Archive for category Recipes

Corn off the Cob

Corn made its debut at the farmer’s market this week.  While it’s not yet at its best, I love fresh corn so I couldn’t resist buying a few ears.  Corn, while not that beneficial from a nutrition perspective (low fat, but high carb), is a great summer vegetable for a busy person to have on hand.  You can give it a quick boil for a simple corn on the cob.  You can get a little fancier by spreading on an herb butter, wrapping it in foil and roasting it; or you can get more labor intensive by shaving it off the cob and incorporating it into a pasta salad.  The next few posts will provide recipes illustrating some of these options.

Let’s start with the most involved, but most interesting option –  a fresh corn salad.  This recipe calls for a bit of prep work, but, in the end, you have a light but filling salad.  The sweetness of the corn is tempered by the intense flavors of cilantro and garlic.  With the inclusion of black beans, peppers, and feta, this salad takes relatively low nutrition corn and marries it with protein, dairy and antioxidants.  I eat this salad as a main course since it covers so much nutritional ground and is filling.  However, it would make an excellent companion to any grilled meat.

Orzo and Corn Summer Salad

(serves 4-6 as a side dish).

For the Pesto

1 bunch Cilantro

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1-2 cloves Garlic

Salt and Pepper (to taste)

1-2 dashes fresh Lime Juice

For the Salad

1 cup Orzo

1 ear fresh Corn on the cob

1/2 -1 large Red Bell Pepper

1/2-1 large Orange Bell Pepper

1/2-1 cup Tomatoes (preferably Cherry tomatoes), diced

1 can (15 oz.) Black Beans, unsalted

1-2 Tbsp. Cilantro Pesto

1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Crumbled Feta or Grated Cheddar Cheese to taste (optional)

1. To make the cilantro pesto, separate the cilantro leaves from the stems and place oil, garlic, and cilantro leaves in a blender or food processor.  Blend until the mixture reaches the consistency of a rough paste.  Add a dash or two of fresh lime juice, to taste.  Add salt and Pepper to taste.  Cover pesto and set aside.  Pesto can be stored in refrigerator for about a week.

2.  To make the Orzo, heat a pot of water (about 3 cups) to a boil.  Add 1 tbsp salt to the water.  Add Orzo and boil for 8-10 minutes until soft but not mushy (slightly softer than al dente). Drain the water from the Orzo and rinse the Orzo in cold water until the Orzo is cold (this will stop any residual cooking). Drain off any excess water, place the Orzo in a bowl, mix in a dash of Olive Oil, cover and set aside.

3. Shuck the corn.  Wash and dry the corn. Using a sharp knife, shave the corn kernels off the cob.  Saute the kernels in a small saute pan with a little butter until the kernels soften but are still firm (about 3-4 minutes).  Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool.

4. Finely and uniformly (if possible) chop the peppers and tomatoes and mix together in a bowl.  Set the bowl aside.

5. Open the can of beans.  Wash and drain the beans. Briefly saute the beans with a little salt and pepper (about 1-2 minutes) and set aside to cool.

6.  In a large bowl, mix together the Orzo, cooled corn, tomato/pepper mixture and cooled beans.  Add cilantro and basil and mix gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7.  Serve with cheddar or feta sprinkled on top, if using. Excess can be stored covered in the refrigerator for about a week.  I wouldn’t recommend trying to freeze it.

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Keeping Cool With Berries

It’s the first day of summer and the first day of the first official “heat wave” of summer for those of us on the northern east coast.  While my appetite generally decreases when it’s really hot, my sweet tooth never lets up.  Because I have only ever posted about savory dishes, I thought I would take a moment on this day of firsts to speak about something sweeter – Dessert!  Macerated Strawberries are a lovely treat to come home to when the weather is sweltering (ok, a man with the sculpted proportions of a greek god wearing just an apron might be nice too, but that’s the subject for a different blog).

I was introduced to this dessert so long ago, that I can’t remember the origin or the exact proportions, but that’s ok because it’s so simple you can hardly go wrong (indeed, a brief web search reveals countless variations).  It tastes best when ripe berries and a high quality balsamic vinegar are used.  If you like a sweet and tangy combinations, then this dessert is for you.

Recipe

Fresh ripe strawberries, washed, hulled and halved

Sugar

Balsamic Vinegar

Place the strawberries in a bowl, sprinkle a little sugar on the berries (really no more than a very light dusting), and then pour over a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.  Use the vinegar like you’re dressing a salad – you want to wet each of the berries but not drown them in vinegar. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and let the berries sit for 30 minutes up to a few hours in the refrigerator.  The berries will soften and give up some of their liquid as they sit in the vinegar in a process called maceration.   When you are ready to eat them, take them out of the fridge, transfer the berries into a serving bowl using a slotted spoon. Enjoy alone or with yogurt.

Note:  (1) The liquid, which by the end is really more of a syrup, is edible, but I generally find it too sweet.  You may disagree so try it before throwing it out.  (2) if you can get your hands on a chocolate flavored balsamic, use it, it’s delicious.

 

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Mid Winter Taste of Summer with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Generally,  I’m a big proponent of eating seasonally and locally, but the months of January through March in New York really test my principles.  Go to your average farmer’s market during these months and it’s all tubers and meats as far as the eye can see with a few very very expensive hydroponic tomatoes thrown in.  I’m one of those people that could live quite happily with only 2 seasons – spring and summer.  So in a flight of fancy and in an attempt to alleviate the culinary boredom of winter, I bring you a recipe for a summery Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.

The concentrated sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes combined with the savory garlic cloves and pine nuts makes this sun-dried tomato pesto bright and packed with flavor.  This is the ultimate in cooking after work because, if you’re organized, the pesto can be prepared in less than 15 minutes, and it’s extremely versatile.  The most obvious use is as a sauce over pasta.  Another easier use is to spread it on toast and top it with a little mozzarella and basil for those really late nights when it’s too late for a full meal, but you need a little something to quiet your stomach.  If you feel like doing a little more cooking after work, sun-dried tomato pesto is very nice spooned over grilled chicken breasts (bringing total prep time to just under 40 minutes).  Or, you can copy my dinner tonight, which was toasted challah bread topped with sun-dried tomato pesto, a few fresh basil leaves (yes – another out of season cheat, but I’ve really been craving spring lately), and slices of a grilled chicken breast.  It was heavenly and took less than 40 minutes to prepare the sun-dried tomato pesto and cook the chicken.

This recipe makes enough for several meals so with a little creativity you can cook a variety of quick meals after work through the week with very little effort.  Oh and I almost forgot – a spoonful of sun-dried tomato pesto mixed into or on top of scrambled eggs is excellent – although the garlic might not make you very popular in the office that morning!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

makes about 1 1/2 cups (360ml)

Qty Item
3/4 cup (180ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 cup (114g) Basil leaves
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Fresh lemon juice
1 cup (227g) Sun-dried Tomatoes packed in Oil
1/4 cup (57g) Pine Nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup (57g) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  1. Toast the pine nuts and then set them aside to cool. Note: the toasting is not critical, but adds flavor; and walnuts make a cheaper substitute for the pine nuts, but will give the pesto a stronger nutty taste.
  2. Drain the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, rinse the tomatoes with water and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  3. Place all the ingredients except for the Parmigiano Reggiano into a very powerful blender in the order listed. Pack the ingredients down into the blades, then blend on medium speed until the desired consistency is reached (it’s a pesto not a sauce so it should still be a little thick).  The amount of oil varies a little every time I make this pesto depending on the tomatoes used and how carefully I’ve measured everything.  If you find the pesto is too thick and dry to blend properly or for your taste, add more oil by slowly pouring in more oil through the opening in the cap of the blender while the blender is running on a low speed until the desired thickness is reached.
  4. Then add in the Parmigiano Reggiano and blend for a few seconds more.
  5. Store any leftovers in a freezer safe container under a thin film of oil.  It will last about a week or so in the refrigerator or a few months in the freezer.

Note: If you don’t have a powerful blender, you can use a food processor.  If using a food processor, it’s easier to process the dry ingredients together first until you have a very chunky dry paste then slowly pour in the oil through the tube while the processor is running until you reach the desired consistency.

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Winter Kale Salad

It’s the middle of winter – the time of year when hearty stews and warm soups call to us and New Year’s resolutions to eat better start to fail.  Well, here’s a hearty simple salad, that will stick to your ribs just as well as any stew, while at the same time being relatively heart and diet healthy.

This salad is derived from a salad served at Northern Spy Food Co., one of my favorite restaurants.  I’ve made a few adjustments and substitutions to suit my taste and to decrease preparation time.  It’s now become a regular in my kitchen.  It’s simple  (only 6 ingredients) and packs a big nutritional punch (Kale is low in saturated fat and cholesterol; is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, folate, iron, magnesium; and is a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese).

This salad is also surprisingly robust and well balanced flavor-wise.  The slight earthy bitterness of the raw Kale is perfectly offset by the freshness of the lemon juice.  The creamy nuttiness of the cheddar nicely balances the tartness of the apple and is complimented by the almonds which give a crunchy contrast to both the apples and cheddar.  Because this salad has such a strong combination of flavors, I find it completely satisfying as a stand alone meal. I’ve eaten this salad for lunch and felt full and energized for the whole afternoon.  I’m not a certified nutritionist, but I suspect that because the Kale is raw, it takes longer to digest.

Prep ahead / Lunch tip: This salad can be prepped the day before.  Don’t add the apples and lemon juice/walnut oil dressing until just before serving.  If you really want to add the apples in advance then I recommend that before adding the apples, you rub/sprinkle the apples with a little bit of lemon juice to retard the browning of the apples.

Winter Kale Salad

serves 4 as side salad or 2 as main course

Qty Item
1 bunch Lacinato Kale (also known as Cavolo Nero, Tuscan Kale, Dinosaur Kale or Black Kale)
1/4 cup (60g) Raw Almonds
1/4 cup (60g) Tart apple, cubed
1/4 cup (60g) Raw milk cheddar, cubed
1-2 tbsp (15-30ml) Fresh lemon juice
1-2 tbsp (15-30ml) Walnut Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Wash the Kale and then shake or wipe off any excess water. Remove the white ribs from the Kale and discard the ribs. Thinly slice the Kale leaves and place the slices into a large bowl. Raw Kale can be a little hard to digest so I recommend slicing it thinly to make it a little easier to digest.
  2. Place the almonds on a tray and lightly toast the almonds in a toaster oven or regular oven until they just start to give off a nutty aroma.  You can toast them in a dry pan on the stove top, but watch them carefully as nuts burn quickly.
  3. While the nuts are toasting, prepare the apple cubes.  I recommend a semi-tart apple such as Jonagold, but any firm apple that you like will do.
  4. Slice the cheddar into cubes.  I use a raw milk cheddar because I believe the flavor is richer, but if you’re uncomfortable with raw milk products (i.e., unpasteurized milk), any high quality cheddar would work just as well (this generally excludes the neon orange commercial brands).
  5. Toss the Kale, almonds, apples and cheddar with lemon juice and walnut oil to taste (go easy here – the leaves should glisten with dressing, not drown).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Quinoa Rainbow Salad

This salad is perfect in terms of ease of preparation and nutritional value.  I’ve already expounded upon the nutritional value of Quinoa in a separate post (read post here) so I won’t go into that again here.  This salad recipe is an adaptation of a recipe on the Food52 website.  It’s a work in progress and changes depending on what vegetables I have on hand.  However, this is the version that I love the most because with all the different vegetables, it really is a complete nutritional meal in one dish. It’s also wonderfully textured with the crunch of the peppers and nuts balanced against the creaminess of the Quinoa. The lemon gives a nice pop of freshness against the earthiness of the kale.  Finally, it’s a rainbow of colors which just makes it beautiful on the plate.

Because it’s also good cold, it’s perfect for carrying to the office for lunch or eating straight from the fridge at night after a long day in the office.  Because this recipe can be made in 30-40 minutes, it’s also possible to make this salad from scratch on a weeknight.  If you decide to do it on a weeknight, you can save time by skipping step 2, starting with step 3 and then completing all the other prep work while the Quinoa and kale cooks.

Serves 4 as a main course:

Qty Item
1 Red Bell Pepper, finely diced
1 Orange Bell Pepper, finely diced
2 Scallions, white and green parts finely minced
1 Chive, finely minced
1/8 – 1/4 cup Feta, crumbled
Zest of 1/2 Meyer Lemon or regular lemon
1-2 tblsp Meyer Lemon juice or regular lemon juice
1 tblsp Walnut Oil or other oil such as olive oil.
1 cup Chicken Stock or Vegetable Stock
3/4 cup Water
1 cup Quinoa
1 bunch Lacinato Kale (a.k.a: Black Kale, Dinosaur Kale, Cavolo Nero), sliced or hand torn into 1 inch strips.
4 tblsp Pine Nuts, lightly toasted
Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. In a large bowl, combine the diced bell peppers, scallions, and chive.  Add in the feta, lemon zest, lemon juice and oil. Mix lightly then set the bowl aside.
  2. Rinse Quinoa under cold water.  For maximum flavor, toast the Quinoa in a dry pan over medium heat until the Quinoa is dry and starts to give off a nutty aroma. Stir it and watch it closely as you toast it so that it doesn’t stick to the pan, turn brown or burn.
  3. In a 3 quart pot, combine stock and water (or use all water if no stock is available, but then salt the water generously so that it taste like the sea) and bring to a boil. Then add the Quinoa to the pot.  Stir it once or twice then reduce the temperature so that the liquid is just at a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. After the 10 minutes have passed, most of the water (90%) should be absorbed.  At this point, dump the sliced kale on top of the simmering Quinoa and put the lid back on the pot. Let it simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. After the 5 minutes have passed, remove the lid and check to see that all the liquid has been absorbed and the kale is fully steamed, wilted and bright green. If that is the case, remove the pot from the heat, but cover it and let it continue to steam for another 5 minutes off heat.  If that is not the case, let it simmer until all the water has been absorbed before proceeding.
  6. After 5 minutes have passed, the kale should be completely wilted and the Quinoa should be tender, but firm.  Empty the pot into the bowl containing the other ingredients, add in the toasted pine nuts, and gently mix them all together (toss as you would a salad).  Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding more lemon juice, if you prefer. then serve.

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Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie is an excellent way to repurpose any chicken meat salvaged from making stock or to use up any leftover roasted chicken (click here for a Roast Chicken recipe).  Besides, who doesn’t love a nice hearty chicken pot pie – especially during this time of year when its so cold and miserable out.  Until about a year ago, I found the idea of making my own intimidating.  However, while the ingredient list is a bit long, the process is actually not that complicated.

While they are a little too time consuming to make from scratch on your average weeknight, they freeze and reheat well so make them during some weekend when you have time and then freeze them for reheating during the week. It is for this reason that I recommend storing them in individual serving sized ramekins without the top crusts.  When you are ready to reheat them, pop the frozen pot pies into an oven preheated to about 400 degrees for about 15 minutes then add the top crusts and continue cooking until the crust is golden brown and the filling bubbles.  If the crust starts to get too dark before the filling bubbles, cover the top loosely with foil.  Serve with a nice side salad and you’re good to go for dinner. Read the rest of this entry »

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Because Naked Breasts Aren’t that Interesting

Now, now, this is a cooking blog so this post is not actually about a woman’s breasts, but what to do to make otherwise boring chicken breasts more interesting.  The easiest way is to finish off the sautéed chicken breast with a sauce.  And the key to a good pan sauce is chicken stock. Chicken stock is the real focus of this post, because as the great Chef Escoffier said “Stocks are to cooking what foundations are to a house.”  With chicken stock on hand, you can easily make sauces to give a little boost to otherwise simple preparations of meats; you can make rich soups; you can cook grains in it instead of water to give the grains a little more flavor; and most importantly, you can make those rich braises where the meat practically falls off the bone.

There are basically two types of chicken stock – the delicious kind you make yourself and the crappy kind you buy at the supermarket.   OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh.  If you’re really in a pinch, the commercial varieties will do, just don’t tell anyone and do it knowing that you’ll eventually have to answer to your god for the crime.  Seriously, making your own chicken stock is easy and something you only need to do every couple of months so it’s well worth the effort to do it yourself.

The following is a basic recipe for chicken stock. It makes about  2 1/2 quarts of Chicken stock.  Store it in small freezer safe containers (1 and 2 cup sizes tend to be the most useful) and freeze it until you need it.

Chicken Stock

makes approximately 2 1/2 quarts

Qty Item
3 1/2 Lbs Chicken parts and bones (I like to use a mix of necks, feet, parts of the carcass and an old stewing hen, if available)
3 quarts Cold Water
4.5 oz onions, roughly chopped
4.5 oz carrots, roughly chopped
2 oz celery, roughly chopped
1 Garlic clove, crushed
1 bunch herb stems (4-5 thyme stems with the leave removed, 2-3 parsley stems with the leaves removed, 1 small rosemary stem with the pines removed, 2 Bay leaves)
4-6 whole peppercorns
  1. Trim the chicken parts of excess fat and skin and rinse them under cold water for a few minutes (or let them soak for a few minutes) to remove any blood or debris.  Place the chicken parts in a stock pot (or any pot large enough to hold all the items) and cover with the 3 quarts cold water or as much water as is necessary to cover the chicken.  Bring the water to a boil.  As the liquid comes to a boil, a foam/scum will rise to the top.  Continuously skim off this foam until it stops rising.
  2. Once the foam stops rising, lower the water temperature to a simmer.  Add the remaining ingredients and continue to let it simmer for about 2 hours.  Keep an eye on it every 10 minutes or so to skim off any foam/scum that rises to the top.
  3. After about 2 hours, strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.  Discard the vegetables.  Set the chicken parts aside. At this point, you can cool the stock and prep it for storage, or you can pour it into another pot and continue to boil it down to concentrate the flavor.  I usually boil it down further until about 2/3 of the original amount remains so that I can have a richer tasting stock.  I then usually add a few pinches of salt.

Now that you have some stock on hand, you’re ready to dress those breasts.  And what goes better with chicken than a nice sherry mushroom cream sauce. This Chicken Breast with Sherry Mushroom Cream Sauce can be made in 30 minutes.

While I don’t recommend using the really meaty parts of the chicken, if you did use parts with some meat on them, you should reserve the meat and use it for chicken salads, or this absolutely fabulous Chicken Pot Pie.

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