Archive for August, 2009

Ama’s Meringues

From Dish Jodi:

Ama's Meringues

When it’s 105 degrees in LA, as it was this weekend, CLEARLY the best thing to do in your tiny kitchen with no through-breeze is BAKE. Obviously.

Luckily, this recipe calls for 275 degree oven, so it could have been worse. Our wedding is in a month and a half, and instead of the traditional wedding cake, we’re going to (with the help of our visiting relatives) make cupcakes and a selection of “family cookies” – those recipes that we grew up with and remember making and eating as children. My future grandmother-in-law (one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met) has passed along her simple and refreshing recipe for meringues. Sweating and gulping water to keep myself cool and hydrated, I did a test run this weekend.

6 egg whites
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
Grated zest of one big lime

Meringue ingredients

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees and grease a couple cookie sheets.

With a mixer (if you can do this by hand you are in far better shape than I), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar til they become frothy. With the mixer running, add the sugar gradually and beat until stiff peaks form.


Add the vanilla and vinegar and beat until blended. Add the lime zest and mix gently til evenly distributed.

Drop from a spoon in inch or so piles (should look like big kisses) on the baking sheets, or, if you wanted an excuse to use fun kitchen tools as I did, pipe fun little piles with a pastry bag.

Bake until firm to the touch, but before they get toasty brown, about 30 minutes.

Cool completely and enjoy the crunchy (hopefully a little chewy on the inside) refreshing sweet bites that melt on your tongue. They will last a week or so stored in an airtight container at room temperature (unless your room is located in Los Angeles where it’s 105 degrees).

The bride-to-be with her cookie


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From Dish Erin:

Pork Chops with Peach Chipotle Salsa

Confession: This is not a true original Erin creation but a recipe redux. The original, found on Epicurious, claimed to have a peach ‘salsa’ but left out the tomatoes. And I’m sorry, but salsa without tomatoes is blasphemy.

Warning: This dish is not for the faint of taste buds. Chipotle peppers often lose some of their heat when cooked, so the fact that this salsa is served raw means that you will taste every bit of kick those peppers have to offer. If you don’t like spicy food, reduce it by half. Seriously.

For the salsa:
1 firm but ripe peach, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced
1 tablespoon of adobo sauce
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
Zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Pinch of sugar

Salsa ingredients
For the pork chops:
2 pork chops*
Ground cumin
Ground turmeric
Salt & Freshly ground pepper

Preheat a grill (I use a cast iron indoor grill-top) over medium heat. Brush with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Season pork chops on both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. Then rub with cumin and a pinch of turmeric (similar to a dry rub).

Pork chops on grill

To make the salsa, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir. Let it sit while you begin to cook the pork chops.

Place the pork chops on the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove and plate with a few tablespoons of the peach chipotle salsa. I served this with a green pepper stuffed with corn bread, black beans, onions and cheese. The stuffed pepper and pork chop were fighting for the spotlight, but the piggy definitely won.

*If you think ahead (or are OCD, like me) you can brine the pork chops before cooking. I like to brine white meat when I’m working with a dry rub–it adds great moisture and flavor. Simply place raw pork chops in a large ziplock bag. In a small bowl combine 2 cups of warm water with 2 heaping tablespoons of salt, and one tablespoon of brown sugar. Pour over pork chops, seal bag and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hrs, or at most overnight.

Erin and pork chops!

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From Dish Rachelle:

Tomato and Artichoke "Poached" Tilipia with Potatoes

Fact: I sometimes eat dinner alone.

Fact: I can’t eat enough artichokes.

Fact: I once lived in New Orleans.

I lived in NOLA for two months last fall, where I ate jambalaya, catfish po-boys, fried green tomatoes and tasted varieties of gumbo to my heart’s content. (I also rode a bicycle as my primary source of transportation, which is probably why I didn’t come home with a big fry-belly). Big Easy dishes are bright, spicy, improvisational, and often favor fish and meats that are considered less than prime – like catfish, which is very inexpensive, and turkey’s necks. This dish isn’t an imitation of any particular meal I ate down south, but it does remind me of the homey, free-form meals served even in the most esteemed NOLA restaurants. Made with economical tilapia (which is low in Omega-3s, but is also mercury-free), a ripe tomato fresh from Jersey, and canned artichokes (delicious year-round and which do, surprisingly, show up every once in a while in a jambalaya supreme), this tilapia and vegetable stew is my healthier version of comfort food.

A note about the seasoning: The Boy and I picked up some “Big Kevin’s Bayou Blend” at the New Orleans School of Cooking. It’s available online, and worth getting your hands on, but you’d no doubt get a similar flavor from a dry rub of salt, pepper, onion powder, old bay, cayenne, oregano, and paprika (all standard in NOLA cooking). The potatoes, also cooked with a dash or two of cayenne, add some additional spice, and provide richness without the cream or animal fat ever-present in southern preparations.

Ingredients (Serves 2 moderate portions, or 1 dinner with leftovers)

For fried potatoes:
1 medium-sized waxy red potato, diced
¼ cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt & Pepper

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute 1-2 minutes, until flavors release. Add potato and season with cayenne and black pepper (to taste). DO NOT season with salt until potatoes are very nearly done. The salt causes potatoes to retain water, thus making them resistant to crisping. Toss and turn heat down to low. When the potatoes are soft (poke them with a fork) and the fish is ready to serve, turn heat up to high for a minute or so, until potatoes are crispy on the outside. Season with salt.

Frying potatoes

For Tilapia:
1 boneless tilapia fillet, roughly 4 oz
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tomato, roughly diced
2-3 canned artichoke hearts such as Roland’s organic, chopped (reserve juices from can)
baby spinach
Big Kevin’s Bayou Blend Seasoning, or a dry rub of salt, pepper, onion powder, old bay, cayenne, oregano, and paprika (feel free to experiment)

Rub tilapia fillet with seasoning on both sides, giving it a nice dry coat. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add seasoned fillet and cook 2-3 minutes on both sides, until firm and opaque. Reserve to plate. Add chopped tomatoes and artichoke hearts and saute 1-2 minutes, or until tomatoes soften. Add 2-3 tblsp. artichoke juices to moisten. Toss and cover sauce with fresh spinach leaves, seasoning veggies LIGHTLY with salt and pepper. Return fish fillet to the pan, spooning some of the vegetable mixture over it. This is where the poaching comes in: the tilapia is mostly cooked, but the liquid from the tomato and the artichokes adds moisture and flakiness to the fish. Cover pan and cook until spinach leaves are wilted, another 2-3 minutes.

Tilapia in panTilapia buried

Serve immediately over fried potatoes. Another hallmark of NOLA food: the leftovers are always terrific for lunch.

Rachelle and Tilapia

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From Dish Paige!:

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

On Friday I headed up to the Berkshires to spend the weekend with Dish Gwen, her Saucy family, and friends. Before leaving, Gwen packed a cooler full of veggies from her back yard and our CSA share (call me crazy but I found it incredibly strange that we left Brooklyn with farm-fresh produce and returned with a cooler of bagels, lox and cream cheese courtesy of our last breakfast in Massachusetts). My instructions from Dish Gwen were “we have a lot of eggplant, Saturday you should do something with all of these eggplants!” The next morning I awoke with big plans for those aubergines, but after a day of outlet shopping, checking out galleries, sunning on rocks along side a waterfall, a bit of table tennis, a martini (or two) and a post-dinner excursion to the local bowling alley in the works, the thought of roasting, chopping, mincing, boiling, spicing and blending a ton of ingredients seemed sort of daunting. Instead, I decided to take some cues from a classic dish, pare it down a little, and fire up the grill.

2 eggplants, sliced 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
2 cups sliced cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup basil, cut in a chiffonade
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
olive oil
salt & pepper
parmesan cheese, grated

Slice the eggplant, toss with a few pinches of salt and place in a colander (and then in the sink) to drain. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes, garlic and basil. Toss those ingredients in a bowl with the rosemary, oregano, salt, pepper and enough olive oil to coat. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to let the flavors come together.

Not so saucy sauce

Once the grill is ready, toss the eggplant with a little bit of olive oil and place on the grill in one layer. After about 10 minutes (or until you see grill marks and the flesh of the eggplant is soft) turn over each slice. Spoon about two heaping tablespoons of the tomato “sauce” onto each slice, sprinkle liberally with the grated parmesan and cover. Again, after about 10 minutes (or once the cheese is nicely melted), remove the eggplant slices from the grill.

Dish Gwen and Dish Paige cook day...

Dish Gwen and Dish Paige! cook day...

...and night

...and night

We enjoyed the Grilled Eggplant Parmesan as part of a feast including toast, corn, a huge salad, watermelon, grilled chicken skewers and grilled sausage. There was a “Rhueberry Strawbarb” pie but by the time we were done with the first courses, the bowling alley beckoned so we left dessert behind. I won’t tell you what happened on the lanes, but I will say I DEMAND A REMATCH.

Dish Paige! and Dish Gwen do dinner

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From Dish Amelia:

Tarty tart

Say it fast. It’s fun and makes you start bopping around. This is a high-pressure but fun situation.

Rhubarb Compote:

Cut up about 4-5 cups’ worth of washed rhubarb. Put it in a pot and add about 3/4 cup of sugar. Squeeze half a lemon over this through a paper towel. Turn on the heat and occasionally stir it. Pinch of salt. When it disintegrates, put it in a bowl to cool, then into the fridge to really cool.

Tart Shell:

1 1/2 cups AP flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick cold butter) cut up a few times
3 Tbsp. whole milk
1 large egg yolk

Fresh Local Strawberries (Long Island, NY):

Wash, cut in half.

Preheat oven to 400. Combine and pulse dry ingredients in food processor, then add butter until it does the “coarse meal” thing. Add the wet, and pulse a few more times. Collect dough, flatten into a disk and wrap with plastic. Throw into the freezer. When it is chilled, but could probably be more chilled, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface. Make it about 12 inches across, since you want to put it into a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Lift it onto the pan, and push in to fit. Trim edges by rolling the rolling pin over the top. Prick the bottom a bunch with a fork and hope it doesn’t puff up too much. Throw it in the freezer again. When it is chilled but really could have been in there longer, throw it in the oven. Bake till it’s golden. Put it on a rack to cool a bit, then turn it upside down, remove pan, and invert again. Spread cold compote over it, and arrange strawberries. Realize you just made a full on pastry before you knew it!

Amelia's tarted up!

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Roasted Whole Fish

From Dish Danielle:

Roasted whole fish (aka Fred)

This summer I’ve been fortunate enough to land a once-in-a-while private cheffing gig for a family out East. This has been both an exciting opportunity and an incredible challenge, as I’ve been cooking many things I’ve never tried before.

Last weekend they wanted a roasted whole fish. Twenty guests were expected. I went all out and roasted a 10 lb Striped Bass. I was nervous as hell; this was an enormous fish, and even carrying him out of their local Citarella proved difficult.

The woman I work for named him Fred.

Fred pre-roast

Here’s how I roasted Fred, with help from an excellent NYTimes recipe (adapted below for more manageably sized fish: 5 lbs)


For the Fish:
5 lb hearty whole fish, finned, scaled, gutted, and cleaned (I had the fish monger do this for me!)*
½ c olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
Kosher salt

*Note: Do NOT have the fish de-boned. If he’s de-boned, Fred might just fall apart while he’s roasting. People will just have to watch for bones when they eat!

2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
olive oil
2 tbsp capers
½ c kalamata olives, chopped
3 lemons
1 bunch parsley

Roasting Sauce:
2 fennel bulbs, cut into quarters
1 ½ c dry white wine
1 ½ tbsp coriander seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

First, place all Roasting Sauce ingredients into deep skillet over med-high heat. Once the liquid heats up, lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until fennel has softened and looks somewhat translucent.

Meanwhile, find a roasting pan large enough for your fish. Place a layer of heavy duty foil on the bottom of the pan with about 6’’ overhang on each side of the pan. (This is so you can lift him out without breaking him when he’s done cooking!) Drizzle olive oil over entire fish, inside and out. Rub minced garlic, salt, and pepper inside and outside of fish evenly. Don’t be shy with the salt! Don’t overdo it with pepper! Set Fred aside.

Now, place olive oil in a skillet to coat, over medium heat. Once it’s heated, toss in the sliced fennel. Only cook fennel until it’s gently sauteed – probably 6-8 minutes or so – you don’t want it falling apart. While fennel is cooking, toss the chopped olives and capers into a bowl. Once the fennel is sauteed, cool it slightly, then mix it with the olives and capers. Add a pinch of salt and juice of 1 lemon, and mix thoroughly.

Remove Roasting Sauce from heat and allow to cool.

Slice 1 lemon into ¼’’ rounds.

Now, place ¼ bunch of parsley beneath the fish, and ¼ bunch inside it. Stuff fish with the fennel/olive/caper mixture. If you can’t fit it all, you can put remaining mix underneath or on top of the fish to cook. Take your lemon rounds and place them inside the fish, arranging them so they’re touching the flesh. Now put another ¼ bunch of the parsley on top of the fish, reserving the last ¼ bunch for garnish. Place any remaining lemon slices on top of fish.

Pour wine/fennel/coriander sauce over the fish, and cover entire pan with foil securely. Place in oven for 25-35 minutes for 5 lb fish. Keep an eye on it and make a small incision after 25 minutes to check its progress. You want it to be all white, but still very wet looking.

Once cooked, rest fish for 5 minutes. Then, carefully lift foil and place onto large platter for presentation. Carefully pull foil out from under him while holding him on platter. (This gets messy and you may need a helper. I certainly did). Stuff ½ lemon into his mouth if you can! Have lemon wedges and remaining parsley available for service.

The full spread: Spanikopita, Pistachio dusted Grilled Lamb Chops, Roasted Striped Bass, Golden Raisin and Pine Nut Couscous

The full spread: Spanikopita, Pistachio dusted Grilled Lamb Chops, Roasted Striped Bass, Golden Raisin and Pine Nut Couscous

What seemed like a daunting task came out exquisitely with a fresh-caught local fish and a mouthwatering filling. This makes for a damn dramatic presentation – both rewarding and impressive!

BFF: Fred and Danielle

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From Dish Gwen:

Lamb Chops with Rice and Salad

Last night my Saucy Little Boyfriend and I made dinner together for the first time in ages. I’ve been working nights, making pizza, and he’s taking a class after work, so it seems we never eat together anymore. But by some strange twist of fate and scheduling, our dinner plans aligned, and in honor of the eclipse Boyfriend went out and bought us some lamb chops at the farmer’s market.

On top of all that, yesterday also happened to be our CSA pickup day, so we got a bunch of beautiful fresh organic vegetables, PLUS our tomato plants gave us the first red fruit of the year. Dinner was poised to be perfect.
I handled the salad and the side dish, and Boyfriend tackled the meat. It all came out deliciously, and I must say it was a little sad once the meal ended. Good thing I took so many photos.

Rice and Bok Choy Salad

1 cup white rice (before cooking)
2 cups water (for cooking rice)
2 -3 cups chopped bok choy
½ tablespoon salt
1 lemon

Cook up one cup of white rice in a large pot, and add in a few large handfuls of chopped bok choy before the rice has completely softened up and cover the pot. While the rice finishes, the bok choy will get tender. Add in a dash of salt and squeeze one lemon into the mix, then toss it all together. My friend makes this with spinach and orange juice, and it makes a great side dish whether it’s served hot or cold.

Tomato Salad with Purple Basil


4 small tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped basil leaves
Olive oil
Pinch salt

This salad was a simple, beautiful little dish that complimented the lamb perfectly. I got the basil from my CSA share, and it was something I had never bought before but turned out to be outstanding (the beauty of a CSA is that you’re introduced to new kinds of food). The tomatoes came out of my garden and were small red pear tomatoes, but you could use any kind to make this salad. Simply slice up the tomatoes width-wise, loosely chop the basil, and arrange them on a plate together. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and you’re ready to eat.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Thyme

2-3 small lamb chops
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon salt
Olive oil (enough to brush over grill surface)

If you get your lamb chops from the farmers market like we did, they’ll be frozen. Thaw them out in the fridge overnight or in a lukewarm water bath (with the plastic on!) until they’re soft and tender. Rub the lamb down with salt and chopped fresh thyme. Our thyme came from our garden, but you can also grow it in pots on your window sill (it’s beautiful and fragrant), or pick some up at the farmers market or grocery store.

Heat your oven to 350, brush your grill with olive oil and get it nice and hot (we just used a stove-top grill). Test the grill by touching a corner of the meat to it – if the meat puts off a nice hissing sound then the surface should be ready for cooking. Sear each side of the lamb for a few minutes until it’s brown and grill-marked, and then pop it in the oven for another 4 or 5 minutes to make sure it’s not too rare. Ours was still rather pink when we took it out, but that’s the way we like our lamb – if you don’t like it rare leave it in the oven for a little while longer. After removing the lamb from the oven, let it rest on a cool plate for a couple minutes and then serve.

Caution! Rice is subject to the forces of gravity.

Caution! Rice is subject to the forces of gravity.

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