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.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter Dinner

I love having people over for dinner. There is just something great about the conversation and the comfort of sitting around the apartment nibbling on food and drinking wine. I enjoy making new things or sharing tried and true favorites and seeing people's faces when they love something I have made. It's also nice to be able to take your time and not rush through the evening. For Easter our guests arrived around 4 and didn't leave until about 11:30. You just can't do that at a restaurant (and I don't know that you'd want to). And it doesn't hurt when the food is pretty darn good, too.

For our Easter feast I decided to go with a few favorites, but I threw in a couple of items that I'd never tried--including risking a chocolate souffle for the first time (which amazingly turned out right). For the main course I decided to try out the Pernil recipe that my friend made a couple of months ago, and once again I'm going to rave about it. So simple and so tender and full of flavor. It may be one of my favorite dishes.
Unfortunately, since we had guests (and since I was drinking wine while cooking) I do not have pictures of the food. But you do get some pics of my friends and I hanging out, including this amazingly unflattering one of me gnawing on the pernil bone:

So here is the menu:
Enchilada Dip (recipe below)
Pesto Pinwheels (recipe below)
Crostini with Goat Cheese, red wine reduction, and strawberry jam (brought by our friend Des--and it was brilliant)

Main Course
Herb and Vermouth Potatoes (recipe below)
Chocolate Souffle with Frozen Lavender Honey Whipped Cream (recipe below)

And now for the recipes:

Enchilada Dip
(from my friend, Julie)
2 boneless/skinless chicken breast halves, cooked and shredded (I cheated and used 2 cans of chicken breast)
2 8oz packages of light cream cheese, softened
4 green onions, chopped
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped cilantro (dried is OK)
1 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
(I also added about 3/4 c. cheddar cheese--because who doesn't like cheese? I also may try adding a couple of spoonfuls of enchilada sauce next time, too)

In a non-reactive bowl, combine all ingredients. I find it best to shred the chicken in a food processor so that the pieces are really small, making it easier to dip. Or you can just shred with forks if you like the chicken pieces bigger. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Serve with tortilla chips - I like the lime flavored ones the best with this dip.

Pesto Pinwheels
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 TB pesto (I used 1/2 sun dried tomato and 1/2 regular--one on each half of the pastry)
1/2- 3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll puff pastry and lay out flat. Spread with pesto all the way to the edges. Sprinkle on cheddar cheese. Starting along the long edge, roll up the puff pastry until you reach the center. Turn the pastry 180 degrees and roll up the other side to the center (it should look like a roll of parchment or a scroll). Chill for at least 30 minutes to make easier to cut. Cut pastry into about 1/2" pieces and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and crispy. Serve immediately.

Herb and Vermouth Potatoes
for 4 servings
6 medium sized potatoes
1/2 stick butter
1/3 c. dry vermouth
2 TB Italian seasoning

Clean potatoes and chop into approx. 1 1/2" cubes. Place in a large pot of salted, boiling water. Cook potatoes through, until they fall off a fork when pricked. Drain the potatoes and place back into pan. Turn on heat to medium and add butter, vermouth, and Italian seasoning. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until butter is completely melted.

Chocolate Souffle
(from Epicurious)
1/3 cup sugar plus additional for sprinkling
5 oz bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
6 large egg whites
Special equipment: a 5 1/2- to 6-cup glass or ceramic soufflé dish

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter soufflé dish and sprinkle with sugar, knocking out excess. Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and stir in yolks (mixture will stiffen). Beat whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add 1/3 cup sugar, a little at a time, continuing to beat at medium speed, then beat at high speed until whites just hold stiff peaks. Stir about 1 cup whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then add mixture to remaining whites, folding gently but thoroughly. Spoon into soufflé dish and run the end of your thumb around inside edge of soufflé dish (this will help soufflé rise evenly). Bake in middle of oven until puffed and crusted on top but still jiggly in center, 24 to 26 minutes. Serve immediately.

Frozen Honey Lavender Whipped Cream
1 pint heavy cream
2 TB powdered sugar
4 TB honey
1 TB dried lavender

Place metal mixing bowl and whisk attachment into freezer for 5 minutes. Make sure the heavy cream is cold (keep in fridge until ready to use). Remove mixing bowl and add heavy cream and beat until cream begins to form soft peaks. Add powdered sugar and continue beating. Slowly beat in honey and continue beating until cream reaches stiffer peaks. Stir in dried lavender. Place in an airtight container and freeze. Serve on side of souffle.
Cooks'note: • Soufflé can be assembled up to 30 minutes before baking. Keep, covered with an inverted large bowl (do not let bowl touch soufflé), at room temperature.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spinach Artichoke Dip, Spicy Honey Brushed Chicken, Penne in Vodka Sauce

I feel like I've been gone forever. I've missed my blog so much this month. First I didn't have time to take some pics of meal which included whiskey marinated pork chops (Lost was coming on right as I finished dinner and was much more important than photos at that moment!). Then I got sick. And then I was out of town on a trip to Atlanta to see some friends.
But now I am back and ready to be at work in the kitchen again.

Last night the hubs and I had the rare opportunity to cook together. I'm giving him little "cooking lessons". The kitchen may be small, hot and cramped, but we still have a blast working together with a cocktail in hand. I had some spinach artichoke dip waiting when Joe got home so we could nibble on something while we cooked. We made Penne in a Vodka Cream Sauce and Spicy Honey Brushed Chicken Thighs. Unfortunately, I have no idea where I got these recipes, since I didn't label them in my recipe folder, but I would like to thank whoever they came from because they are delicious.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
(from my friend, JJ)
3 c. chopped spinach
½ c. grated parmesan cheese
1 c. grated Monterey jack cheese (and ¼ c. grated for top)
4 oz. cream cheese (softened)
2 lg. garlic cloves, minced
Dash of cayenne pepper
2 lg. cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
¾ c. mayonnaise
Juice from ½ a lemon

Mix all ingredients and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with leftover grated cheese and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Spicy Honey Brushed Chicken Thighs
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Cooking spray
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat broiler.
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.
Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.
Note: Instead of using the broiler, we roasted the chicken thighs. We rubbed on the seasoning mix and cooked the chicken at 375 for 15 minutes. Then we brushed one side of the chicken with the honey mixture and returned to the oven for 20 minutes. We flipped the chicken over and brushed the other side (the skin side) with the rest of the honey mixture and then baked for another 20 minutes. Then we allowed the chicken to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Penne with Vodka Sauce
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes , drained, liquid reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion , minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Table salt
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese , for serving

1. Puree half of tomatoes in food processor until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1 2/3 cups). Add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.
2. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around edges, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.
4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven. Add sauce to pasta and toss over medium heat until pasta absorbs some of sauce, 1 to 2 minutes, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Tender at the Bone" and Cocount Bread

There are books that keep you entertained. There are books that you can't put down. And then there are books that inspire you. Ruth Reichl's "Tender at the Bone" is all of the above. This isn't only a book about food, it is about the fellowship involved with food and shows how food isn't just nourishment for the body, but nourishment for the soul.

This is the first of Ruth Reichl's books that I have read and already I am in love. Through these stories you can see that she holds herself open and is ready to inhale all adventures and sensations that come her way. Everywhere she goes she meets someone new who isn't just an acquaintance, but becomes a friend and she somehow finds a way to open these people up and learn so much from each of them. It is an amazing reminder to look around yourself and not let opportunities and experiences get away--even the small ones because there is always something new to learn.

Within the book are recipes that help to mold the stories and give you more insight into Ruth's life and the lives of all of those she encounters. Recipes like this are a more clear and insightful look into someone's life than a photograph. You can smell their smells, taste their flavors and feel their sensations of kneading the dough or breading the cutlet of meat. If you close your eyes you can almost imagine yourself cooking alongside them.

This recipe is from Ruth's college roommate, Serafina. The coconut bread is just slightly sweet--not nearly as so as banana bread. It is a wonderful accompaniment to the Garlic Lime Chicken and Spicy Corn Casserole that I made (both also recipes from friends). It's also nice with a little butter and a good book.

Coconut Bread
(from "Tender at the Bone")
1 c. warm water
1/2 c. sugar
2 pkg. active dry yeast
4 c. white flour, plus extra for kneading
1/2 pound butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 medium sized fresh coconut (I was feeling particularly lazy and used 1 c. of shredded coconut instead. I am sure the bread would taste better with fresh, but the shredded still tasted good)
Put water in a large bowl. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add yeast, stir, and let sit a few minutes until it foams.
Add 1 1/2 c. of the flour and mix until smooth.
In another bowl, cream butter, eggs, salt, and vanilla until very well mixed.
Remove coconut from shell, chop and put in a blender. Grate finely and add to butter mixture.
Add coconut-butter mixture to flour and mix until in forms a smooth dough. Add remaining flour, a little at a time. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth, elastic ball, about 10 minutes.
Put dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled.
Punch down, shape into a free form loaf, and set on an ungreased baking sheet. cover with a towel and let rise 1/2 hour more. Preheat oven to 350.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Let cool on a rack.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bacon Wrapped Scallops and Chocolate and Pink Peppercorn Cupcakes

Every year when the Oscars roll around I find myself scouring my cookbooks and the internet for great, fancy, delicious recipes to make for an Oscar party. I never can narrow it down and usually end up making something easy that I've had many times before. It's good to go with something you know will taste nice, but it's also a little boring.
So this year I finally made a decision early enough to buy my ingredients ahead of time and try something new and a little fancy. For a savory dish I made my own take on Giada's prosciutto wrapped scallops. I used bacon instead for a little more smokey flavor with paired so well with the sweetness of the scallops. For something sweet I made Chocolate and Pink Peppercorn Cupcakes that I found on Vanilla Garlic's blog. As soon as I saw them I knew I had to try them--I love the kick of the peppercorns with the richness of the chocolate. My cupcakes did fall when I took them out of the oven but regardless they were rich and dense and truly indulgent.

Bacon Wrapped Scallops
1/4 c. sun dried tomato pesto
2 TB capers
1 t. dried basil
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
16 scallops
8 pieces of bacon, cut in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the sun dried tomato pesto, capers, basil and olive oil in a food processor. Clean and dry scallops, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub each scallop with a good amount of tomato mixture. Take 1 half of a bacon strip and wrap it around the diameter of the scallop. The bacon should be sticky enough to hold itself in place. Place wrapped scallop into a lightly greased baking dish. Repeat with remaining scallops.
Place baking dish in oven and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Raise heat to broil and move baking dish closer to heat source if necessary (In certain gas ovens, move baking dish to bottom of oven broil pan). Broil for 5 minutes. Serve scallops immediately after removing from oven.
16 Scallops

Chocolate and Pink Peppercorn Cupcakes
(from Vanilla Garlic)
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven
What You'll Need...
200 gram bar of Valrhona 61% cacao chocolate
3 sticks of butter, room temperature
2-1/4 cups of sugar
8 eggs, room temperature
1-1/4 cups of flour
1/4 cup of cocoa powder, unsweetened
1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
pinch of salt
3 teaspoons of ground pink peppercorns

What You'll Do...
1) Melt chocolate and butter over a water bath.
2) Add sugar and stir, let sit for about 10 minutes.
3) Beat in an electric mixer for 3 minutes.
4) Add one egg at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each one.
5) Mix the dry ingredients, and sift them into the mixture. Mix until just blended.
6) Stir in the ground peppercorns.
7) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake for 20-24 minutes at 350 or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate Ganache
What You'll Need...
8 ounces of 61% cacao chocolate bars
1 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of pink peppercorns plus extra for decoration

What You'll Do...
1) Chop chocolate and place in heat proof bowl
2) Heat cream and peppercorns on stove over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge.
3) Pour cream over chocolate, let sit for 1 minute then stir.
4) Let sit for 15 minutes, then dip and swirl cupcakes in the ganache. Decorate with pink peppercorns.