Nicoise-ish salad and grilled chicken

Nicoise-ish_IMG_0583This was a great, quick, last-minute, post-travel meal. Simple grilled chicken breasts (aka Weekday Chicken) and a Niçoise-inspired salad.

For the salad, I used a mixture of arugula and baby spinach, topped with slivered yellow pepper, radish slices, hard-boiled egg rounds (it is Easter Sunday after all), kalamata olives, and boiled new potatoes tossed in leftover pesto. The dressing was a simple dijon vinaigrette.

Baby Sid has officially lost interest the behemoth baby swing, and made his table-top debut in the Bumbo seat tonight. He’s not ready for solids yet, but we gave him a spoon so he wouldn’t feel left out.
DinnerCutie_IMG_0588

Easter Saturday

(click on the photos for slide show view, and description)

As you might recall from last year, we celebrate Easter on Saturday. This is mostly because it’s more convenient for the people who have to drive several hours to get home, to do that the next day. Also, it means a lot of folks who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to make it due to their own family celebrations, can join us.

The menu is always a selection of salads and savory pies, and meat of some sort. For pies this year, we had Geraldine Ferraro’s Easter Pie, Torta Verde and new addition: mozzarella pie with kale and sun dried tomatoes.

The salads were barley with corn, parsley and endive, roasted beet, onion and lentil, celery with golden raisins, almonds and herbs, fennel and orange with avocado and herbs, and a delicious mixed green.

Lamb was the featured meat, both roasted (over spoons), and in meatball form with tzatziki dipping sauce.

That’s pretty much all I can tell you as I did not help out even a little bit this year, because, you know, I’ve got a baby.

Friday by Dad

ShrimpInSauce_IMG_0513On Friday we traveled up to my folks’ place with Shane’s brother and his family for the Easter weekend. Because they are wonderful, my parents welcomed us with a delicious dinner, and drinks of course.

My dad made shrimp cooked in tomato sauce which you eat with crusty bread slathered with creamy Irish butter. My mom was sous chef and salad-contributor. There’s really nothing better than coming home to my parents’ cooking.

Also, there were a lot of stripes.
Kitchen_IMG_0509

Passover

Yup, somehow we ended up hosting a last-minute Passover Seder and dinner for 10. I won’t bother to tell you how a goy like me end up with this honor, but I will tell you how I got it done on short notice and with just a few hours prep time.

The first step was to channel my inner Rita, who loves the challenge of a party that requires more work than seems humanly possible. Also, the promise of Passover Crack kept me going. Most importantly though, I had more than a little help from my aunt Gail, who’s an actual chosen person (in case you were thinking wtf).

Gail led the Seder, and provided the Seder plate, charoseth, maror, wine, flowers, gefilte fish, and matzo ball soup, as well as a host of other essential ingredients.

I’m not sure how the actual Seder went because it coincided with baby Sid’s ‘falling apart time,’ and I had to leave the table to put him to bed. From the bedroom, it sounded like there were some good discussions going on. All in all, a huge success.

On the menu: Matzo Ball Soup by Gail, Shane’s Easy Oven Fries, Roast Chicken made by me with telephone support from my dad (recipe below), a beautiful salad that I forgot to photograph, roasted eggplant with pesto and goat cheese, hard boiled eggs and gefilte fish on the side, and for dessert, the always-addictive Passover Crack (recipe also below).

Extra thanks to Gail for the suggestion and help and to Shane for his bang-up post-dinner cleaning job. And to Sid, for napping.

• Easy, Delicious, Roast Chicken •
with help from my dad
serves 8-10

Two 3lb certified humane chickens (I like Murray’s)
1 stick salted butter, cut in half
2 lemons
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch parsley
olive oil
salt & pepper

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the innards from the chickens, rinse them inside and out, pat outside dry and sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper. Roll the lemons on the counter with you hand to soften, then cut several slices into the lemon lengthwise, all around. Stuff each chicken with a lemon, half a bunch of thyme, half a bunch of parsley and half a stick of butter. Put them into a roasting pan where they will fit somewhat tightly, breast side down. Salt and pepper the bottom side of each chicken, then drizzle with olive oil. Flip so the chickens are breast-side up and then salt, pepper and olive oil the tops. Cook for about an hour and a half, basting frequently, until the juices run clear. Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes or so and carve.

• Passover Crack •
from Smitten Kitchen

4 to 6 sheets matzo or approximately 40 Saltine crackers or crackers of your choice
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into a few large pieces
1 cup packed light brown sugar
A big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate)
1 cup toasted chopped almonds, pecans, walnuts or a nut of your choice (optional)
Extra sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet completely with foil, and then line the base of the foil with parchment paper, cut to fit.

Line the bottom of the baking sheet with matzo or crackers, covering all parts. If using matzo, you’ll need to break pieces to fit any extra spaces.

In a medium heavy-duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and stir it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Once it has begun boiling, let it bubble for three more minutes, stirring it well. It will thicken a bit as it cooks. Remove from the heat and add the salt and vanilla, and then quickly pour it over the matzo or crackers. You’ll want to spread it quickly, as it will begin to set as soon as it is poured.

Bake the caramel-covered crackers for 15 minutes, watching carefully as it will bubble and the corners might darken too quickly and/or burn. You can reduce the heat if you see this happening.

Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand five minutes, and then spread them evenly across the caramel. An offset spatula works great here. If you’re using them, sprinkle the chocolate with toasted chopped nuts and/or sea salt. (The sea salt is great on matzo. On Saltines, it’s really not necessary.)

Once completely cool — you can speed this process up in the fridge— break it into pieces and store it in a container. It should keep for a week.

 

 

 

Super-simple

Super-simple_IMG_0483We had another long day out today. Brunch at La Bottega at the Maritime Hotel followed by a walk on the High Line.

We didn’t want to eat out again, but didn’t have much energy to cook dinner either.

The solution? Pasta with garlic and oil, pasta with leftover red sauce, a simple salad and a roast chicken made by someone else.

Tiring Lasagna

Sleepin_IMG_0476We have family over from Ireland this week. After a long day out and about, we headed home for Rita’s Lasagna and a simple salad. Little Clara was a trooper, but didn’t last until dinner time.

Chicken, red rice and daylight!

Chicken_RedRice_IMG_0475I’ve made this exact meal before. Chicken with Wine, Lemon & Butter Sauce, and Warm Red Rice Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Fontina.

The rice dish was not white enough, and had too many vegetables in it to get a nod from Rose and Shane. What I got from them instead was subtle praise over the chicken. I’m 99% sure I heard Rose utter a “yum” upon tasting it, and Shane ate 4 of the 5 breasts. That’s a win in my book.

If your comfort zone extends beyond white rice, the red rice recipe is worth a try. I would be a great dish to serve a gluten-free and/or vegetarian guest. Here’s the chicken recipe. Always a hit, it works with pink wine too, in a pinch.

In other exciting news, there was still a hint of daylight when we sat down to eat at 7:30.

• Warm Red Rice (or Farro*) Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Fontina •
from The Kitchn

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 cup grape tomatoes
6-8 cremini mushrooms, cut into small chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1 small red onion, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 of a small head of radicchio, cored and sliced into chunks
1 cup red rice or farro
2-3 ounces fontina cheese, cut into small cubes
small handful of chopped parsley
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salad greens and olive oil (optional)

*I’ve never made this with farro per the original recipe, though I’m sure it’s delicious that way. Both the red rice and farro variations are below.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and onion in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper, and roast for 15 minutes, stirring once. Add the radicchio to the pan, toss to get it covered in a bit of oil, and cook everything for another 10 minutes.

For the red rice version: Combine red rice with 1 1/2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes until soft but still chewy in the center.

For the farro version: Rinse and drain the farro. Bring 2 cups of water to boil, season with salt, and add the farro. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until al dente. Drain.

Combine the cooked farro and vegetables, then add the fontina and parsley. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the balsamic vinegar, seasoning with salt and pepper, and drizzle over the farro mixture.

Serve warm, on it’s own or over a bed of mixed greens drizzled with olive oil.

Thai curry again

We had this easy Thai Curry again. The photos came out bad, I think there’s gunk on my camera lens or something.

The only reason I’m telling you this is that the curry is really good with broccoli, which is how we had it tonight. I used a head of broccoli, chopped into florets, instead of snow peas. The space between the floretty-bits gets all filled up with delicious sauce in a really good way. You should try it.

Something new

Fusili_Ricotta_Spinach_IMG_0448This recipe comes from the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. Shane and I just loved it. It’s a quickie as-is, but you can cut your prep time further by purchasing the pre-washed baby spinach that comes in a box or bag, and not chopping it (see note at bottom of recipe).

• Fusili with Ricotta and Spinach •
from Cooks Illustrated Magazine

11oz (1 1/3 cups) whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 lb fusili
1 lb baby spinach* 
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 oz (1/2 cup) grated parmesan cheese plus more for sprinking

Mix 1 cup ricotta, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Set aside

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the baby spinach to the pot with the pasta and stir until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain pasta and spinach and return them to the pot.

While pasta cooks, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, nutmeg and cayenne in a saucepan over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1/3 cup ricotta, cream, lemon zest and juice and 3/4 teaspoon salt until smooth.

Add ricotta-cream mixture and parmesan to the pasta and spinach. Let pasta rest, tossing frequently, until the sauce has thickened slightly and coats pasta, 2-4 minutes. Adjust consistency with reserved pasta cooking water if necessary. Transfer pasta to a serving platter (or leave it in the pot if you’re feeling casual) and dot evenly with reserved ricotta mixture. Serve with additional parmesan for sprinkling.

*The recipe says to chop the spinach, but since I used the little leaves that come in a box, I didn’t chop. This also made it easier for my 6 year old to pick out the dreaded green bits.

Feet up and pizza pie

PizzaPie&Feet_IMG_0428Shane took on dinner again tonight, this time with his always delicious pizza pie! I’m finally going to give you his crust recipe, so please read on.

We have ok pizza in our neighborhood, but not great pizza. Years ago, Shane decided that he’d have to learn to make his own pizza if we didn’t want to limit ourselves to mediocre pizza while at home. He took a class at the Institute of Culinary Education and has been improving on his technique ever since.

Shane always uses the same crust and sauce recipe, and then improvises. The crust recipe is below. For the sauce, he uses a can of chopped San Marzano tomatoes which he cooks briefly with olive oil, salt, oregano and a pinch of red pepper flakes. He likes to keep the sauce juicy and light. I know that’s not much of a recipe, but you can do it. Just think fresh rather than stewed and overcooked.

He always makes a Margerhita pie, with slices of fresh mozzarella scattered over sauce and topped with basil leaves, and a traditional cheese pie with sliced mozzarella, the kind you get at the deli counter. For whatever dough is left after that, he improvises. We’ve had everything from white pizza (no sauce) with ricotta, gorgonzola, mozzarella and parmesan, to fried egg pizza.

In other news: Sid discovered his feet, and Rose has feet too. Neither of them has much in the way of teeth.

• Shane’s Pizza Dough (Thin Crust) •
from Nick Maligieri’s Baking Class
Makes 2 12-14 inch crusts, or 3 freeform oblong crusts

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups warm tap water
1 scant tablespoon (one envelope) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for greasing the bowl

Stir flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Whisk the yeast, then the oil into the water and stir into the flour mixture to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out on a floured work surface and knead by folding it over itself with a bench scraper. When the dough is relatively smooth, form it into a ball. Oil a medium bowl and place the dough into it. Turn the dough over so the top is oiled and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled.

Scrape the dough out on to a floured work surface. Cut it into two or three pieces and return all but one to the bowl and cover. Press and pull the dough gently to make a round-ish shape. After the dough is about 8″, transfer it to a peel and continue pressing from the center out to fill the peel but leave some room around the edge. Put on your toppings and bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven until done.