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Apr 30, 2016
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Just Five: Matzo Brei

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

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Matzo brei is a traditional dish during Passover, but it is also a practical dish regularly requested in my home. There are more versions of this dish than you can shake a kugel at, but my favorite incorporates the flavors of traditional bagels and lox (smoked salmon, red onion and capers).

As my oldest child prepares to go off to college, I’ve realized how important it is to send her out there with a few basic dishes in her repertoire. This dish is a great protein bomb with the added benefit of some omega-3s from the salmon (brain food!). Gild the lily and serve it with a scoop of sour cream and some fresh chopped dill on top, if desired. Chag sameach!

 

Matzo Brei
4 servings

4 unsalted matzos
8 eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. butter
4 oz. smoked salmon or lox, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 Tbsp. capers

• Place the matzos under running water for 20 seconds, until beginning to soften but are not mushy or falling apart. Break into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
• In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
• Place the onions in a large, dry skillet over high heat and quickly toss until they start to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and saute until the butter just starts brown and smells nutty, about 3 minutes.
• Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the matzo, stirring to coat with butter, then add the eggs. Stir constantly until the eggs start to set, about 3 minutes. Add the salmon and cook 1 minute. Sprinkle the capers over the matzo brei and serve immediately.

Make This: Matzo Brittle

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

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When the Passover dishes are put away and all that’s left is a lonely half box of matzo, whip up this simple treat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and top with parchment paper. Break 4 matzo crackers into chunks and spread evenly on the baking sheet. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together 1 stick unsalted butter and 1 cup dark brown sugar until the mixture begins to boil. Stir constantly 2 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Quickly cover the matzo with the mixture. Bake 10 minutes, then immediately scatter 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips on top. Let stand 1 minute. Spread the melted chocolate across the surface and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and ⅓ cup toasted coconut or chopped nuts. Let cool, then break into pieces. It’s a mitzveh!

-photo by Greg Rannells

Just Five: Martini Burger

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

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Put a little Friday night in your weekday burger. While the patty itself is pretty basic (feel free to snazz it up with your favorite grill seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, etc.) the blue cheese, olive and celery sauce is, as the kids say, lit.

It may come as a surprise that I am recommending a shelf-stable bottled salad dressing, but after a bit of research (meaning I tried all of the bottles of dressing I had), I found that blue cheese dressings found in the refrigerated section mostly tasted like ranch with a handful of cheese crumbles tossed in. They were sweet and weird, while Wish-Bone Chunky Blue Cheese dressing really tasted like blue cheese. If you want to make your own dressing for this recipe, I salute you. I am far more interested in perfecting my accompanying gin to vermouth ratio.

 

Martini Burger
4 servings

1 cup chunky blue cheese dressing (like Wish-Bone)
⅓ cup chopped pimento-stuffed Spanish olives
¼ cup chopped celery
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1⅓ lb. ground chuck
Kosher salt to taste
Vegetable oil for greasing
4 English muffins, toasted

• Prepare a charcoal grill for medium-high, direct heat.
• In a small bowl, combine the blue cheese dressing, chopped olives, celery and pepper to taste. Set aside.
• In a large mixing bowl, gently mix the ground chuck with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the meat evenly into 4 balls, then form patties, making a small indent in the center of each.
• Lightly brush the grill grate with oil. Oil the grill and cook the patties with the indent facing up 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and grill another 4 to 5 minutes for medium doneness.
• Place the burgers on the English muffin bottoms, then add a scoop of the blue cheese-olive mixture. Cover with the remaining English muffin tops and serve.

Just Five: Madras Egg Salad

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

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It’s that time of year when people divide themselves into two camps: those who are grossed out by a sudden surplus of hard-boiled eggs and those who celebrate it. I myself am a card-carrying member of Camp Celebration. I love hard-boiled eggs sliced up and thrown into salads, eaten for breakfast with a little hot sauce, or made into just about any kind of egg salad. This mustard-free version adds mango chutney and garam masala for a slightly sweet, Indian-inspired take on the classic. I included instructions for the perfect hard-boiled egg in case you didn’t get around to it (or failed miserably on your first try), but for those of you with eggs to burn, it’s as simple as peel, chop and stir. To gild the lily, serve this on thin slices of radish.

 

Madras Egg Salad
4 servings

6 eggs
4 Tbsp. mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. minced green onions
2 Tbsp. mango chutney
1 tsp. garam masala

• Place the eggs in a large pot and cover with 1 inch cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then immediately cover and remove from heat. Let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Plunge eggs into ice water and let rest until cool.
• To easily shell hard-boiled eggs, place 1 egg in a small glass or mug, fill halfway with water, cover with 1 hand and shake vigorously over a sink to crack the shell. Peel the shell away, and repeat with the remaining eggs.
• Roughly chop the eggs, then add them to a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just Five: Steak with Porcini Slather

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

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I recently took a trip to northern California to visit one of the few friends who nerds out over food as much as I do. Her current obsession: porcini mushrooms. She demanded to know if I was equally infatuated. But here’s the thing – I really don’t get excited about mushrooms.

I’ll now eat my words (and my mushrooms) after that weekend and the amazing porcini dishes we tried. Upon my return, I was inspired to buy a pack of dried porcini mushrooms and play. This recipe was the winner.

If you do not have a spice grinder, you can blitz the porcini mushrooms in a food processor. It won’t be as fine, so add an extra tablespoon of oil when whisking the slather ingredients together and let rest one hour to soften the larger pieces. You can also find porcini powder in specialty shops. Ozark Forest Mushrooms makes a lovely one available at Larder & Cupboard.

With apologies to linguists, I am used the word “slather” as a verb and a noun here. The woodsy, savory porcini mixed with shallot, sugar and pepper make this decadent sauce worthy of such wordplay. I served this steak with the remaining slather slathered on my sides of potatoes and Swiss chard, cursing myself for not doubling the recipe.

 
Steak with Porcini Slather
2 servings

¼ oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1/3 cup olive oil
1 shallot, finely minced
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
½ Tbsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 8-ounce, strip steaks, about 1-inch thick

• In a spice grinder, grind the dried mushrooms into a fine powder.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the mushroom powder, olive oil, shallot, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes and pepper. Set aside.
• In a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, sear the steak 4 minutes, then flip and cook another 3 minutes. Slather some of the mushroom sauce over the top of the steaks and cook 1 minute more for medium-rare.
• Remove from the skillet, cover with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Serve with the remaining sauce on the side and slather at will.

 

Make This: Dukka-Crusted Lamb Chops

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

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Dukka (pronounced DOO’-kah) is a blend of nuts, seeds and spices found in Egyptian cuisine that makes a rich, crunchy crust for cooked meat or fish. Place ½ cup salted and roasted pistachios, 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons coriander, 2 teaspoons cumin and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a food processor and grind until fine. Season 8 trimmed 3-ounce lamb chops with kosher salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat and add half the lamb chops to the pan. Cook 3 minutes per side, until medium-rare. Transfer chops to a plate and tent with foil, then cook the remaining chops. Dredge the cooked lamb chops in dukka to coat both sides, place on a plate and drizzle each with 1 to 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Just Five: Cod with Rosemary-Olive Vinaigrette

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

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For those who observe Lent in St. Louis (or who just love a good piece of fried cod), Friday means parish fish fries – crowds of people, plastic cups of beer, deliciously greasy fish and sides for miles. But at some point during Lent, you reach a point where your Friday night calls for something more upscale.

This dish comes together in less than 10 minutes and can work with just about any dense white fish like cod, halibut, grouper or bass. Normally you would salt the fish before cooking, but the Kalamata olives add enough salt to skip this step. Meyer lemons offer a more complex, almost honey-like sweetness to the dish, but you can approximate that same flavor with standard lemon and orange juices. Skip the long lines and warm beer and eat off the good china tomorrow.

 

Cod with Rosemary-Olive Vinaigrette
4 servings

4 4-oz. cod fillets or other firm white fish
Freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
2 Tbsp. chopped rosemary, plus more for garnish
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice

• Season both sides of the fish with pepper.
• In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook about 3 minutes, until just golden brown. Carefully turn the fish and scatter the olives, rosemary and garlic evenly in the pan. Cook until the fish is opaque, about 3 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet.
• Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, swirling the pan to combine. Place 1 fillet on each plate and evenly divide the sauce over the fish. Garnish with rosemary and serve.

Just Five: Turkey and Water Chestnut Patties

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

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I recently made a stir-fry and threw in the ubiquitous water chestnuts, something my mom always did (though never the baby corn – she was fancy, but not that fancy). My youngest zeroed in on them, perhaps to draw attention from the kale she left on her plate, and was full of questions. “I love that they are crunchy like apples but have no actual flavor at all,” she said.

Behold, the lowly water chestnut. I wanted another recipe to showcase these crunchy nubbins, but aside from wrapping them in bacon, there aren’t many built recipes around the water chestnut. Like jicama, it’s mostly added to dishes for texture. With that in mind, I mixed them with ground turkey to add crunch to sesame-spiked patties. Dig deep in the back of your pantry, find that can of water chestnuts and let them fulfill their crunchy destiny.

 

 

Asian Turkey and Water Chestnut Patties
4 servings

1 lb. ground turkey
1 8-oz. can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 cup chopped green onions
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

• In a large bowl, mix the ground turkey, water chestnuts, green onions, ginger, sesame oil, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. Scoop ¼ cup of the mixture and form into a thin patty. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
• In a large skillet, warm 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the patties 3 to 4 minutes, until brown. Flip, cover and cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until the patties are cooked through. Remove and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining patties. Serve with soy sauce or Sriracha, if desired.

Just Five: Pasta with Braised Onion Sauce

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

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Alchemy: The medieval forerunner of chemistry based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir. See: braised onions.

Cooking onions over low heat for a long time is one of the most magical food tricks around. Also it’s simple to do – it only requires patience. Those pesky tears resulting from slicing onions will be transformed into tears of joy when you taste this super simple pasta dish. With a great flourish and an abracadabra, dinner is served.

 

Pasta with Braised Onion Sauce
4 servings

½ cup (1 stick) butter
1½ lbs. (about 3 to 4) yellow onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup Marsala wine or Madeira
1 lb. spinach fettuccine or other long noodle pasta
¼ to ½ cup grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

• In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute about 10 minutes, until evenly coated in butter and softened. Add the salt* and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and slowly caramelize, stirring occasionally, 35 to 45 minutes, until the onions are jammy.
• Stir in the Marsala and cook 3 to 4 minutes, then remove from heat. Set aside.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and add the pasta to the skillet over medium heat. Toss to coat.
• Divide the pasta evenly among 4 bowls. Serve with Parmesan cheese and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

*Stubborn onions refuse to caramelize? Add 1 tablespoon sugar with the salt to urge the process along.

 

Make This: Cajun Pasta

Monday, February 8th, 2016

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St. Louisans find their inner Cajun each year at Mardi Gras, but we also have a strong Italian heritage. Combining these two culinary juggernauts is as simple as this dish. To a large skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, then saute 1 small chopped onion, 1 sliced green bell pepper, 1 sliced red bell pepper, 2 cloves minced garlic, 12 ounces thinly sliced andouille sausage and 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning* until the onions become translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup white wine and 2 tablespoons tomato paste, then cook until the sauce reduces by half, about 3 minutes. Add 1 pint heavy cream, bring to a low boil then turn down the heat to low and let the sauce reduce about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare 1 pound farfalle or campanelle pasta according to package directions. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning if needed, then remove from heat. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

*To create your own version of Cajun seasoning “Bam!” combine ¼ cup smoked paprika, ¼ cup kosher salt, 2 tablespoons each freshly ground black pepper, ground white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, 1 tablespoon each thyme, cayenne, brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon each turmeric, cumin, mace and celery salt.

-photo by Greg Rannells

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