From time to time, I come up with something interesting. Eventually, I get around to writing it down here.
These hearty chicken or turkey patties provide a satisfying meal for four hungry diners.
- 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 T butter
- 1 T fresh ginger, minced
- 1 t sesame seeds (toasted if you wish)
- 1 t fresh thyme leaves
The patty mixture:
- Aromatics: see above
- 3/4 lb ground chicken or turkey
- 1/2 c plain bread crumbs
- 1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 c grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
- 1/4 t salt
- 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
- 1 egg
- 4 large sourdough English Muffins, toasted
- 4 T mayonnaise
- 4 T mustard (Dijon, sweet-hot, or whatever)
- 4 lettuce leaves
Sweat the onion in the butter on low heat for 5-10 minutes, till it's soft but not browned. Add the ginger and continue cooking for another five minutes. Add the garlic, continue cooking for two minutes, then remove from heat. Add the thyme and sesame seeds, and let the mixture cool. Add a dash of salt & pepper.
Knead together all ingredients for the patty mixture till they're well blended. Add additional bread crumbs as necessary to firm up the mixture.
Form four balls from the patty mixture, then carefully flatten each ball into a disc. Work the edges of each disc to smooth out any breaks at the edges. The discs should end up about six inches in diameter, and 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.
As always after working with raw poultry, wash your hands well.
Toast the English Muffins and spread with a mixture of the mustard and mayonnaise. Add a lettuce leaf and set aside.
Place the patties into a medium skillet with about a tablespoon of oil, frying for 4 minutes on the first side. The patties should develop a nice brown crust. Flip and cook for 3-4 minutes more. Keep the heat low enough so the patties go for the full four minutes before browning too much; they have to cook thoroughly. (With ground meat, any surface bacteria will have been mixed throughout the meat during the grinding process, which increases risk when the meat is undercooked.)
Since the patties are fairly large, consider cooking two at a time and holding them under foil to stay warm while you cook the remaining two.
Assemble each patty and muffin and serve. Serves four.
Hint: I've found that a teaspoon of Linn's California Lime Marmalade adds a nice sweet/tart touch!
I came up with this dish one evening and decided I liked this fancy name, so that's what I called it!
- 8 colossal shrimp (I use under-15 size) or equivalent smaller ones
- 1 c rice
- 1/4 t saffron
- 1/2 diced shallot (or equivalent freeze-dried)
- 1 can Ranch Style Beans or refried beans
- 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 c green tomatillo salsa. I like Oasis Foods Charred Salsa de Tomatillo. You can also use Trader Joe's Salsa Verde, or another equivalent. The tomatillo is very mild.
- Four kalamata olives, halved. I used Trader Joe's kalamata olives in olive oil.
- 2 c finely shredded lettuce
- Four 8" flour tortillas
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
- 2 T olive oil and 2 T canola oil
- 4 T kosher salt
- 3 T sugar
- Tortilla chips
Rinse and de-vein the shrimp. Place them in a bowl, cover with water, add the salt and sugar, and stir. Add 1-2 c crushed ice and let the shrimp sit.
Prepare the rice with the saffron and shallot. I like to use chicken or turkey stock for a little extra flavor. Heat the plates in a 180-degree oven.
When the rice is almost ready, heat the beans, and begin heating the oil in a large skillet. Rinse and drain the shrimp, add them to the skillet, and saute on medium heat.
After about 3 minutes, flip the shrimp and add the garlic. Flip them occasionally, cooking for about 3 minutes more. (If you use smaller shrimp, cut the cooking time so they don't overcook.)
When the rice is ready, prepare the plates. Place one tortilla on the plate, top with rice, beans, and shredded cheese. Return the plates to the oven to melt the cheese.
Add shrimp atop the cheese, and top them with a few Tbsp of salsa. Garnish with the lettuce and olive, and serve with tortilla chips. Serves four.
- 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes*
- 1 6.5oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 20 fresh basil leaves, torn
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3 T extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
When the pasta goes into the pot, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, and add the white wine. Reduce to a simmer, add the artichoke hearts, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Drain the pasta, add it to the skillet, and turn off the heat. Toss it well, add the basil, and serve with a green salad and bread. Serves six.
Variations: Saute two boneless chicken breasts in the olive oil first. Remove the chicken when it's still a bit undercooked, cut it into chunks, and return it to the pan with the artichokes.
* Look for the various varieties of diced tomatoes: I like the ones with roasted garlic, the fire-roasted, or the ones with caramelized onions. Using one these varieties adds flavor.
Spaghetti With White Bean Cream Sauce
- 1/2 lb spaghetti, each strand broken into thirds
- 1 15oz can of Canellini (white) beans, drained
- 2 cups chicken or turkey stock (one can, or use your own!)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 T butter
- extra-virgin olive oil
This is a low-fat alternative to an Alfredo sauce, and the beans are an interesting vegetable.
Simmer the stock to reduce and concentrate it, about 15 minutes or until it is reduced by about one-third.
While it's reducing, start the pasta water boiling. Sweat the onion in the butter on low heat. The idea is to soften and clarify the onions, not brown them. The butter and onions should not turn brown. After about five to ten minutes, add the garlic. Be careful not to brown the garlic!
Puree about 2/3 of the beans in a food processor and add to the reduced stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and lower to a simmer. Add the garlic/onion mixture and simmer another five minutes.
When the pasta has about five minutes to go, add the reserved beans and cream to the sauce and simmer slowly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, plate a portion of pasta, put sauce on top, and then pour about four tablespoons of olive oil around the edge of the pasta (like a moat). Top with freshly grated cheese. Serves four.
Options: Grate a little fresh nutmeg onto the empty plate before plating the dish.
No-Brainer Roast Chicken
- 1 Whole chicken, 4 to 5 lbs
- kosher salt
- Old Bay seasoning
- vertical chicken roasting stand
Rinse the chicken and remove the giblets and neck. Salt it inside, but not outside (Old Bay has plenty of salt). Rub the chicken skin with the Old Bay seasoning.
Stand the chicken on a vertical roaster in an 8-inch square baking pan.
Pop it into a 375 degree convection oven for about 1hr 15min. Rotate the pan occasionally to let the skin crisp evenly all around.
Cooks-Itself Shredded Pork Carnitas
- 1 pork tri-tip (also called "cushion")
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
Salt and pepper both sides of the meat and place it into a baking pan. (I like to use a pyrex 9x13 baking pan, because it's easier to clean.) Place it on a center shelf and roast it for six, yes, six, hours. No need to turn it!
At about the halfway point during cooking, I like to cover the meat to avoid drying the outside. Drain any accumulated liquid. I add a layer of parchment over the meat to avoid placing aluminum foil directly on the meat. (Acids cause the foil to blacken, which doesn't seem nice.)
At the end of the time, remove the meat from the pan and shred it with two forks. Any remaining chunks of fat should strip easily from the meat. It's easier to shred when warm rather than cold.
Serve with tortillas, guacamole, shredded cheese and salsa. Or add plenty of barbecue sauce and it's pulled pork!
Notes: To conserve energy, cook two at once in a larger pan. Shred and freeze the extra meat and you can enjoy it on short notice next time. If you like to bake your own beans, they usually need about the same temperature and time, so do everything at once.
Chicken De-Lite Salad
- 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, grilled
- 1/2 lb sharp provolone, cut into wedges
- 2 cups assorted salad greens
- 1 apple, sliced
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 T balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
This dish was born out of a lack of a plan: I just raided the fridge.
For the vinaigrette, combine the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and let the mixture reduce to thicken somewhat, about 15 minutes. (This vinaigrette is also great over fresh spinach leaves.)
Cut the celery into angled slices, about 1/2 inch thick, and the chicken into long strips. Arrange everything on a serving platter. Serves two.
Seared Pork Tenderloin
- 1 pork tenderloin
- 1 c apple juice (unfiltered if you've got it)
- 4 T honey
- 1 T vinegar (not wine vinegar; rice vinegar or balsamic are nice)
- 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 t kosher salt
- 2 T ground ginger *
Combine all above ingredients in a gallon zipper bag, squeeze out the air and zip it. Place it on a plate in the fridge, rolling it to ensure good contact between the marinade and the meat. Let it marinate at least four hours, preferably overnight.
Slice the pork into 3/4-inch slices. Pour the marinade into a saucepan, add ginger, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until it reduces to about half its volume and thickens.
Brush a hot frying pan with about 1T of canola or corn oil. Add the pork, and don't move the meat around for about two minutes, to allow it to develop a good brown crust. Turn it once and don't move it for three more minutes. Check to make sure it's just medium, with a bit of pink (about 135 degrees). Hold the meat in a warm oven if necessary until the sauce finishes its reduction.
An alternative is to cook the whole tenderloins over a medium-hot BBQ grill. Check the temperature of the meat periodically with an instant-read thermometer. Take it off the grill when the temp is just shy of 135 degrees (it will go higher as the meat stands). Let the meat rest for five minutes before slicing.
Serve the pork medallions over rice and spoon the sauce over the meat. One tenderloin should just serve four people: you can get about 14 slices from the average tenderloin, if you don't mind the smaller end slices.
Tip: Try making just the marinade as a sauce for grilled chicken.
* If I don't have fresh ginger, I like to use dry whole-root ginger. It lasts forever, grates nicely, and it tastes almost as good as fresh. A favorite spice specialty supplier is Penzey's.
Try some of this with seared pork tenderloin.
- 2 peaches, peeled and diced
- 2 T honey
- 1 T minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 t salt
- dash white pepper (black is OK, but white disappears nicely)
- 3/4 cup marsala wine
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the mixture thickens and the peaches soften. Mash lightly but leave plenty of lumps. Yields about 2 cups.
Quick Light Chili
This is a good way to use up leftover cooked meat. The Ranch Style Beans bring the chili flavor to the dish. This chili is mild with a slight smoky sweetness from the BBQ sauce and ketchup. Yeah, I know there are a million chili recipes...
- 1 can Ranch Style Beans
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup diced onions (frozen are easiest)
- 1 T olive oil
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup barbeque sauce (I've used apple BBQ sauce)
- dash Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3 cups cooked shredded pork, chicken, or turkey (see the carnitas recipe above)
- 1/4 cup water as necessary
Sweat the onions in the oil for a few minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except the meat) and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Add the meat, simmmer till heated, adding water as desired. Serves four.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
- 1 can S & W Italian Style stewed tomatoes
- 1 can chicken broth (What? You don't make your own?)
- 1 stalk celery, sliced (leaves optional)
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 1 medium potato, washed & diced (peeling optional)
- 1/2 sweet onion, chopped (red, Vidalia, Maui, etc) or two green onions
- parsley, salt, pepper, paprika, etc. to taste
- dash Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 1 can minced clams
Drain the tomatoes, reserving the liquid, and coarsely chop them. Put everything except the clams into a saucepan; bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes until potato and carrot are tender. Remove from heat, add clams and their juice, stir and serve. Serves 4.
Options: Chopped clams, which are cut into slightly larger chunks, can be used, but they will be chewier.
Making Stock: It's Not Rocket Science
- 1 chicken, duck, or turkey carcass, or 2 cups shrimp shells
Impress your friends when you tell them you've used your homemade stock in a dish! You can use stock in most places where you'd usually just use plain water. (In recipes, not in the shower!)
Put the carcass or shells into a large pot, add 8 cups water (or more, as necessary to cover things). Add a teaspoon of pepper, a bay leaf or two, perhaps a bit of thyme. No need to add salt – the carcass may have some leftover spices, and you can add salt when you use the stock later.
How about those celery leaves, or maybe a stalk or two? An old carrot? A smashed clove of garlic? Those wilted green-onion tops? Cut 'em up and add 'em. (Avoid strong vegetables like broccoli, onions, or asparagus: they'll add too much flavor.)
Bring to a boil, then simmer for a couple hours. Check periodically to make sure it's still at a very slow boil. Cool and strain into small containers, and freeze for later use. I like to use the plastic containers that formerly held cream cheese: they hold a little over a cup of liquid with room for expansion.* Don't forget to mark the type of stock if you plan on making several types.
Where to use stock: Soups, rice, risotto, sauces. Shrimp stock is better used for seafood dishes (think cioppino!).
Tips: If you run short of containers, pop some previously frozen stock out of the containers, like big ice cubes. Put 'em in a zipper bag and back in the freezer. Freeze shrimp shells till you get enough to make a stock.
* Remember your high-school science? Water expands as it freezes. If you fill the cups to the top, the tops will pop off when they freeze.
Not-Yet-World-Famous Pico de Gallo
- 1 can plain diced tomatoes
- 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilis
- 1/2 medium onion
- 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 t garlic powder
- 1 T salt
- 1 t black pepper
Rinse the plain tomatoes in a colander to get rid of the tomato-juice flavor. Add the Rotel tomatoes. Drain them, cutting larger pieces as necessary. (Kitchen shears work well right in the colander.) Discard the liquid.
Finely chop the shallot or onion and toss everything together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld. (Refrigerate it if you're not using it within an hour.)
- Use shallot and the white parts of green onions instead of the yellow onion. Since shallot is a bit garlicky, omit half the garlic powder.
- Use a red onion.
- Remove some green chilis from the Rotel tomatoes if you like it milder.
- Try using diced tomatoes with roasted garlic or caramelized onion.
This sauce is great on pork or chicken, or on a drier fish like swordfish or tuna.
- 1 c orange juice
- 1/4 t fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 c Trader Joe's Wild Mountain Cranberries, drained. If you don't have a TJ's nearby (or they've run out of the product), substitute frozen cranberries and 2 T sugar.
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and reduce till thickened, about 15 minutes. Sometimes I'll add 1/2 t of fresh ground dry ginger.
Grilled Portabella Mushroom Sandwich
This is a nice vegetarian alternative to the usual burger.
1 portabella mushroom cap
1 large tomato
1 slice provolone or swiss cheese
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T mayonnaise
1/2 t dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, minced
Saute the garlic at low temperature in the oil. Don't let it brown or it will become bitter. While the garlic is heating, spread the roll with the mayonnaise and mustard.
When the garlic is softened and slightly transparent, turn off the heat but leave the pan on the burner to stay warm. Brush both sides of the mushroom with the hot olive oil from the pan. Cut a thick slice of tomato, season with salt and pepper, and set it into the hot pan. Turn once to coat evenly with the oil/garlic mixture.
Place the mushroom on a medium grill upside down (gills up). Grill two to three minutes till browned and slightly softened. (Keep an eye on it so the oil doesn't cause a flare-up.)
When you turn it right side up, top it with the cheese. The cheese will melt just about the time the mushroom is done. Remove the mushroom from the grill and assemble the sandwich. Add the tomato slice (making sure to get those bits of garlic) and a slice of lettuce.
Serve with a small side salad and chips. You're on your own here.
Hint: Portabellas often come in packages of two, and you'll have plenty of tomato. Double everything (except the tomato; just cut two slices) and invite a friend to lunch.
Smoked Chicken Salad
- 1 smoked chicken *
- 2 heads romaine lettuce, hearts only. If you have whole heads, remove the outer several leaves and set aside for a different salad.
- Trader Joe's reduced-fat Cilantro salad dressing
- 1 apple (I used a red delicious)
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 c chopped walnuts
- Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste
Squeeze the lemon into 1qt of water; I even threw the rest of the lemon in the bowl, since all we need is the acidulated water to keep the apple from turning brown. Slice the apple and immerse the slices in the lemon water.
Wash the lettuce, cut, and toss with the cilantro dressing. Shred the smoked chicken; add the chicken, apple, and walnuts and toss.
Serve with tortilla chips and salsa. I served three fire-roasted salsas for tasting: Jardine's Campfire Roasted, Timpone's Salsa Muy Rica, and Oasis Charred Salsa Fresca.
Serves four to five.
* You can usually find smoked chicken at a local smokehouse, where they smoke fish, poultry, and sausages. My local smokehouse is Ruddell's Smokehouse in beautiful Cayucos, California. In the San Francisco Bay Area, I also like the Corralitos Market and Sausage Company, near Santa Cruz and Watsonville.
- 1 can S & W Italian Style stewed tomatoes
- 2 T dry minced onion
- 1/2 t Old Bay seasoning
- 1/4 t dry thyme
- 4 c shrimp stock (or 2 cans chicken broth)
- a few leaves of fresh basil
- 1 t sugar
- 2 T flour
- 1/3 c milk
- 8 large shrimp, peeled & deveined
- 3 T dried bonito flakes (Japanese "katsuo bushi") (secret ingredient!)
I think it's fun to have a recipe with a secret ingredient.
Puree the tomatoes in a food processor. They don't have to be perfectly smooth; a little lumpiness is fine. Put the tomatoes, stock, and spices into a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. (You've reserved the shrimp, bonito, flour, and milk.) While the soup is simmering, whisk the flour into the milk.
Add the shrimp and continue simmering for 3 minutes. Add the bonito and the flour mixture. Stir well for another two minutes; add salt and pepper to taste. Serves four.
Katsuo-bushi is dried, finely flaked smoked bonito tuna. It's available in any Japanese grocery store, often in little packets. Unopened, it will last for years. The katsuo adds a different seafood flavor and a slight smokiness to the soup.
The Doctor Is In
I often "doctor" commercial products to make them a bit more special than the way they come from the bottle or jar.
Caesar Dressing: Bottled creamy Caesar dressing just doesn't have the kick of a real Caesar, but I'm often too lazy to fix my own. For a salad for four, here's what I do:
- 1/2 cup of bottled creamy Caesar dressing
- 1 T anchovy paste
- 2 T dijon mustard
- 1 t garlic powder or 1 clove finely minced garlic
- 1/4 t each salt and fresh ground pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon or 2 T balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Whisk all the ingredients together. Toss the salad with 4-6 T extra-virgin olive oil, then add the dressing and toss again.
Variation: If the fresh garlic is a bit too heavy, saute it in the olive oil for a few minutes to mellow it. Cool before using the garlic-oil mixture for the first toss.