dinner

Mashed Potatoes, Two Ways (dairy-free and dairy-loaded)

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In our nuclear family of 11, there are the pro-potato people and the no-potato people.

I am a top level pro-potato person.

And as you can see from the photos, so are two of my grand daughters, who helped me make some mashed potatoes for dinner a while ago.

The recipe we made was a butter-cream-cheese-sour-cream indulgence. (It could be a meal in itself!) But we’ve also made dairy-free versions. Pro-potato people like it all ways.

Are mashed potatoes on your menu for Thanksgiving? If so — or any other time — check out both recipes, dairy-loaded and dairy-free.

dairy-loaded Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Gold)

  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese, cut into chunks

  • 1/2 cup dairy sour cream

  • 1/4 cup warm milk, approximately

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Cook them in lightly salted simmering water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and return the potatoes to the pan. Cook briefly over low heat to evaporate the excess moisture. Mash the potatoes with a ricer or potato masher. Add the butter and cream cheese and mash them in thoroughly until the butter and cheese are completely blended in. Add the sour cream and blend in thoroughly. Mix in enough milk for desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings

 

DAIRY-FREE Mashed Potatoes

  • 5 medium all-purpose potatoes such as Yukon Gold

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock

  • salt to taste

  • pinch or two of cayenne pepper

  • 3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and cook them in lightly salted water for about 15 minutes, or until they are fork tender. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until the vegetables are beginning to brown. Set aside. Drain the potatoes and mash them with a ricer or potato masher until the lumps have disappeared. Add the vegetables and olive oil and stir them in gently. Stir in the lemon juice, stock, salt and the cayenne pepper. Place the mixture in a baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top is crispy and brown.

Makes 6 servings

Grandma Mac and Cheese

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All of my grandchildren think that I make the absolute most wonderful, bestest, most delicious mac and cheese. And they expect at least one mac and cheese dinner when they come for a visit.

No worries. I always have one in my freezer, just in case there is ever a surprise knock on my door from one of them.

Of course I thought my grandma made the best mac and cheese too. Hers came out of a box and the cheese part were some granules that came in a separate foil package. She was supposed to mix the granules with milk and butter I think, but she never did. She just opened the package and sprinkled it on top of the cooked elbows. 

That's the way all of us grandchildren thought mac and cheese was supposed to taste. And of course, grandma made it best.

It's the way I made it for my kids. Because that was the best.

Somewhere along the way I tasted actual homemade macaroni and cheese. It was a revelation. It was wonderful. Which is NOT to say that grandma's wasn't good. It was just a whole different dish. I still think of it with fond memories. My daughters think of it with fond memories. And, btw, they also made the packaged kind and sprinkled the dry cheesy granules on top for their children. And their children love that too and probably will have fond memories of that dish.

But when they come to visit me, it's the other kind they expect and love. The from-scratch kind.

They're also pretty clear about how they like it too: moist but not overly sauced, with a combo of American and cheddar cheeses and a crispy top. No added things like tomato or cooked vegetables. No crust -- just maybe some extra grated cheese.

This is the one:

 

Grandma Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound small pasta such as elbows

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups milk (preferably whole milk)

  • 14-16 ounces mixed American and cheddar cheeses plus extra for garnish, shredded

  • salt to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions, rinse under cold water, drain and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, turn the heat to low-medium, add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, for 2-3 minutes, but do not let the mixture become brown. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk to keep the sauce smooth. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add most of the cheeses, leaving some to top the dish as garnish. Add some salt and continue to whisk the sauce until all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta and mix to coat all the pieces. Eat as is, sprinkled with extra cheese, OR place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes to crisp the top. 

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Roasted Salmon with Chive Flowers

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On a recent trip to an Asian supermarket in Queens, New York, I bought a lot of interesting vegetables. Greens -- Chinese broccoli, bok choy, yau choy and cabbage -- and some herbs, including chive flowers (pictured above). 

Chive flowers are just like ordinary chives, except they've been allowed to mature and produce an actual flower. As a result, they are thicker and have a somewhat bolder flavor than regular chives.

I used them to season salmon one night. This dish couldn't be simpler. Takes about 5 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook.

How easy is that!

Roasted Salmon with Chive Flowers

  • 24-32 ounces salmon
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the salmon in a baking dish. Mix the mustard, olive oil and garlic together in a small bowl and spread this mixture evenly on top of the fish. Sprinkle with the chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, or until the fish is cooked to desired doneness and the top is crispy-browned. 

Makes 4 servings

Kedgeree with Salmon

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My cousin has all sorts of fabulous and interesting eating and serving utensils. She is the only American woman I know who has a set of kedgeree forks.

She and her husband, world-travelers that they are, pick up things here and there and once, while in Scotland, they happened into an antique store and saw the unusual piece in the second photo. 

Now, these two people are not dolts! They know a sardine fork from a herring fork. But they had no idea what this thing was.

The proprietor told them it was a kedgeree fork.

They didn't know what that was either, but learned that it is a Scottish/British dish, basically rice with fish (usually smoked haddock) and seasoned with curry. An old import from India (dating back to "the Raj") and now a standard item throughout the U.K.

Apparently, the original Indian dish (called khichri) was a hodgepodge of cumin-scented rice and lentils (sounds very much like Middle Eastern mujadarah), sometimes with vegetables mixed in. The British added fish and hard cooked eggs and that's the way it's served today. Mrs. Patmore made it for the Crawleys in Downton Abbey and served it to them on a silver, dome-covered tray for breakfast.

Recently I decided to make kedgeree. It was all because I had a lot of salmon leftover from dinner. OK, I know salmon isn't exactly smoked haddock or even close in taste, but so what! I made Salmon Kedgeree. It made a terrific leftovers dinner and I ate the rest for breakfast the next two days (alas, no sterling silver serving utensils, no kedgeree forks and no person to serve it to me).

I've never tasted kedgeree so I have no idea if what I made was the way it's supposed to taste. All I can say is: it was absolutely delicious and I wish I had more and will make this again. 

Salmon Kedgeree

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1-3/4 cups water
  • 2-3 large eggs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or 4 whole cardamom pods)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (or 1 cup cut up cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 cups cooked leftover salmon (or smoked haddock)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Place the rice in a saucepan, cover with the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for one minute, stir with a fork, turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 18 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Set the pan aside off heat. Cook the eggs and bay leaf in simmering water for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Peel, cut into quarters and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the curry powder, salt and cardamom, cover the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the pieces are golden. Add the tomato and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the bay leaf from the rice and add the rice to the pan. Stir to distribute the ingredients evenly. Add the salmon and lemon juice and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are hot. Spoon into a serving bowl. Place the quartered eggs on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Chicken with Figs and Grapes

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Tu B'Shevat may not be the most well-known Jewish holiday but it always conjures up good thoughts and fond memories for me.

First: it was when my parents gave money to plant trees in Israel.

Second: it was when my Mom would buy dried figs that came in a wreath of sorts, the figs tied together with string, and I ate at least half of them.

Third: it was when my Mom made her famous Date-Nut Bread.

And more: spring is coming soon!

And finally: it is one delicious holiday, featuring foods that include lots of fruits and vegetables. 

So, this year, to celebrate I am making this chicken dish, which includes figs and grapes, and served on cooked, fluffy bulgur wheat.

 

Chicken With Figs and Grapes

  • 1-3/4 cups apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 bone-in pieces of chicken
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup diced dried figs
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or use 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup halved fresh grapes
  • chopped fresh mint
  • cooked bulgur wheat, optional

Boil the cider for about 5 minutes or until it has reduced to 3/4 cup.  Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned, turning the pieces occasionally. Remove the chicken pieces and set them aside on a plate. Add the shallot, ginger and diced figs to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes over low-medium heat. Return the chicken to the pan. Sprinkle the ingredients with curry powder, Aleppo pepper and salt and black pepper to taste. Pour in the reduced cider. Turn the pieces of chicken to coat all sides with the pan ingredients. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Add the grapes and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped fresh mint. Serve on a bed of cooked bulgur wheat if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

Short Ribs with Barbecue Gravy

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Lots of people find January a big disappointment. It can be cold and dreary and sometimes seems like a letdown after months of holidays and celebrating.

But the food is good.

I like to call January cuisine. Filling, nourishing, comforting stuff.

Like short ribs.

 

Short Ribs with Barbecue Sauce

  • 5-6 pounds beef short ribs 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chile pepper
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup ketchup 
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup beer or ale
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2-3 thyme sprigs (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dry the surface of the meat with paper towels. Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Working in batches, cook the meat, turning the pieces to brown them, for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. (If the oil seems too dark, discard it, wipe the pan and add 2 fresh tablespoons vegetable oil.) Remove the meat and set it aside. Add the onions, garlic, chili pepper, carrots and celery to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the ketchup. Pour in the stock, beer, cider vinegar and soy sauce and stir the ingredients. Stir in the brown sugar. Return the meat to the pan and spoon some of the sauce over them. Place the thyme sprigs and bay leaf in the liquid. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook at a bare simmer for about 4 hours or until the meat is fork tender (or place in the oven at 225 degrees).

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Roasted Shad

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When springtime comes, can shad be far behind?

Not in Connecticut!

Lucky us. The shad are running, swimming their way through the Connecticut River to spawn, on their way to the ocean.

The season is short, so get your fill now. (FYI, shad do run through other rivers along the east and west coasts so you can get it too.)

If you've never tasted shad, a herring cousin, you've missed out. It's one of the most tender of fish and it's loaded with omega-3 fat, which means it's not only healthy but also big on flavor.

The big problem with shad is the bones. There are lots of them, very very thin bones. A Native American tale says that shad was once a porcupine who turned inside out when it went into the water.

I managed to buy the filets already deboned, (which you can do at many fish markets). Many shad recipes call for cooking the fish at low temperatures for a long time (250 degrees for several hours), because the bones melt in the slow heat. But for a quick, tasty meal try the easy recipe below.

If you can't get deboned shad it's still worth eating because it tastes so good. You can also substitute any herring, trout, bluefish or mackerel filets.

ROASTed Shad with Thyme and Raisins

  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 deboned shad filets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • thin slices of lemon

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the raisins on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the shad filets on top. Mix the olive oil and mustard and brush over each filet. Sprinkle the filets with lemon juice, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Place lemon slices on top of each filet. Roast for about 8 minutes or until lightly crispy. 

Makes 4 servings

Roasted Salmon with Hazelnut Crust

I think I could write a cookbook just about salmon, because we eat it so often and I am the kind of person who likes to change things up and not eat the same old same old for dinner.

So I have lots of recipes for salmon.

This one is among the easiest also. And fast. The essence of "quick and easy."

 

Roasted Salmon with Hazelnut Butter

 

  • 4 salmon fillets or steaks, about 6 ounces each, about 1 1/4 inches thick
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons crushed hazelnuts (or almonds)

 

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Place the salmon in a baking dish. Mix the butter, chives, lemon peel and mustard and spread this mixture evenly over the surface of the fish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and scatter the nuts evenly on top. Roast for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness, or until nearly cooked through but still darker in the thickest part of the center.

 

Makes 4 servings.

 

 

Chicken Soup Burgers

My daughters are not big meat eaters, so when they were young kids and still living at home,  I never made stuff like roast beef or beef stew or meatloaf. They just didn't want any of it.

They didn't even eat hamburgers.

We were basically a chicken and turkey family (including chicken and turkey burgers).

Also, I would make burgers out of all the vegetables I used for chicken soup, which I cooked more often than almost everything.

That was a kid favorite. They still talk about those burgers.

Recently I made some chicken soup because, well, it's been rainy and gloomy in my part of the world and soup is like magic to help get you in a good mood. I used the leftover vegetables for burgers, just for the two of us. Fabulous not-quite-meatless dinner. Of course you can make this a vegetarian meal with regular cooked vegetables not from soup!

 

CHICKEN SOUP BURGERS

  • 8 cooked carrots, cut up
  • 6 stalks cooked celery, cut up
  • 2 cooked parsnips, cut up
  • 1 large cooked onion, cut up
  • some sprigs of cooked dill
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil

Place the cooked vegetables and dill in a food processor and pulse to combine them and chop them into very fine pieces. Spoon the contents into a bowl. Add the egg, matzo meal and some salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly to combine the ingredients evenly. Shape portions of the mixture into patties about 1/2-inch thick. Heat about 1/4-inch vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to make a crumb sizzle, add the patties, a few at a time, leaving space between them in the pan. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the patties for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels. 

Makes about 12

 

Roasted Plum Tomatoes

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When it's really really cold outside, (like it is where I live) I think of soup and make a pot or two

But I also dream about summer and sunshine and the garden fresh tomatoes you can only get at the end of August.

Winter tomatoes are not good. Not for salad anyway. They're typically too hard and the flesh is usually too dry.

But a good tomato taste does come out when you cook them, especially if you use Roma (plum) tomatoes. Use them for sauce for spaghetti or in ShakshukaBraise them with string beans as a side dish.

Roasted tomatoes are also flavorful, even if you use winter tomatoes. This dish couldn't be simpler. It goes with any meat protein and also as part of a meatless Monday meal. 

CRISPED ROASTED TOMATOES

  • 4 large plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  • cayenne pepper, optional

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them cut side up in an ovenproof pan. Mix the olive oil and Dijon mustard and brush this evenly over the tops of the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the herbs and breadcrumbs. Dust lightly with a pinch of cayenne pepper for more flavor. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are crispy.

Makes 4 servings