An Ode to Cabbage

This really should have been my inaugural post considering that cabbage, without exaggerating, is one of my favorite foods; but the truth is – it normally doesn’t look this GORGEOUS!!! A close friend of mine got me into cabbage a long time ago as part of a vegetable stir-fry that she often made, and through the years I have found many ways to prepare my favorite vegetable so I never grow tired of it. The simple fact is that cabbage provides a BLANK and NUTRITIOUS canvas for which you can go in many directions. I have recently seen on many food blogs and Instagram that cabbage is about to become a “thing” so welcome to the bandwagon my friends 🙂

This particular preparation is more like “Cabbage Steaks.” I took an entire head of green cabbage and cut through the entire cabbage creating about 3/4 inch-thick slabs of cabbage. I arranged the cabbage slices in a single layer on a large sheet pan. I first drizzled the cabbage with olive oil, and then I gave it a second drizzle of sesame oil. Combining different oils is just a natural and easy way to add extra flavor. Then it was time for seasoning. The cabbage slices had a sprinkle of garlic salt, Everything Seasoning and ginger powder. The cabbage roasted in a 400 degree oven for 50 minutes until the rims were just blistered. As you can see from the photo, this simple cabbage preparation turned out beautifully, and even my husband, who typically refuses to even try my cabbage, acknowledged how tasty it was!!!!

Often times I use this preparation because it really takes a matter of minutes to get it into the oven and then like those old Ron Popeil informercials you just “Set It! And Forget It.” If I am preparing Spaghetti + Meatballs for my family I may use some pesto sauce and parmesan cheese over the cabbage steaks. When you cut cabbage in these large rounds, the cabbage ends up having a linear, noodle-like quality, and for me, becomes the perfect vegetable accoutrement for the meatballs.

Sometimes I cook the cabbage super simply with just salt and pepper and then toss it afterwards in my favorite Siete Cashew Queso that I’ve mentioned before. If I’m making an Indian-style chicken I’ll use Chinese Five Spice on the cabbage. OH – or my favorite go-to cabbage recipe, I love cooking half a package of bacon on the rack in the oven, collecting the juices below, and using the bacon grease as the “oil” for this dish (always with salt + pepper), and then of course serving the finished cabbage with the reserved chopped bacon bits.

You get the point. Like all of the recipes I’ve shared, the point is always to find a way to make something enjoyable and delicious to you. So if you think you don’t love cabbage, try marrying this incredible, super adaptable vegetable with flavors that you know make you happy. Maybe you won’t become obsessed like I have, but never say never.

The No Plan Chicken

Many nights I don’t have a plan. When I do my big shop on Mondays at Whole Foods I obviously come with some sort of a list, but I’m always persuaded to buy new products with no idea how I am going to utilize them – and by persuaded I mean they usually have a sale sign that draws my attention. This is how I found these Jalapeño Monterey Jack Chicken Sausages (they were BOGO). I use a lot of sausage in my cooking because I find it adds a great depth of flavor to simple dishes and I particularly love using chicken sausages because they are “healthier” (my favorite ones are from Sonny’s in East Quogue). This Whole Foods brand had a variety of flavors, but I went with the Jalapeño Monterey option for obvious reason – I’m a fan of all things spicy and cheesy and I make food that is pleasing to me 🙂

My original thought was to make a sausage and peppers type thing but my Whole Foods doesn’t sell those mini bell peppers so I figured I would figure something else out. This is why I find cooking so fun. The best plans are often no plans (unless your traveling, in which case, make a plan AND a back-up plan). So last night I looked in my fridge, saw the sausages sitting there and now was the time to make the magic happen. I had a package of 3 organic boneless/skinless chicken breasts, the remaining garlic-marinated Castelvetrano olives from Shabbat dinner and a new jar of pesto sauce.

First, I sliced the sausages on a bias (diagonal) into 1/4 inch rounds. In my sauté pan, I heated up olive oil over high heat and seared the sausage slices until they were golden brown and crispy on each side. I reserved the sausages in the bottom of my serving bowl. Next up, the 3 chicken breasts were given a rough chop and generous sprinkle of Adobo seasoning. In the same pan the sausages were seared, I heated up more olive oil with a heaping tB. of chopped garlic, this time over medium-heat, so the garlic wouldn’t burn. Again, I seared the chicken in the oil for a good 4 minutes before mixing. It’s so important when trying to sear proteins and vegetables to NOT MIX TOO OFTEN. After the chicken had a nice brown on one side, the pan got a quick toss, and they had another 4 minutes to sear on another other side. During this time, I sliced the olives in half and put them over the sausage in the bottom of the bowl. To finish the chicken, I added a heaping tB. of the pesto and sautéed the chicken with the pesto for another minute, mixing well. Once the chicken was fully cooked through, the pesto chicken went on top of the sausage and olives and the entire dish was incorporated.

I served this dinner with a very simple lemon pasta (pasta with 1 tB. butter, the zest and juice of entire lemon, salt, pepper and a drizzle of truffle oil). The spice of the jalapeño sausages and the saltiness of the olives was married with the herbaceous pesto transforming your typical boring lame chicken breasts into something wonderfully flavorful and satisfying. You know what else is satisfying? Using what you have, being creative and surprising yourself!

Sheet Pan Dinners for Beginners

I follow a lot of cooking sites and if you asked me what some home-cooking trends are as of late, Sheet Pan Dinners would be at the top of the list. And something I’ve really been wanting to try. The idea of cooking an entire dinner on one pan with minimal clean-up sounds wonderful.

The set-up. As I have mentioned, cabbage is my number one favorite vegetable. Recently, fennel has become a close second, so it made sense to combine the two for the base of my sheet pan dinner. I sliced the cabbage and fennel, created a flat bed of vegetables on the base of the sheet pan, and then drizzled said base with olive oil, salt and pepper. A friend of mine recently introduced me to the garlicky marinated tomatoes on the olive bar at Whole Foods (more on this later), and I had leftover Castelvetrano olives from a previous dinner, so I added the tomatoes and olives (with all the garlicky marinade) as well for extra flavor.

Because I was nervous about the vegetables not getting roasted enough, I first roasted the vegetable base by itself for 40 minus at 400 degrees. While the vegetables were open, I trimmed the extra skin off the 12 bone-in chicken thighs using kitchen scissors. I cooked 12 chicken thighs for 5 adults and there were 4 leftover, but mind you this sheet pan dinner was served with freshly toasted olive bread topped with lemon whipped ricotta and truffle honey. Running out of food when hosting people for dinner is my actual nightmare so I always try to shoot for more than I need. The chicken thighs were then tossed in olive oil and the skin was rubbed with Peanut Chutney Powder and sprinkled with salt and pepper to finish. Other seasoning ideas would be Chinese Five Spice, Israeli za’atar, adobo or even a simple Lemon Pepper blend.

The chicken thighs were laid on top of the semi-roasted vegetables and the sheet pan went back into the oven for 35 more minutes. The last 5 minutes I turned on the broiler, hence the darker spots, and the dish was served just as it was prepared – on the sheet pan.

It was a success!!! And the truth is that if my flavor combinations don’t speak to you, this post isn’t so much about MY recipe as it about encouraging you to give this EASY cooking technique a try. It is popular for a reason and super adaptable to whatever you are in the mood to make. Whatever vegetables you chose to use underneath, or whatever protein you chose to place on top (I have seen this done A LOT with fish), the way in which the chicken juices seeped into the bed of vegetables made my typical roast vegetables exceptionally more delicious. I actually could have served the olive loaf simply sliced and people could have used it to sop up the savory sheet pan juices. But then again, whipped ricotta toasts are always a good idea.

The Secret Sauce.

If you can’t tell by now – I am a sauce person – or else this is the first post you’re reading. Either way, welcome 🙂 and let me tell you about one of my favorite sauces as of late – Siete Spicy Queso. This cashew queso is vegan (are you sensing a theme?) and while it’s perfectly delicious as a dip, that’s how I first enjoyed it, it really has a magnitude of possibilities. Sometimes I bake simple turkey meatballs and mix them with the spicy queso instead of marinara sauce – almost like a Mexican version of Swedish meatballs. I’ve made nachos with the spicy queso and fried bits of chorizo — totally NOT vegan, ha! But one of my favorite uses of this queso is as a simple dressing for roasted vegetables.

I have yet to delve into my deep appreciation for cabbage, so for this “recipe” I roasted two heads of cauliflower and two bags of halved Brussels sprouts in two separate batches. Each batch of vegetables got a dressing of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder before a quick toss and into the 400 degree oven they went. The vegetables cooked for 45 minutes each and then (SHOCKER!) I gave each tray 3-5 minutes under the broiler to get some char on the veggies and add a little crunch to the dish. Once the vegetables were out of the oven, I put about 4 tB. (or half the jar) of the queso in my serving bowl and then poured the vegetables on top. It’s important to stir this really well so the queso really gives your typical roast vegetables that creamy extra kick! And that, my friends, is the secret sauce (for today, anyways).

The Devil’s Shrimp

Saturday afternoon it started snowing and I immediately knew I wanted to make some sort of pasta for dinner. If there is one thing that is the absolute best in Hampton Bays – like better than anywhere else in the Hamptons or New York City even – it’s Cor-J Seafood. It’s simply the most honest, well-stocked seafood merchant and the people know what they are talking about and the fish is insanely fresh and going here, for me, is seriously one of my favorite activities. So I had these gorgeous U-15 shrimp and needed a plan. Snowy weather, red wine…red sauce. Seemed obvious.

Growing up, my Dad was always weird about shrimp. His shrimp had to be de-vained. So naturally, I always de-vain my shrimp and it’s a pain in the butt and I don’t even mind it not being done but I still do it anyways because I always have. So once the shrimp were de-shelled and de-vained, I put a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta and dinner was around the corner.

In a hot pan, I heated about 1 tB. of olive oil and added another heaping 1 tB. of chopped garlic. As you can see from the photo, I always buy the giant tubs of pre-chopped garlic because I use so much garlic in my cooking and I like to save time. I think sliced garlic would have looked better in this situation – for example, I would ONLY make Linguine with Oil and Garlic with fresh, sliced garlic – but the point here is, one way or another, the dish is heavy on the garlic. Once the garlic is browned a bit (make sure NOT to BURN it, yuck), I add the shrimp one-by-one using tongs. I like using tongs when cooking shrimp so I can methodically turn them over. Once the shrimp were in the pan, I seasoned them with a Lemon Pepper mix (also from Whole Foods) and red pepper flakes (omit if you don’t want this EXTRA spicy) and let the undersides turn a golden orange for about 90 seconds. After I flipped each shrimp, I let them sear for one more minute before de-glazing the pan with a bit of my red wine. Once all the bits of caramelized garlic were off the bottom of the pan, I added about 1 cup of fra-daviolo sauce and let it come to a simmer.

In the boiling water, I cooked 1.5 cups of penne pasta to an al dente texture. Once strained, I immediately put the pasta in with the simmering sauce and shrimp and mixed well. I find this is the key to making delicious pasta. You have to let the pasta finish cooking in whatever sauce you are serving it in so the pasta can actually soak up some of the sauce in the cooking process.

Soup to nuts this dish probably took 30 minutes to make – and that’s accounting for the annoying de-vaining process. The truth is, when it came time to eat, I finished mine with parmesan cheese. I would have LOVED to have ricotta salata but just as I am typing this am I realizing how perfect that would have been. About 15 years ago, Daniel and I went to Pierluigi in Rome – a restaurant to this day I would highly recommend. I ordered Mussels Fra Diavolo and it came with ricotta salata on top and I was SHOCKED and it was divine (similar to how the Greek put feta on their mussels). It was the first time I had felt like cheese on seafood could not only be OK, but outstanding. It’s like growing up I always thought you couldn’t wear blue and black together because it clashed but now I realize that navy and black is actually a super cool combo. End note: “Rules” were meant to be broken.

Chimichurri Grilled Green Beans

I love dishes that look fancy, are full of flavor, but don’t take a ton of time. Remember that old cooking show, “Semi Homemade,” that’s sort of how I enjoy cooking – especially after a long day of baking (insert shameless 3 Monkeys Macaroons plug here) and schlepping kids and I’m not even sure what I’m doing half the time but somehow the day. just. goes!!! Thankfully, so many brands make incredible sauces and marinades that make it so easy to cook delicious food at home in a pinch. One of those brands is Haven’s Kitchen (I already referenced their Chimichurri sauce in the the Chicken Thighs One Million Ways recipe.)

Living in New York City, without outdoor space, I have come to appreciate my grill pan. It’s totally, without a doubt, not even close to having a real BBQ, but it can still give a great char to proteins and vegetables. For this dish, I use the pre-snipped Green Beans because there isn’t enough hours in the day to do annoying, time-sucking things that Whole Foods can do for me. I spray my grill pan with Olive Oil Spray and let it get smoking smoking hot over high heat. I throw on the green beans and DO NOT TOUCH THEM for 4 minutes. I find the more you toss the green beans the less of a distinguished char you get. After I toss them using a wooden spoon, I then season the green beans with salt, pepper, garlic powder and ginger powder. Allow the green beans to grill for another 4 minutes and then continue to toss and grill for a few-minute increments until the beans are evenly charred and easy to bite through.

That’s basically it. Honestly, on a warm summer day, I would do this outside on the BBQ and just finish them with a squeeze of lemon juice and maybe a drizzle of truffle honey. Many times I have tossed them in my favorite pesto sauce, which is equally easy and delicious because IT’S PESTO! Yum! But for this recipe, I tossed the beans with feta cheese and Haven’s Kitchen Chimichurri. It has a very herbaceous flavor and the oily nature of this sauce really coats the green beans in tremendous flavor. I like tossing the beans with the feta while they are still piping hot so the feta warms a bit and gets a melty, creamier texture to it. If you want to make this dish totally vegan, swap the feta cheese for Violife Just Like Feta which is another one of my favorite things lately.

The Anti-Chopped Salad

I have come to realize that a majority of my favorite foods have come from my Dad. Favorite ice cream – pistachio. Favorite cake – carrot. (Maybe this is where my sweet tooth also comes from!!!) Favorite salad – wedge. A wedge is a beautiful thing because it is SUCH a SIMPLE salad. Almost like a lazy restaurant salad. The antithesis of today’s chopped salad craze. A wedge of iceberg, tomato, bacon, blue cheese – dressing on the side. Some places do onion. If I were to add onion, I’d prefer a pickled red onion. But for Friday night’s dinner I had a lot of mouths to feed, and wanted to make a wedge that would A. feed everyone B. let me use the remaining avocado from my week’s grocery order and C. look pretty.

The only two components you need to prep for this dish are the bacon and the tomatoes but the tomato prep is totally optional. Beautiful, tri-color heirloom baby tomatoes can always be simply sliced in half. I chose to roast mine with garlic and olive oil (for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees) because I enjoy contrasting temperatures in salad. I love a warm topping on a cold salad. This is totally my preference and I think I have great taste.

For the bacon, again, always use a sheet pan with a rack, and roast the bacon in the oven, also at 400 degrees, for 20 minutes. One of the benefits of baking bacon this way is the underlying rack will capture all of the bacon grease. I always store this remaining bacon grease in a glass container and use it for roasting Brussels sprouts or cabbage! I get very upset when housekeepers dispense of said glass container as I usually leave it sitting out on the counter, which is probably not the best place to leave it, but it reminds me to use it. This is what one considers “liquid gold” after they have graduated from breast-feeding.

Assembly. I cut an entire head of iceberg lettuce into eight equal edges and try to arrange them flat-ish on a large serving dish. The flatness of each section of lettuce is important because it allows each guest to take an entire WEDGE of lettuce (get it?) with all of the accoutrements. Over the lettuce you will layer your roasted tomato, chopped crispy bacon, blue cheese crumbles, and in this case – avocado (of course, that has been tossed in lemon juice and a bit of sea salt).

I typically like to serve my wedge with a vinaigrette-style dressing as opposed to a creamy blue cheese dressing. For me a quick mustard vinaigrette uses 1 tB. grainy mustard, 2 tb. apple cider vinegar, 3 tB. olive oil, salt and pepper. If no one is pregnant I love throwing an egg yolk in there as well to emulsify the dressing, but for this particular dinner, I was drawn in by a new find at Whole Foods – Tessamae’s Organic Habanero Ranch – it was a serious winner. It is also shockingly spicy in a good way. This is me telling my friends about it.

Wasabi Pea-Crusted Salmon

I feel like the name is pretty self-explanatory but I’m serious when I tell you people have told me “this is the only salmon they’ll eat” or “this made them like salmon” or as my kids now say, “make me the good salmon, Mom!” (hopefully followed by a “please” on a good day).

This dish is a variation of one of the original dishes at The Stanton Social created by my former boss, Chris Santos. His recipe is available through his cookbook, SHARE, which we wrote together. My version has 3 ingredients and while it looks kinda fancy, I promise it is beyond simple to make.

I usually make about 2 lbs. of salmon. I slice the large (boneless/skinless) salmon steak into about 2-inch thick filets. I place the salmon in a mixing bowl and top with 1/2 cup of soy sauce. After mixing the salmon, I like to let it sit for about an hour, mixing occasionally. If you don’t have time for this step, I’ve also made the dish without letting the salmon marinate at all and it’s not a huge difference. The key ingredient here is Wasabi Peas – one of my favorite snacks on the planet. (If you’re thinking wasabi peas and children don’t mix – the spice, for whatever reason, doesn’t resonate after they have been cooked). Take 1 cup of wasabi peas and pulse in a food processor until you have a gritty mixture.

Lay your salmon steaks on a flat surface. Season with salt and pepper and then COMPLETELY COVER the top surface of each salmon steak with the crushed wasabi peas. After I cover each filet, I like to use a paper towel and press down firmly to further help the peas stick to the fish. In a sauce pan, heat about 2 tB. olive oil (or grapeseed oil or whatever you prefer) over medium-high heat. Sear the salmon – pea side down! – for about 90 seconds. Flip the salmon and then continue cooking until your desired temperate (90 more seconds for RARE-ish, 3 minutes if you like your salmon more well-done).

That’s all she wrote. Super simple. Let me know if you’ve converted any non-salmon eaters. If you have – tell them The Gluttoness sent you. If you don’t – well, maybe yours didn’t turn out so good 🙂

Zucchini is Everything

My husband, Daniel, and I watched the documentary “Game Changers” about pro-athletes who have gone vegan and the amazing recovery abilities and strength that they achieved through the diet. We are not vegan. Not even close. I absolutely love vegetables but Daniel is the kind of guy that still picks the scallions off the top of his wonton soup. So he asked me to start trying to make more vegetables (aside from the usual burnt broccoli) that maybe he would eat. Maybe.

I decided to start with zucchini because its a vegetable I rarely cook in the winter. I love to grill it all summer long, but I have a distaste for the way the water content leaches out in sauce pans and casseroles. Zucchini noodles just aren’t my thing. So here was my solution:

I bought 5 zucchinis and sliced them about 1/3″ thick. I tossed them in a bowl with about 1 tB. of extra virgin olive oil and 1/3 cup soy sauce. I use the soy sauce because it gives the vegetables that depth of umami flavor to the otherwise bland zucchini (also my husband loves soy sauce). After the zucchini has been tossed in the “marinade,” you want to lay your zucchini slices out on baking sheet WITH A RACK. The rack is key because it allows any of the natural liquids to leave the zucchini without leaving a soggy product.

Like most dishes, the seasonings bring this home. On the right, you have AJO SAL (or garlic salt) straight from the salt flats in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Every traveler that visits the salt flats leaves with some variation of this salt of course, it’s part of the tour maybe, but I’m not sure how many of you have actually USED this salt. We love ours so much that when friends/family have traveled to Peru since I have asked them to bring me back more. I can’t exactly explain WHY we love it so much – but I think it’s actually saltier than regular salt if that makes sense. Sprinkled on pizza it’s an absolute dream! But back to the zucchini…

After you dust the zucchini with a LITTLE coat of the garlic salt (a little bit goes a long way), the final ingredient is a generous sprinkle of Everything Spice Mix. I get mine from Zucker’s because it’s my local bagel shop and I think it’s cool that they sell their own blend, but Whole Foods does a great job as well. I go heavy handed with the Everything Spice because, again, we are trying to add as much flavor here as we can.

The zucchini go in the oven at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. The last 5 minutes I like to turn the broiler on because I like to get a little bit of char on the tops of each zucchini rounds.

I served the zucchini with blackened catfish that had a heavy squeeze of fresh lemon and cajun remoulade. Daniel approved!!!!!! Honestly, the next day I ate the leftover zucchini cold and dipped in tzatziki and they were so flavorful having sat in the spices overnight. It was such a delicious combination because the garlic and dill of the creamy tzatziki married with the dried garlic and onion flakes from the Everything spice. I am totally inspired to make an Everything Tzatziki sauce in the future. I love sauces. Sauces are also everything. Stay tuned.

Chicken Thighs 1 Million Ways

If you’ve been to my house for dinner on more than one occasion, there is a seriously high chance you have had braised chicken thighs. Slow-cooking chicken thighs is one of the first things I picked up in the Beauty & Essex kitchen because they used the pulled meat in a variety of applications. Once I got the hang of it, this dish became a staple in my household for three obvious reasons 1. they are cheap 2. they are EASY!!! and 3. they are so versatile depending on what mood you’re in. I’ve never been a slow-cooker aficionado, but this is my idea of “set it and forget.”

Here’s how it goes. Place your chicken thighs in a glass casserole dish. I would estimate about 1 lb. per person but we love having leftovers in my house so I usually make about 5/6 pounds each time. Season thoroughly – sometimes I use my own mixture of salt, pepper and garlic powder. If I’m going latin with the flavoring, I love using Adobo seasoning. When I’m going Indian with it, my best friend’s mom makes this homemade peanut chutney powder that is bonkers good. Whatever direction you are taking this dish, the base seasoning will ensure a flavorful outcome. **When I first got out of culinary school, people would always ask me what I learned. I cannot emphasize this enough when I say that the most important thing is to season your food. SALT + PEPPER people. They are your friends.*** After the chicken is seasoned, place it under the BROILER for approximately 20 minutes. I like the tops of my thighs to be a bit charred (as seen above) because I love textural differences in food. If you don’t want the crunchy bits, 10-15 minutes will be best.

Remove the chicken from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees. (Depending on how fatty your thighs are, you may want to strain some of the fat from your casserole dish before proceeding). Now we’re back to #3. The reason why this dish is titled “Chicken Thighs One Million Ways” is because you have complete creative control over the direction of the flavor of this dish. When I first started making this, I exclusively used my boss’s Rattler barbecue sauce, but then I realized that I could use any sauce of my choosing and transform the exact same dish into something entirely different. I add about one cup of sauce/marinade to the broiled chicken, mix well, cover with tin foil and cook in the 250 degree oven for 3 hours. THAT’S IT!!!

For reference, here are some of my favorite sauce/marinades to use:

  1. We Rub You – Spicy Korean Marinade
  2. Haven’s Kitchen – Nutty Lemongrass OR Chimichurri
  3. Maya Kadima – Madra Curry
  4. Frontera – Fajita Simmer Sauce with Chipotle + Lime
  5. Sweet Baby Ray’s – Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce