Saturday, February 22, 2014

Chicken Marabella

In my Chicken with Clementines and Arak post, you may recall that I talked about Chicken Marabella, a recipe from the wildly popular cookbook of the 80’s, The Silver Palate Cookbook.

I decided to surprise my crew and make this dish on Wednesday. 

Memories would surely follow. 

As we were sitting happily eating our dinner and chatting away, Architect mentioned that she first had this dish at Foodie’s house twenty-something years ago (that’s how far back our friendships span).  At first, I didn’t think I ever had Chicken Marabella, but the flavors reminded me otherwise….there was something about the union of chicken, olives, prunes, capers and wine that was quite familiar. I may have also enjoyed this dish with them many, many years ago when cell phones were the size of Shaquille O’Neal’s shoe and the idea of an on-line diary (now a “blog”) was just a twinkle in some techie’s eye.

If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, I’m pretty sure he would have written the first blog post, immediately after he invented the Internet.

Sorry Al.

Anyway, Wednesday was indeed my inaugural preparation of this all-time favorite, which was the first entrée ever offered at The Silver Palate Gourmet Food Shop in New York City.

Nestled in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, The Silver Palate was a 165 square foot-little gem of a shop with a simple mission:  to prepare and offer good, simple food and a one-stop-shop to buy cheese, bread, pastries, salads and main courses, along with a pleasant place to enjoy people and European-like ambiance.  The restaurants founders, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins retired from the restaurant business in 1988 (you can read the NY Times article here) but 274 Columbus Avenue still offers bakery, coffee and tea fare at the renamed Arte Around the Corner.

New York City has thousands of little culinary jewels sprinkled around the city.  It’s sad one pioneer eatery that introduced a generation to delicious, beautiful, and flawlessly prepared food is gone, despite the fact that it closed 26 years ago.

Chicken Marabella
From:  The Silver Palate Cookbook

5 lbs chicken (I used skinless, boneless breasts and thighs)
1 head garlic, peeled and finely pureed (I just used a garlic press)
1/8 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/4 cup pitted Spanish green olives, sliced in half
1/4 cup capers with a bit juice
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine (I used a nice Steven Kent Chardonnay; to quote across-the-street-neighbor…"if you won’t drink it, don’t cook with it!")
1/4 cup Italian parsley

In a large bowl or zip lock bag combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.  I have read reviews that suggest you can skip this step; I wouldn't because it keeps the baked chicken moist.  Plus, marinating makes the chicken more juicy, tender and flavorful, absorbing the acids, oils and herbs that work together to perform their magic

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them. Bake 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices.  Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter.  Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley.  Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat. 

I served this dish on the perfect platter adorned with beautiful sunflowers and rich colors....very Italian.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bourbon-Soaked Dark Chocolate Cake

I have four words for you.

Bourbon. Chocolate. Coffee. Butter.

All in one cake!

“I am so making this,” said she.

A recipe featuring those ingredients appeared when I searched “bourbon chocolate cake.”  The New York Times posted it in December 2008 and recipes touted by the NY Times are usually incredible.  This cake – considering its alluring ingredients – clearly would not be an exception….if made right. 

Hold that thought. 

It was my turn to bring dessert last Wednesday, so guess what I made?

Before I share the recipe, allow me to share a baking-blunder and what I learned from it.

I checked to make sure I had all the required ingredients. 

Emphasis on ALL.

I had to buy more butter, eggs and vanilla.  Don’t ask me why but I did not check my granulated sugar capacity….maybe because sugar is a pantry staple and we take its availability for granted?  I don’t know why I didn’t check, I just didn’t.  And….I did not have two cups of granulated sugar.  

That was mistake #1.

I could have deployed the popular “can I borrow a cup of sugar” neighbor protocol, but again, I did not. 

That was mistake #2.

I did have raw sugar and I supplemented with it.

That, my friends, was mistake #3.

I knew I had a bit of a baking debacle on my hands when the sugar just would not dissolve and become fluffy when creamed with the butter like it has a gazillion other times. Shit Shoot, thought she, this substitution might not work.  My suspicions were correct.  So, I consulted The Sugar Association and their handbook, “Sugar’s Functional Roles in Cooking and Food Preparation” explains why.

I really do perform some basic research when I write these posts. 
Flour, sugar, butter/shortening, eggs, liquids and leavening agents (baking soda or powder, yeast, beer, buttermilk) are the basic ingredients in baked goods and "work together to form the final structure and sensory characteristics of the baked product."  When mixing, sugar absorbs water and acts as a tendering agent, incorporating air into the shortening or butter during the creaming process, promoting lightness.  During baking, those air cells expand when filled with carbon dioxide and other gases from the leavening agents and other ingredients, promoting the confection to rise.  Because raw sugar crystals are not fine enough, they could not interact with the butter properly during the initial creaming process, encouraging the initial airiness.

At least, this is how I understand it, but I was a lowly business major, not a chemistry major.  It is much more complicated (and scientific) than the simplified summary offered here and if you’d like to read more, visit The Sugar Association here.

I invite commentary from my science-type friends.

The sugar infraction did not seem to affect the taste, only the appearance in that the cake did not rise as much as I expected.  I will make this delicious cake again, using granulated sugar, as instructed.
Bourbon-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake
Adapted from the New York Times Recipe


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing pan
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup wheat flour
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger Fine Artisan Dark)
1/4 cup instant espresso powder or instant coffee
2 tablespoons spicy cocoa powder (the original recipe called for regular cocoa powder)
1 cup bourbon, rye or whiskey (I used American Honey Bourbon by Wild Turkey)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups granulated sugar (see the above dissertation)
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional).

1. Grease and flour a 10-cup-capacity Bundt pan (or two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans). I used my Pampered Chef springform pan with the bundt insert.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In microwave oven or double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate. Let cool.

2. Put espresso and cocoa powders in a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Mix until powders dissolve. Add whiskey and salt; let cool.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup butter until fluffy. Add granulated sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula.

4. On low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with whiskey mixture. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes for Bundt pan (loaf pans will take less time, start checking them after 55 minutes).

5. Transfer cake to a rack. Unmold after 15 minutes and sprinkle warm cake with more whiskey. Let cool before serving, garnished with confectioners’ sugar if you like. 
This makes a lot of batter and I made a second mini-loaf that I served during an impromptu snow storm covered dish affair.  We put a dent in a rather nice bottle of bourbon that night.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


We had dinner at Architect’s house on Wednesday just as we were preparing for another snow event. This time, a nor’easter that dumped over a foot of snow, sleet and rain along the 95 corridor.

This is getting tiresome.

Everyone seems quite grumpy.

On a positive note and to stave-off our mid-winter doldrums, we have been preparing and enjoying hearty meals, like the Ribollita Architect made.

In Italian, Ribollita means, “reboiled” and this famous Tuscan peasant soup is true to the Italian goal never to waste anything.  Originally, the Italians made it by reheating any leftover soup from the previous day and throwing in a boatload of readily available and cheap vegetables, beans and day-old bread to create a hearty potage (or “stoup”- a cross between a stew and a soup as Rachel Ray calls it).

Quick grammar detour:  In the paragraph above, I originally wrote “to never waste” and my computer informed me that was a “split infinitive.”  What? A split infinitive occurs when a word, such as never, comes between to and a verb, in this case, waste.  The nuns would be so proud.

Back to the soup…the recipe below is an adaptation of Ina Garten’s, recipe. Architect found it on-line posted by Kathy who enjoyed a similar version at a “little pizzeria between Pienza and Montepulciano.” Typically, you make this soup with spinach or cabbage, but using kale or Swiss chard instead softens the flavors a bit.  You could use any green really, or use bouquet of several of the leafy lovelies!

Warning…you will need a large pot to make this!

Adapted from:  The Barefoot Contessa

1½ pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
 Kosher salt
¼ cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks of celery, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
8 cups coarsely chopped kale
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 crusty baguette
Olive oil
Fresh Garlic

In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1-inch and cover with plastic wrap  and soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with 8-10 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the greens, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.

Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. In a food processor or blender, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Pour the bean cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Slice the baguette, brush on some olive oil, rub with fresh garlic and toast in the oven until crispy (Architect used the toaster oven).  Add the bread to bowls, ladle some soup over the bread, drizzle on a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

This was delicious, filling and so completely satisfying.  We also had a kale and cashew salad and Bourbon Chocolate Cake…more on that later.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese

In my Antler post, I promised to write about the dinner Foodie made.

Macaroni and Cheese.

The epitome of comfort food.
Along with mashed potatoes, meat loaf and chocolate chip cookies.

And then there's the version of this classic from the Gourmet cookbook that some have called "arguably the best macaroni and cheese on the planet."
Crispy because of the breadcrumb topping, creamy because of the butter, milk, cheese and cream and simply delicious because of the confluence of all these wholesome ingredients.  Especially when stick-to-your-ribs goodness is just the antidote for these mid-winter blues. And, BONUS, it's easy to make.  The original recipe calls for pasta shells and Foodie used conchiglie shells…the sauce nestled inside the little nooks making each bite so incredibly satisfying.  She also added peas that added color and taste. I bet this would be great with gruyere and bacon. 

It is, according to the reviews.

This is definitely not your velveeta or blue box macaroni and's classier and much better than either, despite velveeta's magical melting powers or the blue box’s youthful – but powerful – cult-like following.  Have you ever tried to serve children a macaroni-n-cheese that you lovingly grated, melted and stirred to dish-up only to be greeted with the familiar “I like the yellow stuff better.”  Yeah, I’m familiar with that remark.

When my girls were young, I finally gave up.

They eventually became enlightened.

Then they went to college.

Macaroni and Cheese
From:  Gourmet Cookbook

For Topping:

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs (or make your own)
2 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For Mac and Cheese:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½-teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (or mix it up)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 pound curly macaroni, such as cavatappi (cellentani)

Make Topping:
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.

Toast bread crumbs on a rimmed baking sheet until pale golden  Cool toasted crumbs; with a fork, toss with cheeses, parsley, and melted butter until butter is evenly incorporated. Leave oven on.

Make Sauce:
Melt butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk in flour. Cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes.

Whisk in cream, mustard, red pepper flakes, cheese, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth and remove from heat. Cover surface of sauce with wax paper or parchment.

Cook Macaroni and Assemble Dish:
Butter baking dish.

Cook macaroni in a pasta pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. Drain in a colander. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sauce. Spread macaroni mixture evenly in baking dish.

Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni; bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.

Eat and prepared to be silent because you are shoveling food in your mouth and it's rude to talk with your mouth full.

We also had a kale and cashew salad and banana bread for dessert.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The "Antler" Sweater

We had dinner at Foodie’s house on Wednesday and I will write about that delicious meal soon.

What I want to write about now is the gorgeous pullover sweater Foodie made and modeled for us on Wednesday.

She’s a charming model, by the way.

This sweater was made as part of a knit-along on, and our crew has been following her progress each week.  It’s a pattern called “Antler” and it’s a lovely two-toned frock described on as “a cozy every day sweater. Easy to wear.  It has a feminine neckline and nice garter stitch details.”    Here is the link to the pattern.
I love the textures created by the different stitches.  Also,  the bottom detail is a little “curve” that adds to its flirtyness and flattering silhouette.

This little number is worked in the round from the top-down in one piece, with contiguous sleeves.  No sewing required!  Foodie said that the pattern is a bit complicated, but now that she has knitted one, she knows the drill and will eagerly make another! 

I had no idea what “contiguous sleeves” meant, so I consulted the site:
“The Contiguous method is a way of knitting the shoulder seams and sleeve caps of a garment from the top down.  It differs from Barbara Walker’s simultaneous set-in sleeve methods, in that this method uses one continuous row (or round) right from the start.  This incorporates the front, shoulder seam, back, other shoulder seam and other front. BW’s method only reaches this stage after knitting about a third of the top/yoke. This method naturally forms a nice shoulder slope.”

Now I know as much as I did before.  Once I think about it, I'll get it (or I'll ask Foodie to explain it to me).  You can see the smoothness of the contiguous sleeve method in the above photo.
This sweater is color-blocked, so the knitter is encouraged to use two different color yarns…some of the combinations shown on the site are simply stunning.  
For her second sweater, Foodie was thinking a lovely, heathery navy with goldenrod trim. 

What I love about besides the free advice offered, is those who have knitted the garment you want to knit post comments, variations, and other helpful hints. There are “hot” patterns (most downloaded) and you can join forums to talk with other knitters about knitting stuff. There are also links to buy patterns, yarn and other supplies.  I have to admit, I had so much yarn from well-intentioned but forgotten projects that I finally had to donate the entire kit-and-caboodle to Goodwill. 

I need inspiration and motivation…maybe a knit-along is just the thing for me.  The Italian-Catholic guilt will keep me knitting, if nothing else.   We talked about this before.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

Ottolenghi and Tamini have done it again.

It was back to the Jerusalem Cookbook last Wednesday night…it was Singer’s turn to cook and she made Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak.

Brilliance on a plate.  That’s all.

We've talked about Arak before.  Arak is a distilled, high alcoholic content drink popular in the Middle East.   Aniseed is added during the distilling process so Arak takes on its distinctive flavor although the hints of grapes, dates, plums, figs or other fruits added during the process certainly peep through.  In the U.S., Arak can be found in Middle Eastern markets and maybe some liquor stores. If you can’t find it, any other anise flavored liqueur, such as Pernod, Sambuca, or Tsipouro will do.  One blogger I read substituted orange juice; another, white wine.

Back to this amazing chicken dish.  Not only is it very pretty plated, it is also delicious and I suspect this recipe, and adapted versions, will flood the food blogosphere, if not already.  Foodie dubbed it the “Chicken Marabella of the 21st Century” because, once tasted, you will love it and make it repeatedly.  You may remember Chicken Marabella – prunes, olives, capers and wine – from the wildly popular cookbook of the 70’s and 80’s, The Silver Palate Cookbook.  Authors  Russo and Lukins explain that marinating the chicken overnight is essential to the moistness of the finished product.   

Hold that thought.

I always loved the SP cookbook – with its fanciful illustrations and food-inspired quotes; my version is appropriately soiled, just as a much-loved cookbook should be. 
Anyway, this dish from the Jerusalem Cookbook is perfect to make now when Clementines are abundant and in season.   Because you roast the mixture at a high temperature for close to an hour, the chicken and vegetables, persuaded by the sweetness of the juice, mustard and sugar marinade, caramelize beautifully.

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak
From: Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

6-7 tablespoons Arak or Pernod
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (clementine juice would also work)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons grain mustard
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 medium fennel bulbs (a combination of fennel and onions would be nice too)
2 ½ pounds of bone-in chicken thighs
4 clementines, unpeeled, cut horizontally into 1/4-inch slices
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 ½  teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley to garnish

Put the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl and add 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper.  Whisk well and set aside.

Trim the fennel and cut each bulb in half lengthwise.  Cut each half into 4 wedges.  Add the fennel to the liquids, along with the chicken pieces, clementine slices, thyme, and fennel seeds.  Stir well with your hands, then leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. 

The chefs concede that skipping the marinating stage is also fine if you are pressed for time, but I refer you back to Russo and Lukins' explanation as to why marinating is so important.

Preheat the oven to 475º. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a short-sided baking sheet large enough to accommodate everything comfortably in a single layer.  The chicken skin should be facing up.  The short sides will allow hot air to flow around the mixture and encourage the chicken and vegetables to brown.  When pre-heated, put the pan in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, until the chicken is colored (a nice caramel) and cooked through.  Remove from the oven.

Lift the chicken, fennel, and clementines from the pan and arrange on a serving plate; cover and keep warm.  Pour the cooking liquid into a small, place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and then simmer until the sauce is reduced by one-third, so you are left with about 1/3 cup.  Pour the hot sauce over the chicken, garnish with some parsley, and serve.  Singer plated this with hearty bulgur. 
For dessert, Foodie made cardamom rice pudding…we are deprived girls.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Roasted Beet and Garlic Pesto

I had some baked beets in my refrigerator and I wanted to do something different with them besides simply eating them as a side or gussying-up a salad. 

Hmmmm, thought she, I wonder what beet pesto would taste like?

I threw the baked beauties in the food processor, added some vegetable stock, pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese and tossed the concoction with some fresh linguine.

Good, especially for an impromptu dinner, but not the taste I wanted.

So, during a mid-winter jaunt to Palm Beach to escape the tundra, I tell my cooking companions about my “research” and they suggest I substitute ingredients found in a traditional beet salad, walnuts, goat cheese and olive oil.  I warned them that they were going to be my experimental victims because it was my turn to cook next.  However, just for kicks and giggles, I searched Google for “beet pesto” and realized I wasn’t a culinary pioneer at all! 


This version is indeed my own potion and is so incredibly good.  The creamy goat cheese and the earthy nuts complement the natural sweetness of the beets so nicely.  We served the pasta with a beautiful arugula and citrus salad. Simply delicious….and pretty !

The Romans used beets as a natural aphrodisiac, and by the looks of those soldiers (have you watched Cleopatra?), they certainly did not need a little blue pill.  Beets pack a vitamin punch, containing high amounts of potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C and beta-carotene. And, if you want to detox your body, beets help to purify your blood, prevent cancer and lower blood pressure.  And, bonus, beets contain tryptophan, a substance known to help depression, relax the mind and make you feel happy.  So, improves sex drive, prevents cancer, lowers blood pressure and makes you happy….elementary, my dear readers!

Roasted Beet and Garlic Pesto

3 large purple beets, trimmed, peeled and quartered
4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
½ cup shelled and chopped walnuts
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup crumbled goat cheese  
1 pound of fresh linguine or other pasta

Roast the beets and garlic in a 400° oven until tender, about 35 minutes.  Add the beets , walnuts, lemon, olive oil to a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth, Add the goat cheese and pulse again until the mixture is incorporated and silky…you will know what this means!   

Cook the linguine (or any other pasta) and toss with the pesto. Serve immediately. This is a thick pesto but thin with a little bit of pasta water if you think it’s too thick.