Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Heirloom Caprese Salad with Crostoni Bagnati

Heirloom tomatoes don’t need much, and in the summertime when they are at their peak, a simple caprese salad is an absolute staple. In the end, a recipe might be a bit silly…it’s just tomato and cheese with basil and some oils to taste. But I really like the crostoni (a large crostini) technique (Bagnati is Italian for “wet”, from the oil, and the garlic rub is very effective). Also, I think the presentation came out nice. All this to say: relax, play it by ear, and let the ingredients shine.

Ingredients, Crostoni Bagnati

  • 6 1/2"-thick slices ciabatta, cut on extreme diagonal
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for brushing)
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 6 tablespoons high-quality extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
  • Maldon sea salt or fleur de sel

Directions, Crostoni Bagnati

  1. Position a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°.
  2. Place bread slices on a rimmed baking sheet; brush tops with olive oil. Bake until golden brown and crispy, 15-20 minutes.
  3. Rub oiled sides of crostoni with cut side of garlic. Drizzle 1 tablespoon high-quality oil over each crostoni. Sprinkle with sea salt.

*Serves 6 with 2 wedges each. You can cut down a ciabatta roll for a smaller portion if you have that on hand.

Ingredients, Caprese Salad

  • 4 large multi-colored heirloom tomatoes, washed and dried
  • Maldon sea salt or fleur de sel
  • 1 large (~8oz) ball Buffalo mozzerella cheese (or Burrata)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
  • Balsamic reduction or glaze (I use Gia Russa), for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions, Caprese Salad

  1. Slice tomatoes into 1/2" slices
  2. Slice cheese into 1/4" slices
  3. Chiffonade the basil
  4. Stack the tomatoes and cheese large to small, alternating between tomato and cheese.
  5. Garnish with salt, pepper, oils, basil, crostoni and serve.

*Serves 4.

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Deviled Eggs

Hard boiling: Figuring out how to hard boil a fresh egg, that could peel, was surprisingly if embarrassingly challenging. But peeling alone won’t do, the white should be set but not rubbery, and the yolk should be set but not dry (and especially not green).

Some Background:

I started with the, somewhat standard, method of bringing “cool” water with the eggs to a boil, and then removing from heat and covering for 10 or so minutes. This method was inconsistent at best, and very difficult to peel with fresh eggs, yielding unsightly pot marks. I then added salt and (1/4 cup) vinegar to the water, and dropped the eggs into boiling water to simmer for 14 minutes. These results were consistent and peeled well, but because the outside cooks so much faster than the yolk at the higher heat it was impossible to get the perfectly tender whites (borderline rubbery).

Finally I attempted to steam the eggs (per Alton Brown) and after some trial and error with timing and temperature, found a simple, consistent method that yields tender whites and creamy but solid yolks with as few cooking variables as possible. Additionally, it takes less time, energy, and water with this method. I may still revisit that original method, adding the “hole punch” to aid in peeling, but right now steaming is both simple and consistent. In any case I recommend you see what works for you, there’s more than one way…

Some quick tips:

  • Store eggs in the carton on their side (with a rubber band to hold the container together) so that the yolks are better centered.
  • To test for done-ness the egg should spin on a counter top almost endlessly. If the egg only makes it a few rotations on the counter, it’s contents are still liquid.
  • To peel, crack the shell in a few places with the back of the spoon and roll along the counter top, and remove shell under running water.

As for the deviling: I offer a very basic recipe that can be modified (but needn’t be) for 8 eggs and my favorite recipe for 12 eggs with heavy influence from Michael Schwartz. I suggest a food processor for a smooth filling, and if you are making enough a pastry bag with a wide tip is both faster and prettier. I also much prefer the eggs cut crosswise, not lengthwise, for both taste (proportions) and visual appeal. The egg halves deserve a healthy amount of filling, so you will likely not fill them all…better to leave a few out than skimp.

To Hard Cook Eggs (Steaming Method)

  1. Bring eggs to room temperature or run briefly under warm water. Much like a steak a cold product will cook poorly.
  2. Bring a stock pot (with a steamer basket) with 3 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat (about 1/2 an inch).
  3. Add eggs to steamer basket
  4. Let steam, covered, at medium-high heat for 10 minutes (for golden, creamy, barely set yolks. After 13 minutes and the whites get firmer and yolks more dry, which is okay for some applications like salads).
  5. Remove from steamer basket using tongs and transfer to ice bath for 5 minutes

Ingredients (Colin’s Favorite)

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (to taste, I like a rounded tablespoon)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 dashes Habañero hot sauce (to taste, up to 4 but I like 3)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 bunch fresh chives, minced

Tools (Colin’s Favorite)

  • Cutting Board, Knife
  • Large bowl for ice bath
  • Stock Pot or large saucepan with steamer basket
  • Food Processor and Pastry Sieve with larger tip

Directions (Colin’s Favorite)

  1. Peel and slice eggs in half crosswise, using a pairing knife to carefully cut the bottom so they stand upright.
  2. Scoop out the egg yolks and place egg white halves on a tray.
  3. Add to the food processor the yolks, mayo, lemon juice, hot sauce, salt, pepper, mustard, and half the paprika. Process until very smooth.
  4. Using a spatula move the mixture to the pastry bag, squeezing the contents to the bottom and twisting the top. A larger pastry tip will work better.
  5. Fill the egg whites with the mixture, adding plenty to each egg. You may not fill all the halves, and this is okay.
  6. Sprinkle with remaining paprika and chives.

*Makes 18-24 deviled eggs (halves). Good loosely covered for a day or so.

Ingredients (Basic Recipe)

  • 8 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Tools (Basic Recipe)

  • Cutting Board, Knife
  • Large bowl for ice bath
  • Stock Pot or large saucepan with steamer basket
  • Food Processor and Pastry Sieve with larger tip (optional)

Directions (Basic Recipe)

  1. Peel and slice eggs in half.
  2. Scoop out the egg yolks and place only 12 egg white halves on a tray. (I recommend using the 6 eggs or 12 egg white halves that look the best, with the yolks centered, etc.).
  3. Mash yolks and add mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  4. Fill the 12 egg white halves (from 6 eggs) with the filling of all 8 eggs.
  5. Sprinkle with parsley and paprika.
  6. Allow eggs to refrigerate for at least an hour so flavors may blend.

Variations (Basic Recipe)

Yolk mixture may be seasoned with

  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme, parsley, chives, or dill
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar and/or, for a more ‘deviled’ flavor, 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

*Makes 12 deviled eggs (halves). Good loosely covered for a day or so.

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Field Greens with Roasted Beets and Fresh Sheep’s Cheese

From James Beard Award winning Chef Melissa Kelly’s new book Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too, this healthy and fresh salad is super during the Spring, when beets are peaking.


  • 2 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 fresh beets, any type
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil (torn into bite size pieces)
  • 2 sprigs fresh Italian parsley (pick the leaves from the stems)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh chives, snipped into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 heads Belgian endive
  • 1/4 pound fresh sheep’s cheese (or goat cheese)


  • Cutting Board, Knife
  • Aluminum foil
  • Bowls for greens, vinaigrette


  1. First, make the vinaigrette. Place the shallots in a bowl and add the vinegars. Season with salt and pepper and let sit 15-20 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil and adjust the seasonings to taste. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the beets. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the beets and wrap each one in foil. Roast for about 1 hour or until a knife slides in with ease. Set aside to cool. When cool, peel the beets and cut into wedges. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the mesclun greens, basil, parsley, and chives. Pour half the vinaigrette over the greens and toss until all the greens are coated.
  4. To assemble the salads, arrange the endive on a platter or on four individual salad plates so that the leaves form a flower-petal pattern around the edge of the plate. Pie the salad greens in the middle. Arrange the beets on top of the salad greens and drizzle the beets with the remaining vinaigrette. Crumble the cheese over the top and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. You may serve it with crusty bread or pita wedges.

*Serves 4

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Curry-Marinated Mussels on the Half Shell

A healthy, one-pan, impressive hors d’oeuvres that can be made well in advance. Kick up the heat if you’d like with more curry or even paprika (which is made from the included red peppers), there’s time to adjust here.


  • 3/4 teaspoon Thai red or yellow curry paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds mussels (preferably cultivated)
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves


  • Cutting Board, Knife
  • Large bowl for marinating
  • 12 inch skillet with lid


  1. In a large bowl stir together curry paste, curry powder, vinegar, and 4 tablespoons oil.
  2. Scrub mussels and remove beards. Mince shallots and cut carrot, celery, and bell pepper into 1/4-inch dice.
  3. In a 12-inch skillet heat remaining tablespoon oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and saute vegetables, stirring and adding salt to taste, until slightly softened but not browned. Add vegetables to curry mixture.
  4. In skillet steam mussels in 1/4 cup water, covered, over moderately high heat, 3 to 8 minutes, checking occasionally after 3 minutes and transferring them as they open to another bowl. Discard any unopened mussels.
  5. Remove mussels from shells and add to curry-vegetable mixture, gently tossing to coat. Wash and reserve half of each shell.
  6. Marinate mussels, covered and chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Just before serving, chop cilantro and stir into mussels. Fill each reserved shell with a mussel and some curried vegetables.

*Makes about 40 to 50 hors d’oeuvres.

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

Mussels and Chorizo in Saffron-Garlic Broth

“I don’t eat mussels in restaurants unless I know the chef, or have seen, with my own eyes, how they store and hold their mussels for service. I love mussels. But, in my experience, most cooks are less than scrupulous in their handling of them. It takes only a single bad mussel, one treacherous little guy hidden among an otherwise impeccable group … If I’m hungry for mussels, I’ll pick the good-looking ones out of your order.”Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

Having inspected my own mussels (and discarding nearly 20% of them as cracked or open), I can see his point. This recipe is especially nice when New Zealand green-lipped mussels are available, but shown above with Prince Edward Island (PEI). Served with a crusty baguette, this recipe doesn’t generate a ton of broth, but its flavor is concentrated. You could double the sauce for 4 or just half the mussels to serve 2 if you’re looking to sop up a lot of bread.

Some notes on mussels: be sure to take them out of the bag when you get home to let them BREATHE and store in a cool place. They can keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Place in a bowl with room at the top and cover with a soaked then wrung towel to cover (they need moisture, but not too much). If any mussels are open at first, you can tap them gently on the counter and if they don’t close up in a few minutes, then discard. Clean by soaking (then scrubbing), discard any open or cracked mussels, and debeard towards the hinge to avoid tearing.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • large pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1/4 pound Spanish chorizo sausage, cut crosswise into very thin slices
  • 1 cup fish stock (you may substitute water, I used white wine)
  • 1/2 cup Pomi brand strained tomatoes or 1/2 cup tomato purée
  • dried hot red pepper flakes to taste
  • 2 pounds mussels, cleaned, scrubbed, and debearded (about 25 large New Zealand mussels or 40 to 60 regular mussels)


  • Cutting Board, Knife
  • Dutch Oven


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over moderately low heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onion, garlic, and saffron, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until onion is softened but not browned. Stir in the chorizo, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the fish stock and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Add crushed hot red pepper flakes to taste. Add the mussels, and cover tightly. Cook over high heat, shaking the pot once or twice during the cooking to move the mussels around, or stirring the mussels quickly with a large spoon, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mussels have opened. (Discard any that have not opened.)
  3. Spoon the mussel mixture into deep soup bowls and serve hot with crusty bread.

*Serves 4.

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Woodland Mushrooms over Creamy Goat Cheese Grits

This simple vegetarian dish is hearty enough to satifsy a meaty craving, but light and lucious all the same. The basic concept is to roast the vegetables while you make the grits, which in all takes about 30 minutes. Variations abound, you could substitute the grits for a yellow polenta (use a coarse cornmeal instead of grits). You can omit the goat cheese entirely for lower calories, and instead garnish with Parmesan cheese and parsely.


  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (or chicken stock, vegetable stock or more water)
  • 1 cup stone-ground white corn grits
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, preferably a mixture, trimmed and halved if large
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced


  • Baking Sheet, Oven
  • Cutting Board, Knife
  • Medium Sauce Pan for Grits


  1. Heat the oven to 450°. Put the Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet that can hold them in a single layer, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic, toss, and continue to roast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sprouts and mushrooms are quite brown and tender, 10 to 20 minutes more. Taste, and adjust the seasoning.
  2. Meanwhile, In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Cook the grits over moderate heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until thickened and the grains are tender, about 30 minutes (10 to 15 for polenta).
  3. Stir the goat cheese into the grits, season with salt and pepper and cook just until heated through if they have cooled. Whisk in additional water if the consistency is too thick, it should be like a thick oatmeal.
  4. Divide the grits among four bowls; top with the vegetables.

*Serves 4.

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Salmon with Fennel and Pernod

Think Licorice: Fennel, Anise, Pernod, Pastis, Absinthe, Sambuca, Ouzo, Arak…all that same sharp and sweet signature flavor. A one-pan meal, it’s Salmon with Fennel and Pernod, served with Bubbles.


  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 large fennel bulb with fronds; bulb quartered, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices; 2 tablespoons fronds chopped, divided
  • 2 6- to 7-ounce salmon fillets
  • 2 tablespoons Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur


  • Large nonstick skillet with lid
  • Small bowl
  • Knife, cutting board


  1. Stir fennel seeds in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer seeds to small bowl; cool. Mix in butter, shallots, and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds; season butter mixture with salt and pepper.
  2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter mixture in same large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sliced fennel bulb and 1/4 cup water to skillet; cover and cook until fennel is crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Uncover skillet and sauté until fennel begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer fennel to plate.
  3. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon butter mixture to same skillet and melt over medium heat. Add salmon; cover and cook 5 minutes. Turn salmon over; add 1/4 cup water to skillet. Cover and continue cooking until salmon is just opaque in center, about 5 minutes longer. Slide salmon to 1 side of skillet; return fennel to skillet. Add Pernod, 2 teaspoons butter mixture, and remaining 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds; stir to heat through.
  4. Divide fennel mixture between 2 plates. Top with salmon; spoon remaining butter mixture over salmon.

*Serves 2

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Grilled Banana Leaf Packets of King Salmon and Yukon Potatoes with Herbs and Mojo de Ajo

A favorite as it’s versatile, impressive, delicious, simple, and a one-dish meal. You can ditch the foil for a banana leaf that also imbues a subtle flavor, and you can use any fish here, simply adjust the cooking time for thinner fillets.


  • 4 medium size Yukon Gold potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds (Pick potatoes that are similar in size so that they cook evenly)
  • 6 – 6 ounce skinless salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick
  • 3/4 cup Slow-Cooked Garlic Mojo (stir before measuring)
  • Salt and coarse ground black pepper
  • Fresh herbs such as basil, chives, cilantro, lemon verbena, marjoram, parsley, thyme
  • Lime wedges
  • (Optional) 6 – 10 x 5-inch pieces of banana leaf (either fresh or thawed from frozen)


  • Grill
  • Stock Pot for Potatoes
  • Non-stick Aluminum Foil


  1. Put the potatoes into a 4 quart pot and cover with water. Bring the potatoes to a boil, and continue cooking until the potatoes are just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Drain and let cool completely. Remove the peel and cut into 1/4-inch slices. You can cook the potatoes the day ahead.
  2. Cut 6 – 12 x 24 inch pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil. We prefer the easy release non-stick version for this dish. Fold each piece in half to make a 12 x 12 inch square. With the dull side up, place 3 to 4 slices of potatoes in a row down the middle of the square. (If you’re using the optional banana leaf, you would place it down on the foil before adding the potato slices.) Spoon 1 tablespoon of the Garlic Mojo over the potatoes, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the salmon fillet on top, and drizzle on another tablespoon of Garlic Mojo. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fish, then place several sprigs or leaves of whatever fresh herb you’d like on top. Repeat these steps with the remaining pieces of salmon.
  3. Seal the package by bringing the top and bottom of the foil up to the center and folding the two sides together. Fold the top over a second time to ensure a good seal. Double fold both ends to create an airtight package.
  4. Slide the packages onto a medium-high grill and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the grill and place on individual plates, along with several wedges of lime. Let each guest open their own package and add a squeeze of fresh lime over their fish.

*Serves 6

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with a Simmered Tomato-Habanero Sauce and Garlicky Mojo Side Salad

Habanero adds real complexity to a basic yet versatile roasted tomato sauce. It keeps for a few days in the fridge, but also freezes well, and as such is great to make over the weekend for weekday dishes such as this. Roasted the fish, spooned a healthy amount of sauce over (left somewhat chunky) and served with greens tossed in some Mojo de Ajo with lemon juice and zest.

Ingredients, Sauce

  • 1 1/2 pounds (3 medium-large or 9 to 12 plum) ripe tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rich-tasting lard or olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 small (4-ounce) white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh habanero chile, halved
  • Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon


  • Stovetop and Cast Iron Pan (or oven and cookie sheet for broiler method)
  • 2 to 3-quart saucepan
  • knife, cutting board
  • Food processor or blender


  1. Roast the tomatoes. The griddle method: Line a griddle or heavy skillet with aluminum foil and heat over medium. Lay the tomatoes on the foil and roast, turning several times, until blistered, blackened and softened, about 10 minutes. Don’t worry if some of the skin sticks to the foil.
  2. The broiler method: Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet and place about 4 inches below a very hot broiler. Roast until blistered and blackened on one side, about 6 minutes; flip the tomatoes and roast the other side.
  3. Cool, then peel, collecting any juices with the tomatoes. Coarsely puree tomatoes and juices in a food processor or blender.
  4. Make the sauce. In a medium-size (2 to 3-quart) saucepan, heat the lard or oil over medium. Add the onion and fry until deep golden, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chile halves and simmer 15 minutes or so, stirring often, until nicely reduced but not dry (it should be an easily spoonable consistency). Taste (it will be wonderfully picante and nicely perfumed), season with salt, remove the chile if you want, and it’s ready to use.

*Courtesy Rick Bayless. Makes about 2 cups.

All recipes stolen/borrowed from somewhere, butchered/adapted exclusively by CHEF BOY/R/C.