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.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

WC Platinum Chef Challenge #2

The ingredients: Blueberries, Hot Peppers, Cheese, Corn, Citrus Fruit.

My experience with this round: This is one of the best meals I have made, but the pictures are some of the ugliest!! I promise these dishes both taste a lot better than they look!

Blueberry-Chipotle Enchiladas
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tblsp oil
Juice of two limes
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. chili powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
8 oz. shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
4 large (or six smaller) tortilla shells

For Sauce:
1 8oz. package cream cheese
1/2 cup blueberries, chopped in half
chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, chopped (to taste--I added too many and it was a little too spicy)
1 can black beans
1/2 cup corn
1/2-3/4 cup Monterrey jack or cheddar cheese to top

Top the chicken with lime juice, garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder. Cook in skillet with oil over medium high heat until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Remove from skillet and shred (I've found that using one fork to hold the chicken in place while using the other fork to shred works well for this).
Fill each tortilla shell with 1/4 of the shredded chicken and cheese and roll up. Place seam down in a greased 9x13 pan.
Mix cream cheese, blueberries, corn, black beans, and chipotle peppers together in a small bowl. Pour mixture over tortillas in pan and then top with the extra cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Orange Spice Cheesecake Rolls
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
2 Tblsp brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
1/8 t. chili powder
1/4 t. cinnamon

For cream cheese filling:
4 oz. cream cheese
1 8oz bar white chocolate, melted
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. chili powder
1/2 t. almond extract

1 large tortilla
2 Tblsp oil
cinnamon and sugar mixture

Mix together oranges and brown sugar. Melt butter in a small saucepan, then add oranges, chili powder, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and then cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Mix together cream cheese, white chocolate, powdered sugar, cinnamon, chili powder, and almond extract in a small bowl.
Spread cream cheese mixture onto the middle of the tortilla shell. Top off with 1/3-1/2 cup of the orange sauce. Carefully fold in the ends of the tortilla and roll up. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a skillet pan and then put in filled tortilla roll. Cook until brown and then flip and cook other side. When finished remove from pan and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Quick and Easy Dinner: Sage Ravioli Sauce

I have recently discovered that New York City kitchens really aren't designed for actual cooking. Especially in the summer. Apartments are small, and many do not have central air, so you are forced to buy a window unit. And since you spend so much time in other parts of the house, the window unit goes into the bedroom or the living room so you can stay cool while sleeping or hanging out on the couch. This means that the moment you turn on your gas burning stove or oven the kitchen becomes close to unbearable.

I, however, often choose to battle the flames of hell and enter the kitchen because of my love of cooking. But on this particular night, I wanted something tasty but did not want to spend much time slowly melting away while preparing dinner. So, I stopped at the Union Square Green market (one of my new favorite places of all time) and picked up a loaf of excellent herbed foccacia:
Then I stopped by Trader Joe's and picked up some prosciutto, salami, cantaloupe, etc. to make up an antipasto plate:
And I also purchased some fresh cheese and mushroom raviolis. For a quick, easy, fabulous sauce I melted stick of butter into a small saucepan, then added 15 chopped sage leaves. I added 3 tablespoons of beef bouillon (1/4 teaspoon of beef granules mixed with 1/4 c. hot water) and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then I added 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese and tossed with the pasta.

Tourists in our own City

I have always loved New York City, even before I ever made a trip here. Even without the theater there is so much to do: museums, shopping, concerts, and of course the restaurants and bars. Now that we live here, I feel like we haven't been bored once. Joe and I take our days off to just wander the streets and find new, interesting places, we see shows, and eat at as many different places as possible. There are many days where I feel like we are vacationing here instead of living here and these days have been so much fun.

Recently we toured the Museum of Natural History (or part of it--it is massive! I need to go back to see more):

We also took the ferry to Staten Island and were treated with a fireworks show happening in the harbor as we crossed:
And most recently, we made the trip to John's Pizza in the Village, for what some people claim is the best pizza in the city. John's pizza uses coal heated brick ovens to cook the pizzas, which turn out crispy, perfect, thin crusts. We got our usual peperoni (maybe boring, but our favorite!) and you can tell we enjoyed it immensely:
It also made me happy that they had a huge mural of the Blue Grotto on one of the walls. This is one of the places we went on our honeymoon (on Capri, off the coast of Naples, the "home of pizza" according to some):
If you are ever in the city, John's is worth the wait in line for a table (just remember they don't serve slices, whole pizzas only! And no credit cards, only cash) for a great pizza and a pitcher of beer. Especially tasty after a long day of sightseeing.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sherry and Tapas~A trip down memory lane

Growing up, I always had the desire to learn a foreign language (or two or three). But being from a small town and attending a small high school, I didn't have many options. The only foreign language classes we offered were Spanish 1 and Spanish 2. These days I question whether my Spanish 1 teacher actually knew more than 5 words of the language, so I feel very lucky that I had such a great Spanish 2 teacher. Mrs. Beaver had traveled a lot and had lived in Germany, so she knew German better than Spanish, but she had actually been to Spain on top of her other worldly travels. She was so enthusiastic about the language and about encouraging us to learn more about the cultures of the world around us. And she was the first person to tell me about tapas bars. As soon as I heard about places where you could jump from one bar to the next trying tiny plates of food while sharing drinks and conversations with your friends, I was sold. I decided to add Spanish as a second major in college primarily so I would have a good excuse to study abroad for a semester in Spain.

Tapa comes from the Spanish word tapar which means to cover. The most common explanation for the origin of tapas is that bar owners would "cover" glasses of sherry with a piece of bread or ham to keep out the flies. Eventually they realized that the food helped increase bar sales and they started topping off the bread with meats, cheeses and other ingredients and the tapa was born.
Now tapas are served on tiny plates and vary quite a bit from restaurant to restaurant and region to region. They can be small salads, fried calamari, empanadas, cheese, Spanish omelets, meatballs, tiny sandwiches.

These days you will see people enjoying all different types of wine, beer or cocktails with tapas, but the traditional drink of choice was sherry. From wikipedia.com: Sherry is a fortified wine, made in and around the town of Jerez, Spain and hence in Spanish it is called "Vino de Jerez". Spanish producers have registered the names Jerez / Xérès / Sherry and will prosecute producers of similar wines from other places using the same name. According to Spanish law, Sherry must come from the triangular area of the province of Cádiz between Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María.
Sherry differs from other wines because of how it is treated after fermentation. After fermentation is complete, it is first fortified with brandy and then if destined to be fino style a yeast called flor is allowed to grow on top. Oloroso style is fortified to a strength where the flor cannot grow. Because the fortification takes place after fermentation, all natural sherries are dry; any sweetness is applied later.
In contrast, port wine is fortified half way through fermentation, stopping fermentation so not all the sugars are allowed to turn into alcohol and so leaving a sweet wine.

Types of sherry:
Fino ('fine' in Spanish) is the driest and palest of the traditional varieties of sherry.
Manzanilla is a variety of fino sherry made around the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Amontillado is a variety of sherry that has been aged first under a cap of flor yeast, and then is exposed to oxygen, which produces a result darker than fino but lighter than oloroso.
Oloroso ('scented' in Spanish) is a variety of sherry aged oxidatively for a longer time than a fino or amontillado, producing a darker and richer wine.
Palo Cortado is a rare variety of sherry that is initially aged under flor like an amontillado, but develops a character similar to oloroso, with some of the richness of oloroso and some of the crispness of amontillado.
Sweet Sherry (Jerez Dulce in Spanish) is created when one of the preceding varieties of dry sherry is sweetened with
Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel wine. Cream sherry is a common variety of sweet sherry made from oloroso, with other varieties including pale cream sherry (made from fino) and medium sherry (made from amontillado).

Last week after work my friend Alicja took me to the tapas bar Ñ (at 33 Crosby, between Broome and Grand) for a drink. They have a drink menu that includes 2 pages of just sherries. I was excited to try the tapas, but we weren't hungry, so the next day Joe and I returned to try it out in between seeing a couple of plays. I had octopus dusted with smoked paprika and cocoa powder and toasted bread topped off with tuna and a pepper salad. Joe had the tortilla espanola (essentially a potato omelet) and ham and cheese croquettes. Then we shared a cheese platter. To drink I had a dry sherry (Manzanilla) and a sweet sherry (Pedro Ximenez). The sherry was excellent and the food was very good (the octopus was excellent--tender and just the right amount of seasoning), although the service was pretty terrible (both times I was there). I wait tables, so I'm really understanding when it comes to servers, but I felt like our waiter thought we were awful human beings just for walking in the door of the restaurant. But I liked the food and drinks so much I'll go back anyway and hope it's better next time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

WC Platinum Chef Challenge #1

I admit that because of my love of eating I am a member of multiple internet groups that are solely devoted to food. One of these is the "What's Cooking" (WC) board on the Nest. These lovely ladies have decided to put together a cooking challenge. Here are the rules (from Cara's Cravings, the first host):

*Current host will choose 5 ingredients for the challenge
*Participants must create a meal using those ingredients
*The meal can consist of 1 or 2 dishes - so you can use all the ingredients in one recipe, or make two. Ex. main dish + side, appetizer + main dish, main dish + dessert, etc. But, if more than one dish is created, each dish must use at least two of the ingredients (and, any ingredient may be repeated and used in both dishes if desired).
*You can add whatever other ingredients you like
*The event will run for two weeks at a time*When you've decided upon and prepared your dishes, please post pictures and recipes in your blog, link to this post, and send me an email at platinumchefchallenge@gmail.com. (if you don't have a blog, please send pictures and recipes anyway!)

The five ingredients for the first Challenge are: basil, strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini, and nuts.

I have to admit, I went a little overboard. I made the two recipes for the competition, but was so excited about the idea that I made two more recipes that fit in as well. I cook often, but most of the time I use recipes as a base for my cooking and either follow them tightly or loosely, depending on my mood. This was probably one of the first times that I completely created a menu without the help of any real recipes. Luckily, this meal was a complete success! I was very happy with the results. My first two recipes for the contest are Bruschetta Stuffed Chicken and Peach Basil Ice Cream with a Strawberry Vodka Sauce. The two "extra recipes" are: Salad with Basil-Sesame Dressing and Strawberry-Basil Cocktails.

Note: I was not very good at noting down exactly how much I was using of anything in any of these recipes--please adjust to taste/preference/quantity as needed!
Bruschetta Stuffed Chicken Breasts
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
Handful of basil, chopped
1/3 cup olives (green), diced
2 Tbls. EVOO
1/2-3/4 C. Italian Dressing (I used Ken's Steakhouse Northern Italian)
Goat cheese to top
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss together tomatoes, zucchini, basil, olives, and olive oil in a small bowl.
Place the chicken breasts individually into a plastic bag/plastic wrap and use a rolling pin/heavy can/etc. to pound into 1/2 thick pieces. Remove from bag and fill one end of the chicken with 1/4 of the tomato mixture. Roll up and place into casserole dish, seam side down. Repeat with remaining 3 chicken breasts. Then cover the chicken with the Italian dressing, and top each breast with goat cheese (I cut a medallion of cheese to top each one with, but next time I will just crumble the cheese over so I get a more even spread). Place in the oven, uncovered, and cook until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear (about 30 minutes).

Peach-Basil Ice Cream with Strawberry Vodka Sauce
2 cups vanilla bean ice cream
1 ripe peach, finely chopped
Large handful of basil leaves, finely chopped
About 10 strawberries, coarsely chopped
2 Tbls. brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbls butter
1/3 cup vodka

For ice cream: Mix together ice cream, peaches, and basil and return to freezer until time to serve.

For sauce: Mix together strawberries and brown sugar and let sit for at least one hour to let juices form from the strawberries. When ready to prepare, heat butter in saucepan over medium-high heat and add walnuts. Once browned, add the strawberries and their juices and the vodka. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let cook until alcohol has been cooked out (about 4 minutes). Use sauce to top each ice cream serving.

Salad with Basil-Sesame Dressing

3 cups lettuce

1 small zucchini, cut into large pieces

1 tomato, chopped

Goat cheese crumbles

5 Tbls Olive Oil (not EV)

Large handful of Basil leaves, chopped

1/8 t. sesame oil

1/2 t. soy sauce

1/8 t. garlic powder

2 Tbls cider vinegar

Mix together basil and olive oil and let sit for at least an hour (to let the oil absorb some of the basil flavor). Then mix in sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic powder and cider vinegar.

Toss together lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, and goat cheese. Add basil-sesame dressing right before serving.

Strawberry-Basil Cocktails

2 cups vodka

5-7 strawberries, quartered

large handful basil leaves


Mix together vodka and strawberries. Tear basil slightly with your hands and add to the vodka. Let sit for at least 2-3 hours.

To serve mix one shot with sprite in a glass with ice. Garnish with one of the strawberries.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Out and About

Sometimes when I am working a double, I need to get away from my job for a little while during my break. I've been spending a lot of time trying to get to know the area a little better and I've come across some great little places in my hour lunch break. The first is Trattoria Pesce Pasta in Greenwich Village.

I usually am eating at a strange time of day, so often times I have the whole restaurant to myself, as was the case here. This trattoria is located on Bleecker street next to some excellent Mediterranean grocers, Murray's cheese, Amy's bread, and fabulous bakeries/gelaterias. I had a stuffed artichoke that was good, but maybe lacked a little flavor and a lobster ravioli. The lobster ravioli was very good.

Another day I had lunch at SoHo Lounge at the corner of Spring and Sullivan. It had a tiny, trendy looking bar in the front, and in the back was a large room filled with large couch-like booths and banquets and little tables. It seems like it may be a great place to go check out some evening when I want to have a few drinks with friends. They don't have a lot on the menu, but everything seemed really tasty. I settled on the coconut shrimp. The coconut shrimp were served on a small salad dressed with strawberries and a coconut dressing.

And finally, a little something for you "Friends" fans:

Yes, it is called Prospect Perk :-) [Prospect Park is kind-of the Central Park of Brooklyn--designed by the same people and big and beautiful. It's one of my favorite places to spend a lazy day].

Why I love my husband. And why I have begun to hate chicken wings...

Sunday night Joe and I had the pleasure of attending a Tony Party at Planet Hollywood for Roundabout Theatre Company. We got fed and wined and got to rub shoulders with some Broadway stars and Joe's coworkers. It was a fabulous night, but I stayed too long and drank too much and it was not so much fun having to get up and go to work the next morning.
However, when I got home from work my fabulous husband had bought some food and whipped me up a wonderful dinner. He had found a chicken recipe and he made that along with a caesar salad and yummy grilled asparagus and red and green bell peppers. Joe never cooked a lot, but has been trying to learn more in the kitchen and this was a major success. I'm so proud of my chef hubby! The recipe he used for the yummy chicken (from Kraft foods):

Crispy Rosemary Chicken

3/4 cup POST GRAPE-NUTS Cereal
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 lb.)
1 Tbsp. oil
PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Place cereal in blender container; cover. Blend on low speed until cereal is finely crushed. Mix with seasoning in shallow dish.
BRUSH chicken lightly with oil, then dip into cereal mixture, turning to evenly coat both sides. Place in greased 15x10x1-inch baking pan or on greased baking sheet.
BAKE 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Oh, and about the chicken wings....totally unrelated to my "Love my Hubby" post: they are everywhere. No, not the yummy, full of meat, tasty chicken wings. Oh, no, no, no. Just the bones. People seem to love to eat chicken wings in this city but don't really have any idea of how to use a trash can to properly dispose of the carnage. Instead they use the street, the subway cars (I actually saw a man eating them and tossing the bones on the floor of the subway car as we were sitting next to him) and the stairway of my apartment building. I am tired of chicken bones. They now disgust me. I may start a campaign to educate the city on proper disposal of them. "Wings on the floor?? I say no more!!"

Pork chops

Sometimes I love to take my time and cook something complicated or different and a little more involved. Other times, however, I want something easy, fast and delicious. One of my favorite quick recipes is Parmesan pork chops. I think I saw Giada making this with lamb chops a few years ago and it has become one of my go-to recipes for a night when I don't have a lot of time to cook. It is so fast and tastes so good! I served it with some spinach artichoke dip and roasted eggplant topped off with oregano and mozzarella cheese.

Parmesan Pork chops
4 pork chops
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
3 tablespoons oil
salt and pepper
Beat 2 eggs in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium high heat in a saute pan. Dip pork chops into egg mixture and then into bread crumb mixture, then place in hot saute pan. Cook until browned on both sides.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Made the Foodie BlogRoll

I am now a proud, card-carrying member of the Foodie BlogRoll, a list of excellent blogs all related to food. If you are a food junkie, such as myself, you will love the link on the left side of my page that takes you into the wonderous world of kitchens, treats, and all around good food fun. Thanks so much for adding me to the list!