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Archive for October, 2013

It was their last meal together but they didn’t know it.

They were celebrating. There was champagne chilling.

He knocked on the door as she set plates on the table. Usually they cooked together. And sometimes, he for her. This time, she for him.

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They embraced with a familiar hey great to see you how’s it been what’s going on you look nice. Her hands were still warm from tossing the just-grilled chicken with herbs, her palms smooth with olive oil, her fingers scented with orange. He smelled like him.

They sat. They ate. They talked. They drank. They laughed.

There were moments of comfortable silence.

There were moments of palpable silence.

He sliced a mango over the crumb-littered table and handed her pieces.

They hugged au revoir talk later see you soon. She closed the door.

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Saffron chicken and herb salad

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem. The bitter orange pith balances out the sweetness of the syrup’s honey and juice. I use a jalapeno instead of a hot red pepper, arugula instead of fennel, and mint instead of cilantro. 

Shooting saffron chicken and herb salad (Ottenlenghi/Tamimi - Jerusalem) for the Boston Globe

I prepared this salad over the summer for a photo shoot with the Boston Globe for their article on the popularity of the cookbook Jerusalem. If you want to see Yotam and Sami in action, here’s a video of them preparing this salad. They recommend you mix everything together with your hands.

Serves 3-4

- 1 orange

- 2 1/2 T honey

- 1 1/2 t saffron threads

- 1 T white wine vinegar

- 1 1/4 C water (or more)

- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast

- 4 T olive oil, divided

- 1 clove garlic, crushed

- 2/3 C torn basil leaves

- 1/3 C torn mint leaves

- 3 scallions, thinly sliced

- 1 jalapeno, very thinly sliced

- several handfuls of arugula

- 2 T freshly-squeezed lemon juice

- salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Simmer. Trim the top and tail off of the orange and cut into 12 wedges, keeping the skin on. Remove seeds. Place the wedges in a small saucepan with the honey, saffron, vinegar, and just enough water to cover the orange wedges.  Bring to a boil and then simmer gently, uncovered, for about an hour. At the end, you’ll be left with a soft orange and about 2 tablespoons of thick syrup. If the liquid level gets very low during cooking, add some water.

Blitz. Use a food processor or immersion blender to blitz the syrup into a smooth, runny paste. Add a little water if needed to get it to a thick but pour-able consistency.

Grill. Mix the chicken breast with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and place on a very hot ridged grill pan (you can use a real outdoor grill if you have one). Sear for about 2 minutes on each side to get clear char marks all over. If you try to move the chicken too soon, it’ll stick – the meat releases when it’s ready. Transfer to a roasting pan and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until just cooked.

Mix. In a large serving bowl, mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and crushed garlic. When the chicken is cool enough to handle but still warm, tear it with your hands into rough, large pieces and toss it in the bowl with the garlic and half of the orange puree. Mix in the rest of the ingredients with your hands. Taste, add salt and pepper, and, if needed, more olive oil, lemon juice, or orange.

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we surprise ourselves

We’ve all done it, right? In a frenzy to feed a growling stomach, we make a quick breakfast-lunch-dinner with whatever is in the kitchen and we surprise ourselves. There’s no planning, no shopping, no browsing, no flipping through cookbooks. We throw something together and hope it works. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t.

And sometimes we take a bite and say out loud, “Damn, I cook good.”

Tonight was one of those nights when humility took a backseat.

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I’ll be staying at a friend’s place for a while and went shopping a few days ago for what I consider the absolute basic groceries. Coffee. Milk. Grapefruit juice. Bread. Eggs. Cheese. Kale. Lemons. Apples. Pears. And a shallot.

A shallot? Yes. Why? I am not entirely sure.

When dinnertime rolled around this evening, I spent almost an hour contemplating going out-ordering in-going to bed without dinner, decided I couldn’t not eat, and then couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat. Not knowing what I was looking for, I started unpacking some of my kitchen stuff, and found my favorite pan – the heavy blue pan that I lugged over 200 miles and across three states.

And then it came to me. Grilled cheese.

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In about 20 minutes (it would have been 15 had I not paused for photos), I took that first bite of crunchy bread, pulling the sandwich away from my mouth, cheese stretching, kale falling.

Chipmunk cheeks full and still chewing, I mumbled, “Damn this is good.” Followed by, “Damn, I cook good.” And then I took another bite.

Sorry, modesty. You’re sleeping outside tonight.

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Grilled Cheese with Kale

Coat a pan with olive oil and heat over a medium flame. Slice a shallot and sauté, stirring, until it starts to brown. Overfill the pan with several handfuls of torn kale, and keep stirring until the kale cooks down to about an eighth of what you put in. Don’t forget the salt and pepper. Grab 2 slices of bread and generously cover one with shredded Comte cheese,  the other with the kale mixture. Pile one slice on top of the other. Whisk an egg on a plate or shallow bowl and dip the sandwich into the egg, just like you’d do for french toast. Add some more olive oil  to the pan and heat it up again. Pan-fry both sides of the egg-dipped sandwich until brown. Be careful when flipping – you might drop half the filling and have to scoop it back up. Not that it happened to me.

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