Thanksgiving Comes Early. Demo Dinner and Beer Tasting from Fresh Fork Market

Is it possible to be so full, and yet still hungry?  If so, that’s what I am, after the Fresh Fork Market Thanksgiving Beer Dinner.  It was a demo/dinner/sampling of the company’s Thanksgiving offerings this season.  And my appetite is piqued.

thanksgiving dinner winter squash soup

When we sat down at the communal tables in Market Garden Brewery (which served as the night’s event space), there was freshly baked bread, butternut squash and bacon biscuits, with creamy guernsey butter and belly-warming winter squash soup to start….a good start indeed.

thanksgiving bread and butter

While we sampled one of three beers offered for the evening, Chef Adam Lambert demonstrated several different ways to prepare, break down, and carve a Thanksgiving turkey.

thanksgiving dinner turkey demo

Brining is a must, according to Lambert.  Noted.  Trussing you can do without.  Excellent.  Always intimidated by that part anyway.  To stuff, or not to stuff?  He says for safety reasons (and to not overcook the bird) cook the stuffing separately.  Grill it, smoke it, roast it, or…a new one for me… “spatchcock” it (method of removing the backbone then cooking it flat, thus making for a more even thickness).

thanksgiving turkey spatchcocked

Chef Lambert answered questions throughout the demo, everything from where to place the thermometer, to what kind of knife to use for these various methods.  By then, the smells coming from the kitchen had made their way to the back of the event space and it was time to feast.

thanksgiving turkey roasted

The buffet had everything you look for in a Thanksgiving dinner, plus some things you’ve probably been meaning to try.

thanksgiving dinner buffet

There was turkey two ways, (traditionally roasted and spatchcocked/smoked/grilled) mashed potatoes with turnips, cauliflower risotto, braised carrots and greens, sweet potato casserole, creamed cabbage, roasted Brussels sprouts, two kinds of stuffing, root vegetable hash, cornbread, shaved raw vegetable salad, home fries with cabbage and jowl bacon, Harvard beets.  And these are just the ones I can recall.

thanksgiving dinner my plate

After seconds, and thirds, and finally take out containers were offered…it was time for apple pie.  Since I limited myself to one trip to the buffet line (and one to-go container 🙂  )  I saved just enough room to sample the Amish baked pie.  Sorrynotsorry on that one.

fresh fork market turkeys

Those who sat at my table were discussing which Thanksgiving package they were ordering and already dreaming about the pasture-raised turkey that had their name on it.  (Click here for info on Fresh Fork Market Thanksgiving Orders) Guests walked away with an extensive instructional book, about 45 pages long, that covers everything from planning, to prepping and execution.  A new “bible for Thanksgiving hosts” if you will.  A great takeaway!

I left the evening stuffed, satisfied and stimulated…ready to be adventurous and ambitious in the kitchen this Thanksgiving (stay tuned for a “Friendsgiving” post very soon!)  I’m also convinced that this year, the turkey MUST be brined.  So mom, I’ll be over early in the week to take care of that for us!  Thanks, Chef Lambert and Chef Bosley for the great recipes and inspiration!  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Cooking with Craft Beer: Market Garden’s Beer and Butternut Squash Cheesecake

Yes, you read correctly.  We are baking…with beer and butternut squash.  It’s fall, y’all!  So it’s time to incorporate seasonal flavors like pumpkin ale and squash.  I went to my favorite beer experts, the team at Market Garden Brewery to get some great ideas on how to cook with beers.  Cheers!

Executive Chef, Andrew Bower, concocted something up for just this occasion.  The restaurant and brew house has a Pumpkin Beer Fest coming up on October 8th, so he dreamed this dessert up for use then too. If you’ve ever cooked cheesecake, the process will be familiar to you.  It’s the inventive ingredients that will surprise and delight your palate.

The full list of ingredients and measurements, plus instructions are listed below.

market-garden-brewery-mixing

We started by mixing softened cream cheese with both dark brown and white sugar.

Market-garden-brewery-eggs

Next, Chef Bower added four eggs (and some vanilla) one at a time.  Then the magic happened.

market-garden-brewery-pumpkin ale

To that mixture he added 1 cup of Franklin Castle Pumpkin Ale and 15 oz. of butternut squash puree.  (A lesson he learned and shared with me after experimenting with this recipe: make sure you cook and cool the beer before added it to the the rest of the ingredients to prevent bubbles or air pockets)

Finally he added a mixture of your classic pumpkin pie spices.  And that’s it folks.  Pretty simple, yet pretty genius.

market-garden-brewery-graham-cracker-crust

He buttered his home made graham crackers after crumbling them to create the crust.  There is also some cinnamon and brown sugar in there.  (Recipe for those is also below)  Then we poured the cheesecake batter in to a springform pan and placed it inside a water bath to prevent breakage in the crust.

market-garden-brewery-baking-cheesecake

To stick with the theme of fall’s favorite indulgences, Bower whipped up a Pumpkin Ale Caramel and a Bourbon Spiced Whipped Cream to top off this boozy autumn dessert. (Recipes for both of those are also below) 

market-garden-brewery-beer-and-butternut-squash-cheesecake

When it came out to the table and it was time to dive in, I was surprised at how subtle all the strong flavors had become.  The beer and squash notes were mild and worked so well with the classic pumpkin pie spices.  Chef Bower had dreamed up a deeply divine dessert!

market-garden-brewery-cooking-with-beer

A couple of tips about cooking with beer per my conversation with Brewmaster, Andy Tveekrem and Chef Bower:

The reason Bower chose the Franklin Castle Pumpkin Ale for this particular dish was because of the aromatic tones of the beer…allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and chamomile.  Their more mild, subtle tones played well into what he was creating.  Keep that in mind when you’re choosing your brews.

When incorporating beer into a dish, avoid using IPAs…too bitter. (unless you’re doing spicy food).  Stick to mild/malty beers like a Scotch Ale, for their caramelized flavors.  Brown Ales are a great addition to a chili.  Stouts are good mussels.

Now I want to go out and but a growler of all of these to start experimenting…don’t you??  Let me know what you come up with and send along pictures of your fall flavored triumphs!

Market Garden Brewery Beer List

Recipes:

Butternut Squash Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups- crushed graham crackers
2 tbsp- brown sugar
1/4 tsp- cinnamon
4 tbsp- melted butter
1/2 cup- brown sugar
1 cup- white sugar
24 oz- cream cheese
4 each- whole eggs
2 tsp- vanilla paste
15 oz- butternut squash puree or pumpkin puree
1 tsp- ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp- ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp- ground ginger
1/8 tsp- ground cardamom
1/8 tsp- ground clove
1 cup- Cooked and cooled pumpkin ale
For Graham Cracker Crust:
Crush all graham crackers and combine with cinnamon, brown sugar and melted butter and set aside.
For cheesecake: (preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit)
1. Let cream cheese sit out to soften (about one hour should work)
2. Cream softened cream cheese, brown sugar and white sugar on high in stand mixer for about 4 minutes.
3. Slowly add eggs one by one and let the eggs fully incorporate into the cream cheese before adding the next. Then add the vanilla paste.
4. Add butternut puree and beer and let fully incorporate.
5. Add spices to cake batter and let mix fully.
6. Using a spring-form pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and line the paper with the graham cracker crust.
7. Pour the cheesecake batter into the spring-form pan and put into a baking dish.
8. Pour hot water into baking dish until it reaches halfway up the spring-form pan and place into the oven.
9. Cook for 45-60 minutes until cheesecake is set but still jiggly in the middle.
Pumpkin Ale Caramel
1 cup- white sugar
1 cup- water
3 oz- pumpkin ale
3 oz- heavy cream
1. simmer sugar and water together until they reach a caramel color, then cut off heat.
2. add the heavy cream in intervals and whisk between each addition.
3. add pumpkin beer in intervals and whisk between in addition
4. Set aside and cool
Bourbon Spiced Whipped Cream
2 oz- Bourbon
8 oz- Heavy Whipping Cream
3 oz- White sugar
1/8 tsp- Nutmeg
1/8 tsp- Ground Cardamom
1/8 tsp- Ground Cinnamon
1. Heat bourbon and sugar together just until sugar dissolves and set aside to cool.
2. Whip heavy cream until stiff peaks are formed.
3. Add bourbon sugar mixture and spices to whipped cream.

Sisters Pasta Night: Homemade Mushroom Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage

In colleges, my sister studied abroad in Siena, Italy.  She could barely put two sentences of Italian together at the end of her experience…she mostly studied wine and Italian men.  But she came home with a killer hand-made pasta recipe.  And while she might call me on a weekly basis for meal suggestions, and help with recipe substitutions, she is still the authority in the family on home-made pasta dough.  It’s something we do together whenever she is in town. 

For this round I was ready to make a ton of pasta, and freeze it.  And I wanted to use the bountiful herb garden I was “passively cultivating.”  It’s a real jungle back there because I can’t seem to find the time to maintain it.

herb-garden

I sifted through the hip-high cilantro and lettuce plants, to snip bunches of fresh parsley, chives, sage, and basil.

garden-herbs

I knew we’d need marinara sauce for all this fresh pasta too, so I put a pot of that on as well.  Working loosely off a recipe I learned at a class at The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking, I used garlic and onion, grated celery and carrot, whole peeled tomatoes, a pinch of crushed red pepper, salt and pepper, and lots of the fresh parsley and basil.

marinara-sauce

While that simmered, we got to work on the first dough.  The ingredients are few…it’s the technique that’s still tough for me.

3 c. flour, unbleached

3 large eggs

1/4 c. dry white wine

1 tsp. salt

Water or extra flour, if needed

Lexi-making-pasta

You start by creating a “mound” with your flour, and make a deep well.  Meanwhile crack the eggs in a bowl and break the yolks up with a fork, then add the wine and salt to the eggs.  Carefully pour the egg mixture into the well.  Then, using a fork, slowly bring the flour in to the egg mixture.  When the flour is totally absorbed, begin kneading by hand for 20 min…no shortcuts!  Add water if it seems dry, or sprinkle more flour if it’s too wet.  Gather it in a ball and place it in a mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, to rest for 30 min…no shortcuts there either.

The first batch was dinner that night: a classic fettuccine with marinara.  We made a second batch of dough for me to make ravioli with.  I whipped up the filling while Lexi, and my eager daughters, kneaded.

Julia-making-pasta     Natalie-making-pasta

I wanted to use all that beautiful sage.  So I sautéed some mushrooms in olive oil, with garlic and shallots.  Then I added chopped sage, and a drizzle of truffle oil.  I mixed that with some ricotta, salt and pepper, and more truffle oil and let it cool while we rolled the dough.

Natalie-rolling-dough

First we cut the fettuccine, as we’ve done every time before.  You start on the widest setting, cranking that pasta machine to gradually reduce the width until the dough is the desired thickness, then cut it. (angel hair, linguine, fettuccine, etc.)  We sprinkled a tablecloth with flour and let it dry while we moved on to the delicate ravioli.

homemade-pasta

For those, we rolled the dough out, same as before.  Then we laid the sheets of pasta over my grandmother’s old ravioli plates.  I put a generous teaspoon of the filling in each pouch.

ravioli filling

Then we placed a second sheet on top, and used a rolling-pin (and the back of a spoon) to “stamp” or cut them.  We tore off the excess around the edges then carefully popped out each delicate little ravioli.

Ravioli-trays

To be honest, these usually don’t turn out so well for me…but these looked beautiful!!

Last round of dough was experimental.  I chopped up a ton of fresh chives and we incorporated that into the dough during the kneading process.  Toss this pasta with a little butter and you’ve got something pretty spectacular.

pasta-with-chives

There was salted water boiling on the stove…time to taste the fruits of our labor!  First course was the fettuccine and marinara.  It didn’t disappoint.  While we poured a second (or fourth?) glass of wine, I browned some butter and added more chopped sage, plus seasoning.  When the ravioli were cooked through in the water, I drained them and added them to the saute pan to brown them up.  Sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Perfection.

Julia-in-an-apron

I had a full heart and a full belly at the end of the evening.  It was so much fun for my girls to share in a special sisters pasta night!  I hope they carry on the tradition.

Bistro Panini

I love a good grilled panini.  And like lots of other Cheftovers tricks, it’s kind of a blank canvas.  Add your favorite creamy cheese to a crispy, chewy ciabatta roll, along with whatever veggies and meat move you…and you’re in business!  

This week I used one of my got-to’s for weekday meals, a roast in the slow cooker.  I made a London broil roast with pretty basic seasoning.  But as is often the case, I made more than we needed for just two of us.

sliced roast

So I sliced up the rest of the beef and immediately began drooling over my idea, incorporating one of the tasty Orlando baked goods I came across during my review of their new products (see previous post).  I was going to grill up a couple of paninis using their Heat & Serve Ciabatta Rolls.

ciabatta rolls 

Now that I had the canvas for my panini, (the rolls) and the protein (my leftover London broil) I was excited to find a couple of other elements to boost the tastiness factor.  And I knew caramelized onions would have to join the party!

sliced onions

I sliced up a whole sweet onion into rings, then tossed a couple tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil into a saute pan.  I added the onions to the pan, seasoned them and left them on a low-medium heat for about 90 minutes, stirring them only once every 15 min or so.

(Here’s the part of my process where I unload the dishwasher, feed my kids, flip the laundry, etc.  I’m so glamorous.)

caramelized onions

When the onions turned this beautiful color, I was ready for the final components.  I found the chunk of creamy Havarti cheese that my husband picked up at the grocery store this week to snack on.  But I got to it first!   And I was sure this would be a super compliment to what I was drumming up.  Now for a sauce, spread or condiment…couldn’t be something ordinary.

panini condiments

I decided to try two routes…using a deli horseradish sauce for sandwiches (something we like to keep around the house) and I was also going to mix up a balsamic mayo.  I have developed quite a collection of balsamic vinegar varieties in my cupboard… I’ve got Sicilian Lemon and Mango white balsamic, chocolate, and raspberry.  I don’t find use for them often, but when I do, they’re usually the MVP of the dish.  For this panini, I liked the garlic cilantro one.  I mixed a couple spoonfuls of olive oil mayo with a couple teaspoons of the balsamic vinegar….oooh yeah, that was what I was going for!   balsamic mayo spread

grilling the panini

I assembled two sandwiches using a couple slices of Havarti, a spoonful of caramelized onions, three slices of my leftover roast, and one of the spreads on each.  Then I placed them on my panini press and eagerly awaited their gooey goodness.  They sat on the grill for about 5 minutes until I saw those pretty grill marks on the outside of the ciabatta rolls.  Know that the contents may slide out a bit, or ooze out a little.

bistro panini with carmelized onions

Now it was pay off time, and it was sweet!  These were warm, chewy, tangy and sweet.  And the best part?  I have more of all of the ingredients so I can make this again.

Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

I can’t believe I’m going to say this…but I’m almost “pumpkin pie-d out.”  It is my favorite dessert, period.  I gobble up anything pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice flavored beginning October 1st, and usually don’t stop until the end of Thanksgiving weekend.   So by now, I’m usually ready to move on.

After Thankgiving I still had so much excess pumpkin pie filling from a double recipe, combined with apparently small pie plates, that I cranked one more out over the weekend.   But this morning there was still about a third of that pie left, staring at me.  I don’t like throwing food away ever, but I certainly don’t like throwing away my favorite dessert.  It seems sacrilegious.

pumpkin pie leftover

I usually get my “Cheftovers” ideas in the morning, when I crack open the refridgerator for the first time that day.  And today was no different.  That pie was lingering, and I was hungry for breakfast.  Why not pumpkin pie pancakes?  Sure sounds tasty, and I think it just might work.  I read a quote from radio and TV critic Harriet van Horne recently that inspired me:

“Cooking is like love-it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.” 

So I ran with the idea.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I waste some pie that I really didn’t want anyway?

pumpkin pie pancake batter

The rest is pretty simple.  I grabbed the pancake mix I keep in the pantry and prepared that as usual, according to the directions. (2 cups of mix, and a cup and a half of water)  Then I cut a generous piece of pie and scooped out the filling.  I added it to the pancake batter and blended it until it was smooth again.  Once that was added, the batter was pretty thick, as you might imagine.  So I added about a half a cup more water and the consistency was back to where it should be.

pumpkin pie pancake on the griddle

Then I fired up the griddle pan, and cranked out my pumpkin pie pancakes just like I would a standard stack of ’em.  My preschooler still wanted butter and syrup like normal, and she practically licked her plate clean.  I am not a big fan of maple syrup in general, so I topped mine with a bit of butter and some whipped cream.

Duuuuuude, these were tasty!  They didn’t have the same consistency as regular pancakes, which was fine with me.  I find regular pancakes kinda bland and dry anyway.  These were far more moist and flavorful.  I will do this again…might even scoop out the rest of the leftover filling and freeze it for future breakfasts this month.

What do you still have lingering in your fridge that you’re trying to find a creative way to use?

Too Much Take-Out

We’ve started a new routine in our household that we’re trying to stick to.  I’ve asked my husband to take care of dinner on Friday nights.  It’s a pretty rare occasional when he actually cooks.  Doesn’t matter.   Most of the time, it’s take-out.  And that’s just fine with me, as long as the task is taken off my plate.  And with take-out…whether it’s Chinese, pizza, or your favorite neighborhood wing joint….there’s usually leftovers. 

When my husband orders take-out, his eyes are generally bigger than both of our stomachs.  He recently came home with a box…not a bag, a box…full of food from a locally owned and family-run Italian restaurant we’ve become quite fond of.  He placed and picked up our dinner order rather late, and I noticed they threw in an entire to-go box full of bread sticks (probably end of dinner service and they didn’t figure they’d be good after that night, and/or hostess who took the phone order thought they were feeding a family of 8, given the size of said order).   I couldn’t find room for even one….between the wedding soup, salad, chicken piccata and homemade spaghetti and meatballs.  But these were bakery-quality bread sticks and I hated to toss them.

breadsticks

I try to make something for breakfast on the weekends that’s different than the usual scrambled eggs or soggy cereal.   The breadsticks were just what I needed to whip up some quick French toast sticks.   A few easy steps and my children were gathered around the table gobbling them up.  Crack a couple of eggs, add a generous splash of milk, about teaspoon of cinnamon (or more if you prefer) and a teaspoon or more of vanilla.  Then whisk everything together.  Dunk each piece of bread in the egg mixture so that it’s totally coated.  Warm some butter on a flat top, frying pan or griddle pan.  Cook the French toast sticks until each side has a nice golden crust.  Most would butter then and serve with maple syrup.  But I’m not too fond of maple flavored anything, so I like to sprinkle a little sugar on top instead.  The best part?  These could also freeze and be on stand-by for a quick go-to weekday breakfast.

What do you often find yourself left with after take-out night?  What have you done with it?

Black Friday Breakfast- Overnight French Toast

Since I work with leftovers, Thanksgiving is pretty much my Super Bowl.  (see previous posts on The Pilgrim Pocket, and 5 Better Things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers) And I know, I know….the last thing you want to do on the day after Thanksgiving is cook.  But as I’ve mentioned before, I hate wasting food…especially food that I, or someone from my family, have put so much time and love into.

I also have the unfortunate luck of working on Black Friday (no, I’m not in retail!) So I whipped together an overnight French Toast with some of the Thanksgiving Day remnants to help me get out the door quicker, fuller and help out my husband who has a special “daddy day” planned with his daughters.

My inspiration was a Ziploc bag full of leftover “Monkey Bread” we were sent home with after stop one on Thanksgiving.  If you’re not familiar, it’s a bundt pan of guilty pleasure made with biscuit dough, butter and sugar.  A friend of mine challenged me to make French Toast with it.  I recalled an overnight recipe I’d made before from the The Yummy Mummy Kitchen by Marina Delio.  Of course she uses fresh French bread, but I didn’t see why this couldn’t be adjusted.

I pulled apart the “monkey balls” and placed them in a single layer in a greased baking dish.  Then, I took some blackberries from my produce drawer and the remainder of the homemade cranberry sauce from the day’s feast and filled in the gaps.

making black friday breakfast

I whisked together a couple of eggs, some vanilla and added whole milk.  But here is where you could use some of the massive amount of half and half you bought for the coffee you served with pumpkin pie, or the rest of the heavy cream you purchased for your potato recipe.  Use what you’ve got!  (I also left out the syrup that the original recipe calls for, as there’s already so much sugar on the monkey bread) I poured the mixture over the bread/berries then covered it with plastic wrap and left it in the fridge overnight.  (if you’re in a hurry, try doing it without the “overnight” element…and let me know how it turns out! I’m curious myself)

Black Friday morning, I melted some butter, added brown sugar and some crushed walnuts and sprinkled that mixture on top.  Here’s another good place to use leftovers, like pecans you have from the pecan pie you made.  I placed in a 375 oven for about 40 minutes.  Top it with syrup, and enjoy!

What do you have leftover from Thanksgiving? I am looking for inspiration and another challenge!!

Five better things to do with Thanksgiving leftovers

Don’t default to tired turkey salad or slap together a boring turkey sandwich in the days after your Thanksgiving feast.  Try mixing it up with these Cheftovers  ideas for your holiday leftovers: Baked Brie with cranberry sauce, Turkey Tetrazzini, Pilgrim Pockets, Mini turkey pot pies, and Thanksgiving casserole.

This year I made home made cranberry sauce for Friendsgiving.  I’ll never buy it canned again.  It was easy, bright and beautiful…and too good to toss.  So I took a semi circle of Brie (inexplicably leftover from a cheese plate one of our guests brought…that stuff usually goes quick in a crowd!) and topped it with about half a cup of the leftover cranberry sauce.  I then wrapped the Brie/cranberry sauce in a sheet of puff pastry I defrosted and brushed it with melted butter and baked it at 375 until it was golden brown.  Spread that melty, sweet, tart, creamy goodness on a buttery cracker and you’ve got a spectacular holiday appetizer.

Brie with cranberry sauce

I like to try to find some way to incorporate pasta when I’m dreaming up leftovers ideas.  Turkey tetrazzini is a savory way to include the flavors and excess from Thanksgiving dinner, but not have a carbon copy dinner on Black Friday.

turkey tetrazzini

I looked up a couple of turkey tetrazzini recipes online and married a handful of them based on what I had and what I was trying to use up.  I used two cups of chopped leftover turkey, and added that to a sauce I made with sauteed onions and garlic, cream of mushroom soup (a Cheftovers pantry must-have) turkey stock (which I made with the turkey carcass…a mindless task you’ll be happy you did) some canned mushrooms, cheddar cheese, and season salt.  I tossed that combo with some al dente linguine, put it in a casserole dish, topped it with some more cheese and baked it (covered with foil) until bubbly.  Toward the end I topped it with chopped parsley (leftover from my herb rubbed turkey recipe) and some red peppers that were lingering from a veggie tray.

pilgrim pocket

The Pilgrim Pocket is simple…make a Thanksgiving leftovers calzone.  Just use leftover stuffing, turkey, and veggies (like green bean casserole, carrots or corn) and stuff that into a pie crust (cut in half, then folded over once filled) I used gravy and/or cream of chicken/cream of mushroom soup to bind the insides and keep it moist on day two.  Pinch the sides to seal in all the goodness and brush the outside with an egg wash, and cut slits before baking. (400* for about 25 min)

pilgrim pocket sliced

If you have some extra Pillsbury biscuits in the fridge you didn’t bake, try some mini turkey pot pies.  I placed the biscuits in a cupcake tin, and filled each with the same kind of filling from the Pilgrim pocket.

making mini thanksgiving pot pies

I suppose you could also incorporate a little mashed potatoes, although I think those freeze pretty well.  I topped them with a dollop of cream of chicken soup, and some french fried onions (in the cupboard from the green bean casserole recipe) and baked them at 350 for 23-25 min.

mini turkey pot pie

Now…if you don’t have biscuits, or pie crust…or you have already used them and STILL have leftovers, like I did…I also made a Thanksgiving casserole of sorts.  I cooked some egg noodles, and place those in the bottom of a baking dish.  Then I took roughly the same combo from above, or whatever you’ve got left, in my case…a few cups of turkey, the last of the green bean casserole, or whatever veggies you have…and I poured in the last of my gravy and mixed everything up.  I topped the noodles with that mixture and sprinkled the remainder of my french fried onions on to finish.  It’s a comforting, easy combo that should reheat pretty well too.

thanksgiving casserole

I’m always looking for inventive ways to use what’s around.  Please share your creative Thanksgiving leftover dishes.  

Herbal Harvest

It’s about that time when those of us in cooler climates have to come to terms with the fact that winter is coming.  Most of the leaves are off the trees and the first snow of the year will fall any day.  Ugh.  Before frost destroys it, it’s time to harvest what’s left of my humble garden.

I have a pair of four by four garden boxes in our back yard.  Not because I love to garden, or cultivate plants, but because I love to cook with fresh ingredients.  Each year I mix it up based on what did well the year before.  This year I dabbled in tomatoes for the first time, which were a disappointment due to our cool summer.  Same goes for the basil, an herb I could cook with every night.  My parsley, oregano and rosemary, however, blossomed this year.  Even into late fall, they’re still thriving.  But not for long.

After cutting all the herbs I could carry and spreading them out on my counter, I rolled up my sleeves and brainstormed about the best ways to maximize this aromatic harvest.

herbal harvest2

My go-to with excess herbs is some variety of pesto.  So I began by making a version of the Italian staple sauce.  As mentioned in a previous post, I usually make pesto with almonds rather than pine nuts.  They’re far cheaper, and I like the idea of putting a “super food” into a dish.  Pull out the food processor and combine roughly ¾ c. almonds with a couple handfuls of fresh parsley, a clove of garlic, ½ c. grated Parmesan, and some fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Season it with salt and pepper and fire it up.  The end game is a bright and fresh sauce that’s great on seafood like shrimp, salmon or any white fish.  Also try adding a little (like a quarter cup) cream cheese or goat cheese and toss it with linguine and a touch of pasta water.   Supplement with a protein like chicken or shrimp.   To. Die. For.

The food processor got me thinking about another idea that could set me up for an easy work day dinner: Herbed butter.  I softened some unsalted butter and blended it with a couple small cloves of garlic and parsley.  My husband loves spaghetti al olio.  So this will make it incredibly quick.  Simply cook some long pasta, and toss it with this garlic butter w/parsley, season, and add olive oil.  Top generously with grated cheese.

Then I took another stick of sliced, unsalted butter and added parsley, rosemary and oregano and garlic to make another version of herbed butter. I seasoned this with a touch of salt and pepper, then rolled it up in plastic wrap and foil and threw it in the freezer.  I plan to slice it off to use as needed on things like chicken and steak.  This will be versatile and very clutch when I’ve come home late from work and want to put together something great.

Fresh are too expensive to waste.  How have you made good use of excess?