Tag Archives: cooking

You’ve got time.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

What would you do with more time?

Do you have a stack of unread issues of the New Yorker, or trail maps to the 48 peaks over 4000 feet in the White Mountains? Though a cold blessing, many people working in DC and around the country, currently have some time to answer this question.

My answer is simple. I would cook. I would braise and bake, make stocks stews and sauces, I would preserve and tackle all those time consuming cooking feats that currently escape my hectic schedule. Recently, I decided to just go for it.

Enamored by the thought of  using the local harvest of Asian pears in a marinade, I decided to braise a bone-in pork loin roast. The sweet, earthy pears paired perfectly with salty, delicate Tamari soy. I ground in some of the bold, floral Szechuan peppercorns I had been playing with recently, along with bright, fresh ginger and sweet maple sugar. My first attempt, 12 hours in the marinade and 10 in the oven, produced tender pork lacking flavor, It tasted much better after a night in the fridge.

Already a two day recipe, I figured I had already crossed a line and headed right back in to the kitchen. On Monday, I patted the bone-in pork loin roast with a blend of salt, peppercorns and maple sugar for an overnight dry marinade. Tuesday morning, I added the liquid ingredients to infuse throughout through the day and night. Wednesday morning, I seared the pork and braised it in a 200 degree oven for 10 hours, then cooled it to room temperature so it could sit in the fridge overnight, taking on even more flavor.

Thursday, after returning home from work, I skimmed the fat from the surface of the marinade. Shredded the meat, tossing it in the thickened sauce and served it with an Asian pear slaw and bao bing, the thin Chinese pancakes served with mù xī pork.

The result? Four days of cooking, requiring less than two hours of work is worth every minute. The flavors are complex, sweet and grounded, everything you want from cool fall days that aren’t yet winter.
If your unwillingly at home from work, my thoughts are with you. May you find joy in the kitchen. Now is the time.

Asian Pear Slaw and Pulled Pork Pancakes

Ingredients:


For pork:IMG_3493-1

  • 4 tbs crushed Szechuan peppercorns or 2 tbs each crushed black and white peppercorns*
  • 1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
  • 2 tbs salt
  • 1 4-5# bone-in pork shoulder
  • 3 Asian Pears
  • 3/4 cups Tamari soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup Rice wine vinegar*
  • 4 tbs sesame oil*
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 tbs diced, fresh ginger
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil

For slaw:


  • 3 Asian pears
  • 2 tbs Tamari soy
  • 1 tbs rice wine vinegar*
  • 1 tsp sesame oil*
  • 
1/2 tsp maple or brown sugar
  • 1″ fresh ginger, grated

For pancakes:


  • 2 cups flour
  • 
1 cup boiling water
  • 
2 tbs sesame oil

*You know what makes this taste even better? The Lemongrass-infused rice wine vinegar and Wasabi Sesame oil from Sapore. I’m totally obsessed. The Wasabi Sesame oil is well worth an online order. Give them a call and they would be more than happy to ship you a bottle of Szechuan peppercorns too!

Serves 8

Directions:
Shredded pork:IMG_3514-1

  • Dry rub: Mix together Szechuan peppercorns, maple sugar and salt. Rub mixture into surface of pork roast and place in the fridge overnight.
  • Make the marinade: Puree Asian pears in a food processor. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger and purée. Add pork shoulder to marinade, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Braise the roast: Pre-heat oven to 200. Remove pork from marinade, pat dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Warm oil in a dutch over medium-high heat. Sear pork on all sides.
  • Add marinade and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and place in oven and cook for 10-12 hours. Check every four hours to make sure you aren’t losing steam from your dutch oven. Add hot tap water to replace the liquid level as needed.
  • Rest the roast: Remove pork from oven, let cool and place in fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
  • Shred the pork and finish the sauce: Skim fat from surface and reheat pork on the stove. Remove pork and shred.
  • Strain the cooking liquid, reduce to a thick sauce and toss with pork.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Asian pear slaw:

  • Grate the Asian Pears the medium sized holes of a box grater.
  • Whisk together soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, honey and ginger.
  • Toss Asian pear with dressing and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. The pear will wilt over time, so dress it no more than 20 minutes before serving.

Mandarin Pancakes:

  • Add 3/4 cups boiling water to flour and stir together in one direction with a chop stick or spoon. Add additional water as needed for a slightly tacky dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes to an hour.
  • Roll the dough into a 1/2″ thick “snake” and cut into 2″ pieces.
  • Roll two pieces of dough into separate 3″ circles. Brush the top of each with sesame oil, and place the oiled sides together.
  • Roll the pancakes out into 6-8″ circles.
  • Warm a skillet over low heat. Add pancakes to pan and cook until brown spots appear, about 2 minutes. Turn and finish cooking, about 1 minute longer. Remove from pan and separate pancakes. Sometimes it take a little work to get them started. Keep warm by covering with a towel.
  • Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Serve pancakes with shredded pork and Asian pear slaw.
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Fine art fruit.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

The first cookbook I ever bought with my own money is titled The Fine Art of Garnishing. It came packaged with 5 small tools which enabled me to turn a radish into a rose, an apple into a bird, and, most importantly, carve a watermelon. For one summer cookout after another, I carved watermelons to serve fruit salad. Family photos reveal watermelons carefully crafted to resemble whales, Viking sailing ships, and baskets.

the fine art of garnishingWe’d scoop out the watermelons using a melon baller, and toss the fruit with cantaloupe, honeydew, peaches and berries. While I still love a good fruit salad, there are meals when I want my watermelon dressed a little more elegantly. The savory flavors of bright vinegar, bitter greens and sharp cheese balance delightfully with sugary fruits. They are the perfect companion to anything smoky and charred from the grill.

I suppose, if you’re going to use such sophisticated ingredients, you should probably present them more formally. May I suggest a watermelon?

Watermelon Gorgonzola Salad

Serves 6

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups watermelon cut in 1” cubes
  • 2 cups baby arugula, loosely packed
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Cava Rosé, or other light, red wine vinegar*
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff!
  • 1 cup chilled, crumbled gorgonzola cheese

*Cava Rosé is a wonderful summer introduction from our friends at Sapore. I paired it with Koroneiko, a light, grassy, Greek olive oil.

Directions:

  • Toss together watermelon and arugula in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together shallot, vinegar and honey.
  • Whisk olive oil into vinegar mixture to form a thick, creamy emulsion.
  • Stir cheese crumbles into vinaigrette and taste with a cube of watermelon.
  • Season dressing to taste with additional salt, pepper, vinegar or oil and lightly dress watermelon and arugula.
  • If making this ahead, keep the watermelon separate. It will release water which will dilute your dressing and wilt the arugula.

Meat on a stick.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

When I was a kid, fondue was a special family night. Mom would plug in the electric pot full of vegetable oil on the dining room table, as we grabbed for whichever long, two-tined fork was tipped in our favorite color. We cooked cubes of top sirloin in the hot fat, then dipped them into the homemade Béarnaise and burgundy sauces that Mom set out in small bowls.

I know fondue pots are a lost fashion of the 1970’s, but I have so many fond memories; like the time my godmother, Aunt Ali, served cheese fondue, and I spent the rest of the night throwing up. (Totally not her fault. It was an 8 year-old’s stomach bug. And the fondue was delicious!)

Whether at the end of a fork , skewered with wood  for a party or metal for the grill, meat on a stick is one of those foods – like anything smothered in cheese or made with bacon – that leaves us clamoring for more. These kebabs, spicy with Tunisian Harissa – a paste of sun dried chills, sweet with brown sugar, rich with tomato paste and earthy with fresh thyme, are exotic but easy. Oh, and if your fork handles have colored tips, I’ll take the blue.

Top Sirloin Cherry Tomato Harissa Kebabs

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbs Harissa
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup Pomegranate Vinegar* or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 quart cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large green peppers cut in 2” pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds top sirloin steak cut in 2” cubes (about 2 steaks)

*Pomegranate vinegar is back at Sapore (and it’s delicious!).

 

Directions:

IMG_2249-1

Photography by Sam Armocido

  • Make marinade: Whisk together Harissa, brown sugar, tomato paste, red wine, Pomegranate Vinegar, cinnamon, thyme and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Mix together tomatoes, peppers and steak and toss to coat with marinade. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  • If using wooden skewers, soak them for an hour before grilling.
  • Load skewers with beef, tomatoes, and peppers.
  • Prepare a hot grill and cook over direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side, about 8-10 minutes total for medium rare.
  • While grilling, place remaining marinade, and any extra tomatoes, in a small saucepan and cook at a high simmer until thickened.
  • Brush cooked kebabs with sauce and serve.

This is how you learn.

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Farm Camp at Arcadia

Farm Camp at Arcadia
Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi.

“They have farm camp?!” I asked my friend Pamela Hess. “That is the coolest thing ever!”

To my complete delight, she invited me to do a cooking class with the campers at Arcadia, a cool, non-profit farm – where Pamela is the Executive Director – dedicated to reconnecting us with our food and the people who produce it. These kids have spent a week feeding chickens, pulling weeds, harvesting fresh produce and learning how to cook. They already knew amazing recipes like zucchini pasta, fresh salsa, and veggie quesadillas. They even have mad knife skills.

IMG_4041

Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

From the second I arrived they were all over me. “Who are you? How’d you become a chef? What are we cooking?” They uncorked bottles of vinegar and oil knowing instinctually to smell them. When they found something they loved, they immediately shared it with someone else. They asked how we were using each new ingredient and tool that I placed on the table.

We cooked together for just over an hour, far longer than my childhood attention span. We made pan con tomate, and tossed vinaigrettes over zucchini and corn, and arugula, fresh from Arcadia’s farm.

IMG_4052

Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

During Q&A one of the campers asked me how I learned to cook. I talked about the years I spent exploring and practicing in the kitchen, but they didn’t really need an answer from me. When it comes to learning, they are already experts.

Pan con tomate

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 18 slices of baguette, 1/4″ thick, about 1/2 of a baguette
  • 1-2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt
  • Olive oil – the good stuff!
Farm Camp at Arcadia

Farm Camp at Arcadia
Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

Directions:

  • Warm your oven to 400 degrees and toasts the bread until crisp and golden on the edges, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Rub toasted bread a couple of times with the clove of garlic.
  • Cut each tomato in half and grate into pulp using a box grater. If the pulp is really watery, strain through a fine sieve to thicken.
  • Spread a teaspoon of pulp over each baguette slice. Sprinkle with salt, drizzle with a drop or three of oil, and serve.

Corn and Zucchini Salad

Serves 6-8

Cutting corn off the cobIngredients:

  • 1 large zucchini cut in a 1/2″ dice
  • 4 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1 tbs chopped basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar – we used Blackberry Balsamic
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff!

Directions:

  • Mix together zucchini, corn and basil in a large bowl.
  • Chop garlic, sprinkle with coarse salt – like sea salt or Kosher salt – and mash into a paste on your cutting board using the flat side of your knife or the tines of a fork.
  • Add the garlic to a small bowl with the vinegar and honey. Whisk together.
  • While whisking, pour the oil into the vinegar mixture, in a thin stream. Whisk until it forms a thick, creamy emulsion.
  • Dress the veggies lightly and serve.

Fresh Arugula Salad

Serves 6

IMG_4129

Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

  • 1/2 pound baby arugula
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup vinegar – we used Pomegranate vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff!

1.4 whisking vinaigretteDirections:

  • Place the arugula in a large salad bowl.
  • Chop garlic, sprinkle with coarse salt – like sea salt or Kosher salt – and mash into a paste on your cutting board using the flat side of your knife or the tines of a fork.
  • Add the garlic to a small bowl with the vinegar and honey. Whisk together.
  • While whisking, pour the oil into the vinegar mixture, in a thin stream. Whisk until it forms a thick, creamy emulsion.
  • Dress the salad lightly, tossing with tongs to coat. A perfectly dressed green salad should just glisten with dressing and there should be almost nothing left in the bottom of the bowl when you’re done serving.

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.

Golumbki.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Growing up, golumbki (pronounced ga-WUMP-ki) frequently graced our dinner table. Beef and rice, wrapped in cabbage leaves and baked in tomato sauce, would arrive to the table alongside bottles of ketchup and cider vinegar. Babci (my Polish grandmother) or Cioci Mary (her sister) would send them home in a casserole dish, or Mom would wrap and bake them in our kitchen. In case of emergency, there was always a foil pan tucked away somewhere in the basement freezer.

While this may seem the obvious origin for combining earthy chard, spicy chorizo and herbed rice, it’s not.

The recipe began with a bag of young Rainbow Chard leaves from Gardener’s Gourmet. The grounded, green flavor begged for fat and spice, bestowed by Mexican Chorizo sausage, smokey with pimentón, from the meat case at Canales. Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian for Everyone pointed to pairing cilantro with chard, which reminded me of arroz verde – rice infused with a paste of fresh herbs. The resulting pairing, splashed with Sapore’s Cava Rosé vinegar, was delicious. A kitchen victory!

Maybe I’ll try it with ketchup.

Chorizo and Chard with Green Rice

Serves 6-8

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 Mexican Chorizo sausages
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 pound young chard
  • 1 tsp Sherry or Cava Rosé* vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

*A new arrival at Sapore Oil and Vinegar.

Directions:

  • Warm oil in a large skillet. Remove sausage from casings and add to pan.
  • Cook, crumbling sausage until browned. Remove sausage from pan with a slotted spoon.
  • Add onion to pan and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes.
  • Add chard to pan and cook until wilted.
  • Return sausage to pan, with vinegar and cilantro. Mix.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional vinegar.

Green Rice

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup mixed herbs like cilantro, parsley and chives
  • 2 tbs dry sherry
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup rice

Directions:

  • Place garlic, herbs and sherry in a blender or food processor with 1/4 cup water. Purée.
  • Warm olive oil in a 2 quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add rice and cook 3-5 minutes until golden brown on edges.
  • Add garlic-herb past and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until herbs mellow and liquid is absorbed.
  • Add 2 cups water to pan. Cover and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to low and cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Fluff with a fork and serve topped with Chorizo and chard.