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, December 3, 2009


A few years ago, when I picked up Julie Powell's "Julie and Julia", I was shaken a bit to the core. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey of the book and put it down feeling inspired. It planted a tiny seed in my brain that is, in part at least, responsible for my transformation and for my current career path through life. Yes, it's just a book, but something in Julie Powell's words spoke to me in a way that was necessary at that point in time. So you can imagine how excited I was when her newest book, Cleaving, hit bookshelves.

In Cleaving Julie is once again on a culinary mission, albeit a slightly different one than her previously impossible task of cooking through the massive tome of MTAOFC. This time around she has set out to understand the ins and outs of an art that had all but disappeared, but luckily for her (and for all of us, really) seems to be slowly eeking back into existence: butchery.

Again Julie Powell had me laughing out loud--her candor and honesty can be shocking but is definitely funny. But there are also moments that she seems to punch you in the gut and take the wind out of you with her words. However, a lot of times I felt the story to be choppy and a little hard to follow. Some of the metaphors were so weak they had me literally rolling my eyes in frustration. The way the story unfolded frustrated me, but it does seem like that is just exactly the way Julie P. would tell the story to you in person--tumbling out in bursts until the end. I don't want to give too much away, but I think it is no secret that a large part of this book is about her struggles within her marriage. As much as I realize that this is the way real life is, part of me took this really personally and it made me sad (why I take such personal offense to strangers' love lives breaking down is a mystery--rather ridiculous, I admit, but there you go...). I think there's that small part in a lot of us that just wants real life to be a little closer to a fairy tale and it never really is.

Overall, though, I enjoyed reading as Julie learned and grew in this new world for her. I also love the recipes interspersed throughout the book--I feel like more memoirs (even ones not about food) should have recipes included. They give me a better understanding of a person and a memory that the author is trying to convey. These also made me ready to run out to my nearest butcher and order enough meat for every meal for the next couple of weeks--no vegetables or starches necessary. I've spent the time since finishing the book envious of all those cuts of meat Julie went home with. I've also once again stepped back to review where I am along my personal path. I feel pretty damn good about where I am these days. I'm not sure what exactly it is about Julie Powell's words that brings that out in me but I'm appreciative of it just the same.
(And yes, you are allowed to leave me comments telling me how corny that all sounds.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rainy Day Beef and Mushroom Stew

Sometimes I love when it rains on my day off.

I know I am probably in the minority there, but the rain is the perfect excuse for a lazy day. If it is nice outside, I feel like I should be out taking advantage of it. But on a rainy day I can curl up under a blanket with Joe on the couch with a drink in hand while something slowly simmers away in the oven. Something hearty and filling. Like this beef and mushroom stew.

One of the great things about this dish is that it is completely versatile. If you don't have an ingredient you can usually leave it out or substitute it with something else. You can also toss in anything extra that you may be craving that day. This particular version is especially rich thanks to the dried mushrooms: you soak them in water and add them to the vegetables and then use the soaking water as part of the stock. And the couple of cups of red wine in the base don't hurt, either.
So the next time the weather isn't so hot on your day off, look at it as a blessing. Put on a pot of this stew and curl up with a glass bottle of wine and someone you love, and relax.

Beef and Mushroom Stew

1/2 c. dried chanterelles
3/4 c. hot water
1 lb. beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2" cubes
salt and pepper
4 TB olive oil, divided
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 TB fresh herbs, such as rosemary and thyme
2 c. red wine
1 c. beef stock
3 TB tomato sauce (or 1 TB tomato paste)
1 bay leaf
1 parmesan rind*

Remove the beef from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Place the dried chanterelles into a bowl and pour the hot water over them and allow to soak for 30 minutes while chopping and preparing the remaining ingredients. Once ready to use, drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Toss the beef cubes with flour to coat. Heat 2 TB olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear the beef on all sides, working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan and then remove to a plate.
Add remaining oil to pan and toss in carrots, celery, onion, garlic and herbs. Allow to cook until they become tender, about 6 minutes. Add the drainied mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes. Add red wine, beef stock, tomato sauce and reserved mushroom soaking liquid to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir in the bay leaf and parmesan rind, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is tender, about 2-2 1/2 hours, checking and stirring the stew after about 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the stew from the oven, remove the bay leaf and parmesan rind and serve. Especially good served over egg noodles, mashed potatoes or sopped up with crusty bread.

*When you have a good hunk of Parmesan cheese and you get down to the rind where you can't grate it anymore, hang on to this piece. It can be thrown into stocks and soups to add extra flavor and depth. Remove it at the end of cooking--it will look like a soggy sponge, so not pretty, but the flavor is worth it!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Celeriac Soup with Scallops

I miss blogging.
Honestly though, the break has been nice. Being able to just make dinner and not have to worry about writing down every ingredient's measurements and not worrying about trying to take photos. Just cooking, pouring a glass of wine and sitting down to savor the meal with my husband. I've enjoyed it.

It's also been great to step back and take a look at what I'm doing here on the blog. Is it something that I want to continue with? What purpose does it serve? Does anyone even read it? (and even if they don't, do I care?)

I haven't come to any grand conclusions but I know that this blog serves a purpose, even if it is just for me. It makes me put thought into what I'm cooking and inspires me to try new things. And by putting down recipes I have a record for when I want to try them again, which I love. In the past I would just try to remember and guess what went into my recipes and the results weren't always stellar! And, perhaps, someone else out there will find something useful among the mess. Really, isn't the best part of cooking and food is how it can bring people together? The joy of sharing it with one another? Learning from one another? So I will plod on. The posts may stay few and far between for a bit, but I will continue to return because food and its community are my passion.

This celeriac soup is basic and straightforward yet completely satisfying. It reminds one that with great ingredients, simplicity in cooking is rewarded. Joe and I had this dish at Eleven Madison Park for our anniversary dinner and it was so beautiful there that I had to try to recreate it at home. It may not have lived up quite to the restaurant's standards, but was delicious nonetheless. The addition of scallops is unnecessary, but lends a luxurious touch and makes the dish hearty enough to be an entree. Next time I prepare this I will add sauteed shallots and garlic for extra flavor, but for a simpler approach it is not necessary.

Celeriac Soup with Scallops
(serves 5-6)
3 small bulbs celeriac, peeled and chopped
2-3 c. chicken stock
1-2 c. water
salt and pepper
1 t. celery salt
1 t. season salt
1 c. heavy cream
2 TB butter
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
6 large diver scallops, cooked
2 TB Olive oil

Place the celeriac, stock, and water in a large pot. You want enough liquid to cover the celeriac. Bring to a boil and simmer until celeriac is tender, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat. Push the celeriac through a ricer back into the stock and water or use an immersion blender to blend all of the ingredients together. If the soup is very thick, add water to bring to consistency of your liking (remembering that you will be adding cream as well). Add celery salt, season salt, and pepper. Return the pot to the stove and bring to a simmer. Stir in the heavy cream. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in the butter and serve over the cooked scallops with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I ate today...(and Baked Clams)

...at the internship:

Peanut butter cookies
6 different types of cheese
Meat Pies
Homemade Oreos
(plus some snacks I brought from home)
I also brought home some Indian seasoning packets, Cajun seasoning, hickory oil, and a garlic grating plate.

How I'm still hungry now, I'll never guess. This new job rocks. I am, however, going to turn into a rolly-polly. I always feel like I'm going to miss out if I don't try one of the samples/test kitchen trials that come in. I better learn some self-restraint.

Last night I made the most amazing baked clams. So good, in fact, that Joe and I decided we wanted to eat them every day for the next two weeks. There are no photos because I'm lazy, but I guarantee you that you will love these (and they are pretty when they are all toasted up!). Please, please use fresh breadcrumbs! I know that I have always ignored this note myself, but I promise it makes a huge difference in the flavor of these guys.

Baked Clams
3 dozen clams
1 1/2 c. FRESH breadcrumbs
1/4 c. chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
6 TB butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Clean the clams thoroughly. Open the clams and leave the meat on one shell, discarding the other. (NOTE: It is difficult to open the clams this way. If you prefer, steam them just until they open--no longer--and then discard the top shell. Cook the clams as little as possible when doing this because they get another chance to cook in the oven).
Mix together the breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper and Parmesan. Melt the butter and stir into the breadcrumb mixture, it should just be barely damp. Top each clam with about a teaspoon or two of the breadcrumb mixture and press into the clam shell. Place in a baking dish and continue with each clam.
Bake the clams for about 5 minutes, then turn on the broil and cook until the breadcrumb mixture begins to darken and brown. Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where Have I Been?

It has been a while. I don't think I've ever gone this long without updating my blog. So what gives? A few things have kept me away:

1. At the beginning of August a friend and I planned a 6 course, 3 cocktail brunch for 25 people. We were so busy planning and preparing and I was waiting until it was all said and done to post about it (that post is still forthcoming--it was too much fun for me to pass over even though it happened a month and a half ago).

2. Lots of visitors to our fair city. Been hanging out with friends as they passed through and often they are staying with us so that took first priority.

3. I am training for the NYC Marathon that is fast approaching and training takes a lot of time.

4. Last, but certainly not least, I started a new internship at a magazine you may recognize. I'm still waiting tables as well, but I get to go in three days a week and do some work for the website, read food blogs, research food and smell the amazing scents coming out of the test kitchen (and sometimes even get to eat some of those products that are being prepared). Awesome. It's been a remarkable experience and I'm hoping that I can keep traveling down this career path because I love it.

So I will be back. I miss my blog and I miss sharing the recipes I come up with. It just may take a little more time to settle in to this busy schedule before I can find the time for photographing and writing out posts again. And so you know, I still am reading your blogs (it's part of my job! Really!) but I haven't had the time to comment, so don't think I've left you behind. :) I'll see you again soon. Don't forget me while I'm gone!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"Julie and Julia"

"I didn't learn to cook until I was 32. Until then, I just ate."
Julia Child

Monday night I got the opportunity to see a pre-screening of "Julie and Julia" (thanks so much to Cathy over at Not Eating Out in New York). To anyone who knows me (or who has read this blog for a while) it's no surprise that I love the books "Julie and Julia", "My Life in France", and that I love Julia Child. I also love Meryl Streep (but who doesn't?) and Amy Adams. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked for the film.

Since the movie hasn't hit wide release as of yet, I'm not going to do a big review. I will just say that I loved it. And that Meryl Streep knocked it out of the ballpark kitchen. And that I left the theater filled with hope and inspiration. Especially as an inching-towards-30, married actress waitress, living in the big city feeling a little like I'm drowning while trying to find myself. I may not know what my future holds, but I do know that it is not too late to find my calling and lead my version of a successful life. Plus, like Julie and Julia, I have a remarkable husband standing beside me giving me his faith and eternal support. Pretty damn lucky, I am.

And, until I find my path, I can just keep eating.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Couscous Stuffed Peppers and Lemon Cucumber and Sugar Plum Salad

Sometimes there are ingredients that evoke the image of only one recipe and seem to stifle my creativity. Green peppers are one of those ingredients. I know there are so ways to use them but I always think about them in Asian or Mexican inspired dishes--sauteed for a stir fry or to use on tacos. Every once in a while I'll think of stuffing them, but again it's always in a Mexican style. This time around I really wanted to do something different with these peppers. I stuffed them with couscous, corn, and ground turkey and a little bit of parmesan cheese. Simple flavors, easy preparation, and a little different take on the classic. Paired up with the basic cucumber salad it makes a great weeknight dinner.

Couscous Stuffed Peppers
5 green peppers
1 box couscous
1 lb ground turkey
2 ears corn
3/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 c. bread crumbs

To begin, cook the couscous as per the box's instructions. Saute the ground turkey with a little salt and pepper and drain.
Preheat the oven to 350. Cut off the top of each of the green peppers and clean out the seeds and white parts inside. Cut off the kernels from the ears of corn.
In a large bowl mix together the cooked couscous and turkey, the corn, and 1/2 c. parmesan cheese. Stuff the mixture into the green peppers and place them into a baking dish.
In a small bowl mix together 1/4 c. parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs. Spread the mixture on top of each of the peppers. Bake for 40 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the topping is lightly browned.

Lemon Cucumber and Sugar Plum Salad
8 lemon cucumbers, peeled and sliced
6 sugar plums, chopped
3/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
2 TB sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Mix together the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add in the cucumbers and sugar plums and toss together. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour before serving.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Zucchini and Shitake Pot stickers

Do you find blog posts just piling up in the summertime? I know I do. I am struck by inspiration at every turn in the greenmarket so I'm constantly making new dishes but then I get so caught up enjoying the summer activities that I fall behind in my posting. Then I get really frustrated with myself when I've posted something after it's season has passed.

Thankfully these zucchini are still all over the place at the markets. Paired up with earthy shitake mushrooms and tart sherry vinegar they make an uncomplicated tasty dumpling.

Zucchini and Shitake Pot stickers
1 large summer squash chopped into small pieces
1/2 c. shitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped
2 TB butter
1/8 c. sherry vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/8 c. chopped cilantro
20 wonton wrappers
2 TB oil
In a saute pan heat the butter over medium high heat. Add the zucchini and shitake mushrooms and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add the sherry vinegar and soy sauce and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to about room temperature. Mix in the cilantro.
Take the mixture and fill a little dollop in each wonton wrapper. Use a little bit of water to close up the wrapper in your preferred method (I like to make them into triangles in the first fold and then pull together the triangle edges to make little "bags").
Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan. Once very hot add a single layer of the dumplings. Cook until the bottoms are brown and crispy, about 4 minutes. Then pour in 1/2-3/4 c. of water and cover the pan to steam the dumplings, about 7-8 minutes. Remove the dumplings from the pan and serve.

Friday, July 17, 2009

BBQ Beef Brisket, Bok Choy Cole Slaw, Lime-Basil Potato Salad

It really is finally starting to feel like summer around the city. The endless rain stopped and we've had some beautiful weather. Great weather to spend outdoors enjoying the parks and barbecuing. If I only had a grill.
We do take picnics to the park often, though. Some coffee and pastries or sandwiches. Then we'll lounge around and enjoy the clouds, smell of the grass and the breeze. Some days in Prospect Park, you can almost forget that you are in the big city.
The coming of summer has brought about that craving for BBQ. As Kansas City-ans, it's hard to find BBQ that lives up to our standards, but this meal was a pretty good substitute with a couple of new takes on old themes. I'm especially in love with the Bok Choy Cole slaw and have been devouring the leftovers like mad.
I want to send a quick shout-out to the new Franklin Ave. flea market open on Saturdays this summer. If you live in my neck of the woods, check it out! It's where I found the BBQ sauce for the brisket, courtesy of the Pour Gourmet.

BBQ Beef Brisket
1 1.75lb beef brisket
salt and pepper
2 TB cooking oil
1/2 c. chopped carrots
1/2 c. chopped celery
3/4 c. chopped onions
2 bottles lager
1 1/2 c. BBQ sauce

Preheat the oven to 325.
Salt and pepper all sides of the brisket well. Heat the cooking oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat and when hot brown the brisket on all sides (about 3-4 minutes each). Remove the meat from the pan and add the carrots, celery and onions to the hot oil. Cook until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Return the brisket to the pan and add the 2 bottles of lager. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover then pan tightly and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 hour, then flip the brisket over and return to the oven. Cook until fork tender, about another hour to hour and a half. Allow to sit for a few minutes, then remove the meat to a platter and shred. Place shredded meat into a large saute pan and add the BBQ sauce. Cook over medium heat until heated through. Serve over toasted country bread.

Bok Choy Cole Slaw
3 small heads of bok choy
3 carrots, shredded
1/2 c. finely minced onions
6 garlic scapes, chopped
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 t. celery salt
1/2 t. ground mustard
1 t. sesame oil
1 TB sugar
1/4 t. pepper

Chop the bok choy into thin shreds. Toss with the carrots, onions and garlic scapes. In a separate bowl mix together the vinegars, celery salt, ground mustard, sesame oil, sugar and pepper. Combine the dressing and the vegetables and then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Lime Basil Potato Salad
3 c. small red potatoes
1/2 c. olive oil
1/3 c. lime basil
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Scrub the small potatoes and cut into large bite size pieces. Place in a large pan of boiling salted water and cook until tender, about 12-14 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
While the potatoes are cooking, blend together the olive oil, lime basil, salt and pepper in a food processor. Toss this oil with the potatoes to serve.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pork Belly Pizza

I've been feeling so inspired lately. A lot of it has to do with some great conversations and idea exchanging with a fellow food minded friend. And the rest comes from my fellow food bloggers. I'm constantly impressed by the variety, creativity and passion of this ever-growing group of people. Every time I go through my blogger I am hit by sparks of new ideas and reminded why I love food. Thank you so much. Thanks to some of this inspiration there are some big things in the works. I hope to be able to share some of it with you soon.

In the meantime, enjoy this pizza recipe. Full of rich flavors and a little fancy looking at first, but once you dig in you'll realize it's all about comfort. I promise this is worth the time it takes to make.

Pork Belly Pizza
(makes 2 -12" pizzas*)

1 pork belly
salt and pepper
2 TB cooking oil
1/2 c. chopped carrots
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
about 3 1/2 c. red wine

2 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 1/2 c. milk
6 oz. goat cheese
salt and pepper

1/4 c. chopped chives
1 1/2 c. chopped mushrooms
1 c. chopped or baby arugula
shaved parmesan cheese

To cook the pork belly: Rub with salt and pepper and plenty of cumin. Sear on all sides over medium high heat in 2 TB oil. Remove the meat and then add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the meat back to the pan and add the wine (should at least cover about 1/2 way up the sides of the pork). Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and place in a 350 degree oven. Cook until very tender. I've found that cooking it about 50 minutes then flipping it over and cooking another 50 minutes is just about perfect. Allow to cool before chopping up about 1 c. or so to use on pizzas.

For the goat cheese mornay sauce: In a medium saucepan heat butter and flour over medium heat. In a small saucepan on a separate burner slowly heat the milk, being careful not to boil/burn. Once the butter has melted with the flour cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the milk, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened. It should be fairly thick, but if it is too much so add a little more milk to thin it out. Add the goat cheese and stir until melted and well incorporated. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

For the pizzas: Preheat oven to 500. If not using a pizza stone, spread a little olive oil onto 2 baking sheets. Spread 1 pizza dough onto each sheet. Spread each pizza with some of the mornay sauce. Sprinkle on chopped pork belly, mushrooms, and chives. Place in the oven and cook for about 12 minutes or until crust is crispy and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from oven and top with the arugula and shaved parmesan to serve.

*You will more than likely have leftovers of things from making these 2 pizzas. You can make more pizzas if you are cooking for more people, but this is what I did with them: Cook pasta and drain. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat some of the fatty/wine liquid from cooking the pork belly (along with some of the mirepoix) over medium high heat. Add chopped mushrooms and chopped pork belly and cook a few minutes. Stir in the mornay sauce and cook until all comes together and is heated through. Toss this sauce with the pasta and serve, topped with some extra parm and chopped chives if you would like.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Zucchini and Ricotta Fritters

Really one of my favorite parts about summer is summer squash. I live for when these things come in season. I know a lot of people don't think they have a lot of flavor, but they are one of my favorite vegetables. I love them raw with a little ranch or sauteed with oregano and topped with mozzarella cheese. I love them roasted and/or stuffed. And I love all of the varieties (especially the patty pans. Oh, god, the patty pans. Mmmm. Wait for a patty pan recipe coming up).

When I picked up some zucchini at the market the other day, I wasn't sure what exactly to do with it. I did a quick Google search for zucchini recipes and came up with fritters. But what is better than a zucchini fritter? A zucchini fritter with lots of ricotta cheese and puffed up nice and fluffy. Crispy, light, airy, rich, refreshing--it doesn't get much better than this. Plus, I discovered that if you have leftovers you can heat them on a baking sheet for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees and they will taste practically as good as right when they come out of the oil.

Zucchini and Ricotta Fritters
1 c. ricotta cheese
1 c. shredded zucchini
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. flour
oil for frying

Heat 4" of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. It will need to reach about 350 degrees before you start frying.
Mix together the remaining ingredients. You may need to add a little more or less flour to get the right consistency (smooth, but not too runny). Once the oil is hot enough, drop the batter by small tablespoonfuls into the oil (try to get the spoons as close to the oil as possible so the oil doesn't splash when you drop the batter in). Do only a few fritters at the time so as to not overcrowd the pan. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side and then remove to a paper towel-covered plate. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve the fritters immediately.

(Note: If you have leftovers, refrigerate. To reheat, turn the oven to 400 degrees and place fritters on a baking sheet. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and hot.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pork With Mustard Bourbon Glaze and Sauteed Beet Greens

I am going to ask a few favors of you, my faithful blog readers (there are a couple of you out there, I believe...). Number one, if you haven't already, please pick up either "Omnivore's Dilemma" or "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." I told you before how much I enjoyed "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and am in the beginning pages of "Omnivore's Dilemma". It's already surprised me and opened my eyes to the origins of our food and the problems that face our farmers and our country in terms of food production. We need to make some serious reforms in the way we grow, purchase, and consume and I think that the more people that read books such as these the faster these changes will come about. I guarantee you that by reading these books your perception of food will change.

Also, along some similar lines as the above favor, I ask that you go out and purchase meat that is raised organically and grass fed. Go to the farmer's markets and get to know the farmers and find out their practices before purchasing your meat. Not only will you be helping to reinforce some of the above mentioned changes to food production, but you will also be gaining huge bounds in terms of flavor. I'm telling you: animals that are raised on what they should be eating and that are not being filled with antibiotics and whatnot taste leaps and bounds better than the typical meat you buy at the grocery store. I promise you that you won't be disappointed.
When you go out and get some pork chops from your local farmer's market, try out this recipe. Joe said I should only make pork this way because it is so good. Sorry for no photos--next time I make it I'll make sure to get a couple and update the post.

Pork With Mustard Bourbon Glaze
2 pork chops (about 1 1/2" thick)
salt and pepper
1 t. mustard powder
2 TB cooking oil
1/4 c. dijon mustard
1/8 c. honey
1/2. bourbon
2 TB butter

Rub the pork chops on each side liberally with salt and pepper and the mustard powder. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 35-40 minutes before cooking.
Heat 2 TB cooking oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork chops and cook to medium, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove the pork chops and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Turn down the heat in the skillet to medium-low. Add the dijon mustard and honey and stir for about a minute. Carefully add the bourbon, stirring constantly. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, and then stir in the 2 TB of butter and serve drizzled over the pork chops.

Sauteed Beet Greens
4 c. beet greens, chopped into large chunks
4 TB butter
1/4 c. cooking oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 c. chopped onion
salt and pepper
1/2 t. red chili peppers
1/4 c. lemon juice

Heat the butter and cooking oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add the garlic and the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the beet greens and cook until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper, red chili flakes, and lemon juice and serve.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Beet Carpaccio

I've always prided myself on being someone that will try anything once (although, I do have a package of fried crickets that have been sitting in my cabinet for a while that I just keep trying to work myself up to trying...). Picky eaters are probably my biggest pet peeve. I think most of the time people that are picky about their food don't have any idea what they actually like/don't like. They were told as kids that they didn't like something (usually as they were eating it...ugh. When I see parents do this I want to pull my hair out). Or they just assumed they didn't like it and wouldn't try it. These people just have no idea of the things they are missing out on.

I do have to admit, though, that there were some things I did not like when I was a bit younger. Olives, radishes, beets. When growing up, though, my mom would make me try everything, even if I thought I didn't like it. I learned that sometimes I really did like these things or that sometimes my tastes would change. So these days I continue to try things that I used to not like in hopes of changing my mind.

I remember specifically the case for olives. I hated them. I would try them here and there (my mom loved them on sandwiches and pizzas and they made me gag :). Then I studied abroad in Spain. My host mother (a beautiful, amazing woman) would put olives on the salads multiple times a week for our family lunch. Never wanting to make her feel bad, I always ate them, along with anything else that maybe I didn't love. Then one day some friends and I were walking through a square in Cadiz and came upon an olive vendor. For some reason the smell of those olives overwhelmed me with desire. The vendor had barrels full of so many kinds of olives, all with a special brine or flavoring. I marched over, bought me a massive bag of garlicky olives and proceeded to enjoy the whole bag while wandering around the city. I was hooked and haven't looked back since (although I do admit to still struggling with black olives. I'll eat them in things, but alone...? Probably someday).

I don't remember exactly when this change came around for me with beets, but I do know I am happy that it has. There is something pure and earthy about beets flavor. I feel like I am experiencing the soul of the garden when I eat them. Beet carpaccio highlights their deep flavor and doesn't muddy it down with too many other elements

Beet Carpaccio
2 servings
4 beets, cleaned and trimmed
2 TB olive oil
4 TB extra virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 c. sunflower sprouts (or arugula)
1/2 c. blue cheese crumbles
1/3 c. walnuts
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. In a small baking dish toss the beets with regular olive oil and a bit of salt. Cover dish with foil and cook beets until tender, about 50 minutes. Remove and allow to cool, then peel off the skins with your fingers.
Slice the beets into very thin slices and arrange in a single layer on two plates. Drizzle with 1 TB extra virgin olive oil on each plate. Top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
In a small bowl mix together the sunflower sprouts with remaining 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Divide sprouts in two parts and place each one on top of the beet slices.
Top the beets with blue cheese crumbles and walnuts and serve.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Seared Scallops with Herb Drizzle and Broccolini

In our new apartment (can I still call it that after almost 3 months??) we live very close to the beautiful, large Brooklyn Public Library. While wandering around it one day I stumbled across dvds of "The French Chef". So, let's just say I've been watching a lot of old school cooking television lately.

The great thing about watching Julia Child cooking these recipes is that it really seems to take away the fear and complication of cooking these French recipes. I know that is what she was going for when writing "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" but sometimes the length and detail that goes into those written recipes is a little intimidating. When you watch her, though, you understand that many of the recipes are just cooking basics and there is so much room for substitution if necessary or different ways of doing just about everything. Despite the fact that most people consider French cooking "fancy" or "complicated", watching these episodes are making me more and more confident in going back to basics and sticking with simplicity. Because, really, most of the best meals are the most elemental.

So that brings me to this meal. Not French, but inspired by a woman who taught us to not be afraid in the kitchen and to try new things. The scallops are simply (but perfectly--seriously: crispy layer and creamy interior) seared and served with a refreshing herb drizzle and the broccolini is sauteed with some simple flavoring. Who needs to go out to a restaurant when you can eat like this at home?

Seared Scallops with Fresh Herb Drizzle
8 diver scallops
salt and pepper
2-3 TB Olive oil
1-2 TB good quality extra virgin olive oil

juice from 2 limes
1/4 c. cilantro, finely minced
2 TB mint, finely minced
1 TB finely minced shallots
salt and pepper
1/3 c. olive oil

In a small bowl mix together the lime juice, cilantro, mint, shallots and salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set sauce aside.
Heat 2-3 TB olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot (but not smoking), salt and pepper each side of the scallops and add 4 to the saute pan. Allow to cook until crispy on each side, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside and cook the other 4 scallops in the same manor.
Drizzle the scallops with the good-quality extra virgin olive oil and then serve with the cilantro-mint sauce.

Sauteed Broccolini
2 bundles of broccolini
2 TB butter
2 TB olive oil
1 t. fennel seed powder
1 t. celery salt
salt and pepper
1-2 TB good quality extra virgin olive oil

Heat the butter and regular olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the broccolini. Sprinkle with fennel seed powder and celery salt and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Mojito Ice Cream

I've said before how much I love mojitos. I don't think there's much more refreshing than the combo of tart lime juice and fresh mint while sitting out in the summer heat. So when trying to decide what kind of ice cream to make to kick off the summer, this was the first choice for Joe and I.

The flavor of this ice cream turned out really well but the texture is a little funny (almost like a cross between ice cream and sorbet). I'm not quite sure where the problem is--maybe too much lime juice? Maybe I really need the egg yolks in this? I'm going to do some playing around with it in the future, but I'm posting it to get some suggestions from anyone out there that has made a citrus ice cream before. When I placed this in the fridge it separated after a couple of hours, but I stirred it, placed it back in the fridge, and didn't have any problems with the separation after that.

Mojito Ice Cream
1 1/4 c. Half and half
1 3/4 c. heavy cream
1 c. sugar
zest from 3 limes
1/2 c. lime juice
bundle of mint
1 TB rum

In a medium saucepan mix together the sugar, lime juice and lime zest over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. While whisking, add in the half and half and heavy cream. Also add the bundle of mint (should not be chopped--use stems and all). Turn up the heat slightly and cook until the mixture reaches 170 degrees, stirring frequently.
Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Cover with plastic wrap touching the top of the mixture and allow to come to room temperature. Then remove the mint, recover, and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours. Once it has sat, churn according to your ice cream makers instructions.
After churning place in a covered container and freeze for at least one hour before serving.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Homemade Butter and Radishes

It's so funny how sometimes growing up you want to be anywhere but home and be doing anything but what your parents are doing--and then you become an adult and wish you could go back home and do those things. I always fought against having to work in the garden, go feed and take care of the pigs and sheep, or spend long days canning and preserving fruits and veggies. Now these are things that I wish I could do more of now. I feel like I am so lucky to have this knowledge. So many people don't understand or get to experience first hand where our food comes from, and these days I'm realizing how very important it is that we start going back to those basics and regain the understanding.

In light of this, I am trying to get back to a way of life that isn't really simpler, but is definitely more rewarding. I am buying things in season from local growers. I am much more conscious of where my food is coming from. In this vain I also want to learn some of those skills that our generation hasn't had to use so these skill sets don't get lost. I'm learning to knit, for one, but I have decided I also want to make more of my own bread and pasta. I want to find a plot of land next year somewhere (anyone know a community garden in Prospect Heights that will let me plant?) and get a garden of my own started. And now I want to start trying my hand at butter and cheese.

I found this recipe for butter in "The Butter Issue" of Saveur. If you haven't seen this issue, I urge you to find it--so many fascinating stories about butter! The recipe is so simple. Find a local dairy and purchase your cream from them--the butter will taste even more of home. I decided to serve up my first batch of butter in a simple French way: with radishes. Basic, unadorned, and just perfect for showcasing the flavors of your butter.
(Oh, and if you want a great, easy bread recipe try this one out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTY4WJRSzY8).

Homemade Butter

Butter and Radishess
Homemade butter
Sea Salt
Smoked Sea Salt
Crusty French Bread (optional)

Place the butter in a bowl and let come to about room temperature. Clean the radishes and chop in half. Spread the radishes with butter and sprinkle with good quality sea salt and, if desired, smoked sea salt and serve on good French bread.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni

I keep telling myself I'm going to start eating better. I don't believe in most diets--I am more of the "eat well rounded meals" state of mind. I really think you can eat what you want but have to understand moderation. With all the running I'm doing, though, I want to make sure that I really am getting all of the nutrients I need to keep going. So, although I will not be counting calories, I'm trying to pack in more fresh veggies and less fried food (and--maybe--less sugar).

I do have a weakness, though, for all things involving butter and cream sauce. So when I came across a recipe for Cannelloni on Erin's blog, I knew I had to make it. In Kansas City, Zio's Restaurant had an amazing Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni that I've been craving so I decided to make this with a creamy alfredo sauce. I looked at a few recipes I found on the web and then came up with my own recipe below. It may not be weight watchers friendly, but I didn't regret a single bite.

(Oh, and can I apologize for the quality of my pictures lately? I've been trying to figure out the lighting situation in my new apartment and have honestly just been too lazy to try too hard at the pictures. I promise to work on that soon).

Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni
3 chicken breast cutlets, cooked and chopped
1 c. chopped fresh spinach
1/3 c. shredded mozzarella
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
7-8 oz. ricotta cheese
1 t. dried rosemary
2 t. dried oregano
7 cannelloni or manicotti shells, cooked

1 stick butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1 pt. heavy cream
1/2 c. grated parmesan
salt and pepper
1/2 c. grated mozzarella cheese

In a large bowl mix together the chicken breast, spinach, mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta, rosemary and oregano. Use the mixture as a filling for the cannelloni shells. Place the shells into a small baking dish in a single layer and set aside.
In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute about 1-2 minutes. Add the heavy cream, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the cream sauce over top of the filled cannelloni and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for 15 minutes more.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps, Tuna and Shrimp Ceviche

I've been rocking the NYC road racing scene lately. In the last week I ran a PR in both a 10K in Central Park and a 3 mile race through Wall Street. Don't get the wrong idea--I'm not in the front of the pack by a long stretch--but I am getting better and racing faster each time! It's all about beating myself. :) And next weekend I'll be racing in the Brooklyn Half Marathon. I'm always excited when I get to race in the borough I call home--especially when the race ends at Coney Island (do I hear Nathan's Famous calling my name as a post-race snack??).

Usually after a race we'll get a bagel and an apple. I am always starving after a race, regardless of how long it is and I'll devour that bagel right away, then get home, eat some more, take a nap and then eat again. I feel like I deserve eating about 5 or 6 meals a day after running early in the morning. The Wall Street 3 mile race last week, however, was an evening race. We got a roll instead of a bagel (one of those really sweet rolls that I remember eating at the cafeteria in grade school) and a choice of a banana or an apple. As we were passing through the food line I saw that they were handing us something else as well--a package of whole grain tortillas. Yeah, they handed us a package of tortillas after the race. I don't know why, but at least I had an idea for dinner later on in the week!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps
3 chicken breast supremes, cooked and shredded
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 c. chopped lettuce
1 tomato, diced
1/2 c. shredded cheddar
1/2 c. ranch dressing
salt and pepper
4 whole grain tortillas

In a large bowl mix together the chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, ranch dressing and salt and pepper to taste. Right before serving spread 1/4 of the mixture into each tortilla, wrap up, and serve.

Tuna and Shrimp Ceviche
20 small cooked shrimp
.5 lb sashimi grade tuna
1/2 cucumber
1 avocado
1 mango
1/2 c. papaya
4 green onions, minced
2 TB chopped cilantro
1 t. soy sauce
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. lime juice

Remove the tails from the shrimp and cut each shrimp in half. Place in a large bowl. Chop the tuna, cucumber, avocado, mango and papaya into 1/2" cubes. Place into the bowl with the shrimp. Toss together with the green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, lemon juice and lime juice. Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sides: Sesame Cucumber Salad, Potato Pancakes, Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Side dishes have a bad rap. They are often overlooked and only given a cursory second--or fourth--thought (entree, dessert, beverages...oh, yeah. We should have something green, too...). We will plop down some canned green beans or a side of rice with very little actual planning going into these dishes. However, with a little bit of forethought and planning, a great side dish will take your meal to the next level. When you are considering what to make for dinner think about the side dish right along with the entree: what flavors would pair well? How can you use one to compliment the other? When you match them together well you will feel as if you are eating in a restaurant instead of at your dining room table.

I think one of the reasons people give sides less thought is because they spend so much time on the entree and they don't have the time to fuss with extravagant extras. A perfect side dish, though, does not have to be complicated. For instance, you could just use the cooking juices from the meat to make up a sauce to drizzle over some steamed veggies. Also, there are many dishes where you can cook the vegetables/grains in with the proteins, saving time and dirty dishes.

Here I have a few side dishes to get you started on your side dish revolution. The Sesame Cucumber salad is simple, refreshing, and a perfect compliment to many summer favorites. The potato pancakes are a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes and a fun way to play around in the kitchen--the flavor combinations are endless. And finally a Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette that is not only good on salad greens, but is excellent tossed with tuna, hard boiled egg, capers and greens for a tasty snack or lunch.

Sesame Cucumber Salad
2 TB white wine vinegar
2 t. sesame oil
2 TB olive oil
1 cucumber, sliced
3 heads Belgian Endive, chopped
2 TB chopped wild onions (chives will work as well), minced

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, sesame oil, and olive oil. In a separate bowl toss the cucumber, endive, and wild onions. Toss the vegetables with the dressing and serve.

Roasted Garlic Potato Pancakes
1 1/2 c. mashed potatoes, cooled
4-5 cloves roasted garlic
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 TB butter
1 TB olive oil

In a large bowl mix together the mashed potatoes, roasted garlic, parmesan cheese. Taste to see if you need to add any salt and pepper. Form the potato mixture into patties, about 2" in diameter and about 1/2" thick.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oils are hot add the potato pancakes and cook to a crispy brown, about 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 TB white wine vinegar
2 TB lemon juice
1/4 t. ground mustard
1/4 t. season salt
1/3 c. olive oil
salt and pepper

In a small bowl mix together the roasted garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, ground mustard and season salt. Add the olive oil in a slow drizzle while briskly whisking the roasted garlic mixture. You may need a little more olive oil to make a creamy, thick vinaigrette, and that is ok. Once the mixture is whisked together well taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Doughnut Plant

It's funny the things that you crave sometimes. Here in the city we have amazing Mexican restaurants and delis and yet I find myself at times having a hard core craving for Taco Bell or Arbys. No, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but there it is.
When it comes to breakfast here almost everywhere you turn is another place with great bagels (schmeared with way too much cream cheese and, in my favorite version, with lox and capers), cheesy breakfast sandwiches, and pastries galore. But one thing that I crave and have found lacking is a good donut. Until now.
Last weekend, on a very rainy Sunday before seeing Christopher Durang's new play, Joe and I finally made our way to The Doughnut Plant. I have heard little things about it here and there, but really decided I must go there after an article in Edible Manhattan. And I can't believe it has taken me so long to get there.
The donuts were fresh and moist (which is never the case with most of the donuts I've seen in the city). And the flavors. Oh, the flavors. I had a yeast doughnut with a Valrhona Chocolate glaze and a Coconut glaze filled with coconut cream. Joe had a Strawberry filled Vanilla bean and a Tres Leches Cake doughnut. Even the cake doughnut was moist and tender--I guarantee you've never had a cake doughnut like this! My favorite part about these doughnuts is the cream-filled ones: it's not just one blob of cream in the middle, oh, no. They are square doughnuts that have little dollops of the filling all the way around the whole doughnut. With every bite you get a little of the cream but it isn't so much that it overpowers the flavor of the doughnut itself (because with these guys you don't need to cover anything up!). To top it off, the fillings are all made in-house.
The Doughnut Plant started in 1994 with owner Mark using his grandfather's recipe. He would make the doughnuts all night and then deliver them himself on his bicycle in the mornings. He eventually found his grove using fresh seasonal ingredients. Over the years more and more people found the awesomeness that is Mark's doughnuts and as it grew he added more flavors, more options (including churros! who doesn't want a churro for breakfast?) and eventually opened the shop on Grand Street where you can get these beauties today.

Penne with Creamy Milk Sauce

I know I promised to stop talking about Easter dinner but I lied a little. I've been trying hard to be better about using up leftovers and not letting things go to waste lately. And I had a lot of delicious milk sauce leftover from the meal. And as much as I just wanted to pour myself a big bowl and just eat it like that, I decided I should make it into a new meal. I also got to use up the rest of the spinach and pecorino cheese I had from the meal. This, again, is a pretty big portion of pasta, but I wanted to be able to eat it for lunches the rest of the week (it reheats well).

Penne with Creamy Milk Sauce
12 oz. whole wheat penne pasta, cooked
4 TB butter
2-3 cloves garlic
2-3 cups spinach
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
3 c. milk sauce from Milk Braised Pork
1/2-3/4 c. grated pecorino cheese
6 slices cooked and chopped bacon
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the spinach, garlic, and mushrooms and saute. After the vegetables are cooked add the milk sauce and bring up to a simmer, stirring often. Simmer for about 10-12 minutes. Stir in the pecorino cheese.
Toss the milk sauce with the pasta, chicken and bacon. Top with a little more pecorino cheese to serve.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Easter Dinner: Desserts

Finally, right? I'm sure you're tired of hearing about my Easter dinner--I'm tired of talking about it myself!

But before I finish up I'll give you the desserts. When planning this menu I was trying to think of spring flavors. One of the things I love the most when the weather starts to warm up is a mojito. Unfortunately I know how much bartenders hate to make them so I rarely order them. But why not take those flavors and put them into a dessert? And the mojito dump cake was born. Another one of my favorite warm weather flavor combos is from the Hawaiian Ice stands I would stop by a lot in college--especially during my summer as a camp counselor. My absolute favorite Hawaiian Ice was the Tiger's Blood: a combo of strawberry, coconut, and cinnamon. Here I took those flavors and mixed them into a creamy ice cream instead.

Mojito Dump Cakes
for the lime pie filling:
1 c. sugar
3 TB cornstarch
1 1/2 c. cold water
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
grated zest of 2 limes
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1 TB butter
1/2 c. fresh chopped mint

1 18-21 oz. french vanilla cake mix
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. coconut
1 16 oz. can crushed pineapple
1/2 c. mint
1 stick butter, melted

Mix together the sugar and the cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Stir in the cold water, then add the egg yolks and stir until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil and stir for 1 minute, then remove from heat (you will notice the mixture thicken up quickly, so don't turn away from the pan). Stir in the lime zest, lime juice, butter and mint and allow the pie filling to cool.
Prep muffin tins by placing the foil part only of foil baking cups into muffin tins (2 12 muffin tins or 4 6 muffin tins).
In a bowl combine cake mix, walnuts and coconut. In a separate bowl mix together the pineapple and mint.
Layer lime pie filling in the bottom of each muffin tin. Layer pineapple mixture on top of that. Top with the cake filling and pat down on each one to make it even. Drizzle the butter on top and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Tiger's Blood Ice Cream
1 1/2 c. coconut milk
1 1/2 c. whipping cream
1 c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon extract
1 TB coconut rum
1 1/2 c. strawberries, mashed well
1/2 c. coconut

Combine the coconut milk, whipping cream, sugar and cinnamon extract in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to 170 degrees F. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut rum. Allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour. Then cover with plastic wrap touching the top of the mixture and refrigerate overnight.
The next day add the mixture to the ice cream maker and mix. After 10 minutes add the mashed strawberries and the coconut. Continue mixing the ice cream until it has reached a soft-serve consistency. Scoop the mixture into a lidded container and freeze for at least an hour before serving.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Easter Dinner: Sides

Ok, I promise to try to finish this up in the next day or so so I can finally move on to something else. But at least updates are happening, despite the snail's pace. After this, it's just dessert.
I have to confess that I used canned mandarin oranges for the salad. The thought of supreming all the oranges I would need was just too overwhelming on top of everything else. I recommend using fresh oranges instead (since you probably won't be serving 15 with this :).

Focaccia (not made into pizzas, obviously)
Fennel, Citrus, Sherry Salad
4 heads fennel, sliced
3 cans of mandarin oranges
2 grapefruits, supremed
blue cheese, crumbled
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. dry sherry
1/8-1/4 c. sherry vinegar
1/4 t. season salt
1/8 t. celery salt
1/2 c. olive oil

Toss the fennel, oranges, grapefruit, blue cheese and walnuts.
In a separate bowl mix together the sherry, vinegar, season salt, and celery salt. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Toss the dressing with the salad and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Easter Dinner Part 2: Milk Braised Pork

I love pork. In any form. (have I said all this before? Perhaps. But it's really worth mentioning again) I mean there's bacon, prosciutto, pork chops, lardo (mmmm), bacon, pork belly, ribs, loin, and did I mention bacon? I love all of ways you can prepare and enjoy the pig. So it's pretty safe to assume that when I have a gathering of people it's one of the first things I think of adding to my menu.
Since I had so many people coming over for Easter and I didn't want to completely break the bank I decided to use pork shoulder again this year. But I wanted a different preparation than last year's pernil (although that was awfully tasty). Talking with one of my guests a couple of weeks before we discussed a restaurant that we both had recently tried for the first time. One of the things on the menu was milk braised pork. As soon as the words came out of my friend's mouth I knew this was what I had to make.

I've had milk braised pork once before in the kitchen in a restaurant where I used to work. The chef had just pulled this amazing massive piece of steaming pork out of the oven and asked me if I wanted to try (this particular chef knows of my passion for eating and let me try so many of the things that came out of that kitchen--even things that never ended up on the menu. How I miss that part of that job!). The meat of this pork was tender and the outer edges were crispy and full of flavor. It was maybe one of the best things I had ever put in my mouth. I begged the chef for the recipe over and over again. I never got it out of him (yet). This particular recipe here was put together after scouring the internet for different versions of this dish (the spice blend is my own).

I know this isn't as fall-out-of-my-chair-amazing as my first taste of milk braised pork was, but it is pretty darn good. So good, in fact, that hours after the meal my friends and I pulled it out of the refrigerator and sat and ate most of the leftovers with our bare hands on the island in my kitchen.

(Remember: keep in mind I was feeding a large group--this recipe makes a lot! Try it with a pork loin instead or a small portion of pork shoulder to keep the servings under control.)

Milk Braised Pork
1 full and one 1/2 pork shoulder (bone-in, about 14lb) *
1 TB coriander seed powder
1 1/2 t. fennel seed powder
1 TB dried rosemary
3 TB salt
1 TB pepper

6 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 gallon of milk
1 pint of heavy cream

*Using a knife, carefully remove the skin and the thickest part of the fat from the shoulders. Chop and reserve about 1/3-1/2 c. of the fat for searing the meat.
Mix together the coriander seed powder, fennel seed powder, rosemary, salt and pepper. Rub all over the pork shoulders. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In a large pan cook the chopped pork fat with about 1/3 c. of water over medium/medium-high heat to render the fats. Remove the solids from the pan when you have a few tablespoons of fat in the pan. Turn heat up slightly and get the grease hot. Sear each pork shoulder separately on all sides--about 4-5 minutes each side for each piece of pork. Remove the pork from the pan.
Add the garlic to the pan and saute quickly. Add a little milk to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan and remove from the heat.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place seared pork into a large roasting pan. Pour in the milk and garlic from the searing pan and then pour in the heavy cream and enough milk to cover as much of the sides as possible (if some of the pork is sticking up, it is fine, you can flip it part of the way through cooking). Cover the roasting pan with a tight fitting lid or with foil. Place in the oven. After about an hour and a half, check on the meat and flip the pork shoulder so the outer half is now below the milk line. Return to the oven. Cook until the meat begins to pull away from the bone easily (I cooked this about 3 1/2-4 hours).

Remove the pork to a platter and cover. Place the braising liquids into a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat. Use a hand blender to make the milk sauce nice and smooth. Add a little salt and pepper, if necessary. If you want a little thicker sauce, add a little cornstarch to the mixture.
To serve shred the pork and top with the creamy milk sauce.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Menu, Part 1: Appetizers

So, as promised, the Easter menu spread will be unfolding a little slowly. I made a lot and to put it all into one post would just be overwhelming!

Can I just say that I love planning dinner parties like this? I sit for weeks beforehand drawing up menus, printing off recipes, making lists for shopping trips, preparing a detailed step-by-step guide to when to start what. I would do this every weekend if I had the money for it.

Here is the menu I used for this gathering:
Endive Spears with ricotta and arugula pesto
Huevos Rellenos
Main Course
Milk braised pork shoulder
Fennel, citrus, blue cheese salad with sherry vinaigrette
Mini Mojito Dump Cakes
"Tiger's Blood" Ice Cream

A couple of notes: I don't have pictures of everything I made (I'm bad about doing that when there are people around and we are all talking/drinking/having a good time). And I made a TON of food, so depending on how many people you have you probably want to cut back on portions a little. I'm also really bad about actually measuring things, so play around with quantity a bit because these measurements are probably not quite accurate.

Endive Spears with Ricotta and Arugula pesto
6 heads of endive
lemon juice
salt and pepper
1 large container ricotta cheese (32oz?)
1/3 c. fresh fennel fronds, finely chopped
1 c. of arugula pesto (recipe below)

Separate each individual leaf from the heads of endive until you get down to the very small leaves in the center. Wash and dry the leaves, then arrange on a large platter. Sprinkle with a little bit of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
In a bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, chopped fennel fronds, and some salt and pepper to taste. Spread each of the endive spears with some ricotta mixture and then spread on top some of the arugula pesto.
You can prep the ingredients in advance for this dish, but do not assemble until it is close to serving time as the endive will wilt slightly.

Arugula Pesto
1 bag arugula (about 2 1/2 c.)
1 c. chopped or shredded pecorino cheese
1 c. walnuts
4 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
1-1 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until finely chopped and mixed together well. Start off with the smallest amount of olive oil and add more as needed to bring the pesto together and to desired consistency.

Huevos Rellenos
(Spanish Deviled Eggs)
18 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
6 oz. tomato sauce
2 cans of tuna
1/4-1/3 c. of mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Cut each of the eggs in half and remove the yolks to a mixing bowl. To the mixing bowl and the remainder of the ingredients. Mix together well, adding salt and pepper or more mayo as needed. Refill the hole of each egg white with the yolk mixture.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beef Wellington

Ok. I think I am back finally! We are settled in to the new apartment, my kitchen is unpacked, and I've made a few meals that are blog-worthy (including a big Easter spread that will be slowly unfolding on here!). I haven't been keeping up with the reading of blogs lately, either, so I promise to get caught up on all soon.
First up: a picture of the new kitchen. It's small, but I love it. It's open to the living room and I can cook while watching TV when I'm alone or I can chat with my husband/friends when there are people over. In my last kitchen it was hard to have more than one person in the kitchen an here I can actually not feel cut off from the world in there. The kitchen got really good and broken in on Easter when I cooked a meal for 13!

And, just to brag a little, here's the view to the left when looking out of our window:

For the first real meal in our new apartment, I was really ready to cook and make something new, and maybe a little fancy. Beef Wellington hits the spot. What's really great about this recipe is that it is honestly so, so easy but feels like you have slaved away forever on it. It feels like one of those really romantic meals for me. I've never tried out this recipe before, but you can bet that I will be making it again and again.

Beef Wellington
(from about.com)
2 fillets mignon, 1-inch thick
2 sheets puff pastry
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. Mushroom Duxelles
1 egg

1. Thaw puff pastry according to package directions.
2. Fillets are often irregular in shape, if yours are use a piece of kitchen twine to tie them into a round. (See the photo tutorial for making Individual Beef Wellingtons.)
3. Season fillets generously with salt and pepper.
4. Pre-heat a medium (10-inch) non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add butter and swirl in pan to melt.
5. Cook fillets on both sides for about 3 minutes until well-browned, then brown the edges. Note: Regularly check the internal temperature of the fillets, they should not be cooked past 120F at the center.*** Allow fillets to cool, then wrap in plastic and chill for at least a couple of hours. In the meantime make the duxelles.
6. Heat oven to 400F. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water (egg wash).
7. Wrap the fillets in puff pastry . Brush with egg wash, and bake in center of oven until golden brown; about 30 minutes.
I love to serve these drizzled with truffle oil and red wine reduction (recipe below).

***Note: The fillets are deliberately undercooked and then chilled to prevent them from overcooking in the final step. They should come out of the oven medium rare after the final baking.

Mushroom Duxelles
(from about.com)
1/2 lb.mushrooms (morels are great, but button mushrooms work)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter; divided
3 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup dry vermouth, sherry, or white wine

1. Finely chop mushrooms in a food processor.
2. Scrape mushrooms out into a clean, cotton towel. (Note: Do not use terry cloth, and choose an old towel as you will stain it.)
3. Twist towel around mushrooms and wring out as much liquid as you can over the sink.
4. Heat a large (10-inch) non-stick skillet over a burner set between medium and medium-high.
5. Add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl to melt and avoid burning.
6. Add mushrooms, shallots, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper, and thyme.
7. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms appear dry and are beginning to brown; about 5 minutes.
8. Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter, and, when melted, the sherry or wine.
9. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vermouth has evaporated.
10. Remove from heat and cool.
Note: Duxelles freeze well, so although this recipe produces more than you need for two wellingtons, you can save the remainder for future use.

Red Wine Reduction
1 c. red wine
2 TB cold butter, cut into 6 pieces
salt and pepper

Add the red wine to the pan that you used to cook the mushroom duxelles. Cook over medium/medium-high heat until it is reduced by half. Turn the heat to low and slowly add the butter a piece at a time, whisking the sauce to incorporate. Salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over the wellington to serve.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I promise I have not fallen off the face of the earth. If you are still out there, please don't give up on me! I will get back into this blogging thing soon. I have a lot of posts built up that I need to get down, I just haven't had the time. We did a reading of one of Joe's plays last weekend (and it went really well!), and we are getting ready to move. Spent a lot of time apartment hunting and now that we've found a place I am spending a lot of time getting things prepped for the actual move. I can't wait to start blogging from the new kitchen! It's actually smaller than my current kitchen (if that is possible), but it is open and so much less claustrophobic. And we'll be buying an island to give me some more counter space. Can't wait.
I made this taramasalata for an Oscar party (just to tell you how far behind I am). It is a creamy mixture made almost in the style of mayonnaise and it is perfect paired with some pita bread. In all the versions I've seen the roe is completely broken up. But I wanted some whole roe in there, too, so I made sure to leave some out to add at the end. I was really looking forward to making this with a really smoky salmon roe. When I bought it at Russ and Daughters, they told me it is smoked, but it doesn't have the flavor I was hoping for. I was hoping for the smoky, amazing roe like I had on top of a fish at the wedding I went to in Mendocino last October. When I find that flavorful salmon roe someday I will make this again.

(adapted from "The Joy of Cooking")
1 c. riced potatoes*
2 TB olive oil
1/2 c. salmon roe
(+ 1/4 c. more salmon roe for stirring in at end)
1 garlic clove
1 TB chopped onion
3 TB lemon juice
1/2 cl olive oil
1 TB finely chopped parsley

(*for riced potatoes, peel and boil potatoes until tender and push through a ricer)
Toss the hot riced potatoes with 2 TB olive oil.
Beat 1/2 c. salmon roe with onion and garlic and then beat in the potatoes along with lemon juice. Drop by drop beat in the 1/2 c. olive oil until mixture is the consistency of a heavy cream sauce. Add 1/4 c. whole salmon roe and parsley. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chocolate Stout Floats

Sometimes you just need dessert but you don't want to spend a lot of times making it. I feel this way a lot. I end up spending a ton of time making dinner so I don't have time to make anything special for dessert. This one, however, anyone has the time for. The combo of sweet caramel with the rich chocolate stout puts a sophisticated spin on the childhood classic.

Chocolate Stout Floats
Dulce de leche or caramel ice cream
chocolate stout (I used one from Brooklyn Brewery)

Using a tall glass, scoop in 3-4 scoops of the caramel ice cream. Top of with chocolate stout. Enjoy with a spoon and a straw.

Grown-up S'mores Tart

I never knew you could make marshmallows at home. I always figured they were lots of weird fake-y type ingredients and needed some sort of crazy processing. Then I saw all of those posts from the wonderful Daring Bakers a while ago and knew I had to try my hand at these myself. The food blogging community is always great about teaching me something new.

I decided I wanted to do something a little different with these marshmallows and decided to go for a little savory mixed in and made them rosemary flavored. I really liked the flavor of them, but a couple of people that tried them thought it was a little strange. But I love pairing up fresh herbs in sweet desserts so it was right up my ally.

But, what to do with rosemary flavored marshmallows? I had a few ideas, but ended up deciding I wanted to make them into something resembling s'mores for a more sophisticated palate. The result: graham cracker crust, creamy white chocolate raspberry filling, and the rosemary marshmallows bruleed on top.
Rosemary Marshmallows
(recipe slightly adapted from Alton Brown)
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
4 sprigs rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt and rosemary sprigs. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat and remove the rosemary sprigs.
Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Grown-up S'mores Tart
2 t. unflavored powdered gelatin
3 c. heavy cream
3 TB sugar
1 1/2 t. raspberry extract
1/2 lb. white chocolate, chopped
pinch of salt

8 oz. graham crackers, crushed
1 stick melted butter
1 TB sugar
rosemary marshmallows

In a small bowl sprinkle the gelatin over 1 1/2 TB cold water and let sit until the gelatin is softened.
In a medium saucepan heat the heavy cream, sugar, and raspberry extract over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Add the white chocolate and a pinch of salt. Allow to sit until the chocolate softens and melts and then stir until smooth. Cover the white chocolate mixture with plastic wrap (making sure it is touching the surface of the mixture) and allow to cool for 1 hour.
Mix together the crushed graham crackers, melted butter, and sugar. Press into the bottom of a greased 8" spring form pan. Wrap the bottom of the spring form pan with a couple of layers of foil to keep the chocolate filling from leaking. Place pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour to chill the crust.
After allowing to sit for an hour, pour the white chocolate filling into the crust. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours uncovered, until firm. Top off the tart with rosemary marshmallows.
Right before serving use a brulee torch to heat and crisp the marshmallows.