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Super Bowl Recipe Countdown (Day 4)

31 Jan
Photo: Linda Greene

Photo: Linda Greene

Shrimp Veracruz with Rice, Corn & Green Olives

This is fabulously easy to make and so good to eat.  Serve with warm flour tortillas or crispy tortilla chips.

Prepare the components of the salad early in the day, then toss in the shrimp just before serving.  Serve with wedges of lime and hot sauce – green and red. Drink beer or tequila or make a pitcher of pomegranate margaritas.

Easily doubled for a crowd.

2 cups uncooked long-grain brown rice (or basmati rice)
1-3/4 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (or 10 ounces frozen corn, thawed)
6 scallions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 pound very large cooked shrimp
16-ounce jar thick and chunky salsa (mild or medium)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large lime, grated zest and juice
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Put 6 cups water, 2 cups rice, and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 30 minutes until rice is just tender. Stir in corn, then drain. Transfer rice mixture to large bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Mix in scallions, bell peppers, and olives. Blend salsa, olive oil, lime zest, 1 tablespoon lime juice, cumin and smoked paprika. Stir half of the dressing into rice mixture. When ready to serve, add shrimp and remaining dressing to rice salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8

Day 7: A Radically Simple Countdown to Christmas

22 Dec

radicchioIn less than 18 minutes you can have a gorgeous fish dish that is worthy of the season. You might even consider it for your “seven fishes” dinner. The idea of roasting cod at such a high temperature was inspired by Shirley Corriher, scientist, chef, and author of the encyclopedic books, BakeWise and CookWise. I’ve added her felicitous pairing of buttery macadamia nuts and added my own wilted radicchio caressed with lemon. The combo is also great on sauteed chicken breasts. You might want to serve it with wild rice which I always enjoy during the holidays or fill your kitchen with Mediterranean flavors and make Bay-Smoked Potatoes (recipes below.) ‘Tis the season.

500-Degree Cod with Macadamia Butter & Radicchio

4 thick cod fillets, 7 ounces each
1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts, about 3 ounces
1 medium-large head radicchio, about 8 ounces
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lemon
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Season the fish with salt and pepper; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 6 to 7 minutes, until just firm. Meanwhile, chop the nuts and julienne the radicchio. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the nuts and cook over high heat, stirring constantly until browned, 2 minutes. Add the radicchio and cook until soft, 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Transfer the fish to 4 warm plates. Spoon the nut mixture on top. Top with grated lemon zest, a little lemon juice, and parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 4

Bay-Smoked Potatoes
1-1/2 pounds very small white new potatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 dried California bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub the potatoes; dry well. Do not peel. Toss with the oil and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Distribute the bay leaves in a heavy ovenproof covered saute pan. Arrange the potatoes on top of the bay leaves in a single layer. Cover tightly with foil or a cover. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hours, until the potatoes are soft and wrinkled. Transfer the potatoes and bay leaves to a platter. Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serves 4 or more

Crunchy Salmon with Wasabi Peas & Lime

18 Mar

A few days ago, my friend Lauren C. was browsing the web and came across a recipe she was crazy about, salmon with wasabi peas and lime. It was a recipe from Bon Appetit from a few years ago. It turned out that the recipe was mine — one of the few times that credit was given in the Internet’s vast virtual cookbook –which delighted her (and me) even more. In the true spirit of radical simplicity, this is a dish that requires only a handful of ingredients and can be put together in less than 15 minutes. Wasabi-coated peas — the 21st century’s new snack food — once the darling of specialty food stores and now available in every 7-11, get crushed to smithereens and packed onto thick fillets of fresh salmon to form a crunchy topping. Whereas these little peas are searingly hot, their spiciness lessens as it cooks. At the same time the salmon roasts in a 400 degree oven, slivers of red cabbage and sugar snap peas get flash-cooked in an oil-slicked wok, to form a gorgeous bed upon which the salmon sits. It is at once beautiful and delicious. My 14-year old daughter is still a bit squeamish about eating fish but she loves to crush the peas in a small plastic bag and then smash them with a rolling pin. Alternatively, it can be done in a food processor. This is a great warmer-weather dish, one that is inherently healthy, and gets you in and out of the kitchen in a flash. All you need to do is cook up some fragrant jasmine rice and pour yourself an icy glass of sauvignon blanc.

Here’s the recipe:
Crunchy Salmon with Wasabi Peas & Lime

3/4 cup wasabi peas, about 3 ounces
4 6-or 7-ounce thick salmon fillets
1 large lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sugar snap peas, about 6 ounces
3-1/2 cups finely shredded red cabbage, about 10 ounces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the wasabi peas in the bowl of a food processor and process until powdery, but still with tiny pieces. Sprinkle the fish with sea salt. Pat the crushed peas onto the fish, making sure that the top is evenly coated. Grate the zest of the lime and sprinkle onto the top of the fish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place the fish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fish is cooked through but still moist. Meanwhile, trim the ends of the sugar snap peas. Heat the remaining tablespoon of the oil in a work or large skillet. Add the red cabbage and sugar snaps and cook over high heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the fish from the oven. Cut the lime in half and squeeze juice over the fish. Transfer the vegetables to 4 large warm plates and top with the fish. Serve with additional lime wedges, if desired. Serves 4

A Great New York Chef

20 Dec

Photo Credit: Christopher Villano

I had such a wonderful meal with my family on Saturday night at Oceana! Amidst the holiday pageantry around Rockefeller Center, Oceana glowed like a jewel — all decked out in boughs of holly and towering temples of exquisite seafood. It was my first time at Oceana’s new location — on 49th street, right off 6th avenue, in New York City. Once a three-star dining boutique in a small midtown location, Oceana has transformed itself into a bustling, contemporary restaurant focusing on the chef’s passion for “fish gone global.” I’ve been following Ben Pollinger around for years. He did stints at Louis XV in Monte Carlo, then spent serious time at Tabla, Union Square Cafe, and the revered Lespinasse. As chef at Oceana since 2006, Ben has received some wicked good praise, including a coveted Michelin star and New York Times stars. He’s also one of the most normal chefs I know. In the spirit of full disclosure, Ben was a fraternity brother of my son Jeremy at Boston University. He is now the father of three and admits to only one small tattoo near his shoulder. I meant to ask him if it was the image of a fish, but I was too busy asking him about his food. When we owned and operated the Rainbow Room (from 1987 to 2000), we were among the first to serve towering shellfish extravaganzas, but Ben’s version was definitely more adventurous. Nestled in ice between the briniest oysters imaginable, perfectly poached shrimp, steamed lobster, and a sea urchin scooped from its prickly shell, was the best, and most inventive, ceviche I ever had. Gently spiced with coconut milk, mustard seed, and I don’t know what else, its perfume wafted memories of dining atop the Taj Hotel in Mumbai some some years ago. Perhaps it was Ben’s experience at the esteemed restaurant Tabla that allowed him the courage to partner a tranche of taro-wrapped pompano with a neon green coconut-curry sauce; but it’s his vast experience that made it work.

I could tell you much more about my meal, the nice wine list, and the mouthwatering “Chocolate Custard Brownie”, but I think you should experience it all for yourself.

If you order the grilled sturgeon (with white kimchee, miso and shiitake mushrooms), as I did, make sure not to eat it all.   Bring the remainder home and try it cold the next day. It makes leftover filet mignon (another favorite) taste unremarkable.

Wish you could have been there.  As an homage to Ben, I offer him a radically simple fish recipe from…Radically Simple.  I hope he likes it.

Tiradito
As is the case at Oceana, this dish relies on first-rate, super-fresh fish.  Tiradito is the Peruvian equivalent of sashimi — except that tiradito is glossed with a dressing or briefly marinated in assertive pepper purees.  My version begins with ultra-thin slices of raw halibut or red snapper that gets bathed in a tart elixir of a whole pureed lemon, olive oil, and garlic.

12 ounces raw halibut or red snapper, sliced paper thin
1 small lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium clove garlic
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives
Handful of tender mesclun or pea shoots

Arrange the fish in a tight circle without overlapping in the center of 4 large plates.  Sprinkle the fish lightly with salt.  With a small sharp knife, cut the rind and pith from the lemon; quarter the flesh and remove the seeds.  Process the lemon, including the rind, oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a blender until very smooth. Spoon the dressing lightly over the fish to coat completely.  Sprinkle with chives and coarsely cracked pepper.  Garnish the plates with mesclun or pea shoots.  Serves 4

Citymeals-on-Wheels

13 Nov

Gael Greene /Photo by Steven Richter

Gael Greene’s “Power Luncheon for Women” is the culinary equivalent of Quincy Jones’ “We Are the World.”  For the past 24 years, Gael has orchestrated formidable star power to raise money and support for Citymeals-on-Wheels.  In so doing, millions and millions of dollars have helped feed New York’s elderly and elevated the level of awareness of their plight to mythic proportion.  Yesterday the event was held at the newly refurbished Pierre Hotel (now owned by the Taj Group from India).  The meal was first-class and an extremely generous offering, made no doubt, by one of the world’s great hoteliers, Raymond Bickson.

The event was full of power and heart.  More than 400 women (and a smattering of men) gathered to praise the efforts of Gael Greene and Marcia Stein, who has been the executive director for years.   Instead of singing we ate, and talked to women we never met before.  Instead of planned seating, we each drew a number out of a big silver bowl and hoped for the best.  But it is always the best when you make it so.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ann Marie Borghese who, with her husband, bought the Hargrave vineyard on Long Island and created an exciting new venture, the “Borghese Vineyard & Winery.” Next to me was a woman research scientist (a zoologist!), next to her an executive with American Airlines, next to her a lawyer who loves the organization, next to her Francine LeFrak, and so on. Gracing the stage were more formidable women, including glamorous Gael in her signature sailor’s cap, Kathleen Turner, the screen icon and Citymeals board member who was a 2010 honoree (along with Diana Taylor, former chairwoman of the New York State Banking Board), Paula Zahn, and most importantly, on screen, some of the elderly who benefit daily from the hot meals and hugs delivered by the volunteers of Citymeals.

This event was first organized by James Beard, Gael Greene, Donald and Barbara Tober and other notables in the food world who fittingly decided to help “feed the forgotten.”  In the beginning, it was Joseph Baum and Michael Whiteman who were “the angels” who hosted the luncheon at the legendary Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center.  Decades later, I am happy to say that the event is as elegant as ever and continues to inspire.

The mission statement reads:  “Citymeals-on-Wheels provides a continuous lifeline of nutritious food and human company to homebound elderly New Yorkers in need, helping them live with dignity in their own familiar homes and communities.”   Simple and powerful.

So why not make a simple meal today and then make a simple contribution?  It will taste doubly delicious.

In honor of the wonderful scallop dish served at the luncheon, I will share one of my favorite recipes from Radically Simple.

Seared Scallops on Sweet Pea Puree
This is one of the most beloved recipes from my original Recipes 1-2-3, but I’ve updated it with dry vermouth and a garnish of trendy pea shoots. It is a dish for any time of the year because frozen petits pois, always available, provide the base of the lovely buttery puree.

10 ounces frozen petits pois, thawed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
20 medium-large sea scallops
3 tablespoons dry vermouth
handful of pea shoots, mache, or microgreens

Put the peas in a saucepan with water to cover.  Boil 2 minutes.  Drain well and save 6 tablespoons cooking liquid.  Put the peas, 2 tablespoons butter, and the cooking liquid in a blender.  Puree until very smooth and thick. Add salt and pepper. Return to the saucepan.  Keep warm.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet.  Season the scallops and sear over high heat 2 minutes per side until golden and just cooked through.  Spread the warm pea puree in the center of 4 large plates.  Arrange the scallops on the puree.  Add the vermouth and the remaining butter to the skillet.  Cook over high heat until syrupy, 30 seconds.  Pour over the scallops and top with pea shoots.  Serves 4

The Window Box

8 Nov

One of the most special presents I ever received was an enormous window box made for me by my husband. It hangs outside the window of my brownstone kitchen where it soaks up the sun and, sometimes, too much rain.  Once the entire bottom of the box fell out and lots of dirt (and precious herbs!) landed in our backyard garden.  But my beloved husband simply made me another which has lasted for years and whose contents are thriving.

I’m not much of a gardener but overlooking my neighbor’s trees, flowers and well-manicured gardens, I am the master of my herbs.  What a pleasure to
pick off tiny leaves of fresh thyme, to add sprigs of fresh mint to any dessert in a moment’s notice, or muddle a few for a warm peppermint tea. More pleasure still from crumbling fragrant rosemary into a soup or stew, or to mix sweet-smelling lavender with goat cheese and spinach and stuff it under the
skin of a chicken.

One of my most requested recipes was a result, however, of the abundance of basil in that window box years ago.  Salmon with pesto and pistachios has been copied by chefs and made by home cooks alike since 1996 — when I first introduced the dish.  I simply slather a thick tranche of fatty salmon or voluptuous Chilean sea bass with homemade pesto and thickly blanket the top with freshly-ground pistachios.   It is virtually fool-proof and can even be made with a good-quality prepared pesto if you have no time to make your own.

I like to serve the fish with lemony mashed potatoes (you can use your own favorite recipe and add lots of freshly grated zest and a bit of lemon juice)  and
a pile of something  I call green bean “fries.”  Sometimes I serve a platter of “melted tomatoes” (from Recipes 1-2-3) alongside. Open a bottle of sauvignon blanc — one of those crisp, delicious ones from New Zealand or South Africa.

Chilean Sea Bass with Pistachio-Pesto Crust & Green Bean “Fries”
This is also great made with fresh salmon.   Make your own pesto (see below) or use the best-quality store-bought — fresh, bright green and herbaceous.

4 thick Chilean sea bass, or salmon, fillets (about 7 ounces each)
2/3 cup pesto (made from fresh basil)
1/2 cup finely ground pistachios
12 ounces green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Season the fish with salt and pepper and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spread fillet with pesto, about 2-1/2 tablespoons, to cover completely.  Pat the pistachios heavily on the pesto to form a crust.  Drizzle the green beans with the oil and sprinkle with
salt.  Place around the fish.  Roast for 16 minutes, until the fish is just firm.  Grate lemon zest on top.  Cut the lemon into wedges and serve with the fish and beans.  Serves 4

Pesto Presto
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried well
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 large clove garlic

Put the basil in a food processor with the cheese, oil, pine nuts, and garlic.  Process until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Star Fish

5 Nov

Ben Sargent, a friend for years, is known by many “names” — including Hurricane Hopeful and the Surfer/Chowder Dude, if you get the idea. But I like Star Fish.  Ben’s new show called “Hook, Line & Dinner” debuted on the Cooking Channel last night.  This hour show, which aired at 9 p.m., was both travelogue (from the streets of Brooklyn to the seashore of Maine) and cooking show and I learned a lot.  It was fun to see how one seduces an eel and edifying  to watch the back-breaking work involved in digging for clams.   Ben is passionate about the sea, the people, and the creatures who inhabit that landscape.  And if any of it, or them, can be eaten, so much the better.  Ben has made chowder in my kitchen and I loved watching him work.  I also enjoyed watching him, not long ago, in another television series “Art Race across America” — where Ben had to create art in exchange for food.  He began in California and worked his way back home (to Brooklyn.)  Clearly, he’s fearless.  But he’s also confident, funny and warm and quite attached to his Yankee roots.  That’s where we really connect.

My father grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts and one of his favorite activities when we were kids was to buy a dozen lobsters and cook them in his lobster  pot in our apartment in Queens.  Lobsters were only .99 cents a pound in those days.  My dad had a special way of cooking them, in water as salty as the sea. We ate them all weekend long.   I loved to watch his huge hands break down a lobster into delectable morsels (the knuckle meat was his favorite.) My handsome dad could also crush a lobster claw with his bare hands.  He was, after all, a full back for the University of Tennessee and scored the winning touchdown in the Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, 1943. (I have the football.)  After that he was drafted by the Washington Redskins. (I have the contract.)  It all came to a screeching halt sometime in his 20’s because of shin-splints and residual war injuries — but the lobster weekends continued forever, clarified butter and all.

In Radically Simple, I share an updated recipe for lobster.

Salt-Water Lobsters, Healthy Drawn Butter
Calling the drawn butter “healthy” is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is better for you and lower in saturated fats than the unadulterated stuff.  The secret is to mix olive oil with a small amount of melted salted butter and spices.

3 live lobsters, 1-3/4 pounds each
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
4 tablespoons salted butter

Fill a very large pot two-thirds full with very salty water.  Bring to a rapid boil.  Plunge the lobsters into the pot, head first.  Cover and quickly return to a boil. Once boiling, cook the lobsters for 12 minutes over high heat.  Transfer to a platter and let cool 5 minutes.  Split the lobsters in half through the undersides.Mix together the olive oil, paprika, and cayenne.  Melt the butter and skim off the white foam.  Stir the butter into the oil and serve alongside hot lobsters.  Serves 3 or 6 St

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