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Showing posts with label Main Courses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Main Courses. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pork Belly and Vegetable Pasta

I wrote a recipe for Zester Daily about my latest, favorite dish, a pasta with pork belly meat, flavored by Vietnamese style pickled vegetables.

I love pork belly but not pork belly fat. 
The recipe is my attempt to split the difference. 
I let the fat tenderize and season the meat. 
The only part of the fat I put into the pasta is the thin crackling layer, that luscious bubbling, crispy top layer. 
The cracklings are ground up and sprinkled on the pasta to give a sweet crunch to the tender, moist meat.

The pickled vegetables add to the pork's deep rich flavors. Included in the pickling are pieces of ginger which brings a subtle heat to bear on the dish.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bacon Braised Chicken

Braising is a perfect one-pot, cold weather cooking technique that doesn't take much effort. The resulting meat is fall-off the bone tender. Adding fresh vegetables and herbs completes the dish.

As the braise simmers, the kitchen fills with a warming sweetness, further helping to banish the cold.
Using bacon with it's smoky flavor and good fat content adds even more flavor to the succulent chicken.

For Zesterdaily, I wrote a recipe for Bacon Braised Chicken that is perfect any time of the year, but especially on those cold and damp days when nothing gets you warm.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spicy Sweet Ginger-Garlic Chicken Wings

Being creative in cooking sometimes means breaking the rules or borrowing a sauce from a traditional dish and using it in a non-traditional way.
When a diner is served the popular Vietnamese soup called pho, a basket of fresh green vegetables and bean sprouts accompanies a giant soup bowl filled to the brim with meat and noodles. For seasoning, a dipping sauce is also provided.
In a flash of inspiration, I realized the dipping sauce would make a delicious marinade for chicken. For Zesterdaily I wrote a recipe for Pho Buffalo Wings that gives the tender wings a beautiful glaze, flavored with ginger-heat and sweetness.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A 30 Minute Pasta with Sautéed Farmers Market Vegetables

At the height of summer, the farmers markets have the most amazing selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Corn, tomatoes, carrots, beets, eggplant, zucchini, peas, broccoli, parsley, arugula, frisee, plums, pluots, figs, peaches, nectarines, apples, grapes...I'm running out of breath trying to say them all.
Part of me wants to spend the whole day in the kitchen experimenting and playing with all these great ingredients.

The other part would prefer to stay outside, enjoying our beautiful Southern California weather. This recipe splits the difference. I can have fun with the farmers market bounty and it takes only 30 minutes.

That's a win-win if ever there was one.

Sautéed Vegetables and Pasta

For vegetarians, this is a very satisfying meal-in-one. For everyone else, cooked meat, poultry and seafood can easily be added with great results.
I choose to cut all the vegetables so they are similar in size to the corn kernels, although I make an exception for the string beans, which I think are more enjoyable when cooked in lengths of at least 1". A personal preference.  At any rate, cut the vegetables small or roughly, depending on how you like them.

Yield: 4

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
1 pound pasta
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1 carrot, washed, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 pound string beans, washed, ends removed, cut into 1" lengths
1 small yellow onion, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Bring to a boil a gallon of water with the kosher salt. Add the pasta and stir well initially and every couple of minutes to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Place a heatproof cup in the sink and capture one cup pasta water when you drain the pasta.

Return the cooked pasta to the pot. Toss the pasta with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and sweet butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Lightly cover--do not seal--with a sheet of aluminum foil to keep warm.

In a large frying or chefs pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté all the vegetables until brown. Add 1 tablespoon sweet butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Simmer over a medium flame until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cooked pasta. Toss well to coat. If more liquid is needed, add more of the remaining pasta water and a pat of butter. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

Instead of Italian parsley, add 1 tablespoon fresh oregano.

For heat, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to the vegetable sauté.

Along with the pasta water and sweet butter, add 2 cups of any chopped, cooked meat, poultry or seafood you like.

Add roasted, skinless, chopped tomatoes with the pasta water and sweet butter.

Add 1 cup raw, chopped tomatoes with the vegetables.

Along with the freshly grated cheese, add 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or roughly chopped almonds.

Along with the freshly grated cheese, add 1/4 cup toasted or sautéed bread crumbs.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shop at the Palisades Farmers Market for Your Independence Day Feast

What's the 4th of July without great food and fireworks?
The easiest way for some people to throw a party is to order platters from a restaurant or a supermarket. For others, only home cooked food will do.

But with busy lives, how to find the time to do any cooking?

A friend complains when the kids want to know what's to eat, she throws up her hands and says, "Ok, let's go out." But on the 4th, it's more fun if the food is home cooked.

One solution is to use easy-to-make recipes so you're not stuck in the kitchen. And to give you ideas, take a walk around the farmers market and pick out fruit and vegetables that take no time at all to prepare.

A sangria style wine cooler or a fruit salad would be easy to make with the market's abundance of fresh cherries, blueberries, Fuji apples, pluots, white peaches, nectarines, and Valencia oranges. Yum.
Sweredowski Farms - John Sweredowski will offer friendly advice and a helping hand as you pick out leafy greens for a salad--he'll encourage you to think outside the box by showing you bunches of nettles, mustard greens and purslane. If you are an arugula fan, John has fat bunches with broad leaves. He also has peppery watercress and squash blossoms.
Yang Farms - the tomatoes, carrots and asparagus are always sweet. The finglerling and sweet potatoes are good for baking and grilling. Mr. Yang's Persian cucumbers make a crunchy salsa.
Underwood Family Farms - bi-color corn (yellow and white) is available again, along with leafy greens, radishes and beets, as well as green cabbage, perfect for cole slaw.
Givens Farm - pick up Italian parsley and leafy greens to make a tossed green salad.
Capay Organic - has early season heirloom tomatoes, pricey at 3 lbs for $10.00, but so colorful they would make an attractive centerpiece, sliced, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkled with fresh basil leaves.
Tropical Seafood - has a good selection of fish, including sole, salmon, swordfish and halibut for grilling, sauteing or baking. The large peeled and devined shrimp are especially nice wrapped in bacon, marinated in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and pepper, skewered and grilled.
If you want to prepare a few dishes but not the whole meal, check out the ready-to-eat vendors at the market. Their home cooked food is the next-best-thing to making it yourself.
Sumako at Sweredowski Farms -  uses the farm's produce to make a summer time treat: squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta and roasted tomatoes.
The Heritage Kitchen - for appetizers and desserts, former food historian, Ekythe Preet sells a good selection of cheeses from small farms, homemade jams and savory chutneys, and an excellent selection of pastries, including Devonshire cream scones and gluten free amaretti meringue cookies with almonds, flourless chocolate mini-cakes, and organic brown rice crispy squares. Also gluten free are Ekythe's torts, one with orange and almonds (a Sephardic favorite), another made with polenta and almonds with a lemon flavor. Both are moist and delicious. 
Bountiful Bakery - for the holiday Denise Assad has baked lattice-topped cherry pies as well as her regular staple of apple pies, chocolate dipped macaroons, and a two-layer coconut cake with cream cheese frosting, to name a few of her treats. For a savory snack, she will have on hand freshly baked, flaky spinach and feta spanakopita that would look delicious on a dining room table or tucked away in a picnic basket. Given how labor intensive cherry pies are--can you imagine the effort it takes to pit hundreds of cherries--Denise could only pull off such an effort because Megan, her new assistant, has joined her in the kitchen. 


Have a great 4th of July!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Lots of Veggies and a Little Meat

I like meat. Give me a thick ribeye steak with sauteed onions and roasted fingerling potatoes, a simple arugula salad with a reduced balsamic vinaigrette and I'm a happy camper.

Even when I crave a big plate of veggies, I still want some meat. A bit of sausage and chicken on the bone adds flavor and some comfort-food "stickiness" that is oh so very satisfying.

Sauteed vegetables, added to a braise of chicken thighs, wings or legs, is an easy to make meal that's totally satisfying. Some Italian sausage or something spicier like chorizo is frosting on the cake, as it were.

Get some help cleaning and peeling the veggies and it's 30-45 minutes start to finish.

Sauteed Vegetables and Chicken on the Bone

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30-45 minutes

Ingredients

8 chicken wings, washed
4 chicken thighs, washed
4 chicken legs, washed
4 carrots, washed, trimmed, peeled, cut into rounds
1 medium yellow onion, trimmed, peeled, washed, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 ears corn, kernels removed
1 medium sized broccoli crown, washed, end trimmed, stem peeled and julienned, florets quartered
2 Italian sausages, washed, grilled or roasted
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Use two pans. In one put a tablespoon of olive oil and heat over a medium flame. Season the chicken with sea salt and pepper. Saute until lightly browned, turning frequently. Add 3 cups water and raise the flame to high. Lightly cover with a piece of aluminum foil but do not seal.

Cook for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the liquid. If need be, add water, a 1/4 cup at a time.

At the same time, get the veggies going in the second pan. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil seasoned with sea salt and pepper. Add the veggies and saute for 10 minutes.

The braising liquid should be greatly reduced to about 1 cup. The chicken should be close to falling off the bone.  If not, cook another 5-10 minutes.

Using a silicone spatula, transfer the veggies and their liquid into the pan with the chicken. Add 3 cups of water for a second braise. Stir well.

Reduce the flame to medium. Lightly cover with a piece of aluminum foil and, again, do not seal.  Simmer 10 minutes, checking the broccoli and carrots, making sure they don't over cook.

Serve in large soup bowls because there will be sauce.

Variations

Add 1 tablespoon sweet butter to the second braise.

Omit the sausage.

Substitute chorizo or another sausage for the Italian sausage.

Substitute 3 pieces finely chopped bacon instead of the sausage.

Add 1/2 pound cooked pasta to the second braise.

Add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the veggie saute for heat.

Add 3 cups washed, roughly chopped spinach to the second braise.

Add 6 shiitake mushrooms, washed, finely sliced to the veggie saute.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Infinitely Variable Omelet

Omelets are a great main course. Perfect for breakfast but also satisfying as lunch, dinner or a snack.

Easy to make, infinitely variable, filling, healthy and affordable, they are warming and delicious.

Just about any ingredients that can be sauteed can be used as a filling. (Why saute the fillings? To eliminate excess water and caramelize the ingredients.)  I like mine with cheese, but that's a matter of personal choice.

For breakfast this morning, I made my wife a vegetable omelet with spinach and shiitake mushrooms while I had a bit of bacon in mine.

Bacon Omelet with Comte Cheese and Parsley

Use any kind of frying pan, but a nonstick pan makes everything easier and a nice crust forms on the outside of the omelet.

For a one-person omelet, use a 9" pan. An omelet for two requires a doubling of the recipe ingredients and a 12" pan.

Serves: 1

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

2 large or extra large eggs, farmers' market fresh
2 tablespoons milk, half and half or cream
2 teaspoons sweet (unsalted) butter
1 slice raw bacon, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons onion, roughly chopped
1/4 cup grated cheese (comte, cheddar, munster, or swiss)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Beat the eggs with the milk and set aside.

Heat the nonstick frying pan on a medium flame, melt 1 teaspoon butter and saute the bacon, parsley and onion until lightly browned. With a silicon or rubber spatula, remove the sauteed vegetables and reserve.

Return the pan to the flame. Melt the other teaspoon of butter, add the eggs, swirling them over the bottom of the pan. Season with sea salt and pepper. Sprinkle grated cheese on one half of the omelet. Spoon the sauteed vegetables over the cheese.

Let the eggs set and the cheese melt, about 2 minutes. Using the spatula, gently fold the "empty" side of the omelet onto the side that has the cheese and sauteed vegetables.

Slide onto a plate. Serve with toast or fresh fruit and a hot beverage.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Eat Like a Rock Star in Your Own Kitchen: Fresh Ravioli With Tomatoes and Butter

Sean Stone and Steve Jenkins serve rock stars through Eat Your Hearts Out catering company
Complaining that busy lives preclude shopping for fresh ingredients and making home-cooked meals, most people rely on shortcuts that include fast food, prepared meals, or bowls of cereal for dinner.

Imagine how you would eat if you were living the life of a rock star, traveling from city to city, performing for hours before thousands of screaming, out-of-their-minds fans.
For big-name musical groups, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll don't cut it anymore. Healthy, freshly prepared meals are the order of the day.

To see just how it's done, I hooked up with Green Day in the fall when they were performing south of Los Angeles at the Irvine Amphitheater.

For Zesterdaily I went behind the stage to check out how chefs Sean Stone, Steve Jenkins and Steve Ricalis keep Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool happy and well-fed when they are on tour.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why I Love Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was my mother's favorite holiday. She loved the chance to have her family and friends seated around the table, catching up, telling stories,and eating favorite treats.

Most of the time I do the cooking since I work at home and because we have a kitchen the size of a New York closet. Thanksgiving is my wife's day and I happily step to the side, working as a sous chef, assisting her in executing a meal that usually serves between 15-20.

Even though Thanksgiving is a lot of work, the key is organization. Writing up a menu is the first step, then a shopping list, and finally a time-line for the day before Thanksgiving and the day of the meal.

Along with those first steps, we cover the bottom of the oven with aluminum foil so clean up after the meal is easier. Cleaning out the refrigerator makes room for the turkey after we pick it up from the grocery store and so there's space for all those delicious left-overs after the meal.

Besides shopping at the grocery store we visit our local farmers' market to pick up fresh vegetables for the sides dishes: beets, sweet potatoes, lettuce, celery, carrots, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, corn, leeks, and onions.

But the most important part of the meal is the turkey and no turkey is complete without a great stuffing.

Corn Bread Stuffing with Sausages, Dried Apricots, and Pecans

Over the years my wife has developed a crowd-pleasing stuffing with a contrast of textures: soft (corn bread), spicy (sausage), chewy (dried apricots), and crunchy (pecans).

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 boxes corn bread mix
3 celery stalks, washed, ends trimmed, leaves discarded
1 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, pat dried, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter
1/2 - 1 cup turkey or chicken stock
4 Italian style sweet sausages
1 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the corn bread the night before and leave the pan on the counter so the corn bread dries out. Use any cornbread mix you like. My wife uses Jiffy. It's inexpensive and tastes great. The instructions are on the box.

Saute the sausages whole in a frying pan with a little olive oil until browned, remove, cut into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. Pour off the excess fat. Add the celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic into the pan with the stick of butter and saute. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, then add 1/2 cup of the stock, toss well and summer 15 minutes. Add more stock as needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper. 

Cut the cornbread into chunks and crumble into a large mixing bowl. Add the apricots, pecans, and the saute. Stir well and set aside until you're ready to stuff the turkey.

Roast Turkey
The most difficult part about cooking a turkey is size. Even a 15 pound turkey is larger than any roast you'll ever cook, so it's important to have somebody around to help strong-arm the turkey.

The rule of thumb about cooking time is 15-20 minutes per pound at 325 degrees but there are so many variables, you can also use a roasting thermometer and, our preferred method, jiggle-the-leg and if it almost comes off, the turkey's done.

There's a lot of talk about whether to brine or not to brine. In the Los Angeles Times, Russ Parsons argued for what he calls a "dry" brine, which means salting the turkey inside and out, then wrapping it in a sealable bag and refrigerating it for one to two days.

Yield: 20-25 servings

Time: 7-8 hours

Ingredients

1 turkey, 23-25 pounds
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Unwrap the turkey. Remove the packet with the liver, neck, heart, and giblet. Use a pair of pliers to remove the piece of wire that holds the legs. It can be a real pain to get the wire off. Wash the turkey inside and out. Pat dry on the outside.

Reserve the liver to make a turkey chopped liver. Put the neck, heart, and giblet into a large saucepan with a lot of water, at least five inches higher than the turkey pieces. Replenish whatever water boils off.  Simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat on the neck falls off if you touch it with a fork. Strain the stock and reserve to use for gravy. Pull the meat off the neck and save to make turkey soup. Use the giblets in the gravy.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

The next step is easier with a friend. Drizzle olive oil on the outside of the turkey. Using your hands spread the oil over the entire bird, front and back. Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper inside the cavity and on the outside.

To put in the stuffing, either my wife or I holds the turkey upright and steady while the other loosely packs the stuffing inside the large cavity, one handful at a time.

Use 8-12 metal skewers and kitchen string to close the large cavity. Carefully turn the turkey over so you can put stuffing into the top area. Use 6-8 skewers and string to close that cavity.

Use any kind of roasting pan. Whether you use a disposable aluminum foil pan or an expensive stainless steel roasting pan from William Sonoma, the result will be the same. The important thing to remember is the pan must be at least 2" wider than the turkey, otherwise as the bird cooks, its juices will drip onto the bottom of your stove and make a mess. To insure that the turkey browns evenly, you'll need a wire rack.

Place the turkey on the rack, breast down and put into the oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

After that, every 30 minutes, baste the turkey with the fat that drips down into the pan. If the skin starts to brown too quickly, put an aluminum tent over the top.

After 3 hours, turn the turkey over. With a large bird this is easier said than done because now the turkey is not only heavy, it's very hot.

Another set of hands is a big help here. My wife and I have choreographed this crucial moment. I lift the roasting pan with the turkey out of the oven, placing it on the cutting board. Michelle stands at the ready with a pot holder in each hand. As I lift the rack with the turkey, she removes the pan. I flip the rack with the turkey onto the cutting board, having first put a kitchen towel along the edge to prevent juices from falling to the floor.

We pour all the juices and fat from the pan into a basting bowl, scrapping off the flavor bits on the bottom of the pan to make gravy.

The rack goes back into the pan. The turkey goes onto the rack, breast side up. After a good basting, the turkey goes back in the oven, covered with an aluminum foil tent.

As the turkey continues to cook, if the wing tips and drumstick ends brown too quickly, wrap them in aluminum foil.

Continue basting every 30 minutes. When the turkey is finished, remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Carve the turkey on a cutting board, removing the wings first, then the legs, thighs, and the breasts. Either place the pieces on the platter whole, to be carved at the table, or sliced for easy serving. Open the cavities and spoon out the stuffing.

Mushroom-Giblet Gravy

While the turkey is cooking, start the gravy.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 medium yellow onions, peeled, ends removed, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 turkey giblet, cooked, grizzle removed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, tarragon, or Italian parsley
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, finely chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups turkey stock
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Saute the giblet, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add turkey stock and the flavor bits you scraped off the roasting pan, simmer and reduce by 1/3. Taste and adjust the flavors. If too salty, add more stock and a pat of sweet (unsalted) butter.

Reheat before serving.

Turkey Stock

When you're eating Thanksgiving dinner, odds are you aren't thinking about your next meal, but I am. Admittedly, it's a bit obsessive, but before I sit down to join the dinner, all the bones and scraps go into a large pot filled with water. By the time we're clearing the table, the stock is finished.

Turkey stock is rich and flavorful. Perfect for making soups, stews, and pasta sauce, and like chicken stock, freezes beautifully.

Yield: 15-20 servings

Time: 1 hour
Ingredients

1 turkey carcass, skin, scraps
Water

Method

Put the carcass into a large pot. If any of stuffing makes it into the pot, all the better for flavor and richness. Cover the bones with water. Simmer 1 hour. Strain and refrigerate. Pick the meat off the bones to use in a soup or stew.

The stock keeps in the freezer for six months.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

San Jose del Cabo's Tequila Shrimp

On a recent trip to the southern tip of Baja California, I heard about Tequila Restaurant in San Jose del Cabo, twenty minutes east of its better known cousin, Cabo San Lucas.  Enrique Silva, co-owner and chef, introduced me to one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, Camarones al Tequila.

He serves the shrimp with sides of black beans and fried plantains, which were great, but a bit impractical for my kitchen so I’ve adapted the recipe.

For a side, I think rice, pasta, or steamed spinach works just as well. The tequila-garlic sauce gives plenty of flavor.  Add a green salad and you have the perfect, easy-to-prepare meal.

The tequila should be white and inexpensive. Save the good stuff for your guests.

Recipe: Tequila-Garlic Shrimp

Ingredients

24 large, raw shrimp, washed, shells removed, deveined
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro or Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon onion or shallot, finely chopped
4 oz tequila
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 oz lime juice, fresh squeezed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Cook the rice, make the pasta, or steam the spinach ahead so the side dish and shrimp are ready at the same time.
2. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan on a medium flame. Add the garlic, cilantro (or parsley) and onion. Sauté 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.
3. Add the shrimp. Stir well to coat. Cook 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the tequila, butter and lime juice. Use a match to flame off the alcohol. 
5. Raise the heat to medium-high. Keep stirring to mix well.  The sauce should thicken in 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp.
6. Taste and adjust flavors with sea salt and pepper.  For heat, dust with a little cayenne.

Serve hot with the side of your choice.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Labor Day Meal: Salmon with a Citrus Glaze Tangos with Mango Salsa

On holidays like Labor Day, the best dishes to serve friends and family are the ones that take very little effort to prepare.  That way you can spend your time enjoying the day not laboring in a hot kitchen.

Versatile salmon can be grilled, sauteed, baked, and braised. More often than not the preferred approach is to simply grill the fish--whole or filleted--with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, the Italian way. But there are times when a little more seasoning accents salmon's natural flavors.

Spanish style preparations saute the fish with fresh tomatoes, pitted olives, peppers, onions, and parsley. American barbecue relies on sweet-heat. Another approach, one borrowing from South American and Caribbean recipes, marries citrus with honey and garlic in a simple sauce.

Serve the roasted fish with a side of reserved pan drippings and a mango-grilled corn salsa and you'll have the perfect summer meal to be enjoyed with a glass of chardonnay or an ice cold beer.

Mango Salsa

Make the salsa ahead and keep refrigerated in a sealed container

Serves 4

Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 ear corn, husks and silks removed, washed
1 large mango, washed, skin removed, meat cut into small pieces, pit discarded
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, skin on, charred in an open flame
1 tablespoon olive or safflower oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Grill or oven roast the corn in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool and remove the kernels. Discard the cob. Clean off the charred skin from the garlic, finely chop, add to a bowl with the corn kernels, mango, onion, parsley, olive oil, and lemon juice. Toss well. Taste and season with sea salt and pepper.

Roast Salmon with a Citrus Glaze

Buy a fillet that has skin but not bones for easy serving.  The fresher, the better.

Serves 4

Time 45-60 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet with skin on, washed, pat dried
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, skin removed, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes or cayenne
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped


Method

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cutting across the fillet, score deeply into the flesh about half way. Place the salmon on a Silpat or other non-stick material like parchment paper placed on a rimmed baking sheet.

Mix together the juices, honey, garlic, olive oil, cayenne, and parsley until the honey is well dissolved. Pour over the fillet.  Roast in the oven 30 minutes.  Remove and clean away and discard any pink solids.

Raise the temperature of the oven to 500 F. Baste the fillet with the pan drippings. Return the salmon to the oven and cook another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, baste, bake another 5 minutes being careful to brown but not burn the skin.

Transfer the salmon to a serving plate. Use a rubber spatula to collect all the pan drippings and place in a small bowl.

Serve the salmon with the pan drippings, mango salsa, and a green salad or freshly steamed rice.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Easiest Pasta You’ll Ever Make Using Grilled Corn and Roasted Garlic


On a recent trip to Sonoma County, my wife and I wandered from the coast to the inland farmland to eat our way across one of America's most productive valleys. We were lucky enough to have some wonderful meals. We especially enjoyed chef Josh Silvers' 
We loved his roasted garlic-butter sauce on his grilled corn, I was inspired to write a recipe that adapted that flavor combination with pasta.  I posted the recipe on Zesterdaily.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Little Bit of Curry Goes a Long Way

Nothing is more satisfying than farmers' market fresh vegetables. Usually I'm completely happy relying on olive oil, sea salt, and pepper when I saute, grill, or roast the great bounty of summer vegetables.

Do carrots, broccoli, asparagus, fennel, peas, string beans, tomatoes, squash, and potatoes really need elaborate sauces to bring out their flavors?

The Italians get it right, in my opinion. Buy the best ingredients and get out of the way.

And yet, there are times when a little more spice or a variety of flavors is needed to reinvigorate the palate. A few drops of fresh citrus juice, a dusting of cayenne, a sprig of fresh rosemary, or a drizzle of nam pla can transform the familiar into the exciting.

Authentic Indian curries are complex combinations of a dozen spices and herbs. An easy-to-make version for every day use can be made with a packaged curry powder or pulled together with five basic elements: fresh garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and coconut milk.  

Keep the curry vegetarian if you want or add poultry, seafood, or meat.  The choice is yours.  Since my wife doesn't eat poultry or meat, but I do, I start with vegetables and spices to build the flavors, make her portion, then add meat for mine.  That way we're both happy.

The best part is that an affordable and delicious meal can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.

Basic Curry

Use whatever fresh vegetables you enjoy. For stock, homemade is best, as much for flavor as for avoiding excess salt.  It's easy enough to make chicken or vegetable stock and freeze it.

A side note: with the vegetable peelings, make a stock by putting them into a pot with 4 cups water, simmer 30 minutes, run through a food mill, and collect the liquid and solids to use for the curry or freeze to use when needed.

Find an organic coconut milk that doesn't use chemical preservatives.  Freeze what you don't use for later use.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 onion, peeled, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves only
4 carrots, washed, peeled, cut into thick rounds
1 large Yukon gold potato, washed, peeled, roughly chopped
1 head of broccoli, washed, florets cut into bite sized pieces, stems peeled and chopped
2 cups mushrooms, brown or shiitake, washed, thin sliced
1 corn on the cob, husk and silk removed, washed, kernels removed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups liquid, water or stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the vegetables until lightly browned.  Remove.  Add the other tablespoon of olive oil and saute the garlic and spices until lightly browned.  Return the vegetables to the pan and toss well.

Pour in the liquid (water or stock) and coconut milk.  Stir well to deglaze the pan and combine the flavors.  Simmer on a medium-high heat for 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with rice, pasta, or steamed spinach.

Curry with Sausage and Chicken

Including meat in the dish adds only 5 minutes to the preparation time.  Leftover meat can also be put to good use here.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

2 Italian sausages, cut into rounds or bite sized pieces
1 chicken breast, cooked, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, peeled, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves only
4 carrots, washed, peeled, cut into thick rounds
1 large Yukon gold potato, washed, peeled, roughly chopped
1 head of broccoli, washed, florets cut into bite sized pieces, stems peeled and chopped
2 cups mushrooms, brown or shiitake, washed, thin sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups liquid, water or stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the sausage and chicken until lightly browned.  Remove.  

In the same pan saute the vegetables until lightly browned.  Remove.  Add the other tablespoon of olive oil and saute the garlic and spices until lightly browned.  Return the meat and vegetables to the pan and toss well.

Pour in the liquid (water or stock) and coconut milk. Stir well to deglaze the pan and combine the flavors. Simmer on a medium-high heat for 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with rice, pasta, or steamed spinach.

Variations

Add one large ripe tomato, washed, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne for heat

Add tofu cut into bite sized pieces

Add 1 package of spinach, washed, keep leaves whole but finely chop the stems after you add the liquid

Add 1 pound raw shrimp, washed, shelled, deveined in the last 5 minutes of cooking

Add 3 cups fresh clams or mussels, washed, with the stock and coconut milk

Add to the vegetable saute 2 cups roughly chopped green or red cabbage

Add to the vegetable saute 2 Japanese eggplants, washed, stems removed, roughly chopped

Add to the vegetable saute 1 cup raw cashews

Add to the vegetable saute 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled, finely minced

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Grill, Baby, Grill: An Easy Summer Pasta with Grilled Corn and Black Kale

Now that corn has reappeared in the farmers' markets, it's time to grill, baby, grill.

Boiled corn slathered with sweet butter and seasoned with sea salt and pepper is delicious.  So too is grilled corn where olive oil replaces butter.  Lightly browned, the kernels caramelize, adding sweetness and the hint of smoke.

Make extra, so the kernels can be removed and used in green salads, salsas, and--my favorite--pastas.

Tuscan or black kale is widely available in the farmers' markets in large, inexpensive bunches.

Adding in mushrooms, onions, garlic, a pat of butter and you're ready to enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner that needs little more than a simple romaine or arugula salad, a glass of wine or an ice cold beer, and you'll have a memorable meal with no more effort and time than it would take to order take out.

Pasta with Grilled Corn and Black Kale

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 ears of corn, husk and silks removed, washed
2 links, Italian sausage, washed (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, washed, skin removed, root end and top cut off and discarded, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 pound shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, dried, sliced
1 bunch Tuscan or black kale, washed, center stem removed, leaves roughly chopped1/2 box DeCecco pasta, gnocchi, penne, spaghetti, or bowties
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 cup pasta water
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Method

If a grill is not available, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour the olive oil on a flat plate. Season with sea salt and pepper.  Roll the corn through the seasoned oil to coat.  Put on the grill or into the oven, turning every 5 minutes to prevent burning.

Do the same with the Italian sausage.  Roll in the seasoned olive oil and grill or roast.  For vegetarians, don't bother with the sausage.

While the corn and sausage are cooking, put a large pot of water on a high flame, seasoned with 2 tablespoons of kosher or sea salt.  Don't use ordinary table salt which has a metallic flavor.

While the pasta water is heating, saute the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and kale until softened.  If you want the kale more pliable, add 1/4 cup of water and braise for 5 minutes on a medium-high flame.

Put the pasta into the boiling water and stir every couple of minutes to prevent sticking.  Use the whole box if you want more pasta.

Cut the kernels off the corn and discard the cobs.  Finely chop or cut into rounds the Italian sausage. Add to the kale, together with the sweet butter.  Toss well.

Taste the pasta.  Drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water.  Put the pasta back in the still warm pot, drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Set aside.

Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the vegetables and sausage.  Stir well and taste.  Adjust seasoning as desired.  If more sauce is desired, add a little more of the pasta water.

Pour the cooked pasta into the saute, toss well, adding another 1/4 cup of pasta water.  Serve in a large bowl, accompanied with freshly grated cheese.

Variations

Grill or roast a red pepper, discard the seeds and skin, finely chop, add 1/4 cup to the saute.

Add 2 tablespoons chopped, pitted green olives to the saute.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cooking for the Palisadian-Post

Michael Aushenker wrote a profile of me recently for the Palisadian-Post.  I like that he talked about my family and my passion for cooking, weaving in my continuing work as a tv producer and writer. He also highlights my writing on the Traveling Mom website, which describes my obsession with how many dishes you can create from one chicken and a few roasted vegetables!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Italian Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes

With summer still months away, the tomatoes at the Farmers' Market leave something to be desired. Still juicy and fragrant, they lack the exquisite flavor of tomatoes ripened by the full heat of the sun.

And yet....

Roasted, with a little olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, spring tomatoes add depth to a braise or stew. Traditional Italian recipes pair sausages with peppers and onions. Substituting roasted tomatoes for the peppers softens and sweetens the flavors. Adding pasta makes a main dish that is filling, economical, and easy-to-make.

Roasted Tomatoes

Yield: 1 quart

Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds tomatoes, washed, stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a Silpat or aluminum foil covered baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Place in the oven
and roast for 60 minutes.

Use a rubber spatula to save the clear liquid, tomato essence that has accumulated on the baking sheet. Place the cooked tomatoes and the liquid into an airtight container. The tomatoes can be refrigerated for several days or frozen for months.

Italian Sausages and Roasted Tomatoes

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 Italian sausages, washed, pat dry
1 quart roasted tomatoes, skins removed, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, finely chopped
2 medium yellow onions, washed, skins, tops, and stems removed
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown or shiitake, washed, thin sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 box pasta
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

The sausages and pasta can be made ahead and reheated with the sauce or prepared simultaneously while you are sauteing the vegetables.

Brown the sausages either by grilling or roasting in a 400 degree oven. Remove and let cool so you can cut them into 1/2" thick rounds. Set aside.

Boil 4 quarts water with kosher salt. Add the pasta. Stir well to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and return to the cooking pot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the unsalted butter. Stir well. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Lightly cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. Set aside.

Saute the garlic, parsley, onions, and mushrooms with olive oil until lightly browned. Add the sausages, roasted tomatoes, and tomato liquid. Simmer 15 minutes, reducing the sauce by half.

Add the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Stir well to coat. Simmer for a few minutes.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

To the sauteed vegetables, add 2 cups spinach leaves, washed, stems removed, roughly chopped

For heat, use hot Italian sausages