Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pumpkin Butter

This is a great spread on toast, muffins, biscuits, etc. It is the quintessential flavor of fall.


1 pumpkin pie pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, and diced
2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water


In a medium sauce pot add pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and water. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling reduce to low heat. Cover pot and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30-35 minutes. Pumpkin should basically fall apart when stirred when done. Pour mixture into food processor. Pulse until smooth. Return mixture to stove and simmer on medium low for 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Seeds

Don't throw away the seeds after carving a pumpkin. Make a delicious snack instead.


Seeds from 1 pumpkin pie pumpkin or 1 small carving pumpkin, washed and dried
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 375˚. In a bowl, mix pumpkin seeds, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread evenly onto a baking tray. When oven is preheated put tray in oven. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Spaghetti Bolognese

This is one of my absolute favorite meals to make. I find cooking bolognese sauce to be relaxing and satisfying, and the end result is a wonderfully comforting meal. I would recommend serving it with my garlic bread. This recipe makes enough sauce to have for dinner for 4-6 people with plenty of leftover sauce that can be frozen and reheated later.


1 lb. spaghetti
2 lbs. 90/10 ground beef
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup red wine
3 28 oz. cans peeled san marzano tomatoes, crushed
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh basil, chiffonade
Grated parmesan, for serving


Coat bottom of large dutch oven with olive oil. Heat on medium high. When hot, add beef and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove beef from dutch oven and set aside. Add onion and carrot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until soft and onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 2 more minutes. Deglaze pan with red wine, scraping up brown bits. Add beef back into dutch oven and stir to combine. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, bay leaves, and oregano. Stir to combine well. Bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer. Simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Carefully remove bay leaves before serving.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta and drizzle with olive oil. Set aside.

Serve spaghetti with sauce, basil, and parmesan.

Frisee Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Walnuts, and Orange Vinaigrette

Until recently, I was not a huge fan of beets, but trying the beets from the farmer's market and on seasonal menus at restaurants has made me a convert. This is a delicious and fresh salad and is perfect for a person who still isn't sold on the idea of beets. The orange adds a sweetness and brightness that makes the salad pop.


4 beets, cleaned and tops cut off
1 head frisee lettuce
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
Zest from 1/2 orange
Juice from 1/2 orange
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 400˚. Wrap each beat individually in aluminum foil and place beets on baking sheet. When oven is preheated, place beets in the oven. Cook until fork tender, about an hour, but will depend on the size of the beets. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Peel and cut beets into cubes. (Use gloves while peeling and cutting the beets to avoid staining your hands.)

Meanwhile, in a small bowl add orange juice, lemon juice, and dijon mustard. Whisk together. While whisking, drizzle in olive oil. (You might need more than 1/4 cup olive oil depending on the acidity of your oranges.) Whisk in lemon zest and orange zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cut end off of the frisee and break or chop into smaller pieces. Put in large bowl. Toss with orange vinaigrette. Fold in beets, goat cheese, and walnuts.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kale Salad with Chilis, Parmesan, Toasted Pine Nuts, and Lemon Vinaigrette

This is an easy way to use a nutrient rich fall green. I brought this salad to a friend's house for a vegetarian potluck and it was a big hit. 

1 large bag curly kale, ribs removed and chopped
1 red highland chili pepper, deseeded and diced
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted 
1 cup parmesan, shaved
2 lemons, juiced
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey


Whisk together lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and mustard in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Put kale in a large bowl. Toss kale with vinaigrette and let sit for 15 - 20 minutes to let kale tenderize. Toss kale with chili, pine nuts, and parmesan and serve.

Ratatouille with Pan Seared Atlantic Cod

I picked up a bunch of fall vegetables (eggplant, squash, zucchini, etc.) at the farmers market this week. I wanted to make sure I used all of them, so decided to make a ratatouille. Perfectly seared Atlantic Cod complements all of the vegetables without overpowering the ratatouille.


Extra virgin olive oil
2 yellow squash, chopped in 1/4 in. half moons or quarters
4 chinese eggplants (these are less bitter than regular eggplant and are common at farmer's markets), chopped in 1/4 in. half moons or quarters
2 zucchini, chopped in 1/4 in. half moons or quarters
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 heirloom tomatoes, deseeded and diced
2 6 oz. portions of Atlantic Cod
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp. basil, chopped
Garlic powder
Kosher salt
Black pepper


Preheat oven to 400°.

Coat bottom of dutch oven or large pan with olive oil and heat over medium. When pan is hot, add eggplant. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan and set aside. Coat pan with olive oil again if necessary. Add squash and season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook 5-6 minutes, take out of pan, and set aside with eggplant. Coat pan with olive oil again if necessary. Add zucchini and season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook 5-6 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside with eggplant and squash. Coat pan with olive oil again if necessary. Add onion and cook for 10 minutes, until onion soften. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Deglaze pan with dry white wine and stir to get brown bits off bottom of pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and eggplant, squash, and zucchini to the pot. Let cook 5 minutes. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

While ratatouille is cooking, season cod with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Coat oven safe pan with olive oil and heat over medium high. When pan is hot, add fish and sear for 3 minutes. Flip and sear other side for 3 minutes. Put in oven and cook about 3 minutes. Fish should be flakey, but still moist and tender when done. Serve fish over a bed of ratatouille.

Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

In my opinion, macaroni and cheese is the perfect barbecue side dish. Only bacon could make it even better.


1 lb. elbow macaroni 
1 quart whole milk
12 oz. applewood smoked bacon, chopped into 1 in. pieces
8 oz. gruyere, grated
12 oz. sharp cheddar, grated 
4 + 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for coating the pan
5 tbsp. all purpose flour 
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
Kosher salt
Black pepper 


Preheat oven to 375°. Butter 3 quart baking dish. 

In large pan, cook bacon over medium low heat until slightly crispy, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to plate with paper towels to drain, reserving bacon fat. Set aside bacon. 

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. When boiling add macaroni. Cook for 1 minute less than package directions for al dente. Drain pasta and toss with 1 tbsp. butter. Set aside. 

In small bowl mix bread crumbs, parmesan, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper for topping. Set aside. 

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, heat milk over medium high heat and scald. Do not let milk come to a boil. 

While milk is heating, in a large sauce pot, melt 4 tbsp. butter with 1 tbsp. bacon over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and cook for 5 minutes, whisking constantly. The sauce should be smooth and thick. Take off heat and stir in cheddar, gruyere, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When cheeses are melted stir in bacon to combine. Stir in macaroni and toss to combine. Pour mixture into bacon dish and sprinkle topping over the macaroni mixture. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes until light brown and bubbly. 

Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

These ribs are perfect for watching football on Sunday funday. They have a deep smokiness and will just about fall off the bone.

Baby Back Ribs:


2 racks baby back ribs
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. hot paprika
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper


Mix all ingredients (other than the ribs) together in a small bowl. Rub mixture into both sides of ribs. Stack ribs and wrap with plastic wrap and then wrap with aluminum foil. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat smoker to 225 - 250°. (I used hickory chips for smoking.) When smoker comes to temperature, place both racks of ribs in smoker. Smoke ribs, meatier side up, for 3 hours, making sure temperature stays between 225 and 250°. Remove ribs from smoker and wrap each rack of ribs tightly in aluminum foil. Return ribs to smoker. Cook, meatier side up, for another hour and a half. Remove from aluminum foil and return to smoker, meatier side up. Smoke for about 30 minutes to an hour, basting meatier side periodically with bourbon barbecue sauce and allowing to caramelize. When ribs feel tender but before they start falling apart, remove from smoker. Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving. 

Bourbon Barbecue Sauce:


2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup bourbon
1 heaping tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. worchestershire 
2 tbsp. molasses
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 gloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water

Coat bottom of medium saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium. When hot, add onion and sprinkle with salt. Cook about 5 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer, and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into food processor and pulse until smooth. 

JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset No. 21, Crémant de Bourgogne, Brut, NV

This sparkling wine from Burgundy is a good value for a French wine made using the traditional method, but you can find a better value if you look to other countries. It has a slight yeastiness, a full mouth feel and is acidic. The wine has a strong aroma of crisp apple, and flavors of fall fruits. A great wine to drink on a crisp fall evening.

Price: $20.00

Taste: 3
Value: 3
Drinkability: 3
Effervescence: 4
Complexity: 2
Overall: 15

Updates to Rating Systems

I recently read two books about wine that have inspired me to rethink and slightly change my rating system for sparkling wines. I highly recommend both of them if you are looking to further your knowledge and interest in champagne or wine in general. The books are: How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto by Eric Asimov and Champagne: A Global History by Becky Sue Epstein.

My new ratings system is as follows:

I will still be looking at taste, value, drinkability, and effervescence, but I will now additionally rate the wine based on complexity. I think complexity is another way to differentiate between higher and lower quality wines.

I have also defined my rating scale and decided that it is from 0 - 5 instead of 1 - 5. The breakdown of each point value is:

0: Poor (you do not want to drink this)
1: Satisfactory (probably not worth drinking, but might be serviceable)
2: Fair
3: Good
4: Very Good
5: Extraordinary

The total points possible will now be 25.