Sicilian Spaghetti and Gravy

Do you slave over a hot stove for hours perfecting your generations-old spaghetti sauce? The one your grandmother made, the one your mother made, the one your aunt across town made and to whom you traveled on Sundays because “her Romagravy was THE ONE!”

I don’t.  At least not any more.

Blame it on Nino.

He is Nino Elia.  He’s a chef of note here in the Lancaster PA area, who specializes in-home dinner parties, small events, and private cooking classes. Ellen and I met him doing a cooking-class presentation at my new favorite gourmet shop in the area, Zest!  They called it Date Night with Nino!, and boy was it ever.  Sixteen (mostly) cooking enthusiasts who love to get together and have a good time.  This particular event was all about cooking Sicilian.

Nino presented pan-fried Kalamata olives with rosemary and ricotta salata, pollo alla vucciria–which he called Chicken Chaos (aptly named!), and spaghetti con pomodoro arrosto al forno, which basically is spaghetti with oven-roasted tomatoes and basil.  It was all amazing.

When I was single and living in Olde City Philadelphia I used to make the spaghetti dish almost every night, because it is filling, healthy, cheap, and simple.  But I didn’t know it had a name–to me it was spaghetti with a quick, fresh tomato and basil condiment.

Nino has raised this dish to an art form, taking it to a place beyond what I knew of Sicilian cuisine.  It isn’t actually very far from what I used to make, but far enough to have awakened in me a new appreciation for what gets made for dinner in Sicily.  I can imagine this dish being served nightly at homes all over the Italian island, and no one ever tiring of it–in fact, one can imagine alterations from time to time to keep the idea fresh.

So no more long, loving hours in the kitchen with red gravy (save that for some other recipe).  Don’t cook your sauce to death.  This one reeks of fresh ingredients.  But also, it is so quick and simple that you will likely want to make this one of your go-to “dinners in a hurry.”  That’s the way it ought to be.Sicilian Spaghetti

Spaghetti con pomodoro arrosto al forno

Ingredients:

12 ripe Roma tomatoes

5-8 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 bunch fresh basil, divided

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

kosher salt and pepper to taste

Parmesano Reggiano

Preparation:

For the sauce:  Cut the tomatoes in half and place on an olive-oiled baking sheet, skin side down.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic, chopped basil, and olive oil.  Bake for 20 minutes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven.  After 20 minutes turn the tomatoes cut side down an bake for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and set aside until just before the pasta is finished.  Pick off the skins and half the sauce in a large saute pan over low heat. Chop or mash the tomatoes into chunks, taste for salt and pepper and adjust the flavor.

For the pasta:  Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  When the tomatoes come out of the oven, add a tablespoon salt to the boiling water and stir once. Then add a box of spaghetti, stir once or twice, and cook for 2 minutes less than the recommended time on the package for al-dente pasta (the timing is important–the pasta will continue to cook after you remove it from the water).  With a slotted spoon, remove the pasta from the water and place it in the pan with the sauce.  Toss lightly to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Serve the pasta topped with the remaining sauce, garnished with more freshly chopped basil, freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Want to see more of Nino?  Check him out at:  https://www.facebook.com/Nino-Elia-145679935496202/

Mangia!

Cold sesame noodles: the quest continues

I think that this is becoming one of my life’s passions.sesame noodles Perhaps my single favorite bring-along dish when we go avisitin’ in the summertime is cold Asian sesame noodles–peanut noodles, for those of you who have been following along or catching the occasional posts I jam into this space.  It’s also my favorite food, one that I am in constant movement toward the perfect version of this well-known and highly popular dish.

Sesame noodles.  Just the words themselves send me into paroxysms of joy.  Thinking about them make me quiver and want to try yet another version.

I won a local cooking prize once with my original version, which is not really my version, but rather a gift recipe given to me by a friend more than 30 years ago.  Since then I have tweaked and twirled the recipe, made it twice weekly for a late, lamented gourmet shop in Ardmore, PA (where the chef gave me wonderful input for moving the recipe closer toward perfect), produced at least two dozen different versions for my own edification–always in the service of finding one single blend that might become my “always” recipe.

The difference in the recipes is always the sauce (duh!).  There are as many different versions of the sauce as there are versions of Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust.  At least.

I took a stab at a recipe I found courtesy of the New York Times that was touted as “authentic,” one that stated the opinion that if it contained peanut butter it’s not sesame noodles (to that I retort:  Bosh!!).  That recipe was good–great, actually, but it wasn’t “The One.”

So on goes the search.

I found another recipe I decided to try that seems more authentic, and I made that, twice, the first time exactly as the recipe was written and then with a couple of tiny tweaks that I have found actually made my own version better.

So, because I understand that cold sesame noodle salad is entirely a personal preference thing, I’m going to present you with my latest attempt at perfection, one I got from a Vietnamese cook who swears that this is the true authentic cold sesame-noodle salad.  Try this one on for size:

SICHUAN COLD NOODLE SALAD

Ingredients:

8 ounces flat rice noodles

2 ribs celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 large carrot, julienne cut

8 ounces fresh bean sprouts

Sauce

3 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste (acceptable substitution is 2½ tablespoons tahini and 1½ teaspoon toasted sesame-seed oil)

2 tablespoons Chinese brown-rice vinegar

2½ tablespoons regular soy sauce

1½ teaspoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon Chinese chili paste (or more, or less, as you prefer)

1 heaping teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle

To finish:

2 tablespoons toasted sesame-seed oil

12 ounces poached chicken breast, hand shredded

2 scallions, green parts only, cut into thin rounds

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Preparation:

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions, always using the minimum recommended cooking time.  Add the celery and carrot, cook one minute more, then plunge the noodles into cold water.  Important tip: Do not overcook the noodles, they become mushy very quickly. Flush with cold water twice, until the water runs clear, and drain well.  Toss with one tablespoon toasted sesame-seed oil and set aside.

Stir together all the sauce ingredients except the toasted peppers until smooth and well mixed. Taste and tweak the flavors with the sauce ingredients to find the blend of tangy, spicy, salty, and sweet that suits your taste. It should be slightly more pungent than you want, because the other ingredients will dilute the flavor a bit.  When you are happy with the flavor, add the toasted peppercorns and mix well.  Allow to rest about 10 minutes before mixing into the sauce (the sauce can be held in the refrigerator up to 3 days; allow it to come to room temperature and stir well before using).

To serve, toss the noodles, bean sprouts, and the chicken in a large bowl, add the remaining sesame-seed oil, pour the sauce over the top, toss once gently, and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and green onions.

You can also consider other optional ingredients to add:  shredded red cabbage, julienned broccoli stems, dried tofu cubes, coarsely chopped peanuts, sliced water chestnuts, chopped fresh basil or cilantro.

Perfect? Pretty darn close. This version of the recipe allows you to adjust the flavors for yourself to find the blend that pleases you.

Isn’t that the essence of cooking?

 

 

 

 

Ira’s Favorite Chicken

I call this dish Ira’s Favorite Chicken.  I don’t know what else to call it.  It has its roots in the Epicure Market on South Beach, where I cooked for several years. unnamed

This is NOT the Epicure’s recipe–that actual recipe is, to date, unrepeatable. I made it in food-grade 39-gallon plastic tubs, and it took four tubs to make a batch. Also it was forty years ago, and the nuances of the recipe escape me now.  But I’ve come pretty close to getting it right.

I call it Ira’s Favorite Chicken, because one of my favorite cousins–the erstwhile Ira, a physician and magnificent human being in the Philly suburbs–has been bugging me for years to come up with this recipe, and to pass it on to him.  I’ve actually been trying to duplicate it for others since I moved away from Florida, and I think I’ve finally gotten close.  It’s sweet, salty, peppery, pungent, and most of all, tastes like home.

WARNING:  this recipe is complicated, but it’s waaaaay worth the effort.

So Ira, this one’s for you.  It’s not the original, but it’s pretty damn close.  Let me know what you think.  (Wendy, this is a challenge!)

IRA’S FAVORITE CHICKEN

Ingredients:

1 3½ to 4-pound chicken

5 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, finely minced

1 tablespoon honey

½ cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1½ tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame-seed oil

1 teaspoon red chili oil

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 tablespoon pickling spice

3 hefty shakes fine-ground white pepper (NOT black pepper)

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely minced

2 pieces scallion (green onion), green parts only, chopped into small pieces

Preparation:

The day before:

  1. Remove the backbone, and cut the chicken into 12 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 pieces wings, breasts cut in half across the breast (discard the backs and wing tips, or freeze and save for a stock).
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the well the garlic and ginger; place the chicken pieces in the bowl and toss well to coat with the garlic and ginger. Place the chicken by hand into a 1-gallon zipper-close bag–leaving the remaining garlic and ginger in the bowl–and refrigerate for 1 hour.  In the same bowl, mix the remaining ingredients; cover and refrigerate. An hour later, pour the marinade into the bag with the chicken.

Cooking day:

  1. Preheat a convection oven to 375ºF.  (If you don’t have a convection oven, read the note at the end).
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the chicken, skin side up on the sheet, leaving some space between the pieces. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil, and rest for 15 minutes.

If you want to be really authentic to the Epicure recipe, while the chicken is baking, make a glaze of ½ cup apricot jam, 2 tablespoons orange marmalade, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce and ½ teaspoon fish sauce; simmer for 30 minutes, and baste the finished chicken with the glaze just before serving.  Garnish with minced cilantro and chopped scallion.

Serve with fried rice.  You can buy pork fried rice at your favorite Chinese restaurant, buy a fried-rice product in the grocery store (I do like P.F. Chang’s fried rice), or you can make your own, using a fabulous recipe called “Classic Pork Fried Rice” on my Pinterest page (Jeff Thal, on the board called “Chinese New Year.”).

NOTE:  If you don’t have a convection oven, turn the broiler on high for the last five minutes and watch the chicken closely so that it doesn’t burn.  It should blacken just a tiny little bit. Remove from the oven and cover loosely with aluminum foil for 15 minutes.

 

 

Red Lentil Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk

Meatless Monday.

It’s become a thing in our house, like, I suppose, some of yours.curry

It’s something Ellen has instituted here, and it happens most of the time (except when it doesn’t).  The kids often object, but not all that strenuously unless I produce something with bulgur or faro or some other grain that they perceive tastes like packing peanuts.

So we’re constantly challenged to come up with vegetarian offerings that are packed with nutritional value and interesting genealogy and, oh yes, flavor.

Such is the case with this tasty and fragrant Indian-influenced soup adapted from a recipe taken from the pages of Vegetarian Times.  It’s loaded with flavor—it will perfume your whole house as it cooks—and protein and fiber, and will gain props all round as you serve it up with an interesting hunk of artisan bread or pita wedges or toasted naan, or a scoop of brown rice on the side.

Try this one.  It’s simple to make and memorable, too.

By the way, if you’ve avoided getting an immersion blender, this is the perfect excuse to get one, or ask Santa to deliver one to you this holiday season.

Red Lentil Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 cups cold water.

2 cups sweet onions, chopped

1 cup red lentils

3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 14-ounce unsweetened (light if possible) coconut milk

1  teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon finely round white pepper

1 bay leaf

3 cloves garlic, roughly minced

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly minced

1 tablespoon Indian (or try Jamaican) curry

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation:

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add water, lentils, carrots, coconut milk, salt, pepper, and the bay leaf.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small non-stick skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic, ginger, curry, and cilantro.  Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 2-3 minutes, then add to the soup.  Remove the bay leaf.

Puree the soup, either in the food processor or blender in batches, or in the pot with an immersion blender, until velvety smooth.  Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve hot with fresh sautéed vegetables, brown rice, and/or a nice fresh bread.

Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce

So today I’m faced with a challenge.  We went to a new Italian restaurant for supper the other night, and it was wonderful—Salt & Pepper in the new Worthington shopping plaza on Oregon Pike, about halfway between Roseville Road and Landis Valley Road in Manheim Township.  The best Italian food we have had since we moved here, other than homemade.penne

I had delicious linguine and clams in red sauce, E. had an excellent chicken Parmesan and spaghetti, and M. had spaghetti in vodka sauce, a light and creamy red sauce.  It was an excellent meal.

The challenge, then, is to recreate the spaghetti in vodka sauce and make it even better than the restaurant’s version.  I liked it, but I wished it had had a bit more of a spicy bite. I like my red sauces to have a little punch.  Vodka sauce, on the other hand, is not particularly robust, relying on subtle but complex flavors mixed to perfection.

So what to do?

What I’ve done is replaced black pepper with white pepper, minced shallots instead of garlic, caramelized red onions instead of minced yellow ones, and a bit of sweet paprika and more red-pepper flakes than what most recipes call for. These changes add complexity to the dish.  One further adjustment is that I use Absolut Peppar as the vodka in the recipe, but that is a personal vanity.  Most any good vodka will do, but I truly like the layer of black pepper flavor it imparts.  My favorite vodka is Blair and Brown, a true potato vodka made right here in Pennsylvania, but I’d rather savor that on the rocks with a bit of tonic and lime. Perhaps together?

Try this recipe at home.  Use penne or linguine instead of spaghetti, and whole-wheat pastas will add a bit more bite to the dish.  I’m certain you’ll like it, and will serve it to guests.  It’s a true winner, sure to garner oohs and ahs from your friends and naysayers who think that vodka sauce is a bridge too far.  That’s a bridge I willingly cross.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

Ingredients:

1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) , drained, liquid reserved
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)

1  tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium shallots, minced

1 teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground WHITE pepper (much better than store-bought fine-ground)
1/3 cup vodka (try it with Absolut Peppar)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne pasta
2 whole sprigs fresh basil, plus 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preparation:
1. Puree half of tomatoes until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1 2/3 cups). Add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.
2. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. To caramelize the onion, add onion and brown sugar and cook over a low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden brown and soft, about 15 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring constantly about three minutes; add shallots, paprika, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until the alcohol is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous. Remove the basil sprigs and stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.
4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven. Add sauce to pasta and toss over medium heat until pasta absorbs some of sauce, 1 to 2 minutes, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Stir in the minced basil and adjust seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls, garnish with chopped basil, and serve immediately.

Fabulous Summer Salads

So.  Summer.summer salads

It’s hot out there; who wants to cook?  Not me.  So what I worked on this week are summer salads.

Ho hum, right?  Potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni salad?  Same old same old.

Not this guy.

I came up with two wonderful new recipes inspired by other, pre-existing recipes and worked them over into wonderful new dishes with my (and Ellen’s) personal twists to make a balmy  summer evening absolutely sing with new flavors.

Standard ingredients, new applications.  Here’s what we’ve got.

Among the things upon which Ellen and I agree is that we don’t much like creamy potato salads; you know the ones–potatoes, celery, mayonnaise, salt and pepper–not much about which to get excited.

Enter Eating Well magazine.  Eating well is something I excel at, although “well” is a bit of a stretch. The magazine means healthy; to me, “eating well” generally means enjoying what we’ve made to the extreme.  In this case, I’ll stick to (relatively) healthy–no mayo in this potato salad, just a beautious blend of herbs and spices that make a summer day feel like a celebration.  This month’s issue of Eating Well features a choice of potato salads that are different from the norm almost as much as they are different from each other.

Our choice from this page was a luscious Greek potato salad with (or, in our case, without) beautiful Kalamata olives (Ellen doesn’t like olives, so we left them out, but I love them, so I say “put ’em in!”   Here’s the plan:

The second recipe is a variation on a Mexican bean salad, with a tangy cumin/lime dressing that is similar to one that has long been one of our favorites.  It’s like a bean salad I wrote about a couple of years ago, but with a twist in the dressing.  The dressing started with the Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, but I’ve worked it over to my liking, and I sure do like it.  Better, although the original is delicious.

I think you’ll like both recipes.  We served them with grilled chicken and freshly torn romaine lettuce and the same dressing as in the beans.  Fabulous!

Greek Potato Salad

Ingredients:

2½ pounds red or Yukon Gold potatoes

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 cup reduced-fat Feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup Kalamata olives, quartered (optional!  — NOT!)

1 medium cucumber, seeded and quartered and diced

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup finely chopped shallot

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Scrub and dice the potatoes to a ½-inch dice and place on a steamer basket above one inch of water in a large pot; steam until tender, 12-15 minutes. Place the potato dice on a baking sheet, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and let cool for 15 minutes.  Then gently place them in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl,  whisk together olive oil, vinegar, shallot, mustard, and salt and pepper.  Add the tomatoes, Feta, olives (or not😉, cucumber, and oregano to the potatoes, then drizzle the dressing into the bowl. Toss gently, so as not to break up the potatoes, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Place the bowl in the fridge for at least two hours, then serve.

Mexican Black Bean and Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

2 cans black beans, rinsed well

4 fresh San Marzano (or Roma) plum tomatoes, ½-inch dice

1 orange (or yellow) bell pepper, seeded and pith removed, ½-inch dice

1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained

½ red onion, diced

1 10-oz package of frozen corn, thawed, rinsed, and drained

¼ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon freshly grated lime zest

1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (more if you like your salads tangy!)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon finely ground white pepper

Preparation:

Place the first seven ingredients (beans through cilantro) in a large bowl.  In a separate, smaller bowl, add the zest, juice, cumin, chipotle pepper, salt, and white pepper, and stir to mix well.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing bowl whisking constantly to create a mixed dressing that thickens as you add the oil.  Pour over the salad ingredients and toss to coat the salad well.  Serve immediately to get all the flavor from the tomatoes and cilantro, or chill for later serving.

Both these recipes are tasty and reasonably healthy, and go well with anything grilled.  Try ‘em both!

Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon

Summer season.  Grilling.  pacific-rim-cedar-plank-salmon-ssDon’t want to heat up the kitchen any more than is necessary.  So, when company is coming to town and dinner for ten is in order, and half of the guests don’t eat meat (but will eat fish), what’s the imperative?

Why grilled salmon, of course!

Have you ever grilled a big piece of salmon on a cedar plank?  No?  You haven’t lived.  Juicy, smoky, crispy, full of flavor, and just rocking with Omega 3s (I just point that out because at my age I have to be careful just what I put in my body (LOL).

The reality is, I don’t much like fish, any fish.  Can’t say why; I never did like seafood beyond shellfish, but over the years I have learned to like salmon enough to find recipes that I can make and like.  Like my friend Jim Coleman’s Mustard-crusted salmon with shallots and white wine.  And wild salmon gently poached in white wine, pickling spices and black pepper with dill-yogurt sauce.

And now, after experimenting with recipes and techniques, I’ve finally come up with a version of Seattle’s famous cedar-planked grilled salmon that I can say is worthy of my posting here (thanks, of course, to Cooks’ Illustrated, which, if you’ve read this space, know is my bible of cooking technique).

Cedar-plank grilled salmon on the barbecue. I think it has changed my mind about fish.  This is the best piece of fish I’ve ever eaten, and I’m happy to report that I actually made it myself.  It’s slightly Asian in its feel, and it goes incredibly well with quick-sauteed spinach and garlic and a Thai version of my legendary (according to me) cold sesame noodle salad.

So here is my latest adaptation of a published recipe, from Cooks Illustrated to my kitchen to yours.

Enjoy!

Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon

Ingredients:

1 2½-foot x 6-inch unfinished cedar plank (courtesy of Lowe’s Home Improvement)

2 cups white wine

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1½ tablespoons rice vinegar (buy from an Asian market, not the grocery store)

1 tablespoon dark toasted sesame seed oil (also from the Asian market)

½ teaspoon hot chili oil

1/3 cup light soy sauce

¼ cup chopped chives

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (from the root)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2½ – 3-pound salmon fillet (one piece, head end is best–I got mine at Costco)

Preparation:

  1. Soak the cedar plank for at least an hour in room-temperature water and 2 cups white wine. Fully submerge the plank in the water; weight down if necessary.
  2. Mix together the vinegar, oils, soy sauce, chives, ginger, and garlic in a 1-gallon zipper-close bag. Roll the salmon fillet small enough to fit into the bag. Zip the bag, turn it over a few times to mix and coat the salmon, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, up to but no more than an hour.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Place the plank on the grates. The plank is ready when it starts to smoke.
  4. Place the salmon fillet in the plank and discard the bag and marinade. Close the cover and grill for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is done (when you can flake it with a fork).
  5. Remove the salmon from the grill, cover loosely with foil for 5 minutes, then cut into serving-size portions and serve immediately.

You can make an extra half-batch of the marinade, set aside, and serve in small dipping bowls with the salmon. It is loaded with flavor.

If you want the Thai version of the Sesame Noodles, search on this site for that recipe, then add 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce to the sauce recipe, and julienne broccoli stems, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (Thai basil is best), and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro to the noodles before adding the sauce.  It’s a nice change of pace, and will win raves.

Turkey Burgers With a Surprise

We don’t eat red meat.  But you knew that.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 So when cookout season rolls around, burgers become a production, and what a production these burgers are!  Full of veggies and flavor, and if you serve them on crusty artisan rolls with thick slices of tomato, Boston lettuce, and a slather of homemade mayonnaise, well then, who needs beef! Not me!  Try these.  I think you’ll be wonderfully surprised!

Turkey Burgers with Zucchini and Carrot

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey

1 medium zucchini, grated

1 medium carrot, grated

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

¾ teaspoon dried thyme

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 egg

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 slices crusty bread or 4 artisan rolls

4 small leaves Boston lettuce

1 large slicing tomato, sliced thick

1 red onion, sliced

For the mayonnaise:

  • 1-1/4 cup of light olive oil, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced

Preparation:

Heat broiler. In large bowl, combine turkey, zucchini, carrot, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and egg. Form into 4 patties

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties, turning once, until no pink remains, 4-5 minutes preside.

Meanwhile, place the bread on a baking sheet and brush with the remaining olive oil. Broil until golden brown and crisp, about 1½ minutes.

Transfer the bread to individual plates. Slather the bread with the mayonnaise. Top with the lettuce, tomato, onion, and burgers.

For the mayonnaise:

  • Place the egg, 1/4 cup of olive oil, mustard powder, and salt in a mixing bowl, blender, or food processor. Mix thoroughly.
  • While the food processor or blender is running (or while mixing in a bowl with a stick blender),  slowly drizzle in the remaining cup of olive oil.
  • After you’ve added all the oil and the mixture has emulsified, add lemon juice to taste, stirring gently with a spoon to incorporate.

My Favorite (Ahem…) Beef Stew

I’m officially embarrassed.astew

I’m preparing to cook dinner tonight for my in-laws, and my beloved is out of town, spending a frighteningly well-deserved weekend at the beach with her best friend, knitting and bird watching and beach walking, and ice-cream eating (and heaven only knows what else), and I’m planning to make a recipe from my mother-in-law’s recipe box, a recipe I’ve made dozens of times; it’s maybe my favorite recipe from my wife’s recipe box

So, because I love the recipe so much, I wrote about it in my column a couple of years back, then went looking for the recipe on this site, because the recipe card is worn to the point of not being so readable.

And so, I discovered that this recipe, perhaps one of my all-time favorites, is nowhere to be found on this site. One can Google it, one can search  for it in the newspaper’s archives, or one could come over here and try to decipher the recipe card.

Or one could read it right now. Here. Where it ought to be.

This is beef stew.  Simple, straightforward, and oh, so yummy, that it is likely to become your go-to beef stew recipe of all times.

But because we don’t eat red meat around here any more, I’ve adapted the recipe to our own liking, using chicken thighs instead of beef. Weird, huh?   Okay, let’s call it chicken-thigh stew.  But it’s so hearty that you’ll think of it as beef stew with a difference.

So what I’m going to do here is to re-publish the column I wrote for the paper, and let you see the whole reconstruction plan.  If you want the real beef stew recipe, read through the column to the end, or skip to the bottom for the original.  Either way, it’s a winner.

From the Lancaster Sunday News

A Family Favorite Gets Reimagined, Renamed

Posted: Sunday, January 9, 2011 12:06 am | Updated: 11:59 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

It’s just a little tin box. You probably have one in your kitchen.

But oh, the treasures inside.

The box, adorned with homey images from a simpler time, is stuffed full of 3×5 index cards that Ellen got from her mother. On these cards – faded with age, occasionally smudged with gravy, handwriting made gauzy by the heat and humidity of a working kitchen – is a treasury of recipes collected over decades from friends and family and handed down from generation to generation.

The box contains an amazing range of tastes – from “Adele’s Cereal” to “Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole,” to “Porcupine Meat Balls” to “Zucchini Chocolate Cake”. Many of the recipes are from that simpler time, when “fat” was what “healthy” babies were, and when the family cook had most of the day to plan and execute the evening meal, including a loaf of fresh-baked bread.

That’s why this particular recipe caught my eye, and eventually my fancy. It reminded me of meals from my childhood. It was called “Marge Mason Stew.” My mother-in-law’s neighbor many years ago, Marge had created the perfect beef stew recipe – comfort-food good, and very simple. But more to the point, it can be adapted to almost any taste, including for folks who don’t eat red meat, like my family. Having made, and played with, the recipe dozens of times, I now use turkey or chicken thigh meat as a replacement for fatty beef cubes. This produces a stew that is almost identical in flavor and texture to beef stew, lower in fat and totally satisfying. And in a busy world, this recipe is perfect for a slow cooker.

But since this is now turkey stew, and I’ve added a couple of ingredients Marge didn’t have in her original recipe, I can no longer, in good faith, call it “Marge Mason Stew.” Now we call it …

MARGE SIMPSON STEW

1 1/2 pounds boneless turkey thigh meat, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

3 red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

3/4 cup red wine

1/3 cup ketchup

1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Reduce vegetable broth in a saucepan until only 1 cup remains.

Place the flour, salt, pepper and ginger in a large food-storage bag, shake well, then add half the turkey cubes to the bag. Close the bag, and shake well until the turkey cubes are coated with the flour mixture. Place the flour-coated cubes into the pot and stir until they are fully browned and firm to the touch, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat cubes to a bowl.

Repeat with the remaining meat, adding more oil if necessary.

Return the original batch to the pot, add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Then add the broth, and 1/2 cup of wine, bring to a boil, and stir to deglaze the pot. Then add the herbs and ketchup. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the onions, carrots, potatoes and remaining wine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for an additional hour, adding the peas in the last 15 minutes. Serve when the potatoes are tender.

To make this stew in a slow cooker, brown the meat in a heavy pan, deglaze the pan with the wine, place the meat and the glaze in the crock, cover with the remaining ingredients, and cook on the low setting for 8 hours.

Also, double the recipe. It gets better in the fridge.

Marge Mason Stew

Ingredients:aHeartyBeefStew

1 pound stew beef (beef tips are best)

1 can beef consomme

1 clove garlic

1/4 teaspoon each dried basil, dried thyme, paprika

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped carrots

4 baby red potatoes, quartered

3/4 cup red wine

1/3 cup ketchup

kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cut meat into 1/2-inch cubes and roll in flour, salt, and pepper; brown the meant in batches to sear.

Add the consomme and garlic to the pot and simmer, stirring to remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.  Then add 1/2 cup wine and the ketchup and stir well to mix.  Simmer for 1.5 hours.  Add the onions, carrots, potatoes and the remaining wine. Taste and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for another hour.

Serve immediately.

My Favorite Potato Kugel

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to post a killer kugel recipe.  13bees-sweet-potato-kugelOkay.  It being Passover and all, it only seems right that I put out there the kugel I’m making for this year’s holiday.  I found this recipe online, and adjusted it to my personal liking.  I’m making two this year, our pal Marcy being at less than 100 percent, and what could be better for a great friend than making her a kugel?  Not much that I can think of.

This is a kugel of the savory variety, not a dessert kugel. It contains carrots and parsley, and lots of caramelized onions.  MMMMMMM…I’ll not linger on the words here, because I know you want to get to it, and actually, so do I.  It’s six am Pesach morning, and I’ve got to get to market.  Here’s the recipe:

Golden Potato Kugel

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped parsley

4 medium sweet (Vidalia-type) onions

2 tablespoons Spanish paprika

1/2 cup onion-infused olive oil (see note)
6 eggs
2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon fine-ground white pepper

1 cup carrots, peeled and shredded
4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
3/4 cup matzoh meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preparation:

Mince the parsley to a coarse consistency; then place in a large mixing bowl.  Halve, then slice the onions about a half-inch thick; Heat a large enamel-coated saute pan, add 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil, and add three onions and the paprika over medium-low heat  them). Grate the remaining onion and the carrot through the fine holes on a box grater, then place in the large bowl. Add the parsley, eggs, salt and pepper and mix well.

Peel the potatoes and place in bowl of cold water until you are ready to shred them. Don’t shred them until the onions are all caramelized. If it looks like it will take a while for the onions to finish, put the covered mixing bowl in the fridge. When the onions are browned, set them aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Shred the potatoes in a food processor or a box grater and immediately mix with the other ingredients. Add the matzo meal, baking powder, caramelized onions and the remaining olive oil and mix thoroughly. Spray two 8×8 or 9×9 baking dishes with olive oil spray; scoop in the mixture, smoothing off the top, and drizzle the tops with a bit more olive oil.

Bake for at least 75 minutes or until the tops are brown and crisp on top. If making ahead, remove from oven while it is still very light brown (about 1 hour). Allow to cool, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate.  To reheat the next day, bake, covered for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and continue baking until the top is brown and crispy. 

Serve hot with applesauce on the side.

NOTE:   Onion-infused olive oil is a marvelous product.  To make it, saute an onion in olive oil, stirring frequently, over medium heat until totally transparent and just beginning to brown.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool until just slightly warm.  Add two cups of extra-virgin olive oil to the pan, cover and allow to sit for one hour.  Strain the olive oil to remove all the solids and store covered in a dark place until ready to use.

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