Tri-Color Penne with Creamy Ricotta (and a Poached Egg)

Malcolm and I moved in together for the first time in the summer of 2000. We sublet a one bedroom apartment from a graduate student that was convenient to my job at the head shop and Rudy’s, our favorite neighborhood dive bar. There was a crappy pizza joint up the street, where we went every Wednesday for pizza, Survivor, and Coors night. You could see the ivy covered buildings of the university from our dingy stoop. And in the other direction, there sounded the occasional gunshot. It was perfect.

When we had friends over for dinner, sitting around a small card table in the living room, we’d throw together a pasta dish similar to this one, before we all went teetering into the night to drink many beers and play pool and talk about things for hours.

Those were such good days. I feel really lucky to get to be living with Malcolm still, after all this time, laughing in the middle of the night, making dinner and opening a bottle of wine. It’s been the slumber party of my life.

The key to this recipe is the pasta water. That stuff makes magic. Don’t forget it. Dip a Pyrex measuring cup into the pasta pot just before draining the penne in a colander. This is a good sauce all on its own, creamy and salty and bright from the fresh basil; then you add a runny yolk egg and sonnets and symphonies should be written. You get a gorgeous, wobbly orb to balance on top of the pasta.

In the spring, I would add asparagus and lemon zest, and this would be lovely for Easter brunch. It works right now as a transition to fall dish. I like an extra drizzle of olive oil at the end. And a glass of wine. And Jeopardy. And both children to be sleeping. And sitting down at the day’s end to celebrate making it. It’s simple. It’s satisfying. It is the best weekday dinner we’ve made lately.

Pasta with Poached Eggs

Tri-Color Penne with Creamy Ricotta (and a Poached Egg)
 
Author:
Serves: Serves 4

Ingredients
  • 1 box tri-colored penne pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1 cup pasta water, reserved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup diced ham (about 2.5 ounces)
  • 10 big basil leaves, chiffonaded
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 eggs, poached
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste

Method
  1. In the empty pasta pot over medium heat, add olive oil and the sliced garlic. Pour in pasta water, milk, and ricotta, and whisk well to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Return pasta to the pot and stir in ham, basil, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep the pasta on low while you poach the eggs. Plate and serve immediately with a basil leaf to garnish and a dash of red pepper flakes, if desired.

Spicy Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Pita Sandwiches with Copycat Zankou Chicken Garlic Sauce

It didn’t take long for Patrick, the grey beponytailed owner of Rockland’s long-shuttered “Second Read Books & Coffee,” to notice that I didn’t seem to be quite as stoned as my 16-year-old contemporaries. And for a kid my age, that seemed to be the major qualifier needed to graduate from “Dishwasher” to “Prep Cook” in the Summer of 1995.

I was thrilled. Sure, I still had to do the dishes for the coffee-and-sandwich business that shared real estate with the front of the used bookstore, but when I caught a break, I’d get to work on my other new culinary duties. It was the kind of work that only teenagers think of as a promotion: baking bagels and scones, assembling soup stocks, and roasting red peppers and eggplant under the tutelage of an amazing pair of female chefs who taught me how to properly dice an onion and gut a green pepper, as well as how to ask a girl to the prom and more fully appreciate the music of the Talking Heads.

Spicy Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Pita Sandwiches with Copycat Zankou Chicken Garlic Sauce

The first two dishes that I was really left alone to prep were, given the hippyish nature of both the shop and its owners, a tabbouleh salad (which I always added far too much lemon juice to in order to make the grains palatable) and a scratch-made hummus, that would be spread on sandwiches where every sane person knew mayonnaise should be.

After spending a hot summer watching tourists and used-book buying beatnicks eating hummus by the bucketful, I never developed much of a taste for the stuff. It never struck me as particularly bad, I just never understood the enthusiasm that seemed to grip my otherwise-reasonable friends in the mid-2000s, when you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a basket full of roasted garlic hummus served with little precious triangles of pita bread. If you were lucky, the pita would be warmed. And if you were VERY VERY lucky, it might even be grilled.

For a while, and even before the current wave of gluten-free hysteria, the chickpea puree was everywhere. Want to dress up that pedestrian sandwich? Hummus. What do we feed the newborn? Hummus. Not sure what to serve at a party? Hummus. Friends that I had my entire life were suddenly trotting out hummus with a level of pride I thought reserved for major scientific discovery, all smiles and knowing looks around the room. “Oh, where did you get this hummus,” someone would inevitably ask, “Is it store-bought or did you make it yourself or can we talk about tahini for five full agonizing minutes?”

Spicy Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Pita Sandwiches with Copycat Zankou Chicken Garlic Sauce

Everything changed the moment I had hummus in an honest-to-goodness Lebanese restaurant, instead of in some twentysomething’s basement apartment. Have an amazing bowl of hummus once, and you’ll be chasing that high for the rest of your life. Finally, I feel like I’ve joined the rest of the world, and now I get to sample every flavor of hummus under the sun, as I marvel at how bright and nutty and delicious it manages to be. It’s like I’ve finally been invited to a party that everyone else has already been attending for a long, long time, and I’m double-fisting to try and get caught up.

My current favorite use of hummus is in these chicken kebab sandwiches, spread with homemade hummus and garlic sauce, then stuffed with lettuce, tomato, and a few pieces of smoky yogurt marinated chicken. Specifically, the garlic sauce is a copycat of the sauce served at Zankou Chicken, a Lebanese chain in Los Angeles famous primarily for serving incredibly delicious chicken and for being named in the lyrics of one of Beck’s best songs, and not at all for the founders’ turbulent and often violent family history (which even includes an incident that rhymes with “Bubble Momicide”).

Finally, just to throw any and all remaining geographic authenticity out the window, I throw a few shakes of Tapatio hot sauce over the whole thing to add spice and vinegar to the proceedings. The finished sandwich is satisfying, potently flavorful, and something that I could eat every single day of my new hummus-lovin’ life.

Spicy Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Pita Sandwiches with Copycat Zankou Chicken Garlic Sauce

Spicy Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Pita Sandwiches with Copycat Zankou Chicken Garlic Sauce (Toum)
 
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Ingredients
For the chicken kebabs:
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Harrissa spice blend
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1½-inch cubes
For the hummus:
  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • ½ cup tahini
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil mixed with ¼ cup warm water
For the Zankou Chicken Garlic Sauce (Toum):
  • ½ cup fresh garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups neutral oil (like canola or grapeseed)
To assemble sandwiches:
  • 4 pieces of pita bread, whole
  • 4 crisp romaine leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • A few dashes of hot sauce

Method
For the chicken kebabs:
  1. In a bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, oil, ginger, salt, Harrissa, garlic, and black pepper. Place chicken in a large resealable plastic bag. Pour in marinade and seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Place in refrigerator and marinate for 4 to 8 hours.
  2. Thread chicken tightly onto skewers.
  3. Place on rack on baking sheet, and broil until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer skewers to platter and let rest for five minutes.
For the hummus:
  1. Drain and rinse chickpeas. Mix up the tahini, which may have separated. Combine chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and cumin in the bowl of a food processor. Blend, slowly pouring in oil and water blend until desired consistency.
For the Zankou Chicken Garlic Sauce (Toum):
  1. Combine garlic and salt in food processor, and pulse until very fine, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  2. In a very thin, slow stream, pour ½ cup of oil into the food processor while it is running. Then, slowly add two teaspoons of lemon juice. Turn off, then scrape down the side of the bowl. Turn the food processor back on, then continue alternating oil and lemon juice in very slow, steady streams and stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl. The mixture will turn fluffy and white.
  3. Transfer to a bowl, then cover with a paper towel and refrigerate for about 12 hours, chilling the sauce completely and removing some of the moisture which would cause the sauce to separate if covered immediately with the airtight lid. Flavor will soften after a few days, and sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to a month.
To assemble sandwiches:
  1. Spread each piece of pita with hummus, then top with one leaf of lettuce, a few pieces of chicken, and diced tomato. Add a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce, and serve, spreading garlic sauce on each bite.

Seared Halloumi and Roasted Vegetable Sandwich

After college, when Malcolm moved into his own, one-bedroom apartment in Astoria Queens, I rode the train to New York a lot. I had an outfit that consisted of burgundy ankle boots, nude fishnet stockings, a wool pencil skirt, tank top, hooded sweat shirt, and reddish leather jacket that cinched at the waist in which I felt like a girl from Berlin riding through Europe on a mysterious adventure.

In truth I was a student from Connecticut spending every weekend with her boyfriend in the city, meeting Malcolm’s grown-up friends for drinks at bars like 32nd Street O’Reilly’s, taking walks around Manhattan in all kinds of weather, and eating dinners out in a neighborhood thick with interesting people, Middle Eastern people, Greek people, superstitious or religious people who held festivals of food and tambourine music in the streets of every weekend.

Grilled Halloumi Sandwich

Astoria was not cool like the East Village, where we saw burlesque dancing girls dancing after their performances had ended; it was not remote, breathtaking, and made of stone, like the Upper East Side, or littered like the shady alleys of urine-soaked Hell’s Kitchen. It was a family borough-within-a-borough, with hirsute men smoking hookahs at sidewalk cafes, skinned rabbits hanging in shop windows, concrete parks where children played in open hydrants, private card-playing clubs for ancient immigrants, all life occurring in a jumble under the elevated N. It was nothing like the places I had lived.

We once had dinner at a Cypriot restaurant in summer, with whitewashed walls and God’s Eyes in the tile. We were served a variety of savory dips to start - yogurt with cucumber and mint, mashed potato with garlic, mashed potato with carp roe, followed by a whole fish, jumbo shrimp, stuffed grape leaves, bitter greens, astringent beets, lamb meatballs, fried squid, and a plate of grilled halloumi, a goat and sheep’s milk cheese made in Cyprus, with bottles of mineral water and strong table wine.

Grilled Halloumi Sandwich6

This was a meal out of time and place; it came from before their expat kitchen deep in Astoria, and went well beyond my own limited life experience, and lingers in my memory as one of the many, many instances of magic at the dinner table.

I bought a block of halloumi at the good grocery store and sliced it into 8 thick pieces before grilling. The vegetables require very little seasoning, since the cheese is so salty (in a very, very good way). I used harissa powder, but you can also find it in paste form in many stores. Feel free to adjust the spice as you like, it can be quite potent.

Grilled Halloumi Sandwich

5 from 1 reviews

Seared Halloumi and Roasted Vegetable Sandwich
 
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Serves: 2 Sandwiches

Ingredients
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thick strips
  • 2 small Italian eggplants, sliced into coins
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into coins
  • 2 large cloves garlic, quartered
  • 2-3 teaspoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Harissa powder
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 8 oz. halloumi cheese
  • 4 slices olive bread

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 450. On a baking sheet toss pepper, eggplant, garlic, with 1-2 teaspoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand.
  2. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, harissa, and lemon juice. Stir in smashed roasted garlic.
  3. In a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, get 1 teaspoon olive oil very hot. Sear halloumi, about 2 minutes a side.
  4. Meanwhile, toast the bread.
  5. Assemble sandwiches: spread bread on both sides with harissa mayonnaise, then layer with halloumi and vegetables. Best served immediately.

Notes
Adapted from a recipe by Blue Apron

Grilled Halloumi Sandwich

Chicken Tikka Tacos

This dinner is easy, and will make you seem like a hero to your family. Theseus, who fought the awful Minotaur in a labyrinth, did not receive as many props as you will for this throw-together meal.

There are three components, all of which can be made ahead, basically. Start the chicken marinating in the morning, if you can face raw chicken before eight A.M. Also, the raita will be better for getting its flavors mingled and married all day, so do that, too.

The dough you could start the night before, on a Sunday, for example, while the family is engrossed in football, or have a competent older kid follow the recipe after school, and leave the rounds of flatbread on a floured board covered in a tea towel. That way, when you get home all you have to do is cook the chicken (which cooks itself), heat a pan and flip the flatbread, which takes literally three minutes. 

Each piece is super simple, and yet the results are crazy delicious. It’s genius. I guarantee you there will be nothing left. Between filched pieces of resting chicken and the last of the bread swiped through yogurt dressing, this satisfies totally. And seems virtuous enough that you can justify going out for mint chocolate chip cones afterward. I love driving around in the late autumn looking for the last place still serving before the season ends. Eating ice cream in the dark in a warm car with the scent of wood burning stove drifting in is pretty damn idyllic. Get to it already!

chicken-tikka-tacos-2

5 from 1 reviews

Chicken Tikka Tacos
 
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Serves: Serves 4

Ingredients
For the Chicken
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small chunks
  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the Flatbread
  • 2¼ teaspoons active yeast
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Raita
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt

Method
For the Chicken:
  1. In a mixing bowl combine yogurt and spices. Toss chicken in mixture so that all pieces are evenly coated. Marinate at least 30 minutes. Heat oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Shake off excess marinade and add chicken to hot pan evenly, in two-three batches. Cook until deep brown in color, turning over once, about 10 minutes.
For the Flatbread:
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment quickly mix yeast, sugar, flour, salt, and thyme. Slowly stream in water until a dough ball forms. Remove to a floured board and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a large bowl and rub with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and allow the dough to rise in a warm spot for about an hour. Punch it down, then form into a smooth ball. Cut into 16 pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll very thin rounds. In a dry skillet over medium-high heat cook flatbread until bubbling, then flip. Cook another 2 minutes until dough has puffed up slightly. Keep warm on a plate in a very low temperature oven.
For the Raita:
  1. In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients, seasoning to taste.
To Assemble Tacos:
  1. Assemble tacos with chicken first, drizzled with lots of garlicky raita.

Notes
Flatbread recipe adapted from the Food Network Kitchens.

Roasted Garlic Macaroni and Cheese

My favorite thing about being back in the “real world” of working 9-5 (aside from the steady paycheck, the validation and collaboration with peers I respect on projects of a larger scope than I could ever handle myself, and the general sense that I am a contributing member of the community I live in) has got to be LUNCH. Or more specifically, getting to go out every single day, spend just a few bucks, and pick something new to feast on in the middle of the day.

The trouble is, I have been kind of burning out on my choices lately. Don’t get me wrong: The restaurants in my regular rotation are all excellent for different reasons (Clan MacLaren for spicy tuna melts, Thorndike Creamery for outstanding pizza, Lobsterman’s Restaurant for when I want to enjoy the distinct pleasure of eating an inexpensive steamed lobster by myself in the middle of the day and for no reason, and Rockland Cafe for their bargain-basement haddock sandwiches and their ode to cornstarch as a thickening agent, the open-faced hot fresh turkey sandwich). But it took only a few weeks to go from excited every day by the options that lay before me to, well, kinda bored.

That’s not all. As my workload has increased, I’ve started doing battle with the clock, sometimes making sitting at my desk and working through lunch while grabbing a few stray bites here and there the best option for an on-time departure at the end of the day. I’ve been looking for a few key comfort-food dishes that I can make over the weekend and then eat out of a microwaved piece of Tupperware all week without ever getting bored, like a traditional american chop suey, or a comforting meatloaf.

Last week, I settled on this roasted garlic macaroni and cheese. It’s hearty enough to stay with you all afternoon, and the whole ball of garlic keeps your coworkers from getting too close when you’re trying to get work done. And best of all, when slathered in ketchup and Sriracha like the heathen I am, I never got tired of it. I hope you like it, too.

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White Pizza Grilled Cheese (Homemade)

Today’s sandwich is the “White Pizza Grilled Cheese.” It combines ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil on toasted bread.

Notes: We went on a little excursion to New York last week. You may have heard about it. And it was great. Really, really great. We didn’t do much of anything at all, but that made it the most restful and relaxing trip we’ve had in years. We didn’t buy lots of things or take in any shows. We didn’t even get to go out alone to a great dinner and a couple of bars. Having a baby on vacation, on vacation in New York especially, slows you way down. Every morning, after being woken up by Violet who was sleeping in her Pack ‘n’ Play approximately six inches from my face in our Manhattan hotel room, and watching classic Sesame Street episodes quietly on the iPad, we’d walk to get bagels or a buttery bacon egg and cheese, made to order at any crummy deli, we would go back to the room, pull down the shades and nap. When we all woke up again and rubbed the sleep from our eyes and got ready again for the day, we’d head out to walk and walk, uptown or downtown, or take the F train to visit friends in Brooklyn. One day we walked to Central Park, past the Rockefeller Center tree and ice skaters and dressed up families waiting on line for the Christmas spectacular. Another day we battled down to Chinatown to eat soup dumplings and peruse gray market handbags. We went to the Toys-R-Us in Times Square that has a Ferris wheel inside the store, the craft market in Union Square and my favorite Barnes and Noble; I took the baby to see (and scream at) a Macy’s Santa Claus, a nearly perfect moment in both of our lives. Walking as far as your feet will take you, then a dozen blocks more, while one neighborhood seeps into another, is one of the city’s great gifts.

I wasn’t sure what it would be like, being back. Being in New York, there with our daughter. Stepping into a place we once lived long ago, when we were completely different people. As it turns out, New York is the best example of not experiencing the same river twice.  While much of it was so familiar that muscle memory took over, like passing through the subway stiles or bellying up to the bar in a Midtown dive, it is also always in such constant flux that it welcomes you back without alienation, as much changed, yet equally the same. We showed Violet some of a city we used to know. Also, we ate. Nothing very formal or fancy, but a lot of good stuff all the same. Many of our New York rituals involve simple food. Street nuts, Chinese takeout or the ubiquitous go-slice, hot from the oven. You can eat a go-slice walking down the street, standing up drunk, and sitting down in a too-hot back room crowded with tables. You should definitely shake on red pepper flakes and garlic powder, if you know what’s what. White pizza is a perennial favorite. A no-sauce pie consisting of gobs of stringy mozzarella, dollops of ricotta and pungent garlic. And because any food that is worth eating must be translated into a grilled cheese, here is our take on a classic NYC snack.

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Whole Baked Garlic with Bleu Cheese

One of the coziest restaurants in Rockland to sit and watch the snow fall has to be In Good Company, a small, inviting restaurant housed in a renovated bank on Main Street that feels more like a good friend’s living room than an elegant late-night spot. While we haven’t sat down for a full meal yet (and as soon as we do, you can count on a full review), we have spent plenty of evenings there either sitting at the bar or sharing a table, sipping cocktails and snacking from round after round of small plates from the restaurant’s “Nibbles” menu. This can include simple snacks, like roasted Marcona almonds, black olive tapenade, or a “tasting” menu of assorted olive oils. One of my absolute favorite dishes, though, is the restaurant’s whole roast garlic.

It’s dead-simple eating that pairs perfectly with a dry martini: a whole roast garlic bulb, served with your choice of bleu, brie, or goat cheese, served molten and bubbly. Roasted in a hot oven, the garlic turns golden brown and loses a lot of its characteristic sharp pungency. Extracted from the clove and spread on a piece of crostini or fresh bread, then topped with the strong cheese, it’s an explosion of flavor that’s instantly addictive.

While the dish is certainly affordable, our baby daughter keeps us home sometimes more often than we’d like. On those nights, Jillian whips up a batch of her no-knead bread, tosses a quick salad while I shake up a martini, and we recreate the “In Good Company” experience at home. Now you can, too.

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Clams Casino

Growing up in Maine, I was used to pretty simple seafood preparations. In Maine (and particularly in the 1980s), most of the clams, mussels, and shrimp my family cooked at home was of the “steamed” or “fried” variety. I grew to think of most shellfish not as an ingredient to be combined with other things into complex dishes, but as a simple main course that allowed the focus to be on the natural briney sweetness of the seafood.

Clams CasinoWhen I moved away to attend college in New Haven, my view of seafood was forced to change. Southern and shoreline Connecticut cuisine combines the natural resources of the sea with a heavy-handed influence from the area’s Southern Italian immigrants, resulting in red sauce preparations of seafood the likes of which I had never seen. Lobster fra diavolo, served in a spicy, acidic tomato sauce with tons of red pepper. Big platters of deep-fried calamari, their crispy tentacles tossed with hot cherry peppers. And this: Clams Casino, an old-school appetizer combining baked clams, bacon, garlic, and breadcrumbs.

Often, Clams Casino is a pretty depressing affair. In a typical recipe, the bacon and clams are chopped into bits, before being combined with giant mounds of flavorless Ritz cracker breadcrumbs, which never seem to cook through and can remain kind of gummy after cooking. Our recipe places the emphasis of Clams Casino much more firmly where it belongs: On the bacon and the clams. We skip the breadcrumbs altogether, leaving the clams whole, bathed in butter and white wine, and protected from overcooking by a blanket of thick-cut bacon.

A note about clam selection: large cherrystone clams are the most impressive visually (and require more bacon, which is always a bonus), but large clams aren’t for everyone. They can be intimidating and a little bit tough to chew. If you’re feeding a mixed group and you’re not sure if everyone is a clam lover, stick with the littlenecks. If you have trouble shucking the clams, steam them for about a minute in a shallow water bath until they just open, then use a knife to cut the two muscles on each side of the clam holding the shell together.

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Mussels with Sausages, Onions and Fennel

This is a pleasing, rustic, one-pan dish that makes a weekday dinner feel like a French party in the country. Have you been to a French party in the country? I have and they are no joke, my friends. Always bring a buddy. So, I was already mixing up a batch of no-knead bread when I came across this recipe. I thought it would be perfect on a rainy Summer night. It’s comfort food, for sure, but not as heavy or labor-intensive as a stew or a braise. In Maine, you need warming, reassuring foods all throughout the year. This in-the-oven technique is a way to cook mussels I had not tried, and it works quite well. You may need to give a stir halfway through the second five minutes, to be sure that the mussels are cooking evenly and opening. The bread toasts and browns on one side and soaks up/keeps in all the lovely wine and broth and fat from the olive oil and sausages. I used spicy sausages and added red pepper flakes because I like to live dangerously. There is a hint of sweetness from the fennel and onions – I love the way the vegetables kind of melt. The sky was pouring rain as I cooked and then when I set the skillet on the table the clouds parted and the sky showed patches of blue –  so we opened up the patio doors to let in the evening breeze.

Mussels with Sausages, Onions, and Fennel
Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 sweet or hot Italian sausages
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Palmful of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lb mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 3-4 slices thick, crusty bread
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon

Method:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Puncture sausages with a fork. In a deep, oven-proof skillet brown sausages in olive oil. Add fennel, onions, garlic and red pepper flakes, salt and saute briefly. Add 1/2 cup wine, cover and simmer, about ten minutes. Add mussels and the rest of the wine to the pan; transfer pan to the oven and roast for five minutes. Arrange bread slices so that they cover the mussels and cook for another five minutes, or until all/most of the mussels are open. (Don’t eat those that didn’t!) Drizzle bread with a little olive oil, squeeze lemon over everything, serve with the rest of the wine.

Broccoli Rabe, Spicy Sausage, and Ricotta on Garlic-Rubbed Bread

If you haven’t been in Maine this week, you are missing out on magic. Whatever the cause, it has been undeniably wonderful to be warm all the through, to hear birds chirp, to watch grass turn green and trees bud and shoots come up from the earth, almost overnight. At least, that’s how it looks from here. We’ve been out working on the farm, pulling up dead leaves, making room for new things to grow. We’ve built a fire at night and looked up at the stars. We brought the baby outside to squint in the sunlight and meet the goats. We’re eating outside on the patio. In this dish, the creamy ricotta cools the heat of the sausage and the broccoli rabe falls somewhere between healthy and heavy –  in short, a perfect dinner for this very early spring.

Broccoli Rabe, Spicy Sausage, and Ricotta on Garlic-Rubbed Bread
Adapted from a recipe by Rachael Ray; Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 links spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 head broccoli rabe
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced, 1 halved
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • Toasted slices of crusty bread
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Parsley
  • Squeeze of lemon

Method:

In a large pot of salted, boiling water, blanch broccoli rabe, about five minutes, then drain in a colander. Meanwhile, in a deep skillet, cook the sausages in a little olive oil and remove them to a plate. Add a little more olive oil to the same pan over medium heat, and infuse with sliced garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Add broccoli rabe to the infused oil and saute very quickly, about a minute.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta and milk, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle in a little olive oil.

Slice bread, and rub with halved garlic clove, then spread with ricotta mixture. Squeeze lemon over the broccoli rabe and garnish the ricotta slathered bread with parsley.

How To Roast a Chicken

Roasting a chicken is one of my skills, but the truth is it couldn’t be simpler. I will henceforth disclose the method I have settled on, which includes aromatics, salt, butter, and little else. Now that I’m sharing this recipe – which, for years was the only thing I really cooked well – all I have left in my repertoire of talent is parallel parking, wearing boots, and a very convincing dead man’s float. I feel bereft yet abundantly selfless. Internet, I give you everything. Please enjoy this chicken with lots of buttered, crusty bread, steamed spinach, sauteed mushrooms, and a glass of wine. Roasting a chicken is super satisfying; it will make your whole family happy.

How to Roast a Chicken

Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 5 lb chicken
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Bunch of rosemary
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper

Method:

How to Roast a Chicken

1. Assemble your cast of characters.

How to Roast a Chicken

2. Slice garlic. Bash rosemary to release oils. Cut butter.

How to Roast a Chicken

3. Remove the innards. Rinse the bird in cold water, inside and out. Pat dry really, really well with paper towels, so the chicken won’t steam.

How to Roast a Chicken

4. Sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper, stuff it with garlic and rosemary.

How to Roast a Chicken

5. Tuck pieces of butter under the skin, and rub some all over the chicken’s outside.

How to Roast a Chicken

6. Truss and tuck. Wings are pinned behind the bird, as if it were relaxing.

How to Roast a Chicken

7. Use kitchen twine to cinch the chicken, so that it cooks evenly and retains juices. Center the string over the neck, cross over legs and tie in a knot.

How to Roast a Chicken

8. Rain salt and grind black pepper over the bird.

How to Roast a Chicken

9. Roast the chicken in a preheated 425 degree oven, for about an hour an a half. Let it rest for ten minutes before you carve.

How to Roast a Chicken

 

Classics: Linguine with Mussels and Clams

A wader-wearing fisherman steps out smiling from the refrigerated barnlike structure, where haddock and other local fishes are getting sorted and processed, cleaned, scaled and filleted, to help the customer, who was me. I was charmed and happily waited in the cold sunshine for the burly guy to go inside and bag up my stuff. I made off with a pound each of steamers and mussels for just about four dollars. I planned to make a Valhallan feast with humble ingredients. Today we need pasta basking in butter and oil. We need a fire in the wood burning stove and crisp wine and a good baguette to swab through the remaining garlic-and ocean-infused sauce. If you’re like me, you’re feeling energized by the stark, unadorned landscape and promise of a new year, but in equal measure in need of comfort at the end of the day. A balance of motivation and hibernation. This dish is a balm for the soul on these kinds of days. Easy to prepare, but special, peasant-elegant.

Linguine with Mussels and Clams
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb clams, scrubbed
  • 1 lb mussels, scrubbed and debearded*
  • 1 package (9 oz) fresh linguine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Big squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • Salt
  • Asiago cheese

Method:

To prepare the clams scrub their shells and rinse repeatedly in cold water. For the mussels, run them under cold water in a colander whilst you prep the other ingredients. In a large pot over medium heat add olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir 4-5 minutes. Turn up the heat to high, add the wine and clams, cover. After five minutes add mussels. Cook for ten minutes, frequently shaking the pot. In another pot, make the linguine according to package directions. When done, drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and coat pasta with butter back in the cook pot. When the shellfish have opened (discard any that haven’t) toss with the pasta. If the shellfish cooking liquid looks dirty, as mine did, don’t use it, and instead add a splash of wine along with parsley, lemon juice, and grated cheese.

*  The majority of my mussels were already beard-free.

Our “Classics” series tackles some of our favorite dishes from Maine’s rich culinary tradition. You can think of them as “traditional” dishes, or more accurately, things you might have had for hot lunch in the fourth grade, had you attended St. George Elementary. To read more from this series, click here.

Schnitzel-wich with Garlic Butter and Spicy Relish

Because I seem to have taken on a subconscious quest to become some sort of 300 pound guy, today I drizzled hot butter onto pan-fried baby cow, slapped it between two pieces of bread, and ate it in sandwich form. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Furthermore, I want you to try it, too. Okay, I know this isn’t health food, but by God, if I can’t have a lunch that makes my doctor angry (just kidding…I don’t have a doctor) once in a while, I don’t see any reason to go on living. Which I won’t, if I eat one of these for lunch again tomorrow. Let’s get started, shall we?

I used Wickles Hoagie and Sandwich Spread for this sandwich, which, if you haven’t read our previous post on the matter, is one of the finest things you can put on a sandwich. It’s tart, it’s spicy, it’s crunchy, and it contrasts perfectly with the crispy Panko-crusted richness of the veal. If you don’t have access to Wickles, you can also use a spicy giardiniera from your supermarket’s olive bar, pulsed in the food processor into a relish.

Schnitzel-wich with Garlic Butter and Spicy Relish
Adapted from a recipe by Rachel Ray; Makes two sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Wickles Hoagie and Sandwich Spread (or 1/2 cup minced giardiniera)
  • 2 veal cutlets
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • A few grates of nutmeg
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Green-leaf lettuce leaves

Method:

1. Pound the veal very thin, to about 1/8 of an inch using a heavy skillet, and season with salt and pepper.

2. Fill three shallow dishes with the flour, the egg, and the breadcrumbs, seasoned with the nutmeg. Coat the veal first in the flour, then egg, and finally the breadcrumbs.

3. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add the veal and cook over medium heat, turning once, until golden brown, 4-6 minutes, and drain on paper towels.

4. Wipe out the pan, and return to heat. Add the butter, and stir in the garlic. Let cook for one minute, then add the parsley and the lemon juice. Remove from heat.

5. Pile the bottoms of the rolls with the lettuce, schnitzels, garlic butter, giardiniera or sandwich spread, and roll tops.

Curry Marinated Chicken Skewers with Homemade Tomato Dill Tzatziki

Seventy-two degree afternoons with a light breeze and a few fluffy, white clouds passing overhead. This is why we love living in Maine in the summer. And it’s why the ability to sit outside on a slate patio, looking at the grass and birds and trees, grilling meat over an open flame for our evening meal is so delicious. This dinner comes together quite easily and could be adjusted to serve either two or twenty.

Curry Marinated Chicken Skewers with Homemade Tomato Dill Tzatziki
Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, pounded flat
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 garlic gloves, crushed or microplaned
  • 2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper

For the tzatziki:

  • 1 24-ounce container of plain, whole milk yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and grated
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dill
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced or smashed in a mortar and pestle
  • Lemon juice, to taste
  • Kosher salt

For Assembly:

  • Store-bought naan
  • Olive oil
  • Chopped tomatoes, to garnish

Method:

For the chicken:

I sliced eight boneless, skinless chicken thighs and marinated them in a large Ziplock bag for an hour, at least. I threaded the chicken onto soaked skewers, and grilled for about six minutes a side.

For the tzatziki:

  1. Line a medium-sized bowl with multiple layers of cheesecloth, and pour in the yogurt. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth, and fasten with a rubber band, so that the yogurt is in a ball. Suspend the ball over a bowl in the refrigerator overnight, so that the excess liquid whey drains away.
  2. The next day, pour the strained yogurt into a bowl, reserving some of the whey that has drained away.
  3. Grate the cucumber into a colander, sprinkle with salt, and leave for 1/2 an hour for the excess liquid to drain.
  4. Beat the yogurt in a medium bowl with the minced garlic, tomato, and mint, and fold in the grated cucumbers. Add lemon juice to taste, and a splash or two of the reserved whey if the dip is too thick. Season with salt, to taste.

To assemble:

I brushed the naan with olive oil and grilled it for a quick minute. Remove chicken from skewers and onto the naan, spread generously with tzatziki. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with lemon zest. Enjoy outside.