French Onion Soup Recipe

healthy french onion soup | pamela salzman

If it wasn’t winter before this week, it sure is now. Not in Southern California, of course.  But for the rest of the country.  Although people in LA dress like it’s zero degrees when it’s 55.  It’s totally funny.  I cracked up when I saw this post on Pinterest last week:

50 degrees in California, 50 degrees in Michigan

So I figured that everyone would be in the mood for soup this week, no matter where you live!  I had completely forgotten about this delicious French onion soup I taught two years ago, until my husband asked me to make it.  My entire family, Mr. Picky included, are big soup fans and I love making it.  In general, soups are easy, flexible, reheat well and a good way to consume homemade bone broth, which I am convinced is so healing, immune-boosting and good for digestion.

lots of sliced onions

 

French onion soup is a classic, and I am not necessarily reinventing the wheel here, just sharing the way I like to make it.  And isn’t that the beauty of cooking?  Figuring out how to tweak recipes to your liking?  I prefer an onion soup that is loaded with onions and with a rich and flavorful broth.  I’ve tasted a few very lackluster onion soups and that is not this one!

healthy French onion soup | pamela salzman

healthy French onion soup | pamela salzman

The key to the broth is good stock and the proper alcohol.  Yes, you can serve soup with alcohol to children since the alcohol is burned off in the simmering process.  My kids have had plenty of alcohol in cooked foods and were not affected in the slightest.  Brandy or vermouth plus some white wine are my favorites.  I do not love this soup with red wine, personally.  Another tip I can offer is using the slicing disc in your food processor to slice all the onions.  It will take you all of 1 minute with no tears to do it this way.  If you have no food processor, get out your best knife and get close (not too close) to a big open flame, like a gas burner on your stove, and slice away.  The flame from the stove will burn the gases from the onions and you won’t cry.  Promise!

healthy French onion soup | pamela salzman

As for the cheesy toast, I personally don’t add the traditional Gruyere toast on top to mine because I can’t eat too much dairy, but my family loves that part.  My son adds toast only, I add chopped parsley, and my husband and daughters love toast + cheese.   I think it makes more sense to toast the bread and melt the cheese separately in the oven than broil it in the soup bowls.  The soup bowls get so incredibly hot and it’s not safe at all to serve such hot bowls to kids (or anyone.)  It’s much simpler to add the melted cheese toast to the soup bowl.  But you can broil it in the bowls, too.  I would serve this with a meal of roasted fish and a green vegetable or just a large, hearty salad.  This soup is all about comfort, warmth and total deliciousness.  One bite is like a cozy blanket wrapping itself around you.  What more could you need on a day like today?

healthy French onion soup | pamela salzman

5.0 from 4 reviews
French Onion Soup
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 pounds yellow onions (about 6), halved and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt (double this if your stock is unsalted)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • ¼ cup Cognac or brandy
  • 4 cups rich chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 4 cups high quality beef broth (or use mushroom stock or chicken stock)
  • 6 ½-inch slices of baguette or French bread torn by hand
  • 6 ounces Gruyere, shredded (or buy it pre-sliced)
  • a pinch of Parmesan cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt butter over medium heat and add onions. COVER and cook 10 minutes.
  2. UNCOVER, add thyme, bay leaves, salt, black pepper and cook onions until they are very soft and deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. I usually start at medium heat and then when I see the onions start to color, I drop to medium-low and then to low heat. This is the key step in this recipe. If the onions don’t get golden, the soup won’t have as much flavor. But you also don’t want to burn the onions because then the soup will taste bitter.
  3. Stir in the wine and Cognac, scraping the bottom of the pot.
  4. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Taste for seasoning. Keep in mind that if you are adding cheese, you will be adding extra saltiness.
  5. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, arrange the baguette slices or bread pieces on a baking sheet in one layer and bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
  6. Preheat the broiler to high and position the oven rack 6 inches from the heat. Either top each piece of toast with a handful of grated gruyere and broil until melted. Divide the soup between 6 bowls and top each soup bowl with a piece of cheese toast. OR place 6 oven-proof soup bowls or crocks on a rimmed baking sheet and fill each with soup. Top with the toasted bread and then the cheese. Broil a few minutes until cheese has melted.
Notes
This soup tastes even better the next day! If you want to double this, caramelize the onions in 2 pots. Otherwise it's too many onions at one time.

 

Mini Risotto Cakes Recipe

mini risotto cakes | pamela salzman

One of my resolutions for 2016 is to entertain more at home than I did in 2015.  I used to invite friends over 2-3 times/month before I started teaching cooking classes full-time.  By the time Friday rolls around, I’m kind of over major food prep.  So cooking for friends fell by the wayside.  But I realized it’s also one of my favorite ways to spend my time so I need to find a way to bring that back into my life!

mini risotto cakes | pamela salzman

My goal is to entertain more simply with less pressure to make everything Pinterest and Insta-worthy.  Good friends don’t care.  I know this is true because when someone invites me over for a meal, I am more excited about spending quality time with my friends than what is on the menu.  So for my last blogpost of 2015, I thought I would share an easy, delicious and very popular recipe that might encourage you to invite friends over during the holidays.

mini risotto cakes | pamela salzman

These risotto cakes made an appearance in my Party Foods class last December and I remember the kids hoping there were some extra when they returned home from school.  I love it when I have a recipe which is just as popular with kids as adults!  Essentially, you take leftover risotto and form it into a small patty (1-2 bites each), coat that in beaten egg and bread crumbs and saute in olive oil in a skillet.  The good news is that you don’t have to make proper risotto for this recipe.  No stirring every 5 minutes or standing over the pot.  The only goal is to have a cold rice mixture that is sticky enough to form a little patty.

mini risotto cakes | pamela salzman

I have mixed feelings about rice since there are pros and cons to both brown and white rice (brown you have to soak + contains arsenic, white is lacking the fiber.)  So my rule of thumb is that if I don’t have time to soak brown rice, I go with white.  But I’m sure you could make this with short grain brown rice and just cook it for longer.   Either way, you can make the rice today, form the patties tomorrow and saute them before your friends come over on New Year’s Eve!  Keep them warm in a 250 degree oven for up to an hour if necessary.

mini risotto cakes | pamela salzman

What’s also nice about these little cakes is that you can eat them plain or top them with any number of toppings from store bought tapenade to pesto aioli (shown here — nothing more than pesto mixed with a little Vegenaise) to sautéed mushrooms or garlicky greens or a tomato compote.  You can also make them bigger and serve with a green salad for brunch, lunch or dinner.  A poached egg on top would round it all out.

mini risotto cakes | pamela salzman DSC_0132

In other news, and perhaps to help with possible new year’s resolutions, I am starting a new regular blogpost on Sundays, beginning January 3rd.  It will be a weekly dinner planner to offer inspiration and suggestions on what to make.  Many of my students have asked me for this, despite the fact I post my weekday dinners on Instagram and Facebook ;).  For those of you aspiring to cook more from scratch and use more natural, plant-based foods, I think this new weekly blogpost will come in handy.  Wishing you and yours a safe, happy, and healthy new year! xoxo

mini risotto cakes | pamela salzman

Mini Risotto Cakes
Author: 
Serves: 24 cakes
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil + more for frying cakes
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio or carnaroli rice (if you want to use short grain brown rice, adjust the cooking time according to the package instructions)
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs (look for gluten-free bread crumbs to make this a GF recipe)
Instructions
  1. Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and 1 ¾ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring often, until rice starts to crackle, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and let simmer, stirring often, until completely absorbed, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add all the stock, stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed the broth and is cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. When the rice is done, taste for seasoning and remove to a large bowl and let sit until cooled to room temperature, about 40 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.
  5. When risotto is fully chilled, place the eggs in a shallow dish and beat with a fork. Set aside. Place the panko bread crumbs in a second shallow dish and set aside.
  6. Measuring about 2 Tablespoons per cake, form the risotto into small, round 1 ½ inch patties. If the risotto is sticking to your hands too much, moisten them with a little water. If the rice isn’t sticky enough and the patties aren’t holding together, squeeze the rice in your palm a couple of times until it sticks.
  7. Working with 1 risotto cake at a time, coat it with egg, letting any excess drip off, then coat it evenly with the panko, pressing gently so the breadcrumbs adhere. You can do this in the morning and refrigerate until ready to sauté.
  8. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the risotto cakes and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and continue cooking, adjusting the heat if necessary, until golden brown and heated through, about 2-3 minutes more.
  9. You can keep the cakes warm in a 250 degree oven on a baking sheet if necessary or transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Serve hot.
Notes
You can also add sautéed kale or spinach to the risotto before cooling, or sautéed diced mushrooms. You can serve these with a little pesto or pesto aioli, warm tomato sauce or a red pepper sauce, whipped goat cheese or sautéed mushrooms on top.

 

The best grilled marinated flank steak recipe

the best grilled marinated flank steak | pamela salzman

Such a bold claim I am making today with this flank steak recipe!  But that’s what Mr. Picky himself declared when I made this the first time many years ago.  And that’s what my nieces and nephews say when I cook this up for my family in the summertime.  As you know, I actually don’t even eat red meat, but I have tried this and I have to admit… it’s delicious!  I figured with Memorial Day weekend coming up (so excited to have a long weekend!), you might have invited a few friends over and are looking for the perfect grilled steak recipe.  This is it right here.  I also taught this in my classes a couple years ago and everyone loved it.  The ingredients are simple, you marinate it in the morning and it cooks up very quickly on the grill.  The marinade is what makes it so delicious and I especially love marinating grass-fed meat with a little soy sauce or tamari which really helps tenderize it.  Yum!

marinating the meat

As opposed to me, my family loves beef,  so I do cook it for them a few times a month.  I have talked about why I don’t think we should be overeating red meat on the blog before, and I have discussed my reasons for ONLY choosing grass-fed beef when I do buy it.  My opinion hasn’t changed at all.  When I do make animal protein for the family, it’s a small amount, usually 2-4 ounces.  Yes, even my husband eats that amount.  And if grass-fed isn’t available, I won’t buy corn-fed.  So if you’re going to eat beef — not a lot and make it grass-fed!

grilling flank steak and green onions

I have made this recipe two different ways.  In my classes, I pre-sliced the flank steak and marinated it already cut.  The advantage of this method is that it cooks super fast, about a minute per side and the marinade really gets throughout the meat.  If you’ve read my post about how to reduce your carcinogens when you grill, you’ll also remember one of the best strategies is to grill thin cuts so exposure to the grill is kept at a minimum.  Also, pre-cut meat is easier to serve during a cooking class because I don’t have to slice the meat when hungry people are waiting.  If you like rare beef however, you’re better off grilling the whole steak, letting it rest and then slicing it before serving.

or you can slice the steak before marinating

Whichever way you prepare it, here a few reminders about cooking steak:

  • flank steak can be hard to find because there aren’t too many “flanks”  on a cow.  Other acceptable subs are skirt steak, flap steak, or hanger steak.
  • don’t over marinate a thin cut like flank steak.  This marinade contains soy sauce which can make the meat mushy if you leave it in too long (like more than 12 hours.)
  • grass-fed contains less fat and therefore cooks more quickly;
  • grass-fed doesn’t stay as tender if it’s cooked well-done.  My answer for well-done grass-fee meat is to pour the juices from the cutting board on top of the meat and also serve it with a dressing or sauce to add moisture.
  • take the meat out of the fridge 30 minutes before to bring it to room temp so it cooks evenly;
  • always allow the cooked meat to rest, covered, for about 10 minutes before slicing so the juices redistribute themselves into the meat.  Don’t allow to rest too long, otherwise it will overcook (unless you want it well-done).
  • always cut against the grain for a more tender bite.  Look at the naturals lines in the meat and cut in the opposite direction.  If you cut with the grain, the meat will be chewy.

I generally serve this steak as is, but I don’t see why you couldn’t serve a salsa, an herb dressing or chopped grilled scallions on top.  Some good accompaniments are sautéed corn, wheat berry salad with lemon-tahini dressing, perfect spring salad, grilled artichokes, heirloom tomatoes with basil, roasted asparagus, just to suggest a few.

slice against the grain

the best grilled marinated flank steak | pamela salzman

The Best Grilled Marinated Flank Steak
Author: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup shoyu (naturally brewed soy sauce) or GF tamari
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons dry white wine ( I also subbed rice vinegar once at it was still great)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil*
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • pinch of crushed red pepper, or more to taste
  • 2 ½ pounds (or whatever you can get) grass-fed beef flank steak, cut across the grain on a diagonal into 1-inch thick slices or left whole (marinating can be longer if the steak is whole)
Instructions
  1. In a large, shallow dish, combine the soy sauce with the sugar, white wine, chopped garlic, toasted sesame oil olive oil and crushed red pepper, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the sliced flank steak and coat thoroughly in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate the steak for 4 hours or up to 8 hours.
  2. Heat a grill or a griddle over medium-high heat. Working in batches, grill the steak until the slices are browned and medium-rare, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer the steak to a serving platter and serve immediately.
  3. OR grill the whole steak for 2 ½ to 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare. 4 minutes on each side for medium-well. Transfer meat to a cutting board and cover. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing AGAINST the grain. Serve.
Notes
*You can use 1 Tablespoon of sesame oil and omit the olive oil + add a little chopped fresh ginger for a more Asian flavor.

Baked chicken with tomatoes, olives and capers recipe (variations for GF and vegan!)

 

baked chicken with tomatoes, olives and capers | pamela salzman

I just finished teaching this recipe in my March classes and it was a huge hit!  I don’t even like chicken and I seemed to always be looking for a bite at the end of class.  I had so many requests to post this recipe that I had to oblige, even though the images aren’t totally the best.  I think this would be perfectly appropriate to prepare for Passover, with one minor adjustment.  And it’s a great recipe to adapt as cherry tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes become available.

pepper the chicken before dredging

The recipe is basically a braise, but the chicken is cooked uncovered for most of the time, which is why I call it Baked Chicken, versus Braised Chicken.  But the formula is still very much the same — browning the meat first to create flavor and color, sauteing onions, deglazing, putting meat back in and baking in the oven until cooked through.  Once you understand the steps, you can start making up your own recipe or adapting recipes like this one with other ingredients or flavors.

dredge the chicken lightly with flour

I personally like using bone-in, skin-on pieces of chicken since I think they taste better and stay a little moister, especially breast pieces.  Unfortunately, cooking with bone-in, skin-on pieces takes longer than boneless, skinless and may not be a great option for those of you needing a really fast recipe for after work.  Fortunately, this recipe can be adapted for cutlets and even a slow cooker, so look for those options in the instructions.

olives, capers, thyme, jars of tomatoes

This dish produces very tender, flavorful chicken, as well as the accompanying onions and sauce.  In the ingredient list it offers the option of draining the juice from the jar of tomatoes or keeping it.  Here’s my thought process on that one:  if you will be serving the chicken with noodles or pasta, polenta, mashed potatoes or something that would welcome a lot of sauce, then you should keep the juice.  Otherwise, drain the juice and just use the tomato pieces.  I also love this dish during cherry tomato season, when I will use 1 1/2 pounds of  halved sweet cherry tomatoes in place of the jarred, and basil leaves instead of the thyme.  Large vine-ripened tomatoes that have been blanched and chopped are also great.  Both of these options create a much lighter, fresher dish.  But every variation is very delicious.

deglaze with wine and tomatoes

Other adaptations I discussed in class:

  • subbing fennel for half the onion
  • omitting the olives and adding chopped mushrooms with the onions
  • adding a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes with the garlic
  • in the summer, subbing sliced sweet bell pepper for some of the onion
  • searing cauliflower steaks and using those in place of the chicken for a vegetarian/vegan option

add the olives capers and thyme

 

nestle chicken in the tomato mixture

I always use breasts when I teach because most of my students prefer white meat, and therefore it’s just easier for me to buy all breasts.  You can certainly use any part of the chicken you want.  In fact, it’s more economical to buy a whole chicken and have the butcher cut it into pieces for you.  But I highly recommend not buying 1 breast per person.  It’s too much meat to eat in one sitting, unless you are an Olympian or a body builder!  I have never actually seen anyone at my house or at a dinner party eat an entire breast.  I have seen people cut them in half and push one piece off to the side and just each one half.  What I love to do is prepare the breasts, allowing for 1/2 per person, and removing the bones after the chicken is cooked and has rested a bit.  Then I slice the meat on an angle.  It’s much more manageable to eat it this way, as well as more elegant and attractive to serve.  See this post on the gloves I use to get down and dirty when I carve chicken!

Let me know if you have specific questions about timing or with what sides to serve this.  Hope your holiday planning is going well!

baked chicken with tomatoes, olives and capers | pamela salzman

 

5.0 from 4 reviews
Baked Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 3 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, sprinkled with 2 teaspoons kosher salt when you get home from the market unless you are using kosher chicken which you should not salt (read this post on how and why to season your chicken in advance)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour for dredging (all-purpose, spelt, GF flour, etc.) -- use matzoh cake meal for Passover
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 ½ medium onions, cut through the root into sixths or eighths (or sliced thinly, but I like wedges better in this recipe)
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 18-ounce jar diced tomatoes with the juice (or drain juice for less sauce) (I like Jovial in glass jars. Read this post why.)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup chicken stock, vegetable stock or more white wine
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs or large basil leaves in the summer/fall
  • ½ cup pitted olives, such as kalamata or Bella di Cerignola
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • chopped parsley for garnish, if desired
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat the chicken dry and season with black pepper. Dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.
  2. In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer and brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate and reserve.
  3. If the pan looks dry, add a little oil. If it looks like there’s more than 2 Tablespoons oil, drain a bit off. Add the onions, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic and sea salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, white wine, stock and cook, scraping any brown bits on bottom of the pan.
  5. Arrange the thyme, olives and capers over the onion mixture. Place the browned chicken pieces side by side on top. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven.
  6. After 15 minutes, baste the chicken with the juices in the pot. Continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 30-40 minutes (depending on thickness), basting every 10 minutes if you have time. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. (You can also cook covered on the stove over low heat for 30 minutes.)
Notes
For a boneless, skinless version, check out my recipe for Lemon –Thyme Chicken Cutlets and follow the same directions.

For a slow cooker version, use skinless chicken and  3 Tablespoons each of stock and wine instead of 4.  Follow same directions, but after deglazing, pour everything into the slow cooker and cook for 4-5 hours on HIGH or 6-8 on LOW.

 

 

Hen of the Woods Mushroom Toast Recipe

Hen of the Woods Mushroom Toast | Pamela Salzman

I don’t eat out that much, but one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles is Gjelina in Venice.  I would probably go there more often, but getting a table at a reasonable hour is impossible!  Before my first visit a few years ago, a friend strongly suggested I order the Mushroom Toast.  Let me just say that when I saw items on the menu like “Crispy Purple Peruvian Potatoes!” and “Moroccan Chickpea and Black Kale Stew!,” (I used the exclamation points, Gjelina did not) I wasn’t overly excited about “Mushroom Toast.”  But I trust my friend and ordered the mushroom toast and it was ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I HAVE EVER EATEN.  Delicate, earthy mushrooms in a light, creamy white wine-infused sauce, all poured over grilled bread and drizzled with truffle oil, the nooks and crannies of the toast catching every bit of mushroom juiciness.  It was so delicious, I actually had dreams about it that night.  True story!

Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, aka Maitake mushrooms

 

chop the mushrooms of break apart with your hands

The problem is that Gjelina doesn’t share their recipes, at least not with little old me.  So after a game of 20 questions with my waiter, I had a game plan for attempting to recreate this dish at home.  The ingredients are ones I never would have thought to put together on my own: Hen of the Woods mushrooms (what??), creme fraiche and truffle oil.  Now I may not have gotten the recipe exactly right, and in fact I do believe my version is less rich and creamy, but I am so obsessed with the way this turned out, that I don’t care how different mine is.  First of all, even though I don’t eat too much bread, I think anything on grilled bread is DE-licious!  And grilled bread rubbed with garlic is SUPER DE-licious!

grilling bread

But mushrooms are the star of this show and Hen of the Woods mushrooms are so meaty and earthy with the most delicate texture.  They also go by the name “Maitake” mushrooms.  I found them easily at Whole Foods and I have seen them at several local farmers markets.  I will warn you, they are pricey, so if you can’t find them or you don’t want to spend the money, you can use oyster or chanterelle mushrooms.  You really can’t use button mushrooms or Portobellos in this recipe.  I tried them here, and they’re too firm.  You really need something light and delicate.  Japanese mushrooms, including Maitake, are really good for you and contain loads of immune-boosting compounds and have even been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor compounds.  They also have less water than traditional mushrooms, so they actually have a more mushroom-y flavor.  Yum!

reduce to a thickened sauce

I really went for it and bought truffle oil at Sur La Table to finish off the dish the way they do at Gjelina.  Yes, this mushroom mixture is already rich enough with the creme fraiche and the butter and the olive oil, but good gracious, a drizzle of truffle oil takes this over the top.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find truffle oil locally that was totally pure, without “truffle flavoring.”  But a quick search on amazon.com provided a few choices for all-natural truffle oils (like this one from JR Mushrooms & Specialties.)

pour the the mushrooms with the sauce over the toasts

a little garnish makes these look prettier

I taught this recipe in my class this month and more than one person asked, “why is this so good?”  It’s really everything, and not just one thing.  The grilled bread, the garlic rubbed on the grilled bread, the meaty, delicate mushrooms, the tangy creme fraiche (which is really just French sour cream), and the truffle oil all make this something so special.  The way I made it in these pictures would be amazing as an appetizer on a plate with or without a fresh green salad.  Or you can opt for a smaller piece of toast and serve this as an hors d’oeuvre, although it can be a tad messy.  I think even for brunch with a fried egg on top would be amazing.  Hoping you try this and love it as much as I do!

Hen of the Woods Mushroom Toasts

5.0 from 1 reviews
Hen of the Woods Mushroom Toast
Author: 
Serves: about 6
 
Ingredients
  • 3 large slices of crusty peasant bread, about ½-inch thick
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil + additional for brushing bread
  • 1 whole garlic clove + 2 cloves, minced
  • 10 ounces Hen of the Woods mushrooms, aka Maitake, chopped or broken apart with your hands
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper or to taste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken, vegetable or mushroom stock
  • 6 Tablespoons crème fraiche
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Truffle oil to drizzle
  • Chopped fresh chives for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat a grill over medium heat.
  2. Brush both sides of bread with olive oil.  Grill bread on both sides until toasted and slightly charred.  Thinly slice the end off of the whole garlic clove and rub one side of each piece of bread with the cut side of the garlic.  Cut the bread in half crosswise and arrange on a platter.
  3. In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and sauté until softened.
  4. Add wine and cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed.
  5. Stir in chicken stock and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in crème fraiche and butter and cook until slightly thickened, but still saucy.
  6. Spoon mushroom mixture with sauce over toasts.  Drizzle with truffle oil and a sprinkle of chopped fresh chives, if desired, and serve immediately.

Baked Chicken with Artichokes and Capers Recipe

Something tells me that you organized cooks out there are in the midst of planning your Easter and Passover menus.  Am I right?  My mom had me on the phone the other day trying to get side dish suggestions for her traditional Easter leg of lamb.  After I spoke with her, I took a call from my mother-in-law to go over her Passover menu.  This year we’ll be staying in California for the holidays and I’m on dessert duty.  I’ll be making lots of coconut macaroons, my traditional lemon ice torte and a raw cashew cheesecake that I’m obsessed with.  But if I were hosting Easter or Passover at my home (not that there’s anything wrong with lamb and brisket), I would make this Baked Chicken with Artichokes and Capers.

Normally, I don’t post a recipe until after I have finished teaching it, but I am just so excited about this chicken I can’t wait another day.  It might be my favorite chicken recipe to date, which says a lot since I prepare chicken quite often.  This dish has it all — great flavor, ease of preparation, healthfulness and seasonality.    But really chicken isn’t even the star of this show.  I actually came up with this recipe to work around one of my favorite springtime vegetables, artichokes.

I am going to cheat a little here.  There are times when DIY is the way to go, as in chicken stock.  And there are times when there is not enough patience in the world that could get me through trimming the number of artichokes it would take to fill this saute pan.  (Although I am the same person that trimmed 10 pounds of Brussels sprout leaves for Christmas Eve dinner.)  What’s different about this situation is that Trader Joe’s has come to my rescue with frozen artichoke hearts, an absolute gift and an affordable one, too.   Not only do I always have a bag in my freezer at all times, but the other ingredients here are pantry staples, too — capers, white wine, bay leaves, mustard, which are all delicious with artichokes.

You may have followed similar recipes for chicken and dredged the chicken in flour first before browning it.  The flour does help to the thicken the sauce a bit, but we can avoid the dredging altogether by adding the mustard to the sauce, which gives great flavor, as well as some body.  Be sure to read my latest post on the secret to great-tasting chicken and you can decide if you want to salt the pieces or soak them in a wet brine.  Both ways are very easy and definitely worth doing.  Please note in that post that kosher chicken should not be salted or brined since it has already gone through a salting process.  To make this recipe with boneless, skinless pieces, check out my recipe for Lemon-Thyme Chicken and follow those steps.

For a winner spring holiday lunch or dinner, pair this chicken with this asparagus salad or minted sugar snap peas, and some roasted new potatoes.  I have a seriously fabulous vegan and gluten-free coconut tart coming your way soon!


5.0 from 1 reviews
Baked Chicken with Artichokes and Capers
Author: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • Brine: (do not brine kosher chicken)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced or sliced (as you prefer)
  • 3 cloves garlic cloves, sliced
  • a big pinch of sea salt (or more if using unsalted stock)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves (don’t worry if you don’t have them)
  • 12 ounce bag frozen artichoke hearts or packed in water
  • 2 Tablespoons capers
  • 2 Tablespoons whole grain or stone ground mustard
  • ¾ cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve salt in hot water. Add ice water and check to make sure brine is cool. Add chicken to brine and allow to soak for 45 minutes, and up to an hour and a half. OR sprinkle ½ Tablespoon of kosher salt on the chicken when you get home from the market. Rewrap it and refrigerate it until ready to cook. (Do not brine kosher chicken.)
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels.
  3. In an ovenproof skillet or braising pan, over medium heat, add the oil. Brown chicken on both sides. Transfer to a plate and reserve.
  4. Add onions to skillet and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, salt and pepper and sauté another minute or two. Carefully add wine to pan, and deglaze by scraping any brown bits on the bottom.
  5. Add chicken, bay leaves, artichoke hearts, capers, mustard and stock to pan and bring to a boil. Place in oven for 30-35 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, basting after 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if available.

 

 

Spinach Risotto Healthy Recipe

Spinach Risotto Recipe

I had a bad day recently and what I really wanted to do was inhale a pan of brownies, but I had just published a post about how I beat a sugar addiction and I didn’t want to be a healthy hypocrite.  Instead I set out to make a pot of spinach risotto, my culinary equivalent to a big hug.   If you’re not a spinach fan, I’m not going to be much fun for you this week and next.  We are on the verge of spring, Nature’s new year.  I really feel the resurgence of energy and life that comes back in spring and I get so motivated to start fresh, clean a closet, reorganize a drawer, set some healthful resolutions.  Nutritionally speaking, Nature wants us to start fresh, too, so she gives us lots of dark leafy greens like spinach.  If winter added a few pounds or you have a build-up of mucus or stagnant energy, leafy greens can help.  You already know that greens are super nutrient-dense, but it’s all that chlorophyll that helps the liver to detoxify.  Now if you’re in a habit of eating seasonally, you don’t even need to know this since you would make it happen naturally.

Spinach

As I mentioned in my Spinach and Avocado Smoothie recipe, you have a fantastic window of opportunity with St. Patrick’s Day coming up to make green food.  So I thought today would be a great time to post this spinach risotto recipe.  Please don’t get put off by the word “risotto.”  It doesn’t imply something hard to make, easy to screw up or super labor intensive.  In fact, risotto is something I make when I don’t have a lot of time or I need to make do with bits of this or that in the fridge.  This time around I was overzealous  with my purchase of spinach and wanted to find a good place for it.

Most people think making risotto requires a permanent spot in front of the stove and non-stop stirring.  Not so.  You do have to add a bit of broth to the pot every five minutes and give a quick stir, but you can be accomplishing other things at the same time, such as testing someone on his spelling words, prepping some vegetables, or breaking up an argument between two teenage girls over borrowing clothes.  If you don’t have the patience to be in the presence of teenage girls in the kitchen for too long to stir traditional risotto every five minutes, check out my very easy Artichoke and Spinach Barley Risotto — saute, dump and bake.  Otherwise, timing is the only tricky part since you want to serve risotto as soon as it’s done.  My first round of photos didn’t turn out all that great, so I reshot the plate about 15 minutes later and the risotto had already lost its lovely soupiness and thickened up.  Not the end of the world, of course, but I prefer risotto a little more “pourable.”

Risotto is often served as a first course for dinner, but we’re not in a habit of eating dinner in courses at our house, are you?  So I serve it as a side with other dishes that are a little lighter.  The night I photographed this, I served it with roasted shrimp and a green salad.  I very often serve fish with risotto, such as spice-rubbed or poached salmon with a fresh tomato salsa.  Steamed asparagus, roasted carrots or a grated carrot salad would also complement nicely.  If you do think you will serve this as part of a St. Patrick’s Day dinner, why not give everybody a jump start on spring cleaning and serve everything green?  Enjoy!

Spinach Risotto Recipe

5.0 from 2 reviews
Spinach Risotto
Author: 
Serves: 6 as a side dish
 
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces spinach leaves, washed
  • 3 ½ - 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice, do NOT rinse
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese
Instructions
  1. In a wide saucepan you will use for the risotto, bring ½ an inch of water to a boil. Add the spinach leaves and cover. Steam for one minute. Stir the spinach and continue to steam until just wilted.
  2. Transfer the spinach to a blender (I pull the spinach out with tongs) and discard the cooking liquid. Puree the spinach and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring all the stock to a boil and turn off the heat. In the same saucepan that the spinach was cooked in, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté gently until tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.
  4. Add the rice to the onions and stir to coat with the oil. Set your timer for 20 minutes. Sauté rice for 2 minutes. Pour the wine into the saucepan and stir occasionally until it has been absorbed.
  5. Add the salt, zest, and 1 cup of the warmed stock and bring to a lively simmer. The pot should be simmering with active, not furious bubbles. Once the stock has almost been fully absorbed, add another ladleful or about ½ cup and stir occasionally.
  6. After 20 minutes, taste the rice for doneness. Ideally, it is still al dente.
  7. Stir in the cheese and spinach puree. Give the risotto a nice, brisk stir. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. It should be loose and almost soupy. Serve immediately.