Sesame Salmon in Memory of My Father

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Sesame Salmon in Memory of My Father

I’ve been away from Los Angeles. I’ve been in Florida to be by my father’s side as he lay dying. I kept this vigil with my brother and my sister. It was two weeks of heartache mixed with the joy that can only come in moments of family intimacy. There were also five days in Mexico squeezed in the middle. Five days of denial on my part. I went to Mexico never believing what happened to my father could actually happen to my father. Fathers are mythic figures to sons. It doesn’t matter what sort of relationship they either enjoyed or suffered through – there’s stuff between fathers and sons that cannot be expressed. They can only be felt.

And I felt it all these past two weeks.

Because if there is one thing that’s universally true, it’s this: Sons are always trying to be half the man their old man was.

Sometimes that formula gets tragically warped and a son spends his life trying to be twice the man his father was. But this is really two sides of the same coin.

In my case, I’ll have to settle for half the man.

My father was a doctor and not just a doctor, but a children’s heart doctor. If that’s not enough he also volunteered his time at his local Free Clinic caring for the many of us who have fallen between life’s ever-widening cracks. He traveled to 3rd world countries to diagnose kids with heart defects. Heart defects that would have otherwise gone on undetected and untreated.

I’m not going to lie. There was tension in my relationship with my dad. He was a difficult man to know, but an easy man to love. He was quiet but opinionated, which means you were stuck always wanting more from him. He was a man who was smarter than me, more athletic than me, and better looking than me. He was a man who carried these qualities better than anyone I’ve ever known.

People like my father with outsized talents (and undersized egos) are a rare breed. Sometimes being the son of a man like this is a little like climbing a ladder with uneven rungs. It’s hard to know how much progress you’re making, or if it’s even worth the effort.

As a boy, I was not good at the things fathers often want their sons to be good at. This was apparent at a young age. This felt like a tragedy to me. This shortcoming defined a lot of my youth.

Luckily for me, my parents allowed me the space I needed to be good at the things I did enjoy. Which wasn’t always easy for them or for me. But it was the right thing to do because that space allowed me to grow into a man who is happy with his place in the world.

For that, of course, I’m grateful. The kind of grateful you can never pay back.

But there’s always that little boy voice in the back of my head asking: “Am I the son my father always wanted?” I know he would have answered, yes, and I know he would have meant it. But that does not save me from the struggle all men have when they look into their father’s eyes.

I bring up this blatant bit of sentimentality because I saw a glimmer of something in my father’s eyes once and I want to share it here. It was really more of a slip of the tongue. But it showed me that maybe, yes, perhaps my father did understand me. It was a powerful moment for me. But like too many sons and their fathers, we let the moment pass without mentioning it.

Because what was to mention anyway? It was such a silly thing. In fact, it was a recipe.

I was visiting my dad, which I didn’t do nearly enough because an entire continent separated us. But on this visit, my dad mentioned a meal I had cooked more than a decade earlier for him, his sister, and one of his brothers at my home in California. I never thought my father noticed my interest in food. I mean why should he? We rarely discussed it.

The funny thing is, 10-plus years ago I was just beginning to see how happy cooking made me. Any cooking I did at that time had to have been baby steps because the recipe my father remembered was a very simple salmon recipe. I think I got the idea from Martha Stewart Living magazine. I gave it an Asian vibe and added sesame seeds, shichimi-togarashi, and wasabi. But the technique for rolling this salmon was all Martha’s.

I haven’t made this recipe in years. I can’t tell you happy it made me to make it again. GREG

James Gifford Henry Tennis My Father James Gifford Henry MD My Father James Gifford Henry and Family Sesame Salmon Roll in Memory of My Father

Sesame Salmon Rolls with Wasabi Mayo

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Inspired by a recipe in Martha Stewart LivingPublished

serves 4

Sesame Salmon Rolls with Wasabi Mayo

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoon dried wasabi powder (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 4 (6 oz) skinless salmon fillets (about 2 inches by 4½ inches)
  • salt and white pepper (as needed)
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds (preferably black)
  • 1 teaspoon shichimi-togarashi (Japanese 7 spice blend, optional)
  • 2 teaspoon vegetable oil (as needed for pan)

Directions

Prepare the wasabi mayo: Mix the wasabi and mayonnaise together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Prepare the soy-vinegar sauce: In a small bowl mix the soy sauce and rice vinegar together. Set aside.

Prep the salmon rolls: Using a very sharp knife, slice each fillet open to create one long thin piece approximately 2-inches by 8-inches, and about 3/4 to ½-inch thick.

To accomplish this start at the thinnest end of the fillet and slice horizontally through the flesh taking care to leave one end intact. Spread fillet open, and turn it over. Season it with salt and white pepper. Then spread about ½ teaspoon wasabi mayo all along its length. Tightly roll the fillet starting at the thickest end. Secure the roll closed with 1 or 2 wooden toothpicks. Repeat with remaining fillets.

Cook the salmon Rolls: Pour sesame seeds onto a small plate. Stir in the shichimi-togarashi (if using). Spread the mixture into a smooth even layer.

Heat oil in a non-stick or cast iron pan over medium heat until hot. Swirl the pan to coat the bottom with just the barest slick of oil.

Place a salmon roll onto the pile of seeds, pressing lightly to thoroughly coat bottom of one side. Repeat the process on the other side. Continue with the other rolls moving each roll to the hot pan as it gets coated.

Cook the salmon rolls until opaque almost, a third to halfway through depending on how cooked you like it, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn them over and cook another 2 or 3 minutes. Remove them from the pan and let them rest a few moments to finish cooking.

To serve: Place one salmon roll in the center on a dinner plate. Drizzle with soy-vinegar sauce to taste and serve warm.

Brown Beech Mushrooms Cured my Shopping Blues

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East Asian Brown Beech Mushrooms (also known also as Buna-shimeji, Hypsizigus tessellatus, or Brown Clamshell)

When I go grocery shopping I often pick up ingredients I’ve never seen before. That’s how I ended up with the bunch of East Asian Brown Beech Mushrooms (also known also as Buna-shimeji, Hypsizigus tessellatus, or Brown Clamshell). Sure, it can be a risky habit but it keeps shopping fun – which is something I need these days. The older I get the more I find shopping to be a chore. Even grocery shopping. I used to love the grocery store. I’d make a list, cut the coupons, look for all the extra-special “double-deals” and make an afternoon of roaming the aisles.

However these days just the thought of gathering up all those re-usable bags makes my stomach churn in knots. Forget making a list – that’s gotten way too depressing.

But I gotta eat, right? That means I’ve gotta shop for food. So I’ve developed a few tricks to help make the job less of a drudge. The first is the Farmers Market. I still enjoy walking down the hill to the Hollywood Farmers Market when I can. Fresh food. Seasonal energy. Celebrity sightings. The Farmers Market is a once a week foodie excursion that never bores me.

Still, I live a fast-paced, big city life. There are a lot of staples we in the big city need that aren’t available from a local farmer. A lot. You know things like ChapStick, LED light-bulbs, and Kit Kat bars. You can’t live a fast-paced, big city life without Kit Kat bars, and they don’t grow on trees so farmers can’t grow them and they’re not really kats, so hunters can’t shoot them.

All this means that I need to stop by the grocery store once in a while. So, rather than resist I now do just the opposite. I go to the store EVERY DAY. It just takes a few minutes to grab the few things I need for my dinner (or score something like these East Asian Brown Beech Mushrooms for my blog). I know that seems odd. How can going to the store MORE help me deal with my shopping phobia?

Well, partly because I fool myself just a bit. By not planning to go to the market, and by not making much more than a mental list, I can be 80% finished with the job before I remember how much I hate it. Besides it’s more of an “in the moment” exercise. Meaning my inner psyche can connect with the zen side of grocery shopping much more directly. And, it doesn’t take 4 hours.

Although I wonder sometimes if I pay more for the things I buy. I don’t cut daily coupons or spend a lot of time looking for deals. I tend to go to specialty markets too, which are pricier. But the other side of the coin is this: when I go more often, I buy less. Which (I think) makes me spend less money because I waste less food. As evidence there seem to be fewer and fewer shocking alien sightings in the veg drawer these days because it’s never so full that the carrots have time to morph into black-bearded intruders.

My last little trick is this: I try to buy things that are unfamiliar. It keeps shopping fun. Instead of ALWAYS reaching for brands I know, or vegetables we love I force myself to try new things. In fact, today’s Brown Beech Mushrooms came about because I came across a pile of these unusually perky little fellows in my local Asian Market. I love the way they stand up in a big crowd and giggle “notice me” as you roll your cart past them in the produce aisle.

So, what do you do when you’re faced with a countertop of unfamiliar Asian mushrooms? You make a stir-fry of course. GREG

Tofu Stir-Fry with Veggies and Beech Mushrooms

Tofu Stir-Fry with Veggies and Beech Mushrooms

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Centennial KitchenPublished
Tofu Stir-Fry with Veggies and Beech Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 16 ounce firm tofu (cut into 1 ½-inch cubes)
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 5 green onions (sliced)
  • 1-2 red chiles (sliced and seeded)
  • 3 cup broccoli florets
  • 3½ ounce beech mushrooms (separated)
  • 1 red bell pepper (seeded and sliced into strips)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 limes (1 juiced, 1 cut into 8 wedges)
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce

Directions

In a medium bowl, toss tofu with cornstarch and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add almonds and sesame seeds; cook and stir 30 seconds or until golden. Transfer to a small bowl; set aside. Add oil to the hot pan; heat over high heat. Add tofu; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tofu to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Drizzle tofu with honey and toss with the toasted almonds and sesame seeds.

Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic, ginger, green onions, and sliced chiles; cook for 1 minutes. Add broccoli, mushrooms, red bell pepper, and corn kernels; cook and stir 4 minutes. Add lime juice and soy sauce; stir to combine. Add tofu-almond mixture and toss well before serving.

 

Thick Slices of Toasted Carrot Loaf

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Carrot Loaf with Walnuts and Crystallized Ginger

Banana Cake, zucchini bread, and now carrot loaf. Though I haven’t posted them, I’ve gone through a slew of recipes for these sweet loaves of bread that are more of a loaf-shaped cake than they are any sort of actual bread. My theory is that calling these sweet treats bread rather than cake lends them a speciously healthy air which legitimizes their enjoyment at any hour of the day. Which is fine by me. Though to avoid any further confusion I’m calling my toasted version a loaf. A Carrot Loaf with Walnuts and Crystallized Ginger to be exact. However, if anyone has any information on the dividing line between bread and cake, please pass it along.

In the meantime let me tell you about this carrot loaf. It’s not at all like its spongy cousin – the sweet treat most of us call carrot cake. First, there’s no cream cheese frosting. Though I suppose you could add some. I didn’t because I was looking for a carrot loaf that was more of a breakfast with coffee or an afternoon snack with tea kind of carrot cake. The kind of carrot cake that you can carve out in thick slices, slide into a toaster, then slather with salty European butter. It has to be firm, moist, and fragrant but not so sweet that it scorches the toaster. The kind of carrot cake that’s better called carrot loaf, don’t you agree? GREG

Carrot Loaf with Walnuts and Caramelized Ginger

Toasted Carrot Loaf with Walnuts and Crystallized Ginger

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 loafPublished
Toasted Carrot Loaf with Walnuts and Crystallized Ginger

Ingredients

  • ½ pound unsalted butter (at room temperature) plus more for loaf pan
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup chopped crystallized ginger

Directions

With the rack in the middle position, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 9-inch loaf pan (preferably a straight-sided Pullman pan, do not use the lid). Line the pan with a piece of parchment sized to fit edge to edge and extend over the two long sides by a couple of inches on each side. Butter the parchment and set the pan aside.

In a large bowl use an electric mixer to cream butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in three additions, mixing well between additions. Fold in carrots, walnuts, and ginger.

Dollop the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. It will be quite thick. Spread the batter evenly around the pan taking care to get it into the corners and remove any air pockets.

Bake in the heated oven about 1 hour and 20 minutes (depending on the type of pan) or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on rack, then remove from pan and peel away parchment.

Once cool you can optionally cut the loaf into thick slices and toast them in the toaster. Serve with good butter.

Wes Avila’s Chile Colorado, L.A. Style

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Wes Avila's Chile Colorado Tacos

Los Angeles has a long-standing relationship with taco carts and trucks. Starting in the 1930’s on Olvera Street, gathering steam in the 1970’s with King Taco, and reaching cult status when Roy Choi started selling Korean barbecue tacos outside downtown clubs. Once the mold for traditional tacos was busted open a new style of modern Mexican-American cooking began emerging in Los Angeles – a style dubbed Alta California Cuisine by local food writer Bill Esparza. After that, it didn’t take long for someone to come along and completely redefine what we in L.A. expect from a taco. That someone is Wes Avila. He and his impromptu food truck, Guerrilla Tacos, have ambushed our taco scene, all for the better.

Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A.

The menu at Guerrilla Tacos always changes. Some days you may find classics like Chile Colorado, but you’ll also find wild boar tacos and shishito pepper tacos with fried egg and pepita salsa. There’s mussel and preserved lemon quesadillas, and tostadas piled high with sea urchin and tuna poke. There’s also a book, Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A., featuring these same L.A. style tacos, quesadillas, and tostadas.

What the book and the truck have in common is their ingredient-driven aesthetic. “I like to use ingredients that keep us interested in what we’re doing,” says Avila, whose best-selling menu item is the now ubiquitous sweet potato taco. “I’m not blocked off or walled off by borders – if I want to use Russian or Armenian or Japanese ingredients, I’m going to use them.”

After all, this is Los Angeles. A city of remarkable diversity and opportunity.

Chile Colorado Tacos

However, despite his multi-cultural, new school approach to cooking Avila grew up just east of L.A. in Pico Rivera savoring the traditional Mexican-American fare his parents brought to the table. These influences are what help keep his recipes, if not quite traditional, then at least laced with a smack of hometown authenticity.

This blend of sensibilities can be seen in his version of the classic Mexican-American comfort food – Chile Colorado. Avila’s recipe is influenced by the simple guisado (stew) his father made and he calls it “proudly inauthentic”. Though I suspect this recipe, with its big burst of bright green tomatillo, is less inauthentic than it is proudly L.A. style. GREG

Guerrilla Tacos: Recipes from the Streets of L.A. Wes Avila's Chile Colorado TacosWes Avila's Chile Colorado Tacos Wes Avila's Chile Colorado Tacos

Chile Colorado Tacos

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Wes AvilaPublished

Reprinted from Guerrilla Tacos, copyright © 2017 by Wes Avila, with Richard Parks III.

Chile Colorado Tacos

Ingredients

  • 3 pound raw beef (preferably in one piece (hanger steak, hanging tender, or top sirloin), trimmed and cut into ½-by-2-inch pieces)
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 8 Roma tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1 cup husked, rinsed, and halved tomatillos
  • 6 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 dried pasilla pepper (stemmed and seeded)
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles (stemmed and seeded)
  • 1 dried chile morita (stemmed and seeded)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 16-18 warm corn tortillas (I made my own from white corn masa harina)
  • 2 red onions (very thinly sliced)

Directions

Season the beef with salt and pepper.

In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Working in four batches, sear the beef until it is browned, about 2 minutes per batch. You don’t want it cooked too much, just coated with oil and browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to another container.

In the same pan, over medium heat, sauté the yellow onion and cumin seeds until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic, pasilla, dried chiles, and bay leaves and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are cooked and the chiles are soft. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the water to keep it saucy. Transfer to a blender and process to make the sauce as smooth as possible.

Return the meat to the pan and cover with the sauce. Serve family-style, with the tortillas and red onions, and let everybody make their own tacos.

Austrian and German Pinot Noir Tasting

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Austrian and German Pinot Noir Tasting

Today we have a fun and informative post about Austrian and German Pinot Noir. This post is from my friend Helen who occasionally shares her journey in wine appreciation with the readers of this blog. Please note, this is not a sponsored post – just one woman’s story of a glamorous evening and her introduction to the unexpected pleasures of German Pinot Noir.  GREG

I was recently invited to the Grand Opening of the Gran Seiko Watch flagship store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. It was an exclusive affair, beautifully catered by Nobu… but alas, I am a vegetarian and had to make do with the delicious freely flowing sake (Nobu, The Sake, Iunmai Daiginjo) and Champagne (Louis Roederer). The festivities continued at The Peppermint Club, with Jazz, Japanese Whiskey, Champagne, and sushi.

One of the servers at The Peppermint Club kindly took pity on me and had someone in the kitchen whip up an avocado roll, but it was too late – I was already happily tipsy and talkative, which is how I got to chatting with a young man, Carl Morandell, who informed me that he was a wine importer. There is a scene in the movie Love Actually where Laura Linney takes a moment to do a private happy dance… I mean, chatting to the CEO of Japan Airlines was also lovely… but wine!

In my defense, I did not know that Carl specializes in importing German and Austrian wines when I innocently mentioned that I didn’t like them. Specifically, I don’t like the quintessential German white wine, Dry Riesling, with its petroleum nose and oiliness. No matter how dry a Riesling is, I always perceive a fruity sweetness, not to my taste.

German Pinot Noir

“Ah, but have you ever tasted German Pinot Noir?”

“Wait, what? That’s a thing?“

I had unwittingly thrown down a glove and Carl was invigorated at the prospect of proving me wrong. Before I knew it, my arms were full of Austrian and German wines and I was about to get schooled. I can now say that German Pinot Noir most certainly is a thing. A thing of beauty, if you overlook the German word for Pinot Noir, Spätburgunder!

I decided to enlist Greg and Ken in order to get a three-palate opinion of the wine. We made an evening of it and Greg made a yummy Pinot Noir-friendly vegetarian dish of roasted butternut squash and green beans with a nod to Thanksgiving Harvest flavors. We decided to compare a 2010 Martin Wassmer, Schlatter Maltesergarten Spätburgunder from Baden, and a 2011 Hundsdorfer Neckenmarkter Pinot Noir Reserve from Burgenland, Austria. The more you drink, the easier the names are to pronounce.

German Pinot Noir Tasting

The Wassmer has a beautiful nose with classic Burgundian Funk (mushroom, forest floor, and hints of Black Forrest Gateau). All three of us fell in love with this complex yet light and elegant wine, which is supremely food friendly and our unanimous favorite. It brims with red cherries, spice, and lace in a perfectly balanced feminine dance on the palate.

By contrast, the Hundsdorfer is a much bigger wine at 14.5% Alcohol, with oaky tannins creating a spine of pure masculinity. At first, this wine does not give up much on the nose and holds on pretty tightly to its charms, but given time, it opens up to seduce with dark fruit and sandalwood. I have a feeling that most California consumers with the patience to let it breathe would love the oomph of this wine.

For wines of this quality from California producers, you would expect to be paying at the very least, $50 a bottle. At around half that price, these wines are a fantastic find and a stellar steal by comparison. It’s akin to paying for a cast of unknowns in the first season of a TV series when you have a window to enjoy the bargains before the show takes off and you are dealing with stars who can demand more money. Helen

In Los Angeles, you can find Austrian and German Pinot Noir at Vendome in Toluca Lake and online at Morandell Imports.

Pinot Noir World Map

Apple Tarte Normande: A French Classic

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Apple Tarte Normande

I probably don’t need to say this. It’s probably obvious by the spelling, but Tarte Normande hails from the Normandy region of France. However, unless you’re a more robust francophile than I am I probably do need to say that Normandy is dairy country. An area of France where the cream is rich and butter is a way of life. It’s a place where the neighborhood fromagerie is likely to carry a dozen types of local butter – all with fat contents nearly impossible to find in North America and all holding their own AOC (appellation d’origine) designations. So another thing I probably don’t need to say is that a Tarte Normande is very, very rich and indulgent.

Oh, while I’m saying all these obvious (and not so obvious) things, I may as well add that Normandy is also apple country. So naturally their signature Tarte Normande is an apple tart made with rich custard and caramelized apples. I’ve adapted my recipe to include brown butter and optional sliced almonds, but otherwise, this is a fairly traditional version of a French classic. GREG

Apple Tarte Normande Apple Tarte Normande

Apple Tarte Normande

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Published
Apple Tarte Normande

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ pound firm, tart apples (about 3 medium, peeled, cored and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (9 or 10-inch) pre-baked tart shell (in a tart ring with a removeable bottom)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam add the vegetable oil and swirl to combine. Add the diced apples, in as close to a single layer as possible, and cook stirring occasionally until caramelized on all sides. Don’t be afraid the let them get good and brown.

Once you’re happy with the color, add the dark brown sugar and continue to cook the apples until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk the cream, light brown sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons butter until brown and foamy. Continue heating, swirling the pan often, until bubbles subside, the butter is brown and gives off a nutty aroma. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, then whisk the brown butter into the cream and egg yolk mixture until a smooth batter is formed.

Once the apples have cooled scrape them into the pre-baked tart shell spreading them out in an even layer. Set the tart shell on a rimmed baking sheet then pour the batter over the apples until it almost reaches the top. Do not overfill, you might not use all the batter. Spread the almonds across the top of the tart in a thin layer (if using).

Bake the tart in the heated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size, until the tart is firm, but the middle still jiggles slightly.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Remove the tart from the tart ring and serve at room temperature.

A Little Hanger Steak with a Big Thwack of Horseradish

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Hangar Steak with Horseradish Cream and Onion Marmalade

Mmmm, Hanger Steak. Mmmm, Hanger Steak with Horseradish Cream and Onion Marmalade. Sometimes I just want to throw meat in the pan and cook it. I think eating meat is good for the soul. I think it’s what God intended for us. However, I also think God never intended us to live so long or populate the planet so thoroughly. So it’s possible that the rules have changed since Adam was banging his fists on the table demanding his hunger be satisfied. Today man has to weigh many complicated issues before he bangs his fists on the table demanding steak. Our health. The impact raising beef has on our environment. It all weighs on my mind. Such is modern life.

So the truth is – despite my beefy bluster – I don’t throw meat in the pan and cook it as often I did when I was, say Adam’s age.

First The Hanger Steak

However, every now and again, I see a gorgeous Hanger Steak in the butcher’s case and the urge to throw it in the pan and cook it overwhelms me. Hanger steak may be available in every bistro in Paris, but where I live it’s not a common cut. So I always take notice when it shows up.

Hangar Steak

Some consider Hanger Steak (also known as Butcher’s Steak and Onglet) to be too chewy to enjoy. But for me “chewy” is not the same thing as “tough”. I think people too easily confuse the two terms sometimes.

Besides, what Hanger Steak lacks in tenderness it more than makes up in taste. Ounce-for-ounce it’s hard to get more beefy flavor from any other part of the cow. It’s also a rather small cut. There is only one Hangar Steak per animal. Which makes it a perfect choice for my “self-regulated” on-again, off-again love affair with beef.

One reason Hanger Steak may not be as popular in North America as it is in Europe is that it needs to be cooked carefully to be most enjoyed. And by “carefully” I mean barely. It’s intended to be a red meat eater’s reddest meat. That delightful chewy quality I mentioned can quickly become plain old shoe leather if allowed to cook much past rare. Which makes it a good candidate for cooking hot and fast on the stove top. However, if you prefer steak closer to medium-rare you can follow the instructions in this recipe below then simply pop the skillet in a very hot oven for a few more minutes.

Whole Cooked Hangar Steak Stack of sweet onion slicesHangar Steak with Horseradish Cream

Don’t Forget The Creamy Horseradish Sauce

Dense with a meaty character, Hanger Steak can stand up to bold flavors. This version is topped with sweet onion marmalade and a pungent, eye-searing, nose-clearing, horseradish sauce. If you are horseradish-shy this sauce may not be the recipe for you. But if it’s cold where you live and you’re craving a hot thwack of flavor I urge you to have a go at making your own. Horseradish loses its pungency quickly. The stuff that comes in a jar, though it will do in a pinch, doesn’t have quite enough punch to stand up to full flavor of Hanger Steak. GREG

Hangar Steak with Horseradish Cream and Onion Marmalade

Hanger Steak with Horseradish Cream and Onion Marmalade

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 3-4Source Inspired by Jeremy LeePublished

Hanger Steak is sometimes found in butcher shops cut into single serving portions. However, it more often comes in one piece weighing between 1 ½ and 2 pounds and will take a bit of trimming from the home cook to remove the inedible sinew that runs through the center.

Hangar Steak with Horseradish Cream and Onion Marmalade

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ to 2 pound hanger steak (at room temperature)
  • canola oil (as needed)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed)
  • flaky sea salt (as needed)
  • horseradish cream (as needed for serving, see recipe)
  • sweet onion marmalde (as needed for serving, see recipe)
  • watercress (for garnish, optional)

Directions

If you’re working with a whole hanger steak it will require some preparation before cooking. Start by trimming any obvious sinew from the outside of the hanger steak. Then examine the steak on both sides and locate the thick sinew that runs lengthwise through the meat. Cut the steak in half running your knife along this sinew. Set the first piece aside then cut the sinew from the other half out and discard it. You will notice that you are left with two pieces of meat of different sizes that will cook at different rates.

Salt and pepper both sides of the meat generously just before cooking.

For this recipe, I’m leaving the pieces as they are and portioning at the table, but you may cut the steaks into three or four similarly sized individual servings if you prefer. You may also choose to butterfly the meat. This will ensure a uniform thickness and a relatively shorter cook time than I’ve indicated below. I like hangar steak thick and rare, use your own best judgment.

Once the meat is prepared heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle in a scant film of oil, swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. Once the pan gets very hot (almost smoking) lay the meat gently into the skillet. Let the meat cook undisturbed until it forms a good crust, about 4 to 6 minutes (less if the meat has been butterflied). Flip the meat and cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute more for rare. Move the meat to a cutting board to rest for 10 to 12 minutes.

Slice the steak into chunky pieces. Serve with a generous spoonful of horseradish cream and a big dollop of onion marmalade. Drizzle any of the juices left on the cutting board across the meat. Garnish with watercress (if using).

Horseradish Cream

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 ½ cupsPublished
Hangar Steak with Horseradish Cream

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup peeled and grated fresh horseradish root
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche

Directions

Stir horseradish, sugar, and vinegar together in a medium bowl. Set aside about 10 minutes then stir in crème fraîche and cover until ready to stir.

Sweet Onion Marmalade

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 ½ cupsPublished

Can be served warm or at room temperature

Sweet Onion Marmalade

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium sweet onions (about 2 lbs, peeled and thinly sliced)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more as needed for seasoning)
  • ⅓ cup water (plus more as needed)
  • ⅓ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, sugar, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden, about one hour. You may need to add a splash or two of water if the skillet gets dry.

Once you’re happy with the color and texture add vinegar, thyme, and ¼ cup water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until juices thicken, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.

Say “Yes” to with Swiss Chard Lasagne with Bechamel

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Swiss Chard Lasagne with Bechemel and Hazelnuts

Yes, it’s the first month in a new year and yes you’re looking at a gooey, cheesy, packed with carbs plate of Swiss Chard Lasagne. Yes, I’ve noticed my fellow bloggers and their admirable resolutions concerning food. No grains. No dairy. No this. No that. Yes, I’m supposed to be embracing the latest foodie fads by guzzling green smoothies or chomping the new kale salad (whatever it may be). But frankly, there’s nothing like a good plate of lasagne to ring in a new year. It might just be the perfect comfort food. But screw it up, and we’re talking mushy noodles, soupy sauce, and congealed cheese.

Swiss Chard Lasagne

The thing about lasagne is it’s an open concept so mistakes can be made when cooks try to take shortcuts. However, as long as you keep it good and cheesy and above all honor the noodles you really can’t go too far wrong.

So I say skip the ricotta cheese (it becomes dry and crumbly unless beaten with egg) and nix the no-boil noodles (nobody could accuse no-boil noodles of being texturally interesting). And don’t forget to honor the noodles, if there are less than three layers of them, it’s probably not really lasagne.

Which isn’t to say that there’s no room for a re-interpretation of a cheesy, packed with carbs plate of lasagne. A good cook can take the techniques learned making the classic version and transform even a vegetarian lasagne like this Chard Lasagne into something appropriately decadent. So long as you’re familiar with Bechamel.

BechamelTomato Sauce

Bechamel

Bechamel is made by combining hot milk with a pale roux made from butter and flour. Simply seasoned with salt and pepper, it’s a versatile sauce that can serve as the base for – well, this, that, and everything. I bet I could turn a green smoothie into a decent lasagne with a healthy dose of Bechamel.

Bechamel is considered one of the mother sauces of classic French cooking. Add cheese to it (as in this recipe for Chard Lasagne with Hazelnuts) and it technically becomes a Mornay sauce. I was raised on classic French cooking by a Julia Child obsessed mother. As a kid, I knew what Bechamel (and Mornay) sauce was even before I learned the devastating news that baseballs were for boys and Easy-Bake Ovens were for girls.

Yes, because of the Bechamel turned Mornay sauce my Chard Lasagne with Hazelnuts is very rich. It probably won’t work for most people’s New Year’s resolutions list. However, a healthy heaping of Swiss chard and a big scoop of baby spinach makes this lasagne practically the same thing as a green smoothie, right? GREG

PS Lasagne? Or Lasagna? I’ve decided to go with the British spelling because this recipe was inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Swiss Chard Lasagna with Bechemel and Hazelnuts Swiss Chard Lasagna with Bechemel and Hazelnuts

Lasagne with Chard, Spinach and Hazelnuts

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Adapted from Yotam OttolenghiPublished
Lasagne with Chard, Spinach and Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Swiss chard (leaves and stems separated, leaves roughly chopped, stems finely sliced)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • ½ pound baby spinach
  • water (as needed)
  • freshly ground black pepper (as needed)
  • 2 ounce fresh Italian parsley (leaves and stalks roughly chopped)
  • 2 ounce fresh dill (leaves and stalks roughly chopped)
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cup whole milk (gently warmed) plus a splash more if needed
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (divided)
  • 1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
  • cooking spray (as needed)
  • 1 ½ cup good quality tomato sauce (divided)
  • 12 sheets dried lasagne noodles (cooked until al dente and set aside in a single layer on a greased baking sheet)
  • 2 ½ ounce chopped hazelnuts

Directions

Prepare the greens: Heat olive oil in a large pot with a lid set over medium-high heat. Add the chard stems, caraway seeds, and ¼-teaspoon salt. Cook stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Add half the chard leaves, cook for one to two minutes, stirring, until they wilt, then add the rest of the leaves and stir until wilted. Add the spinach and another ¼-teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally until well wilted, about 8 minutes. Add a splash or two of water and a couple big grinds of black pepper and turn the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped herbs and season generously with salt. The mix should be a little wet but not at all soupy. Drain off some moisture if needed. Set aside.

Make the Mornay sauce: Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Sprinkle flour over and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in warm milk. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until sauce is thickened and no longer feels grainy when rubbed between your fingers, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups grated Parmesan, whisking until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.

Prepare the lasagne: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl toss the remaining 2 cups grated Parmesan with the grated gruyere. Set aside.

Use cooking spray to lightly coat a 11×13 shallow baking dish. Drizzle ½ cup tomato sauce onto the bottom, swirl the dish to get the bottom well covered. Cover the base, crosswise, with four sheets of al dente lasagne. Drizzle ½ cup of tomato sauce on top, then spread half the greens over the sauce.

Gently reheat the mornay sauce, using a splash or two of milk if necessary to get it moving in the pan. Dollop half the mornay sauce evenly across the greens, then scatter with ⅓ of the grated cheese mixture. Repeat this process with 4 more sheets of pasta, the remaining ½-cup tomato sauce, the remaining greens, the remaining mornay sauce, and half of the remaining grated cheese mixture. Finish by topping the lasagne with the final 4 lasagna sheets and the last of the grated cheese mixture. Sprinkle over the hazelnuts, cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes then remove the foil and finish cooking 15 to 20 more minutes until bubbling and golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to rest 10 to 20 minutes before serving.

Italian Sausages Cooked in the Oven

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Italian Sausages Cooked in the Oven and Served in a Stew with Kale and BarleyItalian Sausages Cooked in the Oven and Served in a Stew with Kale and Barley

I like to cook but I don’t always have time to dither in the kitchen. Which means some nights, when it comes to dinner, I need to multi-task. If I can have something in the oven AND something bubbling on the stove then perhaps it’s possible to carve out a little time for more meaningful tasks like crying through The Rachel Maddow Show. The solution? Head to your nearest butcher shop and ask for good fennel-flecked Italian sausages. I like the coarse-cut varieties displayed in plump clusters. Of course, sausages from the grocery store will often fit the bill. Especially if you’ve got no time to dither – just as long as they’re generously filled and look like their skins are about to burst.

There are many good ways to cook sausage. That’s why they’re so versatile.

Some people prefer to cook them in a frying pan, turning them every few minutes, allowing them to slowly brown in a nice slick of fat. Which is a very good way to go, but it can take up to 40 minutes and all of your attention. The British seem to like their bangers cooked under the broiler, and I think German brats make a durable, no-nonsense griller. You say stir-fried Chinese lap cheung? I say yes, please.

But when I’ve got my mind on other things I often opt for sweet Italian sausages cooked in the oven. They take very little attention and get nice and uniformly brown.

I admit it’s a little strange to arrange my dinner menu around cable news schedules. But I’m not the only one. The President of the United States reportedly fills his days with “plenty of television,” and from his tweets, it’s often possible to discern what he’s watching. I can relate to that because with all the crazy things going on in this world I can’t help but keep an ear on Anderson Cooper and an eye on dinner. So, with all the attention I can muster, I’ve got a meaty cool-weather stew laden with sweet Italian sausage, kale, barley, and rosemary. And like politics today, it’s deeply flavored and surprisingly complex. Yet it’s quite easy to make with sausages cooked in the oven. GREG

Italian Sausages Cooked in the Oven and Served in a Stew with Kale and Barley

Roasted Sweet Italian Sausage with Kale and Barley Stew

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from The GuardianPublished
Roasted Sweet Italian Sausage with Kale and Barley Stew

Ingredients

  • 18 ounce sweet Italian sausage links
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks white and light green parts thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 2-3 carrots peeled and diced (about 2 cup)
  • 1-2 rutabagas peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 1 cup pearl barley (rinsed with cold water)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (leaves only, finely chopped)
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed)
  • 1 bunch fresh kale (leaves stripped from the stalks and roughly chopped)
  • cider or malt vinegar (optional)

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Arrange the sausages in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning halfway through cooking until well browned, about 25 minutes. Don’t worry if they are not cooked all the way through, they will finish cooking in the stew. You may alternatively cook the sausages on the stove in a little fat until well-browned.

While the sausages roast: Heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or other large soup pot. Add the leeks, carrot, and rutabaga. Season lightly with salt, then cook stirring occasionally until softened, about 6 minutes.

Add the barley, stir 2 to 3 minutes until well-coated with oil and beginning to toast. Add the rosemary and stock, then season with salt and black pepper. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. The sausages should be well-browned by now if so remove them from the oven and add them the pot. Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, adding a splash of water if necessary to keep the consistency loose but not soupy.

Add the chopped kale leaves (save stems for another use) and simmer for another 5 to 6 minutes until the greens are wilted but still vibrant. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve the stew in individual bowls with a sprinkling of vinegar (if using).

 

Chicken Breast Cutlets Worthy Once Again

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Citrus-Cumin Chicken Breast Cutlets with Kumquat-Pineapple Chutney

Chicken Breast Cutlets. Somehow this simple classic, like German schnitzel, Japanese katsu, or their Milanese cousin manages to be both elegant, and utterly satisfying. Which I find to be a semi-astonishing statement as these days I usually choose chicken thighs over chicken breasts. Thighs are easier to cook and quite honestly they just taste better. However, I know for a fact that there are lots of folks who will disagree with me on this point and I’m determined to figure out how anyone could disavow such an easily provable statement.

I think the explanation lies buried in our eating habits of the 1990’s. Low-fat was our mantra and we’d gorge ourselves with anything that tooted its blandness loudly and proudly on vacuum-packed plastic. Chicken breasts were the meat of choice – no veins, no sinews, no bones. They were reassuringly ungruesome and for most of that decade, no dinner party was complete without an individual breast sitting in the center of the plate at our fanciest functions. It could be stuffed with prosciutto, strewn with sun-dried tomatoes, or seared on the grill. As long as it was skinned and immaculate and as big as a football we’d pour the Chardonnay and toast the good life.

Chicken Breast Cutlets

The problem with these huge blobs of low-fat protein is that it’s nearly impossible, short of sous-vide, to cook them properly. Chicken breasts have a very narrow window of culinary acceptability. They must be cooked within one-or-two degrees hovering on either side of 158 degrees F.

Which means it’s very easy to get the outside cooked properly but leave the inside raw – or worse cook it all the way through and be left chewing on something very dry. However, when pounded thin and cooked quickly, Chicken Breast Cutlets stay juicy and tender. Add to that the satisfying crunch of panko breadcrumbs, the zing of pineapple and kumquat, and you’ve got a Chicken Breast Cutlets recipe that’s both classic and modern enough to recapture its place at the center our dinner party plate once again. GREG

Kumquat-Pineapple Chutney Citrus-Cumin Chicken Breast Cutlets with Kumquat-Pineapple Chutney

Citrus-Cumin Chicken Cutlets with Kumquat-Pineapple Chutney

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Thomas KellerPublished
Citrus-Cumin Chicken Cutlets with Kumquat-Pineapple Chutney

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (a bit less than 1 pound each)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • canola oil (as needed)
  • 1 cup kumquat-pineapple chutney (see recipe)
  • ½ cup citrus-cumin dressing (see recipe)
  • fresh dill (as needed for garnish, optional)

Directions

Lay one chicken breast half flat on a cutting board. Holding the chicken flat with the palm of your hand, cut horizontally through the thickest side of the breast. Pull the breast open like a book and continue to cut horizontally, separating it into two equally-sized halves.

Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the half breasts. Using a meat mallet, a rolling pin or a heavy frying pan pound the chicken breasts until they compact into cutlets about ½-inch thick. Try and use just enough pressure to get an even thickness without pulverizing the meat. Repeat with remaining breast. The cutlets may be prepared up to one day in advance.

To continue, set the flour, eggs, and panko in three separate shallow bowls. If using ground cumin add it to the bowl with the panko and stir until well incorporated.

Season the chicken cutlets generously with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess, then dip in the eggs and coat thoroughly with the panko, pressing lightly to adhere.

Add about ¼-inch canola oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the panko covered chicken cutlets (in batches if necessary) and cook until golden and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt while still warm. Serve the cutlets topped with kumquat-pineapple chutney, drizzled with citrus-cumin dressing and garnished with fresh dill (if using).

Kumquat-Pineapple Chutney

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2 cupsSource Jean-Georges VongerichtenPublished

The chutney can be refrigerated for up to 1 week

Kumquat-Pineapple Chutney

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole kumquats (about 5 ounces)
  • 1 cup finely diced peeled pineapple (about 4 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 tablespoon Madeira wine

Directions

In a small saucepan of boiling water, blanch the kumquats for 1 minute. Drain and repeat 3 times. Halve each kumquat and squeeze out and save any juice; discard the seeds. Thinly slice and/or chop the skins.

In the same saucepan, combine the diced kumquats with the pineapple, lemon juice, brown sugar, orange juice, kumquat juice and Madeira and bring to a boil. Simmer the chutney over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes.

Citrus-Cumin Dressing

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Melissa ClarkPublished

My zesting grater has the option of very thin strips or a fine grate. I chose strips for this presentation.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 orange (some zest and juice)
  • 1 lime (zest and juice)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus more as needed)

Directions

Heat a small skillet over medium heat, and toast the cumin seeds in it until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer them to a medium bowl, grate the zest of half the orange into the bowl. Then juice the orange and add the juice as well. Grate the lime zest and squeeze in the juice. Add the ground cumin, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.

I owe photographer Eric Wolfinger credit for the inspration of this Chicken Breast Cutlets photograph.