Monthly Archives: March 2020

Cardamom-Lime Chicken and White Beans

Another winner from Milk Street, Cardamom-Lime Chicken and White Beans. Their inspiration for this hearty braise was a chive and white bean soup from “Cooking In Iran” with some simplifications. They swapped canned white beans for the dried which saved tons of time. And substituting fresh lime zest in place of hard-to-find Persian limes saves your sanity.

Four bunches of scallions? I’m an allium lover and that even threw me for a loop. The scallions infuse every bit with pungency while also lending the recipe color. Not necessary to make them perfectly uniform in size, but they must be sliced thin. Remember to keep the white parts separate from the green as they are added at different times.

Don’t forget to save the liquid when draining the beans. It adds both body and flavor to the dish. If you do accidentally discard it, simply increase the chicken broth to 2⅓ cups. The braising liquid will be thinner, but the dish will still be tasty.

In many cases, I tend to increase the amount of meat/protein. Here, because our package of defrosting chicken thighs weighed only one pound, I decided to increase the white beans to two 19-once cans. If desired, you can serve the stew with rice, roasted potatoes or warmed flatbread. We enjoyed it without any accompaniments.


Cardamom-Lime Chicken and White Beans

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. salted butter
  • 4 bunches scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts reserved separately
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. garam masala
  • 1½ tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 15½-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. grated lime zest
  • ¼ cup lime juice


  1. Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high, melt the butter. Add the chicken and scallion whites, then cook, stirring once or twice, until both the chicken and scallions begin to turn golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste, garam masala, cardamom, turmeric, 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Add the bean liquid, broth, and lime zest and juice, then bring to a boil. Reduce to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a simmer, until the chicken is opaque when cut into, 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Stir in the scallion greens and the beans, then cook until the beans are heated through, another 2 minutes.
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from a recipe by Julia Krakow from Milk Street

Bake Well, Be Well with Mediterranean-Inspired Ingredients

Olive Oil Sugar Cookies with Pistachios and Lemon Glaze, now don’t they sound fantabulous? The Mr. found them during a favorite pastime of combing through online recipes, and thought it might be a great addition (or substitute) for my typical, but much-loved, Easter decorated sugar cookies. As soon as he told me about these, I knew immediately that I would double the amount (which made 62 cookies, to be exact, with a 2 1/4″ cookie cutter).


They taste even better than they look. With ingredients such as extra-virgin olive oil, pistachios and lemon, we dubbed them “Mediterranean-Inspired” which prompts a more pious attitude when eating cookies, no? To that end, be sure to use a high-end more neutral olive oil such as an Arbequino.


To begin, it’s worth remembering that extra virgin olive oil is similar to wine in key ways. Like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, which are named for their grape varietals, Arbequina and Arbosana extra virgin olive oils are named for the olives that are crushed to make the oils.

The Arbequina olive hails originally from Catalonia, in Spain. It produces more delicate, fruity oil—great for baking. Here’s a couple novel ideas: Sprinkle over meats to bring out their intense flavors. OR, for a really easy treat, drizzle it on good French vanilla ice cream along with a tinkle of flaky sea salt. But I digress…

Enter the “Shelter-in-Place” mandate and now I had plenty of time to bake. Thank goodness because the only pistachios available at the grocery store were still in their shells, increasing the time component. Speaking of time, there is a lot of refrigerating/freezing you need to take into account, so plan accordingly.

Son David was also going to be celebrating a birthday on Easter weekend, so we did a drive-by (admittedly 2 weeks early) to drop off his present along with a gift box of these fabulous cookies. David, girlfriend Vikki and dog Olive are shown below keeping their 6-foot distance….


Olive Oil Sugar Cookies with Pistachios and Lemon Glaze

  • Servings: 2 1/2 doz. cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients (Single batch. This makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies)


  • 1/3 cup whole pistachios, plus 1/3 cup chopped for sprinkling
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • large egg
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 to 4 Tbsp. heavy cream or whole milk

NOTES: For a double batch, I needed two lemons. However, my fruits were very large so I only used the zest from 1 1/2 lemons. As far as the milk, I used 4 Tbsp. for the double batch and the glaze was a perfect consistency.



  1. Place the pistachios in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until finely ground. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Pulse to fully combine and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium until creamy. Add the granulated and confectioners’ sugars and beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the olive oil and mix on low until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg and vanilla, mixing on low until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until combined.
  4. Gather the dough, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
  5. Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Using a 2-inch (or slightly bigger) biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out circles. (Any dough scraps can be rewrapped and chilled while the cookies are baking/freezing.)
  6. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Gently slide a metal spatula underneath each round and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Place 12 on each sheet.
  8. Put the first baking sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes. After the dough has chilled, put the first pan of cookies in the oven, and then put the second pan in the freezer. Repeat with the leftover dough.
  9. Bake 10 to 12 minutes one sheet at a time, until the cookies are just beginning to brown on the edges. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely on the pan.

Lemon Glaze

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and lemon zest. Whisk in the lemon juice.
  2. Whisk in the heavy cream (or whole milk), 1 tablespoon at a time. Add just enough cream to make a thin glaze.
  3. Using an offset spatula or kitchen knife, spread a thin layer of the glaze on each cooled cookie.
  4. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and let the glaze set a few minutes before serving.

Recipe by Sarah Kieffer found on

Herb-Roasted Garlic Parmesan Baby Potatoes

Crispy golden on the outside, light and creamy interiors—a potato lover’s dream! Yes, I admit, I do like my spuds. And these babies, bursting with flavor, rank among the best.

One ingredient is roasted garlic paste which I make homemade with EVOO and always keep on hand in the fridge. If you don’t have any, don’t sweat it, just finely mince or grate some garlic cloves. The addition of melted butter and pancetta at the end is purely over-the-top, but the pop of green from the parsley is refreshing.

IMG_3635We served our potatoes with pan seared lamb loin chops and sautéed broccolini.

Herb-Roasted Garlic Parmesan Baby Potatoes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1.5 lbs. baby potatoes, such as Klondike Gourmet
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. roasted garlic paste, or 4 cloves finely minced or grated
  • Salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning*
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (optional)
  • Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
  • 2 oz. pancetta, small dice (optional)

*To make your own Italian seasoning: In a food processor, combine 2 Tbsp. each of basil, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, cilantro, thyme, savory and red pepper flakes. Blend for 1 minute, or until desired consistency is achieved.


  1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray or olive oil and set aside.
  2. If using pancetta, cook in a skillet over medium heat until crispy, move to a paper towel- lined plate and set aside.
  3. Parboil baby potatoes in boiling water for 5 to 8 minutes to precook them. They’ll be more tender on the inside when roasting. Cool slightly then cut in half.
  4. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, garlic paste, salt, herbs, pepper, and parmesan cheese together, mixing to combine. Add a little more olive oil if the parmesan cheese has absorbed most of it.
  5. Toss parboiled potatoes halves with the garlic parmesan mixture to evenly coat.
  6. Arrange the coated potatoes cut side down in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake the potatoes, turning after 15 minutes with tongs or a spatula, until potatoes are browned and crisped at the edges, up to 10 minutes more.
  8. Allow the potatoes to cool down for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet before removing. This will ensure parmesan sticks to the potatoes, not on the baking sheet surface.
  9. In the meantime if desired, gently melt butter in the microwave and combine with fresh chopped parsley. Remove roasted potatoes for the oven, and drizzle with the butter parsley sauce. (Or just use the chopped parsley without butter.) Add pancetta bits, toss to coat well and serve immediately.


Cavatelli with Shrimp and Asparagus

Perfectly succulent, extra-large shrimp always seems like a decadent choice either at home or when I’m out on the town. Unfortunately, as we continue this COVID-19 lockdown, there is no “night-on-the-town” so why not do something extra-special for your household of “sheltered-in-placers.”

Dressed with garlicky olive oil and lemon, shrimp and crisp-tender asparagus tossed with cavatelli make a delightful, fresh main course. It calls for a 1/2 cup of either dry white wine or vodka. Something tells me that a nice chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc, with a plate of this pasta, is just the ticket to ward off some of those social isolation doldrums…


Cavatelli with Shrimp and Asparagus

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 oz. cavatelli or similar pasta
  • 1 lb. asparagus, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 lb. extra-large shrimp, shells removed
  • 2 medium lemons, 1 zested and juiced, 1 cut into wedges for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or vodka
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano; more for serving
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Put the garlic and thyme in a small saucepan and add enough oil just to cover, about 1/3 cup. Warm the pan over very low heat so that the temperature of the oil is just below a simmer; you should see small bubbles rising from the oil at a slow, gentle rate. (If the oil begins to simmer, lower the heat. If you can’t reduce the heat any further, remove the pan from the heat to allow the oil to cool slightly, and then return it to the burner.)
  2. Continue to poach the garlic until it becomes slightly translucent (there should be no browning), about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente, adding the asparagus in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, and then drain the pasta and asparagus.
  4. Heat 3 Tbs. of the garlic oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the shrimp, lemon zest, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp begin to turn pink, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  6. Add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are pink and curled and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the pasta, asparagus, cheese, poached garlic, and garlic oil to the pan, toss to combine, and heat through, about 2 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If necessary, add some of the reserved cooking water to loosen the sauce.

Adapted from a recipe by Lisa Lahey from Fine Cooking

Dynamite Chicken Tenders; Portuguese Rice with Kale

These two dishes are fantastic, it’s that simple. The Central/South American based Mayo-Marinated Chicken with Chimichurri recipe came from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from The Times Cooking website. Their version uses chicken cutlets pounded down to 1/4″ thickness. But because of the panic-buying during the COVID-19 Virus, chicken breasts of any kind were in very short supply, but one supermarket had the tenders, so I snapped them up.


It actually saved me time because there was no cutting or pounding necessary. Due to thicker tenders, they’ll take a few more minutes to reach temperature of 160°. Now I know it may sound a little gross to slather mayo all over chicken that you are going to cook, but bear with me, the mayo-chimichurri marinade combo was out of this world.

According to Kenji, the magic of mayo is that it helps your other marinade ingredients spread evenly across the surface of the meat, delivering more consistent flavor, while improving browning. No argument from me! Then the deep chimichurri flavor enhances even more with a post-cooking drizzle of fresh sauce.

Using the mayo method, it could work with nearly any marinade using pesto, barbeque sauce, curry and teriyaki sauces, and so on, just use your noggin’ for inspiration…

In the Portuguese Rice with Kale and Tomatoes recipe, I also had an issue in obtaining an ingredient—specifically, plum tomatoes. So I substituted two large beefy tomatoes and made sure to remove as much of the watery pulp/seeds as possible.


And instead of water, I incorporated our homemade chicken stock which of course added oodles of flavor. At the end, after 20 minutes simmering while covered, there was still too much liquid (probably due to those tomatoes), so I continued a rolling simmer without the lid for another 10-15 minutes while we seared the chicken tenders in a cast iron skillet.

Mayo-Marinated Chicken with Chimichurri

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Mayo-Marinated Chicken with Chimichurri


  • 1 1/2 lbs. chicken tenders (about 9-10 tenders)
  • 1/3 cup store-bought or homemade mayonnaise
  • 1 cup chimichurri (see recipe below)


  1. Season chicken tenders on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Whisk together mayonnaise and 1/4 cup chimichurri in a large bowl. Reserve remaining chimichurri. Add chicken to the mixture and turn to coat. (Cook immediately, or for better flavor, transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours. Ours marinated for 4 hours.)
  3. Heat a large 12-inch” cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water immediately balls up and dances across the surface.
  4. Add chicken tenders in a single layer and cook, flipping once until browned on both sides and just cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. You may have to cook them in two batches so as not to crowd the pan, which would steam the poultry instead of browning the pieces. (Test with an instant thermometer for the temperature to reach about 160°.)
  5. Transfer chicken to a serving platter. Spoon some of the remaining chimichurri over the chicken and serve the rest in a small bowl on the side.


There are countless variations of Chimichurri recipes out there, so if you have a fave, go ahead and use that. Basically, it is a loose, uncooked, oil-based condiment with dominant flavors of parsley and garlic. It is used to accompany grilled meat, or in the this case, chicken tenders seared in a skillet.


  • Servings: about 1 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small red chilies, deseeded and minced
  • 3/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, more to taste


Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes to release all of the flavors into the oil.

Portuguese Rice with Kale and Plum Tomatoes

A staple on the Portuguese table, arroz de grelos customarily is made with spicy turnip greens (grelos), but in Milk Street’s version, they opted to use easier-to-find lacinato kale. You can serve this simple yet remarkably flavorful one-pot dish as the center of a vegan or vegetarian meal, or offer it alongside almost any prepared seafood or meat, such as the chicken recipe above.


RULE NO. 10: Braise Low and Slow to Tenderize Tough Greens

Portuguese Rice with Kale and Plum Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 medium plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale (about 1 pound), stemmed, leaves torn into 1½-inch pieces
  • ½ cup long-grain white rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth, or water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice


  1. In a large pot over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, a third of the chopped tomatoes and 1 tablespoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down and the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot are dark golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the kale and cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits, until wilted, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in 2½ cups water (or homemade chicken stock) and bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce to medium-low. Cook for 10 minutes, then stir in the rice and remaining chopped tomatoes.
  4. Return to a simmer, cover and reduce to low. Cook, without stirring or lifting the cover, until the rice is tender and only a little liquid pools at the bottom of the pot, 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

Tip: Don’t uncover the pot while the rice is cooking; it will release too much steam and the end result will be too dry.

Adapted from a recipe   Milk Street “The New Rules” cookbook

Classic Steakhouse Combo with a Twist

During these bleak times, you may want to treat yourself every now and again. How about this classic steakhouse combo? Chard takes the place of spinach in this Sear-Roasted Rib-Eye with Creamed Chard riff. Any kind of chard will work well, but rainbow/red chard adds a great pop of color. Just make sure to rinse your chard real well, as it often contains a lot of grit.

I did not halve the steaks (about 3/4 pound each), but we each ended up with half left over, which made for delicious lunches the next day. Be aware that the amount of grated parmesan in the chard, is only 3/4 of an ounce, about a 1/4 cup. If you grate it yourself on a rasp grater, the volume increases to nearly 3/4 cup—which would be way too much if you are using the powdery pre-grated store version.

IMG_4409We completed our meal with a side of twice baked potatoes.


A lovely, decadent meal in no time at all! Indulge yourself…

Sear-Roasted Rib-Eye with Creamed Chard

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2, 1-1/2-inch-thick boneless rib-eye steaks (about 2 lb. total), each cut into two equal pieces and patted dry
  • 2-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 lb. chard, washed, stems halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise, leaves sliced into ribbons about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbs. dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice; more to taste
  • 3/4 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3/4 cup grated on a rasp)


  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the Worcestershire sauce with 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper, and rub all over the steaks.
  3. Heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Sear the steaks until well browned, about 3 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer to the rack and roast until medium rare (130°F), 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
  5. While the steaks are in the oven, return the skillet to medium heat, add the remaining 1-1/2 Tbs. oil and the garlic, and cook, stirring, until pale golden, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the chard stems, thyme, and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes.
  7. In batches, add the chard leaves, tossing with tongs and 1/4 tsp. salt, until wilted, about 5 minutes. If necessary, transfer to a large sieve and press on the chard with the back of a spoon to drain as much liquid as possible. (We did not need to do this.)
  8. Return the chard to the skillet over medium heat and add the wine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  9. Add the cream, bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
  10. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and Parmigiano. Season to taste with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve with the steaks.

Adapted from a recipe by Nadia Arumugam

Steamed Fish with Shiitake Mushrooms

A very satisfying fish dinner indeed! Meatless Monday for us typically centers around seafood and we’re always game to try new recipes, especially those that promise lots of taste and nutritional value. So when I spotted this gem in Milk Street’s “The New Rules” cookbook, I knew it had to make the short list.

Since lean white fish is mild in flavor, before steaming the fillets, season them boldly with garlic, ginger, oyster sauce and fiery-sweet Sriracha. A gentle even heat is best for keeping the delicate flesh of fish moist and tender. Steaming is ideal because the heat  surrounds the fish, cooking it from all sides without movement. Any fleshy white fish, such as cod (our choice), haddock, halibut or sea bass will work nicely here.


For a little spice, drizzle the plated fish fillets with a little chili oil before sprinkling with the scallions. Or sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. We served jasmine rice steamed with homemade fish stock, which not only added color, it boosted the flavor profile. Our other side was chopped bok choy stir-fried with garlic and ginger and a bit of that fish stock.

NOTE: Don’t uncover the pot before 8 minutes of steaming has elapsed. Opening the lid releases steam and cools the pot. If your fillets are thicker than 1″, don’t uncover the pot until at least 15 minutes. Ours took an entire 20 minutes to come to the recommended temperature of 130°.

RULE NO. 43: Cook Gentle, Season Strong


Steamed Cod with Shiitake Mushrooms

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 6-ounce skinless cod, haddock or halibut fillets (each about 1 inch thick)
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. packed light or dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced


  1. In a shallow bowl or pie plate, whisk together the oyster sauce, Sriracha sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the fillets and turn to coat, gently rubbing in the sauce.
  2. Add the mushrooms and toss until evenly coated. Marinate at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
  3. Place a steamer basket in a large Dutch oven. Add enough water to fill the bottom of pot without touching the basket. Remove the basket. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high.
  4. Meanwhile, mist the steamer basket with cooking spray. Arrange the fish in an even layer in the basket and top the fillets with the mushrooms, evenly arranging them.
  5. Return the basket to the pot, cover and steam over medium until the fish flakes easily, 8 to 12 minutes. (Ours took 20 minutes to reach 130°.)
  6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, sugar, the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and ¼ cup water.
  7. When the fish is done, use a thin metal spatula to transfer the fillets and mushrooms to a platter. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve with the sauce on the side.



Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas

WOW, was this good! According to Milk Street where we found this recipe, Palestinian maftoul, a pasta similar to pearl couscous, inspired this quick and easy one-pot meal. The wheaty flavor and aroma of the couscous is greatly enhanced by toasting until the seed-sized bits are richly browned before they’re cooked pilaf-style.


RULE No. 25: Caramelize Pasta For Deeper, Richer Flavor.

A sauté of onions, allspice and cumin creates a flavorful base for simultaneously poaching boneless chicken thighs and steaming the toasted couscous. Our homemade chicken stock, in place of the 2 cups of water, also added an enriching depth of flavor. (I noticed the online version included cinnamon instead of cumin and added tomato paste.)

Oh, and that pomegranate molasses adds a perky brightness and pop of “yummy” so don’t omit it at the end, and as a drizzled garnish. My one little complaint would be to increase the amount of chicken by about 50% to 1 1/2 pounds of thighs.


Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup pearl couscous
  • 1 med. yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 med. garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved
  • 2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 15 ½-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp. pomegranate molasses
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
  2. In the same pot over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until beginning to brown, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the onion, carrots, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are well-browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cumin and allspice, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the chicken, bay leaves, and 2 cups broth (or water). Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the couscous, cover and simmer until the chicken is opaque when cut into and the couscous is tender but not mushy, about 8 minutes.
  7. Off heat, stir in the chickpeas, pomegranate molasses and half the parsley. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Transfer to a serving bowl, then sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Serve with additional pomegranate molasses for drizzling.

Tip: Don’t stir the onion too often as it cooks. Infrequent stirring allows the slices to brown deeply; this caramelization is essential for developing rich flavor in the dish.

Adapted from a recipe by Milk Street “The New Rules” cookbook

Chinese Trinidadian Delight

Chef/author Grace Lee says this is one of the easiest dishes to stir-fry and guaranteed to satisfy. And Satisfy it did, with a capital “S”. It is said, with an easily accessible street-food culture and a fresh selection of fruits and vegetables year-round, it’s impossible to go hungry in the island paradise of Trinidad.


This delicious Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum recipe from Milk Street comes together super-quick, especially if you buy the shrimp already peeled and cleaned. Now I know the directions indicate to leave the shells on, and we usually buy them that way making use of the peeled shells in homemade shellfish stock. (Which we used BTW, in place of water for the steamed jasmine rice.) But truth be told, they had a sale on cleaned extra-large shrimp and we couldn’t pass it up—we did leave the tails on however.

A Trinidadian cooking practice said to remove the “fishy” taste is, before cooking, rinse the shrimp in lime juice. I never heard of this, but decided to go with it—in the end, not sure if I could tell much of a difference.

A couple of notations in the procedures. Grace always directs you to push the minced garlic (and in this case, ginger) to the side after it becomes fragrant. We have found that doing so, especially on such high heat, burns the aromatics so we remove them, reintroducing them to the wok after the shrimp and veggies have been stir-fried.

And about those veggies, we substituted a red bell pepper in place of the green because that’s what we had on hand. I think the dish would work with whatever color bell pepper suits your fancy. The sauce, which we loved, was just fine as is, but if “saucy” is your thing, it wouldn’t hurt to double it. We plan on doing so next time…


Chinese Trinidadian Stir-Fried Shrimp with Rum

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 lb. large shrimp
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 3 Tbsp. dark Jamaican rum
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro


  1. Using kitchen shears, cut through the shrimp shells two-thirds of the length down the back of the shrimp. Remove the legs and devein the shrimp, leaving the shells and tails on.
  2. In a medium bowl toss the shrimp with the lime juice for a few seconds. Rinse the shrimp, drain, and set on a plate lined with paper towels. With more paper towels pat the shrimp dry.
  3. In a small bowl combine the ketchup, rum, soy sauce, and ground white pepper.
  4. 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.
  5. Swirl in the oil, add the garlic and ginger, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant.
  6. Push the aromatics to the sides of the wok, carefully add the shrimp and spread them evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the shrimp begin to sear.
  7. Sprinkle on the salt and stir-fry 30 seconds or until the shrimp begin to turn orange.
  8. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp have turned almost totally orange. (Return the aromatics of garlic and ginger if you removed them earlier.)
  9. Swirl the ketchup mixture into the wok and stir-fry 1 minute or until the shrimp are just cooked through and the sauce coats the shrimp. Stir in the cilantro.

Whole-Grain Farfalle with Spicy Shrimp and Roasted Peppers

Confession. Our go-to supermarket had varying types of whole grain pasta, but not the farfalle. BUT, they did carry Barilla “Protein +” which is a 100% plant-based protein containing among other flours, lentil, chick pea, barley and pea protein. AND, it contains 5 grams of fiber! Seemed like a good substitution to us…

Here, the rustic whole-grain (or plant protein) pasta is enhanced with the mild sweetness of roasted peppers and shrimp, and the kick of a spicy garlic marinade. You can use jarred roasted peppers, if you like, but roasting your own will make the pasta tastier, especially if you make them a day ahead—which will save you a chunk of time.

IMG_3883I make mine right on top of a gas burner, making sure to char all over, including the tops and bottoms. Seal them in a plastic bag for 15-20 minutes which will help in removing the burnt skin. Keep in mind, if you have to char your own peppers, it will add to the total time. You can always do this a day ahead.

Our gas oven broiler is sub par (that’s about the only advantage credited to an electric stove). So instead of arranging the marinated shrimp on a greased rimmed baking sheet, we did NOT pat the shrimp dry. Instead, on a gas burner, we heated a large cast iron skillet until smoking hot (with no additional oil), and arranged the shrimp in one layer for about 90 seconds. Then with a wooden spatula, we stir-fried them another minute and a half until just done, scraping them into a bowl covered with tinfoil until ready to use.


Now about those Fresno chilis. As luck would have it, the grocery store was not carrying them the day we shopped. A good substitute? The Fresno pepper looks and tastes almost like the world’s most popular chili pepper, the jalapeño, but it can be slightly hotter. At its hottest, it reaches the heat level of a mild serrano pepper, which can be somewhat spicy for some. So we bought serrano chilis!

And, because it’s the way we roll, we added 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika—which is typically not a hot spice—in actuality, the spice itself is quite mild and sweet. Smoked paprika is a Spanish cousin to the more widely used sweet Hungarian paprika. It’s made from pimiento peppers that have been dried and smoked over an oak fire, then ground into a fine powder. You’ll sometimes see it called pimenton, smoked pimenton, sweet paprika, Spanish paprika, or any variation of those names, but you can always recognize this spice by its deep red color and powerful smoky aroma. 


Whole-Grain Farfalle with Spicy Shrimp and Roasted Peppers

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 5 medium cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 Fresno or other small fresh red chiles, cut into a few pieces (remove seeds and ribs for less heat)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
  • 2 tsp. crumbled dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes; more to taste
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • Fine sea salt
  • 3 rred bell peppers or a mixture of red, yellow or orange, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 lb. extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 12 oz. whole-grain farfalle
  • 4 oz. (1 cup) crumbled mild feta, preferably sheep’s milk
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish


  1. In a food processor, pulse the garlic and chiles until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl, and add the oil, oregano, Aleppo, cumin, and 1/2 tsp. salt; stir well with a fork to combine.
  2. Transfer half of the mixture to another medium bowl stir in the roasted peppers, smoked paprika and vinegar.
  3. Add the shrimp  to taste to the remaining marinade, gently toss to coat, and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, position a rack 4 inches from the broiler element, and heat the broiler on high. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.
  5. While the pasta cooks, heat a cast-iron skillet (without any extra oil) until smoking hot. Place the marinated shrimp into the hot pan, flipping once, until opaque throughout, 3 minutes total. Move into a separate bowl covered with tinfoil until ready to use.
  6. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large heated serving bowl.
  7. Add the peppers with the marinade, feta, parsley, and 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Gently toss with a large serving spoon for 1 minute to warm the feta, adding a bit more pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season to taste with salt.
  8. Place pasta into a large shallow heated serving bowl. Sprinkle generously with the Parmigiano, and place shrimp on top. Serve, passing more cheese at the table.

Adapted from a recipe by Maria Speck from Fine Cooking

Slow-Cooker Italian Pot Roast

Fast or slow? That was our dilemma for a Sunday dinner recently due to an early afternoon date at the movies. We realized that by the time we arrived back home, it would have been too late to start a pot roast dinner, so our options were to cook it fast in a pressure cooker afterward, or start it in a slow-cooker before heading out. As you can see, the slow-cooker method won…


This Italian spin on pot roast from America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) adds red wine, oregano, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and dried porcini mushrooms. To get loads of flavor, you first brown the meat to get a nice crust, then sauté some bacon and aromatics. Deglazing the skillet with wine helps capture all the flavorful browned bits. And finally, pair with some creamy smooth, garlicky mashed potatoes and a side salad for a win.

Interestingly, I usually do not eat bacon because of its adverse effects on my digestive system, but there didn’t seem to be any residual issues afterward. It may be that with a long, slow run in the crockpot, the sautéed bacon pieces basically dissolved and fused into the other ingredients.

We did alter the end game. It’s not a particularly easy chore to skim the fat with a spoon in the crock with the roasts and veggies all there. Instead, we removed the meat to a platter and covered with foil, and discarded the bay leaves. The we poured the sauce into a large strainer over a large bowl, put the liquids into a fat separator and the solids back into the crockpot. Once the fat had separated, we added the defatted sauce back into the slow-cooker and used an immersion blender to make a more uniform “gravy”.

Since this meal serves 8-10, we had ooo-gobs leftover. Not a problem because we planned on having leftovers a few days later, and then freezing the remainder until a day next month when we would be short on time. I bet if you weren’t a pot roast fan beforehand, you would be after enjoying this repast…


Cellentani with Turkey Meatballs and Homemade Tomato Sauce

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled into 2 pieces at natural seam and trimmed (or 2 smaller, 2- to 2 1/2-pound roasts) 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushroom, rinsed and minced
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup minced fresh parsley


  1. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Tie 3 pieces of kitchen twine around each piece of beef to create 2 evenly shaped roasts.
  2. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown roasts on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes; transfer to plate. (It’s essential to get a nice crust on the meat.)
  3. Add bacon to now-empty skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to slow cooker. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet.
  4. Add onions and carrots to fat left in skillet and cook over medium heat until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, mushrooms, oregano, tomato paste, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits; transfer to slow cooker.
  5. Stir tomatoes, broth, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Nestle roasts into slow cooker, adding any accumulated juices. Cover and cook until beef is tender and fork slips easily in and out of meat, 9 to 10 hours on low or 6 to 7 hours on high.
  6. Transfer roasts to carving board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 20 minutes.
  7. Discard bay leaves. Using large spoon, skim fat from surface of sauce. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
    Alternatively: Discard bay leaves. Pour the sauce into a large strainer over a large bowl. Place the strained carrot mixture back into the crockpot, and the separated liquid into a defatter. Now pour the defatted sauce back into the slow-cooker and using an immersion blender, puree until most of the sauce is well combined. It will leave the big chunks of carrots intact.
  8. Remove twine from roasts, slice meat against grain into ½-inch-thick slices, and arrange on serving dish. Spoon 1 cup sauce over meat and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.


Adapted from a recipe by America’s Test Kithchen

Cellentani with Turkey Meatballs and Homemade Tomato Sauce

Sometimes the ingredients you have on hand determine what you’re making for dinner. In our case, it was some ground turkey meat I took out of the freezer and a box of Cellentani, a curly-cued pasta that caught my eye at the supermarket and that I thought would provide a great clinging vehicle for the sauce. (I was right, BTW.)

Fun Fact: Cellentani was named in honor of a famous and much loved pop singer in Italy in the 1960s, when it was introduced. His name was Adriano Celentano, dubbed “moleggiato” or “springs” for his distinctive stage movements. As the shape resembles a coiled spring, it all makes sense. Cellentani is also known as Cavatappi, which translates from Italian to “corkscrew.”

My Mister found a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis that pretty much fit the bill for what we had in mind. Penne was the pasta of choice for Giada, but we were hell-bent on using the Cellentani. (I changed the last few steps to make the process easier, and included adding a garnish of fresh basil chiffonade.)

Making the sauce a day or two ahead (which is what I did) saves time and turns the meal into a quick weeknight dinner. Of course, you could also use your favorite jarred sauce to simplify things even more—but homemade just tastes better and avoids any unwanted additives.


Cellentani with Turkey Meatballs and Homemade Tomato Sauce

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup grated Romano
  • 1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • 1 pound dried Cellentani pasta
  • Fresh basil, chiffonade for garnish (optional)

Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional (we didn’t use any)


  1. In a large bowl add bread crumbs milk and mix until well combined. Mix in eggs and 1/2 cup Romano cheese and mix well.
  2. Add turkey and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into golf-size balls.
  3. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown, about 8 minutes total.
  4. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow meatballs to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm on stove. Be careful not to over-handle the meatballs since they are soft and fragile.
  5. In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain Cellentani in a colander. Do not rinse pasta with water since you want to retain the pasta natural starches allowing the sauce to cling to them.
  6. Add the leftover 1 cup of tomato sauce to the now empty pasta pot, then stir in the drained Cellentani.
  7. In a large pasta serving bowl, add the pasta topped with the meatballs and sauce; or simply let diners self-serve directly from the cooking vessels.
  8. Top each serving with grated Romano and basil chiffonade, if using.

Simple Tomato Sauce:

Yields 6 cups


  1. In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors (we didn’t use any butter).
  4. Add half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.

Adapted from a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

Easy Thai Red Curry

When asked to choose a favorite ethnic-style of food, Thai usually rises to the surface. Why? Their cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge—right up my alley. Thai chef McDang characterizes their food as demonstrating “intricacy; attention to detail; texture; color; taste; and the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, good flavor, as well as care being given to the food’s appearance, smell and context.”

Traditional Thai cuisine loosely falls into four categories: tom (boiled dishes)yam (spicy salads)tam (pounded foods), and gaeng (curries)—the last of which, we are concentrating on with this recipe. Found on, this Easy Thai Red Curry tastes just like a restaurant-version, except perhaps better and certainly cheaper!


Do you recall the homemade red curry paste I blogged about not too long ago? You may even have made some of your own since then. Well, it will come in real handy here. Of course you can always use a store-bought brand, but the flavors may be less prominent.

Because I had one on hand, and for a bit more veggie nutrients, I included a yellow bell pepper (red or orange would also work nicely). To raise the bar on your cooked basmati rice, use homemade chicken broth instead of water.

Interesting fact: In 2017, seven Thai dishes appeared on a list of the “World’s 50 Best Foods”, an online poll of 35,000 people worldwide by CNN Travel—Thailand had more dishes on the list than any other country.


Easy Thai Red Curry

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow (red or orange bell pepper), seeded and cut into 1/4″ x 2″ strips
  • 3 Tbsp. red curry paste
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk
  • 1 bunch broccolini, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice


  1. In a large saucepan of 3 cups water, cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.
  2. Heat canola oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Add chicken, shallots and garlic to the stockpot and cook until golden, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add in bell pepper strips, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in red curry paste and ginger until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Stir in coconut milk. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Stir in broccolini until just tender, about 3 minutes. (I covered the pot and it still took 10 minutes to soften the broccolini.)
  7. Remove from heat; stir in green onions, cilantro and lime juice; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately with rice and garnish with more cilantro and scallions.

Adapted from recipe on

Rules are Made to be Broken

These next two recipes from cookbook “The New Rules” by Milk Street (MS) were a mixed blessing. I chose them for a Meatless Monday meal, and because they both contained mustard seed, I thought it would bring them together. Not so much. And to their credit, MS did not intend for the both of them to be paired with each other.

Each in their own right were very good (although The Hubs thought the red onion mixture could’ve been less vinegary—at first). But to be honest, the flavor profiles were so very different, they didn’t really belong on the same plate. The Sweet-and-Sour Swordfish with its pickled red onions had a German bent; while the South Indian Sautéed Spinach was just as the name implies, Indian-influenced.

For a future combination, I might pair the sautéed spinach side with an entrée of Tandoori or Butter Chicken; and the fish with a simple rice or potato dish, or even sautéed greens without all of the additional spices that compete with the vinegary onions.

BTW, we had the leftover pickled red onions a day later as a replacement for onions in Sautéed Sausages with Grapes and Balsamic Glazed Onions, a recipe I posted back in 2016. Believe it or not, they had mellowed and sweetened making a perfect accompaniment to this dish. Read on and make up your own mind…

sweet sausauge pickled onions

Sweet-and-Sour Swordfish


Rule No. 48: Keep Seafood Tender by Saving Acids for the End

Based on Italian agrodolce—the pairing of sweet and sour—the sugar and vinegar-seasoned red onions in this dish add punch to mild and meaty swordfish. MS also borrowed from Spanish escabeche and instructs us to marinate the fish after cooking so the steaks really absorb the flavors.

The fish should be served barely warm or at room temperature, a fact I wasn’t really comfortable about. But it was surprisingly good at that temperature. It can also be prepared ahead, refrigerated up to overnight and served chilled, if you prefer.

Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. And while swordfish has plenty of nutritional advantages, pregnant and nursing women should avoid eating swordfish because it can be higher in mercury than most commonly eaten fish such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

Our swordfish was just under 1-pound since there was just the two of us, although I kept the amounts of the other ingredients the same. And indeed, there was leftover pickled onions which we incorporated with a sweet sausage and grapes meal the next day while eliminating that recipe’s balsamic onions.

NOTE: Don’t use a metal baking pan for marinating the fish, as metal may react with the acidity of the marinade and leave the dish with an off metallic taste. And don’t slice the fish until ready to serve. If sliced before marinating, the acid will cause the fish to turn an unappealing grey color.

Sweet-andSour Swordfish

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 12-oz. skinless swordfish steaks (each about 1 inch thick), patted dry
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
  • 3 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, divided
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. yellow mustard seeds


  1. Season the fish on all sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until barely smoking. Add the fish and cook without disturbing until well browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Flip, reduce to medium and continue to cook until the fish is opaque throughout and the centers reach about 130°F, about another 5 minutes. Transfer to a small glass or ceramic baking dish and set aside; wipe out the pan.
  4. In the same pan over medium, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the onions, bay and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Stir in 1 cup of vinegar, the sugar and the mustard seeds. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened to a light syrup consistency, 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Off heat, stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar.
  7. Immediately pour the onion mixture over the fish. Marinate for about 30 minutes at room temperature or cover and refrigerate up to overnight.
  8. To serve, remove the fish from the marinade, then slice each piece and transfer to a platter.
  9. Discard the bay from the marinade and spoon the onions and liquid around and over the fish.

South Indian Sautéed Spinach

Rule No. 7: Bloom Seasonings in Fat for Bigger Flavor

This simple spinach sauté, inspired by a dish called palakura vepudu, is quick to make and has a wonderfully rich aroma and flavor. The secret is infusing the dish with a tarka—spices toasted in butter to bloom their flavors and fragrances. Cumin seeds and mustard seeds are used as the flavor foundation for the dish; alliums and other aromatics are cooked briefly in the tarka to soften their bite.

NOTE: Don’t use baby spinach for this dish, as the leaves quickly turn soggy and limp. Mature spinach is sturdier and more flavorful. Look for bunches with large, dark green leaves and snappy stems.

South Indian Sautéed Spinach

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 4 Tbsp. (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chili, stemmed and minced
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ tsp. curry powder
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1½ lbs. bunch spinach, trimmed of bottom 1½ inches, roughly chopped


  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium, melt the butter. Add the cumin and mustard seeds, then toast, stirring often, until fragrant and sizzling, 45 to 90 seconds.
  2. Add the garlic, jalapeño, ginger, onion, curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach (which I left whole), turning to coat with the butter. Cover and cook until the stems are tender, about 4 minutes, stirring once about halfway through.
  4. Remove from the heat, then taste and season with salt and pepper.


Cooking by “The New Rules”

Our enthusiasm runs deep with our first Milk Street (MS) cookbook, thus our recent splurge on their most recent tome “The New Rules” Recipes that will Change the Way You Cook. Excitedly combing through the pages, we were immediately smitten by all of the innovative recipes!

book cover

There is a 4-page upfront section that lists 75 rules that are sure to alter the way you cook. For instance, RULE NO. 13: Stop Stirring Your Polenta. Really?? Apparently, for the creamiest polenta, all you need is an oven, a couple of vigorous stirs and no endless whisking. You had me at “stop stirring.”

rules spread

How about libations? RULE NO. 75: Salt Your Drinks, Not Your Glassware. Unlike salting the rim of the glass—which overwhelms the flavors inside—a tiny amount of salt added to the drink itself enhances and brightens the other ingredients. OK, I’m game to try… one margarita coming right up…

I’m sure I’ll be blogging a fair amount of recipes from this book and I plan to highlight “The New Rule” with most of them, starting with this Thai Stir-Fried Beef with Basil (Pad Krapow Neua). And I was blown away with how good it was! Over the years, we’ve made Thai beef with basil on numerous occasions, but this rendition now sets the gold standard for us. (This summer, when the herb garden is ready for picking, I would like to try it with Thai basil.)


Rule No. 68: Finish the Dish the Way You Start

Purists say Thai basil is a must for this dish, but Milk Street found that sweeter, slightly more subdued Italian basil yields a perfectly delicious stir-fry. They claim, for the fullest herbal flavor and fragrance, use both chopped basil (mixed with the cooked steak) and torn basil leaves (stirred in at the end).

The snap peas (which we doubled to 8 ounces) and red bell pepper add pleasing crunch, as well as vibrant colors. Use one or two serranos, depending on your heat preference—or, if you like, leave out the chilies altogether. We included two serranos with most of their seeds and it provided quite a punch, but that’s how we roll.

When it comes to the flank steak, make sure to pat dry after marinating. This, along with not crowding the pan, will allow the meat to achieve a nice sear instead of steaming. Serve with steamed white or brown (our choice) jasmine rice.


Thai Stir-Fried Beef with (Lots of) Basil

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb. flank steak, halved lengthwise with the grain, then cut against the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, divided
  • Ground white pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. peanut oil, divided
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, plus 3 cups lightly packed, torn
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 4 oz. sugar snap peas, strings removed, halved on the diagonal
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced ½ inch thick
  • 1-2 serrano chilies, stemmed and sliced into thin rounds
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts finely chopped, dark green tops cut into 1-inch pieces, reserved separately
  • 1 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. oyster sauce
  • White or brown long-grained steamed rice


  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the steak, soy sauce, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and ½ teaspoon white pepper. Let stand for 5 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. In a 12-inch skillet over high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until barely smoking. Add half the meat in a single layer without crowding and cook without stirring until well browned, 1 to 1½ minutes.
  3. Turn the slices, then continue to cook until the second sides are well browned, another 1 to 1½ minutes. Transfer to a clean medium bowl.
  4. Repeat with 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil and the remaining meat. Transfer to the bowl, then stir in the chopped basil and vinegar.
  5. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high until barely smoking. Add the snap peas, bell pepper and chilies. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peas are lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and finely chopped scallion parts, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then stir in the sugar.
  7. Add the scallion tops and the beef with any accumulated juices and cook, stirring, until most of the juices have evaporated, about 1 minute.
  8. Off heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce, the oyster sauce and torn basil, then stir until the basil is wilted, about 30 seconds. Taste and season with white pepper.

Recipe from Milk Street “The New Rules”