Monthly Archives: September 2015

One Pan Meal #2: Curried Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives

An ideal recipe – wonderful result with low effort. This one-pan meal is a riff on Chicken Marbella, the famous Silver Palate dish featuring sweet roasted prunes and briny olives. In this version, made with boneless chicken thighs and cauliflower, the original seasonings are replaced with Moroccan-inspired spices, and dried apricots sub for the prunes. For the best flavor, start marinating the chicken in the morning or, better yet, the night before (which is what we did.)

End result? …a fabulous combination of flavors! Sprinkling it with cilantro and lemon juice after cooking made the whole dish shine. The super tasty juices from the chicken mellowed and enhanced the taste of the cauliflower, while the olives added a great salty-bite balanced by the sweetness of the apricot.

If I was forced to choose a favorite among the one-pan meals, this would have to be it. Although all of the others were also winners in my humble opinion.

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Ingredients

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 lb. total)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and drained
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, halved or quartered if large
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 large lemon, cut into 4 to 6 wedges

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All ingredients layered on the pan before roasting.

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Checking for doneness after 35 minutes.

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken thighs with 2 Tbs. of the oil, the vinegar,2 tsp. of the curry powder, 1/2 tsp. of the paprika, the cinnamon, cayenne, and 3/4 tsp. salt, tossing to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.
  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment. On the pan, combine the cauliflower with the remaining 2 Tbs. oil, 2 tsp. curry powder, 1/2 tsp. paprika, and 3/4 tsp. salt, tossing to coat. Add the apricots and olives, and spread in a single layer.
  3. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, fold them back into their original shape, and place them on top of the cauliflower, spaced evenly apart. (Discard any remaining marinade.) Roast, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cauliflower browns and the chicken cooks through (165°F), about 35 minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken from the pan and toss the cauliflower mixture with the pan drippings. Serve the chicken and cauliflower mixture sprinkled with the cilantro and the lemon wedges on the side.

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The plated meal, ready to dig in!

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The leftovers were perfect a few nights later when we did not feel like cooking.

by Molly Gilbert from Fine Cooking

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One Pan Meal #1: Roasted Salmon and Fennel with Pistachio Gremolata

Intrigued by a recent article in Fine Cooking magazine that featured numerous recipes incorporating all ingredients cooked in one pan, we decided to give most of them a whirl. And we’re really glad we did! The first of which was the Roasted Salmon and Fennel with Pistachio Gremolata. The bright flavors and beautiful colors in this dish make it a company-worthy meal, but it’s quick enough for a weeknight, too—which is where we began.

I’ll be interspersing the remaining one-pan meals in between several upcoming blogs, so stay tuned. One mixes chicken thighs and cauliflower, and another steak with brussels sprouts. All three were extremely tasty and easy to make, so they’ll be on future menus, no doubt!

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1-3/4 lb. total), cored and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 6-oz. skinless salmon fillets
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup salted shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • Flaky sea salt

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The roasted fennel and red onion.

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Laying the salmon filets on top of the roasted veggies.

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment. On the pan, toss the fennel and onion with the olive oil and a big pinch each of salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables evenly and roast until tender and browned at the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Push the vegetables into a pile to make a bed for the salmon. Place the fillets on top of the vegetables, spaced evenly apart, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the salmon is just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the parsley, pistachios, lemon zest, and garlic to make the gremolata.
  5. Serve the salmon and vegetables topped with the gremolata and a sprinkling of sea salt.

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Plated entree with the gremolata sprinkled over everything. Yum! Made a great lunch the next day.

by Molly Gilbert from Fine Cooking

Spring Mill Café with Darling Daughter

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The Spring Mill Café
has been serving French country fare since 1978, a BYO that serves fabulous lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. The historic property features the original Spring Mill general store, and the picturesque converted farmhouse. When the weather is nice, guests can dine outdoors adjacent the gardens, either on the patio or on one of the porches. They use local farmers and the Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop as much as possible, and the menus change to reflect the seasons.

Michele Haines established the cafe wanting to share the dishes her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother passed down. Specialties include hearty patés, traditional boeuf bourguignon, rabbit stew, cassoulet and fresh farm vegetables. Desserts include classics like chocolate mousse and tarte tatin. The Spring Mill Café’s relaxed and casual atmosphere invites you to enjoy the company and the food.

We have dined here as a couple, and as a family, on numerous occasions, but many years had lapsed since our last visit. So with daughter Julia, affectionately known as “Juwa” to her dad and me, in for a short visit from her new digs in the Los Angeles area, we figured it was time to put in another appearance.

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Our friendly and knowledgeable waitress informed us that tonight’s menu had just been updated (which is done about six times per year), so with a bottle of red and a bottle of white, we sipped our wine while contemplating dinner choices. For starters, Julia and I both selected a simple House Salad of lightly dressed greens, walnuts and yummy blue cheese crumbles; while Russ ordered the Roasted Beet Salad on greens with orange sections and topped with a hunk of ricotta cheese resembling a tortellini.

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The simple House Salad.

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A pleasantly plated Roasted Beet salad.

For entrees, all three of us zeroed in on the Sea Scallops L’orange, seared dry sea scallops with orange beurre blanc butter, caramelized fennel, and roasted potatoes. But to change things up, Russ decided instead on the Porc aux Légume d’automne, sliced pork sirloin with sherry mustard jus served with roasted squash and brussels sprouts. The dinners were just as fabulous as we remembered others to be in the past!

Absolutely convinced that Julia HATED fennel, she was shocked to learn that the tasty vegetable (“Oh my God this is soo good, what am I eating?”) mixed in with the roasted potatoes was, you guessed it—fennel! Sometimes it’s best not to have any preconceived notions about what you are about to eat…

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Sea Scallops L’orange entree.

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Sliced Pork Sirloin with sherry mustard jus.

When it came to dessert, something I rarely—if ever—partake of, Russ was too full but Julia still seemed to find room to enjoy a slice of their pecan-chocolate pie with whipped cream and fresh blueberries. And she finished every last bite!

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Julia’s little slice of heaven, pecan-chocolate pie.

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Russ with daughter “Juwa” in for a visit from California.

It would be just a matter of days before Julia flew back to the West Coast, so we sadly said our goodbyes for now—although not for good to Spring Mill Café.

Chance Meeting at Stone Terrace

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In October of 2014, at a tasting event silent auction, I won a gift certificate to the Stone Terrace by John Henry in Hamilton, NJ. It’s been some years since we patronized this upscale restaurant and events facility, and wanted to make sure to use the certificate before it expired… although there was no apparent expiration date evident.

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Knowing the possibility of getting a reservation during prime time on a weekend could be dicey, we booked online several days in advance for 7:30 on a Saturday. Once there, standing at the maitre d’ station, a shout out from the bar area calling my name took us by surprise! Who was sitting there enjoying cocktails but Rosanne and Gary Zarrilli! A complete shock because Rosanne and I had chatted about dining there as a foursome some months ago, but we never settled on a date. I guess you could say “serendipity” played a part in this chance meeting.

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The Z’s were there to hear the DJ in another room because they had booked him for an upcoming event of their own. We inquired if they’d already eaten and since they had an 8:00 rez, they gladly accepted our offer to join us.

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The night’s specials were so intriguing that we ordered most of our choices from those offerings. For starters both couples each shared an appetizer of the most delicious Crabmeat Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with roasted red peppers and smoked mozzarella on a bed of greens. Did I say “fabulous“… four thumbs up!

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Next we ordered two of their salad specials to split. The Z’s chose the Salad Three Ways, which included chopped tomatoes and basil, lightly dressed greens and sandwiched between the two was a large dollop of Burrata cheese with a balsamic drizzlea fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream, giving it an unusual, soft texture. Rosanne was ooohing and aaahing over that cheese! Our choice was the Arugula Salad with Figs, candied walnuts and crumbled goat cheese in a light vinaigrette. Lucky for me, Russ doesn’t like walnuts so I got all of them!

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Gary: Stuffed Shrimp made with their Famous crab stuffing

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Rosanne: Jumbo Lump Crab over Linguine Fra Diavolo.

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Lynn: Salmon with a Dijon Horseradish Sauce

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Russ: 20-ounce Dry Aged Ribeye with sautéed mushrooms and flash-fried baby spinach

All four entrees were cooked to perfection, and both mine and Gary’s dinners were accompanied by sides of perfectly cooked baby roasted potatoes and steamed green beans. Russ’ side of flash-fried spinach was unusually good.

Throughout the evening, our waitress Jennie, kept us entertained with her infectiousness laugh, smile and playful bantering. Now there was somebody who seemed to really take pleasure in her job and interacting with people… a sure means for a good tip!

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Mini-Meatloaves with Chili Sauce

Everyone will enjoy getting their own mini-meatloaf with a sweet-tangy glaze on top. An added bonus? This is gluten-free because it uses rolled oats instead of bread crumbs. We served ours with smashed baby potatoes sprinkled with chives and a side of steamed broccoli.

Perhaps you don’t eat red meat? This recipe is very versatile, so you could substitute a mix of ground veal and pork. Don’t eat pork? Use ground dark meat turkey and turkey bacon. We incorporated meatloaf mix (ground beef, veal and pork) with only 2 slices of bacon because ours was thick slab. And instead of broiling for the last couple of minutes, we just left the loaves in the 400 degree oven for another 5 minutes and they came out beautifully!

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Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1-1/4 lb. ground beef (85% lean)
  • 3 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup chili sauce, such as Heinz

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Pulse the onion, parsley, bacon, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the oats and boiling water, stirring to combine. Add the onion mixture, beef, eggs, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper and mix well by hand.
  4. Shape the mixture into 4 small loaves (about 4×3 inches) on the prepared baking sheet. Brush 1/2 cup of the chili sauce over the top, and bake until cooked through (165°F), about 20 minutes.
  5. Turn the broiler on high, brush the loaves with the remaining 1/4 cup chili sauce, and broil until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Serve.

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Recipe courtesy of Ronne Day from Fine Cooking

Washington Crossing Inn Revisited

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More than likely you’ve heard of the Washington Crossing Inn, which adjoins the spot where General George Washington and his troops assembled before the historic crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776. And whether you have, or have not dined at this historical establishment, now’s a good time to revisit. Before the season ends, enjoy drinks, tapas, lunch and/or dinner on their welcoming outdoor patio. Over Labor Day Weekend, we did just that—twice! Read more under the Neighborhood Joints tab…

Summer’s Bounty Over Labor Day Weekend

While I am saddened that the unofficial summer has come to an end, boy did we luck out with the weather for the Labor Day Weekend! And to celebrate the season’s bounty, our menu for the holiday bash highlighted just-picked sugar-and-butter corn, a variety of ripe tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs for a backyard barbecue with guests Paula and Mike Graham, and Karen and Ed Mortka. Let the party begin!

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As dusk settled, Karen, Ed, Russ, Paula and Mike enjoyed a glass of wine.

For starters we prepared a Tomato and Mozzarella Tart. Our secrets for a great tomato tart? See recipe at end of blog…

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The Tomato Mozzarella Tart fresh from the oven.

Just as the tart was being pulled from the oven, a wonderful aroma wafted through the downstairs as all four guests arrived simultaneously—perfect timing! The Grahams brought a tasty appetizer of almond encrusted Blue Cheese Ballswhich they both marveled at the fact that they arrived intact—while the Mortkas supplied a mouth-watering homemade Dutch Apple Pie.

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The Grahams almond-encrusted blue cheese balls. 
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Tossed salad with a punch of color and flavor from the farm stand pear tomatoes.
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Sides of tossed salad, corn sauté and tomato vinaigrette.
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And the “pièce de résistance” perfectly grilled flank steak with chunky tomato-basil vinaigrette.

Mediterranean-Style Flank Steak with Chunky Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette
(recipe posted in Aug. 19, 2015 blog, https://lynnandruss.com/2015/08/19/mediterranean-style-flank-steak/)

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Two flank steaks marinating in olive oil and herbs.

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Karen and Russ making sure not to overcook the steaks.

The steak recipe calls for the meat to be marinated for 20 minutes, and while last time we marinated it for one hour, this time we increased the time to almost 8 hours—making a big difference in flavor, all to the good, because everyone oohed and ahhed! For the chopped fresh aromatic herbs we used a mix of thyme, rosemary and marjoram—the sage had already been harvested for dehydrating a few days prior.

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Ed and Karen getting cozy.

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Mike and Paula content to enjoy the perfect evening.

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Yours Truly looking like a human candle with the flame directly above my head!

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Karen Mortka cutting into her homemade apple pie.

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Men will be boys… when you give them the leeway…

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…And women always show class 😉

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Ed waves goodbye as only he can… until next time my friends!

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Here are the recipes for the corn sauté and tomato tart:

Corn Sauté with Black Beans and Red Pepper

To create this corn side dish with rich, toasted flavor, strip the corn from the cobs when they are raw and then cook the kernels in a nearly smoking skillet. It is important not to stir the corn for a few minutes to give it a chance to brown. Once the corn is cooked, mix in plenty of salty, savory ingredients to balance the sweetness. Finally, an acidic component rounds out the dish. Even though the recipe states it serves 4 to 6, we doubled the ingredient amounts for our party of six.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
  • 3 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and jalapeño; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beans and cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Transfer black bean mixture to large bowl and wipe out skillet.
  2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add corn and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, without stirring, until corn is browned on bottom and beginning to pop, about 3 minutes. Stir and continue to cook, stirring once or twice, until corn is spotty brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer corn to bowl with black bean mixture.
  3. Stir in cilantro and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Season with salt and remaining lime juice to taste. Serve.

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Cooking the onion, red pepper and jalapeño first.

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Sautéing the corn kernels before combining with other ingredients.

Tomato Mozzarella Tart

We use a two-step baking method for a flaky yet rigid crust, then “waterproofed” it with egg wash and layers of two kinds of cheese. We salt sliced tomatoes for 30 minutes to remove excess juice, then gently press them with paper towels. Baking the tart at 425 degrees quickly melted the cheese and preserved the tomatoes’ meaty texture.

Thawing the frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator overnight will help prevent cracking while unfolding it. (Although we unthawed it for a few hours on the kitchen countertop.) Be sure to use a low-moisture supermarket mozzarella sold in block form, not fresh water-packed mozzarella. If you prefer to do some advanced preparation, the tart shell can be pre-baked through step 1, cooled to room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, and kept at room temperature for up to two days before being topped and baked with the mozzarella and tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS

  • Flour, unbleached all-purpose, for work surface
  • 1 box frozen puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm, 1.1 pound), thawed in box in refrigerator overnight
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 pound plum tomatoes (about 3 to 4 medium), cored and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Salt
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Dust work surface with flour and unfold both pieces puff pastry onto work surface. Following illustrations below, form 1 large sheet with border, using beaten egg as directed. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly over shell; using fork, uniformly and thoroughly poke holes in shell. Bake 13 to 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees; continue to bake until golden brown and crisp, 13 to 15 minutes longer. Transfer to wire rack; increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
  2. While shell bakes, place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes. Combine garlic, olive oil, and pinch each salt and pepper in small bowl; set aside.
  3. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over warm (or cool, if made ahead) baked shell. Shingle tomato slices widthwise on top of cheese (about 4 slices per row); brush tomatoes with garlic oil. Bake until shell is deep golden brown and cheese is melted, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, sprinkle with basil, slide onto cutting board or serving platter, cut into pieces, and serve.

How-to pictorial:

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Oh, and the leftovers from the entire meal made for a fabulous poolside luncheon at the Country Club pool the next day! Several patrons were eyeballing our feast and wondered where we got it…

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Back to the Baum Shelter

As has been our practice every summer, we made an annual trek to the Baum Shelter—the home of good friends Merry Sue and Fred Baum—who live in Nazareth, PA. Their expansive backyard view is truly impressive, incorporating breathtaking vistas that go on for miles. Adding to that ambience this year, we were treated to a huge full moon while dining al fresco later that night.

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Panoramic views from their back deck.

Weather-wise, the weekend was a “10,” so for most of the afternoon we lolled around—or in—the pool while catching up on news of family and friends. Late in the day, we munched on a smorgasbord of picking food such as my guacamole and chips, cheeses and crackers, ham salad on lettuce and tomato, and deviled eggs. Interestingly, we found out that Merry Sue (who was born on Christmas day in the PA town of Bethlehem—kid you not!) grinds up leftover ham and freezes it for future use. In this case, she thawed some and added mayo and a few other ingredients to create a tasty ham salad. Guess who’s stealing that idea? Not that we eat much ham, but when we do, it’s a good idea for using up the leftovers…

The pleasant afternoon morphed into a lovely evening, so we brought the party up to the deck for cocktail hour and continued conversation. Trying to capture images of that full moon, Fred set up his camera on a large tripod taking multiple shots, with disappointing results—however they were much better than my iPhone attempts. Dinner this night was on “Spanish time,” meaning we ate after 9:00—luckily, no one was in any particular hurry.

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Merry Sue and Lynn having fun boiling the corn on the cob.

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Russ, Fred and Merry Sue. 

Now you have to understand that Fred is a die-hard motorhead to really appreciate his grill and accessories. A few years ago for a milestone birthday, Merry Sue and her two grown children all pitched in to buy him his dream grill—made from a motor! And you gotta love the mitts, goggles, tool kit flatware case and spark plug corn holders!! It somehow made the quick and easy dinner menu, consisting of pasta salad, fresh corn on the cob, grilled burgers and bratwurst—that much more innovative.

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Freddie in his grilling regalia.

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A close up of the motor grill.

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The tool kit flatware set.

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The very effective spark plug corn holders.

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Brats and burgers grilling away.

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Enjoying the moonlit night.

We woke up on Sunday to another stellar day, starting out with coffee and tea on the deck. For years, we have always enjoyed doing the New York Times crossword puzzles together, so Fred printed out several copies which the three of us got started on while Merry Sue whipped up a tasty breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries and bagels with several cream cheese options. That crossword puzzle was a bear and took a while to slog through, but once Russ cracked the gimmick code, we had an easier time of it. Granted we had to cheat and ask Google a couple of the answers (who knew President Obama’s stepdad’s first name?!? Turns out it’s Lolo!)

Another lazy afternoon was spent at the pool with intentions of playing Scrabble—on a magnetic board none-the-less. We never did get around to starting that game, partly due to the Baum’s son, Brian, and his precocious 6-year-old daughter Ali, dropping by for a visit. She is truly a hoot! Oh, and I would be remiss if I neglected to mention Fred’s 4-year old Weimaraner, Lucy—who Russ used to call “Lucifer” in her early years as she was quite the devil incarnate. However, thankfully the years have mellowed her and she’s a beauty—albeit a bit rambunctious when you first arrive.

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Granddaughter Ali emulating her Grandpa Fred.

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Son Brian Baum holding his daughter Ali at a car show.

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How can you not love this face?

Monday being a work day for most, we all said our goodbyes in the early evening with hopes of reconnecting over the Fall or Winter months. If not, there’s always next summer…