Wednesday, April 19, 2017

CAST-IRON STEAK

To this day, my favorite cooking utensil is cast iron. I know, it has fallen out of favor in recent times due to the proliferation of Teflon and other non-stick appliances. I can understand the convenience of quick cleaning of a pot or pan. Even aluminum and stainless steel sometimes require a degree of elbow grease to get the thing clean. Point taken. But cast-iron is not that hard to clean. Just wash in hot soapy water, using a scrub brush or sponge. Yes, you can use soap on cast-iron. Today's gentle, modern soaps will not strip away the pan's seasoning. I've been using soap to wash my cast-iron for years, and they're as beautiful as ever. After washing, wipe clean, and store. Some recommend rubbing a thin film of oil that's been heated for a couple of minutes.They say it keeps better. My experience is that, after being completely wiped dry, the thing will store forever with or without the film of oil. Some folks recommend cleaning cast-iron with a hefty dose of  kosher salt, and then scrub clean. Honestly, I've never tried it this way but, if it works, more power to you.

The other thing I enjoy is a good steak now and then. And cast-iron is perfect for cooking steak. It's fast, easy, and the results are sublime. The union of two perfect ensembles. Note that with the recipe given, any good cut of meat will do---porterhouse, flatiron, flank steak, whatever. But if you're short on change and want to do chuck steak, go right ahead.

This time I served the steak with that perennial favorite, potatoes. In this case, parsley potatoes. Simple: boil 2-3 large potatoes until tender, and cut into chunks. Mix 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice with 1/4 fresh chopped parsley. Toss potatoes with parsley-lemon juice mixture, and you're set.
 CAST-IRON STEAK

1 1/4 pounds of your favorite steak, about 1-inch thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1.  Wash steak under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Season steak with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano.
2. Heat oil in a large 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak and cook 3 minutes. Flip over and cook 2-3 minutes more for medium rare. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice steak and serve with potatoes.
    Yield: 4 servings.
   

Thursday, April 13, 2017

EASTER LAMB (WITH PINEAPPLE)

Here we are again, the Easter Holidays. Time to break out the big Easter ham or, in our case, the lamb. In our family, lamb was it for this particular occasion. It was made Puerto Rican style with lots of spices so that it tasted more like pork than anything else (we did the same thing with the Thanksgiving turkey).

This time around, we're going to try something different: leg of spring lamb with pineapples. It's a really neat and easy dish to make. Perfect it you're lucky enough to procure a New Zealand or Australian leg of lamb with its tender and more delicate flavor. I find these variations the best---unless you're near a farm that raises lamb on  premises. You can find lamb in the frozen meat section of your supermarket, or Caribbean markets where you may be able to find it fresh. Whichever, you can't go wrong with this dish. Just right for one of the most important and oldest of Christian festivals.

EASTER LAMB (WITH PINEAPPLE)

1 leg of lamb, about 5 pounds
2 cloves garlic, sliced into small slivers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 can (1lb. 4-oz) pineapple chunks


1. Wash leg of lamb under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. With a sharp knife, make small slits throughout the lamb. Insert the garlic slivers into the slits.
3. Brush the lamb with the olive oil. Sprinkle all over with the oregano, salt and pepper. Place in a covered dish, or wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or better yet, overnight.
4. Place lamb in a  roasting pan, and roast in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour.
5. Pour undrained pineapple chunks over lamb. Roast 1 1/2 to 2 hours or more depending on desired degree of doneness, basting frequently.
    Yield: 8 servings.



Friday, April 7, 2017

FISH FILLETS WITH BREAD CRUMBS

Breadcrumb crusted fish (or breaded fish) is a popular item these days. You can even find it in fast-food joints with such names as "Filet-O-Fish Sandwich" and "Fillet Fish Sandwich;" and sometimes a place may even own up by calling it a "Fried Fish Sandwich." Usually served on a bun, these items are sheer killers in terms of health. They average from 350 to 480 calories, and 640 mg. of sodium or more. No matter how tasty, they are heart attacks on a plate.

Making this dish at home is much easier, healthier, and, yes, tastier. It's an inexpensive way to satisfy your cravings while giving your arteries a break. In the recipe given you can use any firm fleshed fish fillet---cod, haddock, perch, turbot, etc. Wanna splurge, get some fillet of sole. You probably have all the ingredients already in your cupboard. In terms of breadcrumbs, want to be fancy about it---make your own, or use Japanese panko. Anyway, forget about the greasy spoon down the street. Stay home and cook something good.

The usual accompaniment to fish fillets is potatoes and/or greens. True to my Puerto Rican heritage, I serve them with tostones (deep fried plantains). For a good recipe on tostones check my post of 09/09/10. My website (www.oswaldrivera.com - 10/16/16) also offers both a recipe and video on how to prepare fried plantains. Making them ain't that hard.


FISH FILLETS WITH BREADCRUMBS

1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light or low-fat mayonnaise
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 1/4-2 pounds fish fillets

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. In another bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and oregano.
3. Place fish fillets on a greased baking pan (I prefer cast-iron). Top with yogurt-mayonnaise sauce, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake fish until fillets are tender and breadcrumbs are golden, about 15 minutes.
    Yield: 4 servings.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

SHAKSHUKA

Shakshuka which translates as "mixture" in Egyptian Arabic, is a dish very common in the Middle East. It's simply a mess of eggs poached in tomatoes, greens, bell peppers and onions. What I like about this flavorsome dish is that it's traditionally prepared in a cast-iron pan. Of course, you can use any adequate deep skillet if cast-iron is not your thing. In North Africa they use an earthenware pot. Either way, it's a glorious mix which can also include spicy sausage (a Spanish innovation) or salty cheeses. In Israel, it's a popular breakfast dish served with challah bread.

Another thing I like about shakshuka is that you can add or change anything to it. So it works for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Caribbean shakshuka would add oregano, garlic and parsley. French shakshuka could add a hollandaise sauce, Mexican shakshuka could add re-fried beans.You get the idea, It's versatile, quick, and delicious. What more could you want?

SHAKSHUKA

1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into strips
1 teaspoon brown sugar
I bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried
4 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped, or 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon saffron thread (or can substitute turmeric)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bunch spinach, washed and sliced into ribbons
1 15-ounce can white kidney beans, drained
4 to 8 eggs, depending on how many servings
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese (can substitute goat cheese, Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano)

1. In a large cast-iron skillet, toast cumin seeds over high heat for approximately 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium, add oil and onion. Sauté until onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add bell peppers, sugar, bay leaf, scallions, and thyme. Cook over high heat, stirring until peppers are browned (6-8 minutes).
2. Add tomatoes, saffron and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. If mixture becomes too dry, add a little water.
3. Remove bay leaf. Stir in spinach, reduce heat to low, and cook  for 4-5 minutes until spinach is wilted.
5. Stir in beans. Increase heat to medium, and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. With the back of a large spoon, make evenly spaced shallow hollows for as many eggs as you are using. Carefully crack each egg into a hollow. Season each egg with salt and pepper, cover pan and cook gently until eggs are set (10-12 minutes).
6. Spread cheese over mixture. Allow heat to soften the cheese, and serve shakshuka with crusty bread.
    Servings: 4 or more.