Tag Archives: Main Dish

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

This is a complete reworking of a recipe that started out with rabbit meat and cooked in the oven for hours. Years ago, I started cooking this recipe using chicken meat but only recently did I realize how perfect it is for the pressure cooker. It’s much faster, simpler and every bit as tasty.

In a pressure cooker, brown

  • 6-8 skinless chicken thighs

Work in batches if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remove from pan.

Over medium high heat add

  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced
  • 1-2 carrots, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced

Season with salt and pepper, stirring until softened. Add

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 to 16 ounces of chopped, mixed mushrooms (see notes, below)
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme or 3/4 tsp dried thyme

Stir occasionally and cook for about 10 minutes, until all liquid is gone. Add

  • 1 cup white wine

and raise heat and reduce by half, then add

  • 2-3 cups chicken stock

Close pressure cooker and cook at high heat for 24 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then use a quick release technique.

The meat and bones will separate so working carefully, remove chicken pieces from pot. Add

  • 2/3 cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped

ATTN I like oil-cured Moroccan olives although they can be too salty for some people. Cook until flavors have blended and sauce has thickened a bit (10-15 minutes). While it cooks, remove bones and gristle from the chicken pieces and return the meat to the pot.  Let chicken heat up completely, or remove from heat and reheat completed dish when ready to serve.

This is delicious served over Creamy Polenta, Whole Wheat Pappardelle or Fried Polenta.

Note: 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. Sometimes I use rehydrated porcini mushrooms, saving the liquid to replace some of the chicken stock.

Chicken Tikka ‘dempte

OK, this is neither Eastern European nor is it Indian, but I like how it tastes.

Saute 1 diced onion, 2 cloves minced garlic and 1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper. When onions are golden, push mixture aside and brown trimmed meat; I used chicken thighs (bone-in, but skinned and trimmed of all fat). When all pieces of meat are cooked on both sides, add 1/4 to 1/3 cup tandoori paste (I used Patak’s brand) and 1 cup water. Mix around a bit, reduce to a slow simmer and let cook covered for 45 minutes. Every 10-15 minutes, turn the pieces and move the ones on bottom to the top.

When meat is tender, whisk a little gravy into 6 ounces of yogurt, and then add the mixture back to the pot. Let cook 5 minutes more. Serve over rice

Chicken with Yogurt Sauce

Trim of excess fat and place 8 skinless chicken thighs in a skillet large enough to hold them in a single layer. Add water to cover, 1 TBL ground cardamom, 1 tsp ground white pepper and 1 tsp salt. Bring to slow simmer and cook for 20 minutes; chicken should be cooked through.

Remove chicken from pan. In a saucepan, combine 11/3 cup chicken broth (reserved from cooking chicken), an equal amount of thick Greek-style yogurt, 1 TBL cornstarch. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until thickened. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve sauce over chicken on platter, garnished with toasted pine nuts.

This dish has a lot of sauce, so consider serving it with couscous you’ve cooked with some turmeric and added minced carrots or red peppers. The main dish is so white you’ll want some contrast.

Adapted from a recipe in The New York Times, Feb 11, 2009.

Stuffed Vine Leaves

Start cooking 11/2 cups brown rice; you will want to stop it just short of being fully cooked. Meanwhile, chop 1-2 medium onions, finely: you will have about 11/2 cups onions. Saute the onions and 2 cloves minced garlic in olive oil. Season with salt pepper and herbs; I used a mixture of fresh thyme, dried thyme and dried oregano. Add 11/4 pounds ground meat; I used turkey, but lamb or beef will give a more flavorful result. Saute until cooked, but don’t dry it out, and be sure to keep it broken into small bits.

While the rice is finishing up, prepare the vine leaves. I used a 2-pound jar of leaves (but only used about half of the leaves in the jar). Fresh leaves would be better, but you’d need to pour boiling water over them to soften them up. Rinse the leaves, remove the stems and arrange them in stacks so the side with the veins is up. Don’t use torn leaves or ones with many holes.

When the rice is almost cooked, add the drained rice to the mixture and check the seasonings. Now start filling. With the stem end facing you and the veined side up, put a spoonful of filling at the center of the leaf. Fold the left and right lobes nearest the step over the filling at a 30-degree angle, then bring the sides in and finish rolling up. Squeeze it a bit to hold it in shape and put it in a steamer basket. (You want a steamer with a flat surface, not a basket made for steaming vegetables.) Pack them tightly.

Put the steamer into a pot with water in the bottom and a tight-fitting lid. Steam for 45 minutes: the leaves will have softened up. Check the water level from time-to-time because if it runs out, you’ll burn up all your hard work.

This makes a really large number of stuffed leaves, but the exact number will vary according to how large the leaves are that you use.

Andouille Sausage with Black-Eyed Peas

In a 6-quart (or larger) pressure cooker, heat 1+ TBL oil. (Don’t use less, as it keeps the beans from foaming and causing problems later on.) Saute 1 medium onion, diced, until soft. Add 1 cup dry, rinsed black-eyed peas, 1 minced stalk celery, 1 diced large red pepper, 1 minced jalapeno pepper, 1 minced carrot, 5 andouille sausage cut diagonally into thirds, a chunk of smoked turkey meat, 3 cups canned diced tomatoes with liquid, 1/2 cup water, 1 bay leaf and 1/2 tsp dried oregano.

Cover pressure cooker and bring to high pressure following directions for your model. Cook at high pressure for 11 minutes. I let the pressure come down naturally, but if you’re in a hurry to serve it right away, you may need to cook it for a few minutes longer after you open the cooker. Once it’s done cooking, check the salt level and add salt after cooking, if necessary.

Serve with rice.

Note: I used a 12-ounce package of Bilinski’s chicken-meat sausage.

Magret de Canard

That's French for duck breast.
Serves 3 people, depending on the size of the duck breast and your appetites

Shopping List

1 thick duck breast (magret), preferably very thick

Score the skin side  in 1/2-inch diamonds, only cutting into the fat layer and not into the meat. Make a mixture of 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp ground black or green pepper. Rub the generously all over the magret.

Magret de Canard scored and seasoned
Magret de Canard scored and seasoned

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and as it nears the desired temperature heat an oven-proof pan on medium heat. I prefer a cast iron pan. When the pan is hot, place the magret skin-side down. Cook for 7 minutes on that side. Drain excess fat and turn over magret.

Notice the duck fat which needs to be drained away.
Notice the duck fat which needs to be drained away.

The skin is nicely crisp before it goes in the oven.
The skin is nicely crisp before it goes in the oven.

Place pan in oven for 5 to 7 minutes (for rare center). Remove pan from oven, place magret on board and let rest 3 to 5 minutes in a warm place before slicing. Be sure to slice across the grain of the meat.

Let the slicing begin...
Let the slicing begin…

ATTN These times are for a thick magret: if yours is thinner, the cooking time will need to be reduced.

When sliced, it will make about 12-15 slices and serve 3 people.