Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soup's on!

Sometimes my home-kitchen explorations leave me feeling much like the little rat from the Pixar flick "Ratatouille": bedazzled by the perfect pairing of certain foods. Take, for instance, the fragrant marriages of carrots and ginger, and onion and cumin...
And meld that with earthy lentils and sweet dried apricots:
Put it all together in a soup pot with some chicken stock, and you've got yourself some really delicious soup, blended till silky smooth and easy to store and reheat on a cold winter day.
Turkish Apricot & Lentil Soup (adapted from 101cookbooks)
Makes about 6 cups

- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)
- 1-1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed
- 5 cups chicken stock (or water)
- 6 oz. dried Turkish apricots, chopped
- salt to taste

1. Sweat the onion and carrot in oil over medium heat, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin and ginger, lower heat to medium-low, and cover for 10 more minutes.
2. Add the lentils and chicken stock. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils fall apart and the flavors and come together. Add salt to taste.
3. Remove from heat, stir in the apricots, and adjust seasoning. Also, you can add more liquid here if necessary.
4. Once cooled a bit, puree in a blender until totally smooth. Serve hot with some toasted baguette, or let cool and store in containers, up to 3 months in the freezer.

Happy fall! Welcome back, soup season...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A seedy bar full of nuts

No, I'm not referring to the sketchy hangout down the block; I speak of a healthy and economical alternative to the rather expensive snack bars currently lining supermarket shelves!

This bar is an invention/experiment that was born out of a survey of about 5 different snack bar recipes on the web, all of which included some nibbly bits that I found appealing. These are no-bake bars (hooray!), based on a simple yet ingenious principle: (sticky + dry) + freezer = snack. You follow? Stay with me now...

Seedy Nut Bars
(makes about 10 bars, but depends on how you cut them)

- 4 oz. bar unsweetened baking chocolate (I dig Ghirardelli's)
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 cup almonds
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup ground flax
- 20 mejdool dates, pitted
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup natural peanut butter (I prefer salted)
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar (or other sticky sweetener of your choice: maple syrup, brown rice syrup, etc.)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Break up chocolate bar and pulse in food processor until you get chocolate chips. Set aside.
2. Pulse walnuts and almonds in the same food processor. Set aside.
3. Combine pitted dates, raisins, peanut butter, and agave nectar in food processor until you get a paste.
4. Combine the chocolate, nuts, seeds, flax and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add in the paste and stir until well mixed - this will seem difficult, but trust me, you'll get there. A large metal spoon works well here, to break up any large chunks of paste.
5. Line an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with parchment paper, and flatten the mixture into the bottom, using lightly oiled hands or the bottom of a cup.
6. Put the dish into the freezer until hardened, then transfer to a cutting board and cut your bars. I suggest wrapping them individually with press'n seal wrap and keeping them in the refrigerator. If you wrap them tightly enough, they should hold up all day in a big shoulder bag or backpack.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Burrito + Samosa = Burrosa!

Last night, one of my classmates from the Natural Gourmet Institute, Toshiko, was thrown a going-away party as she will be leaving us for the isle of Japan next week. We'll miss you Toshi!! (But we know you'll be back soon.)

To the party, I brought an experimental cross between a burrito and a samosa, which Dan and Anna deftly named the Burrosa. Stuffed with warmly spiced squash and hot pepper-spiked black beans, these crispy little pockets are a delectable identity crisis for the unsuspecting tongue.

I wrapped them up into triangles using half sheets of spring roll pastry:
Then I baked them at 375 for about 15 minutes, until golden and crispified.

The new kitchen

Ok, I've kept my whereabouts and whatdoings shrouded in mystery long enough. It's time to expose the truth: I have a new kitchen, and it's fabulous!!! Which is to say, I have moved to a new home, a lovely, light-drenched 1-bedroom apartment in Astoria, Queens which I share with my most favorite roomie, Dan. We've been having a delicious time setting up and making elaborate breakfasts, like this one: Eggs in a frame (by Dan) with Moroccan roasted butternut squash (by Eve). Dan proves himself to be quite the masterful coffee- and egg-maker.

Just lookit him go!

View of the big breezy tree outside our living room window:
And a sampling of Dan's refrigerator poetry (quite a Renaissance man, that one):

All in all, life is shaping up to be beautiful and tasty in Astoria!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

End of summer retreat

As things stand, I will have little time to do much else but eat, sleep, and work. I'm training at Mercer Kitchen tonight, 3pm to midnight! (More to come on the unfolding of that underworld...)

But, before I settled into this newly chosen life/work-style, I took a long weekend up in Connecticut with family and friends and, as usual, the requisite cooking and feasting ensued. Unfortunately for those in my immediate vicinity, being surrounded by nature makes me prone to leaping out of bed at 5:30am, dashing straight to the kitchen, and proceeding to make way too much food. Oh, and how much food we had! Two baker's dozens of sweet August corn were consumed, along with much else...

Here's one of our many spreads, of corn, grilled cumin-salt encrusted lamb chops with a mint-yogurt chutney, and farm-fresh tomato and peach salad with red onion and cilantro.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New post about my New Post!

Attention dearest readers: I am soon to be a professional cook! I've been hired to work the garde manger (read: salads and apps) station at Mercer Kitchen, a restaurant operating under the purview of the Jean-Georges empire. My feelings on this are: EXCITED! grateful. hopeful. jittery. OK, just flat out NERVOUS.

But really, really psyched. My hours will be wacky. My life will be abnormal, for a time. But I'll be sure to continue blogging when I can, probably interspersing more journalistic elements alongside the usual cookery.

So, be sure to tune in and enjoy the ride with me!

PS: Vesta, a small Italian trattoria in Astoria (catchy...) serves up some spectacularly hearty brunch, for a very agreeable price. Here you see the "hangover pizza," schmeared with tomato sauce, topped with pancetta, sausage, potatoes, and two fried eggs. The foreground pictures a small skillet of fried eggs, asparagus and wild mushrooms over creamy polenta, with a side salad. All produce comes from Rooftop Farms in Greenpoint, BKLYN, which, as the name suggests, is a 6,000 SF agricultural enterprise located atop a building. Pretty fab.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Portland grub

I've been in Portland visiting my twin brother Paul since last Wednesday, and in this past week I've experienced a lot of food. This is a city of food carts serving up some of the best tacos I've ever eaten, and good ol' casual-American cuisine prepared by dedicated locavores. Most of the time, I've been too excited to photo-document the deliciousness on my plate. But, thankfully, I was able to exercise some restraint and capture a few morsels.

Here are some food carts, these ones arranged in a parking lot in downtown Portland. Very diverse options abound, from Mexican to Indian to Thai to burgers to Czech!

This is the first meal I ate out in Portland (a city that's early to rise, and values its breakfast fare), at a Swedish-American place called Broder on SE Clinton. I got the smoked trout hash with 2 baked eggs and walnut bread, washed down with some Stumptown coffee (of course!)
As you can see, I enjoyed my breakfast thoroughly:

Sundays at Paul and Leigh's tend to be BBQ time; the following is a breakdown of the feast:

I made a straightforward bruschetta with tomatoes from the Saturday farmer's market downtown and basil from the backyard, left to marinate for hours and served room-temp with pasta and freshly grated asiago:
I also put together a cucumber, summer squash, and canteloupe salad (all from the yard and the farmer's market) with a lemon-yogurt dressing laced with coriander and cinnamon, garnished with mint (also from the yard!):

Leigh, masterful food artist that she is, arranged a handsome plate of baguette and fresh mozzarella:
(You can check out Leigh's blog here!)

The above was served with some of Leigh's finger-lickin' guacamole and chicken pieces that I marinated in lemon juice and zest, olive oil, fresh herbs from the garden, and garlic, and grilled outside on the BBQ.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm stuffed! Hopefully this sustenance will hold you over until I am able to write again. Best wishes from the West Coast!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Una noche mexicana

I really can't say how or why, but what was planned to be last night's simple Mexican-infused meal of beans and millet-cakes morphed into a multi-tentacled feast-beast, slinging salsa-roasted corn, citrus grilled chicken thighs, a black bean and queso fresco casserole with toasted sunflower seeds, fried plantains, mounds of guacamole, and pickled red onions to boot. Here are a few shots (diners not pictured: Dan, Lily, Kasper, and me) of the spread moments before it disappeared into our greedy stomachs.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The new guest at my house

Shhhh...don't tell my germiphobe mom (sorry Mom, but I speak the truth), but I've invited a new creature into our home. It's called a SCOBY (stands for "symbiotic colony of bacteria & yeast") and it's busy making me some homemade kombucha tea so that I don't have to spend nearly 5 bucks a pop on the fancy stuff they peddle at Whole Foods. Not only does it have a wonky name, but it looks freaky too, like a beached jellyfish that's lost its stinger. Here it is, colonizing my jar of tea!And by the way, egg salad "puttanesca" is amazing!!!! It contains: eggs (um, duh), red onion, capers, kalamata olives, a bit of mayo (or you could just do olive oil), s & p. Here it is, piled on some sprouted wheat toast, alongside herbed turkey sausage (Dan's pick) and tomato/nectarine salad with basil. Mmmm...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thank you, Mark Bittman.

Another hit this week in the Dining Section (link). What can I say, this guy knows my taste! Especially when it comes to #29 down the list. Agridulce is my thing: pairing sweet with bitter or sour into a savory dish.

Bittman writes: "#29. Pit and halve cherries (or halve and pit cherries), then cook gently with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar until they break down. Toss with chopped radicchio, endive, escarole or a combination, some toasted hazelnuts and more oil and vinegar, if necessary."

And I make:
You needn't worry about exact measurements with this sort of thing. But a few friendly pointers: After you toast the hazelnuts (at 375 on a baking sheet) let them cool somewhat and then rub the skins off with a clean, dry towel before you chop the nuts and add them to the salad. The skins are bitter - and not in a good way - and get awkwardly plastered to the back of your throat and in between your teeth. Also, he doesn't specify how long you cook the cherries down in balsamic, but i'd give them a good 15 minutes and use more than just a little balsamic so that it reduces down to a nice sweet syrup.

Eat this with some crunchy-chewy grains, like barley or farro, and pretend you're a vegetarian in Sicily!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friday Night Dinner

There are no words (well, besides HUGE SUCCESS and EXTRAORDINARY, etc.), so I'll just show you...

Monday, July 13, 2009

The lazy lady's purple pasta

Tonight I threw together a bunch of monotonously purple-hued foods - radicchio, red wine infused pasta, currants, oil-cured anchovies (ok, that's a stretch) - and ended up with something deliciously complex in taste. I shall call it...

Purple Pasta with a Punch (or: Red Wine Pasta with Radicchio and Currants)
Yield: 2-3 servings

- 1/2 lb. whole wheat linguine (or other long pasta)
- 1/2 bottle good-quality red wine
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 anchovy fillets, chopped
- 1 small head radicchio, thinly shredded
- 1/4 cup currants, soaked in a few spoonfuls red wine (or water)
- handful of mesclun greens
- 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
- sprinkling of toasted pine nuts (or nut of choice - I like walnuts)
- crushed red pepper & salt to taste

1. Put up a salted pot of water to boil. Once rolling, add the pasta and cook till 3/4 done. Meanwhile, slowly bring the wine to a boil in a separate saucepan. Drain pasta, reserving about a cup of the cooking water, then return pasta to the pot, and pour the now boiling wine over it. Simmer over medium-low heat until wine is mostly absorbed and pasta is a rich purple.
2. In a saucepan (I used the former wine-heating pan to reduce clean-up), heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic and anchovies at once. Cook until mixture is fragrant and garlic is golden. Add radicchio and enough pasta water to keep mixture wet, sprinkle in salt, stir a bit, and cover to steam a few minutes.
3. Add the anchovy-radicchio sauce and soaked currants to the pasta and stir together. Divide into bowls and fold in some mesclun greens for color, and cheese, nuts, and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot or lukewarm.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Torte reform

And here's the (most certainly not vegan) almond torte I made, to go with the truffles and the fruit platter I did for tonight's July 4th dessert and wine party...
This recipe is foolproof yet refined (also from the Natural Gourmet):

- 3 cups blanched almonds
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.
2. Powder almonds in food processor. Add eggs, maple syrup, and almond extract and continue processing until smooth.
3. Oil and flour an 8-1/2" spring form pan. Pour batter into pan.
4. Bake for 30 minutes. Top should be firm to the touch and golden brown.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Today, on my day "off" (yea, I need to work on that) I whipped up about 8 different food creations (including more bread with my home-grown sourdough starter!), but what I most care to share with you all are the truffles. Oh, they are diiiiviiiiiiiiiiiiiine. And I bet if you were to add some orange liqueur, they would be even fancier (but I stuck with the classic drop of vanilla extract, since that's all I had). Dusted with cocoa powder and smooth to the core, each one of these bad boys is a multi-level chocolate house of fun.

I used a recipe for chocolate ganache that I had from the Natural G
ourmet Institute (my school), which uses coconut oil and coconut milk rather than the classic, cholesterol-laden butter and cream combination. Have I ever mentioned how beneficial the coconut's medium-chain fatty acids are to the maintenance and functioning of many of your body's systems? Remind me to tell you someday...

For now, just trust me: these things are good
Vegan Chocolate Truffles
(yield: about 40 truffles)

- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 12 ounces dairy-free dark chocolate, broke
n into small pieces
- cocoa powder for coating

1. In a small saucepan, combine coconut milk, oil, and vanilla extract and whisk together over low heat until the ingredients are just combined and warmed.
2. Remove pan from heat and stir in chocolate with a rubber spatula or spoon. Continue stirring until all chocolate is melted and the mixture is totally smooth.
3. Allow to cool until the ganache binds but is still pliable (you can put in the refrigerator, but be careful that it doesn't solidify completely). Take about a teaspoon-worth between the
palms of your hands and roll into a small sphere. Repeat until all the chocolate is used up.
4. Let the truffles rest about 15 minutes, then roll in a shallow bowl of cocoa powder to coat. Spread the truffles out on a large dish or baking tray covered with parchment, and leave in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

And just for kicks, a few more of the day's highlights:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Highest Salad Honor

My mom might not be the greatest cook, but she has impeccable taste. Not sure if something's high quality? Just ask Mom. So when today, after tasting my mizuna and sprouts salad with mint-garlic dressing, she proclaimed it was "one of the best salads I've ever had," you can imagine my satisfaction and pride.

Seeing as this dressing passed the "mom test," I'd love to share it with my dear readers. Unfortunately, I didn't pay much attention to exact measurements as I made it (big surprise) - but if you follow the general rule of one part acid to three parts oil, which holds up for all classic salad dressings, you should be fine. And, as always, follow your taste buds.

Mint and garlic dressing

*Note: For this dressing, I use garlic scapes (the spirally plant that grows out of a garlic bulb), since they are now in season and plentiful at the farmer's market. I like how their delicate taste and soft color add to the vibrant aroma and look of the dressing. Regular garlic cloves will work just fine; just substitute one large clove for 2 garlic scapes.

- juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 2 garlic scapes, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste

Combine all ingredients except oil and soy sauce in a blender until liquified. With blender running, slowly pour in oil and blend until the dressing has emulsified (is creamy and uniform). Lastly, blend in the soy sauce and adjust dressing to your liking, by adding more soy sauce, mustard, vinegar, etc.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Main ingredient: Time

What do homemade wild-yeasted bread and sprouts have in common: lots of time sitting around looking inedible. The sprouts, from overnight soak to final sunning, took 5 days (not too bad). The bread, from the initial mixing of water and rye flour to the fateful bake: a full week. Of course, they've got nothing on my 3 week sauerkraut!

But for now, the bread and the sprouts are on parade:

After 2 hours in a 350 degree oven, this came out with a satisfying crust and a moist crumb, and the most excellently dark, sweet and sour taste. Better than I had hoped for. Next time, I'll try a rye/wheat mix, because the pure rye is really heavy. As my friend aptly described it: a rye brownie!

And the alfalfa sprouts! Not much to say by way of ingredients (just alfalfa seeds + water + sun + love), but get this: I yielded nearly four cups of packed sprouts from just 2 tablespoons of seeds. Kinda reminds me of those little sponge animals I used to throw in the bathtub...