Tag Archives: Main Dish

Cheese Filling for Blintzes


A classic filling
Makes enough filling for about 16 blintzes, but your mileage may vary.


Shopping List
14-16 ounces of farmer cheese
1 egg
1 TBL butter
3 TBL sugar
1 tsp vanilla

First off, the amount of farmer cheese is a range because the primary producer of packaged farmer cheese, Friendship Dairies, has reduced the size of their packages from eight ounces to seven. If you can buy farmer cheese in bulk, buy the larger amount, but also, don’t bother buying 3 packages of farmer cheese just to get to 16 ounces. This recipe isn’t that precise.

Read the notes at the end of this recipe if you would like to flavor the cheese filling differently, as my mother did, or if you can’t find farmer cheese.

In a mixing bowl, combine:

  • 14-16 ounces of farmer cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 TBL melted butter
  • 2-3 TBL sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Mix thoroughly. Fill the Blintzes as described in that recipe, making sure you don’t overfill them. Cook them as described there. My mother would often serve these with a Blueberry Sauce although I personally prefer sour cream.

NOTE: My mother preferred a citrus flavor, so instead of vanilla, she used 11/2 tsp lemon juice and 21/2 TBL Curacao. I’d consider using some grated lemon rind if I wanted a citrus flavor.

NOTE: If you are unable to locate farmer cheese, don’t despair. My mother often had that problem in Colorado and came up with two substitutions. For the recipe above she would drain 2 cups of cottage cheese in a strainer to eliminate some of the liquid: it probably took a 2-3 hours. Alternatively, she’d use equal parts (8 ounces each, by weight) of cream cheese and dry curd cottage cheese, which is much drier than farmer cheese.


Inspired by my mother’s recipe.

Blintzes


My mother made blintzes, sometimes in batches of more than 100, for big family gatherings.
Makes 18 blintzes, but scaling instructions are provided.


Shopping List
1 cup flour
4 eggs
2/3 cup milk
3 TBL vegetable oil, plus more for cooking them

While this might sound like a big production, in fact you can throw these together pretty quickly once you’ve done it a couple times. The entire process consists of these steps: make the filling(s), make the batter, cook the blintz wrappers, form the blintzes, cook them, eat them. I prefer to make the filling first so it will be ready to use when as soon as the wrappers are done. Family favorites are Oniony Potato Filling and Cheese Filling for Blintzes.

Mixing the Batter

The recipe as given here is best made in a blender, but if you scale up beyond the 4-egg version, you will have to work in batches, mix it with an immersion blender, or use another appliance to mix it.

Combine in the jar of blender

  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 TBL vegetable oil (ATTNDo not use olive oil or other strongly flavored oil)

Run blender to mix. Turn off, add

  • 1 cup flour

and process again to mix, scraping the blender jar (when stopped) if any flour sticks to the side.

If you want to scale the recipe up or down, use these measurements. And yes, they are not exactly linear so pay attention to the chart. 

Eggs 2 3 4 6 8 10
Milk (cups) 1/3 1/2 2/3 1 11/2 2
Water (cups) 1/3 1/2 2/3 1 11/2 13/4
Oil 11/2 TBL 2 TBL 3 TBL 1/4 cup scant 1/3 cup scant 1/2 cup
Flour (cups) 1/2 3/4 1 11/2 21/4 23/4
Yield 9
13 18 26 37 50

Cooking the Wrappers

To make the blintz wrapper, you need one or two skillets that have a flat bottom about 6 to 7 inches across. It’s better if the sides curve up to a wider width (like an omelette pan) or the sides are very low, like a round, small griddle. It’s harder with a pan with straight vertical sides, but it can work. Two skillets will make the work go faster, but one is fine if that’s all you have.

Heat the pan(s) but when you start working make sure they’re on a low heat. If the pan is too hot, the batter will bubble and the wrappers will develop holes. While the pans heat, spread out a clean dish towel on a counter near the range.

In a small bowl, pour

  • 2 TBL vegetable oil (or margarine or butter)

With a folded paper towel, pick up a little oil and spread it liberally on the bottom of the skillet. It takes a little more than 2 TBL of batter to make each wrapper and you can easily measure this by using a half full 1/3-cup measure, but whatever works for you is fine. If you’re lucky, you have a ladle that’s just the right size.

Making a Wrapper Animation
Making a Wrapper Animation

Grab the skillet handle with your dominant hand, quickly pour the measured batter into the center and start to move the pan in a tilting circle to spread the batter out into an ever-widening circle until it reaches the edge of the flat area of the pan. If you reach the desired size and there’s still some batter you can keep circling to distribute the batter or pour the excess back the bowl/blender jar containing the unused batter. Set the pan back on the heat and wait for the wrapper to cook.

If there’s a hole or two, you can always use a spoon to drip a few drops of batter to fill in the problem area. If the wrapper is dotted with many small holes, it means the pan was too hot. Don’t despair, such wrappers work for more solid fillings like potato, but will be problematic for moist fillings like cheese and fruit.

When it’s done cooking, the wrapper will have no wet areas on the surface. Run a butter knife around the edge of the wrapper to release it from the pan. Invert and knock the pan onto an empty spot on the towel. The wrapper should release easily and hopefully it has a bit of color to it. (If it doesn’t, just move on and let the next one cook a bit longer.) Return the pan to the burner immediately. ATTNBe sure to remove any attached crumbs from the pan and grease the pan before making the next wrapper.

As the wrappers are made, you can overlap cooled ones on the towel, but don’t put them right on top of each other completely as it will be hard to separate them.

If you want to make a lot of blintzes or delay the filling operation to, store the wrappers. To do so, tear a square of waxed paper and place it on a dinner plate. Place 3 wrappers offset enough that they barely extend past the edge of the plate and don’t overlap completely. Repeat layers of waxed paper and 3 wrappers until they are all stacked. Put the entire plate in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerate. ATTNDo not wait more than 24 hours to fill them as they tend to stick as they are somewhat moist.

Forming a Blintz

To roll up a blintz,  follow these steps. Keep in mind that it’s a little easier to learn with a solid filling like potato rather than a looser filling like fruit or cheese.

Rolling a Blintz Animation
Rolling a Blintz Animation

  1. Put one wrapper in front of you on a flat dry surface. ATTNBe sure the browned side (the cooked side) is UP and the uncooked side is down. Re-read the last sentence!
  2. If the wrapper has uneven edges or holes on one side, put that area closest to you as it will wind up on the inside of the finished blintz.
  3. Put about 2 to 3 TBL of filling in an area about 1 by 3 inches crosswise, about 2 inches from the closest edge.
  4. Lift the edge closest the filling and fold it over the filling.
  5. Bring in the side edges making sure that as you do, it folds over the ends of the filling and that the longer edges are parallel or actually come in a bit. (If blintz gets wider as it rolls up, you will not be able to close the blintz completely: disaster awaits.)
  6. Roll the entire assembly, gently and set it aside with the open edge down so it doesn’t try to unroll. If it tears as you roll, it means you tried to force too much filling into the blintz.

If you run out of space for the blintzes, stack them with waxed paper between layers and leave a little space between them if you can.

When you have formed all the blintzes, you have a couple choices. You can cook them immediately (see below), you can refrigerate them (wax paper between layers, space between the blintzes on each layer and stored sealed in the refrigerator for up to a couple days) or freeze them on wax paper-lined trays leaving space between each blintz. After they are completely frozen they can be transferred to bags (no wax paper needed). Frozen blintzes can be defrosted in the refrigerator before proceeding with cooking.

Cooking the Blintzes

To fry the blintzes, obtain an electric frying pan with a pink handle. Yes, an electric frying pan set to 375º F is ideal for cooking these, but if you don’t have one, use frying pan(s) on the range, but once they heat up, keep an eye on the heat so the blintzes don’t brown too quickly or burn. Use vegetable oil (or margarine or butter) to grease the pan, then add the blintzes, leaving space between them. I try to cook them on 3 sides (the ends never get cooked), which means after the first side cooks I have to prop them up against one another (see photos).  I think my mother just cooked them on two sides. Once they’re nicely golden all around, serve them.

I like to eat the onion or cheese ones with sour cream, but my mother served Blueberry Sauce on the side with the cheese blintzes. You can eat them plain if you like. And I encourage you to try coming up with your own fillings. (But do not attempt to serve me a jalapeño, blueberry or other modern bagel!!)


From my mother’s recipe, who started with Jenny Grossinger’s classic recipe.

No-Knead Pizza Dough

Simple as can be. The recipe readily scales up for a bigger crowd.
Makes two 11-inch pizzas
Shopping List

Type “00” soft wheat flour

Yeast

Measure the flour by weight: you can scale this recipe up. See the note at the end.

In a bowl, measure

  • 320g type “00” soft wheat flour
  • scant 11/2 tsp salt
  • 1/16 to 1/8  tsp yeast

Regarding the yeast, for a 6-pizza recipe, you need about 1/2 tsp yeast, so go easy and don’t worry about being too precise. Stir the dry ingredients together. Add

  • 1 cup cold water

Stir until a ball forms. Transfer it to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a lid. Let sit for 18 to 24 hours and leave at room temperature.

After the rising time, the mixture will look a bit bubbly. Gently dump it onto a floured board, shape into a rectangle. Divide into separate pieces for each pizza (two in this case). For each piece, pull the four corners into the center. Smooth into a ball, dust with flour and place on work surface with the seam down. Let rest for 1 hour covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel.

ATTN If you’re working ahead of time, you can place the balls of dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to use the refrigerated dough, remove it from the fridge one or two hours before you’re ready to bake.

Dual Pizza Stones
Dual pizza stones transmit the heat better.

Start preheating the oven. I bake my pizza on a pizza stone with ATTN another pizza stone on a shelf about 4 to 6 inches above it. I bake at the highest temperature, 550º F convection in my case, so it takes almost an hour for the oven to heat up and for the stones to get thoroughly hot. Be sure to wait until the stone(s) heat up completely.

Form the pizza by gently forming into a circle, handling the dough as little as possible. Be sure to leave a bit of an edge around the pizza to form a crusty edge. Stretch the dough to an 11-inch round. Transfer the shaped dough to a baker’s peel that is generously coated with cornmeal. Top the dough with ingredients. Bake for 61/2 minutes (adjusting for your own oven’s temperature).

When ATTNscaling up this recipe to make more pizzas, use this guide. Per pizza 160g flour, scant 3/4 tsp salt, speck of yeast (keep reading), and 1/2 cup water. For 6 pizzas the proper amounts are 1kg of flour, 4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp yeast and 3 cups water.

This caramelized onion pizza (pictured above) is made by slow-cooking chopped onions in olive oil. Cover the dough with mozzarella and bits of shaved romano cheese and then cover with a thick layer of the golden onions. Follow baking directions above.

Inspired by

 

Chicken Tikka

Traditionally made as kebabs, this version uses chicken pieces.
4 servings
Shopping List

2-inch piece of ginger

4 cloves of garlic

2 habanero chilis (or 1 jalapeño if you want a milder dish)

1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt

1 tsp salt

1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder (or paprika)

3/4 tsp hot chili powder

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cumin

3/4 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp garam masala

2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces

In a blender, combine

  • 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 habanero chilis, stem removed seeds left in (or a jalapeño if you want a milder dish)
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder (or paprika)
  • 1/4 to 3/4 tsp hot chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp garam masala (or use a substitution, below)

Run the blender until a smooth paste forms, adding a tiny bit of water if needed to get it moving.

Trim excess fat from

  • 2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces

I’m partial to thighs, but any pieces can work. Large breasts, if used should be cut in half.

Combine the chicken and paste, mixing thoroughly. Refrigerate for for at least 4 hours. Cook on a grill, starting with the skin side up; indirect heat is better. Flip to finish cooking the skin side. (I haven’t cooked this in the oven, this but it should cook for 30-40 minutes at 425º F on a tray.)

Note that if you don’t have garam masala you can make a mixture of the following spices, ATTN using more of the earlier ones on the list and less of the later ones. Everyone’s idea of what’s in this spice mix is different so look around on the web, and if you don’t have one of the ingredients listed,  just omit it and fill in with the others: (all are ground herbs)  coriander, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves.

 

Chicken Pot Pie with Cornmeal Crust

Much better than those frozen pot pies of your childhood
Shopping List

1 pound cooked chicken meat or 4 chicken thighs

2 medium (or 1 large) turnips

1 parsnip

8 ounces mushrooms

3 medium or 2 large carrots

2 large onion

1 pound potatoes

3-4 TBL olive oil

5 ounces frozen peas

1 cup milk

13/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon chicken base (or 1 cube chicken bouillon)

1/4 cup cornmeal (we prefer the granularity of Quaker brand corn meal)

1/2 cup shortening

1 egg

If you have some cooked meat and broth available, skip this step and continue with the mushrooms, below.

Place in saute pan

  • 1 onion, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp salt

placing

  • 4 chicken thighs on top of onion slices

add

  • 3 cups water

Bring to a boil, reducing heat to maintain a low, gentle simmer and cook ATTNcovered for 30 minutes. Remove chicken, reserving liquid, and let cool. Discard onion pieces. Strain liquid and measure: add water to bring amount to 3 cups. Discard chicken skin and bone the chicken meat, cutting into bite-size chunks.

Continue from this point if you already have cooked meat and broth available. Slice and saute on high heat:

  • 2 TBL oil
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms

cooking until well colored. Set aside. In the meantime, dice

  • 2 medium (or 1 large) turnips
  • 1 parsnip
  • 3 medium-sized or 2 large carrots
  • 1 large onion

In a large (12-inch) skillet, heat

  • 1-2 TBL olive oil

and saute vegetables for 10 minutes. Then add

  • 1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Continue cooking for 10 minutes stirring often. Stop cooking while vegetables are still a bit crisp, especially the potatoes. Add

  • chicken meat (1 pound or whatever you obtained from cooking the chicken thighs)
  • 5 ounces frozen peas

Spoon into a baking dish or gratin pan. Generally this is about the size of a 13- x 9-inch baking pan or a decorative dish. The pan should hold all the mixture with a bit of room to spare; broader is better because you get more crust surface.

In a small bowl, combine until smooth

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425º F. In a large saucepan, heat

  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 tsp chicken base or 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt

to a boil. Then add the milk mixture. Stir until it thickens. Stir sauce and pour over chicken/vegetable mixture in the baking dish

In a mixing bowl, combine

  • scant 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in

  • 1/2 cup shortening

When mixture resembles coarse crumbs, sprinkle with

  • 1/3 cup ice water

ATTN1 TBL at a time, mixing with a fork in each area where you sprinkle. Add only enough water for the dough to bind together. Roll it out on a floured surface into a shape about 2 inches bigger than the top of the baking dish. Position over filling, folding the 1-inch overhang into a flute. Brush crust with

  • Milk or 1 beaten egg

ATTNCut slits in top of crust. Place on a cookie sheet to catch any drips and transfer to the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is hot and bubbling. You may need to cover the edge of the crust with foil to prevent over-browning. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Jerk Chicken

This is a recipe that really demands cooking on the grill with a source of smoke, such as wood chips. It’s probably good cooked in the oven, but it won’t be the same. Note that it’s pretty spicy, but you can tone it down by reducing the number of hot peppers or substituting milder peppers such as jalapeños.

In the jar of a blender (or food processor), measure the following:

  • 6 scallions, cut into 4″ pieces
  • 1 large or 2 medium shallots, peeled
  • 3-4 habanero or Scotch bonnet chilies, stems removed but the seeds left in.
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 11/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into slices across the grain
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 heaping TBL ground allspice
  • 1 generous TBL soy sauce
  • 1 heaping TBL brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp cider or white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Run blender until a smooth paste forms. If you taste it at this point, just be aware that it’s very concentrated and the flavors will soften somewhat when it’s on the chicken and cooked.

Trim excess fat from

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into quarters or 8-10 chicken thighs or 4-6 leg quarters

The amount of chicken the paste will service will vary with the surface area of the parts. Spread it around on all the outside surfaces and put the chicken in a bowl or zipper-sealable bag, and refrigerate for 18-36 hours.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, set up the grill and be sure to have soaked some kind of wood for smoke. I love hickory chips, but you might prefer something else. You’ll need enough fuel to cook the chicken for up to 45 minutes. If you’re using coal,  arrange them for indirect heat or cook at/under 300 if you’re using gas.  Make sure you have a lot of smoke going and place the chicken skin side up, cover the grill and let it cook for 25-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it just to make sure you don’t have any flare-ups. The chicken will be a lovely color at this point. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 10 minutes. Start to check whether the chicken is cooked through. The timing will vary depending on the thickness of the meat and the temperature of the grill. The chicken is going to be dark (not burnt) on the outside when it’s fully cooked.

 

Crabby Crab Cakes

Makes 4 servings

1 pound fresh lump crab meat

1 egg

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Gently combine

1 pound fresh lump crab meat

1 egg

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons flour

Cover mixture and put in freezer for 5 minutes. Shape mixture into four hamburger-shaped patties. Line plate with plastic wrap and put crab cakes on it. Cover crab cakes with more plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes (or up to one day), or freeze for 15 minutes.

Combine in a 12-inch skillet

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Turn heat to medium. When butter melts and foam subsides, gently dredge crab cakes, one at a time, in

3 to 4 tablespoons flour

Tap off extra flour and add crab cake to pan; repeat with others. Raise heat to medium high. Cook, rotating cakes as needed to brown the first side, 5 to 8 minutes. Turn and brown other side (which cooks slightly faster).

Adapted from The New York Times

Seppie In Zimino

Served with salad and bread, this makes a rustic dinner.
Makes 4 servings as a main course, 6 to 8 as a first course

Shopping List

11/2 to 2 pounds fresh or thawed cuttlefish

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion

2 tablespoons minced parsley

A few leaves of minced basil

11/2 to 2 pounds fresh Swiss chard, beet greens, or spinach (or 20 ounces frozen spinach)

1 cup canned plum tomatoes

red pepper flakes


Clean and cut into bite-size pieces or strips (not rings)

  • 11/2 to 2 pounds fresh or thawed cuttlefish

Even if you have purchased cleaned cuttlefish, check that it is completely cleaned. In a pot (large enough to hold all the ingredients) on medium heat, place

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced

Cook until the onion is translucent. Add

  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • A few leaves of minced basil

Saute for another minute. Wash well to remove sand from

  • 11/2 to 2 pounds fresh Swiss chard, beet greens, or spinach

Cut across the stems of the the greens to make large strips, but only use the parts where there are greens. The strips are maybe 1/3-inch wide. Discard the stem-only parts of the greens and avoid including any really tough stems. ATTN If you’re not feeling motivated to use fresh greens you can substitute 20 ounces of thawed, frozen whole-leaf spinach that’s been coarsely chopped.

If using fresh greens, cook on high heat until it cooks down, stirring every minute or so. If using frozen spinach, cook until it is heated through. Add the cuttlefish and

  • 1 cup canned plum tomatoes (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 to 2 tsp red pepper flakes, according to your taste for spicy food
  • salt and pepper to taste

Break up the tomatoes with a spoon. ATTN Go lightly with the salt as the flavors will concentrate as this cooks down. Adjust heat so the pot stays at a simmer. Keep the pot covered and stir every now and then, till the fish is cooked and the sauce is thick. You may need to add some hot water to keep the mixture from drying out or remove the cover towards the end if it’s too watery. This will take about 40 minutes to cook.

Check the seasoning and cook 5 minutes more. ATTN Serve with slices of crusty bread.

Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Cabbage

A few basic ingredients make a delicious dish
Serves 4 as a main dish

Shopping List

1/4 cup olive oil

2 large onions

4 large cloves garlic

6 cups thinly sliced cabbage

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 pound pasta

Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Heat in a large heavy skillet

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

over medium-low heat. Add

  • 2 large onions, cut into 1/4-inch slices, broken into rings
  • Salt and pepper

Saute until soft and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Do not try to rush this step. Add

  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Stir well, add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook over medium heat until very tender, about 45 minutes, stirring often and adding a little more water if it dries out. Meanwhile, cook

  • 1 pound pasta

in boiling salted water. Add drained pasta to pan when the cabbage is done, toss well to combine for about 5 minutes. Serve hot, with

  • freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Adapted from teriskitchen.com

Fideua

Clean really well:

  • 1 pound mussels
  • 18 little neck clams

Clean but leave in their shells

  • 8 or 12 shrimp, depending on size

Clean

  • 1/2 pound sea scallops, cut in half horizontally (producing shorter cylinders)

Cook the clams with 1/3 cup water, covered in a 2 quart sauce pan, until the clams open. Remove from heat, set clams aside. Separate  liquid so that the silty part is removed (pour carefully and you probably don’t need to use a filter paper).

In a large pot (10-12 inches across and nearly as deep) on a medium-high or medium heat, saute until the pasta has turned golden brown to brown

  • 2 TBL olive oil
  • 3/4 pound angel hair pasta, broken into 2-inch pieces

Stir constantly but gently (or it flies out of the pot) until the the pasta is mostly browned. Don’t let it get black. Add..

  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 TBL garlic, minced
  • pepper

Stir and add the mussels and the reserved clam stock. Stir regularly, and as needed add additional water. If the pasta is firm and the liquid has run out, then it needs more water. (The pasta takes about 10 minutes from when you add the clam stock to finish cooking.) When you reach the point the mussels have all opened and the pasta is nearly done, add in the clams and shrimp. Cook for a few minutes more. When the shrimp are nearly done, stir in the scallops, turn off the heat and cover to let the scallops cook. After a minute or two, it will be done.

Check seasoning, it might need salt but usually we don’t need to add any because the clam stock provides enough. Transfer to warm serving platter and top with:

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Serves 4 people.

Striped Bass with Braised Fennel

This recipe will serve 6-8 people. Prepare Tomato-Fennel Sauce in advance. You will need one piece of boneless (skin-on) Striped Bass per serving.

Cut up 2 fennel bulbs: trim root end slightly, cut off stems. With root sitting on cutting board, cut vertically to split the bulb in two. With cut side of bulb facing the cutting board, make 1/2-inch-thick slices by cutting in the same direction the plant grows. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet. When very hot, add a layer of fennel to pan and let brown on both sides. Remove from pan and work in batches until done. Put fennel in another skillet large enough to hold it all. All 1 to 11/2 cups of chicken stock. Cover skillet with lid.

When it’s time to cook dinner, preheat oven to 400 F and warm up the sauce. Heat the covered skillet containing the fennel to a simmer; let braise until tender but not overcooked while you proceed to cook the fish. Oil and heat a heavy oven-proof skillet or griddle on a high heat. When oil is smoking, place fish in pan, skin side down. Depending on thickness of fillets, cook 3-5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven until fish is done cooking, probably another 3-5 minutes.

To serve, ladle 1/2 cup sauce into bottom of bowl. Add a layer of braised fennel. Place fish on top of fennel and garnish with chopped parsley or basil. Serve with bread to mop up the sauce.

Stuffed Vegetarian Vine Leaves

Cook 1 cup brown rice with 1 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp dried thyme until almost cooked. Meanwhile finely chop 1 medium onion and saute in oil until tender; do not brown. Let onions and rice cool for 10 minutes, combine with 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, 1/2 cup currants and a sprinkling of cinnamon — probably about 1/4 tsp. Stir thoroughly and season with additional salt and/or cinnamon to taste.

Rinse and drain vine leaves. Trim off any stems. (I used a jar that was marked “8 oz. drained weight” and was about the size of a 1 lb. jar of another brand.) With veined side up, stuff with a 1-2 tsp of filling according to the size of the leaves, rolling tightly (see Stuffed Vine Leaves for details). Place on steamer rack and when you’ve stuffed them all, cook for 45 minutes in the covered steamer, being sure it doesn’t dry out.

This made about 30 vine leaves.

Tuna-Tomato Napoleons


Don't bother with this unless you have amazing tomatoes. Coupled with grilled thin layers and a spicy-smoky citrus dressing, this is one of our summer favorites.
Makes 4 servings


Shopping List
11/4 pound tuna, cut into 1/4-inch slices.
3-4 heirloom tomatoes (depending on size)
1 head Boston Bibb lettuce
1 cup Chipotle Vinaigrette
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 vegetable oil

Prepare Chipotle Vinaigrette or use some other creamy salad dressing (you want to dilute it a bit if it’s very thick). Pluck and wash

  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves

and dry them thoroughly. Roughly chop them and set aside.

The thinly sliced tuna
The thinly sliced tuna

If you can convince your fish vendor to cut  1/4-inch thick slices, do it. If not, buy a thick tuna steak; freeze it for 8 minutes and slice it yourself with a very sharp knife with a long thin blade. You will need 3 or 4 slices of tuna per serving.

Wash and dry

  • 3 or 4 heirloom tomatoes
  • 9 to 12 lettuce leaves

Ingredients, ready to go
Ingredients, ready to go

Cut the tomatoes into ATTNthin slices. Tear away any tough or unattractive areas of the lettuce leaves. Arrange all the ingredients so you will have ready access to them as the assembly will proceed rather quickly.

The piece of tuna at the front is almost over-cooked.
The piece of tuna at the front is almost over-cooked.

On each plate, place a lettuce leaf, a slice of tomato and splash it with 2-3 tsp of salad dressing. Brush the tuna slices with a little oil. Put a slice or two of tuna on the hot grill and ATTNwatch it like a hawk. It needs to cook 15 seconds on each side, if that. Place the tuna on the tomato slice. Again, layer lettuce, tomato, dressing and the second piece of tuna. Continue working to make a third layer and end with a final lettuce leaf, tomato and a little more dressing. Sprinkle the reserved cilantro leaves over the top.

The completed Tuna-Tomato Napoleon
The completed Tuna-Tomato Napoleon

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms

Heat oven to 350 F. In an overproof pot, heat oil to coat bottom and brown 6-8 skinless chicken thighs, in batches if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remove from pan.

Over medium high heat add 1 stalk of sliced celery, 1-2 diced carrots and 1 diced onion. Season with salt and pepper, stirring until softened. Add 4 cloves chopped garlic, chopped mushrooms (see Note 1, below) and 4 sprigs of fresh thyme. Stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes, until all liquid is gone.

Add 1 cup white wine; raise heat and reduce by half. Add 2-3 cups chicken stock and bring to boil; add chicken, cover and place in oven for 2 hours. Meat will be so tender it falls right off the bone.

Remove meat from liquid. (You may stop at this point, see Note 2, below.) Pick meat from bone when cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, add 2/3 cup pitted black olives to sauce. (I like oil-cured Moroccan olives but I suggest you use olives that are not too salty which these tend to be.) Cook on stovetop until flavors have blended and sauce thickens a bit. Return meat to sauce and reheat. You can also stop at this point and reheat later.

Serve over Creamy Polenta or Whole Wheat Pappardelle.

Note 1: I like to use about 4 ounces of any exotic mushroom (such as Maitake or Oyster) except not Shiitake plus about 8 small Cremini mushrooms. I break or cut the caps of the exotics into recognizable pieces. chop up the stems finely and slice the Creminis finely. You could use button mushroom for a less expensive alternative.

Note 2: I often separate out the meat, drain off the liquid and leave it to cool in the freezer for a while so I can remove all the fat from the liquid, then resume the recipe 40-50 minutes before serving. This lets the final cooking happen just before serving.