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Nate Cooks

Autumnal Fest: Stuffed Acorn Squash with Couscous and Apple Sausage

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Let me tell you a little story.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s fall, which means it’s time for more winter squash than you ever could know what to do with ever. And even though we knew that, Scott and I went to the Greenmarket last weekend anyway. Completely unsurprisingly, some acorn squash called out to us, like sirens from the deep. They said:

“Oh Nate and Scott, look at us! We’re green and cute and squash and you want to eat us immediately! Buy us now!”

And um, how could we resist that?

So, of course, we bought one. And it was small and cute, but we weren’t quite sure what to do with it yet, so it sat on our counter for a couple days.

Lonely.

Unloved.

Uneaten.

UNTIL! I came across this recipe on the sassy blog “The Other Side of 50.” I didn’t have quinoa, but I had some couscous and some apple sausages lying around. Inspiration struck and I thought that stuffing the squash with the couscous and sausage would be amazing.

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Lazy Evening: Tomato and Blue Cheese Soup

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I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather for the past couple days. It’s not like I have swine flu or anything, but a head cold is still annoying.

Insert pity party here.

I’ll refrain from the in-depth description of my symptoms and so forth. That’s because I care about my readers! But suffice to say, that when I get sick, I basically revert to a 15-year-old boy. All I want to do is lay around the house, nap, play video games, nap, watch TV (we’re on hour 5 of a MythBusters marathon), and oh right, nap. Also, I enjoy a good whine about how difficult my life is.

Given that, I was really in the mood for some hot soup.

On Amateur Gourmet (a food blog that you should immediately start reading if you don’t already) Adam Roberts recently wrote about a tomato soup with blue cheese in it. Even better, it had sriracha in it, which as you already know, I’m totally into.

So I ran over to the store, picked up some cheese and gave it a whirl.

And it was really good! Creamy, but still tomato-y. However, I do have one small quibble – Adam says that you’d never know that it’s blue cheese that makes the soup tasty. I can’t really get behind that, because while the soup didn’t really taste particularly cheesy, it definitely still smelled it. It was nice – the same sort of smell that fondue has, but I don’t think anyone I cook for wouldn’t be able to tell there was blue cheese in it.

But whatever, the soup was still awesome.

You can check out the recipe over there – Adam does a really great job with the step-by-step directions. However, the price breakdown for it is behind the cut.

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Roasted Kale Chips Are Freaking Amazing

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Oh. My. God.

So Tuscan Kale is kind of sexy right now, in a weird, leafy green vegetable sort of way. You didn’t think that was possible did you? Well it is. Check it: it’s gotten fancy write-ups in the New York Times and Bon Appetite. That’s pretty much the definition of sexy food.

So anyway Tuscan kale goes by about a bajillion other names, including dinosaur kale, black kale, and something Italian that I can’t be bothered to look up on Google right now. It’s dark green, it’s got all sorts of crazy vitamins, and frankly I’ve always lumped it together with spinach, Swiss chard, and collard greens in the category of “food best sautéed.”

HOWEVER! I was intrigued by the idea of roasting kale chips, especially after the favorable experiences I recently had roasting Brussels Sprouts. Some of the leaves fell of the sprouts and got all crispy and chip-like so I knew it was a possibility.

And conveniently, we had some Tuscan kale left over from some soup last week that really needed to be cooked. So I whipped out the recipe from the Times and went to town.

And oh my god, kale chips are amazing. They got all nutty and crispy and glorious. If you’re reading this and you’re at all intrigued I recommend that you stand up, walk in a dignified, yet speedy manner to your preferred form of transportation, and get down to your favorite grocery store and buy some kale.

Immediately.

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Recreating the Vanderbilt’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha, Lime, and Honey

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I realized recently that I write about meat a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I like meat and all, but I’m seriously not one of those lame “blah blah blah, I don’t eat anything green” people. Not even close.

So that explains part of my excitement the other night when Scott and I went to The Vanderbilt, a new restaurant over in Prospect Heights. I’ve been excited to try the food there since the place opened a few weeks ago. The place was hopping (and it was a Sunday night) but for good reason – we had a really delightful meal, and awesome cocktails. One of the best parts of the meal was their roasted Brussels sprouts with sriracha, lime, and honey.

No seriously, these sprouts were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I’m actually quite a big fan of Brussels sprouts, especially when they’re roasted. I’ve had them with balsamic vinegar, roasted with bacon, or just with some garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan.

So I immediately set about to recreate the recipe. Scott had conveniently picked up some nice sprouts from the Greenmarket on Saturday and sriracha, lime and honey are things I all have lying around the apartment.

With a bit of tweaking I found something that approximates the deliciousness of The Vanderbilt’s Brussels sprouts. Check them out!

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Boeuf Bourguignon for the Slow Cooker

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OK, so it’s been a while. The summer was long and hot, which was not conducive to cooking much of anything, let alone writing about it.

Now as readers of this blog know, I like me some braised meats. Unfortunately the summer is not really the best time to enjoy some slow-cooked beef products, not to mention the fact that cooking something all afternoon in a 95 degree apartment seems like the least appealing thing EVER. However, fall is here, which means the glorious return of the slow-cooker.

I was so excited by this prospect that I broke out one of the more long recipes that I have done with the slow-cooker – boeuf bourguignon. The thing is, there’s nothing particularly difficult about boeuf bourguignon, especially if you use a slow-cooker. It really is just beef stew with red wine after all. It’s just that it takes a LONG time. Like, two days long.

Because I like my slow-cooker and it’s been so lonely all summer I adapted this recipe from a couple that I found online and in cookbooks I have. I’m not sure how authentic it is, but you end up with a silky rich sauce over beef that’s pretty much just falling apart. That, in the end, is *my* goal at least with this sort of cooking. So, the next time you have a free weekend, try this out!

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Yay for Leftover Bread – Making French Toast

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Let me paint a picture. You have some people over for a pleasant evening of conversation and fun. Perhaps there’s some drinks, some cheese, some cold cuts, and, of course, THE BAGUETTE.

Everyone love, love, loves baguettes. You get to feel sophisticated and French when you bring one to a party, it can be chopped up until many, many conveniently cheese-sized slices, and unless your grocery store is a complete failure, you can be pretty sure that no matter what, the baguette will be at least okay.

However, then the party ends, your friends go home, you go collapse into bed. The next morning you wake up and you’re confronted with both the dirty dishes from the night before and the now-stale half of that baguette. And even though it was soft and sophisticated last night, now it feels like it would be better used out in the backyard to knock around a softball.

Damn.

Fortunately, stale baguettes make the best French toast ever. Seriously, ever. They’re good the day after and even better two days later. Even if the whole thing is rock-hard, the eggs will soak in as you cook and the toast will be soft and amazing.

I promise.

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And… we’re back

My apologies for the unexpected hiatus… I’ve been busy working on my portfolio website and it took longer than expected. But I’m done (thankfully!) and ready to get back to blogging.

Recreating the Redhead’s Bacon Peanut Brittle

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Recently, I went out with my friends Jennifer and Jennie. After a bit of barhopping we ended up at The Redhead, a nice gastropub/bistro in the East Village. Our main goal was, of course, to toss back a few cocktails – a goal to which the Redhead is eminently suitable. However, as we didn’t want to have to be carried home, we also sampled a few of the appetizers there, including THE BEST PEANUTS EVER. They were billed as peanut brittle, but it wasn’t really as much as just maple roasted peanuts with bits of bacon scattered throughout.

I became immediately obsessed.

I tried to recreate the peanuts a couple weeks later, roasting the nuts on the stove with some sugar, salt, maple syrup, and spices. The result was… okay. I didn’t throw them out or anything, but they weren’t amazing and certainly not worth writing up here. But I was still obsessed with making this “peanut brittle.”

So I took to Google. After some serious searching (not really, but that sounds better than “taking five seconds, doesn’t it?) I found the EXACT recipe on Food & Wine’s website.

Yay!

So I made them the other day when Amy and Bruno came over for dinner. They were awesome.

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Rocking out with Chicken Caesar Salad

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I’m a big fan of salad – it’s easy and it’s a great way to get vegetables in to the diet. Generally we have a similar salads all the time – arugula, blue cheese, fruit, maybe some red onion. It’s good, but if you’ve had it 37,000 times before it can kind of feel like a rut.

So this weekend I wanted to make a light lunch and salad seemed nice. Rather than make the same thing again, I thought I could use the leftover anchovy paste to make a Caesar salad with some chicken. It seemed like a pretty classic idea and still pretty low-key for a Saturday afternoon.

So Scott and I thought it would be very fun to use the grill for the first time to grill up some chicken breasts for the salad. We go down to the grocery store and feel very proud of ourselves. Scott goes out to turn on the grill. And then…

FIRE!

Seriously, Scott comes back inside and then I hear HOLY SHIT! I run out to the patio and gouts of flame are shooting out of the side of the grill. That might be kind of dramatic – it was just a grease fire after all, but it was pretty exciting.

Scott was able to get everything under control without having to resort to the fire extinguisher or calling 911. However, we decided it might be better to cook the chicken on the stove rather than on the grill.

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Fancy Weekend Brunch: Cherry Clafoutis

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Classy New York people don’t have breakfast on the weekend, they BRUNCH. And when you’re brunching with classy New Yorkers, some lame breakfast cereal or oatmeal just won’t cut it. You really have to raise the bar.

Now, normally, Scott and I aren’t terribly concerned with being classy, (this is a lie) however this Sunday we invited our friend Jon over to have brunch before we went to the extremely classy Brooklyn Design Expo to look at expensive furniture. Clearly, we needed to make something fancy… something… FRENCH.

I whipped out my trusty Joy of Cooking and found what I needed – a cherry clafoutis. There is nothing like a semi-unpronounceable French dish to allow you put on airs. A clafoutis is totally like that – a custard-y tart with fruit baked in a cast-iron pan.

Fancy, eh?

Secretly however, a clafoutis is very simple – it’s basically just some pancake batter pored over some fruit and baked. It comes together quickly and then takes about 35 minutes to bake – just enough time to break out some mimosas.

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