Monday, June 30, 2008

Spinach Mac N Cheese

This is a great dinner to make when someone else is doing the dishes, as each component (spinach sauce, mornay sauce, and pasta) needs its own pot. It's also a wonderful way to use up leftovers (chopped chicken) or anything else in your fridge (dying veggies). I threw all my cheese in-- cheddar, pepperjack, a dry crumbly blue, gorgonzola, romano, and some other less identifiable ones (be sure to cut off any mold first!). And it's a good dish for whole wheat pasta, since the other flavors are bold enough to stand up to that pasta bite.

You'll need:

1 package whole wheat penne pasta
1 package frozen spinach
1 large can tomatoes in their juices
1 onion, chopped
1/2 head garlic, minced
olive oil
2T butter
2T flour
2c milk (fat free is fine)
cayenne pepper
2+c grated cheese (I threw all my cheese bits in the food processor)
2 eggs
1 thick slice bread, made into crumbs (food processor again)

Put water on for the pasta.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put frozen spinach in a colander. Pour boiling hot water on top to defrost. Press to drain water.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Saute onion, adding salt and whatever dried herbs you want, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cook 5 minutes more. Add drained spinach and cayenne to taste. Cook 5 minutes to combine. Add tomatoes and their juices; break them up with a wooden spatula or spoon. Stir and lower heat; let simmer while you make the bechamel.

Heat 2T butter in a medium saucepan. Whisk in 2T flour. Whisk constantly for 2 minutes until mixture bubbles and expands and turns golden brown. Add 2c milk very slowly, whisking. Cook 4 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add nutmeg to taste. Remove from heat. Add cheese and whisk to combine until cheese melts. (When you add cheese to bechamel, it becomes a mornay sauce, probably named after the 16th century Phillip, duc de Mornay, and perhaps introduced in the 19th century at Le Grand Vefour).

Cook pasta to just *underdone*. Drain.

Beat 2 eggs and whisk them into the mornay sauce. Scoop 1/2c of mornay sauce into the spinach-tomato sauce and stir to combine. Stir drained pasta into remaining mornay sauce.

Spread half of the pasta into a buttered gratin dish. Spread the spinach sauce on top. Top with the rest of the pasta. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and spray with olive oil, or mix bread crumbs with a bit of olive oil beforehand.

Bake 45 minutes, or until top is golden and sauce is set (knife inserted in center should come out clean). Let sit 10 minutes before cutting and serving.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fresh Tuna Burgers with Lemongrass, Cilantro and Ginger

This was a creative way to use up leftover tuna, and other ingredients, from our sushi dinner. You can adjust the recipe easily and throw in whatever you have on hand that you think might taste good (capers, or anything salty and tangy, would go well for a more Mediterranean-inspired mix).

You'll need:

fresh tuna, hand-chopped
lemongrass, ground in a food processor
ginger, minced
cilantro, chopped
soy sauce (I used 1t for 1 burger)
rice wine vinegar (I used 1t for 1 burger)
wasabi (however much you want)
a forkful of mayo to hold things together

Heat a bit of olive oil in a non-stick skillet.

Mix all ingredients together; form patties with your hands, squeezing very lightly so some liquid comes out. Fry about 1 minute/side, flipping very carefully so burger doesn't fall apart.

I put the patty on a bun with avocado, cilantro, pickled ginger, tobiko, and some daikon radish sprouts.

From Sushi Leftovers, A Salmon Omelet

This delicious combo is made of 2 beaten eggs, fresh herbed goat cheese, some chopped shiso leaf, salmon seasoned with rice wine vinegar and soy sauce, and green onion; topped with avocado and cilantro.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Katie and I made way too much sushi. Stay tuned for some leftovers posts.
Learn from our "mistake": if you want to make sushi,
invite some friends.

pickled mackerel nigiri
with avocado & tobiko
hamachi nigiri

closeup of the mackerel-- this was a delicious combo.
the avocado tempered the vinegary fish
and the tobiko added a nice crunch.

salmon nigiri with avocado on shiso leaves

shiso leaves have a strong woodsy citrus flavor
that kind of overwhelmed the delicate salmon

tuna & hamachi sashimi with a dollop of tobiko

salmon, scallop, and octopus sashimi

the octopus was cooked and sliced thin

scallop sashimi is my new favorite!

more pickled mackerel, with avocado,
tobiko, and daikon radish sprouts

tuna with avocado & tobiko,
garnished with daikon radish sprouts

sake, of course

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cider Braised Chicken

I know this seems like a really weird recipe, but it's good-- I promise. The cider cooks down, mellowing the garlic, into a thick tangy sauce, and the sweetness is tempered by the chili. The whole thing cooks up in about 30 minutes, and takes only 5 or so to put together.

I used boneless skinless thigh meat to make this a quick meal, but you can use whole, bone-in chicken pieces and even leave the skin on if you like. Just adjust the cooking time.

You'll need (serves 3-4):

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thigh meat (see note)
1 head garlic
3 stalk lemongrass
2c "hard" apple cider
1/4c flour
1t harissa paste
1T smoked Turkish pepper or smoked paprika
1T grapeseed oil

Remove outer layers from lemongrass and grind in a food processor. Slice garlic.

If using boneless meat, cut chicken into small (1 inch) pieces. Salt and pepper liberally and toss with flour. Heat oil in a skillet big enough to fit all your chicken in 1 layer and brown chicken pieces, being careful not to crowd the pan, about 3 minutes/side over medium-high heat. If the pan starts to burn, lower heat & add more oil. Set browned pieces aside.

Add lemongrass and garlic to pan and cook until garlic is golden, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Add cider and bring to a boil, scraping browned bits from pan. Add harissa and smoked pepper or paprika; add browned chicken and accumulated juices.

Simmer, uncovered, about 20-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, adding water or stock if liquid dries up. You should end up with a thick brown sauce. Serve over couscous....

...with a nice salad...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Prosciutto Butter

This is a super easy hors d'oeuvre to make when you have surprise guests. All you need is a few slices of prosciutto-- the cheap stuff is fine-- a tablespoon of buttter, some black pepper, and a food processor. I'll let you figure out the rest.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Veal Cheek Pappardelle

Veal cheeks can be hard to find; you can substitute with beef cheeks, which you might have to special order anyway from your butcher. In a pinch, use short ribs. I begin this ragu with guanciale, another hard-to-find ingredient, which can be substituted for with thick-cut pancetta or bacon. The guanciale, if you can find it, is nice because it retains its luscious mouthfeel, and nice added richness to this meaty sauce. It's from the jowl (cheek), not the belly, of the pig. Veal or beef cheeks are also delicious on their own; I made a pasta sauce here to make my 1lb cheek feed 4. As with any slow braise, this is best prepared the day before. If you must make it the day of, start early, as the meat cooks for a few hours, and then needs to cool to be shredded.


You'll need:

1.25lb veal cheek (trimmed weight, 1lb)
1.2lb guanciale
.7oz (20g) dried morel mushrooms
5 medium onions
2 large carrots
3 large cloves garlic
1 6oz can tomato paste
1T harissa paste (optional-- you can use chili flakes instead)
1 bottle dry red wine
about 4c beef broth (I used leftover broth from making beef tongue)
1T herbes de provence
1/2c heavy cream
fresh pappardelle pasta (I used a mix of porcini & black pepper rosemary)

Rinse dry morels and place in bowl. Cover with hot water and set aside to soak.

Peel onions and set aside. Cut guanciale into pieces about 1cm wide and 3cm long.

Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat and cook guanciale. When it starts to brown slightly, lower heat and continue to cook until light brown and swimming in rendered fat.

In the meantime, trim cheek(s) of fat and silverskin. Season with salt and pepper. Remove guanciale with a slotted spoon. Raise heat to medium-high. Brown cheek on both sides. Remove and set aside.

While cheek is browning, slice onions and drain morels, reserving liquid.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Add onions to the pot where the guanciale and cheek were. As the onions absorb the fat, chop carrots and crush and slice garlic and add them too. Cook on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes, until onions are very very soft.

Push onions to the side and add tomato paste and harissa. Let brown slightly, about 1 minute, then mix with onions. Stir to combine, about 1 minute. Add wine. Raise heat and boil until reduced by half. You should have a thick, luscious goo of tomato, wine, and onion, with the occasional carrot peaking through.

Add strained morel soaking liquid and continue to cook until the mixture is so thick that your wooden spatula can make trails in it.

Add morels, guanciale, veal cheek, any accumulated juices, and herbes de provence to pot. Add beef broth and water, if necessary, to cover cheek. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and put in the oven.

when adding dried herbs,
crush them with your hands first

Cook for about 3 hours, testing after 2. The meat should pierce easily with a small knife.

Cool the meat in enough sauce to cover. The next day, skim fat; remove meat and shred. Reduce the rest of the sauce to desired thickness, skimming the orange foam that rises to the top. Return meat to pot. Reheat. Stir in cream. Simmer 5 more minutes to develop flavors.

Serve sauce on pasta with a sprinkle of parmesan. Unfortunately, we forgot the cream, so yours should look a little paler than this picture.

the table was pretty & purple

Seared Scallops on Caramelized Corn with Arugula and Tarragon Butter

This is remarkably easy and can (and should) be done at the last minute, though you can caramelize the corn earlier and just heat it up before serving. Unfortunately, we all dug in before I could take a picture-- what you see above was all that was left by the time I remembered this blog. This was the appetizer for my veal cheek pappardelle.

I thought this wine went really well--
it was crisp and slightly fruity.

You'll need (4 appetizers or 1 main course):

4 scallops
2 ears of corn
2c wild baby arugula or other microgreen
3T butter
1/4c vermouth
2T chopped fresh tarragon

Holding corn on its end (big end down), slide a large knife down the ear, angled slightly in, so kernels come off whole and fall onto a cutting board (some will jump away. catch them).

Melt 1T butter in a heavy skillet. When butter foams and turns golden brown, add corn, salt, pepper. Distribute in a single layer and don't stir. When corn starts to pop, stir and taste: the kernels should be golden and taste sweet. Remove from heat. (You can do this part ahead).

Rinse and dry scallops well. Season with salt & pepper.

In the same pan (wipe it clean with a paper towel if there's black bits), add 1T butter and melt over high heat until golden. Add scallops; once they're in the pan, don't move them. In about 45 seconds, a brownish crust should form on the bottom and creep up the sides; flip them at this point and cook about 45 seconds more on the other side. Remove from pan.

Clean out pan if necessary. Deglaze with vermouth. Let simmer until it loses its alcohol smell, about 45 seconds. Add remaining butter, swirling to create a creamy sauce. Add corn and tarragon; toss to coat.

Arrange arugula in a circle on a plate. Fill circle with corn; top with a scallop.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Spice Rubbed Chicken

Baking chicken breasts with their bones and skin intact produces juicy, flavorful white meat every time. You can amp up the flavor, and crisp up the skin, by browning them first. Here, I used three different spices for a spice tasting of sorts. On the right is a spice mixture called Hawaj; in the middle, Aleppo pepper; on the left, smoked Turkish pepper. After stuffing whatever seasoning you choose under the skin, brown on the stove, and then bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Filet of Sole with Harissa Aioli

This is quick, delicious, and even cheap-- sole is one of the least expensive fishes out there (English sole, that is. Petrale sole is considerably more expensive). Make sure your fish is fresh, or it won't taste like much-- or, worse yet, it'll taste fishy.

You'll need (for 2 people):

1lb sole
1/2c milk
1 egg
1/2c panko

1 egg yolk
1/4c canola oil (do not use extra virgin olive oil)
1 clove garlic
1T harissa paste (comes in a tube or a jar)
1t salt
juice from 1/2 lemon

Soak sole in milk. In the meantime, make the aioli.

(Jesse made this aioli. I tried to make it with a food processor and failed. Doing it by hand is time consuming but so worth it. If you want to skip this step, use prepared mayonnaise, but add the lemon juice, garlic, and harissa.)

Chop garlic into a paste, smooshing it with the broad side of a knife, a little salt, and a drop of oil.

Beat yolk with a fork. Add salt and lemon juice. Add oil in a very slow stream, beating well, until the mixture is the desired consistency-- thick but still saucy. Add garlic paste and harissa to taste.

Heat grapeseed or canola oil in a heavy skillet.

Beat egg with a splash of cold water to loosen it up in a plate or flat dish. Pour panko into another dish and season with salt and pepper. Drain fish from milk as you work; dip in egg, drain; encrust with panko.

Fry in hot oil about 1-2 min/side, depending on the thickness of your filets. Drain on a paper towel before serving.

Eggs for Breakfast

As I mentioned here, I would take eggs for breakfast over almost anything. Here are two simple preparations for your morning meal.

Above, the Egyptian Omelet with Pancetta: Cut a circle out of a piece of bread, place a thin slice of pancetta over the opening, and crack an egg in it. Cook until crisp, then flip briefly to cook the top.

Below, Egg in Gorgonzola Polenta: Use pre-made or leftover polenta. Warm it over low heat, dotted with gorgonzola. When the cheese melts, make a well in the middle. Add a bit of butter. Raise the heat and crack an egg into the well.

Both of these preparations benefit from the runny yolk, so be careful not to break the yolk or overcook it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Spicy Grilled Squid

Squid, or calamari, is the perfect summer food: it's light and tasty, cooks in minutes, and tastes faintly of the sea, which is probably where you wish you could be in the kind of weather we've been enjoying this week. It's also the perfect winter food: stuffed and braised, it makes a warm, hearty dish. Look for winter squid if the weather changes; for now, enjoy this recipe, which can be made with any marinade (olive oil, garlic, and salt would be delicious), and can be cooked on an outdoor barbecue (like we did) or in your griddle pan or cast-iron skillet. It can even be broiled. And the best part is that squid is incredibly cheap.

You'll need:

1/2 lb cleaned squid bodies per person*

4T honey
2T sambal (chili-garlic paste)-- or less if you can't handle the heat
1.5T rice vinegar
1T low-sodium soy sauce
juice of 1/2 lime + more limes for serving
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 inch piece ginger, minced-- or, better yet, press in a garlic press!

*You can buy pre-cleaned squid; if it's not, squeeze out the guts and remove the cartilage.

Mix all sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Slice squid bodies open lengthwise into two pieces (they'll look vaguely triangular). Wash and dry well. Using a sharp knife, score the squid on what used to be the inside (softer) side on the diagonal, both ways, so you have diamond-shaped cross-hatching.

Toss the squid with half the sauce. Save the rest of the sauce for dipping. Marinate 20 minutes.

Light the barbecue. While it's heating up, skewer each piece of calamari lengthwise so it lies flat. Place it on the hot grill and cook 2 minutes/side, until light char marks show.

Serve with sauce and more lime.

And as long as you're barbecuing, throw some corn on too...

...and drink some beer...

Sierra Nevada's Southern Hemisphere Harvest
has a nice balance of fresh hops & malt

Lagunitas Maximus is a true IPA lover's dream

... and cheese (Basque Ixtara and the Cheeseboard's own Hot Cheddar Spread) and baguette are a must...

...enjoy the view!

La Loma Park, Berkeley, CA

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