Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grilled Radicchio & Endive w/ Walnuts & Grapes

This is a beautiful fall salad.

If you can find some nice radicchio or treviso, along with big fat Belgian endives, then buy them.

Make sure the radicchio and endive is super fresh (you don't want the little stuff in the plastic package from Trader Joe's...too small and they sit around too long in the package).

This is a bit bitter, so you have to like that bitter green thing.
But the sweet balsamic and cooked grapes make this a wonderful starter to grilled meats or chicken.

Grilled Radicchio, Endive w/ Grapes & Walnuts: serves 4

1 large head of radicchio or treviso, cut into quarters, keeping the stem in tact
1 large head of Belgian endive, cut into quarters, leaving the stem in tact
handful of red or black seedless grapes
olive oil for the grill pan
sea salt & pepper
balsamic vinegar & walnut oil for finishing
handful of toasted walnuts
feta cheese

Cut the radicchio and endive into fourths, leaving the stem to hold the quarters together.

Heat a well oiled grill pan and cook the vegetables with the grapes for about 4 minutes total (2 minutes on each side), turning them with tongs so they are nice and wilted and charred.

Turn off the heat and splash with about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

Remove a quarter of each, radicchio and endive to a plate and garnish with walnuts, grapes and feta cheese.
Drizzle w/ walnut oil and season w/ sea salt & pepper.

Serve immediately.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Rosh Hashanah: Chicken w/ Prunes Tagine

I think the most popular dish for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is The Silver Palate's Chicken Marbella.

It is a dish of marinated chicken pieces in white wine, prunes, brown sugar and a whole bunch of other ingredients. You get it started the day before and it's delicious. It gets even better the second day and even the third day.

This year I decided to try something different, so I am going with Rachael Ray's Chicken Tagine w/ Prunes.
I have made it many times before, and it's the perfect make ahead dish for a crowd.

Similar to the old faithful, but much quicker to make, and delicious served on couscous.

It is more of a Sephardic (Jews from the Iberian Peninsula) tradition to serve things over rice or couscous, than it is an Ashkenazi tradition.

The original recipe uses boneless chicken breasts (too dry for me), so I changed it to boneless, skinless thighs. Much better for a crowd and they won't dry out when they sit in the sauce.

Chicken w/ Prunes (adapted from Rachael Ray):

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into large bite-size pieces
kosher salt and coarse pepper
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
10 pitted prunes, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 cups low sodium chicken stock (boxed stock is ok)

Spice blend:
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup chicken stock or water
1 cup plain couscous
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 scallions, finely chopped
chopped cilantro leaves

Season the chicken with kosher salt & pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil, and add smashed garlic.

Place the chicken in the pan in an even layer. Cook chicken pieces 2 minutes on each side to brown, then add the onions, prunes, raisins and stock.

Mix spices in a small dish and scatter over the chicken in the pot. Reduce to moderate heat. Cook 8 minutes, stirring the whole time.

Add the 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and simmer about 20 minutes, until chicken is done.
Let the sauce and chicken rest a few minutes. The sauce will thicken and be nice and glossy.

To prepare the couscous, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add couscous, extra-virgin olive oil and scallions and remove the couscous from the stove immediately. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Serve the chicken on a bed of couscous on a big platter. Sprinkle w/ fresh cilantro and more green onions.

So good and so easy.
Have a sweet Rosh Hashanah next week.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Patricia Wells' Champagne Grape Cake

This is one beautiful cake.
Just in time for the fall harvest (I am referring to grapes/wine).

It's light, simple and fragrant.

If you are not familiar with Patricia Wells, then go to the library and take out some of her books.
They are classics.

She still gives cooking classes in Paris and Provence a few times a year, if you are lucky enough to catch them.

Her paperback book Bistro Cooking is a favorite of so many cooks (no photos, just simple French bistro style meals), and her book At Home in Provence is an old classic.

Ms. Wells uses champagne grapes, which I was lucky enough to find, but next time I will try blackberries (I think this would also be good in the winter, with golden raisins).

The original recipe tells you to let the batter rest for 15 minutes. I did not bother. No problem.

We had this with wine on the patio, instead of coffee, it is just that kind of cake.

Champagne Grape Cake (adapted from At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells)

2 large eggs, room temperature
a scant less than a 1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 lemon, grated zest
1 orange, grated zest
10 oz. champagne grapes
confectioner's sugar for dusting

Butter and flour a 9" springform pan.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix eggs w/ sugar and zest until pale and fluffy.

Add in vanilla, melted butter, oil and milk and mix well.

Add in the dry ingredients and the grapes last (saving a handful for the top).

Pour batter into prepared cake pan and scatter some of the champagne grapes on top for decoration.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes before unmolding.
Dust w/ powdered sugar and enjoy.

So good.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Quinoa w/ Roasted Carrots & Moroccan Spices

This is a beautiful fall salad (I could really eat this any time of year), I love the spice mixture made w/ dried spices, it reminds me of the season.

Roasting fresh carrots brings out their sweetness and paired w/ dates and cilantro, this has to be one of my favorite salads.

It's best served at room temperature, as are most salads. If you must refrigerate it, don't forget to take it out of the fridge an hour before and adjust seasonings.

This would be the perfect side dish to serve along a tagine, chicken or meat dish.

I will write out the original recipe, however, I left out the turmeric and maybe used a bit more of this or that, it really doesn't matter.

I also subbed in dates, because the original recipe calls for dried cranberries. Hate them.

You can also toss everything with the greens in a big bowl and dress the salad just before serving, this way the greens won't wilt.

Roasted Carrots & Spicy Quinoa Salad (adapted from Food & Wine):

2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
8 large carrots, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp honey
5 ounces mixed salad greens (I used arugula)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dates, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400F°.

In a small bowl, whisk the paprika with the turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne, cardamom and 1 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. In a medium bowl, toss the carrots with the onion and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add 1 tablespoon of the spice mix and toss to coat. Spread the carrots and onion slices on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and caramelized.

Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and bake for about 7 minutes, until golden (or toast in a toaster oven). Let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa with 2 teaspoons of the spice mix and the water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 17 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of the oil with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the salad greens and toss to coat. Spread the greens on a large platter. In the same bowl, whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil with the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and the zest, mustard, honey and 1 teaspoon of the spice mix; season with salt (this will be the dressing).

Add the quinoa, walnuts, dates, parsley and roasted vegetables to the bowl w/ the dressing and toss well. Spoon the quinoa salad on the greens and serve.

So yummy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grilled Peach Salad w/ Mozzarella & Basil Lime Syrup

I think this will be my last peach post of the season. :(
I certainly have gotten my money's worth this year.

Though we are supposed to be in fall mode, I am still seeing beautiful summer produce at the farmer's markets........plums, peaches, and tomatoes. Don't give up yet!

It's time to take down my basil plants, they are getting lanky, and starting to flower.
Pesto is made and in the freezer.

With the leftover basil, I made a basil lime syrup.

Poured over grilled peaches, this stuff is ridiculous! I added in some fresh mozzarella and opal basil from the garden to make a great last of the season salad.

Grilled Peaches w/ Mozzarella & Arugula:

2 ripe peaches (not mushy), sliced in half, pit removed
ball of fresh mozzarella (the kind packed in water)
fresh basil leaves

Basil Lime Syrup: (great for cocktails too)

1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
juice of 1 lime and zest

Simmer the mixture in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Let steep 10 minutes and cool down. The longer you let the basil leaves steep, the stronger the flavor will be.

Strain the basil leaves out of the syrup and pour into a jar. Keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Using an oiled grill pan, grill the peaches flesh side down for about a minute or two, without disturbing.
When you achieve nice grill marks, you are done. Let the peaches cool before slicing.

Plate along with torn fresh mozzarella, fresh herbs and arugula.

Drizzle some of the basil lime syrup over the plate and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Domenica's Swordfish Stew

This is one of those fabulous dishes that is so easy to make and great for company.

My only complaint is that swordfish is so damn expensive around my hood, when it should be priced fairly, because it's in season now.

I have to make friends with a fisherman.

Here is another fabulous recipe from Domenica Marchetti's book The Glorious Soups & Stews of Italy.
I saw this on Domenica's instagram feed (we have the same Staub pot) and I knew I would be making this for dinner.

Plan to make this dish tomorrow or the next day, you have to marinate in the fridge for 24-48 hours.

Domenica suggests a yellow onion, because cooked red onions tend to turn grey (which I found out). I have a lot of red onions from the garden, so I mixed red and yellow.

Domenica's Swordfish Stew (adapted from The Glorious Soups & Stews of Italy)

1 large swordfish steak (2 pounds)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
12 ounces cherry tomatoes (yellow & red are nice), halved lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
3/4 cup pitted Gaeta or Kalamata olives
5 fresh bay leaves (dried are ok too)
1 rounded tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Season the swordfish liberally with kosher salt & pepper and lay on the bottom of a heavy Dutch oven.

Scatter the rest of the ingredients on top of the fish.

Pour the olive oil over everything in the pot and cover.

Place in the fridge for 24-48 hours.

Let pot come to room temperature before cooking (about an hour at room temp).

Simmer on the stovetop on low heat for 45 minutes, without disturbing (keep lid on).

Let rest 30 minutes before ladeling into bowls.

The tomatoes and onions will make a nice juicy broth. Don't be tempted to add liquid, I promise you will need a spoon to lick it up.

This was also great with toasted bread to mop up all that goodness.

Healthy and lowfat too.
My kind of dinner.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Stone Fruit Crumble

What's the difference between a crumble, a cobbler and a crisp?

I don't know, they all have fruit, they are all pretty easy to make, and they are all yummy!

When I use apples, I call it a "crisp".
When I use peaches, I usually call it a cobbler (I think it has more flour and more resembles a cake).

When I use oats and brown sugar on top, I call it a "crumble".
I could be wrong, and I am sure you will tell me if I am.

This week, NJ has a ton of beautiful stone fruit.
Plums, peaches, white and yellow, and nectarines (my favorite).

I always buy a bushel up in Oldwick, NJ and they all ripen at the same time (duh).

With the ripe peaches, I make a CRUMBLE.

You can make a crisp, and you can make a cobbler, but I will make crumble.

I have made about 3 different types, using all different fruits.
So far my favorite combination was nectarines with fresh picked blackberries from my garden and some blueberries.

Measurements are approximate. You can add more or less sugar and other spices and even nuts if you like.

Stacey's Fruit Crumble: (makes 4 individual crumbles)

4 stone fruits, pits removed, diced (I like to add in blackberries and blueberries)
1/2 cup white sugar
juice of a lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of oats
1 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp butter, cut into small dice

Butter 4 large ramekins (you can also make this in a 9 x 9 glass Pyrex pan).

In a bowl, mix the diced fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums, berries) with the white sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. The fruit will get nice and juicy.

Mix the topping ingredients in a separate bowl, using your hands to incorporate the butter into the mixture. You want it to be "crumbly".

Pour the fruit w/ the juices into the prepared ramekins and press down the crumble topping mixture into the tops of the dishes.

Place on a baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, until bubbly and juicy in a 375F oven.

These are amazing warm w/ vanilla ice-cream, or the next day out of the fridge.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Oven Baked Sausage & Pea Risotto

This is my new favorite easy dinner, though it doesn't seem like a summery meal, it is great any season, and I like to use my fresh herbs now, while I still can.

I rarely make rice, because I always mess it up.

For some reason, it always sticks to the pot, or gets too mushy, or just never tastes right.
I am rice challenged.

How come no one ever told me you can make perfect rice in the oven?
Oh well, I can't be good at everything. :)

This is a great weeknight dinner, and you can add whatever you like to the pot.

It's not a traditional risotto, where you have to keep adding hot broth to the rice, stirring the entire time.

The original recipe calls for sausage, which goes so nicely with the peas, onions and bell peppers, but shrimp or chicken would be nice too, or asparagus or olives.

I have made it 10 times, switching out the herbs for whatever I have on hand in the garden.

This dish is a family pleaser and is gluten free, for all you GF peeps.

This reminds me of a good paella.

Oven Baked Sausage & Pea Risotto: (adapted from Lunch at the Shop) serves 4

1 cup of arborio or carnaroli rice (short grain Italian rice perfect for risotto)
4 tbsp butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 good quality hot sausage links, casings removed, crumbled
1/4 cup of dry white wine
2 cups + chicken stock
cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup peas
fresh basil leaves, shredded
fresh parsley
sea salt & pepper
Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a heavy, oven-proof skillet w/ lid, heat the butter on medium-high heat.

Add the onion, garlic, red pepper and sausage meat to the skillet and cook about 4 minutes until the pink is out of the sausage meat.

Add in the rice and toast for 2 minutes.

Add in the white wine and let evaporate, about 1 minute.

Add in the chicken stock and bring to a boil (make sure the stock is only 1" above the rice in the pot).

Place the lid on the skillet and carefully place in the oven.

Cook, undisturbed for 25 minutes.

Remove and add in the tomatoes, peas and herbs and place lid back on for 5 minutes to steam the peas and tomatoes.
Season with sea salt & pepper and fluff with a fork.

Sprinkle with grated Parmesan to serve.

Let rest a few minutes and dig in.

This is the best way to make rice, and the only way I will ever make it from now on.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Heirloom Cherry Tomato Tart

There is nothing more beautiful or tasty than a tomato tart in the summer, using ripe, colorful, local tomatoes.

In this case, it's the end of the line.
I won't have any more baskets full of tomatoes until next summer.

I will have to cheat in the winter months and buy cherry tomatoes from Mexico.

Here, I used the last of my heirloom cherry tomatoes from the garden to make a simple beautiful tart.

I was tempted to use fresh ricotta, and go ahead if you want to. Even mozzarella would be nice, making this more of a pizza.
Goat cheese or feta is lovely too.
This is a very personal tart, you can do your own thing here.

Here's how:

Roll out a defrosted piece of store bought puff pastry and fit into a half sheet pan. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to decorate it.

Caramelize 2 onions in olive oil with a tablespoon of sugar and splash of balsamic vinegar towards the end of cooking.
I even threw in some of my garden garlic to swirl around.

Once the onion mixture cools, spread it all over the puff pastry.

Lay halved cherry tomatoes all over the onions.

Dot the tart with some kalamata olives and feta cheese.

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the tart and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Of course I added anchovies, but you don't have to.

Bake in a 375F oven for 25-30 minutes.

Let cool in the pan 15 minutes so the tomatoes set.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves just before serving.

Cut into squares and love.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

End of Summer Random Bites

Summer isn't officially over, but it definitely feels like it is.

It is getting dark much earlier; the crickets' voices are slowing down at night; and the kids are starting school this week in my hood (do I still have to put away my white jeans after Labor Day??).

But the garden is far from over.

The beets and green beans have all been harvested and pulled out.
Same goes for the onions and broccoli.
A fresh new crop of spinach, fall kale, Calabrese broccoli and more beets have been planted.
We'll see what turns up.

I had such a great beet & carrot season this year, that I pickled some of the surplus so I could have an instant lunch of steamed fresh green beans and pickled beets anytime (chive vinegar, sugar and cloves boiled and poured over the cooked and quartered beets & carrots).

I will be eating these well into the fall.

This month's Bon Appetit Magazine came out with their "BEST New Restaurants".
Woo hoo.

Now the places that you have been trying to get into forever, will still be those places that you are trying to get into, but worse.

That goes for ESTELA in Noho.
I've been hearing about it for over a year, how great it is, blah blah.
We can never get in.

It's a small place, located up some stairs in a weird spot on E. Houston Street (that's pronounced HOW-ston, for some odd reason, not the Texas city pronunciation).

A Sunday at 6 pm on Labor Day weekend is a guarantee to get into most any restaurant you have been wanting to try. Only the tourists are out.

We had a very nice dinner of plates to share.

An amazing endive salad w/ anchovies, walnuts and Pecorino Sardo. Wow.
Cherry tomatoes w/ FRESH FIGS and DRIED shrimp.
What is dried shrimp you ask? I asked the same.

Think bottarga, but found only in Louisiana. Strange, salty and nice.

We had delicious potato and salt cod croquettes w/ aioli, and a arroz negro w/ squid and Romesco (which I forgot to photograph). Nice service and interesting wines by the glass.

I made a batch of these delicious plum poppy muffins with farmer's market red plums.

*I added an extra tablespoon of butter to the recipe (to make it 5 tbsp), as well as 1/2 tsp of almond extract and turned the baking temp down to 375F (from a much too hot 425F). Original recipe can be found here.

These were really delicious.

I am loving all these local pop-up dinners (and I love being invited to them!).

We attended a pop-up dinner at The Long Table of NJ, where 60 local business people got together for a wonderful evening of design and food.

Styled by Bonny Neiman Antiques, and catered by Panetica (Carolyn from the beautiful shed in my town), arranged by the fabulous Helaine Winer..........

It was a BYOB event, and I loved the clever way of tagging your bottles to keep track.

Gorgeous crudite arranged in antique pieces and homemade fig and olive focaccia to start the meal, all made by Carolyn.

A beautiful table setting with a fabulous seasonal menu to match.

What a great way to end the summer season.
I hate to see it go.