Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Midweek food musings: Sugar snap peas

They totally had me at first bite…
Friends and family members are well aware of my recent love affair with sugar snap peas; they've been present during Sunday dinners ever since I rediscovered them at Trader Joe's a couple of months ago.  It’s the combination of fresh crunch and sweetness, not to mention versatility, that I most enjoy. Another nice thing about these cute green pockets of flavor, is that they can stand alone or be a backdrop for dips (like my roasted eggplant, tomato, onion, and bell pepper purée) —and they can be steamed and then served at room temperature (so they’re part of a simple yet delicious make-ahead side!).

Last Sunday I decided to lightly steam them, and mix ‘em up with some lovely leek, garlic,  shallots, and cherry-red bell pepper; they were very well received. And then I took the leftovers (though there wasn't too much left!) for lunch. They offer delicious, and fresh spring-like flavors.

Sugar Snap Peas with Leeks and Bell Peppers

This is Christine's gorgeous version of the recipe! Thanks for sharing this--!

Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 to 2 pounds sugar snap peas (rinsed and strings removed)
1 quart chicken stock or water
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 large leek, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 or 2  red bell peppers,  seeded, stemmed, and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot or steamer, bring the stock or water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the snap peas, and cook for about 5 minutes, until bright green yet still crisp. Drain and shock with cold water. Let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, shallot, leek, and pepper  and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peas and stir to blend. Transfer to a serving dish. Add the vinegar and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Shrimp Scampi

Garlic + white wine + lemon + shrimp = magic.
Okay, I’m simplifying things a bit—but not by much!
My mom has always been a shrimp fan, so for her birthday, I wanted to make a dish that would be elegant, special, and above all, tasty. I don’t make shrimp every day—and I wanted to use fresh as opposed to frozen, prepare them in a scampi-style way, and atop thin spaghetti. The result was great.  I prepared part of the sauce ahead of time (it’s a time and stress saver!) and then cooked the shrimp at the last minute, while the pasta was cooking. Also, you can easily halve this recipe for 4 to 6 servings.  Also, be sure to keep some fresh crusty Italian bread on hand for dipping into the sauce!

Shrimp Scampi

Serves 9 to 12

1 tablespoon butter (I try to limit it, but yum, so good…)
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 shallots, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, finely chopped
1 cup white wine (I used Three Pears Sauvignon Blanc which is light, floral, with a bit of grapefruit flavors)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 pounds medium-size shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails attached
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (actually I combined my parsley with fresh basil which I had on hand—and that was really nice, too)

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots, garlic and peppers until they start to soften. Add a half the white wine, some salt and pepper, half the lemon juice and lemon zest.  Cook for about 5 minutes to let the sauce reduce.  Set aside.  

About 10 minutes before serving, and when your pasta has already hit the boiling water, return the shallot mixture to a large pan (sauté or sauce pan) over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until they start to turn pink. Add the remaining white wine, lemon juice, and zest  and heat through (but be careful not to overcook the shrimp!). Taste the sauce and re-season if needed. Remove from heat. Reserve to serve over your spaghetti.

About serving: I plate individually (putting some spaghetti topped with a few shrimp and juice, and then sprinkled with parsley, but you can put your pasta on a platter, top with shrimp and sauce, and then garnish with parsley.

medium-size shrimp, in a luscious white wine, garlic, and lemon sauce

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sumptous Sips: The Kiwi Caipirinha

Kiwi Caipirinha, pictured here with Brazilian Cheese Puffs
From my first cocktail book, Mambo Mixers
What is a caipirinha? Aside from being Brazil’s national drink, it’s a sultry burst of springtime, blended with samba and all I adore about the biggest country in South America. I’m in love with Brazil. In fact, as I type this, I’m listening to the velvet voice of João Gilberto (Eclipse has to be one of the most magical songs ever composed and sung) and dreaming of beachside strolls along the beaches of Bahia…and beyond. Another sip of caipirinha…
So, why do Iove caipirinhas so much? Because they bring a bit of Brazil to me, here in
New York, and yes, thank you to my many Brazilian friends and students (along with Gramatan Avenue in Mount Vernon) who also bring me the flavor and spark that I often crave. (And oh, I promise, that if you give me a few weeks in Brazil, I will turn my Portoñol into Portuguese…)
In the meantime, I bring to you a version of caipirinha I first enjoyed several years ago in São Paulo and wrote about in Mambo Mixers. This, the kiwi caipirinha, is a simple and colorful interpretation of this drink. Simple, sumptuous, this is a perfect Friday afternoon drink. Enjoy!

Serves 1

1 kiwi, peeled, quartered, plus 1 clase for garnish
1 teaspoon superfine sugar, or to taste
2 ounces cachaça (Brazilian rum) or your favorite light rum
Ice cubes

Place the kiwi and sugar in a tall bar glass. Use a pestle or the end of a wooden spoon to mash the kiwi and sugar together. Add the  cachaça and stir. Add ice, cover, and shake. Pour into a glass, garnish with the kiwi and lime slice, and serve immediately. 
Note: Simply double to make two at a time. I've made pitchers, but it's a tasting thing more than a measuring thing! I'd make one first--so you know what it should taste like--and then go from there...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: The Wonderful World of Greens

Beautiful, full, collard green leaves--
 I know you've seen it just about everywhere lately--and if you haven't seen it, your mom has told you this for years: greens are good for you.  But wow, it's a big world of greens out there! We're so used to sticking to what we know as far as food, but it's great fun to try new things...(I'm a big believer in variety being the spice of life.)  And though I've eaten many different greens, I haven't had the pleasure of preparing as many as I'd like to. So when I interviewed Chef Raymond Jackson of Alvin and friends, and he generously offered to share his recipe for greens, it was my chance to try. 

So I bought 1 bunch of collard greens, and one of mustard greens (the latter has such a wonderful, peppery taste) and was stumped when it came to stemming and cutting. Chef recommends removing the stalks first, rolling the leaves together and then slicing them.  To remove the stalks, I simply folded the large gorgeous leaves in half, pulled off the large stems, and then proceeded with cutting.

As I mentioned, this was my first foray into the world of cooking collard greens. Will I go back? For sure! I also need to confess that I went against my cardinal rule of following a chef’s recipe verbatim the first time I prepare a dish.There were a couple of differences: for one, Chef uses smoked turkey legs (but he said ham hocks are just fine), and blanches his greens and then shocks them in cold water. I skipped the blanching step, but may do it next time. As for you, I leave it up to you! I'm sure you'll enjoy the rich greens, which provided a compelling and tasty backdrop for the tangy-sweet flavors of vinegar, sugar, mustard, beer and hot sauce. The nice thing is that these ingredients don't compete. Collard greens can certainly hold their own. Enjoy!

Serves 6 to 8

1 smoked ham hock
Water or chicken broth
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 bottle beer (I used Stella, but next time I might use a darker/richer beer)
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 pounds collard greens (about two bunches), well washed, stems removed, sliced into 1/2-inch-wide strips (you can substitute/combine turnip, kale and/or mustard greens)
Several dashes of Louisiana or your favorite hot sauce
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the ham hock in a soup pot, and add about a quart of water or chicken stock to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cover. Cook until the ham hock starts to separate, and the meat starts to fall off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours (check water; you want to make sure you always have a couple of inches). Remove ham hock from the stock and, at this point, you can skim the fat by straining through a cheese cloth.  Take the skin off the ham hock and shred the meat, discard the bone, and return it to the rich stock.

Meanwhile, in a heavy sauté pan, heat a bit of oil. Add the garlic and onions and cook until they have softened and are just starting to brown.  Add the beer, vinegar, mustard, and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the amount of liquid is reduced by half, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Add the stock and collard greens (Chef Raymond says to add them in this order: collard, turnip, kale and mustard) and bring to a simmer. Reduce the temp to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the collard greens have wilted and have lost their brightness and are tender (about 20 minutes but could be more, depending on the age of the greens). Season to taste with hot sauce, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature with some of the juices from the pan. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday Dinners: Pistachio Pesto

Pesto, a beautifully simple condiment-type sauce, can be changed and enjoyed in so many different ways. Years ago, when my parents had a home in Massachusetts with a prolific garden, pesto was the answer for using and preserving the gorgeous green and aromatic plants that seemed to just keep growing and growing from July through September. Though my mom always made a more traditional pesto—with basil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil— and used it exclusively as a pasta sauce, I began exploring variations a few years ago.

Actually, I first started playing with different ingredients by changing the nuts (I started using toasted walnuts—and pecans). Then, when I was working on The Hot Latin Diet, I had the privilege of collaborating with amazing chef, Sue Torres (and I will interview her one of these days for this blog!). Anyway, we were lucky because she shared her cilantro pesto with us all—which she has served in her NYC restaurant Sueños, atop grilled vegetables.  Thanks to Sue, I started playing with cilantro and toasted pine nuts—along with basil—in my pesto. But it wasn’t only the ingredients that Sue encouraged me to explore; it was also what I served it with. So now I use it like her with grilled vegetables, or simply on baguette rounds, often with slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella, or, of course, on pasta!  

My explorations with pesto continue.  In fact, this weekend I had the privilege of enjoying my friend Mary’s incarnation of the cilantro pesto recipe I had given her. Her interpretation included small chunks of avocado as part of a spread for baguette rounds. The result? Delicioso…

But back to Pistachio Pesto—
Not too long ago, Saveur magazine had an issue featuring different kinds of pestos. It was there that I first saw Pesto di Pistacchio, and decided to try it. It’s been very well received! I usually serve it with pasta, but I also enjoy it on top baguette slices. I’m sure that as you play, you’ll find your own favorite ways to create and serve it. Enjoy!

Pistachio Pesto  

PIstachio pesto--on a baguette slice, and with pasta
Makes about  2 cups

2 cups packed basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups dry-roasted pistachios
1 cup packed cilantro leaves (I do include some of the stems--but not the roots)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, or parmesan (or to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (or to taste)
3 cloves garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine  all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until well blended.  Season with additional salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately or store in a covered container in the fridge for up to five days.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sumptuous Sips: Simple works for drinks, too!

 Kumquat and Raspberry-Kissed Prosecco.
Last week I wrote about small gestures being huge; that’s still on my mind. Yesterday morning I tried a “test” that I’ve administered before. And no, for all of you who know my  other life is that of an administrator/teacher, it’s not that kind of test. I administer this test while I’m running.

The "test" starts when I make eye contact with the people who are walking towards me. Now, it’s not a crowd I’m looking at; usually I pass under a dozen people, including many I have seen before (and, in fact, see every day—like the crossing guards, my son’s third grade reading teacher, my favorite sanitation truck driver and his crew, a former student who brings her granddaughter to school, and more…)

So here’s the test:  I smile, especially at people who look a bit down and distracted,  to I see if I’ll get one in return. You know what? I almost always get a big smile—as well as a heartfelt “Have a great day!” What does this test do?  It renews my faith in just about everything; there's nothing like seeing someone's face go from a grimace to a grin. This makes my day that much sweeter…

...And speaking of sweeter, here’s my treat for you.

Most of you, like me, are jugglers: you move between job(s), and roles (caretaker, parent, child, colleague, etc!) in your life. So, after a long day, you want simple. Here, my friends, is a super simple sip for you.

This week’s Sumptous Sip requires just two ingredients: Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) and fresh fruit. My favorite Prosecco these days is Prosecco Brut Mionetto (the one that has a very Veuve-Clicquotish-colored label!) which I also drink without any fruit at all. Also, I don’t add any juices to it—for that I have another one, which I’ll save for another day! (By the way--if you don't drink wine, you can always make this with sparkling water, but then I might add a splash of fresh juice...or not!)

 Prosecco and Fresh Fruit Cocktail

I bottle well-chilled Prosecco
Fresh raspberries, and/or blackberries, strawberries, or sliced kumquats (I'm still on a kumquat kick--and I like the color combination of raspberry-red and kumquat-orange!) 

Place your desired combo of fresh fruit in a chilled wine glass. Add your Prosecco, and serve! 

Monday's Post: Sunday Dinners, featuring Pistachio Pesto!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

With Alvin and Friends in New Rochelle

With Alvin Clayton 

Chef Raymond Jackson, in talking about being a chef, says, “ It’s not that you choose the [restaurant] industry; it chooses you!”

In the kitchen of Alvin and Friends with Chef Raymond Jackson
And just one bite of his food will tell you: The industry has chosen well. Alvin and Friends’ head chef is a man whose passion is evident in every dish he prepares.

Last week my friend Karen and I visited, and enjoyed  a wonderful selection of appetizers: Crispy Cornmeal Fried Oysters, lightly drizzled with Buttermilk-Herb Aioli, Jerk Shrimp (what a wonderful layering of flavors—Karen called it simply beautiful...) with Ginger Sweet Potato Salad, and silky smooth Scallop Ceviche with Bajan Spiced Avocado and Plantain Chips. I will soon return to enjoy  Jerk-Rubbed Duck Breast, Calabaza Bread Pudding and Figs with a Port Wine Reduction, and more. The menu showcases Chef Raymond's talent of combining Caribbean and southern-infused flavors and textures, to yield delicately layered, satisfying combinations--delights for the eye and, of course, the palate. 

But it’s not just Chef Raymond who’s the charm of Alvin and Friends.

  Oysters--as described--with Alvin's luscious rum punch on the right...
Like his chef, owner Alvin Clayton boasts both an interesting history, and a plethora of talents. He’s a restaurateur, chef, and painter. In addition, he’s a former supermodel, for both Wilhelmina and Ford, who has spent time living in great cities like Paris, where he became influenced not only by the fascinating cuisine, but also by the magic of artist Henri Matisse. Clayton's artwork, colorful and inviting, beautifully dons the walls of his restaurant.

Lucky for us local folks that the Claytons are in New Rochelle! (And if you're not local, this place is definitely worth a trip to the Queen City of the Sound!) What we can most enjoy, is the fact that in addition to a seasonally-changing menu of perfectly-prepared Caribbean and southern dishes, a wonderfully welcoming staff, and a restaurant that is such a pleasure to be in and to behold, Alvin Clayton guides you through your Alvin and Friends experience as if it were his home.    

Both Clayton and Jackson make one thing very clear: Heart and soul are key ingredients for anyone who wants to be successful in the restaurant industry. Clearly, these two are models to emulate.

49 Lawton Street, New Rochelle, NY 10801
(914) 654-6549

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Sweet Sausage with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans

The nice thing about a Sunday dinner is that it can "force" you to play around with different dishes. Having a receptive audience for them, of course, makes all the difference in the world.

My family is made up of many broccoli rabe fans, but it’s my dad who especially loves the white bean-sausage-broccoli-rabe combo! I found this recipe in Saveur magazine, but changed it slightly to fit my crowd—and timing. If you are making it for less than 12, you can simply adjust it accordingly. Enjoy--and let me know how you like it!

Sweet Sausage with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans

12 to 16

3 pounds broccoli rabe, rinsed well and trimmed (cut off the tough ends), stems peeled, cut into 2-inch lengths
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced (or minced--I sliced 'em, but my dad complained when he got a big slice, so I'm mincing next time 'round!)
olive oil
3 pounds sweet Italian sausage (you should either remove it from casings, or buy it loose)  
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
1 bunch carrots, peeled and chopped
1 bunch celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley (plus additional for garnish—if desired)
3 sprigs fresh oregano
1 pound white beans, soaked overnight
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat  the oven to 350°F.  Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on a large baking sheet and then lay the broccoli rabe and sliced garlic on top. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil on top along with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt and then toss to make sure the oil evenly coats the broccoli rabe.

Place the baking dish in the oven for 8 to12 minutes, or until the broccoli rabe is tender (but don’t let it overcook!). Set the broccoli rabe aside.
Uncovering the dish--just before plating!

Heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add sausage, and cook, browning on all sides, for about 15 minutes. Break up larger chunks. Remove sausage from pan, and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium-low, add the onions, and cook them until soft, about 20 minutes. Add carrots, celery, and parsley and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Add garlic and oregano and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the browned sausage, and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the rinsed white beans in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then cover them, and reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the beans are just tender, about 40 minutes. Drain the beans, and add them to the sautéed veggies and sausage. Adjust seasoning. Heat through just prior to serving—or serve at room temperature.
In the "line up" with roasted potatoes and salad--

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sumptuous Sips: Sangría Blanca or So Often, Less is More!

From Mambo Mixers

This morning, while I was running, I was reminded that sometimes it’s the smallest of gestures—that can have the biggest impact.
I was taking my early morning run, and I was running against the traffic (on the side of the road!), but saw a man walking towards me. He did something interesting: he checked behind him, to make sure no cars were coming, and walked so that he was between any potential traffic, and me—thus “protecting” me from the street. We smiled and said hello and kept going our separate ways.
His small move touched me. It made me start thinking how sometimes it’s just a small look, smile—or gesture—that can make us feel good.
Well, the same is true for a meal—or, in this case, a sangria. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal for it to be special.
The recipe I’m sharing with you here is adapted from one first published in my cocktail/appetizer book, Mambo Mixers, in 2005. That was oh so many sangrías ago! My tastes have definitely changed in many ways—but still, I like this idea: fruity wine combined with fresh fruit. (As I've mentioned before, you can--and should--adjust this according to what you like, and what's available!) This time I’ve adjusted it, recommending wine suggested  by David Paonessa, the Manager/Buyer for Wine Bazaar ( in New Rochelle. Note: David is pretty much always there, and if not, his staff is great at recommending wines—or anything else you’d like to try! 
Sangría Blanca—a tropical version of the Spanish classic
Serves 6 to 8
1/2 cup superfine sugar, or to taste
1/4 cup water
2 bottles fruity white wine (For this David mentioned a wine he started using last summer, a new wine from Argentina: New Age 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 90% Torrontes. He also suggests Corbert Canyon Pinot Grigio. For larger batches, he uses Franzia Refreshing White.)
1/2 cup excellent-quality mango nectar (optional)
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1 mango, peeled, seeded and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup diced papaya (1/4-inch cubes)—optional
1/2 cup diced pineapple (1/4-inch cubes)
Ice cubes (optional)
Sparkling water (optional)

in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, combine the wine, mango nectar, orange and lime juices, mango, papaya and pineapple in a large glass pitcher. Stir in the sugar mixture. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. Taste and adjust sugar as needed before serving. Pour into glasses: use a spoon to scoop up some fruit into the glass.Add ice if desired, and a splash of sparkling water. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Side Dishes in the Best Supporting Role

As someone who could easily survive on side dishes, I’d be the first to tell you that these smaller plates can and should be big players in any dinner. After all, what you select to serve on the side plays an important part in many aspects of your entertaining.

Baby Mixed Green Salad Adds Great Colors--and Flavors!
Let’s say, for example, you’re hosting a dinner for a bunch of carnivores, but have a few vegetarians in the mix (this is my typical Sunday crowd!). Most recently, I’ve had a few gluten-free eaters, and vegans, so I’ve used my sides as a way to cater to those who might not go—for whatever reason—for my baked ziti (with sausage), or my glazed chicken. So I’ve made dishes like fresh sautéed spinach with toasted pine nuts, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice and raisins (dreamy stuff!), and roasted root vegetables, fresh tomato and basil salad, and more.

In thinking about sides, consider that they’re more than just options for those who might not go for the “main attraction” of your meal; they also need to complement, in terms of color and flavor, your star. Basically, you want everything to look good on the plate—so you need to think about not only flavor, but other key aspects of presentation: color and texture.

AND speaking of color and texture, I had the immense pleasure last night of watching the fabulous film adaptation of Laura Esquivel’s amazing book, Like Water for Chocolate.  Dear friends, if you haven’t seen it, and are as big a food, family, and love lover as I am—and I know many of you are—I encourage you to see this 1992 film. (Actually, if you’re in the area—on March 21st, at 11:15 am, at WCC’s main campus, we’ll be watching it and I’ll be leading a post-viewing discussion!)

The reason I mention it, is because, wow, the presentation of all the food is amazing.  Did you see the plates of Codornices con pétalos de rosa? (Quail with rose petals?) Ah…dreamy, not to mention the amazing effect that it had on the guests.  

(Big sigh...)
Back to the side dish/presentation thing, I’ll share with you one of my favorite salads. This one—also easily adaptable—could be the star of a lunch as well as a dinner side.

Mixed baby greens 
Toasted cashew nuts
Sliced Cucumbers
Orange or clementine segments

Mix together—top with drizzles of olive oil and Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (my favorite, lately!)—or a white balsamic. Serve immediately. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Orange and Ginger-Glazed Chicken

Orange and ginger Glazed Chicken--ready for the finishing bake--just before serving! 
If there’s one thing I learned from growing up with a mom who cooked  frequently and for many,  it’s that pre-dinner organization is key. Before a dinner party—and there were many—my mom would create a menu, write it down, and post it. Guess this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree:  I always start with my menu, type it up, and post it (this also helps me to remember to serve everything I’ve made!).

Now, the menu might start from a visit to the market or food store; that’s often where I get my inspiration.  A few weeks ago, I saw a lot of blood oranges and started thinking about how I love the flavors of orange and red onion together—and I also really like using chicken as a base—and the balance of caramelized orange flavor with a nice piece of chicken.

When I went back to the store, the blood oranges were gone, but I found plenty of navel oranges which, in fact, one of the very helpful Trader Joe’s employees told me were great.

So—this dish, Orange and Ginger-Glazed Chicken—was partly improvised just based on my desire to combine the flavors. (And, here’s my confession: I didn’t take exact notes of amounts when I was making it so bits are up to your personal interpretation…)The 16 people who were here for that Sunday dinner, liked it very much. (Whew!)  I am sharing it with you here—as well as the complete menu here at the bottom. (I’ve halved the recipe because I’m guessing most of you aren’t cooking for 16!)  Also, feel free to top with fresh cilantro or parsley—for color and flavor. Enjoy—and let me know how you like it!

Orange and Ginger-Glazed Chicken

Serves 8 to 10

3 pounds of chicken thighs and/or breasts (I like the skinless and boneless, fresh organic—which I usually find at Trader Joe’s) Note: if I use the chicken breasts, I “trim” them slightly so they’re about the same size as the thighs.  
12 oranges (you can always use remaining oranges for the next day’s breakfast!)
1 to 2 inches fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon orange zest
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 to 2 teaspoons finely diced roasted or fresh seeded jalapeño (optional—I was going to put this in, but my parents and another guest really don’t like things spicy…so left it out).
Extra virgin olive oil
Canola oil
3 red onions, 2 coarsely chopped, one sliced into rounds
White wine (your favorite--I used Three Pears, a Pinot Gris, and one of my recent favorites)

Place the chicken in a large ceramic bowl. Squeeze about 5 of the oranges. In a separate bowl, combine the juice, half the ginger, orange zest, salt and pepper, garlic and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Makes sure all the pieces are well covered, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Squeeze another 5 oranges, and keep the juice on hand. Heat a medium-size sauté pan with about 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat (you want it hot enough to caramelize the chicken without burning. Remove the chicken from the marinade; try to leave as much of the liquid behind as possible. Place the pieces in a single layer in the pan (you may, depending on the size of the pan, have to cook it in two batches). Sprinkle some of the coarsely chopped onion on top.  Add the remaining ginger slices (I like to caramelize them, too!)

Let the chicken cook until browned on one side. It should reach a nice golden color—thanks in great part to the sugar from the orange juice.   Once you flip the chicken, and it’s golden on both sides, add more orange juice. Add a splash of white wine. Cook for just a few minutes, until the orange juice is reduced.  Transfer the browned chicken to a large baking dish (I’ve got the perfect size red pan—as you can see in the photo—that I use for both baking and serving!)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Once all the chicken has been browned, place it in the baking pan. Slice the remaining one or two oranges and place them decoratively on    top of the chicken—along with the red onion rounds. Pour remaining orange juice (not too much—about 1/4 cup). Bake for about 15 minutes, just to cook through and have warm. You might want to blast with the broiler for a minute—to caramelize the onions and oranges on top—but be careful: you don’t want to dry out your luscious chicken!

Serve warm or at room temperature, with the sides/salad of your choice. Here’s my menu—and on Wednesday, I’ll share a favorite side dish with you!

Sunday Dinner Menu:
Orange and Ginger Glazed Chicken
Orzo with Pistachio Pesto  (from a Saveur issue last fall that featured all kinds of Pestos!)
Baked Carrots with Roasted Curry Powder
Mixed Green Salad with Clementine, Cucumber, and Toasted Cashews (and a citrus vinaigrette)

Plating all the colorful dishes of last Sunday.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sumptuous Sips: Red Wine Sangría

Enjoying sangría while cooking in one of my classes at
Don Coqui's in New Rochelle! (With "students" Angelica Alicia Rubiano and Julie Spielvogel!)

From my second book of cocktails/appetizers, Calypso Coolers 

Ah—yes! If it’s Friday—it must be cocktail time...and this time, sangría is on the menu! 

When you're looking for a drink that's got bold flavors and colors, marries well with so many flavors--and boasts versatility,  is nothing like sangría! Whether you're serving it with tapas--or baked ziti--it's a welcome addition. Not too long ago, we had a tapas fiesta here at home, and the sangría—accessible, fruity, yet not too sweet—was a huge hit. In fact it was hard to keep up with the demand, despite making about 6 bottles ahead of time! The thing that makes this wine-based drink so lovely is that it’s not only gorgeous and delicious, but also so “user friendly” and adaptable.

This sangría—which like many I first enjoyed in Spain (when I lived in Barcelona many moons ago...)  has brandy along with wine—can be varied according to available fruit as well as your taste!   If you have the time, let your sangría steep for 24 hours. This recipe can easily be doubled (and more!)  for a bigger crowd. Enjoy—and do tell me how you like it! 

Makes about 4 servings

1 bottle fruity Cabernet (I prefer Chilean)
½ cup brandy
¼ cup Cointreau or triple sec (or to taste)
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (or to taste)
¼ cup ginger-infused simple syrup (ginger infusion is optional —but should be ½ fresh ginger, peeled and sliced, plus equal parts water and sugar, cooked over medium heat until sugar dissolves, and cooled), or to taste
1 apple, unpeeled and sliced (should be local, crisp, and tart—honeycrisp is a great choice!)
1 orange, sliced into half moon-shaped pieces
Chilled sparkling water to top it off (optional—but very refreshing in warmer months, which I hear are coming soon!)


Combine ingredients together and let stand in a covered pitcher or  tightly sealed container  for at least a few hours (ideally 24!)  in the refrigerator prior to serving.