Thursday, May 28, 2009

A reason to celebrate.

We did it!

We are in our new apartment and I literally could cry just thinking about it. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it, so much so that I feel like a child with its favorite teddy bear - I'm afraid I'm going to love it to death.

Anyway, I now have an oven that is too smart for me - a Gaggenau - which I fear I'll have to take a course on to learn how to use. And since I'm leaving for a shoot in the morning, I don't have time to figure it out tonight.

So, just a simple little celebratory salad for you today - a meaty, 'mealified' version of the wonderful Caprese.

I'll be back in a couple of weeks with new recipes, pictures, and apartment details!

In the meantime, Bon Appetit with this meatier, kinkier version of a Caprese Salad - and celebrate if for no other reason then for, as Paula Dean says so wonderfully in her memoir 'It Ain't All About the Cookin' - just being on the right side of the dirt;) And in case it's not obvious enough - this is more assembly line cooking than a recipe - feel free to add what you have on hand or think would taste good - this is about the only redeeming quality of a salad, in my opinion.

Piggy Caprese Salad
Serves 2

arugula - 1/2 of a pre-washed pack from the grocery store
1 small bunch basil (fist sized)
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley (fist sized)
1 fresh mango or papaya, cut into bite sized chunks
1/2 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 slices prosciutto, broken into chunks with your fingers
2 tablespoons black olives, such as kalamata
fig balsamic vinegar - about 1 1/2 teaspoons (or sub regular balsamic)
2 teaspoons olive oil
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Add all to a large salad bowl. Toss gently, season with salt and pepper, and taste. You might want to lubricate your salad more thoroughly (I tend to like mine on the dryer side versus drenched like a wet dog), so by all means, season and dowse accordingly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

London Broil, Texas-Style with a Warm Peach, Tomato and Okra Salad

I haven't forgotten about you. You are very much in my thoughts. I've just been swamped with work (about to leave for a month-long shoot) AND moving apartments. In fact, I've been putting off posting because I am so eager to get into my new kitchen! I'll write more details when and if we move in - I don't want to jinx it.

In the meantime, here's a recipe that very well could become a summer entertaining staple at our house. The intense marinade makes even the lowly London broil take on a regal, 'look at me' character And when paired with the accompanying warm summer salad - well, you are literally eating summer with a knife and fork.

Enjoy the early days of summer (like a love affair - always the best part) and fingers crossed that my next post is from our new home!

London Broil, Texas-Style (in Cilantro Jalapeno Marinade)

1 lb London broil, cut into 4 steaks

1 jalapeno, roughly chopped (it's up to you wether or not to remove the seeds and ribs - I usually keep them in and it's not too hot)
2 cups fresh cilantro
1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

Add the jalapeno through the vinegar to a blender or food processor. Blend until well broken down, then add the oil and blend until well incorporated.

Place your steaks in a large ziploc bag or in a rimmed baking dish. Pour the marinade over and toss the steaks around to make sure they're well coated. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or preferably overnight.

Take the steaks out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Just before grilling, remove from the marinade, gently patting dry with a paper towel (you don't need to literally dry them - just give get off any excess and remove any outstanding herbs if grilling indoors as they will burn and result in the fire department paying you a visit:)

Season LIGHTLY with salt and pepper (this is optional - they'll have enough flavor but I'm a creature of habit.)

Preheat your grill pan to medium high, letting heat up for a few minutes, then add the steaks. After getting a nice sear (about 1 minute), reduce heat slightly and cook another 3-4 minutes (for medium) before flipping and cooking another 3 -4 minutes.

Remember to let your steaks rest a good 5 minutes, tented with foil to keep them warm, before slicing.

Warm Peach, Tomato, and Okra Salad with Toasted Pepitas

1 cup frozen whole okra
salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 peaches, just ripe, quartered
2 ripe vine tomatoes, de-stemmed and quartered
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons pepitas (I use the ones that are roasted and salted)

Preheat oven to 375. Add the okra (no need to thaw) to a large rimmed baking sheet or glass baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and the red pepper flakes. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix around until all okras are anointed.

Roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the tomatoes and peaches, sprinkling over the ground coriander. Add the rest of the olive oil and mix around, redistributing the veggies evenly throughout the pan. Return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes. Remove scattering over the fresh herbs and pepitas. Serve piping hot or at room temp.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pork Chops with Blackberry Pan Sauce and Melted Gruyere

Kris was out of town recently. While him going out of town makes me sad, it does have an upside - it means I can go buck wild in the kitchen. I can experiment with whatever I feel like, knowing that if it all goes tits up there's no one but me and the cats to know about it - I can simply call in a takeout order and pretend it never happened.

This experiment, however, proved to be a success. I had seen a recipe in one of my Williams Sonoma cookbooks for Fillet Mignon with Blackberry Sauce, and while I couldn't quite wrap my head around that, I thought chicken would make a good substitute. After all, the whole southern 'chicken & waffles' is a classic sweet and savory combination, as is turkey and cranberry sauce for that matter.

I then had a more random thought, remembering my mom saying that my grand dad had always eaten apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese on top. Again, that's not that crazy when you think about it either (i.e. the existence of fruit and cheese plates.) Somehow I decided that the best finishing touch on my experimental chicken would be a slice of nutty, creamy Gruyere to contrast the bright juiciness of the berry sauce. It was lovely, though I have to admit, I would have liked it just as much without it. This is one of those pan sauces you could put in a glass and drink.

Pork Chops with Blackberry Pan Sauce and Melted Gruyere
Serves 2.

2 pork chops (you can use either boneless or bone in, adjust cooking time accordingly)
salt and pepper
1 tablspoon butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil

small pat butter
3/4 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 tablespoon fig balsamic vinegar
tiny, 1 inch sprig of rosemary, snipped off one stalk
1 teaspoon honey
small pinch fresh cracked pepper
2 slices Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 200.

Season your pork on all sides with salt and pepper and set aside. Add the butter and olive oil to a large rimmed skillet and melt over medium high heat. Lower the heat slightly and add the chops, cooking about 2-3 minutes until you get a nice crust. Flip to the other side and cook another 2 minutes, just until cooked through (bone in will be closer to 4 minutes.)

Remove to a sheet pan and place in the oven to keep warm. Meanwhile, drain off the excess fat from the pan and return to medium heat, adding in a new small pat of butter. Add the berries and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Lower heat slightly and simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Stir in the fig balsamic vinegar, rosemary sprig, honey, and fresh cracked pepper and cook another minute, until slightly thickened. (If you don't have fig balsamic vinegar, you can stir in the tiniest bit - half teaspoon or so of any flavor of jam.)

Remove the pork chops from the oven and top with a slice of Gruyere. Plate them and drizzle with the pan sauce.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mediterranean 'Fajitas' with Halloumi Cheese, Roasted Peppers, Shallots, and Basil

Have you had Halloumi cheese? I hadn't heard of it until a couple of years ago, and now I'm an addict. I've even gotten Kris addicted too. He calls it 'that squeaky cheese.'

Halloumi is traditionally made with both sheep and goat's milk, but I understand that the addition of cow's milk is common when you purchase it in the states. Its origin is a little confusing, with it having ties to both Greece and Turkey. It is often said to have derived from Cypriot cuisine (Cyprus being an island in the eastern Mediterranean.)

But what makes it extra special is the fact that its high melting point allows you to grill it. Literally - you can throw it on the grill next to some bell peppers and slices of fresh Ciabatta for an elegant, quick crostini.

The recipe below sadly doesn't take advantage of its David Blaine-esque/fireproof characteristic, but is delicious nonetheless. And while I admit the piquillo peppers and Halloumi are on the pricey side, I can easily rationalize their purchase by the fact that the whole thing comes together in a half hour and that it's a quasi healthy dinner on the whole.

Mediterranean 'Fajitas' with Halloumi Cheese, Roasted Peppers, Shallots, and Basil

4 fresh (raw) chicken sausages
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the back of your knife
3 large shallots, cut in half length-wise then thinly sliced cross-wise
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra
1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine
8 piquillo peppers, halved (or roasted red bell peppers from a jar)
6 oz Haloumi cheese, cut into little 1/4 inch logs
zest of one small lemon (just a small pinch)
couple handfuls of fresh basil leaves, torn

Tortillas, for serving (I used the whole wheat healthy ones - but by all means use what you like!)

Preheat the oven to 400. Take a wide, rimmed baking dish (I use my round 12x12 Le Creuset) and spray it with nonstick spray. Add the sliced shallots and drizzle with olive oil, a little salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Mix around the pan with a spoon to incorporate. Add the sausages, spacing them out evenly, then the garlic cloves and drizzle lightly with additional olive oil.

Roast for fifteen minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully pour over the vermouth or white wine to deglaze the pan, loosening any sticking shallots with a wooden spoon. Flip the sausages to the other side, then sprinkle over the halved peppers and halloumi slices distributing evenly throughout the pan. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese has softened nicely and browned on the edges.

Remove and sprinkle over the lemon zest, stirring around to 'scent' the entire dish, then the basil leaves.

Cut the sausages into slices and serve in warmed tortillas, kind of like a mediterranean fajita, with additional red pepper flakes if desired.