Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I feel like people either love or hate brussel sprouts. And the ones who are indifferent generally prefer not to eat them. But maybe this year, things will change. It’s Fall again and brussel sprouts are in season. So give it a try, especially this recipe. I love roasting; it makes the kitchen smell wonderfully delicious. This recipe is no different. Use this as a side with our classic roast chicken and it’ll be a great Sunday dinner meal.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Slice brussel sprouts in half.
  3. Toss with grapes, olive oil, and black pepper and salt to taste.
  4. Spread on a baking sheet or glass dish.
  5. Roast for 25 minutes, until the sprouts are tender.
  6. Mix in toasted walnuts and toss all with balsamic vinegar.

Cook’s Notes

After spreading the brussel sprouts onto the baking tray, I arrange them cut side down. This will give a nice caramelization and char to them.

Cheddar Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

It’s been a while! The holidays are near and things are getting busy; well, you know how it is. But I was able to take time to make these delicious biscuits for a potluck last weekend. Biscuits…from scratch? Absolutely.

While it does save time popping open that can of pre-made (and cut) biscuits, especially since you need enough for 20+ people (and including seconds), it will never taste as good as biscuits from scratch. But actually, they’re quite easy to make and really takes all of about 10-15 minutes to prep. A good buttery and flaky biscuit is more about technique. So I’ll give you my tips early on in this post.

As with all buttery and flaky baked things, such as biscuits and pie crusts, you want the butter to be cold, very cold. You want to see white dots of butter in the dough as you’re rolling out the crust or cutting the biscuits. This will give you that nice buttery and flaky texture. Basically, you want the dough to be as cold as possible when you’re working with it so that the butter doesn’t soften. In recipes that call for cold butter cut into pieces, I’ll cut the butter on a plate and then stick it in the freezer to harden until ready for use. If you’re making it by hand using knives or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour, stick those in the freezer too. If your bowl will fit, also put that in to cool it before use. And when you’re working with the dough, work quickly because your hands will start to melt the butter as you handle it.

When it comes to rolling out the dough, I prefer to pat it with my hands to roll/stretch it out. You want to disturb the gluten as little as possible so that the biscuit remains soft. Rolling it out with a pin is too disruptive.

If you can, stretch out the dough super thin and fold it over itself 2-3 times. These folds help create the layers in biscuits.

When cutting the biscuits out, if you don’t have a cookie cutter, use something with a slightly sharper edge. A dull cutter can compress the biscuit’s edge, causing it to not rise properly. I used the rim of a wine glass.

When placing them on a baking sheet, make sure that the biscuits are slightly touching each other. This will help them rise upwards, not outwards to the side.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F and grease or line with parchment paper or foil, a baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  3. Using a food processor, or pastry knife if making by hand, cut the butter into the flour mixture.
  4. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk.
  5. Add in the chives and cheddar.
  6. Stir until just incorporated and dough is loose.
  7. Knead dough for about 1 minute, as it then should become smooth.
  8. Pat the dough out until it becomes at most 1/4″ thick.
  9. Fold the dough in half.
  10. Cut out biscuits and place, slightly touching one another, onto the baking sheet.
  11. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until slightly browned

Domatesli Bamya (Okra Stew)

When we travel abroad, we like to stay in guesthouses for part of the trip to get a “feel” of the local place. I picked a guesthouse that was ranked highly on TripAdvisor, but more importantly was close to bus station. We thought of Selçuk as our base camp for visiting Ephesus, which was only 1.5 miles away. But surprisingly, we had one of our best meals of the trip at our guesthouse.

Upon arrival at the guesthouse, one of the owners gave us the predictable check-in orientation. She mentioned that they cook dinner every night for their guests and to let her know if we were interested, to make sure they’ll cook enough. Eh, at first we brushed it off – said we weren’t sure if we’d make it back in time from sightseeing. I had a couple local eateries listed as places to try anyway. So she said, “sure, no problem.” Then, she said in passing that, “mama’s cooking tonight.”

My food goals for Turkey were to try some street food, some classics, some contemporary cuisine, and some home cooking. I thought authentic, home cooking would be the hardest to find. So when I heard that “mama” was cooking, game over. Done. And we were lucky. Dinner was what you’d expect when you hear a phrase like that. There was nothing fancy, nothing meticulously plated. It was just honest, genuine food.

My favorite dish was this okra in a tomato based stew, hint of tangy but very aromatic. After we left Selçuk and traveled to some other towns along the Mediterranean coast, we saw slightly different iterations of this dish. Turns out, this is called Domatesli Bamya, a Southern Turkish regional dish popular in the summertime. This stew was so delicious, we recreated it the first weekend back in the States.

Ingredients

  • 1½ lbs okra (leave whole)
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 1 small green pepper (sliced)
  • ¼ yellow onion (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 3 tbsp tomato sauce
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • ½ cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups water

Directions 

  1.  Wash and drain the okra.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven.
  3. Sauté the onion and garlic for about 2-3 minutes, until the onion becomes transparent.
  4. Add the bell pepper and chopped tomatoes.
  5. Add in the paprika, all spice, cinnamon, pepper and salt. Cook together for a few more minutes.
  6. In a separate cup or bowl, mix together the tomato sauce and water and pour into pot.
  7. Add in the lemon juice and cook together for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Add the okra and stir to combine.
  9. Cook uncovered on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
  10. Reduce the heat to low and let gently simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  11. Serve with bread or rice.

Cook’s Notes

Okra is mucilaginous; this is goo, for lack of a better term, that surrounds the seeds in the pod. Cooking okra for a long time dissolves the goo. But if you’re cooking the pod whole, and break it in the process, then the whole dish will become…slimy. So if you really need to stir the stew, stir gently. And if you break a pod, remove it from the pot. I actually went the whole simmering process without stirring and the stew came out great!

Banana Pudding

Oh, why hello there. I’ve been on hiatus since January and it’s definitely nice to be back. But don’t worry, you haven’t missed much. I’ve actually been training for a half-marathon since we went on break. So my weekends were spent running in Central Park rather than at the Greenmarket or in the kitchen. Besides, I was just eating bagels – lots of them – and they weren’t even homemade…so nothing too blog worthy there. I’m happy to say that the training is pretty much over since the race is next Sunday. And just in time too – Spring is here; although, it has felt like Spring for almost all of 2013 so far. And what better way is there to say hello to Spring than seeing all the seasonal produce pop up at the Greenmarket. Ramps have been spotted on some menus in the city and we ran down to Union Square this afternoon to pick up 2 bunches for ourselves. You can be sure that there will be a ramps post coming up soon.

But getting on point to this welcome back post – Spring means picnics and potlucks. Banana pudding is a great shareable dessert that is hands-off and incredibly easy to make. Even its colors resemble Spring. This recipe is a crowd-pleaser…and it’ll definitely feed a crowd (or two). Everyone will need to pitch in to eat it because if you let leftovers sit in the fridge for an extra day or two, the wafers will get too soggy and bananas too dark and mushy. I’m a vanilla fan, but for chocolate lovers, you can use chocolate Jell-O pudding mix instead. Also, if you want to make these into individual servings for a nicer event (and if you have enough mason jars to cover a 4-5 quart capacity), then assemble the banana pudding in mason jars rather than in a wide/trifle bowl. Mason jars for sure add a nice, rustic touch to the dessert. To be certain, this banana pudding tastes great, jar or not.

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, beat together until just combined (about 1 minute) the condensed milk and water using an electric mixer on medium speed.
  2. Add in the pudding mix and beat well for about another 2 minutes.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours or overnight before continuing.
  4. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until still peaks form using an electric mixer on medium speed.
  5. Gently fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.
  6. To assemble, in a large (preferably glass) bowl (4-5 quart capacity), arrange 1/3 of the wafers to cover the bottom, overlapping if necessary.
  7. Then top the wafers with 1/3 of the sliced bananas, then follow with 1/3 of the pudding mixture.
  8. Repeat this layering two more times.
  9. Using the handful of wafers set aside, break them into large crumbs and sprinkle over the pudding to form the top layer.
  10. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap.
  11. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or up to 8 hours, before serving.

Cook’s Notes

If you’re using medium sized bananas (about 6″), then you can count one banana as one cup.

I wanted to go lighter on the whipped cream and only used 2 cups, which is fine for the pudding too.

Be sure to let the pudding mixture set well for 3-4 hours or overnight (which I do), so it forms a smooth consistency.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

Welcome to the new Forty*Chestnuts! We’re kicking off this Fall with a new design to help you find more great recipes! We’d love to share with you a very simple and healthy recipe to add to your culinary repertoire.

There’s an excitement and anticipation that comes with eating seasonally. For the past few weeks, I’ve been waiting for the first winter squashes to appear at the market so I can take full advantage of them over the coming months. Spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and our favorite butternut squash. Butternut squash in particular, with it nuttiness and richness of flavor, is a versatile vegetable that pairs well with savory and sweet flavor profiles. We’ve used it in the past in a dish braised with chicken. We’ve also just eaten it by itself baked with a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. Today, we’ve made it into a soup that’s perfect for the start of Fall.

This is one of the easiest soups we’ve made. So if you need an easy soup that’s sure to be loved, then try out this recipe. We added some pear to this soup to add a bit of sweetness to cut the nuttiness of the squash. Apples would be a good substitute for the pears, if you wish.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 pears, peeled and quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • salt and black pepper
  • olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Toss the squash and pears with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. Spread on roasting pan.
  3. Roast the squash and pears in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, until they are soft.
  4. In a pan, heat some olive oil.
  5. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is transparent, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Working in batches and filling the blender no more than halfway full, place in the blender some of the roasted squash mixture, onion, and chicken stock. Pour into a large soup pot.
  7. Puree the rest of the ingredients in batches until smooth.
  8. Heat through and serve.

Cook’s Notes

If you have an immersion blender, place the roasted squash and pears and cooked onion and garlic into a large soup pot and puree while adding the chicken stock in batches.

Based on how thick or thin you want the soup to be, adjust the amount of chicken stock accordingly.

It doesn’t matter what type of pears you used. We used 2 Bartlett pears. We’ve also made this recipe using apples instead of pears. We used Gala apples and the soup actually turned a bit sweeter with the apples!