Tag Archives: cooking for family

What about those Meal Kit Delivery Services?

From Plated - a meal kit

Review of the top 5 meal kits – for pleasure, convenience, and flavor!

A friend of mine goes on frequent camping trips with her family. There’s one thing that she does before every trip – no matter if it’s a short weekend trip to the desert or a week-long stay out in the forest – she plans every meal, right down to the last 1-½ cup of flour and ¾ teaspoon of baking soda (pancakes, if anyone is counting). The day before the trip, she bags and boxes all the ingredients that she’ll need and even adds instructions.

“I make it so easy that even my youngest son can cook a meal,” she says. The most important part: it’s quick. She has four kids and a hungry partner – so maybe that’s what you do in that situation. Besides, who wants to bring measuring cups and spoons on a camping trip?

I wonder if that was the inspiration behind the meal kit? Everyone is so busy now, and the first thing that goes out the window when time is short is cooking dinner. But you and the family have to eat so what’s the alternative? Fast food, again? Seriously?

meal kits logo listEnter the various Meal Kit Delivery Services that have popped up. There are so many options in national brands now. Personally, I think it’s a great convenience if you want to cook and haven’t had the experience to feel comfortable in the kitchen. Even if you have expertise in the kitchen, the kits save you lots of time – no more going to the store, buying everything you need for the recipe and then measuring out all the items. It all comes in the kit – pre-measured, ready for you to cook.

My only note of caution – read the subscription rules carefully. Some are longer and more complicated than others. You can’t just call the day before an expected delivery and cancel a meal. That sort of thing.

A few of the top trending meal kits are: Terra’s Kitchen, Peach Dish, HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and Plated. Your real choice is how much you actually want to spend time prepping and cooking the meal – or would you rather have most of the ingredients come pre-made.  I’ve placed them in order of their convenience value. All of these kits produce high-quality meals.

Total Time Convenience: Terra’s Kitchen is very easy for people who are really pressed for time and/or want total convenience. These meals have the least amount of preparation time needed because things come pre-chopped, sauces already made, et cetera.

Cooking Ease: Here’s my ‘middle’ tier for easy meal prep that requires a few more steps than Terra’s Kitchen but not as many as others. If you don’t mind chopping some veggies, Peach Dish and HelloFresh will give you some cooking ease and very nice meal. All the ingredients are carefully measured out. The instructions are very clear.

Adventure and Experience: Blue Apron and Plated are for people who want a little more adventure in their cooking experience. The recipes are a bit more complicated and might require learning some new cooking skills but, the results show it.  You’ll be creating dishes you never thought you’d ever be able to make in your own kitchen.

The great thing about all of the kits: someone else is doing the shopping and the planning. You will learn about dishes you might not otherwise make. And, you might enjoy them so much you may keep some of the recipes and try them later on your own.

But the best thing? You’ll be spending time with your family and friends in the kitchen and at the table, creating memories over a meal that you cooked!  And, really, those memories are what it’s all about.

Enjoy!

My Favorite Secret Italian Sauce

italian tomato sauce

You’ll flip when you see how easy it is.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love all types of cuisine. But Italian cooking – that’s my absolute go-to favorite. Many of my favorite restaurants are Italian – in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Sfixo in Beverly Hills is still – hands down – my favorite local Italian. It’s really fabulous if you’re a fan of dishes that come from northern Italy.

Many people think that all Italian food is basically the same – pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, etc.  But, there are real variations all along the entire country – traditional Italian cooking is strongly region-based. In northern Italy, you’ll find an emphasis on rich cream sauces, polenta and stuffed meats, Southern Italians embrace the Mediterranean diet with tomato sauces and lots of sea food with everything in between.

I travel to Italy as often as possible – at least once a year – and during each visit I make sure that I take at least one cooking class to learn “secrets” from great Italian cooks.  I follow several of them on social media – two have even become friends – Judy Witts Francini (@divinacucina) and Helena Kyriakides (@yummyyummyitaly).  It’s the only real way to understand a cuisine – take a class, tour an area of the country and eat the food!

The truth is, you don’t have to be a great cook to make a great dish – just understand some basic rules of the cuisine. All you really need is a sense of adventure. My recommendation, start small, and work your way up!

For instance, I was watching a post by Judy on how to prepare a simple Tuscan tomato dish (they’re in season right now) that you can use as a sauce, a side dish, or even as part of the main course.  And, in that post I learned a secret about olive oil and fresh garlic (by the way – true Italian cooks uses very little garlic – they prefer to let the fresh ingredients shine).

Ingredients

  • 1 Clove Garlic, sliced (add more if you’re cooking a lot of tomatoes).
  • Whole Cherry Tomatoes (I recommend organic). Use multi colored ones for fun or slightly larger ones that you can cut into fourths.
  • Enough EVOO – that’s “extra-virgin olive oil” to lightly cover the bottom of your frying pan or saucepan. I recommend Long Meadow Ranch Winery Prato Lungo Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It has just the right flavor for Italy.
  • Sea Salt (to flavor).
  • Fresh Basil (to flavor).

Preparation

  • Add sliced garlic to the COLD oil. Here’s the “secret” I learned from my friend: never put fresh garlic in hot oil – it will burn almost immediately and become very bitter. You’ll just have to throw the whole thing away and start over. By adding garlic to the cold oil, the garlic has more cook time in the olive oil adding flavor to the oil and will turn golden very slowly so you can remove any bits that start to get too dark.
  • Medium heat.
  • Sauté garlic till golden.
  • Add the tomatoes to the pan.
  • Add sea salt (to flavor).
  • Slowly cook down the tomatoes until tender and they begin to burst.
  • Add the fresh basil (cut into thin ribbons – chiffonade) at the end if you’re using the tomatoes on pasta.

As I mentioned before, this preparation is very flexible. You can use this as aside for a grilled steak or on top of pounded and sautéed (Paillard) chicken breast with some baby arugula. You can use it to dress up grilled fish, or as a simple sauce for pasta or over small noodles for a simple pasta salad. And personally speaking, the basil leaves are a must – for the aroma and the flavor.

See? It’s so simple. Doesn’t this make you want to jump up and cook?

My best recipe for Beer Steamed Clams

Fran Berger - beer steamed clams

Want to try cooking Clams? Try my “beer steamers” – so easy to do.

A bowl of bear steamed clamsI know a lot of my friends are intimidated by the thought of cooking clams. It’s true that you have to be a little careful with them, but in all honesty, they’re actually one of the easiest things to cook and the reward is high. Clams are really fabulous as appetizers or as part of the main course.

Clams are harvested from all sorts of locales – each type has its own distinctive characteristic and flavor. They grow in both fresh and salt water, and range in all types of shapes and sizes.  Clams are a terrific source of lean protein with just a 3-ounce serving providing 22 grams of protein and only 126 calories with less than 2 grams of total fat. Served fresh, clams are also nutritious – tons of Vitamin A, B and C not to mention iron and magnesium.

Nothing surpasses (for simplicity and ease) steaming clams with a good bottle of beer. I love to serve up a whole pot of “beer steamers” for my guests- serve it with grilled corn on the cob and of course a great salad.

Buy your clams fresh at your local market. In California, we usually get a type called Manila clams – they’re smaller and very sweet. They are also the ones that won’t have any sand in them so you don’t have to worry about the grit.  If you buy a different type of clam ask your fish monger how to clean out the sand before cooking.  Buy clams the day you need them if at all possible.  But, you can also buy clams online. Keep live clams on ice in your refrigerator for one but never more than two days. When you’re ready to cook your clams, sort them for freshness and wash the shells thoroughly in cool water. You don’t have to scrub hard, you just want to get rid of the bits of sand and sea life that you don’t want in the cooking pot!

Now, how about that recipe?

  • Sort the clams for freshness. Throw away any that are even partially open or are cracked or missing pieces of shell.
  • Pour enough beer (a full-flavored beer like a stout) to cover the bottom of a large fry pan or kettle that has a tight-fitting lid. Preferably a glass lid.
  • Turn on the heat and bring beer to a boil.
  • Add the cleaned clams to the pan/kettle. Remember that you’re steaming clams, so make sure that none of them are fully submerged in the beer.
  • Close the lid and bring back up to a boil. If you have Manila clams, cook for 3 minutes or just until they begin to open; 5 minutes if your clams are a larger variety. Be careful not to overcook as they will become very chewy.
  • Watch your pan/kettle closely during the cooking – a glass lid helps with this part – because you want to take them off the heat as soon as they start to open. Also, note that during the steaming process, clams will release their own water as they cook so be sure that your pan is large enough to accommodate any extra liquid. You don’t want that water to overflow and create a big mess.
  • Remove the pan/kettle and place the steamed (and opened) clams in a bowl. They’re ready to serve!

While it is true that clams are easy enough to cook, there are some very important rules that that you need to know:

Rule 1: Cook only clams that have shells that are tightly closed. Don’t cook clams that have broken or cracked shells – and never, never, ever cook ones that look or smell dead. You want your clams as fresh as the market can deliver.

Rule 2: Watch your clams closely during the steaming. The smaller Manila clams will cook within about 3 minutes of cooking: they open up and that’s when they’re done! Larger clams may need more time, up to 5 minutes of steaming.  Once they start to open be sure to remove the pan from the heat.

Rule 3: Discard any clams that do not open up with the rest of them. Cooking longer will not “make” them open – you don’t want to eat them if they don’t open with the group….Trust me.

Once you get over your hesitation and steam your own clams, here’s Rule 4: Have plenty of lemons and melted butter on hand for eating!  Enjoy!!!

Salt and Pepper for Refined Palates

raw salt and peppercorns

Time to refresh two cooking ingredients that we often take for granted.

“Salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn’t in them” – Anon.

Salt and pepper are two of the most important ingredients in cooking – and oh how we take them for granted! Some people lump them together as if they were one ingredient although they have nothing in common. Salt is categorized as seasoning and pepper is a spice.

In ancient times, salt was highly valued and its production legally restricted so that people used it as a method of currency and trade. In fact, the word “salary” comes from the Latin word “salarium” which literally translated means “salt money.” And, the word “salad” also comes from “salt” and began with the early Romans salting leafy greens and vegetables!

Most people think of salt as just plain table salt – highly refined, heavily ground with most of the impurities and trace minerals removed. Table salt is about 97% pure sodium chloride with a dash of iodine added (that was started in 1924).

But restaurant chefs and experienced home cooks know that not all salt is the same. There are many types – and the little differences affect taste, flavor, color, and texture.  Salt comes in many forms: large grain, small grain, flake, and more.

For example, simple sea salt comes from evaporating seawater and is the second most common found and produced. Usually, it’s presented as a larger crystal – less ground – and often has a slightly darker color due to “impurities” and trace nutrients that are left in the salt.  Depending on where it is harvested, the taste will vary.

Himalayan pink salt – which is mined in Pakistan – used to be so rare. It stood out because of its pink color which is due to trace amounts of naturally occurring iron oxide. Nowadays, you can find Himalayan pink on most grocery store shelves.

There’s also Kosher Salt – a larger coarser grain than regular commercial table salt and has a less salty flavor than regular table salt. It’s used in restaurant kitchens everywhere as it’s the easiest to control for flavor – you rarely over salt if you use it in your cooking.  It’s easy to over salt when using table salt.

Salts come from all over the world – France, Italy, Hawaii (there’s a black Hawaiian salt that contains activated charcoal), India, and the Pacific Northwest where a favorite of mine comes from Jacobsen Salt Co in Oregon.

Salt can be infused with different spices like black garlic, ghost chili, rosemary, lemon, truffle, etc.  On one of my trips I discovered smoked salt – it was naturally smoked to give an added flavor to whatever was cooking. But if you find a smoked salt that you want to buy make sure that it is naturally smoked and not infused with liquid smoke (that’s a whole other flavor and not one I prefer).

Pepper has been accompanying humanity for a very long time. Long enough for the ancient Greeks to use it as a form of currency to pay taxes. Naturally, the Romans used it and so did the ancient Egyptians.

Pepper comes from peppercorn – one of the most highly traded spices around the world from ancient times to present day. And there are many different types, all with different flavor profiles that will add a distinct effect wherever it is used.

The best tasting pepper comes from freshly ground peppercorn. But pepper starts to lose flavor almost as soon as it is ground. My tip: grind pepper as you need it, at the very end of cooking or just before serving.

What kind of peppercorn you want depends on the flavor you are trying to achieve. The most popular ones are: black, green, white, red, and pink.
Black peppercorns are the most common variety and are peppercorns that have been left on the vine to ripen and then dried. These produce the strongest flavor and aroma.  There are many varieties of black peppercorns. Tellicherry is from South India and has a sweet, well- rounded taste, Brazilian has a stronger flavor, and Lampong, from Indonesia comes with a citrusy slow burn.

There are green peppercorns, which are under-ripe (picked before the black variety) peppercorn berries that have a fresh and tart taste.  You see them dried, but they’re more common in brine or vinegar. They are slightly aromatic and are great for adding flavor to sauces and meats.
White peppercorns are black peppercorns that have been soaked and the skins removed. These pack a little more punch flavor-wise, but they’re a tad less aromatic. Use them for light-colored sauces and foods when you DON’T want to see black specks!

Red peppercorns have been left to ripen on the vine, so they turn red.  Reds are not usually found because they’re usually dried and turn black, or the skins are stripped, and then they are white.

Pink peppercorns are not really peppercorns!  They’re berries from a South American shrub that still have a peppery bite with some fruity and floral notes.  Use these as a garnish by crushing them with a knife and not in a pepper mill. They’re delicate.

Now that you know a little about salt and pepper – have fun – experiment!

 

End of Another Year, Start of New Possibilities

Enjoy around the table

Time to bring your Friends and Family together around your table!

Wow!  How did it get to be January already?  I’m always surprised by how quickly the year flies by and yet they are moving quicker and quicker and here it is – the start of another year.  And, each year I’m also surprised by how much happens. This past one was absolutely no exception.  Right?  I’m not just thinking about stuff that happened in the news or around the world – although there was a lot of that.  I’m thinking about all of the new friends that I’ve made and relationships that I started last year.  I’m thinking about all of the people who have discovered the importance of being “around the table” with people who are closest to us, or maybe people we wish to bring closer.

We can all give lip service about how dear some people are to us, but the strongest way to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk” is to gather together for a meal, a snack or even just a cup of coffee.  It doesn’t have to be a big meal or even a big deal at all – what it is, is the time spent together sharing around the table (or even a park bench at lunch).  It’s how we draw together at meals.  When it becomes a regular thing so much changes.  Maybe someone will start making new recipes and others will want to be in the kitchen helping create for the shared experience.  The main point is getting people together to share what is, for many of us, something we do well and too often alone.

Eating should be about more than just getting nourishment – you know – getting the calories in so that we can move through our day.  It should be about feeding the soul with the very thing that makes us human and feel alive: connection to one another – love.

So… let’s toast to the new year, filled with health, happiness and blessings.  Whatever last year has meant to you, make this new year the one where you draw your friends and family close together around your table!

A Different Friendsgiving

How about a Friendsgiving?

Take your Thanksgiving Dinner to a New Level – In 5 Easy Steps!

When I was growing up Thanksgiving was always at our house.  We had a very small family, just 5 of us and no cousins anywhere close by, but my parents did have several close friends and their families would come.

My Dad always made the turkey (he was the good cook in our house!) and I loved the smell of it cooking for hours in the oven.  One of my very favorite food memories is my Dad making what he lovingly referred to as Turkey Carcass Soup the next day with, you guessed it, the carcass of the turkey.  It was always delicious!

Today my siblings live far away, my parents have passed and my close friends are my family.  I know I’m not alone in this situation as my friends and I talk about the looming holidays every year.  Some of them travel to their families to celebrate and some are lucky enough to have family close by but there’s always a group of us that are adrift this time of year.

Now we have what has been dubbed a “Friendsgiving” and I have to tell you it’s the BEST.  It only takes a few friends, 3-4, to pull this off so you don’t need a crowd at all just a little pre-planning and being firm that it’s a POT LUCK – everyone contributes!

Here are the 5 easy steps to pull off your own Friendsgiving!

  1. Plan the menu a few weeks ahead (3 to be safe) and put it up on a Google Doc so that everyone can sign up. Make sure that the menu includes how many servings are needed.  The host ALWAYS makes the turkey (or if you don’t cook- you can buy it already cooked at your local market).
  2. If you don’t have enough chairs and tables, rent them or your friends might have a few extra. You can get very inexpensive table cloths and napkins at Target or IKEA or a local thrift store.  The same thing goes for plates, flatware and glasses.  Target, IKEA or your local thrift store.  They do NOT have to match.  Part of the fun is the eclectic setting!
  3. Set the table the night before. I actually do this every time I have a party.  It saves not only time but also me from going crazy on the day of the party.
  4. Instead of a formal bar – you can use a cooler filled with ice and put bottles in it to keep cold. These are your friends, after all.
  5. Serve dinner buffet style with little cards with the description of the dish and who made it.

Remember, the whole point of this is to gather your friends and share a wonderful meal that everyone has helped create.  Then sit back and watch football!

Tomato and Cabbage Tabbouleh

tomato-and-cabbage-tabbouleh

In Tomato Heaven with Cabbage Tabbouleh

I love tomatoes – served any way that is possible.  I’ve been known to simply salt them and eat them like apples – one bite at a time (I always remember my Father eating them like that) or if they’re tiny then I just pop them in my mouth and enjoy their natural sweetness.  Delicious!  This recipe stopped me because of the beautiful colors from the tomatoes and mint AND it’s so easy.  It would be great for a BBQ.  It was created by Anissa Helou and published in bon appétit July 2014. Serves 8, all you need is a room full of friends and family to enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bulgur (not quick-cooking)
  • ½ medium head green cabbage, cut into 1”-thick wedges, then very thinly sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)
  • 1 small sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 4 cups assorted small tomatoes, halved, quartered if large
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ½ crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Place bulgur in a large bowl and add 1½ cups boiling water. Let soak until softened and water is absorbed, 40–45 minutes.

Toss bulgur, cabbage, onion, tomatoes, mint, oil, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl to combine; season with salt.

DO AHEAD:Tabbouleh (without oil and lemon juice) can be made 4 hours ahead. Toss with oil and lemon juice just before serving.

 

 

A Chinese Food Memory

Chinese Dinner

It’s amazing what will trigger a Food Memory.

I was speaking with a friend the other day about family dinners and we got to talking about our food memories growing up and what we’ve done with our own families to create food memories for our kids.  Each of us grew up in completely different environments with completely different backgrounds but had experienced a commonality in what happened for both of us around the table. The whole conversation brought back a favorite food memory for me and some serious insight as to why I do what I do with my family and friends – all around the table.

When I was in middle school my parents had some very good friends from mainland China that they would socialize with on a fairly regular basis.  My parents loved Chinese food and I have a very clear memory of a beautiful set of chopsticks that these friends had given to my mother for her birthday one year.  They brought them all the way from China – this was the 60’s and travel between the US and China was almost impossible at the time – people were escaping to come to the US.

I know that they had moved permanently to the US at the time and were never going back (at least that is my memory as a teenager) so anything they brought with them was very precious.  My mother was honored and humbled to have received this very special gift from them.  She would bring them with her whenever we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.  The hard part was that they were very polished and extremely slippery so she would always have a difficult time eating dinner.  It never mattered to her – she loved them and the love and sacrifice that they represented to her friends – those dinners for her were more about using the beautiful gift than actually getting to eat a complete meal.

I also remember the one dinner (I may have been 5 or 6) when my father decided that I was old enough to learn how to properly use chopsticks.  When you go to an Asian restaurant you will usually see small children using chopsticks that are connected either using a rubber band or springing device to help them keep the pair together and allow the small children to eat by themselves.  At this particular dinner my dad decided it was time for me to switch from Western cutlery to real chopsticks!  I remember him telling me that I couldn’t use any fork or spoon (in fact he made sure there weren’t any on the table) and that if I was hungry I would learn how to coordinate the chopsticks to navigate food to my mouth….I learned quickly and to this day I can’t eat any Asian food without a pair of chopsticks – including rice and noodles!

We would go to their favorite Chinese restaurant and I can still see the “lazy susan” in the middle of the table that would be full of the many dishes my parents would order for us to eat.  There was always a lot of discussion about what was in a particular bowl.  One of us would taste it and inevitably they would say – “It’s so delicious you have to try it!”  With all of the tasting of the different flavors, the turning of the lazy susan toward whoever was trying something, the chatter about what we were eating or who got the last bite of something wonderful it was always a fun and crazy dinner.  I loved those meals with all of their silliness and laughter – not to mention the appreciation I learned for good Chinese food and of course my ability to use chopsticks properly!

I didn’t think about this food memory for years until the conversation with my friend brought it to light.  He was telling me that when his family (he’s Japanese) would have everyone over for a big meal, each person would bring something to contribute to the table – not a huge casserole or enormous bowl of salad – but a small bowl of something that they liked to eat so that everyone might have just a bite to experience the flavors in each dish.  He said that there was always so much laughter and sharing that it left lasting memories. It’s exactly how I like to eat to this day – talking, laughing, eating all with family, friends and those I love.  Each person sharing a special bite of something wonderful – around the table.

Crispy Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto

PIC_crispy-tortellini-with-peas-and-prosciutto

A Brilliant Crispy Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto

Peas are a wonderful spring vegetable – absolutely delicious freshly shelled – but equally as delicious even when they’re frozen!  The great thing about frozen peas is that you never have to thaw them to use them in a recipe – just toss them still frozen into whatever hot dish you are preparing and they come out perfectly every time.  This recipe is so simple because it uses not only frozen peas but also frozen tortellini – BRILLIANT!  It’s from one of my favorite sites – smittenkitchen.com – created by Deb Perelman and posted on May 9, 2016. Great for a gathering of friends, family, a date night, or colleagues. This recipe serves two; just multiply and it will serve a crowd.

In the Skillet

  • 3 thin slices prosciutto (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 13-14 ounce package frozen cheese tortellini (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, no need to defrost
  • 1/3 cup water

To Finish

  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or mascarpone
  • Juice of half a lemon, more or less to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few fresh mint leaves, cut into thin slivers
  • Grated parmesan (optional)

Heat a large, deep skillet with a lid** over medium-high heat. If using, add prosciutto in a single layer and cook until curling and browned underneath, about 2 minutes. Flip over and let cook until browned on the other side. Transfer a paper towel to blot oil and cool.

Add oil to same skillet and heat it for a minute. Add frozen tortellini in a single layer and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until they’re browned underneath. Sprinkle with frozen peas and add water to pan. Be careful; it’s going to ROARHISS wildly. Put the lid on, and let them steam for about 5 minutes but don’t go too far because if the water cooks off too quickly, you’ll want to add a splash more. At 5 minutes, all water should have cooked off. Scoop pasta and peas into bowl. If you find any pasta has stuck, just add a splash more water over high heat to “deglaze” them off — loosen them with a thin spatula and toss them around until they’re crisp again.

Immediately dollop on crème fraîche so it melts over the pasta. Squeeze lemon juice over, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, crumble prosciutto over (if using), then slivers of mint and Parmesan, if desired. Dig in. Give your freezer a pat on its back.

Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Cherry Tomato Panzanella

crispy-chicken-cutlets-cherry-tomato-panzanella

A Fond Food Memory in the Making with Panzanella

Chicken cutlets are great for a week night dinner as they cook quickly and with the colorful cherry tomato salad served on top you’re basically done with dinner preparation and you’ve easily created a wonderful food memory!  The recipe calls for “bone in” chicken breasts but I would buy boneless/skin on chicken breasts and eliminate the need to debone the chicken – way easier – just be sure to pound the breasts evenly so that they cook properly.  There were a few comments posted with this recipe where the writer used boneless/skinless chicken breasts and loved the recipe that way so if you don’t want skin it will definitely turn out well.  This was created by Alison Roman and was published in bon appétit July 2015. Serves 4 friends or family members.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup torn country-style bread, (from about 1/4 small loaf)
  • 2 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup parsley leaves with tender stems

Directions

  1. Combine onion and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add bread; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until golden brown, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Wipe out skillet.
  3. Using a thin, sharp knife, cut bones and cartilage from chicken breasts. Pound chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4″ thick; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook 1 chicken breast, skin side down, until golden brown and nearly cooked through, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook until cooked through, about 1 minute more; second side will not brown. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining cutlet and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (no need to wipe out skillet).
  5. Cut half of tomatoes in half. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in same skillet over medium-high. Add whole tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until lightly blistered and starting to burst, about 5 minutes. Toss in sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar. Transfer to bowl with croutons. Add pickled onion with pickling liquid, halved tomatoes, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss. Serve chicken with panzanella spooned over.

A Simple, Easy Treat: Great Golden Oven Fries

golden-oven-fries

Wanna Enjoy a Pan of Deep Golden Fries?

Did someone say you could get great French fries from the oven?  I’m in!  I am a serious potato lover in any form, it’s kind of pathetic- I can’t leave them alone – and if they’re fried then I’m completely gone.  Some of my favorite food memories are of eating crispy French fries with my friends at the local drive-in when I was in High School.  The secret to really great French fries, you know the ones that are very crispy outside and soft and wonderful inside, is to fry them twice.  Apparently there’s a very simple secret to get this wonderful result without, I repeat, without your fryer.  This recipe is from Deb Perelman on her website,  smittenkitchen.com , from October 28, 2015.  She said it was inspired by Michael Chiarello’s technique.  I’m trying it immediately! A treat for about 4 people.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium Yukon Gold or 3 smallish Russet potatoes (I find these to be equivalent in size, although the specific size isn’t terribly important)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fine sea salt

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F
  • Peel your potatoes if you wish; scrub them well if you do not. Cut potatoes into just-shy-of 1/2-inch batons. Place in a large pot and cover with an inch or two of water. Set heat to high and set timer for 10 minutes. If potatoes come to a boil in this time (mine usually do not), reduce the heat to medium. Otherwise, when timer rings, whether or not the potatoes have boiled, test one. You’re looking for a very “al dente” potato — one that is too firm to eat enjoyable, but has no crunch left. A good sign that they’re not too cooked is when you roughly tumble them into a colander, only one or two break.
  • Meanwhile, coat a large baking sheet with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and place it in the oven for a few minutes, so the oil gets very hot and rolls easily around the pan.
  • Drain your potatoes and immediately spread them on oiled baking sheet in one layer. Drizzle with last tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast for 20 minutes, until golden underneath. Toss potatoes around to encourage them to color evenly and return them to the oven for another 5 minutes. Repeat this 1 or 2 more times (for me, 30 minutes total roasting time is the sweet spot), until your “fries” are deeply golden, brown at the edges and impossible not to eat.
  • Season with more salt while they’re hot, pile them on a platter and dig in.

More than a Traditional Panzanella: With Beet and Rye

http://www.franberger.com/beet-and-rye-panzanella-salad-recipe

Beet and Rye Panzanella Salad – a Recipe with a Dash of Tradition

I love a good traditional Panzanella Salad and will order it every time at my favorite Italian restaurants.  But, when I saw the picture of this recipe in the February 2016 edition of bon appétit for Beet and Rye Panzanella created by Claire Saffitz, I was blown away by the colors of the dish.  We all eat with our eyes and I absolutely had to see how this gorgeous salad was made-the photograph was that beautiful.  After seeing how truly simple this salad is I’m going to use it for my next get-together and make a perfect food memory from a perfect salad! Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds small beets, any color, scrubbed (about 10)
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ loaf rye bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large orange
  • 4 ounces ricotta salata (salted dried ricotta), crumbled
  • 1 cup torn fresh herbs (such as dill, parsley, tarragon, and mint)

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Place beets in a shallow 2-qt. baking dish and add water to come ½” up sides. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake beets until tender and a cake tester or paring knife easily slides through flesh, 45–60 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, toss onion, 3 Tbsp. vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl to combine; set aside.
  • Toss torn bread and 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet to coat; season with salt and pepper. Bake, tossing once, until bread is golden brown and crisp around edges, 8–10 minutes; set aside.
  • Rub beets with paper towels to remove skins, then halve (or quarter if large) and place in a large bowl; add onion with liquid.
  • Using a small sharp knife, remove peel and white pith from orange. Working over bowl with beets, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze membranes to release juices; discard. Add reserved toasted bread and 2 Tbsp. oil and toss to combine. Let sit a few minutes for flavors to meld.
  • Just before serving, fold in ricotta salata and herbs, drizzle with more oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.