Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Yellow onion jam

Yes, another onion jam recipe. Two in the same day. I haven't lost my mind, but I happened to have all these onions, and after the first one turned out to be so delicious, I thought I'd make a second one with yellow onions. The recipe is pretty similar to the first one, but believe me when I say that they taste quite different. This one we've had with pork tenderloin and I have to say it complimented the meat more than nicely.


1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups vertically sliced onion
1 cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 cup dry vermouth
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, shallots, and sugar to pan. Sauté 12 minutes or until golden. Stir in vermouth, raisins, and vinegar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Red onion jam

I know, you can barely see the onion jam in this picture -but it doesn't look overly pretty by itself believe me. After celebrating my birthday with lots and lots of wine I woke up this morning not feeling so hot. And when I don't feel too well, the only thing that cures me is a yummy brunch or breakfast of bagel with smoked salmon. Don't ask me why, but it never fails to make me feel better. This morning was no different. I had recently bought one of those delicious smoked salmons from Costco and I thought, what better way to have it than with capers, tomatoes and red onion?

Only I didn't have any red onion, the reason being that I had just used all the ones I have to make a red onion jam. Sounds a little weird, I know, but obviously this is a different kind of jam, one that goes together well with crackers and cheeses as an accompaniment to wine. It turns out, it also goes very well with smoked salmon on a lightly toasted bagel. Canning the jam was kind of a pain and I'm seriously thinking of investing some money and buy a pressure canner but, for now, you can find instructions on how to can here.


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large red onions, thinly sliced
10 ounces brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper
A pinch of herbs de Provance

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven, add the onions, raisins and coriander. Cook until onions are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add all the other ingredients, season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about an hour or until most liquid evaporates.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brussels sprouts for dummies

It's my birthday. I turn 29 today and -apparently- your 29th birthday is "the golden birthday", something I never knew until today at least 10 people mentioned it on Facebook. I thought it was going to be a cool birthday because I'm turning 29 on the 29th of the 9th month of the 9th year of the millennium. Yes, I do have too much time on my hands and spend an alarmingly large part of my day musing about stuff that is completely useless. So last night I decided to make something different, something that would surprise most people that know me when they see this post: Brussels sprouts. Why, you ask? Because in my entire life I've never eaten them, short of one little piece once, many years ago, just to determine that they were a horrible, wretched vegetable that I would never eat again.

But of course the good guys at the co-op had other palns in mind. They delivered me a truckload of Brussels sprouts and -after parking them in the fridge for a while- I decided that last night would be the night. A few hours before my golden birthday I thought, why not? So I made them, following a Christmas recipe from Cooking Light, and guess what? They turned out delicious. Either that or I'm getting so old I'm starting to like old people food -you decide.

5 cups sliced Brussels sprouts
2 medium onions, vertically sliced
1 large shallot, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup chicken stock
A pinch of thyme
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

In a large skillet melt the butter and sautee the onions and shallots. Add the Brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sautee for a few minutes (about 4 or 5), add sugar, thyme and chicken stock. Stir, cover and simmer for a couple of minutes or until tender. Top with toasted pecans and serve.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Roasted chicken with onions and potatoes

In my never ending effort to be thrifty (so that I have enough money to buy shoes and travel) I have discovered how much cheaper it is to buy whole chickens instead of precut parts. I know, I know, probably I should have known that, but I didn't -plus, I always thought that roasting a chicken would be some kind of a pain in the ass, so I never bothered. Well, I discovered that although it is a little labor intensive in the beginning, once you are done you can relax and drink wine while the bird is in the oven, a prospective I always like on Friday nights when I'm tired and don't feel like dancing around the kitchen paying attention to what is going on on the stove. So I've started to make roasted chicken and after a few times I made it using different recipes and approaches I have to say that the poulet roti recipe in Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles cookbook is by far the best. I added some potatoes and onions to the recipe to have a super easy, no fuss side dish ready at the exact same time as the chicken -it was an extremly satisfying dinner and I can now say that I have a bomb-proof recipe to roast a chicken. I'm pretty proud of myself.


1 young roasting chicken, about 4 pounds
Salt and pepper
2 rosemary sprigs
1 lemon, quartered
1 celery stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces
6 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon honey
2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and cut into wedges
2 pounds small red potatoes, cut into wedges
1 cup white wine

Preheat oven to 375F.

Remove giblets from chicken cavity. Wash the cavity and let dry. Season the cavity with abundant salt and pepper, place the lemon, rosemary sprigs and chopped celery in it.

Now, the trussing of the chicken... I use Anthony Bourdain's trick to truss the chicken, a trick he explains in his hilarious cookbook from Les Halles. Here's what he says: "Okay... now, I'm not going to try and explain how to truss a chicken with twine - as much fun as that is. Here's a shortcut instead. First: lie on your back on the floor, put your knees together, and draw them both up to your chest with your arms. Press them against your chest. You should look pretty funny down there - but that's exactly the position I want you to put your chicken in. Knees up, ass out. Undignified, but effective. Now, take a paring knife and just below the end of the chicken's legs (approximately below where your heels would be), poke a small hole on each side, and tuck the leg carefully inside,pinioning the legs in a position approximately what you just did on the floor. Try not to tear the skin, okay?"

On to the next step. Mix the softened butter with the chopped herbs and season it with salt and pepper. Gently insert your fingers in between the skin and the breast and rub the butter mixture on both sides of the bird so that the butter is trapped underneath the skin. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of butter for later use.

Season the bird with salt and pepper, being careful not to miss any spots. Place it in an oven proof casserole and place onions and potatoes around it. Pour wine in the casserole and distribute the reserved butter on the vegetables.

Cook at 375F for 30 minutes, turning the casserole occasionally so that the bird cooks evenly.

Cranck up the oven to 450F and cook for another 20-25 minutes. Let the chicken rest for ten minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall vegetables "strudel"

Regardless of the fact that it's hot and humid out -in fact the weather is grosser than what it was in August!- I have decided that fall is here and that I should therefore start cooking my favorite "cold weather" foods. This summer has been particularly brutal, one of the hottest on record, and both my body and my mind have been put through a lot of heat related stress. Although I might have to wait for another 4 weeks to see any real changes temperature wise, to keep what is left of my mental sanity I need to convince myself that the worst is indeed over and that soon I'll be wearing sweaters and making stews.

Hence today's recipe, a quick way to use some good fall vegetables like sweet potatoes and chard (which, now that I think of it, I'm not sure it's a fall vegetable. But, oh well, you get the point!). I first saw a version of this recipe on the cookbook "The Silver Spoon", a more than 50 year old bible of Italian cooking. My grandma use to have it in her kitchen and when they finally translated in English a couple of years ago I bought it immediately so that I could have a copy here in Florida as well. They describe it as an appetizer, but really you can serve it also as a side dish or as a light vegetarian meal. I also saw a version of this recipe on one of my favorite blogs -Il cavoletto di Bruxelles- and in that case the strudel was made with pumpkin and spinach and topped with sesame seeds, but still, very similar.

To make a long story short, I started making this savory strudel last year, after making one too many savory pies and being bored by them. It's versatile, it's easy and with store bought pie crust is so quick to make you'll find yourself making it over and over again.


1 large sweet potato
1 bunch swiss chard (about 12 ounces)
1 large shallot
4 ounces good quality mozzarella
1 store-bought round pastry dough (such as Pillsbury)
1 egg
Fennel seeds

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Slice the shallot and sautee it in the oil until tender. In the mean time wash and chop chard. Add to skillet and cook with shallot until wilted, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Quickly boil the sweet potato until crisp tender. Peel and cut into cubes. Add to chard mixture. Also cut the mozzarella into small cubes.

Lay the pastry dough on a cookie sheet covered with cooking spray. Lay half of the mozzarella cubes int eh central portion of it. Top with chard and sweet potato mixture and one more lauyer of mozzarella.

Fold dough over filling and close the two short edges by pinching the dough together. Gently flip it so it lays seam-side down on the cookie sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with fennel seeds.

Cook in 375F oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Potato and porcini bake

Ah, the first day of autumn. It reminds me that somewhere, in some faraway lands, the leaves are changing colors and the air is getting crisp at night. Sweaters are being warn and in the kitchen cooks start to prepare different meals, fall meals. Fall has always been my favorite season and I miss it dearly. A heat index of 95F at 11 a.m... are you kidding me? This is not fall!
Unfortunately I can't ignore the high temperatures and high humidity and just wear those boots and jackets I'm longing for, but what I can do is start cooking my favorite fall meals and patiently wait for the cooler weather to make its appearance.
So to celebrate the beginning of fall I made a dish my mom made all the time when porcini mushrooms were in season, a simple but delicious bake that makes a great side for grilled meats. Porcini are a little expensive, but they are well worth the money -and dry porcini work great too!

Serves 4

1 pound fresh porcini mushrooms (or 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms)
1 pound potatoes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon marjoram
1/2 tablespoon parsley
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

If using dried mushroom soak in warm water for about 30 minutes before using.

Heat up a swirl of olive oil in a large pan, add mushrooms and herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat until mushroom are tender. Coarsely chop and set aside.

Using a mandolin slicer, slice potatoes to a potato chip like thinness. Grease an oven proof casserole and make a first layer of potatoes, slightly overlapping them. Season with salt and pepper. Make a second lyer of mushroom mixture. Then a layer of potatoes, season with salt and pepper. And so on. Finish with a layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Cook in 375F oven for about 30 minutes or until golden.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Savory yogurt crustless pie

This is a last minute response to Faith's "Secret ingredient" challenge posted on her blog, Thought 4 Food. Her ingredient of choice was yogurt and after thinking about it for a few days, I remembered a recipe my mom used to make back in Italy, a savory yogurt and cheese "pie" she served cut into squares as an appetizer. It's a simple recipe where the flavor of the yogurt shines together with the sharpness and saltiness of good cheeses -Emmethal and pecorino romano. It goes well with cold cuts such as pancetta and prosciutto or with jams like jalapeno or red pepper jellies. And the best thing about it is that is good both hot, warm or cold.

8 ouces plain yogurt
4 ounces all-purpose flour
1 cup grated pecorino romano
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
Salt and pepper
2 eggs
1/4 cup meted butter
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375F.

Lightly cover an 8-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Toss a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs in it, to cover evenly.

In a medium bowl mix yogurt, flour, grated cheeses, yeast, butter, eggs, salt and pepper, stirring well to mix.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs.

Back in preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Serve hot, warm or cold.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My coleslaw

Have you ever had store bought coleslaw? Me too and that's the reason why, for the longest time, I was convinced that I didn't like coleslaw. I was at some party, one of those parties where the food is nothing to write home about, and since everyone was eating it I decided to give it a try, regardless of the fact that it looked like it was dressed with caulk. The caulk turned out to be mayo -crappy mayo, I would add- and the whole dish was bland and heavy.

A couple of years later I found myself the proud owner of a head of cabbage (no, not the co-op guys this time) and decided to take a shot at making my own slaw. It couldn't turn out to be any crappier than the one I had at that party, I reasoned. I was right. Without the mayo and with more spices it was tasty, light and refreshing. Just what the doctor ordered.

Makes about 6 servings:

1/2 head red cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Combine the cabbage, onion, and grated carrot in a large bowl.

Mix vinegar, sugar, mustard, yogurt, salt, black pepper, and red pepper in a small bowl and stir well with a whisk.

Add the mustard mixture to cabbage mixture, and toss well to coat. Cover and chill for 20 minutes.

Chipotle BBQ sandwiches

I don't know about you, but every once in a while I crave the smoky taste of a good barbecue sandwich. Yesterday was one of those days. I was pretty busy -work, teeth cleaning at the dentist, a much needed hair cut- so I didn't get home until almost 9 o'clock. I needed something simple and quick to make. Plus, my local supermarket was offering boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $1.99 a pound... how could I resist the urge to stock up on it? I couldn't, so I stocked up. I also had some potato buns leftover from Sunday's cookout and some red cabbage that -yes, you guessed it- was given to me by the co-op guys. So I made an Iron Chef night out of it and put together these sweet and spicy chicken sandwiches and some spicy slaw (recipe to follow, hopefully today, if not tomorrow.) The chicken, thanks to a kick ass technique learned from Cooking Light magazine, tastes like it has been slow cooked for hours but only needs to be cook for about 15 minutes. Now THAT is what I need when I'm tired and hungry and it's 9 o'clock at night. Don't let the lenght of the recipe fool you -it's easy.

Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes 4 sandwiches:

1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast
3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
Canola oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup tomato puree
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
4 sandwich rolls ( I love Martin's Potato Rolls)

Pour a quarter inch of water in a large skillet. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, 4 sliced garlic cloves, and chicken (seasoned with salt and pepper to taste), cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 10 minutes. Drain, discard water and cut chicken across grain into thin slices. Set aside.

Remove 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from can of chiles and set aside. Remove 3 chipotle chiles from can and finely chop and set aside. Whatever chiles and sauce you don't use, store in a tapperware in the fridge, they last forever.

Heat a little bit of oil in the same skillet skillet. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic and sauté 3 minutes or until just beginning to brown -be careful not to burn it! Add cumin, stir in tomato puree, 2 tablespoons adobo sauce, 3 chopped chipotle chiles, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire, and salt. Add sliced chicken to sauce; simmer for 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

In the meantime, preheat broiler.

Split rolls in half and broil 1 minute or until lightly toasted. Divide chicken mixture evenly among bottom halves of rolls and serve immediately.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cauliflower fritters

Last night I had an epiphany. I actually like cauliflower.
I spent most of my life telling everyone I didn't like it nor eat it , but once again the guys at the organic co-op forced me to reconsider by dropping a big head of cauliflower in my weekly produce bags. At first I thought about giving it away, but let's be honest: how likely is that? I mean, if I were trying to give away freshly picked strawberries it would be easy, but cauliflower?
Then I was sitting at the office the other day and a coworker offered me her homemade cauliflower fritters. They were good. Very good.
So I decided to keep my cauliflower after all and make my version of fritters with it. Even though I call them fritters they aren't fried. I made them on the griddle with cooking spray to make them lighter -we were already having a monster porterhouse steak as a main dish and really didn't need the extra calories. They turned out great. So again, thanks co-op guys. Keep the veggies coming.

Makes 12 fritters:

1 cauliflower
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko (or regular) breadcrumbs
Cooking spray or oil for cooking

Trim and chop the cauliflower. Steam it for about 15 minutes or until tender. Let it cool down. Chop finely.

In a medium bowl mixed chopped cauliflower eggs, cheese and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Add flour a little bit at the time and keep mixing until the mixture is dry enough that you can form patties with it.

Heat oil in a pan or turn a griddle on high and spray with cooking spray. Cook patties in batches, about 4 minutes per side or until golden.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guazzetto of clams

I learned to love clams when I was very young, so young that no one would have ever thought I might like them. It was one and my parents and I were vacationing on the beautiful island off the coast of Tuscany called Isola del Giglio. When my mom ordered spaghetti with clams she had no idea they were going to find out the biggest (littlest) clam fan ever. As soon as the spaghetti with clams was in front of my mom I started picking clams out of her plate, reaching over from my high chair and using my tiny, fat fingers to remove the clams form their shells. I don't know if it was the salty brininess of the clams or the fact that they were "grown-up" food -what I know is that my mom that night ate spaghetti with olive oil, parsley and no clams.

Since then I've always been a big fan of clams, even during my pickiest years (from age 3 to age 10 I barely ate anything and drove everyone crazy). Nowadays I absolutely love clams in all their forms. Although I love spaghetti with clams as much as your next Italian, I love guazzetto even more. A guazzetto is pretty much the clam sauce you'd put on spaghetti, minus the spaghetti. It's delicious served with toasted bread to soak up the rich, briny broth. For those of you who are in the Naples, Fla., area try the guazzetto at Miramare Ristorante -it's to die for.


For two:

5 pounds of clams, in their shells
10 ounces fresh tomatoes
2 slices Italian bread
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Parsley (about 4 sprigs), minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil

To get rid of the sand in the clams soak them for at least 30 minutes in abundant water and salt. Rinse them under running cold water and set aside.

Blench tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute to remove skin. Chop and set aside.

In a very large skillet (large enough to accommodate all the clams, that is) heat the olive oil and add clams. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Check on clams. The idea here is that they will slowly open as they cook. Keep cooking them. After five minutes throw out the few that haven't opened yet.

Pour the cooking liquid through a fine sieve and reserve it.

Place clams (still in their shells) back in the skillet with cubed tomatoes, minced garlic, minced parsley, crushed red pepper, white wine and reserved cooking juices. Cook no longer than 7 minutes. Serve with toasted bread.

Basil gelato

I've been really lazy lately and haven't posted as much as I wanted too. Now that my friend Filippo has left I can get back to my normal cooking schedule and -hopefully- also to my semi-healthy eating habits. September is a month of new beginnings, or at least it feels that way to me. Even though I haven't been in school for years, I still feel that the year starts in September, not in January. And so every September I make plans and write down resolutions and promise my self that it's going to be the year, the one where my life suddenly changes for the better. September is also the month when -regardless of the heat- I start thinking about fall and winter food.
But before I get excited about roasts and soups I decided to post one last summer recipe: basil gelato.
Sounds weird? Wait until you try it -it's one of those things you'll fall in love with immediately. I paired mine up with fresh strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar, it was one of the best desserts I've ever tasted, even if I say so myself. You will need an ice-cream maker for this recipe.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts

1 quart half and half

1 cup sugar

8 egg yolks

2 1/2 ounces fresh basil (chopped)

In medium saucepan heat half and half and basil gently to a simmer, then remove from heat.

Pour the mixture into food processor and blend until basil is finely ground, then strain through a sieve to remove basil pieces.

In medium size mixing bowl combine egg yolks and sugar and beat together for about a minute.

Slowly beat 2 tablespoons of the warm half and half mixture into the egg mixture, then beat in the remaining half and half little by little.

Place bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Make sure the temperature doesn't exceed 170 degrees or the eggs will curdle. Cool in an ice bath.

Chill mixture in fridge for at least 4 hours.

Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer gelato to a 2 qt plastic container, cover top w/ parchment paper cut to size and freeze until firm and ready to serve.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pork chops "Robert"

I have no clue who Robert is and my friend Google for once hasn't shed any light on my dilemma. I have been going through the "Mastering the art of French cooking" tome lately and the more I read it the less I believe I'll ever master said art, mainly because I usually leave the office between 6 and 7 p.m., which means that I don't have hours to dedicate to the preparation of my meals. Mastering the art of French cooking is a great book written -as Julia Child herself announces in the introduction- "for the servantless American cook". What good old Julia didn't take into account is that in 2009 the avarage American cook not only would be servantless, but would also be employed full-time, a detail that makes most of the recipes in the book impossible to make on a week day. Or at least it makes it impossible for me -Julie Powell did it so I guess it is technically possible. To make a long story short, I was going through the book the other day and I happened to find a recipe for cotes de porc Robert, a recipe that not only sounded yummy but also reasonably quick to make (I mean reasonably quick by 1950s standards, it takes about an hour). So I made it and I have to say it was the best pork chops I have had in a long time: slow-cooked, juicy and smothered in a savory tomato sauce. What else can one ask for?

For two

2 thick-cut, bone-in pork chops
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup minced onion
All-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup good quality chopped tomatoes out of a can
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon sage
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Fresh chopped basil

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.Brown them in an oven-proof casserole over medium high heat. Remove from casserole and set aside. Brown the onions in some butter on low heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Sift flour over onions and cook for two minutes more.

Preheat oven to 300F.

Add canned tomatoes, sage, salt, wine and stock. Simmer for a few minutes. Add tomato paste, taste and adjust seasoning. Place cooked chops back in casserole and baste with tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes or until pork is done. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bánh mì

As it often happens with my favorite foods, bánh mì isn't readily available where I live. It's not that I'm crazy picky, it has more to do with the fact that Naples is a pretty mainstream town where ethnic options aren't always plentiful and exciting.
If you ask me, the bánh mì -a Vietnamese sandwich of crunchy baguette, rich pate', spicy pork and refreshing veggies- is possibly one of the best sandwiches in the world, along with the Cuban, the Italian prosciutto di Parma with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes and grilled ham and cheese. After reading a couple of articles about it in cooking magazines such as Cooking Light and Bon Appetit I decided to take the matter in my hands and make it home. It was a hit and it's fairly simple to make once you buy a couple of ingredients from your local Asian market.

Makes 4 sandwiches

1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup grated peeled daikon radish
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 baguettes
Thin cucumber slices
Fresh cilantro sprigs
2 thinly sliced green onions
1 thinly sliced jalapeño pepper

Combine carrot, radish, vinegar, brown sugar and salt to taste, cover and let stand at least 15 minutes. Drain.

Preheat oven to 400°. Mix chili garlic sauce and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, stir well. Sprinkle the pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and baste with 2 tablespoons of the chili garlic sauce mixture. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate.

Combine mayonnaise and remaining chili garlic sauce mixture.

Cut each baguette horizontally, cutting to, but not through, the other side. Spread mayonnaise mixture inside baguettes. Thinly slice pork; divide pork between baguettes. Top with carrot mixture. Arrange cucumber slices and cilantro sprigs on each baguette. Top with onions and jalapeño. Press top gently to close; cut each baguette into 4 equal servings and press in panini press if desired.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stuffed zucchini: aka Labor Day laziness

So yes, I have been incredibly lazy lately and haven't posted much on this blog -but I have some (kinda) good excuses.
The first one is that yesterday was Labor Day and I've spent all weekend drinking beer and stuffing my face with all kinds of food... and I was too lazy to document all of it with pictures and blog posts.
The second reason is that my friend Filippo -whom I've known since elementary school- is currently in town and staying with us, so I spend as little time as possible in front of the computer and as much as possible hanging out with him.
Sunday Tommy, Filippo and I took the boat to white trash beach (sounds... trashy, but it's actually very pretty) and we spent the afternoon grilling, drinking, swimming and eating. And because Filippo pushed me to accept his Iron Chef-like challenge to use up all the stuff I have in the fridge, freezer and pantry BEFORE I go buy more stuff from the store... I found myself making up this recipe for stuffed zucchini. It turned out delicious and I used leftover couscous, some Laughing Cow cheese and the truckload of zucchini I had in the fridge all in one day. Take that, Iron Chef challenge!

Makes 6 "boats":

3 large zucchini
6 wedges Laughing Cow garlic and herb light cheese
2 cups prepared couscous (I used what I had leftover from my previous post)
Cooking spray

Preheat grill or oven on medium high heat.

Cut zucchini in half length-wise and hollow them with a tea spoon. Discard seeds and pulp.

Spread one cheese wedge on each zucchini half. Spoon couscous over cheese in each zucchini half. Spray preheated grill with cooking spray or spray cookie sheet with cooking spray and place zucchini on grill rack or in the oven. Cook for about ten minutes, until heated through.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Banana nut muffins

If you live in Florida, you know the problem. Everyone -and I mean everyone- you know owns a banana tree and they all make a truckload of bananas at exactly the same time of the year. On top of that, I have the additional problem of the kind folks at the organic co-op filling my produce bags with bananas every week. As much as Tommy likes bananas, there is only so many a human being can consume each day. What to do with rest?

The good news is that bananas freeze well. You can mash them, store them in ziplock begs and shove them in the freezer until it's time to make muffins. Based on my calculations if the co-op guys keep the bananas coming I will never catch up and have a banana-free freezer. But I will always have fresh banana nut muffins laying around the house, which isn't shabby a all I guess.


Makes 18 muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cup mashed bananas
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or chopped pecans

Grease bottom and sides of two muffin pans, set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/4 teaspon of salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture, set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine eggs, bananas, sugar and butter. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in nuts. Spoon batter into pan.
Bake in a 350 over for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

I know, the name of this recipe sounds kind of scary... and 40 cloves of garlic seem like a lot! But trust me, once the garlic is cooked it looses most of its pungent flavor and it ends up tasting... almost sweet, I would say. Anyway, I tried this recipe after seeing it in Cooking Light magazine -after changing it a bit to fit my taste. I guess that the original French recipe calls for a whole chicken, cut up in pieces, but I have finally ran out of the insane amount of whole chickens I had bought and frozen, so I used chicken breast instead. I was a little worried that the breasts would dry up, but they didn't. Actually they turned out perfect: juicy, tender and very tasty. The sauce is lovely mopped up with slices of French bread.

Makes 4 servings

2 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 sprig rosemary
4 celery stalks, cut into 3 pieces
4 chicken breast halves
3/4 cup dry vermouth
Dash of ground nutmeg
40 unpeeled garlic cloves

Combine first 4 ingredients in a 4-quart casserole. Arrange chicken over vegetables. Drizzle with vermouth; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Nestle garlic around chicken. Cover casserole with aluminum foil and casserole lid. Bake at 375° for 1 1/2 hours. Garnish with fresh tarragon, if desired; serve with French bread.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Provencal tomato tart

Ahhh... tomatoes. There isn't one other single ingredient I love as much as a fresh, fragrant tomato. Even the fact that the tomatoes around here aren't the best -to say the least- doesn't stop me from using them as much as I can. Today I noticed I had a couple of them sitting in the kitchen, getting riper and riper at an alarming speed. So I started poking my nose around my favorite food blogs, until I found a recipe for a French tart of tomatoes and mustard. Cavoletto di Bruxelles is a great website with awesome recipes and beautiful pictures. You can see the recipe here, but be warned, it's in Italian.


1 refrigerated pastry dough
2 ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons mustard with grains
Mediterrenean sea salt
Herbes de Provence
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.

Slice th tomatoes as thinly as you can. Spread mustard on dough, leaving a half inch border. Place tomatoes on the dough, slightly overlapping them. Season with sea salt and spinkle with a few pinches of herbs de Provence. Sprinkle with olive oil.

Cook in preheated oven for 20 minutes.


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