Friday, May 31, 2013

Elevate Your Asparagus with Truffle-Garlic Roasted Asparagus

I had this side at a bistro in Paris back in the early 90's. It wasn't until recent years that I've been able to make it, since truffles and/or truffle oil were outrageously expensive, not to mention hard to come by in Florida. Luckily, I've had family visit Italy and bring back truffles and truffle oil. I am also able to find truffle oil locally and at a "reasonable" price.

Serves 4

2 pound asparagus, woody stems removed
1 head of garlic quartered, skin in tack
Truffle  or olive oil
Salt and pepper
Shaved thin slivers of truffles 3-4 (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a foil packet add quartered garlic and drizzle with truffle oil. Roast for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sweet and Savory Roasted and Grilled Corn on the Cob

Now that summer is approaching, there will be more backyard BBQs and a lot more outdoor grilling. One of the sweetest bounties offered during the summer months is corn, specifically, corn on the cob.  It is sweet, yet savory, crisp and certainly an all around favorite - it's hard to go wrong with corn. Yet, a lot of folks tell me they aren't quite sure how to cook it on the cob and end up opening up a can or defrosting a bag of corn instead. I am here to walk you through how easy this is to make, pretty braids (like in the picture) and all!

Serves 8

Fresh corn on the cob, with husks

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chicken in Dijon Mustard Wine Sauce

The recent gray and cloudy weather reminds me of one of the days we ate at a small bistro the hotel concierge recommended when we were in Paris. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name but it was a great finish to an exhausting day, having trekked through the Père Lachaise Cemetery in search of Jim Morrison's grave. What I do remember was the meal ... it was boneless chicken served in a mouth-watering Dijon mustard wine sauce. It was served atop egg noodles with truffle garlic roasted asparagus. This is my interpretation of that dish.

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast and/or thigh
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon light butter, divided
1 medium onion, sliced in slivers
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Crème fraîche or sour cream
Parsley, roughly chopped

Small Neighborhood Markets Provide Different, Cheaper and even Organic Products

Did you know that shopping at small neighborhood markets and farmer's markets will offer a better assortment of products, many even organic? This time around I had the opportunity to visit a lot of different food marketplaces in San Francisco. What I learned, and knew is that buying local pays offs in quality and substance.
Yes, like all foodies I was drawn to the Ferry Building, which totes all sorts of gourmet and organic food products. I wasn't, however, thrilled with the prices. I knew they were over-inflated. We had just come back from driving along Big Sur, where artichokes where 12 for $1, at the oganic farms that line the coast on your drive. Here I was at the Ferry Building, looking at the absolute sticker shock of $5.99 for ONE very small artichoke. In my book, that is highway robbery. "Oh but they had to transport them there ... surely that accounts for the hefty price tag", you say. I say, absolutely not! At the farmer's market at the civic center they were 2 for $1.00 and organic, at a local produce store in the Richmond district, they were 5 for $2 and you guessed it ... Organic. Here is a tip, nothing new, but good to keep in mind. Go towards the end of the day to the farmer's market, the vendors mark everything down by up to 50% or more. A big produce bag, like the kind you get in the produce section at the grocery store, STUFFED with basil, thyme, rosemary or parsley were $1 each. Needless to say I was jonesing for a cooktop, a few pans and some olive oil to get cooking! And folks in case you think, they might mislabel the produce as organic at these lower cost markets, keep in mind, that the same flat boxes the produce come packaged in, are the exact same ones I saw at the back of the Ferry Building Marketplace. Yes, I did a little investigating of my own! The back side of any food establishment reveals a lot.
Next time you are out visiting a new city, think local, instead of trendy and not only will you save yourself some bucks, you'll also be able to try new and unusual fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I Am Back, but ...

From the top of Coit Tower!
Hi Folks!  Yes, I am back from San Francisco.  What a fabulous trip! We really got to have an amazing culinary adventure this time around! It was cold but we mostly had clear and sunny days. We even experienced 80 degree weather in SF! We got back last Tuesday, the 21st. Unfortunately, I also came back with acute bronchitis and today (Sunday) is the first day I feel somewhere in the vicinity of ok. I am on some pretty heavy medication, including an inhaler of all things. I will be back to posting, starting this Tuesday with a "Did You Know..." article.
I had so many connectivity issues while in San Francisco, I just gave up at some point. Frankly, I was shocked, I wasn't expecting to be so disconnected. And while my iPhone was on 4G all the time, I realized I am not cut out for writing and posting from the phone.  The internet at the hotel was a crock ... it was about as dependable as perfect weather is in Florida ... meaning it just wasn't there for me.
I have some great recipes coming up this week, so stay tuned! Cheers!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On Vacation

The Hub and I are back in San Francisco on vacation for the next few weeks. It is so exciting to know that my original impression, from our last trip to SF, wasn't just a "heat of the moment" kind of thing. This city is amazingly beautiful, there is so much to see, and just as important, so much to eat.  It is mind boggling how many options you have here, from all over the world. This is a foodies "wet dream".
 I was hoping to post some restaurant reviews and pictures from my iPad but the internet connection at the hotel is pretty sketchy. Posting from the phone is ok but not the best. 
If you haven't been to SF but have thought of it, I can tell you it is worth going.  For now, cheers and happy eatings!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Savory Onion Sauced Meatballs

I love meatballs. They are the perfect little globe of deliciousness. You can serve them as a main entree, as an appetizer, in a sandwich, in soups, even on a cracker. They can be beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork ... if you can grind it you can pretty much make it into a meatball. Without a doubt they are the perfect bite!
I developed this recipe a few years ago and had forgotten about it until I found my chicken scratch notes stuffed into a cookbook. The meatballs in this recipe are light and airy, and the onion sauce they cook in is savoy and richly flavored because the onions are cooked down until they are caramelized and just slightly sweet. I am so happy I can share it with you!

Serves 2-4

For the meatballs:
------Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
1 pound ground chuck
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 small onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 slice of bread, crust removed and soak in 6 tablespoons of half & half.
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Course grind of black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together. Do not compact the meat. Incorporate the ingredients into the meat by running your fingers through it by gently rubbing your thumb against the pads of your fingers. I find this keeps the meat "light and airy". Make 18 - 2" balls. Instead of rolling the meat in your hands, which makes the meatball dense, flip the meat back and forth between the palms of your hands. Doing this will create a round meatball without having to squeeze or roll it. Place on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes.

For the onions*:
3 large yellow onion sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon light butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium low heat, add oil, butter and onions. Stirring occasionally, cook onion for 30-45 minutes until dark and sweet. Twenty minutes into the cooking process add the 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

For the Sauce:
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 1 cup of beef stock

Once the onions are done raise the heat to medium high and add  the Worcestershire sauce, thyme and salt. Stir and let almost completely evaporate then add the 1/2 cup stock to deglaze the pan. Add the remaining cup of stock. Using either an immersion blender or in a blender puree the onions and stock. If using a blender pour back into pan, add a splash of beef stock if too tight or thick for your taste. Bring up to a boil add meatballs, cook for 1 minutes then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Serve with mashed potatoes, roasted green beans or a light salad. Enjoy!

*Alternatively, you can put all the ingredients into a small slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4.

Kitchen Shears ... They Do More than Cut Up a Whole Chicken

Did you know your kitchen shears have a double life? They do! They can be used in place of your knife in many instances.  How many times have you just cleaned and put away the star of your kitchen, "the knife" and it's trusty companion the cutting board, only to realize you forgot to cut the green onions that put the finishing touch on your dish. Kitchen Shears to the rescue! Here's a list of the many uses of your kitchen shears.

  1. Cut green onions into discs or on the diagonal
  2. Snip parsley or any herb over food
  3. Slice a bell pepper or any type of pepper
  4. Slice garlic
  5. Cut up lettuces
  6. Snip strips of meat for stir fry
  7. Snip chucks of chicken to make nuggets
  8. Cut bread slices in half
  9. Cut the crust off of bread slices
  10. Cut celery
  11. Snip chives
  12. Cut pizza
  13. Shred cabbage - roll up several leaves to look like a cigar and snip away
  14. Removing a lobster from it's shell
  15. Trim the ends off of beans, like green beans
  16. Cut up bacon into smaller pieces - fresh or cooked
  17. Cut lasagna noodles to fit the dish
  18. Cut up sausages
  19. Cut up dried fruit
  20. "Chop" canned whole tomatoes while they are in the can
And of course  ... cutting  up a whole chicken into individual pieces

Monday, May 6, 2013

Asian-Inspired Ground Beef and Cabbage

Sometimes I just don't plan ahead, even when I know I'm going to have a busy errand running day. I had a few hours till dinner and no idea what I was going to make. Often times I will open the fridge door and bins for inspiration, and sure enough, half a head of cabbage was sitting in the veggie drawer, screaming "do something with me". Inspiration struck and this "Asian-inspired" recipe was born.
This recipe cooks up quickly and is perfect for weeknight meals.

Serves 4

Half a head of green cabbage, sliced thinly
1 pound of ground beef, seasoned with 1 tablespoon garlic powder and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 tablespoon light butter
1 medium onion, sliced in slivers
1 medium red onion, sliced in slivers
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium carrots, matchstick slices
2 stalks of celery, finely minced
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
1/2 cup of beef stock
1/4 cup low sodium teriyaki sauce
1 generous tablespoon oyster sauce

Heat a large stainless steel skillet over moderate heat and add the oil and butter, followed by the  onions, sprinkled with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add celery, carrots, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 3-5 minutes or until all vegetables have softened. Lower heat to medium low to avoid scorching vegetables and garlic, if needed. Remove vegetables from pan and set-aside.
In the same pan, crumble the ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
Spread the cabbage evenly over the beef and spread the vegetable layers evenly over the cabbage. Crank the heat up to a medium high, open a "hole" in the center of the vegetable, cabbage and beef mixture so that you can watch when the bottom of the pan starts to darken. Upon darkening, quickly add the beef stock over top in a circular motion and immediately cover and reduce the heat to medium low.  Allow to cook, covered for 3-5 minutes or until most of the beef broth has evaporated. Stir all the layers together until well incorporated, and stir in the teriyaki and oyster sauce. Allow to cook covered for 3 minutes and you are done.

Serve with jasmine rice, sprinkle with chopped green onions.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Quick & Easy Chicken and Rice with a Latin Twist

You can do more with a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket than just heating it up. By combining a few staple food ingredients and a store bought rotisserie chicken you can conjure up a yummy dish any weeknight in about 30 minutes. To give this meal a Latin twist, I took some of my favorite seasonings and flavors from the traditional Nicaraguan Christmas hen, and incorporated into this recipe. This is one of my top 10 "go to" recipes for an easy weeknight meal.

Serves 4
All the meat from one rotisserie chicken, shredded but not too finely
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium carrot, diced-small
3 tablespoons each, pitted green olives and capers
1/8 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg