One Pan Chicken

By Michael Elmore

It’s a weeknight, and you need dinner on the table. One solution: planning. One option is doing your preparation ahead of time, such as making your mirepoix and freezing it for dishes you can make throughout the week. Here, we use the prepared mirepoix to put the dish together on Sunday evening. Come home on Monday, and all one has to do is pop the skillet into the oven.

MIREPOIX

Ingredients:

  • 4 onions
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots

Directions:

  1. Dice each ingredient then toss together. Make more or less of the mixture in the same ration (2 onions to 1 celery to 1 carrot). Use immediately or place in a plastic bag and freeze to use as needed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1.5 cups mirepoix
  • 10 fingerling potatoes, halved
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt
  • Paprika
  • 3 chicken quarters
  • Sumac

Directions – The Night Before:

  1. In a cast iron skillet, coat the bottom of the pan with the oil. Add the mirepox and spread evenly.
  2. Toss the potatoes with salt and paprika, then place on top of the mirepoix.
  3. Season the chicken with salt and sumac (approximately 2 tbsp over all three chicken quarters).  Squeeze the lemon over the entire mxiture.
  4. Place the chicken on top of the potatoes. Cover the skillet with foil then refrigerate.

Directions – Day of Cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and let oven stand at 20 minutes at temperature. While preheating the oven, remove the skillet from the fridge to come to temperature.
  2. Place skillet in oven and cook for approximately 55-60 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

A Niçoise Change to Niçoise Salad

By Michael Elmore

A niçois salad can be controversial. Traditionalists swear it must only include raw vegetables. Modernists appreciate changes that were recommended in the late 19th century that added eggs and potatoes (cooked, of course). It is the one salad that nobody can seem to agree on.

This twist certainly is not traditional in some ways. It welcomes the history of the origins of a niçois, however, developed by peasants who could not afford much and focused on fresh regional vegetables available to them and the tuna and anchovies available in the nearby seaports. This takes that same approach.

Moving to Austin and having access to abundant and fresh southwest flavors, we’ve incorporated the regional aspect of the origins of the salad. Here, instead of vinegar and olive oil, we replace it with a salsa verde with tangy tomatillios, spicy jalapenos, and zesty limes.

Ingredients for tomatillo sauce:

  • 1.5 pounds tomatillos, paper and stems removed
  • 1 jalapeno, stem removed
  • 1 red onion, peeled and stems removed, chopped
  • 1 avocado, pit and skins removed
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Zest and juice of two limes

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If you wish for a less spicy salsa verde, seed the jalapeno prior to blending.
  2. Put in a container and put in fridge for at least an hour so flavors meld.

Ingredients for guacamole:

  • 1 avocado, pit and skin removed
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • Juice of one lime
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Prior to plating, mash all ingredients using a mortar and pestle or the back of a fork.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of tuna, drained
  • Zest and juice of one lime
  • ¼ tsp of salt

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

Plating directions:

  1. Take one radish and slice thinly. Using a ring mold, first put the guacamole for the first layer in the middle of a plate. Next, pack the tuna mixture tightly. Arrange the radish in a layer. Place in fridge for approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Remove plate from fridge and add a teaspoon on top of the layers, removing the ring mold carefully. Spoon salsa verde in a circle around the plate and serve immediately.

Sort-of Ajiaco Soup

By Michael Elmore

Ajiaco is a traditional Columbian soup (specifically, Bogota) that is hearty and filled with some pretty delicious flavors, from a rich, velvet broth to starchy potatoes, and chicken that has melted away. Making it here in the United States, however, proves difficult due to two ingredients that are pretty difficult to come by: a potato variety specific to Latin America of very think skinned, and very small yellow potatoes, and guascas, or potato weed, an earthy herb.

One of my closest friends is Columbian, and while she traveled there this year pre-pandemic, she sent me photos of this dish, and the mouth-watering sight put it on the list of new things to try. I confess, I forgot about my list until recently while watching a food documentary that happened to talk about it. Being in self-isolation from my move, what better time to reach for new flavors than the present?

This recipe is not ajiaco. Unable to find the necessary potatoes and the guascas, I did my best to replicate the flavors described to me by my friend while she attempts to hunt down those ingredients for me so that I can make a proper ajiaco. However, whatever this dish may or may not be, it is certainly delicious. While the recipe looks long, it is a fairly straight forward dish, but be sure to read the recipe first before planning on making it! Buen provecho!

Ingredients:

  • 5 green onion stems (white part with roots only – reserve the remainder for other dishes)
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¼ of an onion, cut in half (reserve the remainder for other dishes)
  • ¼ of a bunch of cilantro
  • 3 chicken quarters
  • 3 cups chili stock (make this ahead of time – soak dried chilis of your choice in a big bowl of water, then blend the next day. You can skip this step if you like by replacing this with more stock).
  • 5 cups good quality chicken stock
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 6 small Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ¼ inch slices
  • 3 russet potatoes, divided (peel and grate 1 of the potatoes; peel and slice into ¼ inch rings for the other 2 potatoes)
  • 2 ears of corn on the cob, cleaned and sliced into 6 equal pieces
  • 1 tbsp Mexican oregano

Directions:

  1. In a cheesecloth (I did not have a cheesecloth, and if you don’t, that’s alright – use coffee filters like I did), place the first three ingredients and enclose, then tie tightly with butcher’s twine so nothing falls out.
  2. In a large pot, add the chicken, the cheesecloth, all 8 cups of the stock, the salt, and the pepper. The stock should submerge the chicken completely – if not, add more stock or water. Bring to boil slowly over medium high heat, then reduce to simmer and cover. Slow cook on low, checking on it frequently, for approximately 3 hours.
  3. Check on the chicken, it should be cooked at this point, and very tender. Using tongues, pull the chicken out and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, pull apart into pieces (tip: save the bones to make some stock later).
  4. Add the potatoes to the pot, including the grated potato. Cook, covered, another 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are extremely soft and starting to fall apart. Using a stick blender, blend the mixture for 30-60 seconds until thickened. In the alternative, if you do not have a stick blender, take half the potato mixture out and put into a blender, then return it to the pan, or add a roux.
  5. Add the corn and the Mexican oregano. Cover and cook another 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  6. The soup is done. You can return the chicken to the pot or you can serve it in a more traditional style and plate the soup separately, then add the chicken and corn piece to each bowl. Serve immediately or serve later by reheating slowly!

A Tale of Two Kormas

By Michael Elmore

We are back after a couple weeks of delay with some exciting news. I am officially moved into an apartment in Austin to continue my culinary knowledge and journey with an exploration of flavors. Before I left my fiance, however, to come to this brave new world of flavor, I prepared a dish that combined two of our favorite cuisines together: Indian food and Italian food.

Not a combination you see every day, true, but this vegetable korma risotto led to no leftovers. The spiciness of the East Asian flavors coupled with the saltiness of Parmesan in the risotto led for a decadent dish full of flavor. Want to go vegan? Sub out the risotto with some regular rice for a more classic pairing!

Vegetable Korma Risotto

For the Korma:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 28 oz. canned tomatoes, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 3 yellow potatoes, diced
  • 12 oz cauliflower (either frozen or 1 head, trimmed and cut)
  • 12 oz broccoli (either frozen or 1 head, trimmed and cut)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp turmeric, ground
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. In a blender, blend the tomatoes, garlic and ginger. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add onions and carrots and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add jalapenos and cook until fragrant, approximately 30 to 60 more seconds, stirring.
  4. Add potatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli. Cook approximately 8-10 minutes, stirring, until potatoes are seared.
  5. Add puree mixture and remaining ingredients, scrapping bottom of pot as it is de-glazed. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  6. Cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, approximately 30-45 minutes depending on range. Adjust seasonings and serve.

For the Risotto:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup short grained rice, like Arborio
  • 6 cups good quality vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Parmasean, grated
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a sauce pot, bring the stock to a simmer and keep it at a low simmer during the cooking process.
  2. In a large pan, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt, and cook until translucent approximately 5-6 minutes. Add the rice, and cook another 1-2 minutes, stirring, until well coated with the onions and oils and beginning to toast.
  3. Add approximately 1 cup of the hot stock to the pan, de-glazing it, and stirring frequently.
  4. When the liquid is mostly absorbed by the rice, add another ladle of stock, continuing to stir frequently. Keep repeating this until the rice is cooked through and is al dente with a slight bite.
  5. Stir in the cheese until incorporated and melted. The mixture will be thick. Taste and adjust salt as desired. Serve with the Korma above.

Under Thai Sea: Thai Chili Scallops

By Michael Elmore

My fiance, Catie, loves scallops. If given the choice between some tender seared scallops and a rib eye, I think she would be hard pressed to choose. As a lawyer, she works pretty long days, and so I surprised her with dinner by combining her favorite flavors: tender, lush scallops with Thai flavors.

We had these as an appetizer with a steak dinner entree (hey, just cause I said she would choose one over the other, doesn’t mean I made her choose!), but the scallops were the real star. A balanced, controlled heat from the peppers, a lushness on the tongue from the butter, and a tangy acidity form the lime juice that brings all the flavors together made every bight scrumptious. So grab some seafood and enjoy this epic journey under the sea!

Ingredients:

  • 15 scallops
  • 1 Thai chili, minced (to lower heat, seed the chili; you can also use a jalapeno to drastically drop the heat level without sacrificing flavor).
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1.5 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Fresh mint, chopped

Directions:

  1. Put 2 tbsp vegetable oil into a large pan (just enough to coat) over medium high heat. While heating, pat the scallops as dry as possible with a paper towel on each side (this will help give a better sear). Cook the scallops approximately 3 minutes per side, making sure to flip only once, until cooked through and opaque. Remove from pan onto a paper towel to dry any excess oil and sprinkle with salt.
  2. To the same pan, add the chili pepper and ginger, stirring frequently until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds.
  3. Add the fish sauce and soy sauce, and, using a wooden spoon, scrap the pan of any browned bits on the pan.
  4. Add the butter, cardamon, lime zest and juice along with a pinch of salt. Whisk and cook for a couple more minutes, making sure not to boil the butter (lower heat if required).
  5. Plate scallops then spoon on some of the sauce on top. Garnish with fresh, chopped mint if desired.

Short on Cake: Macerated Berries with Vanilla Cream

By Michael Elmore

Eliminating the shortcake from this traditional dessert drastically reduces the carb and sugar count allowing anyone to enjoy!

Every Fourth of July, my family traditionally went all out. We would grill out in true Middle Eastern American fashion (think kabobs and chicken in lieu of burgers and brats), enjoy some fireworks, and then, of course, came dessert. As a kid, this was always the same: strawberry shortcake.

Despite its origins in the United Kingdom, America, in time, evolved this dessert into the quintessential American dish with its biscuit-like cake, fruity, jam-like sauce, and, the piece-de-resistance, the whipped cream. Like all traditions, though, mine changed this year. Being diagnosed with diabetes this past October meant re-thinking this classic and pulling the essential components of this dessert and lightening it up significantly.

Enter: the cake-less “shortcake.” Omitting the delicious biscuit reduces the carb and sugar count in this recipe significantly so that even the most health conscious among us can enjoy dessert. The best part? For those not worried about health issues, you can still go ahead and serve this variation on top of biscuits, pound cake, or sponge cakes so that everyone is happy!

Macerated Berries with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints blueberries
  • 2 pints strawberries, stem removed and hulled, sliced
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla + 1 teaspoon
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the blueberries, strawberries, sugar, zest and juice of the lime, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Stir gently until everything is coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
  2. Place the whipped cream and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on high until stiff peaks. If desired, add some powdered sugar to make a sweeter whipped cream. We purposely did not do this as we felt the berries were sweet enough!
  3. When ready to assemble, in a bowl, place a generous serving of the fruit mixture with a dollop of the whipped cream. In the alternative, serve on top of a shortcake or biscuit!

Summer Grilling Happened So Fast

By Michael Elmore

My dad’s birthday was a couple of weeks’ ago (Happy Birthday, dad!), and what better way to celebrate a summer birthday by grilling up a storm. We made a number of dishes, but the favorites may surprise you: grilled portabellas and cauliflower, and grilled whole fish.

While a rib eye maintained its well earned love by my mother and me, my father prefers lighter meats, such as fish, and has a passion for vegetables without rival. To be sure, between the tender flesh of the branzini and the smokey, melt-in-your-mouth mushrooms, nobody will miss red meat if you decide to just go with those items for your next cook out and ahead of the Fourth.

Chili Spiced Portabella Caps

Ingredients:

  • 4 portabella caps, stems removed (reserve these for another use such as making vegetable stocks, or dicing and sauteing them as a topping for a burger).
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients except the mushrooms together in a bowl to make a thick paste – add more vegetable oil if needed.
  2. Slather the mushrooms evenly with the paste, and place in a plastic bag up to overnight so that they absorb the flavors.
  3. When ready to cook, on a hot, well-oiled grill, over direct heat, cook the mushrooms for approximately 3 minutes per side, trying to flip the mushroom as infrequently as possible as the flames allow.
  4. Serve immediately – if desired, squeeze some lime juice on top before serving.

Grilled Whole Branzini

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole branzini – ask your fishmonger to clean and gut these for you.
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, trimmed and cleaned
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp pepper, divided,
  • 1 tbsp cumin, divided
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Several hours before you wish to grill, take the whole branzini and rinse them under cold water, making sure the fishmonger did not leave any remnants of unpleasantness in them and that the fish is entirely de-scaled. If not, de-scale the fish by running the back of a knife against the fish to get any missed scales.
  2. Make sure you have everything prepped ahead of time. Squeeze some vegetable oil throughout the fish (we did this previously out of video).
  3. With your CLEAN hand, sprinkle the seasonings evenly among both fish and the cavities of both fish. Stuff the fish with lemon slices and cilantro sprigs – as many as you can fit without the herbs and fruit spilling out.
  4. Wrap butcher’s twine around the fish to keep everything inside of it. Place covered in fridge until ready to grill and up to overnight.
  5. When grilling, make sure you oil the fish (again) very liberally, that the grill is very well oiled, and that you are working on high, direct heat. This will all prevent the fish from sticking. Grill for approximately 4-5 minutes on each side. The fish should not stick when you flip it over if it is cooked and you’ve done all these steps. If you do not feel like dealing with risk of a sticky fish, use a cedar or other wood plank pursuant to their directions and cook the fish on top of that. This will take longer but will still be delicious.
  6. Remove the fish and serve with a squeeze of lemon. Remember to be wary of bones!

Lasagna Odyssey 2020

By Michael Elmore

I love lasagna. By far, it is my favorite Italian dish with its rows of hearty pasta, pools of tomato and bechamel sauces, with bursts of meaty goodness. Growing up, it was the one dish I would demand not be altered in any way, shape or form because, to me, it was the perfect dish as imagined. It required no modernizing or changes.

This is all to say that sometimes we all must eat our words, and this time deliciously so. Lasagna is not exactly a diabetic friendly recipe, so we found a way to lighten up the dish and make it slightly more healthy at least. Extra perk? It would be easy to turn this into a vegan dish – just omit the first steps featuring the meat. There’s so many vegetables in this hearty dish that you won’t miss it if you do.

So while traditions are good, moving forward into the future of better awareness of our health, and with no further adieu, we give you or vegetable boosted lasagna! Buon appetito!

Ingredients:

  1. 6 lasagna noodles, cooked per box directions to al dente
  2. 1 pound of ground beef (choose leaner if you want to lighten this up even further)
  3. 1 onion, diced
  4. 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  5. 2 celery stalks, diced
  6. 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  7. Salt
  8. 1 cup diced bell peppers
  9. 2 pints mushrooms, cleaned and cut into slices (we used white button mushrooms)
  10. 28 oz favorite marinara sauce (use homemade if you can but it’s perfectly okay to use your favorite jarred sauce).
  11. 1/2 bunch of kale, stems removed (discard), and leaves chopped
  12. 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  13. 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  14. 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  15. 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat up approximately 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add the ground beef, and cook most of the way through, approximately 8 minutes depending on stove top and stirring frequently. With a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a bowl and set aside. Drain some of the liquid on top of the beef but leave enough in the pan to begin the vegetables.
  3. Add the onions, carrots, and celery with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add the bell peppers. Cook down another 3-4 minutes. During this time, add the Italian seasoning and cayenne pepper.
  4. Add the mushrooms. Continuing to stir occasionally, cook them down until they are approximately half in size from when you started.
  5. Add the sauce along with the meat and juices. Incorporate everything thoroughly. Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer. We are going to stay here the rest of the way.
  6. After about 10 minutes, add the kale, once again incorporating it well and stirring frequently. This will cook down significantly. Cook another 10 minutes on simmer.
  7. Adjust seasonings then allow to cool before assembling the lasagna.

For Assembly:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, put some of the tomato liquid on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan and spread along the bottom.
  2. Add 2 lasagna noodles. Spoon some of the filling onto the noodles, flattening it with a spatula. Sprinkle Parmesan and mozzarella.
  3. Add the next 2 noodles and repeat step 2.
  4. For the top layer, once again, spoon some of the liquid from the sauce mixture onto the noodles. Top with more Parmesan and mozzarella.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, covered with foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking oil. At 40 minutes, remove foil, boost temperature to 400, and cook another 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes so that it will not fall apart when you cut the lasagna into slices. Serve and enjoy!

Hashing a Plot: Southwest Sweet Potato Hash

Looking for ideas for Sunday brunch? A hash can be a great way to use up some leftovers from the week and a great way to experiment in the kitchen!

By Michael Elmore

Few things remind me of my childhood more than a Sunday brunch. Growing up, it became a weekly tradition to have a large brunch after mass on Sunday morning. While my brunches all these years later do not always consist of hummus, falafel, and a glorious over abundance of cheeses, meats, and olives, it is a tradition I continue to try to maintain.

Being diabetic certainly led to some of my favorites having to be modified, however. Gone are the days of the buttermilk biscuit (though keep an eye out for a lighter version coming soon!) smothered in sausage gravy, but some things never changed. This hash is one of them. Have some leftover vegetables from the week? They may go well in a hash. We had some leftover sweet potatoes that we did not get around to finishing earlier this week, an onion and some potatoes on the cusp of their final days. Enter: the hash.

This hodgepodge dish delights the senses with its sweetness from the sweet potatoes being balanced with some heat from cayenne and chili powder reminiscent of flavors well known to Southwestern cuisine.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 cup diced bell peppers (feel free to use frozen if that’s what you’ve got!)
  • 1 Sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 3 small russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 3 tbsp cheddar, shredded
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. This recipe works well in a cast-iron pan as well but be prepared for more sticking (though crispier potatoes).
  2. Add the onions and peppers with a pinch of salt. Cook down until the onions are nearly translucent, approximately 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are crisp tender, approximately 15-20 minutes depending on stove top. Add the chili powder and smoked paprika while the potatoes are cooking.
  4. Once the potatoes are cooked, add the eggs, stirring frequently until the eggs are cooked. Add the cayenne pepper, another pinch of salt, and the black pepper to this step.
  5. Add the spinach, stirring frequently until it cooks down and is wilted. This will not take long. Turn off heat and add the cheddar cheese, mixing it in well so that it melts. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy. Optional: Serve some lime with it to brighten up the dish and have some acidity to play off the heat from the peppers and sweetness of the vegetables.

Is bread pudding really a salad? Strawberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding

By Michael Elmore

Sadly, the answer is no. At least, not a healthy salad. But fear not, methods abound to lighten up this Southern classical dessert and spruce it up for summer as well. As strawberry season nears its end here in Virginia, what better way to pair up the classic combination of strawberry and rhubarb than a bread pudding?

While not healthy, this dish makes some critical substitutions from most recipes. First, you’ll notice there’s not as much sugar. We are going to rely on some overripe strawberries rather than sugar to make up the difference. You’ll also note that we don’t use whole milk or heavy cream – both of which would make this dish richer, more decadent, and delicious, but we sacraficed some of this to make the dish lighter.

Also, we didn’t have ice cream, but certainly feel free to make any of these substitutions back (the cook’s note beneath the recipe will list how to make the heavier version substitutes).

So let’s grab some strawberries, and make this (non-)salad!

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart strawberries, stemmed and quartered
  • 3 stalks rhubarb (warning: discard any leaves and the ends – the leaves are toxic)
  • 6 cups of day old bread of preference, cubed or torn into thick chunks
  • 1 ½ cups 1% milk
  • 1 ½ cups half and half
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Slice the rhubarb into small pieces, add to the strawberries, and toss with the two tablespoons of sugar and the vanilla. Set aside in the fridge, covered.
  2. Place the cubed bread in a large bowl and set aside. In a small cooking pot, add the milk and half and half, along with the pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, being careful not to scald the mixture. While waiting for the mixture to heat in another large bowl, add the egg yolks and remaining sugar. Beat together until light and fluffy. Once the mixture is simmering (but not scalded), turn off heat. One ladle at a time, whisk the hot mixture into the eggs while whisking to temper the eggs. Repeat until 1/3 of the mixture has been added to the eggs in this fashion, continuing to whisk the entire time to avoid the eggs scrambling. (Tip: if your eggs do scramble at any point, use a fine mesh sieve to retain as much of the custard mixture as you can). Slowly add the remaining mixture to the egg mixture, continuing to whisk until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the mixture back to the sauce pot and put heat back to medium high. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens and holds on a spoon (approximately 160 degrees Fahrenheit).
  4. Pour the mixture over the bread. Let soak at least 15 minutes up to an hour (if waiting more than 15 minutes, put in the fridge after it cools).
  5. Add the strawberry and rhubarb mixture to the bread mixture and gently toss to incorporate thoroughly. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray and then add the mixture evenly to the dish. Let sit in the fridge at least one hour, covered, up to overnight.
  6. When ready to back, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put in the oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes – 55 minutes, or until set. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Cook’s Notes:

If you want to use the more decadent recipe for a special occasion, bump up the sugar in the egg mixture to 1 cup, and replace the milk and half and half with whole milk and heavy cream, respectively. The custard mixture will be thicker at this point because of the increased fat content, just keep stirring so the eggs do not scramble!

Taking out the Take Out: Zucchini Lo Mein

By Michael Elmore

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It’s Monday evening. A long day of work finished, and the project of dinner
looms like a towering obstacle. Ordering take out may be your go to option in this weekday struggle, as it often was mine. Before my diagnosis of diabetes, I ate take out at least a couple of days a week. With the demands of long workdays and household tasks to also accomplish, it was an all too easy solution.

With this recipe, the preparation is done ahead of time on the weekend so
the entire meal on the weekday takes a mere 15 minutes to cook. A perk? It’s delicious – with some key, light substitutions, you can have a far healthier version of one of my favorites – chicken lo mein. Here, we replace the pasta with zucchini noodles and the hoisin sauce with a lighter mixture. An optional sprinkle of everything seasoning adds another twist.

We hope this recipe inspires you to take on take out and eases the weeknight
struggles!

Ingredients:

  • 6 zucchinis, ends removed
  • 6 carrots, peeled and stemmed
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 4 green scallions
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp siracha sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, freshly grated
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp everything seasoning

Directions:

  1. The day before cooking, use a spiralizer to make the zucchini into thin strips like noodles (you can also buy them already like this at the grocery store.
  2. Grate the carrots. Slice the scallions into ¼ inch pieces, omitting the white ends, and slice the red onions into thin half-moons.
  3. Cut the chicken breast in half and then into strips. Season with the vegetable oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, tossing well. Marinate overnight. Whisk together the soy sauce, mustard, sriracha and broth, and put in the fridge in a separate container.
  4. The next day take all ingredients out of the fridge and get your mis-en-place ready (everything ready beside you).
  5. Heat a wok with 2 tbsp of sesame oil on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken. Stir often but not too frequently until the chicken is mostly cooked. This will not take long. Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and put in a clean bowl (do not use the same container you had the raw chicken in).
  6. Add the garlic and ginger. Sautée until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds, stirring frequently.
  7. Add the vegetables with a pinch of salt. Cook down, stirring frequently. Return the cooked chicken to the pan and mix to incorporate. Add the soy sauce mixture to de-glaze the pan, scrapping any brown bits.
  8. Add the zucchini, tossing well to incorporate. Cook an additional 1-2 minutes, until softened. If desired, add the everything seasoning, and toss to incorporate again.
  9. Plate and serve.

A Salut! to Salads

Salads. Let’s be honest, most of us avoid them at all costs. It’s hard to imagine a salad as comfort food, and without bacon, can feel like a throw away at the dinner table. Most salads tend to have the same old ingredients of Romaine lettuce (let’s not even get started on iceberg lettuce), tomatoes and maybe some onions.

Yet, despite this, salads may be one of the most underrated dishes on our tables. With the right ingredients and proper treatment of those ingredients, the boring salad may just become the star of the show, or at least a great supporting role for an entree.

One overlooked trick to salads is roasting the vegetables ahead of time. Here, we are sharing two salads that are great for any occasion. First up, an arugula and fennel salad that can complement great seafood. We served this with our Lobster Boil to great success.

The second salad features roasted beets and watermelon radishes. The roasting of these vegetables provides a depth of flavor that is lacking in their raw or pickled forms, providing for a sweet, earthy taste that can ground any salad. For this salad, we used a simple lemon vinaigrette.

Roasted Fennel & Arugula Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese (optional)
  • Shallot vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is preheating, cut off the top of the fennel bulb and remove any tough outer layers (you can reserve the tops and use them to make an amazing stock).
  2. Slice the fennel in half, lengthwise and then slice half moons out of the two fennel halves.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  4. Place in the oven for 55-60 minutes, or until fennel is tender with no resistance and fragrant.
  5. Take the roasted fennel out of the oven and allow to cool. These steps can be done a day or two ahead of time.
  6. In a large bowl, add the arugula, tomato, roasted fennel and goat cheese. Toss together gently to incorporate well.
  7. Take the dressing and with a spoon, pour some along the edge of the bowl all the way around. This will allow the dressing to also seep into the bottom to lead to a better dressed salad. Add another teaspoon or two over the center of the salad.
  8. Toss gently to dress the salad. Serve immediately.

Shallot Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • One small shallot, diced
  • 2 tbsp vinegar of your choice (we used a citrus champagne vinegar)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place the shallots and vinegar in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify the mixture.
  3. Dress your salad or save for later in the fridge.

Beet & Watermelon Radish Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium beets
  • 1 large watermelon radish, sliced into half-moons.
  • 3 cups arugula
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • Lemon vinaigrette

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, place the beats onto a foil packet and lightly coat with olive oil. Close the packet up tightly. On a sheet tray, place the watermelon radish slices and coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place both the beets and radishes into the oven (they can be on the same sheet tray), and roast for 55-60 minutes. Cook until the beets and radishes have no resistance when tested with a knife. The radishes may be done after 45 minutes depending on how large the slices are and varying oven temperatures.
  3. Once cooked, take out of the oven and allow the vegetables to cool. Once the beets are cool to the touch, peel them. The outer layer should come out easily now. Once peeled, slice the beets into half-moons. Steps 1 through 3 may be done a day or two ahead of time.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the beets, radishes, arugula and parsley. Toss gently. Add the lemon vinaigrette and toss gently again until well incorporated. Serve immediately.

Who you gonna call? Pan-Seared Cauliflower

By Michael Araj

Comfort food can encompass all measures of ideas and concepts. Of course, most of us gravitate to the usual stars of the show. Macaroni and cheese. Pot roast dinners. Steak and potatoes. These are, of course, all great items full of memories from childhood of home cooked meals, but not always attainable in our adult lives for various reasons.

I recently got some bad medical news requiring me to change my diet, and while it is certainly disappointing that steak and potato dinners will be greatly reduced in my near future, there are other ways to get those same feelings of nostalgia and comfort. Enter: pan seared cauliflower. With its steak-like shape, beautifully colored florets, and tender texture, one can still be satisfied with a great meal.

First, we trimmed the head to make a steak. One head can usually produce two steaks, but as we were in experiment stage, we only made one steak so as to use the rest of the cauliflower for other dishes.

Next, we seasoned the cauliflower before we pan-seared it.

After we pan seared it on both sides (we used a cast iron to give it more of a grilled feel and because the heat is evenly distributed), we drizzled some vinaigrette on with it. We also served it with some roasted watermelon radishes (coming soon!) and a lemon slice.

This recipe is quick, easy, and great for weeknight cooking. Plus side, it’s extremely healthy so you won’t have to feel guilty for going back for seconds!

Pan Seared Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower (white, purple, or other color)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • Parsley (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Cut the cauliflower to make two “steaks” out of the head (see picture), and trim off any greens.
  2. Coat each side of the cauliflower using one tbsp of the olive oil in total, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika (we went heavy handed on paprika because we love it so much)
  3. Heat a cast iron pan on medium high heat with the remaining olive oil. Once the pan is hot, sear the steaks on each side for approximately 4-5 minutes or until a knife pierces through easily with no resistance. Work in batches if needed.
  4. While the cauliflower rests, make the lemon vinaigrette.
  5. Plate the cauliflower, drizzle the vinaigrette on top and garnish with chopped parsley and a lemon wedge if desired. Serve immediately.

Lemon Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the lemon juice in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil so as to emulsify the mixture.
  3. Once emulsified and incorporated, the dressing is ready to use. You can add shallots, or lemon zest in the first step to vamp up some new flavors. If the vinaigrette is too bitter for your liking, try adding a teaspoon of honey with the lemon juice.

Jambalaya Jams

Jambalaya. You can reserve the lobster heads from the seafood boil, clean them out and use them for garnish.

By Michael Araj

We had a lot of leftover Lobster Boil. With fall being the season of transformation, we deiced to transform the boil as well. I had also been craving food from my adventures in New Orleans after coming across some Beignet mix from Cafe du Monde. Few dishes symbolize the festive city as much as jambalaya with its unique cajun flavors, smoked Andouille sausage, and fresh sea food. Here, we play off those key characteristics to transform one great dish into another.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups long grained rice
  • Leftover lobster boil, particularly sausage links
  • 8 cups of seafood stock (if you have leftover broth from the boil, you can use this)
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp Cajun Spice (we make our own with cayenne, dried basil, salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and dried thyme)
  • Cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • Lime wedges, for garnish

Directions:

  1. For preparation, take the leftover seafood boil and separate the seafood out into a bowl. Take the mussels out of their shells, take the tails off the shrimp, shell any remaining lobster.
  2. Take the corn on the cobs and cut the corn off the cobs and add the corn to the seafood bowl.
  3. Take the sausage links that are left over and cut them into slices and put them in a separate bowl. If there are leftover onions or garlic, you can add these to this bowl also.
  4. In a large pot, sauté the onions, sausage and garlic in heated olive oil over medium high heat.
  5. Once the sausages are caramelized after approximately five minutes, add the rice.
  6. Stir well and toast the rice for approximately two minutes.
  7. Add all the remaining ingredients except the seafood and bring the stock up to a boil before reducing to a simmer.
  8. Once simmering, cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Test the rice. It should be tender yet with a bit. Cook longer if needed.
  9. Add the seafood, stirring it in gently. Cover off heat for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork.
  10. Garnish with chopped cilantro and lime wedges. Serve immediately.

Getting Curried Away: Thai Lobster Curry

By Michael Araj

When we made our Lobster Boil, we had Loki the Lobster Queen leftover who was simply too big to fit into the pots with the remaining lobsters. As a result, we experimented with making a Thai inspired curry. Fragrant aromas of garlic, chili and coconut will make your kitchen transform into the coast of Thailand. Sweet, spicy and acidic, the sauce compliments the subtle sweetness of the lobster without overwhelming it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 Thai chili peppers, stems cut off
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 3-5 mussels
  • 1 lobster, approximately 2 lbs
  • 1 cup water
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a mortar and pestle, ground the garlic and peppers to make a paste. To help with friction, add a pinch of salt.
  2. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add the shallots. After they soften, add the paste. Once fragrant after approximately 30-60 seconds, add the coconut cream and stir.
  3. Once simmering, add the lobster and cover. Steam the lobster for approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Add the water to the mortar and stir to get the excess oils.
  5. Uncover the pot and add the mortar water. Flip the lobster, cover again for approximately another 10-15 minutes until the lobster is red and mostly cooked. Add the mussels, and baste the lobster with the sauce from the bottom of the pan, approximately another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the lobsters and mussels to another plate. Put the sauce into your serving platter, then put the lobster and mussels on the platter.
  7. Garnish with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

Under the Sea: The Grand Birthday Lobster Boil

By Michael Araj

It was my birthday last week, and my parents surprised me with a cooler of live lobsters. Those who know me know that I try to cook with new ingredients often (read: at least weekly) so I can learn about new ingredients and methods of cooking (and just in case I ever make it onto Chopped on Food Network). Despite this, I had difficulty a month back finding anywhere in my vicinity that sold live lobsters, but my parents came to the rescue in a big way.

I opted to make a Lobster Boil as I had been informed we would be having company over, and the recipe below follows. Few meals are as inclusive as a seafood boil – friends and family huddled over a mass of shared, delicious food can be the ultimate comfort food experience.

I then used the shells to make a lobster stock for Jambalaya, and that recipe will be posted later on separately. I did also take one Lobster and make a Lobster Curry, and I’ll share that recipe as well. I also apologize for the lack of photos – this was not originally intended to be on the blog, but enough people have expressed interest in how to do it that thought I would share!

Before we get started though, I want to say hello and thank you to our new followers. We’re happy to have you here!

So here where the lobsters that starred in the show:

Pictured here: Loki, Thor, Paul, and Dean, chilling on some ice and getting some rest.

Later on, we grabbed the pot and started pouring the liquids and first ingredients:

Add the onions, garlic, potatoes and the rest of the ingredients from Step 1 to the pot.

Next came the corn:

Due to the unseasonably hot weather here, we still have corn available!

Then, it was time for the seafood:

The heat started to open the mussels fairly quickly.

Let the feasting begin!

LOBSTER BOIL

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 1 head of garlic – all cloves peeled and crushed (not chopped)
  • 8 Yukon Gold Potatoes, halved
  • 3 Thai chilis, sliced
  • 3 Mexican Style Beers of your choice (If you don’t want to use alcohol, you can substitute seafood stock).
  • 2 links of Turkey Sausage (We had some dietary restrictions with our company, but you could easily substitute Andouille or Kielbasa sausages, and if you eat pork, would recommend doing so). Cut these into about 1.5 inch pieces.
  • 4 ears of corn, husked and cut into 3 pieces of each for a total of 12 small cobs.
  • 5 live medium lobsters (about 1-1.5 pounds each)
  • 4 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp toasted coriander seeds
  • 4 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds of mussels, scrubbed and cleaned
  • 2 pounds of shrimp, under 16, cleaned and deveined (alternatively, use frozen but make sure that they are cleaned and deveined as well)
  • 3 tbsp cilantro, cleaned and chopped
  • Limes

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place the onions, garlic, potatoes, chili peppers, and sausages in a large pot. Place 4 cups of water and both beers on top.
  2. Place pot on medium high heat to bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer. Add the corn. Cover pot and cook for about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the cumin, chili powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper together. You may want to make a double batch so you can sprinkle the mixture on top of the boil later.
  4. After 15 minutes has elapsed, add half the spice mixture over the ingredients already in the pot, then add the lobsters. Cooking time for lobsters will vary. We followed these guidelines to make sure that we treated the lobsters humanely before putting them in the pot: https://www.thespruceeats.com/ways-to-kill-a-lobster-1808804.
  5. After you add the lobsters, cover the pot. For the lobsters, you will need about 20 minutes for the first pound, and about 7 minutes per pound after. So after 20 minutes, add the mussels and shrimp and cover the pot again. Add the rest of the spice mixture. The liquid should be simmering and steaming during all of this.
  6. Cook for about 7-10 more minutes depending on size of lobsters and check on pot. Mussels should be open at this point (discard and do not eat any unopened mussels) and shrimp should be pink and opaque.
  7. Strain the pot and make sure to reserve the broth. Lay out the seafood wonders onto prepared newspaper or parchment paper. Garnish with chopped cilantro, more of the spice mixture, and lime wedges. Serve immediately.

Falling into Autumn: Butternut Squash Stew

By Michael Araj

Despite the hot heat, fall has arrived with its abundance of autumn squashes and warm flavors, not to mention the colors. This warming stew keeps quite a while and increases in flavor the longer it melds. While it’s not a quick meal to cook during the week, it’s a great Sunday prep meal, freezes well, and can be eaten throughout the week.

As always, the first step is to get all your ingredients in place, or mise en place. This helps prevent me from looking like a chicken with its head cut off in the middle of my cooking since everything is ready to use.

Now it’s time to start cooking! Let’s heat up some oil and start cooking down the jalepenos, garlic and peppers!

Now time for the squash – the ultimate feel of fall. When you add the spices, after a few minutes, your kitchen should smell like a combination of all the flavors.

Time for the tomatoes and to cook down the squash since it will take less time than the beans to cook.

After the squash is mostly cooked, we add the beans, finish cooking the squash and then reduce the liquid.

Now we can enjoy our finished stew and celebrate the colors outside with those inside our bowls!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH STEW

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp jalapenos, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 4 bell peppers, diced into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat two tablespoons of oil over medium high heat. Once hot, add jalapenos. Cook until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds. Add garlic. Cook until fragrant, approximately another 30 seconds.
  2. Add bell peppers and stir well – this will prevent the garlic and jalapenos from burning. Cook approximately 4-5 minutes until peppers are softened slightly.
  3. Add the squash and stir gently to incorporate. Add the spices and stir again. Cook for approximately 10-15 minutes on medium heat to bloom the spices.
  4. Add the tomatoes and stir gently to incorporate well – there should be a fair amount of liquid from the can which should also be incorporated. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered for approximately 25 minutes.
  5. Check on the squash – it should be softened but still not fully cooked with some resistance. Once at this point, add the beans. Cook another 15-20 minutes, covered.
  6. Check the stew and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed and desired. Cook another 10-15 minutes, uncovered, so that the stew thickens.
  7. Serve immediately or let cool then store – the flavors will meld the longer they are together. Serve heated, garnished with chopped cilantro and a lime wedge if desired. In the alternative, top with chopped parsley and finishing salt.

Can’t Run a-fowl: Keto Italian Chicken

By Michael Elmore

When my doctor first diagnosed me with diabetes, I was terrified. Not only for my health, but also the overwhelming changes to my diet that had now become mandates rather than recommendations. A good friend from law school often talked about eating keto and the benefits she found worked for her from cutting out some of her carb count.

This recipe is borne from that spirit. While I used to love roasted Italian seasoned chicken with heavier starches, this fills the craving with ease. In place of polenta or mashed potatoes, instead we have a medley of vegetables, a culinary parade of onions, fennel, and spinach. Throw in some tomatoes, and we even have the red, white, and green found throughout Italian cuisine. These vibrant flavors and colors please any day of the week. Buon appetito!

Ingredients:

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel, stalks and outer leaves removed, chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 3 cups spinach
  • 18 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated finely
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions:

1. The night before, toss the chicken and Italian seasoning together. Cover and place in fridge to marinate overnight.

2. Take chicken out of fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking. When ready to cook, heat up approximately 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to a large cast iron pan. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Stir occasionally so the chicken does not burn until the chicken is nearly completely cooked. Remove with slotted spoon.

3. To the remaining oil, add the onion with a pinch of salt. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add the fennel. Sauté well for another 2-3 minutes before adding the garlic. Cook until fragrant, approximately 30-60 seconds.

4. Return chicken to pan along with the spinach. Add a pinch of salt. Cook down the spinach for 1-2 minutes, and then add the tomatoes. Add the red pepper flakes here if desired. Sauté another minute, until spinach has nearly completely wilted, and turn off the heat.

5. Stir in the cheeses until mixture is melted and fully incorporated. Adjust salt and seasonings to taste. Serve and enjoy!