Time for another Improv Cooking Challenge! I haven't done one in a couple months due to the holidays and not being super interested in the ingredients. But this month the challenge was Rosemary and Lemon, and that pairing sounded great to me! I was torn between a cocktail and a cake recipe, so I decided - why not do both?
The cake is light and fluffy from whipped egg whites, dotted with rosemary, and iced with a lemon cream cheese frosting. Delicious.
The martini is sweet (but not too much) and tangy, with a base not of rosemary. Dreamy.
Together they are absolutely perfect. I don't like overly sweet anything, and these were so well balanced. I brought them to my book club and they were a huge hit (not an exaggeration, they were the most popular items I've ever brought). Some of you may roll your eyes at the mention of a book club, but don't worry - we aren't the pretentious kind where everyone hates the books. We are sci-fi, horror, and fantasy only and we have a great time!
I have recently joined a group called Improv Cooking Challenge (see my first post here), where we are assigned 2 ingredients to incorporate into a dish each month. This month, the challenge was garlic and rosemary - perfection!
I chose to make a simple pasta with shredded rotisserie chicken, garlic, and rosemary; tossed together with starchy pasta water and Parmesan to make a light sauce. Five ingredients, 30 minutes, easy and delicious. You're welcome, world!
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).
For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Oh! You Cook! (Which is such a cute name.) In addition to writing the blog, Dena has also authored The Everything Kosher Slow Cooker Cookbook - how cool is that?! As you can imagine, her recipes are kosher, but that doesn't mean that you have to be in order to enjoy them!
I was, of course, very interested in the Challah Bread Pudding, and a couple of other desserts including Blueberry Pudding Pie, Raspberry Custard Pie, and Almond Rice Pudding. But I really wanted to make something savory. I loved that she had several recipes that used pomegranate molasses, and ingredient that I love and am always looking for uses for. And the Picadillo Meat Loaf and Honey Mustard Chicken looked very weeknight friendly.
But in the end, I chose the Orecchiette with Veal, Capers, and White Wine. It looked so good (and easy) that I couldn't pass it up.
Start by sauteing onion and garlic, browning the veal, then adding the white wine and allowing it to cook out.
Melissa and I are back at it! This time it is with a super delicious, and seasonally appropriate, roasted vegetable pot pie that is super comforting and filling. I think even meat eaters will love it - seriously! If you think about it, there isn't that much chicken in a regular pot pie, and it is in tiny cubes that sort of blend in with everything else. So who's gonna miss it? Not me! Especially not when you top it with a killer rosemary and black pepper crust. I'm not kidding, you guys, this crust is awesome. I want to use it for all kinds of savory tart type things. This recipe is labor intensive, so give yourself time. Or make it with a buddy!
So, first step - make the dough for the crust. This involves flour, butter, buttermilk, egg yolks, and (most importantly) rosemary and black pepper. Crack that black pepper yourself, you want the flavor and the unevenly sized bits. The crust is what makes this dish special, so don't skip it!
Next, cut up those veggies! So, so many veggies. We made a lot of editorial choices with this recipe - eliminate pumpkin (who needs it when there is also butternut squash?), boost the brussels, etc... Afterwards we realized (per Melissa's husband) that replacing the carrots with parsnips would have added a nice pepperiness to balance the sweetness of the squash. Good idea, Dave!
Pot roast is a pretty standard American meal. Many folks have their own recipes that they love. But just in case you don't, here's mine! An herb crusted beef roast goes into a pot with potatoes, veggies, red wine, and beef stock until it is super tender - yum.
First step - rub that beef. Combine kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning to make a rub. Sprinkle over and press into the meat.
The you are going to brown those veggies and sear that beef. Heat olive oil in a heavy dutch oven until very hot. Then add an onion and carrots and cook until really browned. Remove the veggies temporarily, add more oil, and sear the beef on all sides. Then take that out, too, because you need to deglaze.
Oh my gosh, you guys. This might be my favorite butternut squash pasta since the life-saving mac and cheese.
Sheets of homemade pasta filled with roasted butternut squash, apple, onion, sausage, and three cheeses; topped with a creamy sage bechamel. It's totally swoon worthy.
The filling is a little complicated, but totally worth it. While your butternut squash is roasting in the oven, mix up and brown your sausage mixture. Did I mention that you are creating your own sausage, so you can adjust the spices to your liking? And you can be sure that there are no weird preservatives or sugar? Awesome. Anyway, next you saute some onions, garlic, and apple. Plus a little white wine - aww, yeah.
Oh my gosh this filling. It's insane. You may want to make extra to use in other ways. I'll talk about that later.
You know that Forrest Gump quote, "Jenny and me was like peas and carrots."? I could not stop saying that while making and eating this dinner. The classic duo of peas and carrots, back together again in the form of soup and risotto.
This pea soup has a base of English peas, sugar snap peas, and leeks. So much green!
But more importantly, it has bacon. You start by crisping the bacon and removing it. Then, in the same pan, you cook celery, onion, and leek in the bacon fat before adding chicken stock and rosemary. Meanwhile, blanch the peas.
Okay - it is really hard to get an attractive picture of a shepherd's pie. The blogger I got this recipe from did cute little individual dishes and I thought "Ain't nobody got time for that!" and just did one big casserole. But after posting a very unattractive photo on facebook (that sparked a crazy battle between two friends, no joke) I know why she did it that way!
Photography aside, this dish is great. Lean but satisfying ground turkey mixed with a ton of veggies make a hearty filling.
Topped with delicious super-food sweet potatoes, this version of shepherd's pie is super healthy and super delicious.
Baking it in individual dishes is definitely cuter and neater, but if you don't care whether the topping gets mixed into the filling on the plate - you can totally do one big dish.