The Brussel Sprout Files!

Below is a formula sure to make your Brussel sprouts are a success no matter what flavor profile you’re after. Sweet, salty, or tangy!

Brussel sprouts are aggressive in flavor. You either love them or hate them. So many ways to cook them too– from baked chips to chopped salads. At my home we love our sprouts pan-fried with crisp pancetta– caramelized with lots of butter and my homemade infused olive oil, & lots of crispy fried garlic cloves.

Brussel sprouts caramelize naturally. On special occasions we make a few variations. Addition of maple syrup, or a sprinkling of brown sugar with a handful of candied walnuts will make your family roar! Sometimes we like to add crispy bacon, a nice citrus finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and lot of lemon zest– then an good dousing of parmesan cheese. I add a fair amount of fresh cracked black peppercorns!

Here’s How : 

To properly sauté brussels sprouts, you’ll need a fair amount of fat in the skillet. While bacon is a classic pairing, use your families favorite flavor. Ground pork sausage,  Italian sausage, apple sausage, duck fat, or –If you’re a vegetarian, good quality olive oil is perfect. As mentioned, I use pancetta. So delicious and I love the little crispy, crunchy salty nuggets. How much to use is up to you- I personally like a lot of Pancetta floating around in my dish- so I use a least a pound or two ( shhhh) per stock/stem of Brussel sprout! about 40- 50 spouts.

If using something like bacon or sausage, start by browning the meat in a very large skillet  – I use two of my largest skillets, and split the recipe between them. (Brussel sprouts contain lots of water– so, if you over-crowd the Brussel spouts in the pan, they will steam not caramelize. Tragic.)  Always halve the sprouts and trim the root-end clean.

Sauté the pancetta or your choice of fat, over medium-high heat. Render the fat. Once the meat is cooked, remove it with a slotted spoon set it aside for later addition. Add the halved brussels sprouts to the fat, shaking the skillet so that as many as possible landing cut side down or use tongs to ensure the sprout is positioned for optimum caramelization. Now, step away from the pan. Resist the urge to move them around. Distribution will prevent them from cooking through and becoming crispy golden brown  and delicious. They need to stay in contact directly with the surface heat. Cook until they have a nice  brown sear on one side, about 8 to 10 minutes. If a knife runs easily through, they are done.

Just before removing from the heat, add in  your favorite seasonings–like chopped garlic, sliced onions, fresh thyme, sprinkling of brown sugar, maple syrup, honey  or lemon juice  with lots of zest. Return the sautéed meat you rendered the fat from and toss to coat nicely. Cook for an additional 1- 2 minutes. If making an addition of candied nuts, now is the time to do so. Toss well and serve. (The candies nuts will remain crunchy if not added to the cooking process.)

Salt and pepper. Serve!

Steaming Method: 

Clean Brussels sprouts and slice in half lengthwise. Fill a large stock pot with about 2 inches of flavored stock and water combination– place a metal steamer basket on top. Bring the water to a simmer, add the brussels sprouts to the basket, season with salt and pepper and cover. Steam until the brussels sprouts are bright green and just cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid from pot and let them cool slightly before removing. I like to shock my sprouts in cool ice water so they retain a bright green color. Then right before serving I dunk in hot boiling water or toss quickly in a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper until warmed trough. About two minutes. See my method here for retaining color and nutrition in steamed veggies.

Baking Method:

Halve brussels sprouts (or quarter them, if they are especially large), making sure to hold on to any leaves that fall away (these get the crispest) and toss with plenty of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and scatter them onto a rimmed baking sheet, making use of every inch. Brussels sprouts contain a good bit of water, and if they’re too crowded on the tray, they’ll steam instead of brown. If you need to use two or three sheet pans, do it.

Roast in a hot pre heated 450’F degrees oven, tossing every 10 minutes or so, until the outer leaves have begun to almost char, and the innermost part of the sprout is just tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Finish growing by making sure the cut side of the sprint is face down on the baking sheets surface so they get nicely caramelized. While they caramelize well on their own, tossing the sprouts with a tablespoon or two of maple syrup, honey or light brown sugar will give them a bit of holiday flavor. Remove from oven– add your favor flavors to finish, like lemon zest and fresh thyme, or fresh rosemary, or pine nuts with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese — toss well and return to the oven for an additional five minutes. Remove, set aside to cool. You can even toss with a bit of reduced balsamic reduction –. Whatever flavors you’ve decided on — enjoy– it’s all you!

I’d love to hear about your favorite way to make Brussel sprouts. Leave me a message and tell me how.

Happy Holiday!

Pita Bread Made Three ways- Grilled, Baked or on the Stove Top.

I love making Pita Bread fresh. I can’t decide if I like it better made in my cast iron pan on the stove top, or my pizza stone baked in the oven, or… my outdoor grill; which gives significant additional flavor. You decide. Regardless how you make it — the key to making really good pita is keeping the dough wet, soft and spongy throughout the whole mixing and kneading process. Unlike making any other bread type products– if you begin with wet and sticky sponge and progress slowly adding flour, you will have billowy pitas. Is that a word? “Billowy” ?

Pitas

 

Ingredients: 

1 (.25 ounce) package rapid acting dry yeast

1 cup warm water 90 to 100’F

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 additional teaspoon olive oil, divided or good quality cooking oil spray

 

 

Method:

Place the yeast into the work bowl of  your stand mixer and add 1 cup warm water. Make a slurry. Add 1 cup of the flour. Whisk together with a hand whisk and let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Wait for the mixture to create air bubbles and form a loose looking foamy starter sponge. The mixture will look wet like a slurry and nothing like you would expect to begin a bread dough with. You baking instincts will tell you to add additional flour- but resist the urge.

Once the dough is spongey and full of foam and bubbles, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil, and the salt. Stir, and second addition of flour in small increments string in between each addition. The dough should continue to look spongy and sticky. With the kneading attachment, now combine together at low speed until ingredients are mixed through really well, but remember to keep the starter dough slightly sticky.

If dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl and not mix into a ball, add a little additional flour–a little at a time, not to exceed an additional 1/4 cup. Once dough is kneading without sticking to the bowl but still somewhat gooey. Begin to time your kneading  about to 5-6 minutes on very low speed– until the dough springs back to the touch, and is   very soft.

Remove the dough to a work surface and form into a large ball.

Wipe inside of the bowl with 1/4 teaspoon of the additional olive oil, or a quick spray. Place dough ball back into the mixing bowl and turn upside down to insure the dough is completely covered in a light coating of the olive oil. This will prevent air from hardening with dough during the resting time.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest until it has doubled in volume. Approximately 2 hours.

After dough has doubled in size, remove it from the bowl and place onto a floured work surface. Gently shape about 1 inch thick log. Use kitchen scissors or a knife- cut dough into 8 pieces.

Form each piece into a smaller round ball carefully pulling dough from the top center of each piece, pulling down and tucking under to form a ball. Do not work the dough any more than necessary. Place each ball on a gently on a silicon mat or parchment or plastic lined baking sheet and allow to rest covered for an additional 30 minutes until they have doubled in size.

Once the dough has completed its second rising- dust a clean work surface with a small amount of flour and top of the balls and your hands with a little flour. Gently pat dough ball flat with your fingers, forming a flat, round  disc 1/4 inch thick and using a rolling pin form a 6 inch pita. Continue until all the balls have been flattened into discs.

Rest an additional  5- 8 minutes. The continue to your preferred method of baking.

 

On the Stove:

Lightly coat a large cast-iron skillet with remaining olive oil or spray and place over medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is to temperature before adding the dough disc.

Lay flattened discs into hot skillet and cook until bread begins to puff up and bottom is browning well, about 3-4 minutes. Some might not puff, don’t worry they will still be wide enough to cut open for filling. Turn the pita over and cook 2 an additional 2-3 minutes until browned and puffy. They will naturally deflate causing the center to be hallow enough to fill.

Stack pitas on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy Pitas as is, or stuff with your favorite fillings. I love the pan method because my pitas get a nice crispy coating on the outside while the inside remains soft and chewy.

 

In the Oven: 

Place a large pizza stone on the lower oven rack, preheat the oven and the stone to 500 F.

Place 2 pita discs at a time on the hot pizza stone and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the bread puffs up like a balloon and is pale golden. Watch closely; they will bake quickly.

When browned and puffy, remove the bread from the oven and place on a rack to cool for about 5 minutes; they will naturally deflate, leaving a pocket in the center.

Stack pitas on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy Pitas as is, or stuff with your favorite fillings. I love the oven method because my pitas don’t get too many brown spots and they are soft inside and out.

 

On the Grill: 

When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Let the charcoal sit until it drops in temperature to medium heat.

Right before placing the dough on the grill, give each disc a few mists of water from a spray bottle on both sides. Place the dough on an oiled grill and cook until it starts to bubble, about 1 minute. Flip the dough and cook until it puffs and is cooked through, but not browned, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the grill and let cool. Reheat quickly on the grill before serving. You can also use a gas grill using indirect heat. Keep pitas warm until service.

I love cooking Pitas on the grill because they inherent a nice smokey flavor. Mmmmm!

Serve with skewered grilled meats, Tahini, my buttered Babaganoush recipe, or fresh Falafel with Tzatziki.

Soft HomeMade Pretzels

 

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Ingredients: 

1 cup warm water (105°F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
Vegetable oil
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus Maldon or Large grain salt for garnish
8 -10 cups water
1/8 cup baking soda

 

Method: 

With the vegetable oil, lightly grease a large bowl and two baking sheets- set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the warm water and sprinkle in the yeast and add sugar. Mix to combine. Set aside and allow to sit undisturbed for about 5-10 minutes until bubbles and froth begin to form.

Place the flour, and  1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and whisk to break up any lumps.

Once the yeast mixture is bubbly, add the flour mixture, and fit your mixer with a dough hook. Mix on the lowest setting until the dough  comes together, about 1 minute.

Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in the oiled mixing bowl, and turn to coat in the oil. Cover the bowl with a warm towel allow the dough to rest in a warm place until it doubles in size– about 35-45 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it until it’s smooth and springs back when poked, about 1 minute.

Turn the dough out onto a clean counter top surface, and cut dough into 12 equal pieces and place onto a lined cookie sheet. Keep covered with a light towel, or plastic wrap.

Working with 1 piece at a time, roll a 12-14 inch-long ropes and set them at your 12 o’clock to rest. Roll them all into ropes then shape.

Fold into an unfinished figure 8 then lifting the open ends twist twice and lay going back to the circle end opening. Shape into a pretzel.

Press the ends down to form a pretzel shape the best you can. Press  center of the twist to adhere to the rest of the pretzel. Gently lift and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces, fitting 6 pretzels per baking sheet.

Allow the shaped pretzels to rise again in a warm place until almost doubled in volume. About 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F degrees.

In a large deep sauce pan, bring the 6-8 cups of water to a boil over high heat.When the pretzels are billowy, remove the plastic wrap.

Reduce to a simmer. Stir the baking soda carefully, not to overspill. The water will foam up with baking soda is added.

Place  a few  uncooked pretzels, bottom side down, in the water. Boil for 1 minute, gently flip using a slotted spoon and continue to boil an additional minute.

Remove with the slotted spoon and place on a cookie cooling rack over paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining uncooked pretzels until they have all been boiled.

Paint the pretzels evenly with my recipe for egg wash, and sprinkle with Maldon or Kosher salt. Bake, rotating halfway through until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer immediately to a rack to cool. Serve with  your favorite yummy mustard.

 

Variations:

After baking, dip in melted butter sprinkle on salt and serve.

After baking dip in butter butter and sprinkle on a 50/50 mixture of cinnamon and sugar

Before baking glaze with egg wash and salt before baking for a shiny pretzel

 

 Makes 10-12 Medium Sized Soft Pretzels

Pommes de Terre Gratinées ~”Potatoes with Cheese”~

 

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A Gratin is a culinary technique in which a casserole recipe is topped with a browned crust, from breadcrumbs, grated cheese, sometimes eggs and or butter. Gratin originated in French cuisine, and is usually prepared in a shallow cooking vessel. The flavors are rich and delicious.

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus additional for preparing the baking dish

2 fresh leeks

1 ½ pounds peeled Yukon gold potatoes

1/4-1/2 pound pancetta, chopped in medium dice or center cut bacon.( Optional)

1 cup heavy cream or nut milk

1/3 cup chicken stock or veg stock

2 garlic cloves, cleaned and smashed root ball in tact

2 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350’F degrees.

Prepare a 2-quart gratin dish or a casserole dish by generously rubbing the inside with softened butter. Place on a lined high sided cookie sheet and set aside.

Trim the leek’s root ball, and cut off most of the green stem. Slice down the center lengthwise.Wash the leeks thoroughly between the layers to remove any grit and slice again thinly on the crosswise, into 1/4 inch strips.

Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the potatoes into1/8 inch disks. Toss with salt and pepper. Layer the rounds, slightly over lapping one another- from left-to-right, or in a circle — bottom-to top, in the buttered gratin dish.

In a small sauce pan cook the pancetta until crispy. About 3-5 minutes- drain on a paper towel. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat- melt the butter. Add the leeks, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh salt pepper. Add the thyme. Cook stirring occasionally until leeks are tender and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs and scatter the cooked leeks over the sliced potatoes.

While the leeks are cooking, heat the cream, the chicken stock with the garlic, and bay leaf in an additional saucepan. Simmer for about 5 minutes until flavors are infused in the cream. Add nutmeg and white pepper.

Sprinkle the pancetta ( reserving 1/2 ) on top of the cooked leeks, pour the cream over the leeks and potatoes and pancetta. Top with the Gruyère. Cover with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 40- 50 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with the reserved crispy pancetta and garnish with chopped parsley.

Makes approximately 4-6 servings

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fried Sage and a Chestnut Cream. Oh yeah! 

‘Tis the season! Old world Gnocchi made from sweet potatoes, paired with the crunchness of fried chestnut and sage. Delicious. I’ve also bumped up the flavor profile by serving it in a pool of brown butter chestnut cream sauce made with wholesome nut milk — this recipe is heartwarming belly satisfying! 
A bit of work, but worth all the flavor! 


Ingredients:

1 1/4 pounds russet baking potatoes

1 pound sweet potato

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground sage

1/2 cup fine grated Parmigiano – Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving!

1 1/2 -2 cups of all purpose flour or gluten free flour

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup sage leaves, fried.  (see method below)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 450° with the rack in the center of the oven pierce the potatoes in several places with a fork. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet until tender about 60 minutes or until a knife slides through. Remove and set-aside to cool.

 
Prepare your baking sheet with either a sheet of parchment or silicon baking mat. Once potatoes are cool, peel and run through a ricer back into the prepare the  baking sheet and spread out evenly and allow to throughly cool.

 

While potatoes are cooling, lightly flour 2 to 3 large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set aside.

 

In a small bowl, beat together the egg nutmeg, cloves, ground sage, salt and pepper.

 

Gather the cooled potatoes in a mound on the baking sheet and form a volcanic with a large well in the center.

 

Pour the beaten egg mixture into the well. With your hands, knead the mixture into the potatoes until combine. Add the cheese and 1 1/2 cups of flour continue to knead adding more flour as necessary until the mixture forms a smooth but slightly sticky dough ball.

 

Dust the top of the ball  with additional flour and cut into six wedges. Like a pizza.

 

Form each wedge of the dough into a 1/2 inch thick rope; on a lightly floured surface. Cut each rope into half inch pieces. Gently roll each piece into a cylinder type ball and lightly dust with more flour. Set cylinder balls aside in the flour on the baking sheet and repeat with all the remaining dough.

Once all the little cylindrical shapes are complete, turn a fork over– and hold it at a 45° angle with the tips of the tins touching the worksurface. Work with one cylinder ball at a time, and roll it down the tims of the fork pressing with your thumb to make the ridges on one side to form a Gnocchi.

 
Transfer back to the floured baking sheets till you have completed the same action with all the dough. Clean up and fry the sage leaves,  and make sauce. See recipes below.

 

Fill an 8 to 12 cup large stock pot with water and 2 tablespoons of salt. Bring to roaring boil. Add gnocchi in batches and cook until they float to the surface. About three minutes per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon straight into the sauce pan and cover.

Transfer sauced gnocchi to a large serving bowl and top with  additional finally grated Parmesan cheese, top with fried sage and chestnuts. Squeeze an additional swirl of chestnut, sage oil on the putter rim of the bowl before serving.

Enjoy!

Fried Sage Leaves  

Ingredients:

1 cup very dry whole sage leaves, removed from stems

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Method:

In a 10 inch heavy skillet over medium heat- heat oil until it shimmers.
Fry sage leaves in 3-4 batches stirring until they turn one shade lighter and crisp up only about 30 seconds per batch. Quickly remove from oil as soon as color changes and drain on a paper towel.
Season with salt. Set aside. Save pan and oil to fry chestnuts and make sauce.



Chestnut Cream Sauce 

Ingredients:

1/3 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour or GF flour

1 cup good quality chicken stock, warmed

1/2 cup nut milk, warmed

1 clove garlic, smashed

1/3 cup bottled seasonal roasted chestnuts, very thinly sliced with a garlic slicer or vegetable peeler

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch brown sugar

Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper for seasoning

Method:

Using the same pan as the fried sage leaves, heat the additional oil with what is ever left over. Add the smashed clove of garlic, heat until shimmering. Remove the garlic clove once it it is cooked golden brown, and discard.
Add the sliced chestnut slices (patting dry with a paper towel before adding to the hot oil.) Again, working quickly in batches and careful not to get splattered. Chestnuts contain a large content of water, which will splatter when they come in contact with oil.
Fry chestnuts in three batches stirring until crisp and golden, about 20-30 seconds per batch. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to papertowel to drain. Lightly seasoned with salt.
Cool the oil and strain. Save for additional purposes- this oil will be fragrant and very flavorful. Use to top off soups oruse in a salad dressing, or garnish your gnocchi plate!
Once oil is strained, and discarded from the pan- wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Add butter and flour. On low heat cook butter until
It is turning brown and  nutty, add flour  and whisk together to make a Roux. (This will help thicken your sauce) once the butter and flour combination has been cooked for about 1 minute and has formed a paste like consistency -remove from heat.  While wisking constantly, add the warm stock,  and nut milk. Whisk to remove  any lumps that might form. Sprinkle in a tablespoon of cooked chestnuts.
Return to heat and thicken sauce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Adjust consistency with additional liquid if needed.
Season with spices, brown sugar and pepper. Set aside. Use sauce to coat cooked Gnocchi.