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Showing posts with label bacon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bacon. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mother's Day, Time to Set the Table and Make a Wonderful Meal

As my mother used to say, "Where has the time gone?" It feels as if we were celebrating New Year's Eve a few weeks ago and now it's the middle of May with summer just around the corner. Yesterday I bought the first corn of the season from Gloria at the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers Market. Big fat ears that grilled up sweet and delicious.

My mother loved Thanksgiving because the family was gathered together. She loved my sister and I working beside her in the kitchen, wrapping sweet potatoes in aluminum foil, shelling walnuts and making turkey chopped liver.

I loved Mother's Day because that was a day to make my mom the recipes she liked. Egg salad with bacon, a dish based on her own modification of her mother's recipe, roasted beet salad, potato salad with grilled vegetables, carrot salad with lemon-black pepper soaked golden raisins, rosemary fried chicken and banana cake with chocolate chips and walnuts.

My mom passed away two weeks shy of her 93rd birthday. She had a good life, filled with ups and downs like any life. My last memory of her was our reading the newspaper together, enjoying a good laugh at the expense of then-President George W. Bush--this was 2006--and she was enjoying a Vietnamese bbq pork banh mi sandwich loaded with lots of pickled carrots and daikon. She was happy. Life was good.

So for everyone who wants some good food on Mother's Day--or any day, for that matter--here are some of my mom's favorite dishes.


Egg Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Crisp Bacon

Starting with my mom's basic recipe, I've added grilled vegetables and freshly chopped parsley for color and flavor. Crisp bacon gives a salty crunch.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

4 farmers' market fresh large or extra large eggs
1 large carrot, washed, ends trimmed, peeled
1 ear of corn, tassels and husk removed, washed
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, washed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, finely chopped
2 strips of bacon, finely chopped, sauteed until crisp, drained
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots or scallion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

To make easy-to-peel hardboiled eggs, I happily borrow Katie Goodman's directions which are to place the eggs into a quart-sized pot with salted (1 teaspoon kosher salt) cold water to cover 2" above the eggs. Raise the heat to high and allow the water to rapidly boil for two minutes. Remove from the burner, cover and let stand fifteen minutes.

Pour off the hot water, rinse with cold water, let the eggs cool to the touch and peel the shells. Dry the eggs and refrigerate until ready to use.

Slice the carrot into flat slabs about 1/4" thick and 3" long.  Toss in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.  Season the ear of corn similarly.  Grill the carrots and corn until lightly browned all over or oven roast in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes. Turn frequently to avoid burning. Let cool.  Finely chop the carrots. Cut the kernels off the cob.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped eggs, carrots, corn kernels, parsley, shallots, and crisp bacon bits. Toss. Season with sea salt and black pepper.  Add the mayonnaise and mix well.

Serve on bread, crackers, or lettuce leaves.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped

Omit the bacon

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped, pitted olives

Roast 2 garlic cloves, tossed in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper until lightly browned, peel off the skins, finely chop the soft garlic and add to the egg salad

Add a dash of tabasco or a dusting of cayenne pepper for heat.

Roasted Beet Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 1 hour or more depending on the size of the beets

The beets my mom served when I was a kid were either boiled or canned. For some reason she never roasted beets until I made them. After that they were her favorite. Not soggy, the beets cook inside their skins, retaining all their sweetness.  They taste great and they're easy to make.

Ingredients

1 bunch of large beets
Olive oil

Method

Cut off the leaves and stems, reserving them to use later. A quick side note: after you wash them, if you chop up the leaves and stems, sauté them with olive oil, garlic and shallots; they'll caramelize and you can serve them as a side dish or tossed with pasta; they're delicious. 

Thoroughly wash the beets to get rid of any grit. Do not remove the skins or cut off the root. 

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Put a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Place the beets in the pan, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. 

Turn the beets every 20 minutes so they cook evenly. Use a wooden skewer to test if they're done. Roast until the skewer goes into the beets easily but don't let them get too soft. Al dente is good.

Let cool, then peel off the skins, cut off the root and the top part and discard. 

Serve them up the way you like--julienne, rounds, or roughly cut--put them in a bowl and dress with olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, sea salt and black pepper.

Variations

Use a vinagrette dressing, add feta, sliced scallions, and chopped Italian parsley.

Top with roasted walnuts.

Add roasted carrots.

Add green grapes sliced in half.

Potato Salad with Vegetables

Yield:  4-6 servings

Time: 45 minutes

As a side dish, potato salad goes with any grilled meat or fish.

Ingredients

2 pounds potatoes (Yukon Gold or King Edward), washed
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons grated carrots
1 tablespoon corn kernels
1 scallion, end trimmed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably Best Foods/Hellman's)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Put the potatoes in a pot, fill with water to cover, add the kosher salt, cover with a lid or piece of aluminum foil, and boil on high heat for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but still firm. 

Remove the pot from the heat, pour off the hot water, refill the pot with cold water and let the potatoes cool.

Sauté the corn with a little olive oil for 5 minutes until lightly browned.  Let cool. In a large bowl, mix together the corn, carrots, scallion, and parsley. 

Peel the skin off the potatoes--save the skin for a breakfast sauté with eggs--chop the potatoes into dime-sized pieces, and add to the bowl. Toss all the ingredients together and season with sea salt and pepper. Stir in the mayonnaise and mix well. 

Taste and adjust the flavors with more mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.

Variations

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley.

Add celery or capers.

Add crispy bacon.

Add grilled shrimp.

Carrot Salad with Lemon-Soaked Raisins

Yield 6-8 (makes 1 quart)

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

8 large carrots (preferably farmers market fresh), washed, peeled, ends trimmed off
1 scallion (optional), finely chopped
1 small bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried, stems trimmed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Method

Soak the raisins in lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight Grate the carrots in a large mixing bowl.

Roughly chop the raisins, reserving the lemon juice not absorbed into the raisins. Mix together the carrots, raisins, parsley, and scallions.

Season with the cumin, cayenne, sea salt, and black pepper and toss. Add the lemon juice and mayonnaise. Mix well.

Variations

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley

Add chopped capers

Top with roasted chopped almonds


Rosemary Fried Chicken

Yield4 servings

Time45 minutes to prepare, marinate the chicken overnight in buttermilk

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, washed, cut apart, skin removed if desired, wing tips, bones, and skin reserved to make chicken stock
1 quart buttermilk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts safflower or canola oil

Method

When you cut up the chicken, separate the two parts of the wing and cut the breast meat off the bone. Keep or discard the skin as you wish. The breasts can be left whole but will cook more evenly when cut into strips or tenders. The legs and thighs can be cut in half if you have a heavy chef's knife.

Toss the chicken pieces with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Put the pieces in a container, add the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of the rosemary, stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Using a wok or deep frying pan, heat the cooking oil to 325 - 350 degrees or until a piece of parsley browns immediately when dropped in the oil. Before you begin cooking, prepare your counter. Have a slotted spoon or an Asian style strainer ready. Lay two paper towels on top of a piece of brown grocery bag paper on a large plate.

Reserve 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to use just before serving.

In a brown paper bag mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, rosemary, cayenne (optional), sugar (optional), and onions (optional). Remove one piece of chicken at a time. 

Shake off the excess buttermilk, drop the piece into the paper bag with the seasoned flour, close the top of the bag, and shake. Repeat with all the pieces, assembling them on a plate or cutting board.

Cook the chicken in batches. Gently drop each piece into the hot oil, making sure it doesn't touch the other pieces so each one cooks evenly.

Turn over when browned on one side. Remove when golden brown and drain on the paper towels. The pieces will cook quickly: chicken tenders (breast) 2-3 minutes; wings 7-8 minutes; thighs & legs 10-12 minutes.

Just before serving, lightly dust the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of rosemary, sea salt and pepper.

If you are making deep fried vegetables like onion rings or broccoli florets, they cook even more quickly: thick rings cook in 30 seconds, thin rings in 5-6 seconds; broccoli in 30 seconds. 

Soak the vegetables in the seasoned buttermilk for a few minutes, then process like the chicken pieces.


Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts 
Yield 8 to 10 servings
Time 90 minutes
Ingredients
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts 
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Method
  • 1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and paint the inside of a 9 x 3 round cake pan, then put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. (The frozen butter prevents the batter from sticking to the pan.) On a cookie sheet bake the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so; let cool, roughly chop, and set aside.
  • 2. In a bowl mash the bananas with a fork, add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir well and set aside. In a mixer use the whisk to cream together the softened butter and both sugars. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, half and half and whisk until blended. Mix in the flour half a cup at a time, being careful not to over-beat. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to blend in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the buttered cake pan; it will only fill the pan half-way.
  • 3. Bake the cake in a 350 oven for 60-70 minutes, rotating the pan every 20 minutes so the cake cooks evenly. Test to see if the cake is done by inserting a wooden skewer. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top. When the skewer comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven and place it on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan, putting it back on the wire rack to finish cooling.
  • 4. Just before serving dust the top with powdered sugar and shaved chocolate. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Election Eve Munchies

I want the election to be over. I'm tired of partisanship, attack ads and endless news cycles of pontificating pundits.
I want the election to be over as long as my candidates and propositions win. That's what I meant to say.

If my side needs more time to win the day, so be it. Take all the time you need.

Skin in the game
Every election cycle feels special. The stakes are always high. The choices game changing. The amount of campaign money spent on elections stupefyingly large.

If you are a conservative, you are convinced the moral fabric of the country is on the line. Our economic future is at risk. 

If you are a liberal, you have seen the Ryan budget and the writing is on the wall for all the Progressive advances since Teddy Roosevelt. If you care about social inequality and women's rights, you are bewildered by the seemingly unending attacks that come from Republican candidates.

On Election Night this Tuesday, given the number of key battle ground states and the voting difficulties created by super storm Sandy, conclusive results might not be forthcoming until late in the evening or early morning.

What you're going to eat on Election Night might not be the first thing on your mind, but after you've finished working the phone banks and you've driven the last person to the polls before they close, it's time to head to a TV at home or a friend's and be prepared for the long haul.

If you don't want to cook, have a collection of take-out menus available. That way you are only a phone call, your credit card and 45 minutes away from a table full of pizza, stir fried green beans with beef and salads with seasonal greens and homemade croutons.

On the other hand, if you want home cooked food, here are some easy-to-make favorites that we like to serve when we're watching the Super Bowl, NBA Playoffs and waiting to celebrate the beginning of another year.

Good luck to you and all the candidates you believe in and the propositions you are voting for.


Tapenade with Charred Garlic

A secret weapon in last minute cooking, tapenade brightens any meal either as an appetizer or a condiment. If you use pitted, canned olives, making tapenade will take 10-15 minutes.
 
The taste of your tapenade depends on the quality of the olives.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 can pitted olives, drained weight 6 oz., preferably green or kalamata olives
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves with skins
¼ cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Directions

Skewer the garlic cloves on the end of a knife or a metal skewer and hold over a gas flame to burn off the outer skins. Let cool, remove any pieces of charred skin and roughly chop the cloves.

In a small blender or food processer, place the drained olives, olive oil, garlic, parsley and pepper flakes. Pulse until the olives are roughly chopped. Taste and adjust the seasoning with the addition of black pepper, sea salt, pepper flakes and olive oil.

Pulse again until the tapenade achieves the desired texture. Personally I like a tapenade that has a rustic look with the olives coarsely chopped rather than puréed.

Refrigerate until ready to use and serve at room temperature.

Variations

 2 anchovies packed in oil, roughly chopped and added with the olives. If salted, rinse before adding.

1 tablespoon capers added with the olives.

Lavash Crisps

Served in the Middle East, lavash and pita are commonly used instead of bread. Flat, unleavened lavash has a delicious, lightly grilled flavor when fresh. Making crisps makes use of lavash that might otherwise have gotten stale and gone to waste.
Lavash crisps have more flavor and are more flaky than commercially manufactured chips. Serve them with salsa, tapenade, dips or thin slices of cheese.

The crisps will last for weeks if kept refrigerated in an airtight container. 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small sheets of lavash
1 cup olive or safflower oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
5-6 paper towel sheets

Directions

Cut the lavash sheets into 2” squares by cutting the sheet in half, placing the halves on top of each other, cutting those in half and doing that again until the pieces are 2” wide. Cut the 2” wide strips into 2” squares and set aside. If not cooked immediately, store in an airtight container.

In a large frying pan or griddle, heat ¼ cup of the oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper and heat on a medium-low flame. Be careful not to burn the oil or cause it to smoke.

Lay a paper towel sheet on a large plate or baking sheet.

Add the lavash squares to the hot oil. Do not overlap. Using tongs, turn over the lavash when they are lightly browned and cook the other side. They cook quickly so watch them closely.

Remove the cooked crisps and place them on the paper towel. Cook another batch. Place a clean paper towel on top of each layer to absorb excess oil.

Replenish the oil in the frying pan as needed and season with sea salt and black pepper. Allow the oil to reach the proper temperature before adding more lavash.

Discard the paper towels when the crisps cool. Store refrigerated in an airtight container. Serve at room temperature.


Spaghetti and Shrimp

To build out the flavors, other ingredients can be added to this easy to make dish. Check out the variations below.
Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound shrimp, washed, shelled and deveined
1 pound spaghetti
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley, washed, dried, leaves only, finely chopped
3 tablespoon sweet butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup pasta water
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Instructions

To help with timing the dish, make the pasta first.

Bring a gallon of water to boil in a large stock pot. Add kosher salt and pasta. Every five minutes use tongs to stir the pasta to keep it separated. Place a strainer in the sink along with a heat-proof cup to capture 1 cup of pasta water. In ten minutes or until the pasta is al dente (firm to the bite), strain the pasta and reserve the cup of pasta water.

Return the pasta to the still hot pot. Add 1 tablespoon sweet butter and 1 teaspoon olive oil, season with 1/4 teaspoon each, freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Stir well with tongs. Lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pot to help the pasta retain heat.

Leave the shrimp whole or cut into bite sized pieces. In a large chefs pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute the shrimp until lightly pink. Remove the cooked shrimp from the pan. Add the garlic, onion and parsley and saute over a medium flame until lightly browned. Stir well to prevent burning. Add 2 tablespoons sweet butter, 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/2 cup pasta water.

Simmer, reduce and taste. Add sea salt and pepper if needed.

Add the cooked pasta and shrimp. Stir well to coat with the sauce. Add small amounts of pasta water if more liquid is needed.  Toss well and serve with grated Parmesan.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup home made roasted tomato sauce to the saute.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs on the pasta before adding the grated cheese.

Toss the pasta with 2 tablespoons finely chopped, crisp bacon.

Add 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes for heat.

Saute 4 shiitake mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced with the garlic, onions and parsley.

Saute 1 cup corn kernels with the garlic, onions and parsley.

Instead of shrimp, use lobster or scallops.


Couscous or Bulgar Salad with Celery

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup instant couscous or fine grained bulgar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 celery stalk, washed, leaves removed, finely chopped
1 scallion, washed, ends trimmed, finely chopped
5 Italian parsley sprigs, leaves removed, washed, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Boil the water. Put the couscous or bulgar into a bowl, add the water, stir, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.

Using a fork, fluff the couscous or bulgar, add the rest of the olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper to taste, toss with the celery, scallion, and parsley.

Serve at room temperature as a salad or a side dish.

Variations:

Add chopped raw tomatoes

Add Iranian cucumbers, washed, peeled, finely chopped

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

Add currants

Couscous or Bulgar with Grilled Vegetables

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup instant couscous or fine grained bulgar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large carrot, washed, peeled, ends removed, cut into 1" long slabs, 1/4" thick
1 large broccoli crown, washed, cut into 1" long slabs, 1/4" thick
5 Italian parsley sprigs, leaves removed, washed, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Boil the water. Put the couscous or bulgar into a bowl, add the water, stir, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.

Toss the carrots and broccoli pieces with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Grill or roast in a 350 degree oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool and finely chop.

Using a fork, fluff the couscous or bulgar, add the rest of the olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper to taste, toss with the cut up carrots and broccoli.

Serve at room temperature as a salad or a side dish.

Variations:

Add 1/4 cup corn kernels, seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, grilled or roasted

Add 1/4 cup olives, pitted, chopped

Add 1 cup spinach leaves, no stems, washed, roughly chopped



Egg Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Crisp Bacon

Crisp bacon bits adds another level of flavor and texture to egg salad. The bacon strips can be cooked first but better is to mince the raw bacon and saute the bits. That way, each bacon bit is nicely browned and holds a uniform shape.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

4 farmers' market fresh large or extra large eggs
1 large carrot, washed, ends trimmed, peeled
1 ear of corn, tassels and husk removed, washed
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, washed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, finely chopped
2 strips of bacon, finely chopped, sauteed until crisp, drained
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots or scallion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

I like to put the eggs into a pot of cold water, turn the flame to medium-high, and cook them for 30 minutes. Many people say that's way too long but it works for me. The yolks come out flaky, the whites dense. Rinse with cold water, take off the shells, and roughly chop.

Slice the carrot into flat slabs about 1/4" thick and 3" long.  Toss in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.  Do the same with the ear of corn.  Grill until lightly browned all over or oven roast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn frequently to avoid burning. Let cool.  Finely chop the carrots. Remove the kernels from the cobs.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped eggs, carrots, corn kernels, parsley, shallots, and crisp bacon bits. Toss. Season with sea salt and black pepper.  Add the mayonnaise and mix well.

Serve on bread, crackers, or lettuce leaves.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped

Omit the bacon

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped, pitted olives

Roast 2 garlic cloves, tossed in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper until lightly browned, peel off the skins, finely chop the soft garlic and add to the egg salad

Add a dash of tabasco or a dusting of cayenne pepper for heat


Open Face BLT with Avocado

Use any kind of bread you love. Personally I prefer thin sliced French or Italian bread for my open faced sandwiches. Depending on the size of the loaf, you will need two to six slices per person.

My favorite bread for a BLT is the Italian bread from Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. Light with a thin crust, the bread perfectly compliments the sandwich's toppings.

To keep its shape, the slices should be lightly toasted.

Serves 4

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

8-24 slices of bread, lightly toasted
8-10 slices of bacon
2 ripe avocados, washed
4 ripe large tomatoes, washed, stem and blossom end removed
8 romaine leaves, ribs removed, or a handful of arugula leaves without the stems, washed, dried
8-16 slices of bread and butter pickles (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper
Mayonnaise

Directions

Set the lightly toasted slices of bread aside to cool.

In batches, cook the bacon in a large frying pan or griddle on a medium-low flame. Turn the slices frequently for even browning, being careful to cook through all the fatty pieces. Place paper towels on a plate. When each bacon strip is cooked, lay it on the paper towel to drain.

While cooking, pour off excess grease into a coffee tin for later disposal.

Cut the cooked bacon pieces so they are the same length as the toasted bread slices.

Depending on your preference, make thin or thick slices of tomatoes and set aside.

When you are ready to assemble the sandwiches, cut the avocados in half, remove the peel and discard the pit. Since the avocado flesh will discolor once it is exposed to the air, do this last step just before serving.

Spread mayonnaise on each slice of lightly toasted bread, place avocado slices on the bread, covering the surface. Lay romaine or arugula leaves on the bacon. Add a slice of tomato, pickle slices (optional) and lastly the bacon slices. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with an ice cold beverage, a tossed salad and fresh fruit for dessert.

Variations

Lightly dust the avocado with cayenne for heat.

Instead of lettuce or arugula use watercress leaves for a peppery flavor.

Toss the avocado slices in a mix of 2 parts olive oil and 1 part fresh lemon juice before placing on the sandwich.

To make an open-faced melted cheese sandwich, lay thin slices of Irish or English cheddar cheese on top of the sandwich, place in a preheated, 350 degree toaster oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese, 1 minute in a toaster oven set on broil and cook until the top of the cheese lightly browns. Serve warm.




Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rise and Shine - Cooking as the Sun Comes Up

There are great pleasures in getting up early and cooking for friends coming for lunch or dinner.
In the summer, getting up as the sun is rising avoids the day's heat. In the winter, I love early morning cooking because the kitchen heats the house with fragrance as baked good come out of the oven and bacon sizzles in the sauté pan.

Before everyone else is awake, the house is quiet. A freshly brewed cup of coffee and NPR's Morning Edition gets me going as I organize my ingredients and pull out the few pots and pans I'll need to make a fun meal.

For a summer brunch, with the weather forecast saying temperatures will top 90 degrees, rising early means the chance to do some light cooking and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the cool of a shaded deck.

Easy-to-make dishes give a big return.
Grilled vegetables, eaten as an appetizer or turned into a simple salad, are light, refreshing and take only a few minutes to prepare.

Or the simplest meal starts with hardboiled eggs cooked in the morning and chilled, then served with remoulade or 1000 island dressing and good cold cuts and cheese.
An omelet takes minutes to make.  Prepared ahead, the fillings can be any combination of sautéed vegetables, meat, fish or poultry with whatever cheese you enjoy.
Gnocchi prepared in the morning, come together with farmers market fresh vegetables or thin slices of prosciutto, dusted with parsley.
A simple baked custard flavored with fresh or cooked fruit, topped with caramelized nuts, served with fresh fruit from the farmers market is the perfect dessert.
Biscuits for strawberry shortcake, baked as the sun is coming up, appear in the afternoon, cut in half and topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
In fall and winter, bacon sautéed chicken with vegetables is perfect to drive away the cold or pork belly roasted with Vietnamese style vegetables and cooked overnight in a 225 F degree oven. The tender, ginger flavored meat adds spice to a simple tossed pasta.
Cooking early in the morning frees the rest of the day to relax, go for a walk and read the Sunday newspaper. Then when it's time to eat, the food is ready and you are a guest at your own table.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Summertime Open Faced BLT

Summertime is the best of times and the worst of times.

When it's hot and humid, nothing makes me happy except air conditioning. But all that heat is good for the garden and summertime tomatoes benefit from all that sun.
Luckily we have neighbors who generously share the beautiful tomatoes that grow in their garden.

A BLT is my favorite way to enjoy tomatoes.

Acidic-sweet tomato slices cozy up to crisp, salty bacon, crunchy lettuce leaves and the comfort of bread in the most satisfying of experiences.

When the rain beats against the dining room windows and the temperature hovers in the mid-40s, a wintertime BLT with hot house tomatoes on slices of a good wheat berry bread with a touch of Best Foods mayonnaise and a bowl of hot vegetable soup satisfies in a good way.

Summertime is something else altogether. First off, I don't want all that bread. In summertime, I want light and cool, not heft.

Open faced sandwiches are perfect for hot weather and an open faced BLT with a slice of avocado is refreshingly delicious. Add a tall glass of iced tea or icy homemade lemonade and you have all you'll need for a refreshing summertime meal.
Open Face BLT with Avocado

Use any kind of bread you love. Personally I prefer thin sliced French or Italian bread for my open faced sandwiches. Depending on the size of the loaf, you will need two to six slices per person.

My favorite bread for a BLT is the Italian bread from Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. Light with a thin crust, the bread perfectly compliments the sandwich's toppings.

To keep its shape, the slices should be lightly toasted.

Serves 4

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

8-24 slices of bread, lightly toasted
8-10 slices of bacon
2 ripe avocados, washed
4 ripe large tomatoes, washed, stem and blossom end removed
8 romaine leaves, ribs removed, or a handful of arugula leaves without the stems, washed, dried
8-16 slices of bread and butter pickles (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper
Mayonnaise

Directions

Set the lightly toasted slices of bread aside to cool.

In batches, cook the bacon in a large frying pan or griddle on a medium-low flame. Turn the slices frequently for even browning, being careful to cook through all the fatty pieces. Place paper towels on a plate. When each bacon strip is cooked, lay it on the paper towel to drain.

While cooking, pour off excess grease into a coffee tin for later disposal.

Cut the cooked bacon pieces so they are the same length as the toasted bread slices.

Depending on your preference, make thin or thick slices of tomatoes and set aside.

When you are ready to assemble the sandwiches, cut the avocados in half, remove the peel and discard the pit. Since the avocado flesh will discolor once it is exposed to the air, do this last step just before serving.

Spread mayonnaise on each slice of lightly toasted bread, place avocado slices on the bread, covering the surface. Lay romaine or arugula leaves on the bacon. Add a slice of tomato, pickle slices (optional) and lastly the bacon slices. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with an ice cold beverage, a tossed salad and fresh fruit for dessert.

Variations

Lightly dust the avocado with cayenne for heat.

Instead of lettuce or arugula use watercress leaves for a peppery flavor.

Toss the avocado slices in a mix of 2 parts olive oil and 1 part fresh lemon juice before placing on the sandwich.

To make an open-faced melted cheese sandwich, lay thin slices of Irish or English cheddar cheese on top of the sandwich, place in a preheated, 350 degree toaster oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese, 1 minute in a toaster oven set on broil and cook until the top of the cheese lightly browns. Serve warm.


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.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What's for Breakfast? Mashed Potatoes and Eggs

A hot breakfast is a smart way to begin the day. But it can take too much time to prepare. Because they're already cooked, left-over mashed potatoes are a quick and easy way to make a nutritious breakfast.

For dinner last Sunday, we had a Caesar salad made with frisee instead of romaine and roast pork (porchetta) flavored with Italian parsley, garlic and onions. Garlic mashed potatoes and roasted whole tomatoes were the sides.  A plate of cut up cara cara oranges and a custard with crystallized ginger and orange juice finished the meal. All in all, dinner was very satisfying.


The next day, the refrigerator was the beneficiary of Sunday's dinner. Considering what was left-over, we were looking at a succession of meals we could have during the week.

Reheated, the porchetta could easily be enjoyed as an entrée or a hot sandwich. The roasted tomatoes would make a delicious pasta sauce. And the mashed potatoes....! They were so delicious the first time around.

Made from King Edward potatoes bought at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, the mashed potatoes were sweet and full of flavor. Certainly we could just reheat them to serve again with the porchetta but they would also be good for breakfast.

From my hippie days, I always save the potato skins when I make mashed potatoes because I add them to stocks. It occurred to me that they would also be good sauteed (to crisp up) and added to the mashed potatoes.

Some bacon would be good too.

Breakfast Mashed Potatoes with Crispy Potato Skins and Onions

Using a non-stick pan is the way to go with this dish. Just be sure to use the pan on a medium-low to medium flame to avoid health risks.

Serves 4

Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup skins, peeled from 6 large potatoes, julienned
2 cups mashed potatoes, King Edward, Sierra Gold or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 medium onion, washed, peeled, root, skin and stem removed, roughly cut
1/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
2 slices cooked, crisp bacon, cut into strips (optional)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over a medium flame, saute the potato skins, onion and parsley until lightly browned, add the bacon (optional) and the mashed potatoes, mix together, season with sea salt and pepper and saute until potatoes are lightly browned on top and form a crust.

Serve with eggs, any style.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Spinach Salad For a Change of Pace

As much as I enjoy arugula, red leaf, and romaine salads, there are times when I need a change. At the farmers' markets these days there is a good supply of regular spinach and the Bloomsdale or heirloom variety, the one with the crinkly leaves.

The nutty flavor and sturdy leaf structure of spinach invites the addition of flavors. So many ingredients go well with spinach. Personally, I like scallions, tomatoes, avocado, olives, grilled corn, and carrots go well with spinach. If you're ok with meat, add crisp bacon, chopped hard boiled eggs, grilled shrimp, sliced chicken breast, or julienned ham.

Any favorite salad dressing will do. We tend to like a simple dressing of olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar, seasoned with sea salt and pepper. The dressing can also be heated to create a wilted spinach salad.

Spinach Salad

Because all the grit has to be removed, spinach is a little more work to clean than arugula or lettuce. If the spinach leaves are still connected to their roots, cut off the root ends while the leaves are tied together. Separate the leaves and put them into the sink with a lot of water. Shake the leaves and remove to a colander. If you want, double rinse by spraying the leaves while they're in the colander.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

2 large bunches spinach, washed thoroughly, stems removed
2 scallions, trimmed, finely chopped
1 carrot, washed, trimmed, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds
1 avocado, washed, peeled, roughly cut
10 cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered
4 brown mushrooms, washed, dried, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grilled corn kernels
1 tablespoon roasted almonds, hazelnuts, or pine nuts, roughly chopped (optional)
1/2 cup croutons (optional)
2 eggs, hard boiled, finely chopped (optional)
4 pieces bacon, crisp, finely chopped (optional)
10 grilled shrimp, washed, peeled, deveined (optional)
4 slices chicken breast, grilled or sauteed (optional)
1/4 cup julienned ham (optional)
Olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced to 1 tablespoon
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Make the salad in a large salad bowl. Tear the large leaves into bite sized pieces. Leave the small leaves whole. Add whatever toppings you like. Make the olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar dressing or use whatever dressing you like and serve as a salad course or as a main course.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

From Father to Son: A Dinner Menu

I enjoy cooking so much, I was happy when my older son Frank asked if I could help him plan a dinner he was going to cook for a friend.

The best meal is one that starts with great ingredients, which means shopping at farmers' markets and specialty shops. Supermarkets are fine for household supplies but only a few--like Gelson's, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Fairway Market, Canyon Market--carry quality produce and meat.

Since Frank will be in San Francisco for the weekend, I suggest he and his friend go to the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Saturday morning. Located on the Embarcadero at Market, he'll find premium vegetables, fruits, cheeses, olives, freshly baked breads, desserts, and flowers. The market is open from 8:00am until 2:00pm. If they go early they'll avoid the lunch-time crowds.

While they walk around the market enjoying the cool breezes off the Bay, they can pick up snacks from Hog Island Oyster Company, a muffin from the Downtown Bakery, or sample cheeses from Andante Dairy. The market is definitely an eat-as-you-shop kind of place.

Because I know Frank won't want to spend more time in the kitchen than necessary, the menu I'm suggesting relies on quick-and-easy techniques. And since I know he understands the importance of cleaning as he cooks--a meal is so much more pleasurable if the kitchen is clean when the cooking is finished--I've tried to minimize the number of pots and pans required.

Appetizers

Serve a plate of 2-3 cheeses, ones that contrast with each other. A Triple Cream (soft) for example and a Comte (firm). Tasting cheeses at the market is a good way to find the ones you like. Olives, fresh fruit, a baguette, and wine all go well with a cheese.

Putting together the appetizer plate will take only a few minutes. Frank and his friend can snack on the appetizers while he prepares dinner.

Salad

For a salad something simple: fresh arugula tossed with crushed roasted hazelnuts and dressed with olive oil and reduced balsamic dressing, seasoned with a little sea salt and pepper.

Or a tomato and avocado salad with a touch of olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese

Yield 2 servings
Time 15 minutes

Ziti or penne takes about 10 minutes to cook in salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. A cup of the pasta water is a key ingredient. When the pasta is strained, put a heat-proof container under the strainer and capture a cup of pasta water.

Ingredients

1/2 box of De Cecco pasta (ziti or penne)
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown or shiitake (washed, dried, thinly sliced longitudinally)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, leaves only, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon sweet butter (unsalted)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup pasta water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt for the pasta water
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Boil 4 quarts of water with the Kosher salt, add the pasta, stir and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Cook until al dente. Strain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, return the pasta to the pot, drizzle with olive oil, stir well, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

In a frying pan, sauté the garlic, mushrooms, and parsley until lightly browned, add the butter and pasta water and simmer, reducing the liquid by half, then add the pasta and toss to coat with the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

Add to the sauté, quartered cherry tomatoes and roughly chopped up spinach leaves.

Sauté fresh corn kernels ( 1/4 cup) and shallots (1 tablespoon) with the mushrooms and parsley.

Chicken Fillets with Parsley-Bacon Topping

Yield 2 servings
Time 10 minutes

Buy either chicken tenders--which are pricey--or skinless, boneless breasts and cut them the long way so each breast makes two 1/2" thick fillets.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts (washed, cut into 1/2" thick fillets) or 4 chicken tenders (washed)
2 slices of bacon (finely chopped)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 avocado (peeled, roughly chopped)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Season the breasts with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Pour a little olive oil into a frying pan and sauté the bacon and parsley on a low flame. Use a fork to break up the pieces and cook until lightly browned. Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Drizzle olive oil into the frying pan and season with sea salt and pepper. Get the pan hot on a medium flame. Add the chicken. The fillets cook quickly because they are thin. Lightly brown on each side.

Top with the sautéd bacon-parsley bits and garnish with chopped avocado on the side.

Salt Steamed Broccoli or Spinach

Yield 2 servings
Time 10 minutes (broccoli) or 5 minutes (spinach)

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli or spinach
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

Method

Wash the broccoli and cut off the florets. If you're using spinach, wash well to get rid of the grit, remove the stems and discard. Put a steamer in a pot, add the water and salt, bring to a boil, add the broccoli florets or spinach, and cover. Steam the broccoli for 10 minutes or the spinach for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with the chicken.

Dessert

Good fruit is available now at the farmers' market: cherries, apricots, early grapes, pluots, cantaloupe, and lots of berries. A plate of fresh fruit and a small cake from the farmers' market would make a delicious dessert. Or, with very little effort, baked pluots and apricots, coupled with ice cream or yogurt, make a beautiful finish to a meal.

Baked Pluots and Apricots

Yield 2 servings
Time
30 minutes

Ingredients

2 apricots
2 pluots or plums (washed, cut in half, pits removed)
Raw sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the halved apricots and pluots on a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet, dust with raw sugar, and bake for 30 minutes until softened.

Serve with ice cream or yogurt.