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Nov 29, 2014
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Just Five

Just Five: Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014



Although pho ga is my go-to Asian dish in colder weather, I recently tried the ramen at Hiro Asian Kitchen, which is all about the porky goodness. Slices of pork belly float in a clear pork broth with bok choy and bits of the most delicious ground pork I’ve ever had. The excitement sent me home with inspiration.

It’s difficult to replicate Asian dishes with just five ingredients, but Chinese five-spice is a nice cheat. Made up of star anise, cinnamon, fennel, cloves and Szechwan pepper, it’s a powerhouse that’s heavy on the aromatics and offers a little bit of heat, too.

This simple lettuce wrap is a light and satisfying lunch or dinner, and it can be made with any ground protein: pork, beef, turkey or tofu. Try adding shredded carrots, cilantro, hot sauce or sesame oil for additional flavor and texture if you like. Cook up a little coconut rice to serve with it, and you’ll have dinner in 10 minutes or less.


Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps
2 to 3 servings

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. ground pork
1 Tbsp. Chinese five-spice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
6 leaves Boston or butter lettuce
¼ cup chopped green onion

• Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground pork and break up with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Season with the Chinese five spice and soy sauce and toss until the five spice is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
• Spoon about 1/3 cup of the pork into each lettuce leaf and top with chopped green onion. Serve immediately.




Just Five: Strip Steak with Anchovy Butter

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014



Sometimes life is busy. Sometimes you look at your spouse and think, “When was the last time one of us finished a sentence without an interruption?” And sometimes it seems the only thing that will fix your troubles is a good old-fashioned steak dinner, but who can afford to go out and drop $100 – plus the babysitter, parking and a bottle of wine?

Luckily, a fabulous steak dinner doesn’t have to require a night out. Few things are more indulgent – or easier – than a steak slathered with a compound butter. The anchovy and garlic flavors are similar to those in bagna cauda, and the leftover butter is excellent served with salmon, potatoes, Brussels sprouts or green beans.


Strip Steak with Anchovy Butter
2 servings

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp. anchovy paste or 8 anchovies, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 strip steaks
1 Tbsp. canola oil

• Using a hand mixer, combine the butter, anchovy paste, garlic, lemon zest, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl, scraping the sides as needed. Place the butter into the middle of a 12-by-12-inch piece of plastic wrap, molding it into a cylinder. Wrap the butter log tightly and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
• Generously season both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper. Add the canola oil to a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the steaks to the skillet and sear, undisturbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, or to desired doneness. Place the steaks on a plate, cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes.
• To serve, unwrap the compound better and slice off 2 ½-inch thick discs. Plate each steak and top each with a piece of butter. The remaining butter will keep, frozen, up to 6 months.

Just Five: Halloween Pasta

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014



Squid ink pasta looks more dramatic than it tastes. Its slight brininess is stronger in fresh pasta than in dried, and it’s intensified even more in this dish thanks to anchovy paste, but mostly it tastes of garlic and sweet cooked squash. Delicata squash is perfect for this dish thanks to its thin, edible skin (no peeling required!) and quick cooking time.

This pasta is the perfect meal for your ghouls and goblins before they head out for a night of trick-or-treating. Noodles black as night are studded with orange crescent moons and plenty of garlic to keep the vampires at bay. Of course, it’s also adult enough to be the entree at a themed dinner party served with goblets of blood red wine. Drape a black lace cloth over the table and string some fake cobwebs around a candelabra for a festive, fun Halloween night.


Halloween Pasta
4 servings

1 delicata squash
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for tossing
Kosher salt to taste
8 oz. squid ink pasta*
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. anchovy paste
¼ cup shaved Parmesan or pecorino cheese

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Trim the ends off the delicata squash, slice it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Slice into ½-inch crescents. Toss the squash with olive oil to coat and salt to taste, and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water and drain the noodles.
• In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and stir until fragrant, then add the roasted squash and saute 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and reserved pasta water and toss gently to coat, about 1 minute. Top with the cheese and serve.

*Squid ink pasta can be found at Parker’s Table.


Just Five: Potato Soup

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014



Soup: it’s universal, comforting, tasty, satisfying and above all, it’s easy as … well, soup. Everyone should have a simple recipe like this one in his or her arsenal. After all, a basic soup is little more than boiling water, chopping up a few veggies and letting it simmer away until it’s time to eat.

This potato serves as a base recipe for any number of variations. Consider adding carrots or leeks with your celery and onion. Use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water; change up the spices. Then, let your guests gild the lily with grated cheddar cheese, chives and crisp bacon.
Potato Soup
6 cups

4 Tbsp. butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
4 russet potatoes, roughly peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
4 cups water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and celery until the onions are translucent. Stir in the thyme and potatoes.
• Add 4 cups water, enough to just cover the potatoes, and the evaporated milk. Bring to a boil over high heat, them immediately lower the heat to medium. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are soft. Remove from heat.
• Use an immersion blender to purée the potatoes to the desired consistency, or use a blender and work in batches. Season to taste with salt and pepper.



Just Five: Pimento Cheese Crackers

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014



Here are some things I know to be true: The folks at Southern Living magazine like their cheese and crackers, particularly when combined into things like cheese straws. Also true is that I can eat an entire box of cheese straws during the drive home from the grocery store.

To feed my craving (and to avoid getting crumbs all over my car), I adapted that Southern Living recipe to make crackers instead of straws with a bit more oomph in the spice blend. These little fellas are incredibly easy to assemble, and they taste a lot like a certain small orange cracker one might find in a red box. To make true crackers, be sure to roll the dough very thin; if not, the crackers stay a little soft, closer to a thin biscuit. In my home, these “Snacky Crackers” never last more than a day.
Pimento Cheese Crackers
Adapted from a Southern Living recipe
Makes about 5 dozen

1½ cup flour
1½ tsp. ground mustard
½ tsp. chili powder
1 4-oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
2½ cups (10 oz.) finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ lb. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tsp. kosher salt
A few tablespoons water

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ground mustard and chili powder. Set aside.
• Pat the drained pimentos dry with paper towels, and mince half, leaving the other half coarsely diced. Toss the pimentos in the flour mixture until lightly coated. Set aside.
• Use an electric or stand mixer to beat together the cheese, butter and salt on medium speed until combined. Slowly add the flour-pimento mixture and continue to beat on medium speed, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together, but does not become sticky.
• Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it out as thin as possible, about 1/8-inch thick. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to score the crackers into 2-by-2-inch squares and place them on parchment-lined baking sheet with a little space between each. Pierce each cracker with a fork.
• Bake 16 to 19 minutes, or until just brown around the edges. Let cool on a rack. Crackers will keep in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Just Five: Viva Verde Cocktail

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014



Surely drinking green things is good for you. And tequila is chockablock full of antioxidants, right? OK, sadly that’s not true, but this refreshing green sipper is ideal for your mental health during these last few summer evenings of the year. Cool, crisp cucumber and zesty lime get goosed with a surprise jalapeno kick. It’s sweetened with a touch of agave, which enhances tequila’s smoky qualities.

As with all liquor, I beg of you – don’t buy the cheapest thing on the bottom shelf just because its going into a mixed drink. Spend a couple extra dollars for decent booze. It makes for a smoother, more nuanced drink, and it doesn’t taste like battery acid. I prefer a reposado tequila for this cocktail for a bit more depth of flavor, but a tequila blanco would also work.
Viva Verde Cocktail
2 servings

1 seedless cucumber, peeled
¾ cup water
¼ cup lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 Tbsp. minced jalapeno with seeds
2 Tbsp. agave plus more to taste
3 oz. tequila, divided

• Peel the cucumber and slice off 2 small rounds for garnish. Set aside the rounds and chop the remaining cucumber.
• Pulse the chopped cucumber, water, lime juice, jalapeno and agave in a blender until completely liquefied. Use a fine mesh sieve to strain the juice into a bowl, pressing the solids to extract all the liquid. Discard the solids. Refrigerate the juice at least 1 hour until chilled.
• Add half the juice mixture, 1½ ounces tequila and a handful of ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Shake hard 30 seconds, then strain into a martini glass. Repeat with the remaining juice and tequila. Garnish each glass with a slice of cucumber.

Just Five: Grilled Mango with Ice Cream

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014



This is the perfect dessert to bust out after a backyard barbecue. The coals are already hot \, and grilled mango is a super simple way to impress your guests. It’s tropical, refreshing and it surprises with just a kick of chili powder. I love to combine sweet and spicy, especially when I can make something pretty. Sweet ice cream is such a nice counter-balance to the hot fruit – like pie a la mode without heating up the house for an hour (Though if its mango pie you’re after, we’ve got that, too. Click here for the recipe.). Serve this treat with a scoop of your Lime-in-the-Coconut Ice Cream from last week’s Just Five for a tropical dessert that screams of summer.

Grilled Mango with Ice Cream
4 servings

2 Tbsp. lime juice
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. honey
4 ripe mangos
Lime-in-the-Coconut Ice Cream (recipe here)

• Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high, direct heat. Clean and oil the grate well.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, chili powder and honey. Set aside.
• Use a sharp knife to slice the sides from the mango, using the large flat seed in the center as a guide. Each mango will yield 2 pieces. Without piercing the skin, carefully slice a crosshatch pattern into the flesh.
• Grill the mango slices flesh-side down 4 to 5 minutes. Use tongs to carefully flip them, then brush the lime juice mixture onto the flesh, making sure to get the juice into the cracks. Flip the mango flesh-side down again, and grill 1 minute. Remove from grill and let cool slightly.
• To serve, gently press the skin in the center to fan out the mango flesh. Serve immediately with a scoop of ice cream.

Just Five: Lime-in-the-Coconut Ice Cream

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014



I seem to be on a coconut tear these days: coconut water, coconut oil, coconut kefir, coconut yogurt… Clearly, my mind wants me to head to a tropical island, but unfortunately, the closest I am able to get is the grocery store. Fine. If I can’t go to the islands, I’ll bring the islands home with this sweet, creamy dessert.

Ice cream runs in my blood. My great-grandfather owned an ice cream company at the turn of the last century in Dayton, Ohio. When he died, he left it to my grandfather, who would bring home plenty to share. Each Sunday, my family had a big “dinner” in the early afternoon, and around 7 p.m., we shared popcorn and milkshakes made with delicious Gem City Ice Cream.

I’m not sure what my grandaddy would have to say about coconut-lime ice cream, but my family ate almost all of it before I could get a photo. The simple ingredients undermine how decadent this ice cream is. Instead of coconut milk, I reached for cream of coconut, which is usually used in mixed drinks like piña coladas. It is already sweetened, so there is no need to add any sugar – though it certainly wouldn’t hurt if a tablespoon or so of dark rum were to fall into the mix. (Fun fact: Adding alcohol to your ice cream base will keep it from freezing rock solid.)

Now sing along with me (You know you want to):



Lime-in-the-Coconut Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

1 15-oz. can cream of coconut
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. lime zest

Special equipment: Ice cream maker

• Gently heat the cream of coconut, half-and-half and cream in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until just simmering. Reduce the heat to low.
• In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and salt. Temper the egg yolks by drizzling ½ cup of the warm cream mixture into bowl, whisking constantly. Repeat with another ½ cup of cream, whisking constantly (If you pour the hot liquid in too quickly, you will scramble the eggs.) Whisk another 1 cup cream mixture into the egg yolks, then pour the liquid back into the saucepan.
• Return the saucepan to medium-low heat and whisk until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 to 7 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture boil. Remove from heat and stir in the zest.
• Pour the hot ice cream base into a bowl and let cool at room temperature 20 minutes. Then place it in the refrigerator and chill 4 hours.
• Pour the chilled base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the ice cream into an airtight container and freeze at least 2 hours before serving.

Just Five: Simple Baked Bay Scallops

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014



My family loves to make fun of my nickname for scallops – the marshmallows of the sea. But that is exactly what they are: sweet, tender, delicious and a challenge to cook perfectly. Like a burnt marshmallow, a tough, overcooked scallop is a sad thing to eat.

Most people are familiar with two types of scallops. The larger mollusks (the size of a standard to jumbo-sized marshmallow) are sea scallops, while bay scallops are the smaller variety (more the mini-marshmallow size). Both types are available in most grocery stories and fish markets, and there’s no discernible difference in flavor.

This dish is deceptively simple; after all, there’s no good reason to dress up a properly prepared scallop. Here, you simply poach bay scallops in butter infused with garlic and wine, them top them with Ritz crackers, saltines or panko for crunch. Adding herbs or a little heat would be inspired, but use a light hand. You don’t want to overpower the delicate nautical marshmallow.

Simple Baked Bay Scallops
4 servings

3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
12 oz. bay scallops, patted dry
4 Tbsp. crisp white wine such as a sauvignon blanc
¾ cup crushed Ritz crackers
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

• Move the oven rack to the highest level and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Place the butter and garlic in a 24-ounce baking dish and bake 3 minutes, until the butter is melted.
• Remove the baking dish, leaving the oven on. Add the scallops and drizzle the wine over the top. Use a spoon to baste the scallops with the liquid until coated. Sprinkle the crushed crackers and Parmesan cheese over the scallops and bake 10 minutes.
• Switch the oven to the broiler and broil 2 minutes, until the cracker topping is browned.
• Serve with a hunk of bread to soak up the sauce.

Just Five: Honey-Roasted Chickpeas

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014



Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, ceci, channa… Call them what you will, I must have two cans of these babies on hand at all times or I panic. Chickpeas are incredible versatile; rinse and throw them straight into salads, pastas and soups, or puree them with garlic, lemon, tahini and olive oil for hummus. Roasting turns them into a crunchy substitute for croutons in a salad (hello, gluten-free eaters!) or a protein-packed snack.

Normally I just toss them with a little salt and cayenne or chili powder before roasting, but this time I upped the flavor factor with one key ingredient: garam masala, a wonderful combination of aromatic spices that marries delightfully with a citrusy honey glaze. Put these out to snack on with a summer shandy or a gin and tonic, or bring them to share at the next barbecue.

Honey-Roasted Chickpeas
Makes 1 cup

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and dried
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. garam masala
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. lemon or orange zest

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread chickpeas on top in a single layer. Roast 40 minutes, tossing occasionally.
• Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey, garam masala, cayenne and salt. Immediately, toss the hot chickpeas into the bowl and evenly coat them with the glaze. Pour them back onto the baking sheet and roast another 10 minutes.
• Remove from the oven and toss with the zest. Let cool and serve.

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