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Easter Meal – Shellfish, Lamb Chops, Asparagus, Brusssels Sprouts and More

19 Apr

While it is not set in stone, this is what we will most likely be eating tomorrow for the big Easter meal. We’ll start with shellfish (and Sauvignon Blanc for the growns, flavored seltzer for the kid), then simple lamb and vegetables (probably some couscous with pesto made by the little man as an additional side). We are off to the farm today, so I’ve run out of time…Happy Easter to all, if I don’t see you before then….lamb

Light Mediterranean-style clams

 Crispy Beer-Battered Oysters

Fantastically crisp beer battered oysters

Fantastically crisp beer battered oysters

 

Simple and Perfect Roasted Baby Lamb Chops

Roasted Asparagus and Sweet Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

 

asparagus

Brussels Sprouts – Sauteed and Sassy

brussels sprouts

 Grilled Potato Disks (Like Fries, but grilled!)

Crispy on the outside, crunchy on the inside!

Crispy on the outside, crunchy on the inside!

 

 

 

 

Roasted Artichokes (Better than Steamed and Easier than You Think!)

16 Apr A bit of char ends up delicious!

I was always intimidated by preparing artichokes…it seemed like quite a task to get anything edible from this armadillo of a vegetable. But when a recent manager’s special at the local supermarket had eight of them for $1.99, I figured it was a sign that it was time to try.

It's okay to crowd them into the baking dishArtichokes (Cynara scolymus) are thistles, but very delicious thistles. Large globe ones come from the central stem, while babies come from the sides.

I love the way you eat them when steamed or roasted whole…you remove each leaf and hold the pointy end while dragging our teeth on the stem end to get the flesh off. It’s like a delicious secret that you have to tease out with your hands and teeth. And then you are left with the center which is creamy and nutty and entirely delicious.

Pedro gets on the chop

Pedro gets on the chop

Although like many “manager’s specials” these particular artichokes were not at their bright and tight best, they had nice smooth green leaves – if they were a bit separated from the core, well at $1.99 I wasn’t going to be fussed. This was an experiment in technique, after all, so if they weren’t artichokes at their peak, it didn’t matter so much. And the following technique brought out the best in them. Continue reading

When Food Allergies Happen to Food People (Gluten-free champiñones al ajillo)

25 Mar These were delicious and made my friend very happy

They sidle up to you in the hallway at work when no one else is around. They approach you with the hangdog expression of a sinner headed to the confessional for the same reason they went last week. Or they send you a hesitant text, dangling uncertainly between apologetic and grief-stricken, unable to tell you directly in person. They are embarrassed, bewildered, ashamed.

They are….Foodies with Allergies and they are coming to your house for a dinner party!

This happened to me during the planning of that play-reading party you’ve been hearing a lot about in my recent posts.

Let me clarify. The food allergies didn’t happen to me, the guests with food allergies did (see how quickly I distance my own foodie self from any suggestion of an allergy?). Two friends, food-lovers both, came to me with their tales of woe. One, (who is already vegetarian, for the love of God) has celiac disease, which means her small intestines can’t tolerate gluten – found in wheat, rye and barley. The other is getting tested for possible lactose-intolerance.

Gluten-free tapas...

Gluten-free tapas…

Now it does seem like food sensitivities and intolerances and flat-out allergies are on the rise in our population. The whole peanut thing has taken over many schools, which have nut-free areas. Gluten-free has been the latest way for companies to flog their products as ostensibly healthier because it has less of something.

Continue reading

The Glorious Vegetables of Italy: Author Domenica Marchetti pays us a visit PLUS Winter Cauliflower Salad Recipe

8 Mar Author of five Italian-inspired cookbooks (and my J-school buddy!)

Everyone should live in Italy for at least a little while. I lived there for a couple of years in my twenties and it was transformative for all those reasons you might expect: fresh seasonal food, friendly people, beautiful surroundings. It was transformative for other reasons as well, but let’s stick to food.

The Glorious Vegetables of Italy!

The Glorious Vegetables of Italy!

My first job there was picking grapes and apples in the Trentino part of Trentino-Alto Adige, a semi-autonomous region just south of Innsbruck, Austria, at the foot of the Italian Alps, within sight of the Dolomites…crispy cold at 7 a.m., warming Schiava dry rosé wine and ham and cheese panini at 9 a.m. The church bells echoing around the valley at noon made us drop everything and run for la pasta asciutta laborers’ lunch with more schiava and café corretto (“corrected” with sambuca or grappa)…singing opera in the trees…big Sunday family meals, ridiculously everything you might expect, including the hard work seven days a week all season.

One of the things that astonished me was how differently they treated vegetables – not just as an overcooked side to the more important meat dish — but with respect and zest and creativity. They were complex flavor and texture experiences, enhanced by often being straight from the farm. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

Steam basket. We steamed first and did a little more chopping later to create more nooks and crannies for the other bits to cling to.

Steam basket. We steamed first and did a little more chopping later to create more nooks and crannies for the other bits to cling to.

I reluctantly close the window on that memory (before I kick myself for the many things I didn’t learn when I was there, when I should remain rapturous about the things I did and before I bore the hell out of you with my nostalgic ramblings) and turn to the present.

Domenica Marchetti, a classmate of mine from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, is genetically predisposed to channel those Italian flavors I remember. Her mother is from Abruzzo and her father from an Italian-Rhode Island family and she spent her summers in Italy in the embrace of a flurry of aunts and their kitchens. After several years of covering the gore and complications that reporters regularly cover and running home to spend all her free Domenica-time elbow deep in cookery books and pots and pans, she put due più due insieme and started writing about food instead.

I actually took mine to work and hid in my office so I didn't have to share...

I actually took mine to work and hid in my office so I didn’t have to share…this is before I got the cheese on.

Domenica’s latest cookbook (they now number five!) is The Glorious Vegetables of Italy and it is big and gorgeous and glorious indeed (In case you don’t believe me, it is a New York Times Notable Cookbook).

You might need one for the coffee table and another to dog-ear and stain and love up in the kitchen, because the images, by Sang An are delicious and you won’t want to get them messed up when you cook! My Sunday cooking companion, Marianne (herself no slouch in the Italian kitchen) immediately decided we had to make the Winter Cauliflower Salad. And we did and it was so robust and delicious and just the perfect way to end this frigid winter to end all winters.

Domenica was very happy to hear that we started our exploration of her book with cauliflower, such an unassuming vegetable, and before I give you the recipe (which is adapted…I just didn’t have everything available and anyway, for the original — especially notable for the slow-roasted tomato recipe which you won’t find here — you need to get her book!), she wanted you to know why this is one of her favorites and emailed this message just for you: Continue reading

Guineitos en ájili-mójili (garlicky green bananas)

4 Jan This dish really says fiesta to me!

“What!?!”you are asking yourself. “Bananas with garlic!?! Eeeeew!!!!”

Yup. they are banans. But they are green.

Yup. they are bananas. But they are green.

But wait…this is not a sweet yellow eating banana dish. Nor is it a plantain dish. It is a savory, salty salad, served at room temperature and made with boiled green bananas (basically yellow ones – Musa sapentium – that are not at all ripe and must be cooked). They are widely used in the Caribbean and Central America because they are cheap and readily available. (For more on the origins of Puerto Rican ingredients, buy my ebook: Eat Your Way Through Puerto Rico!)

This is how you prepare them for boiling.

This is how you prepare them for boiling.

You might have a bigger challenge finding completely green bananas in your local supermarket; we usually get them at a Latin supermarket. I believe that Indian cooking also uses green banana; it makes sense, since the banana and all its relatives are believed to have originated in the Asian subcontinent, so if you have an Indian grocery near you you may find them there. And I have noticed that Costco’s bananas tend to be totally green; not good if you are looking for a raw fruit snack right away, but great for Latin cooking! Continue reading

Bacalaitos: Light and Luscious Puerto Rican Cod Fritters

27 Dec skewered fritters draining, even as the next batch goes in!

One of the pleasures of visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico is heading straight from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport to a beach area about five minutes to the east. Piñones, a long stretch of relatively undeveloped coastline is where beach shacks under the shade of coconut palms serve up ice cold beer, whiskey con coco, and all manner of snacks or frituras, flour or banana dough shaped in seagrape leaves and dropped into hot fat in blackened cauldrons over coal fires by ladies in hair rollers. Oh my God, I am so glad to be back, you say, toes in the crystal water and tearing into a delicious and greasy and tropical hunk of something.

Break up the de-salted cod as much as you can

Break up the de-salted cod as much as you can

One of the iconic frituras is bacalaitos: fried cod fritters. Salt cod is well-known to Atlantic coastal areas and the Caribbean…the New England cod fisheries have for centuries supplied coastal people with an abundance of this oily fish that preserves really well (if you are interested in the history of cod, you must read Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World).

Sawtooth coriander or recao or culantro adds authentic flavor to this dish, but cilantro is a worthy substitute

Sawtooth coriander or recao or culantro adds authentic flavor to this dish, but cilantro is a worthy substitute

Its popularity has led to overstressed fisheries. While they are being managed, they are not recovering well or quickly enough for me to have them as anything but an occasional treat.

skewered fritters draining, even as the next batch goes in!

skewered fritters draining, even as the next batch goes in!

In Puerto Rico we use salt cod in rice dishes, vinaigrette-style with local tubers, with tomatoes like the Basque people…in any number of ways. Bacalaitos are a good entry-level bacalao dish if you are afraid salt cod is too fishy for your family’s taste. Here it is not overwhelming, but more of a condiment and I daresay that salt cod lends umami (that fifth sensation of rich meaty mouth-feel) to what would be just a fish fritter…like many salted fish it is high in glutamates.

Letting the batter rest gives time for the baking powder to activate. that will give you nice airiness in the fritters.

Letting the batter rest gives time for the baking powder to activate. that will give you nice airiness in the fritters.

Most of the credit for this recipe is shared between Carmen Aboy Valldejuli’s classic recipe in Cocina Criolla* and my dad’s adaptations and execution. It makes a perfect light dinner or appetizer…I like it with cold, dry sparkling wine, but of course a cold beer (on the lighter side) is a classic match-up. Kids and adults alike love them; we’ll be doing them up for our New Year’s guests when they arrive. Read on for recipe! Continue reading

Easy Black Bean, Corn and Scallion Fritters

12 Dec fritters

Here was a nifty little trick to use up some bits and bobs…black beans from a batch I had soaked, some frozen corn, a couple of leftover scallions. I went light on the seasonings, but you can certainly go more heavy.

This is an example of a denser fritter! More water will make the batter lighter

This is an example of a denser fritter! More water will make the batter lighter

These were a big success at my house on a night that everyone just wanted something casual that you could grab with a napkin and keep going. You’ll have to play around with the consistency…add more water if you want a lighter fritter, less if you want it dense (which will need more cooking time in order to cook that flour).

I didn't think Leandro woud like them, but he loved them and ate loads!

I didn’t think Leandro woud like them, but he loved them and ate loads!

Black Bean and Corn Fritters With Scallions

1 tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp salt

5 black pepper corns

1 Cup black beans (either from a can or soaked)

1 Cup corn kernels

Half an onion, minced (at least ½ Cup)

½  Cup scallions, sliced, green and white parts

2 eggs

2 Tbs cilantro

¾ Cup flour

Water

2 Tbs vegetable oil (or more) for frying

Grind coriander, salt and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle until pulverized.

In a large skillet, heat  oil at medium-high. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix beans, corn, onion, scallions, eggs, cilantro and flour until blended. Add water to create a more liquidy batter that drips thickly off a spoon.

Drop large tablespoonfuls of batter into the hot oil and smooth out a bit into fritters. Don’t crowd them and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, adjusting temperature as needed. Place cooked fritters on paper towels to cool while you start the next batch and continue until done. Makes about a dozen fritters.

Cranberry Sauce…Finally!

1 Dec I just love berry colors

I have never posted a cranberry sauce recipe before because frankly every time I tried I ended up with a lip-puckering nasty gloopy mess and we’ve just used lingonberry jam from IKEA instead.

A happy surprise for the table

A happy surprise for the table

So this year, I did not even tell my family I’d bought cranberries! I told no one that I was going to attempt it again. I just put it together surreptitiously on the day, figuring that if I failed yet again, no one would be the wiser. And wouldn’t you know, it came out deliciously — just the right tartness and sweetness, beautiful color and rich texture. It was great on the turkey and the ham, and even on bread! I have visions of using it on duck or venison one day…(Mad Dog? Are you there?)

I used a recipe from Simply Recipes (one of my go-to spots for solid fundamentals clearly presented) and then played with proportions and seasonings. And it’s a good thing I went for it. Unbeknownst to me, there was no lingonberry jam in the house, so we would have had to do without. Some things are just meant to be, and this was one of those things!

I will absolutely do this again next year for Thanksgiving, and will very likely not wait that long to try it again.

The blueberries were left over from the summer. Had them in my freezer: serendipity!!!

The blueberries were left over from the summer. Had them in my freezer: serendipity!!!

Cranberry Sauce

¾  Cup sugar

¾ Cup water

7 oz package fresh cranberries

1 Cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Orange/Clementine zest (barely 1/4 tsp)

¼ tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. In the meantime, wash and pick over cranberries. Add cranberries, bring to a boil again and then lower heat and simmer until the cranberries are mostly popped (about 10 minutes).

Stir in blueberries, spices and just a tiny bit of zest (use only the colored part of the peel. The pith –white part – will make things bitter). Cook for a bare minute, then remove from heat and cool enough to pour into your serving container. Then cool to room temperature and refrigerate. The sauce will set as it cools.

 

2014 Thanksgiving Easy Recipe Round-Up

19 Nov GRAVY TRAIN

I will probably post a few more Thanksgiving recipes in the next few days, but here is a start – some of our time-honored favorites that are not hard to do, but really celebrate the season. If you want to keep it simple and bountiful, take a look at these suggestions as you make your shopping list and measure how much time and energy you will really have to devote to pyrotechnics.

We are all about being thankful this year, since we’ve beat back cancer and are making it through the economic slowdown and all…so quietly and leisurely is how we are taking it!

Butternut Squash Bisque and bonus pumpkin seed pepitas

Butternut Squash Bisque

Butternut Squash Bisque

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

Green Beans- bring the sweetness to the fore

Brine that Bird! (especially if you are getting a farm-fresh, free-range turkey)

bathed in the glow of a Home Depot bucket

bathed in the glow of a Home Depot bucket

Puerto Rican-Style Roast Turkey (pavochón)

And...a beautiful pavochón!

And…a beautiful pavochón!

Turkey Gravy (and a story of salvation)

GRAVY TRAIN

GRAVY TRAIN

Leftovers — Festive Turkey Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts

Bright and fun and full of textures

Bright and fun and full of textures

Smoked Salmon Spread: No-Fuss Festive Appetizer!

11 Nov Rich, creamy and salty!

Now that the holidays are coming in with the speed of a freight train, the panic begins. How do I entertain (or get a dish together for a potluck) in between work, activities, housework, paying bills, kids, parents, pets and all the other stuff, stuff, stuff that consumes our rapidly diminishing daylight hours?

Here’s one easy solution that takes just 5-10 minutes to prepare (factor in an hour of chill time), looks creamy and luscious, and can travel tidily with you everywhere! It makes about a pound of spread, so you can divide it up for different events. Mine has capers; I am riffing off an Ina Garten recipe that uses dill instead.

On a cracker, dressed up with some capers...

On a cracker, dressed up with some capers…

I made it this weekend for my Single Mothers by Choice meet-up and it went over very big with chips and crackers. And then I parked a bowl next to my dad (who is OFF the crazy-ass veganplus diet — by doctor’s orders — and is becoming a fun person to cook and eat with again, Hallelujah, Hallelujah) as he was recovering from his successful cancer surgery in a big chair in front of all the sports a man could care to consume…will he ever want to leave the living room? Continue reading

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