Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beans and Rice “Zofrito” [Zack]

Lauren: What are you making in the food processor?
Me (feeling fancy): It’s called “Sofrito” – it’s an authentic Spanish base of veg that you can put in rice.
Lauren: Oh cool! I’m glad you are finally following a recipe!

Earlier today I was researching the exact recipe for Sofrito.  It turns out I had no idea what I was saying to Lauren because I apparently decided to change the recipe in my head.  This is why I’m dubbing this recipe “Zofrito.  The lesson of the day is don’t try to act fancy when you know you aren't.

This beans and rice dish has become an integral part of our “vegetarian night” initiative.  It’s very flavorful, satisfying, and is also very healthy.  You can hide a surprising volume of vegetables in the rice and after you finish eating the dish, you feel light and happy.  Plus, it’s cheap as dirt to make.  I’m always shocked to hear myself say this, but dishes like this one make me understand how someone could become vegetarian. But no, I’m not going to switch teams.


If you are using dried beans, whip out the ol’ pressure cooker and get them going. Add about 3x water to dry beans and get the water boiling. DON’T salt the water – it will make the beans tough. Turn the heat to low, put the lid on once the water gets going and cook for about 45 minutes.

Start up the rice as well.  I chose to use brown rice because it’s healthier.  Wash the rice in the pot you plan on using until the water isn't milky.  Drain the old water and add in 2x water to rice and let simmer until it’s ready (about 25 minutes). 

You can start preparing your Zofrito now that everything else is doing its own thing.  Put the garlic, cilantro, green pepper, birds eye chiles, onion, tomato, and olive oil into the food processor and puree.  The oil will loosen everything up and help your rice to not stick the next day. 

*Fast tip – if you put the Zofrito into a bowl (minus the olive oil) and add 2 avocados and a few squeezes of lime, you would have a BOMB guacamole.

Once the rice and beans are finished, mix a good portion of the Zofrito into the rice and add your tomato puree.  You can always add more Zofrito later, so add to taste in steps.  The rice will take on a beautiful red-orange color from the tomatoes and will have little specs of all of the vegetables you snuck in there.  Your kids will never guess that it’s so healthy.

Mix in your cooked beans (I decided to add more Zofrito into the dish at this point) and add the optional hot sauce.  The hot sauce adds a zing to the whole dish, but if you want to keep it all natural, I can understand.

Serve with some diced cilantro and a splash of sriracha if you are feeling bold!

4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
1 green pepper
birds eye chiles (to taste)
1 medium tomato
huge handful of cilantro
6 T olive oil

24 oz tomato puree
Dried or canned red kidney beans (any type of bean would work, especially black beans)

1.5 cups of brown rice

By the way, the authentic "Sofrito" recipe is:
2 large green peppers
5 garlic cloves
2 large onions
5T vegetable oil

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Almond Milk Based Smoothie [Matt]

throw the following into a blender:
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1 ½ frozen bananas
- 6 frozen strawberries (i suggest slicing them in half before freezing)
- ¼ cup almond butter
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon

i've come to a great epiphany. i was influenced while devouring an overpriced smoothie from a juice shop in west hollywood - stop using yogurt in smoothies, and start using almond milk.

unsweetened almond milk is low calorie, low fat, low sugar and creates the perfect base (also lactose and soy free!). i additionally borrowed the idea of adding almond butter (the almond version of peanut butter, not actual butter - that would be gross). the recipe above will blow your mind and ensure you never have to slump back into some artificial-everything joke-of-a-juice shop again.

((((cook track)))) Zero 7 & Danger Mouse - Somersault Remix

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nutted Wild Rice [Rhonda]

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Time: 20 minutes to prep, 35 to cook rice, 2 seconds to mix it all

Serves: 6

For an end-of-summer picnic or an early-autumn shindig where clean, fresh flavors would be just right, this is an easy make-ahead side dish. It goes nicely with grilled chicken or pretty much anything that benefits from a quick sear over charcoals.

Hate to go all 1980s on you, but this recipe is from The Silver Palate Cookbook. For you youthful types who weren't even born then, The Silver Palate was a very cool, most delicious gourmet shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and was many a NY foodie's introduction to unheard of pleasures like raspberry vinegar, grapevine baskets overflowing with crudites and green peppercorn mustard dip, and all manners of pesto. (I told you it was the early 80s.)

Nutted Wild Rice

1 cup (1/2 lb) raw wild rice
5 1/2 cups defatted chicken stock or water
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup yellow raisins
Grated zest of 1 large orange
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Put rice in a strainer and run under cold water; rinse thoroughly.

Place rice in a medium-size heavy saucepan. Add stock or water and bring to a rapid boil. Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes. After 30 minutes, check for doneness--rice should not be too soft. Place a thin towel inside colander and drain rice. Transfer rice to a mixing bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and toss gently. Adjust seasonings to taste. Let mixture stand for 2 hours to develop flavors. Serve at room temp.

Suggested soundtrack: Sade's "Smooth Operator." Got that, Nick?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan [Matt]

start by splitting 20 - 30 small tomatoes and sprinkle them with fresh oregano, fennel, garlic powder and salt (only a little bit though since you will be adding a bit of cheese later on). throw the tomatoes in the oven after a light spray of olive oil. let them cook for about 20 minutes on 350f.

while the tomatoes cook, slice 1 large eggplant into 1/8" thick pieces. coat these lightly with olive oil, sprinkle salt, garlic, red pepper flakes (preferably smoked) and paprika onto the rounds.

take the tomatoes out of the oven and put the eggplant in. turn the heat up to 400f. let them cook until they begin to start to turn a light brown color. spread a light coating of shredded mozzarella so the tomatoes have something to stick to, then plop 3 - 4 small tomato halves on each slice of browning eggplant.

let these cook until the cheese melts and the eggplant crisps a bit more (i recommend cooking the slices on a pizza stone if ya got one). while the eggplant is finishing, grate some parmesan reggiano with a vegetable peeler to get those sexy shavings. also, be sure to have more fresh oregano on hand to garnish the eggplant slices in the end.

remove the crisped eggplant slices from the oven, sprinkle with the reggiano, then the oregano. serve.

((((cook track)))) Jay-Z & Kanye West - Otis

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Truffle Egg Pastry Cups [Zack]

Another breakfast saved by having puff pastry in the freezer!  I seem to use the stuff once every 2 weeks to enhance a recipe.  We had 2 of our super-fun friends visiting from Switzerland with their new baby (hi Bryan, Taylor and little Aspen!)  All we had to do was grab some nice eggs and vegetables we had on hand and this one became a nice breakfast.


Start by taking the puff pastry out of your freezer and either put it in the fridge the night before or leave it out for 30 minutes so they become pliable.

Begin slicing your veggies up and adding them to a frying pan with 1 T of olive oil on medium heat.  Add the onions first, after 2 minutes - the peppers, and then in 1 minute - the mushrooms.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top and cook for a few minutes.

Shape the puff pastries into the cupcake cups.  They look fancier if you leave the edges up.  Add the cooked filling evenly into the cups.  Leave enough room for the eggs!

Crack open your nice free-range eggs from happy chickens and put some of the white in one cup.  Add the yolk and the rest of the egg to another cup.  Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top and then drizzle some truffle oil on top.

Place in the oven at 350 F / 175 C and cook until the puff pastry is browned and the eggs are set (about 15 minutes).

1 pack of puff pastry squares
5 high-quality farm-raised eggs
1 medium onion sliced
1/2 thinly-sliced red pepper
10 baby bella mushrooms
small handful of chopped parsley
truffle oil

Or................  for a fun twist, top with some nice Swiss cheese and chives!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Family secret / Breast of lamb [Nick & Mike]

Mom and dad never had much money, yet I don’t remember ever wanting for anything. When you have a mom who’s Italian, there’s always pasta with gravy on the table or dishes that tasted great yet were very inexpensive to make. Here’s a great example: breast of lamb. I’ll bet no one has ever seen it on a restaurant menu. That’s because breast of lamb is always layered with tons of fat; you had to really dig deep to find those thin layers of lamb in between. But there was a wow factor… it tasted great. It was a poor man’s version of a well-marbleized rib eye steak.

This past July 4th weekend, I decided to create Mom’s breast of lamb recipe with Nick. Talk about an impossible task. Every butcher or grocery store I called in Columbus had never heard of breast of lamb, or never carried it. I even called several meat wholesalers, no luck. I finally tried ­­­Blues Creek at the North Market. They said they would get me a batch. I ordered 15 lbs and 2 days later I picked it up. Price? $1.79 a pound. Why so cheap? The high fat content.

Mom never parboiled the lamb when she made it, but it was so fatty my brother Tommy suggested to do it. After an hour or so we removed the ribs and let them cool. Nick took a bunch of lemons and squeezed them, and chopped garlic. We poured the juice and added the chopped garlic into a pot that held the lamb. We added oregano, and put the mixture into the refrigerator for several hours. The grill was fired up. I told Nick we had to be careful because the fat content was still high and would cause flames and burn the lamb. Finally they were done. Nick and I each took a section of the breast of lamb to taste… “Oh my gosh, the best lamb ever.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Roasted Leg of Lamb [Zack]

The first time I learned to cook a whole leg of lamb was with my uncle in Jacksonville FL. This was during one of our frequent cooking hangout sessions where he taught me some of his cool tricks (while drinking wine of course). I had never roasted large piece of meat before besides the occasional chicken, so I was excited to understand how it all worked. Tom (of course) took it a full step further and we grilled it.  It added a great flavor and was interesting to see how you can grill using indirect heat.

One of the techniques Tom showed me was to make small garlic clove-size holes in the meat using a paring knife and shoving the cloves down in there. This really maximizes the flavor in the meat. It was an “aha!” moment for me and I had one of those feelings like “why didn’t I think of that??” Kinda like the beer helmet.

Since I currently don't have a grill, I referred to my good friend Jamie Oliver. In one of his episodes, he roasts a leg of lamb on the grated oven rack and then places all of his vegetables on a try below it.  This allows you to utilize all of the juice drippings to make flavorful veggies, but also insures that there will be a nice crust all around the leg instead of having a steamed bottom part.


Start by bashing up some herbs. You can use any strong herb with lamb such as thyme, rosemary, tarragon, or oregano to compliment the meat. Or you can use a combination of them. Take a rolling pin and bruise the herbs on a cutting board (or in a mortar and pestle).

Then hit the garlic once to crush it with the same instrument and peal the skin off. Add it all into a bowl with some hot pepper flakes and add in a few glugs of olive oil. Let the flavors combine for a while and start working on the lamb leg.

Next, get your lamb leg out and make evenly-spaced 1 inch deep holes in meaty parts of the leg. 

Salt and pepper the leg. Take your olive oil, herb, and garlic mixture and rub it all over the leg. Make sure to push the garlic cloves down into the holes you made - try to get some rosemary in there too. 

Bag the leg up and let it sit for a while in the fridge to marinate, up to a few days. I didn’t leave it for very long and it was still amazing. 

Start preparing your vegetables by boiling some quartered potatoes for 15 minutes. Drain them and scuff them up in the colander so they grab more juice (kinda like the fork indentations in gnocchi). Cut a few tomatoes in half and quarter some large red onions. Place all of these in a baking dish and toss with a small bit of olive oil so they don’t stick to the bottom of your baking dish.

Pre-heat your oven to 400F / 200C.  30-45 minutes before you want to start cooking the lamb leg, take it out of the fridge so it can come to room temperature.  Otherwise, it will not cook evenly.  Place your baking dish of vegetables on the bottom rack and put the lamb leg on the grate in the middle of the oven.

Cook for about an hour and 15 minutes (for medium-rare) until the leg looks nicely browned and the veggies have good color.

Let the lamb rest for about 20 minutes loosely covered and carve and serve.  

1 large 4 lb bone-in lamb leg
Fresh rosemary (or other herbs such as fresh oregano, thyme, or tarragon)
Hot pepper flakes to taste (AKA a lot)
~6T of olive oil
½ head garlic

Potatoes, quartered and boiled for 10 minutes (any type is fine)
Halved tomatoes
Quartered red onions

Tuscan White Bean Soup [Rhonda]

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Time: 20 minutes prep, 10 minutes to simmer

Serves: 4

I know what you’re thinking. What’s with that Rhonda? All she keeps posting are soup recipes.

Fine then. Guilty as charged.

But when you crave a hearty peasant-style soup, this is a great one, taken from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s Weeknight Kitchen newsletter. It brings to mind our trip as a family to Tuscany when the boys were small: the quaint farmhouse we rented not far from Siena, the gentle rolling hills dotted with cypress trees and clay-tiled roofs, acres of golden yellow sunflowers and vineyards. OK, so we never once ate bean soup while we were there, but still…

Two recommendations for this recipe: number one, hang the expense and always always use real Parmigiano-Reggiano (throw the rind in the soup while it cooks, and sprinkle a spoon of grated cheese into your bowl for rich, nutty flavor). And two, keep in mind the soup’s character develops more fully by the second day.

Tuscan White Bean Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans (14½ ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, minced

1. In a large saucepan over medium low heat, warm the oil. When it is hot, add the pancetta and sauté until it browns slightly, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium, add the onion and carrots, and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomato paste, mixing well. Add the broth and the beans. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook about 10 minutes. Just before serving stir in the spinach (it will wilt from the heat). Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and the parsley, and serve.

Suggested soundtrack: Luciano Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma,” dramatic sure, but always amazing.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Roasted Tomato Soup [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: easy
Time: 13 minutes 12 seconds to prep, 1 hour total cooking time
Serves: 8 to 10

As an occasional perk for working in the Palette, the Columbus Museum of Art’s restaurant, we volunteers were treated to cooking classes given by the two Palette chefs at the time, Michael and David. This recipe was demonstrated at a board member’s lavish home in Powell, Ohio, which held a beautiful, enormously spacious and well-equipped kitchen. (I’ll admit it. I contract kitchen envy easily…)

Best part of Roasted Tomato Soup? You get to be a sloppy cook. It’s a whack-chop-splash type of beginning for this amazing soup, as the fresh Roma tomatoes, tons of garlic cloves, and slivers of wayward onion flipping this way and that, get roasted for a bit. And after just a scant few minutes under the heat, things start to smell…sensational.

Make a big batch while you’re at it, with all the summer produce so fresh and plentiful, and freeze some. How many times have I slid open our freezer at 7:45 on a Wednesday night, looking for something — anything — to thaw and serve? And then...bonus! There’s a nice Tupperware container of Roasted Tomato Soup.

Add some homemade croutons, a quick grating of Parmigiano Reggiano, a crisp salad, some yeasty bread from your nearest bakery (or be really smart and use Zack’s Artisan Bread recipe on this blog), and you’re good to go.

Roasted Tomato Soup


4 pounds (at least) of Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 large chopped yellow onions
1 bulb of garlic, cloves peeled but left whole
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 large can (49 ½ ounces) chicken stock
1 stalk celery, chopped (leaves removed)
Splash of tomato juice
Splash of white wine (1 cup, maybe?)
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 to 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Splash of heavy cream (1/2 cup)
1 cup chopped fresh basil

Toss together Roma tomatoes, onions, and garlic cloves with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast at 350 F for 30 to 45 minutes.

Combine the stock, celery, tomato juice, and white wine in a large stock pot. Add the Roma tomato mixture, onion powder, paprika. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 30 to 40 minutes. Puree in food processor.

Add basil, cheese, and heavy cream and adjust consistency and seasoning.

Note: I’ve played extensively with this recipe, omitting the celery if I didn’t have it on hand, upping the onion and garlic content, or throwing in a handful of frozen homemade chicken stock cubes as the soup was cooking. It’s still nice even if you can’t find fresh basil. I’ve used lots more tomatoes to get a thicker soup, and once added a bit of roux (butter, flour, milk mixture) to thicken it. Also, a scoop or two of leftover mashed potatoes, provided you haven’t added all kinds of weird spices to them, will add heft to the soup.

Suggested soundtrack: Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E Major

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reese's Peanut Butter Squares [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: ridiculously easy. (A kindergartner could do it. And did, many times. Right, Matt?)

Time: 12 minutes to assemble, 30 minutes to cool before cutting into squares

Serves: 10 to 15

College boys, young professionals and non-cooks—heads up! This is the perfect ending to a great party. You will be worshipped for making this!

And fancypants cooks--you can cut them into diamond shapes and single-space them on an exotic platter, give them a hard-to-pronounce French name and who’ll be the wiser?

This classic chocolate/peanut butter combination has been a Koulermos favorite forever—South Salem (NY) playgroup mom Cindy Mahan introduced the recipe when Matt was a tot. They travel well (unlike small children), and keep for a week or so in an airtight container (if you hide the container in a most unlikely spot, like the upper shelf of the linen closet. No one looks there.)

Last Saturday night, on a Brooklyn rooftop, with sparkles of lights from the lower Manhattan skyline rising in the distance, the squares made an appearance at Matt’s going-away party. He’s leaving Ogilvy to take a job in LA. Ogilvy writers and art directors, two great-looking couples from downstairs, cyclist friends (who hoisted their bikes onto the roof and rested them on a far wall), and Zack’s college roommate Anchi gathered as Matt manned the grill one more time. (Hopefully, he’ll post that menu when he settles in LA—it was astounding.)

Back to the squares. They were, as always, exclaimed over and devoured in minutes. No pretty platter to showcase them, just an open Tupperware container. (Gawd!) And after the friends had lifted their beers in a toast, promised to visit next time they’re in LA, and wished him well, just a few specks and crumbs remained at the end of that warm New York night.

1 ½ pkgs from box of grahams
1 lb. powdered sugar
2 sticks butter, melted
1 c. peanut butter (can use chunky for extra yum)
12 oz. pkg chocolate chips

Make crumbs out of crackers, mix thoroughly with powdered sugar, then mix in the melted butter and peanut butter. Spread evenly in jelly roll pan or small cookie sheet. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, pour chocolate evenly over peanut butter mixture. Cool and cut into squares.

Suggested soundtrack: “Let’s Get It Started,” Black Eyed Peas.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blue Ribbon Lasagna [Mike]

Rhonda and I were one of 12 couples in the South Salem gourmet dinner club. Each month, one couple would host a themed dinner party. The host couple was responsible for the main course. The 11 other couples would bring an appetizer, salad, or dessert. Tex-Mex night, Southern cooking, BBQ, etc. The one I liked best was a lasagna cook-off. Each couple had to bring their own favorite lasagna dish, which would be sampled and voted on. Since Italian food was my thing, I would do our entry. My main competition: Wayne Coluccini. This guy could cook. For several days before the big night, Wayne and I talked garbage. “My lasagna will destroy yours…” Well, I had a plan up my sleeve. I would make my mom’s traditional lasagna recipe, but add a special blended ingredient that would take it over the top.

• 2 cans of Progresso whole Italian tomatoes
• 1 can of Contadina tomato paste
• 1 lb. of Italian sausage, hot or sweet
• 1 lb. of ground beef
• 2 slices of Italian bread
• 1 egg
• 4 to 6 garlic cloves
• Italian virgin olive oil
• 24 ounces ricotta
• 1 box of Ronzoni lasagna pasta

In a mixing bowl, season the ricotta with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add a fresh egg, and several tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Blend together.

• 2 cups fresh basil leaves
• ½ cup each olive oil, Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
• 2 tablespoons each pine nuts, Romano pecorino cheese, freshly grated
• 2 cloves crushed garlic
• 1-teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons softened butter

Mix basil, oil, pine nuts, garlic and salt in blender at high speed. When evenly blended, pour into bowl and beat in grated cheeses by hand. Then beat in softened butter.

When the lasagna has finished baking, add spoonfuls of pesto on the top layer.

I was voted best in show!

Lasagna Mama Mia [Mike]

Growing up, I remember helping my Mom make gravy almost every single Sunday. Italians call their red sauce gravy. Why? Who knows… all I know is it’s a basic staple in Italy.

The fragrant smell from Mom’s kitchen, meatballs and sausage frying and fresh basil. Mom kept a wooden spoon next to the stove because when she wasn’t looking, we’d all try to grab a frying meatball from the pan.

Ouch! She always got me with the wooden spoon.

Sometimes Mom would substitute beef ribs for the sausage. Gosh they were meat-fall-off-the-bones good.  Or, she would take fried chicken pieces and add them to the gravy.  Best of all was when she took a large handful of chopped meat and a hard-boiled egg. She would roll the seasoned meat around the egg, making a giant meatball. Then she’d pan fry it in olive oil, and add it to her gravy.

Later, after we had our pasta, the meat platter would come out. Along with the sausage and meatballs was the sliced giant meatball with the egg. In our family, four boys, you had to be quick. Everyone wanted one of the slices with the egg yolk.

Cut to:

The Kaiser Lake house.

July 4th weekend.

Tradition. The Koulermos family is there.

Who knows how many people will show up at this wonderful small cottage on the lake this time. Minimum 10, max 30 or more? I decided I would cook dinner for the masses. I’m in the business of creating new product ideas, so I made a couple of designer lasagnas.

I made my Mom’s lasagna. (Follow steps 1 to 9 from “1st Place Lasagna”) Then I added the meatloaf as a topping, and fresh basil for both flavor and color.

Lasagna Margarita Milano [Mike]

With the second lasagna I created (Follow steps 1 to 9 from “1st Place Lasagna”), along with the ricotta between the layers of pasta, I added slices of black peppered salami which should be sautéed a bit to give some crispness. After cooking the lasagna for 40 minutes, I took it out of the oven and added a layer of fresh sliced plum tomatoes to the top. I placed it in the oven for another 10 minutes. Coming soon… lasagna with fried prosciutto topping.