Jerk Chicken

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk is a thick and heady Afro-Carribean marinade chock-a-block full of ingredients. Don’t let the lengthy list of spices and aromatics deter you. All you need is the fire of a grill to unify the flavors and create a spicy-sweet finger licking dinner – perfect for a summer barbecue. The heat in the marinade traditionally comes from Scotch Bonnet peppers (super hot). I’ve modified that with jalapeños – but feel free to go all out with a scotch bonnet (carefully seeded with gloved hands!) if you dare. And remember – as with most meat marinades, the longer the chicken can soak in the marinade, the better the flavor.

Jerk Chicken
Serves 6

Marinade:
6 garlic cloves
4 scallions, chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded (optional)
1 (2-inch) knob ginger, peeled, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 chicken legs and/or breasts with skin and ribs

Method:
1. Place the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to form a paste. Arrange the chicken in a large baking dish. Rub the marinade all over the chicken and under the skin where possible. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat. Grill the chicken over indirect heat until charred and golden brown and thoroughly cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size and thickness. During the last few moments of grilling, move the chicken to direct heat to char the skin as needed.
3. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.

Roasted Tomato Pepper Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce tf

If you are like me and enjoy homemade tomato sauce year round, this recipe will do the trick. While summer tomatoes are ideal for any tomato sauce, you can still manage a decent sauce with your supermarket variety. Start by roasting the tomatoes to coax out and concentrate their flavor – and don’t hold back on the seasoning. In this recipe I roasted an armful of plum tomatoes and added a roasted red pepper for extra sweetness and bold color. If decent plum tomatoes are nowhere to be found (it is March, after all), you can make the sauce with the ubiquitous grape tomatoes readily found in most shops. The key is to taste, taste, taste. Add a spoonful of sugar for the extra sweetness you miss.  Crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper add dimension to the sauce with a nice kick. And don’t be bashful when it comes to the salt. Keep on tasting, then let the sauce rest for a few moments to allow the flavors to meld. You will be pleased with the results: This no nonsense, faux summer sauce is a bright and fresh condiment to splash on pasta, smear on pizza, or layer into gratins any time of year.

Roasted Tomato Pepper Sauce

Grape tomatoes may be substituted for the plum tomatoes. Note that you will not be able to remove their skins, which will yield a more chunky sauce.

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds plum (roma) tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, quartered
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400°F. Brush the tomatoes and peppers with oil and season with salt. Arrange in a rimmed baking pan, cut side down. Roast until  softened, beginning to shrivel and slightly golden, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to the touch, then remove the skins. Combine the red bell pepper and tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent without coloring, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the roasted peppers and tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

Havarti Cheese Fonduta

Castello Fonduta TasteFood

Roasted Potatoes and Broccolini with Havarti Cheese Fonduta

No, this is not about fondue…or not quite. Fonduta, is an Italian specialty hailing from the Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta regions. Like its French and Swiss alpine cousins, fonduta consists of melted cheese. Where it differs is in its preparation. While fondue is made in a pot with wine and simmered table-side over a flame, requiring constant stirring to prevent curdling, fonduta is a melty blend of cheese, milk, and often egg yolk, with a creamy yet stable consistency, allowing for more versatility, such as dipping or pouring.

Fonduta CruditeVegetable Cruditées with Havarti Cheese Fonduta

This recipe is an easy variation of fonduta, which takes advantage of the robust flavors of havarti cheese. The egg is omitted and the milk is partly replaced with cream, creating a rich canvas to allow the cheese to shine through. Served warm on a plate with roasted vegetables, it provides a comforting “soup” or drizzle. Served warm in a cup, it’s a lovely complement to crisp fresh cruditées.

Havarti Cheese Fonduta
Makes about 1/2 cup

4 ounces melting cheese, such as Havarti, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, toss the cheese and cornstarch to coat. Heat the cream and milk in a small saucepan until it just comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheese in 2 batches, stirring constantly to melt the cheese before adding the next batch. Stir until smooth, then remove from the heat. Season with black pepper. Serve immediately as a bed for hearty roasted vegetables or with cruditées for dipping.

Lime Marinated Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa and Spicy Rice

Lime shrimp tostadas

This post is tricky. For my East coast readers, I want to offer you a rich and meaty stew, guaranteed to bring warmth and comfort amidst teetering snowdrifts. For my West coast friends, I am tempted to make happy south-of-the-border food in honor of the ridiculous summer weather outside. So here is a compromise: These tostadas are warming and bright, satisfying and fresh. They go equally well in front of a crackling fire with a bracing shot of tequila, or eaten grill-side with a festive shot of tequila. Each of the components are stand-alone good, and when heaped onto a crispy corn tostada shell, it’s a winter (or summer) party on a plate.

Lime Marinated Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean Salsa and Spicy Rice

Serves 4 to 6

For the black bean salsa:
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
Corn kernels from one ear of corn (or 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of one lime
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small handful cilantro sprigs, chopped

For the rice:
1 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or water)
1 teaspoon salt

For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

Tostada shells
Lettuce leaves
Tomato salsa or hot sauce
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

1. Combine all of the salsa ingredients, except the cilantro, in a bowl and mix well. Taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop. Before serving, add the cilantro.

2. Prepare the rice: Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and cayenne and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring, to lightly toast and thoroughly coat, about 1 minute. Add the stock and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.

3. Prepare the shrimp. Whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium high heat (or prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat). Remove the shrimp from the marinade, shaking off any excess liquid, and transfer to the skillet 0r grill. Cook the shrimp until pink on both sides and just cooked through, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a bowl.

5. To assemble the tostadas, lay a lettuce leaf over a tostada (corn) shell. Spoon some of the rice over the lettuce, then some of the black bean salsa over the rice. Top with 2 to 3 shrimp. Drizzle with a little tomato salsa or hot sauce. Garnish with cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. Serve immediately.

Superbowl Party Dips for Vegetables and Chips

Seasonal Crudites with your favorite dip

I am a diehard playoffs fan. Which is to say I am pretty oblivious to any sports season – until it gets to the playoffs. My last minute interest is amplified when it’s a Boston or a San Francisco team, due to history and my current zip code. As you can imagine, this can pose a dilemma. I have found myself at times the lone cheerleader for the other team, the guest-non-grata, risking loss of friends or getting pelted with tortilla chips. I can’t help it. Birthright rules, and so does Boston.  This year, once again, I am gearing up for the Superbowl, where the Patriots are on their way, and fortunately this year I have absolutely no conflict of interest. I may even be invited to a party.

Superbowl Party Dips for Vegetables and Chips

I get the chips, but if I am going to nosh for 3 hours while I watch a football game, I crave vegetables too. Here are a few of my favorite dips that go well with chopped veggies and chips alike – including this recipe for Guacamole

carrot hummus tastefoodCarrot Harissa Hummus

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Dip 

tsatsikiGarlicky Greek Yogurt Dip (Tsatsiki)

green olive tapenade tastefoodOlive and Almond Tapenade

Ploughman’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Apple Chile Chutney

Grilled Cheese TasteFood

The Art of Cheese with Castello Aged Havarti

Once upon a time I lived in England.  I have many takeaways from that experience, and one of them is the ploughman, the ubiquitous pub lunch consisting of generous slabs of cheese served on a platter with bread, fruit, chutney, and pickles. In my opinion, the combination is a perfect meal: sharp aged cheese, a smear of spiced fruity chutney, perhaps a dab of strong mustard, and wedges of apple stacked onto thick slices of country style bread.

I couldn’t help but think of the ploughman when I  was recently invited to contribute a recipe incorporating or accompanying Castello’s Aged Havarti Cheese. Castello is near and dear to my heart – a brand I know well from Denmark, so I was eager to step up to the task. I was also eager to try their aged rendition of havarti, which, trust me, is not  your generic mild havarti. Nutty, piquant and dense, I easily pictured it with a dollop of robust chutney. As timing would have it, I like to make chutneys during the holiday season to accompany a cheese platter. So for this challenge, I took inspiration from Piccallili, the English version of Indian pickles, which is frequently served with ploughman’s lunches – and made an apple chile chutney, then ramped everything up a notch by piling all of the ingredients into a hearty grilled cheese sandwich with fresh onion, baby kale leaves and sliced apple.

apple chutney tastefood

Ploughman’s Grilled Cheese with Apple Chile Chutney

Makes one sandwich

2 slices sourdough or ciabatta bread, 1/2-inch thick
Salted butter, softened
2 ounces sliced aged hard cheese, such as sharp Cheddar or Gouda
1/4 cup arugula or more as needed
2 tablespoons Apple Chile Chutney (recipe below)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or to taste

Make the sandwich:
Butter one side of each bread slice. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add one bread slice to the skillet, butter-side down. Lay the cheese over the bread. Cover the pan and cook until the cheese is mostly melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Place the arugula over the cheese. Spoon the chutney over the arugula. Spread the mustard over the unbuttered side of the second bread slice. Place the bread, mustard-side down, over the sandwich. Using a spatula, carefully flip the sandwich and gently press down. Cover the skillet and cook until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the bread is golden brown, 2 to 3 more minutes. Transfer to a plate, cut in half, and serve.

Apple Chile Chutney

Add a mix of mild and hot chile peppers for flavor and heat. I used a red jalapeño and sweet Hungarian and Gypsy peppers in this batch.
Makes about 2 cups.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion chopped
2 to 3 red chile peppers, depending on size and heat, stemmed and seeded, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger, with juices
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the chutney thickens, about 20 minutes. Cool completely, then transfer to a jar and refrigerate. The chutney will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Spinach Pesto with Fusilli

pesto pasta tastefood

When you think of pesto do you think of basil? Most of us do. Traditional Pesto Genovese, the ubiquitous garlicky basil puree tossed with pasta is an Italian staple. I have to admit, though, that basil is not my favorite herb. When I use it, I do it sparingly so it’s pungent flavor doesn’t overwhelm. So, when I do make a pesto I like to substitute some or all of the basil with other herbs and greens – and you should too, even if you love basil. Herb pestos are a great way to use copious greens, and a wonderful way to spread their flavor in pastas, dolloped over pizzas or smeared on crostini. They are also great as a garnish or sauce for grilled meats, chicken, and fish. Try substituting parsley, cilantro, mint – or a mixture of all of them. Greens such as arugula and baby spinach also work well. I made this pesto with fresh baby spinach leaves and added a little lemon and mint to brighten the mix.

pesto spinach jar

Spinach Pesto with Almonds, Mint and Lemon

Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto.

4 ounces baby spinach
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the spinach, garlic, mint, cheese, almonds and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the oil in a steady stream to blend. If too thick add a little more oil to desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and black pepper.

To serve with pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add 1 pound pasta, such as fusilli, and cook until al dente. Drain. Toss with several heaping spoonfuls of pesto to coat. Serve with additional grated cheese. Serves 4.