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.

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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Sangria

Christmas music is spinning on the record player (perhaps "A Very She and Him Christmas"), the "fireside candle" is lit, ornaments are scattered across the coffee table. We have assembled the faux tree that may look a little sad but has been adorned in our apartment every year that we have lived together. Vegetables and bread are chopped and cubed and lined up on platters next to the fondue pot that gets pulled out at this time every year and is of course filled with cheesy goodness. With a cocktail in hand we toast to our favorite of holiday traditions, the decorating of the Christmas tree.

I love that every year we make a point to make a night of it, indulging our inner children. Remembering where and when each ornament came from. Taking breaks to nibble on the food spread. Stepping back to admire the work so far and to decide which parts of the tree are lacking proper distribution. When finished all of the lights in the apartment get turned out to appreciate the work we just lovingly completed. Then we usually cuddle up to watch a Christmas movie (often Love Actually because I just can't get enough of it).

The drink is usually one made to really get us in the spirit of the holidays: eggnog, mulled wine, or spiked hot cocoa. This year, however, we changed things up a bit with a new take on sangria that is perfect for entertaining this time of year. It has some similar flavors as the mulled wine but apple cider lends a light note that helps it to be easier to drink more than one glass, which makes it perfect for a signature cocktail at your holiday gathering. I didn't have an orange on hand to create my version but added it here because I think it can add even more delicious notes to an already tasty blend of flavors.

Holiday Sangria
about 8 glasses
1 bottle of red wine
1 apple, cored and sliced thinly
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 orange, sliced (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
1 (22 oz.) bottle of hard apple cider

In a large pitcher, combine the wine, apple, cranberries, orange and cinnamon stick. Refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours. Just before serving stir in the apple cider. Serve in wine glasses.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fall Vegetable Salad

As the month of November comes to a close, I can't help but think of all of those things I have to be thankful for.
I get to live in, and make a living in, a city that challenges me and excites me with every day. A place where it is impossible to be bored or boring.
Despite being far from home, I have many good friends here who I truly consider family who help to celebrate the the little successes and lift me up when things are rough.
My siblings and I are all blessed enough to have each found a significant other who we love deeply and who each wonderfully returns the favor.
I have gorgeous nieces and nephews who I couldn't be more proud of.
I have a job that allows me the time and the money to be able to actually enjoy and experience the things that New York City has to offer.
I am fit and healthy.
I have many opportunities to do what I love and share that with those around me (and those online as well).

It can be easy to get caught up in the little trials of our lives and forget all that we are so lucky to have. This is a great time of year to take stock and remember it all, but it is important to not let that go throughout the rest of the year. Perhaps a resolution as we move forward is to make a point at the first of every month to really sit down and count our blessings. Take them in and let these carry us through the following weeks. Give thanks for each of the little gifts that have been bestowed on our lives.

One more thing I'm thankful for? A dinner that is healthy, hearty, and full of vegetables that is still absolutely delicious on a fall evening. Grateful for the "green presents" the farmer's market has given me. :)

Fall Vegetable Salad
serves 2-3 as an entree

2 c. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 c. chopped pancetta
1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms, chopped
3 c. spinach
1/2 c. shaved Parmesan
juice of 2 lemons
1/3 c. honey
1/2 t. ground mustard powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook for about 2 minutes. Drain and then rinse under cold running water to cool. Drain and pat dry as much as possible.
Place the pancetta in a large saute pan. Heat over medium high until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate.
Add the blanched Brussels sprouts to the pancetta fat and cook until browned and slightly crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the sprouts to a platter.
If there is very little oil left in the saute pan, add about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and allow to heat (still over medium-high temperature). Add the chopped oyster mushrooms and saute until they are browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes or so.
In a small bowl mix together the lemon juice, honey, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until it is emulsified.
Toss a couple of tablespoons of the dressing with the spinach leaves and place these in the bottom of a large platter. Toss the Brussels sprouts, pancetta, and oyster mushrooms with a few more tablespoons of the dressing and layer on top of the spinach. Sprinkle the shredded Parmesan over top of the whole salad and serve.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pine Tar Press Round-Up

Prepping for Turkey Day has kept me busy and away from the blog. Promise I have some posts on the way for you soon! Until then, check out what I've been up to over on Pine Tar Press:

Pumpkin Muffins

Radishes in Miso Butter

Cheesy Dip

Edamame Dip

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Smoked" Mac and Cheese

It has been a week.

Luckily feeling a little more positive after the last post. Had a great run around the city on Sunday with some other friends, hitting up a few miles of the marathon course and high-fiving other runners along the way. Had a great dinner with the husband at The Spotted Pig (if you want to die and go to heaven hit it up and order the gnudi. Good lord). Volunteered with Occupy Sandy and headed out to lend a hand on Staten Island. It was difficult to see the damage and imagine how some of these people would even begin to clean up the mess that was left behind. I wish there was even more I could do, but hope that giving some a listening ear helped to ease just a fraction of the shock and pain. Then last night we hunkered down to wait out the snow storm, hoping that it wouldn't cause even more damage to those who have already been through so much. And I am finally, finally getting to go back to work tonight. Thankful.

Comfort food has been the order of the week and in my opinion there is nothing more reminiscent of good ol' days and childhood than macaroni and cheese. Though the stuff in the blue box seems so easy, it really isn't all that more difficult to whip up the real deal. Smoked cheese as the star mixed with several other cheeses in my version gives wonderful depth of flavor, yet doesn't feel so fancy that it takes away from the comfort element. I've given instructions on how to keep the dish extra creamy if that's your style (think shells and cheese) or to bake it to create a drier mac for those that prefer this way.

"Smoked" Mac and Cheese

1 package macaroni or mini penne noodles
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 c. grated smoked gruyere cheese
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2.5 oz. goat cheese
3/4 c. breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook to al dente according to package directions. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the cheese sauce. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook for about 2 minutes to cook off some of the flour taste. Add the cream, milk, salt and pepper. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens up, about 3-4 minutes. Add all of the cheeses and continue to stir until the cheese melts. Then mix together the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce and pour into a 10" cast iron skillet or a baking dish. Top with the breadcrumbs.

If you want to keep your mac and cheese extra creamy, brown the breadcrumbs under the broiler and serve. If you like a drier mac and cheese, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are browned and crispy.

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!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Winter Squash Pasta

Have been cooped up in our apartment for most of this week during and following Hurricane Sandy. We were incredibly lucky and had no damage to our place, very little damage to the immediate neighborhood, and kept our power throughout. Feeling incredibly blessed.

However, I'm also starting to feel antsy and a little crazy. With subways not running until this morning, and still no train service into Manhattan I have stayed around our place to stay out of the way of those who actually needed to make the trek to the city to get to work (like the husband). The lack of outside human contact has started to get to me and make me cranky and distracted (I've already stepped away from writing this post 5 times). Making it worse is the fact that I'm tapering for the New York City marathon which is happening on Sunday, so I'm not able to do any long runs, don't want to walk around too much, and haven't had a drink of booze all week (no wine through the hurricane--how did I do it?!).

Some house cleaning and organizing and a bit of cooking has really helped me hold it together. Luckily we were well-stocked in the kitchen area so we ate like kings during the storm. One such meal was this bow-tie pasta tossed with roasted winter squash and sage. Stormy weather comfort food.

Hope any of you that were also in the storm's path are safe, healthy, and also fared as well as we did. Much love and support to those who didn't. A few options if you are able and want to financially assist victims of this hurricane: http://theweek.com/article/index/235620/how-to-help-victims-of-hurricane-sandy.

Winter Squash Pasta
about 5 servings

1 medium winter squash or pumpkin (about the size of a large butternut squash)*
olive oil
salt and pepper

9 oz. bow-tie pasta
4 TB butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 TB fresh sage, chopped
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
optional: fried sage leaves, for garnish
(*I'm not sure what type of squash I used here--forgot to take a photo before chopping up, but it was a small, off-white pumpkin variety that would fit in my two hands.)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the squash into pieces about 1/2-3/4" thick (it is ok to leave the skins on at this point), making sure to clean out and remove the seeds. Brush both sides of the squash slices with olive oil and place on a large sheet pan. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast until the squash is tender and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes or so depending on the squash. Allow these to cool enough to handle and then remove the skins and chop the squash into large pieces (an inch or so). (Another option is to skin the squash and chop into into 1" cubes before roasting, but I find I ALWAYS slice my finger open when I try to peel and chop uncooked winter squash. Roasting before doing most of the chopping is a way to save my fingers!)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Before straining the pasta, be sure to save back about 1/2 cup of the cooking water to use in the sauce.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and the sage and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the roasted squash and toss in the butter (some of the squash will break apart--this is good as it will break down into the sauce making it extra sweet and creamy). When the pasta is cooked add it to the squash sauce and add 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Toss together, and if the sauce is looking a little "tight" thin it out a bit with another tablespoon or two of the cooking water. Toss with the Parmesan cheese and serve topped with fried sage leaves.

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.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Quick Duck "Confit" (Roasted Duck Legs)

One of the benefits of fall is that the temperatures have dropped outside, but our heat has not yet turned on in our apartment. Which means I can cook with the oven on for hours for a short amount of time before the home turns sweltering again.

I love to take advantage of this window to bake breads, make sweet treats and roast meats. First thing I did once the temperatures dropped around here this year was pick up two gorgeous duck legs from the farmer's market. I had every intention of cooking them slowly with a traditional confit recipe but unfortunately I put it off until the day they were to be served. Luckily this easy, "fast" recipe from Simply Recipes came to my rescue to help me slow-roast my duck legs to crispy, tender perfection.

I paired these with a simple risotto (check out this recipe from the beautiful blog of Emiko Davies) and my heirloom tomato salad.

Quick Duck Confit
(recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)

2 duck leg/thighs
salt and pepper

Take the legs out of the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Use a needle and poke holes all over the skin of the duck--around 50 or so pokes per leg. This is where the fat will leak out of the duck, and will also help to crisp up the skin so don't skip out on this part. Pat them all over with paper towels to dry off the skin. Sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.
Place the duck legs into a baking dish that is just large enough for them to fit in a single layer and place them into a cold oven. Turn on the oven to 300 degrees. By slowly bringing the duck legs up to temperature along with the oven you are allowing the fat to leak out to help slowly cook the meat.
Cook for at least 90 minutes. Check and see if the skin has started to brown--if not give them a bit more time. If they have, turn the oven up to 400 degrees and cook for another 15 minutes or so until the skin is extra brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
Strain the fat through a cheesecloth and refrigerate to save for another use (perhaps frying up some potatoes??). Serve the duck legs warm, perhaps over risotto.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Heirloom Tomato Salad

I grasp onto the last dregs of summer every year. It's not that I don't look forward to fall--I love the cooler temperatures while running, the sweaters, pumpkin everything, braising and baking away. But I know that it means the end of my favorite produce of the year. Especially tomatoes. I dread having to live through the months and months without fresh tomatoes.
With the threat of disappearance of my favorite fruit, I stocked up last week at the market. So I'm bringing you a recipe to use up the final tomatoes you have coming in at the markets or your gardens. It's a little sweet, a little salty, and perfectly fresh.

Heirloom Tomato Salad
3-4 servings as appetizer

3/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/8 c. capers
olive oil
3-4 large heirloom tomatoes
3 TB basil, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. feta cheese
1/2 t. coarse sea salt

Pour the balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until it has reduced to 1/4 cup, about 8 or so minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the capers once the oil is hot (be careful because they will pop a little bit). Toss in the oil for a couple of minutes until they are crispy and then remove them to a paper towel.
Slice the tomatoes about half an inch thick. Layer them onto a platter. Drizzle with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and some of the reduced balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt, feta, basil and the fried capers. Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Maple Syrup Rib Rub

The husband and I have a big week ahead of us. Tomorrow is our sixth wedding anniversary, which we will celebrate with a blowout (hopefully incredible) dinner at Le Bernardin (I've been dreaming about this one for a while now). Then next week we head back to Kansas for a wedding, family, friends, football, food, BBQ. I cannot wait to meet my newest nephew, laugh with friends, and just bask in the warmth and kindness that is the Midwest.

In honor of Kansas and it's ever-tasty piles of sauce-covered meats, I'm bringing you a recipe for a rib rub. Maple syrup gives it a sweet caramelization while fennel pollen and mustard powder add a contrasting bit of brightness and earthiness.

Maple Syrup Rib Rub

1 rack spare ribs
1/3 c. maple syrup
1 t. mustard powder
1 1/2 t. fennel pollen
2 t. sea salt
1 1/2 t. fresh ground pepper

In a small bowl mix together the maple syrup, mustard powder, fennel pollen, salt and pepper. Rub all over the ribs and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours before cooking.

You can cook these ribs in your favorite manor, but for me without a grill or smoker, I cooked them low and slow in the oven--at about 300 degrees for about 2 hours until they were super tender (if you are able I would go even lower--250 or 275 if your oven will let you). This batch I actually cooked on a rack above my baked beans so the beans would catch the drippings and become infused with the porky flavor. If the outside of the ribs starts to get too dark before they are cooked through, cover them with aluminum foil to keep the syrup from burning. If you need some oven-roasting guidance from an expert, check out how Harold McGee does it in this recipe.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chorizo and Manchego Croquettes

Last week I realized that it has been 10 years since I spend a semester in Ronda, Spain studying Spanish. It's hard to believe it's been so long. I posted about it on Facebook and many of the friends I made while there started reminiscing together about our favorite haunts, people, and memories of those days years ago. It was wonderful to rehash the moments with the people I shared them with.

I still consider that semester one of the most important parts of my life. Obviously I discuss it's influence in my culinary life often on this blog but its implications on my personality come through me almost daily in my wanderings. I love to continuously remind myself of Spain and the experiences and people I met there every time I pull out a recipe for a Spanish dish. Despite time continuing on those memories stay close at hand when these scents fill the air and the flavors hit my tongue.

Chorizo and Manchego Croquettes
makes about 13-15 croquettes
3 TB olive oil
1/3 c. chopped onion
4 TB flour
1 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. shredded manchego cheese
1/3 c. finely chopped Spanish chorizo
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
oil for frying

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour flavor has cooked out a bit, about 3-4 minutes. Pour the milk into the pan and whisk until the mixture has thickened quite a bit, about 4-5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Place the mixture into the fridge and allow to cool for at least an hour.

Once cool, stir in the manchego cheese and chorizo to the onion mixture. Form into tablespoon size balls and place on a platter. Once you have formed all of the mixture into balls, place in the freezer for a few minutes to allow them to cool down again while you get everything else prepared.

Heat at least 3 inches of oil in a saucepan over medium heat for frying. While this is heating up, beat the eggs with about 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in another bowl.

Once the oil is just about ready dip the chorizo balls into the eggs and then roll in the breadcrumbs. Once they are all coated they are ready to be fried. If you are using a smaller saucepan for frying work in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan. The time to cook will vary depending on the temperature of your oil, but you will want to cook them until the breadcrumbs are toasty brown and the filling is cooked through. Once fried, remove to a paper towel lined platter. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Latest Over at Pine Tar Press

With football season now is swing, it's the perfect opportunity to head on over and check out what I've been posting on "Batter Up and Fry: Tailgating Treats" for Pine Tar Press.

Panzanella Salad

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

Baked Clams

Chicago Dog Spread

Baked Beans

"Beaver Nuggets"

Tailgating Gear

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Corn and Bell Pepper Salsa

Did you see this brilliant video that PBS put out to celebrate Julia Child's 100th birthday?

I think it is impossible to watch Julia or read about her without feeling infected by her passion for food and cooking. It just flows out of her with pure joy. Do you ever feel that way when  you are cooking? I've found that I'm constantly in awe of how a certain technique will turn random ingredients into something completely different--sugar melting into a rich caramel or flour becoming bread. Or how the addition of just a pinch of an ingredient, say red chili flakes or lemon juice, can completely make a dish. The way science and art combine in the kitchen always surprises me and makes me happy. It helps make the act of preparing a meal a relaxing, enjoyable endeavor.

It wasn't always so. If you remember, I recently discussed how before I discovered the art of mis en place there was a lot of profanity being thrown about while dinner was cooked. Part of that anger/frustration also came from the lack of knowledge. I think anyone who spends much time in the kitchen remembers the time before it was second nature--when you worried over every detail and were never quite sure how a dish would turn out. Often times people who don't cook much don't realize that everyone who does started out at this place and that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to move past it. It's wonderful to now be at that level where more or less I know a dish will turn out thanks to all that time spent screwing up in the past. This knowledge also leads to the comfort of preparing dinner. It's almost like playing an instrument at a concert--the movements just come out of you naturally as you beat out the rhythms of the recipe. It flows through your body without a thought, even when preparing a dish that is new to you.

This corn salsa is my own invention and I had made it once before, but didn't have a recipe to follow the second time around, a couple of years after the first batch. The memory of how the dish tasted was still there, however, and the ingredients and quantities came together without hardly a thought. It seemed natural that this was the way this salsa was supposed to come together.

Now I will finally get it down "on paper" and share it with others in hopes that they will enjoy it as much as I have, and perhaps one day prepare it from their own taste memory and experience.
Bon apetit, indeed!

Corn and Bell Pepper Salsa
3 ears of bi-color corn
2 small to medium purple bell peppers
1/4-1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 c. chopped onion or shallot
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
juice of 2 limes
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

Shuck the corn and clean well. Cut off the kernels and place into a medium mixing bowl.
Cut the purple bell peppers in half and remove the stems, seeds and ribs. Chop into small cubes. Toss into the bowl with the corn. Add the chopped cilantro, onion, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, salt and pepper. Toss all of the ingredients together and taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed and more jalapeno if you want a bit more heat. Keep chilled until ready to serve with tortilla chips as a dip or on top of tacos.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inspiration from around the Web

The world has been offering up some truly inspiring recipes these days, so I thought it was high time I passed on a few recipes from others that I've loved lately so you can get in on the delicious action. These are all foods that will find their way onto my table again and again.

April Bloomfield's Oyster Pan Roast (from John Dory Oyster Bar)--if I died today, I would be happy that at least I had gotten the chance to eat this. One of the best dishes I've had, perhaps ever. This recipe from the NYT gets you pretty close to the actual dish served at the restaurant. I'd add a bit of butter at the end to finish it off.
Honestly, though? Just buy A Girl and Her Pig already. There's not a bad thing I've tried from this one and it is all simple, lovely fare that you can't get enough of (yes, even the veal kidneys. No lie.).

While we are on the subject of cookbooks--please also pick up a copy of Plenty from London's Ottonlenghi. You won't ever struggle with eating vegetables ever again. One of the best cookbook purchases I've ever made.

Corn with Miso Butter and Bacon from Savour Fare. She takes a slightly complex David Chang recipe and simplifies it so it is a breeze to prepare and let me tell you--you will be buying every ear of corn you see from here on out to make this again and again.

So, so easy refrigerator pickles from A Way to Garden. For some reason the husband and I have been on a pickle binge and these may be the best ones yet.

Brown Butter Tomatoes from food52. Can you even call this a recipe? Somehow, though, the caramel notes of the cooked butter coating the fresh tomatoes will make this one of the greatest simple treats you've tasted all summer long.

What have you been loving lately?

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.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Braised Summer Veggies (and some thoughts on Mis en Place)

Must admit, I'm feeling a little withdrawal with the Olympics being over. I've never spent so much time watching the games, but this year couldn't pull myself away. Luckily I've got a few events DVR'd that can help me extend my obsession a bit longer.

Right now I'm watching the men's marathon (probably should actually be focusing on writing and turn it off, but you don't mind a little distracted, disjointed blogging, do you?). It's always such an inspiration seeing the speed and the determination and talent displayed at these events. Especially love pumping myself up for my own training while watching the races.

When I run, my least favorite part is the prep I have to do before heading out. I eat breakfast, put in contacts, get dressed, vaseline up, sunscreen up, do some warm ups and stretches, mix my Gatorade, charge my Garmin, etc, etc. It seems like a lot and always frustrates me when I'm just ready to get out the door. However, once I finally start the run I am thankful for all of the little steps I took before because they have prepared me for a successful training session. Without those tasks I may have to stop mid-run for a bathroom break or because I didn't fuel well enough or because I get a cramp. The extra time pre-run gets the actual run off without a hitch.

I realized on my last run that this translates perfectly right over to my other passion: cooking. Mis en place is the culinary term for this pre-event preparation. When I was younger, I didn't understand how this could help me and would start in on recipes without even reading them all the way through first, and prepping ingredients as they were needed. This would result in me going absolutely crazy while cooking several dishes for a meal and would often lead to dishes going wrong or me cursing up a storm in the kitchen.

Over the years, though, I have learned that mis en place is the most important part to cooking. I read through a recipe, if using, or go through the "mental recipe" if creating my own. Pull out all of the ingredients I will need, wash produce, chop, measure. Heat the oven. Pull out the dishes, pots and pans required. All of this ensures that I have the ingredients on hand, that I have the quantity of ingredient I need (nothing worse than pulling out a jar of something to realize you only have 2TB when you need 1/2 cup!), that all will be ready when it is time to add it to the pan. As in running, these little steps before starting the actual cooking ensures success. I guarantee you that a little extra time in the beginning will make all the difference in your own cooking. I myself spent a lot less time shouting obscenities in the kitchen these days and a lot more time enjoying the process.

This particular recipe requires that all of the chopping be done at the beginning so the veggies can then bake slowly in the rich sauce. Mix it all into the baking dish, pop it  into the oven, and then you have free time to do the dishes or catch up on your DVR'd gymnastics while it cooks.

Braised Summer Veggies
serves 4 as an entree

about 3 c. sliced zucchini (1/4" thick)
about 2 c. sliced baby or Japanese eggplant (1/8" thick)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
2 Italian peppers, deseeded and sliced (1/4" thick)
3 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 c. cream
salt and pepper
zest of 1 lemon
2 t. fresh savory or thyme, chopped

2-3 TB butter
1/2-3/4 c. panko breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Clean and chop all of the vegetables. Toss the zucchini, eggplant, halved tomatoes, and Italian peppers together and then spread them into a 2 quart souffle dish.

Melt the 2-3 TB butter in a small dish. Mix in the breadcrumbs--they should be just damp and not completely soggy.
Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the 2 TB butter and melt. Then add the flour and whisk together and allow some of the flour flavor to cook away, about 2-3 minutes, while stirring continuously. Add in the chicken stock and turn up the heat to medium high. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes then add in the cream. Keep on stirring until the mixture comes to a boil and the sauce thickens up, about 3 more minutes or so. Taste the sauce and salt and pepper as needed. Remove from the heat and stir in the savory/thyme and the lemon zest.
Pour the sauce over top of the vegetables in the souffle dish. Top with the breadcrumbs and press down.

Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to cook until the breadcrumbs have browned and the vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes more. Remove from the oven and allow to sit about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Roasted Baby Eggplant and Sauteed Dragon Tongue Beans

I just finished putting my mom into a car and sending her to the airport. It was the first time she's been out to visit us since we moved here and her first ever trip to New York City! We had a great time running around and experiencing all that my new home has to offer.

How does my itinerary look for a 1st timer to the city? Here you've got it:
Sunday: -cab to apartment from airport (so much faster than the bus/train) to settle in
-a bit of a walk around Chinatown and Little Italy
-dim sum for dinner at Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Monday: -trip to Statue of Liberty and tour of Ellis Island
-walk around and shopping at Eataly
-dinner at home prepared with ingredients from Eataly shopping trip

Tuesday: -lunch is a slice of pizza pie at Joe's in the Village
-walk around the Village taking in the shops such as Murray's Cheese
-cupcakes at Magnolia
-Museum of Natural History
-dinner at Pure Thai Shophouse
-Harvey at Studio 54

Wednesday: -quick trip to Coney Island (trying to miss the thunder storms!)
-lunch at Nathan's Famous
-nap at home
-dinner at Prune
-wander around the Lower East Side

Thursday: breakfast at Tom's Diner
(all of this interspersed with some Olympics watching while at home!)

Not a bad tour of the city if I do say so myself. Now that it's over, though, my body is ready for some more meals at home and not so many out. Time to get back to the summer veggies at the greenmarket. Here I have a couple of simple recipes to highlight the tenderness and light flavor of baby eggplant and dragon tongue beans. A great way to get your body back on track after a week of overindulgence!

Roasted Baby Eggplant
4 servings

about 5 c. baby Japanese eggplant
2 TB olive oil
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. ricotta cheese
4 TB fresh parsley, chopped
2 t. finely minced shallot
1 small clove garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Clean the baby eggplant and toss with olive oil, salt and smoked paprika. Spread onto a baking sheet. Roast until the eggplant are very tender and just starting to wrinkle. It may be best to roast about 10 minutes, stir and toss again, then roast for another 5-15 minutes depending on size of eggplants.
While roasting, mix together the parsley, shallot, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl.
Once the eggplants are roasted spread onto a serving platter. Dollop with the ricotta cheese Drizzle the parsley sauce over top to serve.

Sauteed Dragon Tongue Beans
4 servings

about 5 c. dragon tongue beans (or other flat beans)
2 TB chopped shallots
3 TB butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 t. sea salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the beans and the shallots to the water and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Pour the beans and shallots into a fine sieve. Rinse with cold water until the beans and shallots have cooled to about room temperature. Shake out and allow to dry a bit.
Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter. Once the butter has melted and is hot, add the beans, shallots, and garlic. Toss until the beans are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Toss with the sea salt to serve.