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, October 28, 2011

Lamb and Cauliflower Curry

I oftentimes find myself in a slight food rut. It's not that I can't think of anything to have for dinner or can't come up with something new, it's just the recipes I do come up with seem to circulate the same themes or cuisines. I find it hard to break away from cooking things based on French, Italian, Spanish foods. This comes from a lack of knowledge in cuisines outside Western Europe, where food is much more within the confines of my comfort zone. I can slightly blame growing up in a place where the most exotic cuisine options nearby where China Buffet and Taco Hut, but now that I live in New York City I really have no excuse.

I've been better about getting out and trying food that isn't familiar to me and lately have been craving new dining experiences like an Ethiopian restaurant in the neighborhood I have been meaning to try and a Georgian restaurant in another Brooklyn neighborhood I was excited to find out about yesterday (where the menu is apparently in Russian). As I branch out more and more I hope my kitchen inspiration follows suit.

Perhaps in my journey to widen my horizon I will ask for a couple of ethnic cookbooks for Christmas and until then will start focusing in on some good blogs with unique perspectives. Any suggestions?

In the light of trying something new, I made this lamb and cauliflower curry. I had the lamb meat but wanted to do something different than a traditional stew, so scoured the internet and let the inspiration take over. It is my own take on the dish, and is fairly simple and unscary if you are looking to take the leap into unfamiliar cooking territory yourself.

Lamb and Cauliflower Curry
serves 5-6

1 TB cooking oil
1 lb lamb stew meat (chopped into 1 1/2" cubes")
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
4 TB finely chopped ginger
1 TB powdered curry
1/4 t. Chinese 5-spice
1/8 t. cardamom
1/4 t. chili powder
14 oz. unsweetened coconut milk
1 c. chicken stock
1 1/2 c. chopped cauliflower
1/2 c. golden raisins
1 c. spinach

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Sprinkle the lamb meat with salt and pepper and then, when the oil is hot, add the lamb to the pan. Sear quickly on all sides just to brown the outside of the meat and then remove the lamb from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Next add the carrots and ginger and cook for about 5-6 minutes. Add the curry, Chinese 5-spice, cardamom and chili powder and stir for about a minute. Then add the coconut milk, chicken stock and lamb and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer until the lamb is super tender and could be pulled apart with a fork (about 1 hour or so). Add the cauliflower to the curry and cook until it is tender, about 8-10 minutes. Finally add the raisins and spinach and cook just until the spinach wilts, about 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and serve over top of rice or couscous.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Creamy Vegetable and Rice Soup

It has been a big month for me. The five year anniversary a few weeks ago, and then last week was a big birthday for me--30.

I know a lot of people freak out a little about beginning a new decade of their life as they get older, but I have felt pretty good about the transition to my 30's. Maybe I'm not exactly in my career of choice, but I do have a good job, a truly special, incredible husband, am surrounded by wonderful friends, and am living in one of the best cities on earth. Hard to be upset by that.

To celebrate the big day, I decided I wanted to do more than just get together at a bar with friends. So Joe and I planned out 3 days worth of celebrations. Day 1 we took the Metro North to the Appalachian Trail stop. Literally the train drops you off right on the trail. We spent the day hiking and taking in the gorgeous fall folliage and weather with some college friends. Then we all took the train back to Brooklyn for some margaritas and Mexican food.
My hiking buddies and I at the tiny train station.

Day 2 started with a 10 mile run with Joe. Followed by lunch at Tom's Diner (still one of my favorite restaurants in the city) and then we went on to Etsy's Craft Night, where we made paper mache masks. After the crafting we ended up at reBar in Dumbo where we met up with a bunch of great friends and drank the night away.

Day 3 was mostly spent on the couch--recovering. :) But finally we roused ourselves enough to get out for our final birthday experience: dinner at Torrisi Italian Specialties. This is an Italian restaurant located near Little Italy and Chinatown and is incredibly creative and an overall wonderful dining experience. Each night there is only one menu--you don't get to chose what you eat (except for a choice between entrees). We also had the option to add on some oysters--which we did. It was one of the most interesting and delicious meals I have had in a long time. I was most surprised by a dish with a smoked eggplant broth and by how wonderful the little plate of desserts was (flag cookies, cannoli, truffles, butternut squash squares--all sounds straight-forward, but they were packed with flavor). Overall, a pretty successful 30th birthday.
Torrisi Italian Specialties
The Menu.
The following day was one for recovery and simplicity. So we enjoyed this soup.

(Just a heads-up: It does have a light layer of oil on the top after finishing which you can skim off (or avoid mostly by straining the cooked veggies before adding the stock) but other than the for look of the dish it is unnecessary.)

Creamy Vegetable and Rice Soup
about 6 servings

1 TB cooking oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 TB tomato paste
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
1/2 t. dried tarragon
32 oz. chicken broth
1 c. minute brown rice
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook until they are just tender, about 10-12 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Then add the tomato paste, parsley and tarragon and again cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn the heat to high and add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then add the rice, cover, and lower the temperature to allow the soup to simmer for about 10 minutes. Then remove the lid from the pan and add in the mushrooms. Cook for about 8 minutes, allowing the mushrooms to cook through. (If skimming the fat off the top of the soup, now is a good time to do so). Then add the heavy cream and turn up the heat to allow to simmer, stirring constantly, for about 10 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Potatoes and Broccoli au Gratin

Having a bit of a rough day today. An acquaintance passed away this morning. He wasn't someone I knew very well, but every time I was around him he brightened my day. He was always full of life, his spirit shining joyously onto all those surrounding him. Despite not knowing him well, I can feel a gaping hole in the city today that won't ever be filled in. But all those who had the chance to cross his path are better for it. Monte, dear, you are missed deeply already. May you rest in peace.

A simple, comforting recipe that maybe can't take away our pain, but perhaps can at least make us feel at home:
Potatoes and Broccoli au Gratin
about 6 servings
3 russet potatoes
1 1/2 c. chopped broccoli
4 TB butter
4 TB flour
1 pint heavy cream
salt and pepper
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

3 TB butter
3/4 c. panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Peel the potatoes and thinly slice (about 1/8" thick). Toss together with the broccoli.
In a large saucepan melt the 4 TB butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together. Cook for 2-3 minutes to cook out some of the raw flour flavor. Add the heavy cream and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens to a saucy consistency (about 4-5 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste. Then add the cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese has melted. Then remove the cheese sauce from the heat.
Mix together the cheese sauce and the potatoes and broccoli. Add to a greased 8X8 baking dish.
Melt the 3 TB butter and mix together with the panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the potatoes. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil from the dish and return to the oven for another 15 minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 8-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Zucchini Flower Tart

I think fall has finally hit for good. Despite my grumbling about hanging onto the summer in the last post, this does make me happy. I love the crisp air and bundling up in the light layers and scarves and that perfect smell that autumn has.

Every year around this time, I vow to pull out my knitting needles. It seems like the ideal way to pass a cool afternoon: knitting while sipping on a warm beverage, perhaps sitting side-by-side with a good friend. Here's my big secret, though: I have never even finished the first scarf I started knitting, so haven't been able to move onto subsequent projects. I love the idea of knitting, but then never can bring myself to actually sit down and work on it for a significant amount of time. There's so much else to be done! I think I feel bad just lounging around (even though it's much more productive than my obsessive checking of the Internet: Facebook, Serious Eats, other blogs, Runner's World. And repeat). Then the next thing I know it's spring and I feel like "knitting season" has passed and my knitting needles rot away in my nightstand drawer.

Perhaps this year will be different. I will grasp the season by the horns and become a knitting fool. I will finish my scarf and the one I promised the husband a couple of years ago. And perhaps even move onto the really cool projects in the fun knitting book I have. I will become a knitter extraordinaire--knitting on the train on the way to work and while standing on line at the movies. I will knit while watching TV and knit while my stews are bubbling away on the stove top and the bread is rising on the counter.

Perhaps finishing my knitting projects will help push me to finish the other things I am working on...the life things that I keep procrastinating on. This winter (my 30th...) will be the one where I finally put the pedal to the metal and stop making excuses and focus on what I want to be doing. Time to stop wasting so much energy on things I am not passionate about.

What does all this have to do with this tart? Not a lot. But, you do need to jump now to grab the last of the zucchini flowers before they disappear until next year. And perhaps while it is baking you can grab some knitting needles and begin a project of your own.

Zucchini Flower Tart
2-3 servings

3 eggs
1/2 c. cream
1 TB fresh chopped thyme
1/2 c. grated aged cheese (Gruyere, Gouda, etc)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
8-10 zucchini flowers

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Form the crust into a 9" tart pan.
In a medium bowl beat the eggs and then add the cream, thyme, cheese, salt and pepper. 
Place the zucchini flowers into the tart shell. Carefully pour in the egg mixture. 
Bake the tart for around 25 minutes or until the egg is set. Allow to cool for around 8-10 minutes before slicing and serving. This tart can be eaten for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or snacks. A great all-day meal.