Author Archives: Jeffrey Thal
Red wine and scallops? Heresy!
This one deserves a try, because A) it’s so damn simple; and B) because at the beach house it’s all I had on hand. What surprised me was just how quick and simple it was to make.
Confession: we didn’t really make risotto–that’s way too fussy for beach cooking–rather in this case it was brown rice cooked a bit too long, then steeped off the stove for a while until it got mushy and gluey. But the pan sauce loosened it up a bit. At home I’d make a real Parmesan risotto with some shredded zucchini and fresh tomatoes (https://jeffskitchen.net/2012/08/06/zucchini-parmesan-risotto/).
But the scallops are fresh and local here in Chincoteague, and the dish was perfect.
Here’s the plan:
1 pound fresh sea scallops (about 18)
2 teaspoons Meyer lemon-infused olive oil (available at most good gourmet shops)
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons premium Balsamic vinegar
Old Bay seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chives or green onion
1. Rinse well and pat dry the scallops–make sure they’re VERY DRY. Season with salt, pepper, and a very light dusting of Old Bay seasoning.
2. Heat the pan over medium-high heat, then add half the olive oil and count to ten. Gently place half the scallops in the pan and sear three minutes without moving them; flip and sear the other side for two additional minutes. Remove to a plate and keep them in a warm oven. Repeat with the remaining olive oil and scallops.
3. Turn the heat under the pan down to medium and add the wine and vinegar, stirring constantly to deglaze the pan. Make sure to scrape up all the brown bits in the pan into the liquid–that’s where the magic happens. Reduce the pan sauce by half.
Serve the scallops over the rice or risotto and drizzle with the pan sauce. Garnish with chopped chives.
I hate cooking in the summertime; but then, who doesn’t? I’m always looking for the next great cold salad. So imagine how thrilled I was to come across a recipe from Giada de Laurentiis that incorporates some of my favorite ingredients all in one dish. My rendition here is a bit different from Giada’s; I added and subtracted, mixed and matched, pushed and pulled, until I came up with a flavor profile that just knocks me out,
Giada offers arugula in her recipe, and if that suits you, then fine. I made it with watercress, and really like the extra zing. You can also use a milder green, such as red- or green-leaf lettuce, if you prefer. But go easy on the greens for this one. The flavor of the herbs and oil and vinegars are the real stars of this dish.
2 (6-ounce) cans premium-grade solid white tuna, packed in water
2 (15-ounce) cans cannelini white beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup small capers, nonpareil in brine, drained and rinsed
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons premium-grade balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic-infused EV olive oil (I make my own *see note)
Sea salt and fresh ground black AND white pepper
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 scallions, green parts only, chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper, no seeds
2 cups fresh arugula or watercress
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes (optional)
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
6 fresh basil leaves
1. In a large bowl, add the tuna, breaking into bite-size pieces with a large fork. Add the beans, chopped jalapeno, and capers.
2. Into the bowl, add the olive oils and vinegars. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Pour dressing on the tuna, bean and caper mixture and allow the flavors to infuse while slicing the vegetables.
4. Add the onion, scallion, rosemary, and tomatoes to tuna mixture and toss gently. Adjust the taste with more salt and pepper, to taste.
5. Place the greens on large a decorative platter and top with tuna mixture. Tear fresh basil leaves over the top, sprinkle with a bit more balsamic vinegar, and serve immediately.
- Note: Garlic-infused EV olive oil: peel the cloves of 1 whole head of garlic, smash lightly, and place in a saucepan with 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Heat until the cloves begin to bubble. Then turn the heat down to medium low and sweat the garlic cloves until they JUST begin to lightly brown, about 30-35 minutes. Turn the heat off, and allow to cool completely. Carefully strain through a fine sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove all the garlic pieces. Be sure to remove all the garlic pieces; this is important. Any remaining garlic pieces will grow bacteria. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.
Damn, but it’s hot out there. Can’t imagine heating up the kitchen on a day like this, and fortunately, I don’t have to. I’ve got some wonderful things going for me here in Jeff’s Kitchen, and I can–will, tonight, produce about the best cold salad in my repertoire, and one the family always looks forward to, because the ingredients are as good as it gets, fresh and tangy.
It’s also true that this is one I can make with virtually all home-grown and/or homemade ingredients. I won’t dwell on the gory details of the garden out back, but you can make inferences of your own.
It’s panzanella, an amazing Italian bread and cucumber salad, that I’ve adapted to fit the needs of our eating habits and likes. You can grow the produce, bake the bread, whip it up in a flash on a hot summer day, and enjoy the fruits of your own hands, with style and substance. This one is good enough to make for company. Which we’ve done, more than once. I call it “authentic,” but I’ve actually added one non-authentic ingredient, because the one thing the recipe lacks is protein. Ergo garbanzo beans.
Make it. You won’t be sorry.
- 2 1/2 pounds mixed tomatoes, cut into bite-sized piece
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 3/4 pound ciabatta or rustic sourdough bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups bread cubes
- 1 seedless English cucumber, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup dried and reconstituted or 1 can (drained) garbanzo beans
- 10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
1. Place tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature to drain, tossing occasionally, while you toast the bread. Drain for a minimum of 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to center position. In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and firm but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
3. Remove colander with tomatoes from bowl with tomato juice. Place colander with tomatoes in the sink. Add shallot, garlic, mustard, and vinegar to the bowl with tomato juice. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Combine toasted bread, cucumbers, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and dressing in a large bowl. Add basil leaves. Toss everything to coat and season with salt and pepper. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until dressing is completely absorbed by bread.
Tired of the run of the mill on Thanksgiving? Did you have the same-old same old? Not in this house we didn’t. Oh sure, we had a turkey–that world-class butterflied turkey roasted over root vegetable panzanella that I’ve been touting for a few years now (https://jeffskitchen.net/2013/12/25/christmas-2013-butterflied-turkey-root-vegetable-panzanella-and-mushroom-). The panzanella is amazing, and the barley pilaf is too.
But I’ve done something different than plain old cranberry sauce (not that my cranberry sauce is “plain old,” but lately I’ve been experimenting with chutneys, so I decided to attempt a cranberry chutney, just to add a little spice to the celebration, as if any more spice was really needed.
Also, Ellen dazzled with an amazing totally vegan mince pie, but I’ll save that for the next post.
So. Cranberry chutney. Actually, it’s a lot more complex than cranberry. It’s cranberry-apple-pear-ginger–you get the idea. But a real chutney it is, and it was spectacular. It also cans well, so if you’re into putting your wonderful cooking up in jars, this one is a perfect addition to your condiment shelf, and makes a great gift, as well.
4 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced (1/2-inch dice)
1 firm Red, Bosc, or Anjou pear, peeled, cored, and diced (1/2-inch dice)
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup chrystallized ginger, finely chopped
In a large enamel-coated or stainless-steel pot over medium heat, combine cranberries, sugar, water, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the cranberries pop, 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the apples, pears, onions, raisins, and ginger, and stir well. Continue to cook, stirring often until thick, 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the cinnamon sticks and cloves (if you can find them), and allow to cool to room temperature. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.
Alternately, you can can the chutney. In this case, leave the heat under the chutney at the lowest setting. Wash and sterilizing 6 half-pint jars and lids, and prepare a water-bath canning pot. When boiling, place the jars in the water and turn down the heat to medium-low. Remove one jar at a time, pour the water back into the canning pot, and carefully fill the jar, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Using a knife, slowly stir the hot chutney to remove any air bubbles that remain in the jar. Wipe the rim and threads of the jar and tighten the lid to hand tight. Set the jar back in the canning pot and repeat the filling process until all the jars are filled. Return the canner to a boil, cover, and boil for 15 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner and set on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature. The jars have sealed if the lids pop inward, so that they are concave. If the last jar is not filled to within 1/4 inch of the top, do not process it, but allow it to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks. If any of the processed jars don’t seal, they will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks. Give them as gifts.
It’s as easy as it gets, and even better to put on a salad.
It’s the vinaigrette salad dressing that changed the salad-eating habits of Miami Beach folk forever. Before this small beauty came along, salad dressing meant Wishbone or Milano French dressing. Out in Vegas they were creating Caesar dressing, but in South Florida this was the magic, and it was oh, so simple. You can keep the memory alive with this simple dressing, just the way we made it.
6 ounces first cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon agave sugar (granulated will do in a pinch)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 garlic clove, smashed but not chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
Make the dressing 24 hours in advance.
Place all the ingredients except the olive oil and the garlic clove in a stainless steel or other non-reactive bowl and mix well. Pour into a glass jar, add the garlic clove, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Immediately before serving, remove the garlic clove, pour the dressing back into the sam bowl, beat rapidly with a wire whisk, and slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl to incorporate the ingredients. Add the garlic clove back into the dressing, pour into a serving vessel like a gravy boat, and serve immediately.
The dressing can be made ahead with the olive oil incorporated, but you will need to bring it to room temperature and whip rapidly before serving.
So yesterday our next-door neighbor presented us with a lovely surprise: fresh-picked figs from her tree. What to do…what to do? So I perused the Internet to see what could be done with beautiful, overripe figs. and you know what? Turns out there are too many recipes to choose from. So I took the dilemma to the family, to ask what they might like to see done with fresh figs, and here’s what I came up with: fig jam.
I haven’t had much to do with figs in forty years, when I had my own fig tree growing beside our house. Of course, there are always Fig Newtons, but why try to emulate them, since it’s almost impossible to improve on the ones I can get at the grocery store.
But jam? What an intriguing idea. I like jam. We enjoy the occasional English muffin with a fresh-made jam and a cup of tea–so very English, you know.
So here’s what I’m doing:
1 whole lemon
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons espresso balsamic vinegar
4 sprigs freshly cut thyme
1 pound very ripe figs
With a vegetable peeler, carefully take the outer layer of lemon peel off the lemon with as little of the white pith as possible. Toss the lemon into a medium-size, heavy-bottom pot. Add the remaining ingredients except the figs to the pot and mix well, until the sugar dissolves. Stem the figs and cut them into quarters, and add them to the pot, mixing again.
Bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally; reduce the heat to low to medium-low, so that it continues to simmer gently. Stir occasionally, to prevent the jam from burning for 40 to 50 minutes, depending on how thick you want the final product. Remove the lemon peel and the thyme sprigs from the pot and discard. Mash the solids or whizz them with an immersion blender until the pieces are small.
Pour the jam into sterilized half-pint jars—you should get about two—and allow them to cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about a month. Alternatively, it can be canned and processed in a water bath for 10 minutes. Use normal water-bath canning procedures to do so, leaving ¼ inch of head space before setting the lids. This recipe can be doubled or tripled, but no more.
I can’t believe I’ve done it.
I’ve spent the past 35 years in search of the perfect recipe for cold peanut/sesame noodle salad. I’ve tried recipes from restaurants, cookbooks, friends, enemies, the Internet…you name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve experimented with numerous methods and techniques, different types of noodles, flavor combinations native to different nationalities–Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Burmese. I’ve tried different levels of spice and heat. I’ve experimented with the participants in cooking classes I’ve taught.
And each time there seemed to be some element of the recipe missing. I always thought: good, but not just perfect.
I think I’ve done it.
Recognizing, of course, that each of you has your own version of what’s perfect in this classic–it’s one of those recipes that you use to gauge how good an Asian restaurant is. This is one of mine.
I started my quest with my long-time friend Vicki (are you still with me, Vicki Corey? I bow in your general direction), who shared with me the basic concept of “threes.” Three tablespoons of this, that, and the other, three teaspoons of this and that. And this recipe, which I still have and which is reproduced way back in the early pages of this blog (here’s the link: https://jeffskitchen.net/?s=Vicki%27s, or search on Vicki’s Noodles), has served me extremely well. No matter where or which recipe I tried I kept coming back to this one as being as close to perfect as I had found. It even once won me a “Philly’s Best” award when I was making it for a small gourmet shop in Ardmore, PA, a place known for good food.
It’s (in my view) just the right amount of spicy/hot for everyone, but if you like it spicier/hotter, add more chili oil or some Sriracha to suit yourself. In this version of the recipe I’ll recommend specific ingredient brands, most of which are available at your local Asian grocery store.
Also, when you read my recommendation for the noodles to use, you’ll holler, “WHAT??? THAT’S NOT ASIAN!” Okay, I know that. But what are you expecting? Authentic or perfect? I’ll opt for perfect.
Try it. You’ll like it. Guaranteed!
Spicy Sesame Peanut-Noodle Salad
1 box (13.25 oz) rotini or fusilli whole wheat noodles, cooked al dente’
3 Tablespoons premium light (or dark, if you dare) soy sauce
3 Tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
2 Tablespoons toasted dark sesame seed oil
2 teaspoons sesame chili oil
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Crazy Richard’s crunchy peanut butter
1/3 cup chopped red cabbage
1 medium carrot, shredded fine
1/3 cup chopped green onion, divided
1/3 cup chopped peanuts, divided
½ cup FRESH(!) bean sprouts
- Whisk the next seven ingredients (soy sauce through peanut butter) until they are completely blended.
- Cook the noodles per package, 1 minute LESS than the recommended al dente’ time; drain 5-10 minutes, but DO NOT RINSE.
- Place the noodles in a large bowl, add the sauce and toss to coat all the noodles well.
- Add the cabbage, carrot, ¼ cup green onion, ¼ cup peanuts, and bean sprouts and toss again to coat all the ingredients. If you wish a more Thai flavor, add ¼ cup shredded fresh Thai basil or chopped cilantro.
- If you wish to add a protein—slices of grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, or tofu, do it now.
- Allow to stand until the salad reaches room temperature.
Garnish with the remaining peanuts and green onion and serve at room temperature or refrigerate for later, but allow to return to room temperature for serving (garnish when serving).
And by the way, if you’re truly interested in an authentic Sesame Noodle salad or if you’re allergic to nuts, replace the peanut butter with tahini. And for an authentic noodle, you can use either 8 ounces medium rice noodles, or Soba or Udon noodles.
I came across an intriguing recipe the other day, and it looked about halfway unbelievable. I thought I might be able to improve it, and improve it I did. I changed it up from the original because A) doing so here would approximate plagiarism; B) I think my version came out way better than the original; and C) I’m not the biggest fan of zucchini in one-pot dishes–I find it to be mushy and I don’t think it adds significantly to the flavor layers in the dish. In most Asian cuisines there are layers of complex flavor and texture, and to me, zucchini doesn’t contribute enough to the dish to make it into the final product. I will, however, provide you with a link to the original at the end of the post.
The recipe as presented is vegetarian, but if you so desire, please try it with chicken, shrimp, pork, beef, or tofu for a jolt of protein and additional body. If you wish to add chicken, beef, or pork, cut into 1-2-inch strips and pound them flat (cut tofu into 1-inch cubes); marinate them 30-60 minutes in 2 Tbsp light soy sauce and 2 Tbsp rice vinegar; add them to the pot after the eggs are cooked; stir-fry them until just barely done; then set aside and continue on, and add them back just before adding the sauce. I am also presenting you options for oils, mushrooms, and leafy herbs based on your preferences. Any will work, in any combination–that’s the beauty of Thai cooking: options abound, while techniques remain the same.
This is a very tasty and simple-to-make one-pot noodle dish, and I highly recommend you try it when you need something quick, tasty, and different.
Spicy Thai Noodles
1 8-ounce package medium-width rice noodles
2 Tbsp peanut, coconut, or vegetable oil, divided
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 head bok choi, chopped, largest leaves chopped into strips
8 ounces mushroom (preferably shiitake, but white will do), chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
1.5 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce (or more if you wish, up to 1.5 Tbsp–you know what you like)
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil (or sweet basil or cilantro–whichever you prefer), chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
1. In a large heavy pot, fill halfway with water, salt, and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce if you are using it, sriracha, and ginger; whisk well to combine; set aside.
3. Return the pot to the stove, heat over medium heat, and add 1 Tbsp oil. Add beaten eggs and red pepper flakes and stir to scramble the eggs. Once cooked, set aside with pasta.
4. Return the pot to stove, heat remaining 1 TBS oil over medium heat. Add the bok choi, mushrooms, and garlic. Saute over medium high heat for 5-6 minutes or until veggies are cooked through but the white stalks are still crisp.
5. Turn heat down to low, add pasta and eggs back to pot, then pour the sauce mixture over the top. Using a wooden spoon, stir well to coat pasta and vegetables with sauce. Remove from heat, add peanuts, green onions, and basil or cilantro; stir to combine, then garnish with additional chopped peanuts and chopped green onions.
6. Serve immediately.
Notes: Serve warm or cold – it’s great both ways! If you choose shrimp as your protein, add that when there is about 2-3 minutes left with for the veggies to cook.
Also, if you wish to see the original recipe from which this is adapted, you can find it here: http://pin.it/smcI5bM
I can’t believe how good this is. I also can’t believe that I can cook Indian food this good.
Curried cauliflower and sweet potatoes and lentils? All that, and it’s low fat, almost zero carbs, lots of fiber and protein–it’s just about a perfect food.
We do meatless Monday around here, and I’m always trying to find ways to overcome the meat chromosome in my DNA. It’s tough sledding, but I’m getting better at it.
So red lentils form the foundation of this wonderful vegan stew, and it’s so easy to do and so good that it has, after one attempt, moved into regular rotation.
Even the kids liked it. It’s fragrant and delicious, and if you’re into vegan or vegetarian, I urge you to try this one. You’ll like if for sure.
Curried Cauliflower, Red Lentil, and Sweet Potato Stew
2 tablespoons coconut or extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 large sweet onion, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed
6 cups vegetable stock
Chopped fresh cilantro
1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add cumin, turmeric, and curry powder and stir until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add onion and a few pinches of salt, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until tender, 1-2 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, bell pepper, and cauliflower and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
2. Add lentils and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, 25-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Top with chopped cilantro before serving.