There is nothing like Chinese shrimp—or, at least the shrimp you get in American Chinese restaurants. They have the lightest crispy coating on the outside, and then that thick, flavors-from-all-directions sauce that clings to it like sweet, spicy, savory glue; orange peel, honey, ginger. And a secret to doing it at home, thus saving yourself the tip for takeout, is ginger jam.
In one pot, I quickly fried the cornstarch-coated shrimp. In another pot, off to the side, I bubbled together ginger jam and soy sauce. Toss the two together, top with some cilantro and scallion, and it’s like takeout times ten.
My favorite Secret Ingredients are the ones that multitask, dealing with all life’s troubles for you. Ginger jam is one such example. Add it to the soy sauce, and immediately the sauce takes on the heady heat of the ginger, and the balancing sweetness of the sugar. The thickness gives you that perfect consistency. Leaving you looking like a culinary magician.
I’ve been feeling restless. In that soul-churning kind of way, where you don’t even want to stand on one foot for too long. Sitting down for a prolonged plate of pasta is out of the question. I want to eat something noncommittal, something I can pick at, something with enough magnetism to make me stop for a minute, and take a bite.
It’s summer, which means it’s mozzarella and tomato season. But this is better. Slices of milky burrata, nestled next to wedges of sweet, sharp white peaches. Over the top of both, a drizzle of sweet balsamic reduction, extra virgin olive oil, flaked sea salt, and cracked black pepper. I love that unusual savoriness on the peaches, and they are so much sharper than tomatoes that the burrata’s mildness is even more remarkable. I served it on a wooden board, surrounded with hunks of crusty bread, to dip in the oil, and the milk that runs off the cheese.
It’s just new enough, and interesting enough, to get me to stand–or even sit–still for a minute. And not weigh me down.
Burrata with White Peaches
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 200-gram (7-ounce) ball of burrata, or buffalo mozzarella, sliced
2 large white peaches, pitted and cut into wedges
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
Maldon or other sea salt
Crusty bread for serving
Pour the vinegar into a small pan over medium heat, and simmer until the vinegar has thickened and reduced to 1½ tablespoons. Set aside to cool.
Arrange the sliced mozzarella and peaches on a round board or plate. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Once the balsamic reduction has cooled, it will be even thicker. Drizzle all over the peaches and cheese. Slice up some crusty bread, and tuck it around the edges of the platter. Eat up.
I was happy to be featured on MyRecipes.com this week, where I wrote about my favorite vacation meal, which, aside from every meal I’ve ever eaten in France, was the grilled bass I ate every single night I was in the Greek Islands with Mr. English last fall. Click here to see the piece, and get my recipe for homemade tzatziki. You will make it every day this summer, and what could be healthier: nonfat Greek yogurt, cucumber, and mint? And try this grilled whole fish with herbs and olive oil. It’s a show stopper!
Greek Grilled Fish with Herbs, Olive Oil, Lemons, and Olives
Greek Grilled Whole Fish
4 ¾-pound whole sea bream, sea bass, branzini, yellowtail snapper, or other whole mild, white-fleshed fish (have your fishmonger remove any scales, gills, guts, and fins, leaving the head and tail intact)
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 teaspoons very coarse sea salt (recommended: Maldon), (if using Kosher salt, halve the amount)
6 very thin slices of lemon, cut in half into 12 half-moons
1 ounce fresh thyme
Freshly cracked black pepper (about 8 turns of the peppermill)
2 whole lemons, quartered
1 cup pit-in green and black olives, like Kalamata and Sicilian
Fire up your grill! A wood-burning grill is ideal for this recipe, but I also recommend a simple gas grill, preheated to medium-high.
Make sure each fish is trimmed, rinse it, and dry it thoroughly inside and out with paper towel. Season each fish with 2 tablespoons olive oil: pour roughly 2 teaspoons of oil inside the cavity, and rub it into the flesh. Then pour the remainder of the 2 tablespoons on the outside of the fish, and rub it into the skin, making sure every inch of the fish, from head to tail, is oiled (this prevents the fish from sticking to the grill). You’ll want to oil the fish on a wide platter, to catch any oil that will run off, which can still be used to marinate the fish. Repeat for the remaining 3 fish. You should have ¼ cup olive oil leftover for later.
Season the fish with salt. For each fish, you will use 1 teaspoon of Maldon salt, which is a flaky sea salt that creates a great crust on the outside of the fish. Sprinkle about a third of the teaspoon into the cavity of the fish, and use the remainder of the teaspoon to season the skin. Repeat with the remaining fish.
Divide the bunch of thyme into 4 little bouquets. Stuff the cavity of each fish with 3 thin half-moons of lemon, and one little thyme bouquet. Don’t be afraid to stuff it in there—it should pretty much disappear into the fish.
Season the outside of the fish with pepper, about 1 grind on the peppermill on each side of each fish. The fish should not be on a platter, stuffed and seasoned, with olive oil pooling on the platter beneath. That’s perfect! Place the lemon quarters on the platter as well.
Make sure the grill is nice and hot. Get the fish nicely coated on both sides in the olive oil on the platter. Place the fish on the hot grill, and don’t try to move them. Also place the lemon quarters, cut-side-down, on the grill. Cook the fish 7 to 8 minutes on each side, until the skin is nicely charred and releases easily from the grill with the help of a pair of tongs and a fish spatula. The flesh of the fish will be opaque white, and flaky. Remove the lemons whenever they are charred—it takes about 7 to 8 minutes.
Place the fish and charred lemons on a rustic serving platter, and pour the remaining ¼ cup of fresh extra virgin olive oil right on top of the fish. Scatter the olives around the platter, and top the fish with a few decorative sprigs of fresh thyme. Serve them up.
While in Napa recently, I found and loved a white bean dip at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in Yountville, which came served with pain epi. It was creamy, mild, and mellow, but not bland at all. And it had a distinct advantage over butter—I could slather on as much as I wanted without guilt.
In my own concoction, I whizzed together white beans, olive oil, fresh herbs, and the star—a head of roasted garlic. Just buy good crusty French baguette, and you’ll start to feel a little like Thomas Keller yourself.
Provençal White Bean Dip
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 head roasted garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
The leaves of 1 stem of fresh rosemary
The leaves of 3 stems of fresh thyme
Add all the ingredients to a food processor and puree until smooth.
To roast garlic, slice off the top quarter of the garlic, wrap in foil, and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. Then, squeeze out all the flesh.
I love New York. Why go to India when I can eat at Tamarind? Or to Japan when I can sip udon at Haru? If I can get better exoticisms so close to home, then it certainly isn’t worth the trip to Maine, when the best lobster roll on Earth is just a few blocks away.
I thought that I had tasted the best lobster roll on Earth. I won’t get into it, now that I’m jostling another one ahead, but it was in Paris, and it was stirred up with lime and orange zests, and handed over with a pile of goose-fat fries. Not too shabby. Amazing, even. But my new favorite lobster roll has to be Luke’s Lobster, at home in NYC.
I’m sick in bed today, and even though I slept until 11:30 (that’s UK time), I still have to fill the hours until I can quell the sniffles and headache with another massive dose of sleep. So I snuggled down under the comforters and played 4 episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, in reverse order, from a British TV website. Having just come back from LA, I was miserable that I was missing the season.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Jamie’s: I love his casual attitude in the kitchen. Look, on one episode, a kid dropped a frying pan full of chicken on the floor, and Jamie said, “Three second rule!” That’s my kind of home cooking. I think he’s charismatic. And when his Italian restaurant opened in Oxford when I was in grad school, it was one of the few establishments in that town where I actually wanted to eat. I wish he could do something about Oxford dining hall meals! But why I particularly support his Food Revolution is because I remember so vividly the food we had at my elementary school growing up. Continue reading …
Looks pretty gourmet, doesn’t it? Thinly pounded, grilled chicken breast topped with an arugula, fennel, and apple salad. No one would assume you threw it together on a George Foreman.
This is such an easy, healthy dinner. Chicken paillard, inspired by French bistros, is just a thinly pounded (yes, you get to do the pounding!) chicken breast, lightly seasoned, and grilled in just 4 minutes. Mound a simple lemony salad on top, and you have the perfect, light dinner. The apple and fennel are crunchy. The lemon and olive oil pools down into the chicken. Guiltless and delicious.
Chicken Paillard Salad with Arugula, Fennel, and Apples
2 ½-pound chicken cutlets, pounded ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons
Salt and pepper
2 cups baby arugula
½ fennel, very thinly sliced
½ Granny Smith apple, very thinly sliced
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
Preheat your countertop grill to the highest setting. Rub the chicken with the 2 teaspoons olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken paillards, one at a time, until cooked through—about 4 minutes. Toss the arugula, fennel, apple, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoon olive oil with salt and pepper.
Allow the chicken to cool just slightly, then pile the salad on top of the chicken.