Join a Fun Virtual Cooking Club from the Ocean House

Jerusalem DinnerThis fall, I decided to do a first and take a cooking class. Not just any cooking class – one at the Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Now if you haven’t been to The Ocean House, you don’t know the significance of this. The Ocean House is a legendary vacation destination, which was demolished and painstakingly rebuilt to its former glory. When in western Rhode Island it is a must see. Check out the website and you will understand.

 Taylor Swift lives down the road and stops by every once in a while. Just sayin’.

Anyhoo, it was a blast. And not only was the class fun, instead of holding it at the resort, it was held at the Pink House. A friend, who grew up in Watch Hill, told me the home was formerly owned by Mick Jagger. She said that they were always on Rolling Stone watch in the summer. Yup, I cooked in his kitchen. (I will now pause for that to sink in.)

It was fun. I am confident Mick knew I was there and wished he were back in Watch Hill. I could feel it in my soul.

But I digress;  this isn’t about that experience (which by the way is a definite Do Again), it is about a virtual cooking club.

You see, the other day Janice McEachen, the Food Forager for The Ocean House, (cool job, huh) contacted a bunch of us to see if we wanted to start this virtual cooking thing.

I said, “Yeeeees!” And we were off.

Cardamom Onion Ckicken It was determined that our first dish would be from the Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, which I had just purchased. Janice decided our first recipe would be Chicken with Caramelized Onion and Cardamom Rice. It looked good, so off I went to the grocery store.

Now, if I am going to make a special dish, I don’t want it to be for just the husband and me, so I invited my friends Tami and David over as my official taste-testers. I also decided to try other recipes from the book, since I did own it, and chose the Swiss Chard with Tahini, Yogurt, and Buttered Pine Nuts and Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake. Sounds good, huh.

Well, it was.

Swiss Chard with Tahini Yogurt Sauce As a group, we decided that the rice and cake were the big winners. The rice was wonderfully flavored with spices and herbs and the cake was moist and sweet, yet not cloying. The chicken was a little bland, but Janice thought that if the thighs had been marinated with the spices overnight the flavors might be more pronounced. I thought brining the thighs might benefit the recipe as well.

The only other problem I had was that some of the directions for the recipes were incorrect. The Swiss chard recipe told me to squeeze the water out of the chard until dry, which made the vegetable too dense and flavorless. The picture showed a much more moist vegetable than what I ended up with  by following the directions exactly. If I made this recipe again, I would just remove most of the water.

Clementine Almond Syrup CakeAlso, the cake, batter is more of a cake paste and cannot be “poured.” I don’t make cakes often since I am more of a salty gal, rather than a sweet, (My dessert is usually another glass of wine.) so I was freaking out about this misdirection and assumed I had ruined the cake. Well, I hadn’t; it was the star of the meal.

While eating this meal was wonderful, what was even more fun was discussing this experiment via the Facebook page with everyone else who had participated. Now, this is a new group, so there aren’t a lot of us yet, but I must say, it was fun and worth doing again.

Check out the links and Facebook page provided. If you like trying new recipes and discussing your trials and tribulations in the kitchen, try it out. You will find me there!

Honey and Sriracha Glazed Chicken Thighs

 Honey Sriracha Glazed ChickenWell, the floodgates have opened and am I excited! Do Again suggestions are coming in from all over the country, from followers and I couldn’t wait to share the Honey and Siracha Chicken from my Texas/Wisconsin  friend, Myra (Hey, girl!). She told me about a spicy chicken recipe that she and her husband love. It is ridiculously easy, spicy, and cheap. And, with Super Bowl Sunday coming up, I couldn’t resist trying it. I mean really, all it has for ingredients are chicken, honey, and Sriracha. Who can resist that? Not me!

 The chicken is just spicy enough with just a hint of sweetness. I was tempted to tinker with it by adding additional ingredients such as soy sauce, but found that Myra’s recipe was perfect. Although, a sprinkling of sliced scallions is always a nice addition in my book. In fact, my husband, after tasting it, immediately said it was worthy of doing again and has requested that I make it for the big game using wings instead.

 Serves 4

  • 4 bone-in, skin on, chicken thighs
  • 4 tbsp. honey
  • 4 tbsp. Sriracha

Preheat oven to 400°

SrirachaMix the honey and Siracha in a large bowl, until blended. Place the chicken thighs in and marinate for one half hour.

Place the chicken thighs on a foil-lined, rimmed cookie sheet. Make sure you do this step, otherwise you will be scrubbing your pan for a very long time. Not fun. I found out the hard way. Place it into the middle of the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Baste the chicken with leftover sauce from the bowl, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. To make sure the chicken is done, pierce it with a knife or skewer. If the juices run clear, then they are done.

That is it!

PS: Myra said her husband, Jake, likes to have some extra Sriracha on the side for dipping. Personally, I think he is dipping crazy; but to each his own. I like spicy food, but that is too much for me. Of course, he plays rugby, so he can handle just about anything.

 

 

 

Pan Sautéed Flounder – A Family Favorite

This one is for my kids because it is one of their favorite dishes. We live in a seaport town that has the last commercial fishing fleet in Connecticut and have the luxury of getting fish literally right off the boat. Flounder, along with scallops and lobster,  is one of the main products harvested by our local fishermen.

The "kids"; awesome aren't they.

The “kids”; awesome aren’t they.

I know this recipe, if you want to call it that, is ridiculously simple, but it is wonderful. And when you eat it you feel healthy and happy; at least my kids do. Sure hope they make this soon in their own apartments. Or come home. I will be happy to make it for them!

Servings: 1 (can be multiplied easily)

  • ½ cup flour
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 pat butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 fillet of flounder
  • lemon

Place the flour, salt, and pepper in a wide bowl. Mix to combine.

Place the butter and olive oil in a sauté pan. Heat over medium high heat until the butter is melted and has stopped bubbling. (The bubbling is the water in the butter boiling off. Once it stops bubbling, the water has evaporated and it is ready for cooking.)

Lightly dusted flounderMeanwhile, dry the founder fillet and dip it into the seasoned flour on both sides. Remove it from the flour and shake off the excess.

Place the flounder in the sauté pan and cook for about  2 minutes. With a spatula, gently turn the flounder over and cook until done. This will just take a few minutes. The flounder should be golden brown.

Flounder sizzlin' awayRemove the flounder from the pan, plate and place a wedge of lemon along side it. We like to serve it with rice topped with black sesame seeds and minced scallions. A green salad with a lemon vinaigrette is a perfect vegetable for the dish.

This my friends, is a BIG Do Again in our household. As long as you have high quality fish, this is a delectable treat. And healthy.

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread – A Great Gift!

How cute are these?

How cute are these?

Every year I like to make my co-workers food gifts for the holidays. This year I decided to get creative and make an herbed goat cheese spread that I encased in brined grape leaves and tied up with raffia. I felt sooooo crafty. My daughter and husband were very willing to taste test my concoction and came up with some great suggestions. One was to use it like a compound butter on steak. Since we will be having beef tenderloin for our family get-together I think we may just have to try her idea out that night!  I will make sure to let you know if people like it.

I sure hope my co-workers like it. I think it is tasty! And cute too!

Goat Cheese Spread Wrapped in Grape Leaves – Printer Friendly Version!

  • 1/2  lb. chevre, softenedDSCN0159
  • 11 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp herbs de Provence
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp salt, I used grey salt

OPTIONAL:

  • brined grape leaves
  • rafia

DSCN0161In a food processor, blend the chevre, butter, parsley, herbs de Provence, garlic, pepper, and salt.

Place the mixture in a bowl or just leave it in the food processor bowl and put into the refrigerator to firm up.

Once somewhat firm, place a large sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Scoop the mixtureDSCN0163 out onto the plastic sheet and roll the whole mess up into a log. I use the plastic wrap to help me create the logs by wrapping it around the mixture and then pressing it into a log– the mixture is sticky and you don’t want to put your hands on it.  Cheese log

Make sure the log is completely encased in the plastic wrap and place the cheese back into the fridge to firm up. This took about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, drain the grape leaves and rinse the saltiness off of them. (Getting the grape leave out of the jar is the hardest part of this entire recipe.) Carefully separate them to use and if there are long stem ends make sure you trim them. Mine were fine.

Once firm, remove the cheese from the fridge, unwrap the plastic wrap, and cut the log into 1 inch slices. Wrap with the grape leaves making sure the ribs face inward and secure with raffia. DSCN0166 DSCN0167 DSCN0168Let the bundles cure in the fridge in a plastic bag (so they don’t dry out) for a few days to allow the flavors to meld. Now, this step it optional. If you would rather not to this, you can put the cheese into crocks or roll it into small balls and coat with minced parsley. I just thought the little packages were cool.

These make great gifts. You can place them in a small basket with an assortment of crackers or good French bread and your friends will be tickled pink.

Enjoy!

My $17 Grilled Cheese Sandwich

My $17 grilled cheese sandwich.

My $17 grilled cheese sandwich.

I love cheese. I love stinky cheese, melted cheese, cheese fondue, fried cheese, cheese soup. . .geez, I sound like I am in Forrest Gump. My newest cheesy goodness was the $17 grilled cheese sandwich from The Spotted PigI loved it so much, I had to make my own. So, I went to my favorite cheese shop, Murray’s Cheese in West Village, NYC and got enough cheese to make my arteries clog permanently.

The cheeses on display! Mmmmmm.

The cheeses on display! Mmmmmm.

According to our bartender, the blend of cheeses is Taleggio, Fontina, and Gruyere. He didn’t say what proportions though, so I had to play with the ratios myself. Oh yeah, the sandwich has Parmesan cheese on the outside as well. Oh my god, I am salivating just thinking about it. After a few tries, I think I got it right. Below is the recipe. I suggest you try it out. I plan to do it again as soon as my cholesterol count goes back to normal. 

My $17 Grilled Cheese(which actually cost me much less at home!)

Crumbled cheese in food processor

Crumbled cheese in food processor

2 ounces Taleggio

2 ounces Fontina

2 ounces Gruyère

1/4 tsp kosher salt

Place in a food processor and pulse until crumbled.

Two slices of high-quality bread. (I like to use an artisanal boule from my local bakery and have them slice it for me.)

Take two slices of bread, smear with melted butter on one side of each. Top the bread slices with shaved Parmesan cheese. Flip one slice of bread in a hot cast iron pan or a Panini press. Put a generous, and I DO mean GENEROUS amount of the crumbled cheese on the top of the slice of bread. Place the second slice of bread on the cheese with the butter/Parm. side up.  Grill until golden brown. Flip. Grill other side to yummy crunchiness.

Take the sandwich out of pan and slice into  two or three pieces. Try not to eat all of the cheese oozing out onto your plate.

Make a simple arugula salad with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt to accompany your sandwich. Enjoy!

FYI: My sandwich probably cost about $5. Yeah, it is a lot cheaper than the restaurant version, but even though mine is pretty damn good, I think it is still missing something. Must go back to eat her’s again. And again. And again. . .

Cheers!

Spare Rib Sauce

Okay, I get it, guys love ribs. I don’t. They are sticky, sweet, and messy. I don’t like messy food. BUT, and yes, this is a big BUT – I love my Spare Rib Sauce. This recipe originally came from Ronald Johnson, a poet from California, who wrote my favorite cookbook ever – Simple Fare. I have modified this recipe over the years – minimally- and crave it every winter. It is cheap, simple, and absolutely delicious. The tomato sauce gets somewhat caramelized with the long cooking time and adds a significant depth of flavor with minimal effort. My kind of dish. I highly suggest you make this along with my oven cooked polenta. I promise you will want to make it a “Do Again.”

Sparerib Sauce with Creamy Polenta

Sparerib Sauce with Creamy Polenta

Spare Rib Sauce

Adapted from “Simple Fare” by Ronald Johnson (out of print)

1 rack of ribs, sliced into individual ribs

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup dry, red wine

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

¼ – ½ tsp crushed red pepper

salt and pepper to taste

Place the olive oil into the bottom of a large skillet or dutch oven. Either works fine. Once heated, place the individual ribs in the pan to brown on all sides. This does a good job of rendering the fat off of the ribs as well. Saute the onions and garlic over low heat along with the ribs for a few minutes until wilted. Be careful not to burn the garlic!

Once they are golden-brown, add the red wine and simmer until reduced by half. Then pour in the crushed tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat, place lid on the pot and cook for 2 hours. You can either cook it on the stovetop on low or place in a 300 degree oven. Your choice.

Once done, I like to skim off some of the fat, and add any salt or pepper if needed.

And you are done! That easy.

My favorite thing to accompany it with is a big vat of soft polenta. Check out that recipe on another post! This can be cooked in the oven as well. Saves a lot of hovering over the stove which I appreciate on a busy weeknight a lot.

NOTE: When I purchase a rack of ribs, I always turn it over to the back and peel off the membrane. I just take a knife and nick the edge of the ribs to separate a piece of the thin membrane then grab it an pull. If it rips, don’t worry – just start again. This isn’t required, but I find that I don’t like the texture of the membrane, so it makes the dish more palatable for me.