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Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon

Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon

If you have a large pot and a few pounds of mussels, you can have a dinner party worthy meal on the tables in no time at all. Mussels are one of the easiest meals to prepare. All you need to do is give the mussels a quick scrub and soak, cook up a few aromatics for a broth to steam the mussels in, and five minutes cooking time. For Mussels with Cider, Shallots and Bacon, I decided to add some autumn flair but using apple cider instead of the more typical white wine as the base of the broth.

The website Serious Eats has a more detailed article on cleaning mussels if you would like a step-by-step guide. I have also included a video below. But, I promise, it is really easy and takes no time at all. Once you get the hang of it, you will be preparing mussels all the time!

While mussels and French fries (frites) are a popular combination in Belgium and France, I prefer to serve mussels with slices of nice bread. My favorites are a beautiful baguette or ciabatta. You will want to use the slices of bread to soak up the delicious broth.

So, let’s walk through the process. Heat a large pot over a medium flame and add oil olive and butter. When the oil and butter start to bubble, add the chopped bacon and cook for a few minutes.  Next you will add the shallots, garlics, and thyme and cook until they are soft. Finally, add the cider and mustard. Bring the broth to a boil before adding the cleaned mussels. The only need a few minutes to cook. Seriously easy, right?

Mussels with Cider Shallots and Bacon-2

If you would like a tasty beverage to accompany your mussels, I recommend either a crisp white wine, sparkling wine (bubbles go with everything), or a Belgian beer.  I love to serve this meal not only because it is delicious but it is a slow-paced meal which encourages conversation as you work your way through the mussels. Slow food at its best!

How to Make Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon

Mussels with Cider, Shallots, and Bacon Pin

Roasted Squash and Pear Sandwiches

Roasted Squash with Pear

Fall = Gourdfest. Well, around my house anyway. Each fall, we host a party where all things gourd-related are celebrated. I am talking about pumpkin beer tasting, butternut squash soup, pumpkin hummus, and roasted delicata squash with red onions. All the fall flavors make me so happy but having some of my besties in the house puts it over the top.

What my friends may not know is how many recipes I test before Gourdfest. I want the food to be as memorable as the laughs and good times that we enjoy. This year, one of my first test recipes is this Roasted Squash and Pear Sandwich. Doesn’t that sound like perfect fall food? Yet, such an unusual sandwich idea.

Roasted Squash with Pear

Let’s talk about butternut squash. Are you a fan? I was a little bit intimated by butternut squash at first. I mean, could winter squash BE any more difficult to cut through? But, I learned a little secret about butternut squash. When you are shopping for butternut squash, look for one that has long neck compared to its bulbous end.

Then, just cut through the stem end and cut again at the end of the long neck before the bulbous end. From here, all you need to do is peel the skin with a vegetable peeler. For this recipe, slice the neck into 1/2” slices.

Roasted Squash with Pear

After that, you have a decision to make, do you want to tackle the bulbous end or just chuck it into the compost bin? No judgment here no matter what you decide. Sometimes I will peel the skin off with the vegetable peeler and then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Other times, I won’t be feeling it at all, and will just quarter it and throw it into my compost bin.

The next component is a perfectly ripe pear sliced thin and a red onion also thinly sliced. The surprise ingredient is the miso mayo. Are you a miso fan? My first experiences with miso was in soup form at Chinese restaurants.  Miso is made from fermented soy beans. You know anything fermented is good for you, right? Gut health and all that. Miso paste can be found at Asian markets and sometimes in the ethnic food aisles or produce section of some grocery stores. Miso adds that umami flavor which is rich, deep flavor.

If you decide to buy miso paste (and you should) here is a recipe for miso soup so you can use up your stash. The video below is from The Happy Pear where twin Irish brothers post articles and videos featuring easy vegan recipes.

How to Make Roasted Squash and Pear Sandwiches

Want more sandwiches?

Roasted Squash with Pear Sandwich

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

What the heck do vegetarians eat? I hear this all the time from friends and family who want to invite someone they care about over for dinner. But, when that person is a vegetarian many cooks get stumped. Ask my Mom. She will tell you. That poor woman has two daughters are totally or nearly vegetarian and two grandkids are vegetarian. She will tell you that she hates inviting us over for dinner because she has no idea what to make. So, Mom, Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers is one great alternative to consider. It is hearty enough that even carnivores (like your husband) will feel satisfied.

First, a little background about Picadillo which is a popular dish in Spain and many Latin American countries. Picadillo is typically made with ground beef, tomatoes, and a variety of spices. It is often served with rice and used a filling for dishes like tacos or savory pastries.

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed PeppersI like this healthier version of Picadillo swaps out ground beef for lentils. Lentils are inexpensive to buy, low in fat, high in fiber, and full of protein. By sautéing aromatics like onion and garlic with chili powder, cinnamon, Italian seasoning, cocoa powder, and tomatoes, you can achieve a rich flavorful broth to coat the lentils.

This version of Lentil Picadillo is most similar to the Picadillo found in Puerto Rico which includes green olives for a salty bite and raisins for a sweet chewy texture. In Puerto Rico, Picadillo is a common filling for empanadas or fritters. In this recipe, I add cooked rice to the Picadillo and stuff it inside a sweet red bell pepper before baking.

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Finally, lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers is a great make ahead meal. You could prep the Picadillo on the weekend and then on a weeknight, stuff the peppers and bake.  A healthy, homemade dinner will be on the table in under 30 minutes. What is not to love about that? Also, can you say lunch leftovers? Just try not to gloat as your coworker pulls her sad little Lean Cuisine out of the microwave.

How to Make Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Peppers

Lentil Picadillo Stuffed Pepper

Roasted Carrot and Goat Cheese Sandwich

Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese

Life is too short for the same old, same old sandwiches. How many peanut butter & jelly, tuna, or egg salad sandwiches can one person eat in a life time? Sandwiches are simple, portable, and can be quite delicious with just a little bit of effort and creativity. I love sandwiches that have a mix of colors, textures, and tastes.

In this roasted carrot and goat cheese sandwich you get sweetness from the roasted carrots, tangy creaminess from goat cheese, and a bit of salty bite from the green olives. Are you familiar with the spice blend za’atar? It is a Middle Eastern seasoning made from dried herbs, spices, and sesame seeds. I buy za’atar at the Middle Eastern market. You can also order za’atar on Amazon.

You may recall this recipe for Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes and Pita Chips from earlier this year.

Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese

If you aren’t a fan of goat cheese you can use cream cheese instead. The cream cheese will have less tang and a smoother texture. Plus, it might be easier to find and more economical but I love goat cheese so usually use it for this sandwich. Also, if you aren’t a green olive lover you can leave them out, use black olives or substitute capers instead.

You will want to use a bread that when toasted is hearty enough to hold up to spreading the thick goat cheese mixture. I used plain white sandwich bread but I can think of a few other breads that would make a great sandwich. I like the idea of a walnut raisin bread or a honey wheat bread.

Next time I make this sandwich, I will use thicker carrots and slice them slightly on the diagonal in order to get more surface area to roast. I also think that thicker slices of roasted carrot will make the sandwiches more substantial when you go in for a bite.

Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese

What are your slightly out-of-the-box sandwiches you like to make and eat? I am always looking for something new.

How to Make Roasted Carrot and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

roasted carrot and goat cheese

Zucchini Scramble Toast

Zucchini Scramble Toast

It all started when my Mom showed up with three zucchini from her garden. She was heading out of town but her garden was still producing like crazy. Of course I could use them, no way would I let them go to waste. That is what I told both of us.

My garden has two zucchini plants so I already had zucchini pickles in the fridge. I’d made zucchini pie at least three times. Crispy zucchini chips? Yup, I had made them at several times. Chewy zucchini oatmeal cookies? I made those too.

Zucchini Scramble Toast

Coffee has a way of clearing my mind and as I sipped my morning cuppa, I eyeballed the zucchini, thought about eggs, and that day old loaf of bread on the counter and Zucchini Scramble Toast was born.

I shredded the zucchini and thinly sliced part of an onion. All the veggies needed was a quick sauté in olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Once the vegetables softened, I added a couple of lightly beaten eggs to pan and let the eggs set for about a minute before gently pushing them around the pan. Just a little more salt and pepper to the eggs and scrambled until set. Remember the eggs will continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove the pan from the heat.

Zucchini Scramble Toast

While the eggs were cooking, I toasted and buttered the bread. When the eggs were done, I divided the eggs evenly onto the toast. I sprinkled chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs on top. Chives and basil are terrific on the toast.

The beauty of Zucchini Scramble Toast is that while it is perfect for breakfast, it also makes a super quick weeknight supper. Plus, with the price of avocados these days, it may be time for the avocado toast trend to exit stage left. Who wants to help me start the next ‘toast’ fad?

So, Mom, if you are reading this, I used up all three zucchini. I hope you are having a great time on your trip and when you get home, come over for Zucchini Scramble Toast and a cup of coffee. I want to hear all about your adventures.

Zucchini Scramble Toast

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Galette

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Galette

It’s almost like heaven. Fresh, garden tomatoes are everywhere! Neighbors bring them over, coworkers bring them to work, farmers markets have them in a rainbow of colors, and if you are very lucky, you can go into your own garden and pick them just before you eat them. A neighbor was drowning in tomatoes and brought me over some beauties. I made tomato sandwiches, gazpacho, and with the two most perfect specimens I made a tomato and caramelized onion galette.

A galette is similar to pie but it is baked on a baking sheet instead of in a pie pan. Galettes are typically more rustic in nature and you typically don’t see fancy crimping or decorating like you do on pies. Galettes can be sweet or savory. This savory tomato and caramelized onion galette would be my first choice over any fruit pie, any day of the week.

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Galette

Baking isn’t really my forte so you won’t see a ton of recipes that feature baking rather than cooking. In my mind, cooking is like jazz music, you can freestyle the heck out of most recipes. But, baking is a whole different thing. Baking is like the symphony, where each individual component is perfectly precise and deviations from the plan are not appreciated and can often sink the endeavor.

For these reasons, I typically buy pie crusts in the refrigerator section of the grocery store rather than attempting to make them from scratch. I have several friends who make pie crust from scratch and they tell me it is a cinch. The few times I have tried, I ended up with pile of buttery crumbs. But, if you make excellent pie crusts from scratch, by all means, use those. In fact, why not drop a link in the comments below to the recipe you use. Maybe I will get the nerve up to try again.

But, the real star of this dish is the tomatoes. Don’t you dare use grocery store tomatoes for this recipe! I only make this tomato and caramelized onion galette during the summer months when garden fresh tomatoes are available.

Caramelized onions add a wonderful flavor which complements the tomatoes. You can skip the onions if you don’t have the time or inclination to caramelize the onions but I rarely skip this step because I love what they bring to this dish. I slice the onions vertically. See the video below if you aren’t sure what I mean.

Regarding the cheese, I love the tangy creaminess from the goat cheese but I wouldn’t drive to the store to get goat cheese if I had feta or Parmesan in the fridge. I like to serve this galette with a salad and a crisp white wine.

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Galette

Looking for other tomato recipes? Check out these posts:

Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip (Htipiti)

Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

You want easy and healthy recipes, right? Well, I am happy to tell you that you will love this recipe. This feta and roasted red pepper dip comes together very quickly. You only need to give a quick chop to the roasted red peppers, shallot, garlic, and feta then combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. You will be sitting outside on your patio with a delicious snack and glass of wine in no time at all!

If you travel to Washington DC, you may have heard of or eaten at Zaytinya, one of chef Jose Andres’s many fine restaurants. Zaytinya serves Mediterranean small plates and if you have the chance to go, do it! The food is delicious. But, if your travel plans do not include a trip to DC in the near future, you can still experience a taste of Zaytinya in your own kitchen.

Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

This dip would be perfect on a mezze platter. Mezze refers to a collection of small plates that are served with drinks. All you need is a large platter or cutting board that you will add fresh pita or pita chips, cucumber slices, hummus, olives, and the feta and roasted red pepper dip. If you feel like preparing a second small dish, I would recommend these za’atar roasted tomatoes and perhaps some tzatziki, a yogurt cucumber sauce.

How to Assemble a Mezze Platter

Check out this video if you need a little inspiration on putting together a mezze platter. When I need inspiration, I love looking at posts from Tieghan of Half-baked Harvest. She is masterful at creating boards like this Mediterranean Platter. I also think Gaby’s Mezze Platter from What’s Gaby Cooking is lovely.

Furthermore, serving a mezze platter is a wonderful way to entertain.  You can think of a assembling a mezze platter much like putting together a cheese board (albeit much less expensive to assemble). Chill a bottle of white wine, open a bottle of red to breathe, and have a few beers in the fridge. All that is left to do is to invite a few friends over.

Feta & Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Pizza with Morel Mushrooms and Green Onions

Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza-1

A few of my favorite signs of spring are the incredible vegetables that pop up early to remind us of the rich bounty of produce that is heading our way. This list includes asparagus (yes!), peas (nothing like ‘em), greens of all varieties, and for those fortunate to live near cool, damp forests, morel mushrooms.

For those of us who live in the high desert, the morel mushroom is a bit of unicorn, amazing to behold but rarely seen in person. But, this year, through a unicorn trick of her own, my friend Rachael, who lives in Missoula, Montana had a banner year foraging the forests and brought home sixteen pounds (!) of these woodsy gems.

That alone is amazing but she generously shared her haul with me. Isn’t that incredible? I was beside myself when she sent them to me. I have eaten morel mushrooms in restaurants before but I’d never worked with them before.  So, once I opened up the package, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work researching how to store and looking for inspiration on how to prepare them.

How Morel Mushrooms Grow

<In your best Elmer Fudd voice> ‘Be very, very quiet, I am hunting morel mushrooms…’

Typically, Friday nights are not the most productive nights in my kitchen. I am usually tired and likely to be in the mood to put my feet up and enjoy a glass of wine. But, the allure of these mushrooms was just too great. I decided that pizza would be the perfect vehicle for these meaty mushrooms. If you can’t find morels you can substitute any other mushrooms in their place.

Turns out that they are easy to work with so if you happen to spot some at your local farmers’ market, grab them. I cut the stem ends off, split them down the middle vertically and gave them a good rinse. They are pretty dirty because they were plucked from the dirt in the forest. Hey-o! Keep in mind, you don’t want to rinse or wash them until you are ready to use them.

Morel mushrooms-7

How to Make Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza

I sautéed the mushrooms for a few minutes in a little butter and olive oil with pieces of green onions (red or yellow onions would work too). Then, I removed the veggies from heat and rolled out the pizza dough. Note: you can make your own dough from scratch if you are feeling inspired but I like to keep a few packages of Trader Joe’s pizza dough in the freezer at all times.

Roll out the dough into a thin circle and drizzle a little olive oil over the top. Spread the oil around the dough evenly. I also like to sprinkle some salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes over the dough. Then, top with shredded mozzarella, the sautéed morel mushrooms and green onions.

Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza-9

Pop the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes. Take the pizza out of the oven and carefully crack a raw egg into the center of the pizza. I cracked the egg into a small ramekin first to make the process easier (and in case I needed to pick out any egg shell fragments). Cook five more minutes. Take pizza out of the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil. When you cut into the pizza, the egg yolk breaks and becomes a rich, creamy sauce for the pizza.

The pizza was delicious and special thanks to Rachael for her generosity. I had a ball playing with the mushrooms.

Morel Mushroom and Green Onion Pizza

Grilled Veggies and Halloumi Cheese

Grilled Veggies and Halloumi

Can we agree that cooking outdoors is approximately 110% better than cooking indoors? The food always tastes better, outdoors > indoors, and your kitchen stays cool. Grilled vegetables are a summer staple at my house. Whatever ripe vegetables I can find in my garden or the farmers market typically makes onto my grill.  The addition of Halloumi takes this grilled veggie dish up a few notches.

Are you familiar with Halloumi? From Cyprus, halloumi cheese is an unripened goat and sheep’s milk cheese. Eaten before grilling, halloumi is a bit bland but once your grill it or cook it in a skillet, a golden crust forms with soft delicious interior. Halloumi can be found in many grocery stores with the fancy cheeses, Mediterranean markets, and at Trader Joe’s.

For this recipe, I made a simple, Mediterranean-inspired dressing to marinate the Halloumi and veggies prior to cooking. Both the vegetables and the cheese will soak up the flavors of the dressing so be sure to allow enough time for the marinade to do its work before you are ready to cook.

How to Grill Halloumi on the BBQ

If you can’t quite wrap your head around grilling cheese on the BBQ this video by Curtis Stone will show you how it is done and what the Halloumi should like when it is done.

If you plan to cook outside on the grill, you can either thread the cheese and veggies onto skewers or use a grill basket (I like this one). If you use a grill basket, be sure to not overfill the basket with vegetables and cheese. You are looking to get a char on the veggies and cheese. If you overcrowd the grill basket you will find that some of the veggies will steam. I would cook half the veggies and cheese first and then the other half if space is an issue.

I like to serve the grilled veggies and Halloumi cheese with warmed pita bread and Greek Tzatziki sauce. You could also add a bowl olives or perhaps some hummus and cut cucumbers to round out the meal.  My favorite way to entertain is to place all the components of this recipe on a large platter or board. Then, your dinner guests can help themselves and take exactly what they want.

Grilled Veggies and Halloumi

Like Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food? Check out these other recipes:

 

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

If you keep pizza dough in your freezer (you do keep pizza dough in your freezer, right?), then weeknight dinners are a breeze. All you need is sauce, a few vegetables, and cheese and you are good to go.

A few years back I found a recipe on a blog for smoked mozzarella pizza with lemon.  The recipe and picture caught my eye because the lemon was sliced into paper thin rounds and used as a topping. Lemon rinds? Can you eat them? Would you want to?

Since I am always game to try new things, I made the recipe and fell in love with it! Since then I have realized that thinly sliced lemon on a salmon sushi roll is also delicious. But, this post is about pizza and over the years I have riffed variations of the original pizza based on whatever is in season or in my refrigerator.

This time around I had spinach that I needed to use and the end of a bag of pistachios. I find smoked mozzarella at Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, ask at your local grocery store. Smoked mozzarella can sometimes be challenging to find. You can use fresh mozzarella in a pinch if you can’t get your hands on the smoked variety.

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Pizza Dough

I take the pizza dough out of the freezer the morning I plan to make pizza. The dough will be thawed by dinner time. A few tips on pizza dough. Many grocery stores stock fresh pizza dough in their refrigerated aisles. I particularly like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. You can also hit the freezer section and get bread dough (like Rhodes) and keep that on hand. If you have some time on the weekend, you can make a delicious no-knead pizza dough and use it for this recipe or place it in the freezer for future use.

I also love making pizza on a pizza stone. You put the pizza stone in the oven as you start to preheat the oven. Once the oven comes to temperature, then set a timer for at least fifteen minutes and let the stone get nice and hot.

I roll the dough out on a parchment paper-lined pizza peel. Roll the dough out thin if you want to achieve a crispy crust. Then, drizzle the crust with olive oil and spread it around with your fingertips until there is even layer over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes over the top of the dough.

Next, place slices of smoked mozzarella on top of the dough, followed by lemon slices (rind and all). My sweetie doesn’t love the lemon rind so I do cut the rind off half the lemon slices and put those pieces of lemon on his side of the pizza.

Finally, place spinach leaves over the top and sprinkle with the pistachios. Slide the pizza and parchment onto the pizza stone and let the magic begin.

I usually check the pizza halfway through cooking time and rotate the pizza 180 degrees to ensure even baking.

Let me know if you try this unusual but delicious pizza!

This recipe is inspired Alexandra Cooks recipe for Pizza with Lemon Smoked Mozzarella and Basil  

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

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