Duck Breast & Farro Salad with an Amazing View of the East River

It’s always a fun adventure for me when people invite me into their homes to cook with them. Particularly when they have a great kitchen with a fabulous view of the East River, a lovable dog and wonderful company. Last week I met with Brad from Williamsburg, the winner of the Tutorial to Table Father’s Day giveaway. He and his dear friend Brooke had shared that they never win anything, so this was an exciting treat! To check out the gift package he won, click here to see the Tutorial to Table Gift Package.

East River from The Edge

When I work with new clients, I want to become familiar with what I call their “cooking lifestyle.” I ask them questions to find out more about how often they cook and why, what dishes and techniques they feel comfortable doing, and what types of food they like to eat. I ask them what dish they’d like to try, and always encourage that we try something a bit new that they may enjoy eating, but haven’t tried cooking yet. Enter Brad. Brad has a wonderfully equipped kitchen, great palate, and is naturally intuitive in the kitchen. His mother taught him to be creative with ingredients and liberal with recipes, which I love, as Brad was clearly unafraid to try new things.

Brad cooking duck breast

Which leads me to duck breast. Brad had never tried cooking it before and I love to help people fancy up a weeknight dinner with something that seems so elegant, yet is super simple. Most people don’t know that it only takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare and doesn’t take a lot of work. It’s not easy to find everywhere, but on Fresh Direct I can generally buy one breast (that split, serves two) for around $14 (at $12.99/lb) which is not considering it’s about $7 per person for a duck breast.

So we decided on duck breast with a simple balsamic-honey reduction. Brad told me that he and his partner have a fabulous farro and cherry tomato salad in the Berkshires, so we also did a rendition of that, with roasted cherry tomatoes, arugula and feta. It was my first time cooking with farro as well, and I was pleased to see how simple it was to cook this chewy, nutty, satiating grain. Brad also mentioned that he loved to eat kale, but prepared it the same way each time and wanted some new ideas. So we roasted some carrots and placed them atop the sauteed kale just to create a variation based on something he already knew how to do.

Our recipes and photos are below. While I’m a carnivore at heart and duck breast just makes me melt, I have to say the star of the show was the farro, cherry tomato and arugula salad. I think I’ll be making it again for a potluck bridal shower this weekend. 🙂

In the comments below, I’d love hear, what is a new dish/ingredient you’d like to try in the kitchen?

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Duck breast with balsamic-honey reduction
2 whole duck breasts
3 tbsp honey
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cut the duck breasts in half. Score the duck fat with a sharp knife (see picture).
3. Season duck breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.
4. Heat a medium-size saute pan to medium-high heat. Drizzle with olive oil. When pan is hot, add duck breast skin-side down. Cook for five minutes. Check the color of the skin – it should be a beautiful golden color.
5. Using tongs, turn duck breast over and cook for another five minutes on the stove. Then slide the whole pan into the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove duck breasts from heat to a cutting board or plate and tent with foil to cool. (This is for medium-rare, if you prefer medium cook for 8-10 minutes in the oven).
6. Meanwhile, pour off rendered duck fat into a glass container to cool and save for other use.
7. In the same pan, add honey and balsamic vinegar on medium heat. Stir to reduce honey-balsamic glaze, which takes about 3-5 minutes. It should reduce and thicken.
8. Using tongs, take duck breast and coat in the pan with the honey-balsamic glaze. Slice against the grain on a cutting board and enjoy!

Kale with Roasted Carrots

Sauteed kale with roasted carrots
1 bunch of kale
1 bunch of carrots
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Rinse and roughly chop carrots and place in baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Rinse and roughly chop kale (with or without stems – your preference. A suggestion from the lovely Brooke was to remove the leaves from the stem and finely chop the stem to add some texture).
4. Roast carrots in oven for 35-40 minutes, until they get a nice golden color and are tender when pierced with a fork.
5. Meanwhile, drizzle olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute for 5-7 minutes until kale wilts, tossing kale with tongs. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Place kale in a large bowl. When carrots are done roasting, place on top of kale. Voila!

Farro, arugula and roasted cherry tomato salad with feta
1.5 cups of farro
3 big handfuls of arugula
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
4 oz of feta

Vinaigrette:
1 lemon
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
olive oil
salt
pepper
dried tarragon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (If cooking farro salad with roasted carrots and kale, both carrots and cherry tomatoes can roast at the same time).
2. Soak farro in water according to package instructions. (In our case it was 25 minutes. In some cases it could be up to overnight).
3. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place in a small baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast cherry tomatoes for about 35 minutes until they begin to slightly wilt and shrivel and parts turn a nice golden brown.
4. After farro is done soaking, bring to boil. There should be plenty of water covering the farro (we’ll drain it at the end). With the lid off, reduce the heat so the farro is at a simmer. Cook for about 25 minutes.
5. To make the vinaigrette, use a microplane to zest the lemon peel into a small mason jar or tupperware. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into the jar. Add 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, a small pinch of dried tarragon (optional) and 3 tbsp of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Shake in jar or tupperware.
7. After farro cooks for 25 minutes, taste to see that farro is cooked al dente (a bit chewy and slightly firm). Use a mesh sieve or appropriate colander to drain the farro.
5. Spread the drained farro on a large baking pan in a single layer to let it cool off.
6. In a large mixing bowl, place roasted cherry tomatoes and farro. Add three handfuls of aruugula and drizzle salad with vinaigrette, tossing to coat. Use a fork to crumble feta onto the salad.

How to Shop for Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables

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When you walk into the grocery store, do you know what fruits and veggies are in season? All the rave is eating seasonally, but when the market offers the same fruits and vegetables year around, how do you know what’s local and seasonal? There are plenty of charts and infographics around that tell you what to buy and when, but I find that instead of carrying around a chart to the grocery store, I opt to just shop at places that for the most part, only carry local produce. Because if it’s local, that means it’s got to be in season because that’s all that the farms can grow at that given time. Of course if you have the luxury of living in California where endless fruits and veggies are in season all the time, that’s a different story. Almost an official New Yorker (I am going on my tenth year), here’s where I check for fresh, seasonal produce:

 

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If you know me, you know I’m a huge advocate of online shopping. When I go to these websites, I don’t have to ask, “Is this in season?” because I can see what farm it’s coming from and know it’s in season because it’s what’s they’re offering. But other stores like Fairway and Whole Foods often also indicate which farm and where produce is coming form. Also, when you shop at a Farmer’s Market, the farmers are local and driving their produce in usually within 24 hours of picking it. Another option is joining a CSA; I’m a member of Next Door Organics, which provide a share of the local farmer’s produce. If you’re shopping at your local grocery store, you can often see the origins of where your produce is coming from – often it’s Chile, Argentina, or Mexico for blueberries and avocados in our winter. While there’s nothing wrong with buying produce that’s been shipped abroad, it’s obviously not the freshest because of its long commute from the farm to the grocery store.  

That being said, if you’re still wondering what’s in season here’s a helpful chart from Cooksmarts on what’s in season and when, and how to prep veggies:

Guide to Veggie Prep
Image via Cooksmarts (cooksmarts.com)

A lot of this information may be a no-brainer, but once you know where your food is coming from, you’ll know what’s in season if it’s local. I like to take the thinking out of it by going with grocers I trust, knowing that what they provide is local and seasonal vs. doing separate research and trying to cross-reference with my grocery store. That being said, these days there’s a variety of ways to obtain your groceries that are heavily focused on supporting local farmers. Which makes it a lot easier to eat seasonally!

Loving Day: A Multicultural Potluck

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Loving Day: A Multicultural Potluck

When my boyfriend and I first moved in together about two years ago, we decided to have a multicultural potluck for our housewarming party. I love me a good potluck. It’s a chance for people to showcase their specialties, and reminds me of when I was in an elementary school and students would bring in food from their backgrounds (mmm lumpia and potstickers).

So naturally when Loving Day rolled around, we decided to make it a multicultural potluck. What is Loving Day, you ask? Loving Day celebrates the legalization of interracial marriage in America, made possible by the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia decided on June 12, 1967. Mr. and Mrs. Loving were arrested at night while asleep in their home in Virginia for being interracially married. At the time of their arrest, interracial marriage was a felony in Virginia. Forty-seven years later, we celebrate Loving Day, which is a new tradition that celebrates the anniversary of this landmark Supreme Court case. In 2014, when I look around my community of family and friends where interracial love abounds, I am grateful for how far we’ve come, but aware of how we still have a ways to go. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate it than another multicultural potluck. Here you’ll find recipes for Jamaican Jerk Chicken (with variations based on my grocery store’s limited selection of peppers and a few other seasonings), Japchae (Korean vermicelli noodles with vegetables) and Mandoo (Korean potstickers).

 

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

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Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 parts
1 white onion, peeled and quartered
6 green onions, white parts
8 garlic cloves
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp allspice
1 cup chicken stock
4 jalapeno peppers, stems and seeds removed (or leave some seeds in depending if you like spicy)

Directions:

  1. Place chicken in a large mixing bowl and season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
  2. Puree the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor.
  3. Pour marinade over chicken and massage with hands (you may want to use latex gloves to protect your hands from the heat of the peppers).
  4. Cover and chill for at least 1 day and up to 2 days. Let chicken sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.
  5. Build a medium-low fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium.
  6. Place chicken on grill, skin side up. Cook covered, turning often, until skin is crisp and lightly charred and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest parts of chicken registers 160° (breasts) or 165° (thighs), 30–45 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a platter and tent loosely with foil; let stand for 10 minutes.

Japchae

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Ingredients:

1 lb. package of vermicelli or sweet potato starch noodles
3 scallions, sliced
1 bunch of carrots, sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
¼ lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 lb of spinach, blanched in hot water and cut into pieces
1 ½ tbs soy sauce 1 tbs sesame oil 2-3 garlic cloves, minced 2 tbs of sugar small handful of sesame seeds 1 tbsp of vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Cook the noodles according to package instructions. (Generally bring a large pot of water to boil and boil noodles for about 5 minutes, then rinse under cold water.)
  2. Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic cloves and sugar in a small bowl.
  3. In a large saute pan, drizzle 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Bring pan to medium-high heat, then add onions, carrots, bell pepper, and shiitake mushrooms.
  4. Saute for about 5-6 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften.
  5. Add half of the soy sauce/sesame oil/garlic/sugar mixture to the pan and mix with vegetables.
  6. Add cooked vermicelli noodles and add rest of the soy sauce/sesame oil/garlic/sugar mixture.
  7. Toss to coat all of the noodles and vegetables.
  8. Add blanched spinach. Toss and heat for another 3-4 minutes until fully mixed.
  9. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and add scallions.

 

Mandoo

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(Potstickers or Korean dumplings)

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
½ pack of 14 oz soft tofu, drained and squeezed with a paper towel to remove excess moisture
1 lb soy bean sprouts
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, julienned
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tbsp of sesame oil
Salt and pepper
1 package of Korean potsticker or dumpling wrappers

Directions:

  1. Mix first 11 ingredients (everything except for potsticker wrappers) in a large bowl by hand. Mix until everything is well combined together.
  2. Set up a little station for yourself. The bowl of potsticker mixture, your potsticker wrappers and a small bowl of cold water and a plate or tray to place the mandu in.
  3. In one hand, place a potsticker wrapper. Use the other hand to place a small spoonful of mixture into center of wrapper.
  4. Use your fingertips to apply a little cold water to one edge of the skin. This will act as a sealant when you fold it over.
  5. Fold skin in half over filling and press edges together to make ripple shape.
  6. After you make all of your mandu, pour some vegetable oil in a heated non-stick pan on medium heat.
  7. Place about 8 mandu in the pan (you don’t want it to be too crowded.) After about 3 minutes, turn the potstickers over with tongs, a spatula or chopsticks.
  8. Add 2-3 tbsp of water and put a lid on the pan. Cook for a few minutes over medium to medium-low heat. When mandu is golden brown, transfer it to a plate. Repeat with numerous batches of mandu.
  9. Serve hot with a dipping sauce made of equal parts vinegar and soy sauce.