February 14, 2013
This meal is simple enough for a weeknight, but also sexy enough for a date night.
Just like a good pair of skinny black pants.
Duck turns out to cost about as much as a good piece of grass-fed beef. But somehow it seems altogether fresh and new for a weeknight meal. Toss in some bulk wild rice and some handfuls of baby spinach and you’ve got yourself something that despite it’s cheap and cheerful cost, almost poses as downright elegant.
Think of it as the H&M of meals. Fast fashion at the dinner table.
The duck is spiced simply with salt and pepper and a generous amount of Chinese five spice. Now before you go writing that off with “oh I can’t find that stuff,” know that in addition to you being able to easily grab a bit a your finer spice stores, you can also pick up a jar at your local grocery store because even McCormick’s makes it. Pan sear the duck, then drain (and save for oh so delicious potatoes) the fat that’s rendered off, then in the same pan wilt down your spinach that you douse with a bit of apple cider vinegar and a generous pinch of sugar. The wild rice, while it takes 45 minutes to cook, can easily be made ahead of time. Or you can unwind with some Jesse Ware and a cocktail while that simmers.
I always opt for the second.
Timing is, as it turns out – in fashion and the kitchen – is everything.
Chinese Five-Spiced Duck. Wild Rice Salad. Warm Spinach. For Two.
For the Wild Rice Salad
8 oz wild rice blend
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August 19, 2012
I stood in this kitchen this morning knowing that I wanted a traditional Sunday dinner. I was in the mood to let something cook, take a bit more time preparing something. I pulled out one of my favorite books that I hadn’t looked at in a while: Heart of the Artichoke, by the wonderful David Tanis. In it, the summer menus tugged at me and I decided to roast a spatchcocked chicken and make up a rice salad with some of the beautiful Carolina Gold rice some dear friends brought back from a summer vacation in South Carolina.
And, as luck would have it, none of this was actually time intensive. I love it when I have the time to give to something and the fates tell me not to worry about it.
In addition to being a really nice guy, Mr. Tanis is such a clever chef and cook, in the book he offers numerous variations on many of his recipes, adding or omitting an ingredient or two and giving you a whole new way to enjoy a dish, transitioning from side dish to satisfying lunch in a short jump. Really good stuff. It’s a way to start thinking about what you have in the pantry and the fridge to re-purpose yesterday’s dinner into a wholly new meal. It’s leftovers, elevated.
So tonight, after devouring half a lemony roast chicken and having just the teeny-ist bit of the herb rice salad leftover, I eyed the golden fond in the chicken roasting pan and remembered my favorite soup from Tasi: a lovely lemon chicken soup.
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August 10, 2012
It’s the time of year where just about anything your heart desires is available fresh and local here in Ohio. Farmer’s market tables groan under the weight of melons, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches. Oh the loveliness.
Local Matters (whose mission is to transform the food system in central Ohio to be more secure, prosperous, just and delicious) hosts Local Foods Week every year. This year they have so many events from tastings to picnics to special local foods week tours. It’s kind of a party with produce all week. Which is awesome.
Cooking with local produce is my personal favorite thing to do this week.
But it’s summer, too, and if you ask me, that means cooking should be just barely above a simmer. If you’re in the house, lightly sauteed or not cooked at all are methods I can stand behind.
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July 26, 2012
My palate has wanderlust again. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Vietnamese food and the influences the French left behind. I have a hankering for Pho. I’m desperate for a good bánh mì.
So it should come as no surprise that when I was invited to put together a dessert recipe Yagööt and the launch of their new line of Yagööt@Home, I chose to go the Southeast Asian route and use some inspired ingredients: coconut frozen yogurt, Thai basil, a French red wine, ginger. Sriracha.
Sometimes a recipe comes together so easily. Ingredients fall into each other like long-lost friends, perfectly happy to hang out again. And while everything except the sugar and strawberries (and the coconut Yagööt of course) in this dessert are savory, I can guarantee that it makes one of the sexiest desserts you’ve ever tasted. And did I mention that it takes only ten minutes to make?
For the red wine in this recipe, I used a Beaujolais-Villages, because it’s widely available as well as relatively inexpensive. An inexpensive pinot noir would work, too. I use only a cup, so heck, you can kind of throw this together if you’ve got a bit of wine left over from dinner. This time, I used fresh strawberries, but you can bet that I’ll be pulling out all those strawberries we picked and froze earlier this year when the weather gets colder. The recipe calls for Thai basil, which is at every Asian grocery store worth its salt. I think it’s pretty critical to the flavor profile of the dessert, but in a pinch you could substitute some standard basil. Sriracha is another seemingly exotic ingredient, but widely available in most grocery stores. Buy a bottle and you’ll find yourself putting this spicy hipster ketchup on everything from your morning eggs to Friday night pizza. It’s delicious.
Feel like being daring? Want to try this recipe? How about some free Yagööt?
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July 18, 2012
I understand the problem as well as anyone: we’re told to eat fish for its health benefits, but it’s a challenging ingredient that leaves us either nervous or unfulfilled. We’re afraid to eat it, and when we do we’re hungry later. Well I have the solution — trout paired with bacon.
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July 16, 2012
I came back from Georgia filled with Southern inspiration and several bagfuls of southern produce. The okra purchased at a farmer’s market just before we left was my favorite. And when I came home I was determined to try and remake it in a way that I found I loved. In Athens, we were lucky enough to have a superb dinner at Five and Ten. It was there I had some of the best okra I’d ever eaten. It was very simply perfectly seasoned then lightly charred in – most likely – a cast iron skillet.
Fast forward to a night that I have almost no energy to cook and even less to clean the kitchen after dinner.
Enter this super-summery dinner that’s cooked entirely outside and takes no more than about 10 minutes to prep in the kitchen. Tonight’s easy meal was chicken thighs (bone in, skin on please) rubbed with this quick spice mixture and left to marinate, and a ton of peak-season summer produce and a ton of flavor. But the star is the okra.
I know, you might have a thing with okra, right? Or you only eat it fried? Or in gumbo? Or perhaps, you just avoid it altogether. I challenge you to give this quick cooking method a try, it leaves all that incredible fresh okra taste with almost none of the things you might not like about okra (ahem, the slime). The trick is a high heat and, to begin with, a completely dry pan.
Favorite Athens Okra and Vegetables, serves two
15 small to medium sized okra pods, trimmed of the stem and halved on a deep diagonal
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June 27, 2012
This is something I will be making repeatedly throughout the summer.
Roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, finely chopped, along with copious amounts of garlic and a bit of olive oil and salt. I was quite astonished to find the depth of flavor in something that truly only had four ingredients. Roasting is certainly what certainly makes it so good. And the thing is, with a gas stove (or this summer the grill, which is in near constant use) roasting takes almost no time. Five to seven minutes or so straight on the burner over the heat, turning every so often to completely blacken the outsides. Put in a covered container to steam and cool for 10 minutes, the skins on the peppers slide off like a silk dress.
This is sexy stuff.
I want it on steaks, on fish. On these balkan burgers. On regular burgers. In my eggs.
In this recipe, I included a bit of roasted eggplant (at which Balkan traditionalists would have been shocked and horrified) but I found it gave a gorgeous texture.
For some background: ajvar is typically made in Serbia in the fall, where in small towns its process requires just about everybody who lives there to pitch in and help. The peppers are roasted, peeled and deseeded. Everything is pureed and put up in jars for the winter. Only here, I can’t wait that long: I ate spoons of it out of the dish while we were waiting for company to arrive. They were lucky they got here when they did. I would have eaten it all.
2 red bell peppers, blackened over a grill or stove, skin, stem and seeds removed, chopped
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