My favorite quarantine recipes Final issue

IMG_5065

Melon soup with butter-poached shrimp

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.

 

SUNDAY

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…

IMG_5007

Perfectly seared steaks with Green Peppercorn sauce

PERFECTLY SEARED STEAKS

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 filet, strip or sirloin steaks, 1″ thick
  • kosher salt
  • ground black peppercorns

DIRECTIONS

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

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

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.

 

MONDAY

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.

IMG_5048

Chinese Chicken Salad

CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

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.

 

TUESDAY

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.

IMG_5012

Avocado soup

AVOCADO SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

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.

 

WEDNESDAY

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.

IMG_5026

Veal chop Milanese

VEAL CHOP MILANESE

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

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.

 

 

THURSDAY

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.

IMG_5010

Spinach Salad with dates and almonds

BABY SPINACH SALAD WITH DATES AND ALMONDS

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

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.

 

FRIDAY

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.

IMG_5022

Cucumber Gazpacho

CUCUMBER GAZPACHO

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

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.

 

SATURDAY

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.

IMG_5054

Sesame-crusted Pork tenderloin with Port wine reduction sauce

SESAME-CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PORT WINE REDUCTION

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

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.

 

BONUS RECIPE:

IMG_5038

Grilled Peaches

GRILLED PEACHES

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

DIRECTIONS

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.

 

 

Surprisingly sensational summer secrets

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-3-46-48-pmBest-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver penned the phrase: “Cooking is 80% confidence”, but for whatever reason she never got around to divulging the rest of the equation. So if it were me I would add: “… and 20% reading”, i.e. if you can read – you can cook! But there is a distinction between faithfully following a recipe, and creating something entirely new, inspired by your memory, guided by your tongue or compromised by the limitations of your grocery cabinet.

There are two reasons why I seldom (never) post recipes on my blog:

  1. I don’t want rogersdigest to turn into a re-publishing link for recipes that have debuted elsewhere.
  2. If I happen to invent a dish, a large part of me wants it to remain a secret.

What to do?

Well, maybe it’s the weather or maybe I’m just in a curiously generous mood, but I thought I’d share a couple of surprisingly successful – yet simple dishes that have come dangerously close to “hit” status this past summer.

The first comes in the form of a challenge I frequently set for myself – whereby I try (with mixed success) to recreate a dish I’ve recently enjoyed in a restaurant. Using the smattering of ingredients they list on the menu (rarely the whole story) and my ability to decipher the proportions (with varying accuracy) in the hopes that eventually I might get lucky. This creamy, yet ridiculously light and refreshing rendition of a Cucumber Gazpacho is within sipping distance of its original from the Little Beet Table on Park Avenue.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-8-57-48-am

Cucumber Gazpacho

Cucumber Gazpacho – Serves 4

  • 4 large cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup green, seedless grapes
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk (if you can’t find unsweetened, then leave out the grapes)
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 3 – 4 Tblspn white wine vinegar (to taste)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • ½ cup roasted Marcona almonds for serving (or for snacking while you cook)
  • 1 Tblspn Chili oil (optional but highly recommended) *
  1. Peel, seed and roughly chop the cucumbers. Discard the peel and seeds. (Did I just write that?) Add the first 6 items to a blender (i.e. stop before you get to the salt) and puree thoroughly until smooth. Season with salt and feel free to juggle extra vinegar, salt or grapes to balance the sweet:salt:sour ratio. Don’t stop until you’re happy.
  2. Use a spatula to press through a fine sieve into a large bowl to remove all the solids.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours until well chilled. (If you don’t have 3 hours don’t add ice cubes. Leave the mixing bowl in the freezer while you’re making the soup.)
  4. Divide into serving dishes and toss in a few Marcona almonds. Dribble a few sparse freckles of chili oil on top and serve immediately.

* You can make your own chili oil by adding 1 Tblspn crushed red pepper flakes to ½ cup olive oil. Simmer over low heat in a small saucepan until fully absorbed for about 20 minutes. Strain and discard the chili flakes and let the oil cool to room temperature before using.
This shamelessly simple, down & dirty but delicious Crunchy Caramel Peaches was the result of a desperate think-outside-the-cereal-box moment when a crowd showed up with an unmistakably “what’s for dessert?” look on their faces. In less than 6 minutes, I whipped up whatever I could find before it became the most frequently requested dessert of the season.

 

img_9307

Crunchy Caramel Peaches

Crunchy Caramel Peaches – Serves 4

  • 2 ripe peaches
  • 2 Tblspn butter
  • 1 Tblspn Dulce de Leche *
  • Vanilla Ice-cream
  • Granola (The nuttiest one you can find. i.e. full of nuts – not crazy! See recipe below)
  1. Halve, pit and dice the peaches. Discard the pits. (There I go again.)
  2. In a large skillet at medium-high heat, melt the butter and sauté the peaches until they soften slightly and begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. (You’ll know you’ve gone too far when they start to disintegrate and you have the makings of peach marmalade in your pan. If so, discard and start over at #1.)
  3. Add the Dulce de Leche and continue to cook, stirring constantly until well blended for about a minute.
  4. Dollop a healthy spoonful of the peach mixture over one or more scoops of Vanilla ice-cream, and top with a handful of granola. Serve right away.

* Don’t use Caramel sauce or the sugar will crystalize. If you can’t find Dulce de Leche, you can either curl up in a corner and weep for 20 minutes, or you can make your own by boiling an sealed tin of condensed milk submerged in a deep pot of water for 2 hours. (Oh, and you might want to remember to top up with extra water as it evaporates from time to time or the tin will explode. Trust me. I’ve done it before. Took nearly 2 months to clean up the mess. And let the tin cool completely before you open it, or you will have 2nd degree burns and stalactites of molten caramel dripping from kitchen ceiling. #notfun, #betterthingstodowithmytime)

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-4-00-48-pm

Have you ever noticed on the label how much sugar they add to store bought granola? It’s insane! And not surprisingly, the better they taste -the more sugar/syrup/honey they add. And those that are supposedly “good for you” just have insipidly dry, boringly beige oats. For me, granola has to be choc full of rich, dark, brown, sticky clusters of nuts, so that when you make your way through the crunchy deliciousness, you get a mélange of flavors from hazels and pecans and almonds and pistachios with every bite.

This recipe comes with a strict warning: Keep out of reach of habitual in-between-meal snackers, or you’ll have nothing left for breakfast!

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-3-52-37-pm

Sugar-free nutty Granola

Sugar-free nutty Granola – About 12 servings, depending on whether you lock it away or not

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw coconut flakes (unsweetened)
  • 1 cup pistachio nuts that are roasted, unsalted, shelled and talented
  • ½ cup roasted hazelnuts chopped in half – big pieces, not crumbs
  • ½ cup raw pecans
  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tspn salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup Blackstrap molasses (see, no sugar/syrup/honey here)
  • ½ cup dried tart cherries
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine the first 9 ingredients (all the dry stuff except the cherries) in a large bowl.
  3. Warm the oil and molasses in a small saucepan and stir constantly until combined.
  4. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir well. (Except the cherries. That comes later.)
  5. Spread the mixture evenly onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a latex baking mat.
  6. Place in the center rack of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Stir the mixture around and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool completely. This is where everything becomes nice and sticky so don’t rush this part. Go do something else. Read a book. Binge watch House of Cards. Practice the piano. Vacuum the drapes.
  9. Evenly distribute the tart cherries into the granola as you pour it into an airtight container. #yum.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-3-49-04-pm

https://www.thelittlebeettable.com/