Russ’ Pork Fried Rice

This Pork Fried Rice dinner takes just minutes to make and is a great go-to on a busy night. Over the years, Russ has tampered with the ingredients a bit, but the following recipe is pretty much the mainstay. He calls it his “Asian Slumgullion.”

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It’s the perfect antidote to the dilemma of what to do with leftover pork, or for that matter, ham or chicken. Because pork tenderloin often comes packaged with two fillets, it’s not uncommon for us to have leftovers. And even if you don’t plan on making this within a few days, freeze the leftover cooked pork until the opportunity presents itself.

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The fresh ginger is chopped into a fine dice.

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Russ preps all of the ingredients ahead of time.

The key is to remember to make the steamed rice ahead of time so that it can completely cool down—so we often make the rice the night before and refrigerate it. Ideally you’ll need a large wok, and you want to make sure the oil is super hot when adding elements. And do yourself a favor and prep all ingredients before you start cooking because you won’t have time to chop once you start flipping the spatula.

Ingredients

  • 12-16 ounces pork tenderloin, pre-cooked and cut into a 1/4″ dice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, or oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 4 cups steamed rice, precooked and cooled
  • 1 bunch finely sliced scallions, reserve some of the dark green parts for garnish

Directions

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut pork tenderloins into 1/4 inch cubes and set aside.
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  2. Heat half the oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly. Pour beaten eggs into wok and leave to cook on the base of the wok for 10 seconds before folding egg mixture over onto itself with a spatula and lightly scrambling for about 1 minute or until almost cooked through.
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  3. Carefully remove omelette from wok with a spatula. Slice up with two knives and set aside.
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  4. Heat remaining oil in hot wok and stir-fry onion and ginger for 1 minute.
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  5. Add pork and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds. Stir in soy sauces, sherry or rice vinegar, and sesame oil and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
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  6. Toss in rice and reserved eggs and stir-fry (use a spatula to break up the egg into smaller pieces if necessary) for 1 minute. Lastly, add scallions and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds or until well combined and rice is heated through.
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  7. Transfer rice to a platter, garnish with scallion greens and serve.
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Navarin Printanier

Banish those horrid memories of Dinty Moore Beef Stew from decades past, which in MHO was reminiscent of canned dog food—and we didn’t even have a dog when I was young! OK, now that we’ve cleansed our brains of the aversion, let’s reimagine stew as it should be: a classic, slowly braised dish that makes French cooking timelessly appealing.

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Adapted from (we increased some of the veggies) Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in “Around My French Table,” we spent a few hours one snowy Sunday afternoon concocting Navarin Printanier, a lovely lamb stew. The lamb is browned stovetop and then simmered gently with its vegetable medley companions: onions, turnips, small potatoes and carrots.

When the sauce is a burnished mahogany color and both the lamb and the vegetables are fork-tender, you finish the stew with a pop of color, throwing in green peas. You could make it without the peas, up to two days ahead, keeping it covered in the refrigerator. Just reheat the navarin in a 350-degree-oven for 30 minutes, then add the peas and let them cook a few minutes more.

It’s a complete meal in itself and needs nothing else, but perhaps a dusting of chopped parsley. Now you can replace the childhood memories of “Eew Stew” to a much more palatable “Ooooo Stew” and look forward to making it again…

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Since the supermarket wasn’t carrying boneless lamb shoulder, we had to get a large, bone-in leg of lamb and debone it. And because it was closer to 5-pounds, we sliced off a few steaks to freeze before cubing the meat.
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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds lamb shoulder trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 12 small white onions, not peeled
  • 3 carrots sliced into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 2 medium turnips, trimmed, peeled, cut into 1/2″-thick wedges, wedges cut crosswise in half
  • 1 pound small red-skin new potatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 parsley sprigs, more chopped leaves for garnish
  • 1 bay leave, cut in half
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy dutch oven over moderate to high heat.
  2. When very hot add enough lamb pieces to brown them on all sides in a single layer. Turn to brown. You don’t want to crowd the meat so do this in two or three batches at about 5 minutes each.
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  3. When the lamb is all brown transfer to a plate and start the next batch.
  4. When done, empty pan and return lamb to dutch over.
  5. Sprinkle with flour and a generous pinch of slat and pepper and continue cooking for 3 minutes.
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  6. Add broth and tomato paste, garlic, thyme, parsley and bay leaf.
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  7. Stir everything a few times and bring to a boil.
  8. When boiling turn down flame to low and cover the pot to let it simmer for 45 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil, drop in the onions, and cook for just a minute. Drain the onions, slice off the root ends, and slip off their skins.
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  10. Set a large skillet over medium heat and melt the butter.
  11. When its hot and the carrots and turnips and cook for 2 minutes.
  12. Sprinkle sugar and continue cooking for 8 minutes or until root veggies are cooked and browned but not soft. (This step was closer to 20 minutes for us.)
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  13. Add boiled onions and cook for another 2 minutes to brown onions slightly.
  14. Put rack in center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
  15. Add sautéed veggies, potatoes, and simmer on stove for 15 minutes before putting dutch oven into the oven.
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  16. Braise for 40-45 minutes until lamb is fork-tender.
  17. Remove from oven and discard bay leaf and parsley stems, if you can find them!
  18. Add frozen peas to stew and let cook on stove top over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
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  19. Check seasonings, ladle into bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

IMG_1551Russ swore this was probably the best stew he ever had, and I had to concur!

A New Addition to the Family

Making decorated sugar cookies has been an annual tradition since I was a young child, especially at Christmas time. This year I had lots of fun by using the simple circle shape to create snowmen (and women) heads, adding them to my growing sugar cookie repertoire. But you don’t even need the cookie cutter if you don’t have one, just roll the dough into a ball and smash it down to an even thickness of about 1/8″.

For some reason my tried-and-true cookie dough recipe was not baking properly so I increased the amount of flour and they are now coming out perfectly. (Don’t ask me why, it worked for decades!) The following recipe reflects the increase—and it is doubled because one small batch just does not cut it. Once the dough is finished, refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. When ready to cut out shapes, it helps to dip the cutters into flour so the dough doesn’t stick.

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My kitchen island makes a perfect assembly line for icing cookies.

When it comes to decorating I use the Royal Icing recipe, both thicker for outline piping, and thinned down for flooding. Also, because I’m frosting with several colors at once, I find it’s easiest to use the disposal pastry bags (such as Wilton’s brand.) Mind you, the entire process takes a few days, so plan ahead.

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Not content to create just the snowmen, I also made Santa hats and Christmas trees.

Cookie Dough

  1. In a stand mixer, beat on medium 1 1/3 cups softened, unsalted butter (room temperature) and 1 1/3up granulated sugar until thoroughly mixed and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together 4 large eggs with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract; then add to butter mixture until it all comes together.
  3. Meanwhile, sift flour to measure 5 cups and sift in 1 tablespoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sifted flour ingredients, once combined raise the speed to medium for several minutes.
  5. Divide dough in half; wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper; chill until firm—a minimum of 4 hours.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  7. On floured surface roll portions of the dough until an even 1/8″ thick; cut into shapes and transfer to ungreased baking sheet(s). You can mash together the leftover dough and repeat the process.
  8. Bake until just starting to get golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. (Some ovens bake quicker, so start checking the first batch at 8 and 9 minutes.) Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to racks to finish cooling.
  9. Once completely cooled, decorate to your hearts content!

Royal Icing

  1. In a stand mixer, beat 3 tablespoons meringue powder with 1/2 cup warm water. On low, beat in 1 pound confectioner’s sugar, then turn up the speed to high, beating the contents until thick, 5-7 minutes.
  2. Divide icing into separate bowls depending on the number of colors you will be using. Tint with food coloring until you get the desired shades.
  3. Add small circle nozzles to your pastry bags then insert some of the icing, reserving portions of each color for flooding.
  4. For the reserved portions, add about 1 teaspoon water to each color to thin, and put the icing into plastic squeeze bottles with thicker openings for flooding/glazing purposes.
  5. Pipe an outline for the desired base colors. I do many cookies at once. Then add the same color using the thinner icing to flood inside the piping. To spread it into the corners, use a toothpick or similar tool.
  6. When adding decorative details, like the faces, wait until the base coat is completely dry. You can change the tip to make fluffy trim such as that on the Santa hats.
  7. Once you are finished decorating, make sure all of the icing is completely dry before you pack them into airtight containers.

You can store the icing in the refrigerator for up to a week, just bring it to room temperature before icing cookies. You can also freeze the cookies for several months, which, when we were kids was great because Mom would bring them out weeks after the holidays and we’d get a treat all over again!

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

What’s a holiday meal without a fantastic dessert to finish? These appropriately seasonal Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars were the perfect finale to Thanksgiving dinner. A few weeks prior to the holiday, I noticed the recipe in the American Lifestyle magazine provided by my real estate friend Fran; and I knew I just had to make them. Hubby Russ was on board with the idea too, after all, his 3 kids were joining us this year and we wanted something that would appeal to all of them. Chocolate pretty much does that…

After letting the chocolate ganache set up in the fridge, it was all but impossible to slice through the hard chocolate. Next time I will slice the bars first, move them slightly apart and pour the ganache over the slices letting the chocolate drizzle down the edges. Russ even suggested omitting the butter and adding a bit of heavy cream when making the ganache to give a slightly softer consistency. Makes sense to me…

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And if you’re really in a festive mood, add some chocolate shavings as a garnish…

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. butter
  • cups chocolate crumbs (such as Famous Chocolate Wafers)
  • 2, 8-ounce packages cream cheese, full-fat
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • teaspoon ground ginger
  • teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • Milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate curls, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small pot over medium heat, melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) of the butter. Pour it over the chocolate crumbs in a medium mixing bowl and use a wooden spoon or spatula to combine and evenly coat the crumbs.
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    I ground up the chocolate wafers in a mini processor.
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  3. Press the chocolate crumbs firmly into a buttered 9×9-inch baking pan, lined with parchment paper that hangs over two sides to create the base and handles for lifting. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
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  4. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg, pumpkin, sugar, spices and salt. Beat again to combine until smooth. Scrape down the bowl at least once during the process.
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  5. Pour the batter over the cooled chocolate base and return it to the oven to bake another 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm to the touch.
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  6. Remove the bars from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled, use the parchment handles to carefully lift the slab from the pan in one piece, and place on a platter.
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  7. Meanwhile, in a double boiler over medium heat, melt the chocolate chips and two tablespoons butter. (Here’s where I’ll omit the butter and add a bit of heavy cream next time.)
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  8. Pour the chocolate over the top of the cooled pumpkin layer and use a small offset spatula to help spread evenly. OR, slice the slab into 16 bars and move slightly apart. Then pour the chocolate ganache over them, letting it drizzle over the edges.
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  9. Place the platter in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes so the chocolate sets up. If not serving right away, wrap in plastic wrap, then cover with foil. Bring to room temperature before serving.
  10. OPTIONAL: To make small chocolate curls, carefully draw a vegetable peeler across the broad surface of a bar of semisweet or milk chocolate. This works best if the chocolate is at room temperature. For narrower curls, use the side of the bar.

To Make Ahead

Bake and chill cookies as directed; cut into bars. Place in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Do not freeze.

 

Soup to Soothe the Soul During Times of Much Excess

‘Tis the season for excessive overabundance, especially when it comes to all things food. Don’t get us wrong, we love all of the feasting around the holidays, but we also welcome the uncomplicated culinary moments such as the joy of a simple bowl of lentil soup.

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Healthy and hearty, spicy and straightforward, frugal and fragrant in equal measure, Curried Lentil, Tomato and Coconut Soup is the antidote to all of those rich meals and snacking in between. This is just the sort of soup that can be made without schlepping to the supermarket (unless of course you need coconut milk), or breaking the bank for pricey ingredients. Plus, when your capacity for preparing elaborate meals has lost it’s appeal, this soup even ticks off a lot of “free-from” boxes: meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, but most of all guilt-free.

Why not make a batch a few days before the parties begin again in earnest,? Then you’ll have some on hand to prepare for the upcoming indulgences or to soothe once you’ve reached the other side. Hint: it can be kept in the fridge for 3 days and can also be frozen. Nutty and earthy in flavor, lentils have a high nutritional value that anyone can benefit from by incorporating this healthy legume into their diet.

Of all legumes and nuts, lentils contain the third-highest levels of protein. Twenty-six percent of lentil’s calories are attributed to protein, which makes them a wonderful source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Although lentils include numerous beneficial nutrients like fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins, they are still low in calories and contain virtually no fat.

We tend to keep brown lentils on hand because they don’t break down as readily as the yellow or red varieties. Just be aware, they need to cook longer—in this case 45-50 minutes as opposed to 20-25 minutes as the directions indicate. This recipe calls for medium curry powder, but it’s flexible. If the one you have is mild or very spicy, adjust the heat level with more, or less, red pepper flakes. It definitely has a kick which is tempered by the swirl of coconut milk as a garnish.

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 2½-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon medium curry powder (such as S&B)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¾ cup red lentils
  • 1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup finely chopped cilantro, plus leaves with tender stems for serving
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken well
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

Directions

  • Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and golden brown, 8–10 minutes.
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  • Add garlic, ginger, curry powder, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add lentils and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
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  • Add tomatoes, ½ cup cilantro, a generous pinch of salt, and 2½ cups water; season with pepper. Set aside ¼ cup coconut milk for serving and add remaining coconut milk to saucepan.
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  • Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft but not mushy, 20–25 minutes. Season soup with more salt and pepper if needed.
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  • To serve, divide soup among bowls. Drizzle with reserved coconut milk and top with more cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Do Ahead: Soup (without toppings) can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

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Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, found in bob appétit

Upping the Sizzle Factor

The holiday season was ramping up and we were hosting a couple for pre-dinner cocktails. Along with the libations, we wanted to munch on a festive appetizer before heading out for dinner. The day had been filled with a long to-do list which left us precious little time to get extravagant. Russ came to the rescue with a tried-and-true, simple yet elegant tapa, Sizzling Garlic Shrimp, or as the Spaniards would say “Gambas al Ajillo
.”

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Russ and house guests Francis and Jane Paixao enjoy the garlicky shrimp.

A miniscule, centuries-old dive tapas bar in Madrid, La Casa del Abuelo, serves sickly sweet jug wine and little else besides their house specialty—garlic shrimp. According to chef/author Anya von Bremzen, they slowly and patiently sizzle them in small earthenware cazuelas while customers watch. They are simmered so gently in olive oil that they come out just heated through rather than fried. Now we’re bringing this classic recipe to the other side of the Atlantic.

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It’s best to use an excellent quality olive oil because it is so suffused with garlic that you and your guests will huddle around the cazuela dunking fresh bread in what’s left long after the shrimp is gone. The problem was, our bread was gone too! So we’re saving the remaining oil to use with a future pasta dish.

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One of the beauties of this dish is the ability to adjust the spiciness—and knowing our guests had a much lower tolerance than us, we scaled back the hot chile aspect. So instead of incorporating the dried chile, Russ just added a few red pepper flakes to add a hint of heat.

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One of Spain’s most popular tapas, this classic shrimp recipe is a total keeper. The shrimp are tender and flavorful, and mopping up the garlicky, herby oil with bread is a must.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds shelled and deveined large shrimp, tails intact
  • Coarse salt
 (Kosher or sea)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small dried hot red chile, seeded and crumbled
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Crusty bread, for serving

Directions

  1. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 10- to 11-inch earthenware cazuela or enameled cast-iron skillet, combine the garlic and olive oil and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is very fragrant but not colored, 2 to 
3 minutes.
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  3. Add the chile and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and turning the shrimp occasionally, until barely pink, about 3 minutes. (A bit longer for larger shrimp.)
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  5. Stir in the parsley and a generous pinch of salt and cook for a few seconds longer.
  6. Serve in the skillet, passing crusty bread at the table.

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Originally we bought a small baguette, but in hindsite, we should have gotten the large to mop up all of the flavorful oil left behind.

Lidia B’s

When in Rome… but we weren’t; not even in Italy. We were in the Steel City on a Saturday evening for a Sunday night Steelers football game. Our residence for two nights was at Homewood Suites by Hilton in the “Strip District” just two miles shy of Heinz Field. It was an extended stay hotel with a fully equipped kitchen, except that we didn’t bring any food. Next best thing? Make a res, of course.

We feared that might be a bit of an issue because the area was packed with excited fans of both Pittsburgh and the opposing Green Bay Packers teams, some of which were already donning their cheese heads! As Russ was scanning the Internet for possible eateries, I noticed the hotel had included a flyer promoting Lidia Bastianich’s restaurant, which was located conveniently right around the corner.

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Russ holding his coveted Steelers football tickets for great seats right near the 50-yard line!

Well, as not only Steelers fans, we are also fans of Lidia, so getting a coveted reservation at her esteemed establishment, was an additional coup for us. Luckily they were able to fit us in at the time slot we wanted, and we made the short walk in mere moments. And what an impressive place it is!

Lidia’s Pittsburgh opened in March of 2001, only two years after Lidia Bastianich and her son Joseph Bastianich opened the popular Lidia’s Kansas City, their first venture outside of Manhattan. Acclaimed New York architect David Rockwell designed the interior to reflect an open-warehouse atmosphere nestled in the heart of the strip district. Lidia’s Pittsburgh menu concept is a combination of the New York restaurants, Felidia and Becco.

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The environment is friendly enough to dine with family and kids, as well as quiet enough to have a lovely evening as a twosome. The classy Italian atmosphere is very warm and welcoming with a warehouse-modern decor. Soaring ceilings, a massive stone fireplace, huge baubled chandeliers, eye-catching stained glass circles, and a second story dining area all tie together for a stunning ambience.

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Our starter was the ANTIPASTI—Chef’s Selection of Salumi, Cheese, and Seasonal Vegetables. Not a fan of either salumi or paté, Russ got those all to himself, but I did enjoy the pickled onions, herbed olives, buffalo mozzarella and white truffle cheeses, and the smoked pork.

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Along with our shared appetizer, a bread basket appeared with a plate of house-made bean and basil pesto spread, an olive spread, and an olive oil for dipping. The spreads were creamy, well-seasoned, and delicious. And included with two types of freshly baked bread were the most amazingly delicious parmesan bread sticks! In fact, when our waitress packed up the leftovers, we asked her for the remaining breadsticks—of which, lucky for us, she tripled!

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Prior to entrées we each chose a salad, with Russ getting his usual Caesar, and me the Rucola consisting of arugula, gorgonzola, walnuts and pear slices. Russ is always thrilled when he can get whole anchovies. Mine was lightly dressed, which is how I prefer salad, and the large chunks of gorgonzola “peared” well with the other ingredients.

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Knowing Lidia hailed from northern Italy near Austria, Russ was drawn to the SARME—Beef and pork stuffed cabbage rolls braised in sauerkraut, and served with a large crock of mashed potatoes. He shared a taste of that luscious meat stuffing which was a savory, melt-in-your-mouth bite!

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I went with one of my usuals, the SALMONE—A perfectly cooked grilled salmon fillet, accompanied by roasted Yukon potatoes and string beans, all nestled in a delicate mustard sauce. The portion was more than ample and I remembered our full-sized refrigerator back at the hotel which would accommodate my doggie bag.

Along with an all-you-can-eat sampler of three different house-made pastas that change daily, the menu entrées are mostly very traditional with pastas like cannelloni and lasagna, and meat dishes such as chicken parmigiana and Osso Buco. If we ever get to the Strip District again, we’ll make a point to revisit Lidia’s.

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Lidia Bastianich is the chef/owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants — Felidia, Becco, Esca & Del Posto, as well as Lidia’s Pittsburgh & Lidia’s Kansas City. Together with her son Joseph, she produces award-winning wines at their Bastianich Vineyards in Friuli. 2007 signified a true benchmark in Lidia’s career, as she had the esteem honor of cooking for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during his travels to New York. In fall of 2010, Lidia released her first children’s book, soon to be a holiday classic, Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia’s Christmas Kitchen. Perhaps the single most important quality that Lidia shares is her belief that it’s not only the food on the table that makes the meal, it’s the people who join around the table who bring the meal to life. Her signature line: “Tutti a tavola a mangiare!” means “Everybody to the table to eat!”

Salad You’ll Want to Eat—Even on a Cold Day

There may be periods when you probably munch on some (or a lot!) of not-so-good-for-the-diet meals and snacks. Don’t beat yourself up, just counter-balance that approach by dressing up cooked chicken breasts with bright Asian flavors. This Vietnamese-Style Chicken Salad is built off of a packaged coleslaw mix, enhanced with fresh mint and cilantro, crunchy peanuts, and a sweet-and-salty dressing of fish sauce and rice vinegar.

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Super fast, super easy and super tasty, the recipe provides a flipside to all of that rich food and is perfect for a working weeknight. It’s even more expedient if you use some leftover chicken or a store-bought rotisserie bird. Of course, instead of packaged coleslaw you could make your own from green Napa and purple cabbages and shredded carrots allowing more control over the amounts of each and overall color distribution.

It was a cold Winter’s night when I made this, so grilling chicken breasts outside was not an option I dared consider. (You may have an indoor grill option.) Alternatively, I seared the seasoned meat in a hot skillet for one-and-a-half minutes each side, then popped the entire oven-proof pan into a 400 degree preheated oven for another 12 minutes total.* After allowing them to cool for about 15 minutes, they were easy to pull apart with my fingers into long thin strips.

We loved the salad just the way it was. But next time we’ll probably include two jalapeños (without stripping the veins) to increase the spiciness more to our liking. But please don’t omit the fresh mint and cilantro as they contribute an added dimension of flavor and perk up the salad.

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Ingredients

  • 3 small shallots, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped (seed first if you want less heat)
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless, thin-sliced (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) chicken breast cutlets
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 oz. package coleslaw mix
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

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Shallots, sugar and jalapeño are mashed in mortar and pestle to release the juices.

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I seared our chicken breasts in a hot skillet then finished them off in a 400 degree oven.

img_9380Once cool enough to handle, shred the chicken along its natural grain with your hands.

Directions

  1. Prepare a medium grill fire. If you don’t have a grill, you can cook the chicken indoors on a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat for the same amount of time. *Or see my method above.
  2. With a mortar and pestle, pound the shallots, jalapeño, sugar, and 1/8 tsp. pepper until the shallots are very soft (but not pureed) and liquid is released. Transfer to a large serving bowl and stir in the vinegar and fish sauce.
  3. Season the chicken with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper and grill, turning once, until just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Let cool and then shred the chicken with your fingers into long thin strips, pulling the meat along its natural grain.
  4. Toss the coleslaw mix into the vinegar mixture. Add the chicken, mint, and cilantro and combine well. Top with the peanuts and serve at room temperature.

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by Lori Longbotham from Fine Cooking

Easily Turn a Side Into a Main

Lovely and colorful, this Southwestern Rice Pilaf side dish is a welcome change to regular rice and/or potatoes. While we didn’t consider this very spicy, it did have a kick to it. If you prefer low-spicy foods, leave out the diced jalapeño at the end.

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We served ours with a Pork Chops with Green Chiles and Onions entrée but this dish would also make a delicious accompaniment to steak or chicken fajitas. Or, to simplify things, simply shred a rotisserie chicken or some cooked sausage, fold into the rice, and Voila, a ready-made meal!

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Always a good idea to prep all ingredients prior to cooking.
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, medium diced (1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium poblano, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced (1/2 cup)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced (2 Tbs.)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt; more as needed
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken broth, preferably hoemmade
  • 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained well
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced

Directions

  1. In a heavy-based 3-qt. saucepan with a tight lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, poblano, and garlic, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
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  2. Add the chili powder and cumin and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and the spices are very fragrant, about 3 minutes.
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  3. Add the rice and salt, and stir well to coat each grain with oil. Toast for a full 5 minutes, stirring regularly to keep the grains separated and to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan (the rice may turn opaque before 5 minutes is up, but keep going). Reduce the heat to low if there are any signs of scorching.
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  4. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes, stir once, and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 18 minutes.
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  5. Remove from the heat and let the pilaf sit, still covered, for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 Tbs. zest from the lime, and then cut the lime into wedges.
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  6. Once the pilaf has rested, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Using the fork, gently fold in the cilantro, jalapeño, and lime zest. Season to taste with salt. Serve with the lime wedges for spritzing over the rice.
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Recipe by Ris Lacoste from Fine Cooking

Pork Chops with Green Chiles and Onions

It may be past time to dance to a new tune with pork chops… And if you like a little spice in your life, then you must try these Pork Chops with Green Chiles and Onions. A double dose of chile—canned and powder—adds pleasant heat to this quick skillet braise. The peppers’ light green hue fades slightly as they simmer, but their spicy essence intensifies into a delicious sauce.

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I always keep a jar of pickled jalapeños in the fridge for nacho toppings, so they came in handy for this recipe. These jalapeños are so much better than canned and do not contain preservatives or artificial colors. The mixture of vinegar and salt act as a natural preservative (no canning needed) and help keep the jalapeños good in the fridge for up to two months—although, I’ve had them last much longer. *See recipe below.

The directions indicate to cook the chops another 5 minutes once they’re nestled back into the onion mixture. Because ours were closer to 1 1/2″ thick, they took an additional 3-4 minutes. If perchance you plate them too soon and they seem a bit too pink, you can always zap them in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

Now kick up your heels and shake those maracas!

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Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. pure ancho chile powder or chili powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 center-cut boneless pork chops, about 1 inch thick (about 1-1/2 lb. total)
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth; more as needed
  • 1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles
  • 3 Tbs. chopped jarred jalapeños (from about 12 slices)
  • 1 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, chile powder, 1-1/4 tsp. salt and 3/4 tsp. pepper. Sprinkle on both sides of the pork and set aside.
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  2. In a blender or food processor, purée the chicken broth, green chiles (with their liquid), jalapeños, and vinegar until smooth.
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  3. Put the flour in a pie plate and dredge the pork chops, shaking to remove any excess. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Pour in 2 Tbs. of the oil and heat until shimmering hot, about 1 minute. Add the pork chops and cook, without moving, until they’re brown around the edges and release easily from the pan, 2 to 3 minutes.
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  4. Reduce the heat to medium, flip, and cook the other side until browned, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a large plate.
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  5. Over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil and the onion to the skillet. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and golden, about 4 minutes.
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  6. Add the green chile mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens slightly and the onions are completely tender, 2 to 3 minutes more; add a splash of chicken broth if the mixture seems dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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  7. Return the chops to the pan, nestling them into the onions. Cover and simmer gently until the pork is fairly firm to the touch with just a little give, 3 to 5 minutes. With a paring knife, make a nick in a thicker chop to make sure it’s only just a little pink.
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  8. Serve the pork chops topped with the sauce.
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By Tony Rosenfeld from Fine Cooking

Pickled Jalapeños

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or less)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7-8 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Combine the vinegar, water, garlic, sugar, and salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add jalapeño slices, stir, and remove from heat.
  2. Let sit for at least 8 minutes then use tongs to remove the jalapeños from the pot to a jar; cover with the brining liquid to fill the jar.
  3. Store in the fridge for up to two months (sometimes longer.)
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