Thursday, May 28, 2009

What have you made in your cast iron skillet lately?

What a nice question, given how much we love cast iron. (If you don't know this, it means you do not receive the Grill-A-Chef Monthly Newsletter and there is a remedy for that *** see below). Anyway, the skillet was recently hired to make one of the best frittatas ever. After overcoming apprehension of having the eggs stick to it, even though I have the utmost faith in cast iron and it is reverently seasoned, I went for it. I hadn't made a frittata since I let the non-stick go once and for all. Making eggs in the cast iron was the final frontier. Again, I should have been more confident since the Lodge logo does actually have an egg in it.... I'm talking about old habits dying hard.
Also, I was once traumatized by a hideous frittata-gone-wrong-incident in a straight up stainless steel pan before I became pro. Picture it: rented house in the south of France, unfamiliar kitchen, 9 hungry people. The result was some sort of chunky scramble, luckily there was much wine to help us forget. But in this case, the final dish was so delicious and so easy, I find myself atop the soapbox reassuringly calling out the praises of the cast iron once again.
The frittata was perfectly cooked throughout, with a bright yellow color and a light springy consistency. It lifted perfectly out of the pan and made neat slices for brekkie, lunch and dinner. Yay!


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces goat cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 pound asparagus
1/4 cup canola oil
9 eggs
salt and pepper

• Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a small bowl stir the olive oil, goat cheese, garlic, pepper and 2 tablespoons of parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper (or get down with some herbs and spices...just make it taste gooood). Set aside.
• In a large bowl thoroughly whisk together eggs and remaining two tablespoons of cheese.
• Trim bottom two inches from asparagus and discard. Chop the rest into one-inch pieces.
• Heat canola oil in a large (10-12 inch) nonstick or cast iron skillet. Saute the asparagus pieces until bright green and just tender. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
• Pour egg mixture over asparagus and evenly sprinkle the goat cheese over the top. and place the skillet in the oven, 15-20 minutes (check after 10 minutes). The finished frittata will be firm but slightly springy to the touch throughout. Place under the broiler for one minute to brown the top, if desired. Slice into wedges and serve.

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Dress up that goat cheese!

Sizzle that asparagus!

Put it together and cook it up!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How close can you get to the edge of the Parmesan before you start getting into the part of the rind you shouldn't eat?

A fine question.
The rind that your talking about is actually just hardened cheese. It gets this way from being exposed during the production process both to salt water: where it sits for 20-25 days and then to air: while aging for at least 12 months.(These are standards the real deal Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese has to meet, there are a lot of impostors out there. I spotted one just yesterday that boasted of being aged 90 days)

This rind is actually edible all the way out to the fine leathery skin. I like to save my Parmesan rinds in the freezer to throw in soups and stocks, they impart a great flavor.

A side note: it was once a rule that the whey left over from producing Parmigiano-Reggiano went to feed the pigs raised for prosciutto di parma.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Green Peas! Fresh or frozen?

Um, both! We tested a mix of fresh and frozen peas in this soup recipe to great results. Though shelling fresh peas is a bit of work, the end result is spring in a bowl. Try not to eat them all before the cooking process begins! It is important to source your peas from a place you know they are fresh as can be because in or out of the pod, peas are a delicate item that begin to lose sweetness (as the sugar turns to starch) from the moment they are picked. This is why a high-quality brand of frozen peas can be a perfectly suitable option. Flash frozen soon after being harvested, the peas will retain their sweetness and their nutritional value quite well while being reliably delicious all year long. But we are worshippers of the season! If you will ever by a fresh pea, now is the time.

No matter which form of peas you choose to cook with, this soup is a bright start to a spring meal. You can achieve a smoother puree by passing the final product through a sieve. If you leave it chunky just tell people it is 'rustic' and it will be a hit anyway. Remember the longer you cook the soup, the darker green it will become. This is the reason a hot liquid is added to the veggies, to cook them as quickly as possible while keeping them brilliantly hued and fresh tasting. There are many lovely ways to garnish the soup too... Some softly whipped cream (pictured above), diced pink radishes, an herb oil or some toasted almond slivers would all be great finishing touches.

Spring Pea Soup with Mint

2 tablespoons butter
2 packages frozen peas (10 ounces/each) or 20 ounces shelled fresh peas
6 scallions, chopped
1 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

In a small saucepan or in the microwave, heat stock and water. In a soup pot, melt butter and fry scallion and mint until wilted. Add peas, stirring to coat with butter. Pour in warm stock/water mixture and sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until peas are tender (5 minutes for frozen, 15 minutes for fresh), then stir in the heavy cream and the vinegar.
Simmer (do not boil) 10 minutes more. Using a food processor or blender (we love out immersion blender!), puree the soup. Season well with salt and pepper. Can be served hot or chilled. Serves 6.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I want to make some new foods, how can I get out of my cooking rut?

It's easy to get stuck into home cooking and eating habits; always picking out the same ingredients and preparing them the same way. In the kitchen, it's very important to mix things up, not only to keep things fresh and interesting, but over long durations a narrow diet can lead to serious health problems. Both from too much of one thing and not enough of another.
So how do you go about mixing it up?
Try out some new ingredients. This starts in the produce aisle, where people seem to suffer the most from tunnel vision. They stare at a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables and see only apples and asparagus. If only they could refocus their eyes to see what stands out; maybe a seasonal delicacy, or an unusual entry like fresh lima beans.
Expanding your base here accomplishes a few key things. It opens your eyes to what is best at the time that you are looking rather then simply the best of what you are looking for. This simply results in better food. It also ensures a more balanced and varied diet for a healthier you.
The next step is to take on some new cooking methods. The best (and usually most interesting) way to do this is to venture into a nationality of food you don't have much experience making but love to eat. I was recently in Portugal where they simply layer items into a special pot (a cataplana), cover it with wine and cook it over low heat for a while. It's super simple and very delicious and different from what I would otherwise advise (or do myself). And that's just the tip of the international iceberg. Cooking foreign dishes will encourage you to try out new ingredients too.
In cooking, as in life, trying out new things requires a little effort and some risk, but if you just take the leap you'll find a whole new world (of food) is at your disposal.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Why are you holding out on the fish taco recipe?

We’re sooooooorry! We didn’t mean to make you wait so long, darling follower. The taco fiesta we rocked at the Chelsea Market a few weeks back was fun, however ambitious. The dish had many facets! For starters, the fish was doused in a smoky chipotle marinade for an hour or two before grilling. Tilapia was the hearty fish of choice (thanks Lobster Place!) and it stood up to marinating and grilling very well. As taco condiments, we shredded up some vegetables for a coleslaw topping and offered both a green tomatillo salsa (milder) and a tomato-based red (pink?) hot sauce.
As tradition warrants, we wrapped our cast-iron grilled fish in little corn tortillas and along with the two salsas, and the (cabbage, radish, scallion) slaw, we put a dash of sour cream to cool the whole thing out. People were happy and you will be too. What made them even happier?... As usual, the Chelsea Wine Vault did some spectacular, on-the-money pairings:
Latitude 50 Pinot Noir 2006 (Rheingau, Germany) a surprisingly delicious red wein and a Naia White 2007 from Rueda, Spain which pairs beautifully with fish and shellfish.

Here are the recipes and thx for your patience. Go grill it!

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 chipotle pepper (canned in adobo sauce)
1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers)

Combine ingredients in a blender and puree thoroughly. This marinade is sufficient for 2 pounds of fish/meat.
Alternatively, finely chop the chipotle pepper and mix with other ingredients. Pour over raw fish for up to 2 hours.

Fish for tacos: In a very hot cast iron skillet or grill pan, sear the tilapia filets until fish is flaky and cooked through, about 4 minutes on each side. Alternatively place them on a baking sheet and roast or broil at 400F for 10-12 minutes or until


5 cups of shredded cabbage
5 radishes, cut into matchsticks
2 whole scallions, chopped


2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
juice of one lime
a dash of hot sauce or to taste

• Combine the slaw ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
• Mix the dressing ingredients in a container with a lid, close it up and shake until combined.
• Pour dressing over the veggies and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

1/2 pound tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 onion, cut into 4 wedges
1 clove garlic
1/2 jalapeno
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 lime, juiced

• Cook the tomatillos, onions, garlic clove and jalapeno until slightly blackened on a grill or under the broiler
(about 8 minutes, turning once).
• Add charred veggies and remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
• Season to taste with salt and pepper. Yields approximately 2 cups of salsa.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup roughly chopped red onion
2 tablespoons roughly chopped chiles (habanero and/or jalapeno)
3 garlic cloves
1 (12 oz.) can tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons lime juice

• In a pan heat the oil until an onion dropped in bubbles vigorously.
• Carefully drop in the onions, chiles, and garlic to fry until slightly browned. About 2 minutes.
• Add the tomatoes, juice and all, to the oil and turn off the heat. Stand back as this the liquid may spatter!
• Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a blender or processor. Puree with the lime and cilantro.
• Season to taste with salT.
(And by the way, we know from experience that stirring some of the leftover salsa rosa into a mayonnaise dressing for potato salad is awesome too!)

Buen Provecho!
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