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Archive for May, 2010

I know it’s hard to see, but there is chicken below the tomatoes and on top of the polenta. For this dish you need the chicken to be pretty thin. I picked up some cutlets, basically breasts that have been butterflied. I pounded them out a little in order to make the thickness a little more uniform. To do that I just put a piece at a time in between plastic wrap and pounded it with a skillet until it was the desired thickness.

In a bowl I put in two diced shallots, two diced garlic cloves, half of a large fennel bulb thinly chopped, a tablespoon of drained capers, the leaves of 4 fresh thyme sprigs, three tomatoes that I skinned, seeded, and chopped. I poured in about a quarter cup of olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and mixed everything up.

In a large baking dish I drizzled a little olive oil on the bottom, just enough to lightly coat it. I seasoned the chicken (I had four cutlets) with salt and pepper on both sides and laid them down in the dish next to each careful not to overlap any of them. Then I spooned the mixture on top of each piece to cover the chicken completely. I drizzled a little more olive oil on top and threw it into a 450 degree oven for about 2o minutes. Once out of the oven I garnished with thinly sliced basil and chopped fennel fronds.

While that was going on I made the polenta and some bacon-wrapped asparagus. After I skinned the tomatoes for the chicken I used the same boiling water to blanch the asparagus. After a few minutes in the boiling water I took the asparagus out and put it into a bowl of ice water to shock it. Then I wrapped them in bacon and set aside until cooking time. To cook them I heated up a pan and poured in just a little olive oil and then fried all of the asparagus turning to cook all sides. When the bacon was fully cooked I poured in a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and shook the pan around to coat all of the bacon.

There are different ways to cook polenta. The rule of thumb that I live by is 4 cups of liquid for each cup of polenta. So, I took 2 cups of the asparagus boiling water, 1 cup of chicken stock, and one cup of soy milk. I brought it all to a boil with salt and pepper. Once it was boiling, in a slow steady stream, I poured the polenta in constantly whisking. Once all of the polenta was in I continued to whisk for a few minutes. Then I turned the heat down to med-low, covered the pot, and came back to whisk every few minutes. When I got to the consistency I desired, I turned off the heat and whisked in 4 tablespoons of butter in small chunks, one chunk at a time. Then I threw in a handful of parmesan cheese and stirred that all in. That’s it.

The only thing I will do differently if I make this dish again is that I’ll saute the shallots and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes before mixing them into the fennel and tomato mixture. They were a bit sharp, so by cooking them a little first the sweetness will come out a little more. Otherwise this is a very simple and delicious way to have chicken.

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For Meatless Monday last night I made some burger patties out of quinoa. To go along with it I made a very simple vegetable soup.

To make the soup I sautéed a half onion, a carrot, two ribs of celery, a fennel bulb, and some asparagus all chopped in some olive oil with minced garlic. I let the vegetables sweat for about 6 or 7 minutes.

Then I added two chopped tomatoes, a few cups of boiling water, a bay leaf, and the rind from some parmigiano-reggiano. I seasoned with salt and pepper and let it simmer over low heat for a while.

To make the quinoa patties I first sautéed a few thinly sliced green onions in some olive oil with a diced garlic clove. After a few minutes I added a cup of quinoa that I had rinsed a few times. I let the quinoa cook in the oil for a few minutes and then added 1.5 cups of hot water. Once that came to a boil I covered the pot and let it simmer at low heat for about 15 minutes.

After all the water had been absorbed I fluffed the quinoa with a fork and stirred in some grated parmesan, a handful of thinly sliced basil, salt, and pepper. Then I let it cool down for a bit. After it had cooled, I stirred in one egg and formed 8 patties. I put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes to firm them up a bit.

In batches, I fried them over high heat in butter. I added a little butter as need be.

To serve, I laid a couple of patties on top of baby arugula. I made a simple sauce of basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in my small processor. I drizzled the sauce on top and then tossed some parmesan on top of that.

It turned out delicious, but the patties were very fragile. If I make them again I’m going to add some bread crumbs. I think that will help keep the patties firm and less prone to falling apart. But the flavors were great.

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Last night was Yuki’s turn to make dinner. She made one of her specialties, vegetable soup with chicken-stuffed cabbage rolls.

First thing she did was to take a head of cabbage and plunge it into boiling water for a few minutes. She didn’t want to cook the cabbage, just make the leaves pliable for rolling, so they don’t break. Then she pulled apart the leaves and separated them.

For the chicken filling she put some ground thigh meat in a bowl. To that I grated some ginger and garlic and she chopped up some cilantro and put that in as well. She also soaked some hijiki seaweed in warm water for about 20 minutes. Once it was soft, she drained it (reserving the liquid) and tossed that into the meat as well. Some salt and pepper and I mixed it all up.

She laid the cabbage leaves down, one at a time, and I dropped a spoonful-sized ball of the meat mixture in the middle. Then she rolled them up and set aside.

For the broth she added the reserved hijiki water to some chicken stock and brought it to a boil. Then she added some green onions, carrots, broccoli, and the cabbage rolls. The leftover cabbage leaves that weren’t rolled were cut up and thrown into the soup as well. She let it simmer over medium heat for about a half hour or so.

That’s it. Simple, healthy, and delicious. White rice on the side, but bread would work too.

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Alright, I’m Jewish and not Mexican. But hey, both of our cultures were slaughtered by the Spanish so we share the same plight. Not really, but my mom lives in Mexico. To celebrate Mexican Independence I made my first attempt at a mole. Whole Foods had these fantastic lamb shoulder steaks on sale. Using a Oaxacan Red Mole recipe as my base, I altered it to fit the ingredients I could find as well as to make it more of a braise to break down the fat of the shoulder cut instead of a sauce like you typically see with a mole. While it’s usually not the best idea to screw around with a recipe you’re unfamiliar with, especially one with as many steps as mole, I’m confident enough in myself that it was no problem. The results almost couldn’t have been better!

To start, I soaked 3 ancho chiles and 4 New Mexico chiles in boiling water. I was looking for guajillo chiles, but couldn’t find any. So, I used the New Mexico ones instead. I have absolutely no idea if the two chiles are at all similar, and still don’t, but thought it was a risk worth taking.

While the chiles were soaking I heated up a skillet and, one spice at a time, toasted 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, 1/4 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. Once cooled I ground them up with my pestle and mortar.

Then I used the same hot skillet to roast two garlic cloves. Keep the skin on the cloves and just let them sit in the hot pan for about 2-3 minutes per side. When they were cool to touch I put them in the blender with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and made a smooth puree.

I cleaned out the blender. I de-stemmed and de-seeded the chiles and pureed them with about a cup of the soaking water which had taken on a lot of the chile flavors and aromas. The recipe I was using only called for a tablespoon or so of the water, just enough to puree the chiles. Since I wanted a braising liquid instead of just a thick sauce I used a lot more of the water. I also set some aside in case I wanted to add more, but didn’t need to. After the chiles were pureed, I strained them into a bowl and set aside.

Alright, time to put the mole together. I heated up about 3 tablespoons of soy oil and added the spice mix from my mortar. After about 15 seconds I poured in the tomato sauce and then the pureed chiles. Careful though, it splatters! I mixed that all around. Once it started to boil I added 1/2 cup of sugar, 1.5oz of Mexican chocolate, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. I let that come to a gentle boil.

While the mole was coming up to a boil I heated up some oil in a hot skillet, cut the lamb steaks into bite-sized pieces, and seared them off in batches. As they were seared they were tossed into the mole. I let them braise in the mole for about 30 minutes then I added two chopped carrots and let it all braise for another 45 minutes. The sauce became nice and thick.

For starch I made some cilantro mashed potatoes. I took 4 good-sized russets, skinned them, quartered them, and tossed them in a pot with cold water. I added salt and three large peeled garlic cloves. Then I brought it up to a boil. Once the water started to boil I let the potatoes go for about 25 minutes.

While that was going on I took a handful of cilantro and blended it with about 2/3 cup of soy milk. I then took 4 tablespoons of butter and cut that into smaller pieces. Once the potatoes and garlic were cooked I drained them and added them back to the pan. I poured the cilantro milk in and mashed it all up real good one pat of butter at a time. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper. They might have been the best damn mashed potatoes I’ve ever made!

For a side I heated up some olive oil and threw in two cloves of crushed garlic. A few minutes later I added 1/2 of an onion chopped and let that saute down a bit. Then I threw in a jalapeno that was seeded and sliced. A few more minutes and I threw in a bunch of sliced mushrooms. I had a few shiitake left in my fridge as well as a carton of buttons. Once those were almost cooked through I tossed in 1/2 radiccio that I had thinly sliced. I let that all wilt down, seasoned and then served. For garnish I broke up some cotija cheese.

To garnish the mole I diced an avocado. I also diced a red onion and soaked it in water for most of the day to draw out the rawness. Besides those two garnishes, I laid a few cilantro sprigs on top.

I have to say, for a Jew, I make a mean mole! The ony thing I think I’d do different is cut the sugar from 1/2 cup to 1/4 quarter cup. It was slightly sweet, but not so much that it was bothersome. Soy chingon!!!

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Whole Foods had these fantastic looking bone-on pork chops for sale yesterday. With the weather being nice and all, I thought “I gots to grill me some of those!”

To start, I made a marinade for the chops. I grated an inch of ginger and two garlic cloves into my baking dish (I wasn’t baking at all, but it fit the chops in an even layer). To that, I added 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 of sake, and 1 of apple cider vinegar. I mixed in about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and some fresh cracked black pepper. I coated the chops, covered with plastic, and marinated in the fridge for about an hour.

For veggies, I did some sauteing in butter. I melted 2 tablespoons of butter and then threw in 3 crushed garlic cloves and let cook down for a few minutes. Then I added a chopped carrot. A few minutes later I threw in a red bell pepper that I sliced as well as 8 chopped green onions. Then, a few more minutes and I added some green beans and shiitake. I let it all cook together for a few minutes and then added a few tablespoons of soy sauce. I let the soy coat all of the veggies and then covered it and turned the heat down to med-low. I let the veggies sort of steam in the soy butter while I grilled the chops.

Since the chops were bone-on, the meat stayed a lot juicier than a boneless chop. I do want to mention that I took them out of the fridge about a half hour prior to throwing them on the grill to bring them back to room temp.

Some white rice and we were ready for dinner.

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For Meatless Monday I took advantage of another grilling opportunity. I made lasagna with grilled vegetables. By doing this, the sweetness of the veggies is brought out and that fantastic smokey flavor is added. I needed all the flavor I could get since I wasn’t adding any meat. I also opted not to use a tomato sauce or bechamel sauce either in order to keep the flavors more natural and lighter.

I started by thinly slicing a large eggplant and two smaller zucchini as well as two orange bell peppers. I drizzled them with olive oil and then grilled them until they were about half-way cooked.

Then, in my baking dish I poured a tablespoon of olive oil and coated the bottom. I put down a layer of pasta, then alternated layers of veggies. The veggies I used were the eggplant, zucchini, and pepper from the grill, some thinly sliced red onion, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes. I also put some ricotta cheese layers inside. I seasoned with salt and pepper as I went along.

I covered it in foil and then put it in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Then I took it out and removed the foil. I sprinkled some parmesan cheese on top and then put it back into the oven, uncovered, for another 20 minutes until the cheese and top layer of tomatoes started to brown a little.

To serve, I put pieces on top of some baby arugula. Then I drizzled some basil oil I made. A handful of basil blended with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. I do prefer meat, but this tasted pretty damn good.

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Yuki did the cooking last night. There’s a popular bento dish called Sanshoku Bento, or three-color bento. It’s basically rice topped with some sort of ground meat, scrambled eggs, and some sort of vegetable. Hence, the name three-color. Drawing off of that, she ended up doing Yonshoku, or 4 colors.

For the meat we picked up some really good ground beef. Whole Foods had 85% grass-fed on sale, so we took advantage of that. She cooked it up with some garlic, ginger, sugar, soy, sake, mirin, and a little sesame oil. Not sure what measurements she used though.

For the eggs she simply scrambled a couple.

We had a Chinese eggplant in the fridge that needed to be used up, so she cooked it in soy, sake, and mirin.

For the green she used two vegetables. First, she boiled some broccoli. Then she wilted down some spinach in a little bit of soy sauce.

Not wanting to waste the broccoli water, she added the spinach juice to it and then boiled some mushrooms, carrot slices, green onion, and wakame in it for about 10 minutes or so. Then she added a little soy sauce and just a touch of sesame oil. Just before serving she mixed in about a tablespoon of miso.

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