Sunday, March 26, 2017

Homestyle Orange Beef with Broccoli



You can do this with easily obtained ingredients.  Improvise if you don't have everything but you will need a fresh orange and Mirin, the slightly sweet cooking wine that replaces the sugar found in most home recipes and keeps this dish from being to sweet. 

Marinating the beef takes only 15 minutes and the baking soda will turn the cheapest cuts into tender strips.  Don't skip the lemon juice rinse.  It neutralizes the baking soda and brightens up the beefy flavors.  

This is a one-pan recipe (plus cooked rice).  Take a few minutes to prep your ingredients.  Line it all up in easy reach and have fun.  Recipe can be doubled but you will want to work in batches or use a larger skillet.

Orange Beef with Broccoli
Serves 3-4

1 pound beef, sliced very thin against the grain
1 teaspoon baking soda
juice of 1/2 lemon mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 cups broccoli florets, steamed

1 orange—peel removed and juiced  (pick a juicy one like Minneola or Valencia)
1 tablespoon Mirin (sweet rice wine, available at most grocery stores)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon grape seed oil
1/3 cup peanuts
Optional: 6-7 small red chili peppers
Garnish: sliced scallions or sesame seeds

  1. Marinate thinly sliced steak in 1 teaspoon baking soda for 15 minutes.  Rinse in cool water.  
  2. Next cover steak with lemon juice and water for 1-2 minutes.  Use just enough water to cover steak.  Rinse and dry meat.
  3. Toss meat with cornstarch.  Shake off excess.
  4. While meat marinates, cut orange peel away from orange.  Scrape away any pith. 
  5. In a small bowl, mix together juice of the orange (about 2 oz), Mirin, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce.
  6. Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet.  Fry orange peels until beginning to crisp. Remove to a plate to cool.  
  7. Next add peanuts and fry and chili peppers.  These three ingredients flavor your oil.
  8. Move peppers and peanuts to side and add the meat.  Add a little more oil if needed.  Fry the meat turning as needed.  Remove to plate with orange peels.
  9. When meat is almost done, add ½ teaspoon cornstarch to orange sauce and pour into hot pan. Cook on low until thickened.  Add a little water if it thickens too quickly.
  10. Add meat, orange peel and broccoli to pan.  Stir to coat.  
Serve over rice.  Garnish with sliced scallions or shame seeds.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Zucchini Corn Casserole

Here's a simple side dish that bakes up in less than half an hour.

Corn, zucchini, green peppers baked in egg, sour cream and milk.  A simple crust of butter coated with panko bread crumbs adds a little extra crunch.  Nice garnished with a little sour cream and hot sauce as a quick side for dinner.

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Precook a sliced zucchini and 1 cup frozen corn in a little butter before placing in a buttered and bread crumb-coated pie plate.  Add an ounce of grated cheddar cheese.  In a small bowl, combine 1 egg, 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1/4 cup milk or half & half and a little salt, pepper and dried oregano.   Cover the vegetables and cheese then bake about 20 minutes at 350˚F until egg mixture is just set.  Serve hot with extra sour cream and hot sauce.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Scallops in Orange Beurre Blanc

Seared sea scallops with an easy and pure orange beurre blanc sauce brighten up January.  The sauce sets up in the time it takes to sear your scallops.   Steamed shrimp, mild white fish and even chicken breasts also like this sauce.  For chicken, try a variation with sliced green olives.

Scallops in Orange Beurre Blanc
Serves 2, recipe can be doubled

For scallops:
10-12  sea scallops
Salt, pepper, paprika or red pepper, flour for dusting scallops
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 

For sauce:
zest of half on orange
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 cup COLD unsalted butter (1 stick)
salt and pepper


  1. Prepare scallops by seasoning with salt, pepper, paprika and/or red pepper.  Dust lightly with flour.
  2. Heat over medium-high heat a wide skillet with a heavy bottom to sear scallops.
  3. While skillet heats, place zest, orange juice and wine in small pot and simmer until liquid is reduced to 1/3 original quantity.
  4. When skillet is hot, add oil.  Allow 30 seconds for oil to heat then add scallops.  Do not move scallops for at least 2 minutes.
  5. Cut butter into large chunks and drop into pot with reduced juice mixture.  With pot on lowest heat, stir cold butter into liquid.  Keep stirring to create a thick sauce.  Set aside (off heat).
  6. Turn scallops when they are seared well enough to come off skillet easily.  Cook another 2 minutes on the flip side.  Scallops will have a golden brown color on each side and be opaque through centers.
  7. Drain scallops on paper towel then serve with sauce.  

Happy January!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Oven-Marinated Olives, Mushrooms & Artichokes

These are simple vegetable appetizers you can do ahead in the oven by combining various bite-sized edibles with herbs, spices, citrus peel and flavored oils.  They are nice warm or room temperature though they taste best if allowed to sit overnight to soak up all the flavorings.

Our olives get flavor from olive oil, orange peel, fresh thyme and red pepper flakes. Use two cans for a crowd with 2 tablespoon oil, peel of 1/2 an orange, 4-5 sprigs thyme and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.  Feel free to adjust amounts to suit your tastes.  This makes a fairly spicy olive.

We use small frozen artichokes that are defrosted before being mixed with olive oil, lemon peel, juice of 1/2 lemon, fresh parsley and fresh thyme.  Canned artichokes do not hold up as well in the oven.  If you only have canned ones, marinate them at room temperature after rinsing them with a strainer.  You will need at least a day in the refrigerator to marinate.

Our mushroom have a secret ingredient, fish sauce*.  A little goes a long way.  Mix a few drops with a squeeze of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of oil oil for every cup of mushrooms.  Also add oregano and black pepper.

Wrap each mixture tightly in aluminum foil and bake at 400˚F for 15-20 minutes.  Allow them to cool in their packets then open and serve with toothpicks.  Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

*Use soy sauce in place of fish sauce for strictly vegetarian.  There are one or two vegan Worcestershire sauces that can be used as well.

Happy New Year!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Baking Powder DIY

Holiday baking season is here.  Your heirloom recipes don't deserve stale baking powder.  Happily, t's easy to make your own with pure ingredients you probably already have in the kitchen.

Baking powder that's been on the shelf too long may not provide the expected leavening and I find it can impart a bitter taste to baked goods, as if the cream of tartar in the mixture can no longer stand up to the baking soda.

On top of the opportunity to degrade over time, baking powder comes in can sizes that are hard to use up within six-nine months if you are not a frequent baker.  When you make baking powder  yourself, you can make smaller batches and get the benefits of cooking from scratch with really fresh ingredients.  

The recipe is simple:
2 parts baking soda
1 part cream of tartar
1 part corn starch

Mix well and store in an airtight container.  I like to use a small sifter or strainer to really mix the ingredients together. For my baking needs, I might use these quantities to yield enough for the season:

Holiday Quantity Baking Powder
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoons corn starch

When I mix baking powder into flour, I sift it through a small strainer to keep any clumping at bay.

Happy baking!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Beef Tenderloin Sale

Beef tenderloin is a cut of beef that is reserved for special occasions and at certain times of year it goes on sale.  If you see one, calculate your cost per serving and see if its worth picking up.  This week I paid under thirty dollars for a 5 pound beef tenderloin.  After butchering into tournedo steaks and chateaubriand roasts I netted out with at least 12 servings at $2.50 each.  

With no special occasion on the near horizon, I could have frozen the whole thing to serve at the holidays.  A beef tenderloin roasted slowly on low and served with a little horseradish sauce is a treat for hosts and guests.  But at $2.50 per serving I thought it would be nice to create several weekend meals for our small household instead.  

Most likely the beef tenderloin that you see at a great price has not yet been prepared for cooking.  The silver skin (connective tissue) needs to be removed and the chain, fattier meat running alongside, can be left on or removed for another use.  The procedure is simple.  Here's how its done:

Mastering Beef Tenderloin Preparation

  • Have on hand butcher's twine cut in 12-14 inch lengths, a sharpened knife and large cutting board.  I use a boning knife but you can also use a very sharp carving knife.  The blade should be thin and allow you to trim the silver away with precision.
  • Remove the beef from its package and wipe down with paper towels so the meat is dry and easy to handle.
  • Look for the chain, a fat encrusted sidecar running down the length of the tenderloin.  You will be able to pull it away partially with your hands.  Use your knife to cut away the rest from the main body.  Keep this to trim later.  It has some fat and tendon in it but can be braised.
  • Lay out the tenderloin so that the silver skin is on top.  This is a strip of connective tissue, not fat, that will not cook to tenderness so we cut it away.  
  • Lay your knife horizontal to the meat and with the tip nick in under the silver.  Wiggle and slide the knife between the tender beef and the thin sheath of silver skin.  Tilt the knife's edge toward the silver and slide the knife along the underside of the skin with the edge of the knife tilted up slightly. The silver will pull away from the beef neatly.  The first time you try this you may nick the meat a bit and pull small parts of the silver away but with a few cuts you will master the technique.  Be patient with yourself.
  • With the silver cut away, you can roast the beef as is, tied with butcher's twine every few inches and the small tail doubled over and tied to create a uniform piece of meat for even cooking.

  • Create a roast, known as a chateaubriand, with the fattest part of the tenderloin.  Cut 6-8 inches or follow the natural slope of the meat and cut up to the point that the meat gets smaller in diameter.  Tie this roast at intervals to create a uniform piece of meat for even cooking.
  • Make tournedos of beef wrapped in bacon by slicing steaks off the beef about 2 inches thick. Wind a slice of bacon around each and tie tightly with butcher's twine.
  • Finish up by trimming some of the fat and grizzle away from the chain.  You can yield about 1/2 pound of stew meat.
If you are not cooking the meat right away, freeze the prepared servings in quart or gallon freezer bags. Label the bags with the cut of beef and the date.  Use within 2 months.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Instagram Summer at PureFrances

Pure Foods Project blog is taking a summer vacation over on Instagram.  Find posts and follow me at PureFrances...
Yogurt Container Cucumber Soup

Lentil Salad with Yellow Beets and Goat Cheese

Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche & Dill Cucumber Cups 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Cherry Fontina Grilled Cheese

Serve Cherry Fontina Grilled Cheese on french bread for an open face summer bite alongside cocktails.  You know Fontina is a great melting cheese in pasta dishes and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Did you know Fontina cheese has an affinity for cherries?  The cherries are flavored with lemon juice, lemon peel, black pepper and a little ground cinnamon.  This is a fun grilled appetizer during the summer and a warming simple treat straight out of the oven when the weather turns cool.

Cherry Fontina Grilled Cheese 
Serves 2 as an entree, 6-8 as appetizers

6 slices french bread
1 cup pitted bing cherries
zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
6 ounces Fontina cheese, sliced


  1. Lightly brown your bread slices while preparing the cherry mixture.
  2. Roughly chop cherries.  In a small bowl mix berries with lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, salt, cinnamon and black pepper.
  3. Cover browned bread slices a heaping tablespoon of cherry mixture and top with cheese.  Leave a few extra cherries to garnish finished sandwiches.
  4. Slide a trayful under the broiler or place them on tin foil on a hot grill.  Cover and let the cheese melt.
  5. Top with reserved cherries.

This sandwich is approved for breakfast, main course, appetizer or dessert!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Red Onion & Cucumber Salad

Red Onion & Cucumber Salad not only stands on its own as a hot weather side but can also top a regular green salad.  The sour cream & apple cider vinegar dressing is a great match for tomatoes, avocado and greens.

It is important to let this salad marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.  The vinegar will break down the cucumbers and onion so that they are soft and flexible.  The red onion will taste less sharp.  The vinegar in the recipe contributes a fermented base that provides bonus goodness for your gut.

Red Onion & Cucumber Salad
Serves 4

4 small cucumbers*, unwaxed or peeled
1 medium red onion
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4- 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
salt & pepper


  1. Rinse cucumbers and peel away outer layer of onion.
  2. Slice as thin as possible.  Use a mandolin if available for even very thin slices.
  3. Place vegetables in medium bowl and add remaining ingredients.  
  4. Stir we'll so that all ingredients are mixed.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Meatloaf Parmesan Sliders

These little beef & pork patties give you the comfort of meatloaf in a slider that takes one third the cooking time and gets a mozzarella and parmesan topping.

Meatloaf Parmesan Sliders 
Yield: 6 sliders, 3 main course servings

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 pound (6 thin slices) mozzarella cheese


  1. Place meat in a large bowl.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients, except mozzarella cheese,  in a separate small bowl to create a binding sauce.  
  3. Pour sauce over meat and combine well with a fork or your very clean hands.
  4. Form six patties and place on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Bake 375˚F for 15 minutes, top with cheese and bake 5 minutes more.  Drain any fat and juices off before topping with cheese.
Serve on mini rolls or as is over pasta with tomato sauce and sautéed mushrooms. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Beans on the Side

These are low sodium black beans, heated with a little soy sauce and cumin.  Add beans to a summer buffets served in oven- and microwave-safe ramekins.

Fill each with 1/3 -1/2 cup hot beans.  Give them a reheat in the microwave just before setting out on a tray.

Garnish with sour cream, cilantro and a little hot sauce or set up a "bean bar" to let people add their own toppings.

Perfectly portioned and fiber rich, a bean side dish goes with grilled anything, especially if some tacos or tortillas are part of the menu.

Some other bean sides for the season, perfect for Father's Day and Graduation Parties...
  • Swap out different beans to suit your menu
    • Baked beans (serve with hot dogs and hamburgers)
    • Chili beans (serve with grilled steak)
    • White beans, rosemary and olive oil (Serve with grilled salmon or trout)
    • Channa Masala (serve with tandoori grilled chicken)