Pasta with Lobster, Leek and Tomato

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This is a springtime twist on Pasta with Lobster, Chilis and Mint.  In the spring, when leeks have just begun to show up at our local farm stands, it’s nice to add them to whatever I’m cooking, just for that sweet, delicate unique kind of onion flavor.

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Instead of mint, I’m using fresh basil–lots of it.  I like to add some at the beginning of cooking, and a handful right at the end, prior to serving.  This gives the dish wonderful layers of bright green, fresh flavor.

For the proportion of ingredients, refer to my recipe in the link above, but here I’ll illustrate the steps to the dish again.

First, begin with just-cooked fresh lobster meat (preferably par-cooked, so that the extra couple of minutes simmering in the sauce will not toughen the already-cooked meat too much. )

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Dice the meat into bite-size pieces and set aside.

While the pasta (I use dried linguine) cooks, in a large skillet over medium heat, add leeks, garlic, shallots and olive oil.

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Saute on low heat until they are softened, but not browned–about 8 minutes.  Add chili flakes and continue sauteing on low heat for another 5 minutes.

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In a food processor, puree 2 ripe plum tomatoes, and set aside.

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Add 1/2 cup white wine to the skillet and reduce for a minute.  Add tomatoes and basil and continue cooking until pasta is a minute shy of done.

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Add lobster meat and allow to warm in the sauce for a minute.   Right before adding the pasta to the skillet, add a handful of torn basil leaves.

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Add pasta, along with 1/2 cup of salty pasta cooking liquid.  Toss and stir for a minute to amalgamate.   Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil onto each individual serving.

Tonight, as a first course, we had freshly sauteed local spinach with garlic, olive oil, chili flakes and a sprinkle of lemon.

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Nothing else was necessary for an absolutely simple feast!

Posted in Pasta, Seafood | 1 Comment

Mom’s Baked Breaded Chicken Breasts

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This is another recipe of my mom’s that she used to make for us when we were kids.  It’s simple to make (much simpler and less messy than pan-frying), can be prepared ahead of time, then placed in the oven just before guests arrive.  It needs no attention once it’s in the oven, so you can prepare a pasta or first course while it’s in the oven and while you sit with guests.

Once it comes out of the oven, it can rest for at least 15 minutes without losing heat.  It’s also great served cold for lunch the next day.

Tonight, we had this dish with roasted potatoes, and a spring mix of asparagus, peas, leeks and a touch of lemon zest.

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Mom’s Baked Breaded Chicken Breasts

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serves 4 – 6

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter

1 package (8 oz.) Progresso Seasoned Panko Crumbs

1 c grated parmigiano cheese

2 tbls fresh chopped parsley

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small skillet, melt butter, but do not let butter get too hot–turn off heat when butter is three-quarters melted, then allow the remainder to melt without heat.  This is to allow you to handle the chicken and butter with your hands without burning them.

In a shallow pan, combine the remaining ingredients.

Take each chicken breast, dip it in butter, then in crumb mixture.  Press the pieces between your palms to adhere crumbs.  Dip again in butter, then in crumbs, and press again between your palms.

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Place on sheet pan.

Combine any remaining butter with any remaining crumbs and spread liberally over the breasts.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until golden.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes or so before serving.

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Mom’s Turkey Meatballs

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On Mother’s Day, I made this recipe in honor of my mother, who makes the best turkey meatballs on the planet.  These are moist, light and flavorful.  

Many people have asked my mother for this recipe, so several years ago,  I watched and wrote, as my mother made a batch, measuring all of her ingredients as she went along, to finally codify this recipe. 

This recipe is for all of the fans of these wonderful meatballs, and in honor of mom.

As a first course, we had spaghetti, made with the red sauce rich with the flavor of the meatballs.

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As our main course, we had the meatballs and some sauteed kale with garlic and lemon.

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Mom’s Turkey Meatballs

2 lbs. Ground Turkey (not breast-only, not extra lean)

1 ¾ cups fresh white bread crumbs, crust removed

1 ¾ cups Progresso Italian Style seasoned bread crumbs

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

2 Tbls Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley

1 Tbl Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 Tsp Garlic Powder

1 Tsp coarse (kosher) salt

6 Large Eggs

½ cup milk

Up to 1/2 c olive oil, for frying

Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

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Incorporate well with hands.  Let stand for 15 minutes covered at room temp. 

Make red sauce (recipe below).

Form the balls, and brown, in batches, in olive oil.  If the oil becomes too brown, discard and replenish.  When all of the meatballs have been browned, add the sauteing oil from the last batch to the red sauce.  Simmer meatballs in the sauce for about 20 minutes.

Red Sauce

4 28-oz. Cans Hunts Whole Peeled Tomatoes, briefly pureed in blender or processor

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil

¼  of a large red onion (or half of smaller onion)

1/8 (a small piece) of a green or red pepper, minced

10 basil leaves torn

 2 sprigs parsley, snipped

 tsp salt

 black pepper

 Combine all and simmer for approx. 20 minutes

Posted in Poultry, Sauces | 1 Comment

Poached Eggs with Sorrel Pesto and Asparagus

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This is a beautiful Spring brunch and part three of the sorrel pesto.  It’s a Springtime spin on classic Asparagus Milanese, which combines asparagus with fried eggs and lots of parmigiano cheese.

The bright, lemony flavor of the sorrel pesto is perfect over poached eggs.  The richness of slightly runny egg yolks combines beautifully with the tartness of the sauce (like a green hollandaise).

Blanched asparagus were left over from last night’s meal, so I sauteed them in butter and used them to catch the sauce.

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For the sauce technique, refer to Striped Bass with Sorrel Pesto.

For the eggs, I used the classic French method of poaching in a large pot of simmering water laced with white vinegar–no other method produces such a delicate white and such soft, moist yolks.

Simply bring a saucepot of water (about 3 quarts) to a boil.  Add 3 tablespoons of white vinegar and reduce heat to medium high.

Carefully crack each individual egg into small shallow bowls and one-by-one,  gently slip each egg into the water.

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You can safely poach about 4 eggs at a time with this method.  As each egg hits the water, gather its white together with a slotted spoon.  The vinegar will do the rest to coagulate the eggs into little bundles.

IMG_4473 Simmer uncovered for about 4 – 5 minutes, depending on how runny you like the yolks.  You can test for doneness by pulling an egg out of the water and gently touching the yolk and seeing how wobbly it feels–it should wiggle a bit.

Lift each egg out of the liquid and drain for a few seconds before plating.  These eggs can be pre-poached, then held in ice water and re-heated for a couple of minutes in the poaching liquid.   Be sure to season each egg well with salt and pepper.

If you’ve poached your eggs properly, when pierced, they should run into the sauce, which should run into the asparagus–a very happy collision!

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Posted in Eggs | 1 Comment

Spinach Risotto with Sorrel Pesto

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This is the second meal I made with my sorrel pesto (for the sauce, see Striped Bass with Sorrel Pesto).

In addition to the pesto, I had some sauteed spinach left from the other evening’s meal.  It had been sauteed in butter with a touch of nutmeg and would be delicious in a buttery risotto.

The sorrel pesto brightens and freshens the whole dish.  Simply stir a couple of tablespoons  into the risotto at the end, and add a dollop onto each portion as well.  The sorrel pesto oxidizes and browns like basil pesto, so it’s best to spoon it on and serve immediately.

For tonight’s risotto, I’ve begun with two shallots and 3 tablespoons butter, sauteed on low heat until the shallots begin to wilt and caramelize.

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Add 1/2 cup white wine,  and reduce for a minute.  Add 2 cups arborio rice (for four persons) and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup white wine and reduce for a minute.

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Set kitchen timer to 12 minutes, then, on medium-high begin adding simmering broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring constantly.  When 12 minutes, have passed, fold in the spinach, cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

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Uncover and add a bit more broth, plus 3 – 4 tablespoons sorrel pesto, 1/4 cup grated parmigiano. Serve with an additional teaspoon of pesto on each individual serving.

Tonight, as a main course, we had grilled shrimp, rubbed with chili flakes, lemon zest and fennel seeds.

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Along with sweet, tender asparagus, this was a delicate and fresh spring meal.

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Striped Bass with Sorrel Pesto

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Today, my friend Kathleen brought me a bunch of beautiful sorrel fresh from the garden, and told me she had made a pesto out of hers, so I decided to try my hand at my own version.

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In the past, I’ve used sorrel in soup (see my spring chicken soup with sorrel) and salad (sorrel salad with grapes and ricotta salata), but the idea of pesto intrigued me.

Since sorrel has such a strong lemony quality, I knew it would be great with fish or shellfish, so I went to the fish market and found some beautiful local wild striped bass.

The pesto is very simple and hardly requires a recipe–just sorrel, pine nuts, salt and olive oil.

Simply place about 2 cups tightly packed sorrel leaves in the food processor, followed by a half cup of pine nuts,  a quarter cup of olive oil and  a half teaspoon of salt.

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While processing, the mixture, add up to another quarter cup of olive oil, or enough to make a thick paste.  Taste and add salt, if necessary.

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To cook the fish, I used the method I like to use for making crispy salmon–place well-seasoned filets skin-side up in a sizzling hot ovenproof skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

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Sear for about 3 minutes on high heat, then, without turning the fish,  place skillet in preheated 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes (depending on the size of the filets–mine were thick and weighed about 2 pounds total).  Remove from oven and pull off skin.  Season well with salt and pepper and serve.  Turn and serve seared-side up.

In addition to some sauteed spinach, I made some cubed, crispy pan-fried potatoes and celery root.

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The sweetness of the celery root and richness of the potato were a great counterpoint to the high tartness of the pesto.

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Swiss Chard with Shallots and Lemon

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This time of year, we’re all craving  fresh spring vegetables, but every year we forget that spring vegetables don’t really surface until late in the season (in Eastern Long Island, anyway).  I’m always looking for those first crops of local asparagus and fava beans, but the ones at my market are still of the long-distance variety.

Tonight, I’ve decided to make my swiss chard taste like spring, even though it was grown (far away) in winter.  A sprinkle of lemon zest and juice brighten almost any vegetable, so rather than sauteing the chard with garlic and chili flakes (which I’ve done all winter), I’m brightening them with lemon.

This requires no recipe, but rather some proportions, to help you prepare a quantity that suits your table.

I always make more swiss chard than I know we’ll eat at one meal, so there’s always some leftover for lunch the next day (either by itself or in a frittata).

Start with about 1 medium bunch per two persons.

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Wash the greens by slicing the bundles crosswise, stems and all, into 1″ pieces and submerging in a large bowl of water.  Pull out the pieces and repeat until there is no soil left at the bottom of the water.

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Drop into heavily salted boiling water and blanch for about 10 minutes, or until stems pieces are crisp-tender.

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Drain well.

In a large skillet, add about a quarter cup of olive oil (per 2 bunches of chard), several shallots, sliced thinly, and the zest of a lemon.

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Saute on medium heat for about 7 minutes, or until shallots begin to turn golden.

Add drained swiss chard and continue sauteing on medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until beginning to dry and crackle  (indicating that the water has evaporated and the greens have begun to saute a bit).

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Taste and add salt and black pepper.   Serve with a sprinkle of lemon juice.

Tonight, our main course was pasta–fresh egg pappardelle dressed with a pork sparerib ragu.  This sauce consisted of my Sugo Calabrese  minus the sausage.  I had several frozen bags of individual portions, leftover from the winter.

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This sauce reminded me that winter’s not so bad, either!

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