Monday, November 19, 2012


This was my (belated) nod to Oktoberfest. I based it on a simpler recipe from Dinner: A Love Story (the book version of which I recently read and really enjoyed; even though it’s geared toward parents, I do share Jenny Rosenstratch’s love of strategizing). Being a frivolous childless person, I promptly made it more complicated. The original recipe just roasted the components with olive oil, salt, and pepper and then recommended serving it with a dollop of mustard, but I thought immediately of mustard-roasted potatoes and figured that fantastic crunchy, zippy coating would be pretty fantastic when applied to onions, apples, and sausage as well. So I married the two recipes and it was wonderful. The mustard coating doesn’t get delectably crispy as it does on the potatoes alone, but instead it turns into a savory sauce that’s nearly as good. Served with green salad and a beer, this is a hearty, comforting, and extremely easy fall/winter meal.

(Confidential to Westerners: I have finally settled on my favorite sausage: the spicy chicken Parmesan at Sprouts. All their sausages are handmade, from scratch, in store: worth the drive across town (all of 5 miles, as opposed to less than a mile for my other grocery stores--yes, I am spoiled) for me! Whole Foods makes its own too, but I have to say, Sprouts is superior.)

¼ cup whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound small unpeeled red or yellow potatoes, halved
1 medium onion, cut into eighths
Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme (optional)
2 to 3 baking apples (I used Fuji), unpeeled, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 uncooked Italian sausages (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together mustard, olive oil, butter, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, lemon peel, and salt. Add potatoes, onions, and thyme; sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper and toss to coat.

3. Pour potato mixture into a large baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

4. Add apples to baking dish and toss well. Place sausages atop potato mixture and return to oven. Turn heat down to 400 degrees and bake another 30 minutes, turning sausages over halfway through, until sausages are cooked and potatoes are tender. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in cider vinegar, if desired.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


I feel like this barely counts as a recipe, especially since I found it on the back of a package, yet I’ve made it several times and it continues to be really tasty, so why not?

As I’ve mentioned, I always buy Trader Joe’s broccoli slaw to go with my fish and chips, because I’m not a fan of cabbage. (Well, I do like cabbage slaw with my fish tacos. I am a complicated person.) I only use half the bag for that, though, and I couldn’t ever figure out what to do with the rest. Sometimes I’d sprinkle it on top of a green salad, but mostly I’d stash it in the fridge intending to find a use for it, and the next time I’d pull it out it would have gone bad. Then one day, I—duh!—turned the bag over and spotted a recipe that looked pretty decent, with apples, walnuts, and cranberries. The recipe just said to use “your favorite dressing,” and I immediately thought of the creamy mustard vinaigrette that goes with my beloved arugula, potato, and green bean salad, a dressing I find myself making often for other purposes. It’s great on crispy chicken salad, which also contains apples, walnuts, and cranberries, so I knew it would work with this slaw.

The result is a wonderfully crunchy, fresh-yet-fallish salad that’s perfect with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side for lunch or a light dinner. I halved the original recipe but usually end up increasing the cranberries and apples a bit. This time, because I had orphaned green onions in the fridge, I threw in some scallion greens and they made it even better; I don’t think I’d bother buying them just for this recipe, but it’s worth adding if you have one to spare, because the oniony bite helps to further balance the sweetness of the cranberries and apples. I think bagged broccoli slaw is available at other stores besides Trader Joe’s, but I’m sure you could make your own if you have a food processor or a good grater—it’s just shredded broccoli stems with a little shredded carrot mixed in.

6 ounces broccoli slaw
2–4 tablespoons dried cranberries
2–4 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted
1 medium apple, diced
1 green onion, green part only, thinly sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil

1. In a large bowl, conmbine the broccoli slaw, cranberries, walnuts, apple, and green onion (if using).

2. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, yogurt, mustard, salt and pepper. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified.

3. Pour dressing over slaw (you may not use it all; start with about three-quarters, toss well, and then add more gradually as needed) and stir until all the ingredients are well coated. Let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

Serves: 2–3
Time: 25 minutes
Leftover potential: Unknown.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


I love trying new cookie recipes, because they rarely if ever turn out badly. In this case, how could adding pumpkin and spices (yes, I am firmly on board the pumpkin train after years of resistance, and that train is delicious) to the standard oatmeal scotchies recipe be anything but tasty? The pumpkin creates a nice amber color and tender cakiness, the spices help balance the intensely sweet, slightly artificial flavor (I say that in a loving way) of the butterscotch chips, and the whole thing is heartily fallish (if not very photogenic; I think mine are especially homely).

The major change I made to the original recipe was to make my own spice mixture, instead of using premixed pumpkin pie spice augmented by other spices. I went with a similar combination to the one I’ve used in all my other pumpkin recipes, but because I didn’t feel like doing endless math to match the exact amount, it made a little more than the recipe calls for, so you’ll have find some other use for the extra (I threw it into my refrigerator oatmeal the next day). I also increased the salt from ¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon, which seemed necessary to counteract the richness of the butterscotch chips (it’s also the amount used in the traditional oatmeal scotchies recipe, at least as published on the Quaker oatmeal package). I would maybe consider cutting back slightly on the butterscotch chips; 1½ cups (nearly but not quite an entire bag, according to my measurements) made for a very sweet result, and some of my cookies seemed more like clumps of chips loosely held together with a bit of dough. I found myself longing for more of the oatmeal-pumpkin portion, so I might try just 1 cup next time. Lastly, I think I could have made my cookies a little larger, because I got about 10 more than the original recipe did. But since when is having extra cookies really a problem?

1¼ cup cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom
⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon allspice
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1–1½ cups butterscotch chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Measure out 1¼ teaspoons of the spice mixture and add it to the bowl with the flour mixture, whisking well to combine. Save the rest of the spice mixture for another use.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (or just in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer), beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add egg and vanilla extract and mix again. Add pumpkin and mix until combined (mixture may appear curdled, but it’s fine).

5. Turn the mixer speed to low and slowly add in flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in oats and butterscotch chips.

6. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cookies are set and golden. Remove cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Yields: About 3 dozen cookies (original recipe said 2½ dozen; I got 40)
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; freezes well.

Monday, November 05, 2012


I dogeared this page in the January 2012 issue of Cooking Light, but I didn’t manage to make it before the weather got warm and maple-flavored food lost its seasonal appeal. As soon as L.A. finally cooled off again (mostly; it’s 93 degrees as I write this—but we’ll be down to 46 in a few days), it was at the top of my to-cook list, and it turned out to be everything I’d hoped: easy, sweet-salty-savory, and autumnal. I doubled down on the fall ingredients by serving it with my favorite kale and butternut squash salad, which was an excellent pairing.

I’m grateful that I followed the lead of many commenters in doubling all the sauce quantities except for the syrup. I feel like “double the sauce” is a popular refrain on just about every Cooking Light recipe ever (for the most part, the magazine is more austere than its readers), but in this case, some who didn’t do so complained that it cooked down to a burnt-caramel mess by the time they pulled it out of the oven, and after the balsamic reduction fiasco this summer, I was leery of further damage to my cast iron. The doubled quantities felt like just the right amount, enough to spoon over the chicken without drowning it. Not increasing the maple syrup was key, because I certainly wouldn’t have wanted the sauce to be any sweeter than it was, and I appreciated the extra tang of cider vinegar and mustard to balance everything out.

In all, this is a simple, lovely fall-winter main dish that’s quick enough for a weeknight meal but fancy enough for company, and versatile enough to go with a whole range of side dishes. I plan to make it often, at least during our brief, precious cool months.

2 teaspoons olive oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup maple syrup
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with pepper and salt. Add chicken to pan; sauté 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan.

3. Add broth, syrup, thyme, and garlic to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vinegar and mustard; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return chicken to pan, and spoon mustard mixture over chicken.

4. Bake for 10 minutes or until the chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place pan over medium heat; cook mustard mixture 2 minutes or until liquid is syrupy, stirring frequently. Serve over the chicken.

Serves: 4
Time: 35 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.