Friday, June 1, 2018

A Spring Celebration, Still Good in Summer

What’s cooking? Whitefish en Papillote with Tomatoes, Snap Peas, and Herb Butter


In the runup to my husband’s birthday, I often focus on the foods he likes. We’ve been married just long enough that we’ve given each other just about every variation on a present – from wildly extravagant, like the year I took him to Pebble Beach to play golf, to the thoughtful-but-truly-unexciting, like a new book by one of his favorite authors.

And he’s not nearly as thrilled as I am to look for a hot new restaurant for the celebration, so that part often comes down to something from the Kitchen Goddess.

Back in our just-married days, when we lived in Manhattan, there was a darling little Italian restaurant in our neighborhood. (Frankly, there’s a darling little Italian restaurant in almost every neighborhood of NYC. It’s a New York thing.) We went there often, which is what you can do when you have two salaries and no kids, and his favorite dish was Striped Bass al Cartoccio.

These days, when he thinks about that dish, he always pronounces it “al car-TOE-chee-o” using his best Italian accent and arms open wide in his best Italian opera singer imitation. But for some reason, I’ve never tried to duplicate the preparation.

Then not long ago, among the daily onslaught of food-related emails I get – remember when it was actually fun and exciting to get email? – I came across one for “fish packets.” Ah, said the Kitchen Goddess, this will be just the thing. And so it was.

The concept is amazingly simple: fish baked in a tightly closed envelope of parchment (or sometimes foil), often with herbs, lemon slices, or other seasonings. The package holds in the moisture, to steam the fish. The envelope is generally opened at the table, so guests can smell the aroma when it opens. It’s called en papillote in French, al cartoccio in Italian – but whatever you call it, it’s a technique well worth learning.

This particular preparation fairly sings “spring,” with the light flavors of herbs and tomatoes and sugar snap peas. The fish stays moist and light because it cooks quickly, so the veggies stay a tiny bit crisp; the smear of butter on top and underneath the fish makes sure those flavors go all the way through it. The parchment holds enough of the heat in that the dish is actually warm when you open it on your plate. Just the smells that come out of that little package will have you swooning.

Another amazon find
This is a dish that looks fancy, but is in fact incredibly easy. You can make the herb butter the day before, but if you do, be sure to let it sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, so that it will spread easily.

A little kitchen wisdom: butter is fine at room temperature (covered) for at least a couple of days, unless your kitchen is really warm. The KG often leaves hers out overnight in a dish like the one at the right, for easier spreading on toast in the morning.

Kitchen Goddess note about parchment paper: The hardest part about parchment paper is that it generally comes in a roll, and getting those sheets to flatten out is a challenge. But the KG has a solution or two for that little wrinkle: (1) crumple the sheets, then smooth them out (This is an amazingly effective method, as long as you’re not put off by serving slightly wrinkled packets); (2) follow the Kitchen Goddess’s example and buy pre-cut sheets that come already flat. KG buys hers at, but your local baking supply shop may carry them.

Whitefish en Papillote with Tomatoes, Snap Peas, and Herb Butter

Adapted from Katherine Sacks on Epicurious (September 2017)

For the herbs, the Kitchen Goddess used thyme and dill and parsley, because that’s what was in the garden; cilantro and chives would also be good candidates.

To serve 4.

For the herb butter:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature (Let it sit out while you get your mise-en-place.)
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped tender herbs
1½  teaspoons kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning the fish

For the fish:
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 2½ cups), quartered
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
four ½-inch thick skinless fillets of white fish, like flounder or tilapia (about 6 ounces each)
Paprika (smoked or sweet)
¼ cup shredded fresh basil leaves (See my post on 50 Ways to Love Your Basil for step-by-step on chiffonade technique)

Special Equipment: four sheets of parchment paper (about 12 inches by 16 inches each)

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

For the herb butter:
In a small bowl, combine the butter, herbs, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Let it sit out while you prepare the veggies.

Assembling the packets:
Lay a parchment sheet flat on a work surface. Smear 1 tablespoon of the herb butter in the center of the sheet, in a streak about the length of the fish and an inch or so wide. Arrange one-quarter of the snap peas, tomatoes, and garlic evenly over the butter.

Place a fish fillet on top of the vegetables, then smear another tablespoon of the herb butter on top of the fish. Season the fish with ⅛ teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, and a sprinkling of paprika.

The KG couldn't get 6-ounce fillets -- only very thin 2-ounce fillets -- so she used 3 in each packet. You have to be flexible.

Fold the long sides of the parchment together over the fish (like you would with a sandwich that you’re wrapping for a picnic lunch). Gather the ends of the paper, then fold and tuck them under the fish to form a packet. [KG Note: There are lots of ways – most of them more complicated – to fold parchment around the fish, but as long as the ends of the parchment are well tucked under the fish, the butter and moisture won’t escape and you’ll be fine.]

Carefully move the packet to a baking sheet, and repeat the assembly process for each of the other fillets.

Depending on the size of the fish, you may be able to fit all four on a single, large, rimmed baking sheet. If not, use a second baking sheet. Just make sure all four packets are resting solidly on the sheet in a single layer.

Bake at 400º until just cooked through, about 12-13 minutes. If you want to test, insert a skewer through the parchment and into the fish. If it slides through the fillet easily, your fish is done. Carefully unfold the packets (steam will escape), and sprinkle the tops of the fish with ribboned basil.

A final note: You can make the butter 2-3 days ahead, and refrigerate it; just be sure to let it come to room temperature before you try working with it. Fish packets can be assembled up to 4 hours ahead and chilled. Let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before cooking.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Germany

What’s cooking? Dulce de Leche and Spicy Pineapple-Tequila Sorbet

Yes, the Kitchen Goddess is in Germany, but that doesn’t stop her from wishing you a happy Cinco de Mayo! I’m not really sure if they recognize May 5 as having any special significance where I am – we’re just getting over celebrating King’s Day with the people in Amsterdam, and one national festival in a week is quite enough for me.

King's Day Revelers in Amsterdam
King’s Day in the Netherlands is a celebration of the King’s birthday, and the entire country parties, but nowhere as intensely as in Amsterdam. Everyone wears something orange, and many dye their hair orange, in  honor of the House of Orange-Nassau, which rules over the Netherlands. Orange plastic hats, orange synthetic leis, and orange wigs are everywhere – it’s sufficiently well-known that the population of Amsterdam doubles on that day. A day filled with eating and drinking and singing and drinking and parading in the streets and drinking and even a bit of marijuana smoking in the streets... Let’s just say that, unlike the Kitchen Goddess’s Dutch ancestors, these Dutch know how to party. The fellows in this photo are typical of the sort of over-the-top costuming that takes place.

By contrast, Cinco de Mayo isn’t nearly as significant of a holiday in Mexico as it is in the States, where it has become widely recognized by Mexican-Americans as a celebration of their heritage. And since the rest of us enjoy a good celebration as much as anyone – especially if it involves food and alcoholic beverages – you’ll find a large number of non-Mexican-Americans joining in the fun.

There’s nothing like dessert to help you celebrate. I served these at a recent group dinner party where the theme was Mexican cuisine. I give you two ways to make dulce de leche [pronounced DOOL-say day LAY-chay], which is sort of like the Mexican version of Nutella – a delicious caramel spread made from (1) milk and sugar, or (2) sweetened condensed milk. The second way is so easy it’s almost laughable, but being the KG, I of course had to try it both ways. The first produces a deeper, darker, thicker caramel, but given the ease of the second way, I’ll probably choose that when I do it again.

Spicy Pineapple and Tequila Sorbet

Adapted from Max Falcowitz at

For this sorbet, there’s nothing tricky at all and you will love the sweet-tart flavor of the pineapple-lime combination. I reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe and doubled the lime, but you should play with the flavors however you like. The KG couldn’t really taste the tequila, even after doubling the amount called for in the original recipe (on the theory that you can never have too much tequila), but the alcohol does help keep the sorbet from freezing too hard.

Makes 4-5 cups.

2 pounds peeled, cored, and chunked ripe pineapple (about 1½  pineapples before trimming)
kosher salt
¼ cup water
¾ cup sugar
1½  teaspoons Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons silver tequila
Juice of two limes (or to taste), plus zest of one of the limes (using a rasp)

KG note on pineapple: I had no problem finding already trimmed, ripe pineapple at my grocery, but if you are not so lucky and find only semi-ripe pineapple, apparently you can toss it with ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt and bake it at 450º in a glass baking dish for 1-2 minutes, or until pineapple is sweet and aromatic. Do not overbake.

Load the pineapple chunks with the water into a blender and purée until very smooth (at least 2 minutes). You should have about 4 cups of juice. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until sugar dissolves. Add salt to taste.

Pour the purée into a bowl or plastic container and cover tightly. Chill in refrigerator for at least two hours, or until very cold.

Process in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Chill in an airtight container in your freezer for 2-3 hours before serving.

Dulce de Leche (two methods)

Adapted from

I served this as a dipping sauce with churros – the Mexican equivalent to doughnuts, but you can also stir some into your coffee, or drizzle it over ice cream, or spread it on toast. You may find yourself eating it straight with a spoon – that’s okay, too.

Makes 1¼-1½ cups

For the classic method:

4 cups milk
1¼ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large (3-4 quarts) heavy saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and baking soda.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat enough to simmer the liquid, uncovered, for 1½ to 1¾ hours, until it thickens and caramelizes. For the first hour, you will need to stir only occasionally and make sure the mix doesn’t settle on the bottom. After that first hour, the milk will begin to caramelize more intensely, and you’ll need to stir more often, to avoid burning.

After 30 minutes...

After one hour...
After 90 minutes.
When the mixture is well caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Kitchen Goddess Recipe for Disaster: If you are making dulce de leche in the condensed milk method and asking someone – like your darling husband – to pour the water into the pan for the water bath, be sure to let them know that it goes into the larger, roasting pan and not the pie pan containing the milk. Because there’s no way to cook it down enough to get rid of all that extra water and you will end up with a small marital crisis on your hands and no way to get a picture of the final product unless you start over with another can of milk, which you might not have. Just saying.

Sweetened condensed milk method:

One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (not the same as plain evaporated milk, which has no added sugar)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Move one of the racks to the middle of the oven.

Pour the contents of the can of sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch pie pan (deep-dish if you have one) and place it in a roasting pan with sides at least 2 inches deep. Cover the pie pan tightly with foil. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up the pie plate.

Bake the milk in the middle of the oven for 1½ hours, checking the water level at the 45-minute mark and adding additional water if necessary. Check milk at the end of the 1½ hours – if it’s not thick and brown, replace the foil and cook another 15 minutes.

Once the milk is thick and brown, remove pie plate from the water bath and cool, uncovered. Makes about 1¼ cups.

Dulce de leche will keep for a month, refrigerated. You can also freeze it. Even better, make Dulce de Leche Ice Cream, from this recipe.

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

April Fool!

What’s cooking? Cauliflower Soup and Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins and Almonds

My friend Kathrin Bergin in NJ posted this less than a week ago.

I know it’s spring because the flowering trees in Texas have bloomed, and the bluebonnets are out. Yesterday, it hit 84 degrees. But when I woke up today, it was 47. And as I type this, it’s dropped to 43, with a wind chill of 36. I checked my phone for the weather conditions in those cities where my children live, and the temperature was the same as here in Allentown, PA, Philadelphia, and NYC. It’s APRIL, for goodness sake – would someone please tell Mother Nature?

My beleaguered daughter-in-law – mother of a lively 4-year old and 6-year-old – says, “the most recent snow day was supposed to be a holiday, but since we’ve had so many snow days, it was changed to a make-up day. So we had a snow day on a make-up snow day and we will continue to have snow days forever because spring has forsaken us and all hope is lost... but other than that, everything is peachy.”

So I’ve been thinking all day about what I can post that will raise my DIL’s spirits and get the warmth in my toes back. And I think cauliflower soup may be just the thing.  Back in February, I discovered a recipe from the folks at America’s Test Kitchen that is really something: a truly creamy soup without an ounce of cream.

Then while I was thinking about that soup, I recalled that I’ve not posted about another cauliflower recipe I liked from the March issue of Food & Wine magazine. They called it a Cauliflower Korma, a reference to a classic Indian dish in which meat or vegetables are braised in a yogurt sauce. The treatment in this case adds raisins and almonds and places the sauce under the vegetables, which was just unusual enough to pique the Kitchen Goddess’s interest.

The appearance of these two recipes for cauliflower confirms a suspicion I’ve had for a while, which is that cauliflower is a rising star in the food firmament. Sooo... you heard it here. The Kitchen Goddess is In. The. Know.

Cauliflower Soup

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.

Aside from the short cooking time – total, including prep, is less than an hour and 15 minutes – the best thing about this soup is the flavor, which comes about by having some of the vegetable cooked more than the rest. It turns out that cauliflower cooked just a little has a light, grassy flavor, while cauliflower cooked a lot longer has a warm, lightly sweet and nutty flavor. So when you add the cauliflower in two stages, you get a remarkable combination of both flavors. And when you top the soup off with fried florets and a drizzle of brown butter, you get my hubby to say, “This is really good,” instead of “Yes, but it’s still cauliflower.”

Serves 4-6.

1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), outer leaves removed
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 leek (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and rinsed well
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups water
½ teaspoon sherry vinegar

Cut out the core and stem of the cauliflower and trim off the fibrous outer layer. Cut the trimmed stem crosswise into thin slices, about ¼-inch thick. Separate enough ½-inch florets to make a heaping cupful and reserve. Slice the remains of the head into ½-inch thick slabs.

Note that the KG does her cauliflower deconstructing in a rimmed baking sheet, thus containing the mess.

In a 4-5-quart Dutch oven over medium/medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and add the leek, onion, and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened but not browned (7-8 minutes).

Add the water and half of the cauliflower slabs, including all of the sliced core, and stir. Raise the heat to bring the mix to a simmer, then adjust down enough to keep that simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the remaining cauliflower – except for the cup of florets – and stir. Return the liquid to a simmer and continue to simmer the soup until the cauliflower is tender, which should take another 15-20 minutes.

While the soup simmers, melt the other 5 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the reserved florets and cook, stirring constantly, for 6-8 minutes, until the florets begin to take on a brown crust and the butter is well browned. At this point, the butter should have a slightly nutty smell. Remove the pan from the heat and use a slotted spoon to strain out the florets from the butter. Save the butter and florets separately in small bowls.

Sprinkle the vinegar over the bowl with the florets and add salt to taste. Stir. Reserve.

When the cauliflower in the soup is tender, remove the pot from the heat and process the soup in a blender for 1-2 minutes until it is very smooth. If it seems too thick, add water a few tablespoons at a time to get a consistency you like. Ideally, the soup should be just thin enough to settle back into a flat surface after being stirred.

You may want to return the soup to the pot and reheat – just remember to remove any remnants of cauliflower from the pot before you do. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. To serve, garnish each serving with a few of the browned florets, and drizzle on a teaspoon or two of the brown butter.

* * *

Cauliflower Korma with Blackened Raisins

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine, March 2018.

This dish uses a exotic mix of warm spices redolent of India – ginger, cardamom, and garam masala, which itself is a mix of spices. If you don’t have garam masala, you should be able to find it in the bulk spice aisle of your supermarket.

The KG loves the unusual presentation of this dish: the sauce is under the veggies. And note that this recipe also includes blackened raisins – another flavor profile that’s trending now... We are nothing if not trendy at Spoon & Ink.

Serves 4-6.

One large (2-pound) head of cauliflower, or two small heads
4 tablespoons (divided) canola oil, or other flavorless oil like grapeseed
kosher salt
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 piece fresh ginger, about 1½ inches, peeled and finely grated (use a rasp)
1 rounded teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of cayenne pepper, or ¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
½ cup ground almonds, or almond meal (from bulk aisle of supermarket)
1 tablespoon honey
6 ounces plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
½ cup whole milk (can use 2%)
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350º.

Remove the cauliflower stem and trim off the tough outer layer. Slice the stem into thin (⅛-inch thick) disks. Break the cauliflower into bite-sized florets (about 1 inch across). In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with either parchment or foil. Roast the cauliflower for 40-50 minutes, until it’s tender and lightly browned. Kitchen Goddess note: If the cauliflower is tender but not browned, run it under the broiler for a minute.

While the cauliflower is cooking, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook 10-12 minutes, stirring often, until they are soft and lightly caramelized. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to stir about 1 minute, or until fragrant, then add the four spices. Once the spices are well mixed in, add the ground almonds, honey, and ¾ teaspoon salt.

Stir continuously for about 2 minutes, until the almond meal clings to the onions, then add the yogurt and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer the sauce 8-10 minutes, until it thickens and turns lightly golden. Add the milk, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce is smooth and will coat the back of a spoon. At that point, remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with salt. Cover until ready to serve.

Set a small skillet over medium heat and add the raisins and sliced almonds. Cook, stirring – you can shake the pan instead if you prefer. The goal is to let the raisins – but not the almonds – burn a little. The raisins will puff up as they start to blacken. This will all take about 3 minutes.

To serve, pour the sauce into a large plate and spread it around with a spoon. Add the cauliflower and top the presentation with the raisins and almonds.

Kitchen Goddess note: Food & Wine recommends serving this dish with a dry Gewürztraminer.

Stay warm and hopeful – spring will come for sure one of these days!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Springing Forward

What’s cooking? Pork Medallions with Fennel-White Wine Sauce

Well, it’s almost spring. Just not yet, even though here in Texas, we’ve got blooms aplenty on the flowering trees, and my pansies are exploding with happiness at having survived the winter. But I’m getting really tired of the hearty soups and roast chicken dinners. And the asparagus isn’t quite “local” yet, if you know what I mean.

So I was delightfully surprised to find a recipe for pork tenderloin that didn’t require roasting or bundling my prince up so that he could grill it in the cold.

I don’t remember ever having pork tenderloin from my mother’s kitchen. We often had pork chops, and occasionally pork roast, so maybe this is one of those cuts – like a tri-tip roast – that wasn’t really popular or well known back then. In any case, as a grown-up, I’ve become a big fan. It’s as tender as a beef filet but much less expensive; it’s also juicy, flavorful, and very lean. Would you like to know why it’s so tender? I thought so. The cut comes from an area along the spine, so it’s a muscle that’s used for posture instead of movement.

Even better, this particular treatment is so fast and easy, it blew me away. The cooking part of the recipe takes... drum roll, please... less than 10 minutes. Can you believe it? The Kitchen Goddess was more than a little skeptical until she made it herself.

If you’re not familiar with fennel, you may be tempted to try this recipe with celery or onion. Don’t do it. Just allow me a short digression on the vegetable, then go out and introduce yourself to it.

According to wikipedia, fennel is a highly aromatic member of the carrot family. (News to me.) It’s also a rich source of protein, dietary fiber, B vitamins and several dietary minerals. The plant came originally from the Mediterranean coast, which is why you’ll find fennel popping up in Italian cuisine. The tall, feathery fronds are often in salads or omelettes; the seeds look and taste a lot like anise; and the flowers produce a potently flavorful pollen that the Kitchen Goddess has raved about more than once. Fennel bulbs – which look like a marriage between a head of celery and a spring onion –  have a faint licorice-like taste when raw; cooked, they’re completely different. Aside from their use raw in salads, fennel bulbs make a wonderful addition to soups and risottos, and they’re terrific grilled or braised on their own. Here, the bulb adds a light, spring-like flavor to the sauce.

So now that you’re ready for the magic to happen, the most important part of the process is our old friend, mise en place. Remember: less than 10 minutes to cook? So there’s not a spare instant to pour the wine, measure the broth, or chop the herbs. Get it all ready before you turn on the stove; otherwise, you will find yourself deep in the weeds, as they say in the restaurant industry.

The recipe here is written for a one-pound piece of meat, which in my experience is about average for pork tenderloin. So it feeds two people, with some left over for a lucky soul the next day. At most, it’ll work fine for three. If I were cooking for four, I’d double the meat and use a whole fennel bulb that’s more of a medium size than large. The use of the herbs in the preparation is so fabulous, I’d at least double it if you’re cooking for four. You’ll also have to cook the meat in two shifts.

This recipe comes from A Good Food Day, by Marco Canora, chef-owner of Hearth, in New York City. In spite of (or perhaps because of) his success as a chef, Canora discovered, at age 40, that he was pre-diabetic, with high cholesterol and gout, and 30 pounds overweight. But he wasn’t willing to give up flavor for health, so he developed a way of cooking based on “simple, natural recipes fit for a food-lover’s palate.” Twenty-five pounds lighter, he published 125 of the recipes in this book.

Pork Medallions with Fennel-White Wine Sauce

Adapted from A Good Food Day, by Marco Canora (Clarkson-Potter Publishers, 2014).

Serves 2-3.

1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 rounded tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 rounded tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1-pound pork tenderloin, sliced in ½-inch thick medallions
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ large fennel bulb, diced small (¼-⅜ inch dice)
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ cup flavorful chicken broth (or ¼ cup water and ½ teaspoon Knorr Chicken Broth Powder)

Mash the garlic clove with the flat side of a chef’s knife and chop it coarsely. On a cutting board, combine the chopped garlic with the rosemary and sage, and finely chop them all together. Set the mix aside in a small bowl.

Use paper towels to blot the pork dry, and season the medallions on both sides with salt and pepper. Have a warm plate ready to receive the pork once it’s cooked.

Kitchen Goddess note: The hot oil and the moisture in the meat will make for a fair amount of grease splattered around your skillet. If you have one of those clever things called a splatter guard or splatter screen, the KG recommends you dig it out of its place behind those cake pans, or whatever obscure place you keep it. You’ll save yourself a lot of clean-up.

Set a 12-inch skillet with high sides over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil to the skillet, and bring the oil to a shimmer. Once the oil is hot, add the medallions in a single layer and cook – without touching – for 1½ minutes. Using tongs, turn the medallions and cook the other side – again without touching – for another 1½ minutes. Transfer the meat to the warm plate to rest.

See those nice bits of brown crustiness? That's what comes from NOT TOUCHING the meat while it cooks.

While the meat rests, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet – still on medium-high heat – along with the fennel and a pinch of salt. Cook for 1 minute, using a wooden spatula or wooden spoon with a flat edge to stir the fennel and scrape up the fond (those bits of brown meat that stuck to the bottom of the skillet).

Stir the garlic and herb mixture into the fennel for 30 seconds, then add the wine, the broth, and any juices from the meat that have accumulated on the plate.

Bring the sauce to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, until it reduces by about half and thickens. Spoon the sauce over the pork medallions and serve.

The sauce is so delicious – light and herby – that I like to have something to soak up any that I can’t get with the meat, so I usually serve the meat with French bread or rice and a salad or green vegetable. If you choose rice, you’ll want to prepare it completely before you start cooking the meat, and let the rice stay warm, covered, in its saucepan while you cook the meat and sauce.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fishy Thoughts and Oranges for Dessert

What’s cooking? A Round-up of Seafood Dishes and Oranges in Cardamom Syrup

 Again with the Lent. Seems like it was just here. And while I don’t ordinarily find some way of punishing myself for the season, I have discovered something to give up this year.

The idea came to me while I was reading the latest news from the good folks at Kellogg. Apparently, the company is launching – in a limited edition, mind you – a cereal called Unicorn Froot Loops. Really. And if you’re not offended by the spelling of “Froot,” and if the word “Unicorn” doesn’t make you want to rush out and buy some, you’ll surely be enticed by what’s in it: red, blue, and purple cereal pieces with white “crunchlets” and a “magic cupcake” flavor.

The company is so psyched about this news that they’ve opened a cereal-focused café at Union Square in Manhattan, ironically in the same area as one of the premier farmers’ markets in the country. The highlight of the café is a DIY cereal bar with more than 30 “playful toppings,” but you can also get “specialty” cereal drinks, Pop-Tarts, and ice cream sandwiches. Also an Instagram station where you can artfully photograph this crap that you’re about to shovel down your throat. Or – even better – down your kid’s throat.

Let the Kitchen Goddess offer a translation of some of these terms:
● crunchlets = pieces of candy that are cheaper to make than the actual cereal and take up weight in the box that would otherwise be actual cereal.
● magic cupcake flavor = let me take a wild guess... sugar?
● playful toppings = because I can see some of them in the website’s photos, these include marshmallows, crumbled chocolate chip cookies, multicolored white chocolate chips, jam, and what looks like crumbled energy bars drizzled with white frosting. Yum-my.

With all this in mind, I’m excited to announce that I’m giving up all Kellogg cereals for Lent.

Instead – for contrast – I’m going to focus on fish. I know that many of my friends, Catholic or not, like to observe meat-free Fridays for these 40 days. And the Kitchen Goddess supports any reasonably healthy eating habits. So we’ll start with a handful of the best fishy dishes I’ve recommended in the past. (Click on the name to get to the recipe.) And we’ll close this post with a really lovely salute to citrus season.

No-Fuss Crabby Cakes with Tartar Sauce

Fennel Flounder

Tuna-Spinach Soufflé 

Simple Salmon Cakes with Tartar Sauce

Best Broiled Fish with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

So now that you’ve decided on dinner, let’s remember that we’re still in the heart of citrus season, and take advantage of the outstanding variety of oranges available while they’re all at their best prices.

For the dish below, the Kitchen Goddess used Cara Cara oranges and standard navel oranges. Cara Caras are also called red-fleshed navel oranges, and from the outside, the two are almost indistinguishable – at least, I haven’t found a way to tell the difference. Inside, the Cara Cara flesh is the color of ruby grapefruit but with the sweetness of standard navels, and a more complex flavor that includes hints of cherry and blackberry.

I found this recipe in a search for a way to serve stewed oranges with budino (Italian pudding). They went beautifully with the pudding, but were equally delicious the next night with nothing more than a dollop of whipped cream. You could also serve them with pound cake, angel food cake, or baked meringues (as with a Pavlova).

The strongest flavor in the syrup comes from the cardamom, a spice found frequently in dishes from Asia – India, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia,... Along with cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, it’s one of the warm spices that may remind you of fall, and it’s frequently combined with them. A little spice trivia: my research says it’s considered the queen of spices (third in price after saffron and vanilla), and is useful in treating or guarding against gastrointestinal diseases including colorectal cancer, stomach disorders and urinary tract infections, improving cholesterol and blood circulation. It’s also a remedy for nausea and vomiting. And most significantly, it has aphrodisiac properties. Better stock up! Dried seeds and pods – stored away from heat or sunlight in containers with tight-fitting lids – will keep 3-4 years. Test by crushing a small amount and smelling it – if the flavor isn’t obvious, replace it.

Kitchen Goddess notes: (1) When we finished off the oranges in the first batch, I saved the syrup and added more oranges. The syrup flavor wasn’t as strong as with the first batch, but still quite good. (2) Somewhere in the process of making the syrup, the KG decided that – because ginger and oranges are a great combo – it would be really fab to add a splash of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, or perhaps one of the orange-based liqueurs (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec). Then the doorbell rang and the thought went clear out of her head. She plans to try this another time, but you can try it on your first go. Please report in if you do.

Oranges in Cardamom Syrup

Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2002

Serves 4.

Mise en place -- what you see here is cardamom seeds on the left and pods
 to their right. Either will work.
5 oranges in a combination of navel and Cara Cara
5 cardamom pods, or ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
3 cups water
1½ cups sugar
one 5-inch long strip of lemon peel [KG note: This is the way it was described in the original recipe, but frankly, five 1-inch pieces would do, if you get my drift. You just need lemon peel.]
1 cinnamon stick
Optional: splash (1 tablespoon?) of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, or an orange-based liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec)

With a vegetable peeler, cut a strip of peel about an inch wide and 6 inches long from one of the oranges and set it aside. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel from all the oranges, being careful to remove as much of the white pith as possible. Slice the peeled oranges in half lengthwise and cut each half crosswise into slices about ⅓-inch thick. Transfer the oranges to a large bowl.

Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (I use a clean electric coffee grinder) to pulverize the cardamom pods or seeds to get ½ teaspoon of powder. Don’t worry about making it a perfectly fine powder, as you’ll be straining the syrup of solids at the end; and if you are using the pods, it’s ok to pulverize the husks as well.

In a small (2-quart) heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cardamom, orange peel, water, sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, and liqueur (if using). Stir only until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the syrup to a boil, then reduce the heat enough that the mixture is only simmering. Continue simmering until the liquid is reduced to 1- 1½ cups, which will take a little more than an hour.

Once the syrup is reduced, move it off the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, and discard the solids.

Pour the warm syrup over the oranges and chill (covered) at least a couple of hours or overnight. Serve oranges with a dollop of whipped cream or over slices of pound cake or angel food cake or baked meringues. Or warm budino, for which you can find the recipe by clicking here.