Passover Brisket

As Passover approaches, I’m reposting one of my very first blog pieces from two years ago, because there must always be brisket!

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Passover tableBrisket is to Passover what turkey is to Thanksgiving – traditional, expected, long-cooking, and  – just as with those oversized stuffed birds – everyone has their own   one-and-only, tried-and-true, never-mess-with-it, shut-up-or-I’ll kill-you version.  I created my own best brisket many years ago, taking the best of what I liked from several recipes from my cookbook library and eschewing the overly-fussy ones on the web.  I’ve passed it on to friends and family who also swear by it.  But no matter what your brisket preference is – and I do hope you enjoy this one – remember always to:

  1. Make it the day before serving
  2. Reduce the sauce
  3. Slice it against the grain, on the bias, once it’s cooled
  4. Store it sliced and covered with your sauce until ready to reheat for serving
  5. Ponder the question of why we celebrate a holiday where the Hebrews fled without time to leaven their bread…

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Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

Making this stew now – it’s a labor of love, but worth all the effort.

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This recipe first appeared in Bon Appetit in February 1981. I have made it almost every year since, tweaking it along the way. A hearty winter dish, similar to a beouf bourgiunon and extremely company-worthy.  A bit more labor-intensive than my previous beef stew post, and definitely for mushroom-lovers.  Break out your Dutch oven and cast iron skillet for this dish – it’s well worth the effort.

INGREDIENTS:

6 ounces salt pork, blanched 5 minutes – remove & reserve rind, then cut salt pork cut into 1/4” dice
(or simply use same amount thick cut bacon diced – a time-saver)
2 large sweet onions chopped
5 large shallots chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped (not crushed)
4 lb. lean beef chuck, cut into 1-1/2” cubes
about 3/4 all purpose flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
unsalted butter for browning the beef
1/2 cup Cognac
2-1/2 cups beef stock
2 cups bold red wine divided (Cabernet…

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Thoughts on Lemons, Herbs and Spices

No new recipes to share this morning (except a couple that are linked), but as I was preparing the marinade for Roast Butterflied Middle Eastern Chicken (Posted December 6 last year – https://ronilovescooking.com/2016/12/05/roast-butterflied-middle-eastern-chicken), the inspiration for this post came as I was zesting and squeezing the juice from a lemon and reaching for my array of spices.

Lemons.  Anyone who discards a juiced lemon without first having used the zest is missing the essence of lemon flavor.  There are recipes both savory and sweet that just sing with lemon flavor, with only the zest – no juice – to bring that out.  Also, I’ve never found a lemon reamer that did a better job than my own fingers.  So easy to extract maximum juice just doing this:  after cutting the lemon in half, cradle each half skin side up between your palms, thumbs on top, and reach inside with the four fingers on both hands to wiggle and press that juice out.  Then you can invert that half to work the rest of it out, including some pulp – and nothing wasted.  The seeds can be easily removed with the tines of a small fork from whatever vessel you’re using.  Same goes for limes and oranges when you need just a small amount of OJ in a recipe.

Spice Rack

Herbs and Spices.  Whatever you use the most, buy it in bulk.  Those little jars at the supermarket may be fine for the items you use sparingly or only occasionally (think ground cloves, red chili flakes, saffron, to name a few), but there are so many excellent sources for buying in bulk.  Penzey’s or MySpiceSage, for example.  I use a whole lot of mint, oregano, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, za’atar, sesame, dry mustard, turmeric, curry powder, black peppercorns, and buy these and others online in 1 lb. foil bags from my former client, Frontier Natural Products in Iowa.  I have so many of these foil bags on the top shelf of the food pantry that the DEA might have me under surveillance.  This is both economical, and ensures freshness, because every time I re-open one of these foil bags to fill a jar on the 48-jar spice carousel, the aroma is just as fresh as the day it was first opened.

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There are a few herbs one should never dream of using in dried form: parsley, cilantro, basil, rosemary.  And please, when you buy parsley or cilantro, be sure to dry it off thoroughly before storing or you’ll have a mush-pile within a couple of days.  Do they really have to shower whose beautiful bunches with all that water?  And never refrigerate your basil, either.  It will turn black.  Treat it as you would a bunch of flowers, cutting off a bit of the stems and store on your kitchen counter in a glass of water.

I also love to use fresh oregano, mint, sage (the velvety touch of sage leaves makes me crazy in a good way), and thyme (whose leaves drive me crazy in a bad way), but don’t mind the dried versions at all in a marinade, dressing, rub, or soup.  Lucky if you can grow your own, but an indoor herb garden is tabu for me with four cats who’d find a way to attack it, and outdoors is more work than I’m willing to commit to.  As long as fresh herbs are available at a reasonable price (often at the Asian market) I’m good with that.

Spices are another matter entirely.  No one grows their own.  It pays to keep a multitude on hand for a broad palette of ethnic cuisines.  And if your collection is eclectic enough, you can usually make your own spice mixes, such as ras el hanout, garam masala, or even curry powder, as well as rubs for your meats and seafood.  I’ve never purchased any spice rub other than the Smoky Paprika Chipotle by Victoria (https://www.vgourmet.com/smoky-paprika-chipotle) that I found on sale at Homegoods.  This is essential in one of my favorite yogurt marinades for chicken that comes from the Epicurious site – http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/yogurt-marinated-chicken-kebabs-with-aleppo-pepper-353832.  I use it for ingredient #1 in the recipe – a mixture of Aleppo pepper and paprika.

Would love to hear your tips and thoughts on anything I’ve addressed here – thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Simple Supper of Linguini with Mushrooms

Pasta – it’s become the centerpiece of so many meals here at Chez Jordan since we stopped frequenting our former favorite trattoria a couple of years ago.  We almost always ordered the same dishes there – fettuccine bolognese for me, and veal Milanese for my husband.  We stopped when I decided to master my own bolognese (see blog post from 3/4/15), and also discovered that a home-cooked dinner of pork chops milanese (also posted on 3/4/15) were even better than the veal.

Since then, we’ll have a pasta dish at least weekly – pasta carbonara, scampi over linguini, orrechiette with rappi, and so many more.  If it tastes good by itself, it should taste great over pasta, right?

Last night’s inspiration came from an 8-ounce box of Trader Joe’s crimini mushrooms that were just on the verge, and I couldn’t let them spoil before making the beef stew on my menu for this weekend.  Turning to my new favorite food site – Cooking with the NY Times – I found Florence Fabricant’s simple recipe for Linguine with Mushrooms.

A good start, but I can never resist tinkering. That often involves adding shallots, which can elevate the flavor profile of just about anything other than ice cream.  She also makes hers with olive oil, but I’ve been saving our bacon fat and using it the way my forebears used schmaltz.  They lived long, mostly healthy lives, so I’ve learned not to fear my food.  Also, borrowing from the bacon component of carbonara, this just seemed logical.

A confession about this photo.  It’s a stock photo that looks exactly like what I served; my iPhone was charging and I didn’t want our dinners to lose any heat before jumping into this:

LINGUINI WITH MUSHROOMS

(adapted from Florence Fabricant’s recipe – 2 hearty dinner servings)

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INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces good Italian linguini (such as DeCecco), cooked al dente and drained

4-5 Tbsp reserved bacon fat (or olive oil, if you prefer, but bacon fat makes it richer)

8 ounces crimini mushrooms sliced thinly

1 very plump glove garlic and 1 small shallot minced together

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano

S&P to taste

PREPARATION:

While your pasta is cooking, heat the bacon fat in a 12″ cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.      Sauté the mushrooms, stirring frequently until they’re nicely browned, about 6 minutes.  Season with S&P, add the garlic, shallot and parsley, and remove from heat.  Add the drained linguini to the skillet, tossing to combine everything, then toss again with the grated cheese.  Plate and top with another sprinkle of cheese.

 

 

 

Broiled Hoisin-Glazed Salmon Revisited

I first posted this recipe two years ago when I started writing this blog.  Making it now for the umpteenth time since then, I remembered that the accompanying photo was a repost from a website that sorta looked like what I’d made.

While prepping this for tonight’s dinner, I was reminded of that, and of a few other thoughts about salmon filet in general.  Firstly, I prefer farm-raised salmon to wild-caught – even the expensive king salmon at Whole Foods that sells for $20+ per pound when not on sale.  I find it too dry and, when cooked, too much like the canned Rubenstein’s sockeye salmon my mother use to buy.  That was fine for her salmon croquettes (which I also now make starting with fresh salmon, see blog post from 3/26/15), but as a salmon filet entrée it was wildly disappointing.

Regardless of whether you’re on the same page with me on farm-raised vs. wild-caught salmon, you must insist that your fish seller cut a center-cut piece from the thickest part of whatever filet is in the case.  Do not settle for anything at the narrow end, and resist, if possible, a piece with that skinny flap on the side.  A perfectly cut 1-lb. piece should look like this – no flaps, no skinny parts, a perfect rectangle:

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Now, to revisit the recipe.  If time permits, you can prepare your hoisin-based sauce and garnish in advance and leave it in the fridge until time for broiling.  It’s not necessary, it’s just convenient if you want to then put dinner together quickly later on.

Broiled Hoisin-Glazed Salmon

INGREDIENTS:

2 8-ounce pieces salmon filet

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 T orange juice & a bit of grated rind

2-1/2 t sesame oil divided

1 clove minced garlic

1-1/2 T minced ginger root divided

1/4 tsp Thai chili sauce or Sriracha

3 T thinly slice scallions, divided

1-1/2 t rice wine vinegar

2 t black or white sesame seeds, or a combination

PREPARATION:

Place a cast iron skillet on top rack of oven and preheat broiler. Combine 1/2 T of the ginger,  1 T of the scallions and the sesame seeds in a small bowl for garnish. In a shallow plate, brush the salmon filets all over with about 1/2 t of the sesame oil, then combine all other ingredients for your glaze and pour over the fish.

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Place the salmon on the hot skillet under the broiler, broil about 8-9 minutes, depending on thickness, brushing 2-3 times with the remaining sauce in the plate. Garnish with ginger/scallion/sesame seed blend and serve – goes nicely with jasmine rice and a simple green vegetable.   But if time permits, a salad with Asian dressing or stir-fried veggies make it truly an exceptional meal.

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Milk Street’s Tahini Swirl Brownies

This superb brownie is from the March/April issue of Milk Street Magazine, which I chose to subscribe to not only for its wisdom on the science behind each recipe, but also for its blessed lack of advertising.  Along with the NYT Cooking Site and Leite’s Culinaria, these are the primary published sources I rely on to enlarge my kitchen repertoire, and I highly recommend all three.

I have a love affair with almost anything containing sesame – sesame semolina bread and bagels, sesame shrimp, sesame candy, halvah; and that extends to tahini, a versatile pantry item for both savory and sweet outcomes.

After my happy experience with the NYT’s Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies last year, I stocked up on Reese’s Tahini in one-pound jars, and have been happily incorporating that into Middle Eastern sauces and baked goods whenever the mood strikes.

When this current issue of Milk Street arrived I wasted no time pulling out my staples to make these halvah-like brownies, which turned out beautifully marbled, moist, chewy, and   with just the right balance of chocolate-to-sesame flavor.

For chocolate, I almost always turn to Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar of 72% dark chocolate – perfect for any recipe calling for chocolate, and a satisfying little treat when you break off just one square to enjoy with coffee.

These come together easily in just 40 minutes.  The hardest part is waiting for them to cool, because all brownies should be cooled completely before cutting.  I used an 8″ square Emile Henry baking dish lined with foil, as directed, and held the family back from enjoyment for at least three hours before we all partook.  They were gone quickly.

MILK STREET’S TAHINI SWIRL BROWNIES

(reposted from their March/April issue)

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