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June 2013

Dove Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl Giveaway for Fourth of July

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The Fourth of July holiday is almost here, and to honor it, I’m giving away a gift bag of Dove Chocolates and other goodies. The idea came to me* on my recent visit to the Dove chocolate Factory. I had been invited down there to learn all about their chocolate Promises, and how they were adding mint to them. They were quite excited about it, and I could see why.

I love mint (who doesn’t?) and I add it to many dishes. I put it in a so many dishes, including the following

Send me an email or leave a comment with some of the ways you use mint, and I’ll pick the most interesting one and send you a care package with Dove Mint & Dark Chocolate Swirl Promises, those bite-sized bits of chocolate pleasure, and other things—gum, soap, lip balm, candles—that are made better by mint.

*Note: I’m doing this to be patriotic, and what is more American than making a dollar? For it’s not just out of the goodness of my heart that I’m showering you with chocolate. I’ve been paid by the Dove Chocolate folks to help promote their new product. 

 


Sweating Out a Super Summer Chicken, Red Pepper, Arugula Salad with Roasted Potatoes

Arugula_potato_chicken_salad1

When we were on our honeymoon, twelve-years ago this month, we went to a Turkish bath in Istanbul. Santa Maria went off to one side of the building, and I went to another. I laid out  by myself on a marble slab and marveled at the sheer whiteness of the ancient room I was in. Because I had to leave my eyeglasses in the locker room and the world is an impressionistic blur to me without them, I was a bit befuddled. Also, I wasn’t sure about what to do with my towel (leave it around my waist, or take it off?), so I didn’t enjoy the bath as much as I thought I might have.

I did like having a good shvitz, though, and I was thinking of that this today. For though I wasn’t in Turkey, I was sweating it out in the kitchen of our Brooklyn apartment. It was Sunday, which around here means “cook-for-the-week” time, and we had spent the morning visiting friends in Manhattan. We got about around 3 p.m., and I started chopping. I knocked off a tagine for Monday night (I had started by marinating the beef on Friday), black beans for Tuesday, and a giant bowl of quinoa salad, for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday lunches (Santa Maria and I will split it).

At the same time, of course, I needed to make Sunday dinner. Now that summer is here, I’m back to making the chicken/red-pepper/arugula salad. It’s a super easy, super delicious, spectacular summer dish. It is good for a hot day because the chicken is cut into pieces, and this means that it takes slightly less time to roast than a whole bird. When you don’t want to heat the house up too much, this is important.

I love this salad, and I’ve written about it before (see here for how it is a good, break-apart-to-keep-the-family-together dish), but tonight I added a new twist: tiny roasted potatoes. They added a bit of salty crunch and, because they are a starch, turned the salad into a complete meal. It made perfect sense to add them to the mix—I had the oven going anyway, and I was already sweating. 

Arugula, Chicken, and Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Crispy Potatoes 
  • 1 Chicken, cut into parts
  • One Onion, sliced
  • One Red Pepper, sliced
  • Olive Oil, a drizzle
  • 1 baking potato, diced very fine
  • Thyme, to taste
  • Salt and Pepper
  • White wine
  • Arugula (enough for two to four, depending on how many you are serving)

 

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

Mix the chicken, onion, pepper, thyme, and olive oil in a bowl until well coated.
Arrange the chicken in a large roasting pan so it is skin side up. Put the onions and peppers in and around the chicken.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Roast the chicken and the vegetables until the onion and pepper are soft and the chicken is crispy and cooked through, about a half hour to forty-five minutes.
Rinse the diced potatoes in water and dry them with a dish towel.
Put them in a bowl and coat with oil. Salt to taste.
Lay them out on a large baking sheet and roast in the oven with the chicken, taking care not to burn them. They will take about a half hour.
Remove the chicken, onions, and peppers when the chicken is brown and the internal temperature of the breast is about 165.
Wash the arugula and dress with oil and vinegar. Lay chicken pieces, onion, and red pepper over the greens. Top with the roasted potatoes.

What is the Best Knife for an Onion? A Recipe for Salad Nicoise

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Santa Maria called our dinner tonight “Get him/her to marry you salad.” To the rest of the world it is known as salad nicoise, but to her it was something more. “I was craving chocolate earlier today,” she said, “and then I thought of having this salad for dinner.”

Most of the time, cooking around the Stay at Stove Dad house is a frenetic affair, kind of like watching a pot boil over. But tonight, the stars must have been aligned because Santa Maria and I stood side by side after the kids went to bed and made dinner like proper adults, and ate it at a time—8:30—that was appropriate for life in New York City.

This is a dish that’s easy to make, but all the chopping and washing can be time consuming. Having a partner beside you in the kitchen makes it go all the more quickly.

I started by boiling the potatoes and eggs as soon as I came home from work.

Potatoes_and_eggs

I went on to wash the arugula, cook the green beans, and get ready to assemble the salad. But first I had to put the kids to bed.

 

Once the kids were in bed, Santa Maria started to cut up the red onion (we were out of shallots). When I saw her using serrated knife, I had to stop her.

Knives

She didn’t know that using a serrated knife on an onion can result in more tears than using a straight-edged knife. Because we are already married and with kids, there are more than enough tears around the house on a regular day, so I kindly suggested she use a different knife. She thanked me, and finished making the dressing. For more on what knife is the best knife for the job, check out Simple Bites: Know Your Knives. For the nicoise recipe, see below.

 

Get Him/Her to Marry You Salad Nicoise 

  • 2 red potatoes, boiled and cut into cubes
  • A fistful of green beans, steamed
  • Enough arugula for two (or about ½ head Romaine Lettuce, washed and torn into bit sized pieces)
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • ¼ cup pitted nicoise olives
  • ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes (or more)
  • 1 can tuna in oil
  • 4-6 anchovies

For the dressing:

  • Olive oil
  • Mustard
  • White-wine vinegar
  • Thyme, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots (or red onion, in a pinch)
  • Salt and Pepper

Combine the potatoes, beans, lettuce, olives, tomatoes, and eggs in a bowl.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing, to taste.

Dress the salad, and top with tuna and anchovies


Where Did the Week-Old Chicken Go? Into the Best Chicken Soup Ever

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Some things just get better with time. I had a chance to reflect on this during Father’s Day. I wasn’t thinking about my skills as parent, but, rather, a week-old chicken I had lingering in the fridge.

On Father’s Day, I had planned to take it easy around the kitchen. On a typical Sunday, I’m busy cooking about three things at time for the coming week. They could be anything from quinoa salad, to black beans, to Bolognese sauce. This Sunday, though, I wanted to relax.

Santa Maria helped in many ways. She made two fantastically rich and delicious Dutch babies for breakfast, and she took the family out for dinner. For lunch, she and I had chicken-rice soup that I made that morning. For try as I might, I can’t stay out the kitchen. There's always something that pulls me back into it.

I had fallen behind in cooking last week and ended up with an extra chicken that was getting past its sell-by date. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t have room for it in my freezer, and I just left it in the fridge. It started to get a bit stinky, and I new the only way I could salvage it would be to make soup.

There’s something about an old chicken that makes chicken soup even more delicious, so I knew I wouldn’t be doing any harm by letting that bird molder a bit. Sure enough, when I cooked up that soup, it was rich and delicious.  

Old-Chicken Chicken Soup

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 chili pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • One three-to-four-pound chicken (older better than fresher)
  • 1 lemon, halved and juiced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • pepper to taste


        Put the rice on to cook. Add a bay leaf or two and salt if desired.

        Heat some olive oil in a tall stock pot.
        Add the onions, carrots, and celery.
        Saute until the onions are translucent.
        Add the garlic and chili pepper.
        Saute until the garlic is soft.
        Rinse and add the whole chicken to the pot. 
        Add enough water to the pot to cover the chicken.
        Add the bay leaves, lemon halves and juice, and other spices.
        Cover and bring to a boil.
        Reduce to a simmer.
        Cook for about an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through.
        Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon. 
        Remove the lemon halves, chili pepper, and bay leaves.
        Pick the meat from the chicken and return to the soup. 
        Stir in the rice.

        Notes: Remove the chili pepper earlier if you want the soup less spicy. The soup freezes well.


A Visit to the Dove Chocolate Factory

Chocolate_line_factoryLR3

I knew that sweet and wonderful things would start happening as soon as I became a parent and started blogging about cooking, but I never expected to get a tour of a chocolate factory. This is true—the other day, I was on a junket with mom and food bloggers, thanks to the folks who make Dove Chocolate. They wanted to show us how they do it, and tell us a bit about their latest product, which mixes mint and dark chocolate into an enticing treat (I’ll have more about it soon).

Our train tickets said “Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania,” but when we disembarked at the station, which was surrounded by rolling green hills and air that smelled like chocolate, a chauffeur asked us if we were going to Mars. I blinked and then realized that she wasn’t referring to the planet, but rather to the parent company of Dove. This is because when she said “Mars,” all I could think of was “Venus.” At that moment I was surrounded by a gaggle of witty and talkative mom bloggers. I was the only man in the group. Paging Dr. John Gray…

The mom bloggers included Michelle (The Adventures of Supermom), Amy (Selfishmom), and Coleen (Classymommy)—clearly I was out of my league here. I did my best to follow along. My largest handicap, so to speak, was my lack of a sweet tooth, which has helped to keep me healthy for years, but in this case created a challenge. While all the bloggers, among them Alissa, of Clever Compass, Jennifer, of Savory Simple, Rachel, of Coconut & Lime, were “oohing” and “ahhing” over the chocolate, I was ogling the machinery.

The factory was a marvel of cleanliness and efficiency. It was a spotless place of whirring metal, tireless robots, and serious-faced technicians, outfitted, like us, in lab coats, hairnets, helmets, goggles, and industrial-strength earplugs. Safety and hygiene were paramount there. The giant machines had German names like “Bosch” and seemed to represent the pinnacle of engineering. We learned that there are little markings inside a box that are read by sensors on the machines, which whip and flip and spin the packaging material into boxes and wrappers with lightening speed.

The best way to imagine the machines is to picture the world’s largest photocopier, but instead of paper going in and coming out, there is chocolate. And the few times the machines broke down, the technicians looked exactly like office workers trying to get a jammed photocopier to work. They slid out big parts of it, and re-aligned bits of wrapper and metal, closed up the doors, and pushed the buttons again to see if it would work.

Ed Seguine, Dove’s resident chocolate expert, led us through a tasting of the three lines of Dove Promises, the little chocolate treat that’s wrapped in foil and comes with an inspirational quote inside. He taught us to savor each bite, and also went on to discuss the mapping of the chocolate genome (which was accomplished a few years ago) and how that information is kept in the public sphere (no one can patent it) so the industry and farmers can find better ways to grow cacao trees, the seeds of which give us chocolate. It was a fascinating trip, and I can still smell that enticing chocolate scent in the air, and taste the creamy flavor of the Dove bars. I'll be return shortly with more on the new product, which I plan on giving away. Come back soon.

One final note: I was paid to take this trip and cover it here, and that has to be the sweetest most wonderful thing of all.


Cracking the Salmon Code: A Recipe to Silence a Crying Child

Salmon_Fillet-2
After years of searching, I finally cracked the salmon code. I have definitive proof, based on a sample size of one, that there is a recipe for salmon that will silence a crying child. Yes, that is correct: It will turn tears to laughter, I guarantee it. I can’t claim any genius in this regard, but I can point to a convenient intersection of common sense and applied knowledge. More plainly put, I used an herb butter. A lot of an herb butter, that is.

We have long been in the habit of eating wild Alaskan salmon, and because of what’s available to us and our budget, that has tended to be a frozen, leaner cut of salmon. As I now know from my good friends at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the state is home to five wild salmon species: king, sockeye, coho, pink, and keta. That list roughly describes their richness, moving from the mouthwatering king to the less luscious keta. Keep in mind that all this salmon is delicious, but in my family my kids have been in the habit of eating wild keta at home and, typically, a farm-raised, über-fatty salmon when they are at their grandmothers. Ask them any day which they prefer, and they’ll say “grandma’s.”

It’s my preference, for reasons of health, well-being, and environmental sustainability, that we eat wild salmon from Alaska, and because I’m the one doing the cooking, that’s what they typically get. What I usually get is some grumbling before they eat it, though they always do eat it.

Tonight, for various reasons that I can’t explain (and even if I could, they probably wouldn’t be interesting—haven’t you ever gotten busy with work?) I had a nice fillet of salmon lingering in the fridge that I had defrosted a few days ago. I was going to cook it Thursday. Then I was going to cook it Friday. We were out last night, so that left tonight. The salmon couldn’t wait any longer.

Given that it had been sitting around for a few days, I was a bit worried about how it would smell and taste. I have to say, though, that even three days after being defrosted, it was clean and crisp smelling. There wasn’t a hint of fishy odor. They must freeze those fillets the moment they are cut.

Knowing that I was going to cook some slightly-old salmon, and knowing who I was going to cook it for—my volatile  kids—I softened about four tablespoons of butter well in advance of this evening. (Truth be told, I’ve been softening that butter since Thursday.)

I shook a good bunch of dried thyme into it, and mashed it about. I put the fillet on a piece of foil on a baking sheet, and I turned up the edges of the foil to catch any melting butter. I slathered the herb butter on the fish and I broiled it close to the flame for about five minutes—until it started to brown on top and get sufficiently attractive—and then turned the flame off and let the fish cook through in the hot oven, about four or so more minutes. Your fillet might be a different thickness than mine, and you should adjust cooking temperatures accordingly.

Because of work deadlines and other responsibilities around the house, I was cooking dinner tonight much later than I would have liked. With a six-year-old in the house, that can make a big difference. My youngest was exhausted by the time dinner was on the table, and she was crying inconsolably, saying quite emphatically that she wasn’t hungry, she was tired, tired, tired, tired.”

Santa Maria put her on her lap and let her taste the salmon. She was skeptical, but she took a bite. Her face lit up with smile. “That’s yummy,” she said. She liked it so much that when some dropped on the floor, she picked it up and ate it. Now if that isn’t proof of a good recipe, I don’t know what is.

Smiling Thyme-Butter Salmon

  • 1 salmon fillet (figure about 6 ounces per person)
  • 1-4 tablespoons of soften butter (depending on how much fish you are cooking)
  • 1-3 tablespoons of dried thyme (ditto)
  • Salt and pepper

Put the fillet skin-side down on a sheet of foil atop a baking sheet. Curl the edges of the foil up to catch any melthing butter.

Mash the herbs into the butter and spread it thickly on the fish. Salt and pepper the flesh.

Broil under a high flame, close the flame, for about five minutes, or until the top of the fish is browned.

Finish the fish, if necessary, by leaving it in the hot oven (turn the flame off) for a few minutes. The fish is cooked when the color of the flesh changes and it flakes. Watch it carefully, and you will see.

Note: The fish this evening was supplied by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institue, but all opinions are mine.

 


Rainbow Trout Surprise

I’ve hit my stride as a home cook, but this success has come at a price. I often make the same things over and over (much like home cooks through the ages) and I've become so good at some of them, I can't get my kids to eat anything else. Worse, I find myself not willing to try something new, not because I might fail at making it, but I might fail at getting anyone to eat it.

This came up for me the other night. It was a Friday, and I had told the kids we'd be having Bolognese. It's one of my favorite end-of-week meals. It's easy (at least the defrosting, heating, and serving part is easy) and everyone loves it, perhaps a bit too much.

That Friday, I was meeting a friend for coffee in the morning, and he surprised me with a cooler full of rainbow trout. He had been fly fishing earlier that week, and he wanted to share his bounty. The stream he had been working was fully stocked, he said, and the fishing was so easy that he imagined hourly workers under the water putting the hooks in the mouths of the fish.

I grew up around seafood—having worked in a retail fish market through much of my adolescence and beyond—and for me, the operative word is “sea.” I’ve mostly been a salt-water man, and I haven’t eaten much fresh-water fish. The trout was new to me, but it made Santa Maria think of her childhood. When she was a girl, her brother used to fly fish for trout near where she grew up, and they had wild trout fairly often. She grew misty eyed while eating it the other night.

Nina and Pinta, who will jump at almost any fish, didn’t want to even try the trout. It wasn’t really their fault, and it certainly wasn’t the fault of the fish. It was the fault of the Bolognese. Short of serving ice cream for dinner, there’s nothing that can trump that sauce right now in the minds of my children, and they weren’t going to fall for a bait and switch. They wanted the Bolognese, so I ended up serving that, and cooking up the trout. I didn’t mind: at least it was something new.

Simple Butterflied Wild Trout

  • 2 wild trout, butterflied 
  • a bit of olive oil
  • a bit of dried thyme

Spread the trout on a baking sheet, flesh side up. Dress with a bit of the oil and the thyme and some salt and pepper.

Trout 2

Put under the broiler about five or so minutes, until the head and any exposed skin is a bit charred and the flesh just barely cooked through. 

Trout 3

Note: fresh fish like this doesn't need much. The less done to it, the better. Same is probably true for kids.