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, January 29, 2014

Creamy Lobster Pasta and Lardo Bruschetta

Weeknight meals may seem overwhelming after a long days work. Hungry before even walking through your door, preparing something to eat can feel like an impossible task. Yet having quality ingredients on hand makes the job less daunting. They don't need your help to taste delicious. Well-made bread just needs a quick toast, a special olive oil drizzled on top will elevate almost anything, Parmesan cheese adds saltiness as well as umami. By understanding the basics of fresh, true flavors I feel like I spend much less time creating recipes and more time enjoying the results. 

Take a trip to your farmers' market and specialty foods store to pick up a few things to see for yourself. In-season veggies taste fuller than their shipped-in-from-other-countries-supermarket counterparts and need much less time in the kitchen to make tasty. Dropping a bit of extra money on high quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or sea salt can save you money in the long run since a little bit goes much farther than the cheap stuff in the flavor department. A special spice (such as fennel pollen or piment d'esplette) can take many dishes up a notch with just a pinch. Cured meats can be appetizers or can flavor salads or pastas. Canned anchovies surprisingly can do the same. Keeping a few of these things on hand ups your kitchen game while often cutting down on your effort.  

Creamy Lobster Pasta and Lardo Bruschetta 
An elegant dinner can be possible in no time at all if you let your ingredients work for you. A pre-steamed lobster picked up from the fish counter cuts out time, hassle, and a bit of the guilt (at least for me). The sauce mostly just needs measured and poured. Cured lardo? Just a few quick slices to a decadent appetizer. A fancy dinner ready from start to finish in about 30 minutes.

for the bruschetta
ciabatta or French bread, cut in half and cut into 3" pieces
extra virgin olive oil
clove of garlic
sea salt
cured lardo, very thinly sliced

Drizzle the bread with extra virgin olive oil. Toast until browned under the broiler. When cool enough to handle, rub each piece with the clove of garlic. Drizzle with just a bit more extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and then top with a slice or two of lardo. Place into just barely warm oven for a few minutes to help melt the lardo over the toast. Serve immediately.

for the pasta
1 (2 lb.) lobster, steamed
12 oz. strozzapreti pasta
3 TB butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
3 TB parsley, chopped

Crack open the lobster and pull the meat from the shell and coarsely chop. Reserve the tomalley. 
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook as directed.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and once melted, the garlic. When the garlic is fragrant, after about 30 seconds to 1 minute, add the heavy cream to the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Add the salt, pepper, and tomalley to the sauce. Continue to cook until the cream thickens, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce along with the lobster meat and parsley. Stir until well mixed and lobster meat is just warmed through and serve.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Papas Bravas

Inspiration hits from so many angles. From the vibrations ringing through my body as I pound the pavement on a run. Experiencing the product of months or years of work by a group of dear friends. A phone call from mom. The glossy pages of a favorite food magazine, flipped through for the first time. Even from the disappointment of a missed opportunity.

Anymore it seems easy to miss these bits of creative energy reaching out to us. Social media needs updating, the text messages buzz in the pocket, a digital game hooks you in. That tiny piece of technology riding around with your every move has taken up a disproportionate amount of time in your life. I know I let myself get sucked into it all. Instead of writing first thing in the morning when the drive and the focus is there, I check into each site, not wanting to miss a post. By the time I’m done my brain has been jumbled past the ability to reach a zen-like creative state, missing the opportunity a good night of sleep has given me. Occasionally missing the moment while in it for the desire to let everyone else know that I’m in the moment.


It’s a struggle to stay up-to-date and in-the-know and to let up a bit of control over that crutch, the smart phone (and the internet in general). There are great things to be had within these, but in this year I hope to set it aside a little bit more. My goals are to spend less time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and actually utilize it to be a better, more consistent friend by truly checking in on the people that mean the most to me. To use Instagram to explore photography and food, but not let it get in the way of conversations. To read articles that bring me knowledge and understanding and growth in place of just dumb humor. To spend less time in the digital and more time in the now. To let the tiny moments of inspiration out there wash over me and give me a push as I live them with every sense alert. To be present in the here and now. And to savor my food as I eat it.


Papas Bravas with Garlic Aioli
These simple roasted potatoes are always a go-to at any tapas joint. The smoky paprika takes them up a notch from the ordinary and the creamy aioli adds a hit of brightness. These are sure to please a crowd so are the perfect side for a winter dinner party.

serves 6 as side
3 lb. small, waxy potatoes
2 TB olive oil
2 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

1/2 c. mayonnaise
zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic

Heat the oven to 425. Scrub the potatoes well and pat dry. Cut into 1" cubes and place on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Toss together until well coated. Roast for about 40-45 minutes, flipping and tossing the potatoes about half way through, until the potatoes are browned and tender.

Place the mayonnaise in a small bowl with the lemon zest. Use the zester to finely grate the garlic into the sauce. Stir together.

Serve the mayonnaise sauce drizzled over the potatoes.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Orange Hazelnut Salad

In the dark, cold, short days of winter, there's something so encouraging about the arrival of seasonal citrus fruit to the supermarkets. Though the brightly colored treasures aren't local I don't deny myself the juicy treat of artificial sunshine. Their burst of summer-like flavors guide me through the gloomy months.

This salad can help lighten up a hearty cold-weather meal. I served it in contrast to a spicy and hearty orrechiette with sausage and broccoli rabe but I can see it matched up nicely with braised or roasted meats as well.


Orange Hazelnut Salad
serves 3-4 as appetizer
3 TB red wine vinegar
3 TB olive oil
1/4 t. seasoned salt
pinch of paprika or piment d'esplette
1/8 t. fresh ground pepper
3 large oranges
pinch of sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts
micro greens

Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, seasoned salt, paprika (or piment d'esplette) and pepper until well mixed.
Peel the oranges and trim away any excess white pith. Cut the oranges into 1/2" slices and layer these onto a platter. Sprinkle with pinch of sea salt and drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. Pour the red wine vinaigrette over top and then scatter the hazelnuts and micro greens over top as garnish.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Shitakes

It's a snow day for many after a windy, brisk storm dropped 6+ inches of snow over our concrete city. The sun is shining, but the temps outside are in the teens, making me want to stay inside and be productive. Unfortunately I've got to head out later and face the cold to trek to work.

If I could get out of it I would hunker down with a book, my journal, and a tea for a few hours before spending the evening in the kitchen preparing a dinner that takes a little more effort. This kind of day is perfect for such an undertaking. If you are lucky enough to have the time and the energy today, I have just the dish for you: homemade gnocchi.

I find gnocchi to be more fool-proof than regular pasta once you've figured out the proper consistency. Plus it never seems to take as long to get together (especially if you skip the rolling for grooves step). It creates a base that compliments many flavors from bright pesto to hearty ragu. This time around I went somewhere down the middle with a brown butter, sage, and shitake sauce to give it depth but still keep it on the lighter side. It's just the thing I want to curl up with as the snow blows against the window panes.


Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Shitakes
serves 3-4
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3/4-1 c. flour
8 oz. sliced shitake mushroom caps
1 TB olive oil
4-5 TB butter
10 sage leaves, chopped
2 TB parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender and fall off a fork when pierced. Strain out the potatoes, reserving the cooking water in the pot.
Push the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer onto a counter-top. Cool for about 10 minutes. Then sprinkle 1/4 c. of flour over top of the potatoes. Use a bench scraper to "chop" and mix the flour into the potatoes. You want to try to incorporate the flour without overworking the dough too much. Once the first addition of flour is almost mixed in, add another 1/4 c. of flour and repeat. Then add a third 1/4 c. of flour and chop and mix again. Now the dough should almost be pliant and ready to roll. To test, roll a small piece into a 1/2" tube and drop into a pot of boiling water. It should pop to the top of the water in about a minute or so. If the piece does not fall apart the dough is ready. If the dough does fall apart, add the remaining 1/4 c. of flour and test again.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll out each one into a snake about 1/2" in diameter. Cut into pieces about 3/4" long. Sprinkle with a bit of flour and toss using the bench scraper to cover the gnocchi and help keep them from sticking. Then roll each piece on a gnocchi board or along the back of a fork to create grooves. Place the gnocchi onto a wax paper lined sheet pan as you repeat with the remaining dough.
Once the gnocchi are prepped, start on the sauce. Heat the 1 TB olive oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add the shitake mushrooms once hot and saute until browned all over. Add the butter. Once it is melted and starting to sizzle, add the sage leaves. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the sage is fragrant and the butter is slightly browned. Turn off the heat and set aside until gnocchi is boiled.
Return the potato cooking water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, probably in two batches to avoid sticking. Cook until the gnocchi bubbles to the top and let boil for about 30 seconds before removing from the water and straining. Be sure to reserve at least some of the pasta cooking water for the sauce.
Once the gnocchi have been boiled and strained, return the mushroom butter sauce to a medium-high heat. Stir in about 1/4 c. of the pasta cooking water and let boil for about 30 seconds until it thickens up a bit. Add the gnocchi and toss. Add a bit more pasta cooking water if necessary. Remove from heat, toss with parsley, and grate on Parmesan cheese to serve.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cinnamon Rolls

I don't know that there is any breakfast more comforting or that makes you feel more loved than cinnamon rolls. Especially when homemade, soft, large, and topped with just the right amount of glaze. Is this just the Midwesterner in me or is this a universal feeling?

This is another recipe  pulled from my childhood and my grandmother's recipe box. Cinnamon rolls are something that I only seem to crave in winter, remembering the warm treat offered up Christmas morning, or whenever we stayed the night with my grandmother, or alongside a bowl of chili (again: who else has this tradition? I seem to know some people who insist on the cinnamon roll and chili pairing and others who have never heard of such a thing). Since the husband shared the tradition of the Christmas morning cinnamon rolls in his family, it is one that we have made part of our small celebration every year as we hunker down in New York City, trying to ward off the homesickness of being far from family on this special day. To be honest, our first couple of years we popped open a refrigerated can the morning of to satisfy the craving, but the last couple of years, as my kitchen and bread skills improved, homemade rolls graced the table.

Doing our best to not look completely hung over on Christmas morning.
The best part of making a batch yourself is the ability to share and spread the love. This year I made a 1 1/2 sized portion and divvied it up to 3 pie pans to hand out to fellow friends stuck in the city far from family. A treat that hopefully made them feel more at home.

Cinnamon Rolls
This recipe is based off of my grandmother's dinner roll recipe. It creates a barely sweet, flaky, soft dough that is only improved by the addition of a bit of butter/sugar and glaze. This recipe makes 12 large rolls, but it never hurts to multiply the recipe to share a bit of winter cheer with those who may need it. 
photo courtesy of The Husband
for the dough:
1 package yeast dissolved in 1/4 c. warm water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. warm water
4 c. flour

for the filling:
1/2 c. (8 TB) butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
3 TB cinnamon

for the glaze:
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-2 TB milk

Add all the dough ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix until well combined--dough will be very sticky. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Then place the covered bowl into the refrigerator to cool the dough about 30 minutes-1 hour.
Mix together the cinnamon and brown sugar.
Lightly flour the counter and dump the dough onto it. Roll out into a 9x15" rectangle (you want the dough to be about 1/2" thick). Spread with the butter and then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Starting with the long side, roll up the dough fairly tightly. Once rolled, pinch the seam to the roll to close off the roll.
Use a sharp knife or a long piece of string to cut the log into 12 rolls (you may want to slice off the very end pieces first to make for more even rolls). Place 2" apart in a 9x13" baking dish. Cover and rise for about 30 minutes-1 hour. (Note: at this point you can also cover the rolls and then place in the refrigerator to rise slowly overnight to bake off in the morning. OR you can place the rolls on a sheet pan in the freezer at this point. Once frozen, wrap carefully in wax paper and place in a freezer bag. When ready to cook, place the frozen rolls 2" apart in a 9x13" pan and let rise and thaw for about 2-3 hours. Bake as directed below.)
Heat the oven to 350.
While the rolls are rising, make the glaze. Mix together the ingredients, adding more powdered sugar if necessary to thicken or more milk if necessary to thin.
Bake the cinnamon rolls for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer doughy. Cool slightly, then drizzle with glaze.