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.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bean and Cheese Taquitos

Sometimes life surprises you with its twists and turns. Yet other times the changes it throws your way were foretold long ago and you just didn't have the proper clarity to see them.

I picked up photography at the ripe old age of 10. Signing up for 4-H for the first time my mom allowed us two choices each for our first year to keep us from getting bogged down and for some reason the camera called my name. Over the years I took classes and workshops, even attended photography camp. I spent hours and hours in the darkroom with fellow 4-H'er Kendra--that time led us to become best friends (a title we hold for each other to this day). I shot for the newspaper and yearbook in high school.

Once college rolled around, however, my focus turned toward theater. Sure, I carried my camera to parties and contributed significant numbers of pics to the annual theater banquet slide show, but I no longer was a student of the form. After college I stopped even carrying a camera most of the time.

Yet last fall as I trudged through the Food Media intensive that I was involved in, my love for photography pushed itself back to the surface. I remembered the thrill I get from capturing a fleeting moment and preserving it for the future. I even realized that I can get some of the same joy out of working in the digital Lightroom as I did the old school darkroom (though I do miss the company). Somehow this old hobby has slowly reemerged as a strong component of my current and future career. It's something I never expected.

As I relearn and continue to evolve my craft, I've embarked on a Project 365 that started on January 1: posting a photo a day to force myself to think with a photographic eye, to make sure I'm carrying my camera more often, and to help capture the moments that make up my year. You can follow the project on my Tumblr or check out all the photos so far on my Flickr.

Bean and Cheese Taquitos
Regardless of changes in life it's always nice to come home to a simple meal. Canned beans get a bump in flavor by cooking with some onions and spices then get mashed and rolled up in tortillas with plenty of cheese. Baking them adds crispness without too much oil. Then they are served topped off with a homemade chunky salsa, whipped avocado, and sour cream.


5 TB cooking oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 large can black beans
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. chili powder
1/4 t. seasoned salt
1/4 c. stock (or water)
2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 c. cotija cheese, shredded
12 flour tortillas

for the salsa:
1 c. chopped cherry tomatoes
1/4 c. finely chopped onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2-1 jalapeno, chopped (depending on heat preference)
2 TB cilantro, chopped
1 TB lime juice

for the whipped avocado
2 avocados
2 TB sour cream

Sour cream, for serving

Heat the oven to 400.
Drain the beans and rinse them under water.
Heat 2 TB cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender. Add the beans and the cumin, chili powder, and seasoned salt. Stir together and cook until the beans are warmed through. Add the stock or water and mash the beans slightly. Remove from the heat.

Place the remaining 3 TB cooking oil in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush the bottom sides of the tortillas with the oil. Spread a couple of tablespoons of beans on the inside of each tortilla and then sprinkle with cheddar and cotija cheese. Roll up tightly and place on a baking sheet. Bake until browned and crispy, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile make the salsa. Mix together the chopped cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

For the whipped avocado, scoop out the flesh of the avocados into a bowl and beat vigorously with the sour cream.

Serve the taquitos topped off with the salsa, whipped avocado, and a dollop of sour cream.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Smoked Duck and Brie Panini


Thank goodness spring is officially upon us. The weather seems to want to actually cooperate with the calendar day this year, giving us a breath of warm air and blue skies. I even saw spikes of green leaves poking out of the brown earth on my run through the park today. All offering us the promise that the cold will soon be behind us.

As the warmer weather swoops in I find myself wishing for days spent lazily lounging in the park with a book or taking a long stroll around the neighborhood. Yet my calendar fills quickly at this time of year, appointments and responsibilities seeming to shake themselves out of hibernation. As I struggle to fit it all in yet still make the time to enjoy the season I try to make dinner short work while still keeping it exciting.

Panini are an excellent fall-back when crunched for time. They come together in no time flat yet still have an air of elegance that you don't quite get from a regular sandwich. This recipe blends together smoky duck breast with sweet and tart cherry preserves to help the taste buds also remember that spring and summer produce is just around the corner.


Smoked Duck and Brie Panini
1" slices of Italian bread
smoked duck breast, sliced thin*
1/4" slices of brie
arugula
cherry preserves
extra virgin olive oil

*if you are lucky enough to live in NYC you can pick up smoked duck breast at the greenmarket through Hudson Valley Duck farm. Otherwise there are many options out there these days in supermarkets or online. They can be used for everything from sandwiches to soups (ramen!!) to a charcuterie board so I recommend you pick one up to try asap. 

Heat your panini press according to instructions. If you don't have one, don't despair: heat your cast iron skillet nice and hot and use something heavy (such as a foil-wrapped brick) to press your sandwich into shape.

For each panino place a bit of brie on each of two slices of bread (a little cheese on each side will help hold it all together). Add a layer of smoked duck breast, a good smear of cherry preserves, and a pile of arugula on one piece and then top with the second. Drizzle the outside of both sides of the sandwich with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Place the panino in the panini press and cook per the machines directions until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. If using the cast iron skillet place the sandwich in the hot pan, top with the brick, and cook until the bottom is browned and crispy. Flip the panino over and repeat. Serve warm.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Potato and Leek Soup

Take two ingredients that are less than glamorous: potatoes, knobby and dirty, and leeks, full of grit, and blend them together and somehow what emerges is a soup that sings with elegance. It's a peasant dish that I would be comfortable serving at the fanciest of dinner parties.

Slowly cooking the potatoes and leeks side by side and then blending them together releases something magical into the soup. It is creamy and decadent--a far cry from it's humble beginnings. Each time I make it I am surprised by the stunning result despite the lack of effort in its creation.

The secret lies in first poaching the ingredients in butter, infusing and fusing the flavors into one. Water is all you need to thin it out, but a bit of cream increases the indulgence. Though it needs no accompaniment a drizzle of basil oil or a green onion pesto can lend contrast.

As winter clings on, head to the kitchen to prepare a pot: for guests or just for yourself. Then settle in and indulge on classy simplicity.


Potato and Leek Soup
serves 6
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 leeks (white and light green parts only), cleaned and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 TB butter
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
3 c. + water
1/2-1 c. heavy cream (optional)

Melt the butter in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the potatoes, leeks, garlic, salt and pepper before it starts to sizzle. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, turning down the heat to low after a moment or two. The goal here is to essentially poach the vegetables in the butter to meld their flavors together. You don't want the butter to start to brown or burn.
Add 3 cups of water to the pot, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat back down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes and leeks are very tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Working in batches, carefully puree the vegetables and broth in a blender until smooth. Return to the pot over medium heat. Add in the cream, if using, and then add in enough water to thin the soup to your desired consistency. I like to keep mine fairly thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Once the soup is heated through it is ready to serve. Garnish with green onion and parsley pesto if desired.

Green Onion and Parsley Pesto
1/4 c. parsley, finely chopped
1/4 c. green onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
2 TB walnuts, finely chopped
juice from 1 lemon
2-3 TB extra virgin olive oil

Mix together all of the ingredients. Serve a dollop on top of each bowl of potato and leek soup.