Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

New ideas for a New Year. Sometimes I cook really good dishes but forget to take photos, so I don’t blog about them. Or, I don’t stray at all from a recipe and feel funny about just copying it without making it mine. Why keep all the good recipes and tips to myself, right? So here’s what I’ve been up to in the kitchen.

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to cook more out of my Cook’s Illustrated magazines – my parents buy me a subscription every year so I have quite a collection. CI recipes are an excellent way to learn new techniques, plus they never disappoint.

Last week, I made Shrimp fra Diavolo from the January/February 2014 issue. I learned a new method for making shrimp stock. Usually I simmer the shells in water with aromatics, but this method was even better. Instead, brown the shells, deglaze the pan with white wine, simmer and then add the reserved juice from a can of whole peeled tomatoes. Such deep flavor.

The shrimp were delicious. Instead of the usual pasta, I served them alongside one of my old standards, Broccoli Rabe Sautéed with Onion and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Scalloped Potatoes with Caramelized Onions and Gruyere, a new recipe from the Food 52 blog. I followed the blog’s advice for making a lower fat version by steeping gar­lic, pep­per­corns and thyme in 1% milk and making a béchamel with it, instead of using heavy whipping cream. I’ve been using that method frequently in the last few months whenever a recipe calls for heavy cream.

Shrimp fra Diavolo with Broccoli Rabe and Scalloped Potatoes

On Sunday night, I made another Cook’s Illustrated recipe, Roasted Butternut Squash with Radicchio and Parmesan. I’ve never roasted squash quite that long – about an hour. The squash was caramelized in places to a dark brown – crunchy and delicious. The flavors of sherry vinegar, sliced radicchio and parmesan cheese were a nice counterbalance to the sweet squash. I’ll make this one again too.

I served the squash alongside Chicken with Artichokes and Mushrooms in a White Wine Sauce, a recipe from Annie’s Eats. This would make a great weeknight meal since it comes together in about 30 minutes, maybe less. My other side dish was Roasted Potatoes with Black Garlic.

Black garlic is the bomb. Jim’s cousins sell organic black garlic (along with other delicious-looking goods) that they grow on their farm, Obis One, in southern New Jersey. That’s what I used in the potatoes – added some cayenne too for a little kick. Black garlic has all the flavor of garlic yet it’s mellower, sweeter and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. You can easily eat it raw – don’t worry, no garlic breath! If you haven’t ever tried it, you’re missing out.

Black garlic from Obis One

Black garlic from Obis One

Earlier in the week, I made Cod with Fennel, Leeks and Tomatoes (New York Times) alongside Sautéed Kale with Beans and Pancetta (Italian Food Forever) – sorry, forgot to take photos, again. The cod recipe is one of my regulars whenever I’m in the mood to splurge on fennel and leeks. Fennel is a little easier to come by these days since it’s sold at Trader Joe’s in very affordable two-packs, and sometimes I get it in my CSA share.

Another one of my resolutions is to eat healthier this year. We eat pretty healthy as it is but I’m going to try to choose more recipes that feature nutritious foods, like greens and beans. Because of the CSA, we eat greens a few times a week when they’re in season. I’m planning to cook more beans from scratch – just need to develop that habit. This recipe from The Kitchn for beans in the slow cooker might help.

Beans and greens are fabulous together, add chicken sausage and you have a complete meal. I’ve made the kale and beans recipe from Italian Food Forever several times.

And, of course, we had leftovers too! What yummy dishes have you made lately?

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