Monthly Archives: January 2016

“Chopped” Not


At any given time I have a bevy of 50-75 blogs in the bank. While wading through them recently, I found this one which I wrote some time ago, so I thought I’d dust it off and put it out there…

Russ came flying into the house after a work appointment with a bag of groceries—and less than an hour to prepare, cook and eat dinner before he had to leave for another commitment. The night prior he had taken 2 thick bone-in pork chops out of the freezer (the bones add valuable flavor to the meat and prevents it from drying out) with the intention of adding a veggie and other side dish to round out the meal—thus the contents of the grocery bag.

While he chopped, diced, sautéed and baked, I was upstairs (probably writing another blog) and I could hear him blazing trails down in the kitchen. The end result? Perfectly done pork chops with an impromptu, super-delicious pan sauce, tender-crisp asparagus, and mushroom rice pilaf. Mentally, I didn’t think this meal would be blog-worthy. But boy, was I ever wrong! The chops with pan sauce were outstanding. Although I didn’t take any photos (those shown here are stock photos), it certainly deserved a blog about Russ’ talents as a chef.

After dinner, I offered to do KP duty while he ran off to his next meeting. The Food Network station was on TV (surprised??) airing a segment of Chopped. Whenever I watch this show, I’m always amazed at how quickly the chefs throw together an odd assortment of ingredients with astonishing results in record time. Thus the connection to what just transpired in our kitchen. Perhaps I should sign Russ up? Well, that’s another blog…

Anyway, I’ll let Russ tell you in his own words how he prepared those succulent chops:

My favorite way to prepare thick-cut pork or veal chops and steaks is pan roasting. Simply put, pan roasting involves searing the room-temperature meat that has been seasoned with salt and pepper (or my favorite, adobo seco) in a heavy, preferably cast iron, (or carbon steel) skillet over medium-high to high heat until nicely browned on both sides—about 2 minutes each side—and then putting the skillet in a pre-heated 425 degree oven and roast until the meat is 5 degrees lower than your desired internal temperature. This is usually about 10-12 minutes in the oven depending on the thickness of the meat. Here’s a good resource that shows the technique:



Once the chops were done, I covered them lightly with foil on a plate and then set about making a simple Dijon mustard and cream pan sauce. I drained the fat through a fine strainer and returned any of the browned bits to the skillet, then set the skillet over a medium burner. I deglazed the pan with about a ½ cup of dry vermouth (you can use dry white wine, too) and scraped up the fond in the pan. After allowing the vermouth to reduce by half, I added a ½ cup of chicken broth and a teaspoon of dried thyme, allowing the mixture to reduce slightly before whisking in a heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Once the mixture was simmering happily, I removed the pan from the heat and whisked in two tablespoons of unsalted butter (always a good finish for a pan sauce) and adjusted the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Well there you have it! Thanks Russ for the step-by-step directions to fabulous pan roasted pork chops!


It’s Not Your Mother’s Roast Squash

Abhorring most vegetables in my formative years, my memories of finally appreciating acorn squash was in my late-teens when Mom oven-roasted halves inverted in a pan with water, then flipped to brown, adding butter, brown sugar and nutmeg. I still enjoy this approach, but thumbing through my Real Simple magazine, I came across this intriguing alternative, Broiled Sweet and Spicy Squash. You know my penchant for anything spicy, so I wanted to somehow incorporate this acorn squash recipe into one of the upcoming weeknight meals.


However, after reading the preparation, I decided to roast the squash slices in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes—15 minutes per side—as opposed to broiling them for 10 minutes on one side only. My reasoning? First off, I’m not fond of gas oven broilers, they are uneven at best.

With that method, I visualized charred exteriors on one side with uncooked interiors. Plus, basting only one side of each slice with the tasty sauce? Not on my watch! With those flavors, I wanted to maximize the area getting happy. In addition, they didn’t mention lining the baking sheet with parchment, and as experience has taught me, this is a good idea.

Have you ever tried to cut thin slices from thick-skinned acorn squash? Not an easy task, but I managed. I first got out the meat cleaver, but visions of chopping off my fingers made me think otherwise. So with a large, sharp chef’s knife I managed to do a pretty decent job.

Intuition told me the amount of oil in the sauce was too much, so I decreased the amount slightly, using only three tablespoons instead of four. The ratio of spicy to sweet was balanced without one flavor overpowering the other, but you may want to adjust to your own personal preference.

After 30 minutes the squash was nicely caramelized on both sides, but the rest of my dinner wouldn’t be ready for about another 10 minutes, so I just turned off the oven, leaving the squash inside. The extra time added more caramelization resulting in perfectly tender yummy goodness.

Slices of raw acorn squash.

Slices are arranged on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment and basted with the sweet and spicy sauce.

The caramelized squash after roasting.

Roasted Sweet N Spicy Squash


  • 1 small acorn squash, scrubbed (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha or hot sauce
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/3 cup cilantro


  1. PREHEAT oven to 450 degrees.
  2. CUT the top crown off the squash and scoop out the seeds.
  3. CUT into thin 3/4″ rings and spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment.
  4. COMBINE the oil, syrup and Sriracha and brush over the squash. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  5. ROAST about 15 minutes per side. Once turned, baste with more sauce.
  6. BRUSH any leftover sauce onto the squash slices. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve warm.


This meal is not quick, but it is 150% worth it.

A culinary trip back to Spain with Catalan-Style Beef Stew with Mushrooms. Supremely beefy and complexly flavored, Spanish beef stew is a little different than its American counterpart. It starts with a sofrito, a slow-cooked mixture of onions, spices, and herbs that builds a flavor-packed base. But plan on making this impressive dinner when you have at least four hours to spare. (You can prepare several steps a few days ahead of time, see note below.)


To produce a beefier-tasting stew, swap out the normal chuck-eye roast for boneless beef short ribs. When finishing the stew, incorporate a mixture of toasted bread*, toasted almonds, garlic, and parsley. This mixture, called a picada, brightens the stew’s flavor and thickens the broth.

Luckily this is one of those dishes that can continue to cook at a low temp beyond the allotted time. Shortly before our meal would have been ready to serve, we got a phone call from the West Coast, and just as that was ending another call from Michigan, both important and lengthy. After the calls, a neighbor stopped by to discuss their intended kitchen updates and wanted to see what we had already changed—which then turned into a discussion on vacation travels… All the while the tantalizing aromas are wafting through the house…

Finally it was 8:30 and we couldn’t wait any longer. And let me tell you, it certainly was worth the wait! Lots leftover too for another quick weeknight meal. Although we needed to get a few more potatoes to make additional garlicky mashed as a foundation for the stew. We only had one Russett potato for the original meal which didn’t provide for any leftovers.


As far as the plum tomatoes, buying them in the dead of winter on the East Coast—not a good idea. The two we bought, while robust in size, were anemic in color and taste. In hindsight, since the plums get grated, we should just have used crushed canned tomatoes which would have provided a richer color and more depth of flavor.

Instead of buying whole blanched almonds, we had toasted slivered almonds already on hand in the pantry. And the grocery store didn’t stock loose oyster mushrooms so we bought 8 ounces of “specialty blend” which included oysters, and we upped the mushroom ante by including another 6 or so ounces of white button shrooms that we wanted to use up—in our book, extra mushrooms is a good thing!

Slivered almonds are toasted in a carbon steel skillet.

The toasted almonds and garlic are minced in a mini food processor.

*We substituted gluten-free bread crumbs in place of the white sandwich bread to address Russ’s wheat-free diet.



tablespoons olive oil
large onions, chopped fine
½ teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and pepper
plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, pulp grated on large holes of box grater, and skins discarded
teaspoon smoked paprika
bay leaf
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 ½ cups water
large sprig fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 ½ pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes

The chopped almonds and garlic are added to the bread crumbs and chopped parsely.


¼ cup whole blanched almonds
tablespoons olive oil
slice hearty white sandwich bread, crust removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
garlic cloves, peeled
tablespoons minced fresh parsley
½ pound oyster mushrooms, trimmed
teaspoon sherry vinegar
The sofrito mixture before it is added to the cooked onions.IMG_3778
Adding the sofrito mixture to the caramelized onions.

The sofrito before the wine, water, thyme and cinnamon are added.

The cubed short ribs are added to the liquid before going into the oven.

We used more than the 1/2-pound of mushrooms since we had them on hand. Once the stew is cooked, the mushrooms and picada get added.


Remove the woody base of the oyster mushroom stem before cooking. An equal amount of quartered button mushrooms may be substituted for the oyster mushrooms. Or do what we did and use a mixture of oyster, shiitake and portobellos. Serve the stew with boiled or mashed potatoes or rice.

  1. FOR THE STEW: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat oil in Dutch oven (we used a clay Cazuela) over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add onions, sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often, until onions are deeply caramelized, 30 to 40 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, smoked paprika, and bay leaf; cook, stirring often, until darkened and thick, 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add wine, water, thyme, and cinnamon to pot, scraping up any browned bits. Season beef with 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and add to pot. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Transfer to oven and cook, uncovered.
  4. After 1 hour stir stew to redistribute meat, return to oven, and continue to cook uncovered until meat is tender, 1½ to 2 hours longer.
  5. FOR THE PICADA: While stew is in oven, heat almonds and 1 tablespoon oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring often, until almonds are golden brown, 3 to 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer almonds to food processor.
  6. Return now-empty skillet to medium heat, add bread, and cook, stirring often, until toasted, 2 to 4 minutes; transfer to food processor with almonds. Add garlic and process until mixture is finely ground, about 20 seconds, scraping bowl as needed. Transfer mixture to bowl, stir in parsley, and set aside
  7. Return now-empty skillet to medium heat. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl and set aside.
  8. Remove bay leaf. Stir picada, mushrooms, and vinegar into stew. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.
TO MAKE AHEAD: Follow recipe through step 2 and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To serve, add 1 cup water and reheat over medium heat. Proceed with step 3.
Recipe adapted from Cooks Illustrated

You’re Gonna Want to Bookmark This One

Stir-Fried Chili Scallops with Baby Bok Choy, a quick and easy meal for weeknights, this is a simple, elegant stir-fry; also perfect for entertaining—just add jasmine rice and a good white wine.


Scallops have a delicate flavor that is complemented by strong seasonings; in this recipe chili bean sauce, ginger, and garlic bring that flavor to life. We made a switch-a-roo with the sea scallops by using the large shrimp we had on hand, and the spices complimented the shellfish perfectly. In fact, we would definitely make this again with shrimp.

The recipe calls for small baby bok choy, which may sound redundant, but baby bok choy can range in length from 3 to 8 inches. The vegetables are stir-fried for only 2 minutes, so you must choose the very small, tender, truly “baby” or dwarf bok choy. If you can’t find the tiny ones, go ahead and use the larger baby bok choy, you’ll just have to stir-fry it a few minutes longer.

About those shrimp. Russ prefers to buy them with their heads on so that he can have the their noggins and shells to make seafood stock sometime in the future. (And now that he has his pressure cooker, he’ll be making a lot more stock, yeah me!) But guess who had the pleasure—or not—of decapitating those little suckers? Since I get home from work earlier than Russ, I usually play the role of sous chef prepping the night’s meal. Decapitization—NOT my most favorite chore, by far…

But we cannot wait to make this dish again!

Many of the prepared ingredients—notice the heads still on the shrimp…


  • 12 oz. medium fresh sea scallops (or large shrimp)
  • 2 Tbs. chicken broth
  • 1 Tbs. chili bean sauce
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbs. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 small baby bok choy, trimmed and halved length-wise (about 4 cups)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips (about 2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions

Stir-frying the split shrimp with minced garlic and ginger.

After the shrimp are removed, the baby bok choy and red pepper get their turn in the wok.

Reintroduce the shrimp or scallops back into the wok with the vegetables.

Directions (substitute shrimp in place of scallops if desired) 

  1. Rinse the scallops under cold water, and set on paper towels. With more paper towels, pat the scallops dry. Cut the scallops (or shrimp) horizontally in half so that all the pieces are about 1/2 inch thick.
  2. In a small bowl combine the broth, chili bean sauce, soy sauce, and cornstarch.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 Tbs. of the oil, add the ginger and garlic, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the aromatics to the sides of the wok.
  4. Carefully add the scallops and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the scallops begin to sear. Sprinkle on 1/4 tsp. of the salt and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the scallops are opaque but not cooked through. Transfer the scallops and aromatics to a plate.
  5. Swirl the remaining 1 Tbs. oil into the wok, add the bok choy and bell peppers, sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the bok choy just begins to turn bright green. (We had to stir-fry ours for more like 4 minutes because they weren’t the “baby-baby” size.)
  6. Return the scallops with any juices that have accumulated to the wok. Restir the broth mixture, swirl it into the wok, and stir-fry 1 minute or until the scallops are just cooked. Stir in the scallions.
  7. Serve over jasmine rice.

Recipe by Grace Young


Your One Way Ticket Out of Boring Chicken Snoozeville

You’ll adore this dish, Chinese Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken, where the chicken is mellow, with a balance of sweet, spicy, garlicky, and salty flavors laced with an undertone of lemongrass. No particular flavor is overpowering, unless of course, like me, you have a heavy hand with the chiles. Long a fan of fresh lemongrass, whenever I see a recipe calling for this ingredient, I am immediately drawn to it. And since we’ve been trying a new recipe each week from Russ’ new cookbook Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, by chef author Grace Young, this one stopped me in my tracks, or more precisely, stopped me from turning the pages.

When buying fresh lemongrass, select plump stalks with no signs of dryness—sometimes easier said than done—your best bet is an Asian market. Make sure to peel away the tough outer layers of the stalks until you reach the tender portion, which is the most flavorful part.

In retrospect, since we prefer lots of veggies in our stir-fries, next time I’ll add some chopped red and yellow peppers, and/or maybe some sliced carrots, not only giving the dish more visual appeal, but also tipping the scale toward healthier. And the recipe only called for 1 pound of chicken, but we had a package of 1 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs—didn’t seem to matter.

Yup, another winner from Gracie!


  • 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breast, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. plus 2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, tender parts minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 Tbsp. monced garlic
  • 2 tsp. chopped jalapeño chiles, with seeds
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced, about 1/4 cup
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar

Starting to stir-fry the chicken thigh strips.

Next, stir-fry the lemongrass, garlic and chiles.

Add the chicken and its juices back to the wok.


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, cornstarch, salt and pepper.Sitr to combine. stir in 1 teaspoon of oil.
  2. In a separate small bowl, combine the fish sauce and chicken broth.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok, or 12-inch skillet over high heat. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil, carefully add the chicken, and spread it evenly in one layer. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute.
  4. Using a metal spatula, stir-fry 1 minute until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  5. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon oil into the wok, add the lemongrass, garlic and chiles, and stir-fry over medium heat  for 10 seconds or until aromatics are fragrant.
  6. Add the onions and stir-fry for 1 minute or until the onions start to brown.
  7. return the chicken with any juices that have accumulated to the wok and increase the heat to high.
  8. Swirl the broth mixture into the wok, sprinkle on the brown sugar, and stir-fry about 2 minutes or until the chicken id just cooked through.
  9. Serve over white or brown Jasmati rice.


Adapting with a Little Know-How

Give your pork a holiday feel with the flavors of orange, rosemary and thyme in this fabulous Orange Herb and Pork Tenderloin recipe. A bed of sweet potato cubes lends the tender meat a little sweetness, and the tangy, butter-kissed sauce makes the most of the flavors in the marinade. And steamed bright green beans add a pleasant pop of color, just dress with a spritz of Fleur de Sel and a drizzle of a good flavored olive oil (in this case we used Herbs de Provence EVOO.)


This recipe is an adaptation from an article we found in the McCaffrey’s Supermarket seasonal magazine “Real Food.” But caution! Plan ahead for this meal because the meat needs to marinate for 3 hours or up to overnight, cook for another hour
(?? seriously??), and then rest for another 5 minutes… Guess who didn’t take that into account when we planned to make it? If we had gone ahead and made it the weeknight we were planning to, we would be eating dinner at 2:00 a.m. Obviously, that wasn’t going to fly…

However, there is a happy ending. The weekend was coming up so we decided to marinate the tenderloin on Sunday, allowing it to get happy overnight, making a much easier go of it on a Monday evening. (OK, so this wasn’t one of those “Meatless Mondays” we often blog about.)

And we also thought about the cooking times. An hour for a pork tenderloin didn’t sit right with us, and I’m glad we paid attention to our intuition. After 30 minutes—half the time—the pork registered 150 degrees (not the 160 the recipe called for), which was where we wanted it to be, temperature-wise. Cooking it for an hour would have produced a dried, tough piece of meat.

Oh, and the sauce. I knew from experience that reducing it was going to take way longer than 3 minutes as per the recipe. Instead I started reducing it as soon as I put the meat and potatoes in the oven. And although it was thick enough after about 20 minutes, I just turned the heat way down until everything else was ready and swirled in the butter before pouring over the pork.

In the end, perfect…

Cubed sweet potato and onion get tossed with oil and salt.

The pork tenderloin marinated over night in orange and fresh herbs.

Cutting the cooked pork into 1/4-inch slices.

The plated meal.


  • 1 1/2 lbs. pork tenderloin
  • 1 Tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large oranges, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, coarsely cracked
  • 4 TBs. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • rosemary sprigs for garnish


  1. Unwrap tenderloin. If wet, pat dry with paper towels.
  2. In a large sealable plastic bag, combine rosemary, thyme, salt and 2 Tbs. orange zest. Add 3/4 cup juice, black pepper, 2 Tbs. oil, and vinegar, and massage bag to mix.
  3. Add tenderloin, press air out of bag, and seal tightly. Turn to coat with marinade. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or over night. The longer the better—and we marinated overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Transfer pork to a heavy sheet pan and refrigerate the marinade. Roast the pork for 25 to 30 minutes (checking periodically after 20 minutes for doneness), until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 150 degrees. Let rest 5 minutes.
  5. After putting the pork into the oven, toss sweet potato cubes, onion, and 2 Tbs. oil in a large bowl, then toss onto a sheet pan covered with parchment or foil. Roast potatoes the same amount of time, 25-30 minutes, then remove from oven and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
  6. While pork and potatoes are cooking, prepare the sauce. Pour marinade into a 1-quart saucepan. Boil marinade on med-high heat for 15-20 minutes, until thick and syrupy. Whisk in butter, swirling over the heat.
  7. Slice meat into thin slices (about 18). Serve 1/2 cup sweet potatoes topped with 3 slices pork and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with rosemary and serve.


“Jau Yau” — one of the more advanced stir-frying techniques


Thrilled by our first meal from Grace Young’s “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge” we were excited to try another one of her recipes. Throughout the book, vivid photos accompanied many of them, making it hard to choose. We finally settled on the Stir-Fried Cumin-Scented Beef with Vegetables, a signature Hunan-style stir-fry of beef with cauliflower, carrots and tomatoes, seasoned with cumin, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Apparently it is also an example of one of the more advanced stir-frying techniques, where chefs practice “jau yau,” or “passing through oil,” where bite-size pieces of meat, poultry or fish are blanched in oil before stir-frying. This process ensures that the ingredients will be more succulent and flavorful. And by golly, by gum, they were!

Always up for a challenge—and considering ourselves somewhat “advanced” in the cooking arena—we decided it’d be a “piece of cake!” And truth be told, it really was pretty simple, BUT you need to be prepared and move fast. Make sure all of your ingredients are cut to size and/or measured, and utensils are at the ready BEFORE you begin.

The night prior, Russ used up our scallions in another dish, and when I stopped at a local grocery store to pick up a bunch on my way home from work, they were completely sold out, so we improvised. I sliced up half of a small purple onion that was wrapped in the frig, throwing it in the wok at the same time as the other veggies. As a garnish, I minced up some fresh chives that added a nice pop of color.

Somehow we often end up with a myriad of leftover rice, potato or other side dishes tucked away for a few days in the refrigerator. So instead of cooking up another rice, we reheated some leftover wild rice that actually complimented the stir-fry quite well. Can’t wait to try another recipe!!


NOTE: We needed to increase the 2 minutes alloted to stir-fry the veggies to crisp-tender to more like 5 minutes. Plus I would double the amount of cherry tomatoes next time.


  • 12 oz. lean flank steak
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 T. plus 1½ cups peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup bite-sized cauliflower florets
  • ½ cup thinly sliced carrots
  • ½ cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions

Doing the “jau yau” method on the beef pieces.

Draining the beef on a bed of paper towels after the initial step of “passing through oil.”

Next, stir-frying the veggies.

Chopped chives serve as a garnish on the finished plate.


  1. Cut the beef with the grain into 2-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip across the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the beef, cornstarch, soy sauce and rice wine.
  3. Stir to combine. Stir in 1 T. of the oil. Heat the remaining 1½ cups oil in a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until the oil registers 280 degrees on a deep-frying thermometer. Carefully add the beef and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok.
  4. Cook 15 seconds or until the beef is opaque but not cooked through. Turn off the heat.
  5. Remove the beef with a metal skimmer and put it on a plate lined with paper towels.
  6. Carefully remove the oil from the wok and reserve. Wash the wok and dry it thoroughly.
  7. Heat the wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact.
  8. Swirl in 1 T. of the reserved oil, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 20 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant.
  9. Add the cauliflower, carrots and tomatoes, and sprinkle on ¼ tsp. salt.
  10. Reduce the heat to medium and stir-fry 2 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the cumin and stir-fry 5 seconds.
  11. Return the beef to the wok, add the scallions, and sprinkle on the remaining ½ tsp. salt. Increase the heat to high and stir-fry 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the beef is just cooked through.

— From “Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge,” by Grace Young.

Another One-Pan Wonder


If simple, healthy and tasty is what you want, this recipe is what you need. Another one-pan wonder, Broiled Shrimp and Broccoli with Spicy Peanut Sauce, is taken from Fine Cooking author Molly Gilbert. Inspired by Southeast Asian shrimp satay, this one-pan dish is a weeknight favorite.

When Russ started combining the ingredients for the sauce, we both realized that, being the “sauce-lovin'” kind of people we are, we needed to double the amount—and we’re glad we did. Taste the peanut sauce before tossing it with the shrimp. If you want it spicier, add more Sriracha. And for those with a more delicate palette, reduce the amount.

And we knew that three minutes under the broiler for the initial step of the broccoli wouldn’t suffice, so we at least doubled the time. While we served it without anything else, you could add some rice or vermicelli for a more robust meal.


  • Cooking spray
  • 3 Tbs. creamy peanut butter,preferably natural
  • 2 Tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 tsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Sriracha; more or less to taste
  • 1-1/2 tsp. plain rice vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-1/4 lb. extra-large shrimp(26 to 30 per lb.), peeled and deveined, and if desired, remove tails
  • 1 lb. 1-inch broccoli florets(about 4 cups)
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisking the peanut sauce ingredients.

Tossing the shrimp with half of the peanut sauce mixture.

The shrimp marinate in the peanut sauce.

Broccoli florets are spread out on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet.

After the broccoli has started to brown, arrange the shrimp around the pan.


  1. Position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil and mist it with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, Sriracha, vinegar, lime juice, and 2 Tbs. warm water until smooth. Set aside half of the sauce for serving and toss the shrimp with the remaining sauce.
  3. On the prepared pan, toss the broccoli with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and broil until lightly browned on the edges, about 3 minutes, keeping a close eye on the pan and tossing occasionally to prevent burning.
  4. Arrange the shrimp on and around the broccoli, spreading it out evenly. Return the pan to the oven and broil until the broccoli is charred on the edges and the shrimp are just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more.
  5. Serve the shrimp and broccoli with the reserved peanut sauce on the side for dipping.

The peanut butter-Sriracha mixture is a flavorful dipping sauce.

Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry

stirfry cookbook cover

Cookbook author and stir-fry guru, Grace Young, is a winner of the James Beard Award for International Cooking. She is known as the “Poet Laureate of the Wok” which enticed Russ to add her latest book, Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge, to his Christmas list—and Santa granted his wish! It was also named one of the top cookbook’s of 2010 by NPR, Washington Post, Good Morning America, and Huffington Post. So with all of this acclaim, we were excited to start trying the recipes…

The first recipe we tried was Spicy Orange Chicken, which with a ripe tomato, an orange, and a chicken breast, combined with basic staples becomes a sumptuous meal through the genius of stir-frying. The chicken is pleasantly aromatic from the Sichuan peppercorns, ginger and orange zest, with just a hint of heat from the chili bean sauce. And what a beautiful presentation!

The sauce isn’t heavy at all. Even the spiciness is on the lighter side (at least according to my taste buds), with Sichuan peppercorns adding a floral, citrusy note. You can always leave them out or substitute 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes; although I highly recommend getting yourself some Sichuan peppercorns if you’ve never tried them.

Grace’s passion for recording and preserving Chinese culinary traditions certainly pays off for us!

It’s always best to measure and arrange all of the ingredients before you start cooking.

Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-inch-thick bite-sized slices
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns* (see NOTE below)
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon chili bean sauce
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges (or 1 cup grape tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Adding the ingredients to the chicken slices.

The chicken marinates for a short time while you prepare the next steps.

Adding the tomatoes to the stir-fry.

The rice vinegar mixture and scallions are added at the end.

The stir-fry is ladled over some steamed Jasmati rice.


  1. Marinate the chicken: In a large bowl, combine the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the ginger, 1 tablespoon of the rice wine, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, sugar, white pepper, and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Stir to combine and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the broth, rice vinegar, the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine, and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch.
  3. Heat a wok (preferably flat-bottomed) or large 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds, just until the ginger is fragrant.
  4. Push the ginger to the sides of the wok. Carefully add the chicken, spread it evenly in one layer in the wok, and allow it to sear undisturbed for 1 minute. Add the orange strips, scallion whites, and chili bean sauce. Stir-fry for 1 minute, until the chicken is lightly brown but not yet cooked through.
  5. Add the tomatoes and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Re-stir the rice vinegar mixture and add it to the wok. Add the scallions, sprinkle on the salt, and stir-fry for another 1 minute, or until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a plate and serve.

*NOTE: Whenever Sichuan peppercorns are called for in a recipe, they must first be roasted and ground. Put a 1/4 cup in a dry, cold wok (or cast iron skillet) and remove any tiny stems. Stir over medium-low heat for 3 to 5 minutes until the peppercorns are very fragrant and slightly smoking. Be careful not to burn them. Once they’re cooled, grind them in a mortar, then store them in a jar.


Intentionally Easy Dinner


Sea Scallops with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce—Outstanding and easy to make—just the ticket for our Christmas Day dinner! We cooked up a storm on Christmas Eve, and wanted to make Christmas Day a low-key event. So our morning with the three kids started with the (recently blogged about) Creme Brulée French Toast, made the day before and just heated in the oven, a store-bought vegetable quiche, and thick cut bacon.

The kids left shortly after noon to stay with their mom for a few days, so Russ and I went to the movies mid-afternoon. Knowing we wouldn’t have a lot of time to prep an evening meal afterward, we planned ahead with a couple of crab cakes and some seafood gumbo both from McCaffrey’s supermarket.

The main entreé was Sea Scallops with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce. Brussels sprouts have a slightly crunchy texture and a subtly sweet flavor that complements scallops. Thinly sliced, they cook in just a couple of minutes—a perfect accompaniment for this intentionally easy dinner. (Because Russ is omitting wheat, he dusted the scallops in a gluten-free flour.) The only thing left to do was uncork a bottle of wine and get the skillet simmering hot for the scallops.

Add the shredded Brussels sprouts to a shimmering hot skillet.

Transfer the cooked sprouts to a platter and cover to keep warm.


  • 10 oz. trimmed Brussels sprouts
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. dry-packed sea scallops, side muscle removed and patted dry
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. coarse-grained Dijon mustard

The scallops get browned on both sides in just minutes.

Arrange the seared scallops on the platter of cooked sprouts.

Using the same skillet, whisk the mustard sauce ingredients together.

Spoon the sauce over the scallops and sprouts and serve immediately.


  1. In a food processor fitted with the 2-mm slicing blade, shred the Brussels sprouts.
  2. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the Brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat with the oil. Cover and cook until starting to soften, about 1-1/2 minutes. Transfer to a platter and keep warm.
  3. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Dust both flat sides with all-purpose flour. Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the scallops and cook, flipping once, until browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Put the scallops on top of the Brussels sprouts and return the skillet to medium-low heat. Add the butter, lemon juice, mustard, and 2 Tbs. water and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until the butter is incorporated and the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper, spoon over the scallops, and serve.

by Kristine Kidd from Fine Cooking

The store-bought Seafood gumbo from McCaffrey’s Supermarket, which included large chunks of crab!

The meal included store-bought crab cakes and a prepared rice dish.

You bet we’re making this again!