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.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Corn and Bell Pepper Salsa

Did you see this brilliant video that PBS put out to celebrate Julia Child's 100th birthday?

I think it is impossible to watch Julia or read about her without feeling infected by her passion for food and cooking. It just flows out of her with pure joy. Do you ever feel that way when  you are cooking? I've found that I'm constantly in awe of how a certain technique will turn random ingredients into something completely different--sugar melting into a rich caramel or flour becoming bread. Or how the addition of just a pinch of an ingredient, say red chili flakes or lemon juice, can completely make a dish. The way science and art combine in the kitchen always surprises me and makes me happy. It helps make the act of preparing a meal a relaxing, enjoyable endeavor.

It wasn't always so. If you remember, I recently discussed how before I discovered the art of mis en place there was a lot of profanity being thrown about while dinner was cooked. Part of that anger/frustration also came from the lack of knowledge. I think anyone who spends much time in the kitchen remembers the time before it was second nature--when you worried over every detail and were never quite sure how a dish would turn out. Often times people who don't cook much don't realize that everyone who does started out at this place and that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to move past it. It's wonderful to now be at that level where more or less I know a dish will turn out thanks to all that time spent screwing up in the past. This knowledge also leads to the comfort of preparing dinner. It's almost like playing an instrument at a concert--the movements just come out of you naturally as you beat out the rhythms of the recipe. It flows through your body without a thought, even when preparing a dish that is new to you.

This corn salsa is my own invention and I had made it once before, but didn't have a recipe to follow the second time around, a couple of years after the first batch. The memory of how the dish tasted was still there, however, and the ingredients and quantities came together without hardly a thought. It seemed natural that this was the way this salsa was supposed to come together.

Now I will finally get it down "on paper" and share it with others in hopes that they will enjoy it as much as I have, and perhaps one day prepare it from their own taste memory and experience.
Bon apetit, indeed!

Corn and Bell Pepper Salsa
3 ears of bi-color corn
2 small to medium purple bell peppers
1/4-1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 c. chopped onion or shallot
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
juice of 2 limes
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Shuck the corn and clean well. Cut off the kernels and place into a medium mixing bowl.
Cut the purple bell peppers in half and remove the stems, seeds and ribs. Chop into small cubes. Toss into the bowl with the corn. Add the chopped cilantro, onion, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, salt and pepper. Toss all of the ingredients together and taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed and more jalapeno if you want a bit more heat. Keep chilled until ready to serve with tortilla chips as a dip or on top of tacos.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inspiration from around the Web

The world has been offering up some truly inspiring recipes these days, so I thought it was high time I passed on a few recipes from others that I've loved lately so you can get in on the delicious action. These are all foods that will find their way onto my table again and again.

April Bloomfield's Oyster Pan Roast (from John Dory Oyster Bar)--if I died today, I would be happy that at least I had gotten the chance to eat this. One of the best dishes I've had, perhaps ever. This recipe from the NYT gets you pretty close to the actual dish served at the restaurant. I'd add a bit of butter at the end to finish it off.
Honestly, though? Just buy A Girl and Her Pig already. There's not a bad thing I've tried from this one and it is all simple, lovely fare that you can't get enough of (yes, even the veal kidneys. No lie.).

While we are on the subject of cookbooks--please also pick up a copy of Plenty from London's Ottonlenghi. You won't ever struggle with eating vegetables ever again. One of the best cookbook purchases I've ever made.

Corn with Miso Butter and Bacon from Savour Fare. She takes a slightly complex David Chang recipe and simplifies it so it is a breeze to prepare and let me tell you--you will be buying every ear of corn you see from here on out to make this again and again.

So, so easy refrigerator pickles from A Way to Garden. For some reason the husband and I have been on a pickle binge and these may be the best ones yet.

Brown Butter Tomatoes from food52. Can you even call this a recipe? Somehow, though, the caramel notes of the cooked butter coating the fresh tomatoes will make this one of the greatest simple treats you've tasted all summer long.

What have you been loving lately?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Leg of Lamb Steaks with Mint Chimichurri

It seems like you can't have a discussion about food and recipes online these days without the conversation turning towards creative rights and license. Within the blogging world, it is something important to consider before posting any recipes.

I try to give credit whenever I use or change another person's dish here. However, I feel things get a little sticky when you consider inspiration. There are times where I come across different ideas--maybe something on a restaurant's menu or from someone else's blog. That could trigger an idea of my own. I still try to credit this other person/place for sparking this creative urge, although at times the idea comes from multiple sources and it's hard to pinpoint the original. Another problem lies when you come up with an idea on your own--maybe something jumps into your head while picking up a piece of produce at the market or while digging through your fridge. You take this idea, create your own recipe, put the meal together and get ready to post it online. That's when you realize the same dish is posted elsewhere--a cookbook, a magazine website, etc. At this point I feel like I still want to call the dish my own since it is something that I worked on without direct input from somewhere else, but feel bad doing so when this idea was out there before. And honestly, what if I had somehow already come across this recipe out and about and had just filed it away in the back of my brain without realizing it? Was the inspiration truly mine or was it just a recessed memory?

That is the case in this recipe. I was shopping at the greenmarket the other week and came across some absolutely gorgeous leg of lamb steaks. While considering how to prepare them I decided I wanted something bright and crisp to pair with them to help balance the earthy and gamey aspects of the meat. I decided to whip up a lime chimichurri to top them off. While I was buying the ingredients I decided to use mint as the main herb as it is a traditional pairing with lamb. I prepared the dinner and it was absolutely delicious.

A few days later I was flipping through my copy of "A Girl and Her Pig" by April Bloomfield and came across her recipe for lamb steaks with chimichurri. When I flipped back to the chimichurri recipe I saw to my dismay that she also uses mint in her version to pair with the lamb.

Therefore I don't know if this recipe is actually of my own mind or if it was inspired by April Bloomfield. She is pretty much a genius, though, so I'm happy to offer up the credit to her. Either way, this is a delicious meal combining the rich meat with a bright sauce to great success. Here's my take on the recipe:

Leg of Lamb Steaks with Mint Chimichurri
inspired by April Bloomfield??
serves 2

2 lamb leg steaks, about 1/3 lb. each and 1/2" thick
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

1/2 c. mint, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of chili flakes
juice from 1 lime
2 TB extra virgin olive oil

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the lamb steaks. Add about one tablespoon of cooking oil to the pan and once it begins to smoke add the lamb steaks to the pan. Sear until the steaks reach medium-rare to medium, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan to a platter and allow to rest while you make the sauce.

Mix together the mint, garlic, chili flakes and then whisk in the olive oil. The add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Serve chimichurri sauce over top of the lamb steaks.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Braised Summer Veggies (and some thoughts on Mis en Place)

Must admit, I'm feeling a little withdrawal with the Olympics being over. I've never spent so much time watching the games, but this year couldn't pull myself away. Luckily I've got a few events DVR'd that can help me extend my obsession a bit longer.

Right now I'm watching the men's marathon (probably should actually be focusing on writing and turn it off, but you don't mind a little distracted, disjointed blogging, do you?). It's always such an inspiration seeing the speed and the determination and talent displayed at these events. Especially love pumping myself up for my own training while watching the races.

When I run, my least favorite part is the prep I have to do before heading out. I eat breakfast, put in contacts, get dressed, vaseline up, sunscreen up, do some warm ups and stretches, mix my Gatorade, charge my Garmin, etc, etc. It seems like a lot and always frustrates me when I'm just ready to get out the door. However, once I finally start the run I am thankful for all of the little steps I took before because they have prepared me for a successful training session. Without those tasks I may have to stop mid-run for a bathroom break or because I didn't fuel well enough or because I get a cramp. The extra time pre-run gets the actual run off without a hitch.

I realized on my last run that this translates perfectly right over to my other passion: cooking. Mis en place is the culinary term for this pre-event preparation. When I was younger, I didn't understand how this could help me and would start in on recipes without even reading them all the way through first, and prepping ingredients as they were needed. This would result in me going absolutely crazy while cooking several dishes for a meal and would often lead to dishes going wrong or me cursing up a storm in the kitchen.

Over the years, though, I have learned that mis en place is the most important part to cooking. I read through a recipe, if using, or go through the "mental recipe" if creating my own. Pull out all of the ingredients I will need, wash produce, chop, measure. Heat the oven. Pull out the dishes, pots and pans required. All of this ensures that I have the ingredients on hand, that I have the quantity of ingredient I need (nothing worse than pulling out a jar of something to realize you only have 2TB when you need 1/2 cup!), that all will be ready when it is time to add it to the pan. As in running, these little steps before starting the actual cooking ensures success. I guarantee you that a little extra time in the beginning will make all the difference in your own cooking. I myself spent a lot less time shouting obscenities in the kitchen these days and a lot more time enjoying the process.

This particular recipe requires that all of the chopping be done at the beginning so the veggies can then bake slowly in the rich sauce. Mix it all into the baking dish, pop it  into the oven, and then you have free time to do the dishes or catch up on your DVR'd gymnastics while it cooks.

Braised Summer Veggies
serves 4 as an entree

about 3 c. sliced zucchini (1/4" thick)
about 2 c. sliced baby or Japanese eggplant (1/8" thick)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
2 Italian peppers, deseeded and sliced (1/4" thick)
3 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 c. cream
salt and pepper
zest of 1 lemon
2 t. fresh savory or thyme, chopped

2-3 TB butter
1/2-3/4 c. panko breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Clean and chop all of the vegetables. Toss the zucchini, eggplant, halved tomatoes, and Italian peppers together and then spread them into a 2 quart souffle dish.

Melt the 2-3 TB butter in a small dish. Mix in the breadcrumbs--they should be just damp and not completely soggy.
Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the 2 TB butter and melt. Then add the flour and whisk together and allow some of the flour flavor to cook away, about 2-3 minutes, while stirring continuously. Add in the chicken stock and turn up the heat to medium high. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes then add in the cream. Keep on stirring until the mixture comes to a boil and the sauce thickens up, about 3 more minutes or so. Taste the sauce and salt and pepper as needed. Remove from the heat and stir in the savory/thyme and the lemon zest.
Pour the sauce over top of the vegetables in the souffle dish. Top with the breadcrumbs and press down.

Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to cook until the breadcrumbs have browned and the vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and allow to sit about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Roasted Baby Eggplant and Sauteed Dragon Tongue Beans

I just finished putting my mom into a car and sending her to the airport. It was the first time she's been out to visit us since we moved here and her first ever trip to New York City! We had a great time running around and experiencing all that my new home has to offer.

How does my itinerary look for a 1st timer to the city? Here you've got it:
Sunday: -cab to apartment from airport (so much faster than the bus/train) to settle in
-a bit of a walk around Chinatown and Little Italy
-dim sum for dinner at Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Monday: -trip to Statue of Liberty and tour of Ellis Island
-walk around and shopping at Eataly
-dinner at home prepared with ingredients from Eataly shopping trip

Tuesday: -lunch is a slice of pizza pie at Joe's in the Village
-walk around the Village taking in the shops such as Murray's Cheese
-cupcakes at Magnolia
-Museum of Natural History
-dinner at Pure Thai Shophouse
-Harvey at Studio 54

Wednesday: -quick trip to Coney Island (trying to miss the thunder storms!)
-lunch at Nathan's Famous
-nap at home
-dinner at Prune
-wander around the Lower East Side

Thursday: breakfast at Tom's Diner
(all of this interspersed with some Olympics watching while at home!)

Not a bad tour of the city if I do say so myself. Now that it's over, though, my body is ready for some more meals at home and not so many out. Time to get back to the summer veggies at the greenmarket. Here I have a couple of simple recipes to highlight the tenderness and light flavor of baby eggplant and dragon tongue beans. A great way to get your body back on track after a week of overindulgence!

Roasted Baby Eggplant
4 servings

about 5 c. baby Japanese eggplant
2 TB olive oil
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. ricotta cheese
4 TB fresh parsley, chopped
2 t. finely minced shallot
1 small clove garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Clean the baby eggplant and toss with olive oil, salt and smoked paprika. Spread onto a baking sheet. Roast until the eggplant are very tender and just starting to wrinkle. It may be best to roast about 10 minutes, stir and toss again, then roast for another 5-15 minutes depending on size of eggplants.
While roasting, mix together the parsley, shallot, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl.
Once the eggplants are roasted spread onto a serving platter. Dollop with the ricotta cheese Drizzle the parsley sauce over top to serve.

Sauteed Dragon Tongue Beans
4 servings

about 5 c. dragon tongue beans (or other flat beans)
2 TB chopped shallots
3 TB butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 t. sea salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the beans and the shallots to the water and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Pour the beans and shallots into a fine sieve. Rinse with cold water until the beans and shallots have cooled to about room temperature. Shake out and allow to dry a bit.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter. Once the butter has melted and is hot, add the beans, shallots, and garlic. Toss until the beans are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Toss with the sea salt to serve.