Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ratatouille, third iteration: lasagna! #food

via Instagram http://instagr.am/p/TUU9MAQSvt/

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Panzanella

This is going to sound horrible, but it took me until this morning to finally make it to the summer farmer's market in my neighborhood.  The past few Saturdays, I've been too quick to cook up an excuse: too many errands to do, gotta clean the house, going to visit Grandma, too hot, too rainy, yadda yadda, etc. etc.  I deserve to be arrested by the summer police.

Anyway, I finally made it!  I was so overwhelmed by the mid-summer bounty that I dove right in like a hungry pelican and came out with a beak-full of peak-season veggies.  Given the randomness of my selection, I decided a salad would serve this hodge-podge well and, with the addition of a fresh loaf of sourdough from Hot Bread Kitchen, I was ready for some panzanella.  Here's what you do:

Tear a 1 pound loaf of crusty bread (like sourdough) into bite-size pieces, spread out on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and toast in a 400 degree oven for 7 minutes, until slightly crispy (you're not going for croutons).  Dump into a large salad bowl and set aside.  Take your smattering of market vegetables - tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, scallion, corn, whatever - and chop into desired bite-size shapes.  Add to your bowl of toasted bread.  Wash and tear a handful of basil leaves and throw those in as well.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup good olive oil, more salt and pepper, and pour over the bread and veggies.  Toss well and serve immediately, preferably on a terrace in the sun...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Easy fish tacos

Here's a quick meal to make on a weeknight after work when you really don't feel like slaving away.  All you need is some peak produce (shouldn't be hard to pull off this time of year), a small amount of chopping, minimal cooking, and away you go...

How to make fish tacos with mango-cucumber salsa and Mexican coleslaw: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Drizzle olive oil along the bottom of a baking dish and rinse 1-1/2 lbs. tilapia fillets.  Layer the fish in the baking dish, drizzle with more olive oil, fresh lime juice, salt and pepper, cover, and bake 15 minutes, until cooked through.  Serve with some warmed corn tortillas and extra lime wedges.
  2. Toss together diced mango, diced cucumber, chopped cilantro, seeded and minced jalapeno, chopped scallions (just the green parts), fresh lime juice, and salt and pepper and let marinate 15 minutes before serving.
  3. Combine shredded purple cabbage, sour cream, fresh lime juice, cumin, cayenne, and salt and pepper.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cold-Cuts Bread Pudding

A strange idea?  Maybe.  But delicious?  Oh yes!

Just roll with me on this, people: when you find yourself with a fridge stocked with a surplus of maple ham, smoked turkey, muenster cheese, sandwich bread (plus a few eggs), and little else, you'll be happy to have this in your back pocket.

Cold Cuts Bread Pudding
Serves 6

5 slices stale sandwich bread, cubed
1 bell pepper, stem and seeds removed and diced
4 slices smoked turkey, chopped
4 slices maple ham, chopped
4 slices deli cheese (swiss, muenster, cheddar, etc.)
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups low-fat milk
8 shakes of oregano
salt and pepper

- Preheat the oven to 325°F and grease a casserole (glass is nice).
- In a large bowl, toss together the bread, pepper and cold cuts and set aside
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, and season with oregano and salt and pepper.
- Spread the dry ingredients evenly across the bottom of the casserole and pour the egg-milk mixture over.
- Lightly poke the bread that's at the surface into the liquid, ensuring everything is wet - otherwise, those pieces of bread will burn.
- Place the casserole on a sheet tray to catch any spills and place in the center of the preheated oven.  Bake for 1 hour, until the liquid is almost completely set.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool and set up before serving, or cover and refrigerate for later.  This is best served at room temp.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Use Your Bean

Continuing on my journey to strike a balance between work and everything else, I've been keeping up with my weeknight home-cooking ritual with pretty great success!  A highlight of last week was a super fast and easy bean stew that literally takes 20 minutes (or less!) from start to finish.  It's the kind of Wednesday night squeeze-it-in meal I can rally around, after the work clothes have been shed, the sillies shaken out, and a few minutes of staring idly at the wall have been achieved.
It's called Indonesian Bean Stew, but neither myself nor Dan can attest to its authenticity, given that our only encounter with Indonesian food was a Hell's Kitchen spot on 9th Ave that tasted delicious but ended up being so packed with MSG that our post-dinner activity that night was holding our heads in our hands and moaning like feral cats.  Not fun.  But this is!
The recipe comes from my dear friend Genna's mom Karen, who has followed this blog since the very beginning.  Thanks, Karen! for the recipe and your readership :)

Indonesian Bean Stew

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small knob ginger, peeled and minced
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 28-oz box diced tomatoes (Pomi brand is the best)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 can black beans, drained
1 can garbanzos, drained
Cilantro leaves for garnish

1. Saute the onion, pepper, garlic and ginger until softened, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the kidney beans, tomatoes and brown sugar, stir and bring to a steady simmer.
3. Stir in the peanut butter, spices, and then add the rest of the beans.  Cook just until heated through.
4. Serve over bowls of rice, topped with a few cilantro leaves.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm still here!

Lovely folks - I wanted to let you know I'm still here, albeit off the grid.  Busy with work, yoga, life, and creating a family dinner ritual (a la Jenny Rosenstrach, author of newly released Dinner: A Love Story).

Here's something to hold you over till I return to the blogosphere...

Chicken Milanese with Baby Arugula + Shallot Vinaigrette
Thanks for continuing to tune in!  I apologize for the lapse in posts.  I <3 U!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Joys of Ginger

Practical person that I am (well, perhaps obsessive-compulsive is the more accurate descriptor...), I used to avoid recipes that called for ginger seeing as it's highly perishable and impossible to buy in small quantities.  After just 2 days in the fridge, all those knobs of ginger purchased in order to obtain the one measly tablespoon of the freshly grated stuff would be soggy, stringy, and discolored.  But those dark days are behind me, ever since I found Marc Matsumoto's delightfully simple solution to my ginger-itis: how to make fresh ginger last.  Peel it, submerge it in vodka (or your tasteless, odorless, colorless ethanol of choice) and presto, you're stocked up with fresh, ready-to-use ginger for days - weeks, even!

Obviously, this revelation has led to a 500% increase in my use of ginger and that's good news, since ginger happens to be one of those handy foods that not only makes everything infinitely more delicious but also delivers a load of health benefits: it is said to settle the stomach, reduce pain and inflammation, prevent cold and flu symptoms, and it even works as a heartburn remedy.

Here are a couple of tasty ways I've used my arsenal of ginger lately:

Ginger Chicken (adapted from Marc Matsumoto's recipe)
Makes 4 servings

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions, white and green separated, thinly chopped
sesame seeds for garnish

Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs.  Combine the soy sauce, honey, vinegar, ginger and garlic in a bowl and toss with chicken.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer, leaving space between each piece (you may need to cook it in batches).  Regulate the temperature so that the marinade doesn't burn (too high) yet the chicken doesn't leech water (too low) - you want it just right to get that nice crust dark brown crust.  Fry one side of the thighs, then flip and fry the other.  Remove to a plate.

Wipe the burnt bits out of the pan and add the rest of the marinade and the white part of the chopped scallion, returning the pan to medium-high heat.  Bring the marinade to a boil and return the chicken to the pan.  Turn the chicken pieces as the sauce reduces, until you have a nice glaze that's sticking to the chicken.  Serve garnished with green scallion and sesame seeds, over rice.

Homemade Ginger Ale
Makes about 8 cups

4 big knobs ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup honey, or to taste
1 liter seltzer
Lemon slices for garnish

Combine the ginger and 4 cups water in a pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer about 40 minutes.  Strain out the ginger and mix in the honey, stirring until it's totally dissolved.  Transfer to a container and chill.

When ready to serve, mix 1 part seltzer to 1 part ginger brew in each glass, with a slice of lemon and a few ice cubes.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Quickest Quiche

Yesterday, I had a revelation: I could make quiche crust out of Saltines!  A quick internet search revealed that I wasn't, in fact, the pioneer I had thought myself to be.  But no matter, I'm still claiming this as an invention of my own culinary mind, cooked up in isolation on this beautiful Spring weekend that I've shared exclusively with Dan, who is currently recovering from surgery he had this past week. (He's feeling better every day and recovering splendidly, by the way!)

Lily brought me a bag of beautiful fiddlehead ferns from the Union Square Greenmarket, but you could swap them out for any green vegetable - spinach, asparagus, kale, fresh herbs, broccoli - on and on.  Just make it green, because it's the middle of May and we're surrounded by it!

Easy Fiddlehead Quiche with Saltines Crust
makes 8 servings

35 Saltine crackers, crumbled
4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 oz. Pecorino Romano, shaved
1 cup fiddleheads, blanched
6 eggs, well beaten
salt and pepper

Grease a 9-inch pie pan and preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.  Combine the Saltine crumbs and melted butter and press evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate.  Pre-bake the crust for 5 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven and start building the rest of the quiche: arrange a layer of Pecorino shavings, then the fiddleheads, then pour in the eggs, seasoned with salt (not much - the cheese is salty) and pepper.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the egg is set.  Remove and let cool.  Serve warm or at room temp.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tea Eggs Time!

My dear friend Kat, whom I love to feed because she, like me, cultivates an ongoing love affair with the edible stuff of life (remember chicken bread?!?), spent much of our senior year of college feeding me and, in great part, I attribute my proclivity for experimental cooking to her.  One of my favorites back at the dorm were her tea eggs, hard cooked eggs steeped for many hours (there really is no such thing as too long) in a salty-pungent concoction of black tea, star anise, soy sauce, and just a spoonful of sugar (cue the Mary Poppins).

These are as addictive as potato chips, but arguably more healthful, and I love the way the cracks in the shell absorb the tea, creating an intricate spiderweb design (as you can see).  Beautiful to behold - even more so to devour!

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs
Makes 6

6 eggs
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 star anise
2 tablespoons black tea or 2 tea bags (I used Black Chai)
1 teaspoon honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

In a medium-size saucepan, place the eggs and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 3 minutes.  Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, leaving the water in the pot, and allow to cool under running cold water.  Using the back of a teaspoon, gently tap the eggshell to create a network of cracks all over, being careful to leave the shell intact.
Return the eggs to the pot and add the remaining ingredients.  Return to a boil and turn the heat back to low.  Simmer uncovered for 40 minutes, then cover and let the eggs steep for a few hours or overnight.  The longer, the better!
Drain the eggs from the tea, peel, and enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Braised Lamb with Chickpeas

From one of my favorite food bloggers, Mark Matsumoto, comes this delectable recipe for Braised Lamb with Chickpeas.  Serve with lavash, yogurt, and mint.  Eyes will roll.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Popcorn in motion

In college, my friend Kat showed me how easy it is to make popcorn on the stove, after which point I never went back to the fakey-fakey microwave popcorn junk.  Then, recently, I found this shortcut for making perfect popcorn and, of course, I couldn't resist the urge to attain the unattainable and aspire to perfection.  Turns out, it works!

Here's a friendly little popcorn sequence to get you off to a good start this week!

First, heat 2 TB oil over medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot, add 3 popcorn kernels
and a large pinch of salt, and cover the pot.

Measure out 1/3 cup of kernels.
(check out these pretty red ones from the farmer's market!)

Once the few lone kernels in the pot have popped, add the remaining 1/3 cup,
cover, and hold away from the heat for 30 seconds (count it out!)

Return the pot to medium-high heat and listen to it POP!
Give it  a few shakes as it does its thing,
and remove from heat when pops are more than 5 seconds apart.

Et voila! No burnt pieces, no unpopped kernels, just perfect, tender popcorn!
Add salt, butter, smoked paprika, chopped rosemary, brown sugar - whatever strikes your fancy.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring is Here!

Green garlic from the farmer's market heralds the spring

Friday Night Dinner

Last night, inspired by this recent post on one of my favorite cooking blogs, Dinner: A Love Story, I made baked beans from scratch to accompany some hot Italian sausages from Astoria's own Butcher Bar, homemade leftover-grain bread (I'll save that for another blog post/day), and a simple salad of kale and pecorino.

 Baked Beans (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
Serves 6

Two 15.5-ounce cans small white or navy beans
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a baking dish.  Drain and rinse beans and set aside.  Combine the last six ingredients well, then mix in the beans.  Turn out into the baking dish and bake, covered, for 30 minutes.  Stir and bake another 30 minutes, uncovered.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pulled BBQ Turkey

Well, it's finally happened: I have encountered something that the slow cooker can't do (besides wash and fold laundry, brush my teeth, etc.)  Behold exhibit A:

These big honkin' turkey dinosaur legs just wouldn't fit in my 3.5 quart cooker!  Soooo...a transfer was made:
...and it all worked out in the end.

Most excellent food-related wedding gift award goes to Betsy, for bestowing upon us this 10 gallon vat of Show Me BBQ sauce.  Essentially, a lifetime supply of deliciousness.
This stuff is The Best.  Makes everything taste better.  Probably even that potholder underneath the jug.  Yep.

Pulled BBQ Turkey Legs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 turkey drumsticks (about 3.5 pounds)
salt and pepper
2 cups BBQ sauce
1 15.5-ounce can red kidney beans

Preheat the oven to 300 deg. F.  Heat the oil over high in a large skillet and season the turkey legs liberally with salt and pepper.  Sear the turkey on all sides, one at a time.

Pour half the BBQ sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.  Transfer the browned turkey legs to the dish and top with the remaining 1 cup of BBQ sauce.  Cover tightly with foil and slow cook for 3 hours, until the meat is tender and pulling away from the bone.

Remove the drumsticks to a plate.  Once cool enough to handle, discard the skin, gristle and bones and shred the meat with your hands or two forks.  Return to the baking dish and mix well with the sauce.  Return to the oven for another 30 to 40 minutes, until the sauce thickens and coats the meat.

Drain and rinse the beans and toss in with the turkey and sauce.  Reheat for another 10 minutes until the beans are heated through.  Serve on toasted kaiser rolls with melted cheddar cheese, sliced pickles, and extra napkins.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Messy cupboards and why I love garlic

Ok, I'm feeling a bit random today.  Probably cause it's Sunday, so whatever OCD to-do list has been sitting in my head all week, patiently holding it together, is finally spilling out as a mess of house chores, random food alchemy, and disjointed musings.  Cool...

 Sitting here with a nice delicious cup of milk tea.  Here's how I make the stuff (and you should too!):

  1. Boil 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and add tea of your choice (loose or in a bag, who cares?)
  2. Reduce heat to low and simmer tea for 5 minutes. 
  3. Add 1 cup of milk and heat on low for about 3 minutes, until the tea is steaming hot.
  4. Strain into a big ol' mug and sweeten to taste with honey (or sugar.  if you want to be that way. [behold my judging face])

Moving right along... remember how, just a few sentences ago, I mentioned OCD?  Speaking of, this is my kitchen cupboard, full of spices, beans, grains, pasta, tea, etc. - very, VERY messy by my standards, and driving me semi-batty... 

Moving on again! ...I was prepping the ingredients for some Moroccan spoon beef this morning, and I stopped to muse on the many wonders of garlic: O, Allicin.  Who is smellier than thee?  Who gets my nose running and my throat burning like you can?  In your raw form, you hurt so good, especially when your oils get into all the micro-cuts on my fingertips, into the dry-skin crevices between my fingers, but ours is a twisted relationship, and I love the short-term suffering for the long-term payoff, the flavors and the smells that waft through my house as the hours creep by and the slow-cooker rocks on.  *Sigh*

Told you I was feeling random.

Last bit before I dissolve into a total Sunday stupor: what the hell is Spoon Beef??  Well friends, spoon [insert meat variety here] is any piece of protein that's cooked so gently and for so long that when you remove it from the cooking vessel, you could do so with a spoon.  Now you know.  Here's how I'm making mine:

Moroccan Spoon Beef
Serves 8
3 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1-1/2 to 2 inch thick pieces
flour for dredging
1 tablespoon oil
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup Ras el Hanout**
1-1/2 to 2 cups dry red wine

Set a heavy skillet over high heat while you dredge the meat in the flour, seasoned with salt and pepper.  Add the oil to the pan and sear the meat, about 4 minutes a side, one piece at a time.  Place the seared meat in the bottom of your slow cooker.

Sprinkle the meat with half the spices, then pile the vegetables on top and add the remaining spices.  Pour in the wine and set the slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10.  Remove the meat to a platter and cook the remaining liquid uncovered on high until it reaches desired consistency.  Serve the meat topped with the thickened sauce and the vegetables.

**Ras el Hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
Makes about 1 cup
1/4 cup cumin seeds, toasted and ground
3/4 teaspoon saffron, crushed
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup paprika

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quick post on slow-cooking!

My bro Paul got me a super-sweet slow cooker for my b-day, and I've already used it twice, to make split pea soup and then some luxuriously creamy Irish oatmeal!  I love this thing!  I fill it up, turn it on, and leave it.  It's a workin' lady's dream come true.

I have the Cuisinart 3-1/2 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker

This model is pretty perfect for a 1-2 person household.  Most slow cooker recipes are written for something in the 4 quart range, and it's also very easy to adapt other braise/soup/stew recipes to a slow-cooker.  Just reduce the liquid by 50% and double the cooking time (at least).  You always want to keep the meat browning step, but otherwise you can throw all your ingredients together in the slow-cooker and fuggeddaboudit!

Split Pea Soup (adapted from Cuisinart slow-cooker recipe book)
Makes 8 servings

6 ounces shallot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, trimmed and finely chopped
8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 ounces carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1 pound green split peas, rinsed and picked over
6 cups water
1 ham-hock, meaty ham bone, or 8 ounces cubed ham
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/4 cup dry sherry

Put all ingredients except sherry into slow cooker and set on High for 2 hours.  Switch to Low for another 6 to 8 hours (time needed will depend on your slow-cooker).  Remove ham hock or ham bone, discard the bone, shred the meat and return to the soup.  Stir in the sherry and serve.

And this is a cucumber salad I threw together last night, as far from slow-cooking as it gets!  I wanted to share with you because the combination was lovely: peeled and sliced cucumber, pitted kalamata olives, torn mint leaves, black pepper, and a dressing made of Greek yogurt, red wine vinegar, and a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and savor every Mediterranean bite!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Big Night of Pizza

This past Saturday I recreated my own version of the Big Night food spectacle, in which excessive amounts of food are steadily and shockingly produced from a very hot and crazy kitchen.  And it was SO MUCH FUN.

It was my birthday pizza party!  I made the dough from scratch using (roughly) the following recipe:

2 teaspoons instant yeast (note: this is not the same as "dry active yeast")
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup lukewarm water

I used my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment to prepare the dough, but you can just as well do it by hand in a big bowl with a wooden spoon.  First mix the yeast, flour,olive oil, and salt, then add the water slowly, stirring as you do, until it forms a shaggy ball of dough.  Now knead until it's smooth and slightly sticky and springs back when you poke it.  Transfer to a big oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hour before dividing into two balls of dough for pizza, or you can rise for 45 minutes and refrigerate 4 to 24 hours until you are ready to use it (just be sure to take it out about 2 hours before you plan to use it).  Roll each ball of dough to your liking (I made mine into about 14-inch pies) and top however you please!

Here's what I had for toppings:

The Margharita: sliced Roma tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, and torn basil leaves
The Sausage: tomato sauce, browned hot or sweet Italian sausage, thinly sliced red onion, and mozzarella
The Goat: (most popular!) pesto with roasted garlic, roasted red pepper strips, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, goat cheese, and oregano
The Popeye: Spinach sauteed with garlic and nutmeg, and ricotta cheese

Once your pizza is topped, either bake it on a sheet tray or slide it onto a pizza stone in a very hot oven - as high as yours will go.  Mine was cranked up to 500 deg. F.  Set the timer for 10 minutes, check to see if the crust is browning and the cheese melting to your liking, and if it still needs some more time, check back every 1 minute, up to 20 minutes.  My oven's sweet spot was 13 minutes flat.

Give it a try! and check out some action shots:

Friday, February 10, 2012

On being a mad scientist, MIA

I've dropped off the radar recently.  There's been a lot going on -- which is great!  Thus very little time to blog.  But that doesn't mean I've been out of the kitchen!  I've been finding new and freaky ways to create interesting flavors and smells through the wonders of lacto-fermentation.  And so, with those few words, I leave you to peruse a few pics of my latest science experiments.

Yours Truly,
Chief Mad Scientist, Apartment D6

Sourdough sponge bubbling away

My little wheat berry sprouties

Oats fermenting 

Multigrain bread dough, pre-rise

Multigrain bread dough, post-rise

The finished loaves, chock full of sprouted wheat, sunflower seeds, fermented oats, and sourdough starter