A Whiter Shade of Pale

Not exactly “meatless” due to a few strips of bacon, we decided to make Baked Cod with Tomato-Bacon Jam anyway for a Meatless Monday dinner. It was easy, quick, had a limited list of ingredients, and just sounded good—and it was!

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Problem was buying the cod, something you’d think would be a cinch. Unaware that our usual supermarket ran a sale on cod over the weekend, by the time we got to the store on Sunday afternoon, they were completely sold out. Making our way back home, Russ suggested stopping at another nearby grocery store, and we lucked out, they had a slew of it—although not on sale 😦

In this recipe, sweet tomatoes get cooked until they break down, creating a jammy sweet-and-sour sauce that’s made even better with bacon. Brushing the fish with a lemon-mustard mixture before cooking was an easy way to boost its flavor.

Now for the sides. A quick and indulgent answer to potato gratin, these Cheesy Skillet Potatoes were delicious with our baked cod. I saw no need to peel the spuds which actually adds a bit of fiber. And even though it was yet another “white ingredient,” we paired the meal with steamed cauliflower because, well, because we had some leftover and wanted use it up. Sometimes it’s no more complicated than that.

White-on-white is usually not a desired color scheme for a dinner entrée, as we eat with our eyes first. However, the pearly palette was enlivened with some color from red tomatoes, green chives and yellow lemon wedges.

…And so it was that later
As the miller told his tale
That the cod, though cooked perfectly
Turned a whiter shade of pale…

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Baked Cod with Tomato Bacon Jam

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped (about 5 oz.)
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 4 6-oz. skinless cod or haddock fillets, at least 1 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°f. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  • Cook the bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate.
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  • Pour off all but 2 Tbs. of the bacon fat from the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes.
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  • Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked bacon.
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  • Meanwhile, whisk the mustard and lemon juice in a small bowl. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with the mustard-lemon mixture, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
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  • Bake the fish until just opaque in the center, 10 to 12 minutes. Spoon some of the tomato-bacon jam onto each plate, top with the fish, and serve.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

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Recipe by Erica Clark from Fine Cooking’s “Make It Tonight” series

Cheesy Skillet Potatoes

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Ingredients

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Cheesy Skillet Potatoes

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1-1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 oz. coarsely grated sharp Cheddar
  • 2 oz. coarsely grated Raclette (our choice) or Emmentaler
  • 1 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives

Directions

  • Season the potatoes with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
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  • Add the potatoes and cook, undisturbed, until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
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  • Lower the heat to medium and gently flip the potatoes every 2 minutes until about half of the slices are crisped and browned, another 8 to 10 minutes.
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  • Top with the Cheddar and Raclette. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit until the cheese melts, 2 to 2-1/2  minutes. Sprinkle with chives, and season to  taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe by Ronne Day also from Fine Cooking

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Crabmeat Carbonara Anyone?

Jumbo lump crabmeat is one of my faves, so I was immediately drawn to this quick and easy pasta dish. While the Pasta with Crabmeat and Pancetta recipe calls for 12 ounces of crabmeat, the store had only a choice of half-pound or full-pound containers, so I purchased the latter. My surprise came after grocery shopping when I got home and took a look at the receipt. The price for the 16-ounces was $35.99, usually way more than we would spend for a weeknight dinner!

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The costly jumbo lump crabmeat was beautiful and contained no filler and basically very little moisture—all pure succulent crab!

Oh well, I certainly wasn’t going to take it back, and I was determined to use the entire 16 ounces, culminating in a weeknight treat. In the spirit of such extravagance, Russ decided to forgo his gluten-free pasta (the wrong shapes on hand) and “suffer” through using the newly-purchased dried-egg tagliarelle. In the end, it reminded us of carbonara, but with sweet crab and the bright zing of lemon.

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But the menu needed fiber and a pop of color, and we met that desire with an Orange, Avocado & Mâche Salad. Unfortunately for us, the supermarket didn’t have mâche, so we used baby mixed greens instead.

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What is mâche, also called “corn lettuce” or “lamb’s lettuce”? It’s a European salad green that grows in small, rosette-shaped bunches. It has dark green leaves on short stems, and has a distinct sweet taste—making it known as the “mayonnaise of salad greens.” This little lettuce is sweet, soft, velvety and nutty. All the goodness of other mesclun mixes without any bitterness or peppery bites—so it works well with many ingredients.

With our pasta weighing in at 8.8 ounces as opposed to 12, and our crabmeat a hefty one-pound, we liked the carb-to-protein ratio much better. When you shop, hopefully you’ll get a better deal on jumbo lump crabmeat, but if not, perhaps indulging yourself with a candlelit weekend feast is the way to go…

Pasta Recipe

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Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 4 oz. diced pancetta (about 1 cup)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2-1/2 oz. grated pecorino romano (about 1 cup); more for serving
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (about 4 tsp.)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 oz. dried egg fettuccine, or similar pasta shape
  • 12 oz. cooked lump crabmeat, picked over

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to small bowl.
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  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cheese, garlic, half of the zest, and 1 tsp. pepper.
  4. Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain.
  5. Immediately add the pasta, pancetta, and 1/4 cup cooking water to the egg mixture, tossing to combine; gently toss in about two-thirds of the crabmeat and additional cooking water as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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  6. Serve topped with the remaining crabmeat and zest. Pass additional cheese at the table.
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Salad Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 4 medium navel or Valencia oranges
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. minced red onion
  • 1 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, thinly sliced
  • 5 oz. mâche (about 6 loosely packed cups)

Directions

  1. Finely grate 1 teaspoon zest from one of the oranges and put in a large bowl. Using a sharp knife, trim off the peel and white pith from the oranges and cut crosswise 1/4 inch thick slices.
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  2. Squeeze two or three orange slices over a small bowl to yield 1 tablespoon juice; add the juice to the zest along with the olive oil, onion, and vinegar. Whisk to blend and season to taste with salt and pepper.
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  3. Arrange the remaining orange slices and the avocado slices to one side of 6 salad plates.
  4. Toss the mâche with the dressing, season to taste with salt and pepper, and mound next to the oranges and avocados.
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Basque Sheepherders Lamb Stew

We are enamored of the Basque Country in Spain and adore lamb, so when we realized we had a few pounds of lamb stew meat in the freezer, Russ immediately went about researching possible recipes. After reviewing oodles of them, we settled on this Basque Sheepherders Lamb Stew from our copy of The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly.

IMG_2760To round out the meal we added rosemary roasted baby potatoes and a green salad.

It was, in a word, DELISH! The seasoning combination is just incredible. It didn’t take a lot of effort to create, but you do need to set aside a block of time because the meat must marinate in seasonings for up to 2 hours before you cook, or overnight. Thank goodness I noticed that direction, because dear-old-husband thought he had plenty of time on hand before he needed to start dinner, and busied himself making a homemade soup (which of course I didn’t complain about.)

But after you brown the meat and sauté the aromatics, the stew pretty much takes care of itself as it simmers slowly over the cooktop for a couple of hours. The liquid will still be a bit soupy at the end, so make sure to reduce it down and thicken before adding the meat back to the pot to warm through. Garnish with chopped parsley for a pop of color.

History of Basque Sheepherders in the U.S:

For more than a century in Northern Nevada and other parts of the Western United States, Basque immigrants were closely tied to the sheep business. The first Basque sheepmen in Northern Nevada came for the gold rush in the mid-1800s, usually by way of South America. Some Basques who were experienced with livestock found that they could make a better living providing the mining camps with meat and wool than they could by mining. As their operations grew, they began hiring herders from the Basque Country, and Basque sheepherders gained a reputation for dependability.

Population pressures and the political and economic environment in the Basque Country made sheepherding an attractive option for young, single men with a sense of adventure. Some of them were not fully informed about the solitary and difficult conditions that awaited them in the mountains and deserts of the West, and most of them did not stay with the job more than a few years. Most of them returned to their homeland located in the western Pyrenees, straddling the border between France and Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay.

Some Basque sheepherders took their wages in sheep instead of cash, and built their own sheep empires. Others found success in other occupations. In 1966 1,200 Basque sheepherders were employed in the United States, but 10 years later there were 106. It no longer made economic sense to go to America to herd sheep. Basque immigrant communities strive to keep their cultural traditions alive, and Basques in Northern Nevada celebrate their sheepherding heritage.

Basque Sheepherders Lamb Stew

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika, (preferably sweet Hungarian)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 – 4 lbs lamb stew meat from the neck, shoulder or leg, with or without bones, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 fire-roasted red bell pepper OR 2 canned or bottled red peppers or pimentos
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 fire-roasted mild green chile, such as Anaheim, chopped or 1/4 cup chopped canned green chiles
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Directions
  1. Flavor Step – Mix the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Put the meat in a zipper-lock bag or a bowl, add the rub, and toss to coat thoroughly. Marinate the meat for up to 2 hours at room temperature or overnight, covered if necessary, in the refrigerator. If the meat has been refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before cooking.
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  2. In a blender or food processor, blend the red pepper and vinegar to a puree. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet or heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on all sides, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Remove the lamb and pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. (You will probably need to do this in two or three batches.)
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  4. Reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onion, garlic, and green chile, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
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  5. Add the lamb, the pureed red peppers, the bay leaves, wine, and stock, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about 1-1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Stir once in a while and add more wine or stock if necessary; the liquid should barely cover the meat.
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  6. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Degrease the sauce and reduce it over high heat to thicken slightly. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste for salt and pepper. Return the meat to the pan to warm through, and serve.
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An A-PEEL-ing Shrimp Braise

Usually the term “braise” denotes a long, slow cooking procedure, which this Beer-Braised Shrimp is definitely not. The Wikipedia definition: Braising is a combination-cooking method that uses both wet and dry heats: typically, the food is first seared at a high temperature, then finished in a covered pot at a lower temperature while sitting in some amount of liquid.

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So yes, the recipe does meet some of the criteria. The seafood is not seared in a pan first, but rather added to the simmering beer broth, then cooked covered—but only for a few minutes as opposed to hours; making this dish a great weeknight addition to your fast-and-easy recipe repertoire.

Bread is usually not a staple in our abode, so if you don’t have a crusty baguette to mop up those tasty juices you may want to ladle the shrimp over some steamed rice as a vehicle to capture the flavors. Speaking of flavor, the bitter and spicy notes of the colorful radicchio (of the endive family) and parsley salad is a perfect accompaniment to the main dish.

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My bad? I bought already-peeled shrimp by mistake, although the tails were still intact. The most flavorful part of the shrimp is the shells. Left on for the cooking process, shrimp shells contribute a depth of flavor that’s somewhere between toasty and briny. Cooking unpeeled shrimp is the thing that will really make that shrimp flavor pop, and to reap the benefits, the only thing you need to do is…nothing. But I can’t say my peeled crustaceans were detrimental to the dinner because it was so much easier only having to remove the tails as opposed to the entire shell.

People in many parts of the world eat shrimp with the shells on, and it’s not considered a big deal—in fact, my brother is one of those people—I’ve seen him do it on several occasions. The “crunch” factor is supposedly the appeal, but I keep thinking how difficult that would be going down the gullet, yikes! Whether it’s best to leave the shells on or off is like so many things: it depends.

Shrimp cooked in their shells have a plumper texture, and they don’t seem to go from perfectly cooked to overcooked as quickly. However, in the presence of company, pulling the shell off at the table is messy, a lot of work, and creates an unsightly garbage heap on your plate or in the discard bowl. But, I have yet to meet a person who does not despise the prep task of peeling raw shrimp, although I’m sure they are out there.

So you peeled the shrimp before cooking them. No sweat. But for heaven’s sake, don’t just throw the shells in the trash! The shells of crustaceans (that means shrimp as well as lobster, crayfish and crab) are loaded with flavor. So much so that an entire cooking technique, for making bisque, was invented for the purpose of extracting it.

We almost always buy shrimp with their shells, and even their heads, because we make a mighty-fine seafood stock from our leftover shells that can be incorporated into so many yummy dishes. This time however, I must have had my mind otherwise occupied because I bought already-peeled shrimp…

On another note, there’ll be a 1/3 of a bottle of lager leftover, so have a nip while you cook…

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Ingredients-Shrimp

  • 1 cup lager beer
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 lbs. unpeeled medium shrimp
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • Hot sauce for serving

Ingredients-Salad

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1 large head of radicchio, leaves separated, torn if large
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed flat leaf parsley leaves

Directions

  1. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, honey and remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large bowl.
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  2. Add radicchio and parsley and toss to coat.
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  3. Meanwhile, bring beer to a simmer in a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir until butter melts.
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  4. Add shrimp, stir to coat, cover skillet. Cook until shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and uncover.
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  5. Garnish shrimp with chives and serve with salad and hot sauce. If so desired, include a crusty baguette, or a side of steamed rice.
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    A dash of hot sauce adds a slight zing!

Recipe found in Real Simple magazine.

 

Staying In Shape

For the last several years, I’ve been disappointed with my cut-out sugar cookies because of the “spread” factor. It seemed lately, that no matter when I baked them, the designs would not hold their shape. Until I came across the recipe for the recent football cookies that I made for our Super Bowl party, shown below. Nice crisp edges and no spread whatsoever!

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Russ claimed they were the best simple chocolate cookie he ever ate. That’s the problem though, they were chocolate and I wanted a plain vanilla recipe for decorating purposes. So I thought there must be a white dough that won’t spread and engaged in an online mission to find one. It seems that I have…

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Valentine’s Day was a few short days away, so BINGO, perfect timing to try out the new process. I was a little skeptical at first when I saw one of the ingredients was lemon zest because I didn’t want a tart cookie. And I was intrigued by the fact that you didn’t have to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out. What a great time saver! In my old recipe, it required refrigeration for at least 4 hours, but usually overnight—and the dough was still difficult to handle.

Yeah, these babies held their shape! It seems the major trick here is that after you put the cookies on a baking sheet, you put them in the freezer for 10 minutes, then straight into the oven from there. I’m half-tempted next time to skip the freezer trick, and slide them into the oven as soon as I cut them out—at least a few for testing purposes.

The dough was such a dream to work with. In fact, I not only made the dough, but also cut out the shapes, baked AND frosted the hearts all in one day (a long day, but still, it used to be a 3-day process.) And of course if you don’t get as detailed with the icing designs, you can frost them simply and save more time.

They were perfect, and the bit of lemon zest added a nice perkiness without overpowering the subtle sweetness of the cookie. Now I have both chocolate AND vanilla cut-out cookie recipes that hold their shape—although you have to be careful how many you eat, or you won’t be holding your shape…

Staying-in-Shape Sugar Cookies

  • Servings: 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup), room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Zest from ½ the lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unsifted flour (plus more for rolling cookies out)
  • ½ tsp salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add the butter sticks and the sugar and cream together in a stand mixer, about 3 minutes.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg, lemon zest, baking powder and vanilla extract, then beat again for 2 minutes until a creamy.
  4. Add 3 cups flour and ½ teaspoon salt and mix on low speed to combine about 2 minutes.
  5. When done, form the dough into a ball.
  6. On a floured surface or pastry cloth, roll out the cookie dough ball to desired thickness level, about an 1/8″ or a little thicker. Cut out shapes and place on an unrimmed baking sheet.
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  7. Reform any leftover dough into another ball and repeat the process.
  8. Put baking sheet(s) in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  9. After 10 minutes take the baking sheet out of the freezer and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges just start to turn a light brown. (Mine took the full 12 minutes.)
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Remove cookies from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Decorate—or not—with Royal Icing.
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Get Your Creole On

Need some culinary Mardi Gras inspiration? What’s a more authentic way to feast than a Jambalaya? This recipe is from Muhammad Ali’s boxing daughter, Laila (the article appeared in a recent Parade Sunday supplement.) She has been a real foodie since her wonder years and has competed on Chopped, hosted the FYI show Late Nite Chef Fight, and cooked on TV with everybody from Paula Deen to Steve Harvey, but the new Food for Life, released January 23, is her first cookbook—and just to be clear, not a diet book.

Unfortunately, we won’t be going down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and chances are most of you won’t be either. But that doesn’t have to stop us all from enjoying some great Mardi Gras food. There are two general kinds of jambalaya: Creole and Cajun.

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The main difference is that Creole jambalaya, which we are making here, also called “red jambalaya” uses tomatoes, Cajun jambalaya does not. You might say Cajun jambalaya is the love child of risotto and paella. But both styles utilize what’s referred to as the “holy trinity”—onion, celery, and bell pepper (usually green). BTW, a good andouille sausage is D’Artagnan, all-natural smoked heritage breed pork. It contains no antibiotics, no added hormones, or nitrates/nitrites.

“It’s not about eating one style of food; it’s about eating whole foods, incorporating a lot of vegetables and natural foods into your lifestyle. And I do also have a chapter that’s like the next-level stuff for people who want to take that next step into things like bone broth and making your own fermented foods to keep your gut healthy and things like that.”
~Laila Ali, Food For Life

This was a job for “Big Red” our trusty Le Creuset cast-iron enameled pot. She’s been a stalwart of our culinary arsenal for many years now and we can always count on her to to get the job done. Don’t get freaked by the number of ingredients or the complexity of the name, Laila’s Jambalaya is pretty easy to make. So get your Creole on, get cooking, and let the good times roll…

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Laila's Jambalaya

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tsp sea salt, divided
  • ¾ tsp smoked paprika ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium shallots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1½ tsp garlic powder
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth or water, plus more as needed
  • 1 ⁄3 cup canned tomato puree
  • 8 oz smoked andouille sausage, cut crosswise into ½-inch slices
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish

Directions

  1. Place chicken in a large bowl; season with ½ tsp salt, paprika and pepper. Let stand 30 minutes while prepping other ingredients.
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  2. In a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium. Add chicken; cook, undisturbed, 5 minutes. Stir; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned on second side. Transfer chicken to a bowl.
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  3. Add remaining 1 Tbsp oil to pan. Add onion, shallots, celery and bell pepper. Cook 10 minutes or until tender and starting to brown, stirring occasionally.
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  4. Stir in garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne, if desired. Cook 1 minute, scraping bottom of pan to prevent spices from sticking. Add broth.
  5. Increase heat and scrape up any browned bits stuck to bottom of pan. Add chicken and juices, tomato puree and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
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  6. Add sausage, shrimp and remaining ½ tsp salt. Increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and cook 5 minutes or until shrimp are nearly done (when they’re pink and opaque) and sausage is warmed through.
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  7. Slowly stir in rice. Add a little more broth if jambalaya looks dry (it should be saucy, not soupy). Remove from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes. Stir in parsley. Serve garnished with extra parsley.


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Hey—Surah, Surah

On a Saturday night in early February, we were excited to be meeting several friends at the Korean BBQ joint, SURAH, located on Bethlehem Pike in Spring House, PA. But before we even got started and for reasons unknown, Russ couldn’t enter the address into his car’s navigation system, but I had it in my phone so we thought, no problem. Wrong!

The directions told us to go south after getting off the turnpike, yet the address was for North Bethlehem Pike, so against our better judgement, we went where instructed only to find our final destination point had no commercial restaurants in sight! After I made a recalculate on the phone, and a quick text to our comrades that we’d be late, we were back in the saddle.

Once there, we could tell by the full parking lot that it was packed, so we were thrilled we had reservations. Without hesitation, we were immediately shown to the rest of our party already gathered at a table in a private room with two BBQ grills. Those who had experienced the routine from previous visits provided us newbies with a tutorial, then told the waitstaff our selections from the all-you-can-eat menu and the fun began!

IMG_2653From left, Paula, Lynn, Kim and Denise.

We were particularly pumped up because our beloved Eagles football team was playing in Super Bowl VII the following day (and in case you’ve been living off the grid—they won!) For flow of conversation, the ladies chose to sit together as a group so we could dish on female whims, while the men could let their testosterone proliferate unabashed at their end of the table.

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The guys from left are Russ, Mike, Jeff and Dan.

Before the searing commenced, Dan wowed all of us, including the waiters, with his cool 360-degree camera. You can check out the pic at https://kuula.co/post/7l6p0, just hold your mouse down on the image to move it around. Very “Kuula!”

Paula instructed us all ahead of time to arrive hungry because the food doesn’t stop coming, and she wasn’t kidding! Each place setting received two dipping sauces, plus we shared an array of veggies that included lettuce (for wraps, if so desired), a spicy chopped salad, jalapeños, eggplant and kimchi. Lucky for me and Kim, both Paula and Denise were old pros at cooking over the hot grills, so we let them go to it after the waiter started us out.

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IMG_2656Our waiter adds the first slices of meat to the hot grill.

The first round—of what was going to be many—was a platter of thinly sliced slabs of beef and pork, with a few sliced onions and mushrooms thrown in. (My only complaint was that I would have preferred more of those.)

IMG_2654The gang’s all here and ready to eat!

Another “kuula” apparatus was the unique cutting shears to slice the larger pieces of meat down to manageable sizes. I wish I had taken a pic of them in use (oh well, we’ll be back.) Keeping things sanitary, in between platter servings the grill tops are exchanged for clean versions so that you don’t have to worry about charred build-up.

After more rounds of beef, pork and much laughter, we also feasted on chicken, shrimp and pork belly (although I drew the limit at that.) True to their “all-you-can-eat” marketing, they would have kept bringing more, but we all finally surrendered. Now it was time to head home and prepare for the BIG DAY tomorrow…

Surah also serves a whole host of other dishes including, sushi, sashimi, noodle dishes, specialty rolls and vegetarian options.

Pork, Lemongrass, and Noodle Stir-Fry

This slightly spicy Thai-inspired Pork, Lemongrass, and Noodle Stir-Fry makes a satisfying one-dish meal and is perfectly paired with a bright, crisp, and refreshing Shaved Cucumber Salad.

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For some reason I can never find any Fresno peppers, a “darling” among us foodies for their very eatable medium heat and, when red, subtle smokiness. More recipes than ever are calling for this chili. But say you can’t locate any, like me, what options do you have? It begs the question, what’s the best Fresno chile substitute to save your culinary masterpiece?

The answer—the ubiquitous jalapeño is your go-to here. In fact, these chilies look so much alike that grocers often mislabel the two in stores. In terms of taste, when they are young and green, the Fresno and the jalapeño have a comparable bright crisp taste and medium heat. The differences come with aging. Fresno peppers tend to become a little hotter, fruitier, and smokier as they turn red. And BTW, they are one of Bobby Flay’s favorite ingredients.

Another ingredient, the aromatic, intense herbal and lemony flavor of lemongrass is found throughout Southeast Asian cuisine, and there isn’t really a decent substitute for lemongrass so if your supermarket is not carrying it, try to find a local Asian mart. The flavor of lemongrass is not one that you can omit and still expect to have an authentic tasting dish.

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Make sure to remove several of the tough outer leaves until just the tender stalk remains.

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To make an easier job of mincing the lemongrass, use a mini food processor.

However, if you’re stuck, your best bet as a lemongrass substitute is lemon zest mainly because lemons are easy to find. Simply grating some lemon zest into your dish is an easy way to re-create the citrus tang that lemongrass would provide. The zest from one lemon is equal to two stalks of lemongrass. You can also use lemon zest along with something else that can replicate lemongrass’s herbal notes. For example, you can use arugula to provide this aspect of the lemongrass flavor. When using arugula, you would combine 1 teaspoon of lemon zest with a single arugula leaf and use that in place of one stalk of lemongrass.

In a pinch, Kaffir lime leaves can be used to add a citrus aroma that it is very close to that of lemongrass. When using this substitute for lemongrass, make sure to tear the leaves to remove the midrib before adding them to your dish. You can also combine Kaffir leaves with lime juice and lime zest in order to enhance the citrus flavor; this option is particularly well suited for curries and soups. Note that the leaf itself is rarely eaten so you may want to remove it before serving the dish just as you would remove a bay leaf.

Lastly, you can try adding plain lemon juice to your dish as a stand-in for lemongrass. You should measure it carefully as too much could throw off the other flavors in your dish by making it overly tart.

To our recipe we made one other tweak and that was topping the stir-fry with some chopped peanuts which added a nice crunch.

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs. minced lemongrass (from about 3 stalks)
  • 3 Tbs. grated or minced fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped Fresno chile (or substitute a fresh jalapeño)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice; more to taste
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 6 oz. vermicelli rice noodles
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 5 oz. baby kale, tough stems removed (about 5 cups)
  • 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, lemongrass, ginger, chile, garlic, and lime juice.
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  2. In a medium bowl, combine the pork and half of the lemongrass mixture. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Prepare the noodles according to package directions until tender. Drain, pat dry, transfer to a large bowl, and toss with 1 Tbs. of the oil.
  4. In a large skillet or wok, heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over high heat. Add the remaining lemongrass mixture and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
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  5. Add the pork and stir-fry, breaking it into small pieces, until cooked through and browned in places, about 5 minutes.
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  6. Add the chicken stock and sugar. Stir in the kale, and simmer until the kale wilts, 1 to 2 minutes. transfer to the noodle bowl, add the herbs, and toss. Season to taste with lime juice and serve.
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By Christine Burns Rudalevige

Shaved Cucumber Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. seeded and minced Fresno chile (or jalapeño)
  • 4 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 4 medium cucumbers, trimmed and peeled

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, chile, and sugar.
  2. With a vegetable peeler or mandoline, shave the cucumbers into the bowl in long, wide strips.
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  3. Toss and let sit briefly before serving.
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Double Whammy

Both the entrée, Sear-Roasted Chicken with Orange-Tarragon Sauce, and the side dish, Millet and Chickpea Salad, knocked it out of the park, both in flavor and ease of preparation. A fragrant sauce boosts the flavor of chicken breast in this single-skillet dish. And accompanied by a Millet and Chickpea Salad, the Mediterranean-inflected grain salad is quick enough to make on a weeknight, thanks to quick-cooking millet.

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Because both dishes contained a few of the same ingredients, they were a marriage made in heaven; the flavor combinations won our hearts! It reminded us that we should include millet more often in our diets because of the numerous health benefits. These include its ability to protect the heart, prevent diabetes, improve the digestive system, lower the risk of cancer, detoxify the body, improve respiratory health, boost the immune system, increase energy levels, and improve the muscle and nerve health.

Although millet is most often associated as the main ingredient in bird seed, it is not just “for the birds.” Millet is also gluten-free, a plus for Russ who deals with a wheat insensitivity. And 1 cup of millet contains 17 grams of dietary fiber—WOW, that’s pretty impressive! Finally, millet’s high protein content (15 percent) makes it a substantial addition to a vegetarian diet.

And we can’t say enough of the sauce. Russ is going to add it to his online recipe bank under “sauces” because we think it would also be fabulous on pork and fish…

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (around 2 lbs.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and 3/4 tsp. pepper.
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  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Cook the chicken breasts, undisturbed, until browned (they should easily release when you lift a corner), 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Flip and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until just cooked through (165°F), about 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate, cover loosely with foil, and keep warm.
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  4. Put the skillet over medium heat (be careful of the hot handle), add the shallots and 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until softened, about 2 minutes.
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  5. Add the orange juice, broth, tarragon, honey, and zest, and cook until the mixture is reduced by half, about 6 minutes.
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  6. Transfer the chicken to serving plates. Pour any juices that collected on the plate into the sauce and serve the sauce with the chicken.
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Recipe by Tony Rosenfeld from Fine Cooking

Millet and Chickpea Salad

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Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup millet
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 large orange, peeled and segmented, segments cut into thirds
  • 1 jarred roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tsp. of the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the millet and toast, shaking the pan, until one shade darker, about 1 minute.
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  2. In a 1-quart saucepan, bring 1 cup water, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the saffron to a boil. Add the millet, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until tender, about 18 minutes.
  3. Scrape into a large bowl. Stir the orange segments, peppers, chickpeas, onion, the remaining 3 Tbs. oil, vinegar, honey, and oregano into the millet. Season to taste and serve.
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Recipe by Mark Scarbrough, Bruce Weinstein from Fine Cooking

Duckin’ Awesome

Knowing our passion for cooking, our WCBIL (West Coast Brother-In-Law) David Ruttan, inserted a couple of issues of the San Francisco Chronicle annual food supplement “In The Kitchen” with our Christmas gifts this year. Thumbing through the photo-laden magazines, we zeroed in on the Orange-Braised Duck recipe by Chef David Williams. Now you probably know that Russ is a HUGE duck fan, and I was brought up on the feathery fowl, served on special occasions throughout my childhood years (Grandpa hunted duck.)

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If you’ve never tried duck, this is a perfect recipe to waddle into the waters—metaphorically speaking. Obtaining the bird is another matter. Our trek took us through three towns at two different grocery stores, and a farmer’s market, before finally scoring one at an Asian mart! Luckily it was the day before we planned on cooking it because the 4-pounder was frozen solid. (Note that the duck needs to be cut and seasoned at least two hours, or up to a day ahead.) Salting the meat in advance may seem fussy, but this step ensures the duck will be seasoned to the bone.

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We simply served our bird with steamed broccolini and roasted baby potatoes seasoned with rosemary.

A deep pan or dutch oven is used to combine the duck with onions, carrots, celery, citrus, herbs and wine, allowing it to cook with all the juices. You can swap in blood oranges, mandarins or Meyer lemons for the orange; use rosemary (our choice) in place of thyme; or vary the braising liquid, experimenting with red wine, chicken stock or beer.

Based on the recipe Chef David Williams learned from a Mexican chef, and reminiscent of French-style duck à l’orange, the halved duck is first rubbed with marmalade, then rests on a bed of vegetables and aromatics, the braising liquid a mixture of fresh orange juice and a good splash of dry white wine (or other choices as noted above.)

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Into the oven it goes, to be forgotten about for almost three hours. It’s retrieved from its steam bath when the fat has rendered from the skin and the meat is supple and moist, perfumed with citrus and infused with a wild, herbal flavor. Less time-consuming than confit, less messy and greasy than roasting a whole bird, it’s an approachable way to cook duck, a rich meat that’s ideal for cold weather—and mid-Winter in the Northeast is just that.

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For the last 15 minutes of cooking, we removed the lid and parchment to let the skin brown up a bit more. In the end, the skin will still be too fatty to eat (at least for most of us), but don’t omit making the pan sauce as a finish, it is simply heaven-on-earth, and wonderfully aromatic. The essence of orange reminding me of a childhood favorite dinner, my mom’s Orange Juice Chicken… but I digress, back to the recipe at hand…

Ingredients

  • 1 Pekin or Long Island duck (about 4 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade, other citrus marmalade or apricot jam
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • ½ bunch Italian parsley
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • 1 navel orange, halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry white wine

Directions

Place the duck, breast side down, on a work surface. With a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears, cut alongside both sides of the backbone. Remove the backbone and discard (or save for stock like we did). With a sharp knife, cut off the large flap of skin at the tail end, and cut through the breast bone, separating the duck in half down the center. Season both halves of duck generously with salt and pepper on both sides and place on a rimmed baking sheet, skin side up. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
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Roast the duck.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the duck from the refrigerator and slather the skin side of both halves with the marmalade (buy a top-quality brand).
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Put the celery, carrots and onions in a roasting pan or Dutch oven, lay the thyme, parsley and cilantro on top. Squeeze the orange juice over, then add the fruit (peel and all) to the pan. Add the bay leaf.
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Place the duck, skin side up, on top of the bed of vegetables and aromatics, then pour the wine around. The duck will not be submerged in liquid. Cover tightly with foil, or if using a dutch oven, place parchment paper between the pot and the lid for a tight seal; and transfer to the oven.

Finish and serve.

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After 2½ hours, check the duck. The meat should pull from the bone easily; if it does not, recover and return to the oven for an additional 30 minutes. When the duck is done, remove it from the oven to a cutting board, carve into pieces and carefully transfer to a warmed platter. We left the duck in two halves, one for each of us. This may sound like a lot, but in the end it was the perfect serving of meat once all of the skin and bones are discarded.
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Pro move: For a restaurant-quality finishing touch, pour the braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl, pressing hard on the solids to extract the maximum flavor. Skim the fat from the liquid (save that fat for roasting vegetables; it’s liquid gold), then boil the remaining liquid in a saucepan until it has reduced slightly, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper and lemon or orange juice.
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From David Williams of Bull Valley Roadhouse in Port Costa, CA.

Are You Ready for Some Football(s)?

Add a little whimsy to your (or someone else’s) Super Bowl party with these cute little Chocolate Football Cookies. They’re not a lot of effort, nor a lot of ingredients. You don’t even need a football-shaped cutter, you can use a simple circle.

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In about two hours time, you can make the dough, roll it out, cut the shapes, bake them, then cool and frost. No need to refrigerate the dough between making the batter and  rolling it out. Of course, they will have to “air dry” for a couple of hours before you can stack or pack them.

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I used the largest of my circles which made about three dozen 3-inch footballs.

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy.
  3. On low, add in eggs, vanilla and cocoa and blend on medium speed until smooth.
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  4. Gradually add in flour, salt and baking powder and mix until smooth. Form dough into two balls.
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  5. Roll out one ball of dough on floured surface or pastry cloth. The thicker you roll, the chewier the cookie. (I like mine a bit firm, so I make them about 1/8″ thick.)
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  6. Using a large circle cookie cutter, press down into the dough, then overlap the circle to get a football shape. Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart to allow for spread (although mine barely spread at all).
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  7. Gather leftover dough, reform into a ball, roll out again, and cut more shapes. Repeat as necessary until all the dough has been used.
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  8. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes (depending on thickness) until the edges are firm. Mine took 12 minutes.
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  9. Gently slide the parchment paper off of the baking sheet onto a flat surface. Cool completely to allow the cookies to set, 15-20 minutes.
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  10. Once cooled, frost as desired using Royal Icing (my choice), melted white chocolate or purchased white icing. You can do this right on the used parchment sheets.
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    PINTEREST
    Fly Eagles Fly!!!!

An International Food Fest

Before the feast (a few recipes follow), our second visit to long-time friend Merry Sue Baum in Nazareth, PA, in 5 weeks time, we began the journey with a movie at The Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas, a two-screen independent, foreign and arthouse cinema, part of the Steel Stacks renovation twenty minutes away in Bethlehem, a rust-belt city enjoying a cultural renaissance.

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Russ and Merry Sue pose outside of the Town Square building which houses the movie theater.

SteelStacks is a ten-acre campus dedicated to arts, culture, family events, community celebrations, education and fun. Once the home plant of Bethlehem Steel—the second largest steel manufacturer in the nation—the site has been reborn through music and art, offering more than 1,000 concerts and eight different festivals annually. Since its opening in spring 2011, more than one million people have visited SteelStacks to enjoy 1,750-plus musical performances, films, community celebrations and festivals including Musikfest, the largest free music festival in the nation!

For nearly a century, the Bethlehem Steel plant served as the economic lifeblood of the community, employing tens of thousands of people while producing the steel that built our nation’s skyscrapers, bridges and even the U.S. Navy, helping win two World Wars in the process. In 1995, however, after a nearly 120-year history of steel production on the site, the plant closed its doors forever, leaving the region with a void that seemed impossible to fill.

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Rather than demolish the historic mill or walk away and let it fall apart, the community rallied around the iconic plant, working hard to bring new life to the former industrial giant. Through a partnership involving the nonprofit ArtsQuest, plans were put in place to transform the site into an arts and entertainment district that would showcase music, art, festivals, educational programming and more throughout the year. On our previous visit we enjoyed the annual Chriskindlmarkt, which celebrated 25 years this past holiday season.

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Merry Sue keeps Russ company at the kitchen bar…

While there are a slew of fabulous restaurants in the area that we could have patronized, Merry Sue planned an International dinner back at the Baum Shelter where we, along with neighbors Marty and Mary Beth, would all contribute an ethnic option to the feast. For starters, we munched on Lynn’s freshly made Holey Moley Great Guacamole with two types of chips. Marty was so impressed with the Red Hot Blues, that he not only took a picture of the front of the chip bag, but also the UPC code!

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The original plan was to serve Merry Sue’s Italian Wedding Soup (recipe courtesy of Ina Garten), made with chicken meatballs, as the main entrée. But once we polished off Mary Beth’s luscious homemade traditional Polish Perogie’s with onion and sour cream, and our Pinchos Morunos (scroll down on the Savory Side of Life page for recipe), we decided to save the soup for lunch the next day when we had our appetites back.

To enlighten, “pierogi,” also known as varenyky, are filled dumplings of Central European origin made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savory (in this case, potato) or sweet filling and cooking in boiling water. A typical snack of the Spanish Basque Country, “pinchos” consist of an ingredient or mixture of ingredients, and fastened with a toothpick, which gives the food its name “pincho”, meaning “spike.” Moruno means “Moorish.”

IMG_2355Russ skewers the pinchos for grilling.

I always just assumed that Italian Wedding Soup was named as such because it was traditional to serve at an Italian wedding ceremony. Not so. The term “wedding soup” comes from the Italian language phrase “minestra maritata (married soup),” which is a reference to the flavor produced by the combination/”marriage” of greens and the broth. The modern wedding soup is quite a bit lighter than the old Spanish form, which contained more meats than just the meatballs of modern Italian-American versions.

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IMG_2359The culinary trip included Mexican Guacamole, Polish Perogies, Spanish Pinchos and Italian Soup.

IMG_2361The cooks: Mary Beth, Lynn and Merry Sue.

Lynn’s Holey Moley Great Guacamole

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded, diced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. In large bowl combine onion, lime juice and salt; let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, chop other ingredients. After the onion mixture is ready, with spoon, scoop avocado into bowl with onion mixture. Coarsely mash with potato masher or fork.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap and eliminate any air pockets. Refrigerate up to 24 hours before serving. Serve with tortilla chips for scooping.

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IMG_2369While the soup was delicious, we all agreed, it would have been kicked-up-a-notch if homemade stock was used, as indicated in the ingredient list.

 

Ingredients

For the meatballs:
  • 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks), cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 10 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta such as tubetini or stars
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh dill
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
  3. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
  4. In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the fresh dill and then the meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper.
  7. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

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Noodle Soup with Kale and White Beans

You want easy and healthy? Look no further. In about a half hour—including prep—you’ll be able to plate bowls of this luscious and nutritious soup for your family. The lime juice adds a nice bright finish.

Kale seems to be a love it or hate it kind of a green, and certainly a focus of the health community in recent years. It is a proud member of the cabbage family, which accounts for its rather strong, forward flavor that borders (and sometimes tips over into) bitterness. Their edible leaves vary in color from light green to nearly purple depending on the variety, though they are universally coarse, thick, and fairly tough.

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There are two main kinds that are commonly found in the markets: curly leafed and dino kale. Curly leafed kale is what we used for this recipe. The bright green leaves are sometimes curled so tightly it can be hard to chop them. This kind of kale tends to have a bright, peppery flavor that can become quite bitter.

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Alternatively, dino kale goes by many names. Among them are lacinato, dinosaur kale, cavolo nero, black kale, and tuscan kale. This kale has longer spear-like leaves with a pebbled appearance and a dark, mottled green color. Its flavor is deep and earthy, less bitter than curly leafed with an almost nutty sweetness—it’s what we most commonly use.

Keep in mind, there seems to be a sweet spot during cooking when the bitterness recedes and the kale’s sweeter character comes through. Over-cooking makes the kale taste overly bitter and decidedly off-putting.

You can’t go wrong with all of the colorful veggies, calcium-loaded kale, and fiber-rich beans. In fact, our can of cannellini was 19 ounces, four more ounces than called for. Without capellini on hand, we incorporated a gluten-free thin spaghetti which didn’t alter the flavor or texture one bit.

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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup broken (2- to 3-inch pieces) dried capellini pasta
  • 2 quarts lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 small bunch kale, ribs removed, leaves roughly chopped (about 6 cups)
  • One 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice; more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just golden-brown, about 10 minutes. With a rubber spatula, scrape the vegetables into a medium bowl and set aside. If necessary, wipe the pot clean.
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  2. Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil in the pot over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often, until dark golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
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  3. Add the broth and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to release any stuck-on pasta. Add the carrots and onions, kale, beans, lime juice, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the kale, carrots, and pasta are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
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  4. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the cilantro and season to taste with lime juice, salt, and pepper before serving.
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Recipe found on Finecooking.com by Liz Pearson 

All Aboard the Pork Chop Train

ONLY THREE INGREDIENTS on this train. Seriously choo-choo chill man. Climb on board and marinate your chops with half the marinade in a ziploc bag for whatever time feels right—a day if you remember, and 10 minutes if you don’t. Everything will still be awesome at the end of the line.

That math works for me! My chop’s passenger ride was 6 hours—went out for a long lunch, flipped the bag when I got home for another few hours, and the result? The chops were so juicy, the flavor so salty-sweet-acidic-perfect, I was ready to blow the engine’s whistle!

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These pups were supposed to be grilled on medium heat according to Bon Appétit’s recipe. But the outside temps barely broke 20 degrees and the wind chills were in the single digits. So I turned to Plan B, a good sear in a cast iron skillet, then a finish in a 425 degree oven, which the directions below bear out.

When ready, trash the marinade then dry and season the chops with salt and pepper. After searing in a super hot skillet for 2 minutes per side to get a good outer crust, brush them with the remaining half of the marinade you reduced. Throw the cast iron skillet in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes until the chops clock in at 145 degrees. Then tent with foil and let them rest for 5 minutes so the juices redistribute.

Well now we needed a simple side dish to complement the Asian flavored pork chops, so I concocted this pretty simple rice recipe. With just a few extra minutes, this dish only takes a bit longer to make than regular, plain rice, but it’s so worth it. Incorporating a few more ingredients makes all the difference in the world. Garlic, of course, adds extra flavor, but the ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce are really the stars here, along with using chicken stock instead of water, always my preference. Finally, stir in a handful of chopped scallions at the end to brighten the flavors and add a pop of color. (Recipe below.)

Ingredients

  • ¼ Cup soy sauce
  • ¼ Cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. dark or light brown sugar
  • 4 thick bone-in pork blade or rib chops (we only cooked 2 chops)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt

Directions

  • Stir soy sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Prick pork chops all over with a fork and place in a large resealable plastic bag.
  • Pour in half of marinade, seal bag, and turn to evenly coat pork chops, save remainder.
  • Let pork chops sit at least 10 minutes, or chill up to 1 day (cover and chill remaining marinade too).
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove pork chops from marinade; discard marinade. Pat chops very dry with paper towels and season lightly with salt and pepper.
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  • Put the remaining marinade in a sauce pan on medium-low and reduce down to about half.
  • Oil a large cast iron skillet until very hot. Place in chops and sear 2 minutes each side.
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  • Place skillet into preheated oven for about 8 minutes until chops register 145 degrees. Tent with foil for 5 minutes.
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Asian Rice Pilaf

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Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup jasmati rice
  • 1½ cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 4-6 scallions, chopped
Directions
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Sauté garlic and ginger until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
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  3. Stir in rice and sauté for another couple of minutes.
  4. Stir chicken stock, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper into rice mixture.
  5. Bring mixture to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender.
  7. Stir in scallions right before serving.
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Essiggurke – The Center Surprise!

The official definition: “Rouladen or Rinderrouladen, a German meat dish, usually consisting of bacon, onions, mustard and pickles wrapped in thinly sliced beef which is then cooked.” And for the first time ever, Russ and I got to enjoy the homemade German delicacy at the home of good friends Rosanne and Gary (who are both Italian, BTW).

We were invited over for dinner on a Sunday evening, just as the crazy Steelers vs Jaguars playoff football game was coming to a wild end (as Steelers fans, not the outcome we were hoping for 😦 But hey, we quickly got over the slump by toasting the New Year with a glass of Proseco, followed by our favorite Spanish red, Marques De Riscal Rioja Reserva, while we munched on our assembled antipasto platter.

Rosanne not only took the German Beef Rouladen with Bacon, Onions, and Pickles recipe from her well-worn McCall’s cookbook, but our gorgeous shrimp and asparagus starter salad was from that tome also, although she changed the dressing to her EVOO balsamic dijon classic. The repast was further tastefully enhanced with pops of color from additions of cooked purple cabbage, orange carrots, green beans, and a bowl of some of the creamiest mashed potatoes ever!

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And for dessert, Cherries Jubilee (yes, from the same cookbook) with the brandy-laden cherry sauce that was flambéed before spooning over vanilla ice cream, all smartly plated in martini glasses. Although for the life of me I could not capture the blue flame in a photo.

IMG_2222If you look closely enough, you may see the blue flame in the top center of the dish.

IMG_2226Russ was not allowed to take a taste until I made sure to get a decent photo.

Now in writing this blog, I did not have access to Rosanne’s cookbook, but I did go online and do a little research about Rouladen and found this easy-to-make recipe which seemed to mimic the ingredients that Rosanne used. There are numerous versions of this German comfort dish, so you may want to do some research of your own to find one that appeals to your own culinary senses. And the German word for pickle? Essiggurke…

Ingredients

  • 1 1⁄2 lb flank steak, pounded 1/4 inch thick and cut into 6 inch long pieces
  • 1 kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
  • 1 stone ground mustard, to taste
  • 1⁄2 lb thick sliced bacon
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 jar (16 oz) dill pickle, slices or spears
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 1⁄2 cup water
  • 1 cube beef bouillon

Directions

  1. Season both sides of steak with kosher salt and black pepper. Spread one side of each piece with mustard. Arrange bacon, onions, and pickle on the mustard and form into a roll. Use string or toothpicks to hold the roll together.
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  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add rolls and saute until browned on all sides.
  3. Add water and bouillon cube. Stir until the bouillon is dissolved. Simmer rolls for about an hour or until the steak is tender and cooked through.