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!