Cranberry Brown Butter Shortbread Bars

The cranberries are in! There isn’t a whole lot of cranberry love here in Germany, so when they showed up at the green-grocers, I came home and started strategizing. The brown butter creates an extra step, but the different flavor is very worth it. I made Cliff brown the butter (because hot popping grease freaks me out) and he did a fantastic job. I found this recipe here, and have changed very little (used a little less sugar with the berries), but I broke down the instructions into a more readable format. Don’t let the lengthy instructions put you off – it’s a lot easier to execute than to explain.

1 c + 5 T (263 g) butter
1 c (210 g) sugar, divided into 3/4 and 1/4 c
3/4 t salt
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 t almond extract (didn’t have any, so we used amaretto)
3 c + 3 T (404 g) flour
1 lb (500 g) cranberries, picked over and rinsed
3/4 c (158 g) sugar
1/3 c orange juice

  1. Prepare brown butter. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Once it’s completely melted, turn heat up to medium and stir constantly until milk solids separate out (it will foam, just keep stirring). Butter will smell very nutty and turn golden brown. Pour into a heatproof bowl, set aside and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.

  2. Line a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooled butter, 3/4 c sugar and salt, stirring until well mixed. Add yolks and almond extract, stirring until smooth. Next, add the flour. The original recipe says to use a spoon or rubber spatula, but I incorporated it with a pastry blender. Worked for me. The dough will be quite stiff and dense, just go with it. Transfer about 2 c of the dough to the lined 9×13 and press it until it knits together. It will still be kind of bumpy, but that’s cool. Put the pan of dough into the fridge for about 40 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 c of sugar to the rest of the dough and work it in with the pastry blender until it’s crumbly.

  3. Prepare cranberry jam. In a deep saucepan over high heat, bring cranberries, sugar and orange juice to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly until cranberries have popped and jam achieves chunky, thick consistency. Set aside and allow to cool a little.

  4. Heat oven to 325° F/163° C. Remove dough from fridge and prick all over with fork. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and turn heat up to 350° F/175° F. Spread cranberry jam evenly over hot shortbread, then sprinkle remaining dough crumbles over the top. Return shortbread to oven and bake for at least 25 minutes or until streusel is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on trivet for at least 1 hour.

Pumpkin Purée

Time for the yearly pumpkin explosion! We finally depleted our stock of the orange stuff that had been lingering in the freezer for the past two years. While processing the new batch, I realized that I’d linked to a thing that I kind of no longer use. See, I’ve processed enough pumpkins now that I have my own way of doing it. Give it a shot! If it works for you, great; if not, fire up the Google. There are a plethora of other methods that might be better for the kind of cook you are.

You’ll need a rimmed baking sheet (jelly roll pan), at least one small, firm pie pumpkin or hokkaido pumpkin (try to get one that is smaller than your knife), a food processor with a feed tube and 1 cup of cold water and maybe a pair of rubber gloves (pumpkin leaves a grody film on your hands, sometimes even after washing). Preheat your oven to 350° F/175° C.

  1. Cut up your pumpkin. Start by slicing off the stem end so that you have a nice, flat plane. Set the pumpkin on the cut side so that it is stable, then slice down, halving it longitudinally. Next, halve the halves longitudinally again, then halve the quarters latitudinally. You should have 8 triangular wedges. Gently scrape out the seeds, strings and spongy tissue with a large spoon and set aside. You can clean, season and roast the seeds if that’s your jam.

  2. Arrange the pumpkin wedges skin side down on the baking sheet and bake for 45-90 minutes. Depending on how thick the flesh is, you might need the whole time. The cut edges might brown or blacken a little – this is totally fine. After 45 minutes, check doneness by inserting a thin knife into the flesh – if it slides in easily, it’s done. If you get any resistance, let them go longer and test in 10-15 minute increments. When they’re done, remove from oven and allow to cool completely, at least 1-2 hours.

  3. Fit your food processor with the blade attachment. With a large spoon, scrape the pumpkin flesh into the bowl of the processor and discard the skin. You may need to do this in batches – a good guideline regardless of size is to fill your bowl to a little over half (maximum) with flesh. Attach the lid and turn the processor on to medium-low. If there’s enough moisture in the pumpkin, it should slowly purée into a uniform texture, moving around the bowl with no help. If it’s too dry and seizes up, add water a tablespoon at a time to loosen the pumpkin and (only while turned off!) reposition the chunks with your spatula to get it move into the blade. Once with a particularly dry pumpkin, I had to add a full cup of water to get it to smooth out. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure it’s uniform, then portion into airtight containers. Purée will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (it molds quickly) and in the freezer indefinitely (the smart thing to say is 6 months, but we ate two-year old pumpkin last month and it was perfect).

Creamy Goat Cheese Tomato Pasta

I am a total sucker for a creamy tomato sauce. Unfortunately, they tend to be a little disappointing. This is the exception.

The goat cheese flavor is pretty pronounced, so if you’re not a fan, this one isn’t for you. The original is here, but I made lots of changes (chief among them: cutting out the bacon – sundrieds really fill that meaty, umami slot for me). That said, the technique is the same and I might employ it in the future. As a plus, this comes together very quickly.

2 shallots, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
100 g (roughly) oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained and sliced thin, oil reserved
2 T white wine
1 14.5 oz/400 g can stewed tomatoes
1 small pinch salt
1 small pinch sugar
1/4 t dried oregano
1 large pinch dried red pepper flakes
1 lb/500 g short pasta (1/4 c pasta water reserved before draining)
3-4 oz/100-125 g spreadable goat cheese (Ziegenfrischkäse)
lots of torn basil leaves

Heat a deep skillet over medium low heat and warm 1-2 T reserved sundried tomato oil. When oil shimmers, add shallots, garlic and sundried tomatoes and stir frequently until shallots and garlic are tender (3 minutes). Add wine and cook until 3/4 reduced (and the boozy smell is gone). Add canned tomatoes, salt, sugar, oregano and red pepper flakes and reduce heat to low. Stir to combine, crushing tomatoes with spoon. Allow sauce to simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, then remove from heat and set aside.

Cook and drain pasta, returning it quickly to the pot off the heat. Add goat cheese to pasta and stir well to coat. When goat cheese is well distributed, pour in tomato sauce, again stirring very well. If sauce seems too thick, add a little pasta water to loosen it to your desired texture. Add torn basil and stir until just distributed. Serve immediately.

Chipotle Corn Soup

The Germans aren’t huge fans of corn – I think it’s a more a novelty or garnish that makes something ‘American’ to them (see pizza). So corn season can be a fraught, unreliable affair filled with dashed expectations.

But the corn is ok this year, so I get to try things like this! The original is here, but I tweaked and tinkered, so this is my version.

2 T butter
6 green onions, sliced thin (about 1 bunch)
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 t chipotle pepper in adobo, roughly chopped
1 1/2 t salt
ground black pepper to taste (go easy – chipotle is potent)
1/2 t ground cumin
6 ears corn, shucked and kernels cut off
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced (optional)
3 c chicken broth
1 c whole milk

In a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat until foaming and add green onions, garlic and chipotle. Sauté until onions are tender and fragrant. Add salt, pepper, cumin, corn and potatoes (if using) and stir well to coat with butter. Add chicken broth and milk and bring to a low boil, turn down heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove soup from heat and blend with a stick blender. The original recipe instructs you to then strain soup through a food mill or fine mesh sieve, removing solids and pressing all liquid out of them. We skipped the sieving, which leaves lots of…um, ballast. Consider the quirks of your digestion going forward.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

I love tuna casserole. Unabashedly. My mom’s is stellar, but because she uses cream soups (that I can’t get here) and a special, frozen big thick noodle (which I’ve never seen ANYWHERE outside of Kansas City), I can’t really reproduce it. Every so often, I would trawl the internet for tuna casserole recipes with all ingredients that I could get here. Because it’s a holiday weekend and we’ve got the time, we embarked on a tuna adventure, only to be met with abject SUCCESS! It was stupid good. The original recipe is here, but I made some adjustments.

1 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, small dice
1 medium onion, small dice
1 small hot green chili, minced
2 t Old Bay Seasoning (I’ve never had this, so I made my own with this)
3 T flour
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
3 c/750 ml milk
3 T sour cream
1 T wholegrain mustard
1 lb/500 g egg noodles (I used schwäbische Landnudeln because they looked pretty rough – they did not disappoint)
2 cans high-quality imported tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked
1 c/225 g coarsely grated cheddar cheese
2-3 T finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 t dried parsley
4 T french-fried onions (Röstzwiebeln)

  1. Heat oven to 350°F/175°C.

  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm oil and butter. When butter foams, add garlic, celery, diced onion and chili. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender. Next add seasoning, flour, salt and pepper. Stir until vegetables are coated and raw smell of flour is gone, then start pouring in milk, stirring all the while, making sure there are no lumps. After it simmers and thickens, remove it from the heat, stir in sour cream and mustard, and adjust seasonings if necessary.

  3. Cook the noodles in well-salted water to just over half of the package-directed cooking time. You want them pretty firm in the middle, as they will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and mix with the sauce, tuna and cheese until everything is well distributed. Pour into casserole and spread evenly. In a small bowl, toss together parsley and fried onions. Sprinkle mixture over top of casserole. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Avgolemono (Greek Egg & Lemon Soup)

I got this one from here and it’s harder to explain than to make. It looks a little intimidating, what with the tempering, but it is quite simple. I suggest you have someone help you with the tempering, but it is possible to do it alone if you have a stick blender w/whisk attachment and a steady hand.

2 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 c chicken broth
1 c water
3/4 c rice
salt to taste
2 c chicken, cooked and chopped (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 t black pepper, coarse grind
1 t dill, dried (or 2 t fresh)
3 eggs
1/2 c lemon juice

In a deep soup pot, heat oil over medium-low heat. Sauté onion and garlic until tender and slightly translucent, 3-5 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and water and turn heat to medium. Bring to a gentle boil and add rice. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add salt, chicken, pepper and dill and continue simmering 5 minutes.

While the broth is simmering, in a heatproof bowl (I used a large pyrex measuring cup) beat eggs while slowly pouring in lemon juice. Taste a grain of rice; when it’s almost completely cooked, it’s time to temper the eggs. Add hot broth by the ladle (3 will probably be enough) to the eggs while whisking. Once the eggs have warmed up, take the soup pot off the heat and stir the egg mixture into the soup until completely integrated. Serve immediately.

Radicchio Risotto

How much respect do you give radicchio? Probably not much, but that ought to change.

I never thought much about it before last year. On our last big grocery run to Italy, it refused to be ignored. We were in the major radicchio production region at peak harvest, so it was everywhere. And with good reason! I’d always thought of it as that bitter, purple and white stuff you threw in a salad to brighten it up and nothing more. But it’s a not just any lettuce, it’s a chicory and can be cooked. It takes on a bit more sweetness as it wilts, while retaining some of the characteristic bitterness. And in this recipe from Serious Eats (with the requisite tweaks), it’s paired with pancetta. You could probably use regular bacon, but if you can get your hands on the pancetta, it’s worth it.

4 T olive oil
100 g (1/4 lb) pancetta, chopped into lardons
2 heads Chioggia radicchio, cored and chopped to bite-size
salt & pepper to taste
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
500 g (2 c) risotto rice
3/4 c white wine
5 c hot chicken broth
2 T butter
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

In a deep skillet, heat 2 T olive oil over medium-low heat. Add pancetta and fry until beginning to crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Next add radicchio by the handful, stirring each addition to coat with fat. When all radicchio is in, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside (or transfer radicchio mixture to a warm bowl and wipe out skillet if you want to use the same pan).

Heat the other 2 T olive oil to medium-low in a deep, wide skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook until just translucent, then add rice and stir to coat with fat, cooking for about 2-3 minutes. Add wine and stir frequently until mostly absorbed, then start adding your chicken broth (it should be at a gentle simmer) by the ladleful. Stir after each broth addition and when almost completely absorbed, add the next. When you’ve added half the broth, stir the radicchio-pancetta mixture in the risotto.

Finish adding the broth by the ladleful. With the last addition, remove from heat, stir in butter and cheese and cover for 5 minutes. Serve with extra cheese or a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.

Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts

I think our oven is on its last legs. Things just aren’t baking or roasting right. This is especially unfortunate, as we’re moving into prime roasty/bakey season. So, our go-to plan for brussels sprouts (olive oil, salt, pepper, roast) is no longer a no-brainer. But steaming is a little…blah.

Enter braising. I’ve never really done this (to my knowledge), so I appreciated the clear instructions in this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I made a couple of small alterations, and that’s what I’m posting here.

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 lb/500 g brussels sprouts, trimmed
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 T heavy cream
1 T smooth dijon mustard (or more to taste)
2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add butter and when butter melts, add sprouts and arrange in a single layer, cut-side down (if they don’t all fit, brown in batches, then add all for next steps). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and allow them to cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add shallots and garlic, stir and cook until they soften slightly. Add wine and broth and bring to a simmer, lower heat to medium-low, then cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until sprouts are easily pierced with a knife.

When sprouts are cooked, remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving the liquid behind. Add cream and simmer for 3 minutes, then whisk in mustard. Adjust seasoning as necessary, add sprouts back to skillet to heat through and coat with sauce.

Ginger-Lime Chicken w/Bok Choy

I am sort of ashamed to admit this, but here goes:

I read Buzzfeed.

I know, I know. I’m working on it. That said, sometimes you find useful information there, like this recipe (under Day 1 in the list). The original is a good idea at its core, but it needed more flavor. So after a few tweaks, I think I got the flavors where I want them, while staying true to the concept. It probably doesn’t stay under the $10 that the article claims, but that’s probably a function of different availability of ingredients in Germany (bok choy is a little more exotic here). Click the link for the original, as I’m posting what I did.

Juice of two limes (about 1/4 c)
2 T olive oil, plus more for cooking
salt and white pepper to taste
1 lb (500 g) chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 in (5 cm) ginger, minced or julienned
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 bunches (about 10) green onions, sliced
5 small heads bok choy, sliced and rinsed well

Combine lime juice, olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and chicken pieces in a large Ziploc bag or lidded container, tossing chicken to coat all sides. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

Heat one T olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high. Remove chicken from marinade with a slotted spoon, reserving liquid, and cook until just browned. Set cooked chicken aside in a bowl, add a little more oil to skillet, and quickly sauté ginger, garlic and green onion until just tender. Add bok choy and toss well to coat with oil. Add remaining marinade (it will boil almost immediately), season vegetables with a little salt and pepper and stir well. Cook vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until thick pices of bok choy start to get a little tender. Add chicken and its collected juices back in to finish cooking through and cover for at least 3 minutes. Serve over brown rice (it’s fine over white, but the flavor really pops with brown).

Pumpkin Risotto

I made a lot of pumpkin purée last fall, which took up residence in the freezer. In an effort to continue the meat detox from our KC trip and clear out some of the longer-term freezer occupants, finally got to try this recipe. As I already have neutral pumpkin purée (so I can go sweet or savory), I changed a few aspects of the original and the recipe below will reflect what I did.

This risotto has a texture that is completely extraordinary. As in many things involving pumpkin, it’s subtly sweet and velvety. While cooking, it becomes much saucier than I’m used to. I think that makes it extra important that you let it rest, covered and off the burner, after finishing.

2 T olive oil
2 large or 3 small shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 c/500 g arborio rice
1 c white wine
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 t dried thyme
5-6 c/1.25-1.5 l chicken or vegetable broth (must be at a simmer when added to rice)
1 c/250 g pumpkin purée
1 c/250 g grated parmesan cheese, divided
2 T butter

In a wide, deep lidded skillet, heat oil to medium. Sauté the shallots and garlic to just tender, then add rice to skillet, stirring frequently and coating well with oil.

Add white wine to skillet and, stirring constantly, cook until liquid is almost completely cooked off. Add pepper and thyme, lower heat to low, stir and start adding broth by the ladle. When one ladleful cooks off, add another, stirring all the time.

When about two thirds of the broth is added, stir in the pumpkin purée. The texture will change and the sauce will become quite thick and possibly splattery. Right before the last broth addition, turn the burner off and add the cheese and butter.

After stirring in the last bit of broth, put the lid on the skillet, take it off the hot burner and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.