Doing fun things with greens keeps them exciting. Grilled romaine and steamed curly endive are welcome changes on the menu at my house. I found a recipe for charred chard. I enjoyed saying charred chard out loud (I’m easily amused). Saying “charred chard” three times must have been a mystical incantation because then the recipe demanded to be made.
Charred Chard and Shallots
1 lb rainbow chard
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper
Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. Trim stems from rainbow chard. Divide chard leaves and shallots evenly between prepared pans. Spray vegetables lightly with cooking spray. Broil on high, one pan at a time until most of the chard is wilted and some is partially charred – 4 to 5 minutes.
Chop cooked chard into large pieces. Place chard mixture on a platter, top with golden raisins, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Do you ever really measure 1/8 of a teaspoon of anything? I keep a jar with a mix of 40% coarse ground black pepper and 60% kosher salt right by my stove for seasonings. A pinch or two of the mix does the trick for most things.
Watch the chard as it broils. You want it mostly wilted with a little char, not a pan full of ashes! The charred chard retains some texture and can be strongly flavored. It needs a touch sweetness.
I didn’t have golden raisins on hand. I used grape tomatoes on the side for sweet balance and was very happy with it. I’ll be making this again when I pick up some raisins.
The recipe suggests adding chickpeas and crumbled feta to make a vegetating main dish. I expect substituting a mildly salty vegan cheese world work, too.
Do you ever become the victim of a dramatic magazine photo and a beguiling recipe?
I consider finding a show-stopper a challenge so I have a throw-down between the magazine and me! Usually with good results.
The beguiling recipe called for butterflied boned trout. In visiting two markets, I found whole trout, heads and tails intact, and not boned. The other choice was flat filets. I thought and asked myself, how hard could it be?
I didn’t know what to do with the heads and tails at home, so my fishmonger removed them for me. He’s better equipped to dispose of trimmings like that than I.
I took the trout home and searched for a boning video. YouTube has several and all are pretty much the same. It was helpful to watch the video chef make a slice on either side of the spine and gently cut under it to remove it from head end to tail end.
She then carefully slipped her knife under the rib bones and cut a paper thin slice of flesh under them and carefully used the blade of the knife to lift them out. Kitchen tweezers helped remove a few pin bones that were left. That maneuver was repeated on the other side.
I was able to remove the spine just fine, but the rib bones were a little more challenging. The were removed, but not as quickly or gracefully as the TV chef did hers.
The charred tomato vinaigrette and the stuffing took some prep time, but were worth it for the flavor. I learned one lesson from charing the tomatoes. I thought I’d loosened the fond from the pan with a splash of water and add it to the blender. It turned my vinaigrette brown instead of pink like the original recipe’s. Ah, well, lessons learned.
The experience with boning fish was a good lesson. I’ll be prepared if I ever want to stuff a fish again. the stuffing is bright and colorful and just might appear as a side dish one day. I will have to make the tomato vinaigrette again just to get the color right.
FYI, I only prepared two trout and it was not difficult to halve the recipe.
Chard-Stuffed Trout with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette
2 large tomatoes, cut into ½ inch slices
¼ cup fresh flat-leaved parsley leaves
2 Tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed
6 Tbsp. oilive oil, divided
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely divided
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
Heat a large cast-iron pan or grill pan over high heat.
Add tomato slices to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side until well charred.
Place tomatoes in a blender. Add parsley, capers, ¼ cup olive oil, rosemary, juice, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin stripps
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch chard, leaves and top portions of stems thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to pan. Add bell peppers, shallot, and sliced garlic cloves; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add chard; sauté 2 minutes or until chard is just wilted. Remove from heat, stir in chopped basil.
The Trout and Assembly
4 (6 oz.) butterflied boneless trout, heads and tails removed
¼ up pitted Niçoise olives
5 thyme springs
Preheat oven to 400° F. Spread tomato mixture in a bottom of a 9X13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle olives over mixture and arrange thyme sprigs over mixture.
Sprinkle trout inside and out evenly with ¼ tsp. salt and1’2 tsp pepper. Place about ½ cup stuffing in each butterflied trout and fold halves back together. Reserve a little stuffing for garnish when plating.
Heat remaining Tbsp olive oil in large non-stick pan. Add 2 stuffed trout to pan; cook 2 minutes or until skin is golden brown. Turn trout over and cook another 2 minutes until skin is golden brown. Place browned trout on mixture in baking dish. Repeat browning on remaining two stuffed fish. Place baking dish in oven and bake at 400° for 12 minutes until trout is just cooked through.
The lenten season is over. My favorite seasonal bread pudding, capirotada, is off the menu until next year in local Mexican restaurants. Fortunately, many offer Caldo de Pescado, (fish soup) year ’round so all is not lost.
Last night was chilly and called for a Mexican style fish soup. I didn’t want to go out to a restaurant. How difficult could it be, I figured, so it was a quick trip to the store and back to the kitchen to play with my food!
Caldo de Pescado al Jim
Ingredients to play with
For starters, there are plastic packets of ready cut vegetables for caldo in most of our groceries. I picked up one that had a wedge of cabbage, two carrots, two small potatoes, a shucked ear of corn, a small onion, a Mexican gray squash, half a turnip, a lemon and two jalapeños. I picked up another ear of corn and two small potatoes to be sure there was enough. Good thing I did; the corn in the package had started to dry up and one potato was past its prime. That spur of the moment decision saved the day.
Better than Bullion cooking bases are a staple in my pantry and refrigerator. They are thick pastes reduced from meats and vegetables. While salty, they are not as salty as bullion cubes and ever so much better. They come as beef, chicken, vegetable and fish bases and are the company is starting to offer lower sodium versions.
I used a good size dutch oven about 3/4 full of water and roughly three tables spoons of fish base for starters. That’s easier than the tradition Mexican recipes calling for boiling grouper heads and bones to make a broth. Besides, being from El Paso, it wouldn’t know a grouper if I met one..
One Mexican thing was boiling the potatoes and carrots separately because they are starchy and can cloud the water. The other vegetables went into the dutch oven for about 20 minutes. As the veggies were got tender, I added a pound of bite size chunks pacific cod for an additional 10 minutes. Pacific cod is firm yet tender and not too fishy tasting. It is still reasonably priced. Next came a half pound of raw shrimp peeled and tails clipped before going into the soup. A can of diced tomatoes (non-traditional ingredient) rounded out the flavors of the broth. Just before serving, the potatoes and carrots went into the big pot and it was all stirred together.
On the side, lemon wedges, a seeded and sliced jalapeño and a bottle of Franks Red Hot Sauce stood by to liven things up.
This first-time fish soup goes on the “Let’s have it again” list.
A cold front blew through yesterday. The temps looked reasonable, but the wind chill was very uncomfortable. It was an evening for warming comfort food. In El Paso, we never tire of chile, red or green. I remembered making a green chile chicken pie a few weeks ago and thought it would be good to do it again. In my first attempt, I added cornmeal to a biscuit recipe to complement the chile and chicken. It was good but I thought it could use a little tweaking.
Ingredients: 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
three cups water and three teaspoons Better than Bullion Chicken Base
one half onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
roughly 1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 medium firm potatoes, peeked and cut into half-inch cubes
about 1/2 – 3/4 chopped green chiles or to taste
baking mix and maseca – prepared cooked and dried masa for making corn tortillas, tamales and other Mexico delights.
2 Tbsp each butter and flour
1/2 cup milk
7X11 inch baking dish
Heat oven to 450º
Thoroughly mix the chicken base into boiling water. Add potatoes and cut up chick thighs and simmer until cooked through – 15- 20 minutes. While potatoes and thighs are cooking, sweat onions in oil until translucent, add garlic and sweat until fragrant and soft. Add oregano and allow it to become fragrant.
Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool a little. Add onion, garlic and chile to pot with potatoes and let simmer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Remember the chicken base is salty, so check before adding additional salt. When cool enough to handle, cut cooked chicken into 3/4 inch cubes and return to pot.
Let ingredients simmer and the broth reduce a little.
Follow baking mix instructions for biscuits. Add 3/4 cup maseca to mix and blend into dry baking mix. Add liquid per instruction and about half as much more liquid. Stir until a soft, not soggy dough forms. Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead about 10 times, pat into a half-inch thick rectangle about the size of your baking dish. My dish was too narrow for my biscuit cutter, so I used a wine glass to cut small biscuits from the dough. I got six rows of three and one-half biscuits to top the pie when it was time. I had a dozen biscuits left over, so I baked them along side the pot pie.
Mix melted butter, flour and 1/2 cup milk in a two cup measure and microwave at thirty second intervals. It will thicken. Add cooking liquid from the pot and mix smooth. Microwave again. Taste and when flour mix no longer tastes raw, this mix again with pot liquid, begin to add mixture in steps back to pot and mix it well. This roux will thicken the mix in the pot. You want it fairly thick, but not gummy.
Spray your baking dish with non-stick spray. Place on a baking sheet and pour mixture form pot into baking dish. Top with cut biscuits and place in oven until biscuits are golden and chicken and chile mix is bubbling. Remove from oven and let set up about five minutes, then serve
Sometimes you read something and you have to say WHAT THEY HEY?! The idea is so startling you have to read it over a couple of times to let it soak in. Then you screw up your nerve, go shopping, come home and give it a try.
The thought of sweet winter squash, the bitterness of roasted Brussels sprouts and the tart yet sweet bursts of pomegranate arils all brought together with pomegranate molasses is hard to grasp. But it works and is wonderful. It also is beautiful to look at. Add a little rare sirloin and all you can do is sigh with every bite.
You can do this recipe a couple of ways. I used kabocha squash, but butternut would work as well. I chose to pull the leaves of my Brussels sprouts and roast them for a lightly crisp texture. You could just cut them in half. I din’t have a red onion, so I used a yellow one and no-one would notice the difference without being told. You might have to go to a middle eastern grocery to find pomegranate molasses. I found it at the large Specs liquor store on Sunland Park. That store carries some great foodstuffs in addition to adult beverages.
By the way, I had enough squash left that I picked up more Brussels sprouts and a red onion so I can have this dish again tonight!
Brussels Sprouts, Winter Squash and Pomegranate
1 medium to large winter squash (butternut or kabocha)
1 lb Brussels sprouts
½ medium red onion
2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp chile powder
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
1 cup pomegranate arils (seed)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°
Butternut squash: Cut top and bottom off squash, peel, halve lengthwise and scrape out seed. Chop into small cubes and spread in one layer on a baking sheet. Kabocha squash: Cut squash in half vertically and scrape out seed. Cut halves into half-moon wedges and spread in one layer on a baking sheet.
For either squash: Peel and cut onion into strips vertically. Separate and sprinkle over squash. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chile powder, toss to coat with olive oil.
Trim stems of Brussels sprouts and separate leaves from stem. You’ll have to trim the stem a couple of times as you separate the inner leaves. Place on baking sheet and toss with olive oil, and pepper.
Roast squash 30 – 35 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Toss squash about halfway through cooking. Halved Brussels sprouts can be roasted with the squash.
Roast Brussels sprouts leaves 5-7 minutes an toss. Return to oven for 3 minutes more. Remove from oven when leaves are tender and have a little bit of char.
When squash is tender, remove from oven. Put sprouts, squash and onions into a serving dish, drizzle with pomegranate molasses and toss. Sprinkle with pomegranate arils, toss and serve immediately.
Caperberries have been appearing on relish trays with olives, cheese and crackers around town for a few months. People are always asking what they are. They look like olives on a stem, but they are not related to olives. I went searching for some and found them in the food section of Specs, an amazingly stocked liquor and finer foods store across from Sunland Park Mall. Caperberries are now also on the olive bar at the new Whole Foods Market. The advantage of shopping the olive bar is than you can just get a few to taste instead of a whole jar. I do say that I enjoy ta nibble or two whenever I can find them.
Capers, tiny immature flower buds, dried and pickled in brine and used in many wonderful dishes. They are originally Mediteranean and now are grown in many countries. I like them especially with something that has a little lemon juice in it. They enhance the acidity of a dish. Caperberries are the fruit of the same plant. Some say they have a slight lemon taste and others compare them to green pimento-stuffed olives. I lean toward the olive side. Both capers and the berries are pickled in a vinegar and salt brine. Capers need to be rinsed to cut the brine flavor. Caperberries are crisper and milder than capers. One resource I used said they may be substituted for olives in salads or chopped as a substitute for capers in recipes. It did not recommend using capers as a substitute for the berries because they have a strong flavor.
I was intrigued with the thought of using caperberries as a substitute for olives, so I immediately reached for gin and vermouth to see how caper berries would work in a dry martini. Of course this was in the interest of culinary science! Both of them were!
My usual martini recipe with an olive garnish is pleasantly dry. I use 2.5 oz dry gin and .5 oz dry vermouth, shaken until well chilled. I used the same recipe with a garnish of two caperberries on a pick. It was quite tasty. Rather than the slight brininess of the olive garnish, the caperberry was very lightly sweeter than I have previously experienced with two pimento-stuffed olives. I think I’m going to have to re-run the experiment with side by side tasting – olive vs caperberry.
I’ll publish the results after the experiment – probably the day after.
Two martini’s made me remember a wonderful Dorothy Parker rhyme. The challenge here is tell me who Dorthy Parker was and to complete the rhyme
I’ve done some posts about how much fun (and work) it is to make hasselback potatoes and sweet potatoes. I found a terrific sounding recipe for hasselback butternut squash with a maple/fresno chile sauce that sent me off to the store for a squash and some chiles. I served it with grilled chicken leg quarters. This recipe may become this year’s Thanksgiving surprise at the family gathering.
Hasselback Butternut Squash With Fresno Chile Glaze and Bay Leaves
For this holiday-worthy recipe, roasting the butternut with several bay leaves slipped between the slices results in a subtle aromatic backdrop for the chile glaze.
1 large butternut squash or 2–3 small honeynut squash (about 3 pounds total)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 Fresno chile, thinly sliced
¼ cup pure maple syrup, preferably grade B
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
6–8 dried bay leaves
Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. Halve squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a large spoon. Using a peeler, remove skin and white flesh below (you should reach the deep orange flesh). Rub all over with oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast in a baking dish just large enough to hold halves side by side until beginning to soften (a paring knife should easily slip in only about ¼”), 15–18 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring chile, maple syrup, butter, and vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally and removing chile as soon as desired heat level is reached (set aside for serving), until just thick enough to coat spoon, 6–8 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and keep glaze warm. Transfer squash to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using a sharp knife, score rounded sides of squash halves crosswise, going as deep as possible but withoutcutting all the way through. Return squash to baking dish, scored sides up, and tuck bay leaves between a few of the slices; season with salt and pepper. Roast squash, basting with glaze every 10 minutes or so and using pastry brush to lift off any glaze in dish that is browning too much, until tender and glaze forms a rich brown coating, 45–60 minutes. Serve topped with reserved chiles.
Do Ahead: Squash can be roasted 4 hours ahead. Let cool until just warm; cover and store at room temperature. Reheat before serving.
I used a freshly sharpened slicing knife because it helped me make thinner slices than my chef’s knife slightly thicker blade. I placed a half of squash on the cutting board at a time and put the round handles of wooden spoons on either side of the squash My knife went as deep as the spoon handle and I didn’t cut all the way through the squash. I used a very small squash to make just two servings, but made a full recipe of the glaze. I was able to manage moving the cut squash early with a long bladed spatula.
My recent posts about Aleppo and Aleppo oil have nothing to do with Gary Johnson’s now famous statement, “What’s an Aleppo.” Rather, they are about a wonderful taste treat you might like. I’ve been using Aleppo oil I make myself. My daughter sprinkles crushed Aleppo peppers on salads. It is versatile and mighty good.
This recipe uses braising or what the author called “the cooked to hell” method of tenderizing fennel, Tuscan kale and broccoli rabe. It takes some prep work and simmering time, but is well worth the effort.
Braised Greens With Aleppo Oil And Feta
The creator of this recipe called braising the vegetables the “cooked to hell” method, for making the greens meltingly tender. If you can’t find Aleppo, use 1½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes instead. Aleppo pepper will me more mild than the red pepper flakes in my opinion.
SERVINGS: 8 – the recipe is easily halved.
½ cup olive oil, divided
1 large fennel bulb, cored, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 bunches Tuscan kale, tough stems removed, leaves torn into pieces
1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough stems removed, large clusters separated into smaller pieces
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 ounces feta cheese, broken into large pieces
Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned around the edges, 5–8 minutes. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just beginning to brown, 5–8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add kale and broccoli rabe to the pot a handful at a time, tossing to wilt after each addition before adding more. Stir in red pepper flakes; season with salt. Add 3 cups water and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce heat and cook, partially covered, until greens are very tender, 35–45 minutes.
While greens simmer, make Aleppo oil. Bring Aleppo pepper, paprika, and remaining ¼ cup oil to a simmer in a small saucepan over low heat, swirling often, about 1 minute, let cool.
Add lemon zest and lemon juice to greens; taste and season with more salt.Transfer to a serving platter along with some of the braising liquid and top with feta. Drizzle with Aleppo oil.
Coat lamb chops with lemon juice, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and pepper. Pat dried oregano leaves onto chops’ surface so they will stick to the lemon juice. Bake at 400º for two to three minutes a side until an internal temp of 145º is reached for medium rare or 160º for medium. Tent and rest for five minutes before serving.
I read about steamed eggs and got curious. One recipe was for blending eggs and a little water, putting then mix in a small pan, covering it and placing the pan in a larger one and steaming it in the oven. The result was a fluffy, puffy egg that, because of the size of the pan, was just the right size for sandwich. Interesting, but I haven’t tried it yet.
What I did try was cooking eggs in a steamer basket over a half inch of water. Add water to a sauce pan, place eggs in a steamer basket, bring water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan and steam for about seven minutes. Remove the eggs to an ice water bath. When cool enough to handle, peel them. The result is tender white and a silky smooth yolk. I discovered that it takes practice.
The first time I steamed eggs, the ones I was peeling remained in the ice bath. As the eggs cooled off, the membrane around the white glued the shell and white together making it almost impossible to peel the egg without tearing chunks out of the white. I was really disappointed by this. The eggs were delicious, but ugly. And the ones that had stayed the longest in the ice bath were really chilled through. This was not what I had hoped for.
It was time to get busy in the Gringo Gourmet Academy Test Kitchen and figure out how to make this work. The taste is so good! I wanted the appearance to be just as good.
A couple of days later, I wanted an egg garnish on avocado toasts, so I made hard boiled eggs. Again, I put the cooked eggs in an ice bath to prevent the gray ring around the yolk that sometimes happens. Again, the eggs were hard to peel after the ice bath. I tried a YouTube video inspired peeling method that worked pretty well. It was very entertaining. Chip away some peel at both ends of the egg, place it to you lips and blow very hard. The boiled egg pops out of the shell into your hand. It was fun to do this with a couple of eggs but I think it is a technique I will save for Easter eggs after the hunt. The youngsters will get a kick out of watching and trying it.
This morning, a Sunday, I gave it another go. I steamed the eggs, and this time plunged them in the ice bath and immediately took them out. They were much easier to peel while still a little warm. As they cooled, it became a little more challenging. I tried blowing one. The soft white and yolk didn’t stand up to the blow and I had to clean up the countertop and backsplash. I did have to laugh about it. I served the virtually empty and deflated egg white to a friend and told him it was a low cholesterol egg since he takes a cholesterol medication.
My last peeling attempt was to crack the shell on the side and remove enough to allow me to slip a soupspoon between the egg and shell. Carefully I worked the spoon around the egg and was able to remove it easily and neatly. A little of that adhesive membrane remained on the shell, but none was on the egg. I was greatly relieved that I had smooth eggs to plate this morning.
While the eggs were steaming and peeling was going on, I cooked a few strips of thick-sliced bacon and placed them on paper towels to drain. After removing most of the bacon drippings, I sautéed some chopped onion and coins of tiny fingerling potatoes. The potatoes were a mix of blue, red skinned and white skinned potatoes. I had used most of the white skinned ones the first time I steamed the eggs. This time, I had more blue and red potatoes than white, so the presentation potatoes were dark. I removed the potatoes from the pan and dumped in the remains of a box of mixed spinach and arugula leaves to add a little flavor and color to the plate. A slice of multigrain toast was included to sop up the silky egg yolk.