Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Favorite Pork Gravy

Rich tasting but not high calorie, this pairs beautifully with pork loin, tenderloin, and chops. It doesn't matter how they're cooked: on the barbeque, stove top, or oven, it all works. You'll pour the juices from the plate the cooked pork has rested on into the gravy. Lots of fresh thyme, parsley, white wine, and a squeeze of lemon brighten it up. Allow 30 minutes from start to finish, so the prunes have time to thoroughly steep. That's about the same time for a tenderloin to roast in the oven and then rest, so it times out perfectly. This makes plenty of gravy for 4 chops or one average size tenderloin.

3/4 c dry white wine
3/4 c chicken stock
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 rounded TB fresh thyme, lightly chopped
6-8 pitted prunes, halved
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Big handful fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp arrowroot (in the spices aisle of the grocery store)

Pour the wine, chicken stock and thyme in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add a few pinches of salt and about 8-10 grinds of pepper. Remove from heat, add the prunes, cover and let steep for a good 20 minutes. If I'm roasting a tenderloin, I do this step as the oven is pre-heating. That way I know it's steeped at least as long as the pork is cooking.

Cook your pork. This time it was pork chops. For the two of us, I just took one boneless, butterflied chop, cut it in two, trimmed off all the fat, pressed salt, pepper, and lots of chopped fresh sage into both sides.

I used a 10" black iron skillet, heated a scant 1 TB EVOO over medium-high, cooked the chops 5 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other side. Removed them from the heat to a plate and tented with foil to rest. See the juices that were released? Going in the gravy.

If you are roasting a tenderloin in the oven, I recommend you still use a black iron skillet so you can scrape up the little bits of fond into the gravy. Just be careful when you take it from the oven and don't accidentally grab the handle with your bare hand once it's on the stove!!

Back to the gravy:  in your skillet, over medium heat on the stove, add a drizzle of EVOO, just enough to cook the shallots. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any fond if you cooked the meat in the skillet. Add the shallots and a bit of salt and pepper, stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the prune-stock-wine liquid, the juices from the resting meat, and bring to a simmer. Add a squeeze of lemon, 1 or 2 tsp. You should taste a bit of acid but not be able to tell that it's lemon. Add salt & pepper if needed. Stir in the parsley.

In a small teacup or bowl, make a slurry of 2 tsp arrowroot and 4 tsp cold water. Stir briskly till smooth. Remove gravy from the heat and pour in the slurry, stirring gravy constantly for about a minute until it thickens up to your liking. Pour into a gravy boat and serve.

- - - - - - - - -
Note: My friends and I recently had a conversation about gravy thickeners. If you are on the GARD diet, you should not use cornstarch. It's made from corn, which is a big no-no for us. Consider, too, that even though "it's just a little bit", it is the very concentrated dried starch from the corn. Not good. And, unless otherwise stated on the package, it's from GMO corn. You may not get sick, but it is still silently doing damage to your gut :-(.

You could also use oil and potato starch to make a roux, but I find it's more unpredictable: sometimes  the potato starch binds up too quickly and tends to "break" before it's fully thickened the sauce or gravy. It could be my lack of cooking skill, but it drives me crazy and this is easy and quick and guaranteed to work every time.

You could also use oil and tapioca starch to make a roux.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Turkey or Chicken Saltimbocca

I know this isn't an authentic Italian recipe, especially when I adapted it to GARD and Paleo rules. It should probably be called Sort Of Saltimbocca. It's definitely quick and easy (45 minutes start to finish for me). If you are looking for a new way to serve poultry, try this one. I bet you'll like it. Serves 3-4

1 lb* boneless, skinless turkey or chicken breast: you want to end up with 5 or 6 cutlets
3 slices Prosciutto di Parma
10-12 fresh sage leaves, divided
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Spice Islands brand poultry seasoning
Round, sturdy toothpicks, like Diamond brand
1-1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 c dry white wine
Arrowroot (in the spices aisle of the grocery store)

Stack the equivalent of 5 or 6 large sage leaves and roll into a cigar shape. Cut thin slices (chiffonade) and then cut them crosswise, chopping into smallish pieces. Set aside.

Using a very, very sharp boning knife, put the flat of your hand across the top of the breast to hold it in place, and cut it horizontally in thirds, or even fourths if it's thick enough. Here is my first slice on the left, remainder of breast on the right. You can click on any of the pictures for a closer look:

When you cut them this thinly, you get the right size *and* you don't have to pound them all out with a meat mallet to the necessary thinness. I cut my second exactly the same way. You'll see a thin white tendon running down the center. I cut it out, sliced off another cutlet, and then cut the last piece in half lengthwise to make two narrower cutlets. You can also see my chopped sage leaves, whole sage leaves, and ground black pepper. The nutmeg was for wilted spinach, our side dish for the night but not part of this recipe.

I did have to lightly pound out the last cutlet just to even it out.

Take one half of a piece of prosciutto, fold it as needed to match the cutlet size, and lay it across the cutlet. Top with a big sage leaf. Roll each one up and secure with a strong, round toothpick as shown.

My smallest one was pretty teeny, and I used 2 toothpicks, one in each direction, just to make sure it was secure. Rub both sides of the "birds" with EVOO, and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.

Drizzle 1.5 TB EVOO in a large, nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot and rippling, use tongs to place each bird in the oil, seam side down. Cook for 6 minutes on the first side. When you turn them, you'll be able to get two more "angles" on the top side, for more browning surface, so cook for 3 minutes at the first angle, and 3 minutes at the second angle. You may need to turn the heat down a tad to make sure you don't burn the poultry seasoning. Use tongs to gently remove them to a plate. They should look nice and brown like this.

But, they won't be fully cooked inside yet. Ladle off and discard any excess EVOO, and pour in the white wine. Use a whisk to pick up all the browned bits.  Add the chicken stock,, stir to blend, and bring to a high simmer. Season with salt and pepper, and add all the chopped sage. Put the birds back in and cook another 5 minutes for the smaller ones, 6 minutes for the bigger ones. Remove them again to a serving plate. Pull out the toothpicks, or leave them in for everyone to remove themselves. Just make sure you take them out before you start cutting into them.

In a teacup or small, shallow bowl, mix 1 tsp arrowroot with 2 tsp cold water, stirring briskly with a fork to make a slurry. Don't cheat and dump the arrowroot directly into the simmering stock, it will clump up and be a sad, lumpy, watery mess. Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the arrowroot slurry. Keep stirring (you don't have to beat it, just stir it) about a minute, till it thickens. It happens pretty quickly, and will continue to thicken as it cools. If it is not thick enough to suit you, make another slurry and stir in.

Ladle half the gravy around the birds, and pour the rest into a gravy boat. I am a gravy hound, and unapologetic about it. I slice up my birds into bite size coins with a steak knife and liberally pour gravy over them.

>>You can not continue to cook or re-heat the gravy once the arrowroot has been added: it will break down, and the gravy or sauce will thin out again. If you're going to warm this up the next day, you'll need to make a new slurry as well.

*I used a 3/4 lb turkey breast for the two of us and got 5 cutlets out of it, 4 horizontal pieces.  I cut those suckers thin, and you need a really sharp knife to be able to pull this off; otherwise the knife will just chew up and tear the meat. The bottom piece was the largest and widest, and I cut it in half lengthwise to make 2, for a total of 5.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Halibut Baked in Parchment

For those of you who didn't instantly turn away from the parchment idea, and are open to trying this, thank you!

I'll admit it's not the easiest dish in the world the first time you try it, but it's very forgiving, it doesn't have to be perfect, and after a couple of times, you'll be a regular Julia Child. If you absolutely freak over using parchment, you can use aluminum foil, but I don't think it tastes as good, or is as fun. Plus, you'll get faster and faster at working with the parchment, and this cleanup couldn't be easier.

This isn't an exact recipe, it's more a method. You can use any mild white fish, and just about any summer vegetable you have on hand, as long as they're all sliced very thinly and of a similar size, for quick, even cooking. Before I got sick, we'd use haricot verts (small, French green beans) and sliced tomatoes. If you're using carrot, choose one that is fairly evenly sized all the way down and doesn't taper off a lot, it will be easier to julienne. I wrote this up for 3 people because I had 3 pieces of fish in the package tonight. Just adjust the quantities if you have more mouths to feed.

Halibut or haddock, or any wild-caught mild white fish, fresh or frozen and thawed to room temp, cut into filets, and no more than 3/4" thick. Allow 3 oz per person*
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly on a mandoline or with a sharp knife
1 large carrot, julienned (cut into matchstick size)
1 medium red bell pepper, julienned
1 large clove garlic, smashed and minced finely
1 rounded tsp fresh thyme leaves
Large pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 very thin slices lemon
Dry un-oaked white wine, like Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, allow 1/4 c per person
3 sheets parchment paper**, cut into large, fat, heart shapes

Preheat oven to 425*F
Position rack in the center of the oven

Fold each sheet of parchment paper in half and cut into a big heart shape. I used to make circles, but I find with this shape, you end up with a "tail" that you can use as a funnel to pour in the wine, and then double-fold it to close the end off more snugly. Don't make the heart too narrow, and don't cut in deeply at the top, or you won't have enough room to fold it over all the food.

Big, fat, happy hearts

Drizzle a little bit of EVOO on the center of each piece of parchment. Use your fingers to spread it out in a super thin coating, leaving a 1" perimeter dry. Put the papers on one or two half sheet pans that have edges.

Put the onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic and thyme in a big mixing bowl. Drizzle in about 1 to 1.5 TB EVOO. Add a couple of big pinches of red pepper flakes, maybe 1/4 tsp, and about 1/2 tsp salt. Use tongs to toss and combine everything, and then divide evenly onto each parchment heart.

Drizzle a little bit of EVOO on both sides of each fish piece, and sprinkle one side with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the fish on the veggies and top each one with 2 slices of lemon.

Starting at the fat end of the heart, aligning the top and bottom pieces of paper, fold the corner IN and UP about 1/2", and work your way along the perimeter, continually making small upward, overlapping folds so that you are forming a collar. Stop right before you get to the end of the thin end so you have a funnel shape. Pour 1/4 cup wine in a measuring glass, hold up your "funnel" with one hand, and pour the wine in with your other hand. Fold the funnel tip up and around so it's tightly closed. Do the same with the rest of the packages.

>> If you did not fold up the edges tightly enough and a little of the wine spills out, it's ok, it's not the end of the world. Just tighten up your folds again before you pop them in the oven. You want it tightly sealed so the steam doesn't escape.

Bake about 10-12 minutes, less for thinner filets and longer for thicker ones.

Slide a big spatula under the package and grasp one corner of the paper with your other hand to help guide each one to its dinner plate. It's more fun for everyone to cut into their own paper "surprise", and they won't have to try to wrangle them off of a serving dish. Remember, there'll be over 1/4 cup of juices in each one. Be sure to give everyone a spoon so they can scoop all the juices out. I like them so much I swear I'd drink them straight out of a glass, LOL.

*Yes, many U.S. recipes these days allow for as much as 5 or 6 oz of meat per person, but we don't eat that much. If you want more fish per serving, don't use bigger filets: instead, make extra packages so people can have seconds.

**I buy pre-cut parchment paper at the restaurant supply store because it's convenient, doesn't curl up,  and is waaaay cheaper than at the grocery store. The sheets fit perfectly into a half-sheet pan. If you are using a roll, tear off sheets at least 10" long.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pecan and Herb Crusted Chicken Cutlets

This is packed with flavorful herbs, nuts, and fresh lemon zest, with just a little bite of heat. Definitely not another boring chicken dinner! I posted the original version of this recipe, Chicken Delicioso, a couple of years ago, with no picture. I've made it many times since then, and thought it deserved a re-post with a few updates and photos. You can serve it on salad, or with a side of cooked carrots, or any vegetable you fancy.

I used to use potato flour instead of AP wheat flour to dry out the chicken and give the egg wash something to stick to. However, I've decided I like the finished texture of the crust better when I skip the flour step, and just press the nut crust into the egg-washed chicken. Pecans are a softer nut than almonds, and I like the taste better, but you can use whichever you have on hand.

I'm using 2 pasture-raised chicken breasts. They are not as big as regular "supermarket" chicken breasts. If you have an enormous chicken breast, cut it horizontally into multiple cutlets. Allowing 4 oz chicken per person, this recipe serves 4.

1.5 c coarsely chopped pecans or almonds
Leaves from 6 sprigs rosemary
Leaves from 6 sprigs thyme
2 full handfuls parsley
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 pound total weight), let sit out at room temp 30 min before cooking
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs from free-range hens, room temperature. If you need to warm them up fast, put them in a liquid measuring cup or bowl, cover with hot tap water, and let sit for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 300*F. Set out a half-sheet pan lined with two layers of paper towels to absorb the excess oil. You'll be putting the cutlets in the pan to keep them warm as you cook up the batches.

Combine all of the Coating ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the herbs, nuts, and garlic are finely minced. Be cautious with this step: if you over-pulse, you will release too many of the nut oils and end up with a too-sticky coating, or worse, a nut butter. Pour a modest layer into a shallow dish, and set aside the rest (you'll see why.) In another shallow dish, beat the eggs with 2 TB water.

Heat a large (10") skillet over medium heat and generously coat the bottom with EVOO. While the pan is heating, cut your chicken breasts horizontally to make 2 or 3 cutlets each. Place the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of waxed paper and pound them until they're less than 1/2" thick and of even thickness.* I don't bother drying them with paper towels.

Generously season one side of the cutlets with the kosher salt & pepper. Using your "chicken dipping hand", dip the cutlet in the egg mixture, then put it in the Coating dish. Using your clean hand, cover the top of the cutlet with more from what you set aside and use your chicken hand to gently press it into the meat. Use a fork to gently pick up the cutlet and put it in the hot oil, and use a fork or metal spatula to gently turn them; the coating isn't going to stick as much as it normally would. and you don't want to accidently knock some of it off.

Cook about 3 or 4 cutlets at a time for just about 2 minutes on each side, not crowding the pan, and transfer to the half sheet pan, which you'll keep warming in the oven until all the cutlets are cooked.

You may have leftover Coating; since you haven't contaminated it with raw chicken, you can keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge, to stuff it in artichokes or use on pork chops next time. I never have any leftover because I like lots of crust.

If you're serving the cutlets on a salad, toss the greens with Apple Cider Vinaigrette. I use my (clean!) hand instead of tongs or forks because I can thoroughly coat each leaf with very little dressing.  Add sliced cucumbers, radishes, scallions, or Pickled Red Onions, and top with a cutlet or two. Delicious. I really, really like this. A lot. I'll even eat leftover cutlets straight out of the fridge the next day for a quick protein snack.

*If you try to pound out the breasts without cutting them in half first, the meat will "pull" together again. It's worth taking this step for best results.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

This is the same salad dressing used in Butternut Squash Salad. It saves well in the refrigerator; just leave it out at room temperature to let the oil warm up, and give it a good stir with a fork to mix everything together again. It's not too "apple-y" and makes a nice change if you eat a lot of salads like we do.

3/4 c sparkling apple cider or apple juice (not from concentrate, no sugar added)
2 TB apple cider vinegar
2 TB shallots, finely minced (about 1 large shallot)
2 tsp original Dijon mustard, or Colman's reconstitued (2 tsp dry mustard + 2 tsp cold water, mix & let sit 10 min)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring the cider, vinegar, and shallots to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucier or saucepan and reduce to about 1/4 c. Remove from heat, whisk in the mustard, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/2 c EVOO. Taste & correct seasonings.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Caldo Verde (Portuguese chorizo, potato & greens soup)

When I was a young girl, it was a special treat to go "over the hill" to Half Moon Bay, California. Back then, in the early 1960s, it was a sleepy little village, with a strong population of Portuguese fishermen. When we were done getting artichokes, or pumpkins, or spending an afternoon at the beach, my father always drove us through the Portuguese neighborhood as part of our "fun day". Their bungalows looked so exotic to us, daringly painted in lavender, periwinkle blue, salmon pink, purple, and aqua. I wish we'd taken pictures of them, because that Half Moon Bay is long gone, but this will give you an idea of what it was like:

I'm sure many of those families made caldo verde, which is the Portuguese national dish. What a perfect way to warm up after spending the day fishing out on the icy winter ocean! The traditional recipe calls for a dark green cabbage that is not available here in the United States. If you can get Portuguese cabbage, lucky you! For the rest of us, collards are the closest we'll get to this taste. Do not use the green cabbage varieties available in the US grocery stores and still call it caldo verde, or the food police will come after you: it's way too sulfurous for this.

This soup is thick and hearty with plenty of flavor and a sneaky heat that creeps up on you in a pleasant way. Perfect fuel for shoveling the snow that's coming our way this weekend, or a nice, long trail ride through the fall leaves, or even daring the Black Friday crowds. Serves 6-8. Make the whole recipe, it freezes well and is delicious as leftovers.

4+ TB EVOO, divided
12 oz Spanish style chorizo sausage, cut into thin slices.
1 med onion, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Couple pinches red pepper flakes
2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4" chunks (very large bite-size)
4 c chicken broth
4 c water
1 lb collard greens, rinsed well, stems removed, and sliced whisker-thin, or as close to it as possible. See prep picture. You can use kale instead, but it is a different taste, and honestly? Kale has been so over-used the last 3-4 years, I'm tired of it. I need a break.
2 tsp white wine vinegar

If you can't find an additive-free, nitrite-free chorizo, and boy do I know how hard it can be, a Cajun-style andouille is close enough to substitute. I use Aidell's brand. I know what you're thinking. You can sub out the sausage, but not the cabbage? That's right. Trust me on the cabbage, please.

Prep all your food in advance; the greens will take the longest, so start with them. Pile up a few half-leaves, cut them in half vertically, and then pile them up and slice them. Cutting them in more and smaller bunches will give you better results than super-high piles.

Once you have everything ready, heat up 1 TB of the EVOO in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage slices. Even if the sausage is already cooked, like mine, brown them anyway for the added layer of flavor.

Remove sausage to a bowl and set aside. Reduce pot heat to medium, add another splash of EVOO if needed, and add the onion and garlic, 1.5 tsp salt, 8-10 grinds of fresh black pepper, and a couple pinches of crushed red pepper. You want to add the spices now for two reasons. One, the salt releases moisture from the onion, which will help to sweeten it. Two, the hot oil will better help release and develop more of the black and red pepper flavors before being diluted in the stock. Saute until the onions are translucent, 3-5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broth, and water. Cover & bring to a boil; remove cover and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Use a measuring cup to scoop 1 cup of the solids (potatoes, onion, garlic), and 1 cup of the liquid, and ladle both into a blender. Set the blender and contents aside for now.

Add the collards to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Re-cover the pot if needed to help bring the heat back up faster, then remove the lid again. Add the chorizo back in to the pot and simmer another 10 minutes, so all the flavors can begin to marry. Usually collards take a good 30 minutes to get nice and tender, but one of the advantages of slicing them so thin is that they cook faster. Use a fork to grab a couple of strands to make sure they're done.

Add the remaining 3 TB EVOO to the soup in the blender and puree till it's nice and smooth. Off the heat, pour the blended soup back into the pot (I ladle a little of the soup broth into the bottom of the blender to get it all), and add the vinegar. Stir to combine and taste for salt and pepper. So good.

I wish I'd checked the camera to make sure I had a sharply focused picture before the soup disappeared, but you get the idea:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Roast Chicken with Carrots & Fennel

This changes every time I make it because I just use what I have on hand for vegetables, but this particular combination is my favorite. It's an easy prep, easy clean-up, one dish meal. Serves 4

1 pasture-raised whole chicken, all visible fat trimmed off
4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 large shallot, thickly sliced
1 fennel bulb, cut into quarters, then each quarter into thirds (12 pieces total)
8-10 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bundle thyme, tied with twine
1 lemon, halved lengthwise
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Paprika (mild), OR smoked paprika (warm), OR Ras-El-Hanout (hot!), OR any other spice blend you like

Preheat oven to 400*F
Use a roasting pan just big enough to hold the chicken and make one snug layer of vegetables around it. If the pan's too big, the veg will burn.

Prep the vegetables first. Put the carrots, onion, shallot, fennel, and half the garlic in the roasting pan. Coat generously with EVOO, salt & pepper. Use a pair of kitchen scissors and cut off the tops of the thyme onto the vegetables. Push to the outside of the pan to make room for the chicken. 

Rinse the chicken inside and out with cool water and pat dry. If you're lucky enough to have extra skin, leave it on! It will keep the chicken closed up and very moist. My thumb is at the edge of the breast, so you can see there's lots of extra skin on this bird.

Stuff the cavity with the thyme bundle. It will easily fit now that you've cut the tops off. Next put in the rest of the garlic and the two lemon halves, facing up, on top of the thyme. Tie it closed tightly with kitchen twine. See how that extra skin covers the opening so well?

If you have trouble tying it off tightly, try this:
1. Tie a snug half-knot around the little tail on the bottom leaving equal lengths of twine on each side
2. Make a loop around the left drumstick with the left piece of twine and pull twine to the middle
3. Repeat with the right piece of twine and right drumstick
4. Pull the ends tightly together and make a tight knot in the center

Rub the top of the chicken generously with EVOO, salt, pepper and paprika. Roast for an hour or until done. It should be 165 at the thickest part of the thigh on an instant-read thermometer. Baste the chicken and turn the veg a couple of times during the cooking process. Remove from oven, loosely tent with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

While the chicken is resting, you can pour off the pan juices and skim off the extra fat. It's really good over sliced chicken!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Calamari Noodle Salad

Jeff made this Mediterranean-influenced salad last night. It has a light, springtime feel to it, something I'm needing right about now. The buttery flavor of the fingerling potatoes adds a richness and offsets the spicy arugula. For such a simple, quick meal it looks impressive enough for guests ~ thanks, Anne Burrell! You did it again ;-). Serves 3 for a main course, 4 as a starter.

1 lb calamari, thoroughly cleaned: tubes cut into 1/4" strips, tentacles cut into bite size segments
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, about 1/8 tsp
4 larger or 5 smaller fingerling potatoes, washed, unpeeled & cut crosswise into 1/4" rounds
Kosher salt
1 c dry white wine (un-oaked, aged in aluminum barrels)
1/4 cup kalamata or gaeta olives, pitted and sliced
*Possibly a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
4 c baby arugula, washed & spun dry
2 TB chopped fresh chives

Coat a 10" saute pan with EVOO, about 3 TB. Add the smashed garlic and red pepper and cook over medium heat until the garlic is golden brown but not burned, about 5-6 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.

Add the potatoes to the oil and brown on each side, about 8-10 minutes total. Remove the potatoes and drain on paper towels.  Turn heat to medium-high. Add the calamari to the oil, season lightly with salt & cook for 1 minute until it turns opaque. As soon as that happens, add the wine and olives and cook until the wine has reduced by half, about 4 minutes. The calamari will have cooked for a total of maybe 5 minutes. You want to make sure that it's just this side of done; overcooking will turn it to rubber band consistency. Remove pan from heat immediately.

Taste the pan juices for salt and acid, but don't burn your tongue! You might need to add just a squeeze of lemon, as we did.

Use a spoon to drizzle just enough of the pan juices over the arugula to dress the salad. Add the potatoes and calamari. If you toss with your fingers instead of tongs, you'll be able to coat all the lettuce leaves & potatoes and use less dressing.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Provençal Chicken with Olive Tapenade

This just might be my favorite chicken recipe of all. It passed our "Would you pay for this entree in a nice restaurant?" and "Would you go back and order it again?" tests with flying colors.

There's time and effort involved, but I have a few tips to make it easy and fast and it's worth it. There's a lot you can do in advance ~ in fact, you could make the entire dish in advance and reheat it just before serving, so it would be great for a dinner party or special occasion.  Serves 4

Tip #1: Breaking down a chicken takes time, especially if you haven't had a lot of practice. Do it the same day you go to the market. Cut off the back, neck, and wing tips and freeze in a ziploc bag for stock. Separate the thigh from the drumstick. Cut the breast in half down the center of the breastbone, and then cut each of these in half crosswise so you have 4 equal size pieces of breast.

Remove as much skin and fat as possible. Trimming away all the fat now will save you the tedious step of having to pour off, cool and skim the sauce just before reducing and serving, so it's worth doing. Besides, it's much healthier ;-).

Put the chicken pieces in a ziploc freezer bag and store in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours or put in the freezer until you're ready to make this recipe. See that tiny little piece of meat in the upper left-hand corner of the photo? That came off the underside of a breast piece. Don't sweat it if this happens. Just cook it with the giblets for your pets ;-).

Tip #2: Make the tapenade in advance, even the day before. Make sure you're buying pitted olives, or you'll spend a good 45 minutes standing there wrestling with the tiny, stubborn things. A kitchen tool called a 'cherry pitter' works well on larger olives like Kalamata, not so well on the ones in this recipe.

Tip #2.5 It looks like a lot of tapenade. Maybe too much. It's not.

Tip #3: This was originally a recipe from Williams-Sonoma for a slow-cooker. You can still cook the chicken in one for 3 hours on low, but it only takes 30 minutes at a slow simmer on the stove top, and all the other browning and reducing still has to happen. You decide.

Here we go:

1 chicken cut, skinned, and trimmed of fat as shown above
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c yellow onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 bay leaves (4 if using the smaller Turkish ones)
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 c dry white wine
1/2 c homemade chicken stock

Olive Tapenade
1 c green olives such as Picholine or Lucques
1 c Niçoise olives
2 dried figs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1-2 TB brandy (I use Decourtet)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

Make the tapenade first. Put the olives, figs, 2 TB EVOO, lemon zest and rosemary in a food processor and pulse to a coarse texture. Put into a small serving bowl. Stir in enough additional EVOO to keep it moist but not too oily. Add 1 TB brandy, stir well and taste to see if it needs more. It will be perfect when there's just the barest hint of alcohol but it doesn't burn when you take a bite. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside.

Now start the chicken. Heat 2 TB of EVOO over medium heat in a Dutch oven large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in one layer. (It's ok if you have doubled the recipe, you'll just want to move the pieces around more during the cooking process.) Dry all the chicken pieces and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown about 5-6 minutes on each side, moving them gently when they're ready to turn and removing to a plate when they're done. You might need to turn the heat down a bit as the oil gets hotter.

It will be a little trickier not tearing the flesh when you don't have skin. Just be gentle but firm, don't move the pieces too soon and don't be afraid to add more EVOO if you need to. I ended up using an entire 1/4 c during the browning stage.

Remove the last batch of browned chicken. Ladle off and discard all but 2 TB EVOO. Add the onion, and cook and stir about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the wine, stock, tarragon, 1/2 tsp salt and about 10-12 grinds of pepper and stir to combine everything. Put the chicken back in the pot like this and nestle the bay leaves down in the broth:

Cover and simmer on low for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is just cooked through. The tarragon will smell really strong and you might worry there's too much. There isn't. The smell is much stronger than the taste, which is perfect.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Turn the heat up to high and reduce the sauce to just less than half. Now taste for salt and pepper, although it probably won't need either. Pour the concentrated sauce and all the goodies over the chicken. Serve with tapenade on the side.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sicilian-Style Fennel with Orange and Olives

Oh my heavens you are going to love this! Williams-Sonoma did this as a slow-cooker recipe, but I think it should be made in a Dutch oven on the stove top. It took me less than an hour, refrigerator to dinner table. Jeff and I have strange dreams if we over-eat fennel (does that happen to you, or is it just us?) but this is so good, we both just went for broke. Everything comes together so perfectly: hot, sweet, citrus, tart, salt - my mouth didn't know where to go first! YUM! Serves 4

2 fennel bulbs
1 large shallot, minced (about 1/2 c)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 TB dry white wine
1 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 c homemade chicken stock
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 orange
1/2 c Niçoise olives*

*If at all possible, get your olives from a deli or specialty food store. They are much more flavorful and way less salty than those in the salad bar at the grocery store. Niçoise aren't usually pitted. If this is an issue for you, use Kalamata olives instead. Just don't use the bland, sweet-ish black olives that come in a can!

Preparing your fennel:

Cut off the tops and save a little of the fronds (feathery bits) for garnish. Cut the bulb into 4ths, then halve each again for a total of 8 wedges per bulb. Use a paring knife to cut away most of the hard core in the center bottom of the bulb, but leave just a little bit so each wedge holds together. 

Heat 2 TB EVOO in a small Dutch oven or deep-sided cast-iron pan over medium heat. Saute the shallots for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute another 3 minutes or so, till everything starts to soften but not turn brown. Add the wine and vinegar, stir to loosen up any bits, then add the chicken stock, oregano, a little less than 1/2 tsp salt, and about 5 or 6 grinds of pepper. Stir to combine everything and bring to a simmer.

Add your fennel wedges. Pick the pan up off the stove and swirl around to help cover the fennel with all the good stuff. Gently turn with tongs to finish coating. 

Cover tightly and simmer on low for about 40 minutes, turning the pieces gently a couple of times during the cooking process to make sure everything cooks evenly. The fennel should be soft but not mushy, kind of like the texture (but not taste!) of a rib of cooked cabbage. The sauce will have cooked down a lot, and this is why you don't want to over-salt in the beginning of the cooking process. Taste now to see if it needs more salt, pepper, or acid (a splash of wine or vinegar).

While the fennel is cooking, prep your orange. Zest it first, then use a paring knife to "supreme" it. Cut each end off. Stand it on one end and use a paring knife to cut all the skin and pith away. Then slice down both sides of each section, cutting away the orange pieces like this:

Cut each orange piece in half to make 2 "chunks". 

Now you're ready to assemble the dish. I just had to show you my "Italy" serving plate. It was a wedding present from my very dear friend Margaret H. and I think of her every time I use it. I thought it was fitting, since this is a real Sicilian dish! (Yes, I know Florence is far to the north of Sicily, but it's still Italy!

Combine the fennel, olives, orange zest and pieces in a serving dish and toss to combine, being careful not to smush the orange pieces. Garnish with bits of saved fennel frond. Remember two things as you eat: 1) your olives may have pits - don't crack a tooth on them, and 2) the fennel chunks have a little bit of core holding them together. Jeff doesn't mind eating it, I cut mine away.
Era buono pazzesco!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Halibut with Cabbage, Bacon and Potatoes

My husband loves cabbage but I don't. I know it's a really healthful vegetable, so I try to find new ways to make it more appealing. This worked. It so worked. Baby potatoes brown and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. Sweet, tender, moist fish. Cabbage braised in wine and herbs. Bacon, bacon everywhere. Serves 2-3.

1/2 to 3/4 lb halibut cut into 4 oz filets
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small head Savoy cabbage, cored and sliced
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme or about 2 tsp dried leaves
1/2 c white wine
1/2 c chicken stock

2-3 slices bacon: 2 if lean, 3 if fatty

2-ish lbs small red potatoes, larger ones cut in half
1/2 tsp thyme leaves

Optional: few sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400*F

>>Everything is baked in the oven, in separate dishes at first and then combined in the end. Easy prep, easy clean-up.

Combine the cabbage, herbs, wine and stock in a medium-sized glass baking dish, like 11x7. Sprinkle lightly with salt & pepper. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Trim all the excess fat off the bacon and put it in a toaster-oven sized broiler pan (so everything will fit in the oven). Use a rack if you have one to keep the bacon out of the rendered grease. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes until it's quite brown and crispy. Alternatively, you can cook it on the stovetop. Either way, once it's cooked, drain on paper towels and chop into large bite-sized pieces.

Wash the potatoes, cut the larger ones in half so they all cook evenly, toss with EVOO in a shallow roasting pan and sprinkle a bit of salt and the thyme on them.

Bake for 20 minutes, use a spatula to move and turn them over, and cut all the pieces, whether they were halved or whole, in half again. Some will be quarters and some will be halves. This way the inside surface gets brown and the potatoes will start to puff up a little, and this also helps make them creamier ;-). Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.

Last step. Combine the cooked cabbage with sauce, potatoes and bacon in a larger baking dish. Lightly coat the fish with EVOO, salt & pepper. Bake for 12 minutes or until the fish is cooked all the way through but still tender and moist.

When serving, spoon the reduced wine/stock sauce over the fish so it gets a little bit of acid. You can add the bit of parsley for color but I really didn't think it needed any more flavor.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Papaya Salsa or Salad

Oh this is so good! Papayas are one of my favorite tropical fruits. I made this to go with "jerked chicken" patties. I'm still working on the jerk seasonings, but the salsa is divine! Makes enough for a salad for 2, or salsa topping for 4.

1 large, fully ripe papaya, peeled, seeds removed and diced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced
1/4 c red onion, very finely diced (brunoise)
1/2 red or orange bell pepper, diced the same size as the papaya
1/4 c orange juice (I used 1 navel orange)
Kosher salt
Optional: 1-2 TB chopped cilantro or parsley

If you've never worked with papaya before:
Cut both ends off. Stand it up on the cutting board and using a small, sharp paring knife, cut off the peel, including the pale flesh just under the skin. That has a firmer texture and is less sweet.  Now cut the papaya in half lengthwise and use a cereal spoon to scoop out all the seeds and the bits of white membrane. Cut each half in quarters lengthwise  - you'll have a total of 8 strips - and then dice crosswise.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and add a couple of pinches of kosher salt. You can add the cilantro or parsley but this is really personal preference. I could do without it myself. Ignore the lime in the photo, that's for the jerk chicken patty.

Let it sit for 10 minutes. The salt will draw out some moisture from the papaya and pepper, which then blends with the orange juice and how good does that taste? Good enough that we ate the entire bowl between the two of us and there is none left for the other patties!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Chicken 'Noodle' Soup

Back in their heyday, Victoria and I used to go to Brothers Deli in Burlingame, CA, for what we (and a lot of other people!) thought was the best chicken noodle matzo ball soup on the Peninsula. I still remember how they'd ladle up a bowl of soup and then add a matzo ball the size of a baseball.

Nowadays, I make my own. I'll be the first to admit that spaghetti squash is not pasta, but it's good; just different. I'm also working on a grain-free matzo ball recipe. In the meantime, this is a fast, easy, really good soup. Great for using up leftover chicken, great for the sniffles, and great for cold winter nights. Serves 3; double or triple quantities as needed.

1/2 yellow onion, small dice (1 c)
1/2 c carrot, peeled and small dice
1/2 c celery, small dice

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
5 c homemade chicken stock
If you are using grocery store stock, you definitely want to add extra and cook it down to get enough flavor. Stock makes all the difference.
2 c cooked, shredded spaghetti squash, cooking directions here
2 TB flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 chicken breast, cooked, cooled and shredded into bite size pieces

Heat about 2 TB EVOO over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add the mirepoix, season with salt & pepper, and saute about 5 minutes to coat the veg with fat and the onion begins to soften. Add the chicken stock, 1.5 TB of the parsley and spaghetti squash, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a fast simmer and cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes, then cover and cook another 10 minutes.

This will cook the veg and allow the strands of squash to take on all the flavor of the stock, and also cook down the stock and concentrate the flavors more.

Add the last bit of parsley and the cooked chicken for the last 2 minutes of cooking, just enough to heat it through without overcooking the meat.

Note: You can still use regular pasta for your non-Paleo & GARD eaters.
Add the chicken stock, and then divide the soup evenly between 2 pots. Follow the recipe above for squash people. For pasta people, add a few handfuls of broken linguine to their pot, cover and fast simmer for 20 minutes. Both will be done at the same time.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Best! Oven Roasted Breakfast Potatoes

I promise you, this is not an empty boast. As long as you don't change or omit anything, you are going to love these potatoes! I got the idea to play around with oven roasted potato recipes when I saw a Food Network star pour a melted stick of butter over her potatoes. Of course they were delicious; everything's better with a stick of butter or half a pound of cheese, and I can pour butter with the best of them ;-). The challenge I gave myself was to make the best, most unbelievable, GARD/Paleo-approved, finger-licking good potatoes ever, even better without butter or cheese.

I think I did it. I'm not even sure what the secret is, because you really taste the chewy, caramelized bits of pancetta, creamy potatoes and sweet peppers, and you don't really taste the aglione, but when you don't use plenty of the rosemary/sage/juniper berry combo, or just use rosemary & sage, it doesn't taste as good. There's something about the aglione that changes the dish that I can't put my finger on. The juniper berries? Maybe. It's a beautiful mystery.

Make lots of these. You could cut the recipe in half, but the leftovers re-heat beautifully. Serves 4-5

3 lb Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut in 3/4" cubes
12 oz yellow onion, 1" dice
8 oz red bell pepper, 1" dice
8 oz green bell pepper, 1" dice
4 medium cloves garlic, chopped (remember, the aglione has garlic, too, so don't change this quantity)
3-4 TB aglione
Few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
garlic powder & onion powder
mild paprika
8 oz pancetta, excess fat trimmed away and cut in small dice

>Do not substitute bacon for pancetta! The smoky flavor of the bacon will overwhelm everything else. I'm sure it would be good, but it won't taste anything like this dish.

>Do not add any salt. There's salt in the aglione and also in the pancetta, more than enough.

>Do not add more garlic, as there's some in the aglione.

>Any potato will do; just remember that Yukon Golds have a higher moisture content and won't brown as nicely.

Preheat oven to 425*F
Put 2 racks in the middle part of the oven, but with good air flow between them.

Cut up all your peppers and veg; weigh the peppers, as looks are deceiving. I ended up using 2 red peppers to 1 green to get an equal weight.

You can see my cuts aren't all mathematically precise, but this gives you an idea of their size.

Cut the pancetta in very small dice and set it aside. It won't go in the oven till halfway through the cooking time.

Combine the potatoes, peppers, onions and garlic in a large mixing bowl. Use enough olive oil to generously coat all the veg without having extra sitting in the bottom of the bowl, probably 1/4 c or so, and stir well with a big spoon. I don't use my hands because too much of the herbs and spices end up on my hands, and I want it all on the food.

Now add the aglione, red pepper (go easy on this! maybe 4 pinches total), a light dusting of garlic powder, a light dusting of onion powder, and a heavier dusting of paprika. Stir to mix well, then dust again with onion and garlic powder and paprika, to make sure everything is evenly coated.

Spread out on 2 half sheet pans. You want to make sure everything is in one layer so it all browns and cooks evenly. Roast for 10 minutes, then use a metal spatula to scrape up and stir everything around to get an even browning and so nothing burns.

Divide the pancetta and mix half with the veg on each sheet pan, tossing well to coat with oil. Return to the oven and roast another 10 minutes, then stir and scrape and toss again, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until everything is brown and tender.

You'll have roasted everything for a total of 30 minutes. Remember if your pans are dark, they won't need to roast as long, and you might even want to lower the oven temp to 400*.

That's it. Easy peasy. I really hope you will try this and let me know what you think.

- - - - -

P.S. I thought the leftovers would make a great frittata, but you know what? The flavors are too subtle, they get lost in the egg. It's a good frittata, and a good use of leftovers, but I honestly think the potatoes are much better just re-heated on their own.

P.P.S. Many thanks to Jennifer Boose for resizing the pictures for me. I can cook a potato but am hopeless with computers.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Curried Lamb Pot Pie Casserole

Technically this probably doesn't qualify as a pot pie anymore, now that the pastry crust has been replaced with mashed cauliflower. It's probably just a casserole. *Sigh.* There's just nothing like tender, flaky pastry.

However, if you wanted to, you could put half the filling in a couple of ramekins topped with cauliflower for your GARD-Paleo family members. For your non-GARD eaters, put the rest of the filling in 2 ramekins topped with pastry crusts, brush with a little egg wash, a little flaked sea salt & black pepper, and bake at 425* for 45-50 minutes. Then we could still call this a pot pie. Yes? Either way, this serves about 4, and it tastes really, really, really good!

And, I'll also be the first to admit that lamb or mutton is expensive. That's why I use ground lamb instead of the traditional lamb shoulder, which costs even more. I think you could substitute ground beef for the lamb; it won't taste the same, but I bet it would still be pretty darned good. Definitely healthy and filling!

1 lb pasture-raised ground lamb
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 rounded TB potato flour or tapioca flour
4-5 TB white wine
1 generous c butternut squash, peeled & cut in 1/2 to 3/4" dice
1 medium carrot, peeled & chopped about the same size as the squash
2 c kale, washed and finely chopped
1 tsp mild curry powder
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c whole, unsweetened coconut milk

Double the recipe for mashed cauliflower (use 2 heads of cauliflower)

Here's a picture of the veggies so you can get an idea of the quantities and cut sizes. Click on the picture for a closer look.

Heat 1.5 TB EVOO over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Brown the lamb, seasoning with salt & pepper, breaking it up into small pieces with the flat site of a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the onion and cook, stirring, till softened and translucent, about 5+ minutes. 

Ground lamb is kind of fatty, and I'm not fond of the taste, so I spoon off all the rendered fat and add in another TB of olive oil at this point. 

Add the curry powder and continue to cook and stir. You might think this isn't enough curry, but the flavor continues to build during the simmering time. 
Add the potato flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring, till it's all absorbed. 
Add the wine (I just splashed some in, the measurement is an approximation) and cook to evaporate. 

Add the kale, carrots and squash, stirring and cooking for a few minutes. 
Add the stock and coconut milk, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, partially cover and cook about 30 minutes till the vegetables are soft and cooked through. Taste for salt & pepper. 
While the veg are cooking, make the cauliflower mash.

Pour into a 1.5 qt oven-proof casserole dish. Use a gravy ladle to spoon off any excess sauce: you don't want it all runny. Top with the mashed cauliflower and put under the broiler for a few minutes to reheat the mash and give it a little crisp and color. 

If you made this earlier in the day, reheat at 350*F for about 30 minutes or so, until it's heated through and the cauliflower is a little browned around the edges. It makes excellent leftovers, if you have any.

Mashed Cauliflower

This is surprisingly good: the secret is to let it sit for 15 minutes or so, to give the flavors time to develop, and then gently re-heat just before serving. Serves 2-3

1 head cauliflower, washed, shaken dry, and cut into florets
3 TB or so of heated, unsweetened whole coconut milk (I use Native Forest)
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder

Using a small paring knife, begin and the base and cut the florets off. Discard the trunk or save for another use.

Steam the florets about 15 minutes (do not boil, the cauliflower will absorb too much water!), until cooked through and very soft. Puree in a food processor using the metal blade. Add 2 TB of the coconut milk, pulse, and add more milk as needed to make a nice consistency, like mashed potatoes. Add salt, pepper, and a few shakes each of paprika and garlic powder. Resist the temptation to go overboard! Remember to blend everything thoroughly and let the flavors develop about 15 minutes, then taste again and correct seasonings.

Gently re-heat just before serving. This is great as a substitute for mashed potatoes, a vehicle for gravy, and as a topping for casseroles. It's delicious the next day as leftovers, too.