Tag Archives: Dinner

Summer Pasta with Onion, Bacon and Tomato

During this heat wave, a light dinner showcasing fresh ingredients is ideal.  This pasta with onion, bacon and tomato is simple enough to prepare while enjoying some Olympic events.

Ingredients:

1/2 sweet onion, diced

Extra virgin olive oil

2 slices slab bacon

1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes

Fresh ground pepper

6 to 8 ounces egg capellini

Fresh basil

Sauté the onion in several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until soft and translucent, about five minutes.  In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Slice the bacon into 1/4 inch strips, then halve each strip.  Add the bacon to the onion and sauté until lightly browned, about seven minutes.  Keep stirring the onion and bacon with a wooden spoon, and season with pepper to taste.  Stir in the tomatoes and sauté for several minutes until they “pop”.

Throw the pasta into the boiling water and stir.  The pasta is so delicate that it should only take about two minutes.  When al dente, remove the pasta with tongs and add to the onion, bacon and tomato mixture.  Also, add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the pan to help the sauce stick to the pasta.  Using a wooden spoon, coat the pasta with the sauce, and toss in some fresh basil.

Pasta!

Serve with grated parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.  Enjoy with a light red wine, such as a Grenache.

a. kitchen is the kitchen

a. kitchen is more than a kitchen.  It is a dining destination in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood where Chef Eli Kulp (also of Fork and High Street on Market) creates modern and elegant cuisine.  My husband and I recently enjoyed brunch, lunch and dinner (not all in one day, of course!) at a. kitchen.  All three meals were delicious.  The service was outstanding, and the setting is pleasant and cozy.  The open kitchen with a chef’s counter also provides for a unique dining experience.

For brunch, we started with a charcoal biscuit with house made butter.  The kitchen boasts a custom made grill using natural hardwood charcoal.  Nearly all of the dishes prepared in a. kitchen, including this tasty biscuit, reach the grill at some point.  For my main course, I ordered the grilled prawns with creamy grits paired with a salad of baby kale, basque pepper and radish.  The preparation of pepper and radish provided a nice kick.  My husband enjoyed the steak and eggs of American Wagyu, over easy eggs and blackened “frenched” onion.  The beef was grilled to a medium rare perfection.  We chose a light ending – the trio of ice cream and sorbet.   The current icy offerings are milk chocolate, caraway-rye and cranberry-apple.  Our favorite was the caraway-rye – a very creative flavor for a winter sorbet.

For dinner, we were encouraged to share several small plates followed by a main course.  We decided on the grilled, shelled quail eggs with pickled beets and onions.  The quail eggs had a soft yolk, and their richness balanced out the tanginess of the beets.  We also selected the hamachi crudo, which was served over crispy rice cakes and spicy mustard.  This dish showcased the Asian influences on the menu.  Another highlight was the Caputo Brothers burrata floating in a golden beet soup accented with dill and trout roe.  The roe provided a “pop” to the silken soup and rich cheese.

Our final small plate was the grilled octopus salad of spiced sweet potato, peanuts and winter greens.  The octopus was the tenderest that I have tasted, and the Asian spices were superb.  For the main course, we selected the special Dover sole with a side of grilled leeks with green chili romesco and smoked Marcona almonds.  This sole was grilled on a. kitchen’s centerpiece, providing it with a smoky flavor while still retaining its buttery taste and tender texture.

The wine list is impressive and includes some of my favorite French reds, including those from the Rhone.  We enjoyed a Bandol, which complemented the earthy spices.

For lunch, we enjoyed the deviled skate with sambal and grilled bok chou – another plate that demonstrates the kitchen’s talent with spices.  To balance out the seafood dishes enjoyed at a. kitchen, I decided to try the Creekstone Burger with cave-aged cheddar, mayo and pickles.  The burger proved that a. kitchen should be a destination for those in the mood for red meat as well.  As a finale, we enjoyed the sunchoke custard with black walnut brittle, hopped apples and maple.  This delicious savory sweet was the most creative use of a root vegetable that I have encountered.

Plan a visit to a. kitchen for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner and their new addition – an adjacent bar (a. bar) – which serves oysters and seafood specialties.  We will look forward to a lobster roll in the near future!

Paella – A Dish Fit for a Summer Dinner Party

If you are looking for a centerpiece for a summer dinner party, consider a paella.  The variety of ingredients – chicken, shellfish, vegetables, chorizo – will appeal to all taste buds and will surely wow your guests.  Below is my recipe that will serve six to eight.

Ingredients:

¼ cup achiote oil (made from heating achiote seeds in olive oil until the oil turns a rich red) or extra virgin olive oil

12 chicken thighs, bone-in and skinned

3 chorizo, cut into ½ inch slices

1 jar Goya Sofrito

2½ cups Bomba rice or Arborio rice

16 ounces clam juice

48 ounces chicken broth

24 large shrimp, shelled and de-veined

18 littleneck clams (and/or 18 mussels)

6 squid bodies, sliced into rings

½ of a 10 ounce package of frozen peas, defrosted

4 peppers, sliced (use a mix of red, orange and yellow peppers)

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

The ideal pan to prepare paella is a paellera – a large, round pan with two handles.  The pan is also very shallow to enable the rice to cook uniformly.  If you do not have a paellera, you may use any pan that will cook the rice evenly, such as a roasting pan.

I prefer to cook paella on the grill rather than the stove as the grill will accommodate the size of the paellera.  The grill also retains the heat so that the rice forms a crunchy ring around the outer edge of the pan.

Heat the grill to medium-high.  When the grill is heated, place the paellera on the grill and pour the oil in the paellera.  Once the oil is hot, place the chicken thighs in the paellera and season with salt and pepper.  Brown the chicken on both sides.  As you are cooking the paella, rotate the paellera periodically so that the ingredients cook uniformly.

After the chicken is browned, add the chorizo and peppers and cook until the chorizo is lightly browned and the peppers soften.  Stir in the rice so that the rice is coated with the oil.  Pour in enough clam juice and chicken stock to cover the rice by about ¼ inch.  You may need to adjust the amounts of juice and stock listed above.  Stir in the sofrito.  Turn the heat to high and let cook until the liquid is almost entirely absorbed by the rice and the rice is tender.

Turn the heat down to medium and nestle the shellfish into the rice.  First add the shrimp, then the clams/mussels.  The shrimp are cooked when they are white and no longer translucent.  This will take just a few minutes.  The clams/mussels are cooked when their shells open.  Discard any clams/mussels that do not open.

While the shellfish are cooking, scatter the peas over the paella.  The rice around the perimeter of the paellera should be browning and crisping during the cooking process.  When everything is cooked, add the squid.  The squid is added at the very end as it will only take about 2 minutes to cook.  In order for squid to be tender, it must be cooked very quickly.  When the squid turns white, test it to make sure that it is cooked.  Remove the paellera from the grill and serve immediately at the table.  Enjoy!

Final Paella

Crêpes — Savory, Then Sweet

When one of my students gave me a gift of a crêpe pan several years ago, I decided to put it to good use.  It would not become one of those kitchen items that sits in a cabinet just to be seen once a year.  So, I decided to make crêpes for Sunday morning breakfasts…savory crêpes filled with scrambled eggs followed by sweet crêpes topped with maple syrup and berries.

Below is a simple crêpe recipe intended to make two savory crêpes and two to four sweet ones.

Ingredients for Crêpes:

1/3 cup milk

3/4 cup cold water

1 egg

Pinch of salt

Pinch of sugar

1/2 cup flour

Butter for the crêpe pan or non-stick pan

Place all of the ingredients except for the flour in a mixing bowl and whisk together.  Then, add the flour and continue to whisk, eliminating any lumps.  Set aside while preparing the eggs.

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Ingredients for Scrambled Eggs:

4 eggs

Splash of milk

Splash of water

Fresh herbs

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

This is how I typically make scrabbled eggs.  (No precise measurements are involved…sometimes I add cheese or peppers, whatever strikes my fancy.  You probably have your own technique and should use what you would enjoy tasting.)  Place the eggs, milk and water in a mixing bowl and whisk together.  Set aside until you are ready to scramble.

This breakfast requires two pans to be working simultaneously, side by side, on the stove.  The first is the crêpe pan.  Place a slice of butter in the crêpe pan over medium heat.  When the butter melts and sizzles, tilt the pan so that the butter moves around its bottom.  Pour a large ladle of crêpe batter (just under 1/4 cup) into the center of the pan and tilt the pan around so that the batter covers the bottom of the pan.

As the batter begins to bubble, move the pan forward and backward to loosen the crêpe.  Lift the edges of the crêpe with a spatula to see when the bottom of the crêpe is lightly browned.  Then, carefully turn the crêpe using a spatula and your fingers (or, you can toss the crêpe with a quick movement of the pan away from you then toward you).  Brown the crêpe on the other side for another minute at most.  Transfer the crêpe to a dish and grease the pan for the second crêpe.

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While working with the crêpes, prepare the scrambled eggs.  Add some olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper to a non-stick pan.  Turn the heat to medium low and tilt the pan so that the olive oil covers the bottom.  Pour the eggs into the center of the pan and add your fresh herbs.  The olive oil should prevent the eggs from sticking, and as the eggs begin to solidify around the edges, use a non-stick spatula to scramble.

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When the eggs are finishing cooking, spoon them down the center of each crêpe.  Fold the sides of the crêpe over the eggs and turn the entire crêpe over so that the “seam” is not visible.  Garnish with more herbs and a drizzle of chili oil (or a flavored oil of your choice).

DSCN4115After this savory course, repeat the crêpe making process for the sweet course – crêpes topped with maple syrup (or honey) and fresh berries.

DSCN4119 Note: This also makes a fun breakfast for dinner!