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Showing posts with label sauteed vegetables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sauteed vegetables. Show all posts

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Winter Pick-Me-Up: Roasted Vegetable Salad


Roasted kale and celery root salad.

In summer, a ripe tomato salad mixed with peppery arugula leaves and bits of salty, creamy Bulgarian feta can be a meal in and of itself. When the weather cools and a weakening sun denies farmers the heat they need to grow nature’s leafy wonders, we still hunger for salads but now it’s time to look to hearty greens and root vegetables to satisfy that craving.
In winter, walking through the local supermarket’s fresh produce section, it’s easy to believe we live in a one-season world. Vegetables and fruit that require summer’s heat are stacked high in the bins. But one taste and it’s easy to tell, these delectables have been grown out of season or traveled long distances to reach our tables.
Root vegetables like celery root, beets, turnips and potatoes grow well in the colder months. When roasted, their starches convert into sugar, coaxing the best out of these subterranean gems.

Winter produce is perfect for roasting

Sturdy leafy greens, like kale, especially black or Tuscan kale, come into their own at this time of year. Delicious raw in a salad, tossed with toasted hazelnuts, and a simple vinaigrette, kale reaches new heights of deliciousness when roasted.
When roasted, oil and heat drive moisture out of the kale, creating an airy crispness. That delicate texture beautifully complements the earthiness of roasted root vegetables when combined in a warm vegetable salad.
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Celeriac, celery root, peeled and cut in half. Credit: David Latt
Having only recently tried celery root or celeriac, I had to look beyond its decidedly unattractive exterior. Put simply, celeriac may have a pretty name, but it is a very ugly duckling.
You have to wonder at the leap of faith it took the first person who ate celeriac. What possessed that brave diner to bite into the pale brown bulb, stippled with stiff, hairy roots?
Only when the woody outer skin is peeled like a pineapple is the pale white flesh revealed. Cut into matchsticks and tossed with olive oil or mayonnaise, raw celeriac makes a refreshingly crisp salad. Like kale, however, celeriac achieves its best self when roasted.

Winter’s Best Salad: Roasted Black Kale, Celery Root, Shiitake Mushrooms, Shallots and Garlic

Simple and easy-to-prepare, a roasted vegetable salad can combine any of your favorite vegetables. For this dish, I wanted to complement roasted kale’s crispiness with tender, savory roasted celery root. Shiitake mushrooms, whole garlic cloves and large shallots added flavors to round out the umami of the dish.
Serves 4
Ingredients
2 pounds celery root or celeriac, washed, peeled, cut into batons 2 inches by ½ inch, yields 1½ pounds
6 shiitake mushrooms, washed, halved
3 garlic cloves, root ends and skin removed
1 bunch black kale, washed, stems removed
3 large shallots or 6 small shallots or 1 medium yellow onion, root ends and outer skin removed, washed, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Directions
1. Heat the oven to 350 F.
2. Separately, toss each vegetable with a drizzle of olive oil, season with sea salt, pepper and cayenne (optional).
3. On a large baking pan lined with a Silpat sheet, parchment paper or aluminum foil, lay out the vegetables separately because they cook at different times. Place the pan in the oven.
4. Every five minutes, use tongs to turn the vegetables for even cooking, using the following times as a guide: kale leaves (10 minutes), shiitake mushrooms, shallots and garlic cloves (20 minutes), celery root (30 minutes).
5. Except for the kale, using a paring knife, check each vegetable for doneness.
6. After cooking, roughly chop the shiitake mushrooms, shallots and garlic cloves.
7. In a flat bowl, toss together the celeriac, shitake mushrooms, shallots and garlic cloves. Top with the crisp kale leaves.
8. Serve immediately to avoid the kale leaves losing their crispness.
Variations
  • Together with the other vegetables, roast 2 large carrots, ends trimmed, peeled. Cut these into 1-inch rounds, seasoned with sea salt, pepper and olive oil and added to the chopped salad after roasting.
  • Roast 2 large beets, whole, stems and leaves removed, washed, drizzled with olive oil. Place these on a lined baking sheet and cook in a 400 F oven for 45-60 minutes or until a paring knife pierces the flesh easily. Use rubber gloves to handle the beets. When cool to the touch, trim ends and peel off the skin. Rough chop the beets and toss with olive oil, sea salt and pepper separately so they do not color the other vegetables. Place them on the bottom of the serving bowl before adding the other vegetables.
  • Season the vegetables with your preference of herbs, such as fresh rosemary, sage or tarragon, or toss any one of the herbs with olive oil and roast on a lined baking sheet in a 350 F oven for five minutes. Remove the leaves, finely chop and sprinkle over the cooked vegetables before tossing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Need A Pan That’s Smokin’ Hot? Reach For Carbon Steel

Carbon steel sauté pan on high heat, smoke rising from the blended oil. Credit: David Latt

To create beautifully charred meats and crispy skin fish filets, restaurant chefs use sauté pans designed to take high heat. Searing caramelizes the outside and locks in flavor. In the home kitchen, cast iron and stainless steel pans are favored by many, but carbon steel has advantages over both. No health issues are associated with using carbon at high heat and cleanup is easy. Like woks, once a carbon steel pan is seasoned, the surface turns black so there is no need to brandish a scouring pad and cleanser.

Working with carbon steel


Available in cooking supply stores, the heavy duty pans are half the cost of stainless steel and twice the price of cast iron. In Southern California, Surfas Culinary District carries the pans in their stores and online. Once seasoned according to the manufacturer’s directions, the pans are virtually indestructible and designed to last a lifetime.Some additional care needs to be taken. Never soak a carbon steel pan in water or place in a dishwasher. Simply scrub with a little soap to remove particulates and grease, rinse, then heat the pan on a stove top burner until dry and the pan is ready to use again. Acidic ingredients such as lemon juice and tomatoes can affect the seasoning of the pan, but that is easily remedied by following the manufacturer’s directions.
The pans I use are the heavy duty de Buyer and the Paderno 12.6-inch. A bit lighter than a comparably sized cast iron pan, the extra long handle never gets hot when used on the stove top. At high heat, the surface of the carbon steel pan becomes nonstick with the smallest amount of oil.
Very much like Chinese stir-frying, cooking at high heat requires all ingredients to be prepped before cooking begins. To avoid risking a burn, experts suggest using a pair of long metal tongs, 12 inches or longer to manipulate the ingredients in the pan.

Get ready for some serious heat

A good exhaust hood with a fan above the stove is also necessary. High heat’s sweet smoke can turn from pleasure to pain if unvented. Many a meal has been spoiled by the annoying screech of a smoke alarm.
Use an oil that can tolerate high temperatures. A proponent of high-heat cooking to prepare his signature crispy salmon filet, chef Taylor Boudreaux of Napa Valley Grille in West Los Angeles, Calif., recommends a blend of canola (80%) and olive oil (20%).
Keep a premixed bottle on hand in the kitchen and you’ll always be ready for a smokin’ good time.
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A medley of vegetables -- carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, onions and garlic -- sizzling on a carbon steel sauté pan. Credit: David Latt

Pan Seared Bone-In Ribeye Steak

I believe a little bit of steak goes a long way, so my preferred portion is 6 to 8 ounces. Quality rather than quantity makes the difference in this supremely easy-to-make, protein-centric dish. Buy the highest quality steak available.
A good steak deserves good accompaniments that are entirely personal in nature. One person draws pleasure from a side of fries, another prefers a baked sweet potato with butter. Some diners wouldn’t eat red meat without a glass of red wine. I enjoy a charred steak with caramelized onions and shiitake mushrooms served alongside garlic-parsley mashed potatoes, a carrot-broccoli sauté and an ice-cold perfect Manhattan up with a twist. But that’s me.
The times indicated in the recipe are estimates. The thickness of the steak will affect how long the meat needs to be cooked to reach the desired level of doneness.
Serves 1
Ingredients
1 bone-in ribeye, T-bone or Porterhouse steak
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon blend of canola oil (80%) and olive oil (20%)
1 teaspoon sweet butter (optional, see variations)
1 garlic clove, peeled, root end trimmed (optional, see variations)
½ teaspoon finely chopped chives, or the green part of a scallion (optional, see variations)
Directions
1. Wash and pat dry the steak. Season lightly with sea salt and black pepper. Set aside.
3. Place the carbon steel pan on a burner on a high flame.
4. When the pan lightly smokes, drizzle the oil into the pan. In seconds the oil will smoke.
5. Using tongs, place the steak in the pan. Press down gently along the edges and the meat next to the bone. Pressing too firmly will force juices out of the steak which would diminish the flavors.
6. Allow to cook and sizzle. Steaks are best served medium-rare. Make adjustments as to time if you prefer yours less or more cooked.
7. After 3 to 5 minutes, turn the steak over. After another 3 to 5 minutes, press against the middle of the steak. If the meat feels solid, it is cooked. If it can be pressed down easily, then it probably requires more cooking. To be certain, use a sharp paring knife to make small cut in the middle of the steak. Inspect and determine if the steak has cooked to the state of doneness you enjoy.
8. Serve hot with your preferred sides and beverage of choice.
Variations
1. Use a combination of stovetop searing and oven baking, as many restaurant chefs do. To do this, sear the steak for 2 minutes on each side, then place in a 400 F oven for 5 minutes. To remove the pan from the oven, remember to use an oven mitt. The handle that rarely gets hot on the stove top will be very hot after spending time in the oven.
2. Test for doneness as before. If not cooked to your preference, place back in the oven.
3. After removal from the oven or the stovetop, drop a teaspoon of sweet butter and a crushed garlic clove (peeled) into the pan. Spoon the butter-garlic mixture over the steak, bathing it in the sauce. Discard the melted butter and garlic before serving. Place the steak on the plate with the sides.
4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon finely chopped chives or the green part of a scallion over the steak just before serving.

Caramelized Farmers Market Vegetables

Perfect as a side dish or as an entrée with noodles or rice, the vegetables should be charred but not overcooked so their texture is al dente. Using the freshest, highest quality vegetables will create a better tasting dish. Butter is optional, but a small amount can add a level of umami that turns a good plate of vegetables into an outstanding one.
Serves 4
Ingredients
2 large carrots, washed, root and stem ends removed, peeled, cut into rounds or 1 -nch oblongs
1 medium onion, washed, root and stem ends removed, peeled, julienned
3 garlic cloves, skins and root ends removed, smashed, finely diced
2 cups broccoli florets, washed, sliced long ways into bite-sized pieces
2 cups Brussels sprouts, root ends trimmed, cut into quarters or julienned
1 cup shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, stem ends trimmed, thin sliced long ways
1 teaspoon blend of canola oil (80%) and olive oil (20%)
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sweet butter (optional)
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Directions
1. Assemble all the vegetables on the cutting board, ready to use. If serving with steamed rice or cooked pasta, have that prepared as well.
2. Set the burner on the highest setting. Place the carbon steel pan on the burner. Allow to heat until a small amount of smoke begins to form.
3. Drizzle in the blended oil. When it smokes, add all the vegetables.
4. Using the tongs, toss the vegetables frequently to prevent burning. Toss for 3 to 5 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked al dente.
5. Remove the pan from the burner. Because the carbon steel is still very hot, continue tossing the vegetables. Add the butter and cayenne (optional). Toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional sea salt and pepper.
6. Serve hot as a side dish or with the pasta or rice.
Variations
— If caramelized onions are preferred, cook them separately until they take on a golden color, then add the other vegetables.
— Substitute or add vegetables you enjoy, such as zucchini, turnips, kale or kohlrabi. Since some vegetables cook more quickly than others, learn which ones need to go into the pan ahead of the others. For instance, small diced turnips and kohlrabi would go in first before adding the other vegetables.
— Instead of adding butter and cayenne (optional), add 2 tablespoons soy sauce or an Asian sauce (optional), and for added heat, add 3 tablespoons finely chopped Korean kimchi (optional).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Alaskan Halibut in a Roasted Tomato-Spinach-Shiitake Mushroom Sauté

When the Deadliest Catch first aired, I watched with morbid curiosity as the crews manhandled heavy metal cages. Those cages sometimes swung wildly in the air, smashing against the ship's bulkhead, threatening to hospitalize crew members.

Many times, risking life and limb did not have the hoped for payoff when the cages contained the ocean's odds and ends rather than the prized catch of Alaskan king crab.

When luck was with them, a cage would be filled with crabs, their pointed, armored legs poking out at any hand that risked a close encounter.

After that, when I ordered a crab cocktail I had newfound respect for my food. The crab meat might be delicate and sweet, but the effort it took to snatch it from the icy, turbulent ocean was marked by sweat, fear and danger.

On so many levels, when I am cooking or about to eat, I am happy to be ignorant of the difficult work it takes to get the food from ocean or farm to my table.

Recently, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute made it easy for me. They offered to send a box of Alaska seafood for me to prepare and write about.

Certainly I had bought, cooked and eaten Alaskan seafood before because it is available from local purveyors big (Ralphs and Gelson's) and small (Malibu Seafood).
From the extensive seafood available in Alaskan waters, I was offered king crab (how could I refuse!), halibut, cod, salmon and scallops. When the samples arrived, I happily opened the super-sized box to find the two pound vacuum packed packages of seafood perfectly chilled by dry ice and freezer packs.

I began my Alaskan adventure with the halibut.
Halibut with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Spinach and Shiitake Mushrooms

A thick filet can be cut into smaller pieces or prepared whole, which in this instance, meant a piece just under two pounds in weight. I liked the idea of cooking the filet whole and then slicing manageable pieces for serving.
A key ingredient is the roasted tomato sauce. You can certainly buy canned sauce, but homemade roasted tomato sauce is wonderfully easy to make, tastes much better than any commercial version and can be prepared and refrigerated several days in advance or frozen weeks or even months before using.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 pounds halibut filet
1 bunch spinach, roots removed, washed to remove grit
4 large ripe tomatoes, washed, stems removed
2 garlic cloves, washed, ends and skins removed, finely chopped
6 shallots or 1 medium yellow onion, washed, ends trimmed and skins removed, roughly chopped
1/4 pound or 6-8 shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, washed and pat dried, roughly chopped or thin sliced
1 tablespoon sweet butter
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray lined with a nonstick Silpat sheet, parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with sea salt and pepper. Bake 1 hour. Remove and let cool.
The liquid in the bottom of the baking tray is a combination of seasoned olive oil and a clear liquid given off by tomatoes when they cook. Set up a food mill or a fine mesh stainer over a non-reactive bowl.  Pour the olive oil-tomato liquid into the food mill/strainer and add the cooked tomatoes.

Press the tomatoes through the mill/strainer, using a rubber spatula to collect all of the pulp on the bottom side of the mill/strainer.  Discard the seeds and skin or use with other ingredients to make a delicious vegetable stock.

Place the roasted tomato sauce aside in a sealed container. If not used immediately, refrigerate up to several days or freeze.

Defrost, wash and pat dry the halibut and set aside.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Many people discard spinach stems. I prefer to use them. Finely chop the stems and sauté until lightly browned. Add the shiitake mushrooms, onions and garlic and sauté until softened. Roughly chop the spinach leaves and add to the frying pan.

Once the leaves have begun to wilt, add the roasted tomato sauce (between 1 and 1 1/2 cups) and sweet butter. Simmer for ten minutes. Taste and adjust with sea salt and pepper as needed.

The halibut filet can be grilled on a barbecue or sautéed in a frying pan with similar results.  If you are using a barbecue, to prevent the fish from sticking, be certain to apply oil to the grill. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil on a paper towel and liberally rub across the grill.

If you are using a frying pan, use 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat on a medium flame.

Using a large metal spatula to carefully lift the fish without leaving any of the flesh behind, lightly brown the filet on both sides.

Place the halibut on a cutting board and carefully slice the filet into large pieces.  Place on a serving platter and top with the heated vegetable sauté.

Serve with freshly cooked pasta or rice or with fresh baked French bread.

Variations

Along with the vegetables, sauté one piece of bacon, finely chopped, until lightly browned.

For a Spanish style flavor, season the vegetable sauté with 1/2 teaspoon paprika.

For heat, season the vegetable sauté with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne.



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.

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.

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, December 8, 2008

Couscous Steps Up to the Plate as a Main Course

Traditional couscous has a home in the flavorful cuisines of North Africa. Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and Libya have perfected a small grained, steamed couscous that contrasts well with their spicy sauces. Preparing authentic couscous requires a steamer and considerable patience. The result, while delicious, is too time-consuming for most people.

Instant couscous is now widely available, made with either white or whole wheat flour. Requiring only 10 minutes in a hot water bath, this small grained version is perfect for a grilled vegetable couscous salad.

There is also a larger pearl-sized, "Israeli" couscous, which is prepared in a manner similar to risotto. The grains are first lightly toasted in olive oil, then a liquid is added. The grains soak up the liquid as they cook and expand 2-3 times their original size. With the addition of vegetables or meat, this version can easily be a main course.

Couscous with Vegetables

Aesthetically I like to keep all the ingredients about the same size as the cooked couscous grains. Because couscous is a pasta, it will continue to absorb all the liquid it's given, so the couscous should be served as soon as it is cooked. Don't put in too much liquid or you risk overloading the grains and making them mushy.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup Israeli couscous
1 medium yellow onion, washed, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, washed, trimmed, finely chopped
4 brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves and stems
1/2 cup corn kernels
2-3 cups liquid, water
1 tablespoon sweet butter
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Over a medium flame, heat a tablespoon of olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper. Add the couscous and lightly brown. Remove from the pan.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper, and saute the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, corn, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add the butter and put back the toasted couscous, stir well, pour in 2 cups of water.

Heat uncovered for 5-10 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Taste a couscous grain. If it needs more liquid, add a cup of water, stir, and continue to simmer another 5 minutes. Taste and add more sea salt and pepper as needed.

Serve immediately.

Variations

Add 1 cup chopped spinach leaves, no stems, when you add the liquid.

Add finely chopped broccoli or squash or red peppers or tomatoes to the vegetable saute.

Use meat stock (chicken, beef, or veal) instead of water.

Add finely chopped chicken meat or sausage to the vegetable saute.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Fork in the Road: Beet Greens,Tofu, and Brown Rice

I think of my cooking as healthy because I like to cook with farmers' market fresh ingredients, I don't make elaborate sauces, and I'm careful to minimize fat. But I do cook with eggs, cream, red meat, bread, and lots of pasta. My wife, Michelle, enjoys what I cook but she's looking for a bit of a change. She's decided to try a fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, no red meat, non-caffeine, sugar-free diet.

For me, cooking this way will require adjustments. I'll try my best to make meals that have flavor and keep to her diet. This is a little terra incognita to me and it would be nice to have some road maps. If you have any suggestions, please send them in.

Sautéed Beet Greens with Tofu and Brown Rice
Yield: 4
Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

1 bunch farmers' market fresh beets
1 yellow onion (washed, peeled, roughly chopped)
5 garlic cloves (washed, peeled, roughly chopped)
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella (washed, roughly chopped)
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
1 pound firm tofu
2 cups cooked brown rice
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Prepare the brown rice first. I use a Japanese rice cooker and the proportion is 1 cup rice to 1 1/2 cups water. Turn on the rice cooker. When the cooker shuts off, fluff the rice, and put the cover back on for 10 minutes.

When you buy the beets, pick out a bunch with fresh looking leaves. To prepare the beets, cut off the beet greens. Clean the beets and reserve to use raw or roasted in a salad.

Soak the greens in water to remove grit. Cut the stems from the leaves. Finely chop the stems and roughly chop the leaves.

On a medium-high flame, heat a large pan with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper. Sauté the beet green stems with the onions and garlic until they are lightly browned, then add the greens and cook until wilted. Stir frequently. Add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned. Add 1 cup water to deglaze the pan, reduce the flame and simmer 15 minutes.

Taste the greens to confirm that they are tender. At this moment I would add a pat of butter but that's entirely optional.

Pat dry the tofu and make 1" thick slabs, then cut the slabs into 1"x1" cubes. The tofu needs to be heated. That can be accomplished in a number of ways. Personally I like to lightly sauté tofu to add a bit more flavor. In a frying pan, heat olive oil and lightly brown the tofu pieces. If you'd like to avoid this step, the tofu can be heated in a microwave.

Add the tofu to the beet green sauté and gently toss together to coat the tofu with the sauce. Serve with the brown rice on the side.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Birthday, the Oxtail Soup is in the Freezer

We don't see our older son, Frank, as often as we'd like. He's started a new job and moved across town to West Hollywood so it isn't easy to coordinate our busy schedules. We miss our time together, especially the chance to have a meal and catch up. As a parent, one of my pleasures is cooking for the boys. Since Frank can't always come to us, we've worked out a way that the food can get to him.

When my mom moved back to California from Costa Rica, she didn't enjoy cooking any longer. Her apartment had a full kitchen but she pretty much survived on microwaved food. When she came to our house, we'd make her home-cooked meals but that wasn't often enough, only once every several months. In time we came up with a plan. Whenever we'd visit her, we'd fill her freezer with food I'd prepared so she'd have home-cooked meals whenever she wanted. Frank gets the benefit of that well-rehearsed system. As often as possible I try to do the same for him.

When he was growing up one of his favorite dishes was oxtail soup. Since his birthday is tomorrow, I thought that would be a nice addition to his freezer.

Oxtail Soup

Foods freeze well when a liquid coats the surface. Meat rubbed with olive oil survives freezing without any damage. Soups and stews do well because the food bits are submerged in liquid. The oxtail meat is succulent, but it takes several hours of braising to coax out all of its considerable flavor.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 4 hours + overnight in the refrigerator

Ingredients

2 pounds oxtails (washed)
4 carrots (washed, ends trimmed, peeled, cut into 1" rounds)
8 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
2 medium yellow onions (peeled, ends trimmed, roughly chopped)
1 cup Italian parsley (washed, finely chopped)
30 whole peppercorns
2 cups mushrooms (washed, sliced) portabella, shiitake, or brown
2 medium tomatoes (washed)
3 ounces tomato paste (preferably an Italian brand like Cento)
1/4 pound green beans (ends trimmed, cut into 2" lengths)
1 small bunch spinach (ends trimmed, washed thoroughly, roughly chopped)
2 ears of corn (husks and silks removed, cut into 2" lengths or kernels removed from the cob)
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove, let cool, pull off the skin, and roughly chop. In a large dutch oven brown the oxtails with olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, remove from the pan, pour off the excess fat and lightly brown 2 carrots, 1 chopped onion, 4 garlic cloves, the Italian parsley, 20 whole peppercorns, and 1 cup of the mushroom slices. Return the oxtails to the pan along with the chopped roasted tomatoes and 8 cups of water. Cover and simmer for 3 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone.

Remove the oxtails from the liquid, let cool, remove the meat and discard the bones. Strain out the cooked vegetables and discard. Return the meat to the liquid and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning skim off and discard the fat. Lightly brown the remaining vegetables with olive oil and the 10 whole peppercorns. Add the meat and soup, stir in the tomato paste and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt. Serve with a fresh baguette, a plate of plain pasta or a mashed potato, and a salad.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

At the Santa Monica Farmers' Market

Today was one of those picture perfect moments in Southern California. After days of overcast skies and the threat of rain, the sun was shining brightly and the sky was a deep blue. A few women had on tank tops and some men were wearing cargo-shorts, but there was enough of a cool breeze that light sweatshirts were still the order of the day.

Last week the Santa Monica Farmers' Market was uncrowded--maybe people were out of town in advance of Memorial Day--but today was another story. Getting close to the farmers' tables took a lot a patience and excuse-me's.

Flowers were everywhere and as Russ Parsons described in today's Los Angeles Times, early season cherries made an appearance--Rainiers, Burlats, Black Tartarians, Queen Annes, and Brooks.

The best news was the return of the pluot. Besides the Ha Farm's Mountain Grown Fuji Apples, Scott Farm's pluots and plums (which come later in the season) are my favorite fruits. There were nectarines and peaches but they looked too green and didn't have the fullness that comes from long days of summer heat.

Jimmy Williams of Hay Ground Organic Gardening was selling potted herbs and vegetables. Amazingly he grows all of his high-quality plants in the backyard of his Hollywood home. In the past I had been tempted to buy his plants but never did because our backyard was too heavily shaded. Happily our next-door neighbor is renovating her house and she's thinned out the giant bamboo that had doomed our garden to perpetual shade. To celebrate our backyard's return to full-sun, I picked up an Italian parsley and three tomato plants: Green Zebra, Sweet Olive, and Cherokee Purple.

Walking through the market today made me very happy. Compared to the waxy displays in the supermarket produce section, the farmers' market feels alive with displays of freshly cut flowers, mounds of cherries, arugula, corn, squash, onions, garlic, artichokes, asparagus, carrots, beets, bok choy, spinach, lemons, oranges, apples, apricots, cantaloupe, Lily's eggs, Rockenwagner's baked goods, Carlsbad Aquafarm's shellfish....the list goes on and on.

Because Michelle is out of town, I didn't need much, just the pluots, a bunch of scallions, parsley, and arugula for Michael's salads. The cherries looked so beautiful I couldn't resist buying a pound. I could happily have eaten them straight out of the bag, but friends were coming for dinner and with a little extra effort the cherries would turn into an easy-to-make dessert. I ate one handful and consigned the rest to the oven.

Baked Cherries
Yield 4-6 Servings
Time 45 Minutes

1 pound cherries
1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pit the cherries and put the halves on a Silpat sheet on a roasting pan. Lightly sprinkle the cherries with raw sugar. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove and let cool. Cherry nectar will have accumulated inside each cherry, accented by the raw sugar's caramel flavor.

Dust with raw sugar and serve with yogurt, ice cream, or mixed with other fruits like mango or cantaloupe.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

One Old Friend, Two New Dishes

When you see an old friend after many years' absence, what's the right thing to do? In my case, it means cook a great meal for my buddy, Hank Gilpin. Years ago I moved to Providence, Rhode Island after growing up in LA. It's difficult to imagine two places more different in culture and size. When I first arrived in Providence, I was invited to a party. With the directions came the instruction, "I live on the other side of town." I drove for twenty minutes, the time it takes to drive across LA, but twenty minutes in Providence meant I ended up in Massachusetts.

Going on a tour of East Coast colleges with our son, we knew we would drive through Rhode Island. We definitely had to stay overnight at Hank's converted church in Lincoln, a few miles outside of Providence. Hank established himself as a major voice in woodworking decades ago. His furniture is remarkable for its simplicity and elegance. He is one of those rare individuals who proves that art can be a business.

When I first met Hank, I was pretty unhappy. I didn't like Providence, East Coast weather, or all those ubiquitous trees. In California I was used to an uncluttered landscape. Driving the freeways, I could see for miles. In New England, the forests ruined the view. Hank took me for walks in the woods where he talked about the different kinds of trees, how the wood changed over time, and how he took that into account when making a piece of furniture. In time, he made me appreciate Rhode Island. If events hadn't conspired otherwise, I probably wouldn't have moved back to LA.

When we got to Hank's, it was still early enough that Michelle and Michael decided to drive over to Tufts and have a look around. That gave us a couple of hours to catch up, check out places I remembered, and prepare dinner. Rhode Island has great lobsters and clams, so our first stop was Captains Catch. We also went by Federal Hill, the Italian part of Providence, where we picked up a fresh whole chicken at Antonelli Poultry and a good pecorino romano at Costantino's. On the way back to the car, we bought a delicious chocolate cake at Pastiche. After a coffee and more catching up, we realized we better get dinner started. It had gotten late.

Back at the church, Hank poured bourbon shots and the work began. The lobster was washed, waiting its turn in the sink. Artichokes were trimmed and ready to cook. Chicken stock was started. A mushroom, garlic chicken ragout was bubbling away. Steamers were steaming. Pasta water was boiling. Chicken breasts were marinating. The parsley-caper salsa was ready to serve with the fresh mozzarella.

When I cut open the lobster I saw something completely unexpected: perfectly fresh tomalley and coral, the colors bright and clean. In LA when we buy a New England lobster, how long has it been out of the sea? Days? Weeks? This lobster had been caught the day before. The chicken also yielded a surprise: a beautifully plump liver. Again, freshness made the difference. I decided we'd have some impromptu appetizers. Hank opened a bottle of Merlot.

Figuring out what to make came quickly. A simple sauté for both. To serve the chicken livers, toasted pieces of Italian bread in olive oil, but for the tomally and coral something more delicate was needed. Lavash cut into 2" squares, dredged in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, and roasted in a 350 degree oven for 2 minutes created crispy squares that were the perfect compliment to the creamy tomalley and coral.

With the rest of the dinner under control, Hank and I enjoyed our appetizers and Merlot, then we set the kitchen counter with plates and platters full of food. Michael and Michelle returned from their adventure, tired but happy to have seen Tufts. They were revived by the dinner waiting for them. Nice what two old friends can do when they have time to visit.

Chicken Livers on Toast

Freshness is the key. The livers need to be plump and firm, with no discoloration. Chopping the livers into dime-sized pieces means they will cook quickly.

1 large chicken liver, washed, the membrane removed, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon shallot or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet butter
1 slice of Italian bread, crusts removed
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the slice of bread into ½" by 1" rectangles and sauté them in the olive oil until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. In the same frying pan, on a medium flame, sauté the parsley, garlic, onions, and capers until lightly browned, add the butter, then the livers, carefully browning them on each side. Serve on the toasts.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 5 minutes.

Lobster Tomalley and Coral on Lavash

Bake the lavash ahead as described above.

Tomalley and Coral from 1 lobster, washed
2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
½ garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
6 2" squares of baked lavash
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon avocado, finely chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Marinate the tomalley and coral with the garlic, shallot, 1 teaspoon of the parsley, and olive oil for 30 minutes, then sauté with the butter in a hot pan until the coral turns red. Put a small mound of the tomalley and coral on the lavash square, topped with the avocado and parsley.

Serves 2. Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Marinating Time: 30 minutes. Cooking Time: 5 minutes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Vegetable Sauté for a Farmers' Market Lunch

After weeks of cloudy, cold weather, today was all blue skies and 70's-warm. The Santa Monica Farmers' Market had a selection of Southern California winter produce: sugar snap peas, English peas, carrots, broccoli, spinach, turnips, beets, Yukon potatoes, fingerlings, asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms, bok choy... Some days a simple vegetable sauté makes the best meal. Today that was our lunch.

Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetable Saute

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 large carrots, peeled, cut into large rounds
1 lb sugar snap peas, washed, ends & strings removed
4 Yukon potatoes, washed, cut into chunks (not peeled)
10 brown mushrooms, washed, sliced
2 bunches asparagus, fat ones, washed, bottom end trimmed
4 garlic cloves, peeled, thin sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons sweet butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Sauté the potatoes and gralic in the olive oil on a medium flame until browned. Add the carrots, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, and asparagus. Cook for 5 minutes, turning frequently. Add stock or water and butter, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cover, raise the heat, and reduce the liquid to coat the vegetables.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An Easy Sauté with Carrots and Brussels Sprouts

Rushing home with no time to cook anything complicated. That doesn't mean I'm ok with a throw-together dinner that is boring or visually uninteresting. The carrot and Brussels sprouts sauté turns a simple grilled chicken breast, piece of fish, or steak into a satisfying meal.

4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1" long slabs
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, washed, stem trimmed, quartered
1 garlic clove, peeled, jullienned
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup water

Sauté the carrots, Brussels sprouts, and garlic in the olive oil and butter until lightly browned. Add water and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Serves 4.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 30 minutes.