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Friday, March 28, 2008

Mark Bittman

The writer of a weekly column, The Minimalist, and the How to Cook Everything series, Mark and I became friends a few years ago when he briefly experimented with living in LA. I can confirm that Mark really does know how to cook everything. I remember emailing him one time from a supermarket with a question about roast pork. Before I finished shopping, he sent back the information and I bought the cut I needed.

Since he started his blog, Bitten, his encyclopedic knowledge is accessible on a daily basis. Always informative and personable, Mark makes good cooking fun and easy. In addition to his own postings, he has occasional contributors. He has been kind enough to include me in that group. In my maiden posting Mark allowed me "to show off a bit: three dishes from one chicken."

The recipes came from a recent trip to New York when we stayed with friends, Vicki, Mike, and their amazing daughters, Isabella and Olivia. A difference I've noted between LA and New York is that when we have friends over for a meal in LA, the food has to be ready to serve. In the East, I find that hanging out while the food is cooked is part of the experience. That was certainly the case when we stayed with Vicki and Mike. While we talked about what was going on in the world, I happily cooked and slid plate after plate onto the kitchen table. I can't think of a better way to spend the day than cooking, talking, and eating with friends.

For Mark's site, I wrote up the recipes I made that day: Chicken Breasts with Italian Parsley and Garlic, Chicken Soup with Vegetables, and Mushroom, Sausage and Chicken Ragout. In addition to these dishes, I also prepared a simple dessert of baked plums. The dessert recipe isn't on Bitten. I saved that for our site. Hope you enjoy it.

Baked Plums

The easiest dessert I've ever made, baked plums take only a few minutes to prepare and they're a visual pleasure. Served with whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream, they'll satisfy anyone's sweet tooth.

4 ripe plums, washed, dried, stems removed
1 teaspoon raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Quarter the plums and remove the pit. Lay the sections on a Silpat sheet or piece of tin foil on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with raw sugar and put into the oven. If you want the plums firm, bake them for 35 minutes. For a softer consistency, bake a total of 45 minutes.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 35-45 minutes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Friend in Need: The Ingredients' Challenge

A dear friend has decided to shake up her life. She's taking the plunge and moving to New York. Making such a big move requires many changes. She'll have to find an affordable apartment and a new school for her son. Getting used to shopping and traveling around without a car is also a big adjustment for someone accustomed to LA. And there's the move itself. All the packing and arranging with movers. But before beginning all that, my friend sent me an email asking for help. She has a long list of food in her refrigerator and pantry that she wants to eat before she leaves town. I've excerpted part of her list. As you can see, she needs a lot of help. I can offer some recipes, but she needs many others.

Please send in your recipes so we can help her leave town with a clear conscience.
In my freezer:

Sockeye salmon fillets
Boneless leg of lamb, seasoned/butterflied from Trader Joe's
Boneless beef bottom sirloin tri-tip
Ground chicken
Extra lean, boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken (ick)
Alaska cod fillets

In my over-flowing pantry:

Sauces: Moroccan tagine simmer sauce, Cuban mojito simmer sauce, cacciatore simmer sauce, olive tapenade spread, roasted red pepper and artichoke tapenade, artichoke antipasto
Lots of nuts, including a big box of walnuts, pignolia, pepita and almond mix (I guess for a salad)
and unsalted dry toasted sliced almonds.
Cans of black beans, garbanzo beans, mixed bean salad, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, corn. most great for chili, and burritos....
To start her off, here's a salmon dish that borrows from a Native American recipe and can be served as an appetizer or main course.

Native American Salmon

Marinate the salmon overnight with a dry rub of cayenne, ginger, brown sugar, and kosher salt. The salt will pull water out of the fish. What started as a dry rub at night will be wet in the morning.

1 lb. salmon, washed, pat dried
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
1" piece of ginger, peeled, grated
Pinch of cayenne

On the cutting board, spread a piece of plastic wrap twice the length of the salmon. Spread the grated ginger and cayenne on the flesh. Mix together the dry ingredients. Put half of the dry rub on the plastic wrap. Lay the salmon on top of the dry rub. Put the other half of the rub on top of the fish. Fold the plastic wrap over the salmon, then put the packet into a Ziploc bag and carefully seal. Keep in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove the salmon from the plastic wrap. Save the sauce and pour it into a small saucepan and reduce by half over a low flame. With a pastry brush, coat the top of the salmon with the glaze.

Place the salmon on a wire rack on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Alternatively, if you have a bbq, set one side on high, put the salmon on the baking sheet on the cold side. After 10 minutes, rotate the pan so the salmon gets cooked evenly.

Serve at room temperature with bagels and cream cheese or on toast or with a salad.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.