Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Smoked Portobello & Smoked Mozzarella Lasagna (Gluten Free Version Included)

There is nothing quite like sitting around on a lazy afternoon, drinking bourbon and smoking cheese with a really good friend. Wait. That doesn't sound quite right. We didn't actually light up any cheese, we simply put it into the smoker and watched it like hawks whilst sipping some excellent Kentucky distilled spirits. That's better. 

My dear friend Marti, from Maryland, had attempted smoking cheese many years ago and ended up with loads of melted cheese. Keep in mind, she and Mike gave cheese smoking a whirl in the 70's...long before smokers became more sophisticated and home-smoker-friendly...they were so ahead of their time! 

Marti and I discussed plans, fine tuned them, adjusted them mid-smoking and actually accomplished our mission. Lovely, smoky, NON-melted sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheese eventually emerged from the MasterBuilt...well, with just a bit of fiddling around to maintain a low enough temp to avoid a cheesy meltdown.

Finished Product ready to be wrapped and aged for a few weeks...if we can wait that long!

Having a win under our belts with our smoky mission, we wrapped our treasures securely and waited a couple of weeks for proper aging. Okay, except for a few weak moments of "quality control testing." 

Besides adorning crackers with our home smoked cheese or arranging it among salume and pickled veggies on a charcuterie board, what else? Mozzarella and lasagna were MADE for one another, right? Right. But wouldn't a red sauce overwhelm delicate, smoky sweet mozzarella? White lasagna it would be. I really wanted the smokiness to shine, so I went with a bechamel based lasagna instead of a ricotta base to emphasize the mozzarella. So far, so good.

If smoky lasagna is good, wouldn't a double smoked pasta dish be even better? Thus the smoker was fired up once again with BIG portobello mushrooms luxuriating in the smoky interior.

Portobellos fresh from the smoker.

Then to assemble the dish and invite a few friends over to sample the result. (What a shame Marti was long ago back in Maryland and couldn't join Jenn, Michael and me.) And? Smoked Portobello & Smoked Mozzarella Lasagna turned out to be...sublimely, richly, decadently so...a pasta dish to be reckoned with. And repeated for the most discerning of guests.

Here is my recipe for the lasagna. Buy smoked mozzarella if you don't want to smoke it yourself or don't have access to a smoker. The same goes for the portobellos. If you don't have access to a smoker, cook them along with the rest of the mushrooms. It will still be an excellent lasagna!

Smoked Portobello & Smoked Mozzarella Lasagna
(Gluten Free Version Included)

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T butter
  • 4 LARGE whole smoked portobello mushrooms, sliced - (if you don't smoke them, slice and saute with the rest of the mushrooms)
  • 10 oz baby bellos or other brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves black fermented garlic (I get mine at Trader Joe's), smashed with the flat of a knife and pressed to a paste
  • 1/2 C dry white wine
  • 1 C chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 1/2 C heavy cream (nobody said this was a diet dish!)
  • 8 T butter (ditto the above comment)
  • 1/2 C flour (gluten free flour to make this GF)
  • 1 C freshly grated parmesan - the GOOD stuff!
  • nutmeg, a little of a freshly grated whole nutmeg or a smidge of the jarred stuff
  • 1/2 lb smoked mozzarella, shredded
  • a box of lasagna noodles (gluten free to make this GF)

Heat olive oil and 1 T butter in a large skillet. Add the baby bellas and shitake mushrooms along with black garlic. Stir and let the black garlic paste incorporate into the mushrooms and liquid in the pan. Once the mushrooms are cooked down and the liquid begins to disappear (NOT dry out), add the sliced smoked portobellos and stir well. Then add the wine and let the mixture simmer until the mushrooms are still moist, but the liquid is nearly gone. All the buttery, wine-y, garlicky goodness will be absorbed by those gorgeous mushrooms! Set aside.

This is how the sauteed and wine-d mushrooms will look when they're done.

 In a medium sized, heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium, heat. Stir in flour and continue stirring until completely incorporated and smooth. Cook another minute or two, then slowly add milk - stirring constantly. Next add the cream, again stirring constantly. Cook until thickened, then add nutmeg and stir well. This is your bechamel; set aside.

Toss the shredded mozzarella and grated parm together in medium bowl. Set aside.

While you're doing all the above, cook the lasagna noodles in a big pot of well salted boiling water until al dente. When done, drain in a colander and separate the noodles. You're ready to assemble.

In a lasagna pan, ladle a little bechamel in a thin layer on the bottom. Add a layer of noodles, a third of the bechamel, half the mushrooms, a third of the cheese mixture; repeat this layer. For the last layer, just do a layer of noodles, the last of the bechamel and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.

Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 350; uncover and bake another 20 minutes until browned and bubbly. Let stand 15-20 minutes before cutting and serving. (It will hold together nicely that way instead of sliding apart.) 


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Barbacoa Butternut Tortilla Lasagna

Time for a quickie. Of course, this is only a quick one IF you happen to have leftover barbacoa and roasted butternut squash on hand...and I did. 

Looking for something to do with next week's turkey? Barbacoa Butternut Tortilla Lasagna might be just the recipe you need. Leftover fajita fixings? Or taco meat? Yup. This is for you!

Instead of lasagna noodles, I used flour tortillas. In my case, gluten free wraps performed the duties of flour tortillas to perfection. No difference whatsoever! 

Layer up tortillas, smoky salsa, sweet roasted butternut squash, earthy spinach, salty queso fresco and savory, beefy, barbocoa (or leftover protein of your choice), bake, and there's one easy, colorful, and delicious dinner on the table in a snap. 

(Don't have a barbacoa recipe? Here's mine from a little while back. You're welcome! Spicy Barbacoa With Chilies For Tacos, Frito Pie And Especially For Chris)

Barbacoa Butternut Tortilla Lasagna

  • 6-8 appox. 8" diameter flour tortillas - I used Toufayan Gluten Free Wraps to make this GF
  • 1 C smoky, chunky salsa - I used Jardine's Campfire Salsa
  • 2 C roasted butternut squash
  • 10 oz package o frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8 oz queso fresco, crumbled - feta makes a perfectly wonderful substitution!
  • 1 1/2 C leftover barbacoa - if you use leftover turkey or another unseasoned meat, mix in a half packet of taco seasoning for some oomph!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread a little salsa in the bottom of a shallow gratin dish - I used maybe a 9"-10" X 6"-7" oval casserole dish...yep, the Corning Ware French White large dish we all have tucked away somewhere. 

From here we're making layers of ingredients - like a lasagna. The tortillas won't fit, so tear them as you go to fit in a single layer. Next slather on 1/3 of the salsa, scatter  1/2 the barbacoa, then 1/3 of the squash, 1/3 of the spinach, 1/3 of the queso fresco, then repeat the same layers. The last layer doesn't use barcacoa, but otherwise is the same.

This is how it looks before going into the oven. Colorful!

Cover the dish loosely with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool 10 minutes then cut into squares and serve!  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Roasted Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding With Spiced Streusel

Waste not, want not it is said. When it comes to an ingredient that's fairly (to me) expensive, waste is not an option! Silly me, I thought an available-everywhere-this-time-of-year sugar pumpkin would be a reasonably priced ingredient. Not so. Am I the only one that thinks $12 for a small pumpkin is over the top? The good thing is that once purchased (yes, of course I bought one!), I had a lot of it to work with. 

You may remember the Smoky Pumpkin Vegetable Soup With Chorizo I shared with you about a month ago. Since I'd only used half of the roasted pumpkin flesh in the soup, I first made this recipe with part of what was left and froze the rest of the pumpkin. My frugal pumpkin bread pudding hit the spot and I filed the recipe away to use the rest of the pumpkin another day.

You know how sometimes an idea seems to percolate behind the scenes in your brain (is that only me?) until it seems to pop into the forefront of your mind fully formed? That's what happened. Apparently my subconscious was working in the background on pumpkin bread pudding possibilities. It must have gone something like this, "If roasted pumpkin in a bread pudding is completely wonderful, wouldn't toasted pecans make it even better?  Wouldn't streusel send it completely over the top?" I listened to that inner recipe voice and then totally gilded THAT lily with ice cream nestled cheek to cheek with the bread pudding. Nirvana.

If you want to make it really easy, feel free to use butternut squash in place of pumpkin and roast would be less expensive than a fresh pumpkin, for sure. Or maybe you'd prefer it with roasted apples or pears. Those would work beautifully, too.

Looking for a homey Thanksgiving dessert? You may just have found it right here. 

Roasted Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding 
With Spiced Streusel

  • 2-3 C roasted pumpkin cubes, cooled (spray pumpkin cubes with coconut oil and roast on a baking sheet at 425 degrees until the pumpkin is caramelized and soft)
  • 5-6 C stale bread, cubed (I use the crust and all) - challah or a sturdy bread work nicely (I use Whole Foods Gluten Free Light White bread to make this GF)
  • 2/3 C toasted pecans, chopped coarsely
  • 4 T butter, melted
  • 3/4 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 1/4 C demerara sugar (or light brown sugar if you can't find the demerara - Giant Eagle carries it)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 t pumpkin spice
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 3 T dark rum

  • 1/3 C toasted pecans, chopped coarsely
  • 1/3 C dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 C flour (I used gluten free flour to make this GF)
  • 1/4 C oats (I used certified gluten free oats to make this GF)
  • 1 t pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 3 T melted butter
Mix all the streusel ingredients together until all is wet and crumbly. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes and melted butter. Fold in roasted pumpkin and pecans and gently combine.

In a separate bowl, beat well the cream, buttermilk, eggs, sugar, salt, rum, pumpkin spice and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the bread mixture and gently combine.

Pour the mixture into an UNGREASED 9" X 5" loaf pan or 8" X 8" square pan - both with high sides. Sprinkle the streusel over the top evenly.

I used a loaf pan and baked mine for an hour and 15 minutes. If you use a square pan, the time may be less. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick or wooden pick into the center and when it comes out clean, that's it!

Serve with ice cream. YUM!

Hot from the oven!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Butternut Buttermilk Apple Soup With Chorizo

Dear Autumn,

Welcome! It's really good to see you again after the steaming heat of summer left me wilted. I yearned for your cool, refreshing nights and golden mornings of dappled light sparkling through leaves of fiery scarlets, regal golds, and pumpkin oranges. 

And your gifts! Apple trees in rows upon the rolling hills of farms, your branches so heavy with fruit they sag downward for easy picking; your giant (and tiny, too) orange orbs dotting the fields waiting patiently for kids and adults to choose the perfect pumpkin for scary carvings or sweet, warmly spiced pies; your wide variety of cruciferous veggies growing low to the ground for picking and sturdy enough to store through fall and winter. 

Your cabbage family bounty easily lends itself to hearty fall dishes that ward off any chill in the air. Stuffed cabbage rolls with (maybe?) homemade sauerkraut, bacon roasted, crispy edged Brussels sprouts or even Mom's old fashioned cheesy cauliflower casserole grace your season's dinner tables. You can't serve that kind of hearty fare in the sizzling heat of summer! 

And you know you're the season of soup! Nothing warms a home like a pot of stock simmering on the stove filled with the possibilities of what it shall become. Chicken stock. Traditional chicken noodle, perhaps? Or spicy black bean, chicken and rice? Sweet corn? Tomato rice? Beef stock. Hearty vegetable? Or mushroom beef barley? Everybody's favorite onion soup crowned with a big, melty, toasty, cheesy crouton?

Of course, Autumn, I sometimes skip the simmering stockpot completely and make an easy fall soup right in my Vitamix. Why not?! There's so much to do and see and enjoy during your glorious season that time in the kitchen is reserved for your cool and rainy days (and there are plenty of those, too!).

This is a smooth, silky, sweet, tart, slightly spicy soup to serve warm with good and yeasty rolls slathered with lots of butter. The chorizo is a spicy contrast in texture, but if you want to keep this vegetarian soup meatless, use some crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds as a garnish instead. 

Of course, Autumn, I know you don't cook so you won't be cooking up any kind of soup or anything else. Well, except for cooking up sweet, sweet days and warm memories. Thanks for're the best!

Dinner Plan-it

Butternut Buttermilk Apple Soup With Chorizo

  • 3 lbs peeled, cubed butternut squash (you know, the pre-peeled kind in plastic tubs in the market), sprayed or drizzled with coconut oil, sprinkled with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, roasted at 425 degrees for 30-40 minutes until lightly browned and caramelized
  • 1 medium leek, quartered lengthwise, washed, and sliced across into 1" pieces
  • 2 medium tart apples, peeled, cored, diced
  • 1/4 C water
  • 6 T softened butter
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C buttermilk, plus 1 1/2 C additional
  • 1 C apple cider
  • 1/2 t chipotle powder (or more if you like it spicier)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2-3 links Mexican-style fresh chorizo sausage, crumbled and fried crisp
Add to your Vitamix the roasted butternut squash, leek, diced apple, water, softened butter, salt, 1 C buttermilk, apple cider, chipotle powder, and lime juice. Process in bursts until all is smooth and then continue processing until the container is good and warm and the soup is cooked. Yikes, I love the convenience of my Vitamix!

Pour the mixture into a large bowl or other container, add the additional buttermilk and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld. Before serving, warm the soup on the stovetop, adding a little more buttermilk and/or apple cider to thin the soup, if necessary. (Don't thin it until it's warm so you don't thin it too much.) 

Garnish with chorizo crumbles. To make this vegetarian, either don't use the chorizo or garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds instead of chorizo.

NOTE: I served this in tiny espresso cups for a party recently. So pretty!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

3 Potato Gratin With Rosemary, Parm and Gouda

You know how the experts say we first eat with our eyes? Here's a dish that's as delicious to those baby blues (or browns or hazels....) as it is to the palate. Three varieties of potatoes - Japanese sweet potatoes, Garnet sweet potatoes, and Yukon golds, fresh rosemary and garlic infused cream, melty gouda and sharp and tangy real parmigiano reggiano all meld together in the oven to become one satisfying and comforting side dish to delight both company and family.

If you have the time, arrange the potatoes into stripes like I did for a recent dinner. If there isn't time for that nonsense, just jumble up the potatoes and get on with it! Without further adieu, here's the recipe.

3 Potato Gratin With Rosemary, Parm and Gouda

  • 2 Japanese sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (I used the slicing blade of my food processor for ALL the potatoes to cut prep time)
  • 2 garnet sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 stick of butter (1/4 C)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the flat side of a knife blade
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C gouda cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 C Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter a large gratin dish or a large, shallow baking dish. 

In a medium, heavy bottomed pot, combine cream, garlic and rosemary and bring the mixture to a simmer; simmer for 5 minutes, turn off the heat and set aside while you assemble the dish.

To make it the pretty, striped way, arrange the potatoes in alternate stripes in the dish; to make it the easy way, just toss the potatoes together as you peel and slice them and it will still be!

Potatoes arranged the pretty way...the whitest potatoes are the Japanese sweet potatoes!

Make a layer of potatoes, sprinkle with gouda, salt & pepper. Make another layer of potatoes, sprinkle with parm and pepper (parm is salty, so I don't use salt on the parm layers), make a third layer, sprinkle with pepper and parm and then pour the cream mixture through a strainer over the top of the potatoes. The strainer keeps the big chunks of garlic and rosemary pieces from going into the casserole.

Bake at 400 for half an hour. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees, cover the dish with foil and bake until browned and tender all the way through and the cream has been absorbed by the potatoes - maybe another half an hour. Remove foil and serve. Don't be surprised if you're asked to make this ALL the time!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Smoky Pumpkin Vegetable Soup With Chorizo

How do you welcome this perfectly wonderful Autumn season? In my kitchen, you know the Fall cool down has begun when there's a big pot of homemade soup simmering on the back burner of the stove. It's just so very comforting.

The "smoky" part of this brand new recipe comes from two sources. The beef broth was built on a base of leftover (planned over) beef ribs I'd smoked for dinner on Sunday and the addition of smoked Spanish-style chorizo doubled down the smoke factor. I used a good and spicy rub on the ribs to lend a subtle heat to the dish for my tastes. If you like heat, use a spicy rub, if not, then don't!

Fresh autumn roasted sugar pumpkin, ribbons of purple kale, and last-of-the-summer tomatoes and sweet red peppers really pumped up the color and flavor. The gold and red and green and purple colors in the bowl make me think of fallen leaves...and it's as beautiful in the bowl as it is warm, comforting and delicious in your tummy. 

Smoky Pumpkin Vegetable Soup With Chorizo

  • 6 meaty beef ribs, rubbed with your favorite rub (use a rub with some heat to it if you like your soup spicy), smoked the day before - I remove the meat for other purposes (tacos!) and leave a bit of meat on for the soup
  • 1 nice sized beef soup bone
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roast the smoked ribs and beef soup bone for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes to get lots of deep beefy flavor from them for your broth.

  • 1/2 medium sugar pumpkin, seeded & guts removed, rind peeled and cut into 1" X 1/2" chunks. Spray with coconut oil, season with salt & pepper & roast at 425 degrees until caramelized. Cool and set aside.
Roast the pumpkin chunks at the same time you roast the bones. While the bones and pumpkin are roasting, start working on the veggies.

  • 12 oz. smoked chorizo - I used the Wellshire brand - cut into 1/2 moons
  • 2 medium leeks (approx 2 C) diced small
  • 2 stalks celery with leaves, diced small
  • 1 1/2 C carrots, diced small
In a large skillet, saute the chorizo until it releases some fat and begins to brown. Then add the leeks, celery and carrots and saute until the veggies soften. Set aside.

  • 1 lrg red bell pepper, seeds removed, diced (approx. 1 C)
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced (approx. 1 C or so)
  • 3 large Roma tomatoes, diced 
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 T or so Jane's Crazy Mixed Up seasoned salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 C (packed) purple kale, sliced across into thin ribbons

Beef broth: Put the roasted bones into a large soup pot and just cover with water. Add the sauteed veggies, and all the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT for the kale and roasted pumpkin - they'll go in at the end.

Bring the pot to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Once the broth has developed full flavor, remove the bones to a tray and cool. Remove any meat and add to the soup.

Bring the soup to a boil again and add the kale. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the kale is softened, then add the roasted pumpkin. Let the soup simmer another 10 minutes or so, remove the stems from the thyme springs and serve. A nice pan of cornbread goes great!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Smoky Bloody Maria Salsa With Mezcal AND Smoked Guacamole

The old smoker has been putting in some overtime! A little get together on Sunday with friends who love to cook (and eat!) had my trusty old smoker chugging away with a few delights - brisket and 2 kinds of salmon, for starters. The smoker also contained some, perhaps, unexpected items. Like avocados. 

Just this last week I saw a comment somewhere about smoking avocados and a lightbulb went off...BING! Smoked guacamole! Would it work? I gave it a try. 

At the same time, a Facebook cooking group I'm part of was discussing a BBQ competition one of our members (Matt the Butcher...yes, he is a butcher) is judging. The twist of being a judge for this event is that each judge was asked to bring a salsa TO BE JUDGED. The judges being judged...nice twist, eh? 

One thing led to another and eventually the idea of smoking the salsa veggies emerged, which led to emphasizing the smoke with mezcal instead of tequila and (somehow) the idea of a Smoked Bloody Maria Salsa was proposed. I HAD to try it. 

The results? Wow! Both the salsa AND the guac rocked. And they went onto the menu for the dinner party. The unexpected  smoky flavors in two traditional dips were a hit! The guac even tasted like it had bacon hidden somewhere in the ingredients...and it was totally veggie.

Just in case you've got a yen for the unexpected, here are the recipes to surprise your own guests. And good luck, Matt the've GOT this!

Smoked Bloody Maria Salsa With Mezcal

  • 4 large Roma tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
  • 1 large jalapeno, cut in half - don't remove the seeds or ribs if you like your salsa hot
Heat up your smoker and use a combo of pecan and hickory chips. Smoke the veggies at least an hour or until soft. Remove and let cool.

Add the smoked veggies to your food processor, then add:
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • a bit of kosher salt
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 T horseradish
  • the juice of 1 or 2 limes - depends on how juicy your limes are, taste and adjust to your own tast
  • 1-2 T mezcal
  • 1/4 C or so of chopped cilantro - again, to your own taste

Buzz everything in the food processor until salsa consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with tortilla chips.

Smoked Guacamole

  • 3 avocados, cut in half lengthwise, pits removed - throw the halves into the smoker, cut side down, while the veggies for the salsa are smoking - cool
  • 1/4 of a medium onion, finely minced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely miniced
  • 2 T or so (adjust to your own level of heat) finely minced red jalapeno (the red is just for the color, use green if that's all you have or can find)
  • the juice of a lime - or more according to your own taste
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 - 2 T cilantro, chopped

Scoop out the cooled avocado flesh and put into a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mash well with a fork. The mixture will be extra creamy because the avocados are cooked, so don't expect a chunky guac. YUM! Serve with tortilla chips or use in a wrap or any other way you can imagine.