Winter

Bison Stuffed Italian Shells

I was craving meat recently (it doesn’t happen often) and so this recipe happened. This is a Kelly Taylor original, so be ready for approximate measurements.

To begin, heat olive oil, over medium-high heat, in a heavy bottomed pan (such as a dutch oven). Add:

1 1/2 pounds of ground bison

Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until it it has absorbed all of the fat and has browned. Then add:

1/2 a small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced

Allow to cook for a few minutes, then add:

2 large tablespoons of tomato paste
3/4 cup of white wine

Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the meat to simmer.

In the meantime, either heat up or cook your favorite marinara sauce. Also, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook a package of jumbo shells for 4 minutes. Do not cook the shells all of the way, otherwise they will overcook in the oven.

Add a couple ladles of marinara sauce to the bison meat. This helps to add more flavor and make it extra moist. Also add:

2 large handfuls of chopped parsley

Stir it all together. It should look like this:

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Next pour some marinara sauce onto the bottom of a large 13×9 baking dish (just enough to cover the bottom). Then carefully spoon meat into each shell and line the shells up into the prepared baking dish.

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Once each shell is full, top the shells with marinara sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, covered, and an additional 5-10 minutes uncovered.

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When done, sprinkle the top with fresh parsley and enjoy!

My basic marinara sauce: 

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1/2 cup of white wine
2 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes, pureed, or frozen tomatoes, also pureed
salt and pepper

Sauté the red pepper flakes and onions until soft, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and let cook for one minute. Add the tomato paste and wine and let cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and season again with salt and pepper. Let simmer for at least an hour. Do ahead and refrigerate or freeze.

During the summer months, I also add fresh herbs, such as basil. Dried herbs are fine, as well.

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Butternut Squash Manicotti- An Experiment

It has been so long since my last post! That’s what happens when you work in the retail industry during the holidays. I feel like I’m just now getting back to my usual routine, which means you can expect to see recipes on a regular basis again!

My first post is not a usual recipe. It’s more of a journal entry of my latest experiment. About a year or so ago, I had the idea to stuff manicotti with butternut squash, yet I never got around to it. This entry below is my first try. I didn’t go by a specific recipe and just sort of made it up as I went, so excuse the lack of proper measurements.

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I began by roasting one medium butternut squash and one rather small one (a large squash would have been ideal, but this is what I had on hand). In order to roast, I cut off the stem and then, using a sharp chef’s knife, I cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Then I placed it on a cookie sheet, seed side up. I spread a touch of olive oil on each half, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked at 400 degrees. The time is, of course, based on how big the squash is, but I have found that you need at least an hour for a small squash, and an hour and a half for a large one.

Once done, I let them cool in the refrigerator. (I recommend roasting the squash in the morning or even the day before, if you have the time).

Next I purreed the squash in my food processor and then added it to a small sauce pan. Once it came to a boil, I added:

between a 1/4-1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese
about 2 tablespoons of Pecorino Romano cheese
1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
a handful of fresh parsley
salt and pepper

I stirred it all together until the cheese had melted and then removed it from the heat.

In the meantime, I boiled my manicotti shells for just 4 minutes. You absolutely do not want to cook the shells all the way, otherwise they will be overcooked and mushy when you bake the dish in the oven. You want to take the manicotti shells out when they are still very al dente.

Then it’s simply a matter of filling the shells, which is both fun and messy. I have tried various methods for manicotti over the years. Sometimes I cut off the corner of a plastic storage bag and use it like a pastry bag. Other times I just use a small spoon. Either method is equally successful and messy. The above method was enough to stuff 8, rather sloppy, shells.

Now, for this recipe, I melted a heaping spoonful of mascarpone cheese in a saucepan, added about a 1/4 cup of the pasta water and pepper, and then poured that mixture on top of the filled shells. I think any sauce would work, though.

Then I topped it with some more Pecorino Romano cheese and stuck it in the oven, covered for 20 minutes, and 8 minutes uncovered.

Next time, I may try ricotta cheese instead of mascarpone (the mascarpone was richer than I had in mind), and may add in egg to help bind the mixture more. But for now, here’s how the final product looked.

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Cast Iron Skillet Apple Pie (or maybe it’s apple crisp)

Ok, fine, so maybe this isn’t a true apple pie. Since I didn’t use a dough or a crust, I guess it’s more like an apple crisp. I’m calling it pie, though.

The cast iron skillet I used has been in my family for years. It belonged to my great grandmother, and I just recently re-treated it. And let me just say this here and now: I’m madly in love with it, and you can expect to see many more recipes using it.

But anyway, as for my not-quite-a-pie, maybe-an-apple-crisp recipe. The filling is from my 1984 edition of Joy of Cooking. I love using old cookbooks for baking recipes because they typically use less sugar than modern day recipes you’ll find online (which is odd of me to say considering that I’m posting this one online). This recipe only uses 1/2 cup of sugar in the filling, which allowed for the true taste of the apple to shine through, rather than the overbearing taste of sugar.

The topping is a modified version of a topping that I got from who knows where. It uses a lot less sugar and butter than the original.

So begin by preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat.

Next core and slice:

5 apples

Place them in a large bowl and add:

1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch
(depending on how juicy your apples are)
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg

In another bowl, mix together:

1 1/2 cups of oats
1/4-1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Once mixed, add:

1 stick, plus 1 tablespoon of butter, cubed while still cold

I like to work the butter into the other ingredients with my fingers, but you can use a food processor as well.

Next pull the cast iron skillet out of the oven and add 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet. It will make a wonderful sizzling sound. Let it melt (it’ll only take a few seconds) and then quickly add the apple mixture (more wonderful sizzling noises) and then pour the topping on. Place the skillet back in the oven and back at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 35-45 minutes. 

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Simple Vegetarian Chili

I love chili. It’s the perfect cozy-day meal that you can cook all day and watch the leaves or snow fall outside. I grew up eating beef chili, but since I don’t eat beef anymore, I’ve fallen in love with vegetarian chili. (My mom finds this hilarious since I refused to eat chili with beans as a kid.)

Sometimes I get quite fancy with my chili, but this recipe is my favorite. It’s very simple and is all about those delicious kidney beans that I refused to eat as a child. The key to this chili is cooking the dry beans in with the beer rather than just throwing a can of already cooked beans in at the end. You could do that, I suppose, but if you follow this method, the beans will take on the most wonderful flavor.

And yes, you read that right. I use beer. Me, the person who hates drinking beer. I grew up eating chili made with beer, though, and just because I’m not using meat in this recipe doesn’t mean that I’m going to cut out such a key ingredient.

And so to begin:

Start by heating olive oil in a heavy bottom pot or dutch oven. Sauté:

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Saute for about five minutes. Then add:

1-3 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped*
salt

Cook for another five minutes. Then add:

at least 3 tablespoons of chili powder
about 2 teaspoons of cumin
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of coriander
a few grinds of black pepper

Let the spices cook for a minute or two. Then add:

1 1/2 to 2 cups of dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight**
28 ounces of crushed or pureed tomatoes

One 12 fl oz bottle of dark beer (emphasis on dark)
1 cup of water (you may need to add more as it cooks if the chili gets too thick)

Give everything a stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Have a lid on the top of the pot, tilted so that it’s still letting steam out. The chili will start to splatter when it boils. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down to medium low and let it simmer for hours. Taste every few hours in order to adjust seasoning. (This is the best part of making chili!) My family is notorious for adding chili powder by the spoonfuls all day long, so really, in the end, I have no idea how much chili powder I use. Also, if using canned tomatoes, you might want to add:

1 tablespoon of brown sugar (optional)

I like my chili to be really spicy with a slight hint of sweetness in the background.

If you want to add zucchini or corn in at the end, you can. I highly recommend serving the chili with cast iron skillet cornbread (recipe coming soon), Greek yogurt, and gouda cheese on top. Enjoy!

And sorry about the lighting in the below picture. It was sort of an afterthought.

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*If you’re using jalapenos from your freezer, as I do during the winter, be careful! Something about the freezing method seems to make jalapenos hotter (or at least the ones in my freezer seem to get hotter). Mine are so unpredictable that I start with a quarter of a jalapeno and add more throughout the day. I learned this lesson the hard way. One time I put a whole jalapeno in and it was so spicy that I could barely eat it (and I love spicy!). So be cautious in the beginning and keep tasting throughout the day. Also, experiment with other hot peppers. Though I usually just use jalapenos in this basic recipe, there are many others that are quite wonderful in chili.

** I say 1 1/2 to 2 cups because it depends on how beany you want your chili to be. (And yes, beany is a word.)

 

 

 

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Turkey Bolognese

Fall is here and with it comes cooler temperatures and something that may surprise some of you: I start craving meat. Unlike many people who live for grilled meat during the summer, I could easily live, and be very satisfied, feasting on every fruit and vegetable I can possibly afford to buy at the farmers market. That’s not to say that I turn vegan during the summer, but I certainly can go days without meat and be content (with the exception of seafood when I’m at the Cape). When fall comes, however, I start craving those slow cooked and hearty meals and, though I love vegetables more than most people, I’ll be the first to say that many of my favorite traditional meat dishes cannot be replaced with vegetables. With that said, since I don’t eat beef and rarely eat red meat in general, I find some meats to be too rich and fatty for my taste, these days. Therefore you’ll find that I sometimes replace a traditional beef dish with a leaner meat, such as turkey. My bolognese is the perfect example.

I learned how to make bolognese at a cooking class at Sur la Table. There the instructor used a pound of beef and a pound of pork. Though it is traditional, that combination is far too rich for my taste. I, instead, have found that dark meat turkey works very well. But just because I’m using turkey, don’t think that I skimp on the other traditional fatty parts of this dish. To me, when you make something such as bolognese, you have to either go all the way or not make it at all. This is not a dish that, in my opinion, can be made with low fat milk and white meat turkey. It’s just not the same. Therefore, it is important to use ground turkey thigh and whole milk.

And one note about the turkey. I, unfortunately, can’t easily find ground turkey that’s raised locally. I bought mine at Whole Foods, and I must admit that it was the first time I bought meat from a grocery store in at least a year. But I know that if I can’t find the meat I need locally, Whole Foods is the next best choice (at least in this area).

With that said, this recipe is all about a few ingredients cooked slowly. Each step builds the complexity and richness of the dish. Do not rush this dish! 

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You begin by chopping the following:

1 large yellow onion
1 large carrot

1 stalk of celery

You want to chop them as finely as possible. I have found that the best way to do it is to give them a rough chop with my chef’s knife and then dump them in a food processor and let the blade chop them the rest of the way for me. The proccessor can get them much finer than I can. Just don’t let them turn to mush.

In the meantime, heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven. Saute the above vegetables until soft and lightly browned, about ten minutes. Season with salt. Then turn up the heat and add:

2 pounds of ground turkey thigh

I have considered trying 1 pound of turkey and 1 pound of ground pork, but the turkey is so wonderful on its own that I have yet to do it. And as I stated above, it is very important to use dark meat. The white meat just doesn’t have enough flavor. Also, you may want to add a little more olive oil with the turkey, if the pan looks dry.

Cook the meat on medium-high heat until it is nicely browned and it has absorbed all of the fat. That’s an important step that you don’t want to skip. Once the fat has been absorbed, add:

2 cups of red wine

This is an Italian recipe, after all. Of course there’s red wine. I often use chianti, but I honestly know very little about wine to know if it’s the best choice or not.

Once again, you must let the meat cook until all of the wine has been absorbed. Also be sure to scrap up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Once the wine has cooked down and the pan is dry again, turn the heat down to medium low and add:

12 ounces (two small cans) of tomato paste
whole milk

Stir the tomato paste into the meat while you add the milk. Add enough milk to completely cover the meat. And now you wait and let the meat absorb the milk. This step will take around 60-90 minutes. Stir every so often and season with salt and pepper towards the end. Be sure to taste. Actually, in my opinion, it is impossible not to. It smells so amazing that I actually have a hard time stopping myself from tasting too much. I’ve been known to eat quite a bit of it right out of the pan. When it’s almost done, it will look like this:

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As for the pasta, I often serve it with rigatoni. The ridges on the rigatoni hold the bolognese well, plus it’s a sturdy pasta. This time around, however, I served it with my current obsession: bucatoni. I must say that it was a delicious choice. Whichever pasta you choose, make sure it can handle a heavy sauce.

Serve with a touch of parmesan or pecorino cheese on top.

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Leek and Potato Soup

The key to any soup is simplicity. Just a few ingredients and homemade broth can make an amazing bowl of comfort. This soup is a perfect example.

Potato soup has always been one of my favorite comfort foods. Leeks are more of a winter/fall vegetable, but I found some late spring ones at the market, so why not use them?

**Please note that this particular recipe doesn’t make a lot of soup, just enough for about 2 servings. Double it if you are cooking for more than two people.

leek soup

The recipe:

Start by heating olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Then add:
2-3 leeks, sliced
1 small yellow onion, sliced
A splash of vegetable broth
Salt

Let cook for about 15 minutes, until onions are nice and tender. Then add:
4-5 small gold potatoes or 2 large white potatoes, quartered.
(I love the texture of the gold potatoes. They make the soup silky, but use whatever you have.)

Let cook for a minute or two, then add:
4 cups of homemade vegetable broth

Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Add:
a few sprigs of fresh dill (optional, but you should do it. It’s wonderful!)
a splash or two of cream or half and half (also optional)

Puree the soup and serve with chives, fresh ground pepper and croutons or crusty bread on top.

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**Another note: My soup has a slight orange tinge this time because I used a homemade broth that had tomato in it. Depending on the type of broth you use, it may appear white-ish, so don’t panic if your soup doesn’t look like mine!

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