Monday, February 29, 2016

Bonkers, Intense, Sassy, Crazy – My New Favorite Cookbook
What’s cooking? Pepperoni-crusted Cod with Pineapple

The Kitchen Goddess has been laid low with a cold for the past week. No cooking, no writing. We apologize for the interruption.

I know, today’s recipe sounds a little strange. Ok, maybe a lot strange. But so worth taking the chance.

One of my 2016 resolutions was to expand my palate, to explore new foods, new seasonings, and new ways of cooking in ways that won’t endanger me or my family. In the current Age of the Foodie, chefs the world over are trying new combinations of ingredients and flavors and textures, and it’s good to take a small leap when an idea shows up from a cook you trust. Try to see these combinations as creative and adventuresome, not weird or scary. After all, it’s only food. So come along on the ride with me.

One way to seek out these new challenges is to pay attention to the younger chefs. In that vein, I’ve recently discovered a guy named Justin Warner. Warner, who is 32 but looks and acts more like a member of the 15-19 age category, is probably best known for winning Season 8 of the Food Network series, Food Network Star, with Alton Brown. He’s self-taught – no formal culinary training, which by itself is remarkable.

He became part owner of a restaurant in Brooklyn called Do or Dine, which transformed a forbidden neighborhood into a culinary mecca, attracting even the Michelin gang, then closed abruptly after four years. (The cryptic note on their Facebook page: “Dreams>$.” Sounds like a funding issue.) In any case, the star’s wacky food sense has resurfaced in the form of a new recipe book, The Laws of Cooking, which I recently bought. (You can also find him in lively short-form video online at The Food Network.)

The “laws,” as Warner describes them, are those combinations of tastes and textures that inspire almost universal pleasure. There’s the Law of Peanut Butter and Jelly, the Law of General Tso’s Chicken, and the Law of Pesto, to name a few. Then Warner uses his genius to extrapolate a range of other dishes from each of the featured laws. After taking the plunge on a few of these creations, the Kitchen Goddess has emerged a complete convert, even more willing to try others she might have eschewed in her more conservative past.

Warner’s writing is fun and exuberant, the instructions easy to follow. None of the snooty tone you often find in the tomes of classically trained chefs. Even the occasional “project” recipe looks easy enough if you have the time. Warner is clearly enjoying himself in the kitchen and wants you to, as well. There’s lots of guidance on gear, and the occasional substitution if you haven’t got – or don’t want to buy – what he uses. Best of all, he gives do-aheads and a plating suggestion for each dish, so you’re not left wondering how the heck to serve it.

Take today’s recipe, for instance. In his chapter on The Law of the Hot Dog, Warner celebrates salty/cured foods. (And if Burger King’s announcement that they’ll be offering grilled hot dogs is a trend, this recipe may be a gourmet answer to it.) Now the Kitchen Goddess admits to a fair degree of skepticism when she first cast her baby blues on this dish. But on the heels of three previous successes out of the book, she took a chance. And was amazed. Even her hubby and son – both even more skeptical – pronounced it good.

The KG recommends that you endeavor to make each bite include bits of pepperoni, fish, and pineapple. Mmm-mm. The Kitchen Goddess trusted Justin Warner, and we know by now that you trust the Kitchen Goddess. So dive in. You won’t be sorry.

Pepperoni-crusted Cod with Pineapple

Adapted from Justin Warner in The Laws of Cooking (Flatiron Books, 2015)

Serves 4.

1 20-ounce can pineapple slices
4 thick cod fillets, 6-7 ounces each*
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg, beaten
3-4 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni (large deli slices)*

*Kitchen Goddess note: (1) Cod doesn’t come in nice even lengths or thicknesses for this dish. But you can take a single thick fillet and cut it down the center seam to produce two fat “tubes” of fish and cut them into segments weighing 6-7 ounces each. With the thinner ends, I doubled each fillet under itself to create a piece of fish that was about the same thickness as the fatter ones and would therefore cook in the same amount of time. (2) I recommend getting your pepperoni from your grocer’s deli counter, where it’ll be in larger rounds and they’ll slice it thinner than you can get with pre-packaged meat.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Line a large rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. For each serving, place two slices of pineapple in a line. Pat the fish dry with paper towels, then salt/pepper both sides. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of the fish with the beaten egg and lay a piece on top of each pair of pineapple rings.

Layer the pepperoni on top of the fillets, like fish scales. Press the pepperoni down onto the fish to get it to adhere, and brush the remaining egg on top of the pepperoni.

Bake 20 minutes at 350°, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Use a large fish spatula to move the stacked fish and pineapple together from the parchment to the plates.

Kitchen Goddess note: Warner recommends serving this dish with cooked beans. (I used a combination of small red beans and pinto beans.) He’s right – it’s a delicious combination.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine’s Day! And Lunar New Year! And Mardi Gras! And...
What’s cooking? Shrimp Ramen Noodle Soup

What a week! Superbowl Sunday followed by the start of the Lunar New Year festival on Monday followed by Mardi Gras, and now Valentine’s Day. At one point, I was frankly grateful for the subdued mood of Ash Wednesday.

But the Lunar New Year festival is still in full force. Celebrations will continue until February 22 with the Lantern Festival, often thought of as the Chinese equivalent to Valentine’s Day. Now you may be thinking that the Kitchen Goddess has flubbed in her mention of the Lunar New Year by not calling it the Chinese New Year. Au contraire, mes amis. Even the Chinese refer to this 15-day hoopla as the Lunar New Year. As I understand it, the reason it’s so frequently known as Chinese New Year is that the Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Vietnamese celebrations all base their timing on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. Now, aren’t you glad you asked?

While regional traditions vary widely throughout Asia, the most common themes have to do with ensuring good fortune and happiness for the coming year. In addition to dressing and decorating one’s home in red (it’s said that red scares away evil spirits), and setting off fireworks (also to frighten evil spirits), there’s a heavy focus on eating.

One of the dishes eaten during the Lunar New Year festival is “longevity” noodles – long noodles that symbolize a wish for long life. To preserve the luck, the cook tries not to cut or break them, and it’s considered even luckier if you can eat them without biting through. Sounds like a very slurpy dish to me. Though they’re usually stir-fried, they can also be boiled and served in a bowl with broth.

In a stroll through Netflix recently, I happened upon the first episode of Mind of a Chef, which starred David Chang. And yes, I know he’s South Korean, not Chinese, but he spent most of the episode talking about – and eating – ramen noodles, which seem like a similar dish to longevity noodles. Chang went so far as to take healthy bites out of those dried squares of ramen noodles that you get at the grocery store. And yes, I know ramen is a Japanese noodle dish, but they’re the same style as Chinese wheat noodles. And I’d been yearning to figure out some version of Chang’s noodle soups ever since I had lunch last summer at his NYC restaurant, Momofuku. So give the Kitchen Goddess a small break on the details.

I also wanted to cheat. Exactly. I wanted to use those instant noodles from the grocery store, because they’re easy and because I like the flavor that you get in the accompanying spice package. So what you have here is a sort of “tricked out” (as in heavily accessorized) version of instant noodle soup, but tricked out in a way that raises the bar for the soup. But it’s still really fast and easy.

Kitchen Goddess note: You don’t have to split the shrimp in half, as the Kitchen Goddess has done, but cutting them that way accomplishes two things: (1) the shrimp goes twice as far in populating the soup, and (2) the halved shrimp take on a really pretty shape when cooked. And we all know how important presentation is to the Kitchen Goddess, don’t we?

Shrimp Ramen Noodle Soup

Serves 6.

2 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced lengthwise and chopped into ½-inch dice
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms (or crimini), sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced (crosswise)
1 large carrot, thinly sliced rounds
8 cups good quality chicken broth
2 packages Maruchan Shrimp Noodle Soup (or any other flavor)
1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound), shelled, deveined, and sliced in half lengthwise
zest and juice of 1 lime
2½ ounces (a large handful) baby spinach, any thick stems removed
Garnish (if you want to add a bit of heat): Korean chili sauce

Kitchen Goddess note: As noted above, I had a ramen soup lunch at David Chang’s NYC restaurant, Momofuku, and became addicted to his Ssäm Sauce, which is a Korean chili sauce with oomph. I love it in this soup. It’s available online at Momofuku Market: $7.50 for an 11-ounce bottle, plus $9 for shipping, but you can get as many as 5 bottles for that same $9, so maybe get some friends to go in on a shipment. It’s spicy, but not ridiculously so (the KG is very conservative when it comes to heat), with lots of Asian flavor.

Sliced fennel.
In a heavy soup pot, sauté the bacon bits 5-7 minutes, until crisp. Add the mushrooms and sauté the mixture, stirring, another 3 minutes. Add the fennel and carrots and sauté the mixture 3 more minutes, stirring.

Stir in the broth and bring it to a boil. Add the noodles from both packages, reserving the spice envelopes. Reduce the heat to keep the noodles on a low boil. When the noodles have cooked 3 minutes, empty the spice envelopes into the broth and cook an additional minute, stirring to incorporate.

Add the shrimp to the soup, stir, and cook on a low simmer for 3 more minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach, covering the pot to let the spinach cook in the residual heat. When the spinach is thoroughly wilted (1-2 minutes), stir in the lime juice and zest, and serve.

Kitchen Goddess Post Script: Others of the foods considered to bring good fortune fruit include tangerines and oranges, because their round gold color symbolizes fullness and wealth. The wonderfully delicious Cara Cara oranges are in most grocery stores now, and they’d make a great accompaniment to this soup.

So get your noodle soup and oranges and celebrate now!
Note the difference: Navel oranges on left, Cara Cara on right.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Playbook of Football-Watching Snacks
What’s cooking? The Kitchen Goddess's Top 5 Noshes for Super Bowl Friends

Hut 1, hut 2,... What the hell does “hut” mean anyway? (And you thought you’d tuned into this blog for the cooking.)

It’s the sort of question I ask myself now and then, when I come upon a word used in a way that doesn’t make sense to me. After all, a hut is a small dwelling, usually of a rough or simple construction. But that’s obviously not the way it’s used on the football field. So I wandered out onto the interweb to see what I could find.

The answer came from an article by linguist Ben Zimmer, executive editor of and a language columnist for The Wall Street Journal. According to Zimmer, monosyllables like “hip,” “hup,” and “hep” have been used for centuries by coachmen and herders as a short, sharp sound that would get the attention of their animals. Early in the 20th century, drill sergeants in the military began to make similar use of these sounds to establish a cadence for marching. One usage in particular was of “Atten-hut!” as a call to attention. It’s not easy to get that last “-shun” sound in “attention” to be loud and forceful, so the substitution of “-hut” gives a natural accent to the syllable.

At about the same time – and with a similar result in mind – these grunt-like interjections were also being adopted in the world of football. John Heisman – yes, that Heisman – in his quarterbacking days (1890-91), introduced the word “hike” to signal that the ball was being put into motion. Next up, Knute Rockne – as a coach in the 1920s – introduced shift formations in which the quarterback first called the signal, then yelled “hip” to initiate a shift by the backfield to new positions.

In the post-WWII era, among the many ways in which the language of war and the military were absorbed by the general public, “hut” spread from the drill sergeant to the quarterback, though more as a signal for the snap and not necessarily for a shift by the offensive line. Today, though much about the game has changed, “hut” retains its use at the line of scrimmage.

In preparation for this day of days in the football world, I had planned to look around for a new and exciting snacky thing for you to serve as you watch. But nothing seemed as good as the “playbook” of noshes I’ve already got. So here are what I’ll call my Top 5 What to Serve for Super Bowl 50. [KG note: Click on the recipe titles to go directly to the post with the recipe.]

Cheesy Black-eyed Pea Dip

Nothing beats this dip. Nothing. I’ve served it time and again, and it always disappears faster than you can say “forward pass.” Serve it with chips. Use a chafing dish because it’s infinitely better warm and when the cheese is runny. And be sure to try it before you put it on the table, because otherwise, you won’t get any.

Artichoke Pesto

At the healthy end of the spectrum, this one works with chips and crudité veggies. Easy to make ahead of time, and if you have any left over (doubtful), I mix it with scrambled eggs for breakfast, or roll some up in a lettuce leaf for a low-cal lunch.

Corn & Black Bean Relish

Gluten-free, low sugar – so healthy looking you might think it’s not even fun. But it is. And easy to make – just throw everything into a bowl and stir. Sweet and crunchy from the corn, tart from the lime juice, and a hint of smoke from the black beans. If you start tasting it to correct the seasoning, don’t be surprised if you look down and find that you’ve eaten half the bowl. It’s that addictive.

Sausage-Stuffed Dates 

[KG note: You'll have to scroll far down on the link to get to the recipe for this.]
Right – not a dip. But easy to make a bunch of these ahead of time and cook them in batches. The last time I served these, I heard moaning from the crowd.

Mexican Shrimp Dip

There’s no photo for this last dip – shame on me. Something I’ll have to do this spring. But you can trust the Kitchen Goddess, can’t you? Shrimp, tomato, avocado, lime, and a bit of cilantro – what’s not to like? If you’re not dieting, this stuff is great on chips or pita crisps; for the dieters, health nuts, or gluten-avoiders, it’s equally good on bell pepper scoops or cucumber slices.

Bonus item: Greek Almond Cookies

As you know, the Kitchen Goddess wouldn’t feel right without including something sweet here. These cookies are amazingly easy – the whole process, including gathering your ingredients, takes less than an hour. They’re also gluten-free and low cal (except that it’s hard to stop eating them).

Go team!