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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sausage and Swiss Chard Pizza

A couple of weeks ago I was reading in a small park before heading into work. Next thing I know, I get sat on. 
Yep. A very large woman literally sits on my lap. It's not the overlap that happens when you are sitting on a subway car and someone who isn't a child thinks they can squeeze themselves into that 5 inches of space between you and the next rider over. This was full-on "Santa, this is what I want for Christmas" kind of lap sit. And there was a full other bench completely empty about 10 feet away. After some yelling (i.e. cursing) and an elbow jab got me no response except a look of, "what the hell is YOUR problem?" from the woman, I extricated myself from underneath her and stormed down the block to work. Where I proceeded to cry in the stairwell like a child (I cry when I get mad. It's one of my least favorite things about myself). Just another day in New York City.

Thank god those days are balanced out by days like this Sunday. Started off the day with an easy run through fall foliage in Prospect Park and headed into the city for brunch (like a good little New Yorker should). Since I arrived early I stopped off and grabbed myself a salted caramel doughnut to go from Wonder City Coffee and Donut Bar. Finally time to meet up with a couple of great friends for some much needed catch-up time and really great food (i.e. the best bacon EVER) at Goat Town. The fall day was perfectly gorgeous so the meal was followed up by some wandering and shopping around the East Village, where we also got to meet and converse with the totally charming Vera of Verameat Jewelry while eyeing her kick-ass designs. Finally it was off to dinner with a different group of friends, full of laughter and a surprise guest star in the form of an old bartender from our favorite Chiefs watch bar. It was 12 hours of city bliss.

This city is a constant back and forth of the good and the bad, often feeling like the rough is outweighing the bright. But when you really need it, New York will give you one. It's the 5th drink buy-back in soul form.

And now for you I offer up something else that NYC is great at: pizza. This one can be whipped up quickly and easily in your own home so there's no need for takeout (especially helpful for those days where you're not sure which city is awaiting you outside that front door).

Sausage and Swiss Chard Pizza
makes 1-12" pizza

2 links hot Italian sausage
1/2 c. diced tomato (canned is ok)
2 TB tomato paste
1 t. oregano
1 large bundle Swiss chard
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 c. pecorino cheese, grated

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 t. sugar
3/4 c. 110 degree water
1 3/4 c. flour
1 t. salt

Heat large saute pan over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from the casings and place in the hot pan. Saute, breaking up the pieces, until the meat is mostly cooked through. Then add the diced tomato, tomato paste and oregano. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Clean the Swiss chard and chop and add to the water once it has reached a rolling boil. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and then strain and rinse with cold water until the chard is cool enough to handle. Use your hands to squeeze out as much of the water as possible and then place the Swiss chard to the side (you should have about 1 cup worth at this time).

Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Make the dough: Mix together the active dry yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl and allow to sit for about 8 minutes until it has foamed up. In a medium bowl mix together the flour and the salt and then add the yeast mixture once ready. Mix together and then dump out onto the counter. Knead for about 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable. Lightly flour the counter and a rolling pin and roll the dough into a 12" circle. Place it onto a baking sheet. Spread the dough with the extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Spread on the sausage-tomato mixture and then spread the Swiss chard on top. Sprinkle with the pecorino cheese. 
Place in the oven and cook fro 8-12 minutes, until the edges are browned and crispy. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Quick Pickled Grapes

Through the years of learning to cook I have come to find that the most important component in any successful recipe is balance. The layers of flavors added to a dish should all compliment one another. Like how oftentimes adding a bit of lemon juice will add enough acidity to balance out rich notes in a recipe. Toasted nuts add texture. And a pinch of red chili flakes can add just enough heat.

A fun way to play with recipes it to change up how these balancing ingredients are added. Grapefruit juice in place of lemon, fresh peppers instead of the chili flakes, anchovies for salty umami. When I whipped up the roasted duck legs and risotto last week I decided to add an acidic bite to the uber-rich meal with tart pickled grapes. They have just a hint of sweetness and would be great on top of any braised meats or in a salad. I'm also thinking of ways to use them in cocktails--perhaps a gin grape gibson. Yum.

Quick Pickled Grapes
serves 2-4 as a garnish
1/2 c. grapes, halved
3/4 c. white vinegar
1/3 c. sugar
2 t. salt
1/2 t. peppercorns
1/2 t. mustard seeds
1/8 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. chili flakes

Place the grapes into a heat-proof bowl.
Pour the vinegar, sugar and salt into a small saucepan and turn on the heat to medium high. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then stir in the peppercorns, mustard seeds, cinnamon and chili flakes and remove from the heat.
Pour the vinegar mixture over top of the grapes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours before using.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Quick Duck "Confit" (Roasted Duck Legs)

One of the benefits of fall is that the temperatures have dropped outside, but our heat has not yet turned on in our apartment. Which means I can cook with the oven on for hours for a short amount of time before the home turns sweltering again.

I love to take advantage of this window to bake breads, make sweet treats and roast meats. First thing I did once the temperatures dropped around here this year was pick up two gorgeous duck legs from the farmer's market. I had every intention of cooking them slowly with a traditional confit recipe but unfortunately I put it off until the day they were to be served. Luckily this easy, "fast" recipe from Simply Recipes came to my rescue to help me slow-roast my duck legs to crispy, tender perfection.

I paired these with a simple risotto (check out this recipe from the beautiful blog of Emiko Davies) and my heirloom tomato salad.

Quick Duck Confit
(recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)

2 duck leg/thighs
salt and pepper

Take the legs out of the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Use a needle and poke holes all over the skin of the duck--around 50 or so pokes per leg. This is where the fat will leak out of the duck, and will also help to crisp up the skin so don't skip out on this part. Pat them all over with paper towels to dry off the skin. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.
Place the duck legs into a baking dish that is just large enough for them to fit in a single layer and place them into a cold oven. Turn on the oven to 300 degrees. By slowly bringing the duck legs up to temperature along with the oven you are allowing the fat to leak out to help slowly cook the meat.
Cook for at least 90 minutes. Check and see if the skin has started to brown--if not give them a bit more time. If they have, turn the oven up to 400 degrees and cook for another 15 minutes or so until the skin is extra brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
Strain the fat through a cheesecloth and refrigerate to save for another use (perhaps frying up some potatoes??). Serve the duck legs warm, perhaps over risotto.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Heirloom Tomato Salad

I grasp onto the last dregs of summer every year. It's not that I don't look forward to fall--I love the cooler temperatures while running, the sweaters, pumpkin everything, braising and baking away. But I know that it means the end of my favorite produce of the year. Especially tomatoes. I dread having to live through the months and months without fresh tomatoes.
With the threat of disappearance of my favorite fruit, I stocked up last week at the market. So I'm bringing you a recipe to use up the final tomatoes you have coming in at the markets or your gardens. It's a little sweet, a little salty, and perfectly fresh.

Heirloom Tomato Salad
3-4 servings as appetizer

3/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/8 c. capers
olive oil
3-4 large heirloom tomatoes
3 TB basil, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. feta cheese
1/2 t. coarse sea salt

Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until it has reduced to 1/4 cup, about 8 or so minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the capers once the oil is hot (be careful because they will pop a little bit). Toss in the oil for a couple of minutes until they are crispy and then remove them to a paper towel.
Slice the tomatoes about half an inch thick. Layer them onto a platter. Drizzle with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and some of the reduced balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt, feta, basil and the fried capers. Serve immediately.