Oregon Oyster Stuffing

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Oyster stuffing, or dressing, originated in New England, some say all the way back to the Colonial period when oysters were extremely plentiful and therefore eaten by rich and poor alike.  They made their way to tables in the Midwest during the 1850’s when refrigerated train cars were first used. Since they had to be transported at great expense, they became more of a delicacy and were reserved for special occasions. In the 1900’s NE oysters went out of fashion due to high levels of pollution in the Atlantic.

Living in the Pacific Northwest has the huge perk of being close to some of the best oyster beds in the world, like Netarts and Yaquina Bay. You don’t need to shuck oysters for this dish.  Buy a jar of freshly shucked oysters at your local fish market, and be sure to reserve the “liquor” from the jar.

The oysters lend a rich flavor to this stuffing without tasting “fishy”.  They also keep this stuffing from drying out.  I added a small can of smoked oysters to replicate the smoky flavor of bacon. You can make this with vegetable stock so it’s perfect for the pescatarians (those who don’t eat meat other than seafood) at your Thanksgiving table.

  • 24 oz. Italian style bread, cut into one inch cubes and toasted in the oven
  • 1 stick of butter, divided
  • 1/2 lg. yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large leek, white parts only, halved lengthwise, and sliced.
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/4 c. dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1/2 t. celery seed
  • 1/2 t. dried sage
  • 3 oz. can of smoked oysters, chopped
  • 10 oz. freshly shucked oysters, cut into thirds, reserve the liquor
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 C. vegetable broth

 

First prep all of your ingredients, and toast your bread cubes.  Set them aside.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 4 T. of the butter. Add the onion, leek, and celery to the pan and sautee until soft and translucent.  About 5-6 minutes. Add the vermouth or wine and stir up all the browned bits. Stir and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about two minutes. Scrap the vegetables into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool a bit.  Meanwhile, in the same skillet cook the celery seeds, and sage with the chopped, smoked oysters, until they start to turn golden brown.  Scrape in with the vegetable mixture.  When the veggie mixture has cooled, add the fresh oysters and eggs, and stir gently to combine. Add the bread cubes and toss gently.  Add the reserved liquor from the jar – up to about 1/4 C. You don’t want to break down the bread or oysters too much- I find that using my hands is really the best way to do this. Add the broth a little at a time and combine.  You want the bread to be somewhere between moist and soggy.  You may or may not use all the broth.  The mixture should hold together when you scoop some into your hand, but it shouldn’t be dripping wet. Scrape the whole thing into a buttered baking dish about 9 x 11 inches. Cut the remaining 4 T. of butter into chunks and dot the top of the stuffing with it.  Cover and chill until ready to bake. This can be assembled the day before.  To bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees (while the turkey is resting is the perfect time) and bake, covered with foil for about 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking until is has a nice golden brown crust, and is hot throughout- about 10 – 12 minutes longer.

 

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Browned Butter Sweet Potato Brulee

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Wow. So, so, so delicious. I realize I am tooting my own horn here, but really, this dish is a winner.  The sweet potatoes are smooth and light thanks to being passed through a potato ricer, the browned butter gives it a wonderful, rich nuttiness, and the crisped brown sugar on top elevates it to a dessert-like decadence. This is a rich one, so you don’t need a large amount to serve a crowd, just a few spoonfuls per person will do.  Serves 8, 1/4 C. servings.

  • 4 medium-sized sweet potatoes I used orange, but yellow would work well too. Orange sweet potatoes are often labeled as yams in the supermarket.  True yams come from Africa and are rarely sold in stores here (more than you wanted to know about yams). 
  • 5 T. butter
  • 1/2 C. heavy cream
  • salt to taste
  • 2 T. brown sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork and place them on a baking sheet.  Roast for 50-60 minutes or until tender. Allow them to cool and then peel and slice them.  You can roast them a day or two before you want to serve this dish to save time.

Heat the butter, sliced into pieces, in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to foam, watch it carefully, swirling the pan occasionally to prevent scorching. Wait for the butter to darken to an amber color and pour immediately into a separate bowl to stop the cooking.  Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and put it back on the burner over medium heat.  Pass the roasted sweet potatoes through a potato ricer or a food mill into the saucepan.  Cooking out the moisture is what will keep the potatoes from becoming gummy or gluey. Pass some of the potatoes through the ricer, stir, pass some more through, stir, until all the potatoes are in the saucepan. Stir and cook for a minute or so, until the potatoes start to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Pour in the browned butter and the cream.  Stir to combine and season with salt to taste.  Scrape the mixture into a baking dish.  Sprinkle the brown sugar on top.  At this point the dish can be covered and chilled until ready to broil and serve, up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to serve, bring the dish to room temperature, place the uncovered dish under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes.  Watch it carefully for burning.  You want the sugar to melt, caramelize, and crisp up like the top of a creme brulee. Serve right away.

 

 

 

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Instant Pot Cream of Tomato Soup

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I am new to the Instant Pot craze and have really enjoyed using it so far.  If you haven’t heard of Instant Pot, it is basically an electric, programmable pressure cooker.  If you do a lot of cooking, especially with a slow cooker, I really encourage you to try one out.  They do everything that a slow cooker does, just much, much faster.  You can cook a whole chicken in your Instant Pot in about 30 minutes. Did you forget to take your meat out of the freezer before you went to work? That’s ok!  Throw it into the Instant Pot and you can still have that pot roast you were planning on.

This has been a great tomato year for us in Portland.  We’ve had nearly three months of hot and dry weather- exactly what tomatoes like, but the kind of weather I completely detest.  I long for sweater weather and that smell that dry leaves give off when you walk on them.  This soup bridges that gap between summer and fall, and will make great use of your tomato crop.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can make a pretty identical soup on the stove top by following this link. 

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 12 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 6 C. vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
  • 2 t. Kosher salt
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 2 C. half and half or 1 C. heavy cream
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Any variety of ripe tomato will work for this soup

 

Put all of the ingredients into the Instant Pot, except the half and half.  Place the lid on the pot and make sure the steam vent is closed. I used the automatic soup setting which was set at high pressure for 35 minutes.  It does take a little time for the pot to get up to pressure before the timer starts, so sometimes it doesn’t necessarily save you time to use the Instant Pot.  You could make this soup on the stove in the same amount of time.  The difference is, while the soup was in the Instant Pot I went around my house doing other things and didn’t have to stir it or even think about it like I would if it were on the stove.

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Since the soup will be pureed there is no need to peel anything, and you can just give the veggies a rough chop

Once the steam has vented you can take of the lid and use an immersion blender to puree the soup right in to pot.  Stir in the half and half or cream and taste for salt and pepper. If you don’t mind a little bit of pulp, the soup is ready to eat.  If you want it super-smooth you can run it through a fine mesh sieve and press on the solids to achieve perfect smoothness.  Makes 8-10 servings

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gluten Free, Healthier Options, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Grilled Make-Your-Own Pita Pizza

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Get your family in on the cooking with these easy make-your-own pizzas.  Start with store-bought whole pitas, naan, or flatbreads.  I love Greek pita because it’s soft and pillowy and grills up nicely without getting too crunchy.  We used Pomi Tomato Sauce, which comes in a carton. I like this sauce because it’s not thick and sweet like American pizza sauce can sometimes be.  We also made some of our pizzas with parsley pesto, which made for a bright, vibrant change of pace.  This is a great meal for a party, especially if you are serving people with different dietary restrictions. You can easily accommodate the pickiest eaters with a wide variety of choices.  Everyone’s happy!

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For the Pesto:

  • 2 C. fresh parsley, packed
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 C. chopped walnuts

Put all the ingredients into a blender (I used my smoothie maker) or food processor, and puree until smooth.

Pizza Topping Ideas:

  • Pomi Tomato Sauce (or your favorite sauce)
  • Sauteed crimini mushrooms
  • Sauteed chopped bell pepper, or jarred roasted peppers
  • Sauteed red onion
  • Grilled zucchini
  • Crumbled Soy Sausage or Chorizo
  • Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Tomato Slices
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Daiya Vegan Cheese shreds
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper

Heat your grill to medium. Brush both sides of the pitas with olive oil. Set out all the toppings and let everyone make their own.  Grill for 6-8 minutes with the lid closed, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

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Kale and Blueberry Super Salad

This is the perfect salad for a summer picnic or barbecue!

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My husband was eating a deli salad from Safeway a few days ago and liked it so much he took a picture of it and texted it to me.  This is a pretty rare occurrence, and has never, ever happened with a salad.  Here is my recreation.  Serves 8-10.

  • 2 bunches of Lacinato (dark green/purple) kale, thinly sliced across the grain
  • 1 C. fresh blueberries
  • 1 C. shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 – 1 C. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 C. champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 2 t. sugar, or 2 packets of stevia powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

To slice the kale, stack up a few leaves and slice them into thin shreds perpendicular to the stalk. Toss the kale, berries, seeds, cabbage and shallot together in a large bowl.  In a jar with…

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Easy Potato and Fennel Soup with Parsley Pistou

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This hearty and homey soup is super rich and creamy, even though it’s completely dairy free. Even better, it’s quick enough to make on a weeknight! The pistou adds a little spicy brightness. Serves 4 to 6

  • 3 T. olive oil or Earth Balance
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • 6-8 C. vegetable stock, I like Better Than Bullion Vegetable Base
  • 1 C. parsley, minced very finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 C. lemon infused olive oil  (or regular)

Heat the 3 T. of olive oil or Earth Balance in a soup pot or enameled cast iron. Add the diced onion, potatoes, fennel, and celery. Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper, and cover.  Sweat the vegetables on medium-high heat for about ten minutes.

Stir the vegetables, hopefully you have a little fond (brown sticky bits) developing on the bottom.  Add a little stock and scrape the brown bits off, this gives the soup a lot of flavor. If there’s no fond in your pot, increase the heat to high for a couple of minutes until the veggies start to brown a little bit, then reduce the heat back to medium-high.

Stir in about 6 C. of the broth.  If the veggies aren’t covered with broth, add a little more until they are submerged. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer until the veggies are very tender, about thirty minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup to a smooth, silky texture.  If it’s too thick you can add a bit more broth. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

While the soup is simmering, make the pistou.  Combine the minced parsley, garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes.  Pour the lemon infused olive oil over the mixture and stir to combine.

To serve the soup, ladle it into a bowl and drop a dollop of pistou into the center gently so it floats on top.  Drizzle with a little extra oil if desired.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gluten Free, Healthier Options, Quick Dinners, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make-Ahead Veggie Strata

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I love to have people over for brunch. I am in favor of any event that gives me an excuse to drink champagne during daylight hours.  What I don’t love is getting up early to cook, so I like to look for things I can make ahead of time. Wow, I sound really decadent and lazy.  I’m really not. Promise.

A strata is a basically a savory bread pudding.  It’s eggy, and custardy, and cheesy, and delicious.  It’s the perfect make-ahead brunch dish.  You can assemble it the night before and bake it while your friends are having their first glass of bubbly.  Another nice feature of a strata is that you can customize it to meet the needs of your guests.  As long as you cook it first, you can add pretty much any meat (crumbled Italian sausage is awesome in this) or veggie to suit everyone’s taste.  Serves 8

  • 1 and 1/2 loaves of crusty French or Italian bread, torn into cubes (about ten C.)
  • 1 C. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 t. olive oil, divided
  • 4-5 C. broccoli florets
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 t. Herbes d’ Provence, or dried basil or oregano
  • 3-4 C. spinach leaves
  • 2 C. grated asiago, mozzarella, parmesan mixture, (Swiss would also work well), divided
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 C. heavy cream
  • 2 C. milk

 

Distribute the bread cubes and parsley evenly in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish, set aside. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the broccoli on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle 1 t. oil over it.  Sprinkle the broccoli with salt and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, heat a skillet with the remaining 1 t. of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and shallots, a little salt and pepper, and the red pepper flakes and dry herbs.  Stirring occasionally, cook until the leeks are tender and the shallots are starting to caramelize. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Remove from heat.  Whisk the eggs, cream and milk until well blended.  Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bread and add the leek mixture and the roasted broccoli.  Use your hands or a pair of tongs to gently toss everything together so that it is well distributed.  Pour the egg mixture over the whole thing and top with the remaining 1 C. of cheese.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the dish from the fridge about thirty minutes before baking.  Bake at 350 uncovered until the egg mixture is set and the cheese is melted and golden, about thirty to forty minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

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