Khoresh Bademjan (Persian Tomato & Eggplant Stew)

This is an absolutely incredible vegetarian stew. Traditionally, this dish is made with lamb or beef, but the author described this version as just as savory without the meat. I absolutely loved it. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Andy Baraghani. I substituted American globe eggplant for the smaller Japanese eggplant and incorporated Campari tomatoes. I also used fresh lime juice instead of dried black limes. We ate the stew over brown Basmati rice with warm naan on the side. Wow. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  • 8–9+ T vegetable oil, divided (I used canola oil)
  • 2 globe eggplants (about 2 lbs), peeled, cut into 1-inch rounds OR 6 small Japanese eggplants (about 2 lbs), peeled, halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 T double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 10 Campari tomatoes, cut into eighths OR 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 lb), seeds removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups stock (can substitute water)
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 3 lemon omani (dried black limes) or 2 T fresh lime juice (see Note)
  • cooked basmati rice, parsley leaves, plain yogurt, and flatbread, for serving (I served brown Basmati rice, Greek yogurt & warm naan)
  1. Heat 6 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high.
  2. Working in batches, cook eggplant in a single layer, adding another tablespoon of oil if pan looks dry, until deeply browned, about 3 minutes per side.
  3. Transfer to a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet; season with coarse salt. (I added an additional 4 tablespoons of oil to cook the second batch of globe eggplant slices.)
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to same pot and cook onion over medium to medium-high, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned around the edges, 8 to10 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle turmeric and cinnamon over and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened in color, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes; cook, still stirring, until tomatoes have burst and mixture is very thick, 5 to 9 minutes.
  8. Nestle eggplant into sauce and season lightly with salt.
  9. Pour in stock and 3 cups of water; bring to a simmer.
  10. Pierce dried lemon omani with a paring knife and add to pot. (If using lime juice instead, add when dish is finished cooking.)
  11. Cook, gently stirring occasionally, until thickened and eggplant is almost creamy in texture, 40–50+ minutes. (I cooked mine significantly longer to achieve my desired thickness.)
  12. Divide rice among bowls; ladle stew over. (I served the stew over brown Basmati rice.)
  13. Top with parsley and yogurt and serve with flatbread. (I served it with warm naan.)

Browned Butter Crumb Cake Muffins

These New York crumb cake muffins have a few qualities that elevate them a step above others. They not only incorporate lemon zest and browned butter, they also have additional crunchy crumbs hidden inside each muffin. Genius.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the zest of an entire lemon and modified the baking time for a convection oven. They were quite large but baked perfectly in a standard muffin tin. Great.

Yield: 12 muffins

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 1/3 cups/165 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup/110 grams dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the Batter:

  • 3/4 cup/180 milliliters sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used the zest of 1 large lemon)
  • 1 1/2 cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup/135 grams granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1-inch slices and softened
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection, and line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.

Make the Topping:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter, then let it simmer until the foam on top falls to the bottom of the pot and turns brown, 4 to 6 minutes. It will smell nutty when it’s ready. Immediately pour butter into a small bowl to keep it from getting any browner, and let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, spices and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour in the brown butter and stir, pinching the mixture together, until crumbs form. Set aside.

Make the Batter:

  1. Whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, almond extract and lemon zest in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt until combined, about 10 seconds.
  3. Add softened butter and beat for 20 seconds to work it into the flour.
  4. Add egg mixture and continue beating until the batter is very smooth, about 1 minute.
  5. Sprinkle a scant tablespoon of the topping crumbs into the bottom of each muffin liner. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  6. Spoon the batter on top of the crumbs, dividing it evenly. (I used a large cookie scoop- plus a little bit extra- per well.
  7. Bake muffins for 5 minutes to firm up the tops so the crumbs don’t sink into the batter. Remove muffin pan from the oven and lower heat to 350 degrees.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top of each muffin. (I used 1 tablespoon per muffin, rationed with a cookie scoop.)
  9. Continue to bake until the muffins are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 17 on convection or up to 30 minutes longer.
  10. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
  11. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to lift the muffins out of the pan. Finish cooling muffins on a rack.

Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

Vanilla Bean Spritz Cookies

Classic butter cookies are my husband’s absolute favorite, so I had to try this vanilla bean version. He loved them! They are dangerously easy to make too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the ground cinnamon option, varied the shapes, and topped the cookies with festive colored sugars prior to baking.

Because the cookies are quite fragile, the original recipe suggests making them into sandwich cookies, filled with chocolate, Nutella, or thick jam, to increase their stability for shipping. We ate them as is!

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), preferably cultured, softened
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup/55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom, OR 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 2 1/4 cups/290 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • decorative sugar, for sprinkling, optional
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla and the zest, spices or almond extract (if using), and mix until well combined and smooth.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Load dough into a cookie press. Following the directions that came with your cookie press (models can vary), push the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch between cookies.
  6. Sprinkle cookies with decorative sugar.
  7. Bake until firm to touch and golden brown at edges, about 8 to 9 minutes, or longer (up to 17 minutes) depending upon the size of your cookie press.
  8. Transfer cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Our festive 2020 “Gingerbread Mansion” (photo above). 🙂

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Pecan pie bars are a favorite Thanksgiving dessert in our house. I chose this pumpkin pie version to serve along with a tried and true brown-butter and vanilla bean apple pie for our intimate Thanksgiving feast. (Yes, we had leftover dessert for at least a week!)

This recipe was adapted from a “staff favorite” Food and Wine recipe, contributed by Sarah Jordan. I appreciated the press-in crust and we all absolutely loved the consistency of the bars. Pie bars have the bonus of easier portion control too- which is crucial on Thanksgiving. 😉 Great.

Yield: Makes on 9×13-inch pie

For the Press-In-Crust:

  • 2 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour sifted with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter with the sugars at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  2. With the mixer at low speed, beat in the sifted flour-and-salt mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  4. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the 2 long sides. (I used a pyrex pan.)
  5. Transfer the dough to the pan and press it over the bottom and 1 1/4 inches up the side all around. (You can cover the dough with plastic wrap and press with the bottom of a measuring cup.) Be sure the corners are not too thick.
  6. Refrigerate until firm.
  7. Bake the crust for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden brown; halfway through baking, use the back of a spoon to smooth the sides and corners of the crust.
  8. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the crust cool before filling.

For the Filling:

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom, optional (I omitted it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
  • One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • Baked Press-In Crust (above)
  • crème fraîche or whipped cream, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the sugars with the spices and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.
  4. Whisk in the sugar mixture, then whisk in the pumpkin puree and the evaporated milk until smooth.
  5. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Lower the oven temperature to 350° and bake for about 25 minutes longer, until the filling is fully set.
  7. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.
  8. Cut into bars and serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche, as desired.

Note: Bars should be stored in the refrigerator. Serve chilled or at room temperature. (I prepared them a day prior to serving.)

Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes

These wonderful pancakes were a nice seasonal alternative to our usual blueberry buttermilk pancakes. They had a fabulous texture from the oats and were very light and fluffy.

The recipe was adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious.com. I used rolled oats instead of quick-cooking oats and Juici apples instead of Granny Smith. I also doubled the recipe.

We ate them topped with maple syrup and fresh apple chunks but they would also be delicious with sautéed apples. I may also use all whole wheat pastry flour next time and omit the all-purpose flour completely.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten lightly
  • 4 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups firmly packed peeled and coarsely grated Granny Smith apple, excess juice squeezed out (I used a 1 3/4 Juici apples)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (can substitute whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil plus additional for brushing the griddle (I used cooking oil spray on the griddle)
  • maple syrup, for serving
  • apple chunks or sautéed apples, for serving, optional
  1. In a bowl whisk together 2 cups of the buttermilk and the oats and let the mixture stand for 15 minutes.
  2. While the oats are soaking, peel and grate the apples. (I squeezed out the juice according to the original recipe but may skip this step next time.)
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and the grated apple.
  4. Stir in the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, 4 tablespoons of oil, the oats mixture, and the remaining 1/2 cup buttermilk; mix well.
  5. Heat a griddle over moderate heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface. Brush it with the additional oil, or spray with cooking oil spray, and drop the batter by half-filled 1/4-cup measures onto it.
  6. Cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden and cooked through. Serve the pancakes with syrup and apple garnishes, as desired.

Italian Sausage & Mushroom Ragu with Pappardelle

I love Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street television show and cookbooks. I recently joined their mailing list too. I have received a million emails from them since about offers and products, etc., but getting recipes like this one makes it worth the spam. 😉

This was our Election Day comfort food meal. It was quick and absolutely delicious. Perfect. The recipe was inspired by chef Vitaly Paley of Portland, Oregon, via 177milkstreet.com, contributed by Julia Rackow. I used cremini instead of portobello mushrooms and modified the proportions. I loved how the mushrooms lightened up the meaty sauce.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 2 T salted butter
  • 7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped or portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed, caps finely chopped
  • 2 large shallots, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, preferably bulk (I used sausage links and removed the casings)
  • 1 cup full-bodied, dry red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 14 1/2 to 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 16 oz dried pappardelle or tagliatelle
  • minced fresh parsley, for garnish, optional
  • grated Parmesan, for serving, optional
  1. Finely chop the garlic and mushrooms in a food processor.
  2. In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the butter and garlic until the butter has melted and the mixture has begun to sizzle. (I used a wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add the mushrooms and shallots and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sausage and cook, stirring and breaking the meat into small pieces, until no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any accumulated fat, if necessary.
  5. Increase to medium-high and add the wine. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the broth, cinnamon, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Continue to simmer until the broth has reduced by about half, 5 to 6 minutes.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the tomatoes and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  8. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Set aside, covered.
  9. While the sauce simmers, in a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.
  10. Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons of salt and cook until the pasta is al dente.
  11. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking (pasta) water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot or a serving dish.
  12. Add the sauce to the pasta (I layered it) and toss to coat. If needed, add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce. (I did not add pasta water but kept it to add when reheating the leftovers.)
  13. Serve garnished with parsley. Pass grated Parmesan at the table, as desired.

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