Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Japanese Ginger and Garlic Chicken with Smashed Cucumber

I am a big fan of Diana Henry (and have written about her here and here). She is cheeky yet thoughtful, sophisticated yet simple. This cookbook (A Change of Appetite), one I turn to time and again to up my salad game, is her gander at healthy eating.  

Her take is simple:  More veggies, less meat. Heavy on freshness, light on processed foods. 

And Henry takes us on a whirlwind tour of healthy food from across the world. From Scandinavia to Cambodia, North Africa to Peru, this cookbook opens up a world of possibilities for the healthy palate. 

I have been thinking about my diet more these days.  One of the most important people in my whole life is in the midst of a health crisis, and we have been talking a lot about food that is good for you. There's a lot of misinformation out there. A lot of advice that contradicts itself. I just want something that is simple and easy to follow.

Enter Diana Henry.

She just advises to eat well, to enjoy the process, and to be aware of what you put in your body. She doesn't get too preachy, she encourages indulgences, and she always delivers something satisfying. These are mantras I can embrace.

This recipe for a Japanese chicken is an easy one, but it does take some advance planning. There is an hour long marinade and a bake time of 40 minutes. However, the active time with this dinner is pretty light. 

Yep, there's some chopping at the outset, but then settle in with a glass of wine and a book while you wait for dinner to be done. (But make it one glass, and of red wine, or at least according to the multitude of information about the power of red wine for heart health.)

So, let's do this together, friends. Let's be a little healthier this summer.

Starting with this dinner right here.

I promise, you won't miss any of the unhealthy things you have been eating, and you won't get any misinformation from Diana Henry.

Japanese Ginger and Garlic Chicken with Smashed Cucumber

4 Servings 

For the marinade
3 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp sake or dry sherry
3 Tbsp packed dark-brown sugar
½ Tbsp brown miso
2/3 cup ginger, peeled and finely grated
4 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 tsp togarashi seasoning (or ½ tsp chile powder)

8 bone-in chicken thighs

For the salad
1 1/2 cucumbers
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp pickled ginger, finely shredded
Small handful of shiso leaves, or mint leaves, torn (optional)

1. Mix together all the marinade ingredients. Pierce the chicken on the fleshy side with a knife, put the pieces into a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the chicken. Massage it in well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and put the pieces in a shallow ovenproof dish in which they can sit snugly in a single layer. Pour half of the marinade onto the chicken. Roast for 40 minutes, basting every so often with the cooking juices and the leftover marinade. Once 20 minutes have passed, don't add any more leftover marinade – it needs to cook properly as it has had raw chicken juices in it.

3.  When the chicken is at about the 1/2 way point, peel and halve the cucumber, scoop out the seeds and discard. Set the cucumbers on a board and bang them gently with a pestle or rolling-pin, then break them up into chunks with your hands. Crush the garlic with a pinch of the salt and massage this and the rest of the salt into the cucumber. Put in a small sandwich bag, squeeze out the air and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
4.  After 40 minutes check the chicken for doneness – the juices should run clear when you pierce the flesh with a knife. Remove from the oven.
5.  When you're ready to eat, drain the cucumbers in a sieve and add the pickled ginger. Add the shiso leaves or the mint. Serve with the chicken and, if you're in the mood for something more filling, some rice or rice vermicelli.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Goat Cheese and Cherry Salad with Almond and Basil Gremolata

The husband has been learning how to make cheese. I am learning how to gain weight.  Last week it was chevre, as featured here.  Then it was feta.  Now it's Valencay.

I approve of his new hobby.

Our refrigerator is filled with jugs of goat milk, our counter is covered in cheeses in the beginnings of their aging process, our shelves are becoming stacked with cheese molds, and the cooler rotates cheeses in and out, depending on their needed temperature.

And I am filling out my pants even further.

Enter salad for dinner.

His chevre is a beauty--creamy and slightly sweet--perfect for pairing with cherries.  And cherries are everywhere right now. So I have been soaking them in alcohol to make my own maraschino cherries, pitting them to make jam, and eating them in the backyard (spitting the pits into the grass in hopes that maybe one will sprout).

Add spinach, arugula, basil, and almonds, and people this salad is bitter, sweet, crunchy, and creamy.

Whether your cheese is homemade or store bought, this salad is perfect for a warm early summer evening.

Get pitting, people, there's a beautiful salad to be had.


Goat Cheese and Cherry Salad with Almond and Basil Gremolata

6 Servings 

For the cherries
3 cups cherries
2 Tbsp brandy or grappa
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper

For the gremolata 
1/3 cup blanched almonds
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
about 12 basil leaves

For the salad 
4 1/2 cups mache or baby spinach or arugula, or a mixture
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp fruity extra-virgin olive oil

5 1/2 ounces goat's cheese, crumbled into chunks
Salt and pepper

1. Prepare the cherries so that they can macerate. Pit them--pull them apart, use a knife, or use a pitter. The shape doesn't matter. Put in a bowl with the brandy, vinegar, oil, lemon juice and some salt and pepper and leave for anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

2. To make the gremolata toast the almonds in a dry skillet until golden. Transfer to a chopping board and leave to cool. Add the zest, garlic and basil to the board and chop everything finely.

3. Toss the greens, vinegar, oil and some seasoning. Gently mix in the goat cheese to coat it with the dressing. Arrange this on a platter or divide among smaller plates. Sprinkle the cherries with their macerating juice, then the gremolata, on top. Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Roasted Potato Salad

I have posted about potato salad in the past. 

I get it, I really do, this current moment you're having. Why, oh why, is she posting about potato salad?  Does potato salad deserve not one but two posts? 

I am here to confirm that as we're now firmly ensconced in summer and summer barbecues and trips to the beach and picnics and backporch swing sitting, potato salad needs to be posted at least once a month.

The first potato salad was your basic potato salad, tweaked and gussied up to be satisfying for all palates--young, old, picky, and adventurous--for it strikes the right note of Americana backyard.  That one is a standard salad that promises to be a hit with just about everyone.

But this more recent potato salad is more for your gourmand. For those who want something predictable (potato salad) with a surprising twist (roasted veggies) that strikes just the right balance.

The simple change of roasting your potatoes before putting them in potato salad ratchets this salad into fine dinner-time fare. Alana Chernila, blogger extraordinaire as well as cook book author, suggests lightly roasting up some asparagus (if we're early in the season) or some green beans (if we're late). Either way the quick crunch of something green is delightful next to the smokiness of the roasted potatoes. The vinaigrette dressing is a lighter, tangier substitute to the sometimes gloppy dressing of mayonnaise.

In all, it's time to fire up the oven (I know, I know--that's the one draw back on a warm day, so make this early in the morning) or if you're adventurous you could finagle a way to roast these on the grill.

 No matter your method, this is a potato salad worth blogging about and certainly worth adding to your next barbecue.


4-6 Servings 

For the salad
1 1/2 pounds red or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into large, bite-sized pieces
4 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
4 ounces asparagus*, cut to 1 1/2 inch lengths
4 large eggs, hard boiled and coarsely chopped

For the dressing
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
1/4 olive oil
1 Tbsp capers
1 1/2 Tbsp coarsely chopped dill pickles
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper

*Green beans would make a great stand in for the asparagus if it's late in the summer.

1. Make the salad: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the potatoes with 1 Tbsp olive oil (3 tsp) and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl. Transfer the potatoes to a baking sheet and roast until brown and crispy, about 30-40 minutes. Toss the asparagus in the same bowl with the remaining teaspoon o olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Transfer to a second baking sheet and set aside. When the potatoes are brown and crispy , remove them from the oven and put in the asparagus. Roast the asparagus until tender, about 5 minutes.

2.  Make the dressing:  While the potatoes are roasting, combine the vinegar and shallot in a medium serving bowl, and let the shallot pickle for a few minutes. Whisk in the mustard and olive oil, combining strongly in order to emulsify the dressing. Add the capers, pickles, parsley, and dill, stirring to combine. 

3.  Combine the salad: Scrape the warm potatoes and asparagus along with the eggs into the bowl with the dressing. Gently stir, folding the vegetables and eggs into the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Marinated Mushrooms with Vermouth and Garlic from The Basque Book

It is a miracle, my friends, that I am still standing. Finishing out a school year is hard work. But standing I am.

In an abrupt transition, let's just say I am big fan of Basque Country, if only because of Ernest Hemingway. When I was in college, I took a literary criticism course with a reading list of precisely one book:  The Sun Also Rises, which for years I knew of as Fiesta, the title under which this book is published in Europe. We read and wrote about this book under a feminist lens, a Marxist viewpoint, a Formalist approach, a Structuralist lens, and a Psychoanalytic approach. People, I know this book really well.

And in this book, Jake and his buddy Bill do some fishing in a little town, Burguete in the Navarre region of Spain, on the Irati River. But on their way, they ride in a crowded bus filled with Basque people. Jake, Bill, and these strangers pass around and share their wine, and Jake learns the proper way to drink wine from a wineskin. The fishing trip becomes a kind of communion for these two competitive men who have often been surrounded by the moral wasteland of 1920s Paris. And late in the book, Jake travels to San Sebastian, a town firmly ensconced in Basque Country. There, he intends to try to recreate the more contemplative, reflective space of Burguete--he wants nothing more than to swim in the ocean, the place where "it felt as though you could never sink." However, he is ripped away by desperate telegrams from the woman he cannot be with--Brett Ashley. Oh Basque Country, you are communal sharing. You are purifying waters. You are a place where one can never sink. 

I have never been to Basque Country, nor have I ever been to Spain itself, but oh how Hemingway made me want to do so.  And oh how this new cookbook, The Basque Book, from Alexandra Raij with Eder Montero makes me want to eat the cuisine even more. 

Raij and Montero are restaurant owner of and chef at Txikito in New York, and oh, their food is good. Simple, but not easy, the food in this book does take a commitment and, Raij argues in her introduction, a sense of respect. From Poached Monkfish with Garlic Soup to Gratin of Deviled Crab, these are restaurant-quality meals. So set aside some time.

I chose one of the simplest recipes in the book as an inaugural dish--the Marinated Mushrooms with Vermouth and Garlic. Snappy to make, they can be popped into your mouth right away (or at least once they're cool), but they are even better a day or two later. And even better than that: slice them up and throw them into a tossed salad. These little flavor bombs do just the trick in an otherwise standard salad.

Oh, Hemingway, Raij, and Montero--stop making me want to go to the Basque Region. Stop it right now.  

And, oh, hello summer.  


Marinated Mushrooms with Vermouth and Garlic
Adapted from The Basque Book

6 Servings 

1 tsp minced garlic
1//2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds small, white button mushrooms
Kosher salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp dry vermouth
Juice of 1 lemon

1. In a large saucepan, warm the garlic and oil over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the mushrooms and 1 tsp salt. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to release their juices and shrink just a little. Add the pepper flakes and parsley, and cook for about 2 minutes longer. Add the vermouth and deglaze the pan, stirring to dislodge any browned bit. Cook for about 6 more minutes, until the remaining liquid has a syrupy consistency. 

2.  Remove from the heat, add a pinch of salt, and stir in the lemon juice. Transfer the mushrooms and their liquid to a dish, let cool, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3.  Thread the mushrooms on bamboo skewers, arrange on a platter, pour the liquid from the dish over the mushrooms, and serve.