Category Archives: Dinner

Baguette Guilt and Fried Bread Frittata

So the story goes: I had a half-baguette lingering on top of the microwave, sad and pitiful in a crinkly foil collar that was wrapped around it to help keep bread rigor mortis at bay. It stared me down whenever I checked the time or went to grab Nutella from the pantry (which happens all too often in my house). This weekend has been all about greedy excess: warm chocolate chip cookies on a gray afternoon, hot dogs and cheese fries, fresh-fried donuts, an easy dinner of good bread and triple creme cheese. Why not turn that leftover half-loaf into a frittata crowned with olive oil and butter-fried bread? Keep the good times going, yes, why stop the fry party just because it’s Sunday?

With some beautiful eggs from a local farm, I made a frittata. The eggs were fresh and perky (old eggs lose their tightness; the raw whites slouch like a teenager); I lightly beat them with some salt and cream. After frying the bread cubes in olive oil, butter and salt, I turned them onto a plate and used the hot pan to charm some garlic–egg mixture went back into the pan along with a cup of chopped roasted broccoli, a crumbled knob of goat cheese and a good handful of Parm. I sprinkled the olive oil and butter-fried bread cubes over the top and placed the skillet under the broiler. A few minutes later, there she was, a frittata suitable for breakfast or dinner, and crowned with butter and olive oil-toasted jewels. It was like eggs and toast yet so much more magnificent. Smiling, I brought the skillet to the table, happy with my discovery and knowing that a new era of frittatas for dinner had commenced.

Fried Bread Frittata

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream or crème frâiche (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Four 1/2-inch thick baguette slices (day-old or fresh), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped roasted, steamed or sautéed vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, onions, green beans. fennel, artichokes–the list is endless)
  • 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) cheese, crumbled (such as goat cheese, blue cheese, cheddar, fresh mozzarella)
  • 3 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, or 3 tablespoons chopped chives

1. Whisk the eggs and heavy cream together with a good pinch of salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Melt the butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 9- or 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the baguette cubes and a generous pinch of salt, toss, and cook, turning often, until golden-brown and crunchy, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Add another tablespoon olive oil to the pan along with the garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring often, for about 30 seconds. Stir in the vegetable(s) and pour the egg mixture over the top. Sprinkle the cheese over the frittata followed by 2 tablespoons of Parm, then the croutons and lastly the final tablespoon of Parm. Cook until the edges of the frittata are set, 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and turn the broiler on to high.

4. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the frittata and place it in the oven. Broil until the eggs are set, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with scallions, and serve.

Woah, It’s Roasted Broccoli

Serves 4

Works great with cauliflower too.

  • 1 head broccoli, ends trimmed, stalks peeled and thinly sliced on a bias, crowns divided into florets
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°. Place the broccoli stems and florets in a large baking dish. Toss with the oil and a good few pinches of salt and roast until the florets are browned and frizzled, about 1 hour and 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Serve sprinkled with Parm.

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Filed under Breakfast, Brunch, Dinner, eggs, Quick Food, Recipe, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Main

Changing Seasons Pasta: Hen of the Woods, Cauliflower, Black Forest Ham

Today, we sprang forward. So while the day was brighter for longer, and my mind was made up for light lanky asparagus stalks and creamy-sweet peas, my pantry (and the market) was still stocked for winter. It’s a tough time of year for anyone with a seasonally-triggered appetite. All signs lead to spring yet the grocery store and farmers’ markets are still brimming with hardy winter holdover (yeah, I’m talking to you turnip and rutabaga).

My solution was to let the market talk to me. Rather than walk in with a game plan, I let whatever was looking good plant the seed for dinner. Tonight it was some really beautiful hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, tawny brown and dark rimmed around the edges with curvaceous high-collared tops. Instantly my thoughts turned to cream. Parm. Pasta. Some leftover steamed cauliflower in the fridge. A mahogany-rimmed Black Forest ham in the deli case. A quick saute with garlic was all it necessitated. That and a simple sauce of butter, reduced cream, Parm, some pasta water, salt, pepper. A very un-seasonal hit of fresh basil. Some crumbled blue cheese over the top just because I had it around. A teeny squeeze of lemon gave it a slick of tang, waking it up from an otherwise wintry clutch.

The kids and I ate it with great gusto. My mother-in-law declared herself a hen-of-the-woods convert. It was quick in preparation, light in planning and forethought, and hit just the right balance of rich and bright, creamy and textural. It was like layering a winter sweater with a spring jacket–not a wardrobe pairing that lasts for long, but feels really nice for the time being.

Penne with Ham, Hen of the Woods, and Creamy Cauliflower-Parm Sauce

Serves 4

Black Forest ham adds a hint of smokiness that I really like, especially against the cheese in the sauce. You can totally leave it out for a vegetarian variation, or substitute it with bacon for a richer alternative.

  • 1/2 pound penne pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound hen-of-the woods mushrooms, broken into individual pieces
  • 1 cup steamed cauliflower (or any leftover wintry vegetable), roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 slices Black Forest Ham, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • Blue cheese for crumbling (optional)

1. Boil the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente. Use a coffee cup to scoop out about 1/2 cup pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta.

2. Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) and cook, shaking the pan often, until the mushrooms are singed and brown around the edges, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, ham, garlic, and pepper and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Pour the cream and reserved pasta water into the emptied pasta pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Season with black pepper and then add the Parm and remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir until mostly dissolved. Add the mushroom mixture to the pan followed by the pasta, basil, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and serve with blue cheese sprinkled over the top.

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Quick Food, Recipe, Uncategorized

Huge News…and Coconut Rice!

As of last Monday January 23rd, I took a full-time job! A legit gig, a straight 9-5 deal. I’ve been working freelance for nearly a decade, and it’s been an incredible ride. But I’ve always been one to look out for the next great thing, and believe me, I landed a great thing as the senior food editor at Tasting Table. There aren’t many jobs out there that suit me, my background, and my personality, but I can’t think of a better match. I get to create new recipes, test tons of recipes from the country’s best chefs, review cookbooks, and work alongside some super smart thinkers, writers, editors, and chefs. It’s a dynamic work environment where anything seems possible—so exciting for a food writer. For so long I’ve been scared of what’s happening with cookbooks, food television, magazines—so much upheaval, so many talented friends out of work, so much unfairness and irresponsibility (that’s life, right?). Well, now I get to bask in my good fortune. That’s how it feels on the other side of the fence, looking at nothing but possibility and great big open field of opportunity. It’s a great thing.

Getting dinner on the table though, well, that’s going to be a whole new challenge!! No longer do I have the luxury of skipping down the steps to the kitchen at 5:30 and whipping up something on a whim. No longer do I even have the luxury of sitting down to dinner with my kids (except for weekends, and what a beautiful food-filled weekend did I just have!). Now I have to really think about the week in advance. I’m planning and being strategic. We WILL still eat a homemade meal every night. It’s just going to take some creative hopscotching to do it.

So from here on forward, not only am I going to offer up recipes that inspire me and fuel me as a cook. I’m going to feature plans for getting through the week on a working moms schedule.

But you’ll hear more about that next week. Once I’ve gotten through this week and have the recipes and strategies to share (a few recipes will count on a gorgeous pork roast, so start looking for good deals now—I bought a stunning 4 1/2-pound shoulder for about $30 in Brooklyn meaning it’s probably far cheaper elsewhere!).

For now, I have a beautiful coconut rice side. Those of you who may be scared off by rice (it’s like coffee—either you’ve got the touch, or you don’t) need not worry: this dish gets baked in the oven for a nearly foolproof perfectly cooked outcome. I use coconut milk and a little water as the cooking medium, and finish it off with chopped peanuts, toasted coconut, and cilantro. Instead of white rice, I’m using long-grain brown jasmine rice that boosts up the fiber count and makes me feel okay about the sweet-rich boost from the coconut milk. It’s just the thing to make that ho-hum chicken breast seem a little more special.

Coconut Rice with Peanuts and Cilantro

Serves 4

I love this as a meat-free lunch doused with Sriracha sauce.

  • 3/4 cup long-grain brown rice (I like jasmine)
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped raw peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconut (preferably unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the brown rice in a baking dish and pour in the coconut milk and water. Add the salt and give it a stir. Set the rice in the oven and bake until all the liquid is absorbed, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the baking dish from the oven, fluff, and set aside.
  2. Place the peanuts and coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring every minute or so, until the coconut is golden and the peanuts take on an oily shine, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and use a spoon to scatter the peanut mixture over the rice. Finish with cilantro and serve.

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Filed under Dinner, Grains, Recipe, Side dish, Vegan, Vegetarian

Caramely Spiced Carrots for a Sweet New Year

New Years resolutions often revolve around self-improvement, such as: this year I’m going to stretch everyday (that was mine, it lasted until January 3rd) or I will stop eating sugar (not my resolution and never ever will be!). What I have found to be more effective, though, are resolutions that hone in on attitude adjustments. Such as: this year, I’m going to be more patient with my kids—when they annoy me, I will take a deep breath, smile while exhaling, and try to amend the situation from a positive place. That’s a resolution I can stick to because it acknowledges a fault while resolving to improve over time.

How does this relate to carrots?

Well, carrots and I have history, as in I really, really dislike them. As a kid, my mom would keep a bowl of baby-cut carrots (carrots trimmed to baby size via machine versus actual baby carrots pulled from the ground before they reach maturity) or carrot sticks in a bowl in the fridge. She’d cover them with water and there they’d linger for days on end.

Embracing the concept of a new year, trying new things, having new adventures, and turning over new leaves, I decided t was time I made peace with carrots. I saw a bunch at the market. I stared at them for a while. And then, like the sad last-of-the-litter puppy yelping for attention, I picked up the carrots by the scruff of their greens and dropped them into my basket.

I dressed the carrots with olive oil, honey, orange juice, lots of ground cumin, and a healthy dose of salt. Then I popped them into a cold oven. I figured that by the time the oven hit 425°F (ten to twenty minutes, depending on your oven), the carrots would be one-third to halfway done roasting—so why waste that preheating time?

The carrots were insanely good! They charred, they shriveled, they sweetened, they glistened in their honey-orange glaze. We devoured them (even me). There was a problem, though: the honey and orange juice turned to asphalt in my baking dish and it took four days, a dryer sheet (anyone else know this trick? Add a dryer sheet to an especially troublesome pan, fill with hot water, and soak over night—for most pans it works like a charm), a half bottle of Barkeeper’s Friend, and two scrubbies to get the darned thing clean.

So I tried a few more times, with the goal of the same deliciously caramelized carrots minus the mess in the pan. Roasting the carrots with olive oil and salt to start and then adding the honey-orange juice mixture at the midway point seemed to work well. There was a little deep brown stickiness in the pan at the finish, but nothing that a quick scrub couldn’t remedy.

Carrots and I are making progress. We’re taking small steps together. While I still harbor many carrot prejudices, I’m happy for this New Year’s triumph that wasn’t necessarily a resolution, but had a happy ending anyway.

Oven Caramelized Carrots with Honey and Cumin

Serves 4 to 6

The cumin gives the carrots a fabulously earthy flavor, a taste combo I first experienced at ABC Kitchen in Manhattan, one of my absolute favorite restaurants. If you’re not a cumin lover, take it down to 1/4 teaspoon but please don’t cut it out entirely.

  • 1 1/2 pounds medium carrots, scrubbed and unpeeled, halved lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Flaky salt, for serving (optional)
  1. Place the onions in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Arrange them lengthwise so they’re in a single layer—you may need to place shorter carrots crosswise at the short ends of the pan. Drizzle the carrots with the olive oil and add the salt, roll them to coat.
  2. Place the carrots in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 425°F.
  3. Roast the carrots for 25 minutes. While they roast, whisk together the orange juice, honey, cumin, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the carrots and use tongs or a wooden spoon to roll them in the honey mixture.
  4. Continue roasting until the carrots look glazed, the ends begin to darken, and the tip of a knife easily slides in and out of the biggest carrot, 15 to 25 minutes longer (I like my carrots extra dark and sticky, like the photo above, so I let them go until they reach that point).
  5. Remove from the oven and use tongs to transfer them to a serving dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky salt if you like, and serve warm or at room temp.

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Filed under Dinner, Recipe, Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian

Balance and Bite: Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Apples, Bacon, and Cumin-Popped Pepitas

What does it mean to develop a recipe? What does it mean to test one? What does it mean to adapt a recipe? What is a truly original recipe? These questions represent the fundamental core of what I do as a recipe developer and food writer.

To develop a recipe means that you start at square one, with an idea, and make some hits and misses along the way. You tweak, you taste, you tinker. Until the recipe is just right. Sometimes all it takes is one shot. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, and years (like my ongoing quest for perfect biscuits and cornbread). To test a recipe means you are cooking a recipe, top to tail, exactly as written. You’re noting problems, making observations on timing, and perhaps suggesting shortcuts. The main goal is for the recipe to remain true to the creator’s intent–my fingerprint shouldn’t be detected whatsoever. To adapt a recipe means you take a recipe and change an ingredient or two. Perhaps switch out honey for sugar or take a recipe for a whole chicken and “adapt” it to be suitable for chicken breasts. It’s when a new idea totally piggybacks on someone else’s method.

I’m at my happiest when I’m developing. When I’m truly creating, thinking and imaging the possibilities of what could happen if.

It often starts with a concept. It hits me, starting like a small itch, and develops into a full on compulsion until I get the idea just right. A few months ago it was deviled tea eggs stained and marbled by tea and spices, and then halved and stuffed with deviled duck rillette. Then it was little cookie-cup s’mores stuffed with chocolate truffles and topped by a tanned marshmallow (stay tuned for that recipe). This week it was this risotto.

This risotto all began with the most innocuous butternut squash. When I cut the seemingly perfect squash open, the entire bottom half was semi-rotten. Useless, trash. But the neck of the squash was fine. Not enough to roast solo for a side dish, I decided to turn it into my main dish–which would be risotto. Instead of cooking the squash in the same pot as the risotto, I decided to roast it so it would retain its independence. Rather than cooking down and melding with the rice, roasting concentrates its flavors, making it extra sweet, extra browned, and texturally divine. Bacon and butternut squash are great friends, and a little bacon added a fantastic smokiness to the squash as well as the overall dish. Roasting apple with the bacon and squash gave the dish a sweet-tart tang and the peels offer petals of color. Fresh rosemary with its piney woodsy-ness can never hurt.

I stirred this combo into a basic finished risotto. It needed something, though…something crunchy and something sharp. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, fried with some cumin ended up to be a stellar choice. As they toast in the skillet, they expand into crunchy little pumpkin flavored footballs. Scallions add a  pungent bite. Creamy/crunchy, earthy/buttery, roasted/fresh; smoky/sweet. The risotto is a great snapshot of balance and bite, and of what happens when you wonder.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Apples, Bacon, and Cumin-Popped Pepitas

Serves 4 or 6 as a side

To make this vegetarian, leave out the bacon and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the roasting pan when cooking the butternut squash. I like creamy, sturdy carnaroli rice for risotto.

For the squash

  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/4 to 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 apple, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 bacon strips, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the pepitas

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup pepitas (hulled green pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the risotto

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or Vermouth
  • 6 cups hot vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

1. Roast the squash: Place the squash, apples, bacon, and rosemary on a rimmed baking sheet or in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast until the squash is tender and starting to brown and the bacon is crisp, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring once midway through.

2. Make the pepitas: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Place the pepitas in the pan and cook, stirring often. Add the cumin after 6 minutes and then continue to cook until the seeds have popped and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the seeds out onto a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with salt, and set aside.

3. While the squash is roasting, make the risotto: Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown around the edges and soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to coat with the aromatics. Cook until the rice begins to smell toasty and turn opaque, about 2 minutes. Pour in the white wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add about 1/2 cup of broth. Cook, stirring often (you don’t have to stir constantly, but you don’t want to leave the pot standing unstirred for longer than 1 minute), until the rice nearly absorbs the broth—the pot shouldn’t look dry at the bottom and there should be a slight amount of liquid remaining, enough to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom. Continue to add more broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring between each, until you have added about 5 1/2 cups of broth (this will take around 25 minutes). Taste the risotto. You want it to be every so slightly al dente in the center—like pasta with a semi-white core. Continue to add broth and stir if necessary. Remember that, like a steak, risotto continues to cook once the heat is turned off. So it’s better to err on the side of undercooking than overcooking.

5. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and the Parmesan cheese. Stir the squash mixture into the risotto and taste; add more salt if needed. Serve sprinkle with scallions and the pepitas.

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Filed under Dinner, Grains, Pork, Recipe, Side dish

Saving Money and Feeling Organized Takes 10 Minutes

Hands down, the question I am asked the most by friends is how I organize and plan out a week of meals. Whether you’re a parent or not, planning a week of meals ahead saves money, time, and is a ton healthier than calling for takeout when it’s 6pm and you have no idea what to make for dinner. Elizabeth Larkin @AboutOrganizing interviewed me for her blog and put together a  column that highlights how I think about the week to come. Here’s the link–let me know your thoughts and please share your tips on how you plan for the week ahead at your house!

And yes, that’s my fridge. On Fridays I always take stock of the fridge (and freezer) and figure out what needs to be eaten up over the weekend, and what can wait until Monday/Tuesday. It also helps me figure out the week to come: what staples do I need (whole milk, veggies, protein, etc.)  Here’s what I need to use up in the next few days:

  • leftover mushroom couscous (would it be weird to add this to an omelet? Oh, I also have that baby spinach in the fridge. That could work nicely.)
  • asparagus (I put it in the door front and center to remind myself to use it asap!)
  • leftover Indian cabbage (maybe I’ll make some spiced rice and lentil dal on Sunday)
  • leftover roasted pepper-cream sauce (this with the  boneless chicken thighs I have in the freezer plus roasted asparagus is a killer meal–I might do that for Saturday since that asparagus needs to be used pronto)
  • ham hock soup (last night I went to two fantastic film screenings: The Color Wheel and Girl Walk All Day. Since I knew it would be a busy exit strategy what with the sitter coming by 6pm, I sauteed some delicious pork sausage from Greene Grape Provisions and tossed with pasta and the soup for an easy sauce; might cook rice in leftover soup component for a delicious pilaf-y/biryani/risotto-esque meal)

 

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Filed under Dinner, Meal Planning, Organizing, Press/Appearances, Recipe, Soup

A Simple Meal in 20 Flat: Salt and Pepper Trout with Green Beans, Brown Butter, and Toasted Almonds

After a giant belt-loosening wallet-draining feast like the one I enjoyed last Thursday, I ground myself with basic, simple, straight forward food. Nothing too rich, too fancy, or too time consuming—just a good meal my kids will eat that doesn’t dirty every pan in the house.

We had a fun day in the city yesterday and took the boys to see the Muppets (my older son, Julian, totally jammed to “We Built this City” it was a truly fantastic sight! And thankfully no one was sitting in front or behind my little head banging Starship thrasher), followed by chess in Union Square, a walk through the holiday market, and bubble tea in the East Village. On our way home, I witnessed a horrible accident on the Bowery: a Vespa got smashed by a car making a left turn. Thankfully the driver was fine and while we weren’t involved in the bang-up, I did my civic duty and waited 30 minutes for the cops to arrive (insane). By the time we made it over the bridge home to Brooklyn, it was nighttime, the boys were hungry, and I was wiped.

I popped into Greene Grape Provisions, my local food shop for all things twice as expensive as they should be yet often worth it, especially in the meat and seafood department. Since I wanted dinner on the table quickly, I knew I had to either go veg or go with a quick protein. After all the intense meat eating of last week, I opted for a quick trout saute, paired with steamed green beans that get a good sear in browned butter. The duo of a meal counts on five ingredients total: trout, butter, green beans,  sliced almonds, and lemon. If you count salt and pepper then I guess it’s seven. Plus you can get it done in less than 20 minutes Hallelujah.

Farmed rainbow trout has a nice flake and a mellow flavor. It’s a good graduation from benign tilapia and a heck of a lot cheaper than salmon or tuna (don’t let the head-on attribute throw you–this just means it’s super fresh! After it’s cooked, I use kitchen shears to easily snip the head off–and it’s fun for the kids to look at!). Plus it’s a sustainable fish to choose since it is domestically farmed in an eco-friendly manner. I like to give it a fast sear in a nonstick pan with a little butter. While it browns in butter on my left burner, on my right burner I steam up some green beans (you can totally do it in a microwave too–add a few tablespoons of water to a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, poke a few vent holes in the top, and zap until tender, 6 to 8 minutes). They come out of the pan and in goes some butter–it browns fast because the pan is already hot–add sliced almonds to toast, and then toss in the cooked green beans. Salt, pepper, lemon on the fish, done. It is the opposite of a Thanksgiving feast, but man am I thankful for it!

Salt and Pepper Trout with Green Beans, Brown Butter, and Toasted Almonds

Serves 4

  • 1 pound green beans, topped and tailed
  • 2 whole trout (about 1 pound), gutted and cleaned
  • Kosher salt and a few twists of black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 lemon sliced into quarters

1. Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a Dutch oven or large pot. Insert a steamer basket and add the green beans to the basket. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and steam until the beans are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. (When you remove a bean to test it, recover the pot quickly so all of the steam doesn’t escape!) Turn the heat off and transfer the beans to a medium bowl. Pour out the remaining water and place the pan back on the burner. Wipe the pan out with a kitchen towel.

2. Place the trout flesh-side up on a cutting board. Season each trout with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 trout, flesh-side down, and cook until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Slide a spatula under the trout and flip it over (as shown, above). Cook it skin-side down until the flesh feels firm (not rock hard but not spongy) to light pressure, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with another tablespoon of butter and the other trout.

3. While the second trout is cooking, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the pot used for the green beans over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the almonds, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until they’re toasted, stirring often. (The butter will brown as well). Stir in a pinch of salt and then add the cooked green beans, tossing to combine with a few more pinches of salt. Divide the beans among 4 plates.

4. Slice off the head and fins from the trout and divide each fish into 2 fillets (kitchen scissors work nicely). Place a fillet on each plate, squeeze a lemon wedge over each fillet, and serve.

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Filed under Dinner, Fish and Seafood, Quick Food, Recipe, Side dish, Uncategorized, Vegetable

Home is Where the Hock is: Hock, Stock, and Lentil Soup

Soup was one thing my mom, a woman who hates to eat and cook, used to make really well. Vegetable soup, chicken soup, or my all-time favorite: ham hock and bean soup. It was important for her to learn to make soup when she married my dad (they even met over a bowl of chicken soup at a diner on Chicago’s north side back in the early 1970s), because in my dad’s family, soup is love—it’s nourishing, hearty, filling, homemade, and cheap, all important factors when you’re bouncing back from near-starvation in war-ravaged Eastern Europe. So for my mom to marry my dad, not only would she have to convert to Judaism (not a problem for this ex-hippie, ex-born again Christian who had a thing for She-Hulk, and discos) but she’d have to learn how to make soup.

As a kid, I remember sitting down to soup with my mom and dad—they divorced when I was five, but the memory of coming together at the table for soup is one of the few happy family memories I have. Dunking fresh bread into soup is a human right, and we’d always have fresh bread with our soup, that is if I was stopped from tunneling out the interior of the bread in time. Otherwise, we’d dunk an eviscerated torpedo of crust into our broth, me while smirking, my dad while scowling.

Ham hock and bean soup was always my favorite. The hocks, which are really kind of like pork ankles, turn water with some rustic mirepoix (chunked carrots, celery, and onions) into a hoggy elixir at once salty, smoky, meaty, and rich. Mom would pull the meat off the hocks and then toss them in the broth with loads of kidney beans and not much else. A hot, massive bowlful with a few pieces of bread on the side was something to look forward to. So when Martha Bayne asked to make a soup for her Brooklyn edition of Soup & Bread (a fundraiser benefiting the New York City Coalition Against Hunger), I knew ham hock soup was the one I’d make.

My boys prefer lentils to beans so I made them with the former. I added some fresh rosemary and thyme and used a ton of black pepper to spice up the chopped and sautéed onions. The hock broth boils for a good few hours on the stove top, and afterward, instead of using the meat in the soup, I selfishly decided to save the hock meat for post-Thanksgiving hash (can you think of a better way to use up mashed potatoes than with pork hock meat and fried eggs? I mean, really!). Instead, I slow roasted a pork shoulder with lots of garlic and herbs, then shredded and chopped the meat and added it to the soup (you won’t use all of the shredded pork–save some to make barbecue pork sandwiches, see below!).

Anna Wolf, proprietress of My Friend’s Mustard and my nextdoor soup neighbor for the event, made an incredible creamy potato-havarti-beer soup with lots of dill (I want that recipe Anna!). She tasted my hock, stock, and lentil soup and said with a big smile—“it tastes like home, like a soup my mom always makes.” Thanks moms.

Hock, Stock, and Lentil Soup

While Thanksgiving is for pulling out all the tricks and finery for a massive feast, don’t forget that you need to eat something while all that cooking is happening. Soup is a masterful friend to have in the fridge, especially this one that re-gifts itself as pulled pork sandwiches (using a whole pork shoulder in a single pot of soup would be obscene! Save some for barbecue pork sandwiches) and day after Thanksgiving mashed potato and hock hash. I also like to toss a few spoonfuls with pasta, some olive oil, and a shower of Parm for a delicious and hearty lunch. You can of course completely skip the pork shoulder and just use the hock meat for the soup—your call (you’d miss out on barbecue pork sandwiches, which would be a real shame).

For the pork shoulder

  • 6- to 7-pound boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider

For the hock stock

  • 3 ham hocks
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 black peppercorns

For the soup

  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups brown lentils, rinsed
  • Fresh bread for dunking

1. If making the pork shoulder: place the pork on a cutting board, meat-side up. In the bowl of a food processor, purée the onion, garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Smear the mixture all over the pork. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Pour the cider into the bottom of a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or braising pot, place the pork in the pot, and braise until the meat easily pulls away from the roast, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Baste the pork every hour or so.

2. While the shoulder braises, make the stock. Fill a large pot with water (8 to 10 cups depending on the size of your pot). Add the hocks, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, and peppercorns, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, set the cover askew, and simmer gently for 3 hours.

3. Turn off the heat and place the hocks on a large plate. Set aside to cool and then separate the meat from the fat and bones. If using the hock meat instead of pork shoulder for the soup, then set it aside. If not using the hock meat for the soup, refrigerate or freeze to use another time.

4. Strain the stock through a mesh sieve and into a large bowl. Discard the vegetables and set the stock aside.

5. Remove the roast from the oven and cool completely before shredding the meat and discarding the fat. Set aside 2 to 3 cups of shredded pork for the soup and refrigerate or freeze the rest for barbecue pork sandwiches, pork tacos, or something else tasty.

6. To make the soup: heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the onions soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the onions are deep golden and the pepper smells toasty, another 4 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the garlic, rosemary, and thyme, cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and cook for 1 minute, then pour in 1 cup of the stock. Cook until the liquid is absorbed, and then pour in the remaining stock.

7. Bring to a simmer (don’t let the soup boil) and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are nearly tender, about 35 minutes. Stir in the shredded pork and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 10 minutes longer. Serve hot with bread, of course.

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Filed under Dinner, Pork, Recipe, Soup

Midnight Brunch Meatballs! This time, in Sicilian!

Thank you to everyone who came out for Midnight Brunch on 11/11/11! Who knew I could stay up past midnight, let alone eat lamb vindaloo (that’s me plating the lamb vindaloo above) and chicken curry in the wee hours of the morning without turning into a pumpkin? What a fantastic time–what a great crowd! Brian Quinn’s extra-smooth cocktails were superb (the Dutch Derby was my personal fave), and I absolutely fell in love with Emily Cavalier’s Persian rice (scroll down, and the last photo is Emily and myself in Scott and Jessica’s amazing cave-cum-portal to ancient Egypt!). An extra thanks to the event volunteers: Brian, Rachael, Dani, Bryce, Stacie, and Topher (that’s him with the bowl of meatballs) as well as the American Lamb Board for generously sending us a gorgeous leg of lamb for the vindaloo.

The Sicilian meatballs I made  were a massive hit–I made about 125 meatballs and they were all devoured within 20 minutes! Now that’s serious eating. I figured it would be extra swell of me to share the recipe, which is based on a meatball recipe I learned while growing up in Chicago from the Campo family (hey Mr. and Mrs. Campo!). I posted a more traditional version earlier this fall that I made for Eugene Mirman’s Brooklyn Comedy Festival. Needless to say, those went pretty fast too–I had meatball groupies following me out of the even asking if I had any more “magical meatballs.” Lucky for them, not only are my meatballs “magical” but they’re also legal.

Sicilian Meatballs

Makes about 2 dozen golf ball-sized meatballs

These meatballs are based on the ones I made for the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival in September–with a few shakeups like a pork and beef combo, currants, and mint. A disclaimer: I have never been to Sicily, however, this is how I imagine a Sicilian meatball tastes, perhaps with pine nuts added too (I think they get in the way of a nice ball cross-section, and don’t care for their earthy undertones, but hey, try it out and let me know your conclusions!).

  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a good pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese plus 3/4 cup for sprinkling
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1  pound 80- to 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups neutral oil (I like grapeseed)

1. Place the currants in a small bowl and add enough warm water to cover. Set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the panko, a good pinch of salt, and cook, stirring often, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a large bowl and add the milk. Set the mixture aside until the panko has absorbed all of the milk (about 10 minutes).

3. Whisk in the eggs and then and the Pecorino, shallots, garlic, basil, mint, salt, and pepper. Drain the currants and add to the breadcrumb mixture. Stir to combine.

4. Add the ground beef and ground pork, gently breaking them into small knobs as you add them to the bowl. Using your hands,  gently toss the mixture together until combined. Be careful not to knead or overmix and knead the meatball mixture. If you warm up the fat in the ground beef too much, your meatballs will be tough and stressed and your meatballs won’t be succulent and juicy.

5. Heat the olive oil and neutral oil in a large, deep skillet (I like busting out the cast iron for this) over medium heat. Once the oil is fragrant gently press and roll a chunk of the meatball mixture into a golf ball-sized ball. Add the meatball to the oil and fry it on all sides. Taste it for seasoning and adjust the salt or pepper if needed.

6. Shape the remaining meatball mixture into balls flattening them slightly (this allows you to easily brown them on all sides). Add 8 to 10 to the pan taking care to leave about 1-inch between meatballs (the frying meatballs should sound like a even-keeled applause, not angry white noise—adjust the heat if necessary). Cook the meatballs until both sides deeply browned, about 10 minutes total. Rest the meatballs on their sides around the pan’s perimeter to brown the edges, turning them as necessary. Add more raw meatballs to the center of the pan. Continue to cook the meatballs, turning them as needed, until browned on all sides. As they are done, use tongs to transfer them to a plate and sprinkle with lots of Pecorino, piling the meatballs on top of one another as you go, and always sprinkle Pecorino on top of the sizzling hot meatballs. Serve hot or at room temperature.

A special thank you to Clay Williams who took the photographs–thanks for making me look so good!

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Filed under Appetizer, Beef, Dinner, Pork, Press/Appearances, Recipe

15 Minute, Healthy, Kid-Friendly Meal: Sesame Soba Noodles

Every Tuesday it’s my turn to make lunch for all of the kids at my son’s homeschooling cooperative. It’s tricky—while I want to make a lunch that all the kids will find tasty, I also want to use the opportunity to challenge their palates and open them up to new flavors. This is easy because A) there is a “courtesy portion” rule meaning that every kid has to try at least a bite or two before refusing to eat it and B) I know that there is sliced bread and some type of nut butter available as an emergency sandwich backup.

The most reliable way that I have found to get kids into new flavors is by introducing them via a familiar package. Some of the past lunches were lamb meatballs with the new flavor being lamb, and the familiar being the meatball-and-sauce package. Or, instead of rice and black beans, I made rice and lentils (mujadara).

Yesterday (Tuesday) I found myself quite flustered in the morning. You see, I’m used to working on pretty intense deadlines and I just made it through a wild twelve-week cookbook project that required I be at top game and also be hyper-organized. I turned the manuscript into my editor at Clarkson Potter on Monday afternoon, meaning that by Tuesday morning I was moving at zombie-speed. I tend to unravel a bit after a deadline, I’m loose and forgetful, I’m hazy, I’m sleepy. It subsides after a week or so. But I acknowledge that, yes, I get a bit dippy after a deadline (a huge sorry to the effervescent and ridiculously talented Melissa Clark who I interviewed one day post-deadline while I was at my floppiest).

So I found myself on Tuesday morning not knowing what to make for the kids. I nearly made (gasp!) pasta with butter and cheese. Shame on me, I thought. I opened the cupboards, rooted around, and came out triumphantly grasping a baton of soba noodles and a bottle of soy sauce. Kids love soy sauce and they certainly love spaghetti, so they’d surely love sesame soba noodles. Add ribboned carrots and chopped snow peas plus a dab of peanut butter and ginger for crunch, color, depth, and brightness and I had an easy-to-love meal that took (thankfully) barely a brain cell to make.

**I’m trying out a new recipe style below. Do you find it easier to follow? It seems that traditional recipe format doesn’t necessarily translate so well to blog-recipes, so am tinkering with recipe presentation. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Carrots and Snow Peas

Serves 4 to 6

This is a fantastic make-ahead dish. The sauce, noodles, and cooked snow peas can happily sit out at room temperature for hours without being compromised—keep the sauce separate from the noodles and wait to toss just before serving.

1. In a medium bowl whisk together:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey

Use a teaspoon to scrape the skin off of a:

  • 1-inch piece gingerroot

Grate the ginger into the bowl with the soy mixture, stir, and set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add:

  • 2 bundles soba noodles (about 6 ounces)

Once the noodles have about 1 minute left to cook (when you bite into a strand, it will have a slightly opaque center), add to the pot:

  • 1 snow peas, thinly sliced on a bias

Boil the soba and snow peas for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until both are tender and the snow peas are bright green. Drain through a sieve and then rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and prevent the noodles from sticking together. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl stir in:

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

3. Using a vegetable peeler, shave:

  • 2 medium peeled carrots

Once the carrots are completely ribboned, roughly chop the ribbons into confetti-like bits. Add the carrots and the sauce to the noodles and stir to combine. Serve with:

  • Fresh cilantro

 

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Filed under Dinner, Recipe, Salad, Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Main