Monthly Archives: April 2015

Braised Halibut with Leeks and Mustard

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Braising is not just for tough roasts. It can also give you supple, perfectly cooked fish—with a vegetable side and a silky sauce, to boot. Cook’s Illustrated prefers to prepare this recipe with halibut, however the prices lately are over-the-top, so a similar firm-fleshed white fish such as striped bass or sea bass that is between 3/4 and 1 inch thick can be substituted. Our fish choice was cod and it made for an excellent substitution. To ensure that your fish cooks evenly, purchase fillets that are similarly shaped and uniformly thick.

As a moist-heat cooking method, braising is gentle and thus forgiving, all but guaranteeing moist, succulent fish. Plus, it makes a one-pot meal (no complaints here) since the cooking liquid becomes a sauce, and it’s easy to add vegetables to the pan to cook at the same time. Butter gives it some much-needed richness and the right velvety texture.


  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) skinless halibut fillets, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

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  1. 1. Sprinkle fish with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over low heat. Place fish in skillet, skinned side up, increase heat to medium, and cook, shaking pan occasionally, until butter begins to brown (fish should not brown), 3 to 4 minutes. Using spatula, carefully transfer fish to large plate, raw side down.

    2. Add leeks, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until leeks begin to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Add wine and bring to gentle simmer. Place fish, raw side down, on top of leeks. Cover skillet and cook, adjusting heat to maintain gentle simmer, until fish registers 135 to 140 degrees, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using 2 spatulas, transfer fish and leeks to serving platter or individual plates. Tent loosely with aluminum foil.

    3. Return skillet to high heat and simmer briskly until sauce is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over fish and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

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Our braised cod was paired with sautéed swiss chard and a side of chickpea salad.

From Cook’s Illustrated | March/April 2015

Roasted Chicken Provençal

~A fabulous recipe adapted from Steven Stolman
The New York Times Cooking site~

Roasted Chicken Provençal is a perfect dinner-party meal: chicken thighs or legs dusted in flour and roasted with shallots, lemons and garlic in a bath of vermouth and under a shower of herbes de Provence. They go crisp in the heat above the fat, while the shallots and garlic melt into sweetness below. Heaven on earth!

Typically, I am a fan of white breast meat when it comes to chicken, but we used thighs (no legs) resulting in perfectly moist and flavorful meat! At the end of the cooking time we found that the skin hadn’t crisped up like we thought it should so we cranked up the temp to 500º, put it on convection, and within about 5-7 minutes, it was picture-worthy crisp. For future undertakings, we made a note to turn the chicken and vegetables after the first 30 minutes (see Step 3.) Soooo succulent!






  • 4 chicken legs or 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4-6 medium-size shallots, peeled and halved
  • cup dry vermouth
  • 4 sprigs of thyme, for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 400. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow pan, and lightly dredge the chicken in it, shaking the pieces to remove excess flour.
  2. Swirl the oil in a large roasting pan, and place the floured chicken in it. Season the chicken with the herbes de Provence. Arrange the lemons, garlic cloves and shallots around the chicken, and then add the vermouth to the pan.
  3. Put the pan in the oven, and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, then baste it with the pan juices, and turn chicken and veggies over. Continue roasting for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is very crisp and the meat cooked through.
  4. Serve in the pan or on a warmed platter, garnished with the thyme.

Roast Lamb with Anchovies

Found on The New York Times cooking site, by Julia Moskin~

If you haven’t cooked a whole leg of lamb before, here is the place to start. This is not a revolutionary recipe, but slathering on butter and (take their word—and ours—for it) anchovies makes this version truly essential. Most American lambs are fed both grass and grain, yielding meat that is fine-grained, earthy and mild.

Pretty much every Easter we celebrate with a lamb dinner, and not to deviate from our norm, we tried this delicious Roast Lamb recipe found on the New York Times cooking site, pairing it with a Potato Leek Gratin and Braised Scallions, both from cookbook author Molly Stevens. If some of your guests claim not to like anchovies, don’t even tell them, because in the end, you’d never be able to guess that was an ingredient, but it makes all of the difference in depth of flavor.

A while back when we made this potato gratin, we froze the leftovers and had them several weeks later with no visible or edible degradation. So we knowingly made the entire recipe, content that we would be able to successfully freeze a few portions for sometime in the future.

The scallion instructions call for 5 bunches, and believe it or not, Russ and I ate the entire dish of them between the two of us in one sitting! It’s similar to cooking spinach, you start out with what seems like an overload, but end up with a much reduced mass.




Roast Lamb with Anchovies

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



  • 1 large lamb roast with a cap of fat, 4 to 6 pounds: bone-in leg (these can be as large as 8 pounds), semi-boneless leg, bone-in shoulder, boneless butterflied leg or double loin
  • 2 ounces (1 can) anchovies packed in olive oil, drained, or 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Leaves from 6 fresh rosemary sprigs (2 heaping tablespoons leaves), plus extra sprigs and branches for garnish
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • Black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 ¾ cups white wine, plus extra for gravy


  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Use a small sharp knife to make about a dozen incisions, each about 2 inches deep, through the fat that covers the top of the meat. Using a mortar and pestle or a blender, blend 2/3 of the anchovies (or 2/3 of the mustard if using), the rosemary leaves and the garlic cloves into a chunky paste. Using your fingers, press paste deeply into incisions.
  2. Mix remaining anchovies (or mustard) and the butter into a paste. Smear this mixture all over the surface of the roast. Season liberally with black pepper. (Do not add salt; the anchovies are salty enough, and so is the mustard.)
  3. Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan, fat side up, and squeeze the lemon halves over. Pour the wine around the roast into the pan.
  4. Roast 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast until internal temperature reaches 130 to 135 degrees (for medium-rare or medium meat), about another 60 to 90 minutes.
  5. Baste every 20 minutes or so with the wine and drippings in the pan, adding more wine as needed to keep the liquid from scorching. If possible, for the last 15 minutes of cooking, use convection or a broiler to crisp the fat on the roast.
  6. Remove pan from the oven, remove rack from the pan, and let the roast rest on the rack for at least 15 to 20 minutes in a warm place, tented with foil. The internal temperature will rise to about 140 to 145 degrees.
  7. To make sauce from the pan drippings, remove a few tablespoons of fat by tipping the pan and spooning off the top layer. Put the pan over medium heat until the liquid simmers. Taste the simmering liquid and whisk in more wine, 1/4 cup at a time, until the consistency and flavor are right. Do not let the mixture become syrupy; it should be a sharp jus, not a thick gravy.
  8. Carve lamb into 1/2-inch-thick slices and arrange on a heated platter, decorated with rosemary sprigs. Serve with piping hot gravy.

Potato and Leek Gratin

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



  • 2-1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & sliced into 1/8-inch thick rounds
  • 1-1/4 cups half-and-half
  • 1-1/4 cups heavy or light cream
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 3 medium leeks, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz. grated Gruyère
  • 2 to 3 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Butter or oil a 3-quart gratin dish; set aside.
  2. Put potatoes, half-and-half and cream, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a 12-inch skillet. Simmer, partially covered, over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and gently with a rubber spatula until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a fork or skewer, 8 to 12 minutes.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat butter or oil over medium-high heat and sauté leeks until tender, fragrant, and lightly browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer half the potatoes to the prepared gratin dish, spreading them evenly. Layer on the leeks, Gruyère , and thyme. Top with the remaining potatoes, spreading them evenly, and pour over any liquid remaining in the pan.
  5. Evenly scatter the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the potatoes. Bake the gratin until it’s bubbly, the top is brown, and the potatoes are completely tender when poked with a fork or a skewer. Let the gratin sit for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes before serving so the liquid is fully absorbed and the layers are cohesive

The scallions before and after:





Turkey Stroganoff

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A fresh, healthy twist on an old classic, Turkey Stroganoff. A split turkey breast is a terrific cut to use in this healthy slow-cooker recipe because it stays moist. Here turkey breast is cooked in the crock pot with lots of mushrooms and carrots, then pulled off the bone, chopped and stirred back into a creamy sauce. If you can’t find a split turkey breast, try using bone-in chicken breasts. Serve over whole-wheat egg noodles, on mashed potatoes, or even thick slices of toasted whole-grain country bread.

Beef Stroganoff or beef Stroganov is a Russian dish of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with sour cream; and has become popular around the world, with considerable variation from the original recipe.

Bland came to mind when first looking at the ingredient list. And after reading some of the reviews, that’s exactly what some readers wrote. (And you know my affinity for intense flavors!) To that end, we added two teaspoons of adobo secco seasoning and 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard—which added a punch of flavor without overpowering. And for the whole wheat egg noodles, we substituted Ronzoni’s SmartTaste egg noodles which contain 2.5 more fiber.

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Recipe compliments of


  • 8 cups sliced mixed mushrooms (about 20 ounces)
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 3- to 4-pound split turkey breast, skin removed, trimmed
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry (see Tip)
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat egg noodles (6 cups dry), cooked
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Combine mushrooms, carrots and onion in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add turkey, meat-side down. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours (or on Low for 8 hours).
  2. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board.
  3. Whisk sour cream, flour and sherry in a bowl. Stir into the slow cooker along with peas, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on High until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the turkey from the bone and cut into bite-size pieces; cover to keep warm. When the sauce is done, gently stir in the turkey. Serve over noodles, sprinkled with parsley.


  • Make Ahead Tip: Prep vegetables and turkey; cover and refrigerate separately for up to 1 day. | Equipment: 5- to 6-quart slow cooker
  • Use dry sherry instead of “cooking sherry” in recipes calling for sherry. It adds depth of flavor to sauces and stews like stroganoff, without adding the extra salt that’s typically in cooking sherry. Look for dry sherry with other fortified wines at your wine or liquor store.


Per serving: 437 calories; 6 g fat (3 g sat, 2 g mono); 110 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 46 g protein; 7 g fiber; 526 mg sodium; 865 mg potassium.

Pinto Bean Stew with Jalapeño-Corn Dumplings

This healthy slow-cooker Pinto Bean Stew with Jalapeño-Corn Dumplings recipe is bursting with veggies—onion, bell pepper, celery and corn—and if desired, topped with crunchy bits of radish and chile- and lime-flecked cornbread dumplings. If you’re pressed for time, skip the dumplings and serve this pinto bean stew straight out of the crock pot, topped with crushed tortilla chips and a sprinkling of Monterey Jack cheese. Make sure to soak your dried beans before using them in the slow cooker to ensure even cooking.


As beans are a very inexpensive form of good protein, they have become popular in many cultures throughout the world and are the most highly consumed dried bean in the United States. They have a beige background strewn with reddish brown splashes of color, and look like little painted canvases, à la Jackson Pollack; hence their name “pinto,” which in Spanish means “painted.” When cooked, their colored splotches disappear, and they become a beautiful pink color. In addition to lowering cholesterol, pinto beans’ high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. So what’s not to like?

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When a recipe calls for water as it’s base, we will more than likely swap it out for a flavored broth, in this case chicken stock. And without any Monterey Jack on hand, we used shredded sharp cheddar. Finally, not in the mood to make (or eat) dumplings, we crumbled some blue corn chips on the stew. While in the end, it had a light zesty note, I would increase the spice amounts next time for a hardier kick (as several reviewers suggested), perhaps even adding a chipotle pepper.

Planning on having this for dinner on a Monday, we soaked the beans overnight directly in the crock pot (no heat). And to expedite the work day morning, we chopped the veggies and measured the spices on Sunday evening; then drained the beans and threw everything into the slow cooker on Monday before we headed out the door. This will definitely be on a future menu…

Recipe compliments of



  • 1 pound dry pinto beans, soaked (see Tip)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal, preferably whole-grain
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk


  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sliced radishes


  1. Drain the soaked beans. Combine the beans, water, onion, bell pepper, celery, corn, garlic, chili powder and cumin in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on High for 4 hours (or on Low for 8 hours).
  2. To prepare dumplings: Just before the end of the 4 (or 8) hours, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and use a pastry blender, two knives or a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add jalapeño and lime zest and toss to coat. Add buttermilk and stir to form a dough.
  3. After the stew has cooked for 4 (or 8) hours, stir in lime juice and salt. Using generous tablespoonfuls of dough, drop 8 dumplings on top of the stew. Cover and cook on High for 1 hour. Serve each portion of stew topped with a dumpling. Garnish with cilantro and radish.


  • Make Ahead Tip: Soak beans; prep vegetables, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day; measure seasonings. | Equipment: 5- to 6-quart slow cooker
  • Tip: Before using beans in a slow-cooker recipe, soak them to ensure even cooking. Start by sorting beans to remove any pebbles; rinse well with cold water. To soak overnight: Place beans in a large bowl, cover with 3 inches of cold water and soak at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours. To “quick soak”: Place beans in a large saucepan with enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.
Other Quick Serving Ideas
  • Use pinto beans in chili recipes in place of kidney beans.
  • Blend together pinto beans with sage, oregano, garlic and black pepper for a delicious spread that can be used as a crudité dip or sandwich filling.
  • Layer cooked pinto beans, chopped tomatoes and onions and shredded cheese on a tortilla. Broil in the oven until hot and cheese melts. Top with chopped avocado and cilantro.
  • Add pinto beans to vegetable soups.
  • Heat pinto beans together with cooked rice. Add cooked chopped vegetables such as carrots, zucchini and tomatoes. Season to taste and enjoy this simple-to-prepare one pot meal.

Chicken Pho

~The first blog in a series of healthy recipes from Eating Well.~

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Chicken Pho, a classic Vietnamese soup, is a perfect recipe for a slow cooker. The chicken and seasonings of star anise, cloves and ginger simmer all day in the crock pot, welcoming you home with an alluring aroma. Serve with the essential garnishes for pho soup—fresh herbs, bean sprouts, chiles and lime—and let everyone top their own. Serve chile-garlic sauce for those (like me) who want more heat.

Hey what’s not to like? This easy, healthy meal is high in potassium, low in saturated fat, is heart healthy, high in calcium, and is gluten free. We found it flipping through a recent copy of Eating Well magazine. Since this was a weekday meal, we portioned out the seasonings and prepped the chicken the night before so that we could throw it all together in the crock pot before heading out the door for work in the morning.

A note to the wise — make sure you plug it in before you take of — Russ told me later that evening that he went to check on it after I left for work and before he headed out the door, and found that while I turned the knob to Low, I forgot to plug it in!! Thank goodness he looked, otherwise the whole thing would’ve been tossed out …


  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth (two 32-ounce boxes)
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 10 whole star anise (see Tip)
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 pounds total), skin removed, trimmed
  • 6 ounces wide rice noodles (we only had access to thin rice noodles)
  • 6 cups chopped bok choy
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 fresh Thai chile or serrano, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges


  1. Combine broth, brown sugar, fish sauce, star anise, cloves, ginger and cinnamon stick in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add chicken breasts, meat-side down. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours (or on Low for 8 hours).
  2. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Remove spices and discard. Add noodles and bok choy to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on High for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the bone and shred with two forks. When the noodles are tender, stir in the shredded chicken. Serve bowls of soup with bean sprouts, basil, mint, cilantro, sliced chile and lime wedges on the side so everyone can add their own toppings.


  • To prep ahead: Combine seasonings with broth; prep chicken; cover and refrigerate separately for up to 1 day. | Equipment: 5- to 6-quart slow cooker (we used a 7-quart).
  • Tip: Add star anise, named for its star-shaped pods, to Asian-inspired dishes to lend distinctive licorice-like flavor. Look for it with other bulk spices in natural-foods stores, in Asian markets or online at

“Bloomin’ Good!”

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Always in cruise control to discover new culinary adventures, we recently enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Blooming Grove Inn in West Trenton, NJ. Located inside a former Victorian Mansion that dates back to the 1860’s, many locals may remember it being called …
Read more under the “Neighborhood Joints” tab…

Tuna, Escarole, and Chickpea Salad with Warm Herb-Garlic Vinaigrette

In writing this blog it made me think of the late-60’s, early-70’s band Hot Tuna (remember them?) an American blues rock band formed as a spin-off of Jefferson Airplane. They began during a hiatus in Airplane’s touring schedule in early 1969 while good ol’ Gracie Slick was undergoing recovery from throat node surgery that had left her unable to perform. July 1974 marked a departure from their primarily bluesy, acoustic style when Hot Tuna dropped their acoustic sets completely and morphed into a heavy rock band. They performed their final concert at the Palladium in New York City in November 1977… OK, I digress…

Good-quality tuna is a fabulous secret weapon for easy but satisfying meals. Its silky texture and slightly briny flavor makes this salad feel substantial. And by all means, don’t buy the cheaper canned stuff. You’ll be amazed at the difference in quality.

Fine Cooking blind-tested both canned and jarred samples and overwhelmingly preferred the jarred tuna (yes, it does cost more) which contained bigger pieces, was richer tasting, and had better texture. And we have to concur! They rated these two brands as the best: Tonnino (pictured below) and Sclafani.

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Tuna, Escarole, and Chickpea Salad with Warm Garlic-Herb Vinaigrette

  • Servings: serves 2-4
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print


  • 2 6.7-oz. jars good-quality tuna in oil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 2 Tbs. minced shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium head (about 1 lb.) escarole, trimmed, cleaned, and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved with a vegetable peeler (a heaping 1/3 cup)

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Jarred Tonnino tuna fillets.

  1. Strain the oil from the tuna into a 1 cup measure. Add oil, if necessary, for a total of 1/2 cup. In a medium bowl, flake the tuna into large pieces and set aside.
  2. In a 1-quart saucepan, heat the oil and shallot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the lemon juice, parsley, rosemary, and pepper flakes.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the escarole, chickpeas, and onion with enough of the warm vinaigrette to coat the greens well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the salad among four dinner plates and top each with a quarter of the tuna. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the tuna, top with the cheese, and serve.

PS—We had enough leftover for both of us to take to work for lunch the next day and we were both surprised how well the salad held up.

Recipe by Abby Simchak from Fine Cooking~