A GOOP apologist

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In the late 90s, when the first anti-Gwyneth Paltrow backlash was in the news gossip pages, one of my contrarian friends made the conscious decision to become a Paltrow supporter. If something negative came up (and working at a sports magazine with grizzled black-hearted former newspapermen, it did), he’d extol her virtues, her beauty, her cerebral screen presence — basically, anything he could do to get under a detractor’s skin.

Now that the second wave of backlash has come around, I think I might just find myself taking on his old role. Like many people, I signed up for the GOOP newsletter looking for a laugh, but something odd happened — I didn’t always delete them. In fact, I’ve kept nearly every recipe sent from the beginning. (I make no such claim about the lifestyle or shopping tips, but this is a food blog after all.) And let’s be honest — who among us wouldn’t want to be in her position, culinarily speaking? She’s buds with Batali hisownself and probably picked up a thing or two traveling through Spain with him. So when she speaks (and mentions him in the newsletter), I listen.

Last week’s menu featured a few dishes from a meal she had at his home — a meal to which Emeril was invited, btw. Yes, the eyes do roll, but damn, this meal sounded pretty fabulous. And it didn’t disappoint, even with a few changes made to the menu. The chicken dish pictured above is a Spanish affair, complete with thinly sliced onions, lemons and fennel sautéed together with white wine and pimenton, then roasted in the oven. As if all of that weren’t enough, the whole cloves of garlic that baked and softened in the broth were absolute heaven and force me to apologize here and now to anyone who happened to be next to me at the gym yesterday. (I confess to being agnostic about preserved lemons, so when I ran out a few months ago, I didn’t bother restocking. The pomegranate pips were another story. There were none to be found in the few markets I visited, so they were a necessary deletion, but sorely missed.)

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Blood oranges. Mmmm. They’re one of my favorite things about this time of year. We’re all just barely hanging in there, waiting for a Spring that seems to retreat the closer we march to it, but at least these beauties bring a dash of color and verve to the last gray days of winter.

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The fennel and blood orange salad recipe offered with the chicken was incredibly simple to make and tasted fresh, light and healthy. Because the oranges aren’t terribly acidic, I added a splash of white balsamic to the mix to brighten up the flavors a bit. I’d imagine some thinly sliced red onion would be very good in here, too.

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The flatbreads were a bit problematic. My kitchen was a little too cold, so the dough didn’t rise in time to have them with our meal. That’s ok, though. I made them later, and we snacked on them with agave nectar all afternoon; they worked just as well for dessert.

So I don’t know where you stand on GOOP, but I’d heartily recommend the newsletter if you’re looking for a few (mostly healthy) ideas for dinner. And if you don’t enjoy that, you can join in the schadenfreude, I suppose.

The meal in the iron pan

This slushy winter weather has pressed my cast iron skillet into heavy rotation lately. As our mothers and grandmothers knew, cast iron cookware is perfect for homey meals or stove-to-oven cooking with a minimum of mess.

Awash in laziness last weekend, I decided to try my hand at a Spanish torta, as it required the relatively simple journey from living room to kitchen instead of a more arduous trek to the grocery store. The recipes that turned up in a Google search varied only slightly from each other, so I got the gist of them, used Martha’s (yes, we’re on a first-name basis) as a guide to ingredient amounts and oven temperature and set out to create my own vegetarian version.

To the basic recipe, I added diced red bell pepper, sautéed broccoli rabe (leafy greens only), garlic and a hefty dose of hot pimentòn. (Several of the recipes I found called for chorizo, which I agree would be a superb addition, but there was that whole going-out thing to avoid. The pimentòn seemed an acceptable substitute under the circumstances.) Since I don’t have much experience with cast iron pans, I was concerned that the potatoes would stick, but with the pan preheated and coated with a thin film of oil, that wasn’t a problem in any way.

The torta alone was our lunch, but I had a few tricks up my sleeve for dinner. OK, only one trick, but what a beauty — Zuni Café roast chicken. I made the turkey version for Thanksgiving and was so shockingly pleased with the outcome, I had to try the chicken sooner rather than later. And it didn’t disappoint. All of the raves you’ve probably read across the internet are absolutely true — the chicken is moist and perfectly seasoned with delicious crispy, browned skin. Mmmmm. We managed to keep some of it for leftovers the following day, but only just. I think it’s likely to go into the weekly rotation.

recipes after the jump

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