Thursday, April 30, 2009

Skirt steak a la plancha, creamy sunchoke and turnip puree, cumin roasted carrots with thyme

  • skirt steak
  • sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
  • turnips
  • cream
  • salt
  • pepper
  • carrots
  • cumin
  • thyme
Peel sunchokes and turnips, cut into 1/2 inch cubes. You want a sunchoke to turnip ratio of about 3:2 or 3:1. Add to a pan with enough cream to braise/poach the sunchokes and turnips. You don't need to completely submerge them. Bring the cream to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the root vegetables, reserving the cream. Puree the vegetables and add as much cream as you need to get the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Peel and chop the carrots, toss with olive oil, thyme, salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. Roast at 350F for about 45 minutes.

Season the skirt steak with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Sear for 1 to 2 minutes on each side on a griddle over high heat.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Here's a simple little snack I made with some nice local ingredients from Savenors. It's just organic cherry tomatoes, sliced thin, super fresh mozzerella from Fiore Di Nonno, a really good cheese maker based just up the street in Somerville, some nice thick, aged balsamic vinegar, Campo Corto olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little parsley. 


Fattoush is basically Lebanese panzanella. Rather than using an old baguette, fattoush is built around fried pieces of pita. I think the traditional ingredients include cucumber and tomato, but you can really add just about any vegetable you want. Abby and I had an amazing version of this salad at Oleana that included roasted eggplant, romanesco, pomegranate, and a bunch of other good stuff. For this version, I used a bunch of ingredients from this week's Boston Organics delivery. I also use pita chips instead of frying the pita myself.

  • olive oil
  • lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  • lemon zest
  • mustard (1-2 tsp)
  • salt, pepper
  • tahini
  • Greek yogurt
  • lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  • salt, pepper
  • pea shoots
  • 1/4-1/2 cup diced, roasted beets
  • 1 green bell pepper,
  • 1 apple
  • 1-2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/4-1/3 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup radish, diced
  • 1 blood orange, cut into supremes
  • parsley
  • mint
  • 1/8-1/4 cup olives, chopped
  • feta
  • salt, pepper
  • sumac
  • pita chips
Dice all of the vegetables into small, even pieces. Toss the veggies together, but leave the beets and the blood oranges separate. Tossing these together with everything else will just turn the whole thing pink. You also want to leave the pea shoots separate.

Mix up the lemon juice, zest, and mustard for the vinaigrette and add oil, stirring, until you get the taste you want. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix together the tahini and greek yogurt in a 1 to 4 ratio. For 1 T tahini and 4 T yogurt, add the juice of 1/4 to 1/2 lemon. Stir together, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Chop of parsley and mint and add to the vegetables. Toss the herbs and vegetables together with the vinnaigrette (reserve 1 T), and add some of the smaller pita chips. Season with salt, pepper, and sumac.

To plate, spread some of the yogurt mix around the bottom of the plate. You can sort of see this in the picture below.
Arrange a bed of larger pita chips on top of this base, and spoon some of the salad mix on top of this. As you are plating the salad, add the beets and blood oranges. Dress the pea shoots with the remaining vinaigrette and top the salad with the pea sheets and crumbled feta.

Boston Organics

We recently started getting a local produce box delivered to us from Boston Organics. Last week, our delivery included pea shoots, sunchokes, turnips, beets, celeriac, mushrooms, apples, tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes. These will make appearances in upcoming recipes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Seared tuna, crispy rice cakes, and sesame spinach

  • 2 servings tuna
  • sesame seeds
  • Baby spinach (enough for 2 servings)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dashi
  • 1 clove minced garlic
Rice cakes
  • 1.5 cups sushi rice
  • 1-2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • Rice seasoning (Furikake), to taste
Cook the rice. Let it cool to and add vinegar as if you are making sushi rice. Mix in furikake to taste. Form the rice into patties and cook until crispy and golden brown on each side.

Julienne the carrot and cook until soft with a little oil. Add minced garlic and spinach. Cook until wilted. In a bowl, grind up the sesame seeds and mix in the soy sauce, vinegar, and dashi. Add this to the spinach and toss together.

Season the tuna with salt and pepper and coat one side with sesame seeds. Sear over high heat for one minute on each side.

(Pictured with a sauce made of miso, soy, dashi, ponzu, sake, and mirin)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fish, Basque style

I think that making something "al Vasco" or "in the style of the Basque" just means that you use a lot of stewed peppers and onions. As this is a traditional dish, there are a million ways to make it. My version uses saffron, smoked paprika, thyme, and a little hot pepper to give the dish a really rich, warm taste. A lot of times, Basque style dishes include piquillo peppers. I didn't have any, but if you can get them, you might want to try adding them to the dish.

  • 1 whole fish (branzino, trout, snapper, etc)
  • 1 onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 tomato, seeded, and diced
  • small potatos (enough for two servings)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chicken or veggie broth/stock
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • parsley
  • lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the potatos in half or quarters, depending on the size, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove and let drain.

Cut the bell peppers in half and core them. Toss the potatos with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and two cloves of minced garlic. Place the potatos and the bell peppers, separately, in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Slice up the onion and cook with olive oil over medium high heat. Once the onions begin to cook down, reduce the heat to medium or medium low and let cook, stirring occasionally for another 20 minutes or so. You don't want them to fry, so pay attention to the heat and keep it low. You want to really bring out the sweetness.

When the peppers and potatoes are done roasting, set the potatos aside and place the peppers in a paper bag or a bowl covered in plastic and let sit for a couple minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and slice into long thin strips. Add to the pan with the onions along with two cloves of minced garlic and the diced tomato and cook on medium heat for a couple minutes. Add the wine to this mixture and turn up the heat to reduce it. Add the red pepper flakes, paprika, and tomato paste and mix everything together. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of stock along with the paprika and let simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. You may also want to add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar.

While the stew is simmering, season the fish with salt and pepper and cut vertical slits along both sides of the fish. Once the stew is done, place it in a roasting pan or oven safe dish large enough to hold the fish and mix together with the potatos. Add more broth if this mixture looks too thick. Place the fish on top of the potatos, and cover with some of the pepper mixture. Roast at 400F for 30 minutes.

Carefully remove the fish to a cooking sheet. Again, be careful. It is really easy to break the fish here. Place the fish under the broiler for a couple minutes. Keep an eye on it. You want to crisp the skin, but it goes from crisp to burned really quickly. While the fish is broiling, mix 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped parsley into the peppers. Transfer everything to a serving dish (if you didn't just cook it in the serving dish), and place the fish back on top. Squeeze a bit of lemon over everything, garnish with some more parsley, and eat it while its hot.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Orechiette, the sequel

I've already included a post on orrechiette with sausage and rapini, but I've changed my recipe a bit, so I thought an update would be in order. This is one of my favorite quick dishes; it has a really nice combination of bitterness from the broccoli raab, a savory note from the sausage, and hits of spiciness and sweetness from the red pepper and balsamic vinegar. I've spent a lot of time tweaking it and have landed on what I think is a pretty good recipe. The key to this dish is finding a really high quality pasta to start with. Maestri Pastai makes the best orechiette that I've been able to find, so I would recommend that brand. You can order it online here.

INGREDIENTS (2 servings)
  • orrechiette
  • 1 sweet italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 1/2 bunch broccoli raab, thick stems removed and cut into bit sized pieces
  • 1/2 small onion, small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup almonds or walnuts, ground in a food processor or coffee grinder.
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 anchovies (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt, pepper
  • pecorino romano cheese
  • high quality, sweet balsamic vinegar
  • regular olive oil for cooking
  • high quality, Tuscan olive oil for finishing
Prep all the ingredients and heat 1 T olive oil in a large saute pan over med-high heat. Break apart the sausage into small pieces and add to the pan. After about 1 minute, add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions become translucent. You don't want them to burn, so turn the heat down if you need to. At this time, you should add the pasta to a pot of heavily salted water. It should take about 10 to 12 minutes to cook. Next, add the brocolli raab. Once this starts to wilt, add the anchovies and break apart. These should dissolve fairly quickly. Add the wine and turn the heat down to medium after it has reduced a little. Add a bit of water from the boiling pasta and toss everything together. Throw in the red pepper flakes and the ground almonds or walnuts, toss again, and let everything simmer. At this point, add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the pasta is done, add it to the saute pan. Make sure to reserve some of the pasta water. The pasta should be pretty al dente and be able to withstand another minute or two of cooking while still keeping its bite. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of pasta water to loosen it up. Letting everything cook together in the pan allows the pasta to absorb a lot of the flavor from the sauce. As the pasta is cooking in the saute pan, add freshly grated pecorino romano to taste.

Plate and garnish with extra grated cheese, balsamic vinegar, and Tuscan olive oil.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Braised rabbit legs with chickpeas and swiss chard

Our fridge had been near empty for quite some time now, so yesterday we went to Market Basket for a long overdue restocking. I had some nice chard that I wanted to make with chickpeas, and I just needed one last piece to go with it. While I've had rabbit a few times in restaurants, I've never actually prepared it myself, so when I saw rabbit legs at Savenor's, I figured that would be the perfect piece to finish off the dish. Here's the recipe.

INGREDIENTS (for two):
  • 2 rabbit legs
  • flour
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 small to medium onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T black peppercorns
  • chicken stock
  • 1/2 C red wine
  • 2 T vinegar (I used orange-champagne vinegar, you can use red wine or cider vinegars)
(Chickpeas and Chard - double the portions if you are serving this as a main course for a vegetarian meal)
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard
  • 1 12 oz. can of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaves
  • chicken stock
  • lemon zest
  • olive oil

Season the rabbit with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, and brown in a heavy pot with olive oil over medium high heat, large enough to hold the rabbit in a single layer. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, adjusting the heat so the flour does not burn. Set the rabbit aside and cook the carrots, onions, and garlic until soft (about 10 minutes over medium heat). Add about 1/2 cup red wine and let reduce. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns. Place the rabbit legs on top of the vegetables, flesh side down and add enough chicken stock just to cover. Cover the pot and braise for 45 minutes at 300F. After 45 minutes, add the vinegar, turn the rabbit legs, and braise for another 45 minutes to an hour.

When the rabbit is done, set the rabbit aside on a plate and strain the braising liquid into a sauce pan. Here, you can take a number of options. You can add a spoon full of mustard, chopped up herbs (tarragon would be great), or spices (a dash of curry powder might work). Reduce over high heat until the sauce starts to thicken (if you are using delicate herbs, add these right before serving), then adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and more vinegar if necessary.

For the chard and chickpeas, start by rinsing the chickpeas and in a baking dish, combine the chickpeas with 1 minced shallot, bay leaves, and 5 of the garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a generous portion of olive oil. Mix everything together, cover with foil, and bake on the top rack of the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the thick stalks out of the chard and rinse thoroughly. Rip or slice the leaves into smaller pieces and let dry. Thinly slice the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and cook in a large saute pan over medium high heat with the shallots and 1 T olive oil. When the shallots and garlic begin to brown, begin adding the chard. Once all of the chard is cooked down, add 1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes over medium to low heat. Add the roasted chickpeas to the saute pan and cook together for another 10 minutes.

Hungry Mother

Fried Green Tomatoes.

Of all the Cambridge eateries, Hungry Mother probably has the coolest name. When I first heard it, I thought that it was just describing a ravenous home kitchen maven, whipping up some good old Southern comfort food for the hungry Yankees that inhabit the MIT side of Cambridge. Hungry Mother, I thought, was a name that evoked a Shaft like coolness....maybe not a bad mother...but a hungry one? Yes. It turns out the restaurant's namesake is actually a national park in Virginia, and it's the flavorful, comforting cooking of this region that inspires this restaurants menu.

The menu at this place is not expansive, but what they do, they do well. Like so many other restaurants, where this place really shines is the appetizers. I think that this has more to do with the creative process that goes into appetizers compared to main plates than it does the restaurant itself. So, as I'm sure I've suggested in other reviews, this is a restaurant the might best be experienced by forgoing the entree and just splurging on the appetizers.

The menu offers several small bites that can warm you up for the appetizers. Abby and I chose to split the biscuits with country ham and pepper jelly, which we forgot to photograph. The dish contained two tiny biscuits, ham shaved thin like prosciutto, and a dab of pepper jelly. It was delicious. We followed that up with fried green tomatoes with bacon, some sort of aioli, and frisee, pictured above, and mussels with tasso, new orleans bbq broth and corbread crumbs. Both of these were the epitome of comfort food, packed with savoury, layered flavors. The mussels had a hint of spice that was really nice, and we couldn't stop slurping up the broth. It may have been one of the better renditions of mussels that I've had.

For entrees we went with roast chicken with brussels sprouts, carrots, and potatoes and cornmeal crusted catfish over Hoppin' John.
Both of these dishes were good, and the Hoppin' John had a nice hint of vinegar in it, which is a good way to keep an otherwise starchy, heavy dish feeling light. Nonetheless, they lacked the punch of the appetizers.
For dessert, we had the banana pudding, which I highly recommend. The restaurant also has a great drink list that is worth checking out.

This restaurant is moderately priced, with most of the entrees checking in somewhere in the low to mid 20s. However, with so many great sides, drinks, and desserts, the tab can creep up if you aren't careful. Even so, I would rate this is a good neighborhood restaurant that is worth going back to. Since its located right next to the best theater in Cambridge, this would make a great first stop for a night out at the movies.


I'm not sure if this is Canada's national dish, but it should be. For the uninitiated, poutine is a dish of cheese curds and gravy over fries. We had tried this once before at a local sandwich shop in Cambridge, and I thought it was pretty good until a Canadian friend of ours told us that the version we had tried wouldn't qualify as legit poutine north of the border. What do we know? Anyway, this amazingly tasty dish was available just about everywhere in Whistler, even at the mid mountain lodges, and, yes, it is better in Canada. The trick is getting good cheese curds. That makes the dish.

Oyster Po' boy @ the Barking Crab

The Barking Crab's oyster po' boy...calling out to you...

Last month, Sharlene, Sam, and I biked over to Southie to catch Boston's St. Patrick's day parade for the first time. It was a crazy mix of bagpipe n' drum contingents from every imaginable police precinct in new england, drunken pub-hoppers, fully-garbed colonial minutemen, politicians boasting names like Flaherty and O'Whatever, imposing military vehicles, and, uh, Star Wars characters.

Afterwards, we walked down the river to the Barking Crab, home of my favorite oyster po'boy. The fried oysters are wonderfully juicy and warm on the inside yet crispy and crunchy on the outside, and drizzled with a spicy aioli - the perfect complement with a kick. The fries are surprisingly delectable as well. All in all, it easily beats out the one I tried at Mary's Fish Camp in New York last summer.

On a side note, ordering lobster at the barking crab is fun as well - each table has a large rock, with which you are instructed to bash the lobster in with, so as to most efficiently get at the goodness inside the shell. My prior experience with lobster-bashing is documented here, in my blog post about my brother Tony's last visit.

Bagpipes and drums...n' more bagpipes & drums...

Which one of these stormtroopers doesn't belong?