Charnushka-Sesame Seed Parker House Rolls

What is a polynym? One of the definitions is “one of multiple names for the same thing.” For example, firefly and lightning bug are alternative names for the same bioluminescent insect. Great, you say, but I thought this was a food blog, not an esoteric discussion of linguistics and entomology.

You’re right, this blog is about the foods we make at home, and one of our recent favorites was the rolls we served with our Thanksgiving meal. The seeds we put on top of the rolls were sesame and charnushka (also spelled charnuska). Now we suspect everyone is familiar with sesame, but charnushka? Well, charnushka is not just a seed and a spice, but a polynym, too. You may be familiar with one of charnushka’s many other names. Charnushka is also called onion seed, nigella seed, roman coriander, black cumin seed, black caraway seed, calonji (also spelled kaloji and kalonji). This polynymous spice actually comes from a flower native to Asia, not an onion, caraway, coriander, or cumin variety. The scientific name for the plant is Nigella sativa.

Charnushka is an extremely versatile spice in its own right. As the website indicates, “It has a broad flavor profile that is peppery but also a little sweet, slightly bitter, smoky, and nutty, with similarities to thyme and a touch of licorice.” It is best to pan toast the seeds before using them. The toasting enhances the flavor by releasing oils from the seeds.

We found this recipe for excellent dinner rolls from the Spice House website. The link is here, and the recipe is attributed to Lily N. Or should we have called them “supper rolls?” Never mind. We found the dough mixed well in our bread maker. Maldon salt flakes worked well with the seeds on top of the rolls. We also list the ingredients and directions below.

Charnushka-Sesame Seed Parker House Rolls


1 cup warm water

1 cup warm milk

½ cup honey

2¼ tsp (1 packet), yeast

½ cup butter

1½ tsp kosher salt

5-6 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp charnushka seeds

1 tsp white sesame seeds

1 tsp coarse Mediterranean sea salt


Combine the warm water, milk, honey and yeast in a medium bowl. Allow the yeast to proof for 5 minutes. The mixture should look bubbly.

Then, add yeast mixture, butter, flour and salt to your mixer bowl. Add salt to the opposite side of the bowl from your yeast mixture to keep that yeast alive!

Using your dough hook, knead the dough until combined about 3-5 minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly greased work surface and shape into a rectangle about 1 inch thick cut into uniformly sized pieces.

Form each piece into a ball pinching the seams on the underside making a smooth top. Transfer dough to a greased 12 inch cast iron pan. Give the rolls a bit of room to rise.

Allow to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours or until they have almost doubled in size and are touching. Sprinkle the tops of the rolls with seeds, white sesame seeds, and Portuguese sea salt.

Preheat oven to 375. Bake for about 20 minutes. Brush with butter and extra salt and seeds if you like!

Makes 12 rolls.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette

In the panoply of Thanksgiving dishes, salads seem to get short shrift. That is both understandable and regrettable. A good salad is a welcome addition to the rotation of salads we can call upon apart from the holidays. A great salad is a nutritious meal in its own right. The salad we served (and the leftovers) falls into the second category.

This salad comes from Ina Garten on Food Network. We came on it as an inspirational way to squeeze another root vegetable (butternut squash we had on hand) into the menu without making “another root vegetable side dish.” The results also allowed us to check the cranberry box for the dinner without upsetting those at the gathering who eschew most cranberry sides. The link is here. We hope you like the salad as much as we did. We will be making it often for non-holidays, too!

We list the directions and ingredients below for those unable to reach the link.


One (1½ lb) butternut squash, peeled and ¾-inch diced

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp dried cranberries

¾ cup apple cider or apple juice

2 Tbsp cider vinegar

2 Tbsp minced shallots

2tsp Dijon mustard

4 oz baby arugula, washed and spun dry

½ cup walnuts halves, toasted

¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 400º F.

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan the last 5 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about ¼ cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, ½ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon of pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 28 minutes

Total Time: 43 minutes

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
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Sassy Sweet Potatoes

When it comes to serving root vegetables at Thanksgiving, it was traditional to serve them slathered in butter, brown sugar, and calories. This was especially true for squashes and sweet potatoes. Well, there was a noteworthy rebellion against such sweet and gooey side dishes, resulting in a new tradition. Now, to conform to the conventional, one must peel and dice the root vegetables, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with savory spices, then roast them on a baking sheet in the oven.

Well, this new conventionality is certainly healthier, but we are already seeing some chefs trying to sidestep the new normal. In this recipe, AJ Edwards of Raleigh, North Carolina, is committed to the dicing, but omits the peeling and the savory spicy. We guess the chosen spice blend is the reason these are “sassy” sweet potatoes. We found the recipe again at the Spice House website. The link is here. We also provide the ingredients and directions below.

We got rave reviews about these sweet potatoes. And trust us, two large sweet potatoes make enough for a 3-4 servings.


2 sweet potatoes

2 Tbsp olive oil, to coat potatoes (don’t skimp or the potatoes will stick)

Mix the following spice mixture for sprinkling:

2 Tbsp chili powder (mild, medium, or hot as you prefer)

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp fine sea salt


Wash and cut the raw sweet potatoes into approximately 2 inch cubes. Soak in cold, salty water for about 5-10 minutes to draw some moisture out. Drain and pat off excess moisture.

Toss in olive oil to coat. Spread on a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle liberally with spice mixture.

Bake for about 50 minutes at 350-400º F., until somewhat crispy. After about 20 minutes toss potatoes with spatula and return to oven. Potatoes will be pretty brown.

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Brussels Sprouts Cacio e Pepe

Now that brussels sprouts are the size of small cabbages, we use them frequently as a vegetable side dish. This recipe is called brussels sprouts cacio e pepe, a nod to the famous pasta dish in the city of Rome. That dish flavors the pasta with only cheese and pepper, and this recipe only adds lemon zest and toasted pecans to that combination. We thought the results were great. Here is the link to the Spice House website where we found this recipe. The original recipe is credited to Lily K. Noel at Half Baked Harvest. We put the ingredients and directions below as well. Buon appetito!


12 oz brussels sprouts

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

pinch of sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

1½ cups shaved parmesan cheese

zest of one lemon

⅓ cup toasted unsalted pecans


Preheat oven to 375º F.

Quarter or half your brussels sprouts depending upon size keeping all of the bits and extra leaves that fall off.

Toss the brussels sprouts in olive oil, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, tossing halfway through. remove when larger pieces are dark golden brown, and you have some darker crispy bits. Don’t pull them to early! The darker, caramelized pieces are oh so tasty.

Shave parmesan while you wait on the oven.

Pull from the oven and let cool slightly.

Toss toasted brussels sprouts with your lemon zest, shaved parmesan, and nuts. Add more pepper to taste.

Serves 2-4.

Brussels Sprouts Cacio e Pepe
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Roast Turkey with Cranberry-Orange Glaze

For this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, we decided to change the way we prepare the turkey. Over the last several years, we have placed the turkey in a brining bucket for 1-2 days with water, salt, spices and herbs. The results were uniformly good, but the method of preparation always caused problems. If we put the brining bucket in the refrigerator, there was less room for any other food storage. If we put the brining bucket outdoors, we constantly fretted about the turkey getting too warm to be certain no harmful bacterial growth would occur during the brining process.

This year we resolved the dilemma. We followed a turkey preparation technique known as dry brining. You may already be familiar with the process, but if you are not, we wanted to share where we went to get educated. The website is the, and the link to the instructions is here. We bought a 13-pound fresh turkey and picked it up three days before roasting as the website recommended.

On the big day, we turned to this recipe from Food Network for the final preparation of the turkey. Our only deviation from the directions provided there was our decision not to truss the turkey legs. Once again, a discussion in reviewed the recommendations of food scientists David Joachim and Andrew Schloss that trussing the legs prevents good hot air circulation around the legs, which leads to uneven cooking of the legs. The reference is here.

We include the ingredients and directions from Food Network Kitchen if you cannot find the link. We made the glaze the day before. Since there was salt in the dry brining process, we cut the salt in this recipe in half with good results. There was also no need to pat the turkey dry after three days of dry brining. We used 1½ cups of chicken broth in the roaster pan and did not need to add any more during the cooking process. The drippings plus broth made a great base for gravy! We found the dry-brined turkey only required about 2 hours and 40 minutes to finish, so be careful about roasting your turkey too long.

Here is a picture of the finished result. What we can’t show you is how great the finished product tasted. We have a new family favorite here! We hope you will try this recipe, too!


One 12- to 14-pound turkey

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 sprigs fresh rosemary

8 sprigs fresh thyme

10 Tbsp unsalted butter

1small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed

2 lb cranberries

1¼ cups sugar

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 heaping Tbsp chipotles in adobo

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

1 to 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth


Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Pat the turkey dry and tuck in the wings. Rub the turkey inside and out with 2 tablespoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Stuff the cavity with 5 sprigs each of the rosemary and thyme. Tie the legs together and place the turkey breast-up in a roasting pan with a rack. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add 4 tablespoons of the butter. Stir in the onion, garlic and the remaining 3 sprigs each rosemary and thyme. Cook until the onions are softened, 6 minutes. Add the cranberries, sugar, vinegar, chipotles, orange zest and juice and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer until the cranberries start to burst, 8 minutes. Strain. Reserve half for serving.

Heat the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave in 30-second increments until melted. Brush the melted butter all over the turkey. Pour 1 cup of the broth into the roasting pan. Roast for 2 hours, basting with the drippings every 30 minutes after the first hour. Add more broth if the pan looks dry.

After 2 hours of roasting, brush the turkey with the cranberry-orange glaze every 20 minutes until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165º F., about 1 hour more, tenting with foil when the turkey reaches the desired darkness.

Transfer the turkey to a carving board and let rest 30 minutes before carving. Serve with the reserved glaze.

Serves 8.

Roast Turkey with Cranberry-Orange Glaze

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Mashed Potato-Stuffed Meatloaf

As we have commented on previously, there are famous local establishments that make “juicy Lucy” cheeseburgers in which the cheese is actually inside the burger patty rather than the traditional melted on top. Well, we had leftover mashed potatoes and we had ground beef for meatloaf. Yes, you guessed it—we found a recipe that puts the mashed potatoes inside the meatloaf, and the results are delicious.

This recipe is attributed to Food Network without further sourcing. The link is here. We hope you enjoy this twist on meat and potatoes as much as we did.

Here are the ingredients and directions if you can’t find the link. (We used our mashed potatoes from the night before and it worked great!)


for the mashed potatoes:

1 lb. russet potatoes (about 2 medium), scrubbed clean

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

⅓ cup sour cream

2 tsp finely chopped chives

Kosher salt

for the meatloaf:

½ cup bread crumbs

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

½ medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp dried oregano

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2½ lbs meatloaf mix (Ora combination of ground beef and pork)

⅓ cup grated Parmesan

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 large eggs, beaten

for the glaze:

½ cup ketchup

1 tsp dark brown sugar

1 tsp apple cider vinegar


Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

For the mashed potatoes: Poke each potato with a fork several times and microwave until soft, about 15 minutes (or use your microwave’s potato setting). Cool until you are able to handle them with a towel, about 2 minutes. Halve the potatoes and scoop out the flesh with a spoon and discard the skin. Mash the potatoes in a medium bowl until smooth then fold in the sour cream, chives and 1 teaspoon salt until well contained. Set aside.

For the meatloaf: Toast the bread crumbs in a dry skillet over medium heat until browned and fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside. Add the oil, onions, garlic, oregano, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring, until onions are tender, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly. Add the onion mixture to the bread crumbs along with the meatloaf mix,Parmesan and Worcestershire sauce. Toss and mix gently. Add the eggs and mix it completely into the meat mixture.

Transfer half of the meatloaf mixture to the prepared baking sheet and gently press into a 12-by-3-inch rectangle. Gently create a well down the middle of the meatloaf mixture with a ½-inch wall on all four sides. Spoon the mashed potato mixture into the well. Working with a quarter of the remaining meatloaf mixture, gently flatten the mixture with the palms of your hands. Lay the meatloaf mixture over half of the mashed potatoes. Repeat with the remaining meatloaf mixture ensuring the potatoes are completely enclosed.

For the glaze: Whisk together the ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar in a small bowl. Spoon the glaze evenly over the entire loaf.

Bake until an instant read thermometer registers 160º F. in the center of the loaf, about 45 minutes.

Serves 6.

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 90 minutes

Mashed Potato-Stuffed Meatloaf
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Stir-Fried Peas

Here is the vegetable dish we made to accompany the chicken vindaloo. The recipe also comes from Maya Kaimal MacMillan’s book, Curried Favors (1996). We used a 14-inch frying pan with a cover to make the dish. We also omitted the step of thawing the frozen peas before adding them to the pan. Bay leaves work well as a substitute for the hard-to-find curry leaves. Once again, omit the jalapeño seeds and pith if you are concerned about too much heat!


1 tsp mustard seeds

4 dried red peppers

10 curry or 4 bay leaves

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 green chili (Serrano, Thai, or jalapeño), split lengthwise and crushed

2 pkg (10 oz each) frozen peas, thawed

½ tsp ground cumin

⅛ tsp ground coriander

⅛ tsp ground cayenne pepper

¾ tsp salt


In a covered wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat, heat mustard seeds, red peppers, and curry leaves in oil until mustard seeds begin to pop. Uncover, add onions and green chili, and fry until onion is soft.

Add peas, spice mixture, and salt and fry for 2 minutes on medium-high heat, or until peas are cooked.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Serves 6-8.

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Chicken Vindaloo

Wikipedia says curry is a variety of dishes originating in the Indian subcontinent that use a complex combination of spices or herbs, usually including ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, and fresh or dried chilies. In southern India, where the word originated, curry leaves, from the curry tree, are also an integral ingredient. Curry is generally prepared in a sauce.

For a recent “curry” dinner, we started with Maya Kaimal MacMillan’s recipe for Chicken Vindaloo. The dish is thought to have originated in Goa, a Portuguese colony on the west coast of India. The word “vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese carne de vinha d’alhos (literally “meat in garlic wine marinade”). The meat is marinated in vinegar and spices, then cooked with dried red chili peppers with additional spices.

Here is her recipe from her book Curried Favors (1996). We include the ingredients and directions below. we used white wine vinegar and jalapeño peppers. Don’t worry that the dish will be too spicy with the peppers. Remove the seeds and pith to reduce the heat if you are concerned. The sauce is intended to be watery, so don’t worry if yours turns out that way.


2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

6 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp ground turmeric

⅛ tsp cinnamon

⅛ tsp ground cloves

¼ cup white vinegar

2 cups thinly sliced onion

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp minced ginger

1 medium boiling potato, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes (about 1 cup)

½ tsp mustard seeds, coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle

1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned

¼ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk

2 or 3 green chilies (Serrano, Thai, or jalapeño), split lengthwise

2 tsp salt


Trim boneless, skinless chicken thighs of fat and cut into 1½-inch chunks. Rub chicken pieces with mixture of ground spices and vinegar, and let stand for 30 minutes.

In a Dutch oven or flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, fry onion in oil until edges are nicely browned. Add garlic and ginger and stir for 2 minutes until the onion is medium brown.

Add potato, mustard seeds, tomatoes, coconut milk, green chilies, and salt and stir for another 2 minutes. Add marinated chicken and ½ cup water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes, or until chicken and potatoes are done. Sauce will not be thick. Taste for salt.

Prep Time: 75 minutes, plus 30 minutes marinating time

Serves 6 to 8.

Chicken Vindaloo with Stir-Fried Peas

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Instant Pot Beef Barbacoa

The Instant Pot® is an indispensable addition to our cooking options. The ability to take what is normally a tougher cut of meat and turn that cut into something both tender and delicious was once the sole province of slow cooking. But now we can have all that goodness in a short time! This recipe is for a perennial family pleaser, beef barbacoa. The creator of this recipe is the appropriately named The link for this recipe is here. We hope you try this one yourself. Of course, you can use a slow cooker if you wish. You would cook for 4-5 hours on the HIGH setting or 8 hours on the LOW setting.

We upped the chipotle in adobo peppers to five and the family thought the heat was just right. We also used two tablespoons of cumin. Use the beef barbacoa for tacos or a hearty main dish salad.


⅔  cup beer or water

4 cloves garlic

2 chipotles in adobo sauce (or more, to taste)

1 small white onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles

¼ cup fresh lime juice

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

¼ tsp ground cloves

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 lbs. beef chuck roast* (fat trimmed), cut into 2-inch chunks

3 bay leaves


Combine beer, garlic, chipotles, onion, green chiles, lime juice, vinegar, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and cloves in a blender or food processor.  Purée for 30 seconds, or until completely smooth.  Set aside.

Press the “Sauté” setting on the Instant Pot®.  Add oil.  Then once it is heated and shimmering, add the roast and sear — turning every 45-60 seconds or so — until the roast is browned on all sides.  Press “Cancel” to turn off the heat.

Add the bay leaves and pureed sauce, and briefly toss everything until the roast is evenly coated in the sauce.  Close lid securely and set vent to “Sealing”.

Press “Manual”, then press “Pressure” until the light on “High Pressure” lights up, then adjust the +/- buttons until time reads 60 minutes.  Cook.  Then very carefully, turn the vent to “Venting” for quick release, and wait until all of the steam has released and the valve has dropped.

Remove the lid, and discard the bay leaves.

Using two forks, shred the beef into bite-sized pieces.  Give the beef one more good toss in all of those juices so that it can soak them up.

Serve warm, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Cooking Time: 85 minutes

Total Time: 105 minutes

Serves 8-10.

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Pumpkin-Corn Muffins

It’s fall and we thought it was time to bring canned pumpkin into the discussion. That’s usually no problem, but this is 2020. Wherever we looked, canned pumpkin was nowhere to be found. The dreaded 2020 shortage hydra was thought to have grown another head, but we were wrong. Nope, the pumpkin crop was ready just a bit later than most other years, and the canners wanted the pumpkins they canned to be ripe and flavorful. So take heart, America! You can get canned pumpkin in time for fall recipes.

This recipe caught our attention. The combination of canned pumpkin and cornmeal seemed destined to produce a toothsome muffin with just enough sweetness. We were not looking for an overly sweet confection; after all, Halloween comes with enough sugar for the entire season. This recipe comes from Paula Deen. The website location is here. We made several adjustments for our muffins, and we include both the adjustments and the original recipe.


1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal

½ cup sugar

1½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

¾ cup canned pumpkin

½ cup 1% buttermilk

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

grated zest of 1 orange


Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In another medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla, and orange zest. Using a rubber spatula, fold the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, dividing evenly, and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn the pan over to pop them out onto a wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes. Muffins can be stored (once completely cooled) in an airtight container for several days.

Makes 12 muffins.

Note: We used about 2 tsp cinnamon and 1½ tsp pumpkin spice blend (from Spice House) instead of only ½ tsp cinnamon called for in the original recipe. However, we also increased the other ingredients to make 18 muffins rather than the 12 listed above. Everyone who tried the muffins thought the amount of spice we used was great.

Pumpkin-Corn Muffins
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