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Fish is not off limits for a college student. In my mahi mahi, the sesame seeds add texture and a nutty flavor to the fish while enhancing the presentation. The glaze is sweet and pungent and the peas are crisp and complimenting.

  • ½ cup Soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • honey or agave syrup
  • lime and/or orange
  • fresh garlic
  • fresh ginger
  • mahi mahi (TJs)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Black sesame seeds
  • White sesame seeds
  • Snap peas

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the soy sauce, the sugar and a good squeeze of honey or agave. Add in the juice of a lime and/or some fresh orange juice. Don’t forget to stir!

2. Add minced garlic and plenty of grated ginger when it starts to thicken. Taste for balance. When it has thickened, cool in the fridge and it will set even more.

3. Thaw the frozen mahi mahi completely (in the fridge or in warm water) and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Coat and rub with olive oil and salt and pepper both sides.

4. Press one side of the mahi mahi on a plate, enveloped in sesame seeds until no flesh is visible. Get a nonstick pan hot, pour in olive oil and sear the seed side for about one minute, just to slightly toast the seeds.

5. Flip and allow the bottom to cook until you see a faint pinkish-hue left on the side of the fish. Pop them in the oven until the hue is gone and the side is completely white and opaque.

6. In the meantime, sauté snap peas with olive oil, minced garlic, and grated ginger. Use soy sauce for seasoning. When the peas have a bite, but no raw taste, add plenty of white sesame seeds.

Serve the fish over the snap peas with the glaze drizzled on top.

I garnished mine with petals of sliced ginger.

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Ingredients:

  • Store-bought ravioli (pumpkin or butternut squash is best)
  • ¼ stick of butter
  • Frozen peas
  • Fresh button mushrooms, sliced
  • Fresh Sage
  • Olive oil
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • cinnamon

There is no shame in using store-bought ingredients, as long as you elevate them to something exceptional. With these techniques, you can use the most simple of ingredients by getting the most out of them.

1. For the ravioli, salt a pot of water until it tastes like ocean water and heat to a boil.

2. With a drizzle of olive oil in a pan over medium heat, sauté the mushrooms with thin slices of garlic and season with salt and pepper. When the mushrooms are almost finished, add about five leaves of chopped sage (slapping the leaves in your palm will help release aromatic oils)

3. Add thawed peas in a few minutes later and, when the mushrooms have softened and browned, deposit the vegetables into a bowl.

4. Add the ravioli. They should take about 3-4 minutes. When they are cooked, strain thoroughly, but start the brown butter in the meantime.

5. For the brown butter, clean the pan and heat to medium-high. Whisk or stir pieces of butter in one at a time. The water in the butter will cook off, resulting in foam. The foam will subside and the hot fat will brown the milk solids in the butter.

6. When the butter has a golden brown hue and there are fine flecks of brown, the butter is finished. Congratulations! You’ve made a beurre noisette! I like to add a pinch of cinnamon for an earthy sweetness. For an extra sweet twist, add a touch of maple or agave syrup. Immediately mix the butter with the vegetables to prevent further cooking.

7. To serve, I just scatter chiffonaded (shih-phone-ODD-ed) sage  leaves (stack the leaves, roll, and slice into very thin strands) and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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“Out-FREAKIN’-standing” my father said as he spooned the luscious mushroom gravy over his veal. The brown-red sauce had the color of rich soil, with a much better flavor; sage, marsala wine, and figs amalgamate into a sweet and earthy sauce. My mother was caught up in her lamb chop bone, grazing on the lean herb-coated meat and gnawing down until only the tendons and bone remained.

Ingredients:

Lamb:

  • 1 rack of lamb
  • 3-4 sprigs of Rosemary
  • 1 handful of parsley
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • thyme or oregano make good additions

1. When you bring the rack of lamb home, salt it generously and cover it in the refrigerator. When given time—anywhere from ten minutes to a few hours—the salt will draw out flavorless moisture. Your lamb will still be moist from the fat, but the meat will have a more concentrated flavor.

2. Roughly chop the herbs and garlic and grind in a food processor with olive oil, salt and pepper. Keep adding oil until you have achieved a loose paste with small pieces of herbs. Slather on both sides of the rack and, if you have time, let the flavors merry. Cook in a 350º until it reaches an internal temperature of about 120º, anticipating carry-over cooking while it rests.

3. Stand the rack vertically (frenched bones up) and cut the chops. You can cut every one or every two bones.

Veal:

  • 2 cuts of veal (No idea what cut. I rarely have veal.)
  • About 6-8 baby bella mushrooms (about 1/2 a container) substitutions are fine
  • 4-5 dried figs chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • A handful of sage, de-stemmed and chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2/3 cup Marsala wine
  • Red wine
  • flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter

1. With a damp paper towel, clean the mushrooms and slice them. In medium-high heat, sauté the shrooms with sliced garlic cloves in olive oil. Sprinkle in chopped sage, salt, and pepper and add a tablespoon of butter. Simmer with the marsala wine and the figs to reduce.

2. Season with veal liberally with salt and pepper as early as possible. Heat a large metal pan (and only a metal pan will work) on high heat. Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the entire pan and sear the veal without crowding the pan. Brown both sides and also the thin sides if possible with tongs.

3. Envelope the veal in the sauce with a little wine and bake in the oven, covered, until it reaches an internal temperature of 130º. It will continue to cook while resting on a plate.

4. In a small saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter with a hefty pinch of flour. Whisk the roux to create a gluey paste. Incorporate some cream as well. Add the gravy, bring to a boil, and simmer. You can add cream to reach your desired color. Pour some over the veal and reserve the rest for the table.

My dad said he would pay fifty bucks for the meal at a restaurant. He also said that he’d much rather eat it at home for free.

-Thanks to my Aunt and Uncle for sending the meat-

-Thanks to my parents for not raising me a vegetarian-

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This shepherds pie is authentic because it is made with lamb; however, I put a twist on the usual by substituting mashed potatoes with a sweet potato purée. A great way to use leftover lamb, this stew has a complex and slightly sweet flavor. The tarragon-studded sweet potatoes add great color and effortlessly meld with the spices and herbs in the stew.

Ingredients:

  • leftover leg of lamb (ground lamb may be used)
  • 1 small bowl of green beans cut in thirds
  • 1 small bowl filled with diced onions
  • 1 small bowl of chopped carrots (I used baby)
  • 1/2 bowl of peppers (I used mini red, yellow, and orange peppers)
  • handful or two of Succotash mix (frozen limas, corn, peppers) I used Trader Joes
  • 1 cup of red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • tomato paste (the tube’s great)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 7 sweet potatoes (mine were small-medium sized)
  • cinnamon, turmeric, salt, pepper
  • fresh oregano, sage, tarragon, and rosemary (use what you got)
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • a little flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350º. On a sheet pan, generously coat the sweet potatoes in any oil and sprinkle with salt. This will make them easy to peel. Cook for about 30-40 minutes—until the potato is tender all the way through and the skin is wrinkled. These will be mashed and whipped with a hand mixer to incorporate salt, butter, and light brown sugar to taste. Finish by folding in chopped tarragon.

2. Get a  large pot (preferably not non-stick) nice and hot, drizzle in olive oil, and sauté diced white onions and chopped carrots. I used rosemary-infused olive oil♣. Season with salt and pepper and toss in five sprigs of oregano and sage—stemmed and chopped. These are called aromatics—you’ll see why when you smell the kitchen. Add the fresh green beans too with about five garlic cloves, pressed.

3. When the onions just begin to brown, add the succotash and the wine. Bring to a boil and pour in the beef stock. Bruise two sprigs of rosemary with the back of your knife and bring them to the Jacuzzi. Bring this to a boil and change to low heat. A dash of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, and more salt to taste complete the flavor profile. Don’t forget to remove the rosemary.

4. Melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a pan until it takes on a hazel hue. Incorporate a hefty pinch of flour to make a slurry and add to the stew. Heat until it bubbles and pour the mixture in a casserole dish. Spread on the mash and bake to warm through♥.

This dish is naturally sweet from the cinnamon and tarragon. It’s also very appealing to the eye with vibrant vegetables and bright sweet potatoes. It’s not your average shepherd’s pie.

A square meal.

♣ To make rosemary oil, just let fresh rosemary sit in a jar of oil for a week.

♥ To go above and beyond, pipe the mash on and broil the top, so it is slightly browned.

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Poached eggs look so much nicer than any other type and they are the most pure in flavor. Without ever touching a pan, they can be cooked more evenly without tasting bitter and turning brown.

1. Boil water in a sauce pan and add a teaspoon of white vinegar; this causes the egg whites to congeal faster. Crack the eggs into individual ramekins, so that one bad egg doesn’t spoil the lot.

2. Bring the water to a simmer and add the eggs without crowding them. Sometimes, I use a ladles to hold my egg, so fewer whites can escape, but they seem to turn out well drifting unchaperoned in the water.

3. Time for 3 1/2 minutes; this will be sufficient to completely cook the whites, but leave the yolks completely oozy. The safe zone is 3-4 minutes.

4. I prefer mine on a bed of spinach, mushrooms, and onions sautéed in olive oil with garlic—add a dab of butter at the end. Use any toast you have on hand, it’s fun to make new combinations.

My sister said: “What’s the point of eating poached eggs. They’re mushy and disgusting”. That may be true for some, but to others, poached eggs mean a new level of sophistication, compared to over-easys. In the former, a  gently swipe of the fork will open the purse of yolks instead of sawing to puncture the unyielding whites of the latter. Plus, the silky yellow yolk flows down into the spinach and toast rather than pooling on the plate, causing one to chase after it with bread in hand. Finally, just the appearance of the egg: sitting with dignity on a throne of spinach raised even higher by a toasty foundation. However, some do prefer to have their egg flat against the plate, shunned to the side by a preeminent slab of home-fries.

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Will make four people very content

Ingredients:

  • two cornish hens
  • 1 lemon
  • parsley
  • dill
  • garlic
  • onions
  • carrots
  • celery
  • chicken stock
  • white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • butter/non-dairy butter
  • cream/non-dairy cream
  • flour

Preheat the oven to 400º. Remove the giblets and dry the hens with a paper towel. In a baking dish, add roughly chopped celery, onions, carrots, and garlic. Quarter the lemon and place one quarter in the cavity of both hens. Also stuff them with parsley, dill, and a clove or two of garlic.

Slip and wiggle your finger under the skin to separate it from the meat. Disperse small pieces of butter inside the pockets. Drizzle olive oil over everything and rub the hens. Heavily sprinkle the birds and the vegetables with salt and some black pepper. Pour some chicken stock around the birds and white wine as well.

After thirty minutes, turn down the temperature to 350°. Cook for about an hour; use a thermometer to determine when it is done. It should read 165º in the thickest part of the breasts and about 180º in the small thighs. Allow to rest for ten minutes and work on the gravy.

Remove the vegetables and serve with the hens. In a sauce pot, melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter with a large pinch of flour and stir until a thin paste is made. Pour in the drippings and bring to a boil with a splash (2-3 tablespoons) of cream. Whisk well and simmer.

Find the backbones of the bird on the top. Place your blade parallel to it and cut all the way through to split the bird. I served the hens with roasted sweet potatoes—split in half with olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 40-50 minutes—and sautéed spinach with garlic.

Guy would call it a Winner Winner Chicken Dinner.

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Mint and Rosemary-Encrusted Leg of Lamb with Cinnamon and Cranberry Pan Sauce made me decide that lamb is my favorite meat. The crust was the best part. But the meat alone was perfect without accompaniment. However, the sauce was the shining component. No matter what combination you try, the dish is delicious.

  • 1 leg of lamb (mine was 6 1/2 lbs)
  • 1 bunch of mint
  • 1 package of fresh rosemary (5-6 sprigs)
  • Around 8 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 5-6 baby carrots
  • 1 white or yellow onion
  • 1 handful of dried cranberries
  • beef stock

1. Preheat the oven to 400º. De-stem the rosemary and mint and roughly chop them. Use more mint than rosemary because it is more subtle in flavor. Grind in a food processor with five cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to make a moist paste. Remove some of the tough fat from the lamb, leaving the thinner layer of soft fat. Heavily coat the entire leg with kosher salt and some pepper too. This will pull moisture out of the fat, creating a crust. Slather on the herb paste.

2. Roughly chop the baby carrots, the celery, and the onion. Put these in the roasting dish with the lamb and some dried cranberries, garlic cloves, olive oil, mint—if you have more—salt, and pepper. Dust the lamb and the vegetables with some cinnamon.

3. After 30 minutes in the oven, turn it down to 350º. Add some beef stock and red wine. Cook for about 1 1/2 more hours, but don’t let it exceed 145º. If you like it more rare, take it out around 130º. If you like it fully cooked, go to 160º. Remember that the lamb will continue to cook.

4. In a sauce pot, make a roux by heating two tablespoons of butter with a big five-finger pinch of flour. Mix until you reach a paste and add the sauce. Bring it to a boil and reduce. Slice the meat into thick pieces, against the grain, and serve.

Pseudo-Scalloped Potatoes with Dill Butter and Mayonnaise are a perfect side dish because they look so elegant—like accordions of flavor. They are crispy, tender and even cook faster. The herb butter and mayonnaise make them rich, yet simple too.

  • Small white or red potatoes
  • butter
  • fresh dill
  • fresh parsley (optional)
  • mayonnaise
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper

1. Make thin slices in the potato, going about 3/4 down so it still holds its shape. In the food processor, blend two tablespoons of butter, dill, parsley, salt, pepper, four cloves of garlic, and olive oil. Massage over the potatoes and do your best to get the mixture inside the crevices.

2. Roast in a 400º until they are crispy and soft. The time varies depending on the size of the potato. For the final few minutes, add a dollop of mayo on each and spread it on. It will melt into the niches.

Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Brown-Butter and Wine Sauce have a nice nutty flavor from the browned butter

  • half a stick of butter
  • brussels sprouts
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • honey
  • white wine
  • nuts (optional)

1. Coat the sprouts in olive oil, salt and pepper. In a sheet pan, roast in a 400 º oven until they brown.

2. Melt half a stick of butter in a pan and add chopped walnuts or pecans if you have—something for a toasty crunch (I used sunflower seeds). Drizzle in some honey and a splash of white wine. Mix the brussels sprouts with the brown-butter and serve.



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Ratatouille is a French dish of stewed vegetables in a rustic tomato sauce. It originally was a peasant’s dish, so it’s perfect for college students. Mine features the flavors of fresh garlic and oregano.

Ingredients:

  • 1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 2 squashes
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 4 red potatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • garlic powder

1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Drizzle some olive oil and add half of the onion, diced, and the garlic, minced. You should hear a pleasing, sizzle sound. Season with salt and fresh black pepper. When the onions are translucent, add the can of tomatoes.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice the potatoes and mix, in a bowl, with olve oil, salt, pepper, dried thyme, and some chopped oregano. Spread out on a baking sheet and place in oven. Flip once, so they don’t stick, and remove when tender.

3. Simultaneously, slice zucchini and squash in a similar fashion and follow the same preparation techniques. These will cook much faster in the oven. Remove when soft, but not mushy.

4. De-stem the oregano and smack it with the back of your chef’s knife (this is called bruising). If you don’t have one, release the aromatic oils by rubbing the oregano in your hands and roughly chop it. Add a few pinches to the sauce. Pour a splash or two of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of red pepper flakes, some onion powder, and some garlic powder. Salt and pepper to taste.

5. When the sauce becomes thick, mix in the potatoes and cover with zucchini and squash—this is where you can get fancy. You can do this in a baking dish or casserole. I just threw my pan in the oven (It’s microwave safe).  Reheat before service.

Easy. Tasty. Healthy. Ratatouille.

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It is not uncommon for me to get a spontaneous desire to cook something completely random. Recently, it was biscuits at 11:00 P.M. Biscuits are cheap, easy, and made with ingredients you probably already have.

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 20 min

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ¼  teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup of whole milk (don’t be afraid of fat)
  • some pepper (fresh is best)

From Pantry To Palate:

1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Chop cold butter into tiny cubes and incorporate, with hands or a fork, until the mixture is very crumbly. Be patient.

2. Slowly add the milk and keep mixing until you create a dough ball. Flour the ball and the counter-top and roll the dough out pretty thinly—I used an olive oil bottle because I didn’t have a rolling pin. Fold the dough over until it’s about an inch in height and roll again to spread the dough out evenly.

3. Use a cookie cutter (or a wine glass) to cut the biscuits. Repeat the process, using the leftover dough to make more biscuits. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick spray and place the biscuits on it.

4. For a golden crust, brush or apply some egg wash (one egg, beaten). Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until golden on the top. While hot, brush on some melted butter and some more salt and pepper if you choose.

5. Eat them. You know the drill.

6. Go to the gym the next day.

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Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is a staple grain in South American cuisine; the ancient Incas even called it “the mother grain”. Its high protein content and delicate flavor make it nutritious and versatile. My roommate and I cooked this together and we thought it was good enough to eat as a meal by itself.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Quinoa
  • 1 package of dried cranberries, golden raisins, and blueberries. (Trader Joe’s)
  • Olive oil
  • 2-3 lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 1 head of garlic
  • chopped basil
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Bring 2 cups of quinoa with 4 cups water to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the grains soak up all of the water. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and mix in the dried fruit. Also add chopped, sautéed garlic. Mix in the lemon juice, orange zest, salt, pepper, chopped basil, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Also add the garbanzos. Immediately stop the cooking by transferring the quinoa to the fridge. Allow the quinoa to sit for a few hours. Add chopped avocados before serving.The time is necessary for the quinoa to absorb the flavors. Leftovers will be even sweeter.

For such a mild grain, this dish is super flavorful. The quinoa really absorbs the sweetness of the fruit and the orange zest adds a lot of fruity flavor. The avocado, lemon, basil, and garlic are great counterpoints to the sweetness. The chickpeas add an extra textural dimension too.

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Baked Ziti Penne is a great hearty pasta dish that needs no accompaniment. Okay, maybe garlic bread.

Cook time: 10 minutes for marinara/ 45 minutes in the oven

Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces of baby bella mushrooms (half a 10 ounce container)
  • 1 zucchini chopped chopped (small pieces)
  • 1 large stalk of broccoli
  • 1/2 a white onion diced
  • 1 cups spinach or two handfuls
  • handful of grape tomatoes cut in halves or thirds
  • 1/2 lemon
  • fresh parsley, fresh basil, oregano, garlic powder, 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 jar marinara (I used fire roasted tomato and cabernet sauvignon flavored)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • some red wine of choice (I used cabernet sauvignon to emphasize the flavor in the sauce)
  • 1 pound of fresh mozzarella shredded with grater
  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta (use skim milk ricotta if you want less fat)

What do I do first?:

1. Boil broccoli florets for 4 minutes. Drain and shock in cold ice water. Sauté the zucchini over medium-high heat (I used a wok) in Extra-virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper.

2. After 2 minutes, chop the broccoli and add it too. Salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon.

3. After 1 minute, add the onions and minced or pressed garlic. S and P. Add fresh chopped parsley.

4. After two minutes, add the mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, oregano, a pinch of garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

5. Add splash of red wine like cabernet sauvignon. Simmer with the marinara sauce. Add some tomato paste to enhance the tomato flavor. Finish with chopped basil. You can stack and roll the leaves. Then cut thin strips for a chiffonade. This would be a wonderful marinara sauce all by itself.

6. Boil penne or ziti (1 cup per person). This recipe will serve 6 people.  Strain well, mix with the sauce, and add the ricotta and 2/3 of the mozzarella. When checking for consistency, keep in mind that some sauce will evaporate and soak into the pasta. Flatten in a buttered casserole dish, cover with foil, and place in a 350° oven for 10 minutes.

7. Conceal with mozzarella cheese and cover with foil. Cook for 20 more minutes. Remove the foil, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and sprinkle with more basil. Finish uncovered for 15 minutes. If you want, you can also top with parmesan cheese or even use it in the filling.

Experiment with this dish. Try any vegetable you have on hand. If you have eggplant, throw it in. Instead of spending on extra pasta, use what you have on hand and splurge on better ingredients. Use leftover  mozzarella and ricotta for a lasagna or make home-made ravioli with ricotta and spinach. This dish could definitely be made ahead of time; you just finish it in the oven. Feel free to not include ingredients or add them. My final suggestion is to find someone to shred the  mozzarella cheese for you.

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