Posts Tagged ‘quick and easy’

Ham & Swiss Rosti

June 8th, 2010

Ham & Swiss Rosti in the Pan

Week 3, day 3 of My Eating Well Challenge.

Rösti, at its simplest, is shredded potatoes which are pressed into a layer in a saute pan, and fried with some type of fat to make a potato cake that is crispy on the outside, and is generally served as a side to an entree. By adding ham and cheese and serving it with a vegetable or salad, the dish becomes hearty enough for dinner.

I found the rosemary a bit distracting, as it has a particularly aggressive flavor that nearly overwhelmed the cheese and ham. I’d be inclined to leave it out, or cut the amount in half. Otherwise, all the flavors and textures of great comfort food are there, and I’d never have guessed that this rosti is low calorie. You can even forgive yourself for having two pieces if the mood struck you. This would likely be very tasty (and pretty) served for breakfast with a sunny side egg on top, which is what I’ll try next time…and there will definitely be a next time.

Ham & Swiss Rosti
From The EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook
View the recipe and nutritional information at

1 large egg
1 cup diced ham, (about 5 ounces)
1 cup shredded part-skim Jarlsberg, or Swiss cheese, divided
1 shallot, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1. Beat egg in a large bowl. Stir in ham, 1/2 cup cheese, shallot, rosemary, pepper and salt. Add frozen potatoes and stir to combine.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pat the potato mixture into an even round in the pan. Cover and cook until browned and crispy on the bottom, 4 to 6 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Place a rimless baking sheet on top. Wearing oven mitts, grasp the pan and baking sheet together and carefully invert, unmolding the rösti onto the baking sheet. Wipe out any browned bits from the pan. Return it to the heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Slide the rösti back into the pan. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese, cover and cook the second side until crispy and browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Slide onto a platter, cut into wedges and serve.

Ham & Swiss Rosti

Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Asparagus

May 18th, 2010

Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Asparagus

Week 2, day 1 of My Eating Well Challenge. We’re moving on to the next cookbook: The EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook: 150 Delicioius Recipes for Simple, Everyday Suppers in 45 Minutes or Less. At some point I must’ve meant to cook 100 of these recipes, because it’s got Post-Its throughout.

I made a few modifications from the original recipe for Florentine Ravioli, as I wanted to use some leftover fresh spinach as opposed to the frozen spinach the recipe calls for, and had some fresh asparagus on hand. (You’ll notice a lot of asparagus in my recipes and photos; it’s asparagus season here in the northeast.)

This makes for a good, filling supper, and is super easy to fix on a weeknight after work. However, it’s not anything to ooh-and-ah over. You’d think with four large cloves of garlic it would have had more oomph. Next time I’ll add more garlic and crushed red pepper. On the upside, it has pasta, which is wonderful comfort food.

Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Asparagus
Adapted from the EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook
Serves 4

1/2 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 20-ounce package cheese ravioli, or tortellini (4 cups)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Set a large pot of water to boil. Cook the asparagus in the water until just tender, about 3 minutes, and remove it with a slotted spoon, reserving the water.

2. Bring the water back to a boil and cook the pasta per the package directions.

3. In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper, and saute for 30 seconds. Add the spinach, asparagus, and water, and toss until the spinach wilts. Remove the pan from the heat.

4. Drain the pasta, and toss it into the pan with the spinach and asparagus, and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Toss until well combined, portion into four bowls, top with cheese, and serve immediately.

Butter Braised Asparagus and Mushrooms with Peas, Tarragon, Nuts and Lemon

April 26th, 2010

Butter Braised Asparagus

I finally got my hands on some locally grown asparagus last weekend. This is very exciting, as asparagus is at the top of my all-time-favorite-vegetables list, and because there’s not much that beats the flavor when it is newly harvested.

I spent hours wondering what I’d do with it. I could simply roast the stalks in a drizzle of olive oil and a little salt (my favorite preparation), but I wanted something more substantial. Then I remembered the butter braised asparagus I made same time last year when I was having a similar quandary. It has peas, which are also at the top of my all-time-favorite-vegetables list (yes, I do know they are a legume, but work with me on this one), and I had tarragon left over from last week’s chicken pot pie.

Where the original recipe calls for oyster mushrooms, I used a mushroom medley. I added some nuts for crunch, and some lemon for brightness, as well as a few slivers of parmigiano-reggiano, which made this more than just a side dish. Served over a bed of arugula that had been lightly dressed with olive oil, it became our dinner.

Butter Braised Asparagus and Mushrooms with Peas and Tarragon
Adapted from Melissa Clark’s recipe, published May 7, 2008, in the New York Times

– 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 8 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch pieces (preferably oyster, shitake, portobello, or a similar flavorful mushroom, or any combination)
– Kosher salt, to taste
– Freshly ground pepper, to taste
– 12 ounces asparagus, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/4 pieces (see note below on trimming)
– 4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
– 3/4 cups frozen peas
– 1/3 cup chopped walnuts or raw almonds (with skins)
– 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
– Juice of 1/2 a lemon
– 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
– Several slivers of Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to coat mushrooms with butter. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

2. Stir in asparagus, scallions and remaining tablespoon butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes if using thin asparagus, and up to 7 minutes for thick asparagus (until asparagus is just slightly less than fully cooked).

3. Stir in peas, tarragon, lemon juice, lemon zest, and nuts. Cover and cook about three minutes, until peas are heated through and asparagus is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

4. Serve warm, garnished with several shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Public Service Announcement:  Trimming Asparagus
I do not subscribe to the theory that if you snap a piece of asparagus by bending it, you will be left with the perfectly edible portion and may then discard the rest. Snapping a piece of asparagus and tossing the stem end is one of the most atrocious examples of waste I have ever seen. See this photo of snapped asparagus:

Snapped Asparagus

I simply can’t believe that a third of an asparagus stalk is inedible, can you? Dear readers, I beg of you, do not snap your asparagus! Cut a half-inch or so from the bottom to remove the dry end, and then peel the stalk a bit if your asparagus is thick or woody. Asparagus growers everywhere will thank you.

Almond and Herb Baked Tilapia

April 2nd, 2010

Almond and Herb Baked Tilapia

My husband discovered “The 10 Things You Need to Eat” while we were passing time at a bookstore before a show. A paperback with an illustrated cover and no photos, this unassuming book has me captivated. Among the “10 things” are nine ingredients my family loves to eat: quinoa, beets, avocado, lentils, berries, spinach, tomatoes, nuts, and cabbage. I was so intrigued by the recipes, I read it cover-to-cover in one evening. Interspersed throughout is commentary about the benefits of each main ingredient. What a bonus that the recipes are not just good, they are good for you.

The “10th thing” is fish, which I am not particularly fond of, but the recipe for Almond and Herb Baked Tilapia looked intriguing.  I’m glad I tried it, because it is absolutely wonderful, and it took less than 20 minutes to prepare! Add a side of steamed vegetables (I used the microwave-in-the-bag kind), and you have a healthy dinner on the table in no time. The combination of lemon, herbs, garlic, and fish is a no-brainer, but when you add the sweetness and crunch of the nuts, you get something incredibly fragrant and filling. I could eat this several times a month. It would be a great dish to make for guests, since the fillets cook conveniently on one sheet pan in the oven, there’s not the least bit of fishy-smell, and it’ll look like you slaved for hours.

Almond and Herb Baked Tilapia
by Dave Lieberman and Anahad O’Connor
From The 10 Things You Need to Eat: And More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Ways to Prepare Them, HarperCollins, 2010
Recipe © HarperCollins 2010

Tilapia has quickly become one of the most affordable and widely available fish at the supermarket. It has sweet, mild, meaty flesh that is tender as long as you don’t overcook it. This almond and herb topping is vibrant and flavorful, and the toasted sliced almonds add some crunch. But the topping also serves double duty, locking in the moisture of the fish. Lots of good extra virgin olive oil helps the cause too! Serves 4

– 1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
– Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
– 1 cup sliced raw almonds
– 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
– 1/4 cup very finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 4 large, thick tilapia filets (about 6 to 8 ounces each)

Preaheat oven to 400°F.

Toss the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, almonds, garlic, and parsley together in a mixing bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the pieces of tilapia on a large baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Divide the almond and herb mixture among the four pieces of fish and smooth the mixture over each piece to create an even coating.

Bake until the almond mixture has browned slightly and the fish is cooked through and flakes easily, about 15 minutes.

Chef Loryn’s Chicken Pot Pie – Madison, NJ

March 26th, 2010

Chef Loryn’s Cafe and Catering
250 Main Street
Madison, NJ
Phone: 973-520-8703

Chef Loryn's Chicken Pot Pie

Yesterday was the seventh day that I had been sick with the mother of all head colds. I had eaten soup every single day for those seven days. As much as I love soup, I had absolutely had it. No more soup for me. I was beginning to feel better and I wanted solid food. Comfort food!

At 10:30 a.m., feeling very ambitious, I decided I would make meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner. By 2:30 p.m. I decided that all I really wanted to do was go back to bed and have someone cook for me, which is when I remembered Chef Loryn’s Cafe.

Chef Loryn’s is tucked into a tiny corner on Main Street. One could easily miss it if not for the sandwich-board sign on the sidewalk. Although the space is tiny, with just a couple of tables and a table or two out front in nice weather, it’s a space to linger and catch up with neighbors, or Chef Loryn herself, who is often seen taking stock behind the counter and running the kitchen.

We have had sandwiches, soups, and salads to-go from Chef Loryn, all delicious. My favorite is the turkey sandwich on a multi-grain roll with stuffing, lettuce, cranberry sauce, and mayo (ask for it with raw onion – it’s fantastic). A runner-up is the flank steak on a pumpernickel onion roll with grilled onions, lettuce, and horseradish cream. Soups are hearty, and some could be called stews. But honestly I haven’t gotten to a third of the things I’d like to try, just because I’m stuck on that turkey sandwich.

Filled with vegetables and chicken.

Every Wednesday Chef Loryn’s sandwich board says it’s chicken pot pie day. Every week I get an email telling me to pre-order my chicken pot pies. Every time I’m in Chef Loryn’s, I see someone picking up chicken pot pies. Well, it was Wednesday, and hoping I wasn’t too late, I placed the call. Chef herself answered and said, “You’re in luck. I have eight left.” Restraining myself from cornering the market, I ordered three.

When I went to pick them up, she said she had made 108 of them, and they were all sold out. In the winter months she will make more and sell all 150 of those, and I can see why they are so popular. They have a classic puff pastry crust, filled with plenty of carrots, peas, celery, and big chunks of chicken. My only regret is that the gravy has a cornstarch-sheen and stickiness to it, but the flavor is what it should be and it hit the comfort-food spot. I also purchased a side-salad, but one pot pie each was more than enough. At $7.00 per pie, it’s a great deal for a fast, warm dinner.

To heat the pies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake them in their foil on a sheet pan for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the pastry is brown and you can see some bubbling on top.

Visit Chef Loryn’s website and sign up for the mailing list. You’ll get a weekly email of dinners available for you to pick-up throughout the week, which include dishes like meatloaf, chicken cordon bleu, and jumbo lump crab cakes, all served with accompanying sides. Breakfast is also available, as is catering.

Update 3/30/10: This morning I received an email from Chef Loryn that the store suffered a fire. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The store will be closed for a while while they make repairs. They will be honoring all catering contracts. I wish Chef Loryn and her staff the best of luck, and will update this page as soon as they reopen.

Update 5/7/10: The following email was sent to Chef Loryn’s email list: “First we want to thank everyone for all your thoughts and prayers. It has been crazy but there has been some good progress. They have gutted the store and we are hoping to start to rebuild this week. We will keep you updated as much as we can.”

Update 6/21/10: Still no news. I did send an email asking for information but have not heard back. Every now and then there’s a truck outside. I hope that means there is progress and she’ll be reopening soon.

Update 10/27/10: Chef Loryn’s is back in business as of today!

Nespresso’s Le Cube

January 29th, 2010
Nespresso Cube (and Aeroccino, sold separately)

Nespresso's Le Cube (and Aeroccino, sold separately)

I can not make good coffee. I have read at least 50 articles on technique, studied several TV programs, spoken to a number of professionals, tried varying temperatures and filtration of water, bought the best coffee beans, and purchased a truly embarrassing number of coffee grinders and machines, manual and automatic, in a quest to create a drinkable cup of coffee. I have French-pressed, dripped, percolated, and brewed, until I cried tears of spent coffee grounds. After all this, if someone held a gun to my head and screamed, “Make me a GOOD cup of coffee NOW or you’re DEAD!” I’d simply apologize and go quietly to my grave.

As the years (years!) wore on, I discovered what coffee I did and did not like: I liked very strong, but not bitter, coffee. I did not like Starbucks’ coffee, and I loathed Dunkin’ Donuts’. I found most New York City diner-coffee acceptable, but that’s probably because I knew exactly what I was going to get. I liked coffee that had at least some mouthfeel and texture, while I disliked coffee that was watery. And finally, there wasn’t a single place in Madison, New Jersey, or its surrounding area that made good coffee, period. At least it was nice to know it wasn’t just me.  (This last has changed. Nautilus Diner in Madison has OK coffee, and Rob’s Bistro makes a very fine cup of Joe.)

I found I liked espresso. Great espresso has a nutty and dried fruit aroma, a dark body that you can’t see the inside of the cup through, a mousse-like, caramel-colored crema on top, and a rich, strong, coffee flavor. But I’d say 98% of the espresso I’ve been served in restaurants is dark-brown water with a bit of tan-colored foam around the rim, and it tastes as terrible as it looks. The best espresso I’ve had in New York was at Becco in the theater district. Even the server raved about it and crooned that the staff was allowed to have their fill of the stuff for free (oh, the envy).  Starbucks’ espresso, while not great, was passable and my go-to beverage for a long time. Of course, the best espresso I ever had was in Italy, and that wasn’t just one cup. I mean, wherever I went in Italy, I was served excellent espresso. Ah, la dolce vita indeed!

My coffee woes would not normally be a problem. The only one in my house who drinks coffee is me, so nobody need know of my infirmity. But then my ever-observant husband detected two clues of my distress: The first was my wrinkled-nose and screwed-up face along with exclamations of “ick! ick! ick!” during my regular brewing attempts. The second was the growing pile of rejected coffee makers I had retired to the basement, which was reaching an alarming proportion. The coffee grinders were simpler to hide; I would simply call them spice grinders instead.

I honestly don’t remember how we found out about Nespresso’s Le Cube. I think it was when we were in a Sur La Table, but no matter. Christmas of 2006, my husband surprised me with a Cube, and my life changed forever. Look at how perfectly lovely it is (shown in Titanium Grey – it comes in four finishes):

Nespresso Le Cube

Nespresso Le Cube

It really could not be any easier to use. Simply insert a capsule in the top, close it, press a button, and voila! Nearly perfect espresso with a nice crema. There’s even a heating element to warm the cups where they are stored atop the unit (frivolous, yes, but a nice perk). It’s extremely easy to clean, only requiring a descaling rinse once every three months. No machine that costs two month’s rent, no grinding beans, no temperature controls, no lessons in tamping and how to “pull” a cup of espresso. Just a button push. Is it Italy-quality? No, but it is close, with the significant upside that I can make a shot or two in the morning on the way to work without a big production.

There are several varieties of coffee to choose from. My favorite is the Arpeggio. They also have lungo capsules, good for a larger cup, though I find none of them are strong enough for my double cappuccinos, so I sometimes use two singles of the regular capsules. Although the machine is not inexpensive (around $200), the capsules are only $.55. It has certainly paid for itself over the years and is absolutely worth the investment.

The only downside is that Nespresso sells flavored variations toward the end of the year that are limited editions. I was simply over the moon about the chocolate-orange flavor from 2007, but they no longer sell it. Granted this is bastardized espresso, but it was really good as an occasional treat. I was tempted to pay $100 to someone in Europe who was selling 20 capsules on Ebay, but I restrained myself.

I am a cappuccino drinker in the morning, so I purchased Nespresso’s Aeroccino, which froths and warms milk. It works like a charm.

Le Cube really is one of the best gifts I ever received. If you are coffee challenged as I am, or you just like good espresso, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Cream Biscuits

December 27th, 2009

IMG_0053I know that there are people who can whip up a batch of biscuits with butter or lard in a few moments flat. I am not one of them. I have “hot hands,” which means that the moment a stick of butter knows that it is going to be touched by me, my hands burst into blames which then instantly melts the butter. It’s like having an undesired superhero power, and which, needless to say, makes an awful mess. So when I saw this recipe for Cream Biscuits on Smitten Kitchen (a fantastic blog – if you’re not following it, you should), I thought I’d give them a whirl. She assures her readers that they are spectacularly easy, and you know what? They are!

Adapted from “James Beard’s American Cookery,” these biscuits take practically no time to put together. There are no sticky hands or oily countertops. I omitted the sugar, and I’m not sure I would ever add it. The recipe yielded 10 biscuits when I made them. Serve them warm from the oven, with butter of course. They are more substantial than butter biscuits, which makes them perfect to serve with eggs and bacon. You are simply not going to believe how easy these are to make. You’ll be a hero when you make these for your Sunday brunch.

A side note on the bacon: We tried Tommy Moloney’s Back Bacon with our brunch and it was delicious! It’s a bit like a thinly sliced pork loin with beautiful trimmings of fat. We got it at our local supermarket, so it should be relatively easy to find. If you can’t find it and would like to try it, simply use the link to order online.

IMG_0046Cream Biscuits
Adapted from James Beard’s American Cookery, and as blogged on

– 3 tablespoons melted butter
– 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
– 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small pot or microwave dish, and set aside. Sift two cups flour, the baking powder, salt and (if using) sugar into a large bowl. Fold in 1 1/4 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball and, using your hands, press it to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. Cut into rounds, 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Gather dough scraps and continue to make rounds. Dip the top of each round in melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or freeze for future use. [Biscuits can be baked straight from the freezer, and additional few minutes baking time will be needed, usually around 3 to 5.]