Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Citrus-Rosemary Chicken Cutlets

When I made this on Sunday, it was a part experiment, part I'm-in-the-mood-to-have-this kind of thing.
I was craving chicken, but didn't want to roast whole ones. I had bought some fresh bread crumbs earlier in the week (was thinking of fried zucchini, actually), but hadn't done anything with them yet. Also, I  have luscious fresh rosemary in my garden, and a bunch of oranges (love fresh oranges--in case you haven't noticed). And so, after buying boneless chicken thighs and breasts, I decided to put it all together. The results? Accolades from all! (In fact, I think this one was a bigger hit than the Gallo Pinto that I thought would be star!)

Serves 12 to 15

5 eggs
About 1 pound fresh bread crumbs (bought a 15-ounce bag of homemade crumbs from my local DeCicco's bakery; they were perfect!)
4 packages (about 6 pieces in each) assorted chicken pieces (I used boneless breasts and thighs)
6 sprigs rosemary, leaves coarsely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil for frying
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from about 8 oranges
White wine

In flat but deep dish (I love using pie dishes for this!) combine the eggs. Set a second one aside for the bread crumbs. Add about 1 tablespoon of chopped rosemary. Add salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove any additional fat or sinewy pieces on the chicken. Heat the canola in a sauté pan (or two, as pictured above!) and add the garlic. Meanwhile, dip the chicken pieces in the egg, and then coat them in the bread crumbs. Once the oil is hot, you can start the frying process.

Brown the chicken over medium-high heat, in batches, until both sides are golden (as shown above), about 10 minutes (you can finish the cooking in the oven, and though smaller ones may actually be cooked, the bigger pieces will take longer). Place the cooked chicken pieces in baking pans in single layers, but don't clean the sauté pans just yet!

Add the fresh orange juice to one/both of the pans, and stir over low heat. Add about 1/2 cup of wine (or more). Let the juice reduce for about 5 to 10 minutes; it should thicken slightly. Taste and season.  Pour the juice/wine mixture over the chicken pieces. Bake, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Costa Rican Rice and Beans (Gallo Pinto)

Rice and beans for breakfast? Why not?! Those of you have had the pleasure of visiting Costa Rica, and enjoying the generosity of the Ticos--not to mention the scenery AND fabulous food--know what I'm talking about. Gallo Pinto is a classic Costa Rican breakfast dish. But, as many of you also know, part of the tremendous beauty of travelling is taking something that you "discover" and making it your own. I've been making Gallo Pinto since I "brought it home" after my first visit to Costa Rica. Thankfully I've enjoyed many repeat visits--and even taught a cooking class! Here are some photos  (below!) of my welcome there--and some of the treats they served when I arrived...and more.

Which brings me to my next bit. My "Gallo Pinto" teacher (pictured below) was Vivian Vargas, who I met, with her husband Wady in Mexico City. We subsequently became friends--and even set up a cultural exchange between their school (they have a school outside San José) and my kids' elementary school at the time. (OK, this is a longer story; I'll save it for another time!)

Back to the Gallo Pinto: Since she taught me how to make this dish (about 10 years ago?!), I've made it on many occasions. I like it because it can be made ahead of time--and because it's perfect when served at room temperature (perfect for barbecues/steamy days...)

 I published a version of this in a I worked on with Dr. Manny Alvarez,  The Hot Latin Diet (2008)--but keep changing it depending on the occasion and what I have available. By the way, if you can, you should cook your black beans. As I was reminded on Sunday, the ones you prep--as opposed to the ones you buy--are just so much better.  Anyway, I hope you like this--and do tell me about your variations!

Serves  12+ as a side dish 

2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced (or according to taste)
1 red onion, chopped 
1 red bell pepper, chopped ( I used orange this time, too)
3 to 4 cups of cooked black beans (with bean stock), or--in a pinch--canned...but cooked is so much better!
4 cups of cooked white (or brown) rice, at room temperature or warm
1 tablespoon Salsa Lizano (available in Latin markets or online) or Worcestershire Sauce to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (or more--according to taste)

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat (until the oil is hot, but not smoking). Add the garlic, ginger, and onion and cook, stirring frequently. (Lower the heat if the onion starts to brown.) After the onion starts to wilt, about 2 minutes, add the red pepper and sauté until softened, about another 3 minutes. Add the beans, and cook, stirring frequently, just until the beans warm, about 2 more minutes. Turn of the heat and set aside.

Pour the rice into a large bowl. Stir in the bean mixture and mix well. Add the Salsa Lizano (or Worcestershire) and mix well. Add hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in the cilantro, and serve at room temperature.

On the day I was coming to give a talk and cooking class at Academia Guaitil, the students set up an amazing breakfast!

Not only did they set up the local fruit, they designed it beautifully--and labeled it.
Getting ready to eat my tamal, platanos, gallo pinto...and more! 

With my Gallo Pinto teacher, Vivian Vargas, and her husband, Wady Gutierrez. 

With Academia Guaitil's wonderful director,  Kathy Carvajal Ruffley--and the books they gave me!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Tomato, Basil Mozzarella Marriage

Sometimes, as I've said before, simple is best—and this is the case with this sometimes-appetizer-sometimes-lunch treat. (And, I confess, I ate a few of ‘em for breakfast on Monday—after serving them on Sunday!) This is another regularly featured side or appetizer on my Sunday tables, and there’s plenty of room to vary it. The starring players are the tomato, the basil, and the mozzarella; they make an excellent marriage. (And oh--this is lovely with Mango Sangría--which I recently included in my Latin Twist Blog!) 

The trick—as with any recipe—is to use the best quality ingredients. We’re lucky to be in a neighborhood where I can get homemade mozzarella (thank you DeCiccos) excellent quality bread (from the Bronx, baby!), fresh basil, from my garden (thanks, Hon!), and sweet kumato tomatoes (thank you, Trader Joes!).  I’ve also used a balsamic glaze that I bought in Berlin (!), but you can find now in many places (or you can make it by reducing balsamic vinegar so that it becomes as thick as a light syrup). By the way—sometimes I put the tomato down first, and then the cheese on top. It all depends on my mood. Enjoy!

Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella

1 baguette, sliced into about 20 rounds
1 pound fresh mozzarella
6 – 7 medium-size ripe tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Balsamic glaze
Fresh basil leaves, rolled and cut into ribbons

Place the cut baguette slices on a serving platter. Cut the mozzarella so that the slices fit on the bread rounds.  Slice the tomatoes in a similar way. Drizzle with olive oil, and add salt and pepper. Then drizzle with the balsamic glaze, and top with the basil ribbons.  Serve at room temperature. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Caponata

Anyone who was part of my mom’s soirées—either in Larchmont or North Brookfield—knows that caponata was one of her staples. Probably inspired by my dad’s roots, she regularly made this Sicilian-born cooked vegetable “salad” as an appetizer in large batches that she served and/or froze for future use. 

So, as part of my Father’s Day menu of grilled sausage (thank you, Peter!) and pasta with vegetables (thanks again, Peter!), and grilled ribs (thank you, Seth!) I made an appetizer of caponata. Now, I tried to recreate it based on my memory, and some recipes I found. I’m proud to report that both my parents (and the 15 other guests!) enjoyed it. In fact, hmmm...maybe it will be one of my staples! About the amount,  I ended up with plenty—enough for my daughter to take some for lunch today (and wrap in a fresh flour tortilla) and much more.

Serves 15 to 20 as an appetizer, and about 8 as a side dish

3 large eggplants, cut into 1-inch dice
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
3 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 six-ounce can tomato paste, thinned with about a 1/4 cup of water
1 3/4 cups crushed canned tomatoes
6 ounces pitted green olives, halved (and drained—you can always save the “juice” for dirty martinis!)
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup capers
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup pine nuts (plus additional for garnish)
3/4 cup basil chiffonade (leaves rolled and sliced into elegant ribbons)
35 baguette slices fresh or brushed with olive oil and toasted

In a Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, heat about 2 and 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once it starts to shimmer, add the garlic. Then add a layer of eggplant (you will have to sauté in batches). Cook, stirring occasionally, until  browned all over, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue cooking until the eggplant is very tender, about 4 more minutes. Transfer to a platter with paper towel (to soak up some oil), and repeat with remaining eggplant.

Add olive oil as needed, and heat over medium. Sauté the onions and celery for a couple of minutes, until the onions start to brown and soften, about 5 minutes.
Return the eggplant to the pan, and add the tomato paste. Cook for about 2 minutes until the caramelized, and add the crushed tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, sugar and chocolate and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add pine nuts and 1/2 cup of the basil ribbons.  At this point,  the caponata can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. 

Serve at room temperature. Add about 1/4 of fresh basil leaves and some pine nuts just before serving.  

Full menu:

Mango Salsa with Fresh-Toasted Corn Chips
Horseradish Hummus with Carrots
Caponata with Fresh Baguette Slices

Grilled Sausage with an Apple-Orange Leek and Onion Topping (recipe to come!)
Seth’s Famous Grilled Ribs
Pasta with Assorted Roast Vegetables
Leafy Green Salad with  Cucumber,Toasted Cashews, Dried Cranberries, and a Light White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Grandpas Tony and Lionel--A.K.A my dad--and father-in-law!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Cocktail Scene in Berlin

Somewhere between Mad Men and Elvis Costello lies the Berlin cocktail scene. I’ll explain: basically, there are many cocktail bars that feature many sexy drinks like the one I’m currently hot on: the vodka gimlet (maybe it’s the glass….love those martini glasses!). So, on one of our lovely Berlin evenings, hostess Holly took us to Victoria Bar  located on Potsdamer Strasse—near Postdamer Platz.  With a soundtrack of blues, reggae, and soul, and bartenders that command not only the bar, but also the English language, this bar seems to be a hit for visitors and expats—as well as the local crowd.  They have a menu that features only cocktails and beer (no food!) and walls filled with interesting photos/memorabilia (I’m told it’s a changing display). There are low hanging soft lights (we love those, right ladies?)  a long bar, and dark wood—and leather couches in the back, the feel is retro-ish comfortable. Actually it reminded me of some of those old-time wood paneled suburban basement bars in friends’ homes.   
Berlin bartenders are serious about their craft, and do it well. And, like many other Berliners I saw, the Victoria Bar bartenders (okay, especially Nicho) could be Elvis Costello stand-ins.  (And though we were told that he made awesome drinks but didn’t crack smiles, we certainly got him to do both!)
Here’s one recipe for vodka gimlets. This is a great cocktail to accompany  tapas like the Salmon Tartare recipe I posted on Monday. Ah—chill the glasses simply by filling them with ice and a bit of water for a couple of minutes. Prost!
 Serves 1
2 ounces vodka (Grey Goose, Kettle,…your favorite)
1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice

Combine in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Serve with a twist of lime.

Nicho's gimlets--lined up with "shots" of water--great for pre-drinking hydration!
With Matthias and Karen--Holly was our photographer!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sunday Dinner (or at least a starter!): Salmon Tartare

Though honestly these roulades wouldn’t cut it with my dad as far as Sunday dinner material, he would definitely enjoy them as starters. (They could easily be the star players in a summertime luncheon--along with a leafy salad and Prosecco!) I'm sure you'll find ways to enjoy these delightful bites.

I think it was Chef Rafael Palomino that introduced me to Salmon Tartare; it’s been love ever since (for him and the dish!). Seriously, there is something so clean and refreshing—not to mention elegant—about salmon tartare, and Sabine’s interpretation is no exception. Though there’s a bit of dicing involved, just look how gorgeous the presentation is! Remember,  as always, you may want to vary amounts depending on your taste.
Cooking in Sabine's kitchen--in Berlin!

Sabine's Salmon Tartare
(Adapted and translated!)

Serves about 8 (appetizer portions)

2 to 3 Japanese cucumbers
1 pound boneless salmon fillet, skinless, diced into 1/8-inch cubes
8 ounces smoked salmon, diced into 1/8-inch cubes
4 to 6 cornichons (small pickles), finely diced
1/2 teaspoon finely diced capers
1 shallot, finely diced
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Make sure you cut the cucumber so there's enough to roll up!
Black Sesame seeds

Using a mandoline or a peeler, shave the cucumber so that you have pieces that are thick enough to roll up.

Combine the diced salmon with the smoked salmon, cornichons, capers, shallot, parsley and olive oil. Mix well.  (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for an hour or so, or continue!) Add the salt and pepper and Tabasco.

Roll them individually.
Using a small melon baller—or  a small spoon—scoop a bit of the tartare up, and place it on the top part of the cucumber slice. Roll it up, and affix, as needed, with a toothpick. Repeat  until you’ve used up the tartare. Serve immediately, or cover and chill for up to 2 hours. Top with the black sesame seeds just prior to serving. 

The platter--they're not "perfect" but that adds to the charm! 
¡Salud! Prost! Cheers! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Midweek Food Musings: Quick Post-Berlin, Still-in-Jet-Lag Dinner!

When I was in college many moons ago I dated a chef (always had a sweet spot for those kitchen types) who could walk into just about any kitchen, pull from the fridge, counter, and pantry, and create a delicious meal. He said it's all about how you combine flavors and textures. The key, he added, is to make sure you have a good base of ingredients on hand. I think this is all good advice, and I try to follow it...always.

So on Tuesday, when I was still (am still!) recovering from a wonderful week in Berlin and the time difference and jumping right back into an 8+ work day, I wanted (okay my husband wanted!) something fresh, fast--and of course tasty.  Here’s what I had: frozen organic corn (which--except for during corn season--I keep on hand), red onion, red pepper, fresh cilantro, some mozzarella cheese, pasta—and salad greens. Voilà! Dinner was less than 20 minutes! Here's my "recipe," though--as always--it's open to interpretation depending on what you like, and what you have on hand

Colors and textures: Crunchy-sweet kernels of white corn, soft red onions, slightly crunchy red pepper , plus the sparky kiss of red pepper flakes, cushion of mozzarella, and breath of cilantro.

Super quick pasta topping 
Serves 4 to 6 

Canola oil
1 pound frozen organic corn kernels
1 red (or your favorite!) bell pepper
1 red onion
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated mozzarella (or your favorite!) cheese (optional)
Hot pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or basil) leaves  

Start your water for pasta.

Heat  about 1 1/2  tablespoons of oil (enough to cover the bottom of a pan) over medium-high heat. 
Saute the red onion and bell pepper for about a minute, stirring frequently. Add the corn, and let sit for a while (it's best when it caramelizes...and gets that toasty color and sweet flavor) before stirring. Cook until the onions are soft, and the corn is tender but not mushy. Add the cilantro leaves. 

Cook your pasta and drain. Add the cheese and hot pepper flakes. Stir in the corn mixture. Serve--along with a leafy green salad. 

"Prost" from Berlin's oldest Beer Garden: the Prater Biergartenn-


--And though I have so much to share (just need time to organize photos and write it all up!), I'm not quite ready to do so...but will be soon!