Thursday, February 9, 2017

Spiced Rubbed Steak

How about a great steak dinner for St. Valentine's Day? And by "great" I mean something that's fairly quick and easy to prepare. Of course, your significant other won't know that. They'll see that steak dish and go "Oh my!" And you'll have it in the bag for the rest of the evening.

St. Valentine's Day dinners are special occasions. This is not a mac n' cheese thing---unless, of course,  your valentine loves mac n' cheese. In which case, go at it. But if it's special then the steak will have to be special. By that I mean filet mignon, or T-bone, or even better yet, porterhouse steak. That's the dish given below. This is where the spice rub comes in. Improvise: take whatever you have in the cupboard, mix or grind all the spices, rub on each side of the meat, let stand 30 minutes, and roast. Nothing could be easier. With a bottle of champagne, or your favorite bubbly, and you're set for a great evening.

This dish can be served with the old stand-by, potatoes, or whatever vegetables desired. Want to impress your darling even more, you can do dumplings or tostones (fried green plantains - see post of  9/9/10).


2  2-inch porterhouse steaks
2  tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2  garlic cloves, crushed, or 1/2  teaspoon garlic powder
1  teaspoon salt
3  tablespoons fresh chopped thyme or 1 tablespoon dried
2  tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon dried
2  tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Wash steaks under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
3. Crush peppercorns and garlic in a mortar or spice mill.
4 .Place crushed spices in a small bowl, and mix in salt, thyme, and oregano.
5. Brush both sides of meat with olive oil. Then rub with spice mixture into each side. Set aside and let stand 30 minutes.
6. Place in oven-proof dish and roast for about 25 minutes for rare ( to be sure, meat thermometer inserted into center of steak should register 125 degrees F.). Let stand 10 minutes, and serve.
    Yield: 3-4 servings.     

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Easy Rigatoni (or any pasta)

This is the easiest pasta dish I know. At it's simplest it's pasta (of whatever kind you like) with garlic oil and hot red pepper. And the beauty of this dish is that you can innovate by adding whatever ingredients you need. The basic recipe is the same. The additions will give you the innovations you desire.

In the recipe given I used rigatoni (they were on sale at the supermarket and I said, What the hell, let's go with it). That's why I call the dish "Easy Rigatoni." But you can use string types like spaghetti or linguini; or tubular ones like ziti, rotini, or even plain elbow noodles. So the dish can be can be Easy Angle Hair, Easy Perciatelli (or Bucatini), Easy Fettuccini, etc.  The choices are infinite. Also, to the base recipe I added onion, black olives and, of course, Parmesan cheese (you can substitute Romano or Asiago). If you like, you can add seafood or meat, or whatever strikes your fancy. Or keep it plain and simple. It'll still be worth the effort, which is minimal.


1 pound box rigatoni
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1 medium onion, peeled and slice into thin rings
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small hot red pepper, seeded and crumbled into tiny pieces
1 5.75-oz. can large or jumbo black olives, drained and sliced in half
Parmesan cheese

1. Cook rigatoni in salted water according to package directions.
2. While pasta is cooking, heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent.
3. Add garlic and hot red pepper, and cook about 2 minutes more.
4. Drain rigatoni, stir in garlic/hot  sauce. Add two tablespoons olive oil, mix well, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Crab Cakes

Put crab cakes on a restaurant menu, and it's gonna sell out pretty quick. They're a favorite all season  long. Crab cakes are actually a type of fish cake popular through out the U.S. The ingredients may vary but every recipe I've come across always contain bread crumbs, mayonnaise and eggs. And then you can add whatever seasonings desired. So, don't be shy, experiment. Usually served as an appetizer, it's an easy dish to prepare at home. In the Rivera clan we love crab cakes. The preferred topping for crab cakes is tartar sauce. With or without the tartar sauce, we eat them for breakfast with eggs, and an an entrĂ©e for dinner with rice, veggies or whatever.

The recipe given follows the traditional method of frying in butter (if you're worried about cholesterol intake, you can substitute olive oil). Or you can bake the suckers: just preheat oven to 375 degree F. and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.


1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 6-oz. cans crab meat, drained
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

1. In a medium-sized bowl combine all ingredients, mixing by hand, Form into good-sized patties, about 1/2-inch thick.
2. In a large skillet (I prefer cast-iron) heat butter over medium heat. Fry patties until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
    Yield: 4 servings (about 8 patties).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Broiled Tofu

I didn't come across tofu, or bean curd, as an edible until my young manhood. It was sometime back in 1970, when I had just returned from Vietnam that I came across this product that had been a staple of Asian cooking for centuries. We never had such a thing when I was growing up in Spanish Harlem. When I first tasted it, at the behest of some adventurous vegetarian friends, I was, to be honest, underwhelmed. The thing had no flavor. But then I discovered that, ironically, that was the beauty of it: tofu can acquired whatever flavor you give it, whether cooked or not. In my bachelor days I had a lady friend whose signature dish was plain tofu, cubed, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little soy sauce, and served over rice or whatever grain was available. That such a simple dish could be heavenly, was new to me. Over the ensuing years, tofu has become a national rage, and tofu cookbooks abound, all celebrating its health benefits.

I'm not that much concerned about its health aspects, so much as its flavor profile. As noted, stir-fried, sauteed, boiled or baked, bean curd will take on whatever flavor designation you desire. You can make it mild to the taste, or more spicy as in a previous post in which I rendered Fried Tofu with Sichuan Peppercorn Sauce (05/14/14).  The recipe given does not incorporate hot peppercorns of any type. It's just a simple preparation of broiled tofu with whatever spices you have on hand. Served over steamed white rice (or brown rice, if you must), and nothing could be tastier or better for you.


14 ounces firm or extra firm tofu
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil or vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (can substitute white vinegar)

1. Rinse tofu under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Slice into 1-inch cubes. The  best way to do this is to slice the tofu into 1-inch rectangles, then  slice rectangles into cubes.
2. Heat broiler on high and arrange a rack in top third of oven.
2. Whisk the soy sauce, olive oil, pinch pf pepper, oregano and garlic powder in a medium shallow bowl. Dip the tofu  pieces in the soy sauce mixture to coat (let the excess sauce drip back into the bowl). Then lay the pieces on a baking sheet, or place in a baking pan (for this I always use my trusted cast-iron pan). Set the remaining sauce aside.
3. Broil the tofu until browned, about 10-15 minutes, turning the tofu every 5 minutes to brown on all sides, and remove from oven.
4. Add the scallions, vinegar and sesame oil to the reserved sauce and toss to coat. Serve with steamed rice.
    Yield: 4 servings.