Polenta with Morels:

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Polenta with morels:  Yesterday we found some beautiful morels and I came up with this recipe to showcase them. If you don't have morels, you can use any mushrooms or combination of mushrooms including reconstituted dry mushrooms.


Mushroom mixture: Start with finely chopped onions that have been gently browned in a combination of butter and olive oil.  Set aside when soft and beginning to brown.  Set the onions aside. Fry the morels (that have been sliced in half or if larger, sliced in quarters and cleaned).  If you need more mushrooms, add some regular baby belas or any combination of wild or domestic sliced mushrooms, enough to feed your guests or family.  Cook the morels separately and set aside with the onions. The morels need to be cooked medium high so they get a little crispy.  Fry the rest of the mushrooms until cooked and then bring back the morels and onions to the frying pan.  Cook and mix together, taste for saltiness and add ¼ cup of Marsala wine and ¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth and cook together for 4-5 minutes until most of the liquid is gone.  Set aside and make the polenta.

Creamy polenta; Put one cup water and one cup corn meal in a saucepan and stir until mixed.  Then add two cups of hot chicken or vegetable stock and cook over medium heat until it thickens into a creamy texture (like a thin mashed potato). You need to be stirring pretty constantly so it doesn’t develop lumps. Add ¼ cup of parmesan or Romano cheese or a mix of the two and another1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese and stir until melted and incorporated into the polenta.  Add salt to taste.


To serve, use a small plate and mound about a 1/3 cup of polenta covered by a big spoonful of mushrooms.  Sprinkle with parsley for garnish if desired.

 

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Scallop, shrimp and asparagus terrine

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Scallop, shrimp and asparagus terrine:  Starting with Julia Child’s fish terrine, I came up with this simpler and  show stopping version.  If you love scallops this is one of the greatest way to enjoy essence of scallop, but you need to use the best scallops you can find.


Start by heating up your oven to 350 degrees ?. Place a large oven proof dish in the oven which is big enough to hold your terrine and ½ filled with hot water. I used a lasagna pan.


Take a pound of scallops (minus 2 large scallops that you’ve set aside) and an egg and puree them together in a food processor for several minutes until very smooth.  Meanwhile chop up the scallops and 5 large shrimp into a coarse 1/4 inch dice.  Blanch ½ pound of asparagus and slice them in half if they are thick. 


Back to the food processor:  add ½ cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2 and  a small pinch of saffron that you’ve soaked in ¼ cup of hot cognac.  Blend this together for a couple of minutes and then add 1/3 cup of bread crumbs, and blend until the mixture is very smooth.  Stir in the scallop and shrimp pieces..  Add salt to your liking.  Use a 6 cup terrine (or loaf plan) that has been lined on the bottom with buttered parchment cut to fit.  Pour in half the scallop mousse and thump the pan a little to distribute evenly.  Then distribute the asparagus over the top, salt the asparagus and add the second batch of mousse.  Cover with another piece of parchment and either the top of the terrine or another piece of aluminum foil placed over the top.  Put your terrine carefully into the pan with water that has been heating in the oven.  Cook for 60 minutes and check for doneness.  The internal temperature should be 160 degrees?. This terrine can be served hot or cold.  It is very rich so keep the tapas servings to one slice per person.

 
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Shrimp Tapas with Garlic and Sherry

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Shrimp with garlic and sherry:  Start with a pot or frying pan and add olive oil covering the bottom with about an inch.  Slice 3-4 peeled garlic into thin slices.  Add them to the pot of olive oil and heat.  Watch the garlic closely and wait  till it is fragrant but not brown.  Add 1 pound of peeled shrimp and let them cook together adjusting the temperature so that the garlic does not brown. Add salt to taste.  When the shrimp are just pink, add ¼ cup sherry ( I use Amontillado)  and boil together.  If you want an extra garlic kick (and I always do)  chop up or use a garlic press and add another couple cloves of garlic at the last minute.  Serve this right away, bubbling hot with some good bread to sop of every drop of the wonderful sauce.  Once you’ve tried this, you may not want to have shrimp cooked any other way.

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Chickpeas and spinach tapas

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Chickpeas and spinach: Fry a small chopped onion d in a skillet or pot that has been coated with olive oil. When the onions are beginning to brown,  Add a 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and   1 teaspoon of Spanish smoked paprika. Fry together for 1-2 minutes and  then add ½ cup of chicken or vegetable broth. Meanwhile cook a pound of spinach and drain off the water.  When the chicken broth has been reduced by about half, add the spinach and salt to your taste and cook together for 5-10 minutes.  You can serve right away or refrigerate and heat up the next day. Before serving add a dash of good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.  Chickpeas are a very commonly served tapa in Spain.

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Spanish Tortilla

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Spanish Tortilla

Start with a nonstick 12 inch skillet heated up and coated with olive oil. Fry one medium chopped sweet onion until soft and beginning to brown, remove to a large bowl.  Peel and cube 3-4 medium potatoes into ¼- 1/2    inch dice and fry them in olive oil until beginning to brown and almost cooked through.  Add to the onions.  Beat 5-6 eggs until well combined and add to the potato and onion mixture stirring well to distribute the onions and potato.  Salt to your taste.  Coat the skillet again with olive oil and add the egg mixture.  When the mixture has browned on the bottom, you are ready to turn it over to cook the other side. Carefully take the frying pan to a sink. Place a large dinner plate (12”) upside down over the frying pan. With one hand on the frying pan handle and the other on top of the plate to hold it steady, quickly turn the frying pan over and the omelet will “fall” onto the plate. Place the frying pan back on the range and put just enough oil to cover the bottom and sides of the pan – approximately 1.5 tsp. Let the pan warm for 30 seconds or so. Now slide the omelet (which is probably still a bit runny), into the frying pan, using a spatula to catch any egg mixture that runs out. Use the spatula to shape the sides of the omelet. Let the omelet cook for 3-4 minutes or until the tortilla is set and beginning to brown. Turn the heat off and let the tortilla sit in the pan for 2 minutes.


Carefully slide the omelet onto a plate! To serve as a main course, slice it into 6-8 pieces like a pie. Serve sliced French bread on the side.

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Ratatouille

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Ratatouille My Way
 
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR PERFECT RATATOUILLE;
  • I do not use spices. Fresh seasonal vegetables are so flavorful that you don’t want to mask the flavors in any way.
  •  Fry the vegetables separately since they all cook at different rates.
  • Try to keep the size of the pieces uniform (except for the onions which can be diced smaller).
  • Do not overcook.
  • Make it the day before so that the flavors can meld beautifully.
 
These amounts are VERY approximate. Work with the quantities that you have available.
 

 

RATATOUILLE MY WAY
 
  1. Chop and fry a nice sweet medium sized onion until lightly browned and soft in olive oil.
  1. 2 medium zucchinis (about a 1 ½ to 2 pounds) or use the small ones and then you only have to slice them. Cut the medium ones lengthwise into four pieces and then in nice bite size chunks (about an inch). Fry in olive oil until brown but not quite cooked.
  2. Same amount of eggplant. Peel if the skin seems tough, otherwise leave it on. Cut into same size as the zucchini and fry in olive oil until brown but not quite cooked.
  3. Now if you like bell peppers, then add one cubed the same size as the zucchini and eggplant and fry them until they are cooked and slightly brown. 
  4. Use a can of tomatoes either diced or whole. If the tomatoes are whole, then cut them into pieces. Strain out the liquid and fry the tomatoes on high in olive oil. Yes, I do fry the tomatoes but you don’t have to. I just think it gives them a sweeter, more caramelized flavor.
  5. Mix all the vegetables together, add salt if necessary and simmer together for 10 minutes stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn. Add the tomato juice if it needs liquid. Sometimes I add sugar if the flavor is too acidic.
  6. Finely mince or use a garlic press and stir in 2 large cloves of garlic. Then turn off the ratatouille and let it sit until it is cool enough to refrigerate.
  7. Always serve it the next day if you can. Taste if for seasoning and add a splash of really good olive oil if you like. Then serve it at room temperature, or reheated.
 [/recipe]

 

 

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Fried Eggplant

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eggplant in basket

Fried EGGPLANT 

 

This is my version of eggplant parmesan that I adapted from the traditional style where you cover the breaded, fried eggplant with tomato sauce. I always love to eat some of the freshly fried eggplant so crispy and delicious before baking it when it all softens up. So this is the unbaked, crispy version:

 

  1. Use any quantity of peeled, globe eggplant which is 4-5 inches in diameter and cut into ¼ inch slices.
  2. Dip the eggplant slices first into an egg that has been beaten.
  3. Then dip the eggplant slices into seasoned breadcrumbs. You can use dried bread and make your own breadcrumbs or use unseasoned ready-made breadcrumbs and season them yourselves. I use a combination of Italian seasoning, extra basil and a pinch of fenugreek (optional). I also add salt. I don’t use a lot of seasoning here. For one cup of breadcrumbs I would use 1 tsp of Italian seasoning and ½ tsp of basil.
  4. At this point you can store the breaded eggplant slices in the fridge to fry later or fry them right away but they must be eaten right after they are cooked. 
  5. Fry the slices in olive oil over medium high to high heat watching carefully and turning them over frequently so they don’t burn. Add more oil when needed. They should be golden brown and very soft in the inside. They take about 10 minutes to cook. Drain them on paper towels and put them in an hot oven to keep warm. If they get soggy then refry them.
  6. These wonderful treats can be served as an appetizer alone or with some tomato sauce on the side for dipping. I made a great sauce out of my cherry tomatoes. I cut the tomatoes in half, sprinkled them with sea salt and baked them in a 400° oven (convection on if you have one) for 10-15 minutes until the bottoms were starting to blacken. I then let them cool and put them through a food mill and this made a wonderfully rich sweet tomato sauce. Garnish the top with shaved or grated parmesan cheese.

 

 

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Eggplant Carpaccio

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The next recipe is an adaptation of a very popular appetizer served at my cousin’s wonderful restaurant in Tel Aviv called RUSTICO. The recipe is called Eggplant Carpaccio but it is not raw eggplant. Again, this is a recipe to play around with according to your preference. It is a very simple dish to prepare and an instant hit.

 

carpaccio

 

Eggplant Carpaccio

 

  1. 1-3 medium eggplant. Quantity does not matter.
  2.  Poke a couple holes in your eggplants and throw them on a very hot grill (400°-500° Cover the grill and walk away. After a few minutes check on the eggplant. If it is beginning to burn then turn. Continue with this process until the eggplant is slightly charred and well cooked. It should be mushy feeling when touched. Remove carefully and set aside.
  3. At this point you can cool them and thrown them in the fridge until you want to make this appetizer. Or, cool them and then peel off the skin right away. 
  4. Put the eggplant pulp in a food processor with a tsp. olive oil and salt to taste, and pulse a few times until an even consistence and quite smooth but not so much to be soupy. It still has to have a distinctive eggplant texture. 
  5. The quantities of the following garnishes are up to your taste preferences and how much eggplant you have prepared. Spread the eggplant very thinly over a large serving plate, or individual appetizer plates if you want to this as a first course. 
  6. Sprinkle the eggplant evenly with the following:

    • Toasted pine nuts
    • Finely chopped scallion or red onion
    • Finely chopped parsley
    • Sea salt
    • Zatar (Middle Eastern spice blend of sumac, thyme and sesame seed which is available at Wegmans)
    • A drizzle of high grade olive oil

         7. Serve with pita or crackers.

 

 

 

 

 

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Eggplant with Miso Sauce

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eggplant in basket

 

Eggplant with Miso Sauce

 

2 medium Japanese eggplant: the long thin eggplant

½ cup Sake

2 Tbs. mirin

½ tsp sugar

3 Tbs. light soy Miso or any Miso will work.

1 Tsp. toasted sesame seeds

¼ tsp sesame oil

 

  1. Slice the eggplant into ½ slices and fry in olive oil until brown and cooked through. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, Bring the Sake, mirin, and sugar to a boil and boil for 5 minutes until the liquid is reduced.
  3. Turn off the heat and add the miso a spoon at a time, incorporating well. Miso should not be brought to a boil. The mixture should be  slightly thickish.
  4. Add the sesame seeds and sesame oil. Taste and add more sugar or sesame oil according to your taste preference.
  5. The sauce can be made ahead and heated in the microwave (not boiled). Serve drizzled on the eggplant.

 

 

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Bread and Butter Pickles

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I took the bread and butter pickle recipe from Recipe Girl and made a few adjustments.

 

They were good to eat a few hours later.

pickles 1

bread and butter pickles, adapted from Recipe Girl

Yield: About 4 cups of pickles

Prep Time: 20 min + marinating time

Cook Time: 5 min

Ingredients:

 (2-3 pounds) sliced (1/4-1/2 inch) unpeeled and washed cucumbers
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or pickling salt
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 cup white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup light brown sugar (packed)
2  teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

Directions:

1. Dissolve salt and cold water in large bowl and add sliced cucumbers. Let sit for an hour or two. Move cucumbers into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain well, and return cucumbers to bowl. Add onion to the bowl.

2. Combine sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add cucumber and onion mixture and bring back to boil. Pour into canning jars and let sit on the counter for a few hours.  Cover and refrigerate . Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

 

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