As threatened, I stuck to my challenge (like ants to a syrup dribble down the side of a bottle) to never repeat the same home-cooked meal twice as long as the lock-down lasted. But now, as the deep-freeze starts to thaw on the city’s restaurant scene, where bountiful boxwood hedges and hoards of hydrangeas encroach further and further into Manhattan’s avenues, the time has come to hang up my apron, put away my knives and switch my support from grocery stores to the slowly re-emerging culinary industry. As I curiously wait to see which establishments open now, soon, later on or never again, one thing is certain – it’s going to feel downright amazing to hold a (sterilized) menu in my (sanitized) hands as I listen to the specials from a (masked) waiter who refills my water with (gloved) hands! Laissez les bons temps rouler à nouveau. Here though are my final week’s home-cooked recipes.
Many a good cut of meat gets re-butchered by well-meaning home cooks. But to be fair, the odds are against us: There are so many ways to ruin a steak, but only 1 way to cook it perfectly. This is all you need to know…
PERFECTLY SEARED STEAKS
- 2 filet, strip or sirloin steaks, 1″ thick
- kosher salt
- ground black peppercorns
Preheat an oven to 200 degrees, middle rack.
Trim the steak of any excess fat around the edges. (They won’t cook long enough for the fat to soften).
Salt them on all sides and let them cook in the cool oven until they reach and internal temperature of 100 degrees. (About 45 minutes).
Rest the steaks for at least 15 minutes.
Heat a cast iron skillet and sear the steaks for just 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and season with fresh black pepper.
GREEN PEPPERCORN SAUCE
- 2 Tblsp. Green peppercorns
- 2 Tblsp. Minced Shallots
- Olive Oil
- 1 Cup Beef broth
- 3 Tblsp. Brandy
- 2 Tblsp. Low Fat Sour cream
- 1 Tsp. ground black pepper
- corn starch
Sauté the minced shallots in a little olive oil until they are soft. Add the peppercorns and ground pepper and cook while stirring regularly.
Add the beef broth and bring to a boil until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Add the brandy and simmer for 10 mins on low heat.
Add prepared corn-starch in cold water to thicken – if necessary.
Remove from heat and add the sour cream and serve immediately.
Over the years I have amended and tweaked this fairly fool-proof recipe for a spectacularly refreshing, relatively classic and utterly yummy Chinese Chicken salad.
CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD
- 1 lb skinless and boneless chicken breasts
- 1 Tblspn Asian sesame oil
- 1 Tblspn Chinese chili garlic sauce
- 1 Tblspn finely minced garlic
- 1 Tblspn finely minced ginger
- 2 tspn fresh lime or lemon juice
- 1/4 savoy cabbage (tough outer leaves removed) cored and thinly sliced
- 1/2 radicchio cored and thinly sliced
- 2 oz raw snow peas, thinly sliced
- 6 scallions (including 3 inches of green) sliced on the bias
- 1/4 red bell pepper, thinly slivered)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 separated mandarin for garnish
- 3 Tblsp roasted, unsalted peanuts (roughly chopped) for garnish
For the Dressing:
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 3 Tblspn peanut oil
- 2 Tblspn sesame oil
- 1 Tblspn smooth peanut butter
- 1 1/2 Tblspn honey
- 1 tspn Dijon mustard
- 1 tspn Soy sauce
- 1 egg yolk
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine the chicken, sesame oil, chili sauce, garlic, ginger and lime juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, tossing once.
Prepare the dressing. Place all the dressing ingredients in a blender. Process on high speed until smooth. Refrigerate until well chilled.
Cook the chicken on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 18 – 20 minutes until the thickest parts register 165 degrees.
Cool slightly and then cut into strips. Place in a large bowl. Add the cabbage, snow peas, scallions, bell pepper and cilantro.
Toss the salad with 1/2 of the dressing or as much as desired.
Dress with the mandarin pieces and chopped peanuts.
I devoured the most delicious Avocado soup in a Viennese bistro many decades ago. But all the waiter would tell me was that “if you cook the avocado, the dish will be ruined.” It took me quite a while to recreate it, but it’s a whole lot easier than you might think.
- 4 ripe avocados.
- 4 cups of good vegetable stock (home-made preferably)
- 1/4 cup of cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 slices of white sandwich bread
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
Prepare the croutons first. With a long, sharp bread knife, cut the bread into 1/4 inch cubes. Crush the garlic and toss into a large frying pan with the heated oil.
Fry the croutons over medium high heat by constantly stirring them. If the oil dries up too quickly, add a further 2 tablespoons.
When all the cubes are toasted and golden brown, scoop them onto a paper towel and drain.
For the Soup:
Warm the vegetable stock in a saucepan.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cream to the soup and simmer at low heat while whisking. Only minutes before serving, blend the avocados and whisk them into the heated soup. DO NOT COOK THE AVOCADOS! Serve immediately with the croutons.
Like any Wienerschnitzel or Veal chop Milanese, adding a side of Lingonberry jam brings some rich sweet-and-sourness to an already luxuriously decadent meal.
VEAL CHOP MILANESE
- All-purpose flour, for dredging
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- Four 1-inch-thick veal rib chops
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 lemon sliced into wedges
- Lingonberry preserves or jam for serving
Preheat the oven to 350°. Put the flour in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. In a third shallow bowl, toss the panko with the lemon zest.
Season the veal chops with salt and pepper, dredge them in the flour and shake off the excess. Dip the veal chops in the egg mixture and let the excess drip off. Coat the veal chops with panko, pressing to help the crumbs adhere.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil with the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add 2 of the veal chops to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until they are browned and crisp on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate, turn the veal chops over and cook until they are browned and crisp on the other side, about 2 minutes longer.
Transfer the veal chops to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chops.
Bake the veal chops for about 15 minutes, turning them once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the meat near the bone registers 140°. Serve with Lingonberry preserves and lemon wedges on the side.
This Spinach Salad is another mega-favorite of ours from Yotam Ottolenghi’s collection. What makes this dish so more-ish are the crispy, crunchy, spicy, umami pita chips and almonds.
BABY SPINACH SALAD WITH DATES AND ALMONDS
- 1 Tblsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced
- 100g pitted Medjool dates quartered lengthways
- 30g undalted butter
- 2 Tblsp olive oil
- 2 small pitas roughly torn into 1 inch pieces
- 75g raw almonds roughly chopped
- 2 tap sumac
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 150g baby spinach leaves, washed
- 2 Tblspn lemon juice
Put the vinegar onion and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain any residual vinegar and discard.
Meanwhile, heat the butter and half the olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add the pita and almonds and cook them on a medium heat for 4 – 6 minutes, stirring all the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, chilli and 1/4 tsp of salt. Set aside to cool.
When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, remaining olive oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt.
Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.
Believe it or not, Cucumber Gazpacho debuted decades before anyone had access to tomatoes. This is another cobbled together restaurant remake which miraculously takes the edge off of a sweltering summers day.
- 4 cucumbers—peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
- 2/3 cup seedless green grapes
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 – 4 Tblspn distilled white vinegar (to taste)
- 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 cup roasted Marcona almonds
- Chili oil for serving
In a blender, combine the cucumbers, grapes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and almond milk; puree until smooth. Season with salt.
Strain through a fine sieve to remove any solids. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Garnish with a few droplets of chili oil and toss in a few Marcona almonds. Serves 6.
My Sesame crusted Pork tenderloin is probably one of the oldest “keeper” recipes in our collection. I have upgraded several times the sauce over the years, but I have never been able to substitute the (salt-free) Mrs. Dash’s spices. Don’t mess with it. Just trust me on this one. It works.
SESAME-CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PORT WINE REDUCTION
For the tenderloin:
- 1 pork tenderloin
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon Mrs. Dash herb seasoning
- 6 tablespoons sesame seeds
For the Sauce:
- 2 Tblsp shallots, chopped fine
- 2 tblsp olive oil
- 1 cup port wine
- 1 cup demi-glace or low-sodium beef broth
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 1 tsp cold water
- Fresh ground pepper
Using your hands, spread pork loin with honey. Mix soy sauce with Mrs. Dash garlic and herbs seasoning and place in a zip lock bag, add pork loin and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to 8 hours, turning from time to time.
Preheat barbecue or oven to 400 degrees and place a cast iron skillet in the oven. Place sesame seeds on waxed paper and roll tenderloin in sesame seeds until completely covered. Do not discard the marinade.
Briefly sear all sides of the loin over direct heat on the barbecue and then move to indirect heat. Alternately, sear in the now hot cast-iron skillet on the stove-top and then return the skillet to the oven.
Cook for approx. 25 – 30 minutes (depending on size of loin) until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Allow the loin to rest under tin foil for 10 minutes.
In a small saucepan heat the oil and sauté the shallots until soft. Add the residual tenderloin marinade and bring to a boil. Reduce by half and add 1 cup Port wine and reduce by half. Add 1 cup beef stock and reduce by half. Season with fresh ground pepper to taste. Continue to cook on medium-low for 10 minutes. Add Corn Starch and water slurry to thicken – if necessary.
Carve the loin into medallions and serve with the sauce.
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
- 6 large fresh peaches with peel, halved and pitted
- Vanilla ice cream
In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the white sugar, balsamic vinegar, and pepper. Simmer until liquid has reduced by one half. It should become slightly thicker. Remove from heat, and set aside.
(If the peach halves are still hard, you can microwave them for 1 – 2 minutes until they soften in the center. Let them cool completely before continuing.)
Preheat grill on medium-high heat, (or preheat a ridged cast-iron griddle pan until searing hot.)
Lightly oil the grill grate. Place peaches on the prepared grill (or griddle pan), cut side down. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the flesh is caramelized and nice dark lines are burned in. Turn peaches over. Brush the top sides with the balsamic glaze, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the peaches to individual serving dishes, and drizzle with remaining glaze. Sprinkle with vanilla ice cream.
Stay safe, stay sane and support our re-emerging culinary industry.