Coffee Cocoa and Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin with a Brandy Cream Sauce

OR a Pineapple Salsa.  I couldn’t decide.   Should it be a round, full, rich Brandy Cream Sauce or a Pineapple Salsa bursting with fresh, bright and healthy?  I couldn’t decide so I made both.  The rub is a snap to make but oh, so elegant.  Then all you need to decide is do you go decadent or fun?  Either will work.  Both are in the column that ran today in the Portland Press Herald.  Coffee, Cocoa and Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin with a Blood Orange, Walnut and Manchengo Salad.

Coffee Cocoa and Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin

Annie
With friend or all to your self!

Homemade Chicken Nuggets – Latest Column

Recently Ella asked what a chicken nugget was and in one of those parenting moments when you realize so many things all at once, I thought about how sheltered she is, how lucky she is, how proud I am of the choices we are able to make and also, how sad that she doesn’t get that “fun” food.  Isn’t it interesting that I equated “chicken nuggets” with “fun” food.  But what I really meant was the the fun that comes from the very clever marketing of a Happy Meal.  And then I thought, “Wait a minute!  I can make my own nuggets.  We can still have ‘fun’ food!”  and that is how the recipes for this column were born.

We all pitched in and helped, the girls now FAR more adept at working with dough and rolling out the rolls than they used to be when much of their time was spent seeing if they could submerse their arms into the big bag of flour all the way up to their shoulder.  They’d start by just putting their hands into the flour, to which I didn’t usually object, because, hey, who can resist the silky feel of flour in your hands.  Usually in a moment when my back was turned, the temptation would become irresistible, and my next snap shot would be of the bag of flour swallowing my child.  Happy child, messy kitchen.  Bread is never a clean event on the best of days, although much more so now than it used to be.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets
Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce
Simple Romaine Salad
Buttermilk Dinner Rolls

Annie
Remembering the little people when their cheeks were big and rosy all the time…. sigh.

Cook the Book: Garbanzo Bean & Roasted Eggplant Salad

Garbanzo Bean & Roasted Eggplant Salad

1 eggplant
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 bunch minced parsley
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
2 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained

Preheat oven to 400°. Pierce the skin of the eggplant several times with a fork.  Place the whole eggplant in a baking dish and roast it for 20 to 30 minutes (until you can squeeze it and it’s soft).  Cool the eggplant, scoop it out of the skin, and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper and gently toss the mixture with the eggplant and remaining ingredients and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Tomato and Kalamata Olive Salad

I love all kinds of food.  The art, craft, smell, taste…  My favorite meals are ones that look and taste good without taking a ton of time.  I like landscaped food too (by this I mean fussy food that takes a long time and has lots of garnish) – it’s just better when someone else is making it.  If the recipe looks too long and the ingredients require a dictionary or the computer for more information (yes, even chef’s don’t know every ingredient in a recipe), it’s not usually happening at our house.  And I’ve been cooking professionally for over 20 years.  So that’s what this column is about:  food that real people can make for their families.  Food that gets us trying new things, gets us buying local ingredients and food that gets us sitting at the table with our families.  I believe in food cooked with the freshest ingredients; using my hands to shape bread; taking time and care when I’m cooking; and sitting at the table with friends and family and sharing the soul-filled food we’ve created.  The smell, shape, feel and look of pure ingredients are all part of the process.  It’s important to teach my daughters by example that the most precious and sacred time of the day is dinnertime, when we come together at the close of our days with loved ones to share, discuss, argue and agree.  To me, this is true nourishment.  While “fast food” may be convenient, fully nourishing ourselves is more than simply removing the empty feeling in our bellies.  Food is a way that we can connect – to our families and to nature.

Tomato and Kalamata Olive Salad

4 medium tomatoes, sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons basil, julienned
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Fan the tomato slices neatly onto a platter.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and scatter the olives and basil.  Sprinkle all with salt and pepper.

Serves 4-6

 

Cook the Book: Black Bean and Corn Salad

Black Bean and Corn Salad

This salad is best if you can grill the corn, though you can use steamed or boiled corn in a pinch.  I sometimes roast the corn when we are on a lobsterbake – just stick them on a roasting fork and turn them over the fire.  You can also use it as a summer salsa for grilled chicken or fish.

4 ears of husked corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup loosely packed, fresh, chopped cilantro
1/4 cup diced red onion
Small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Brush the ears of corn with olive oil and place the ears directly on a hot grill.  Cook until brown and tender, turning often, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly and use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off the cob. Toss the corn with the remaining ingredients and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Shrimp, Snap Pea and Couscous Salad

Shrimp, Snap Pea and Couscous Salad

1/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and grilled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, or 2 teaspoons, minced
8 oz. snap peas or 2 cups
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons dill
6 oz. feta cheese
1 cup couscous, uncooked
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
baby greens such as mesclun mix

Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.  In a medium bowl pour boiling water over the cous cous and salt.  Stir gently with a fork and cover for 5 minutes.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil and garlic to the pan and sauté 30 seconds.  Add the snap peas, dill and salt and pepper and sauté 1 minute.  Add the white wine and lemon juice and sauté another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the shrimp and tomatoes.  Separate the grains of cous cous with a fork and spoon over a bed of baby greens.  Crumble feta cheese on top and serve.

Serves 4

Cook the Book: Melon and Israeli Couscous Salad

Melon and Israeli Couscous Salad

This salad was inspired by a local restaurant called Market on Main (M.O.M.).  It seemed like an odd combination, but I’m always trying the interesting dishes on menus.  The tart fruits – grapes and citrus – really give this dish the punch that makes it great.  I can find Israeli couscous at our local health food store and at the grocery store in the specialty foods section.

2 cups Israeli couscous
1 cup diced watermelon
1 cup diced honeydew
1 cup diced cantaloupe
1 cup green grapes, cut in half
1 cup currants
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
Pinch of salt
Mint leaves and lemon wedges for garnish

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.  While the couscous is cooking, mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss the drained couscous into the fruit, garnish with mint leaves and citrus wedges and serve.

Serves 6-8

Photo Frank M. Chillemi.

Cook the Book: Melon and Israeli Couscous Salad

Melon and Israeli Couscous Salad

This salad was inspired by a local restaurant called Market on Main (M.O.M.).  It seemed like an odd combination, but I’m always trying the interesting dishes on menus.  The tart fruits – grapes and citrus – really give this dish the punch that makes it great.  I can find Israeli couscous at our local health food store and at the grocery store in the specialty foods section.

2 cups Israeli couscous
1 cup diced watermelon
1 cup diced honeydew
1 cup diced cantaloupe
1 cup green grapes, cut in half
1 cup currants
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
Pinch of salt
Mint leaves and lemon wedges for garnish

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.  While the couscous is cooking, mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Toss the drained couscous into the fruit, garnish with mint leaves and citrus wedges and serve.

Serves 6-8

Photo Frank M. Chillemi.

Parsley, Feta and Cucumber Salad

This is a variation on the popular tabbouleh salad only without the bulgur wheat.  Fresh and light, it’s perfect for the palate of early summer when bright and bold flavors satisfy the yearning for greens and acidic tastes.  Adding tomatoes, Kalamata olives or an herb such as basil or mint would also make for a nice combination.

I use this as a salad sometimes because the parsley is so full of vitamins and all things good for you and other times I find it’s perfect as a salsa of sorts for grilled chicken, pork or a firm fish.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chopped parsley, lightly packed
1 cucumber; peeled, seeded and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 red pepper; seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
6 oz. Feta cheese

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and black pepper.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and pour the dressing over the top.  Mix well and let sit for 1/2 hour.

Serves 4-6

Parsley, Feta and Cucumber Salad

This is a variation on the popular tabbouleh salad only without the bulgur wheat.  Fresh and light, it’s perfect for the palate of early summer when bright and bold flavors satisfy the yearning for greens and acidic tastes.  Adding tomatoes, Kalamata olives or an herb such as basil or mint would also make for a nice combination.

I use this as a salad sometimes because the parsley is so full of vitamins and all things good for you and other times I find it’s perfect as a salsa of sorts for grilled chicken, pork or a firm fish.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chopped parsley, lightly packed
1 cucumber; peeled, seeded and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 red pepper; seeded and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
6 oz. Feta cheese

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and black pepper.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and pour the dressing over the top.  Mix well and let sit for 1/2 hour.

Serves 4-6