Irish Soda Bread

This is my go-to recipe for Irish Soda Bread. It comes from the falling apart Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (paperback, Bantam, 1987) my dear friend M gave me when I bought my house 25 years ago.

Irish Soda Bread
Servings: 8
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, plus time for the loaf to cool

Ingredients:

  • 335g all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds (see note)
  • 55g (1/3 cup) raisins
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease the bottom of an 8” round baking pan.
  2. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into 12 small pieces, sprinkle across the dry ingredients, and cut the butter into a flour for about 3 minutes. The butter should mostly disappear into the dry ingredients.
  3. Add 3/4 cup of buttermilk and stir it in. If there is still dry ingredients in the bowl or a ball hasn’t been formed then add a bit more buttermilk and stir. The dough shouldn’t be damp.
  4. Knead the dough a few times within the bowl. Then transfer it to the prepared pan. Cut an X about 1/2″ deep across the top of the loaf.
  5. Bake until well-browned, about 45 minutes. If you want to check the internal temp. you want to reach ~205°F.
  6. Remove baking pan to a cooling rack and remove the loaf from the pan. Cool at least 1 hour before cutting.

Notes:
Ted insists Irish Soda Bread needs to have caraway seeds. I don’t really remember that flavor in Irish Soda Bread. So add them if you like and leave them out if it’s not your cup of tea.

Ham Tetrazzini

[Ham Tetrazzini]We hosted the family Christmas day gathering this year. We provided ham, popovers and egg noodles for my mom’s Swedish meatballs. At the end of the day there was ham and egg noodles leftover. So I took a page from Thanksgiving leftovers and made a tetrazzini type dish.

The butter, milk and cheese make this rich dish. Perfect for the week before New Year’s resolutions have us all eating kale-cauliflower-mango smoothies.

Ham Tetrazzini
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 10 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 sm. onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or just water if you have no broth)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle
  • 1/2 tsp. Hungarian paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 3 cups cooked ham, cubed
  • 4 cups cooked egg noodles
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until most of mushroom liquid has evaporated, 5-7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onions, and cook until the onions begin to soften; another 5 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently, to get rid of the taste of raw flour. Add the broth and stir to start the sauce. Allow to cook for about 1 minute and add milk while stirring. Stir in the chipotle, paprika, pepper and vinegar. Adjust the heat for a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
  3. Add the ham, noodles and parsley. Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes to reheat the ham/noodles.
  4. While the ham/noodles reheat toast the breadcrumbs. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and use a spatula to coat the breadcrumbs in the melted butter. Heat, stirring frequently, until the breadcrumbs are browned to your liking. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  5. To serve spoon up a generous helping in a bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs. A few grinds of fresh black pepper never hurt anyone either.

Notes:
I would normally salt the mushrooms and onions while sauteing them as it helps draw out the moisture. That said this is already going to be a salty dish with the broth (unless it is homemade), ham and Parmesan. Leaving the salt out means it’ll take a little longer to cook down the mushrooms and onions. Patience, and temperature control, are your friend.

Jelly Roll with Cranberry Compote and Orange Marscapone

Follow a number of food bloggers on Instagram and other social media. One of my favorites is theboywhobakes. Around Thanksgiving time he posted an roulade (though I think of it as a jelly roll) that looked so tasty I saved the post for a random weekend when I’d be able to examine it further. This was that weekend.

[Jelly Roll]I confess that jelly rolls don’t have a good reputation in our kitchen. More often than not then have become the basis for a sweet trifle when they cracked in half during rolling. For whatever reason I was convinced I could make it work. Then I looked at the recipe and was a bit dumbfounded. This looked like no jelly roll cake I’d seen before and I looked away. I found a cake recipe I was more comfortable with, tweaked it a bit and went with that.

The jelly roll still cracked however it was delicious. Worthy of another try I think.
Notes under the cut

Broccolini with Garlic and Soy

Broccolini is a green vegetable similar to broccoli but with smaller florets and longer, thin stalks. My local farm stand had it available and though my prior experience with it at a restaurant wasn’t great I was game to try it at home. I decided to treat it like I might regular broccoli, with a high heat cooking method and a bit of spice.

Broccolini with Garlic and Soy
Servings: 3-4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. broccolini, stems trimmed, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. sambal oelek (or 2 seeded and finely chopped red fresnos chiles)

Directions:

  1. Combine the soy and fish sauce together. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium until shimmering. Add the garlic and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the broccolini and soy/fish sauce. Toss to coat the broccolini and cover the pan. Cook for 4 minutes without disturbing.
  4. Uncover and toss the broccolini again. Recover and cook another 4 minutes.
  5. Remove the cover and set it aside. Toss the broccolini again and stir in the sambal oelek. Cook for 2-3 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Taste for salt, and heat; adjust if desired. Serve as a side with roast chicken or over white rice.

Notes:
In its purest form the Indonesian condiment sambal oelek consists of freshly ground hot red chiles with some salt and vinegar for flavor and preservation. We find it in the “ethnic foods” aisle wedged between the Japanese and Chinese sauces.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

It is amazing what 20 years of trying new things, and a high heat roasting, can do for a formerly disliked vegetable.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Special equipment: 2 rimmed half-sheet pans

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs. Brussels sprouts
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Prep the sprouts by trimming the stem end and then cutting them in half. Remove any damaged or browned leaves.
  2. Arrange the oven racks so one is in the middle and one a the lower position. Preheat the oven to 475°F convection (or 450°F on a regular oven). Set out 2 half-sheet pans.
  3. Divide the Brussels sprouts between the two pans. Drizzle each pan with about 1 tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle each pan with a generous pinch of salt and about 20 grinds of pepper.
  4. Using your hands toss the sprouts with the oil and seasoning. Arrange the sprouts cut side down across the tray. Avoiding crowding the pan as it will limit browning if they are pressed up against one another.
  5. Place the pans in the oven and roast 20 minutes if using convection. If using a regular oven roast for 10 minutes then rotate the racks back to front and top to bottom in the oven, and roast for another 12-13 minutes.
  6. The roasted sprouts should be easily pierced by a fork and nicely browned. Cover loosely with foil until ready to serve.

Notes:
If you get some very large sprouts you may wish to quarter them so they have a similar mass to the halved ones. Likewise if you have mostly large sprouts you may want to leave smaller ones whole.

I’m still not fond of these tiny cabbage-like vegetables when they are steamed, or god forbid, boiled.

Delicata Squash with Red Onion and Za’atar

One of my favorite fall vegetables is delicata squash. If you get them quickly enough after harvest you can cook them without peeling. The flavor is milder than butternut squash with a bit of earthiness thrown in. The shape is like a fat sausage or salami. The center of the squash is filled with pulp and seeds like a butternut or acorn squash.

I paired it with red onions and za’atar, a spice blend used in Middle Eastern cooking consisting of sumac, thyme, white sesame seeds and salt. On a whim I sprinkled a bit of vinegar on just before serving.

Delicata Squash with Red Onion and Za’atar
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, halved length-wise, peeled, and half moon
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 lbs. delicata squash – peeled, scooped to remove seeds, and cut into 1/4″ half moons
  • 2 tsp. za’atar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the onions and toss them in the oil until coated. Distribute the squash over the onions and then sprinkle the squash with the za’atar. Add the water, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Give the pan a shake or two to redistribute the squash, exposing areas that may have been previously covered by another piece of squash. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Test a piece of squash with a fork; if the fork pierces the squash with just a bit of give then you are ready to finish the dish. If the fork doesn’t easily pierce the squash then recover and cook for another few minutes then test again.
  4. To finish the dish turn the heat up to high and set aside the cover. Gently toss the onions and squash together with tongs. Once the water has evaporated sprinkle the squash and onions with the vinegar. Plate and serve.

Notes:
I have a vegetable peeler with a serrated edge which worked well on this squash.

You’ll want a pan with a lid for this dish as the squash basically steams over the onions. I used a Pampered Chef straight-sided saute pan that we’ve had for ~15 years.

A number of recipes I looked at for inspiration suggested substituting butternut squash for delicata. You may need to cook a bit longer.

Noodle Salad

This recipe is inspired by some “Asian” noodle salad from a local market’s prepared food section. I grab it when I swing by for their house-made frozen cod cakes. I did the online search for “Asian” noodle salad, mixed and matched a few things and came up with this.

It seemed to go over well and the leftovers were as good, if not a bit better, after a couple of days rest in the fridge.

Noodle Salad
Servings: 10-12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes

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Pantry Staple Pasta Sauce

We returned from a short vacation Friday night and Saturday was filled with all the errands except for grocery shopping. As a dinner time approached I turned to the cupboard to see what kind of thing I could cobble together.

Lentils and chickpeas provide a bit of protein in a vegetarian dish. We served it with some grated Parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.

Pantry Staple Pasta Sauce
Servings: 4+
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
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Summer Succotash

We have a Succotash recipe that we really like. It’s heavy on cream and uses frozen corn and lima beans. It is a hearty dish that works really well throughout the cooler weather months. In the summer though we like something lighter and something that makes use of the treat of fresh corn. After poking at several recipes over the years I’ve settled into this one.

Summer Succotash
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. liquid from canned butter beans
  • 3 tsp. lemon juice
  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots (2-3 shallots)
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 (15-oz) cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from the cobs
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine the liquid from the canned beans and the lemon juice together. Set it aside.
  2. Set a dutch oven over medium-heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted add the shallots and pepper, sprinkle with 1/2″ teaspoon of salt and allow to cook until softened. That will take 4 to 5 minutes; give it a stir once in a while to reduce browning.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cayenne; cook until it is fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute.
  4. Add the beans and corn; stir them in and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the corn and beans are heated through, stirring occasionally.
  5. Give the reserved liquid mixture a quick stir and then add to the pan. Stir constantly for 1 minute to distribute the liquid.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and taste. Add the chives along with salt and pepper to adjust the taste. Serve up.

Notes:
This recipe is built off of one from Cook’s Illustrated. Since we primarily cook it for our Saturday Night gatherings the quantities are adjusted. I’ve also swapped a couple of ingredients for ones that work better for us.

Black Bean Summer Squash Taco Filling

Desperation can be a source of inspiration in cooking. When an unexpected guest was also a vegetarian I threw together something I had on hand and suddenly we had a tasty alternative to Turkey Tacos I typically make.

Not planning on having tacos tonight? This works equally as well as a side dish.

Black Bean Summer Squash Taco Filling
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 yellow summer squashes, cut into 1/4″ dice (see notes)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano, crushed
  • black pepper to taste, extra salt for cooking

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium for about 1 minute. Add the onions and bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat in the oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirrings once or twice.
  2. Add the jalapeno and garlic, stirring them into the carrot and bell pepper. Cook until fragrant, which should only take 30 second to a minute. Transfer the onions, peppers and garlic to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Return the skillet to the stove, add the remaining oil and increase the heat to high. When the oil is just beginning to smoke add the summer squash and a generous sprinkle of salt. Spread the squash along the bottom of the skillet and cook, undisturbed for 2 minutes. Toss the pan to redistribute the squash and cook another minute.
  4. Return the onion mixture to the pan and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.

Notes:
Your 3 summer squashes should be 6-8″ long and no more than 2-2.5″ in diameter. I prep them removing the ends and cutting them lengthwise into quarters. I then remove the layer of seeds, cut the remaining squash flesh into 1/4″ wide strips and, finally, cutting them into 1/4″ cubes.