Archive for the ‘Recipies’ Category

Off on a caper: Turkey redux

In Recipies on December 12, 2013 at 3:00 pm

It’s a shame that few people enjoy turkey meat only once or twice a year.

Turkey is inexpensive, high in protein, and versatile. A single breast or drumstick makes a sufficient meat portion for most carnivores. And, after the American holiday season, shoppers can take advantage of an unsold glut of turkeys.

Just break them down and freeze them in portions. Then, it’s just a matter of digging the right-size portion from the freezer and preparing it in any number of ways.

One of my latest favorite cooking methods is to braise thin slices of breast meat in a tapanade similar to one I featured on Phyne Dyning [HERE].

This recipe is even simpler. And, it can be adapted for use with a robust red meat as well.

The recipe was adapted from one featured by Chef Jacques Pepin on his cooking show, Fast Food, My Way. It’s delicious in its original form. With some modifications, it is splendid.

Here’s how:

1 large, skinless turkey breast (per 2 people)

1 2oz tin anchovy fillets in oil

5 TBS butter, DIVIDED

  (or 2TBS olive oil)

2 TBS capers, rinsed

½ C dry white wine

¼ C chopped parsley

Bias slice the turkey breast into 3/8” slices. Heat 2 TBS of the butter over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet. Drain the oil from the anchovies into the pan and stir. Cook the turkey breast slices, in batches, until pale golden on both sides (1 ½ – 2 min/side) and remove to a warm platter when done.

When all of the turkey has been cooked, deglaze the pan with the white wine. Chop the anchovies and stir them into the cooking liquid and then add the rinsed capers. Reduce the heat to low-med and allow the liquid to reduce slightly. Whisk in the remaining 3 TBS of butter (if using) until the liquid emulsifies. Pour this mixture over the turkey slices and garnish with the chopped parsley. Season with a few twists of black pepper. Do NOT add salt seasoning; the anchovies and capers have enough in them.

A wonderful variation is to substitute a dry red wine and then braise veal or lamb in a similar manner.


Take seven! (Herbs…and make a tasty pasta dish.)

In Recipies on August 6, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I’m going to let my readers come up for air. I used myself as a ‘misery barometer’ and decided it was time to take a break from articles about the state’s Praetorians killing 95 year-old men and 2 week-old fawns.

Long time readers already know that I fancy herbs. I grow pounds of them each year. My herb crop is carefully tended, painstakingly harvested, meticulously cleaned, and thoroughly dried for my kitchen and to give as gifts to people I know.

About 80% of my herbs are grown in large pots on my patio deck. The rest are planted among my cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, and other veggies and flowers.

My morning routine involves an hour of meditation. If the weather is suitable (and it is most summers), I drag my cushion to the deck. The slightest breeze raises the aromatic oils of my basil, rosemary, oregano, mint, and thyme…creating all-natural aromatherapy. I finish the session with a bit of ‘working kin hin’, or ‘walking meditation’.

Although I have adequate lengths of garden hose, I carry water to my row crops in large buckets. It’s meditation at its best to mindfully water each growing plant, one at a time. I (with some regret) pick pests off of plants as I work, since I use no pesticides in my garden. I (with much thanks) remove any ripe fruits and veggies at the same time. My morning repast of brown rice and homemade kim chee sustains me as I work.

This year, as in all years, my herbs are producing useable growth faster than my dehydrator can process it. Consequently, I’m always on the lookout for recipes that make use of quantities of fresh herbs.

I found one written by Mel Bartholomew, the Square Foot Gardener. I adapted it to meet my needs and you can adapt it to yours.

Let’s go!

You’ll need (use all FRESH herbs, not dried):

1 stick salted butter

3 large cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp Aleppo pepper (or any red pepper flakes)

½ C (packed) basil leaves, minced

¼ C (packed) chives, chopped

½ tsp fennel seed, cracked

1 TBS (packed) oregano, chopped

1 TBS (loose packed) rosemary, chopped

1 TBS (loose packed) tarragon, chopped

2 tsp thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb dry farfalle (bow tie) pasta

3oz goat cheese crumbles (optional)

2 stems curly-leaf kale, washed

1-2oz pecorino Romano, grated

 Add 1 TBS of kosher salt to 5 qts water in a large pot. Heat to a gentle boil. Tear the kale into bite-size pieces, removing the leaves entirely from the stems. Toss the kale into the boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove the kale to a colander by using a slotted spoon. You will re-use the kale water (and its nutrients) to cook the pasta. Run the kale under cold tap water and then squeeze as much water from it as possible, forming the kale into a compact ball. Use a sharp knife to chop the kale ball.

Cook the pasta in the kale water until firm, about 12-14 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a shallow skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in all of the herbs, the garlic, the pepper flakes, and the fennel seed. Cook gently for about 2-3 minutes. Toss in the goat cheese crumbles, if used.

Drain the pasta and rinse it well. Return it to its pot and toss with the chopped kale. Gently fold in the herb/cheese mixture. Serve in large bowls or on large plates. Generously sprinkle the pasta dish with grated Romano. Serve with a garden salad, dressed with a good-quality olive oil…and a bottle of crisp, white wine.

Elegant crostini on the cheap

In Recipies on July 22, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Set out a regal appetizer on a Bohemian budget. Who says you can’t entertain for less than $10? All in, with the apps and a bottle of red, our kicked back Saturday nite was around $7.



Want to put together an elegant appetizer on a shoestring budget? This is a perfect lazy man’s recipe that goes well with a bottle of chilled swill. It can be thrown together in just over an hour (hands-on time is only about 15 minutes). The onion marmalade can be made well in advance, leaving only the task of smearing a bit of Brie onto toasted slices of French bread. The stuff tastes like a million bucks and is sure bring compliments to the humblest of kitchens.

A few quick words about economy.

I watch for loaves of day-old French bread at Sam’s Club or Wal Mart. I recently bought ten loaves for a little over a buck each. They freeze wonderfully and fill in nicely when my frozen stock of baguettes runs low (I fill the freezer with home-baked each winter when the oven gives me extra heat, free.) Don’t fall for buying expensive red wine vinegar. A recent tasting on America’s Test Kitchen showed that the cheaper vinegar performs as well as the boutique ones. I went with Pompeian brand at $2.39 per bottle.

Ditto for the red wine. As long as it’s drinkable, it will work fine. Save the better stuff for when you serve this masterpiece.

Let’s get started.

You’ll need:

1 loaf French bread, sliced ½” slices

4-6 oz Brie, room temperature

2 TBS olive oil

¼ C red wine vinegar

2/3 C red wine

1 large shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 very large yellow (or white) onion, thinly sliced

2/3 C brown sugar

2 tsp dried French thyme (or a good handful of fresh stems)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a skillet over low-medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook for about 15 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Reduce the heat to low and add the shallot and the garlic. Stir for about a minute or until the fragrance blooms. Stir in the vinegar, the wine, and the sugar. The mixture should be barely boiling. Add the thyme and a bit of salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, at a bare simmer for about 45-60 minutes. Do not allow the pan to dry out. If it gets dry, stir in a tablespoon more of wine.

Pre-heat a broiler for ten minutes. Use a toaster to toast the slices of bread. Smear a bit of Brie on each slice and place them on baking sheets. Broil just until the cheese melts (1-2 minutes). Remove from broiler and fork a teaspoon or two of the onion mixture on each slice. Serve with wine.


Gratin: It’s not just about potatoes

In Lifestyle, Recipies on July 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm

The Phyne Dyner made a few lifestyle adjustments and summertime greeted him with a bounty of fresh vegetables. So, why not ‘go gratin’?

A development during the recent hiatus of the Phyne Dyner was our household’s switchover from conventional foods to all organic and low glycemic index food.

For decades, my breakfast has alternated between a bowl of Israeli-style salad with a small helping of cottage cheese or one cup of rice slathered with sambal oelek or Vietnamese chili paste. Until 19 March of this year, my rice was white and our proletarian-style meals usually had its starch component filled with potatoes. Our meat (almost never eaten, except on Shabbat) was previously the supermarket variety. Now, its cage-free chicken (rarely free-range beef) that has been air chilled instead of cooled in a ‘fecal water bath’ by the packer.

My morning repast remains unchanged, except that the rice is an organic, brown jasmine variety. Because brown rice metabolizes more slowly into glucose, there’s no glucose/insulin spike. Consequently, my morning hour of meditation doesn’t find me in a sugar high that crashes halfway through the session.

The health benefits are just becoming noticeable.

I’ve lost about twenty pounds and I’m able to snug up my belt by two more notches.

It’s been a good trade.

While our weekly grocery bill is about 20% higher than with standard supermarket fare, we find we eat far less food because the meals are more satisfying. This is especially true of the meals containing chicken.

The higher quality chicken doesn’t cook down or shrink because of a high fat content or because the meat has been permeated with water during processing. One chicken leg (Can you believe?) satisfies me. The rest of the plate gets filled with seasonal vegetables that now constitute about 95% of our diet.

With the advent of summer, eating vegetarian is a snap. My garden is just coming in and we have had fresh herbs since May. My dehydrator runs 24/7 to deal with the surplus of basil, tarragon, oregano, mint, chives, and sage. Zucchini and eggplant abound and menus vary according to what I pick each day. That means ratatouille will be in my future very soon. Right now, I have a pretty good mix of root and leafy stuff and that goes into quiches, galettes, or gratins.

Most people are only familiar with gratin as a potato and cheese affair and that’s a shame. So, to help you out of your own potato rut, I’ve decided to run with a mixed vegetable version that also includes a good handful of fresh chard. It’s a colorful and satisfying meal that you can assemble from what’s in the fridge. Enjoy!

You’ll need (makes about 1.5 to 2 liters):

2 medium zucchini, sliced

2 shallots, minced (abt 3 TBS), divided

2 ribs celery, diced

2 C diced carrot

1 small bunch fresh chard

1 medium yellow onion, minced

6 green onions, sliced white and green parts

2 C diced white mushrooms

4 cloves garlic, cut into matchsticks

½ C dry white wine

1 ½ C milk

1 C water or vegetable stock

2 tsp dry Herbes de Provence

½ C flour (may use 50% whole wheat)

1/3 C Romano cheese, grated

½ C bread crumbs or matzo meal

4 TBS butter or olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

fresh chives for garnish

Melt the butter (or use olive oil) in a Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium low heat. Stir in the shallots, carrot, and onions. Cook until just beginning to sweat (about 8 minutes), being careful not to brown the vegetables. Stir in the garlic and cook until its fragrance blooms. Scatter the flour over the vegetables and stir constantly until the flour just begins to darken. Increase the heat to medium and deglaze the pan with the wine, being sure to scrape up any clinging bits of flour from the bottom of the pan. Immediately stir in the water (or stock) and the milk. Add the herbs, salt, and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, (stir often) until the mixture thickens.

Meanwhile, bring about 3 quarts of salted water to a slow boil. Clean the chard well to remove any sand or grit and then tear the leaves from the tough stems. Blanch the chard for about 4 minutes and immediately drain in a colander, and quench the chard under cold running water. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Carefully wring as much water as possible from the chard and cut it into bite-size pieces. Stir the chard into the vegetable gratin mixture and remove it from the heat.

Oil a large baking dish or casserole. Mix the breadcrumbs (or matzo) with about 1 TBS of olive oil and the grated cheese. Season this mixture with a bit of salt and pepper. When the gratin mixture is cool enough to handle, spoon it into the baking dish and spread it evenly across. Scatter the breadcrumb mixture over the gratin and bake the gratin for about 30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the gratin to rest for about ten minutes. This will allow it to thicken a bit more. Garnish with minced chives and serve in deep bowls with a fresh garden salad.


Potage aux Petits Pois (Pea Soup)

In Recipies on April 9, 2013 at 10:34 am

I originally ran a pea soup recipe in February 2012. This one is quite similar, but different (thank you, Yogi Berra). This variation is a bit more authentic to one from 1800s in Paris. Give it a try. What can it hurt?

Pea soup has an interesting history. This hearty soup is also known by its eponym, potage Saint-Germain. It takes this name from the suburb of Paris where, according to food historians, it was first concocted.

Saint-Germain, in olden days, was on the verge of rural living. Green peas were counted among the local crops. Cheap and readily available, green peas naturally found their way into soup, the staple food of subsistence living.

While not entirely authentic to its origin, I almost always add potatoes to my pea soup. They add a bit of pleasant body and creaminess to the soup and adding a cup or two of diced potato at the finish gives it a pleasant ‘chew’.

The essential base for good pea soup is a good vegetable broth. When vegetables are in season (or on sale) all of my vegetable trimmings go into a five-gallon pot of water. The brew varies by what is in abundance, just like in old Paris. Celery tops, squash stubs, and other stuff most people pitch in the trash or compost heap, makes a wonderful broth which I carefully strain and then freeze. This method gives me enough broth to last through the cold and damp months when soups are coveted table faire.

Many recipes for pea soup include bacon or ham. Because my Invisible Friend has a ‘thing’ against eating pig, I either flavor my soup base with ‘turkey ham’ or by boiling several saved beef bones in the vegetable broth. Meat flavoring can be omitted though. When it is, I cook the vegetables in real butter instead of olive oil.

Let’s make some soup. You’ll need:

1 lb split peas, sorted and rinsed

1 C celery, diced

1 bay leaf

1 large onion, diced

8 C vegetable broth

½ C dry white wine

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into wheels

2 C ‘ham’, cubed (optional) or boil bones in broth

3 TBS olive oil or butter

1 C half and half

1 tsp dried marjoram

¼ tsp fennel seeds, cracked

4 large potatoes, peeled and diced (divided)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the washed and sorted peas in a large, covered pot. Add enough water to fully cover the peas. Bring the peas to a rolling boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit, and then strain the peas to remove the water. Rinse the peas under cold water. Rinse out the pot.

Heat the olive oil (or butter) in the pot, over medium heat. ‘Sweat’ the onion and celery until they are translucent and glistening. Remove the vegetables to a clean platter. Toss the ham into the pot and brown its edges. Remove the ham to a second plate and return the cooked vegetables to the pot. Stir in the vegetable broth, all but 1 C of the diced potatoes, wine, fennel seeds, and marjoram. Return the peas to the pot, cover, and cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the peas are soft.

Find and remove the bay leaf. Stir in the half and half and process the soup to a smooth consistency.

[Use a ‘stick’ blender for this part or use a regular food processor. If you use a regular food processor (or blender) allow the soup to cool a bit before processing or blending it.]

Return the soup to a slow simmer. Stir in the remaining potatoes, the ham (if using), and the carrot wheels. Check the seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed. Serve in deep bowls and have the pepper mill at the table.


Matzoh, matzoh everywhere! How to use it all.

In Recipies, Tips and Hints on March 29, 2013 at 10:24 am

About four days into every Passover, I begin struggling with the emerging problem of, “What the heck can I put matzohs in?” This is why matzohs are called ‘the bread of affliction’ in Torah. Here are a couple of fast, easy ways to incorporate more of the mass quantities of matzoh you bought a week ago into a meal.


We love matzoh brie (var. matzoh brei). It’s simple to make and we think of it as sort of ‘Jewish Nachos”. Just whip up a batch of homemade salsa and enjoy.

A natural progression from matzoh brei is matzoh kugel, the Passover-kosher variation of noodle kugels we Jews serve up throughout the rest of the year.

Here’s my recipe for mushroom-squash matzoh kugel:

1 box kosher for Passover matzohs

3 TBS olive oil, divided

1 1/2 C vegetable (or chicken) stock

1 large onion, small dice

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

6-8 white mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 eggs, lightly beaten

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat an oven to 400F. Break the matzohs into small (quarter to half-dollar sized) pieces. Place them in a thin layer on a baking sheet and while the oven is heating bake them for 10-15 minutes. Be sure to watch so they do not burn. Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the onions until golden (about 8-10 minutes) and remove them to a plate. Put the remaining oil in the pan and cook the sliced mushrooms and zucchini until soft. Remove them to a plate. In a large bowl, combine the baked matzohs, onion, stock, mushrooms, and zucchini. Stir in the beaten eggs. Pour the mixture into an oiled casserole and bake for 20-30 minutes (until set and top is golden). Remove to cool slightly and serve.

This serves nicely with matzoh-crusted chicken with falafel spices.

Falafel is the consummate street food of the Middle East where it seems there is a (or two) falafel stand on every corner. Since chickpeas are out during Passover, there’s a way to enjoy the falafel experience and marry it to a wonderful Shabbat dinner. The falafel spices are available in any Middle Eastern market or mix up your own from any number of recipes found on the web. Enjoy!

1 chicken breast, per person

1 1/2 matzohs per chicken breast

1/2 tsp falafel spices per chicken breast

1 egg per 2-3 chicken breasts, lightly beaten

4 TBS olive oil for frying

Rinse and thoroughly pat the chicken breasts dry (important!). Sprinkle the chicken breasts generously with the falafel spices and gently rub them in. In a food processor, process all but one of the matzohs until they are a fine meal. Process the lone matzoh into a flour-like powder. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet. Pour the matzoh meal and matzoh flour onto two, separate plates. Pour the egg(s) into a shallow bowl. Roll each chicken breast into the matzoh flour, then through the egg, and finally through the matzoh meal. Gently lay the chicken in the hot oil and fry for 5-6 minutes on each side, gently turning with tongs or two spatulas. Reduce the heat if the pan begins to scorch. Serve with lemon wedges, cucumber slices, chopped onions, and diced tomato.

Forget mint jelly. Give me charoset.

In Recipies on March 27, 2013 at 10:42 am

Try this ‘Jewish chutney’ with your next roasted leg of lamb. It’s floral-sweet and finishes with a skyrocket blast of heat.


Passover tables bow under the weight of symbolic foods. One such food is charoset, symbolizing the mortar used by Hebrew slaves to join Pharaoh’s bricks of mud and straw.

Most North American Jews serve charoset based on a variation of Eastern European recipes containing apples, cinnamon, nuts, and raisins. A few years back, our Cantor shared an article Mortars Without Borders with her congregants. My now-lost copy gave a skeleton outline of charoset recipes enjoyed by Jews living in different regions of the world.

They all shared a similar fruit-nut base. The difference usually lived in the varied spices and flavorings used.

This year, I used a fiery recipe inspired by Jewish cuisine from Yemen. For a Persian variation, omit the cayenne.

Most of its ingredients are familiar. It may be a bit difficult to find jaloob (pomegranate molasses) in some areas. But, it’s simple to make from readily available pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice. Just mix 4 cups pomegranate juice, ½ cup sugar, and ¼ cup lemon juice. Reduce the mixture over medium heat until it is as thick as cane molasses.

My Yemeni charoset is best made in a large mortar and pestle, but a food processor can be used too. Just be sure not to pulverize things too finely. The consistency of a good charoset should be a bit lumpy and irregular.

Here we go!

You’ll need:

1 C walnut pieces

1 TBS sesame seeds, toasted

¼ C finely chopped prunes

2 TBS raisins, minced

1 TBS jaloob

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

2 TBS sweet kosher wine

1 C applesauce

pinch cayenne (optional)

Mix all of the ingredients well and allow to chill in the refrigerator. After trying this, you’ll forget all about mint jelly for your next lamb roast.

Kabseh-Spiced Lamb Roast: A new Passover or Easter tradition

In Recipies, Tips and Hints on March 27, 2013 at 10:38 am

Our Passover Seder is now a memory. And just in time for Easter’s lamb (not ham) dinners, the Phyne Dyner offers up this year’s Seder headliner to his readers. Enjoy!


If not for the Moorish conquest, most of Europe would likely be flavoring foods with dill and juniper berries. The subsequent exploration and exploitation of North and South America would have been equally flavorless. The Arabian empire building changed our tables (methinks) for the better.

Empire, via the spreading of Pax Americana, has been good for American tables as well.

After WWII in the Pacific, there was an explosion of Polynesian and Japanese restaurants in urban locations. During the immediate post-war years, nearly every VA loan eligible home in the suburbs stood over a ‘finished’ basement having an Pacific island-themed bar and décor. Tiki torches and faux grass huts stood adjacent to wobbly above-ground swimming pools.

Post-war immigration also spread new tastes in America.

The Vietnam War brought thousands of ‘Boat People’ among them; the Hmong and Tai Dam who introduced their own regional flavors, along with flavors from the coastal regions of Viet Nam.

War means there is always a glut of war brides, returning military personnel, and refugees bringing new tastes to American palates. As our dying empire thrashes in the Near East, those struggles have also brought new flavors to our table.

Kabseh (var. kebsa), the Saudi Arabian national dish, is one such example. My neighborhood, once of Christian and Jewish flavors, has experienced an explosion of ‘Mediterranean’ (lit. Arab) markets and shops. A trip to one is like spending a few minutes in a shuk filled with wonderful and exotic aromas and sights. The explosion of these markets has been a good thing for a ‘meat and taters’ town that suffered too long as a cultural wasteland.

Authentic kabseh is a rice-based dish containing shredded meats, like chicken or lamb. The dish gets its name (and flavor) from a blend of spices that include cinnamon, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and bay leaf. A few kabseh recipes include ginger and saffron and it is worth noting that, like all things in cooking, every cook and chef declares their spice blend to be the most authentic.

And I found, after much experimentation, that kabseh spices also lend themselves to some fantastic roasted lamb. Actually, had I done some research, I would have learned that mandi (pit roasted spiced meat) is also a staple food where kabseh is found.

The kabseh spice mixture is similar to many used for shwarma, that delightful vertical spit-roasted meat. Kabseh spices are a bit more piquant and flowery. Consequently, they can be a bit overwhelming if thickly rubbed on chicken and not advisable at all for fish.

But, on lamb, rubbed-on kabseh spices are a real treat.

So, if you’re looking for a Passover (or Easter) meat course that will allow you to attend to making other table goodies for the festival, try kabseh-spice roasted lamb.

Here we go!

For this recipe, you’ll only need a lamb roast and two tablespoons of kabseh spices. Just follow the instructions below and you’ll enjoy a delightfully spiced bit of meat for your festive occasion.

Oven temperature is critical. I’ve found the best oven for roasting lamb starts out very hot and finishes a bit lower. For lamb, I start with a 450F pre-heat and reduce the heat to 325F when I put the meat in the oven. The result is juicy and tender. Resist the temptation to go too low with the final roasting temperature. This dish is cooked uncovered and a very slow oven will allow the meat to dry out.

Before roasting, be sure to allow the lamb (a netted, boneless leg roast works best) to come to room temperature. About 30 minutes in a 70-degree kitchen will do as a nice start. Carefully rinse the meat and pat it thoroughly dry before rubbing in the kabseh spices.

After rubbing in the spices, cover the meat with plastic wrap and allow it to stand for another 15 minutes to allow the spices to penetrate a bit. Afterward, the meat will be at just the right room temperature and the spices will be perfect.

Allow about 15 minutes of roasting time per 1/4-pound of meat. Rare lamb comes out of the oven at about 140F, medium at 150-155F, and well at 160+. Check the temperature 10-15 minutes before your anticipated ‘done’ time. Oven thermostats are notoriously inaccurate. When the lamb is roasted to desired doneness, remove it from the oven and cover it loosely with aluminum foil for resting. Allow the meat to rest for at least 20 minutes before service. Resting allows heat-displaced juices to return ‘home’ and give you a much more tender (and juicy) piece of meat.

Take-out Asian cuisine from leftovers

In Lifestyle, Recipies, Tips and Hints on March 20, 2013 at 9:24 am

We eat a largely vegetarian diet. And just like our entirely carnivorous neighbors, we suffer from occasional gluts of leftover bits of this and that. Wasting food is anathematic to Phyne Dyners, so we make a weekly sweep of food stocks to make sure we use the stuff from open containers and search the freezer and fridge for single servings of ingredients that might otherwise go to waste.

This week’s scavenging yielded two too-small tilapia fillets, a few small carrots, a small crown of broccoli, a few cauliflower florets, the last bit of a head of garlic, the center of a head of bok choy, and a half a box of whole-wheat angel hair pasta.

In about fifteen minutes, supper was on the table.

I steamed the fish and vegetables while the pasta cooked. Then, I tossed together a Southeast Asian-inspired sauce to pour over it.

When everything was cooked, I layered the fish, pasta and vegetables in deep bowls and poured the sauce over the whole mess. It was absolutely delicious.

[TIP: When using bok choy, be sure to use the leaves too. They can also be used to wrap seasoned small fish (or shrimp) before steaming.]

The sauce is an adaptation of a peanut sauce I make in which to dip goi cahn, those delightful Vietnamese spring rolls filled with vegetables and rice noodles (and fish or shrimp if you like). Both versions combine the earthiness of peanuts, the pungency of garlic, the sweet tanginess of hoi sin, and the fire of chilies.

Be sure to make enough. After one bite, you’ll want to slather it on like whipped cream over pumpkin pie.

So, get poking around in your provisions. The sauce works wonderfully with almost anything you can stir fry, steam, or grill.

You’ll need:

2 large cloves garlic, smashed into paste

¾ C hoi sin

¾ C water

3 TBS cider vinegar

1 to 3 TBS Sriracha sauce (to taste)

3 TBS creamy peanut butter

1 TBS canola oil

Smash the garlic into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat and fry the garlic in the oil for about one minute, or until its aroma ‘blooms’. Reduce the heat to low-medium and stir in everything except the Sriracha. If the sauce appears too runny, dissolve a teaspoon of cornstarch in a tablespoonful of cold water and stir it into the sauce. Raise the heat until the sauce is just simmering and stir in the Sriracha, tasting frequently if you add more.


In Recipies on March 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Speak of the Devil and you hear the flap of wings. No sooner do I take a slap at pot-au-feu in a Phyne Dyning feature covering sauce Béarnaise and I end up making the dish for Shabbat guests.


It’s not that I don’t like Provence’s ‘pot on the fire’ stew. It’s that I always cringe whenever I boil a nice bit of beef. Boiled beef is the stuff of merchant sailors not far removed from HMS Bounty.

The French concoction is a delightful sort of stew.

The true peasant’s version uses larger odds-and-ends of beef. A more elegant presentation can be had by using a 2-3 pound ‘cheaper cut’ of beef. Look for a lean chuck roast. A top sirloin has a bit better flavor than bottom sirloin. A clod roast is also acceptable. Chuck can be a bit tough and cartilaginous unless cooked long and slow. So, for pot-au-feu, it is ideal.

Next, select your vegetable accompaniment.

I use a couple of good-sized leeks. Just be sure to clean them well, or your jus will have grit in it. Celery is indispensable and is added as cut blunts about 2-3 inches long. Large, whole carrots add color and a half of a large yellow onion (well minced) gives the dish a savory character. Several waxy potatoes are optional, but highly traditional.

A little garlic goes a long way. Two or three cloves, neatly sliced, is just about right. Or, a large, minced shallot can substitute for the garlic. A dozen trimmed green onions are added a few minutes before service.

This French classic gets much of its characteristic flavor from the added bouquet garni. You can purchase a dried blend. Or, you can make you own like I do. Now that I have fresh herbs growing indoors year-round, I like making my own little bundles of flavor.


Use several 2-4 inch cuts of thyme, rosemary, and parsley. Lay them in the center of a 10-inch square of cheesecloth. Lay in two bay leaves and a dozen or so fragrant peppercorns. Some marjoram leaves are a nice option, as are sage leaves. Now, fold all of the herbs into the cloth and tie it up with twine or butcher’s string.

Here’s what you’ll need to finish your pot-au-feu:

2-3 lb roast (see notes above)

1 large onion

2 stalks celery, cut into 2-3” lengths

4-6 large, whole carrots

6-10 green onions, trimmed

2 leeks, cleaned and chopped (white and tender green parts)

2-4 large cloves garlic, sliced thin

or 1 large shallot minced

2 TBS canola oil

3 TBS cognac

1 TBS red wine vinegar

1 bouquet garni (see notes above)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat the roast dry and brown all of it’s exposed sides. Remove the meat to a platter and de-glaze the skillet with the cognac. Stir in the chopped onions and garlic (or shallot), seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until soft and just turning golden. Place the bouquet garni in the bottom of the pot. Return the roast to the skillet or pot and cover with water (about 6-8 cups). Cook, uncovered (over low-medium heat), for about 30 minutes. Check the seasoning but do not over salt. Stir in the red wine vinegar and carefully arrange the vegetables around the meat. Cook, uncovered, for an additional 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 450F. After the meat and vegetables have cooked for the allotted 20-30 minutes, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the vegetables to a shallow roasting pan and remove the meat to a similar pan. Lay the green onions over the meat and place it (and the vegetables in the hot oven) for 10-15 minutes. Remove everything from the oven and tent the meat with foil. Allow the roast to rest in its juices for at least twenty minutes before slicing.

While the pot-au-feu rests, remove the bouquet garni from the pot liquid. Strain the liquid through a fine strainer and re-heat it. If desired, several cups of liquid may be fashioned into gravy or whisked with butter (Invisible Friend permitting). Check the jus for seasoning and ladle into a large boat.

Serve the meat and vegetables family style with the large boat of the jus to pass around. The meat will be fork-tender and the vegetables will be bold and brightly flavored.