Hey there December…..Welcome. Time for cozy cooking.
A shallow baking pan, a sheet of parchment, Pears and Plums pitted, whole vanilla beans and star anise, maple syrup and balsamic reduction…that’s it…you’re done. Is it a dessert? Is it a savory side? It can easily be either one. Your choice.
I split and used the vanilla bean seeds earlier for making a custard, but I always save the split beans for other uses. There are a few teeny seeds still inside and they added just the right hint of vanilla to the roasted fruit. Real maple syrup and a balsamic reduction drizzled over the fruit making sure to fill the pitted part. Is there anything like the aroma of star anise when roasted? It’s all a rather special blend of ingredients that leave the roasted pears and plums a bit caramelized and very aromatic. This can be a desirable fruit dessert topped with a scoop of ice cream or gelato, or eaten as a side with roast pork or turkey. Add this to your winter go-to easy everyday recipes. It’s as easy-as-this.
- 4 plums, cut in half & pitted
- 4 pears, cut in half and pitted
- 1 to 3 split vanilla beans
- 6 whole star anise
- 1/4 cup balsamic reduction glaze
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Spread fruit out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
- Drizzle fruit with balsamic glaze and maple syrup. Scatter vanilla beans and star anise over fruit. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until fruit is just fork tender, not mushy. Bake time may vary.
- Serve in fruit in bowls topped with a scoop of ice cream or as a side dish with roasted chicken or pork. Also great as a holiday side with a roasted turkey.
Note: You can also do this with crisp apples or peaches.
Teresa Blackburn Food Styling.
I am enjoying how we just slipped into Fall…no whimper, no bang…hardly a notice…just an opening of the eye and here we are. Fall foods are abundant. The deep green skins of acorn squash with a brush stroke of orange here and there. Butternut squash so sweet when roasted turning to a deep rich gold. Aren’t you glad Fall is here?
This bowl of roasted squash would be great for a holiday side.
A couple of acorn squash and one butternut squash is quite enough for 4 people. Some fresh thyme scattered about and pomegranate molasses drizzled over before and after roasting gave the squash an amazing glaze with just right crisp edges. . The skin on both squash was soft enough to eat as well. The key was using smaller size squash, which are easier to cut and naturally sweeter.Are you familiar with pomegranate molasses? It is pretty easy to find these days at larger supermarkets, but more often at import markets. I purchase it in Nashville at K & S Market on Charlotte Avenue.
There is no real recipe, just an easy how-to that can be prepped ahead of all the hustle and bustle. Add an easy roasted chicken, recipe here. It’s all as easy-as-this.
Pomegranate Molasses and Thyme Roasted Winter Squash
- 2 smallish acorn squash
- 1 smallish butternut squash
- olive oil
- 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
- 1 handful of fresh thyme
- large flake sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- Carefully cut all squash in half and scrape out seeds. Cut acorn squash into rings and then cut rings in half. Trim top from butternut squash and cut into pieces lengthwise.
- Toss squash with a bit of olive oil. Spread out flat on a sheet pan.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Drizzle squash with 1/4 cup of the pomegranate molasses. Sprinkle on sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss fresh thyme leaves over all.
- Roast for about 20 minutes. Squash should be fork tender, but not mushy. Remove from oven. Cover loosely if not serving immediately.
- Right before serving drizzle with remaining pomegranate molasses and additional fresh thyme sprigs. Double or triple recipe for a crowd.
Teresa Blackburn www. teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
A good lunch is a wonderful thing. To sit down and actually savor a mid-day or late afternoon lunch when I get a chance is a pleasure. My lunches take little prep and use pantry items along with a few fresh vegetables I have on hand. It takes just a few minutes to make it happen. It’s as easy as this.
Here is one of my current favorites using lemons, kalamata olives, tuna packed in olive oil, marinated red onions and fresh oregano leaves. I serve this with a crusty baguette for sopping up all the flavorful juices.
It’s summer in Nashville, it’s hot and humid..take a break from the stove….eat cool…eat simple…enjoy.
Summer Lunch -Lemony Tuna and Kalamata Olives with a Crusty Baguette
- 1/4 red onion, slivered and soaked in lemon juice for 15 minutes
- 2 cans tuna packed in olive oil, slightly drained and leaving larger chunks of tuna
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
- the peel of one lemon cut into thin strips
- the juice of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons torn fresh oregano leaves
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 fresh baguette
- In a bowl gently toss together red onion with lemon juice, tuna chunks with oil, kalamata olives, lemon peel strips, lemon juice and oregano. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
- Serve with baguette pieces for sopping up juices. A Great nutritious lunch that is as Easy As This!
Teresa Blackburn http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
I like to make cozy at-home dinners, but on the other hand, I do not like to spend hours in the kitchen on my weekends. I enjoy making soups and stews, one-pot meals that can be quickly put together using good ingredients that aren’t too fussy. I also feel I have gotten into a culinary rut…always making the same things over and over….I mixed it up a bit with this recipe.
With one jar of Goan Coconut Indian simmer sauce and a few other ingredients….boneless skinless chicken thighs, a can of unsweet coconut milk, baby Yukon Gold potatoes and carrots……cubed paneer cheese and chapati bread from the International Grocery Store inside the Downtown Nashville Farmer’s Market…all slow cooked together, I recently made what is now one of my favorite “Easy-As-This” meals.
There are many good jarred or canned simmer sauces available in most supermarkets and international markets these days. Maya Kaimal is one of the brands I’ve used. There are many flavors…Korma, Tikka Masala as well as Goan Coconut . All delicious.
Goan Coconut Chicken and Vegetables
- 2 to 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 jar Maya Kaimal Goan Coconut simmer sauce, or any other brand
- 1 can unsweet coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 12 baby Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
- 4 carrots, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 cup cubed paneer cheese
- freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
- Chapati bread or naan
- Brown chicken thighs in a deep pan in the olive oil, working in batches if necessary. Remove to drain on a paper towel.
- To the same pan, pour in the jar of Goan Coconut Simmer Sauce and 1 can unsweet coconut milk. Stir together with 1 cup water until well blended.
- Return the chicken thighs to the pan along with the potatoes and carrots.
- Season with black pepper and sea salt.
- Cook over medium heat, partially covered until carrots and potatoes are “fork-tender” and chicken is falling apart, for about 25 minutes.
- Serve in bowls with warmed chapati bread or naan on the side for dipping into the sauce.
While noodling around on the internet this week looking for inspiration for a “nosh of note”, I ran across a recipe for “Parmesan Cream Crackers” by Mark Bittman that was published in the New York Times cooking section a few years ago. Homemade crackers would certainly qualify as a “nosh of note” wouldn’t they? Bittman’s basic recipe has just a few ingredients and from start to finish, 25 minutes/ I had a pan of freshly baked crackers. What could be easier than that?
Encouraged I took the basic recipe and ran with it…first batch I topped with toasted sesame seeds….which thankfully you can now purchase already toasted. Would you like to know how many sesame seeds I have burned up toasting them myself? Thousands I would guess.
The simple dough needs to be rolled out thinly and cut/scored before baking. The second batch I added fresh thyme leaves and red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
On a roll I whipped up a few other batches using various toss-ins and toppings such as crunchy sea salt, black pepper, espresso cocoa sea salt….
….bittersweet chocolate, chopped pistachios, orange peel and crunchy raw sugar.
Two hours later sheet pans of savory aromatic crackers covered the kitchen counters, ready to accompany a cheese platter along with a few bottles of bubbly for a New Year’s Eve with good, long-time friends…it was as Easy as This.
Note: “Nosh of note” was a quote from my friend, Nancy Vienneau, within an invite to a New Years Eve gathering at her home. Check out her blog at “Good Food Matters”.
Note: You can find the original recipe for “Parmesan Cheese Crackers” by Mark Bittman here..
Happy New Year Cheese Crackers
For basic Parmesan Cheese Crackers:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling out
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup cream + more as needed to make dough
For “Toss-ins and Toppings” that I used:
- toasted sesame seeds
- thyme leaves and pepper flakes
- espresso-cocoa sea salt mixture
- chopped pistachios and orange zest with black pepper
- bittersweet chocolate, espresso powder, raw sugar and cinnamon
- any number of other ideas pop into my head…pecans, walnuts, green tea, cayenne, any herbs, cardamom, lavender and lemon zest…use what you might have, what you like, and experiment.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- To a food processor add flour, salt, Parmesan cheese and butter. Pulse to combine.
- If you choose to add any “toss ins” do so now, although the original recipe is fantastic as is.
- After adding “toss ins”…drizzle in cream while processor is running until a dough forms. If need be, add a wee bit more cream. Dough should be smooth and silky and not at all sticky.
- Roll dough out until thin, but workable, on lightly floured surface. Add flour as needed. Transfer dough to parchment lined baking sheet. (You can also simply roll the dough out on a sheet of lightly floured parchment and then transfer to sheet pans to save a step.
- Here is where the “toppings” part comes in. Sprinkle on top and gently press into surface of dough.
- Using a pastry wheel or knife cut/score dough so you can break into individual crackers after baking.
- Bake until golden, light browned…for about 10-13 minutes depending on your oven. Cool on wire rack. You can serve these crackers warm or at room temperature and they can be stored in air tight containers for a few days. They are great with a bowl of soup or as dippers.
recipe adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman published in the New York Times.
I love soup…cold soup in the summer, chili at the first sign of fall and hearty hot soups all winter long. Soups make me feel cozy and safe. Healthy and homey.
It’s as easy as this to make a “soup” lunch or dinner in under an hour. Leftover holiday turkey meat, some vegetables, noodles, broth and herbs are all you need. Gruyere cheese melted on slices of bread round out the meal.
Any noodles you like will work fine. Long spaghetti noodles, or macaroni or you can even break up a few lasagna noodles to toss into the pot. I used some Strozzapreti I picked up at Eataly the last time I was in Chicago. These noodles, somewhat like Cavatelli, are short, sturdy, rolled and are good for holding juices and sauce.
A leftover over roasted turkey breast from Thanksgiving, a few cans of tomatoes, carrots and onions, broth and herbs are the other basic ingredients.
One of my favorite winter lunches is enjoying a good bowl of hot soup while catching up on my reading or looking at art books or magazines. We all need some time to be quiet and alone, letting our thoughts wander and weave about randomly. I find this is when I work things out in my head or absorb and develop new ideas for projects. Try it.
This is more of an “idea of soup” than an actual “must follow” recipe. Use what you like and what you have on hand. No rules, just tasty ingredients. It really is as Easy as This….Stay warm.
Soup Lovers Leftover-Turkey Noodle Soup
- 2-4 cups chopped or shredded turkey or chicken meat
- a splash of olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped or sliced
- 3 cans fire-roasted tomatoes with juice
- 4 cups low sodium/fat chicken broth
- fresh thyme leaves or any herbs you prefer
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cups short pasta noodles such as cavatelli, macaroni or strozzapretti
- Cook the pasta noodles very al dente in a pot of salted water, drain and set aside.
- Add a splash of olive oil to a soup pot and heat over medium high heat. Toss into the pot the chopped onion and carrots. Cook until onions are transparent.
- To the pot add the tomatoes and chicken broth, turkey or chicken meat, fresh thyme leaves and other herbs, salt and black pepper. Bring to a low boil. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
- Right before serving add the al dente pasta noodles to the hot soup. Serve with slices of good bread toasted with Gruyere cheese on top.
Stay cozy and warm.
Blood Orange, Cara Cara, Satsuma, Tangerine, Navel, Little Cuties, Mandarins by any other name would still taste as sweet or tangy, fresh or juicy. It is February and peak season for all manner of citrus. Some are easy to peel, some are seedless, some have smooth skins and some are more pithy.
My favorite winter centerpiece is a simple bowl of beautiful oranges. They glow in the late evening light.
Lovely slices of blood oranges and cara cara oranges ready for a salad. Simple and clean.
Here are four “easy-as-this” steps for making perfect oranges slices. This method is sometimes called “supreming” and it is just a technique in which you cut away the pith/membrane from the fruit before slicing or sectioning.
Pretty easy huh? Slices piled on a salad plate topped with radish sprouts and a drizzle of dressing. It really is as “easy as this”.
Cara Cara and Blood Orange Salad
- Ripe, firm, juicy oranges/citrus – for each salad serving use 2 different types. I used cara cara and blood oranges. For 4 servings you need 6-8 oranges, for 6 you need 10-12 oranges
- fresh sprouts – radish are great, but pea sprouts or sunflower sprouts are good too
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- dressing to drizzle – creamy or vinaigrette.
- “Supreme” your oranges/citrus and cut into slices. Remove any seeds. Here is how:
- Divide slices between serving plates and season with salt & pepper.
- Scatter fresh sprouts over the orange slices.
- Cover and chill if not eating immediately.
- Drizzle with dressing right before serving.
Teresa Blackburn www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com