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.

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.