Monday, December 10, 2012

Oven "Fried" Catfish

This is a stock photo (so handy working in advertising!),
but it is close enough to showing the succulence
of Oven Fried Catfish.
Rose, living in L.A. since last January, called and wistfully said, "I know what I want for Christmas."

I waited expectantly and was surprised when she said, "Catfish."

"Oh, I mean what I want for meals when I come home." she said. "Catfish fried in the oven."

"Mmmm, sounds good. Potato salad or mashed potatoes with that?"

"Ooooo." Her voice got more excited. "Potato salad! And maybe, well, is cabbage a cold weather vegetable?"

"Why do you think the Germans and Russians have so many cabbage dishes?" I asked. "Cold weather is what cabbage is all about."

"Then coleslaw too! And potato rolls?"

"I have extra in the freezer from Thanksgiving that I'm saving until you come home. So we're on our way!"

Sounds good, doesn't it? I just realized that I never put the recipe here. If you're not making some variation of this then you need to give this a try because it is simple, quick, and delicious. As we can tell from the fact that kids coming home ask for it.

I got it from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. He calls it Oven "Fried" Fish but I never make it with anything but catfish.

Oven "Fried" Catfish

1-1/2 pounds catfish filets
1-1/2 cups milk, buttermilk or yogurt (I use milk)
Bread crumbs for dredging (dried, fresh, whichever you wish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (I'll often use other seasoning)
3 tablespoons melted butter or virgin olive oil (I use olive oil)

Soak the filets in the milk while you preheat the oven to 450°.  Put the bread crumbs on a plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When the oven is ready, pull the fish from the milk and let it drain a bit. Dredge wet fish in breadcrumbs, patting to make sure the crumbs adhere if needed. Drizzle a little of the butter or oil over a 9x13 baking pan or rimmed baking sheet, then lay the filets in the pan. Drizzle with remaining butter or oil.

Bake near the top of the oven for 8 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. The fish will be crisp on the outside and tender and opaque when done. Serve immediately with lemon or other condiments as desired.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Turkey Bone Gumbo

Here's what I'm making this weekend. I've got the stock made and the turkey reserved. Now I've just got to get the time to put the whole thing together which should happen this weekend. For those who've forgotten or never tried Turkey Bone Gumbo I thought I'd repost it since our family loves it so.


After I reviewed Gumbo Tales, Sara Roahen very graciously emailed me some recipes. The Turkey Bone Gumbo had caught my eye and I made it after Thanksgiving. Oooo, now that was some good gumbo! So savory, so rich.

However, I didn't want to go spreading her recipes around. Then I recently finished Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. An excellent look at the basic cooking of New Orleans, it also had a recipe for Turkey Bone Gumbo that is very similar to Sara Roahen's. I now felt ok about putting the recipe out there. What follows is a combination of her recipe and of the one from Cooking Up a Storm.

The difference is that both recipes recommend saving any turkey meat from the carcass used for making broth and then to include it in the gumbo. I tried this, against my better judgment, which I am sorry to say was confirmed. After simmering for so long, the only thing that the salvaged turkey meat resembles is wood chips. Just save regular turkey meat (forgo a sandwich or two) and don't worry about recovering those bits of turkey from the cooked carcass. They will make the broth all the richer and you can toss them out without worry.

Roux making is not nearly as scary as you might think from reading recipes for it. Also, more important than anything else is keeping an eye on the color and keeping it from burning. My stove must cook hotter than either Roahen's or the recipe contributor from Cooking Up a Storm. I had roux ready in 10-15 minutes.

This is definitely a good reason to cook a turkey. I might have to do that this weekend ... my mouth is watering thinking of this gumbo.

For the stock
Step 1
1 turkey carcass
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2-4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 gallon water, or enough to cover carcass

Combine all ingredients in a big pot, bring to a boil and then lower heat, simmering uncovered for about two hours. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Drain the stock, reserving all liquid. Discard all solids.

For the gumbo

Step 1
1 cup vegetable oil
1-1/4 cups flour

In a large cast-iron pot or enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour and continue to stir constantly—either with a whisk or a wooden spoon. Cook for 20-25 minutes to make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate. If you sense that your roux is in danger of burning, reduce the heat immediately and continue to stir.

Step 2
1-1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 pound andouille or smoked sausage, cut into ¼-inch cubes

Then stir in onion, bell pepper, and celery, salt, cayenne and continue to stir for about 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to wilt. Be prepared: when cold vegetables hit hot roux, they emit a cloud of steam and a loud hissing. Add sausage, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes.

Step 3
3-4 bay leaves
6 cups turkey stock
2-3 cups chopped leftover turkey meat
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add bay leaves and stock to the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Add all reserved turkey meat and continue to simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours.

Step 4
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
1/2 tablespoon filé powder
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Add black pepper and taste; adjust seasoning. Thin out with more stock or water if necessary. Just before serving, add parsley, green onions, and lemon juice. In order to properly incorporate filé powder, mix it first with a few tablespoons of stock; stir to a smooth consistency and then add to the gumbo. Serve with white rice, and potato salad if desired. Serves 8-10.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Review: An Everlasting Feast by Tamar Adler

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and GraceAn Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I noticed this book popping up in various spots and have been waiting for the library to cycle through others who requested it before me. One thing I noticed that I thought was fantastic was that the readers actually were feeling bolder in the kitchen, more willing to experiment and throw together a meal from inexpensive ingredients on hand ... and coming up pleased and increasingly confident thanks to the meals they produced.

I like any cookbook which does that.

Having finally gotten a copy I can say that Adler has a very practical viewpoint, which she herself mentions time and again. She talks about various ingredients and cooking approaches in a pleasant, discursive manner with very few actual recipes. It is this quality that emboldens her readers and a very good quality it is to have.

Adler says that she was inspired by M.F.K. Fisher's "To Eat a Wolf" which was a 1942 book written to encourage good cooking with minimal ingredients. As a long standing fan of Fisher's I can vouch for Adler being a descendent of that thinking, albeit a very practical one. Also as a longstanding fan of Fisher's, however, I would like to mention that, despite blurbs on the cover, Adler's style is nowhere near that of Fisher's.

M.F.K. Fisher wrote some of the most beautiful prose imaginable about cooking or about anything else you can imagine. Just to be sure I picked up my copy of The Art of Eating and flipped through it. I do not say this to take away from Adler, who does a very nice, practical job in her book ... which is a nice read in itself. I say this to encourage anyone who has read Adler's book to pick up a copy of any of M.F.K. Fisher's books for some of the most enjoyable food writing ever penned. My particular favorites are An Alphabet for Gourmets and Serve It Forth, but she made an entire book about oysters into something that I read again and again.

With all that said, An Everlasting Feast is not a book I'd actually recommend to someone who doesn't come across it on their own. The advice is crammed together in what I can only think of as one "sound byte" paragraph after another. She also likes to present her particular taste as being something everyone would love ... and I'm gonna say it now - a cold cooked greens sandwich just ain't ever gonna make me light up with joy, no matter how often she says it or how charming the venue in which she tasted her first sample. Etcetera.

I understand what she's getting at and, as I mentioned, I have seen testimony that Adler's book has helped a couple of friends to think of cooking as something more than recipes. Hence, the three stars instead of something lower.

I would advise instead though, to those inquiring:

As I say, Adler does a good enough job and I think this book is the one for our times when we are all hurried and harried. And I appreciate the gift she has given me in prompting me to pick up M.F.K. Fisher's books again. It has been much too long since I've reread any of them.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Good Cook Series

Soups by Time-Life Books

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every cook should have a set of The Gook Cook series which was published by Time Life between 1979 and 1983. They are organized by cooking subject (Fish, Soup, Cookies & Crackers, etc.). They were edited by the brilliant Richard Olney and written by many food writers who went on to become well known.

Each has a brief but comprehensive history of the topic followed by 80 pages of detailed techniques accompanied by detailed photos. The last 80 pages contain around 200 recipes from around the world, spanning 300 years, many of which were translated for the first time for these books.

It is hard to imagine any dish or technique that this series does not cover.

Want to make your own food dye? This is your series.

Want to make a basic broth? This is your series.

Want to make a birthday cake? This is your series.

There are 28 volumes (see the list at Wikipedia), all of which I picked up at used book stores fairly cheaply. They are beautifully produced and include two ribbon markers so you can mark both the technique photos and the recipe in the back of the book.

These books are wonderful whether or not you cook from them. I'm rereading my Soup cookbook as inspiration for the many inexpensive, imaginative, and delicious soups that can be made using simple techniques that have worked around the world and over the ages.

It is also a pleasure to see acknowledged the many classic techniques which come to us from a long history of cooking, unlike many magazines or cookbooks these days which act as if they invented them. I try to be charitable and attribute this to ignorance, but that is still not very complimentary to the many writers who should know better.

I cannot recommend these highly enough, whether for the beginning or serious cook.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home CooksThe Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was captivated by the book's beginning in which Kathleen Flinn tells about becoming interested in a woman and daughter grocery shopping. Fascinated by the prepackaged and "mix" foods in her cart, she began stalking them and eventually wound up helping them replace all the highly processed meals with the ingredients for homemade. Key to this was scribbling recipes and simple instructions.

This encounter led to Flinn's epiphany that there is a generation of women (and people in general, actually) who don't have the first idea of how to cook. Never taught to cook by their parents, they are equally ignorant of nutrition. Flinn selected 10 worthy candidates and began her Kitchen Counter Cooking School to educate not only them as cooks but also herself in the ways of how to communicate simple kitchen knowledge.

I would find the beginning hokey except that I know one young woman who is in exactly these straits, never having been taught to cook and now having a family to feed. After getting over my own surprise, I have begun showing her a few techniques and recipes. This book is for those who have no one to do the same for them.

I didn't really care about the chapters where Flinn broke away from the school to tell about a stint cooking for a cruise or putting on a series of dinners to raise money for the school. They distracted from the point of the book for me. I'm glad that she has a good marriage and I suppose it is nice that her husband finds it sexy that she bounces up and down in her chair when the black truffle risotto is served. I don't care. These chapters seemed as if they belonged in a different book. However, they are easy to skim and others, perhaps, may have enjoyed them much more than I did. They cost the book a star through.

Overall, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is well written and enjoyable, as well as carrying strands of information about food processing and eating habits in the U.S. today. It is also thought provoking, no matter your level of ability in the kitchen. None of us is above reproach. The author herself is prompted to do self-examination of her own habits and realizes that she wastes a lot of food. Likewise, I was reminded of the same thing (we know and then we forget, such is the pattern of life, non?). I will be examining my cupboards for aged supplies and my refrigerator for items that can be used before I wind up following my pattern of tossing them out in a week, withered and soft.

Definitely recommended.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tandoori Pizza

This is also from James McNair's New Pizza. It is a delicious adaptation of Indian flavors to pizza and we really like it a lot.

Tandoori Pizza

Use Garlic-Glazed Chicken Pizza recipe as your guide, incorporating the changes below.

Step 1:

1 c. yogurt
2 T lime juice
2 T grated ginger
2 T minced garlic
1 T paprika
2 t garam masala
1 t salt
1 t cayenne

1-1/2 lb boned and skinned chicken breast halves or thighs

Combine yogurt through cayenne to make a marinade. Marinate chicken for a minimum of 4 hours up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 500°. Place chicken on a rack set over a shallow roasting pan and roast 10 minutes for breasts or 20 minutes for thights. Let cool. Chop into small bite-sized pieces. You can refrigerate chicken at this point. Just bring it to room temperature before making the pizza.

Step 2:

1 recipe of California-Style pizza dough (use sesame oil instead of olive oil; use no cheese in the crust, substitute an equal amount of flour)

Step 3:

Mango chutney
3 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
Chicken from step 1
1/2 cup sliced green onion

On the shaped pizza dough, spread a thin layer of chutney on dough, top with cheese, leaving a 1/2" border around the edges. Distribute the chicken over the cheese and sprinkle with green onions. 

Transfer pizza to the preheated oven and bake until crust is golden, about 10 minutes.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade FoodsMake the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods by Jennifer Reese
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jennifer Reese lost her job and began experimenting in the kitchen to see what was better when made at home and whether it was worth the time and labor involved to do so. The result is this cookbook which I like very much.

Reese's calm common-sense comes shining through in the introductions to each recipe. Her sensibilities are very much like mine and, just in case they aren't, she clearly describes her likes and dislikes about each project. Thus I know that I probably don't want to make my own cream cheese (at least from her recipe) because I don't want something noticeably tangier (or as her family says "sour") than Philly Cream Cheese. Would I mind my homemade peanut butter being "nubbier" than commercial brands if the peanut flavor sings forth? Maybe not.

Each recipe is prefaced by three bullet points:
  • Should you make it or buy it?
  • How much hassle is it?
  • What's the cost compared to store-bought?
Then, no matter her own conclusion, the recipe follows so that you may proceed with your own experimentation if you choose.

Reese doesn't base her conclusions solely on the answers to those three questions. For example, homemade Danish are an unbelievable hassle and cost compared to store bought but the results are so superior that everyone should make them once to see if they find the result worth the trouble.

Part of the attraction for me is that sometimes Reese blithely accepts that store-bought brings the results she wants. I suppose it helps my acceptance of her judgments that I too have continually tried homemade hamburger bun recipes only to find the results far stiffer and denser than I desired (and I have tried over a dozen recipes).

I also approve of someone who finds, after a year's experimentation, that keeping chickens for the eggs is insanely expensive, but keeps the chickens anyway. After a year, she and her family have been transformed into chicken fanciers so it is worth the trouble. Such is a side effect of experimentation, as most people know who have tried it ... sometimes the experiment changes you beyond the measurable results in ways you can't foresee.

Reese's charm and sensibility shine through to the point where I see that many reviewers love the book for the way she tells personal experiences, despite never making a single recipe. Obviously I concur since I  have just reviewed the book after reading only a third of it. I may come back and revise this as I get further along, but for now, this is a solidly entertaining read with a lot of useful information.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Neapolitan -Style Pizza Dough ... Something to Build On

Since we've been talking about pizza, I can't believe I never gave you some of the most basic recipes that are used to "build" pizza around our house.

From my favorite cookbook on the subject, Pizza: Anyway You Slice It by Charles and Michele Scicolone,  comes one of the favorite pizza doughs of our household. I used it when we had a party and had a couple of people particularly comment upon how much they like it.

It has what may seem like an unusual ingredient, cake flour. This is included because Italian flour is lower in gluten than American flour and cake flour helps turn the crust into a tender, easily stretched dough which is easy to shape.

I'll confess that I often cheat and use 2-1/2 teaspoons yeast, a more traditional amount (at least for someone who is used to bread baking), to get the dough to rise in an hour or less.

Neapolitan-Style Pizza Dough

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1-1/4 cups warm water
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
2-1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil for the bowl

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand for 1 minute, or until the yeast is creamy. Stir until the yeast dissolves.

In a large bowl, combine the cake flour, 2-1/2 cups of the all purpose flour, and the salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Lightly coat another large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to oil the top. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place and let rise until doubled in bulk; about 1-1/2 hours.

Flatten the dough with your fist. Cut the dough into 2 to 4 pieces and shape the pieces into balls. Dust the tops with flour. Place the balls on a floured surface and cover each with plastic wrap, allowing room for the dough to expand. Let rise 60 to 90 minutes, or until doubled.

Thirty to sixty minutes before baking the pizzas, place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles on a rack in the lowest level of the oven. Turn on the oven to the maximum temperature, 500 to 550 degrees.

Shape and bake pizzas in desired fashion.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ginger Chicken

I no longer remember where this recipe came from. I know that it was one of my sister's absolute favorite dishes and I think I got it from her.

I have made this without browning the chicken, with only fresh ginger, with a combo of both kinds of ginger, and on the stove instead of in the oven.

What can I say? Every single time we love it. It may be slightly different because of those changes but never enough to really matter.

There's plenty of juice which you may thicken or not as you see fit. I tend to serve it with rice for that reason.


Ginger Chicken

1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 chicken, in serving pieces
4 tablespoons oil

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine flour, salt and pepper. Coat chicken with flour. Brown the chicken on all sides. Transfer chicken to a baking dish with cover.

1/2 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup minced preserved ginger OR 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

Meanwhile, combine all, bring to a boil and pour over the chicken. Cover. Bake 30 minutes. Turn all pieces. Bake 30 minutes longer.

Friday, July 06, 2012

BBQ Chicken Pizza

UPDATE: also lost in the great labeling disaster of 2012, so am reposting it here.

The inspiration for this is from James McNair's New Pizzas, but I have streamlined his process for cooking the chicken which seemed unnecessarily long and drawn out.

Basically follow the recipe for Garlic-Glazed Chicken Pizza but substitute this for the Garlic-Glazed Chicken in the recipe:

  1. Cut 1-1/2 pounds of chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Saute them in some oil.
  3. Mix them with 1 cup of barbecue sauce, either of your own making or your favorite tomato-based kind from the store.

Nothing could be simpler and this is very similar to the California Pizza Kitchen's BBQ Chicken Pizza.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Garlic-Glazed Chicken Pizza

UPDATE: What happens when you think you are simply labelling a recipe and instead delete it by accident? You wind up revisiting something that you published way back in 2005 and have forgotten to make since then. I'm going to make this over the weekend for sure. I am so happy that Google had it cached so I could pull it out of the ether and back into the here and now.

Purely delicious and even the pickiest eater in the family had three pieces. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time for this. It is simple, especially if you have any experience making bread but it does take a while. From James McNair's New Pizza. If the idea of making pizza dough is intimidating, I can assure you that it is very easy. And nothing is stopping you from trying the pizza using a premade dough or shell.

(Foodo del Mundo took pictures when they made this pizza ... scrumptious.)

Standard Pizza Crust
From Pizza California Style, by Norman Kolpas

The following recipe produces a thin, golden California-style pizza crust. Parmesan cheese mixed into the dough adds an extra dimension of flavor, and olive oil contributes to its crispness. I have rewritten the recipe to work a little better.


1 packet (or 1 tablespoon) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water


Put the dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Turning the machine on and off rapidly, pulse several times to blend them. With the machine running, pour in the oil and 1 cup water through the feed tube. Then gradually add enough of the remaining water to form a smooth dough. Continue processing until the dough forms a ball that rides around the work bowl on the blade; the dough at this point will be sufficiently kneaded.

For mixing dough by hand, stir together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the oil and 1 cup of water and gradually stir from the center outward. Add additional water as needed to make dough hold together in a shaggy mass. When the ingredients are well combined, remove the dough from the bowl and knead it vigorously on a floured work surface for 5 to 7 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.

Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been oiled or coated with nonstick spray. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 30 to 45 minutes or until it has doubled in bulk. If it is more convenient, you can let the dough rise in the refrigerator for several hours instead.

Remove the dough from the bowl and cut it into four equal portions weighing about 6 ounces each, one per pizza. The dough is ready to shape and bake.

To freeze the dough, wrap each ball securely in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. The dough will keep well for several weeks. Defrost it at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or all day in the refrigerator, before making the pizzas.

Yield: Makes about 1-1/2 pounds dough; serves 4

Garlic-Glazed Chicken Pizza

Step 1:
1 recipe of California-Style pizza dough

Set up for first rise then proceed with rest of recipe.
Step 2:
2 garlic heads, separated into cloves, peeled, and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed dried chile
1/2 cup soy sauce
5 tablespoons honey
1-1/2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar

Combine all in a bowl, mix well, and set aside.
Step 3:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 pounds boned and skinned chicken breast halves (about 4), cut into bite-sized pieces

In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until opaque on all sides, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted utensil, transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Pour the garlic mixture into the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is reduced to the consistency of syrup, about 15 minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the chicken is lightly glazed, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until needed; return to room temperature before adding to pizza.

About 30 minutes before baking the pizza, preheat oven to 500°. If using a pizza screen or ventilated pan, brush it with vegetable oil or coat with spray and set aside. If baking directly on a stone or tiles, sprinkle a pizza peel with cornmeal and set aside. [I use the stone and peel method. However, much superior to the cornmeal is to prep the dough on a piece of parchment paper. Slide the peel under it and then slide the whole thing onto the stone. After about 3-4 minutes, the dough is cooked enough that you can easily pull the paper out from under the pizza, using a quick, short jerk.]
Step 4:
2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (about 8 ounces)
1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 3 ounces)

In a bowl combine the cheeses [I used all mozzarella]. Set aside.
Step 5:
On a lightly floured surface, roll out or stretch the dough and shape it as desired. Place the dough on the prepared screen, pan or peel [or parchment paper]. Top with cheese mixture, leaving a 1/2" border around the edges. Distribute the chicken over the cheese. If using a pizza peel, give it a quick, short jerk to be sure that the bottom of the crust has not stuck to it.

Transfer pizza to the preheated oven and bake until crust is golden, about 10 minutes.
Step 6:
1/4 cups finely chopped green onion [I forgot all about this but it would have been quite tasty]

Remove the pizza to a wire rack and let stand about 2 minutes, then transfer to a cutting tray or board. Sprinkle with green onion. Slice and serve immediately. Serves 8.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Summertime and Corn Salad is Easy

Full disclosure: I haven't made this recipe.

However, my mother did and everyone she shared it with is complimenting it to high heaven. Her palate (not to mention all those others) is good enough for me. I will be making this one soon.

Mom really liked the unusual cooking method for the corn and highly recommends it. She also shocked the corn in ice water after cooking, and used whole tomatoes which she blanched, peeled and chopped.
This is from Mel's Kitchen Cafe which I somehow have not encountered before but definitely will be exploring, especially since I came across this Mexican Tomato and Corn Salad which looks like something I'm definitely going to try also (mmm, cilantro!).

Summer Corn Salad
Serves 4

6 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3 tablespoons cider or red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned* fresh basil leaves

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, add one tablespoon sugar and one tablespoon vinegar. Add the cobs of corn to the pot of water and bring to a rolling boil. Cover the pot, remove from the heat and let the corn sit for 10 minutes. Remove the corn from the pot. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.

Toss the kernels in a medium bowl with the red onions, tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve cold or at room temperature.

*Note: To julienne the fresh basil, stack 4-5 basil leaves on top of each other and roll them up to make a long tube of basil. Slice every 1/8-inch down the length of the basil roll and as the basil unfurls, it will be sliced into thin long strips. The corn could also be grilled to turn this simple salad into a grilled version. This salad is very adaptable - you can increase the corn, add a few cloves of finely minced garlic, flat leaf parsley, and/or julienned baby spinach (in place of the basil). Go crazy!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Skillet Lasagna

Every so often I pick up a Cook's Country magazine when I'm at the grocery store. I know it is by the Cook's Illustrated gang, but it just seems friendlier somehow. Also, there is a preponderance of simple, down home recipes which just appeal to me. However, I've never made anything from it.

Until now.

The idea behind a Skillet ... well, anything, actually ... but especially behind a Skillet Lasagna is that it is easier than making the actual lasagna. And just as good!

This actually is just as good and got enthusiastic comments from Tom. I also loved it.

Cooking Notes:

  1. I substituted a pound of Italian sausage for the hamburger (excuse me, ground beef).
  2. I also found a really delicious fresh ricotta which made a huge difference. I've never liked ricotta before but this ... melted and had a really fresh dairy flavor.
  3. It did take longer for the noodles to get tender than the recipe said and, thus, also took more liquid but I added it in fourth- to half-cup quantities and bided my time. Fifteen extra minutes later it was done ... and fabulous.

Skillet Lasagna

Serves 5

28 ounces diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lb ground beef
10 lasagna noodles (curly edged lasagna noodles broken into 2 inch pieces)
8 ozs tomato sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Pour tomatoes with their juices into 1 quart liquid measuring cup. Add water until mixture measures 1 quart.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes snd cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground meat and cook, breaking apart meat, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

Scatter pasta over meat but do not stir. pour diced tomatoes with juices and tomato sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with heaping tablespoons ricotta, cover, and let stand off heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and remaining 3 tablespoons parmesan. Serve.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Ripe: a pre-reading review

Ripe: A Cook in the OrchardRipe: A Cook in the Orchard by Nigel Slater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If the book just was published can I still call it a classic?

If I just got it, can I really know it is 5 stars?

Let's just say that I have every confidence in Nigel Slater's Ripe being just as fantastic as Tender (his vegetable garden and cookery book) was last year.

It has the same gorgeous photography in a stunningly produced book. It has Nigel Slater's same quirky honesty. The only difference here is that the focus is on fruit.

As I'm at the beginning, I can't say much more. Except to confide that just reading the first page of the introduction made me look at the back yard and think, "blueberry bushes?" (Right. From the person who finds container gardening a chore. But still, it made me consider it.)

(Read my review of Tender at the link above.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cooking the Books: Green Beans with Ginger

In my personal challenge to "cook the books" and work my way through cookbooks I own, I've been a bit lax in moving on. Some is because I've been busy, but some is because I "discovered" a cookbook that is so good I keep choosing "just one more" recipe before moving on to another book.

It's the 1973 classic, Introduction to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey, which I see that Knopf republished in 2011. These days anyone interested in Indian cooking knows that Jaffrey has written many cookbooks. Back in the day, though, she wrote the book almost in self defense as she told the story in the introduction. An actress in New York, she would have people over to dinner or throw parties and invariably was asked for the recipes for the delicious fare. Finally, she decided it was easier to write a cookbook than keep jotting down recipes on scraps of paper, some of which got passed on so many times that she wound up attending a party where every dish had been prepared from her recipes. The hostess said that the recipes "seem to be floating around."

The result was a gift to anyone who ever wanted to cook "real" Indian food at home. One of the things that I appreciate most is that it was written in the 1970s when no one expected you to always have access to whole or exotic spices, to grind them by hand, and so forth, which can be quite daunting these days when reading cookbooks that don't allow anything but the most authentic methods. These never sacrifice flavor but are realistic in what the average cook may have on hand (or be willing to put time into). You may also notice the age of the book when you see ingredients like "Chinese parsley." No one at the time (at least in Kansas, I can tell you) had ever heard of cilantro.

 I have used it once or twice before and can't say why I never pursued it further. My recent addiction began before Easter, when we had a couple over to watch Monsoon Wedding and cooked Indian food to make it a theme evening. Even our Easter dinner featured grilled lamb and green beans from this book.

It is those green beans that I share with you now. They were a bit hit and I myself just couldn't get over how different they were from any green bean I'd ever tasted. And how delicious ...

Note: I didn't use cilantro because we had a guest who doesn't like it. As someone who used to dislike cilantro's flavor, I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone (for me, it tasted very soapy). I'm quite glad that my taste changed and I now love cilantro.

Green Beans with Ginger

Serves 4-6

1-1/2 pounds fresh green beans
A piece of ginger, about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 fresh hot green chili (optional), washed and sliced very fine
3 tablespoons chopped Chinese parsley (fresh coriander greens or cilantro)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1-1/4 teaspoons garam masala (I used garam masala from Penzeys, but that may be very different from Jaffrey's intention ... I give her recipe below)
2 teaspoons lemon juice (or to taste)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Wash the beans. Trim the ends. Slice them into fine rounds about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. (This takes a while, so it is best to sit down somewhere with a chopping board and sharp knife and do about 8 beans at a time.) When all the beans are chopped, set aside in a bowl.

Put the ginger in the blender with 3 tablespoons of water and blend at high speed until it is a smooth paste. (I grate the ginger by hand, but do add the 3 tablespoons of water when continuing with the recipe below.)

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. While it is heating, pour in paste from the blender and add turmeric. Fry, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, then add the sliced green chilies and the parsley (cilantro), and after another minute, put in the green beans and continue cooking and stirring for about a minute. Add the cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon of the garam masala, lemon juice, salt, and 3 tablespoons of wate. Cover skillet, turn flame very low, and let beans cook slowly for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

To serve: these beans can easily be cooked in advance and reheated. Serve them in a warm dish, with 1/4 teaspoon garam masala sprinkled on top.

Garam Masala

To make about a cupful you will need:

25 cardamom pods (use seeds only)
1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
1/3 cup whole cumin seeds
1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
3 sticks of cinnamon, each about 3 inches long
4-6 whole cloves

Combine all ingredients and grind very fine, using an electric blender or a coffee grinder. (If you want to make your garam masala less hot, decrease the amount of black peppercorns and increase the cumin proportionately.) Store in a tightly covered container, away from sunlight and dampness. If carefully stored, this garam masala can be kept for a couple of months.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Short Pasta with Cauliflower

Another of the recipes that Rose tried out when she was our nightly cook. (Oh, those were the days!). This was really tasty and comes in handy for meatless Fridays.

Adapted from Italian Cookbook (page 92)

1 medium cauliflower
3 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1-1/4 lb short pasta

Bring large pan of water to a boil. Wash the cauliflower well, and separate it into florets. Boil the florets until they are just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Remove them from the pan with a strainer or slotted spoon. Chop the cauliflower into bite-size pieces and set aside. Do not discard the cooking water.

Make a béchamel sauce by gently heating the milk with the bay leaf in a small saucepan. Do not let it boil. Melt the butter in a medium heavy saucepan. Add the flour, and mix it in well with a wire whisk ensuring there are no lumps. Cook for 2-3 minutes, but do not let the butter burn.

Strain the hot milk into the flour and butter mixture all at once, and mix smoothly with the whisk.

Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cheese, and stir over low heat until it melts. Stir in the cauliflower.

Bring the cooking water back to a boil. Add salt, and stir in the pasta. Cook until it is al dente. Drain, and tip the pasta into a warm serving bowl. Pour over the sauce. Mix well, and serve at once.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Montmartre: A Favorite Part of Paris and a Favorite Cocktail

This weekend, flipping through our Mr. Boston book, I atypically chose a cocktail the way our daughters tend to ... just because I liked the name.

We usually gravitate to sours but there was something to this drink that we both loved, like a sweet vermouth Martini but with an orange note added. We're not Martini drinkers, sweet or dry, but the Montmartre ... that's a drink we could probably trust a bartender to get right because it has just three, basic ingredients that every bar has.

Montmartre Cocktail

1-1/4 ounce dry gin
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce triple sec (we used Cointreau, as always)

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Palaver Chicken

Here is another of those recipes that Rose tried out when she was home and cooking dinner every night. (Yes, I miss those days and I am positive that Tom does...) The name supposedly came from all the talking that is done about the right way to make the dish. Evidently it is found all over Africa and can be made with beef, lamb, or fish and different sorts of greens.

This was absolutely delicious and probably one of the best ways to feed your family spinach that I have ever had. Even Hannah ate it, which is saying something!

The African and Middle Eastern Cookbook (page 136)

1-1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast fillets
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp peanut butter
2-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 fresh thyme sprig or 1 tsp dried thyme
8 oz spinach, chopped
1 fresh chili, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper

Cut chicken into thin slices, place in bowl and stir in garlic and a little salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in large frying pan and fry chicken over medium heat, turning once or twice to brown evenly. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon and set aside.

Heat oil in large pan and fry the onion and tomatoes over high heat for 5 minutes, until soft.

Reduce heat, add the peanut butter and half the stock and blend together well.

Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring all the time, then add the remaining stock, thyme, spinach, chili, and seasoning. Stir in chicken and cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. For thicker sauce, add flour.

Serve with boiled yams, rice, or ground rice.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Garlicky, Oven-Roasted Chicken

This recipe continues to haunt my palate. I absolutely loved it. It is from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen which I can recommend, based solely on this recipe. It's an easy read in which the author does a lovely job of introducing her beloved Vietnamese favorites to a Western audience, both in describing flavor / context and in placing them in her memories of growing up. Not every recipe is this simple, but many are, and if they all have this depth of flavor then cooks will be well rewarded for their efforts.

Garlicky, Oven-Roasted Chicken

4 cloves garlic, minded
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3-1/2 tablespoons Maggi Seasoning or soy sauce
2-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 pounds chicken drumsticks, thighs and/or wings

Marinate chicken in the refrigerator for 2-24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil and put chicken, skin-side down, on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes and then turn chicken skin-side up.

Bake 40-60 minutes total. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pork & Sausage Jambalaya

After hearing The Catholic Foodie talk John Besh's cookbook, My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking, I requested it from the library. I’m always up for a book that encourages people to cook with their families on a regular basis, usually with basic recipes that can be adapted.

The book is all that with gorgeous photography added. Although not as long and more oriented to New Orleans style cooking, this book really reminded me of Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. Both have an easy-going, instructional quality that doesn’t stress too much over details while giving you the tools (and general recipes) to find your own way in the kitchen.  I’ve certainly gotta give Besh full props for not being afraid to show his two boys proudly holding two just-killed wild birds or showing a just dead chicken. Way to reconnect us to where food really comes from. I like it.

I was particularly interested in the Sausage and Pork Jambalaya and the Eggplant Dressing, although the Stuffed French Toast (stuffed with Nutella) seemed a bit over the top. Full disclosure, I am not really a fan of French Toast, but that’s another story.

As it turns out the Pork & Sausage Jambalaya is absolutely delicious. And simple. I am giving it as a sample to lure you into trying the book for yourself.

Now that I am rereading the recipe, I see that I should have used only half the bell pepper instead of the whole thing. However, that is what's so great about these recipes. Adapt at will, just as the people who came up with it would. They used what they had.

Also, I am confessing here and now that when I saw the recipe called for 3 cups of rice, I should have known it was to feed a large number of people. We have a lot in the freezer as a result.

Pork & Sausage Jambalaya
1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 pound smoked pork sausage, sliced (I used kielbasa)
3 cups uncooked converted Louisiana white rice (I used plain long-grain rice ... again, it's what I had)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup tomato sauce or canned chopped tomatoes
2 cups diced cooked pork (I had none on hand so bought a few pork chops, diced them and sauteed the meat in the bacon fat.
3 green onions, chopped

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered about 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until browned. Add the bell pepper, celery, and sausage. Cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes, then add the rice, paprika, thyme, and red pepper flakes.

Increase the heat to high and add the chicken broth and tomato sauce, then the pork and green onions. Stir well and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 18 minutes. Remember the pork and sausage are already cooked, you're only making the rice at this point. Remove the pot from the heat and it's ready to serve! Season with salt and Tabasco. (We didn't need either. It was superb.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cooking the Books: Weber's Big Book of Grilling

I've been meaning for some time to tell y'all about my personal 2012 Cooking Challenge. I have quite a few cookbooks and yet I cook from them so rarely. Many of them I have read numerous times but still have never been impelled to do more than cook the same two or three recipes that interested me originally.

This year I thought I'd make two-three dishes from a particular cookbook each week. If all goes well, I'll have provided much more variety to my usual round of "go to" default meals.

That should be a welcome change for all!

First up, was Weber's Big Book of Grilling. I remember trying it when it was new (2001, is it possible?) and hitting a dud first thing out of the box. The problem was that so many recipes looked great that I couldn't bear to get rid of the book, yet my first experience made me distrust it.

This time there was no such problem. Both the Pork Chops with Adobo BBQ Sauce and the Lamb Patties in Pita with Yogurt Dill-Mint Sauce were fantastic. The pork chops really didn't even need the BBQ sauce since they had a flavorful rub and the lamb patties had a fresh Mediterranean flavor that I couldn't get enough of. My favorite ... the lamb patties, which you may try for yourself.

Moroccan Lamb In Pita
Serves: 4

Direct/Medium grill

For the Seasoning Mix:
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron threads

1-1/4 pounds ground lamb

For the Sauce:
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the lamb patties
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4 pita breads pockets
1 cup torn lettuce
1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes

Make the Seasoning Mix
In a small, dry, heavy sauté pan combine the seasoning mix ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl combine the lamb with the seasoning mix and 3 tablespoons cold water. Lightly mix with your hands; don't overwork the meat. With wet hands, lightly shape the meat into four equal-sized patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.

Just Before Grilling Make the Sauce
In a small bowl whisk together the sauce ingredients.

Lightly brush or spray the lamb patties with the extra-virgin olive oil. Grill over Direct Medium heat until the lamb is medium, 7 to 9 minutes, turning once halfway through grilling time. Grill the pita over Direct Medium heat until toasted, 30 to 60 seconds, turning once halfway through grilling time.

Slip the lamb patties inside the pita pockets along with a heaping spoonful of the yogurt sauce. Top with the lettuce and tomato. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Rose may be gone to L.A. but the cooking she did during her months at home lingers on with us, making memories bright and mouths water.

Here's a delicious one that actually would be a good make-ahead recipe for Super Bowl Sunday, now that I think of it.

Adapted from “Tortilla Pie with Chorizo” in Mexican (page 140)

Vegetable Oil
1 1/4 lb ground pork
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
12 corn tortillas
3 cups Monterey Jack, grated
1 1/4 cups creme fraiche
2 cups tomatillos
4 tbsp stock or water
2 fresh serrano chiles, seeded and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
Small bunch of cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the pork and garlic. Stir over medium heat until the meat has browned, then stir in the oregano, chili powder, cloves, and pepper. Cook for 3-4 more minutes, stirring constantly, then add the sherry, sugar, and salt. Stir for 3-4 minutes, until all the flavors are blended, then remove the pan from heat.

Cut the tortillas into 3/4 inch strips. Pour oil into a frying pan to a depth of 3/4 inch and heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry the tortilla strips in batches until crisp and golden brown all over.

Spread half the pork mixture in a baking dish. Top with half the tortilla strips and grated cheese, then add dollops of creme fraiche. Repeat the layers. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbling.

To make the tomatillo sauce, put tomatillos, stock or water, serrano chiles, garlic, and cilantro in a food processor or blender. Reserve a little cilantro for sprinkling. Process until smooth. Scrape into a saucepan, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir the sour cream into the sauce, with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture on top and serve immediately, sprinkled with cilantro.

Variation: Substitute cinnamon for chili powder.