I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homemade Naan, Limoncello, and Oscar Goodies

February can be cruel to those who have made New Year's resolutions. After starting off strong in January, if you slack off at all on your goals February will make you pay for it by being a short month with fewer days to get in your efforts. This year I forced myself to stay focused to make sure I came out on top and didn't let this month win.

I actually got in two new things in the kitchen during February: homemade naan and homemade limoncello. Both are items that I have been telling myself I will make over and over again and never quite got around to them. Now that I have I'm not sure why I've put them off so long--they are both so simple and so delicious. The naan especially will wind up in my regular dinner rotation.

I used the recipe found over on Rasa Malaysia. The ingredients are simply mixed together, allowed to rest for a couple of hours, rolled out, and then cooked in a hot cast iron skillet. By covering the dough with a lid as soon as you place it in the pan you are rewarded with many airy bubbles on top, which you then toast quickly by flipping the pan over and holding it upside down over the flame on your gas stove top (the dough sticks to the cast iron with a quick brush of water before placing it there). Then you brush it with butter (I brushed mine with melted butter mixed with plenty of garlic) to finish and serve immediately. One of the easiest "breads" I've ever attempted. (and very tasty served alongside my curried chickpea salad)
Rolling out the dough
Covering the cast iron to help facilitate the air bubbles
Before the naan gets brushed with buttery goodness
As for the limoncello, the only problem with preparing it is having the patience to wait the couple of weeks before it is ready to go (and the patience needed while it is dripping slowly, so very slowly, through the filters to clarify it). I like the Serious Eats recipe for this refreshing Italian drink because I don't have a lemon peeler and it was so simple to just zest all of the lemons (the leftover lemon juice has been used in sauces, pastas, lemonade). This particular recipe is slightly too sweet for my tastes, but part of me believes this wouldn't be the case if I had actually been able to find Everclear instead of just using vodka (the extra sugar is probably a good balance for the high alcohol content/burn factor in the grain alcohol). I can't wait to try this recipe out with different varieties of citrus. And maybe gin instead of vodka?? (lim/gin-cello?? Sounds like a winner to me)

On a final note, I wanted to share the menu for my Oscar Party spread this year, as it turned out to be a hit (despite the party being a small one this time around):
Wild Mushroom Hummus
Baked Camembert (with Rosemary, Honey and Black Pepper)
Olive Sables
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip
BBQ Popcorn

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Curried Chickpea Salad

This side dish is super easy to put together and is packed full of flavor and is excellent for when you are having a busy day. Get the recipe over at Pine Tar Press.

On a side note, I got a SLR camera finally last weekend! Have been working hard to make sure I understand and can use all of the features, plus have now downloaded Lightroom to work on RAW images, so may be asking for advice and tips as I go along. Any food related SLR and Lightroom suggestions and help would be welcome! (I have a backlog of photos and recipes that I am behind on, though, so many of the pictures for a few more upcoming posts will still be from the point and shoot).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheater's Cassoulet

We are finally getting some more winter-like weather around these parts after a rather warm season (not that I'm complaining about the beautiful temps we've had!). Despite spending most of this particular winter craving lighter meals, when the snow finally fell last week I longed for something rich and hearty. Cassoulet seemed to call to me, but after the busy days (fitting in runs, writing for another website, workshops, and work) I had no energy to spend hours slaving away on the dish.

I decided to instead come up with the Cheater's Cassoulet. Using some of the traditional flavors of the dish, but breaking it down and simplifying so it can be prepared on any weeknight. It doesn't have the depth that the original carries, but will fit the bill when you just don't have the time. Feel free to substitute prepared duck confit or leftover braised pork for the sausage (or add in addition to the sausage) if you have some on hand.

Cheater's Cassoulet
4 servings

4 sausages (I like wild boar sausage for this recipe, but any will do)
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 t. chopped fresh thyme
2 15oz. cans cannellini beans
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
3 TB butter
1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a dutch oven or deep oven safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and sear all over. Then remove the sausages to a plate. 
Add the chopped bacon to the pan. Cook until the bacon is crispy then remove to a plate.
Add the onion to the bacon grease and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Then add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and then stir in the cannellini beans, salt, pepper and cooked bacon. Place the seared sausages into the beans.
Melt the butter and mix with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the beans and sausages. Place uncovered into the oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are slightly browned and the sausages are cooked through.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Best 'Sunday Dinner Chicken'

Every cook should have a good roast chicken in their repertoire. It is a dish that is simple yet elegant. Impressive and always delicious. It is the ideal Sunday Dinner dish.

This is my go-to version that I have slowly perfected over the years. The butter mixed with shallots, lemon zest, garlic and herbs gives a ton of flavor without having to pre-brine the bird. Since it is rubbed under and on top of the skin it keeps the breast meat super moist and crisps up the skin perfectly. In fact, the skin on this bird is so good that I would eat that alone as a whole meal if I could.

You can easily switch up the herbs used in the compound butter, but I really prefer rosemary with my chickens. It is uber-fragrant and pairs nicely with the lemon.

A little secret about the bird in the picture below: I purchased it at the greenmarket from a stall I haven't bought chickens from in a long time. The legs were already bound by the flap of skin at the back end, so I didn't even think to check the cavity for "the extras" that sometimes come in poultry. I cooked it and pulled it out when it was perfectly browned and tender, let it rest for a few minutes, then started to carve it. As I got to the part of the breast meat nearest the center, it was still raw. Damn. Figured out why when I finally checked the cavity to find the neck, livers and gizzards. So out they came and back into the oven the chicken went. Not exactly the setback you need when your mouth is watering over the scent and sight of such a lovely bird. So don't forget to check the cavity of your chicken first before beginning!

The Best 'Sunday Dinner Chicken'
4 servings

1-- 3.5 lb. whole chicken
4 TB butter, at room temperature
1 TB chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 t. chopped rosemary
1 t. chopped thyme
zest of 1 lemon
1 lemon, sliced
seasoned salt
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 
Mix together the butter, shallots, garlic, rosemary, thyme and lemon zest. 
Using your fingers, separate the skin from the breast of the chicken. Rub some of the butter mixture underneath the skin. Then rub the rest of the butter mixture all over the outside of the chicken. Put the lemon slices inside the cavity (making sure to clean out any neck/livers/gizzards that are in the cavity first). If I have a bit of leftover shallot I like to toss this into the cavity as well.
Sprinkle a good amount of seasoned salt all over the chicken. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Place the chicken into a baking dish and put into the preheated oven.
Cook until the juices on the chicken run clear and a thermometer inserted in the thigh reaches 165 degrees, about 1 hour.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coconut Mojito Fruit Dip

My second post is up over on Pine Tar Press featuring Coconut Mojito Fruit Dip. It is a rich and creamy dip inspired by a lovely coconut mojito I enjoyed one afternoon at a Cuban restaurant on the Upper West Side. A great way to get in some fruit to your tailgating party.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Winter Farro Salad

January has left me feeling a little down and lonely. After the bustle of the holiday and football seasons where we were constantly surrounded by friends and attending parties, cooking groups, games; the first of the new year has meant everyone buckling back down to work and staying in to save a little money. Plus, it is NYC, where you really do have to make an effort to spend time with folks, which is always harder in the colder temps. For such a small city (distance-wise), it is far too easy to go for long periods of time without seeing even the people who live a mere 2 miles from you.

But February helps to kick-start a new round of gatherings. The Superbowl, the Oscars, and dinner dates are all on the horizon. My soul is looking forward to some good, quality friend time.

If you have some evening get-togethers in your future this would make an excellent lunch before heading out. It is hearty without being overly filling. Unlike a lot of salads the farro actually helps it to feel like a substantial meal. I love the texture of farro--just enough bite. It pairs nicely with earthy beets and tart clementines, and the nuts and cheese add saltiness and crunch. This recipe makes a large batch, but it keeps well in the fridge and is wonderful as leftovers.

Winter Farro Salad
4-6 servings

1 c. farro
2 1/2 c. chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make vegetarian)
8 small beets (about 1 1/2" diameter)
4-5 clementines
3/4 c. Romano cheese
1/2 c. toasted slivered almonds
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Mix the farro and chicken broth together into a medium saucepan. Heat over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low to low to bring the liquid to a simmer and cover. Cook until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. If there is still a lot of liquid after cooking, drain off of the farro.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel and clean the beets and then add to the water and boil until tender, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from the water. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, chop the beets into bite sized pieces.

Peel the clementines and divide up the segments, removing any small seeds that may be present.

In a large bowl toss together the farro, beets, clementines, cheese, almonds, parsley and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

News--and Blue Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Burgers

Starting this week I will be a weekly contributor to Pine Tar Press--a baseball/Royals centered blog from some great Kansas City sports minds. My knowledge of baseball is lacking, but I whip up a mean tailgating feast and will be sharing my recipes and tips to bring this info to your own pre-game parties. Check me out every week for Batter Up and Fry: Tailgating Treats. To start things off this week I have featured Blue Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Burgers. Check out Pine Tar Press for the recipe.