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.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things....

Since I haven't been doing a ton of cooking lately, I figured I'd post a few food things that I'm in love with lately.
Smokra from Rick's Picks
Yeah, that's pickled okra with some smoked paprika thrown in. Spicy, juicy, perfection.

While wandering around the Union Square Greenmarket, I noticed a sign saying they had the best bacon in the world. A bold statement. And as a self-proclaimed bacon addict, I had to give it a try. Even after eating the bacon this weekend at Peter Lugar, I still think Tamarack Hollow Farms has the best I've ever tried. (photo from www.cheesebyhand.com)

CigarZin from Cosentino Winery
Spicy, big, rich cherry and raspberry fruits, a little bit of tobacco. Great with food, but can also hold it's own during the conversation before a meal.

Montepulciano d' Abruzzo from Cantina Zaccagnini
My friends call this the stick wine because we can't ever remember the name but the bottle does have a small "stick" that is a piece of vine tied to the front. The varietal is montepulciano--and it is not to be confused with Vino Noble di Montepulciano--which is actually made with nebbiolo. This wine is round in the mouth, velvety, and a little jammy. It is probably my all time favorite wine for it's price.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Spicy Toffee Crunch Brownies

Sometimes you just need some chocolate. And sometimes you just need to bake. Yesterday I felt the strongest desire to bake, but I didn't really want to spend hours in the kitchen because I had so many errands to run. I decided that some brownies were in order. And what is better than brownies to pick you up when you are feeling a little low?
I decided to spice this brownie recipe up, literally. Just to give it a little kick. And because I didn't want to seem too boring by just making regular old brownies.

Spicy Toffee Crunch Brownies
(adapted from the "Best Brownies" recipe on allrecipes)
1 c. butter
2 c. white sugar
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
2/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. instant espresso granules
1/8 t. chili powder
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
2 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
4 oz. toffee bits, divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X13" pan with cooking spray.
Melt the cup of butter. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat in cocoa, flour, salt, baking powder, espresso, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and 1/2 of the toffee bits (being careful not to over stir. The batter will be lumpy.).
Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle remaining toffee bits over top of the batter. Place in oven and cook for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in brownies comes out clean. Allow brownies to sit before cutting.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shrimp Scampi and Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

When you grow up in an incredibly small town in the middle Kansas, in the middle of the country, a trip to Red Lobster is a really fancy, big deal meal. It may be a little hick-sy and back woodsy to think so, but there it is.

When you grow up in the middle of a large continent there isn't a large quantity of fresh seafood to be found (unless you count the catfish. I do love me some good catfish, though). You end up eating a lot of steak. And chicken fried steak. And chicken. And fried chicken. And chicken fried chicken (I don't know why you need to clarify that it's chicken fried chicken, but again, there it is). I seem to remember even pork being a little bit of a luxury. So when you get the chance to try out some seafood, regardless of where it's from, it's a big treat. Plus, how can you beat those biscuits?

There are days when I still crave super buttery shrimp scampi and even more days when I crave those cheddar garlic biscuits. I don't give in very often, but when I do it still feels a little like a special occasion.

Shrimp Scampi
1 stick butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/16 c. dry vermouth
1/8 c. lemon juice
1 lb shrimp, cleaned, peeled, deveined, and rinsed
1 TB parsley

In a saute pan heat butter over medium high heat. Add garlic and saute until soft. Add vermouth and lemon juice and heat until barely boiling. Add shrimp. Stir the mixture carefully, but not too frequently, until shrimp is all pink. Do not overcook! This will only take about 4-5 minutes. Toss in parsley at the end of cooking. Serve shrimp with juices and bread to sop them up!

Cheddar Garlic Biscuits
(multiple sources)
2 ½ cups baking mix (I only used 1 small box of Jiffy and cut back milk to 2/3 cup)
¾ cup cold whole milk
4 tablespoons cold butter (1/2 stick)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 heaping cup grated cheddar cheese
Bush on Top:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
½ teaspoon garlic powder
pinch salt

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine Bisquick with cold butter in a medium bowl using a pastry cutter or a large fork. You don't want to mix too thoroughly. There should be small chunks of butter in there that are about the size of peas. Add cheddar cheese, milk, and ¼ teaspoon garlic. Mix by hand until combined, but don't over mix.
3. Drop approximately ¼-cup portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop.
4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.
5. When you take the biscuits out of the oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter is a small bowl in your microwave. Stir in ½ teaspoon garlic powder and the dried parsley flakes. Use a brush to spread this garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Use up all of the butter. Makes one dozen biscuits.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Rustic Pork Ragu

My biggest goal lately has been to make meat that is super tender with lots of flavor. And I've had a lot of nice dishes turn out pretty well with some great flavor. But the really tender meat part has alluded me.

Part of my problem is lack of experience. When I was a kid, I would help out my mom a lot in the kitchen, but most of the time I'd be working on side dishes or casseroles while she worked on the meat. And then in college I was just too poor to be buying most meats other than canned tuna or some hamburger.

I feel another problem is the cuts of meat I've been using. I know you can make a good meal out of any cut, but each one has it's own specific characteristics that need a special cooking method to make the most out of them. And I just haven't figured all of that out yet.

This recipe, however, was foolproof. I followed the directions exactly, and this meat was so tender and delicious. It was perfect. I can't wait to take this same idea and change the recipe around with all sorts of ideas that are floating through my head with it. I'm sure it will be fun to play with, but if you are looking for something easy, delicious, and simple, this recipe is it.

Rustic Pork Ragu
(from Real Simple)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 2 ½-pound boneless pork loin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 35-ounce can crushed tomatoes with juices
1 pound cooked pappardelle or other flat noodle (I used rigatoni instead)
Grated Romano
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the pork with the salt and pepper and sear on all sides until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove the pork; set aside. Add the onion, rosemary, and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping any bits of pork stuck to the bottom of the pot. Return the pork to the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover the pot tightly and simmer on the stove top until the pork is tender enough to fall apart, 2 ½ to 3 hours. Remove the pork and, when it is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-size pieces. Add the shredded pork back to the stockpot. Simmer until hot. Serve over the pasta with the Romano sprinkled on top.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
NUTRITION PER SERVING CALORIES 927(0% from fat); FAT 30g (sat 9g); PROTEIN 73mg; CHOLESTEROL 249mg; CALCIUM 186mg; SODIUM 1632mg; FIBER 9g; CARBOHYDRATE 92g; IRON 10mg

Happy Blogiversary!

I remembered the other day that my blogiversary was right around the corner. I can't believe I've been doing this for a year now. During the course of this year my knowledge of food and wine has grown more than I could imagine and my cooking skills have grown as well. I've cooked things I never would have imagined a year ago. It's been a great experience being part of the enormous food blogging community.
So, thanks for reading this past year! I hope that in the next year I will learn even more and be able to bring more good recipes to the table.