I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cherry Mash, and Holiday Traditions

I set out the appetizers: labnah and pita, cucumbers with creme fraiche, chili spiked mango slices, and popped the champagne. A large French press full of coffee stood at the ready. As the doorbell rang I fired up the Christmas station on Pandora.

It was time for the third annual Christmas candy making party with my girlfriends. Each year we gather together, each one bringing the recipe and ingredients for two holiday treats. We spend the day catching up, testing our sugar cooking skills, and snacking, all the while turning out rounds of sweets. By the end of the day, when we think we just can't dip another thing in chocolate, we divvy up the bounty to bring joy to countless circles of friends and hope desperately that we will be able to fall asleep that night through the sugar high.
Though the tradition is a fairly new one, it brings me joy and a sense of home each time we come together and I cross my fingers that it will be something we continue for many years to come.


Through most of the year I ache to try new things. Yet around the holidays my desire turns towards the familiar. I'm sure it stems from years of repetition centered around Christmas. My parents actually "ooing" and "awing" as we first lit up the lights on our decorated tree. Christmas Eve snacks shared with customers at my uncle's country/feed store. Then getting dressed up for candlelight service at the Lutheran Church and more snacks afterwards at my grandmother's house. Home before Santa arrives, with the chance to open JUST ONE gift before bed. My little brother and sister tiptoeing into my room sometime around 5am whispering, "Santa's been here!" to wake me up before shaking my poor parents out of bed (who probably fell asleep around 3am after a late-night wrapping frenzy). Presents unwrapped, the cousins calling to find out why we weren't at grandma's yet. A big, giant breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls, biscuits and gravy, piles of bacon, all to be consumed downstairs, hiding from the parents (which we still do as adults, even though some have kids of their own). Presents, naps by the fire, running to play outside. The same thing, comforting and consistent, every year.

It's been a few years since I've made it back for these holiday traditions, so the husband and I have created our own. We nibble on fondue every year as we deck out our tree, eat cinnamon rolls and Baileys spiked coffee as we peak into our stockings Christmas morning. Often we will see a movie in the afternoon, followed by a fancy dinner prepared at home (with lots of wine and cocktails along the way). These little actions, repeated each year, help it feel like we aren't quite as far away from family and friends. It's all part of what makes us feel at home here in the big city.

What are the traditions that you had in your childhood? Any that you carry through with today? What are the new traditions you've started with your family now that you are an adult? Whatever your plans, I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons.


Cherry Mash
This is another recipe from my grandmother. She always serves this up at my uncle's store for the Christmas Eve celebration for customers plus she saves some back for us to indulge in at her home on Christmas Day. They are a version of the old-fashioned candy bar and the recipe is adapted from a newspaper article my grandmother clipped back in the '70s. My girlfriends and I whipped up a batch at our candy making party this year and I can't help but feel at home every time I bite into one. This recipe makes quite a large batch of the candy.

16 oz. jar maraschino cherries
2 lbs. powdered sugar
2 cans cherry frosting (strawberry frosting will also work in a pinch)
1 stick melted margarine
2 t. vanilla extract
1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 lbs. salted peanuts
3 (12 oz.) bags chocolate chips

Drain the cherries very well and dice. Mix cherries, sugar, frosting, butter, vanilla and milk well. Chill for 1 hour (it may help to freeze the mixture for a bit of time to help it really set up).

Shape into small balls (about 1-1 1/2" in diameter) and chill again for another hour (again, depending on consistency of mixture, it may be best to freeze the filling before dipping).

Finely chop the peanuts. Melt chocolate chips and mix in the nuts. Dip the cherry filling into the chocolate to completely coat, then place on a wax paper lined sheet pan. Refrigerate to cool.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Holiday Dinner Rolls (or, The Secrets of a Family Recipe)

The dough was pliant, heeding my demands as I rolled it into small rolls on the counter top. It didn't fight back, it let me have my way, its smooth surface rising slowly telling me I'd done it right.

It was not so six years ago when I moved to New York City and prepared my very first Thanksgiving, a small affair just for the husband and I. The dough was sticky, unforgiving, unwilling to form itself into the round balls that the recipe called for. I was sure I just needed a bit more flour to get it right, so kept adding it bit by bit to make a pliable form to work from. Once out of the oven the rolls looked just right--perhaps a little more misshapen or browned than my grandmother's, yet close enough for my first timer's eyes. Yet a bite into one revealed not a soft, pliant dinner roll ready to make every leftover turkey sandwich a star, but a tough, dry, crumbly impostor of the Thanksgiving dinner rolls I'd been raised to love.

The first attempt.
Every year my grandmother turns out a multitude of these rolls: slightly sweet, tender, piled high underneath a kitchen towel. They soak up a pat of butter, begging for a drizzle of honey at one time or leftover turkey shreds drowned with gravy at another. I could not imagine a Turkey Day table without them. Yet somehow the seemingly simple recipe from my grandmother's pen never turned out quite right for me, no matter how many times I tried.

I asked my grandmother for tips. She stated that it was pretty simple, nothing to it really. Nothing overly special about the recipe. Yet my inexperienced hands would not turn them out in her style. I added less flour the next year, let them rise even longer the following, used the stand mixer instead of kneading, didn't knead, added the ingredients hot and then cold. I was convinced that the problem was my hot hands or in a kneading trick I hadn't yet learned. The years passed, each turning out a version of rolls that never quite had the elegance of my grandmother's.

Getting closer.
A recipe is written from the hands of the creator, but it never conveys the nuances that make it sing. You can pluck out those notes, but the song feels lacking and lackluster without the vibrato of the master. There's the possibility of an ingredient left out, on purpose to keep the recipe secret, or without thought because it seems second nature. There a fear that the recipe will never be made whole in your own hands, those missing notes gaping so large that they create a void of sound (or taste). Yet hope keeps one struggling through, year after year, wishing somehow, with a little luck, that the undertones of the recipe will revel themselves and lead it to sing with perfection.

Somehow this year, thankfully, this recipe transformed to the latter for me. Practice, practice, experiments and internet searches for similar recipes (and more practice) finally yielded answers to my sticky dough problems: a stint in the fridge after the first rise. So simple, yet makes all the difference.

As I laid out my Thanksgiving table this year I felt full of pride and accomplishment as I set forth the kitchen towel covered basket, filled with a bit of my family's (and my own) culinary history: warm, soft, sweet rolls of perfection.

Holiday Dinner Rolls
makes 24 rolls
1 package yeast dissolved in 1/4 c. warm water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. warm water
4 c. flour

Add all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix until well combined--dough will be very sticky. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Then place the covered bowl into the refrigerator to cool the dough about 30 minutes-1 hour.
Once cool, work quickly to form rolls so the dough does not return to its sticky state. Dump onto a lightly floured counter and cut the dough into 4 pieces, then cut each quarter into 6 pieces. Fold each piece in on itself a few times to form the round shape, then roll it with a rounded hand and slight pressure on the counter to smooth out the top. Place the rolls 3" apart on baking sheets. Cover with a towel and let rise again about 1 hour.
(Note: if you are making the rolls in advance, freeze them after forming into rolls but before the second rise. Place the baking sheets in the freezer and once frozen wrap the rolls in wax paper and place in a freezer bag. When ready to bake, place 3" apart on baking sheets, cover with a towel, and let rise for about 3 hours.)
Heat the oven to 375. Bake the rolls until lightly golden brown, 12-15 minutes.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Greens and Ricotta Sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, November 15, 2013

Pork Cheek Ravioli

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

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

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

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



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

serves 4-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Clean Out the Fridge Pasta

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Eggs in Purgatory

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Monday, September 16, 2013

Checking In

I've been gone for so long, working hard for the LongHouse Food Revival. I will be back very soon, but just wanted to check in and pass along a couple of new ventures for me: the Chomping the Big Apple Tumblr page, where I take a photographic look into the food life of New York City, and my new Flickr page. Looking forward to coming back here with some new recipes and stories of my recent adventures soon!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kale Caesar Salad

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Corn Soup

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

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

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


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

optional:
pesto
parsley oil
creme fraiche
scallions

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fava Bean and Shitake Saute

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Chamomile and Lavender Ice Cream

Happy Fourth of July! Hope you are all out enjoying the day with your friends and family.

With the hot and steamy summer days upon us I wanted to bring you a cool and refreshing treat. This ice cream is light and just barely floral. It's not weighed down with heavy flavors, keeping it perfect for those days you are dripping with sweat.


Chamomile and Lavender Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
1 1/2 c. half and half
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. honey
1/3 c. sugar
1 bunch fresh chamomile (cleaned and the tough ends trimmed)
1/4 c. dried lavender
1 t. vanilla extract
1 TB rum

Mix the half and half, cream, honey, and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until the temperature of the mixture reaches 170 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in the chamomile, lavender, vanilla extract, and rum. Allow to steep and cool for about 30 minutes, then strain and refrigerate for 5-8 hours.
Mix the cream according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Wedges with Dill Creme Fraiche

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Green Garlic Toasts with Soft Scrambled Eggs

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bourbon Milkshakes

The temperatures are rising and the sun is beating down. Time to think about all the ways to keep cool this summer. My new favorite way is with a boozy milkshake in hand. This decadent treat is so simple to throw together and goes down almost too easily. You'll want to enjoy one after another, but try to show some restraint...it is swimsuit season after all.

Bourbon Milkshakes

adapted from Imbibe Magazine
makes 2 "grown-up sized" milkshakes
3 c. vanilla ice cream
1/4 c. vanilla soy milk (or whole milk)
1 t. vanilla extract
5 TB bourbon

Add all of the ingredients to a blender and mix until combined yet the mixture is still thick and creamy. Pour into 2 pint glasses to serve.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Duck Breast with Pear Jalapeno Compote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Monday, May 20, 2013

Tour of Burgundy

One more trip into France here on the blog, this time with a sip bottle of wine thanks to a lovely tour of Burgundy with Ivan of Authentica Tours. I learned so much on this wonderful tour and hope to pass some of that along to you without completely bogging you down with too many confusing details.
Burgundy is one of the most renowned wine regions in the world, known for its gorgeous pinot noirs and elegant chardonnays. The terroir (the land, climate, soil, etc. that contributes to the wine's flavor) is known for producing the best wine possible out of these grapes and they've been doing it for hundreds of years so they know what they are doing. French wine regions and distinctions can be a little difficult to wrap your head around, and is a lot of info to try to fit into one blog post, but "Wine for Normal People" has a great 101 tutorial for Burgundy here.

The gist of it all? If you are drinking a wine from Burgundy it is either Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or Gamay (if drinking a Beaujolais). There are different classifications, which are based on terroir and history, which can help to guide you in terms of the quality of the wine you are about to drink right there on the bottle and can tell you exactly where the grapes in your wine are coming from: starting with the top at Grand Cru level, to Premiere Cru, Village, and ending with Regional.

This tour completely schooled me on my knowledge of Burgundy wines--which I thought was decent but realized quickly was not quite so. I had very little idea of the specifics, which are what make these wines truly spectacular. As we took the tour, we drove the back roads through many Premier and Grand Cru vineyards of the Cotes Nuits (a decent map of the region here. We drove the back roads from Fixin to Ladoix and then the highway to Beaune for a little personal wandering time). I learned that all of the villages and the vineyards bump right up next to one another--barely discernible to the normal eye. And within each vineyard there were multiple owners--one person does not own a whole plot of land. Because of certain laws within Burgundy, a parent's plot of land is divided up among all of their children, meaning there are certain plots that only contain a few rows. And barely noticeable changes in the land make up the different sub-regions, so many times nothing but a small road or a few feet separate a grand cru from a premiere cru vineyard.

We pulled onto the back roads of the vineyards near Fixin, the village where Ivan our tour guide grew up. A tiny, charming village on the hill.


 In Burgundy the rows are planted 1 meter apart and the vines are planted 1 meter apart. The vines are kept low to the ground (only at knee height) to help keep production low and to allow the soil keep the vines warm during the colder months. There are only two branches kept on each vine--one long to grow the grapes and one short to use the following year. This also helps keep grape production low, which means each grape gets more nutrients and is packed with more flavor. Even with so much pruning back of the vines, they still cull some of the bunches from each vine as they grow. Two vines will make one bottle of wine.
Our guide, Ivan, talking about the reasoning behind the height of the vines in comparison with those in California.

Old French vines grafted onto American roots.
 You can see the graft where the French vines are attached to the American roots--necessary after the Phylloxera outbreak wiped out grape vines all over Europe. European roots are susceptible to the blight, but the American roots are immune.

You can tell by the thickness of the vines that these are a little older. If taken care of a vine can live for 80-90 years. Then the growers will pull up the old vines, let the ground sit vacant for at least 5 years to allow the soil to regenerate some of the nutrients. They they will not use the grapes from the newly planted vines until they are at least 5 years old since older vines produce more flavorful grapes and better wine.

"Downtown" Fixin

This church dates back to 902.

These trees remind me of the Whomping Willow...

The land is so valuable, no bit is wasted. Vines grow right up to the edge of cemeteries throughout the countryside.

Just a road divides the terroir of these two vineyards.

Chateau de Vougeot

 This tiny plot of land is part of a Grand Cru plot that extends on the other side of the road. The terroir of this plot is worth so much that a grower did not want to waste any bit of land.








Romanee Conti. The wine from these vines is the most expensive to come out of Burgundy. You have to get on a waiting list of a few years just to have the honor of spending thousands of euros on a case that has 1 or 2 bottles of this mixed with other bottles from Burgundy.

You can see the differences between some plots showing how each grower has a different manner of caring for their vines.


A closer look at the soil--where it all begins.

The cross that is shows the edge of the Romanee Conti vineyard and is displayed on its bottles. This vineyard, whose wines are worth so much, is only 4.3 acres.

Chateau de Corton-Andre. Where we would finally taste some wine.

The line-up. The wines are all from Pierre Andre.
When we finally made it to the chateau we tasted two whites and three reds from Pierre Andre.
Savigny-Les-Beaune 2007 Lemon, floral, big on the nose. Finishes like a lemon Starburst.

Mersault Premier Cru 2009 Honeysuckle, round, long finish.

Ladoix 2005 Pepper, garlic, like Provence on the nose. Light, easy drinking, easy tannins, slightly tart, rose and nutmeg.

Corton Grand Cru 2009 Plum, violet, slightly more tannic. Long finish.

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2007 Brick colored, tannic, pepper and tomato jam.

Creme de Cassis We also got a taste of the sweet liquor made by the winery. It is mixed with the cheap white wine (aligote) of the region for an aperitif, or is used to drizzle on desserts or in recipes. Actually pretty lovely in small doses if you find the right producer--the one from Pierre Andre was luscious, thick and perfect for drizzling over a scoop of ice cream.
Ivan explains how the shape of the glass can affect how you taste the wine.
"Everything matters when you are tasting wine: temperature, the shape of the glass; if you are with a good friend the wine can taste better!" --Ivan


Our tour group excited to finally taste the wine we've been learning about all day.

Wine being aged in the cave below the Chateaux. The temperature down here is nice and cool all year round despite the weather outside, perfect for keeping the wines at an even temperature.

Unlabeled wine aging in the cellars.

The gorgeous tasting room in the caves.

The view from the front door of the Chateaux. We tasted wine made from the grapes right beyond the trees/car (Ladoix).



Wandering around Beaune for an hour before our return trip to Dijon
The tour was so packed with information that my head was left full and spinning when it was over (though the wine perhaps lent a little to that...). I highly, highly recommend it to anyone who will be spending any time in Dijon or Burgundy (just a short trip from Paris!).