Side Projects

06.18.15 Primal Sheppards Pie


In the mood for comfort food, and wanting to avoid the usual cream of mushroom/white potato base?  This casserole will not disappoint.

1 small onion, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb 85% ground beef
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely diced*
2 portobello mushrooms cubed
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 14oz can fire roasted tomatoes
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 large sweet potatoes
2 tbsp cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt + pepper to taste

Wash, poke a few times with a fork and microwave the 2 sweet potatoes for 5-10 minutes on high, until fully cooked.  Slice open and let cool as you work through the next steps of the recipe

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and brown minced onion until translucent, 3-4 minutes.  Add in lb of ground beef and brown.  Drain any excess fat to avoid making the casserole runny.  Season with Worcestershire, soy sauce and garlic and saute 1-2 minutes longer.  Place meat in the bottom of an 8″ casserole dish.

Add butter to same skillet.  Saute mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, mix in vinegar and cover to steam for 5 minutes.  While steaming, mix 4 oz softened cream cheese into the beef, and cover with a layer of chopped carrot*.

Uncover mushrooms, add salt and pepper to taste, and let them simmer on medium until almost all the liquid has cooked off 2-3 minutes.

Add layer of mushrooms to the casserole on top of beef and carrots.

Using a fork, add a layer of tomatoes on top of the mushrooms, being careful to leave behind as much of the packing liquid as possible – again to avoid a runny casserole.

In a separate bowl, peel sweet potatoes and mash with 2 oz cream cheese, cream and salt and pepper to taste.  Top the casserole with mashed sweet potatoe and sprinkle on parmesan.

Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees – serve. Hot sauce recommended.

Reheats by re-baking beautifully.  Just gets better every time it cooks longer.

* I like the textural crunch of chopped fresh carrot in this casserole – but if you prefer yours soft and cooked through, add it into the beef as you brown it instead.

06.27.11 Grill Poppers

After traveling out west this Spring, I noticed a new trend of jalapeños on the grill.  Unimpressed with the lack of crisp bacon, or gooey-ness of a good jalapeños popper, I decided to make my own version.

10jalapeños, sliced vertically in half, ribs and seeds removed
1 8oz block of softened cream cheese
1/2 lb bacon, fried and crumbled
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream for dipping

Spread jalapeños halves with cream cheese to fill even with sides of pepper, press bacon crumbles into the cream cheese, cover with cheddar.  Grill low and slow, on a cool grill about 30 minutes until peppers are soft and cheese is just softening. Serve with sour cream for dipping…YUM!

05.10.10 Ramp Pesto

After completing my pickles, I was left with a full gallon Ziploc worth of Ramp greens.  After a quick search online, I decided to try making a pesto out of the leaves to avoid wasting them.  The result was an incredibly light and fresh herb-y tasting spread I first added to monk fish, and secondly to some roasted chicken to make chicken salad.  I highly recommend this recipe, and may even prefer it to my pickles!

1 large garlic clove
1/3 cup olive oil
Greens removed from 2lbs fresh ramps
1 big handful of fresh parsley
1/2 cup loosely packed walnuts, lightly toasted
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4th cup chicken stock

Place peeled whole garlic clove in olive oil, in a small sauce pan,  and simmer over medium heat 3 or 4 minutes until garlic is browned on the outside.  Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.  You can toast walnuts in a cast iron pan while you wait.

Add cleaned ramp greens, browned garlic clove, walnuts, parsley and cheese to a food processor or blender and pulse to coarsely chop.   Turn processor to on position and slowly pour in olive oil until fully incorporated.  Add in a little chicken stock at a time until desired thickness is reached.

Store in fridge under plastic wrap for up to a week, or freeze with a small layer of oil on the top for up to a year.

05.02.10 Pickled Ramps

It’s Spring time and Ramps (a.k.a. wild leeks) have finally hit the market in full force.

Wikipedia says: The mountain folk of Appalachia have long celebrated spring with the arrival of the ramp, believing it to have great power as a tonic to ward off many ailments of winter.

Obviously combining this with a martini, which my Grandfather believes wards off snakes, should be a required part of a healthy diet.  And so I have attempted to pickle my own Ramps, and enjoy them year-round.

3oz or 8oz Ball Canning Jars.

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp pickling salt

Add to each canning jar:
1 pinch mustard seeds
1 pinch Anise seeds
1 allspice
1 bay leaf
1 dried small red pepper, slightly crushed
2 lbs ramps, cleaned with root and leaves removed (save leaves for other use)

Prep jars and 2-part lids in the dishwasher.
Bring brine to boil on the stove.

Pack hot jars with all contents above and cover with brine to 1/4″ from top of jar.
Wipe rims with damp cloth and hand tighten lids.

Process in water bath 10 minutes, let sit over night to seal.
Wait at least 1 week before serving.

10.4.08 Long Island Autumn Adventure


Met up with my friend Peter in Long Island last Saturday to pick some apples and have a picnic at the beach. We picked a bushel of red delicious and were planning to eat when I insisted on instead stopping at a local corn maze.


Lugging a half bushel of apples onto the LIRR was a bit of a challenge, but I’m now extremely proud of the hand-picked pie I was able to bake for Sunday dinner. Farm fresh, even in Manhattan.



Pickles and Tomato

4.12.08 Pickle Experiment

One of my favorite childhood snacks was cold pickled okra from the fridge. I even ate pickled okra one Christmas morning around 9am after discovering that Santa Clause had left me a jar in my stocking.

Last week, I ended up with about 10 left over okra after filling my crock-pot with oxtail and decided to figure out how difficult it could be to make my own pickled okra.

Refrigerator Pickled Okra


10-15 medium sized fresh okra (blemish free)
2 Cups white vinegar
2 Cups water
3 tbsp non-iodized (“canning”) salt
1 tbsp pickling spice
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Pinch celery seed
1 clove garlic
3 black pepper corns
1 pint-sized Ball canning jar with 2-piece lid


I boiled vinegar, water, salt, canning spice, red pepper flakes and celery seed for 5 minutes on medium heat in a medium-sized pot, then turned off to let cool just slightly.

While boiling the water I soaked my remaining okra in cold water to clean them off well.

I then added one garlic clove (peeled and sliced in half) and 3 pepper corns to the bottom of a clean Ball pint-sized canning jar. I tightly pack as many okra as would fit making sure to leave space at top of the jar so it can close easily.

I then poured in the canning liquid, leaving 1/4″ head space, closed lid gently and placed in the fridge to pickle.

Results (4.20)


Very tasty and still crisp. I would use fresh dill next time.


One response to “Side Projects

  1. Pingback: 5.17 – Memorial Pig Feast – Prep: Weeks 1 – 3 « sunday dinner

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