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, March 20, 2012

Sweet and Salty Roasted Cauliflower

The first job I had when I moved to New York City was in a Sicilian restaurant in one of the neighborhoods without a name--somewhere between SoHo, Tribecca, and the West Village. There wasn't a lot of activity in that part of town, which meant the place didn't get much business. Despite the good food (and obviously wonderful employees...) the restaurant went out of business a few months after I started there.

I remember when I began my training all of the ingredients seeming incredibly exotic. As someone who just arrived from the small-town Midwest, I had to search for definitions of agnolotti, mortadella, bottarga, etc. just to begin to understand the menu. Prepping for that job opened up a whole new world of food for me and was the first step in knowledge and experience to get me to where I am today. It was also a jumping off place that led me to my next two jobs (the second of which I am still at today).

For all I learned there (and for the friends I made) it saddens me that I cannot go back and for a moment experience a few of the memories created there through the restaurant's food. Some days especially I think I would give anything for just one plate of the short rib agnolotti or the smoky tagine. But I can at least try to recreate a little of that world through the lens of my own kitchen.

One of the most interesting flavor combinations I came to learn while there is the combination of uber-salty fish like sardines or anchovies with a hint of something sweet, like dried fruit. There is something cloying about this duo that tantalizes your taste buds and leaves them crying for more. When paired here with slightly crisp roasted cauliflower it becomes a dish that would be lovely alongside herb-rubbed lamb or a hearty fish, but is just as nice for a simple lunch.

Sweet and Salty Roasted Cauliflower
4-5 servings

1 large head cauliflower
2-3 TB olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 TB capers
1/8 c. toasted slivered almonds
1/8 c. raisins

1 TB anchovy paste
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Chop the cauliflower into 1 1/2" florets. Toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 30 minutes.
While the cauliflower is roasting, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl add the anchovy paste and lemon juice and whisk briskly while drizzling in the extra virgin olive oil. Once it has emulsified, set the dressing aside.
After the cauliflower is roasted place in a medium bowl and toss with the capers, almonds and raisins. Add the dressing, stir, and then taste. Add salt and pepper if necessary and serve. This salad is just as good room temperature or chilled as it is warm.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Micheladas

The perfect way to start out your St. Patty's day festivities: with a "beer bloody mary". My favorite brunch cocktail, the michelada, over on Pine Tar Press.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Corn Bisque


We’ve had a slew of gorgeous spring weather here in New York City. Luckily I’ve been able to take advantage of it with a picnic in the park with the husband, some nice long runs, days off to bask in the sunshine and warm winds. As a matter of fact, right now I’m lounging right next to the window with the fresh spring smells drifting in. I could take a nap and be perfectly content, but choose to plod through and update my blog for my loving readers instead!

In actuality, though, the clean, crisp air is making me feel productive and refreshed.  I love the energy that those first really warm days bring with them. They also bring along a craving for lots and lots of vegetables. Unfortunately we still have a bit of time to go before spring produce starts to show up at the markets and honestly I’m a little worn out on kale and the rest of the winter bounty. So to satiate my cravings I turned to some frozen veggies.

Frozen corn may not be as sweet and succulent as the fresh stuff come July, but it will do in a pinch and will transform itself into a creamy, delectable soup that just fits that in-between seasons mood I’m in.
As a creamy soup like this just isn’t quite hearty enough for a full meal around our place, I paired this with Chicken Wings with Mushrooms from Ferran Adria’s The Family Meal. A to-die for, fast, deeply flavorful dish that I started craving again as soon as it was gone. Anyone who needs some inspiration for easy weeknight meals should pick up a copy of this cookbook. It’s my newest go-to fave.

Corn Bisque
5 servings

2 TB olive oil or cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
24 oz. frozen sweet corn, thawed and drained*
1 t. fresh thyme
3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 c. cream
4 TB butter
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Once hot add the onion and cook until transparent, about 4-5 minutes. Then add the celery and carrots. Cook until they are tender, about 6-8 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the corn and thyme, stir, and cook for about 2 minutes more. Then add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Then remove the pan from the heat and use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the soup. 

After it is pureed, pass it through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Return the strained soup to the dutch oven and return to the stovetop at medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and then add the butter. Stir until melted, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
*If desired you can save back 1/2-3/4c. of the whole corn kernels before beginning the recipe to add to the soup when you add the cream to give added texture.

Ferran Adria's Chicken Wings with Mushrooms

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Compound Butters

Last week's Pine Tar Press Tailgating article featured compound butters. This simple preparation is a great way to add an extra burst flavor to almost any dish. I particularly like them as a way to top off grilled meats, fish, or veggies. Find recipes for Fiesta Butter, Gorgonzola Butter, Pesto Butter and Honey-Thyme over at Pine Tar!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Italian Paella

I love how food inspiration hits in so many different ways. Oftentimes it comes from browsing through the all of the brilliant blogs that are out there. Sometimes it comes from flipping through the pages of a cookbook, or from reading a menu posted outside of a restaurant. I end up jotting down countless ideas into a notebook, where they often end up just sitting around (hoping for the day I am out of immediate inspiration and need a jolt).

But some days, the inspiration comes as the hunger is creeping up on you. I am out and about, maybe ready to head home, feeling the beginning twinges of hunger. I have nothing in the fridge and no pre-conceived notions on what to prepare for dinner. So I wander into a store hoping that flash of clarity will take over and dinner will unveil itself to me in the grocer's aisles. This particular meal came to me that way.

The husband and I were wandering around after a day in the city and feeling ready to head back to Brooklyn, back to the comfort of our cozy apartment and a home cooked meal. Before heading that way, however, we first stopped by Eataly in hopes that our meal would show itself. A flash of enlightenment hit in the form of longing for a meal in Barcelona--maybe something like the rustic rice dish we enjoyed one lunch at one of the beautiful markets. And there it was: a paella inspired dish, but slightly darker, richer, put together from the Italian ingredients we had at hand.

Orzo meant the dish wouldn't need hours to prepare. Eataly's lovely flavorful sausages added the protein and also lent themselves to quick cooking. Beef stock made the dish a little deeper in flavor and stood up well to the boar sausages. Some frozen peas we had on hand and some canned artichoke hearts added a bit of bright flavor to counteract with the other rich flavors. Saffron added its own unique punch. The orzo cooked up and slightly caramelized on the bottom of the pan, creating the "socarrat", my favorite part of any paella.

An inspired, satisfying last minute meal was enjoyed with wine and tomato bread. I hope to repeat this meal (and the contentment it brought with it) again and again.

Italian Paella

large pinch of saffron
4 wild boar sausages (if you can find them, otherwise any sausage will do)
2 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 c. orzo
2 c. beef stock
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 can artichoke hearts
1/2 c. fresh or frozen peas

Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the saffron and lightly toast, about a minute or two, then add 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat a 12" cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown on all sides. Keep turning the sausages frequently and cook until just cooked through. Remove the sausages from the pan and turn the heat down to medium.
Add the olive oil to the pan, then add the onion. Cook until it is tender and almost transparent. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another minute or two. 
Add the orzo to the pan and cook for about two minutes, stirring often. Then add the beef stock, saffron and water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

At this time slice the sausages into bite sized pieces. After the orzo has cooked 5 minutes, add these back to the pan along with the artichoke hearts. Stir all of this together and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Next stir in the peas to the orzo and turn up the heat to high. Most of the liquid should have been absorbed by the orzo or evaporated by this point and the high heat will cook off the rest while slightly toasting the orzo that is touching the bottom of the pan. Do not stir at this point. This should take about 2-3 minutes. You will start to smell the orzo toasting and can use a spoon to see if it has created a bit of "crust" at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and serve.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Garlic Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Today over on Pine Tar Press is my recipe for Garlic Cheddar Drop Biscuits. They are a quick, simple, and utterly delicious addition to almost any meal. Lots of homemade bread around these parts lately! Maybe homemade tortillas are next on the slate...