March 23, 2010

Fiery Thai Beef Salad

Filed under: Salads, Stews, Uncategorized — by Meredith


I pride myself on being a hardy soul. Someone that never gets the winter blues. But I have to admit, with the sun shining and warm weather on the way, I’m happier than usual that Spring has sprung. This is the time of year I’m ready to put away my beloved, hard working Le Creuset and fire up the grill, even if my neighbors think I’m crazy. Apparently they don’t find 40 degrees to be short sleeve weather. It is to me though. Especially after months of 20 degrees and lower. This is exactly the time when I need to heat up from the inside out with something bright and fresh like this Fiery Thai Beef Salad.

They say that the heat from chiles, or capsaicin, prompts the release of endorphins, those “feel good” opiates naturally released in the body. If that’s true then my, oh my, does this salad feel good!

Light and refreshing, flank steak is nestled with lemongrass and mint on a bed of romaine and drizzled with a lime-chile vinaigrette. If you’re a chilehead, this is the dish for you and feel free to add as many chiles as you dare. This is the perfect dish for those trying to cut back on fat, because the steak is lean and the dressing is fat free.

0141Kitchen Counter Point: When working with fresh lemongrass it’s important to use the tender part of the inner stalk. When you trim the root end, you should be able to see rings. If you still see a woody center, you’re not far enough up the stalk. Once you trim the root end, you should have about 4 inches of tender stalk before you get to the tough section towards the end.

Fiery Thai Beef Salad

Serves 4

1 pound lean flank steak
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup cilantro plus additional for garnish
2-4 Thai bird or Serrano chilies
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1-1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/3 cup lime juice
6 cups romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
16 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 stalk lemon grass, tough outer leaves removed, finely chopped (see tip)
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Prepare grill or broiler. Place steak on grill rack or broiler pan and cook 5 minutes on each side or until the meat is a medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cilantro, chilies, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Cut steak thinly across grain.

Mound the lettuce in the middle of a serving tray. Drape the beef slices on top of the lettuce and surround with the tomatoes, lemongrass, onion and mint. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with additional cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

March 12, 2010

Swiss Chard Fritatta with Bacon, Potatoes and Feta

Filed under: Egg Dishes — by Carla



There is much to be said for a light supper. We don’t always want or need a large meal in the evening and so when hubby and I are feeling only a bit peckish, a frittata is one of our favorite dinnertime solutions. Similar to an omelet, but without the technique laden flip and fold, it’s a quick and easy one pan meal with no special shopping necessary. As long as I have a few eggs  there are usually plenty of tasty ingredients on hand in the pantry and refrigerator to fill out the dish. 

Omelets and frittatas are one of the best ways to utilize those leftover bits from previous meals that don’t quite add up to a proper meal for two, but for this one night  I had to start from scratch. No leftover Chinese cartons of fried rice or mac and cheese peeked back at me from the inside the frig. However, I did have a lovely bunch of Swiss chard and decided that IT should be the centerpiece of the dish. What made this frittata different from the ones I’ve made in the past was that I used the whole bunch of greens and a smaller amount of potato so that  the greens actually created the bulk of the dish. I think the combination resulted in a more toothsome frittata, and I’ll stick with this high vegetable ratio  whether filling the eggy cake with broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms or other countless vegetable combinations the next time.

To give the filling extra flavor I cooked the onion, potato, chard stems and greens in bacon fat. In my opinion, just a touch of salty pork makes everything taste better, but if you want to keep your frittata on the vegetarian side, skip the bacon and substitute a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. To make the meal seem less Spartan, serve this simple meal with a glass of wine à la Elizabeth David who “regard(s) a glass or two of wine as not, obviously, essential but at least an enormous enhancement of the enjoyment of a well-cooked omelet.” I’m not sure of Elizabeth’s wine preference, but I prefer a non-oaked chardonnay with most egg dishes.  If you can find it,  Kim Crawford makes an especially nice yet inexpensive quaffer.

So there you go. The recipe for a simple, civilized meal is probably lurking in your refrigerator at this very moment. Elizabeth David said it best, “Let’s just have an omelet (or frittata) and a glass of wine”!


Kitchen Counter Point: When it comes to filling omelets and frittatas, greens reign supreme. Dark green leafy vegetables are, calorie for calorie, perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. Chard is one of my all time favorites. I just love the magenta stems and leathery green leaves, but don’t overlook other tasty options such as escarole (yes, the lettuce), frisée, collards, dandelion, arugula, mizuna and spinach. I haven’t included kale here, because it is very tough and most times needs more than a quick sauté to render it tender. As I said above, greens love salty pork, but they also have an affinity for onions and garlic.  I usually begin the sauté in olive oil with the onion and stems, followed by the greens and then add the garlic for only the last few minutes to insure that it doesn’t over brown and become bitter.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 slices bacon
1/2 small onion, sliced
1 Yukon gold potato, finely diced, about 1 cup
1 bunch Swiss chard, stemmed and thinly sliced, stems finely diced
Pinch salt
Pinch nutmeg
Grind of pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
5 large eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons half and half, milk or water
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 grinds fresh pepper
Pinch Cayenne
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Heat the olive oil in an 8-inch cast iron or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and crispy on both sides, about 3 minutes total. Remove the bacon from the pan and transfer it to a paper towel lined plate. Reserve.

Cook the onion in the hot fat in the pan until it softens, about 3 minutes. Add the finely diced potato and chard stems, reduce the heat to medium and sauté the potato, stirring every now and then until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the Swiss chard in bunches, adding more greens as they wilt and room allows. When the chard is wilted, add the pinch of salt, nutmeg, pepper and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes or until the greens are tender.

Beat the eggs with the salt, pepper and pinch of cayenne.

Set the oven rack to the second highest position and preheat the broiler.

Crumble and sprinkle the reserved bacon and feta cheese into the greens and pour the eggs evenly over all. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 2 minutes, covered. Uncover and transfer the pan to the broiler and broil for about 4 minutes or until the eggs are set and the top is browned. Remove the frittata from the oven and let rest for 3 minutes before cutting into wedges. Serve hot or at room temperature.

March 3, 2010

Green Posole with Pork and Chicken

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith


While I’ll admit that March finds many people drinking green beer and wearing often disturbing green attire, my attention turns to one of my favorite and seasonally color appropriate dishes, Green Posole with Pork and Chicken.
Posole is a Mexican soup with meltingly tender pieces of shredded pork and chicken and earthy hominy, so thick in the spicy, tomatillo and chile flavored broth that calling this a soup is a stretch. It lands somewhere between the soup and stew category, which makes it a wonderful dish to turn to for hearty appetites.
Growing up in San Diego, with it’s rich heritage of wonderful Mexican food, you’d think this dish would have been a childhood staple, along with my mothers chile rellenos and tacos, but I had never tried posole until I took a trip through New Mexico, where it’s a culinary staple, with my husband many years ago. What I love most about the dish is it’s deeply comforting quality. There is something so soul-satisfying about hominy, which will come as no surprise to my Southern friends who’ve been enjoying this ingredient in it’s many forms forever. My Texas grandma loved it and served it often, which probably accounts for my attraction to it. In posole it finds a wonderful home, nestled in with the shards of meat and makes the perfect foil to the acidic tomatillos and spicy chiles.
Kitchen Counter Point: Because in many parts of the country tomatillos remain a mystery to the home cook, they are often left in the grocery store produce section way past their prime. The husk can often hide a bad tomatillo, so when your shopping for them look for fresh looking husks that aren’t discolored and give it a squeeze to make sure it’s firm and not squishy.


Green Posole with Pork and Chicken

Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds lean pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
1 white onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled
10 cups chicken stock
1 pound tomatillos, husked
2 serrano chiles
1/2 cup hulled (green) pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 15 ounce cans white hominy, rinsed and drained
Avocado, diced
Cilantro leaves
Chopped sweet onion
Lime wedges

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season the pork and chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Working in 2 batches, so that you don’t overcrowd the pan, brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes a side. Remove the meat as you brown it and set it on a plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

Lower the heat to medium and add the onion to the pot. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook for another minute. Add the pork, chicken and chicken stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the pork and chicken are tender. Skim as much fat as possible from the top. Remove the pork and chicken from the broth and cool.

Meanwhile, place the tomatillos and serranos in a small baking dish under a preheated broiler. Broil until the tomatillos and chiles are blackened in spots, turn over and blacken in spots on the other side. Let them cool and remove and discard the stems from both the tomatillos and chiles. Transfer to a blender with the 1/2 cup of the liquid from the soup, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. Blend until smooth.

When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and shred both chicken and pork into bite-sized pieces.

Strain the broth and discard the solids and return the stock to the soup pot. Add the tomatillo-pumpkin seed mixture and the hominy and return to a gentle simmer over low heat. Cook for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Add the chicken, pork and remaining salt back into the pot and cook for 5 minutes.

Ladle into heated bowls and serve with the avocado, cilantro, onion and lime wedges.