Digitalini with Roasted Crimini, Shallots and Fresh Spinach

Kind of a simple, lazy meal here. I roasted whole shallots and crimini mushrooms, then added them to pasta. While the pasta was still steaming hot, I added chopped baby spinach, a little pasta cooking water and a handful of grated Romano. Drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top. No forceful tastes, but a nice complement of textures and subtle flavors.

Served this to accompany grilled chicken thighs.

1 pound crimini mushrooms, golf ball sized at most
3 whole shallots
Olive oil
A pinch of dried oregano
A pinch of dried red pepper flakes
1 pound digitalini or other small pasta
4 ounces baby spinach roughly chopped
1 cup grated Romano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat over to 425 degrees
  2. Put shallots in a small baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until shallots are browned. 
  3. In a separate dish do same for mushrooms, adding oregano and red pepper flakes. Roast for 30 minutes or more, until mushrooms are nicely browned, but not shriveled up.
  4. Allow roasted vegetables to cool. 
  5. Cook pasta, reserving some pasta water. 
  6. Drain the pasta, transfer to a large serving bowl. Quickly add roasted vegetables, spinach and cheese. Stir to combine. Add some pasta water to create an appropriate consistency - just a tiny bit of sauciness. Season liberally with sea salt and ground pepper. 

Shirred Eggs over Shrimp with Sherry

So, if you've got a few pieces of Shrimp with Sherry left over, try this.

1/2 teaspoon butter
2 cooked shrimp, from Shrimp with Sherry
2 eggs

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Melt butter in a ramekin (10 seconds in microwave). Swirl around the ramekin. 
  3. Place shrimp in the bottom of the ramekin. 
  4. Break eggs over shrimp. Add salt and fresh ground pepper. 
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. The center of the eggs will still be a little loose, but the edges firm and yolks slightly past soft-boiled stage. 

Shrimp With Sherry

My son, the picky eater, actually LOVES a dish I make called Shrimp with Sherry. I think by giving the dish an actual name, along with the hint of illicitness of Sherry in a "kids" dish might be bigger factors to him than the taste. No, maybe not. Shrimp, butter and the sweetness of a dash of Sherry, flambeed, is delicious. Wrong again, he likes it when i light a pan of food on fire. That's it. 

But it tastes good too. 

1 pound fresh shrimp, about 16-20 or 20-25 count, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1.5 tablespoons dry sherry, such as Amontillado

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. 
  2. Add shrimp in one layer and cook until both side of the shrimp are slightly browned on the edges. Do not over cook. Total time should be 1-3 minutes based on size of shrimp. 
  3. Add the tablespoon of butter and swirl the pan to melt it quickly. 
  4. Add the sherry, shaking the pan, for about 30 seconds. If it flambees, so much the better. 
  5. Remove to a warm small serving bowl immediately, seasoning with salt at pepper. 

Pork Burger with Chorizo & Bacon // Cippolini Onion Vinaigrette

An excellent recipe found in The Essential New York Times Cookbook, edited by Amanda Hesser. It combines toasted and freshly ground cumin seeds, shallot and red peppers into freshly ground pork. Add  chorizo and diced bacon. Great combination because ground pork loin alone would create a desert-dry crumble burger.

  • The recipe called for aioli and/or romesco sauce as accompaniments  - yes - you want something like that to round out the burger. 
  • I grilled mine, rather than pan searing. No issues. 
  • We mentally calculated the fat content in the pork, sausage and bacon and generously placed this mix at 85% lean / 15% fat - in range with typical beef burger grind (80/20 is best burger ratio to me). It probably was closer to 90/10 - which is why we wanted the aioli to be on hand. Next time for sure. 
The salad beneath the burger is simple romaine and spinach, local tomatoes and cucumbers. Salad was dressed with the Cippolini Onion Vinaigrette from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual. Second time I've made - definitely a keeper. 

If you look closely, you'll see a few rounds of Barely Cooked Zucchini with Almost No Vinaigrette hiding next to the salad.

Barely Cooked Zucchini with Almost No Vinaigrette

This is a unique combination of technique and a light hand on ingredients. Sweating the zucchinis with salt makes cooking almost unnecessary. Of all places you'd never expect, I learned this technique from a master chef who specializes in the cuisine of southwest China. 

1 pound zucchini
½ pound yellow squash
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons homemade vinaigrette

1.     Slice zucchini and squash into ¼” rounds. Place in a colander and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Mix to combine. Let drain for 15 minutes. Rinse with cold water and shake to drain.
2.     Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the drained zucchinis and cook for 60 to 90 seconds, shaking the pan a few times to release the slices.
3.     Transfer zucchinis to a bowl and toss with no more than 2 tablespoons vinaigrette. Add additional fresh ground pepper if desired. 

Simple Strawberry Tart

For Margie's recent birthday dinner I adhered literally to all her meal-related requests. Simple salad, roast chicken and spring vegetables, strawberry tart and ice cream for dessert.

The chicken was made using the same technique and roasting times as mentioned in this article. The tart used the same incredible and easy to make cream-cheese pastry dough used in the Apple Galette I wrote about recently. I won't repeat all those details here, so check out the original posts.

Here's a glamor shot of the Strawberry tart - which had nothing more than cut strawberries with sugar and a dusting of cornstarch over them.

Mahi-mahi in paper packets, with Spinach, Potato and Grapefruit

This dish was inspired by Mario Batali, which I adapted from the Babbo Cookbook. The technique is simple and the details of the ingredient combination can easily be varied. I was short a little fish, so I added potato slices as a base. That, plus the picky one (13 y.o. son) would never eat spinach, especially if I told him it was sautéed in garlic and anchovies. He wouldn’t even go for grapefruit combined with fish. 3 of my packets included spinach sauteed in an anchovy/garlic/oil mixture. One was potato and fish. 

Batali’s recipe calls for an unusual green, which I’d guess is somewhat like kale. I used spinach. When I make it again, I’ll use kale so will specify it below.  Also, he calls for cubes of reduced chicken stock and wine, frozen into ice-cube sized pieces. You may not have that on hand (though it’s a pretty good idea), so I’m specifying regular chicken or fish stock in my recipe.
One word of advice: you wouldn’t expect this, but there really are fewer contributing flavorings in this dish then it appears on the page. To salt and pepper the fish, as Mario says “aggressively”, is important.


Mahi-mahi in paper packets, with Spinach, Potato and Grapefruit

Serves 4

4 filets of firm fish, such as Mahi-mahi or halibut, approx. 6 oz each
4 garlic cloves finely chopped
4 anchovy filets, rinsed and chopped
1 pound kale, rinsed, chopped into 1 inch pieces. Or, 5 ounces rinsed / prepped baby spinach
1 large russet potato, thinly sliced at the last minute before assembly
1 grapefruit, sectioned (see note)
4 tablespoons chicken or fish stock
4 tablespoons white wine
4 thyme sprigs
Olive oil
Parchment paper or foil

1.       Heat oven to 450 degrees.
2.       Remove skin from fish and salt and pepper “aggressively”, as Mario Batali says.
3.       Saute garlic and anchovies in olive oil (about 2-3 tablespoons – yes – a lot) for a minute or so. Add greens and cook, turning continuously, 2 minutes for kale, 1 minute for spinach. Allow to cook.
4.       Set out four large pieces of parchment (see note 2). Drizzle a little olive oil on each sheet, spread a layer of potato slices. Top with fish filets. Add 1 tablespoon chicken or fish stock and 1 tablespoon white wine. Add two slices of grapefruit and a thyme sprig to each packet. 
5.       Wrap paper packet tightly, leaving as large an air pocket as you can. Put packets on a rimmed baking sheet and cook oven for 15 minutes. 

Note: I’ve found that the easiest way to section a grapefruit is with a very sharp boning knife. Those serrated things aren’t sharp, so it makes the job harder.
Note 2: You can use foil if you don’t have parchment. It’s just not as pretty. 


Savory Bagel Chips with Cream Cheese and Everything Cured Salmon

We had lots of guests last weekend for several reasons, so I cooked a lot. Sunday morning there were bagels, but nobody went for the sun-dried tomato or jalapeno bagels (Yankees, hah!).

In the afternoon I took those savory bagels and cut them in half the 'wrong way" - across the round. I stood both half-rounds on end then sliced them into bagel chips a little less than 1/4" thick (a little more than 1/8"). I threw them on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet and added Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. 12 to 14 minutes at 450 degrees and they were toasted and sizzling (check them halfway through, turning the pan or re-tossing the chips).

I served them with plain 'ole cream cheese and strips of 'Everything' Cured Salmon, which I've written about several times.We just worked them up like suburban crackers and cheese spread, topped with the salmon. They were so good, then when the four girls came back from an excursion, I had to make a second batch. Using sesame, plain and the last sun-dried tomato bagel made it clear that the combination of jalapeno and sun-dried tomato bagels were part of the original  magic.

Note: You can buy the book "Ideas In Food" to get that incredible salmon recipe (I don't published recipe details as a  rule unless I've modified them significantly). But, without even buying the book, amazon provides a "Look Inside" that includes several recipes, including the salmon. Kindle readers can get the first full chapter, as is customary, and it includes the salmon. 

Here's a new shot of the salmon, wrapped in cheese cloth with the salt, sesame, powdered milk, garlic, poppy, salt mixture on top. After being wrapped like this, the salmon is cured for a day in the fridge, then unwrapped, rinsed and stored for up to a week. Delicious.

Here's what I've shared before. Doesn't look like much, but it has the burst of unexpected flavor from all the "everything" spices. 

Nora's Apple Galette with Apricot and Poire William Sauce

My daughter Nora asked for Apple Pie for dessert after her confirmation last Friday night. I can't leave well enough alone, so the result was Apple Galette topped with Blue Bell ice cream and a sauce made of apricot preserves and Poire William (pear) liqueur.

The recipe is by Rose Levy Birnbaum, the doyenne of baking advice. I found it in the Essential New York Times Cookbook, the recently published compendium of recipes from over 100 years of NYT food writing. The highlights of the recipe are the cream cheese in the crust and the technique of freezing cubes of butter and freezing the flour before mixing the pastry dough. Why wasn't that obvious before? Freezing the flour, I mean.

Here are a few fun pictures. You know I don't overkill with the photos, but I guess I liked the symmetry of this. Actually, it was so popular that the Friday night crowd ate it all and I had to make another on Saturday. Luckily I had my niece Jennifer there for help.

My son Alex putting a "final touch" on the galette. It was not easy to get a 13 year old boy to put down a kitchen torch.

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

Nothing more here than a whole chicken, lots of salt, pepper and thyme sprigs placed in the cavities. Chicken is trussed, then placed atop carrot, parsnip, rutabaga, turnips, potatoes. More thyme, some huge hunks of leek. All tossed with olive oil salt and pepper. A few good sized chunks of butter on top will help create a more golden exterior and add flavor to the roasted vegetables. I roasted a 4 pound chicken at 475 degrees for 25 minutes, then 400 degrees for 40 minutes. But taking internal temp, reaching 160+ in thigh joint, is more important than time, because of the differences in sizes of chickens. Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes.

That technique (timing and temps) is magic. Not a surprise, because it's recommended by Thomas Keller in his masterpiece work on detailed home cooking titled "Ad Hoc at Home".

Tonight, a variation of this recipe will call for asparagus, broccoli, carrots, maybe some sugar snap peas......more springlike.

Here's a "huge hunk of leek":

Dang....blogger has had this problem before - it unexpectedly rotates pictures from their original format. No time to mess with it now.......sorry.

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