Cooking and Gadgets

beefribs.jpgFor me, shopping isn't fun if I don't get a bargain. My grandmother taught me well, "Never pay retail. If you want to be a good shopper, you have to pay less than other people and still get as good." In our neighborhood, Gelson's is the quality supermarket, carrying a full line of antibiotic-free, naturally raised meats. Which is great, except that they're pricey. The trick is to buy the meat when its been reduced, when a rib steak that was originally priced at $18.99/lb, is discounted to $7.99/lb. Any meat that's been reduced is still fresh, but it needs to be cooked that day or frozen.

Yesterday I stopped by and it was like my birthday. There must have been a dozen packages of prime cuts of meat, all reduced. I couldn't possibly eat all that meat in one day. But no way was I going to walk away from those bargains.

I bought half a dozen packages and prepped them for freezing. Years ago, after much experimentation, I learned a cool trick: if meat is marinated in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, wrapped in plastic wrap, and sealed in a Ziploc freezer bag, it will stay fresh for months without any loss of flavor.

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chickenolives.jpgI'm going to have twist your arm and insist you make's so unbelievably full of flavor, it left me speechless.  That's pretty hard to do.  This also does not have to be spicy.  For the record, mine was not.  I only used 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  The suggested amount is one teaspoon for spicy, but I knew that would leave the kids out, so I went easy. 

The trick to this dish is a 24 hour marinade.  It infuses the chicken, making it unbelievably flavorful, tender and juicy.  It's nothing less than incredible.  Honestly, when I tasted it, I wanted to use it as salad dressing. 

This is a great weeknight dish but it is by far company worthy.  It's sweet and spicy (if you choose it to be) and looks so beautiful.  Makes sure to serve it over rice or couscous so you can drizzle the sauce from the pan and catch all the wonderful flavors.


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benedettocavapasta.jpgI come home from work, I’m exhausted from running around shopping and cooking, but wait! It’s not over! I have to shop and cook for dear Mom. But there are those days that the thought of stepping foot in another food store / ethnic grocery / supermarket / even, yes, even a farmers market is more than I can bear. And in a really stupid move I didn’t bring anything home from my restaurant Angeli in a take out box. But wait! Now I remember, I have my secret stash of it’s simple stupid ingredients waiting for me in the pantry.

First I make myself (if it’s over 75 deg) a Gin and Tonic or (if it’s over 90 deg) a Michelada. Aside for drink recipe – Take out a big glass. Fill it with ice.  Add a healthy squeeze of fresh lime or lemon, some squirts of Tapatio or Tabasco, Worchestershire or Soy Sauce and some inexpensive light beer. Gulp and wait till your temperature drops and you feel like someone cracked an egg on your head.

Ahhh, now I feel better. It’s time to make Spaghetti Aglio e Olio garbage style. I always have (or try to) a couple of pounds of Benedetto Caveliere’s Spagattoni around. You can only buy it at Williams-Sonoma and it’s shockingly expensive, but worth it just for moments like this.

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smokepowderThey, asked me how I knew,
My true love was true,
I of course replied, something here inside,
Can not be denied.

They, said some day you'll find,
All who love are blind,
When you heart's on fire, you must realize,
Smoke gets in your eyes.

Written by Jerome Kern (music) and Otto Harbach (lyrics) for the musical "Roberta" in 1933

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" is supposed to be romantic, but it just makes me hungry. It's completely primal. With all due respect to raw food adherents, smoke has been appealing every since we discovered that the combination of fire plus food equals delicious. The smell of smoky bacon or barbecue has been known on occasion to make even committed vegetarians weak.

Sadly, I have nowhere to put a grill let alone a smoker. I use my cast iron grill pan, and make-shift smokers in the oven and stove top and char my eggplants and peppers under the broiler. But it's not the same. Smoky flavors are elusive. So far my favorite smoke-enhancers are chipotle pepper, cumin and smoked paprika. But now I have a new weapon in my arsenal.

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herb-brush.jpgAny night this summer, you’ll find me hanging with friends, raising a frosty one in the backyard, while the kiddies run around and the guys flip steaks, burgers and chops. Is there anything better?

I’ll be using one of my favorite grilling tools, a do-it-yourself “herb brush” which I use to baste the meat while it cooks. Besides looking cool, it lets you slowly, steadily and subtly layer on the aromatic oils in those herbs, while keeping the meat moist. Using kitchen twine just tie a bunch of fresh herbs (any of your favorites will work: thyme, rosemary, sage, …) to the end of a wooden kitchen spoon. I like a really long spoon and it will make it easier to baste with.

And when you are done basting, you can chop up the herbs and add them to baked beans or sprinkle over grilled vegetables—you can’t do that with a regular basting brush! Herb brushes are great on beef, and on Fourth of July there's nothing I like more than an over 1-inch Rib Eye. Here's how you do it:

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