I love Spring. I love the flowers, and the weather (sometimes), and the resurgence of vegetables. Spring vegetables are here and gone so quickly (if you are buying seasonally, that is), so take advantage of them while you can! Melissa (Smells Like Brownies) and I decided to make this Spring vegetable dish because it uses spaetzle, which is a bit more fun than your standard pasta, and gruyere, which pairs so well with these veggies.
Spaetzle is a chewy German egg noodle. Melissa is familiar with it because she studied German. I've eaten it in restaurants many times, but only made it once before this past fall. And by made it, I mean that my friend made it with her Grandmother's (I think) recipe and her spaetzle press. Meanwhile, I made a vegetarian ragu with mushrooms, butter, onion, thyme, and oregano and poached some duck eggs (thank you, gorgeous Portland farmer's market).
Are you looking for a new side for your Thanksgiving dinner? Maybe something a little more grownup and sophisticated? This gratin with sweet potato, chard, Gruyere, fresh herbs, and lots of garlic may be perfect for you. You could certainly make it for a non-holiday dinner as well, though it does take quite a bit of time with pre-cooking, layering, and baking. Luckily, I was with my dear friend Melissa (Smells Like Brownies), who helped with the prep-work.
Start with a big sweet potato (or two smaller ones) and a whole lot of chard (seriously - a lot)
Peel the sweet potato and slice thinly, then set aside.
Remove the stems from the chard, chop, and place in a big pot with some onion that has been sauteing in butter. Look at those colors! Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg; and cook until soft.
If you are starting to panic because Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) is closing in and you don't have a dinner plan yet, fear not - I have you covered! I have a round-up of all of my holiday recipes, from protein to sides to dessert, and even breakfast! So please enjoy and Happy Holidays!
I know it's way too hot out to be making this sort of thing, but I don't care. It is sooooooo good. This is a French onion soup inspired macaroni and cheese with caramelized onions, boatloads of cheese, and a buttery breadcrumb topping with thyme. Yum, yum, yum. Oh yeah, and a little bit of white wine (shoutout to Broken Dreams - my fave white of the moment). I made this with Melissa of Smells Like Brownies and it was one of those magical recipes that is so much fun to make and doesn't stress you out during the process (though that may have been the wine taking effect...).
Step one is to get the onions going, of course. Can't have French onion soup without onions! Pop those bad boys into a heavy bottomed pan with olive oil, butter, and thyme. Is there any better flavor combo than onions and thyme? I like to start them at medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium low once they are translucent.
After 15 minutes, they should look kind of like this. Add a splash of white wine and a sprinkle of salt and keep cooking for another 15-20 minutes. Remember to take out the thyme stems when they are done.
Merry Christmas, y'all! We went on a bit of a crazy roadtrip (which I will tell you about later, because there are restaurants involved) and didn't get back til late on the 22nd, which left us in a bit of a scramble to get ready for Christmas. We managed to get some outdoor decorations up (check out the wreath I made!), but no tree or anything indoors.
We also spent all our holiday money on travel, so no presents this year. But we did have a nice Christmas dinner (I mean, come on - how could I not, right?). Honey Baked Ham (going store bought on the main let me focus on sides); Spinach and Gruyere Strata; Sweet Potato Gratin with Caramelized Onions; and Bacon Popovers.
And a Cranberry Raisin Tart with orange zest and spices for dessert.
Oh yeah, and breakfast! Can't forget Christmas morning sweets! I made these Cranberry Orange Rolls by Smitten Kitchen - yum!
I feel like I constantly need some form of cheesy winter squash pasta on hand at all times. It's kind of a problem. I saw a recipe for shells with pumpkin and ricotta that sounded good, but the comments all said it came out dry and bland. So instead of using that recipe, I decided to make a pumpkin version of my Spring Shells and Cheese.
So instead of ricotta, I made a bechamel with sage, pumpkin, Gruyere, and Parmesan. Then I added in some sauteed spinach and shallots, for health and color.
Because adding spinach totally makes up for all the cheese and pasta, right? I mean, I did use whole wheat shells...
Anyway, I added in some pecans for crunch. Nuts are healthy, too, right?
So I actually made this a year ago and didn't manage to post it before it was way past butternut squash season, doh! I figured I would just hold off and post about it the next Fall, which is what I am doing now. The problem is, my photography has improved leaps and bounds since then so these photos look really awful. I am so sorry in advance, but the mac and cheese is really good. I promise.
I saw this recipe on an episode of The Chew, and the idea was that it was orange and black for Halloween. Orange from the squash, black from the kale. Except that kale is green, even when it's wilted... Whatever - it uses Fall produce and it's delicious, so let's pretend it works.
Cook up some bacon (I used pancetta because stuff and things), add some butter, sweat some onions and garlic, wilt some kale - awesome. So here's where the original recipe gets weird (The Chew website is notoriously bad at reviewing their recipes) - it says to have 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced, and to saute the squash in the pan. Then later it says to add in the butternut squash puree. What butternut squash puree? There is no butternut squash puree in the ingredient list. Huh? Also - sauteed squash? Meh. So here's what I did (as you can see in the previous picture) - tossed that cubed squash with olive, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; then roasted it. Yummy. Then I took half the roasted squash and mashed it. Ah-ha! Now there is butternut squash puree, sort of.
I saw these guys at the Farmers Market and though, "What the heck are those?" So out came the phone and Google searching commenced. Garlic Scapes, as it turns out, are a shoot that grows out of the top of the garlic plant. They need to be removed so that the plant can focus on growing the bulb instead of flowering. This is fortunate, because the also happen to be insanely delicious. They taste like garlic, but without the bite, and can be used like scallions.
I bought myself a big handful and set about looking up recipes. The most common way to use them is in a pesto, so of course I did not make that... because I'm weird.
Instead, I made carbonara - with guanciale (cuz I'm legit) and peas (which put an end to my legit-ness, but I don't care cuz I love peas). You are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about, I don't blame you. Here is a link to a great article about the do's and dont's of real carbonara. TLDR (too long, didn't read for all you non-techies) - while bacon and pancetta are acceptable, guanciale is the best; peas are a definite don't.
I also made biscuits - with garlic scapes, Gruyere, and goat butter (another new obsession of mine).
It's another vegetarian lunch brought to you by Sarah and Melissa! Unfortunately I am posting this a bit late and you probably can't get some of the ingredients anymore, sorry! There's always next year. There are a lot of delicious components in this dish - Gruyere, brown butter, delicate ramps, and the very weird but very cool fiddlehead ferns.
These guys are kinda funky looking, huh? They have a short season in Spring and taste a lot like asparagus. You need to wash them well when you get them, and it can be a little tricky to tell what is dirt and what is their little gripper feet - so I recommend soaking them in a bowl of cold water then rinsing them off one at a time. Time consuming, but worth it.
Another short season, Spring item - ramps. Most commonly found in Appalachia, these little guys are a wild onion variety that have a pronounced garlic flavor. And they are just so pretty, too!
We are coming to the end of asparagus season, but you may be able to get one more use in - and I recommend this one. An asparagus flavored custard with goat cheese and Gruyere, tucked inside a flaky puff pastry shell? Yes, please!
This Martha Stewart recipe uses the stalks and tips separately. The stalks get pureed into the custard, and the tips decorate the top of the tart.
The custard is made with asparagus, eggs, cream, and flour (I altered the recipe based on comments - adding more flour to help it set up).
The custard goes into a pre-baked shell, then the cheeses are sprinkled on top, followed by the asparagus tips.
The texture is gorgeous and the asparagus is definitely the star of the show. Yum, yum, yum - get out there and grab the last of the asparagus!