Archive for the ‘Main Dishes’ Category

Here’s a delicious recipe you can throw together in no time, especially if you make the oven version. You can use regular spinach instead of the baby spinach, but then you have to spend time removing the tough stems. The heat from the hot vegetables and meat will wilt the baby spinach. If your spinach doesn’t soften up enough for your tastes, you can always dress the vegetables and microwave for about 30 seconds and toss again. That usually does the trick for me.

A side note for local readers, Waverly Market in Framingham has incredible sausages. I wish they had better store hours though—they’re only open from 9-5 and closed on Sundays. (Perhaps that’s when the cute little Italian ladies that sit out front make their Sunday gravy?)

Warm Spinach Salad with Grilled Sausage (adapted from Real Simple)

4 Italian sausages (about 1 pound)
8 plum tomatoes, cut in half crosswise, or an equivalent amount of any kind of tomato
1 large onion, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings -I like to use Vidalia for this
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and pepper
1 container baby spinach
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

You can make this on the grill or in the oven. The oven is actually easier, and your house will smell fantastic.

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, and 3 tablespoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Grill directions: Preheat your grill. With a fork, prick the sausages in several places. Grill the sausages turning occasionally, until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, brush or toss the tomatoes and onion with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Grill until tender, 5 to 6 minutes per side for the onion and 2 to 3 minutes per side for the tomatoes. Put your spinach in a large bowl and place the vegetables on top of the spinach as they are done. Slice your sausage into bite sized pieces and add to the veggies, toss with dressing, and serve.

Oven directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prick the sausages in several places with a fork, and place on a baking sheet. Toss your cut up tomatoes and onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil, place on baking sheet with sausages and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, turning the veggies and sausages about halfway through cooking time. They’re done when the veg is soft and slightly caramelized. Put your spinach in a large bowl and place the vegetables on top of the spinach. Slice your sausage into bite sized pieces and add to the veggies, toss with dressing, and serve.


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Perfect Pizza Dough

This is perfect pizza dough if you’re into thin and crispy pizza. Ashley specifically asked me to post my dough recipe, so here it is. I make mine using my Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook, but since Ash doesn’t have one of those, I’ll provide the instructions for how to make it when you have to knead it by hand. If anyone wants the Kitchenaid version, please let me know and I’ll post that one too.


1 cup warm water (110F)
1 (1/4 ounce) envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus 1.5 teaspoons to oil the bowl
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar and stir to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until all the flour is incorporated but the dough is still slightly sticky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes.

Oil a large mixing bowl with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When the dough has risen, punch down and roll out as desired. Sprinkle the pizza peel or pizza pan with cornmeal or make the pizzas on parchment paper and slide onto your preheated pizza stone.

Divide the dough in half, and make two pizzas from it. Stretch the dough out as thin as you can get it—if it’s not cooperating and is too elastic, just let it rest for 10 minutes or so and try again. It should loosen up after a rest.

Use less toppings than you think you’ll need. Too much sauce and vegetables makes for a soggy pizza.

Preheat your oven to at least 500 degrees, with the pizza stone already in the oven. If you make the pizza on parchment, you can either lift the parchment right onto the stone (and leave it there under the pizza) or you can use a pizza peel or the back of a cookie sheet to slide the pizza (along with the parchment) right onto the stone. The thin crust pizza should only take 6-7 minutes to cook on a hot stone.

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Ultimate Porkchops

Until I found this pork chop recipe, my pork chops were always dry no matter what I did–cooked them fast, cooked them long and in liquid—it didn’t matter, they were rarely ever moist and juicy. Now I always use this method to make pork chops because it is no fail. The secret is two-fold—the brining makes them juicy and moist, and the fresh bread crumb coating keeps them juicy and moist throughout the cooking process. Even though the recipe says you can use dried herbs, I always use fresh ones for this. The difference in how much flavor the fresh herbs impart is noticeable and worth it.

I’ve tried modifying the recipe by using the brine technique and using dry breadcrumbs instead of fresh, or panko, and frankly, both tries were not nearly as successful as the original recipe. I’m convinced that you HAVE to use fresh ones for this recipe to be amazing.

Sometimes I can’t find the thin 1/2 inch pork chops at the market, and if that’s the case I’ll either cut 1 inch pork chops into 1/2 inch ones, or I’ll cook the thicker chops in the frying pan until they are browned on one side, and then flip them over and place them in a 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes so that they get cooked inside before the coating burns. (If you try to get thick chops cooked all the way through on the stove top the breadcrumbs will burn before they are cooked inside.)

If you’ve always been disappointed with a dry and flavorless pork chop in the past, I urge you to give this one a try.

Ultimate Porkchops (adapted from a recipe from Epicurious.com)

2 cups milk
2.5 teaspoons salt
4 (1/2-inch-thick) pork chops (with or without bone; 1 lb total)
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (from 5 slices firm white sandwich bread, ground in a food processor or blender)
1.5 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crumbled
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Brine pork chops:
Stir together milk and 2 teaspoons salt in a shallow 3-quart dish, then add pork chops. Marinate, covered and chilled, turning over once, at least 1 hour (and up to 4 hours but no more than that).

Fry pork chops:
Stir together bread crumbs, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and remaining half teaspoon salt in a shallow bowl.
Lift pork chops from milk 1 at a time, letting excess drip off, and dredge in bread crumbs, lightly patting crumbs to help adhere, then transfer to a tray, arranging in 1 layer.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté pork chops in 2 batches, without crowding, turning over once, until golden brown and just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer as cooked to a platter and keep warm in oven. (Add more oil and butter to skillet if needed.)

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Crispy Panko Chicken

This is a really simple and fast way to just use a few ingredients to end up with a surprisingly delicious and fairly healthy main dish. Panko rules–if you’ve never tried this type of bread crumb, you’re in for a nice surprise. The outside gets nice and crispy and brown, and the inside says very moist and tender and the mustard gives it a great kick. I like making this when I am pressed for time and don’t want to make a big mess doing a more traditional ‘breading’ which requires lots of bowls of stuff and goopy fingers, too.

This recipe serves 2, but you can easily double it or triple it if you’re serving more people.

Crispy Panko Chicken

1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp mustard –i like Dijon, but you can use whatever kind you prefer
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (found in most supermarkets in the Asian aisle)
small amount of flour
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Melt the butter and mix with the panko in a small bowl.

2. Dry the chicken with a paper towel. Dredge the chicken in a little flour and shake off the excess.

3. Coat chicken breasts with mustard. Place on a greased, foil-lined baking sheet, top with crumbs and bake approximately 15 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.

That’s it!

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Chili Lime Flank Steak

I’ll continue the roast chicken meals tomorrow–it’s time for beef.

I got this recipe a few years ago from Tyler Florence. It’s very easy, fast, tasty and works on the grill, too. It’s key to make sure you let the cooked steak rest for at least 10 minutes before you slice into it. Cut it against the grain in thin slices. The reason you do that is to cut the fibers of the steak short–makes it tender.

You can use the rub on any steak–it’s really nice on rib eyes and cheap london broil, too.

Chili Lime Flank Steak

* 1 flank steak (about 1 3/4 pound)
* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
* 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
* 1 tablespoons kosher salt
* 2 teaspoons chili powder
* 1 lime, zested

Preheat a broiler to high. Bring the steak to room temperature about 20 minutes before cooking.

Mix the olive oil, paprika, sugar, chili powder, salt, chili powder, and zest in a bowl to make a paste. Rub the spice mixture all over the steak. Broil until just charred and crispy on top, about 6 minutes on 1 side. Flip the steak and cook until beginning to char, about 6 minutes more or until rare and temperature registers 115 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Place the steak on a cutting board and let rest, tented with foil for about 10 minutes. Slice across the grain and serve.

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Or, Meal #2 from your roast chicken leftovers

Chicken quesadillas are great if you’re in a rush and want to be sitting down and eating something delicious in less than 10 minutes. Also, you don’t need to use very much chicken at all, so it’s terrific way to stretch leftovers. The apple slices are the trick in this simple recipe, adding a nice texture and sweet tart contrast. You could do this with flour tortillas instead, but try it with the corn because they really are yummier that way. If you have more time, make the rice recipe too.

Chicken Quesadillas

Leftover chicken, sliced or shredded
Corn tortillas
Butter, softened
Monteray Jack cheese, shredded
Granny Smith apple, sliced
Salsa, sour cream, guacamole or avocado, chopped cilantro, lime –whatever combo of flavorful and ‘wet’ you like

Heat up a skillet over med-high heat. Briefly warm up your leftover chicken, remove from pan and set aside. For each quesadilla: Take one tortilla, spread a little butter on it, and put it in the pan. Add a little handful of cheese to the tortilla and spread it out. When the cheese is melted and the tortilla is lightly browned, put another lightly buttered corn tortilla on it, and flip it over. (Or you can take the lightly browned single tortilla out of the pan and fold it in half. Your choice.) After about 30 seconds or so, remove from pan to a cutting board. Open it up, and add a little chicken, some apple slices, and your condiments. Put it back together, cut into wedges and serve.

Yellow Rice with Corn

I was watching Daisy Martinez on PBS one day with Anne, and we saw her make this rice. She went on and on about how tasty it is, so Anne wanted me to make it. It is *really* good, and once you buy the stuff you probably don’t already have on hand, you’re all set to make many more batches in the future. Prior to making the rice, David thought he didn’t like green olives. I made it anyway, and he scarfed it down. I didn’t point out he just ate green olives until he’d finished his second helping. (Now I am allowed to put green olives in whatever I want. Score!)

Good to know:

1) Annatto seeds, known as achiote in Spanish, are small irregularly shaped, deep reddish colored seeds about the size of a lentil. They grow in pods but are sold loose in jars in the spice aisle. I found them with the Goya products. Steeping annatto (achiote) seeds in hot olive oil for a few minutes gives the the oil a brilliant orange-gold color and it infuses it with a nutty, delicate aroma and add a quick kick to whatever you use it in.

2) Sofrito is also found in the Goya section in tall jars. It’s a combination of tomato, peppers, onion and herbs and spices which have been sauteed together and pureed. If you’re ambitious, you can make your own from scratch and keep it in the freezer.

3) Alcaparrado is also in the Goya section. It’s just a combination of green olives, pimentos and capers. The last jar of it I bought had unpitted olives in it, and I was mad when I got home and realized that I grabbed the wrong jar.

4) This recipe makes a ton. It freezes marvelously, though. So I usually make the full amount, and freeze the leftovers. You can heat up the frozen leftover rice in the microwave and it’ll be just as good as the day you made it.

Yellow Rice with Corn (adapted from a Daisy Martinez recipe)

1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of annatto seeds
1/2 cup sofrito
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 cups long grain white rice
Homemade or boxed chicken broth as needed (about 4 cups)
Cilantro, chopped (optional, but suggested)

1) Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don’t overheat the mixture or the seeds will turn black and the oil a nasty green. This only takes a minute or two. Once they’re sizzling away, pull the pan from the heat and let stand until the sizzling stops. Strain out the seeds and put the pretty red oil into a big dutch oven, or large 4 to 5 quart saucepan with a tight fitting lid.

2) Turn the heat on medium. Stir in the sofrito and cook until most of the water is absorbed. Add the alcaparrado or olives, salt, cumin, pepper and bay leaves and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute.

3) Add the rice, and stir to coat the rice with the oil and other ingredients. Cook and and stir until the rice changes color–you are shooting for a chalky opaque color.

4) Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the rice by about 2 fingers width–this should be about 4 cups.

5) Add the corn. Bring to a boil, and let cook, uncovered until the broth reaches the level of the rice.

6) Stir the rice once (just once!) and cover. Reduce the heat to low, and cook for exactly 20 minutes. While it is cooking, don’t stir and don’t even open the pot. After the 20 minutes, let rest for 5 minutes before opening the pot. Gently fluff the rice from the bottom to the top, and sprinkle on some chopped cilantro if using and serve.

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Easy Easy Chicken Stock

Or…what you do after Meal #1 to prepare for more meals

One thing I forgot to mention about Thomas Keller chicken–Unless you have a scrupulously clean oven (which I do not), you may wish to remove the batteries from your kitchen smoke detector and or/open a window or two. Expect some smoke because it’s a spattery process roasting a chicken at a high temp. (Note to Santa: EZ Off Oven Cleaner will fit in my Christmas stocking.)

One of my least favorite cooking tasks is dealing with removing meat from bird bones. I think this might be from childhood– Sarah often waving a chicken leg around in my face, with all the unappetizing looking bits hanging off, gobbling it down like it was no big deal while I squirmed. For a long time, I was a boneless breast sort of girl. So the idea of cooking the bones to make stock didn’t appeal to me at all.

I got over it when I realized just how often I use chicken stock in recipes. A cup here, a half a cup there–buying it is so expensive and I’d end up throwing away half used packages. And god only knows how some factory is making their stock. And just what are those strange chemicals they’re putting in?

These days after we have a whole chicken, I steel myself up and take as much meat off the bird as I can and put it aside for later and make stock with carcass. It’s easy, it makes my house smell great, makes me feel like I am recycling, and tastes way better than anything you can find in a can or box. It lasts about 4 days in the fridge or about 3 weeks in the freezer. (Not that it ever stays in my freezer that long.)

Here’s how I do it:

You can cook this in either a big pot, or a big crockpot.

Take your chicken carcass and sort of crack it up a bit–that allows the marrow to seep out of the bones for a tastier result. Put the bones in your pot. Grab a couple of carrots and a couple of stalks of celery (with the leaves). If you have a parsnip or turnip laying around, great. If not, no stress. Grab a good sized onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Give your veggies a chop or two so they fit in the pan. I don’t bother peeling anything–not even the onions. (The skins give your stock a prettier yellow color.) Just whack the garlic with the side of your knife so it’s a little crushed. Throw all this into the pot with the bones. If you have them, throw in a sprig of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf, a few peppercorns and a small handful of fresh parsley–if you don’t, don’t worry about it. Add just enough cold water to cover the bones by two fingers–any more than that and you’ll end up with watery stock. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat until you’ve got a really low simmer. Skim off any foam. Go back every now and then and skim off any more foam that forms. Let it simmer gently for 3-4 hours (or overnight if you’re using a crockpot). Strain your stock, and throw away all the bones and veggies. Let it cool for at least a half an hour or so, and refrigerate. Later, after it’s cold, all the fat will have risen to the top and can easily be scraped off and discarded. You’ll note your stock looks like jelly. That’s good! It’ll turn liquid again when you heat it up.

And now you’re ready to make chicken pot pie, or my version of Anne’s chicken fricassee, or chicken soup, or any number of yummy things.

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