Showing posts with label avocado. Show all posts
Showing posts with label avocado. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An Easy-to-Make Meal Perfect for Mother's Day

Since Mother's Day is a day when mom is celebrated and pampered, it would be counter-intuitive to expect her to cook. On the other hand, putting too much burden on the other members of the family (dad and the kids) would also be ill-advised.

There is the classic New Yorker's solution of serving lox, bagels, and cream cheese or avoiding cooking entirely by visiting a restaurant, but a home cooked meal makes such a personal statement. The key is to prepare a simple meal so you don't spend more time in the kitchen than with her. That and flowers tells her, "I love you."

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

Chicken Breasts Sautéed with Spinach

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed, dried
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly to remove all the grit, dried, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/4 cup water, chicken stock, or white wine
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Use one frying pan to cut down on clean up. Sauté the garlic and shallot until softened--about 2 minutes--add the chicken breasts and sauté until lightly browned on both sides, then remove and cover with aluminum foil. Sauté the spinach until wilted, then remove. Deglaze the pan with the liquid. Add the butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half, then add back the chicken breasts and coat with the sauce. Remove the breasts and cover to keep warm. Put the spinach back in the pan and mix well with the sauce. Slide the spinach onto the serving plate. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the spinach.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

For the dessert I'd suggest my mom's favorite: Banana Cake With Chocolate Chips and Almonds. The recipe is on the New York Times Dining. The cake can be made the day ahead. Before serving, bring to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nori Squares with Crab, an Easy-to-Make Appetizer and Healthy Snack

On vacation for a week in Carlsbad, we enjoyed days without a set schedule. When to get out of bed? Maybe 7:30, or maybe not until 8:30. What time for a walk on the beach? Let's see when low tide is. We slept, ate, read, watched TV and went to the movies when we felt like it.

And we had great weather. Bright sunny skies. Temperatures in the upper 60's and low 70's. We discovered new places to eat, enjoyed our favorite coffee shop--Pannikin Coffee & Tea in Leucadia/Encinitas--and bought flowering plants and three blueberry bushes--that had ripe fruit on the branches!--from a great nursery, Cedros Gardens in Solana Beach.

What a great vacation.

When we wanted to hang around the room, with our mini-refrigerator, wet bar and the 2-burner electric stove top brought from home, we made salads, soups and snacks.

A favorite was a simple and delicious snack made with nori (seaweed) from Trader Joe's, broken rice from our lunch in Little Saigon at Pho Vinh Ky and  a ripe avocado from the Santa Monica farmers market.

With summer approaching, I can recommend this healthy snack. Combined with a tossed salad and fruit for dessert, the squares of nori and their toppings make for a very delicious, refreshingly light meal.
Nori Squares with Crab, Avocado and Rice

If you don't have fresh crab, the avocado and rice topping are delicious enough. If you want crab, I'd recommend the extra effort of steaming a live one. Next best is a freshly cooked crab from a fish market, which, hopefully, cooks their own. If they don't and the crabs arrive pre-cooked before they settle down on their icy bed in the display case, ask how long ago they were cooked.

Imitation crab (actually fish cakes) and canned or frozen crab aren't good for this dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 whole Dungeness crab or 2 cups crab meat
1 package of nori, Trader Joe's carries a good one
1 whole, ripe avocado
1 cup freshly cooked rice
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Cayenne (optional)
1/4 cup Italian parsley, washed, pat dried, leaves only, finely chopped (optional)

Directions for cooking the crab

When you bring home the live crab, place it in the kitchen sink, splashing it with cold water to wet the outer shell.

Put 3" of tap water into a large pot. Bring to a boil on high heat. Holding the crab from the back of the shell so the claws cannot reach you, push the head of the crab into the boiling water and hold down for a minute.

This isn't an easy part of the recipe. There's no getting around the fact that the crab has to die for you to eat well. If you're leaning towards becoming a vegan, this might push you over the line, so maybe look for pre-cooked crab. But I guarantee you, freshly steamed crab is a delicious taste treat.

You don't need much water in the pot. You definitely do not want to cover the crab with water. Mostly, the heat from the small amount of water steams the crab inside its shell. The resulting flavors are sweet and undiluted.

Place a lid on the pot and let cook 5 minutes.

Use tongs to remove the crab from the pot and let cool in the sink. If you don't mind a little extra work, do not throw out the water in the pot. I'll explain why in a moment.

Once the crab is cool to the touch, tear the legs off and place in a bowl. To clean the body of the crab, hold the shell in one hand and the body in your other hand. Pull and the shell will come off easily, releasing a lot of fairly unpleasant stuff.

You will now see that the crab has an outer and inner shell.

Wash the "stuff" off the outer shell and pull the gills off the inner shell. The gills are the feathery things hanging off the shell. Discard the outer shell and gills. Thoroughly rinse clean the sink and run the disposal.

On the inner shell, there is a long triangular part. Use a flat knife to lift it up, remove and discard it. Now break the inner shell in half. Use a sharp pairing knife to slide out the deliciously sweet meat from the chambers inside the shell. You may have to break open some of the chambers, but avoid doing that as much as possible so shell fragments do not end up with the meat.

Place the meat in an air tight container and refrigerate.

You can serve the legs and make your guests do the work or you can do everyone a big favor and remove the meat from the legs yourself. Personally, I think that's the way to go.

The legs are made up of three parts. Separate them from one another. There isn't any meat in the pointy-end parts. Cracking open the legs is relatively easy with your fingers. Only the two largest pincher claws require a nut cracker.

Use one of the pointy-end parts to dig out all the meat. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate.

The meat will last for two days. Whatever you don't use for the nori squares, use the next day in a tossed green salad or in a pasta.

Now, about all those shells. If you want to make a delicious broth, throw the shells into the boiling water and simmer for 45 minutes on a medium flame. The liquid will reduce by half. Strain out all the shells and discard. Let the crab stock cool and then refrigerate or freeze in an air tight container. The stock will last for months in the freezer. Defrost to use as a base for soups, braising liquid for seafood or pasta sauce.

Preparing the nori squares

Since the nori will absorb liquid, assemble the squares just before serving.

Toss the avocado slices with a little olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Have the cooked rice ready and slightly warmed. The crab can be chilled or room temperature.

For each square of nori, place a thin layer of warm rice, topped with a slice of avocado and a spoonful of crab. For heat, dust lightly with cayenne. For color, sprinkle a little finely chopped Italian parsley.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Summertime Open Faced BLT

Summertime is the best of times and the worst of times.

When it's hot and humid, nothing makes me happy except air conditioning. But all that heat is good for the garden and summertime tomatoes benefit from all that sun.
Luckily we have neighbors who generously share the beautiful tomatoes that grow in their garden.

A BLT is my favorite way to enjoy tomatoes.

Acidic-sweet tomato slices cozy up to crisp, salty bacon, crunchy lettuce leaves and the comfort of bread in the most satisfying of experiences.

When the rain beats against the dining room windows and the temperature hovers in the mid-40s, a wintertime BLT with hot house tomatoes on slices of a good wheat berry bread with a touch of Best Foods mayonnaise and a bowl of hot vegetable soup satisfies in a good way.

Summertime is something else altogether. First off, I don't want all that bread. In summertime, I want light and cool, not heft.

Open faced sandwiches are perfect for hot weather and an open faced BLT with a slice of avocado is refreshingly delicious. Add a tall glass of iced tea or icy homemade lemonade and you have all you'll need for a refreshing summertime meal.
Open Face BLT with Avocado

Use any kind of bread you love. Personally I prefer thin sliced French or Italian bread for my open faced sandwiches. Depending on the size of the loaf, you will need two to six slices per person.

My favorite bread for a BLT is the Italian bread from Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. Light with a thin crust, the bread perfectly compliments the sandwich's toppings.

To keep its shape, the slices should be lightly toasted.

Serves 4

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

8-24 slices of bread, lightly toasted
8-10 slices of bacon
2 ripe avocados, washed
4 ripe large tomatoes, washed, stem and blossom end removed
8 romaine leaves, ribs removed, or a handful of arugula leaves without the stems, washed, dried
8-16 slices of bread and butter pickles (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper
Mayonnaise

Directions

Set the lightly toasted slices of bread aside to cool.

In batches, cook the bacon in a large frying pan or griddle on a medium-low flame. Turn the slices frequently for even browning, being careful to cook through all the fatty pieces. Place paper towels on a plate. When each bacon strip is cooked, lay it on the paper towel to drain.

While cooking, pour off excess grease into a coffee tin for later disposal.

Cut the cooked bacon pieces so they are the same length as the toasted bread slices.

Depending on your preference, make thin or thick slices of tomatoes and set aside.

When you are ready to assemble the sandwiches, cut the avocados in half, remove the peel and discard the pit. Since the avocado flesh will discolor once it is exposed to the air, do this last step just before serving.

Spread mayonnaise on each slice of lightly toasted bread, place avocado slices on the bread, covering the surface. Lay romaine or arugula leaves on the bacon. Add a slice of tomato, pickle slices (optional) and lastly the bacon slices. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with an ice cold beverage, a tossed salad and fresh fruit for dessert.

Variations

Lightly dust the avocado with cayenne for heat.

Instead of lettuce or arugula use watercress leaves for a peppery flavor.

Toss the avocado slices in a mix of 2 parts olive oil and 1 part fresh lemon juice before placing on the sandwich.

To make an open-faced melted cheese sandwich, lay thin slices of Irish or English cheddar cheese on top of the sandwich, place in a preheated, 350 degree toaster oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese, 1 minute in a toaster oven set on broil and cook until the top of the cheese lightly browns. Serve warm.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Frugal Cook Uses Sauteed Beet Greens to Advantage

Buying beets at a farmers' market has the added advantage that not only are the beets fresh but so are the greens. I'm always amazed when I hear people ask to have the tops taken off and discarded. Beets are delicious and so are the greens. Sauteed with garlic and onions, they can be eaten as a side dish, added to pasta, put into soup, or used on sandwiches.

Sauteed Beet Greens

Yield: 1 cup
Time: 60 minutes

When you buy beets, look for a bunch with the freshest looking leaves. At home, cut off the damaged or discolored ones and discard.

Ingredients

1 bunch beet greens
1 medium yellow onion (washed, peeled, and thinly sliced)
4 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Carefully wash the greens in water to remove all the grit. Cut off the stems and finely chop. In a large frying pan, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and pepper until lightly browned. Add the stems and toss together with the onions. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook over a medium-low flame, stirring frequently to avoid burning for about 10 minutes.

Roughly chop the beet greens and add to the frying pan. Drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil over the greens and toss well with the cooked stems and onions. Because the greens need to cook slowly to bring out their sweetness, this is a preparation best done when you have other reasons to be in the kitchen. Cook for another 30-45 minutes until the greens have wilted and caramelized. Stir frequently. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Variations

Brown 1 piece of finely chopped bacon with the onions and garlic or 1 Italian sausage finely chopped.

With the onions and garlic sauté 1/2 cup thinly sliced brown mushrooms.

Uses

Toss together with pasta and other sauteed vegetables seasoned with olive oil and grated cheese, or with sauteed Italian sausage rounds.

Add to chicken soup.

As a topping on an open faced sandwich with avocado or fresh tomatoes or cheese or crisp bacon.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wilted Spinach Salad Takes Center Stage

Everyone has an all-purpose dish that can be modified in clever ways by changing a few key ingredients. For my mother, it was the casserole. For me it’s usually pasta but on those nights when my wife wants to “go green” I turn to an old stand-by: a wilted spinach salad.

Versatile spinach works cold in a salad or heated by sautéing or boiling. A hot dressing brings spinach to a middle ground: mostly raw with some leaves wilted from the heat of the dressing. Sautéing the dressing allows for a great variety of ingredients: Italian sausage, anchovies, mushrooms, shrimp, bacon, chicken, duck, chicken livers, or purely vegetarian. As far as I can tell just about any pizza topping would work on a wilted spinach salad, excepting maybe pineapple.

I invite everyone to send in suggestions. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of this infinitely variable dish.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Shrimp, Avocado, and Olives
Yield 4 servings
Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 large bunch spinach, the root ends trimmed and discarded, thoroughly washed to remove the grit
2 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon, finely chopped (optional)
6 mushrooms (brown or shiitake), washed, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, cut into rounds 1/4" thick
2 shallots, peeled, cut into thin rounds
12 shrimp, medium sized, washed, deveined, sliced in half (optional)
12 olives (oil cured black, green split, or Castelvetrano green), pitted, quartered
1 small avocado, peeled, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons, preferably homemade
2 tablespoons feta, crumbled (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Remove the stems from the spinach. Put the leaves into a large salad bowl. Finely chop the stems. To make the hot dressing put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a sauté pan on a medium flame and lightly brown the spinach stems, garlic, bacon, mushrooms, carrot rounds, and shallots. Remove from heat and set aside. In a small sauce pan reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. In a separate sauté pan drizzled with olive oil, cook the shrimps until pink about 2 minutes, then set aside.

When you’re just about to serve the salad, reheat the dressing on a medium flame. Add the rest of the olive oil, olives, and avocado.

Using a rubber spatula pour the hot dressing over the spinach leaves. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic vinegar. Top with the shrimp, croutons and if you want the feta. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.

Variations

The hot dressing can be kept vegetarian by using olive oil, shallots, and garlic. Most vegetables can be added to the sauté: zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, English peas, sugar snap peas, broccoli, or tomatoes. Try tofu or vegetarian patties as well.

A riff on a chef salad, in the dressing sauté baked ham and turkey breast with shallots; add cheese (cheddar or Swiss) and chopped tomatoes when you toss the salad.

Borrowing from the classic frisee salad, use bacon or lardoons crisped in the sauté, topping the salad with a fried egg. A variation on a variation: instead of a fried egg, use a hard boiled egg, sliced or chopped.

Sauté 1/4" rounds of Italian sausage with slices of red pepper, onion, and garlic to make a wilted salad version of a sausage hero.

Grilled or sautéed chicken livers with mushrooms, onions, and lots of garlic.

Add several anchovies and a dusting of pepper flakes to the onion-garlic sauté.

For the meat use slices of roast duck or chicken (dark meat preferably since it has more flavor); put shiitake mushrooms in the sauté.

Friday, May 9, 2008

An Easy-to-Make Meal Perfect for Mother's Day

Since Mother's Day is a day when mom is celebrated and pampered, it would be counter-intuitive to expect her to cook. On the other hand, putting too much burden on the other members of the family (dad and the kids) would also be ill-advised.

There is the classic New Yorker's solution of serving lox, bagels, and cream cheese or avoiding cooking entirely by visiting a restaurant, but a home cooked meal makes such a personal statement. The key is to prepare a simple meal so you don't spend more time in the kitchen than with her. That and flowers tells her, "I love you."

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 20 minutes.

Chicken Breasts Sautéed with Spinach

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, washed, dried
1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly to remove all the grit, dried, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/4 cup water, chicken stock, or white wine
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Use one frying pan to cut down on clean up. Sauté the garlic and shallot until softened--about 2 minutes--add the chicken breasts and sauté until lightly browned on both sides, then remove and cover with aluminum foil. Sauté the spinach until wilted, then remove. Deglaze the pan with the liquid. Add the butter. Season with sea salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half, then add back the chicken breasts and coat with the sauce. Remove the breasts and cover to keep warm. Put the spinach back in the pan and mix well with the sauce. Slide the spinach onto the serving plate. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the spinach.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

For the dessert I'd suggest my mom's favorite: Banana Cake With Chocolate Chips and Almonds. The recipe is on Bitten. The cake can be made the day ahead. Before serving, bring to room temperature and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Snack Food Good Enough for a Super Bowl Party

Having friends over to watch a game or just hang out means I'll make a lot of different kinds of finger food. Lavash pizza with a dozen different toppings. Grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp. And my absolute favorite: prosciutto wrapped mozzarella and avocado.

The recipes I like the best are ones that are easy to make and have a lot of flavor, even though they use very few ingredients. What gives this simple dish it's rich flavor is dredging the mozzarella and avocado in olive oil that's been seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper before they're wrapped in the proscuitto. Sandwiching that layer of seasoning between the clean tasting mozzarella/avocado and the salty proscuitto, makes all the difference.

The mozzarella can be wrapped by itself, so can the avocado, or you can put them together. It's entirely your call.

10 sheets of proscuitto, paper thin
2 large pieces of fresh mozzarella
1 medium avocado, ripe, skin and pit removed, thin sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

When you buy the proscuitto, ask to have the fat cut off and the slices cut paper thin. That means you only want one layer of proscuitto between the paper sheets, with very little overlap. Thin proscuitto will stick together, so ask the deli man to minimize the overlap.

Clean off the counter so you have room for several large plates. Take the mozzarella out of the water and gently pat dry. Put one slice of proscuitto on the cutting board and cut 4 equal pieces. Use a chef's knife and cut a ¼" thick slice off the mozarella. Cut that slice into 4 strips.

Slice the avocado into ¼" strips.

Pour the olive oil onto a small plate and season with the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. How much is up to you.

Dredge each piece of mozzarella through the seasoned olive oil on both sides, then lay it on one of the proscuitto sections. Carefully roll the proscuitto around the mozzarella so it overlaps the cheese. The olive oil should allow you to stick the proscuitto to itself. Add a slice of avocado if you want, or wrap the avocado by itself.

Serve the proscuitto-mozzarella-avocado wraps with napkins and ice cold beer or white wine.

Serves 6. Preparation Time: 30 minutes.

Ready. Set. Brine. Feta-Brined Roasted Whole Chicken

Does brining matter? That's what a friend and I asked ourselves when we were making  fried chicken . Like budding scientists, we did a c...