Posts Tagged ‘sauce’

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Catchup! (AN OVERDUE POST ON ROMESCO)

May 29, 2014

ucc_romesco

 

 

Romesco is a smokey condiment of the Spanish influence that can be made lots of ways and most often incorporates some kind of red pepper. It beautifully accompanies food from grilled meats to poached eggs to any raw or roasted vegetables you choose. It is an especially perfect topping for straight vegetables because it adds a touch of decadence to otherwise square stuff; roasted cauliflower, salt boiled potatoes, grilled spring onions, for example.

I do not consider my cooking very decadent. I was raised eating all kinds of tofu and later went to a vegan culinary school (even though I am an equal opportunity eater). Especially on this website, I have geared my recipes towards scoring healthy points, being quick/easy and most importantly towards being ‘damn delicious ways to eat stuff that is good for you’. That’s the mission.

When this blog was formed in the year two thousand and something, I was in the thick of cooking for clients who wanted to eat just right. For many years I didn’t often use bacon and heaps of butter or drench things in cream or deep fry. Don’t get me wrong, these are obviously awesome ways to cook and once in a while extremely useful but I tried not to lean on them, finding other ways to develop flavor and richness.

Now I am back on the restaurant scene. I do not work in a health-food place and I am given the opportunity to roll out lots of small plates with big flavor, no holds barred. I can stretch my style of cooking a little further into the naughty department. Frying* has been my favorite lately. Getting a crisp crust on lamb patties, putting an extra crunch on nuts or, as you will see here, cooking some garlic slices in oil until they are like little golden nuggets. And though this particular recipe for Romesco is, in fact, vegan, lately I am having lots of fun smearing my somewhat austere culinary upbringing with a little bit of pork fat.

ROMESCO THIS WAY

7 cloves of garlic, sliced (plus one whole clove)

4 chunks of bread, about 1 cup

2 whole tomatoes, canned or fresh, chopped

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton)

2 red bell peppers, roasted

40 blanched almonds*

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons of the best sherry vinegar you have

5 jarred piquillo peppers

1-2 teaspoons kosher salt

black pepper to taste

pinch cayenne

oil for frying (canola is fine)

In a small skillet, pour enough frying oil so that it is about an inch deep. Warm it up and toss in one slice of the garlic. When it begins to bubble around the edges, remove from the oil and add the rest of the garlic slices (reserving one clove), stirring frequently until golden.

Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Add bread chunks to the oil and fry on both sides until crisp, remove from skillet onto paper towel.

Discard all but a few tablespoons of oil from the skillet, heat it up again and sauté the chopped tomatoes for a few minutes. Add the smoked paprika and a teaspoon of salt to the skillet and stir to combine with the tomatoes. Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Now that all of the components are prepped, time for the easy part.

Place the fried garlic, the raw garlic clove, the bread, the tomato mixture, roasted peppers, almonds, olive oil, sherry vinegar, piquillos, remaining teaspoon of salt, some black pepper and a pinch of cayenne into the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth.

Check for seasoning and adjust. Also adjust the consistency with more oil or vinegar to thin and more bread or almonds to thicken.

ucc_asparagus

Roasted asparagus waiting patiently for romesco and a soft boiled egg…

 

 

 

 

* When I was a culinary student I once got roped into a call for one of the competitive cooking shows…I don’t remember which. When asked about one of my special skills in the kitchen I reluctantly replied, “I can fry”.

** Any almonds would work, roasted, salted, etc. To blanch raw almonds, plunge them in boiling water for 1 minute and drain. When cool enough to touch, slip the skins off… but do it before the skins dry or else it becomes difficult.

 

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Don’t lift a finger. (ROASTED TOMATO RELISH)

January 23, 2013

tomatorel_raw

Dinner! After a whole day of stuff! Can be a tall order! For this reason I am often trying to create recipes that are quick and healthy and still fun and beautiful to prepare and eat. Like this guy, Roasted Tomato Relish, a dish I kept seeing in my mind and proposing on menus, ladled over baked fish or crostini or pasta what have you, but I had not actually made. I only knew how I wanted it to taste, bold and sweet and savory and tart all at once. I also wanted to use these gorgeous multicolored tomatoes, packing them with as much flavor as possible while they guard their shape and hue.

But let’s not overdo it! This recipe is so easy on purpose, it barely takes any effort at all or maybe it’s so fast that it’s like you don’t even care (but secretly you know that it will turn out awesome). Everything goes on a sheet pan and straight into the oven for 10-15 minutes. The thing is that all of the ingredients let off their juices during the high-heat cooking, co-mingling all by themselves on the tray. You don’t even have to stir. Slide everything into a bowl and done.

tomatorel_cooked

ROASTED TOMATO RELISH

2 pints of cherry tomatoes

12 fresh sage leaves, torn

1/3 cup chopped shallots

2 tablespoons flavorless oil (canola, grapeseed, etc.)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1.5 teaspoons sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice + 3 sliced rounds

2 cloves garlic, chopped

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Place tomatoes on a sheet pan and toss with remaining ingredients. 
  • Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until tomatoes have split and softened.

tomatorel_fish

Good times.

tomatorel_musar

Paired with this. A taste adventure.

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New traditions. (MUSSELS IN CHORIZO AND BEER)

December 30, 2012

mussels_pic

When the Saints played the Colts in Superbowl XLIV (2010) I made up this dish, Mussels in Chorizo and Beer. It was the product of us being in a foreign neighborhood and running around trying to find cool ingredients for an extraordinary Superbowl concoction to make at our friends’ place. While it was being eaten almost no one yelled at the TV.

Even though it has no particular cultural alliance, once the mussels and chorizo came together I felt like it was reminiscent of something my Italian grandparents or great grandparents would have served back in the day. Back when Sundays were still a red sauce based, all day eating affair and calamari with the tentacles still totally freaked me out. (The ‘rubber bands’ were okay though.) All of my aunts, uncles and cousins would fight for a seat in the dining room, the losers sent to the card table parked in the back bedroom. I was the youngest and had my choice of laps to sit on, a great strategy especially at dessert.

The Christmas after that gourmet Superbowl when my cousins and I decided to honor the Feast of the Seven Fishes, I knew exactly what my contribution would be. We simmered pounds and pounds (and pounds and pounds) of mussels in the garlicky tomato sauce studded with spiced sausage. A side of pasta for folks like my dad and sliced up focaccia for the dunkers. The table groaned under six more fish, two more pasta dishes, salads and sides galore. It was a beautiful sight. All of the foods we were most excited about, all at once.

In more recent years we have experimented with some other seafoods and we have learned how to reign it in. This year, back by popular demand, we made the mussels again. I think they might become a regular addition to the table. We have some traditions and they are not strict, but it is sure that favorites will make an appearance; manicotti, antipasto with the biggest hunk of Parmiggiano you have ever seen, killer seafood salad, rum cake. Somehow even a platter of sushi has made it into the yearly mix. Our feast grows and changes a bit each Christmas, as does our family and by the same token it has a strong foundation in our history and represents the memories we share however hazy they may be. (Next year I promise to nail down the recipe for Pete’s Seafood Salad That We Think Grandma Used To Make.) The resulting dinner, both nostalgic and new, reflects everyone who has participated in it. And out of love, it also reflects all of those who eat it.

MUSSELS IN CHORIZO AND BEER

1 pound chorizo or hot Italian sausage

1 tablespoon butter

1 onion, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

1 tablespoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large can chopped tomatoes

1 can beer

1/4 cup fresh dill or other fresh herb

4 pounds mussels, scrubbed

salt and pepper

  • Cook chorizo in a large saucepan, breaking it up into pieces until browned.
  • Remove meat with a slotted spoon and drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.
  • Add butter to the saucepan and sautee onion, shallot, red pepper flakes and fennel seed with a touch of salt and pepper.
  • Stir in garlic and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add beer and dill.
  • Bring to a boil again and add mussels.
  • When most of the mussels have opened and are cooked through, Remove them and arrange in a large serving dish. Pick out and discard any mussels that have not opened.
  • Boil the tomato mixture for about 3 minutes, add the chorizo back in and heat through.
  • Season well and pour over the mussels in the dish.

Serve with bread for dipping.

(Photo courtesy of Jackii Laurenzano)

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For the many. (GREEN CURRY PASTE)

September 14, 2012

World Map: Ink on Paper, 2007

Curry means different things to different people and cultures and that’s cool except when you only think of one and leave out all the others. When I was a kid it was a noxious yellow powder that my mom put in some sort of vegetable casserole, turning everything in the pan a florescent color. Bad news. By now I have long since (almost) buried that memory under many happy moments eating curries from the Caribbean, India and Nepal, China, Japan and different parts of Southeast Asia.

A common bond that links this ambiguously named dish across the universe is that a blend of spices and aromatics usually comes together to create the base flavor. The curry could be saucy or dry, include any number of veg, protein and/or starches. It can be tart, sweet, spicy, ridiculously spicy, etc. The layout will be different in each region or in each town or even in each household. It’s a personal thing.

I have been experimenting with curry pastes reminiscent of Southeast Asia. Recently I made a green curry that is loosely Thai-inspired but really just a warm, rich and satisfying blend of herbs, spices and alliums. To activate the ingredients in the paste it is best to gently saute it for a moment in the pot and then stir in whatever liquid mixture (water, stock, coconut milk, beer, etc) you like. Simmer until the flavors fuse. A little bit of tweaking with salt, sugar lime juice, vinegar and a delicious ‘curry’ is born.

When I served this at a luncheon, I put an array of garnishes next to a pot of coconut milk-based green goodness so each person partaking in the meal could make their own perfect bowl using the curry broth as either a soup or a sauce, or not at all! With things like soba noodles, dry sauted tofu, chilies, marinated seaweed, mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, tiny tomatoes and fresh herbs everyone decorated their bowl. It was an interesting exercise in creating a balanced meal and everyone made a unique curry all their own.

GREEN CURRY PASTE

(makes about 1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

15 black peppercorns

6 dried chilies, soaked in water and de-stemmed or three fresh chilies, chopped*

1/3 cup shallot, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and stems

7 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 tablespoon ginger, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons lemongrass, chopped fine (reserve stalks)

1 lime, zested

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon vegetable or flavorless oil

  • Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet until frgarant, about 5 minutes. Grind to a powder with the peppercorns in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. 
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the mortar and pestle (or a food processor) and grind to a fine-textured paste.
  • Store in a lidded container in the fridge for one month or freeze for up to 3 months.

* more chilies = more heat… go for it!

(I’m not pretending to be primitive or anything. I throw that stuff in the processor.)

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WAYS TO START. (PEA SHOOTS)

April 19, 2012

Eat them now or  forever wait til next year. Healthy, fascinating pea shoots are the young leaves and tendrils of a pea plant. Though available all over the place in spring/early summer, they are supposedly dead simple to grow, as in, buy a box of dried peas from the store and put them in some good dirt. Water them, give sun and you’re grazing! They do well in pots and the dirt doesn’t have to be deep. Easy things. And because they are so tasty, nutritious and versatile, I just might put number one green thumb, MG, on the task of home production.

Give a little green love to whatever dish you come up with, raw or cooked. Here are some ideas.

BELUGA LENTILS WITH WILTED PEA SHOOTS

(serves 4-5)

1 cup small lentils, rinsed

1 tablespoon oil

1 carrot, small dice

2 celery ribs, small dice

1/2 onion, small dice

2 cloves garlic minced + 2 whole

pinch red pepper flakes

1 jalapeno, halved

1 lemon, juiced

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons vinegar (any one will do)

2 handfuls of pea shoots

salt and pepper

  • Heat the oil in a medium sized pot. Saute the carrot, celery and onion over high heat until lightly browned.
  • Stir in the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, some salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Delgaze the pan with 2 1/2 cups water and add lentils, two whole garlic cloves (smash them!) and 1/2 of the jalapeno. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until lentils are tender, about 25 minutes but timing could vary.
  • Once tender, drain the lentils and discard the garlic and jalapeno. Return to pot.
  • While the lentils are still hot, stir in the sauteed vegetables, lemon juice, evoo, vinegar, and season generously with salt and pepper. Next, stir in the pea shoots and let the residual heat of the lentils wilt the leaves.
  • Chop up remaining 1/2 of jalapeno to garnish, if desired.

TANGLED PEA SHOOTS IN BROWN GARLIC BUTTER

(serves 2 as an accompaniment)

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

1 large handful pea shoots

salt and pepper

  • Drop butter into a hot skillet (especially one that has just cooked two steaks).
  • Add garlic slices and cook until butter and garlic are both brown.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add shoots and stir constantly until wilted and coated in sauce. Transfer to plate.

PEA SHOOT SALAD WITH ENDIVE, SCALLION, SHAVED APPLE AND GROUND ALMONDS

2 handfuls pea shoots

1 head endive, core removed, sliced lengthwise

3 scallions, chopped

1/2 apple, shaved into curls with a vegetable peeler

1/4 cup almonds, ground

cider vinaigrette (recipe follows)

  • Layer vegetables together and drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss gently. Top with almonds.

QUICK CIDER VINAIGRETTE

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 scant tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon dijon vinegar

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

  • Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk together until combined. Or place ingredients into a lidded container and shake to combine. Check for seasoning. Adjust.
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YOU GOT VERJUICE NOW, MAN. (VERJUS)

April 13, 2012
Used Grapes. Gouache and pencil on paper bag
(This is a reprinted article I wrote a while back (6/16/08) for a site called cookingdistrict.com, formerly gigachef.com. I edited a bit of the blahblah but it’s still good stuff.)
    Verjuice is the slightly sweet, slightly tart juice of unripened wine grapes. It is bottled like vinegar or wine but it is neither fermented nor does it have an alcoholic content. The word verjuice or verjus is derived from the French word pairing ‘vert jus’ translated ‘green juice’ meaning the liquid pressed from unripened wine grapes. It will last for several years unopened, deepening in fruitiness and color while it ages. Once uncorked, it has only a few months to last in the refrigerator since it is an unfermented product and does not have the same stability as a fermented one. Its applications are wide and open to creativity.
    When used to deglaze the pan after roasting or sauteing meat or vegetables, the natural sugars in the young grapes help caramelize the leftover bits beautifully. In salad dressings, verjuice will not compete with wine being served, unlike vinegar or lemon which infamously sour the palate. The touch of acidity brightens soups, sauces and in my recipe-tweaking opinion,  goes swimmingly well with seafood. Dishes that normally call for white wine benefit from verjuice’s fruity, roundness without having to ‘cook out’ any of the alcoholic essence. Seemingly it shines in pared down recipes where the goal is to use just a few ingredients that are unique and/or possess some special quality that takes a simple dish to the next level.
    I like to splash some into the pan when wilting greens or as a part of a marinade. Not only a real winner* for savory courses, it can be used to poach or macerate fresh fruit or make a mean glaze when buddied up with some sugar.
    Verjuice is not a new ingredient. Its appearance in cooking dates back to the 1300’s. Now it is making a comeback for its merits of playing nicely with wine as well as the many above-mentioned uses. Though historically it appears in European and Middle Eastern cooking, an Australian chef, Maggie Beer, is credited with bringing it back to modern kitchens. She bottles and sells verjuice from her country’s Barossa Valley but most wine producing regions have their versions too: California, France, Italy (where it is called agresto), South Africa and locally here in New York on Long Island (Wolffer Estate), my personal favorite. Like everything, verjuice can be purchased online but also look out for it in wine shops and gourmet groceries.
Oh, and sometimes it is used for drinking straight up… or maybe on the rocks.
* I vaguely remember enjoying heavy use of the phrase ‘a real winner’ back in ’08.

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DRESSING UP. (SOY GARLIC OR PEANUT NOODLES)

March 31, 2012

As the weather warms it is natural to lighten up one’s cooking style. Cravings change and colors make a comeback as the Earth wakes from her dark slumber. One of the things that helps me bang out dinners that are quick (and acceptable for pre-bikini season eating) is having a few jars of salad dressing type things waiting for me in the fridge.

A good dressing is easy to whip up and can make proud almost any flavor profile. Perfect when tossed with leafy lettuces, these concoctions get even more use in my kitchen over grains, noodles, beans, grilled meats/veg and steamed tofu. From a spicy smooth peanut sauce to a chunky sundried tomato and fresh herb dressing, they are an indispensable part of the hustling spring/summer repertoire.

Pictured above is a throw-together dinner that was good! Glass noodles were tossed with fresh herbs and sliced jalapeños and topped with some leftover roasted fish and carrot-daikon pickles made using the basic brine in the last post. A drizzle of this powerfully savory Soy Garlic dressing ties all the stuff together. The recipe which is listed below is versatile, it works as a dressing, dipping sauce or marinade. It would also be super-duper for seasoning the broth of a gingered chicken soup or a kale soup or something similar which would be delicious right now as, even though spring keeps trying to rise, lady Earth just kinda wants to sleep in like a hungover teenager.

SOY GARLIC DRESSING

(makes about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons sugar

1-2 small red chiles, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons lime juice

6 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup oil

drizzle of sesame oil (optional)

black pepper

• Place all ingredients a lidded jar or container, stir to dissolve the sugar.

• Replace lid and shake vigorously to combine.

• Check for seasoning. Adjust.

Here is the world’s quickest peanut sauce since I mentioned it… Good for everything.

PEANUT SAUCE

(makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

2 limes, juiced or more to taste

1 clove garlic, grated

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 drizzle toasted sesame oil

cayenne pepper and/or hot sauce to taste, don’t be shy

  • Measure all ingredients into a mixing bowl. 
  • Whisk until thoroughly combined and season to taste. 
  • Thin with water if needed.     
I love it when a meal comes together.