Archive for February, 2012

Irish Soda Bread

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

 

Counting to St. Patrick’s Day, my new favorite way to the honor lengthening daylight and muddy days of early spring, I’ve been making Irish Soda Bread.

 

The only Irish Cookbook I own, by Malachi McCormick whose name alone gives the book credibility, firmly defends Irish Soda Bread as a minimal loaf of flour and sour milk – NOT buttermilk, McCormick wags a finger, but milk that has literally gone bad in your refrigerator – with a teaspoon of baking soda.  Put that in a dutch oven and place it in your hot coals.  Butter, eggs, raisins?  Only British sissies would stir those in.

I think the above is one of those recipes that belong in the Hard Knocks School of Cuisine –  born out of a crummy life, eaten with a perverse sense of nostalgia.   Sometimes it works, as in the case of polenta.  Sometimes it doesn’t, as in gruel.

Still, I agree with Malachi that butter and eggs makes Irish Soda bread too much like cake, but I think that a simple Irish Soda Bread dough is a fabulous vehicle for raisins and caraway. Why leave them out, except in the name of suffering?  The winey flavors of fruit and seed are great traveling partners with this soft, tender crumb, housed by an extra-satisfying crust crunch.   Butter would soften and fatten the dough too much, so, yes, lad, let’s leave them out.   But, I wasn’t going to serve anyone anything that had rotted in my refrigerator, so I used buttermilk

I think this is a good bow to Irish character minus the martyrdom.

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Kane’s Irish Soda Bread

makes one loaf

Ingredients

3 cups sifted flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1 cup raisins

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

Instructions

Combine first six ingredients.  Add raisins.  Pour milk into flour, stir gently into a ball with a rubber spatula.  Spill onto a floured surface and, again gently, knead it just until it forms a ball.  Don’t over-knead.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet or cake pan.  Cut a large cross on the bread with a sharp knife.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes.  Test by tapping bread.  If it sounds hollow it’s done.

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Colcannon

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

 

 

My mother doesn’t have any recipes for “Brack” or “Barm” in her files.  She doesn’t even have a recipe for Irish Soda Bread.  So, maybe this is one of those crazy things I’m going to do now that I’ve lost my mother –  embrace St. Patrick’s Day.

In kindergarten, my daughter came home one day bursting with fabulous news –

“Mommy!  There’s a whole holiday we didn’t even KNOW about!  It’s called St. Patrick’s Day!”

Poor thing, to have a mother like me.  Not being one little bit Irish, I had considered it a holiday I had off.

But this year I feel like not just paying attention but honoring it.   We live in a cold climate.  It’s gray here the way it is in Ireland.  St. Patrick’s Day is part of getting us through March to spring.  – I like Guinness.  I love Irish Poetry.  I like an accent of any kind.  How can I resist this holiday anymore?

And there are all those food names!  Tea Brack, Barm, Pratie Oats, Boxty, Champ, Poundy.  Who wouldn’t want to make these things on a damp, gray day when the breaking waves out in Ipswich Bay look like herds of roaming sheep?  And who wouldn’t want to cozy up to a culture whose answer to every woe is a cup of tea or a glass of whiskey?

 

I’m starting with Colcannon which apparently carries far more emotional currency in Ireland than Corned Beef and Cabbage,  from Malachi McCormick’s Irish Country Cooking.   It’s basically potato, leek and cabbage gratin.  Leave your stereotypes at the door.  This is a light, fluffy dish with wonderful textures of cabbage leaves and leeks threaded throughout.  The mace – I added a little extra – takes this dish away from the staff meal, and sends it upstairs to the dining room.  We had it as dinner with a salad, which was not very Irish.  In truth, it’s begging for a roast chicken, if not corned beef, but I’m taking this one recipe at a time.

 

Colcannon

serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

1 pound white cabbage

1 teaspoon salt

2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed, and sliced with skins on.

2 medium leeks, thoroughly washed and sliced

1 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons mace

salt and pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves

1 stick butter

Instructions

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and boil the cabbage until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.  Drain off teh water and chop the cabbage.  Set aside.  bring another pot of water to a boil and boil the potatoes until tender.  Drain off the water and set aside.  Put the leeks in a saucepan. cover with the milk, bring close to boiling, and then turn down to a simmer until tender.  Set aside.

Add the mace, salt and pepper, and garlic to the pot with the potatoes and mash well.  Now add the leeks and their milk and mix in with the potatoes.  Try to keep the texture of the cabbage and leeks.  Add more milk if necessary to make it smooth.  Mash in the cabbage and then the butter.  You want it to look smooth and butter with threads of cabbage and leek running through it.

Transfer the whole mixture to an ovenproof dish.  Draw a fork in lines over the surface, and place under the broiler until well browned on top.

 

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Mimi’s Shrimp

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

I cringe to remember those bacon-wrapped nineteen-seventies, when my mother stuffed mushrooms with a mixture of cream cheese, bacon and Worcestershire sauce.  In the nineteen-eighties, when “Foodie” became a noun, we began our holiday meals with her fig-studded chicken liver pate – a recipe considered then so delicious that a friend, who happened to be Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s personal chef at the time, took it back to Buckingham Palace to prepare for the Royals – but that’s a story for another article.  We ate that pate by the spoonful, probably even for breakfast on toast the next morning, and on sandwiches for lunch.  Still, something in that taste – the sherry, liver, or fig – is exhausting, and I am happy to never, ever have to eat it again.

Of all the appetizer trials over the years, this shrimp dish endures in my family as the perfect starter to a large holiday meal, flavorful enough to support that first toast, but light enough not to ruin the turkey or the tenderloin to follow.  Quickly blanched shrimp are tossed with slices of lemon and onion, and then marinated in white vinegar, oil, celery seed, bay and pepper corns.

I know, there isn’t a sexy ingredient on the list.  Celery seed?  The last time you saw that was spilled in the back of your grandmother’s spice drawer, right?  The recipe doesn’t even call for olive oil, which, because those of us of a certain age can’t believe anything isn’t always better with olive oil, I’ve tried.  It didn’t work.  The dish was too heavy, and the life of the lemon and thinly sliced onion was shortened, smothered in an unwelcome olive taste.

No, there’s no goat cheese to crumble or exotic peppers to char, but the vibrancy and simplicity of these shrimp never tires.

How perfect is this recipe?  You make it two days ahead, longer if you want, or shorter, too.  This Thanksgiving we forgot, and threw it together that morning.  It was still delicious.  It doesn’t require a long list of ingredients, and, besides the shrimp, nothing is costly.

Mimi’s Shrimp

 

Serves 12 as an appetizer, but may be easily halved

 

5 lbs. shrimp

3 large onions

2 lemons

Marinade

1.5 cups vegetable oil

1 cup white vinegar

1 tbsp. salt

12 peppercorns

1 tbsp celery seed

1 tsp. sugar

6 bay leaves

 

Cook shrimp in lightly salted water just to cover.  Drain and then peel.  Thinly slice onions and lemons.  Toss all together lightly, and then lay out in a shallow ceramic dish.

Shake all the marinade ingredients together in a quart container, and then pour over shrimp.  This is best made two days in advance, regularly tossing the shrimp in the marinade.

To serve, put the whole recipe in a large, shallow bowl, showing off the lemon slices and bay leaves.  Or, you can also make individual servings, placing some shrimp, onion and lemon slice in a Boston lettuce leaf, making a platter of lettuce cups.

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Roasted Broccoli Salad for the North Shore Hunger Network

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

 

In Eastern Massachusetts, one in nine people uses a soup kitchen or a food pantry.  One in nine.

The North Shore Hunger Network operations meeting is an opportunity for the North Shore food assistance agencies to share best practices: to discuss how to best provide nutrition and advocacy to people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families.  At this table, the agencies trying to fill the widening hunger gaps in our communities find their own support.

A large dose of happy news came to the North Shore Hunger Network in December, when they learned that Gloucester’s Open Door had received one of thirteen State Giving Grants from Walmart –  $25,000 to expand their Mobile Markets Program through the North Shore Hunger Network.  (photo by Jason Grow) Working with their local housing authorities to identify the largest concentration of need, Beverly Bootstraps and Haven From Hunger will be able to offer the same positive food distribution model to Beverly, Peabody and Salem, with operating and technical assistance from the Open Door, starting in June.

The Mobile Market is a free farmers’ market, modeled on a program begun by City Harvest in New York City, that has been operating in Gloucester since 2005.  The theory and practice is about getting locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables – grown by the Food Project, Appleton Farms in Ipswich and Farmer Dave’s in Dracut – into neighborhoods where need is high and access to food difficult.

It’s sad news that business is up, but the changing model of food assistance, with an interest in providing local fresh fruits and vegetables, teaching healthy cooking practices, and building community, is good news for everyone.

Here is a wonderful recipe I presented to the North Shore Hunger Network.  I was asked to present low fat, low sodium recipes ideas for someone shopping from a Food Pantry.   Using anchovies is an age-old way to salt and flavor foods.  Before you wince at salted fish, know that anchovies break down their fishiness to become a delicious but subtle “umami” taste, and they can provide all the salt you need at the same time delivering flavor and even protein.  This is Barton Seaver’s recipe.  He says he makes versions of it all week for his family.  In truth, I do now, too.  In truth, I’m addicted to it.  There are wonderful depths of flavor in this little salad.  (I did reduce the amount of salt in the water when the broccoli parboils.) Roasting the broccoli starts it all going, then the anchovy and garlic tossing makes it a Caesar Salad without the boring romaine.  This is a great way to treat a vegetable we’ve all seen way too many times steamed with lemon.

 

Roasted Broccoli Salad

serves 4 as a side dish or appetizer

Ingredients

2 heads of broccoli

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup olive oil

8 anchovies

1 teaspoon vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 of a small onion

6 cloves of garlic

Preheat the broiler

Cut the florets from the broccoli stalks, discarding the stalks (or same them for soup?).  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt, and drop in the florets.  Cook for about 4 minutes, or until soft.

Drain, and arrange on a baking sheet.  Brush with a little olive oil, and broil until the florets are darkly charred and crunchy, about 10 minutes.

For the vinaigrette, put the anchovies, vinegar, lemon juice, onion, and garlic in a blender.  Pulse to begin to puree, the, with the machine running, add the remaining olive oil in a slow stead stream.  Puree until very smooth.

Transfer the broccoli to a platter or serving bowl, and drizzle with the vinaigrette.  This dish is great served hot or at room temperature.

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Biscotti di Prato

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

 

 

I’m writing about these biscotti di Prato because I love the people who read my blog, and I want you to know the perfect cookie.

My friend, Irene Pickering, makes these – which I’ve learned are usually called  “cantuccini” in Italy.  In the 19th century, Prato resident Antonio Mattei discovered an ancient recipe for these spears of nut and dough.  Biscottificio Antonia Mattei has been the leading name in cantuccini ever since.  Until Irene.

 

 

Irene is a sparkling redhead with a singing voice like a nightingale, but she gets invited to parties for her cantuccini.  For years, a group of women I know have arranged Ladies Dinners on the pretense that we miss each other, and want share some good wine together, but it’s secretly only about getting to Irene’s cantuccini.

A few glasses of wine and a light dinner later, you should see this usually super-composed bunch of women eat cookies.  Crumbs sprayed, the floor plastered with almonds crushed beneath our feet, not to mention the spilled vin santo, the next morning it looks like a fight broke out in the Biscottificio.

 

These cantuccini have a perfect ratio of breakable crust to gooey center, studded with a more-than-casual crunch of almonds.  They’re made with olive oil and brown sugar, a combination that simply adds up to deep, sweet mystery.  I’ve actually tried to bake these cookies, and they’re much more complicated than they appear, another sign of their genius.  A masterpiece always looks so simple, right?

The culinary virtues are hard to photograph.  These may look like lots of other biscotti, yet every person who tastes them says, “wow, this is not what I expected.  These are amazing.”  Then they settle down to chew and savor.  They pour themselves more coffee.  They decide to blow-off the next meeting, sit back in their chair, and wonder if anyone in Prato is eating like this.

Because I love you, I want you to know that Irene is now producing these almond-stacked wands of perfection commercially.  Willowrest in Gloucester and Joppa Flats fine foods in Newburyport now have Irene’s cantuccini, packaged as “House on the Hill,” a name her kids liked.

You can book a ticket to Milan, or you can find Irene’s cantuccuni.

 

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Enzo Restaurant’s Brussels Sprout Salad

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Re-inventing cuisines with uber-regional foods is a happy edition of eating locally; Enzo in Newburyport is mastering it.  Owners Mary and Dave Reilly have created a unique little restaurant with a Ligurian, trattoria stamp.  The menu is short, and everything on it is made from scratch – from the warm squares of focaccia to the pickled tomatillos that animate a fonduta, the bubbling, melted Taleggio and Fontina D’Aosta cheese appetizer.

The Enzo homemade handkerchiefs of fresh pasta floating in a light tomato sauce, dolloped with house-made ricotta cheese, taste like the best of Northern Italy, but the light-as-a-breeze homemade pappardelle is piled high with pale pink Gulf of Maine Shrimp and cannellini beans.  (Quick! – The shrimp season ends soon; this dish leaves the menu this week.)

Roasted Tomato Soup is an Italian grandmother standard; the Enzo version is as traditional as zuppa gets: smooth tomatoes graced with Parmigiana Reggiano and homemade croutons.  Farther down the appetizer menu is a Kale Salad with Roasted Squash, an Italian insalata remade with the best of a New England farm in February.

Golden, pan-roasted gnocchi nestle within a thicket of locally grown Shady Oaks mushrooms and threads of crispy leeks.   Along with the kale and kohlrabi delivery, Heron Pond Farm supplies Enzo with wheatberries, an American version of Italian farro, the grain which appears as soups and salads all over Umbria.  The Heron Pond Farm wheatberries, scented with saffron, welcome a filet of roasted, prosciutto-wrapped monkfish, a catch from the fishing vessel Hope + Sidney.

Chicken under a brick never leaves the menu; Reilly cooks each flattened chicken to order under about twenty pounds of weighted skillets.  Call it the restaurant’s chicken standard, until you taste the agrodolce focaccia stuffing, homemade bread seasoned with the classic Italian combination of sweet and vinegar, nothing standard about it; It’s novel and delicious.

This brussels sprout recipe is Enzo’s answer to the question, “how do we make a panzanella salad – the traditional Italian bread salad made with summery red tomatoes and fresh basil – in New England in the winter?”

The result looks nothing like its parent, but it has a brilliant future. A perfect arrangement of tastes and textures; it should be our winter salad paradigm as panzanella is a summer Tuscan one.  My teenage daughters declared it “the best thing they’d ever eaten,” and asked if we could have it every night.

There are many steps, but they’re easy, and each could be completed a full day ahead, the whole assembled quickly.

Enzo

50 Water Street #304  Newburyport, MA 01950
(978) 462-1801

 

 

Enzo’s Brussels Sprout Salad

 

4 cups brussels sprout leaves (Cut the bottom off each sprout and then loosen the leaves off with your fingers. Keep cutting the core back as you peel the leaves off.)

2 oz thinly sliced pancetta

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups cubed or torn bread (from a country-style loaf)

olive oil

3 cups mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, cremini or portobellp), sliced or torn into ½-¾” strips

Pancetta-molasses dressing (recipe below), at room temperature

4 poached eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.  Lightly blanch the sprout leaves by dropping them in the water for about 30 seconds.  Drain and set aside on a sheet pan to cool. (this can be done a day ahead)

Lay the pancetta slices on a parchment or silpat-lined sheet pan and sprinkle them evenly with sugar. Roast pancetta in oven until sugar is melted and pancetta is crisp and brown. This may take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depnding on how thin your pancetta is – keep an eye on the oven and watch for burning pancetta! Set aside and let cool.  (this can be done a day ahead)

Toss the bread cubes with olive oil and place them on a sheet pan. Toast in the preheated oven until evenly browned and crisp, about 7-10 minutes.

Toss the mushrooms with olive oil and place them on a sheet pan. Roast in the preheated oven until evenly browned and softened, about 10 minutes.

Toss the drained sprout leaves with the croutons, mushrooms and a big dollop of dressing (you want to make sure the croutons are not dry).  Divide tossed salad on to four dinner plates.  Crumble the pancetta over the top of the salads, season with salt and pepper, and top each salad with a poached egg.

 

Pancetta-molasses dressing

Yields about 3 cups

3 oz pancetta, sliced or cubed

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup molasses

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

2 cups oil (we use a blend of olive and canola oils)

Cook pancetta in a skillet until crisp and browned and the fat is rendered out.  Cool slightly and then place pancetta and all the rendered fat in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the mustard molasses, and vinegar to the processor bowl.  Turn the processor on and let it grind up the pancetta. When the mixture in the bowl looks semi-smooth, pour in the oil.  When the dressing looks cohesive and smooth, turn of the processor and check for seasoning.  Depending on your pancetta, you might want to add a little salt, or more molasses or vinegar: it should taste sweet, sour and salty.  This dressing should be stored in the refrigerator and brought up to room temperature (or heated) before use.

 

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Chocolate Pear Upside Down Cake

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

 

Fingering through my mother’s large crate of clipped and printed-from-online recipes I realized we saved the same ones – the Venetian Carrot Cake from the New York Times in 2007, for example.  I’m positive neither she nor I ever made it, but I know, as a daughter knows her mother, that we both loved the Venetian part.  I know we both heard the waters lapping along the canals, and both of us thought it fascinating that the Italians actually had an elegant translation of the heavy American health-food standard.

My mother saved recipes – as do I – just because they signaled an atmosphere, an ideal, a romance that, by taking out the scissors and clipping some newspaper, might someday become a possibility.   There was always the chance that there would be a quiet afternoon with espresso poured and two wedges of that Venetian Carrot Cake served on glass plates, and someone there discussing our favorite Venetian piazzas.

I haven’t made that cake, but, who knows, the recipe is still in my files.

My mother probably experimented with new recipes far more than a lot of people, but that was because taking scissors to newsprint, clipping a patch of cuisine, was both art and voyage for her.  More than the meal itself, she relished – and taught me thus –  the way food allows you to dream.

Both our files are heavy on Clafoutis and French Apple Cakes.  Anything called a Summer Pudding she and I loved, and she’d saved at least four versions of the English dessert heavy on berries and short on crust.  Here’s a Valentine’s cake from my mother’s files, which says exactly who we both are:  we like our chocolate quiet, not gooey and tongue-smothering, with a side of fruit.  So, while this is not your traditional Valentine’s indulgence, you may know someone like my mother and me who loves pears more than chocolate.  Indulge them, too.

 

Chocolate Pear Upside Down Cake

For Pear Topping:

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced

For Cake:

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter
6 ounces dark chocolate chips
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9 inch cake pan, set aside.
To make the pear topping, combine sugar, water and butter in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and cook for 3 minutes.
Uncover pot saucepan and continue to simmer, gently swirling the pan as needed until the mixture turns an amber color.
Carefully pour the sugar mixture into prepared cake pan and set aside to harden.
Toss pear slices with chili powder and set aside.

To make the cake,  sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Combine the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and melt, stirring occasionally.
Transfer melted chocolate to a mixing bowl and beat in sugar using an electric mixture.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir in the flour mixture and the buttermilk in additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
Arrange pear slices on the top of the hardened sugar in the cake pan.
Pour cake batter over pears and bake for 40-45 minutes or until cake springs bake slightly when touched.
Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then carefully invert cake onto a plate.
Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

 

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Chicken Piccata, Raw Kale and Carrot Salad, & Marcella Hazan’s Famous Tomato Sauce.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

 

 

I recently did a presentation for the North Shore Hunger Network, a collection of organizations working with feeding the hungry from Boston to Amesbury, on preparing low-fat, low-sodium meals from a Food Pantry.  I’ll write more about this organization soon, but I thought I’d post my tips – some basic, some a little out there – and some recipes:  Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce made with THREE ingredients.  A Raw Kale and Carrot Salad, adapted from Barton Seaver, as proof that kale really can be considered a salad.  And Chicken Piccata.  The last recipe is a little fussy, but it’s an amazing dish made with the simplest ingredients, particularly when you make your own breadcrumbs.  Food Pantries have a LOT of bread.

Tips

If you’re coming home from work, and feeling overwhelmed by dinner, always, always go to the stove and start a large pot of water boiling.  Don’t take your coat off; just go right to the sink, fill that pot and put some heat under it.   Then go take off your coat, get the kids settled, and take a breath.  If you are tired, and have no idea what to make for dinner, you can always have pasta, and you won’t have to wait for the water to boil.   You can tell the children suddenly begging for dinner that it will be done in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

Thyme:  own dried thyme, and replace it when you run out.  Don’t worry about any other herb (they’re expensive), but a good bag of dried thyme will change so many dishes – from soups to eggs to salad dressings – and makes them taste like something very special.

The Peanut Butter Sandwich:  try to have your child be brave about bread, meaning try grains.  Try to use less peanut butter on the sandwich, and always add a second ingredient, but not necessarily jam or jelly.  A banana simply has more vitamins and fiber than jam.  Jam and jelly is processed, albeit minimally, so choose the less processed food over the more – the banana over the jelly – and you’ll be adding more nutrition.

 

Try these sandwiches:

Peanut butter and apple

Peanut butter and raisins

Peanut butter and banana

 

Anchovies:  learn to like them.  Use 1 or 2 anchovies as a replacement for salt in tomato sauces.  They have sodium, but they also add a bit of protein and “umami” flavor.  1 – 2 anchovies, sauteed with garlic and mashed a bit, won’t add a fishy taste, if anchovies scare you.  They’ll just add a little depth.

 

 

Use escarole instead of romaine lettuce, particularly in the winter.  It’s much cheaper than packaged lettuces, much more flavorful, much more nutritious, and lasts longer.  A salad made with escarole, even dressed, will stay crisp enough for you to take for lunch the next day.  Also, try using chopped kale in a salad.  Just cut out the inner stem.  Both escarole and kale are a little tougher than regular lettuces, and it’s fine to cut them finely with a knife, but they taste delicious.  It’s just a matter of getting used to a sturdier green in your salad.

 

Rinse all canned beans very well.  Just dump them into a strainer, and run water over them.  Canned beans are fine to use, but they have much less sodium when rinsed.

 

Save plastic containers.  You will be much more apt to take leftovers for lunch if you have the right container.  Otherwise, you wake up in the morning, look at last night’s pasta and realize it would make a great lunch, but you have nothing to carry it in.  So, you don’t take it, and you have chips and a coke for lunch.

 

My standard: Put poached eggs on top of everything from salads, to pasta, to soup.

 

Have dessert.

 

For most people in the world  – of all economic situations –  life is hard, and most days the only good thing about it will be a decent dinner at the end.   But, isn’t that pretty good?  If your day ends with a poached egg on top of a bowl of garlic and thyme fettucini – a dish that is hot, flavorful, restorative, and costs under a dollar a person – isn’t that a pretty good?  If it ends in this Chicken Piccata, it’s even better.

 

Food has emotional nutrition, too;  The U.S.D.A. should include comfort in its list of daily requirements.

 

Marcella Hazan’s Basic Tomato Sauce

enough for 1 pound of pasta

Ingredients

One 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes roughly chopped with their juices
5 tablespoons salted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved

Instructions

Heat a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low to keep a steady simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally. Discard the onion. Serve over cooked pasta.

To cook the pasta, bring four quarts of water to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water, and then add 1 pound of pasta.  If cooking more than 1 pound of pasta, add another quart for each additional half pound.

Cook the pasta for the time allowed on the box.  Drain the pasta in a colander, immediately return it to either a warm serving bowl (pour some hot water in it and then pour it out.) or the same pot you cooked it in.

Pour the sauce over the pasta, and toss very well:  Take two wooden spoons, or two forks, reach down into the pasta and lift it up again so the sauce settles over all.  Keep doing this for at least a minute.  The sauce and pasta merge in a way that never happens when the sauce is just plopped on top of the pasta, and the whole dish becomes much more elegant and delicious.

 

 

Raw Kale and Carrot Salad

serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

1 bunch kale

2 carrots

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup seedless grapes

1/2 cup slivered almonds or any nut available (optional)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, or even white vinegar is ok

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

more salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Wash the kale thoroughly.  Fold each leaf in half along the stem, and make one long slice down it to cut out the stem.  Take the pile of now stem-less leaves, hold them together, and slice into shreds, so you get fine pieces of kale, almost like confetti.

Peel the carrots, discarding the outer skin.  Then take the peeler and continue to peel off carrot, collecting these pieces into a bowl, so you have a pile of carrot shards.

Add to the bowl the grapes, nuts, and kale.  Sprinkle in the salt.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oil and vinegar, and then add in the mayonnaise, and stir well to combine.  Taste for salt and pepper.

 

 

 

Chicken Piccata

serves 4

Ingredients

2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts (four halves)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 eggs

1 tablespoon water

1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs

olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved

1/2 cup chicken broth

Sliced lemon, for serving

Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with tin foil.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and the water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the 2 chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan , and cook the rest of the chicken the same way.  Put all on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, chicken broth, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley if available.

Homemade Dried Bread Crumbs

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Take old bread and rip it into the smallest pieces you can – small crumbles.  If you have a food processor, you can process to crumbs.

Spread the crumbs onto a baking sheet and bake for 15- 20 minutes, until very lightly browned.

Allow to cool completely on the pan before storing.  Again, if available, return to the food processor to grind into a finer crumb.

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