Sunday, August 12, 2018

Italian Grill - Spicy Shrimp Skewers

Today I'd like you to check out one of my favorite recipes this summer -- Spicy Calabrian Shrimp Skewers. You may already know I'm a sucker for Calabrian chili, so when I find it in a jar anywhere I always stock up in order to have it on hand. I make Giada De Laurentiis' incredibly easy dish with large shrimp (about 16-20 count per pound). The recipe consists of a simple marinade which you let sit on the shrimp a few hours (4 is perfect). I then portion out the shrimp (4 per person alongside another protein is a good amount), and skewer them through the tail and opposite end of the shrimp. Using two skewers is a little trick I learned to prevent them from spinning on the stake, making them easier to flip. 

Remember to soak the wooden skewers for at least an hour beforehand to prevent them from burning. Grill these just a few minutes per side until they are opaque and cooked through. Serve the shrimp kebabs alongside any other fish (or meat for surf and turf) atop lightly dressed greens or herbs -- so easy!

Spicy Shrimp Skewers with Grilled Calamari on the side, Photo: NK

***To check out the Spicy Calabrian Shrimp recipe, click HERE.  

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Marinated Chicken on the Grill with Zesty Drizzling Oil

I always say I am not the world's biggest chicken fan but my family remains unconvinced. They say that for someone who claims not to like it, I sure make it a lot (a bit of an overstatement, if you ask me). The truth is, it's not that I really dislike chicken, it's that so much chicken out there is underwhelming, mediocre, and sometimes, awful. While I generally see chicken as a vehicle for other flavors, I will grant that when it's perfectly cooked perfectly, it doesn't need all that much enhancement. My rules for chicken are simple - bone in and skin on. With those two starting points, you're already ahead of the game. 

Marinated Chicken on the Grill with Zesty Drizzling Oil, Photo: NK 

The zesty marinade and drizzling oil that I will share with you today is perfect for chicken on the bone. The basic marinade paired with a bright and tangy dressing for serving come together to make a chicken dish that manages to be super juicy and flavorful, without taking away from understated greatness of well-cooked chicken. I like to use a mix of drums and thighs but you can select any combination of chicken pieces, including breast. 

After the marinade is prepared, I throw the chicken in a large gallon Ziploc and pour it in so it can sit in the fridge 4 hours or so. Jiggle the bag here and there to distribute the flavor. You can now make the drizzling oil ahead. Once grilled (or cooked), plate the chicken and drizzle it over each piece, reserving some for any guests that would like a little extra.

Zesty Grilled Chicken Marinade
Serves 4 

1/3 Cup Olive Oil 
Small Sweet Pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt 
1 small Hot Red Chile (or Jalapeno), roughly chopped 
1 large Lemon, (zested and zest set aside) cut in half, another large Lemon, cut in half for grilling 
1 tablespoon White Wine or White Vinegar
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice (squeezed from one of the Lemon Halves)
Handful of chopped Parsley 

Combine all ingredients and pour over chicken in a plastic bag or sealed container. Marinate in the fridge for 4 hours, turning occasionally. Bring to room temperature, scrape away the marinade from the chicken pieces and grill. Grill the second lemon cut sides down on the grill alongside the chicken (towards the end of the cook time) for a pretty, utilitarian garnish. To serve, plate the chicken and drizzle with the infused oil over it (recipe follows below). Scatter torn parsley around the platter and finish with the lemon halves. 

Infused Drizzling Oil
Enough for 4 Servings 

1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons finely minced mini Sweet Peppers (two or more colors if possible) 
Finely minced Hot Chile to taste (1/2 teaspoon is a good start) 
3 Garlic Cloves, 2 whole and crushed, 1 clove minced finely and set aside
2 teaspoons Lemon Zest 
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon White Wine or White Vinegar
Handful Curly Parsley, torn 
Salt to taste

Warm the Olive Oil over a low flame with 2 whole cloves crushed garlic until the garlic starts to become slightly golden and fragrant, but not burnt. Remove the whole cloves and discard. Add the hot chile, sweet peppers, lemon zest and 1 clove minced fresh garlic. Warm for another minute or two and turn off the flam. Add the lemon juice and white wine vinegar. Cool the drizzling oil and then and add salt to taste. Reserve until chicken is cooked and drizzle over each piece.  Enjoy! 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Instant Classic - Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies

Alison Roman's recipe for Shortbread Chocolate Chunk Cookies went indisputably viral after a feature in the New York Times excerpted her controversial musings on America's favorite cookie:

“I’ve always found chocolate chip cookies to be deeply flawed (to know this about me explains a lot),” she writes. “Too sweet, too soft, or with too much chocolate, there’s a lot of room for improvement, if you ask me. But no one asked me, and rather than do a complete overhaul on the most iconic cookie known to man, I took all my favorite parts and invented something else entirely." 

Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookies, Photo: NK

Featured in her absolutely indispensable cookbook, "Dining In," this recipe has everything I look for in a go-to dessert. This is probably why myself and practically every food blogger in the country tried them all at once. These cookies are really easy to make and almost impossible to mess up. They include very few ingredients, none of which are exotic. Since attempting them for the first time two months ago, I've made them four times since! I love that there is no tricky rolling or cutting of notoriously fickle shortbread dough. The other thing I love about shortbread? No egg. I am somehow always out of egg when I get the urge to bake.  

Roman's original recipe is proportioned to yield a generous quantity of rich, crumbly and buttery cookies, and the dough rolls store well in the freezer or fridge until you are ready to bake -- this means fresh cookies any time. I don't recommend halving the recipe, but you may want to make them in two rounds, even a day or so apart. Freshly sliced and baked. What could be better? Because really, they are delicious, oh, are they delicious. 

These cookies are also elegant. I was trying to explain this to my husband today, badly perhaps, as he remained unconvinced; there's something about them that is more adult than your average chocolate chip - probably the shortbread component that sets them apart. I feel as if they could stand up to a wine pairing, or look elegant served alongside fancy hors d'oeuvres. Their sparkly, sugared edges lend a sophistication to these chocolate chips that transcends the ubiquity of their genre.

One tip - once I slice and salt these, I try and put them back into the fridge for ten or so minutes to re-chill. The one time I did not they came out flatter (but still delicious). 

So there you have it, Alison Roman's masterpiece. I changed nothing in the recipe except I did use large granule sugar in the raw rather than Demerara, because it's what I had on hand. Enjoy and my hat's off to the creator of this positively essential recipe, one I know will be in my rotation for life - follow the link HERE or HERE to view it.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Easy & Elegant - Milk Poached Chicken With Rosemary Garlic Oil

I don't make Chicken too often but when I do, I reliably revert to a few can't miss recipes. When it's not decadent Roasted Chicken with Orange Tarragon Butter or Ina Garten's Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, Mimi Thorisson's Milky Chicken is a fantastic choice, in fact, I can still remember the day I first read her beautiful blog

Milk Poached Chicken, Photo: NK 
I've probably made this recipe at least four times and it has never disappointed, but last night's dinner was especially flavorful. I was able to achieve a beautifully browned and crispy skin thanks to a quick infused oil I created. I basted the skin with it in the last fifteen minutes of cooking. I've included steps on how you do it below. For the Milk Poached Chicken Recipe and notes on our first time making it, click HERE. You won't be sorry. 

Rosemary and Garlic Infused Olive Oil
Bastes 1 Chicken

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil  
2 Large Cloves of Garlic, lightly crushed
4 Sprigs Rosemary (or similar herb of your choice)
2 Tablespoons Butter (optional but recommended) 
Salt and Pepper 

Warm Olive Oil over medium heat. Add Garlic and Rosemary. Cook until Garlic begins to get some color then lower the flame all the way. Allow to cook another 5-7 minutes (make sure Garlic doesn't burn). Turn off the flame and stir in 2 Tablespoons Butter. Add a sprinkle of Salt and some Pepper. You can use the oil for all different applications but it is especially good poured over a Roast Chicken in the last 15 minutes of cooking to achieve an extra crispy and flavorful skin. Enjoy! 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Baking Inspiration - Lemon Shortbread Sandwich Creams

Though I greatly prefer cooking to baking, I've been on a bit of a baking tear lately. Specifically, I've seriously been enjoying making (and eating!) shortbread. I can't believe that I just never knew it was so easy! Butter, sugar, flour, and there you have it. Practically instant. One bowl. No egg. You don't have to feel guilty about eating the dough! Though you'll spend a bit of time chilling the dough and cutting it out, shortbread is kind of idiot-proof, which is how I like my baking. Once I got the basic method down, I decided to experiment - a lot. 

Lemon Shortbread Sandwich Cookies filled with tangy Lemon Buttercream, Photo: NK
Meanwhile, it happens to be Girl Scout cookie season and around the time I placed my order with my usual supplier, a good friend of mine mentioned she was on the hunt for Lemonades. I'd never heard of them because apparently they aren't sold in our geographic area, but when she described them - shortbread with tangy lemon icing - they sounded pretty darn good to me. Lemon, after all, is one of my all time favorite flavors, and eating buttercream, well, it's probably one of my main guilty pleasures in the dessert realm. 

My next project was clear. 

After a couple of tasty tries creating plain lemon shortbread cookies, I went one step further and created a lemony buttercream to go with them. While both the cookie and and the buttercream are easy to make, I will warn you that sandwich cookies are fairly labor intensive from a quantity perspective because you need to make 40 cookies to get just 20 sandwiches. And trust me, you'll eat them fast! Nevertheless, these were delicious, and to maximize the yield, I actually ended up icing some of them open-faced so that I could get more cookies out of the batch. Once that was done, I stored them in the freezer with parchment between the layers. If you do so, be sure to detach the cookies before they unfreeze so the buttercream stays intact. I can't wait to share these with my friend and I hope you enjoy them too!! 
Lemon Shortbread Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Yield - About 40 cookies or 20 Sandwich Cookies 

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter room temperature
1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar
4 teaspoons packed finally grated Lemon Peel
1 teaspoon Lemon Extract 
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice 
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Coconut Palm Sugar or Brown Sugar (optional) 
Generous pinch Kosher Salt
1Tablespoon Sparkling Sugar or other large grain granulated (or regular white sugar is fine)

Lemon Buttercream (Recipe Below)

Equipment: Small Round Cookie Cutter (Oreo sized), Rolling Pin, Saran Wrap and Parchment Paper

Cook's Note: If you use this dough recipe for larger cookies you'll likely have to bake them more like 15-16 minutes

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a mixer beat the Butter and Confectioners Sugar until smooth and a little fluffy. Beat in Lemon Peel and Lemon Extract. Add Flour and Salt and mix until just blended. Beat in the optional Coconut Palm Sugar or Brown Sugar (this gives a pretty speckle to the cookies which creates some visual interest). 

Move dough to large piece of saran wrap and form into a disk. Place another piece of saran wrap over the disk and roll it out to about a quarter inch thickness. Slide dough sheet with saran wrap still on it onto a baking sheet and transfer to the fridge to chill for 30-40 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350 and remove the dough from the fridge. Remove the top layer of saran and cut out circles with a cookie cutter making them as close together as possible. Lift the bottom layer of saran and cut out cookies off the baking sheet. Carefully peel each circle off and transfer back onto the parchment covered baking sheet - they won't spread much but you should leave an inch of space in between if possible.  Sprinkle with Sparkling Sugar and return baking sheet to fridge to chill 10 minutes.

Reserve the dough scraps and re-roll them, repeating the same process, to make as many other cookies as you can. 

Place in the middle rack of the oven and cook 11 minutes until the edges are turning just slightly golden and you can smell the shortbread. 

Allow to fully cool without disturbing. Cookies will be very delicate. 
Once cool you can ice the cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream (recipe is below). 
***Be sure the Buttercream is room temperature when you ice the cookies so it spreads on gently and you don't break the cookie. 

Once you've iced the bottom cookie add the top cookie and gently press together. Chill again in the fridge to fuse everything together. Serve at room temperature! 

Lemon Buttercream
Yield: Approximately 1.5 Cups, enough to ice 20 sandwich cookies with more to spare

1 stick Salted Butter, softened
3 Cups Confectioners Sugar
1 Tablespoon Lemon Extract 
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract 
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
Lemon Zest (a few pinches, optional)
3-4 Drops Yellow Food Coloring (optional) 

Blend the first two ingredients on medium speed until fluffy and fully incorporated. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend. 
You can store several days in the fridge but to ice the cupcakes you must allow the buttercream to come to room temperature. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Our Favorite Party Salad - Shepherd's Salad

Long ago I wrote a post about the sad plight of the salad at barbecue or banquet-style events. Whenever you're cooking a big (and rich) party meal like a Super Bowl spread, it's easy to feel like you simply must add leafy greens to temper the gluttony.  In turn, guests will feel obliged to place a scoop or two of salad on their plates, though you're like to find the Mac and Cheese you serve goes a heck of a lot faster. The problem with standard salads is, at least in my experience, unless they are something very special, they just don't get eaten and often go almost completely to waste. As a fix, I try and keep banquet salads as interesting as possible by using irresistible (think: Prosciutto and Burrata) fun, or unexpected ingredients (for ideas, check out: this, this, this or this). 

Shepherd's Salad, Photo: NK

Nonetheless, if you need an exceptionally simple and satisfying make-ahead salad that most people actually eat, my go-to is Shepherd's Salad - a Turkish/Middle Eastern favorite made with chunky cuts of universally-loved veggies: cucumber, tomato and pepper, which are then tossed in a vinegar or lemon dressing. I don't know why diners seem to prefer Shepherd's Salad over traditional green salads, but I think it has something to do with the fact that people love crunchy things, and it's easier to serve and eat with one hand as you would at a buffet. Additionally, kids seem to be more tolerant of it than they are of leafy salads. 

Of course, this dish is at its best in summer when tomatoes are at their peak, but with a little careful buying, it can still be tasty in winter months. Just be sure to purchase whichever tomatoes (large or small) are the most ripe. Since today's recipe will accompany our Super Bowl spread, I opted for cherry tomatoes cut in half or thirds because they looked the best. 

Shepherd's Salad benefits from being dressed ahead and sitting for a bit, and you can serve it cold or room temperature, which I generally prefer. I recommend dressing it 3-4 hours before serving and giving it a few tosses. You can absolutely do the chopping the morning of or even the night before, and the salad will still maintain much of its crunchiness and freshness. Some of Shepherd's Salad omit the olives or include grated feta (or ricotta salata would be a nice choice too). I like mine with a small amount of olives and no cheese. It's tasty enough. 

Coban Salad / Coban Salatasi  (Shepherd's Salad)
Very Minimally Adapted from The Spruce
Serves 8 lightly, 6 generously


2 Large Hothouse Cucumbers (Seedless) - one with the skin off, the other skin on (to create visual interest)
2 large Tomatoes or a big carton of small Cherry or Grape Tomatoes (go by what's the most ripe - in winter you may have better luck with smaller sized ones)
1 Green Bell Pepper, ribs and seeds removed
2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley, finely chopped 
Chopped and pitted (non-canned) Black Olives such as Kalamata, Gaeta or even Cured Black Olives 
Optional - 1/2 Cup Dry Feta or Ricotta Salata 

Dressing Ingredients: 
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1.5 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar or Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop all vegetables except the Parsley in relatively uniform bite sized pieces and throw them in a bowl. (If using small Tomatoes you may decide to cut them in half or thirds). If large, you'll want to scrape out the seeds as much as possible).

Toss in the finely chopped Parsley and Stir. If using chopped Olives, sprinkle a handful throughout. 

Mix dressing Ingredients, tasting and seasoning to your liking. Dress the salad and let sit in the fridge or at room temperature 3-4 hours, tossing 1 or 2 times if possible. Taste and adjust seasoning before you serve. Add optional grated Cheese.