Thursday, March 26, 2015

Steamed Clams Fagioli

This dish is a takeoff of the Italian peasant dish Pasta Fagioli, but steamed clams take the place of the pasta found in a traditional Fagioli. It’s loaded with the classic Italian flavors found in most Fagioli recipes and can be prepared in 30 minutes.

Fagioli has become so popular in American today that it’s widely found even in restaurants that don’t specialize in Italian cuisine. According to Wikipedia, the word for beans varies in the different Italian dialects so much that fagoli is it often pronounced differently. Pastafazoola, a song written by Van & Schenck, used the Neapolitan pronunciation for the rhyme - “Don’t be a fool, eat pasta fazool.” Whenever I hear the word fazool, it always reminds me of the line in Dean Martin’s song That’s Amore - “When the stars make you drool, just-a like a pasta fazool, that’s amore.” 

Meakin has his own way of steaming clams and that’s how we prepared them for this recipe so we would have fresh clam broth instead of having to use bottled clam broth. If you plan to use your own method to steam the clams, you’ll want to steam the clams first before you proceed with the recipe and add them at the end when you’re plating. Otherwise, just follow the recipe as written below. For a less soupy version, use the recommended ½ can of the tomatoes and beans.

We are crazy about steamed clams and thought this dish definitely fell into the “have-again” category. It is lighter and less filling than the traditional pasta fagioli and frankly we didn’t miss the pasta at all. Plus we’re always glad to welcome another 30 minute meal into our repertoire. Don’t forget the slices of a toasted baguette to sop up all of the delicious juices.

Steamed Clams Fagioli 
Adapted from Cooking Light, serves 4, can be prepared in 30 minutes
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained (I used entire can)
1/3 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons clam juice
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Dash of kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (I used entire can)
12 littleneck clams
4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices French bread baguette (about 4 ounces), toasted

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add onion and celery; sauté for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add red pepper; cook 1 minute. Stir in wine; cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth, clam juice, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper and drained beans. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat & simmer 2 minutes. Add clams to pan. Cover and cook over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until clams open (be sure discard any clams whose shells don’t open.) Ladle 2/3 cup soup into 4 bowls & top each with 3 clams. Serve with slicked of toasted baguette  to mop up the broth.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Easter recipes early next week. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Blood Orange Salad

Take advantage of the blood oranges while they’re available to create this spectacular salad using a variety of different oranges in a rainbow of gorgeous colors. Here I’ve paired dark colored blood oranges with red-fleshed, sweet cara cara navel oranges and bright orange-fleshed Florida navel oranges, resulting in a not only a beautiful but a very flavorful and refreshing salad.

If you can’t find blood oranges, this French Orange Salad shown below using all navel oranges is just as pretty and tasty. Long time readers may remember this Salad d’Oranges et Olives Noires navel orange salad with the slivers of red onions and kalamata olives here. I’ve taken that particular salad to parties and it’s always a big hit. People are a bit surprised when they first see it, but one taste convinces them that it is a delightful and refreshing combination that plays off of each other’s flavors beautifully.

French Orange Salad with Red Onions & Kalamata Olives - recipe here

This hastily made, colorful salad is adapted from one of Pierre Franey’s 60-Minute Gourmet series cookbooks many years ago.  At our house, we call this “Pierre’s salad.” Pierre Franey was a French chef who ran the kitchen at Le Pavillon restaurant in New York City for years. Pierre went on to write newspaper columns for the New York Times, penned some of my favorite cookbooks and also worked alongside his dear friend Craig Claiborne. It was Craig and Pierre along with Julia Child that taught my generation how to cook.

Citrus salads are a great substitute for tomato salads when tomatoes are tasteless and not in season. They are very refreshing as well as quite versatile. Thinly sliced radishes take the place of the feta cheese for a nice peppery crunch in the blood orange salad shown below. I’ve also substituted peppery flavored radishes for the red onions with great success in the French orange salad shown above with the kalamata olives.  

The possibilities of different combinations of this salad are endless. Try a pink grapefruit in place of the red-fleshed cara cara oranges to add a sharper note to the salad. Garnish with slivered red onions and black olive slices as I did originally. I’ve even seen toasted coconut with chopped pistachios. Use any kind of nuts you like or no nuts at all. My friend Bonnie of From a Writers Kitchen composed a gorgeous still life salad with blood oranges, strawberries and kiwis here. How about grilled asparagus with blood oranges slices? Or use an orange salad as a dessert as I did here that is very palate refreshing after a heavy meal such as a French Beef Daube. Take a look at my Pinterest Salad Board here and you’ll see a great range of different flavor combinations and garnishes for blood oranges.

Blood Orange Salad 
Adapted from Salad d’Oranges et Olives Noires in 60 Minute Gourmet by Pierre Franey– serves 4 or 5
Printable Recipe

2 each blood oranges, cara cara, and Florida navel oranges

Trim off the ends of the oranges with a sharp knife. With the same knife remove the peel, then cut the oranges into thin slices and arrange in an attractive manner on a platter. Drizzle with the vinaigrette below and garnish with the pistachios, feta cheese, and mint leaves.

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
A couple of pinches of sea salt and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

To make the vinaigrette, place the paprika, vinegar and oil, salt and pepper in a small jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well.

Chopped pistachios
Feta cheese
Fresh mint leaves

Garnish the oranges with pistachios, finely crumbled feta cheese and mint leaves. The salad is best served within 30 minutes, or if you wish to hold it longer, add the mint leaves at the last minute to prevent them from wilting. Salad is easily doubled.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.
Have a great week everyone.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Meyer Lemon Chicken

Crusty chicken studded with slices of bright yellow Meyer lemons and browned potatoes makes a very pretty dish and is certainly company worthy.

Meyer lemons are a cross between regular lemons and mandarin oranges. They have a sweeter, more floral taste and their skins are thinner, making them harder to transport and handle. They grow well in warm climates where it doesn’t freeze, such as southern California and south Florida.

Meyer lemons sometimes can be difficult to find, but the have have become increasingly popular so you might be surprised where you can and can't find them. It’s funny how I can almost always count on our supermarket in the mountains to have a bag of Meyer lemons. And here we are 750 miles south in southwest Florida where Meyer lemons grow locally and one day I saw them and the next day they were gone. That’s what happened to me when I decided to buy the lemons for this dish. Publix doesn’t carry them, however a nearby farm stand had lots of locally grown Meyer lemons (try saying Fort Myers Meyer lemons quickly 3 times in a row) the other day when we were there to pick up a box of local strawberries. The very next day when we went to buy the lemons, poof, they were all gone. So you never know. But don’t fear if you can’t find Meyer lemons though. Just add a pinch of sugar to regular lemon juice and you’ll replicate the flavors of a Meyer lemon.

This is the kind of dish I save for weekends when I’m not in a hurry to get dinner on the table. It’s not a quick dish to prepare and requires some active prep time. However, the flavors are well worth the extra minutes it takes.

Meyer Lemon Chicken
Adapted from Cooking Light – serves 6 – 1 breast or 1 thigh per person
Printable Recipe

2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, cut in halves crosswise
2 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound small red potatoes, quartered
1 Meyer lemon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then remove seeds
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 cup low salt or unsalted chicken stock, divided
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 ounces pitted olives, we used a combination of green and kalamata
2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
Pinch of sugar, not necessary unless you are using a regular lemon
2 tablespoons butter
Fresh parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 400°.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large ovenproof skillet, swirl the oil around, then turn the heat to medium-high. Sprinkle chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides.  Add chicken to pan, skin side down; cook 6 minutes or until skin is golden brown and crisp. Turn chicken over. Place pan in oven. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of chicken registers 165°.

Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Discard pan drippings (do not wipe pan clean). Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add potatoes to pan; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook potatoes on each side until done all the way through and browned. Remove potatoes from pan. Add lemon slices to pan; cook 1 minute on each side or until browned. Remove lemons from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic; sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add wine and chopped fresh thyme; cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.

Return potatoes and lemon slices to pan. Add 2/3 cup chicken stock, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper & cook until potatoes are completely tender. Combine remaining 1/3 cup stock with cornstarch and stir with a whisk to combine. Add cornstarch mixture and olives to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add a pinch of sugar to the lemon juice if you used a regular lemon, and then add the lemon juice and butter, stirring until butter melts. Return chicken to pan, turning to coat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve right away with the pan sauce.

Cook’s notes: Meyer lemons aren’t as tart as a regular lemon. If you use a regular lemon, add a nice pinch of sugar to the lemon juice to help replicate the milder Meyer lemon juice. Use small potatoes, or if all you can find is large potatoes, cut them into pieces the size of a quartered small potato. No matter what their size, be sure to cook the potatoes until they are cooked all the way through when you are browning them in the first phase because they will cook only a little bit more at the end of the recipe. Our chicken breasts were huge. If yours are very small, you might want to use three breasts. If your chicken thighs are very small, I would suggest using 4 – 6. Our thighs were fairly small compared to the breasts and one thigh made a rather small serving.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sweet-and-Sour Chicken

Wait until the aromas of this chicken suddenly fill your house while it's browning. If anyone’s home, you’ll have to beat ‘em away with a wooden spoon because this dish smells soooo good. These spice rubbed chickens thighs are braised alongside carrots and onions in a sweet-and-sour honey-lemon sauce and I swear you’ll think you’re on a holiday in some exotic country.

While this may smell like it’s been braising all day, it’s ready to serve in an hour, including about 30 minutes active time. That to me is an easy, week-day meal with little fuss and great results. I usually shy away from much sugar in savory dishes, but there’s only two tablespoons of honey for four to six people, so that’s not really that much sugar considering.

Rice makes a nice accompaniment, but if you think you won’t miss it or are watching carbs, the chicken and vegetables are great on their own.

Here, why don’t you have a bite?

Sweet-and-Sour Chicken
Slightly adapted from Gourmet Weekly, serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

8 small chicken thighs with bones, skin removed (optional), about 2 ½ to 2 ¾ pounds total
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons Hungarian paprika
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled & halved, then cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-wide strips
1 pound carrots, peeled & cut on the diagonal into 1” pieces
2 tablespoons minced garlic
½ cup water
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons mild honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Stir together the paprika and cinnamon and rub onto chicken.

Heat oil in a 12” heavy non-stick skillet over moderately high heat until it shimmers, then brown chicken in 2 batches, taking care not to crowd the pan. Turn once. It should take about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer browned chicken to a plate.

Discard all but 3 tablespoons fat from skillet, then add onion and carrots. (If you removed the skin as we did, you may have to add some oil to equal 3 tablespoons.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring about 1 minute, taking care that the garlic doesn’t burn.

Return chicken to what would be skin side up to skillet and nest it into vegetables. Stir together water, lemon juice, and honey until blended, then add to skillet. (Tip - spray measuring spoon with cooking spray such as Pam first before measuring the honey to keep the honey from sticking to the spoon.)  Skim any fat from the sauce, then taste for seasonings. Sprinkle with herbs right before serving.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Company Pot Roast

When cold weather arrives, there’s nothing better than a comforting pot roast simmering in the oven to warm you up. I know many of you have had to endure a very brutal winter and bone chilling temperatures. Believe me, you have all of my sympathy. So much so that I made my husband promise I would never have to be cold again and we follow the sun to Florida for the winter. But occasionally it even gets cold down in southern Florida. A couple of evenings our temperatures dropped down into the thirties, which is cold for this area. Those temperatures may sound warm to you if you’re in New England, Boston or Canada. However, I think that you might be surprised to learn that there are many families here, such as the ones who pick our Florida crops, such winter tomatoes, oranges and strawberries, that have no heat in their homes, much less insulation, which we all take for granted.

As you can see, this pot roast has a thick rich tomato sauce, which is perfect over creamy mashed potatoes. Some people might call it tomato gravy. However, it’s different from our normal recipe which contains chunks of simmered carrots, onions, and tomatoes. I suggest that you strain the sauce if it ends up a bit runny as ours did. While we did enjoy this version of pot roast and it really took the chill off of, personally I like my old pot roast recipe, Boeuf a la Mode from Louie Diat’s French Country Cooking for Americans, better. Louis Diat was the French Chef at the Ritz Hotels in Paris and London for years. When Cesar Ritz opened the new Ritz-Carlton in New York, he sent Diat to the US to be the Chef and it was there that he created the potato leek soup we now know as French vichyssoise. Louie Diat’s beef a la mode recipe is strictly country French cooking and a bit old fashioned. While his recipe is certainly not as fancy as this new one, I found the tomato sauce in this recipe a bit too rich and “tomato-e” for me. It might be because I’ve come down with a cold and my taste buds are off. That being said, the thing I did learn from this recipe was Ina’s suggestion of adding a splash of red wine before serving to give it an edge really worked. I’ve definitely taken note of that and will try that in the future with other red wine sauces. One more great tip from Ina.

We used a bottom round roast as opposed to the prime boneless beef chuck called for. I think it’s a shame to use prime beef when it’s going to be simmered for a long time. As with any long simmering dish such as this, resting in the refrigerator overnight is highly recommended. And don’t forget that splash of red wine just before serving.

Company Pot Roast
Adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten – serves 8
Printable Recipe

1 (4 to 5-pound) prime boneless beef chuck roast, tied (we used a bottom round roast)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour
Good olive oil
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 to 4 leeks)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed & finely chopped
2 cups good red wine, such as Burgundy, plus a splash before serving
2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 branches fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
2 branches fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Pat the beef dry with a paper towel. Season the roast all over with salt and pepper. Dredge the whole roast in flour, including the ends. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear for 4 to 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn and sear the other side and then turn and sear the ends. This should take 4 to 5 minutes for each side. Remove the roast to a large plate.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the Dutch oven. Add the carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the wine and Cognac and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the thyme and rosemary together with kitchen string and add to the pot. Put the roast back into the pot, bring to a boil, and cover. Place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender or about 160 degrees F internally. Turn the heat down to 250 degrees F after about an hour to keep the sauce at a simmer.

At this point, if you have time, let the pot roast come to room temperature and allow it to sit in the refrigerator, covered, overnight. Meals such as these benefit from sitting overnight. When ready to proceed, skim off as much fat as possible and reheat gently at 325 degrees F until it is heated through.

Remove the roast to a cutting board. Remove the herb bundle and discard. Transfer half the sauce and vegetables to a blender or a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree until smooth. Pour the puree back into the pot, place on the stovetop over low heat, and return the sauce to a simmer. Place 2 tablespoons flour and the butter in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork. Stir into the sauce and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring until thickened. Add a splash of red wine before serving to give the sauce a nice edge, then taste for seasonings. Remove the strings from the roast and slice the meat. Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme and serve warm with the sauce spooned over. Excellent with mashed potatoes to fully take advance of the sauce.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.
Have a great weekend everyone.