Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuscan Roast Pork Tenderloin with Garlic and Rosemary

So, I borrowed a page out of M.’s book — who made the most amazing polenta the last time we had dinner at her house — and turned to Cook’s Illustrated for my Christmas Day roast recipe, Tuscan-Style Roast Pork Tenderloin with Garlic and Rosemary.

I originally saw the “preview” of the recipe on-line and since I don’t know how to link my subscription with on-line access, I couldn’t open the recipe.  Having ants-in-my-pants thinking my January-February issue of Cook’s Illustrated would not arrive in time for Christmas, I bought an additional copy of the Magazine while Christmas food shopping at Giant.  I arrived home only to find my subscription copy in the mail.  

Perhaps patience is not my most discernible virtue.  

I should have had confidence that the wonderful folks at Cook’s Illustrated would not let their subscribers down, especially at Christmas, but I wasn’t taking any chances.  I wanted that recipe!!

The crazy cooks at Cook’s Illustrated found a way to make outside of the pork roast brown and somewhat crispy without overcooking the inside meat….searing the roast in a pan after baking!   So simple and clever. BUT, there are many steps to this little rolled piece of culinary magic and you might be templed to say, “oh, the hell with it, I’m just serving the roast right out of the oven.”  DON’T!  It is so worth the work.  My daughters assisted with this preparation due to my Christmas congestion, which is turning into a yearly event.

Please read the recipe all the way through before beginning, especially if timing is key for your dinner party.  There is prep time, rest time, roast time, more rest time, more prep time, searing time and several other oh-so-worth-it steps mixed in between.

BTW, this issue of Cook’s Illustrated also has a recipe named Best Roast Chicken…they never had C.’s roast chicken she made when she last hosted.  That’s the best roast chicken ever!

As you probably have figured out, I’m a bit behind in my posts.

Instead of one large roast, I used two pork tenderloins, pounded thin, slathered with the herb paste and rolled using the same technique as called for in the CI recipe.  Rolling the meat allows the yummy paste to distribute the flavors more evenly.  The lemon zest adds a bright note to the paste and compliments the vinaigrette you’ll make (explaining Arista, which is pork served with juices)….nothing is wasted in this recipe!

Tuscan Roast Pork Tenderloin with Garlic and Rosemary (Arista)
Adapted (a little) from Cook’s Illustrated

1 lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 oz pancetta, cut into 1/2” pieces
White wine (you’ll only need a splash or two)
1 package (2 pieces) of pork tenderloin

Grate the zest of one lemon and set aside. Cut the lemon in half and set aside.  Combine zest, oil, garlic and pepper flakes in a non-stick skillet.  Cook over low-medium heat, stirring frequently until garlic is sizzling and fragrant, a few minutes.  Add rosemary and cook another 30 seconds.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer over a small bowl,  set the oil aside and allow the rosemary-garlic mixture to cool in the strainer. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel.

Whirl the pancetta in a food processor (I used my mini-food processor) until a paste forms (it’s more like a soft ball) about 25 seconds.  Add the rosemary-garlic mixture and a splash or two of white wine and process until incorporated, about 20 seconds. 

Pound each tenderloins thin (about 1/2”) and as evenly as possible (a semi-rectangle will form).  Spread half the mixture on each tenderloin, leaving about 1/4” on each side.  Roll each tenderloin like a yule log and fasten with butcher’s twine.  Set both prepared tenderloins on a greased wire rack placed in a roasting pan and refrigerate for at least one hour.  

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Position the roasting pan on the middle rack and cook the tenderloins for 1 1/2- 2 hours (until the meat registers 135 degrees).  Remove from the oven, tent with aluminum foil and let rest for at least 20 minutes.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the reserved oil and add the lemon halves.  Cook until cut sides are browned, about 2-3 minutes.  Let cool.  Meanwhile, pat the roast dry and heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in a pan over a high heat and brown roast on top and sides.  Transfer to a carving board, remove twine and slice.  Now, juice the cooled lemons through a mesh strainer.  Wisk with the rest of the reserved oil and serve with the sliced pork….perfect paired together!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cauliflower Gratin

I had a Barefoot Contessa kind of week.  

I didn’t visit the Hampton’s, although a visit would have been lovely.  I made two Ina-inspired dishes, Salmon Cakes, that were absolutely delicious, and Cauliflower Gratin, my contribution to our family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ll make the Salmon Cakes again this weekend as a bribe for my daughters to help me decorate the Christmas Tree.

And hot chocolate.

Ina Garten is, of course, The Barefoot Contessa.  What I did not know is that her show is named after a specialty food store she owned and operated in the Hampton’s in 70’s and 80’s. A dear friend of mine used to work with Ina at that very store and, in addition to being totally awed by that little piece of information, I love listening to her interesting stories and happy memories.

I pretty much followed this recipe exactly as written except I took some shortcuts.  I chopped the cheese in the mini-food processor instead of grating it (my least favorite cooking activity), I substituted panko for fresh bread crumbs, and used cauliflower in a bag that I steamed.  I knew I would not want to deal with a head of cauliflower on Thanksgiving morning and I concluded the difference, in any, between the fresh, already chopped and bagged, over the fresh head would be nicely camouflaged by the cheeses.  I used some Gruyere and Swiss, because I had both on hand and I increased the nutmeg by just a smidge, which is defined as a little less than a small pinch.

Martha has a similar recipe, but, in a rare demonstration of disloyalty, I chose Ina's recipe.

Sorry Martha.  You're still my favorite, but this recipe is delicious.  It could pose as gluten-free Mac and Cheese, minus the bread crumbs!

Cauliflower Gratin
by:  Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets, or three 10 oz. bags 
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/4 cup of Swiss, grated
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, or panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, the Swiss, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and a little more Parmesan and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Turkey Cranberry Wreath

It was my turn to cook last week — maybe it was two weeks ago…I don’t know — and I thought I would pre-emptively strike the whole "what do I make with all a this left-over turkey" situation. 

I bought a hunk of roasted turkey at the Co-Op and I made an all-time favorite, Pampered Chef Turkey Cranberry Wreath AND the Pioneer Woman’s Turkey Tetrazzini (that I promptly forgot to take a photo of).   You can read about that recipe here.

Our dear A. used to be a Pampered Chef consultant (that explains why we all have every Pampered Chef tool in the catalog, including the well-loved and often-used pizza stone I baked the Wreath on) and a few weeks ago at Dinner Club, the demonstration party recipes were a topic of conversation.  I mentioned that I loved, Loved, LOVED the Turkey Cranberry Wreath and decided, right then, that I would make it my next turn.

Then I saw the Pioneer Woman making Turkey Tetrazzini and I was downright flummoxed over which dish to make.  The Pampered Chef favorite won the toss for Dinner Club, but I made the Tetrazzinni  a few nights later.  The Tetrazzini was delicious and, as the Pioneer Woman herself often admits, it is not low calorie/low fat, especially with a brick of cream cheese mixed in!

So, if you never had the Turkey Cranberry Wreath, let me tell you, it is so good….completely satisfying.  The filing is a snap to make (especially if you use pre-grated cheese) and the sweet, savory and creamy flavors temp you to go back for seconds and possibly even thirds, not uncommon on Dinner Night!  The hardest step in this recipe is making the wreath with the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls…I never did master this step — and Dinner Night was not an exception.  You’re supposed to lay the triangles out, with the widest sides touching on the outside and inside of the wreath, fill the wreath with the filling, then fold the triangles over the filing to meet the wider pieces. 

Okay, what?

Sounds easy enough, right? But apparently, not for me.  Luckily, the appearance does not affect the taste….it was delicious…a little burnt on the bottom in spots, but yummy none the less.  Some people like burnt. Like the crispy edges of meatloaf or Macaroni and Cheese.

BTW, I subsequently YouTubed how to make this stinkin' wreath correctly….now I get it.  I am, indeed, a visual learner.

by:  Pampered Chef

2 packages (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups (12 ounces) chopped cooked turkey
1/2 cup sliced celery
3 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1   egg

Preheat oven to 375°F. Unroll crescent dough; separate into 16 triangles. With wide ends of triangles toward the center, arrange 8 triangles in a circle on large pizza stone. Corners of wide ends will touch and points will extend 1 inch beyond edge of baking stone. Arrange remaining 8 triangles in center, matching wide ends. Seal seams.  The points in the center will overlap in center; do not seal them.  

Here is a photo from the extremely helpful YouTube video.
Place mayonnaise, mustard and black pepper in a large bowl. Chop turkey and celery into bite size pieces. Chop parsley. Add turkey, celery, parsley and cranberries to batter bowl. Grate cheese into batter bowl. Mix filling together and scoop filling over seams of dough, forming a circle.Coarsely chop the walnuts and sprinkle over filling. Beginning in center, lift one dough triangle across filling mixture. Continue alternating with outer triangles, slightly overlapping to form wreath. Tuck last end under first.  Separate the egg lightly beat egg white and brush over dough.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Cauliflower Sausage Casserole

The weather is getting a bit nippy here in the Northeast.

Or maybe Pennsylvania is considered mid-Atlantic?  

Regardless, the chill in the air excuses our tendency to enjoy stick-to-our-ribs favorites, because, after all, we’ll need that extra layer that may appear during colder months to insulate our body’s core.

At least that’s the science lore.

But every now and again, we find a healthy alternative — a delicious, winter insulator poser — to help satisfy our seasonal cravings and still be able to fit into our favorite jeans come Spring.  Such is the case with the Cauliflower Sausage Casserole that C. made last week.

Let’s talk about cauliflower.  Like its cousins, cabbage, kale, and broccoli, cauliflower is cruciferous vegetable and a good-for-you rock star.  It is high in antioxidant nutrients that assist with body detoxification, vitamin K to defend against inflammation and support our cardiovascular system and the fiber helps us digest what we eat.  

Plus it’s just so good.  

C. bought the cauliflower she used at the local Farmer’s Market.  Cauliflower likes a cool climate in which to grow and, like most other vegetables, needs about six hours of sun per day.   
Something I did not know is when the cauliflower heads are a few inches wide their leaves are supposed to grow over their little floral heads, to keep them tender and white.  Sometimes this doesn’t happen as nature planned and a little twine or a clothespin can help this process along.  In about a week or two after the covering, the cauliflower head will be ready for harvest and to enjoy in your favorite recipes.

Cauliflower Sausage Casserole
From:  The Chew, Michael Symon

Olive Oil
1/2 pound Chicken Sweet or Spicy Italian Sausage (removed from the casings)
1 medium head Cauliflower (about 2 pounds; cut in to small florets)
1 medium Onion (small diced)
4 Garlic cloves (minced)
28- ounce can whole San Marzano Tomatoes (crushed and broken up with your hands)
1 cup Flat Leaf Parsley (chopped)
2/3 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with the sausage. Cook, breaking up the sausage as you go, until browned, about 10 minutes. 
Add cauliflower to the pot and brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To the pan, add the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions become soft and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add the broken up tomatoes with their liquid, along with the sausage. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and give it a taste, adding additional salt and pepper is necessary. Mix in the parsley in then pour the whole mixture in to a 13x9 baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the sausage  and cauliflower and bake until golden brown on top and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve. Garnish with parsley.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Two-Two, Two Weeks in One

I am writing first about jambalaya and I would like to say that we had jambalaya for dinner last week, but we didn’t.

We had jambalaya for dinner at M.’s house a few weeks ago.

I am catching up on posts and this post includes two recipes.  First, one for jambalaya and, following that, the Pasta with Pumpkin Ricotta dish A. served the following week.  A. used homemade ricotta, the Smitten Kitchen recipe.

First, the Creole favorite.

We all know there are many French influences in Louisiana and jambalaya is no exception.  The word 'jambalaya' comes from the Provençal word ‘jambalaia’ meaning a few things, including a mixture and a pilau (pilaf) of rice.

Creole jambalaya was created by the Spanish in an attempt to replicate paella in the strange new land known as America.  The cost of importing saffron required creativity by the Spaniards who substituted tomatoes.  Eventually, other Caribbean spices were introduced and the dish we now know as Red Jambalaya soon became a favorite in New Orleans and beyond.

Like in M.’s kitchen.

This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated.  M., who is a self-described Cooks Illustrated junkie, followed the recipe pretty closely, except she substituted leftover stewed chicken for the chicken thighs and fresh Andouille for the smoked variety.  Grated lemon rind - and  a bit of lemon juice finished the dish off nicely.  An extra “kick” was introduced compliments of “Slap Ya Mama” cajan spice.

Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya
By:  Cooks Illustrated

1 1/2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 oz of smoked Andouille sausage, sliced 1/4” thick
1 onion chopped fine
1 red bell pepper, chopped fine
1 stalk of celery, minced
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 cups rice
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can dice tomatoes, 1/4 cup of juice reserved
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (8 oz) bottle clam juice
2 bay leaves
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.   Place chicken thighs skin side down in pot and cook until well browned, about 7 minutes.  Flip chicken to cook until lightly browned.  Transfer to a plate and remove and discard skin.  Tent loosely with foil.    Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat, add sausage and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until browned, about 3 minutes.  Remove and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.  

Heat the fat left in the pan and add the onion, bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any browned bits, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.   Add rice, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and cayenne and cook, stirring often until rice is coated.  Stir in tomatoes with reserved juice, chicken brown, clam juice, bay leaves and browned sausage.  Place chicken on rice mixture and bring to a boils.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir once, keeping chicken on top.  Cover and continue to simmer until chicken is tender and cooked, about 10 minutes longer).  Transfer chicken to a clean plate and set aside.  Scatter shrimp over rice, cover and continue to cook until rice is fully tender and shrimp are opaque and cooked through.  Meanwhile, shred the chicken.  When shrimp are cooked, remove pot from heat, discard the bay leaves, stir in parsley and shredded chicken and serve immediately.

Now for the Penne and Pumpkin Ricotta dish that A. just invented in her kitchen the evening of our gathering.  She. Amazes. Me. I recorded her telling us how she made it and below is the transcription of that recording (minus some clarifying questions from her grateful guests).

Penne and Pumpkin Ricotta
By:  A.
"I cut up an onion and sautéed it in a little butter and olive oil until it was pretty soft  -- not spongy --and then I sliced up a bunch of baby bella mushrooms and threw those in with the onion until they were sautéed and cripsy....I also threw in some slice garlicd too. Then I put in a little pinch of herbs de Provence.  I took the onions and mushrooms out of the pan. Then, I took two links of Italian chicken sausage -- from the Coop -- and one link of buffalo chicken sausage and took them out of the casings, mushed and broke them up and cooked them in the same pan as the onions and mushrooms.  After that, I took cooked pasta and put that in the baking dish, mixed in the sausage, mushrooms and onions and a bunch of chopped, fresh sage.  Then I added the homemade ricotta and a small can of pumpkin -- not the whole can because it looked like it would be too much -- and blobbed them around and swirled them around to mix together, but not to fully incorporate  I had some leftover pumpkin rolls and wizzed them in the food processor and toasted the crumbs in a pan.  Then I put the crumbs, grated fontina, some Parmesan cheese -- whatever I had leftover -- on top of the penne and baked at 350 degrees until heated through. And that's how I made it!" 

I tried to upload the recording but blogger didn't like that at all for some reason.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Chicken Saltimbocca

Considering it’s October, I am amazed that the sage in my garden is still productive.  The leaves aren’t as vibrant as those that love the bright summer sun but they’re just as flavorful.  I planted it a while ago and it just keeps coming back, year after year, growing and coaxing me to add a savory zip to both hot and cold dishes!

It was my turn to cook last week and as I thought about what to make, rewarding the sage plant for its diligence and perseverance seemed fitting.  So I did a quick search for a chicken and sage recipe and Chicken Saltimbocca appeared.

It’s a NYTimes Cooking recipe and I haven’t made or tasted anything from NYTimes Cooking that wasn't fantastic!

Saltimbocca is Italian for “hops in the mouth”  and with the chicken, marinated in olive oil or wine, spices, prosciutto, sage and cheese, the flavors of this dish truly do hop in your mouth!  Veal or Chicken Saltimbocca is believed to have originated in ancient Rome during a time when the swanky rulers would host elaborate feasts, featuring meats, spices, cheeses and wines abundant in the area, to showcase their riches and wealth.  There are many different versions of Saltimbocca recipes but I like this version from NYTimes Cooking because it’s quite tasty also also relatively easy to make. Basil is sometimes substituted for sage but I think the sage gives this dish less sweet, more earthy flavor that is so incredibly satisfying and downright good! The recipe calls for garnishing the dish with some fried sage leaves and they provide a welcome and crispy surprise.

We had a bonus dinner crew gathering last weekend…it was a girl’s weekend at the shore and, continuing on the Italian theme, we made homemade pizzas.  Look how stunning:
Traditional Margherita

Fig Jam, Caramelized Onions and Parmesan Cheese

Sautéed Mushrooms and Manchego Cheese

All three were delectable and devoured in no time flat!  

Our salad featured freshly-harvested greens from M.'s garden....just so delicious.

And for dessert, A. made the most often viewed and wildly popular recipe in NYTimes history, Plum Torte. Again, delicious and just as tasty with a cup of tea for a quick mid-morning snack.

The next day, we strolled along the Block Party in downtown Ocean City.  It was a delightful day -- quite crowded -- and we all walked away with some goodies, including some to satisfy our appetites, like this soft shell crab cake sandwich from IKE's.  Yum.

Chicken Saltimbocca
by:  NYTimes Cooking

1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast cut into 4-ounce pieces
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped sage, plus 24 large sage leaves
2 garlic cloves smashed to a paste
1 pinch red pepper flakes, optional
Olive oil
6 thin slices proscuitto
6 slices fontina cheese (about 4 ounces)

Using a meat mallet, pound the chicken to flatten a bit. Salt and pepper each piece on both sides and place on a platter. Sprinkle with chopped sage, garlic, red pepper flakes (if using) and olive oil. Massage in the seasoning to distribute, cover and marinate at room temperature for one hour, or refrigerate for up to several hours.

Heat a wide skillet over medium heat and add 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil looks wavy, add the sage leaves and let them crisp for about 30 seconds. Remove and drain.

Brown the chicken breasts in the oil for about 2 minutes per side, then transfer to a baking dish large enough to fit them in one layer.

Top each piece with 2 sage leaves, a slice of prosciutto and a slice of fontina. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling. Garnish with remaining sage leaves.  Serve with spinach sautéed in olive oil, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and a pinch of nutmeg!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Salmon Chowder

 Last weekend was a weather washout.  Hurricane Joaquin thankfully veered east but a nasty Nor’easter bit the east coast in its arse and would not let go.  As a fledgling and part-time Jersey Shore resident, I was a wreck, and my mom made me promise I would not head east to survey the situation (really, what could I do?), so I relied on reports sent via Facebook, text and Instagram from my OCNJ neighbors and local news reporters. Veteran shore-house owners tell me that once I get a few storms under by belt, I won’t be as fretful…perhaps that’s true.

Here is a hauntingly beautiful photo from one my community correspondents.
A few days before the Nor’easter hit, we had dinner at C.’s house.  The Salmon Chowder she served was not only delectable, but it warmed our innards just the way a good soup should.  Summer food is tasty, fun and casual, but each year we look forward to making our favorite soups, stews, muffins and breads with the delicious fruits and vegetables that define fall…pumpkins, butternut squash, parsnips, pears, figs and cranberries, just to name a few.
I make a mean butternut squash soup and who doesn’t like butternut squash soup?

Anyway, this Salmon Chowder recipe is courtesy of  C. modified a bit…she baked a piece of fresh salmon instead of using canned, eliminated the cheddar cheese, added tomatoes, red peppers and fresh garlic from her garden.  Below are some of her other garden jewels.

As you can see, this recipe is hearty and very easy to make.  C. had it for lunch a few days after our dinner and said it aged beautifully and was still quite delicious.  Serve with a crispy, crusty bread — perfect for dipping! 

Salmon Chowder
Adapted from

3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups diced potatoes
2 carrots, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
One nice piece of salmon, baked and shredded
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
One tomato, diced
1/2 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded (if desired)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, celery and red pepper until onions and peppers are tender. Stir in potatoes, carrots, broth, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and dill. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Cover, and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir in salmon, evaporated milk, corn, and cheese. Cook until heated through.
I made a topless Pear and Fig Pie for dessert….it was so good but I could not find fresh so I had to use dried figs.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ginger Pork Meatballs with Coconut Broth

So, if I told you that our crew had meatballs for dinner your mind would naturally drift to red sauce (or gravy in my half-Italian world) served atop a mound of your favorite pasta.

You wouldn’t think that meatballs would be (or should be!) simmered in a delicious infusion of coconut milk, lemongrass, saffron, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce,Thai chilis and ginger.


Well, lucky for us, that conclusion would be flawed.

We had dinner at A.’s house last week and she made Ginger Pork Meatballs in Coconut Broth.  She drooled over the recipe when it appeared in her Instagram feed compliments of who, thankfully, spotted the recipe in Bon Appetit magazine.

Let me tell you a little about this dish.  First, the meatballs were so full of flavor that I quickly abandoned my initial reaction of wanting to bless myself for the blasphemy of meatballs being prepared in coconut sauce.  They melted in your mouth just they way their traditional counterparts do after being cooked in gravy for a several hours.  The broth is so flavorful -- creamy and sweet and savory -- that you will want to ditch your manners to slurp it through a straw but, no worries, the rice served with the dish happily soaks up the flavors and your palate won’t miss a thing.

One of the allures of this dish is that you don’t have to buy a ton of disparate ingredients for both the meatballs and the sauce.  The replication of the ingredients is perhaps the reason why the meat and the broth complement each other so nicely, kind of like first cousins…a little different but with a lot of commonalities. The meatballs reminded me of Chinese dumplings filing, which then reminded me that pork and ginger enjoy a long and wonderful relationship and I forgot all about the meatball/gravy thing.  This recipe, introducing coconut, takes full advantage of and capitalizes on that harmonious bond!  

Now all meatballs are made with breadcrumbs that act as a binding agent.  One gluten-free reader of the Shutterbean blog suggested that when a recipe calls for breadcrumbs she simply pulverizes a few rice cakes in her vitamix for instant, gluten-free breadcrumbs. Readers are so generous with their tips!

This is the perfect flavor-packed, warm, satisfying dish to add to your impending autumnal cool-down meal repertoire.   A., of course, improvised a bit by adding sautéed shallots to the meatballs, coconut cream and saffron to the broth and she tossed in diced baby boc choy and tomatoes right before serving.  Otherwise this dish was prepared as seen in the Instagram feed.  A. served the dish in a beautiful handmade casserole dish most by the host herself!


2 pounds ground pork
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1  13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup thinly sliced ginger
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 fresh red Thai chiles, slit but kept intact, plus thinly sliced chiles for serving
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, outer leaves removed and stalk cut into 1 inch lengths
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
kosher salt

For serving
thinly sliced mint
steamed jasmine rice

To make the meatballs, preheat oven to 425F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Form the mixture into 40 1 1/2 inch meatballs and arrange them on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake until the meatballs are golden brown and just cooked through, about 15 minutes.  KOPO note…I would sauté them, but that’s just me.

Meanwhile, make the broth by combining the coconut milk, stock, ginger, garlic, slit chiles, lemongrass, lime zest and juice, fish sauce, and turmeric in a large saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and season with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat so the broth is simmering. Discard the lemongrass.
Add the meatballs to the broth and simmer until cooked through and tender, about 15 minutes. Season the broth with more sugar, salt and lime juice if necessary. Serve with sliced herbs and thai chiles, lime wedges and rice.  

We enjoyed this dish with a flavorful Pinotage from South Africa.  The wine had some tasty mocha and coffee undertones and maybe not the best choice (by me) for a spicy-inspired dish but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Turkish-Spiced Chicken with Hot Green Relish

Our dinner crew had our first meal of the 2015-2016 season.  It’s hard to believe that we’ve been doing this since 2010 and this is my 420th post!

So much has happened in the intervening years….trips to Europe, Asia, Latin America (including Cuba), and all around the USA.  There have been graduations, weddings, new jobs, remodeled houses and new houses, including a shore house and charming tiny house that you can read about here.  We’ve celebrated birthdays, holidays, a mayoral inauguration (The First Lady of our Borough is part of our crew!), planted new gardens and enjoyed the fruits of our labor.  We’ve welcomed new puppies, bunnies, kittens and returning graduates (we seemed to have spawned the boomer-rang generation!).  We ate, drank, gossiped (just a little), giggled through the happy times and cried and supported each other when things got challenging.  All-in-all, it’s been a wonderful six years of enjoying meals and moments with cherished friends.   

We look forward to Dinner Night each week.  It’s like eat therapy.

To usher in this new season, we had dinner at M.’s house.  We also planned her birthday celebration and when we realized that she was cooking her own birthday dinner, we felt really bad.  To compensate, I made her a cake — Gingerbread Cake with Orange Buttercream Icing….it was really, REALLY good but not as good as the chicken M. served.  

This recipe is from The Splendid Table.  Listening to Lynne Rossetto Kasper on American Public Media is like listening to a dear friend tell a story.  She has a wonderful laugh and her style is so easy and conversational that it’s hard to believe she’s not sitting in the same room with you enjoying a cup of tea.  As I read the recipe, I could hear her voice saying these words as an introduction… 

“This dish seems simple, but I can’t tell you how much I love it. I’d heard about a Turkish relish-cum-salsa made with crushed green olives and chiles and the desire to try it became overwhelming one night. I have no idea whether this is anything like the Turkish relish I was told about and I don’t care. I just bashed everything together, adding and adjusting. When I’d finished I knew I would make this for the rest of my life. It packs a punch, it includes my beloved cilantro, and is so hot it makes you reach for a beer.”

You know what, Lynne, our crew agrees, although we reached for wine! The chicken is perfectly seasoned and the relish is absolutely delicious.  M. served the grilled beauties with basmati rice and more than one of us enjoyed seconds (not at all uncommon on our Wednesday nights!).  M. usually tinkers with recipes, but not this time…she made it exactly as written and it was wonderful.

This recipe calls for salt flakes or "fleur de sel." Flakes are formed when wind dries the surface of water that has a high salt concentration, producing thin, flaky crystals.  These crystals are known as salt flakes.  When using salt flakes, use a bit more than regular salt, so if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt, use 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt flakes.
We took advantage of the late summer magnificence and ate on the deck…it was peaceful and so completely wonderful.

Turkish-Spiced Chicken with Hot Green Relish 
The Splendid Table

For the chicken:
6 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, grated
salt and pepper
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

For the relish:
2 garlic cloves, chopped
sea salt flakes 
1 green chile
1 red chile
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
leaves from 8 sprigs of mint, torn
1/3 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
A good squeeze of lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve

To marinate the chicken, mix the regular oil, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, garlic, and salt and pepper together to make a marinade. Make little slits all over the underside of the pieces of chicken with the point of a knife. Put the chicken into a dish. Add the marinade and roll the chicken in it to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for a couple of hours, or overnight. Bring it to room temperature before cooking.

Make the relish just before you cook the chicken. Put the garlic and salt into a mortar and bash it with a pestle until it is crushed. Halve and seed both chiles and chop them roughly. Add them to the mortar with the cilantro, mint, and olives and bash everything together, gradually adding the virgin olive oil and balsamic until you have a rough paste (it should be chunky, not puréed). Add lemon juice to taste and set aside.
Heat a ridged grill pan. Lift the chicken out of the marinade, shake off the excess, and set it on the pan. Start off cooking it on medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side, then reduce the heat to low and cook for another 4 minutes. The chicken should be cooked right through and charred, but not burnt.

Serve the chicken with lemon wedges, rice or flatbread, a bowl of Greek yogurt, and the relish. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

I love anything citrus so you would expect that I would adore Lemon Poppyseed Muffins.  

I had my first lemony muffin experience while working in an office building on Rittenhouse Square in the 90’s.  I would walk to the Commissary Market, that was located at 1710 Samson Street, and pray the pulpy confections were on the menu.  If I struck gold, I would stock up, sharing one or two with friends who did not work in the city, in particular, someone who I eventually married.  I don’t recall if I ever confessed that the yummies were purchased, not homemade, but I suspect my ruse was eventually exposed!   

Maybe that explains some things.

I lamented the day in 1991 when the Commissary Market closed because it was a reliable destination for all kinds of gourmet treats, not just baked goods.  You can read about the Commissary Market by clicking here.

I’ve not been able to find a Lemon Poppyseed Muffin quite as good as those baked by the Commissary, but I tried a recipe this weekend and, I must say, this version comes pretty damn close!  There muffins are a bit dense, like those I remember, and, courtesy of lemon zest and lemon yogurt, the lemon flavor is perfectly balanced…not overpowering at all.  I opted to not add the glaze and they were still quite moist and very delicious!  I gave some to my shore neighbors who were delighted!  

This recipe would make nice little mini-loafs too, and Target carries the sweetest little disposable loaf pans. Make a few loafs and tie with a festive bow for a wonderful, homemade holiday gift!

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Adapted from:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 ounce jar of poppy seeds (use the full jar!)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup lemon yogurt (I used Chobani Lemon Blended)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Lightly grease a muffin tin. Combine the flour, 3/4 cup white sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl mix the eggs, yogurt, vegetable oil and lemon zest. Blend well and pour over the flour mixture. Mix until just combined; the batter is quite thick so don't be surprised! Spoon batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Combine the lemon juice with the Confectioners’ sugar. Stir into sugar dissolves.  Once the muffins are baked, drizzle them with or dip the tops in the sugar/juice mixture.