Farro with Cranberries and Pecans

Farro with Cranberries and PecansSide Job
Truth be told, I am a Thanksgiving freeloader which means I do not usually host Thanksgiving. However, since food is my job, I have been thumbing through numerous magazines and cookbooks looking for interesting recipes for the big day and I have found a few that are intriguing enough that I gave them a try.

Most people are pretty traditional when it comes to Thanksgiving and are resistant to change, myself included. I have been known to pout like a child if certain things are missing. However, if the usual required dishes adorn the Thanksgiving table alongside a few new introductions I can be talked off the ledge. The bonus is sometimes you run across a recipe that works in everyday life and not just for special occasions. The recipe below falls into that category.

I have always loved the nutty flavor of farro. The fact that it is easy to prepare is a bonus. Farro is the perfect fall side dish. Whether it’s plain with a little butter or dressed up with garlic and onions it can be a welcome change from the usual when served beside your favorite roasted meats. In this case, the addition of cranberries and pecans just screams turkeys and pilgrims. Ergo, it would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving feast.

You don’t have to wait for Turkey Day, though. I made this the other night and served it alongside some pan-fried pork chops and it was delicious…

Farro with Cranberries and Pecans
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Fresh Elote Salad

Fresh Elote SaladCorn Off the Cob
Typically at this time every year, I am going crazy for all of the sweet, local corn that is available. And by crazy I mean eating it 2 to 3 time a week. This year, though, we have been relatively corn-free.
My feelings on fresh, sweet corn haven’t changed. I still love it. My family loves it. When it comes down to it, our lack of corn consumption can be traced to two things: economics and braces. Two of my three kids have braces on their teeth. Those of you who have ever had braces or know anyone who has will agree having braces on your teeth makes biting into an ear of corn a challenge.
The other deterrent to our annual corn-a-palooza would be the cost of having to re-attach a bracket that had been ripped off while biting into an ear of corn. The monthly payments times two are bad enough on their own, thanks. Of course, you can cut the kernels off the cobb to make it easier but then there is the fun of cleaning corn out your braces after. So long story short, we’re not eating a lot of corn this summer.
I am going to have to make an exception for this recipe. It takes one of my favorite street foods and reworks it into a much easier-to-eat form and with enough cheese and other goodness to make the challenge of cleaning out your braces worth it. And, note that doubling the recipe would make it a hit at any large gathering or backyard BBQ.
Fresh Elote Salad 
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 4 to 6 servings
This delicious side can also be served as a dip with tortilla chips.

Read more…

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter

For The Times, They Are A-Changin’
Halloween was different this year. There were no parades. No morning rush to get the costume make-up done. No concerns about wearing a costume all day. In fact, the excitement about Halloween has been replaced, for some in my family, by high school soccer try-outs.

Sigh. Yep. We have reached the stage where the kids were handing out candy to trick-or-treaters instead of filling their own pillowcases.

We have one holdout, though. My twelve-year-old did go out trick or treating with her friends. She was dressed as a wedge of cheese that she constructed and painted all by herself complete with cheezy duct tape. This kid beats to her own—and I love it. I have no doubt that next year she will come up with an equally random costume idea and hit the streets to collect her chocolate.

This change means that dinner plans are different too. In fact, I actually put a little more work into it and made this recipe for Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter. It’s a great representation of the flavors of the season. And, the pumpkin is an obvious nod to Halloween. If you do not have a pasta machine it is just as easy to roll it out with a rolling pin.

To those of you who still headed out with your little ones, I hope you had fun and enjoyed these nights roaming the streets of your neighborhood with your kids. Because it’s true what they say…it all goes by so quickly!

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Granola

GranolaYell O!
My nephew is moving into his college dorm today…and the fact that I just typed those words is blowing my mind. It seems like yesterday that he was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. Now he is staring Psyche 101 in the face.

For all of my disbelief and other emotions, what I am most surprised about feeling is jealousy. Or maybe that’s too strong of a word.

See, my nephew is starting the same college that my sister and attended (he has good taste). And, the college years were some of the best years of my life. I would love to go back to those carefree days. I learned so much during those four years—mostly about life in general instead of academics. My parent’s advice to both my sister and I before we started college was “Don’t let your education interfere with your education” and I took that to heart. Sometimes to the extreme! I mean I did actually graduate, just not with a 4.0.

Of course the old adage You can’t go home again rings true especially in this instance. If I went back knowing what I know now, my experience would be totally different. However, that doesn’t stop me from reliving those good times (and the bad) and wanting just a little taste of that life again. So, I’m heading back for Homecoming in November. Save me a spot at Rennie’s!

In the meantime, I am looking forward to experiencing college life through my nephew’s eyes. I also plan to make sure he remembers us back here at home (I always had a problem remembering to call…) You should know that there will be regular care packages which will always include his favorite granola. I have posted it before because I make him a huge batch every Christmas. But, now it will serve as a reminder of home and of how proud we are of the man he has become. Good luck Noodle! And Go Ducks!

Granola
Adapted from Alton Brown and The Food Network
Yields 6 servings

I have found the best way to get nice, big chunks in my granola is to use 1/2 natural maple syrup, and 1/2 commercial syrup (such as Log Cabin). But, if you are a purist, go ahead and use only the pure maple syrup. You just won’t get the nice, big chunks in your granola.  Read more…

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon

Shrimp and Grits with BaconThe Low Down
I can be obsessive when I find things I like. It can’t be just a close copy. I’ve got to have the real thing. This is especially true when it comes to cooking.

Anytime I find a new recipe I love that comes from a region or cuisine that I am not familiar with, I can go off the deep end a bit. For example, when I, first discovered Moroccan food, I was obsessed with finding the correct ingredients. Not just ingredients that would work but the most authentic ingredients. The ingredients they use. Same goes with the cookware. If I am going to make a paella or a French cassoulet, you better believe I am going to have the correct pan or clay pot.

It’s the same with cookbooks. I may start my adventure into something new with one cookbook but eventually, I will end up finding the most authentic resource for whatever that cuisine may be. (Think Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking or Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean cookbooks.) What I enjoy the most about finding that “reference” cookbook is that you not only get the most authentic version of whatever dish you are cooking but you also get the history of the food, the people and the region it comes from. That’s when the day dreaming stars. I picture myself in the markets of Marrakesh or biking through Provence with the day’s groceries in my basket. I am a culinary romantic.

One of my favorite cookbooks for day dreaming is a book by John Martin Taylor called Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking. If you have ever been interested in the regional cooking of the US, this would be my pick as the best reference for Lowcountry cooking.

For those who don’t know, the Lowcountry refers to the coastal plain region of South Carolina from Cat Island down to the Georgia border. Full disclosure, I have never lived there nor have I had the chance to visit. But I do love to read. And after reading books by Pat Conroy and John Berendt, I was hooked by romantic visions of crab and shrimp boils on the beach with and entertaining cast of characters.

Lowcountry cooking is the source for She Crab soup as well as Frogmore Stew and Hoppin’ John. There is so much to the cooking of the region that it is hard to pick just one recipe to love. If pressed though I would have to pick the Shrimp and Grits with Bacon. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods.

If you find yourself in need of an escape from the day-to-day and with no time or money to actually go somewhere, take a chance and pick up this (or any other cookbook) and step outside your world for a bit.

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon
Adapted from Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking

These typical shrimp and grits are served for breakfast, but they are good any time of day. We love the addition of bacon! Read more…