Easy Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts

This is by far one of my favorite ways to have brussel sprouts and thankfully it’s also the easiest preparation as well.  Every once in a great while I get a hankering for brussel sprouts and let’s be honest, it’s hard to make them really tasty, right? I’ve previously done some recipes where you go through the tedium of removing all the leaves of the sprout and saute that with some apple cider vinegar and some panchetta. It’s tasty but not terribly healthy and it takes close to nine years to trim the sprouts. This preparation is super fast and my husband and I can consume a whole tray of these ourselves. Haven’t subjected the baby to them yet but we did discover he’s a huge fan of Philly cheesesteaks over the holiday so I’m pretty excited. He eats most every other veggie so once he gets some teeth these will be on the plate.

I prepare this using fresh sprouts. I suspect you could do it with frozen but would likely take longer to make.

1 dozen medium sized fresh brussel sprouts

1 Tbs olive oil

Generous pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Sprinkle of cider vinegar (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take sprouts, cut bottom off and remove any leaves that fall right off when you trim the bottom and cut the sprout in half lengthwise. Rinse the sprouts and then place them on a cookie sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, making sure the sprouts are well coated with the oil. Place the spouts all cut side down on the cookie sheet and if you want a little extra tang, sprinkle them with some cider vinegar. Place in the preheated oven and check after about 15 minutes to see if they are starting to brown.

You may see the outer leaves really get brown, and if that’s the case, turn your oven down to 375 and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the sprouts are all fork tender. The outer leaves, especially any loose ones, may end up crispy and they are my favorite part!

I served this with some chicken cutlets prepared like the turkey cutlets in this recipe.

Stuffed Zucchini with Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce

We are doing a farm share again this summer, only this time it’s a full share and we’re actually doing a semi-decent job of getting through it each week before it goes bad. Only a few casualties. It helps that we didn’t get weeks worth of greens and lettuce this year, it has been much more diverse of a vegetable selection. The past few weeks we’ve had a fair number of zucchini, and so I’ve been trying out some recipes before I take the remainder of the zucchini and puree it for my son. One recipe I’ve worked on has been zucchini cakes – kind of like a fritter – but haven’t quite gotten the right combo yet. This recipe I tried tonight was a winner though, so I am sharing it here. We stuffed the zucchini with a lamb mixture, and the sauce is a pint of cherry tomatoes (mostly yellow, with a few of the purple ones we are growing thrown in) cooked down and de-skinned:

For the Zucchini:

2-3 fat zucchini (or any sort of summer squash will work)

1 lb ground lamb (you can use pork or veal or even beef)

2 small eggs

1/3 cup breadcrumb

1/3 cup grated parmesan

1 onion, sliced thin

1 large garlic clove, sliced thin

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt & pepper

olive oil

For the Sauce:

1 pint cherry tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

5-6 leaves of basil

salt

For the zucchini, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a saucepan over medium heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the sliced onion and garlic. Saute until the onion is soft and lightly browned, stirring often. In a bowl combine the lamb, breadcrumb, cheese, thyme (just the leaves), chopped parsley, eggs, and the cooked garlic & onion mix. Add a generous pinch of salt a pinch of pepper to the mixture and make sure it is all well combined. Set aside.

Take the washed zucchini and cut in half lengthwise – try to make the halves as even as possible. Take a spoon and remove the insides of the zucchini. I just removed the softer seedy portion and left most of the flesh inside so it would make a nice secure boat for the meat. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on the inside of the hollowed out zucchini and place it onto an oiled cookie sheet. Fill each half with a generous portion of the lamb mixture.

Place the zucchini into the oven and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until the meat is well browned. If you check and the meat is not cooked through, you can cover the tray with a piece of tin foil and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes to be safe.

For the Sauce:

Take a small saucepan over medium heat and add olive oil and garlic. Brown garlic lightly, and then add the cherry tomatoes and the basil and cook down until the tomatoes are soft and the skins are easily removed. If you start it when you place the zucchini in the oven, the sauce will be done by the time the zucchini is. I remove the skins from the sauce once they are loose because I find them hard to digest (mmm..TMI!) but you can do whatever makes you happy.

To serve just spoon the sauce over the stuffed zucchini and enjoy!

A Word on Meatballs and the Resulting Chicken Meatloaf

I have been absent a long long while. And boy have I missed the blogging. I had a baby (boy) in early March and that has eclipsed my free time and basically every other time in between and so I am just now starting to come up for air. Figures that I need to go back to work in 2 weeks. Not a whole lot of quality cooking going on since the bubs arrived but I did stumble upon an accidental improvement to my meatball recipe which I am pleased about. This applies to any sort of meatball too – in fact I was attempting to make chicken meatballs and this is what happened… sorry no photo this time, but I do hope to get back to a semi-regular posting schedule soon. And by soon I mean some time before my son turns 1.

This recipe is essentially a meatball recipe which ended up turning into a chicken meatloaf instead. I was going to make some snacks to go along with the yummy mint juleps we were sipping for the Kentucky Derby  and I thought chicken meatballs would be an interesting alternative, but the chicken sort of broke down and I added an extra egg and viola! SUPER-moist and tasty chicken meatloaf:

1 lb ground chicken (dark meat is better)

1 small onion chopped small

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2 eggs

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

2-3 sliced of bread soaked in water

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take onion and garlic, lightly salted and saute in the olive oil until soft and lightly browned. I find that cooked garlic and onions adds another dimension of richer flavor versus just adding them raw to the mix. Let the onions and garlic cool slightly. Take the bread and squeeze out the extra water and add it to the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. I like the bread a little chunky and will use whatever we have laying around (rolls, white bread, wheat, egg, etc). You could use breadcrumb instead but I couldn’t tell you what amount to use.

Add the cooled garlic and onions and mix thoroughly. If you can do this in advance and allow the mix to “marinate” in the fridge for an hour or two that is good but it will be fine if made immediately as well.

Pour mix into a loaf pan (I used a glass one but I presume metal would work fine) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and the meat thermometer reads 180 degrees.

The extra egg and the bread soaked in water (you could also use milk) are what make this meatloaf extra moist, and the cooked onion and garlic add that extra kick to the flavor.

I eat mine with a little lemon spritzed on it, but it would be great with some tomato sauce or salsa, or a brown gravy if that’s what you prefer.

Toasted Butternut Squash Seeds

DSC_1116

So I’m about 5 months preggers now and my desire to consume food still remains bafflingly (is that a word?) mechanical versus being something I get excited about doing. The desire to make elaborate meals (or even easier ones) and then blog about it is just not there. But every once in a while I do still get a whim for something different and this was one such weekend. We had been getting CSA veggies all summer which has been phenomenal and last week was the last delivery. The last few weeks have included some delicious butternut squash which I have been busily roasting and consuming. One of the things I like to do when I have a good sized squash is to take the seeds out and roast them as you would with pumpkin seeds. The squash seeds are smaller than traditional pumpkin seeds but can be boosted by spices to flavor them up nonetheless. Here is a quick recipe which would also be good with pumpkin seeds. The measurements are not in technical terms because it depends upon the amount of seeds you harvest. I had about 1/2 cup of seeds which I placed in a salt water solution (1Tbsp salt to 1 cup water) while I cleaned and chopped the rest of the squash:

Generous pinch of garlic powder

Generous pinch of dill

pinch of sea salt

Light drizzle of olive oil

Take the seeds out of the salt water – mine sat in there maybe 15 minutes – you can leave them in for a while but I wanted to consume them ASAP so I drained them as well as a could and laid them out on a sheet of tin foil atop a baking pan. The oven was set at 375 so I could roast the actual squash while the seeds also cooked. I spread the seeds out in as flat a layer as I could and then added the olive oil. Just enough oil to lightly coat each seed so that the seasoning sticks to it. Then I sprinkled the garlic salt, dill and a touch of sea salt and laid the whole thing in the oven to cook. You should check the seeds every 5-6 minutes and give them a little stir so that they get brown all over. It took about 15 minutes or so for the seeds to get light brown all over and to be nice a dry and crispy.

There are many spice options that would work nice for this – maybe some chili powder or curry powder. It’s good to experiment and see what you can make with this tasty little snack.

Random Bag Night – Lamb Meatballs with Sauteed Greens and Spiced Yogurt

DSC_0663

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Random Bag Night mostly because we haven’t been home a lot so there is very little in the way of leftovers and the farm share veggies have kept us occupied on the culinary front. The following recipe is very easy, provided you can find ground lamb in your local market, and is a different spin on something I’ve made a few times for this blog – meatballs. These meatballs differ slightly (aside from the variety of meat) in their contents from traditional meatballs and the turkey variety as I added cooked shallot and garlic which I don’t normally do. The lamb meat needs a little extra flavor to tame the gaminess of it and round it out. To accompany my lamb balls, I sauteed some radish greens in olive oil and garlic and I made a spiced yogurt dipping sauce (recipe below).

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground lamb

2-3 slices white bread soaked in a little milk (I used 2 hot dog rolls)

1/3 cup grated parmesian

1 handful fresh chopped parsley

1 shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

Generous pinch of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place the minced garlic and shallot in a small saute pan with the olive oil and saute on medium heat until the shallots are soft. Add the garlic & shallots to the ground lamb. Add remaining ingredients above and mix well with your hands, making sure that all the flavors are incorporated. I like to leave the bread a little chunky so it gives added texture to the meatball.

Spray a cookie sheet with Pam or olive oil spray, take a small palmful of the lamb mixture and roll into a ball. Place each meatball on the tray. It’s important to make sure the meatballs are all roughly the same size so that they cook evenly in the oven. Once oven is hot, place the meatballs in and allow them to bake for about 30 minutes. The meatballs should be good and golden brown like the photo above.

For the yogurt sauce:

1/3 cup greek yogurt

zest of 1 lemon

6-7 fresh mint leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

pinch of salt

Combine the above ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Allow the sauce to sit for a while in the refrigerator (at least 30 minutes while the meatballs cook) so that the flavor develops.

Weekly CSA #2 – More Greens (again)

DSC_0654

The above picture mostly sums up what happened to our portion of the CSA share for week # 2. This week’s share included: kale, sugar snap peas, bok choi, swiss chard, garlic scapes, and one other green which I am forgetting about at the moment. We have already slacked in our usage since we ate out a few times last week so the following is what happened to our CSA items so far:

1. Kale – Used half of it with some fingerling potatoes in my take on mashed potatoes with kale. The pairing, which I’ve read about elsewhere, is actually pretty tasty. Throw in some butter with that and heck yeah, it’s good. I boiled both together in some water for about 8 or 9 minutes and then tossed them back into a pan with olive oil & butter & some salt & a dash of chicken broth, covered it and let them cook another 15 minutes. Took the lid off and let the taters get a little brown. Definitely a good side dish

2. Bok Choi, Chard, & garlic scapes – all three went into the dish above. It is a brown rice bowl topped with all the greens and scapes and a delicious fried egg. I sauteed some shallots and garlic in some olive + sesame oils and then added the harder stems of the chard and choi + garlic scapes (chopped) + some radishes sliced thin. After a few minutes of saute, I added all the leaves and about 1/3 cup tamari soy sauce, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 1-2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, and juice of 1/2 lime and let the whole thing cook down, covered, until everything was nicely braised. Cooked the egg in some olive oil and added it on top of the bowl. Great Monday night dinner.

The radishes, for those who have never cooked them, were AWESOME in this dish. All the peppery flavor goes out and they just get mellow and succulent:

DSC_0653

Sadly I haven’t used the sugar snap peas yet… hoping to get there this week.

Steamed Mussels & Clams in White Wine

DSC_0623

First let me apologize for not getting a shot of the finished product. I was somewhere between punchy and delirious around dinner time last night due to several nights in a row of bad sleep. That being said, I did still manage to crank out a decent steamed mussel + clam dish which is something that used to really intimidate me. I should admit here that I am somewhat afraid of all sea creatures – particularly the live ones – because somewhere deep inside my brain I am convinced that things which aren’t furry can’t be reasoned with. Don’t ask. I don’t know. It’s the sort of thing I categorize with my other irrational fear: clowns.

I still get kind of squeamish about handling the passive creatures, and paranoid about getting a bad one which will give us a wicked case of food poisioning. Whether or not that is rational is debatable, but it’s me so I don’t make this EASY and FAST dish nearly as much as I should. I served the steamed shellfish with a side of greens sauteed in olive oil, shallots and a splash of good red wine vinegar + salt to taste. The greens included some baby chard from our garden:

DSC_0622 You can pick the chard when it’s small like this and it’s very tender. Moreover if you start to pick off the larger leaves, the plants continue to grow and produce more of them, so you can harvest a couple times before having to replant. I also snipped a few of the beet leaves as well to add to the flavor. Aside from the chard and beat greens, the dish included some kale and some arugula.

The mussels and clams were from Maine, purchased at Whole Foods and already mostly clean which was nice. I placed them both in some cold water for about 20 minutes to get off any excess sand which might be lurking. In the meantime, I assembled the ingredients for the broth:

1 leek, chopped

5-6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 pinch red pepper flakes

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped

4-5 chives, chopped

small handful fresh parsley, chopped

Generous pinch of salt

Start the olive oil, garlic, leeks, salt and pepper flakes in a large deep pot on medium high heat. Saute until the leeks start to soften and the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the wine and the herbs and bring the whole thing to a rapid boil. Add the shellfish and cover immediately. After 2-3 minutes, check the shellfish and give them a stir (or shake the pot to move them around. Replace the cover and continue for another 2-3 minutes. By this time most if not all of the mussels and clams will be open. You should start to remove the ones that have opened and replace the cover to cook the remaining mussels and clams until they open (shouldn’t be more than another minute or 2). Discard any unopened mussels and clams after they have been cooked for more than 7 or 8 minutes as they are likely bad.

We used tongs to remove the mussels and clams into a large bowl so that we could allow the broth to settle and any sand that was in the pot to float to the bottom. We carefully ladled off some broth for dipping the mussels & clams into a bowl and served it on the side. It is fine to do a communal bowl if you are sharing with your hubby, but if it is for other folks who might be less accommodating, ladle the broth into individual bowls along with a portion of the shellfish.

Great to serve also with some crusty bread for soaking up that yummy broth!

DSC_0620