil pasta.
Roast cauliflower with olive oil, S&P 400 degrees about 20 mins.
Cook pasta: Interesting tubes are good. I used bronze-cut pipe rigate (from Aldi’s!).
Make a quick tomato-sauce with a smidgen of canned diced tomatoes (even better: fire-roasted) with 1 oz of njuda, broken up. Sauté in small saucepan for 10+ mins; adding some hot pepper flakes, oil, S&P. Optional: capers.
Chop up some fresh parsley

Remove cauliflower when cooked and set aside to cool a bit. Cut into bite-size pieces.
Cook pasta to al dente and drain, and put into large-ish bowl.
Mix in tomato sauce and stir with cauliflower. Sprinkle on parsley and serve. Yum!