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.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Green Bean Salad with Duck Prosciutto Vinaigrette

As Spring and Summer produce arrives at the greenmarket, it brings along a sense of refreshment and renewal. An awakening of the senses and alighting inspiration. There is no need to bring along recipes--they create themselves when you see the strawberries piled next to the spinach or taste the samples of hot Italian sausage at a stand right next to their fresh new turnip greens.

One stand really getting my creative juices flowing lately is the Hudson Valley Duck Farm. They feature lovely fresh duck (especially fond of the lola duck breasts) but also have amazing duck charcuterie: rilletes, smoked, and prosciutto. I served this prosciutto thinly sliced at a party I had recently, but when I had leftovers I couldn't help but add them to this crunchy, bright salad in the form of a vinaigrette.

Green Bean Salad with Duck Prosciutto Vinaigrette

3 c. (2 large handfuls) haricot vert or green beans, trimmed
1/3 c. chopped duck proscuitto (or use pancetta or thick cut bacon)
2 TB extra virgin olive oil, divided
Juice of 2 lemons
1/3 c. toasted slivered almonds
flaky sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add in the haricot vert and blanch, cooking for about 1.5-2 minutes. Then remove the haricot vert and place immediately into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

While the haricot vert are cooling, make the dressing. Heat 1 TB extra virgin olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and cook until it releases some of it's fat and flavor into the oil, about 2 minutes (If you are using bacon instead, cook the bacon on its own without the oil until cooked through). Remove the prosciutto to a paper towel and reserve the cooking oil and allow to cool slightly.

Put the lemon juice into a small bowl. Add in the prosciutto cooking oil in a steady stream, whisking while doing so. Then slowly whisk in the remaining 1 TB extra virgin olive oil.

Dry off the cooled haricot vert and place into a medium bowl. Add the dressing, the prosciutto and the toasted almonds. Toss together and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Artichoke Pesto

I think it's pretty apparent that I love to throw big dinner parties. I love the planning, the shopping, the lists, the days of prep work. All worth it for a lovely evening enjoying the thoughtfully prepared food with those you care about. However sometimes, there is nothing better than an informal, last minute, potluck gathering with a few of your close friends.

There's no special occasion except the rare day that you all happen to have off work. The texts go around in the morning discussing what time and where to meet up. And then you all come together with a mishmash of food and drink, and pass the day with good conversation and frequent laughter. No need for the stress of final preparations or the fear of a dish not turning out.

The simplest dishes work best for this type of gathering--usually including a stop by the market to pick up some cheese, meat and bread (plus some wine or beer). This time around I also wanted to include something with a little bit of veggies--I was thinking a simple salad, but then remembered this artichoke pesto I had purchased from the deli of a local grocery store a few weeks ago. The price tag was rather high for the prepared version, but the ingredients were straight-forward and uncomplicated, leading me to want to recreate it on my own. A quick chop of garlic and cheese, pop open the artichoke hearts, and then right into the food processor and it was ready to go. No fuss, no muss. Perfect for all of those last-minute gatherings this summer (and quite possibly a simple treat if you are needing snacks for a film you are catering??).

Artichoke Pesto
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. red pepper flakes

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor. Puree until it forms into a pesto-like consistency, adding more olive oil if necessary to thin it out. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When it is Just Too Much

New York City can will kick your ass.

There are the days where you will never catch the train, where you get screamed at and called a bitch because you were walking down the street. Where you hear a parent yelling at their child just for making a funny face and you are on the edge of tears because there are so many people begging on the trains and streets that you just can't help even a fraction of them. Where it is so damn hot can't bear the thought of the subway platform or so cold that the wind whipping through the avenues off the Hudson makes you feel like you've landed in Antarctica. Where the customers you are serving treat you like you are worthless because of your chosen vocation. Where it is all just so overwhelming that you break down and cry on the train in front of one hundred strangers.

But when you can't take another punch and feel like you are loosing your grip, New York City will let up and show you mercy.

There are the fleeting connections to a stranger based on a passing occurrence and acknowledged by only eye contact and a slight smile. That block where by some magic you find ten seconds of complete silence. The multitude of visiting friends and relatives (that never would visit if you lived somewhere like Madison, WI). The fact that it is acceptable to have a martini with lunch. Stepping down onto the platform right as the train pulls into the station. A perfect weather day spent lying on the grass in Prospect Park. An art exhibit or play that challenges your world. The 5th drink buy-back at your favorite bar. The impromptu, amazing street performance that moves all those viewing to feel suddenly like long-lost friends.

And sometimes the city gives you food. Maybe like completely fresh Thai dumplings prepared on the street (as a one time only deal) by Pure Thai Shophouse at the 9th Ave. International Food Festival.
The dumpling wrapper was made right there on the street when you ordered them and then filled with a slightly sweet, crispy, and peanut flavored meat. Not quite like any dumpling I've ever had before.
Right when you are on the verge of giving up on the city, it reminds you why it would be almost unimaginable to live anywhere else.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rustic Ramp Tart

I have not been eating well lately. Mostly it comes about from having a lot to do and not having a lot of things in the house too cook with. Way too much cheese has been consumed (if there is such a thing). Joe and I even decided to have a "junk food dinner" one night (because every great once in a while it is totally worth it and necessary) including pizza rolls, taquitos, and mozzarella sticks--all from the freezer section of the grocery store. For dessert? Frozen fudge stripe cookies. I'm still wondering how I can make it through the front door after that. (You can judge me all you  like. I judge myself. But I will still enjoy those frozen globs of processed food every once in a while.)

Therefore I now am craving food that is healthier, greener and homemade. It's easy to think that frozen food can be simpler than creating something on your own, but with a little thought and ingenuity a quick, tasty meal can be pulled together with very few ingredients.

This tart shell recipe from Emeril is an excellent resource when creating these uncomplicated meals. It is almost foolproof and just about anything can be thrown inside--savory or sweet--and it bakes up completely flaky, buttery and flavorful. I utilized it to make myself a lunch with some of my final ramps of the season (they only lasted two weeks this year at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. Le sigh.).

Flaky Butter Crust
(from Emeril Lagasse)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed

To make with a food processor, combine the flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 10 seconds and add the ice water. Pulse quickly 5 or 6 more times until the dough comes together. Remove the dough and place on a floured surface. Using your hands, work the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

To make by hand, combine the flour and butter in a medium bowl, and mix with a pastry blender or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix until the dough comes together and is no longer dry, being careful not to over mix. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface according to the recipe, then allow to rest again in the refrigerator before baking.

Rustic Ramp Tart
serves 1-2
1/3 of the flaky butter crust dough
2-3 ramps
1 egg yolk
1/4 c. cream
salt and pepper
1/4 c. pecorino cheese

Preheat the oven to 375.
Roll out the tart dough until it is about 1/4" thick and in some semblance of a circle. Work around the outside of the dough and roll in about 1/2" of the edge and press down to create a bit of a bowl. Place onto a baking sheet.
Finely mince the white parts of the ramps and throw them into a small bowl with the egg yolk, cream, and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix together well. Tear up the green leaves of the ramps and place them into the prepared dough, then pour the egg yolk mixture over top.
Sprinkle with the pecorino cheese and bake 20-25 minutes or until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted. Let rest a few minutes, then cut and serve.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Craft Services, Step 1

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I was asked to be the on-set caterer for Equity The Movie. I have spent much time lately getting myself prepared for the task.

My first line of business is the research phase. I've started off by contacting the cast and crew to find out food preferences/allergies. No point in planning a weeks worth of food that no one can eat! So far I know I have one vegetarian, one person who does not eat red meat, and one gluten-free individual. I could prepare separate meals for different people, but I feel overall it will be more cost effective to have one meal that fits everyone's preferences-- if at all possible. There may be times where this strays, but for the most part I'm sticking to this plan. Also, keeping things (at least mostly) vegetarian will also save some major bucks.

I also have been trying to work out all of small logistical details. When are we shooting? Where? Will I have access to a kitchen/power/fridge/etc.? How many full meals will be needed for each day? How many people will need to be fed? How will I transport everything? Do I need to find a table/coolers/etc.? A lot of these answers are still in the works as the film crew is still location scouting and working out the finer details for themselves. I do know, however, that the shoot will last 6-7 days towards the middle/end of June and I will be feeding around 10 people per day. I have a basic idea of the budget and know where at least 2 of the shoots are located (and have already cooked in the kitchen at one locale, fortunately). I'm trying to work around the rest of the questions as I wait for the answers to come in.

The majority of time has gone into brainstorming what I want to serve. I have lists and lists of foods for different meals and snacks, most vegetarian and many gluten free. I have spent a lot of time over at Gluten- Free Girl and Simply Gluten-Free to gather some ideas and to better understand gluten-free cooking. I have a file for recipes for the dishes that I've been hunting down so I can keep them all in one place. Since the executive producers would like the food to be as local and organic as possible, I'm also looking into what will be in season when we shoot and creating recipes with those in mind.

Next up I need to narrow down and decide on the basic outline of what I will serve each day so I can seek out prices and put together the budget. The budget is small, but any amount not spent on food will just go back into the film and getting it out to the world to be seen--so I'm trying my best to keep costs low! I need to make a couple of trips to markets to do some pricing to help make sure I'm keeping inbounds. I also need to start gathering all of the little items that will be necessary but are easy to get out of the way now: flatware, plates, cups, napkins, trash bags, towels and the like. With about five weeks left until the shoot begins, it's time to get down to business!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Chinese 5-Spice Slaw

One of the worst parts about not having a backyard or a balcony is not being able to own a grill. I miss the impromptu gatherings that are held centered on the grilling of meats with beers in hand and good friends all around. It is truly a downside to living in New York City.

In Kansas I remember many an evening perfumed by burning charcoal, the char of meat, a warm breeze on the air and the sound of laughter and conversation mingling together. It was never fancy or fussy and often was the result of a last minute phone call as an invite. You would be asked to maybe bring some meat and a side. Often it was as easy as swinging by Dillons to the deli department for some prepared potato salad or baked beans, or for a bag of chips, packet of hot dogs, and beer. As amazing as the grilled burgers and hot dogs tasted, the meal wouldn't be quite the same without the sides: some coleslaw, deviled eggs, etc. They made the event complete.

This is my attempt to recreate one of those summer evenings inside my NYC apartment. The meat isn't grilled, but it is deeply flavored and served on a toasted bun--just the sort of thing you'd crave at a barbecue. And served alongside (or right on top of that pulled pork if you are doing it right) is a crisp, easy coleslaw flavored with the warm notes of Chinese 5-Spice. Paired with a super cold beer and a few friends, and you can almost feel the grass under your toes and hear the locusts buzzing in the trees. Summer on a plate.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
serves 8-10

2.5 lb boneless pork roast
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 TB dried mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/2 t. smoke seasoning (smoked sea salt and pepper)
1 t. dried onion flakes
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. salt
1/2 c. olive oil
3-5 c. beef stock
8-10 buns

Mix together the garlic, dried mushrooms, seasoned salt, smoke seasoning, dried onion flakes, pepper, salt and olive oil. Rub all over the pork roast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.
Unwrap the pork roast and place it into a crock pot. Pour in the beef stock until you have enough to come just over halfway up the side of the roast. Turn the crock pot on and cook until the pork is tender enough to shred with a fork (probably about 4-5 hours on high and about 7 hours or so on low. Go ahead and flip the pork roast over about halfway through the cooking process).
Remove the pork from the crock pot and shred all the meat using two forks. It wouldn't hurt to toss a few tablespoons of the braising liquids over top of the meat here for extra flavor.

Butter the inside of the rolls. Toast in a skillet or under the broiler until nice and brown. Top with the pork (and the coleslaw if desired) and serve.

Chinese 5-Spice Coleslaw
3 1/2 c. shredded red cabbage
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. white wine vinegar
1 t. Chinese 5-spice powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 t. seasoned salt

Mix together the mayonnaise with the white wine vinegar, 5-spice, salt, pepper and seasoned salt. Mix with the red cabbage. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve on top of the pulled pork sandwiches or as a side.