Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rubbing lamb the right way

Most of the time, I just brush those cute little lamb loin chops with olive oil, salt and pepper, then grill them quickly over a hot fire. Crunchy on the outside and oh-so-tender on the inside.

But yes, I do mess with perfection, and this time, I'm very happy I did. The advantage to broiling the chops instead of grilling them is that you can keep the spicy crust on them and it won't flake off into the fire. So try these on a cold night when you don't feel like freezing outside to grill your chops.

Lori K's lamb rub
Makes enough coating for 6-8 loin chops

2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon crushed fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil


In a spice mill, grind everything but the last three items until blended, but not too fine. In a large mortar bowl, grind the rosemary and garlic. Add the other spices and mix well. Add enough olive oil to make a thick paste.

Spread on the lamb chops, both sides, pressing in the rub. Let stand for 15 minutes, then preheat the broiler for 15 minutes.

Grill close to the heat, 3-4 minutes each side (3 minutes for very rare, 4 minutes for medium rare). Very good with a sauce of sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas salad and chowder

My sister-in-law is planning to serve a crisp Romaine salad and a chowder that includes giant prawns, scallops and clams, and asked if I had a recipe for a good Caesar dressing and a nice chowder. Here were my recipes from the files, and I thought you might like to try them as well.

What are you fixing for Christmas dinner this year? I'd love it if you'd include your menu in a comment below, or send me an email.

Caesar dressing recipe
from Sallie Y. Williams' "The Complete Book of Sauces":

½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
6 anchovy fillets, rinsed, dried, smashed and chopped finely
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large egg, soft-boiled for 1 minute
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For a rustic vinaigrette, put all the ingredients in a jar and shake until well mixed. For a more creamy dressing, put all ingredients but the Parmesan in a food processor or blender and mix until smooth. Add the cheese and stir.

If I'm not lazy, I rub the salad bowl with a clove of garlic for extra flavor. If I'm pressed for time, I use garlic salt in place of the salt. Also, since I know where my egg has come from and I wash it before using, I skip the soft-boiled step. (I think the lemon juice "cooks" the egg.)

Seafood Chowder
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a first

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 3/4-inch dice
2 sprigs fresh summer savory or thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 teaspoon)
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 pound Yukon Gold, white or rose potatoes (not russet), peeled and diced in 1/2-inch chunks
1 1/4 cups fish or chicken stock, or clam juice
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound of the following: mixed shellfish or skinless haddock or cod fillets, totally deboned
1/3 cup heavy cream (or half and half, or milk, if a lighter soup is desired)

For garnish
1 ounce lean bacon bits or lardons
2 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh chives

Heat a 2-quart heavy pot to medium hot. Add oil, onions, savory or thyme, and bay leaves to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, until the onions are softened but not browned.
Add the potatoes and stock. If the stock doesn’t cover the potatoes, add just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil over higher heat, cover, and cook the potatoes vigorously for 5-10 minutes, until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center. If the stock hasn’t thickened lightly, smash a few of the potato chunks against the side of the pot and cook for a minute or two longer. Reduce the heat to low and season with salt and pepper (you will want to almost overseason the chowder at this point to avoid having to stir it much once the fish is added). Add the seafood or fish fillets and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish/seafood will finish cooking during this time).
Gently stir in the cream and taste for salt and pepper. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit for up to an hour at room temperature, allowing the flavors to meld. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don’t let it boil. 
Warm the bacon or lardons in a low oven (200 °F) for a few minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to mound the chunks of fish and/or seafood, the onions, and potatoes in the center of large soup plates or shallow bowls, and ladle the creamy broth around. Scatter the bacon over the individual servings and finish each with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and minced chives.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brown sugar, how come you dance so good?

Photo: © Lori Korleski Richardson
I love gooey, chewy caramel. But as I've gotten older, my teeth just can't handle it, and I'm tired of losing fillings to my sweet addiction.

I thought I'd try my hand this Christmas season at making some, but every recipe I found for caramels included corn syrup, which I refuse to buy. So what to do?

Then I remembered pralines. You can make them like caramels, or like a brown-sugar candy. I love both kinds, but thinking of my teeth, I opted for the latter. They are pretty easy to make. It helps if you have a candy thermometer, but that's no guarantee that they will set up. One sheet of mine did, the other didn't. Go figure. I put them in the freezer if they don't set up and use them for topping vanilla yogurt or ice cream.

Note: I keep my unsalted butter in the freezer. To use, I shred what I need with a grater. It comes to room temperature very quickly that way.

Lori K's Pralines
Makes 24 smallish ones

1 1/2 cups of brown sugar (I like dark best)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter, shredded
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped, plus 12 halves for decoration

Melt the sugar and cream in a heavy pan over medium heat, using a silicone spoon to stir. Once it melts, turn up the heat a little and put in the candy thermometer, if using. Cook to soft-boil stage, 240 degrees, about 12 minutes. Turn the heat to simmer and let it cool down to 220 degrees. Add the vanilla and butter, and cook at 220 degrees for about 6 minutes until it's all well blended. Add the pecans and stir well.
Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Drop a spoonful of the mixture on the sheet, three across and four down. Top each with a pecan half. Repeat on the second sheet. The candy will harden as it comes to room temperature.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Something fishy going on

National Geographic photograph
A recent New York Times article says that you might not be getting the fish you're paying for. For instance, the Oceana researchers who analyzed the DNA of 150 samples of fresh fish found that 13 types of fish, including tilapia and tilefish, were falsely identified as red snapper. Tilefish contains such high mercury levels that the FDA advises women who are pregnant or nursing and young children not to eat it. And 94 percent of fish sold as white tuna was not tuna. Much of it was escolar, which contains a toxin that can cause severe diarrhea if more than a few ounces of meat are ingested.

How can you be sure what you're eating? The FDA is stepping up its testing nationwide and adding DNA sequencing equipment to its field labs. It has collected hundreds of fillets from wholesalers for testing to determine the frequency of mislabeling and where to aim enforcement efforts.

When you hear someone say that the private sector can police itself, you might ask them how that would work for problems such as this.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A new look at Thanksgiving side dishes

Tired of green bean casserole? Can't stomach another candied yam dish?

Food & Wine has some unusual but very delectable ideas in a slideshow that can be viewed by clicking here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Turkey tips - what NOT to do

The photo-op turkey
These tips were published last year in Food & Wine, but they're still good advice for the coming holiday. I cook four turkeys every Wednesday before Thanksgiving to feed about 80 people at St. Paul's Memorial Church. Please join us if you can; we ask those who are planning to come to call the office at (434) 295-2156 and let us know what side dish you'd like to bring.

I've taken the liberty to add some of my own hints to Alessandra Bulow's excellent ones.

5 Easy Ways to Ruin the Thanksgiving Turkey

You’ve reserved a beautiful bird, found a big enough pan (that fits in your oven!) and purchased an instant-read thermometer to roast your Thanksgiving turkey to a perfectly moist 160–165°F—but there's still room to go wrong. Here, F&W’s Senior Recipe Developer Grace Parisi reveals the biggest turkey mistakes made by home cooks.

For a better-tasting bird, divide and conquer
1. Overstuff the cavity. By the time the stuffing reaches a safe temperature (165 °F) in an overstuffed bird, the white meat will be totally dried out. Parisi’s rule of thumb: Cook no more than five cups of stuffing in a 15-pound bird and bake the rest in a separate dish. She also stuffs the neck, which won't increase overall cooking time.
My advice: Cook the stuffing, made with the broth from the giblets, in a casserole, and make a good gravy from the drippings to go over it.

2. Crowd the oven. Like a teenager, a roasting turkey likes privacy and space. Baking casseroles and other foods with the bird disrupts oven temperature and alters your turkey’s expected cooking time. Also, if the bird is placed too close to the top of the oven, the breast will dry out and the skin will burn; you should remove some of the higher oven racks to make room.
My advice: If your sides don't involve Parmesan or bread products, cook them ahead of time and warm up in the microwave. If they have a topping that needs to be crispy, cook them to almost done and cool.  Cook the turkey, take it out and cover it loosely, then turn up the heat. Take out the dishes that need oven time and cook 15 minutes or until bubbly.

3. Check the bird obsessively. Opening the oven door cools down the oven so much that you’ll end up increasing the cooking time by a lot.
My advice: Forget about basting. Brine or season well, make sure the skin is dry then well oiled, and don't overcook. Take it out when the instant read thermometer hits 160 degrees - it will gain another 5 degrees as it rests. If you really want the breast moist and the legs done, and don't need the bird for a photo op, separate them and cook the legs long and slow on the stove or in a crock pot, the breast in the oven. This also cuts down on the cooking time.

4. Carve the turkey immediately. Turkey needs to rest for at least 30 minutes to keep the juices from flowing out of the bird and drying out your meat. Resist the urge to carve right away and go freshen up. If guests aren't already waiting for you, they'll certainly be there soon.
My advice: That half hour is also a good time to finish the side dishes you've partially prepared in advance.

5. Brine a kosher turkey. Since a kosher turkey has already been treated with salt, brining it will yield an overly salty turkey.
My advice: Don't brine any turkey that says it has up to 15 percent saline solution added.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Squash with panache

Plop. Plop. Plop-plop-plop-plop-plop-plop-plop. It's raining acorns outside. Last year, the oak trees gave up so few that there were notes on begging for anyone who had a bucket of acorns in their garage to please share for their squirrels. The oaks have more than made up for their previous year's stinginess.

It's also the time of year when acorn squash plop, plop, plop down in the stores as well. They look very cheerful with their pointy tips, deep green and orange coloring and scalloped exterior. I think that's why many people just half them, cook them face down on a cookie sheet, then serve them drizzled with maple syrup. Pretty easy, and a half of squash is a hearty portion for one person, a healthy alternative to a baked potato drizzled with butter and stuffed with sour cream, cheese and bacon bits.

Yet, I never much liked them. I pondered whether it was the texture, which can be a bit more stringy than butternut squash or pumpkin, or was it the maple syrup? Thinking it might be the latter, plus the blandness of the vegetable once the coating was eaten, I decided to try to peel the squash and roast it.

Peeling turned out to be the most time-consuming part, because of its scalloped shell. But once that was done, the rest couldn't be easier.

Lori K's pork tenderloin with roasted acorn squash
Serves 2

1 acorn squash, seeds removed, peeled and diced into 1" chunks
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pork tenderloin
Spice rub
2 quarters of cabbage
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter, optional

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
In a dutch oven or enameled iron casserole, toss the squash with chili powder, garlic salt, cumin and oil until well coated. Cook for 15 minutes.
Coat all sides of the tenderloin with your favorite spice rub (I used Mas Guapo; it's spicy and a little sweet).
Remove the pan from the oven and lay the tenderloin on top. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the squash is very tender and the pork is 160 degrees in the center. Take out of the oven and wait 5 minutes for the juices to reabsorb into the meat.
While the meat is resting, put the cabbage in a microwave safe dish, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for 4 minutes on high, or until tender but still bright green. Add a pat of butter while hot, if desired.
Remove meat to a cutting board and slice thinly. Divide onto 2 plates and pour any juices over the meat. Fill out plate with half the squash, and a cabbage wedge. Serve.

Note: There are usually two tenderloins in a pack; if you get a pack that's about 2 pounds, one will be just about the right amount for two people. You can cook both of them and have meat for sandwiches for the next few days.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nothing fishy about marinated salmon

If you've been lucky enough to have a friend of Scandinavian descent bring gravlax to a party, you know how delicious marinated salmon can be. You may also have thought, "What a lot of work" or "I could never eat that much fish at home." Also, it may be hard to find fresh dill at certain times of the year.

A side of salmon is a pretty party dish, but a bit impractical for a weeknight dinner unless you regularly feed a dozen or so people a sitting.

But marinated salmon can be a blessing when you buy a fillet and find yourself invited out for dinner or an unexpected meeting demands your presence. When you get home, fix the smaller recipe below, and a few days later, slice, add bread and a green salad and you've got a light midweek meal.

First, the original recipe, for a whole side of salmon, filleted, from Trina Hanemann's "The Scandinavian Cookbook" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2008, 224 pages, $30).  My version for a half-pound salmon fillet is below it.

Marinated Salmon 
Serves 20-24

1 orange
1 lemon
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
10 ounces sea salt
1 side of salmon, filleted
For serving:
1 orange
1 lemon
Toasted bread
Green salad

If you have a zester, use it to remove the zest from the orange and the lemon it will look fresh and tasty.  Alternatively, finely grate the zest from the fruit. Mix the zest with the sugar and salt.
Use tweezers to remove any pin bones from the salmon fillet. Spread the zest mixture evenly over the entire surface of the salmon, then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 days.
After 3 days, take the salmon out of the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap and wipe off the marinade with a paper towel. Wrap the salmon in plastic wrap and freeze for 12 hours, then take it out of the freezer and defrost it.
Before it is completely thawed, put the salmon on a board and cut it into thin slices with a very sharp knife. The traditional cutting technique starts diagonally at one corner of the salmon and works toward the center of the fillet.
To serve, remove the zest from the remaining orange and lemon and sprinkle it over the salmon. Serve with toasted bread and a green salad.

Lori K's little marinated salmon
Serves 2

1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 pound salmon fillet
Crusty bread

Zest the lemon; save the fruit. (Wrap it in plastic to keep it from drying out and put it in the refrigerator.)
Combine the sugar and salt in a clean coffee mill and blend until the sugar is superfine. Add to the zest.
Pull out with tweezers any bones left in the fillet. Spread the sugar mixture over the fillet and either put it in a covered glass dish, or wrap in plastic, and put in the refrigerator.
After three days, take it out, wipe off the marinade with a paper towel, rewrap it and put it in the freezer while you're at work. When you come home, take it out of the freezer to defrost. When it is almost defrosted, cut it in thin slices diagonally with a sharp knife and remove them from the skin.
Arrange on plate. Cut the reserved lemon in half, remove the seeds and squeeze over the salmon. Serve with crusty bread and salad.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Bean there, done that

Tuscany Bean Salad - photo by Lori Korleski Richardson
Young, tender rainbow chard, fresh from the garden
Photo by Lori Korleski Richardson
Tuscany is a food lovers dream. And one of its claims to fame is its bean dishes. Tuscany is so tied to beans that its people are known as "mangiafagioli" (bean eaters) in the rest of Italy.

One of Tuscans' favorite beans is the cannellini, sometimes called "white kidney beans" in American stores. That is a horrible misnomer: Except for the shape, cannellini beans have nothing in common with kidney beans. Not the color, not the texture and especially not the taste.

Even after cooking, cannellinis keep their shape, their firmness belying their tender insides. They have a pleasant nutlike flavor, and their mild taste makes them a favorite for minestrones.

They make a great salad, hearty enough to continue into winter when local lettuces are long gone. Keep a few cans around and you can have this salad until your chard freezes. And it's good without chard, after that. To make it a main-dish salad, add a drained can of tuna, or serve on a bed of prepared wheatberries.

Lori K's Tuscan bean salad
© 2012, Lori Korleski Richardson
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side salad

1 can cannellini beans (or white Northern or navy beans), rinsed and drained well
1 small red onion, half, peeled and sliced thinly
4-6 young rainbow chard leaves, sliced and microwaved, covered, until just wilted, about a minute
1 tablespoon capers
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Arugula or wheatberries, optional

In a bowl, combine the beans, onion, chard and capers, and tuna if using. Season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil and toss to coat well. Chill.

To serve, put on a plate of arugula or chilled wheatberries. Serve.

Note: To prepare wheatberries, put 1 cup in 3 cups boiling water and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and chill.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

An apple a day ... straight from the oven

I've always loved baked apples, but haven't made them very often, being concerned about the amount of sugar, nuts and butter that are used to make them taste good. But lately, I've been cooking some for breakfast, and I am pleased to share that they don't really need any butter, much less sugar, and nuts are completely optional.

 You don't really need to peel their skins off, either, which saves prep time and gives you a little more fiber as well. Granted, they are a little tough and need to be handled with care while the apples are hot.

I cut the apples in quarters, pare out the seeds with a small knife, then cut each quarter in half again lengthwise. I put all the slices from three apples in a large gratin dish (mine is enameled cast iron), sprinkle them with granola, a little brown sugar and cinnamon, and add some Craisins.

Usually I do this all the night before, because I'm a bit foggy in the morning before the first cup of coffee kicks in. I turn on the oven to 350 degrees when I turn on the coffee, slip the gratin dish in as the oven is warming and set the timer for 40 minutes (allowing the oven to bring the cold dish up to 350 and then bake for 30 minutes. Your oven may take more or less time to preheat.).

When the apples look like they are about to collapse and the melted sugar and juices are bubbly, they are ready. Serve in a bowl, either alone or with a little milk. Delicious.

When the pan has cooled, add some water and let it stand until the sugar dissolves. It will then be easy to clean.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shiver me vegetables!

The refrigerator is a wonderful appliance. It keeps our milk from spoiling, our meat from turning gray, our leftovers to live another day. But did you realize that not all your purchased produce belongs in there?

It's been years since I've thrown a tomato into cold storage for more than day, because there's no faster way to get one to become mealy and tasteless before its time. But according to food science writer Harold McGee, other vegetables prefer to be at least 10 degrees warmer than they would be in a refrigerator and are better left out on the kitchen counter until they are used. These include:

  • Citrus
  • Cucumbers
  • Squash
  • Beans
  • Melons
  • Eggplants
  • Bananas

A few herbs, too, do better at room temperature. I usually wrap my basil, cilantro and parsley in slightly damp paper towels, put them back in their plastic bags and leave them on the counter. They seem to last slightly longer and don't turn to slime like they do in the produce drawer in the fridge.

If you are serious about cooking, you need McGee's "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen." It's a thick book, but well-written and packed full of good tips and information.

He also has a blog, Curious Cook, which is worth checking out. His latest post is on caramel.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The beginning of the end for Chili's

Chili's used to be a fun place that had consistently good food, Texas style. The nachos were made like a Texan would make them: big sturdy chips individually smeared with refried beans, meat, jalapeños and topped with grated cheddar. The margaritas tasted like they actually contained a good percentage of tequila. The baby-back ribs were tender and well-spiced, never slopped with a ton of sauce. They had some trendy items, sure (Awesome Blossom, anyone?), but you could always be sure of getting a good meal.

Somewhere along the line, and many out-of-state restaurants later, all that changed. The nachos began to look more like ballpark nachos. The offerings increased, but they weren't better. It seemed like they were more and more becoming a TGIF or Applebee's clone.

And now has come the kiss of death. Chili's is starting to offer pizza.

I've been to Italian/Mexican restaurants and I can tell you this: They either do good Italian and bad Mexican (usually) or good Mexican and bad Italian (sometimes). Most often it's a 50-50 split and both cuisines aren't very authentic or good.

I wish Chili's well, but pizza won't be bringing me back into one.

Photo from Nation's Restaurant News

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thank cod

Cod is an underappreciated fish, mostly because it's been inexpensive and plentiful in our lifetime. It has been close to being overfished, however, since it's the main ingredient in McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich and the favorite fish of fish and chips.

For a fast dinner, it can't be beat, and you don't need to go out to get that speed, either.

For instance, including the prep time, last night's dinner didn't even take 30 minutes.

You will need:
Panko bread crumbs (Progresso makes them now, or use a Japanese brand)
Mas Guapo seasoning (, or use Lawry's seasoning salt)
Cod fillets (3/4 pound for two people)
Vegetable oil
Two ears corn
1 can artichoke bottoms (about 6)
Italian seasoning
Parmesan cheese (the kind in the can is OK)
Butter, salt and pepper to taste

The drill:

Heat oven or toaster oven to 450 degrees.

Wash and pat the fish dry. Spread out the breadcrumbs and sprinkle with seasoning. Dredge the fish in the crumbs until it is well covered.

Put the oil in a pan big enough to hold the fillets without touching. Heat to medium hot (about 375 degrees), then put the fish in, largest piece first. In another minute or two, put in the other piece.

Put the artichoke bottoms bowl side up in a broiler proof pan. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, then Parmesan. Put in the oven.

Chop off the ends of the cobs. At least one row of kernels should come off the end. Do not shuck.

After 5 minutes, turn the large piece of fish. Put the corn in the microwave and set to cook for 5 minutes. Turn the other piece of fish.

About a minute before the corn and fish are ready, pull out the artichokes and turn the oven to broil. Put the artichokes back in.

When the timer goes off, take the fish out of the skillet and drain on paper towels. Take the corn out of the microwave, grab by the silks end and shake out the cob (if the corn is fresh, all the silks will be gone, too). Take the artichokes out of the oven and serve.

You will have to use a bigger skillet if you are cooking for 4 or more, but no extra time; add 2 minutes for each extra ear of corn, more if the corn isn't that fresh.

Any questions? Leave a comment below.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

DYI tahini

Say you are in some godforsaken place that doesn't have a can of tahini on the shelf. (Yes, such places exist.) Here's how to make it yourself, from Jane Brody:


1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon oil
2 tablespoons water

Put everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

Note: You can grow your own sesame; you can see it in the garden at Monticello. It does need good drainage, which may be hard to come by in clay soils. You can order seed from Sesaco Corp. (800-527-1024)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tahini addendum - baba ghanoush

Another good use for tahini is in baba ghanoush. An eggplant appeared in our bounty basket from Relay Foods last week, and although I was tempted just to grill the slices, baba ghanoush is more appealing and keeps longer in the refrigerator.

Baba Ghanoush
adapted from "Jane Brody's Good Food Cookbook" (Norton, 1985, 728 pages)

1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds)
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
(if you want a more intensively lemon-flavored dip, add a slice of preserved lemon)
1 large clove garlic
¼ cup onion, chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Take the green top off the eggplant, cut it in half and slice it into 1-inch half rounds. Salt with kosher salt and let stand for 45 minutes to an hour. Wipe off the moisture and the salt. Place eggplant slices on oiled cookie sheet.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 20 minutes, turning halfway.
When cooled, remove the flesh from the eggplant, discarding skin (and seeds, if you want it very smooth. I kind of like the seeds).
Blend ingredients 3-5 in a food processor. Add eggplant. Pulse until well-blended.
Transfer to a small bowl and garnish with parsley. Cover and chill. Serve with pita quarters, or as a dip with vegetables.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We want steak!

I don't get the Food Channel, mostly because it's so mesmerizing that I would never be able to peel myself away from the TV to cook or write. But it has heightened awareness among a vast swath of Americans that there's something more to fine dining than just steak and potatoes.

Or has it?

According to a recent survey conducted by food industry think tank Culinary Visions Panel, more people would play it safe and order a steak.

In the study, Chicago-based Culinary Visions asked more than 200 people to rate the "healthfulness" of four entrees, then rate how likely they would be to order these items in a casual dining restaurant. Although the last three got high healthfulness marks, the first item was the most ordered.

  • Steak with Salsa Verde & Roasted Squash—Grilled 5 oz. grass-fed beef top sirloin served with roasted delicata squash and arugula salsa verde. (42 percent would order)
  • Seafood & Bean Stew—Clams, calamari and chorizo served in a rich thyme-infused broth of cannellini beans and kale” (19 percent would order)
  • Braised Baby Lamb Shank with Olives, Figs and Fennel—Grass-fed baby lamb shanks brained with orange, wine and tomato, finished with kalamata olives and black mission figs, served with braised fennel and a minted faro salad on the side” (20 percent would order)
  • Rabbit Ragu with Polenta & Rapini—Slow-braised rabbit served over soft polenta with a side of rapini and lemon (19 percent would order).

Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions Panel also noted, “Women were more likely to order (the steak option) than the men.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Off to tahini

Every health-conscious food lover probably has made hummus from scratch. A can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, a quarter cup of tahini and some sautéed garlic and onion, a little lemon juice, process until smooth… ta-da! Fresh hummus in an amount that you can finish off quickly, for a fraction of the price of the fancy processed brands.

But what to do with the rest of that can of tahini? It's made of sesame seeds, and as we know, sesame seeds go rancid in record time.

Fear not the tahini. With a little forethought, it can be swirled into many other uses besides hummus and baba ghanoush. Here are some ways to use tahini:

  • Whisk it with lemon juice until slightly thinned for an excellent sauce for fish.
  • Thin it with some more lemon juice and water, add a little salt for a low-fat salad dressing.
  • Cook it with sugar to make halva, a Middle Eastern treat.
  • Process with garlic, basil and Parmesan for a pesto; thin with a little pasta water before tossing it with your noodles.
  • Add a little to any recipe that could use a nutty note.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A great way to separate eggs - no yolk

You may not be able to understand a word of this video, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A link to fall pleasures

I usually stock up on smoked sausage and kolbassa in the summer, when they're less expensive than in the fall. I throw them in the freezer and wait for cooler weather. Since they are already cooked, they are great to have on hand for a fast dinner.

Luckily this year, I didn't follow the sales so there wasn't much left in the freezer when a power outage happened while we were on vacation. I threw out all the raw meat and anything that could have spoiled by being at room temperature for four hours. There was one last smoked turkey sausage that I figured was safe but needed to be  eaten this week. So although this dinner would probably be more suitable for the fall, it tasted pretty darn good this evening.

Lori K's sausage bake for two

1 cup of baby carrots
1/2 large onion, or 1 small onion, sliced thinly
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 13-ounce smoked turkey sausage rope

Heat oven to 450 degrees, with one rack about mid-oven, and one near the broiler. Oil a cast-iron shallow pan or skillet. Spread the carrots across the bottom of the pan and top with the onions. Salt and pepper to taste (keep in mind that the sausage will likely be salty). Cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the apples and slice the sausage into 1/2-inch disks. When the timer goes off, top the carrots and onions with the apple slices, and put back in the oven for 5 minutes.
When the 5 minutes are up, remove the pan from the oven and turn it off. Immediately turn on the broiler. Arrange the sausage disks on top of the apples, then put the pan back in the oven on the high rack. Broil until the sausage is toasty, a little charred on the edges. Serve hot.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ear ye, ear ye - corn shucking made easy

Planning to have a barbecue to celebrate the beginning of summer? If one of the sides is corn on the cob, and you don't mind cooking it in the microwave, this video will save you a ton of time.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Saucy poached eggs

Poached eggs can be a lot of work, and that's probably why most of us don't make them more often. I once had a volunteer crew poach 200 of them for a breakfast we used to do at our Sacramento church, but that's a story for another time.

Someone (not me) came up with a great idea: Poach the eggs IN their sauce. It's a very good way to prepare one of my favorite dishes, huevos rancheros, which I made last week to my husband's delight.

Saucy Poached Eggs
Serves 2

1 can Herdez ranchero sauce
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
4 corn tortillas
4 ounces shredded cheese

Turn on oven to 350 degrees.
Put the ranchero sauce and a can of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a full boil. Turn down to medium and add the eggs so that they are as far apart as possible. Salt and pepper to taste.
Put the 4 tortillas on a cookie sheet and put 1 ounce of cheese on each. Spread the cheese out so that it covers most of the tortilla. Put in the oven until the cheese melts.
When the whites have mostly set, and the cheese on the tortillas has melted, cover the saucepan to get the top part of the whites done, but not so long that the yolk hardens.
Remove tortillas from oven and put 2 tortillas each on 2 plates.  Uncover, and using a large spoon, loosen the eggs from the saucepan and put one on each tortilla. Spoon any extra sauce over. Serve with knife and fork.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Give me love, give me peas

Things were looking good at the City Market in downtown Charlottesville today. By 9 a.m. the line for tacos was out to the street, and they don't sell breakfast tacos, unless you think chorizo is breakfast sausage. The steak and the al pastor tacos are the best I've had in Charlottesville.

I bought some great looking dinosaur kale and rainbow chard, a variety of lettuces and some rhubarb-sweet cherry jam. But what looked the best of all were the fresh peas. I put on a Daily Show episode I had missed, and before it was over, my pint of peas had yielded enough for this recipe.

Lori K's Spring Pea Risotto


3 1/2 cups regular or low-sodium vegetable broth

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 large shallot, finely diced

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup fresh shelled English peas

1 tablespoon butter (salted OK)

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring broth to a simmer.

For the risotto, heat butter and olive oil in a wide, shallow, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring, 3 minutes or until tender and translucent. Add the rice and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly translucent. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated.

Cook the risotto at a slow simmer, adding heated broth a half-cup at a time. Stir occasionally, making sure the risotto absorbs the liquid before adding more. Use more or less broth as needed.

Continue cooking in this manner for 18 to 20 minutes. Taste the risotto - it should be creamy and thick. It's best al dente, which means it should be fully cooked, yet still retain some firmness when you chew it.

When you have about 1 cup of broth left, stir in the raw peas. 

When the risotto is finished, turn off heat, stir in 1 tablespoon of butter, the Parmesan and season to taste with  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cioppino benissimo

After a recent trip to San Francisco, we discovered how sleep-inducing the sound of waves and foghorns off in the distance could be. When we got back to Charlottesville, we found a bedside clock that mimicked the sound of the seashore, and have used it to lull us to sleep.

One drawback is it makes us long for the dishes we associate with the Bay Area: Dungeness crabs, sourdough bread and cioppino. While I don't think we'll find those fresh big crabs or the exact sourdough in Virginia, I still managed to make a fine cioppino, thanks to Seafood on West Main. Paired with a baguette from Albemarle Baking Company, it made us a little less lonely for Baghdad by the Bay.

Cioppino Benissimo
By Lori Korleski Richardson
Serves 4-6

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 small (or 1/2 large) fennel bulb
4 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (with basil, optional)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
1 pound skinless fillets of a white fish (halibut, talapia, haddock or cod), cut into 1" pieces
1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1/2 pound cleaned squid, thawed if frozen, bodies cut into 1/2" rings, tentacles left whole
Crusty baguette, or sourdough bread


Toast fennel seeds over medium heat until fragrant. Cool and grind to fine powder in spice grinder. Set aside.

Finely chop garlic, onion and fennel (food processor is fine for this) and combine. Put oil in a large heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add bay leaf, oregano, the ground fennel seeds and red pepper flakes. Stir in tomatoes and cook for about a minute. Add wine and boil until reduced by about half, 5 to 6 minutes. Add clam juice and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (You can do this step up to a day before serving and reheat.)

About 7 minutes before serving, add the fish chunks and mussels and cook until the mussels begin to open, about 2 minutes. Add the squid rings and tentacles and cook 5 minutes.
Serve hot in large soup bowls with bread. Set out small bowls for the mussel shells.

If you double the recipe, double the fish, and add 1 1/2 pounds of other seafood as you like: clams, shrimp and/or crab. If you like spicy food, increase the red pepper flakes to 1 teaspoon.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stalking a tasty chutney

My farmers' bounty basket last week included 5 stalks of rhubarb. Not quite enough for a pie, but what to do with them? I saw a recipe for rhubarb chutney on a Tasting Table email, but I really didn't want to drive 8 miles to get some of the spices from the Indian specialty store. So I improvised. Here's the recipe I came up with.

Rhubarb Chutney
Makes 2 8-ounce jars

½ cup water
Juice of 2 limes
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 dried arbol chili peppers
2 tablespoons garam masala
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
5 medium stalks rhubarb, ends trimmed and stalk chopped into ½- to 1-inch pieces
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the water, lime juice and sugar to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the spices and cook, stirring often, until the spices become fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the ginger and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute, then stir in the rhubarb and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring often, until the rhubarb collapses into a sauce, 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until a wooden spoon leaves a trail in the bottom of the pot that doesn’t immediately fill in, 25 to 35 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool to room temperature, then transfer to glass jars.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I try not to repost stuff here, keeping it real and original at Lori K's Cafe, but I had to share THIS with you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Staunton's loss, Blue Light's gain

Saw this in an email from Ian Boden today:
I know I've been pretty secretive as to what was next for me after closing The Staunton Grocery.  It is very important that I continue the work that I started here in Central Virginia, and in doing so, I wanted to make sure that the place I landed was going to live up to the expectations that I'd set over the past five years.  Well, I pretty sure you won't be disappointed, with what I've been up to.  The beginning of last month I took over as Executive Chef at Blue Light Grill on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, bringing all the great farmers, wonderful products and creativity with me.  I truly look forward to cooking for all of you again, and building on what you helped me accomplish in the years past.

This is GREAT news. Blue Light Grill has a super location, but the menu has always been somewhat less than enticing - and that's coming from someone who adores seafood. Can't wait to go now!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mediterranean chicken

This recipe, which I've used successfully for years, is tasty enough to serve over white rice for company, and can be made more authentic by using thighs instead of breasts and serving over couscous. Earlier this week, I used chicken tenders, which cut the cooking time by more than half. I also used a spice I picked up in Old City Jerusalem, za'atar, instead of cumin, and it was even more delicious, if that's possible. If you don't have apricot halves, use prunes (also known as dried plums). And if you have an olive tapenade open, substitute 4 tablespoons of that for the dozen olives.

The photo of the za'atar pyramid was taken by Jim Richardson last summer in Israel.

Mediterranean Chicken Breasts
Serves 6

6 boneless chicken breast halves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup dried apricots, plumped for 30 minutes and drained
1 1/2 cup dry white wine or unsalted chicken broth
12 brine cured, pitted green olives

Season chicken with salt, pepper and cumin. Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until browned, turning chicken over every 2 minutes. Remove chicken and place on plate. Cover with foil to keep warm. Add garlic to skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Add apricots, wine, broth and olives to skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and simmer until sauce is thickened, about four minutes. Add chicken back to skillet and cook until sauce is thickened and chicken is cooked through, 20-30 minutes. Divide chicken breasts onto plates and spoon sauce over chicken.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

10 cheap French wines sans slideshow

Don't get me wrong: I love a good slideshow as much as the next person. But the emphasis, for me, is on the GOOD.

I can be captivated, amused and tantalized by food porn, those too-good-to-true photos that sell a dish or recipe or cookbooks. But a slideshow of bottles of wine and a lackluster dish or two the size of a postage stamp, just to get in some ads and more than a few plugs to enter sweepstakes? Food & Wine, you should treat your readers to better quality than that.

 For those of you who don't want to waste precious moments, here's Food & Wine's list, as a list without the slideshow, with links to the recipes:

2010 Mas Carlot Clairette de Bellegarde ($13)
Thanks to very old vines, the humble Clairette grape yields this pleasant white with silky stone-fruit flavors.

2009 Georges Duboeuf "Flower Label" Morgon ($13)
Juicy, fruit-forward and affordable, this cru Beaujolais from the superb 2009 vintage is a true bargain.

2010 Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence ($12)
Crisp and refreshing, with mouthwatering peach and strawberry tones.

2008 Château de Jau Côtes du Roussillon Villages ($14)
A sleek blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignane and Grenache.

2010 Château Guiot Costières de Nîmes ($11)
This zesty rosé, redolent of raspberries and flowers, is a steal.

2010 Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois Vin de France ($14)
A light, easy-drinking, berry-driven red that’s great with food.
Pairing: Eggplant Börek

2010 Le Jaja de Jau Sauvignon Blanc ($10)
Tart and refreshing, with lime and grapefruit flavors.

2009 Delas Saint-Esprit Côtes-du-Rhône ($12)
The rugged southern Rhône region of the Ardèche—famous for its spectacular river gorge—yielded this red loaded with notes of luscious raspberry.

2009 François Chidaine Sauvignon Touraine ($13)
Biodynamically farmed vines yielded this tangy, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc with a smooth texture and notes of herb.

2010 Little James’ Basket Press Vin de Pays d’Oc ($13)
This unusual, crisply delicious blend of lush, tropical Viognier and zesty Sauvignon Blanc comes at a compellingly low price.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mexican - hold the cheese

When most people think of Mexican food, lard and a heavy layer of cheese often come to mind. While that may be true of Tex-Mex, and even to a certain extent popular Cali-Mex dishes, a lot of dishes from the interior of Mexico make use of neither ingredient.

Papadzules is one such dish. It comes from the Yucatan, and it doesn't use meat, either, but eggs. I published a recipe for this enchilada-like dish a couple of years ago, but here's a version that's easier to make and takes less than 30 minutes. We had them last night and they were oh-so-good.

The pumpkin-seed sauce tastes best if you toast the pumpkin seeds before processing them, but using the raw seeds is fine, too.

Lori K's easy papadzules
Serves 2

8 paper towels
8 corn tortillas
1 can of Rotel tomatoes with cilantro and lime
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup boiling water
Salt to taste
4 eggs, hardboiled and quartered lengthwise (see note below)

Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in an iron skillet that's not much larger than your tortillas until it is medium hot. When you toss a crumb in and it sizzles, it's ready. Put a paper towel on a heat-proof plate, pick up a corn tortilla with tongs, submerge it in the oil about 10 seconds each side, drain over the oil briefly, then put on the paper towel. Fold it over the hot tortilla and put another paper towel over it. Repeat for all 8 tortillas, then flip the stack over.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Open and drain the tomatoes.
Put the toasted pumpkin seeds in a food processor and turn it on. Add the water slowly and purée until smooth. Salt to taste.
On each tortilla, put two quarters of egg, end to end, and put some of the tomato in the middle. Roll up tightly and put in an 8x8 baking pan. It will be easier to serve if you put 7 across and 1 to the side. Top with the pumpkin seed sauce.
Bake for 15 minutes and serve.

Hardboiled eggs note: To get hardboiled eggs that won't get gray around the yolks when chilled, put four in a small enameled iron saucepan. Cover with cold water, add a little vinegar and salt, and bring to a FULL rolling boil. Turn off the heat and cover with a lid. After 25 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water. Peel just before using.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Egg-ceptional omelets

Omelets are a tricky business. First, since they were French, they were deemed too difficult and fancy for an ordinary breakfast. Then, typical American ingenuity came up with the omelet pan, which meant your scrambled eggs could come out shaped like an omelette. But they sure didn't taste like one.

I rarely order them in restaurants. Few busy breakfast places take the time to swirl the beaten egg around the pan until it is evenly distributed, season, wait until it's set and then add the filling and cheese. Usually they come with interior runny. Undercooked egg whites give me the creeps.

For just my husband and me, I use a 12" crepe pan. I beat 2 eggs, nothing added. When the pan is heated on medium low, I spray it with olive oil (or sometimes I melt a pat of butter). I add the beaten eggs in the center, then swirl them around until they are distributed evenly. I then season with a few grinds of black pepper, some gray sea salt, maybe some other seasonings, depending on the filling. I then put cheese all over and fillings down the middle. When cheese melts and the edges are dry and curling up slightly, I loosen the omelet all around the edges, then flip one side over the middle, then the other side. I then cut it in half with the spatula, and serve.

For fillings, I often:
  • broil a half-pint of grape tomatoes
  • saute mushrooms and shallots
  • dice ham
  • use bacon crumbles
  • chop sun-dried tomatoes
  • use tapenade
  • use leftover caviar
  • use leftover asparagus

If the fillings need to be cooked, I usually do it before or right as the omelet is cooking. You don't want to be waiting on the filling. I like my eggs well-done, but overdone is a definite no-no.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The bread of life

This is a blog about food, so one of my other interests, religion, doesn't often get explored here. But I wrote this meditation on one of the lectionary readings for today, John 6:27-40, and since it has to deal with food - bread, to be precise - I am posting it here.

Reflection for the fourth Sunday of Lent

It is said that John is the most mystical of the Gospel writers, yet he has Jesus telling his disciples: “I am the bread of life.” What can be mystical about bread?

Bread has sustained humankind since before the written record of history. It can be made a number of different ways, with many kinds of grain, but it depends on a living organism, yeast, to make it what it is. The yeast takes the dense flour, feeds on its sugars, multiplies, raises the mass into a bubbling sponge, full of air pockets that will make the inside of the loaf soft and cloudlike while the outside, the crust, contains it and absorbs the direct heat, turning brown and stiff in the process.

The process is somewhat of a miracle.

Bread has about 60 percent of the amino acids we need to sustain life. (Add cheese and mushrooms and you get as much protein as a chicken breast. Or look for Ezekiel bread; it has all eight essential amino acids in it.)

Yet as good as bread is, it can still go bad. Molds love to grow on bread, an excellent food source for them. Some molds are beneficial, such as penicillin; ergot, another bread mold, causes hallucinations. Some are just toxic.

But Jesus told them of a bread that held no such perils: “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” No wonder the disciples said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

A hymn I often find myself humming is based on this passage:

I am the bread of life 
He who comes to me shall not hunger 
He who believes in me shall not thirst 
No one can come to me 
Unless the Father beckons 
And I will raise you up 
And I will raise you up 
And I will raise you up 
On the last day.

– Lori Korleski Richardson

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Food for the soul - and environment

Food and spirituality meet in a myriad of ways. Here in a dialogue with the Episcopal Bishop of Olympia, Greg Rickel, Anise Hotchkiss explores a Christian perspective, discussing the parallels of our relationship with the source of our food, and our relationship with the Source of everything.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I believe in cod

A chef at a fine restaurant once said, "My customers are always asking for a firm, white fish without an assertive taste. I give them exactly that, and they never order it!" The fish he was talking about is cod.

Blame it on the Filet O'Fish sandwich, or soggy fish'n'chips, but cod gets no respect. Yet it is a nutrition powerhouse: Cod has almost the same amount of protein as sockeye salmon with half the calories.

And because it's a mild fish, you can spice it up just the way you like.

Here is a dinner I fixed last night. The prep took a little more than 15 minutes, since I grated the potatoes by hand, but the cooking took a little less than that.

Prosciutto-wrapped Cod with Artichokes and Hash Browns
Serves 2

2 white or red potatoes (not russets)
Salt and pepper
12 ounces cod
6 slices prosciutto or other strips of semi-dry ham
Olive oil
4 small spring onions, sliced
Handful of parsley leaves, snipped
1 cup of marinated artichoke hearts, rinsed of oil and chilled

Grate the potatoes into a bowl of water. Drain, put on a clean dishtowel, and squeeze all the water out of them. They must be very dry. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry the cod, and cut it into 6 strips, 4-6 inches in length. Season with salt and pepper and wrap each strip with a slice of prosciutto.

Lightly oil a sturdy pan that will hold the cod. Put about a tablespoon of oil in a large cast-iron frying pan and heat to medium.

When the oil starts to smoke, put the grated potatoes into the frying pan and spread them out thinly. Sprinkle with the onions and parsley. Fry undisturbed for about 10 minutes so they form a golden crust. Flip and cook 5 minutes more.

After you put the potatoes in the frying pan, put the pan of cod into the oven. Bake for 14-15 minutes until the fish turns opaquely white.

Serve with the chilled artichoke hearts.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Broccoli even a Bush could love

The Democrat in me hates to admit this, but I was solidly in former President George Herbert Walker Bush's camp on broccoli: “I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.”

Most broccoli makes me involuntarily gag. I just can't tolerate it. I've tried it cooked to almost mush, but I tend to like it better when it's still bright green. I've tried soaking it in hot sauce, garlic or lemon. Sometimes that helps, sometimes not. Saucing it with cheese usually works pretty good, and I came up with a mash (click HERE for recipe) that goes down good, but cheese has lots of calories and cholesterol, so I don't eat it too often.

But on this week, I saw what may be the perfect broccoli recipe. I made it tonight, and it was wonderful. We didn't even need the lemon wedges. It may even get Jim to try Brussels sprouts, using the same technique.

Roasted Broccoli Bagna Cauda
By Lisa Lavery on

Total time: 30-40 minutes
Makes: 2 to 3 servings

1 1/2 pounds broccoli
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 anchovy fillets, minced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 475°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place a baking sheet in the oven while it is heating.

Trim about 1 inch off the stem ends of the broccoli. Using a vegetable peeler, peel away the woody outer layer of the stalks. Halve the broccoli lengthwise through the stem and florets. Turn the pieces so that they are cut-side down, then cut them lengthwise through the stem and florets into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-wide pieces. Cut those pieces crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Place the broccoli in a large bowl and set it aside.

Place the oil in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until just warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add the anchovies and garlic, stir to combine, and cook until the garlic is softened but not browned and the anchovies are fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the red pepper flakes; transfer the oil-anchovy mixture to a small heatproof bowl. Once the solids have settled to the bottom, tilt the bowl (being car not to disturb the solids), remove 2 tablespoons of the oil, and drizzle it over the broccoli. Set aside the remaining oil-anchovy mixture. Sprinkle the broccoli with the salt and pepper and toss until evenly coated.

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and spread the broccoli in an even layer on it. Roast until the edges start to brown, about 10 minutes. Using a flat metal spatula, flip the broccoli, scraping it up from the pan, and spread it back into an even layer. Continue roasting until it is just tender when pierced with a knife, about 5 minutes more.

Transfer the broccoli to the large bowl, add the remaining oil-anchovy mixture (including the solids), and toss to combine. Serve with lemon wedges, if using.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Signs of the times

A friend posted this U.S. Food Administration poster from World War I on Facebook. Another of its great posters is below. The posters were geared to sacrifice for the war effort, but the advice is still good for those of us who care about what happens to the Earth and want to be good stewards of it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shad roe - a harbinger of spring in the East

While living in California, I came across several shad fishermen, and even saw the fish for sale occasionally at Taylor's Market in Sacramento. But it wasn't until I came to Virginia that I discovered the pleasures of its roe. Shad roe is only available locally for a few weeks in the early spring. So the season begins very early in Florida, moves up to Georgia, then up the coast to Virginia and Maryland, where it is known as Maryland caviar. 

John McPhee, one of my favorite authors for his journalistic style, wrote "The Founding Fish," an entire book that waxes eloquently about shad, and has provided New Yorker magazine readers with many recipes over the years for both the fish and the roe. By the way, the fish is also at its best during spawning season, when it gets fatter and more succulent. 

On the West Coast, shad don't start up the Sacramento River until late spring. They continue on up river, and group for several weeks near Corning in June and early July.

In the fish market, shad roe definitely stands out among the pale fillets - it's bright red and looks vaguely obscene. It comprises two long egg sacs called lobes, joined together by a thin membrane. Each is a meal for one. Since it is better to eat fresh, it's best to share with someone you love... who also loves shad roe, or is willing to try it.

When cooked, it turns the color of liver, with a grainy interior. But it doesn't taste like liver or caviar. It is much milder and takes on the flavors of the ingredients it is cooked with.

Here's a recipe, adapted from DC's Blue Duck Tavern chef Brian McBride, that I cooked last week. I served it with a salad of local lettuces and arugula, dressed with a little olive oil, spices, salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

Pan-Fried Shad Roe
Serves 2

4 slices of meaty sliced hog jowl bacon (or any lean, hickory-smoked bacon), 2 slices diced, 2 whole
1 large shallot, or 2 smaller shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 medium-sized set of shad roe (two lobes)
Kosher salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup vegetable demi-glace, made with 1 teaspoon of Better Than Bullion vegetable stock and 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a cast-iron pan over medium heat, sauté diced bacon until the fat renders. Add shallot and garlic. When the onions are caramelized, remove the mixture from the pan and set aside. Wipe the pan and return it to medium heat.

Raw shad roe
Cut along the center membrane to separate the roe lobes. Pat the sacs dry and season them with coarse salt and black pepper. Melt butter in the pan, add the 2 whole pieces of bacon, and gently place the lobes in the pan. Let the roe brown on one side for 3 minutes, basting occasionally with the butter, then flip it, taking care not to tear its membrane. Place the pan in the oven for about 5 minutes. The roe is done when it is lightly caramelized and feels firm, like a medium-rare steak. Set the roe aside.

Drain the fat from the pan and return it to medium heat. Deglaze the pan with the vegetable demi-glace. Return the onion mixture to the pan, with the mustard and balsamic glaze. When it starts to boil, take it off the heat.

Slice the roe on the bias and serve one lobe per person over a mound of the onions with a curled bacon strip and a drizzle of sauce. Serve with a lemony salad and sliced baguette to absorb the sauce. You won't want to waste any of it.