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.

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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Tribute (and Hasselback Potatoes)

There are the teachers that stand out during the course of our educations. Those that make an impact in our minds, our growth, and stick in our memories. Then there are those that rise above even this by somehow transcending what it means to educate and find their way into our hearts.

Dr. Dan Davy was one of these teachers. He was a professor of Theatre History at Kansas State University. He was one of the smartest men I've ever met. His mind was deep and full of layers upon layers of knowledge yet his classes were never dry or boring. His passion for the subject helped to rise above even the difficult scripts we studied. He made it fascinating to delve deep into discussion over Greek dramas or modern comedies. Despite his genius Davy never made it intimidating to speak up in class with your thoughts or opinions. He encouraged us to speak our minds, to even challenge his ideas. It felt like a badge of honor to receive praise from him for a well-constructed thought during a lecture.

Dr. Davy also had an energy about him that I've never encountered anywhere else. When excited by an idea he would hop, or run around the room, crawl on the floor, flip the light switches on and off, run out of the room and slam the door behind him. You were sure to pay attention when he spoke. Something about the way he could turn a phrase was awe-inspiring. It was not uncommon for those in his classes to spend more time writing out his quirky quotes in the margins of their pages than to take detailed notes on the test-worthy information he was giving out. But if you were really listening you wouldn't need those notes to study anyways. You understood the material and the concepts deeply because he taught it so well. He always told us we should know the info "Bob's Diner well" which meant that if we were at Bob's Diner at 2:30am (meaning we had just left the bars and been drinking) we would still remember it. To this day, over 10 years after taking his classes, I still have discussions with my husband and friends over things we covered then. My whole concept of theatre was formed and shaped by this man, and I am far from alone in saying so.

He was kind and obviously loved what he did and loved his students too. I always remember him stopping by to say hello when I was working at Dillons and he and his wife would come in to shop. He gave freely to so many advice on careers and life. He was far more than just our professor.


We lost Dr. Davy unexpectedly this past weekend. It seems so strange that he would be gone--somehow I had the sense that he has always been and would always be. An everlasting force in the world, much like something from some of those ancient plays he taught us. Yet if I consider it, I believe each of us who passed through his classroom holds a bit of his knowledge, his heart, his passion within us. We carry it out to the world, to the art we create, to the students some of us teach. With this, his legacy does, and will, continue on.

Rest in peace, dear Dr. Davy. You are dearly missed.


Hasselback Potatoes
It seems odd to try to blend saying goodbye with a recipe. In a way, though, there are similarities between this dish and Dr. Davy: the layers, the sense of complexity, yet in actuality they are quite approachable. And though I never shared a meal with him, I have a feeling that Davy relished good food and good conversation, and these are definitely the first and invoke the second. Share them with those you love and be sure to tell them how you feel, because you never know if you'll get another chance.


10 small potatoes (about 2" long)
4 TB butter, melted
2 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Scrub the potatoes clean and pat dry. Take a thin slice out of the back of each of the potatoes along the length so they lie straight without rolling. Take a pair of wooden chopsticks and place one on either side of the potato (this will help keep you from slicing all the way through). Cut many thin slices along the width of the potato and then pull them slightly to spread the slices out. Place on a baking sheet.
Mix together the melted butter and rosemary and baste this over all of the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until slightly browned and tender, about 40-45 minutes, basting with the butter from the bottom of the pan every 10 minutes or so. Serve immediately.


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 17, 2014

Papas Bravas

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Serve the mayonnaise sauce drizzled over the potatoes.