Potato Cakes

I had a few extra yukon gold potatoes laying around and the day off so decided to experiment for lunch! I had been wanting to experiment with potato cakes for awhile so this seemed like a good day to do it. I searched around the Internet and found this one from Giada! Ultimately I chose this one because it seemed like a healthier version than so many of the ones I was seeing. This one doesn't have eggs! Here's the recipe below. I really didn't make any changes to it.

Potato cakes lunch served with a mixed green salad.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

   Warm the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch diameter) nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until tender and fragrant, about another 2 minutes. Season the onion mixture with salt and pepper. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl and set aside. Reserve the pan.
   Meanwhile, grate the potatoes in a food processor using the grating attachment blade. Use a kitchen towel to help squeeze out the water from the grated potatoes. Add the potatoes to the bowl with the onion mixture. Add the Parmesan and the basil. Stir to combine and season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.
   Warm the remaining olive oil over high heat in the same pan that was used to cook the onions. When the pan is hot, but not smoking add the potato mixture. Use a spatula to press the mixture down into the pan firmly and evenly. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the potato mixture until the bottom is golden brown and the pancake can move in the pan, about 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low if the pancake is browning too fast in places. Place a large plate on top of the pancake and flip the pancake out of the pan. (I made the cakes into individual sized portions so didn't the plate to turn the cake.) Turn the heat on the pan back up to high. When the pan is hot slide the pancake back into the pan and cook until the bottom is golden and is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a serving platter, slice, and serve.

**I had quite the time ridding the potato of all the extra moisture. I don't have a large food processor so I grated the potatoes which wasn't too bad. Then I would place the potato in paper towels and wrap the paper towels completely around the potatoes. I changed the paper towels at 10 minute intervals at least 3 times! 

Roasted Butternut Squash

We were excited to see butternut squash pop up on the CSA list, and incorporated it into this meal alongside swiss chard and a marinated chicken breast. For the squash, I simply chopped it up, mixed with some olive oil and brown sugar, and roasted until tender. A great fall treat!

Fall Brunch with Christine

Christine visited a couple weekends ago for a wonderful fall weekend here in Chapel Hill / Durham. She arrived late Friday night and therefore we couldn't have a planned dinner together. The next best thing was to have a breakfast! This was actually Tim's idea. Here's our feast...

Tim made a French Toast Casserole inspired from Paula Deen. I whipped up some cheesy scrambled eggs. We fried some bacon that came from our CSA. Fresh fruit and mimosas completed the meal. 

Christine, come back! I want more brunch. 

A Fancier Side of Green Beans

One of our go-to vegetables these days is green beans. Another is squash but this post is about dressing up our sauteed green beans. This originally made an appearance in this post from last October and oddly enough featured a pork tenderloin as did these green beans.

Here are the directions from that post:
"For the green beans: Wash and snap beans. Heat evoo over medium high in a skillet then add green beans and seasonings. Sometimes when I do this I use some Mrs. Dash or salt and pepper. For this particular night I added minced garlic! Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the green beans turn a bright green and look like they want to jump from the pan into your mouth! Serve immediately."

The lucky seasonings this night were minced garlic, toasted almonds, and lemon zest! Half way through cooking the green beans stir in a handful of sliced almonds and lemon zest. Turn the heat down a little because you don't want to burn the almonds! I definitely eye-balled the amount; depends how much crunch and texture you want in your dish. Then with just a few more minutes left in the saute pan, add the minced garlic and stir to make sure all the green beans are coated evenly.

Served with the marinated pork tenderloin and sweet potatoes (microwaved on the potato setting and then topped with a little butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg)

More Herb Preservation

I had a day off and a bit of overgrown herbs to tackle. I harvested these mid-September in hopes that they would have one more growth spurt before a frost. Unfortunately it doesn't look like this growth spurt is going to happen. That first chilly weekend in October must've stunted their growth. Anyway I came in from the herb garden with a large handful each of basil, pesto, rosemary, and thyme. I had harvested the oregano a day or two earlier and Patrick worked on that over the weekend; I'll still include that method below. 

This post is an addendum to the previous herb preservation post: Freezing Extra Basil & Oregano. I tried a few other methods from that post here. As I mentioned in that post, basil and oregano are "soft" herbs. The rosemary and thyme are "hard" herbs and don't need to be packed in oil or a broth to freeze. Before you begin any method, make sure to wash and dry the herbs really well. I rinsed them and let them set in water for about 10 minutes. Then removed the herbs to a kitchen towel and patted dry. Since I had the day off and plenty of time, I would let them air dry an hour or so before I started working with them.

Again I didn't find a true recipe to follow. Google produces many, many results on freezing / preserving herbs. I put a few together and ended up with the following:

Herb Handfuls [from l to r]: Basil, Chives, Rosemary, and Thyme
For the Basil
Oops... This actually didn't make it to the freezer. The plan was to make a pesto and freeze that. Well the pesto looked so darn good we ate it for supper! If I had frozen it I was going to leave the Parmesan out in the freezing step and add that into the dish when we were using the pesto. We've still got our frozen basil chips though from the first freeze experiment.

For the Chives
I prepared a garlic chive butter and then froze it in little tablespoon portions. For the butter, let it warm to room temperature. Then mix in chopped chives and garlic paste (or very well minced garlic). Once the butter is well incorporated with the chives and garlic plop a tablespoon onto plastic wrap. I dotted the plastic wrap with the butter (leaving a few inches around each plop) and then used scissors to cut squares to wrap up the butter. Then I used parchment paper to wrap each serving of butter again. With all those chives I used two sticks of butter! I'm predicting these with be used a lot with potatoes this winter.

For the Rosemary and the Thyme
I used the same method for these two herbs. Since they are very hardy all I basically had to do was freeze them. They don't need anything to protect them. I placed the rosemary and thyme each in individual gallon-sized ziploc bags (with the stems). Then after a week, or whenever you remember next, take them out of the bags and remove all the leaves from the stems. Since they are frozen this will be very easy. Then I chopped the leaves so they would be ready for sprinkling in a recipe and placed them in small plastic containers. 

Here's the rosemary in the final stage. The stems have been stripped and the leaves have been chopped. Now it will stay in the freezer in this little container until we need rosemary.

Since these herbs are so hardy we'll try our luck at keeping them alive through the winter allowing us to still have access to fresh herbs. But if not then we'll have them in the freezer. A lot of the websites mentioned freezing this way would preserve much more flavor than drying.

For the Oregano
The oregano was our biggest herb producer. We may have had more basil but we had four basil plants and only one oregano! I'm not even sure what we did to make the oregano produce like it did. With a very large handful of oregano, Patrick removed the stems and chopped the herb. Then he put all the chopped oregano into an ice cube tray and covered them with chicken stock. After this was frozen they were removed and placed in a ziploc bag.

Can't wait to see which method works best in cooking!
Have you tried any herb preserving? Let us know!

Ravioli with Balsamic Glaze

This was a simple dish we threw together one night. Starting with some refrigerated ravioli, we topped it with tomatoes and eggplant that we cooked down with basil, and added parmesan cheese and a balsamic glaze from Giada. Here's the recipe for the glaze. Try not to stick your nose in it while it's cooking - those vinegar fumes burn!

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons honey, depending how sweet you want it
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced

Whisk the vinegar, honey, oil, and garlic in a bowl. Bring to a boil and simmer until it thickens slightly and becomes syrupy, whisking often, about 15 minutes. Spoon off any excess oil from the sauce, if desired.

Steak, Potatoes, and a Red

Gotta love steak, potatoes, and different colors! This is a spin off of one of the very first steak posts: Steak, Potatoes, and a Green. Reference that post for cooking the steak as this post is going to feature the two sides.

For the potatoes
Patrick is not a fan of mashed potatoes; something about the consistency or texture he always babbles about. So for this side I peeled and boiled yukon gold potatoes until they were tender. Then I drained them and let them cool for a few minutes. Next I cut them up into bite-size pieces and sauteed them in a pan with some melted butter and chives. This gives them extra flavor and if you let them brown long enough they'll have some crunch!

For the red
This meal came at the end of tomato season so I chopped a few up (deseeded them and tried to get extra juice out) and threw them into some large ramekins. I then topped the tomatoes with chopped basil, almonds, and parmesan. I put this under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese had melted.

Fall Table Decorations

I can't resist sharing some fall decorations with you. I won't show you snapshots of all my decorations. But since this is a food blog table centerpieces must be justified! Don't you agree?

This centerpiece is in the larger dining room. This is where we have our potlucks. I put a large bamboo runner down the center of the table then added a striped fall colored placemat to the center. A few years ago I purchased this large pumpkin candle from Kohl's and then found the little tealights at Walmart. 

Here's the table in the kitchen which we use everyday. I'll have to give credit to my roommate Tim for picking out these fun Halloween placemats for us last year. The placemats take up so much space that it's hard to get a centerpiece on this table so I just have the s+p shakers, napkins, and the candle holders. The candle holders add a nice touch because I can change the scent and color of the candles every month to fit any occasion.

Disney Vacation!

You may not have known this but Patrick and I just got home from a fabulous Walt Disney World vacation at the end of September! We prepped enough on the blog ahead of time so you wouldn't miss out on any wonderful posts... see how thoughtful we are.

Even though we love to cook we are not self-proclaimed foodies. We enjoyed all our meals in Disney and since we are not too picky were satisfied with the quick service meals in the parks and a few nice casual table service meals. However we did decide to splurge on our last night of vacation. It was after all vacation and we were extending our celebration of two years together!

We went to one of the nicer seafood restaurants, Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian Restaurant, which is in close proximity to the Magic Kingdom. As we arrived to the restaurant for our late dinner reservations (9:20pm) we were able to enjoy the fireworks over Cinderella's Castle. Then proceed to a table with a serene view of all the lights and the Seven Seas Lagoon. This menu had both our favorites! Pan-seared scallops for me and Ahi Tuna for Patrick.

Doesn't it look yummy?!

Here are a few other Disney vacay snapshots just for fun!

Cheesy Fusilli

On the night of my first rehearsal with the orchestra I just joined, Whitney and I had limited time to prepare dinner and were looking for something quick. This recipe for fusilli with pecorino romano and black pepper from Giada certainly fit the bill! It was very delicious and reminiscent of mac & cheese. The only improvement we might suggest is some more spinach.

Kosher salt
1 pound fusilli pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
5 cups baby spinach leaves (5 ounces) 
Freshly ground pepper (the pepper stands out in this recipe, so use freshly ground if you can)
1 1/2 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (6 ounces)
1 cup mascarpone cheese (8 ounces), at room temperature

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain the pasta. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard. Add the spinach and 2 teaspoons pepper, and cook until the spinach has wilted, about 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the pasta. Add the Pecorino Romano cheese and 2 teaspoons each salt and pepper, and toss until coated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the reserved cooking liquid and the mascarpone cheese until smooth. Pour over the pasta and toss until coated. Season with salt.

Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and serve.

Salmon with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

It was salmon time again. And off I set to find a recipe. Well actually I already had a new one we wanted to try from Giada... but I had some red cherry tomatoes from our CSA in the fridge that had no plans to be eaten yet. Poor things. Then I found this recipe with assistance from Google. Here's the link to the recipe which is originally from Cooking Light.

In the past Patrick and I have had a little trouble getting the finish of the salmon just right. Well this recipe (10 minutes at 400F basically) was perfect.

2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Cooking spray
2 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine first 6 ingredients in a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray; toss to coat tomatoes.* Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Add fish to pan. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve the tomato mixture over fish. Drizzle with lemon juice.

*I'm not a big fan of tossing around tomatoes on a pan because they seem to go all over the kitchen floor as well. Therefore I combined the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl then hand-tossed the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes were on the pan I took the remnants of the oil mixture and rubbed it into the salmon.

Served with atop couscous and with a fun brussel sprout saute. Unfortunately I must not take any credit for those; it goes to Trader Joe's.