Archive | April, 2010

Salad days

22 Apr

More on the lunch front: we love us some bistro salad. The combination of toasted nuts, creamy cheese, tart apples, herbs and greens… pinch us. A recent salad of greens, ambrosia apple, hazelnuts, and blue cheese lingers in our memory… Ditto for Tommy Bahama’s St. Croix chopped number with grilled chicken, roma tomatoes, Maytag bleu cheese, Granny Smith apples, macadamia nuts, hickory smoked bacon, sweet corn and honey-lime vinaigrette.
UPDATE: WE’VE ADDED TB’S RED WHITE AND BLEU SALAD AT THE END OF THIS LIST…

These three 1980s/90s restaurant salad recipes feature interesting dressings and grapes.

FIGBELLY SALAD
Red leaf lettuce salad with chevre rolled grapes and spicy toasted pecans tossed in tomato mint vinaigrette

Mash 250 grams (1/2 lb) chevre with 1 tbsp black pepper.
Mold 1 1/2 tbsp around green grapes. Chill.
Toast in saute pan: 1/2 cup pecans tossed with 1 tbsp butter, 1/2 tbsp oil cayenne and 1 tbsp honey. Saute in skillet for 4 minutes. Cool.
In food processor, whiz 1/3 cup roma tomatoes, a bunch of fresh mint, 1 tbsp grainy mustard, 1/2 tsp honey, 1/2 tbsp balsamic, salt and pepper. Slowly stream in 1 cup olive oil.
Slice chilled cheese grapes on top of a plate of red leaf lettuce, red onion, red pepper slices, and asiago cheese wedge.

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DIVINO SALAD
Ginger-scented rotini pasta salad with grapes and orange soy mayo.

Orange soy mayo: beat 2 egg yolks until pale yellow. Add salt and pepper, 1/2 tsp dry mustard, 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar (try white balsamic). Mix and slowly stream in 1/3 cup olive oil, add another 1 1/2 tbsp vinegar and more oil until desired consistency.
Add 1/2 cup soy sauce and juice of four oranges.
Toss with 2 lbs pasta (or just ginger with pasta) with snow peas, halved red grapes.

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This one’s a little dated, but still good. It makes a litre of five-spice yogurt dressing!

CILANTRO’S BLACKENED CHICKEN SALAD
6 oz chicken breast per person
mixed greens
Dressing:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tbsp pureed garlic
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 level teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
pepper
Whisk dressing ingredients and chill.
Lightly dust chicken with blackening spice and cook. Cool slightly and slice diagonally.
Toss mixed greens in five-spice yogurt dressing and mound on plates. Top with chicken.
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RED WHITE & BLUE SALAD

1½ Cup Romaine hearts, diced 1″ x 1″
¾ Cup Thinly sliced Red onion, place in cold water
18 Pieces ¾” sliced ripe tomatoes
6 Tbsp Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 Cup Blue cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
1.Place diced romaine hearts down the middle of a chilled medium round platter. Lay out tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Shingle the tomato slices in a “flower”presentation in the center of the plate on top of the lettuce.
2.Drizzle balsamic vinaigrette around the edges of the lettuce, Ladle blue cheese dressing in the center of the tomatoes, letting it pool down over the tomatoes. Sprinkle crumbled bleu cheese over the dressing.
3.Remove onions from cold water, squeeze out excess water and ball up on the center of the tomatoes. Serve.
BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE(Makes 1 Quart)
1 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
3 Cups Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Salt and Pepper
1½ Tbsp Roasted Garlic Puree
¼ Cup Brown sugar
2 Tbsp Basil, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Parsley, finely chopped
½ Tbsp Dry Oregano leaves
Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl except oil. Using a wire whisk, whisk in oil slowly to thicken. Stir well before serving.
BLUE CHEESE DRESSING(Makes 1¼ Quarts)
1 Cup Blue Cheese, crumbled
1 Cup Sour Cream
2½ Cups Mayonnaise
¾ Cup Buttermilk
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
¼ Tsp Coarse ground pepper
Place sour cream, mayonnaise, buttermilk, vinegar and pepper in blender. Blend till smooth making sure to scrape the sides and corners to incorporate all ingredients. Crumble the blue cheese by hand and add to dressing

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Much ado about lunch

22 Apr

IN A PAST LIFE, we’re sure we were among the ladies-who-lunch set. A crisply set table with flowers, linen and crystal with dainty plates of loveliness — we’re home.

Among the most adorable retro lunches is the famous mandarin orange souffle at Neiman Marcus.

The luncheon plate, shown here, is an unmitigated plating disaster circa 1980s. It is a matchy-matchy cylindrical composition including a mound of almond-studded chicken salad, fruit salad, poppy seed dressing, and a small muffin (we like banana bread with walnuts).

POPPY SEED DRESSING FOR FRUIT SALAD
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard, such as Colman’s
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grated onion, plus the juice released by grating
1 cup safflower or canola oil
1-1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds

NEIMAN MARCUS CHICKEN SALAD
1 lb. cooked chicken breasts, cut into ½″ cubes
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup halved purple grapes
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ cup whipped cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine chicken, mayonnaise, celery, grapes, almonds, parsley, and salt in a bowl.
Add whipped cream and pepper; fold to combine.

Not to be neglected: The glistening molded souffle is topped with two mandarin orange segments placed back to back in the shape of a butterfly. Or is that repairing an unmolding disaster?
Who cares? Following are two recipes: one for individual molds, the other for a larger ring mold from our beloved Best of Bridge. We’re thinking the ring mold version will be a tad easier.

NEIMAN MARCUS ORANGE SOUFFLE WITH CHICKEN SALAD
1-1/4 cups orange juice (preferably from concentrate, thawed and diluted)
1 tablespoon (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
1 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup canned mandarin orange sections (4-ounce can)

1. Pour 1/4 cup of the orange juice into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over, and stir to dissolve. Seat aside to let the gelatin soften. Prepare and ice bath in a large bowl.
2. Pour the remaining orange juice into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir in the sugar and egg yolks. Over medium heat, gradually bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to steam and is slightly thickened. do not allow the mixture to boil. Add the softened gelatin mixture (which will have a rubbery texture) and the lemon juice. Stir until incorporated and then transfer the “custard” to a clean mixing bowl; sit the bowl in the ice bath to cool. While the custard is cooking, stir it occasionally.
3. Using a wire whisk or an electric whisk, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. With a spatula, gently fold some of the whipped cream into the cooled custard mixture to “loosen” it, then add the rest of the cream mixture and fold in until fully incorporated.
4. Place three or four of the mandarin orange sections in the bottom of six individual 5-ounce fluted plastic dessert molds and then fill the molds with the orange souffle mixture. Place the molds on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 4
hours, and preferably overnight, until firm. Carefully unmold.
Serves 6.

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CHICKEN ATLANTA
Source: “The Best of Bridge” 1984
This recipe appeared word for word in the LA Times, but our BoB ladies renamed it.

ORANGE SOUFFLE

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
Dash salt
4 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups orange juice (about 10 oranges)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup orange sections, cut in halves
2 cups whipping cream, whipped

CHICKEN SALAD
1 cup mayonnaise
Dash wine vinegar
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 cups diced cooked chicken
1/2 cup diced celery
Salt, pepper
Toasted sliced almonds

ORANGE SOUFFLE
Combine gelatin, sugar and salt in saucepan. Set aside.
Beat egg yolks with 1 cup orange juice. Stir into gelatin mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, just until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining orange juice, orange and lemon zest. Chill, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon.
Stir in orange sections. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into 2-quart ring mold. Chill until set.

CHICKEN SALAD
Mix together mayonnaise, vinegar and whipping cream. Add chicken and celery and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Unmold Orange Souffle onto serving plate. Fill center of mold with Chicken Salad. Garnish with sliced almonds.
6 to 8 servings. Each of 8 servings: 748 calories; 363 mg sodium; 293 mg cholesterol; 44 grams fat; 70 grams carbohydrates; 21 grams protein; 0.21 gram fiber.

Special sauciness

21 Apr

Dear Diary Saucy Cherie,
We need to talk. While it is true that you enjoy all things saucy, your willingness to consider, nay, encourage, the use of thousand island-type dressing on hamburgers needs to be addressed.
Is it the nostalgia of McDonald’s Big Mac secret sauce?
The tang of Manhattan’s Shake Shack topper? In’n’Out’s legendary spread? Or your latest obsession, Pink bike sauce from Pink Bicycle?
Thousand Island (a variant of Russian dressing) is a lardy, artery hardening melange of mayonnaise, ketchup, Tabasco sauce and finely chopped vegetables; most often pickles, onions, bell peppers, and green olives. Hold the hard boiled egg, please.
Some have said McDonald’s secret sauce is simply tartar sauce with mustard and ketchup.
Here it is revealed in its horrible chemical state:
Big Mac® Sauce: Soybean oil, pickle relish [diced pickles, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, vinegar, corn syrup, salt, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), spice extractives, polysorbate 80], distilled vinegar, water, egg yolks, high fructose corn syrup, onion powder, mustard seed, salt, spices, propylene glycol alginate, sodium benzoate (preservative), mustard bran, sugar, garlic powder, vegetable protein (hydrolyzed corn, soy and wheat), caramel color, extractives of paprika, soy lecithin, turmeric (color), calcium disodium EDTA (protect flavor).

Makes sense. Tartar sauce is a thick white goop made from mayonnaise and finely chopped pickled cucumber, capers, onions (or chives), and fresh parsley. Chopped hard-boiled eggs, olives, and horseradish are sometimes added, and dijon mustard is often used as an emulsifier.
Vinegar adds bite.
We’d have to say the secret lies in the proportions.
Too much ketchup and it’s a sticky, cloying mess: 1/2 cup mayonaise-1/2 cup ketchup-1/2 cup yellow mustard-1/4 cup sweet pickle relish.
Too much mayo and you’ve got a bland goopy slop.

We vow to rev up our burger season sauce with some inspired mixology. First stop: chopped sirloin patties with dreamy melted cheese on toasted English muffins.
And of course, one of these delectable sauces:

AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN’s CLASSIC BURGER SAUCE
from Episode: Best Burgers and Fries
Makes about 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl.

SHACK SAUCE
from Shake Shack– makes about 3/4 cup sauce –
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
4 slices kosher dill pickle
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika (We like the idea of adding smoked paprika.)
pinch cayenne pepper

Ingredients
Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth, scraping down sides of blender with rubber spatula as necessary.

Big Mac Special Sauce
• 1/3 cup mayonnaise
• 2 tsp pickle relish
• 2 tsp ketchup
• 2 tsp sugar
• 2 tsp yellow mustard
• 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion
Stir all ingredients together and refrigerate.

Chicken crosses road, meets raisin

14 Apr

From the “I Don’t Want to Make Him Babies, I Want to Make Him Dinner” files:
We adore roast chicken. But we love it more with glorious rich drippings soaking into pasta, couscous and chewy bread chunks.
Here are three versions of this bliss. All feature the sweetness of raisins.

CHICKEN PASTA FROM THE VENETIAN GHETTO
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe, which was adapted from Claudia Roden’s recipes from her Book of Jewish Food.
(online, we have read complaints that this dish is too bland. Perhaps instead of a whole chicken, we will roast thighs and reduce the amount of pasta.

1 chicken (three and a half pounds-ish)

Salt and pepper

Some white wine

Some pine nuts

Some raisins (optional)

Possibly some butter

A pound of linguine or tagliatelle
Roast the chicken. Last time I did this, I butterflied the chicken, seasoned it with salt and pepper, put it in a roasting pan with a glug of white wine, and blasted it at 450.
When the chicken is done, remove it to a platter and let it cool. Meanwhile, put the roasting pan on a burner (or scrape all the juices, chicken fat included, into a saute pan). Do what you need to do to make the sauce. This varies case by case: sometimes, if the chicken wasn’t that fatty, I’ll swirl in some butter. Last night’s chicken was plenty fatty, so I added another glug of wine to the saucepan along with a bit of water. You could add some rosemary here, too, if you wanted. I roasted the chicken in a glass pan and won’t do that again: I want to be able to deglaze the roasting pan properly for the sauce.
Add the pine nuts and raisins to the pan and let it simmer for a bit. Be careful and don’t let it all cook away, though.
Pull all the meat off the chicken and put it in a bowl. You can also put the skin in the bowl, if you want; I only like skin when it is very crispy, so I eat the crispy bits and feed the rest to the wagging dogs at my feet.
Cook the pasta and toss it with the chicken meat and the sauce. I usually make a salad to go with this, since it is very very rich and could use something astringently green afterwards, but last night I opted for brie instead and I won’t say that was a mistake.
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ROAST CHICKEN BREAST WITH RAISINS AND PEARL COUSCOUS
Recipe: Wolfgang Puck
• 4 (12-ounce) chicken breasts
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup fennel bulb, 1/4-inch dice
• 1 sprig sage
• 1 lemon, zested
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 cup white wine
• 1/2 cup sweet wine, preferably Passito or Moscato de Pantelleria
• 1/2 cup Zibibbo raisins, if available
• 1 cup Chicken Stock
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• 2 ounces butter
• 1 cup sweet seedless grapes, halved
• 8 crisp fried sage leaves
• couscous
• • 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/4 cup chopped onions
• 1 cup pearl couscous
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 cups chicken stock, hot
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To prepare the chicken: Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a saute pan, heat olive oil and sear skin side down until golden in color, about 3 minutes. Turn and saute another 3 minutes. Transfer pan to oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until done. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm.
Remove fat from pan. Add fennel, sage sprig, lemon zest, lemon juice, and raisins and deglaze with 1 cup of white wine and 1/2 cup sweet wine. Over high heat, reduce by half. Add brown chicken stock and cream. Reduce until slightly thickened. Remove sage and finish sauce with butter and grapes.
To prepare the couscous: In a saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onions and cook for 1 minute, until glossy (do not brown). Add pearl couscous and stir until well coated with oil. Season with salt and add 1 cup of chicken stock. Stir occasionally until 2/3 of the liquid is absorbed. Add the remaining cup of stock, and continue to cook until al dente. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, stir in butter, and finish with parsley. Set aside and keep warm.
To serve: Place a few tablespoons of couscous in the center of a plate. Slice each chicken breast diagonally into 2 pieces. Arrange on top of couscous. Nap with sauce and sprinkle with sage leaves. Serve immediately.
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ROASTED CHICKEN WITH BREAD SALAD
FROM ZUNI CAFE

1  2 3⁄4-3 1⁄2-lb. chicken, preferably a fryer, 
lump of fat inside chicken discarded

4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, 
rosemary, or sage

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1⁄2–3⁄4 lb. day-old chewy country-style bread (not sourdough), cut into large chunks crust removed
8 tbsp. mild olive oil

2 tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. dried currants

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. pine nuts

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

2 scallions trimmed, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced

2 tsp. lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water

4 handfuls (about 3 oz.) baby red mustard greens or arugula or frisee leaves
1. Rinse chicken, pat very dry inside and out, and put on a plate. Loosen skin from breast and thighs without tearing it and tuck an herb sprig into each pocket. Liberally season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.
2. Put bread on a baking sheet and brush with 3 tbsp. of the oil. Broil until lightly colored on each side, 2-3 minutes per side. Trim off any badly charred tips, then tear bread into 2″-3″ wads and put into a large bowl. Preheat oven to 475°. Mix white vinegar, 4 tbsp. of the oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Toss 1⁄4 cup of the vinaigrette with the bread. Soak currants in red wine vinegar and 1 tbsp. warm water in small bowl.
3. Heat a 10″ ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Wipe chicken dry, put in skillet breast side up, and roast in oven for 30 minutes. Turn bird over and roast for 10-20 minutes more, then flip back over to recrisp breast skin, 5-10 minutes more.
4. Meanwhile, warm pine nuts in oven for 1-2 minutes, then add to bread. Sweat garlic and scallions in 1 tbsp. of the oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes. Add to bread and toss well. Drain currants and add to bread, then add stock or water and toss again. Put bread salad into a small baking dish and tent with foil. Transfer to oven when chicken gets its last turn.
5. Remove chicken from oven and turn off heat, leaving bread salad in oven for 5 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate. Pour off fat from skillet, leaving pan drippings behind. Swirl 1 tbsp. water in skillet. Slash skin between thighs and breast of chicken, then tilt bird and plate over skillet, draining juices into drippings. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes, then carve into 8 pieces.
6. Simmer pan drippings over medium heat, scraping up browned bits, for 1 minute. Toss hot bread salad with a spoonful of pan drippings in a bowl, ad greens and remaining vinaigrette, and toss well. Put bread salad on a platter and arrange chicken on top.

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Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken
Adapted from the cookbook from the Zuni Cafe, San Francisco
The original recipe falls over three-plus pages in a small font and includes a fantastic amount of detail. It’s a great read. However, I prefer recipes that cut to the chase a bit more, so I have edited this down significantly, into the hopefully dish- and time-saving way I would approach it next time. It is typically served with the Bread Salad (recipe below) but I see no reason you can’t use any of your favorite side dishes instead. To me, the real genius is getting that bird so perfectly roasted all over with only a modicum of fuss.
Serves 2 to 4
One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2-pounds
4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
A little water
Season the chicken: [1 to 3 days before serving; give a 3 1/4 to 3 1/2-pound chicken at least 2 days]
Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough — a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.
Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.
Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
Prepare your oven and pan: [Day of, total time is 45 minutes to 1 hour]
Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle (we used a 12-inch cast iron frying pan for a 3 1/2 pound chicken). Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.
Roast the chicken: Place the chicken in the pan in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes.
Rest the chicken: Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.
Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. You can let it rest while you finish your side dishes (or Bread Salad, below). The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.
Serve the chicken: Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two.
Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste — the juices will be extremely flavorful.
Cut the chicken into pieces, spread on the warm platter (on top of the Bread Salad, if using).
Capitalize on leftovers: Strain and save the drippings you don’t use, they are delicious tossed with spätzle or egg noodles, or stirred into beans or risotto. You can also use them, plus leftover scraps of roast chicken, for a chicken salad.
Zuni Cafe Bread Salad
Adapted from the Zuni Cafe, San Francisco
I can’t describe it any better than they do: “Sort of a scrappy extramural stuffing, it is a warm mix of crispy, tender, and chewy chunks of bread, a little slivered garlic and scallion, a scatter of currants and pine nuts, and a handful of greens, all moistened with vinaigrette and chicken drippings.”
As I noted above, I’ve trimmed down the steps for this recipe significantly so it doesn’t resemble the original recipe a whole lot. But it remains equally delicious.
Generous 8 ounces slightly stale open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough)
6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon dried currants plumped in 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon warm water for ten minutes or so
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 to 3 garlic cloves, slivered
1/4 cup slivered scallions (about 4 scallions), including a little of the green part
2 tablespoons lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water
A few handfuls of arugula, frisée, or red mustard greens, carefully washed and dried
Preheat the broiler. Carve off all of the bottom and most of the top and side crusts from your bread (you can reserve these to use as croutons for soup or another salad). Tear bread into irregular 2- to 3-inch chunks, wads, bite-sized bits and fat crumbs. You should get about 4 cups.
Toss them with just a tablespoon or two of olive oil, lightly coating them, and broil them very briefly, just to lightly color the edges. If you’d like to toast the pine nuts (recommended) you can put them on your broiler tray as well, but watch them very carefully — they cook quickly!
Combine about 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the Champagne or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss about 1/4 cup of this tart vinaigrette with the torn bread in a wide salad bowl; the bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland, add a little salt and pepper and toss again.
Heat a spoonful of the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and scallions, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Don’t let them color. Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold them in, along with the pine nuts, if they were not already mixed with the bread scraps from the broiling step. Dribble the chicken stock or lightly salted water over the salad and fold again.
Taste a few pieces of bread — a fairly saturated one and a dryish one. If it is bland, add salt, pepper, and/or a few drops of vinegar, then toss well.
If you’re going to serve the salad under the roast chicken (recipe above), you can pile the bread salad on the serving dish you want to use and tent it with foil. If you want to serve it separately, do the same, but in a 1-quart shallow baking dish. Hang onto the bowl you mixed it in — you’ll use it again.
Place the salad in the oven after you flip the chicken the final time, for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Tip the bread salad back into the salad bowl. It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist wads, crispy-on-the-outside-but-moist-in-the-middle-wads, and a few downright crispy ones. Drizzle and toss with a spoonful of the pan juices. Add the greens, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and fold well. Taste again.

Sweet endings

10 Apr


It feels weird that Vincent Price is the man my family credits for the sweetest, most angelic dessert we know.

His 1965 Joy of Creepy cookbook (Treasury of Great Recipes) is the source of our treasured family treat.
Boccone Dolce (“sweet mouthful”) is from Sardi’s on West 44th Street in Manhattan’s theater district.
It is ridiculous.

It’s an ice-box cake made with meringue, fresh strawberries, whipped cream and a touch of chocolate.

UPDATE: We recently succumbed to a fit of the lazies and tried to make one large meringue (which we baked slowly for close to two hours)

But we should have left the chocolate sparse: we coated the whole thing and the cream couldn’t penetrate to soften the base. So while it looked good and tasted good, it was tough to cut and turned into a shipwreck.

289293

BOCCONE DOLCE
(Sweet Mouthful)

Preheat oven to 250.
Meringue Layers: 3 base layers which can be done days ahead.
(some recipes call for 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and 250 oven)

4 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. In mixer, beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar and continue beating until meringue is stiff and glossy.

Line baking sheets with parchment. Trace three, eight inch circles on paper

With a rubber spatula, spread meringue evenly and equally over top of the circles. bake approximately 2 hours or until meringue becomes bisque colored. The low temperature will prevent them from browning too quickly. Then turn off oven, open oven door and let meringues “rest” in oven another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully peel off parchment or waxed paper. Put cake on racks to dry until thoroughly cool.

Once cooled, meringues may be wrapped in saran and frozen or just store in an airtight container if using within the next 24 hours. NOTE: Wrap each meringue in several saran layers, then stack in a large plastic container for freezing. Remove from freezer at least an hour before assembling.

6 ounces of semisweet chocolate pieces
3 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 pints berries, sliced and macerated with sugar
Chocolate curls (for garnish) I just shaved some chocolate over the top
Melt chocolate pieces over hot water. When perfectly smooth, remove from heat and cool.

In a large bowl, whip the cream until stiff; gradually add powdered sugar and then vanilla extract. (try a splash of grand marnier)

Take two lbs./pints of fresh strawberries. Pick out the eight prettiest berries and put them back in the fridge for later. Hull and slice, or half, the rest of the berries into a bowl and sweeten with a half cup of sugar.

Stir gently, cover, and put back in fridge for an hour or two.

To assemble, place a meringue layer on a serving plate, rounded side down. Spread a very thin coating of chocolate over it. NOTE: Go easy on chocolate, too much will make it impossible to cut cake! I used a pastry brush to spread the chocolate.

Top chocolate with a layer (about 3/4 inch thick) of whipped cream.

Top cream with a layer of sliced berries.
Place a second layer of meringue on top of this, and repeat filling.
Top with final meringue, rounded side up (some say down), and frost top smoothly with remaining whipped cream.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with several whole strawberries and chocolate curls.

This dessert is not the easiest to cut – use a serrated bread knife works well and use a sawing like motion.
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And to gild the lily, here’s a remarkable peach meringue cake sweetened with butter cream and bolstered by ground almonds.

ALMOND MERINGUE CAKE WITH PEACHES
From Laura Calder
4 ounces ground almonds or hazelnuts
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
4 egg whites
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons125 g sugar (for the buttercream)
4 egg yolks (for the buttercream)
1 cup butter, very soft (for the buttercream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (for the buttercream)
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (for the topping)
6 peaches, sliced (for the topping)

Directions
Make the cake: Heat the oven to 275°F/140°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment and draw on two 9-inch/23 cm circles. (You could also do rectangles). Combine the ground almonds, cornstarch, and all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Beat the whites to peaks, then beat in the remaining sugar to make a stiff meringue. Fold in the almond mixture in three batches to combine thoroughly. Using a piping bag with a large tip, pipe the meringue onto the circles on the parchment. Bake until crisp and dry, about an hour and a half.
Make the buttercream: Heat the sugar with 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons/100 ml water to dissolve, then boil to soft-ball stage, which is just before the syrup changes colour (239°F/115°C on a candy thermometer). Beat the egg yolks in a stand-up mixer, then, with the beaters running, quickly add the hot syrup in a thin stream. Continue beating until the mixture is cool and forms and thick mouse, about 5 minutes. Beat in the butter, gradually, and finally add the vanilla.
Assemble the cake: Set a round of meringue on a serving plate. Spread over a quarter of the buttercream. Lay in a layer of sliced peaches. Spread the top layer with buttercream and set it on top on the first. Spread the remaining butter cream over the sides of the cake. Press the toasted almonds all around the sides. Arrange another layer of peach slices on top.

Pucker up

10 Apr

joelens.blogspot.com

A study of pasta and lemon:

We’ve been whipping up lemony orzo since teenhood. Citrusy chicken broth emboldened with black pepper and parmesan is spring in a bowl. It screams for something green: grassy parsley, sweet peas, steamed broccoli, tender asparagus.

Turkey cutlets with lemon thyme cream sauce even made an appearance on the pages of our beloved 1980s-era Seventeen magazine.

Meyer lemons are finally available in our vincinity, though they are a luxury.
We begin with the best of the web, courtesy joelens.blogspot.com:

ITALIAN CHICKEN WITH LEMON THYME CREAM SAUCE
4 (4 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups flour, plus 1 tablespoon
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp Italian seasoning

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.

Mix dry ingredients in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in the mixture, shaking off any excess.
Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a large skillet. Cook chicken breasts over medium-high heat until golden brown and crisp (2-3 min). Add more oil for each batch as necessary.
Place cooked chicken breasts on a baking sheet and transfer to preheated oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°F.

LEMON THYME CREAM SAUCE
recipe adapted from Food Network
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1/2 white wine
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 lb cooked angel hair pasta
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
2 ounces Parmesan cheese to garnish

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring often until the shallot is translucent. About 1-2 minutes.

Add the wine to the sautéed shallot pot. Cook over high heat until the wine is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and the thyme and turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook until it reduces by half. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the hot pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Plate the pasta and top with chicken. Garnish with Parmesan and parsley.

LEMONY PASTA WITH ASPARAGUS
FOOD52
Sea salt
1 pound asparagus
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
Grated zest of 1 lemon (Meyer, if possible)

1/2 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon (Meyer, if possible)

Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving
4 tablespoons fresh ricotta

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the asparagus where the tip and stem meet. Cut the stems into 1/2-inch pieces.
Warm the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until softened on the edges. Add the asparagus and season with salt. Cook, stirring to turn and distribute the asparagus, until crisp-tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest. Remove from the burner.
When the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Scoop out about 1/3 cup pasta water, and set aside. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the asparagus along with the butter. Place over medium heat. Use tongs to toss and melt the butter. Add half the lemon juice and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice and salt if needed. If the spaghetti is dry, fold in some of the pasta water.
Divide among 2 plates. Season with pepper. Sprinkle with parmesan. Drop 2 tablespoonfuls of ricotta on top of each. Devour.


LEMON SPAGHETTI
1/2 pound spaghetti or angel hair or other
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.
Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.

Palm Springs eternal

8 Apr

Sometimes when we’re lounging peacefully poolside at our Palm Springs getaway — eyes closed, water gently lapping beneath the breezy palms — we imagine the wonderful boozy row between Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra in their nearby home. You remember: the one where Gardner launched a Champagne bottle at Sinatra but missed, resulting in the famous cracked sink in the master bathroom. All that ruckus because Gardner blew a gasket after hearing about Sinatra’s dalliances with Lana Turner.

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Ah, Palm Springs. Stars — among them Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, Gene Autry, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Liberace, Arnold Palmer and Dinah Shore — flocked to glamourous gin mills in the California desert in the 1940s and ’50s for respite from the harried life of Hollywood.

These days, Palm Springs is the most artificial place on the planet. Imported palm trees and faded Hollywood stardust now give way to leathery, overfed Canadian retirees and a booming epicenter of the gay universe. (Love The Follies!)

Foodwise, desert cuisine is hard to fathom. Orange, lemon and grapefruit trees abound as do California staples of dates and avocados, and hearts of palm (wrong trees, but still Palm Springsy).

Fine dining in PS, Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage commonly means tony seafood dishes and glamourous steak houses dripping with bernaise. The desert dining of days gone by included midnight suppers at the Chi Chi Lounge, with orders of Welsh Rarebit and barbecued spareribs to soak up all that gin. Four-inch steaks, an obsession with zombies and Polynesian delights courtesy Don the Beachcomber.

To our imagination, Palm Springs cuisine means cool, citrusy salads to beat the heat. And we like them effortless and light, so we can lounge poolside sans pooch hanging over our Lilly Pulitzer tankini. Cold shrimp and lean chicken add the perfect touch of protein for swimming a few laps between belts. It is Frank’s world, after all. We just live in it.

UPDATE: Coconut Date Rolls are a perfect poolside snack with a fruit tray or on top of your salad.
1 lb. pitted dates
1 cup slivered almonds, roasted
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut flakes (reserve some for rolling)
Blend the dates, almonds & coconut in a food processor until a paste is formed. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of the paste in the dried coconut and form into 1-2 inch balls. Top with a slivered almond! Makes about 25 little rolls.

PALM SPRINGS FRUITY CHICKEN SALAD
1/2 cup pitted dates
2 large oranges
1 small pineapple
2 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halved, cooked and cooled
1 cup plain lowfat yogurt
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp grated orange peel
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped candied ginger
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh mint
1/8 tsp salt
dash cayenne pepper

Make dressing by whisking together all ingredients until well combined. Slice dates. Slice peel and pith from oranges. Slice oranges crosswise into 1/4 inch rounds. Quarter and peel pineapple. Slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange oranges, kiwifruit, and pineapple on 4 salad plates.
Tear chicken into strips. Toss with dates and Orange Mint Yogurt Dressing. Divide mixture into 4 portions and arrange evenly on each serving plate. Garnish with mint sprigs.

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SUNNY PALM SPRINGS SALAD
A salad made with hearts of palm, avocado, grapefruit, and tomato.

1 grapefruit or tangelo or oranges
1 avocados
2 tomatoes, Roma type
1 can (398 mL size) hearts of palm
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
ground pepper to taste
salt to taste

Using a sharp knife, supreme grapefruit over a bowl to catch juices.
Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, reserving shell to serve from. Cut the avocados into bite-size pieces, then add them to the bowl. Cut the tomatoes into bite-size pieces, discarding the seeds. Add the pieces to the bowl. Drain the hearts of palm, cut them into small rounds, then add them to the bowl.
Pour the oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper into a shaker to emulsify. Toss well and serve.
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PALM SPRINGS SHADE SALAD
Chopped salad of crab, pineapple, avocado, green onion, grape tomato in a soya/sesame/siracha mayo.

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MILLIONAIRE’S SALAD

14 oz. can artichoke hearts, quartered
14 oz. can hearts of palm, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
14 oz. olive salad
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, quartered
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
Drain artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, olives and pimentos. Add mushrooms. Combine other ingredients. Mix with vegetables. Allow to stand in refrigerator overnight. Serves 6 to 8.
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Margarita Shrimp and Scallops
Recipe courtesy Dave Fogelman
Marinade:

4 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons gold tequilla
1 tablespoon orange flavored liqueur (recommended: Triple Sec)
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
Pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 (U-15) shrimp and 6 very large sea scallops, cut in 1/2 or 12 smaller sea scallops
12 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
Salsa:

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 medium mango, peeled and flesh diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
2 scallions, green part only, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon diced Vidalia onion
10 mint leaves, chopped
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon mirin
Pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions
Pink salt, for garnish

First preheat the grill to medium.

Add all the marinade ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the shrimp and scallops and set the bowl aside. Next, add all the salsa ingredients to a serving bowl and mix well.

Remove the shrimp and scallops from the marinade. Put a scallop in the “U” (curved part of the shrimp) of the shrimp and skewer, first through the scallop and then through the shrimp. Arrange the skewers on the hot grill and cook approximately 2 1/2 to 3 minutes on 1 side, then turn and grill for 2 1/2 minutes on the other side. When done, remove the skewers from the grill to a serving dish. Drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with pink salt. Serve with the salsa and enjoy!