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One-a-day Great Superbowl Recipes (Day 1)

28 Jan
Photo by Hans Gissinger

Photo by Hans Gissinger

Three-Cheese Pimiento Mac with Parmesan Crumbs

I created this recipe for Bon Appétit magazine and it became the cover photo. It’s a comforting, American-styled baked pasta loosely based on a southern favorite – pimiento cheese – whose red bell pepper-cheddar-y taste profile is totally satisfying. The secret ingredient is sweet-and-spicy peppadew peppers. The components can be prepped ahead of time, assembled, and baked 20 minutes before serving. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd and perfect for a Superbowl gathering.

1 large red bell pepper, 7 ounces
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
12 peppadew peppers, drained
1 tablespoon peppadew brine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder
5 ounces extra-sharp yellow cheddar, in small pieces
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
4 ounces shredded whole-milk mozzarella
8 ounces gemelli or medium shells
½ cup panko
3 tablespoons slivered fresh basil

Cut the pepper in half and remove seeds. Cut pepper into 1 inch pieces and put in a small saucepan with 1/2 cup water and 1-1/2 cloves garlic. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cover. Cook 15 minutes until peppers are very soft. Transfer contents (with water) to a food processor. Add the peppadews, brine, 2 tablespoons butter, chile powder and remaining ½ garlic clove. Process until smooth. Add cheddar and ¼ cup parmesan and process until very smooth.

Boil the pasta in salted water until tender, about 11 minutes. Drain under cold water and pat very dry. Toss pasta with the red pepper sauce. Stir in the mozzarella. Add salt to taste. Pack into a large soufflé dish.

Stir together the remaining ¼ cup parmesan and panko. Add the remaining tablespoon butter and, with your fingers, thoroughly moisten the crumbs. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle on pasta and bake 20 minutes until golden. Scatter basil on top. Serves 4

A Radically Delicious Burger

30 May

Photo Credit: Terry Brennan

Big Juicy Sun-dried Tomato Burger

These days, hamburger meat has gone gourmet, so your market may offer upscale blends of ground chuck and brisket, or ground chuck and short rib meat. Experiment if  you wish, or use your own combination of chuck and sirloin.  The secret flavor and juiciness comes from grated onion pulp. Garnish as you wish:  With slices of juicy tomatoes, fresh basil and a gob of gooey cheese — your choice.  I’m into using havarti these days or take your taste buds in a different direction with thin slices of Bucheron goat cheese. Open a big zinfandel and keep the burgers rare to medium-rare.

3-1/2 pounds ground beef (not lean)
14 ounces sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1 large yellow onion
1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
8 kaiser rolls or your favorite bread or focaccia
8 thin slices of cheese, sliced tomatoes, fresh basil leaves

Put the beef in a large bowl. Drain the sun-dried tomatoes; reserving 2 tablespoons of the oil. Chop the tomatoes into very small pieces to get 1-1/3 cups and add to the bowl. Cut the onion in half; grate on the large holes of a box grater.  Add 1/2 cup grated onion pulp and juice to the bowl. Add the reserved tomato oil, basil, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Use your hands to blend; do not overmix. Form the mixture into 8 thick patties.  Season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill or broil the burgers about 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare.  Splash with balsamic vinegar and top with cheese, sliced tomatoes and basil. Serve on toasted rolls. Makes 8

A Radically Delicious Recipe: Pork Medallions with Couscous, Pistachio-Lemon Vinaigrette

24 May

Here is a stunning “restaurant dish” (that’s actually a full meal) you can whip up in your own kitchen. While it contains a cornucopia of ingredients, stealth techniques make it radically simple and radically delicious. Use genuine Dijon mustard from France for the best flavor. The pistachios can be ground in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mini food processor.

Pork Medallions with Couscous, Pistachio-Lemon Vinaigrette


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons pistachios, finely ground
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked couscous
4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, pistachios, and next 5 ingredients (through mustard) in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon garlic and 1/8 teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk.

2. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and couscous. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Rub pork with remaining 1 teaspoon garlic. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove pork from pan; keep warm. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil and tomatoes to pan; cook 5 minutes or until skins blister, shaking pan occasionally. Sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir tomatoes and parsley into couscous; divide couscous mixture evenly among 4 plates. Top each serving with 1 pork chop and spoon vinaigrette on top.

A Radically Delicious Recipe: Why Not Grill a Salad?

18 May

Grilled Romaine & Roma Tomatoes with Parmesan Vinaigrette
This might be the perfect weekend to rev up your barbecue skills. All you need are some juicy thick steaks to complete the meal and serve them with my green “magic sauce” below — its a vibrant salsa verde that is as easy to make as it is addictive. The salad takes only a few minutes on the grill until the lettuce and tomoatoes slightly blacken, imparting a desirable smoky taste and tender texture. Fresh oregano is a must. Follow with an offering of gorgonzola dolce and sweet grapes. Grill some marshmallows and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar. No one has ever done that before!

3 very large romaine hearts
6 large ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes
2/3 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
3/4 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
3 flat anchovies in oil
3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

Cut romaine in half lengthwise. Cut tomatoes in half through the stem ends. Put 2/3 cup oil in a food processor. Add 1/2 cup cheese, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, anchovies and 1 tablespoon water. Process until smooth; add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Brush romaine and tomatoes lightly with oil. Sprinkle with salt. Grill over medium heat 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side, until lightly charred. Transfer to a large platter. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Garnish with oregano. Serves 6

Magic Green Sauce (from Radically Simple)
It takes only minutes, and four ingredients, to make this radically delicious sauce. That’s magic enough, but the flavors coalesce so that even guests who don’t think they like cilantro probably will.

1 cup packed cilantro leaves with a bit of their stems
1/4 cup capers plus 2 tablespoons brine
2 tablespoons chopped scallions, white part only
6 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the cilantro, capers, brine, and scallions in a food processor. Slowly add the oil and 2 tablespoons water; process until almost smooth. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy the weekend.

A Radically Delicious Recipe: Golden Fettuccine with Sardines, Fennel & Saffron

16 May

A happy accident:  Boiling pasta in turmeric-&-saffron-dyed water imparts a glorious goldenrod hue. It makes a beautiful nest for a Riviera-inspired sauce of tomatoes, sardines, and fennel. Sometimes I add a splash of anisette to the sauce as it simmers, and once I tried limoncello! Not bad at all. Since there are bushy fresh fennel fronds all over the farmer’s market, you can intensify the experience by chopping the fronds into the sauce or add a sprinkling on top. Make sure to use fresh fettuccine as it best absorbs the golden color.  And turmeric is an important spice, having numerous health benefits and being used in the treatment of everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. I keep a copious amount in my pantry.

28-ounce can plum tomatoes in puree
3-1/2 ounces skinless boneless sardines in olive oil
1 large garlic clove
large pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
heaping 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon turmeric
8 ounces fresh fettuccine
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Combine the tomatoes with the puree, sardines and their oil, garlic (pushed through a press or grated on a microplane), and cayenne in a large saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the fennel seeds and half of the saffron. Stir and bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes over high heat, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a potato masher. Meanwhile, add the turmeric and remaining saffron to the boiling water and simmer 5 minutes. Add the pasta and cook 5 minutes, until tender. Drain well, shake dry, and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the hot tomato sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with the cheese and remaining 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds. Serves 4

Asparagus: Two Radically Delicious Recipes

9 May

It is impossible not to marvel at the bountiful bunches of asparagus at the farmer’s market this week. In fact, they even look appealing at our supermarket. Here are two simple preparations:  Chilled Asparagus Tonnato with “Confetti” — perfect for a first course or side dish, and my rather unusual Truffled Asparagus Soup with Pineapple Reduction. The soup is asparagus to the second power, made from boiled stalks and garnished with roasted tips. But the real surprise is a syrupy reduction of pineapple juice. It all makes a compelling flavor match that is among my favorites. Note:  If you boil the asparagus “peelings” in salted water until just tender and shock in cold water, you will have a tangle of something that looks a lot like fettuccine. Sometimes I toss it with freshly cooked pasta or use as a garnish for a salad or cold dish.

Chilled Asparagus Tonnato with “Confetti”

The inspiration for this dish comes from vitello tonnato — the Italian preparation of cold sliced veal covered with a creamy tuna sauce and sprinkled with capers.  Here the tuna sauce is fashioned from oil-packed canned tuna, slices of lemon, garlic and olive oil, and pureed until it has the texture of thick heavy cream.

1-1/2 pounds medium asparagus, trimmed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5-ounce can oil-packed Italian tuna
1 large garlic clove
1 large lemon
handful of mesclun or edible flowers, torn into tiny “confetti” pieces
2 tablespoons large brined capers, drained

Bring a large skillet of salted water to a boil; fill a bowl with ice water. Place the asparagus in the boiling water. Cook until crisp-tender, 6 minutes. Drain immediately and plunge into the ice water; let sit 3 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and divide the asparagus among 4 plates. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Combine the tuna and its oil, the garlic, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 thin lemon slices with rind (without seeds) in a food processor or blender.  Process until very smooth, adding enough water and lemon juice so that the texture is thick and creamy.  Add salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the asparagus and sprinkle with the “confetti” and capers.  Serves 4

Truffled Asparagus Soup with Pineapple Reduction
Although there are several steps, this is a radically simple means toward a complex flavor profile.

1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
2-1/2 pound medium asparagus, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced
1-1/2 teaspoons white truffle oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the juice in a small skillet and boil over high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup. Set aside. Discard the bottom inch or two from each asparagus spear. Cut off the tips and place in a pie pan; toss with the olive oil. Roast 8 minutes, until just tender. Cut the asparagus stalks into 2-inch pieces. Place in a 4-quart pot with the butter and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and cover. Cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor. Process, adding as much cooking liquid as needed to make a smooth, thick puree. Add the truffle oil and salt and pepper and reheat. Ladle into bowls and top with the roasted asparagus tips. Drizzle with the pineapple reduction. Serves 4 to 6

A Radically Delicious Recipe: Torta Caprese with Espresso, Served with Lemon Mascarpone

4 May

Photo: Terry Brennan


Sweet Friday

I often write for a wonderful magazine called Real Food.  It is not available on newsstands but instead can be found in some of the best upscale supermarkets across the county. In the summer 2012 issue, out now, I created a cover story based on our trip to the Amalfi coast last summer.  Included in the story are recipes for a white bean, mussel and red onion salad made with a dressing fashioned from sliced lemons, another salad of grilled romaine with Roma tomatoes, chicken breasts with black olives, lemon and fennel, and little potatoes with sun-dried tomatoes baked al cartoccio.  The final touch is a a famous cake from Capri called Torta Caprese (adapted from Arthur Schwartz’s wonderful book, Naples at Table.) My version has added espresso powder and a hint of almond extract added to the chocolate-ground almond batter. I gild the experience with an unorthodox helping of mascarpone (Italian cream cheese) whipped and flecked with bits of lemon zest. Limoncello, anyone?

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
12 ounces almonds
6 extra-large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon espresso powder
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
8 ounces mascarpone
1 large lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using 1 tablespoon butter, butter bottom and sides of a 10-inch removable bottom cake pan.  Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper. Melt the remaining butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth, stirring often. Process the almonds in two batches, each with 2 tablespoons sugar, until very fine and powdery. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in espresso powder. Set aside.

Beat yolks until light and thick, about 3 minutes. Add ½ cup sugar and beat 2 minutes longer. Add the melted chocolate and the almond extract to the yolks. Stir well. Stir in the ground almonds until thoroughly mixed. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt and ¼ cup remaining sugar until very stiff. Add beaten whites to the batter in 2 batches until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake on a rack placed in the bottom third of the oven for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until the cake is just firm. Cool and invert. Remove paper. Dust with 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar pushed through a sieve.  Serve with lemon mascarpone:  Beat mascarpone with 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar. Grate the lemon zest and add to mascarpone with 1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice and a large pinch of salt. Serve with cake. Serves 10 to 12

A Radically Delicious Recipe

2 May

Every Wednesday and Friday

Orecchiette with Fried Chickpeas, Cracked Pepper & Sage

This is an adaptation of a recipe from Little Meals which I wrote almost two decades ago!  It won me my first James Beard Award.  I have updated this recipe only slightly, using fresh sage and grated lemon zest.  I also cook up my own chickpeas but canned chickpeas are perfectly acceptable.  The dish is a riff on an old Italian recipe known as “Thunder & Lightning” — where “thunder” refers to the profusion of fried chickpeas, and “lightning” to the excessive amount of coarsely cracked black pepper.  As a bonus, sometimes I drizzle a bit of my best extra-virgin olive oil over each dish for extra complexity and “perfume.”  Nice with a bottle of Arneis (a white wine from northern Italy) or a simple Chianti.

12 ounces dried orecchiette pasta
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, very finely chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 tablespoon finely slivered sage, plus sprigs for garnishing
1 cup good-quality chicken broth
2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper, “mignonette or butcher-grind”
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
grated zest of 1 lemon

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil.  Add orecchiette and cook until al dente (about 12 minutes.) Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a very large skillet.  Add the garlic and chickpeas and cook over high heat, stirring, until the chickpeas begin to pop.  Add the sage, broth and pepper.  Continue to cook over high heat until the broth reduces a bit and becomes syrupy (about 5 minutes.)   Drain pasta well.  Put butter in a large warm bowl and add pasta.  Toss.  Add chickpeas and broth to bowl and stir well. Add 1/2 cup cheese and salt to taste.  Stir in the grated lemon zest.  Mix gently.  Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired, and dust with remaining cheese. Garnish with small sage leaves.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4

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