Posts Tagged ‘simmer’

Since starting the blog, my hands down favorite thing is hearing back from people who have enjoyed the posts and are trying new things, inspired and delighted to be in the kitchen.  My friend Sue (who I hope you all visited a couple of weeks ago when I guest-posted at The Desperate Housemommy ) sent me this message on Wednesday:

“I am frizzling capers and measuring anchovy paste by decree of The Barefoot Contessa. Stay tuned!!!”


My second favorite thing is posting and archiving my all time favorite recipes.  Most evenings, after the house is buttoned down for the night, you can find me curled up perusing the stacks and stacks of cookbooks and magazines which have a tendency accumulate at my house.  (Mr. “One-Click” at Amazon beckons me frequently.)  I am always trying new recipes, but it is pretty rare for me to like something so much I want to make it a second time.  Or tell my friends about it.  I am pretty picky.

Over the years, after trying thousands of different things, I have built a répertoire of “go-to” recipes I make over and over again. These are my “A” player recipes, the ones I count on and always get gobbled up with rave reviews.  Spicy Thai garlic ginger peanut sauce is way at the top of the list.  It’s a recipe circa 2001 from Cooking Light.  I make this all the time.  It is quick, simple and versatile.  It goes great with grilled chicken or beef satay skewers.  I also use the sauce to make hot Peanutty Noodles – click for the link.

I don’t have a deep bench when it comes to Asian/Oriental ingredients in my pantry.  I love, love, love Asian flavors and food, but I tend to go out to restaurants to get my fix rather than cook it at home.  I like this recipe because there is not a long list of asian ingredients or tools you have to go out and buy first before making it.  The recipe does calls for a couple of ingredients you might have to hit the store for: fresh ginger (don’t worry I will show you how) and chili garlic sauce.  Other than that, you should have everything else at home.

Spicy Thai Garlic Ginger Peanut Sauce

inspired from CookingLight magazine


2 tsp fresh grated ginger

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 TBSP olive oli

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1/4 soy sauce

3 TBSP rice vinegar

1 TBSP Chili Garlic Sauce


This is a knob fresh ginger – find it in the produce section next to the bean sprouts and snap peas.

Break off one of the arms and peel it with a vegetable peeler.

Grate the peeled piece of ginger until you accumulate 2 tsp.  Inhale deeply and let the wonderful aroma transport you away.  The unused ginger  can be stored in a baggie and refrigerated.

Saute the fresh ginger and garlic in the olive oil for a quick 30 seconds.

Add the chili garlic sauce.  Here is a picture of the chili garlic sauce.  I get the brand with the rooster on the label.  Another brand easy to find is Lee Kum Kee.

Add the chicken broth, peanut butter, soy sauce and rice vinegar.

Stir until well blended.  Reduce heat and gently simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

It will get thick like this when it is done.  Toss it with hot noodles to make Peanutty Noodles.  Grill chicken or beef skewers and serve with this dipping sauce for satays.  It’s great to make it ahead and refrigerate.  (Let it come to room temperature before you use.)  Let me know if you have more ideas on how to use it!



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Shhhh…..I’ve got a secret.  Risotto is really not hard to make.  It’s easy!  If anyone tells you different they are sandbagging. Parmigiano-Reggiano Risotto is basic and classic and oh-so good just as its perfect self.  But….(drum roll please)… once completed you can add in any number of other goodies to the creamy rice like caramelized butternut squash or grilled lemon shrimp to take it up a notch.  But let’s save those risotto recipes for another day.  Today is all about never letting basic risotto technique intimidate you again!

Parmigiano-Reggiano Risotto


6 cups chicken stock (may need a little more or less)

4 TBSP butter cut in cubes

1 medium onion, small dice

2 cups Arborio rice (do not substitute any other rice- find it in the specialty Italian aisle at the market)

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

salt and pepper to taste


Empty the chicken stock into a sauce pan and heat it up to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and keep the stock warm on a side burner. We will use it in a minute.   In a separate large saute pan melt the butter and add the diced onions.  Cook over low heat for 8-10 minutes until onions are translucent and soft.

Unless you can get your hands on Italian risotto Aborio rice don’t attempt this recipe.  Look for it in the specialty Italian aisle at the market.  Add the Aborio rice to the onion mixture and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Sauteing the rice kernels first is a very important step and activates the starches in the rice to cook properly. If you don’t saute the rice first your final risotto will be mushy.

After the rice has sauted for 3-4 minutes add the white wine.  Cook over medium heat stirring frequently until the rice absorbs all the wine which will take 2-3 minutes.

It will look like this

Next add two cups of the hot stock.

Simmer stirring occasionally until rice absorbs all the liquid.  This will take about 8-10 minutes.  Repeat this method of adding hot stock and cooking the rice until it absorbs all the liquid twice using two cups of hot stock each time.  If you happen to use up all the stock and the mixture is still too thick (or maybe the rice has not cooked all the way yet) no worries –  just add a little hot water until you get the consistency you want.  Visa versa, if the mixture is too runny just cook it a little longer until the liquid is absorbed.

It should look like this when finished cooking.

Take it off the heat and stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Heavenly & delicious!

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This salmon tastes so good and is so easy to assemble it takes the intimidation factor out of cooking fish at home.  My friend Jackie is a budding novice gourmand and can’t wait to try this recipe solo!

Herb Poached Salmon


1.5 lb Salmon Fillet (no skin)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 grated fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese

3-6 TBSPS fresh chopped herbs (parsley, dill, & chives)

salt and pepper to taste


I have really good luck buying fish at Costco.  Salmon is usually marketed as either farm raised or wild.  I like the farm raised because it tastes a bit milder.  Salmon is a rich, full flavored fish full of those good omega 3 fatty acids to boot.  The fish should smell fresh and exhilarating just like the sea.  The color should look bright, vibrant and appealing.  If it has an unpleasant strong fishy odor don’t buy it – it’s already old.  Costco prints the packing date on their fish package which helps immensely to gauge freshness.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place the salmon fillet in a casserole dish.  (If it is colder than room temperature add a couple extra minutes when cooking)  Make the poaching liquid by combining the wine and lemon juice and pour it over the fillet.

Make a dressing from the grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, mayonnaise, chopped herbs, salt and pepper.  If it seems too thick squirt in a little fresh lemon juice.

It will look like this.

Spread the dressing over the fillet.  Cover the casserole with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes.  After it comes out of the oven leave the foil on and let it rest for 10 minutes.

After the foil comes off it will smell absolutely amazing and looks so scrumptious.  The dressing has melted into the poaching liquid to make the most amazing sauce.  Spoon more of the poaching liquid back up over the fillet to blend the sauce.

Ta-Da!  Nothing intimidating about that.  Bon Appetit!

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Second only to my love of Mediterranean flavors comes my love of Mexican flavors.   Many years ago I made tacos by browning ground beef, ripping open a yellow packet of Old El Paso taco seasoning and melting shredded Kraft Mexican blend cheese on a tortilla.  Luckily our very own Chicago chef Rick Bayless has written many cookbooks and opened my eyes to the world of exquisite Mexican cooking using fresh, authentic ingredients and flavors.  He has three restaurants in Chicago: Frontera Grill, Topolobambo and the new XOCO exploring Mexican cuisine.


Last spring we were lucky enough to attend a corporate event in the development kitchen above Frontera Grill.  Those are my friends Pete, Kerri and Tom listening to Rick Bayless explain how to make empanadas.

Rick Bayless also offers a wonderful line of grocery products under the Frontera moniker.  It can be found in the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store.   Rick Bayless’ website says this about his restaurants “If Topolobambo pampers and Frontera dances, then XOCO rocks. Though the word XOCO is Mexican slang for “little sister” there’s nothing little about XOCO’s big, bold Mexican marketplace flavors and contemporary expressions of Mexico’s most beloved street food and snacks “ Today in the spirit of XOCO I bring you a pulled chili pork street taco – using Frontera gourmet tomatillo salsa of course!  The pulled pork does not need a lot of prep time but it does cook for 3-4 hours.  I usually make the pork ahead of time and then it’s easy to assemble the condiments later to make for a quick and tasty taco.

Pulled Chili Pork Tacos with Tomatillo Slasa


4 pounds pork stew meat (pork shoulder, butt or country style ribs)

1/3 cup apple cider

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 TBSP fresh lime juice

1 TBSP ground cumin

1 TBSP oregano

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp ground cloves

3 bay leaves

1-2 canned chipotle peppers

2-3 cups chicken broth

Condiments (as a suggestion – feel free to use your imagination!)

tortilla shells (corn or flour)

Frontera gourmet tomatillo salsa

pineapple salsa (Whole Foods has a great fresh pineapple salsa or you can make your own by dicing pineapple, jalapeño, red onion, red bell pepper  and tossing it with fresh cilantro and lime juice – salt to taste)

diced red onion

diced fresh avocado

crumbled authentic mexican cheese (Queso Fresco or Oaxaca)


We are going to braise the pork for the tacos so it is important to pick the right cut of meat.  Braising is perfect for tough, fattier, inexpensive cuts of meat which are laced with lots of collagen and connective tissue.  The long, gentle cooking time breaks down the meat and makes it incredibly tender, moist, delicious and full of flavor.  Once finished cooking it literally falls apart when pulled with a fork.  The best cuts for this dish are pork shoulder, butt or country style ribs.  (Costco sells a great pack of pork shoulder – boneless country ribs that I always use pictured above)

Cut the pork into large 2 inch chunks

The first important step is to sear the meat.  This caramelizes the outside and infuses lots of flavor into the dish.  Heat a large heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat.  Add a touch of oil.  Working in batches add a few pieces of pork to the pan. Don’t overcrowd the meat or it will steam instead of sear and won’t develop the outside crust.

At first the pan will “grab” the meat.  In this picture I am actually pulling as hard as I can on the meat and it is stuck to the pan.  Don’t worry the pan will “release” the meat once a beautiful caramelized crust is formed.

As promised the meat effortlessly pulls away from the pan once the crust is developed.  Turn pieces over with tongs and repeat the process on the other side.  Once completed transfer to a holding plate and start the next batch.

Once completed the pan will look like this.  Take the pan off the heat.  We don’t want to lose all that good flavor still in the pan so we will deglaze the pan with our braising liquid.

To make the braising liquid combine the apple cider vinegar, lime juice, cumin, oregano, cloves, salt, pepper and chicken stock.  Pour into pan to and stir to loosen the drippings.

Swirl it around until the bottom of the pan is clean and add the chopped chipotle pepper(s)  The chipotle peppers are very hot!  Use only one or two depending on how much heat you want.

One chipotle pepper from a can

Put the seared meat in a crockpot.  Pour the braising liquid over the meat.  Add the bay leaves and crushed garlic.  Put the lid on, turn the heat on low and cook for 3-4 hours.  If you don’t have a crock pot you can put the meat in a dutch oven, cover it and cook in the oven at 300 degrees for 3-4 hours.  It is really important that the meat cooks gently for a long time.  If you look in the crockpot and it is fiercely  boiling turn the heat down or lift the lid to release some heat.

When it is finished cooking the meat will literally fall apart when pulled with a fork.  If you have time I always let the meat sit in the braising liquid for about another hour off the heat once it is done cooking.  This allows the meat to rest and infuses the meat with the braising liquid making it extra tender and juicy.  Remove the chunks of meat from the liquid and pull apart by shredding it with a fork.  Discard any fatty parts once the meat is pulled.  You can use a little of the braising liquid to moisten the meat but then discard the rest.  The meat is now done and can be used right away or stored and reheated when you are ready for the tacos.

These are the condiments I use for the tacos.  The Frontera tomatillo salsa is perfect for the pulled chili pork because it is strong and acidic and compliments the flavor.  The same for the pineapple salsa.  I don’t like using red tomato based salsas for this taco because I feel it muddies the fresh flavor of the pulled pork.

This makes my mouth water!  Enjoy!!

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Could it be?  Yes….today is just a bolognese day.  Snuggled back home after a particularly grueling computraining session (thanks to Raouf : 856 calories burned…really?)  I had nothing else on the docket which would induce me to venture back out.  Except I forgot to stop at the grocery store.  I am not going.  It is fa-reezing out there in Chicago today.  Dinner is definitely out of the pantry tonight.

And this is why classic Bolognese Sauce is a beautiful thing.  I almost always have the ingredients to make it in the pantry.  The real deal takes 3 or 4 hours to cook but there is very little prep time involved.  You can put it on to simmer and be oh so productive while the sauce fills your house with the most amazing aroma.  You only need to stop by every so often and give it a little loving before you are back tackling the “to do” list.

The Silver Spoon has been the best-selling cookbook in Italy for over 50 years and is considered the bible of authentic Italian cooking.  It was first published in English in 2005 which was a very happy day for me.  It is a phenomenal resource but runs a little short on the directional side.  I imagine the Italian grandmas assumed the progeny already knew what to do with the ingredients and were not compelled to write overly fussy instructions.  If you ever get a chance watch Anne Burrell’s Bolognese episode on Food Network’s Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.  Anne studied in Italy and in her own words – she “rocks the sauce”.  The Italian grandmas would be proud.  So with a nod to Anne and The Silver Spoon – here we go:

Classic Bolognese Sauce

(adapted from The Silver Spoon and Anne Burrell)


2 small onions peeled and cut in large chunks

2 large carrots peeled and cut in large chunks

3 ribs celery washed, stems and leaves removed and cut in large chunks

4 whole cloves fresh peeled garlic

2-3 TBSPS olive oil

3 pounds ground beef, preferably chuck

3 small cans tomato paste

3 cups hearty Italian wine like a Chianti

3 bay leaves


1/2 cup of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese grated

1 box (1 pound) of spaghetti pasta.




In a food processor add

  • 2 small onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 4 whole cloves garlic

Pulse the food processor 8-10 times to purée the vegetables

Coat a large heavy skillet with about 2-3 TBSP olive oil.   Bring to medium high heat and add the purée.  Season generously with salt.  Cook the vegetable purée for about 15-20 minutes stirring frequently.  The water will evaporate from the purée and the bottom of the pan will caramelize and be nice and brown.  The brown on the bottom of the pan is what makes the sauce so delicious so make sure to let it  develop before you go to the next step.Add

  • three pounds ground beef, preferably chuck.

Season generously with salt.  Cook the ground beef for another 15-20 minutes until it gets really brown (just like the vegetables).  Remember the brown is what makes the sauce taste so good!

It will look like this when it is ready


  • 3 small cans tomato paste

Cook over medium heat until it browns – about 5 minutes


  • 3 cups hearty Italian red wine (I use a Chianti or Barolo)

The wine deglazes the bottom of the pan and all the nice brown flavors developed are now in the sauce.

Cook for another 5 minutes and reduce the wine.  This will intensify the flavor even more.


  • water to pan until it is 1 inch over the meat (about 4 cups)
  • 3 bay leaves

Season it again with salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

About every 45 minutes or so add

  • 2-3 additional cups of water

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer , stirring occasionally.  When all the water evaporates again repeat adding water.  After 3-4 hours of repeating this process you will have a robust, hearty sauce with BIG flavor.  As the sauce is simmering and the water evaporating it permeates your house with the most amazing aroma.  Did I happen to tell you it smells really, really good?

Now here is a really fun secret I have withheld until this point!  We just made a double batch of Bolognese Sauce.  You can take half of the sauce and freeze it to enjoy later (or maybe share it with your neighbor).

It is almost time to eat!  Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook

  • 1 box (1 pound) of spaghetti pasta.


  • 1/2 cup of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Add the drained, cooked spaghetti and cheese right into the skillet with the remaining sauce.  Add a little water if it is too thick.  Toss the pasta and coat it with the cheese and sauce.

Just pinch me…..it looks delish!

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