Beef Brisket

My sister requests brisket every year for her birthday, and this particular recipe is her new favorite. I use the flat cut of brisket as it cooks more evenly. Roast the brisket the day before you plan to serve it for the best flavor and texture. The leftovers are very good in sandwiches. The recipe is a combination of one my Aunt Mildred made and another from my friend Helen. I make two briskets, roasted in separate pans, if I am serving 10-12 people.

Beef Brisket
1 (6-7 lbs.) flat cut beef brisket
3 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil or more
salt and pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
dried thyme
dried marjoram
1 packet Lipton onion soup mix

The day before serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 3 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place 2 sliced onions in the pan. Season onions with a bit of salt. Lay the brisket fat side down in the pan. Season the brisket liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, and marjoram. Drizzle a little olive oil on it. Turn the brisket to fat side up. Season the fatty side with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Sprinkle it with the dry onion soup packet. Place the remaining sliced onion over the brisket to cook it fat side up. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover the pan tightly with foil or a lid. Roast for 3 hours. Remove brisket from the pan and, while hot, slice it into 1/4-inch thick slices against the grain. Return the sliced meat to the roasting pan fat side up and cover the pan. Cook 2-1/2 to 3 more hours until the meat is fork tender. You will have plenty of juices in the bottom of the pan. Chill covered overnight in the same pan. About an hour before serving return pan to oven and reheat, covered, at 350 degrees until hot. Serve with pan juices drizzled over the top. Serves 8.

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Asian Chicken Salad

My friend Kathy gave me this recipe many years ago when we lived in Tokyo. We often exchanged recipes back then as both of us were developing a passion for cooking. My children like this salad because they love to help fry and eat the rice sticks, an essential part of the salad. They can be made the day before serving to cut down on prep time. (Fried rice sticks make a nice alternative snack to potato chips or popcorn for children.) You can use poached, grilled, or roasted chicken for this recipe. I usually serve the salad with the dressing on the side so people can use the amount that suits them. Leftover undressed salad keeps well overnight in the refrigerator.

Asian Chicken Salad
Fried Rice Sticks
1-1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
1/2 (1 lb.) package Thai or Vietnamese medium rice sticks
fine sea salt for seasoning rice sticks

Begin by heating 1-1/2 cups of oil in a 1-quart saucepan on medium heat. While the oil is heating, break the rice sticks into 1-1/2-inch long pieces. Test oil temperature by taking a piece of rice stick and placing it in the oil. If it puffs up and curls immediately, the oil is hot enough; if the rice stick sits on the bottom of the pot without puffing up, the oil needs to be hotter. Place a paper towel-lined deep bowl near the stove and have a fine mesh spider skimmer on hand to quickly remove the fried rice sticks once they puff up. Once the oil is hot enough take a small handful of rice sticks and place them in the hot oil. Immediately smash them down in the oil with the skimmer so the rice sticks are completely submerged in hot oil and within 5 seconds they will puff up and curl. Quickly remove them using the skimmer. Don’t let them brown, since they should be white or very light golden. Hold the skimmer over the pot to let the oil drain off the rice sticks. Place the hot rice sticks in the paper towel-lined bowl. Sprinkle the puffed rice sticks with some fine salt. Repeat, adding rice sticks to the hot oil to puff and strain, until you use up all the rice sticks. Salt each batch of puffed rice sticks while they are still hot. Once the rice sticks cool, they can be stored in a gallon-size ziplock bag until ready to use. You may not need all the fried rice sticks for the salad. Use extra for snacking.

Remaining Salad Ingredients
4 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1 large head Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Place chicken, lettuce, and green onions in a large salad bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add handfuls of puffed rice sticks until you have as much as you want in the salad. We like a lot of rice noodles. Toss. Mix up the salad dressing and serve on the side. Serves 4-6.

Asian Sesame Dressing
1 cup canola oil
2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a 2-cup mason jar. Screw on lid and shake until the sugar has dissolved. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 2 cups.

Posted in Chicken, Salads | 2 Comments

Herb Focaccia

The temperatures are still cool here so I thought I would share one of my favorite recipes for focaccia. Several years ago,  I posted a couple of recipes that use potatoes in the dough. This recipe is moist and flavorful by using olive oil, rather than potatoes. It makes a jelly roll size pan that disappears quickly. The recipe is adapted from one I learned to make at a Sur La Table cooking class with local chef Bryan Woolley.

Herb Focaccia
Dough
2-1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-1/2 cups 00 flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Topping
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Dough: In a mixing bowl combine warm water, yeast, sugar, 3/4 cup olive oil, and 3 cups flour. Mix for two minutes. Place a tea towel over the mixture and let sit 15-20 minutes to rise. Then add 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 3-1/2 cups flour, adding the flour 1 cup at a time, scraping the bowl down after each addition. The dough should be soft and sticky but not liquid. Pour dough into a large oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. The dough should double. Pour risen dough into an oiled jelly roll pan. Spread dough to the edges and dimple the dough. Cover with a tea towel for 20 minutes and let rise. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For the herb topping, combine 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and the fresh and dried herbs in a small bowl. Whisk to mix well. Use a pastry brush to brush the oil and herb mixture on top of the focaccia dough. Sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt over the dough. Bake focaccia for 25 minutes, rotating the pan half way through baking. The focaccia should be very light golden. Cool on rack. Serves 12.

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Rhubarb Peach Cobbler

We have a lot of rhubarb in the yard right now. I like rhubarb combined with berries or apples, but it is also nice with peaches. I have jars of peaches that need using, so it was a good way to enjoy fresh garden produce and home-canned goods from my pantry. Adding eggs and milk to the fruit filling gives it a custardy, creamy texture.

Rhubarb Peach Cobbler
Filling
3 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups canned sliced peaches
1/4 cup peach juice from the can
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
juice of half a lemon
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Biscuit Topping
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×13 glass baking pan. Combine the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well, then pour into prepared pan. Make the biscuit topping by combining the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter to form coarse crumbs. Pour buttermilk and cream over mixture and bring dough together using a fork until the liquid has absorbed. Spoon batter over filling. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake 45 minutes until filling is bubbling and tender when pierced with a fork. Serve with cream or ice cream. Serves 8.

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Strawberry Mascarpone Pie

I’ve always enjoyed American-style strawberry pie in which strawberries are suspended in a cornstarch-thickened gel and served with a big dollop of whipped cream. This variation is now my new and preferred favorite, made with puréed strawberries whipped into mascarpone and whipping cream and set in a graham cracker crust. It is light and delicious. I love the flavor combination of strawberries and mascarpone. You can use the filling as a base for other pies by substituting in raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, or mangos (or a combination of these fruits). I prefer to make my own graham cracker crust, but feel free to use store bought if you are pressed for time. It would make a nice, easy pie if you are looking for an Easter dessert.

Strawberry Mascarpone Pie
Graham Cracker Crust
1 packet cinnamon graham crackers, slightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
generous pinch of cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor combine broken-up graham crackers with nutmeg and cinnamon. Pulse until you have fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until crumbs look wet. Pour into a 9-inch metal pie plate. Press crumbs into the plate. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool on rack.

Strawberry Mascarpone Filling
10 large strawberries, sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place sliced strawberries in a food processor with 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar. Puree until smooth. Pour into a 2-cup measuring cup. You should have 1-1/4 cups strawberry puree. In a mixer bowl combine mascarpone, heavy cream and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat with a wire whip for 20 seconds to begin incorporating the mixture. Add strawberry puree and vanilla. Beat until you get a thick whipped cream. Pour into prebaked pie crust. Spread to the edges of the pie crust with an offset spatula. Cover pie in plastic wrap and chill 4-6 hours. Serves 8.

Posted in Desserts, Easter, Fruit, Pies | Leave a comment

Italian Fig Cookies (Cucidati II)

I posted a recipe for cucidati a few years ago but I recently tried a different dough recipe given to me by my cousin Barbara. I added cinnamon and orange zest to the tender and flaky dough. It is wonderful. The cookies freeze beautifully. You can frost them and top with sprinkles or dust with confectioners sugar if desired. I left them plain for the photo so you could see how they should look when freshly baked. Enjoy them for Easter or other holidays.

Italian Fig Cookies (Cucidati II)
Dough
2 cups flour
⅓ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated orange zest
¼ teaspoon fine salt
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup shortening
¼ cup milk
1 large egg, beaten slightly
1-½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg white, beaten slightly with a pinch of fine salt for an egg wash

Filling
1 cup chopped dried Calimyrna figs, stems removed
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup chopped pecan halves
½ cup honey
½ cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon orange zest or more to taste
⅓ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspoon fine salt

For the Dough: In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt. Mix well. Add butter and shortening and cut into coarse crumbs. In a separate bowl combine milk, egg, and vanilla. Mix with a fork to combine. Slowly mix  the milk mixture into the dry ingredients to form a soft dough. Knead for just a minute to bring dough together into a smooth ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill 2 hours.

For the Filling: Combine all ingredients in a food processor bowl and pulse until you get a thick, smooth paste. Chill until ready to use.

Assembly: Cut dough into four pieces. Take 1 piece and roll into a 10-12 inch long rectangle on a lightly-floured surface. Spoon a ½-inch wide strip of filling down the long edge of the dough and roll the dough up over the filling once to form an enclosed log. Cut the filled log away from the rectangular rolled dough, then take that long strip of fig-filled dough and cut into individual 1-inch long cookies. Place cookies seam side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat by adding a strip of filling along the edge of the remaining rolled-out dough and roll it over the filling. Do this with the remaining three sections of dough. Brush each cookie with the egg white. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until the cookies are set, flaky, and slightly golden. Remove to a rack to chill completely. Makes 75 cookies.

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Posted in Christmas, Cookies, Desserts, Easter | Leave a comment

Easter Couscous Salad

We have couscous salad every Easter to accompany the grilled leg of lamb. It is nice and light and a favorite with the children in the family. I previously posted a summer version with apricots, blackberries, and balsamic vinegar. This recipe has tomatoes instead of summer fruit. The variations could include adding different herbs or citrus, cheese, beans, grilled meat, or other vegetables. I like to make the salad the day before I intend to serve it, since the flavors improve as it chills.

Easter Couscous Salad
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups couscous
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 large Meyer lemon
1 cup chopped tomatoes or more to taste
1/4 cup sliced green onions (about 1 bunch)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1/2-1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a 2-quart saucepan combine stock and butter. Cover and bring to a boil on medium high heat. Once the stock is boiling, stir in couscous. Mix quickly with a fork, then cover and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes. Use a fork to fluff the couscous and pour into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the couscous and stir to mix well. Taste and adjust lemon juice, herbs, and salt and pepper to your liking. Chill until ready to serve. Serves 6-8.

Posted in Dairy-free, Easter, Grains, Pasta, Salads, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Thai Basil Chicken

Years ago, when we lived in Upstate New York, we frequented a Thai restaurant that served a delicious Thai basil chicken dish. My husband ordered it regularly. After moving away and not finding it at local Thai restaurants I tried to replicate it. The original was made with boneless chicken breasts, but we like chicken thighs so that is what we are using for this recipe. I love the fresh, light licorice flavor Thai basil imparts to the chicken. Enjoy.

Thai Basil Chicken
2 Thai chilis, stemmed and sliced (or more to taste)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1-1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, sliced or cubed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce (I like Three Crabs brand)
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 bunch fresh Thai basil, rinsed and leaves removed from stem
1 lime, quartered

In a wok or large frying pan heat oil on medium high heat. While oil is heating, place the chilies and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Pound it to make a rough paste and release the oils. Add the chili-garlic paste to the hot oil and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add red onion and cook 2 minutes. Add bell pepper and cook 1-2 minutes. Add chicken and stir to mix. You may want to raise the heat slightly. Add soy sauce, fish sauce, water, and sugar. Stir to mix. Let chicken cook 5-7 minutes or until it is thoroughly cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat. Add basil leaves and stir. Serve with Jasmine rice and a wedge of lime to squeeze over individual portions if desired. Serves 4.

Posted in Chicken, Meat Dishes | 4 Comments

Cod Oreganata

We are about half-way through March and I am growing tired of hearty cold-weather dishes and craving lighter meals such as fish. This recipe has its roots in Sicilian cooking. The flavorful, seasoned breadcrumb topping works well with any white fish or other seafood. You can also use it for pork or chicken.

Cod Oreganata
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil  plus extra for drizzling over fish
1/4 cup white wine
juice of half a large Meyer lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup Progresso Italian-style breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon dried Greek oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2-1/2-3 lbs. fresh cod fillets or other firm white fish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8×8 square pyrex dish combine 1/4 cup olive oil with wine, lemon juice, and kosher salt. Whisk to dissolve salt. In a separate bowl combine breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Dip both sides of a fish fillet in the olive oil mixture. Sprinkle the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with some of the breadcrumbs. Lay the oil-dipped fish fillet in the breadcrumbs and sprinkle more breadcrumbs generously over the top of the fillet. Transfer fish to an oiled half-sheet pan. Repeat with remaining fish fillets, dipping them in the oil mixture then topping with breadcrumbs. Transfer to the half-sheet pan. Drizzle each fillet with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until cooked through. Serves 4-6.

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Fried Tilapia in Indian Tomato Masala or Fried Tilapia in Italian Tomato Olive Sauce

Fried Tilapia in Tomato Masala is a favorite Indian dish I learned to make from my cooking teacher Farida. It is a layered potato and fish dish covered with a spiced tomato masala. It does take time to prepare but it can be done in steps over the course of a couple of days. I recommend baking the potatoes the day before and reheating them when ready to serve; the rest comes together easily. I also make a delicious and light Italian version without the potatoes consisting of just the fried tilapia topped with a tomato olive sauce. Both versions, included here, can be prepared using any firm-flesh white fish, and they are both nice options if you are observing Lent. You can decide whether you are in the mood for Indian or Italian.

Fish Masala
Roast potatoes
3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder
onion powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets. Place potato slices in a single layer on each sheet. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt, pepper and a light sprinkling of garlic and onion powders. Drizzle potatoes lightly with olive oil and roast for 35-40 minutes until potatoes are fork tender. You could also cook the potato slices in the microwave. Set aside.

Fried Fish
6 tilapia fillets or 2 lbs. firm white fish fillets
1 tablespoon kosher salt
juice of half a lemon

Rinse fish fillets and pat dry. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt; a tablespoon with be enough for 6 fillets. Lay each fillet on a baking sheet and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over all the fish. Cover with plastic wrap and chill one hour, then rinse off salt and lemon juice. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Tomato Masala
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped garlic or garlic paste
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-1/2 teaspoons fine salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 medium Anaheim pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro

In a bowl combine tomatoes with water, garlic, and spices. Mix well. Take about 1 cup of the tomato masala mixture and spoon it all over the fish fillets. Heat 3/4 cup of oil in a frying pan on medium heat. There should be enough oil to come about half-way up the fish fillet when frying. When oil is hot fry two fish fillets at a time for 3-5 minutes until golden on the bottom and getting a bit crisp. Gently turn fish over with a spatula and cook two more minutes. Transfer to a 9×13 glass baking dish. Repeat with the remaining fish. Set the baking dish with the fish aside. Keep the frying pan with the cooking oil hot and pour the remaining tomato masala mixture into the hot cooking oil. Let it cook for 10-15 minutes until the tomato mixture begins to darken in color. If it seems like you have a excessive amount of oil floating on the top of the tomato masala pour some of it off, but you do want to leave some because it imparts the fried fish flavor to the tomato sauce. Add Anaheim pepper and cook 10-15 minutes longer until the tomato masala begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add cilantro and cook 5 more minutes. Place warmed roasted potatoes on top of the fish in the baking dish. Top with the cooked tomato masala mixture and serve. Serves 4-6.

Fried Tilapia in Italian Tomato Olive Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 clove garlic, chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2-1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock
15 kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
6 tilapia fillets
1 cup flour seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder
Canola oil for frying

Follow the step above for marinating the tilapia in lemon juice and salt. While the fish is marinating prepare the tomato olive sauce by heating the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add onions and cook 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add celery. Cook 3 minutes, then add tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and the sauce is slightly thickened. Add olives and capers. Cook 5-10 minutes longer. Set aside while you fry the fish. Rinse and pat tilapia dry. Take the six tilapia fillets and dip in seasoned flour. Fry in hot oil on both sides, then set on paper towel-lined dish to drain. Place fried fish in a deep serving dish and pour tomato olive sauce over the fish. Serve.

Fried Tilapia in Tomato Masala

Posted in Fish and Seafood, Sauces | Leave a comment