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.

Showing posts with label Entree. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Entree. Show all posts

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.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Comfort in a Pot of Beans

It is no surprise that I love to cook and spending hours in the kitchen working on a complex recipe is one of my favorite ways to pass a day. Yet there are times when I am awed by the power of a simple recipe. A pot of beans is just a few minutes of mis en place plus some wait and a soulful dinner is on the table. There's something reassuring knowing I can throw a handful of ingredients into a pot and churn out a hearty meal that costs only a few dollars.


Yes cooking dried beans does take time. Yet it is time where the beans themselves are doing most of the work, leaving you to clean the house, play a game, catch up on your DVR, read a book. There's no need to hover over the pan as it cooks, though you may want to with the scents that waft around as it bubbles away. Dishing up and tucking into your bowl feels wholesome, hearkening back to days of our parents' and grandparents' meals and seems something to be passed on to generations ahead.

It doesn't take a master in the kitchen to conjure a delicious meal out of dried beans. This is a recipe a novice can, and should, make. It is an entree in its own right but can take on countless iterations: burritos, dips, soups, cassoulet, etc. with just a few adjustments. A large enough pot can make a variety of dinners for a whole week. If you can get your hands on heirloom  beans they may cost a few more dollars but pack an even larger punch of flavor (I highly recommend any from Rancho Gordo. I'm not receiving any compensation or product from them, they are just that good that I really can't help but promote them).

Winter is obviously not done with us yet. As the cold, snowy winds blow outside, keep yourself indoors and put a pot of these on the stove. Add a pan of cornbread and a meal of endless comfort is complete.

Cooking Dried Beans
4-6 servings as an entree

1 lb. dried beans (Jacob's cattle, cannellini, pinto, etc.)
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 t. salt

Soak the beans. If you have enough foresight to know the day before or early in the morning the day you will eat them, place them in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches of water. Soak for around 6-8 hours. If you haven't anticipated this wait (as I never do), place the beans in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches of boiling water. Let these sit for 1 hour. Many people will tell you to drain the water after soaking, but I feel that this takes away some of their flavor and some studies are actually showing that this drains away some of their nutrients as well.

Heat a large pot over medium with the extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Pour the beans and their soaking liquid into the pan. The beans should be just covered with water--if not add some more to top off. Add the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.

Here is another area where opinions differ on method: some say to cover the pot and others leave uncovered. My understanding is that a covered pot will cut out a bit of time but will make for beans that are a bit mushier (great if you are making a dip or refried beans). An uncovered pan will yield beans with a bit more structure but may take a bit longer (better for soups). Both have their uses, so consider how you will utilize the beans when making your call here.

The time it takes to cook the beans varies thanks to many factors: type of bean, freshness, how long they were soaked. After about 45 minutes start testing the texture. You want them to be soft enough to eat but not to totally break apart into mush. Certain varieties may be ready after 45 minutes, others may need 2 hours. The more you cook beans the more familiar you will get with their specific cook times. I like to add salt when the beans aren't quite finished yet--when they have about 15 minutes or so left to go (when you test them and feel they are soft but could use just a bit more time). It does take some time for the beans to soak up the salt so give them a few before tasting and adding more.

Once perfectly tender remove the bay leaf and remove from the heat. You can serve the beans right away or now use in another recipe. If there is a bit of broth leftover go ahead and put it in your soups or stews--it is full of flavor.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

One Day Cassoulet

The snow falls as the day opens and on until its close. Soft at times, swirling and heavy at others. I spy some girls making a snowman on the roof of the building next door. Hear the snow plows grind down the street. I go out to buy a few things for dinner and to stock up on wine and I see home owners, supers and those trying to make a few bucks with shovels in hand, breath puffing like smoke as they push the piles from sidewalk to street, making a slight dent before more falls in its place. How lucky I am to head home and hunker down in the warmth of my cozy apartment.

I imagine inviting all of those hard workers in from the cold and sharing a huge pot of this cassoulet with them. It takes a good chunk of a day to make this version (although traditional ones take a few days to do properly, so this is a compromise) but once you dig in to the rich interior hid under a layer of crispy breadcrumbs you will forget any effort you put forth. Hearty and layered with flavors, I can think of nothing more comforting after a slog through the icy streets. Take a snow day or a Sunday and spend that extra energy, then invite over a gaggle of friends to tuck in and savor this filling French casserole with a few bottles of red wine. It is sure to warm  your body and your soul.


One Day Cassoulet
When hibernation mode tries to set in during the coldest months, I crave dishes that are hearty and allow me to spend some extra time in the warm kitchen. This dish delivers while surprising your tongue with many layers of flavors. It is well worth the time spent to cook but save a bit during prep by cutting the onion, carrots, garlic, and thyme for both the beans and the broth up front and then dividing. 
Serves 8

16 oz. cassoulet beans (I recommend the ones from Rancho Gordo)
6 slices bacon
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 t. fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf

2 legs duck confit
2 large sausages
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 t. fresh thyme, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes
2 c. chicken stock

1 c. panko breadcrumbs

Place the beans in a large, heat-proof bowl. Cover with boiling water by about two inches and soak for one hour.
Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven. Once crispy, remove from the pan and set aside (leaving bacon grease in pan). Add the onion and carrot and cook until tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme. Add the beans and their soaking liquid to the pan, along with the bay leaf and 3 slices of the cooked bacon, crumbled. There should be about one inch of water covering the beans: if not add more to the pan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender (about 1-1 1/2 hours). Remove the bay leaf when finished cooking.



Meanwhile, prepare the "broth." Scrape most of the fat off of the duck legs and reserve. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high and sear the duck legs on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Sear the sausages on all sides and remove and set aside. Add the onion and carrot to the pan and saute until tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme for about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock, bring to a boil, and cook until mixture has reduced and thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.

Pull the crispy skin from the duck legs and chop and set aside. Shred the duck meat and discard the bones. Chop the sausages into about 4 pieces each.

Heat oven to 350.

When the beans are cooked stir into the tomato broth. Stir in the duck meat, the sausage pieces, and the remaining 3 slices of bacon, crumbled. Top the mixture with the breadcrumbs and the crispy duck skin. Drizzle the duck fat over top. Bake until the mixture is bubbling and thickened and the breadcrumbs are browned and crispy, about 1-1.5 hours. Allow to set for about 10 minutes before serving.

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 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, November 21, 2013

Greens and Ricotta Sandwich

I am counting down the minutes until Sunday afternoon, when my little sister will arrive to NYC from Austin. We haven't seen one another in person for a year and a half and haven't spent a holiday together in much longer. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be able to spend a holiday with a family member in tow.

My sister is two years younger than me and so has been by my side as long as I can remember. We were very close in high school, spending a lot of our free time and extracurricular time together (save for a few fights here and there: one especially that involved an amateur haircut that went awry). It still doesn't feel right to spend so much of our time so far apart. I can't wait to show off my home, my friends, and my city to her over the next week as we catch up and spend our days once again side by side. I'm truly thankful for this opportunity to share it all with my little sis.

Greens and Ricotta Sandwich
There's no photo of this since I whipped it up as a simple, quick dinner one night and wasn't considering it for a post. Yet when I took the first bite I knew I had to share this remarkable, easy meal. It is packed with healthy greens, a creamy ricotta, and crunch from store-bought spicy kale chips. If you can't find pre-made kale chips at your store you can easily roast up a batch (although they probably won't be quite as crispy), but make sure to add some chili flakes to your greens to give the sandwich its heat.
Serves 2

very thin focaccia or flatbread (if it is thicker than 3/4", cut in half lengthwise to form the two halves of your sandwich. Basically you want 4 pieces of about 4"x3" bread that is 1/2" thick.)
2 TB olive oil
3 c. kale, chopped
5 c. spinach, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1-2 TB extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
spicy miso kale chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the focaccia onto a large baking sheet.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the kale and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes. At this point, place the focaccia into the oven to warm through (about 4 minutes). Add the garlic and the spinach to the kale and continue to cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste.
Take 2 pieces of warmed focaccia and spread half of the ricotta onto each. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Top off with the greens and then finish with the crispy kale chips. Top with the other slice of bread and serve.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Pork Cheek Ravioli

For a while after returning from my summer internship I found myself struggling with creativity in the kitchen. Though I didn't do much cooking while Upstate, I didn't feel the need to dive back into it full-force once home. I put so much of myself and my creative energy into everything I did there that I needed a break to rest and allow my brain molecules to start firing on their own again, without guidelines laid out in front of me by someone else.

With the passing weeks after the event I slowly started shedding the layers of spice notes crammed in every nook and cranny of the brain and media lessons piled at the top of my mind, as Jonas looses the memories as he leaves the known world behind in The Giver. It felt like lightening the load. The things I learned are still present, but they are now settling in among my other thoughts, allowing me to find focus elsewhere.
Finally I feel inspired and invigorated when I circle the greenmarket or step into my kitchen to prepare the evening meal. I have fancy dinner party menus circling my mind, I flip through cookbooks and bookmark pages that set off a spark, I wander specialty stores and pick up ingredients that I've never seen before to try something new. It feels invigorating being behind the stove again.

This meal stemmed from that thrill filling me up. I made an appetizer of bruschetta topped with a roasted eggplant puree, creme fraiche, and pomegranate seeds. I spent 2 days on the ravioli, braising on one and making the pasta on the other. I served it alongside simply sauteed mustard greens for added bite. I lit candles, put on the fireplace video on the tv, and played some dinner music to set the mood. It felt special, a welcome home to my long absent chef soul.

On a side note, I have a few friends who are new to the blogging world and would like to give them a shout-out. Trina and Tina are sisters who get together to cook once a week and dicsuss their joint-family culinary adventures at Sister Sweetly. Sophie, Susannah, Stephanie, and Remy are all wonderfully talented writers and food lovers with whom I had the pleasure of working with at LongHouse. I know these ladies are going somewhere big, so be sure to follow them at the beginning of the journey so you can say "you knew them when." Their blogs are (respectively): The Daily Compote, The Storied SpoonStephanieCarlson.com, and RemyRobert.com.  



Pork Cheek Ravioli
This recipe was inspired by Emiko Davies. After reading of her pork dinner party for Food52 I couldn't get the recipe off of my mind. I searched all over for pork cheeks, even asking the pork farmers at the market, to no avail. Then, a couple of weeks ago at the market at Grand Army Plaza, I was purchasing meat from Arcadian Pastures and the vendor gave me his card to call if there was ever anything in particular I was looking for. Thinking it couldn't hurt to ask, I implored once again for the pork cheeks. I was thrilled when he told me he should be able to get them in for me the next week. As I waited for the next week's market to roll around, I dreamed of what this ravioli would taste like. Patience paid off with a lovely dinner as reward.

serves 4-5

2 pork cheeks, skinned with fat left on
salt and pepper
2 TB olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 c. red wine
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

for the pasta (recipe from Emiko Davies):
200 grams all purpose flour
200 grams semolina flour
4 eggs

to finish:
3 TB butter
Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, for garnish

Sprinkle the pork cheeks generously with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat, then add the pork and brown on all sides. Remove the pork to a plate.
Add the onion, garlic, and carrots to the pan. Cook until slightly tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the wine and the seared pork back to the pan, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Let the meat braise slowly until it is tender and shreds easily, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
Strain out the solids and the pork, reserving the cooking liquid. Finely chop the pork and vegetables, then mix in the Parmesan cheese. Set aside to cool while making the pasta dough.

Form the flour into a volcano-shaped peak on your counter top. Make a deep well in the center and crack in the eggs. Use a fork to slowly start beating the eggs, ever so slowly incorporating the flour from the sides while being careful not to "crack" the sides, which will create a lava-like flow of eggs all over the counter (I have yet to successfully complete this task, but I have high hopes that one day I will form pasta like a pro). Once enough flour has become incorporated that it is difficult to mix with the fork, begin working the dough with your hands, incorporating more flour until it is no longer sticky, then knead until the dough is elastic, about 5 minutes. Form into a ball, cover, and rest for 30 minutes.

Now it is time to roll out the dough. I find I can never get my pasta thin enough when I roll it by hand, so I highly recommend a pasta roller. Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll until it is very thin (#7 on the Kitchen Aid pasta roller attachment) and about 4" wide. Drop a rounded teaspoon of pork onto the pasta sheets about every 2 1/2 inches, in the middle of the bottom half of the sheet. Brush water or an egg wash around all sides, then fold the pasta sheet in half over top of the filling and press firmly all around to keep out air bubbles. Use a pasta cutter to separate out the ravioli.

Once the ravioli are prepared, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large saute pan, heat the cooking liquids from the braised pork. Once the braising liquid comes to a boil, stir in the butter until it melts. Taste and salt and pepper as necessary, then turn the heat to low. Add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place directly into the sauce (a bit of starchy pasta cooking water will help the sauce coat the noodles). Gently toss to coat the ravioli, then plate on a large serving platter. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley to serve.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Clean Out the Fridge Pasta

I opened the fridge door and let the cool rush of air wash over my face. Leaned in, took a deep breath, and then prepared to show no mercy.

I was in the midst of a deep clean of my kitchen. Going through the fridge, the pantry, the cupboards and getting rid of anything that was underused, past its prime, or just unnecessary. There were a couple of bottles of condiments and a package of oats that I'm pretty sure I brought with me when I moved into this apartment. Spices that I've had since college. Items that I don't even remember buying. My kitchen was in desperate need of this scouring. Offering it up a rebirth of sorts. Once finished with the purge I felt lighter, more at peace. And definitely ready to cook something up in my newly organized space.

In an effort to use what I have on hand more often and avoid throwing food away, our dinner that night was a pasta made solely from items I already had around. Sun dried tomatoes, half a container of mushrooms, the remainders of a bag of spinach, cured meats, a basil oil I'd made for soup. It merged together into an interesting, tasty meal and left my fridge even cleaner than before.


Clean out the Fridge Pasta
This isn't so much a recipe, but a guideline on how to take ingredients you have on hand and create a solid dinner out of them. 

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
Chop up any veggies, onions, meats, etc. that you have on hand. Grate some Parmesan, pecorino, or asiago cheese.
If you have a hearty pasta that takes a longer time to cook you may want to toss it into the boiling water before starting on the "sauce." If it is a skinny/fast cooking pasta you may want to wait until the sauce is almost ready before cooking. Before draining make sure to reserve about 1/2 c. of the pasta cooking water to possibly use in the sauce.

Heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil and a couple of tablespoons butter in a large saute pan. If using, start by sauteing the onions. Next up you will want to add any really hearty vegetables: carrots, celery, leeks, turnips.
If you have any uncooked ground meat you will add that to the vegetables once they are just tender and cook it through.

Next into the pot would go any medium veggies: kale, zucchini, mushrooms and garlic. If you have some tomato paste that you want to use now would be a good time. Any cured meats (prosciutto, chorizo, etc.) could be added now as well.

Check the fat level in the sauce: if it is too dry you may want to add a bit more butter to have something to stick to the pasta.
Now toss in any light veggies: spinach, herbs. The sauce is now ready for the pasta.

I like to add the pasta to the sauce pan over a medium-low heat, tossing it all together with a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to make a creamy, cohesive sauce that coats the noodles. Then turn off the heat, top the whole thing with grated cheese and fresh basil or parsley if it's on hand, and serve.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Eggs in Purgatory

In my younger days my life goals included skydiving. The thrill of jumping out of a plane and falling through the air invigorated me. Yet as I edged closer to my 30s and still hadn't checked it off my list, I found the idea less and less captivating. A fear of the prospect settled in that hadn't been present before. I started doubting whether I'd ever have the courage to actually step foot out a plane door so far above the earth's floor.

Fear is a funny thing sometimes. It truly is incredible to me to look back on my early 20s and see how carefree and how fearless I could be. Living it you can't see it, the clarity of self truly only comes with age, along with the knowledge and understanding of your own mortality. So often now I am thankful for this comprehension when I make smart decisions, yet there are other times where I miss the spontaneity and the dive-head-first-into-anything approach of my youth. 

Right now is one of those times. I am staring over the edge at a new career direction. I believe in it, yet doubt and fear are making me step back and rethink the leap that I must take to get there. It feels almost impossible, especially when turning back just means returning to the comfortable life I currently have around me. Why risk shaking that up? Why put myself through the hassle of change? 

Yet the rewards offered by making the jump are enormous. A career I can feel proud of. A job I look forward to everyday--even kind-of enjoying the bad parts. Being my own boss and my own employee--because I know no one will work harder. Expressing my creative side through my work, yet also having an opportunity to exercise the left side of my brain through the business aspects.  

I'm channeling my 20 year old self as I step to the door of this plane. My (almost) 32 year old self is double checking every strap and lever before I go, ensuring safety measures are in place, but my toes hover over the edge, I take a deep breath, and I get ready to let go.

Eggs in Purgatory
Far from being scary, eggs in purgatory is an easy dish that is nice for brunch, but I find to be a perfect simple weeknight dinner. Vary the flavors simply by changing the herbs you use, but I personally would never leave out the chili flakes since the heat is what gives the dish its kick. If you can find good quality canned tomatoes, it really does make a difference in the flavors, but even I sometimes make it with the store brand if that's all I have on hand. Diced or whole stewed both work--if you have larger tomato chunks just break them up with a wooden spoon as you cook the sauce.


serves 2
2 TB olive oil
2 TB chopped shallot or onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (14 oz) cans San Marzano tomatoes 
2 TB fresh oregano (or 2 t. dried oregano)
1/4 t. crushed red chili flakes (or more to taste)
salt and pepper
4 eggs
crusty bread for serving

Heat the olive oil in a 12" pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the tomatoes, oregano, and chili flakes, breaking up any large tomato chunks with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Break the eggs into the sauce. Cover the pan with a lid and cook until the egg whites are set and the yolks are runny, about 2-4 minutes. Serve immediately, with toasted bread for dipping. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kale Caesar Salad

I am in overdrive today, nearing full-on panic mode. I have a long list of things to get accomplished yet can't seem to get myself focused long enough to complete a task. The facts that I'm dealing with a cold and my computer decided to take a trip to tech repair today aren't helping.

The big thing that's on my plate? I am leaving NYC tomorrow morning for Renssellaerville, NY to participate in the internship program with the Longhouse Food Revival. Basically I will be working with Molly O'Neill and other brilliant food media minds to create documentaries, photo slide shows, radio programming, a magazine and other content to be featured at this year's Revival, all while cooking, farming, and learning alongside my fellow interns. I am ecstatic to take on this opportunity. Plus I get the added benefit of getting out of New York City for most of the month of August. Leaving the sweltering subways, tourist filled streets and job behind for the clean air of a small town. The only downside I see is leaving the husband behind. It's been years since we've been separated for so long and I know that it will be difficult to get through the weeks without my best friend by my side.

I also will probably not have too much time to keep up with this blog while I am away, so for now I say farewell--for just a few weeks! If I get the opportunity I will update you on the adventures on the farm, but otherwise I will see you come September. Hope you all have a lovely end-of-summer and can take your own adventures to return refreshed. I leave you with one more recipe for the road: a simple Caesar salad made hearty enough for a full summer meal with the substitution of kale in place of romaine.


Kale Caesar Salad
serves 3-4
1 large bundle of kale (about 5-6 cups)
2 c. cubed French bread
2 TB butter
1/2 t. seasoned salt
pinch of garlic salt
5 anchovy fillets
2 cloves garlic
juice of 1 1/2 lemons (about 1/3 c.)
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. olive oil
grated Parmesan cheese

Remove the tough stems from the kale and tear into large pieces. Wash well to remove grit and dirt and then dry.

To make the croutons heat the butter in a saute pan over medium. Add the cubed bread, seasoned salt and garlic powder. Toss constantly until the bread has become crispy all over. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Make the dressing by placing the anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard in a medium bowl and crushing all together with a pestle or the back of a fork. Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil and the regular olive oil until emulsified. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Toss the kale with the dressing. Get your hands in there and massage the dressing into the leaves, helping to tenderize them, for about 2 minutes (you should feel with the texture of the kale changes slightly and this is when you know it is ready). Toss with the Parmesan cheese and croutons to serve.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Corn Soup

The husband and I just got back from a wonderful few days visiting the mother-in-law in Albuquerque. We spent the days exploring Santa Fe, hiking through the tent rocks, basking in the magnificent views. Nights were passed lounging with wine and conversation, often on the back patio with a fire burning and the stars twinkling above. What a relief to step out of the overbearing heat of NYC for a few days and feel the calming effects of open air and uber-friendly strangers.

Now we are back to the grind and the close to 100 degree temps that are making New York even more difficult to handle this week. Luckily I can still throw together a simple dinner to be shared with Joe at our dinner table that lends itself to lingering over discussions of our days and helps us remember to slow down a bit.

This soup takes full advantage of summer at its best: peak in-season corn lends a sweetness that you won't get from it at any other time of year. Chopped scallions can add some bite, a drizzle of parsley oil or pesto an added freshness, and a dollop of creme fraiche brings it all together with a tangy note on your tongue.


Corn Soup
about 3 servings
3 large ears of sweet corn
2 TB butter
1 TB olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper

optional:
pesto
parsley oil
creme fraiche
scallions

Slice the kernels off the ears of corn, reserving as much of the liquid as possible (sometimes it's easier to do this by slicing off the kernels inside a large bowl).
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until transparent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute then stir in the corn and its juices for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the stock and the heavy cream, bring to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 15 minutes to meld all of the flavors.
Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Then pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove the solids, pressing down to make sure to get all of the juices out. Return the strained soup to the stove, heat through, and add salt and pepper to taste.
I garnished ours with a ramp pesto thinned with extra virgin olive oil and a dollop of creme fraiche, but parsley oil, regular pesto, or chopped scallions would be just as nice.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fava Bean and Shitake Saute

Growing up in small-town Kansas I knew all of my neighbors. They all knew me. They all knew all of my business (and weren't afraid to tell my parents that business even when I thought it should be private, such as when they saw me kissing a boy who dropped me off after school). I always imagined that part of the draw of moving to New York City would be not knowing the neighbors. Being able to live in a private bubble of sorts without gossip-catching eyes following me around. Being able to come and go without stopping for long bouts of small talk.

Imagine my surprise then, when last week I ran into some of my neighbors who were finishing loading the moving truck to head back to the Midwest to be near family and open a restaurant and my heart cracked a little, feeling pain at the loss of those familiar faces down the hall.

I'm not sure where the change started, perhaps it is a little bit growing older, a little bit about the fact that we've lived in the same apartment for more than four years and feel a deep love for our neighborhood and the community that is building around it. Over the years we constantly bump into the same people over and over again. You learn the names of those on a similar schedule as you or who shop at the same stores. With Lindsay and Derek (and their two cute sons), the ones who just moved away, we met on Thanksgiving a few years ago when they were moving into their apartment on our floor during the holiday so I couldn't resist inviting them to join our gathering.

We were never especially close: we always talked about making time for drinks or exchanging batches of homemade ice cream.  Life and work ate up time and left months slipping away without a meet-up, but it was always reassuring knowing that if we were in need of something there were friends down the hall. The little boys' laughter floating through our front door as they scooted towards the elevator never failed to bring a smile to my face. Lindsay always seemed happy to see me when we crossed on my way to work and her way home. These neighborly pleasantries will be missed.

Of course we know other families and individuals on the floor and in our building and we even met the new tenant moving into Derek and Lindsay's place just days after they left. Our little community will shift and change as time edges on, but now I appreciate and look forward to being part of my building mates' lives and having them as part of mine.

This fava bean and shitake saute would welcome any neighbor for a friendly meal. You could share the labor of shelling the fava beans and trimming the mushrooms. By using the plastic wrap method of poaching eggs there's no need to spend too much time by the stove, cooking them all at once instead of one at a time, leaving more time to get to know one another.


Fava Bean and Shitake Saute
serves 3-4
2 lbs. fresh fava bean pods
1 lb. shitake mushrooms
1 TB baking powder
2 TB butter
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
4 eggs, poached*

Shell the fava beans. Then peel the skins from the individual beans. A simple way to do this is to bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 TB baking soda. Add the shelled fava beans and boil until the skins split, about 2 minutes. Then drain the beans and place into an ice bath for a couple of minutes. You should now be able to just squeeze the beans quickly and easily out of their shells.

Remove the stems from the shitake mushrooms and discard. If the caps are large, cut into half inch slices. Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet over high, add the butter and once melted toss in the shitake caps. Once slightly browned and cooked through add the fava beans to toss for about 30 seconds. Stir in the salt and pepper. Place on a platter and top with the poached eggs to serve.

*The plastic wrap method of poaching eggs is a great one when you need multiple eggs at one time. Here' a video how-to from Chow.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Wedges with Dill Creme Fraiche

Once summer hits, the number of things to do in New York City rises exponentially. The city that never sleeps is pumped full of exciting things to do, see, experience and I get overwhelmed at the thought of trying to fit it all in before the cold sets in again come fall.

The summer, just beginning, already seems to be slipping away too quickly (especially as I will be out of town for a full month towards the end of it. Details on this to follow). However, I have been able to check a few items off of my should-do list: a concert with friends, margaritas sipped by open windows, a trip to the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, long walks along Brooklyn Bridge Park and through my favorite neighborhoods, the Big Apple BBQ, mint juleps while cooking dinner, and trips to 2 exhibits at museums that I didn't want to miss.

First up was a trip to the Rain Room at the MOMA. Basically it is a giant black box that has a huge square of rain inside, but the technology used makes it stop raining where you are standing. So you are surrounded by the rain but have your own personal "umbrella" of sorts that follows you around (as long as you move slowly enough--little kids do not seem to have this ability when judged by my visit here :). I wasn't quite sure if it would be worth the long wait in the hot sun to get in, but once finally enveloped by the cool, black room with it's single spotlight I felt refreshed and invigorated. And I wanted to dance.



After exiting the Rain Room we made our way up to the Park Avenue Armory (with a quick side trip for lunch to the King of Falafel's Street cart for the best falafel in the city) for the Paul McCarthy exhibit "WS."

Close to a week later and I'm still not quite able to put into words the effect that the exhibit had on me. I'm not sure I liked it, but it definitely left me thinking. The overwhelming experience of sounds, videos, environment left me feeling more wiped out than I have in a long time. It took hours (and a few cocktails) before I was able to feel back to normal again. Though I feel this is a sign of good art, I'm not quite sure I could ever go back.

The mental workout that this exhibit gave me left me with the need for something uncomplicated for dinner. Something that wouldn't require excess thought but would comfort me as well. Luckily the husband had begged to pick up some sweet potatoes from the greenmarket last weekend. So after a quick wash and a few slices, into the oven they went while I whipped up a simple dipping sauce out of dill and creme fraiche. These are hearty enough to hold up as an entree if served with a simple side and a bit of bread but are excellent as a starter or side dish as well.


Sweet Potato Wedges with Dill Creme Fraiche
serves 3
3 large sweet potatoes
2-3 TB olive oil
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. piment d'espelette (or paprika)

4 oz. creme fraiche
2 TB fresh dill
1 clove garlic, finely minced
zest of 1 lime

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the sweet potatoes length-wise into 8 wedges each. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil on all sides. Sprinkle half of the salt, pepper, and piment d'espelette on the potatoes and then flip and repeat on the other side. Roast until tender, about 25 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, place the creme fraiche, dill, garlic, and lime zest into a small bowl. Stir together. Dollop onto cooked potatoes to serve.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Green Garlic Toasts with Soft Scrambled Eggs

Every once in a while I pull off a dish that, as I set it on the table, I think, "I wouldn't be ashamed to serve this in a restaurant." It's that combination of attractive plating and flavors that combine to sing to the taste buds, having that special little something that feels a little fancier than your own home kitchen.

This simply prepared spring meal was one of those times. It isn't a fancy, charge $30 for an entree kind of restaurant meal, but one of those that you imagine being served over the lunch hour at a locally driven, homey neighborhood place. The eggs (of course from my local greenmarket) are cooked slowly, possibly in too much butter, but in a way that makes them oh-so-creamy and then mixed with tomatoes to lend a bit of acidity to cut the richness. These get topped with a flavorful cheese and green garlic stems that have also been cooked slowly to a tender perfection. Served on top of toasted country bread the whole shebang becomes a satisfying lunch or light dinner, combining lots of simple flavors into one complex dish.

If you can't find green garlic or it is out of season use small leeks instead, but they may need a bit more cooking time to achieve tenderness.


Green Garlic Toasts with Soft Scrambled Eggs
serves 4
5-6 stalks green garlic (the light green and white stems only--reserve the bulb and the dark green leaves for other uses)
2 TB olive oil
salt and pepper
5 large eggs
1/2 c. heavy cream
5 TB butter
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
3/4 c. grated gruyere or raclette cheese
4 large,thick slices of country bread (or 8 smaller pieces), toasted

Slice the green garlic stems as you would a leek: slice in half lengthwise then chop into half inch semicircles. Place the stems into a fine colander and then place the colander into a large bowl. Fill with water and use your fingers to rub the green garlic to help remove some of the grit. Drain, empty the bowl of water, and then repeat about 3 more times to be sure the garlic is clean. Pat dry.

Heat 2 TB olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the green garlic and stir constantly until it reaches a soft, creamy texture, about 15 or so minutes. If the garlic begins to brown too quickly, lower the heat. Taste and season with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Beat the eggs with the heavy cream in a small bowl. Add about 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper. Heat 2 TB of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the eggs to the pan and stir constantly with a spatula, scraping the sides often. Slowly add the remaining butter, 1 pat at a time, continuing to stir until the eggs reach a soft-curd consistency, about 10-12 minutes or so. Right at the last minute stir in the tomatoes so they have just a moment to heat through.

Place the toasted country bread onto 4 plates, top with the soft-scrambled eggs, sprinkle with gruyere or raclette cheese and then top with the green garlic to serve.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Duck Breast with Pear Jalapeno Compote

The morning air is still crisp and cool. Days are noticeably longer. The parks are lush and full. Allergies are annoying the senses but the irritation is worth it for the knowledge that Spring is really here.

The husband and I spent a morning the other week wandering through the flowering vegetation of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Blossoms exploded in colors every way we turned, lilacs scented the air, children ran barefoot through the new, tender grass. A good amount of the afternoon was passed enveloped by the cherry blossoms, occasionally feeling the patter of their ethereal pink "snow".

Afterwards, in need of refreshment, we found a nearby patio to continue to enjoy the beautiful weather as we slowly sipped margaritas and munched on fresh guacamole. The scent of jalapenos from our neighbors' tacos wafted over us, turning our thoughts to dinner. Duck was set to be the main dish, and now we knew that some spicy heat would kick it up as well. The husband requested a fruity-spicy blend--perhaps pear--and that's how dinner was formed.

The rich main course was served alongside a refreshingly crisp celery salad based on one we had eaten last summer at Prune that was paired with toasted country bread topped by Valdeon blue cheese. I never would have considered pairing the celery and blue cheese in this way, but Gabrielle Hamilton understands the balance of flavors better than anyone and it just makes sense once you eat it.

Duck Breast with Pear Jalapeno Compote
serves 2
1 (1 lb) duck breast
salt and pepper
1 pear, peeled and chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and finely chopped
3 TB butter

Lay the duck breast on a cutting board and slice through the skin at an angle about every inch, going through the skin and fat but not cutting into the meat. Turn the breast 90 degrees and slice through the skin again, creating a diamond pattern. This will allow the fat to render from the breast. Pat the duck all over with a paper towel to soak up any excess moisture and then generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the duck skin side down in a cold, heavy-bottomed skillet. Place on the stove and turn the heat onto medium-high. Cook until the skin has turned brown and crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Flip the breast over and cook until the internal temperature reaches about 135 for medium rare (about 4-5 minutes more) then remove the duck to a plate to rest while finishing the sauce.

Pour out all but about 1 tablespoon of duck fat from the pan (strain the rest and reserve for future use). Add the pear and jalapeno and turn the heat down to medium. Saute until the pear is tender, stirring up any bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. Add the butter and stir until melted, then and add salt and pepper as necessary. Remove from the heat.

Slice the duck into half inch pieces. Top with the pear sauce and serve.


Celery Salad with Blue Cheese Toast
Food52 has a great interpretation of this Prune dish and I based my version on theirs with very few changes. Check it out here for the recipe.


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.

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.