Corn Chowder

This is just a souped-up (sorry/not sorry) version of Corn and Potato Soup, which my mom used to make us for lunch sometimes. It’s hearty, and can be made completely vegetarian, if that’s your thing. It’s fantastic with fresh corn, but it’s still delicious made with frozen corn.

Serves 4-6 for dinner

4 TB butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each dried sage and thyme
6 red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-ish cubes
4 cups broth (veggie or chicken)
3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped flat parsley leaves

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and cook until soft and golden. Add the garlic and herbs, and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

2. Add the potatoes, stir everything, then add the broth, and crank the heat up to high. The broth should just barely cover the potatoes. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

3. Add the corn and the cream, and cook for five more minutes, or until cooked/heated through. Taste, and add salt and pepper, and more sage and thyme, if needed. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Notes: If you want to, you can start with about 4 oz. diced bacon instead of the butter. You can also use fresh herbs instead of, or in addition to, the dried ones. I don’t peel the potatoes, but you can, if you like. This time, I also threw in some diced sweet potato (that I did peel), about five minutes after the potato came to a boil.

Creamed Spinach and Swiss Chard

I made this the other day, and then baked some eggs in it. There are a few different methods for making creamed spinach, so I thought I’d just quickly share mine. You can use any of the softer greens, but it’s probably better if they’re not too bitter.

1. Start out by prepping your greens: wash and dry them, remove any stems and decide if you want to use them (I thinly slice the Swiss chard stems, for example), chop to your preferred fineness. Use more greens than you think you’ll need; I did five oz. of baby spinach, plus a bunch of chard, and it was only barely enough.

2. Sauté some sliced or chopped onion or leeks in a decent amount of butter, or you can start with some diced bacon, ham, or pancetta. If you’re using any stems, you can add them now. If you want spicier greens, toss in some finely chopped fresh chilies, or some dried ones. Cook your base until it’s browned a little or a lot, depending on your preference.

3. Throw in the greens, maybe in a couple of batches if your pan isn’t initially big enough. Season with salt, but less than you think, because they’re going to cook down. Cook them until they’re just wilty. If they’re really liquidy, you can boil some of it off if it bothers you. Add a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream, taste, and season with more salt if needed, pepper, and a little nutmeg. I like only a little cream, but you can always add more if you want.

4. Finish with some chopped fresh tomato, or some lemon or lime juice if it needs balancing.

Roast Chicken with Za’atar and Sumac

The essence of home cooking is asking ‘What do you want for dinner?’, and then everyone shrugs and says ‘I dunno’ or occasionally ‘Burritos’. So you head to the supermarket with no list, hoping that whatever they have on sale will inspire your next meal. I mean, I don’t know, maybe that’s just me, and everyone reading this is an expert weeknight meal planner, but I have a hunch that I’m not the only one.

In any case, as long as it’s not summer, and too hot for roasting, a whole chicken is a very respectable answer to the perpetual question of dinner. It’s fairly low effort, it’s almost always tasty, and you can go nuts with whatever seasonings strike your fancy. Look, you have to make your own fun, since it’s clear no one else in this family has any original dinner ideas.

Like a lot of my last-minute dinner ideas, this is a combo of two recipes, one — No-Fail Roast Chicken with Lemon and Garlic from Bon Appétit — for the method, and one — Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za-atar, and Lemon via The Splendid Table — for the flavor profile. And then you make adjustments based on what ingredients you have on hand, and your own experience and personal preference. For example, I trussed the chicken rather than slicing it open at the legs (because why would you do that?), and I used shallots rather than red onions, and I used a mixture of butter and olive oil. Oh, and I just tossed the spices on there without measuring them. Easy, delicious, and now you don’t have to worry about dinner again, until tomorrow night.

Let me guess…

My daughter spent a chunk of her free time this summer playing Skyrim, so, for her first day of school, I made her some sweetrolls to steal. I used the recipe in the Nerdy Nummies Cookbook by Rosanna Pansino, but you could make any cinnamon roll or sweet bun dough and I’m sure it would work. The tricky part is finding two 6-cavity mini Bundt pans, if you don’t already have them.

Fantasy Sweet Rolls
Makes 12

For the dough:
1 envelope (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
6 TB salted butter, at room temp
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks, at room temp
3/4 cup whole milk, at room temp, just have everything at room temp, okay?
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:
4 TB salted butter, melted
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 TB ground cinnamon

For the icing:
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 TB whole milk

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the butter and the sugar together.

2. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the milk, cardamom, and salt until well-blended (This was the step that mystified me. No matter how room temperature everything is, you’re still just going to get soggy butter chunks.). Beat in the yeast mixture.

3. Add 3 1/2 cups of flour, and mix until well-combined. Knead the dough until smooth, adding more flour if necessary (it was).

4. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

5. On a lightly-floured surface, roll the dough into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle, and brush with the melted butter.

6. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over the dough.

7. Fold the dough into thirds (on the 18″ side, so you’ll end up with a 12″ x 6″ rectangle)

8. Cut the folded dough crosswise into 12 1″-wide strips.

9. Grease your two 6-cavity mini-Bundt pans, and wrap the dough slices around the center tubes. I only had one such pan, so I did half a batch at a time (I had to go to several stores looking for an appropriately-sized mini-Bundt pan, and the only ones I could find were $36 each, and I wasn’t prepared for that kind of investment).

10. Cover the pans and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

11. Bake 18 – 20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

12. Level the bottoms of the rolls with a large knife.

13. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, and milk for the icing, adjusting with more milk or sugar to get a thick, but pourable, glaze.

14. Spoon over the tops of the rolls, and allow (encourage) to drip down the sides.

Green Chile and Cherry Tomato Pickle

I brought several appetizers from Indian(-ish) by Priya Krishna to a family get-together last night. They were all delicious, and well-loved (and well-eaten), but these tomatoes received the most recipe requests, so here you go! I did not have fenugreek seeds, so I left them out, and I only had two serranos (well, I had three, but I needed one for the peanut chutney), which I quartered, so if you want to make exactly what I made, those are the only differences.

Serves 4

2 TB olive oil
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp nigella seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp asafetida
4 long Indian green chiles, or serrano chiles, halved lengthwise
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 TB fresh lime juice (from about half a lime)

1. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. When it begins to shimmer, add all of the seeds, and cook until they look slightly browned and start to sputter, about 1 minute. Stir in the asafetida and then the chiles. Cook for 2 minutes, until the chiles brown and crisp on the sides.

2. Turn off the heat, mix in the tomatoes, and immediately transfer to a serving bowl so that the tomatoes stop cooking. Gently mix in the salt and lime juice. Serve warm or at room temperature. These will keep in the refrigerator for a few days, but are best the same day.

Grilled Pizza

We make homemade pizza fairly often in the winter, but who wants to turn their oven up to 500° when it’s in the 90s? Enter grilled pizza, which, you still have to stand around a hot grill for, but at least your whole house doesn’t get overheated.

I used Bon Appétit’s method for the pizza, but I really don’t like supermarket pizza dough, so I made my own

This is my second-favorite pizza dough recipe, because my favorite pizza dough recipe takes six hours, so you have to know before noon that you want pizza for dinner. This one, adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Italian Country Table, only rises for two hours, so you can be a little more spontaneous. I quadrupled the recipe, for six personal-size pizzas.

1 to 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water

1. Mix the dry ingredients, then add the water and mix until combined. Knead for about five minutes, until the dough comes together, and is soft, but not too sticky, adding more flour as needed.

2. Form into a ball (or as many balls as you’d like pizzas, if you’re increasing the recipe), and place on well-floured surface. Flour the top of the dough, cover, and let rise for two hours, or about tripled in bulk. Then make some pizzas!

Bonus no-cook pizza sauce recipe: Combine a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (these can be pre-crushed, or you can drain some whole tomatoes and run them through a food mill. You might have to experiment with different brands to get a flavor and consistency that you like) with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a clove or two of minced garlic. Taste and add lemon juice or sugar if the flavor needs adjusting, then let it sit while you’re busy with your other pizza business.

Oisgill Scones (aka Round Scones)

This is my mom’s recipe, and it’s kind of a mystery. It was copied out of a food magazine a long time ago, but no amount of googling has led me to its source. The people of Oisgill Bay, Isle of Skye, Scotland, don’t seem to have a particularly robust scone-making tradition, and, while there’s a wide range of “traditional Scottish scones’ recipes out there, none of them are like these, as far as I can tell. Honestly, these scones aren’t very scone-like. They’re more like breakfast cookies. That doesn’t stop us from loving them, though!

Makes 10

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugat
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

For egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water

1. Preheat the oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Beat the butter and sugar by hand or with a mixer. Add the egg and beat until blended. (I added 1/2 tsp vanilla after this step, because I thought it would be a good addition, and I was not wrong).

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt (I didn’t. I literally almost never sift anything if I can get away with it), add to the butter mixture, and mix gently, just to combine.

4. Gather into a ball, and flatten into an 8″-round, 1/2″-thick circle. Cut into rounds using a 2″ cutter, gently gathering and re-flattening/cutting the scraps until they’re all used up.

5. Place on baking sheet, and brush the tops with the egg wash. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they’re light brown.