Friday, February 17, 2012

Pretty Please, With Puttanesca On Top?

We all know knowledge is power, but sometimes it’s FLAVOR.  Along with some good friends who have agreed to embark on a new project with me, I recommended Puttanesca Poached Cod to a friend who was unfamiliar with the sauce. Once I described it, she realized she’d had it before and loved every spoonful. Translating “puttanesca” from the Italian ruins this post’s G rating, but you’ll understand, once you make it—that its strong flavors and aromas merit a little passion. PUTTANESCA is chopped garlic, diced onions and anchovies (omitted for the Neapolitan version) sautéed in olive oil. Many puttanesca sauces add chili peppers, olives, capers, diced tomatoes, oregano and sprinkle of fresh parsley.

That being said, my puttanesca sauce is NOT Neapolitan. It takes it’s cues from the Southern Italian way of doing things and features 7 whole ounces of scrumptious sardines. You cook those first, until they melt. This fish recipe may well be the ultimate “date night” entre. There’s just something so…I don’t know…SEXY about it. For starters, making a special grocery store run for the ingredients is fun! You grab a little basket rather than a cart, and fill it with the few ingredients that go into a dish with a surprising complexity of flavors. Unless it’s already in a pantry that Austin Powers—or anyone with Mojo would approve of—you buy a little red wine, Kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts, 28 ounce cans of tomato, capers and sardines before stopping for your premiere ingredient at the seafood counter.

Fresh cod filets cost around $10.99 per pound, but satisfying your loved one at dinner is priceless. The fish monger wraps the cod in a neat little bundle and hands it to you the way counter service at a Parisian boulangeries wraps your pastries. Viola! You are now ready to go home and get cooking!

The Wine…

Adding the same wine you will drink later on with your meal is a fun addition to this cooking process. I happened to have a huge carafe of Carl Rossi Paisano when I made this; it’s not the fanciest to be sure, but for the price you can’t beat its nice accompaniment to all fish and chicken dishes. It can be really divine, this beverage, when served at room temperature.

Some Variations

I’ll leave you with a few variations on my puttansca poached cod that will fire your imagination for future dinners: serve the fish and generous ladles of its sauce over a bed of homemade mashed potatoes or crispy garlic bread; a bed of whole-wheat spaghetti also works beautifully. In the umpteen times I’ve made cod a la puttanesca, I have noticed that it doesn’t come out identical each and every time. Sometimes the sauce is super saucy, and one needs to eat it with a spoon. It almost reminds me of a Fast and Furious Fish Stew;  however this dish turns out, as you sip red wine and take your sweet time in creating it, it is always deeply nourishing for stomachs and hearts alike. Enjoy, my friends…        

Puttanesca Poached Cod

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Level of Difficulty: easy
Special Appliance:  skillet with lid

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (7-ounce) tin flat fillets of anchovies packed in oil
1 (14-ounce) can marinated artichoke hearts, about 8 to 10 medium size, sliced
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced, about 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 cup red wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
4 (4 to 6-ounce) fillets of cod

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the olive oil and anchovies (with oil) in a skillet over low heat. Cook until the anchovies begin to melt. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, garlic and capers. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the wine. Cook until most of the liquid disappears, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce reduces by half, about 10 to 15 minutes. Place the cod into the sauce. Cover the skillet with a lid. Cook until the cod just begins to flake, about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Season the top of the fillets with salt and pepper. Serve the cod surrounded by the sauce.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More Super Snacks for Super Bowl Sunday!

A few weeks ago it was crab cakes. Today I’m talking chips—homemade chips baked in drizzles of healthy extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with salt, paprika and maybe a few red pepper flakes if you’re looking for a little kick to go with that half-time beer.

Veggie chips give you that same “can’t stop eating these” immense satisfaction you get from commercial potato chips, while letting you keep the girlish figure we NFL fans obsess about. All joking aside, I really do have some great chips up my sleeve that will have both the Patriots and the Giants in the room asking for more.

You may want some clarification on the first batch of chips. They are called kohlrabi chips. How do you pronounce the name of this German turnip? “COAL-RAH-BEE”. It’s a darn cute little vegetable—click here to see a photo. It could be tricky to buy since it’s growing season doesn’t start until May (runs through November), but I’ve actually seen it for sale in Wal-Mart Superstores and know that, once blanched and frozen, you can keep this tasty veggie on tap in your kitchen for up to 6 months.

Kitchen Must Haves or KMH for this Project

I slice my kohlrabi with my favorite Kitchen Must Have, the mandolin—a great chef’s version of which can be purchased on Amazon. This KMH will slice up your chips so that they look more like fries. Any way you slice them, your kohlrabi chips will be well received—the simplicity of them is as beautiful as your team winning!

Another great veggie-turned-chip from the cabbage family is kale. It doesn’t need a deep-fryer to turn into a delicious snack either—just your largest cookie sheet and a pre-heated oven. Kale chips came highly recommended by a member at one of the community gardens I volunteer in. She showed me the kale growing like crazy in her assigned garden bed, and—like others on the internet who rave about these easy-to-make chips—used the word “addictive.” She said she uses a little bit of red pepper flakes on hers. I can imagine adding all kinds of interesting signature flavors to homemade chips—and don’t even get me started on all the homemade dips you can make with another underrated KMH, the food processor! Get out the roasted red pepper cheese spread!

Speaking of favorite things, I want to recommend a page from Nana’s Kitchen that has plenty of game watching toys for better entertaining. Click the Sundays With Da Family link to see all the wares that’ll make your parties rock better than the half-time entertainment. Here’s a list:
·         --All-Clad 99009 Stainless-Steel 6-1/2-Quart Slow Cooker—for those obligatory baked beans you see on so many yummy game day buffet lines!
·         --Superbowl Parties Chip and Dip Bowl—the main event on this list
·         --Salad On Ice™ Serving Bowl for those game day snacks and burger garnishes that need to stay crisp and fresh
·         --Heart-Shaped Chopping Block: I threw this in because it’s February and Valentine’s Day is on the heels of Super Bowl XLII  

Am REALLY starting to crave salty snacks just writing this...and the game is still days away…Better get to the Farmer’s Market or check in with the CSA.

May the best man win!

Kohlrabi Chips

3 large kohlrabi, washed and thinly sliced, about 4 cups
Extra Virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of paprika (optional)

Toss kohlrabi slices with high quality, first press olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a Silpat liner or cookie sheet that has been coated in vegetable oil spray. Bake at 300 degrees, and rotate approximately every 10 minutes until chips are crisp and golden. Bake 30 minutes are up to 45 minutes, until desired crispiness is achieved. Remove chips to a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with a pinch of paprika. Serve in a fun bowl!

Kale Chips

1 pound fresh kale
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat liner or parchment paper. Prepare the kale for baking by using a sharp knife to remove the leaves from the thick stems; tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.  

Wash and pat dry the kale. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle generously with the salt and pepper. Add a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes.

Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, between 12 to 18 minutes.
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