Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Almonds

Bill spotted this recipe in Gourmet Magazine and we ended up making it for dinner two nights in a row. Mmmmmm...greens...We halved the amount of swiss chard originally called for, and added a little extra spice. (Photo by Ruth Cousineau)
1/2 large onion, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick (1 cup)
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb Swiss chard, center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds with skins

Cook onion with 1/4 teaspoon salt in 2 tablespoons oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring, until softened. Sprinkle with paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add chard in batches, stirring frequently, until wilted, then add raisins and water. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, about 7 minutes. Season with salt.

Cook almonds in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a small heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle almonds over chard.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Roasted Cod with Shitakes in Miso Broth

We made this light, clean, healthy dish two nights in a row after spotting the "ten minute" recipe in this month's Gourmet. I added sesame oil, a quick marinade for the fish and substituted hatcho miso paste for the miso soup mix originally called for. Photo by Maggie Ruggiero.

2 (6-oz) pieces Pacific cod or hake fillet (about 1 inch thick)
toasted sesame oil
soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 lb sliced shiitake mushroom caps
2 cups prepared miso soup, or soup made with fresh miso
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Pat fish dry in a small shallow baking pan and drizzle with equal amounts of sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Toss mushrooms with sesame oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then spread in another small shallow baking pan.

Roast fish and mushrooms, stirring mushrooms once or twice, until fish is just cooked through and mushrooms are crisp. The mushrooms will take about 15-20 minutes, and the fish will take ten

Meanwhile, prepare soup according to package instructions.

Divide soup, mushrooms, and fish among 4 bowls and top with scallions.

Serves 2

Saturday, January 26, 2008


There's been quite a lot of excited talk about pernil around here lately. We had the best pernil I've ever eaten at Bill's family's Christmas dinner -- and that's saying a whole lot, after a lifetime of chasing after tender, juicy, crisp-skinned pernil like the holy grail all over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Miami, Spanish Harlem and the Bronx. This holiday roast is one of the most revered comfort foods in my pork-centric world, and Cindy's version at the Toles family xmas was absolutely perfect. Next year I'd like to film her pernil production, and start a little DVD family cookbook for the kids to inherit: Cindy's pernil, Tempi's cobbler, my empanadas and matzoh ball soup, Sharon's seafood stew, spoonbread...the possibilities are endless.
But back to pernil for a minute, before I get lost in dreaming up a new project to distract me from finishing my PhD...this recipe, for a smaller, easier to manage neo-pernil, was printed in Saveur with photos by Andre Baranowski. Maybe for the superbowl...

2 tbsp. cumin seeds
1 tbsp. black peppercorns
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1⁄4 tsp. cayenne
12 cloves garlic
Kosher salt, to taste
1 bone-in skin-on pork picnic shoulder (about
8 lbs.)
1 cup fresh orange juice
1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. olive oil

1. Toast cumin and peppercorns in a skillet over medium heat, 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a small food processor along with oregano, cayenne, garlic, and 1 tbsp. salt; process to a paste. Cut about twenty-five 1 1⁄2"-wide slits in the pork about 1" deep. Rub garlic paste all over pork, pressing it into slits. Transfer pork to a roasting pan. Whisk together orange juice, lime juice, oil, and 2 tbsp. salt in a bowl; pour over pork. Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 18–24 hours.

2. Remove pork from refrigerator 2 hours before you are ready to roast, to allow it to come to room temperature. Heat oven to 325°. Roast, basting every 30 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of pork registers 160°, about 3 hours total. (Add 1 cup water to pan when liquid evaporates; cover loosely with foil if skin gets too dark.) Let rest for 15 minutes, then carve (see Carving Pork Shoulder) and serve.

1. Using a carving knife and fork, slice down to the bone near the shank end of the pork shoulder. Make a second, diagonal downward cut to produce a wedge. Set wedge aside on the carving platter.
2. While holding the pork shoulder firmly with the carving fork, repeat the diagonal downward cut (using wide, sweeping strokes) to create thick slices, leaving them attached at the bottom.

3. Continue slicing away from the shank end until you can cut no farther. Make a horizontal cut underneath the slices to separate them from the rest of the shoulder.

4. Working around the remainder of the pork shoulder, cut off slices where possible. Using the knife and carving fork, transfer the slices to a serving platter and arrange. Serves 8

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Habichuelas Coloradas (Cuban Red Beans)

This is the quick weeknight version, using canned beans. Nothing makes me happier than a big plate of rice and beans. Except maybe a big plate of Virgil's ribs. Or a big plate of green papaya salad. Or a giant bowl of steamers. Or else a bag full of hot char sui bao. Or...well, anyway...here are the beans:

1 small link of chorizo, sliced in half lengthwise and then cut 1/8 inch half moons
Olive oil
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped into fine dice
1/2 large Spanish onion, chopped into fine dice
1 1/2 - 2 cups of tomato sauce or tomato paste thinned with a little water
(In a pinch, commercially packaged Goya sofrito could be substituted for the pepper, onion and tomato sauce)
1/2 medium potato, peeled and sliced into 8 pieces (or equal amount of calabaza)
Ground cumin to taste
Oregano to taste
Garlic Powder to taste
Salt and pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 can good quality red or black beans drained and rinsed
1/3 cup green olives with pimentos
A splash of vinegar-based hot sauce, or to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Saute the chorizo in a pot over medium heat, until it is lightly browned and some of the oil has rendered out. Remove sausage from the pot and set aside. Add a little olive oil to the pot if necessary to create a film of oil, and saute the onion and peppers until softened - 5 minutes. Add the spices, tomato sauce and potatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, covered, until the potato is cooked through -- about 12 minutes, taking care not to let the mixture burn. Add more tomato sauce if it starts to get dry. Add the garlic, beans, olives and hot sauce and cook until everythign is heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add chopped cilantro and mix thoroughly just before serving.
Serve with plenty of rice.
Serves 3-4

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

I made this for dinner tonight, along with a platter of Bo Luc Lac. The soup was right on the money. Its my own recipe, (although I have to admit that there's nothing very original about it.) True comfort food.

1/2 package rice noodles (any size), cooked, drained and oiled to keep them from sticking, set aside
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined OR sliced boneless skinless chicken
2 t thai red chili paste
2 t madras curry powder
1 can coconut milk
2 cups of chicken (or fish or shrimp stock if using shrimp)
1 T fish sauce, or more to taste
2 shallots, sliced into thin rings
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 knob ginger, cut into thick slices
1 or 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised and cut into thick slices
fish sauce, to taste
Lemon juice to taste
Chopped cilantro, basil chiffonade, lemon wedges and bean sprouts for garnish

In a pot over high heat combine 2 cups stock, fish sauce, chili paste, curry powder, ginger, lemongrass and shallots. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. Add the coconut milk.

Remove the ginger and lemongrass. Add the shrimp, and cover, reducing the heat to low. Cook just until the shrimp are opaque throughout -- 3 minutes or so.
Add more fish sauce to your liking. Portion noodles and cilantro and/or basil into individual bowls. Pour soup over noodles, arranging shrimp on top of the noodles. Top with bean sprouts and a lemon wedge. Serve hot.
Serves 4

Wandering Chopsticks' Goi Cuon (Vietnamese salad rolls)

Another fresh and flavorful recipe from Wandering Chopsticks, with only minimal adjustments on my part. Check out her most excellent blog at www.wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.com

1/2 to 1 lb pork, preferably with skin attached
1/2 - 1 lb jumbo shrimp, plan on two shrimp per roll
a mix of lettuce and herbs, preferably mint, cilantro, mung bean sprouts, etc.
package of rice paper
package of rice vermicelli noodles, not bean thread vermicelli noodles
crushed peanuts or cashews (optional)

Boil noodles and allow to drain in colander.
Fill 5-quart stock pot halfway with water and a dash of salt. When water boils, add pork and turn heat down to medium. Allow to simmer until meat is fully cooked. Take meat out and allow to rest for about 15 minutes, or until pork is cool enough to touch. Slice thinly.

While pork is resting, toss shrimp into pot. It should take only a few minutes for the shrimp to turn pink and be fully cooked. Scoop shrimp out and onto a plate.

At the table, assemble a plate of the sliced pork, shrimp, noodles, herbs, and rice paper, along with a bowl of warm water for soaking the rice paper.

Gently slide the rice paper into the water until it is all covered. You want the rice paper to be just wet enough that it will turn pliable in a few minutes, but it should still be stiff when you take it out. When you're assembling your goi cuon, the stiffness will turn pliable. If you literally soak your rice paper, in a few minutes it'll turn to mush and fall apart.

Place two shrimp on upper portion of rice paper. Then add noodles, lettuce and herbs, and a slice or two of pork. Fold in the two sides. You want it to just touch the edges of the filling so that it will be tight enough to hold everything in.Then fold top edge down, gently pushing in filling as you go along.

Serve these with nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce), plum sauce or sweet chili sauce,

Wandering Chopsticks' Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese Shaking Beef)

We put away several platters of Bo Luc Lac during a marathon dinner with 14 friends at Tamarind Tree in Seattle last week, and then just yesterday I stumbled across this recipe at Wandering Chopsticks' mouthwatering and informative blog. This was spectacular. If you haven't seen Wandering Chopsticks blog - go check it out. The recipe (with a couple of minor edits) and photo are both hers. I'm going to make her salad rolls next...

2 lbs beef, filet mignon or sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 onion, sliced
1 or 2 tomatoes, sliced (or a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half)
1 bunch watercress, or mixed field greens or lettuce
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup white or rice vinegar
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
Optional: Add 1 minced fresh red chili into the marinade.

Dice the beef into 1-inch cubes. Add 2 tsp fish sauce, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, and 1/2 tsp sugar to marinade. Set aside and let it marinate at room temperature.
Slice onion as thin as possible. Arrange onion slices in a shallow bowl and add enough vinegar just so the onions are covered, about 1/2 a cup or so. The vinegar will soften the harshness of the onions and add a tartness to the salad.
Wash greens. Slice tomatoes. Arrange on the plate in an attractive pattern, with concentric circles of greens on the outside and an inner circle of tomatoes. Top with vinegared onions (just the onions, you don't want the vinegar juices).
Mince garlic.
In a wok on high heat, drizzle a bit of oil. Add minced garlic. Add in the beef and "shake" it until edges are charred and beef is cooked to your liking.
Scoop beef onto salad, making sure to drizzle beef juices over the salad as well. Serve with rice on the side.
Serves 6

Friday, January 4, 2008

Carrot Cake

This is straight up the best carrot cake I've ever had. I first tested the recipe (which hails from Taunton's Fine Cooking) when my friend Nada Gordon requested that I make a carrot cake for her bridal shower a few years back. Thirty hungry, raucus ladies zipped through two enormous, raunchily decorated carrot cakes on that memorable afternoon, and I've been waiting for a chance to make carrot cake again ever since. I finally had occasion to make this moist, spicy cake for Bill's family's Christmas celebration this year, and I was very happy with the results. The cream cheese frosting is just ridiculously good. We even schlepped a piece of this cake with us all the way across the country to Seattle so my friend Niall, arbiter of good tastes, could give it his thumbs up.

Softened butter and flour for the pan
1/2 cup dried currants
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
10 oz. (2-1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground mace
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
3 oz. (3/4 cup) walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup walnut oil (preferably toasted walnut oil)
For the frosting:
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and completely softened at room temperature
1 lb. cream cheese, cut into pieces and completely softened at room temperature
4-1/4 oz. (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
1 oz. (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts or pecans for garnish (optional)

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9x13-inch heavy-duty metal cake pan. Soak the currants in 1/2 cup hot tap water for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a food processor (use the steel blade), chop the carrots very finely to about the consistency of couscous. Transfer to a small bowl and rinse the food processor bowl (you’ll need it again).

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Whisk to blend thoroughly. Transfer 1/4 cup of this mixture to a small bowl and add the drained currants and the 3 oz. nuts. Toss to combine.

In the food processor (again use the steel blade), mix the eggs and sugars until blended. With the machine running, slowly add the oils in a steady stream until combined. Scrape this mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine. Add the carrots and the raisin-nut mixture; stir to combine.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack to room temperature before inverting the pan to remove the cake. Let cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting:

Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (a hand mixer works, too). Beat the butter on medium speed until it’s quite light, fluffy, and resembles whipped cream, about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese one piece at a time, beating well after each addition. When all the cream cheese is incorporated, reduce the speed to medium low and gradually add the sugar and vanilla, stopping the mixer each time you add the sugar. Mix just enough to remove any lumps; scrape the bowl as needed. If the frosting seems a bit loose, refrigerate it for a few minutes until it seems spreadable.
Frost the cake:

Scrape about two-thirds of the frosting onto the center of the cake. With a narrow metal offset spatula, push the frosting from the center out to and just over the cake’s edges. Spread with as few strokes as possible to prevent crumbs from catching in the frosting. Cover the top of the cake first then use the remaining frosting along with what’s creeping over the edges of the cake to cover the sides. Once the cake is covered, drag the front tip of the spatula back and forth from end to end to create a textured surface on the top of the cake. If you like, sprinkle the nuts on top of the cake and press them into the sides.

From Fine Cooking 63, pp. 50
photo: Scott Phillips