Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pretty Good Pork

Hubby picked up some pork tenderloins at Costco last week, and I was looking for a flavorful way to prepare them that didn't involve the grill. Here's an sauce that uses fall flavors and is easy to prepare on a weeknight.

Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Sauce

two pork tenderloins
olive oil
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 cup canned cranberry sauce
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400.

In a medium saucepan, saute the shallot in a tablespoon of olive oil until it is transparent. Add the cranberry sauce, the chicken stock, the balsamic vinegar, and the rosemary. Bring to a boil and stir to combine. Boil the sauce for 10-15 minutes until it gets syrupy and the stock reduces by half or so.

Meanwhile, liberally salt and pepper the tenderloin. Heat a large, ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat until it is good and hot. Add a little olive oil and/or butter to the pan. Sear the tenderloin until nicely browned on all sides, 7-9 minutes. Put the saute pan in the oven to finish--it will take 10-15 minutes for the tenderloin to reach at least 155 degrees.

When the meat is done, take it out of the pan and set it aside on a cutting board. Pour the fat out of pan, being careful not to lose the drippings. Put the pan over medium-high heat and add the sauce to the pan. Heat to a boil and continue to reduce until it reaches a consistency you like. Just before serving, whisk a couple of tablespoons of butter into the sauce--this will further thicken and enrich it. Slice the pork and serve napped with the sauce.

Note: This would be even better with leftover homemade cranberry sauce instead of canned.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday Beef Stew

One of my favorite Sunday suppers is beef stew. Stew lends itself well to long afternoons puttering in the kitchen and it makes the house smell wonderful. Here's my version.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large pot (I always use my Le Creuset french oven), saute 2-3 pound beef stew meat in little olive oil until browned on all sides. Don't forget to season the meat with salt and pepper before searing it. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside. Add a little oil to the pot if necessary and saute 1 large, chopped onion, a few celery stalks, chopped, a couple of carrots, chopped, and 3-4 cloves of sliced garlic. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and stir them about a bit until they begin to brown. Add 1/2-3/4 cup red wine (preferably left over from last night's libations) to the pot. Cook for a minute or so to burn off most of the alcohol. Return the meat to the pan. Toss in some fresh herbs (I like thyme, rosemary, bay leaves--whatever you have on hand in the fridge that smells good). Add enough beef stock to submerge the meat nearly all of the way--you don't really want the meat covered in broth. Cover the pot, put it in the oven, and forget about it for at least two and as many as four hours.

When you are starting to get hungry because your house smells so yummy, chop up some more carrots, some turnips, some parsnips, and some potatoes--whatever root vegetables you have on hand, even the "tired" looking ones. Pull the pot out of the oven and add your vegetables along with a 32-ounce can of chopped tomatoes. Stir it together gently; again, your solids should be just shy of being submerged in your liquids. If necessary, add a little more stock or water. Put the pot back in the oven and jack the heat up to 350 degrees. Cook for another hour or so, until the potatoes (and the other veggies) are just tender.

The last bit of magic. Just before serving, add a can of tomato paste and stir it thoroughly into the stew. This thickens the sauce and adds a bit of sweetness to the overall flavor profile. Taste for seasoning. Serve with a crusty bread and a big red wine.

Super Soup

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal featured a recipe for Greystone Gruyere Onion Soup, created by the executive chef at the Greystone Restaurant at the Napa Valley campus of the CIA. It's your basic onion soup, made extra special by topping it with a cheese souffle instead of the usual crouton with melted gruyere. A hearty dinner for a cold winter night.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Delicious Fish

Marshall bought a gigantic piece of salmon at Costco this weekend, so I decided to make something good with it. I pan-seared the fish, then poured a sauce of Dijon mustard and molasses over the top and finished it in the oven. For sides, I made risotto with porcini mushrooms that a friend had brought me from Italy, along with steamed green beans and corn. Happy, happy!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What's for Dinner

Quick, post-karate dinner tonight. The Jewel on Ashland has an excellent "international" aisle, which includes a number of products from Patak Foods. I threw together some chicken, broccoli, and spicy tomato sauce, served with coconut rice, and fried pappadams.

At dinner, we asked the children to guess what was flavoring the rice. Surprisingly, Maddy got it right away; Nick thought it was buttery, sweet, and salty all at the same time, but did not guess coconut.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Yeasty Adventure

Yesterday's food section in the New York Times featured a really interesting article on a new, "no-knead" method for homemade bread. The kids have been bugging me for awhile to make bread again, and I was intrigued by the instructions and inspired by the author's enthusiasm, so I thought I would give it a try.

It is a very wet dough, with a small (1/4 teaspoon) amount of yeast. I let it sit our all night to ferment (per the instructions), and got something looking like this.

Before I went to pick Nick up at school, I pulled the dough out of the bowl, folded it over onto itself a couple of times, and formed it into a ball. I set it in a well-floured towel, covered it, and left it to rise again for about two hours.

It is a very soft, sticky dough, and a little hard to work with. But, because you need not handle it much, that's not a big problem. When I got home from school, I put my heavy, cast iron soup pot in the oven and preheated it to 450 degrees. After about half an hour, I pulled the hot pot out of the oven and carefully rolled the dough into the pot. It stuck a little to the bottom of the towel (next time, I might put parchment paper on the bottom instead), but I managed to move it without deflating it too much. I covered the pot and baked it for half an hour. Then, I took the cover off and finished baking it for another 20 minutes.

The loaf was crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside, rivaling some of the best bread I have bought at Whole Foods. Really yummy, really easy. Definitely a keeper recipe.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fish Cakes

Fish Cakes
Originally uploaded by mickeynick.
Tonight, I made fish cakes with tilapia, inspired by a recipe in the current issue of Everyday Food. Baked, flaked tilapia, combined with chopped parsley and bound with mayonnaise, horseradish, and eggs. Served with homemade tartar sauce and lemon wedges, rice, and green beans. Nick especially liked them.

Still in the oven: Indian Pudding (from another issue of Everyday Food), which is basically slowly baked half and half with molasses, cinnamon, and ginger.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Why Didn't I Try This Before?

Shrimp wrapped in bacon and barbequed. Served with a big salad and fresh bread. Yum.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Nick's White Omelette

Nick rummaged for leftovers from yesterday's cooking extravaganza and come up with this for breakfast. A white omelette, comprised of six egg whites (leftover from the yolks I used for a pastry cream) topped off with a hard-boiled egg in the middle. Yum.

My First Tart

Yesterday, my friend Alice came over and we had a cooking party. Fortified with honeydew daiquiris, we spent the afternoon chatting, chopping, and whisking. She brought new potatoes and home-made piccallili and made potato salad. Marshall smoked some ribs, and I made some sauce. And together, Alice and I made a delicious berry tart. She used a sweet crust recipe from Baking Illustrated. I used a pastry cream recipe from Julia Child's Way to Cook. It was a marvelous end to a relaxing day.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Paella Party

Last night, we were guests at friends' who made a delicious paella. Lots of fragrant saffron, it was rich with chicken, chorizo, shrimp, halibut, and mussels. We planned our upcoming trip to Kentucky; I have a long list of groceries to procure Thursday afternoon. Looking forward to cooking on the houseboat.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Two-Star Baked Scallops

Mediocre reviews last night for Giada De Laurentiis' baked scallops wrapped in prosciutto. OK, maybe part of the problem is that I used bacon instead of prosciutto.

Pretty good, but I'd like the bacon to be crispier. --Marshall

I'm not sure about the sun-dried tomato sauce. --Maddy

Next time, I would grill these. And add more basil to the sauce. The arugula was delicious, however.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Tomatoes are in season, so I thought I'd try a chilled tomato soup recipe I saw on tv last weekend, flavored with fresh ginger and coriander. (OK, I didn't have any coriander, so I used curry powder instead.) A delicious, light dinner for a warm summer night, served with bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches and a crisp sauvignon blanc.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Dinner on a Stick

I had an urge for some satay this weekend, so I adapted one of Tyler Florence's recipes with a few substitutions/additions of my own. I made extra peanut sauce, that I plan to toss later this week with some soba noodles and chopped vegetables for a quick meal.

I used my microplane to grate the ginger, which worked ok, but I miss my ceramic ginger grater, which seems to have gone missing since the kitchen renovation.

Chicken Satay

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
2 lbs. boneless chicken breast, cut into strips

Peanut sauce
2 cups smooth natural peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sambal olek
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 tablespoons molasses
juice of 4 limes
1/2 cup hot water

Combine the marinade ingredients. Place the chicken in a ziptop bag, and pour the marinade over. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours but no more than 6.

Combine the peanut sauce ingredients. Add just enough hot water to acheive desired consistency.

Thread the chicken onto skewers. Grill over a medium fire until done. Serve with peanut sauce, steamed rice, and broccoli.

Later than week....

Slice some cucumber, purple onion, and red bell pepper. Add some bean sprouts. Add some cooked soba noodles. Pour leftover peanut sauce over and toss. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve. Leftover noodles are great cold for lunch.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Nick's Salad

Nick and I were at the fish counter last night, picking up some shrimp for dinner. The case was decorated with several little piles of bright red crawfish. Nick insisted that we take some home. He wanted to make dinner.

He prepared the salad, honing his knife skills. I showed him how to slice an onion and how to peel and seed a cucumber. All went well until he began halving cherry tomatoes. One of the smaller ones rolled away from him mid-knife stroke, and he sliced his thumb. Yikes! A little Neosporin and a band-aid, however, and he had recovered.

Nick decorated the salad bowl with three crawfish, and we served the salad with grilled shrimp, more crawfish, and warm bread. A wonderful dinner, prepared with love by my son.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Homemade Pizza

One of my favorite weekend dishes is homemade pizza. Simply make the dough, prepare a handful of toppings, and let your guests make the pizza of their choice. A great way to involve your guests in dinner, and an economical way to entertain.

My Favorite Pizza Dough

1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup cold milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let the mixture sit for five minutes or so to proof; the yeast should bubble up. Add the cold milk and the olive oil. In a mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and the salt. Turn the mixer on to the lowest setting. Slowly add the liquid ingredients until the dough balls up in the bowl; add additional milk by the spoonful if necessary. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for five minutes. Turn the mixer back on and knead (or knead by hand) for 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 2-3 hours until the dough has doubled in size. Punch down and divide into thirds.

Homemade Pizza Sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 32-oz jar whole or crushed tomatoes

In a 2-quart saucepan, saute the garlic and onions in the olive oil over low heat until translucent. Add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and hot red pepper flakes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Blend the sauce in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Let cool.


Preheat a pizza stone in the oven at 450 degrees. Roll dough out. Sprinkle pizza peel with cornmeal or flour and place dough on top of peel. Top with sauce. Top with desired toppings (our favorites: basil, pepperoni, purple onion, pesto, black olive, mushroom, roasted eggplant, red bell pepper). Add a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Bake on a hot pizza stone in the oven for 7-8 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbling.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Summer Sides

Ribs again tonight for dinner, which I really enjoy with a nice, homemade potato salad. Something about the hot, crispy, spicy sauce contrasting with the cool, creamy, starchy potatoes...

I used to buy the "homestyle" potato salad at the grocery, because it seemed so much easier. Then I tried to make my own one Sunday afternoon, and I was hooked. As usual, homemade is so much better, and worth the effort. Here is one flavorway that goes well with ribs.

Potato Salad Variation #3

3 lbs. red-skinned new potatoes
3 stalks celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon curry
dash Tabasco

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes or until tender (you should be able to stick a knife in them and remove it with little "give"). Drain the potatoes and let them sit in a colander for a few minutes to cool. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Combile the mayonnaise, mustand, sugar, curry, and Tabasco in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside. Place the chopped celery, sun-dried tomatoes, onion, and eggs in a large bowl. Chop the cooked potatoes into 1/2 inch dice (including the skins) and add to the bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss gently to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

What I Had for Dinner Last Night

Buttered popcorn, sixty-four ounces of Coke, and an electric blue "berry" Icee. "X-Men III: The Last Stand" wasn't much better than dinner.

Garbage Frittata

It's Sunday morning and you have some leftover cheese and a few tomatoes that are getting soft. Time for a breakfast frittata. For best results, cook it on the stovetop until the eggs are just set, and then finish it in the oven or, better yet, under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.

Last week, Nick and I were talking books. "Why did Roald Dahl write 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'? he asked me. Huh? "He should have made it 'Charlie and the Cheese Factory'--there are lots of different kinds of cheese that are good to eat...." Yup.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


It's summertime, and time to start smoking the ribs. We tried a (slightly) new method tonight: rub 'em with spice, mop 'em with beer and vinegar, and sauce 'em just at the bitter end. Yum. With potato salad and corn on the side, a feast fit to launch the barbeque season.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

What I learned in Mexico

Last November, I took a short vacation to San Miguel de Allende to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday. We stayed in a wonderful house, with a full staff. Tomasa, the housekeeper prepared simple meals (and cocktails) for us. My favorite was her huevos rancheros, which I asked for at breakfast nearly every day. Crispy tortilla, cool, spicy salsa, and warm, rich egg, all in one delicious bite. Plus, they are quick and inexpensive to make, especially with store-bought salsa. Here is my take on Tomasa's dish, which has become a favorite quick dinner at my house.

Huevos Rancheros

8 corn tortillas
1 container fresh tomato salsa (the kind kept in the refrigerated section of the grocery)
8 eggs
ranchero cheese, shredded
1 lime
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Brush the tortillas with vegetable oil and place them on a baking sheet. Toast the tortillas in the oven, turning them every 5 minutes or so, until they begin to crisp. Set aside. Brown the chorizo in a frying pan. Drain the fat and set aside. In another pan, poach the eggs. While they are poaching, set two tortillas on each of four plates. Top each tortilla with a tablespoon of salsa. Top the salsa with the eggs. Sprinkle with cooked chorizo, a little cheese, and some chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and Mexican rice.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day

The family surprised me with crab legs and pasta for dinner. It was worth the mess just to watch the children relish their shellfish. Crab legs, mussels, lobster--all wonderful kid-friendly foods. Diner involvement, big mess, dipping (in butter, no less!), what's not to like?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Underrated vegetables

I think that beets are underrated. Most people have a visceral negative reaction to beets, but enjoy them if they give them a chance.

Case in point. I took the following beet salad recipe to a New Year's Eve party this year. It made a lovely presentation, bright red and festive in a green bowl. As I sat down, the guest next to me said, "Well, that looks gorgeous, but I don't know what they could have been thinking bringing beets to the party! Who is going to want to eat that?" I laughed, and informed her that the beet salad was my contribution to the potluck. Embarassed, my dinner partner determined to try my dish. "Wow, that's actually good," she said. Another convert.

Beet Salad with Carmelized Onions and Feta

3-4 beets
2 onions
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Cut the leafy end off of the beets, but do not peel them. Place the beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap the foil up tightly around the beets. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the onions thinly. Heat a heavy large skillet on medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and cook the onions for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft and beginning to brown. Place the onions in a large bowl.

Open the tinfoil packets and let the beets cool for a few minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel the beets under cool water; the outer skin will pull off easily. Chop the beets into bite-sized pieces.

In a small bowl, mix the mustard, vinegar, and some salt to taste. Add the remainder of the olive oil, whisking vigerously, to emulsify. Add pepper to taste.

Pour the dressing over the onions and toss. Add the beets and toss again. Crumble the feta cheese over all and toss a third time. Just before serving, top with the chopped walnuts.