Special sh#% holiday gift shopping

Special sh#% holiday gift shopping

I saw these bottles and thought it was TOTAL GENIUS marketing. A Texas company called Special Sh$% is making all sorts of seasonings and gift packs, just in case you – or a close frenemy – need a little bit of  savory sh&^ in your life. (Or your kitchen.) I can’t speak for the quality of the ingredients, at 12.95/bottle, I’ll wait for someone to give me a jar of my own some...
Au gratin potatoes with spinach and gruyere

Au gratin potatoes with spinach and gruyere

  Behold, my au gratin potatoes and spinach with gruyere. It tastes even better than it looks, I promise. It was an improvisation; I had intended to serve Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend with steamed tilapia and artichokes for dinner, but LL texted on my way into the store asking for steak fries or hash browns instead. I wasn’t feeling it. But he loves potatoes au gratin. So instead, I bought a bag of Yukon gold potatoes, a bag of frozen spinach, and an 8-oz hunk of gruyere cheese. Back home, I buttered the vintage Blue Cornflower Corningware baking dish my mom gave me ages ago, so old it’s practically new again, and heated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. My Kitchen Aid’s slicer/grater attachment made short work of the prep . . . I can’t believe I spent all these years slicing and grating by hand. It was simple to assemble. I layered frozen spinach, sliced potato, shredded gruyere, frozen spinach, sliced potato, shredded gruyere, poured about 1/2 cup of milk around the edges, and finished with grated parmesan cheese, baked it covered for 30 minutes, uncovered it, and let it brown for 10 minutes more. There was enough spinach to really get the flavor and make the dish feel morel like a meal. It was rich, so our portions were small and there were leftovers. I used mini springform pans for the second meal of this au gratin, placing a slice of ham steak on the bottom, the au gratin above, and finished by cracking two eggs on top. I baked this in a 350 degree oven for 15...
Paleo dinner of beef and vegetable rolls

Paleo dinner of beef and vegetable rolls

My brother and several of my CrossFit friends are doing the 30-day Paleo Challenge that kicks off this weekend. More power to them; I don’t want to work that hard eliminating food groups from meal planning. But I realized that, with many gluten-free friends joining us for dinner, many of the meals I prepare for them are actually paleo as well, albeit by accident. Here’s one of my all-time favorite dinner party entrees. You can mix up the veggies and prepare it all well in advance. This is a very simple dish of thinly sliced beef sirloin wrapped around a medley of crunchy vegetables and aromatic herbs that was inspired by the shabu shabu meals LL has eaten in Japan and of which he is fond. It’s taken a few tries to get it right. The first time I ended up with 1/4″ thick slices of ribeye, tasty but unwieldy for this kind of dish. I didn’t realize that real shabu shabu, the kind you find at a Japanese butcher, is sliced almost prosciutto-thin. I’ve learned to ask the butcher use top sirloin and have him slice thinly just like raw roast beef. More marbled cuts of beef tend to fall apart. I lay the slices on a cutting board and sprinkle with garlic and onion powders. Then I layer baby greens – this is a blend of spinach, arugula, and green leaf lettuce – blanched asparagus, shredded carrots, and bean sprouts.   Gently roll each piece of meat around the veggies. I made a big pile for a party: Brush with olive oil and oven roast at 425 degrees F for about...
Pork egg roll with apple, carrot, and jicama

Pork egg roll with apple, carrot, and jicama

My first homegrown monster Mutsu apples inspired this recipe. Make your slaw in advance; you will have leftovers by design that are wonderful tossed with cashews on a lettuce or tortilla wrap with avocado. The first time I made these these egg rolls with fresh fried calamari rings (the recipe is at the bottom of the post) and miso soup. We are having them again tonight with steamed tilapia and miso soup again. (What can I say, we like miso soup!) First, the slaw recipe. Here’s a tip I just learned: peel fresh ginger by gently scraping off the peel with a spoon. Works like a charm. And for this recipe, make sure your ginger is very finely grated or you’ll get odd gingery chunks. Apple, carrot, and jicama slaw   Save Print This is a crunchy, sweet, and tart slaw that's delicious served with pork loin as an entree or as a sandwich or wrap filling. Author: Life in a Skillet Recipe type: Salad Ingredients 1 cup jicama, peeled and julienned 1 cup tart apple, julienned, and tossed with 2 tbsp lemon juice to keep from browning 1 cup carrot, julienned 1 tbsp grated ginger ¼ cup minced red onion 1 tablespoon sesame oil 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tsp ground black lemon pepper. Instructions In a large bowl, stir together the jicama, apple, carrot, onion, and ginger. Drizzle with olive and sesame oils. Toss well. Add pepper and toss again. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. Wordpress Recipe Plugin by EasyRecipe 3.2.2089   Now make it into an egg roll: Pork loin egg rolls with apple, carrot,...
Rosemary and garlic brined pork

Rosemary and garlic brined pork

I never really got the whole brining-meat thing. . . seemed like a lot of time and effort when, presumably, a decent piece of meat cooked well and/or a nice sauce would do the trick. But after watching enough cooking shows – most recently Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction – I caved and decided it was worth an experiment with a lean pork loin. And I totally get it now – it was tender and juicy, infused with rosemary, and perfectly seasoned without adding extra salt. Why is brining such magic? Harold McGee explains in On Food and Cooking. First, the salt “disrupts the muscle filaments,” so it acted as a tenderizer. The salt also interacts with the protein on a cellular level, which means the roast held more water, and all the flavors of my aromatics moved into the meat. (Remember osmosis? Never mind.) Any moisture lost in cooking is balanced out by the brine, so I ended up with an internally salted and flavored protein. Technically a brine is just salt and water, or vinegar and water. Most recipes include sugar to balance the saltiness as well as herbs or aromatics for added flavor. Because fat adds flavor and moisture to meat already, brining works best on lean or tough cuts of meat, pork, chicken, and turkey. It’s not a quick process, though. Here’s what I did to make the magic this first time through: Based on Bobby Flay’s brine recipe, I boiled 8 cups of water and then added 1/2 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar, 4 garlic cloves, a handful of thyme and 4 sprigs of rosemary from my...
What do you do with 12 pounds of salmon?

What do you do with 12 pounds of salmon?

Don’t let the prospect of purchasing 9 or 12 or 15 pounds of salmon ever keep you away from buying a whole fish – although you do need a dependable freezer. Surprisingly, it goes faster than you imagine. Here are a couple of tricks I’ve picked up from my fishy friends for preserving that fresh sea flavor: Get it home as quickly as possible while keeping it cold. Fisherman Frank assures me that temperature fluctuation hastens that “fishy smell.” Exposure to air also makes your fish smell fishy instead of like the sea, so if you have access to a vacuum sealer, fantastic. Just vacuum pack individual portions and then freeze. No worries if you don’t, though – you’ll have to just MacGyver it. Put individual portions into freezer-friendly zip-lock bags. Seal almost all the way, and then suck the air out yourself. You know, with your mouth. Like in the old days when you smoked. Do it right and the baggie collapses around the fish, and you can breath freely again. Finish zip-locking it and freeze. Now you have freshly frozen pieces of salmon to defrost and cook at your leisure. Your first meal with that super-fresh salmon could be little sashimi. You don’t have to be a sushi chef to do this, just use a super-sharp blade and respect the fish. Slice thinly. Layer with a little avocado, while you eat close your eyes and imagine the sea:   I don’t like to use any sauce or marinade on salmon that is this fresh – I just toss it on a super-hot barbecue dressed with a little lemon, salt,...
Caprese salad with chicken, penne, and pine nuts

Caprese salad with chicken, penne, and pine nuts

A simple recipe for you today for this quick and easy caprese salad, a light dish for these longer hotter nights. The pine nuts are a nice touch, adding a crunchy earthiness and finishing the dish. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved 1 cup fresh mozzarella balls, halved   1/4 cup each Italian parsley and basil, cut into ribbons 1/4 lb cooked chicken breast, diced   2 cups cooked penne and 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts Toss with Italian vinaigrette and serve. Caprese salad with chicken, penne, and pine nuts   Save Print Caprese salad becomes a dinner entree with the addition of chicken and penne, and pine nuts add crunch and earthiness. Author: Life in a Skillet Recipe type: Entree Serves: 4-6 Ingredients 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved 1 cup fresh mozzarella, halved ¼ cup EACH Italian parsley and basil, cut into ribbons ¼ lb cooked chicken breasts, diced 2 cups cooked penne ¼ cup toasted pine nuts Instructions Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently. Add your favorite Italian vinaigrette and toss again. Serve either chilled or at room temperature. Wordpress Recipe Plugin by EasyRecipe 3.2.1753...
Fast, hearty, and delicious chicken, leek, and artichoke penne

Fast, hearty, and delicious chicken, leek, and artichoke penne

Oh. My. Gosh. This improvised dinner that was absolutely, fabulously divine, with a hint of earthiness from the mushrooms, flavor from the leeks, and brightness from the artichoke hearts all coming together to coat the penne with love and delicioiusness. It’s easy to make, with a simple broth of just artichoke water, butter, and olive oil thickened with a bit of flour. Read on!

Taco soup your way, either fast or slow

Taco soup your way, either fast or slow

Two recipes for taco soup, a dish I had neither made nor tasted, popped up in my inbox recently. The first one is a slow-cooker recipe from Janice Gullett, a Life in the Skillet reader who found me while planning a trip to Loreto, Mexico. The second one, courtesy of one of my lovely sisters-in-law, is a super-fast, super-efficient, 30 minute to the table version. A note: both call for taco seasoning – which is what makes them taco soup. Janice’s for any supermarket brand packet and Rita’s for the taco seasoning from Penzey’s. I always make my own; it’s actually really easy to make with regular pantry ingredients; click here for my recipe. They are both delicious. The slow-cooker version I’ve put here first has quite a bit of spice from the adobo chilies, and the chicken is exceptionally tender. Don’t try and take the shortcut to add the adobos in the beginning or it will be too spicy. I used dark beer and parsley instead of cilantro and served with flour tortillas. Double up on the beans on either recipe to make a vegetarian version. Slow cooker chicken taco soup   Save Print Prep time 15 mins Cook time 7 hours Total time 7 hours 15 mins   This is a spicy slow-cooker meal in a pot. Author: Janice Gullett Recipe type: Entree Cuisine: Mexican Ingredients • 1 onion, chopped 1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained (or use frozen) 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or...
Red wine pinto beans with smoky bacon.

Red wine pinto beans with smoky bacon.

My father – Downtown Tom – has been experimenting in the kitchen again. This time he took notes and pictures of his culinary success and snuck it on an attachment in an otherwise blank email. He’s just trying to see if I pay attention to the notes he sends; I know his evil plans. Well, Dad, you’ve been found out. Here is your latest guest blog post, New York Times food editor Melissa Clark’s recipe for red wine pinto beans with smoky bacon, a hot dish for cold nights: Saw the video in the New York Times app and decided to try it. (note: scroll to the bottom for the video) Temperature outside was 30 degrees with a 15 knot wind from the West. Sky was clear and the day was beautiful. Drove to Schnucks for pinto beans. Wanted to start now so followed directions for plumping the beans up quickly. They looked like this: While they were simmering and plumping, we fried the smoky bacon: When bacon looked brown we added the onions, carrots and garlic. We did not have a Rosemary sprig, so added a bit from the spice jar. Concoction now looked like this: In the mean while, we began the red wine syrup. It simmered and reduced: The finished product was delicious. Red wine pinto beans with smoky bacon.   Save Print Prep time 45 mins Cook time 1 hour Total time 1 hour 45 mins   Melissa Clark's hearty Red Wine Pinto Beans with Smoky Bacon Author: Melissa Clark Recipe type: entree Serves: 8-10 Ingredients ½ pound smoky bacon, diced 1 large onion, peeled...
Meatless Monday: Potato leek soup with a twist

Meatless Monday: Potato leek soup with a twist

Fennel and artichoke hearts add an earthy twist to Julia Child’s excellent potato leek soup – a quick entree I learned to make forever ago from her Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In addition to 2 large chopped leeks – white part only –  and 2 pounds peeled and chopped russet potatoes, just add 1 large chopped fennel bulb and 1 can water-packed artichoke hearts to your pot. I discard the feathery fennel tops and thinly slice the bulbs. Use these often in your soups – they hold up nicely in a stew, puree well, and add a hind of licorice along with a boost of fiber and potassium to your meals. The rest of a proverbial piece of cake. Just barely cover with water, add a pinch of paprika and lots and lots of freshly ground lemon pepper. Simmer until it’s all tender, about 30 – 40 minutes. It will look like this: Use a hand blender to puree, and you end up with a nice thick warming entree. Add butter and salt at your pleasure and discretion. Serve in warm bowls with a fresh baguette and warm radishes. Go crazy and top with a bit of sour cream and crispy prosciutto if you like....
Pool parties in Vegas: Cooking is campy with Holly Madison, Art Smith, and the Top Chef Masters

Pool parties in Vegas: Cooking is campy with Holly Madison, Art Smith, and the Top Chef Masters

“Whatever happens in Vegas is obviously going to end up on television.” -Chris Costentino, Episode 4, Top Chef Masters It’s an odd coincidence, don’t you think, that the same week Prince Harry got caught without his skivvies playing midnight pool in his hotel suite with a bevy of beauties, Chef Art Smith gained a bit of infamy of his own at Holly Madison’s Top Chef Masters pool party, where he stripped down to his Speedo while channeling Bo Derek in the most hilarious, over-the top episode of Top Chef Masters ever made? I haven’t laughed so hard at a Las Vegas spoof since Zach Galifianakis woke up and found a tiger in his hotel bathroom in The Hangover. So the premise of this solidly PG-13/Not Safe For Family Viewing Top Chef Masters Episode 5, Season 4, is Holly Madison throwing a birthday brunch/pool party for 150 of her closest friends, taking a break for her day job to do so:   She asked the Top Chefs to prepare comfort food since her friends might be hungover, requested that the food have no garlic or onion flavors so as to spare castmates any potential bad breath during that night’s performance, and specified the dishes be served in teeny-tiny bites, ostensibly to help maintain their beautiful, buff bodies. She even gamely tasted all the food herself, nibbling enough with her teeth to comment appropriately on the textures and flavors presented to her. And bodies there were – plenty of waxed pecs and brightly colored bikinis on display along with a few tasteful belly button rings, all to the giddy delight of many...
Tijuana dogs with homemade buns and memories

Tijuana dogs with homemade buns and memories

We saw Tijuana dogs – aka TJ dogs – all over San Diego last month, from the Marriott’s Tequila Grille to Little Italy’s Craft + Commerce to the food vendors on the walkway next to the otherwise staid USS Midway Museum.   Tijuana dogs are the ultimate street food – basically a bacon-wrapped hot dog with toppings. I’d never heard of them before, and from I could taste was definitely missing out. . . they are much better than you’d think, a perfect bite of salty, savory, tangy, and hot. For all you uninitiated, here’s a great Tijuana Dog graphic from food writer and cartoonist Hawk Krall that explains all the delicious possibilities:   One of the best things about traveling is finding, then trying to copy at home, those wonderful new tastes you discover along the way. TJ dogs were no exception, although I assumed they’d be hard to recreate, and wasn’t fully inspired to try it out until I discovered el Salchichero butcher shop in Santa Cruz, where chorizo bacon and handmade perro calientes spoke to me: We can become the Tijuana dogs of your dreams; our spicy salty goodness bringing back plumeria-scented memories of bike riding on Coronado Island, of gazing in wonder at enormous golden zodiac heads, of strolling through the Gaslight District and Little Italy in the twilight with your family . . . I think that’s what they said, anyway. They were convincing, nevertheless. And it turns out Tijuana dogs are a super-simple thing to make at home. Just start by wrapping a slice of bacon, spiral-style, around a hot dog.   Now put your raw...
Smoked salmon pizza and grilled prawns – a perfect appetizer combination

Smoked salmon pizza and grilled prawns – a perfect appetizer combination

Saturday was slow-food pizza night, with friends new and old celebrating the close of another school year. But our pizza is slow and cocktails strong, so we started out fast and delicious, seafood-style, with three dozen grilled prawns tossed in Louisiana hot sauce. They are as rich and luscious as they are quick and easy, mostly because you make the sauce by mixing together 1 part butter to 1 part Louisiana-style hot sauce. Everything’s better with butter – or bacon! – right? A quarter-cup of each is plenty for a dozen prawns, and Crystal, Original Louisiana, and Frank’s Red Hot brands are all traditional and tasty choices. Just toss your sustainably-raised, cleaned and deveined prawns in olive oil and throw them on a hot grill. Turn them over as soon as they start turning pink; it takes only a minute or two on each side for them to cook through. Pop ’em straight into that buttered up hot sauce and dive in – you’ll definitely need extra napkins. Yum. Okay – now for the second appetizer: smoked salmon pizza. We’ve been refining this recipe ever since LL’s first taste of Wolfgang Puck’s smoked salmon pizza at Spagos in Las Vegas way back in the old Comdex days. Chef Puck uses thinly sliced smoked salmon – lox – with caviar. We use dry smoked salmon, thick flaky slabs of alder-infused deliciousness. I love Dave’s brand – it’s local but easy to buy online. Start by making your dough – click here for a fool-proof recipe. Now make a spread of 1 cup whipped cream cheese, zest of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 cup finely minced red onion,...
Tasty yuzu stir-fry recipe

Tasty yuzu stir-fry recipe

The tube of yuzu paste a friend brought me back from Japan a few months ago had been mocking me from the refrigerator door for several months. It was something I’d never encountered before; it has in intriguing sweetly sour, citrus and chili flavor that seemed would be perfect in something. I just didn’t know what, and because of the small tube size, I didn’t want any to go to waste in failed experiments. But this weekend I needed a fast and simple dinner improvised a stir-fry that goes down as The Best Stir Fry Recipe Ever. All I used was is cooked rice, a bit of olive oil, a shallot, ham, frozen peas – and the yuzu paste, literally the only seasoning. It was perfect – just enough heat to get your attention, and just enough citrus to add a pop. I actually made this twice because everyone liked it so much. To be honest, the only reason I used ham and peas is because that’s what was on hand. Ham steak leftover from Friday night pizza night, and I frozen peas as part of my basic stock – not because I think they are particularly delicious, but because they make good ice packs for cold therapy. Fortunately this was an unused bag. And equally fortunately, it turns out I can easily buy more through Amazon.com. It’s called yuzu kosho, or yuzu and peppers, and the ingredients are yuzu, green chili peppers, and salt. Mmmm. Turns out yuzu paste aficionados have some illustrious company – Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto integrates the ingredient into recipes at his eponymous New York City restaurant....