I love to cook.  More than that, I love to eat.  So its very easy to make the jump of combining the two loves into one big fat delicious LOVE.  Here you will find some great recipes for dishes like Steamed Mussels, Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic, Pumpkin Soup, Roasted Fennel with Anchovies and Sambucca, Blueberry Pancakes.  You get the picture, good stuff!  You can post a recipe too and together we can be chefs of the city (or the country if that is where you live).  Also, I'll be telling you about some of my favorite restaurants around town.  So enjoy!   


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Urban Food

Sunday
Sep292013

Pasta Puttanesca!

Sunday
Aug112013

Poulet Avec Crème fraîche Rivera!

   I think on a Summer evening people want to eat something light, refreshing, yet filling.  And I have created the perfect meal to fit that bill!  Poulet Avec Crème fraîche.  That is Chicken with Crème fraîche.  This is a dish that has the light yet satisfying protein of breast of chicken in a savory, citrus tinged, herb infused cream sauce over penne pasta.  Served with a crisp mineraly, lemony Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, can it get any better than that?  I think not!  And this is how you make it.  

1 boneless chicken breast

3 tbl olive oil

1 pat butter

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs-thyme, sage, marjoram

2 cloves garlic chopped

1 small shallot chopped

1 cup New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

3 tbl Crème fraîche

2 tbl chopped Italian Parsley

1-2 cups pene pasta

                                                            Method:

 

   Fill a large pot with water and add LOTS of salt, doesn't have to be sea salt for the pasta.  Why lots? Contrary to many pasta recipes that call for a tsp of salt for a pot of pasta, truly great chefs use lots more.  This is because the pasta water is the first step in the seasoning of your pasta.  Trust me, in this case, MORE is more.  I try to achieve in my pasta water the taste of sea water.  Try it, you'll be amazed at the difference.  Also add about a tbl of olive oil.  And it doesn't need to be said that when olive oil is mentioned, extra virgin is the default.  And when it comes to water and pot size, go for big.  You want to give the pasta room to swim around.  That reduces the starch and the stick factor.  So now you have your pot of 'sea water' over flame, proceed to the rest of the recipe.

 

   Pound chicken breast between 2 sheets parchment paper or in a plastic bag until musle fibers are broken or perhaps reduced in thickness by half.  heat in a skillet at just under medium the olive oil and add the garlic and shallot and a pinch of the herbs.  Sauté for about 1 minute, DO NOT BURN.  Add chicken breast.  Turn up heat to medium and brown on both sides.  Remove from pan.  Add wine and butter and scrap the bottom with a spatula so that the scrapings become part of the sauce.  Add the rest of the chopped herbs and the salt.  Reduce at medium until half gone, stirring frequently.  

   Another break from method.  Why did I specify a certain type of wine from a certain country as opposed to any dry white wine?  Good question.  And yes, you can use any white.  BUT, I have found that the Sauv blanc's from New Zealand have a very special citrus quality to them that lends itself very proprietarily to this dish.  It gives it a clean, lemony flavor that offsets the other creamy buttery aspect and makes your taste buds just jump, some say, with joy!  So onward.

   Once reduced, place breast back in the pan.  Cover and reduce heat to 1/4.  Add pasta to boiling water and stir, or if timed right, pasta will already be on the boil.  Sauté chicken breast for about 5 minutes, or until done, turning a few times.  Do not overcook.  Drain pasta into colander and add the Crème fraîche at the very end into pan with chicken.  Stir in and simply warm.  Plate breast and pour pasta into the pan and stir, coating it thoroughly.  Pour onto plate and garnish with chopped parsley.  

   This dish pairs extreemly well with the Sauvignon Blanc, its sharp minerality cuts through the creamy dish like a hot knife through butta!  A couple of good ones are Kim Crawford http://www.bevmo.com/Shop/ProductDetail.aspx/Wine/Sauvignon-Blanc/Marlborough/Kim-Crawford-Wines-Ltd/Kim-Crawford-Sauvignon-Blanc-12/_/R-4-11706  and Matua, 

http://www.wine.com/v6/Matua-Valley-Sauvignon-Blanc-2012/wine/120262/detail.aspx?state=CA

both of which are excellent.  Crème fraîche can be bought at Trader Joes, Sprouts or any fine grocery store.  

   Make this dish, its really far more simple then it looks and you'll thank yourself!  Of course the recipe is for one and if need be can be doubled etc.  

 

 

Saturday
Jul272013

Seared Ahi Tuna 2!  

MMMM MMM!  Here's a very cool way to prepare seared tuna.  Prepared right, with some lemon and wasabi, it is the perfect high clean protein, low calorie dinner known to man!  

Sunday
Jul072013

Summer Afternoon Lunch

   I like sandwiches as much as the next guy.  But sometimes you step it up a notch without hardly anymore effort and have a class A lunch that you'd have to pay an arm and a leg for at a fancy-schmancy restaurant downtown.  No?  

   This is the European Provincial style -simple, fresh food, cooked quick with no fuss and muss but so delicious!  A trip to the Farmer's Market for fresh mussels, heirloom tomatoes and some fresh peaches.  Then its out to the garden for some fresh picked herbs, marjoram and thyme. 

   Here's how to make the mussels!  

   In  a sauté  pan, pour in some olive oil.  Put heat a bit over low and add chopped garlic, chopped marjoram and thyme.  Sauté until soft but do not burn.  Maybe one minute.  Add mussels and some butter.  Pour in wine.  Amounts vary depending on the size of the pan and the amount of mussels.  Raise heat to medium/high and sauté  until mussels open- about 7 minutes.  

   Serve with crisp baguette, cheeses, olives, and whatever else you like that is fresh.  All this is washed down with a crisp dry rosé or a Chablis, or an ice cold beer.  And there you have it, a perfect Summer lunch, best served outside and best served in a garden if you have one.  From start of prep to serving, perhaps 15 minutes.  Bon Appetit!  

Friday
Jul052013

The Cast Iron Skillet, a must have for every home chef

Remember that old pan that your mother or grandmother used all the time, the old black cast iron one that you dismissed as old fashioned, and eschewed for that Teflon non stick "convenient" one?  Well it turns out that your grandmother was right all along, modern does not always translate to best and technology is sometimes best served by hearkening back to things that worked-and in the case of cast iron, worked great!  

   Cast iron pans have been used for centuries and have stood the test of time.  They are hands down the best cookware for heat retention, durability and if seasoned properly, are as non-stick as the best non-stick skillets on the market.  I use almost every day, a cast iron skillet that I "borrowed" from my mom years ago that she used to cook me breakfast before she sent me off to school.  That pan is over 50 years old and it just gets better with age.  It is no surprise that cast iron is undergoing a re-discovery, and are being produced new, as well as refurbished because when something is unsurpassed its reputation precedes it doesn't it?  

   What makes a cast iron skillet such an essential item for a home chef?  Heat.  If for instance you want to grill a perfect steak on top of the stove, you must achieve an intense even heat that would destroy many other pans. Its the sear that makes the steak, and you must achieve a certain heat to get that certain sear.  Or your steak will flop.  A stainless steel skillet will achieve that heat, however, the meat will flash sear onto it and stick.  And its not an even deep heat, its a sharp heat that burns.  Controlling heat with stainless is very difficult.  Cast iron creates a deep, reliable, intense, even heat that will not stick if the pan's been seasoned correctly.  There is nothing better then ahi tuna seared to perfection for one minute on each side on a hot, hot, hot, cast iron pan.  Also, they can be used to roast a chicken in the oven and can withstand an oven temp of 500 degrees!  That my friends, is heat and durability.  Plus, lets face it, you look cool, like you know what you're doing, when you have friends over and they see you cooking with that black, aged, cast iron skillet.  Now of course I have other pans.  I have a high quality non-stick pan dedicated for certain fish and for omelets.  And of course, stainless steel, for sautéing and sauces.  But more and more I'm finding my 'go to' pan is my mom's old cast iron skillet.  And I've bought a bigger one that I got refurbished at an antique store for baking chicken and other larger jobs.  

   Cast iron skillets must be cared for properly and seasoned.  They should never be washed in water and of course never in the dishwasher!  Please no!  I season mine with olive oil which I apply and then wipe off with a paper towel.  After use I simply pour the remaining oil out and wipe the pan clean.  That's it.  If you buy a new one it can take a long time to season and as a matter of fact, it will continue to age for years.  And since I mentioned years, I am reminded of where cast iron comes from, and the romance and magic that it brings to mind.  In a distant time before our Sun and Earth existed, there was an immense star that exploded.  The reason it exploded is complicated but suffice it to say that it was running out of fuel and kept creating new fuel to burn.  New elements.  The last element it created was iron, and the energy to burn iron was greater then the energy derived.  So it collapsed and in the explosion, iron was shot out into the universe.That iron, forged in the depths of that star, was part of the dust cloud that eventually coalesced to form our solar system.  And that, faithful readers, is where all the iron in the entire universe comes from-the death of a star.  And that includes the iron in my mother's old trusty cast iron skillet!  As well as other things like the iron in our bodies, etc, but that's another story for another time.  Right now our story is the cast iron skillet, and in this tiny snippet of history, you can see its venerable linage and mystique.  

   So for the home chef, use what the chef's in the world's finest restaurants use, cast iron!  After all, when it comes to cooking, they know what works.  Do yourself and your guests or family a favor and get a cast iron skillet, it will reward you many times over for years and years!