Patience and Perseverance: Broccoli Pie ’70s Style

The ladies of a certain generation are very protective of their old family recipes and refuse to share their secrets even among their closest friends. If, heavens, a woman finds herself forced to reveal the recipe, she might…I’m saying might…accidentally, like totally by accident…leave out one crucial ingredient rendering the replication far inferior to the original.

Such ingredient omission could result in conversations like “Louise, I made your pecan bars last week and they just weren’t as good…’ To which Louise might just smile and say ‘bless your heart’. (see Southern lady’s translation of this sentiment)

I had been begging a friend’s mother for her Zucchini casserole recipe for exactly three years. Every time I saw her I asked again and she always found a way around giving it to me.

Denial of its existence:       ‘I’m not even sure I have it written down.’

No way to send it:  ‘Oh, I don’t have email.’

Fear of being replaced:    ‘I don’t want the casserole showing up at dinner parties all over town.’

But, I was persistent and about six months ago, she sat me down, went into a triple locked vault and simply said: ‘Do you have a pen?’

Listening intently…I took copious notes and asked only one question: ‘do you think adding toasted bread crumbs to the top would be good?’ Horrified, insulted and thinking about ripping the recipe out of my hands, she shook her head disapprovingly and said firmly, ‘NO.’

When it came time to make the casserole, (and please don’t tell) I did make a few changes: I subbed out zucchini for broccoli and divided the recipe by 4 – ‘Louise’ (that’s an alias, she who has no access to the internet or this blog prefers not to be named) makes a giant batch, divides in to several 9-inch bread pans before cooking and freezes – then she pulls out a pan, thaws and bakes off as needed.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Bisquick ExpiryThis recipe was translated from one that made enough Zucchini casserole for an army – there was math – but it worked out. Don’t be afraid to do some dividing in order to cook for fewer than 57 people
  2. Write expiry dates on the side of packages that face out in the cabinet – that way each time you look in there, you’ll know how many more days you have left to use your Bisquick – I had until today (no fear, I baked this over the weekend)
  3. Don’t keep your 8×8 Le Creuset baking dish on the very top shelf of your cabinets – the fact that mine was up there kept me from using it for a very long time. Thank goodness for my Gracious Home step ladder

Broccoli Pie (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • bisquick recipes

    70’s mix

    2 Cups Broccoli Florets

  • 1/2 Large Onion
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Bisquick Baking Mix
  • 1/4 Cup Grated or Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • Pepper – if you want

Preheat Oven to 425 degrees

1. Mise en place – always miss en place – cheese, eggs, vegetable oil, Bisquick mix, onion half, Italian Seasoning

mise en place anne burrell vegetarian

All important Mise En Place

2. Chop the stems off of your broccoli and rough chop – then wash

broccoli vegetarian dinner side dish recipe

Lots of Broccoli – fresh from Fairway Market NYC

3. Pretend you’re going to make vegetable stock and keep the broccoli stems in the freezer until you admit that you’re not going to ever make vegetable stock and then throw them out.

broccoli stems vegetarian pie side dish

Be honest, you’re not going to make veggie stock

4. Roast the broccoli – this adds a great, browned, smoky flavor to the casserole. Spread the broccoli in a single layer on a lined cookie sheet. Toss with ‘really good’ olive oil and salt. Roast for 15 mins, tossing them around a bit about halfway through.

roasted broccoli dinner side dish vegetarian

Brown food is good food – roasted broccoli

5. Turn oven down to 350 degrees

6. Allow the broccoli to cool for about :10 mins then toss it into your Cuisinart

7. Chop the onion into chunks and toss into the Cuisinart with the broccoli

side dish recipe vegetarian casserole

Thank you Cuisinart

8. Pulse until the broccoli and onions are well minced, but still have a tiny bit of chunkiness to them

9. If you’re using shredded parmesan (not grated) – add to the Cuisinart and pulse a few more seconds

broccoli casserole recipe vegetarian

Slight chunks AOK

10. In a separate bowl combine the 2 eggs, Bisquick, Vegetable oil, Italian Seasoning and pepper if you like that kind of thing. You already salted the roasted broccoli, so no need to add more. (Also if you’re using grated parmesan, add it now)

recipe side dish vegetarian broccoli

Bisquick-y mix

11. Add the broccoli, cheese, onion mince to the Bisquick mix and stir to combine

broccoli casserole recipe

Add the broc onion cheese mix

12. It should look like this – just make sure you get all of the dry bisquick-y stuff well combined with the veggies and eggs

vegetarian casserole broccoli recipe

Well mixed

13. Spray an 8×8 Le Creuset dish with Pam or other nonstick cooking spray. Can you use other than Le Creuset? No, no you can not.

14. Spread the mixture into the baking dish evenly – should be about 1 inch thick

vegetarian casserole dinner broccoli

Spread into modern Corningware = Le Creuset

15. Bake at 350 – did you remember to turn down the oven? – for :35 mins or until lovingly browned

broccoli pie casserole recipe

Perfectly browned edges

16. Slice into wedges and serve

vegetarian side dish recipe broccoli

Sumptuous Slice

The Broccoli Pie nee Zucchini casserole recipe was worth waiting, begging and ultimately fighting for. It’s a ’70s throwback to the time when most vegetables were over boiled or minced and most side dishes included Bisquick.

To those of you who are courting women of a certain generation for a secret family recipe, let me say just this – patience and perseverance pay off. And, if this dish starts popping up at dinner parties all over town – please don’t tell ‘Louise’ about this blog.

If Something Seems Simple, It Is Simple: Taco Soup

Taco Soup recipe el paso seasoning

Easiest Best Soup Ever

Before Super Storm Sandy hit, Chris Christie, New Jersey’s more than portly governor, held several press conferences. During one of the last ones preceding the storm, Chris said simply: If something seems stupid, it is stupid. His statement urged residents to stay off the beaches, move to higher ground, avoid downed power lines etc.

Tonight, we are hunkering down for what might be a significant winter snow event. In the suburbs such weather warnings result in a mad rush at the Stop ‘n Shop, Whole Foods, ShopRite, Price Chopper etc. In New York, we wonder which bars will be open and which restaurants might still deliver if the weather gets really bad.

In the event that (gasp!) restaurants, bars, etc. are closed at some point during the storm, you may want to prepare – You know, rent some movies, learn to knit, dust off the scrabble board…and, please have something ready to reheat and eat. So, you don’t really cook, like ever.

evansweather bill evans nyc abc 7 taco soup

ABC 7 Accuweather’s         Bill Evans

Don’t stress too much. Make something hearty that can sustain you and your crew through the storm…But, something that has ingredients easily accessible and something that’s more than simple to make. And, since Bill Evans, Lee Goldberg and the entire ABC7 Weather Team say that the storm will begin before we are up tomorrow…Please, make it today.

Paula Mac’s Taco Soup (Serves 8 – I know, a lot, but your doormen, neighbors etc. might be hungry too)

Ingredients:

  • rotel tomatoes for taco soup

    Ro*Tel

    2 lbs Ground Beef – 90/10

  • 1 Chopped Yellow Onion
  • 1 Can Kidney Beans
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Can Pinto Beans
  • 2 Cans Shoepeg Corn – Ho Ho Ho Green Giant makes one, but if you can’t find it, whole corn kernels are AOK as well
  • 2 Cans Rotel Tomatoes – in the Mexican Food Section
  • shoepeg corn green giant taco soup

    HoHoHo

    2 Packages of Taco Seasoning – El Paso makes this …I use less than the two packages to reduce spice

  • 1 Package Dry Ranch Dressing Mix – In the salad dressing area
  • 1 Heaping TBSP of Brown Sugar
  • 3 Cups of Water

1. In a large stock pot brown the beef and chopped onion over medium heat

easy taco soup cold weather cooking

Simply brown meat and onion

2. Once browned, drain off the excess fat

3. And…This is the hardest part…. Drain and rinse the beans and add those to the meat/onion mix

mise en place for taco soup

Simple Mise En Place: Can you open a can? You can make this soup

4. Drain the corn and add to the pot

5. Open the packages of taco seasoning and Ranch dressing mix and sprinkle over the meat, beans and corn

taco soup taco seasoning recipe

Simply Sprinkle in the dry stuff

6. Open up the cans of Rotel Tomatoes and pour ’em in

7. Add the brown sugar

8. Pour in the water

9. Stir to combine

taco soup recipe easy cooking

Simply BTB/RTS

10. BTB/RTS (Bring to boil, reduce to simmer) and Simmer covered for 1 hour

11. Let the soup cool…then put it in the fridge overnight. This allows the flavors to all meld together and for the soup to thicken a bit

12. Rent some movies, get all other hunkering activities done…..When ready to serve, reheat the soup over med/low and serve

13. Serve with shredded cheddar or Jack / Cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips

taco soup recipe easy hearty

Simply Garnish with cheese and sour cream

In all probability, NYC won’t be hit that hard with this storm. In any event, it’s a good idea to follow CC’s advice and if something looks stupid, it is stupid. You know what’s stupid? Having nothing to eat if you are stuck inside is stupid. Luckily, you don’t need to panic about starving in the event that you don’t cook and the weather is worse than expected. Paula Mac’s taco soup is not only hearty, impressive and delicious, it seems simple because it is simple.

Not The Inauguration Dinner: Elegant Bleu Cheese Crusted Filet Mignon

filet mignon with bleu cheese and bread crumbs

Table Ready

No one invited me to the Inaugural Dinner tonight. And, truth be told, I’m not sure I could have made it as my car is sick – so $$$$$ad 😦

Michelle Obama American Grown

I heart FLOTUS

I thought I should see what I’m missing and searched for the Obama Part Deux Dinner Menu online. Tonight, his guests will (according to several online sources) be enjoying Mahi-Mahi ceviche with jalapeños and coconut, seared salmon on baby spinach with red potatoes, and pineapple upside-down cake. The menu reflects Barack’s Hawaiian heritage and gives a nod to Michelle’s fight against American obesity. Though I don’t know if the potatoes or spinach come from the White House garden. (As an aside, FLOTUS’ book “American Grown” is worth a perusal.)

This past weekend we enjoyed an inaugural dinner of our own. A gaggle of girls had traveled from far and wide and we were upstate in the town of Catskill – not The Catskills. Our host upstate wanted to prepare, in his own words, an elegant dinner for his guests.

After poring through the 8-10 options I sent him for main courses, he settled on maybe the most elegant. I helped him with the menu and guided him through – he did all the work – and I got to be bossy: all was right with the world.

Bleu Cheese Crusted Filet Mignon (Serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 6   1 1/4 inch filets – shameless pitch here for Price Chopper, his grocery store upstate – great meats and where Rachael Ray got her start…just sayin’
  • 1 Cup crumbled Bleu Cheese – we bought a block and he crumbled it by hand – better than buying pre-crumbled stuff
  • 1 Cup Progresso Panko Style bread crumbs – love
  • Butter
  • 1 TSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat the Oven to 425 degrees

1. In a small fry pan, melt 1 TBSP of butter over medium heat

2. Add the bread crumbs and toast until browned. Flip ’em around occasionally to brown well. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool

progresso bread crumbs panko

Don’t Be Shy About Browning the Panko

3. Salt and Pepper the filets on one side

filet mignon bleu cheese

Salted and Peppered

4. In a second medium/large fry pan, melt 2 TBSP of butter over med/high heat

5. Add the filets salted/peppered side down to the melted butter. This is your chance to salt/pepper the other side

filet mignon with bleu cheese

Searing One Side S/P The Other

6. Sear the filets for 2-3 mins per side. They should be well browned

filet mignon price chopper bleu cheese

Well browned searing in taste and juices

7. Remove from the pan and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined parchment paper side up with Reynolds Wrap Pan Lining paper – the mullet of cooking papers tin foil one side, parchment on the other

bleu cheese crusted filet mignon

Worth the price

8. Mix together the crumbled bleu cheese, olive oil and toasted panko bread crumbs

bleu cheese mixture for filet

Bleu Cheese Crumbled by Hand

9. Carefully top each filet with a heaping spoonful of the cheese/bread crumb mix. You can gently press the topping into each filet

bleu cheese crusted filet mignon

Layer on the Cheese, Bread Crumb Mixture

10. Place the topped filets into the oven and bake for :06 – :08 mins for Medium-Rare

11. Let rest for :05, then plate and serve

bleu cheese crusted filet mignon dinner

The one with the Stick was for our rarest of rare meat eater friend

Barack Obama Swearing In inauguration

Barack’s 3rd Swearing In Yesterday

Interesting fact about today’s Inauguration…This will be the fourth time that Barack Obama will be sworn in as president. He flubbed the words at the first one and had to have a redo four years ago – could happen to anyone. Then, because the 20th was on a Sunday, he was sworn in yesterday and will be re-sworn in today as part of the inauguration celebration. The only other person to be sworn in 4 times is FDR, because he was elected four times.

There’s a lunch today too. And the Obamas honored more than just healthy foods and Hawaii today. For lunch they served lobster and bison – the presidential seal of approval for all from Maine to Colorado.

But as far as the big dinner tonight, I liked our elegant meal better than the inaugural double fish fest. And, our bananas flambe dessert tops pineapple upside down cake any day.

Well done, my upstate friend. A truly elegant and more than inauguration worthy meal.

Appropriately Sized and Served on the Side: Lil’ Savory Cheddar Dill Scones

ina garten cheddar dill scones

Savory Smaller Cheddar Dill Scones

One of the things that drives me most crazy is the size of portions at restaurants. And, I’m not just talking about at The Cheesecake Factory. I’m not averse to the giant drinks at the bar there – but, that’s a different story.

The other night I was out to dinner at one of my fave Mexican restaurants in the West Village. I ordered the Baja (read ‘fried’) fish tacos. In a totally wrong way in my head, ordering the fish tacos vs the chicken chimichangas, would be ‘better’ for me. I realize that’s wrong.

mole fish taco

Giant Portion

When the tacos arrived, the plate – probably 10 inches in diameter – was completely covered. It was literally a portion that could serve a family of four if Melissa D’Arabian had anything to say about it. Seriously, there were no fewer than 8 big pieces of Baja fried fish smothered in tomatoes, onions, cilantro, topped with avocado slices and sitting atop 7, yes 7, soft tacos. Ridiculous. Delicious, but ridiculous.

It’s just too much. I mean, does the restaurant think that food for four should be served to just one? And, are they promoting eating that much just by serving it? Does the restaurant have a responsibility for controlling the portions they serve? I think so. And….Don’t get me started on giant sodas, because, sorry, I agree with the mayor here.

In a city where space is at a premium – and our kitchens are tiny – the giant restaurant portions amaze me.

sur la table nyc

It’s like crack for a cook

My niece and nephew sent me a gift certificate to Sur La Table for Christmas. Whenever I shop for kitchen stuff, I have to take into account my tiny kitchen. I have to make choices – I want, but don’t need, another 6qt Le Creuset pot, another All-Clad grill pan, 7 more spatulas, the pasta attachment to my KitchenAid mixer, more wine glasses etc etc etc, ….And, I sort of do want a Scone cutter….But, where would I put any of these things?

Bottom line, is there isn’t room. And, a scone cutter, cuts out big scones. As the boss of my test kitchen, I have a responsibility to serve reasonably sized portions. So instead of a scone cutter, I bought a set of biscuit cutters. Better choice for a few reasons:

  1. They nest like Russian Dolls – one inside the other
  2. You get 5 sizes, not just one – more versatile
  3. They’re a lot smaller than a single scone cutter – controlling your portions and saving you space
  4. They come with a ring that connects them to one another – don’t throw out the ring as it will help you keep them organized in your tiny kitchen

I’m a savory, not a sweet eater. I heart savory scones – rarely a breakfast entree like their sugary cousins, but rather a side dish, an accoutrement to the main course. So, why should we make giant ones?

Lil’ Savory Cheddar Dill Scones (makes 24 baby scones)

Ingredients

  • scones recipe ina garten

    Scone Mise En Place

    2 Cups + 1TBSP Gold Medal all purpose flour

  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 TBSP) unsalted COLD butter, diced – dice the butter, then put it in the freezer for :10mins
  • 2 large eggs + 1 egg for egg wash
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream chilled – measure out the cream and then put it back in the fridge until you’re ready to add it
  • 1/4lb extra-sharp Irish Cheddar cheese – small dice
  • 1/2 Cup minced fresh Dill

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

1. In the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer, combine 2 Cups of flour, the baking powder and salt

kitchenAid mixer scones

Use the Paddle Attachment – and just mix :05

2. Add the cold butter dices and mix on low until the butter is in pea sized pieces

3. In a separate bowl (or, I used a water glass, whatever works) mix together the eggs and heavy cream

4. Add the creamy-egg mix to the buttery flour mix and combine until just blended and a dough forms

cheddar dill scones

Don’t Over Mix!

5. In a separate bowl, toss the dill and cheddar dices with 1 TBSP of flour just to coat

cheddar dill scones

Tossed with Flour

6. Add the coated cheddar and dill to the dough and mix to combine

cheddar dill scones recipe

Mix for just :05 seconds

7. Put the dough on a well-floured surface and knead for about a minute to get all of the cheddar dices and dill-iness well incorporated

8. Roll out the dough to about 1/4-1/2 inch thick – if you were making a traditional scone, you might want them thicker…but again, too much food!

cheddar dill scones

Don’t roll too thin…

9. Using the two inch biscuit cutter I just got from Sur La Table – cut into circles

sur la table biscuit cutters

Space Saving Nesting Biscuit Cutters

10. Place the savory scone circles onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with Reynold’s Wrap Pan Lining Paper and brush them with egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 TBSP water)

cheddar dill scones

Oven Ready Lil’ Scones

11. Into the oven for :16-:18 mins if you used the 2 inch biscuit cutter, :20 – :25 mins if you used a traditional scone cutter. Just watch the scones – when the outside is browned and crusty and the inside is fully baked, they’re done

scones ina garten recipe

Lil’ Cheddar Dill Scones

These scones are good. Like really good. And, my tiny apartment still smells a little like butter from the baking process. They are in no way low-cal….But, rather a more responsible way to give my guests a little savory delicious indulgence appropriately sized and served on the side.

Thinking Inside The Box: PopOver-PopIns

Williams-Sonoma Texas Tins

Popover-PopIns With Cheddar Cheese

For years I have been intrigued by the catch phrases and words that come in and out of vogue in business speak.

Sarah Palin and John McCain

Failure to Vet

For a while, it was very important that we ‘vet’ everything. Like ‘do you think we’ve appropriately vetted that idea/brand/event?’ I blame the overuse of ‘vet’, ‘vetting’ and ‘vetted’ on John McCain’s team who apparently failed to properly ‘vet’ his running mate, Sarah Palin.

We used to ‘think’. Then we learned to ‘brainstorm’. After that we were encouraged to ‘ideate’.

We have ‘balls in the air’. We ‘dance on the head of a pin’.

We wanted to be members of functional teams. And, now we need to be members of high performing teams – this one we like to abbreviate to just HPT.

It was once considered exceptional to give the job/project 100%. Until someone asked for 110%. And now I think the going give rate is 1000% Wow! That’s a lot!

We also have been accused of not being able to ‘get out of our own way.’ At times we ‘can’t see the forest for the trees.’ We have to always be ‘innovative.’ There are all those people who are ‘penny wise and pound foolish.’ Etc.

Thinking outside of the box

Brilliance

But perhaps the most overused of all marketing catch phrases is ‘thinking out of the box’. It’s so very important that we think ‘out of the box.’ With its overuse, thinking out of the box has literally become inside of the box thinking.

In cooking, sometimes the best ideas are inside the box. Especially when the box is a light, eggy, airy popover and inside is a delicious secret of sharp cheddar cheese.

PopOver-PopIns (makes 12)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

1. Mise En Place

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • Butter for greasing the pans
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Popover mise en place

Mise En Place – Tres Important!

2. Mix all ingredients EXCEPT THE CHEESE in a bowl with a whisk. The mix will be thin.

williams-sonoma

Everybody in the bowl

Cheddar Cheese Popovers

Whisk it!

3. Butter two Williams-Sonoma non-stick Texas Tins and put into the heated oven for :02mins.

Popover pans

Buttered PopOver-PopIn Pans

4. Take the pans out of the oven and pour batter into each cup about 1/2 way up

texas tins williams-sonoma

Pour Into the Pans

5. Pop a pinch of the shredded cheddar cheese into the center of each cup

PopOver-PopIns

Place the Cheddar Cheese

6. Bake for :25-:27 mins – You’ll know they are ready when the edges are a rich golden brown. Because of the cheese well, they will pop over and pop in.

Williams-Sonoma Texas Tins

PopOver-PopIns Popped Out of the Oven

7. Pop them onto a plate….And put a perfect pat of butter into the steaming center

Williams-Sonoma Texas Tins

Pop Butter Into the PopOver-PopIns

One of the best things about the popover-popins is that they freeze beautifully. So, if you can’t eat all 12 at once, pop the leftovers into a freezer bag and into the freezer. When you’re ready to eat them, wrap them in tinfoil and pop into a 350 degree oven for :10 mins to heat through.

Thinking differently is key in many situations – creating newness and partnerships that are unexpected can catapult a brand into the forefront of the consumer’s mind. Just think about what the unexpected male spokesperson (Brad Pitt) has done for one of the world’s most iconic fragrances.

In popovers, though…with very few balls in the air and without dancing on the head of a pin – You can create a yummy goodness that’s all on the inside of the box. No need to vet that.