Archive for April, 2012

My Family Table, A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking by Chef John Besh has received several very positive reviews, so I picked up a copy. The first recipe I made from it is this Couscous with Spicy Chicken, and it was very good, especially the couscous. This recipe calls for cooked chicken, so it is a good way to use up leftovers or you can cook the chicken ahead of time. The chicken is tossed in a spice blend and reheated. The couscous includes cabbage, carrots, scallions and turmeric.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Check your dry spices to make sure they don’t contain colour or anti-caking chemicals. If you don’t have homemade stock on hand (and who does, really?) use an all-natural stock such as Imagine brand. Make sure the butter does not contain colour—I use Gay Lea Unsalted Butter, which has a single ingredient: cream. It is easy to make harissa from scratch—the recipe is below.

Grind spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle

Toss cooked chicken with spices and oil

Saute vegetables for couscous

Fluff couscous to remove lumps

Couscous with spicy chicken


For the spice blend and chicken

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp red pepper flakes

½ tsp cinnamon


Freshly ground black pepper

1 roast chicken, cooked and cut into pieces

2 tbsp olive oil

For the couscous

2 tbsp vegetable oil

½ head cabbage, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced

2 cups couscous

1 tsp turmeric


2 cups chicken broth

1 tbsp butter

Freshly ground black pepper

Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped

Harissa (optional)


2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 chipotle in adobo, minced, plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground caraway

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For the spice blend, toast the ginger, fennel, coriander, red pepper and cinnamon in a small skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Besh urges you to stop and smell the toasting spices. Put the spices in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and process to a fine powder.

Salt and pepper the chicken and toss in with the olive oil and spice blend in a large bowl. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until it is hot. Remember, you are just reheating the chicken; it should be already cooked through.

For the couscous, in a medium saucepan combine the oil, cabbage, carrots, green onions and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add the couscous with the turmeric and a pinch of salt. Stir to make sure all the grains are coated with oil, then add the broth.

Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat, and cover. Let stand until the couscous is tender and the water is absorbed, 5-7 minutes. Fluff with a fork to make sure there are no lumps, then add the butter and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and add the mint.

Mound the couscous in a bowl and top with the spiced chicken. Serve with harissa and drizzles of olive oil. Serves 4-6.

From My Family Table by John Besh

This recipe from the April 2012 issue of Martha Stewart Living calls for bucatini, which is a long, hollow pasta. It’s a nice change from regular spaghetti or linguine and it does a great job soaking up the sauce. This recipe uses pantry staples—salt, olive oil, garlic, oregano, hot pepper flakes, canned tomatoes, canned clams, capers and pasta. It’s a perfect weeknight supper—the sauce takes about 10 minutes to cook and then you add the not-quite-cooked pasta to it to finish the dish.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

The ingredients in this recipe that may contain artificial ingredients include the tomatoes, clams and capers. Look for San Marzano canned plum tomatoes that contain only tomatoes and salt, clams with only clam juice and salt and an all-natural brand of capers, such as Crosse & Blackwell.

See the holes? Bucatini is a hollow pasta.

Use canned clams with no artificial ingredients added

First, simmer sauce.

Add clams and heat through.

Add slightly undercooked pasta and cook until done.

Bucatini with clam sauce and hot pepper.


Coarse salt

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

4 garlic cloves, smashed

½ teaspoon dried oregano

Red-pepper flakes

1 can (14 ounces) whole plum tomatoes, chopped, plus ½ cup juice

2 cans (6.5 ounces each) chopped clams, drained, reserving 1 cup clam juice

1 tablespoon capers (preferably salt-packed), rinsed and drained

3/4 pound bucatini (perciatelli) or other long pasta

Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling


While bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil, heat oil with garlic, oregano, and a large pinch of red-pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until fragrant and garlic is golden, about 2 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and their juice, and the reserved clam juice. Bring to a simmer, and cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in clams and capers, and cook until heated through.

When water boils, add pasta to boiling water, and cook until almost al dente, about 10 minutes (do not drain water). Transfer pasta to skillet using a strainer. Gradually stir in 1 cup pasta water, about 1/2 cup at a time, and cook over low heat, tossing, until pasta has absorbed some sauce and is well coated, 2 to 3 minutes.

Divide among 4 bowls. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with red-pepper flakes and coarse sea salt. Serves 4.

From the April 2012 issue of Martha Stewart Living


This delicious dish from the July 2007 issue of Gourmet is my go-to recipe for entertaining. A whole chicken is butterflied and then a ricotta-herb mixture is spread under the skin before roasting. The filling puffs up slightly and adds delicious flavour to the bird. Because the chicken is butterflied, it roasts in about an hour. Bake the extra filling and serve it alongside the chicken for an elegant presentation.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Most of the ingredients in this recipe are all natural, but be sure to buy ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano without colour or preservatives.

Push ricotta-herb stuffing under the skin of the butterflied chicken

Be careful not to tear the skin as you push the stuffing in

Bake the extra filling in a shallow dish

The filling puffs slightly, adds flavour and keeps the chicken moist

Serve baked filling alongside chicken


For filling

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh; 2 pounds)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2 ounces)

¼ cup chopped fresh oregano

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For chicken

2 whole chickens (each about 3 ½ pounds)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Make filling

Preheat oven to 400°F with racks in middle and lower third.

Cook garlic in oil in a small heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in ricotta, eggs, parmesan, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Stuff and roast chickens

Cut out backbones from chickens with kitchen shears (freeze bones for making stock if desired). Pat chickens dry, then spread flat, skin sides up, on a cutting board. Cut a ½ -inch slit on each side of chicken in center of triangle of skin between thigh and breast (near drumstick), then tuck knob of each drumstick through slit.

Sprinkle each chicken with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and spread chickens flat, skin sides up, in an oiled large (17- by 12-inch) shallow baking pan. Gently slide your finger between skin and flesh of breast and legs of 1 chicken to loosen skin (be careful not to tear skin). Using a small spoon, slide 2/3 cup ricotta mixture under skin, using a finger on outside of skin to spread filling over meat of breast, thighs, and drumsticks. Tuck wing tips under. Stuff second chicken in same manner. Brush skin of chickens all over with oil (2 tablespoons) and sprinkle each with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Spoon remaining filling into an oiled 1-quart shallow baking dish (10 by 7 inches).

Bake chickens in middle of oven 30 minutes, then put dish of stuffing in oven on lower rack. Continue baking until chicken is just cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of a thigh (through stuffing; do not touch bone) registers 170°F and until gratin is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes more. Let chickens stand 10 minutes, then cut each into quarters. Serve with gratin. Serves 6.

Make ahead: Filling can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before stuffing chickens.

From the July 2007 issue of Gourmet

My big spring work project is over, so I am back in the kitchen. I had a hankering for a new pasta dish, so I made the Fresh Herb Pappardelle with Veal and Lemon from The Pasta Cookbook published by Williams-Sonoma. I made the pasta from scratch, which is relatively easy to do with a hand-cranked pasta maker or stand-mixer pasta attachment. And it is so worth it, because the pasta is translucent, tender and light and cooks very quickly. The Williams-Sonoma recipe for egg pasta can be found at My pasta attachment makes fettuccine, so that is the width of pasta I used. I also used veal cutlets instead of veal shoulder and it was fine. The sauce comes together in less than an hour and is elegant enough to serve to company.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Almost everything in this recipe is additive free, except for the stock. If you are not using homemade stock, try one without additives, preservatives and artificial flavour, such as Imagine brand.

To make pasta, start with flour with a well in the middle to hold eggs and oil

Cut pasta into four small portions and flatten

Roll the dough through the pasta rollers until very thin

Run the sheets through the pasta cutters to make fettuccine

Form fettuccine into nests and freeze or refrigerate until ready to cook

Sauce ingredients

Saute shallots and mushrooms

Brown the veal

Simmer the ingredients together before adding cream and pasta

Fettuccine with veal and lemon


1 lb. fresh egg pasta

1 lb. veal shoulder, partially frozen and cut into thin strips 1 inch long and ¼ inch wide

4 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 large shallots, minced

½ lb. fresh white mushrooms, brushed clean and thinly sliced

½ cup dry sherry

1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 tsp freshly chopped thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme

1 lemon zest strip, three inches long and one inch wide

2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup heavy cream

Kosher salt for cooking pasta


Pat veal dry with paper towels and set aside. In a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil Add the shallots and sauté until tender, about two minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the mushrooms. Sauté gently until softened, about two minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallot and mushroom mixture to a plate and set aside.

Raise the heat to high and add the veal to the pan. Sauté until the meat colours on the surface, about two minutes. Add the sherry and reduce the heat to medium. Sauté until most of the alcohol evaporates, about three minutes. Add the broth, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and immediately reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover, add the lemon zest and chopped parsley, and return the mushroom mixture to the pan. Season with sea salt and pepper and simmer, uncovered, until the veal is tender and the liquid is reduced to about 1 ¼ cups, about 15 minutes longer. Remove and discard the lemon zest. Add the cream and heat, stirring, just until small bubbles begin to forma round the edges of the pan. Do not let the cream boil. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

In a large pot, bring five quarts of water to a rapid boil. Add two tablespoons kosher salt and the pasta and cover the pot. When the water returns to a boil, uncover, cook for about a minute or until tender and then drain. Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan and toss until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. Transfer to a warmed large, shallow serving bowl or individual shallow bowls and serve right away. Serves four.

From Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book