Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Great Source of Calcium

My Mom was a big fan of canned sardines.   Growing up I recall her eating them on a cracker with a onions and mustard.  When I became a chef I was introduces to fresh sardines.  I've eaten and prepared them in many ways such as marinated and pan seared.  They were nothing like the can variety I remembered from my childhood.  Up until about a week ago I never thought about canned sardines until one of my sister's pointed out how high in calcium they were.  She said she eats them just the way Mom did.

My first thought was, “I am older and wiser. I don't have to have them sittin on a Ritz with mustard"

Although I typically get my calcium through yogurt,  an occasional scoop of ice cream, cruciferous vegetables or a supplement, I sometimes fall short in getting enough.  We all know that calcium is important for  maintaining strong bones and a healthy heart but did you know that just 2 sardines (about 24 grams) gives you 108mg  of calcium.

Determined not to prepare them like my Mom, I decided to utilize the seasons bounty as well as what was in my refrigerator.

This was what I made.

 Sardine Bruschetta

1        4.25 oz can Atlantic sardines with bones in oil
½  baguette
1 clove garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Extra Virgin Lemon Olive Oil
1 vine ripened beef steak tomato, sliced
½ red onion, thin sliced
½ cup basil, chiffonade
Aged/ reduced balsamic
Cracked pepper

This recipe can be made in any proportion but for those of you who like exact measure, I’ve provided these quantities.

Rub the outside of the baguette with the clove of garlic
Cut the baguette in a slight diagonal ¾” thick
Brush the bread with a little olive oil and grill on both sides
Assemble tomatoes, onions, sardines, cracked pepper and basil on baguette
Drizzle olive oil and balsamic on Bruschetta

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Greek Vegetable Pies

Just about every country makes and filled pastry that is either baked or fried, sweet or savory.  In Latin American countries it’s called an empanadas, in the Caribbean specifically Jamaica it's called a pattie, in Ireland there called pasties.

This year’s CSA share yielded a bounty of fresh braising greens like Tuscan kale and Swiss chard.  Although I typically sauté braising greens with a little olive oil and garlic, I‘ve had to come up with another option in order to manage the amount of vegetables I’m getting. Since I am a resident of Astoria, once home to the largest Greek population outside of Greece, feta, myzithra and kefalotyri cheese are easy to find.  I am never without at least one of these cheeses in my refrigerator.  Greeks refer to their closed pies as pites or pita.   They are filled with meat or whatever vegetables are in season. The dough is often a phyllo or pie dough often made with olive oil.  I have made my version of these pites that I think you will enjoy. 

  cup all purpose unbleached flour
½  cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons flax meal
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup olive oil
½ cup beer

Add first five ingredients to a food processer.
Pulse a few times to incorporate the ingredients
While processor is turning, add olive oil and beer until dough forms a ball.
Remove from the processor, let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

2 bunches Swiss Chard/Braising Greens*
1 large onion, small diced
½-cup small dices fennel
2 cloves chopped garlic
½+½ Salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons Olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup myzithra, kefalotyri, or romano cheese
1  egg scrambled- egg wash

Clean Swiss chard by separating the leaves from the stem.  Wash the leaves at lease twice in a bowl of cold water (changing the water after each wash) until the water has no trace of sand at the bottom. Once the leaves are cleaned, cut them about ½” wide. Although you don’t have to use all of the stems, I like putting some in for varied texture.
See note about Swiss chard stems**
Set aside once  cleaned and cut .

In a large sauté pan heat 1-tablespoon olive oil; add onions, ½ teaspoon salt and fennel, cook until onions and fennel are soft; onions may become slightly brown about 10 minutes at medium heat.
Add garlic, Swiss chard stems and red pepper flakes, cook for about 7 minutes more.
Set aside allow to cool
In a clean pan heat 1-tablespoon olive oil, add Swiss chard leaves.  Cover and cook greens until they become tender—about 10 minutes.  If greens give off some liquid place them in a colander, pressing out excess liquid and allow them to cool.
Once all hot ingredients are cool, place them in a large bowl; add remaining ingredients; gently toss until well combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to about 1/8” thick; cut dough into rounds about 4 ½ “ in diameter.
Fill dough with about ½ cut of filling.
Brush the outer edge of the dough with the egg wash.
Fold the dough over the filling to form a half circle.  Crimp edges with a fork.

 Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or sprayed with a cooking spray
Brush the tops with egg wash
Bake at 375F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from sheet pan allow to cool on a cooling rack.

*I write this recipe based on the use of Swiss chard.  If you are using other greens ie Kale, Collards, Mustards or  Beet greens the cooking time will be longer and you’’ll need to add a little water to the pan when cooking these greens.
** If the Swiss chard stem are tender you can just wash them the same way as the leaves and cut them crosswise about 1/8” wide.  If the stems are a bit thick, the outer membrane will need to peeled before you cut them. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cod Cakes with a Tomato Remoulade

The expression "Cod is King" was more than just a saying; it was a mantra for a way of life. Cod was the mainstay of the industry until the collapse of the fisheries, due to over-fishing and mismanagement of the natural resource.

When I think that wars were fought over this former King of the sea, it’s hard to believe that it is usually the secondary fish choice on most menus.  Although there are many species of cod, the one that is in trouble is Atlantic Cod.  While not officially endangered, the cod fishing industry has created regulations trying to limit cod catch.   Gone are the days when one fish weighed over 100 pounds.     Despite the industry’s self-regulation, there are countries that continue to overfish this once prized fish of the Atlantic.

Stew Leonard’s had some beautiful pieces of line caught cod yesterday.  While I typically buy cod for Oreganato, Fish and Chips or New England seafood chowder, I had a taste for cod cakes.  I am a little finicky about fish cakes.  I don’t like them deep fried or covered with bread crumbs.  Some may find this recipe to be a bit labor intensive but the end product is well worth it! 

Cod Cakes with a Tomato Remoulade


10 oz potatoes
1-cup milk
2 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sprigs thyme
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 pound cod filets
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup small dice onion
Pinch cayenne
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil


1.Peel and large dice potatoes; steam until tender but not falling apart
2.While potatoes are steaming, poach cod in milk.  In a medium sauté pan, add milk, slice garlic, thyme and ground pepper. Bring to a boil, then add cod.
3.Simmer for five minutes or until cod is flaky tender but not falling apart
4.Once cod is cooked, remove it from milk along with the sliced garlic.  Chill. Discard liquid along with the thyme stems
5.In a small sauté pan melt butter, then add diced onions.  Sweat onions until soft and translucent but not brown.  Cool
6.When potatoes are ready, pass through a ricer or food mill.  You should have 1 cup of mashed potatoes. Cool
7. Once all ingredients are cooked and cooled, place in a medium bowl.
8. Add cayenne, egg and salt.  Gently toss ingredients until well combined.
9. With a 2” biscuit cutter, mold cod cakes by placing mixture in the cutter and pressing it to the shape to the cutter.
10. Once cakes have been formed, preheat a non-stick skillet with olive oil.  When pan is hot, but not smoking, gently lay cakes in the pan sear for 5 minutes on each side. 
11. Remove from skillet place on a baking sheet and bake in a 375-degree oven for 15 minutes or until cod cakes reach and internal temperature of 145F.

Tomato Remoulade


1 cup Mayonnaise (preferable Hellmann’s)
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped cornichons
1 tablespoon chopped capers
2 tablespoons onions fine dice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½  teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon tomato powder*
Dash Tabasco Sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl
Serve as desired

* I don’t expect most people to have tomato powder so a good substitute would be sundried tomato puree.  Rehydrate sundried tomatoes; puree in a blender with enough liquid to get puree consistency. Add ¼ cup of sundried tomato puree to remoulade

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Morning Means Blueberry Pancakes

Growing up, Saturday morning breakfast was always a big deal in our house.  Mom would take request on what we wanted and it was usually pancakes. Rarely did we ever have just plain pancakes.  She was always open to adding some type of fruit to them.  I recall one time she added crushed pineapples to them and they were delicious.  Perhaps the favorite among all of my siblings was her blueberry pancakes.  To this day, I can vivid recall the smell that came from the kitchen on a Saturday morning.  Despite the fact that I’ve become more conscious of calories and I sometimes, “diet” with great discipline, when Saturday rolls around, all bets are off.  This Saturday morning was no different.  It’s a beautiful summer day and blueberries are in surplus at my local market.    After an hour of cardio I raced home to make a short stack.  Although they are not my Mom’s recipe I am sure that she would be pleased to add this recipe to her repertoire of pancake recipes. 

Blueberry Pancakes 
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup blueberries slight crushed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl combine eggs, buttermilk, blueberries, zest, vanilla extract and melted butter; whisk to combine.
  3. Fold wet ingredients to flour mixture. Be care not to over work the batter.  Batter will have small to medium lumps.
  4. Preheat griddle and spray with a food release. Wipe off excess oil. NOTE:  If the griddle starts to smoke it is too hot. 
  5. Using a ladle or 1/3 cup dry measuring cup, pour pancake batter on warm griddle. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, flip over.
  6. Cook until golden on bottom.
  7. Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in oven. Serve warm.

Here is this result!