Tag Archives: cooking

Juicy Herb-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

3 Jan

I love a simple roast bird for a sit-down family meal. It looks so special, but is so easy to do and the vegetables are cooked right alongside the bird (getting all that juicy seasoned chicken stock as the bird releases it) and can be plunked as is on the table if you don’t want to put it on a platter, which means less clean-up. This is the dinner that cooks itself while you are doing other things, encourages family to linger around the table, and keeps on giving way after the meal is over.

2014-12-25 14.08.49 roast chickenIf there is leftover meat, you can make wonderful chicken salad that tastes so much richer than your average cooked chicken from the deli (I like it with sliced black olives and bits of sundried tomato). The carcass makes great stock too, simmered with a dozen peppercorns, a carrot and a celery stalk, a peeled onion and unpeeled garlic cloves sliced in half.

Here then, is a pretty basic version that is aromatized with herbs, spiked with citrus, and cooked relatively slowly for juicy tenderness.  There are as many variations as you have herbs in your arsenal; this is what I was in the mood for, but you could certainly substitute whatever seasonings grab your fancy. We had this one for a small family Christmas Day meal! Scroll down for links to more roast chicken recipes. Continue reading

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KID in the KITCHEN: French Toast Casserole (make ahead!)

30 Dec

We are a fútbol-loving family ( fútbol = soccer in the U.S. and football in most other English-speaking countries except the U.S. where football — rather inexplicably – means gridiron a.k.a. that sport with the helmets and shoulderpads. There’s also Australian rules football, which is actually a form of rugby, but never mind that right now). We particularly follow the English Premier League and support Chelsea, in case you were wondering. We watch it a lot at home, but watching soccer in the U.S. has ceased to mean spectator-in-exile. Increasingly in America you can find people with whom to watch.

This is part of the spread...Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

This is part of the spread…Can you name the team jerseys in the background? Hint: Only one is EPL

So that creates opportunities to invite folks to brunch or lunch (EPL matches are played at GMT and so rarely go later than 5 p.m. here in NY) with fellow travelers at home. Buffet-style is best, because the footie runs continuously for two 45-minute halves and if — like me — you are the hostess but really want to watch the action too, you want to get everything done before kick-off and then sit right down with the guests for the first half.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

Yes, we used white bread. And it was good.

So, we invited friends for the 9 a.m. Southampton v. Chelsea fixture this past weekend. In addition to bagels and cream cheese, tortilla española, gravlax, ham and cheese, and mango-prosecco mimosas, my little guy made French toast. Since it would have been insane to try to make French toast to order at game time, we chose a recipe he could do the night before and pop in the oven for 40 minutes before everyone arrived. Thus this French Toast Casserole recipe we adapted ever so slightly from Love, Pasta, and a Tool Belt. It was super-easy, sweet and delicious and has a bread pudding sort of texture and was loved by one and all.

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

Firm, bread pudding type texture meant the kids could pick it up like a sandwich!

To do it with kids, make sure you have the ingredients, measuring implements, and other equipment at the ready before you get the kids going. It is a breeze!

2014-12-28 13.06.06 french toast casseroleFrench Toast Casserole

Ingredients:
1 stick salted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
12 slices white bread

Directions:
Melt butter and mix with brown sugar and cinnamon until well-blended. Spread half of the brown sugar mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 rimmed baking pan. Lay six pieces of bread over the sugar mixture. Spread the remainder of the brown sugar mixture over the bread trying to make it pretty even. We used a butter knife to spread, but a stiff spatula would also work.
Place remaining six pieces of bread on top. Beat eggs and milk together and pour over the whole thing evenly. If, like us, you forget to put on the second layer of bread, you can lift the already covered slices one by one and slide the unsoaked slices underneath and it will work out just fine. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Heat oven to 350°F and bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Allow to rest and then serve up!

 

Janssons frestelse/Jansson’s Temptation (Swedish Potato Gratin)

28 Dec

My sister-in-law Annika was born and raised in Sweden and in the 20 or so years since she appeared in our lives, (cue ABBA’s Greatest Hits) she has introduced us to such marvels as aquavit (also called snaps), lingonberry, ginger cookies, and (stop ABBA soundtrack and start spare, percussive track suitable for forbiddingly cold and spare winter landscapes and mythic creatures) the Volvo commercial featuring footballing demi-god Zlatan Ibrahimović. Mmmm.

Thanks to Annika, we like to do a Swedish Christmas Eve buffet table. Or we like to have her do a Swedish Christmas Eve smorgasbord to which we contribute a couple of things.

How it looked going into the oven (sent Annika'photos of my progress so she could advise)

How it looked going into the oven (sent Annika’photos of my progress so she could advise)

Unfortunately she and my brother and my marvellous niece don’t live close enough to us anymore for Swedish Christmas Eve all together, but thanks to IKEA, my dad’s gravlax (salt and sugar-cured salmon) and Annika’s easy potato gratin recipe, (The dish is called Jansson’s temptation) we were able to do a reasonable facsimile this year. Emboldened by the success of this dish, I think I will try her Swedish meatball recipe next year!

Happily, we had leftovers for midnight snacking!

Happily, we had leftovers for midnight snacking!

Important note: The Swedish call sprats (a small fish/herring) by the name ‘anjovis’. DO NOT BE FOOLED. They are not the same ‘anchovies’ as you buy in the tinned fish section of your local supermarket (unless your local supermarket happens to be IKEA). They are not oil or salt-packed Italian anchovies with a strong salty fish character. These are pickled in spiced vinegar and are light and completely different. So beware!

Willy’s online seems to sell them, although a recent check showed them to be sold out! i-Gourmet has them too. I will be trying out tinned “bristlings” which might be the same and I will let you know.

I made it in a pretty pie dish that went straight from oven to table nicely

I made it in a pretty pie dish that went straight from oven to table nicely

Jansson’s Temptation
This is Annika’s recipe, halved, which was more than enough for our family of four. If you want to feed loads of people, simply double the quantities and use a 9×13 oven dish

 About 1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

1 tin spiced and pickled Swedish ‘ansjovis’ (sprat filets) – I use “ABBA Anchovy Style Sprat Fillets” from IKEA

1 Cup whipping cream/heavy cream

Butter for greasing the pan

Preheat oven to 425°

Butter an 8×8 dish and spread about a third of the potatoes over the base. Cover with about half of the onion, and place half the ‘ansjovis’ fillets on top (save the liquid that the ‘anjovis’ are in!).
Cover with another third of potatoes, then the rest of the onion, and the rest of the ‘anjovis’. Finish with a last layer of potatoes.

Pour the liquid from the ‘anjovis’ tin over the potato mixture.

Pour the cream over the potatoes – you may need a bit more or a bit less – it depends on the size of the dish you’re using. You want the cream to almost cover the potatoes.

(Other people like to sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and dot some butter slices over the breadcrumbs, but I never do.)

Bake in a 425°oven for about 1 hour. It’s ready when the potatoes are soft and the top layer is getting golden.

 

You may also like:

Gravlax

This years gravlax is phenomenal. EXCELLENT for entertaining as you can divide into pieces for each event.

This years gravlax is phenomenal. EXCELLENT for entertaining as you can divide into pieces for each event.

Scandinavian Shrimp Salad (Skagen Salad)

Creamy, sweet, tangy, chunky, light Swedish Skagen Salad (the best shrimp salad EVER)

 

 

 

4 Effortless Yet Elegant Party Appetizers for Busy People

20 Dec

I was recently invited to do a cooking demonstration at Nassau Community College (where my more usual role is as a full-time ESL lecturer in a language immersion program) for the Mom’s Club, a campus club for student-parents where they get support in their struggle to complete their college education while raising children and often simultaneously holding a full-time job!

So these are women who needed a fun mini-workshop that would include some nifty snacks, some honest conversation and maybe even a few ideas for inexpensive and easy appetizers they can easily prepare for their families. I think this line-up delivered.

All hands on deck!

All hands on deck!

It was a pleasure to cook for this small group — thanks to professors Beth Goering and Molly Phelps Ludmar for inviting me and also providing an electric skillet, bread and soft drinks.

Happy holidays ladies!

Happy holidays ladies!

Together — I put everyone to work, of course — we made Spanish-style garlic mushrooms, cilantro-sunflower seed pesto, black olive and walnut paste, and white cheese and red grape skewers. Everything was done within a half hour, so we had time to sit and eat, which is a rare treat for busy moms!

Not my best images ever, but you get the idea!

Not my best images ever, but you get the idea!

Here are the recipes:

White Cheese and Red Grapes (requires toothpicks!)

Cut Latin style white cheese into cubes about the size of the grapes. Skewer a single grape and a single cube of cheese onto each toothpick (this is a job kids love! and it keeps them busy while you are trying to do other things.) and arrange on a serving platter. The cubed cheese is the base.

Cilantro-Sunflower Seed Pesto (sunflower seeds are a terrific alternative to pine nuts or walnuts for those with nut allergies)

One bunch cilantro, rinsed and chopped (YES you can use the stems)

2-3-4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/2 Cup sunflower seeds (roasted and salted seeds add a lot of flavor)

Squeeze of freeze lemon

pinch of hot red pepper flakes (optional)

extra virgin olive oil

abundant grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano or Locatelli cheese

salt to taste

Place cilantro, garlic, sunflower seeds, lemon, and optional pepper flakes in a food processor or blender and whirr until chopped. Add olive oil bit by bit (in a thin stream if you can pour while blending) until you achieve a thick paste. Add cheese to taste (start with about 1/4 Cup) and serve over pasta or as a spread for bruschetta, crackers or sliced bread.

For an easy basil pesto (my second grader makes it!) click here.

Black Olive and Walnut Paste (Tapenade)

1 can pitted black olives (or one cup good seedless black olives if you can afford them), drained indifferently

1/4 Cup walnuts (but add them Tbs by Tbs)

1 tsp capers drained indifferently

2-3 anchovies from a jar, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel

leaves from 3-4 thyme sprigs

optional extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients (except optional olive oil) in a food processor and blend till smooth, adding olive oil as necessary. Serve as a spread for toast or crackers.

For another version heavier on the anchovies, click here.

Spanish style Garlic Mushrooms

2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

12 oz white or Cremini mushrooms, stems removed (and saved in the freezer for stock) and wiped clean with paper towel.

3 Tbs dry red wine (I took some mushrooms out at this point to accommodate someone who doesn’t consume alcohol)

1 Tbs chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, heat the oil until loose and fragrant. Lower heat to medium low garlic and cook gently until golden brown.

Add mushrooms and stir to coat., Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms start to brown deeply and release their juices. Add wine and raise hand eat to a fast simmer for about 5 minutes, until alcohol has cooked off but there is still liquid. Sprinkle with parsley salt and serve with crusty bread.

For a more complex version of these mushrooms that includes butter, click here.

KID in the KITCHEN: Easy Blueberry Pancakes

17 Dec

It isn’t easy to stand by and watch while your seven-year-old cracks eggs that land on the floor (it only happened once!) or spills too much oil into the batter (we effectively bailed the excess out) or awkwardly flips runny pancake batter on a crappy little electric stove top where not just the heating elements but the whole top gets hot. And I don’t pretend that I don’t have sharp words for lapses of care. I get nervous, you see.

The smaller the better for flipping

The smaller the better for flipping

But my little guy likes cooking with me (“Are you sure? ‘Cause I yell at you sometimes.” “Yes I’m sure. I love it!”) and I love cooking with him. And as he gets handier and can read, I am increasingly letting him do more of the risky stuff. Like reading the recipe himself and measuring out ingredients and –yes — flipping pancakes on a hot stove.

It can be nerve-wracking, but the results are worth it. I am not talking about the culinary results, although his pancakes turned out delicious, as does his French toast. I’m talking about reading and following instructions and measuring and thinking about how baking soda and baking powder work, having responsibilities and having to be focused and careful. I am happy when he takes a step in the direction of independence, but it is nothing compared to his own pleasure at becoming so competent. “I did it! I flipped it!” and “I made delicious pancakes practically all by myself!” are the seasonings that make everything taste better when you are seven. And sometimes when you are a lot older too!

Piled high and DRENCHED in maple syrup....

Piled high and DRENCHED in maple syrup….

These pancakes are slightly modified from Kids Cook by Sarah Williamson & Zachary Williamson, a terrific starter book that he got from his godmother. My important advice in cooking with kids is get all the ingredients and tools organized first. The less turning your back to get something that you do during the proceedings, the better. Click for recipe Continue reading

Artichokes or Fartichokes? We Test Them

7 Nov

I got a quart of Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus),as a special bonus from the farm the other day and I was thrilled to get to try them.

Here's what they look like before washing

Here’s what they look like before washing

But a funny thing happened when I began to research…some articles suggested that as delicious as these roots are — favored by Native Americans back in the day and now beloved worldwide — and despite their cheery aliases —  sunchokes, sunroot and earth apples  — they have a dark underbelly. Emphasis on belly. The story goes that they cause gastric disturbances that no one wants to talk about, since they have so many tasty uses and currently are the darling of the foodie-rootsy set.

I took my investigation international, as my sources said the Brits in particular complained about the gas and christened them “fartichokes.” Given that the English would be unlikely to worry about the truth of such a terrific pun-type word and would happily use it with complete disregard to its relationship to actual fact, I had to corroborate.

Cleaned-up Jerusalem artichokes.

Cleaned-up Jerusalem artichokes.

My son and I got on the Skype to Lowestoft, England to ask my friend Kate and her two boys, Alastair and Gregor, who are 10 and therefore can be expected to be well-versed in anything gassy. They said no, they’d never heard such a thing, but seemed to enjoy being asked.

Well, me being me, I forged on with the experiment, fearlessly offering my body as laboratory rat in the name of good eating, washing and peeling some (but not all) of these cute little roots that have a hobbit-y sort of charm. I set about roasting and then had a taste. They were delicious. Really delicious.

Firm to the bite then creamy inside, with a wonderful nutty flavor (the peeled bits were better than the unpeeled); I was smitten and already thinking about what I could do with them the next time. I then went to bed, after leaving some for my parents to try with their lunch the next day.

Another view of them raw

Another view of them raw

All was well, until suddenly on my way to work that next morning I found out that the Wikipedia entry was painfully true…and I quote… Continue reading

Silky Leek & Potato Soup (no cream)

7 Nov

Soup season is here! Here is a simple leek and potato soup, more silky than creamy. I don’t like too much richness competing with the loveliness of the leeks so I skip the cream and the potatoes give it a good mouth feel. Having said that, I use homemade vegetable stock (usually made from vegetable clippings) that tends to bring a lot of vegetable flavor and sweetness of its own. I call that complexity and like it!

Wash leeks thoroughly as they can hold onto a lot of dirt!

Wash leeks thoroughly as they can hold onto a lot of dirt!

I don’t have much else to say about this one, except that it does everything a busy person needs: easy prep, tastes great on the day and reheats beautifully in the office microwave for days to come. Oh yeah, and it’s in season now!

I dot a bit of nonfat plain yogurt for fun!

I dot a bit of nonfat plain yogurt for fun!

Leek and Potato Soup (makes four generous bowls)

3 Tbs unsalted butter

1 lb leeks

1 pinch salt

1 lb potatoes (Yukon Gold preferred), peeled and chopped into 1/4” chunks

1 quart vegetable stock

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Melt the butter at moderate heat in a soup pot.

Meanwhile, cut off the green part of the leeks and the root end and discard. Clean the remaining white parts thoroughly. Slice the leeks roughly. Place the leeks in the butter and a generous pinch of salt and sweat the leeks for five minutes, Then lower heat to medium low and let the leeks cook for 25 minutes, until really tender.

Add the potatoes and stock and simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes). Puree with an immersion blender or mash with a potato ricer to desired consistency. Check for salt and serve with grated pepper (and croutons if desired).

Buttery Roasted Winter Radishes and Watermelon Turnips

1 Nov

I don’t always reap what I sow, being that my garden is often a disaster and if my family depended on it for primary sustenance, the de Cubas would be no more.

Surprise! An unexpected bounty of radishes

Surprise! An unexpected bounty of radishes

But in a delightful surprise, a late summer planting of leftover radish seeds, sown in some fit of hopefulness as I cleared the beds of the unproductive detritus of a summer spent elsewhere, yielded a pound or so of very fat cherry bell and French Breakfast radishes.

Should've harvested these a week ago....

Should’ve harvested these a week ago….

So fat, in fact, that they needed a roasting with butter to mellow the bite and soften the woodiness that comes when you don’t notice what is happening and you wait too long to harvest. It is the #gardenofneglect after all!

Another view of the surprise radish harvest

Another view of the surprise radish harvest

I added in there some watermelon turnips from our CSA (Restoration Farm), which were absolutely gorgeous, but I didn’t know what else to do with. This is the simplest recipe ever for a beautiful autumnal side dish!

A pretty plate of turnips and radishes with very little effort

A pretty plate of turnips and radishes with very little effort

Roasted Winter Radishes and Watermelon Turnips

Radishes, sliced into ¼-1/2” half moons and/or Watermelon turnips, peeled/pared and sliced into ¼”half moons

A knob of butter

2 Tbs (or more) extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly cracked pepper to finish

Preheat oven to 425°F

In a baking dish big enough to hold your quantity of root vegetables you have, place all the vegetables. Add a generous knob of butter (figure 1.5 Tbs for a 8×8 oven dish worth and go up a half Tbs for each inch larger). Pour 2 Tbs of olive oil over that. Stir everything around to coat and add more oil as you see fit.

Roast in the oven a half hour. Check how things are doing. The turnip will take longer, so lower heat to 375°F and roast for another half hour (you won’t burn the radishes, but the turnip will soften. I will be experimenting with a slower roast at lower temp all the way in the next few days). Sprinkle generously with finishing salt and pepper and serve.

Mummy Dogs, Clementine Pumpkins and More Easy Kid’s Halloween Recipes

29 Oct

We love Halloween around here and like to do a glorified Halloween playdate for the little man and his friends.

This post comes at a time when I am really pressed between my teaching, my son’s many activities, and just trying to keep the house on this side of utter chaos, so it will be quick and easy, just like these recipes.

First up, the easiest:

Clementine Pumpkins:

So, so cute

So, so cute

Peel a bunch of clementines, Trim a celery stalk into stem-sized sticks. Jam the sticks into the clementines as if they were stems and you’re done. (“No one is going to eat them, Mom”says the little guy. “They are too healthy.” but they disappeared off the plate in coos of “How cute” and “I love clementines” and now the little man is eating…his words!)

Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon:

Set a saucepan of apple cider to low or medium low until warm. Ladle into mugs, sprinkle with cinnamon and use cinnamon sticks (medium length) as stirrers. Nice with a splash of cranberry juice too.

Apple Cider Refresher Cocktail

A refreshing, not-too-sweet, low-alcohol fizzy cocktail!

A refreshing, not-too-sweet, low-alcohol fizzy cocktail!

 

In a champagne flute pour one part prosecco to one part apple cider. Top with cinnamon.

Tina’s Witchy Oreos

Thanks for this one, Tina Christiansen!

Thanks for this one, Tina Christiansen!

Take Oreo cookies and top with a Hershey’s Kiss. You can use frosting to make them stick.

Nutella Sandwiches

They were pretty cute! The kids liked the chocolate chips the best,

They were pretty cute! The kids liked the chocolate chips the best,

Spread thinly cut white bread with Nutella (add raspberries if you like). Top with another slice of white bread and for extra fun, use a Halloween themed cookie cutter to cut them into shapes. then use tiny chocolate chips for eyes,noses and mouths. Try not to eat all the cut off bits smeared with Nutella.

AND the most challenging (and still very easy)

Hot Dog Mummies

Preheat oven to 375 ºF

The Pillsbury photos show a much tidier assembly, but my mess worked just fine and the kids thought they were cool!

The Pillsbury photos show a much tidier assembly, but my mess worked just fine and the kids thought they were cool!

Be prepared with 10 hot dogs and dry them off as best you can. Moisture gums up the works a bit.

 

Into the oven you go, my pretties!

Into the oven you go, my pretties!

Take one tube of Pillsbury Crescent Dough and roll it out, pressing the perforations together. Take a pizza slicer and slice into thin strips (1/8 – 1/4″). Working quickly, wrap 3-4 strips around each hot dog, leaving space for eyes. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet and spray the tops with a bit of cooking spray.

Bake for 13-17 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Dot mustard or ketchup for the eyes and serve.

Fun!!!!

Fun!!!!

What I made for the grown-ups…more on this later!

Stuffed pumpkin!

Stuffed pumpkin!

 

 

 

Blue Ribbon Yeast Bread (no kneading required!)

18 Oct
Another blue ribbon for my little baker!

Another blue ribbon for my little baker!

Leandro has done it again! My seven-year-old won another blue ribbon at the Long Island Fair for his baking in the Junior Culinary division! What better way of celebrating than sharing it with you on the day of my 550th post and the fourth anniversary of this blog?

Sizing up the competition

Sizing up the competition

Last year it was his Oatmeal Raisin Cranberry Chocolate Chip Drop Cookies. This year it was an extension of his successful Science Fair project on yeast. We’ve been making a lot of the no-knead refrigerator bread we began making for that, so he decided that would be his submission as it is something he can do almost entirely by himself now.

The Exhibition Hall

The Exhibition Hall

This bread, slightly modified from our original to include some whole wheat flour, has terrific sponginess, nice, not-too-crunchy crust, and good yeasty flavor. (My colleagues at LINCC can attest to this, as I brought in some practice loaves)

We get better results with quick-acting yeast than regular AND we include our tips for encouraging the yeast to activate. This is the easiest bread you can imagine and you can keep the extra dough in the fridge for whenever you want warm bread.

Celebratory candy apple. Don't judge....

Celebratory candy apple. Don’t judge….

I’m so proud of him…and in a life where it’s not always clear that I am doing things right, at least I can feel that I am sending him into the world with a love of good food and an ability to feed himself. Yay us!

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Leandro’s Award-Winning No-Knead Refrigerator Bread

3 Cups warm water (it should feel cozy-comfortable on the hands)

1.5 Tbs salt

1.5 Tbs quick-acting yeast

5.5 Cups unbleached white flour

1 Cup stone ground whole wheat flour

Extra virgin olive oil or other fat for greasing the loaf pan.

Container large enough to hold this much flour and water only doubled in size. You’ll want a cover for it.

Place the water in a large container and dissolve the salt into it.

Stir in the yeast until well mixed. Wait a few minutes for it to begin foaming nicely. We put it on top of a warm toaster oven to encourage yeast activity.

Add the flour, all at once. Stir with a big spoon until well mixed into a sticky dough and there are no big air pockets.

Cover loosely and allow to rise 1-2 hours in a warm place. Again, we put it on top of our toaster oven when it’s on low.

Cover (punching down if necessary) and place in fridge (for up to three weeks).

When you are ready for fresh bread, preheat oven to 450°F. Grease a loaf tin and grab a half to a third of the dough (putting the rest back in the fridge for next time). With greased hands, form a loaf (the cold dough and the fat on your hands — we use olive oil — will keep it from sticking to you), Place in loaf pan and slash across the top with a knife (for a pretty finish) and top with a bit of olive oi if desired. Bake for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden. You can give it a blast at 500°F for the last few minutes to develop the crust more.

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