Friday, May 23, 2008

Perfect (And Healthy!) Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes

I'll say it again: Ellie Krieger rocks the show.
I'm loving cooking my way through both of her books right now, as I continue on in my quest to lighten up. Ellie is an upbeat and wonderfully creative nutritionist, and her cooking is spot on, too.
This here is an amalgam of two of her lightened comfort food recipes: Parmesan Mashed Potatoes and Sour Cream Smashed Potatoes. I say: why not both at once?

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, diced unpeeled
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream or buttermilk
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking place buttermilk and milk into a small saucepan and cook over a very low heat until just warm. Be careful not to boil or milk will curdle.

Drain the potatoes, add the warmed milk and mash together to desired consistency. Stir in cheese and salt. Top with the butter and let it melt.

Sauteed Beet Greens

Not much of a real "recipe" to record, but since this is for Hieronymus and posterity, the technique is worth preserving. These are so very tasty, and exactly how both we like our greens: garlicky, vinegary, hot-saucy, smokey and fresh.


olive oil
1 slice of ham or bacon or prosciutto, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

Greens from one bunch of fresh beets, large veins removed, chopped into small pieces
kosher salt and pepper, to taste
2 good glugs of chicken stock
1 quick glug of vinegar
Frank's hot sauce, to taste

Saute the chopped ham in the olive oil for a minute or two. Reduce the heat, add the garlic and saute, watching closely to make sure it doesn't brown too quickly. Raise the heat and add the greens. Stir and season. Add the chicken stock and vinegar and cook just until the greens are cooked through. Add hot sauce to taste.

Serves 2

Spiced Pork Chops

These are the famous spiced chops from Home Restaurant in NY, with only a couple of changes on my part; the most important being the real necessity of brining the chops before cooking them, so they stay moist and juicy under all that high heat. I also added a little brown sugar to the rub. It rounds out the spice mix and makes for good caramelization.
We ate this with sauteed beet greens, sour cream mashed potatoes and a big salad. Happy Memorial Day Weekend, family...

1 qt cold water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 T sugar

Olive Oil
2 double thick center cut pork chops (12 oz)
Ground black pepper

Spice Mix:
Equal parts toasted ground cumin, coriander and mustard seed.
A couple of teaspoons of brown sugar

Brine the chops for a few hours before cooking them (at least 2, not more than 8)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse the pork chops well, pat them dry, and in a wide shallow bowl, coat them generously with the spice mixture. They will not need additional salt. Add pepper to taste.
In an ovenproof saute pan, brown the chops in olive oil just until nicely browned on all sides. Put the pan with the chops in the oven and bake until done -- approximately 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chops. The best thing to do is check the temperature on an instant read thermometer. Pull it out at 150 degrees and let it rest for 5 - 10 minutes.
Serves 2

Jeremy Jackson's Velvet Spoonbread

Have you not read this book yet? Its an absolute must read. The best kind of food writing, and on a subject very dear to our hearts.
"One part mush, one part soufflé, and one part cornbread, spoonbread has no equal. Long a staple in southern cuisine, spoonbread has largely failed to find a broader audience. But it deserves more. It accompanies a wide variety of dishes with ease, and often is the main course itself. You're just as likely to encounter it at breakfast as at dinner. Put butter on it and drizzle it with maple syrup or honey. Eat it with applesauce and eggs. Or serve it with ham and redeye gravy."


1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk


1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish with vegetable shortening or nonstick cooking spray.

2. Pour 1 ½ cups boiling water over the cornmeal in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the butter and let it melt while you separate the eggs. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt into the cornmeal mixture. Gradually whisk in the milk. Allow the mixture to sit 20 minutes while the cornmeal absorbs the milk.

3. Separately beat the egg whites until they form very stiff peaks, then gradually fold the cornmeal mixture into the egg whites until everything is combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Put it in the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, until set.

Applesauce Sour Cream Pancakes

I've been meaning to play with the CI multigrain pancake recipe for a while, but I never seem to find the time to make ground muesli flour and all that other stuff.
The recipe below reflects my first attempt at applesauce sour cream pancakes, using whole wheat flour and flax seed. I essentially took our blueberry pancake recipe and lightened it: substituting apple sauce for all of the melted butter, and switching out some of the white flour for King Arthur's white whole wheat. I tried to include some of the flavors I associate with apple sauce sour cream coffee cake. Not too shabby!
I'm going to work on some candied ginger apple butter to go with.

Dry Ingredients
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar, sifted
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Wet Ingredients
1 egg plus 2 egg whites (separated, whites beaten to soft peaks)
2 heaping tablespoons of thick yogurt or lowfat sour cream stirred into skim milk to equal one cup of liquid or a tiny bit more
1/4 cup applesauce
shot of maple syrup
dash of vanilla extract
Butter or nonstick cooking spray

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Stir the wet ingredients (except for the egg whites) together in a separate bowl or large measuring cup. Combine the dry and the wet ingredients and stir into a lumpy batter, folding the egg whites in last. Don't overmix.

Heat a small amount of butter in a skillet over medium heat or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet for each pancake. Cook for a minute or two on each side. They should be well-browned.

Serve hot with maple syrup, butter, chopped fruit and sausages.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

CI Almost No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

I watched the video over at at least three times, but still managed to add too much liquid to this first batch of almost-no-knead bread, a la Cook's Illustrated, so the results were a little bit off. I also need to invest in a cloche and a kitchen scale. I'll try it again using precise measurements and the right equipment, but I have to say, this first round was really pretty good. It certainly tasted better than your average whole wheat bread. Bill loved the crust. His verdict:
"This is good in all kinds of ways."

2 cups (10 ounces) all purpose or bread flour
1 cup (5 ounces) whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/4 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. honey (or 2 Tbs. raw sugar)
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (7 ounces) water at room temp
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. (3 ounces) mild flavored lager
1 Tbs. white vinegar

Preheat the oven with Dutch oven or Cloche inside to 500 degrees. Reduce temperature to 425 when the bread dough goes in and bake covered for 30 minutes. Then remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the internal bread temperature reaches about 200 degrees.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Oatmeal Wheat Bread

More baking experiments this week. In this round, I halved the recipe and may have used a pan that was a little too big. The bread was light and crusty and extremely fragrant, and didn't taste like "health bread" at all. My one quibble with this first loaf was that it was a little bit squat and dense in appearance. Not quite the tall, perfect loaf touted in Gourmet (pictured, right).
This is probably going to take a little tinkering. Bill is happily doing his part: munching away on sandwich after sandwich, offering positive assessments of each new round of fresh bread, and generally being his sunny, hungry self. (I know he's really not-so-secretly hoping that all of this baking is going to lead up to pies in his future, if he's patient.)

2 cups whole milk
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking) plus additional for topping
1/2 cup warm water (105-115°F)
2 tablespoons active dry yeast (from 3 packages)
1/2 cup mild honey
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for buttering pans
3 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour
About 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
Vegetable oil for oiling bowl
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Heat milk in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling, then remove pan from heat and stir in oats. Let stand, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooled to warm.

Stir together water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon honey in a small bowl; let stand until foamy, 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.) Stir yeast mixture, melted butter, and remaining honey into cooled oatmeal.

Stir together whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, and salt in a large bowl. Add oat mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead with floured hands, adding just enough of remaining unbleached flour to keep from sticking, until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes (dough will be slightly sticky). Form dough into a ball and transfer to an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Lightly butter loaf pans. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times to remove air. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a loaf, then place 1 loaf in each buttered pan, seam side down, tucking ends gently to fit. Cover loaf pans loosely with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly brush tops of loaves with some of egg wash and sprinkle with oats, then bake until bread is golden and loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom, 35 to 40 minutes. (Remove 1 loaf from pan to test for doneness. Run a knife around edge of pan to loosen.)

Remove bread from pans and transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

Crazy Fruit Salad

I've been making Jane Bordy's citrus salad for years. The first time I made it my cousin Erica said "Ruthie! This salad is crazy! Its absolutely delicious!" And so its been my "crazy salad" ever since.

Its fabulous: pretty and refreshing and unexpectedly delicious.
Today I made a version with other fruits: Asian pear, cantaloupe, green grapes, bananas, poached cranberries, and no citrus at all. Equally good, and still crazy after all these years.

The recipe is something like:
1 ruby red grapefruit, peel and pith cut away, and sliced crosswise into thin rounds
2 navel oranges, peel and pith cut away, and sliced crosswise into thin rounds
a few ounces of dried cranberries, poached in simple syrup and cooled
a few ounces of dried apricots, poached in simple syrup and cooled

Toss together the citrus slices in a large bowl. Add the apricots and their syrup and stir. Scatter the cranberries over all.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Giada's Fusilli with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Artichokes and Sausage

We eat a whole lot of Fairway's grilled artichoke hearts around here. They're just one of those tastes I constantly crave, and always find satisfying. Meanwhile, Bill, for his part, would happily put sun dried tomatoes in pretty much everything (if he had his way) -- so this simple, tasty pasta lets us both have exactly what we want.

I've added a little chopped Citterio Fresco Rosmarino Ham to Giada's recipe, and that one change added tremendous depth of flavor. Prosciutto would do just as well. When there aren't any fresh herbs around, I substitute that great Fairway pizza seasoning blend of dried basil, oregano, red pepper, garlic etc.

3/4 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced, 2 tablespoons of oil reserved
1 pound spicy Italian turkey sausages, sliced
Small amount chopped rosmarino ham.
2 (8-ounce) packages frozen artichoke hearts
6 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
16 ounces whole wheat fusilli or penne
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
8 ounces water-packed fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed, optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fusilli in boiling water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse). Add the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil, and parsley to the artichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Scatter the mozzarella on top. Season, to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, passing the additional Parmesan cheese alongside.
Serves 6

Vietnamese Ginger Chicken

I'm on a roll! Great meals all week.
Bill's a very happy camper.
I guess I should start thinking about trying to fit into a wedding dress one of these days...
This flavorful chicken was my humble attempt at replicating the gorgeous ginger chicken Lan Tran Cao turns out down at V Cafe. Man, that woman can cook.

12 oz raw chicken, sliced into scallops
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tsp. chopped shallots
2 tsp. julienned fresh ginger
4 tsp. vegetable oil

Spicy Honey Lime Sauce
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. Soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Honey
2 Tbsp. Lime juice
1 tsp. Thai chili sauce

Marinate chicken in a mixing bowl with the salt, pepper, sugar, soy and sesame oil. Allow to marinate, in the refrigerator, for at least 30 minutes. Heat a medium sauté pan over high heat. Add the vegetable oil and sauté the shallots until lightly brown. Next add garlic, chicken, ginger and sauté until chicken is fully cooked. Transfer to plate. Spoon the Kaffir-Honey-Lime Sauce over the chicken and serve with steamed rice.
Serves 2-3

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chinese Stir-Fried Shrimp with Snow Peas and Cashews

Oh, yum...
This weeknight experiment -- an amalgam of two stir fries I often crave: Cantonese Shrimp with Snow Peas and Ginger Chicken with Cashews -- came out even better than I expected. Full of gingery heat and sweet shrimp; crunchy snow peas and velvet cashews. Oh - and quick! And healthy!
Keepin' it.

2 T cooking oil
5 cloves garlic, sliced
ginger, minced
2 scallions, sliced into thin rings. White and green parts separated.
2 cups shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 1/2 cups snow peas, blanched
1 cup chicken stock
1 hefty glug of hoisin sauce
1/2 cup salted, roasted cashews
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Heat the oil in a saute pan or wok. Saute the garlic, ginger and white scallion rings until they are fragrant. Add the shrimp and snow peas and toss to combine. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock and the hoisin sauce. Saute until the shrimp are cooked through. Add the cashews, green scallion rings and cook just until heated through. Add the cornstarch mixed with the remaining chicken stock and bring to a boil just until thickened.
Serve over rice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Steak and Semi-German Potato Salad

There was a request for steak salad for dinner tonight. The results were very memorable - a good example of how a dish can somehow magically exceed the sum of its component parts.
I started with a composed salad of mixed greens and herbs, endive, fennel, cherry tomatoes, minced red onion, and grilled marinated artichokes as the foundation. Then I took a hot baked Yukon Gold potato and sliced it up and tossed the slices with a squeeze of lemon juice and a few tablespoons of mustard vinaigrette and then layered the warm dressed potatoes on top of the composed salad. I sliced and heated the leftover steak and fanned out the slices on top of the potatoes, pouring the accumulated steak juices over everything, and voila! A little extra vinaigrette on the side, and dinner was served...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cod and Asparagus En Papillote

This came together in a flash.
Light, easy, elegant, quick. I might put the fish on a bed of very thinly sliced potatoes and shallots next time, and steam it all together.

3/4 lb cod filets
1/4 t minced lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper and (believe it or not) Fairway's pizza seasoning to taste
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 pat of butter
juice from 1 half a lemon
1 short glug of white wine
lemon slices
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
8 - 10 spears of asparagus

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place fish on a large square of parchment paper or tin foil, on top of a baking sheet.
Smear with zest and spices, sprinkle with lemon juice and wine. Arrange the asparagus around the fish and scatter the garlic and butter over all. Place the lemon slices over the fish and stre the chopped cilantro over everything. Tightly crimp the foil so the packet is air tight. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Serves 2

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vietnamese Steak
This was insanely good. This precise mix of flavors: charred, salty and rich, is pretty much exactly what you want to taste when you're craving steak. The recipe came out of a back issue of Saveur. In Vietnamese its called Thit Bo Bit-Tet (pronounced Teet Baw Beet-teht).
Photo by Andre Baranowsky

3 tbsp. Maggi seasoning sauce
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 top sirloin steak (about 1 1/2 lbs. in all)

1. Stir together Maggi seasoning sauce, oil, pepper, and garlic in a wide, shallow dish. Add steak; rub all over with marinade. Cover; let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Remove steak from marinade; scrape off most of the garlic. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add steak and cook until well browned, 3–4 minutes; flip steak and cook until medium rare, 2–3 minutes more.

3. Transfer steak to a cutting board; tent with foil. Thinly slice both steaks across the grain. Serve with rice, and any accumulated juices.

Serves 2-3

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Monday, May 5, 2008

Roast Salmon with Avocado Salsa

Its Cinco de Mayo and we had a bunch of limes, cilantro, avocados and a habanero pepper hanging out in the fridge, along with a defrosted salmon filet...
I marinated the salmon in lime juice, chopped garlic and salt, and then roasted it at 375 for ten minutes. Perfect.
There really isn't much of a recipe to record -- just the memory of a cozy dinner in front of the tv with Bill, watching House MD on a Monday night.

Granola Batch # 1

This first batch of house blend granola falls somewhere between the Lawson and Bittman camps.
I left out the oil altogether, used only what we had in the house and forgot to add ground flaxseed, which I will definitely add to the next batch, along with some ground ginger. The pepitas/pignolis were an off flavor in the mix, and I wouldn't use them again. Slivered almonds instead of any and all other kinds of whole nuts and seeds, next time. I'll toss in some cereal flakes when its all cooled off.

Dry ingredients:
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup Trader Joe's pignolia, pepita and almond mix
1/2 cup roasted salted cashews
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Wet ingredients:
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup honey

Add Ins:
1 cup dried, sweetened cranberries
1/4 cup dried golden raisins

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Stir to mix well. In a small bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients. Stir to mix well. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones, and stir well.

Spread the mixture evenly on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Set a timer to go off every ten minutes while the granola bakes, so you can rotate the pans and give the granola a good stir; this helps it to cook evenly. When it’s ready, remove the pans from the oven, stir well – this will keep it from cooling into a hard, solid sheet – and set aside to cool. The finished granola may still feel slightly soft when it comes out of the oven, but it will crisp as it cools.

Mix in dried fruit and scoop cooled granola into to a large zipper-lock plastic bag or other airtight container. Store in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Yield: about 7 cups