Thursday, March 26, 2015

Some Spring Salads for Sunny Days Ahead

Here are some salad suggestions for the upcoming swimsuit season...............the snow is almost all melted and I will have to lose the 5 lbs. that I gained over the winter (not kidding).

Being stuck indoors a lot this cold and snowy winter did not make for healthy eating.
Lots of baking, stews and drinking more of my fair share of wine.

I am changing my ways.

I've been trying to eat a salad at lunch instead of a sandwich lately, and sometimes even a salad for dinner. (I am still going to allow for a slice of cake though!).

My first yummy salad is a roasted sweet potato and yellow beet salad w/ avocado, cilantro pesto (cilantro, garlic, olive oil and lime juice whizzed in a mini food chopper).

Served over arugula drizzled w/ sriracha.
Ok, this was good, and I need to eat more of this.

Salad #2 was made from leftover seared ahi tuna w/ white bean puttanesca (recipe here).

I loved it even better served cold the next day with chunks of avocado tossed in.

My third salad consists of more roasted golden beets with some apples cut into strips, toasted walnuts and clementines cut into small triangles (yes, I leave the rind on). I drizzled w/ a honey shallot vinaigrette and served on my favorite arugula.

Salad #4 is my favorite quinoa salad: I could eat this everyday.

This time I added in some crunchy yellow bell peppers for some color and real Greek feta cheese.

I usually post a dessert recipe on Fridays, but tomorrow I am taking the day off to eat a salad.

Think thin (for today, anyway!).

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Seared Salmon on Mushy Peas

It's bad enough that peas are hated by so many, but to call them "mushy peas"?
Now your kids are really going to hate them.

I love peas, always did. Why all the hate?

Here we are making a pea mash, or pea puree, and as the English like to say "mushy peas".

This is the perfect spring dinner w/ some perfectly seared salmon, which I learned how to do on Serious Eats.
Works perfectly every time.

Let's show the peas some love.

Seared Salmon on Mushy Peas:

2 pieces of salmon with skin (about 1/2 lb. per person)
kosher salt & pepper

15 oz. bag of frozen peas
1 large garlic clove grated on a zester
kosher salt & pepper
1 tbsp milk
2 tbsp butter
lemon zest

Steam the peas with the grated garlic. Add the hot peas to a food processor and add in the milk, salt, pepper and butter (the butter will melt because the peas are still hot).

Puree this mixture until you have a nice pesto puree consistency. Keep warm while making the salmon.

Season the salmon pieces liberally with kosher salt & pepper. Make sure the salmon is completely dry (don't rinse it or it will stick to the pan).

I use an All-Clad stainless steel skillet to sear the salmon.
Coat the bottom of the pan w/ vegetable oil or canola oil on high heat until shimmering.

Add in the salmon fillets, skin side down and immediately turn the heat down to medium-low.
I use a splatter screen cause I hate the mess all over my stove.

Cook exactly 6 minutes without disturbing. Flip the fish over with a thin fish spatula and cook on the flesh side for an additional 2 minutes

Carefully remove the fish and serve in shallow bowls over the mushy peas and sprinkle w/ fresh lemon zest.

So delicious and healthy.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Asparagus & Smoked Salmon Crustless Quiche

Spring must be here (at least by the calendar it is).

California asparagus is in the markets now, so go and get some.

They are not as tasty as local NJ asparagus (late May, early June), because they have to travel so far to get here.
By the time they sit on the truck and then onto the supermarket shelves, they lose much of their taste.

But I'll take it. No complaints.

Here is my first spring asparagus recipe......many more to come.

I made a lovely crustless quiche with smoked salmon slices and dill.

Try and use super skinny asparagus spears here, this way they will cook up in the quiche and no steaming them beforehand.

This would be great for Easter brunch.

Smoked Salmon & Asparagus Crustless Quiche:

a few slices of smoked salmon or lox, cut into pieces (I use about 1/4 lb.)
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
a bunch of skinny asparagus spears, woody stems discarded, and cut into thirds
1 tbsp capers
3 eggs
zest of a lemon
1/2 cup 2% milk
salt & pepper

Butter a 9" pie dish.
Preheat oven to 350F.

Save the asparagus tips for the top of the quiche, use the cut stems in the custard.

Mix all ingredients together (except tips of asparagus) and pour into the buttered dish.

Decorate the top of the pie dish w/ the asparagus tips.

Bake about 30 minutes until puffed and golden.

Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

I served it with a side of Philadelphia whipped cream cheese w/ chives. Oh yes I did.

This can be made ahead and refrigerated. You can even microwave it before serving since there is no pastry crust to get soggy the next day!


Monday, March 23, 2015

Pizza in the Desert: Pizzeria Bianco Town & Country

I love the Southwest and the Desert, always have.
Not sure if I could live there all year round, but there is nothing like that desert sun in the doldrums of winter to perk you right up.

It's hard to find a decent bagel in Arizona, but great pizza?
Yes, it's here. The best.

I have been following Pizza God Chris Bianco on instagram for some time now.

He is the pioneer of wood fired pizza in the U.S., opening a small artisan pizzeria in the middle of downtown Phoenix back when no one was in that neighborhood in the 1990's.
It wasn't soon after, that the lines to get into Pizzeria Bianco were up to a 4 hour wait.

Today he has 3 locations. The original on Adams St., a new one in Tucson, and the other in a shopping center in the Biltmore section of Phoenix called Town & Country.

It's tough for me to follow his instagram feed during the winter when I am stuck here in NJ with no fresh produce.
I go nuts when I see him posting fresh figs from his tree way into December, and still growing eggplants late into November.

All the food at his restaurant/pizzerias is sourced from local ingredients, from the pistachios to the olive oil made by monks at St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, Arizona from local olive trees.

Local dates and greens, Queen Creek peaches, you name it, even the lamb is sourced from an Arizona farm.
I can't take it.

Arizona has amazing farmer's markets, producing 365 days of the most beautiful produce. Who knew.

Every winter/spring I say to my husband "I am getting on a plane and hanging out w/ Chris Bianco".

Well this time I really did it.

We decided to go the Town & Country location for both lunch and dinner, where Chef Bianco made us gorgeous pizzas and salads and the homemade pastas kept coming out.

We sat down w/ Chris and he explained the method to his madness. He uses flour that is milled locally, and even has his own brand of tomatoes from California, called Bianco diNapoli, which he uses for his pizzas.

Local is best.

He was the warmest, funniest, most passionate down to earth guy/chef we have ever met (a real New Yorker, I might add).
We became instant friends, of course!

He made us a pistachio, red onion and Parmigiano Reggiano pizza called the Rosa, and a simple tomato pie w/ slivered garlic called the Marinara. Heavenly, and truly one of the best pizzas we have ever had.

The restaurant decor is homey and kitschy.

Chris' vintage oil painting collection and antique mirrors decorate the walls, as well as beautiful artwork painted by his father.

Back for the dinner menu and to sample some of the best food we have ever eaten.

For dinner we had homemade cavatelli w/ local cauliflower and sausage.
Hanger steak w/ sausage and potatoes and spiedini w/ prosciutto wrapped fontina done in the wood oven.

There was much more but I was too busy eating to photograph all the food.

Nutmeg Italian ice and mesquite cake for dessert? yup.

Though it rarely rains in the desert, it did that day while we were there, but it was ok, the highlight and purpose of the trip was to eat at Pizzeria Bianco, and it turned out to be the best day.


Follow your dreams and enjoy!

Pizzeria Bianco Town and Country, 4743 N 20th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 368-3273

Friday, March 20, 2015

Little Lemon Yogurt Cakes

Who doesn't love a lemon cake?, especially in the spring (which can show up anytime now).

These are the perfect little cakes for Easter.
You can make them in cupcake liners and put them out at brunch.

I love anything lemon.
What else can I say?

Little Lemon Yogurt Cakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tbs fresh lemon zest
2 tbs lemon juice
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz. plain yogurt

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl mix the sugar, lemon juice and zest, eggs, vanilla and yogurt together.
Gradually add in the dry ingredients.

Drop scoopfuls of batter into lined muffin tins and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Short and sweet.

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Barolo Braised Short Ribs on Polenta

This is not exactly a "welcome spring" meal, however, I had 2 lbs of short ribs in the freezer, and knew this would probably be the last week I could make them.

It's still in the 40's here, and we will be wearing jackets for at least another month in the Northeast. More snow is expected for tomorrow.

If you can spare a bottle of Barolo for this recipe, do it.

The better the wine, the better the dish.

Don't buy a cheap wine that you wouldn't drink, it doesn't work that way.
It might be a little pricey to make this dish, but it serves 6 people and you will get lots of delicious sauce leftover for pasta.

I think you could probably use a Chianti instead (even though this is a Piemontese dish), but don't use a Cab or Pinot Noir. Stick with the Italians if you can.

The original dish is served on polenta in Piedmont, but the spring thinking in me (lighter, bathing suit weather coming soon), served it over mashed cauliflower the second night.

This is a fantastic dish. Makes the house smell amazing.

Probably best to make it on a Sunday, when you have time.

Barolo Braised Short Ribs: (adapted from Nancy Silverton, Mario, and a few other cookbooks I had)

6 meaty beef short ribs (about 2 lbs.)
2 tsp kosher salt & pepper
1 large onion, cut into 2" pieces
1 large celery rib, cut into big pieces
1 large carrot, cut into big pieces
4 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
1 bottle 750ml Barolo red wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 small can diced tomatoes
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
strips of an orange, peeled w/ a vegetable peeler
3-4 cups of good quality beef or veal stock

Have everything ready so it makes the process easier.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Season the short ribs liberally w/ the kosher salt & pepper.
Let rest about an hour before searing.

In a large Dutch oven, heat a layer of olive oil.

When the oil is shimmering, add in the short ribs. Brown 5 minutes on each side and remove to a platter.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the vegetables to the skillet and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, stirring around.

Pour in the bottle of Barolo (saving a sip for yourself) and simmer for about 15 minutes on low until the sauce is getting nice and thick and has reduced by half.

Add in the can of tomatoes and cook another minute.
Place the short ribs back into the pot and add in the herbs and orange zest.

Pour in the beef stock to the top of the short ribs only, not to cover them (about 3 cups).

Bring everything to a boil, then cover the pot and carefully transfer to the preheated oven.

Cook about 2 hours until meat is falling off the bone.

Let meat rest in the pot with the sauce for 30 minutes .

Remove the short ribs to a platter and keep warm.

You can strain the vegetables from the sauce thru a mesh strainer if you like and boil it down after you have removed the meat from the pot, or just leave them in the sauce.
After a few minutes of simmering, the sauce will be glossy and thick.

Plate one short rib per person (or 2 if you are hungry!) over polenta or mashed potatoes and pour this gorgeous sauce over the meat.

Shred the rest of the meat and discard the bones.
Freeze the meat and sauce to serve another time over pasta. You will be happy you had some leftover, believe me.

This is even better the second day.

Delicious served on polenta, roasted cauliflower mash or pasta.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Corned Beef Hash

Are you going to have leftover corned beef from St. Patrick's Day?

My husband likes corned beef sandwiches on rye w/ Gulden's mustard......but if you can spare a few more slices, make this hash with the leftovers.

It makes the best breakfast served with poached eggs on top.

The recipe from Gourmet Magazine 1999 wants you to use heavy cream, which I thought was odd, but since many users said the 1/4 cup was essential, I tried it. It was delicious, but if you think using cream w/ corned beef is weird, then just use chicken stock instead.

I would gladly make a corned beef just to have these leftovers!


Corned Beef Hash: (adapted from epicurious):

1 lb baking (russet) or Yukon gold potatoes
1-lb piece cooked corned beef, cut into chunks
1 cup chopped onion
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream or chicken stock
4 large eggs (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes, until they are fork tender.

When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/4" dice.

In a cast iron skillet, melt the butter and cook the chopped onions and pepper with the potatoes for about 10 minutes until golden and the peppers are soft.

Add in the pieces of corned beef and the stock (which will deglaze the pan and absorb into the hash).

Season with salt & pepper and fresh parsley.

Cook eggs how you like them and add them on top of the hash.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Is it Spring Yet? Mimi's Fava Bean Soup

Peas, artichokes, asparagus, leeks and fava beans, they all signify spring (which seems like an eternity away).

They are the first little green friends that help us welcome in the new season.
Bye bye winter.

This is a gorgeous soup.

Probably gorgeous because of the garnishes, and oh so good when I use my winter chicken stock from the freezer.

How come no one warned me about shelling fava beans?
What a big pain in the butt.

Way worse than pitting cherries.
Wins for my least favorite chore.

Mimi shells fava beans effortlessly (she also has 7 kids, that equals 14 extra little hands to help her).

I met Mimi in NYC with her son Hudson at her book signing, she was the loveliest person and very approachable. The 8 year old told me that "it isn't so bad shelling beans" (he was so sweet).

Mimi makes everything look effortless, and looks beautiful doing so!

I cheated a little by buying frozen fava beans.

They were already shelled from the pod, however, the second step of removing the outer shell is not done for you, a simple task unless you are shelling 4 cups!!!! Keeping them a bit frozen helps with the process.

Mimi's recipe only uses 1/3 cup of stock, which is definitely not enough for 4 I took the liberty and used 3 cups of my chicken stock, and the soup was thick, rich and perfect and made enough for 4 bowls.

The only garnish I skipped was the mascarpone, not a big fan unless it is in a dessert.
I used creme fraiche instead.

The idea is to have all the garnishes ready in the bottoms of soup bowls, then pour the rich green soup over the little treats in the bowl.

This soup was hearty enough for a main dish and the perfect lunch or dinner.

Mimi's Fava Bean Soup (adapted from A Kitchen in France)

16 oz. of fava beans, shelled and skins removed (about 2 full cups)
1 large onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 potato, peeled and cubed
3 cups of good chicken stock
salt & pepper


slices of ciabatta or baguette
olive oil
garlic halves for rubbing the bread
bacon slices
1 shallot, minced
handful of fresh mint, chopped
creme fraiche for swirling

In a large stock pot, heat some olive oil and cook the onions for 4 minutes, until soft.
Add in the potatoes and garlic and cook another minute.

Add in the stock and fava beans and bring to a boil.
Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 25 mintues, until the potatoes are soft.
Season w/ salt & pepper to taste.

I use an immersion blender, but a regular blender is fine.
Puree the mixture until you have a nice, thick green soup.

Place the garnishes in a bowl and pour the hot soup over and around them.

Add in a swirl of creme fraiche and enjoy!