High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking

High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking

by J. M. Hirsch

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345530066
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/25/2011
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 25 MB
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About the Author

J. M. HIRSCH is the national food editor for The Associated Press. He oversees a team of writers, cooks, and photographers whose stories and recipes appear in thousands of newspapers and on countless Web sites around the globe. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and six-year-old son.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

Crostini with Basil Goat Cheese and Crisped Prosciutto
Feta Cheese Drizzled with Honey, Walnuts, and Oregano
Spiced Cashew Hummus with Smoked Paprika
Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Figs with Blue Cheese
Polenta Cakes Topped with Prosciutto and Peppadew Slivers
Sun-Dried Tomato and Crème Fraîche Crostini
Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs
Ham and Cheddar Arancini
Warm Mashed Cannellini Crostini
Chipotle Buffalo Wings with Blow-Your-Mind Blue Cheese Dip
Smoky Fried Calamari with Zesty Tomato Sauce
Fig and Manchego Puff Pastries
Feta Crostini with Tomato, Bacon, and Apple Jam
People tend to have a certain image of a food editor’s life, mostly involving plenty of wining and dining, noshing with celebs, and whipping up multicourse gourmet meals.
I so do not have that life. I do have a six-year-old son. And that, combined with living in rural New Hampshire, tends to limit my fine-dining options.
As for gourmet cooking? Not quite. My knife skills amount to running a lawn mower over the food. I’ve managed to set fire to nearly every flammable ingredient (and several parts of my home). And any recipe requiring exacting measurements or fussy techniques lands in the recycling bin.
Celebs? I do have better-than-average access, but even that I tend to bungle.
As in the time I attended a dinner with Rachael Ray, Katie Lee, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, and Bill Clinton. It was fine until I left and decided—with perhaps a bit too much wine influencing the decision—to call my wife. And loudly tell her how gorgeous Katie Lee was. And that she might have touched my arm.
I’m smooth like that.
But what I do have is a determination to eat well and eat real. Because after I’ve spent the first half of my day playing editor and the second half as the only dad at my son’s playdates, I want food that sucker punches me with flavor. No matter how little effort, time, or skill I can manage.
As in these starters. Any starter that can’t be made while drinking wine and chatting with friends is a nonstarter. Because let’s face it, starters are for company. I wish I was the sort of guy who had the time and energy to make appetizers for my family, but they can dream on.
So most of these recipes take about 10 to 20 minutes and require no special skills or equipment. Not sure where to start? Try the Feta Cheese Drizzled with Honey, Walnuts, and Oregano. It’s intensely good, ridiculously easy, and everyone will love it.
Crostini with Basil Goat Cheese and Crisped Prosciutto
Anytime you can play salty, crunchy foods against creamy, soft ones you probably have a winner of a dish. For a variation, substitute a slab of gouda for the goat cheese, then pop the assembled crostini in a 350°F oven until the cheese just begins to soften.
2 slices prosciutto
4-ounce log chevre (soft goat cheese), room temperature
2 large fresh basil leaves, cut into slivers
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper, to taste
12-inch baguette, cut crosswise into 12 slices, lightly toasted
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Add the prosciutto and cook over medium-high heat until just lightly browned and crisp on both sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer the prosciutto to paper towels to absorb excess oil, then cut it into small pieces.
In a medium bowl, use a fork to mash the goat cheese. Add the basil and olive oil. Mix well, then season with pepper.
Spread a bit of the cheese mixture over each slice of bread, then sprinkle with sliced scallion and bits of prosciutto.
Feta Cheese Drizzled with Honey, Walnuts, and Oregano
Feta keeps you thin. Or so went the advice of the diet counselor who helped me shed some serious pounds during high school. Her theory sounded good. Feta’s assertive flavor meant you were less likely to eat as much as you would a milder cheese.
Nice try. But I was not lugging around a spare eighty pounds because of a bland diet. I tend to pack it in—bland, spicy, whatever. I can eat feta by the pound. And thanks to living in the test kitchen, I still manage a twenty-pound year-round yo-yo. Maybe I just haven’t eaten enough feta.
Just about any nut (as long as it’s unsalted) will work in place of the walnuts here. As with all cheeses, be sure to serve this close to room temperature.
12-ounce block feta cheese, cut into thin slices
⅓ cup honey
⅓ cup toasted walnut halves, crumbled
Leaves from several sprigs fresh oregano
4 to 5 fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips
Grated zest of ½ lemon
12-inch baguette, cut into 12 to 14 slices (toasted, if desired)
Arrange the feta cheese slices at the center of a large serving plate or platter. Drizzle the honey over the feta.
Sprinkle the crumbled walnuts over the top of the cheese, then scatter the oregano leaves and mint over it. Sprinkle with lemon zest.
Serve the cheese with the baguette slices.
Spiced Cashew Hummus with smoked paprika
A former boss once told me I had to stop writing hummus recipes. Her loss. I can’t get enough of the stuff. Give me a tub of hummus and a loaf of bread, and I’m good.
This delicious rethinking ditches the traditional sesame seed paste for ultra-creamy cashew butter (think peanut butter, but made from cashews).
Serve it with hunks of flour tortillas, nacho chips, or pita bread.
Like all hummus, this tastes best at room temp. Fresh from the food processor is ideal. If you do refrigerate it, let it stand, covered, on a counter for 20 minutes before serving.
15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
½ cup cashew butter
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, cashew butter, vinegar, hot sauce, olive oil, garlic, water, and salt. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, then drizzle with a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika.
Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Figs with Blue Cheese
This technique works with just about any grill-friendly fruit, such as spears of fresh pineapple, rings of cored apple, or slices of pear.
Not a fan of blue (a true gift to the blunt force kitchen)? Try finely chopped pieces of manchego, pecorino, or aged gouda. Or go for soft goat cheese, which has a mild flavor but an awesome texture, especially when warmed.
4 strips bacon
4 large fresh figs
Ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Coat a grill rack with oil or cooking spray. Heat the grill to medium.
Wrap 1 slice of bacon around each fig, starting at the top and spiraling it down the length of the fig. If needed, secure the bacon at each end with a toothpick. Season with pepper.
Place the figs on the grill, close the cover, and cook for 2 minutes. Depending on the fat content of the bacon, there may be some smoke and flames.
Turn off one side of the grill and use tongs to carefully move the figs to that side. Close the lid and grill for another 3 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked through.
Use tongs to carefully transfer each fig to a serving plate, then sprinkle each with a bit of blue cheese and parsley.
Polenta Cakes Topped with Prosciutto and Peppadew Slivers
The mild taste and grainy texture of polenta is the perfect foil for creamy goat cheese and salty prosciutto. Meanwhile, sweetly sharp Peppadew peppers add just the right bite. If you’re the sort who cranks the heat, use diced fresh or jarred jalapeño peppers.
18-ounce tube prepared polenta, cut into 8 rounds
4 thin slices prosciutto, halved crosswise
4-ounce log chevre (soft goat cheese), cut into 8 rounds
8 Peppadew peppers, cut into thin slivers
Heat the oven to broil. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.
Place the polenta rounds on the baking sheet and broil them for 3 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned. Flip the rounds, then broil for another 3 to 4 minutes and remove from heat. Leave the broiler on.
Place a slice of prosciutto on each polenta round, then top each with a round of goat cheese. Return the polenta to the oven and broil for another 2 minutes, or until the cheese is soft.
Use a spatula to transfer the polenta cakes to a platter or individual serving plates. Top each with a small mound of slivered Peppadews.

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