four-ingredient elegance, even with bacon

Basil.

Apple.

Mascarpone.

Bacon.

baconapplebasilmascarpone

 

as straight forward and delicious as it looks.

one option is top it with a drop of honey, but note that there is already plenty of sweetness.

a second option is top it with a dollop of your favorite brand of sriracha. fun.

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Simple Green Beans. Really Simple

A really, really easy recipe for the unheralded green bean. Honestly almost too easy, and a crowd pleaser for sure.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

 

Ingredients

  • green Beans, ends removed, chopped in half
  • pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • two garlic cloves, smashed
  • high quality EVOO
  • sea salt

Directions

  • Boil green beans, garlic and a healthy glug of EVOO in pot of heavily salted water for three-four minutes
  • drain in colander and remove to pot immediately
  • glug EVOO generously over green beans
  • add sea salt to taste
  • serve and marvel and the lustrous wonder of this simple vegetable

 

 

 

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Simple, Quick Lamb Chops, Eggplant and Chickpeas

The Nigel Slater tome, Eat, has provided me with not only an awesome perspective on food and cooking, but accessible, realistic recipes that are more simplistic than they appear – thus perfect for somebody with slightly-better-than-novice skills such as myself.

My meal last night was both inspired by (lamb w/ yogurt) and adapted from (eggplant & chickpea puree) recipes in the book. The Middle Eastern influence (from a British chef/ author, haaa!) was definitely outside of my typical kitchen paradigm, but I have to admit it came out awesome. And the entire meal was on the plate within 30 minutes of start time. Pretty awesome.

Hope you enjoy.

Lamb

Ingredients

  • 6 smaller lamb chops, frenched and cleaned
  • EVOO
  • head of garlic
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 can, chickpeas
  • handful of fresh thyme
  • handful of mint lives, minced
  • greek yogurt
  • 1 lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika

Directions

  • slice eggplant in half, salt and let sit for 20-30 minutes to draw water out
  • marinate lamb in olive oil, salt, pepper, sliced garlic for at least one hour
  • rinse eggplant and let dry over paper towels, then slice into half-rounds
  • preheat oven to 400°F
  • prepare yogurt accompaniment by whisking yogurt, juice from 1/2 lemon, mint, paprika, salt, pepper & minced garlic
  • take half of the eggplant half-moons, put on baking sheet with garlic and thyme and generous EVOO. place in oven.
  • heat cast-iron skillet to high with a handful of garlic cloves
  • heat dutch oven or other high-sided pan, pour in generous EVOO – when heated, layer in the remaining rounds of eggplant. sauté the eggplant until browned, then flip for 2 minutes to brown on other side
  • sear the lamb chops thoroughly on both sides – should take about 3 to 4 minutes per side – when done, put the lamb chops in the oven to finish for 2-4 more minutes
  • add chickpeas to the eggplant in dutch oven, as well as more salt/pepper. turn off heat, cover
  • pull lamb and eggplant from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes
  • use handblender to puree half the eggplant & chickpeas, leaving the rest in tact for both textural and aesthetic purposes
  • plate as desired, with or without couscous, rice, and enjoy

 

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Sated and Slated – Sausage Lasagne

Recipe Source: Nigel Slater, Eat (the little book of Fast Food)

So in reading Eat I came across this delightful ‘lasagne’ (the non-North American spelling for ‘lasagna’) that promised to be simple, wholesome, delicious & fast – essentially a perfect representation of the recipes in this must-own book. Simply titled Sausage Lasagne, Slater calls for the most basic of ingredients and puts together an amazingly delicious – and quick! – spin on a typical Lasagna (Lasagne!).

Perfect for a winter night, but also perfect for whenever you feel like a pasta-y dish, this is one of the most redeeming recipes I’ve made out of a cookbook. Enjoy!

sausagelasagnenigelslatermagnoliagardens

Ingredients

  • six sheets of oven-ready lasagna pasta
  • EVOO
  • 12-16 oz. cherry/plum tomatoes, chopped at least in half
  • two firm, large tomatoes such as Hot House
  • shredded parmesan cheese, the more the better
  • 12-16 oz. pork sausage w/o casing; anything from Jimmy Dean to your butcher’s finest will work here
  • ricotta cheese (optional)
  • 1 cup, cream
  • 1 tablespoon, dijon mustard
  • handful of fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • preheat oven to 400ºF
  • brush EVOO on the bottom of a baking dish
  • layer the bottom of a baking dish with the dry noodles; break as necessary to form a complete bottom
  • generously glug EVOO on the noodles
  • cover the noodles with half of the tomatoes and half of the sausage
  • generously ‘fill in the gaps’ with ricotta (if using), and otherwise layer generously with parmesan
  • add another layer of pasta, as complete as possible
  • add the rest of tomatoes, sausage and ricotta – also healthy layer of parmesan
  • mix cream and dijon, pour over mixture
  • cover dish with slices of tomato, and cover that with parmesan
  • bake for 45 minutes or until tomatoes are roasted and browning and the cheese mixture is bubbling

This is quite literally an amazing, and amazingly simple, dish. I am a total Nigel Slater hyper because of this book and recipes like this. Absolutely awesome.

 

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My Guiltiest Pleasures

I’m not talking the shaved frozen foie gras at Momofoku; I don’t mean the Spicy Pork Tacos from Kogi. I definitely am not referring to the “Coffee & Doughnuts” at The French Laundry. What I want here are your dirtiest, darkest, deepest desires that you’d ordinarily be embarrassed to discuss with your fellow gastronomes.

Here are mine, in no particular order because frankly – when the craving strikes, any one of these bad boys can vault to the top of my ‘must have NOW’ list:

*Jalapeño poppers from Jack in the Box w/ ‘house buttermilk sauce’ (aka Ranch).

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 10.25.08 AM

These fried bundles of joy brought me many smiles and more than a few pounds in college. I feel sorry for you east coasters that don’t know Jack, because this oddball gem – at least for a fast food menu – is quite literally the definition of a food that is disgustingly delicious. Oh yeah, I use THREE of the ‘buttermilk’ cups for a seven piece jalapeño.

 

*Reddi-Wip original cream, straight out of the can.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 10.24.35 AM
My mom used to harangue me incessantly after catching me wrap my lips around the nozzle of this Thanksgiving pie-finisher. To this day, I keep a can in the fridge just to guide me through those tough days as an adult, if for only a moment to harken back to childhood.

 

*Reese’s peanut butter chips.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 10.21.21 AM
The Pieces are great, the Cups are phenomenal, but these. . .these, allegedly, are for cooking. Too bad at my household they go straight into the freezer, only to be extracted by the handful when that late night hunger pang hits.

 

*Anchovy fillets in a tin.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 10.24.04 AM
Kind of the oddball of the group, and mostly a guilty pleasure because of where they are consumed – at work. I keep a half dozen tins in my top drawer for those post-lunch protein swoons. If you wonder why the guilt, you can ask any of my coworkers, most of whom run for the conference room as soon as the lid is peeled back.

*Mocha Mix.

mochamix
Again, blame my Mom. Despite her Mrs. Gooch’s shopping, margarine mandating, soy cheese buying dogma, she always had that big yellow carton in the house. Poured generously with coffee, forming a soup for various berries or splashing into cereal, the creamy richness of Mocha Mix was a true treat. And now it’s often in my house, consumed similarly. Or, if I’m feeling particularly mischievous, a small glass of pure, unglamorous, I-don’t-even-know-what-it’s-made-out-of Mocha Mix.

 

Can’t wait to hear yours. Off to the kitchen. . .

 

pic of Jack poppers courtesy of violettenewyork.com

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Roasting Chicken in a Bertazzoni

After one month of being kitchen-less, we finally have our kitchen back (photos to be posted later on designstiles). A complete renovation, actually, and it’s awesome. The centerpiece for me – and the one allowance I availed myself – was a 30″ Bertazzoni gas range.

Despite honing my chops (pork, lamb and otherwise) for half a decade of seriously approaching the kitchen, I never really delved outside of our existing repertoire – standard stove, oven, flatware, cutlery, knives. I realize that when both books & chefs constantly focus on improving equipment, it’s paramount. So I figured it was time to finally start upping the ante, especially if we have a beautiful cooking room in which to work.

In researching ranges, I was shocked at the variety. While AGA and La Cornue are absolutely beautiful while maintaining top function, I really don’t have that kind of money to spend on a range. Viking, surprisingly, had poor reviews for their consumer-based product (it’s more a ‘professional’ range). Smeg was nice, so was American Range, but being limited spatially to a 30″ range, we found that the Bertazzoni, an Italian brand, had the best value & performance for the money we wanted to spend. Best of all, our model came with a Bertazzoni hood, a necessity for the power of this commercial-grade machine.

Realizing that this was not a casual stovetop/oven, I watched a few YouTube videos to get acclimated to the range. The features, including convection, a double burner, a simmering burner, high BTU output are far beyond my accustomed methods of cooking and needed a tutorial. Aesthetically, everything from the knobs to the grates to the burners themselves – and that seductive logo – is gorgeous. It really is an awesome addition to the kitchen; hopefully to my cooking as well.

After doing a classic spaghetti preparation with my first attempt at utilizing the stovetop & boiler, I was ready to give the oven it’s first test – a roast chicken. Simple, delicious, yet requiring a keen eye and good temperature management, it would be a good ‘getting to know you’ mutual introduction for me & my Bertazzoni.

The recipe that follows is taken nearly verbatim from Ina Garten

Ingredients

  • 4 pound chicken
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of brown sugar
  • bunch of fresh thume
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • full head of garlic, crushed into cloves
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 large yellow or brown onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 carrots cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 bulb of fennel, cut into large chunks
  • EVOOroastchickenDirections
  • Preheat oven to 425°, 400° if using convection.
  • Rinse the chicken inside and out
  • dry the bird and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper
  • stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, one half of lemon, half of the onion &garlic
  • rub the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper
  • place the onions, carrots, remaining garlic and fennel in a roasting pan
  • toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and generous amounts of EVOO
  • roast the chicken on an elevated grate above roasting pan for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh
  • turn oven up to 500° for five minutes to crisp skin
  • remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes
  • cut and serve, or just tear at meat and let the juices run down your fingers and arms while enjoying your juicy, delicious delicacy!
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Where’s Your Bread Buttered

This is the second of my *I can’t really prep or cook food right now because we’re renovating our kitchen* series.

Now I want to know about bread. What’s your ranking? With apologies to Baguettes, Matzo, Focaccia, Challah, Crepe, Ciabatta, Ezekiel, Banana Bread, French, Injera & plain white – here’s my list:
1) Tortilla – the ultimate vehicle. with butter, cheese, meat, vegetables, prepared or raw, a good tortilla is the perfect size (both diameter and thickness) to accompany the filling yet also provide sturdy smokey corn flavor. tortillas can also be re-prepared into some awesome dishes, eg nachos chilaquiles etc. gold medal winner for me.
corn-tortillas-recipe-photo-260x260-cnewman-001
image courtesy family.go.com
2) Baguette – if it has that crispy crust, chewy dough and little middle spec of yeasty moisture, it’s perfect. with butter, with cheese, with charcuterie, with nothing at all but a ripped hunk in your mouth, this is the bescht for me.
3) Bagel – I mean super awesome, great texture (again, for me it’s heavily texture-based), perfect chewiness with a great crisp (toasted) so so good
4) Cornbread – even the fake stuff at El Torito. any bready, sweet corn – as long as it’s moist – is awesome with me. add butter or honey and i’m in heaven.
5) Biscuit – almost the same visceral pleasure as cornbread, but a little sturdier. kind of annoying that the perfect biscuits are so flaky that they make a mess so my OCD takes over, but man again butter or honey or just plain biscuits – or with gravy! – dude awesomeness
biscuit
image courtesy made in our kitchen
6) Pita – best conduit for stuffing your face, and it can be packed into a no-mess pocket if the pita is prepared well enough. very convenient, very earthy taste with a subtle toughness, and when slightly warmed it becomes a comforting blanket for any ingredients.
7) French Roll – similar to the baguette but sans the subtle sour tanginess – in other words just the perfect sandwich medium, for which you can use literally any toppings. hell yeah.
french
image courtesy thebakingway
8) English Muffin – the OG Thomas version. i’m a sucker for these, and it may well be because my Mom had them in the house religiously while I was growing up.
9) Pan Dulce – probably the only bread for me that goes equally well for breakfast and dessert without any alteration. Definitely need a good coffee (breakfast) or milk (dessert) accompaniment, though.
pandulce
image courtesy of house of lunit
10) Sourdough – unique and so damn enjoyable heated to a crisp and with butter or cheese. wow.
What breads satisfy your carb craving?
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What’s Your Favorite Donut?

sprinkle

Donuts, Doughnuts, or “doe-no-ugg-huts” as I used to call them on my Friday morning jaunts to Winchell’s or Fosters with my pops in the late 80’s, how I love thee. As a youth, I would go for the rainbow sprinkle, a maple bar and a box (yes, box) of chocolate milk. Absolutely awesome combo on all fronts and exactly what an adolescent needed to start his day.

From DK’s in Santa Monica to Dough in Bedford Stuyvesant, these tasty treats have seen a renaissance in the last few years.

That renaissance may or may not have been led by my great friend in Brooklyn (late of Los Angeles), a platinum-palated gentleman with a weakness for the fried fritters. I imbibed in many a crumbly pleasure with this man as he enlightened me with his understanding of donut nuances from texture to flavor gradient to type of dough. He regaled me with mythological stories of donuts that quite literally melted upon first taste; we chased these treats both up Ventura Blvd. and down Figueroa Street.

And alas, we’ve both moved on – but I still enjoy a damn fine donut and I’ve come to the awkward realization that an
Apple Fritter
is actually my favorite of these delectable wonders. I often ask myself, is the apple fritter even a donut? Is it technically a pastry? Is it cake?

I’m not sure of the answer in fact, but I do know that I’ve only ever purchased one of these delicacies at a donut shop. And no other pastry/cake/donut can match the pseudo-crunch of the edges and the spongy cake of the center. It’s a texture thing, and the fresh tartness of the apple is a perfect counter to the frosting sweetness. So there it is, my favorite donut.

What’s yours?

applefritters

 

photos courtesy of myinnerfatty & somethingfortheroad

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Superb Simple Summer Salad

We are currently sans kitchen at Magnolia Gardens, which means trying some creative (read: simple) recipes. Without a sing with a modicum of water pressure, dishes are kind of disgusting to scrub in the bathtub, and food bits will sully any oft-used sinks. Thus, we’re left to paper plates, plasticware and when absolutely necessary – thoroughly scrubbing (with paper towel) any real silverware or plates that are ‘must use.’

Thus, salads are high on the priority list and grilling becomes second nature. It’s summer, so fortunately both of these things are perfect for the season – a cool salad doesn’t generally involve cooking (all you need is a plate and a fork!) and grilling only involves foil and tongs. Perfect complementary cooking approach – and this dish combines both into one beautifully composed quasi-meal.

Most importantly, burrata is now available at the Ralph’s down the street, which makes me and The Missus very happy. We recently found out about burrata (in a peach salad, no less) – it’s mozzarella with a cream ‘filling,’ a decadent, hearty addition to a salad. Excited to utilize the burrata, and knowing we had peaches, I opted for an apple, a pear (both of which I had), arugula & an heirloom tomato to round out the dish. I was a bit leery about the tomato being included with peach, apple and arugula, but I couldn’t resist the tart crunchiness a perfect heirloom provides.

And it worked. Hopefully you enjoy this really easy, perfect-for-summer salad.

peachpearburrata

Ingredients

  • one good slab of burrata
  • two peaches, sliced into thick rounds
  • one apple, diced into small cubes
  • one pear, diced into small cubes
  • one heirloom tomato, diced
  • basil, chiffonaded
  • handful of small arugula leaves
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • fruity extra virgin olive oil

for the dressing

  • 1 tbsp, balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsbp, honey

Directions

  • whisk vinegar and honey in small bowl. cover and set aside
  • plate apple, pear, arugula and tomato into two equal servings
  • grill peach slices until slightly charred with nice grill marks (1 minute). turn over and grill other side for 30 seconds. set on plate
  • place burrata on top
  • sprinkle basil evenly
  • add salt and pepper, to taste
  • drizzle EVOO, to taste
  • serve while finishing off your special glazed grilled chicken drumsticks

 

 

 

 

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Afternoon Cheese Plate

A cheese plate is one of my simplest culinary pleasures. I always make sure to have several hard cheeses & at least one soft cheese on hand for those lazy afternoons where cooking is just too hot. Or annoying. Or time-consuming.

There are infinite varieties on cheese plates, and many are more elegant than mine – charcuterie, anyone? – but when I get the afternoon munchies, I get my:

cheeses I’m not a cheese snob, nor even an aficionado. I like to try new cheeses, and will grab anything that looks interesting at Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Parmigiano Reggiano is the backbone of my cheeseplate 99% of the time. It’s just so versatile and pleasing, complements basically everything. Dutch Rembrandt is another favorite, it’s an aged gouda. I tend to like the Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, but the cheddars don’t generally mesh well with too many other ingredients (below). Emmentaler Swiss is another crowd-pleaser, but delve into whatever you like.

crackers the more variants, the better – but I like them with a firm crunch; Croccantini are classic cracker buddies.  even Wheat Thins work in a pinch

herbs an oft-overlooked aspect of a robust cheese plate, herbs provide both a flavor & aesthetic pop. basil is the most all-encompassing herb and Italian parsley has a natural flavor affinity to most of the hard cheeses, but cilantro is pretty versatile as well. I’ve used Mexican mint or sage, but both are limited in the scope of flavors they can partner with.

peppers peppers actually begat the genesis of the cheese plate at Magnolia Gardens. jalapeños, serranos, habaneros are all perfect; I prefer to have all three, in fact, so you get the classic ‘stoplight’ flavor string of red, orange/yellow & green. adds a perfect punch and a nice crispness to the bite of cheese/cracker/herb &

honey credit goes to my wife on this one, as she loves to dip the crackers (specifically Croccantini) in the honey prior to adding the cheese, herb and pepper. the sweetness of the honey comforts the spice of the pepper as well, so it serves an additional purpose in that regard.

fruit grapes cleanse the palate perfectly, and actually work with most of the nutty cheeses. apples add a great crispness and can be a sweet or tart addition, and pears accentuate the cheese with a sweet succulence. berries can be added as well for a sparkle of color and a juicy addendum between bites of salty, nutty crunch.

nuts not pictured below, slivered almonds or diced pecans pair well with the honey and nearly all cheeses.

cheese

So whatever your iteration, a cheese plate should be a consistent inclusion in your snack rotation.

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