INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

Every once in a while I like to group very simple recipes in a single post, like I did last February and again in June.  Today’s post has three really simple recipes and one slightly more involved, but  still uncomplicated enough to justify hanging out with the others. A meaty main dish, a cute skewer-salad, a side dish, and oh-so-very-trendy kale chips. Yeap, I am jumping on that bandwagon, and you should too because when my beloved loses all self-control next to a bowl of kale, it means a lot. Seriously, it was a scene never before witnessed in gastronomic history.

 

POUNDED FLANK STEAK

This non-recipe was in a recent issue of Bon Appetit. Get a flank steak, lay it over a cutting board, place a saran-wrap over it. Pound it with gusto with the flat side of a meat mallet. With gusto. You want to really get at the fibers and tenderize them. Try to go for less than 1/2 inch width all over. Season with salt and pepper, give it a very light coating (or spray) with olive oil. Grill to your desired degree of doneness. It will be medium-rare very quickly, a couple of minutes per side on a super hot grill. In fact Bon Appetit called it “minute steak” for good reason. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

We loved it so much I made it three times within a ten-day period.  Very good paired with a red cabbage-cucumber salsa, but I need to tweak that recipe a little before sharing with you.


WATERMELON-FETA SKEWERS

Cut seedless watermelon into cubes. Do the same to the best quality you can find feta cheese. If you find real Greek feta, go for it. Place in wooden skewers cubes of feta and watermelon separated by pieces of fresh mint leaves. Make a simple dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, a touch of balsamic vinegar, or, if feeling particularly trendy, add a bit of pomegranate molasses. Whisk all together and drizzle over the skewers, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper (keep in mind that feta is very salty).

Only two pointers for success: use good quality feta (repeating this point because it is really important), and do not skip the mint. It offers the exact right counterpart to all other flavors. Great also as a little appetizer for a dinner party. Can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge for a couple of hours.

 

TOMATILLO RICE

TOMATILLO RICE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the tomatillo sauce:
8 large tomatillos cut in half
2 medium shallots peeled
1/2 Serrano pepper, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
juice of half a lemon

for the rice:
1 cup rice, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt

Place the tomatillos, cut side down, shallots and Serrano pepper on a baking sheet and roast at 425 F until soft and the tomatillo skin is starting to get brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer everything to a blender shallots to a blender, add half a cup of chicken stock or water, a bunch of fresh cilantro leaves and the juice of half a lemon. Process until smooth. Adjust seasoning. Sauce is perfect over fajitas, or seafood. To make rice, you only need 1/2 cup of it.

Sautee one cup of rice on a little bit of olive oil, add 1/2 cup of tomatillo sauce and 1 + 1/2  cups of water. Cover and cook for about 18 minutes, until done. Leave it covered for 10 minutes, fluff with a fork, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

This rice is addictive.

 I could easily eat it every day for a year.

Yes, that’s how much I love it. 

 

KALE CHIPS


Remove the stems from a bunch of fresh kale, cut the leaves in large pieces. Wash and dry them well, a salad spinner is the best way to approach it. Add very little olive oil to the leaves, massaging them briefly. Add them to the basket of an air-fryer at 390 F, and fry until done, shaking the pan every couple of minutes.  It will take less than 10 minutes to finish. Season with salt, pepper, and spices of your choice if so desired. No air-fryer? No problem. The hot oven works the same way, only a bit slower. Also, make sure to have all leaves as a single layer. As to the seasoning, cumin and paprika go very well with kale, on my next batch I will try nutritional yeast, as I heard it gives it a very intriguing flavor. And of course, it would take the trendy quotient of this dish to the highest possible level. I don’t do trendy often. But sometimes, when that special mood strikes…

Phil went absolutely crazy for these chips. He showed up at the kitchen as I was preparing dinner, and mumbled his usual “hummm… kale.”  Not the yummy-anticipating-hummmm… it was the “how-to-escape-this-hummm….”. So yes, I was unprepared to have to fight for the last four chips sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Go figure.

 

I hope you enjoyed these four simple recipes, and give some (or all) a try, even if kale might not be your thing, or watermelon in a savory dish a bit too much of a stretch for your taste buds. Sometimes it’s fun to try something different, especially when the preparation is so simple.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Going naked, and my husband loved it

TWO YEARS AGO: Cream Cheese Mini-Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

THREE YEARS AGO:  Star-Shaped Chocolate Brioche Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Blueberry-Banana Bread 

FIVE YEARS AGO: Into the Light Again

SIX YEARS AGO: Five Grain Sourdough Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Kaiser Rolls

 

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A TRIO OF AIR-FRIED GOODIES

For those who follow my blog for a while, it’s obvious that I love a new gadget. In the kitchen, in the lab, I am always excited to try something new. Then comes the flip side of that coin. The after-taste of guilt after brining a new toy home. “Did I really need that?”  Next, I make solemn promises to never ever fall to temptation again (yeah, right). Lolita, our Philips air-fryer, was no exception, I went through intense mea culpa sessions every time I passed by the laundry room and saw her in all her shiny beauty sitting on the countertop. Ready and waiting. Guilty feelings are not fun, so I fight them with my best weapon: putting Lolita to work as often as possible. You know what? It seems to work. So here I am to share three guilt-removing dishes made in the air-fryer.

GOODIE #1
FRIED MANIOC ROOT, A BRAZILIAN CLASSIC

I’ve published quite a few years ago a full tutorial on how to make “mandioca frita.” You can read it here,  so that you learn how to prepare it. Please, don’t ever try to fry the root without cooking it first.

Once you got your pieces of yucca root cooked, they can sit in the fridge for a few days, or even be frozen. To cook them in the air-fryer, simply coat them with a little olive oil, season with salt, and place in the fryer at 390F for 20 minutes or so.  The time will vary depending on the size of your fries. Watch them as they start to get dark brown, then remove them and salt the pieces before enjoying them.

Just like potato fries and sweet potato fries, there will be a difference in texture, as the fried pieces will not be soaked in oil. That, of course, may turn off some traditionalists, but I find it a brilliant way to reduce the fat content still allowing us to enjoy this delicacy.

GOODIE #2
SWEET POTATO CHIPS

I’ve blogged about sweet potato chips made using the spiralizer. In this simpler version, I cut them by hand and omitted the soaking. The idea was to get them to the table as quickly as possible on a weeknight. I used a mixture of orange and white sweet potatoes, cut them more or less uniformly in 1/4 inch slices, coated them very lightly with salt and into the basket they went. Temperature was set to 390F, which is the highest setting the Philips will go to, and they took about 18 minutes to get brown, shaking the pan every once in a while.  I must say I preferred the batch made with the spiralizer, but if you need to take a simpler, faster route, these are still pretty pretty pretty good (any Curb your Enthusiasm fans out there?).

GOODIE #3
PARSNIP FRIES

These turned out excellent! The only problem with them was the amount. I ended up with a smaller portion than anticipated. It so happened that when I was peeling the parsnips, the largest of all slipped from my hand and fell on the floor. A race took place between Sally and a certain dog that attends by the name of Bogey Quit That. Against all odds, since the cook happened to be closer to the fallen root, BQT won, and thought it was super fun to grab it and run around the house with it, as fast as his powerful legs would allow. There was a bit of profanity involved, some screaming, until he finally dropped the badly mangled veggie on the second floor of our home, near the bed in a guest bedroom. Into the trash it went. Serial killer, folks. As I mentioned many times, I must have been a serial killer in a past life. Eternal karma.

But, back to the recipe. Cut the parsnips as uniformly as possible. Not an easy thing to do, those are creatures shaped in exotic ways. Coat them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and then add one to two teaspoons of cornmeal all over, shake gently. Any cornmeal that doesn’t stick, it’s ok, you just want a very subtle coating. Place them in the basket of the air-fryer, and set it to 360F. Cook for 10 minutes, increase the heat to 390F and cook a few more minutes, shaking the pan every once in a while. As they brown, remove them and adjust seasoning with salt if needed. Due to their shape, some bits will be more cooked than others. No big deal, it’s all good. They have this wonderful sharp taste, like fries that had a date with a lemon. Yeah, that’s about right. Love them.

We really love the air-fryer, and I have no regrets about buying it. It makes portions that are perfect for the two of us, it is not too noisy, it doesn’t smoke, it is super easy to clean, and it doesn’t require a lot of time to reach temperature. Two minutes at most, but I don’t even worry about that. I put everything inside, turn it on and add two minutes to the cooking time to compensate for the heating.

Of the three goodies, I think the parsnips were my favorite. I might try to make them in the spiralizer as chips, just for fun. We enjoyed them with a New Mexico Pork Chile, rice, and avocado slices. Simple, but very tasty dinner. Of course, a little more parsnip fries would have been nice… But life with BQT has its complexities…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Focaccia with Grapes, Roquefort and Truffled Honey

TWO YEARS AGO: Moroccan Carrot Dip Over Cucumber Slices 

THREE YEARS AGO: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cilantro-Jalapeno “Hummus”

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Moving Odyssey

EIGHT YEARS AGO:
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AIR-FRIED TOMATOES WITH HAZELNUT PESTO AND HALLOUMI CHEESE

No, no need to run away, you can make this in your oven if you do not have one of Lolita‘s sisters in your kitchen. But I am constantly finding reasons to use our air-fryer, and in this recipe it performed way beyond my expectations. The halloumi cheese turned out exactly the way we like it, with zero risk of burning as it often happens on the grill or even on a non-stick pan. You might be surprised that I would still handle hazelnuts without going into a hysterical fit, but it so happens that I had quite a bit leftover from  my 8th blog-anniversary cake.  I definitely need to use them up before they go rancid.  Come to think of it, I see a macaron blog post on the horizon… (wink, wink).

AIR-FRIED TOMATOES WITH HAZELNUT PESTO AND HALLOUMI CHEESE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the hazelnut pesto:
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
squeeze of lemon juice
olive oil to desired consistency

2 Roma tomatoes, sliced (about 4 slices per tomato)
Halloumi cheese, cut into thin slices
basil (I used some from grocery store, processed in a little oil)
Spring mix greens
olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to dress salad

Make the pesto by mixing the cheese, hazelnuts, parsley, salt and pepper in t a food processor. Process until smooth, then drizzle olive oil slowly until you reach the consistency you like, probably a little less than 1/3 cup should do it.

Lay the tomatoes on a baking dish, season lightly with salt, place a couple of teaspoons of the pesto on top, then lay a slice of halloumi cheese over the pesto.  Dab with a small amount of basil in oil. You can also use fresh basil if you prefer. Transfer the slices to the basket of the air-fryer, making sure to spray the basket with a little oil. Spray the tomato slices very lightly with olive oil, and cook at 390F for 10 to 12 minutes, until the halloumi cheese gets golden brown.  Carefully remove the slices and serve them over  Top with onion slices. Sprinkle with basil, red pepper, and sea salt. Transfer the assembled bites to the Air Fryer cooking basket. Drizzle with a nonstick cooking spray and cook for approximately 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the spring mix on a large serving platter, dress with olive oil and lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper. When the tomatoes are ready, carefully place them on top of the greens.  Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These would work great by themselves as an appetizer, I suppose. Now, as you can see from the composite photo above, the air-fryer does not make a huge batch of food. I could have fitted maybe two more tomato slices inside, but that would be maximum capacity. The air-fryer is really perfect for a couple, or a couple with a young kid. Teenagers could present a challenge, they tend to eat impressive amounts of food, if I remember correctly… Better enjoy the advantages of a very high metabolic rate, right?  But coming back to these cute little babies, they were delicious indeed. I think the combination of any  type of pesto with tomato and cheese is a classic, but it’s nice to have a change of pace with the halloumi instead of mozzarella. Halloumi is so assertive, it has a grown-up feel. I love it. Wish it was a bit cheaper, though.

I’ve seen recipes that use the air-fryer to “fry” a bunch of tomatoes cut in half, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then blend them in a food processor and use as a basis for a chunky tomato sauce. Sounds pretty tasty to me, I intend to try that in the near future, but decided it was worth getting the thought out. If you try it, please let me know…

With this post, I give my first step into the 9th year of food blogging. Wow! Just wow!  Make sure to enter my giveaway in case  you missed the announcement in the previous post..

 

Grab a pin….

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ONE YEAR AGO: Red Velvet Layered Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Lemon-Lavender Bars

THREE YEARS AGO: Quinoa Fried Rice

FOUR YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars

SIX YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes

 

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AIR-FRIED CARROTS, TWO WAYS

No air-fryer? No worries. Both recipes can be prepared without it.

Lolita, the newest member of our gadget family, has been pretty busy these days. I had only one failure: air-frying broccoli, but even that was not a major catastrophic event. It was just a bit tricky to control the cooking of the crowns. Some bits of their external surface got overcooked and ended up with a harsh texture. Maybe a lower temperature would work better. At any rate, that recipe needs tweaking before I share with you. Moving to carrots, I offer two recipes that could not be simpler. First, air-fried carrots with a touch of honey. And then, a batch of shoestring fried carrots that were pretty much inhaled by the two of us. A bit of an argument happened when two lonely strands were left in the bowl. As often happens, the tropical charm spoke louder, and they both went into my belly. Oh, well. By the way, if you don’t have an air-fryer, follow the link to the recipe as shown in The Kitchen, that calls for deep-frying. It will be a bit more caloric, but still less so than the potato version. Plus, I bet kids will love them. One efficient way to deliver veggies to picky eaters.

AIR-FRIED CARROTS WITH HONEY
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 to 3 cups of carrots, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
tiny drizzle of soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Set air-fryer to 390 F.

Place the cut carrots in a bowl, add olive oil, honey and soy, toss gently to coat, trying to cover all surfaces with a bit of oil. Season carrots with salt and ground black pepper. Place in the basket of your air-fryer and cook for about 12 minutes, shaking the pan every once in a while.  Serve right away.

If you don’t have an air-fryer, roast in the oven at 420F until done.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve made these carrots three times. Compared to roasting them in the oven, I would say Lolita is faster, and also gives a different texture, quite pleasing. Leftovers were still very nice with a brief encounter with microwaves. Probably even better warmed up in a regular oven, but when lunch time comes, we opt for the simplest, fastest route to go back to work.

And now for a nice variation on shoestring potato fries. These are much lighter and surprisingly tasty!

 

SHOESTRING AIR-FRIED CARROTS
(adapted from Food TV The Kitchen)

1 bag (10 ounces) of julienned carrots (sold for cole-slaw)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle
1 teaspoon orange zest

In a medium bowl, mix the carrots with the olive oil, coating them lightly. Try to coat all pieces of carrots. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the carrots in the air-fryer set at 390F. Cook for 13 to 16 minutes, mixing them around every few minutes.

Remove when they start to get nicely brown, watch them closely because pieces might get too dark very quickly. Transfer them to a serving bowl, add orange zest, spray a little apple cider vinegar, adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I will warn you that the air-fryer (at least the model we have) will not hold more than one 10-ounce bag of shredded carrots. And they will shrink A LOT  during frying, as the water content of carrots is pretty high. At first you will see them shrinking, shrinking, getting kind of limp. Until all the water evaporates, they won’t brown.  So you will be left with a small amount of carrots, but perfect for two.  I would say that the main concern with the air-fryer is the amount of food it can handle. For a couple with no kids, it’s a very nice gadget. If you have kids around, you might have to cook food in batches. However, my niece in Brazil has three young kids and she still loves her fryer, so take my comment with a grain of salt.

The idea of using mini-spray bottles for vinegar is pure genius! It allows you to add just a little touch on the food. You can find those for very cheap in grocery stores, sold usually in a bag together with other types of bottles for traveling. I had no use for the spray one, it was hanging around my bathroom, neglected and lonely. Well, it’s now in my pantry, ready to play!

I’ve made these carrots twice already, first time I simply shook the basket every few minutes, and did not notice that the bottom layer was getting very dark and not moving around with my delicate shaking. Second time I used tongs to move the carrot pieces more efficiently. Worked like a charm.  Of course, if you don’t have an air-fryer, you can deep fry them and they will turn out delicious. I just hate dealing with the leftover oil, and find deep-fried food a bit heavy and hard to digest. Bottom line is, Lolita is working quite nicely for us!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Five Minutes in L.I.T (a tour of our laboratory!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken Thighs with Artichokes and Capers

THREE YEARS AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

FIVE YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

SIX YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

LOLITA JOINS THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN!

Please allow me to introduce the newest member of the family,
Lolita, our air-fryer!

She arrived last week, after a lot exchanges between me and my niece Raquel in Brazil, who owns the exact same model and had been twisting my arm to get one. Then, my friend Karen joined forces with Raquel, even though they’ve never met. A virtual conspiracy of sorts. Karen brought her air-fryer to play and teased me with drool-inducing chicken wings. Take a look at them here. So, I went back and forth, back and forth, bought a cookbook to help me decide, lost hours of sleep tossing in bed. Turn to the left, I’m going to buy it. Turn to the right, do I really need it?  Of course, Phil was close witness to my personal drama. It is possible that he got a bit tired of some of my evening monologues as I walked around the kitchen, cookbook in hand, reading some of the recipes out loud. Although, seriously, who could get annoyed by that? Right? Anyway, all I know is that one morning he informed me that a Philips air-fryer was on its way. Sorry, ladies, the husband is taken.

First experiment: Russet Potato Fries

This is really a non-recipe.  Get Russet potatoes and cut them in slices, mine were around 1/2 inch, but quite variable. I wanted to see how the fryer behaved and optimize the size for the next time around. To a pot of salted boiling water, add the slices and parboil them for 4 minutes. Drain and dry. Once they are dry, place them in a bag or container and gently toss with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt (you will add more salt later once they come out of the fryer).  Try to coat each slice with oil, but no need to go crazy with it. Some recipes recommend you shake them in a bag, I was afraid they would start breaking, so I just tossed them with my hands inside a bowl.

Add them to the fryer set at the highest temperature, which in my model is 390F. Set the timer for 25 minutes, place the potato slices in the basket, and fry away. Shake the basket every 5 minutes or so, and keep an eye on them. Depending on the thickness of the slices and the power of your machine, they can take a little more or a little less to get brown and cooked.

Remove the fries to a serving dish, season with more salt and pepper to taste, and ENJOY!

Comments: I was over the moon with these fries, because of course I was worried about my beloved’s investment. They were really good. One thing that becomes evident is how much oil we consume when enjoying “regular”, deep-fried potatoes. These have a nice crust, but the inside feels more like a boiled potato, creamy, no taste of fat. You know how when you grab fries your fingers get all oily, and your lips might end up a bit oily too? None of that happens here. Are they as good as regular fries? That is a tough question. In all honesty, when you have regular fries for some reason it is easy to over-indulge. These are satisfying but don’t make you compulsively inhale them. I made three Russet potatoes into fries, they were not very big, medium size. We had enough for our dinner and offered some to certain four-legged beings that were nearby. Happy tail wagging was observed. Experiment concluded.

Second experiment: Sweet Potato Chips

Or, if you happen to be in Great Britain, Sweep Potato Crisps. I confess I like that name even better…


For this adventure, I enlisted help of another interesting kitchen gadget, the spiralizer. I used the ribbon blade to cut two sweet potatoes. With regular veggies, you’ll end up with long ribbons, perfect to mimic pasta, think of a very large pappardelle. The sweet potato is hard, so the ribbons break and turn into pieces quite suitable for frying.

Of course, you can use your knife skills and cut them uniformly. After slicing, I decided to soak them in cold water. Some recipes skip that step, but it’s clear that doing it results in crisper chips, which was my ultimate goal. I did that on a Sunday afternoon, just placed them in the bowl of water and there they stayed for a few hours. You could do the step of soaking and drying several hours in advance, if pressed for time. Then it’s all a matter of adding the slices to a bowl, coating them with olive oil, seasoning with salt, or any other spices you’d like, smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, chili. I set the temperature to 360F, which is what I saw recommended in the Phillips manual. They were ready in about 25 minutes, with shaking at several time points, as I could not stop opening the basket and peeking inside.  The photo below gives a glimpse into their frying progression. Loads of fun.


From top to bottom, clockwise… The slices just ready to start air-frying, then after 5 minutes, 10 minutes and 15 minutes (ten minutes left on the timer). They were actually ready before the timer went off, for a total air-frying of 22 minutes. Not bad at all…  If you get your prep work done in advance, sweet potato chips can be enjoyed pretty quickly. And yes, they were very crispy and delicious!  The Philips model heats up very fast, they advise you to wait 2 to 3 minutes before placing the food inside. Experiment concluded. Scientists happy and well-fed.

I have quite a few recipes lined up for future experiments. If you have an air-fryer, I highly recommend this cookbook by Meredith Laurence. it is the one with the best reviews at amazon, and I can understand why. Very creative use of the fryer, with recipes that might surprise you a little. Like Molten Chocolate Almond Cakes… See? I told you!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Cashew Cream Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Margaritas

THREE YEARS AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

FOUR YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

SIX YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

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