Jonathan Waxman’s Favorite Salads

If the core of Italian cooking is seasonality, then nothing defines it more than fresh greens. Celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman shares his favorite fresh, simple salad ideas from Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life Into Italian Classics.

Lettuce can be a basic term for all greens; in Italy they grow an amazing variety. In America we tend to stick to the same old standbys; in Italy they have fifty varieties of treviso! I am constantly awed at what I find in the Italian markets when I wander around the countryside. Italians like their greens crisp, bitter and colorful, and this style appeals to me. A classic example is arugula. In Italy, some varieties of arugula are large and soft; others, small, crisp and spicy. I happen to like the wild variety, the small, bitter, almost blue-tinged sylvetta.

With the greening of the American food industry, arugula no longer rests in the hands of the Mediterranean farmers. We produce amazing arugula here. Nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to a freshly made salad of arugula and real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese tossed with great olive oil and sea salt.

Early on in my career I became impassioned by the world of warm salads, which the Italians have enjoyed for centuries. I am particularly enamored with the classic bagna cauda, which I have adapted to my taste. I often wonder why eggs taste better in the hills of Piedmont than in downtown New York. I think pedigree might have something to do with it. In any case, a perfectly poached egg atop a curly endive salad, mixed with freshly picked herbs, pancetta, crispy torn bread croutons, true balsamic vinegar and, of course, that fantastic walnut oil from Abruzzi, is heaven!

I quite like the idea of a colorful, composed salad. Roasted apples, toasted walnuts and freshly made goat cheese, delicately but firmly tossed with lemon juice, good olive oil and black pepper, is an autumnal treat.

Then there is my absolute favorite: the raw vegetable salad. I was a picky and not at all adventuresome eater as a child. I came late to the game of delicious, freshly picked vegetables. Raw beets, asparagus, summer squash and even Brussels sprouts have all entered my daily menus. The only “trick” with raw vegetables is to choose farm fresh. A Brussels sprout gone past its primeis no one’s friend. My first raw salad came in the guise of a shaved black truffle and mâche (lamb’s tongue lettuce) salad — very decadent, and truly delicious. I have tried to enhance my repertoire along this theme. A trick I employ with raw vegetables is to use a lovely and sharp Japanese mandoline. This amazingly simple and precise tool makes quick work of a raw artichoke, caulifloweror turnip, making delicate, tender shavings. Again, tossed with great olive oil and salt, they are transcendent.

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Avocado mango salad

Beat the Heat With Refreshing Gazpacho

Make this easy summer gazpacho recipe from The Stocked KitchenCool off on a hot summer day with this stove-free soup recipe from The Stocked Kitchen: One Grocery List…Endless Recipes, by Sarah Kallio and Stacey Krastins.

Gazpacho

Serves 6

3 medium tomatoes, diced, or one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
One 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons diced shallot or 1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1/2 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until blended to desired consistency.
2. Chill for 1 to 24 hours. Serve cold.

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How to Buy the Perfect Steak

‘Tis the season to fire up the grill and enjoy a tender piece of goodness. Let Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione, authors of Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together help you choose a steak that’s a cut above the rest.

You only need two things for a great steak: quality meat and a hot grill. (While you’re at it, throw in some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper for enhanced flavor.) That means the onus of turning out a great steak rests squarely on the shoulders of the hunk of meat that you select. Here’s what to look for:

Color
The color of the meat is a great indicator of how much it’s been aged. Good or bad. Proper aging of steak yields a slightly darker, more brown color. It might not be the prettiest steak in the butcher’s case, but it’s the tastiest, with the richest, deepest flavor. Improper aging — aka steaks that have been sitting in the butcher’s case too long — will look dull, slightly grayish. To recap: good aging – color deepens; bad aging — color fades.

Marbling
Those white flecks in the meat are fat, and fat is flavor! Look for a good quantity and an even distribution of the white stuff to ensure that every bite will be a flavorful one.

Size
When it comes to steak, size definitely matters. If the cut is too thin, it will be difficult to develop a good char on the outside without overcooking the interior. If it’s too thick, you might burn the exterior before the interior reaches a level beyond that of steak tartare. Go for a steak that’s atleast 1/2 inch thick and up to 2 inches thick.

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Great grilling and barbecue tips

Create Quick Meals with a Pantry Essentials Checklist

Keep these key ingredients on hand in your kitchen pantry — they’ll help you create and flavor your meals, and save many a dish from disaster. From 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients, by Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham.

SAVORY

  • Barbecue sauce
  • Beef and chicken bouillon cubes
  • Bread crumbs
  • Curry Powder
  • Dijon mustard
  • French onion soup (dry mix)
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Garlic
  • Ketchup
  • Lemons
  • Mayonnaise
  • Minced ginger
  • Peppercorns
  • Pesto
  • Pine nuts
  • Refrigerated piecrusts
  • Rice
  • Sea salt
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soups (canned): asparagus, celery, etc.
  • Sour cream
  • Soy sauce
  • Spaghetti and noodles
  • Vegetable broth
  • Vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce

SWEET

  • All-purpose and self-rising flour
  • Bamboo Skewers
  • Canned fruit: pineapple, pear
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut, shredded
  • Condensed milk
  • Cornstarch
  • Cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Eggs
  • Evaporated milk
  • Food coloring
  • Fresh fruit
  • Gelatin
  • Graham crackers
  • Honey
  • Jams: apricot, strawberry, etc.
  • Jell-O
  • Marmalade
  • Mixed dried fruit
  • Mixed spices
  • Nutmeg
  • Puff pastry and short crust pastry
  • Sugar (confectioners’, granulated, superfine, brown)
  • Vanilla cake mix
  • Vanilla extract

Try These Healthy Recipes from 4 Ingredients
Asparagus with Balsamic Dressing
Baked Salmon with Pesto Crust

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachael Bermingham, author of 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients (Copyright © 2007 by Meymott Enterprises Pty Ltd PR International Pty Ltd), is the energetic, dynamic, and proud mum of Jaxson and six-month-old twin boys, Bowie and Casey. She has written six bestselling books in the last four years and is regarded as one of Australia’s number one female authors.

Kim McCosker, author of 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients (Copyright © 2007 by Meymott Enterprises Pty Ltd PR International Pty Ltd), is the proud mother of three boys (Morgan, eight; Hamilton, five; and Flynn, two), the lady who had the idea and who is now the coauthor of the internationally bestselling 4 Ingredients series, which includes 4 Ingredients4 Ingredients 2, and 4 Ingredients Gluten Free.

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4 Ingredients Recipe: Asparagus with Balsamic Dressing

Asparagus with balsamic dressingBored with bland weeknight salad? Spruce it up with the season’s asparagus harvest. Get this and more fast weeknight meals from 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients, by Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham.

Asparagus with Balsamic Dressing
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
2 bunches asparagus
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced

Preheat the broiler. Brush the asparagus with some of the oil, then broil for 5 minutes, or until tender. Serve drizzled with combined remaining oil, vinegar, and diced tomato.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Rachael Bermingham is the energetic, dynamic, and proud mum of Jaxson and six-month-old twin boys, Bowie and Casey. She has written six bestselling books in the last four years and is regarded as one of Australia’s number one female authors.

Kim McCosker is the proud mother of three boys (Morgan, eight; Hamilton, five; and Flynn, two), the lady who had the idea and who is now the coauthor of the internationally bestselling 4 Ingredients series, which includes 4 Ingredients, 4 Ingredients 2, and 4 Ingredients Gluten Free.

Jonathan Waxman’s Essential Kitchen Tips and Tools

Leave your linens, overpriced olive oils and al dente anxieties at the door. Get kitchen kudos from your guests with these easy tips from casual-cuisine chef Jonathan Waxman, author of Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life into Italian Classics.

We grabbed a few minutes with Jonathan to discuss the focus on simple, flavorful dishes and how you can make the most of seasonal produce — and even recreate his most popular dishes at home.

You brought a very California style of fresh cooking and casual eating out to NYC, which as Tom Colicchio mentions in the foreword to your bookJonathan Waxman, was very formal at the time (in the 1980s). What are the major differences between top California and New York restaurants today?

Jonathan: Everybody now is leaning toward informality. The day of tablecloths, fancy service, and the big wine list is, at least temporarily, disappearing. What people want is really good food and they don’t want to spend four hours eating dinner. The world has changed in that respect. At Barbuto people dine in an hour and a half, forty-five minutes. After, they’re going to a movie, going back to work, whatever — they’re busy! Back when I had Jams, dinner was entertainment. What you had planned for the night was dinner: You spent money, you had a great time.

That’s all changed. The food now is much more casual, everywhere.

What makes everyone so gaga for your gnocchi?
It’s really the dish itself. I didn’t like gnocchi in Italy; it was gummy and sticky and not delicious. I made it by accident at a dinner party by sautéing it — it was a happy accident, or rather, a forgotten step. Forgetfulness turned into what has become a great dish.
Make It at Home: Jonathan Waxman’s Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables

Learn how to make Jonathan’s legendary roasted chicken:

What are 5 things everyone should know how to cook properly?
There’s 20 things probably, but these are my 5.
–How to cook a hamburger properly (which no one does)
–Scrambled eggs
–Soup
–Salad and salad dressing
–Pudding
*Bonus:
Pie

I always seem to screw up risotto lately, even though I bought a good pan, good rice, and keep the heat low. What is the secret to making it turn out great?
When you sweat the onions, throw the rice in at the same time so that the rice gets cooked by the oil, for five minutes. Immediately add the wine and cook it down to nothing. If you don’t, you’re going to ruin the risotto. Don’t add the stock until all the wine is gone. The stock has to be hot, and you should add just enough to have a finished dish.

The soupiness never changes. Never let it go too dry or too hot. Now, you can relax: You can drink wine, you can watch TV, just don’t rush it. Don’t be impatient. That’s why it never turns out — impatience. Use a small wooden spoon, circle the rim and zigzag the middle. Don’t do it hard, just do it gently. You want the rice kernels to absorb. When they get hard, they’re not absorbing liquid.
Make It at Home: Jonathan Waxman’s Risotto with Spring Peas

Your wife shops at the Greenmarket frequently. What are your favorite spring veggies? What are some dishes you love to make this time of year?
I don’t have a favorite. Spring really has too many choices: Morels, peas, ramps, baby leeks, fava beans, baby spring beans, the first new potatoes. Yesterday I cooked Easter supper, and made a little wilted vegetable thing with spring onions, and took some other veggies and sautéed them pretty hard and added roasted baby cauliflower. I did celery root puree with cream and butter.

Lucky family! How do you pick great produce at the greenmarket or store?
I let the vegetables talk to me, not the other way around. They say “Pick me!”

Do I really need to buy overpriced olive oil, or does the everyday stuff do the trick?
The trick is three-fold. Buy different ones and look online, too. Read surveys. Don’t buy cans; they’re terrible unless you’re massaging it on your body. Don’t buy big bottles, buy small. I have five different olive oils in my house. Spanish ones are a little buttery, the Tuscans are green and peppery and fun for salads.

Ceramic knives: yay or nay?
I have a gorgeous one, but I don’t even know where it is right now. They’re really weird, I love them. They’re very fragile and sharp as hell. You can’t sharpen them at home — you have to send them to the manufacturer. But they do stay sharp for a long time.

I read in your book that your wife does all the shopping and you just make whatever you can from what she brings home. Do you think being a good cook is the key to a solid relationship?
Of course. You knew I was going to say that!


What if you both want to cook?

We just draw straws.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Waxman first stepped into the culinary scene in 1970 when he retired from his career as a professional trombonist to enroll in the La Varenne cooking school in Paris. After working at the prestigious Chez Panisse alongside Alice Waters, he brought New American cuisine to New York City by opening the restaurants Jams and Washington Park. Today, he is the chef-owner of the Big Apple’s Barbuto, an Italian brasserie.

Recipe: Jonathan Waxman’s Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables

Hit the local greenmarket and whip up this beloved springtime dish from New York City’s Barbuto, owned by celebrated chef Jonathan Waxman, author of Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life into Italian Classics.

I’ve never liked the renditions of gnocchi that I’ve eaten in Italy and America. They were always gummy, covered with béchamel or another yucky sauce. One day my chef, Justin, knowing of my aversion to the classic preparation, froze a batch of raw gnocchi after he had rolled them out and cut them. We had a dinner party at my house and I took the gnocchi along as an afterthought. At home, I threw the gnocchi into a sizzling hot pan with butter and olive oil, while Justin looked at me with a crazy, quizzical expression. But the gnocchi turned into crisp pillows that were tender and fluffy on the inside and golden brown and crunchy on the outside. We served them with English peas, mint and a little fresh butter. They were a hit.

We prepare gnocchi at the restaurant the same way, but we do alter the vegetables, herbs and sauce occasionally.

INGREDIENTS
3 large organic russet potatoes
2 tbsp. organic all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 c. thumbelina carrots, washed and stemmed
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 c. shelled English peas
12 fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Prepare the gnocchi:
Steam the potatoes in a pot until cooked and tender (about 30 minutes). Remove and let cool for 2 hours. Peel the skin (this is very easy). If you have a food mill or ricer, rice the potatoes in it, or better yet, pass the potatoes through a fine-mesh sieve. Rice the potatoes onto a lightly floured marble or wood surface. Dust the potatoes with the flour and dribble 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on top. Very gently form a soft dough, making sure not to overwork it or it will be tough. Do this for 2–3 minutes and let the mass rest. Roll the dough into 1-inch-diameter tubes. With a paring knife cut the gnocchi into 1-inch lengths. Then roll each gnocchi over the tines of a fork to create slight grooves. When the gnocchi are finished, freeze them for at least 1 hour and up to 1 month.

2. Cook the carrots in simmering water for 20 minutes. Cool and cut into bite-size pieces.

3. Cook the gnocchi: Heat the butter and the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter and oil are almost golden, add the frozen gnocchi and sauté for 3 minutes, moving them around so all sides start to darken.

4. Add the peas and carrots and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Toss in the basil leaves and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Serves 4 as a first course

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Waxman first stepped into the culinary scene in 1970 when he retired from his career as a professional trombonist to enroll in the La Varenne cooking school in Paris. After working at the prestigious Chez Panisse alongside Alice Waters, he brought New American cuisine to New York City by opening the restaurants Jams and Washington Park. Today, he is the chef-owner of the Big Apple’s Barbuto, an Italian brasserie.Gnocchi with spring vegetables

It’s Time to Try Catfish for Dinner

Today’s farm-raised catfish is a far cry from the fishy catch grandpa brought home. Sara Moulton, author of Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners, shares simple tips on how to pick and prepare this versatile dish for the whole family to enjoy.

These days, the catfish you consume aren’t like the ones your grandpa used to catch in local ponds and streams. The farm-raised catfish you will find in today’s markets have been trained to feast on a special diet that floats on the surface of the water and reduces the off flavors that once marred catfish’s popularity. Farm-raised catfish come to market in a uniform size, filleted, boned, and skinned, all ready to go in the pan, under the broiler, or on the grill. In the store, select fresh fillets that look moist, almost translucent, and vary from pure white to pink in color. As with all fish, catfish should have no fishy odor.

Catfish have several areas that are fattier than the rest of the fillet, and removing those areas not only makes the fish leaner, it reduces the possibility of the fish’s having the “muddy” flavor that wild catfish are known for. The largest fatty area is a layer right under the skin. This is sometimes removed in processing, and the fish is labeled “double skinned.” If the fatty area is still visible, it can be easily scraped off with the blade of a knife. Removing the gray line that runs lengthwise down the center of the fillet will also improve the flavor. You can either split the fillet and trim off the gray area or cut a V down the center of the fillet to remove it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Admired by millions as the host of Cooking Live, Cooking Live Primetime, and Sara’s Secrets, Sara Moulton, author of Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners (Copyright © 2010 by Sara Moulton Enterprises), was one of the Food Network’s defining personalities during its first decade. In addition, the energetic Moulton was the executive chef of Gourmet magazine for twenty-three years. She is the food editor of ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, and the author of Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals and Sara Moulton Cooks at Home.  In April 2008, Moulton launched a new twenty-episode television series on public television, Sara’s Weeknight Meals. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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Time-Saving Tips for Cooking Beans

Whatever kind of dried bean you are preparing, from relatively quick-cooking types like black beans or navy beans to garbanzos, which can take a few hours to cook, Daisy Martinez, author of Daisy’s Holiday Cooking, has simple tips for evenly cooked beans with a creamy texture and no “bones” (hard white centers).

I know it’s common kitchen wisdom that beans have to be soaked — overnight in cold water or a “quick soak” in hot water for an hour or so — but I never soak them. Well, almost never: Sometimes I will soak garbanzos (chickpeas) to shave half an hour or so off the cooking time and I soak lupini beans  for the same reason as well as to remove some of their bitterness.

When I tell people that I don’t soak beans, they usually respond that beans have to be soaked, or else they take forever to cook and will cook unevenly. It is true that soaked beans will cook a little faster than unsoaked beans, but we’re talking minutes, not hours, and it doesn’t seem worth it to me. As for cooking unevenly, follow these basic instructions and you’ll end up with evenly cooked beans with a creamy texture and no “bones” (hard white centers):

Rinse the beans in a colander under cold running water. While you’re at it, pick over the beans and remove the occasional pebble or funky-looking bean. Pour the beans into a heavy pot large enough to hold them and plenty of water. My favorite bean pot to cook 1 to 2 pounds of beans is a 6-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. Pour in enough cold water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Don’t add salt at this point. Add a couple of bay leaves and a ham hock or large smoked turkey wings if you aren’t vegetarian and like a little smoke with your beans, like I do.

Bring the water to a boil, then adjust the heat so there is a happy bubble, not a full boil, and start skimming off the foam that rises to the top. Most beans will take about 2 hours to cook, give or take 15 minutes. During the first hour and a half, check the beans every once in a while to make sure they are covered by at least 1 inch of water. Add more water to keep them covered if necessary. When the beans are almost tender (somewhere around that 1 1/2-hour mark), lower the heat to a simmer. Add at least 2 teaspoons of salt per pound of beans and continue cooking them until they are tender. Don’t add any more liquid, but do keep an eye on the beans so they don’t stick and scorch. The end result should be a pot of creamy-tender (not mushy!) beans and just enough liquid to generously coat them like a thick, silky sauce. Once they’re done, you can leave the beans on the stove (but off the heat) for a couple of hours and reheat them gently when it’s time to serve them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daisy Martinez, author of Daisy’s Holiday Cooking: Delicious Latin Recipes for Effortless Entertaining (Copyright © 2010 Daisy Martinez), is also the author of Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night. She is the star of Viva Daisy!, which debuted on the Food Network in January 2009. She launched her career with the PBS series Daisy Cooks! and a cookbook based on the show. She has appeared on the Today show and The Early Show, and has been featured in The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, and AARP VIVA, among other publications. A dedicated mother of four fantastic children, Daisy and her family reside in Brooklyn, New York.

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  • Daisy shows you how to prepare a delicious holiday cocktail