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Jan 31, 2015
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Just Five

Just Five: Carrot-Orange Salad with Harissa

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

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I was introduced to harissa, a spicy North African chili paste, when I first devoured Ben Poremba’s Moroccan Shredded Carrot Salad at Olio. Since then, this spicy aromatic salad has been on my list of inspirational Just Five dishes for a long time.

Harissa is made from ground chilis, garlic and aromatic spices that is as versatile as it is pungent and nuanced. It’s great on anything from eggs and meat to flavoring soups and stews and is available at most international grocery stores or specialty food shops (or try making your own harissa with this recipe).

The original salad uses cilantro and mint, but I opted to cut the cilantro since a number of people have a scientifically proven aversion to the stuff. I also bulked it up a bit with a handful of arugula and used multicolored carrots for a fun pop of color.

 

Carrot-Orange Salad with Harissa
Inspired by a recipe from Olio’s Ben Poremba
4 servings

2 oranges
2 cups shredded carrots (about 4 carrots)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp. harissa
Pinch kosher salt
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups arugula or mixed greens

• Supreme 1 orange by peeling and removing the pith with a sharp knife and then slicing between the membranes. Add the orange sections to a large bowl. Slice the other orange in half and supreme 1 half in the same manner as before, adding the segments to the bowl.
• Toss the shredded carrots and mint in the bowl with the oranges. Set aside.
• Juice the remaining orange half in a small bowl and whisk together with the harissa and a pinch of salt. Continue whisking and drizzle the olive oil into the dressing until emulsified. Pour the dressing over the carrot and orange mixture and toss to coat.
• Place a handful of arugula into 4 plates and divide the carrot salad evenly between the plates. Drizzle any remaining dressing over the salads and serve.

 

 

Just Five: Chicken Thighs with Butternut Squash and Sage

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that chicken thighs are always better than chicken breasts. They don’t dry out like breasts can, and dark meat has more flavor. This dish celebrates the thigh in all its glory – in less than 30 minutes.

Since this column limits me to just a few ingredients, I get creative to get the most out of each. Fried sage leaves are a perfect example. They provide a fun garnish and crunch to the finished dish, and they also infuse the cooking oil with wonderful herbaceous flavor. Instead of deglazing the pan with wine or chicken stock, I added acid and a hint of sweetness with apple cider vinegar to complement the butternut squash.

Chicken Thighs with Butternut Squash and Sage
4 to 6 servings

3 Tbsp. olive oil
10 whole fresh sage leaves, divided
6 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ cup apple cider vinegar

• Add the olive oil to a large skillet and place over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add 6 sage leaves and fry until crisp, about 1 minute. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Set aside.
• Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place skin-side down in the pan. Cook 8 minutes, then flip and cook another 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
• Add the butternut squash and stir to coat, cooking about 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium if the squash browns too quickly.
• Chop the remaining 4 sage leaves and add to the skillet, along with the shallots. Saute 1 minute, then deglaze the pan with the apple cider vinegar, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet.
• Push the squash to the side and return the thighs skin-side up and any collected juices to the pan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165 degrees. Plate and garnish with 1 fried sage leaf on each thigh. Serve immediately.

Just Five: Carrot Juice-Poached Halibut

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

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Poaching is a simple, forgiving way to prepare fish. The poaching liquid infuses the fillet with flavor and prevents it from drying out. Although water or wine is traditional, I decided have some fun and play with carrot juice.

This dish was either going to be way too weird for my family or gobbled up in a flash. As I served plates of bright orange fish, I was not overly confident. I gave them the usual Just Five speech: “I don’t know if this is going to be awesome or just weird, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be bad.”

Surprisingly, it was delicious! The carrot juice is sweet without cloying, the ginger adds a bit of heat and the shallots provide the savory note. I love combining ginger and cilantro, but if that controversial herb fills you with dread, try mixing together three parts chopped arugula and one part chopped fresh mint.

 

Carrot Juice-Poached Halibut
4 servings

2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
2 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
3 cups carrot juice*
4 6-oz. skinless halibut fillets
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• In a large skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute 3 minutes, until softened. Add the ginger and cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
• Pour in the carrot juice and bring to a simmer. Add the halibut fillets to the pan and cover. Reduce the heat to low and poach until 4 to 5 minutes, until cooked through.
• Uncover and carefully remove the fish to the serving platter. Bring the carrot broth to a boil over medium-high heat, reducing the liquid slightly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon some of the broth over the fish and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

*Bolthouse Farms carrot juice is available at most supermarkets.

Just Five: Pork Medallions with Pears

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

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Garam masala  tastes like winter to me. This heady spice blend includes cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, cumin and brings immediate, comforting warmth to a dish. Here, I spiced pork tenderloin medallions with this aromatic blend, then turned my attention to the accompanying sauce. While pork and apples are a long-standing culinary marriage (What ‘70s kid doesn’t remember Peter Brady’s Bogart-inflected “Pork chops… and applesauce!”),  pears are delicious seasonal alternative – especially when paired with marsala.

Pork Medallions with Pears
4 servings

1 1.75- to 2-lbs. pork tenderloin
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. garam masala
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced shallots
2 pears, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup marsala wine

• Slice the pork tenderloin into 8 even medallions and season generously with salt, pepper and garam masala.
• Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the medallions 2 minutes, then flip and sear 2 minutes more. Remove and set aside.
• Add the shallots to the skillet and saute 2 to 3 minutes, then add the pears and saute another 2 minutes. Return the pork to the skillet, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Add the marsala wine and cover, reducing the heat to medium-low, and simmer 3 minutes. Flip and simmer, covered, another 2 minutes. Divide evenly among 4 plates and serve.

Just Five: Tortilla-Crusted Fish Nuggets

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

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My pescetarian daughter just dove into swim season at school. Before she left for her first practice, she had a very specific request: “I’m going to need protein. Can you please make fish tonight with some kind of yummy sauce?” Challenge accepted!

I immediately decided to make classic panko-crusted white fish with a mayo-and-something or sour cream-and-something sauce I’d figure out later. But when the time came to start assembling dinner, I found my pantry severely lacking in panko. Staring out at a cold, dark night packed with rush-hour traffic, there was no way I was venturing to the grocery store. It was time to get creative.

My eyes fell upon a bag of tortilla chips – salty, crushable tortilla chips. Brilliant! A little lime and chili powder, and dinner just fell into place. The dish was ready as soon as my chlorine-perfumed daughter entered the house. Since I barely managed to snap a photo of these nuggets before my swimmer devoured them, it’s safe to say I’ll be making them again soon.

 

Tortilla-Crusted Fish Nuggets with Spicy Dipping Sauce
3 to 4 servings

½ cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. lime juice, divided
1½ tsp. chili powder, divided
2 cups ground tortilla chips (about 5 cups whole chips)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste
1 lb. cod, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
Canola oil for frying

• To make the dipping sauce, mix together the sour cream, 1 tablespoon lime juice and ½ teaspoon chili powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
• In a shallow pan or bowl, season the ground tortilla chips with the remaining 1 teaspoon chili powder and pepper. Taste and add salt if needed.
• In a medium bowl, toss the cod with the remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice, then roll them in the ground tortilla chips, pressing the crumbs onto the fish to coat on all sides.
• Meanwhile, fill a deep skillet with about 1-inch of canola oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot enough to fry (test by dropping a pinch of ground tortilla chips into the oil; if it bubbles, the oil is ready), carefully fry about 6 nuggets at a time, cooking on all sides until browned, about 1 minute per side. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with the remaining nuggets. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

 

Just Five: Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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