Chicken with roasted tomatillo sauce a great dish for small gathering

sns-201509151130--tms--foodstylts--v-e20150915-1-20150915I am always surprised when people think that Mexican sauces are just different types of salsa. Actually, Mexican sauces can be complex and incredibly flavorful. If you’ve never tasted an authentic mole sauce, you owe it to yourself to seek one out. Full of rich smoked chile flavor and accented with Mexican chocolate, mole sauce is in a word “soulful.” That’s the good news. The bad news is that you need to plan a day or two to prepare it.

When I am in the mood for Mexican flavor but don’t have lots of time, I make this far less time-consuming dish. It’s pretty simple to cook once you roast and peel the chilies and take the husks off of the fresh tomatillos. Remember that this dish can be as mild or hot as you like. For the mild version use the gentle Anaheim chile; for the hot version use the spicier poblano. If you are unable to find fresh chilies, the canned variety will do.

Tomatillos are small, round, green and resemble large cherry tomatoes. They have an herbal, slightly tart flavor and are often used in sauces, soups and stews. Known as tomates verde, tomatillos are easy to clean and use. To remove the husks, hold the fruit under warm running water, peel off the husk and rinse off the sticky residue that coats the skin. When selecting tomatillos, look for firm, green fruit with unwrinkled husks. Remember that when the tomatillos are cooked they become sweeter and less acidic than when they are eaten raw.

This chicken, fragrant with tomatillo, cumin and cilantro sauce, is a great dish for family and friends. Begin with a bowl of guacamole and fresh chips. Serve the chicken with vegetable rice and don’t forget warm corn or flour tortillas. I also like to serve Mexican beer with the chicken.

Chicken with Roasted Chile Tomatillo Sauce

Serves 4 to 6

3 medium Anaheim or poblano chilies (Tip: When working with chilies, always wear rubber gloves. Wash the cutting surface and knife immediately afterward.)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 medium chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), cut up

2 medium chicken breast halves, skin and bone attached

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cups chicken stock

6 medium garlic cloves, minced

11/2 pound tomatillos, husked and quartered

3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Corn or flour tortillas

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. To peel the chiles, place on a broiler pan and broil approximately 6 inches from the heat until blackened on all sides. Use tongs to turn. Close tightly in a brown paper bag. Let rest for 10 minutes. Remove the chilies from the bag, drain and peel. Make a slit in each chile and open it up. Core, cut off the stem and scrape out the seeds and ribs. Chop the chilies into 1/4-inch pieces. Reserve.

2. Dry the chicken pieces carefully. In a large saute pan heat half of the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken until lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. You may have to do this in batches, adding the remaining oil as needed. Remove to a side platter.

3. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until soft but not brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and deglaze the pan by turning up the heat and scraping the brown bits off the bottom.

4. Add the garlic, reserved chiles, tomatillos, cilantro and cumin. Bring to a boil; then reduce to a simmer. Add the browned chicken pieces and simmer on low, covered, turning the chicken once to cook evenly. Simmer until the chicken pieces are just done, about 20 minutes. (Remove the smaller pieces and breasts first.)

5. Transfer the chicken onto a serving platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

6. Add the lime juice to the pan and then reduce the sauce until slightly thickened. Add the salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. Pour over the chicken pieces. Serve with warm corn or flour tortillas and garnish with the fresh cilantro leaves.

Mediterranean-Style Chicken Starts the Jewish New Year Off Right

IMG_0777            Growing up my mom would serve a large lunch after services that included simple roasted chicken with carrots and potatoes. It’s one of those taste memories that makes everything seem ok. While I loved that simple dish, I have elevated it with capers, olives and dried fruit to now become our family tradition. Know that this dish will fit in for any dinner party or holiday entrée, as well as Rosh Hashanah.

Adapted from the Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella, this sweet and savory chicken can be served hot right out of the oven, at room temperature, or chilled for a luncheon buffet. I’ve added black and green olives and dried apricots for a tangy twist. Make sure to use a roasting or jelly roll pan to catch any juices. Just make sure that the chicken is one layer so it can cook evenly. My friend uses a disposable aluminum roaster pan for easy clean up. You can easily double or triple the recipe for a crowd.

I like to serve this with rice, farro or quinoa pilaf. Make sure to add some sautéed chopped leeks and carrots to the pilaf for a colorful presentation. Accompany with green beans for a complete main course. To drink? The versatility of this dish gives you flexibility of a wine choice. Aromatic whites such as Viognier or Sauvignon Blanc mirror the recipe’s herbs and fruit. A Syrah or Zinfandel would also be delicious. It’s hard to make a mistake with this wine pairing!

Mediterranean-Style Chicken with Capers, Plums, and Olives

Serves 6 to 8


15 small garlic cloves

2 tablespoons dried oregano


Freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1 leek, white and light green parts only, cleaned and finely chopped

1/2 cup dried whole pitted apricots

3/4 cup dried whole pitted plums (prunes)

1/3 cup pitted green olives

1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives

1/3 cup capers with some brine

16 chicken thighs skin and bone on

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

3/4 cup dry red wine such Zinfandel or Syrah

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

  1. To make the marinade, in a bowl, stir together the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, oil, leek, apricots, plumes, olives, and capers until blended. Place the chicken in a large lock-top plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Turn the chicken in the bag to coat them evenly. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to overnight.
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the chicken in baking pans in a single layer, skin side down. Arrange the marinade ingredients around the chicken. In a small bowl, dissolve the brown sugar in the wine, stirring to blend. Pour half over the chicken.
  1. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn chicken skin side up with tongs. Pour over the remaining wine and roast for another 25 minutes, basting once, or until the chicken is nicely browned and cooked through, and no pink color remains.
  1. To serve, arrange the chicken pieces with the fruit and olives on a platter and top with some of the pan juices. Garnish with the parsley or cilantro and serve immediately.

Advance Preparation: Make up to 1 day ahead through step 1, cover, and refrigerate. Or make 1 day ahead and serve cold or at room temperature.

Seriously Simple: Minced chicken in lettuce cups is easy for lunch or dinner


Years ago I was invited to Hong Kong to attend a food festival, and we visited many historical spots and restaurants. One memorable meal began with lettuce cups filled with minced pigeon. I loved it. Since pigeon (squab) isn’t easy to find and is very expensive, I decided to reinvent that taste memory with minced chicken. It has also become a classic dish on many Chinese restaurants menus.
These Asian-flavored, minced-chicken-filled lettuce cups are incredibly delicious for a luncheon or as a starter for dinner. I usually select ground white meat chicken but you could also use ground turkey. Flavoring the chicken first with the soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar adds a rich taste sensation. Hoisin and lots of pungent fresh ginger enrich the simple chicken flavor. The red pepper and water chestnuts add texture. You can omit them and add pine nuts and Chinese mushrooms for a variation.

The chicken filling still has excellent texture and flavor. As a main course, plan on two or three of these per person.

Minced Chicken in Lettuce

Makes 6 to 8 lettuce cups

For the chicken:

1 pound ground chicken

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 red pepper, seeded and very finely chopped

2 scallions, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1 cup water chestnuts, rinsed and drained, coarsely chopped

1 head iceberg or butter lettuce, leaves separated into 6 to 8 individual cups, depending on the size of each leaf

For the Sauce:

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1 tsp. cornstarch

1. In a medium bowl combine the chicken with the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil. Set aside.

2. In a wok over high heat add the peanut oil. When the oil is hot but not quite smoking add the chicken and toss every 15-20 seconds for 1 2 minutes or until no pinkness remains. Push the chicken up the sides of the wok, spreading it around so all the chicken comes into maximum contact with the hot pan and breaking it up as you toss.

4. When cooked, push all the chicken up the side of the wok and out of the way and then add the red pepper, scallions, ginger and water chestnuts and toss for 1 minute. Add the reserved sauce ingredients and toss every 10-15 seconds with the chicken and vegetable mixture until well blended and slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

5. Arrange the lettuce cups on a platter or on individual plates and mound with an equal quantity of the chicken mixture. Serve immediately.

Seriously Simple: A sophisticated twist on a Spanish classic

ON IMG_1296a recent visit to the Fairmont Grand Del Mar in San Diego, I discovered a refined twist on Spanish gazpacho. This adaptation of tomato gazpacho with vanilla cream is beautiful to look at and requires no cooking. Quick to prepare, this could be your go-to summer soup on hot, humid days. It has become mine. It’s great for both lunch and dinner as a dazzling starter.William Bradley, the executive chef from Addison, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, presents dishes that are flavorful yet simple in their presentation. If you are ever in California, you owe it to yourself to visit Addison. It will be a lifetime memory for you to experience Bradley’s play on ingredients, textures, colors and final presentation.

Bradley suggests that his gazpacho should only be made during the warm summer months to ensure that the tomatoes’ sweetness and acidity levels are at their peak. I have tried this recipe with both ripe heirloom and beefsteak tomatoes. The heirloom tomatoes win hands down. Mix the colors if you like.

You might be wondering why you add lemon-flavored Perrier to this soup. It is indeed a clever addition of light citrus effervescence.

Make sure to slowly blend in a good quality olive oil so that the soup will have a velvety, smooth texture. His other trick is garnishing with a vanilla cream. It is not only interesting but also happily surprising and totally delicious.

Tomato Gazpacho with Vanilla Cream

Serves 6

6 large red heirloom tomatoes, cored and chopped, about 3 1/2 pounds

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, chopped or 1/2 European cucumber, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 tablespoons creme fraiche

1 cup chilled lemon-flavored Perrier

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Vanilla Cream:

1/4 cup creme fraiche

1/2 teaspoon best quality vanilla extract

1. Combine tomatoes, cucumber, tomato paste, creme fraiche, Perrier and sugar in a blender. Blend on medium speed for two minutes. Continue to blend and slowly stream in olive oil until mixture is emulsified and smooth. Add sea salt to taste. Chill for an hour.

2. To make the cream, whisk together creme fraiche with vanilla.

3. To serve, ladle gazpacho into chilled soup bowls and garnish each with dollops of vanilla cream. Serve immediately.

Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise

This classic Provencal salad is said to originate in Nice, France. Many modern Nicoise-style salads include fresh grilled ahi tuna, but I prefer the imported canned variety packed in oil for a more traditional recipe.

Look for small, bright green beans for sweet tender flavor. You can also use fingerling potatoes and just cut them into thin strips. I prefer hard-boiled eggs to have a bright yellow center that offsets the other colors in the salad. The best method is to bring the eggs to a boil and then turn off the heat, cover them for 9 minutes. Cool and peel.

Nicoise olives add a briny meatiness to this zesty vegetable and tuna mixture. A classic Nicoise salad always include some anchovies so feel free to add them if your group likes them. I am fond of the Spanish white anchovies that come refrigerated and are milder and sweeter than their canned cousins.

Salad Nicoise

Serves 6 to 8


1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes

1 pound green beans, cleaned and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned (see tip)

1 small sweet red pepper, seeded and julienned

1/2 cup Nicoise olives, drained and stemmed

1 small red onion, very thinly sliced and cut into 11/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons finely basil

Freshly ground black pepper

3 5-ounce cans imported tuna packed in oil, drained and broken into chunks


2 medium cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


3 hard-cooked eggs, quartered

2 small tomatoes, sliced into sixths or ½ pint yellow and red cherry tomatoes, halved

Basil leaves

6 to 10 anchovy fillets, rinsed and drained on paper towels (optional)

1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the potatoes until tender but slightly resistant when pierced with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon their size. Drain and cool. When cool, peel and cut into julienne slices. Place in a large bowl.

2. In a medium saucepan bring water to a boil. Immerse the green beans and cook until tender but slightly resistant, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and place in ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, drain well and place in the bowl with the potatoes.

3. Add the carrots, red pepper, olives, red onion, capers, basil, black pepper and half of the tuna to the vegetables and toss to combine.

4. To make the dressing, combine the garlic, mustard, basil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. When ready to serve, use just enough dressing to moisten the salad. Toss carefully to combine, making sure not to break up the capers. Taste for seasoning. Mound the salad high in a large, shallow serving bowl. Place the remaining tuna (and anchovies, if desired) on the top of the salad. Spoon a little dressing on the tuna. Alternate the egg wedges and tomatoes around the outside edge. Garnish with basil leaves and serve. Serve extra dressing on the side.

Tip: To julienne a vegetable, cut it into a rectangle and then cut into thin slices one way and then cut into thin slices the other way creating long, thin strips that look pretty in the salad.

Advance Preparation: This may be prepared through Step 4 up to one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate the dressing and the salad.


Onion Marmalade is My Summer Sidekick for Flavor


Come summertime, Onion Marmalade is a condiment that I use in many dishes. My Seriously Simple motto is seek out maximum flavor and spend minimum time in the kitchen. Even though it takes some time to cook this, you will have it on hand for a variety of different dishes. It can take the place of traditional sauces like ketchup or mustard or can be an extra layer of flavor in a sauce or dip.

There is lots of room for you to personalize this flavor enhancer. Feel free to add a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme. You can also choose your favorite onion varieties like Maui, yellow or red onions. Use port, beer or red wine instead of the balsamic and wine. (Just keep the same proportions in the recipe.) Add shredded Belgian endive or fennel for a slightly bittersweet flavor. I like throwing in pitted and finely chopped black or green olives to add an earthy taste. You can keep this for a month in your refrigerator.

A Few Ways to Use Onion Marmalade

  • Glaze grilled steaks with a thin layer and then slice the steaks
  • Spread a tablespoon on the bread for a better grilled cheese
  • Serve as an accompaniment to grilled sausages, grilled pork tenderloin, veal chops and tri-tip steak
  • Stir a tablespoon into scrambled eggs
  • Use as a filling in omelets, frittatas and in dips.
  • Top sliced toasted baguettes with goat cheese, blue cheese or brie and marmalade
  • Use as a stuffing for chicken breasts or pork chops
  • Add marmalade and chutney to ground turkey for juicy burgers
  • Top sautéed scallops with a teaspoon of marmalade and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • Add to cooked vegetables like green beans, spinach, broccoli or cauliflower.
  • Use as a topping on pizza or bread.

Onion Marmalade

Makes about 1 ½ cups

This recipe may be doubled or tripled. Make sure to use a larger deep casserole to accommodate the larger amount of onions.

1/4 cup olive oil

4 large yellow, red or Maui (or a combination) onions, thinly sliced

¾ cup red wine

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Makes about 1 ½ cups

  1. Heat oil in large non-aluminum casserole on medium high heat. Add the onions and saute for about 12 to15 minutes or until well softened. Stir frequently.
  1. Add the wine, balsamic vinegar and sugar to the onions and simmer on low heat until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the onions are very tender and caramelized into a deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Watch carefully towards the end to avoid burning the onions. Add the salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Advance Preparation: May be prepared up to a month ahead, covered in an airtight container and refrigerated.

Easy as Pie Peach Crostata

Peach Crostata: Easy as Pie

Easy as Pie Peach Crostata

Easy as Pie Peach Crostata

When I am in a pinch for time but want something special for dessert I often fall back on preparing a crostata. Sometimes called a galette in French cooking, this free-form tart has endless variations. A crostata is made by rolling out pastry dough into a large round. The fruit is placed in the center of the pastry and the dough is pulled up around the fruit and folded over to create a rustic looking tart, rather than a perfect-looking formal fruit tart. This couldn’t be easier.


The unassuming appearance is a good thing. Even my friends who fear pastry making have great success with this recipe because it doesn’t have to be picture perfect. The rough country look also expands the opportunity for variation. I have seen versions that feature thick raspberry jam, fresh pitted cherries, apricots and nectarines, blueberries and raspberries to name a few. Depending upon the sweetness of the fruit you select you may need to adjust the amount of sugar you add.


Make sure to roll out the pastry dough to a large 13-inch circle. I keep extra flour on the pastry slab and rolling pin to keep the dough from sticking. The dough can be immediately rolled out and doesn’t need to rest because I use frozen butter that keeps the dough sufficiently chilled. I also use white pastry flour that has a lower gluten content and does not need to rest. If you are using all-purpose flour you can chill it for a half hour before rolling out.


In this crowd-pleasing dessert, the skin is deliberately left on the peaches for a rustic texture. Nectarines can be substituted for the peaches if you like. I like to serve this warm so I will bake it an hour or two before serving. Don’t forget a scoop of French vanilla ice cream.




Peach Crostata

Serves 6



1 1/4 cups white unbleached pastry flour or all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick) frozen, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup ice water



5 tablespoons sugar, divided

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided

6 medium or 4 large peaches, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch pieces


1 pint French vanilla or berry ice cream (optional)


  1. Prepare the pastry: Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process for about 5 seconds. Add the butter and a few tablespoons of water and process until you have a crumb-like texture, about 5-10 seconds. Pat the dough into a round form for easy rolling. If using pastry flour continue immediately. If using all-purpose flour, refrigerate, covered for half hour.
  2. Place a 10-inch diameter removable bottom disc of a springform or removable tart pan on a heavy baking sheet with a rim that is lined with parchment paper. (You won’t need the sides of the springform or tart pan for this freeform tart.)
  3. On a floured surface roll out the pastry into a round 13 inches in diameter. Roll the pastry back onto the rolling pin and transfer it to the tart bottom round, laying the dough flat to cover the round with a 3 inch border overlap all around on the baking sheet. Refrigerate while making the filling.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400F. In a medium mixing bowl, combine 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and the peaches. Remove the tart from the refrigerator and sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon flour evenly over the center of the crust. Arrange the fruit mixture in the center of the pastry and then fold about 3 inches of the pastry edges up around the fruit, making pleats, to look like a free-form tart. Use your thumb and forefinger to make the pleats in the pastry.
  5. Brush the pastry with water and evenly sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the pastry and fruit.
  6. Bake the tart for 40-45 minutes or until the fruit filling is bubbling and the crust is caramelized. Let cool at least 20 minutes on a wire rack. Slide the tart pan bottom to a serving platter. Slice and serve with ice cream.

Advance Preparation: Can be made up to 8 hours ahead and kept at room temperature. Serve room temperature or reheat in the a 325F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.