Braised Eggplant with Ground Lamb

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I’m so excited to finally share this braised eggplant with ground lamb with you all – I made it almost a whole month ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since!

The recipe came out of a craving for eggplant… for days, all I wanted was eggplant that was cooked until it was so tender that it collapsed in on itself. I had no idea what I wanted the rest of the meal to be, but once I got the image of that eggplant in my head I just couldn’t shake it. The end result – tender, braised eggplant and tomatoes cooked with richly spiced lamb and topped with cool yogurt sauce and tangy cucumbers – ended up being perfect and is one of my favorite meals of 2012.

Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Fiery Chili Sauce

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Uh, so I’m a little embarrassed. The whole point of this post was supposed to be to let you know about a photo contest that Superior Farms was hosting. In fact, that was the whole reason I made this dinner. The problem is, I lost track of time; the contest closed on Monday. Oops!

It was worth it though – you should run to the store and buy some lamb tonight so you can make this meal the very next chance that you get. It’s absolutely divine, we kept moaning about how great it was as we ate. We sat at the table for at least a half hour after we had finished our plates, picking at the lamb that was left on the platter – we just couldn’t bring ourselves to pack it away!

Pesto Potato Rolls with a Salt Crust

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Here in the Capital Region of New York, we were lucky to have been spared most of the wrath of Hurricane Irene. While our friends to the south had to scramble around preparing for the worst, all we really did was make sure that we had batteries for the flashlight. Shawn brought my basil plant inside to protect it from the wind, and I noticed that it was huge! I mean, comically large — practically a basil tree. It was clearly time to make pesto.

Since I knew I would be stuck home in the rain all day, I thought it might be nice to bake. I pulled out my copy of Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day, thinking I might find a recipe for garlic knots that I could use the pesto in. As I flipped through the pages, a recipe for 100% whole grain rosemary dinner rolls with a salt crust caught my eye. They weren’t like any other potato roll recipes that I’ve seen, which usually call for mashed potatoes to be worked into the dough. Instead, these called for raw potatoes, which soften as they bake but give the rolls a little bit of texture. I knew I had to try them!

Jambalaya-Stuffed Peppers

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Lesson learned: If you find yourself adding Tablespoons full of cayenne pepper to recipes and you still don’t think they’re spicy enough, buy some new pepper! A million apologies to the few people who recently emailed me that recipes were far too spicy – I realized that my cayenne was ancient! I bought a new jar and wow, what a difference. I’ve adjusted the amount that my recipes call for more appropriate levels. With that said, I do like things pretty hot so if you have a lower tolerance you might want to use even less.

Now that that’s out of the way… I’ve been on a stuffed peppers kick lately — after not making them for over a year, we’ve had them for dinner twice in as many weeks. My favorite version so far has been these Jambalaya-Stuffed Peppers – instead of putting peppers in the jambalaya, I put the jambalaya in the peppers!

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What I loved most about these was the built-in portion control. One of these little guys left me feeling pretty full, but I know that had it not been for the pepper I could easily have polished off at least twice as much jambalaya (and gone back for more!). Of course, the fact that they tasted pretty awesome didn’t hurt either.

Want a quicker version? These jambalaya-stuffed peppers take a little longer to prepare than I typically like to spend on a weeknight meal, but they’re absolutely worth it. Plus they make great leftovers! If you’re really pressed for time though, there are a few shortcuts that you can take: 1) Use instant rice, which will shave about 20 minutes off the time the jambalaya simmers; and 2) Start cooking the unstuffed peppers while you prepare the jambalaya filling (yay multitasking!). Cook the peppers for 15 minutes on their own, then 15 minutes once they’re stuffed. Just keep in mind that although these methods will dinner on the table faster, the flavors won’t have as much time to meld.

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Apple Cider Vinegar Braised Chicken Thighs

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Voting for Round 2 of the Ridiculously Delicious Challenge opens at 6am EST on March 1st. I’d really appreciate it if you would consider voting for me HERE. Thanks!

I was flipping through an old issue of Food + Wine this weekend, when this unassuming recipe for chicken thighs braised in apple cider vinegar caught my eye. There was no picture and very little by way of a description, but for some reason I felt compelled to make it. Despite a brief moment of fear when I thought I might end up with something resembling pickled chicken, I immediately added the ingredients to my grocery list and prepared it for dinner that same night.

Within ten minutes of being put into the oven, this chicken filled the entire house with the most amazing smells and made our stomaches grumble. It doesn’t look like much in the pot, but this is hands-down the best chicken I’ve ever eaten. Shawn agreed.

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Although the chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender from braising, a few minutes under the broiler crisps the skin right back up — a trick I’ll definitely use again in the future. The cider vinegar permeates the chicken with its sweetness and gives the sauce a subtle tang that goes perfectly with sides of wild rice and steamed collard greens — go ahead and make extra sides, because you’ll want something to help sop up every last morsel of sauce.

(We’re hooked on wild rice right now but brown rice, mashed potatoes or couscous would also make great starchy sides for this meal. Also, while any green vegetable would work, the combination of collard greens and cider vinegar is a classic.)

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Click through to continue reading & get the recipe for Apple Cider Braised Chicken Thighs –>

Lemon and Black Pepper Pasta with Seared Scallops

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After reading the article about Spaghetti al Limone in the most recent issue of Cooks Illustrated, I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen. I figured anyone who spent that much time and effort trying to recreate a dish was clearly on to something, plus we all know how I feel about entrees that feature lemon….

Of course I’m never content to leave good enough alone, so I pulled out the pasta machine that I received a while ago and set out to make a special Valentine’s Day dish that was thoroughly infused with bright, lemon flavor. Topped with a few seared sea scallops, this pasta definitely didn’t disappoint — the only thing that could have make it better would have been to eat it at a table outside, steps away from the ocean.

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No pasta machine? No Problem! While a machine definitely makes things a lot smoother, you can easily make this without one — just place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it to about 1/8-inch. Remove the paper and cut into thin, fettucini-like strands with a sharp knife or a pizza roller dipped in flour.

This was my first time using the machine (I have the Kitchen Aid press attachment, but I’ve never had good luck with it), and once I figured out what I was doing it was really easy. A few tips I picked up: Dough dries out quickly, so work with one piece at a time. Initially, I rolled all of my dough through the thickest setting of the roller, then all through the next setting, and so on. But it dried out too fast and I ended up having to throw a bunch of it out. I had much better luck when I started rolling each piece of dough to the level of thickness that I wanted and cutting it before I moved on to the next piece. I also found that the dough rolled the best when I cranked the machine at a steady, moderate speed. The instructions said to crank it slowly, but that resulted in weird, crinkly pasta (you can see them to the left in the photo below) — it still tasted great, but it wasn’t as pretty to look at.

Drying the pasta after its cut will help it to not clump together. I have this neat little tree to hang it on, but in the pat I’ve also hung pasta off of chopsticks or skewers suspended between two boxes or cans. It doesn’t take long to dry – 10 to 15 minutes is plenty.

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