Saturday, October 25, 2008

Arugula Unadulterated

When it comes to certain things, I am a purist. I don't like flavored coffee (just give me some good Guatemalan, por favor), I prefer the traditional basil pesto, and I don't want anything messing with my arugula.

I visited Wine + Market on the corner of West Second and Jefferson the other day, and couldn't resist the arugula. I know it's late in the season and the best arugula is earlier in the spring, but a craving is a craving. He did have lots of other tempting things, and I must share a few photographs of the loveliness:

I love the leafy bitterness and peppery zip arugula gives to mixed greens. But a huge salad of just arugula is a luxury. I mean, if diamonds are really your favorite stone, why mix them up with emeralds?

I usually toss salads (making the dressing and all) right in the bowl, just before service. This time I tried to measure the few ingredients for this very simple recipe:

One large handful of arugula
One Tablespoon good olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
a drizzle of aged, syrupy balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

A big mixing bowl and some good tongs are important. Place the augula in the bowl and drizzle the oil over it. Mix well with tongs. Add red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix well again. Then drizzle the yummy aged balsamic vinegar over, and mix one last time. The touch of sweetness will round out the bitter greens, while the red wine vinegar adds a zip that compliments the oil. Perfection. And simplicity.

(I know there are those out there who will add pine nuts, shaved Parmesan, olives, dried cranberries, and who knows what else. I've had a little talk with myself, and I'm okay with that.)

Plate and enjoy!
P. S. I used the wonderful vinegar from Oliva Bella on Broadway.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I saw these recently at the Farmer's Market in Lexington. I wanted so badly to take them with me and give them a good home...

But until I deal with my own harvest...

I must show some restraint. I did, however, indulge myself with some of this:

An important component for the pesto to come. I'd better get crackin'!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pommery Pecan Pork Tenderloin

Occasionally we run across those sinfully easy recipes, made glorious by the addition of a special ingredient so wonderfully complex, that the sinfully easy part remains our little secret.

Pommery Mustard is one of those ingredients. It's difficult to open, hard to find in Lexington, and a little pricey. But in the 'ole "desert island scenario," it makes my top ten list.

Pork tenderloin is an extremely versatile cut -- and though it's very lean, it's nice and tender. My five year old calls it "soft meat," and he prefers it over chicken or beef. In the summer, I usually marinate it and throw it on the grill, but with the fall weather finally kicking in, these warmer flavors hit the spot.


1 pork tenderloin, well-trimmed

1 cup pecans, finely chopped (I use a zip lock bag and a meat pounder; the pieces won't be uniform in size but I like a nice rustic texture.)

1/4 cup Pommery Mustard

Drizzle about 2 Tablespoons olive oil into a cast-iron skillet, and place it in the oven. Then, preheat to 475 degrees F.

Using paper towels, get the tenderloin as dry as possible. Coat the meat with the mustard (the back of a spoon works nicely, but I always end up using my hands!), then press the pecans into the meat.

Slide out the oven rack, and place the tenderloin in the center of your hot skillet. (I find this much easier than moving the skillet, but do what's safest for you.)

Roast for 10 minutes, then slide out the rack again and turn the meat over. (I scoop underneath with a spatula while grabbing with tongs to lose less of the coating.)

Roast 5 - 10 minutes longer, depending on the size of your tenderloin and the desired degree of doneness. (Most people like to see a thermometer register at least 140 degrees F., but I pull it out when it hits 135.) Tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes, to let those wonderful juices redistribute into the meat.

I was a little impatient:

Some of the yummy coating is bound to come off. I can hardly wait for the pan to cool so I can sneak this "cook's treat":

Happy Fall!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pink Lentils

These lovely pink pearls (actually more of a salmon color) are a true "triple threat": healthy, delicious, and easy. The first time I snuck them in as a main course, my meat-and-potatoes husband slid the bowl closer to his plate as he said, (surprising him and relieving me), "These lentils are irresistible!" I think you'll agree. Make extra; they're even good cold, right out of the fridge.

Years ago, after my move from New York to Seattle, a friend from my home town in Ohio offered to drive across country and bring my little car to me -- my dear Buick Somerset. Her partner in this adventure was her college roommate Anjum. I have no idea where that little car is today, but this recipe card, written in my 20-something hand, has been cherished and lovingly cared for all these years. Thank you Anjum, for this wonderful Pakistani recipe. It was handed down through your family, and it has found a permanent place within mine.

The general directions on the card have worked well for me over the years, but tonight I took the time to actually measure my ingredients. Here's a more precise version:

Place 1 cup lentils in 2 1/2 cups cold water.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until tender and slightly soupy (about 20 minutes).

In a small saute pan, heat 3 to 4 Tablespoons olive oil on medium heat, and add one clove garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise (don't mince or chop), and simmer until it just starts to brown.

Quickly add the garlic and oil mix to the lentils (enjoy the "Ka shhsh!") and serve immediately -- with crusty bread, fluffy rice . . . or just a spoon.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My favorite Roasted Chicken Recipe

My dear husband is a leg man. Too bad he married a woman who is all of 5'2". Well, not too bad, when he is compensated with roasted chicken leg, butternut squash and roasted Brussels sprouts. (The oven was going to be really hot for an hour; I thought I might as well take advantage of it and just roast everything.)

I saw this recipe many years ago in Molly O'Neill's column in the New York Times Magazine, and then later I couldn't resist buying her book, A Well Seasoned Appetite. According to Ms. O'Neill (who can get flavor to dance off the written page) this was adapted from Zuni Cafe, San Francisco.


1 chicken, about 2 1/2 pounds

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed

The day before serving, sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Run your fingers between the skin and the flesh of the breast and thighs to make 4 small pockets. Stick a sprig of thyme and a garlic clove in each pocket. Wrap the chicken in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Place the chicken, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken over and roast until the juices run clear when pricked in the thickest part of the thigh, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Carve the chicken into 8 pieces, top with pan juices.

Notes from Jennifer: There are several things that make this my favorite roasted chicken recipe. Wrapping the chicken overnight lets the bird become thoroughly infused with the garlic and thyme. Really wrap it well; think about swaddling a newborn. Also, the high temperature (425 F) is critical to the crispy skin. Lastly, flipping the chicken over so that it finishes breast down keeps the white meat exceptionally moist. I occasionally use a different herb or aromatic, but always stick with these techniques.

Another note: Whenever I work with raw meat (especially poultry), I like to have everything I'll need already prepared. Once my hands are "committed", I don't want to grab my pepper mill and Kosher salt, etc.

Occasionally, I'm tempted to join the "if some is good, then more must be better," club. I doubled up on the garlic last time, and it really was overpowering -- especially to the five year-olds, but even for their parents. I also used rosemary instead of thyme (gardening issues -- see previous post!), and while that was a nice change, I prefer the original recipe. Rosemary can be a pit bull, coming on strong, sometimes with teeth bared. Thyme is as charming as a soft puppy that you can't help but cuddle.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Finding the Thyme...

The last time I made my favorite roasted chicken recipe (check back for my next post) I couldn't find one of the essential ingredients: thyme. I didn't even bother to look at the store, because I knew I had it in my herb garden. Somewhere.

Needless to say, I substituted rosemary that day. It's taller, easier to see, and I could sneak a couple of sprigs from the top without reaching my hands too far down into the twisted, jungly bramble.

Some days I tackle gardening with an adventurous gusto. Focusing on a nice shady corner, I manically weed and throw, weed and throw, creating piles along my path. I bravely reach for things I can hardly see, not even caring what creepy-crawlies my glove might be touching. With sweaty brow and blind detirmination, I'm clearing, cutting a swath, uncovering a charming vignette, finding my thyme. I'm a hero, saving my lost beauties from their parasitic, if occasionally ornamental, attackers (consider the lovely flowering bean vines).

About the time my manic energy shifts down to sheer resolve, I begin to notice things. Like the preying mantis on the weed I just pulled. Or the hairy spider crawling on my glove (toward my arm). Or the angry bumble bee buzzing my head (did I mention that I'm allergic?). Pretty soon, as if a switch has been thrown, it's over. That's it. I can't even bring myself to load the weeds into the wheelbarrow -- God only knows what's in there. I begin to itch all over. I have a strong urge to remove all my clothing and shake it vigorously, unfolding creases and pulling pockets inside-out. I briefly consider shaving my head, but luckily I accept that a long shower will suffice. As I head toward the relative safety of the house, I pause for a moment to admire the lone, beautiful corner housing my treasured basil, rosemary, flat-leaf parsley, sage, and yes -- right there between the chocolate mint and the voluptuous lavender -- I found my thyme.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Out to get me?

My very first post (see below -- eventually!) was blocked and my account was locked due to a "false positive" on Blogger's Spam Filter. Since I am a real person, and therefore can actually request an account review (oh pulease), these entries should post in less than 2 business days.

This is what you call a rough start.

Three. Two. One... Go!

Okay folks -- here I go! I've long been a voracious reader of blogs; now it's time to become a "writer of blog."

Why take the plunge? Several reasons. This is a little self-indulgent, but I know that posting on a (hopefully!) regular basis will help facilitate the flow of ideas, and improve my writing in general. We'll see how this goes. (I should be working on an article about organic turkey, but here I am...)

Another reason for blogging is that I need to start documenting recipes. I don't often follow recipes or directions when I cook, in fact I've had my stove for 2 1/2 years and have yet to use the timer. I've evolved into an instinctual cook, and I need to learn to get it down on paper clearly and precisely. If I am to write a cookbook, then "Just until you think it's ready," won't fly.

It would truly be an honor if people -- you know, real breathing and eating humans -- actually read if you're out there, thanks.