Summer salads

May 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

I feel like I missed the entire month of April. May showed up entirely too quickly this year. If it flies like last month did, then summer is in a hurry too. While I love cold weather comfort foods, summer brings something more exciting to the table: produce! Summer, to me, is for salads, maddresses in wine glasses, and days on the deck. They might seem basic, but salads are opportunities for endless combinations. Anything in the kitchen fridge is fair game – goat cheese, olives, fresh basil, raspberries, pasta. When I was little, the Betty Crocker box mixes and their add-water-now-stir methodology (really just baking in general) got old quickly. Salads could have been simple, but I was twelve and making my own croutons out of Arnold’s bread and olive oil. A basic lunch turned into a long therapy session of halving cherry tomatoes and toasting pine nuts. Call it a weird habit for a pre-teen but it lead to a pretty satisfying talent. These are just a couple of my favorites. Mix and match as you please, but my secret to good salad is balancing acidity with softer flavors: campari tomatoes and beets, orange segments and fennel. The earthier elements round out the dish while the acidic ingredients brighten things up and keep each bite exciting. Add cheese or chicken to either one for a more substantial meal.

Beet & radish salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch red beets (about 4), roasted, peeled, and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 lb radishes, quartered
  • 1/2 lb campari tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 hazelnuts, roasted and chopped
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • juice of half of a lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl or serving platter. Squeeze lemon over the top and drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Be careful not to toss too much, as the beets will turn the radishes purple, and you’ll loose the pretty contrast of the dish.

Orange & fennel salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1 bag mixed greens
  • 1 bulb fennel, peeled and sliced
  • 2 oranges, segmented
  • white wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
Directions
Combine first four ingredients and toss to combine. Drizzle vinegar and extra virgin olive oil over the top and toss to coat. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Braised chicken

April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Chicken, chicken, chicken. If your family is anything like mine was growing up, chicken was a staple on the household menu. So popular was chicken in my kitchen, and so thrilled was my mom to cook it for what must have been the hundredth time, that the innocent chicken earned a not-so-innocent adjective that has since been attached to its name as a running joke. Well, here is a French-style update to the infamous, f-ing chicken.

Using bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts may seem intimidating at first, but there is really no difference in the work to prepare them other than a slightly longer cooking time. Both the bone and the skin add flavor, and braising the breasts keeps them tender and juicy. Use whatever accompanying vegetables you like. Potatoes would be delicious. For a lighter option, leave out the starchier sides and serve over spaghetti squash.

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • 1 T butter
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • herbes de Provence
  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, quartered and separated
  • 1 head of garlic, halved cross-wise
  • A few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 lemon cut into wedges
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 heaping tablespoon dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Preheat a large saute pan with olive oil and butter over high heat. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and herbes de Provence. When the butter and oil mixture is hot, place the chicken, skin-side-down, in the pan. Resist the urge to nudge the breasts back and forth; let a nice brown crust develop. When they’ve browned on the first side (after about 8 minutes), turn them to brown the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate and take the pan off the heat.

Prepare a large Corningware dish or roasting pan with a thin layer of olive oil. Add the Brussels sprouts, carrots, onion, and garlic. Place the thyme sprigs on top of the vegetables. Cover with a splash of each, wine and chicken stock to prevent the vegetables and chicken from drying out. Place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the vegetables. Squeeze a couple of the lemon wedges over the chicken and then scatter them about the dish. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.

Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, return your saute pan to the heat. When it is warm again, add the rest of the wine. Reduce by half. Add the rest of the stock, reduce by half. Whisk in the mustard and add about a half tablespoon of herbes de Provence and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until you are ready to serve.

Plate the chicken over a starch. I used spaghetti squash instead, but you can use anything you like. Mashed potatoes would be delicious. Scatter a portion of vegetables over the top and spoon some of the pan sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if you like. Serve immediately.

Fusion

March 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

With a scattered brain, and a randomly-stocked refrigerator, what started as a pork stir-fry turned into a happy medley of Asian, Cuban, and Mexican components – all wrapped up in a corn tortilla. Marinated in teriyaki, sesame oil, wine, and garlic, pork tenderloin was brightened up by fresh mango salsa and a drizzle of chimichurri. Slices of cucumber add a crunch to these flavor-packed, healthy fusion tacos.

Ingredients

Serves 3-4

  • 1 pork tenderloin, marinated at least 2 hours (recipe below)
  • 1/2 english cucumber, sliced
  • 12 small corn tortillas

For the marinade:

  • 1/2 cup low sodium teriyaki sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tbs. sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ground black pepper

For the salsa:

  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • the juice of 1/2 a lime
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

For the chimichurri:

  • 1 large bunch parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • garlic salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Remove the pork from the refrigerator to let it come to room temperature. Salt it  to taste. Doing this now pulls the juices to the exterior of the pork and allows for a better crust to form on the outside during searing.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the ingredients for the salsa. Set aside.

In a food processor, combine the ingredients for the chimichurri. Grind until smooth. You may need to adjust the amount of liquid depending on how much parsley you use, and how wet it is when you use it. You can add more wine, oil, or lemon juice depending on how acidic you prefer your sauce. You can always add water if you like the flavor as is. Set aside.

When the pork has come to room temperature, preheat an all-clad skillet with olive oil over high heat. Sear the pork on one side. When it has browned nicely, rotate the tenderloin. Brush the browned side with the marinade. Once the second side has browned, sear the first side again. Depending on the shape of your tenderloin, you may be able to do this on four surfaces. If that is the case, continue rotating and glazing until you have browned each side twice: the initial browning, and then a second time after glazing. You may only be able to do two sides, and that’s fine too. This creates a beautiful crust and a caramelized glaze on the pork. Once you have finished the searing, remove the pork to an oiled baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove it when the center is slightly too raw. Cover with tin foil and allow to rest about ten minutes. Carry-over cooking will leave it perfectly pink in the middle. While the pork rests, warm the tortillas in the oven.

Cut the pork in 1/2 inch slices. Build the tacos with a layer of pork (two or three slices) a heaping spoonful of mango salsa, several cucumber slices and a drizzle of chimichurri. Or, arrange all components on a platter and let diners create their own. Serve immediately.

A makeover and a bang

February 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

A long hiatus calls for a little bit of groveling. So Salty-Sweet and I are all dolled up (notice its makeover?) and serving you dinner. Forgive us?

Let me start by saying that being home in Connecticut over the holidays leaves ample time for menu planning. This year’s Christmas weekend was a multi-course marathon. Antipasti, sausage canapes, and beouf bourguignon are Christmas Eve classics in my family. Now, let me explain the following by saying that lengthy menu planning leaves plenty of time for ambition to marinate. And so the Christmas dinner Paella was born. Usually my recipes take a couple of rounds to make it to Salty-Sweet, but this one gets to skip initiation. It’s a blend of careful research and several tastings over the years, tainted only by the fact that my family and I had already consumed more than our fair share of sausage by the time the 25th came around. Feel free to add hot Italian sausage or chorizo to yours. Either way, I hope this dish brings Salty-Sweet back with a bang.

Paella

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • generous pinch saffron threads
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, paprika for chicken
  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 dozen clams, scrubbed and soaked (the soaking helps to remove any grit or sand)
  • 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • lemon wedges (one-two per person)
  • fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped

Directions

In a medium sauce pan, simmer the chicken stock and saffron. Meanwhile, in a paella pan, or a large all clad saute pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Pat the chicken thighs dry and season with salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. Brown on all sides, and remove to a plate. Set aside.

Lower the heat to medium and add more oil if necessary. Add the onion and season with salt and pepper. Let it soften for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Saute an additional minute and then add the rice. Let it toast slightly and then add the wine. Stir, and reduce by half. If you’d like to give the paella an extra kick of flavor, add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes now. Then, add about one and a half cups of the chicken stock. Give the mixture one good stir and add the chicken back to the pan to finish cooking. It is important not to stir the rice after you add the liquid so that the paella can develop the traditional crust on the bottom, the socarrat.

Cover and simmer for 1o minutes without stirring. Next, add the mussels and clams. Nestle them into the rice mixture, hinge side down. Cover, and cook 8 minutes. Scatter the shrimp over the top, and cover. Cook another 8 minutes until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, the rice is al dente and the liquid is absorbed. You may need to add more stock at any point to allow the rice to cook fully. Garnish with chopped tomatoes, parsley and lemon wedges and serve immediately.

A wintry pasta

February 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

A touch of cream adds richness to a light tomato sauce. Hot Italian sausage brings extra spice and warmth, balanced by sweet onions and peas. Perfect for a cold night. Enjoy :)
Pappardelle with sausage

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pappardelle pasta
  • 4 links hot Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 c frozen peas
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 – 28 oz can plum tomatoes, and juices
  • A touch a cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

Directions

Preheat a large saute pan with olive oil over high heat. Slice the casing on the sausages and remove the meat to the pan. Discard the casing. Brown the sausage with salt and pepper, and remove to a paper toweled-plate.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt generously and cook pasta just shy of package-directed cooking time (about 7 minutes.)

Meanwhile, reduce heat to medium, and add a little more olive oil if necessary. Saute the onions until softened. Crush the tomatoes by hand and add them, with their juices, to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and add the sausage. Simmer until pasta is done boiling.

Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Add about a ladle full of pasta water to thicken the sauce slightly. Add the frozen peas and simmer together for about 2 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Turn off the heat. Stir in a touch of cream. Serve immediately.

 

I don’t bake

February 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Really, I don’t. The measuring, the science, all those little spoons, the mixing equipment – it all just takes away from that spontaneity I love about cooking.

I do love chocolate though, so I’ve found a few ways around the complications of baking. I’m talking about pre-made frozen pie crusts and puff pastry, and craftily naming desserts “rustic” when assembly proved to be too much to handle.

The time around the holidays is the sole exception. For the twenty minutes it takes to make Derby Pie, I become my best version of Betty Crocker. Let me caveat that by saying that this recipe is idiot-proof, but it’s delicious. Like a chocolate chip cookie pie with a hint of bourbon.

On our last attempt to make it, my mother forgot to add any of the flour to the filling. When she realized (ten minutes later) we figured our best bet would be to take the pie out and stir it in. Better late than never, right? Well after just ten minutes at 350 all of the chocolate was melted, and stirring in the flour effectively turned the pie brown. Remember those hideous flour pot cakes? With Oreos for soil and gummy worms for dramatic effect? Well this was Derby-dirt Pie. And it still tasted great.

Derby Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen pie crust
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon
  • 3/4 c chocolate chips
  • 1 c chopped pecans

Directions

Mix sugar and flour. Cream in butter. Add eggs and bourbon. Stir to combine, then fold in chips and nuts.

Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thanksgiving

February 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Odd family members and food comas aside, Thanksgiving for me, really just comes down to the food. I know, you’re shocked. But for years my family has repeated some of those classic dishes that no one ever really looks forward to. I’m sure there are those devout cranberry gel lovers – can shape and all, but on any given day do you wake up and think God, I just have to have a couple of those rubbery slices today? Me neither.

Don’t underestimate the cooks in my family just yet. There are some goodies that will never leave the menu, but this Thanksgiving seemed like the appropriate year to propose a few changes. Classic dishes like roasted sweet potatoes – hold the marshmallows (yes, I said it) with inspired twists like pepper flakes and Italian bacon. Traditional mashed potatoes with tangy pecorino cheese. Just a few ingredients make all the difference. Homemade cranberry sauce, served warm and a fresh salad rounded out the meal.

The turkey of course is always the star though. Well after some intense Food Network research, I wanted to take that on. My father was thrilled to be alleviated of his sole kitchen responsibility and free to focus on the sausage appetizers when I offered to carve the bird too. I was even trying a fancy new trick to cook the breast and legs separately. I really wish more people were around to see my mother and I hacking away trying to break the thing in half while keeping it on the tin foil splat mat she laid out to protect the counters from, “turkey juice.”

In the end though, the effort was all worth it. The turkey was rich, flavorful and perfect when paired with a mustard and white wine gravy. The sides kept people talking all through dinner. Keep an eye out for a dessert post soon, and enjoy this year’s Thanksgiving supper menu below.

 

 

ROASTED TURKEY

Adapted from Chris Cosentino’s Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey, My Way.

Ingredients

  • 1-18 pound brined turkey
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
  • 2 cups turkey stock
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1 T each of minced fresh rosemary, thyme and sage
  • Several sprigs of fresh herbs
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a butcher’s knife, separate the breasts from the legs. Leave the backbone intact and the legs attached to each other. In other words, break the bird in half crosswise.

Quarter the onion, and sliced the vegetables in large pieces.

In a large roasting pan, place the vegetables and garlic head halves. Layer the sprigs of herbs. Place the turkey legs on top. Rub the skin with about a quarter of the compound butter. Season generously and evenly with salt and pepper. Pour the stock into the bottom of the pan.

Cook the legs for about an hour and a half.

Meanwhile, use the rest of the compound butter to cover the breast. Season with salt and pepper, again generously and evenly.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Add the turkey breast. Cook for an additional hour and a half to two hours, until both parts of the bird have reached 165 degrees.

Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes. Carry-over cooking will raise the temperature of the bird to a perfect 180 degrees.

 

PISTACHIO AND GRAPE SALAD

Inspired by Chris Cosentino’s Radicchio and Grape Salad with Pecorino and Pistachios

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 2 bunches of arugala
  • 1 cup each, red and green grapes
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios

For the dressing

  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Pepper

Directions

Make the dressing. Whisk together the vinegar, tarragon, pepper to taste, and mustard. Soak the shallot in the mixture while you prepare the salad.

In a large saute pan, preheat olive oil over medium high heat. Quickly saute the grapes until their skins relax slightly. Toss the grapes with the arugula and pistachios.

Whisk the extra virgin olive oil into the dressing and pour lightly over the greens. Toss to coat the salad evenly. Be sure not to overdress, or the arugula will wilt. Serve immediately.

 

ORANGE CRANBERRY SAUCE

Ingredients

  • 1 package fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 T ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • A pinch of salt
  • 4 T dark brown sugar

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has thickened.

This sauce is best served immediately, but can be made ahead of time. You will need to add more sugar after reheating.

 

PECCORINO MASHED POTATOES

Ingredients

  • 8 yukon gold potatoes (to serve 8 people) peeled, cubed, and boiled
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 T grated pecorino romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, use a potato masher to combine all ingredients, adding the milk gradually. Feel free to adjust amounts of all ingredients to taste. When making this dish ahead of time, wait until just before serving to add the milk.

 

SPICED SWEET POTATOES WITH PANCETTA

Ingredients

  • 8 sweet potatoes, (to serve 8 people) peeled and cubed
  • 3/4 cup diced pancetta
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 T ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 T red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

In a large baking dish, combine all ingredients. Option to add more red pepper for an extra kick. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat the potatoes evenly.

Cook for about 20 minutes until the sweet potatoes are fork tender. When preparing this dish ahead of time, undercook the potatoes slightly, so they don’t overcook when reheating.

 

 

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