Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

It was cool day, and I was craving comfort food. I didn’t want to go to the store, so I looked in the pantry and fridge for tasty ingredients, and went this route. There are many similar versions of this dish out there, using different cuts of chicken–or a whole bird cut up. I just happened to find a great deal on organic drumsticks at the store, so I went with that. But you should use any cut of chicken that is your favorite.

 

 

It takes about an hour to prepare this dish from start to finish, so it’s something you could even cook on a weeknight…and it’s certainly easy enough to double the recipe if guests are coming over.

 

It starts in the pan!

 

Traditionally, this is cooked in a large cast iron skillet, started on the stovetop, then placed in the oven. I choose to cook mine in a baking pan that fit my smaller convection oven, so I started everything on the stovetop, then made the transfer to the baking pan.

 

Now that the chicken has seared, we start the veggies.

 

I’m on a diet, so calories matter. Chicken drumsticks aren’t all that bad in the calorie count: about 100 calories for a medium-sized drumstick (whatever medium is)…and that’s with the skin on. No need to get into exact gram weight measurements here, but the real calories come later when you add a starch to the dish. It does go really well with pasta, rice or potatoes. (My choice would be fresh Italian bread to really sop up the sauce!) But alas…I had none of those. Just a salad on the side. I’ll bring the bread out once my diet’s over.

I go with organic ingredients whenever possible, especially kale, which is on the “Dirty Dozen” produce list almost every year. (Along with strawberries, potatoes, apples, and others, kale is one of the most heavily sprayed produce items you can buy. I always go organic.)

 

If sodium is not a problem for you, add more olives!

 

3–4 lbs. organic, pastured chicken drumsticks (about 12 medium)
salt, pepper and paprika
olive oil
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, squeezed through a press
1 teaspoon each: dried oregano, parsley, and thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)
dry white wine (optional)
1/4 cup olives, sliced in half (I like green olives from Greece)
4 cups organic chopped kale (optional)

 

Pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken drumsticks with salt, pepper, and a bit of paprika.

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a hot pan. Add the chicken to the pan, and sear the drumsticks on all sides, getting them nice and brown. It’ll take about 10–15 minutes.

Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and add the chopped onions to the same pan. Let them cook for a few minutes until they’re translucent, then add the garlic. Let the garlic cook for about 10 seconds, then add the oregano, parsley, and thyme. Now add the tomato paste and stir it all around, cooking it for just a minute to caramelize it and give it more flavor.

Pour in the can of tomatoes and the chicken stock, stirring well. (A splash of wine is optional at this point.) Add the olives and let the sauce cook for a few minutes.

 

The sauce is all happy, and ready for the baking pan.

 

Pour the sauce into the baking pan. Add the chicken drumsticks to the pan, nestling them in the sauce. (I like to roll them around in it to cover all sides.)

Place the pan in the oven to cook.

After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, and remove the drumsticks from the sauce, moving them onto a plate.

 

It looks like a lot of kale, but it withers down. Remember: go organic!

 

Take the kale and place it in the baking pan, tossing it around in the sauce. The sauce is hot, so the kale will start to wither and meld into the sauce in about a minute.

 

The kale’s withered down, and the chicken goes back in.

 

Now return the chicken drumsticks back to the baking pan, nestling them in the sauce again. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the pan rest in the oven until you’re ready to serve.

 

Turn the oven off, but keep the door closed to keep the chicken warm.

 

Where’s that bread?…

 

 

BEET AND QUINOA SALAD

Posted: October 9, 2021 in beets, Food, Recipes
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Why was it that I could only find a great beet salad in a restaurant? Was there some secret to making one? Well, after some experimentation, I came up with a beet salad that I really enjoy…and it’s easy to put together ahead of time if you have guests coming over for dinner.

Sometimes I skip the arugula and just go for a bowl like this…

2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 lb. beets, cooked and sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 clove garlic, through a press
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 scallion, finely minced
2 cups baby arugula (optional)
5 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions. I like to substitute half of the water with homemade chicken stock.

While the quinoa is cooking, combine the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, garlic, salt and pepper in a separate bowl.

Once the quinoa has cooked, place it in a bowl and add half of the dressing, mixing gently with a fork to fluff up the quinoa. Place it in the fridge to cool completely.

I like to use the product LoveBeets, available in any supermarket. The beets come fully cooked and peeled, ready to slice.

Chop the beets to the size you like and place them in the bowl of quinoa. Add the scallions, arugula and cheese. Toss to combine.

When the mixture has cooled down, give it a taste and add more of the dressing if needed. This tastes great at room temperature as well.

RATATOUILLE MY WAY

Posted: October 6, 2021 in Food, Recipes, Uncategorized
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The classic French Ratatouille uses eggplant, peppers, wine and herbs. Mine does not. So maybe it’s not ratatouille but a distant cousin. The taste, however, is awesome, and I like to use it in many ways.

 

Veal and pork meatballs with my ratatouille, smothered in mozzarella cheese and baked!

4 strips bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium green zucchini, diced
1 cup chicken broth (homemade is best)
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
salt, pepper to taste
granulated garlic, to taste
olive oil

 

Using a large pan, heat a little olive oil and toss in the bacon. Cook it until crisp, then add the onions. (Don’t remove the bacon fat!)

Sauté the onions until translucent and then add the zucchini. Season with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic.

Once the zucchini has softened just a bit, add the broth and the diced tomatoes, mixing well.

Cook over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and you have a nice, thick ratatouille.

Serve it as a side dish, or, as above, as part of a main dish.

 

It goes great with a pan-seared steak!

 

 

 

Fast food is a relative term.
What we Americans think of as fast food is not what, say, the Italians think of as fast food. We think of drive-thru burger joints serving greasy, salty and fatty food. The Italians think fast food is something that simply doesn’t take all day to cook! If you can use the freshest of ingredients, and serve it in the time it takes to sip a half a bottle of wine while chatting with a friend, it’s fast food Italian-style.
Years ago, when my wife and I were visiting the island of Capri in Italy, one of the dishes we enjoyed was an incredibly simple pasta and tomato dish called spaghetti sciue-sciue (pronounced “shwee-shwee.”) We were told that sciue-sciue was loosely translated as “quick-quick,” although a check on the web said that it also translates to “improvisation” in Italian. And though quick it was (that is, by Italian standards), it was one of the most memorable dishes we had on our trip. It could be because of our surroundings: the famous Faraglioni rocks all around us at a small seaside restaurant called Da Luigi ai Faraglioni. We took the small shuttle boat from Marina Piccola, which made its way through those stacks jutting out of the Bay of Naples, and landed at this historic restaurant, built in 1936. People come here not only to dine, but to spend the day sunbathing and swimming.
So the reason Da Luigi’s sciue-sciue was so amazing certainly was, in part, the location…but it was also very much due to the use of the freshest and best possible ingredients…and they didn’t mess around with them too much.
The best time to make this dish is when tomatoes are at their absolute best in your area. But if you can get your hands on some beautiful cherry tomatoes off-season (they seem to be tastier than larger tomatoes in the winter months), it’s worth having a go at it as well.

 1 small can (6 oz.) tomato paste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 hot Italian dried peppers, finely chopped
¼ cup white wine
8 to 10 chopped plum or cherry tomatoes (as ripe as possible)
12 to 15 torn fresh basil leaves
½ stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter
1 ball of fresh mozzarella (about 12 oz.)
1 lb. of spaghetti, or better yet, bucatini
Sea salt
Fleur de Sel (optional)
Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil and toss the pasta in.
“Heavily caramelize”–but don’t burn–the tomato paste in a large pan with the olive oil, salt, and the dried peppers. Add the white wine to de-glaze, and simmer until it’s reduced by half.
Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer on medium heat until they start to break apart. Hand tear the mozzarella ball into shreds and add it to the sauce, stirring gently. Add the basil.
Add the butter, gently stirring until it melts.
When the pasta is slightly firmer than al dente, drain it and add it to the pan with the sauce, stirring gently.
Serve this dish immediately, finishing with a little Fleur de Sel.

Finito!

This is a simple salad you want to make now, while corn and tomatoes are still in season, but I’ve found that frozen organic corn and greenhouse tomatoes work pretty darn well.

2 lbs. fresh or frozen organic corn
1 container grape tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
6 oz. mild crumbled cheese, like cotija or feta
1 package (5 oz.) organic baby arugula
1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

If you’re using fresh corn, remove it from the ears, then pan sauté it  in a little olive oil, but leave it nice and crisp. If you can roast the ears of corn over some coals, even better. If you’re using frozen corn, pan sauté in a little olive oil. Set the corn aside to cool.

Mix the corn with all the other ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Right before serving, taste and season it again, mixing well. I think it’s best a little cooler than room temperature.

Who says you have to only cook burgers and steaks on the grill? This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy clams…and without the clam knife! I always use hardwood charcoal.

 

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A couple of dozen (or more) little neck clams, washed and purged
1 stick (8 oz.) of unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

 

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The clams should be stored in the fridge until ready to use…not in water, not on ice. Place the clams in a bowl and cover them with a wet dish towel.

About an hour before cooking, I like to purge my clams to remove as much grit as possible. I fill a large bowl with cold water, add sea salt and some corn meal to it, and mix it around. Then I add the clams to this bowl and let them sit in this liquid for at least an hour. They will suck up the corn meal and spit out sand and grit. After an hour, I pour off the water/salt/meal/grit mix, and thoroughly wash the clams. Now they’re ready to grill!

I start my hardwood charcoal grill and divide it in half: coals on one side, no coals on the other.

While the coals are heating up, I grab a disposable aluminum foil tray and place it on a burner on my kitchen stovetop over medium heat. I add the butter, olive oil, parsley, oregano, basil, garlic and salt, and stir it all to combine. Once the butter has melted and everything has blended, I bring the tray over to the charcoal grill and place on the side of the grill without coals. It will stay warm.

Once the coals are hot, just place the clams directly on the grill. (Use tongs, unless you want to remove all of your knuckle hair.) They’re done as soon as they open, but you can cook them as long as you like, from raw to more thoroughly cooked. As each one reaches its desired doneness, place it carefully in the aluminum tray, making sure you don’t lose any of that precious liquid inside the clam shell. Give it a swish in the butter and herb mix.

When all the clams have been cooked and are in the tray, serve them with that herby butter sauce on top of pasta…or simply eat them with a fresh baguette. A glass of great white wine is a must.

 

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Really easy and really delicious!

I’ve been experimenting with my coffee rub, one that combines coffee with cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, garlic and onion. I’ve tried it on various cuts of beef, on chicken, and pork…and it works well on everything!

 

A Berkshire pork belly, cured for several weeks, then rinsed.

 

I took some of the rub and cured a beautiful Berkshire pork belly with it, to make bacon. I simply scored the fat side of the belly, then massaged both sides of the belly with the rub, and placed it in a container in the fridge for several weeks. I flipped it over every few days to allow both sides of the belly to come in contact with the liquid that formed when the salt in the rub extracted moisture from the meat. After several weeks, I removed the belly from the container and rinsed it well with clean water, drying it with paper towels. I then re-rubbed the pork belly with more of the coffee rub and placed it in the smoker for 2 hours at 250 degrees, smoking it with hickory, my favorite wood for bacon.

 

The pork belly, re-rubbed and ready to smoke.

 

It just so happened that on the weekend I was smoking the belly, I decided to smoke a couple of racks of pork ribs for myself. These also came from a beautiful heritage Berkshire pig, and I coated them with the coffee rub, allowing them to rest in the fridge for 24 hours putting them in the smoker.

 

The Berkshire pork ribs, rubbed and ready to smoke. I cut the racks in half for easier handling.

 

Since the ribs and belly were in the smoker at the same time, the ribs first smoked at 250 degrees with hickory along with the bacon, for about 2 hours. Once I removed the bacon, I dropped the temperature of the smoker to 225, and smoked the ribs for 2 more hours. I then removed the ribs, sprinkled them with a little more coffee rub, and wrapped them in aluminum foil, before returning them to the smoker for another hour.

 

The ribs, and the bacon, were absolute perfection!

 

The ribs, smoked for several hours.

 

Re-sprinkling a little coffee rub on the ribs.

 

Wrapping the half-racks in foil. Some go back to the smoker, some head for the freezer to be enjoyed later.

 

Since I had 2 full racks of ribs, more than enough for several meals, I cut each rack in half before smoking for easier handling. Once I wrapped them in foil, I let a couple of them cool on the counter before placing them in a freezer bag and putting them in the freezer for future use. Already smoked and cured, all I’ll need to do is take a foil package out of the freezer, and place it in a 250-degree oven for a couple of hours to warm the ribs up and make them fall-off-the-bone tender.

 

The ribs, after another hour in the foil.

 

Here’s my coffee rub recipe. Make a lot of it and use it on everything from burgers to whole chickens to pulled pork sandwiches.

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
1 tablespoon ground coffee (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

 

Rib perfection!

Despite almost universal opposition to the cruel way calves are treated, the Humane Society says the veal industry shows little signs of changing. That’s why many people simply refuse to eat veal. I was one of them.

The veal industry is a by-product of the dairy industry. To get the dairy cows to produce milk, they are impregnated every year. Half of their offspring are male, no use to the dairy business, and those are the calves that become veal.

I said I was one of the people who didn’t eat veal. What changed was my source. A few years ago, Sweet and Salty Farm (www.sweetandsaltyfarm.com), a dairy farm down the road from me in Little Compton, Rhode Island, began selling their own line of yogurt and cheese. And like most dairies, when calves are born, they have no use for the males. But rather than taking them away from their mothers and caging them for their short lives, they allow the calves to stay with their moms, nursing for up to four months before weaning. Then they graze in the fields by their mothers’ side, living a stress-free life. And when the time finally comes, they are dispatched humanely.

The result is incredible grass-fed veal I don’t feel guilty about eating: a rich, red in color…nothing like beef and a far better option than conventional veal. I also buy the veal bones from the farm to make a rich, flavorful veal stock, roasting the bones on a baking sheet with onions, carrots and celery…then moving them all to a large pot of water that cooks for 24 hours.

Traditionally, veal saltimbocca consists of veal medallions rolled with prosciutto and sage leaves. Often it is served with a marsala sauce. I got rid of the marsala–too sweet–and substituted a chardonnay. I added fontina cheese. And a guest’s aversion to spinach gave me the option to use kale…with bacon, of course!

By the way, if you’re not lucky enough to have a farm that humanely raises veal (or you’re still queasy about veal in general), this recipe works with chicken breasts, too.

 

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1 1/2 lbs. grass-fed veal, pounded thin and cut into medallions about 3″ around
1/2 lb. prosciutto, sliced paper-thin
1/2 lb. fontina cheese, sliced thin
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
olive oil
butter
2 cups veal stock
1 cup un-oaked white wine (I like to cook with Alice White chardonnay)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
12 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 lb. spaghetti
2 bunches organic kale
3 strips cooked bacon, finely chopped

Place the veal cutlets on a cutting board between a few layers of plastic wrap. Pound the cutlets to about 1/8″ thickness. Cut them into pieces about 3″ around, which will make them easier to handle.

Place the flour in a bowl and add the teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix well.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and butter in a pan. Drop the veal medallions in the flour and coat both sides of the meat, shaking off any excess. Carefully lay the veal in the pan and cook the veal until it’s just barely browned. You don’t want to cook it all the way through. When the medallions have cooked, place them on a baking sheet. Cook the medallions in batches, adding more olive oil or butter to the pan if needed.

When you’ve cooked all the medallions, use the same pan to sauté the onion until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook them down. (You can add a little of the veal stock to help the mushrooms release their liquid.) Add the rest of the veal stock, wine and sage. Cook over medium heat until it’s reduced by half. If the sauce looks a bit thin, make a quick roux in a separate pan by heating equal parts melted butter and flour until it forms a paste. Stir this paste into the sauce, making sure there are no lumps. Set the sauce aside.

Back to the veal medallions: place a piece of prosciutto on top of each medallion, and then a slice of fontina on top of that. Keep the baking sheet with the medallions in a warm (150 degree) oven.

Boil the spaghetti in well-salted water until al dente. Strain and toss in a bowl with unsalted butter. Season with a bit more salt.

Hand-tear the kale and remove all the tough, woody stems. Wash the kale thoroughly in cold water, making sure you get all the dirt and sand that can be caught in its leaves. Heat some olive oil (and bacon fat, if you have it!) in a pan, and toss in the chopped bacon, just to warm the bits up. Working in batches, place a handful of kale in the pan, and when it wilts down a bit, place another handful in, and so on until you’ve got all the kale in. Season with salt and pepper, and keep tossing the kale until it has wilted to its desired doneness. (I like it to still have a bit of a crunch.)

When you’re ready to serve, turn the oven on broil and place the baking sheet with the veal medallions on the top rack. You want the cheese to melt, but you don’t want it to burn, so keep an eye on it!

Serve a few medallions on the plate, with spaghetti, kale and sauce on the side.

September 18th is National Cheeseburger Day!

Instead of the usual beef, here’s a great recipe using ground chicken. I rarely use ground turkey, because I think it’s nasty and flavorless. But ground chicken has a better flavor, and doesn’t seem to dry out as quickly. Adding avocado to the mix gives each bite of this burger a creamy, fatty richness the ground chicken needs.  Chicken and ABC (Avocado, Bacon and Cheese) is a winning combination. My Awesomesauce puts it over the top.

I cut the avocado in small cubes. I don’t make guacamole out of it. When the burger cooks, it melts into the meat, giving it that luscious fattiness I’m looking for. The egg and the breadcrumbs bind it all together.

 

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1 lb. ground chicken
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 ripe avocado, sliced into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch granulated garlic
1 raw egg
slices of bacon, cooked
Awesomesauce (recipe below)

 

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Combine the chicken, breadcrumbs, chopped avocado, salt and pepper, garlic and egg in a bowl and mix them thoroughly but carefully so that you don’t squash the cubes of avocado.

Get a sheet pan covered in non-stick foil. Rub a little vegetable oil on the foil before measuring out the patties. Using a 1/2 cup measuring scoop, spoon out the burger meat onto the sheet pan, then gently press down on it with your hand to form patties. Place the sheet pan in the freezer for the burgers to firm up a bit.

 

Firming up the burgers in the freezer. The little meatball in the middle is a leftover…and a nice extra bite for the chef to enjoy!

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

I used to cook the burgers in a pan first, but I’ve found that placing the sheet pan right in the oven works just as well. Let the burgers sear on one side, then flip them. (Make sure they sear well and get a nice crust on them, or they’ll fall apart when you try to flip them.) Get a nice sear on the other side, then add cheese to the burgers, and cook until it has melted and the burgers have cooked all they way through.

Remember: it’s chicken…you don’t want to undercook your burgers!

When they’re ready to serve, place the patties on a toasted bun, add a couple of slices of bacon and slather with my Awesomesauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon dill pickle relish
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Refrigerate covered for a few hours to blend the flavors.

If you don’t want to make the Awesomesauce, Thousand Island dressing is a good substitute.

 

Cooler weather always gets us craving for comfort foods, and this is one we discovered on a trip to Spain in 2014. Croquettes are the Spanish equivalent of chicken nuggets: they’re found on every kids’ menu…and my daughter ordered them just about everywhere we went! So it’s no surprise that I “got the order” to make a batch of croquettes once we got home…and I’ve been making them ever since.

You can make these days ahead of time and then freeze them, re-heating them whenever you have guests. These are way better than your average snacks when that football game is on!

 

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I found a great recipe for croquettes in Saveur magazine, and decided to try it out. I was a bit clumsy at making them at first–they do need a bit of finesse–but by the end of the batch, I got the hang of it. And to make them gluten-free, I simply substituted GF flour and breadcrumbs for the all-purpose flour and Panko. (The best tasting GF breadcrumbs are the ones you make yourself. Buy a loaf of frozen gluten-free bread, like Udi’s, and toast it in your toaster oven. Crumble the slices into a food processor, processing them until the breadcrumbs are the size you like.)

 

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2 lbs. raw potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
6 oz. ham, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour like Cup4Cup)
2 eggs
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
avocado oil for frying

 

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Peel the potatoes, cutting them into 1″ cubes. Boil them in salted water until tender. Drain them and set them aside.

Melt the butter in the same pot the potatoes were in, then add the onions and sauté them until they’re translucent. Put the potatoes back in the pot and add 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until smooth. Add more cream, if needed, but be careful not to make it mushy.

Add the cheese and mix until it has melted in. Add the ham and mix again. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the contents of the pot into a metal bowl and place it in the freezer to cool, stirring every 10 minutes until the mashed potato mix is cold, but not frozen.

Line up three bowls: all-purpose flour (or GF flour) in the first bowl, eggs (scrambled) in the second bowl, Panko (or GF breadcrumbs) in the third.

Remove the mashed potato mix from the freezer, and with floured hands, grab enough to gently roll a small meatball in your hands. (I’ve found that starting with a round shape makes it easier to work with.)

Roll the ball in the flour, then the egg, then drop in the Panko and roll again. With the ball in your hand, gently squeeze into a tubular (or small football) shape, and then place it on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Continue with the rest of the potato mixture. (You may need to add another scrambled egg or two if you run out.)

Once you’ve rolled all the croquettes, place the sheet pan in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.

Heat a pan with 2″ of oil to 350 degrees. Remove the croquettes from the freezer, and working in small batches, fry them until golden brown. Place them on paper towels, and quickly season lightly with salt while hot.

 

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The croquettes freeze really well, so this batch goes a long way. Once they’ve been fried, let them cool completely to room temp. Place them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer. When it’s time to cook them, let them thaw for about 15 minutes, then place them in a pre-heated 325 degree oven and cook for 15 minutes.