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 sauce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sauce. Show all posts

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mushroom and Ramp Crepes

Spring conjures images of endless blue skies and warmth, yet in actuality it often brings along rainy, grey days. A peak out the window on one of these mornings reveals a seamless off-white sky, fog hanging around the edges of every building. As I step outdoors on my way to the park for my run the mist immediately coats my skin. Yet there is a warmth hanging in the air, a sense that the rains of spring are bringing me an offering: and then that gift drifts into my nostrils. The scent of green: fresh, new, and bright. Peering through the matte air around an almost empty park, I am enveloped by an emerald city. Shades pale, fluorescent, deep, all mix, mingle, and overwhelm every direction I turn. Seemingly overnight the rain has helped transform the landscape from the barren browns and greys of the long, hard winter, to the sea of new life promising relief.

The wet days also lend their hand in the growth of the season's crops. Ramps and green garlic finally hit the stalls at the greenmarket, leading the way before the onslaught of bounty. I take advantage of their appearance, preparing them simply, an offering of thanks for the rainy days that brought them to me.

Mushroom and Ramp Crepes
crepes: (from Ratio by Ruhlman)
(This will make more crepes than you will have filling for. You could always make more ramp filling, but I like to add a little sugar to the batter towards the end and use the rest for dessert.)
1 c. milk
4 large eggs
1 c. flour
pinch of salt

Mix together all of the ingredients, creating a smooth batter. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a 6-8" skillet over medium heat. Give the pan a quick brush with a bit of butter or oil. Pour in just enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan after you have given it a bit of a swirl. Cook until set, about 30-40 seconds, and then flip. Cook the other side for about 20 seconds or so and then remove to a platter. Continue with remaining batter.

2 TB olive oil
1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms, chopped
1/4 lb. ramps, divided into whites and greens and chopped

Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and once hot toss in the oyster mushrooms. Cook for a few moments then add in the chopped white parts of the ramps. Continue to saute until the mushrooms are browned all over, then add the chopped green parts of the ramps and toss together. Remove from the heat.

tarragon sauce:
4 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 c. heavy cream
1 TB fresh tarragon, chopped
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

In a small saucepan heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Whisk in the flour, stirring for about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the heaving cream while continuing to whisk. After a few minutes the sauce should begin to thicken. Add the tarragon, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

To serve:
Fill a crepe with a few tablespoons of the mushrooms and ramp filling. Roll up and then drizzle with the tarragon sauce. Serve immediately.

serves 2

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasted Baby Artichokes

How quickly the mind can shift if you give it a chance to be open. Listen, explore, don't take everything you see at its word.

In recent years I've read books and articles that led me to believe one thing about my food and where it comes from and where it should come from. Yet over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to chat with students, farmers, professors that open my sights to the other side of things and show me a wider angle. Not that what I believed was all wrong or what they say is all right, but I've come to see how the truth must lie down the center somewhere. A thing I must seek out on my own, letting my heart feel its way to its own conclusion.
I won't bore you with the specifics--I'm still figuring it all out for myself anyhow. Yet I urge you that when you read or hear something about the food you are putting into your body, be willing to listen yet don't let it become your personal truth without a little digging first. Be open to both sides, knowing there are personal motivations clouding each angle. One story on the 6 o'clock news or one article in the Sunday paper shouldn't have full sway over your diet with just a whim. Step back and try to take in the full view before jumping down that bunny hole.

Roasted Baby Artichokes
Trying to keep myself open to all sides in a debate--to be well informed before making a decision--carries over to what foods I put on my dining table. I force myself to try things I think I may not like or that I haven't liked in the past. This has opened me up to many ingredients and dishes that would have been closed to me otherwise. One such ingredient is the anchovy. Always touted for being "gross" or "weird" in circles I grew up in, it's come to be one of my favorite ways to add umami and depths of flavor to a dish.I'm thankful for my refusal to deny myself a taste of any sort of food. Here it helps pack a salty punch with capers in a bright topping for crispy, roasted baby artichokes.

serves about 6 as an appetizer
9 baby artichokes
1 t. salt
1 lemon, sliced
1 bay leaf
olive oil

1 can anchovies
2 t. capers
juice of 1 lemon
2 TB parsley, chopped
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the baby artichokes. Here's a great guide from Saveur. Then cut the artichokes in half after cleaning and trimming.
Heat oven to 425.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the salt, sliced lemon, bay leaf, and halved artichokes. Boil until the artichokes are tender, around 15 minutes (depending on the size of the artichokes). Drain and then pat the artichokes dry once cool enough to handle.
Place the artichokes cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush each with just a bit of olive oil. Roast until they are slightly browned and crispy, about 25-20 minutes.
Meanwhile place the anchovies into a bowl and mash well. Stir in the capers, lemon juice, parsley, and extra virgin olive oil. Serve the anchovy sauce over the roasted artichokes.

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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Thyme Roasted Beets and a Beet Vinaigrette

It's been more than a month since I've come home from LongHouse yet I still find myself reflecting on my experiences there.

It was an intense six weeks of work. We created 3 documentaries, 3 slide shows, wrote articles, wrote blog posts, recorded a radio program, cleaned and set up the barn for the gathering, weeded and attended the garden, cooked, helped build a wood fire oven, and more. And didn't forget to capture the whole of it through photographs and audio recordings.

I learned so much through the program and through our speakers/teachers who passed through during our stay in Rensselaerville. Molly O'Neill, Kathy Gunst, John Rudolf, Sara-Kate Gillingham, Penny de los Santos, Darra Goldstein, Dudley Reed, Victor Schrager, the Smiths of Smith Bites....just to name a few. And that doesn't even include the list of incredible speakers who attended Revival itself. An overwhelming display of riches from the food media world to say the least.

Yet out of it all, the most important thing I stepped away with was the connection to my fellow scholars. There were nine of us, eight girls and one guy. We came from various parts of the country, from different backgrounds and experiences and at different points in our lives. Yet there was a link forged between us that will never be broken. We lived in intimately close quarters, all piled into Molly's home, six of us sharing one room (lovingly dubbed "The Orphanage"). Working, eating, sleeping side-by-side every moment for a month. We became a family, even squabbling occasionally as siblings. As a team we confronted the challenges and triumphed in the successes. When one was down, there was always a shoulder to cry on or a strong arm to help prop them up.

Though we have now re-scattered to the winds to our own parts of the world, we remain ever close. These are the friends I turn to for advice and encouragement as I forge my way down my new path. Each one is insanely talented and I will cheer them on loudly towards their own successful careers. I am thankful everyday for the opportunity that brought these eight friends to me.

To check out some of the work we created, read our blog series that we each posted throughout the program here. You can see my photos from the event here. And listen to the interview we gave this summer to Heritage Radio here!

Thyme Roasted Beets and Beet Vinaigrette
I tend to find roasting beets a bit frustrating because they always seem to take longer than I'd like. However the great thing about this dish is that the beets can be prepared beforehand and served cold if you'd like, so there's no need to put dinner on hold while you wait for them to finish up in the oven.
The vinaigrette uses the juices that run off from the beets as they roast. It can be tossed with the beets themselves, but I like to use it on mixed greens and serve alongside for a complete meal.

Roasted Beets
1 bundle beets
2 TB olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
4-5 springs thyme
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
creme fraiche

Heat oven to 425.
Trim the beets, cutting the top off to remove the green stems completely. Scrub the beets thoroughly with water and then pat dry. If the beets are large, chop in halves or quarters.
Tear off a large piece of aluminum foil and place into a baking dish. Add the beets, the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss together to coat. Sprinkle in the thyme sprigs and then wrap the whole mix tightly in the foil. You want to make sure the juices do not leak out.
Roast until the beets are tender. Check on them after about an hour, but they may need another 15-30 minutes to roast completely. Then remove from the oven and cool slightly. Reserve the roasting liquids for the vinaigrette. Peel the skins from the beets and chop into bite sized pieces.
Plate the beets and then drizzle with a fruity extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Dollop creme fraiche on top and serve.

Beet Vinaigrette
Juices left from roasting the beets (remove the thyme stems)
3 TB apple cider vinegar
3 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. mustard powder
1/4 t. seasoned salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. olive oil

Place the beet juices, anchovies, garlic, mustard powder, seasoned salt, and pepper into a small bowl. Mix together, mashing the anchovies as you go. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Toss with beets to serve or with mixed greens as a side salad.

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.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cauliflower Steaks with Anchovy Caper Vinaigrette

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

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

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

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

Cauliflower Steaks with Anchovy Caper Vinaigrette
adapted from food52
serves 2

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

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

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pork and Soy Ramen

Joe and I often talk about all of the things we would miss if we were to move out of New York City. High on the list are the theatre, the abundance of museums, the fact that it's virtually impossible to be bored. But I think the thing that actually makes me fear for that day, if it were to ever come, is the loss of huge variety of great Asian food. The soup dumplings, dim sum, yakitori, Korean BBQ, Korean fried chicken, ramen, great pad thai, etc. etc. have all opened my tastes buds through our years here and I can't imagine living where they aren't readily available.

I have some moments of extreme panic when I think of leaving all of this behind (despite the fact that we have no plans to leave anytime soon) and feel myself drawn to the kitchen to hopefully recreate a dish or two to be able to always carry this cuisine with me, no matter where I go.

With the cold temps and even colder wind blowing through these parts lately my biggest craving has been huge bowls of ramen. We are lucky to live very near an excellent joint in our neighborhood called Chuko that I find myself drawn to over and over again (if you make it there yourself don't miss out on the kale salad as well as the ramen--probably my all-time favorite salad ever). Last night, however, I decided it was time to try a version of my own.

Shoyu ramen tends to be my favorite--I love the salty, unami filled broth, but I also love anything involving pork so decided to do a blend of styles based on a recipe from David Chang in the first issue of Lucky Peach (the tare recipe is basically his). It also involves mostly ingredients I could  find at my local grocery store (where we don't have a huge spread of Asian ingredients). My favorite thing about this recipe is that it is really very easy to play around with and change based on your own taste preferences. The ingredient list looks large and intimidating, but it really isn't much hard work--just a bit of waiting time.

Pork and Soy Ramen
(serves 3-5 depending on add-ins)
For the broth:
1.5 lb. pork necks
1 TB oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into a couple of pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into large pieces
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
white and light green parts from 1 bundle of green onions
1/4 c. dried mushrooms
2 large sheets nori*
10 c. water

*many ramen recipes I found called for konbu, which is an edible kelp. Since I couldn't find any in my local grocer I decided to add a bit of "sea" flavor with sushi wraps. These broke apart a lot during the cooking but were mostly strained out through a fine mesh sieve after the broth was finished. The tare for this soup is so dark that I didn't mind the darker color of the broth.

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot add the pork neck pieces. Sear these on all sides until they have a nice brown color all over. Then add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat to low and allow the mixture to barely simmer for 3 hours. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and skim off any fat/scum from the top.

For the tare:
(recipe adapted from David Chang's Lucky Peach)
.25 lb (1 medium piece) of pork neck
1 TB oil
1/2 c. sake
1/2 c. mirin
1 c. soy sauce
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into thirds

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Add the pork neck and sear until it is nice and caramelized and dark brown all over. Remove the pork neck from the pan briefly and turn the heat off momentarily. Add the sake to the pan (careful as it will pop and splatter a lot) and stir to deglaze the pan and pick up the porky bits stuck to the bottom. Turn the heat back on and add the pork neck back to the pan along with the remaining ingredients. Bring the liquid to the barest of simmers and then turn the burner to the lowest heat possible and cook for 1 1/2 hours. You don't want the mixture to really reduce--you are just infusing the flavor into the liquid. Then strain, allow to sit for a little bit of time and then skim the fat layer off the top.

Once both the broth and the tare are finished you are now ready to mix them together. I like an extra strong, salty broth so I used all of the tare. I would suggest adding a bit at a time and tasting to make sure you have a soup base to your liking. If you want it even stronger you could add even more soy sauce, fish sauce, mirin, etc. to the liquid for flavoring.

Now you are ready to build the ramen:

noodles (I used these, which are about 3 cups and are fresh/mostly cooked. If you can't find anything similar you can just use the noodles from a couple of packages of instant ramen without the seasoning packages)

cabbage, shredded
bok choy, shredded
green tops of green onions, sliced
bean sprouts
enoki mushrooms
meat (perhaps braised pork, cooked ground pork, chicken? I used thinly sliced smoked duck breast that I get at my farmer's market)
poached or soft-boiled eggs

Cook the noodles: I cooked mine for a couple of minutes in the broth, but you could cook them separately, drain, and then assemble.
Take a large, deep bowl and place a pile of the cooked noodles at the bottom. Top with any of the ingredients you would like and then spoon over a good portion of the broth. If using, top with a poached or soft boiled egg. Add some heat with chili garlic oil (recipe below). Serve with chopsticks and a large spoon. Feel comforted and warm and happy as you lean over the bowl to devour and the broth facial invades all of your senses.

Garlic Chili Oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 t.+ red chili flakes
1/3 c. olive oil

Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan. Place over low heat and slowly cook, stirring frequently, until the oil is infused and the garlic has become very slightly browned and crispy. Remove from heat and use to stir into your ramen.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chicken Ranch Lettuce Wraps

Last Saturday night at work the bass was thumping and the din of conversation from patrons was at a level much louder than a roar. Guests were packed in around the bar, around the host stand, and tables were not turning fast enough to get reservations down on time. It was a night of constant movement, endless trips up and down the stairs to and from the kitchen and never really being caught up. As I came home to my still apartment at 2:30am, my ears still throbbed and my body pulsed from the residual energy of the night. I crawled into bed feeling my feet and joints aching.

Sunday night rolled around and it was a dinner for 4 with the husband and another couple. A trip to the Upper East Side for shabu shabu and multiple carafes of sake. After a couple of hours of good conversation we made our way back onto the subway for the late-night ride home.

Monday was another dinner out with friends, this time Korean barbeque. Dish after dish was brought to the table along with cocktails and wine. The view from the 39th floor in this Koreatown joint was breathtaking. As often happens with this group of friends, our conversations around the table grill lasted hours, meaning yet another late night (though so worth it).

By the time Tuesday rolled around I was ready for nothing more than a simple evening in, with simple food that would be light and healthy. Lettuce wraps seemed just the thing. Brown rice for the base to add a little heft, chicken breast, and lots of veggies. For a sauce a homemade ranch made with yogurt inspired by Not Without Salt. And since I knew the husband had just had a long day at work I added on Honey Buttermilk Biscuits from Saveur as a treat. Though they probably don't fit the "good for you" category, they are one of the best things I've made in recent history (and I've made a lot of great food lately). I devoured the leftovers for breakfasts and lunches because I couldn't get enough. I guarantee you won't be disappointed with them. You should know they make a MASSIVE biscuit when prepared exactly as the recipe calls for, though when paired up with something as light and healthy as these lettuce wraps you won't feel quite so bad about eating a whole one (or two).

Chicken Ranch Lettuce Wraps 
makes about 8 wraps/4 servings

2 large chicken breasts
1 1/2 c. cooked brown rice
2 carrots, shredded
1 cucumber, chopped
1 can (15 oz.) chopped tomatoes (or fresh chopped tomatoes if they are in season)
8 large butter lettuce leaves
ranch dressing (recipe below)

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and then cook the chicken breasts until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly, then shred using 2 forks.

Mix together the shredded chicken, brown rice, carrots, cucumber and tomatoes. Spread onto the lettuce leaves and top with a dollop of ranch dressing. Roll up and serve immediately.

Ranch Dressing
(adapted from Not Without Salt)
3/4 c. Greek yogurt
3/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 t. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 TB fresh dill, finely chopped
1/4 c. milk

Mix together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Add more milk if necessary to make a thinner dressing. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Braised Beef Shank

I have spent many of my days this week in a hung-over haze. Feeling tired, not quite well, struggling through runs, praying for a nap. Each of these rough days, however, stemmed from a wonderful night. I have spent most evenings this week out drinking with friends: watching football, catching up with old coworkers, celebrating a birthday, and meeting up with friends who are visiting New York. It has been a whirlwind of late night train rides and booze and fried food, but has been worth every rough morning wake-up call.

It definitely makes for a busy time of year, but I love how during the holidays we reach out to those we love and care for, making a point to spend time with one another. There’s always that sense that it will be a while ‘til we can hang out again, which I think is somehow a holdover from our school days when winter break felt like an eternity.  Each meet-up just adds another recharge to my soul, filling me to the brim with love. The laughter and intelligent conversation fill me with light to get me through the shorter, darker days of mid-winter. After last Friday and the terrible events in Newtown, these meetings meant even more. (I’m still unable to really talk about the whole thing so will leave it there for today.)

Wishing you all a very happy holidays—hope they are filled with love, family, friends, laughter, hugs. If you are in need of a little holiday meal inspiration (which I always feel warrants something fancy, but don’t want to work terribly hard on since there’s so much else to do), I offer up this braised beef shank. It is rich with the sauce created by wine and the marrow, super tender, and is brightened up with a hit from the gremolata to finish the dish. Don't let the long list of ingredients get to you--after the chopping of the vegetables there isn't much else to do but sit and wait for the braise to do its work.

Braised Beef Shank
serves 2-3

1.5 lb. beef shank steak
salt and pepper
2 TB olive oil
1 large carrot, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3-4 sprigs of thyme
2 TB tomato paste
1 TB anchovy paste
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 c. white wine
3/4 c. beef stock

1/4 c. parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon

Pat the beef shank dry with a paper towel and then sprinkle with a generous quantity of salt and pepper. 
Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat with the olive oil until just before it starts to smoke. Add the shank and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the shank steak to a plate.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the carrot, celery and onion to the pan. Cook until the vegetables are just slightly tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute or so. Then add the tomato paste and anchovy paste and stir for about one minute. Add the bay leaf, white wine, beef stock and the shank back to the pan and bring the liquids to a boil. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low to allow the liquids to simmer. Allow the meat to braise until it is fork tender, probably at least 1 1/2 hours. When the meat has finished cooking, remove to a deep serving platter to rest for a few minutes and turn the heat back up to medium high on the liquids in the pan. You just want to boil them for 6-8 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit. Then pour the cooking liquid and vegetables over top of the shank steak on the platter.

While the liquid is reducing, mix together the parsley, garlic and lemon zest in a small bowl. Serve this over top of the braised beef shank. The beef shank is best served with something starchy that can help soak up the delicious juices, like smashed potatoes or risotto.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Enchilada Sauce

Apologizing in advance for the rant-like nature of this post, but it has been weighing heavily on my mind today.

Having a bit of a rough time of it. Been going through a full range of emotions since Mayor Bloomberg first decided to continue on with and then consequently to cancel the New York City Marathon, on top of already feeling all ends of the spectrum due to the consequences of the hurricane.

When it was first decided that the race would go on, I was surprised, as I was sure there would be no way for the race to proceed with all of the damage to the city. I went back and forth with my feelings about running: wanting to put all of the hard work I've done to use, celebrating New York City, helping to bring an economic boost that is sorely needed at this time. On the other hand I felt guilty about running through a city where people lost so much and people were still trying to even begin to get back on their feet. Reading peoples' views on Facebook and a runners' forum didn't help: some people really felt that running could be a good thing for the city while many others thought it was in poor taste. Then the threats of physical violence towards the runners if they decided to race started to come out. I was actually scared of what would happen if I ran the race. I was frustrated with the anger directed towards the runners, many of whom had already committed to donating time and money to victims before and after the race during their time in the city, regardless of whether the race happened or not. I was frustrated that people were admittedly spending all day on social media to stop the race from being run--instead of going out and spending their time in more beneficial ways like volunteering.

Then the race was canceled. Yet there is still an outpouring of disrespect towards the racers. They are still called selfish for wanting to run (when many people had already spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars and so much time to run one of the greatest races in the world), and people are acting all shocked when the runners are donating their time, like they can't believe such selfish people would do something so kind: such as the large group from the Netherlands who called up to offer their services to Hoboken after learning of the marathon's cancellation.

The whole situation (along with others that I've seen and heard from during/after the storm) has put a bad taste in my mouth about New York. The thing is, I believe the right call was made canceling the race, although I feel it would have been much more beneficial to do so sooner. But the way the crowds took up this battle cry brought forth by the media and ran with it bothers me. Where are the news reports, Facebook pages, Crowdrise campaigns dedicated to stopping the Giants game that is happening in New Jersey (where they are worse off than many in NYC) at the same time as the marathon should have happened? It takes gas to get all of these people out to the stadium, the players make millions of dollars, consume water and gatorade, probably run generators of some kind for media, and thousands of people will sit around screaming about football while they shove their faces with food and beer--during which people will still be struggling to salvage something of their lives nearby. Where's the outrage over this? Where's the outrage over all of the New Yorkers who have sat in bars or restaurants drinking and eating while people were suffering nearby over these past few days? I'm angry that people look at me, as someone who was going to run a race through the city to celebrate it and then donate my time and money to help when I was finished, as worse than these people drinking in bars or playing/enjoying a football game.

There's this anger, bitterness, entitlement swarming around that have all combined to make me disappointed in this city I live in. Which is sad, knowing that so many people ARE out there giving all they can to make it better. My hope is that part of this is the incredibly selfish disappointment over all of my training going to waste and missing out on one of my favorite days of the year, and that after getting in a good run with friends tomorrow and then volunteering my time next week will help restore my faith and love in this place I call home.

A little comfort food couldn't hurt, either. So I bring you a simple enchilada sauce that will drown tortillas filled with your favorite stuffing in deliciousness and hopefully drown some of your own sorrows as well.

Enchilada Sauce
(good for a 9X9" pan of enchiladas if you like them ridiculously saucy, as I do. Otherwise would be good for a less-saucy version in a 9X13" pan)

2 TB butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TB flour
1 TB tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
3/4 c. chicken stock or water
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. chipotle chili flakes (or red chili flakes)
salt and pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onions and saute until tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or so. Whisk in the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes to cook off the raw taste. Stir in the tomato paste and then add the tomato sauce, chicken stock or water, chili powder, cumin, oregano and chili flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for at least 8-10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Now the sauce is ready to use to top your favorite enchilada recipe!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sausage and Swiss Chard Pizza

A couple of weeks ago I was reading in a small park before heading into work. Next thing I know, I get sat on. 
Yep. A very large woman literally sits on my lap. It's not the overlap that happens when you are sitting on a subway car and someone who isn't a child thinks they can squeeze themselves into that 5 inches of space between you and the next rider over. This was full-on "Santa, this is what I want for Christmas" kind of lap sit. And there was a full other bench completely empty about 10 feet away. After some yelling (i.e. cursing) and an elbow jab got me no response except a look of, "what the hell is YOUR problem?" from the woman, I extricated myself from underneath her and stormed down the block to work. Where I proceeded to cry in the stairwell like a child (I cry when I get mad. It's one of my least favorite things about myself). Just another day in New York City.

Thank god those days are balanced out by days like this Sunday. Started off the day with an easy run through fall foliage in Prospect Park and headed into the city for brunch (like a good little New Yorker should). Since I arrived early I stopped off and grabbed myself a salted caramel doughnut to go from Wonder City Coffee and Donut Bar. Finally time to meet up with a couple of great friends for some much needed catch-up time and really great food (i.e. the best bacon EVER) at Goat Town. The fall day was perfectly gorgeous so the meal was followed up by some wandering and shopping around the East Village, where we also got to meet and converse with the totally charming Vera of Verameat Jewelry while eyeing her kick-ass designs. Finally it was off to dinner with a different group of friends, full of laughter and a surprise guest star in the form of an old bartender from our favorite Chiefs watch bar. It was 12 hours of city bliss.

This city is a constant back and forth of the good and the bad, often feeling like the rough is outweighing the bright. But when you really need it, New York will give you one. It's the 5th drink buy-back in soul form.

And now for you I offer up something else that NYC is great at: pizza. This one can be whipped up quickly and easily in your own home so there's no need for takeout (especially helpful for those days where you're not sure which city is awaiting you outside that front door).

Sausage and Swiss Chard Pizza
makes 1-12" pizza

2 links hot Italian sausage
1/2 c. diced tomato (canned is ok)
2 TB tomato paste
1 t. oregano
1 large bundle Swiss chard
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 c. pecorino cheese, grated

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 t. sugar
3/4 c. 110 degree water
1 3/4 c. flour
1 t. salt

Heat large saute pan over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from the casings and place in the hot pan. Saute, breaking up the pieces, until the meat is mostly cooked through. Then add the diced tomato, tomato paste and oregano. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Clean the Swiss chard and chop and add to the water once it has reached a rolling boil. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and then strain and rinse with cold water until the chard is cool enough to handle. Use your hands to squeeze out as much of the water as possible and then place the Swiss chard to the side (you should have about 1 cup worth at this time).

Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Make the dough: Mix together the active dry yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl and allow to sit for about 8 minutes until it has foamed up. In a medium bowl mix together the flour and the salt and then add the yeast mixture once ready. Mix together and then dump out onto the counter. Knead for about 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable. Lightly flour the counter and a rolling pin and roll the dough into a 12" circle. Place it onto a baking sheet. Spread the dough with the extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Spread on the sausage-tomato mixture and then spread the Swiss chard on top. Sprinkle with the pecorino cheese. 
Place in the oven and cook fro 8-12 minutes, until the edges are browned and crispy. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Quick Pickled Grapes

Through the years of learning to cook I have come to find that the most important component in any successful recipe is balance. The layers of flavors added to a dish should all compliment one another. Like how oftentimes adding a bit of lemon juice will add enough acidity to balance out rich notes in a recipe. Toasted nuts add texture. And a pinch of red chili flakes can add just enough heat.

A fun way to play with recipes it to change up how these balancing ingredients are added. Grapefruit juice in place of lemon, fresh peppers instead of the chili flakes, anchovies for salty umami. When I whipped up the roasted duck legs and risotto last week I decided to add an acidic bite to the uber-rich meal with tart pickled grapes. They have just a hint of sweetness and would be great on top of any braised meats or in a salad. I'm also thinking of ways to use them in cocktails--perhaps a gin grape gibson. Yum.

Quick Pickled Grapes
serves 2-4 as a garnish
1/2 c. grapes, halved
3/4 c. white vinegar
1/3 c. sugar
2 t. salt
1/2 t. peppercorns
1/2 t. mustard seeds
1/8 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. chili flakes

Place the grapes into a heat-proof bowl.
Pour the vinegar, sugar and salt into a small saucepan and turn on the heat to medium high. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then stir in the peppercorns, mustard seeds, cinnamon and chili flakes and remove from the heat.
Pour the vinegar mixture over top of the grapes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours before using.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Leg of Lamb Steaks with Mint Chimichurri

It seems like you can't have a discussion about food and recipes online these days without the conversation turning towards creative rights and license. Within the blogging world, it is something important to consider before posting any recipes.

I try to give credit whenever I use or change another person's dish here. However, I feel things get a little sticky when you consider inspiration. There are times where I come across different ideas--maybe something on a restaurant's menu or from someone else's blog. That could trigger an idea of my own. I still try to credit this other person/place for sparking this creative urge, although at times the idea comes from multiple sources and it's hard to pinpoint the original. Another problem lies when you come up with an idea on your own--maybe something jumps into your head while picking up a piece of produce at the market or while digging through your fridge. You take this idea, create your own recipe, put the meal together and get ready to post it online. That's when you realize the same dish is posted elsewhere--a cookbook, a magazine website, etc. At this point I feel like I still want to call the dish my own since it is something that I worked on without direct input from somewhere else, but feel bad doing so when this idea was out there before. And honestly, what if I had somehow already come across this recipe out and about and had just filed it away in the back of my brain without realizing it? Was the inspiration truly mine or was it just a recessed memory?

That is the case in this recipe. I was shopping at the greenmarket the other week and came across some absolutely gorgeous leg of lamb steaks. While considering how to prepare them I decided I wanted something bright and crisp to pair with them to help balance the earthy and gamey aspects of the meat. I decided to whip up a lime chimichurri to top them off. While I was buying the ingredients I decided to use mint as the main herb as it is a traditional pairing with lamb. I prepared the dinner and it was absolutely delicious.

A few days later I was flipping through my copy of "A Girl and Her Pig" by April Bloomfield and came across her recipe for lamb steaks with chimichurri. When I flipped back to the chimichurri recipe I saw to my dismay that she also uses mint in her version to pair with the lamb.

Therefore I don't know if this recipe is actually of my own mind or if it was inspired by April Bloomfield. She is pretty much a genius, though, so I'm happy to offer up the credit to her. Either way, this is a delicious meal combining the rich meat with a bright sauce to great success. Here's my take on the recipe:

Leg of Lamb Steaks with Mint Chimichurri
inspired by April Bloomfield??
serves 2

2 lamb leg steaks, about 1/3 lb. each and 1/2" thick
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

1/2 c. mint, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of chili flakes
juice from 1 lime
2 TB extra virgin olive oil

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the lamb steaks. Add about one tablespoon of cooking oil to the pan and once it begins to smoke add the lamb steaks to the pan. Sear until the steaks reach medium-rare to medium, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the pan to a platter and allow to rest while you make the sauce.

Mix together the mint, garlic, chili flakes and then whisk in the olive oil. The add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Serve chimichurri sauce over top of the lamb steaks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Deep Dish French Bread Pizzas

Last week over on Pine Tar Press I created a simple version of deep dish pizza for the Royals series with the Chicago White Sox. Instead of laboring over a crust, I used club rolls and hollowed them out to create "bread boats" to fill with the hearty pizza toppings. These were so good I plan on making them again and again (but be forewarned: they are gut-busters!).
Deep Dish French Bread Pizza

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Garlic Mustard Pesto and Gnocchi

In April I spent part of one day wandering around off the trails in Prospect Park gathering up a few wild edibles. I go through a phase almost every spring where I want to go out and round up the free bounty in the park and use it to create dinner, but never actually get around to it (besides picking a bit of wild garlic here and there). This year, driven I think mostly by the belief that I would for sure stumble upon a patch of ramps, I went out and spent an hour or so finally carrying out my plans. I never did find that patch of ramps I was hoping for, but came across some other greens for dinner.

I decided to take the garlic mustard and wild garlic bulbs and blend them together to form a pesto. Since the garlic mustard was pretty young the flavor wasn't terribly strong, but I hear that as it gets older it gets much more intense. I think that is why it is often cut with parsley in pesto recipes. I took this sauce with a kick and tossed it with one of my favorite ricotta gnocchi recipes from Steamy Kitchen (it includes lemon zest and chopped parsley in the recipe to give it a bright bite and is fried before tossing with the pesto so it is nice and crispy).

Garlic Mustard Pesto and Gnocchi
3-4 servings

1 recipe ricotta gnocchi*
1 c. parsley
1 c. garlic mustard
3 wild garlic bulbs
1/4 c. almonds
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnishing
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

*Make the gnocchi based on Steamy Kitchen's recipe. I find that after cutting the gnocchi into pieces it will hold up better during cooking if you place them onto a parchment paper covered sheet pan in the fridge for an hour or so. After frying you will not toss the gnocchi with chili flakes as in her recipe, instead you will toss it with the garlic mustard pesto and then top with a bit more Parmesan before serving.

To make the pesto: place the parsley, garlic mustard, wild garlic bulbs, almonds, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice into a food processor. Process briefly and then add the extra virgin olive oil in a stream as you process until the mixture comes together and is just barely loose (you want it to toss easily in the pasta). Taste it and add salt and pepper as needed. Toss the pesto with the fried gnocchi to serve.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Monkfish and Roasted Garlic Chickpea Fries

What a gorgeous, gorgeous spring we have been having. Today is especially beautiful. One of the best parts of this weather is the way it makes me feel inspired to be immensely productive. On cold, rainy, dreary days I want nothing more than to curl up on the couch with a book or a good movie, but the fresh, clean air and sunlight give me the energy and drive to get things done.

 My kitchen got a much needed spring cleaning. You don’t want to know how old some of the items in my cupboards were. How refreshing to finally have a bit more space and only usable, fresh products on the shelves.

The mild winter and lovely spring have made me stick with my running. I’ve been hitting 30 miles a week for most of the winter and closer to 35 the past few weeks. It’s been amazing coming into the spring fit and able to just work on bumping up the miles and the pace instead of having to regain lost fitness due to laziness or injury recovery as in years past.

I’ve also been consistently expanding my culinary horizons—cooking a lot, reading a ton, exploring cookbooks and blogs, constantly trying to create new meals and menus. And my New Year’s resolution to try something new in the kitchen every month led me in March to cooking up some monkfish fillets. The technique was nothing out of the ordinary or difficult, but it is an ingredient that I have never used and has always slightly scared me (I mean, have you seen those things whole? Terrifying. I just scared myself again looking at that picture).

However, one evening the husband and I were having a sushi dinner in our neighborhood and ordered the monkfish liver duo to try something different. It was delicious and led to a discussion about what the actual fish meat tasted like. The very next Saturday I discovered that the fishmonger at the greenmarket actually carries monkfish so decided it was time to find out.

The flavor is actually much milder than I expected—no overtly fishy tones. The meat is a heartier fish, much more like salmon or lobster. I think it would make a great gateway fish for those who don’t eat a lot of seafood.

In my research on how to cook the monkfish I found that Jamie Oliver suggests salting the fish and letting it sit in the fridge for an hour or so to leech out some of the milky liquid, which will help it to get a good sear on the outside (as opposed to essentially steaming in its own juices that would be released into the pan otherwise). Am not sure how big of a difference this makes, but the fish was flavorful all the way through, so it couldn’t hurt to do so yourself if for no other reason than to allow the salt to absorb. For an added burst of flavor I topped off our fillets with tart and garlicky mojo sauce, but it would be equally as delicious with a lemon-butter sauce as well. The chickpea fries were a creamy, pleasing accompaniment. 

Seared Monkfish with Mojo
2 servings

2 monkfish fillets
celery salt
salt and pepper
1 TB olive oil 
mojo recipe

Sprinkle the monkfish fillets with a bit of celery salt, salt and pepper. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about an hour to help draw out some of the moisture to help the fillets get a better sear.
Preheat oven to 425.

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet. Once hot, add the monkfish fillets, skin side down. Sear for a couple of minutes until browned and crispy on the skin side, then carefully flip over. Immediately turn off the heat on the stovetop and place the cast iron pan with fillets inside in the oven. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, or until the fish is completely cooked through. Serve topped with the mojo.

Roasted Garlic Chickpea Fries
serves 4
1 head roasted garlic*
1 c. chickpea flour
2 c. water
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained; optional
salt and pepper
cooking oil

*To make the roasted garlic: Cut the top 1/4" or so off of a whole head of garlic, exposing the cloves. Rub with a bit of olive oil and then wrap the whole head in foil. Cook in a 400 degree oven until tender, about 30-35 minutes.

Place the  chickpea flour, water, extra virgin olive oil and a bit of salt into a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Stir until just a little thick, but not dry, about 3-4 minutes and then remove from the heat. Squeeze in the roasted garlic cloves and add salt and pepper as necessary to season. If desired, add the 1/4 c. of whole chickpeas (crushed a bit with a fork) to the chickpea flour mixture if you would like a bit of added texture.
Spread this mixture into a 9X9" pan. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least an hour or up to overnight.
Cut the chickpea mixture into smaller shapes--rectangles, squares, triangles--whatever suits your fancy. Heat about 1" of cooking oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering and add a layer of the chickpea fries (do not overcrowd the pan. You will probably need to work in 2-3 batches). Cook until nicely browned and crispy on all sides, taking care when turning them as they are delicate. Once browned all over remove to a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Compound Butters

Last week's Pine Tar Press Tailgating article featured compound butters. This simple preparation is a great way to add an extra burst flavor to almost any dish. I particularly like them as a way to top off grilled meats, fish, or veggies. Find recipes for Fiesta Butter, Gorgonzola Butter, Pesto Butter and Honey-Thyme over at Pine Tar!