Sunday, November 22, 2009

Now & Later Recipes: A BLT Helps Prepare Bacon Topped Pasta

A classic lunchtime sandwich, a BLT is everyone's favorite. The only downside of making the main ingredient, bacon, is the dirty-pan cleanup. But like they say at garage sales and in thrift stores, one person's trash is another person's treasure.

That dirty pan is actually the starting point for our Later meal, a delicious dinner entree of pasta with parsley, mushrooms, and bacon.

Now: BLT
Later: Spaghetti Topped with Crispy Bacon

Now: BLT

With a BLT, a little goes a long way. Think of bacon as the flavor part of the sandwich. The lettuce and tomato make up the bulk of what is actually a very nutritious, healthy meal. Adding a slice of ripe avocado makes the sandwich even more filling and flavorful.

Yield 4 servings

Time 20 minutes


8 slices bacon (4 for Now; 4 for Later)
8 slices bread
4 lettuce leaves, red leaf, romaine, or iceberg
1 large ripe tomato
1 medium ripe avocado (optional0
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Sea salt and pepper


Toast the bread if you want and set aside to cool. To cook the bacon, don't use a nonstick pan. Because you want the flavor bits, use a stainless steel or cast iron pan.

Over a low flame, lay the bacon in the pan so the slices don't touch. Turn the slices over so they brown evenly. Once they're crisp, lay them on paper towels to drain.

Pour off the fat but otherwise don't clean the frying pan. Put the pan and half the bacon aside to use for the Later recipe.

Spread a thin layer of mayo on each piece of bread. I've found the sandwich is easier to cut if I slice the bread in half at the beginning. Then I build each sandwich, one half at a time.

Each half has a piece of crisp bacon, 1-2 pieces of lettuce, and a slice of tomato. Add a slice of ripe avocado if you want. Also optional is a thin slice of red onion. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with pickles or chips.

Later: Spaghetti Topped with Crispy Bacon

To make the sauce there are many ingredients you can use. I like a simple saute of onions, garlic, parsley, and mushrooms. The crisp bacon and grated cheese are used as a topping.

If you wanted, you could saute Italian sausage, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, or broccoli. Instead of spaghetti, use any pasta you or your kids enjoy. For seasoning, you could also add oregano or rosemary.

Yield 4 servings

Time 30 minutes


4 slices of cooked bacon
1 pound pasta
1 medium yellow onion, peeled, roughly chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, washed, dried
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown, shiitake, or portabella, washed, sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sweet butter
Sea salt and pepper
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 cup pasta water


First make the pasta by filling a large pot with water. Add 3 tablespoons kosher salt. Avoid using table salt because of the metallic taste. Bring to a boil.

Add the pasta and stir. Most pasta cooks in 10 minutes or less. To prevent sticking and even cooking, stir frequently. Taste a piece for doneness. To capture the pasta water, place a heat-resistant cup in the sink. Hold the colander over the cup and pour in the pasta and the cooking water. Set the pasta water aside.

Return the pasta to the pot. Drizzle with olive oil, add 1 tablespoon butter, season with sea salt and pepper, and toss well. Lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top to keep the pasta warm. Do not seal the pot.

In the frying pan with the bacon flavor bits, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat over a medium flame. Add the garlic, onions, parsley, and mushrooms. Saute until lightly brown.

Add the pasta water to deglaze the pan. Stir so the flavor bits come off the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the butter and stir. Reduce the liquid until 1/3 - 1/4 the original volume. Taste and adjust the seasoning with the sea salt and pepper. Since the pasta water is salty, you may not need additional sea salt.

Add the pasta to the pan and toss well to coat with the sauce.

Serve with grated cheese.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Now & Later Receipes--Grilled Corn Has a Second Act as Salad

Besides outdoor grilling, days at the beach, fried chicken, ripe tomatoes, and ice cold watermelon, corn on the cob is one of the great markers of summer.

When I was growing up, my mom loved to search out road side stands that sold fresh corn. She'd buy a grocery bag full and we'd feast on boiled corn with slabs of melting butter, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper.

I still enjoy corn that way, but now more often than not our corn on the cob comes to the table grilled not boiled.

Shucked and drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper, then turned on a grill until lightly browned, the naturally sweet kernels are sweetened even more by caramelization. Yumm.

For a snack, nothing is better than an ear of corn pulled from the refrigerator. But there's more that can be done with those grilled ears of corn. Cutting the kernels off, they can go into a chopped salad and move from side dish to entree.

And on hot days, that's another marker of summer--putting meals on the table with as little effort as possible.

Now: Farmers' Market Fresh Grilled Corn on the Cob
Later: Grilled Corn and Chopped Vegetable Salad

NOW: Grilled Corn on the Cob

The most important part of this recipe is the corn itself. The fresher the corn, the better the taste. When you're picking out corn, select ears that have green husks and golden silks.

Yield 4 servings plus left-overs (which you will need for the LATER recipe)

Time 15 minutes


8 ears of corn, shucked, silks removed, washed
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper


Preheat the grill.

Break the ears in half or cut into 3" lengths. The ears you're saving to make the salad can be left whole. Pour the olive oil onto a large plate. Season with sea salt and pepper. Roll each piece of corn in the oil.

Using tongs, grill the corn on all sides until lightly browned. Remove from the grill and serve hot.

LATER: Parsley-Corn Chopped Salad

The salad can be prepared ahead and refrigerated but is tastes better if served at room temperature.

Yield 4 servings

Time 15 minutes


3-4 ears of grilled corn
1 large bunch Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, skin on
1 tablespoon yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, washed, peeled, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper


Put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and reduce by half over a low flame. Set aside to cool.

Using a sharp knife, cut off the kernels and put into a mixing bowl. Stick the garlic clove on a skewer or the point of a sharp knife. Char in a flame so the skin burns off. Brush off any bits of burnt skin and roughly chop the garlic.

Add the charred garlic, parsley, and onions to the mixing bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

Transfer to a serving dish.


Instead of using a raw carrot, grill a carrot cut into slabs 1/4" thick; dredged the slabs in seasoned olive oil and grill until lightly browned; let cool and chop into pieces the same size as the corn kernels; add to the salad

Grill asparagus dredged in seasoned olive oil, then chop into pieces and add to the salad

Quarter cherry tomatoes and add to the salad

Add 1 cup cooked couscous

Add 1 medium sized avocado, peeled, roughly chopped

Add 6 medium sized shrimp, washed, peeled, deveined, and grilled, roughly shopped

Crumble 3 pieces of crisp bacon on the salad and toss

Shred 1/2 cup turkey or chicken breast and add to the salad

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Now and Later Meals - Rosemary Fried Chicken and Chicken with Fresh Vegetables

Growing up, my mom liked to make fried chicken from scratch. Always an efficient cook, she would make more than we could eat, knowing that we enjoyed the left-overs.

At night we'd have fried chicken with mashed potatoes and peas with butter. The next day when we'd go to the beach, she would pack up last night's fried chicken, throw in some biscuits with a jar of honey, a bag of carrot sticks, and a big jug of iced lemonade.

After my sister and I would get tired of splashing around in the water, we'd dry off and sit on our blankets, contentedly munching away on our fried chicken. To this day, whenever I eat fried chicken, I flash back to those days on the beach.

Now: Rosemary Fried Chicken
Later: Chicken with Farm Fresh Vegetables

NOW: Rosemary Fried Chicken

Few eating experiences are as satisfying as biting into the salty-crunchy outside and reaching the sweet, moist meat underneath. To cut down on calories I remove the skin and use the lightest flour dusting I can.

Soaking the chicken in buttermilk overnight tenderizes the meat and helps adhere the seasoned flour.

Yield 4-6 servings with left-overs (which you will need for the LATER recipe)

Time 45 minutes cooking, marinate the chicken overnight in buttermilk


2 whole chickens, washed, cut apart, skin removed if desired, wing tips, bones, and skin reserved to make chicken stock
1 quart buttermilk
5 cups flour
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts safflower or canola oil


When you cut up the chicken, separate the two parts of the wing and cut the breast meat off the bone. Keep or discard the skin as you wish. The breasts can be left whole but will cook more evenly when cut into strips or tenders. The legs and thighs can be cut in half if you have a heavy chef's knife.

Toss the chicken pieces with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Put the pieces in a container, add the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of the rosemary, stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Using a wok or deep frying pan, heat the cooking oil to 325 - 350 degrees or until a piece of parsley browns immediately when dropped in the oil. Before you begin cooking, prepare your counter. Have a slotted spoon or an Asian style strainer ready. Lay two paper towels on top of a piece of brown grocery bag paper on a large plate.

Reserve 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to use just before serving.
In a brown paper bag mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, rosemary, cayenne (optional), sugar (optional), and onions (optional). Remove one piece of chicken at a time. Shake off the excess buttermilk, drop the piece into the paper bag with the seasoned flour, close the top of the bag, and shake. Repeat with all the pieces, assembling them on a plate or cutting board.

Cook the chicken in batches. Gently drop each piece into the hot oil, making sure it doesn't touch the other pieces so each one cooks evenly.

Turn over when browned on one side. Remove when golden brown and drain on the paper towels. The pieces will cook quickly: chicken tenders (breast) 2-3 minutes; wings 7-8 minutes; thighs & legs 10-12 minutes.

Just before serving, lightly dust the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of rosemary, sea salt and pepper.

If you are making deep fried vegetables like onion rings or broccoli florets, they cook even more quickly: thick rings cook in 30 seconds, thin rings in 5-6 seconds; broccoli in 30 seconds. Soak the vegetables in the seasoned buttermilk for a few minutes, then process like the chicken pieces.

LATER: Chicken with Fresh Vegetables

Since the chicken is already cooked, all you're really doing is cooking the vegetables and reheating the chicken. As the chicken cooks in the liquid, the breading will thicken the water, creating a deeply satisfying gravy.

Yield 4-6 servings

Time 30 minutes


All the left-over fried chicken pieces
2 carrots, washed, peeled, roughly chopped
10 brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced and chopped
1 large broccoli, washed, crowns removed, stems roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper


Saute in the olive oil over medium-low heat the vegetables until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add the fried chicken and water. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve in bowls with a portion of chicken, vegetables, and gravy in each. Cooked rice can be put on the bottom or steamed spinach.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Now and Later Meals - Braised Chicken with Vegetables and (Later) with Couscous and Spinach

One way to beat the dinner-time crunch is to cook once but create two meals. One meal to eat that night, the other to eat the next day or freeze in an air-tight container.

From experience I've found that braised chicken serves the cause very well. Because I know I want to use the chicken for two meals, I choose legs or thighs. Unlike chicken breasts, dark meat creates a savory sauce and doesn't dry out when braised.

Add a green salad and steamed rice, cooked pasta, mashed potatoes, or a fresh loaf of bread and you'll have an affordable, nutritious, healthy dinner.

Now: Braised Chicken with Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetables

The basis for the deeply flavored sauce is a technique familiar to many cuisines. Finely chopped vegetables are sauteed in an oil until lightly browned. Seasoned with spices, a liquid is added and reduced. In French it's called a mirepoix, in Spanish sofrito, and in Italian soffritto. The ingredients vary, but garlic and onions are pretty much constants.

For this dish I shopped at our local farmers' market and used onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli stems, brown mushrooms, and corn off the cob.

Most of the ingredients can be swapped out for others.

Instead of onions, I could have used shallots or leeks, any of which will caramelize and add sweetness to the sauce. I used broccoli stems because my kids only eat the crowns and I don't like throwing away the stems. You can use the crowns and zucchini, squash, and tomatoes as well.

When I made the dish last night, I kept the skins on, but if you want to lower the fat content, remove the skins.

Yield 4 servings plus left-overs
Time 30 minutes preparation, 1 1/2 - 2 hours cooking


10 chicken legs or thighs, about 3 1/2 pounds, washed, pat dry
1 cup broccoli stems, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 cup brown mushrooms, washed, finely chopped
2 cups corn kernels from 2 ears of corn
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
3 cups water


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a large covered pan like a Dutch oven or roasting pan. Heat the oil on a medium flame. Use tongs and add the chicken pieces. Season with sea salt and pepper. Turn frequently until the chicken is lightly brown, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside. Discard the fat.

In the same pan, add the other tablespoon of olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper. Add all the vegetables. Lightly brown. Stir frequently to avoid burning, about 8-10 minutes.

Pour in 3 cups of water. Stir well to deglaze the pan so the flavor bits get into the liquid. Add back the cooked chicken pieces. Cover and put in the oven. After 60 minutes, use the tongs to turn over the chicken pieces. Cover and return to the oven for another 30-60 minutes.

The chicken is cooked when the meat is separating from the bone. Taste and adjust the seasonings with sea salt and pepper. If you want a thicker sauce, reduce the liquid over a medium flame.

To serve, place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the sauce on top.

Later: Chicken with Easy-to-Make Moroccan-Style Couscous

Assuming you have half of the chicken and sauce left-over, this dish takes very little time to prepare.

The sort of couscous served in Morocco is delicious but difficult and time-consuming to prepare. The "instant" kind can be found in some grocery stores, upscale, specialty and health food markets.

If you haven't used couscous before, meet your new best kitchen-helper.

Couscous costs pennies per serving and takes next to no effort to make. It can be served hot or cold, in a salad, as a side dish, or, as in this recipe, as a main dish.

Yield 4 servings
Time 30 minutes


4-5 chicken legs or thighs, cooked as above
2 cups sauce with vegetables, cooked as above
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 bunch spinach, washed to remove grit, stems removed, roughly chopped
2 cups whole wheat or regular "instant" couscous
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups water
Sea salt and pepper


Boil 2 1/2 cups of water. Put the couscous into a large boil. Pour the hot water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the bowl and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes, remove the covering, and fluff the couscous with a fork.

In a large pot, saute the cumin, turmeric, and garlic in the olive oil until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the golden raisins, cooked chicken, sauce, and chopped spinach.

Stir well to submerge the spinach in the sauce--if you need more liquid, add a cup of water--and simmer 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Put the couscous in a large bowl, ladle the chicken and sauce on top and serve immediately. Alternately, portion out the couscous, chicken and sauce into individual bowls.

Tip: when I have the time, I'll take the meat off the bones to make the dish easier to eat. The kids definitely appreciate that.