Saturday, April 23, 2016


And still another veggie makes its Bookcook debut! Clearly, I’ve been feeling experimental lately. (Is it sad when one of the biggest thrills in your life is trying a new vegetable? Not to me.) I had tried broccolini (which is not baby broccoli, but a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli that my spell-checker doesn’t yet recognize) a few times on and off over the years and liked it, but it’s started making more reliable appearances at our farmers’ market, so I figured I’d better give a shot for real.

Naturally, I turned to pasta. The sausage-and-broccoli/broccolini/broccoli rabe combo is a classic one, but I had to comb through a surprising number of variations on Google that weren’t quite what I wanted before I found something near enough. I used this recipe from the Weekend Gourmande (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated) as a jumping-off point, doubling it and adding lemon zest and juice for a springy zip (what even is the point of a green vegetable without lemon?). I garnished with basil because I had some that needed to be used up, but it isn’t necessary. While hardly groundbreaking, this is a straightforward and delicious meal that lets the broccolini shine but gives veg-skeptics (ahem, A) enough meaty-spicy-cheesy-savory elements to sink their teeth into.

If you don’t want to shell out for broccolini (or just can’t find it), regular broccoli would work here. I’d love to try it with broccoli rabe sometime, but I’ve never spotted it at our farmers’ market. Broccolini does seem to be an up-and-comer, so maybe its cousin will be next to join the club.

1 pound orecchiette (or a short, curly pasta like rotini)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage (hot or sweet), casings removed
4 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 to 1½ pounds broccolini (about 2 bunches), cut into 1-inch pieces, stems halved lengthwise if thick
1 to 1½ cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water before draining.
  2. Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s warm, add the olive oil and the Italian sausage. Cook until browned, breaking up the chunks with a spoon. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the broccolini, ½ teaspoon salt, and broth to the skillet. Cover for 2 minutes to steam, until broccolini is bright green. Remove lid and cook until broccolini is tender and most of the stock evaporates.
  4. Add drained pasta, lemon juice, lemon zest, and ½ cup Parmesan to the skillet and stir well, adding pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with additional Parmesan on top.
Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Another new vegetable addition to my palate’s palette. Brussels sprouts have, of course, been rehabbed from their bad rap and served at the cool-kid tables for years, but I was slow to pick up on the trend because they’re basically tiny cabbages, and up until last year I wasn’t a fan of the full-sized version either. But you can’t throw a stone anymore without hitting a gastropub, and you can’t throw a stone in a gastropub without hitting a bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, usually the only green vegetable on the menu, so eventually I tried them and enjoyed them. I did roast them at home a few times, but apparently none of the recipes I tried were especially notable, because they never made it to the blog. This year I vowed I’d get better acquainted with Brussels sprouts.

I chose this recipe from The Kitchn because I knew the bacon would mollify A (as well as being a natural pairing for sprouts), mustard improves almost everything, and the addition of potatoes makes this an easy way to cover two-thirds of the protein + starch + veg meal formula (a template I don’t usually feel compelled to follow, but I needed something to serve with lemon garlic chicken and this seemed like a properly substantial side). It was effortless and excellent. I used a slightly higher sprouts-to-potato ratio because I like green things, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. I do think I should have put the sprouts in earlier, because my bacon was a little too toasty by the end (and I say this as someone who likes it extra-crispy) and my sprouts not quite dark enough for my taste, but that’s easily remedied next time.

So: Brussels sprouts: yes. Not sure if I’m ready to level-up and try them in raw salad form, but roasted, I’m on board with.

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1¼ pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
¼ pound (about 3 slices) thick-cut bacon, diced
¾ pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the ½ tablespoon olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss the potatoes and bacon in the bowl until evenly coated.
  2. Spread the potato mixture evenly on a large, heavy baking sheet. Roast for 25 to 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but not too browned, stirring every 10 minutes.
  3. Turn the oven up to 475 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil. Push the potatoes to one side of the pan, and arrange the Brussels sprouts on the other half of the pan, cut sides down.
  4. Continue roasting for about 15 more minutes, or until the sprouts are tender and browned, and the bacon is crisp. Salt to taste.
Serves: 4
Time: 70 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Saturday, April 02, 2016


I’m well versed in lefse, rosettes, spritz and krumkake, but somehow managed to live 27 years in Minnesota minus any memorable encounters with Swedish meatballs, which I attribute to (a) youthful pickiness, (b) a generally noncarnivorous nature, and (c) the fact that they didn’t open an IKEA in the Twin Cities until after I moved away. In exile from my Midwestern homeland, my interest in things Scandinavian has grown exponentially, and one of my favorite ways to eat meat now is in ball form (well-seasoned, bite-sized tidbits beat big boring slabs any day), so it seemed appropriate to finally get into Swedish meatballs.

I bookmarked a number of recipes over the years, but never felt inspired to take the plunge (who really needs more meat and cream in their lives?) until I saw a photo of this Jet and Indigo recipe somewhere online and fell in love with the idea of taking things to the Nordic next level with a gorgeously colorful topping of pickled vegetables.

I went with America’s Test Kitchen (via Elly Says Opa) for the meatballs themselves, and they’re the best I’ve ever made. I don’t quite know what does it (the mixture of beef and pork? the grated onion, which at least on my crappy grater turns into a watery, gelatinous mess that seems like it’s going to make everything sodden but is in fact the perfect way to spread oniony goodness through every cell of the meatball?), but dang, they’re tender and delicious. I found the inclusion of sugar a bit odd, especially in the sauce, and the first time I made this, everything just seemed off-puttingly sweet, especially when combined with the pickled veggies (which tend toward the sweet side as well). I investigated a number of other Swedish meatball recipes and found a few that had sugar in the meat but none that also used it in the sauce, so on the second go-round I omitted it and everything was perfect. It’s possible the sugar works better with heavy cream in the sauce—the first time I used creme fraiche because I happened to have some on hand, and the second time I opted for sour cream, which seemed more traditional. I also threw in a big handful of parsley, just to freshen things up, along with a ton of dill in the pickles. I hate that the recipe calls for just “1 slice sandwich bread,” which seems a lot vaguer than measuring the bread in ounces (I tend to keep odds and ends of various breads in the freezer for making crumbs, but rarely “sandwich bread” per se), but hilariously, on my second try it ended up forcing me to double down on Scandinavianness when it turned out that all I had on hand was marble rye. I can’t say I could taste the caraway in the finished meatballs, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

I know it might seem weird (it certainly did to me; kudos to A for encouraging me to forge ahead) to take a perfectly normal serving of meatballs in a nice gravy and then dump some cold, sweet-and-sour radishes and cucumbers all over it, but I’m telling you, that’s what takes this dish from solid to WOWZA. The brine cuts the richness of the meat and cream, and the cool crunch and beautiful pink and green hues are the perfect foil for the velvety beigeness below. If you simply can’t bring yourself to mix them, you can serve the pickles as a sort of side salad and alternate bites between the two dishes, but trust me on this one: PICKLES ON TOP 4 LYFE.

High-fives were exchanged over the dinner table during this meal (in a very brief pause from shoveling the food into our mouths; I’m a too-fast eater to begin with and yet still embarrassed by how extra quickly I devoured these meatballs every time). I’m ridiculously pleased with it, not only because I managed to merge two recipes and totally nail it (on the second attempt anyway), but also because, like many of the recipes I’ve been trying lately, it represents something that would have repulsed (or at least failed to interest) my younger self. It’s been fun to have the chance to discover foods gradually in my own time instead of just being a jaded sushi eater by age 8, but still, my younger self was totally missing out! I’ll just have to eat many more Swedish meatballs this year to make up for it.

¼ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
7 ounces radishes, thinly sliced
2-3 small Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1 large egg
¼ cup heavy cream (or half-and-half or milk)
1 slice sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into ½-inch pieces
1 small onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup chicken broth
¾ cup beef broth
¾ cup sour cream or heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 large handful fresh parsley, minced

For serving:
8 ounces egg noodles, cooked and drained
  1. To make the pickles, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, and mix well until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the cucumber and radish to the bowl, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, mixing occasionally. When ready to serve, stir in the dill.
  2. To make the meatballs, whisk the egg and the cream (or half-and-half or milk) together in a large bowl. Add the bread and stir to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add the remaining meatball ingredients, except for the oil, and mix together lightly with your hands or two forks, just until combined. Form into about 25 to 30 1-inch meatballs.
  4. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs in a single layer. Cook for a few minutes per side, until browned all over but still slightly underdone. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat with the rest of the meatballs.
  5. To make the sauce, return the empty skillet to medium heat and melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk constantly until it’s light brown. Whisk in the chicken and beef broth, and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, which will take approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and return to a simmer. Add the meatballs and simmer for about 5 minutes to warm them through and finish cooking. Add the lemon juice and parsley, and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over egg noodles and top with pickles.
Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; store pickles separately.