Showing posts with label quick and easy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label quick and easy. Show all posts

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tomato Pintxos for Labor Day or Any Day

On a trip to Northern Spain in the spring, I discovered pintxos.
In Spanish bars, the appetizers served with beverages are tapas (about which everyone knows), pintxos and bocadilas. There's an easy way to distinguish one from the other. No bread on the plate, it's tapas. One slice of grilled bread, pintxos. Two pieces of bread (or a roll), bocadillas.
Bar food can be as simple as a bowl of beer nuts, but in Spain having a bite to eat in a bar means something very different.
On the trip, we ate elaborately designed pintxos with shrimps riding bareback on saddles of caramelized onions and smoked salmon that topped freshly grilled slices of sourdough bread.
Others featured anchovies with hardboiled eggs, whole roasted piquillo (small red peppers) stuffed with tuna fish, prosciutto wrapped around wild arugula leaves, delicately thin omelets rolled around finely chopped seasoned tomatoes and flat strips of roasted red bell peppers topped with slabs of brie and an anchovy fillet.
The invention and flavors of pintxos are unlimited. Think of wonderfully supportive flavors and textures to place on top the solid foundation of a thin slice of grilled bread and you have a beautiful and tasty appetizer to go with an ice cold beer, glass of crisp white wine or a refreshing summer cocktail like fresh fruit Sangria.
Tomato Pintxos with Fresh Tomatoes, Thin Sliced Olives and Dried Oregano

One of the best pintxos I enjoyed on the trip was the simplest. Don't get me wrong, I loved the elaborately constructed shrimp pintxos at Atari Gastronteka (Calle Mayor 18, 20001 Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, 34 943 44 07 92) in San Sebastián, but in Oviedo, near the Cathedral in the old town, in a working man's bar away from the tourist crush, A'Tarantella (Calle Jesus n 1, Oviedo, Spain, 985 73 81 65) restaurant served a simple pintxos that was one of my favorites.
Thin slices of tomatoes were laid on top of a piece of grilled bread, seasoned only with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, sliced, pitted olives were scattered on top and dusted with dried oregano.

Easy to prepare. Simple flavors. Delicious.

For the bread, a dense white or whole wheat loaf is best. The tomatoes should be fresh and ripe but firm.

The individual ingredients can be prepared an hour ahead but the pintxos should be assembled just before serving to prevent the bread from becoming soggy from all those delicious tomato juices.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large, ripe but firm farmers market fresh tomatoes
12 large, pitted green olives, thin sliced, 1/8"
8 slices thin sliced French bread
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Slice the bread 1/4" thick. Grill on a hot barbecue, cast iron frying pan with grill ridges or roast in a 450 F oven for a few seconds to put grill-marks on each side. Remove. Set aside.
Set up an assembly line with the ingredients ready to go as soon as the bread is grilled.

Using a sharp chefs knife, slice the tomatoes as thin as possible. The tops and bottoms of the tomatoes should not be used. They can be finely chopped and used as a topping for another pintxos or to create a salsa.

Assemble each tomato pintxos in the following order: grilled bread, drizzled with olive oil, tomato slices, pitted olive slices, a seasoning of dried oregano, sea salt, black pepper and (optional) a final drizzle of olive oil.

Serve immediately with ice cold beverages.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sexy, Seared Scallops Help Say Goodbye to 2012 and Hello to 2013

Cooking long hours is fun on Thanksgiving but on New Year's Eve nobody wants to be in the kitchen except to pass through on the way to the freezer to refill the ice bucket.
The perfect at-home meal on New Year's Eve is one that has pazazz, great flavor and doesn't take long to prepare.

With expectations high, everything about a New Year's Eve party needs to be special
Take-out deli sandwiches are fine to watch the weekly football game. Pizza and beer works for a Netflix festival of Tarantino movies. But for the night when you say goodbye to a whole year's experience and celebrate what's-hoped-for in the coming 365 days, it isn't enough to simply put food on the table.

If you're having a small gathering of friends and loved ones, easy-to-make scallops are an elegantly delicious way to tell everyone how much you love sharing this end-of-the-year evening with them.

Experimenting with samples of Alaskan seafood sent to me by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, I have been happily trying out different techniques with their halibut, cod, king crab legs and salmon.

The Alaskan scallops, caught off the Kodiak coast, were beautifully plump and firm. The size of fifty cent coins, since they were thick, they could hold up to the high heat of searing.
Scallops play well with others
Because scallops have a delicate flavor, they work well with buttery, sautéed spinach and earthy shiitake mushrooms. They are also good sliced and sautéd before being tossed with pasta in a sauce of roasted tomato sauce and garlic.

With dense flesh, scallops mimic the hearty flavor of steak so they can be seared whole with thick cut onion rings.
Scallops go well with a crisp, chilled white wine, an icy cold beer or, my favorite,  a perfect Manhattan. Whatever beverage accompanies your scallops, you can toast all that was good about 2012 and all that you hope for in 2013.

Seared Scallops on a Bed of Sautéed Spinach and Shiitake Mushrooms

As with any seared dish, obtaining the best quality ingredients is an essential starting point. Whether you are searing fish, shellfish, poultry or meat, high heat creates a blush of caramelized sweetness on the outside. After that, the dish is all about what's on the inside.
Key to searing is using a pan that can tolerate high heat. Stainless steel pans should not be used because too much work is required to clean them.

A cast iron pan or one designed specially for high heat cooking is preferred and can be found in restaurant supply stores like Surfas in Culver City. To prepare this dish, I used the French de Buyer carbon steel frying pan which is designed to be used at very high heat with only a small amount of oil.

Serves 4

Ingredients

16 large scallops, washed, pat dried
1 bunch spinach, root ends removed, washed in clean water, dried
4 shallots, ends and outer skin removed, cut into rings
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, root ends trimmed of any dirt, thin sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Cut off the spinach stems, finely chop and sauté  in a frying pan with 1 tablespoon olive, the shallots, garlic and mushrooms until lightly browned. Roughly chop the spinach leaves and add to the sauté. Cook until wilted and set aside. The vegetable sauté can be prepared ahead.

In a bowl, season 1 tablespoon olive oil with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne (optional). Add scallops. Toss well to coat. Set aside.

Place a cast iron or carbon steel frying pan on high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the scallops in the hot pan. Do not crowd the scallops. If they are too close together, they will steam rather than sear.

Using tongs, turn the scallops so all sides are lightly browned. When each scallop is cooked, place on paper towels to absorb excess fat.

Reheat the sautéed spinach and place on a serving platter. Arrange the scallops on top.

Serve hot with a cold beverage.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Asparagus Stalks Memorial Day Picnics

Burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw and fresh fruit salads are Memorial Day classics. I look forward to those favorites but to keep them interesting, it's good to add something new and a little unexpected.
When I was growing up, asparagus was one of the fancy vegetables. Carrots, corn and broccoli were the everyday vegetables. Asparagus was saved for special occasions. These days asparagus is affordable, easy-to-prepare and versatile.

Right now asparagus is plentiful in farmers markets. Nutritious, delicious and loaded with healthy minerals, asparagus can be enjoyed raw or cooked, as a salad or a side dish to add zest to a backyard barbecue or afternoon lunch.

Raw Asparagus Salad
Look for small to medium sized stalks that are firm and without blemish or shrivel-marks.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions


Slice in half the long way the larger stalks just before serving. Just before serving, toss the asparagus with the seasoned olive oil.

Variations

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flaky goat cheese over the asparagus.

Finely chop 1 garlic clove and lightly sauté until brown, sprinkle over the asparagus.

Grilled Asparagus

Use any size asparagus you like. 
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the grill on a medium flame.

Toss the asparagus in the seasoned olive oil and place on the grill. 

Tongs will help turn the asparagus on the grill. Be careful to brown but not burn the tender stalks. Serve warm.

Variations

Grill with carrots (sliced or whole baby carrots) and serve as a vegetable course or as a side dish.

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or an additional 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Steamed or Sautéed Asparagus with Caramelized Garlic, Shallots and Almond Slivers
Use any size asparagus you like. I prefer large or medium sized stalks, cut in half the long way so I can caramelize inside the asparagus.

The dish is as delicious whether you steam or sauté the asparagus. The choice is yours.

Blanched, raw slivered almonds are widely available in supermarkets. From my experience, Trader Joe's has good quality, affordable almonds.

To deceive the eye, the shallot and garlic clove should be sliced to resemble the almond slivers. The surprising sweet-savory/soft-crunch contrast adds to the fun of the dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1/4 cup blanched, raw almond slivers
1 large shallot, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 large garlic clove, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Add the asparagus, cooking in batches if necessary. Don't crowd them in the pan so they cook evenly. Use tongs to turn them frequently to brown and avoid burning.

Remove the cooked stalks to a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pan, cook the shallot, garlic and almonds until lightly browned. Add a touch of olive oil if needed. Season with black pepper.

Either add the cooked asparagus back into the pan with the almond mixture and toss well or plate the asparagus and top the stalks with the almond mixture.

Serve warm.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Easiest Pasta You’ll Ever Make Using Grilled Corn and Roasted Garlic


On a recent trip to Sonoma County, my wife and I wandered from the coast to the inland farmland to eat our way across one of America's most productive valleys. We were lucky enough to have some wonderful meals. We especially enjoyed chef Josh Silvers' 
We loved his roasted garlic-butter sauce on his grilled corn, I was inspired to write a recipe that adapted that flavor combination with pasta.  I posted the recipe on Zesterdaily.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Keeping it Easy with Chicken Two Ways

Just because you want an easy-to-make meal doesn't mean you have to spend a lot or give up nutrition and flavor.

If you read the labels of prepared, canned, or frozen meals, you'll notice how much salt is added, not to mention additives with unpronounceable names. Learn a few seasoning tricks and one or two simple cooking techniques and you'll have a home cooked meal on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Adding a few herbs and spices makes an every day meal a treat. You can buy chicken parts or, to cut costs, cut up a whole chicken yourself. It's easy to do. Trimming off excess fat and skin ups the health-quotient.

Both dishes can be made ahead and reheated.

Garlic-Parsley Chicken Breasts

With one pan and practically no effort, you'll have a healthy meal on the table in 30 minutes. Serve the chicken sliced on top of buttered pasta, steamed rice, or roasted vegetables.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 chicken breast halves, boned, skinned, washed, and dried
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon sweet butter

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in the saute pan. Dredge the chicken breasts in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper

Put the breasts in the heated pan, top with parsley and garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Slice the breasts and plate. Use a rubber spatula to remove the drippings, garlic, and parsley and spoon onto the slices before serving.

Mushroom-Vegetable Chicken Ragout

Braising takes a little more cooking time, but very little effort and it adds a lot of flavor. In only a few minutes the meat and vegetables lightly brown, bringing out their natural sweetness. Now all you have to do is add water or stock, simmer until tender, and you'll be serving your family the most delicious comfort food ever.

While the braise simmers, put on the timer. You're free to do whatever else you want. Play with the kids, watch a little TV, read a book, or coodle with your sweetie. When the timer goes off, call everyone to the dinner table, sit down and have a feast.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 chicken legs, skin removed, deboned, roughly chopped
2 chicken thighs, skin removed, deboned, roughly chopped
2 chicken wings, tips removed, cut apart at the joint
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
4 shallots or 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, roughly chopped
2 carrots, washed, peeled, cut into thick rounds
1 bunch parsley, washed, stems removed, finely chopped
1 large Yukon Gold potato, washed, cut into chunks
4 shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan, season with sea salt and pepper, saute the chicken until lightly browned. Remove from the pan, drain on paper towels, set aside.

Saute the garlic, shallots, mushrooms, carrots, parsley, and potatoes until lightly browned. Return the chicken to the pan. Add 3 cups of water. Simmer for 45 minutes until the meat is tender. There should be 1 cup of broth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Continue simmering another 10 minutes.

Serve with steamed spinach or broccoli.

Variations

Instead of using potatoes, serve over rice

Add spinach leaves

Add cut up celery

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Green Garlic and Clams

Originally posted on bitten, Mark Bittman's New York Times web site, the dish is one of my favorites because it's on the table in 10 minutes.
(David Latt makes a simple dish that can be amplified with any number of ingredients. –MB)
At the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market — two blocks from the Pacific Ocean — we’re finding one of the treasures of spring: green garlic, thick as a leek and two feet long.
With fresh green garlic, everything is edible except for the outermost skin. The farmer I buy them from swears that even the roots are edible. With some trepidation I nibble on a root strand and am pleasantly surprised that it has heat and an intense garlic flavor.
Next to the stand with the green garlic is Carlsbad Aqua Farm where we buy our fresh mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops. The idea was obvious to me: green garlic and clams.
I have made it several times over the last couple of weeks, and the combination is always ready in ten minutes and infinitely flexible. Served with broth and sautéed garlic-parsley toast it’s the perfect appetizer. Add pasta or cooked rice and the dish becomes a complete meal. Stir in roasted tomatoes and you’ve got the beginnings of an excellent cioppino.
Green Garlic and Butter Clams
Yield 4 servings
Time 10 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 green garlic, washed, outer skin around the bulb removed, thinly sliced, bulb and greens
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sweet butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 pounds butter clams, washed
Method
  • Sauté the garlic and parsley in the butter until lightly browned. Season with black pepper, add water and clams. Cover and cook 5 minutes over high heat. Transfer the clams that have opened to a serving bowl. Continue cooking any clams that haven’t opened for another 2-3 minutes. Discard any clams that haven’t opened.
  • When you pour the broth over the clams, do so slowly so any sediment is left behind to be discarded. Serve with fresh bread.
Variations
  • --Substitute white wine for the water
  • --Along with the green garlic, sauté 2 thinly sliced shallots.
  • --Tear apart 2 roasted tomatoes, remove the skins, add the pulp to the broth.
  • --Add 2 cups cooked pasta to the broth.
  • --Add 2 cups cooked rice to the broth.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Easy-to-Make Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Vegetables

I haven't been home for the last three weekends and I'll be traveling the next two as well, but I'm not complaining. It's been good to get out of Los Angeles and break my routine. But traveling means eating out and even if the food is great, I miss home-cooking.

When I got home I wanted to make a meal but I needed to cook something that didn't take too much effort. A rotisserie chicken definitely fit the bill. With only a couple of minutes of prep, I could walk away and let the chicken cook itself. The skin seals in the meat's delicious juices while it crisps on the outside. You get the best of both worlds: moist and crisp.

Whenever I've seen rotisserie masters like Thomas Odermatt of RoliRoti, they always put potatoes and onions in the drip pan at the bottom of the rotisserie. The vegetables soak up the drippings and fry crisp-on-the-outside from the indirect heat. I correctly assumed that a lot of other vegetables could be added to the drip pan and gain a flavor advantage.

If you don't have a rotisserie, no problem. You'll get a similar effect if you roast the chicken in the oven. Just turn the chicken every 30 minutes so it cooks evenly. About the vegetables, I used potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts but you can add just about any you like--eggplant, squash, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, turnips...

Chicken-Roasted Vegetable Soup

And there's a two-fer here: save the bones and make stock, then chop up the left over roasted vegetables or sauté new ones, and make a chicken-vegetable soup. Top with homemade croutons and you have a second easy-to-make home cooked meal.

Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Vegetables

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 2 hours


Ingredients

1 farm fresh 3 1/2 – 4 pound chicken ( washed, pat dried, legs and wings trussed)

2 carrots (washed, ends trimmed, peeled, cut into 1/4" thick rounds)

1 yellow onion (washed, ends trimmed, peeled, roughly chopped)

1/2 pound Yukon (washed, cut into pieces 1/2" square) or fingerling potatoes (washed, cut in half, lengthwise)

1/2 pound mushrooms (washed, dried, quartered)

1/2 pound Brussels sprouts (washed, root end trimmed, quartered)

Olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves

Sea salt and pepper


Method


Rub olive oil on the trussed chicken, season with rosemary leaves, sea salt, and black pepper. Put onto the rotisserie spit being careful to tighten the wing nuts so the chicken doesn’t slip during cooking. If a rotisserie isn’t available, roasting the chicken in a 350 degree oven and turning every 30 minutes will have a similar result.

In either case, put the vegetables into a roasting pan, toss with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. If using an oven, put the chicken on a roasting rack over the pan. If using a rotisserie, position the chicken on the spit so its juices will drip onto the vegetables.


Every 30 minutes, toss the vegetables for uniform cooking.


Cook for 2 hours or until the legs move easily, remove, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the chicken to let it rest 5 minutes. Put the vegetables on a plate and either lay the whole chicken on top or, what I prefer for ease-of-serving, cut apart the chicken and slice the breast pieces.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Home Alone...Again: A Lime-Mint Cooler, Grilled Corn Salsa, and Carne Asada

A couple of days ago, Michael was at a Dodger's Game, Frank was in San Francisco, and Michelle was at Sundance so I was home alone. The last time I was left to my own devices, it took me a while to figure out what to make for dinner. This time I knew exactly what I wanted.

Carne asada.

When I'm cooking for myself I want something that's quick and easy. Carne asada was perfect because it only took a few minutes on the grill. Adding a corn salsa and a lime-mint cooler and I was completely happy.

For the recipes I expanded them to serve four (except for the cooler which should be made one at a time).

Lime-Mint Cooler

I wanted to find a use for a white rum from Guatemala called "Quezalteca - Especial". What I came up with is a close cousin to a Mojito.

Yield: 1 serving
Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

1 lime or 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
10 mint leaves (washed, crushed)
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons white rum

Method

Mix together the lime juice, mint leaves, powdered sugar and white rum, add 4 ice cubes and stir well. Let the ice cubes melt for a couple of minutes. Stir again. Taste and add more powdered sugar as needed.

Roasted Corn Salsa

Using several different kinds of cherry tomatoes gives the salsa a colorful presentation.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 ear of corn (husks and silks removed)
1 basket cherry tomatoes (washed, stems removed, quartered)
1 garlic clove (peeled, finely chopped) optional
2 tablespoons red onions (finely chopped)
1 cup cilantro or Italian parsley (washed, stems removed, finely chopped)
1 small hot pepper (washed, stem and seeds removed, finely chopped) optional
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Drizzle olive oil over the ear of corn and grill on all sides until lightly charred, remove, let cool and cut off all the kernels. Mix the corn with the tomatoes, onions, and cilantro and season with the hot pepper (optional), lemon juice (optional) , olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

For an Italian style salsa substitute the parsley for the cilantro, black pepper for the hot pepper, and don't use the lemon juice.

Carne Asada

Traditionally carne asada is served with a corn or flour tortilla. Sometimes I substitute lavash for the tortilla because the lavash is flakier and sweeter.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound skirt or flank steak (washed, pat dry)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Hot sauce (optional)
4 large tortillas or lavash
4 romaine leaves (washed, shredded)
1 avocado (washed, pitted, peeled, roughly chopped)
2 scallions or 1 small onion (washed, peeled, finely chopped)
2 cups grated cheddar

Method

Sprinkle olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and hot sauce (optional) on a plate. Dredge the pieces of steak through the seasoned oil until well coated and grill on a hot barbecue 5-8 minutes on each side until slightly charred.

Remove from the grill, put on a plate, cover with tin foil, let rest for 5 minutes. Lightly grill tortillas or lavash on the grill. Chop the meat into bite-sized pieces, spread on the tortillas or lavash. Sprinkle on the lettuce, onions, and cheese. Season to taste with sea salt and hot sauce. Top with salsa.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ramen at Home, Quick and Easy

At some point in their lives, everyone eats Cup o' Noodles. They're so easy to make. Just pour boiling water into the styrofoam cup with it's nest of noodles and bits of dried vegetables, cover, and a minute later you have overly salted "soup" and mushy noodles. On a cold, drizzly day, that can be ok, but it's not a meal-of-choice. Ramen is a step up from Cup o' Noodles, but the same principle applies. Boiling water + instant noodles + "flavor packet" = soup and noodles with vegetables bits. Real ramen bears no resemblance to the packaged ramen in the market. In Japan, ramen restaurants are favorite neighorhood hangouts, usually with a counter and several tables. I've noticed that patrons in ramen restaurants don't do as much talking as they do in other kinds of restaurants. I think that's because the ramen is simply too delicious to want to talk.

People who love ramen get very obsessive about their noodles. The Official Ramen Homepage has hundreds of recipes for packaged ramen contributed by fans. Rickmond Wong is the ramen fan-extraordinaire. Profiled in the LA Times by Russ Parsons, Wong's web site rameniac.com gives a comprehensive survey of ramen restaurants in LA. Everyone has their favorite. Anne Lai sent me to Little Tokyo to try the ramen at Daikokuya (327 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles 90012, 212/626-1680).

A narrow passageway of a restaurant, Daikokuya is on the north side of 1st Street, half-way between San Pedro and Alameda. Of the half-dozen ramen restaurants on the block, only Daikokuya is packed with people at the tables and bar. Besides ramen, Daikokuya also has other traditional Japanese dishes: rice bowls, bento boxes, chicken teriyaki, mixed tempura, pork cutlet, sushi, and sashimi. But it's the ramen I came for, and while there are a dozen varieties to try, I wanted the specialty of the house: Daikoku Ramen, a large bowl of pork soup with noodles, fatty Kurobuta pork, a whole boiled egg, seasoned bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and green onions.

I took my place at the counter and watched the cooks drop baskets of noodles into the large pot of boiling water. The customer to my right, Jason, could tell I was a first-timer. He helpfully suggested I add some of the minced garlic and pickled ginger condiments to the soup. A good call.

All the ingredients are delicious, but it's the soup itself that makes the ramen at Daikokuya so memorable. If you've seen the Japanese comedy, Tampopo, you know how hard the shop keeper struggles to perfect her pork bone broth. She has to work from early in the morning until late in the evening to get the flavors just right.

I like to adapt restaurant techniques to cooking at home, but while I love the broth, that's too much work for me. I'll use homemade chicken stock instead. What I do take away from Daikokuyo is the realization that fresh ingredients can turn a lifeless package of noodles into a sumptuously refreshing meal.

At home, ramen is quick and easy to make as long as you have a good supply of homemade chicken stock in your freezer. For the dried ramen noodles, there are hundreds of brands, flavors, and varieties. Try to find one that has the least amount of chemicals in their ingredients' list. Health Food stores sometimes carry packages of organic ramen. Almost any of your favorite fresh vegetables and cooked meats will work.


Ramen at Home
Yield: 1 serving
Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients

1 package ramen
½ carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
½ cup broccoli crowns, washed, sliced
1 shallot, peeled, thin sliced
2 Italian parsley sprigs, washed, use only the leaves, whole or chopped
½ cup shredded chicken, cooked
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1 teaspoon scallions, washed, sliced into rounds, green and white parts (optional)
1 hardboiled egg, sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Method

Follow the directions on the package to make the ramen noodles, then drain them and set aside. In a small pot, sauté the vegetables and chicken in the sesame oil until lightly browned, add the chicken stock and soy sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cooked noodles. Stir well and serve in a large bowl, topped with the scallions and the hardboiled egg if you want.

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...