Sautéed Greens

Everything but the kitchen sink . . . La Cucina literally translates as ”the kitchen” in Italian.  It is also used in the Marche region as the colloquial name for a dish of mixed sautéed greens that includes whatever you have on hand.  This sautéing method works well for a wide variety of hearty greens.  The dish works best if you use a combination of mild and bitter greens.  Mild varieties include: beet greens, chard, kale, cabbage, and spinach.  Bitter varieties include: chicory, dandelion, and mustard.

Dinosaur Kale, or Tuscan Kale grows in abundance locally here.  The lush, dark green, bumpy leaves are super-nutritious: a cup provides more than 100% of the daily value of vitamins K and A, and 88%of the DV for vitamin C. Like other members of the cruciferous family (cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts), kale is a rich source of organosulfur compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention.  Lucky for us, it’s easy to grow in our climate and can be found everywhere — green grocers, farmers markets and supermarket stores.  We like to pair this dish with a side garlicky beans for a satisfying, comforting supper.

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always, check us out on Vimeo or subscribe to our YouTube channel!

La Cucina — Sautéed Greens

Serves 4

1-1/4 pounds mixed leafy greens (such as Dino Kale or chard), washed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled, and finely minced

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste!)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon wedges, for garnish

If the greens have thick hardy stems, remove the stems and slice the stems in ½-inch slices and the greens in 1-inch slices (place stems and greens in separate bowls.)

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the stems only. The stems will take the longest to cook, putting them in the pan first will ensure they are ready at the same time the leaves are.  Season with salt and pepper and cook covered for 5 minutes.  Add the leaves, as many as you can fit at a time, and turn them gently to wilt.  Continue adding greens and turning them over until you have added all the leaves.  Season leaves with salt and pepper and add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add a couple of tablespoons of water, and cook covered for 10 minutes or until the liquid is gone and the greens are fully cooked.

Eat your leafy greens!

In Defense of Brussels Sprouts

In Defense of Brussels Sprouts

There comes a time in one’s life when a singular event makes such an impact, there is time BEFORE, and time AFTER.  And, every human adult’s life in Western Civilization begins with intense dislike for Brussels sprouts.  At some point, either in early adulthood or even much later on in life, one might be fortunate enough to be reintroduced to the Brussels sprout and find he comes to like the pleasant delicious vegetable after all.

I can honestly say I’ve never known another fruit or vegetable that remains so divisive — there is the WE LOVE camp and the WE HATE camp.  And why hate?  There is nothing this humble mini-cabbage has ever done to make one hate it so much.

Tips for cooking Brussels sprouts for maximum potential:

  1. Buy them fresh, still attached to the stalk.  They stay fresher for up to a week and a half when still attached to their stem.  If you buy them loose in a bag or from the bulk bin, chances are they’ve been trimmed a week ago.  They start getting bitter soon after they are cut from the stalk.
  2. How can you tell a good sprout from a not-so-good one?  Squeeze the head between your thumb and forefinger.  The tighter the sprout, the fresher and tastier it will be.  If you feel something spongy with a lot of give and take, it’s lost its mojo.  Too much air between the leafy layers can only mean bitterness and sadness.
  3. Try different methods for cooking:  steaming, braising, roasting, sautéing, frying… and see which method works better for your palate.
  4. Add yummy aromatics like garlic, shallots, celery or caraway seeds, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes or BACON to the recipe.  Their complexity complements many different flavor profiles.  Find one that fits your palate.
  5. As a leafy green, they are downright fluffy and easy to digest.  Slice them in thin ribbon-like strips for a quick sauté. They cook so fast this way!
  6. Just don’t EVER buy them frozen. EVER.

The recipe below is Chef Mia’s, which was inspired by a photoshoot we did one afternoon (pictured above).  We liked the look and texture of both halved and sliced that we decided to keep them together in this dish.  I actually made this for dinner tonight — and added julienned carrots.  Delicious!

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Serves 4 to 6

RT @DearMartini “Dear @Brussels_sprouts_haters, This is a life changer.  You’re welcome.  Love, us.  #Baconmakeseverythingbetter”

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and sliced in half

4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into ½-inch dice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced horizontally

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

¼  teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (to taste!)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Take half of the Brussels sprouts and thinly slice them horizontally.  Keep the remaining halves in tact.  Keep them separate and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until brown and crispy.  With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.  Pour off the bacon grease in a disposable container and discard.

In the same pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the halved sprouts.  keep tossing the sprouts until their outsides are brown and crispy, about 7-8 minutes.  Add the shallots and garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.  Stir in the sliced Brussels sprouts, and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté until the sprouts turn bright green, about 5 minutes more.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar and return the bacon to the pan.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed and serve hot.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fish Wrapped

Fish Wrapped

It’s that time of year again — as we approach the fall and winter seasons, the days get shorter, nights get chillier and when we get home from work, our tired souls want a comforting, delicious meal that is virtually effortless to prepare and equally effortless to cook.  Some might consider this request to be a tall order… but here at Dear Martini, we’ll deliver that to you gift wrapped (bow, extra)!

The concept of cooking en papillote ( in paper) is so simple.  Creating an air-tight pouch using parchment paper, aluminum foil or even a simple brown paper bag delivers many benefits:  the food is both steamed and roasted in its own juices, there is minimal clean-up,  it’s the most flavorful form of low-fat cooking available, and the possibilities and combinations are endless!

The principles of cooking en papillote:

1)  Choose a delicate, lean protein — fish, shellfish, chicken breast or tofu.

2)  Select the most flavorful, colorful, piquant, aromatic garniture you can — capers, olives, ginger, herbs, shallots, lemon zest.

3)  Size matters — thinner slices of protein work better, smaller pieces of garnish cook faster.  Avoid huge thick chunks of anything.

4)  Seal your package properly — do not let any of the precious steam escape from inside the package.

5)  Rub a small amount of oil on the OUTSIDE of the package — this contributes heat delivery and makes the roasting environment hotter.

In the time it takes for your oven to reach the correct temperature (400°F), you should have your papillote package dressed and ready to go.  Then, it’s only a matter of minutes (10 at the most) before it’s cooked, and you’re removing that beautifully glossy, puffy package from the oven to the table!  Be very careful when cutting the package open — steam burns are quite nasty!

Salmon Fillet en Papillote

Serves 2

One 8-ounce salmon fillet, skin-on, pinbones removed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon minced shallot

1/4 cup julienned or shredded carrots

pitted olives, roughly chopped

halved cherry tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon minced parsley

Special Equipment:

Parchment Paper (12″ x 16″) or aluminum foil

Baking sheet

Kitchen Scissors

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Take a sheet of parchment paper or  aluminum foil and fold it in half.  Draw a half-heart shape on the folded paper and trim.  Open the heart and place the salmon in the center of one side of the heart.  Season with salt and pepper.  In a small bowl, drizzle the olive oil over the aromatics and vegetables and toss together, season with salt and pepper.  Place the vegetables on top of the salmon.  Fold the other half of the heart over the salmon and begin to fold the edges together.  Start at the curved end of the heart, making one folded crease 1/4-inch from the edge.  Continue to make successive folds along the edge of the package, making each new fold from the center of the previous one.  Keep folding along the edge, making sure each crease is flat and straight.  When you reach the pointed end, fold up, then fold back, tucking it underneath the package.

Transfer the package to a baking sheet or any pan and drizzle a couple of drops of oil over the top.  Use your fingertips to spread the oil over the surface of the package and bake for 10 minutes, or until the package is browned and puffy.

Remove from the oven and let it rest for a minute or two.  It will start to deflate.  Carefully cut around the edges to open the package.  Lift the salmon up from the package and transfer to a plate.  Spoon the vegetables and any sauce drippings from the package on top.  Serve immediately.

Announcing… Video Playlists!

Hi Gang!

We’re busy keeping a cool project under wraps but for now let’s talk about something important:  VIDEOS.

Do you watch them?  Do you like them?  Are they helpful to you in your culinary pursuits?  We hope you say YES to all three!

To make things every easier for all you awesome home cooks out there, we’ve uploaded all of our current videos to YouTube for your viewing and sharing pleasure.  We’ve also made some playlists that group the videos together according to recipe.  Take a look and see what’s helpful.

Here is our Bacon and Egg Salad Playlist, for example:

We’ve got a playlist for each recipe we’ve featured here on our blog:  chocolate souffle, cranberry-orange scones, guacamole, Nicoise salad, pan-seared steak, vinaigrette, aioli… and more!

Remember to share the videos with everyone you know — especially that colleague or cousin whom you KNOW could use the help.  We’re  are in serious need of some increased numbers, so please help us spread the word.  Yes, the same videos are also still available on Vimeo, which we prefer to use; but we noticed that YouTube is still the standard when it comes to viewing and sharing.

And, as always, we wouldn’t be here without YOU.  It’s YOUR encouragement and support that keeps up wanting to make more great videos for you.  So THANK YOU for being here with us!

xxoo

Mia and Terri

The Bacon and Egg Salad (AKA Frisée au Lardon)

Have you ever tried this salad?  It’s simplicity is what makes it so special.

We dare you to make this salad and NOT fall in love with it.  If you cook the egg properly, when the yolk runs together with the vinaigrette, the balance of the rich yolk and the vinegar is sublime.  Combine that killer yin-yang pairing with crunchy croutons, salty, crispy bacon and feathery frisée — this salad becomes something that is an experience, not just a dish.

Bacon and Egg Salad

Serves 4

Preheat a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook bacon until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels. Set aside.

Place prepared lettuce in a large bowl with a damp towel covering the lettuce.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To soft boil the eggs, bring water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan over high heat. Gently lower the eggs into the water, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and cool in an ice bath.

Toss lettuce to coat lightly with vinaigrette.  Divide lettuce on individual plates and sprinkle with the cooked bacon and croutons.

Just before serving, remove the shells from the eggs.  Dip the shelled eggs back into boiling water for a few seconds to reheat and blot dry on a paper towel.  Place an egg on each salad and season the egg with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes:  Not big on bacon?  Substitute smoked salmon for the bacon or omit.

Basic Vinaigrette

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh herbs (flat-leaf parsley, chervil or chives are great choices with eggs and bacon)
  •  1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup vinegar (try a Spanish sherry vinegar or a champagne vinegar with this salad)
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, herbs, mustard, salt and pepper with the vinegar until smooth.  Continue to whisk while slowly pouring in a thin, steady stream, the olive oil.  The mixture will gradually thicken.

Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt and pepper if needed.  (Vinaigrette can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks)

Don’t miss out on the 4 new videos — check it out!

ALL ABOUT ASPARAGUS

We’ve all got our favorite ways to use asparagus — steamed,  sautéed, blanched, sliced, in soups, in risottos, chilled in salads, with aioli, with lemon zest, in an omelet, tossed in pasta, dipped in tempura batter and fried…

…but my hands-down favorite is:  Flash-roasted!

If you didn’t already love asparagus because it’s delicious, get ready to love it even more for what it can do for you!  Asparagus is low in calories… about 20 calories for a 3-ounce serving. Despite its low cal reputation, asparagus packs a huge punch in the nutrient-density department:  it’s a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, E, K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, iron, potassium and chromium.  Not to mention it’s a great source for dietary fiber!

At the market, choose your asparagus carefully.  Asparagus is usually sold in one-pound bunches.  Make sure you select the stalks that are straight, smooth and bright green with tight, compact bud tips (mushy tips mean trouble – they’ve been sitting around too long).  Remember, the fresher the asparagus, the more nutrients it still has to offer.  Also, avoid the really thick stalks.  You might think you’re getting more value for your money by buying a bigger size, but in this case, the smaller, the better.  We prefer stems that are pencil thin to dime-sized in diameter.  Thicker stems can be tough, woody and bitter.

Two Asparagus Recipes

Blanched and Sauteed Asparagus w Lemon Zest

(serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and blanched
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • generous pinch kosher salt
  • generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar

Directions:

In a medium-sized saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium flame and add the blanched asparagus.  Saute until the asparagus is heated through, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Turn off the heat and toss in the lemon zest and vinegar.  Serve immediately or chilled.

Flash-Roasted Asparagus

(serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • generous pinch kosher salt
  • generous pinch freshly ground black pepper

Special Equipment:

  • Baking sheet lined with aluminum foil
  • Oven mitts

Directions:

Preheat the oven and a foil-lined baking sheet to 500℉ for about 30 minutes.  It’s best if the oven is ROCKET HOT before you begin preparing the asparagus.

Toss the asparagus in a bowl with the olive oil salt and pepper.

When the oven is sufficiently hot enough to sizzle even the smallest drop of water on the baking sheet, quickly toss the seasoned asparagus onto the baking sheet and close the oven door.  ROAST FOR 3 minutes (or until the smoke starts to set off your smoke detector.)

With the oven mitts, remove the baking sheet from the oven and roll the asparagus around.  Return to the oven and roast for another 2-4 minuts, or until the asparagus is tender.

Serve immediately.

This flash-roasting technique is great for when you’re pressed for time but still want something beautifully-cooked and delicious to go with dinner.  And this method is also great to use on green beans, baby Brussels Sprouts, radishes, zucchini and eggplants!

Salad Days

Salad days are here!  Sometimes we fall into a rut during the winter months and serve the same boring salad over and over – how about you?  Here is my newest salad inspiration – thanks to a basket of perfectly ripe juicy summer blueberries that weren’t going to last until morning – what to do with them before they went south?  Salad!

Blueberry & Pickled Red Onion Salad

Serves 4

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed
  • 1/3 cup pickled red onions (see recipe below)
  • 5 to 6 handfuls of your favorite summer greens, washed and spun dry
  • ¼ cup vinaigrette (I added parsley & thyme to mine)
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper

Toss greens and blueberries in separate bowls with just enough vinaigrette to coat.  Season greens with salt and pepper to taste.  Mound greens on individual plates and sprinkle with berries and a mound of pickled red onions.

Salad Notes

Greens

Delicate greens need a little special attention especially after making the trip home in a warm car.  Don’t just throw them in the fridge…. For best results when you get home place the greens in a bowl of ice water to wash and then dry in batches in a salad spinner.  Lay the leaves out on paper towels and then roll up the paper towels and place in a plastic bag.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  When you take the greens out they will be cool, crispy, and DRY.   (soggy salads suck!)

Hate making too much salad?  I usually plan on a handful (approximately 1 cup) of greens per person plus 1 or 2 extra for the bowl – the perfect amount every time.

And, don’t forget to season the greens.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper as you toss in the vinaigrette.  Taste and adjust as needed.

Fruit

Tired of tomatoes?  Some people think it is a little weird to add fruit to green salads but the combination of sweet and tart is perfect.  Blueberries, strawberries, and melons are great additions to a summer salad.

Pickled Onions

I don’t usually like raw onions in salads, but I love pickled onions. They are great anywhere you would use raw onions… especially hamburgers and hot dogs.   Super easy to make (don’t tell anyone) AND they make you look like a culinary rock star.  The same method can be used to quick pickle cherries (yum!)  See recipe below.

Vinaigrette

Don’t over dress!  It seems like it always takes less vinaigrette than you think to give a salad a nice light coating.  Add a couple of tablespoons, toss, add more vinaigrette if needed.  Remember the longer the greens sit after being dressed, the more they will be weighed down by the vinaigrette.  Always toss just before serving.

Chilled Plates

Okay, I admit it,  I’m a freak for a chilled plate.  Chilled plates are optional –but always a pleasant surprise.

Vinaigrette

 

Every cook should be able to make a vinaigrette in his or her sleep.  Why?  It’s a versatile sauce that can be used on salad and veggies, works equally well on cold meat and fish dishes, and can even substitute for a marinade.  It’s a sauce that is quick and easy to make and stores well in the fridge for up to two weeks. Vinaigrette is also the sauce where you can let your creativity run wild with the possibility of dozens (hundreds) of variations once you understand the basics.

Basic Vinaigrette

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh herbs
  •  1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, herbs, mustard, salt and pepper with the vinegar until smooth.  Continue to whisk while slowly pouring in a thin, steady stream, the olive oil.  The mixture will gradually thicken.

Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt and pepper if needed.  (Vinaigrette can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks)

What to stock your pantry with:

Aromatics

Mustard

Helps to keep the emulsion from separating.  A little goes a long way.

  • Dijon
  • Stoneground

Salt & Pepper

Now is the time to breakout that fancy salt you’ve been saving…

  • Kosher salt
  • Sea salt
  • Seasoned salt (truffle salt for example)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (our favorite  — Tellicherry peppercorns)

Herbs

Fresh herbs are the stars of vinaigrette.  It’s what sets a homemade vinaigrette apart from the store bought stuff!

Vinegars

  • Traditional balsamic or white balsamic (If you haven’t tried white balsamic you’re missing out! Think of it as the less acidic, doesn’t turn your salad muddy and dark cousin of traditional balsamic)
  • Champagne, red or white wine, sherry, cider
  • Herb infused vinegars
  • Fruit infused vinegars – raspberry, pomegranate, and mango
  • Rice vinegar – plain or sweetened
  • Distilled white vinegar best for cleaning not for vinaigrettes

Juice

Substitute a portion or all of the vinegar with juice

  • Fruit juice – pomegranate, white grape juice, guava
  • Citrus juice – lemon, lime, orange, blood orange, grapefruit, AND all citrus zest

Oils

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • Substitute ¼ cup of the extra-virgin olive with walnut, hazelnut, almond or sesame

WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

Looking for a quick and easy answer to dinner?  Our English pea soup looks like spring… fresh, light green, and sweet.  The secret is in the blanching.  Blanching and shocking lock in the vibrant green color giving the soup its appealing color (no drab olive green here!)

Garden Pea Soup

Garden Pea Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Delicious on it’s own as a cold starter to a meal. Serve hot in a larger bowl and you have a light dinner with your favorite artisan bread and a salad.  

INGREDIENTS:

PREPARATION:

Pulse the peas, stock, zest, and almond butter in a blender until smooth.  With the blender running, pour in the olive oil  through the hole in the top.  Pour oil in a steady stream until blended.  Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate. Serve soup cold or heat soup over low heat just until hot (can be done in the microwave.)  Garnish with mint and serve.

Cook’s Notes: 

English peas, aka garden peas, aka shelling peas, are best eaten soon after picking.  For optimum results, purchase peas no more than 2-3 days before you plan to cook them as they start to loose their tenderness and sweetness quickly as their sugars turn to starch leaving you with bland starchy peas.  If you can’t find peas at the Farmer’s market you can substitute organic frozen peas (not quite as good, but pretty darn good in a pinch — shhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone I told you.)

Oh, and what’s with the almond butter?  We’ve added a little almond butter to enhance the sweetness in the peas, add a subtle nuttiness, and up the protein.  If you don’t have it, don’t like it, don’t add it!

Remember, when working with our recipes on the blog, simply hit the blue hyperlinks in the recipe to see the associated technique video. It’s our way of guiding you through the recipe. Alternatively, you can view our Vimeo Portfolio, where all of the pea-related videos are bundled: http://vimeopro.com/dearmartini/peas-please

WELL, THAT WAS AWKWARD…

Darlings, we’re all human. No one is perfect. Oh, and haste makes a huge pain in the ass.

It is with great humility that I inform you that last night, as I was in a rush to prepare dinner for myself, I experienced a most inconvenient kitchen accident.

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What you see here is a triple-bandaided left index finger, minus its fingernail. In fact, it’s hard to type this.

But I thought you all should know — even professional chefs make mistakes and cut themselves. Though we should most definitely heed our own advice, sometimes our own digits get in the way of the knife. Even Chef Ramsay isn’t immune from such tragedy.

In fact, what happened in that video was exactly what I did last night. Except, no Ellen, no audience, no vegan stir fry (gorgeous recipe, by the way) no TV cameras (thankfully). I admire how he just kept on cooking…

Expect an in-depth how-to video on proper knife skills in the near future.

;

Postscript:
Two days later, the throbbing is still there… Any guesses as to how long it’ll take to grow back??

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