Category Archives: Grains

Ginger Scones


I know what you’re thinking: “Jess, you’ve been missing from the blogosphere for almost 3months and now you’re back with another scone recipe. Another. This is like scone recipe number 3. Give us something new.” This isn’t like scone recipe number 3, it is scone recipe number 3. Clearly, I like scones. Love may actually be a more appropriate verb. Love. Yes, love.

While you’re getting a recipe here, I’m not quite sure how to give you the rest of a post. It has been too long, but at the same time, not quite long enough. A summary would be insufficient. A novella would be boring. So I’ll spare you feelings of incompleteness and utter disinterest. Instead, since I’m already talking about love, I’ll share with you my new one(s).

Since mid October I have felt in control. I have even had rare flashes of that power trippy, take on the world feeling. Then this week came and with it, I hit a wall. Not just any wall. No, no. A giant, brick, I-am-guarding-a-fortress wall a la that in the Battle for Helms Deep.  Thursday morning I lay in bed hitting snooze one time, two times, three times…asking myself just as many times if I had to get up. This was, of course, not the first time this question had run through my head since August, but it was the first time I couldn’t shake it. Even as I went through the motions of getting ready for the day, the feel stayed.


Like a curtain call, I played on repeat the names and images of my students. That feeling, the one that made me want to curl up in my blankets and never leave, began to disappear. Love, as cheesy as it sounds (because let’s be real, it sounds cheesy) won out.

I have 18 new loves. They drive me up a wall sometimes, but they also drive me to be a better version of myself. And at the end of the day, the people you love should push you, challenge you, force you one step closer to being that person you aspire to become. So to my students, thank you. I love you.

Ginger Scones

adapted from A Taste of Heaven

If you’re not a huge ginger fan, I think you’re crazy, but you’re in luck. Just omit the ground ginger and substitute a cup of your favorite dried, frozen, or fresh fruit or chocolate chips for the crystalized ginger. If you use frozen fruit, the dough will become stiff. You’ll have to knead the fruit into the dough for several minutes.

Egg whites will give the scones a pretty, shiny outer layer. In terms of flavor though, they don’t have an effect, which is why I said they were optional below. If you’re making these for guests, use them to make the scones more elegant. If you’re making them for yourself, I wouldn’t bother.

Makes about 14 scones

3 cups flour (use Gold Medal Unbleached)

1/2 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold, cut into pieces (I usually put mine in the freezer 15 minutes before I use it)

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

2 egg whites, lightly beaten (optional)

1 cup crystalized ginger, coarsely chopped

In a large bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using your finger tips until the mixture resembles corn meal. You should still see some tiny chunks of butter though. (This can also be done in the bowl of a food processor instead. That means more dishes though…).

Stir the vanilla and buttermilk together in a measuring cup.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the vanilla buttermilk combination into the center of the dry ingredients. Using your hands or a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet, just until the dough forms a ball. The dough will be sticky. Stir in the crystalized ginger using a spatula or wooden spoon.

Grease a baking sheet with butter. Using a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop the dough into 2-inch balls and place them on the greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Don’t worry about them being perfectly round. Place the baking sheet in the freezer, until the dough is at least firm to the touch, about 1 hour.

If you want to bake the scones at that time, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Brush the frozen scones with the egg whites, if using, then place the scones on a middle rack. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until just beginning to brown. If you do not want to bake the scones yet, place the dough balls in a plastic ziplock bag and keep frozen until you’re ready to use them. Bake using the instructions as above.


Filed under Appetizers and Snacks, Breakfast and Brunch, Grains

Orecchiette with Sausage and Swiss Chard

In the month of nothingness I had after traveling and before joining the real world, I filled my time with books. I read A Visit from the Goon Squad. I read Never a City So Real. And I also read a stack of cookbooks so heavy I thought it would break my desk.

That time of nothingness has long since past. My now jam packed days are filled with teaching third grade summer school in Chicago and taking on all the other tasks that come with being a new teacher. With zero amount of free time, my reading list has dwindled to third grade text selection guides and math ISAT prep books.

In the calm before the storm – in an era when my hours were occupied with stories of food – I finally made my way through  The Mozza Cookbook.  Owner of Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, author Nancy Silverton writes lovingly about her time in Italy and its relationship to the food that now comes out of her kitchens. Her recipes are creative yet humble. While many, like this one, err on the side of daunting, it is obvious great care was taken to make them accessible to the home cook. Accessible, in this case, still means an all day cooking adventure which, at one point, left me watching three episodes of Mad Men as I shaped nearly two pounds of “little ear” pasta.

Despite it difficulty, the pasta is well worth trying to make. However, if your don’t want to spend your entire day in the kitchen, buy pasta from the store and make just the sauce, which was, in my opinion, the truly exceptional component of the recipe. (To do this your will need to follow the directions for “make the chard” and “make the finishing”.)

Orecchiette with Sausage and Swiss Chard 

adapted (just the sauce!) from Nancy Silverton’s The Mozza Cookbook

I found the process of forming the orecchiette described in the original recipe slightly challenging. I’ve left their method in the directions but have also included my own. If you want to see a video of my method, click here and watch my first ever post to youtube (!) to get a better grasp on how I formed the orecchiette. On an ingredient note, if you buy a small bunch of swiss chard from the farmer’s market, like I did, you may want to use only one arbol chile. They are hot so proceed with caution.

Serves 3-4

For the Orecchiette

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 3/4 cups semolina flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/4 cups water

For the Chard

1 bunch Swiss chard

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1/2 large yellow Spanish onion, thinly sliced

2 dried arbol chiles

For the Finishing and Serving

3/4 pound Italian Sausage, casing removed

1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1 cup chicken stock

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kosher salt

12 ounces Orecchiette

3 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil

Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste

Toasted bread crumbs, to taste

Make the orecchiette: Combing the flour, semolina, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Turn off the mixer, remove the paddle attachment, and replace it with the dough hook. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the dough with the dough hook on medium speed until it forms a ball, about 5 minutes. Dust a flat work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto the dusted surface and gently knead it for 20 to 25 minutes, until the ball begins to feel elastic and the surface of the dough feels smooth and silky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and up to overnight before sheeting it (any longer and the dough will discolor).

Slice the round of dough into 1-inch thick slabs and cut each slab into 1-inch wide slabs. Roll each section on a clean, dry work surface into a tube 1/4 inch thick, and set aside. Dust the work surface with flour and return the tubes to the dusted surface. Use a long knife or a straight-edged rolling pastry cutter to cut the dough into 1-inch long pieces, discarding the misshapen ends.

Dust a baking sheet lightly with semolina. Dust a plastic cutting board or other slightly textured surface very lightly with flour. Place one pasta segment on the cutting board with the cut end facing you. With the flat side of the tip of a table knife, gently press on the end of the segment closest to you and continue to pressing away from you toward the other end of the segment, flattening the dough into a small disk about 1/4 inch thick in the process. Pick up the disk and invert it onto you index finger so that the side of the dough you pressed on is facing down. Use the fingers of your other hand to pull the edges of the dough around the index finger, forming a caplike-shaped ear. Place the pasta shape on the prepared baking sheet and repeat, shaping the remaining dough segments in the same way.

(Alternately, place one pasta segment on the cutting board with the cut end facing you. Put your thumb on the end closest to you and, with the flat side of the tip of a table knife, press gently on the end farthest from you and continue pressing toward you, flattening the dough into a small disk and 1/4 inch thick. Pull the dough around the thumb you had placed at the front of the segment using the fingers of your other hand to shape the dough. Place the pasta on the prepared baking sheet and repeat.)

Use the orecchiette or cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate the pasta for up to one day. To freeze, place the baking sheet in the freezer until the pasta is firm to the touch. Transfer the pasta to sealable plastic bags, or an airtight container, dusting off the excess semolina, and freeze for up to two weeks.

Make the chard: To prepare the chard, pull the leaves from the ribs. Roughly chop the leaves and set aside. Cut off and discard the very ends of the ribs and slice the ribs 1/4 inch thick.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chard ribs, season with salt, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, until barely translucent. Add the onion, garlic, and chiles, and season with salt. Saute the vegetables for about 10 minutes, adding water to the pan (as much as 1 cup total), stirring often to prevent the vegetables browning. (You add water to the pan so you can saute and sweat the onion without browning it, but you never want the onion swimming in water–just enough so the pan isn’t dry.) Add the chard leaves, season with salt, and fold the leaves in with the onion for 1 or 2 minutes to wilt them slightly. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the chard leaves are very dark green and the onion, leaves, and stems are one soft, homogenous mixture. Turn the vegetables out onto a cutting board and chop, cutting first in one direction and then perpendicular to the first direction, until the vegetables are finely chopped to the point of being almost pureed. Measure out a heaping 1/4 cup of the vegetable for the pasta dish. Use the rest as an excuse to prepare this dish again in the very near future, or spoon a heaping spoonful under a piece of grilled fish.

Make the finishings: To make the sauce, heat a saute pan over high heat for about 2 minutes until it’s very hot. Add the sausage to the pan and cook it undisturbed for about 2 minutes, until the meat is seared. Stir the meat and cook for another 4 minutes, breaking it into pea-size pieces, until it is cooked through. Add the chopped chard and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to warm it through, stirring the chard into the sausage as it cooks. Sprinkle the pepper over the chard and sausage, add the chicken stock, and cook the sauce for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, to bring the ingredients together. Add the butter, stir until it melts, and turn off the heat while you cook the pasta.

Fill a pasta pot or large stockpot with 6 quarts of water, add salt to taste (be generous!), and bring the water to a boil over high heat. If you are not using a pasta pot, place a colander in the sink or have a large wire strainer handy to life the pasta out of the pot.

Remove the orecchiette from the refrigerator or the freezer and drop them into the boiling water. Stir to prevent the pasta from sticking together, partially cover the pot so the water returns to a boil quickly and continues boiling, and cook the pasta until it’s al dente, about 2 minutes. About 1 minutes before the pasta is done, place the sauce over high heat. Lift the pasta out of the cooking water or drain it and immediately add it to the pan with the sauce. Cook the pasta with the sauce together for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the sauce is thick, adding fresh water to the pan if the pasta looks dry or sticky instead of slippery and glistening. Turn off the heat and add the high quality olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano, stirring vigorously and shaking the pan to emulsify the sauce.

Pile the orecchiette in the center of each plate. Sprinkle a generous tablespoon of bread crumbs over each serving, and serve with  the remaining bread crumbs on the side.

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Filed under Grains, Main Dishes, Meat, Pasta

Overnight Oatmeal

I am a breakfast person. By “breakfast person”, I mean I could eat breakfast for nearly every meal, every day and be content. I don’t for the sake of variety. But I could.

I have my quick breakfast standbys like Greek yogurt with Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Seed Granola or EnviroKidz Peanut Butter Panda Puffs with soy milk. (I know I’m not a kid, but have you tried this stuff?!). I have my breakfast indulgences like Blackberry Bliss Cakes from M. Henry and crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside New York style bagels. I have my homemade breakfasts like honey rye waffles and fresh scones. I have my…

My list of loved breakfast foods is clearly a lengthy one. But for a long time steel cut oats didn’t have a place on it. It was yet again another food my mom prepared and I resisted. Judging by the number of foods on this blog that meet the classification of “mother made-kid Jess critiqued”, I think we can all learn two things: 1. Try ingredients you think you don’t like. You’ll surprise yourself and 2. Trust your mom. She’s always right. (You’ve been waiting twenty-two years to hear me say that haven’t you mom?).

Sometime after my super stubborn stage in life came a realization: Steel cut oats are far healthier than their instant counterparts. And then came me, standing in front of the steel cut oats at Trader Joe’s looking clueless. Luckily, a friendly, beautiful, bearded, guitar playing (ok, maybe only in my dreams) employee saw my helplessness and decided to lend a hand. He recommended Country Choice Organic Steel Cut Oats. While I can’t vouch for other brand since I’ve never used another, I can say this one is quite good.

And then came the final stage of my relationship with steal cut oats. Love. A love so deep that some days I just crave steel cut oats. In fact, some nights, before I’m even in full swing breakfast mode, I know it’s steel cut oats I’ll want in the morning. Sounds like love to me.

I normally take the traditional route tossing in raisins and topping the oatmeal with a hefty spoonful, or two, of brown sugar. There are, however, countless ways to adjust the flavor combinations in this oatmeal. I tend to stick to the dried fruit, nuts, and sweetener combination, but the possibilities certainly do not end there:

– Dried cherries, goat cheese, and pecans

– Dried figs, honey, and cardamom

– Lemon zest and strawberry preserves

– Shredded coconut or peanut butter and sliced banana

– Cocoa powder, red pepper flakes or chili powder, and cinnamon

– Flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and olive oil

– Pumpkin puree, pecans, maple syrup, and (if you’re feeling adventurous) bourbon

If those aren’t enough ideas check out this post from Serious Eats and this one from Tastespotting’s “A Month of Oatmeal” for more inspiration. Then let me know what you decide to mix in. I’m always on the hunt for new takes on one of my now favorite breakfast staples.

Overnight Oatmeal

adapted from Food & Wine

This recipe makes one delicious bowl of oatmeal. If you’re serving more than one, simply double, triple, quadruple, etc. the ingredient list. Remember, there are a number of different flavor combinations that can be used in this oatmeal. See above for some more ideas. Regardless of what flavor combination you decide to use, if you use dried fruit I suggest adding it to the oatmeal the night before. It makes the dried fruit nice and plump. To add an extra dose of healthiness stir in ground flax seed and wheat germ.

Serves 1

1/4 cup steel cut oats

1 3/4 cup water

1 heaping tablespoon raisins

1 heaping tablespoon walnuts, coarsely chopped

Brown sugar, to taste

In a large saucepan, boil the oats in the water for 1 minute. Stir in the raisins. Cover and let stand overnight at room temperature.

The next day, uncover the oats and stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of water. (Note: If you do not add dried fruit to the pot the night before you will not need to add this extra water.) Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the oatmeal is cooked and creamy but still a little bit chewy, about 8-10 minutes. Spoon the oatmeal into bowls. Top with the chopped walnuts and brown sugar.

The prepared oatmeal can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Rewarm it in a microwave and thin with water if necessary before serving.

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Filed under Breakfast and Brunch, Grains

Cheesy Polenta with Mushrooms

For some reason, growing up polenta was one of those foods I thought was gross without even trying it. Yes, I judged a book by its cover so to speak. I was a kid. What can I say? Lucky for little Jess, polenta wasn’t a staple in my household. In fact, it was never cooked. The only time it even came close to sitting on my spoon was at restaurants if my parents happened to order a dish with polenta as an accompaniment.

My aversion to polenta disappeared eventually and my mom even began to serve it in a dish with spicy ground pork. When she did, I gladly ate it liking the texture I thought I would hate. Not until now though, have I considered cooking it myself. Perhaps this sudden polenta kick was inspire by the growing presence of polenta in recipes or my goal to try new ingredients this year. Or perhaps it was the massive amount of cheese that’s acceptable to use with polenta or the farmer’s market bought mushrooms sitting in my fridge.

Regardless, the polenta recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty was calling my name. His recipe includes a laundry list of fresh herbs which I don’t happen to have growing in my apartment and am not willing to spend the money on at the grocery store. So, I skipped the herbs. While I’m sure they would be a lovely addition, the dish certainly did not require them. The mushrooms, which I cooked in butter instead of Ottolenghi’s suggestions of olive oil, were tender but maintained just a touch of firmness. And the polenta. Really, how can you go wrong with carbohydrates and cheese? You can’t. I think we’re all in agreement here. Next up, squares of polenta with mozzarella and chunky tomato sauce.

Cheesy Polenta with Mushrooms

adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi with mushroom inspiration from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

Ottolenghi’s recipe is titled “Mushroom and herb polenta” rightly so. He uses tarragon, thyme, rosemary, and chervil as well as truffle oil. Being a poor recent college graduate living in a tiny apartment, I adapted this recipe for those of us who don’t have the money to spend on fresh herbs at the grocery store or the space to grow them inside. (Although, I might be attempting to grow herbs indoors regardless. I’ll keep you updated.) If you do have these herbs on hand though, use them! Check out his recipe for specific instructions on herb quantities and when to add them.

Serves 4

1 pound mushrooms

4 tablespoons butter or olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 ¼ cups vegetable stock

½ cup polenta (instant or traditional)

3 oz Parmesan, grated

4 oz Taleggio (rind removed) or other similar soft cheeses like Havarti, Muenster, Fontina, Bel

Paese, or Gouda, cut into 3/8 inch slices

Give the mushrooms a very quick rinse, then shake dry. Cut each in half down the stem.

In your largest skillet melt the butter over medium heat. The skillet should be large enough for all the mushrooms to fit in one layer without crowding. If it’s smaller, cook the mushrooms in batches, because if you crowd them, they will steam and turn soggy instead of becoming brown and crisp. (Some people like soggy, softer mushrooms. If you do, crowd those mushrooms away!)

When the foam has subsided from the butter, let the butter continue to cook until it smells nutty and you start to see light brown specks on the bottom. This is a very light brown butter, which will darken further after you add the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms. Let them cook without moving them until their bottoms are deeply golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the mushroom and let them cook on their other side until crisp, about 3 minutes longer. Off the heat, add the garlic. Keep warm.

Bring the stock to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly stir in the polenta, then reduce the heat to the minimum and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. The polenta is ready when it leaves the sides of the pan but is still runny. If you are using instant polenta this shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes; with traditional polenta it could take up to 50 minutes (if it seems to dry out add some more stock or water but just enough to keep it at a thick porridge consistency).

Preheat the broiler. When the polenta is ready, stir in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the polenta over a heatproof dish and top with the Taleggio. Place under the broiler until the cheese bubbles. Remove, top with the mushrooms and their juices, and return to the broiler for a minute to warm up. Serve hot. If there are leftovers, the polenta reheats in the microwave the next day quite nicely.

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Filed under Grains, Vegetables

White Bean Stew with Rosemary, Garlic, and Farro

I am a list person. And yesterday I made a list. A list titled “Recipes to Cook in 2012”. My title is slightly a misnomer as it also includes “sub-lists” of ingredients (like polenta and Jerusalem artichokes) and general dishes (like tarte tatin and vegetable lasagna) that I want to attempt this year, as well as cookbooks I hope to delve into. But the specific recipes I’ve had my eye on for the past year or so, like that Quinoa Skillet Bread over at 101cookbooks, that list is the longest. And of course, at least half of it is comprised of desserts.

Come mid-February the desserts will be rolling out of my oven. I promise. But before I jump into a pile of flour, sugar, and butter I decided to give one last go at sticking to my “eat healthy” New Years resolution with this white bean stew.

Now, I’ve never been the hugest bean fan. They alright. I’ll eat them. But they’re certainly not the ingredient I’ll reach for when I’m looking for a tasty dinner or the perfect potluck dish. No no. This bean stew is different though. It draws together a range of relatively simple flavors, from onion and celery to Parmesan rind and Turkish pepper, to become a delicate, yet filling, winter time meal. The snowy Chicago day is making me crave a bowl even as I type.

White Bean Stew with Rosemary, Garlic, and Farro 

from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark

Melissa Clark makes a couple really good suggestions about this recipe: Substitute any dried bean for the cannellini beans. Just be aware that the cooking time might change. Look for semi-pearled farro. It cooks faster! You can also use wheat berries, brown rice, or whole wheat Israeli couscous. Lastly, you can add a ham hock or two, some bacon, a smoked turkey neck or wing, or some sautéed sausage if you want the dish to be meaty. No need to use the Parmesan rind if you add meat!

Serves 6

1 pound dried cannellini beans

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling

5 garlic cloves, peeled

1 celery stalk, cut in half crosswise (reserve celery leaves for garnishing)

1 large onion halved lengthwise from root to stem so it holds together

1 whole clove (stick in the onion half)

2 rosemary sprigs

2 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

Piece of Parmesan rind, if you have it

2 ½ teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt, more to taste

1 cup farro, rinsed

Spinach, torn into pieces (optional)

Flaky salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel

¼ teaspoon Turkish or Syrian red pepper such as Urfa, Maras or Aleppo

Chopped celery or parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)

Lemon juice and Parmesan cheese, for serving

If you have the time and would like to soak your beans ahead, this will shorten your cooking time. Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with several inches of water. Let soak for as long as you can. Overnight is optimal but even a few hours will hasten the cooking.

When ready to cook, drain the beans and place them along with the oil, 3 of the garlic cloves, the celery, and the onion in a large pot over medium-heat. Bundle the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf together, tie securely with kitchen twine, and throw it into the pot (or just throw the untied herbs into the pot, though you will have to fish them out later). Add the Parmesan rind, if using. Add water until everything is just covered and stir in the salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer, partially covered, until the beans are soft. This can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending on how long (if at all) you soaked your beans and how old your dried beans were when you go them.

A test of doneness is to place a bean in your palm and blow on it (the natural thing to do since it will be hot). If the skin breaks, it’s ready. Of course, tasting is a better way to tell. If your bean pot starts to look dry before the beans finish cooking, add more water as needed. At the end of cooking, the water should not quite cover the beans.

Meanwhile, while the beans are cooking, prepare the farro. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the farro, pasta style, until softened. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending upon what kind you use. Drain well.

Mince the remaining 2 garlic cloves

When the beans are cooked, remove and discard the onion, celery, herbs, and Parmesan ride if you used it. (You can leave the garlic cloves in the pot; they are yummy. There may also be some tiny herb leaves that have detached from the larger sprigs floating loose in the pot. You can leave those in too.) At this point you may want to ladle some of the liquid on the top out depending on how thick you want your stew.

Ladle half of the beans into a food processor or blender, add the minced raw garlic, and puree. Return the bean puree to the pot. (You can skip this step and just stir in the minced garlic; the broth will be thinner but just as tasty). Add the spinach, if using, and simmer until the greens wilt.

Serve the beans over the farro, drizzle each portion with plenty of olive oil, then sprinkle with good flaky salt, red pepper, and celery leaves or parsley. If the stew tastes a bit flat, swirl in some lemon juice at the end to perk up the flavors. Grated Parmesan cheese on top is also nice. But make sure not to skimp on the oil, salt and red pepper when serving.  It really makes the whole thing come together.

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Filed under Beans and Legumes, Grains, Soups and Stews