Everything Old Is New Again

Back before the great flood when I was in grammar school, Meatless Monday was actually Meatless Friday. While my classmates were all eating tuna salad sandwiches, my very (as it turns out) forward thinking mother would make us sardine (from a tin) sandwiches with slice a slice of onion on white toast. Needless to say, not everyone was a fan of sardines, plus they looked so weird and had their own, shall we say, fragrance. Didn’t matter to me, I loved them.

Fast forward to current times. One cannot swing a yoga mat today without seeing a story in food magazines, on TV or on line about the huge plusses of sustainable seafood. Guess what? “Tinned fish” are in and in a huge way and fall into that very category. According to an article I just read, those tins that carry products from Spain and Portugal are packed right out of the water and the contents are among the healthiest fast foods to consume. The packaging is irrestible, almost centerpiece worthy for a casual tapas dinner. Finally, you are doing your part to partake of items that won’t destroy the oceans. So here are some ideas to use those products in some cool and delicious (and easy to prepare) ways and still feel virtuous in their consumption.

Some of what I have in my pantry. Back a bit, I posted a recipe for Sardine butter, puree a tin of sardines with a stick of butter and spread on toast or crackers. The same can be done with mackerel. These two fish are not only delicious, but also good for you (hello Omega 3). The tinned octopus and or squid can just be served on a pretty plate with a toothpick inserted for easy eating. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top because, why not? My new favorite is that cod liver stuff. Nobu served monkfish liver and the world craved it. This is much cheaper and easier to find and work with. It is almost like a pate. I serve it with a simple salsa verde (parsley leaf, capers, lemon zest, chopped olives if you like, a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste). Spread on a plain cracker. A quick, easy, and fancy bite.

If you want something more substantial, open a tin of your choosing, chop the contents and toss all with pasta. Instant sauce. Want to dress up a salad? Same thing, and the dressing is already made for you, just a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of vinegar to cut some of the richness.

So where do you find this magical stuff? Pretty much at any supermarket. Check the international aisles not for the products from Spain or Portugal because those countries provide the best of these items. WWW.tienda.com carries many more specialty items from Spain which might not be available at the supermarket. Uber Chef Jose Andres has a line of products as well. Check the web, and you will come up with more purveyors. Search specialty markets in Europe if you happen to be there, you will find these goodies in their aisles as well. I was fortunate enough to have friends bring back a few items for me just recently, God bless them.

At the end of the day, keep a few tins around, and the next time Meatless Monday (or any day) rolls around and you are hungry, break out a two slices of bread, toast them, add a slice of onion and thank my mom. Like I said at the outset, everything old is new again.

Too many onions.

So you finished the holidays, everything put away, and now you have too much of everything including the onions you forgot to use. You could make onion soup, but if you are married to a man who doesn’t really care for it, you have to think of something else before they go bad.

Simple and easy way to use them up that doesn’t include kimchi or pickling. Slice them as thinly as possible and put into a pot with about a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of a neutral oil. Add about 1/2 cup water and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Wait on the salt and pepper, their time will come later. Put the pot on a medium low heat and let the water melt the onions without browning them. Eventually all the water will dissipate (thank you for this great trick Jacques Pepin), and the onions will begin to caramelize a bit. Don’t let them brown. Taste for salt and pepper at this point and season to your liking.

Let them cool, put them in a jar, and serve with sandwiches (for the pesky, non onion soup liking hubby) or on toast with or without avocado, on eggs, on burgers, or however you want. Chop and mix with sour cream and make a grown up version of onion dip to serve with chips (Super Bowl coming!). Takes all of 15-20 minutes to make and works with any color onion. Freeze for later works too!

BEST EASY GARLIC BREAD

You have the ribs cooking, the burgers prepped, the dogs waiting patiently for their turn on the grill. Salads, cupcakes, all the stuff that make a BBQ on the Fourth what it is. So what’s missing? Scratch your head, um, er, aha! you forgot the garlic bread, what fourth of July celebration should be without it? (Well most of them if you aren’t of Italian heritage, but a post for a different date). So this is as easy as it gets. What you need is a loaf of Ciabatta bread (or loaf of your choice, but Ciabatta works best), a stick of butter (per loaf), chopped garlic (I use my microplane, this way you don’t get big chunks and the garlic melts into the butter), a rimmed baking sheet, and that’s it. If you want to get fancy and add chopped herbs, have at it, but wait until the butter garlic mix is done. Slice the Ciabatta loaf in half as shown so that you have two pieces. Grill the bread to get nice marks (or put under the broiler to toast), and set aside. While bread is grilling, place the butter and garlic in the baking pan and melt, stirring to make sure all blended. You can do this on the grill or in the oven as well. When the butter is melted and mixed with garlic (slightly toasty NOT BURNT) place the grilled sides of the bread on the sheet pan into the butter mix and let the bread soak up the mixture. Place the two sides back together, slice lengthwise, and VOILA! Best Easy Garlic Bread! You will never make it another way, I promise.

Zeppole

I come from a family with a lot of Josephs: Mother, grandparents, brother, cousins, you know, a lot. So March 19 has a special place in my heart, not only because it is the St. Patrick’s Day equivalent for Italians, but also because of the fried dough nibbles my mom (and my grandmother, my aunts, my sister, you get the picture) would make to celebrate the date. So today, I bring you zeppole. Not a very sophisticated recipe, but so good. For ten zeppole each consisting of a quarter cup raw product, you will need one package of yeast dissolved in 1 1/4 cup warm water (proof to make sure it bubbles), 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour, and a pinch of salt. Mix the flour into the proofed yeast and water mixture, add pinch of salt and set aside to rise for about an hour and a half. You can make this the day before and let mixture rise in the fridge, just bring it to room temperature before cooking. Your mixture should be a bit soupy as shown in photo. When ready, bring about a cup of oil to high heat and set a paper bag-the paper bag is important, it is part of the tradition-aside and next to your pot. Add a 1/4 cup of mixture to oil and watch it fry. When the zeppole is cooked on one side, it will turn itself over, but if it doesn’t, just give it a nudge; you want both sides a golden color. That’s it. When ready to serve, dust with a bit of powdered sugar, or a mix of powdered sugar and cocoa powder or whatever you think you might like. You can probably serve them with something savory, but I am worried that my Italian ancestors will haunt your dreams for a year. In any event, enjoy. And if your name is Joseph or any close derivation thereof, I wish you a very happy feast day!

Love Apple Confit

Did you know that tomatoes are called love apples in some circles? What better day for this great recipe that is a riff on something I saw in Milk Street Magazine, and it comes together in under an hour. It is perfect for your pre Valentine’s Day dinner aperitivi. It utilizes those pint sized containers of grape or cherry tomatoes that are always around and gives them an elevated status beyond a toss in for a salad. For one pint of tomatoes (a container), you will need 2 cloves of peeled and smashed garlic, 4 Tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, a bay leaf, and 1/2 cup of water. In a heavy duty pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic is golden, about a minute. Add the remainder of the ingredients and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until all the tomatoes have burst, about 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the tomatoes from sticking. After all have burst, reduce heat and continue to cook another 15-20 minutes until the mixture resembles a thick sauce. The oil will come to the top and at that point the mixture is cooked. Set aside to cool. It will continue to thicken. Serve on a slice of good toasted bread for a take on bruschetta with a bit of basil and there you have it. Gluten Free? Just use your favorite gluten free loaf. Or add to an endive leaf. Don’t forget the champagne and a kiss. Happy Valentine’s Day!


Who doesn’t need something in the freezer for last minute invites for cocktails this time of the year? This yummy Comte’ cracker comes from David Lebovitz “My Paris Kitchen”, takes no time to put together and freezes beautifully to be pulled out when the need arises. You need 2 slices of prosciutto (omit if you don’t do meat), 8 Tablespoons of butter at room temperature, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or fresh herb of your choice), 1/2 teaspoon each salt and fresh black pepper, 2 1/2 cups of freshly grated Comte’ cheese–you can substitute gruyere or cheddar, 1/4 cup cornmeal and 1 cup all purpose flour. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees an line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Place the prosciutto (if using) on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or so until the slices look dry and crisp. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool, the meat will crisp a bit more while sitting. While you wait, in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and with the mixer on low speed, combine the butter, salt and pepper and herbs and then add the cheese. Still on low speed, add the cornmeal and the flour until all is well mixed. Back to the prosciutto. Take the now cooled slices and chop finely and add to the dough, combining well. Remove from bowl, divide dough in half and roll each half into a log about 8 inches long. If you plan to cook immediately, refrigerate for about an hour and then slice. Place the crackers on a rimmed baking sheet again lined with parchment paper or silpat cook at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minute and serve. If you plan to freeze, wrap each log in plastic wrap and place on a cookie sheet until solid then store in a freezer bag. Remove from freezer about 1/2 hour before you plan to cook and follow the same cooking directions. I serve these all the time and they are quickly devoured. If you find that you are having the same experience, double the recipe. These little guys freeze well and everyone will marvel at your spur of the moment appetizer skill!!

IMG_1011

I am not cooking today, well not for a crowd, but I am going to give you two starters and a dessert that are easy and can be made in record time. All of these are from, where else, Italy. The first is called Pinzimonio and hails from the Tuscan region of the boot. It is a mixture of raw veggies: fennel, cucumber, radish, celery, whatever you like but make it colorful. The vegetables are is served with a mixture of best olive oil with flaky salt (Malden if you have it) freshly ground pepper, and a mix of your favorite spices or herbs. That’s it. The biggest dilemma of this nibble is what service piece to use. The second is a staple appetizer in Rome. For this you need a freshly sliced baguette or whatever your favorite bakery bread is, some unsalted butter, and anchovies. Butter the bread slices and top with the anchovies. Eat. This always makes an appearance at my Christmas Eve fish festa. Now the dessert. I call this the “idiot proof cake” because I am an idiot when it comes to baking and even I can make this. It is from the late Marcella Hazan who was Venetian, so we have made a small visit to the land of divine gastronomy, not to mention art, music, and style. Ingredients are fun ingredients to follow, 1/4 cup milk, 2 eggs, pinch of salt, 1 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 cups of flour, 4 Tablespoons butter plus some for greasing the cake pan and some Panko. What are the fun ingredients? Whatever you want. I have made this cake with a mixture of plums, a mixture of berries, chopped apples, I have added mint, nuts, but today, because it is Thanksgiving and they are in season, I made with pomegranate seeds and blueberries. Beat the milk and eggs, add the salt, the sugar, and the flour and mix until combined, then add your fun ingredients. Preheat your oven to 375. Butter a springform pan or a tart pan and sprinkle the Panko on the bottom and the sides. Dump out any of the excess. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and add the 4 Tablespoons of butter in small bits to the mix, pushing them into the batter. Bake for 35-45 minutes. I start testing at 35 minutes, cooking time will vary depending on the heat of your oven. The finished produce is delicious served as is, or can be topped with ice cream, whipped cream, powdered sugar, fruit syrups, whatever suits your taste. So there you have it. Two before and one after the big meal bits and bites. What you serve in between, well that’s up to you. Once last thing. Many thanks to all who are following me. I am so grateful for your support and encouragement. Buona Festa Di Ringraziamento

Kale. The vegetable everyone loves to hate. You’ve juiced it, mashed it, eaten it raw for salad; heavens knows what other abuse you’ve inflicted on this beleaguered green. I am going to give you an idea gleaned from Jacques Pepin ages ago. And if you are quick, you can have it ready before the o’clock kickoff to go with your chips and dip. Crispy Roasted Kale Leaves. Easy. Healthy. Cheap. You need a head of kale, stripped of the leaves and leaves torn into bite sized pieces as shown, a splash of olive oil, Kosher salt (or flaky sea salt such as Maldon), pepper, and an oven set at 350. Lay the leaves on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil, a tablespoon or so. Now, place the kale leaves on a rack and place the rack onto the baking sheet. Make sure there is space between the leaves–they won’t get crunchy if layered on top of each other. Place the pan into the oven and roast about 10 minutes until crispy. You want them to keep some of the green color so watch that they don’t burn. When done, place into a serving bowl, toss with the salt and pepper and serve. That’s it. See, even kale can be made lovable with some olive oil and salt. And here is a freebie, you can do the same thing with Brussel Sprout leaves. Separate the heads and treat the same way. Now about that kickoff…..

Yotem Ottolenghi, the master of many ingredients, has published a new book called SIMPLE. It is a beautiful text and in fact does have many simple and ingredient pared recipes. Among them, I found this, and with the preponderance of beautiful mini cauliflowers of many colors still in the green markets, I was inspired to make it. It is indeed simple: ingredients-the aforementioned cauliflower, a Tablespoon each of butter and olive oil, and flaky sea salt, Maldon if you have it. He adds a green dipping sauce, but I found the sweetness and crunchiness of the cauliflower more than enough (I did serve some Greek yogurt alongside because I had a purple cauliflower and it looked so beautiful). I made this with a mini sized head, but the recipe works for any size. Here are the directions. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the cauliflower, trim the stem to flatten it, but do not remove the leaves (they get crunchy and delicious in the roasting process) and place in salted boiling water head down for 5-6 minutes. Don’t worry if the head is not completely immersed. After 6 minutes, remove and place head down in a colander to drain for 10 minutes. Place drained and cooled head on a sheet pan or an oven proof dish head side up (you can use the dish for serving) and top with butter, olive oil, and a sprinkle of the the sea salt. Roast in oven for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours depending on the size of the head. Remove from the oven and let cool. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper. Serve as is either on the sheet pan or on the dish. Just break off the florets and eat. It is crunchy on the top, and creamy in the middle, the leaves get potato chip like, just a great vegetarian lunch or dinner side. And so much more inventive than the tiresome cauliflower rice.

Better than Blini Corn Crepe Pancakes. This is a very simple recipe and the crepes can be prepped in advance and even frozen after cooking if need be. If you live in an area where fresh sweet corn is still available (I am lucky to say I do), you can use that, but the recipe works just as well with drained or defrosted niblets. Here is the basic batter to make 3 large crepes (I cook mine in an 8″ non stick pan–easy to make, easy to clean): 2 ears of corn, 2 Tablespoons of flour, 2 eggs beaten, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 2 Tablespoons of butter, melted, 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Take the corn off the cob. (I have found the easiest way to do this is to break the ear in half, lay the half ear on its side and cut the kernels around–as shown). You can par cook the corn if you like, but if it is fresh and sweet there really isn’t a need. Your choice. Combine the flour and eggs into a batter and add the baking powder and 1 Tablespoon of the melted butter. Mix in the corn and the parsley. (NOTE: if you want to make the whole mixture in advance, wait until you are ready to cook before adding the baking powder. It loses its rising mojo if it sits in the batter too long). Add the remaining Tablespoon of butter to the pan and add a ladleful of the mixture. Flatten it out and let it cook until golden-about a minute. Flip, cook a minute longer and voila. Done. Place on a warm plate and serve. If freezing for later use, lay a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat on a rimmed baking sheet and top with the crepes until the crepes are frozen, then bag. If you want to jazz it up a bit, you can add some spices like cayenne or cumin or paprika (or a bit of all three). Change up the parsley for thyme or chives. The crepes are delicious when eaten alone, but if you want something heartier, top with some avocado (a quirky twist on avocado toast), or even a fried egg. If you want something festive or party like, make them smaller and top with creme fraiche and smoked salmon, and even black, red, or salmon caviar. Or top them with pepper jelly or syrup and have for breakfast. Try doing that with a blini!

IMG_0953IMG_0954 (1)IMG_0955