Malibu Beach Recovery Diet: The Gadget-Driven Kitchen
Pressure cooker short ribs and more gadget-powered recipes!
Many times in my menu scheduling, I fall back onto proven classics, dishes that I know my family likes and will not require a whole lot of testing, experimenting, adjusting and, most of the times, during the fifteenth rendition, the exasperated cries out “Not again!!!”
But once in a while, a new gadget will come along and reignite my passion for discovering how to use the ingredients that I already know and make them work in a recipe that is just an excuse to use my newfound toy.
As I remembered that those new toys are just there to make distributors a lot of money off of the old pots and pans (there is just nothing in the kitchen that has not already been invented eons ago!), I invariably succumb to the appeal of that brand new catalog received in the mail, that boast that my cooking will never be the same without this or that. And invariably, I make the necessary detour to Sur La Table, Williams Sonoma or Surfas to grab it. Not online where I would need to wait a few days… right now.
A few examples come to mind and I will provide a recipe for each one of them.
I remember showing up for Cooking Classes at the Malibu house with a new gadget called “The Alligator”. This little tool took one whole slice of onions and, with the click of the wrist, transformed it into neat little cubes, all of equivalent shape and thickness, without a tear, with no bruises or cut fingers, and better than I would have ever achieved during training in culinary school. I started using it in classes because I wanted our students to have the pleasure of achieving masterful results in instants without toiling on the perfect brunoise. I have used it in an amazing lentil salad with onions and bell peppers of all colors, and I have to say that the beauty of the salad comes from these uniform little morsels of vegetables cut in the exact same way. Another recipe that uses this tool to its advantage is the Corral Tree Café Vegetable Soup where the benefit of using the Alligator is that all the vegetables cook at the same rate since they are perfectly sized.
Another one of my favorite tools is the vegetable peeler that I brought in my suitcase from France some thirty years ago. For some reason, I feel so clumsy using the American version of this, one that swivels at the handle, and most of the times, when I cannot find my peeler, I will change the recipe until I have found it. Recently, I started making salads with shaved everything, just because spring had come and you could have a beautiful salad with raw vegetables if they were peeled thinly enough. Rather than risking my fingers on my mandoline, I stated using my peeler and resulted in beautiful long vegetable ribbons that graced my salads until I moved on to a different tool.
The last tool I recently discovered, or rather re-discovered, is the pressure-cooker. I remembered the mess in the kitchen when my mother’s old SEB had just about given up on her and exploded throughout the kitchen. The newer versions are much more secure, and a couple of episodes of The Taste or Master Chef convinced me that I needed to give it another try. The recipe for Asian Short Ribs is nothing less than spectacular and a required staple at my house at least once a week. Since this is a new tool for me, I am in the process of converting some of my slow cooking dishes, such as tajines, stews and soups to be done in less than 30 minutes in the pressure cooker. Amazing in that it not only makes a beautiful dish in less time than needed to set the table, but it also intensifies the flavors, concentrates the sauces and tenderizes cheaper cuts of meats.
Many times, the discovery of a new technique or gadget acts as a little push to rediscover the pleasure of cooking and how wonderful it is to master what goes into our mouth and how the passion never fades.
Pressure-Cooker Asian-Style Boneless Beef Short Ribs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, and smashed
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons beef broth
4 scallions, white parts chopped coarse, green parts sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 (8-ounce) boneless beef short ribs, trimmed
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1. Cook oil, garlic, and ginger in pressure-cooker pot over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in hoisin sauce, soy sauce, broth, scallion whites, and cayenne, then add beef.
2. Lock pressure-cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat. As soon as pot reaches high pressure, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 35 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure.
3. Remove pot from heat and allow pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes. Quick release any remaining pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.
4. Transfer short ribs to platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest while finishing sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil and make sure all ingredients are stirred in. Add scallion greens and cilantro leaves into sauce and serve over ribs.
Moroccan Lentil Salad
Serves 4 to 6
1 1/4 cups green lentils, preferably french
1 bunch green onion, sliced in half
3 whole cloves
5 cups water
Or 2 packages of Trader Joe’s cooked lentils to replace the above
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried mint
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic granules
1 cup chopped red bell peppers
1 cup chopped yellow bell peppers
1 cup chopped orange bell peppers
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1. Pick over lentils to remove any stones and rinse well.
2. Stick one onion half with the cloves.
3. In a large saucepan, combine water, lentils and the onion stuck with the cloves.
4. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
5. Discard onion. Drain lentils and let cool slightly.
All those steps can also be eliminated by purchasing Trader Joe’s cooked lentils in the vegetable section. Just open the package and place in a bowl!
6. In a bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, mint, cumin, coriander, salt and garlic.
7. Add lentils and toss to mix.
8. Finely chop the remaining onion half and add to the lentils along with the bell peppers and the cilantro.
9. Chill at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
10. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Raw Asparagus Ribbon Salad
1 bunch fresh asparagus, rinsed, stems and tips removed
2 cups arugula
1 cup fresh peas
Pecorino Romano, for serving (optional)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Using a vegetable peeler, start from the top of the spear, and gently shave downward, to create a thin ribbon. Continue until you only have a small piece of the spear left, then run a small paring knife down the middle to separate. Slice all of the tips in half, lengthwise. Transfer the asparagus ribbons in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Boil one cup of water in a small saucepan. Add the peas and boil until cooked but still al dente. Prepare a bowl with ice cubes and water. When the peas are cooked, drain the peas and plunge them into the cold water to stop cooking and maintain the bright green color. Add to the asparagus ribbons.
3. Combine dressing ingredients in a jar covered with a tight-fitting lid and shake to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning. Toss asparagus with some of the dressing until fully coated. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Toss the marinated asparagus with the arugula. Add a little dressing if needed.
5. Top with a few shavings of Pecorino Romano, if using. Serve.