Sea of Love Lost and Found

So after the post about stuffed cabbage, I would now like to introduce to you Stuffed Calamari. There is probably going to be a few repeat post about stuffed food items and this will be the second installment. This is a boastful post about a wonderfully exciting dish.

I love this recipe! It was lost a few weeks ago but so glad it resurrected and was found within my memory Rolodex.

My mother used this recipe for her eggroll filling; clear vermicelli noodles, black fungus, minced shrimp, pork, and onions. I have been inspired again by her, but have revised this recipe’s filling; pork, minced shrimp, onions, mint, ginger and Preserved lemons among some other ingredients.

I really adore Fregola Sarda. It’s a Sardinian pasta that is toasted and shaped like tiny marbles and it’s miraculously tasty. If you can’t find this pasta around you can also use barley, farro or orzo…but the texture of these nibbles are pretty awesome.

Stuffed Preserved Lemon Calamari of Shrimp and Pork over a bed of Fregola Sarda in a Spicy Tomato Sauce.

Oh another thing…you must absolutely consider that this protein will shrink drastically while cooking! Mine were about 5 inches and shrunk to 2 inches when cooked! So please fill them only halfway.

8 Whole Calamari or Squid
1/4 lb Ground Pork
5 large Shrimp or 6-7 medium-small
1/4 C. Minced Yellow Onion
2 T Minced Preserved Lemon
1 T. Chopped Mint
1/2 T. Grated Ginger
1/2 T. Salt
1 t. Pepper
1 C. Fregola Sarda

For the Sauce :
1/2 C. Diced Yellow Onion
1 T. Minced Garlic
1/2 T. Fresh Marjoram
1/2 T. Fresh Thyme
2 C. Chopped canned Tomatoes
1/2 T. Dried Red Chilli Flakes
1/2 T. Grated Ginger
1. Clean your Calamari by removing the head and the outer layer. To do this imagine peeling off a very thin glove. Also remove the hard backbone within the body. Set aside. When that is done begin to bring a pot of salted water to boil. When that comes to a boil add the fregola In the meantime…
2. Set your pork in a medium size mixing bowl. Remove your shrimp from their shells, remove the vein – now you can do this part two ways:
1. Using a heavy object like the back of a sauté pan you can pound your shrimp to a paste-like consistency or
2. Using a sharp knife just hand mince your shrimp.
Mince 1/2 a yellow onion, Dice the other half and reserve for the sauce. Mince your preserved Lemon reserve 1 1/2 T. for the sauce. Mince herbs set aside.
Combine the meat, onions, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and preserved lemons into a bowl, and using your hands mix thoroughly.
3. For the Sauce: Sweat your garlic and onions with a bit of olive oil on medium heat. Do not brown. Add the next 2 ingredients let bloom (which means let the aromas seep out) add your tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes on medium to low heat. Add a bit of water if has thickened too much. Add the rest of your ingredients: red pepper flakes, ginger.   If it helps use a grater or microplane for your ginger. Simmer lightly for another 5 minutes or so…
4. Place your stuffed calamari in a shallow baking dish, pour your cooked and drained fregola over, and then pour the sauce. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. By this time you can see them shrink to about half their size!
Plate and enjoy as a lovely meal or as a small plate
One of my new favorites to wake up to…


Green Lace and Pork and a Red Sun

I have been mad with stuffing.  Like a mad scientist…but in this case a mad cook donning a floral apron .  It’s been stuffed beef, chicken, eggplant, squab, pork, calamari… i.e EVERYTHING!  Each time I stuff a dish and slow cook it, I just internally exclaim to myself that this could be my favorite recipe.  The moist and delectable filling will make you want to savor every single bite of this comfy and warm dish, as well as all other meaty stuffed delectables.

This is a very delightful and homely dish that is best served for people who will enjoy good home cooking at its purest.

The best part about the preparation in this recipe is blanching the large leaves.  The leaves are just so beautiful and pliable.  Savoy cabbage is just gorgeous, can I even say that it reminds me of a very beautiful piece of lace…but not a doily.  I really enjoy handling the Savoy cabbage not just for its pleasing appearance but also for its pliability.

Using a really good chicken stock in this recipe is very important.  For every thing that I cook I usually make a stock that takes overnight or at least 6 hours to stew and simmer because I definitely believe that a good stock is a staple item in any cooks kitchen.

Will serve 2-4

Soft Stewed and Stuffed Savoy Cabbage w/Pork & Carrots

1/2 lb pork
1/4 lb. Fatty Pork or Pork Sausage meat
1 1/2 C. Grated Carrots
1/4 C. Minced Parsley
1 C. Grated Yellow Onion
1 T Fennel Seed
1 C. Bread Crumbs
2 Med Eggs
8 Outer Leaves of a Savoy Cabbage
4 C. Chicken Stock
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Directions:
  • Prep:
  • Pre-heat oven to 375°
  • Grate 1 1/2 Cups of carrots.
  • Grate or Fine mince 1 cup of Yellow Onions
  • Fine chop Parsley
  • Blanch leaves of Savoy Cabbage.:
* 1st : In a wide pan boil water and season with salt.  When water comes to a boil add a few leaves at a time to your water will take about 1-2 minutes per leaf.  What you are looking for when blanching each leaf is that you want them pretty pliable.  This includes the tougher part of the central rib.  When that rib looks pretty translucent take them out and let cook.
*2nd : You want a fairly flat surface to roll the stuffing. The central rib also needs some trimming, so lay your cabbage leaf face down so that the central rib is facing up.  Filet that outer part so that when the leaf is facing down, it will be able to lay flat, but be careful not to take too much off.  Still don’t understand?  email me.
Reserve 1/2 C. of Carrots and 1/4 C. of onions. Set Aside. In a medium-large bowl add both types of pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, the rest of the onions and carrots, fennel seed, breadcrumbs, 1/2 T. Salt and 1 tsp. Cracked black pepper.  Using your hands, incorporate these items till it becomes one mass.
Laying each cabbage leaf with the naturally flat rib side up (you want the filet ribbed side facing down), add about a scant 1/4 cup of filling into the middle of each leaf.  Roll as if each roll were an eggroll or a burrito…you get the point.   Begin to roll with the bottom part of the leaf (i.e the bottom of the rib) first.  Tuck then tuck both sides (left and right) and end with a neat tight roll.
Lay each individual roll in your desired dish, you can crowd them its okay.  In this case I used a 8×8 inch Pyrex which fit 8-10 nicely.  Pour chicken stock to cover.  Sprinkle reserved carrots and onions to cover.  Bake covered at 375° for 40-60 minutes.

It’s a Gamble…Ramble…

Lord knows that most the time I rarely use a recipe, and if I end up using one I never follow everything to a T.   I am often inspired to make something sporadically but rarely do I ever know how to recreate it.  So as soon as I figured this recipe out I knew I just had to write it down.  This recipe was created for my client.  This same recipe will also be used for a baby shower for which I will be catering later next month.

I adapted this recipe from  Saveur.com and it was one of Richard Olney’s recipes for a poultry liver terrine, from Simple French Cooking.  I assumed that pâté should have a certain consistency.  I was worried about not having a proper machine to make a smooth pâté but surely enough the idea of a very earthy and herbaceous chicken liver spread delighted my senses.  The instructions called for hand minced liver, and a bit of weight was lifted from my worries.

Everything and the kitchen sink in this one.  I opted for more butter, the addition of creme fraiche  and a bit more herbs.  So, forgive me if this isn’t the normal protocol for creating a liver spread.   It was a bit of a gamble to create something like this and not really knowing how it would turn out.  But to my surprise I had the upper hand on this one.

This spread is enriched through bacon fat, the creme fraiche, and butter which becomes extra decadent when it solidifies.  But it doesn’t taste heavy or overly rich at all.  So with my handy scissors I went out to the garden and cut up a few sprigs of sage, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram.

If you do not have Creme Fraiche handy I am sure you could work with sour cream. Bacon fat is also optional.  However, I would have really liked to have used Duck Fat.  It would have lent a bit of a cleaner taste and would have been really pretty to have a nice set layer atop the spread.

 
 
 
 
 
Rustic Chicken Liver Spread w/ Garden Herbs 
 
1 1/2  lb Chicken Livers
1/2 C.  Creme Fraiche ( I used Cow Girl Creamery)
1/2 C.   Softened butter
1/2 T.  Fresh Rosemary
1/2 T.  Fresh Marjoram
1/2 T.  Fresh Thyme
1/2 T.  Fresh Sage
1     Medium Yellow Onion
2  Cloves Garlic s
3 T.  Bacon Fat or Duck Fat or Goose Fat
2     Medium Eggs
1/2 C.  Milk.
1 1/2 C. White Bread Crumbs
1 T. Freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 C. White Wine
Salt

 
 
Directions
 
Things to Prepare and Set Aside…
  • Have your butter at room temp.
  • Finely dice your onions, almost a mince.
  • Make very skinny slivers of your garlic.
  • Clean your livers of any discolorations or sinewy pieces. Chop your livers for a small (not fine) consistency.
  • Take pull apart the fragrant leaves from the stems of the herbs and fine chop.
  • Lightly toast your bread, remove the crust and place in a plastic bag.  Crush with heavy object to make the crumbs.

Turn on your skillet to high let skillet come to temp, and add a bit of olive oil.  Add your onions and garlic let cook till softened.  Add your livers and cook till there is no longer any visible pink.  Add your wine and scrape bottom of pan, now add all your herbs.  Season livers with salt to taste.

In bowl combine your breadcrumbs, milk, eggs, and creme fraiche.  Season with salt about 1/2 a tablespoon.

Take your livers off heat and your fresh cracked pepper.  Let cook to room temp.  Add your softened butter.  Combine bread crumb/egg mixture.  Place in your desired dish. Let cool, and let it set in your refrigerator overnight.  However there is one other important step

Note: I like to use a potato masher or a large fork to further mash the livers after they get off the heat in order to get a much smoother paste-like consistency.


This is why I love cooking.  It’s the ability to make something ordinary like chicken livers into something completely heavenly and scrumptious.  I also love the ability to invent, re-invent, and experiment with the mammoth supply of food items around us.   It can sometimes be a gamble, but at least this time the end result gave me a winning hand.

Roll out the…

Spring has arrived! So with Spring showers come those May flowers.  I am hoping  blossoms will be plentiful in the garden.

This is a new recipe developed while feeling giddy about the youthfulness of  Spring.  This season somehow evokes a feeling of  fresh yet soft and creamy food.  But not too heavy. Which is why in this particular recipe  I went with milk instead of the heavy  cream to cook with.  This delightful dish is light and milky, satiny and succulent and when sliced, look not only appetizing but also attractive.

I made this for my client 2 weeks ago and this was one of his favorite dishes.  So I thought this would be great to include in my new post.  Hopefully I will include 1 thing per week that I make.

This dish is delicious and satisfying, it’s one of those one dish meals that has everything included in a small scolding hot ceramic dish.  The milk in this dish acts as a braising liquid with the sherry and the chicken stock.  The potatoes are cooked gratin style  and acts as a sponge, soaking up all the delicious goodness from the juicy chicken and aromatics.

Roulade of Chicken with Spinach Feta and Walnuts atop a Potato and Milk Gratin
( will serve 2-4)
 
 
2 Chicken Breasts butterflied and pounded to an even thickness 1/4 inch thickness
1 1/2 C. Roughly chopped Spinach
1/3    C. Course chopped walnuts (optional)
1 1/2 C. Sliced Red Potatoes or  Sliced larger Fingerlings
1/4   C. Diced Onions
1/4   C. Diced Leeks
1/4   C. Diced Celery
3      Sprigs of fresh Thyme
1      C. milk
1/4  C. Sherry (White wine can easily be substituted)
4     T.  of butter
1     C. Chicken Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
 
Begin with butterflying your chicken breast.
It might have to take you up to 2 times to butterfly one chicken breast depending on how thick they are.  Pound them into an even thickness (not too thin) about 1/4 inch thick and season the breast inside well with a bit of salt and pepper.
Roughly chop your spinach, crumble your feta, coarsely chop your walnuts.  Sprinkle all these items in a single layer on the cut and butterflied part of the chicken breasts.   Be sure to leave room at the end about 1 inch so that the filling does not fall out.
Get some kitchen twine and tie your bundle neatly. Then lightly season the outside of your bundle with some salt and pepper
 
In a 8×8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish (or a baking dish of your choice), lightly butter the bottom and sides.
 
Using a mandolin (if avail) begin to slice your potatoes to an 1/8 of an inch thickness.
Dice your leeks, celery and onions in small dices.
 
Heat your sauté pan and add a bit of olive oil.  Reserve 2 sprigs of  Thyme and.  Add your carrots, onions leeks and 1 thyme sprig.  Sweat till onions are slightly translucent.  Douse with Sherry and let come to a boil.
 
Combine the rest of the liquids – Milk, broth and add this to your sauté pan.  Season with salt and pepper.
 
In your baking dish add a layer of the liquid/mixture.  Reserve about 80 percent of it to cover the rest of your chicken.  Add a layer of the potatoes as you would a gratin season with a light sprinkling of salt a pepper.  Lay your chicken atop the potatoes and now add the rest of your cooking liquid.  If you have any left over potatoes just lay them around.  Lay your butter atop the chicken with a sprig of thyme on each breast and bake.
 
Bake covered at 375 for about 30 minutes.
 
 

What more can I ask for?

Where do I start?

I can start with a very joyous moment in my kitchen journey.  I have started a new station, and that station is the grill.  Day or  night I handle a live fire and I shovel coals.  There is immense pressure, immense heat and loads of exhaustion and possible dehydration.   It is however, very exhilarating to cook a piece of protein well, and handle that beast of a fire.  I come home with small blisters from flying embers that crackle off the coals that find themselves latching onto my skin.  I come home with cuts, knicks and burns from hot sizzle platters, and from lord knows what.

But I can’t step away.  When I was training a few weeks ago on the day grill I felt what it was like to almost be on the verge of a mental collapse.  All the tickets that were piling up…having to figure out the timing of each protein…calling out the time to the expediter…what cheese goes on what burger…what temp for each burger…toasting the buns…grilling the mushrooms to order…fish goes with that…pork goes with that…and a whole new setup?? DAMN YOU MODIFICATIONS!!!  Never before have I hated customers and their complicated orders and never have I really began to loathe the server.   I  had some very awful thoughts of failure, but I told myself to breathe through it, and that the day would eventually end…that day.  When the person training me had asked if I was okay, I soon went from internal frustration and  combustion to external and my eyes began to well up.  SISSY.  I know.

There is something so satisfying about he feeling that you have accomplished a day or night of work.  I have learned a so much since being on the grill and I am still learning each time I step on that place mat and shovel those dark black coals into the blazing hot fire and ash.

Skip to a few weeks later and I am working more night shifts on the grill.  Pork chops, flat irons, tuna, bass, halibut, grouper, salmon, pork tenderloin, grass-fed beef hamburgers.  Before this I had never really worked a hot line before except the fryer, and getting to know the feel of a protein and its doneness, and there is still more to come.

I have also moved into a more centralized and more convenient spot of the city.  Public transportation is abundant and now I have a nice little kitchen to cook in.  But I also have to mention that the best part about this new cozy home is the access to the wonderful lush garden that is my backyard.   Here I have access to a few superb varieties of herbs, and greens as well as beautiful violets and strawberry blossoms peaking through the soil.  But that’s not the end…

I have also began a small journey into feeling what it is like to be someones personal chef.  Vipul is his name and he recently hired me to cook for him.  In the past couple of weeks I have created a surplus of recipes, so many in fact that I have not had a chance to document or  keep record of what I have made for him.

I am hoping that changes and I will update the site with more recipes from the past couple of weeks.  Vipul said to me the other day that he had told some of his friends that he hired someone to cook for him and that he “…Really feel it you know?” Suggesting that he feels the power of good food. That’s what happens when you begin to eat well prepared meals that take time and loads of heart.   I just love cooking, and Vipul’s statement was one of the most flattering things a cook could hear.  Spending hours simmering a stock, hand peeling fava beans, hand mincing garlic, and other time-consuming processes in cooking can make a phenomenal difference in how your food tastes.

Simply Delicious!

 

It’s about time for some change.  I am moving next month and needless to say I am very excited.  Usually when one moves there is minimal grocery shopping, items in the pantry get boxed up, and anything in the fridge is usually thrown out.  That is happening  in both our apartments.  Lacking the will to cook a dinner after a hard day at work, and not wanting to eat out  I then decided that maybe  I could make something from the bits and pieces scattered around the fridge and pantry.  Behold…good ol’ risotto, some pickled artichokes, dibs and dabs of this and that and… a newly introduced favorite side dish of beans peas and mushrooms. Viola!

There is something about a delicate white bean that makes it magnificent!   I think it’s their creaminess that’s so satisfying and comfy!

I love garlic I love peas I love the creamy white bean and I love love love fresh Shitake mushrooms.  When all those miraculous ingredients are simmering together they create an earthy meaty & very magical miracle.  Sans the meat!

I made this a couple of nights ago to go along a chipotle risotto with pickled artichokes.  But that my friend, isn’t as important as the flavors that infused together when the creamy beans break apart.

Creamy White Bean Ragout with Peas and Shitake Mushrooms
1 Can of Cannelini, or Navy beans
2 medium Fresh Shitake Mushrooms
1/2 scan cup of peas (if fresh pre-blanched)
1-2 cloves of garlic (depending on size)
1 t black pepper
1/4 cup of water
3-4 leaves of Sage
Olive Oil
Salt to taste.

Directions:

Prep:  Begin with slicing your garlic thinly into slivers.  For the mushrooms do chunky uniform dices.

Begin with a hot oiled pan and add your slivers of garlic.  Perfume the oil but do not toast or give color, add your mushrooms and lightly coat them with the oils from the pan.  Add your can of beans, water, and peas.  Bring to a boil and add more water to reach a risotto type consistency.  Season to taste and top with the sage oil   DONE!

To make the Sage oil simply heat up a bit of Olive oil and infuse it with chiffonades fresh sage and let warm through.