Category Archives: Herbs and Spices

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this “Ellen’s Favorite Soup,” because there are an awful lot of soups that she likes.peanut soup But let’s just say this, and let the evidence stand for itself: She made a batch of this soup a few weeks ago, and I had a second bowl for dinner, leaving none for leftovers the following day. She was really steamed. She doesn’t get steamed very often, and even when she does, she rarely shows it. But leaving her no Thai chicken soup? I certainly won’t let THAT happen again.

So what is this liquid gold that gets her gussie all bundled up in a batch? The ingredient list alone is enough to make a foodie swoon: red curry paste, peanut butter, coconut milk, fresh ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce. Wow! My taste buds are shifting into overdrive even as I type this. It’s a darn good thing that there’s a batch on the kitchen counter as we speak. Smells fabulous. Mix those ingredients together with the rest of the list, and you have a dish made for the Gods.

Well, the gods of Thailand, anyway.

And to boot, because it’s a slow-cooker thing, the whole pot can be thrown together in just minutes, you can leave the house for the day, and come home to the dancing fragrance of this wonderful batch of creaminess filling the kitchen with the aromas of Southeast Asia.

That’s a good thing.

So here’s the scoop on this scoopable:

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons red curry paste

2 12-ounce cans coconut milk

2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces

1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into ¼” slices

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Cilantro for garnish

Chopped peanuts for garnish

2 cups cooked white rice

Preparation:

  1. Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a 4-6-quart slow-cooker bowl. Place the chicken breast, onion, red bell pepper in the crock, cover and cook for 4 hours on high or seven hours on low.
  1. Add the peas and cook for ½ hour longer. Stir in the lime juice, serve in heavy bowls garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and peanuts and a bowl of white rice. The rice can be added to the soup at the table. Or not.
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Ellen’s Chili-party Chili

It’s taken me years to accept a harsh reality:  chilifor popular consumption, Ellen’s chili-party chili is better than mine.  Now I still swear by my own Tex-Mex Tequila-mole-beanless chili, but the truth is, my version is simply not for everyone–it’s an acquired taste, and one has to be a real fan of the Tex-Mex style of chili, but for the larger audience, hers is way better than any of the chili recipes I have in my  holster.  And so, I have spent the day preparing a big batch of Ellen’s chili-party chili, in advance of our annual open house soup and chili party, which, you may already know, is scheduled for the Sunday between Christmas and New Years day.  This year will be our fourth (almost) annual party, and if you’re reading this and you’re in the vicinity that weekend, you’re invited.  If you haven’t found the way here yet, be advised that it will go on with or without you, although we’d love to see you.  We make three soups and a chili.  This years selections will include our usual and most favoritest soup, Ellen and Babs’ Hearty Chicken Chowder  (https://jeffskitchen.net/2012/10/07/ellen-and-babs-hearty-chicken-chowder/); one vegetarian or vegan selection; and one kid-friendly soup; and one chili–we alternate years between a red chili and a white chili; this year’s selection being Ellen’s Chili-party Chili.  The vegetarian selection and the kid-friendly selections have yet to be determined, but will be soon.

We are often asked for the recipes for our productions; all are homemade and from personal favorite recipes.  They are always posted here.  For the party we will produce something in the vicinity of 50 gallons of soup and chili, and you may just come and enjoy.  A kiss for the chefs is all that is necessary for you to bring, but bring your family and your appetite.  This is a fun event, sitting a few days after Christmas, when most folks are either out of town or are tired of leftovers or looking for something else to do rather than cook again.  This is your weekend off.  Let us cook for you Sunday night.

Forthwith, allow me to present to you the recipe for Ellen’s fabulous presentation, of which I just completed 2 gallons, and there will be more to come.

Ellen’s Chili-Party Chili

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups chopped onions

1 whole head of garlic, peeled and cloves chopped.

1 32-oz jar medium (or mild) red salsa

3 pounds ground beef, turkey, or a combination of both

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 4-ounce can chopped green chilis

4 tablespoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons dried or 1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder (optional)

3 12-oz cans Yuengling lager beer (dark beer, ale, IPAs or other beers optional, at your pleasure)

4 28-oz cans or 1 #10 can whole tomatoes, crushed (Cento San Marzanos are my favorite)

7 cans dark red kidney beans

Preparation:

Heat the olive oil in a very large pot over medium-high heat–this recipe is a big one; makes 2 gallons.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the ground meat and continue to saute until completely browned.  Add the salsa, stir well, turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes.  Add the salt, pepper, chilis, beer, and spices, stir well and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and beans, stir well, and simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with sour cream, chopped scallions, shredded jack or cheddar cheese, and red Tabasco Sauce.

We will have all these and more

EASY ON THE BELT LINE EGGPLANT PARMESAN

Eggplant Parmesan. P1000902

Just the mention of this tender, aromatic dish sends Italian-food lovers into spasms of joy, and often, jags of wonderful (or dreadful, I’m afraid) childhood memories.  If your Grandma made this dish, you either loved it or hated it, but there’s no getting around the fact that most adults can’t get enough of this one.  Having grown up in a (mostly) kosher home–some of you know about the time Dad came home, a smoked ham in one hand and a box of gifts from his favorite customers in Chester, PA in the other, and demanded the end to this craziness (his words), and kosher in our house was no more–there was no eggplant Parmesan in our house.  Mom occasionally made spaghetti sauce, but it was about as far from authentic Italian red gravy as salt-water taffy.

I learned my sauce-making skills from the skilled chefs at the Epicure Market in South Beach, and refined them to a honed edge at the feet of an employer named Bud Bruno (the finest Italian chef I ever met) in his little kitchen in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.  What I learned from Bud was the magic of fresh ingredients, really good olive oil, and little else–an authentic red sauce was at the same time simple and complex, with flavors that were meant to go together.  And this one is light as a feather.  Not much oil, no battering and frying of the eggplant, and you can eat as much as you want–it won’t weigh you down.

This recipe doesn’t, however rely on one of those long-simmered, tradition-babied, fussed-over red sauces, but rather all the elements of a perfect red sauce, blended together with love but not with much time or effort.  Just toss the ingredients together in a bowl and let ’em marry in the bowl for a while.  Then go.

Here’s the recipe, and be gentle.  Don’t over think this one.  It can’t really be much simpler.

 

EASY ON THE BELT LINE EGGPLANT PARMESAN

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon good extra-virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic

1/2 large sweet onion, chopped

2 cups fresh, coarsely chopped plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if you can find them) with their juice

2 tablespoons dry red table wine

2 tablespoons dark balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Olive oil spray

2 egg whites

2 1/2 lbs eggplant, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2″-thick slices

1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs or 1 cup Panko

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

 

Preparation:

About three hours before serving, sauté the onions and garlic with the good olive oil until tender and transparent, 8-10 minutes at medium heat.   In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes and their juice, basil, parsley, wine, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and onions (from here on I’ll call this the sauce).  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

An hour later, preheat the oven to 400°F.  Line two or three baking sheets with foil. Spray the foil with olive-oil cooking spray.

In a shallow dish, beat the egg whites and 2 tbsp of water until foamy, and prepare another shallow dish with Panko. Dip eggplant into the egg whites, then into the bread crumbs, pressing crumbs into the eggplant.

Place the eggplant slices on the prepared baking sheets and spray oil lightly over the slices. Bake 30 minutes, turning over after 20 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

Spoon 4 tbsp of sauce into bottom of 9″ square glass baking dish that has been sprayed with olive oil. Place half the eggplant over the sauce; spoon half of remaining  sauce over the eggplant; and sprinkle half of mozzarella on top. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella.

Sprinkle Parmesan on top and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until eggplant is piping hot, the sauce is bubbly, and the cheese has to lightly brown.

This dish will serve 4 generously, and leave you with a couple of pieces leftover for lunches the next day.

Or not.

Israeli Couscous with Lemon, Cucumber, and Cilantro

I didn’t know what to make for supper, and I had only a half hour before it had to be ready. Couscous SaladLife on the run, you know. I work, E works, L is at the theater all day, M is either swimming, hockeying, iPhoning, entertaining, being entertained—it’s all just overwhelming, and making dinner becomes a chore.

But you know that.

You deal with the same issues, or similar ones, just the names and the names of the activities are different.

And we just can’t bring ourselves to open a box or a can or face another plate of ho-hum chicken breasts. Sure we like to cook ahead, and we have on several occasions, most recently a couple of Sundays ago, when we whipped up bowls full of chicken Marsala, baked ziti, salmon cakes, a couple of meat loafs, and E’s most popular white-bean and turkey-sausage stew.

It’s 4:45, all the make-ahead packages are frozen solid, there’s one chicken breast in the fridge (left over from another recipe), and the pressure is on.

What’s in the cupboard?

What I found was a box of Trader Joe’s Israeli couscous, a carton of plain yogurt and lots of produce in the fridge, and the clock is ticking. I’m feeling a little bit like Ted Allen is hiding around the corner.

I’m likely to fail. Chopped.

I looked for and found a recipe for a cold couscous salad that looked promising, but it surely needed a jolt of pizzazz, and then I found a small container of grilled chicken souvlaki I made a while back—that will defrost in a hurry. I can pull this off?

The feature for me will be the couscous salad, because I can spice it up and make it sing. So here’s what I made:

 

Israeli Couscous Salad with Cucumber, Lemon and Cilantro

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 ½ cups Israeli Couscous

1 ½ cups boiling water

1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded

¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 medium lemon

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white Balsamic or cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

12 grape tomatoes, halved

 

Preparation:

1. Preheat a saucepan over medium heat with 1 teaspoon olive oil; when the oil is hot add the couscous and toast, stirring constantly, until it is lightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Carefully add the boiling water, reduce the heat to low, cover and steam for 12 minutes, or until the water is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Cut the seeded cucumber into quarters and then into ½-inch slices; place in a large bowl. Add the cilantro and parsley. With a fine-hole grater, zest the lemon peel into the cucumber. Set aside.

3. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a small bowl, add the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine the dressing and add it to the cucumber. Toss to coat well.

4. Add the cooled couscous, the feta, and the tomatoes, and toss gently to combine the ingredients. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately or chill until ready to eat.

 

You can substitute mint, all parsley, or all cilantro to the salad as you wish.

Serve with chicken or lamb souvlaki. Here’s the recipe for that: Feel free to substitute lamb for the chicken, and try the tzatziki, too. It’s the bomb!

 

Souvlaki (Lamb or Chicken)

Ingredients:

½ cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

1 tablespoon chopped oregano

2 lemons, juiced

2 pounds lamb shoulder meat, trimmed of most (but not all) the fat, cut into 1-inch cubes

                        or

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (similarly prepared)

 

Preparation:

Place all the ingredients in a zipper-close food-storage bag, mix well, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, and preferably overnight.  Place the meat on soaked wood or steel skewers, and grill over direct heat, turning several times, until done, 15-20 minutes.

Serve over rice or couscous, and with this fabulous yogurt dipping sauce:

 

Greek Tzatziki

Ingredients:

32 ounces plain yogurt or 16 ounces plain Greek yogurt

1 large peeled, seeded and shredded English cucumber (or two regular ones)

5-8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced (you decide how many)

3 tablespoons white vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

 

Preparation:

Place the plain yogurt in cheese cloth over a large bowl and strain in the refrigerator overnight (not necessary if you use Greek yogurt, but use half the amount of yogurt).  Mix the cucumber and garlic with the salt and drain over a bowl for a half hour (this will remove moisture from the cucumber).  Blend all the ingredients well in a large bowl.

Serve with the grilled souvlaki and a Greek salad.

Incredible Shrinking Seafood Lasagna

It’s Ellen’s birthday tomorrow (Monday, July 28).  It’s also Jen Groff’s birthday (Friday, July 25).  It’s a celebration.  This auspicious occasion calls for something special.  I need to produce a masterpiece.  On several occasions E has suggested that her dream meal would be a seafood lasagna, and I have yet to produce such a dish.

Tonight’s the night.

Jen’s here, and the rents (E’s parents) are here, the girls are here, and something special is required, and I’ve got just the ticket.

I found this recipe at Cooking Light.  As I am wont to do, I can’t leave well enough alone, because I think I know better.  In this case, I think I’ve improved the on the original without upsetting the karma produced by it.  It’s still light, following the dictum of Cooking light, but it tastes rich and creamy WITHOUT THE ADDITION OF BUTTER!

That’s right…no butter in this dish, and if you follow the ingredients list carefully you will find that it is all that it ought to be without the butter.  I’ve got to say, it looks incredible, and we will be tasting it in about an hour.  I expect that I have hit the mark.  I can usually tell if I’ve got it right, and I think I did so here.

Try this recipe for yourself.  Even though there will be several pots and bowls to wash, it’s relatively simple, and the aroma in the kitchen right now is absolutely off hook. Can’t wait to try this.  I’d be interested to hear if any of you try this one, and how it came out for you.  Mine looks like a home run.   And as to the “shrinking” moniker? Just wait until you see how it shrinks in the pan as your guests ask for seconds.

Guaranteed.P1000827

Here’s the rundown:

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 5 cups finely chopped mushrooms (about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 12-16 ounces lump crabmeat (how much crabmeat do you wish?)
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp
  • 1 8-0z bottle clam juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) crumbled goat or feta cheese
  • 1 cup 2% reduced-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Old Bay or other seafood seasoning, to taste.
  • Spanish paprika to sprinkle

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms, onion, thyme, and 2 garlic cloves and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine, bring to a boil; cook over low heat until the liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in the crabmeat, and set aside.

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving shells. Cut each shrimp in half lengthwise; cover and refrigerate.  Combine reserved shrimp shells, the clam juice and water, celery salt, and fennel seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to 1 1/2 cups shrimp stock (about 15 minutes). Strain stock through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids and set aside.

Combine the feta or goat cheese, cottage cheese, basil, lemon juice, and 1 garlic clove; set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Place flour in a small saucepan; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Stir in shrimp stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodles, slightly overlapping, over sauce; top with one-third goat cheese mixture, one-third crab mixture, one-third shrimp, 2/3 cup sauce, and 2/3 cup mozzarella. Repeat layers twice, ending with mozzarella.   Sprinkle the top with as much seafood seasoning as you like and a light dusting of paprika.  Bake at 375° for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let stand 15 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary

I recently finished reading a wonderful book, one I recommend for anyone and everyone who cooks, thinks they can cook, wants to cook, wants to learn how to cook, or just enjoys eating.  As far as I can tell, that includes provencemost everyone–certainly most everyone who reads my columns or my blogs.  The book is titled Provence, 1970:  M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and The Reinvention of American Taste, and it catalogs that summer, when the named principals and others of the gourmet industry glitterati of the time all found themselves in the Provence region of France at the same time.  The book is abstracted from the daily journal of Ms. Fisher, one of the most most respected food writers in the world at the moment.  It describes literally the moment when gourmet American cuisine stood up and broke free of the traditions and disciplines of classical French cooking and took its place as a separate and exciting style of cooking and life.

I’m not particularly a huge fan of traditional French cooking; I find it fussy and regimented, and I prefer to experiment with ingredients that I like–to mix and match flavors to see what the outcome might be.  I’m not always successful, but I pride myself on technique and on my ability to repeat a recipe exactly time and time again if I find one I like.  I’m also adept at duplicating a recipe I’ve tasted elsewhere and identify the flavors within. That’s not a skill I was able to hone; it is a particular and peculiar talent I was born with, so all the credit for this ability rests with my mother, who patiently explained every thing she was doing in the kitchen as she proceeded through a recipe.  I then learned the rest of my cooking from my mentor, Martin Bettonio, executive chef at my family’s Epicure Gourmet Market in Miami Beach, after a stellar career as the executive chef at The Fontainbleau hotel, also in Miami Beach.

That said, following a reading of Provence, 1970, and at the request of my beloved life partner, Ellen, I decided to make a supper dish on a Sunday evening that reflected the influences of French cooking on American cuisine and took advantage of my strengths as a cook.

And thus was born my most recent personal dish creation, the butterflied grilled chicken with lemon and rosemary.  It is a model of simplicity, using only a few carefully selected ingredients. It takes advantage of the wonderful bounty of local products–the chicken is fresh from a local farm courtesy of Stoltzfus Poultry at Central Market, fresh rosemary from our very own garden, and an amazing rosemary-infused extra-virgin olive oil obtained from my new friends at Seasons Lancaster on the first block of West King Street, a wonderful new source of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, chutneys, and other condiments most interesting.

But this recipe starts with the chicken.  Fresh and not so large as the hormone-laden grocery-store poultry, just over four pounds and beautifully pale–no evidence of marigold petals in Stoltzfus chickens.  First I butterfly the chicken, which is my preferred way to cook a chicken on a grill; it makes for more even cooking and a greatly reduced cooking time.  To butterfly a chicken, take a sturdy chef’s knife in one hand and the chicken in the other. Stand the bird up straight, resting on its wings and neck cavity. Place the tip of the knife firmly on the chicken just aside the tail piece (an Irish friend of mine used to call this “the Pope’s nose).  Holding the chicken firmly upright, quickly run the knife down alongside the backbone, all the way to the cutting board. Turn the chicken and repeat on the other side of the backbone.  Tear the whole backbone away from the chicken and set it aside.  Lay the chicken on the cutting board, breast side down, and run the tip of the knife the length of the breastbone and the breast cartilage to sever the skin layer. Pick the chicken up and quickly and firmly fold it like a book bringing the outsides of the breast together, inside out, breaking the rib bones away from the breast bone. Then firmly pull the breastbone away from the chicken–both the bone and cartilage pieces.  Salt and pepper the inside, flip the chicken to breast side up and lay it on the cutting board. Cut away the wing tips and set them aside with the backbone.  Your chicken is now ready.

Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Rosemarychicken

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, 4 to 4.5 pounds, butterflied

1 whole lemon, sliced very thin

1 whole shallot, minced fine

2 whole sprigs fresh rosemary

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Koshersalt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Place the minced shallot in the olive oil in a small bowl and allow to sit while doing the rest of the preparation.

Butterfly the chicken as described above.  Preheat the outdoor grill of your choice to 350 degrees F., so that the chicken can be placed on the grates away from direct flame.

Run hands and/or fingers between the chicken meat and the skin, including the thigh and leg, if possible, to separate the skin from the meat. Rub minced shallot and olive oil over the whole chicken under the skin. Then place three slices of lemon and a whole sprig of rosemary under the skin on each side of the breast. Rub the remaining olive oil over the chicken skin and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken, breast side down, on the grill away from the flame, and close the top.  Grill 14-16 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, flip and grill 15 minutes more.  The chicken is done when the juices from the thigh run clear when pierced with a knife.  Remove the chicken from the grill, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Garnish with a lemon slice and a sprig of rosemary.

 

Salmon Cakes Like You’ve NEVER Tasted!

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this:salmon_cakes_from_a_dollar_store_gourmet

I’ve just had the absolute best salmon cake I’ve ever eaten in my life.

“Salmon cake?” you say.

Salmon cake, I say.

But wait…this isn’t just any salmon cake.  I’ll compare this to any crab cake I’ve ever had (I lived in Crabcake County, Maryland and vacation near the Chesapeake every summer), and I’ll stack this up against the best crab cake anyone has to offer.

I’m telling you, put this baby between pieces of crusty Kaiser roll with fresh Boston Bibb, a thick slab of Jersey tomato, (maybe a thin slice of red onion?) and your favorite sauce (Tartar?  Remoulade? Cocktail? Tzatziki?, take your pick—this time I went with a real horseradishy cocktail sauce, but I can’t wait to try it with a good Remoulade), and you may never go back to that pricey jumbo-lump again.  It’s spicy, tangy, and wonderful, extremely accessible, and gluten-free to boot.  It works almost as well with a good can of salmon as it would with a piece of poached salmon from Costco.

As Ken Hoffman would boringly say, “Here’s the blueprint…

South-Beach-Friendly Salmon Cakes

Ingredients:

12 ounces fresh salmon, poached 10 minutes in water, white wine, black pepper corns, and a bay leaf

Or

1 good 14-oz can of salmon

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon almond meal (almonds crushed to the consistency of corn meal—available at health-food stores, better grocery stores, or do it yourself with a food processor)

4 finely chopped green onions

1 tablespoon drained capers, finely chopped

Lemon-fennel sea salt (recipe to follow)

Freshly ground pepper to taste (I used a lot!)

2 eggs

4 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons butter

Preparation:

Place the poached salmon or the drained canned salmon in a large bowl. Stir in green onions, capers, almond meal, Lemon-fennel sea salt, and black pepper; toss to mix well, breaking up the salmon into small pieces.  Beat two eggs in a separate bowl, then add to the salmon and toss well.

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon butter in a large heavy skillet.  When the oil/butter is hot, shape the salmon into flat patties about 4 inches in diameter and ¾ inches thick, and place in the hot oil.  Cook 7 minutes on the first side over medium heat without touching the patties, until they are lightly browned and starting to get firm.

Add the remaining olive oil and butter, then turn the patties and cook on the second side until they are firm and browned on the second side, about 6 minutes untouched.

Turn off the heat, prepare your roll with lettuce, tomato, and the sauce of your choice, and place the hot salmon cake on top. Cap the salmon cake with a bit more sauce, complete the sandwich, and serve with your favorite slaw and a cold beer.  Or a cold glass of white.

Full Disclosure:  this recipe was adapted from one on the South-Beach recipe site Kalyn’s Kitchen (www.kalynskitchen.com), but it is better than that, but just as “South Beachy,” and I know South Beach just about as well as anyone.

Lemon-Fennel Salt

Combine ¼ cup coarse sea salt with 2 tablespoons toasted fennel seeds and 1 tablespoon dried lemon zest (Penzey’s, Spice Islands, or make your own).  Keep in a pretty, airtight jar in your spice cupboard and use liberally on seafood or chicken.P1100122

Christmas 2013 — Butterflied Turkey, Root Vegetable Panzanella, and Mushroom Barley Pilaf

And what, pray tell, do you think Cheffzilla might be doing on Christmas this year?  Really adventurous, I might say, but mighty tasty, too.  Allow me to elaborate:

I adapted the recipe from one featured on his “Good Eats” show a couple of years ago by Alton Brown, that wacky TV chef at the Food Network.  It looks really good to me, so I thought I might try it.  I’m a big fan of panzanella, and this recipe demonstrated to me that it’s not just a summer salad.  Beautiful root (and winter squash–Alton used shredded Brussels sprouts in his recipe instead, but no one here likes them!) vegetables, a fine sourdough bread, and some fresh herbs from my garden (yes, it is still producing!) make for a really fine-looking and grand Christmas dinner, a wide stray from the usual rib roast and Yorkshire pudding from years past.  Here’s what’s for dinner tonight.

Great any night.

Christmas?  Priceless!

Turkey: EASP07H_butterflied-dry-brined-roasted-turkey-with-roasted-root-vegetable-panzanella_s4x33 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1 13 to 14 pound whole turkey, neck and giblets removed and reserved for Giblet Stock

Panzanella:

1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/2 pounds rutabaga, peeled and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound red onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces

8 ounces butternut squash, diced into 1/2-inch pieces

1 quart container fresh Brussels sprouts

8 ounces hearty sourdough or multi-grain bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and staled

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves, finely minced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For the turkey: Four days before service, place the salt, sage, thyme, black peppercorns, and allspice into a spice grinder and pulse until the peppercorns and allspice are coarsely ground, 5 to 6 pulses. Set aside.

Set the turkey, breast-side down, on a large cutting board with the tail closest to you. Use an electric knife or heavy-duty kitchen shears to cut up one side of the backbone. Turn the bird around and cut back down the other side of the spine. Reserve the backbone for Giblet Stock. Discard any fat pockets or excess skin found inside the turkey. Turn the turkey breast-side up and use the heel of your hands to press down on both breasts, until you hear a cracking sound and the bird has flattened slightly.

Rub the seasoned salt on both sides of the turkey. Place the turkey on a parchment paper lined half sheet pan, breast-side up with legs running with the long side of the pan. Store, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 4 days.

Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for 1 hour.

For the panzanella: Place the parsnips and rutabaga in a large bowl, toss lightly to coat with the oil, and set aside.

Place one rack in the middle of the oven and a second one far enough below so the roasting pan will fit. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the turkey directly on the middle rack of the oven with the legs perpendicular to the metal bars of the rack. Place the roasting pan with the parsnips and rutabaga on the rack below the turkey and roast both for 30 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Add the red onion to the roasting vegetables and stir to combine. Continue to roast both the vegetables and the turkey until a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 degrees F, an additional 40 to 50 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the oven onto a cooling rack set inside a half sheet pan and rest for 30 minutes.

Add the butternut squash, bread cubes and garlic to the roasting vegetables, stir to combine and roast for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the oven and immediately transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the apple cider vinegar in the warm roasting pan, stir and scrape off any browned bits from the pan. Pour the vinegar mixture over the salad, add the thyme and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Carve the turkey and serve with the panzanella.

Barley and Portabella Pilaf

Ingredients:1=re-do-barley-mushrooms-500x500-kalynskitchen

1/2 cup fresh sliced Portabella mushrooms

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cup pearled barley

2-1/2 cups turkey  (or vegetable) stock

2  tablespoons green onions (scallions)

1/4 tsp crushed dried rosemary

2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Heat olive oil in a saucepan; add mushrooms and saute’ until limp.  Add barley, stock, green onion, and rosemary.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes, or until the barley is tender and the liquid is completely absorbed.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over pilaf and toss to mix well. Garnish with a little more Parmesan and some fresh-chopped green onions.

Serve immediately.

We’re serving this with fresh green beans sauteed in butter with sesame seeds and cranberry-orange relish.

Yum.

Cheffzilla’s Choice: Seafood Risotto

I had a plate of seafood risotto the other night at a restaurant that I had been avoiding for years.  And it was memorable.

Whoops.200902-r-seafood-risotto

Why had I been avoiding it?  Location, looks from the outside, lack of vision, obstinance, who knows?  It just didn’t feel right where it was.  An Asian-fusion restaurant at the confluence of two major roads in Lancaster, PA, and the fact that the building looks like it hadn’t had the outside washed in years (the amount of car traffic passing by every day doesn’t help), plus my wife’s flat refusal to try the place.

If there was ever a perfect example of “looks can be deceiving,” this place is it.

Blue Pacific Sushi and Grill, at the confluence of Oregon Pike and Lititz Pike, in Manheim Township, Lancaster County.

Surprisingly good.

So I decided to try to either replicate the dish or make my own even better.  But the idea of  seafood risotto really rings happy in my ears, so I had to try one of my own.  Here’s the result.  Not exactly the same as Blue Pacific’s entree, but I’ll stand mine up against theirs (and anyone else’s) any day.  It’s worth a try.

CHEFFZILLA’S OWN SEAFOOD RISOTTO

Ingredients:

6 cups seafood stock (8 cups water, shells from 1-2 dozen medium shrimp, 1 teaspoon celery salt, tops from 1 bunch of celery, and 1 bay leaf, simmered uncovered for 30 minutes)

1 16-ounce bottle clam juice

1-2 dozen medium (26-31-count)  shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 dozen sea scallops, washed

1 cup lump crabmeat

1/4 cup salted butter

1 large sweet onion

2 cups Arborio rice

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped fine

2 teaspoons Old Bay (or Creole) seasoning, or more, to taste

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley for garnish

Spanish paprika for garnish

Preparation:

1.  Peel the shrimp, place the shells, the celery salt, a bay leaf, the celery leaves and the clam juice in water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain the solids out, put the stock back in the pot, cover, and keep warm.

2.  Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot, add the onions and saute over medium heat until transparent, about 10 minutes.  Do not brown.  Add the rice and saute, stirring constantly, until it is transparent, 3-5 minutes.  Don’t allow the rice to brown.  Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is competely evaporated.  Add 1/2 cup stock and stir until most of the stock is absorbed.  Add the thyme and saffron and another 1/2 cup stock, stir until it is mostly evaporated, and repeat, adding 1/2 cup of stock at a time until the rice is almost al dente, 20-30 minutes.

3.  Add the seafood and 1/2 cup stock and stir until the shrimp and scallops are firm. and the stock has evaporated. Season with Old Bay or other Creole or seafood seasoning until you can taste it but the taste is not overpowering.  Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

4.  Add 1/2 cup stock to the pot, stir rapidly for 30 seconds, then ladle the risotto into oven-proof bowls, sprinkle lightly with Gruyere cheese, and place under the broiler just until the top and edges begin to brown.  Remove from the oven, garnish with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

Canning a Fabulous Marinara Sauce–Quickly and Simply

This is going to be a short note about canning and tomato sauce.P1090372

I know…I know…there are a billion places on the web where you can get canning advice, and there are even more tomato-sauce recipes, likely you make your grandmother’s recipe (or your mother’s recipe, or a neighbor’s recipe, or Alton Brown’s recipe or…or…or…

I’m going to add one more voice to the Greek Chorus, and while these are probably the most overused food-column subjects on the planet, I humbly suggest you actually try this one, because it is so bloody simple and so bloody tasty that I may actually influence you to give up your day-long adventure in kitchen drudgery, which most tomato sauces tend to be–no self-respecting grandmother I know would ever subscribe or give props to a sauce that doesn’t simmer all day, and which likely takes even longer to clean up.  Besides, the longer you simmer, the more sugar you’ll have to add, because long simmering makes tomatoes bitter, not better (notice there’s no sugar in my recipe?  Just a little in the ketchup to offset the vinegar a bit.  Is there sugar in your recipe?).

No sir or ma’am, I don’t roll in that direction.  If you’ve read this space before, you know that perhaps only second to fresh and local, I am all about quick and simple.  I have teen-age daughters.  I don’t have time to spend all day in the kitchen.  And don’t bother removing the skins and seeds from the tomatoes unless you have all the time in  the world.  I don’t.  There is grass to mow, shopping to get done, laundry to do, trash to take out, swimming (or, currently, field hockey) practices to drive to, dance classes (soooooo many dance classes)…so who has time to give an entire day to a tomato sauce?

Not me.  And in this recipe it really doesn’t make that much of a difference.  And the seeds will signal to your guests that it really is garden-fresh sauce.

So here, I’m going to give you a simple variation on the marinara sauce with which I am most familiar–the one from South Beach.

It’s spicy (but not too spicy), sweet (but not too sweet), garlicky (but not too…oh, hell, yes it is…), and made with a surprise:  white wine instead of red.  Heresy?  Sure.  But just wait till you taste.

And then, I’m going to suggest that you can the sauce, so that you’ll have plenty of fresh-ingredient sauce all winter.  I just know that by now, you have too many tomatoes in your garden, and people are leaving more and more every day on the break-room table, right?  So you look right past them, thinking, “Oh, God, not MORE tomatoes!!!”

I say, TAKE ‘EM!  Make sauce.  Keep making it until your fingers ache.  This is such a simple recipe you’ll make it over and over and over.  The hardest part s chopping the herbs–there are lots and lots.   But give this a try.  Then can as much as you can.  If you don’t have canning supplies, spend thirty bucks on a cheap canning set:  a large pot, a set of canning tools (look ’em up on Google or at the website of one of the big boxes.  A dozen pint jars cost about eight bucks, quart jars about ten.  Compare this to the cost of one quart of decent sauce at the store.  You’ll be converted, because it’s so simple, and it is so much better.

Here’s the scoop:

CHEFFZILLA’S MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:

Fresh tomatoes; it takes about 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes per pint (5 pounds per quart) of finished jars.  This recipe is for six pints.  15 pounds of tomatoes; I like San Marzanos, but use any kind, just make sure they’re ripe.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large sweet onion, diced fine

1/2 to 1 cup minced garlic. I know it’s a lot.  But trust me here.  It makes a difference.  You can actually use garlic from a bottle sold in the grocery store’s produce section.  I didn’t, because I had lots of garlic laying around from Caitlin and EmmaKate’s CSA at Blue Rock Farm

1 cup good quality dry white wine (don’t use cooking wine or cheap table wine–buy decent wines to cook with

1/2 cup each fresh parsley and basil leaves plus a few whole branches of basil

1/4 cup each fresh oregano and thyme

6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 cup ketchup

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

1.  Wash the jars and lids in the dishwasher with just a little bit of soap; or hand wash.  Set the jars in the canning pot and fill with water until there is about 1 inch of water above the tops of the jars.

2.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees; wash the tomatoes, cut them in half (quarters if they are large), lay them out on a baking sheet or two, lay the basil branches over the tomatoes, spray with a bit of olive oil spray, and roast for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool to “handling” temperature.

3.  Chop all the herbs together into a large pile until they are all mixed up and finely chopped.

4.  In a large heavy enamel or stainless-steel pot, heat the olive oil until it shimmers, turn down the heat to medium, and add the onions, stirring occasionally until they soften and turn translucent, about 15 minutes.  Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the minced garlic and stir constantly for 60 seconds.  NO MORE!  Add the wine to the onions and garlic, stir to mix well, then add the herbs and stir again until fully mixed.  Turn the stove down to medium-low and allow the wine, herbs, and aromatics to simmer until the wine is reduced by two thirds.

5.  While the wine is reducing, place the tomatoes, in batches, in a food processor and pulse four or five times, until the tomatoes are chopped fine, but not so they are completely pureed.  When the wine is fully reduced, add the tomatoes to the pot, add the ketchup and vinegar, stir well, and reduce the pot to low-medium, bring to a simmer, and reduce the heat further, until the pot is just bubbling lightly.  Stir every fifteen or twenty minutes and cook for two hours.

6.  A half hour before the sauce is finished, bring the pot and jars to a boil.  When the water is boiling hard, set the timer for 10 minutes.  At the end of this time, turn off the heat but do not remove the jars.  Add the lids and discs to the pot.

7.  When the sauce is done, remove the jars, one at a time (do not touch the inside or the screw threads of the jars), pour out the water, and fill with sauce to within 1/4 inch of the top.  Be sure to leave 1/4 inch at the top of the jar.  Remove a lid from the water, screw it on tight, and place the jar back in the water; repeat with the remaining jars, removing enough water from the pot to ensure that the pot doesn’t spill over (If you have any sauce remaining, use it right away, even if you must simply dip good bread into the sauce and finish it yourself).  Be sure there is at least an inch (two inches is better, three is even better) of water above the top of the jars.

8.  Bring the pot back to a boil and set the kitchen timer for 35 minutes for pints or 40 minutes for quarts (add five additional minutes for each 1000 feet above sea level your kitchen is).  When the timer beeps, remove the jars from the water and set on a towel to cool,  keeping them separated enough that they don’t prevent each other from cooling.  Allow to cool completely, to room temperature, listening all the while for the lids to pop as they cool.  All the lids should pop inward and they should be snug.  If a lid doesn’t pop, place it back in boiling water for an additional 35 minutes and repeat the process.  If it doesn’t pop again, use the sauce immediately.

These jars should keep in a cool, dry place for a year or more, but the sauce is so good, they won’t last that long.  Trust me.

And one more thing:

MANGIA!!!

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