Fried Green Tomatoes (aka Winter Caprese Salad)

If you have a bunch of these at the end of the summer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then turn them into this with this proven, basic recipe that I call a Winter Caprese Salad. It was one of the appetizers used at the President’s Address at the end of the summer in “New York Fried” (Chapter 56).

green tomatoes1

INGREDIENTS

4 large green tomatoes
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 quart vegetable oil for frying

METHOD

  1. Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick. Discard the ends
  2. Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Scoop flour onto a plate.
  4. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper on another plate.
  5. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.
  6. In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over a medium heat. Place tomatoes into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain on paper towels
  7. Serve with Burrata or semi-soft mozzarella with whatever basil you salvaged before bringing the plant in from the cold. Intermix the tomatoes, cheese, and basil on a plate (as you might with a Caprese) and drizzle with Balsamic Glaze.

 

 

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Milanese Chicken Thighs in Red Wine Sauce

This recipe comes from the book, “Great Women Chefs”, by Julie Stillman, published over a decade ago (Turner Publishing Inc.) and features America’s top female chefs of the time. This one is from Teresa Rovito, who at the time had just opened “Le Streghe” in New York (1994), to honor recipes of her Italian youth.

Thighs or legs are preferred to breasts because it’s darker meat and works better when marinated in the red wine vinegar. I’ve added mushrooms and carrots, and used pearl onions instead of shallots (you can leave them in the sauce whole that way). It’s a decadent, tasty gourmet meal that isn’t that tough to make.

INGREDIENTS

chicken thigh packet (8-10)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsps honey
2 tbsps brown sugar
2 cups red wine (cab or pinot)
1 cup beef stock
1 packet golden pearl onions (apx 15)
salt and pepper (to taste)
bay leaves (enough for each thigh)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsps olive oil
10 mini mushrooms (white or crimini)
2-3 small carrots, sliced thinly

METHOD

  1. marinate thighs in a plastic freezer bag with the red wine vinegar, honey, and brown sugar. Place in the fridge for minimum 1 hour, preferably 3-4.
  2. put pearl onions in a pot of water. Bring to boil. Take off from heat and pour cold water over till pot overflows. Drain fully. Put more cold water in the pot to cover onions. When cooled, skins will slide off if you slice one end of each onion.
  3. saute marinated thighs in an ovenproof pan (cast iron is perfect) for ten minutes, till browned on all sides
  4. meanwhile, pour wine and skinned onions into another pot and bring to a slow boil. Reduce by 2/3rds
  5. place a bay leave inside the fold of each thigh and place the pan in the oven at 450 degrees for 20 minutes
  6. in another pan, use 1 tbsp butter to saute carrots (till soft), then mushrooms, till browned. Set aside.
  7. when the wine has reduced, add the beef stock and reduce again
  8. take out bay leaves and place thighs in a deep serving dish. Add carrots and mushrooms, pour sauce over chicken.
  9. serve with roasted potatoes and crusty bread (for dipping)

 

 

A modern approach to a traditional dish

Pierogi has been around for centuries. A staple of Eastern European countries initially, they have been taken up by the French, the Italians, American immigrants, and now modern chefs.

Inspired by dishes created at the Loaded Pierogi in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, this dish is a fusion of Italian, Slovak, and American tastes. My wife says I was ahead of my time as I’ve been “bastardizing” traditional Pierogi recipes for about twenty years (my ex-mother-in-law was a traditional Czech, and my exposure to many European staples emanates from her table). Although the basic potato pierogi done in onions and bacon and topped with sour cream, is exquisite in its simple form, I liked the idea of adding sauces, sauteeing and baking (instead of boiling and grilling), mixing sweet and sour… and the list goes on.

So now that it’s a modern trend and no longer a sin, I don’t mind sharing my own creations. Sorry Bubba!

INGREDIENTS

10 pierogi frozen (making your own is an option, but a time-consuming one) I prefer potato filled to any other. LEave them in the fridge or wrapped on the counter until thawed.

1/2 cup tomato soup
1/2 cup marinara sauce
2 fresh tomatoes (skin removed) crushed
1/4 cup red wine
dash of red wine vinegar
2 tbsp Italian salad dressing (I use Parmesan and Garlic- flavored)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tbsp each pepper and salt
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 tbsp marjoram
1/4 tbsp oregano (if you are missing one, put a 1/2 tbsp of the other)
If you have fresh oregano, use 4 sprigs instead of the dried ingredients

3 rashers bacon, cooked, wrapped in paper towels, and crushed when dried
1/2 onion, chopped

METHOD

  1. Cook onions first, to a golden hue
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes and carrots and cook for 3 min, then add the soup and marinara. Bring to a boil
  3. While boiling add the paste and wine, then simmer for 10 min
  4. Add marjoram, oregano, salt, pepper, and continue to simmer for 5 min
  5. Meanwhile, cook bacon to a hardy crispness. Remove half of the grease
  6. Ensure the pierogi are thawed, not frozen and saute in the bacon grease until they firm up and brown slightly. Add the salad dressing and continue sauteeing for 10 min until pierogi are puffed up and browned

Place pierogi on dish side by side and pour sauce over them. Sprinkle crushed bacon over the sauce and serve. A nice tomato salad (Caprese or feta and tomato work nicely) can be served as a side.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

 

 

How do you reheat steak without cooking it further?

If you’re like me, having left over steak leaves a lot to be desired. If you cooked it perfectly the first time, then any further cooking will turn it into charcoal or thereabouts. If you try pan frying but that just turns even the best medium-rare steak into well done in seconds, especially if you slice it.

Here are two methods I’ve used to achieve the above and stopped me from ruining a great steak the next day:

  1. IF THE STEAK WAS KEPT IN THE REFRIGERATOR  Place the leftover steak in a freezer seal plastic bag and immerse it in a pot of boiling water. After 20 minutes or so, the steak is warm enough to eat and the temperature hasn’t risen enough to change the “state” of the steak as it was originally cooked. The only problem with this method is that you recognize you’re not cooking to 160 degrees and so risk that some bacterial matter may have been introduced during the refrigeration stage.
  2. IF THE STEAK WAS FROZEN (OR REFRIGERATED OVERNIGHT) Place leftover steak in about 1/8 inch of warm water inside a slow cooker (preferably a small one) and turn the dial to “warm”. After about 1/2 hr, the steak is heated through and hasn’t changed it’s “state”. If you’re concerned about bacteria, dial it to low and the steak will cook slightly further (turning a medium rare into a medium, etc.), but you’ll still have a decent-tasting steak that has likely reached close to 160 degrees.

I find that whenever I reheat a steak, it loses a little of its original flavour, so I usually serve with a tomato/onion/feta salsa, or at the very least, a little A1 or HP sauce on the side. Even a little heated gravy or aus jus poured over the steak will not only add flavour but keep the warmth in.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

 

 

 

 

Baked Haddock with Creamy Crab Sauce

I had an urge for a creamy crab sauce. That’s what started it. Then, I realized I had to have the sauce with something. Enter the Haddock. Brushed lightly with lemon olive oil and baked at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, the Haddock is a perfect vehicle for the Crab sauce to enhance. You can put it on top of anything really (preferably fish) but I like the consistency of baked haddock to that’s my choice. The sauce is 296 calories per serving alone, so that’s why a light fish is necessary to keep those numbers down.

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsns butter
2 tbsns flour
2 green onions with about 2″ of green, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon parsley leaves chopped (or 1/2 tspn dried)
4 ounces lump crabmeat (I use canned but fresh would, of course, be better)
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 cups heavy whipping cream (or half and half if you think that’s too rich)
1/2 tspn cajun or creole seasoning. (sometimes I use a 1/4 tbsn of chili-flavoured olive oil)
1 tbsn tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat; stir in flour, onions, and parsley. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes
  2.  Add the sherry and crabmeat to the flour mixture; gradually add the cream, stirring constantly. Stir in Cajun seasoning and tomato paste. Simmer for 5 minutes to reduce slightly.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper, if necessary.
  4. Arrange the haddock (or whatever) on a plate and pour sauce over top. Serve with rice or small baked potatoes. Garnish with parsley.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

Roasted Sausages & Grapes

 

This is actually not a gourmet dish but rather a staple, comfort food example from Tuscany.  Popular at grape harvest, Italians use grapes right from the vineyard. It has a nice balance of richness with sweetness that is pulled together by balsamic vinegar.

My kids loved this dish when I discovered it about 25 years ago and it continues to be a simple go-to for my wife and I, along with a great Tuscan wine. The best way to enjoy this dish is to ensure each forkful has a grape, a slice of sausage, and a dollop of mashed potatoes. When it hits your taste buds for the first time, it is truly astonishing!

INGREDIENTS

2 sausages per serving (mild or hot Italian, honey garlic, English banger). My preference is mild Italian because the flavor mix is tremendous and the meat doesn’t overpower the grape. Serve one of two types in each serving; i.e: one mild and one banger on a plate.

3 tbsn unsalted butter
6 cups red or green seedless grapes, stemmed (I prefer red for rich flavor)
4 tbsn balsamic vinegar

METHOD

  1. reheat oven to 500 degrees. In a large pan, cover sausages with water and parboil for 8 minutes to rid them of excess fat.
  2. Melt butter in large, roasting pan. Add grapes and toss to coat. With tongs, transfer teh sausages to the roasting pan and push them into the grapes so the sausages don’t brown too quickly
  3. Roast, turning the sausages once, for 25 minutes or until the grapes are soft and the sausages have browned.
  4. With a slotted spoon, bring sausages and grapes to a heated serving platter
  5. Place the roasting pan on the stove top over medium-high heat. Add balsamic vinegar, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom the the pan. Allow the vinegar and juices to reduce until they are thick and syrupy.
  6. Pour the sauce over the sausages and grapes and serve immediately.

Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and a good Tuscan wine.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

 

 

 

Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Tomato-Butter Sauce

Since my wife and I are foodies, our recent trip to Curacao included hitting one of the ten top ranked restaurants (according to Trip Advisor) each day we were there (we managed eight).

So when I came home, my first gourmet night was a little nerve-racking: How could I compete with the extraordinary dishes we had just experienced? I couldn’t disappoint my wife that soon after such a great culinary experience.

So I decided to make my own Gnudi and see what happened. Gnudi is basically “ravioli filling without the pasta,” according to Gotham Bldg Tavern (New York City) chef, Tommy Habetz (originator of this recipe). Turns out it was a hit with a fresh, tasty dough that soaked up the sauce perfectly.

INGREDIENTS
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 small onion, halved
1 bay leaf
pinch of crushed red pepper
one 28 ounce can diced Italian plum tomatoes
salt
2 cups spinach, stems discarded
1 tub of fresh ricotta (apx 1.5-2lbs)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 cups all purpose flour

METHOD
1) In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter. Add the garlic, onion, bay leaf and red pepper and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes and their  juices and bring to a boil. Simmer the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 2 and 1/2 cups (about 1, 1/2 hrs). Discard the garlic, onion and bay leaf. Season the sauce with salt and keep warm. (If you desire, you can chop up the onion and put it back but Tommy prefers it sans-onion)

2) Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, and stir over moderately high heat until wilted; transfer to a colander; let cool slightly. Squeeze the spinach dry and finely chop it.

3) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a food processor, combine the spinach with the ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and process until blended. Add the flour in 3 batches, pulsing between additions, until almost incorporated. Scrape the ngudi dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 5-10 times, until smooth.

4) Add one-fourth of the gnudi dough to a large, resealable plastic bag; with scissors, cut a 1/2 inch corner from the bag. Working over the boiling water, squeeze the dough through the corner opening and use a knife to cut it into 1-inch pieces. Cook the gnudi over moderately high heat until firm, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon or sire skimmer, transfer the gnudi to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

5) Carefully transfer the gnudi to the tomato sauce and stir lightly to heat through. Spoon into shallow bowls and serve at once, passing more Parmesan at the table.

Pair with a fresh Tuscan white wine (this is a Tuscan dish), or a light Chardonnay.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.