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.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cooking with Love Blog Event

My anniversary is coming up next week so I am feeling the love. I'm also working on a project and need your help. I need your stories about cooking for that special someone. They can be stories of baking cookies for that crush in middle school, or making an amazing (or disastrous!) dinner to impress someone on a first date. It can be stories of your first meal for your new husband or wife, or cooking together with your date. I want them all! Email your stories to chompdown@gmail.com.

And in correlation with these stories, I've decided to host a blog event. Take your Cooking with Love Story and make a recipe that somehow goes along with it. Post it on your blog, and then send me an email at chompdown@gmail.com (with Cooking with Love Event in the subject line) with the story, a pic of the food, and a link to your blog entry. You don't have to have a blog to participate, though! If you want to be included in the round-up and the competition, just shoot me an email without the link to your blog. ;) Also, if you don't want to cook something up and participate in the event, that's ok, too. I would still love to hear your stories!
As a thank you for your help and participation in this event, one lucky someone will win a prize once all entries are in. Since this is my first blog event, I'm going to give myself some extra time to prepare, so you have until October 24 to get in your entries. I'm looking forward to your stories! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section or shoot me an email.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brown Sugar and Roasted Peach Ice Cream

Ice cream #2 for my new KA attachment. I wanted to play around and do something different with this batch, but I also wanted to take advantage of the fruits that are in season right now, so this was perfect. The shot of Jack Daniels also added a really nice flavor to the whole thing. The ice cream base is based on Alton Brown's recipe for serious vanilla ice cream.

Brown Sugar and Roasted Peach Ice Cream
4 peaches
white sugar
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whipping cream
7/8 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 TB Jack Daniels

Cut the peaches in half and pit them. Toss with some sugar (I used white sugar because I ran out of the brown, but you can use either). Roast on a baking sheet, skin side up, at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the peaches are soft and the skins are brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Then remove the skins, chop into small pieces and set aside in the refrigerator.

Combine the half and half, whipping cream, brown sugar,and vanilla extract in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Attach a frying or candy thermometer to inside of pan. (see note below) Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to 170 degrees F. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Mix in the Jack Daniels at this time. Pour mixture into lidded container and refrigerate mixture overnight (or for at least 6-8 hours) to mellow flavors and texture.
Freeze mixture in ice cream freezer according to unit's instructions. Add the chopped peaches in the last 3-4 minutes of churning. Remove to a plastic container and place in the freezer for at least one hour before serving.

NOTE: If you do not have a thermometer, bring the mixture just barely to a simmer. As soon as you see a bubble hit the surface, remove it from the heat. Do not let it boil.

NYC International Pickle Day

Pickles have a rich history with New York City. As early as the 1600's cucumbers were grown all over Brooklyn and then brought into Manhattan to be made into pickles and sold at the markets. In the 19th century there was a pickle boom of sorts on the Lower East Side when they were made and sold at pushcarts all around the area. They were cheap and easy to make at home and were a way for those trying to get by to make some money.

With pickles being such an important part of the city's past it is no wonder that the New York Food Museum would want a day to celebrate one of our (or at least my) favorite treats. This year Pickle Day was held on September 14 at Orchard and Broome, outside of one of the NYC pickle institutions: Gus' Pickles.

But Pickle Day was not just about the cucumber variety (although those were there, too: like the sours, half-sours, and spicy ones given away by The Pickle Guys). There were the people from Rick's Picks with their pickled okra, green beans, beets and more (I blogged about how much I loved their Smokra not long ago...amazing). I fell in love with the garlic pickle relish from McClure's Pickles. I also didn't say no to the bloody mary mix they had made by taking their spicy garlic pickles leftover juices and mixing it with tomato juice. Yum, yum, yum. Russ and Daughters was their with pickled lox and herring. China Food Imports had some delicious kimchi. Cafe Katja had pickled cantaloupe. I also saw pickled watermelon, pickled garlic scapes, pickled peaches, and pickle candy (unfortunately these were just lime flavored with a picture of a pickle, but they were good nonetheless). And surprisingly, one of my favorites all day: pickle truffles (yes! pickle flavored filling dipped in chocolate) from Roni-Sue's chocolates. Sounds strange, yes, but tasted really good! Can't wait to go by Roni-Sue's in Essex market and try out some other flavors--the Manhattan (i.e. the drink) flavored one is especially calling my name.

As I was leaving pickle day, I got one more treat: pickled grapes. Sweet with a little tang. Just perfect. And, for a donation to the NYC Food Museum (which I am really happy to support--keep up the good work!!), I got the recipe for these tasty treats. For a pickle lover like myself, I couldn't have asked for a better day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fried Zucchini Blossoms, Grilled Lamb Chops with Tomatillo Relish, and Cheesy Broccoli

I just finished reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. I think this is a book that every single consumer should read, even if you are someone who doesn't love cooking. The ideas and information in this book are critical to the future of our planet and environment.

And, like anything I read about food, it inspired me to try something new in the kitchen. I went to the Union Square greenmarket again, this time dragging the hubby along to help me decide what to have for dinner (and maybe to help carry some things as well...). We ended up with some lamb, baby fennel, yellow plums, tomatillos, broccoli, zucchini blossoms, and some Mean Beans from Rick's Picks (green beans in a cayenne dill brine). I love how a meal can just reveal itself to me as I wander around the market. And these local, in-season meals always seem to be the best.

Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
10-12 zucchini blossoms
8 oz. ricotta cheese
2 TB baby or regular fennel, chopped
1 TB of chopped fennel fronds
1 egg
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 c. flour
1 1/4 c. sparkling water
1/2 c. cooking oil

Gently wash the zucchini blossoms to remove dirt and bugs. Pat dry and set aside.
In a small bowl mix together ricotta cheese, chopped fennel and fennel fronds, egg, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Place mixture into a pastry bag or a plastic baggie and cut off the end.
In another bowl, mix together flour and sparkling water until smooth.
Heat cooking oil in a saute pan over medium/high heat.
Carefully take each zucchini blossom and open the petals and remove the pistils with a knife, your fingers or scissors. Squeeze in about 1-2 TB worth of ricotta mixture into each blossom. Close up the top of the petals by twisting them together. A little ricotta mixture may leak out from between the petals and this is ok.
After all of the blossoms have been filled, dip each one into the flour/soda mixture and place into the hot oil. Cook until light brown and crispy, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate with a paper towel to drain oil. Serve immediately.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Tomatillo Relish
Grill Rub:
2 t. garlic powder
2 t. herbs de provence
1 t. coriander seed powder
1/2 t. cardamom powder
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Mix together. Rub onto Lamb chops and allow to sit at room temperature for one hour before grilling.

Tomatillo Relish
2 yellow plums, chopped
2 tomatillos, chopped
1 t. shallot, minced
1/8 c. of a medium heat spicy pepper, chopped finely
2 TB olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl. Allow to sit for 1 hour before serving. Also great with chips or tacos.

Cheesy Broccoli
1 head broccoli, chopped
1/2 c. milk
8 oz. velveeta, chopped
1/2 c. shredded monterrey and colby cheese
4 Mean Beans (or a few slices of jarred jalapenos), chopped finely
salt and pepper

Heat about 2" of water in a saucepan until boiling. Add the broccoli and cover the pan and cook until broccoli is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Drain immediately after cooking.
In a separate saucepan, heat milk over medium heat. Do not bring the milk to a boil. Once milk has heated through, add the cheeses, Mean Beans, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until cheese has melted. Add the broccoli to the pan and stir to combine.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

I finally got my ice cream attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer! I realize that summer is over and the weather is beginning to cool down, and for many people that signals the end of the ice cream season. The hubs and I, however, eat ice cream year round. And what else are you going to use to top off all of those delicious pies and cakes and desserts you make throughout the holiday season??

I already have many, many ideas for ice creams. I could probably make one a day for the next few months without any repeats if ice cream were all we ate every day. But for the first batch to break in my new toy? It had to be cookies and cream. It is simple. It is my favorite. It is my husband's favorite. Plus, you have some leftover Oreos lying around to nibble on while you wait for the ice cream to churn and then to set up in the freezer. Not too shabby.

For this I used the recipe in the instruction booklet. In the future there will be recipes I have created, and I'm sure a few I'll steal from fellow bloggers. This recipe is good, but I do suggest throwing in a little alcohol (maybe a tablespoon of vodka) to help keep it from turning into a rock in the freezer.

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream
(KA Ice Cream Attachment booklet)
2 1/2 c. half and half
8 egg yolks
1 c. sugar
2 1/2 c. whipping cream
4 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt
1 1/2 (or 2, if you are me...) c. chopped oreos

In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat half and half until very hot, but not boiling, stirring often. Remove from heat; set aside.
Place egg yolks and sugar in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and wire whip to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds, or until well blended and slightly thickened. Continuing on Speed 2, very gradually add half and half; mix until blended. Return half and half mixture to medium saucepan; cook over medium heat until small bubbles form around edge and mixture is steamy, stirring constantly. Do not boil. Transfer half and half mixture into large bowl; stir in whipping cream, vanilla and salt. Cover and chill thoroughly, at least 8 hours.
(If using a KA ice cream attachment:) Assemble and engage freeze bowl, dasher, and drive assembly as directed. Turn to STIR. Using a container with a spout, pour mixture into freeze bowl. Continue on Stir for 15-20 minutes or until desired consistency. Add cookies last 1 to 2 minutes of freeze time. Immediately transfer ice cream into serving dishes, or freeze in an airtight container.

White Garlic Soup and Eggplant Parmesan

While flipping through the "Cooking in Spain" cookbook for my tapas meal, I came across a few different soups I really wanted to try. I love the simplicity and great flavor of Spain's soups. There aren't a lot of ingredients to many of them but they are comforting and wholesome tasting. You really get the sense that these soups helped sustain people through tough times but also were there to give an easy snack or to keep people cool on warm days.

This white garlic soup, like gazpacho, is better after it sits in the fridge for a few hours (and it's even better the next day). The flavors come together and the garlic flavor really comes through. I just used regular red grapes to add to this, but if you can find some wine grapes, I would love to hear how that flavor changes things!
The eggplant parmesan is almost as simple to make as the garlic soup. I love the flavor that parmesan cheese adds to the breading for the eggplant. I don't even need the marinara sauce on top to eat these crispy eggplant pieces, although it's good with the sauce, too.

Ajo Blanco Con Uvas
(White Garlic Soup with Grapes)
(Cooking in Spain)
3 thick slices bread, crusts removed
3/4 c. almonds, blanched and skinned
3 cloves garlic
1/4 c. olive oil
1/8 c. (sherry) vinegar
2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. water
muscatel grapes
I also added: season salt, coriander seed powder, paprika, and pepper.

Soak the bread in water until softened, squeeze it out and put it in blender or processor with the almonds and peeled garlic. Blend to a smooth sauce (adding a little water if necessary). Then, with the motor running, add the oil in a slow stream, then the vinegar and salt. Beat in some of the water, then pour the contents of the container into a pitcher, wooden bowl or tureen and add the remaining water. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or vinegar if necessary. serve garnished with peeled and seeded grapes. Serves 6.

Eggplant Parmesan
1 eggplant
1 or 2 eggs, beaten with a little water
3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
3/4 c. dry breadcrumbs
1 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese
marinara sauce

Peel the eggplant and then slice. Place into a colander and all sides. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Then rinse under running water and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in a bowl.
Dip each slice of eggplant first into flour, then into the egg mixture, then finally into the parmesan/breadcrumb mixture. Place each slice in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake the eggplant pieces for about 6 minutes on each side. If the breading has not browned or crisped up enough, I like to turn up the oven to broil and quickly crisp that coating. Watch carefully if you do this as not to burn the eggplant! Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on each slice of eggplant and return to the oven for a minute until the cheese melts. Serve topped off with a couple of tablespoons of marinara sauce.
I love serving this with pasta topped with an alfredo sauce.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Spanish Tapas Night: Tortilla Espanola, Aioli, Croquetas

There are some days when I walk out of the door in the mornings, take a deep breath, and smell Spain. It's something about the crispness in the air, but a little bit of an acidic, bitterness as well. It transports me right back to Ronda, walking over the gorge, looking out onto the mountains where the sun is rising on my morning walk to school. Or to the gazebo overlooking the cliff where my friends and I would hang out, play chess, write in our journals, and watch the sun set. God I miss it there.
Someday I will go back and show my husband around the town and country that helped me to learn a lot about who I am. But for now, I've got to be content with traveling in a little simpler way...via food.
When I moved back home from my semester abroad, one of my Christmas gifts from my little brother was this cookbook:

I absolutely love it. It is nothing fancy, and the recipes aren't either, but they are truly Spanish. There are tapas that I actually ate at the little bars and not just someone's updated/fancy ideas of what Spanish tapas are. But there are also the recipes for things that I would eat every day in my host mother's home. Just by opening it's pages I feel like I'm stepping across the ocean.

So this night I decided to make a couple of my husband's favorites from the tapas restaurants we've been to, but are also the two things that I remember most from the bars and from my home away from home in Spain: Tortilla Espanola and Croquetas. They are simple but so full of flavor and definitely full of memories.

Tortilla Espanola
(from Cooking in Spain)
Note: I have had to "translate" the quantities a little because they are in metric.
4 medium Potatoes
3 TB chopped onions, optional (in my humble opinion, onions shouldn't be optional in this recipe ;)
1/4 c. olive oil
4-5 eggs
1/2 t. salt

Peel the potatoes and either cut them in dice or into very thin slices. Heat the oil in the frying pan until very hot and add the potatoes, and onions if desired. Stir and continue frying without letting the potatoes brown, stirring them frequently. With the edge of a metal spatula or skimmer, keep cutting into the potatoes, dicing them as they cook. When they are quite tender (about 15 minutes) place a plate over the frying pan and drain off the oil into a heat proof container. Place the potatoes in a bowl. Beat together the eggs and salt until very well combined an stir the eggs into the potatoes and mix well.

Return the oil to the frying pan and let it reheat. Now pour in the egg and potato mixture. Let it set on the bottom, regulating the heat so it doesn't brown too fast. Use the spatula to firm the edges of the tortilla all around it's circumference. Shake the pan frequently to keep it loose on the bottom. Place the plate over the pan, drain off the oil and turn the tortilla out onto the plate. Return the oil to the pan, adding a little more if necessary and slide the tortilla back in to cook on the reverse side. Remove the tortilla when it is golden by sliding out onto serving plate. Serves two as a main dish or four to six as an appetizer or first course.

(recipe from my grammar teacher in Spain)
1 egg
1 TB sunflower oil (I used canola)
juice from 1 lemon
1 clove garlic
about 3/4-1 c. olive oil

Mix together the egg, sunflower oil, lemon juice, salt, and chopped garlic in a food processor or using a hand/immersion blender (I prefer to use an immersion blender because that is how I learned). As you continue to blend, add the olive oil very slowly, one drop at a time, so the mayonnaise doesn't break. Continue adding until the aioli is the desired consistency.
(This time around I let my aioli be thinner than a traditional mayonnaise so I could use it easier as a sauce for my tortilla. It still is great tasting this way and isn't quite as thick.)

(from Cooking in Spain)
3 TB oil
1/2 small onion, minced
4 TB flour
1 c. milk
1/8 t. grated nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
2- 7oz. ham steaks, finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten with a little water
1 1/2 c. dried breadcrumbs
oil for frying
for half of my croquetas I also used 4 oz. of goat cheese

Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the minced onions until they are transparent. Do not let them brown. Stir in the flour and let them cook briefly, then whisk in the milk. cook, stirring constantly until this sauce thickens. Season it with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in the ham (and the goat cheese if using. I did half with and half without.) Spread the mixture in a dish and refrigerate it until solid. Place the beaten eggs in a dish, the breadcrumbs in another. With moistened hands, form the croquette mixture into balls, cylinders or cones. Dip each croquette first in breadcrumbs (or flour), then in beaten egg, then again in breadcrumbs, taking care that they are well covered. Allow to dry in a cool place for 30 minutes. Heat oil in deep fryer and fry the croquettes, a few at a time, until they are golden, about 3 minutes.