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Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Roasted Brussel Sprouts: Two Ways

Brussels Sprouts – especially caramelized ones – are really popular these days. I was introduced to the deep fried, dark and crispy ones at a Michelin One Star Korean restaurant in New York City. Although I don’t usually like my food to look

Raw Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

blackened or burned, I found that I could not stop eating these crispy nuggets filled with Umami. I didn’t like the fact that they were deep fried though, so I set out to try to make them without so many calories. As it turns out, It only took one try. When you make these, you have the Brussels sprouts cores left over, so I roasted them also, adding a little sweetening jam flavor to make them different. Here are the recipes:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Leaves

3 cups Brussels Sprouts Leaves
3 Tablespoons Tangerine Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Wash the sprouts. Pat dry. Cut off the core and the top and peel off the outer leaves. Place these leaves on a baking sheet. (Save the middle parts that are left for the following recipe.)

IMG_2333

Brussels Sprouts Outer Leaves with Centers on sheet behind

2. Sprinkle the leaves on the first pan with Tangerine Olive Oil (or another flavored olive oil of your choice. Lime flavored is also great.) Mix them with your hands, spreading the oil throughout the leaves. Then sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
3. Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 15 minutes, stirring after 8 minutes. (You can cook them less if you don’t like them quite so brown.) Cool on the baking sheet. Use as a side or garnish at room temperature.

IMG_2337

Finished Roasted Outer Leaves

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Cores

METHOD:
1. Cut the leftover cores in half and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and mix with your hands to spread the oil on all pieces. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
2. Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 15 minutes.
3. Place 3 Tablespoons Dalmatia Fig Jam in a small metal bowl. Place the hot sprouts on top and carefully fold to melt and distribute the jam. Cool. Cover until ready to serve. Serve at room temperature. (Another great glaze could be mustard thinned a bit with cream.)

Fig glazed roasted Brussels Sprouts

Fig glazed roasted Brussels Sprouts

Finished Sprouts as an accompaniment for a veal chop with Chanterelle gravy

Finished Sprouts as an accompaniment for a veal chop with Chanterelle gravy

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Spatchcock Chicken

Finished Dish

Finished Dish, Served with Cabbage Balls and Sweet Potato

In the past, I have always called this method of cooking chicken “Butterflied” but it turns out there’s another name for it called “Spatchcock” that dates back to a time nobody can personally remember.  Originally, this term meant a bird that was killed, split and flattened and then grilled on the spot. Today, however, we use this term to describe the bird’s preparation, not including how it’s cooked, because it’s also done in the oven.

For the Spatchcock method, start with a whole chicken, check for anything inside, wash it and pat it dry. Then turn it breast side down. Get out your sharp poultry shears (which can cut through bone by the way, so watch out for your fingers). Cut along one side of the backbone and then the other so you totally remove it. (You can freeze and use that piece later to make stock or to enhance gravy.) Then spread the chicken apart. Some people also make small cuts in the cartilage on both sides of the sternum (at the center of the breast) so it will lie even flatter. This isn’t necessary, but I also like to do it. Now flip it over and push down hard to flatten it.

Cut out the backbone

                  Cut out the backbone

Flip it over and press it flat.

                     Flip it over and press it flat.

If you like, you can wrap clean bricks in tin foil and put them on top of the chicken to weight it down (also called bricked chicken) but it isn’t necessary. If you use them, remove them ¾ of the way through your cooking time so the skin has a chance to brown.

The major advantage of this preparation is that it reduces cooking time. You can finish a chicken in 30 to 40 minutes (at 425⁰F) as opposed to an hour. Plus, it makes a very cool presentation and is much easier to serve, especially if you cook some homemade dressing underneath it. (If you add dressing, you will need more cooking time to bring it to the poultry safe temperature of 165⁰F.) Imagine how much quicker you could carve and serve your meal if you use this method to cook your Thanksgiving turkey! I highly recommend it, as long as you have a cooking pan that is large enough. It also makes a nice presentation for a bird as small as pigeon or Cornish hen.

This method is great for grilling where it’s harder to cook the meat of a whole bird evenly. Just stay away from recipes that include a lot of fat that could drip onto the fire, causing flaming and please don’t char it. (Both of these things are thought to create cancer causing properties in your food.) Remember, however, that you can push your hot charcoal to the sides of your grill, cover it and basically create an oven where you don’t have to worry about that so much.

Beyond that, you can use any poultry recipe you like. If cooking in the oven, you have more options. You can put butter and herbs under the skin, stuffing or herbs underneath or use any rub that you like. Brushing oil on the skin before cooking is the best way to seal in the flavors. I also like to sprinkle paprika on top of the oil, which gives the finished bird a rich brownish color. Give it a try! Add some vegetables and rice and you’ve got a great comfort meal for any time of the year!

Let’s Stir Fry!

Want a quick meal that includes healthy ingredients, is simple to make, doesn’t require a lot of equipment and that can be

Chicken with Cashews

Chicken with Cashews

executed in a small space? Learning to stir fry properly might be your answer. All you need is a wok, a sharp knife and a stirring utensil. The Wok is used almost exclusively in many Chinese households for these very reasons. Space is at a premium, especially in poorer households, refrigerators are small and ovens are almost non-existent.

The wok makes up for a lot of these inefficiencies because it is extremely versatile. You can fry, sear, boil, steam and braise – all in one pot.

The shape of the wok concentrates the heat at the bottom. Racks are sometimes attached to the lip and used to store pieces that are done cooking (so you don’t overcook them). When frying, a wide, flat spatula works well for stirring and scooping.

With stir frying, it’s important to prepare and line up the ingredients you will need ahead of time. Each ingredient is chopped or otherwise prepared placed in the order it will be used. Stir fry is a quick preparation and you don’t have time to prep in between each addition. You want to be able to toss in the next layer of ingredients just at the moment you are ready for it.

Steamer Basket

Steamer Basket

Steaming in a wok requires a steamer basket like the one shown in the picture. The steamer is placed over water and the cover is then put on the wok to contain the vapor. You can also use individual serving size steamers, which are about 4” across. Just place them next to each other inside the wok and prepare them all at once.

Meats of choice are nearly always the fattier ones. Fat means flavor, as well as calories necessary to people living on small budgets. For example, when cooking with chicken, dark meat is usually chosen. Breast meat is frowned upon because the meat is more dry.

Cleavers

Cleavers

The knife of choice is the cleaver. They vary in size and weight and have different purposes. Lighter cleavers are for chopping and are used exactly like a French or Chef’s knife. Heavier cleavers are for chopping up bones and other tough ingredients. They are also used for smashing vegetables and garlic. Their wide surface areas are also great for picking up the chopped bits and transferring them to the wok.

In Chinese cooking, typically corn, peanut or vegetable oils are used. Olive oil has too strong a taste for the Chinese palate. Peanut oil with its high smoke point is especially suited for stir frying.

Rice

Oriental Sticky Rice

Rice is a common accompaniment for meals – especially in southern China, where it is grown. There are many varieties, but if you want to eat your dish with chopsticks, be sure and use a relatively short grain rice with high starch content so it will stick together. I use U.S. No. 1 Extra Fancy Hanmi, available in Asian stores.

Stir Fry Secrets and General Facts:

Before you begin to heat the wok, make sure the ring is centered on the heat source. This positions the wok so the heat surrounds its base evenly.

If your wok has metal handles, it’s not a bad idea to have oven mits handy or to get in the habit of wearing one when you are frying. You never know when you will need to grab a handle to stabilize it or re-position it.

Don’t crowd the pan! Too much meat in the pan will cause it to boil, not sear and caramelize (turn brown). As the meat heats up, it releases juices that can create a pool that cools the pan down and keeps the meat away from the hot surface. If you are making a lot, work in batches so this doesn’t happen.

Meat and vegetables both need to sear quickly, so keep them in the bottom of the wok, near the heat source. You can tip the wok around on the ring in different directions to get high heat contact in different places if you need to in order to help with even cooking.

Remove ingredients from the wok with a slotted spoon. This will cause any leftover oil to stay in the pan for the next batch. This also helps you to use as little oil as possible, which will keep the fat and calorie content of your dish lower.

Many sauces for these dishes contain soy sauce. Soy sauce in the U.S.A is very salty. The taste of the salt intensifies with reduction, so be careful to read labels and find the lowest sodium content that you can. If salt is called for in any recipe, taste what you have already cooked before you add it. The reduction of the soy sauce may make it already salty enough.

Marinades are widely used in China because they were originally invented to mask the smell of the meat. Marinate at least fifteen minutes before stir frying so the flavor will penetrate the meat. Stir fry is a fast method of cooking and if you don’t give the marinade a little time, instead of penetrating the meat it will sit on the outside.

Marinade components: Rice wine is added for its fragrance, light and dark soy sauces are for flavor. Cornstarch seals the flavor and thickens the sauce.

Hot peppers

Hot peppers

Peppers are also a common addition. You know your taste buds, so make sure you know your peppers! It’s very easy to make a dish too hot. Lantern shaped ones – shown in the picture – are the hottest.

Here’s a typical recipe, shown above: Chicken with Cashews

2 chicken breast halves (About 1 pound)
cut into large bite-sized pieces

2 cloves garlic, crushed, 3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced on an angle, into 1/4” pieces

1/4 cup light soy sauce, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup oyster flavored sauce

3 tablespoons corn-starch, 1 cup cashew nuts,

1 teaspoon Szechuan pepper salt (or 1/2 teaspoon salt + 1 teaspoon pepper + several shots of hot sauce)

4 spring onions, sliced on an angle or Chinese garlic stems

  1. Whisk together the soy sauce, water, oyster sauce and corn-starch.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a wok. On high heat, stir fry the chicken pieces with the garlic. Fry them in batches, until they are white all the way through, about 7 minutes. They should be browned on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and hold in a dish close by.
  3. Change to medium heat and stir fry the carrots for about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken back to the wok. Add the cashews and pour in the soy sauce mixture.
  5. Cook uncovered, over medium high heat until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
  6. Mix in the spring onions or Chinese garlic stems. Sprinkle with the pepper salt.
  7. If desired, serve with sticky rice.

Chef Lynn’s Secrets:

  • When a recipe calls for spring (also called garden) onions, use the entire onion. They make a lovely garnish when they are cut on the diagonal.
  • When deciding on the size to cut the ingredients for stir fry dishes, think about how large they need to be in order to pick them up with chopsticks. That’s why I say “large” bite-sized pieces.
  • Remember… don’t crowd the wok!

Creative Cooking

One of my favorite things to do is to look in my refrigerator with the goal of creating something delicious from whatever I find there. Using up leftovers makes me feel thrifty. Often, they even taste better because the flavors have had a little time to develop.

Here’s a perfect example of that. For dinner the night before this project, I had made chicken breasts dipped in egg and sprinkled with cheese. Two were leftover. I had also made corn on the cob and cut off the extra kernels from extra cobs. I found some extra dried cherries, left over from a diabetic cake I had made my mom and a number of staples, like onions. All of this turned into a flavorful chicken salad that could become sandwiches for lunch or a nice side for dinner. Another possibility was to make “deviled” eggs without yolks by filling the eggs with the salad. Believe me; it quickly disappeared! Simply warming up those chicken breasts and over cooking them would not have been the same.

"Deviled" Chicken-Cherry Salad Eggs, with Heirloom Tomatoes and Yogurt Dip

“Deviled” Chicken-Cherry Salad Eggs, with Heirloom Tomatoes and Yogurt Dip

Here is the salad recipe and some tips for using it as an egg filling for a healthy after school snack!

Chicken-Cherry Salad(Makes about 6 cups)

2 large chicken breasts, cooked

½ large yellow onion, diced tiny

½ cup cooked, fresh corn, sliced off the cob

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 cup dried cherries, chopped small

¼ cup cheddar cheese (This was already cooked onto my chicken as indicated above.)

Salt and pepper

Optional Garnishes: Sliced garden onion, red bell pepper, diced small

Method:

  1. Thinly slice the chicken, and then cut across the strips to make a tiny dice. (Chopping all ingredients very small protects your finishing options – especially if you think you want to fill eggs.)
  2. Mix all ingredients together except the garnishes (toppings). Taste it and if necessary add more spices.
Chicken-Cherry Salad as a Side Dish

Chicken-Cherry Salad as a Side Dish. Garnished with sliced garden onions.

Notes:

  1. You can mix the salad ahead and chop the garnishes. Cover and refrigerate. If making deviled eggs, make them up at the last minute. If serving as a side, add garnishes at the last minute.
  2. Older eggs peel better than really fresh ones. Every carton has a sell by date on it. Just make sure you stay within that time frame.
  3. Think of a boiled egg simply as a container. They can be filled with your favorite tuna or any other salad for variety. Make a small slice on the bottom of each egg half so it will sit on a flat surface and won’t go sliding around on your plate.

    Thinly Slice Egg Bottoms

    Make a small slice on the bottom to “anchor” your eggs and keep them from sliding around on the plate.

Citrus as a Dieter’s Tool

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits hopefully have an honored place in your diet. Their refreshing taste on a hot day is unequaled. But more importantly, citrus fruits contain flavonoids. According to the Dairy Council of California, they “have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent the spread of tumors. Citrus flavonoids are also antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals and may protect against heart disease”… as well as preventing “the oxidation of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, which is an initial step in the formation of artery plaques. Citrus fruits are also high in vitamin C, and are good sources of folate and potassium. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and protects the body from damaging free radicals. It is also required for the synthesis of collagen, which helps wounds heal and helps hold blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and bone together. Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that is essential for the function of nerves, heart contraction, and some enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism.”

Because they contain citrus acid, they are also great for tenderizing meats, an important aid for dieters who are trying to create flavor without fat. Not only do they add taste, this ability to tenderize makes cheaper (and tougher) cuts of meat more palatable and actually delicious. Here’s a good example of a citrus marinade from Chef Seamus Mullen of Tertulia in New York City.

Citrus Marinated Pork Chops

Raw Chops Marinating

Raw Chops in the Marinade

Mix together: 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon grated lime zest, ¼ cup fresh lime juice, ¼ cup honey, 2 cloves garlic, crushed, 1 small red onion, sliced, 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt and pepper. Marinate 4 pork chops for 15 minutes and then fry in a hot pan in a small amount of butter.

The recipe says 15 minutes, but I actually left the marinade on for more like a half hour. These were thin chops. If you use thicker ones, I would pierce the chops and leave it on for an hour.

This is a delicious recipe. I have always hated cooking pork because if it’s overdone it’s awful. So make sure to cook the chops just until their color changes throughout. Watch on the side as they are cooking and when they are white half way through, flip them to cook the other side.

Bring the sauce to a boil

Bring the sauce to a boil.

Chef Mullen says to strain the marinade and cook them in the marinade. Remember that you must heat this marinade before serving because it has been in contact with the raw pork. If you like, you can sear them quickly over high heat to add taste and color. Then add the marinade and continue cooking. However, getting the color is a bit difficult since the chops are wet. They will boil first instead of searing. If you don’t mind that they aren’t brown, they will be juicier if you do not sear them.

Pair this with a fruity wine like a red Zinfandel. It would also be great with a sweet drink like a Whisky or Pisco Sour. Or if you’re on a diet, simply drink water and enjoy the citrus flavor even more.

Finished dish

Finished Dish

Next beach walk: A dish hunt?

2-Sunray Venus Clam Shell

Sunray Venus Clam Shell

You’ve all heard the old adage “You eat with your eyes first”. As a Chef, I’m always looking for ideas for making a plate appealing. If it looks attractive, I can be sure it will be gobbled up by my guests and besides the quest is fun! I look for pretty dishes everywhere I go – even on my recent trip to Marco Island, a place known for its beautiful shells washing up on the beach. As well as shells for table decoration, I was looking for dishes. Yes, I said dishes!

When you find your shells, first sanitize them by dissolving one “San Tab” (available at Gordon Foods) in a gallon of water. Then add the shells for at least 20 seconds and that takes care of it. Be sure to also rinse them well to remove the chemicals and you’ve got an interesting and attractive dish. (You can also paint them with Mod Podge on the outside to make them a little shinier if you like, but don’t paint the surface where you will place food.)

I looked for large white clam shells, Sunray Venus clam shells and the largest scallop bowls I could find. Most of these were out on Tiger Tail Point Beach. What’s really interesting about the ocean is that different things wash up each day. One day it will be full of Fighting Conch shells and the next day you might not be able to find any at all. Different shells can be found in various parts of the beach. Make sure not to take one that’s alive or inhabited, which is actually illegal. If you really want to help protect the eco system, you take those that are alive out beyond the waves and throw them out into the ocean so they will have another chance.

3-Table decoration

Variety of small shells for decoration

But let’s get back to the table. Small shells went into decorative bowls. (You can leave them simply as they are or fill the bowls with water and float candles or flowers above them. You could also partially fill a vase and add flowers.) Fighting conchs, starfish and a sand dollar became appetizer tray decorations. Larger shells became containers for little specialties I like to make. The larger shells could simply be handed to people with appetizers in them. I took it one step further and added them to a Bento Box (a Japanese lunch box divided into four sections. Plastic boxes can be found in Japanese grocery stores. Or, if you want beautiful lacquered ones like these, you can find them online). I found the little dishes that fit in them in all kinds of different stores on my travels as well as at Crate and Barrel.

What you see in the box below is grilled shrimp marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and perched on purchased Quinoa-Vegetable Salad, marinated chicken skewers, lump crab and a crab cake topped with a little fresh thyme. The sauces are Sweet Chili Sauce and Thai Peanut Sauce – both simply purchased. On the clam shells on the appetizer tray are seared scallops topped with shredded ribs, Sushi and sashimi. You don’t have to use these exact things. Just use little things that you like to make and don’t forget about your leftovers for toppings or other little creations. Simply have fun with it!

1-Scallop Shells

Large Scallop Shells

4-Bento Box Presentation

Bento Box

 

To make the ribs: Cut four pounds of bone-in ribs into four pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sear in hot oil in a Dutch oven. Then spread a small can of tomato paste on the meaty side. Turn them over so the tomato side is down. (Heating the tomato sauce sweetens it.) Add 1 cup of beef stock. (If you don’t make your own, I like the Kitchen Basics brand the best.) Cover and bake for 2-1/2 hours at 350 F – or until the meat pulls away when you rake a fork over it. Remove the meat and chop it. Freeze any extra for another meal.

The marinade for the chicken is ½ cup Sesame Seed oil, ½ cup Soy Sauce, 1 Clove minced Garlic, 1 minced Green Onion, 2 Tablespoons Hoisin Sauce. Pinch of Cayenne Pepper, 1 Tablespoon Curry Powder and 1 Tablespoon ground ginger. Marinate for at least 45 minutes and then cook them in a pan. Remember to soak your skewers ahead of time so they won’t burn.

To make the crab cake: Mix 1 pound of crab with 1/4 cup chopped pepper, 1/4 chopped shallot, ¾ cup Pepperidge Farm Herb dressing (first mixed with 2 Tablespoons Dijon or Mucky Duck mustard and 1 egg and then added to the mix) and salt and pepper to taste. Press into cakes and dip in Panko. Fry in butter.  Enjoy!

6-Finished Appetizers

Finished Appetizers

7-Finished Bento Box

Finished Bento Box

Sous Vide: What’s it all about?

Sous Vide Cooking…Now so easy to do at home!

Sous Vide Tuna with Carrots

Sous Vide Tuna                                                       With Carrots and Cauliflower Puree

What is Sous Vide?  Sous Vide is French for without air. It’s is worth knowing about because it’s a way to cook meats and fish with absolutely no fat – reducing in calorie reduction. But most important, it’s a way to get your food the perfect temperature with no fear of over cooking. It can supply a big window of time within which you can serve your food, all the while keeping it warm and perfectly cooked. The sous vide method was popularized by high end restaurants for just these reasons – and now, even the home cook has an opportunity to take advantage of this unique method of cooking without a huge expenditure.

To use this method, you place a circulator/heater in a tank with enough water to cover the food. You heat the water to the desired temperature and then you drop sealed bags containing your food into the water for a specified period of time. (Charts come with the equipment.) You can slow cook thick fish for several hours and meats for many more. Once you reach your minimum cooking time, you can leave it in there to keep it warm for quite a while, taking it out when everything else is ready – a cook’s dream!

Sous Vide Tank with Circulator

Sous Vide Tank with Circulator

Does food taste the same? Your food will be moist and the texture will be extremely tender. However, it might look a little different. You won’t see any caramelization, so you might want to use a blow torch, broiler or blow torch with a diffuser on it to brown up your meat. I don’t think this is so important for fish and with fish – because it’s more tender and thinner – you risk over cooking when you have just gone to the trouble of preparing it perfectly. You can compensate for the lack of caramelization with tasty and colorful spices. In general, you will want to use more spices anyway to compensate for losing the taste of the fat you would normally use in cooking.

Blow Torch With Diffuser

Blow Torch With Diffuser

There are some important precautions! Watch out for safe temperature ranges. Bacteria proliferate exponentially between the temperatures of 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Some bacteria grow without the presence of air, so vacuum packing it in this sense doesn’t make any difference. When your food is in this range for four hours, you should throw it out. This includes cooking, cooling and eating time – and it’s cumulative. So if you save leftovers, even though your refrigerate them, when you bring them back into that temperature zone, you have to count the time it was out before. (You can extend this by two hours by re-heating to specified temperatures.)

All this means is that if you plan to cook a roast, for example, that has six hours of cooking time, make sure your water temperature is above the zone. A product like fish, for example, that might, also for example, take an hour or two to cook, would be fine cooked at a lower temperature – even within the zone.

What equipment is required and where do I get it? All you need is a large, plastic tank and a heater/circulator, as well as a way to vacuum pack your food. It’s important to circulate the water in the tank so that all the liquid is a constant temperature. Basically, you are poaching without your food touching the water, which would leech out the flavor.

Take a look at the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circular for $199 and the ARY tank, for $39 (found online at the time of this printing). A vacuum pack machine can be found at places like Bed, Bath & Beyond. Although there are more expensive ones available, I got a Food Saver brand machine there for $69 and it has worked fine for years. A nice aside to these machines is that you can freeze food without air in the packages, eliminating or highly reducing freezer frost. For sous vide, you can even use Ziploc bags, as long as you press out the air and make sure they are sealed tightly.

This method of cooking is easy and fun. Especially for those of you who are afraid to cook fish, just can’t get it right or don’t like the smell of fish in your kitchen, here’s your answer!

Cooking in a Tagine: Inexpensive, Easy and Delicious!

TagineSpelled both tajine and tagine, this earthenware pot originating in North Africa is a delightful way to cook a meal for two to four people. The best part about it is that you can cook and serve your main course in one dish. It’s both attractive and interesting to bring the tagine right to the table for serving. The dishes made in these pots are also called “tagines”.

Original tagines were made of natural clay and you can still find those. Mine, however, (from Le Creuset) has a cast iron base and a ceramic top – making it both attractive and practical. You can use it to cook your dish either on the stop top, in the oven and even inside a closed outside grill.

Basically, with a tagine, you are braising your food – cooking it slowly in a little liquid. The special shape of the top captures the steam and keeps your dish very moist and delicious.

Here’s a recipe that makes an easy, hot dish for a cold winter evening! It definitely qualifies as healthy comfort food.

Ingredients:

2-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into large bite-sized pieces

3 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 Tablespoon butter, 1 clove garlic (or 1 teaspoon ground garlic)

1 small onion, chopped – 1 cup sliced mushrooms (I like to use button or shitake)

1/3 cup cooking sherry or white wine, 1/3 cup chicken stock

1 Tablespoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup black olives, pitted and cut in half

¼ cup flat leafed parsley, chopped tiny

¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped tiny

Method:

  1. Place the oil and butter in the tagine base on a burner. Heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook just until it’s soft. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft. Then push this mixture to the side, add the chicken pieces and brown them on all sides. Then mix it all up together.
  2. Add the sherry or wine, chicken stock and spices. Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes.
  3. Mix in the olives, parsley and cilantro and serve over couscous.

Finished Tagine

Couscous are little pearls of semolina (durum wheat – which is also used to make pasta). It’s simply mixed with water and sieved in order to form the little pieces. Israeli Couscous is a much larger form. I prefer it because it can look like white caviar on your plate. To me, it’s a more interesting preparation. Israeli Couscous was invented during a rice shortage in Israel when the Prime Minister (David Ben Gurion) asked a large food company to come up with an alternative that looked like rice but was actually a wheat product.

Making the Couscous is easy. Simply use one and ¼ cups of liquid (water or stock) to 1 cup of couscous. Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the couscous. Cover the saucepan, remove it from the heat and let it stand for about 4-5 minutes for regular couscous or 8-10 minutes for Israeli couscous. If you like, you can also add a little butter and salt for taste. You can do this while your tagine is cooking. Serve in a large bowl with a vegetable. Enjoy!

Finished Dish

Sprouts: Nutritious and Easy to make at Home

Fresh Sprouts

Fresh Sprouts

Sprouts – the tender, young shoots of vegetables – are appearing more and more in grocery stores. Why? People are starting to realize that they are incredibly good for you – especially for vegetarians looking for ways to add protein to their meals.

Sprouts are estimated to contain about 35% high quality proteins. They are crunchy and delicious when fresh and can be easily added to salads or as garnishes to just about anything. Because we eat with our eyes first, they can help immensely to make your plate look appealing. These tender, little delights are also packed with vitamins, fiber and fatty acids – all essential for health.

Besides, add in low in calories. Have I convinced you yet? According to realfarmacy.com, “minerals bind to protein in the seed, grain, nut or bean, making them more useable in the body.” As well, “they actually contain oxygen and regular consumption of raw bio-genic foods … is valuable to health”.

So where do you find them? There are actually a number of places. At Eastern Market, check out the Rising Pheasant Farms booth in Shed 2. These kids grow pea and other sprouts within the city limits of Detroit, pick and bag them, and transport them to the Market on bicycles. Their sprouts are so fresh sometimes I eat them on the way home!

At other local markets like Plum, Papa Joe’s, Westborn you can usually at least fine “cress” You can always find it at Japanese grocery stores like One World Market in Novi. These are the living sprouts of watercress. They come in a square, plastic container where the moist sprouts are still growing inside. (BTW, sprouts will last about a week in your fridge. Just clip off what you need if they are growing or if they are cut, keep them covered with a damp paper towel.)

Best yet, you can grow your own, right in your kitchen! I use sprouting trays. (Check out Sprout People online or the one I use which is http://www.growingmicrogreens.com – Cost: about $50 for tons of sprout making.) Obviously, find a system that is the size and configuration that works for you.

Micro Greens System

Micro Greens System

If I’m having a dinner on Saturday night, I’ll start the seeds one week to ten days before (depending on the type of seeds) and they are always ready in time. You simply check the PH of your water (instructions provided) then pour water in the bottom of a plastic tray. To that, you add a fibrous “pad” on which you sprinkle the seeds. You then mist the seeds with a sprayer bottle every 12 hours and keep them covered for 4 or 5 days. Then you uncover them and watch the miracle of growth.  My kit came with all different kinds of seeds which harvest between 7 and 10 days. Just be careful that they don’t get too much sun or they will shrivel up. Don’t ask me how I know that. J

I highly encourage you to get some sprouts into your diet! The health benefits are immeasurable.

Fish Baked in Salt

Finished Dish

Finished Dish

If you want to make a dish that’s a little exotic and impressive yet very easy, fish baked in salt might be your answer! This absolutely delicious preparation has a very lightly seasoned taste. Contrary to popular belief, the meat is not extremely salty. The salt bakes into a crust that is easily removed and outside the skin. The meat itself is delicate and moist because it basically steams inside the salt crust.

For starters, you will need a very large roasting pan and a lot of salt. It’s difficult to say how much because it depends on the size of your pan and the size of your fish. Generally, for one large fish you will need two boxes of kosher salt and 4 egg whites. (You can get kosher salt at Kroger or any grocery store for a few dollars a box.)

The fish should be completely whole with the skin on – and yes, also with the head on. Snapper, salmon and other larger fish work best, but you can also use trout or other smaller fish like mackerel. Smaller fish can be cooked together in the same crust – as many as will fit in your pan. You can cut off the heads and peel the skin away before you serve it. Just as an aside, when you are shopping for your fish, make sure it will fit in your pan and that your pan will fit in your oven. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Fish in salt

If you want to get really fancy, you can crack the crust and serve the fish at the table. I don’t recommend that though because salt tends to fly around and it – well – it makes a mess. But anyway, back to the basics.

To bake fish in salt, first clean your fish (no guts), wash it and pat it dry. Measure the thickest part of the fish. Then mix the salt with the egg whites. Use enough egg whites so the salt is slightly moist. Put 1/2” salt in the bottom of your pan. Put the fish on top of that. Cover the fish with ½” of the salt/egg white mixture. Make sure that the fish is completely buried. Bake in a preheated 425 F oven, 10 minutes per inch of fish.

Fish covered in salt

Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Then crack the crust and serve the deliciously tender and moist fish meat that you find inside. (I often do this in or near the sink to catch flying salt.) Enjoy!

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