Good Enough to Read: 365: No Repeats

Every month, veteran food writer Irene Sax reports on a new cookbook and shares some delicious recipes. This month's book is 365: No Repeats by Rachael Ray.
365 No RepeatsGood Enough to Read

Rachael Ray bursts onto the TV screen with a cheerleader's bounce and a mile-wide smile. The queen of 30-minute meals is everywhere this year: on the Food Network, on magazine racks and on the cover of her new book, 365: No Repeats, A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners.

Are all 365 recipes different? Ray would be the first to tell you they're not. As a teacher, she believes in what she calls Master Recipes. Learn how to make her Italian garlic shrimp with pasta, and you'll use the same techniques when you do her Spanish shrimp and rice and her Greek shrimp and orzo. Even better, by the time you've done all three you will have improved your skills and become more comfortable in the kitchen.

It's not diet food. Ray uses plenty of mayo and cheese, cream and what she calls EVOO, or extra-virgin olive oil. But she's good about using fresh vegetables, and gives a list of recipes she calls On the Light Side. That's where you'll find the seafood and turkey dishes, and where I found the swordfish burgers that convinced this skeptical reviewer that Rachael Ray is a really good cook.

Her portions are generally sensible, providing half a chicken breast or just over 1/4 pound of ground turkey to a serving. That doesn't, alas, apply to pasta, where Ray calls for a pound to feed four: excessive for Italians and for dieters. But we don't have to eat it all, do we?

The best thing about cooking with Ray is that she is a passionate advocate for home cooking. No fast food or takeout for her — not when she can have a homemade meal in 30 minutes. And as all dieters know, it's a lot easier to take control of calories when your food comes from the kitchen, not the burger joint or pizzeria.

No-Apologies Swordfish Burgers
What could be easier? Ray suggests using this method for scallops, too. And if you want more heat (I didn't), add a couple of teaspoons of Old Bay Seasoning to the minced fish.

Swordfish Burgers with Lemon, Garlic and Parsley

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds swordfish steaks, trimmed of skin and dark connective tissue, cut into chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful), chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Coarse salt and coarse black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
  • Crusty rolls, split and toasted
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 navel orange, pith and peel removed, sliced into thin disks

Instructions

  1. Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Preheat the broiler to high.
  2. Place the swordfish in a food processor and pulse to coarsely grind the fish, then transfer to a bowl. Add the garlic, shallots, parsley, lemon zest, salt, pepper and a healthy drizzle of EVOO. Form 4 large patties, 1 inch thick, and cook in the preheated skillet for 4 minutes on each side until firm but not tough.
  3. Char the buns under the broiler and drizzle with EVOO. Place the burgers on the bottoms of the buns and squeeze some lemon juice over each. Top with romaine, onions and orange slices. Set the bun tops in place and serve with slaw and chips.
Serve with oil-and-vinegar-dressed slaw and specialty chips such as Terra brand's Yukon Gold onion and garlic chips.

Easily Improved Potato Salad

This main-course salad is one of the book's Master Recipes. Ray suggests a variation that uses 3/4 pound of cooked green beans instead of the kielbasa. But if you like the original, you can lighten it up by using just half the amount of bacon and kielbasa, which will be enough to add salt and smokiness to the finished dish.

German Potato Salad with Kielbasa

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds new red-skinned potatoes, quartered
  • Coarse salt
  • 8 slices thick center-cut bacon
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) (eyeball it), plus some for drizzling
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped kale (1 small bunch)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3/4 pound kielbasa, cut into half-moons
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Coarse black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, add the salt, and boil the potatoes until just fork tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
  3. Arrange the bacon on a slotted broiler pan and place in the middle of the oven. Bake the bacon until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool, chop and reserve.
  4. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the EVOO (twice around the pan). Add the red onion and sauté until just tender, 5 minutes. Add the kale in small bunches until all is wilted down. Add the vinegar and stock and turn off the heat.
  5. Preheat a grill pan or a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle the sliced kielbasa with a bit of EVOO and arrange on the preheated hot grill or in the preheated skillet. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, until hot through and crisp at the edges.
  6. Drain the potatoes and return to the hot pot. Fold in the onion and kale mixture. Add the bacon, parsley, salt and pepper, drizzle in the remaining tablespoon of EVOO, and fold in the cooked kielbasa.
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