Monday, January 26th, 2015

Another kind of chicken salad…

IMG_4106 So clearly I’ve got chicken on the brain lately, because I’m cooking and eating it for pretty much every meal. It’s a full on craving, and cravings are interesting, aren’t they? Why are there certain ingredients we just need in our bodies all of the sudden? I’ve had spates where all I wanted was turkey sandwiches; then another time it was an addition to smoked salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and more recently citrus (fresh pink grapefruit in the morning, tangerines for snacks, cara cara and fennel salads…). I’m sure there’s some science behind these cravings—mineral or vitamin deficiencies perhaps (yes, I play a doctor on tv), but right now it’s all about poultry so why not share that craving with you?

My last post was about assembling a classic chicken salad sandwich using the wonderful organic birds my supermarket is now offering. Today I’m featuring a different kind of chicken salad: Using your leftovers to make a hearty lunch salad. Any roast chicken will do for this, but I’m in love with a recipe from My Paris Kitchen, a newish cookbook from the Paris-based food writer David Lebovitz. The recipe is for Poulet a la Moutarde, or Mustard Chicken, and it’s a classic French dish for braising chicken thighs or parts with wine and flavoring it with a combination of dijon mustard, bacon, thyme, creme fraiche…resulting in a tender and intoxicating bird.

For dinner we eat the warm chicken over buttered noodles and then any leftovers go over a salad, like the one pictured above: Baby spinach, feta, sliced radish (another ongoing craving), a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar-shallots-maple syrup, a nice hunk of bread, and of course the chicken. It’s so simple, so satisfying. I might make it again today.

 

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Friday, January 16th, 2015

Homemade Chicken Salad is What I Want Right Now

IMG_3790Lately I’ve been craving chicken salad at lunchtime—who knows why. Normally that would mean chopping up the odd and ends of a roast chicken from last night’s dinner, or if I was feeling more motivated, poaching some chicken breasts and then shredding them up. This was all fine and good but unfortunately cravings and ingredient availability don’t always go hand in hand. Until now… because lucky for me, my local mega-supermarket has begun selling organic rotisserie chickens (besides the zaftig Perdue beasts that used to be the only option). Is there a better cheat than a hot rotisserie chicken just waiting to be turned into innumerable dishes? I think not. If your market isn’t yet offering the organic kind, I recommend asking the manager–what do you have to lose?

I particularly love chopping up some of the warm chicken and tossing it with a combination of creme fraiche (or mayo), a big spoonful or whole grain mustard, perhaps some prepared horseradish, finely chopped tarragon and shallots, salt, and lots of freshly ground pepper to make my lunch salad.

IMG_3812I happened to be traveling past the main bakery for Balthazar Bakery, based in Englewood, NJ, last weekend, and picked up one of their hearty whole grain-rye loaves for just such a sandwich. If I’m using a thicker bread, perhaps toasted, then I prefer my chicken salad sandwiches open-faced, for the sandwich pictured above I did the following:

-Toasted the bread and then buttered one side of each slice.

-With a fork, smashed a half of ripe avocado on top of each buttered slice (normally half an avocado would do for 1 sandwich, particularly if you’re sharing, but these were small avocados). Sprinkled salt, pepper, and lime juice on top of the smashed avocado.

-Topped avocado with a heaping spoonful of the chicken salad. Add thinly sliced radish on top (because you need something crunchy to match the chicken and avocado) and season them with just a little salt and pepper.

-A side of cornichons is not mandatory but recommended.

ENJOY!

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Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Thinking of You Paris

paris.yogurtI’m not sure what is an appropriate post to pay tribute today to the journalists who lost their lives or were injured in yesterday’s attack at Charlie Hebdo, but at the very least I wanted to express my thoughts of love and solidarity to France and all of the people who risk their lives sharing their knowledge, insight, and humor to make the world a better place. It is a terrible tragedy but one that will hopefully help us all come closer together to fight intolerance.

Above is a photo I took on a family trip to Paris a few years ago—it includes some of my favorite things from that magical city of truth and beauty and ideas.

JeSuisCharlie.

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Monday, January 5th, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things from 2014

IMG_0329Happy New Year! To wrap up the old before heading into the new, I wanted to post food highlights from my 2014. This is basically a random recap of all my favorite things—from a nacho recipe that was featured on Dr. Oz (see up top), to my new habit of doubling the greens (like bok choy, broccoli rabe, kale, spinach, and swiss chard) when adding them to pasta (see below)…

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and being a guest on my favorite radio show—WNYC’s Leonard Lopate!

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Here is the rest of my end-of-the-year photo round-up in no particular order, and a warning: DON’T READ WHILE HUNGRY…

photoNo visit to California is complete without getting a double cheeseburger, prepared “animal  style” from In & Out Burger (and HERE’s A LINK to their “secret” menu).

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IMG_2243I formed a full on love affair with radishes and put them on everything!

P1290946I finally had the opportunity to eat transcendent sushi at Sasubune in Los Angeles (cross that one off the bucket list).

P1300016Discovering dry-marinating salmon with herbs, spices, and lemon zest before cooking.

P1300029Keeping up a tradition of homemade birthday cakes for Conor…no matter how they turn out.

P1300233Falling in love again with pink grapefruit and using it in everything from cocktails to salad dressings…let’s keep the Florida citrus farms alive and well!

photo 4Going to Buvette in NYC and eating breakfast at the bar as often as possible (also nicking their pens…see them in the ceramic holder??).

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P1300283Experimenting with frozen puff pastry for quick dinners and easy party food.

P1300366Composed salads!

IMG_1050New favorite cake recipe: Coconut Berry from the cookbook Homemade Summer by Yvette van Boven…people flip for it EVERY SINGLE TIME.

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P1050396Eggs. Just eggs.

IMG_1134If you haven’t already gotten a benriner (Japanese mandoline slicer) after reading KEEPERS then do it ASAP! It’s the BEST/cheapest kitchen gadget that will help you make things like this shredded raw beets salad:
IMG_2271and this quick-cucumber pickle…
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IMG_1354Mango lassis in frosty Mason jars.

IMG_1359My friend Maya Kaimal’s addictive chickpea chips, specifically the spicy sweet chili variety. Also gluten-free!

IMG_1363Food & Wine selecting KEEPERS for their annual Best of the Best Cookbooks Edition (can you find us on the cover??)!

IMG_1673This for lunch: Leftover broccoli rabe smashed on toast with ricotta salata and a slice of prosciutto.

IMG_1883Grilling more steaks in summer…

IMG_2111And eating more fresh peas with lots of dill, butter, and salt and also on toast with creme fraiche...
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IMG_2280Watching Belgium versus the US in the World Cup!

IMG_2360Ice Cream, ice cream, and more ice cream…

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IMG_2497A scoop of fresh basil ice cream on top of a scoop of marscapone from The Bent Spoon in Princeton.

IMG_2486The first crisp of summer with an almond crumble crust.

IMG_2574158 Pickett Street Cafe in South Portland, Maine— still makes the best bagel sandwich I’ve ever had: An everything bagel topped with chile cream cheese, smoked salmon, cucumbers, capers, and onion.

IMG_3109Raspberry stands on the side of the road in Maine…

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IMG_2697Eating my cousin Veronique’s crepes in Maine.

IMG_2788Non-pasturized, whole, organic, jersey cow milk from Maine.

IMG_2812Summer vegetable gratins.

IMG_2946Making giant Nicoise salads for summer cottage lunches with friends and family.

IMG_3019More pie-eating contests!

IMG_3315Steamers.

IMG_3322Watching my cousin Veronique eat steamers for the first time.

IMG_2672Sunsets in Maine.

IMG_3420Eating tater tots at Fenway Stadium during Conor’s first Red Sox game.

IMG_3533These gorgeous tomatoes from my CSA Ralston Farm (on toast with mayo and lots of flaky salt).

IMG_3584Did I mention more ice cream? This time from the wondrous Arethusa Dairy in Connecticut.

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IMG_0083Putting all of these things in a bowl over grains: Roasted beets, chopped parsley, toasted cashews, leftover roast chicken, pomegranate seeds, and feta.

IMG_0041Remembering to go back-to-basics sometimes because shells and tomato sauce is divinely simple and good (KEEPERS Basic Tomato Sauce!).

IMG_4148Drinking out of bottles

IMG_4046Just this.

IMG_4011You can NEVER eat too many BLTs.

P1300567Late summer peppers for roasting and also making Alice Waters’ ratatouille…

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IMG_3862Starting off a day in NYC with a stop at Doughnut Plant…
IMG_3363and also ordering one of their pretty green tea matcha lattes.

IMG_3850Jersey peaches.

IMG_3837Realizing that I should really make chilaquiles for breakfast more often.

IMG_4514A new puppy!

IMG_0141Always making TWO banana-chocolate chip breads.

IMG_0591The wonder of bee pollen…sprinkled here on post-yoga morning yogurt with honeycrisp apples and toasted walnuts.

IMG_0018Discovering Sunrise Biscuit Drive-Thru in Chapel Hill (seen here with country ham and egg).

IMG_0034And also eating this gorgeous plate of shrimp & grits at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill.

P1050570Asian noodles (soba, somen, udon) with nuoc cham sauce and all my favorite things (radish, eggs, toasted nuts, arugula, etc.).

IMG_1943Roasting the carrots with their tops (when they look this good and fresh) and then eating them too.

IMG_2492The crunchy bits on salty pistachio soft serve ice cream at Momofuko Milkbar.

IMG_2696Drinking this delightful local fruit ale called Happy Accident while visiting Madison, WI.

IMG_2764And then on the way home having a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare and getting to eat this torta with a side of margarita at Rick Bayless’s restaurant.

IMG_2963Massaging kale to make this KEEPERS salad with pomegranate and toasted pumpkin seeds.

IMG_3245Making mervielleux pastry (coffee whipped cream, between layers of meringue, with shaved chocolate on top) for the first time at Christmas dinner and having it turn out like this:

IMG_3237YUM!

IMG_3298And last but not least: Watching Conor drink hot chocolate.

THE END! Can’t wait to share more with you in the New Year!!

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Monday, December 15th, 2014

The Best Gift Ever

IMG_4367I was putting together my list of favorite holiday gifts, when I found myself in a situation that made me pause and reconsider the entire endeavor. Now, to be clear, this is not hating on gift guides. I ADORE perusing holiday gift-buying lists. The really good ones (like THIS one and THIS one and THIS one) are just fun to read, total retail brain candy, and can actually help you find a special something for that nitpicky loved one. But in the midst of sorting through favorite cookbooks, gadgets, mail order products, etc. I had an experience at a friend’s house that made me realize something (and a warning, this is going to get a little hokey): It truly dawned on me that the best gift to give someone you love and care about is something we all already have in our possession…it’s free, it’s perfect even when it’s imperfect, it’s unforgettable, and it’s always from the heart…the best gift of all is to cook someone a meal.

The situation I’m referring to occurred last weekend while I was visiting my oldest best friend (we met in 1st grade!) in Wisconsin, in the midst of some family health concerns. One night, one of her girlfriends arrived with her family and proceeded to cook for all of us. Now first off, this was a major treat for me because NO ONE cooks for me anymore. With the exception of the occasional barbecue, dinner party invite, or when my wonderful Korean friend Sujin has me over for lunch to devour her homemade kimchi and jigae, I can’t remember the last time anyone made me a homecooked meal. Part of the reason for this is because I’m the go-to cook in my home, and not only is making food part of my work, I love it, and it’s what I do. But honestly I think a lot of people don’t want to cook for me anymore because now that I’ve written a cookbook, they think I’ll be judgey. So let me just put it out there right now: I LOVE WHEN PEOPLE COOK FOR ME!!!! As long as you don’t serve me Hamburger Helper, I’m yours.

Back to Wisconsin…

What made this homecooked meal by my friend’s friend particularly special wasn’t that it was ultra-gourmet, or took all day to prepare, or required the dirtying of every pot in the kitchen (by the way, doing the dishes is also part of cooking for someone, or at least helping a bit). It was special and kind because she put her entire love and care into it. She roasted eggplant and garlic for a dip, made corn (not seasonal but who the heck cares!?), baked chicken, and all the while we just got to sit and talk and play with the kids. It was bliss.

Now I do want to distinguish showing up and cooking a meal in someone’s  home from the Tupperware drop-off variety. Making and then leaving food for someone is also super kind, but it’s different. You’re not together for the preparing or the eating, so an element of sharing goes missing. Even if you’re whirling around the stove, you’re still spending time together, and best of all, you get to thank the friend who cooked for you in person at the table.

Now those of you who do not consider yourselves cooks, then I say, “so what!”. I don’t care what your skill or confidence level is, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has one dish they can bang out of the park. It may be your grandmother’s meatballs, a recipe for chickpea salad you ripped out of a magazine years ago, a perfectly medium-rare steak, or killer egg salad. No matter what, chances are you’ve at least got a wonderful grilled cheese in your culinary repertoire and you know how to pour a glass of wine. Chances also are that you have a friend, neighbor, or family-member who is perhaps under the weather, having a tough holiday season, having a tough year, or just seemed plain overwhelmed the last time you saw them, and that this person would love for you to come on by and make them something to eat.

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As far as any rules to follow I’d suggest the following:

-Bring all the ingredients. Unless you’re very familiar with their kitchen, don’t assume they’ll have everything that you need.

-Keep the meal simple. One-pot, not too many courses, and fun.

-Just like a dinner party—make sure it’s something you’ve made a million times before. This is not the time to experiment with osso buco.

-Bring the wine.

-Go with delicious. Meaning a comforting chicken pot pie over a raw 10-grain salad…unless your friend and their family are really into 10-grain salads.

-Do not leave them with a sink full of dirty dishes.

-Don’t let them see you sweat. If you look like you’re about to have a full-on anxiety attack or complain that it’s not going to be good then that defeats the purpose of this being a gesture that’s not about you.

So go forth and cook for someone you love! It will be the best gift you’ve ever given.

XO

*And I do still want to share my favorite cookbooks of the year so I promise to get that on the blog in time for any last minute shopping!

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