Archive for April, 2013

Spicy Arugula Salad

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With finals rolling around, all of us college kids are going a little stir crazy, so it’s nice to get back to basics. For some, this means junk food and caffeine. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of salt & vinegar chips and Starbucks Doubleshots, but last night, I decided to relax my frazzled brain by reminding myself of a time when things were a little less crazy. Exactly one year ago, I was saying goodbye to Rome, where I had been living it up for five months. Nearly half a year filled with daily (okay, hourly) gelato runs and the best cheap wine ever is hard to give up, but I reluctantly boarded the plane that took me away from my European life and back to my American one.

Well, coming back was a bit of a shock. Food tasted weird and the “gelato” was crap, not to mention the whole English language thing. I distinctly remember one of my first dinners back at home in Los Angeles, as it was one of my standby favorites: Homemade pesto and pancetta pizza with arugula salad. The pancetta tasted flavorless and the arugula was, for lack of a better word, flaccid.

Back in Rome, arugula, or, rucola, is picked when it was young, crunchy, and full of spice. It tastes peppery and the little stems have the perfect bite. The miniature leaves were hard to get onto the fork because they were so sturdy. Like perfectly al dente pasta, as I learned, the leaves came alive off the plate instead of wilting into each other. Now, you all know how much I love Trader Joe’s, but my arugula obsession was hastily thwarted by their measly excuse for leafy greens.

I swore off the stuff for a while, until I recently discovered that my local corporate grocery store, Shaws, sells “baby” arugula. I don’t have the Roman stuff to compare it with, but let me tell you, this stuff is good. It’s got the peppery kick I missed and comes in a plastic box, just like it did back in Roma.

One of my favorite meals to make back in my via Nomentana apartment, just outside the city, was a simple one: rucola, fresh cherry tomatoes from my vegetable guy on the corner, sautéed chicken breast, and goat cheese (when I could get my hands on it). It sounds simple, but one of the best lessons I learned in Rome (other than not to walk down dark streets alone at night) is that the best meals involve very few but very high quality ingredients. I spent many nights in Rome with a big spicy arugula salad, a glass of wine (or two), and good book, worrying not about meetings, work, or any other stressors that fill my brain today.

With one too many Kettle Chips in my system and an obnoxious end-of-semester to-do list, I was more than thrilled to re-create my go-to Roman dinner, complete with crunchy, spicy arugula. The recipe is simple, and as long as you avoid limp arugula, you’re golden. Feel free to add some fancy stuff to the salad like sliced grapes, candied walnuts, or homemade breadcrumbs. Just make sure that whatever you do, you relax. It’s so easy to get caught up in our crazy lives, but it’s important to get back to basics and bask in the glory of delicious, fresh foods. Don’t worry, the salt & vinegar chips aren’t going anywhere.

Makes one serving

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper (like cayenne)
  • 2-3 cups baby arugula
  • 1 small handful cherry tomatoes
  • Goat cheese to taste
  • ½ lemon
  • More olive oil for drizzling

1. Using a microplane zester or a sharp knife, zest or mince garlic.

2. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Once oil is shimmering, add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute.

3. Add chicken breast to skillet and sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Flip and repeat. Sauté for about six minutes, until thoroughly cooked, flipping occasionally.

4. Slice tomatoes in half.

5. Place arugula and tomatoes on a large plate.

6. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over salad, tossing to coat salad with dressing.

7. Crumble goat cheese over salad.

8. Place chicken breast, unsliced, on top of salad, discarding burned garlic bits.

9. (Optional) Enjoy with a good book or magazine. My pick is naturally Bon Appétit.

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P.S. Here are a few Pantry Raid approved arugula purveyors that you’ll find at the grocery store.

Cast Iron Linguiça & Cannellini Stew

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Emerson is a hipster’s paradise. While most college students wear UGGS with sweats to class, we wear combat boots and high waisted skirts. While most colleges have concerts with big name performers, our shows feature bands you “probably haven’t heard of.” And while the “hot guy” major at most colleges is Economics, Emerson’s got the film kids.

Though I study the subject that is just about the farthest from film of any that Emerson offers (Marketing Communication), I squirmed my way in to the inner circle of the film students. How did I do it? I started dating one of them.

Matt is a film nerd, if I’ve ever met one. He claims to have learned how to kiss from watching French movies as a kid and knows the names and works of just about every director worth noting. Seeing as he’s about to graduate, he’s hoping to join their ranks in the near future.

A “thesis” is a far cry from what Emerson students have to complete in order to graduate. Each major has a specially designed capstone project, from novel writing to musical directing. Matt was accepted into a special class that has allowed him to write, direct, and edit his own film.

Who We Were is a romantic drama about Lucy (played by Nicola Cauro) and her struggle to understand what love means to her. That is a very very simplified version of what it’s really all about, but I guess you’ll just have to check out the film when it’s ready! As the director’s (marketing major) girlfriend, it is my responsibility to shamelessly plug this sucker wherever and whenever I can. As his food blogging girlfriend though, it was also my responsibility to feed the crew.

I had never worked in craft services before, so this was a huge learning experience. Enrique Rivera, the film’s uber-talented producer, gave me a few pointers: no pizza and lots of meat. Little did he know then that we’d be shooting one of the scenes in a pizza parlor, but Otto serves only the fanciest of pizza, so exceptions were made.

Due to a rather unforgiving budget (donate here!), my menus required a bit of work, but there was one night when I had an opportunity to show off. Back before all the madness of location scouting, script editing, costume designing, equipment renting, actor rehearsing, and a million other things I get dizzy thinking about, we decided to break the ice with an amazing dinner for the film’s core crew. I must say, I set the bar high for this project.

Along with plenty of wine, I served a spring salad with warm bacon vinaigrette and linguiça and cannellini stew. Production Designer, Jenell Randall finished off the night with “Sweet Baby Jesus Cakes” which I’m still begging for her permission to share the recipe with all of you. Just think butterscotch and dates and let your imagination wander.

This stew recipe brings back fond memories of that night, which was full of energy and excitement for the upcoming weeks of filming. I can’t say I was able to serve the rest of the crew such fancy meals, but what they don’t know can’t hurt ’em.

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Linguiça is a cured Portuguese sausage seasoned with garlic and paprika. As such, this recipe uses a good amount of both to make the flavors burst. In order to smooth out these bold flavors, I use cannellini beans, which create a velvety texture when mashed in the stew. And just to mix things up, I’ve infused the onions and oil with thyme for a “green” flavor. If the hint of thyme isn’t enough green for you, the sautéed spinach should do the trick.

This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit’s “Chorizo and White Bean Stew.” 

Ingredients
• 1 large white onion
• 5 cloves fresh garlic
• 2 cups water
• 1 bullion cube
• 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 lb. linguiça (found in most grocery stores)
• 5 springs fresh thyme (stem on)
• approx. 30 ounces canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 tablespoon paprika
• 3 cups fresh spinach

Directions
1. Slice onions and chop garlic. For a tip on onion slicing, see below.*
2. In a small pot, boil water. Once boiling, add bullion cube, stirring occasionally.
3. In a large cast iron skillet (a regular skillet will work, too), heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.
4. Cut linguiça links into ½ inch slices and sauté in skillet until mostly cooked through, about eight minutes. Remove linguiça and set aside.
5. In the same skillet, add thyme sprigs, stem and all. Then add onion and garlic. Pour in another glug of olive oil, if skillet seems dry. Cook over medium, heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and almost completely opaque.
6. Add chicken broth, beans, and paprika. Once simmering, use the back of a spoon, a potato masher, or a cocktail muddler to mash about half of the beans in order to thicken sauce. Let the mixture cook for about eight minutes.
7. Add linguiça back to skillet, folding it into the stew.
8. While stew simmers on medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot. Add spinach, and cover, stirring occasionally, until almost sautéed (should it say wilted), about 1 minute.
9. Serve stew immediately, placing a heap of spinach over each helping.
Note: Remove thyme sprigs before serving, if desired, or leave them in as garnish.

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*Excerpt from Cooks Illustrated. Maybe I’m behind the times, but I found this very helpful. “How to Slice It: Onions: 1. Trim off both ends of onion. 2. Turn onion onto cut end and slice in half, pole to pole. 3. Peel each half, place cut-side down, and slice with grain (pole to pole).”

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Sweet & Spicy Marinade

 

My grandmother says that chicken is like a blank canvas. You probably won’t get salmonella from eating a blank canvas, but other than that, she’s spot on. Since I stocked my chicken-roasting arsenal over the winter (see Garlicky Rosemary Roast Chicken), I’ve been going “ham,” making chicken at least once a week. Now that I’m more comfortable de-gutting, cleaning, and generally handling an eight-pound dead bird, I’ve become more adventurous with my preparation methods.

 

Adventurous as I may be, all of my endeavors have included a common thread: garlic. Garlic is my lifeblood. I’m fairly certain that 90% of my meals include it in either roasted, sautéed, or raw form. Maybe that’s why Robert Pattinson never asked me out…

 

In the book Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (my culinary and literary idol), he warns against using a garlic press. He says, “I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out of the end of those things but it ain’t garlic.” In my book, whatever he says goes, so I’ve kept my distance from them. Though I’ve taught myself a thing or two about mincing garlic, the tiny flecks never totally blend in with whatever I’m adding them to, be it salad dressing, stir fry, or marinade.

 

Cue: my othergrandmother, master chef and yogi (I took a Pop Physique class with this woman a few weeks ago and she can do the splits. THE SPLITS!). Being the supportive grandmother that she is, she reads my blog. Remember when, a few weeks back, I mentioned that a zester would be next on my kitchen wishlist? Well, guess what showed up in the mail a few days later, courtesy of my fairy grandmother?

 

My microplane zester is my new favorite toy. It comes in handy for zesting lemons, chocolate, ginger, and you guessed it – garlic. Anthony might not be on board with this stuff, but when you’re in college and don’t have a million dollar knife set at your disposal, something’s gotta give.

 

 

The great thing about using the zester for garlic is that it minces the cloves super fine (almost into a paste) so that it gets fully integrated into whatever you’re cooking. For me, this means more garlic coverage when I’m marinating, roasting, and basting my chicken.

 

If you’ve ever roasted garlic, you know a thing or two about that smooth, velvety, creamy flavor that comes with it. But if you’re a garlic fiend like me, you just as much love the bite and burn of the raw stuff. For this marinade, I capture both of these flavors, plus some Asian flare, because, you know, why not?

 

Though the marinade may seem super spicy when you taste it, fear not. These flavors will all soak into your chicken, leaving you with a crispy skin and tangy meat.

 

Ingredients
·      5 garlic cloves, minced or “zested”
·      1 teaspoon paprika
·      ½ teaspoon chili powder (for a smokier flavor) or cayenne pepper (for a spicier kick)
·      1 teaspoon fresh chopped or “zested” ginger (or ½ teaspoon ground ginger)
·      ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
·      2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (found in Asian markets or at Trader Joe’s)
·      ½ cup olive oil
·      ½ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
·      3 tablespoons light brown sugar

 

Directions
1. Place garlic and spices in a jar.
2. Using a spoon, a dull knife, or a small spatula, mix until ingredients forms a cohesive, thick paste.
3. Add olive oil, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce. Cover jar and shake until combined.
4. Add ginger (if using fresh) and brown sugar. Cover and shake again.

 

Check out my Garlicky Rosemary Roast Chicken post for instructions on how to marinade and cook the bird herself, or try it on pork chops or eggplant!

 

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