Chile Shrimp

Ingredients

    May 15, 2008 10:01:00 AM
    Recipes
    What's Your Go-to Appetizer?

    Img_0016 I'm going to a pot luck cocktail party this weekend and need to figure out a starter that will sit well for early birds and latecomers alike. I'm leaning toward bringing my sister's super simple, go-to hors d'oeuvre recipe: Lemon Parmesan Artichoke Bottoms.


    The hardest part of this recipe is finding the can of artichoke bottoms. Yes, bottoms. Don't be scared by the can, which looks like it's been on the shelves for decades. Trust me, they're delicious. There's only one grocery store near me that carry them so I always stock up when I can. I've tried it with large artichoke hearts, but you don't get the same results. Here's the recipe:


    Lemon Parmesan Artichoke Bottoms


    2 cans artichoke bottoms (either 5-7 count or 7-9 count)
    1 1/2 cups long shredded Parmesan
    1/2 cup mayo
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
    1/4 cup pine nuts


    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    2. Lightly coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray. Place artichoke bottoms in baking dish.

    3. Combine everything but pine nuts in a bowl. Place about 1 Tbsp. (or more, depending on size of bottom) of mixture on top of artichoke bottoms. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

    4. Bake for 20 minutes.


    It's super easy and so sinfully delicious. What hors d'oeuvre or appetizer do you serve in a pinch?

    Posted by Kathleen Murray Harris | Permalink | Comments (3)



    May 14, 2008 6:03:36 PM

    The Dinner Dilemma

    I admit it. Getting dinner on the table is no easy feat. And I'm a cook!


    My day job consists of developing recipes, writing them, and styling them to make them look and sound appetizing on the printed page. But, I realize, this often doesn't help. Just today my aunt said to me, "I love reading your recipes every month--it almost makes me want to cook them...". I completely understand.


    Short of ordering pizza, how can this be a less daunting task?


    Must dinner fulfill the government approved food pyramid? Can we re-define what dinner is?

    Posted by Sara Quessenberry | Permalink | Comments (3)



    May 14, 2008 7:06:00 AM
    Healthful Eating
    How Would You Like Your Eggs?

    I would like them fried, please, and as thin as possible, cooked in olive oil in a shallow skillet. I’d like them speckled with chives or garnished with a chiffonade of basil, and a bouquet of greens would be nice. I’d like them with black beans and a corn tortilla, and please pass the hot sauce. But most of all, I’d like them from a local farm, where the hens eat vegetable scraps and actually see the light of day.


    Egg_2


    For years, I much preferred egg-y accompaniments – applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar or chevre, a toasted pumpernickel bagel, oniony hash browns – than the egg itself, and what I came to realize is that for my entire life, the egg of my discontent had come from factory farms, where laying hens are scrunched indoors in battery cages.


    Once I finally experienced a farmstead egg, my life was forever different. A freshly laid egg from a farm within 100 miles of one’s frying pan has true color, vibrant like the sun, and it has true flavor from the land upon which the hen grazes. Just like that, there was no need for ketchup because the egg tasted that good.


    For the better part of the past 30 years, the medical community demonized the egg, blaming it for its high cholesterol, at 213 milligrams per large egg. (300 milligrams is the recommended daily allowance.)


    But these days, the egg is being cast in a different light. Sure, it’s still loaded with cholesterol, but now it’s being touted as a superfood – a complete protein, a good source of heart-healthy and brain-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids, and the richest source of choline, an essential nutrient for cell functioning and maintenance, protecting the liver from toxins and neurological transmission. In fact, the latest news about choline is that it may help reduce the incidence of breast cancer. According to an NIH (National Institutes of Health) sponsored study, ”the risk of developing breast cancer was 24 percent lower among women with the highest intake of choline compared to women with the lowest intake.” The study will be published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in June.


    With such exciting egg-y news on the horizon, I’m all about incorporating eggs into my diet, but like anything else, eating them in moderation. That said, I prefer my eggs fried and stay clear of hard-boiled (“They make me gag” is how I described them on the Diane Rehm show several years ago). Because I despise mayonnaise, devilled eggs and egg salad are considered double-trouble in my book. I know, there’s an international club of seasoned hard-boiled egg enthusiasts, and you’re all rolling your eyes at me.


    One of the most endearing single-subject cookbooks I’ve ever come across is the “Farmstead Egg Cookbook” by Terry Golson, a chef-writer who raises hens outside of Boston. (Check out her Hen Cam!)


    So…where you do roll when it comes to the egg? Are you a city mouse like me and didn’t have a farmstead egg until you were an adult? And if you’re a fan, what’s your favorite egg-ish dish? Share your stories on both sides of the fence.

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (1)



    May 13, 2008 2:57:27 PM
    Coffee | Eating Out
    Free Iced Coffee

    Iced_coffee_imageYou may have already heard that coffee lovers will get a budget break this Thursday, May 15. Dunkin' Donuts is giving out free 16 oz. iced coffee from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at any store in the country. (Find one here).

    They're also revealing the newest flavor to their iced coffee line: Berry Berry Iced Coffee. Who's willing to try it and report back? Do you think it will be any good?

    Posted by Kathleen Murray Harris | Permalink | Comments (2)



    May 13, 2008 12:15:42 AM
    Recipes
    Dinner with Friends

    I think it's always been more like dinner for friends. Even in college, I hosted my fair share of dinner get-togethers. I'm not quite sure you could have called them dinner parties, certainly not when much of what you've thrown together comes from the dinning hall (all part of my meal plan of course) and your main piece of kitchen equipment is a sandwich maker. Not the most luxurious of foods, but definitely creative, and most importantly, mobile.


    Since then, and increasingly after culinary school, my friends have come to expect a bit more than broccoli fried rice or spaghetti pockets. So dinner the other night was a departure--I made quesadillas. They were quick, they were loved, and there weren't any leftovers.


    What was your college standby and has it become a part of your grownup rotation?


    And, just in case anyone wants to taste it for themselves:


    20-Minute Quesadillas


    makes 4 servings


    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 red onion, thinly sliced

    Kosher salt and pepper

    1 poblano pepper, thinly sliced

    1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

    1 21/2- to 3-pound rotisserie chicken, meat shredded

    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

    1 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

    4 large flour tortillas

    1 avocado, diced

    salsa


    Heat the broiler. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.


    Add the poblano pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes more. Stir in the beans and chicken, and cook until just heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.


    Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice and cheddar. Spoon the chicken mixture evenly over half of each tortilla. Fold in half and transfer to a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until the tortillas are golden brown and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into wedges. Serve with the avocado and salsa.

    Posted by Kate Merker | Permalink | Comments (6)



    May 12, 2008 2:44:02 PM
    Travel
    Cooking Vacations: Play or Work?

    Do the words “vacation” and “cooking” belong in the same sentence?

    Piedmont_italy

    According to the results of a 2006 survey conducted by the Travel Industry Association, some 17 percent of all American leisure travelers (or 27 million) think so. Culinary tourism – a term coined only five years ago with the birth of the International Culinary Tourism Association – is hotter than ever.


    In fact, this month’s Gourmet is a special issue devoted to cooking vacations that includes first-hand reports on 40-plus cooking classes around the world, from an evening of hands-on practice in Las Vegas to an afternoon of home cooking in Kuala Lumpur. The level of detail and experiential coverage represents new heights for the epi-tourism industry that until recently was limited to the sundry listings on ShawGuides.


    Eight years ago, I took a master course in Italian cuisine in a small village in the Piedmont region of Italy. Amazing and enriching though it was, I wouldn’t exactly call my experience a “vacation”; we Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners students were required to put in eight hours a day of intense study and kitchen work. Free time was limited to the weekends, but I can’t recall anyone complaining. After all, we took classes in a castle and lived among vineyards.


    Regardless of the format, learning to cook a cuisine in the country of origin is an amazing experience, she says wistfully dreaming about packing her knives. If I had a magic carpet (and a bag of money), I’d be the first in line for hands-on kitchen tutorials in Bahia and Bali and Ballymalloe..oh! and there’s Croatia and Laos and Marrakech…


    What say you? Do you share a similar culinary wanderlust? Have your travels taken you into the kitchen in another city, state or land? Or does the notion of cooking while on vacation seem hardly like a vacation at all? Weigh in, if you so please.

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (2)



    May 12, 2008 10:01:18 AM
    Lunch
    Do You Bring Lunch?

    0707_food_picnic_5_1581_3 Here's a quick poll: Do you bring your lunch to work? And if so, what do you normally pack?


    Admittedly, I never bring my lunch. I think it's because 1) I'm never happy with what I bring and 2) I never have lunch staples at home.


    But you can't argue the cost and portion control benefits of DIY lunch. My goal: Try to bring lunch at least once a week. I'm going to start easy with this Turkey Wrap recipe. What do you make for lunch?


    Photo: Anna Williams

    Posted by Kathleen Murray Harris | Permalink | Comments (17)



    May 9, 2008 7:11:00 AM
    Family
    Making Time for Mom

    What are you doing this weekend to celebrate the queen bee in your life?


    This Sunday is no ordinary Mother’s Day; it’s the Mother’s Day Centennial! One hundred years ago on May 10, 1908, in Grafton, W. Va., a church service was held in honor of mothers, thanks to the urging of a feisty woman named Anna Jarvis. (President Woodrow Wilson made Mother's Day an official holiday in 1914.)


    That's right, it's all about La Mama for the next few days.


    After all, she's the one who teaches us:


    “What is it, Mum?”
    “Dover sole.”
    “Is it from Dover?”
    “Not always.”
    “What’s this?”
    “It’s a fish knife.”
    --- John Haney, “Fair Shares for All”

    ....Worries about and comforts us:


    I chose her favorite – a simple, slow-simmered beef stew – that I had started to make when practicing during cooking school. It had the benefit of being low in fat but high in protein and vitamins. If it made her eat less at dinner time, that was fine, too. It was a much better snack than what many of her classmates were digging into after school.
    -- Gillian Clark, “Out of the Frying Pan”


    ...knows what’s best for us:


    She made these by soaking the nuts overnight, peeling them, then grinding them with sugar and cardamom, forming soft balls and finally covering the balls with the silver tissue. They were the most elegant two balls you could ever hope to see. My mother firmly believed that almonds were brain food, and that any child sent off to write two examination papers for six hours unfortified with almond balls was surely suffering from the grossest form of neglect.
    -- Madhur Jaffrey, “Climbing the Mango Trees”


    ... the one who makes up stories to protect us:


    Burnt meatballs are good for you. They’ll put hair on your chest.
    --Susan O'Donnel, my mother


    I'm sure you'd agree that this list could go on for days, the countless ways that our mothers save our butts and make everything alright, even when we're 42 and sporting our own tufts of gray. This weekend, my kid brother and I will dote on our very own madre (what we like to call her), a widow and single mom who raised three teenagers, a talented painter, a self-taught gardener extraordinaire and my muse of color and design. There will be food, and there will be drink, but best of all, there will be family, coming together by plane, train and automobile, to celebrate the lady who made it all happen.


    Tell us: What's on your agenda for the motherly figure in your life? Got a Mom story to show and tell the world just how great and talented she is? Bring it on, especially if it's got a kitchen connection! And Happy Mother's Day.

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (0)



    May 7, 2008 9:33:33 PM
    Food for Children
    Better Than Ketchup

    Child_eating_rs_180

    There comes a time when all kids—even the adventurous ones—balk at certain foods. (See Kristin's blog post on her middle son, who is a picky eater.) On those occasions "Eat it because I said so," just doesn't cut it and a little stealth maneuvering is in order. Some parents pull out the ketchup. I do pesto.

    I discovered pesto's persuasive powers by accident, when I made one of the recipes Kate was working on for a summer issue. Following her tip, I put a small bowl of the store-bought sauce on the table for dipping. In an instant, every piece of food seemed to disappear from my seven year old's plate. Subsequent experiments proved that, like the proverbial "spoonful of sugar," it makes everything go down a little more easily. Cod, salmon, broccoli, asparagus—you name it, and it's gone (which makes sense when you consider that one of the sauce's main ingredients is Parmesan, the beloved topper of all things noodley.)

    Of course, the pesto trick is powerful because I use it only occasionally. (Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.) But on those desperate days when it seems that nothing will motivate my daughter to take a second bite, I take comfort knowing I have a secret weapon in the refrigerator. Now, if only summer would come: I'm dying to start making some pesto of my own.

    Do you have a special trick to get your kids to eat? If so, what is it?

    Posted by Lygeia Grace | Permalink | Comments (6)



    May 7, 2008 9:02:00 AM
    Gadgets | How To
    Crying Over Chopped Onions

    010420_onionbw_xx_fg_v I spotted these onion goggles on one of my favorite shopping sites, Violet.com and knew I had to try them. I love onions; I hate crying over them.


    Why does this even happen? Howstuffworks.com has a thorough explanation, but here's the 5-second answer: When you slice an onion, you're releasing its enzymes which react with the air to form sulfuric acid (to which your eyes are naturally sensitive).


    I've tried the cracker-in-your-mouth and the candle-lighting tricks. No luck. So it was time for the goggles. And they work. They protect your tear ducts from the onion fumes, so no ensuing waterfalls. The downside: Well, you look pretty silly. You won't want to whip them out during a dinner party. Swimming goggles can also do the job, but you might wind up with deep lines around your eyes. The official onion goggles are, if anything, comfortable.


    Another solution to tears of onion joy is to learn how to chop an onion fast. You won't beat the amazingly interesting scientific reaction, but the quicker you are, the less time for tears. Click here for tips on the right way to chop an onion. Check out the video below to see it in action. Do you have any other tips to avoid crying while chopping onions? Would love to heard your solutions.



    Posted by Kathleen Murray Harris | Permalink | Comments (8)



    May 7, 2008 7:54:00 AM
    Cookbooks | Vegetarian
    Building a Vegetarian Library

    Meatless eaters, we want to know: Did you make the dietary switch for health reasons or out of concern for animal rights?

    100_best_vegetarian_recipes

    Or maybe you’re an omnivore on the fence, tinkering with the idea of dietary tweaks because of the rising cost of food or the environmental impact of eating meat. Whatever the case may be, more and more folks are going veggie for an increasingly growing number of reasons; now there's even a word -- flexitarian -- to describe a person who eats meat less than 50 percent of the time.


    Veteran vegetarians know from experience that if the meatless switch is going to stick, you've got to spend some time in the kitchen and learn how to cook, even if it's just a few basics. These days, there are tons of meatless titles to choose from; a search for "vegetarian cookbooks" on amazon.com yields a search return of 48 titles. In fact, in the past week alone, I've received review copies of two new titles, "100 Best Vegetarian Recipes" by Carol Gelles and "Vegetarian Times Fast and Easy" by the editors of Vegetarian Times.


    To get this meatless book party started, I've rounded up a handful of titles that have earned space on my crowded bookshelves. One thing to ask yourself as you go book shopping: Are you a tome kind of cook or do you do better with smaller, hand-held volumes?


    A big vegetarian shout-out goes to:


    * “Vegetarian Appetizers” by Paulette Mitchell -- compact in pages but chockful of ideas for entertaining. I've been using this one for years.

    * Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero, a how-to kitchen guide for the aspiring vegan cook, offering a soup to nuts lineup, written in an inviting, unintimidating style.


    * How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman is a one-stop tome with tons of lists and charts, buying guides and more than 2,000 recipes.


    * Jack Bishop, a top editor at Cook's Illustrated, has a few reliable-goodies to his name, including "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen," "Vegetarian Everyday" and "The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook."


    * Deborah Madison, founding chef of Greens, the renowned San Francisco vegetarian restaurant, is the author of several meatless titles, both big and small, general and specific, but all written with a love for the topic and for the kitchen life. Her “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” is hefty and comprehensive; newbies may want to pursue the pared down (but not watered down) “Vegetarian Suppers” and “Vegetable Soups.”

    Two books without the word "vegetarian" in the title, but with a decidedly meatless focus:


    "Super Natural Cooking" from 101cookbooks uber-blogger Heidi Swanson: Stellar photography, creative combinations and a flair for playing in the kitchen are just a few great things about Swanson's book. And yes, by the way, it's all meatless fare.


    New York-based author Dana Jacobi opened my eyes with her "12 Best Foods Cookbook" and now she's got another health-minded title under her belt: "The Essential Best Foods Cookbook." Although meat and seafood are included in her recipes, Jacobi focuses on ingredient combinations that are rich in antioxidants and "disease-fighting micronutrients."


    Now it's your turn! Please add your favorite, dog-eared meatless titles to our virtual book shelf.

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (3)



    May 6, 2008 7:00:00 AM
    What's For Supper?
    I'll Show You Mine...

    Fridge Before we go anywhere in this blog, I want to clear up the fact that while I may be a trained chef and food editor, I am a working woman with a hungry (and picky) husband to feed. So, lest you imagine that meals in my house are exquisitely-prepared feasts (and that my husband must be the luckiest man on the planet), I thought I'd offer a little glimpse of "Dinner in the Life of the Clapp Clan" -- all two of us.


    Dinners eaten in my house at some point in the last month, in no particular order:

    1. Panko-crusted cod (aka fish sticks) with tartar sauce (mayo, mustard, and sweet pickle relish)

    2. "BBQ" chicken with sauteed corn and scallions (chicken just done in the oven, with store-bought Bone Suckin' Sauce; corn definitely frozen)

    3. Coquilles St. Jacques (scallops in a mushroom and wine cream sauce, baked up in a real scallop shell with a Parmesan-bread crumb topping; yes, we do live it up from time to time)

    4. Leftover Coquilles St. Jacques over buttered egg noodles (we will eat nearly anything over buttered "noodies")

    5. Scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and salsa (Green Mountain Gringo salsa is our favorite)

    6. Pan-seared lamb chops with slow-roasted tomatoes and buttered whole-wheat couscous (the meal my husband cooked me on our first date... though the whole-wheat angle is definitely mine)

    7. Grilled steak with creamed spinach (a real bechamel sauce, but frozen spinach)

    8. Chicken marinated in orange juice, ginger, garlic, and anise seeds... cooked on the grill (another one of my husband's specialties)

    9. Macaroni and cheese (my husband again... being the glutton I am, I prefer it with a bechamel sauce, but he just mixes cooked macaroni with milk and whatever nubs of cheese we have in the fridge, and throws it in the oven "until you can hear it cooking' -- you won't find me turning it down...)

    10. Buffalo wings and quesadillas (ordered in from the local Irish/Mexican restaurant on the corner, aptly named "Murphy and Gonzalez" - for our traditional Sunday afternoon 4pm "Linner")

    Lastly, in the interest of getting to know each other, here's a full-frontal of our fridge on Sunday afternoon -- complete with homemade concord grape jelly, local pickles from Rick's Picks, chow chow from Lygeia's recent trip down south, chicken cutlets from the test kitchen (to be my dog Franny's dinner for the week), bimbimbap sauce, Dom Perignon, and leftover Chinese food.

    I showed you mine, now you show me yours! What's been on your table these last few weeks?

    Posted by Allie Lewis Clapp | Permalink | Comments (2)



    May 5, 2008 8:05:20 AM
    Baking | Chocolate | One-Pot Meals
    The Easiest (and Best) Chocolate Cake

    Chocolate cake.


    That’s all my girl Tai wanted for her birthday. She’d been talking about it for weeks, and I assured her that I’d pony up with the goods.


    Chocguinnesscake


    I had downed my first cup of coffee on Saturday morning only to realize that if I were to fulfill my promise, there was actually little time for creaming butter and constructing layers. A beer was all I needed – specifically a stout -- and I could make my pal’s birthday wish come true.


    I have a handful of chocolate cake recipes up my sleeve, but this one, flavored with a beer, is possibly the easiest cake in the world, a one-pan, one stove-pot wonder requiring little more than a whisk and 15 minutes to assemble. Wait, there’s more. This is also one of the most alluring, eyebrow-knitting, lip-smacking chocolate cakes that will ever pass your lips.


    I know, that’s quite a declaration. But I’ve made this cake nearly a dozen times, and inevitably, everyone goes wild, begging for more. As my husband describes it, this is “grownup chocolate cake” -- not because of the addition of stout but because it’s not too sweet. The beer works in two mysterious ways, as far as I can tell; first, it imparts spice and allows the cocoa to be its heady self; then, it works as a batter tenderizer, almost to a damp state, which results in one unctuous bite after the other.


    When the cake cooled, I pulled together the icing, a cream cheese-centric affair, but alas, my electric beater died on the spot. Because the icing is so forgiving, it took kindly to my circumstances and whipped beautifully with a little hand-cranked action of a rubber spatula (and some elbow grease).


    As to be expected, the birthday girl was thrilled with her cake, dived in mouth first and declared it “the best.” After all, the best things in life are simple.

    P.S.: Yes, you can make this cake in the middle of the week while multi-tasking and still make someone very happy. It's that simple.


    Chocolate Guinness Cake
    From "Feast" by Nigella Lawson


    Ingredients
    Cake
    1 cup (as in 8 ounces) Guinness stout or chocolate stout (P.S. you will have leftover beer)
    1 stick unsalted butter (Equal amounts of Earth Balance shortening works just as well), sliced
    ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    2 cups granulated sugar
    ¾ cup sour cream (equal amounts of plain yogurt work just as well)
    2 eggs
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
    Icing
    8 ounces cream cheese
    1 cup confectioners' sugar
    ½ cup heavy cream
    Optional: a dash of vanilla extract


    Method


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper.


    2. Pour Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter over medium heat and stir or whisk until melted.


    3. Whisk in cocoa powder and sugar. Reduce heat to low.


    4. In a small bowl, beat sour cream with eggs and vanilla and then add to stovetop mixture, whisking until well integrated.


    5. Finally, add flour and baking soda, using either a whisk or rubber spatula to incorporate into batter until flour specks are no longer visible.


    6. Pour cake batter into greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (Check at 45 minutes for doneness, poking a skewer in center.).


    7. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.


    8. When cake is cold, gently peel off parchment paper and transfer to a platter or cake stand.


    Make icing:


    9. Place cream cheese and confectioners' sugar in a mixing bowl, and whip with an electric beater, until smooth (You may also do this with a food processor.).


    10. Add cream and beat again until you have a spreadable consistency.


    11. Ice top of cake, starting at middle and fanning out, so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.


    Yields about 12 slices.

    Photo credit: Kim O'Donnel.

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (5)



    May 5, 2008 6:06:00 AM
    About | Recipes
    Meal Planning: What's for Dinner?

    Chickencakesck1206203l_2 Hi! As a Senior Editor at RealSimple.com, I've been behind the scenes of Simply Stated and have loved reading all your comments and feedback. Since I'm now stepping out to join the food bloggers, I thought I'd share a little about my cooking style.


    I love to meal plan. I know that many people find it a bother, but I’m not the type of cook who can just throw whatever is in my pantry into a pot and make it taste delicious. I love to pick out the recipes I want to make for the week and do one big grocery shop.


    And, in my constant quest to try new things, "meal planning" often involves reading food magazines (Everyday Food, Cooking Light, Bon Appetit) and scouring some of my favorite blogs (Tastespotting, Smitten Kitchen) for new recipes on a lazy Saturday morning.


    In this blog, I'm going to share some of my favorite new food products, recipes, cookbooks, and more. Anything that can (hopefully) give you a little more time so you can have a little more fun in the kitchen. To kick things off, here are some things I'm thinking of making this week:


    Caramelized Tofu Recipe from 101 Cookbooks: I've made this before and it's delicious, especially since I have a new obsession with brussels sprouts. I rarely have pecans on hand and it tastes fine without them.


    Potatoes with Bacon and Chorizo courtesy YumSugar: This will definitely be a guilty pleasure. Though fairly straightforward, the potatoes need about 45 minutes to cook so it might be perfect for a Sunday night dinner with a simple fish dish or salad (need something healthy in there).


    Spicy Chicken Cakes from Cooking Light (photo above): I'm intrigued by this crab cake alternative as well as the horseradish aioli.


    What are you serving for dinner this week? Anything new that you're trying? Let me know if you try any of these recipes.


    Photo: Randy Mayor

    Posted by Kathleen Murray Harris | Permalink | Comments (4)



    May 4, 2008 2:51:48 PM
    About | Real Food
    Welcome to Real Food!

    So... I'm the New Girl here in the Real Simple food department. I've been the Food Director here since the beginning of March, and have been settling in quite nicely (or so I'd like to think)!

    Prior to Real Simple, I was at Martha Stewart for nearly 6 years; you may also have seen me on PBS as a host of the weekly cooking series, Everyday Food. I remember very little of my life before food publishing, but as it turns out, I was also a caterer, an event planner, and Food & Beverage director for a couple of Bobby Flay's restaurants. All the (wonderful) craziness started after I graduated Yale with a degree in economics -- and decided to head to Paris for a Grand Diplome from the Cordon Bleu.

    As for the present and future -- I now quite happily guide the food content for Real Simple, with the support of a terrific team (Kate Merker, Lygeia Grace, Sara Quessenberry, Kathleen Murray Harris, and Holly Mueller)... many of whom you'll be hearing from on this blog. Our goal is to provide you with delicious, beautiful, smart, and practical food ideas -- in print and beyond.

    So -- welcome to "Real Food" -- the Real Simple food department's collective blog. I (and the rest of us) look forward to sharing our food thoughts and hearing yours!

    In the spirit of getting to know each other: How many nights a week do you cook at home and what are your biggest cooking challenges? (Mine is usually figuring out what to make before I head to work, so I can take something out of the freezer if I have to -- otherwise, there's a serious possibility of pizza or Chinese for dinner...)

    Posted by Allie Lewis Clapp | Permalink | Comments (3)



    May 2, 2008 7:16:00 AM
    Entertaining, Holidays | Vegetarian
    Unripe Avocado? Make Zuke-a-Mole Instead

    Avocado is on the minds of many this weekend as Cinco de Mayo party preparations get underway, and we break out the guac and chips. However, the problem that nobody likes to talk about is the challenge in getting your hands on a ripe avocado at the last minute. Guacamole veterans know that a hard avocado translates into a fiesta without the green stuff, which is hardly a fiesta, no?


    Zucchini


    Well, wait just a momento. Are you willing to improvise and try something different with remarkably similar results? Zucchini, when roasted with onions and pureed, transforms into a silky green puree that is a formidable guacamole stand-in. In fact, it reminds me so much of the real thing that I’ve coined this puree “zuke-a-mole.” (And yes, it holds up quite nicely on a tortilla chip.)


    By no means am I against the avocado, but honestly, I have a tastier, creamier experience when traveling in warmer locales, such as Florida, California and the Caribbean. Although not yet available locally in four-seasoned spots, zucchini is available in supermarkets year-round and gradually coming onto the scene in more southerly locations. You won’t have to wait for it to ripen, and it’s far lower in calories (35 per cup versus approximately 250 for a medium avocado).


    Are you game to give the zukes a whirl? Let me know what you think, and if you've got other Cinco de Mayo ideas for consideration, please share!


    "Zuke-a-mole" aka Summer Squash "Guacamole"

    Adapted from "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: the Essential Reference" by Elizabeth Schneider

    Ingredients

    Approximately 1/2 head garlic
    3 pounds summer squash, sliced in half, lengthwise
    1 large onion (sweet varieties preferred, i.e. Vidalia, Walla Walla), quartered
    1 teaspoon coarse salt
    
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/4 cup

    1/2 cup basil and/or mint leaves

    1/2 cup parsley, stemmed

    2 tablespoons juice of lemon

    salt and pepper to taste


    Method


    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.



    2. Separate garlic cloves but keep skins on. Place garlic in a roasting pan, and to that, add squash and onion.


    3. Slather vegetables with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the teaspoon of salt. Roast until extremely tender, at least one hour and up to 90 minutes.



    4. While vegetables are roasting, prepare herbs; pull leaves off stems and tear or chop coarsely.


    5. Let vegetables cool slightly and squeeze garlic from skins. Place all vegetables into the bowl of a food processor and pulse. Add herbs. Puree until smooth and combined. Add lemon juice and salt. Drizzle in remaining olive oil. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly.



    6. Chill and serve with crackers, pita crisps, crudite or make as part of a sandwich.


    Makes about one quart.

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (1)



    Apr 30, 2008 7:13:00 AM
    Chicken/Poultry | One-Pot Meals
    Don't Worry, Be Curry

    Monday morning, and while my old man was snoring, the rain was seriously pouring. An after-midnight arrival of our cross-country flight didn't get us home and under the covers until about 2 a.m., so when the sound of water pounding on the roof woke me around 8, I was crying the rainy Monday blues. Even after morning coffee, the skies failed to lighten and make way for the sun, and the air was raw like one of those moody days in November.


    In merry England.


    Chicken curry

    Lunch came and went, and I tried to cheer myself up with a toaster-oven cheese sandwich , but the weather, she kept up the nasty antics and in so doing had taken prisoner of my good nature. I had become a miserable wretch and desperately needed a culinary potion to snap me out of my meterological funk. The only kitchen remedy that would do the trick was a pot of curry. And not just any curry -- cilantro chicken curry, with lots of fresh ginger and garlic, an herby aromatic elixir that fills the house with a savory perfume and always turns my frown upside down.


    It is a dish that is like my knight in shining armor, protecting me from the chill of a snowy day and the pain of boyfriend-induced heartbreak and comforting me when it's time to say goodbye to a dear friend about to move to New Zealand. It is the dish I'll make when someone dies and the dish I'll make when we become parents. It is just one of those things that goes with me wherever I go, a sign from the stove that everything is gonna be alright.


    Lemony Chicken Curry With Coriander
    From "Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking" by Madhur Jaffrey


    Ingredients
    5-6 tablespoons vegetable oil
    Approximately 2-1/2 pounds chicken thighs and/or legs, skinned and seasoned with salt and pepper
    2-inch hunk of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
    5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
    1/2 habanero chile (or appropriate heat to taste), seeded and diced
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne
    2 teaspoons cumin
    1 teaspoon coriander
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 bunches cilantro, cleaned, stemmed and finely chopped
    2/3 cup water
    Juice of 1/2 lemon


    Method


    1. Place ginger in bowl of food processor and blend with 1/4 cup water, until pureed. (alternatively, pulverize ginger with a mortar and pestle.)


    2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil. When hot, but not smoking, add chicken and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.


    3. Add ginger puree and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. Add garlic, spices and salt and stir. The mixture will become pasty, which is a good thing.


    4. Add cilantro, lemon juice and water, and return chicken to pot.


    5. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer, until meat is tender and starting to fall off the bone. This should take about 45 minutes.


    6. While the curry cooks, make some rice to serve with the meal. Makes approximately four servings.


    Photo credit: Kim O'Donnel

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (1)



    Apr 28, 2008 7:29:00 AM
    Spring Produce | Vegetarian
    A Is for April – and Asparagus

    Last weekend, local asparagus made its farm market debut in my neck of the woods, a sure sign from the soil that spring had indeed arrived.


    Never mind that asparagus is a year-round commodity flown in from Mexico and South America; I usually take a pass on the idea of asparagus for Christmas dinner and instead stay true to the seasonal cycle of my own terra firma.


    Asparagus


    Now that it’s here for real, I’ll be making the most of this produce moment. Not only is asparagus extremely versatile and accommodating in the kitchen, it is jam packed with nutrients, a hard-core veggie do-gooder. Here’s something to chew on: Asparagus is the number one green vegetable for folic acid, beating spinach by a smidge (Are you listening moms-to-be and wannabes?). It’s also rich in potassium, fiber and Vitamin C, a decent source of protein and one of the top sources of a powerful cancer-fighting phytochemical called glutathione.


    As many of us have learned the hard way, asparagus hates being overcooked, punishing us with mushy fibrous threads in a shade of Army-style green. In fact, the beauty of asparagus is its quick-cooking nature -- less than 10 minutes -- be it boiled, grilled, roasted, sauteed or steamed. And because it plays well with a variety of ingredients and flavors, it practically begs for kitchen improv.


    Below, a mere sampler of the myriad ways you can play with the mighty elegant spear. Have a look and add your favorite asparagus tricks to the list.


    * Quickly steamed and tossed with an ad hoc lemon-mint vinaigrette, then married with white beans, feta and radishes. A terrific salad!


    * A very spring risotto with leeks and/or green garlic, plus a handful of quickly sauteed asparagus tips.


    * Roasted in a 400-degree oven, with olive oil, salt and pepper, until desired tenderness. Simply the best.


    * Alternatively, break out the grill and place spears in a grill “wok” or basket, brushing with olive oil. Coarse salt is particularly nice here, sprinkled just before serving. I’m also partial to a spritz of oranges rather than lemons just before serving.


    * Blanched and shocked in an ice bath, then served cold, with a ginger-y, soy-sesame vinaigrette. Makes a great first course or cocktail hour snack!


    *In additon to feta, asparagus loves hanging out with shaved Parmigiano and pin cushions of chevre.


    * Eggs and asparagus make great dance partners, tucked inside an omelette or a frittata or topped by a poached oeuf.


    In fact, the only bad thing about asparagus that I can think of is that it’s difficult to pair with wine. What say you?


    Photo credit: flickr.com/Dave Milnes

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (1)



    Apr 25, 2008 7:28:00 AM
    Travel
    What’s Your Favorite Food Destination?

    I’m typing to you from sunny downtown Los Angeles, where the temperature is a cool and breezy 63 degrees. While my husband attends a seminar over the next few days, I’m getting reacquainted with this city after a nine-year absence.


    Disneyconcerthall


    As much as I love to be in the kitchen, I equally enjoy being on the road and exploring new places, particularly from an eats and drinks perspective. Restaurants undoubtedly figure into the exploration, but so do markets, lunch trucks, breakfast joints, bakeries and the people who make a city’s food culture unique. One of my favorite things to do when traveling outside of the U.S. is to visit local supermarkets; I get such a kick out of roaming the aisles and observing daily life in action, not to mention picking up non-perishable ingredients for experimenting back home.


    This trip has got me thinking about the notion of traveling just for the food. Over the past 15 years, I’ve traveled to 11 countries, including four in Africa. Some of these destinations, such as Piedmont, Italy, and the central valley of Costa Rica, are undeniable food jackpots, agricultural meccas where the natural resources need little enhancement. Some exotic locales such as Zambia, are less obvious, but where else would I be able to sample nsima (a stiff cornmeal porridge that is a dietary staple)? It was in Uganda I had my very first-ever wild tilapia, which I can still taste five years later, and spooned into papayas bigger than my head.


    Closer to home, I’m slowly making tracks, eating my way through New Orleans, Charleston, S.C., Seattle, Miami and San Francisco. Each of these cities possesses distinctive culinary cultures that makes return trips a no-brainer. Life is short, though, and I’ve yet to try Austin, Tex., Memphis, Portland, Maine and anywhere in Hawaii.


    Internationally, I’ve got Malaysia, India, Vietnam and Peru on my to-do list, all because of the food. And one of these days, if the dollar ever rebounds, I’d like to return to Italy and head south to Sicily.

    Where do you go when you want to try a new cuisine or food culture? Do you have a favorite food destination or a place you’ve always been curious about but afraid to taste? Share your wanderlusting notions and food-travel tips and let’s fantasize about where our next meal may be.


    Photo credit: Kim O'Donnel

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (7)



    Apr 23, 2008 8:07:53 AM
    Hump Day Cookin'
    Real Fast Food

    Quick! Before you fall into that Hump Day slump and start dreading dinner prep at the breakfast nook, take a deep cleansing breath and put on a pot of rice while the coffee is brewing. As you sip your joe and gear up for the day, that rice will cook and before you walk out the door, you’ll put it in the fridge to chill.


    Friedrice


    Cold rice hardly seems like an antidote to the midweek blahs, but trust me on this one. Tonight is the night when your life changes, when Hump Day no longer matters because tonight becomes Fried Rice Night.


    Toss out that take-out menu, baby, because you’re about to make the best fried rice ever, and you won’t believe how easy and fast it is. In fact, I would argue that this is what fast food should be – fresh, nutritious and yes, lightning quick.


    Don’t worry if you’re missing one of the suggested vegetables listed below; use what you have in the crisper and most importantly, don’t sweat it! Do make sure all of your ingredients are prepped and chopped so that the wokking can zip along as it’s intended– in less than five minutes.


    We all need something to get us through the week – and this one, from my friend and cookbook author Grace Young, is what I turn to when I’m up to my eyeballs in work and need some Hump Day relief. Why the cold rice, you ask? You don’t want sticky fried rice now, do you?


    Aromatic Vegetarian Fried Rice
    Adapted from "The Breath of a Wok" by Grace Young


    Ingredients


    2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    3 teaspoons sesame oil
    2 large eggs, beaten
    1/3 cup chopped shallots (1-2 small bulbs)
    
 2 tablespoons fresh chilies, seeded and minced (equivalent of 1 Thai red chile; use what works best for your heat tolerance)
    
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
    
1 cup diced carrots (alternatively, chopped fresh green beans)
    
 4 cups cold cooked rice (From 1 1/3 cups uncooked rice)
    
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
    
 1/2 cup diced celery (alternatively, chopped bok choy)
    
 1 tablespoon soy sauce

    1 teaspoon salt
 (optional; add more soy sauce if that's appropriate)
    1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)

    2 tablespoons chopped cilantro


    Method

    1. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact.


    2. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and the eggs. Cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, tilting wok so that the eggs cover the surface as thinly as possible to make a pancake. When bottom is just beginning to brown and egg is just set, flip and allow to set on other side, about 5 seconds. Transfer egg to a cutting board and cut into shreds.


    3. Add remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil, followed by shallots, chiles and garlic, and stir-fry for about 10 seconds. Add carrots (or substitute), reduce to medium heat and stir-fry 2-3 minutes until shallots soften.



    4. Add rice, bell pepper, celery (or substitute), soy sauce, and salt and pepper, if using. Increase heat to medium-high and cook 2-3 minutes more, breaking up rice with a metal spatula until heated through. Add shredded egg and stir to combine.


    5. Remove wok from heat. Stir in cilantro and drizzle remaining sesame oil.


    Note: You may make this dish without eggs. If so, eliminate the teaspoon of sesame oil at the beginning of the recipe, and proceed with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.


    Makes 2-3 entree-sized servings.


    Photo credit: Kim O'Donnel

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (3)



    Apr 21, 2008 7:40:00 AM
    Sustainability
    Kitchen Green-ing, Part Two

    Last Friday, we got this green kitchen party started, and as promised, I’ve got more eco-centric kitchen tricks up my sleeve for consideration.


    Wiping Your Mouth Green
    For years, I’ve been using nothing but cloth napkins, a habit I got into when I was living on a serious budget in my twenties. Six cloth napkins at $1.99 each at a local outlet was a dinnertime no-brainer that translated into major savings, and they have been known to last for a few years to boot. Plus, they feel much more festive at the table than white paper rectangles. Here’s a link to an interesting debate over cloth versus recycled paper napkins


    Can a Picnic on the Green Be Green?
    For al fresco affairs and beach-side barbecues, those cloth nappies are light enough to transport, but what’s a tree hugger to do in the way of plates, cups and utensils? For smaller outdoor dinner parties that call for a sophisticated touch, I love the single-use certified organic bamboo plates from Bambu Home. The downside? They’re pricey – about 10 bucks for a six-pack – and they’re a one-shot deal. The cool part: They’re biodegradeable.

    My pick for re-useable tableware is the line of plastic plates, cups and utensils from Recyline , available in dishwasher safe, bright colors. I’m also digging its new kitchen line of colanders, cutting boards and storage containers, all made from 100 percent recycled plastic.


    Will the Real Re-Use Please Stand Up
    Let’s borrow a page from our grandparents and get the most out of our larder. Repurpose, recreate, rejoice!

    That stale baguette you’re planning to toss into the can? A quick whiz in the food processor turns it into bread crumbs, which you can freeze for another time.

    Wait just a minute with those shrimp shells; throw them into a sauce pan, add enough water to barely cover and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes and you have seafood stock the next time you’re making risotto, paella or spaghetti and clams.

    Yes, onion skins add color to stock, and those dark leek tops, rich in chlorophyll, are wonderful scum filters for chicken stock.

    And speaking of chicken stock, yes, a roasted chicken picked of its meat makes a lovely chicken stock, particularly the back bones. You get great flavor from those roasted bones. Rinse it under water and then toss in a soup pot with water, a quartered onion (and skins) and whatever else you like. Don’t worry if you’re not up for making soup right away; the stock, once cooled, freezes without a hitch.

    Act like an Iron Chef: One night a week, instead of running out to the store for more food, use what you have in the pantry and fridge. Come on, it’ll be fun! In fact, I’m thinking of organizing a virtual challenge, to be announced in a future blog post, when cooks across America cook from their larders and share their creations the next day in this space. Stay tuned.

    Take an Eat Local Challenge:Reduce your food miles and try eating food that is grown or raised within 200 miles of where you live. Decide what’s realistic and feasible based on where you live and what you can’t do without no matter its origin. For instance, salt, coffee and olive oil would be on my exemption list. The mere exercise of jotting down a local foods grocery list is eye opening, and even a shift towards 10 percent local would have a huge impact on the environment. For more information: Eat Local Challenge,
    100 Mile Diet, Splendid Table’s Locavore Nation.

    Posted by Kim O'Donnel | Permalink | Comments (6)



    Apr 18, 2008 7:34:00 AM
    Sustainability
    How Green Does Your Kitchen Cook?

    With Earth Day around the corner, everyone and their mother seems to be talking about compact fluorescent light bulbs, energy-saving appliances and non-toxic cleaning products. GOOD.


    I’ll take advantage of the current buzz and chime in from the kitchen, with some food for thought on greening up your kitchen life.

    P4170500_2


    Generally Speaking:


    Less is more. Fewer tags, staples, fasteners, foil envelopes and plasticky wrappings and coatings. The more simplistic the food packaging the better.


    More is more. Say yes to flour, sugar, legumes, rice and spices in bulk and say no to individual serving sizes. You can do the divvying up at home.


    Become a DIY pioneer. Grate your own cheese, slice your own mushrooms, peel your own garlic, make a cake from scratch. You’ve just saved the planet from half a trash can of packaging.


    Become a detective. Ask where your food comes from. Trace the origins of your morning coffee, your kid’s milk and your salmon supper. Knowing the source of your food and how it was grown, raised and processed will help you weed out the sludge from the green and make more environmentally-sound decisions.


    Bite off only as much green as you can honestly chew. Don’t let the barrage of these to-do lists send you into a polluted panic. I agree, it can be overwhelming to overhaul the way you’ve been doing things for your entire adult life, so cut yourself some slack. Doing one green thing consistently is more than none at all or several infrequently.


    And now, let's get down to some nitty-gritty action items for consideration:

    1.Your morning coffee: Consider the source of the beans you’re buying or the brew you’re picking up on the way to the office.
    Fair trade (support of small farmer cooperatives)? Shade grown (aka bird friendly)? Certified organic (soil conservation, no pesticides)? Here's a great list of sustainable coffee sources to get you started. And check out this cool project Crop to Cup, which works directly with family farmers in Uganda to bring their beans to the U.S.

    For those of you doing the to-go thing: Are you bringing your own mug or thermos? Here’s a tidbit to slurp on from "Big Green Purse," a new green guide by Diane MacEachern: “In 2005, Americans used and discarded 14.4 billion disposable paper cups for hot beverages, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters of Vermont calculated. That’s so many cups that if put end to end they would circle the earth fifty-five times.”


    2. The State of Your Bags: On April 22, Whole Foods Market is pushing the grocery bag debate to the front burner, when it phases out plastic bags at all of its stores. Has this development made you think twice at the checkout? Just where are you on the shopping bag debate? I, for one, love the extra space

    Description

    A Malaysian-style Shrimp Dish Adapted From “The Best Recipes In The World” By Mark Bittman

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