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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

French Goat Cheese Salad

Sometimes I think it is difficult to talk about a vacation when you first arrive back home. All of the emotions, memories, experiences are piled up on top of one another in your head and seem to be too much to process in a way that would make sense to other people. It takes some time to really let it all sink in, and for the truly memorable pieces to achieve focus so the stories can be told without all of the superfluous details.

And thus, I have not yet been able to discuss our trip to Paris/Dijon here on the blog. There were too many things to say. Now after being back for close to 2 weeks I am finally feeling the ability to put it all into words for you, so will be covering some of the important bits over a couple of posts.

To begin, I mostly want to discuss how truly lovely the French are. Almost every restaurant, bar, grocery store, shop, etc. that we walked into felt like our local neighborhood joint thanks to the warm welcome we received  The shopkeepers would ask us questions, talk about our day, give us suggestions on things to eat or drink. Certain places felt so comfortable that you it was as if we were passing the evening at a friend's home. I can't get over the sense of warmth that the French seemed to constantly exude. How wonderful to feel so welcomed despite my dreadful attempts at their home language.

This warmth carried over to all of the food we were served: how can something not taste delicious when you truly feel that the proprietors of the establishments are so happy to have you there with them. The sense of pride in French food doesn't hurt, either.

There were many dishes that you would see on multiple menus throughout the city, but one that seemed to be on every single menu we saw was the goat cheese salad. Basically the French bread was sliced (and oh, god, the French bread really is that much better than the bread anywhere else in the world) and topped with goat cheese and then baked. This warm, cheesy "crouton" was then served on top of a salad. Simple as that.

When we returned home I knew this easy to prepare yet complex tasting salad must grace our table. My version was also inspired by our side trip to Burgundy by flavoring the dressing with sweet yet tart creme de cassis and Dijon mustard. The sweet and spicy dressing pairs so nicely with a rich goat cheese and figs over top of mesclun greens. I've come back a bit of a cheese snob and knew I didn't want the too mild, boring grocery store goat cheese, so bought a little Le Chevrot which had a little age and more depth. However, I won't judge if the grocery store variety is all you have on hand.

French Goat Cheese Salad
serves about 3-4
8-10 slices French bread
7 oz. Le Chevrot cheese or other goat cheese
6 c. mesclun mix
9-10 figs, thinly sliced

4 TB creme de cassis
2 TB Dijon mustard
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the goat cheese and place slices on each piece of French bread. Place the bread onto a baking sheet and bake until the cheese has become gooey and melted a bit and the bread is slightly toasted, about 4-5 minutes.
Meanwhile place the mesclun greens and figs into a large salad bowl.
To make the dressing mix the creme de cassis, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Then toss the dressing with the salad. Top with the goat cheese toasts to serve.

Pine Tar Press Round-Up

In case you've missed what I've been cooking up over on Pine Tar Press the past few weeks:


Chorizo and Bean Quesadillas


Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Blood Orange Punch

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tortellini in Tomato Broth

I know it's technically Spring but we can't seem to quite kick the colder temps here yet. My fingers are crossed that when the husband and I return from Paris those warmer winds will have made their way to New York City and touch us with blooming flowers and trees and promises of lounging in the park.

Yet one more soup recipe to help get us over the hump. This one is a touch lighter than some, making it a nice choice for the changing seasons, when we aren't quite there with the spring produce yet we want something bright in flavor. I made a homemade tortellini filled with ricotta and spinach, which I think paired well with the acidic yet rich broth. I think any cheese tortellini would work well, but a meat version may be too much.

This recipe was toying around in my brain after seeing a recipe somewhere for a tomato water bloody mary, but really came together after seeing the version made by Smitten Kitchen (she always does it prettier, doesn't she? Gorgeous work over there, as per usual). I saw it in my head as a meatier, richer flavor so utilized beef stock instead of the veggie. I loved using tortellini in the broth as I tend to pair them with a heavier sauce and enjoyed the lighter version, but now after visiting SK's page again I'm actually really craving those gnocchi. Her version will probably be hitting my table before the warmer temps finally settle in...

Tortellini in Tomato Broth
serves 3-4

1 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
32 oz. beef stock
1 bay leaf
4 servings worth of tortellini, fresh or dried

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the carrot and celery and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Then add the whole can of crushed tomatoes, the beef stock and the bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or so. Strain the whole mixture through a fine mesh sieve, and place the liquids back into the pot (the solids can be used as a marinara type sauce).
Bring the mixture to a simmer. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Add in fresh tortellini and cook until warmed through and tender. If using dried tortellini, cook first in boiling water, then strain and add to the tomato broth. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Matzo Ball Soup

I feel so lucky to live in such a well-traveled location. New York City is so often on peoples' lists of places to travel that we get friends passing through frequently. Last week I was fortunate enough to have one of my closest and oldest friends in town for the week.

We've known each other since grade school, but somewhere around middle school really discovered the depths of our friendship. I think I'd never met anyone so much like me in so many ways, yet different enough to keep things interesting. She challenged me to learn more and explore new things, introduced me to many great people, and always made my day brighter when I heard her (very loud) infectious laugh. We became close through photography camp, trips to the State Fair, driving around (and getting lost), and by skipping out on classes--not to do anything bad, but to go for a walk around the track and talk about our problems. She is that friend that, no matter how much time has passed, will never feel awkward or changed in ways we can't overcome. My lifetime companion, no matter how many miles separate us--and right now there are many.

When Kendra was planning this trip we knew we wanted to eat a lot--especially those things that she can't get in her current home in Mexico. Most notably this was Asian cuisine: ramen, Korean fried chicken, dumplings. But Kendra also had a request to try a New York deli classic: Matzo Ball Soup. I thought about the different places we could go to get it (which were multiplied by the fact that it was Passover) and then decided the best thing to do would be to make it at home. It would give us a chance to cook together, catch up, and have a relaxing evening in (plus save a bit of money in the process).

I'm not sure quite how traditional this version is, but turned out well enough that I look forward to having it again (which I can soon thanks to some frozen leftovers), hopefully shared once again with an old friend.

Matzo Ball Soup
serves about 4

2 large full chicken chicken legs (including thighs), skin on
salt and pepper
2-3 TB cooking oil
1 onion, quartered
6 small carrots, divided and washed
6 stalks of celery, divided and washed
2 large parsnips, washed
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 package matzo ball mix (should make 9-12 balls)

Sprinkle the full chicken legs with salt and pepper. In a large soup pan/stock pot heat the cooking oil over medium high heat. Once hot add the chicken and sear until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes or so per side. Remove the chicken to a plate and pour the cooking oil and accumulated fat from the pan into a small heat-proof bowl.
Return the pot to the stove and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion, 3 of the carrots, 3 stalks of celery, the parsnips, garlic, thyme and bay leaf to the pan along with the chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Pour in about 10-12 cups of water. Sprinkle in about 1 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper. Bring the whole mixture to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 1- 1 1/2 hours, until the chicken meat is falling off the bone.
Meanwhile, chop the remaining 3 carrots and 3 celery stalks into 1/2" cubes. Make the matzo balls according to the directions on the package, but substitute the chicken cooking oil/fat for any oil called for in the recipe.
Once the chicken has become extra tender, remove to a platter and then strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve, reserving the liquids and discarding the solids. Return the broth back to the large soup pot.
Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the meat. Add the meat back to the broth and return to a boil. Add in the matzo balls and the chopped carrots and celery. Cook for about 20 minutes until the matzo balls are ready and the vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve hot.