Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I am so happy grilling season is here. I have been trying a great method of grilling long, skinny veggies: just skewer the vegetables together, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill - about 3-4 minutes a side over medium-high heat.

These are pics of grilled okra from Monday and asparagus from Tuesday. Both were great. This is a great way to (re)introduce okra to okra-haters as it wasn't slimy or slippery at all (common complaints about okra).

North African Grilled Chicken

I used a spice paste from the same article in Gourmet that I used yesterday. I made the paste and we grilled the chicken right away. It was great and took about 20 minutes total. We ate it with grilled asparagus and millet (made in the rice cooker - so easy!)

North African Spice Paste (adapted from Doc Willoughby in the June 2007 Issue of Gourmet)

Grind together in a spice blender or with a mortar and pestle:
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2-3 small dried chilies
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Stir in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Rub on chicken breasts and grill.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Fast Grilled Ribs

I'll say up front: "fast" is a relative term. These will take 45 minutes or so, but compared to hours of smoking or slow barbecuing, 45 minutes is fast.

The original method for these ribs came our friends John and Lynn. The idea is simple: rub the ribs with salt, pepper, garlic and lime juice and then grill them bone side down over medium heat for about 30 minutes, flip once and grill 15 minutes longer. The bones insulate the meat so it cooks through and doesn't dry out. As the fat renders, it bastes the meat and drips off. You're left with porky, meaty ribs. This method won't yield the fall apart texture you'd get after hours of smoking, but you get nice, meaty ribs to gnaw on. Very satisfying.

This time, instead of the simple lime, salt and pepper rub, I used an adobo paste, inspired by one in the most recent issue of Gourmet magazine. T'was toothsome.

Grilled Ribs
  • 1 slab babyback or St. Louis ribs (I have found the baby backs are easier to prepare, but the St. Louis are meatier and better on the grill.)
  • Dry rub or flavoring paste (see below)
If you are using St. Louis-style ribs (SLR), cut off the flaps of meat on the front and back of the slab of ribs. My ribs usually have two flaps of meat - one on the bone side, and one on the meat side. You want an even slab of ribs.

Cut off most of the external fat. Rub the slab with your paste or rub. If using SLR, trim the pieces you cut off, rub them with the seasoning and follow the instructions below, putting them on the coolest part of the grill.

Place the ribs over medium heat. Cook bone-side down for about 30-40 minutes. The meat will be cooked almost through at the 30 minute mark (take a peek, you shouldn't see raw meat). Flip the slab over to brown the top. At 45 minutes, they should be browned across the entire slab. Set aside to rest for about 5-10 minutes. Cut the meat apart between the ribs and serve. If you have SLR, slice the little pieces of flap meat into thin slices and serve alongside the ribs. I like a little lime juice sprinkled over the top of everything.

Adobo Paste (adapted from Doc Willoughby's recipe in the June Gourmet)

This is the paste I used this time. In the past, I have found a simple rub of salt and pepper, lime juice and finely minced garlic works well too. You do not need to let the ribs soak this stuff up ahead - just rub and go.

Mix together:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
Use as a flavor rub for chicken or pork.

Week of May 27

Welcome Summer!

I know. I just welcomed Spring and that Summer doesn't start until solstice and all that ... but it was a gorgeous weekend and we grilled twice in one day. To me, that's Summer.

As Summer gears up, I'll be making a lot more meals on the fly. The cook-ahead thing works if you want to be in your kitchen. But, I have a garden and many outdoor projects underway. You'll see that a lot more of our meals are based on quick preparation techniques and less cooking ahead.

A * denotes work was done on Sunday, a (f) means the item came out of the freezer.

An Unabashed Need to Eat Popcorn for Dinner Dinner
Guilt-assuaging salad: Arugula, lettuce, mushrooms, radishes, chives and a sherry vinaigrette
Honkin' huge bowl of popcorn (popped from scratch and topped with real butter, thank you very much)

Grilled hot dogs
Baked beans (f)
Carrot and cucumber sticks

Quick grilled ribs, adobo spice rub
Grilled okra
Roasted peppers
Nepalese potato salad

Hummus * with pita, chopped vegetables and feta

Grilled chicken with spice run (I used the spice rub from Spicy Chicken Thighs)
Steamed broccoli

Monday leftovers

Green curry with tofu
Basmati rice
Green bean salad with peanuts

Tuesday leftovers

Hummus plate with chopped vegetables
Grilled eggplant
Baked feta

Wednesday leftovers

Dumplings and potstickers from Wang's, Somerville, MA (f)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gnocchi, Yet Again

After my successful attempts at pan-searing fresh gnocchi, I thought I would try pan searing the shelf-stable gnocchi that most of us can find at the supermarket or Trader Joe's. The technique was the same: pan fry gnocchi in a skillet.

I used gnocchetti, which is a small gnocchi I found at Trader Joe's. It took longer than I expected to fry them up: 10-15 minutes as opposed to 3-5 minutes for fresh. They did taste a little like tater tots after cooking; but who doesn't like tater tots?

I tossed them with Noney's Meat Sauce (we'll post that recipe one day ...). It was a very nice, quick dinner.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Chocolate & Zucchini Dinner

I got an unexpected surprise in the mail this week: Andrea sent me an autographed copy of the new Chocolate & Zucchini cookbook. Since I was planning on having guests over for dinner on Sunday, I decided to build my menu using recipes from the new cookbook (all page numbers are from the American edition).

The Menu ~ La Carte
Cumin Cheese Puffs ~ Gougeres au Cumin (p. 84)

Mustard Chicken Stew ~ Poulet Mijote a la Moutarde (p. 103)
Braised Fennel ~ Fenouil Braise a Romarin (p. 140)
Basmati Rice

Chocolate Caramel Tart ~ Tarte Chocolat Caramel (p. 192)

This was a great dinner for multiple reasons: first, we got to spend some quality time with good friends; second, I got to build a menu and test out some new recipes from the new cookbook; and third, everything was pretty delicious.

The gougeres were great. I had never thought of adding cumin to gougeres and it was a great touch. I used ground cumin in the batter and then we sprinkled the tops with whole cumin seeds when they went into the oven. The baking method calls for 20 minutes in the oven and then a few more in the oven with the heat turned off. I didn't bother and just baked then for about 25 minutes at 350. Clotilde's recipe says it makes 40 gougeres. Hers must be way bigger than mine as got 40 out of half a batch of batter. I froze the rest of the batter as an experiment.

The chicken stew was delicious. I made it a day ahead and reheated it on the stovetop before dinner. The mustard wasn't a strong as I thought it would be so I may put a little more in next time (I used dijon - I will also try coarse ground next time). Also, I think my chicken gave off more liquid the expected during the stewing process. So, to thicken up the juices without turning the chicken to rubber, I took the chicken pieces out and then boiled the sauce to thicken it some more. Just before service, I stirred chopped parsley and chives into the stew.

Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables, but I usually eat it raw. This braised fennel was easy and satisfying. I didn't have any rosemary, so I used winter savory from my herb garden instead. It worked very well and complemented the anise flavor of the fennel well.

The tart was very good. It was rich and decadent as promised, but I didn't feel like I had overeaten after I had a slice. I had two problems with the recipe. The crust is the type that you press into the baking dish. I confess that I have never had any luck with this style of crust (which is surprising in that this type of crust is usually recommended to baking novices), I generally make a "pie" crust for my tarts and I think I'll try that next time as I clearly am not skilled enough to press crumbs into a baking pan. The other thing that I noted was the caramel layer was made with brown sugar instead of white. This did speed up caramelization considerably, but I didn't get the depth of caramel flavor that would have come with a slow caramelization of white sugar. On the plus side, the whole tart was very easy and a crowdpleaser - so it would be a great showstopping desert for a new baker. One additional fillip: I put a light scattering of cocoa nibs on top of the caramel layer - it made for a nice crunchy addition to the tart.

I should also note that almost everything was made ahead, so this was a relaxed menu at dinner time. I made the gougere batter, cooked the stew, cut up the fennel and made the tart ahead. At mealtime I just had to make the rice, bake the gougeres, braise the fennel (although this could have been done ahead too) and heat up the stew.

You can buy the book here:

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Week of May 20

This is another hectic week: I'll be working rather long days and then am on the road on Thursday and Friday, but hubby's gotta eat while I'm away. So, this weekend, I am putting some chili into the freezer, planning some easy-to-make meals and making sure that I have laid in adequate travel food (I do not trust the good folks at American Airlines to feed me sufficiently).

Anything with a (f) has been pulled out of the freezer and an * denotes items made over the weekend.

Post-Concert/Chocolate & Zucchini Dinner with Ann and Jim
Gougeres and crudites *
Chicken stew with mustard *
Braised fennel *
Rice with roasted garlic *
Caramel and chocolate tart *

Chili *

Quinoa salad with roasted eggplant and peppers, cipollini onions and chopped radicchio

Sunday leftovers
Gnocchetti (small gnocchi - found these at Trader Joe's) with meat sauce (f)

Monday leftovers

Chili *

Tuesday leftovers

Egg salad sandwiches *
Arugula salad

On your own

Sushi takeout

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Back at Last!

Time to celebrate. I'm back in the kitchen - I missed you all.

This is a preserved lemon martini. It's simply a dry martini (gin please) garnished with a slice of preserved lemon.

If you like preserved lemons and martinis, you will like this drink. If you do not like preserved lemons, to you, this will taste like kerosene.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

More to Come

This week has kicked my butt. New postings soon, I promise!

In the meantime, this is a picture of French Yogurt Cake, served with sliced strawberries which have been tossed with sugar and a little black pepper (trust me). Whipped cream is flavored with brown sugar.


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Gnocchi Salad: Take Two

This another take on the pan-seared gnocchi salad I made a month ago. This one contained asparagus, pinto beans, herbs from the garden (chives, thyme and oregano) and goat cheese. We tossed it in a sherry vinaigrette.

I used gnocchi that I made and froze on Sunday. To cook, I spread it on a baking sheet to "thaw" a little first, then pan fried it like before. This worked well, although next time I'll do this over medium heat at first, as opposed to high heat - they got very brown very fast and some were a wee bit mushy, so I think slightly slower cooking would have cooked them through more evenly.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Week of May 6

I can see already what summer is going to be like. I'm not sure I'm ready for it yet. I know the next few weeks are going to be crazy, so I apologize in advance for a few weeks of fairly uninspired cooking, interspersed with moments of culinary genius and/or madness.

BTW - I made that gnocchi recipe again. I am officially in love with that method of gnocchi-making.

All items made on Sunday are noted with an *, anything pulled from cold storage has an (f).

Sushi dinner out with Wes and Jill

Crab cakes * and salad (We had crab cakes for supper on Saturday night. I didn't know what a Derby-dinner would be like. So, we drank juleps and considered that our official observance.)

Chicken enchiladas (sauce * prepped on Sunday, assemble on Monday).
Black beans *
Cole slaw (cabbage * shredded on Sunday)

Navy bean soup (f)

Pan-seared gnocchi * salad with asparagus, shallots and goat cheese

Monday leftovers

Fake Indian Dinner: A delightful assortment of Trader Joe's premade Indian delicacies

Tuesday leftovers

Turkey burgers (f)

Wednesday leftovers


Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Quinoa Salad

I read a great recipe on 101 Cookbooks for a Lemon-Scented Quinoa Salad. It looked yummy and I thought I'd try something similar. I thought I'd modify the salad to include the flavors in charmoula: lemon, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, and parsley.

I made this salad with chickpeas, roasted yellow peppers, roasted mushrooms, preserved lemon, and herbs (parsley and cilantro). To make weeknight prep easier, I roasted all my vegetables on Sunday.

Tonight, I made the quinoa in my rice cooker (have I mentioned how much I love that thing?) and then tossed everything together. This was our first experience with quinoa and this was a great way to be introduced to it.

Quinoa Salad with Moroccan Flavors
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1 8 oz. package mushrooms, sliced into quarters & roasted
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, roasted, and chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 preserved lemon, chopped fine
  • handful parsley, chopped
  • handful cilantro, chopped
  • clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • lemon juice (1 lemon) or rice vinegar
Make the quinoa according to the package directions (I cooked 1 cup quinoa with 1 3/4 cups water in my rice cooker).

While the quinoa is cooking, toss everything else together. When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle some olive oil over the salad and toss everything together. Add lemon juice or vinegar if you think the salad needs a little acid.

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Spicy Chicken Thighs, Quick Zukes

This was pretty yummy and easy to put together. I pretty much used the recipe as it was on The Wednesday Chef's blog. I prepped the chicken thighs on Sunday (cut off any extra fat and nasty bits) and put them into the baking dish. I also made the spice paste on Sunday and put in the fridge. This morning, I spread the spice paste over the chicken and put it back in the fridge.

Tonight, Dave popped the chicken in the oven and 45 minutes later ... dinner! The only things I would have changed: I should have put the chicken into a larger baking dish (my dish was 9x13 and the chicken was a little too snugly fitted in there) and run it under the broiler at the end, this would have gotten the skin crisper; I also sprinkled the finished chicken with fresh lemon juice.

While the chicken was in the oven, the basmati rice was in the rice cooker (love my rice cooker) and I made a quick zucchini side dish.

Quick Zucchini
  • 2-3 zucchini
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • curry powder
  • cayenne (optional)
  • half a lemon
Slice the zucchini into thin rounds (1/8" inch-ish). Saute in a large skillet in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Toss occasionally to cook evenly. This should take about 5-7 minutes.

Sprinkle with curry powder and a little cayenne and cook another 2 minutes or so. When cooked through, squeeze some lemon over the top.
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