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, January 29, 2008

Artichoke Ravioli with Tomatoes

My Kitchen Aid mixer has been pouting lately because I haven't used her again. So I figured I'd give her a nice job and make some pasta dough so I could make ravioli. I've been wanting to make homemade ravioli for a while now and when I saw this recipe in an old issue of Gourmet magazine, I knew it was finally time.
These ravioli have a great simple flavor and really aren't difficult to make. I don't have any cookie cutters laying around so I just used my pizza cutter and cut the ravioli into squares instead of circles. I served these ravioli with Roasted Chicken thighs, focaccia bread, and asparagus (recipes in a post to follow).

Artichoke Ravioli with Tomatoes

(from Gourmet Magazine)

For pasta

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons water

For filling

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)

1 (10-oz) box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry

1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 large egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons water (for egg wash)

For assembly

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 medium plum tomatoes, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

To make pasta dough in a food processor:

Blend flour, eggs, salt, and water in processor until mixture just begins to form a ball, adding more water, drop by drop, if dough is too dry (dough should be firm and not sticky). Process dough for 15 seconds more to knead it. Transfer to a floured surface and let stand, covered with an inverted bowl, 1 hour to let the gluten relax and make rolling easier.

To make dough by hand:

Mound flour on a work surface, preferably wooden, and make a well in center. Add eggs, salt, and water to well. With a fork, gently beat eggs and water until combined. Gradually stir in enough flour to form a paste, pulling in flour closest to egg mixture and being careful not to make an opening in outer wall of well. Knead remaining flour into mixture with your hands to form a dough, adding more water, drop by drop, if dough is too dry (dough should be firm and not sticky). Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Cover with an inverted bowl and let stand 1 hour (to make rolling easier).

(I made the pasta dough using my KA. I mixed all of the ingredients together and slowly added drops of water until it came together and formed a ball (be careful to not add too much water--even a teaspoon too much will make the dough difficult to work with unless you add more flour back in).

Make filling:

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add artichoke hearts and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.Transfer all but 3/4 cup artichoke mixture to cleaned bowl of processor (reserve remaining artichoke mixture in skillet), then add cheese, parsley, yolk, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and pulse until mixture is coarsely chopped.

Roll pasta and make ravioli:

Cut pasta dough into 4 pieces, then flatten each piece into a rough rectangle and cover rectangles with an inverted large bowl. Set rollers of pasta machine on widest setting.Lightly dust 1 rectangle with flour and feed through rollers. (Keep remaining rectangles under bowl.) Fold rectangle in half and feed it, folded end first, through rollers 7 or 8 more times, folding it in half each time and feeding folded end through. Dust with flour if necessary to prevent sticking. Turn dial to next (narrower) setting and feed dough through rollers without folding. Continue to feed dough through rollers once at each setting, without folding, until you reach narrowest setting. Dough will be a smooth sheet (about 24 inches long and 4 inches wide). Put sheet of dough on a floured work surface and drop 6 (1 1/2-teaspoon) mounds of filling 1 1/2 inches apart in a row down center of one half of sheet. Brush egg wash around each mound, then fold other half of sheet over filling. Press down firmly around each mound, forcing out air. (Air pockets increase the chance that ravioli will break during cooking.) Cut pasta (between mounds) with cutter into 3-inch rounds. Line a large shallow baking pan with a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and dust towel with flour, then arrange ravioli in 1 layer in it. Make more ravioli with remaining pasta dough, 1 sheet at a time, and remaining filling, transferring ravioli to lined pan.Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter baking dish.Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add ravioli, carefully stirring to separate, and, adjusting heat to keep water at a gentle boil, cook until pasta is just tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a colander.

Assemble and bake dish:

While ravioli boils, reheat reserved artichoke mixture in skillet with butter over moderately high heat, then add tomatoes and water and cook, stirring, until tomatoes are softened, about 5 minutes.Transfer half of ravioli to baking dish and top with half of artichoke mixture, half of cream, and half of cheese. Repeat with remaining ravioli, artichoke mixture, cream, and cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.Bake, uncovered, until ravioli is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

Cooks' notes:• Dough can be made (but not rolled out) 4 hours ahead and chilled, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.• Ravioli can be made (but not cooked) 4 hours ahead and chilled in lined baking pan, covered.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dinner in Jersey

The other night my manager and friend invited me over to dinner. She made an amazing spread and so, even though I didn't cook (although I did help with the tostones), I had to make a quick post about it.
When we came in we were greeted with Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain (it's made in the same manor as champagne), olives and cheeses. We all helped out in the kitchen while things were working, but I think at times we were more in the way than actually being helpful. It did, however, give me a good opportunity to understand how some of the things were prepared.

The side dishes were amazing: a scallop ceviche, the tostones (fried, squished plantains) served with a garlic mojo sauce (lime, lemon, orange, oil, garlic, delicious), and roasted squash. (If you are interested in the simple tostones recipe, here's a great link: http://icuban.com/food/tostones.html).

The centerpiece of all, though, was the pernil. The pernil is a Puerto Rican Roast Pork. My friend used the biggest pork shoulder I have ever seen to make this recipe--it was as big as your torso. And it was fall-out-of-your-chair delicious. As soon as the pernil was pulled out of the oven we were picking at the crispy, blackened outer pieces and pulling off bites of the meat. It was almost too hard to pull ourselves away for the 3 second walk to the table where we could have some more. We finally made it there and gorged ourselves on the feast and every single bite was worth the lack of sleep from my bloated stomach all night long.

I'm sure that my friend took some liberties with the recipe, but the basic idea came from this article in the New York Times (the photo above is from this article and was taken by Evan Sung). I don't know that I will ever need to make a hunk of meat quite as huge as my friend did, but I will definitely be using this recipe for a smaller cut of meat.
Although all I really wanted was a little more pernil, I did partake in the coconut rum cake that my friend made. And it was great-dense and rich and the frosting was so good that people were almost literally licking the plate. As I helped take the dishes to the kitchen, though, I did manage to sneak in another bite or two of the pork as my real dessert.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Artichoke Cheese Dip

I love dips. There are so many days when I want something to eat and will have to whip up something, probably that isn't too good for me and usually with a lot of cream cheese. Today was one of those days.
I pulled out this recipe from my friend Kim. It is simple, but has great flavor. The tangy artichokes and mayo pair well with the creamy mozzarella and the sharp parmesan.

Artichoke Cheese Dip
(recipe from Kim)

1 c. parmesan cheese
1 c. mayo
1 can artichoke hearts, quarters or halves, finely chopped
3 c. mozzarella

Mix together, flatten in a greased casserole dish. Cook at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Best with a buttery cracker like Ritz.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Roast Beef Paninis

When I think about cooking dinner lately, I find myself thinking big. Sometimes too big. The problem is that I work mostly evenings, so I don't get to cook dinner that often, and when I do I feel the need to go all out. The other night I really felt like eating something great for dinner, but didn't want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen. So I tried to think of something fast, but still with a creative flair. These Roast Beef Paninis are the result.
I used the left-over roast beef from the previous post, sliced it thin, and layered it up on some focaccia bread and popped it on my grill pan and placed a weight on top of it. I served the paninis with polenta (just cooked with some water and then mixed with a handful of parmesan cheese) and a simple salad. Dinner was ready in about 15 minutes, including opening the bottle of wine. And it was really delicious. A great dinner does not have to take all day!

Roast Beef Paninis
Roast beef, sliced very thin
Havarti cheese slices
artichoke pate' (or an artichoke puree--I found this next to pesto and sun-dried tomato puree)
Focaccia Bread, each piece sliced about 1/2" thick

Spread artichoke pate on one side of a slice of focaccia bread. Add a layer of roast beef, cheese, and then top with another slice of focaccia bread. Place on a very hot, greased grill pan and top with something heavy to press together (I set my baking dishes on top of the paninis). Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, watching carefully so the bread does not burn. Panini is ready when it has been heated through and the cheese is melted.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Guinness and Apple Roast Beef

I have been trying to get better at different cooking techniques and expanding my knowledge of basic cooking concepts. So I decided to try roasting some beef last week. I decided to give it a try with some Guinness for richness, apples for a little hint of sweetness, and onions for flavor. This roast turned out nice, but was a little tougher than I would have liked. I am learning that the rump roast would probably not be quite as tough as if I braised it (the longer, slower cooking time helps when you are cooking cuts of meat from parts of the animal that do more work: shoulders, rump, etc.). This recipe would work to braise as well, if you sear the beef first and cook it, covered, at a lower temperature. You could also use a more tender cut of meat (like the tenderloin) and still roast it and it would work well. I plan on trying a few more times to get a roast beef that tastes good and is super tender, but the flavor of this recipe is a good start!

Guinness and Apple Roast Beef
2 small onions, sliced
3 apples, sliced
1 bottle Guinness
1 beef roast (I used about a 3 lb. rump roast)
2 TB Worcestershire
1 t. liquid smoke
1 t. salt

1 t. season salt

1 t. pepper

1 t. garlic powder

Mix together Guinness, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, season salt, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Allow beef to marinate in beer mixture for at least two hours in the refrigerator. 30 minutes before cooking, remove from refrigerator and bring meat and marinade to room temperature before roasting.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Toss apple and onion slices with the meat and the marinade. Place in a greased roasting pan and cook until meat thermometer inserted in the center of the roast has reached 140 degrees. Remove from the oven and allow roast to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

Pommes Frites

Just a quick entry in appreciation of Pommes Frites, a tiny little place on 2nd Ave. b/w 7th and 8th Sts. Do I need a roll of paper full of crispy, delicious fries with a choice of over 25 sauces at 2AM? Probably not. Is it tasty and worth it? Yes. Especially after working a 15 hour work day and then having a drink or two with the coworkers. I can't speak for all of the sauces, but I do know that the wasabi mayo and the peppercorn Parmesan are especially yummy. Only in New York can you have a tiny restaurant devoted entirely to fries. That's why I love this city!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Charlotte Malakoff au Chocolat

Special props to Julia Child for this amazing recipe. And special props to my Kitchen Aid, because without you, this recipe would have been tough!
Julia recommends using high-quality ladyfingers and since they are so difficult to find gives you a recipe for homemade ones. I made these myself for the first time, and they turned out ok, but I didn't have nearly enough. I think part of this is because I wasn't careful enough folding in the egg whites and beat down the batter too much, and I wasn't careful enough with the mixture in the pastry bag squeezed it down too much. The dessert was still great with not enough ladyfingers, but if it is your first time with them, I would suggest just doing a double batch.
Another note: I used a 9" springform pan to do the mold since I don't have a charlotte mold and it worked just fine.

Charlotte Malakoff au Chocolat (with homemade Bisquits a la cuiller (aka, ladyfingers)
(From the "French Chef Cookbook)
Biscuits a la cuiller
2 large baking sheets (18X24 inches)
1 TB softened butter
A pastry bag with round tube opening 3/8 inch in diameter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar in a sieve
A 3 qt. mixing bowl
1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1 t. vanilla extract
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/8 t. cream of tartar
1 TB granulated sugar
2/3 c. plain bleached cake flour (sift directly into cups, level off with knife, return flour to sifter)

Preheat oven to 300. Prepare the baking sheets by rubbing lightly with butter, dusting with flour, and knocking off excess flour. Assemble pastry bag, if you are using one; prepare the powdered sugar, and measure out the rest of the ingredients listed.
In the mixing bowl, gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks, add the vanilla, and continue beating for several minutes until mixture is thick, pale yellow, and forms the ribbon. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foaming, beat in the salt and cream of tartar, and continue beating until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle in a tablespoon of granulated sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
Scoop one fourth of the egg whites over the top of the egg yolks and sugar, sift on one fourth of the flour, and delicately fold until partially blended. Then add one third of the remaining egg whites, sift on one third of the rmaining flour, fold until partially blended again. Repeat with half, and then with the last of each. Do not attempt to blend too thoroughly; the batter must remain light and puffy.
Either with the pastry bag, or with a large kitchen spoon, make even lines of batter 4" long, 1 1/2" wide, spaced 1" apart on the pastry sheets. Sprinkle with a 1/16 " layer of powdered sugar. Bake immediately in middle and upper third levels of oven for about 20 minutes. Ladyfingers are done when a very pale brown underneath the sugar coating. They should be slightly crusty outside, tender but dry inside. Remove from baking sheets with a spatula; cool on cake racks.

Lining the dessert mold with ladyfingers
a 2 qt. cylindrical mold, 4" high, if possible, and 7" in diameter
Waxed paper
1/3 c. orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier)
2/3 c. water
24 ladyfingers, 4" long and 2" wide

Line the bottom of the dry mold with a round of waxed paper. Pour the liqueur and water into a soup plate. One by one, dip the lady fingers into the liquid for a second, then drain on a cake rack. Arrange a row of upright ladyfingers inside the mold, pressed closely together, their curved sides against the mold. Reserve the remaining dipped ladyfingers.

The Almond Cream
a 4 qt. mixing bowl
1/2 lb. of softened, unsalted butter
1 c. instant superfine granulated sugar (I couldn't find and just used regular sugar)
1/4 c. orange liqueur
2/3 c. semisweet chocolate bits melted with 1/4 c. strong coffee (I mixed 1/4 c. hot water with 1 4. instant espresso)
1/4 t. almond extract
1 1/3 c. powdered almonds (I ground up slivered almonds in my food processor)
2 c. heavy cream, chilled
a chilled bowl and beater

Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes, until pale and fluffy. Beat in the orange liqueur, melted chocolate, and almond extract; continue beating for several minutes until sugar is no longer grainy in texture. Beat in the almonds. Whip the chilled cream in a chilled bowl with a chilled beater just until beater leaves light traces on cream--do not whip any more than this or cream may not chill smoothly. fold the cream into the chocolate-almond mixture. Turn a third of the mixture into the lined mold, arrange over it a layer of ladyfingers, and continue with layers of chocolate-almond cream and ladyfingers, ending with ladyfingers if there are any left. Trim off any ladyfingers protruding above edge of mold and press bits into top of cream. Cover mold with waxed paper, set a saucer over the paper, and place a wight over it. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight; butter mush be chilled firm, so dessert will not collapse when unmolded. (Dessert will keep for several days under refrigeration, or may be frozen).

Unmolding and Serving
To serve, remove waxed paper from top, run a knife around inside edge of mold, pushing gently to dislodge dessert. Turn a chilled serving dish upside down over mold, and reverse the two, giving a sharp downward jerk so dessert will drop onto dish. Decorate the top of the Charlotte with grated chocolate. Refrigerate if not served immediately.

Chicken and Noodles, Spinach in Beurre Blanc

I have been reading My Life in France by Julia Child and feel that I have been channeling her spirit. She is energetic, full of life, and has an incredibly deep passion for food that is hard to not catch yourself when reading her words. So, I had to pull out my French Chef Cookbook and take advantage of all of the hard work and research that Julia put into these recipes. I was desperate to spend the whole day cooking.

I had already decided it was time to break in the Kitchen Aid, and therefore had decided to make my grandmother's homemade chicken and noodles and some mashed potatoes. I love how comforting the chicken and noodles are and they are one of my favorite dishes of all time. The mashed potatoes make a perfect pairing.

While flipping through The French Chef Cookbook I came across the perfect dessert to satisfy my need to use the Kitchen aid, and my need to do some French cooking: Charlotte Malakoff au chocolat, an amazing chocolate almond cream molded in ladyfingers. I also decided I needed to try out a beurre blanc sauce and decided to serve it with some veggies. I was thinking about asparagus, but since there was none to be found at the market, I went with spinach instead. I don't care that this sauce has way too much butter in it, I will definitely make it again and again--it is amazing!

Since the Charlotte recipe is pretty intense, I will post it separately, but I wanted to talk about it here since it was involved in the deflowering of my KA. All of this together was a pretty full day of cooking, but it felt great to be back in the kitchen after the long holidays keeping me away.

Grandma's Chicken and Noodles


2 c. flour

3 egg yolks

1 whole egg

2 t. salt

1/4-1/2 c. water

Put flour, yolks, egg, and salt into a bowl and mix with hands. Slowly add water by tablespoon full until dough can be formed into a ball. Allow dough to sit for at least 10 minutes (very important!). Separate into 4 parts. Using flour, roll out each section until it is very thin and long (about 6"X12"). Use a pizza cutter to cut noodles (can be as thin or thick as you like. They will plump up some when cooking. I like to make mine a little less than 1/2" wide). Place noodles aside and allow to dry at least one hour before adding to soup (the longer you let dry the less they will stick together in the soup).

Whole Chicken

garlic salt

chili powder

season salt

garlic powder

bay leaf

2 chicken bouillon cubes

Place chicken in large pot and cover with water. Add seasonings and bring to boil. Cover and cook until chicken is tender--about 1 hour. Once chicken is finished, take out of water (reserve water for soup) and let cool, then separate the meat from the skin/bones and finely chop. Add the meat back into the water with the noodles and add salt and pepper to taste and cook for at least one hour. If you prefer, you can place the chicken and noodles into a crock pot at this time and cook on high for a few hours or on low all day.

Spinach in Beurre Blanc

(sauce recipe from Julia Child's "The French Chef Cookbook")

1/4 c. wine vinegar, preferably white (I used red and it was fine)

2 TB lemon juice

2 TB dry white vermouth

1 TB finely minced shallots or scallions

1/2 t. salt

1/8 t. white pepper

2-3 sticks (1/2 -3/4 lb) chilled butter cut into 1/4" pieces (I ended up using 2 sticks)

2 c. fresh spinach leaves

Boil the vinegar, lemon juice, vermouth, shallots or scallions, salt and pepper in the sauce pan until liquid has reduced to 1 1/2 tablespoons. Remove sauce pan from heat and immediately beat in 2 pieces of chilled butter with a wire whip. As butter softens and creams in the liquid, beat in another piece. Then set pan over very low heat and, beating constantly, continue adding successive pieces of butter as each previous piece has almost creamed into the sauce. Sauce should become a thick, ivory cream, the consistency of a light hollandaise. Immediately remove from heat and season to taste. Add spinach, stir together for 30 seconds and serve.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Prickly Pear Pork, Mushroom Risotto, and Bagna Caoda

I came across prickly pears one day while wandering through one of my favorite grocers. I remember reading a Ranger Rick article as a kid about people cooking with prickly pears and I have wanted to try them ever since. I thought long and hard about how to use them and came up with this recipe for a boneless pork roast.

Alongside of the pork I served a mushroom risotto and bagna caoda. Bagna Caoda is a warm dip (the name translates as warm bath) served like a fondue, kept warm in a pot at the table for you to dip in vegetables. You can dip the veggies and use bread to hold underneath to catch the drippings and then eat the bread. It is delicious. I found this recipe in The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten. To dip, I made a steamed artichoke and roasted fennel and baby zucchini. Even though I am not a huge fan of straight anchovies on dishes, I love the flavor that they can add, such as in a good Caesar dressing. The anchovies are the same in the bagna caoda--they dissolve away just leaving a very nice, rich flavor--so don't let them turn you off of this recipe!

Prickly Pear Pork
1 boneless pork roast or tenderloin
3 prickly pears
1/2 stick butter
1 TB lemon juice
2 TB honey
2 t. dried rosemary, separated
Heat oven to 325.
Cut prickly pears in half and scoop out the inner fruit. Chop into large pieces.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the prickly pear fruit, the lemon juice, the honey, and 1 t. of the rosemary. Cook until sauce reduces a little, about 7 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and push sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl to remove the seeds from the sauce. Stir the remaining rosemary into the seedless sauce.
Use the prickly pear sauce to coat the pork tenderloin. Place into a lightly greased baking dish and place into the oven. Cook until a meat thermometer reads 165, basting the pork every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow pork to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.
Take remaining prickly pears sauce and heat in a small saucepan and allow to reduce down again until it reaches a thick, easy to drizzle consistency, about 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat. Drizzle over pork slices to serve.

Mushroom Risotto
8 oz. mushroom (I used shitake and crimini), chopped
1/2 stick butter
2 TB shallots, minced
1 c. arborio rice
3 c. chicken broth
Heat the chicken broth over low heat in a saucepan and keep warm while cooking the risotto.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium high heat and add chopped mushroom. Saute the mushrooms until cooked, and then remove the mushrooms from the pan, trying to keep as much butter in the pan as possible.
You will probably need to add more butter to the saucepan to make 2 TB worth. Turn town heat to medium and add the shallots and saute for 2 minutes. Turn down the heat slightly, then add the arborio rice. Stirring constantly, cook rice for about 3 minutes. Add one soup ladle scoop of the warm chicken broth to the rice and stir in until the liquid has almost all been absorbed. Add another ladleful of broth to the rice and again stir until liquid has almost been absorbed. Continue in this manner until rice is cooked through, tender, and creamy.
Once rice is cooked, add mushrooms back into pan and serve.

Cesare's Favorite Bagna Caoda
(From "The Man who Ate Everything)
(I halved this recipe because it was just the two of us)
1 large head of garlic (about 3 oz.)
1 c. Barolo or other big, red wine
1 1/2 0z. anchovy fillets (8-10 of them)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
4 TB butter
Divide the garlic into cloves. Peel and trim the garlic cloves, and cut them crosswise into 1/8 inch slices. In a small saucepan, bring Barolo to a boil, add the garlic, and simmer for 2 minutes. Add anchovies and extra virgin olive oil, and simmer for a moment or two more. Add butter and simmer very slowly for 45 minutes, until the anchovies dissolve. You can prepare the bagna caoda in advance, but do not refrigerate it. Simply reheat it at the table.
Serve the bagna caoda in a fondue pot with vegetables and bread on the side to dip. I suggest artichokes and roasted fennel.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Roasted Tomato Soup, Corn Pancakes, and Truffled Egg Toast

It feels so great when you are able to make up your own new recipe or when you discover a better way of making an old recipe and you turn it into your own. However, there is also something to be said about the joy that comes from finding a friend's/family's/stranger's recipe that looks amazing and giving it a try. Think about it: they've already done all the trial and error for you! All you have to do is follow their instructions and (hopefully) you will have a flavorful dish.

I keep a folder for all of the recipes I come across and want to try. It is a quick resource for when I can't think of what to cook but don't feel like repeating a recipe I've already made. I will just scroll through the list and piece together a meal. That is how this particular meal came about.

The Roasted Tomato Soup is courtesy of Tyler Florence in one of my FN scouring days. I've never made a homemade tomato soup and will definitely do it again, as this has excellent flavor and is easy to make. The Corn Cakes are from my friend Audrey, who was offering up side dish suggestions. Joe wasn't quite sure how he felt about these, but I think they have become my all-time favorite side dish. The corn and the seasonings work so well together that I didn't even want any of the sauce on top. And finally the Truffled Egg Toast comes from here: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Eggs/TruffledEggsToast.htm. I had a version of this at 'ino (along with their excellent bruschetta--see post below) and about fell off of my chair is was so good. This particular recipe is not as good as their version, but in the future I plan to tinker with it and make it closer to what 'ino's is.

Roasted Tomato Soup
(Tyler Florence)
2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (mix of fresh heirlooms, cherry, vine and plum tomatoes)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small yellow onions, sliced
Vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, optional
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, optional
3/4 cup heavy cream, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. If using vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, add them as well, leaving them whole and on the vine. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.
Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (set aside the roasted vine tomatoes for later). Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.
Wash and dry basil leaves, if using, and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with 3 or 4 roasted vine cherry tomatoes and a splash of heavy cream.

Fresh Corn Pancakes
(Audrey's Recipe)
2 medium cobs of fresh corn
2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander (cilantro) stems
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp fresh green peppercorns, crushed
2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp oil for frying
chili sauce for serving

1. Peal the husk from the corn and remove all the fine silk strands. Using a sharp knife, cut downwards along the length of the cobs to remove the kernels; discard the cob.
2. In a bowl, combine the corn, spring onions, coriander, garlic, peppercorns, cornflour, eggs, fish sauce and brown sugar. Beat the mixture, using a wooden spoon until well combined.
3. Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Drop in tablespoons of the mixture and cook until underside is golden. Turn the pancakes and cook for 30 seconds. Serve immediately with chili sauce -
After making this a couple of times I found it was easier to drain the batter drop on the pan and add more batter immediately where needed. Otherwise you'll have too much batter in one place and the corn in another and they won't stay stuck together.

Truffled Eggs Toast
4 (1 1/2-inch slices) of English Muffin Bread, Brioche, or multi-grain bread
8 ounces Fontina cheese, Swiss cheese, or Gruyere cheese (or other mild semi-hard cheese), sliced thinly
1/4 cup grated best quality Parmesan Reggiano cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons Truffle Oil
Asparagus spears, cooked and sliced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly spray baking sheet with olive oil.Hollow out an indentation in each bread slice large enough to hold two egg yolks. Leave a sufficient cushion of bread surrounding the indentation to avoid leakage. Place the bread on prepared baking sheet.Place two egg yolks in each bread indentation. Place the slices of the cheese over the entire slice of bread (to its edges).
Place the bread in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. During the last 2 minutes of baking, place grated Parmesan cheese on top of each toast. Remove from oven and, using a spatula, place each bread slice on an individual serving plate. Lightly drizzle the top with the truffle oil in a diagonal stream. Serve immediately with salt and pepper at table and pass additional truffle oil, if desired. Sprinkle sliced asparagus spears on the place around the toast.
Makes 4 servings.


I love the simple base of grilled bread brushed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. There are so many ways to top it off and you can find a way to serve it with almost any meal.
Many people think of tomatoes and basil when they think of bruschetta, but the actual term refers to the toasted bread itself and the toppings are just add-ons. The tomato topping is refreshing and tasty, but there are endless ways to enjoy bruschetta.

For an evening of small, easy dishes for Joe and I to nibble on, I decided to make two different toppings for my bruschetta. Both were very simple and quick to whip up. The first was inspired by one of 'ino's versions and is one of Joe's favorites. It wasn't quite as good as theirs, but with some tweaks (and a couple more visits to the restaurant to give theirs a try) I think it could be close. The second I made because I had just purchased my first ever bottle of truffle oil and couldn't wait to give it a try.
Small loaf of french bread
Couple of cloves of garlic, peeled
Drizzle of olive oil
Slice the bread into about 1/2-3/4" wide slices. Heat a grill or grill pan and set the bread slices on and cook until crispy and browned, but not burnt. Flip and cook other side of the bread slices. Remove from heat and rub the top of each slice with a clove of garlic. Drizzle all slices with olive oil and top with whatever toppings you desire.

Artichoke and Pecorino Tapenade
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped finely
3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 c. finely grated pecorino cheese
1 t. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Use to top off bruschetta.

Parmesan Truffle Bruschetta
Thin shavings of parmesan cheese
Arugula (or other type of peppery green)
Truffle oil

Drizzle the bruschetta with a very small amount of truffle oil (a little goes a long way!). Top each piece with a small amount of arugula and a shaving of parmesan cheese.

My New Toys

The holidays were a whirlwind. They brought a trip home, friends visiting for a NYC New Years Eve, much food and drinking, and many new gadgets for my kitchen.
The big one:
Isn't she beautiful??? She is a Pro with a 6 qt. bowl. I'm in love. I pet her every time I walk into the kitchen (no, really.). I am excited to get her a little table with wheels to rest on because the counter you see is about all the counter I have and she takes up quite a bit of it, but I'm not bitter. I'll let her take the space she needs until we find a new home because I love her so much :). I am incredibly excited that I have the next 2 days off to really break her in.
A few other great gifts:
The Chia Herb Garden.
My awesome new apron.

Beautiful wine stoppers.

I also received great kitchen towels, a potato masher and ricer, corn cob holders, an appetizer/party cookbook, "My Life in France" by Julia Child, and a subscription to "Cooks Illustrated". It was a very happy Christmas for my kitchen!