Best Simple Green Salad

Green Salad

Green Salad Best simple green salad

One of my favorite elements of a multi-course meal is the salad. At our house we eat it after the main course—a fun bit of gastronomic protocol that the French taught us. Or was it the Italians?

It doesn’t seem like such a challenge, but really, how do you make a simple bowl of fresh greens something reliably mouth-pleasingly yummy and savory? It’s a two-part answer: choose crisp greens, and make a memorable dressing.

This evening’s salad consists of Boston Bibb (one of my favorites; love the subtle sweetness) and endives (with a nice contrasting bitterness). But really, any greens work. I look for the freshest leaves the veggie isle can offer up.

And now the dressing, which is the primary focus of today’s labor of love. We are creating a classic vinaigrette, but with some twists. The building blocks of a vinaigrette are acid and oil. On this one we’re using a basic red vinegar and olive oil. Garlic, shallots, and mustard contribute additional flavor.

Garlic Paste - before Garlic Paste - after

Here’s our first little trick: how to avoid having our dinner guests bite into sharp little chunks of garlic in our salad. Particularly if he/she is our date for the night. The secret is pulp. So, mince a clove of garlic, add a teaspoon of salt and then smash both—to a pulp!—with the edge of a heavy kitchen knife. At the end of your effort you want to have a paste-like texture, as shown in the photo above.

Now put the garlic and salt mixture in a small bowl. Add some ground pepper, two or three tablespoons of vinegar, and one tablespoon of mustard (and not just any mustard, but a sharp Dijon, please).

And one last water-soluble component—something sweet. A little sweetness enhances all the other components of this dressing. We’ll provide the magic this time with a tablespoon of maple syrup. But you could also use honey, sugar, or agave juice—you get the idea.

It is important that that all water-soluble ingredients get mixed first. The mustard part of the water-soluble portion will act as an ambassador in the next step, creating an easy emulsion with the oil, resulting in a thick and creamy dressing. So now drizzle in that oil, about 6 tablespoons. As always, taste as you go! The dressing should taste distinctly sharp and spicy. In the end I add a finely-minced shallot.

Dress the salad just seconds before you serve it. For a low-frills weeknight dinner we serve the salad on our dinner plates. This allows us to mix and mingle the last of the main course’s chicken juice (or was that the sauce from the strip steak?). A simple-pleasures treat. You might want to try it with my best roasted chicken.

Yack yack yack. Who would have thought a guy needs to write a dissertation on such a simple thing as a green salad? (I always say, once you’ve written one…) Please excuse my academic extremism here; you’ll see the effort is worth it.

Brussels Sprouts Recipe—the German Way

The perfect winter cabbage

The perfect winter cabbage

The last days of winter inspire me to cook one my favorite winter vegetables one last time before the big thaw. Brussels sprouts are healthy, tasty, and affordable—a nice combo, right? I like Brussles sprouts (or, in the singular, Brussels sprout) in almost any configuration, but the German way is one of my favorites. Kudos go to my mom on this one; she cooked them for me during my last visit home. That great dinner, which included roasted duck breast, is what had me working this recipe as soon as I got back to New York. This recipe is yet another one that’s in the “easy” category, so it finds a nice spot on my weeknight dinner roster.

Brussels Sprouts cleaning A basket full of Brussels Sprouts goodness

To start: I clean the outer leaves and cut a thin slice off the bottom of each sprout, making sure the whole thing still stays together. Then I drop these tasty little morsels in a single layer into a sauté pan, fill the pan so as to cover the sprouts half way, add a couple tablespoons of butter, and salt and pepper.

So what is the ‘German’ part of this recipe? Good question. It’s in the last little secret ingredient so often used in German cooking (shhh!): a tablespoon of sugar. Together with the butter, it gives the little cabbage heads an unbelievably soft, buttery, I-want-more taste. Try this one—I think you will be favorably surprised.

Brussels Sprouts, Butter, Sugar, Salt and Peper

Almost done

Almost done

Cook the sprouts on a medium flame. If you got the water level right at the beginning, all the extra water is now evaporating, leaving the butter-sugar mixture to glaze the Brussels sprouts perfectly. The photo above shows the sprouts almost done. If you think the water is completely evaporated before the sprouts are done, just add a little more water. The reverse situation does not work so well (obviously 😉 ), so don’t overdue it. Just another minute of cooking should be adequate. When done, they should not fall apart, but they will be soft inside.

Brussels Sprouts Recipe: the German way Weeknight dinner Recipe: Brussels Sprouts and pan-roasted chicken tighs

I enjoy these Brussels sprouts with simple pan-roasted chicken thighs (our go-to protein during the week: must. build. muscles).

I hope you will try this Brussels sprout recipe, doing it the German way.

Guten Appetit!

Shaved Fennel and Orange Salad

Orange and Fennel Salad Fennel and orange salad

This salad is a healthy winner during the last days of winter. And so simple to create!

Shave the fennel bulbs with the help of a mandoline slicer, as thinly as you can. Cut your oranges into supremes. This requires a little technique, but the result looks very professional. Check out my video that demonstrates this useful technique.

Our vinaigrette is a simple mixture of orange juice, a little champagne vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a dap of Dijon mustard. Some thinly sliced red onion and a few parsley leaves round out this salad nicely.

See pictures above for a nice presentation suggestion.

Enjoy this healthy treat right between winter and spring… maybe it’ll help bring spring to us quicker.

Fillets of orange

Recipe: My best Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken Happy chicken before transformation

In my opinion there is no more useful cooking skill then the ability to roast a delicious and juicy chicken. It’s a healthy choice and the go-to protein for many a weekday evening in my house. And with a little discipline, it can last for two eaters for three meals. The first night: roasted dark meat, ie, the legs. Second night: maybe chicken salad made from the breast*? The remainder forms the basis for a nice chicken-and-vegetable soup. (*Today’s trivia question, answered: a single chicken has 1 breast, not 2.)

Everybody has their own way for roasting a chicken. For my recipe, all you need, besides the chicken, is salt and pepper, and a little butcher twine—minimal enough for you? Here’s a perfectly roasted chicken:

Your organic, free-range, poetry-read, sunblock-protected, and otherwise ethically-correct chicken—now slaughtered—should be at room temperature. So take it out of the fridge about an hour before you start.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Starting the roast with high temperature ensures a beautifully brown and crispy skin in the end.

Prepare your chicken by removing the wishbone and clipping the ends of the wings. How do you remove a wishbone, you might ask? It’s easy to do yet complicated to describe (as is so much in life, no?). I will post a little video on chicken-wishbone removal in the near future. Getting rid of the wing tips ensures that they won’t burn in the oven.

Salt and pepper comes next. Be generous with the salt, outside and in.

Now truss (ie, twine-tie) the chicken. In the end the chicken should look like a tight wonderful little package, just like in the photo. The reason for trussing, I believe, is that it ensures a more even cooking. And it just makes it look more beautiful when it comes out of the oven—a good pose, if you will. Full disclosure: there is some debate around trussing; some believe the resulting chicken is better without it. I am outing myself here as a traditionalist: truss!

Next, our bird goes into your roasting pan—no oil, no butter. I guess a rub with butter could be nice, but not for us health-conscious eaters (please, don’t tell me what I’m missing). As a detail-oriented observer you will note the potatoes in the picture. Yes, I threw a few spuds into the pan as well.  Why not create wonderful roasted potatoes on the fly, soaking up all those delicious chicken drippings.  Not to worries, just salt and pepper the potato chunks and add after the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes.  If you add right at the beginning they will burn.

And now, our naked bird faces the heat. Roast at high temperature for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the chicken shows a very nice and almost-done brown skin color. Once this is achieved, we turn the oven down to 350 degrees to finish. If your oven heats unevenly, now is a good time to turn the roasting pan.

I take the chicken out when the temperature inside the thickest part shows 150 to 155 degrees—this based on poking the thermometer into the breast, near the thigh.

Out of the oven she comes. Cover with tin foil and let rest for about 15 min. The temperature at that point should be at near a perfect 160 degrees.

Dig in!