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Archive: March, 2012

POSTED: Thursday, March 29, 2012, 6:33 PM
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This classic pairing of asparagus and poached egg is such a lovely weeknight dinner, especially as a herald to spring.  It’s not something I would make on a weeknight for the kids, I will confess, too challenging to poach all those eggs. But it is perfect supper for one or two. Though it is a few steps, the results are well worth the effort.

It also calls for the asparagus to be cooked in a skillet on top of the stove. I used my trusty cast-iron pan, and I loved how it browned the edges of the spears without overcooking them.

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 6:33 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Thursday, March 22, 2012, 12:00 PM
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From the first time I discovered it in the south of France, Salade Nicoise has held favored-nation status in my world of salads.
My first encounter, as a 20-year-old college student traveling abroad, was an introduction met with sheer gratitude. I was a not-too-adventurous eater, trying to get by on a meager budget, and was thrilled to find something made of ingredients I actually recognized. Tuna, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, olives, onions, tomatoes. Not only things I knew, but things I loved. I think I lived on those salads during my stay in Nice.
Over the years, I’ve often sought out this favorite salad in restaurants, but I’ve also made it quite often, both on weeknights and when entertaining, or when asked to bring something to a party.
It appeals not only because it is so easy to assemble, but because, packed with protein and vegetables, it is a meal in itself.
But, in truth, it is also popular, because, at my house dinner is sometimes about what is in the kitchen.
I’m often trying to make good use of what is left in my crisper drawers or in my pantry. It’s always a bonus if you can put together something that satisfies.
As I scanned my pantry the other day, I came across a lovely jar of imported tuna. Close by were a few potatoes approaching the end of their shelf life. I had a shallot, some lettuce, and some olives in the fridge, and eggs that could be hard-boiled. And right there, a Salade Nicoise was born.
I had no tomatoes or green beans, so I made do without. But please do add them, if you’re shopping for ingredients, not only for the taste, but also for the spot of color they add to this perfectly composed salad.

Salade Nicoise
 Makes 4 servings
1 large head butter lettuce, or the equivalent of other mixed greens
4 eggs
2 potatoes, peeled, sliced thin
1/2 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
6 to 8 ounces of imported tuna (I like Ortiz), drained
15 to 20 grape tomatoes
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 can of anchovies, drained, optional
10 to 12 black olives (your choice, I love Nicoise)
For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Wash and dry the lettuce and tear into bite-size pieces. (Make sure the lettuce is dry. I like to wash it and spin it in a salad spinner and let it finish air drying while I prepare the rest of the ingredients.)
2. Hard-boil the eggs: Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 13 minutes. Next plunge the eggs into a bowl with ice water and let sit until you are ready to use.
3. Put potatoes in a pot with cold water, bring to a boil, and boil until potatoes are soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and put in cold water until ready to use.
4. Cook green beans in boiling water or steamer until cooked but still crisp, about 5 minutes.
5. Prepare other ingredients: (Drain tuna, wash tomatoes, slice the shallot; drain anchovies if using.)
6. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Place Dijon mustard into a measuring cup. Add the vinegar and stir to combine. Add the sugar and stir. Then, while continuing to stir (a fork works best here), slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until it emulsifies. Set aside.
7. Place the lettuce in a salad bowl. Peel and slice the eggs and add. Add the potatoes, green beans, tuna in chunks, tomatoes, shallot, anchovies (if using) and black olives.
8. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss and serve.
Per serving: 418 calories, 21 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams sugar, 23 grams fat, 200 milligrams cholesterol, 219 milligrams sodium, 9 grams dietary fiber.

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 12:00 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Thursday, March 15, 2012, 12:32 PM
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 I know the last recipe for Thai lettuce cups sent my daughter in search of unfamiliar ingredients, namely lemongrass and fish sauce.
So in the interest of thrift, not to mention continuing to expand her horizons, I offer a second recipe to use up those ingredients while they are still fresh: Thai Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup.
It seems a perfect restorative for these March days, when the weather can’t make up its mind. One day it’s lovely and warm, the next windy and cold, the next damp and rainy. Seems everyone is suffering from sniffles, a cold, or flaring allergies.
Chicken soup is always a comfort, but this elegant version lives up to its Thai mantra of salty, spicy, sweet, and sour: the salty fish sauce, the spicy jalapeño peppers, the sweet coconut milk, and the sour lime juice.
You’ve probably tasted a soup similar to this at your favorite Thai restaurant, but it is really quite simple to make at home.
The recipe is expandable, should you want to add more vegetables, like broccoli or Chinese cabbage or bok choy.
And you can also add more jalapeño peppers if you desire more heat. I only suggest (and this means you, Sally) that you start with two peppers, taste the broth, and add more from there. If it does get too hot, you can try adding more broth, or more lime juice, or more coconut milk, but it’s a challenge to get it just right.
I love the thin slices of chicken in this recipe and here is one trick to help with that: Stick the chicken breasts in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes before you slice. They should be firm, not frozen, making them so much easier to get nice and thin with a good, sharp knife.
 

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
 Makes 6 servings
4 ounces of Thai rice noodles
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
3-inch length lemongrass, very thinly sliced
Six 1/8-inch-thick slices of fresh ginger, peeled, then sliced into matchstick pieces
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin coins
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and sliced thin
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (see note)
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

1. Put the rice noodles in a medium saucepan. Bring water in a kettle to a boil, and then pour in enough water to cover the rice noodles. Cover and let sit, while preparing the rest of the soup.
2. Combine the broth, lime zest, lemongrass, and ginger in a pot and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until the ingredients release their fragrance.
3. Add the carrots, fish sauce, lime juice, jalapeños, chicken, coconut milk, and cilantro. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
4. Taste, and if the soup seems lacking in salt, add more fish sauce. Drain the noodles and add them to the soup. Garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately.
Note: Put chicken breasts in the freezer for about 15 minutes to make them firmer and easier to slice.
Per serving: 332 calories, 19 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams sugar, 21 grams fat, 42 milligrams cholesterol, 876 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 12:32 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 4:40 PM
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Photo by Nicko Margolies

Butternut squash soup has always been my favorite soup. I attended Kenyon College as an undergrad and the local coffee shop Middle Ground made a killer Butternut squash soup— that definitely gave my momma a run for her money.  So, when I heard this was on the agenda for last week, I was thrilled.

Work has been really busy lately, with too many late nights. I came home the other night, exhausted and hungry, and got right to work, chopping the onions. I melted the butter, then,  added the onions  to the large pot over low heat. I went into the spice cabinet and grabbed the curry powder and added 4 teaspoons. As I went to put the spice back, I realized it wasn’t curry but chili powder!  Oooops. That’s what happens after a long day. I just dumped the contents down the sink, and washed the pot. Luckily, had more onions. Take 2, chopping again.  This time I made SURE to add CURRY powder. I let the onions, butter and curry powder simmer together for about 25 minutes, while I chopped up the squash and the apples. (I had bought pre-peeled and cut squash which made it SO much easier. All I had to do was dice the chunks in 1-inch cubes).

Sally Vitez @ 4:40 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Friday, March 9, 2012, 11:17 AM
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 Giada DeLaurentiis has a new cookbook, Weeknights With Giada, to be released this month, with recipes designed for throwing together a good dinner after a long day at work.
Even TV chefs want family dinners. Giada wants to give her daughter the home-cooked dinners she remembers growing up. But even she doesn’t have hours to spend.
“Because my daughter is 4, I want to spend my free time hanging out with her,” she told me in a phone interview. “The time I spend playing in the kitchen has become very minimal.”
So that is the focus of this new book: dishes that taste great and come together quickly. “It has forced me to be more creative,” she said.
As a working mother who remembers racing home from work to cook, I can still feel the stress of producing a quick meal for hungry kids. And even with the kids grown and out of the house, I’m not looking to spend hours on weeknight dinner.
And neither is my daughter, who is constantly reminding me of the concept of this blog: Easy, Healthy, Cheap.
Giada’s recipe for Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups certainly fits the bill. Though you do have to shop for a couple of ingredients you probably don’t normally stock (lemongrass and fish sauce), once you’ve got the stuff in your fridge, it comes together in about 15 minutes. Honestly. The hardest part is juicing the limes. And it really packs a punch of flavor.
It is not a typical Giada recipe, as she steps away from her Italian roots. But she does get it right.
“My husband loves Thai food,” she told me. “So all those recipes are for him.”
Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups
Makes 4 servings
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from about 4 limes)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 red onion, diced
3 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 (4-inch) piece of lemon-grass, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 Thai or serrano chile, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated
 1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, lemon juice, fish sauce, and honey.
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, lemongrass, and chile. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat and vegetables are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the dressing to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the turkey mixture onto the lettuce leaves and serve.
— Adapted from Weeknights With Giada, (Clarkson Potter, 2012)
Note: This recipe can also be made with ground chicken, beef, or pork.
Per serving: 523 calories, 42 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams sugar, 33 grams fat, 174 milligrams cholesterol, 887 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Maureen Fitzgerald @ 11:17 AM  Permalink | 0
About this blog

Maureen Fitzgerald, Inquirer food editor, has been cooking for 30 years. Her blog started with her daughter, but has been continuing for the past year with school children, this spring with fifth graders at Henry Lawton Elementary in Philadelphia. The program has expanded to 10 schools, with 20 volunteers working with a total of 50 urban children. The program is partnering with the Vetri Foundation for Children and Brown’s Shop Rite is providing the food.

Reach My Daughter's at mfitzgerald@phillynews.com.

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