two brunch dishes courtesy of Martha

Since it has been so long since I’ve posted I thought I’d give you two recipes for the price of one.  Bargain!

Amongst other tasty delights for Easter brunch I made a spinach and fontina cheese strata.  I’d never made a strata before but it was so easy I’m not sure why it took me so long.  A strata is a cross between a bread pudding and a lasagna, in other words, cheesy carb-y deliciousness.

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I began by cooking down some spinach and onions in a little olive oil, slicing pieces of a slightly stale loaf of French bread, and grating cheese.  (Apologies for the poor quality of the photos.  I forgot my camera so used my phone.)

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Then, like you would do with a lasagna, you start to layer everything up.

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Then you mix up some milk and eggs and pour them over the whole shebang.

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One of the things that is great about this dish is that the milk and egg mixture needs to soak into the bread for at least eight hours which means you can assemble it the night before you serve it thereby making it a breeze the next morning when you want to serve it.  You just add a little more milk and egg mixture and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Unfortunately I did not have a photo of the strata after it baked but I can assure you it was golden and bubbly and lovely and well-enjoyed by all.

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The second recipe I am sharing with you is a bit of a cheat as I shared a similar recipe with you previously.  But one can never have too many candied bacon recipes…

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This is even simpler than the strata.  You lay bacon strips over cooling racks placed in parchment-lined baking sheets and then sprinkle with brown sugar and freshly cracked black pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until crispy.  Voila!

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It was the first dish we ran out of at brunch!

Spinach-And-Fontina Strata (from www.marthastewart.com)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
  • 2 pounds spinach, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Unsalted butter, for dish
  • 1 pound challah loaf, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 8 ounces young Italian fontina cheese, grated, divided
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/3 cup), divided
  • 8 large eggs, divided
  • 2 2/3 cups whole milk, divided
Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Fill pan with as much spinach as will fit; cook, stirring, adding remainder a handful at a time as space allows. When all the spinach is wilted, stir in pepper and nutmeg. Drain spinach in a sieve. When cool enough to handle, squeeze excess moisture from spinach by hand.
Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Place a third of the bread in a single layer in dish. Top with half the spinach mixture and a third of the cheeses. Repeat layering with a third of the bread, remaining spinach mixture, and a third of the cheeses, then top with remaining bread.
Whisk together 6 eggs, 2 cups milk, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and carefully pour over bread. Cover with parchment, and gently press down with hands until egg mixture soaks through top of bread. Cover parchment with foil, and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, remove strata from refrigerator, uncover, and let stand 30 minutes. Whisk together remaining 2 eggs and 2/3 cup milk, and pour over strata, gently pressing between layers of bread with a spoon or spatula to ensure that egg mixture seeps to bottom. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake until puffed and golden brown in places, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.
Brown Sugar Glazed Bacon (from www.marthastewart.com)

  • 16 slices (about 1 pound) bacon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper; place a wire rack on top of each sheet. Arrange bacon in a single layer on the two racks. Evenly sprinkle with pepper and sugar.Bake until bacon is crisp and browned, rotating sheets halfway through, 30 to 35 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels.

rainy days and mondays always get me down (and hungry for soup)

Last weekend I picked up some lovely crimini mushrooms at the farmer’s market.  I’m not gonna lie– mushrooms are not always my favorite, but crimini mushrooms I get really excited about.  I first used them years ago in a roasted vegetable/smoked mozzarella/pasta dish I saw on Everyday Italian and instantly fell in love.  They are woodsy and meaty and just generally awesome so when I saw them at the market I bought them without knowing what I was going to use them for.  Some of the best meals start this way!

The last few days have been quite chilly and grey and rainy in these parts… it is spring after all.  And with the chill and the grey and the rain I wanted one thing: hot and hardy soup.  Combine the idea of soup and my farmer’s market find with a little Googling and you have Turkey Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Pancetta… unless you’re me and want to use up ingredients you have on hand and then you have Chicken Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Bacon.  Don’t be afraid to improvise on recipes.  I used to but with cooking, that is the beauty.  Improvisation in baking is not always as successful, but that is another story for another time.  Now we eat soup!


Chicken Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Bacon (adapted from a recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ¾ cup wild rice (about 5 ounces), rinsed, drained
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken meat
  • ½ cups frozen corn kernels
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream

Bring 2 ½ cups water, rice, and ¼ teaspoon salt to boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender but still firm to bite, 45 to 60 minutes (time will vary depending on variety of rice). Drain; set aside.

Heat heavy large pot over medium heat and add bacon and cook until browned, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add mushrooms to pot and cook until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Add butter to same pot. Add carrots and celery. Cover; cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add shallots; stir until soft, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and stir 1 minute. Return mushrooms to pot. Mix in chicken stock and rosemary; bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

Add rice, bacon, chicken meat, and corn to soup. Simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cool. Cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.

brussels sprouts and bacon, oh my

It’s no secret that I love Brussels sprouts.  So last weekend when I found a new recipe for them in the March issue of Bon Apetit and said recipe involved bacon?  Well, it was a no-brainer what I’d be fixing that evening.

In addition to loving this particular vegetable I am also a huge fan of one-pot cooking.  The components for this dish are all done in the same skillet so there is less clean-up afterwards.  Awesomeness.

The pungency of the Brussels sprouts mixed with the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the raisins and shallots, and the kick of apple cider vinegar at the end results in a beautiful marriage.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the parsnips and meatloaf for last Sunday’s meal.  I hope that you will enjoy them too!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins (from March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit)

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 thick slices bacon
  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts (about 1 lb), trimmed, halved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  Let cool.  Coarsely crumble.

While bacon cools, add Brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until well browned in spots and beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add raisins, shallot, and butter; cook, stirring often, until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes.  Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1-2 minutes.  Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

not your mom’s meatloaf

Last night I was not feeling super motivated to cook supper.  (PS- it’s only called supper on Sundays.  The rest of the week it’s just referred to as dinner.)  I wound up leafing through the most recent issue of Bon Appetit looking for some inspiration and found recipes for parsnip and Brussels sprouts side dishes and since I happened to have both on hand (and also love both) the meal was starting to take shape.  (Check back later in the week for the side dishes.)  But what to do for a main course?

A few weeks ago when I was home my dad sent me back with a cooler full of beef from his farm.  Grass-fed goodness right there in my freezer.  I’m not even a big meat-eater but this is definitely the way forward if you’re going to partake.

I started researching meatloaf recipes because that is always a great way to stretch out a small amount of meat into a proper dish.  Problem is now that I am off the wheat I was having a hard time finding a recipe that didn’t involve breadcrumbs and then I found not one but two recipes where oatmeal was substituted for breadcrumbs.  Eureka!  Better yet the recipe I landed on had lots going on in it including prunes and bacon.  Sold!

This loaf is moist and a little salty with a touch of sweet and I dare say it’s the best meatloaf I’ve ever had in my life and my dining companion (who doesn’t hand out compliments freely) agreed completely.  The perfect main dish for a Sunday supper.

Meatloaf (adapted loosely from Gourmet magazine recipe from 2008 found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ pound bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
  • ½ cup pitted prunes, chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef chuck
  • ½ pound ground pork (not lean)
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Soak oats in milk in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low, then cook until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Add to oat mixture.

Finely chop bacon and prunes in a food processor, then add to onion mixture along with beef, pork, and eggs and mix together with your hands.

Pack mixture into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Cooks’ note:
Cooked meatloaf keeps, chilled, 3 days.

a tasty start to the new year

When I lived in New York I would sometimes motivate myself to workout by promising myself a trip to a bakery or takeout place on the way back from the gym.  It’s a lot easier to get up extra early before work or drag yourself after a ten-hour-workday if there is a reward waiting for you in the form of delicious food.  It works for me every time.

Sunday mornings I would often take a free class at the local Lululemon (Sidenote: those people are brilliant to offer free classes in their stores before business hours; people shopped with their eyes while doing warrior-one and downward-facing-dog.) which was within a few blocks of a then new place by the City Bakery people.

On my first visit to this bakery I was completely sold when I saw Maple Bacon Scones on their menu.  Um, yes please.

And I figured what better way to start the New Year then with a breakfast of champions where I would recreate said scones?

I started out by candy-ing some bacon.  Then I hunted all over town for pure maple extract.  That part wasn’t easy, but the hunt for the real stuff as opposed to the artificial stuff was well worth it.  I suggest you do the same as the imitation kind alters the flavor of the scones and doesn’t in fact taste much like maple at all.

Then I mixed together some flour, a lot of butter, some sugar, the usual baking suspects (baking powder, soda, and salt), an egg, a little cinnamon, buttermilk, and the star ingredient.  Once the dough was kneaded and formed into scone shapes I brushed them with the remaining buttermilk and dusted them with raw sugar and baked them.  Afterwards they got glazed with a little confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup.  Very tasty.  And better yet, no strenuous yoga was necessary to enjoy them this time!

Happy New Year!!!

Maple Bacon Scones (adapted slightly from Maple Walnut Scones recipe in “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple extract (do not use imitation extract as the flavor is not the same)
  • 1 cup candied bacon (or walnuts if candied bacon is not your thing)
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Whisk until combined.

Add the butter.  Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the butter is pea-sized.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, ¾ cup of the buttermilk, and the maple extract.  Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then gently knead the dough with your hands until the dough starts to come together.  Add the candied bacon (or walnuts) to the dough and knead gently to incorporate.  Move the dough to a lightly floured surface.  Use your hands to shape the dough into two discs (about 1 ½ inches in height.)  Do not overwork the dough.

Cut each disk into 6 wedges with a knife.  Place the wedges onto the prepared baking sheet.  Brush each scone with the remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Bake in the center of the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes (rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time) or until the scones are golden brown.

Transfer the scones to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the wire rack with the cooled scones over the baking sheet.

Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup until the mixture is smooth.  Slowly pour the glaze over each scone in a zigzag pattern.

Allow the glaze to set (about 10 minutes) and serve immediately.

Scones can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

bacon makes everything better

Totally true!  I used to say that about butter (and still do sometimes) but now I say it about bacon too. 

A few years back people starting putting bacon in everything: donuts, scones, lattes, cupcakes.  Why oh why did it take so long for us to realize what a genius move this was?  Though as they say, better late than never.

A few months back I found a recipe for peanut butter bacon cookies on one of my favorite food blogs.  And while they sounded pretty good as is, I asked myself how could these be even better?  The answer was to candy the bacon prior to adding to the cookie batter.  While bacon is wonderful simply prepared, it is even better when it’s candied!  Salty and sweet at the same time!  I think the word I am about to throw out is seriously over-used in this day and age so I reserve it for times I really mean it and I really mean it when describing candied bacon: amazing.

I candied the bacon in the oven and it couldn’t have been easier.  With a little parchment paper, the clean-up was even super simple!  Then I chopped up the bacon finely and set out to getting the batter mixed up.

The batter consists of all-natural peanut butter, brown and white sugar, an egg, and baking soda– that’s it.  Oh, and then the bacon.  There’s no flour so it’s actually a gluten-free recipe.  The result is a crumbly batter that just holds together when you ball it up to make the cookies.

 These cookies are sweet and a little savory at the same time.  Heck, I ate two after baking them and called it dinner.  It’s got protein, right?  For sure.  Try some right away!

Candied Bacon (found at foodnetwork.com)

  • 10 strips thick-cut bacon
  • About 1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Position a cooling rack over a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet (for easy clean up). Lay the strips of bacon on the rack and place in the oven to bake for 6 to 8 minutes.

 Sprinkle each strip with brown sugar and bake until the sugar melts and caramelizes and the bacon is crispy, another 6 to 8 minutes; don’t let them burn. Remove from the pan and lay on the cooling rack to solidify and come to an eat-able temperature.

Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies (slightly adapted from a recipe joythebaker adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

  • 1 cup all-natural chunky or smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • about 6 slices of bacon, candied, cooled and diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a mixer combine peanut butter and sugars until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add egg and baking soda and mix for another 2 minutes. Fold in candied bacon. Roll into large walnut sized balls and create a criss-cross pattern with a fork. If you’d like, roll the dough balls in granulated sugar before making the criss-cross pattern. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.