Pork, Provolone & Spinach Stromboli

A few months ago Matt and I discovered A Casa, a local “bake at home” pizza shop that sells amazing homemade strombolis. A Casa’s strombolis are frozen and available in wonderful flavors like sausage, pepper and onions, Philly cheesesteak, buffalo chicken, and – our favorite – pulled pork and long-hot peppers.  YUM!

1239 Assembling the stromboli 2

Today we planned to pick up some A Casa strombolis but unfortunately the local market didn’t have them in stock.  A Casa itself is only a few miles down the road from our house, but it’s closed on Sundays so we found ourselves looking for other options.  Then we realized that we had 6+ lbs. of freshly smoked pork shoulder* in the fridge… we could make OUR OWN pulled pork stromboli!

After a quick stop to Trader Joe’s to pick up some pizza dough, provolone and spinach we were ready to go. The stromboli itself was very easy to assemble… just spread out the dough, add the cheese and fillings, fold and bake. The finished stromboli was delicious. Fresher, cheesier and less greasy than our beloved A Casa equivalent and so much more satisfying because we made it ourselves!

*Matt just got a smoker and this pork shoulder was the second recipe he’s made in it. Matt smoked a 9 lb. pork butt for 14+ hours yesterday and we had BBQ pork sandwiches for dinner. Now we have lots of yummy pork left over for lunch and dinner all week, but after tonight’s meal we also plan on using some of the meat to make a second pork stromboli to freeze for a future dinner!

I’ll post the smoked pork recipe at some point, but we want to make some tweaks to it first before it’s blog-worthy. 😄 For this recipe, you can use any left over slow-cooked pork.  (Try making it in a slow-cooker if you don’t have a smoker!)1264 Pork Stromboli

Pork, Provolone & Spinach Stromboli

Ingredients:
1 – 6-8 oz. bag Baby Spinach
3-4 spoonfuls Semolina Flour or Cornmeal
1 – 16 oz. ball Raw Pizza Dough
4 slices Provolone Cheese
1 cup chopped Roasted Pork Shoulder
4-5 spoonfuls chopped Long-hot Peppers or hot salsa; we used Trader Joe’s Hatch Valley Salsa which has a fiery, long-hot-like kick
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Cooking Spray

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 475°F. If you have a pizza stone, put the stone in the oven while it preheats.

Heat 3-4 tablespoons of water in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the water begins to sizzle add the spinach and toss constantly for 1-3 minutes until wilted. Transfer the wilted spinach to a strainer and allow to cool for a few minutes. Once cool enough to work with, use a paper towel to press down on the spinach in the strainer and squeeze out as much water as you can. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and roughly chop.

Spread a few spoonfuls of semolina flour onto a dry cutting board or pizza peel, then drop the dough ball onto the flour. Knead and spread the dough ball into a rectangle approximately 20″ long by 10″ wide.

1233 Assembling the stromboli 1

Place four slices of overlapping Provolone cheese on the dough, then distribute the spinach and pork over the cheese. Spoon the long-hots or salsa over the pork. Sprinkle a thin layer of Mozzarella cheese over top of the pork and spinach filling. Fold the long sides of the dough over the filling, then stretch and pull the dough on the short ends over top of the folded sides to close up the stromboli.

Carefully remove the hot pizza stone from the oven and place it on a heat resistant surface. Flip the stromboli over and place it in the center of the hot pizza stone so that the folded sides are facing down. (If using a pan, position the stromboli on the pan this way, too.) Poke the top of the stromboli with a fork 3-4 times to vent and spray the top of the ‘boli with 3-4 quick shots of cooking spray.

Bake the stromboli in a 375° oven on the stone for 12-13 minutes or until the top of the dough is golden brown. Rotate the stone 180° about halfway through the cook time to make sure that the stromboli cooks evenly. Remove the cooked stromboli from the oven, transfer to a pizza peel or cutting board, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Cut the cooled stromboli, serve, and enjoy! 😄

1244 Finished Stromboli on the pizza stone

Zucchini Pesto Pizza

Basil is my favorite thing to grow in the garden. This year I have no fewer than 9 basil plants and every one is 2+ feet tall and thick with large, green, fragrant leaves. What do I do with all of this basil, you ask? Pesto pesto pesto!!! This time of year I make big batches of pesto at least once a week. I use a few tablespoons of the fresh pesto on whatever dish we’re eating that night, then I portion out the rest into a silicone ice cube tray, freeze it, and store the cubes in the freezer in a ziplock bag. These pesto cubes keep for months and definitely are a welcome treat in the dead of winter when dinner needs a kick of flavor.

2727 Zucchini Pesto Pizza

Fresh pesto is one of the key ingredients in this Zucchini-Pesto Pizza that I made for dinner tonight. I spread a liberal amount of pesto directly on the dough, then added layers of mozzarella cheese and thin zucchini slices that had been tossed in garlic and olive oil. Yum!!

2713 Zucchini Pesto Pizza

As a side note, I had a major revelation while making tonight’s dinner. I constantly struggle with getting the uncooked pizza off of the peel and onto the stone in the oven, so much so that lately I had resorted to cracking open the oven and placing the raw dough directly on the preheated stone. Then I would arrange the toppings on the dough while it was already cooking in the oven. (That’s the hot, energy-wasteful way to do it, but at least the pizza turned out out nice and round!!)

Tonight, however, I wondered… what if I just temporarily took the hot stone out of the oven and assembled the pizza directly on the stone while OUT of the oven?? It worked perfectly!! This is probably the way that everyone else makes pizza, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me until tonight. Oh well! 😄

2726 Zucchini Pesto Pizza

Zucchini Pesto Pizza

You will need…
Pizza Stone and Pizza Peel
1 medium Zucchini, sliced into very thin (1/8″) discs
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
Cornmeal or Semolina Flour
1 – 16 oz. ball Raw Pizza Dough
1/2 cup Fresh Basil Pesto
8 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Freshly Ground Pepper

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Position the rack 6-8 inches from the top of the oven and place the pizza stone on the rack to warm up. Place the zucchini discs in a shallow bowl with the olive oil and garlic, then toss thoroughly to coat.

Sprinkle 4-5 tablespoons of cornmeal on the pizza peel then drop the dough ball onto the cornmeal. Knead and spread the dough ball into a 15-17 inch pizza. Carefully remove the hot pizza stone from the oven and place it on a heat resistant surface. Transfer the dough to the stone and shape it into a nice circle the size of the stone.

Working quickly, spoon and spread the pesto onto the dough. Next, sprinkle half of the shredded cheese over the pesto. Layer the marinated zucchini slices evenly over the pie, leaving a 3/4 inch “margin” for the crust. Finally, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the zucchini and slide the stone back into the hot oven.

Bake the pizza for 8-9 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to turn golden brown. Keep an eye on the pizza as it cooks… if your oven heats unevenly (like ours does!) rotate the pie with a few minutes left on the cook time.

Remove the pizza from the oven, top with a few grinds of black pepper, then slice and enjoy!

2730 Zucchini Pesto Pizza

 

Southwestern Burgers with Chipotle Mayo

Southwestern Burgers with Chipotle Mayo 2

I am absolutely addicted to these southwestern burgers with chipotle mayo and green chiles. They meet all of my major requirements for a “staple” summer meal… the ingredients are readily available, prep time is under a half hour, the meat is grilled and, most importantly, the end result is DELICIOUS! The green chiles, chipotle and pepper jack are one of my favorite flavor combinations and Matt somehow grills the burgers to a juicy perfection every single time. I would seriously take one (or two) of these burgers over a restaurant burger any day.

We have been enjoying these burgers almost weekly this summer. In fact, we’re going to have them for dinner tonight (YUM!!) so I thought now would be an appropriate time to share the recipe and a few pics from the last time we made them.

Southwestern Burgers with Chipotle Mayo close up

The recipe comes from our trusty Williams Sonoma Grill Master, the same book that includes BBQ Baby Back Ribs, Paella, AND the beef kebabs that I’ll share in a future post. I highly recommend this cook book!! The original burger recipe is a bit fancier than our adaptation, calling for buffalo meat, homemade mayo and fresh-roasted chiles. Those ingredients sound exciting, but aren’t very practical for a weeknight meal, so we subbed in regular ground beef, jarred mayo and canned diced green chiles and the burgers turned out great.

Southwestern Burgers with Chipotle Mayo and Green Chiles
(adapted from Williams Sonoma Grill Master; makes 4 burgers)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup Mayonnaise
1-2 Chipotle Chiles in Adobo, minced; plus a teaspoon or two of adobo sauce, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro
Juice from 1/4 Lime
Salt and Pepper
1 1/3 lb. Ground Beef, 85/15
4 Slices Pepper Jack Cheese
4 Burger Buns
1 – 4 oz. can Chopped Green Chiles

Directions:
Preheat your grill to high heat. Combine the mayo, chipotle, cilantro, lime, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl to make the chipotle mayo. Stir well, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the burger patties, divide the meat into four equal sections, then form each quarter into a patty about 3/4″ thick by 4-5 inches in diameter. The key to a good burger is not to over-mix or over-compress the ground beef so be gentle with this step!

Place the burger patties on a plate and create a small depression in the center of of each patty. Season both sides of the burgers with freshly ground salt and pepper.

Place the burgers on the grill over direct high heat. Leave the grill lid open and cook for 5 minutes, then flip the burgers and continue to cook for another 4 minutes. Add a slice of pepper jack cheese to each burger and allow to cook with the lid closed for another minute or until the cheese is melted. On our gas grill these cooking times yield a juicy medium burger; adjust your cooking times to reach your preferred doneness.

During the last few minutes of the burger cooking, place the buns face-down on the grill grates and grill for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the buns to a plate and spread a generous amount of the chipotle mayo over the bottom half of each bun.

When the burgers are done cooking, transfer them directly onto the mayo-ed buns. Top the burgers with a few spoonfulls of green chiles and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Make sure your puppy doesn't eat your burger!

These burgers are good… even Piper thinks so!!

BBQ Baby-Back Ribs

BBQ Ribs

Matt and I made these oven-roasted BBQ baby-back ribs for my family at the Hunting Camp last weekend. This was our first time making baby-backs and they were delicious! I’m pretty sure that my brother single-handedly ate an entire rack… (But it technically wasn’t single-handedly because he totally had to use two hands to really dig into these saucy, meaty ribs!!) 😉I’d recommend lots of napkins and maybe some wet wipes when serving these!

When researching recipes for this meal, we originally thought that it would be neat to cook the ribs entirely on the grill, but we were doubling the recipe and quickly realized that 6 full racks of ribs would never fit comfortably on a standard grill.  With this in mind, Matt opted to do most of the “slow and low” cooking on rimmed baking sheets in the oven and simply finished the ribs on the grill for that final grilled flavor.  This made for an easy afternoon with very little hands-on work required up until the final grilling and cutting steps.

RIBS!

BBQ Baby-Back Ribs (serves 6; adapted from Williams Sonoma Grill Master)

Ingredients:
4 chipotles in adobo, seeded & chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
4 1/2 teaspoons cumin
4 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoons ground cloves
Coarse salt

3 slabs baby-back ribs (6lb.)
1 cup of your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce

Directions:
To make the rub, combine the chipotle chiles, garlic, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme, cloves and salt in a food processor. Pulse until a smooth paste forms. If the rub is too dry, add 1-2 tablespoons water and continue to pulse. The rub may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days.

On the morning before you serve the ribs, begin by removing the silverskin (membrane) off of the bone-side of the ribs.  (See here for tips.) Use a sharp knife to carefully trim any large sections of fat from the meat, then use your hands to slather the ribs with the rub.  Coat both sides of each slab evenly, then place the ribs bone-side down on a rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4-6 hours or as long as overnight.

Flipping the ribs during roasting

Approximately 3 hours before dinner, preheat the oven to 275°F and allow the ribs to sit out of the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Transfer one rack of ribs to a second rimmed baking sheet (also bone-side down), then pour approximately 1/2 cup of water around the outer edge of each baking sheet. Cover the pans tightly with foil and place them in the oven. Roast for one hour, then remove the foil and flip the ribs over.  Continue to roast uncovered for another 1 1/2 hours, flipping every 30 minutes. The ribs can be prepared to this point a day in advance, then covered and refrigerated.

Ribs on the BBQ

Prep a gas grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Brush the roasted ribs with half of the barbecue sauce. Grill the ribs, turning once, until heated through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1-rib portions. Arrange the ribs on a platter and drizzle with the remaining 1/2 cup sauce. Serve and enjoy!

BBQ Baby Back Ribs close

Grilled Paella with Chicken, Shrimp and Sausage

What’s better than serving a one-pot meal to dinner guests? Serving a grilled one-pot meal that’s made entirely outside while your guests relax and drink craft beer on the patio! That’s pretty much how Matt and I spent the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend when we hosted my mom’s birthday dinner. We made grilled Paella with chicken, shrimp and sausage and it was definitely a hit. My mom actually asked for seconds (or maybe that was thirds?) during dinner… that NEVER happens!! 🙂

Dinner Tonight- Paella on the Grill!

This paella looks really fancy, but in reality it’s not too complicated. The entire dish is assembled in a shallow paella pan (like these on Amazon) which is placed directly on a grill, giving you the combination of direct and indirect heat that you would otherwise need both a stovetop and oven to achieve. You do need a few special ingredients like saffron, smoked paprika and Spanish (dry) chorizo, but once you have those on hand the other elements of the dish are very easy to find and prep.

Here are a few pictures from the first time we made Paella a few weeks ago.  For Sunday’s family dinner, we increased the recipe by half and it easily served 6 hungry guests.

Sauting the Tomato Mixture

Sear the chicken thighs and chorizo, then cook the tomato and aromatics over direct heat.

Toasting the Rice

Stir the rice into the tomato mixture to toast it before adding saffron and broth.

Adding the chorizo back into the rice

Add back in the browned chorizo sausage…

Nestle the chicken into the rice

…and “nestle” the chicken thighs into the rice, being careful not to stir the rice mixture.

Adding the shrimp to the pan

To finish the dish, top with shrimp, peas, and peppers and cook until the shrimp are just opaque.

Chicken, Shrimp and Sausage Paella (serves 4; from Williams Sonoma Grill Master)

You will need…
1/4 teaspoon Saffron Threads
4 Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Thighs
Salt and Pepper
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
7-10 oz. Spanish Chorizo Sausage, sliced (we used Goya Chorizo)
3 Tomatoes, finely chopped
1 Yellow Onion, finely chopped
4-5 cloves Garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Fresh Thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 cup uncooked short-grain Paella Rice, such as Calasparra
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
7 oz. jarred Roasted Red Peppers, drained and cut into strips
1/2 cup Frozen Peas
1 lb. 21-25 ct Shrimp, peeled and deveined
Fresh Parsley, chopped, for garnish
4-6 Lemon Wedges, for garnish

Directions:
Place the saffron threads in a small bowl with 2 ounces of hot water and set aside. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of the chicken thighs. Preheat a 15-inch Paella pan on the grill over high heat, then add the oil and place the chicken thighs in the pan skin-side down. Sear the thighs, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a platter and add the sliced chorizo to the pan. Saute the chorizo until it starts to brown, about 2-3 minutes, then transfer the chorizo to the platter with the chicken.

Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, thyme and paprika to the pan and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add in the rice and stir for 2-3 minutes until slightly toasted. Add the saffron thread mixture and 2 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, close the grill, and cook for 10 minutes.

Open the grill and add the reserved chicken thighs and chorizo back in into the rice mixture. Important: do not stir the rice! Use tongs to nestle the chicken thighs into the rice. Add an additional 1 cup of chicken broth, then close the grill again and cook for another 20 minutes.

Open the grill and again, resist the urge to stir! Distribute the shrimp, peas and red peppers over the top of the rice mixture and pour in approximately 1/2 to 1 cup more chicken broth (go with more if the rice looks dry). Close the grill and cook for another 5-7 minutes or just until the shrimp are cooked through.

Remove the paella pan from the grill and garnish with parsley. Arrange the lemon wedges over the dish and serve directly from the pan. Enjoy!!

Grilled Paella

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans

This one pot pasta dish with sausage, kale and white beans is hearty, warming and satisfying… perfect for a cold winter night!  Of course, winter is drawing to an end (or it better be, at least!) so I figure I should hurry up and get this recipe up on the blog while we’re all still in the mood to see some comfort food.

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans 1

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of cooking an entire pasta dish in one pot but it wasn’t until a few months ago that Matt and I actually tried this technique for ourselves.  It turns out that there’s nothing particularly hard about making a one pot meal… you simply layer in each ingredient as you go.  First you brown the meat, then throw in the onions and beans, toss in a little garlic, add broth, water and uncooked pasta, then add in your kale in two batches… the first to cook down into the dish and the remainder to add a little bite and pop of color.  Easy!  Thanks to the cooked-down white beans, the resulting dish has a creamy, thick, almost stew-like consistency that is very different from a normal “two pot” recipe where the pasta is cooked separately in boiling water.

Matt and I have been making variations of this pasta almost every week this winter.  Sometimes we use spinach instead of kale or we throw in steamed broccoli along with the greens.  Feel free to change up the meat (hot sausage adds a nice kick) and the pasta… we’ve had delicious results with gemelli, fusilli lunghi, rigatoni and penne.

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans  (serves 4; recipe adapted from Cool Spring CSA)

You will need…
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. ground Sweet Italian Sausage, ground (remove casings if using normal sausage)
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 – 15 oz. cans Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
5-6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dried Oregano
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Water
1 lb. Pasta (we used Gemelli this time)
1 bunch Kale, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a large (6+ qt.) dutch oven brown the crumbled sausage with 1-2T olive oil over medium-high heat.  When the sausage is cooked through, add the onion and beans and saute, stirring occassionally, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, oregano and red pepper and stir for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.

Pour in the chicken broth, water, pasta and half of the chopped kale and stir well to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cover with a tightly fitted lid.  Allow the mixture to cook undisturbed for 6 minutes, then layer in the remaining kale on top of the pasta without stirring.  Recover and cook for another 4 minutes.  Remove the lid, stir, and taste test a piece of pasta.  (My favorite part!)

Allow the dish to continue to simmer uncovered for another few minutes until the pasta is cooked to your desired consistency.  Remove from heat, stir in the cheese, drizzle in a tablespoon or so of olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans 2

Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

I’ve posted more than a few pizza recipes on my blog, but I’m of the opinion that there can never be too much pizza (especially homemade pizza!!) so I am adding to my pizza repertoire with this delicious white pie that Matt and I made last week.  Look at this feast… ricotta, spinach and roasted red peppers covered in mozzarella cheese.  I wish I was eating this right now!!

Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

As you’ll see in the instructions below, I find it really challenging to transfer an uncooked pizza with full toppings from the peel to the stone, so my new tactic is to transfer the dough onto the stone in the oven while it’s still “naked” and then add all of the toppings while it’s in the oven.  Maybe not the most efficient use of electricity, but this method ensures that my pizzas end up (mostly) symmetrical without half of the cheese and toppings sliding onto the stone or, worse, the bottom of my oven during the raw dough transfer process.  Works for me!  🙂

Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers 2

Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

You will need…
1 Red Bell Pepper
2 cloves Garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 Yellow Onion, halved and sliced into very thin rounds
1/2 cup Frozen Chopped Spinach (or 2 cups fresh spinach steamed and chopped with excess water squeezed out)
approx. 2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese
approx. 3/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
Semolina Flour
1 package raw Pizza Dough
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
Start by roasting the red bell pepper.  There are several ways to roast a pepper, but for this particular pizza Matt sliced the pepper into thirds, removed the seeds and ribs, and placed the pepper pieces on a baking sheet in a preheated 400° oven until the skin was wrinkled and starting to blacken.  Then he peeled off the skin, sliced the peppers into 1/2″ strips, and set the roasted peppers aside until it was time to put them on the pizza.

Preheat the oven (with pizza stone inside) to 425°F.  Since I’m incapable of transferring a fully topped, raw pizza from the peel to the stone I put the naked dough on the stone and quickly add all of the toppings once it’s already in the oven.  To avoid wasting too much heat and energy during this process, I prep all of the toppings in advance and set them next to the oven.  With this in mind, arrange the roasted red peppers, minced garlic, chopped spinach and sliced onions on a plate and make sure that the mozzarella and ricotta are open and ready to go.

Next, prep the pizza dough.  Again, there are many ways to do this, but for this pizza I sprinkled a few tablespoons of semolina flour on a pizza peel and stretched the fresh ball of dough into a 15″ diameter circle.  Carefully transfer the dough onto the preheated pizza stone and use your fingers to quickly spread the minced garlic over the top of the dough, leaving a 1-2″ margin on the edges for the crust.  Close the oven.

Working in quick intervals, open the oven, slide the pizza stone rack out slightly, and start adding your toppings and cheese.  Start with the onions along with a thin layer of mozzarella and close the oven.  After few minutes, add the spinach and 8-9 generous spoonfuls of ricotta.  After another 1-2 minutes spread on the roasted red peppers and top with the remaining mozzarella.  Once all of the toppings have been added allow the pizza to cook for another few minutes until the crust is fully cooked and the cheese is just starting to turn golden brown.

Use a pizza peel to remove the cooked pizza from the oven (working with a cooked pizza is so much easier than raw dough!!) and season with salt and pepper.  Cut the pizza into 6-8 slices and enjoy!

Ricotta Pizza with Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers 3

What’s Cookin’?

I haven’t posted a new recipe on the blog for a while but, rest assured, Matt and I are eating well!  We’ve been re-making a lot of our favorite recipes and, quite frankly, I’m finding less motivation to try new recipes since we know we can throw together a garlicky pasta dish, flavorful stir fry, or quick rotisserie chicken burrito in less than a hour with delicious results.  Here are some of the dishes that we’ve been enjoying this Spring…  (mouse over for a link to each recipe)

This Spring has been pretty hectic with traveling, racing, and LOTS of yard work, but I have a feeling that things will slow down soon and we’ll find ourselves paging through our trusty cook books in search of new recipes to try.  We’d like to try smoking something (ribs? brisket?) this Summer and maybe try a grilled Romaine recipe.  I also definitely want to make Paella and I’d like to start making more desserts (cobblers and crumbles, anyone?).  I better start looking at those cookbooks!!

Do you have any go-to Summer recipes that you love making at this time of year?  Tell me about them (and feel free to link to them) in the comments!

Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Kale, Leeks and Ham)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Matt and I don’t have a specific Irish meal planned for this year but I’ve been saving a yummy Irish side dish from last year’s feast to share on the blog today.

Irish Colcannon

That’s Colcannon, or, as I like to think of it, Irish mashed potatoes with kale, leeks and ham.  Oh, and butter… lots of butter!  Last year this heaping plate of colcannon made the perfect side dish to the Beef and Guinness Pie that Matt and I ambitiously tried to make after work on a Monday (it took much longer to braise the beef than I anticipated!).  Luckily the colcannon came together very quickly so we were able to sneak bites of it while the pie baked.  Here’s a photo of my dinner plate from last year when we finally sat down to eat at 9PM:

Calcannon with Beef & Guinness Pie

YUM.  If you need a side dish for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner I would absolutely recommend colcannon.  And don’t be intimidated by the kale…  once it is steamed, chopped, and stirred into this creamy mixture of leeks, ham and potatoes you won’t even realize you’re eating super healthy leafy greens!

Irish Colcannon (Recipe from Nigel Slater at TheGuardian.com)

You will need…
2 lbs. Baking Potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 1/3 cup warm Milk (use whole milk for a creamer consistency)
4-5 tablespoons Butter
3/4 to 1 lb. Leeks, washed and chopped
4-5 handfuls of Kale leaves, washed, steamed, drained and chopped
3/4 to 1 lb. Cooked Thick-Cut Ham, chopped (we used a ham steak)
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
Place the potatoes in a large pot of water and bring to a boil.  Cover and boil for 20 minutes or until easily pierced by a fork.  Drain potatoes and return to pot.  Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until creamy, then add in the warm milk and butter and continue to mash until thoroughly mixed.  Fold in the chopped leeks, kale and ham and gently stir until combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve as part of a St. Patrick’s Day feast!

Colcannon

Are you making an Irish-themed dish for St. Patrick’s Day?  Maybe Bangers and Mash or Shepherd’s Pie?  Tell me about it in the comments! 🙂

Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage and White Beans

How do you prepare for a snow day?  Do you rush to the supermarket for bread, milk and eggs?  Or maybe turn up the heat so the house feels warm and toasty when you come in from shoveling?  In our house we try to take advantage of being snowed in by planning a big, slow-cooked meal that we normally wouldn’t have time to put together on a regular weeknight.

Flashback to Thursday, February 13th… A huge storm was dumping more than a foot of snow on our already snow-covered region, the local kids were all enjoying yet another snow day, and our office was closed.  Knowing that we’d have lots of time to cook, Matt and I decided to try a new stew recipe… something that required a little prep up front and that would be guaranteed to fill the house with the delicious aroma of slow-cooking meat and herbs as it simmered in the crockpot all afternoon.  I found the perfect candidate on MyRecipes.com… smoked sausage cassoulet!

616 Cassoulet

Cassoulet is a classic french dish that features slow-cooked white beans and meat.  White traditional versions of cassoulet call for duck confit, our snow day version of cassoulet kept things simple.  All of the ingredients were readily available at our local grocery store (on the eve of a snow storm, no less!) and, after being sauteed and slow-cooked all afternoon, they came together to make a delightfully hearty stew with smoky kielbasa, richly flavored white beans, and pork that was so tender you could cut it with a spoon.  Top that off with some freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley and we had the ultimate culinary reward for all of the shoveling we did on Thursday… and it was a LOT of shoveling: about 14 inches of heavy, wet snow!

February 13 Snow Collage

Cassoulet with Smoked Sausage, Pork and White Beans (adapted from MyRecipes.com; serves 5)

You will need…
2-3 slices Bacon, uncooked, cut into approx. 1″ x 1/2″ pieces
12 oz. Smoked Sausage,* halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ slices
2 cups Chopped Onion
1/2 teaspoon Dried Rosemary
1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 – 14.5 oz. cans Diced Tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 – 15 oz. cans Great Northern Beans, drained and divided
1 lb. Pork Tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
Grated Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
Fresh Parsley, for garnish

*Choose a good quality smoked sausage as this will have a major impact on the overall flavor of the dish.  The first time we made this recipe we used Johnsonville Smoked Pork Kielbasa with great results.  The second time we also added in some spicy Andouille sausage (leftover from Jambalaya) and that added even more flavor.

621 Cassoulet

Directions:
Preheat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the chopped bacon bits, stirring occasionally, until crispy.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a bowl and set aside.  Add the smoked sausage to the bacon fat and saute until just starting to brown.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to another bowl and set aside.  Add the onion, rosemary, thyme and garlic to the pan and saute until soft, approximately 4-5 minutes.  Add the bacon, tomatoes, salt and pepper to the pan, stir well, then bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place 1 can’s worth of drained Great Northern Beans in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher until chunky.  (I found that doing this in a 3 qt pot worked well since the bottom of the pot is flat.)  Add in the remaining can of beans along with the browned sausage and pork and stir well.

Assemble your cassoulet in layers in a crockpot.  First, spread half of the bean mixture on the bottom of the crockpot.  Then, in layers, add half the tomato mixture, the remaining bean mixtue, and the remaining tomato mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW for 5 1/2 hours.  Stir the cassoulet before serving and top each individual bowl with grated Parmesan and parsley.  Enjoy!

597 Cassoulet

Do you have any go-to recipes that you love to make on snow days?
Tell me about them in the comments section!  🙂