Friday, December 24, 2010

Out with the old...

...and in with the new!  Hope you're all having a wonderful holiday week with family and friends.  I'm already thinking ahead to the New Year, and looking back on 2010 fondly.  I just wanted to share with you a new tradition (hello, oxymoron) in our home: Christmas shakshuka!  After I made a batch of mint pesto yesterday, and discovered I had a nearly full box of tomatoes in my fridge, I realized I had the makings of a very hearty, festive dish.  Enjoy and happy merry everything!

Christmas Shakshuka
(printable recipe)
(serves 2-3)
For the pesto:
2 cups fresh mint leaves
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup toasted pistachios
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more as needed)

Put all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and mix well, scraping down the sides as needed.  If the pesto seems too thick, drizzle in more olive oil with the motor running.  Remove to a bowl and salt to taste.

For the shakshuka:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Spanish onion, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chopped tomatoes (I like the Italian brand Pomi)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 eggs
crumbled feta (optional)

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and paprika and stir to coat well with the oil.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, until the onions are lightly caramelized.  Turn heat to medium-high and add the white wine, scraping the browned onion up from the pan and stirring until almost completely evaporated.  Add the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, stir to combine, turn heat the medium-low, and cook covered for 15 minutes to allow the tomatoes to break down into a sauce.  Uncover and carefully crack each egg into a different spot on top of the tomato sauce.  Cover again and cook until the whites are completely set and the yolks are cooked to your liking (I like my yolks pretty set, so I let them go about 8 minutes).  Serve the eggs together with the thickened tomato sauce underneath, drizzled with the mint pesto and topped with feta, if using.  Eat with a thick slice of toast to soak up all the juices.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas is a cookie

I'm not a huge cookie person, nor am I much of a holiday enthusiast, but these soft and chewy molasses cookies, reminiscent of gingerbread house disasters of yore, really hit the spot!  I used a modified version of a recipe found in the recent NY Times holiday cookie feature, substituting butter for the called-for shortening, because I'm that kinda girl.  These are especially delicious warm out of the oven, with a glass of cold milk, and some requisite Christmas Sinatra crooning in the background.

Holiday Molasses Crinkles (printable recipe)
(makes about 30 cookies)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temp.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat, if you have one.
With an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl.  Next mix in the egg and molasses.   In a separate bowl, sift together the remaining dry ingredients and blend well.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the molasses-butter mixture, mixing with a spatula until entirely uniform.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon measure, lay out small balls of cookie dough 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.  Dip the scoop or spoon into hot water in between scoops to make it easier.  You should be able to fit about a dozen cookies on the sheet at a time, meaning you'll do 3 batches (or use 3 separate baking sheets).

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, and allow to settle on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Enjoy immediately, or store in an airtight container for later enjoyment!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Homemade nooks & crannies!

Last night I got antsy, couldn't sit still, couldn't just enjoy the night off and curl up on the sofa with a good book, so what did I do?  Well, what I always do: I made some food!  The ants-in-the-pants cure ended up being whole wheat bread dough, which this morning became beautifully light and fluffy English muffins!

If you have a food processor, making bread dough is a simple and magical undertaking.  If not, it's no big deal, it will just require some patience as you knead the ingredients together by hand.  I like Mark Bittman's recipe for Sandwich Bread, from his classic tome, How to Cook Everything.  

Whole Wheat English Muffins (printable recipe)
yield: 12 muffins
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the bowl
1 and 1/2 cups cool milk

Place the flour in the bowl of your food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Add salt and yeast and process for a few seconds.  While machine is running, add the honey, butter, and most of the milk through the feed tube.  Process about 30 seconds, then remove cover to see if the dough is a well-defined, barely sticky, and easy-to-handle ball.  If it's too dry, add milk a tablespoon at a time and process for another 5 to 10 seconds.  Remove dough from the food processor bowl and knead by hand for a minute or so on a well-floured surface. (I do my kneading on a baking sheet so as to minimize the mess!)

Grease a large bowl and shape the dough into a rough ball.  Place in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, until it's almost doubled in size.  Deflate the ball and shape it again into a nice round.  Let it rest on a lightly floured surface (baking sheet) for about 15 minutes, covered.

Next, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces with a bench scraper or a knife.  Dust your hands with flour and shape each piece of dough into a 3- to 4-inch disk.  Dust with flour and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes, until puffed up.

Preheat a griddle or large skillet over low heat for 10 minutes; do not oil it.  Sprinkle it with cornmeal and "bake" the muffins, a few at a time, on both sides, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, for a total of 15 minutes.  Cool on a rack and split with a fork before toasting.  Serve with a liberal smear of butter and perhaps a scant dusting of sea salt.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm (almost) famous

And now for a quick commercial break: follow this link to check out a CBS piece about Astor Bake Shop, where I'm the part-time cook.  Look closely and you'll see yours truly (just my hands, mostly), and all the yummy food I made for Chef George McKirdy's interview.  The desserts displayed were not my creations, but they are also delicious and well worth a trip out to Astor Bake Shop, if you're ever in my lovely neighborhood of Astoria!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy (post-)Thanksgiving!

Hello all!  Hope your Thanksgiving '10 was as rowdy and entertaining as mine.  All the usual suspects were present (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc.) as well as abundantly flowing wine and reams of laughter and typical family shenanigans.  Not to mention pie!  (Didn't even get a shot of that, but trust me, it was shameful.)

How was your Thanksgiving??

 myself and the bro, harassing the turkey

me and my cousin, Kate, showing off the goods

Lupi the dog, rov(er)ing for snacks

put a fork in us: we're done!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Carrots 'R' Us

Two topics to discuss today: toys and carrots.  

Regarding the former, I spent all morning questing after the perfect holiday gifts for my 5 nephews and nieces, and I now declare the toy store officially closed until next year -- phew!  

And as for the latter, my refrigerator scavenger hunt unearthed precious few ingredients for a quick and healthy lunch, so what did I eat?  Roasted carrots!  Surprisingly satisfying, and what in the world else was I going to do with that half-used bag of leftover dirt candy?

Simple Roast Carrots
(serves 2 as side dish)
Note: While this recipe calls for carrots, you can use up many other kinds of leftover vegetables in this manner.  Is your crisper drawer housing an abundance of aging zucchini, or peppers, or even tomatoes?  Are you denying that your fridge smells like the inside of a compost bin?  Just blast those buggers in the oven with some olive oil and salt, and stop throwing out your unused veggies!

5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced  
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch cayenne (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. In a medium glass casserole, toss the carrots and garlic and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat.  Sprinkle with salt, cumin, ginger, and cayenne (if using) and mix well. 

3. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, checking every 15 or so minutes to shake up the pan and ensure that garlic does not burn.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I (heart) Hot Chocolate

Just in case my earlier entry highlighting my love of vegetables led you to think I'm some sort of a health nut, think again: I'm a raging chocoholic.  And I love love love hot chocolate, especially when the weather starts to turn cold.  I grew up in a Swiss Miss household, with the occasional cup of Ovaltine thrown in when I visited Grandma, so I didn't discover that hot chocolate came from anything but dry mix packets until I lived in Spain for a year, where I made it a habit of ending a long night of bar-hopping at the Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid.  This place serves deeply satisfying cups of thick dark hot chocolate with perfectly warm and crunchy churros (the Spanish donut).  Needless to say, I was hooked (and I subsequently gained a few pounds).

Now I'm back, I've lost the weight, but I still indulge in the occasional homemade hot chocolate.  It's easier than you'd think to make a perfect cup at home, and if you live in New York, you'll appreciate not having to spend $5 or more for the privilege.  Here's my secret recipe...

The Most Delicious Hot Chocolate Recipe
(yield: 1 quart)

- 4 cups milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
- pinch of salt
- 5 ounces good quality dark chocolate pieces (I used 60% Ghirardelli chocolate chips)

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, vanilla bean (if using), cinnamon, cayenne (if using) and salt over medium heat just until steaming, not boiling. 

Turn off the heat and remove the vanilla pod halves, if using.  Add the chocolate chips or pieces (if you start with a whole chocolate bar, the best method is to grate it as you would a piece of cheese using a box grater.  The small and even pieces will melt quickly and uniformly).  Stir with a whisk until the chocolate is completely melted, leaving no visible pieces.  Add the vanilla extract, if you haven't used the vanilla bean.  Pour into a container and cool completely before storing, covered, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Sometimes you just feel like a veggie

You might think a cook would live a decadently delicious life full of daily home-cooked meals, but the truth is that the working chef survives on hastily prepared dishes like oatmeal, scrambled eggs, PB&J, and a thick stack of take-out menus.  Sad but true.
Given the busy week I had, I crashed into my Sunday off with a booming, resounding hunger for fruits and vegetables!  Holy guacamole!  So I hit up the vegetable aisle of my local grocery and came home to make the yummiest sandwich of all:

 Poised between two toasted slices of 7-grain bread - each properly slathered with Dijon mustard and butter, respectively - were slices of golden delicious apple, avocado, pepperjack cheese, radicchio, and red onion.

Whoa mama, this really hit the spot!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Smattering of Things Unseen

I regret to have to tell you, dear readers, that I've been holding out.  I've made food these past few months that I have devoured greedily without sharing one measly morsel with you all.  Please forgive me; but sometimes it's between doing the dishes and writing an entry - and the dishes usually prevail (thank you, mild OCD).  To make up for this, I'm delivering a montage of Dinners Past.  I hope you enjoy the following images, albeit belatedly...

Cream of tomato soup with sherry, and radicchio garnish

 Almond biscotti for John's fundraiser

  Brine for pork...

 ...and said pork (thank you Rustico Cooking for this delicious recipe!)

 Black beluga lentil hummus on pita toast with white sesame seeds @ John's event

 Sonoma chicken salad in endive cups @ John's event

 More from John's event.  On the right are my "caprese pops": tomato-mozzarella skewers with basil!  Check out my friend John's dance company, John J Zullo Dance - amazing!

Okay, definitely not food.  But isn't he cute enough to eat??  Meet my mom's new puppy, Crosby.


Friday, November 5, 2010

When life gives you leftover rice, make rice balls!

In my opinion, there are two types of cooks: the kind that follow recipes to the letter and produce flawless food every time, and the kind that employ their creativity (and hopefully common sense) to draw outside the lines of recipes and invent completely new dishes in the process.  I consider myself among the latter category.  I'm not one to abide by the rules of a recipe (BO-ring!).  

So, since I choose to cook in this flexible way, I often find it easy to make use of my leftovers.  "And here I am!" says the newborn rice ball.

 This is less of a formal recipe and more of a guideline that goes as follows:
- For each cup of leftover rice (or other grain - I also had whole wheat berries) mix in one beaten egg.
- Add spices, herbs, seasoning, or a whole other leftover dish - I added black lentil hummus here.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Oil lightly.
- Form one-tablespoon sized balls of rice mixture with your hands and space out evenly on the baking sheet.  You should be able to fit 5 rows of 6, for a total of 30 rice balls.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, longer if needed, making sure each rice ball is golden and crispy on the outside.  Remove to a serving dish and enjoy as a low-cost, highly-tasty appetizer!

Friday, October 29, 2010

First you get a chicken...

Admit it, there's nothing better than a roast chicken. As my bro Paul said to me yesterday, it's on par with doing laundry as far as simple satisfactions go. Let me explain: you get your little chicken load ready, you fire up the oven, pop it in, and in one scant hour, PRESTO, you've got delicious chicken meat for days.

So, yesterday I believe I made the best roast chicken of my life. It's perfectly moist, with a crisp, salty browned skin, and a delectably sweet aroma due to the bed of sweet Vidalia onions I cooked it over. And I can't stress enough the role that tons of garlic and herbs plays in producing the most perfect of chickens. I crammed as much thyme and peeled garlic cloves in there as I possibly could (pardon me, dear chicken). And then I trussed the legs together with kitchen twine so that nary a drop of delicious chicken juice could escape from that herbaceous cavity! Mwa-ha-ha!

Here's how it's done, people:

Best Roast Chicken
(makes 4-6 servings)

One 3- to 4- pound organic chicken
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bunch thyme
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, cut into chunks
1 lemon, quartered
1/4 cup dry sherry

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry, inside and out, so as not to risk steaming it.
2. Salt and pepper the cavity, then stuff it with herb and garlic. Truss the chicken by tying the ends of the drumsticks together over the main cavity, close to the breasts (see photo). This helps keep the breasts from drying out and also allows the bird to cook more evenly.
3. Next, give the bird a fine, even coating of salt. Not just a sprinkle or a pinch, but a visible crust. Season with pepper and brush all over with the olive oil.
4. Put the chicken in a roasting pan or oven-proof saute pan and surround it with the onions and lemon. Place in the center of the preheated oven. Roast it for 50 to 60 minutes, without opening the oven to baste or steal a peek, until a thermometer inserting into the thigh reads 160 degrees F and the juice runs clear.
5. Remove it from the oven and baste it with the rendered juices. Let it rest 15 minutes before carving and serving.
6. While the chicken rests, strain the pan juices, reserving the onions, and skim off the fat. Put into a small saucepan with the sherry, and heat over medium-high until the sauce reduces somewhat, about 5 minutes. Pour over the bird and serve with the reserved onions.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Autumn breezes, rooftop farms, pickled peppers

Today Kat and I paid a visit to Roberta's in Bushwick, a wonderful spot where you can chomp down on a variety of delicious, perfectly charred pizzas such as the Beastmaster, a genius invention topped with tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, Berkshire pork sausage, red onion, capers, and jalapenos. Like, whoa.

It's also a place to explore the great urban outdoors, where basil grows in bathtubs and old shipping containers house local radio stations. Outside the Roberta's complex, every Sunday (just my luck!), Brooklyn Grange -- a 1-acre rooftop farm launched in Queens in collaboration with Roberta's -- sells their goods, and how good they are! Today I bought 5 hot Hungarian peppers and brought them home for the pickling treatment. Stuffed into a recycled jar with cumin, thyme, garlic, black peppercorns, and of course the requisite sugar/salt/water solution, these are sure to be spicy and delicious little sandwich toppers for the winter months to come.

The below recipe can be used on all sorts of veggies, not just peppers, and I encourage you to play around with different spices and herbs - cause it's pretty hard to make a bad pickle!

Pickled Peppers
(fills one pint jar)

2 cups water
1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
5 black peppercorns
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 sprigs thyme
5 small Hungarian peppers, destemmed and sliced

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and garlic until it comes to a boil. Shut off the heat and leave covered until ready to use.

2. Thoroughly wash a pint-size glass jar and fill with the cumin, thyme and pepper slices. Pack in tightly, leaving a bit of room at the top of the jar.

3. Pour the pickling solution, with all the solids, into the jar, filling to the very top. Screw on lid tightly and leave on the counter until cooled to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator up to two weeks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grilling bonanza!

This weekend was a lovely excuse to steal away to the country and hijack my parents' patio BBQ for some grilling gratification. The menu was:

Grilled zucchini rolls with herbed goat cheese
Local tomatoes with mozzarella and fresh basil
Sweet corn on the cob
Rosemary & Dijon grilled butterflied leg of lamb
Grilled summer peaches with vanilla bean ice cream

You can survey the spoils below. The last image is of a leftover salad I made the following day, with corn, tomato, basil, crispy bacon, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, cayenne, salt & pepper. So sweet and zippy, I highly recommend this combination!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Serious Food Opera

Disclaimer: Any resemblance that the following scenes might have to objective reality is entirely circumstantial. Summer heat and humidity have been known to cause extreme thirst, hunger, depravity, and utter insanity. Thank you.

This is my sous chef. He's da boss.

He's usually pretty tame, but when he's overheated and hungry, he tends to become mildly delusional, and completely bonkers.
Oh, and this is me, your loyal chef. On corn.

Kids, corn is dangerous. Never say I didn't warn you.

It's even more dangerous than beer.

Anyway, we devoured all our food like ravenous, carnivorous bunnies...

...and still had room for dessert: homemade strawberry frozen yogurt (see recipe below)

Real Strawberry Frozen Yogurt - adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz
(makes about 1 quart)

- 1 lb. organic fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vodka
- 1 cup plain (whole-milk or low-fat) yogurt

Slice the berries into small pieces and toss in a large bowl with the sugar and vodka. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve and let stand covered at room temp for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Puree the macerated strawberries and the resulting liquid with the yogurt in a blender or food processor until totally smooth. If you want to remove the seeds, press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the machine's instructions.

** Cool addition: Boil down 1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Cool completely. When the frozen yogurt is done, spoon in the balsamic reduction and continue churning for just a few more seconds (as in, 3 to 5) to swirl, then stop and transfer frozen yogurt to a container, and freeze before serving.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The cook's dilemma

Greetings, all! I've been supremely MIA for the past month, which I can only attribute to my infrequent employment and resulting frazzled nerves. I had a dangerous thought, not a few days ago, which was this: Do I even want to be a cook?? (Holy moley, did I really just say that out loud?!) Yes, it's true. The fact is, cooking is a labor of love, and sometimes the love just isn't there, especially when the pay is small, or absent, the hours are miserable, and I let those devious doubts slip in through the back door.
But folks, I'm happy to say that I'm back!! (at least, for now) I'll keep you posted on the developing job situation, but what's more important at this moment is that I've reclaimed my love for cooking and I want to share it with you all. That's a sure sign of a happy, mentally stable Evie.
Tonight I'm making potato and chorizo tacos with avocado-tomatillo salsa. Mexican food is one of my passions, but it often clashes with my locavore bent (Do avocados grow in NY? Noooo.) However, today my conflicting interests in Mexican food and local food found a middle ground when I discovered beautiful tomatillos and serrano chiles at the Union Square Greenmarket! They hail from the Oak Grove Plantation, in Hunterdon County, NJ, not far from my hometown. Who'd o' thunk? Vamonos...

Potato-Chorizo Tacos with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

- 1 lb. ground meat (I did half sirloin, half pork)
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. chile powder/any desired spice mix (I actually used my homemade Ras el Hanout)
- 1 tbsp. paprika (I used smoked paprika, but normal sweet/Hungarian works too)
- 2 cloves minced garlic

-1 lb. small white potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
- salt

- 1 cup husked and diced tomatillos
- 2 Serrano chiles, stemmed and chopped
- 1/2 large white onion, chopped
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 2 large ripe avocados, halved and pitted

- salt to taste

- 1 small Spanish onion, sliced thinly

- 12 small corn tortillas, warmed

1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and work with clean hands until all the meat and seasoning is combined. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add salt and diced potatoes, and boil for about 5 minutes, until tender but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.

3. Make the salsa: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tomatillos, chiles, white onion, cilantro, and lime juice, and pulse on and off a few times, scraping down sides of container as needed. Scoop the meat from the avocado halves into the processor bowl and pulse a few more times until the avocado is totally incorporated, but the salsa is not pureed. Season with salt and set aside in a bowl, with plastic wrap pressed onto the surface of the salsa to prevent browning.

4. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the chorizo mixture, breaking up vigorously with a wooden spoon. Once the chorizo is totally broken up and no longer raw, add the sliced onions, stir to incorporate, and cover. Let cook 5 minutes. Add the potato cubes, stir, and lower heat to medium, cooking for another 3-4 minutes.

5. Spoon the potato-chorizo mixture onto a warmed tortilla, and top with salsa. Enjoy with a good Mexican beer!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dressing Up the Egg: Mediterranean Frittata

Ahh, this is the time of year I love. The sun is shining, the days are long, the produce is plentiful - but it's sooooo hot! Especially in my sunbathed kitchen, after blasting the oven for 5 or 6 (who can remember?) straight hours in my quest for roasted chickpea snack perfection (this is my new little business venture, by the way). At least we have the ol' A/C unit whizzing and whirring away in the bedroom. Paying it a visit is like dipping the toes in ice water: it helps, but it's not as good as plunging right in. Anyway, I should have called it a day after my test kitchen adventures, but there was dinner to be had and special people to feed! Namely, Dan the Man and my friend Emily Case, who trudged from Brooklyn in this heat, a real trooper-lady. I made this festive frittata, inspired by a recipe (and lovely pictures) found on this sweet blog.

Mediterranean Frittata

(serves 10-12 as a nibble, 4-5 as a main dish)

7 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup ricotta
1/4 cup grated pecorino
salt and fresh ground pepper

2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup spinach, washed, chopped, and wilted
1/2 cup kalamata or other oily black olive, pitted and chopped
zest of 1 lemon
3 cups cooked penne (whole wheat optional)

1 tbl. olive oil
1 tbl. butter

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the eggs with the milk, cheeses, and s+p. Mix in the remaining ingredients, except the fats.

Place a large cast iron skillet over medium-high and heat the olive oil and butter, swirling to coat the bottom and sides. Pour the egg mixture in and lower the heat to medium. Cook untouched until the bottom and sides of the egg are firmed up (you can test this by separating the egg from the side of the skillet with a rubber spatula).

Place the skillet in the preheated oven and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, until the top is just firm. Remove the skillet from the oven and invert the frittata onto a plate. Then invert again onto another plate, or onto a cutting board, and cut into slices.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fast and furious salmon

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is feeling burdened by this new summer heat. Nor am I the only one enticed to spend all her free time in the wonderfully cool, AC-equipped bedroom rather than in her sweaty, humid kitchen. Still, I couldn't imagine forfeiting my time in the kitchen just over some oppressive heat. And besides, we can easily reduce the time we spend in the kitchen by making simple, healthful dishes that don't require hours of lengthy prep or long, slow simmering to create. Hence the following dish that I whipped up for lunch yesterday. One pan, minimal prep, muy bueno!

Salmon fillet with mushrooms and onions
(serves 2)

- 1 large salmon fillet, skinless
- salt, freshly ground pepper, and red chili flakes to taste

- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 large vidalia onion, chopped
- 1/2 lb. (about 1 cup) white mushrooms, cleaned, destemmed and sliced
- 3 dried red chiles, or 1 fresh red chile, destemmed
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano, thyme, marjoram, or za'atar (wild oregano - I used my windowsill plant), or 1 tsp. dried herb of choice
- 1 lemon

1. Rinse the salmon fillet and pat dry. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and chili flakes, and set aside. Place oven rack on top shelf and turn on broiler.

2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat until melted. Add the onion and saute a few minutes, until they've softened a bit. Add the mushrooms and the whole chiles and continue cooking, lowering the heat to medium-low, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the onions are transparent. Stir in the herb of your choosing.

3. Slice half of the lemon thinly and lay the slices on top of the salmon fillet. Raise the heat to high and clear a space in the skillet to slide the fillet in, making sure it makes contact with the skillet bottom.

4. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the bottom and sides of the fillet are opaque. Remove the skillet from the stove and carefully place it on the top rack of the oven. Broil for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your desired temperature (I did 5 minutes for a perfect medium-rare).

5. When finished, carefully remove the skillet from the oven (beware, it will be very hot!) and squeeze the remaining half lemon all over. Discard the whole chiles and serve the salmon and vegetables alongside a simple arugula salad.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sexy stracciatella

There is nothing sexier, in my opinion, than melted chocolate. And then to pour that deep, dark molten stuff into homemade vanilla frozen yogurt, made with the full-fat, tangy Greek stuff... well, that's definitely not for innocent eyes.

WARNING: Viewer discretion advised:

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt Stracciatella
(makes 1 quart)

3 cups Greek yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 oz. dark chocolate (I used the Green & Black espresso varietal, it is insane), melted

1. Mix the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla well, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is completely uniform. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Churn in your ice-cream maker according to the instructions. When the frozen yogurt is just about finished, pour the melted chocolate in a steady, slow stream into the churning fro-yo. A liquid measuring cup does the job well.
3. Remove the frozen yogurt into the storage container and enjoy immediately, or store in the freezer until ready to enjoy.

It's positively sinful!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Not your grandma's banana bread

I consider myself a skilled refrigerator forager, willing and able to make do with what its cubed confines provide me on any given lazy day.
On one such day, not too long ago, I dug out a couple of overripe bananas and a half-full container of sour cream from an earlier taco feast. With the knowledge that I had some walnut halves and dried coconut lingering in my pantry, I carried out the divine will of the leftover-food gods and made this:

Sour Cream Banana Bread
(makes one big loaf)

1-1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 4 by 9 inch loaf pan (or whatever you have on hand). Sift together the first five ingredients in a large bowl.
2. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until almost smooth. Using a wire whisk or an electric beater, beat in the eggs. Once combined, beat in the remaining wet ingredients until well combined.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until just combined. Mix in the walnuts and coconut, and pour the batter into the loaf pan.
4. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Oh my goodness, Guinness!

It all started with my obsessing over the ice cream maker I stupidly left at my parents' apartment when I moved out last fall. Sure, it had been the end of ice cream season, but still, how could I have overlooked such a crucial culinary instrument? Thankfully, we were happily reunited this past weekend, and thus another cycle of frozen wondermaking began!
Part two of this creation myth: Ever since I sampled Mario Batali's overpriced, but inexorably delicious, Guinness ice cream ($8 for a cup?? Sheesh.) from Otto in Greenwich Village, I've been yammering about making my own variation. So finally, I did. And of course, it has dark chocolate. And it's frozen yogurt rather than gelato because Dan is lactose-intolerant and I'm something of a lactobacillus junkie.

But enough talk. Here's a taste:

Chocolate Stout Frozen Yogurt
(makes 5 cups)

1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract1-1/2 cups half-and-half
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
12-oz. bottle Guinness Extra Stout
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
2 cups plain yogurt

1. If using the vanilla bean, split it in half and scrape out the seeds. Combine with the half-and-half, the chocolate, and half of the sugar in a saucepan, and heat while stirring until the chocolate is incorporated and steam rises (don't boil it). Remove from burner and set aside.

2. With a whisk or electric mixer, beat the rest of the sugar with the egg yolks until it thickens and becomes light yellow. Beat 1/2 cup of the half-and-half mixture into this, and then stir this back into the saucepan with the rest of the half-and-half mixture. Cook it over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened slightly. (It should thickly coat the back of a spoon.)

3. Meanwhile,
boil the Guinness down in another saucepan with the cinnamon stick (if using) until about 1/4 cup remains. Remove cinnamon stick, pour into a mug or small bowl, and cool completely.

4. Strain the custard (that's the tempered egg and half-and-half mixture) into a glass bowl and cool to room temp. Stir in the reduced Guinness, the yogurt, and the vanilla extract, if you're using it.

5. Chill to 40 degrees, or for about 2 hours in the fridge, then churn in an ice cream maker for 30 minutes, or until it's reached the desired thickness. Serve immediately or store in the freezer -- if you do this, you'll have to "thaw" it in the fridge for a half and hour before serving.

** If you don't yet have one of these awesome ice cream makers, I would recommend getting the Cuisinart 1-1/2 Quart model, found here on Amazon. You won't regret it! Ok, that concludes the sales pitch :)