All Posts By Melissa d'Arabian

The Magical All-Purpose Broth

by in Food Network Chef, May 29th, 2014

That Magical All-Purpose BrothLast week I shared tips on stocking the fridge with some of my favorite waistline-friendly foods. Today I’m sharing an easy recipe for my secret weapon: a fast, healthy and flavorful meal in just about no time. I call it All-Purpose Broth. The star ingredient? Miso paste.

Before I dive into the greatness that is the All-Purpose Broth, let me start by giving you a very basic miso primer: Miso is fermented soybean paste used in Japanese cuisine and it has a salty, savory, slightly nutty flavor and is full of glutamates, which imparts umami (savory flavor). The lighter the color in miso paste, the milder the flavor. White miso paste is milder than yellow, red or intense brown varieties. I usually buy white or yellow, which are both mellow and delicious — and readily available at most neighborhood supermarkets. (But try other versions, too, for a deeper, more intense flavor, and try out the miso soup at high-end Japanese restaurants to explore artisan miso pastes that you won’t find on your average grocery store shelf.) The exact health benefits of miso paste are somewhat debated, but proponents tout its levels of vitamin B12 and antioxidants, as well as its positive impact on the immune system. Others swear by its ability to alleviate common cold symptoms. In any case, I love it as an easy go-to pantry item for lean and tasty meals on the fly, which brings me back to my All-Purpose Broth.

Here’s how it works: Basically I load up each individual serving bowl with whatever I have on hand (leftover chicken breast, a spoonful of quinoa, shredded veggies, a piece of grilled fish or maybe I’ll cube up some tofu). I make a quick broth and then pour it over the contents of the bowl. And then I eat it, with a smile, patting myself on the back for making a meal that is thrifty, fast, delicious, healthy and versatile.

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Melissa’s Top 10 Supermarket Savings Strategies

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, May 22nd, 2014

Melissa's Top 10 Supermarket Saving Strategies1. Grab the smallest cart available: Studies have shown that grocery stores can do one simple thing that will result in you unwittingly spending more money — put out bigger grocery carts. So use this information to your advantage and always select the smallest cart available. And if only one size is offered, then either use the hand held basket (if possible), or make your cart visually “smaller” by filling it up with inexpensive produce first, before hitting the rest of the store.

2. Buy meat when it’s a loss leader: Imagine a world in which all your meat was 50 percent off (or more!) — it’s doable if you shop the loss leaders. Every week in major grocery store chains, there is usually one beef, one chicken and one pork cut on sale for 50 to 75 percent off its normal price. The objective of a loss leader is to get shoppers in the door of a supermarket, and though the store may take a hit on this one item, they know that you will also likely buy the rest of your groceries while you’re in the store (and make up the cost). I like to stock up on a few packages of these loss-leader meat items because meat freezes so beautifully. Then you always have a stock of various meats at the ready for diverse and cost-effective family dinners. (Wine is also sometimes a loss leader.)

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Post-Easter Guide to Using Up All Those Hard-Boiled Eggs

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, April 19th, 2014

Post-Easter Guide to Using Up Hard-Boiled EggsEaster is tomorrow, and for my family that means one thing: lots of hard-boiled eggs. We love to decorate them (see some of my fun ideas here), hunt for them and, of course, eat them. We always have a ton leftover, and over the years I’ve developed a number of strategies for breezing through even the most copious of hard-boiled-egg inventories. As Monday morning rolls around, take that basket full of colorful hard-boiled eggs sitting in your fridge and try these recipe ideas ranging from classic to never-before-seen.

Traditional Ideas, with a Twist:

— Deviled Eggs: Try some new flavor profiles such as an all-time favorite, Barbecue Ranch, or top deviled eggs with an upscale ingredient like a dab of caviar or some tuna tartare.

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Spring Into Spring with 4 Seasonal Ingredients

by in Food Network Chef, In Season, March 20th, 2014

Spring Into Spring With 4 Seasonal IngredientsSpring is here. I’ll admit that when I lived in colder climates such as Vermont or Paris, the arrival of spring was more anticipated (“When can I put my boots away?!”). I remember in Burlington, Vt., we had the tradition of breaking out our swimsuits on the first day that it hit 50 degrees F, a temperature that would have me snuggling up to the fireplace now. Even in San Diego, I’m excited about spring for two reasons. First, my daughters’ spring break is around the corner, and we are hunkering down for a family staycation here in San Diego (all the family time and fun, none of the stress of travel!). And the second reason I’m eager for the end of winter is — traditional spring food! Yes, I know these days we can get many ingredients year round, but they are lackluster compared to their in-season versions. Quite simply, there are certain flavors that are just better in that magical shoulder season between winter and summer.

Here’s my ideal springtime menu, featuring seasonal ingredients that you can get at any supermarket right now:

Asparagus: I’ll start here because it’s perhaps the quintessential spring vegetable, with its tender stalk and earthy flavor. While you can get asparagus many months of the year, the flavor (and the cost!) both tell you that spring is the time to indulge. I buy several bunches a week in peak season. My methods of cooking asparagus are almost exclusively roasting or grilling: a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and about 10 minutes in a hot oven (or seven minutes on a hot grill) is all it takes to bring out the natural sweetness and earthiness. Roasted asparagus can be served hot, at room temperature or cold (toss it with a tangy mustard vinaigrette for a fresh spring salad as in my Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette). Or cook for even less time to make a fresh soup (try my Almost-Raw Asparagus Soup with Yogurt and Almonds — it couldn’t be easier to serve spring in a bowl).

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5 Steps to a Family-Friendly St. Patrick’s Day

by in Family, Holidays, March 6th, 2014

5 Steps to a Family-Friendly St. Patrick's DayDespite my last name (which is Armenian thanks to a distant relative somewhere in my French husband’s family), I’m actually an Irish gal (my maiden name is Donovan). So I’ve celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with the gusto of an Irish lassie my whole life.

St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday, and the shamrock was originally a symbol for the Holy Trinity. According to tradition, the rules of Lent were lifted on St. Patrick’s Day, which meant Catholics could eat and drink relatively freely for one day in the midst of Lenten fasting. And somehow that morphed into rowdy visits to Irish pubs, drinking green beer and singing “Seven Drunken Nights” (who could see that coming?). So St. Patrick’s has become a cultural celebration, and for our family, St. Patrick’s Day is a day of wearing green, playing fun leprechaun tricks for the kids, and eating green foods and traditional Irish fare. Want to join us? Here is our five-step approach to celebrating St. Patty’s Day in style:

1. We wear green. I almost didn’t even write this one. Because duh. (Plus, I have green eyes, so this really only makes sense.)

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In Defense of Bean Night: Save Big and Eat Well (Plus 6 Ways to Get Started)

by in Family, Food Network Chef, February 20th, 2014

Pasta with Salsa CrudaEvery budget shopper knows that dried beans are downright cheap. So when I’m thinking about inexpensive, but healthful, meals to feed my family (and let’s face it, I spend a lot of time thinking about just that), it’s impossible not to place this versatile little nutritional gem front and center on the menu. Thus, I created “Bean Night.”

It started 10 years ago when Philippe went back to graduate school and we transitioned from having two steady incomes to having suddenly none (plus a very expensive tuition bill and a baby on the way). I watched every penny, so I created a handful of uber-cheap dinners that I could feel good about eating — meals that cost about $5 to make. My plan was to rotate these extra-cheap meals into our weekly menu plan to save money.

It worked.

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Chili for a New Jersey Winter

by in Food Network Chef, February 8th, 2014

Chili for a New Jersey WinterI’m writing this from the cozy comfort of a hotel room in a small town in New Jersey. Outside the trees are covered in snow. Having gone to college in Vermont, I’m used to the freezing temps and white-covered streets and sidewalks.

After I checked into the near-empty hotel, with only the small room service menu as my sustenance for the next 18 hours, I peeled off my puffy jacket and turned to the in-room dining page in the hotel binder. In seconds, I found exactly what I would order: the homemade chili and a green salad. (See my Starting a New Habit in 2014: Eat a Salad a Day post from last month — are you still eating salad? I am.)

Bundled up in my new pajamas (a Christmas gift from my daughters) and eating better-than-I-expected chili (and a salad) — all is right with my world. Why? Because there are certain foods that truly bring me comfort in the dead of winter: chili, onion soup and stew top my list. And while I can make those dishes any time, there is something magical about eating them on a snowy day. I think these comforting dishes remind me of my college years at The University of Vermont. My mom would visit me and we’d go on New England road trips, eating steamy soups and stews to thaw the chill (she went through a photography stage involving a lot of outdoor postcard-type shots, which she would subsequently frame and hang in our home).

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