I made this cake once to bring a friend’s house for dinner and people were stealing each other’s crumbs. I served it to my family and my son spit it out. Just being honest. It would be really awesome to say that my family loves everything I make, that my 10-year-old scarfs down whole grain cakes with rosemary and dark chocolate and never, ever, ever asks for Flaming Hot Cheetos. But alas, I live in the real world with at least one child, as well as one adult, whose palates are rather, shall we say, simple.
But if I catered to the lowest common denominator in my house all the time, we’d never get to know the deliciousness that is this nutty, earthy, lightly sweet cake with a savory infusion of rosemary. And dark chocolate! Maybe it sounds like a weird combo to you. I actually wasn’t sure myself when I first whisked these ingredients together, but the scent emanating from my oven was enough to convince me that this is a very tasty cake.
I love rustic desserts. The flavors are deep and I don’t have to worry about anything looking too perfect. And I think anything rustic lends itself better to whole grain flours. I found this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce. She uses refined flours and refined white sugar, but I actually think the cake tastes better and more interesting with whole spelt and whole wheat pastry flour, and sweetened with maple syrup. I also don’t find myself in a sugar coma after eating a piece of this.
I mentioned that I have made this cake for after dinner, but I think it would also be lovely for a brunch. Sweet and savory all in one easy-to-bake cake. Maybe with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Love it. No thanks, Mr. Picky? No problem. More for me!
Whole Grain Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Dark Chocolate Recipe
1 cup unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil + extra for greasing pan
¾ cup whole spelt flour (or use all purpose)
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
¾ cup Grade A maple syrup or natural cane sugar*
1 ½ teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
¾ teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup whole milk or unsweetened hemp milk, at room temperature
1 ½ Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped (measure, then chop)
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), chopped into ½-inch pieces
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with olive oil.
Whisk the dry ingredients (including cane sugar, if using) in a large bowl. Set aside.
In another large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly. Add the maple syrup (if using), olive oil, milk and rosemary and whisk again.
Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry, gently mixing until combined. Stir in chocolate. Pour the batter into the pan, spreading evenly and smoothing the top.
Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until the top is domed, golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake can be eaten warm or cool from the pan, or cooled, wrapped tightly in plastic, and kept for 2 days.
*If using cane sugar, add with the dry ingredients. If using maple syrup, add with the wet ingredients.
We all have those recipes we love but don’t make very often (for me it’s chicken pot pie and spanakopita.) And then there are the recipes you rely on when you don’t want to think about what to make. Those are your go-to, no-fail, everyone-loves-this recipes. I wish I had an endless supply of those. But I am going to share one of my-go’s with you today! This roasted veggie buddha bowl is just that. I swear I could eat this every day. I taught this recipe in my classes in January and I actually did eat it every day and I never got tired of it.
A Buddha bowl is really just a simple combination of (usually) lightly steamed vegetables on top of a gluten-free grain, like brown rice, and often topped with a sauce or dressing of sorts. It is a very clean and healthful meal, but very satisfying. Personally, I prefer all my meals in a bowl. I love when all my food gets combined and every bite has a little bit of everything. It’s Mr. Picky’s worst nightmare.
A Buddha bowl is flexible. Clean out of the vegetable crisper and use what you’ve got. Not in the mood for rice? Use quinoa or millet. Soy or peanut-based sauces are very popular on Buddha bowls, but I am kind of obsessed with my lemon-tahini dressing from this salad, so I adapted that for this recipe. And even though I said a Buddha bowl is usually made with steamed vegetables, who says you can’t roast them? Like with a little coconut oil until the edges are just a bit crispy. Heaven!
I make dinner for my family every night (and if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you would know exactly what that looks like!) Even though I am a big proponent of one meal for all, there always those days I ate a late lunch after a class and I’m not feeling like the roast chicken and potatoes I am making for dinner that night. This Buddha bowl is my go-to on nights like that. I’ll make a big pan of roasted veggies for all of us and then whip up this dressing and a pot of steamed quinoa and voila! I have something a little lighter and I’m a happy camper. That’s not to say that my husband and my kids don’t like Buddha bowls. They all really do, especially my girls. As you would imagine, Mr. Picky doesn’t exactly eat his in a bowl. Rice in one separate, distinct area on a plate, roasted veg in another and hold the dressing, please. No problem, dude.
If you decide to make this dressing for your Buddha bowl, you really have a nice vegetarian meal no matter what grain you use since tahini is basically just sesame paste. Sesame seeds are high in protein, good fats and did you know, calcium? Just good to know if you’re looking for non-dairy sources of calcium. And if you make this with broccoli and kale, you have a very calcium-rich meal. I also like to sprinkle everything my Buddha bowl with gomasio, a macrobiotic condiment which is just a mixture of sesame seeds and sea salt. The one I use by Eden Organic also has seaweed in it. If you have all the other ingredients, but not the gomasio, make this anyway — you will love it and you will feel awesome after eating it. Have a lovely weekend!
Roasted Vegetable Buddha Bowl with Lemon-Tahini Dressing
Dressing (makes about 2 Tablespoons/serving):
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, about 1 small lemon
2 small cloves of garlic, grated or minced or just smash the cloves if you don't actually want to eat the garlic, but still have a subtle garlic flavor
¼ cup raw tahini (roasted tahini is fine, but raw is a little milder)
3-4 Tablespoons room temperature or warm water
¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
pinch of cayenne (optional)
8-10 cups mixed vegetables such as 1 head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets and stems, trimmed and chopped AND 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets*
2 Tablespoons melted unrefined coconut oil or unrefined olive oil
3-4 large leaves of kale, washed, dried, stems removed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Steamed brown rice, millet or quinoa for serving (optional)
Plain or seaweed gomasio for sprinkling on top (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
Make the dressing (or you can make while the vegetables are roasting): in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, tahini, water, olive oil, salt and cayenne until well blended. Just use the amount of water you need to get the consistency you want.
In a large bowl, toss the broccoli and cauliflower with the coconut oil. Don’t wash the bowl yet. Place the broccoli and cauliflower in one layer on the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, or until tender and golden in spots. I like to turn the vegetables after about 15 minutes.
Take the kale leaves and rub them around the bowl with any remaining coconut oil until lightly coated. Tear until large pieces and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place on top of the broccoli and cauliflower in the oven and roast until the kale is just crispy, about 5-10 minutes.
If you’d like to eat this as a “bowl,” place a scoop of rice/millet/quinoa in a bowl and top with the vegetables. Spoon some sauce over everything and sprinkle with gomasio, if desired.
*Other roasted veggies that would be great are beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes!
I hope you all had a merry Christmas! We’ve had such an amazing few days with my family in New York. Christmas Eve is always such a special night and this year was no exception, with 94 of us at my aunt’s house for dinner. NINETY-FOUR. And four ladies announcing they are expecting so we’ll be 98 next year? My aunt is an absolute genius to be able to orchestrate a sit-down pot-luck for so many. I swear she could run a small country. Heck, she could probably run THIS country! We were in four different rooms eating 7 or 8 different types of fish (and a few veggies for good measure.) Although it’s really not about the food for me, instead my favorite moment of the evening is listening to all the little ones sing around the Christmas tree watching the staircase in hopes that Santa makes an appearance, which he always does. Then everyone screams and the flash bulbs go off as if there were paparazzi in the house. It never gets old for me.
Christmas Day is always the perfect balance to the evening before. It’s quieter, just 17 of us at my parents’ house and my mom is in charge. We always start the meal with tortellini in chicken broth, which my kids love. Then she makes a beef tenderloin with a red wine sauce, stuffed mushrooms, green beans with shallots and a green salad. This year I was hoping to add these amazing potatoes to the menu. I made them for Jenni Kayne’s holiday cooking class a few weeks ago and I knew they would be perfect with my mom’s menu. They would actually be perfect with almost any menu! But I’ll admit, I bailed at the last minute, thinking we had plenty of food already, I was a little tired from having gone to bed at 2:00 in the morning, and no one would care if we had or didn’t have potatoes on Christmas. Really, everyone looks forward to all the cookies after dinner anyway.
Alas, I still would love to share this recipe with you because I know you will love it and I know you will find a place for it in one of your upcoming weeknight dinners or even for something as special as New Year’s Eve. I love crispy, roasted potatoes plain and simple, but these have an extra umph from the gremolata. Gremolata is an Italian garnish traditionally made with finely chopped fresh parsley, raw garlic and grated lemon zest. I’ve had it before on osso buco, roasted vegetables and even pasta. It’s just bursting with flavor and freshness and makes ordinary potatoes out of this world. I love it! For this version of gremolata, I added a little orange zest, crushed red peppers, and fresh mint and thyme, all of which I adore with potatoes. I also made the gremolata once with a little fresh rosemary instead of the thyme and dropped the chili flakes just because — also delicious!
Try and find these teeny fingerling potatoes if you can. They are so creamy and super easy to use since you just just have to wash and dry them, no peeling, no chopping. BUT, if your market only offers Yukon Gold or red skinned potatoes, go for it. They’ll still be delicious.
I am hoping you are finding time to rest and restore your energy this week. Acting like a superhero is totally overrated and people who look like they do it all don’t, and if they do, they’re exhausted. Being a good parent or a good host/hostess or a good cook is good enough. Sounds like a good new year’s resolution for me for 2014!
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (about half an orange)
⅓ cup fresh parsley leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
2 heaping Tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced or grated
a pinch of red pepper flakes
2 pounds small fingerling potatoes, washed, dried and halved (leave whole if they are only an inch or so long)
3 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
Make the gremolata: in a small bowl mix together the zests, herbs, garlic and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
Place the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread the potatoes in an even layer and sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon of sea salt and black pepper to taste. Place in the oven for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes, remove the potatoes from the oven and add another tablespoon of olive oil and half the gremolata. Toss until well combined. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender and golden.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss with the remaining gremolata and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with an extra pinch of salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.
You can totally do this. The idea of roasting and deboning a whole fish sounded incredibly intimidating to me when one of my students asked me to prepare it in a class for her husband’s birthday. She said, “the only dish I must request is whole roasted branzino — it’s my husband’s absolute favorite and I would love to know how to make it.” “So would I!” I thought to myself. But instead I offered with confidence, “Absolutely! I will show you how to make the best branzino.” My family ate branzino once a week for a month until I had it just right.
I have taught whole roasted branzino in a few classes now, and most recently at Jenni Kayne’s house for her Holiday Class with The Chalkboard. I wanted to post this recipe now, because Christmas Eve is around the corner and whenever I think of Christmas Eve, I think of fish. It is traditional in Italian homes to eat seven or more different types of fish on that night. I don’t know what we’ll have this year, but typically we start off the evening with spaghetti with clam sauce. Then a few people in my family will make the most classic Italian Christmas Eve fish, baccalà, a dried and salted cod. There are also usually eel, mussels, salmon, stuffed clams, shrimp and crab. However, I will most likely never see branzino at our Christmas Eve table because it’s not something you make for a crowd, and we are a CROWD, anywhere from 60-80 people.
Believe me, it’s not that roasting a whole fish is difficult. In fact, it is just as easy, if not easier, than roasting a whole chicken. If you can find really fresh branzino, aka Mediterranean snapper, there is very little you need to do to it for it to taste good. Isn’t that always the way when you start with good ingredients? But I usually make one whole fish per person and that would need to be a ginormous oven to cook 60 of these. Besides that, most people don’t know how to debone a fish and I wouldn’t want to sit there fileting dozens of these beauties. And therein lies the tricky part about roasting a whole fish — getting to the actual meat when there’s still a head and a tail and loads of bones in the way. Of course, I am going to show you right here how to do this so you’ll be able to have your way with a whole fish when you go out to eat or if you have a dinner party, you can do this for your guests.
I found these beauties at my local Whole Foods for $12.49 per pound. Look for clear, shiny eyes and glossy, not slimy skin. It should also smell fresh like the ocean and not “fishy.” You have every right to ask the fishmonger if you can take a sniff of the fish. People do it all the time, and the fishmongers are used to it. I do, however, consider this a special occasion fish, not because of the price, but because it flew first class from Greece to get to my market. Normally I try to limit (not necessarily eliminate) imported fish given the heavier environmental impact versus those locally caught. If you can’t find branzino in your area, walleye or another small whole fish in the 1 to 1 1/2 pound range will do.
A whole roasted fish stays nice and moist because of the bones and the skin, which I think also give it great flavor. All you need is a healthy sprinkling of salt inside the cavity along with lemon slices and some fresh parsley or fennel fronds. After you take the bones out, you can choose to leave the skin or or remove it. A final drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a quick squeeze of lemon is all you need to have an amazing piece of fish.
6 1 to 1 ¼ pound whole sea bass or striped bass, scaled and gutted (you ask the fishmonger to do this for you)
2 lemons, sliced into thin rounds
6 sprigs of parsley or some fennel fronds + extra fennel fronds for the pan
Unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse each piece of fish and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange some fennel fronds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place the fish on top of the fronds. You don’t have to use fennel fronds, but I like the flavor they infuse.
Season the cavity of the fish with a healthy pinch of sea salt. Fill each cavity with some parsley or fennel fronds and 2 slices of lemon.
Drizzle the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Roast the fish for 20 minutes. Take a peek under the skin along the backbone. The flesh should be opaque and not translucent.
To filet the fish, use two large spoons or a large spoon and a fork and start by removing the head and the tail. They should break off easily from the rest of the body. Remove lemon and parsley from the cavity. Scrape all the flabby pieces off the bottom of the fish. Turn the fish around and run the spoon along the backbone of the fish to remove the small bones at the top. Wedge your spoon into the middle of the fish to open up the fish so you can remove the spine. Lift the spine from the flesh. Take the meat off the skin, if desired, and transfer to a warmed plate. Sometimes I run my finger across the flesh to make sure I got all the bones. Don’t worry if you missed a few, just warn your dinner companions ahead of time that you’re not an expert and that there may be a pin bone or two.
Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil and a little more lemon if you wish.
If you follow me on either Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably figured out that I am back on Long Island at my parents’ house. We picked up Daughter #1 on Saturday from her summer program in upstate NY. I was so beyond excited to see her after 6 weeks, I was afraid I was going to suffocate her when I saw her. It was great for the five of us to be together again and I couldn’t resist another visit to Stony Brook. Love that place in the summer.
We’ve had an amazing few days here — peaceful, not in a rush to do anything, no stress, beautiful. My father’s garden is bursting. I lost count of how many basil plants he has this year, perhaps around 40. I have made pesto every day so far! But the big fun has come from the new outdoor pizza oven my father had built. It was a major project when I was here in June, with each of my parents saying to me without the other hearing, “I don’t know what we were thinking.” But once the dust settled, literally, we have enjoyed the most fantastic pizzas — you know the thin kind with a little char on the crust? So darn good. Not fitting in my skinny jeans today, but so. darn. good.
Sorry this isn’t a post about making your own pizza in a wood-burning oven, but I personally don’t have one nor will I in my current house since my “yard” is a patio! Figuring most of my readers don’t own one either. Instead I wanted to share my favorite new green bean recipe. No yawning! These are great! But I know where you’re coming from. Green beans come into season in the summer and I try really hard to get excited about them, but they have to compete with tomatoes and corn. Kind of hard to do. I honestly don’t have too many exciting green bean recipes that I think to myself, “I am soooo craving those such-and-such green beans.” Until now.
I taught these honey-lemon green beans last month and I couldn’t wait to eat them after each class and any leftovers for dinner the same night! The dressing has a bit of mustard too, and a little kick from the cayenne which is always something I love paired with sweet (honey.) They are seriously addictive. One of the only cooked vegetables Mr. Picky likes is green beans, but he doesn’t care for vinaigrettes yet. Except he did love these! He’s starting to develop a taste for spicy food. Very exciting!
The recipe for the green beans and the dressing is completely straightforward and quick to make. If you are in a time crunch, just make that and forget about the shallots. Blanching and quick-pickling the shallots is definitely another step that won’t make or break the recipe, although they are scrumptious. You can certainly take care of that while the beans are cooking and while you’re setting the table or grilling some fish. But sometimes when I try and multitask too much, that’s when I forget things -like shallots pickling in apple cider vinegar that I remember when I start washing dishes.
Someone leaked to Mr. Picky that in one of my recent posts I was guessing that he wouldn’t be showering regularly at camp. It wasn’t a judgment on my part, just an observation from past history. However, it seems as though Mr. Picky interpreted that as a challenge. What you might not know about Mr. Picky is that he is competitive to a fault. He also loves statistics and keeps track of everything, especially when he’s first in something. But believe me, his “firsts” are not what you might expect. “Hey, Mom. Did you know I was the first one down for breakfast 8 days in a row?” Or not firsts. “Mom, guess what? Guess what, Mom? I was the second youngest at camp. By 20 days.” So I wasn’t entirely shocked when Mr. Picky said to me the other day that he’s on a showering streak. Huh? “Mom, guess what? I have showered 37 days in a row! For real. I’m not even joking.” I need to blog more about him not eating cooked vegetables.
Well, Mr. Picky had to come from somewhere. Guess what, friends? I’ve eaten a tomato in some way, shape or form every day for the last 24 days and I’m not even joking. Whereas I fear Mr. Picky is on a quest to find his way into some imaginary record book for showering, my daily tomato indulgence is for pure pleasure. Furthermore, I know my streak will come to a sad end in a few months when tomato season is over.
I have a total obsession with summer tomatoes. I always have. When I was little, I would take a salt shaker into my father’s garden and have a tomato party. First, I would pluck a nice ripe tomato off the vine. For the first bite, I always had to shake a tiny bit of salt in my mouth and then take a bite of tomato. Salt doesn’t stick to a whole tomato. After that bite, I would shake the salt on the cut part of the tomato and eat away. My mother told me a few times I even ate several green (underripe) tomatoes and made myself a bit sick to my stomach.
But I am only interested in local, summer tomatoes. Nothing else compares and I wouldn’t even waste your time on tomatoes before June or after October, and even that is pushing it. So right now, I’m in my glory and I am snatching up different varieties every week. So happy! And tomatoes are amazing for you – I just posted something on my facebook page yesterday about all their health benefits.
Something I just started making the last few years are slow roasted tomatoes in the oven. Damn! Have you ever tried these? I’m not talking about sundried tomatoes, which for some reason I don’t like. Slow roasted tomatoes are super-sweet and moist. You can cook them as long or as little as you like, but I prefer to bake them until their texture is like moist, dried apricots. So darn good and soooooooo easy! It’s barely cooking, people. And you can use them in a million ways. Delicious on an antipasto platter, with crusty bread, eggs/frittatas, sandwiches, salads, in pasta, etc. How could I forget straight-off-the-pan? Such deliciousness if you have patience to slow cook them. I figure since I waited all winter and spring for tomatoes, what’s a few hours?
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. If you want to make more tomatoes, use a large baking sheet.
Arrange the tomato halves, cut side up, in one layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Place a sliver of garlic on top of each tomato and scatter the thyme sprigs over. Drizzle a little oil over the tomatoes and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Bake until desired texture is reached. I like to go 8 hours. More time will result in drier tomatoes. Less time will result in juicier tomatoes. Ovens also vary, so check tomatoes periodically.
Store in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to a week. Covered in oil, the tomatoes will last a few weeks. You can also freeze them right on the sheet pan and when the tomatoes are frozen, transfer them to a covered container to freeze (ideally a freezer bag that is as small as will fit the tomatoes.)
*You can also use halved cherry or grape tomatoes and cook for less time.
I hope you all had a lovely Fourth of July and that you had a day off of work at the very least. If there’s one thing I think many of us need more of it’s a little rest and relaxation. We had a nice mellow day with friends and no work all day at all. Nice. In fact, I even watched a little tv while I was putzing around the house before going out. Computer time has wiped out my tv time in the last few years, so watching tv is a real treat for me. Although it’s funny that when I have time off from work (i.e. cooking), I choose to watch the Food Network or the Cooking Channel. I have my favorites to be sure, but some of the really popular shows I just don’t get.
Can anyone explain the appeal of “Chopped?” I’ll tell you one thing — it’s not “reality” tv. What’s reality about being given a bunch of ingredients not normally found in a regular person’s pantry and being forced to have to make something tasty out of it given the resources of an unbelievably stocked pantry? I have learned so much from watching Ina and Giada and Tyler, but there isn’t much I get out of seeing what three chefs can do with graham crackers and squid in 30 minutes. Does that show talent? What do you think?
Let me tell you what I think takes some skill — making dinner for my family on a typically insane weeknight. You think the judges on Chopped are tough. Ha! They eat everything, even cheese, unlike Mr. Picky. Try making dinner for Daughters #1 and 2 and Mr. Picky under a time constraint. During the girls’ finals week earlier last month, I had a day that did not go as planned and I found myself in a dinner prep predicament. We always eat dinner together every night around 6:30/6:45 and I thought this was one of those nights, but no. Daughter #1 had a study group at 6:30 and Daughter #2 switched her music lesson without telling me and she would be coming home at 6:15. I found all of this out at 4:30 and I had soccer carpool to do. Oh sure, easy, right?
Do the contestants on Chopped have two teenage girls yelling at each other about the last ugly photo one posted of the other on Instagram? They do not. And Mr. Picky is not bouncing a basketball in the kitchen while the chefs are trying to figure out what to make for dinner very quickly with the contents of a very basic pantry. Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! Ok, think. Do some prep now, then you have 15 minutes when you get back from soccer drop-off before driving to music. “But the picture you posted of me was much worse than the one I posted of you!” Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! I have chicken, tomatoes, white rice is fast, thank goodness I washed lettuce yesterday. “Mommmmmmm, did you see what she’s getting away with? So many people liked that picture already!” “Really? They liked it? That’s good, right?” “OMG, Mom! No they didn’t like it! Make her delete it!” Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! I can bread the chicken now and bake later. “I am NOT letting her drive me to school anymore.” Whoa there, missy. Now you’ve got my attention. “Delete it this minute!” Bounce, bounce, bouncety-bounce! “STOP PLAYING BALL IN THE HO– USE, MR. PICKY!!!!” Can you imagine doing this sober? Why don’t I drink? I need to rethink that.
I know this isn’t just my house, or maybe it is and I am deluding myself. But I think a lot of home cooks have skills that you just can’t learn in culinary school or by watching some pros on tv. I managed to pull something together that night that we ate at exactly 6:15 and we all liked it! I would have likely gotten “chopped” on tv for something so unoriginal, but this is the kind of food we like to eat and it’s reasonably healthful. One of the reasons this worked for me that night is because I was able to bake the chicken instead of sautéing/frying it. I didn’t know if it would work, but I learned the technique of getting crispy breading by greasing up the chicken with some fat before dredging it from an old Gourmet magazine recipe. That way, I didn’t have to babysit it on the stovetop, plus baking is more healthful than frying and MUCH less messy! This would also be a great method to use when cooking for a crowd.
Speaking of cooking for a crowd, for the next episode of “Chopped,” I’d like to see a challenge where the chefs have to prepare a dinner party for 12 guests in Los Angeles. “Oh, sorry, no gluten for me.” “If you don’t mind, I don’t eat dairy. Or meat. Or eggs.” “I’m easy. I eat everything except nuts. I am deathly allergic to all tree nuts. Deathly!” Now that’s something I would watch!
2 -3 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil, plus more for coating chicken and pan
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped
¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
⅔ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Pecorino-romano or Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon paprika
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Brush a baking sheet generously with olive oil. You can line your baking sheet with parchment paper if you want and then brush the parchment with oil.
In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, mozzarella, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, basil and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
In a shallow dish (such as a pie plate), combine the bread crumbs, cheese, and paprika. In another shallow dish, pour a few tablespoons of olive oil.
Slice the chicken crosswise in half so that you have two thin cutlets. Check out this post for a visual on what I'm referring to. You can remove the tenders if you wish and coat those separately. Sprinkle one side of the chicken pieces with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. This is the total amount of salt and pepper for all the chicken.
Dip the seasoned chicken first into the olive oil and turn to coat. Then dip chicken into the breadcrumb mixture and press to coat both sides completely.
Place the breaded chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Turn chicken with a spatula, not tongs which might break the breading, and bake another 3-5 minutes or until cooked through and golden brown.
Remove garlic cloves from tomato mixture and discard. Spoon tomato mixture on top of chicken.
This serves our family perfectly with no leftovers, but we're not big meat-eaters. If one chicken cutlet is not enough per person, then increase the chicken and breading ingredients.
Everyone thinks it’s so funny when I whine that I don’t get invited much to peoples’ houses for dinner. There is an assumption that I’m an accomplished chef and I must have such high standards for eating therefore it’s too intimidating to have me over for dinner. Ha! Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m a home cook who never went to culinary school and I don’t ever make recipes with three sauces. I could never work in a restaurant or hotel or be on one of those shows where you have to figure out what to do with octopus and cornflakes in 20 minutes. Just for the record, I love simple food. I don’t need anything fancy or chef-y. I am very easy to please as long as it’s fresh and natural. And I’ll bet that you are as good a cook, if not better than I am. Anyone can have a food blog, friends!
What I do love is sharing recipes that work for me, because I think we’re a lot alike. And it makes me happy if more people are cooking at home, even if I’m not invited. Wink, wink. These roasted smashed potatoes are my favorite kind of recipe — uncomplicated, tasty, easy and healthful. They go with whatever I’m serving and every single person in my family loves them. If you’ve never made smashed potatoes, you are totally missing out. They’re both fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside and if you add enough salt, damn delicious. I could just eat a half dozen of these and some scrambled eggs and call it a night. If you invited me over for dinner and made these potatoes with scrambled eggs, I would be in heaven. Yep, that’s all it takes.
The other night at our dinner table, there were several ways to eat these. My husband makes up for my dairy abstinence by melting cheese on everything, including these potatoes. Mr. Picky dipped his in mustard and Daughter #2 topped hers with guacamole, salsa and sour cream. Daughter #1 and I ate these plain and simple. I’m going to start teaching the little miss how to make easy recipes like this because she’ll be off to college before I know it. Sigh. Wait, what am I talking about? Yippee!
These are divine out of the oven, but I don’t love potatoes reheated. To do some of the work ahead of time, boil the potatoes and refrigerate them. Then, smash them and roast them to crispy perfection. What is great is that you’ll use the whole potato, since most of the nutrients are in the skin or just underneath the skin. And if you follow the Body Ecology Diet, red new potatoes are the only potatoes permitted since they have the fewest sugars of any potato. Just an FYI. Of course, most of you are not on the Body Ecology Diet, so use whatever baby potatoes you can get your hands on, like Yukon Golds.
When I taught in France last year, I did some roasted potatoes in duck fat, which I know doesn’t sound healthful, but to be honest, I think animal fats can be good to cook with at high temperatures, unless you’re a vegetarian. Unsaturated fats (vegetable oils) can oxidize at high temperatures (above 350 degrees) which create free radicals. Yuck! Those are pro-inflammatory compounds that will age you from the inside out. Saturated fats don’t do that. Listen, I use olive oil at higher temperatures sometimes if it’s the only fat that works, but you’re better off with coconut oil, ghee or duck fat, in this case. Do what you’re comfortable with because you’ll love these no matter what!
2 pounds baby potatoes, such as red-skinned or Yukon Gold (about 15-18)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt for boiling the potatoes
4 Tablespoons fat of choice, divided (e.g. olive oil, duck fat, or ghee)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
½ teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scrub the potatoes and place them in a large pot with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Fill the pot three-fourths with cold water. Place the pot on the stove over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes. You should be able to insert the tip of a paring knife easily into the center of a potato.
Drain the potatoes in a colander and shake to get off as much moisture as possible. Place the potatoes back into the pot and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil. Roll them around to coat with the oil.
Arrange the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet and evenly space them apart from each other. Take another large rimmed baking sheet and position it right on top of the potatoes and press down, smashing the potatoes to about a half inch thick. Remove the top baking sheet.
Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil on top of the potatoes and sprinkle with the chopped thyme and salt and pepper.
Bake until potatoes are golden and crisp. I took them out after 30 minutes, but you can go much longer if you want them really crispy. Serve hot or warm.