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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.