I can be Jell-O

Identifying my life through food that I cook

Lemony lentil salad with feta, sweet potatoes, and greens

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I promise it tastes better than this photo looks

This is the best lentil salad I’ve ever had because it covers the whole flavor range: the sweet potatoes and bell pepper provide sweetness, the feta cheese provides a tangy saltiness, the lentils are earthy and provide a textured bite, the arugula is slightly spicy, and the acidic brightness in the lemon juice-based dressing  contrasts really well against all of it. Bonuses: this is really as healthy, budget-friendly, tastes great warm or cold, and stands up really well as leftovers.

Warm lemony lentil salad with feta, sweet potatoes, and arugula 

Ingredients

1 and 1/4 cup brown lentils

a good 3 handfuls of fresh arugala (or any other green mix you’d like; just avoid spinach as it has the same earthy taste as the lentils. You need the slight kick that arugula or tat soi has.)

1 red bell pepper, cored and diced

Feta cheese

2 sweet potatoes

3 lemons

mustard

olive oil

salt and pepper

Instructions

Peel your sweet potatoes, and cut into cubes. On a foil lined tray, toss the cubed potatoes with a olive oil, sea salt and fresh black pepper until all the cubes are well coated. Roast in a 400 degree oven until tender and brown in spots – around 30 minutes, but keep an eye on them around 20, and stir occasionally.

While your potatoes are roasting, cook your brown lentils. Put them in a pot, and season with salt. Throw in a bay leaf if you have one. Cover with enough water so that the water comes up about 1/2 to 1 inch above the lentils. Turn the stove on high until the water starts to boil, then lower the temperature to a simmer. Let cook, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes, but keep an eye on them. It’s important the lentils don’t become mushy – they should be tender but not overly soft. Drain of any remaining water.

Put your greens in your serving bowl. Top with the warm lentils and warm roast sweet potatoes. Add as much crumbled feta as you’d like – I used around 1/4 of a block. Add in your bell pepper.

Make your dressing. Juice 3 lemons into a bowl. Whisk in 1 TB of smooth mustard. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (or minced fresh garlic). Whisk in a healthy drizzle of olive oil.

Pour all the dressing over the salad. Eat warm, room temperature, or cold the next day. Serves 4.

Fettuccine with Red Pepper and Basil Sauce

I’ve long been on the lookout for a great red bell pepper pasta sauce  – I love the sweetness that bell peppers have, and I wanted to venture out from the normal tomato base. Most recipes were made delicious by the use of cream, but being January and all a pasta + cream dish didn’t really sound like the best idea.

The below version though is, though, pretty fantastic and also cream-free. The flavor comes from a lot of garlic, a hit of red pepper flakes, and the important use of fresh basil and good quality parmesan cheese at the end. The sweetness of the bell peppers and basil contrasts really well with the chili heat. If you do desire some creaminess to the sauce (and I don’t blame you) stir in some 2% (or whole milk) at the end – I did this once when I added a little too many chili flakes by accident, and the end result was rewarding.

red pepper sauce

 

*Note – the above picture of the finished suace has an instagram filter on it, and looks to have a deeper red/orange color to it than it did in real life. Don’t be alarmed if your sauce has a lighter color.

Fettuccine with Red Pepper and Basil Sauce

Adapted from Gourmet – serves 4 (also good for leftovers)

  • 4-5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried hot red pepper flakes (if adding milk or cream at the end, increase to 1/2 teaspoon to maintain some kick)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried italian seasoning (or a mix of dried basil, oregano, whatever you like in your pasta sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 red bell peppers, sliced thin (about 4 cups)
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • fresh lemon juice to taste
  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • freshly grated Parmesan as an accompaniment

In your pot/pan of choice, heat the olive oil until shimmering and then add your shallots. Once translucent add the garlic, the red pepper flakes, italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste in the oil over moderately low heat (make sure garlic doesn’t brown.) Add the bell peppers and the broth, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 10 minutes, or until the peppers are very soft. In a blender purée the mixture until it is smooth, return it to the skillet, and swirl in the butter. (Alternately, use an immersion blender.) Stir in the basil, the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and keep the sauce warm.

In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the fettuccine until it is al dente, drain it well, and transfer it to a serving bowl. Add the sauce, toss the pasta well, and serve it with a healthy dose of  Parmesan.

 

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds

New year, new way of doing things. In an effort to share more recipes my family with the time and schedule that I have, this blog is going to be a lot less wordy. You’ll find here instead just  a photo + recipe with a few notes when necessary, with the idea that the only recipes I post are ones that I found to be tremendously good. I hope you find some useful ideas and inspiration on here!

First up, my recent go-to dish for company. I amped up this already excellent recipe with a few more spices in the mix. You can serve this with any grain; here it’s pictured (in the front left) with basmati rice (I flavored the rice with some butter and lemon zest), a simple salad and some roasted potatoes.

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Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds

adapted from Gourmet

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1.5 to 2 pounds chicken boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium red onion, halved, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • about 1-2 inches of fresh ginger root, peeled and diced
  • 5 fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons mild honey
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots, separated into halves
  • handful of slivered almonds to garnish

Stir together ground cinnamon, paprika, turmeric, pepper, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Add chicken pieces in batches and turn to coat well with the spices.

Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in base of tagine (or in skillet), uncovered, over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then brown half of chicken, skin sides down, turning over once, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Brown remaining chicken in same manner, adding any spice mixture left in bowl.

Add onion, ginger and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to tagine and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Tie cilantro and parsley into a bundle with kitchen string and add to tagine along with 1/2 cup water, chicken, and any juices accumulated on plate. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. (Note: you can add cilantro/parsley at the end if you don’t have twine). Near the end of this cooking period, add in dried apricots – you want them to plump up a bit in the liquid. Also add at this time the cinammon stick and a tablespoon of honey. Discard herbs and cinammon stick, and sprinkle with slivered almonds (and fresh parsley and cilantro if you didn’t add it before.) Serves four with no leftovers.

3 Oscar Menus

MENU THEME 1: BEST PICTURE, HORS D’OEUVRE STYLE

A low-stress menu filled with crowd favorites:

Classic Martini:  perfect for a 1950s theme, but (fittingly) timeless as well.  (Tree of Life)

Deviled Eggs: a Southern classic. (The Help)

Caramel Corn Clusters: better than crackerjack. (Moneyball)

Homemade soft pretzels: an NYC street-food classic – serve with spicy mustard. (Everything Is Illuminated)

Croque Monsier:  aka grilled cheese, French style. (Hugo and Midnight in Paris)

Mai Tai Sorbet:  serve in bowls with little umbrellas. (Descendants)

Black & White Cookies: a to-the-point nod to this year’s most-likely-to-win nominee. (The Artist)

*****

MENU THEME 2: OLD-SCHOOL GLAMOR

A rich and indulgent meal for the serious Oscar host. Swag bags optional.

1. Start with a Classic Champagne Cocktail

2. Hand out individual cellophane bags filled with Chocolate Popcorn with Sea Salt

3. Serve dinner: an indulgent salad paired with a lightly dressed, flaky fish:
Warm Spinach Salad with Cherry Pancetta Vinaigrette  and
Miso-Glazed Fish

4. End the night in style with a rich, boozy, black and white cake topped with gold star glitter. Could there be a more Oscar-worthy dessert? New Yorkers, you can find edible gold star glitter at the Cake Supply Store on 56 W. 22nd Street in Manhattan.

*****

MENU THEME 3: LOVE FOR THE SNUBS

For the movies that could’ve make the cut for the Best Pic category. (You can argue over the ‘should’ve’ in the comments.)

Lemon Rose Bellini – feminine, celebratory and Helen Harris worthy. (Bridesmaids)

Spiced Mixed Nuts with Sugared Bacon – a high octane mix. (Drive)

Ron Weasley’s Everything but the Kitchen Sink Savory Pie (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2)

Shirazi Salad – a refreshing Persian salad (A Separation)

Coffee Granita: Anyone who has read the books can attest to how much coffee the Swedish characters drink. End the night on a sweet, caffeinated buzz. (Bonus: this is dead simple to make). (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Quick Recipes: Easy Mint and Feta Rice

Serves 6 well – halve or double as needed.

1. Using your rice cooker, make 2 cups of long-grained white rice, using your favorite chicken or vegetable stock as your cooking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, thinly slice two large onions. Caramelize onions on low heat using both butter and olive oil. Adding a pinch of sugar helps the process.

3. Stir together the following in your serving bowl: your cooked rice, the caramelized onions, an ample handful of finely chopped fresh mint leaves, and a generous amount of crumbled feta cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

4. Serve warm. Great as a side dish, or top with a fried egg for a lazy leftover dinner.

To watch, to use, to make (new years edition)

1. Need some motivation to do some prep-work in your kitchen on the weekends? Watch this lovely video from Prune and Chez Panisse chef, Tamar E. Adler. I especially like the idea of storing the food in mason jars – a useful tip if your fridge, like mine, runs on the small side. Also how beautiful is her kitchen?

http://www.tamareadler.com

2. It’s hard to escape the crushing amount of cleanse/diet/detox plans that are advertised this time of year. But if you are cookied-out and could use some fresh ideas, this one from Bon Appetit is the best one I’ve seen in terms of web layout and content.

http://www.bonappetit.com

3. I made this take-out style Black Pepper Tofu (from this cookbook) recently and it’s nothing short of addicting. Highly recommend but only if you really (really) like food with a kick. A few adjustments: 1) there’s no real need to use two different types of soy sauce – 6 tsp of whatever you have on hand will work fine. b) I love spicy food to a fault but found the recommended 5 tablespoons of pepper to be a little insane.  I used 4 tablespoons of coarse black pepper, which was more than enough. I would recommend 3 if you want a somewhat normal amount of heat.  c) The recipe calls for 11 tbs of butter. This must be a typo. I used 1. d) Definitely serve with brown rice and some steamed, barely flavored greens to temper the intense flavor of the tofu. Bok choy is a good choice.

photo by yours truly, excuse the blurriness!

Happy New Years!

Eggnog Cheesecake

 

Hope all your holidays ahead are filled with indulgent food and as much good company as you can possibly handle. I’ll be making more than a few desserts this Christmas, but will be putting this beauty front and center, not least of which because this is one time of year to really justify making and eating something called Eggnog Cheesecake.

Eggnog can be a divisive item – I seem to meet an equal number of detractors as I do its fans – but you can rest assure the former that this recipe is up their alley too. This is really just a regular (delicious) cheesecake, infused with Cognac or rum. Dress it up with some whipped cream and ground nutmeg on top, and you’ll have one of the most festive desserts on the table. Happy holidays!

Eggnog Cheesecake

From Williams-Sonoma Baking

For the crust:
1 cup pecan halves, toasted
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling:
2 lb cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons Cognac or dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 large eggs, at room temperature
whipped cream and nutmeg for garnish

For the whipped cream (optional)
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
4 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk (milk powder)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a chilled metal bowl, combine the cream, sugar, dry milk and vanilla and beat with chilled beaters until the cream stands in soft peaks. To pipe the cream through a pastry bag, beat it until it has stiff peaks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the toasted pecans, the graham cracker crumbs, and brown sugar and process to form fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process until the crumbs begin to stick together. With your hand draped with plastic wrap to form a glove, press the crumbs firmly onto the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of a springform pan 9″ in diameter and 2 1/2 inches deep. Wrap aluminum foil around the outside of the pan. Bake the crust until set, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Leave the oven set at 350 degrees.

To make the filling, in a bowl, combine the cream cheese and granulated sugar. Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat until well blended. Beat in the Cognac, vanilla and nutmeg. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition just until combined. Pour and scrape the filling into the cooled crust and smooth the top.

Bake until the edges are set but the center still quivers slightly when the pan is shaken, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.

To serve, run a knife around the pan sides to loosen the cake. Remove the foil from the pan and release the pan sides. Place the cheesecake on a plate. Decorate with whipped cream rosettes and a dusting of nutmeg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cookbook review (and some lighter fare)

My recipes, or ideas for recipes, tend to be sourced from a steady revolving door of reliable standbys. My mom’s cooking and whatever I can piece together from childhood memories is one; Epicurious and other standby blogs are another. Then, of course there’s the steady block of cookbooks on my kitchen windowsill: silent, sturdy, dogeared friends that feel enormously welcoming in an age where recipe-writing needs to be catered to mobile apps.

I’m not vegetarian, but I have a tendency to lean towards it, mostly because I was raised on a lot of South Indian food (a diet that’s inherently meat free but remains, in my opinion, one of the most complex and delicious cuisines in the world.) Plenty is a great book for people like myself- for those who tend to splurge more on the items in their spice cabinet than on an expensive cut of meat. And I can’t help but like that a vegetarian tome such as this one was written by a guy who not only presents his food without agenda, but suggests that one of his dishes would go great alongside some lamb. In the hyper-political, morally grandstanding environment we all live, eat and cook in, I find his approach enormously refreshing.

The New York Times, The Guardian and Epicurious have all rushed to put this on their best-of 2011 cookbook list, so what I’m saying here is not anything new. The book is beautiful both in construction and layout, and is organized, quite intelligently, by vegetable. I’m behind any book that has a chapter called “The Mighty Eggplant”.

But let’s face it – it’s the holiday season. Along with everyone else, I too am eyeing the ginger-glazed ribs and macaroons recipes, but how refreshing and festive would the eggplant dish be, the one photographed above? Ottolenghi has you roast halved eggplants with their skins on, make a simple garlic, buttermilk dressing and then dress the dish with an inspired garnish of pomegranate seeds and lemon thyme. Serve family style with some thin toasts, and you have, I think, a perfectly elegant starter to your holiday meal.

This book does have its detractors, and their criticisms are not without merit. The recipes aren’t perfect and not a few of them should be adjusted to personal taste. There are some technical mistakes (most notably perhaps, when it says to roast eggplant at 200 degrees, instead of 400 degrees – be sure to ignore that and stick to 400). My William-Sonoma Baking book, in comparison, is a technically perfect recipe book. These are recipes I know I don’t have to adjust at all – they have been tried and perfected countless times in their excellent test kitchens. Plenty is not this kind of book. But I’m endorsing it because it opens my mind to new ways of approaching vegetables. It’s a book, much like David Tanis’s Platter of Figs (which has a disastrous spinach cake recipe), that inspires rather than instructs. These are books that make me want to cook more thoughtfully, shop more carefully, and celebrate more often. Tanis and Ottole write cookbooks that keep the argument for writing cookbooks alive – there’s a narrative and a life viewpoint that aligns the pages. For cooks who are comfortable enough to adjust and recognize personal preference among the listed ingredients, this book is an excellent addition to the library.

Take the Saffron Tagliatelle with spiced butter. Sounds fussy, especially since it includes instruction on how to make your own homemade pasta. But all you need to do is the following: add a pinch of saffron to your pasta water, and cook al dente some good quality dried pasta. Raid your spice cabinet (you’ll need all your warming spices, like paprika, cinnamon, turmeric and coriander) and brown them with butter. Season with salt and pepper. That’s it – this is your sauce. Pour your butter sauce, with a handful of fresh herbs for good measure, with your cooked pasta and you have a perfect, simple first course for a dinner party.

There are some standard pairings: a watermelon and feta salad that I’ve seen countless times, a mushroom and polenta dish that I’ve relied on, with my own spin, for years – but sometimes a gentle reminder of what already works can be productive, too.

I wasn’t sure which of his many recipes to share, and I ended up choosing one that’s as un-Christmassy as possible. For as much as I’d like to pretend that I can spend my December in a permanent holiday haze of peppermint candies and egg nog, I still have a lunch to pack each day, preferably something that’s healthy and light enough to counteract all the cookies, pies and general happiness-inducing indulgence. There’s nothing virtuous about it – I’m listening to Christmas music as I type this and wishing someone could magically furnish me with some toffee pudding. But when you want to pull the reigns on a little, this cold noodle salad with a zingy sesame dressing and sweet chunks of mango is a comprise that doesn’t feel too comprising.

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

from the cookbook PLENTY, recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi

Feel free to play around this. Cubed fried tofu, as Ottolenghi suggests, would give it a protein boost.

1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 to 1 red chile, finely chopped, depending on your heat preference
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
sunflower or canola oil
2 eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch dice
8 to 9 oz soba noodles
1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/8-inch dice or into 1/4 inch thick strips
1 1/2 cups basil leaves (use Thai basil if you can find it, but less)
cilantro leaves
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to a minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up your canola or sunflower oil (about 1/2 a cup will do) and shallow-fry the eggplant in 3-4 batches. (Note: I like to add a bit of sugar when frying eggplant – it helps to caramelize it.) Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, about 5-8 minutes until al dente. Drain and shake off as much as excss water as possible, and then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noddles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. Leave aside for 1 to 2 hours. Serve with the remaining herbs.

What I’d make if I were making Thanksgiving dinner

I am, as always, in good hands this Thursday. My mother is the sort of woman who makes multiple stuffings and four kinds of pie even when there are only 5 to 6 of us at the table. It’s a brilliant layout of food and she has her prep-and-assemble timeline down to a science. So even though I approach the holiday every year thinking that I might contribute a dish or two, the effort is entirely redundant, and I’m more useful washing dishes, peeling the occasional apple and more or less staying out of the way. I should add here that this is all something I can entirely relate to as I am the absolute worst delegator in my own kitchen, as my sister among others can attest to.

But that doesn’t stop me from looking through the mass blog posts and magazine articles and cookbooks that are out there, all solely dedicated to this one glorious meal. Over the past few years and recent weeks I’ve compiled a long list of bookmarked recipes that I would make to supplement the usual Thanksgiving fare, if I were running the show. But for now I’ll happily take my place at the table, and function solely as a grateful eater.

one of the best parts of coming home for the holidays- my Dad’s coffee-making process

Drinks

Mexican Egg Nog – holiday favorite boosted up with cinnamon, vanilla and some golden rum.

Fallen Leaf Cocktail have a small gathering? Take advantage and make this beautiful cocktail for each guest.

Dinner

Carrot and Pomegranate Soup – our Thanksgiving always starts off with a beautiful soup that sets the tone for the meal without weighing you down before you get into the heartier stuff. My mom always makes something different, but the soups have been consistent through the years: always light and very smooth, a pureed root vegetable base laced with fruit and a little cream, topped with a simple but elegant garnish. (This years soup:  “Pumpkin, apple, celery, onion – thinned with stock and cider: sage and cinnamon”, she reports over email.) This carrot and pomegranate version found in  Luisa’s archives definitely fits the Rajan Thanksgiving bill.

M. Wells Shaved Brussel Sprouts Salad – don’t underestimate the respite a good salad brings to a heavy meal. The bitterness of the arugula and bracing squeeze of lemon would be the perfect relief to the mashed potatoes and gravy.

Indian Roasted Potatoes – I make this so often: for guests, for weeknight dinners, for a simple side during a special occasions meal. The cumin seeds and turmeric will make this dish stand out in the sea of parsley and oregano. A  crowd pleaser that’s easy to double or triple in quantity. (Note: I never make this with curry leaves and sometimes swap the dried chilies with fresh jalapeno. I also usually forget to add the mint and cilantro at the end, to absolutely no detriment.) 

Challah Bread Stuffing – the eggy, rich challah flavor raises this into something that feels a little more elevated than regular stuffing . I made this for the first time recently, and it was unfussy to prep and vegetarian to boot.

Adobo Turkey with Red-Chile Gravy – rave reviews and a flavorful kick make this the roast turkey recipe I’d most like to try.

Dessert

Nothing can beat a great pie, but here are some of my favorite alternatives (and by alternatives, I mean additions) to the dessert table:

Either of these two cakes: festively seasonal, great for making ahead, easy to carry if you’re contributing as a guest, and good for a large group. Also, they’re just really good.

Pecan, Bourbon, and Butterscotch Bread Pudding Serve with coffee, or maybe some Ciderhouse Whiskey, to keep your night going.

Vanilla Roasted Pears – easy as it gets and a nice reprieve from all the pastries. Leftovers would be great with roast pork or spooned over hot oatmeal for a delicious next-morning breakfast.

And lastly, a recent baking tip from my mother: “Before putting on the top crust of your apple pie, dot the filling with cut up bits of store-bought plain caramels” (instead of dotting it with butter which is what recipes usually instruct you to do.) You’ll have an Apple Caramel Pie and a lot of happy guests. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Baked Apple Pancake & Sausage Potato Hash

Weekend breakfasts can be a tricky thing. I want something a little more luxurious than, say, oatmeal, but getting past my bed’s heavy blankets and my desire to watch Law & Order re-runs all day can make cooking something special a little tricky. Laziness is a powerful detractor.

Adding to my dilemma is my issue with cooking pancakes. First, there’s the mess. Flour bags need to be opened and with it that inevitable flurry of white dust that always makes me prefer cooking to baking. Then there are the number of dishes used: a bowl for dry ingredients, a bowl for wet ingredients, measuring spoons, measuring cups, a well-greased skillet. I have no problem doing this if, say, I were baking a cake. But when it’s the weekend, and I’m feeling so self-righteously lazy, seeing the pile of battered-up bowls in my tiny NYC sink becomes something of a buzz-kill. (Somewhere Terence is rolling his eyes since he’s entirely responsible for dish-washing responsibilities, but what can I say. I’m very empathetic.) But more than the mess is the fact that I’m beholden to that hot stove. I need to stand by it and pour/flip/stack until the batter is done, which often yields some severely cooled down ‘cakes. I could cook them in batches, but once I sit down to eat, I want to be down. I want to be on my couch, West Wing episodes playing at full blast, getting up only to freshen my coffee.  Or, I want to be spending actual time talking to the people I’m eating with; when I’m on pancake duty, I eat hastily, constantly eyeing other people’s plates, waiting to see when others are ready to take on a new stack so I can run back to the stove. Not much fun at all.

Now, I know there are ways to getting around this – I could make all the pancakes and then keep them warm in the oven, for instance. But I wanted a recipe that would cut down on steps, not add to them.

Pancake, pre-oven

Turns out my slothfulness can be rewarded with something delicious. This recipe yields a sweet, eggy base with an apple topping that can be likened to pie filling. Yes, pie. (You should already be heading to your kitchen.) Clean-up is painless, and it takes a grand total of ten minutes for it to rise in the oven, all puffy and golden.

But when it comes down it, the salty sides are what get me out of bed. I first thought about trying chorizo hash, which is always a hit, but I find it a little heavy first thing in the morning.  So I decided to use up the rest of the lean, hot turkey sausage I had and see what would happen.

I was happy with the results but would recommend two things: a) potatoes love salt so season with a generous hand, and b) make sure to take the time to squeeze out as much water as you possibly can from the grated potatoes. It makes all the difference when you’re aiming for that great, crispy texture.

Lastly, this hash exhibits one of my favorite qualities in home-cooking: it makes for excellent leftovers. Top it with a fried egg and you’ve got yourself a more than respectable lunch the next day. Which means more time re-watching your favorite TV scenes, like this one.

Pancake, post-flip

Baked Apple Pancake

(adapted from Bon Apetit)

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, seeded, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss apple slices with lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar in medium bowl.

Whisk eggs and milk in large bowl to blend. Add flour, 1 tablespoon sugar and salt; whisk until batter is almost smooth (small lumps of flour will remain).

Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and remaining sugar in small bowl.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a nonstick, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Pour batter into the skillet. Arrange the apple slices evenly over batter.

Transfer  to oven and bake until pancakes are set around edges but still wet in center, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle brown sugar mixture over the pancake. Dot with 1 tablespoon of butter. Using spatula, carefully turn pancake over. (I had someone hold the skillet while I used two spatulas to flip.) Return to oven. Bake until the pancake rise, sugar mixture melts to sauce consistency and top of pancakes is golden, about 3 to 6 minutes. Cut into quarters and invert onto plates. Serve warm.

Turkey Sausage Potato Hash

3 large russet potatoes, peeled
1 large onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 bell pepper, any color
2-3 links of hot, lean turkey sausage (or any sausage of choice)
1/2 teaspoon of paprika (if you have smoked paprika on hand, that would work well too)
1/2 teaspoon of all-purpose seasoning OR a handful of fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Start by scrubbing and peeling your potatoes. Using the largest hole on your box grater, grate the potatoes, and then squeeze as much excess water from the potatoes as possible. Put grated potatoes in a medium to large bowl and set aside.

Dice up your large onion, and in a pan (cast iron or something else non-stick works great here) sautee your onion in 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (olive or canola) until translucent. Add your cloves of minced garlic, followed by your diced bell pepper. It’s preferable if the onions start to brown, but make sure to not burn the garlic. Once the bell peppers start to soften, sprinkle the mixture with some salt (about 1/2 a teaspoon) and a few cracks of fresh black pepper. Turn stove off and add mixture to your bowl of grated potatoes.

Using the same pan, begin to cook your sausage. Break the meat into bits with a wooden spoon and let the meat brown on all sides. Turn off stove, and add browned bits to your potato mixture.

Add another 1/2 teaspoon of salt, more pepper, paprika and your all-purpose seasoning or fresh herbs to the bowl. Mix well.

Using the same pan, melt a tablespoon of butter on medium high heat. Add your potato mixture to the pan, pressing down well so the mixture is evenly pressed down in the pan. Let cook for several minutes until it’s very well browned on one side. Begin to break up and flip on its other side. You want your hash very well browned.

Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve with your favorite hot sauce, if you’re anything like me.

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