Monthly Archives: July 2013

Have I mentioned my book?

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My husband Jason and I received I a picinic “basket” as a wedding gift from our friend, Jess. The vintage suitcase arrived, filled with beautiful, reclaimed flatware and serving ware, linens and wine glasses. Like Jess, it is fabulous-casual. You know, like those friends who roll out of bed, pull on whatever clothes lay about their feet, and end up looking like the cover of Vogue?

Now I needed a dish as fabulous as the picnic case. Something that we could serve with a bottle of sparkling rosé, sipped by ladies in gloves and men wearing hats and suspenders.

Et voilà, I succeeded! This herb-poached chicken is perfectly moist. The dry wine, peppercorns and bay ground a beautiful sauce. It’s made slightly sweet by the chicken, tarragon and butter. Cook it ahead and serve it cold with cucumbers dressed in Merlot vinegar, French potato salad and slices of sweet, clean, white peaches and nectarines.

Now I just need a hat.

*I was recently advised that I needed to get comfortable with shameless self-promotion in order to sell my upcoming book, Simple Summer: A Recipe for Cooking and Entertaining with Ease. Here’s one of the recipes. I hope you enjoy it. How was that for shameless?

Herb poached chicken

Serves 6

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 chicken breast halves
  • 3 sprigs tarragon
  • 3-4 sprigs parsley
  • 4-5 chives
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbs Champagne Mimosa* or other white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs cold butter, cut in pieces

*Sightly sweet and beautiful balanced, the mild acidity of Sapore’s Champagne Mimosa vinegar brightens this dish and many summer salads without overpowering the fresh ingredients.

Serve light-tasting French potato salad with this white wine, herb-poached chicken.

Serve light-tasting French potato salad with this white wine, herb-poached chicken.

Directions:

  • Warm oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté until softened and translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Reduce heat if needed, to cook onions without browning.
  • Add garlic and cook two minutes, until fragrant.
  • Place chicken breasts in pan in a single layer. Tuck herbs between chicken.
  • Mix together wine and stock, and pour into pan.
  • Cover pan and bring to a simmer. Cook chicken for 10-15 minutes until done, 165 degrees. Be careful not to let poaching liquid boil.
  • Remove chicken to a platter and tent with foil.
  • Add peppercorns, bay leaves and vinegar to pan and simmer until reduced by half. Strain sauce, discard solids and return liquid to pan.
  • Add any juices that have collected under the chicken and cook until reduced to 1 cup.
  • Remove sauce from heat and whisk in butter to thicken.
  • Serve warm or chill and serve cold. Either way, don’t forget the sauce.

Too darn hot.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

For Natalie

When it gets really hot and humid, I get nostalgic, or delirious, about my childhood summers. Without AC, on New England’s hottest summer days we’d jump in a lake or sit in front of a fan (speaking like Darth Vader, of course). Dinner was served cold, following a swim, and dessert was ice cold out of the freezer, usually juice frozen in a popsicle mold.

Summer meals were fresh from the garden. We would wake up in the morning to a list of chores, which included a pic list to of ripe vegetables to harvest. My Mom would send us out with a woven basket…

You just rolled your eyes so far back in your head you can see yesterday.

This really was my childhood. We really did pick green beans, tomatoes and peppers in the morning. We swam in Pelham or Puffer’s ponds. And no, mom would not get us those sugary frozen tubes of bright blue, red and orange ice, no matter how hard we begged. But she made a mean cucumber salad, and I lived for fried rounds of breaded, egg-dipped squash cut from large zucchinis.

I admit, I had it pretty darn good, but I’m still excited to go home to air conditioning tonight.

Cucumber Zucchini Salad

Serves 6

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced.
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Dressing:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup Merlot* or another red wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Arbrosana* or another good quality Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbs chopped dill and parsley

*Sapore’s cool choices for this hot weather salad. Merlot is a beautifully balanced red wine vinegar, not the typical prickly acid-bomb from the grocery store. Arbrosana is bold and green. Buy ’em online.

Directions:

  • Mix together cucumbers, zucchini and red onion in a large bowl.
  • Make dressing: mash garlic and a pinch of coarse salt into a paste.
  • Whisk together garlic paste with Merlot Vinegar and mustard.
  • Whisk oil into dressing in a thin stream to form a creamy emulsion.
  • Whisk yogurt into dressing. Fold in herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Dress vegetables starting with about 2/3 of the dressing and adding more as needed. Season to taste.
  • If not serving immediately, season to taste before serving.

Mom was very, very right.

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Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Photography by Sam Armocido

When Mom said we were having a vegetable for dinner – say zucchini or green beans – it was, typically, just that. They were steamed, seasoned with salt and pepper, and possibly tossed with fresh herbs, usually parsley or basil from the garden. If Mom felt the rest of the meal was sufficiently healthy, she would add a small pat of butter. This, it turns out, is a fabulous way to serve almost any vegetable.

We should have been less surprised then, I suppose, by the overwhelming success of a recent attempt at zucchini pasta. I think it was the “pasta” that misled us. I mean, I have trouble thinking that sautéed strips of squash are in any way going to deliver the deep satisfaction of semolina spaghetti. I was wrong. (And, because I would never hear the end of it from my husband, let’s keep that little admission just between us.)

The long strips we quickly shaved with a vegetable peeler resembled wide pappardelle noodles. Cooked over low heat to keep the flavor light, we tossed in garlic and a splash of lemon juice, fresh basil and a grating of Parmesan cheese. We then made another batch, arguing that we should probably try adding fresh tomato.

Our third panful confirmed it was actually fine without the tomato, and the fourth we needed for a photograph. We are currently planning future batches to serve under chicken piccata and shrimp scampi.

You know, just to be on the safe side, I going to retract any admission that I was wrong. Let’s simply say my Mom was very, very right.

Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!*
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs chopped basil
  • 1-2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

*We use Sapore’s Frantoio, a light, buttery Italian oil. (Which you can order online.)

Directions:

  • Warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat in a 12” skillet. Add zucchini and sauté, turning often with tongs, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook until zucchini is softened, about 3 minutes longer.
  • In skillet, toss in parsley, basil, lemon juice and remaining 1 tbs olive oil.
  • Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

A little American innovation.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Norman Rockwell drew an illustration for the Mass Mutual insurance company titled “Cookout.” As mothers and children set the picnic table, fathers hover around the grill. Nowhere is there any food.

But imagine, give me your very best Family Feud guess as to what will appear on those quintessential American plates.

Burgers, of course, and corn on the cob. What’s on top of those burgers? A single square of cheese melting into the smoky, crevices in the beef patty. Theres a plate of iceberg lettuce available for topping, and if it’s a really good day, mom has fried up some bacon.

This burger, then, is not so far from American tradition. The corn, off-the-cob and tossed with bacon, tops the burger. Baby spinach replaces lettuce and our cheese is upgraded to a far-more-American cheddar. It’s fun, delicious and a little creative.

Maybe that’s why Mr. Rockwell left the plates empty. There’s nothing more American than taking traditions, making some changes, and making them our own.

Corn and Bacon Salsa Burger

Using beef with some fat makes this burger rich and moist. These are big burgers and could certainly be made into 6 smaller patties.

makes 4 large 1/2 pound burgers

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef 80% lean
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, minced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 pound cheddar cheese, sliced
  • 4 Kaiser rolls
  • 1/4 pound baby arugula
  • 1 cup Corn and Bacon Salsa (see below)

Directions:

  • Mix together ground beef, bacon, eggs, parsley and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and form into four large patties.
  • Heat your grill to medium-high and grill your burgers just off to the side of the coals. These are big patties, so you’ll probably cook them for 5-7 minutes a side for medium rare.
  • Place a slice or two of cheese on burgers 1 minute before removing from grill.
  • Layer bun bottoms with arugula and burgers. Top each with 1/4 cup corn and bacon salsa and bun top.
  • If there’s not juice running down your chin, you’re doing it wrong!

Corn and Bacon Salsa

For a nuttier, toastier flavor, toss corn kernals with 1 tbs olive oil and 1/4 tsp cumin and roast in a 400 degree oven until golden, about 7-10 minutes. Add right before seasoning the salsa. Serve this over grilled, cumin-lime marinated chicken or with chips.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups salsa

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices, thick cut bacon
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Sherry  or Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry* vinegar

*Where do you get Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar? Sapore, of course! You can order online too.

Directions:

  • Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned on both sides. Remove from pan and dry on paper towels. Leave 2 tbs bacon fat in pan.
  • Return heat to medium and add red onion. Cook until softened.
  • Add red onion and jalapeño. Sauté 3 additional minutes.
  • Add raw corn, increase heat to medium high, and cook for 3-5 minutes until edges of corn turn golden.
  • Stir in cilantro, cumin and chili powder. Remove salsa from heat.
  • Chop bacon and stir into salsa.
  • Season to taste with a splash of vinegar, salt and pepper. Add additional cumin or chili powder as needed.