Veggies stake claims in 2019, even in ice cream

As taste-makers tempt diners to expand their horizons in 2019 with globally inspired breakfast, they’ll likely offer more meat alternatives with it.

“Plant-based sausages and burgers” grabbed 64 percent of the vote in the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot” survey. That trend comes in second to the 69 percent of survey respondents who agreed that Middle Eastern, Asian, Latin and other cuisines would influence American breakfast menus, explained in this blog’s previous post.

Veggies, as a whole, were indicated so widely across marketing reports and industry questionnaires that 2019 may well be the year of plant-based eating. Vegan and raw dishes are still gaining popularity; cauliflower and watercress are having a moment; and sea veggies (think kelp) are making the leap from Japanese, Korean and health-food fare into the mainstream.

Even sweets aren’t safe from infiltration by vegetables, if predictions hold true. Consumers can expect to see such flavors as hummus, tahini, avocado and other nontraditional flavors in their frozen treats.

But as previously acknowledged, this year’s food-trend forecast is hardly earth-shattering. Just as globally inspired breakfast is easily five years in the making, ice-cream makers have been slowly churning out vegetable-based flavors. And we’re not just talking vegan desserts.

Artisan ice-cream makers have been experimenting with vegetable flavors as long as “artisan” ice cream, itself, has been a notion. That was before Haagen-Dazs in 2014 introduced its Spoon Veg lines of vegetable ice cream in Japan with a Tomato Cherry flavor (a combination of cherry juice and tomato paste) and Carrot Orange (a blend of concentrated carrot juice, orange juice concentrate, orange pulp, and orange peel).

The trend warranted a 2016 story by Tribune News Service that emphasized vegetable ice creams as deliciously different, not “weird for weird’s sake.” Ingredients must work well with cream and have flavors that meld together.

Also, homemade ice cream is not a whim dessert. A home ice cream machine makes this treat possible. But a little planning is required. Both the liquid base and freezer container have to be extremely cold for the best results (chill at least four hours for the base, 24 hours for the container). It’s also key to start with the freshest ingredients.

A good blender or immersion mixer creates a smooth, velvety base. And because home machines have a limited cooling ability, make sure any add-ins are completely cool, and wait until the very end to fold them in so that they don’t stick to the bottom and get evenly distributed.

Fresh out of the churning step, ice cream has a Dairy Queen consistency; it needs several hours in the freezer to harden into something that scoops well but still is creamy. Lastly, once ice cream is spun, quickly get it out of the bowl and into a freezer-safe container to keep it from turning crunchy. Never freeze it in the container — it could end up damaging it when it sticks to the sides. Plus, it needs to be clean and properly chilled for the next time.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try this low-tech technique. Place the chilled ice-cream base in a quart-size, zip-top bag, add four cups of ice and 1/2 cup of salt to a gallon-size bag, place the base bag inside and shake, shake, shake. You’ll need oven mitts or a dish towel to keep your hands from freezing, but it works.

While winter isn’t peak season for ice cream, it is the season for eating beets. Once they’ve almost worn out their welcome in soups, salads, side dishes and other recipes, try them in this ice cream with goat cheese. Recipe testers for Tribune News Service say it’s just the right balance of sweet and earthy, plus the color can’t be beat!

Tribune News Service

Beet Ice Cream

1 cup beets

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounces goat cheese

2 cups full-fat yogurt

Cut the beets in half and roast, face down, covered in foil, in a 450-degree oven until very soft, for about 1 hour. It should be easy to remove beet’s outer skin with your hands at this point.

Cool slightly, then blend beets with the sugar and olive oil. You want a very fine beet-smoothie consistency; if you feel you have too much water at this point, just cook it off in a sauce pan.

Incorporate the goat cheese into warm beet syrup. When it reaches room temperature, add the yogurt.

Let cool, and then run through your home ice cream machine as directed.

If you like, add orange or lemon zest at end of churning, or steep beet juice with rosemary or sage for more of an earthy flavor.

Makes 6 servings.

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Globally inspired dishes broaden breakfast menus

The Whole Dish podcast: Eggy, peppery, tomatoey tart another global-fusion breakfast dish

Globally inspired breakfast dishes, taste-makers agree, top the list of this year’s food trends.

That’s according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot” survey, as reported by Tribune News Service. Although 69 percent of the survey’s respondents cited globally inspired breakfast, the trend is hardly earth-shattering, acknowledges the story reprinted in this week’s food section (see the e-edition).

One of the morning dishes mentioned, shakshuka has been popular for several years. The Middle Eastern specialty has made the rounds of restaurant menus, as well as recipes in magazines, newspaper food sections and food blogs. It’s been almost five years since the Mail Tribune published a recipe for the tomatoey, peppery stew that conveys poached eggs, long before the dish met yet another trend: sheet-pan suppers.

Roasting all the shakshuka ingredients together on a sheet pan makes this meal even more hands-off, in the vein of make-ahead meals. Below is Tribune News Service’s version from January last year.

The vibrant, spicy vegetable mélange puts me in mind of Mexican Tomato Tart, posted in 2017. More involved than shakshuka, this recipe would wow even the most sophisticated brunch palates.

If these have whet your appetite for ethnic flavors to start the day, or that even that decades-old trend of breakfast for dinner, try the 2015 recipe for eggs baked in yogurt and dusted in the Middle Eastern spice, sumac. Or the Vietnamese-inspired breakfast banh mi from 2016.

Tribune News Service photo

Vegetable Shakshuka

2 cups chopped zucchini, from 2 medium zucchini

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic (from about 3 large garlic cloves)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 (28-ounce) can or 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced, fire-roasted tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

3/4 teaspoon table salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

6 large eggs

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Combine the zucchini, onion, bell pepper and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, and toss to coat. Bake in preheated oven until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

Combine the tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, cumin, pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper in a large microwave-safe bowl; stir to combine. Microwave at high heat until hot, for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour tomato mixture over roasted vegetables; stir to combine. Return to oven and roast until mixture thickens and tomato liquid is somewhat evaporated, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Use the back of a spoon to make 6 evenly spaced wells in vegetable mixture. Break 1 egg into each well; sprinkle eggs with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. Return to oven and bake until eggs reach desired degree of doneness, for 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from “One Sheet Eats” by Oxmoor House.

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Espresso, chili powders give lamb chops a kick

Few foods in our house are so simply, supremely satisfying as seared or grilled lamb chops.

Served with a baked sweet potato and handful of fresh greens, the chops need little besides salt and pepper to accent their luxurious savor. And with just a pat of butter for the sweet potato and a little oil and vinegar for the greens, this meal of pure flavors requires just minutes in the kitchen and only enough forethought to thaw the lamb, if frozen, and give the potatoes about a 30-minute head start.

Consequently, it’s a meal that my kids enjoy on a fairly regular basis, so long as our 4-H lamb lasts. Knowing the family who raised our meat, of course, is a large part of its appeal. And the lamb we’ve purchased over the past three years has been so conscientiously raised, so mild-flavored that we devour every bit of fat that encircles each cut in a 1/2-inch ribbon. Then my 3- and 5-year-old sons eagerly gnaw the bones.

While the straightforward flavors of this meal are perfect for kids, I occasionally crave something a bit spicier or outside-the-box. This recipe incorporating espresso powder is decidedly a more grown-up take on lamb chops but also could be used on beef steaks, pork shoulder or even kneaded into burgers.

If ancho chile powder is not available, chili powder may be substituted, but omit the cumin.

Tribune Service photo

Ancho-Espresso Lamb Chops

1/4 cup pure ancho chile powder

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon espresso powder

1 tablespoon dried, minced onion

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin.

6 loin lamb chops, each about 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick, total 1 3/4 pounds

In a small bowl, mix the spices, sesame seeds, espresso powder, salt and sugar. Measure out 3 tablespoons to rub onto the lamb. Store remaining spice mixture in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Makes about 1/2 cup.

Pat lamb chops dry and place on a broiler pan or a shallow baking sheet with sides. Press rub into all sides of chops. Let stand, for 30 minutes. Or refrigerate up to 1 day.

Position oven rack 6 inches from heat source; heat broiler. Broil lamb chops for 4 minutes. Flip chops and continue broiling until meat feels nearly firm when pressed (medium-rare), for 2 to 4 minutes more.

Transfer chops to a serving platter and serve with a baked sweet potato, roasted vegetable or vinaigrette-dressed greens.

Makes 3 servings.

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Roasted fennel, onions make plain pasta a meal

Holiday feasting, followed by a week away from home, revealed an all-but-bare refrigerator upon our return.

The plan all along, of course, was to avoid leaving a refrigerator full of food that would only have to be discarded. Putting off my grocery shopping for a couple of days, however, tasked me to pull together meals with scarce produce and plain pantry staples.

Celery, carrot, onion and cabbage we had. Those are all well and good for soup and coleslaw. But as usual, I was craving pasta, and not just the kids’ macaroni and cheese.

I’ve blogged plenty about pantry-staple pasta dishes beyond cacio e pepe. The problem with recipes assembled solely with such pantry goods as sun-dried tomatoes, roasted and jarred red peppers, olives, capers and even tuna, is that they can come off as one-note. Flat. In dire need of some freshness.

Enter fennel. Mentioned in a previous post, this bulb vegetable inspired my riff on pasta puttanesca a couple of years back. Sautéed, the slightly sweet fennel supports stronger flavors of smoked albacore and Kalamata olives in a light tomato sauce. And while fennel isn’t on everyone’s shopping list of staples, I had a bulb left over from our Christmas bouillabaisse.

Roasting and braising also bring out fennel’s sweetness and turns the dense, crunchy root silky soft. It would be lovely with a counterpoint of caramelized onions paired with whatever short pasta shape, such as penne, that’s in the pantry.

Tribune News Service photo

Penne With Roasted Fennel and Onions

2 fennel bulbs, tall stalks and leaves discarded, bulb cut in half lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices

2 medium yellow onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 large garlic clove, pressed or peeled and finely minced

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/2 pound dry penne

2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Combine the fennel, onion, garlic and oil in large roasting pan. Season with the salt to taste; toss mixture to coat fennel and onion with oil. Spread mixture in an even layer in pan. Roast on topmost rack in preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until fennel and onions are just beginning to brown, for 20 to 25 minutes. Be careful not to overcook; fennel and onion will quickly go from brown to burned.

While vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the tablespoon of salt and the penne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender but firm, al dente, for 7 to 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer to a large, preheated serving bowl. Add roasted fennel and onion and the parsley; toss well. Serve with the grated Parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from “Pasta Verde,” by Judith Barrett.

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Chicken options abound for creamy rice soup

The Whole Dish podcast: Egg thickens creamy, comforting chicken-rice soup

As a mom of two young children, I’ve come to terms with being sick. A lot. Since the kids started school two years ago, I wryly comment that our household can hardly go a month before someone comes down with symptoms from the sniffles to full-on plague.

Yet by some miraculous fate, I managed to evade the latest illness that kept my older son home from school the week before winter break, caused my husband to take sick time from work and progressed in my younger son to an ear infection. With all my faculties intact, I concentrated on cooking wholesome meals from ingredients I’d stashed away in the freezer.

Among those was an organic half chicken breast, bone-in, skin-on. It’s a cut of meat that doesn’t go very far among a family of four, unless you spread it around with other ingredients in a soup or stew, which is exactly what I did last night.

Because the bird’s bones and skin impart so much flavor and richness, I didn’t even need chicken stock. I simply simmered the meat whole in several cups of water for about 30 minutes before adding diced onion, celery, garlic, carrot and mini alphabet noodles. Then I pulled the meat from the skin and bones into bite-sized chunks.

A similar technique is used in the following recipe for cream of chicken and rice soup. It’s a format that also could benefit from a whole or half chicken breast, rather than boneless, skinless. The idea here is to infuse the flavor of chicken stock into a convenience cut of meat. I would adapt this dish, instead, to infuse the meat’s flavor into the liquid.

If you’re using leftover cooked rice, even white or brown, this recipe would make for a fast, weeknight dinner incorporating boxed stock and leftover or rotisserie chicken, as testers for the Kansas City Star suggest.

Tribune News Service photo

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 (4-ounce) box wild rice or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons uncooked wild rice

2 cups water

1 (32-ounce) carton reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, peeled and chopped

3 carrots, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 rib celery, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

8 ounces fresh button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup half-and-half

Finely chopped scallions or chives, for garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the rice and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for 45 minutes or until rice is done. Drain well and set aside.

Pour 1 cup of the chicken broth into a medium saucepan. Add the chicken breasts to broth and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F. Remove chicken breasts from liquid and allow to cool slightly. Discard liquid. Cut chicken into small pieces and set aside.

In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and mushrooms to saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the flour and stir until smooth and all liquid has evaporated.

Gradually add remaining 3 cups chicken broth, stirring continuously, until mixture begins to thicken. Add chicken and wild rice and heat through. Add half and half and stir until blended well.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the scallions, if desired.

Makes 8 servings (about 9 cups total).

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Spellings, love abound for ground, seasoned lamb

I frequently serve as an unofficial ambassador for lamb. Most recently, a couple who have lived in the Rogue Valley for decades, surrounded by lush pastureland, wondered about how to incorporate lamb into their diets.

Find someone who raises it. Buy the whole animal for custom butchering by any number of businesses locally. Then uses it anywhere that a more typical dish would call for beef, as my family does. Of course, there are any number of recipes, such as moussaka, Provencal lamb and eggplant, Guinness stout stew and a few others posted to this blog over the past year that wouldn’t be nearly as worthwhile with a beef substitute.

Here’s another, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. Call it kefta, kifta, kafta or kofta, this ground-meat preparation has a wide geographic reach from the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent, from the Balkan states to Central Asia. Each region’s varies in its size, shape, seasoning, serving style and side dishes, but lamb is a thread that ties these cuisines together.

It’s true that beef, pork, chicken and even seafood can play a role, but the higher fat content of lamb keeps the meat moist while it’s char-broiled or grilled. The mixture also can be formed into oblongs or patties and simmered in a sauce. Yet skewering them and forming a torpedo shape is the most straightforward way to enjoy this meat, either cradled in pita or served with a vegetable accompaniment.

Chilling the mixture for an hour before cooking helps to ensure that it holds its shape.

Tribune News Service photo

Kefta

1 plump garlic clove

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 pound (about 8 large) carrots, peeled and trimmed

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Half a yellow onion, peeled

1/2 pound ground lamb

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Canola oil, as needed

2 tablespoons roasted, salted pistachios

Drop the garlic into a mortar. Sprinkle on the salt. Using pestle, mash to a paste.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, cayenne and a scant 1/4 teaspoon of garlic mash.

Using second-largest holes on a box grater or small shredding disk of a food processor, shred the carrots. Heap into a bowl. Sprinkle on the 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Pour on lemon dressing. Toss. Chill for 1 hour or more.

For the kefta, grate the onion on largest holes of a box grater. Scoop up handfuls of onion and squeeze, discarding liquid. In a large bowl, mix onion with the lamb, mint, 1 tablespoon parsley and remaining garlic mash. Season with about 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Divide lamb mixture into 8 portions and shape each into a torpedo. If working ahead, chill.

Flick on range exhaust. Lightly oil a ridged griddle pan and set over high heat. Add kefta torpedoes and cook, turning to cook all sides, until charred outside and still a bit pink inside, for 6 to 8 minutes.

Scoop cold carrot salad onto each of 2 big or 4 small plates. Scatter on the pistachios. Top with kefta. Enjoy.

Makes 4 appetizer or 2 main-dish servings.

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Fast take on Southern grits spurs cleaning shrimp

The Whole Dish podcast: Shrimp shells make stunning seafood stock

For the second holiday-season meal running, I estimated just right.

After preparing an 8-quart Dutch oven chock full of fresh mussels, clams, shrimp and Oregon halibut in a briny broth for six adults and two kids, I only had a few odds and ends for the fridge. There were a couple of good-sized nuggets of fish, about 10 small fingerling potatoes from our garden, fewer clams still in their shells and 2 cups or so of that intensely flavored, fennel-infused, saffron-hued stock.

The seafood left over in greatest quantity, to my surprise, were the wild-caught Gulf shrimp. But that could have had something to do with my apathy for continuing to peel and devein them when I had clams to scrub AND mussels to de-beard.

So I cleaned a dozen or so of the less attractive shrimp last night, chopped them up with some scallions and fresh ginger and encased the mixture in prepared wonton wrappers. After pan-frying on their bottoms and briefly steaming, the quick, Asian-inspired dumplings got a bath in the leftover bouillabaisse broth.

Delicious as it was, I almost went in another direction to use up leftover ingredients from the Christmas breakfast casserole. Bacon ends, collard greens and shrimp all suggest a play on shrimp and grits, which I could pull together in a hurry, owing to the polenta squares in my freezer. But because I ran out of steam cleaning the shrimp for the second night in a row, that meal is sure to be in our near future.

I use the yellow, medium-grind cornmeal labeled polenta, but this version with white cornmeal in the true Southern style is well within reach. It would be a great use for leftover ham, if that factored into your holiday meal. And frozen corn kernels are a perfectly adequate substitute in winter. Likewise, if you lack fresh chives, feel free to substitute some finely sliced scallions.

Tribune News Service photo

Shrimp and Grits

2 1/4 cups milk

Kosher salt, as needed

1/2 cup white grits

1 ounce grated white cheddar

Canola oil, as needed

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces ham steak, diced in 1/4-inch cubes

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Cajun spice mix (or paprika and cayenne)

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on, rinsed and patted dry

1/2 cup fresh corn kernels

2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken or shrimp broth

1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with parchment, leaving an overhang.

In a large saucepan, heat the milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Sprinkle in the grits, whisking continuously. (Wear mitts: Grits can spatter). Reduce heat to medium, and whisk until thick, for about 10 minutes. Pull pan off heat; whisk in the cheese. Scrape grits into prepared pan; set aside to cool, for 10 minutes or more.

Pull out parchment and slice slab into 4 squares; halve each, yielding 8 triangles. Set a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a little oil. Working in batches, crisp all triangles, for about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. Set 2 triangles in each of 4 shallow bowls.

Melt the butter in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Tumble in the ham, and let brown, for about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, scoop out ham; toss with 1 teaspoon cornstarch and either 3/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning or 1/4 teaspoon each salt, paprika and cayenne; set aside.

Tumble the shrimp, corn and garlic into skillet, still over medium heat. Stir for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and broth and cook, stirring, until shrimp is curled and pink and corn turns tender, for 2 to 3 minutes. Return seasoned ham to pan. Increase heat and cook for 1 minute. Add more seasoning, if you like.

Spoon shrimp and sauce over grits. Scatter on the chives. Enjoy.

Makes 4 servings.

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Green chilies enhance hearty bowl of orecchiette

The Whole Dish podcast: Roasted chilies make for Latin-Italian fusion pasta

A pasta purist I’m not. Zucchini strips or ribbons of collard greens in my pasta carbonara keep that classic bacon-and-egg recipe from being too rich. I just wouldn’t serve it in Italy and call it “carbonara.”

Puttanesca is another storied dish that I’ve taken to adapting. Swap smoked albacore tuna for the traditional anchovies and saute with fennel bulb for a fresher taste than brine-cured olives and capers can muster.

I even hit on a Mediterranean-Thai fusion that’s become a favorite in the past year. Red chilies and lime juice season ground lamb in a tomatoey sauce for Crying Bucatini.

So I barely blinked an eye this week when my husband decided to turn a basic treatment for roasting Brussels sprouts with bacon into a pasta salad with mustardy-lemony vinaigrette. My only contribution: suggesting that he use orecchiette, rather than penne, because of its shape similar to the sprouts. Mimicking shapes and sizes, of course, yields a more sophisticated presentation and satisfying mouthfeel.

We both agreed that the results warranted making again, perhaps as a cream-sauced dish enhanced with goat cheese or blue cheese. I wouldn’t even mind a little spice.

And since spying this recipe for orecchiette, I’ve got a new use in mind for my freezer cache of roasted garden chilies. The sausage would be right up my husband’s alley. I’d adapt this even further to use ground chorizo instead of Italian sausage and perhaps roasted butternut squash with the cream variation.

Tribune News Service photo

Orecchiette With Roasted Green Chilies, Sausage and Leeks

3 green chilies (about 12 ounces), such as a combination of Anaheim chilies and poblano

1 pound uncooked sweet or spicy Italian sausage, removed from casing

1 large leek (about 11 ounces), ends trimmed, quartered lengthwise, well-rinsed

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed

1 cup chicken broth

3 cups tomato marinara sauce or 1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper or crushed red peppers to taste

1 pound orecchiette pasta

4 loosely packed cups (about 1/2 of a 5-ounce bag) baby kale or spinach

Freshly shredded pecorino Romano cheese

Roast the chilies over an open flame (or on a baking sheet set 6 inches from oven broiler), turning often, until skin is blistered and blackened on all sides, for about 10 minutes total. Cool under a towel, then rub off blackened skins. Remove core and stem. Rinse chilies under cool, running water and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips, then cut strips into 1-inch lengths.

Put the sausage into a large, deep nonstick skillet. Cook, breaking sausage up into little pieces, until golden and cooked through, for about 8 minutes. Tip off excess fat if you wish.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the leek (white and most of dark-green top). Stir leek and the olive oil into sausage and cook until leek is wilted, for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the chicken broth and tomato sauce (or cream), and heat to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot full of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente (a little toothsome to bite), for about 12 to 15 minutes. Scoop out and reserve about 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Drain pasta.

Stir pasta into sausage mixture and put over high heat for 1 or 2 minutes. Loosen texture by dribbling in a little reserved pasta water. Add the kale and chilies; toss to mix and heat through, for about 1 minute. Serve right away. Pass the cheese.

Makes 8 servings.

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Lemony loaf cake fetes California citrus season

A friend’s gift of some tree-ripened Meyer lemons, redolent of California sunshine, put me in the giving spirit.

Specifically, I’m considering spreading the holiday love around with a batch of lemon bars or bottle of limoncello or a lemon loaf cake in a fancy pan liner. This “very lemon” loaf doesn’t specify Meyer lemons, but the slightly sweet and fantastically floral-smelling fruit would be a lovely variation. Because they aren’t as tart as regular lemons, use more Meyer zest than the 2 tablespoons called for here. I’d at least double it.

Ricotta cheese keeps this cake rich and moist, even before the glaze permeates the crumb. As Chicago Tribune writer Leak Eskin put it, the simple-syrup glaze beats a dusting of powdered sugar any day. Leave that dry mouthful for the season’s pecan snowballs.

Tribune News Service photo

Very Lemon Loaf

4 large or 6 small lemons, scrubbed

1 stick unsalted butter (plus about 2 teaspoons for pan), softened

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

2 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk

1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

Finely grate zest from the lemons. Measure 2 tablespoons zest, and set aside. Juice lemons. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Heat oven to 350 F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Drop the butter into bowl of a stand mixer. On medium-high speed, beat until fluffy, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed, for about 1 minute. Cascade in 1 cup of the sugar, still beating; beat until fluffy, for about 1 minute. Slide in the eggs and yolk; beat until fluffy. Beat in the ricotta, 2 tablespoons zest and 1/4 cup reserved juice. Slide in flour mixture; beat on low speed just to combine.

Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake in preheated oven until cake is golden-brown on top and a toothpick stabbed in center comes out flecked with crumbs, for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool, for 10 minutes. Run a blunt knife around sides to loosen edges. Turn out; set on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

While cake is baking, make glaze. Pour remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a medium saucepan. Measure in 1/4 cup reserved juice. Simmer until sugar has dissolved and syrup thickens a bit, for about 3 minutes. Brush glaze over top and sides of warm lemon loaf. (You may not use all the glaze.) When cool (or just barely warm), slice and serve.

Makes 1 loaf, 9 by 5 by 3 inches.

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Indian tea, spices set apple cake’s flavor apart

A flavor sensation that’s more than the sum of its parts comes from simmering apples with spicy and savory seasonings.

Like the chutney featured in this blog’s previous post, this cake fuses traditional Indian ingredients and, arguably, the Western world’s most iconic fruit. The combination of sweet apples, bitter tea and a pungent spice blend culminates in a cake that stands out from the crowd, particularly during this season of excessive desserts.

The bonus recipe within the recipe is for chai masala, which could be blended and packaged — or left whole, if transferred to a tea infuser — for a nifty bit of gift-giving from the kitchen. Loose-leaf tea mingled with the masala in reusable muslin tea bags, tied with pretty ribbons, would make for inexpensive stocking stuffers or cute companions to a unique mug or tea set.

Apple Masala Chai Cake

Tribune News Service photo

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed, plus more for pan

2 tablespoons loose-leaf Darjeeling or other black tea leaves

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons chai masala (recipe follows, or purchase at Indian or international grocery stores)

2 large Fuji or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

Confectioners’ sugar, for topping

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch round baking pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

Start cake by grinding the tea leaves to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle or in a clean coffee grinder. In a large bowl, whisk ground tea, with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and prepared chai masala. In a separate medium-sized bowl, toss the peeled and diced apples with 2 tablespoons of flour mixture to coat.

In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the cubed butter and the brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stop mixer, add flour mixture, and beat on low just until no streaks of flour are visible, for about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in apples. (Alternatively, mix cake with a hand-held electric beater.)

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and level it with an offset spatula. Bake in preheated oven, rotating halfway through, until cake is golden and a skewer inserted into center comes out with some crumbs adhering, for about 45 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack, 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around inside of pan to release cake, then invert onto rack, remove parchment and cool completely.

Before serving, dust liberally with the confectioners’ sugar. Cake will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature, in an airtight container lined with a clean kitchen towel to absorb moisture.

Makes 8 to 9 servings.

CHAI MASALA: In a clean spice or coffee grinder, blend seeds from 10 green cardamom pods, seeds from 1 black cardamom pod, 6 black peppercorns, 4 whole cloves and 1 (2-inch-long) cinnamon stick until finely ground. Add 1 tablespoon ground ginger and mix. Makes about 2 tablespoons.

— Recipe from “Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food,” by Nik Sharma (Chronicle Books, $35).

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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