Weekly Winner:  One Man’s Maque Choux is Another Man’s Fancy Succotash

Whatever you want to call it, this might very well be my new favorite side dish. Yes, it has bacon in it. Yes, there’s a bit of cream and sherry to bring it all together. But seriously folks, this is a whole lot of veggie goodness here. I really can’t think of a piece of meat or fish that this wouldn’t go amazingly well with. It is good hot off the stove, room temperature or even cold so it would be a great picnic or pot luck item any time of year. I just wanted to test out the Maque Choux with Edamame and Sherry recipe so I simply sautéed a few chicken breasts.  (Note: the leftover sauce in the bottom of the Maque Choux pan makes a fabulous topping for the chicken, or whatever you’re having this with.

While I’m not positive, I’m relatively sure I got this recipe from the June issue of Cuisine at Home magazine.  Seriously people, call this what you want, but make sure you try this recipe.

Maque Choux with Edamame & Sherry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/3 cup diced scallion whites

2 Tbsp seeded and minced jalapeño

1 tsp minced fresh garlic

1/4 cup dry sherry

1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed if frozen

1/2 cup fresh or frozen shelled edamame, thawed if frozen

1/2 cup heavy cream

Pinch of sugar

1/3 cup thinly sliced scallion greens

Salt and black pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Cook bacon in a sauté pan until crisp; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and discard all but 1 Tbsp of drippings.
  2. Melt butter with drippings in same pan over medium heat.  Add bell pepper, scallion whites and jalapeño; cook until softened, 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  3. Deglaze pan with sherry, scraping up any brown bits.  Cook until Sherry is nearly evaporated.
  4. Add corn, edamame, cream, and sugar; simmer until cream thickens, about 3 minutes.  Toss scallion Green’s into Maque Choux and season with salt and pepper.
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Weekly Winner:  Sometimes the best plan is no plan at all … And bacon cheese!

As my lack of entries indicate, it has been a crazy couple of weeks around here…. Work, house guests, burst pipes, new carpeting, travel….so my recipe experimentation has been relatively nonexistent. Hopefully I’ll be able to remedy that in the coming weeks but for now this is definitely the best thing I’ve made in a while.

Heading to the Green City Market this morning I had no idea what I was looking for.  I found myself in the unusual situation of only having to buy for myself and hubby and today’s lunch was all I had in mind.  But what to make?  I’m sure I have a ton of new salad recipes I’ve been meaning to try, and there’s always my famous (to us anyway) farmer’s market pizza but to be honest, I wasn’t going to have the time.  I needed to find something that could be put together quickly but obviously, it had to be tasty.

If I can just say…I outdid myself!  I thought at first I would just cobble together a salad from all the various fabulous veggies I knew would be waiting for me. But then again, there’s Bennison’s bakery which always has incredible bread.  And cheese…there’s always amazing cheese to be found there as well.  Voila!  A Veggie Sandwich!  This was great, or as hubby said “This is stupidly good”.  I’ll take that any day of the week!  Sometimes you just got to wing it.

So while there’s really no recipe for this, everything on this sandwich came from the market this morning with the exception of a gala apple that I had on hand and some Gulden’s Mustard.  So here it goes:

Donna’s Green City Market Sandwich

Serves 2

Take 2 mini ciabatta loaves and slice in half lengthwise.  Generously spread bottom halves with Bacon Cheddar Cold Pack Cheese from Brunkhow Cheese .  On top of that place gala apple thinly sliced, half a cucumber thinly sliced, one sliced heirloom tomato, red leaf lettuce and thinly sliced red onion.  Salt and pepper each sandwich.  Spread a thin layer of Gulden’s mustard on top half of bread, place on top of the glorious veggies and squish down firmly.  Cut each sandwich in half and enjoy!

Weekly Winner:  All Hail Kale (again)

When you make a new kale salad for lunch and your husband not only willingly eats it but comments “Oh, wow this is good!” You know you’ve got a winner of a recipe.  That’s exactly what happened this past week.  Now granted, the name of this recipe gives great insight as to why we thought it was so spectacular:  Steak House Kale Salad With Hot Bacon Vinaigrette. Boo yah!

Yes it contained bacon and yes, that makes it tasty.  But this salad is one of those magical combinations of ingredients that just work.  Everything comes together beautifully for a yummy addictive salad.  And in my view, the kale and other veggies cancel out the three slices of bacon used in this substantial salad that feeds four.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

The only problem is that, for the life of me, I can’t determine where I pulled the recipe from so I am unable to give proper credit.  But regardless, this is a salad that I will be making year-round on a very regular basis.

Steak House Kale Salad with hot bacon vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced

3 Tbsp canola oil

1 Tbsp minced shallots

1 tsp minced fresh garlic

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

6 cups baby kale salad mix

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup slivered red onion

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 hard-cooked egg, grated

Procedure:

  • Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and discard drippings.  Heat oil in same skillet; add shallots and garlic and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.
  • Whisk in vinegar, sugar, Dijon, and thyme; season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and keep vinaigrette warm.
  • Toss kale mix, carrot, and onion with vinaigrette to coat.  Garnish servings with pumpkin seeds and egg.

Weekly Winner:  The Strangest (and possibly best) Pasta to Date

So, have you ever seen a recipe and thought:  “I can’t even begin to imagine what this might taste like…. I’m going to make it and see!”?  No?  Maybe that’s just me, but that is exactly what happened when I came across this recipe a month or so ago in Food and Wine Magazine.

Rigatoni with Cabbage and Creme Fraiche — I mean it just sounds strange… creamy cabbage…. and pasta….. and pumpernickel???  Of course the saving grace was that I saw bacon listed as an ingredient.  I know I’m safe if it has bacon.

I did still have my doubts.  I’m generally not a fan of overly-cooked cabbage.  I love coleslaw and stir-frys that have cabbage that is cooked quickly, but thinly shredded cabbage cooked for 8 minutes?  That’s approaching cabbage abuse!  But I have a rule.  The first time I try a recipe I follow it to the letter (unless it calls for cilantro)  after that, I’m permitted to tinker.

So, what did I think of this concoction?  In a word: Fabulous!  It really was amazingly good.  Hubby and I both immediately thought it would be a great with a soft-cooked egg on top but couldn’t imagine why we both came to that conclusion.  Then it hit us.  The cabbage became almost leek-like and the final product really reminded us of a version of carbonara we both like.  Bacon, cream, “leeks” pasta…. it all suddenly made sense.  And also made a dang fine dinner.

So, now that I’ve made it as prescribed, is there anything I’d change?  Well, the egg is a definite possibility, but I also think it would be better (or at least easier to shovel in your mouth) with a shorter, smaller pasta.  The size of the rigatoni was a bit unwieldy considering the rest of the ingredients.  Other than that I wouldn’t change a thing and anticipate making this often….. very often.

Rigatoni with Cabbage and Creme Fraiche

Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 oz. pumpernickel bread, torn into pieces (3 cups)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and black pepper

4 oz thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 small onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 head of Savoy cabbage (1-1/2 lbs) shredded

2 cups chicken stock

1 lb. rigatoni

1/2 cup creme fraiche

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

Procedure:

  1. In a food processor, pulse the bread until coarse crumbs form.  In a skillet, melt the butter in 2 Tbsp of the olive oil.  Add the breadcrumbs and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 minutes.  Season with salt
  2. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil.  Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain.  Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper to the skillet and cook until the onion is softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the cabbage and stock and bring to a simmer.  Cook, stirring, until almost all of the stock has evaporated, 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Toss the pasta with the cabbage.  Stir in the creme fraiche, the 1/2 cup of cheese and, if necessary, the reserved pasta water; season with salt and black pepper.  Transfer the pasta to bowls and garnish with the breadcrumbs, bacon and black pepper.  Serve with additional cheese on the side.

Farro + Feta = Fabulous Fall Fare

Even though it has started to cool off a bit here, I still have those days that I crave a salad.  But it needs to be a season-appropriate salad.  A bit on the hearty side, with a warm element or two and a recipe that uses the best of fall produce.  And, if it has bacon in it…. even better!!  My answer is this spectacular salad.

Apple, Farro and Bacon Salad with Warm Feta Cheese comes from Woman’s Day magazine.  It’s a salad that definitely stays with you for a while — you won’t be hungry thirty minutes after eating it.  Roasting the bacon also makes it a bit chewier than if you simply fried it which, along with the farro, gives you something to sink your teeth into.  And besides that … its bacon, so it has that going for it already.

Apple, Farro and Bacon Salad with Warm Feta Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 slices of bacon

4 oz feta cheese

2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp fresh thyme

Kosher salt and pepper

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1 cup red seedless grapes, halved

1 crisp red apple, cored and cut into thin 1-inch pieces

1 bunch arugula, thick stems discarded

Procedure:

  1. Heat oven to 425F.  Cook the farro according to package directions.  Place the bacon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until crisp, 12-15 minutes; crumble and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, place the feta in the center of a piece of foil.  Drizzle with 1 tsp. oil; sprinkle with thyme and pepper.  Pull the foil up around the feta to create a pouch.  Bake for 5 minutes just before serving.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.  Add the onion and toss to coat; let sit for 5 minutes. Add the celery, grapes and apple and toss to combine.
  4. Add the farro, drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and toss to combine. Fold in the arugula and bacon and serve with the feta.

Weekly Winner: Perfecting the Perfect Salad

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Apparently we are in our “Salad Days” of summer here in Chicago if my last two posts are any indication.  And why not?  It is summer.  It is hot.  The produce is phenomenal now and when life hands you heirloom  tomatoes — well, you make salads.

I believe the perfect salad has got to be the traditional Caprese.  But it is salad that, in my opinion, can truly only be enjoyed in summer when the tomatoes are at their peak.  The styrafoam-no-taste tomatoes of winter and spring just won’t cut it.  But even now, when tomatoes are pure perfection, I had to ask myself: “Is there a way to  improve upon the quintessential, classic combination of ingredients that make up the perfect salad?”  What could possibly make this even better.  Bacon!!!  Truth be told, I find that “bacon” is often the answer to many of life’s ponderables.

So, without further ado, I present this week’s Weekly Winner – Hot Bacon Caprese Salad which comes from Southern Living Magazine.

 

Hot Bacon Caprese Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into ½ -inch slices
  • 1 (16-oz.) package fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ -inch slices
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 6 thick bacon slices, coarsely chopped
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Arrange tomatoes and cheese on a serving platter, placing basil leaves between slices. Sprinkle with desired amount of salt and pepper.
  2. Saute chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium heat 6 to 8 minutes or until crisp. Remove from heat, reserving bacon and 2 Tbsp. drippings in skillet. Let stand 1 minute. Add vinegar and oil, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper.
  3. Drizzle warm bacon mixture over tomatoes and cheese. Serve immediately.

 

Weekly Winner: In Desperate Need of a Salad — But Kale??

Kale SaladI seriously never, in a million years, thought that I would be posting a Weekly Winner recipe that involves raw kale.  Seriously, it was not going to happen!  But then it did.

Generally, I do not have anything against kale if it is cooked in something.  Raw, it is just too much.  But then I desperately craved a salad.  In this unrelenting-never ending-won’t-even-get-to-freezing winter that we continue to endure here in Chicago, I have burned out on every soup recipe I own.  I wanted a salad!  But alas, the winter continues and therefore the produce offering is still on the slim side.  Decent tomatoes are hard to come by and the lettuces are all still looking a bit suspect.

As it so happened, I clipped this recipe from Eating Well magazine (go figure!) and thought, “How bad could it be?” I mean, it does have bacon, blue cheese and potatoes in it.  I figured it would be substantial and filling.  What I didn’t really expect was for it to be so dang good!  The combination of flavors was amazing — who thinks to combine honey-mustard and blue cheese??  That’s just crazy!!  But it works.  It really works.  Seriously, this will give any spinach salad a serious run for its money.  Try it and see if you don’t agree.

Kale Salad with Bacon-Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 6 cups kale, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon honey mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 3 pieces center-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 Belgian endives, cored and sliced
  • 1/4 cup currants or sweetened dried cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread out on a large baking sheet (reserve the bowl). Roast the potatoes, stirring once or twice, until tender and browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Place kale in the large bowl, add the hot potatoes and let stand for several minutes, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are warm but not hot.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, blue cheese, shallot, mustard, parsley and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the warm salad. Add bacon, endive and currants (or cranberries); toss to combine. Serve immediately.

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