Baking is science and I don't like formulas, but cooking is art and anything goes...and the simpler the better. It's all about less time at the stove and more time at the table. With a forty year passion for food I'm excited to share what I do in the kitchen nearly every day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fennel, Plum, and Pecorino Salad

Fennel is one of my all time favorite ingredients, I most often just chop it up raw into a salad with extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and salt.  I was feeling pretty summery last night so in addition to the olive oil, lemon, and salt I added sliced plums and shaved pecorino.  A bulb of fennel goes a long way, two bulbs can feed four with leftovers.  I find the easiest way to prepare it is to cut off the stubs at the top of the bulb then slice in half the long way and peel off the rough outer layer.  From there it lays flat on your cutting board so you can easily chop it into thin slices right down to the base.  Makes for a great side dish in a matter of minutes.

Israeli Couscous with Carmelized Onions

When it comes to mouth feel Israeli couscous is up there, and extremely diverse and easy to work with.  Although called couscous it is actually little toasted balls of pasta so like pasta you just have to boil it for ten minutes or so and drain.  Last night I sliced and quartered three Vidalia onions and sauteed them with a mix of butter and olive oil, a tablespoon of sugar and kosher salt to taste until they started to brown.  I tossed and turned the onions for about thirty minutes so they would carmelize all over, that's where you're going to get all the flavor.  Meanwhile I brought a small pot of water to a boil, added a spoonfull of my favorite beef stock for flavor, Better Than Bullion, and dropped in the couscous.  I tested the couscous after ten minutes to make sure they were soft then drained into a strainer being careful to preserve about a half a cup of the beef stock water.  I poured the preserved beef stock into the pan with the onions, simmered for a few minutes, then added the drained couscous and salt to taste.  If you're doing Italian you could prepare the same way minus the beef stock with lots of grated parmesan stirred in before seving.  The possibilities are endless.

Garlic Scape Sauce

A traditional scallion ginger sauce is a wonderful thing and I have been serving one based on Momofuku's David Chang recipe with barbequed meats for a while now....Cuisinart magic.  I had bought a bunch of garlic scapes at the Waitsfield Farmer's Market last weekend and thought they could make for an amazing substitution, minus the ginger.   I chopped up the scapes and put them in the cuisinart with some kosher salt, a splash of rice vinegar, even more of white vinegar, a spash of soy, and some white pepper.  I started up the cuisinart and drizzled some olive oil into the mix through the hole in the top until the sauce had thickened up and most of the larger chunks were gone.  The Neill Farm skirt steak was a special treat but the garlic scape sauce put it over the edge, indescribable.  I recommend making more than you think you'll need because everyone will want seconds and thirds....followed by a breath mint or lemon sorbet (see below).

Lemon Sorbet with Strawberry Coulis

Just because I don't bake doesn't mean I can't do dessert.  We had some strawberries that my wife Robin had picked from her garden a few days before that no one was going to eat so I cut off the tops and threw them in the cuisinart with a tablespoon of sugar, eight to ten fresh mint leaves and a tiny splash of balsamic vinegar.  Ran it until it was very smooth, nearly a minute, then refrigerated it for an hour.  So good spooned over our local Blue Moon Lemon Zest sorbet, the perfect finish to our summer bbq.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Penne with Vodka Sauce

I used to make my own tomato sauces until I discovered Rao's, they sell them at my local market, Mehuron's, and I always have several flavors on hand.  Yesterday was the perfect rainy Sunday for a late pasta lunch, penne with vodka sauce.  Before heating the sauce up I splashed some extra virgin olive oil into the sauce pot, turned on the heat, and added a half dozen dried chili flakes to give it the tiniest bit of a zip.  Threw some kosher salt into the sauce for good measure as well.  I had some Vermont mozzorella around so after plating I laid a thin slice over the hot sauce with a dollop of Cibo brand pesto, another great convenience item I alwasy have on hand in the freezer, just heated it up with some olive oil and salt.  A little bit of parmesan over the whole thing and in twenty minutes I had a pretty awesome looking and tasting meal, served it with a salad and a glass of Chianti.  I love rainy days.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Crispy Squashed Potatoes

Leftovers are rare whenever I make these, and embarrassingly simple.  Works with any potato, red, white, or baking.  After washing and drying potatoes pierce and place in a baking dish or any heavy pan large enough so there's lots of extra space around the potatoes.  Put them into a preheated 450 oven for an hour or until soft.  Take out, turn oven up to 550, and pour enough extra virgin olive oil into the pan to cover the bottom generously.  Then with a potato masher gently squash each potato individually so it splits open and flattens out onto the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and put back into the oven for a half an hour, should be brown and crisp on bottom and slightly browned around the edges on the top.   I found it helps to rotate the pan 180 degrees half way through both baking periods.  I often jazz this up by adding scallions or chopped garlic 15 minutes before it's finished and toss around before serving.  You could do the same with some parmesan cheese, the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Roast Paprika Chicken

I found this El Rey smoked paprika in my local East Warren store so assume it must be lots of places;  It makes for a fast, easy, and delicious roast chicken....very Spanish.  After washing, drying, and making a few small slits in the skin for crisping I lightly sprinkled the bird with salt then a one third to two thirds mix of the picante and dulce smoked paprika straight from the can.  You want to make sure you cover the chicken top and bottom but it doesn't need to be a super heavy dusting.  I roasted my chicken on a gas barbeque by only running the front burner on medium and placing the chicken sideways on the back of the grill with the cover closed.  It took about an hour and twenty minutes and I turned it every twenty minutes.  You could easily substitute chicken pieces and roast either of them on a charcoal grill or on a rack in the oven.  The paprika is equally fantastic on barbequed flank steak, roast potatoes, and grilled corn.

Roast Chicken
Raw Chicken


Monday, June 20, 2011

Cabbage Salad

I nearly always have a cabbage in the fridge, we love it's sweet crunch, it lasts for nearly two weeks, and it can be prepared in minutes.  For this one I shredded the raw cabbage with sliced cucumbers, mint, scallions and topped it with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and a splash of white balsamic vinegar.  However in most cases I keep it simple with just the cabbage, olive oil, and salt.  I know it doesn't sound like much but give it a try, it's incredibly satifying.  And it goes with just about anything you're cooking.  Last night I served it with pasta with white clam sauce.

p.s.  It goes without saying that the better your olive oil the better your salad.  If you're going to splurge on anything in your kitchen make it the extra virgin olive oil.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sardine Tacos

Probably not going to have a lot of mass appeal here but I just love these tacos, have them at least once a week at the office.  It's all about the quality of your corn tortillas and kimchee, my local market sells a great one.  Heat the corn tortillas in the microwave, drain the sardines, top with kimchee, sliced scallions, quartered grape tomatoes, and a pinch of kosher salt.  Could easily substitute the sardines with last night's pork, chicken, tofu, whatever, anything with kimchee is good.  I even put it on my hot dogs.  And if you're serving the tacos at home for dinner try them with fish, don't want to stink up the office.  Dust some fish pieces with flour and lightly brown in a hot saute pan with a little bit of oil. 

Boiled Potatoes with Olives

I got home later than usual last night and we were starving, needed something to eat fast.  I cut up a few potatoes in half inch cubes and boiled them in salted water for less than five minutes to keep firm.  Then ran them under cold water, drained, doused with great extra virgin olive oil and a couple of generous dashes of Kosher salt.  I opened the fridge and saw the jar of pitted Kalamata olives which I sliced and tossed into the potatoes.  So good!  Instead of olives it could have easily been chopped arugula, scallions, capers, or mint from the side of the yard.  Super easy, super quick, and very tasty!  I served them with barbequed steak tips and a tossed salad.