Here’s a great old-fashioned recipe that you will want to make right now and repeat straight through the holidays. It is scribbled on a stained recipe card so I don’t know who deserves the credit, but it is a simple dump and stir cake that will make your kitchen smell divine. The secret ingredient is the baby food (apricots) that combine with the spices to make a warmly flavored, tender and moist cake that is then taken over the top by a simple brown sugar pecan glaze. Can be made ahead and never fails to bring lots of requests for the recipe.
Elegant enough for your holiday dinner table yet quick and easy enough for a week night meal. The small glaze of fig jam is just enough to compliment the salty pancetta, and does not make this a sweet dish. Another excellent recipe from Brassicas, by Laura B. Russell.
Here’s a super-food recipe to balance out the decadent Matchstick Potatoes that I gave you a few days ago. This salad is healthy and full of flavor and texture. You get the chew from the fresh kale, creaminess from the minced egg and a spiced crunch from the almonds. Kale salads are ideal for times that you need a make-ahead fresh dish or something that will travel well…this will last a couple of days without wilting. But this egg/almond combination is also good with arugula or spinach if you want a more delicate salad.
If I’m going to splurge on a big plate of crispy fried anything, it’s got to be amazing, otherwise it’s not worth the calories. And if I’m going to fry up a big batch of something in my kitchen, it’s got to be easy and quick, otherwise it’s not worth the mess. Luckily these wonderful seasoned matchstick potatoes fit the bill on both counts.
As you may know, traditional french fries have to be fried twice, at different temperatures, to get the right combination of fluff interior and crispy exterior. But matchstick fries are so thin that one quick trip to the hot oil is all it takes, saving lots of time and clean up. A simple mandolin, pictured below, can shred 2 Idaho potatoes in seconds and is great for making homemade potato chips as well.
Try offering this deal to your family. “If you’ll cook the chicken (steaks, burgers, fish, fill-in-the-blank) and make a salad…. I’ll make Matchstick Potatoes”. A little teamwork is a lot of fun!
So here’s what I know about chicken. Smaller is easier to cook, more tender and juicer. Free Range is tastier. And bone-in skin-on is far better than the boneless, skinless variety. So why have I so often used “naked” chicken breasts? Convenience would have been my answer, had you asked. And I have lots to marinades and cooking techniques to add flavor and texture so I can usually pull it off.
But this recipe is a game changer. Nothing could be easier to prep or faster to cook, and if you buy decent chicken, season it ahead of time to let the flavor soak in, and use this cooking method, the results will be delicious!
If you need to make this in larger quantities, just multiply the seasoning ingredients accordingly and cook as follows: While you are browning the skin side of the breasts stove top, put a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven to preheat. When all the chicken is ready, place it on the hot baking sheet, skin side up and roast until done.
Note: This chicken is Bell & Evans, from Whole Foods. I have also used Joyce Farms and other free-range and organic birds with excellent results. Try to avoid the very large chicken breasts from the major chicken producers that are so often found in the grocery store.
It occurs to me that while a handful of shredded carrots on a green salad just screams tired salad bar, a whole salad made out of sweet fresh carrots can be a jewel of a side dish. This one is especially flavorful with a miso peanut dressing, fresh cilantro and the added crunch of the salty peanuts.
I’m not a master-griller, but this recipe sure makes me feel like one! These short ribs are braised indoors then grilled and glazed outdoors. The result is a an amazingly tender interior with a wonderful crispy exterior. Since most recipes call for browning the meat before braising, I found this method to be somewhat of a revelation. And taking the time to chill the ribs and the braising liquid before finishing the dish makes removing the fat from both a breeze.
This is slow food, but it’s not complicated food, so give it a try next time you want to impress some barbecue fanatics. And everything except the final grilling and glazing, which takes 10-15 minutes, can be done way ahead of time. Recipe adapted from Weber’s Smoke by Jamie Purviance.
Is it crazy that I completely stopped using Canola oil when I realized that there is no such thing as a canola plant? (Canola = Canadian Oil Low Acid…it’s a marketing thing) And it’s a long story that you can read about online, but basically canola comes from a rapeseed plant that has to be bred to be lower in erucic acid so that it is safe to consume. I’ve listened to both sides of the Canola oil argument and while I don’t believe that it is outrageously bad for you, I still haven’t gone back to it. I like to know what I’m eating.
And I liked something, a concept, that I read in Eating Well this month. Andrew Wilder says foods he eats have to pass the “kitchen test”, meaning that they could have been made in his own kitchen. Not that they have to have been made in his kitchen, just that they could have been. Simple, fresh foods that are what they say they are.
Just like this wonderfully easy and very tasty cauliflower dish from Brassicas, Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables, by Laura B. Russell.
It’s the perfect late summer pasta dish although I can already imagine that I will be throwing this together to bring a little sunshine to a cold winter day as well. Make the crumbs whenever you like…they keep wonderfully in a zip lock in the freezer…then put the tomato salad together an hour before you want to serve to give the flavors time to develop. Last minute just boil the pasta, toss, toss, sprinkle, sprinkle and you’re done!
Although I love this simple combination of sweet cherry tomatoes, spicy baby arugula and nutty red quinoa, it is the wonderful miso vinaigrette that needs to be your take-away keeper recipe from this post. Simple to whisk together, this vinaigrette will keep for several days in a jar in the fridge and is positively addictive. I love to use it as a sauce for the veggie sushi that I pick up at Whole Foods, as a marinade for fish and seafood, or just a super tasty salad dressing. Homemade dressings are infinitely better than the store bought variety and they only take seconds to prepare.
This is a great time to try this old favorite of mine..…the blueberries are big and sweet in our stores right now and often on sale too. The recipe comes from Pure Flavor, by Kurt Beecher Dammeier. It is a wonderfully moist coffee cake….perfect for breakfast, brunch or after school snack. Here are 5 steps you can take the night before so that serving it fresh and warm in the morning will be a breeze.
1. Make the topping and store in a zip lock bag in the frig.
2. Wash the blueberries.
3. Mix the dry ingredients together.
4. Prepare the cake pan and store in the frig.
5. Set the butter out to soften.
Otherwise, it keeps well in the frig for 2 days and can be warmed in the microwave (just a few seconds)
For summertime grilling, this is one of the easiest, quickest and tastiest recipes you will find. It only takes 2-3 minutes per side to cook chicken tenders on a hot grill which is one reason why this marinade from The Farm, by Ian Knauer, is so great…the honey caramelizes very quickly so you get a wonderful glazed char before the chicken is overcooked. Most of the heat in a jalapeño is in the seeds so use them to control the spiciness of this dish. I scrape out most of the seeds, letting just a random few into the marinade and that makes for chicken tenders with just a little kick, suitable for kids and adults alike.
A tartine is simply an open-faced sandwich and here is the perfect one for a glorious spring day. Look for big, meaty spears with tightly closed tips that signify freshness. Did you know that the diameter of asparagus spears relates to the maturity of the plant? I takes 2 or 3 years before asparagus plants are well established enough, with spears big enough, to harvest. And so I do imagine that the day the asparagus begins to nudge its way out of the soil must be one of a gardener’s favorite days! Recipe adapted from Cicchetti, and other small Italian Plates to Share, by Lindy Wildsmith and Valentina Sforza.
1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons mayonaise
salt and pepper
1 fresh baguette, or other good, fresh crusty bread, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer. Carefully lower the eggs into the water and simmer for 12 minutes. While eggs are cooking, prepare a bowl of ice water. Remove eggs from hot water and immediately place them into the ice bath to cool. Meanwhile, trim the asparagus, bring the water in the pot to a boil, add the asparagus and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the spears. Remove the eggs from the ice bath and add more ice so that you can chill the asparagus just as soon as it is ready.
Peel the eggs then chop finely. When the asparagus is cooled, remove from the ice bath and cut the tips and set them aside to use as the garnish. Chop the rest of the spears and add to the chopped eggs. Add the olive oil and mayonnaise and gently stir to combine. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.
Brush the bread slices with olive oil, toast lightly and let cool. Spread each tartine with some of the egg salad, top with the reserved asparagus tips then sprinkle with chives. (The number of servings that this recipe will produce varies greatly based upon the size of the bread you use. You can make around 30 small appetizer servings with a skinny baguette or 6 lunch-sized portions with a larger Italian bread such as the one I used in the photo. Just be sure to save enough asparagus tips to finish your dish.)
Two hearts are better than one in this delicious marinated salad. Hearts of Palm and Artichoke Hearts are the perfect compliment to creamy Cannellini Beans drenched in an Italian Style Vinaigrette. It’s a super make-ahead and/or take-along salad since it keeps well in the frig for a couple of days and is especially good with grilled chicken, beef or seafood. Toss in some fresh spinach or arugula just before serving if you want to turn this into a vegetarian main course.
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 can artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered
1 jar hearts of palm, drained and sliced
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
In a small bowl, whisk together first six ingredients to make the vinaigrette. Set aside. In a medium bowl, gently toss together the artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, cannellini beans and red onion. Re whisk the vinaigrette and pour over the salad. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper if needed. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Let the salad sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving for best flavor. Serves 6-8 as a side dish and 4 as a vegetarian main course.
Wonderful opportunities arise when you have a bit of leftover ham in the frig. I’m not talking about deli meats…not cold cuts… but a real hunk of boneless or semi boneless smoked ham. They come fully cooked, but in my family we still roast the heck out of it anyway so that we can shave it into thin, melt in your mouth slices.
The first serving of a ham around here is hot from the oven, carved at the table with a cheese grits casserole and a big green salad. After that, it goes into eggs at breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and flavors soups and salads throughout the week. The possibilities are endless, of course, as demonstrated by my latest discovery, Ham Fluff.
Looking for a way to perk up some deviled eggs I was making, I spied the last bits of a ham that I had cooked last Friday. Using a microplane grater, the one that is designed for parmesan cheese, I grated the ham into a big pile of the softest, fluffiest stuff you can imagine. Then I leveled off the filling from the deviled eggs to make room and topped each egg with a generous amount. So what you get is the salty good taste of ham, which we all know goes well with eggs, without taking away from the creamy, light texture of a good deviled egg. If you are looking for a resource for ham, I highly recommend the The Good Ham Company in Memphis, TN.
1 dozen medium or large eggs*
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
6 large leaves of fresh basil, slivered thinly
salt and pepper
2 inch piece of leftover baked smoked ham, cold
Fill a large sauce pot half way with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Carefully lower the eggs into the hot water and simmer, being careful not to let the water boil, for 15 minutes. While eggs are cooking, prepare a large bowl with ice and water. At the 15 minute mark, remove there eggs from the hot water and immediately put them in the bowl with the ice water. Let sit 15 minutes, then peel. Cut the eggs in half crosswise or lengthwise and pop the yolks out into a small bowl. Using a fork, mash the yolks then stir in enough of the cream to create a smooth, luscious filling. Stir in fresh basil and season to taste with salt. Fill each egg white half with the egg yolk mixture, leveling off the top. (recipe can be made to this point, covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.) When ready to serve, grate the cold ham with a small microplane grater (the one designed for grating parmesan cheese) creating a big pile of fluff. Top each egg generously and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
*If you want to guarantee easy-to-peel eggs, use a push pin to poke a tiny hole, just barely through the shell, in the larger end of each egg. If done correctly, only air bubbles will escape from the holes while the eggs are simmering. If you go too deep, you’ll get some egg white oozing out into the water, but your eggs will still turn out fine. The ice bath helps with the peeling too, as well as keeping the yolks from developing the greenish ring around the edges.
Chicken in a Pot….a simple name for a simple dish. But when it is the answer to “What’s for dinner?”, Chicken in a Pot will bring smiles all around. As with most simple recipes, the quality of ingredients is paramount. This tasty bird is a Poulet Rouge Fermier from Joyce Farms and can be ordered here. I bought this particular one at our local Whole Foods.
A quick unsolicited shout-out to Le Creuset and their lifetime warranty department who replaced my 17 year old tried and true dutch oven after it developed a crack. They even called to let me to choose any color. Merci!
1 free-range chicken
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves separated but unpeeled
2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the chicken, dry with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and the oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken, add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and cook together for one minute. Return the chicken to the pot, add the wine and the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Baste the chicken with the liquid a few times then cover and bake in the preheated oven until done. Timing will depend upon the size of your bird…3 1/2 pound chicken takes approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes (165 degrees for the breasts and 170 for the leg/thighs)
Carve and serve with pan juices and the flesh of the sweet, mellow garlic cloves.
We all need more recipes like this one. Pantry staples, a pound of ground chicken, and dinner is on the table in about 20 minutes. And the best part is that it’s not a boring “I didn’t have time to think about dinner” dinner. It’s sweet, tart, spicy and light. Interesting enough for the adults yet familiar enough for the kids.
Here’s a thought about rice noodles. You want to be careful not to overcook them lest they turn to mush. For this particular recipe, soak them in hot water until they are just as you would like to eat them, tender all the way through but still a nice silky bite. Then toss them with the hot chicken and sauce and serve right away. If you let them sit around waiting, they will soak up any available liquid and dry out the dish. That being said, this stir fry is tasty enough that you will still want to gobble up the leftovers the next day straight out of the frig, mushy noodles or not.
Adapted from one of my favorite chefs, Ming Tsai, and his recipe for Crazy Chicken RIce Noodles, in Simply Ming.
“Dinner will be ready in two minutes!!!” How many times have I shouted this warning to family passing through my kitchen, foraging in the snack drawer or headed out the door? Of course, I rarely mean literally two minutes….but this time I do! These thin slices of marinated fresh salmon cook right on your dinner plate in two minutes flat. Delicate and meltingly delicious, serve with crusty bread and a big salad of field greens for the quickest entree you will ever encounter. A brilliant technique and recipe adapted from Abby Mandel in her excellent cookbook, More Taste Than Time. The late Abby Mandel was a food columnist for the Chicago Tribune and was the founder of the fabulous Lincoln Park Green City Market. (a must-visit for foodies in Chicago May-October)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dry vermouth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon orange (or lemon) zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
10-12 ounces salmon fillets, skinned, cut on the bias as thin as possible, about 1/16 inch (see note below)
minced fresh chives or parsley to garnish
freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees 15 minutes before baking.
2. Mix the orange juice, oil vermouth, lemon juice, soy sauce, orange or lemon zest and salt in a large plastic ziplock bag. Add the salmon and seal the bag, squeezing out excess air and turning bag to insure that salmon is well coated with the marinade. Let marinate for 10 minutes.
3. Arrange the salmon on 2 china dinner plates, covering the entire surface of the plate, except the rim ,, overlapping the fish as little as possible. Brush lightly with a small amount of the remaining marinade.
4. Bake just until the surface of the fish lightens in color, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with chives or parsley, fresh ground pepper and serve immediately.
note: Put the raw salmon in the freezer for about 30 minutes until firm but not frozen solid….this will make thin-slicing a breeze (sharp knife necessary too)
note: Most china and ceramic plates can withstand the oven heat for this amount of time, but very fine bone china should be avoided.
Familiar enough to qualify as comfort food, yet just different enough to be new and interesting. I love the 50/50 combination of the beef and lamb, and the sauce is perfectly spiced with the warmth of cumin, ginger and cinnamon. Serve these with toasted pita bread for an excellent make-ahead dinner.