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, March 27, 2013

Sauteed Giant Prawns

There are days when I head to the market with no real dinner direction in mind. I hope that something I come across will speak to me and help me to create a delicious, soulful meal. At times I am lucky and inspiration strikes: the meal comes together thanks to one gorgeous bunch of kale or a perfectly red cut of beef calling my name. Other days I am stuck--wandering back and forth between the aisles, pulling out items that could be tasty, but unsure of how to bring them cohesively together. Those times when I go to the store completely starving without a list are definitely the hardest: I crave almost every other thing I see and the hungry/foggy brain can't distinguish between real inspiration and just the need to eat something right away.

Luckily this particular trip to the store revealed to me these absolutely gorgeous, massive prawns. They were longer than my hand and so plump: I knew immediately they would be the star of the show.

Though these beauties didn't really need any accompaniment besides a bit of salt and pepper and a minute in a hot pan, I wanted to dress them up just a bit. I created a marinade with meyer lemons and garlic with fresh herbs that complimented without overpowering the shrimps' flavors.

I served these tapas style (a perfect fall-back when you aren't quite sure what to do for dinner), with a bit of bread and cheese, huevos rellenos, and sauteed mushrooms on the side. But they were so decadent that I think next time I'll just pair them with a simple salad and bread to sop up all the juices.

Sauteed Giant Prawns
serves 2

1 lb. extra large prawns
1 meyer lemon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 TB chopped fresh parsley
1 t. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 t. paprika
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper

Zest the meyer lemon into a small bowl, then mix in the garlic, parsley, oregano, paprika and extra virgin olive oil.
Clean the shrimp: Slice along the back of the shrimp about 1/8" thick and then rinse under running water to remove the black vein running along the back. I then like to remove part of the shell, leaving just the tail and the head part on.
Pour the marinade over the shrimp. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Cover the shrimp with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once it is almost smoking add the shrimp in a single layer (you may need to work in batches to not overcrowd the pan). Sear on both sides until the shrimp is just barely cooked through, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove the cooked shrimp to a platter and squeeze the meyer lemon juice all over top. Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cauliflower Steaks with Anchovy Caper Vinaigrette

As spring ever so slowly inches towards us, I increasingly feel the need to fill my body with healthy food. I believe it is the body trying to shed any excess winter pounds to be ready to move and be active in the warmer months (and the media washed brain's desire to not look horrifying in a bathing suit). There's also the body craving those summer garden foods that it has had to go without all winter long.

I'm also trying to do a bit of a detox in a way before our trip to Paris. Cutting out some of the crap, not eating too much cheese, not drinking quite as much...all to get ready for eating too much cheese and drinking too much wine while on vacation.

Our meal last night felt exceptionally healthy (aside from the buttery garlic bread served alongside): these hearty, almost-meat-like cauliflower steaks served alongside a simply dressed arugula and dried plum salad. After a nice long run during the day, ending the evening with this food made me feel that I would wake up the next day full of energy and ready to conquer all.

The cauliflower steaks come from Dan Barber and Food52. This is one of those dishes where you really don't miss the meat: when the cauliflower is seared and browned like this it has an almost meaty flavor. I topped mine off with a salty, bright anchovy and caper vinaigrette for added variety and depth. Instead of using the rest of the cauliflower as a puree, I went ahead and chopped it up and sauteed it after the "steaks" were finished. You really could just saute the whole head of cauliflower instead, but the steaks do make for a gorgeous presentation and feel a bit more formal (and a bit more like a main course instead of just a side dish).

Cauliflower Steaks with Anchovy Caper Vinaigrette
adapted from food52
serves 2

1 head of cauliflower, washed and dried, green leaves removed
cooking oil
salt and pepper

5 anchovy fillets
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 TB capers, drained and rinsed

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the cauliflower in half. From the middle cut one 1" "steak" from each half of the cauliflower (the stem will help keep the whole thing in one piece). Chop the remaining cauliflower into florets (you can use these as a puree as in the Dan Barber recipe linked above or saute them in the pan after cooking the steaks).
Rub each cauliflower steak with just a bit of the cooking oil. Heat another tablespoon or two of the cooking oil in a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot and almost smoking, add the cauliflower steaks in a single layer. Sear until browned and crispy on the bottom (about 2 minutes or so) and then flip over and cook another 2 minutes. Then place the whole pan into the preheated oven. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.

In the meantime make the vinaigrette. Place the anchovies in a small bowl and mash well with a fork. Add the lemon juice and whisk together. Continue to whisk as you add the extra virgin olive oil, creating an emulsion. Stir in the capers and set aside.

Once the cauliflower is baked and tender, remove to a platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette and capers to serve. If you would like, now add a bit more oil to the pan and return to the stove top at medium high and saute the cauliflower florets until browned and tender, about 4-5 minutes. Place these around the steaks and drizzle with a bit more vinaigrette to serve.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chicken Piccata

There are days when I question what I was thinking when I decided to get a degree in Theater in college. I had gone in undecided, with plans of dabbling in plays and such in between whatever degree I ended up going towards, but quickly fell in with the theater kids and decided there would be no other life for me. I spent the next four years in classes wearing masks, coloring costumes, building puppets out of baby doll heads. It was fun, but was it really going to help me get a job in "the real world"?

When I stop to think about it, I know it has and will continue to do so. It made me creative, helped me to learn to think quickly on my feet, opened my mind to the endless possibilities of each option I happen to come across. It taught me to overcome the fears and put myself out there, willing to fail and fall, with all hope of succeeding. I think anyone looking at the "BA in Theater" on my resume may not be ready to jump right away at the opportunity, but I know that all of these little skills add up to someone ready to do anything and do it well.

As an added bonus the artistic degree has left me surrounded by creative, driven, fascinating people. People who can tell a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, make you laugh with a perfectly timed raised eyebrow, discuss at length the shoe choice of a character and what it means about who they are and how they move. These people keep me inspired on a daily basis and keep me driven to work hard at whatever it is I want to do--even though I've left the theater world mostly behind me. How lucky to get to spend my life around people who make every day interesting.

And for all of you reading, I bring you a simple recipe for this weeknight because I know you want to be able to spend the extra time you aren't in the kitchen around those people who inspire you.

Chicken Piccata
serves 2
6 boneless chicken thigh fillets
2 TB olive oil
1 c. dry white wine or dry vermouth (such as Dolin)
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 TB capers, drained and rinsed
2 TB butter
2 TB parsley, chopped

Lay the chicken fillets out on a cutting board and use a meat mallet or a rolling pin to pound them down to an even thickness, about 1/2". Then sprinkle them all over with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Once it is hot add the chicken in a single layer (you may have to work in 2 batches). Sear the chicken about 3-4 minutes on each side, until it is browned and cooked all the way through. Then remove the chicken to a platter.
Add the white wine or vermouth to the pan and scrape up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let the wine boil down to about half a cup. Then add in the lemon juice and capers and cook for another minute. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Then add the parsley and return the chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate back to the pan. Flip the chicken once or twice to coat with the sauce and return once again to the platter and pour the sauce over top to serve.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beer Braised Mussels

Ever since the husband and I booked our plane tickets to Paris I have been obsessed. All I want to do is read the guidebook, read blogs, study menus, study French, watch French films, and plan, plan, plan. My excitement for the trip has me in overdrive on this one particular focus, leaving other things (such as doing my taxes, or this blog) behind.

In trying not to completely OD on Paris info, I'm finally back here to post a simple recipe for moules, er, I mean mussels. Mussels make for an excellent weeknight meal since once they are cleaned they are so very fast to cook. If you want to save yourself some prep time in the evening go ahead and clean and debeard the mussels in the morning and then pop them back in the fridge so they are ready to go come evening. Here's a helpful little guide to cleaning them from The Kitchn.

This version has a lot of great, classic flavors that I amped up a bit with the addition of Diesel Beer from Sixpoint. It's part IPA and part stout (delicious) and one of the husband's favorites so we've had it on hand a lot lately and will be sad when it's "season" is over. If you can get your hands on a few cans I'd highly recommend it, but otherwise just substitute a beer with a lot of flavor that you love.

Beer Braised Mussels
2 servings
2 lbs mussels, cleaned and debearded
2 slices thick cut bacon (or 4 slices regular bacon)
4 TB butter
1 TB rosemary, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 oz. beer

Heat a large stock pot or Dutch oven (a large pot with a lid) over medium heat. Chop the bacon into 1/2" pieces and add to the hot pan. Stir and saute until the bacon is cooked through and crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate, leaving the grease in the pan.
Add the butter to the pan and allow to melt. Then add the rosemary and garlic and stir for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until they are fragrant. Add the beer to the pan (careful as it will steam a lot). Scrape up any bits of bacon that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan as you stir and cook the beer down for about 2-3 minutes. The beer should be boiling and now you will add the cleaned mussels to the pan. Give them a quick stir and then put the lid on the pan. You will want to cook them somewhere between 3-8 minutes--basically until most of the mussels are just opened. You don't want to keep cooking them once they have opened because they will get tough.
Pour the mussels and the juices into a large, deep-sided serving platter. Sprinkle with the bacon. Serve immediately with crusty bread for dipping.