Buttered Farro

There are times when an improvisation turns into something you want to repeat again and again. This dish is one of the successes that I will continue to make once a month or so because it’s just that tasty.

It’s “origin story” isn’t very glamorous though. I realized I had some cooked farro slowly wasting away in the fridge as I was putting together the menu for one of our mostly weekly Saturday night gatherings. Since I hadn’t actually planned on making it part of dinner I didn’t pickup the additional ingredients necessary to make Farro with Mushrooms and Thyme. Luckily, a handful of pantry staples turned this from a bland grain into a flavorful side dish.

Buttered Farro
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 5 minutes (if you have precooked your farro)
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until just shimmering. Add the diced onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with oil and saute until translucent, 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add the butter. When it is fully melted add the farro, paprika and spice blend. Toss until the farro is coated with butter and the spices are well distributed.
  3. Heat for about 5 minutes so that the farro is heated through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Serve.

Notes:
If you have fresh herbs such as parsley or chives on hand you could added a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs at the end of cooking.

Roasted Broccoli

We have tended to avoid broccoli, both in the grocery story and in our cooking. Too often the stalks you find in the grocery store are dull looking, limp things that taste of dieting and regret. Recently though we enjoyed roasted broccoli at a favorite restaurant and it was a bit of a revelation. After trying it a few times at home here’s my go-to technique.

Roasted Broccoli
Servings: 2-4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh broccoli
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Cut the florets off the the broccoli stalk; cut florets into bite-sized pieces. Remove the about 1/2″ from the end of the stalk. Using a vegetable peeler remove a layer from the stem and then slice the stem on a bias into bite-size pieces.
  3. Toss broccoli pieces with oil, salt and pepper. Scatter onto a rimmed baking sheet, leaving some space between pieces.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing broccoli half-way through baking. Broccoli is done when a fork can easily pierce a floret.
  5. Transfer roasted broccoli to a serving bowl. Toss with lemon zest and juice. Adjust salt and pepper as desired.

Notes:
Any number of flavorful condiments can be used with roasted broccoli to up the flavor profile. Replace the lemon with Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil (add some sesame seeds for good measure), fish sauce, or sauteed garlic and red pepper flakes.

When cooking for just the two of us I have used an oven-safe stainless steel skillet rather than a baking sheet. As long as the skillet isn’t crowded it’ll work fine.

Savory Roasted Acorn Squash

More often than not, it seems, winter squash is prepared as a sweet addition to the meal. The addition of brown sugar, maple syrup, or <shudders>marshmallows</shudders> leave us wanting to skip dessert, arguably the best part of the meal.

We tend to head to savory end of the spectrum for winter squash prep. Here’s one of our simplest takes savory winter squash.

Savory Roasted Acorn Squash
Servings: 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35-45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 acorn squash, all close in size
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Locate and set aside 2 13″x9″ pans. There’s no prep needed in the pans.
  2. Halve the acorn squash through the stem; scoop out the seeds and fibrous pulp. Cut each half in half once again so that each squash yields 4 pieces.
  3. Toss the squash with the oil and then sprinkle the interior of each piece with salt and pepper. Lay the squash, cut side up, in the 13″x9″ pans.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Squash is ready when a fork easily pierces the squash.

Notes:
Any number of savory spices could be sprinkled over the squash before baking. Cumin, coriander, sumac or a spice blend such as za’atar would all be tasty.

Za’atar Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Za’atar is a spice blend used in Middle Eastern cooking consisting of sumac, thyme, white sesame seeds and salt. In this recipe it lends a slight lemony flavor to, and enhances the earthy scent of, some lovely sweet potatoes.

Sumac Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. za’atar
  • 1 tsp. ground sumac

Directions:

  1. Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and dice into 1″ cubes.
  3. Toss sweet potatoes with the olive oil and spices. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread into a single layer.
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing the potatoes and redistributing into a single layer half way through cooking.

Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks

A while back I was lured in by a glossy picture of Parmesan and Herb Potato Stacks in an retailers Instagram post. The recipe seemed straight-forward, the image looked inticing and I’m always seeking a new way to present potatoes at Saturday night dinner.

While the result was good I thought of several ways to improve the recipe. Here’s the result with my update ingredient list and rewritten in my own words. Enjoy.

Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks
Servings: 8-12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes, very thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch)
  • 6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Place the sliced potatoes win a colander set over a bowl and set aside while you melt the butter. Transfer the butter to a large bowl and allow the butter to cool for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Add the Romano cheese, garlic, thyme and cream to the cooled butter and whisk together until combined.. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potato slices and gently toss to coat evenly.
  4. Divide the potato slices among the prepared muffin cups, stacking them in layers.
  5. If using them, arrange a sage leaf on top of each stack.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the potato stacks. Bake for another 10 minutes. The potatoes should be tender with crispy edges and the Parmesan should be fully melted. If not cook for another minute or two.
  7. Let cool slightly, then carefully remove the stacks from the pan and serve warm.

Notes:
Don’t be tempted by the cheese in a plastic jar which is found in the pasta aisle of your local megamart. You should find a wedge of Romano, and another of Parmesan, in the “fancy” cheese case near the deli counter. Yes, you’ll pay more than you will for that plastic jar however the flavor will far exceed the price difference.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Dried Cranberries

When you are having Christmas Day dinner at your godmother’s, and she asks you to bring “a vegetable for 16”, you kind of freak out. At least I do. I decided on roasted Brussels sprouts because it’s a vegetable I’ve learned to enjoy as an adult. I added a some lucious fatty/salty bacon and a bit of sweet to make it a festive dish.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Dried Cranberries
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Brussels Sprouts, stems trimmed and halved
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 rimmed baking pans with parchment paper.
  2. Toss sprouts with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Divide between the 2 baking pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating and swapping the position of the pans halfway through cooking.
  3. While the sprouts cook add the bacon and 1 cup of water to a non-stick skillet. Heat over medium heat until simmering. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid/fat and crisp up the bacon to your desired doneness.
  4. The sprouts are ready when they can be easily pierced with a fork. Toss the sprouts, bacon and cranberries together. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and serve.

Notes:
This reheats well, either in a low oven or in the microwave.

Savory Cranberry Sauce

I have a strong affinity for can-shapped cranberry sauce. The log of congealed super-sweetened cranberry juice, laid out on a plate, the ridges from the can intact, is a memory from my childhood that holds a special place for me. As I’ve grown older though I’ve learned that there can be more flavor in something made fresh, even if you use a frozen ingredient.

Savory Cranberry Sauce
Servings: about 3 cups of sauce
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups roughly chopped red onion (about 1 1/2 onions)
  • 1 lb. cranberries (fresh or frozen, either is fine)
  • 1/2 cup honey.
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil to a large sauce pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt. Stir to coat the onions with the oil. Cook for about 10minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened. Lower heat if the onions start to brown.
  2. Add the cranberries, honey and lemon zest. Stir until everything is combined, raise the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cook for ~20 minutes, again stirring occasionally. As the cranberries cook they will burst, releasing pectin into the sauce, which will help it thicken..
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste and add salt and/or pepper to your liking. As it cools the sauce will thicken. Serve warm or chilled; either works.

Notes:
You can use still frozen cranberries in this dish though it will likely take 5-10 minutes longer.

This will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.