My New 52: Twice-Baked Potatoes

As I’ve been putting together my list of potential dishes for this project, I’ve had a few criteria in mind. The main ones though are whether I’ve made this particular thing before and whether it’s likely to be delicious. I’ve always liked twice-baked potatoes when I’ve come across them, but when I’ve baked potatoes at home, once has always seem perfectly sufficient. I had printed this recipe from Smitten Kitchen though, and I thought it was worth a shot.

I inadvertently deviated quite a lot from her version though, since I sort of glanced at the recipe, assumed I knew what was going on, and didn’t look at it again until the end when I said, oh, wait, I wasn’t supposed to put the potato innards back in?

(No, I wasn’t supposed to put the potato innards back in.)

I think I liked my version more than I would have liked Deb’s, which seems to make something closer to little sausage meatloaves baked in potatoes, anyway.  This way the sausage ended up flavoring all of the potato mixture, even though I used less them she called for. It was ridiculously easy and filling and inexpensive and delicious. I started with two russet potatoes, which I baked in the oven, since we don’t have a microwave. Then I halved them lengthwise and scooped out the insides.

While they were baking, I’d taken a hot Italian sausage, about 5 oz., removed it from the casing, and browned it. I added a chopped onion to the pan and cooked that along with it. That mixture went into a bowl with some mustard and tomato paste, then the potato innards. It was a pretty dry mixture, so I added a dollop of sour cream and enough milk to make it creamy.  I refilled the potato skins, sprinkled parmesan on top, and put them back in the oven to heat through.

I think it’s safe to say that this will be going into the rotation of cold-weather dishes. There’s endless room to play around with the filling too; any bits and bobs of leftovers would  play nicely here, I think. And if I got my act together and baked several potatoes ahead of time, it would even be a really quick meal.

My New 52: Raw Winter Salad

I’ve had this Cauliflower, Fennel, and White Bean Salad recipe printed out and in my recipe binder for, oh, looks like about four years now. I was inspired to finally make it because of the namesake salad at my favorite lunch place near the office: a mix of fennel, chickpeas, and olives with coriander leaves and a tangy dressing.

Next time I make it, I will absolutely skip the oil infusion step. Absolute waste of time and the cleaning of a pan. Maybe with a milder dressing it would have made a difference, but I honestly couldn’t taste any thyme in the finished dish.

I think a big part of the success of this salad is the fact that the vegetables are essentially quick-pickled, so they soften a little bit but still retain some crunch. Another important thing is to make sure to chop the cauliflower into pieces that are no larger than the beans you’re using; it helps ensure that you can get a little bit of everything in every bite. I doubled the beans, since the original proportions seemed like they’d make a giant bowl of cauliflower with a couple of beans, and I was looking for something more balanced. I absolutely adored this. It had a lot of flavor and a good mix of textures, was really filling, and is rather beautiful too, I think, with a range of creams and ecrus studded with dark purple and bright green.

Raw Winter Salad
adapted from The Kitchn

Zest and juice of one lemon
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced, including fronds if you have them
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped  into small pieces
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 15 oz. cans canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
olive oil
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup ricotta salata, crumbled

Mix the lemon juice, zest, and fennel in a large bowl. Salt liberally and set aside while you prep the other ingredients. Add the cauliflower and vinegar  to the fennel and mix, adding more vinegar if the mixture seems dry. Stir in the beans and olives, then drizzle with olive oil and stir. Add more oil if it seems to need it. Stir in the parsley and cheese. Let the salad sit for a few hours, covered, at room temperature, stirring occasionally.

It was also delicious the next day with a runny-yolked egg on top.

My New 52: Hummus and Peanut Limeaid

Somehow, I’d never gotten around to making my own hummus. I eat a lot of hummus and I’ve made plenty of other pureed bean dips, but just had never done it. It was never an issue when I worked near Sahadi’s and had regular access to their frankly perfect version, but I’m not in that neighborhood much anymore and it’s long past time for me to get it together, hummus-wise.

In a happy coincidence, Smitten Kitchen posted a hummus recipe this week, which I followed roughly; I used a 25-ounce can of chickpeas instead of 15, but tried to keep the amounts of the other ingredients more or less proportional. It’s not my dream hummus recipe, to be honest. Peeling the chickpeas isn’t  big deal, but the final product was both heavier on tahini and lighter on lemon than   I’d prefer. Those are easy tweaks, though, that I can play around with at leisure over the course of what I hope is a long life full of homemade hummus.

This second item came a bit out of left field. I’d been paging through Roberto Santibanez’s Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales and stopped short at a recipe that sounded, honestly, kind of disgusting: Peanut Limeaid. You blend whole limes with unsalted peanuts and sugar, strain, and drink over ice. I had trouble imagining what such a thing might taste like, which I figured was reason enough to make a batch. It was something of a revelation: more like a light, creamy, tart-sweet lime drink than anything overtly peanut flavored. I can see it becoming a summer staple around here. The Times ran a version of the recipe in April, but the original is below.

Peanut Limeaid
2 limes, quartered
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

Place all ingredients in a blender with two cups of water. Blend until mostly smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, stir in an additional cup of cold water and serve over ice.

Supposedly makes six servings, though we just split the batch in half.

My New 52: Strozzapreti with Sausage, Grapes, and Red Wine

I have access to a lot of new cookbooks as part of my job. It’s a pretty fantastic perk, really, but the growing stack on top of my fridge is starting to stress me out a little. There’s so much good stuff in there just going to waste. So, in the flush of excitement at the beginning of a new year and my desire to be better about producing new content here, I’ve decided on a new project for 2013: every week, I’ll cook something I haven’t made before and write about it. I cook a lot and generally like what I make, but I return to the same well more often than I’d like and I want to stretch myself a bit. It can be a recipe I haven’t made before, utilize an ingredient I haven’t worked with before, a new-to-me technique, a piece of equipment I haven’t played with. I’ve started putting together a preliminary list of ingredients and techniques I’d likely to knock off my list of never-dones and I’m pretty excited. Some of the recipes in consideration are things that I can see becoming regulars in the easy-dinner rotation, some are serious projects I’ll have to tackle over a couple of days, a couple of things I’ve never tasted and am curious to try. I’m calling the series My New 52.

The first one up is a recipe I printed from Serious Eats and have had in my recipe binder for since October 2010: Andrew Carmellini’s Strozzapreti with Sausage, Grapes, and Red Wine. Andrew Carmellini is behind two of my favorite restaurants in New York, Locanda Verde and The Dutch, and I was interested to see how his recipes worked at home. There were a couple of clues to the fact that this is a chef’s recipe and not one from the kind of knowledgeable home cooks I usually draw from: he doesn’t have you drain off any of the sausage grease and you add two tablespoons of butter at the end.

I have no doubt that both of those things contributed to the dish being delicious, despite a couple of things in my version being different from his. First, I don’t think I reduced the wine mixture enough, so when I added it to the sausage mixture, the meat turned magenta. Also, my grapes broke down somewhere in the cooking process and disappeared into the sauce. It tasted great, but I was looking forward to those little pops of tart sweetness.

I used some naturally colored fancy pasta I had around, which is why there are dark pieces in there that look like green beans or mushrooms.

So. Would I make it again? Maybe. It was definitely tasty; Rob and I both had two big bowls and I’m looking forward to the leftovers. It was a little more work than I’m generally interested in for an everyday meal at home though and I don’t necessarily want to serve purple meat to company. You have to start marinating the grapes at least eight hours before you start cooking, and the cooking process takes three different pots and pans, though it does come together pretty quickly once you get started. And a modified version wouldn’t be especially different from pasta dishes I make already, so it’s unlikely I’ll be reaching for this one again in a hurry. I’m keeping it in the recipe binder though. Just in case.

Andrew Carmellini’s Strozzapreti with Sausage, Grapes, and Red Wine
recipe from Serious Eats

  • 1 cup seedless red grapes
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage (about 4 links)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 10 sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb strozzapreti pasta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese (about 1 ounce), plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  1. Cut the grapes in half lengthwise. Combine the grapes, wine, sugar, and vinegar and put in a covered container in the fridge overnight (at least 8 hours).
  2. In a medium saucepot, bring the grape mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook at a boil until the liquid has reduced by half, about 10 minutes, then remove from heat.
  3. Cut the sausage casings open and remove the meat. Discard casings. Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the meat and brown, stirring and breaking up the meat as you go, about 5 minutes.
  4. When the meat has begun to brown, add the onion and continue cooking, stirring well, until sausage is well browned and onions have softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sage leaves and stir to combine. Add the grape mixture and stir well.
  5. When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta until just al dente (subtract one minute from the directions on the package). Drain but do not rinse, reserving a few tablespoons of pasta water. Add the pasta to the sausage mixture and stir for 1 minute, adding a tablespoon of pasta water at a time to just moisten. Turn the heat off, add butter, cheese, and black pepper, stirring well. Add the parsley and serve immediately, topped with additional cheese.

A new year

2012 was a great year for me in a lot of ways, chiefly that I both shacked up with my lovely boyfriend and got a new job. But both of those things also had the deleterious side effect of  cutting my free time way, way down, which left me feeling rushed and frustrated and scattered a lot more than I’d like. I’m still making things, but blogging fell pretty far down the priority list, though that’s something I hope to correct going forward. (I have multiple sweaters I wear regularly that I have absolutely no record here of starting, working on, or finishing, for example, which seems ludicrous, considering that this is supposed to be my knitting blog. Anyway.)

I had great plans for holiday decorating and cookie baking and general merriment, but I was sick for about two weeks with the hideous crud that was making the rounds in New York–I honestly can’t remember the last time I stood on a train next to someone who wasn’t sniffling or coughing–and it was all I could do to go to work and feed myself a couple of times. Being asleep by 9 every night for a while does wonders for making a holiday season disappear. I did manage to do a couple of reasonably festive things before I went down though.

Hung some old ornaments in the kitchen window:

And made some magazine-page snowflakes and a paper chain garland: