Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wild Salmon Cakes with Fresh Ginger

Life is a funny thing. Out of the blue, a person will enter your life and make changes that you could not expect. Out of the goodness of their heart and NOT because you promised an evening of fun and wine in exchange, they do something so kind and helpful that you are amazed. Witness the new look to Feeding Groom. Thanks goes to my new best friend.
So in the midst of change, which is a wonderful thing, Groom had planned to do dinner tonight. Crab cakes were on the menu…and let me tell you, he has command of that recipe. But, alas, the crabmeat had decided to take a turn that would have had us on the ten o’clock news, so we readjusted our thinking.

I had some wild salmon in the freezer for just such an emergency as this. Springing in to action, we did a great take on a salmon cake. This one is chocked full of fresh ginger, shallots, a bit of garlic and crushed red pepper and egg. Pass a lovely mayo based sauce lightened with a bit of Greek yogurt and flavored with toasted sesame oil, orange zest, chopped green onions and lemon and you have dinner. Fast, excellent and celebratory all in one.

Wild Salmon Cakes with Fresh Ginger

2 good sized (for lack of a better description because I forgot to weigh them) wild sockeye salmon fillets, skinned and coarsely chopped by hand
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 small shallot, minced
1 fat garlic clove, minced
1 small knob of fresh ginger..peeled and grated (I keep my fresh ginger in the never turns blue and green, always fresh ..cut off a knob, peel and grate.)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine above ingredients in a bowl and make four good sized salmon cakes.
Put on a plate and place in freezer for 20 minutes. Put a large nonstick skillet on medium high heat and swirl a bit of extra virgin olive oil in. When skillet is hot, add the salmon cakes and cook about three minutes per side.

Plate with a good sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro.

Pass this sauce…

¼ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 thinly sliced green onions, green part only
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
Grated zest of one orange
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-½ tsp toasted sesame oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine and let sit til time to serve.

Serves 2.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Brazilian Black Beans and Rice

Years ago I went through the vegetarian phase. Briefly. Very briefly. The one thing I learned to love during that time were beans. Black, pinto, cannelini, red…you name them I loved them. I had a lot of great vegetarian cookbooks at the time and one of them had a recipe for Black Beans and Rice. The author referenced the Brazilian dish, Feijoada, as something that she would eat if she wasn’t a vegetarian, so she decided to recreate the beans that went along with the dish and then she would have almost eaten Feijoada.

The original dish as they cook it in Brazil is chocked full of pork and beef along with the black beans and oranges. I have no idea what happened to my book or the author. Maybe she gave up the vegetarian lifestyle and moved to Brazil to eat the real deal with her black beans. Whatever.

Over the years the recipe has evolved into this great meal. A bit of smoked sweet pimenton adds a great flavor and the oranges cook to almost nothing but a sweetness accented by the sherry. Serve it over regular or brown rice, if you’re inclined towards brown rice…it’s great on corn chips . It’s versatile and divine at the same time. Freezes like a dream. Top with fresh cilantro and orange slices and a bit of sour cream.

Brazilian Beans and Rice

1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, diced
4 fat garlic cloves, minced
2 15 ounce cans black beans, rinsed
1 small lemon, juiced
1 Valencia orange, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1/½ tsp oregano
3 tbsp dry sherry
Cooked regular or brown rice

Orange slices
Fresh chopped cilantro
Sour cream

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Do a couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion and sauté for about five minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic and sauté another five minutes. Add cumin, oregano, paprika, coarsely ground black pepper and a pinch of salt. Add black beans, lemon juice, tomatoes, orange and its juices and stir to combine. Add a bit of water. Keep this mixture thick but not dry. Add the sherry and let cook for about 15 minutes. Add more water if you need it.

Plate the rice, then the beans on the side with the fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream on top with orange slices.

Serves 3 generously.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Grilled Lamb Chops with Balsamic Syrup and Swiss Chard

Every now and then a Monday night needs a lift. Needs a little umph to get you going in the right direction for the rest of the week. I had some lamb chops that we didn’t cook this weekend and decided that lamb would be the “umph.” A quick visit to Epicurious for inspiration and Groom found himself on the way to the grocery at 5.30.
And another week is kicked off in style.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Balsamic Syrup
and Swiss Chard

adapted from Epicurious.Com
Serves 2

½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 2 inch sprig of fresh rosemary, minced
4 black peppercorns

Put the vinegar, black peppercorns and minced rosemary in small saucepan and heat until just thickened. Season with a bit of coarse salt. Stir and then strain through sieve and set aside.

4 lamb chops
1 fat clove garlic, chopped fine
Sprinkle of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3 inch sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped fine

Sprinkle the chops with the garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper. Let sit while you start cooking the chard.

1 pound Swiss chard, leaves separated from the stems, tender parts chopped.
Cut leaves into strips.
1 shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Put a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add 2 swirls extra virgin olive oil. When oil is hot add shallot and garlic and chopped stems. Cook for about five minutes. Add chard leaves and a tablespoon of water, salt and a bit of pepper and cook, stirring until done. Takes about 5-7 minutes.

When you add the chard leaves, start grilling the lamb chops, cooking them about 7 minutes or so for medium rare. Plate the chops to the side of the swiss chard and drizzle the balsamic syrup over the top.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Farro Soup in the Style of Lucca (Minestra di Faro Lucchese)

When you read a lot of food blogs, like I do, many times you’ll come across an ingredient, something you hadn’t heard of , and the next thing you know everyone is cooking with it. It becomes the new best friend of food blogs. Farro is one of those new best friends.

Researching farro, also known as emmer, (the things you learn on the web), revealed a whole world of recipes that use it. Breads, pastry crusts, salads, risottos and soups. Enter the Italians . They’re the ones that have known about farro forever. As well they should, it’s the original grain. The daddy of all the grains we know now. Dates back thousands of years.

They also know soup. It’s a passion in their country. Must be because in the Italian language, there are three words that translate to the English word soup. Zuppa is a basic soup, minestrone, the kitchen sink of Italian soups using both fresh and leftover cooked vegetables. And then there is minestra. Fits somewhere in between. A filling, substantial meal that includes grains (farro) or pasta and is usually made with vegetables that are in season. Magnifico!!

Farro Soup in the Style of Lucca: Minestra di Faro Lucchese
Adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali

A couple of swirls extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, cut in half, then sliced

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 small leek, white and light green part only, thinly sliced
1 cup farro
1 (12-ounce) can borlotti beans, rinsed and drained (pinto beans can be substituted)
1 tablespoon sundried tomato paste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
A small piece of rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 2 inches wide)
1- 1/2 cups fresh or frozen green peas
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves and Italian parsley, chopped
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Your very best extra virgin olive oil for garnish

In a Dutch oven , heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, fennel, carrot and leek and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly caramelized, about 15 -20 minutes. Add the farro, beans, and tomato paste. Stir to combine ingredients well. Salt and pepper, to taste. Add water until the mixture is completely covered. Add the rind of cheese Let the liquid come to a boil then lower the heat and let the soup simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Add the peas , stirring to combine, and continue to cook for another 30 minutes, adding more water when necessary.Remove the rind before serving.

Chop Italian parsley and fresh basil for garnish. Serve with more Parmesan Reggiano cheese and a swirl of your best olive oil.

Serves 4-6.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Herbed Turkey Meatballs with Linguine and Homemade Tomato Sauce

Waxed paper is a wonderful invention. I don’t use it more than several times a year, but it is a big help in the kitchen. I bought waxed paper in 1993 from a restaurant supply company , 250 square feet and I still have over a half of a box left. I’ve wrapped Christmas ornaments in it, sandwiches, you name it, I have tried to use this box up. Why, you ask? So I can buy some more waxed paper.

Because every now and then I need it for this wonderful recipe. Herbed Turkey Meatballs with Linguine and Homemade Tomato Sauce. This is an easy recipe. I’m all about the easy part..and it’s delicious. It’s adapted from one in a great cookbook by Richard Sax and Marie Simmons called Lighter Quicker Better. Richard Sax is well known for his marvelous desserts, but this little cookbook is chocked full of great food ideas, including desserts, all done with a lighter touch but still taste great. And you’ll get to use your box of waxed paper!

There are so many tomato sauce recipes, if you have one you love that thickens up beautifully with great flavor, by all means use it with these meatballs. Here’s one of my favorites.

Tomato Sauce
Makes about 2-½ cups.

A couple of swirls extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 fat garlic cloves, chopped
2-½ cups San Marzano tomatoes, chopped and reserve the juice (28 ounce can)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Turkish bay leaf
Pinch of dried Turkish oregano
Pinch of dried French thyme
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
Good splash of red wine
Small handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped (about 3 tbsp)

Put a couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and when hot, add the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add herbs and bay leaf and when well mixed add the garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes and bring to boil over medium high heat, uncovered, until it’s reduced to a thick sauce. Takes about 25 minutes. Stir often. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste and add the parsley right before you put it in the pan with the meatballs.

Herbed Turkey Meatballs

1 pound ground turkey
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
2-3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
¼ tsp dried French thyme
¼ tsp dried Turkish oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil

Mix turkey with garlic, Italian parsley and herbs. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Make 1 inch meatballs and put on a plate lined with, you guessed it, waxed paper. Refrigerate for about a half an hour.

Heat olive oil in large non stick skillet on medium high heat. Brown the meatballs for about 5-7 minutes. Shake the pan often to roll them around and get them evenly browned. Add the tomato sauce and cover and simmer til meatballs are done and sauce is heated. Add chopped fresh parsley

Serve with linguine, freshly ground Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a garnish of chopped fresh Italian parsley.

Serves 3 generously.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Grilled Amberjack with Charmoula

Grilling fish and topping it with a flavorful sauce is one of my favorite things to cook. Amberjack is a great tasting, meaty fish and stands up to the spiciness of a versatile Moroccan sauce, Charmoula. Give me garlic and lemon and olive oil in any kind of sauce and I’m happy. Charmoula is a workhorse. It can be used with chicken, shrimp, and lamb as well as fish and the longer it marinates whatever you’re cooking, the better it is.
There are many variations of this sauce. This recipe is hot, spicy, smoky and sweet and jazzes up dinner on a cold winter night.

Serve with Kalamata olives sprinkled with a bit of orange zest and extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top.


1 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
½ cup lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
¼ tsp cayenne
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp sweet paprika
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
4 fat garlic cloves, chopped
Mix together and reserve ¼ cup.
To serve 2, use two 7 ounce amberjack fillets.
Marinate amberjack for at least 45 minutes in the remaining Charmoula.
Grill 8-10 minutes total. Top the amberjack with the reserved Charmoula and the orange scented Kalamata olives.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

What is the deal with salt?

Please explain something to me. What is the deal with salt? Why does it have to be so overpowering? Is it the Frito or Ruffle thing that makes too much salt a good thing? Don’t get me wrong. I’ll get down with a Frito and some creamy onion dip any day, But please! Do you like the fact that none of the flavors of what you are eating come through and you spend a lot of time drinking a lot of water in order to taste your wine? It’s ridiculous. I love salt. But, I use it judiciously. It is not the main “flavor” of what I cook. The herbs and the spices are the main thing. Salt is meant to be a flavor enhancer, not a flavor itself. It’s a seasoning. It’s the most recently hired employee there to boost the boss and make the company look good. It’s not supposed to do anything else.

Mary, Step down off your soapbox and take a deep breath.

Now spices are another thing. And this recipe is the bomb when it comes to an inventive way to use them and get the max out of flavors. Country Captain is an old Southern recipe that uses curry, among other spices, to liven up a tomato based chicken recipe. Savannah, Georgia, in the early 1800’s ,was a major port for the spice trade and ships would come to deliver their spices captained by men that had been stationed in India. Country Captain is based on a breakfast dish that these men ate while in India. They come to Savannah, start hanging out with people. You know the story, they start talking about food and next thing you know this meal is all the rage in Savannah. Supposedly, it is named such for the captains of the ships. Try this when you want to taste what spices do for a piece of bland chicken that has been lightly seasoned with a bit of salt and coarsely ground black pepper and browned in olive oil before the spices burst on the scene. You will not be disappointed.

Country Captain

Couple of swirls extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces , seasoned with a bit of salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 can diced organic tomatoes and their juice
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 Turkish bay leaf
1.5 teaspoon smoked sweet Spanish pimenton
2 tbs ground cumin
1 tbsp curry powder
1.5 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small handful golden raisins
1 lemon, juiced (all I had were Meyer lemons and this was fabulous in it)
4 cups chicken stock, divided
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups couscous
small handful of Italian parsley, chopped
Small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil ripples add the chicken and brown 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Add the onion, red bell peppers. Cook about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf and the spices. Stir to combine. Lower the head and add raisins, tomatoes and 2 cups of stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat back to low and simmer 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and stir.

Heat a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Add pine nuts and toast till golden brown. Add 2 cups of stock and bring to boil. Add the couscous and bring to boil again. Stir, remove from heat. In five minutes stir in chopped parsley and cilantro mix.

Serve with Major Grey Chutney, Greek yogurt or sour cream. If you want to be authentic, a little cooked chopped bacon, chopped green onions and toasted almonds are what you need. Be sure to leave the pine nuts out of the couscous if you are going traditional.

Serves 4.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Trout Meuniere

In an earlier post, I talked about the fact that I didn’t like fish when I was young. The recipe that changed my whole way of thinking was Sole Meuniere. Julia Child tells a story in her autobiography, My Life in France, of her first meal when she landed on French soil with her husband, Paul. They had stopped for lunch and Paul had ordered the Sole Meuniere. “It arrived whole: a large flat Dover sole that was perfectly browned in a sputtering butter sauce with a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top.”
What’s not to like? Six tablespoons of butter between two people. Table for two, please.

Dover sole is becoming more available now, but several years ago when I decided to step out on a limb and try the recipe, boneless rainbow trout fillets were the best option. Quickly sautéed in melted butter, removed from the pan and the butter turns a nutty brown with capers, lemon juice and chopped parsley added at the last.

“Sputtering butter sauce.” Hello. That sounds wonderful.
It is.

Trout Meuniere
Adapted from Sole Meuniere recipe by
Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home

2 boneless rainbow trout fillets
A pinch of salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1/3 cup flour on plate for dredging (I use all purpose whole wheat flour)
Couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs butter

Put cast iron pan over medium high heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper and dredge in flour on both sides. Shake off excess. Swirl olive oil in pan and add butter. When butter foams and subsides add the fish. Sauté about five minutes till nicely browned. Turn it over and sauté for 5 minutes till golden brown. As soon as done, put on plate and cover with foil.

3 tbs butter
1 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

In clean medium sized pan, add butter over high heat. Watch it closely. When starting to turn brown, remove from heat and as it darkens add remaining ingredients and stir. Pour butter over trout and serve.

Serves 2 very happy people


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Coq au Vin

If I was a chicken, I would want to end up as Coq Au Vin. Think about it, basted in red wine with mushrooms, bacon and fresh herbs floating around you. Could be worse. Coq au Vin was the first “party” dish I learned to cook. You could have a whole bunch of people over and serve this dish and they would be impressed with your skill in the kitchen AND if two or three extra showed up you could stretch the recipe by adding more red wine to the pot. And usually, by the time we ate, we didn’t care that we had chicken drowning in red wine for dinner. Nowadays, I like to be aware of what I’m eating and I love this recipe. It will make your kitchen smell divine and your friends happy. That’s a great combination!

Coq au Vin

I’ve served this with several sides. Pasta is a quick and easy choice. I’ve also made killer mashed potatoes and put the Coq au Vin in the middle. Also roasted potatoes, garlic and fresh thyme works wonderfully.

For maximum flavor, the day before you want to serve this,
2 whole cutup chickens
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
5 whole cloves
2 tbsp black peppercorns
Piece of cheesecloth with 2 bay leaves, several sprigs fresh thyme, several sprigs Italian parsley tied into it.
2 bottles red wine.
Let sit overnight in the fridge. You might want to put the cloves and the peppercorns in the cheesecloth with the bouquet garni if you don’t want to pick them out of the dish when you eat it. Strictly up to you.

The Next Day:
½ pound bacon
2 lbs baby Bella mushrooms, left whole
24 cipolini onions, peeled (drop onions in pan of boiling water and let sit five minutes. Then drop in cold water, drain and peel)
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Take the chicken out of the marinade and pat dry. Take the marinade and strain it into bowl, save it and the veggies separately. Heat a large Dutch oven and add a couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil and three tablespoons of butter. When butter foams, put chicken pieces in, season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper, be careful not to crowd the pieces and brown chicken on both sides till golden. Once both sides are browned, remove from pan and finish all pieces. Then add a couple of tablespoons of butter to pan and when that foams, add the reserved veggies from the marinade. Cook this over medium heat till they turn golden which should take you about ten minutes.
Sprinkle 2 tbsp flour over the veggies and mix well. Then add the marinade back to the pot along with the chicken, stir and cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for about an hour and a half.
Cut about a half pound of bacon into small pieces. Put small pan over medium heat and add the bacon when it’s hot and cook until golden brown. Remove from the pan and put on paper towels. Discard all but about a tablespoon of the bacon fat. Add a couple of tablespoons butter to the pan and sauté 2 pounds fresh baby Bella mushrooms. Cook about five minutes. Set the mushrooms aside and in the same pan sauté 24 peeled cipolini onions in a bit more butter. Add water to cover the onions and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and watch them as they cook to a golden brown.
Put vegetables and bacon in the pot with the chicken and pour a good splash of cognac over the chicken. Bring to boil, and reduce to simmer and let it sit and think for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and think.
You can do this all ahead of time and simply reheat when ready to serve.

Serves 8


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lucy's Lamb Ragu

I know ya’ll are going to think this is nuts. And maybe it is. But our dog, Lucy, cooks. She’s a willing taster of any and everything that happens to get within a 50 mile radius of her mouth. She likes to stand on her hind legs and watch me cook. She’s done this ever since she was a puppy. She’ll toddle into the kitchen and stand up with her front paws on the side of the counter. Never on the top. When I got home tonight, Lucy and I discussed what we were going to cook and she reminded me of the ground lamb that she and Groom were thawing in the sink. Every time I opened the refrigerator she was there to offer her suggestions. It was her idea to use fennel instead of celery and of course, the sun dried tomato paste instead of regular tomato paste. She’s good about that. Uses her eyes a lot ..she’s very expressive.
Occasionally she’ll have to run out of the kitchen to tighten up one of the cats that might have done something she doesn’t approve of, but mostly she’s right there. Ready to help. I couldn’t ask for a better sous chef.

Lucy’s Lamb Ragu

1 pound ground lamb
1 ounce pancetta, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 fat cloves garlic, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
Lots of coarsely ground black pepper and salt (not so much) to taste
2 cups canned San Marzano Italian tomatoes, whole, with their juice
½ cup dry white wine (I used vermouth)
2 good squeezes sun dried tomato paste
Small handful of chopped Italian parsley
½ cup pecorino Romano

Heat olive oil in pan over moderate heat, when hot add the carrot, fennel and onion. Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste.
When veggies are golden add the pancetta. When that is done, add the garlic and the rosemary and cook for about five minutes. Add ground lamb and cook until the meat is done. Add white wine and cook until the wine totally evaporates. Add the sun dried tomato paste and mix well then add the tomatoes and their juice. Lower heat and let simmer while you cook the pasta.
When ready to serve, stir in the cheese and the Italian parsley.
Serves 3. Two humans and a dog. Lucy gives it a four out of five paws.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Grilled Shrimp with Spinach, Red Pepper and Saffron Couscous

I have a new friend in the kitchen. One I didn’t know I would love. It’s my new Le Creuset grill pan. My precious brother-in-law, Rusty, who knows me pretty well, gave it to me when he was here for Christmas. It was a thank you present for coming down and watching Groom help him move. This little gizmo comes in very handy when the big grill outside is out of gas or we’re out of charcoal. Grilled shrimp was on the menu for dinner with a wonderful saffron couscous with carrots, red bell pepper and spinach . However, the lightning, thunder and pouring, driving rain made me reconsider the fun of outdoor cooking. So I fired up the stove, heated up the my new best friend and had a grand time. Thanks, Russ!

Grilled Shrimp with Spinach, Red Pepper and Saffron Couscous
Adapted from a recipe by
Perla Meyers

1 pound tail on shrimp, peeled
Couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper
Mix together in bowl and set aside.
2-½ cups chicken broth
1 tsp saffron threads
2 tbsp butter
Couple of swirls extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup diced red bell peppers
2 large carrots, diced
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 cup couscous
¼ tsp turmeric
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1-½ cup packed fresh spinach leaves
About a ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley and fresh cilantro
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Combine the broth and the saffron in a saucepan and simmer, covered for
about 30 minutes, or until it’s reduced to 2 cups.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat and swirl extra virgin olive oil and the butter in the pan and when hot add the red bell peppers, carrots and shallots.
Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until soft. Takes about 10 minutes. Add garlic and turmeric and cook for about 5 minutes. Add couscous, saffron chicken broth and bring to a boil, stir, cover and remove from heat and let sit while you grill the shrimp.
Heat the grill pan over medium high heat and throw the shrimp on the pan. Turn the shrimp until they turn a pretty pink. Remove to plate.
Add spinach to the couscous and stir until wilted. Plate with the couscous first, then top with shrimp and sprinkle a bit of the cilantro and chopped Italian parsley on top. Enjoy!
Serves 3 generously.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Grilled Swordfish with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Piperade

Have you ever had one of those days when nothing goes exactly wrong but then nothing goes exactly right? But it all turns out okay anyway? That was the case Friday when I cooked an absolute genius of a dish, if I say so myself, but the pictures didn't do it justice. The dish was Grilled Swordfish on Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Piperade. The potatoes were divine at Thanksgiving. I thought that swordfish would work beautifully with the flavors of the Piperade.

When I plated this, I decided in my infinite wisdom to put the potatoes on the bottom and the Piperade on the top. Well, we all know why Fingerling potatoes are called Fingerling. they could be called something else, probably sell a whole lot more of them due to the shape...are you with me here? ...any way, the porn star of Fingerling potatoes happened to be on the plate in a very odd position when I took the picture. Everything was aimed at this very well endowed Fingerling. I must admit that a little House Red had passed through my ruby lips by the time I took the picture, so I didn't notice that the picture was not as good as it should be until Groom, passing by, not one to say an unkind word, said, “Honey, maybe you need to take a closer look at this picture.”

I've pondered this now for three days and have decided to go on and post the recipe without the picture because it's so good, and I don't think a picture is what truly sells a recipe. I know I’ve discussed when you have to stand up and slap something because the food is so good. Our dogs were even hiding. They knew I was looking at them funny. This was that good.
Use your imagination and make this.

Grilled Swordfish with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Piperade
Adapted from
Bon Appetit’s November 2007 issue

2 -7 ounce swordfish steaks, about ½ to ¾ inch thick, seasoned with a little olive oil, salt and coarsely ground black pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice
1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut in half
3 red and yellow bell peppers, seeded and stemmed and sliced
½ red onion, sliced
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 small handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 small handful fresh basil, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400‘. Put sliced bell peppers and red onion on cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for about 10 minutes.
Layer the potatoes on top of the potatoes and roast for 35 minutes.
Then top with the shallots and parsley and basil and roast for five more minutes. Season with olive oil and salt and coarsely ground black pepper. You can do this ahead. Watch the peppers and the onions and be sure they don’t blacken.
Heat grill pan on top of stove. Grill swordfish for about 6 minutes per side.
Put the potatoes on the plate and top with the swordfish and a bit of the Piperade. Take a bite.
Slap something.
Serves 2.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Scallops with Fresh Ginger and Sauteed Leeks

Lighten up is the theme around here as the festivities slow down and life gets back to normal. Knowing us, this won‘t last. Anyhoo, I was totally uninspired in the dinner department tonight until I picked up Mark Bittman’s Quick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times and started flipping through the pages. Groom loves scallops, and hasn‘t had anything that swims in a long time. I came across the recipe for Stir-Fried Leeks with Ginger and Shrimp. Bye, bye shrimp, hello scallops! I was off like a shot to the pantry to be sure I had some dry sherry because that would bring the sweetness out of the scallops. Leeks were hanging out in the refrigerator sending mental messages to me. This was terrific! Plus, it looks damn good on my grandmother’s china. Groom lit the candles. A round of applause for the chef.

Scallops with Fresh Ginger and Sauteed Leeks*

A couple of swirls extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, washed and chopped…use the white part only
6 -8 large sea scallops, patted dry
2 tbsp peeled minced fresh ginger
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
A good splash dry sherry.. I used Lustau Escuadrilla, a great dry sherry for cooking

Do a couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil in a nonstick skillet and heat over medium high heat. When it shimmers, add the leeks. They can sit for a minute or two and then stir occasionally until they are soft and start to turn brown. This takes about 10 minutes. Remove leeks from pan.
Add a swirl of extra virgin olive oil to hot pan and add scallops and sprinkle with the fresh ginger. Cook til golden brown on one side..doesn’t take long at all, turn the scallops and add the leeks back to the pan. Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste and a good splash of the dry sherry. Let cook a couple of minutes til the scallops are done and you are good to go!
Serves 2-3.
*(I’m not a stir-fryer)


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hay Stacks

I want to eat something that does not taste like Christmas or the holidays or sugar or candy or meat or lamb. I want color on my plate. I want a feast for my eyes. I want to feel good about myself after I eat.

I want:
Brown rice…check
Black beans…check
Mixed baby greens…check
Good fresh tomatoes…check
Greek yogurt…check
Mexican crumbling cheese…check
Chipotle salsa
Fresh chopped cilantro or Italian parsley…check

I want a Hay Stack.
Thank you, Groom.

Hay Stacks

2 -14 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
A couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off cob
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ sweet yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp dried French thyme
1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp. Hot smoked pimenton
1 tbsp. Cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Ground chipotle pepper
1 tbsp. Hot chili powder
Cooked Brown rice
Mixed baby lettuces
An avocado, peeled and diced
A couple of ripe tomatoes, diced
Crumbling cheese
Greek yogurt or sour cream
Chipotle salsa

Strip the corn off the cob. Heat a couple of swirls of extra virgin olive oil in saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and red bell pepper and corn and cook till soft, about 10 minutes. Add cumin, pimenton, thyme, oregano, chili powder, chipotle powder, salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste. Cook till you can really smell the spices. It doesn’t take long. Add the the black beans and a splash of red wine or beer or chicken stock..not much, you don’t want the beans to be runny.
Cook about 10 minutes.
Make your haystacks. Start with a bit of brown rice. Then the hot black beans. Then the Mexican crumbling cheese. Add a handful of mixed baby lettuces. Then a bit of the tomatoes, some avocado, a blob of Greek yogurt or sour cream and some chipotle salsa. Then chopped Italian parsley or cilantro or both.
This will serve 3 generously. You be the judge of how much of the toppings you want.
You can also add a layer of Tostitos or Fritos if you’re feeling decadent!
It’s too too good!


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hoppin' John

Southern traditions hold true in our house. Two days before New Year’s, the black eyed peas and greens make their way into the kitchen, ready to be turned into a meal that guarantees luck and money. Who knows if it really works to eat this on New Year’s Day, but I can’t remember a year that I haven’t eaten Hoppin’ John or just the black eyed peas and the greens. Hoppin’ John is a great soup any time you want something hot and spicy and somewhat healthy! It’s great with cornbread or even hot crusty French bread.
Here’s to lots of luck and happiness in the New Year for you and yours!

Hoppin’ John

1-½ pints quick cook black-eyed peas, Marjon brand is a good brand
12 ounces Wellshire turkey chorizo sausage, sliced
1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1-2 lbs fresh kale or mustard greens, washed, dried and sliced into ribbons
1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried French thyme
1 tbsp chicken base
1 bay leaf
Extra virgin olive oil

Place medium Dutch oven over medium high heat and do three to four swirls of extra virgin olive oil in bottom. When pan is hot, add chorizo and brown. Remove from pan and add a bit more olive oil and add garlic, carrot and onions and cook till soft, about 10 minutes. Add chorizo back to pan along with crushed red peppers, black eyed peas, thyme and bay leaf. Add water to cover and the chicken base and bring to a boil. Let rock along on medium-medium high heat. Skim orangey-gray (I know, sounds awful) foam off the top as it rises. Peas should be cooked after 45 minutes. Add fresh greens and cook ten minutes.
Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.
Even better the second day!