Short Order: Chew this over - simple is very good

"My cooking involves a lot of experimenting and improvisation," says the Post's Sam Ser, "but I'm not ashamed to consult a cookbook.

chicken satay 88 (photo credit: )
chicken satay 88
(photo credit: )
"My cooking involves a lot of experimenting and improvisation," says the Post's Sam Ser, "but I'm not ashamed to consult a cookbook. I find something that appeals to me, and take off from there. I haven't poisoned anyone yet. "I try to keep things simple," he adds, a sentiment which is, of course, music to this column's ears. Sam and his wife, Melissa, who are expecting their first child around Succot, were planning to host a handful of friends one recent Shabbat, and he offered to cook lunch. To his own natural enthusiasm he added a touch of the Far East and a little French je ne sais quoi, and the guests gave every impression of being well pleased. "Everyone was too busy chewing to say much," Sam recalls. "But the baby liked the food. My wife got a kick out of it." SATAY CHICKEN 2 complete chicken breasts (4 pieces) skinned and boned 1-2 Tbsp. canola oil for the sauce: 6-8 Tbsp. crunchy peanut butter 1/3-1/2 cup light soy sauce up to 3 Tbsp. brown sugar 1/4-1/3 cup water cayenne pepper flakes to taste Trim the chicken and cut it into 2.5-cm. strips. Heat the oil in a deep pan or wok and begin cooking the chicken on medium-high heat (if it doesn't all fit in the pan in one layer, cook it in two batches). While the chicken is cooking, combine the sauce ingredients in a smallish pot and heat them on a medium-high flame, stirring gently to prevent the peanut butter burning. Once it starts to melt, lower the flame. (Taste as you go, and adjust the ingredients if necessary.) As the sauce thickens the chicken should be almost ready, beginning to turn golden brown. Transfer it to a serving dish and pour the sauce over it. POTATOES BOULANGERE 2-3 large onions 8 sweet potatoes canola oil 4-5 cloves garlic salt and pepper to taste 3-4 cups of broth 2 tsp. 5-spice powder, or allspice Heat the oven to 180 . Grease a large baking pan. Slice the onions quite thinly and layer them in the pan. Peel and slice the potatoes in 1/2-cm. slices and layer them on top of the onion. Peel and crush the garlic and sprinkle it over the vegetables. Drizzle a little oil over everything and season. Add the broth around the sides, and sprinkle the 5-spice powder or allspice over the dish. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour and 30 minutes. A RIDDLE: Why did the tomato blush? Because it saw the salad dressing. However, there's no need to blush when you serve this Fresh Tomato Dressing (and the one after it) taken from The New Laurel's Kitchen: 1 large tomato, fresh and ripe 2 Tbsp. olive oil 1 Tbsp. vinegar 1/8 tsp. salt 1 tsp. fresh or 1/2 tsp. dry basil, chopped Mix all the ingredients together. RUSSIAN DRESSING 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise 1 Tbsp. tomato paste 1 Tbsp. cottage cheese 1/3 cup buttermilk (Rivyon) 1 Tbsp. wine vinegar 1/4 tsp. salt 1/8 tsp. mustard 1/8 tsp. paprika Mix everything together; makes half a cup. READER Jodi Levy from Ra'anana writes: "I read about your gluten-free friend's change of life-style, and her recipe for spinach gnocchi. I'd like to give her, and your readers, an easy, fast and much tastier alternative to bottled tomato sauce. Put into a microwave-proof bowl: 5 tomatoes, roughly chopped 2 large cloves crushed garlic 1 generous tsp. butter, or 2 capfuls of olive oil pinch of dried basil and oregano 1/4 cup white wine salt and pepper (optional, but good): 2 Tbsp. of light (15%-fat) cream Cover the bowl and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Put the sauce through a blender, or use a hand-blender to blend until the sauce is still textured, not smooth. Note: Great for lasagna; moonlights as tomato soup with croutons on top. THERE IS such a thing as being too closely involved with your food. Last Friday, disaster was narrowly averted when I took the lid off some just-cooked chicken to sniff the heavenly aroma - and ended up with a scalded nose. I had been virtuously occupied in the kitchen, but looked as if I had fallen asleep on the beach. Luckily, lavender oil was on hand to be liberally dabbed on, and the redness eventually subsided, with no apparent lasting damage. Moral: Remember that noses protrude, and keep them safely distant from the inside of steaming pots.