I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fried Chicken and Risotto Carbonara

As much as I like to try to cook new things, I can't help how the cold weather lulls me into making comfort food. All I can think about are hearty dishes or things mom used to make--anything that really warrants curling up on the couch under a blanket to eat.
The other day this craving manifested itself in fried chicken. I have made fried chicken before, but I have never done it right--and it has never turned out this good. There's nothing fancy about it, but it's damn good.
I decided to pair it up with a risotto. I have never made risotto before and was racking my brains trying to come up with how I wanted to prepare it, since there are endless possibilities. I ended up coming across some friends discussing pasta carbonara and decided to work this into the risotto. The creaminess of the risotto works so well with the creamy carbonara sauce and the smokey bacon adds great flavor.
Fried Chicken
Chicken pieces (I used all legs because that is what I had, but you can use whatever you like)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
2 t. pepper
2 t. paprika
2 t. season salt
1 t. garlic powder
2 eggs, beaten
2 c. cooking oil

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Mix together flour and seasonings in one bowl and place eggs in a separate bowl. To coat the chicken, roll in flour, dip into beaten eggs, then roll again in the flour. Once oil in pan is ready and hot, place coated chicken in pan, cover with a lid and cook, turning once, until chicken is cooked through and crispy (about 20 minutes).

Risotto Carbonara
2 c. raw spinach
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 stick butter
4-5 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 c. arborio rice
3 c. chicken broth
2 eggs
salt and pepper
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese

In a small saute pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes, then add spinach and stir until wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.
In one saucepan, heat the chicken broth until simmering, then turn down to very low heat.
In a separate saucepan cook chopped bacon over medium-high heat. Remove bacon when cooked and set aside. Add onions to bacon grease, turn heat to medium, and cook for approximately 3 minutes. Add rice, stirring for about 2 minutes. Stir in 3/4-1 c. of the chicken broth and stir until broth is completely absorbed. Gradually stir in remaining chicken broth 3/4-1 c. at a time, making sure liquid is absorbed before adding more.
In a bowl beat eggs together with salt and pepper. When rice is finished cooking, add spinach and garlic, bacon, and the eggs and stir to bring everything together. Add parmesan cheese and stir. If desired, add more parmesan cheese on top when served.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

My First Thanksgiving

I've been a naughty blogger.
I know it's that time of year when everyone is trying to be their best--Santa is coming soon, after all--but it is also that time of the year when everyone falls behind on certain obligations. With Christmas shopping, extra work, the cold weather tempting you to just curl up on the couch and get nothing accomplished, and with your hot water in your apartment not working and keeping you from any clean dishes to cook with, it may be difficult to keep up with a blog. So I will try to redeem my blogging self by hopefully finally making some of the updates I have been meaning to get to for a while. Starting with Thanksgiving, only a few weeks late.

When I thought of my first Thanksgiving here in the city, I had dreams of inviting all of my friends over who couldn't make it home, either, and making a huge spread where everyone could stuff themselves to oblivion and drink entirely too much and enjoy one anothers' presence (perhaps more than they would enjoy their families...). But my dreams were crushed upon learning I would have to work on Thanksgiving day. I would have to give up my holiday to wait on those who refuse/can't cook dinner for their own families and choose instead to sit in a crowded, loud restaurant around other families who do the same. I guess it's a good way to do things if you really don't want to speak much to Uncle Al--you can sit at the opposite end of the table and ignore him through most of the meal, while I deal with his crazy requests. Just how I want to spend my holiday--dealing with family that isn't even my own.

Once I moved past my complete bitterness, I decided I would take advantage of my day off before Thanksgiving and prepare a feast for Joe and I to enjoy when he got off of work. It maybe wasn't exactly how I pictured my first Thanksgiving I would make on my own, but it turned out to be very nice anyway.

I made a turkey breast with lots of butter, seasonings and beer, which was very moist, but not quite as flavorful as I'd have hoped. Next year I hope to improve on my turkey skills. I also made a pretty basic green bean casserole, fried potatoes and the recipes that follow. The pumpkin cake was made to take to work to ease the pain of working on a holiday. All in all, it turned out pretty well.

Sweet Potato Praline Casserole
(from Trish)
6 lrg baked yams cooled
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/8 teas. grated nutmeg
1/8 teas. cinnamon
1/8 teas. allspice
1/2 c. cream
1 well beaten egg

Praline Topping:
1 stick of butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 T. flour
1 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. brandy
Peel potatoes and cut into 1" pieces. Spread in greased shallow baking dish. Melt butter in small sauce pan and add nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cream. Remove from heat and add beaten egg. Pour over potatoes and mix well mashing some of the potatoes. Spread out evenly.Topping: melt butter in sauce pan. Whisk in brown sugar, flour, pecans and brandy. Mix until smooth over low heat. Spoon over potatoes. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
I cut this recipe down quite a bit because it was just for 2 people and used canned sweet potatoes because with everything else I was making I felt too lazy to cook them on my own.

Dinner Rolls
(recipe from my grandmother)
1 package yeast dissolved in 1/4 c. warm water
2 eggs, beaten, room temp
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 cup butter, room temp
1 cup warm water
4 cups flour
Make sure ingredients are room temperature! Mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl. The mixture will be sticky. Cover and let rise in a warm, non-drafty place until doubled in size (about 2 hours). Lightly flour countertop and dump dough onto surface. Knead for just a minute or two. Form the dough into small balls (about 2" in diameter) and place on baking sheets, giving them room to rise again. Cover with a dish towel and let rise again until doubled, another 2 hours or so. Then remove the towels and bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes.

Caramel Apple Pie
(recipe from my mom)
1 pie crust
7-8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
3/8 c. sugar
3/4 c. Brown Sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
caramel pieces (about 15, unwrapped)

Mix together all ingredients and place in pie crust.

1 1/2-2 c. oats
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 stick butter
cinnamon and nutmeg

Mix topping ingredients together (should be a sticky consistency). Pat on top of apple filling, covering whole pie. Seal edges of crust with foil. Cook pie at 350 for 70 minutes. When pie is finished, drizzle top with caramel sauce (about 1/2 c.)

Pumpkin Cake
(from Chandra)
2 16 oz. cans pumpkin
1/4 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 c. packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1 yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1 c. chopped walnuts

Combine pumpkin, salt, spices, brown sugar and eggs. Add milk, mix well. Pour into a greased 9X13" pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix on top. Pour melted butter over cake mix. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Sprinkle nuts on top and bake for 20 minutes more. Test in center of pan with knife to see if pumpkin is done. Knife should come out clean. Top with whipped cream if desired to serve. Store in refrigerator after cooled.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blue Smoke BBQ

Monday was a beautiful fall day. Joe and I both had the day off so we decided it was time for another stroll through Central Park to see the changing leaves and to enjoy the crisp, clear weather. And enjoy it we did--unlike the little boy we saw in our wandering: His mother kept saying, "Do you see the colors? That's called fall foliage. Isn't it Pretty???". I think he was more concerned with playing than admiring the changing seasons.
To help keep me warm on our walk through the park, we stopped at the newest Jacques Torres (http://www.jacquestorres.com/default.aspx) location and I picked up one of my new favorite winter treats: a wicked hot chocolate. It's their version made with some allspice, cinnamon, sweet ancho chili peppers and smoked ground chipotle chili pepper. The extra spice makes you stay extra warm.

After working up an appetite, we set out on a mission to find dinner. I had been craving oysters, but we didn't want a place that only served seafood so that Joe would have some options as well. Our hunt led us to Blue Smoke (http://www.bluesmoke.com/) a bbq restaurant with a jazz club in the basement.

Even with the amazing day we had already had, going to Blue Smoke was one of the best decisions we made. As soon as we walked in the smell of barbecue made us fall in love. And then we ate. We started off with cocktails: Joe had an Old Fashioned and I had a Hayride: a mixture of pear, cider, and something else. I don't remember everything it had in it but I do remember that it was delicious and tasted just like fall should.

While working on the cocktails we nibbled on 1/2 dozen oysters, BBQ chips and a blue cheese and bacon dip. Then for our main course Joe had the KC Ribs with a side of corn on the cob and I had Seared Sea Scallops with Blue Corn Grits and Herb Apple salad. The ribs, though not quite as good as some real Kansas City BBQ, were great. The KC barbecue sauce had some great flavors, but the ribs were a little too dry without the addition of extra sauce that was on the table. The scallops were tender and sweet with a slightly spicy tinge. And I was a huge fan of the Blue Corn Grits.

I really had no room for dessert but could not pass up the Ice Cream float made with cream soda, chocolate sauce, and Jack Daniels. Even though it was really too chilly to be eating ice cream, I think the Jack Daniels made up for that.

Our server wasn't spectacular, but the rest of the staff was really friendly and helpful and we had a good time anyway. We had a great meal and I'm really looking forward to heading back to the jazz bar downstairs, Jazz Standard, where we can get the same good food and some good music to go along with it!

Garlic Roasted Pork and Beer Cheese Soup

I hate the days when I really feel like cooking and can't decide what to make. Most of the time when this happens I hem and haw all day until it is too late to actually make anything that I really feel like making and then just end up doing something easy. Or getting take-out.
Well this time I actually figured something out in plenty of time to pull off a tasty dinner. I decided to make Garlic Roasted Pork and then came up with a simple sauce to make it even more garlicky and served it alongside of one of my favorites: a Beer Cheese Soup. I also made some french style green beans and garlic bread (because you can never have too much garlic) to round out the meal.

Beer Cheese Soup
(from Allrecipes, changes in italics)
1 Tbs butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 t. minced garlic (I used 3 large cloves)
(I also used 1 TB minced shallots)
3 Tbs cornstarch
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 bottle beer (12 oz)
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
2 c. Half and half (I have used half and half, but forgot to buy it this time and instead used 1 c. heavy whipping cream and 1 c. 2 % milk)
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used 3 c. shredded cheese. I strongly recommend the 3 c. because it makes a much creamier, tastier soup)

Melt butter. Add onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and saute. Add the beer and boil for 3 minutes. Add chicken broth, return to a boil, then lower heat medium/low and simmer. Combine cornstarch with 3 Tbs water and blend until smooth. Set aside. Add the half and half and cheese to soup. Stir constantly until cheese melts. Then stir in the cornstarch mixture. Stir until the soup is thick, about 2 minutes.

Garlic Roasted Pork and Garlic Cream Sauce
1 pork tenderloin (I couldn't find a tenderloin and used a shoulder--any piece large enough to roast will work, but I suggest a tenderloin)
1 stick butter
4 cloves garlic, very finely minced
salt and pepper

for sauce:
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper
1/2 t. cornstarch
1/2 t. water

Preheat oven to 325. Melt butter and mix with garlic. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper and place into roasting dish. Coat roast with the butter and garlic mixture and pour remaining mixture over top of the roast. Cook uncovered until meat thermometer reads 160, basting with the garlic butter from the bottom of the pan every 20 minutes.
After removing tenderloin from the oven, allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

For the sauce:
Pour the garlic butter from the bottom of the roasting pan into a small saucepan. Add whipping cream and salt and pepper and cook over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes. Mix together cornstarch and water and add to saucepan. Stir sauce constantly for 3-4 minutes or until thickened. Serve drizzled over slices of the pork tenderloin.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Chili Halloween

I hate being cold. I hate the way the wind makes my ears feel like they are going to explode and makes my head throb. I hate bundling up to go out because I feel really restrained and uncomfortable--it's like my scarf is trying to choke me. Every year I dread the coming winter. But then I remember how much I love being holed up in my house cooking soups and baking things just to warm up the kitchen. I think cooking helps me make it through those cold months. Plus there are so many things to make that just don't taste as good in the summer.

For Halloween it was time to make the first chili of the season. I love all of the different variations on chili, but sometimes nothing is as good as basic, simple beans and hamburger. I used to use chili seasoning mixes that I bought at the grocery store, but I figured it was time to make a homemade seasoning blend. I wasn't sure of everything to put in, so I found a recipe on allrecipes.com and used it. It was a great blend and I will be using it to base my chili mixes on in the future. I also found a recipe for homemade cornbread on allrecipes (after dining at the Delta Grill last week I needed corn bread). And to finish it all up I made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, which I saw on ...And a Cookie for Dessert (www.brooke-cookiejar.blogspot.com/). I did half chocolate chips and half butterscotch chips. These cookies are amazing. I think now that we are out of them I may need to make some more!

(seasoning mix from allrecipes)
seasoning mix
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I didn't use the flour at all)
4 teaspoons chili powder (I added extra chili powder)
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 tablespoon dried, minced garlic (I used garlic powder)
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
for the chili
1 lb. hamburger, cooked (with some seasoning mix) and drained
1 (15.5 oz) can red kidney beans
1 (16oz) can diced/stewed tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce
1 small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
Mix together the ingredients for the seasoning mix. Use 1-2 TB to sprinkle over ground beef while cooking. Drain the beef and then put into slow cooker. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion, pepper, and the rest of the seasoning mix. Cook chili on high for 3 hours or low for 7-8 hours.

Corn Bread
(from allrecipes)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup shortening (I used butter instead)

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the milk, eggs and shortening; beat for 1 minute. Pour into a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until bread is golden brown and tests done.
Pumpkin Chocolate chip Cookies
(from ..and a Cookie for Dessert)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used 1/2 a bag chocolate and 1/2 a bag butterscotch chips)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional) (I didn't use)

Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.
Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.
Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Laid-Back Dinner Party

I love having people over for dinner. It is such a relaxing way to enjoy one anothers' company and a great excuse to try out some recipes that are too big for just Joe and I. We have recently had some of our old college friends move to town and I figured it would be the perfect excuse to celebrate. I wanted to have some good food, but I didn't want it too be too intense or overwhelming because I really wanted us to just be able to feel relaxed and not like we had to be prim or proper (not that any of us really would be--or are). So I fell back on an old stand-by for an appetizer: buffalo chicken dip. So easy and so delicious. Then I decided to try out a new recipe I came up with for a White Pizza--which was a risky move with people coming over, but ended up a complete success. Then I had to try out the McGuires's Soda Bread pudding recipe that my friend Beth gave to me. It's intimidated me for a while now, but was actually pretty easy (especially since I made the bread a few days before and didn't have to do it before or during the party). It was a great meal and a truly great evening.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
(from multiple sources)
2 (10 ounce) cans chunk chicken, drained
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup Blue Cheese Dressing
3/4 cup pepper sauce, such as Franks® Red Hot®
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
(I use more hot sauce and cheddar cheese than called for)
Combine all ingredients until well blended. Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips or celery sticks.

White Pizza
1 TB Olive oil
1 t. Italian Seasoning
1/2 stick butter
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 t. garlic salt
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c. cooked spinach
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 c. sliced mushrooms
1/2 lb. boneless chicken breast, cooked and cubed

To make the sauce: Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add cream and garlic salt and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook until thickens, about 8 minutes. Add the parmesan cheese and stir. Remove from heat and use as sauce on dough.
Roll out pizza dough onto a baking sheet. Spread with olive oil and Italian seasoning. Top crust with desired amount of alfredo sauce. Drop on spinach, then top with mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle pizza with mushrooms and chicken cubes. Bake in 500 degree oven until crust is browned and cheese is bubbly, about 12-15 minutes.

McGuires' Soda Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce

Irish Soda Bread
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some extra for kneading
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tblsp. melted unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
Stir slightly cooled, melted butter into the buttermilk. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients until a dough forms and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently for a few mins. Sprinkle some flour evenly over a baking sheet. Place the dough on the sheet and form it into a round cake shape about 9” in diameter. Cut an X into the top (this is very important - it keeps the dough from splitting when it bakes!) Bake until the bread is lightly browned, about 30 - 40 mins. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
1 loaf Irish Soda Bread
4 cups milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tblsps. pure vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
3 tblsps. melted, unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 - 1/2 cup Irish Whiskey (we used Jack Daniels instead because that is the whiskey of choice in our house)
Tear the soda bread into large chunks and place in a large bowl. Pour the milk over the bread and allow it to soak until the milk has been completely absorbed (about 30 mins). Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. In another bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Beat well.
Fold in the egg mixture thoroughly into the soaked bread. Stir in the raisins.
Grease a 9” x 13” baking pan with the melted butter. Pour the bread mixture, spreading it evenly. Bake until the pudding is brown and firm, about 30 mins.
While pudding is baking, make the sauce. Combine the sugar, butter, and cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 mins. Stir in the whiskey and cook until some of the alcohol has cooked off, about 4 mins. Remove from heat. Serve warm with sauce poured over top of each portion.

The Delta Grill

We try to see a lot of theatre and Joe works by Times Square, so we spend a lot of time near this tourist packed, bright, crazy part of town. To be honest, I will avoid Times Square at all costs unless absolutely necessary, but I will stay even farther away from most of the restaurants in this area. I have no desire to spend way too much money for bad food, bad service, and a loud, packed restaurant with no personality. So anytime we are near the area and need something to eat, we generally head over to 9th Ave. and Hell's Kitchen.
Multiple times I have walked by The Delta Grill and have always been drawn to eat and eager to try it out. Finally last night we got the opportunity. The Delta Grill (www.thedeltagrill.com) has Louisiana style cooking and an interior that makes you feel as if you are dining on a New Orleans street corner (at least it seemed like it could be--this coming from a girl who has yet to visit Louisiana, but imagines this is what it would feel like).
We started off with a couple of beers (because wine just doesn't feel quite right in here somehow) and the Fried Green Tomatoes appetizer. The tomatoes are fried in slices, stacked up, and then topped off with an amazing black pepper cream sauce with diced chicken and shitake mushrooms. I love fried green tomatoes and these were some of the best that I have had, and the sauce really made the dish even better.
For our main courses Joe decided on the Chicken Fried Steak (sorry for the blurry pic). The gravy for the chicken fried steak was creamy with great flavor and the portion was huge. I went with the Blackened Yellowfin Tuna served with a cheese grits cake (yum!) and portabella mushrooms in a pernod sauce.

We had to pull ourselves away before dessert because we were so full, but it was one of those almost impossible things to do. How can you turn away from Sweet Potato Pecan Pie or Bananas Foster? Next time (because I can't wait to go back) I will definitely save some room.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Coconut Rice, and Carving Pumkins

Last night we were able to do something incredibly rare in our house: cook dinner together. I work a lot of evening shifts and when I'm not Joe typically gets home later so I will cook so we can eat as soon as he gets home. But last night I was off and Joe got off of work early, so we could spend the whole evening hanging out.
As soon as he got home, we popped open a bottle of wine (an amazing Chateauneuf du Pape from Domaine des Senechaux) and nibbled on some appetizers while preparing chicken lettuce wraps, coconut rice, and steaming some frozen shu mai from Trader Joe's. It was great being able to really enjoy one another and take our time preparing dinner. I think food always tastes better when you make it together, too.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
1 lb. boneless chicken breast, chopped into small cubes
1 c. chopped cabbage
1 c. sliced mushrooms
4-5 green onions, chopped
2 TB cooking oil
1 t. sesame oil

2 TB peanut butter
1 TB coconut milk
1 TB oyster and shrimp sauce (or any spicy/sweet sauce)
4 TB soy sauce
1 t. season salt
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. pepper
2 TB hot sauce
2 TB vegetable oil

Mix together all ingredients for sauce and set aside. Heat 2 TB cooking oil and sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until mostly cooked through (about 4 minutes). Add mushrooms and cook for about 1 minute, then add cabbage and green onions. Cook until vegetables are ready, about 5 more minutes. Add sauce mixture and cook for another 3-4 minutes. This can be served over rice or served wrapped in lettuce leaves.

Coconut Rice
1 1/4 c. coconut milk
1 1/4 c. instant rice
Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Add rice, stir, cover, and turn off heat. Allow to sit 3-4 minutes or until rice is tender.

After cleaning up dinner, we finally carved our first pumpkin together. It's been years since either of us have done this, so I think it turned out pretty well!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pumpkin Bread

I think I may be the last food blogger to make a pumpkin related post this fall. I love how the cool weather has brought out all of these yummy recipes and was excited to jump on the bandwagon. I went with an old standby, pumpkin bread, instead of some of the more creative dishes out there just to get me going (and because I was out of my banana bread to eat for breakfast!). For the recipe I searched around and found one on all recipes that got great reviews and had ingredients that I had in the house. I halved the recipe because I only have one loaf pan and I didn't have time before work to do two batches! This recipe turns out a slightly sweet bread with excellent spices and the pumpkin flavor actually shines through. This recipe is a keeper.

Pumpkin Bread (allrecipes)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 (16 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin

In a mixing bowl, dream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture just until moistened. Stir in pumpkin. Pour into two greased 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until bread tests done.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Ugliest Gourmet Contest

While surfing around the foodie blogiverse, I came across a new blog that I love: Not Eating Out in New York. Cathy is a New Yorker who, after several years of eating out all the time (as New Yorkers tend to do), got bored. Through her project she is now able to really enjoy her food and her time spent in the kitchen, and is also able to save some money (and who doesn't want to do that?). I love her blog because it is great to see someone else in the city that actually loves to cook that doesn't do it for a living. In a city where eating out is a massive part of the culture (and a fun part, don't get me wrong), it is refreshing to see someone taking the time to enjoy using all of the ingredients and flavors the city has to offer in their own home.
In her days of eating at home Cathy has realized that often times food cooked at home is not at all pretty, as delicious as it may taste. And therefore she is hosting The Ugliest Gourmet Contest on her blog. She is taking submissions for the ugliest, but tastiest, foods, and then she will prepare the winning entry for Thanksgiving. The info about the contest can be found here: http://noteatingoutinny.com/2007/10/15/the-ugliest-gourmet/. I think it is a great way to celebrate those meals at home that you love so much, but are a little ashamed to post on your blog because they may not be oh-so pretty. I am entering my Blueberry Chipotle Enchiladas: http://chompdown.blogspot.com/2007/06/wc-platinum-chef-challenge-2.html. So be proud of those ugly, tasty dishes! Put them out there, because we all have them and it is time for them to shine!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fall in the City

Autumn is finally coming to New York. It is my first fall here in the city and so far I am in love with it. The cool air seems to have pushed out any of the strange smells that linger during the summer and brought with it a refreshing, invigorating scent. It also seems to help awaken the senses out of the summer grogginess and make me feel more alert and aware of everything around me. And my favorite part of all, it brings along the season for soups, hearty meals, and baking! Almost every day while walking in the crisp fall air I have the urge to run home and make some bread or cookies.
This weekend I was heading to a friends house for a house warming party and decided to bring them some banana nut bread alongside with some wine. For some reason it turned out a little more crumbly than usual. I don't know if it was because the bananas were not mushy enough or if I used too much flour, or if the recipe was just a little different than the one I usually use (I used the Better Homes and Gardens recipe, but while growing up I used Betty Crocker's). Either way, it still tasted just as good.

Banana Bread (BH & G)
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 c. mashed bananas (3 medium)
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cooking oil
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of an 8X4X2" loaf pan; set aside. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and 1/8 t. salt. make a well in the center of dry mixture; set aside.
In another bowl combine the egg, bananas, sugar cooking oil. Add egg mixture all at once to dry mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in nuts.
Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove loaf from pan; cool on rack. Wrap and store over night before slicing.

Last night I decided I would try my hand at one of my favorite recipes from my mom, her Crazy Quilt Crust Pie. It's a mexican casserole she would make when we were kids and it was one of my favorite dishes. A slightly crispy, very flaky crust filled with sour cream and hamburger, refried beans and cheese, it is hearty and perfect for a cool fall evening. After finishing up with dinner, I had to try out a cookie recipe I found for Cappuccino Crinkles.

Crazy Quilt Crust Pie (from my mom)

(for the Crust)

1/2 c. flour

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. baking powder

1/4 c. shortening

1/2 c. sour cream


1/2-3/4 lb ground beef, browned and drained

1/2 package taco seasoning

1/2 c. sour cream

3/4 c. refried beans

3/4 c. crushed tortilla chips

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease and flower bottom and sides of a 9X9 casserole dish. Combine all ingredients for the crust and stir until blended. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Spread batter thinly on the bottom and thickly up the sides of the casserole dish. Spread refried beans for first layer on the dough. Next, mix together the hamburger, sour cream and taco seasoning and spread as the second layer on top of the refried beans. Top with cheese and then with the crushed tortilla chips. Bake for 25 minutes.

Cappuccino Crinkles (BH&G)

1/3 c. butter

1 c. packed brown sugar

2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 TB instant coffee granules

1 t. baking soda

1 t. ground cinnamon

2 egg whites

1/3 c. low-fat vanilla yogurt

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 c. granulated sugar

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed about 30 seconds or till softened. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, coffee granules, baking soda and cinnamon. Beat till combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg whites and yogurt till combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour. Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl. Drop dough by a teaspoon into sugar and roll into balls. Place 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes till edges are firm. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Thin Crust Pizza and Steamed Artichokes

If it hasn't already been stated, my husband and I are avid pizza lovers. We will eat it multiple times a week and it won't get old. Last night when I was trying to decide something to make for dinner I wanted something really easy and comforting, since it was a blustery, chilly day. I've made a lot of soup lately and decided that for us, you can't get more comforting than pizza.

I have tried a couple of crusts, but normally we like ones that are thin and crispy, so I hopped onto google and did a search for thin crust doughs. This is one of the first ones that popped up and was super easy and fast (no rising required!), plus it had a lot of great reviews, so I gave it a shot.

I made the dough and spread it into a very rustic (i.e. not very even or pretty) rectangle and placed it onto a cookie sheet lightly covered in olive oil. Then I spread the top of the dough with more olive oil, Italian seasoning, and a little parmesan cheese. Next came a simple homemade tomato sauce (tomato sauce with Italian seasonings and garlic powder), mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, bacon bits and mushrooms. The whole thing was popped into a 500 degree oven for about 14 minutes.

The flavor of the dough was great and the outer edges were nice and perfectly crispy, but the middle was a little too soft for my taste. I think, however, that the next time I try this I will cook it part of the time on the cookie sheet to set the dough and then the remaining time directly on the rack so that the whole crust is just as crispy as the edges.

Here's the dough recipe (from Robbie's Recipe Collection):
.25 oz. pkt. active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
3/4 cup 110 degree water
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
pizza sauce - of your choice, as needed
shredded cheese - of your choice, as needed
toppings - of your choice, as needed

-Dissolve yeast and sugar in water; allow to rest for 8 minutes.
-In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
-Pour yeast mixture over flour mixture and mix well with a heavy spoon.
-Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.
-Working from the edges to the center, press dough into a 12" circle.
-Place dough on a lightly greased pizza pan and stretch dough to edges.
-Spread sauce over crust and top with cheese and desired toppings.
-Bake in a 500 degree oven for 8-12 minutes, or until edges are golden.
Notes: To answer the most frequently-asked question I receive about this recipe: No, the dough does not have to rise - if it did, it wouldn't produce a thin crust.

Alongside of the pizza, I decided I was really in the mood for some artichokes (my favorite veggie). To make them, trim the stem of the artichoke close to the base, then cut off the top. Trim all of the outer leaves (cut off the pointy, sharp tips being careful not to stab yourself with them!). Wash thoroughly in water.
Fill a large pan with enough water to almost cover the artichokes then bring to a boil. Place in artichokes, cover and reduce heat and let steam for 45 minutes-1 hour, depending on size of artichoke. When ready the leaves should pull easily from the base.

I like to serve my artichokes with a mixture of butter, lemon juice and garlic powder to dip the leaves in (and make sure to drizzle a bunch over the top of the artichoke and into the leaves to help give a little extra flavor). To eat the artichoke, pull off a leaf and pull through your teeth to pull off the "meat". Once you reach the middle with the "choke" of the artichoke (the hairy part), take a spoon and scoop out this part. What is leftover after the "hair" is removed is the heart, all of which can be eaten (and is the best part!).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Moules Frites

Growing up in small town Kansas I never got much of an opportunity to eat really great seafood. As much as I've enjoyed the small amount of seafood that I've been able to eat, it just isn't nearly as fresh as you can get it on the coasts. Also, growing up in more of a steak and chicken world, I have not learned anything about how to prepare seafood. So I have to admit that when I decided to try out making mussels for the first time I was a little freaked out.

I asked around for some tips and did some research online on the best way to clean and debeard the mussels, which honestly was the scariest part, in my opinion. You are pulling parts off of mussels that are alive and kicking--or at least opening and closing. I kept imagining them biting me. I think I was being a little ridiculous.

Despite my fears, all went fairly well. There was one incident while cleaning the mussels where one moved in my hand and since the shell was broken it felt really strange so I jumped about 2 feet in the air and threw the mussel into the sink, but I quickly came to my senses and calmed down. The cleaning was much easier than I expected. Apparently most of the time when you buy mussels from the store they are cleaned fairly well and some have even already been debearded. So I scrubbed them in running water, patted them dry and threw them into the pot with my other ingredients. They were delicious--really better than any I have had at a restaurant. Very tender and the flavor was really nice and simple. I will probably throw in some more garlic next time I make them, though (but I love me some garlic).

I served the mussels along with some homemade oven fries in my own version of the Belgian moules frites. I cut up potatoes into about 2 1/2"X1/2"X 1/2" pieces and drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and season salt. Then I cooked them in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes, giving them a good stir every 7-10 minutes.

Mussels in White Wine Sauce
1 package mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 stick (8TB) butter
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 TB shallot, minced
2 medium roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup white wine

Melt butter in a stockpot or extra large sauce pan over medium high heat. Add garlic and shallots and saute until slightly browned. Then add tomatoes and cook approximately 2-3 minutes. Add white wine and mussels, stir once, then cover and let steam until mussels open, about 10 minutes. Serve mussels with the liquid for dipping with bread alongside.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Chicken Tortilla Soup and Foccacia Bread

I'm so excited for the fall. It means that my kitchen is cooler and I can spend more time in it, plus it brings on the season for hearty, delicious soups. I love this slow cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup that I found on Allrecipes.com and decided it was time to try out a homemade Foccacia Bread for the first time--this recipe also from Allrecipes. I learned that next time I won't make the dough so thin before baking it because I like my foccacia a little thicker, but the flavor was wonderful and paired nicely with the slightly spicy soup.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
7 corn tortillas
vegetable oil

Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with oil. Cut tortillas into strips, then spread on a baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven until crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, sprinkle tortilla strips over soup.

Focaccia Bread
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil and black pepper. Mix in the vegetable oil and water.
When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Punch dough down; place on greased baking sheet. Pat into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Brush top with olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese (I only had about 1/8 c. of mozzarella cheese, but it tasted delicious anyway!).
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Pork with Creamy Curry Sauce and Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp

There are so many days when I have no recipes in mind and just wander around the store or market until something jumps out at me. I've never been very good at weekly menu planning and feel that it is virtually impossible in the city with no car and no little cart to push home a weeks worth of groceries. Sometimes I have a hard time just getting things home for one meal!
This meal is one of those that came from a day of wandering around The massive Whole Foods Market on Houston Street near my work. The shrimp sounded too good to pass up, but since Joe doesn't always love seafood, I needed something to accompany it. When I was looking through the meat counter, the pork cuts were just beautiful and calling my name. And the sauce I served them with was a happy accident: I really wanted something more strongly flavored with curry and just started digging around to see what ingredients I could use for a sauce and luckily I had a small container of heavy whipping cream in the fridge. The sauce was creamy and delicious with the lightly seasoned pork. I rounded out the meal with corn on the cob and a couple of types of cheese for a simple appetizer.

Pork with Creamy Curry Sauce
2 thick cut center cut pork chops (1.29 lbs total is what I used)
2 TB olive oil
1 t. curry powder
1/2 t. season salt
1/4 t. pepper

Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle seasonings over the pork, then brown each side of the pork in skillet. Turn down heat to medium and continue to cook until cooked through. Remove pork from pan and allow to sit a few minutes before topping with curry sauce and serving.

Creamy Curry Sauce
1/2 stick butter
1 TB curry powder
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium high heat. Add seasonings and heavy cream and cook until sauce begins to bubble, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and continue to stir about 5 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Drizzle over pork chops to serve.

Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp
1 lb shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1/3 lb. thinly sliced Prosciutto di parma
salt and pepper
Once shrimp is cleaned, pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap each with a piece of prosciutto (the fat in the prosciutto causes it to stick to itself so there is no need for toothpicks). Heat a grill pan to medium high heat and grill the shrimp until cooked through, but being careful not to overcook.

Eggplant and Tomato Ratatouille

I have been wanting to cook with the tiny eggplants from the greenmarkets for a long time. But the last time I bought them I let them sit too long and when I pulled them out, to my great disappointment, they had gone bad. This time I bought them with the intention to use them right away. I also picked up some fresh tomatoes and herbs.
One of the other things I love about the greenmarkets is that they will often have recipe sheets set out at the information booth with recipes for the products that are in season. This is where I found this recipe for Eggplant and Tomato Ratatouille. I served it alongside a pork that I seasoned with a Greek Seasoning and pita bread and store bought hummus (hey, a girl can't spend all her time in the kitchen!).

Eggplant and Tomato Ratatouille
(from the Greenmarket recipe series)
3 TB olive oil
2-3 large Cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium eggplant (or more small ones!), about 1 lb, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2" cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Basil, oregano or other fresh herbs, chopped (optional)
In a medium skillet heat the olive oil and add the garlic. After about 30 seconds add the eggplant and tomato. Cook on high heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fresh herbs.
Turn the heat to low and cook for another 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the eggplant and tomato blend together, and the eggplant is cooked all the way through the dish is done. Serve warm or room temperature as a meal or an appetizer on bread, pasta or with a fork.

Greek Seasoning
(from RecipeSource)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon beef-flavored bouillon granules
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients; store in an airtight container. Serve with steaks, pork chops, chicken, or fish.Yield: 1/4 cup. Store herb containers in a dark, cool, dry place up to six months. Because heat weakens spice flavors, avoid displaying seasonings on open racks above or near cook tops or ovens. Store seldom-used seasonings in the freezer to maintain freshness.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dim Sum

I always say that I will try anything once. But when chicken legs were placed on the table my principles were tested.

A few weeks ago some friends, David and Des, took Joe and I out for our first dim sum experience at The Golden Unicorn. Dim sum is a Cantonese cuisine of small dishes that is traditionally served alongside tea. The dishes vary greatly from savory to sweet, steamed or fried, meat and vegetables. The experience was overwhelming with so much to see and take in and try. The Golden Unicorn is a huge restaurant with multiple floors. When you enter you are given a number and as soon as they are ready for you, you are ushered up to your dining floor. When you sit down, tea is immediately brought to the table and people pushing carts around the restaurant start asking right away if you want anything. David and Des are dim sum pros and before I even knew what was happening the table was being covered in bambo steamers full of foods I've never seen before.
My favorite were the bao, fluffy little rolls filled with chicken or barbeque pork. I also fell in love with the shu mai, little steamed dumplings.

Dim sum is my kind of dining. I love being able to try so many different things in one meal. Since the portion in each steamer is small you can try a lot and then get more of things you love.
Towards the end of the meal the cart came around carrying the chicken feet. Des grabbed a plate of them and displayed them for my tasting pleasure (?). I had to take a few breaths to prepare myself while asking exactly how I was supposed to go about eating them. Mostly you just suck the meat/skin off of the boney parts. Finally I gave it a go, and surprisingly, they weren't that bad! The flavor of the sauce was really nice. It's not something I crave, but I could even eat them again. Joe was amazing and tried them as well, and actually liked them so much that he had another.
Then we moved onto dessert with egg tarts and an amazingly delicate and delicious tau fa (also known as douhua) which is made with a soft tofu and served with a clear sweet syrup.
The whole experience was great, as was the company! We ended the meal with a stroll around Chinatown, a trip to the Strand, and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I'm looking forward to another Sunday morning call from David and Des inviting us to another dim sum Sunday!

Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

I haven't had time to cook or update a lot lately. I'm changing jobs, which has been exciting (it means more new food to try and new minds to squeeze out restaurant suggestions from), but has kept me busy. I actually made these gnocchi weeks ago.
Gnocchi are small Italian dumplings. They can be made with flour, semolina, ricotta cheese, or potatoes, like these.
This was my first experience making gnocchi. They turned out very ugly, but still tasted great (thankfully--I'd spent so much time making them and had nothing else to eat in the house!). I think next time around I shouldn't try to saute all of the gnocchi at one time--this caused them to stick together too much and when I stirred them they turned into a mushy mess. However I didn't have the problem of the gnocchi disappearing in the water--apparently this can happen if not enough flour is used according to this article by Kyle Phillips: http://italianfood.about.com/od/gnocchi/a/aa010298.htm. The flour binds the gnocchi together and with too little they can dissolve once you put them in the water. I think with this particular recipe there is no need to worry about a disappearing dinner.
The butter sage sauce with these gnocchi is simple and perfectly compliments the creaminess of the dumplings. It's a great dish for a chilly evening at home.

Gnocchi with sage Brown Butter Sauce
(from Bon Appetit)
1 3/4 to 2 pounds russet potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg1
large egg yolk
1 cup (or more) all purpose flour
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter, divided
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
Steam potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Cool slightly, about 10 minutes, then mash until smooth. Mix in next 4 ingredients. Add yolk; mix until blended. Gradually mix in 1 cup flour. Knead until blended and smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if very moist, about 2 minutes.
Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll 1 piece on lightly floured surface into 24-inch-long rope. Cut rope into 1-inch pieces. Holding gnocchi in palm, roll whisk over each to form indentations. Transfer gnocchi to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Cook 8 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat until butter begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add sage and lemon peel. Season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet; set aside. Working in 2 batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until they float to surface, then cook 1 minute longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skillet with unseasoned melted butter. Sauté all gnocchi over medium-low heat until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
DO AHEAD: Gnocchi and sage brown butter sauce can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Pour sage brown butter sauce over gnocchi; toss to coat and warm through, about 1 minute. Divide equally among bowls and serve

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Bon Appetit"

I was on my way to the green market and couldn't decide exactly what to have for dinner. Luckily I had brought along the current issue of Bon Appetit and was flipping through it on the subway. I have been craving the green tomatoes that are all around the markets, and this soup was calling my name. I also really wanted an excuse to use so many of the fresh herbs that are around, so I came up with this recipe for the pork tenderloin (that ended up being a little overwhelming--I'll make it again, but cut back on the sage!). And the Bon Appetit recipe for the sauteed veggies seemed simple and good--which it was. Finally, I have been craving this peach drink that a friend found in another magazine all summer because it is soooo refreshing and delicious--it's like taking a trip to 7-eleven for grown-ups.

Fried Green Tomato Soup with Croutons
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
2 large green tomatoes, coarsely chopped (3 cups)
3 cups water
1 t. salt
1 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. black pepper
1 cup croutons
Heat oil in 2 quart saucepan on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir 10 minutes or until softened. Add tomatoes; cook on medium-low heat 25 minutes or until tomatoes are softened, stirring occasionally (I actually cooked this hotter at medium-medium high heat and cut down on the cooking time a lot. I didn't realize I was supposed to cook it so long and didn't have the patience. It still tasted fine) . Add water (I only used 2 1/4 c.--3 seemed like it would dull the flavor too much), simmer 30 minutes or until tomatoes are tender (again, I didn't need to cook these as long).
Pour 1/2 of the tomato mixture into a blender, cover and blend until smooth. Strain (which I did not) and return soup to saucepan. Repeat with remaining tomato mixture. Add salt, thyme (I used fresh instead of dried) and pepper; simmer 20 minutes or until slightly thickened (I cooked about 5-10 minutes more). Serve soup topped with croutons (They suggest making cornbread croutons. Instead I cut day old french bread into pieces and tossed with a mixture of butter, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then cooked in a 450 degree oven. I turned them once and watched them closely to take them out when they are dried and crunchy).

Herb Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
1 pork tenderloin (1.2 lbs)
1 stick butter
1 handful fresh sage, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme

Melt butter and mix together with all herbs. Rub herb mixture into pork tenderloin and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour. To cook, place uncovered in a baking dish and cook at 425 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow pork to sit for 15 minutes before cutting. (This dish tasted good, but I think I went a little overboard on the sage--next time I will cut back some).

Sauteed Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, Olives, and Basil
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 t. chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup halved pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh basil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, garlic, and rosemary. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until zucchini is just tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and olives. Saute until tomatoes begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Mix in basil and vinegar. Season vegetables to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Peach Crush
2 cups diced peaches, fresh or frozen, plus additional slices for garnish
2 cups crushed ice
2-3 teaspoons sugar (depending on sweetness of peaches)
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, preferably opal basil, plus additional for garnish
1 bottle sparkling white wine
Place peaches, ice, sugar, and basil leaves in blender; puree until smooth. Pour pureed peaches into chilled glasses until half full. Add sparkling wine. Serve garnished with basil sprig and a slice of peach.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fried Apples 'n Onions and Steak topped with Basil Pesto

I am a nerd (if the Harry Potter posts didn't already tip you off...). Most of my childhood was spent with my nose in a book and to this day I have a hard time not getting emotionally involved and completely sucked up into the story I am reading. As a child, I especially loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and read them often. One month, when we received the Scholastic Book order form (which I would pour over every time it came and dream about owning all of those books), I stumbled upon "The Little House Cookbook: Frontier foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories" and had to have it. I loved looking through this book and imagined making everything in it, but eventually it got put in with my mother's other cookbooks and I forgot we had it. In college, when the cooking bug bit, my mother sent me this book to help me in my cooking endeavors and to remind me of the times we cooked together.

And I have finally made a recipe from this book: Fried Apples 'n' Onions. It was one of Almanzo's (Laura's husband) favorite dishes, and is a great side dish. The flavors all work really well together and it isn't too sweet and the bacon on top makes it amazing. I made a couple of changes to the recipe, mostly because the recipe in the book would feed about 10 people (even with the smaller version that I'm posting here, Joe and I each had two large servings and a little left over).

Fried Apples 'n' Onions
5-6 pieces of bacon, chopped
1 extra large yellow onion, sliced very thinly
2 tart apples, cored and sliced thinly (you want to have an equal amount of sliced apples and onions)
1 Tbsp. Brown sugar

Fry bacon in a skillet until brown and crisp. Set them aside. Drain all but 1 Tbsp. of fat from the skillet, then add the onion slices. Cook them over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Cover with apple slices in an even layer. Sprinkle brown sugar over all, cover the skillet, and cook until tender, a few minutes more. Stir only to prevent scorching. When finished cooking sprinkle with bacon pieces and serve.

I served the apples n' onions with steak topped with a basil pesto. The nutty, herb flavors in the pesto pair amazingly well with a grilled steak. I didn't have a real recipe for the pesto, but threw the ingredients in until it looked right. I blended together 2 large handfuls basil leaves, 1 small handful of walnuts (there were no pinenuts at the store, and I wasn't about to leave the house and wait for another subway just for pinenuts), 1 clove garlic. Then I added about 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil and a handful of grated parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Hot Summer Days

Some days are just too hot to cook. When the weather is sweltering and the kitchen doesn't have AC there is no desire to fire up the stove or even to turn on the burners. In fact, sometimes when it is this hot, I almost feel like it's too hot to eat. But if you know me you know there is no way I would ever skip a meal, so in the past few days I have made a few small snacks/appetizers/desserts that require no cooking at all but still will satisfy your cooking urge and your hunger.
The first is a wonderful Spanish Gazpacho. This recipe comes from my amazingly adorable grammar teacher from my days in Ronda, Spain. One day she decided it would be fun for us to go to a kitchen to cook to help us understand the vocabulary better and to experience some traditional Spanish food. Gazpacho is the one that I have brought back with me and made the most often because it is so simple, but so refreshing, especially on a hot summer day, and especially on a hot summer day after you have maybe had too many beers the night before.
Gazpacho actually began without the tomatoes as a cold bread soup with stale bread, salt, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Tomatoes and peppers were brought to Europe with the Columbian Exchange after 1492 and eventually integrated into the soup. Traditionally the soup is served cold, but there are warm versions as well. Sometimes there are additions made with meat and chunks of vegetables, but most of the time I like to keep it simple. Less time in the kitchen that way! The recipes vary a lot, but this is the one that I always use.

3 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 green pepper (I like anaheim/italian peppers)
1 clove of garlic
about 3/4 c. olive oil
2 t. vinegar
1 t. salt
3 thick pieces of stale, wet bread (I usually cut a few pieces from leftover french bread, then run them under water for a few seconds and squeeze them out slightly)

Blend all ingredients together. I like to use my hand blender because that is what we used in Spain, but a regular blender works just as well. I prefer the mixture to be blended very well and have tiny chunks instead of a thicker, bruschetta size blend. After mixture is blended, add 3/4 cup of ice cold water. Soup can be served now, but is always better if you let it sit in the refrigerator to cool.

Garlic Scape Pesto
(From the Washington Post)
1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts
¾ cup olive oil
¼-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
Method:Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Melon with Port and Lavender
(thanks to Figs, Olives, Wine!)
1 ripe Cantaloupe
Ruby Port (no need for anything posh here)
Small pinch of fresh or dried lavender (optional)
Halve your melon and gently scoop out the seeds. With a sharp pairing knife, lightly score the hollow of the cavities in a crosshatch pattern. This will allow the Port to penetrate the flesh. Fill the melon halves about 3/4 of the way with Port and let sit for 15 – 30 minutes. Just before serving, crumble the dried lavender over the exposed flesh.

Peach & Goat Cheese Salad
(dressing recipe from Sarah, not me)
Mixed greens
Goat cheese (I used a honey, orange, walnut flavored, but regular would be just fine)
Fresh peaches, chopped
Chopped Walnuts
For Dressing:
¼ cup honey
2 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon ground mustard
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon grated onion
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
Mix together the ingredients for the salad dressing until combined. Toss dressing with greens, goat cheese, peaches and walnuts.

My Signature Dish

I grew up cooking with my mom, but when I got to college I stopped doing a lot it since I was just making things for one, and plus, I was broke. After a couple of years, though, the urge to cook gripped me again--quite possibly inspired by all of the Food Network I was watching. This dish is probably the first that I took and made my own. It started as just a simple alfredo recipe that I found somewhere and I have added to it and adjusted it to make it into one of my favorite pasta dishes.
This is the first dish I ever made for a small dinner party we had in college. I think it may be one of the first dishes I made for Joe and it is now his favorite thing that I make. I think I even made it as my first cooking experience as a married woman. It really isn't a complicated dish, but it tastes amazing and really has a special place in my heart. Every time I cook it, the smells and tastes bring back so many memories.
Mushroom and Artichoke Alfredo
1/2 c. Butter
8 oz. Mushroom, sliced
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3-1/2 c. Sherry (or white wine/cooking wine)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
3/4 c. Parmesan cheese
10 oz. bow tie pasta
Cook pasta as directed. Saute mushrooms, garlic, and artichoke hearts in butter over medium-high heat. Once cooked, add sherry and cook for 2 minutes. Add heavy whipping cream. Continue to cook until sauce begins to thicken (about 7 minutes), stirring continuously. Add parmesan cheese. Toss sauce with pasta and serve.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shake Shack

The food scene in New York is amazingly diverse, but some days you have to forgo the huge selection of ethnic foods and give in to the temptation of a good old American hamburger. And what better way to enjoy said burger than sitting in the shade of the trees of Madison Square park with a side of cheese fries and a black and white shake.
Shake Shack is a "roadside food stand" in Madison Square park where you can get a tasty burger, Chicago style hot dogs, concretes, beer or wine and, of course, shakes. It was built in 2004 and was designed to fit in with the overall tone and feel of the park. If the lines of people out front tell you anything, the Shack is a huge success. When Joe and I stopped by on our day off, we waited in line for about 25 minutes before reaching the front and placing our order, but I've heard that 1 hour lines aren't unheard of. And I think the food is worth the wait. The burgers are flavorful and have a great soft bun. The shakes are made with a homemade frozen custard and are incredibly creamy. I think the only thing I didn't love were the plain fries--they were good, but not the best fries I've ever had, although adding the creamy cheese to them really helped.
Despite the line, the Shake Shack is a great place to go for a picnic without the work or for a simple meal while out running around the city.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Greenmarket Stir Fry

When I am having a bad day, a trip to the greenmarket always puts me in a better mood. The smell of fresh produce and baked goods and the lure of thousands of recipe ideas is to good to pass up.
As I wandered around the Union Square market on Wednesday, I decided I would make a simple stir fry from the veggies I collected. From the market I purchased onion, green peppers, sugar snap peas, zucchini, and garlic scapes. I decided to buy some red peppers and mushrooms from my supermarket since I love them and couldn't find them at the market and add them to the mix as well. I sauteed them all in a pan with a little oil over high heat and added some already cooked, chopped chicken (leftover from the night before's quesadillas), and a simple sauce. I served it over some white rice and dinner was ready.

Greenmarket Stir-Fry
2 Green peppers, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/8 c. chopped garlic scapes
1 c. sugar snap peas
1/2 zucchini, sliced
chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
3/4 c. garlic ginger sauce
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. white wine
1 t. crushed red pepper
1/2 t. curry
Heat skillet on high heat with 3 tbsp. oil. Add the vegetables and saute until cooked but not mushy (about 5-7 minutes). Mix together sauce ingredients in a separate bowl. When vegetables are ready, add chicken and sauce and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve over rice or noodles unless you are trying to be healthy and go without. But I suggest the rice :-).


A secret passageway. Stone walls. Swords through smoking fruit. Your waiter in Ninjawear jumping out at you from the ceiling. All part of your dinner when you dine at Ninja (http://www.ninjanewyork.com/).
Last week a few of my coworkers and a couple of friends went out to dinner. I have never had an experience like we had at Ninja. The atmosphere was fabulous and fun, our waiter joked around with us all night and was very funny, and the presentation of the food was remarkable.

This is Batto Jutsu: scallops and salmon with a citrus sauce served atop an orange. When brought to the table, the orange had a sword stuck through it. The waiter told Noel to pull it out, which started the smoke flowing from the orange.

Next is the Clam Bombshell, which was a closed shell clam when brought to the table. The waiter lit a fuse and when it reached the clam and the sea salts it started a fire which caused the clam to slowly open.

These are the Dancing Plantains (part of my tasting menu) served with an avocado/tomato dip.This is Kirikabu, a beef dish. The tree stump covering is made from phyllo dough and is edible (you lift it up and the meat is underneath it).

This is Taiyaki: sauteed fluke and spinach covered with a fish shaped pie crust and clam chowder.

This is a green tea brulee topped off with an edible crane (that is filled with chocolate).And this is tira mi su. It looks like a bonsai tree and the best part is that the little trees are edible, too.I don't have any pictures of the amazing spicy tuna rolls or the Kuro Subuto: Slowly simmered Pork marinated in Squid Ink Tempura Batter, dressed in Sweet Black Rice Vinegar Sauce served with Asparagus and Red Peppers, which was incredible. Ninja truly is an experience--much more than just a meal. If you go, however, keep an eye in the sky on your way to the bathroom--unsuspecting visitors may get a fright from those ninjas lurking in the ceiling.