Butternut Squash, Kale, and Wild Rice Gratin

Oh kale. You poor thing. First, you were a modest dietary staple. Then people kind of forgot about you because food scientists started inventing magical food like cheese puffs. But wait! You rose from obscurity to become obscenely trendy. Of course, your hipsterific popularity made it inevitable that you would eventually become a punchline.

(Exhibit A: What vegetable do only rich people eat? Upskale.)

Now that we got that history lesson out of the way, here’s yet another kale recipe. I know. Bear with me. The problem is that I get kale delivered practically every week nowadays, so I have to come up with interesting ways to eat it. Being a native midwesterner, I turned my latest bunch of kale into a hotdish, minus the tater tots and tuna-noodles.

First I cooked the kale with onions, garlic, and butternut squash until the veggies were soft. Then I tossed in some cooked wild rice and stirred in a creamy homemade cheese sauce, using gruyere and comté because I’m fancy like that. I also had parsley from my CSA box so I added that to the breadcrumb topping. As it emerged from the oven, the final dish was a cheesy, nutty, indulgent yet vegetable-packed meal that let me conquer one more week’s worth of kale. Victory was mine! Until next time.

Butternut squash, kale, and wild rice gratin

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Butternut Squash, Kale, and Wild Rice Gratin

  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. bunch of curly kale, stemmed and roughly chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup freshly shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded comté cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2-3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 400° F. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish and set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, squash, garlic, and kale, and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the wild rice.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a 2-quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add flour and stir for about 1-2 minutes, until it’s a light golden color and forms a thick paste. Slowly whisk in milk and keep stirring until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and whisk in gruyere and comté until melted. Stir in 3/4 tsp. kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce over the vegetable/rice mixture and stir until evenly coated. Taste the mixture and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Transfer mixture to the prepared casserole dish.

In a small bowl, stir together 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil, panko, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Evenly sprinkle mixture over the casserole. (You might not need all the topping.)

Bake at 400° F for 20-25 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Source: A Lingonberry Jam original, inspired by The Well-Cooked Life and Smitten Kitchen.

Miso-Sesame Salad Dressing

I suppose it only makes sense to follow a cookie recipe with a salad recipe. Or rather a salad dressing recipe. You guys have already seen a couple of recipes on this blog from America’s Test Kitchen’s “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.” It has quickly become one of my absolute favorite cookbooks as well as my chief partner in meal planning.

Each week, we get a box of local produce delivered by our CSA. (All winter long! Pinch me!) After sorting through the offerings, I usually flip to the index of this cookbook and decide what meals I want to make for the week. I almost always receive some sort of heirloom lettuce, which gets to be tiresome week after week. So I’ve been working my way through various salad dressing recipes. This miso-sesame dressing has emerged as a favorite so far. It’s savory and salty and garlicky and gingery, and I had to hold myself back from eating it by the spoonful because that’s embarrassing, right?

Given the flavor profile, this dressing goes well with Asian-inspired salad ingredients. I tossed it with a mixture of butter lettuce and tatsoi, carrots, edamame, green onions, and some homemade sesame-crusted croutons. And then I ate it pretty much every day for a week. So good.

Miso-sesame salad dressing

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Miso-Sesame Dressing

  • 6 Tbs. water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 7 tsp. red miso paste*
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbs. neutral-tasting oil (I used sunflower seed oil)
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil

Place water, vinegar, miso, soy sauce, honey, ginger, and garlic in a blender and blend until the mixture is well combined, about 15 seconds. Add oils and blend until the oils are incorporated and the dressing is smooth, about 15 seconds.

Makes about 1 cup.

Dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Source: Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.”

* I couldn’t find miso paste at my regular grocery store, so I ordered it online. There are several different types of miso paste so make sure you get the red one; it has a much deeper flavor. Don’t worry if it comes in a large container; the stuff lasts forever in the fridge. Plus, you can always make miso brown rice cakes!

Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

I waited a little while before posting this recipe because I couldn’t really think of a good story to go with it. I know, I’m sorry. I should’ve just posted this weeks ago. Because the whole time I hemmed and hawed, you were missing out. Here it is: peanut butter stuffed chocolate cookies.

Yep, you read that right. You whip up a batch of soft, chocolatey dough, flatten it out into rounds, and then wrap each piece of dough around a gooey ball of peanut butter. Dip it into sugar for some sparkle and crunch, and gently press it down on a cookie sheet. And when it comes out of the oven– wait, wait, it has to set for just a minute or two– you get to bite into a tender chocolate cookie that oozes with warm peanut butter.

Like I said, I’m sorry. Turns out there was no story needed.

Peanut butter stuffed chocolate cookies

Peanut butter stuffed chocolate cookies

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Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Filling

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Cookies

  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for rolling
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375° and line two cookies sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

To make the filling: Cream peanut butter and powdered sugar together until well combined. Place the filling in the refrigerator to chill until needed.

To make the cookies: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together sugar, brown sugar, butter, and peanut butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until completely incorporated. Add baking soda and mix for a few seconds until combined. Stir in the flour and cocoa and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. (If it’s really crumbly, you can add a teaspoon or two of milk to help it clump together.)

Turn the dough out onto a large cutting board and roll it into a large log of even thickness. Slice the dough into 20 equal pieces. Remove the peanut butter filling from the refrigerator and divide it into 20 pieces, each one slightly larger than a teaspoon. Roll each portion of the peanut butter filling into a ball.

To shape the cookies, take one piece of chocolate dough and flatten it between your palms into a circle about 3-4 inches wide. Place a piece of the peanut butter filling in the center of the circle, and wrap the sides of the dough up around the filling, pinching them together to form a ball. Dip the top side of the cookie in granulated sugar and place the cookie, sugared side up, on a cookie sheet. Press down with your hand to flatten it out slightly. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are slightly cracked and the cookies are set. Let cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes 20 cookies.

Source: Slightly adapted from The Baker Upstairs via I Heart Nap Time.

The Ultimate Veggie Burger

I was eighteen and a college freshman the first time I ever tried a veggie burger. My college cafeteria served them every day in the “grill” line, right next to the hotdogs and hamburgers. Some of my more worldly friends ate them quite frequently, even though they weren’t vegetarians. So I decided to try one. It was… meh. Pretty dry and limp, and strangely crunchy and uniform in shape. The cafeteria made a lot of things from scratch, but I’m pretty sure those veggie burgers came straight out of a box. They were decidedly underwhelming.

Here’s the thing: a veggie burger should never be compared to a real beef hamburger. That’s just not fair. But it should be something that deliciously stands on its own, satisfying both meat eaters and vegetarians alike.

I made these veggie burgers for the first time last night and they were a big hit. They’re savory but don’t taste exclusively like mushrooms. The flavor sort of reminds me of wild rice. The recipe has a lot of steps, but the batch makes 12 so you can freeze some for later. Serve them with traditional (or avant-garde) burger toppings, and if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can even make homemade buns. And yes, this might be sacrilegious, but I’m totally thinking of putting bacon on top. Shhhh.

The ultimate veggie burger

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The Ultimate Veggie Burger

  • 3/4 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 small leek (white and light green parts only), chopped and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup medium-grind bulgur, rinsed
  • 1 cup raw cashews (unsalted)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cups panko*
  • pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring lentils, 1 tsp. salt, and 3 cups of water to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils become soft and fall apart. Drain thoroughly and spread on a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels. Lightly pat dry.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they have released their liquid and softened. Add onions, celery, leek, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and are beginning to brown. Spread the cooked vegetables on top of the lentils on the baking sheet and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Combine 2 cups water, bulgur, and 1/4 tsp. salt in large bowl and microwave (covered) for five minutes. Drain the bulgur in a fine mesh strainer and use a spatula to press out any additional water. Return the bulgur to the bowl and set aside.

Grind cashews in a food processor until they’re finely ground, about 25 pulses. Add the cashews, lentils, vegetables, and mayonnaise to the bowl with the bulgur. Stir until evenly combined. Working in batches, grind the bulgur mixture in the food processor until it is coarsely ground and evenly textured. (This takes about 15 pulses per batch.) Transfer the ground mixture into a separate large bowl as you work. When all the mixture has been processed, stir in panko and 1 tsp. salt. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired.

Scoop up about 1/2 cup of the mixture and pack it into a tight, 1/2-inch thick patty with your hands. Repeat with remaining mixture until you have 12 patties.

Heat remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet until shimmering. Place four patties in the pan and cook until well browned, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other sides until they’re also browned, about 2-4 minutes. Repeat with remaining patties, and serve.

To make ahead, you can freeze the shaped but uncooked patties on a parchment-lined baking sheet until solid. Stack the frozen patties between squares of parchment and store them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat them, sear the frozen patties until brown (see above) and then bake them for 10 minutes in a 350° F oven until warmed through.

Makes 12 veggie burgers.

* While 2 cups of panko worked just fine, I think next time I’ll try using 1 1/2 cups. If you try this before I do, let me know how it works!

Source: America’s Test Kitchen “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.”

Eggnog Ice Cream

So I guess this is how we do winter in Southern California. We wear sweaters when temps dip into the lower 60s, and we string Christmas lights on palm trees. We cut out paper snowflakes and bake snowflake cookies and listen to “White Christmas” on repeat. And we make holiday-inspired ice cream because, after all, it’s still ice cream season here.

I’m heading to Minnesota next week to get my fill of winter, but I thought I’d give this recipe a whirl before heading to the frozen tundra. Oh my, is it delicious. If you like eggnog (and you really have to like eggnog) you will love this take on it. Also, it’s for grownups. Yep, I spiked the ice cream. (SNL might think that Adele is the answer to holiday family squabbles, but I say if that doesn’t work, try a boozy dessert.)

Adding 1/4 cup of alcohol means the ice cream churns up very soft, but don’t fret! Chill the freshly churned ice cream in your freezer for a few hours and it will firm up nicely but still be delightfully scoopable.

One more thing you should know: freshly grated nutmeg is a must here. I got whole nutmeg from Penzey’s and gently rubbed one of the seeds over my microplane grater until I had a teaspoonful. (The phrase, “What is this lovely fragrance?” definitely entered my mind.)

Wishing you all a lovely holiday season! Thanks for indulging me in yet another year of cooking adventures!

Eggnog ice cream

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Eggnog Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream*
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg**
  • 4 Tbs. brandy, dark rum, or bourbon***
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Set aside.

Whisk egg yolks together in a medium bowl.

Whisk the milk, sugar, and salt together in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture is steamy but not boiling. Carefully pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, a little bit at a time, while whisking constantly.

Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (The mixture should reach 170° F on an instant-read thermometer.) Pour the mixture through the strainer and into the cream. Stir in nutmeg, spirits, and vanilla extract.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator and then churn in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve with more freshly grated nutmeg, if desired.

Makes about 1 quart.

Okay, lots of notes here:

* As always, I made this lactose-free by substituting equal amounts of lactose-free half-and-half for both the cream and milk.

** Here’s one of my favorite cooking tips from this recipe: Fold a piece of paper in half, open it, and grate the nutmeg onto the paper. Then refold the paper along the crease to carefully direct the grated nutmeg into your teaspoon.

*** David Lebovitz suggests a mixture of 2 Tbs. brandy and 2 Tbs. dark rum. I did 4 Tbs. bourbon and it was fantastic. Feel free to experiment!

Source: Slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop.

Brown Rice Bowls with Roasted Carrots, Crispy Kale, and Fried Eggs

I blinked, and just like that, it’s December and the holidays are in full swing. My family packs a ton of holidays into these five weeks. Thanksgiving gives way to Hanukkah, which leads into Christmas, which yields to New Year’s Eve. Each of those holidays seems to revolve around delicious but rich food, be it gravy, latkes, or endless amounts of cookies. (I myself have baked four dozen cookies just in the last two days.)

As much as I love all this holiday food, it’s nice to sneak in some healthier options for everyday meals. These brown rice bowls have quickly become a favorite in my household. Even though they feature simple brown rice (duh) and roasted vegetables, they are totally crave-worthy. The nutty, chewy rice contrasts with a zingy vinaigrette, and soft roasted carrots are complemented by shatteringly crisp kale.  Adding a fried egg on top takes it to the next level, as the runny yolk becomes a lovely, rich sauce all on its own. Are you hungry yet?

The only tricky part of this recipe might be tracking down the za’atar, which is a tangy Middle Eastern spice mixture of sesame seeds, sumac, salt, and dried herbs. You can find it at Penzeys or other spice stores. I promise it’s worth it, but if you really can’t find za’atar (or really can’t stand the idea of one more shopping trip) the carrots should be fine with just a sprinkle of dried thyme instead. Enjoy!

Brown Rice Bowls with Roasted Carrots, Crispy Kale, and Fried Eggs

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Brown Rice Bowls with Roasted Carrots, Crispy Kale, and Fried Eggs

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice, rinsed
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 carrots, peeled and sliced into pieces about three inches long by 1/2-inch thick
  • about 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsp. za’atar
  • 8 ounces kale, stemmed and sliced into 1-inch thick strips
  • 2 Tbs. red or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 small shallot, minced
  • 4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375° F with the racks in the upper- and middle-thirds of the oven. Combine boiling water, brown rice, and 3/4 tsp. salt in an 8-inch square baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake on the lower rack until rice is tender, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven, fluff with a fork, and let stand for five minutes, covered with a dish towel.

Meanwhile, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. On the baking sheet, toss carrots, 1 Tbs. olive oil, za’atar, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Spread carrots out evenly on the sheet and cover tightly with another piece of foil. Bake on the upper oven rack for 20 minutes.

While carrots are roasting, toss kale with 1 Tbs. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. black pepper in a bowl. When the carrots have finished roasting for 20 minutes, remove the foil and spread the kale evenly on top of the carrots. Return the baking sheet to the oven, uncovered, and roast the vegetables for 15-20 minutes, or until the kale is crispy.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together vinegar, shallot, and 3 Tbs. oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Evenly divide the rice into four bowls. Top the rice with roasted vegetables and drizzle each portion with a tablespoon or so of the vinaigrette. Cover the bowls to keep them warm while you fry the eggs.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat it until shimmers. Carefully slide the eggs into the skillet, cover, and cook until your desired doneness is reached, about 2-4 minutes. Top each rice bowl with a fried egg, and serve.

Serves 4.

Source: Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.”

Caramel Apple Tart

Okay, I promised you a recipe that uses that homemade caramel sauce I wrote about, and then I teased you all mercilessly by giving you a salad instead. My bad. So here’s the dessert you’ve been waiting for. Because despite the evergreen boughs and chocolate advent calendars that are popping up around here– not to mention the cloyingly cheerful rendition of “Sleigh Ride” that made me stomp out of a clothing store in disgust yesterday– it is still technically fall. And this caramel apple tart would be happy to sit close to the center of your Thanksgiving dessert table. (No matter what, pumpkin pie gets the starring role. Tradition.)

This dessert features my new favorite tart crust: a super simple, no rolling necessary, easy-breezy-in-the-food-processor crust from America’s Test Kitchen. (This crust is also delightful for savory dishes by taking out the sugar and using whole wheat pastry flour.) Cover the pre-baked crust with a layer of tart apples, then a crumbly oatmeal streusel topping, and finish it off with a drizzle of that delectable caramel. Lo and behold, you get something that looks fancy but doesn’t require you to break a sweat. So you can save that energy for wrestling your Thanksgiving turkey, and then relax by gobble gobbling this dessert right up.

Caramel apple tart

Caramel apple tart

Caramel apple tart

Caramel apple tart

Caramel apple tart

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Caramel Apple Tart

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. unsalted butter, chilled and sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs. ice water

Filling

  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 lb. granny smith apples (about 2-3 large or 4-5 small)

Topping

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbs.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • homemade or store-bought caramel sauce, to taste

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Make the tart crust: Add flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times until well-combined. Add butter and pulse about 15 times, until the mixture resembles a coarse cornmeal. Add ice water and pulse again for a few seconds, until the mixture comes together and no longer looks powdery.

Line the bottom of a 9-inch round tart pan with walnut-sized balls of the tart dough. Use your hand to gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, filling in any cracks and smoothing it as best you can. Press your thumb against the top of the pan to even out the top of the crust. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough and smooth it out one more time. Place tart pan on a plate and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes, until solid.

Remove the tart pan from the freezer and place it on a baking sheet. Cover the crust with a double layer of aluminum foil, and place dried beans or pie weights on top of the foil. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.  Reduce oven temperature to 350° F.

Make the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Peel and core the apples and evenly slice them, about 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick. Toss them in the bowl with the flour mixture until they’re evenly coated. Layer them evenly in the pre-baked tart shell.

Make the topping: In a small bowl, whisk together the oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly and well-combined.

Assemble the tart: Evenly sprinkle the oat topping over the tart. Bake at 350° F for 30-35 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Let cool at room temperature, then drizzle some caramel sauce over the whole thing. Slice and serve.

Store tart in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap.

Serves 8-12.

Source: Tart crust from America’s Test Kitchen. Filling and topping from Sally’s Baking Addiction.