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, April 27, 2012

Mini Ice Cream Cakes

The husband's birthday was this week. As is tradition, we had a pork-centric dinner (pork shank ravioli, roasted baby leeks, sauteed ramps, good wine). Since Joe and I both love ice cream cake, I decided to try my hand at making them on my own. I was a little spent from making homemade ravioli, braising the meat, pickling ramps, cleaning and blanching the leeks, and cleaning up the apartment to make homemade ice cream and frosting, so will admit I went with store-bought this time around, but feel more than free to insert your own recipes for these if you have the time and patience. The best part about this recipe is that these are so simple to put together and there are countless flavor variations by just switching up ice cream or frosting used. In my version I went with straight chocolate across the board.

So Happy Birthday, Joe. So happy I get to celebrate another year with you. I look forward to every moment!

Mini Ice Cream Cakes
4 servings

8 Oreos
3 TB butter, melted
1 pint chocolate ice cream
1/2 c. dark chocolate frosting

Bring the ice cream out of the freezer and allow to soften slightly.
Put the Oreos into a food processor and blend until finely ground. Add the melted butter and pulse a few times until the mixture comes together.
Divide the Oreo crumb mixture into 4 small (3/4c.) ramekins. Press the mixture into the bottom of the dishes to form the crust. Place the ramekins into the freezer to set up for about 5 minutes.
Divide the ice cream among the 4 ramekins and smooth the top. Place in the freezer again and allow the ice cream to set up and harden, about an hour.
Divide and spread the frosting on top of the ice cream in each ramekin. Freeze again until ready to serve. I like to pull the ice cream cakes out for about 5 minutes or so before serving to allow them to soften up just a bit.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Smoky Roasted Eggplant with Pita Crisps

One afternoon last year the husband and I met up with an out-of-town friend at a little Italian joint on the Lower East Side. This place has some killer gnocchi, delicious fried zucchini and wood-fire roasted pizzas. We ordered an array of food (really far too much for 3 people, but we are a group that loves their food) including pastas, pizza and vegetables. Slowly items started hitting the table and we dug in as the conversation and the wine flowed freely. After everything else was in front of us and partially consumed, out came our final dish: the roasted eggplant. It had been roasted whole in the wood fire oven. It was presented to us by our server, not unlike a whole fish would be, before he placed it in front of us and cut it in half, allowing the creamy interior to come bursting forth. He drizzled it with both an extra virgin olive oil and a roasted chili oil and told us to enjoy. Already impressed, I dug in, unprepared for the pure joy that was about to enter my mouth. This simple dish remains to this day one of my favorite bites in the city and rarely does a week go by without me craving it.

I have tried to recreate this scrumptious offering in my home a few times. It never quite gets all the way there as I don't have my own wood fire oven (yet--one day I promise myself I will out in my backyard!), but it at least satiates my cravings and is still wonderful in its own right. This last time around I decided to boost up the flavor and richness slightly by adding a good dollop of creamy, thick Greek yogurt and a good sprinkling of chipotle chili flakes, which helped give it a smoky edge. Served up with crispy pita it makes an ideal light, easy dinner or the perfect dinner party appetizer.

Smoky Roasted Eggplant with Pita Crisps
serves 1-2 as entree or 3-4 as appetizer

1 large or 2 medium eggplants
3 garlic cloves, chopped into large pieces
olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 TB Greek yogurt
chipotle chili pepper flakes
fleur de sel
extra virgin olive oil

4 pieces flatbread or pita
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Clean the eggplants and pierce the skin in multiple places with a sharp knife. Place the garlic pieces into some of the holes (in my photo you see the garlic sticking out of the skin--you don't want to do this or the garlic will burn. Push the garlic pieces all the way in so they are flush with the skin of the eggplant).

Rub the eggplants all over with a bit of olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Place into the oven and roast until it is soft and starting to collapse (time will vary drastically on this depending on size and freshness of eggplants. It will probably take at least an hour, but check after 45 minutes for the first time and every 15 minutes or so until they are ready). Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a couple of minutes while you prepare the pita crisps.

Cut each piece of pita/flatbread into 6 wedges. Brush on both sides with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Place under the broiler to toast, then flip and toast the other side. Remove to a plate.

Finish off the eggplant: Place on a platter and cut in half (leaving the bottom part of the skin that touches the plate intact is fine and recommended). Sprinkle with the zest and juice of the lemon, then dollop on the Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with chipotle chili flakes, fleur de sel, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve. To eat, scoop out some of the eggplant filling with the toppings and eat with the pita crisps (this time around the eggplant skin will go unconsumed).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Monkfish and Roasted Garlic Chickpea Fries

What a gorgeous, gorgeous spring we have been having. Today is especially beautiful. One of the best parts of this weather is the way it makes me feel inspired to be immensely productive. On cold, rainy, dreary days I want nothing more than to curl up on the couch with a book or a good movie, but the fresh, clean air and sunlight give me the energy and drive to get things done.

 My kitchen got a much needed spring cleaning. You don’t want to know how old some of the items in my cupboards were. How refreshing to finally have a bit more space and only usable, fresh products on the shelves.

The mild winter and lovely spring have made me stick with my running. I’ve been hitting 30 miles a week for most of the winter and closer to 35 the past few weeks. It’s been amazing coming into the spring fit and able to just work on bumping up the miles and the pace instead of having to regain lost fitness due to laziness or injury recovery as in years past.

I’ve also been consistently expanding my culinary horizons—cooking a lot, reading a ton, exploring cookbooks and blogs, constantly trying to create new meals and menus. And my New Year’s resolution to try something new in the kitchen every month led me in March to cooking up some monkfish fillets. The technique was nothing out of the ordinary or difficult, but it is an ingredient that I have never used and has always slightly scared me (I mean, have you seen those things whole? Terrifying. I just scared myself again looking at that picture).

However, one evening the husband and I were having a sushi dinner in our neighborhood and ordered the monkfish liver duo to try something different. It was delicious and led to a discussion about what the actual fish meat tasted like. The very next Saturday I discovered that the fishmonger at the greenmarket actually carries monkfish so decided it was time to find out.

The flavor is actually much milder than I expected—no overtly fishy tones. The meat is a heartier fish, much more like salmon or lobster. I think it would make a great gateway fish for those who don’t eat a lot of seafood.

In my research on how to cook the monkfish I found that Jamie Oliver suggests salting the fish and letting it sit in the fridge for an hour or so to leech out some of the milky liquid, which will help it to get a good sear on the outside (as opposed to essentially steaming in its own juices that would be released into the pan otherwise). Am not sure how big of a difference this makes, but the fish was flavorful all the way through, so it couldn’t hurt to do so yourself if for no other reason than to allow the salt to absorb. For an added burst of flavor I topped off our fillets with tart and garlicky mojo sauce, but it would be equally as delicious with a lemon-butter sauce as well. The chickpea fries were a creamy, pleasing accompaniment. 

Seared Monkfish with Mojo
2 servings

2 monkfish fillets
celery salt
salt and pepper
1 TB olive oil 
mojo recipe

Sprinkle the monkfish fillets with a bit of celery salt, salt and pepper. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about an hour to help draw out some of the moisture to help the fillets get a better sear.
Preheat oven to 425.

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet. Once hot, add the monkfish fillets, skin side down. Sear for a couple of minutes until browned and crispy on the skin side, then carefully flip over. Immediately turn off the heat on the stovetop and place the cast iron pan with fillets inside in the oven. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, or until the fish is completely cooked through. Serve topped with the mojo.

Roasted Garlic Chickpea Fries
serves 4
1 head roasted garlic*
1 c. chickpea flour
2 c. water
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained; optional
salt and pepper
cooking oil

*To make the roasted garlic: Cut the top 1/4" or so off of a whole head of garlic, exposing the cloves. Rub with a bit of olive oil and then wrap the whole head in foil. Cook in a 400 degree oven until tender, about 30-35 minutes.

Place the  chickpea flour, water, extra virgin olive oil and a bit of salt into a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Stir until just a little thick, but not dry, about 3-4 minutes and then remove from the heat. Squeeze in the roasted garlic cloves and add salt and pepper as necessary to season. If desired, add the 1/4 c. of whole chickpeas (crushed a bit with a fork) to the chickpea flour mixture if you would like a bit of added texture.
Spread this mixture into a 9X9" pan. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least an hour or up to overnight.
Cut the chickpea mixture into smaller shapes--rectangles, squares, triangles--whatever suits your fancy. Heat about 1" of cooking oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering and add a layer of the chickpea fries (do not overcrowd the pan. You will probably need to work in 2-3 batches). Cook until nicely browned and crispy on all sides, taking care when turning them as they are delicate. Once browned all over remove to a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What I've Been Up To

Been a bit of a drought here in posts lately. Feeling a little bogged down with the craziness of life (work, sister's upcoming wedding, friends in town), but have still been cooking! Lots of posts on the back-burner, but you can find a little of what I've been up to in a couple of other places.

The past couple of Pine Tar Press posts:
Cake Batter Crispy Treats

Tailgating Party Prep Tips
and Grilled Camembert Cheese

I also guest blogged for Everyday Desserts, featuring an open-faced sandwich of tomato bread with avocados and smoked paprika:

I also hosted Easter once again this year. Since I almost forgot about it and it creeped up on me pretty quickly we made it a pot-luck. I prepared a boneless lamb leg roast (with rosemary, garlic and orange zest), a vegan quinoa and beet salad (from one of my favorite blogs, Sprouted Kitchen), a couple of side salads, and a few appetizers (including David Lebovitz's Fig and Olive Tapenade). Friends brought an amazing array of cheeses, meats, homemade bread and beer, potatoes, vegetables, wines. It was a spread to be proud of.
Lots of laughs to be had.

 Will soon be back with new recipes, stay tuned!