Sex on the Kitchen Table
May 18th, 2010 by
The combination of roasted chicken, barbecued shrimp, roast potatoes and fresh salad sends this dinner over the edge.

The combination of roast chicken, barbecued shrimp, roast potatoes and fresh salad sent this dinner over the edge.

You’ve heard of the “Sex on the Beach” cocktail? Well, I’m calling last night’s dinner, “Sex on the Kitchen Table.”

It was basic, impulsive, and glorious. And not because of the greatness of any one dish. It was the combination of kitchen maneuvers all working together in perfect harmony that led to a culinary ecstasy resulting in complete satisfaction.

Although it was healthy, it left us feeling a bit guilty too.

I think that’s because of the buttery richness of the barbecued shrimp, combined with the succulent flavors of roast chicken and roast potatoes. The salad keeps it all real, cleansing the palate between bites with the fresh, clean flavors of greens, kissed by the spring sun.

You can make the four dishes for this meal — roast chicken, barbecued shrimp, roast potatoes and salad — according to your favorite recipes for each. As Sly Stone said, “It’s different strokes for different folks.” But here’s how I did it to wonderful results.

Roast Chicken with Roast Potatoes

I bought one of those free-range, non-hormonal chickens from Whole Foods. You know, one of those birds that is given a massage, warm bath and is french kissed before they chop its head off. The lemon and rosemary roaster was on sale for just $1.99 a pound and it was a great piece of meat.

I peeled the potatoes and then cut them into small chunks, about 1- to 1 1/2-inches round. To do this, simply trim off all the hard edges of each chunk with a paring knife. The result will be round potatoes. Their shape is important as it affects they way they brown and cook. Then make holes in each of the round potato chunks, either with the sharp point of the paring knife or with a fork.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Add the chicken (breast up). And then surround the chicken with the potatoes. Drizzle some more olive oil over the bird and potatoes. Sprinkle some kosher salt and dried rosemary over everything and cook in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes per pound of chicken.

Be sure to turn the potatoes over about every 15-20 minutes.

Barbecued Shrimp

I made this dish on the fly, using frozen, uncooked (but peeled and deveined), colossal-sized shrimp. And I cooked them in a grilling basket over hot charcoals until pink. I added nothing to them before doing this.

In a small saucepan on top of the stove I melted about a 1/2 stick of butter and then stirred in a half-teaspoon of horseradish, a few drops of lemon juice and some chopped parsley.

When the shrimp was done cooking, I put them in a bowl and drizzled the butter mixture over them. I then sprinkled them with a pinch of salt.


For the salad I used a mixture of greens, including arugula and my new favorite: pea tendrils.  I got the pea tendrils from Silverbrook Farm, which was selling them at the SoWa Open Market in Boston’s South End on Sunday. I never had them before but after trying them, I was hooked: they have a subtle pea flavor and a juicy crunch.

To the greens, you can add croutons, cran-raisins, walnuts, whatever. All I had on hand were the croutons, so I added those. And I used a roasted garlic and peppercorn salad dressing.

When everything was ready, I made up plates with all four dishes. I served mine to my honey, who came home from work with a bad cold, in bed.

Yeah, I know, I think we have things backwards.

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Chicken Basilico
Apr 17th, 2010 by

I found this recipe stashed away in the deep recesses of the RootsLiving library.

The details of how I created it are sketchy. The last time I made this was probably 10 years ago. And I’m guessing I created it by working with ingredients I already had in the house.

This dish is great when you have fresh tomatoes and basil from your garden, but you don't have to wait until then to try it.

This dish is great when you have fresh tomatoes and basil from your garden, but you don't have to wait until then to try it.

I knew it would be good because I took the time later to type it up and file it away.

I made this last night for dinner and it is a winner. It’s a fresh take on chicken cacciatore. And following in the tradition of many Italian dishes, it tastes even better the next day.

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • Chicken breasts, pounded flat or chicken cutlets (6)
  • Mushrooms, quartered or sliced (16 oz)
  • Nepitella (Or  a combination of basil and mint), fresh or dried. (About 2 tbsp.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Tomatoes, chopped up and chunky (4)
  • Olive oil
  • Italian bread or Sourdough bread
  • Sun-dried tomato paste
  • Butter
  • Garlic, crushed but kept whole (1 or 2 cloves)
  • Basil, fresh. (About 3 or 4 tbsp. sliced and chopped)

What I did:

Fry mushrooms in olive oil. Add salt and pepper and nepitella and cook until brown and done. Set aside.

Saute chicken over medium-high heat. When one side finishes cooking, turn over and spread dabs of sun-dried tomato paste over it. Then turn chicken over, and do the same to the other side. Cook chicken in batches like this.

Add all chicken back into the frying pan. Add mushrooms and chopped tomatoes and basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover pan and cook until done. Place in a serving dish.

Take slices of bread and cook in a little olive oil. Spread some sun-dried tomato paste on the bread as it cooks and add a dab of butter to taste.

Serve a slice of bread with each chicken plate. Chicken can be placed on top of the bread too. Be sure to spoon on some sauce and serve.

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Spanish Tapas and Wine Tasting Party
Mar 28th, 2010 by
Mary shows off her kitchen skills and a necklace she bought on her last visit to Spain.

Mary shows off her kitchen skills and a necklace she bought on her last visit to Spain.

Watching my friend Mary cook in her kitchen is more exciting than watching Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis battle it out on the Iron Chef. You can see, hear and smell the food cooking, knowing that in a few minutes you’re getting some!

Mary’s a great cook and hostess and last night she and her husband Ray invited a few close friends to their home in Gloucester, Mass. for sangria, tapas and paella, followed by a wine tasting. The tapas included a homemade aloili, stuffed mushrooms, manchego cheese and crackers, a mortadella and ham salad, and bowls of almonds and olives.

But the main course was paella, two in fact: one made with seafood and one made with chicken. Both were perfectly prepared: light, moist, a hundred flavors playing on your tongue at once with only a delicate hint of saffron.

Mary notes: “There are so many variations on this dish. For the fisherman husband who does not like seafood, I leave that out and have chicken and chorizo. You can also make a veggie type with asparagus and beans, etc. I’ve played around with quite a few versions, but usually end up doing something like this… It’s like building layers of flavor all in one pan. Best served with a nice glass of tempranillo or garnacha, and good friends of course. J

When making paella the rice cooks in the pan absorbing the flavors from everything else.

When making paella the rice cooks in the pan absorbing the flavors from everything else.

Chicken Paella (You can also substitute seafood for the chicken, such as shrimp, scallops, mussels and/or lobster.)

Ingredients/Shopping List

  • Olive oil (1/4 cup)
  • Chicken (Boneless thighs and/or drumsticks and/or breasts; About 3 pounds)
  • Spanish Onion (1 large, diced)
  • Green bell pepper (1 large, diced)
  • Parsley or cilantro (About 2-3 tablespoons, chopped)
  • Diced tomatoes (1 14.5-ounce can)
  • Chicken broth (4 1/2 cups)
  • Spanish-style chorizo links (1 pound, cut into slices on the bias)
  • Valencia or Arborio short-grain rice (2 cups)
  • Fresh or frozen green peas (1 cup)
  • Saffron threads (Just a pinch)
  • Paprika (2 tsp.)
  • Salt, pepper to taste.
  • Lemon wedges (to serve as garnish)

What Mary did:

Heat a paella pan or very large, shallow skillet or pot, preferably with 2 handles over high heat. A large cast iron skillet would also work here.

Pour in the olive oil and let it heat up. Season the chicken all over with salt, pepper and paprika. Sear in the olive oil until brown all over. Transfer to a plate with tongs.

Lower the heat to medium and saute the onions and bell pepper until softened.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and chorizo.

Bring the liquid to a boil and then stir in the rice and saffron.

Add the browned chicken pieces. The rice should be completely covered with liquid.

Cook the paella without stirring for 20 minutes. When the liquid has all been absorbed, pour the peas over the top of the pot, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a kitchen towel.

Let stand 5 minutes and then serve with lemon wedges.

Mmm. After eating the tapas and paella we sampled a few bottles of some red Spanish wine. But to be honest, we had so much fun I can’t remember which bottle we liked best.

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Joe’s Weight-Loss Chinese Chicken and Vegetables
Jan 26th, 2010 by
This dish is healthy, fast and fresh: just like you.

This dish is healthy, fast and fresh: just like you.

My friend Joe, who recently found out he is diabetic and lost more than 50 pounds, credits this dish with his success.

Using brown rice, instead of white, is healthier and has fewer calories.  You can also add other vegetables to it as you see fit. This dish is flavorful and doesn’t feel like you’re cutting calories when you eat it.

And it’s as easy to make as you like. Joe buys the brown rice (not fried rice) at a nearby Chinese restaurant and gets the chicken meat from a rotisserie chicken he buys at the supermarket. But if you want to save a few bucks (and know exactly what you’re eating) you can choose to roast a few chicken breasts and make the brown rice yourself.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • Cooked white chicken meat (about two breasts) cut into 1-inch pieces. You can roast your own by drizzling a little olive oil in a roasting pan, and adding salt and  pepper on the breasts. Then cook for about 30-45 minutes (for bone-in breasts) at 350 degrees. When done, cut 1-inch pieces off the bone. Or you can simply buy a cooked chicken at the supermarket and cut the white breast meat off it.
  • Cooked brown rice. (About 4-6 cups)
  • Onion (1 whole, chopped)
  • Scallions (2 bunches, about 8-10). Cut off the roots and then cut them where the stalks are light green and throw away the leaves. Then slice the remaining ends into tiny discs.
  • Mushrooms (About 8 ounces, cut into quarters)
  • Broccoli (about 2-3 cups of florets, cut up into bite size pieces)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (just enough to coat a frying pan to cook the onions and scallions; and just enough to coat a roasting pan if you’re roasting your own chicken breasts)
  • Oyster Sauce (A few tablespoons, to your taste. Available at most specialty shops or in the Chinese ingredient section of some supermarkets. Make sure it does not contain any high glucose corn syrup. Joe uses Lee Kum Kee Oyster Sauce. I tried the Yummy House brand which has more fish flavor and has only 5 calories per serving to Lee Kum Kee’s 25 calories.)

Here’s what I did:

Drizzle a few teaspoons of the extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of a frying pan. Add the onions and scallions and cook until translucent.

Then add the mushrooms and broccoli and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown and the broccoli is tender, but not wilting.

Add the chopped chicken and stir.

Add the oyster sauce and stir.

Add the brown rice and stir.

Cook until heated well through (about 5 minutes) and serve.

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Geneva’s Quick Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo (Thaw, baby thaw!)
Jan 11th, 2010 by
Just what you need for a quick thaw.

This will warm you up on a cold winter day.

With temperatures in the Boston area only in the 20s, gumbo weather has arrived.

You need this rich, hearty stew to rejuvenate after walking across the desolate tundra: your ears bleeding cold, your toes freezing numb, and your neck whiplashed by the icy fingers of old man winter.

Come in from the cold, take off your hat, gloves, coat, scarf and boots and let the savory aromas from this pot on the stove warm you.

This recipe, from the “The Black Family Reunion Cookbook,” is quick to make and great for leftovers. So thaw, baby, thaw, with a hot bowl of this southern comfort.


1 can (14 1/2 oz) chicken broth

1 can (14 1/2 oz) tomatoes

3 cups water

1 small bay leaf

1 tbsp. dried thyme leaves

2 tbsp butter

1 cup chopped onion

3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 tbsp. minced parsley

3 tbsp. file powder (if you don’t have this, don’t sweat it. I’ve made this gumbo before without it and it was still very good.)

1 pound sliced chicken breast

1/2 Kielbasa sausage (or 3 hot links or Polish sausage)

Salt, pepper and garlic powder (to taste)

2 cups frozen sliced okra

4 cups of cooked rice

2 cups of frozen baby shrimp, cooked. (I didn’t have any, so I used 3 cups of frozen large shrimp, cooked. Hey, I like shrimp.

Hot pepper sauce (optional) (Or put it on the table and let each diner decide if they want to use it)

What I did:

Combine chicken broth, tomatoes, water, bay leaf, thyme, butter, onion, green pepper, parsley, file powder, chicken, sausage, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a stockpot or large Dutch oven. Cook 30 minutes.

Add okra. Cook until done (8 to 10 minutes). Add rice and shrimp. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.

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Work Night Dinner
Sep 12th, 2009 by
These recipes bring soup and sandwich dinners to another level.

These recipes bring soup and sandwich dinners to another level.

Here’s something to kick off a weeknight in the late summer: two quick and easy recipes, perfect to make and eat after a long day of work or to enjoy while you’re working through dinner.

An Octupus’s Garden Gazpacho with Leftover Chicken Hummus Sandwiches

BEWARE: This Octopus's Gazpacho may attract a puss or two.

BEWARE: This Octopus's Gazpacho may attract a puss or two.

(Tip: Gazpacho should sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before eating, so you could make this the night before. This soup is also very low in calories. For you Weight Watchers, it’s about 4 points per serving with the shrimp — or only 3 points without.)

An Octupus’s Garden Gazpacho

This recipe came from Parade Magaziine via Epicurious. The original name was Farmstand Gazpacho, but my brother Peter (who first made this for me) had the brilliant idea of adding shrimp to it, so I changed the name.

Eating this is like eating a bowl of nature and combined with the shrimp, you may feel like a playful sea otter surfacing from the deep with a fresh morsel in his mouth.


  • 2 cups, about 1 large, peeled and diced (1/4 inch) cucumber
  • 2 cups, about 2, diced (1/4 inch) red bell pepper
  • 2 cups, about 2, diced (1/4 inch) ripe tomato
  • 1/2 cup, about one small, diced (1/4 inch) red onion
  • 2 cups of tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 dashes Tabasco sauce (You can add more if you like it more spicy. I added four dashes and found that suited my taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shrimp (about 16 whole, medium-sized cooked shrimp. More or less to suit your taste.)

What I did:

Place all of the diced vegetables in a large bowl. Add tomato juice, vinegar, oil and Tabasco. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer half of the mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse the machine on and off to coarsely puree the ingredients. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine.

Add eight of the shrimp to the soup. Save and refrigerate the other shrimp to use as garnish around the cup or bowl. Refrigerate gazpacho for 4-6 hours. I put it in the refrigerator for only three hours before eating it and it was fine.

Put soup in bowls or cups and hook a few shrimp around the rim. Serve with your favorite sandwich.

I made the following sandwiches with some leftover fried chicken and what I had hanging around my icebox. (The tomato and cucumber in the sandwich echoed some of the main ingredients of the soup making this a perfect combination.)

Leftover Chicken Hummus Sandwiches


  • Good, real, Italian bread (I used a loaf of pane francese)
  • Leftover chicken, sliced thin
  • Tomato slices
  • Cucumber slices
  • Hummus

What I did:

Cover one bread slice with chicken. Put slices of tomato on top and add salt and pepper. Put slices of cucumber on top. Spread hummus on the other slice of bread and make a sandwich.

(Photos by Mark Micheli)

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