Thursday, April 29, 2010

cobb salad

Sometimes, the stars align...and magic happens. The other night, I happened to have 80% of the ingredients for cobb salad...with a quick stop to Eastern Market for chicken and avocado, I was all set to make magic happen. (And--oh yes, there's bacon in this salad, it's under the chicken.) Now, anyone can make a cobb salad. The instructions here are how to make the best cobb salad (with very crisp bacon, perfectly cooked egg, and tender chicken). With just a few simple tricks this salad is transformed from a bar menu snore to a weeknight victory.

Cobb salad
Serves: 2
Prep time/cook time: 40 minutes

You'll need:
  • 2 heads of baby romaine lettuce
  • 2-3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 very ripe avocado
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 C. dressing of your choice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

First, preheat your oven to 375. Lay your chicken breasts on a foil lined baking sheet, brush your chicken breasts with olive oil, and season both sides of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered for 40-45 minutes, depending on how big your

Next, wash and dry your romaine leaves. Chop the romaine (I like mine in 1/4" ribbons). Portion the romaine out into two big salad bowls or plates, and place those plates with the lettuce in the refrigerator until you're ready to assemble your salad.

For perfect hard-boiled eggs -- place two cold eggs in a small pot, fill with cold water, cover, and bring pot to a boil. As soon as the water boils, remove the pot from the heat, and set a timer for 9 minutes. After the 9 minutes are up, rinse the eggs in cold water, peel, and slice.

Bacon can be tricky and messy. Here's a trick for perfect bacon every time: Lay bacon in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until bacon is looking like it's almost ready. Then, take the bacon out of the oven, place on a plate lined with paper towels, and microwave for 1 minute. Voila - extra crisp bacon, extra easy. For this salad, chop your bacon once it's crispy.

After 40-45 minutes, check on your chicken. Remove it from the oven, and place a foil tent over the pan for 10 minutes. The chicken will continue to cook, but this also allows the juices to re-distribute within the meat, so you won't end up with dried-up chicken bits on your salad.

When you are ready to assemble, remove your greens from the fridge. Dress them to your liking. In rows, place the tomatoes, then the egg, then the blue cheese, then the bacon. Dice your chicken and place that in another 'row' on top of your greens. Finally, just before you are ready to serve -- cut an avocado in half, score it into cubes with a knife, and scoop out 1/2 avocado on top of each salad (season with salt and pepper if you wish).


Tuesday, April 27, 2010


First, an apology about the photography on this site. I'm using my iPhone. Enough said. Still, I hope the photos don't discourage you from the recipes, which -- scout's honor -- are solid! Here's a recipe for spaghetti carbonara. This is the exact recipe I learned in Rome (well, almost -- that recipe included peas, which I didn't have last night). Here you go!

Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves: 2.5
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

You'll need:
  • 1/2 lb. spaghetti
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 C. fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 5 strips bacon
  • 1/2 C. pasta water
  • 1/2 T. black pepper

First, preheat your oven to 375. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and salt it generously. Place 5 strips of bacon on a lined baking sheet for 10-12 minutes until bacon is crispy. When bacon is done, drain it well and chop it.

When water is boiling, cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, separate 4 eggs -- place the yolks in a large bowl. Next, grate 1 C. parmesan cheese over the egg yolks. Add 1/2 T. black pepper. Whisk well. This will be a pretty sticky mixture.

When the pasta is done, turn off the heat. Don't drain the pasta water -- use 1/2 C. and slowly (slowly) trickle this 1/2 C. into the egg mixture while whisking rapidly. You don't want scrambled egg pasta, so this is a very important step. When the eggs/cheese have been tempered, use a tongs to transfer the pasta from the pot to the egg mixture. Mix well, taste, and adjust seasonings to your liking. This is also the part where you would add 1 C. frozen peas if you felt like keeping with the tradition.

To serve, pile up a big mound in a bowl and top with more parmesan and chopped bacon. You will marvel how five ingredients (two of which are breakfast items) can become such a decadent, flavorful, satisfying dinner! Enjoy.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

old school, new school

The old new school: Julia Child chefing on the set of "The French Chef"

The new new school: Canadienne Laura Calder posing with some vegetables.

The Food Network has done a lot for the home chef, there's no denying that. From tent-clad Ina Garten to "chi-potol-ay" slinging Bobby Flay -- there are many loyal followers of their personalities. Like all good things, the Food Network is growing up, and it's growing out of its old, easy ways -- enter the Cooking Channel, the newer, more honest, more hand-wrought spin-off of the Food Network.

What am I talking about? Gone will be the days of packet-opening, corner-cutting chefing. The focus now will be on the basic question that has permeated food discussions for the last ten years: where does our food come from? Peppered in, too, are new, more authentic instructional cooking shows -- no more Italian Americans cooking Italian food -- Cooking Channel is giving us a REAL Indian cooking real Indian food, a real Canadian cooking French food! ...Wait, what?

Nobody has dared touch French Cooking since our darling Julia Child entered the American kitchen with her show, "The French Chef." Sure, Ina Garten will walk us through a sole mariniere, or an apple tart tatin (and surely her methods are no less authentic!), but we've been missing the French Chef in our TV diets. No more, thanks to the Food Channel's daring choice of Laura Calder - a trained journalist whose focus shifted to food. She'll be gracing our living rooms with "French Food at Home" -- a nice homage to our friend Julia, who wanted nothing more than the average American to enjoy the pleasures of French cooking in the comfort of their homes.

The cooking Channel will debut on May 31, but Ms. Calder's show has aired for years in Canada, making for plenty available YouTube clips! On the Cooking Channel - will she endear us all by flipping an omelet directly onto her hot plate? Or will she disappoint with uninspired standbys? Can't wait to find out.

More reading:
Newcomer to Food Television Tries for a Little Grit (NYT)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

10 things that are always in my pantry

1) Black pepper. Don't underestimate the power of this spice!
Favorite dish featuring black pepper: spaghetti cacio e pepe

2) Whole wheat penne pasta.
Favorite penne pasta recipe: penne arrabiata.
3) Which brings me to my third ingredient of choice -- pepper flakes. I put pepper flakes on pasta (any pasta), on soup (in any soup), on pizza, thai takeout...pretty much everything except my oatmeal.
4) A block of Parmesan cheese is always in my refrigerator.
Favorite thing to do with parmesan: on top of lemon pasta. See #5.

5) Lemons. Always in my fridge. Great to make chicken piccata, lemon pasta, or put in your water if you wanna.
Favorite lemon recipe: Lemon Spaghetti.
6) Olive oil. Extra virgin. Everybody should have this in their kitchen. My favorite thing to do with olive oil is to drizzle it over charred bread, after it's been rubbed with a clove of garlic. Sprinkle with salt and you have REAL garlic bread.
7) Crushed tomatoes. Perfect in arrabiatta sauce (mentioned above)...or for a hundred other things. Try this out next time you're making simple spaghetti: Pour can of crushed tomatoes in a sauce pot. Cut an onion in half, remove peel. Drop onion halves in crushed tomatoes. Add 1/2 t. salt. Simmer for 30 minutes, longer is better (lid on!). Just before serving, remove onion from sauce, discard (or eat!), and stir in 4 T. butter to tomatoes. Toss with hot spaghetti, and be prepared for about a million compliments.

8) Canned albacore tuna in water. Great on salad, or mixed in with some roasted tomatoes for a quick puttanesca sauce. Not a gourmand item, no, but cheap, easily available, and good for a million different things. Try sauteeing it with a couple cloves of garlic in 1 T. olive oil. Add some tomatoes, cover, let the tomatoes burst. Add some red pepper flakes, capers, and toss with pasta -- easy!

9) Bread crumbs. Try this: Pour 2 T. olive oil in a skillet over low heat. Pour in 3/4 C. bread crumbs, stir 'til oil is absorbed. Watch carefully as they brown, remove when fragrant and toasted. Grind black pepper into the crumbs. Toss with hot spaghetti and top with parmesan -- enjoy some carb on carb crime.

10) Good French sea salt. You need it. For everything.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

tortellini soup

It's going to be raining in Washington, D.C. for the next six days. I've had a cold for the past seven. This whole thing is really not looking up for me -- but I tell you what I just did over my lunch hour: I made really awesome tortellini soup. That's right, in 1 hour, I went to the store, got the ingredients (all five), went home, and in a half an hour, I was enjoying a piping hot bowl of soup. Now I feel invincible. Try it:

Tortellini Soup
Serves: 6
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins

You'll need:
  • 1 package cheese tortellini (I used about half of a "family sized" Buitoni package)
  • 1 box organic chicken stock
  • 1 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 8 oz. baby spinach (pre-washed if possible)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 T. olive oil for sauteeing

-Red pepper flakes, salt for seasoning
-Parmesan for sprinkling on top
-Basil for sprinkling on top

Easy easy directions:
Chop the onion, chop the garlic. Heat 1 T. olive oil over medium heat, sautee until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the chicken stock, and the tomatoes (with juices). Let them come to a simmer. Add spinach, and finally, add the tortellini. Simmer for 8 minutes with lid half-on, add water to pot if too thick. Check seasonings, adjust, and serve.