Monday, September 15, 2014


This is one of those simple "go-to" dishes using items from the cupboard.

Goya® products are a favorite of mine.  They make the best beans, both canned and dried, and a variety of their rice products are always in my cabinet.  Using a can of the Goya Black Beans Frijoles Negros, I adapted their recipe for Classic Black Beans.  For the rice, I used Goya Yellow Rice Arroz Amarillo and prepared the rice according to the directions on the box.  I also had beautiful Poblano peppers from the Farmers Market, so I roasted, skinned, seeded and chopped them and added them to the beans at the end.  
The finished beans and roasted Poblano peppers were then served over the yellow rice.  And finally, I thawed shrimps from my freezer and sautéed them in olive oil and chopped garlic to complete the meal.

The result was a tasty meal with very little effort.   It served two people for two days, and the food cost was less than $2.00 per person.

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15.5 oz. can Goya Black Beans, un-drained
3/4 cup water (use the can as measuring vessel to obtain all of the bean juice)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 packet Sazon Goya without Annatto
1 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
1 cup chopped roasted Poblano peppers (or red/ green bell peppers)*

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Add chopped roasted Poblano peppers.

*Unroasted bell peppers should be added with the onion and garlic at the beginning.   Roasted peppers should be added at the end.

Serve over prepared yellow rice. 

I like to roast my peppers in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, turning the peppers every 15-20 minutes for an even cooking process.  First, line a sheet pan with foil then coat the peppers with olive oil.  Place peppers on the sheet pan and into the oven. When peppers are done, turn off the oven and let peppers stay in for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let peppers cool down until they are ready to handle.  Remove the skins and seeds and chop. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Za'atar Roasted Chicken Thighs
This is an adaptation from Chef Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for Za'atar Roasted Chicken With Green Tahini that appeared in the August 2014 issue of Bon Appetit.  Since I had all of the ingredients on hand, this one certainly piqued my interest.  I made it with chicken thighs and served it over Israeli Couscous which absorbed all of the flavors from the chicken marinade. The Green Tahini was a perfect side condiment that added an exceptional flavor to the dish.
Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that is typically made with sumac, thyme, roasted sesame seeds, marjoram and oregano.  It is versatile and can be used on poultry, meats, vegetables, rice, and breads.
Tahini is a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds.  It is used in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.
Parsley, Garlic, Tahini, Lemons
Green Tahini:
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup (lightly packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
3-4 Chicken Thighs
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons za'atar

For the Green Tahini:  Pulse garlic, parsley, tahini,  add lemon juice in a food processor. Add olive oil until a smooth paste is formed.

For the Chicken Thighs:  Preheat oven to 400°. Toss chicken, onions, garlic, lemon slices, sumac, allspice, cinnamon, water, and 1/4 cup oil in a large dish, cover with plastic film.  Chill in the fridge for at least 4hours.
Chicken in Marinade
Remove chicken from fridge and place the chicken, onions, garlic, and lemon slices in a baking pan.  Add the remaining marinade over and around chicken pieces. Sprinkle chicken with za'atar seasoning and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 55 minutes.

Serve chicken over couscous with green tahini as a condiment.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Basil from the Farmers Market
I know. Not another Pesto recipe.  Yes, but after a visit to my Farmers Market and purchasing a beautiful bunch of basil, the first thing that entered my mind was pesto.  So I decided to do a take on the traditional Italian recipe that uses pine nuts in pesto and used walnuts instead.  Simple and very good. And the food cost was about one-third the price than using the pine nuts. I never add cheese, so the leftover pesto (if there is any), could be frozen for up to about three months.

On the other hand, I used a premium pasta from Academia Barilla and served it with shrimps, And I still met a less than 25 percent food cost for this dish. 

3 cups basil firmly packed (about 3 weighted ounces)
1/4 cup walnuts
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine basil, walnuts and garlic in a food processor.  Pulse until all ingredients are mixed, being careful not to "over-process" which could start to "cook" the basil.  Then, slowly add the olive oil until there is a moist paste.  That's it.  The yield is about 2 cups.
Fresh Basil with Roots
Wash Basil and spin dry.
Spin Dry Basil
Spin-Dried Basil
 The basket weighs 1.5 oz, so the actual weight of the basil is about 3.25 oz.

Weighing the basil

Processed Pesto

Basil Walnut Pesto

Basil Walnut Pesto With Shrimps

Since I don't add cheese to my pesto, I sometimes add it at the end--even if there are shrimps in the dish.

And Topped With Cheese

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Barnyard Fried Chicken

Spicy Cornbread
I don't fry or bake very much, either in the sun or in the kitchen.  But after a visit to Red Rooster in Harlem, I was tempted to make Chef Marcus Samuelsson's Fried Yardbird--chicken in the slang of old Harlem.  Huge portions of legs and thighs were served with mace gravy and bread and butter pickles.  The thick crust and tender chicken inside was superb.  I wanted to make this. Or "try" to.

Red Rooster's Fried Yardbird

Since Chef Samuelsson was featured on the TODAY Show and made the Fried Yardbird earlier that week, I pulled the recipe from the website and scaled it down and adapted it to create my own Fried Yardbird that I call Barnyard Chicken.  I used only chicken drumsticks.

According to the recipe, I marinated drumsticks in the typical buttermilk that virtually all fried chicken recipes call for, along with some coconut milk and a mixture of spices, which Chef Samuelsson calls a Chicken Shake.  For the dredging mixture, I added some Bourbon Smoked Pepper and used canola oil for frying.  

Although I have an electric deep fryer, I opted to use my Dutch oven and my Candy/Deep Fry thermometer.  It took a while and half-way through I was concerned about the chicken not getting brown enough, but in the last 4-5 minutes, it started to turn golden.  And then I drained the drumsticks on a wire rack. I read that draining on paper towels continues to steam the chicken more while a wire rack allows air to circulate around it.  It worked.  That was frying.

And then there's baking...the cornbread.  Although I didn't order the cornbread at Red Rooster, it was one of the featured items listed on Red Rooster's window.  Three of the others were the Fried (Yardbird) Chicken; Shrimp and Grits, which I also had that day and is on "my list" to make; and Bourbon, which I also had that day.  I found the recipe for Red Rooster's cornbread and gave it a try with some slight adaptations.  I used smoked paprika and ground cumin as a substitute for the aleppo flakes in the original recipe.  And it turned out to be a fresh and spicy home-made cornbread that went well with the Barnyard Chicken that I served alongside baked sweet potatoes and garlic spinach.  Since it was a rainy Saturday in the middle of the summer, it was a good time to cook, have some bourbon, and listen to Frank Sinatra.  I know.  Frank is for cooking Italian food--not Soul food.  But Frank was a gentleman and definitely had a lot of soul.

In the end, I got accolades for my attempt at making soul food.  I was told that it was like a visit to Harlem without the traffic. 

For Chicken Shake Spice Mix
Ingredients for Chicken Shake
1/8 Tablespoon ground Garlic
1/2 Tablespoon ground Cumin
1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1/2 Tablespoon ground White Pepper
1/2 Tablespoon Celery Salt
1 Tablespoon Berbere*
1/8 Tablespoon Kosher Salt

Mix all ingredients together and store in a container. This scaled-down recipe makes about 1/2 cup of Chicken Shake Spice.

Chicken Shake Spice Mix

*Berbere is a spice mixture that is a key ingredient in Ethopian cuisines.  Berbere ingredients include chili peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil, korarima (Ethopian cardamom), rue, ajwain or radhuni, nigella, and fenugreek.

For Marinade
3 cups Buttermilk
1/2 cup Coconut Milk
2 Tablespoons minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon Chicken Shake
6 Chicken Drumsticks

Mix buttermilk with coconut milk, garlic and the Chicken Shake Spice Mix.  Add drumsticks to mixture and marinade in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight.

For Dredging and Frying
3/4 cup AP Flour
2 Tablespoons Semolina Flour
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1 teaspoon Bourbon Smoked Pepper
1 Tablespoon Chicken Shake
2.5 quarts Canola Oil

Mix the flours, cornstarch and pepper to create a breading.
Remove chicken from the fridge and drip off excess marinade.
Roll chicken in the dredging mix and shake to remove excess.
Fill a deep pot with oil and bring to 325 F.

Chicken Ready to Fry
Carefully drop the chicken drumsticks into the pot and fry for about 20-25 minutes, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.
Remove chicken from oil and let drain on wire racks.

Not exactly Red Rooster, but...


1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, sour cream, buttermilk, and olive oil.
Combine the two mixtures and stir until a smooth consistency.

Cornbread Mixtures

Coat a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with olive oil.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges are golden brown.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Recently, at one of my local restaurants I ordered a seafood dish that was served in a blue sauce.  A blue sauce?  Yes.  The sauce was made using Blue Curacao liqueur. Blue Curacao is a sweet and slightly bitter, vibrant blue colored liqueur originally made from dried orange peels found on Curacao, an island in the Caribbean. 

I know that Blue Curacao is used primarily for cocktails.  However, given that it was used in a savory dish, this certainly got my attention.  I wanted to try and recreate this mystic sauce, so I did some experimenting for a few days and came up with my own version of a savory blue sauce.

Blue Curacao Sauce
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 cup Blue Curacao Liquor
4 oz. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 1 inch pieces


Heat canola oil in a small pot.  Add shallots and garlic and cook for about two minutes.  Add bay leaf, lemon juice, lemon zest and Blue Curacao.  Cook over high heat until reduced to about one-half.  Remove from heat.  Strain the sauce.  Return strained sauce to heat.  Let sauce reduce another half to about 1/4 cup.  Whisk in butter, one piece at a time and continue to whisk together until sauce thickens slightly.  Season sauce with salt and pepper.    

Because it was the Fourth of July, what was a better time to make a dish utilizing the blue sauce?
I decided on pan seared scallops with chunks of flounder and blanched red peppers.

Scallops and Flounder
I seared both the scallops and flounder in butter and oil.  I purposely wanted to keep them moist, so I did not opt for a dark brown sear.
Pre-Foam Version
And since blue represents the ocean or sea, I wanted to add some foam, so I pulled out my MOLE' CULE R kit and created lemon foam as a garnish.

Lemon Foam
1 sachet (2 grams) soy lecithin
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup lemon juice

Combine the lemon juice, water and soy lecithin in a bowl.
Using a hand-held blender (or eggbeater), produce a good quantity of foam.
Spoon foam over finished dish as a garnish.

Although I was told there was "too much" foam on the dish, all the flavors were there and came together very nicely.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Grilled Shrimp on Lemongrass Skewers
Many years ago when I first started making this dish it was difficult in my town to get lemongrass.  But throughout the years as the supermarkets and more Asian markets expanded, lemongrass became another easy ingredient to get.  I like to make the shrimp skewers served alongside Asian Pesto With Rice Noodles.  Asian Pesto With Rice Noodles

3 stalks of lemongrass
12 shrimps (U15-20)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 Serrano chili pepper, finely minced
1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons of canola oil
Ground black pepper
Pink salt
Juice of 1 lime, about 1Tablespoon
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
Pinch of granulated sugar

Trim lemongrass of its outer sheath.  Bruise the stalks all over with a mallet or back of a knife.  Cut off about 3 inches of the bottoms and finely mince the tender inner core. Continue to peel lemongrass until the inner stalk resembles a "skewer".  Reserve all lemongrass trimmings.

Place 4 shrimps on each of the 3 intact stalks, leaving some space between each shrimp.
Combine the minced lemongrass, garlic, ginger, one-half of the minced chili, and 1 Tablespoon of the oil and roll the shrimps in the mixture.  Drizzle with more oil, salt and pepper.  Refrigerate the shrimps for several hours.

Chop all the lemongrass trimmings and measure them.  Combine with an equal amount of water in a small saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook until mixture is reduced to about 2 Tablespoons.  Strain the liquid then return it to the saucepan and reduce until it is about one Tablespoon. Combine the lemongrass reduction with the remaining minced chili, the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and 2 teaspoons of the oil.  Set aside.

Remove the skewers from the fridge and let sit for about 20 minutes, and then brush off the marinade. 

Grilled Shrimp
Grill the shrimp skewers for about 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until shrimp are just pink and slightly firm.  Serve shrimps with the dipping sauce.


Monday, June 30, 2014


Asian Pesto

Asian Pesto With Rice Noodles

Blue Ginger Circa 1999

This is an adaptation of Chef Ming Tsai's Asian Pesto that was originally published in his book Blue Ginger in 1999.
It is another one of my favorite recipes that I have been making for many years; particularly, when I visit the Asian market and get a beautiful bunch of Thai basil. 
The end result is that the pesto makes a tempting spicy flavoring for pasta dishes and much more.  I like to prepare it tossed with rice noodles. 


Thai Basil

Mint, Garlic, Limes, Chilies, Ginger and Thai Basil
Asian Pesto:
2 Serrano chilies, stemmed and seeded
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts

2 oz. fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1/2 cup peanut oil
3 cups fresh Thai basil leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves

Combine the chilies, garlic, ginger, peanuts, lime juice, nam pla and peanut oil in a food processor and process to a smooth puree.  Add the Thai basil and mint and puree again.  Avoid over processing because this will "cook" the basil and turn the mixture dark.  This happened the first time that I made it.  At the time, I thought it was because I was using a stainless steel blender but later I learned how to avoid the over processing method and that a food processor gives a better result.  The pesto stays vibrant in color and flavor for about one week.   This recipe makes about 2 cups of pesto.

Rice Noodles:
Soak 3 oz. of rice noodles in cold water for about 30 minutes; drain and discard water.
Place softened noodles in boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain.  Sprinkle with a few drops of Canola oil to prevent sticking.

Rice Noodles

Rice Noodles Done

To Finish:
Toss about 1 cup of the Asian pesto with the warm rice noodles.