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"Many top chefs have discovered some surprisingly tasty ways to keep the pounds at bay. [Their] tantalizing suggestions [are] put forth in Smart Chefs Stay Slim, a new book detailing the eating strategies of today’s culinary superstars." -- OPRAH.COM

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Tuesday
Jan012013

The Last Meal of 2012—some memories and recipes

Katie Lee, Art Smith and me at the New York City Wine & Food Festival. Got any kale questions?Did you eat a lot of kale in 2012? I did. It seemed to be everywhere. One of my favorite days of the past year was at the New York City Wine & Food Festival, where I hosted a Smart Chefs panel that included chefs Marc Murphy, Sue Torres, Art Smith and cookbook author Katie Lee, who went on somewhat poetically and rather hilariously about the two kale meals she had eaten in one day (video here). So in addition to whatever else I was making for my last 2012 supper, a side of kale seemed in order.

But for the centerpiece of this meal, which was cooked for my family at the home in which I was raised, something festive and spectacular. Another great memory from the past year was my trip to Italy with Art Smith, where we ate insanely well (and possibly too much at times) and tried to get ourselves back in balance with runs along the Mediterranean in Livorno, a port town in Tuscany.

Livorno, Italy. Nice place to run, great place to eat. Harvesting olives for Lucini oil in Tuscany, October 2012

Earlier, when I was researching my book, Tom Colicchio introduced me to his family's traditional cacciucco, a fish stew with roots in Livorno, that turns out to be extremely easy to cook and really impressive, on its own with some freshly made crostini, or over bowls of pasta. (Not a lot of pasta; we used half a package of whole wheat spaghetti for 6 people. This is one of my personal big takeaways from Smart Chefs: Eat pasta the way Italians do, in small portions -- not massive bowls!)

I wanted something fresh and crispy for contrast, so I made a fast salad of thinly shaved celery, radish, shallots, with parsley and celery leaves, dressed with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. If you've read the book, you are familiar with how those last four ingredients are key to chefs for building flavor, and they did not let us down in this simple and refreshing preparation. Looking forward to 2013, Bon Appetit's January issue assures us that lettuce-free salads of shaved vegetables will be big this year. (My recipe, below, is adapted from one of theirs.)

And, as ever, dessert. The same Bon App had a gorgeous photo of a lemon-honey tart with a salted shortbread crust. Tart with meyer lemons, from my parents' garden. Happy New Year Mom + Dad! (Do you read my blog?) Their recipe calls for meyer lemons, which are not hard to find in stores anymore, but I had it really easy: There's a meyer lemon tree growing in my parents' backyard. When we were kids my brother and I used to pull a racquetball-sized fruit from the tree and toss it to our dog, who would catch it and then drop it in a puckerface (dogs can't really pucker, but we still thought this hilarious). Better use: in a honey-scented, pleasantly salty, tangy and custardy pie to close out an amazing year.

 

Crostini

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (use a great one; you're going to taste it)

1 baguette or crusty Italian bread, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds.

2-3 fresh tomatoes (optional)Crostini. Photo by my son.

Crush the garlic cloves and stir them into the olive oil in a small bowl. Brush the bread with the garlic-scented oil.

Place the bread oil-side down in a large pan or stove-top grill over medium heat. While that side is cooking, brush the other with oil. Turn when they are golden, about 4-7 minutes. Cook the other side and serve immediately as is, or garnish with chopped fresh tomatoes and another drizzle of olive oil.

 

Shaved Celery & Radish Salad

10 celery stalks, very thinly sliced (shaved on a mandolin is best; otherwise use a food processor's slicing blade)

leaves from one head of celery, chopped roughly

5 medium radishes (we used French breakfast variety) very thinly sliced into disks

1 shallot, very thinly sliced (are you sensing a trend here?) and separated into rings

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon lemon zest

kosher salt

ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice (or more to taste)

Place celery, celery leaves, radishes, shallots and parsley in a large bowl. Add lemon zest, salt and pepper and toss to combine. When ready to serve dress with olive oil and lemon juice, toss again and adjust seasonings to taste.

 

Cacciucco, adapted from Tom Colicchio

Serves 6

2 medium onions, minced
4 stalks of celery, minced
1 fennel bulbs, minced
1 cup olive oil
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
2 cloves garlic, mincedCacciucco. Traditionally part of the Italian Christmas fishes dinner, but equally good on New Year's
Zest from one lemon
Crushed red pepper
1 cup of dry white wine
1 cup water
1 lb. squid, cleaned and chopped into 1 inch pieces
18 manila clams
1 lb. medium shrimp peeled and deveined
1 lb. medium scallops
1 lb. monkfish, halibut or other firm filet that can be cut into 2 inch cubes

Over medium to low heat, cook the minced vegetables in the olive oil for about 45 minutes until soft.

Add the crushed tomato, garlic and lemon zest.

Add the squid and cook for about 30 minutes, simmering over low heat. Add the wine, water and clams. Cover and cook until the clams open, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining seafood and gently cook for 15 – 20 minutes

Serve with whole wheat linguini or spaghetti mixed with garlic, parsley and olive oil.

 

Braised Kale

1 pound kale (about 2 bunches), large  ribs and stems removed, torn into roughly 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely choppedKale had its year. Will we still love it in 2013?

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 cups vegetable stock or organic chicken stock

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally,  until translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add sliced garlic and salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring, about 5 more minutes.

Add kale and stock and toss until leaves start to wilt. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Drain and serve tossed with Parmesan cheese.

 

Lemon-Honey Tart with Salted Shortbread Crust

Will post this shortly, after magazine is off-stand.

Meanwhile, as you think about eating deliciously and healthfully in this new year, I hope you'll find some inspiration in Smart Chefs Stay Slim, which is just out in paperback.

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