Showing posts with label Easy-to-Make Recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Easy-to-Make Recipes. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: Easy-to-Make Gnocchi is a Perfect Staying-at-Home Comfort Food



Monday, March 30, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: Easy-to-Make Gnocchi is a Perfect Staying-at-Home Comfort Food 

Making gnocchi is perfect for this time when we are spending a lot of time at home. If you make gnocchi already, you know how easy they are to prepare. If you have enjoyed gnocchi in Italian restaurants, you remember how these heavenly "pillows" make you happy.


I was lucky enough to have chef Mirko Paderno invite me into his kitchen where he did a cooking video showing how to make gnocchi. Please go this link to see Mirko make gnocchi.

Mirko's original recipe was designed to serve 8. I have adapted his recipe to serve 4 people since we cannot currently have dinner parties. I made other small changes as well.

Gnocchi Made with Cold Potatoes

For Paderno, two details are key to making the best gnocchi. The potatoes must be steamed over salted boiling water so the flesh does not become water-logged. 

Mirko lets his salt-steamed potatoes cool before he puts them into the food mill. By using cold potatoes, the dough needs less flour. Also, if hot potatoes are used, when the egg and flour are added, the gnocchi must be cooked immediately to avoid becoming soggy. By working with cold potatoes, he can make the dough, seal it in plastic wrap and use it later that day or the next.

Paderno uses Idaho russet potatoes because they have a neutral flavor, the better to work with a variety of sauces. But he suggests using any potato you enjoy, even sweet potatoes or purple potatoes. 

Paderno uses “00” flour which blends easily with the potato. If “00” is not available, use all-purpose (AP) flour. 

The amount of flour used partly depends on the moisture of the cooked potatoes. Getting the right density takes a bit of practice. The gnocchi dough should be not too dry and not too damp. Like pastry dough, with a dusting of flour, the gnocchi should roll out without sticking on the work surface. Watchthe video to see Paderno’s technique.

Serves 4

Time to prepare: 30 minutes

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Idaho russet potatoes, washed, skin on
5 ounces “00” or AP flour
2 tablespoons AP flour for dusting
1/2 extra large egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place a steamer on the bottom of a large pot. Add water only to the bottom of the steamer. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Place potatoes in the pot. Cover.  

Depending on the size of the potatoes, cook 20 minutes or until a paring knife can be inserted into the potatoes easily. Add water as needed if more steaming is required. Remove when the potatoes are soft but not mushy. 

Cool potatoes to room temperature or refrigerate. When it is time to make the gnocchi, peel and discard the skins or reserve to sauté with onions and parsley for breakfast. 

Run the cooked, peeled potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill using a fine blade. If neither is available, press the softened potatoes though a strainer or colander.

The potatoes will now look like strands of soft pasta. Place into a mixing bowl and add flour (preferably "00") and mix well together. 

Sprinkle work area with flour. Place potato-flour mixture on the work area and create a “volcano,” the way you do when making fresh pasta, with a depression in the middle of the mound.

In a bowl, crack open a raw egg and whisk with a fork until the white and yolk are well blended.

Pour 1/2 the egg mixture into the center of the volcano.  Reserve the other 1/2 for another use.

Using the fork and your fingers, work the egg, flour and potato together until all ingredients are combined into a ball. 

As you do with pasta (please see that recipe as well), roll the ball back and forth on the work surface. Sprinkle additional flour to prevent sticking. When the ball is smooth and well-formed, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place into an air-tight plastic bag and refrigerate for one hour or until the next day.

Before cooking the gnocchi, make a sauce. That can be as simple as a butter sauce with a little pasta water or as complicated as a braised meat ragu.


Shaping the Dough into Gnocchi

Sprinkle the work surface with flour. Work in batches. Cut the dough into four pieces. 

Form one piece of dough into a ball and then using both hands, fingers and palms, roll the potato dough back and forth until it takes the shape of a dowel, about 1” in diameter. 



The dough is forgiving so if the dowel breaks apart, start over.

Once you have made a uniform shape, create individual gnocchi using a pastry cutter or chefs knife. The gnocchi should be approximately 1” long.


It is important to mark each gnocchi using a fork, your finger or a gnocchi board. The indentations will help the sauce stick to each gnocchi.

Cooking the Gnocchi

Fill a large pot with water. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a boil.


The gnocchi cook quickly. To determine how much time is needed, place several test gnocchi into the water. 

If the first gnocchi breaks apart, either the water is boiling too fast and/or the potato dough needs more flour, in which case you can return to the work area, gather up the gnocchi, sprinkle with flour, knead together, roll out and cut again.

If your gnocchi hold their shape in the boiling water, test how long they should cook. Taste one after 30 seconds. Taste another after 45 seconds. And another after 60 seconds and so on. Decide which you like and use that timing to make the rest. For my latest batch, 120 seconds worked the best.

Working in batches, carefully drop a dozen gnocchi at a time into the boiling, salted water. 

Using a wire strainer, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water. 

Drain and add to the heated sauce, which can be as simple as sautéed San Marzano tomatoes with olive oil or a tablespoon or two of pasta water mixed with a good quality melted butter. Or more robust with slices of grilled sausage or coated with pesto sauce.

Serve each plate of gnocchi hot, topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: One Chicken Makes 3 Meals

Living in a coronavirus world means that markets are stressed by shoppers who need more supplies since they are cooking at home and because people are buying extra. Finding a whole chicken may take a bit of work, but the results are well-worth the effort. 



Restaurants are closed. The home kitchen is now more important than ever. What's needed are easy-to-make recipes that yield not just one but several meals.

A roasted whole chicken is a great way to go.

After you have enjoyed the hot-from-the-oven chicken, by using the bones and pan drippings, you can make a stock, which in turn can be used to make soups and sauces.

My mother and grandmother taught me that to waste food is a sin. In this case, that means always reserving the pan drippings, giblets, neck, heart, bones and carcass of the chicken to make a best-ever stock that you can use to make a delicious chicken-vegetable-rice soup or chicken and dumplings.


If a liver came with the chicken, use it to make a tasty mushroom-chicken liver pate for an amuse bouche.

Serve the whole chicken with sides or make the one chicken serve up several meals by combining a leg, wing or part of the breast with steamed rice and a chopped parsley salad.


Easy to Make, No Fuss Whole Roast Chicken

I have a friend who doesn't cook. For her, a roasted chicken is the ideal dish because it has only a few simple steps. 

As with anything in life, begin with good ingredients to achieve better results. That is especially true in cooking. Buy a good plump, pale-pink chicken, preferably one that was raised without hormones. 

Check the expiration date to confirm it is fresh. 

One chicken 3 1/2 - 4 pounds feeds 4 people. If you are feeding fewer people, the chicken will provide you with even more meals. 

If you aren't going to eat all the meat and stock within 2 days, use plastic wrap to wrap the cooked chicken, place the pieces inside a sealed plastic bag and freeze. 

To freeze the stock, place the liquid in sealable containers, preferably 8 or 16 oz for easy use. 

Only use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. All the other brands I've seen add chemical preservatives. Diamond Crystal does not.

Use a roasting sheet tray larger than the chicken, with 1" sides. 
 A sheet tray with sides lower than a roasting pan facilitates browning on the sides of the chicken. 

Line the bottom with aluminum foil and, if available, a Silpat sheet. 

If a Silpat (non-stick) sheet is not available, lining the pan with aluminum foil is sufficient for easy-clean up. The advantage of a Silpat sheet is that all the delicious drippings slide off easily and can be added to the stock. 

Silpat sheets are widely available in many supermarkets, at all cooking supply stores and online. Use a Silpat sheet that fits the dimensions of your pan.

Truss the chicken with kitchen twine if you want. 



As an option, place Yukon Gold potatoes, brown mushrooms and yellow onions on the bottom of the roasting pan when you turn over the chicken. They will acquire flavor from the drippings. Serve the vegetables with the chicken or use in a soup.

 Serves 4

Time to prep: 15 minutes

Time to cook: 60 - 90 minutes depending on size of chicken

Time to rest before serving: 5 minutes

Special Cooking Tools 

Roasting sheet tray (with a 1" rim)

Aluminum foil and Silpat sheet (optional) to fit the roasting sheet tray

12"-14" kitchen tongs

Roasting rack (optional)

Cooking twine (optional)

Ingredients for roasting

1 whole 3 1/2 - 4 pound chicken, washed, liver, giblets, neck and heart if included, removed, washed and reserved separately

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, quartered (optional)

1 large yellow onion, washed, peeled, root end and top removed, quartered (optional)

6 brown mushrooms, washed, stem end removed, leave whole (optional)

Directions

First, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (remember the 20 second drill), then wash the chicken inside and out with water (no soap). Dry off the outside of the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Prepare a roasting pan by lining the bottom with aluminum foil. Place a Silpat sheet on top of the foil and, if available, a roasting rack on top of the Silpat sheet and aluminum foil.

Drizzle olive oil inside and outside the whole chicken and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Place the chicken breast-side down on a roasting rack, if available. If one is not available, place the chicken breast-side down directly on the aluminum foil/Silpat sheet lined roasting pan and place into the oven.

Cook 30 minutes.

Using oven mitts, remove the chicken from the oven. Place on stove top and use tongs to turn over the chicken so now it is breast-side up.

Add vegetables to the bottom of the roasting pan (optional).


Cook another 30 minutes or until the legs move easily.

Remove from the oven. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the top. Allow the chicken to rest, to release its juices.

That's it.

To make chicken stock from the bones and pan drippings, please look below to the directions for Making Chicken Stock.

Feta-Brined Roasted Whole Chicken

My favorite roast chicken takes a bit more effort (not that much!) and seven additional ingredients.

To make the roast chicken more festive, I add feta and onions on top. Neither are essential but they add delicious flavors.

Brining the whole chicken for two hours or overnight makes the meat more tender and moist. That extra step is well worth it, but can be omitted.

One chicken 3 1/2 - 4 pounds feeds 4 people. If you are feeding fewer people, the chicken will provide you with even more meals. If you aren't going to eat all the meat and stock within 2 days, wrap the chicken in plastic wrap inside a sealed plastic bag and freeze. To freeze the stock, place the liquid in a sealable container, preferably 8 or 16 oz for easy use. 

My mother and grandmother taught me that to waste food is a sin. In this case, that means always reserving the pan drippings, giblets, neck, heart, bones and carcass of the chicken to make a best-ever stock that you can use to make delicious chicken-vegetable-rice soup or chicken and dumplings.



If a liver came with the chicken, use it to make a tasty mushroom-chicken liver pate to serve as an amuse bouche.

Only use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. All the other brands I've seen put in chemical additives. Diamond Crystal does not.

Use a roasting pan with 1" sides to facilitate browning on the sides of the chicken. 


Line the roasting pan first with aluminum foil and then with a Silpat sheet. If a Silpat (non-stick) sheet is not available, lining the pan with aluminum foil is sufficient for easy-clean up. The advantage of a Silpat sheet is that all the delicious drippings slide off easily and can be added to the stock. Silpat sheets are widely available in many supermarkets, at all cooking supply stores and online. Use a Silpat sheet that fits the dimensions of your pan.

You do not have to truss the chicken with kitchen twine. 

Before beginning, carefully wash the inside and outside of the chicken with fresh water. If brining, place the washed chicken into the liquid. If not, pat dry and season with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper on the inside and outside.

 Serves 4

Time to brine: at least two hours or overnight

Time to prep: 15 minutes

Time to cook: 60 - 90 minutes depending on size of chicken

Time to rest before serving: 5 minutes

Special Cooking Tools 

Roasting sheet tray (with a 1" rim)

Aluminum foil and Silpat sheet to fit the roasting sheet tray

12"-14" kitchen tongs

Roasting rack (optional)

Cooking Twine (optional)

Ingredients for roasting

1 whole 3 1/2 - 4 pound chicken, washed, liver, giblets, neck and heart if included, removed, washed and reserved separately

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the brine

1/4 cup fresh feta, preferably Bulgarian (because it is less expensive), crumbled

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon white sugar

4 bay leaves, whole

1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Ingredients for the topping

1 medium onion, washed, top and root end removed, peeled, sliced thin from the top to the bottom

1/2 cup Italian parsley, stems and leaves, washed, drained, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh feta, Bulgarian, crumbled

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Small bowl of flake salt (optional) on the table

Directions for brining

Use twine to tie together the legs and wings (optional)


Place the chicken, salt, sugar and aromatics into a large heavy plastic bag or a container with a lid. Fill with cold water until the chicken is submerged. Seal. If using a plastic bag, place in a large bowl so the water doesn't leak.

Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.

Directions for Roasting

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and a Silpat sheet on top of the foil for easier cleanup. Place a roasting rack on top of the lined baking sheet. If no roasting rack is available, place the chicken directly on the lined baking sheet, breast side down.

Remove the chicken from the brine. Rinse, pat dry and allow to rest uncovered for 10 minutes.

Pour the brine through a colander to capture the feta. Discard the brining aromatics. Remove the feta and reserve.

In a bowl, mix together the feta from the brine, the additional feta, onion, parsley, sea salt and black pepper.

Rub olive oil over the chicken. Add remaining olive oil to the feta-onion-parlsey topping and mix well. Set aside.

Place chicken onto the roasting rack if one is available, breast down and put into the preheated oven. Roast for thirty minutes or until the skin is brown and crisp to the touch.

Reduce oven to 350F.

Using tongs, turn over the chicken, being careful not to tear the skin. Place the chicken breast-side up on the roasting rack.

Cover the breast-side up chicken with the feta-onion-parlsey topping.  The mound of onions will seem large, but will greatly reduce during cooking. If any bits fall onto the bottom of the baking tray, no worries, you can scoop them up later.


Return to the oven. After 30 minutes, check for doneness. Wiggle a chicken leg. If there is resistance, the chicken needs more time. If the topping is getting too brown, place a sheet of aluminum over the top like a tent. Roast another 15 minutes and check for doneness. Continue roasting until the leg moves freely.

Remove from the oven and place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top so the chicken rests for 5 minutes.

Remove aluminum foil. Carve in the kitchen or at the table. Use a recently sharpened knife or kitchen sheers. Plate the chicken with the charred onion-feta-parsley mix on top.

Serve hot with sides of roasted potatoes, squash or salt boiled spinach.

Place a small bowl of flake salt on the table. The crunch of the salt will add to the pleasures of the dish.

Making chicken stock

Once the chicken has been carved, reserve all the bones and pan drippings. If there isn't time to make stock that night, refrigerate and make the next day.

I prefer to make my chicken stock without aromatics or seasoning beyond the flavors provided during roasting. That way, when you use the stock to make soup or a sauce, you can add whatever flavors you want.

To make the stock, add the bones, pan drippings, reserved neck, heart and gizzard to a 3-4 quart pot and add fresh water to cover by 2".

Place on the stove on a medium-high flame, bring to a low boil and simmer 60 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by 1/3. Taste and continue simmering until the flavor is to your liking.

Allow to cool. Strain the liquid into a bowl.  Remove the bones, neck, heart and gizzard. Pick the meat off the bones and reserve the gizzard. The meat and gizzard can be used in a salad, to make chicken and dumplings or to add to a chicken-vegetable soup.

Place stock into containers with lids. 8 and 16 oz containers are useful. An 8 oz container will make a sauce. A 16 oz container will make soup for one.

The soup can be kept frozen for 3-4 months without hurting the quality. When you remove the frozen stock from the freezer, use fresh water to rinse off any ice crystals that might have formed on the top of the stock.

To make a soup, sauté cut up vegetables in olive oil until lightly browned, add chicken stock and parts of the chicken like the gizzard, a leg or wing. Simmer covered until vegetables soften. Serve hot.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Summer Tomatoes Saved for Winter Dishes

I wrote this post last year with ideas to take advantage of summer's bounty.

Difficult to believe, Labor Day is next week. Even as the heat of the sun makes us wonder if summer will ever end, as the saying goes, "Winter is coming."

Walking through the farmers markets, I am happy to see a great abundance of tomatoes. With that abundance comes lower prices. Find a farmer who has too much of a good thing and the price comes down even more.


"Reduced to sell." "Soft ready to eat." Those are the tomatoes I look for. I'll buy them by the bagful. Five or ten pounds at a time. My plan is to prepare for a time when fresh tomatoes are a thing of the past.


I am anticipating a time when storm clouds are outside and I'm staring into the refrigerator looking for inspiration. I yearn for the produce of summer: leafy greens, corn and full-bodied tomatoes. But there is a way to enjoy the sweet-acidic deliciousness of tomatoes even in the darkest days of winter. Just look in your freezer.
With abundant tomatoes in the farmers markets, buy ripe tomatoes, roast and freeze them to be used in braises, soups and sauces in the fall and winter. Once blasted with heat in the oven, the tomatoes happily take to the freezer if they are covered in liquid.
Enjoy frozen roasted tomatoes whole or puree into sauce, and as rain beats against your windows and snow accumulates on your lawn, you will remember those heady summer flavors.

Oven-roasted tomatoes to use as a side dish or in sauces

Use ripe and over-ripe tomatoes. If you can find only unripe, hard tomatoes, leave them in a sunny spot on the kitchen counter until they ripen. Bruised tomatoes are OK as long as you use a sharp paring knife to remove the damaged parts. Avoid tomatoes with broken skin because of the risk of mold.
Any kind of tomato can be used: heirloom, Roma, cherry, large or small salad tomatoes.
A food mill is helpful when making the sauce. If one is not available, a fine meshed wire strainer will do almost as well.


When roasting the tomatoes, it is important to use parchment paper or a nonstick Silpat mat to prevent the tomatoes from sticking to the baking sheet. With a Silpat mat, none of the good bits and sweetly-delicious liquids that caramelize on the bottom are wasted.

Roasted Tomatoes

Tomatoes love the sun’s heat when they’re growing. And they love the oven’s heat that coaxes a rich umami sweetness out of their naturally acidic souls.
That sweetness is at the heart of the roasted tomatoes that will be in your freezer.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Roasting time: 60 minutes
Yield: 1 to 2 quarts
Ingredients
5 pounds tomatoes, washed, patted dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Directions 
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper cut to size. Use a baking sheet with a 1-inch lip to capture any liquids created during roasting.
3. Use a sharp paring knife to cut a “V” shape around the stem, remove and discard. With cherry tomatoes, any stems can be brushed off the surface without making a cut.
4. Place the de-stemmed tomatoes on the lined baking sheet, stem side up.
5. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.
6. Place in oven and roast 60 minutes.
7. Remove and let cool.

Freezing Whole Roasted Tomatoes

When you remove the baking sheet from the oven, you’ll notice a clear liquid has accumulated on the bottom. Some of that is olive oil. But most of the liquid is a clear tomato essence prized by chefs for its clean flavor.
If you are freezing some of the roasted tomatoes whole, use the clear liquid to cover the tomatoes in the deli containers.
Use airtight containers that are about the same width as the tomatoes so you will need a small amount of liquid to cover them.

Defrosting Whole Roasted Tomatoes

When you want to use the tomatoes, take them out of the freezer in the evening and let them defrost overnight. If any ice crystals have accumulated on top of the tomatoes, rinse off the ice before defrosting.
If you want to serve them whole, the tomatoes can be warmed in the oven or microwave. They are delicate, so handle them carefully.

Whole Roasted Tomato, Easy-to-Make Pasta Sauce

A deliciously simple pasta sauce to make any time of the year, not just in winter. Serve the pasta with steamed vegetables, a charred steak or a grilled chicken breast and you will have a perfect cold weather meal that warms body and soul.
The flavorful tomato sauce can become a vegan dish by simply omitting the butter and cheese.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Sauté time: 5 minutes
Pasta cooking time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 pound fresh or packaged pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Italian parsley leaves, washed, roughly chopped (optional)
1 garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
2 to 3 whole, large roasted tomatoes, skins removed
1 teaspoon sweet butter (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Directions
1. Place a large pot of water on high heat. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt to the water. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta. Stir well every 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Place a heat-proof cup in the sink next to a large strainer. When the pasta is al dente to your taste, about 10 minutes, pour the pasta into the strainer, capturing one cup of the salted pasta water. Reserve.
3. Toss the cooked pasta to prevent clumping.
4. At the same time the pasta is cooking, place a large sauté pan on a medium-high flame. Heat the olive oil.
5. Add the parsley and garlic. Lightly brown.
6. Holding the roasted tomatoes over the sauté pan, use your hands to tear them apart so you capture all the liquid. Add any liquid from the deli container.
7. Stir well and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
8. Taste and salt, if needed; add a tablespoon or more of the pasta water.
9. Stir well and add butter. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding sea salt and black pepper.
10. When ready to serve, add the cooked pasta to the sauté pan. Over a medium flame, toss the pasta in the sauce to coat.
11. Serve hot with a bowl of Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

The tomatoes used to make the sauce are prepared and roasted in the same manner as those used to create whole roasted tomatoes.
Directions
1. Working with small batches, remove the roasted tomatoes from the baking sheet and put some of the roasted tomatoes into a food mill or fine mesh, wire strainer placed over a nonreactive bowl. Press the tomatoes through, collecting all the juice in the bowl.

2. Use a spatula to scrape off the pulp that will accumulate on the bottom of the food mill or the strainer. Add the pulp to the juice.

3. Discard the tomato skins. Or add to your compost. Or, even better, reserve in the freezer to use with other vegetable scraps to make vegetable stock.

Freezing Roasted Tomato Sauce

Put the open deli containers on a counter. Stir the tomato juice to mix with the pulp.

Fill each deli container to a half-inch below the top so that when the sauce freezes, the liquid will have room to expand and will not force open the lid.
When cooled, the filled containers can be placed in the freezer.

Defrosting Roasted Tomato Sauce

Even without defrosting, the frozen sauce can be used at the last minute, when you want to thicken a soup, add a layer of flavor to a braise or make a simple pasta sauce.
There are infinite ways to use this versatile sauce. One of my favorites is an easy-to-make pasta with sautéed vegetables.
If any ice crystals accumulate on the top of the sauce, rinse off the ice before defrosting.

Penne Pasta With Roasted Tomato Sauce and Sautéed Vegetables

Prep time: 10 minutes
Sauté time: 10 minutes
Pasta cooking time: 10 minutes
Total cooking time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 pound fresh or packaged pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, washed, stems removed, peeled, cut into rounds
1 medium yellow onion, washed, stems removed, peeled, roughly chopped
8 large shiitake mushrooms, ends of the stems removed, washed, patted dry, roughly chopped
2 cups broccolini or broccoli, washed, cut into florets, the stems cut into slabs
2 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed, finely chopped
12 ounces frozen tomato sauce, defrosted on the counter overnight
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or pinch of cayenne (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Directions
1. Place a large pot of water on high heat. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt to the water. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta. Stir well every 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Place a heat-proof cup in the sink next to a large strainer. When the pasta is al dente to your taste, pour the pasta into the strainer, capturing one cup of the salted pasta water. Reserve.
3. Toss the cooked pasta to prevent clumping.
4. At the same time the pasta is cooking, place a large sauté pan on a medium flame.
5. Heat the olive oil.
6. Add carrots, onion, shiitake mushrooms, broccolini and garlic. Sauté until lightly browned.
7. Add roasted tomato sauce, butter and pepper flakes. Stir well. Taste. If salt is needed, add a tablespoon or more of the pasta water.
8. Simmer on a medium flame and reduce.
9. Taste, adjust seasoning and continue simmering if you want the sauce to be thicker.
10. When the sauce is the consistency you like, add the cooked pasta, coat well.
11. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more sea salt or black pepper.
12. Serve hot with a bowl of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Hot Weather, Cool Kitchen - Pork Ribs Cooked Overnight & Watermelon Gazpacho

For the past several months where we live in Coastal Southern California, we have benefited from June-Gloom which stretched into July-Gloom. Overcast skies locked in cooler temperatures even as inland Los Angeles baked under an unrelenting sun.

But, now,  the hot weather finally embraced the Pacific Palisades where we live.  But, now worries, with temperatures reaching into the high-80s, it's time to cook up two favorite summertime recipes.

Low-temperature roasted pork ribs and watermelon gazpacho.

Dry Rub Pork Ribs, Cook Over-Night 

Dry rub pork ribs that we cook overnight in a low-temperature oven. We wake up in the morning to the beautiful aroma of pork cracklings. All the cooking happens during the night when we're asleep.

Easy-to-make dry rub pork ribs take only a few steps to prepare and a good night's sleep: 1) clean the ribs, 2) layer on dry rub, 3) put into a 250 F oven when you go to bed and 4) wake up, remove the ribs and enjoy!

Cooking with high heat is exciting. There is great pleasure in watching the pyrotechnics of an outdoor grill as sizzling fat catches fire.  Roasting at low heat in the oven lacks that excitement.
And yet, what happens in an oven set at 250 F has its own kind of magic. In the darkness of the oven, the waves of steady heat melt the fat inside the rack, tenderizing the meat and gently fusing the dry rub to the outside of the ribs.
The best magic of all is that the oven does the work. No standing over a blazingly hot grill on a hot day. Once the oven door closes, there is nothing to be done.
Walk into the kitchen and a savory-sweet aroma scents the air. Pull the baking tray out of the oven and press a finger against the outside of the rack. The soft pliancy of the meat has been replaced by a jerky-like crust as sweet as a crème brulee topping.

Slow-Roasted, Dry-Rubbed Pork Ribs

Rack of pork ribs, trimmed. Credit: Copyright 2016 David Latt
Cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the rack.
Buy good quality pork. Asian and Latin markets are often a reliable source of fresh pork products. Unlike the ribs sold in upscale supermarkets, the ribs in these markets will most likely be untrimmed.
Above the actual ribs, the rack will have a top portion with boneless flap meat and a section with thick bones similar to country style ribs.  Another smaller piece of flap meat will stretch across the back of the rib bones.
Requiring only a sharp filleting knife and a few minutes, removing the flap meat and the top portion is not difficult. The flap meat is excellent to use in stir fries, slow roasted in the oven or grilled on the BBQ.
A white membrane is attached to the outside of the flap meat. Use a sharp filleting knife to separate the meat from the membrane and discard.
The flap meat and country style bones can be prepared in the same manner as the ribs.  They will cook more quickly and should be removed from the 250 F oven after a total of 2 to 3 hours depending on thickness.
While the rack of ribs does not have to be turned over, the flap meat and country style bones should be turned over after one hour for even cooking. After another hour, use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece of meat to test for doneness. Return to the oven if the meat is not yet tender.
To eat the country style ribs, have a sharp paring knife handy to help cut out those hard to reach tasty bits tucked between the bones.
The ribs can be cooked ahead and reheated. In which case, do not cut apart the ribs until ready to serve. Reheat in a 300 F oven for 15 minutes.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 6 to 8 hours
Resting time: 5 minutes
Total time: 6 hours, 35 minutes to 8 hours, 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
1 rack pork ribs, 4 to 5 pounds, washed, dried
3 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup cumin
¼ cup coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Directions
1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 250 F.
2. Select a baking pan or cookie sheet that is 2 inches longer than the rack of ribs. Cover the pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on top of the aluminum foil.
3. Lay the rack of ribs on a cutting board, bone side up. Use a sharp filleting knife to remove the tough membrane on the bone side of the rack. Let the knife help you lift the membrane. Use your fingers to pull the skin off the bones and discard.
4. Do not cut off any fat.
5. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
6. For easy cleanup, lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the cutting board. Place the rack on the cutting board. Layer a thick coat of the dry spices onto both sides, covering the meat and bones.
7. Reserve left-over dry rub in an air tight container and refrigerate for later use.
8. Carefully place the rack of ribs on the wire rack meat side up.
9. Put the baking sheet into the preheated oven.
10. Roast six hours. Remove from oven. Use kitchen shears to cut off a small piece and taste.
11. The outside should have a jerky-crispness. The meat inside should be moist and tender. The tapered end of the rack where the bones are small will cook faster than the rest of the ribs. Use the kitchen shears to cut off that section before returning the rack to the oven for another one-two hours. Be careful not to dry out the meat.
12. Once the ribs are cooked, remove from oven and let the meat rest five minutes.
13. Cut between the rib bones and chop into pieces any flap meat without bones. Serve hot with a green salad, Cole slaw, baked beans or freshly steamed vegetables.

Gazpacho Takes on a Sweet Partner

My second favorite is a riff on gazpacho. We use a mix of watermelon and tomato juice to add lightness and sweetness and create a perfect summer afternoon cocktail.

For tomatoes, we go to our favorite farmers market. Ever since it opened, the Pacific Palisades farmers market has been as much a part of our Sundays as the New York Times. Right now, an abundant crop of tomatoes means the price is right to buy all we want.


I learned to appreciate this hybrid-gazpacho on a trip to Switzerland. In Zurich I had a tasting at Rive Gauche, the casual dining cafe at the historic and beautiful Baur au Lac Hotel close to Lake Zurich.

I stayed at the hotel to write a profile for Luxury Travel Magazine. I was eating at Rive Gauche because I was going to do a video cooking demonstration with the chef, Olivier Rais, a delightful, talented chef who is passionate about cooking.


One of the dishes he wanted me to enjoy was his version of gazpacho, one that added watermelon juice to soften the acidity of the ripe uncooked tomato juice that is the basis of traditional gazpacho. I have certainly seen this hybrid dish before.


But I was particularly taken with chef Rais' version, a clarified liquid served in a glass. All the vegetable bits had been strained out with the result that the gazpacho became an exceptionally refreshing, summer beverage.

When I interviewed chef Rais, he had recently returned from Los Angeles where he spent time at Crossroads Kitchen, a well-regarded vegan restaurant, owned by Tal Ronnen.


Invited to a tasting dinner at Crossroads Kitchen, I had an opportunity to enjoy chef Ronnen's version of the watermelon gazpacho. Similar in flavors but different, chef Ronnen did not filter out the vegetable bits, giving his gazpacho a deliciously rustic taste.


For my version, I split the difference between the two chefs. I strained the tomato pulp but retained some of the texture.

I hope you have the opportunity to visit Rive Gauche in Zurich and Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles to taste and compare their gazpachos. In the meantime, please try this very easy-to-make recipe.

Watermelon Gazpacho


Ripe tomatoes and a ripe watermelon are essential. Both should be sweet and full of juice.

If any watermelon juice is left over, make watermelon ice by gently heating the juice and reducing the liquid by a quarter. Cool, then pour into ice cube trays or a freezer-proof container. Freeze and use to sweeten vodka cocktails or lemonade. As the ice cubes melt, sweet watermelon juice releases into the drink. Delicious!


Serves 4-6

Total time to prepare: 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, washed, stems removed
2 pounds ripe watermelon, washed
1 ripe avocado
1 cup homemade croutons
1 ripe avocado, washed
5 dried bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch cayenne
Sea salt to taste

Directions

Place a box grater over a non-reactive bowl. Grate the tomatoes and collect all the juice. Or, run the chopped tomatoes through a food mill and collect the juice. Scrape the pulp off the underside of the food mill sieve and add to the juice. Pour into a large container.

Add the dried spices to the tomato juice. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

Use a sharp knife to cut off the watermelon rind. Press the flesh through a fine mesh sieve or through a food mill and collect all the juice. Pour into a large container and refrigerate.


Just before serving, peel the avocado, remove the pit and chop into dime-sized pieces. Pour the tomato juice through a sieve to remove the dried spices.


Combine equal amounts of seasoned tomato juice and watermelon juice and mix well.

Pour gazpacho into bowls or cups. Top with avocado and croutons. Serve chilled.

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