4 Ingredients and 1 great sauce

 

My latest discovery is that a sauce can make a meal. Whether it is an entrée, sandwich or a salad, the sauce, spread or dressing is what one reminisces about long after the meal is over. Yet, many of us shy away from making sauces. We are fearful that they are complicated and take too much time. I made it my mission this summer to find more sauces that are easy to prepare and versatile enough to use in several dishes. And, not to my surprise, I now can’t live without them.

One sauce I made this summer was from Plenty More (available October 2014) by Totam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Over the past 2 years, I have been cooking from several of their books on Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. And, to be honest, they have opened my eyes. They use simple ingredients and as they say “make food smile.”  Their Green Tahini Sauce is delightful! You can use it with a simple roasted chicken or pork tenderloin, in a sandwich instead of mayo or add a little olive oil and it becomes a tasty salad dressing. It’s also wonderful on green beans or asparagus. Now, that is a good sauce. It takes 5 minutes to make and it keeps all week in the fridge.

1/2 cup tahini, 1 cup parsley leaves, 2 smashed cloves of garlic, juice of 1 lemon, 1/3 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon salt

You can blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. If you don’t have either, you simply grate the garlic on a Microplane and chop the parsley by hand.  Then, whisk all the ingredients together.

Recipe was published in Bon Appetit, August 2014.

 

 

Flavors of Summer

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Nectarine and Pluot JamSometimes the thought of making jam on a hot summer day does not appeal to me in the least. The heat of the stove and the arduous task of sanitizing the jars seems counterintuitive on a summer day and I rather go paddle boarding on the lake.  But, I finally realized the other day — ok sometimes I can be a bit slow on the uptake – that you can make quick jam in 40 minutes and spend the next few weeks devouring the lovely flavors of summer .

It all started when I realized I had over 3 pounds of nectarines and 2 of pluots that needed to be eaten in the next few days. When I knew that we would not be able to consume them, I thought why not make jam. But, not the kind of jam that requires jar sanitation, pectin or labeling.

I had enough to make 3 jars, so I knew we could consume them even before we left to go back to the city.

So, my daughter and I chopped up all the fruit, added honey, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel and a big pinch of kosher salt. I added an apple for the pectin and it worked quite well. Cooked it for about 40 minutes until it was thick enough. This was not sticky jam, but it was delicious this morning on my sourdough toast and exquisite on my daughter’s grilled ham and cheese sandwich. I even know that it will be perfect for the pork chops I plan to put on the grill tonight!

It was absolutely worth the time we put into it. I also am elated that we used what we had on hand and did not let these beautiful summer fruits go to waste.

Below is a basic recipe, but feel free to alter it and use what you already have in your kitchen:

3 pounds nectarines, chopped
2 pounds pluots, chopped
1 apple, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, optional
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Juice of one lemon
2 strips of lemon peel

 

Digital Thermometer — An Essential Kitchen Tool

A few weeks back, I  taught a private cooking class and we focused our attention on preparing meat. We made some delicious recipes such as Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb; Flatiron Pot Roast and Pork Tenderlion with Port Wine Reduction. My cooking student was surpirsed to find that a digital thermometer is essential. Purchasing one is a very small price to pay compared to the cost of overcooking a lovely rack of lamb or a gorgeous beef rib roast. By using a digital thermometer,  you are able to determine the internal temperature of your meat. You are almost always going to over cook or under cook a large piece of meat if you simply stick it in the oven and hope for the best. Recipe guidelines are just that — guidelines. To know what’s really going on, you need to know the internal temperature of your meat.  So, please for all you cooks out there — get a digital thermometer. The Taylor brand makes several ones to choose from and they make great gifts. I have had mine for at least 8 years and it works wonderfully.

King Oyster Mushrooms

King Trumpet Mushrooms
When I see King Oyster mushrooms at the Farmers’ Market, I can’t resist — I have to buy them. These are my favorite mushrooms bar none. They have a lovely shape and a wonderful texture when cooked. With a meaty substance, they are delicious seared in a saute pan. Chatting with the mushroom farmer on Saturday morning, she suggested roasting them. So, I did. If you have never made these, here is a quick recipe for the novice cook.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Quickly rinse mushrooms — these mushrooms tend to have very little dirt. Slice mushrooms in half. Place mushrooms on a sheet pan. Drizzle some olive oil over mushrooms and toss. Mushrooms should not be crowded. Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes. Once the mushroom slices are golden brown on one side, turn them over. Cook for another 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with chopped parsley or chives and shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve them as a side dish, as part of an arugula salad or in a baguette with brie cheese and dressed greens.