Sunday, June 29, 2008

Potato crisps

Actually, I'm not really sure what to call these--they're sort of a work in progress. I think of them as potato crisps, although I know that makes them sound like fried chips, which they are not. If you can think of a better name for them after reading this, let me know. These are totally awesome. I made them to go with the pork cutlets and green salad from the other day and I wish I had made about a billion more of them. But like I said, they were sort of an experiment, so I only made a pan's worth for trial purposes. You'll need small, itty-bitty round new potatoes for this. The little teeny red kind would work really well, I suspect. My problem was that my potatoes were a little bit too oblong, so they didn't squish right.

Get as many potatoes as you think your guests will eat. Then get a few more, because these are awesome and will get gobbled up. I had 12 on my baking sheet and about 5 people over for dinner--but like I said, smaller, rounder potatoes would work better for this anyway and you could probably fit more of those on a baking sheet. Get a big pot full of salted water and bring it to a boil. Cook your potatoes whole until they are tender when pressed down on, but are nowhere near falling apart. You'll be cooking them more in the oven and you don't want them to crumble when you smush them, as you'll see. Meanwhile, melt together 2 tablespoons olive oil with 3 tablespoons butter and set aside until your potatoes are ready. When they're softish (mine took about 20 minutes, but the time varies with size), lay them on a baking sheet and lightly press down with the tines of a fork until the potatoes squish and break open under the pressure, but hold their roundish shape. This is why it's important not to over cook them and maybe also to try and get small potatoes that are round in shape. Mine were small but odd-shaped which I think lead to breakage. If they do break, don't fret, just shape them back together as best you can. Through the power of butter, they'll still taste amazing. Anyway, however you can, get your potatoes squished and laid out evenly on a baking sheet.Brush them with the melted olive oil-butter mixture and sprinkle them liberally with salt, pepper, minced parsley and fresh minced chives. Set them to bake in an oven at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. You'll know they are done when they're golden brown on top and completely irresistible looking.Aren't they cute? They still look like potatoes, except they're delicious.

Pan-fried pork with rosemary and lemon

The other night I made this for an assortment of people. Ali usually (not always, but usually) isn't into pork-based dinners, so I used a few pieces of chicken cutlet along with the thin-cut pork loin cutlets. What it is is a simple marinade for pork and chicken, then a breading for crispiness and a quick pan-fry up. It's actually pretty much similar to the chicken milanese I make often, except with extra flavor from the marinade.

In a really big bowl, lay out a pound or so of thin sliced pork loin cutlets (and a few chicken breast cutlets if Ali is coming for dinner too). Add the zest and juice from at least one lemon, kosher salt, fresh black pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove thin sliced garlic and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary.Let these ingredients chill out together for at least 30 minutes prior to dinnertime. They'll get nice and flavorful if you give them enough time.When you're ready to make dinner, bread each cutlet in a mixture of 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup grated provolone (or other favorite hard cheese) pepper, salt and 1 teaspoon dried rosemary. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and saute the cutlets in two batches over medium-high heat until browned on both sides (about 3-4 minutes per side). Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over top.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Radishes and summer salad

This is a really quick post in favor of radishes. They're pretty! I bought a beautiful bunch of candy-colored radishes...even though they are not the total spectacle of my all-time favorite (the now-out-of-season springtime watermelon radishes from Morningside Farmers Market), these were pretty lovely in their own right.They can be really dramatic looking.Those white ones are from the same bunch, which is some crazy plant genetics. They're a little more mild in flavor too. There were also some gorgeous light purple ones in this bunch.So what did I do with these radishes anyway? They ended up in a green salad composed of baby lettuce, goat cheese, golden raisins, pistachios and tossed in lemon-olive oil vinaigrette.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Boiled peanuts

Not everybody lives in a peanut state. Wisconsin, for example, is not at all a peanut state. Georgia, on the other hand, clearly is. What this means is that I can find big piles of fresh, green peanuts at my market and boil them up before dinner. Most people just boil them until tender in a really salty pot of water. That briny treatment is what you get at most roadside stands too--a hot, salty, delicious pile of peanuts. Simple but effective. I used to doctor mine up quite a bit--depending on what I felt like doing, sometimes I'd throw pickling spices or bay leaves in with the salt water. But these days I just toss the hot boiled peanuts in red chile oil for spice and call it a day. I can always get the classic kind while on the road somewhere, after all...

Take a pound of Georgia-grown green peanuts and wash the dirt off them. Bring a big pot of super salty water to a boil. How much salt? Taste it--if it tastes salty, you have enough. Add your peanuts and boil them uncovered until they are squishy soft. It usually takes mine about 25 minutes. Sometimes (like this last time, for example) I add cloves of whole garlic because then the cloves become soft and delicious along with the peanuts. It is definitely not traditional but it's good. When the peanuts are soft, drain them and toss with chile oil. Or not. It doesn't matter as long as you eat them hot. They're so irresistible that they (eventually) even got Ali off the internet to come over and eat some. Serve them with an extra bowl for your guests to dump the shells in.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Green bean and potato salad

So my mom always makes something very similar to this in the summer. When I was a kid I hated it. HATED it. I'm not sure why. I think I have unresolved potato issues. I have always found them boring and bland when they are simply boiled, and since this recipe relies on potatoes in their plain boiled state, it is totally yanking my chain. But! It turns out that lovely green beans and potatoes fresh from the summertime farmers market are extraordinary with a simple treatment, and that's all this is.

Take equal amount green beans and small new potatoes. I used probably ½ pound of each. Trim the green beans down to about 1 ½ inch pieces and set aside. Cut the potatoes in half, then lay each half down on the cut side and slice again to cut them into quarter. If your potatoes are teeny to begin with, this should be small enough. Otherwise, just cut your larger potatoes into small chunks whatever way possible. Now get a pot of salted water heated up on the stove. When it is boiling rapidly, toss in your potato chunks. Keep an eye on them--the time to cook will vary depending on how many you have put in and how big the pieces are. Less of either of those factors = less cooking time. My small quarters of potatoes took less than 10 minutes to become tender but not crumbly. You should fish one out and try to stick a fork in it--should have some resistance to it still but definitely not be raw. At that point, dump in the green beans and let them cook for another 3 minutes. Fish one out and bite it to see if it's done to your liking. If so, drain everything and put in a bowl big enough to mix up in. While the veggies are still hot, pour a vinaigrette over them that you made from 2 parts olive oil to 1 part vinegar or the juice from one lemon, salt and pepper. I used white wine vinegar the time I made this recently. A small spoonful of dijon mustard is an interesting variation in the dressing too. Anyway you make it is fine--a matter of personal taste. Toss it gently with the still-hot vegetables, making sure to use a light hand so you don't mash your potatoes. Fresh chives snipped in at the very end would also be a great and very summery addition.

And now, a small interlude to point out that Melanie has discovered a really great new way to get drunk. It's wine in a box! Apparently it keeps for 4 weeks or so, not that we've had it around long enough to find out. And believe it or not, but the wine is pretty decent. Anyway, I love the packaging and the fun of the little tap. Just pour yourself another! And another!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Balsamic raspberries

The big theme lately is recipes so easy that they are barely even legit. This one totally fits into that mold--balsamic raspberries are a great summer fruit dessert and have a non-cloyingly sweet, elusive flavor. I asked Ryan what he thought the flavor on the raspberries was and he thought about it for a minute and then guessed "chocolate?" So it's hard to pin down but it is lovely. You can also slice up strawberries and do the same with them.

I tossed about 12 ounces of fresh raspberries with 2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Let them macerate for 20 minutes.I served the raspberries over small scoops of vanilla yogurt. They'd also be great over ricotta drizzed with honey, or greek-style yogurt.


A quick post on one of my favorite vegetables that is now in season and widely available at farmer's markets. Kohlrabi is a weird looking alien vegetable that happens to be delicious. It's pale green and has a wonderful flavor sort of like broccoli stalks. Since the stalks are my favorite part of broccoli and broccoli is my favorite vegetable, it makes sense that I like kohlrabi. You'd think I could just cut out the middle man and make kohlrabi my favorite vegetable instead, but I guess I'm just full of surprises.
I prepare kohlrabi very simply--just trim off any greens, cut them in half, peel the halves, then slice them up into little half-moons. I then steam the pieces in my vegetable steamer over a little bit of water--you can just use a pot with a tight-fitting lid over boiling water if you don't have a steamer handy. When they are steamed tender but not squishy soft (about 5 minutes) drain them well and toss with a pat of butter and salt and pepper. Delicious and simple.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tomato and mozzarella

This doesn't hardly count as a recipe it is so easy. And actually, I'm almost positive that I've written it down before. But that was before I had my own camera to post pictures with! So you can enjoy the loveliness of this simple appetizer and maybe you'll want to make your own with the gorgeous tomatoes that should be showing up soon in farmer's markets.

Slice one (or two or three...) tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Drizzle them with the best olive oil you can find and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay them out on a plate. Take as many pieces of fresh (packed in water) mozzarella as you like and slice into rounds or halves. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, as you did the tomatoes. Lay them together attractively or rustically with the tomato slices. Tear some basil up by hand and tuck it in and around the tomato and mozzarella pieces. Have Betsy bring some wine over on a hot summer night and eat while gossiping. Only leave a couple pieces for Ryan. He was late.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pan-fried chicken with lemon

I love fried chicken but I really can't even think about attempting it in my own home. Although it is flavorful and delicious, it's also a very intimidating and work-intensive process, and that is simply not how I roll. But I was craving it and thought it would be the right sort of thing to accompany a bounty of summer vegetable dishes (brought on by an overly indulgent trip to the farmer's market, perhaps?), so I made a version of a crispy chicken dish that gets enlivened by a bunch of fresh lemon to fill in for the punchy flavor of real, southern fried chicken.

You'll need one whole chicken, cut up. Mine was a big one, about 9 pounds. Even though I was at Whole Foods instead of my usual beloved DeKalb market, I just asked the guy behind the counter to cut it up for me--butchers will usually do that for you. Take your chicken pieces and toss them until well-coated in a bag or big bowl in a mixture of the following ingredients: 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1 teaspoon paprika, salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. Heat up 1/3 cup oil in a heavy large pot. I used olive oil and my big cast iron dutch oven, but any oil and any pot will do. Peanut oil would be good too, if you have it. When your oil is good and sizzly hot, place about half your chicken pieces in it, skin side down. I say "half" because that's how many fit in my dutch oven at a time--yours may be bigger or smaller. Don't be crowding your chicken though. When the chicken pieces have a great looking golden brown crust going, flip them over and let the other side get the same--it's probably about 7 minutes per side, over high heat. But keep a good eye on them. When both sides are done, remove to an oven safe baking dish and do it again with the second batch. Slice one lemon into thin slices and cover the golden brown chicken pieces with the slices along with another sprinkle of paprika, salt and a grind of pepper. I also added a large clove of garlic, sliced thinly, over the top. Stick the chicken in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. You want them cooked through but not dried out so cut open a big piece of thigh and check them out at about 25 minutes to see how it looks. When they're done through, haul them out and squeeze more lemon juice over all. Oh, it's pretty damn good, I don't mind telling you.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Quick chard sauté

This is so quick and easy and the usual way that I make greens but Ali liked it the other day, so I guess I should write it down for the record. It's a good thing to do with a big pile of greens from the farmers market that you bought thinking you wanted to be healthy, but now you just don't know what to do. I used rainbow chard, but any other type of chard or kale will work as well. Kale is a little tougher; I find chard is a more mellow flavor. Spinach is good but be forewarned that it contains more water so the sauté ends up more liquidy.

Take a big pile of washed and dried chard and make a stack of about 5-8 leaves at a time. Or you can roll them up into a cigar--that works too. Either way, slice down across your stack/roll and make a chiffonade of the greens. Mince one small Vidalia onion. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion over medium-high heat until soft and lightly golden--about 5-7 minutes. Add your sliced chard and continue to sauté until it is wilted and reduced in size (another 5 or so minutes). Kale or tougher greens will take a little bit longer, so taste-test if you're not sure. Add to this a small handful of golden raisins (or dried cranberries, if you have those around instead). Remove from heat and stir in the juice from 1 lemon, salt and lots of fresh ground pepper. If you have some toasted nuts, that's great on top as well (I usually have pinenuts, but almond, walnut, anything is a good variation).