By Chef Judi Gallagher –
There are a few foods that I started eating about a year ago in restaurants or at a friend’s home or sometimes because I brought them home to cook. In my job, I taste and evaluate foods all day long, but there are always some that become personal favorites. Here are my new prize-winners and I’m going to eat a lot more of them in 2014. Most are healthy choices, but there are a few guilty pleasures on the list and that’s fine. I can live with a few guilty pleasures; we all should.
Snow Pea Shoots – once a rare delicacy found mostly in high-end Chinese restaurants like Shun Lee Palace in Manhattan, snow pea shoots and pea tendrils are making it to mainstream menus that feature both Asian and Modern American Cuisine. Chefs love them because they are so pretty on the plate. I want them because they are so delicious.
Frozen Greek Yogurt – I was already a huge fan of the thick Greek version of yogurt. Then I tried Frozen Greek Yogurt. Nirvana. The frozen Greek yogurt has a superior consistency and it is entirely luscious with blueberries and a drizzle of organic honey.
Green Tea and Black Tea – While I confess to drinking a tall bold red-eye (shot of espresso in very strong coffee) every afternoon, I have promised both my body and spirit to enjoy the benefits of green tea and black tea this year. Of course, this comes after three months of private yoga classes.
Korean Beef Short Ribs – This is the guilty pleasure. The balance of sweet and savory in the slightly fatty marinated grilled meat is probably more sugar and sodium than allowed for a month of Paleo or Weight Watcher eating, but somehow I dream of good Kalbi and yes, I want the white rice with minced scallions on top as well. (note: Korean foods are going to be very big in 2014).
Pomodoro Sauce – How can something so simple be oh so delicious? Johnny Carrabba’s grandmother, brought her family recipe from Italy to Texas and now foodies all over American enjoy it at her family’s casual restaurants. I adore this sauce over ziti or as a base for steamed mussels and clams. (recipe below.)
Shitake Mushrooms – I like them sautéed with fresh thyme and ghee (clarified butter). These pricey mushrooms are antioxidants, but more important, they are exquisitely flavorful in an omelet for dinner or atop grilled sliced sirloin steak. They’re worth the extra money.
Octopus – Yes, it does look a little scary when it’s served, but when octopus is cooked properly, with a good quality olive oil, salt and preserved lemons, it is tender and delicious with a hint of deep-sea brininess. Finding a restaurant that can prepare octopus correctly is like finding gold. But, it’s worth the quest. I think octopus is best when lightly sautéed or served chilled with a lemony vinaigrette. (recipe below.)
Kale Caesar Salad – while the bigger bitter curly kale leaves are best turned into oven-baked chips with sea salt or dropped into vegetable soup, many stores sell baby kale leaves that are almost the same texture as baby spinach. Omitting the croutons keeps the salad healthier. Baby kale is the year’s run-away winner in the category of dark leafy green vegetables!
Honey Crisp Apples – For years I championed the crisp tart Macintosh as the apple to beat. But now, the giant juicy apples known as Honey Crisp have stolen my heart and claimed my taste buds. Find them at Fresh Market stores around the country. Some Honey Crisps are nearly the size of a softball. I cannot stop eating once I take the first bite. Slightly sweet with an abundance of juicy crisp goodness. This apple is aptly named.
Tomato Sauce Pomodoro
Mama Mandola, Carrabba’s Restaurants
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can whole tomatoes in juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup fresh chopped basil
Combine the onion and oil in a medium sauce pan over a medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown and just beginning to caramelize, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour the tomatoes and their juices into a bowl. Crush the tomatoes between your fingers. Pour the tomatoes and their juices into the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer, stirring often, until the tomato juices have thickened and the sauce has reduced slightly, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat. Sprinkle the basil over the sauce and cover with a lid. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in the basil. Refrigerate or freeze.
Cork Braised Portuguese Octopus
Chef Benjamin Rottcamp, Crab & Fin Restaurant
1 each octopus (head removed & rinsed)
4 wine corks (real cork not synthetic, red or white)
3 ribs of celery (washed and halved)
2 white onions peeled and halved
½ bunch thyme
4 bay leaves
8 garlic cloves
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 gallons water
Place all ingredients in a large stockpot EXCEPT OCTOPUS. Bring to boil and cook for ½ an hour. Dunk octopus quickly 3 times for 3 seconds or until tentacles curl and drop completely. Put octopus into the pot. Bring back to boil and simmer for 35 to 45 min (depending on size). Check for tenderness; remove octopus from cooking liquid and cool in refrigerator. When completely chilled, remove all tentacles from center ring and reserve.
Heat 1 cup of extra virgin oil with 2 sliced shallots until tender. Add 1 tablespoon chopped garlic and cook for a minute. Allow to cool. Add 1 tablespoon capers and 1 tablespoon caper berries. Zest and juice of 1 lemon and add. Then add fresh chopped oregano, 1 leaf preserved lemon. Season to taste with kosher salt and fresh black pepper.
Chargrill or pan sear octopus in a little extra virgin olive oil. Toss vinaigrette with fresh ripe tomatoes, octopus and mixed baby greens. Serve with toast points.