Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011


Anchovy Cerviche with Sauteed Mussel and Garlic

My mentor Vincenzino in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast taught me about cerviche.  It's amazing, really, that you can clean fresh anchovies, put them in a bowl and cover them with the juice of two to three lemons, add a heaping portion of sea salt and cover the salt with a dish and let stand for 10 - 15 minutes and it's done.  No cooking involved.

Vincenzino and I shopped that morning in the fish market, that was about the size of a small room, and got fresh anchovies.  These bear no resemblance to the brown hairy things you find in jars.  These anchovies turn white when they're done.  You clean them in your hands.

It's extremely difficult to get the real McCoy fresh anchovies over here - even in New York City.  But you can subtitute sushi quality tuna or New Zealand salmon.  In coming posts I will demontrate with both, take pictures and report on the results.  I've done it before and it's delicious.  The salmon is gorgeous - it turns a pinkish white and it is delicious.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Easy Dinner: Chicken Burgers!

You'll probably see every kind of burger or slider on this blog except for the traditional beef kind.  Last night I cooked one of my favorites: chicken burgers.  You can buy ground chicken from your butcher. 


Chicken burgers:

3/4 pound ground chicken (for 2 burgers)
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 red pepper diced
1/4 yellow pepper diced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup marinara (if desired)

Side Dish

one bunch of thin asparagus or string beans
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 - 3 cloves of garlic chopped
1 scape (if you can get them)
1 lemon (juiced)
2 tablespoons lemon zest 

While I recommend cooking most things at room temperature, it's best to form the ground chicken into patties and stick them back in the fridge.  The patties will hold together better if chilled. I like meaty burgers so I shape them like thick hockey pucks. When I take them out of the fridge I cover in extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

As always, be sure your pan is nice and hot.  Pre-heat over a medium flame for at least 10 minutes.  Cook for 4 - 5 minutes on each side.  If you make a really thick burger it may take longer than 5 minutes per size.  Just keep an eye on them and flip them when you have the nice charring.

To be sure the burgers aren't raw in the middle I cook the burgers on their edges for a minute or two (once the two sides have been sauteed).

I put the burgers in the oven at 250 degrees, covered in foil, while I cook the side dish, again, just to be sure they're not raw in the middle.

I cook the halved cherry tomatoes for a few minutes to start.  Then I add the garlic and, in this case, blanched string beans.  Toss in the pan for a few minutes - I just eyeball them to see when they'll be done.  If desired sautee half a lemon with the mixture.

Et Viola!

With chicken burgers you're eliminating a good deal of the fat you get with traditional beef burgers.  If I have some in the frige I'll serve the chicken burgers on top of a half cup or so of marinara and squeeze lemon juice on top.  It's delicious either way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dinner at Becco

The Whole Roasted Fish at Becco

I really love having dinner at Becco.  It's Lydia Bastianch's place on restaurant row (West 46th between 8th & 9th Avenues).  I often have the pasta serving, which is three separate, random pastas that are served throughout the evening.  The pastas come with an appetizer of Caesar salad and is a real deal at $22.95 for all you can eat.  But last night I was feeling guilty about my recent indulgences and opted for the whole roasted fish instead.

But we started with fried zucchini blossoms.  (So much for keeping the dinner low calorie.)  Lydia's recipe calls for creating a batter with flour, salt and cold water.  The blossoms are first stuffed with a ricotta cheese and braised veal mixture and then sauteed in extra virgin olive oil on the stovetop.

Here are fresh zucchini blossoms straight from the Farmers Market.  I plan to see if I can come up with substitutions to make this dish less caloric - I'm thinking of substituting plain Greek yogurt for the ricotta, skipping the braised veal and flavoring with herbs.  For the coating I'll try whole wheat flour, egg white and maybe panko.   I'll report back after I experiment with this.  Lydia's blossoms are served with a marinara.  I squeezed lemon on top and they were truly delicious.

The whole roasted fish last night at Becco was an Orata - which is a member of the Sea Bream family.  They present the fish to you tableside after it's been roasted and then take it back to the kitchen to filet.  It, too, is stuffed with herbs.  When served it's garnished with wilted leeks and crispy chopped potatoes.  In a future blog I will do my version of this dish - roasted Branzino served with roasted fennel and Spanish onions.  I'm not in Lydia's league, but my Branzino is pretty good - I learned to cook it in Amalfi.

My friend had the chicken parmasan.  It looked wonderful.  We finished up with raspberry, pear and watermelon sorbets. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Yesterday was my birthday.  I decided to make it a quiet one and just have dinner at home with Hubbell.  I took the day off at work and took a yoga class and a spin class at the Y.  I had intended to have New Zealand salmon for dinner, but my evil twin took over and soon I was at the meat counter.  I got a wonderful New York strip steak.  I picked up a Yukon Gold potato, a local tomato and string beans.

It had been my intention to keep red meat off of this site.  But yesterday was a special day and, I want to honestly blog about my diet and exercise habits.  So, for the sides: I washed the potato and put it in a casserole dish.  I cut the top off the tomato and cut an X across the top, about 1/4" down.   I topped it with salt and pepper and Herbs de Provence. I placed it next to the potato and roasted both together for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  For the steak, I heated up my trusty cast iron skillet - remember to put the pan on the stove over medium heat for 10 - 15 minutes.  When it was sufficiently hot, I put the steak on - grilling each side for 4 minutes.  I had placed the steak on the counter so it was room temperature when it hit the pan. 

When the steak was done I covered it in butcher paper and let it rest.  I topped it with a small tab of butter.  I put butter and salt and pepper on the potato too and topped the dish with the string beans. To prepare the string beans you blanch them by putting in boiling water for a minute or so and then straight into a iced water bath.  I sautee them in extra virgin olive oil and sliced garlic. 

I didn't notice a difference on the scale this morning so my evening of indulgence wasn't that much of a crime.  As I've said before - life is too short - you have to treat yourself every now and then!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Orange Slushies

It was so hot on Saturday that I thought I'd put my fresh squeezed orange juice in the freezer for a few minutes to get it extra chilled.  I got so caught up in walking the dog and doing chores that I forgot about it. The juice was in the freezer for about 45 minutes.

When I retrieved it from the freezer it had turned to slush.  I stirred it vigorously and ended up with a delicious treat.  I could literally eat the juice with a spoon.   I tried it again on Sunday and kept an eye on it during the freezing process.  It starts to freeze from the outside in  - I took it out of the freezer when there was a quarter sized section of juice in the center.  A refreshing drink for those hot summer days.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Will They Fit?

Challenge: Fit in Your Summer Pants by Labor Day
I've gotten down to a size 31 inch waist - but will the size 30's fit?

When I was shopping for my trip to the Amalfi Coast two years ago, my friend Tiffany Canty, a shopper at Bloomingdales, found a gorgeous pair of Italian linen pants.  They are white with a very thin navy window pane design.  They were also a size 30 waist.  Tiffany and another shopper friend insisted that I take them.  "But I can't breathe!" I protested.  Tiffany was having none of it and soon I was walking out the door with these tiny slacks.

The Pants in Question - July 4th Weekend

Every summer I trot out those pants.  This year on Memorial Day weekend I wore them to dinner at the Boathouse in Central Park.  They were tight.  They were very snug.  But I managed to get through dinner without popping the button on the waist and taking someone's eye out.

The Pants in Question last week

I started this blog on the day after that Memorial Day dinner.  I've had a lot of fun test driving recipes practically every night.  Before the blog I would sneak those salt & vinegar potato chips every so often.  I'd have steak frites. I'd have the occasional slice (or two) of pizza.  Not to say I'm never going to indulge - I do and will.  I've just cut down on that.  I've also seen that you don't automatically have to have potato or rice with dinner.  I usually have two vegetables instead of one vegtable and a starch.  I'm not into the Atkins diet, but I do try to watch the carbs.  I still have pasta - but have been skipping the garlic bread.

I wore the pants in question again over July 4th.  I noticed a difference.  They weren't so snug.  I tried them on again last week and they actually fit comfortably.

The point is this: my ideas and recipes seem to be working, at least for me.  So, I issue this challenge: try some of my recipes and work out ideas - and see if your tight summer pants fit more comfortably by Labor Day - and please let me know how you do.  If you have before and after pictures, I'm happy to post them.

Happy Summer!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lemony Summer Pasta with Optional Anchovy Sauce

I got home on the late side last night and wanted a light supper. I had some lemon basil pesto in the ice box, rigatoni in the pantry and soon I was whipping up a quick and easy summer dinner.

First, I halved some cherry tomatoes, chopped fresh garlic and scapes and grated some fresh parmesan

I sauteed the tomatoes first as they take the longest to cook.  Then I added the scapes and a bit later the chopped fresh garlic.  I cut a lemon in half and cook it along with the other ingredients.  You want the lemon to get carmalized.
All the while the rigatoni was cooking - it takes a good 10 - 12 minutes.  Make sure it's al dente as you're going to finish it off in the pan so all the luscious ingredients will blend beautifully.  Drain it and allow some of the pasta water to make its way in the mixture.  I put a ladle a bit of pasta water in as well.  I use my spider spoon to get the rigatoni from the pasta water so I can keep that starchy water to help thicken the sauce. 

Add a few tablespoons of Sundried Tomato Tapenade

Next the lemon pesto, parmesan, some more fresh lemon and anchovy juice

What's that you say?  Anchovy Juice?  Sounds dreadful but using it sparingly it adds an amazing depth of flavor.  There are many brands on the market but I use Agostino Recca.  I pour a thin layer on top of tuna sandwiches and it's good on sliced tomatoes too. You can buy it at Eataly and other specialty Italian stores.  It's a bargain at $9.99 a bottle.  If you don't like anchovies you can skip the anchovy juice.

Not to get all Paula Dean on you, but I add a small amount of butter.  Be sure to get a high quality butter.  Rather than Land O Lakes go for an imported butter such as Lurpak from Denmark.  True confessions time: I sauteed the tomatoes, etc. in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a trace amount of butter. I add butter to the top of the mixture at the end too - make sure it's room temperature.

Mix everthing together in your pan - grate the parmesan right on top and squeeze some more lemon juice on top.  BTW - I use a Le Ceuset non stick pan.  I love it.  It can go from stove top to the oven (though not needed for this dish).

Et voila! A simple but exquisite supper.  The anchovy juice and fresh lemon really turn this into something extra special on a hot summer night.  I tossed in some red pepper flake at the end to give it a nice kick.  What the heck - grate some more parmasan on, too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coffee and Snack Challenge

Perhaps it's the heat wave.  But lately I've changed two huge habits.  I've replaced coffee with fresh squeezed juice in the morning.  I've also been passing on the Pop Chips and have been opting for chilled fruit instead.

Dawn's Early Rise - 5:15 AM on the Upper West Side

I work out in the morning before work.  The alarm goes off at 5 AM to give me enough time to walk the dog and make it to an early exercise class.  I took the picture above on Tuesday before my 6:30 AM yoga class in Central Park.

Morning Do: Fresh Squeezed Juice

I tried this experiment about a week ago and have stuck to it ever since.  Time is at a premium in the morning, so I decided I would have juice instead of coffee.  I tend to linger over a cup of coffee in the morning and figured juice would be a nice alternative.  I squeeze the juice before I go to bed, cover the glass with plastic wrap and put it in the refridgerator to chill while I sleep.  No grinding the beans and taking the time to percolate the coffee in the morning.  It's amazing - not only does it taste delicious, but I'm focused and actually feel happier.  I have a spring in my step as I walk to class.

Try Chilled Watermelon and Cantelope in place of Chips

Next up is the cocktail hour.  My downfall has always been potato chips.  And I love cheeses and yummy fattening foods like chopped chicken livers and italian sausage.  But if I dive into a deliciously chilled melon I don't crave the fatty stuff.  (Well, maybe a little.) 

Cocktail Hour Don't: the Super Fattening Spread

Cocktails at the Peninsula

Most of my friends think it's heresy when I suggest they opt for fresh juice over coffee - or watermelon over a nice spicy sopressata.  I'm not saying you should never have the fattening stuff or caffeine.  But why not take advantage of the fruits of summer and see how it makes you feel.  In my case, I feel like a million bucks.  If you try this please share your thoughts with us - I encourage you to click on the comment bar below and report on your experiences.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fun Summer Dinner

It's summer and that means soft shell crabs are in season!  I have soft shell crabs fairly often over the summer - the season is so short, best to take advantage.  They're quick and easy to prepare.

Les Ingredients

Two of the crabs are good for one serving.  You'll need flour, egg white and panko.  I salt and pepper the panko and add herb de provence for a little color.  I serve the crabs on sauteed fresh baby spinach, tomatoes, scapes and garlic along with plenty of fresh lemon juice.

Dry the crabs off with paper towels

Dredge in flour, dip in egg white and cover well with the panko mixture

Cook for two minutes on each side

I transfer the crabs to another pan and pop them in the oven at 275 - 300 degrees while I sautee the spinach - just enough to keep them warm.

Sautee the baby spinach, tomatoes, scapes and garlic.  I toss a half a lemon in as well - this goes very quickly.  I use the same pan that I used to cook the crabs

Dinner is served!  Try this while soft shell crabs are still in season.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Trying my hand at TRX

I tried out a new exercise class called TRX.  It's a new kind of leveraged bodyweight exercise.  It was created by a Navy Seal as an invention of necessity.  Randy Hetrick and his fellow Seals wanted to get a workout in while they were stashed away on missions and there was no access to gyms. Space was extremely limited so they couldn't even bring their own workout equipment with them.  Using their ingenuity they used parachute webbing hand-sticed together by boat repair tools and developed exercises that replaced traditional weights with their own body weight.

TRX centers on strength and cardio training.  You build muscle by leveraging your own body weight.  Using a training harness that's anchored to the wall you do exercises that defy gravity - that require use of multiple muscles.  You use the harness on both your hands and feet doing such things as modified push ups and ab exercises.   You break every so often and do jumping jacks and other cario-boosting routines.

Gravity defying modified push ups

A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody

If your gym offers TRX you should check it out.  It's hard to describe, but a lot of fun.  I could tell I worked muscles I'm not used to working because I was pretty sore the next day.

TRX Workshop at the Y