Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Whole Wheat Penne with Italian Sausage, Spinach and Broccolini

I have to admit that this pasta was not exactly what I intended to make tonight.  I really intended to make pasta with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe, but it appears that either I bought the broccoli rabe and left it behind at the store, or I never actually bought it in the first place and only thought that I did.  I'm not sure which option is better.  I guess the latter because while it might make me delusional, at least I didn't waste any money on vegetables that didn't make it home with me?

This is the perfect type of pasta to really fill you up and stick to your ribs, without making you feel heavy and gross.  I was absolutely, positively starving when I got home from work today.  It was one of what I call my "insatiably hungry" days where I can't help but eat everything in sight.  Granted, this time my insatiable hunger is probably due to the amount of time I have spent tromping around in the snow with the dog the past few days.  Who knew that playing in the snow could be such a work out!  This pasta was exactly what I needed - simple, hearty, delicious, and filling.  It also didn't take a lot of time and effort to cook, nor did it require any unusual ingredients or extra shopping trips.  Instead it is something of a fridge clearing pasta that you can throw together with almost anything you have in the fridge.  Because we used whole wheat penne and lots of vegetables (we substituted broccolini and baby spinach for the missing broccoli rabe), I didn't even feel that guilty about eating going back for seconds!  I guess we could also have substituted turkey sausage for pork, but that might be taking things entirely too far.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Two-Minute Calamari Sicilian Lifeguard Style

After spending most of the time leading up to Christmas gorging with Alex and my mother, I wanted something light, but hearty for dinner tonight.  Over the course of a few days, we had lobster rolls at Luke's, amazing seafood at Il Pesce (the seafood restaurant at Eataly), really tasty noodle soups and dumplings at Lanzhou Handmade Noodle in Chinatown, and global tapas at Tolani.  So I immediately thought seafood.  And when I looked in the freezer I saw we had some calamari in there.  While I never tried this dish the one time I ate at Babbo, it has become the calamari go-to recipe in our apartment.  I first stumbled across the recipe online on the Food Network website and then realized that it was also on my bookshelf in The Babbo Cookbook.  I'm not sure what the name is supposed to mean, or if it is supposed to mean anything at all, but it doesn't do the dish justice.  It almost seems like ordering a dish on a Chinese takeout menu - where "Phoenix Rising Shrimp" turns out to be fried shrimp with pineapple chunks in a variation on sweet and sour sauce.  What is that all about anyway?  I am not sure what I would call this dish, except that I think the name should be more descriptive of what is on the plate.  Perhaps that's a little simplistic of me, but that's how I feel.

Moving on!  This calamari is something like a stew.  It has a wonderfully spicy and flavorful broth.  There is something about the mix of the spicy red chili flakes, the sweet currants, the briny caperberries and the buttery pine nuts combine to create what the cookbook calls a "sweet, hot and sour Arabic kiss."  I dunno about that description either, but it is delicious nonetheless.  I do play with this recipe a bit from time to time.  I love the brinyness of the caperberries so I tend to add more than the recipe calls for, but that's just me.  I have also substituted fregola for the Israeli couscous in the past and that works well, but you have to cook it a lot longer than the couscous.  This time we used a Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend, which contains Israeli couscous, orzo, red quinoa, etc.  It was wonderful and perhaps my favorite adaptation yet.  If you make the Basic Tomato Sauce in advance, the entire dish takes less than 30 minutes to create, including prep time!  One warning - be careful not to overcook the calamari or you're going to end up with little white rubber bands in your lovely broth.

Recipes after the jump!

Lemon-Almond Pound Cake

My husband is something of a citrus fiend.  If we need freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice while cooking, chances are that I will turn around to and find him sucking on the remains of the  lemon or lime he just squeezed.  Actually, chances are that he will suck on it, Brady will come to find out what he is eating and then Brady will try to steal it and run away with it.  But since Brady doesn't particularly like citrus he tends to spit out the lemon or lime, pick it back up, spit it back out again, then give it a last lick, before finally giving up.  Anyway, Alex loves lemon poppyseed muffins so I decided to give this Lemon-Almond Pound Cake recipe a try.  I'm always the one who decides that I want to bake and then what I will be baking, so this time I decided to pick something that I knew he would like.  I borrowed this cookbook from a friend awhile ago and I copied down a lot of recipes from it before I gave it back.  I have been sitting on this recipe for some time, but decided to make it last night because it was SNOWING outside (which makes me feel like baking), plus it was Brady's second birthday, which makes me feel like cake.  So we got ourselves a bottle of champagne and I baked a cake, and Brady got some new toys to play with (including a ball shaped like a frog whose toes he has already eaten off).  Sounds like a win for everyone, doesn't it?

This cake is lovely and lemony and light.  It has just the right amount of sweetness to balance out the tartness of the lemon, without turning the whole cake sugary sweet.  I also love the crunch of the almonds.  I think I might prefer the crunch of the sliced almonds to poppy seeds, but I just don't know.  I was a little worried about the lemon glaze, and we did use it sparingly, but it's really nice too.  It would make a fantastic breakfast, a really nice snack and a wonderful light dessert.  Granted, it's not your typical birthday cake, but that's just fine with me!

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Deviled Eggs

I know that deviled eggs are as old school as them come.  The next thing you know I might be posting about jello molds and Waldorf salad.  Only my mom used to make deviled eggs for my family around the holidays.  So they are totally nostalgic for me.  She never made a jello mold.  So no worries there - we won't be whipping up any in our kitchen anytime soon.  As for Waldorf salad, she did make that for me occasionally, but as much as I enjoyed it at the time, I can't see myself making Waldorf salad for Alex and I at any point.  Any salad involving mini-marshmallows just seems wrong, no matter how delicious I remember it being.

While I thought about mixing it up and making an exotic twist on deviled eggs, but that just seemed to miss the point.  If you're making something due to nostalgia, why not make it the way you remember it, rather than going crazy with it and trying to make the dish fun and new?  So I made these deviled eggs just the way I remembered them.  I thought about putting in a call to my mom to find out exactly what she puts into her deviled eggs, but I decided that I could wing it pretty well based on memory.  I know that Mom puts mayonnaise, very finely minced onions, dijon mustard, and very finely minced ham in her eggs.  She also sprinkles a tiny bit of paprika on top.  I didn't have any onions or shallots, so I used chives instead.  And I decided that paprika was unnecessary because I preferred the fresh green of the chives to the red of the paprika (which adds almost no flavor anyway).  I also thought that a little more fresh onion flavor is never a bad thing to serve as a counterpoint to rich egg yolks and mayo.  Yum.  These aren't my mom's deviled eggs, but they sure are close.

Recipe after the jump!

Chicken and Vegetable "Cobbler"

My first chicken pot pie was a Marie Callanders version fresh out of the freezer at the grocery, heated up in the microwave.  It left a little to be desired (as all frozen meals do), but it was still quite good. Since then I have tried a few versions, including one I made myself last fall.  Unfortunately, my filling was more than a little soupy.  So it was chicken soup topped with puff pastry...  Since that version I have been meaning to make a new version topped with biscuit dough.  Then I stumbled across this recipe for "Chicken and Vegetable Cobbler" on Mark Bittman's NY Times blog Bitten several months ago.  And it used a homemade biscuit dough as the topping.  So I bookmarked it to make it once the weather got a little colder.  Since it was cold and snowy outside today, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.  So Alex and I trudged down to the grocery store in the snow and bought all of the ingredients and then came home and whipped it up this evening, after romping in the snow with the puppy for an hour.  Did I mention it's his birthday today?  Brady is two!

As with many of the recipes that I find online, I modified this one a bit.  Neither Alex, nor I, are huge fans of peas and cooked carrots, but we do love corn so I cut down on the amount of frozen peas and carrots and added in some frozen corn.  I wish I had also increased the amount of chicken stock because by the time the cobbler stopped cooking, there was no "juju" left.  So while the filling was flavorful, it was a little dry.  Actually, it was very dry, even with chicken thighs instead of breasts.  And the biscuit topping was a little thick and doughy, rather than buttery, light and flaky.  I think it is safe to say that if we make another chicken potpie, it won't be this one.  Moreover, I think we will use pre-packed puff pastry for the pot pie topping.  Because it turns out that I'm more of a pot pie person than a cobbler person.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Buckeyes

Oh yum.  These things are delicious.  And addicting.  Apparently peanut butter buckeyes are named after the nut of the state tree of Ohio.  And they are named that after the tree because they look like the nuts.  If you Google buckeyes you will eventually see what I mean.  I found one picture here on Serious Eats where the resemblance is quite obvious.  Anyway, I decided to make these chocolate-covered peanut butter confections for two reasons.  First, my dad is from Ohio so it just seemed appropriate.  Second, I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  I guess there was a third reason - they just looked so easy to make!  So I made them and omg.  So good.  I brought like 30 of these bad boys into work and they were gone in minutes.  And Alex and I combined ate far more of them than was probably wise, but I just couldn't stop myself.  I loved the salty-sweet combination and the smooth and creamy peanut butter center.  I'm glad that I used a mixture of dark and semisweet chocolate to dip the buckeyes in because I think milk chocolate would have been far too sweet, but dark chocolate alone might not have been quite sweet enough.  I also found that my favorite way to eat these candies is right out of the freezer.  I love them when they are frozen (hence the ice crystals you can see on the buckeyes in the picture - they were fresh out of the freezer).  You can't leave them out for long because they will melt (due to the high butter content), but they are worth the hassle.  Promise.

I think we might have found a new Christmas tradition!

Recipe after the jump!

Adobo-Marinated Chicken Quesadillas

I love good Mexican food.  And I have found that truly good Mexican food is hard to find.  So I have started making my own, although I don't claim that my version of Mexican is authentic.  I basically just make it up as I go along, sometimes with a little help from Google, a restaurant I have eaten at or a cookbook.  For instance, for tonight's dinner I got the idea from the chicken mole quesadilla at our local Mexican joint, The Great Burrito.  And then I looked online and in Rosa's New Mexican Table by Roberto Santibanez.  Then I sent Alex to Zabar's to pick up some dried chilis and we improvised like we always do.

Our past two meals have been smashing successes (which is exciting).  Last night's Pork Vindaloo was delicious, but I might have preferred these quesadillas for a variety of reasons.  First, while this chicken has a brief marinating period, the entire dish comes together much more quickly than the pork did.  One problem with braising pork is that it takes forever, whereas sauteing up some chicken strips takes less than 10 minutes.  Both dishes were very flavorful and tender.  I just feel like this dish is one that everyone will like, whereas the pork is only going to appeal to some.  So I'm not sure that I necessarily preferred the flavor of these quesadillas over the flavor of the vindaloo, but I think as an overall dish and experience I preferred the quesadillas.  There was a tiny bit of heat from the chilis in the adobo, and a bit of tang from the apple cider vinegar.  I'm glad we used apple cider vinegar instead of regular white distilled vinegar, because that gives the chicken a tiny bit of sweetness which works really nicely with the cinnamon and cloves.  I think this chicken would make a really nice topping for a taco salad, tacos, or a tostada.  You can use the marinade to create all kinds of different Mexican dishes and I bet they would all be delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pork Vindaloo with Aromatic Yellow Rice and Spicy Cucumber Wedges

So our last few attempts at Indian food have been less than stellar.  We attempted to make a tandoori-style shrimp a few weeks ago and it tasted more like a shrimp scampi than anything else.  All you could taste was butter - nothing else.  And then we tried to make a spiced rice that was bland and overly wet.  The meal was not at all memorable, except in how mediocre it was.  It was an absolute and utter letdown.

But this Pork Vindaloo was everything that I love about Indian food - spicy, aromatic, and flavorful.  As I walked down the hall to our apartment I could smell it and I knew I was in for a treat.  I've never had a pork vindaloo before, nor have I ever cooked a vindaloo, so this was a first on several levels.  It was delicious.  But consider yourself forewarned - this dish is SPICY, just as all good vindaloos are.  The pork is nice and tender from the slow braise and falls apart with the slightest nudge from your fork.  But if you don't like spicy food, then I would not make this recipe.  I guess you could dial down the spice level by using sweet paprika instead of the Kashmiri red chili powder, but the heat is half the fun.  I will admit, I tend to prefer plain white basmati rice to any sort of spiced rice and this recipe for Aromatic Yellow Rice hasn't changed that.  While it is good and has a delicate, but discernible, bouquet of spices, I would still prefer some plain basmati rice.  Alex likes spiced rice more than I do and he said that the rice was a nice accompaniment to a meal because it's not so heavily spiced that it would overcome or compete with the flavors in your entree.  I can agree with that.  But I would probably still make plain basmati instead.  I thought that the Spicy Cucumber Wedges were a really nice and fresh side dish.  They had far more flavor than I had expected, given that they don't marinate at all before you serve them.  I loved the combination of the roasted cumin seeds, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and fresh cucumbers.  I think they would make such a wonderful dish at a potluck or a picnic!  Actually, I think that this entire meal would make a wonderful potluck or picnic meal.

Recipe after the jump!

Baked Double Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread

So I have been holding onto this recipe for a long time and waiting for a "special" occasion to make it. Really, I was waiting for someone else to come over so it wouldn't just be Alex and I inhaling our way through an entire cake. I got the recipe from a Tasting Table email, but it was from one of the Baked cookbooks so I was super excited for it. I just knew it was going to be delicious. Not only do I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, but it was a Baked recipe and after baking and loving the Baked Brownies, I had utter faith in this recipe.

Sadly, I was a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong - the recipe isn't bad. I just felt like it was a little off. For instance, the cake to frosting ratio is just way off. I'm not one who generally likes a ton of frosting on my cakes or cupcakes, but this cake was so dense and dry that it really needed more frosting. The cake was really deeply and intensely chocolaty (which you would expect given the amount of cocoa powder and dark chocolate that went into the cake), but forkfuls of plain cake were just lacking something. The cake was almost more of a brownie than a cake. And given that there was buttermilk, oil and eggs in the cake I just expected it to be a little more moist. Instead it was bordering on dry and crumbly. Actually, it was so crumbly that I literally couldn't get a piece of it to take a picture of because every piece I tried to cut basically exploded into a pile of crumbs with frosting on top. I tasted the batter so I knew that it wouldn't be a very sweet cake, but I expected the addition of the chocolate chunks and the frosting to make all of the difference. I think that if I make this cake again in the future I will turn it into cupcakes. And I will double the amount of frosting. And add more buttermilk so that the cake is far moister. I will also consider either substituting semi-sweet chocolate for the dark chocolate in the cake, or adding more sugar to the frosting to sweeten that up. I will probably do one, but not both. Our friends who were over last night recommended perhaps turning the cake into a layer cake (with frosting between the layers), so I guess that could work too. So I'm a little sad that the recipe that I have been saving and holding onto with such faith in its utter awesomeness turned out to be a little less awesome than expected. But given a few tweaks, I still have faith that it can become utterly awesome. It's just not quite there yet.

Recipe after the jump!
Tasting Table

Sunday, December 19, 2010

San Diego

When we were going to San Diego all I could think of was sun and warm weather.  And then it hit me that San Diego is the home of the fish taco - and I looooooooove fish tacos.  Give me fish tacos grilled, fried, whatever.  I love them all.  And one of my friends who used to live in San Diego gave me a recommendation for a restaurant that she claimed served the best fish tacos in the city called South Beach Bar and Grille.  That was the one non-negotiable thing for me on this trip.  I didn't care what else we did, so long as we hit that restaurant for some fish tacos.  So our first full day in the city, we went for dinner.  And wow.  They were delicious.  Perfectly fried - not at all greasy, and very flavorful.  And during happy hour from 3-6 pm, the baja fish tacos (pictured above - I know it is crazy over-exposed, but the restaurant was so dimly lit that I had to use my flash) and the grilled mahi mahi tacos were only $2.50.  Being from NYC I assumed that they would be absolutely tiny, but they were much larger than I expected.  So we over-ordered just a little bit...  We tried two baja tacos, two mahi tacos, and one wahoo taco, plus a ceviche cocktail.  If I were to go again, I would avoid the ceviche cocktail and stick with the tacos (particularly the baja and the wahoo) because they were delicious.  This was definitely my favorite meal of the trip.

More after the jump!

Buttermilk Biscuits with Green Onions, Black Pepper, and Sea Salt

I love biscuits.  It's a seriously Southern thing that I picked up at Chapel Hill while I was there and one I plan to never give up.  Unfortunately, good biscuits are much harder to find here in NYC than they were in North Carolina.  Actually, some might say that it's nearly impossible.  So I have taken to making my own whenever I have a serious biscuit craving.  The only problem that biscuit-making makes a mess.  And when you're me, it makes a HUGE mess. I should take pictures of the kitchen after I engage in a bout of biscuit-making.  Today for example, I ended up with floury hand prints on our olive oil cruet and bits of biscuit dough decorating the floor.  I'm nearly certain that I have ended up with flour in my hair at least once, which begs the question of what exactly I am doing while making my biscuits.  I wish I could tell you, but I can't.

Anyway, I love these biscuits.  Love, love, love them.  I have been saving the recipe for some time now, but I always forget to pick up self-rising flour.  Luckily, Alex picked some up to make his crazy Dutch cookies so this morning when I woke up this recipe was the first thing I thought about.  Actually, first I thought about pizza.  At about 10:00 am I told Alex that I wanted some pizza and he told me that I'm an idiot.  Isn't he sweet?  But the second thing I thought about was this biscuit recipe.  So I toddled into the kitchen in my pjs and I made my biscuits.  OMG.  They are delicious.  They have a perfect flaky, yet very tender texture typical of really good homemade buttermilk biscuits.  Nothing against Grands biscuits out of the can, but they're never quite as crisp on the outside, and yet flaky and tender on the inside.  Instead they're basically buttery and tender all the way through, which is nice and all, but they're certainly not buttermilk biscuits.  So the texture is amazing.  Actually, I think that's the first thing I told Alex after my first mouthful of biscuit.  That the texture was perfect.  And they have loads of flavor from the black pepper and the scallions.  That was the first thing Alex said.  They are absolutely gorgeous.  I think Alex has already eaten four whole biscuits, which is a huge testament to how delicious these biscuits are because he usually has one biscuit and calls it a day.  I think these biscuits could very well be the best biscuits that I have ever made.  And I don't say that lightly.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


So while I was off in San Diego with my mom, Alex made cookies.  When he said that he was going to bake cookies, I literally thought the world had ended.  Alex is not a baker.  In fact, he periodically places a baking embargo on our kitchen.  I don't usually fully comply with the baking embargo, but that's just me.  But I can't remember him ever baking anything else.  He used to help his mom bake the slice and bake cookies you buy at the grocery store around the holidays, but that's as much as I can ever recall him doing before.  Anyway, back to the cookies.  These cookies are Dutch cookies that Alex used to eat around Christmas-time when his family lived in the Netherlands.  They kind of remind me of gingerbread - they are dry and crunchy like gingerbread and use similar spices. As far as cookies go, I have to admit that I prefer softer cookies. I like a good shortbread cookie every once in awhile, but if push comes to shove I want a nice peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. Gingerbread has never been among my favorites. 

So it is no surprise that these cookies are not my favorite. Alex definitely likes them more than I do. He said that there are a few things he would change about them, but he likes the flavor (although he did mention that he thought the flavor would be a bit more "intense" and taste a little less like gingersnaps, and a little "spicier"). He thinks that they are a little dry (I think they are a lot dry, but like I said, I like softer, moister cookies than he does). According to him the cookies should be a lot smaller than he actually made them. The cookies are supposed to be 1/2-inch marble-sized balls, but his cookies were more like 1-inch balls. He blames their size for the dryness. Either way I totally think it's adorable that Alex baked! 

Recipe after the jump! 

Crunchy Chicken in Green Sauce

I know that we have done dozens of variations of breaded chicken breasts.  And yet we keep finding (or inventing) and cooking more variations.  I guess when you find something that you like, you can't help but do it over and over again.  My favorite thing about all of the variations is how easily you can vary the flavors and breading so that all of the variations are completely different from each other.  For instance, we have done variations on Japanese Cornflake Chicken Katsu with Tonkatsu Dipping Sauce, a few Southern-inspired variations including our Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce, and Spicy "Fried" Chicken Cutlets with Honey-Tabasco Sauce inspired by a dish at WD-50.  Not all of our variations have been blog-worthy, but that's ok.  I have to admit that as far as breading choices go, I think that the panko, cornmeal, and cornflakes are all equal in my mind.  As far as cooking methods go, I think that it tends to work better to bake the chicken on a cooling rack like I did with my chicken katsu and the "fried" chicken.  The chicken cooks more evenly, the breading stays on without slipping off when you try to clip the chicken and cook the other side. and I think the breading gets crispier.  With all of that said, if you cook the chicken carefully on the stove-top you can achieve similar results.  So when this recipe said to cook it on the stove-top I figured why not?

I really liked this sauce.  I thought that it had great flavor and it had never occurred to me in the past to make a sauce out of chicken stock and salsa.  It was a great idea and a very easy way to add lots of flavor very easily and very quickly.  As for the chicken, I thought that the brief soak in the spiced buttermilk kept the chicken moist and gave it more flavor.  Actually, the buttermilk worked surprisingly well without any egg to help the breadcrumbs adhere.  The only problem with this dish is that by cooking it in the pan, and then removing it to a plate while you cook the sauce in the same pan, the breading loses some of its crispness.  Perhaps if we had mixed panko with the cornmeal it would have worked a little better, but I think that the next time we cook this dish, we will bake the chicken in the oven and cook the sauce on the stove-top to avoid that problem.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All I want for Christmas...

Well I want a lot of things.  But not all of them are food-related, so I won't list them here.  Actually, this isn't exactly my Christmas list.  Instead it's more like my "gifts I want, or have received and recommend to others for Christmas" list.  Does that make sense?  Whatever, we're going to go with it.  Or at least I am going with it.  All of you reading this can decide for yourselves. 

  1. Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented - Baked is a bakery in Brooklyn that is famous for their brownies (and various other baked goods).  If you Google "Baked brownie" you will come up with dozens of blogs that have tried the recipe out (including mine).  The brownie is amazing.  I am also dying to try their Brewer's Blondies.  I haven't tried any of the recipes yet from Baked Explorations since it was just publised in October 2010, but I'm sure that the recipes there are just as amazing as the ones in their original cookbook!
  2. Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian - I am always looking for new vegetarian recipes to try so Alex and I can at least made a good faith effort to get the recommended daily allowance of vitamins, minerals, etc.  I almost always fail, but I think with this cookbook I would be much better equipped to succeed!  I already own two fabulous Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks so I have total faith in her, and I have paged through it several times at the bookstore, and there are tons of really delicious sounding vegetarian recipes.
  3. Ad Hoc at Home - For any somewhat accomplished home cook and foodie, this cookbook is a must have.  I know it's kind of pricey (and a little unwieldy since it is bordering on huge), but it is totally worth it if only for the Ad Hoc Creamed Summer Corn recipe, which is flat out amazing.  This cookbook is definitely not for the novice cook, nor are the recipes intended to be quick and easy weeknight meals.  They all require some level of preparation (including the right tools and ingredients) and some level of skill.  But the results are delicious.
More ideas after the jump!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lemony Chicken with Cilantro

There is an Indian restaurant near our apartment that serves a chicken dish called Chicken Xacutti, which is a chicken dish prepared with ginger, garlic, green chilis and a ton of spices.  Now I have two Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks and neither of them contain a recipe for Chicken Xacutti or anything similar.  So I'm actually not sure why I led in with talking about the Chicken Xacutti, except that thinking about that chicken dish inspired me to make this Indian chicken dish because it is similarly prepared with ginger, garlic, green chilis and a ton of spices (although far less spices than the Xacutti).

What I love about this chicken is the depth of flavor you get in a relatively quick cooking dish.  The cayenne and the jalapeno give the chicken some heat, and then there's the lemon and the cilantro to brighten and freshen the whole dish up.  You get a hint of smokiness from the ground cumin, plus the flavors of garlic and ginger.  It's just such a fun and flavorful dish.  I also like that the flavor combinations are totally different from what you expect from your average Indian dish.  My initial thoughts when it comes to Indian food are chicken dishes in heavy sauces (butter chicken, chicken korma and chicken tikka masala) or tandoori chicken.  A dish like this with a relatively thin sauce made primarily of lemon juice and herbs and spices is certainly not the first thing that comes to mind, but I really think it's a wonderful dish.  The next time I make kati rolls I will probably make this chicken to use as the filling.  I also think this chicken would be a wonderful topping to an Indian-inspired pizza or some sort of naan-ini (a panini made with naan instead of normal bread).  Seeing as this was the first dish we have made at home this week due to work (and will probably be the last homemade meal I make until after I get back from San Diego next Monday), I think it was an excellent choice.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coconut Macaroons

I'm not certain what it is that I like about coconut macaroons.  But I really like them.  I like everything about them.  I might even like them more than I like cookies, which is shocking.  They are sticky, intensely coconut-y and delicious.  I like them chocolate-dipped, with almond extract, and plain.  I like all of them.  I guess most of that can be attributed to the fact that I really love coconut and always have.  I have really only found a few macaroon variations that truly disappointed me enough that I couldn't finish them.  Conversely, I have really only found a few variations that were good enough that I remember them distinctly.  One variation on a macaroon that I love is the macaroon and nutella sandwich cookie that they serve at the Street Sweets truck.  The macaroon at the truck is thin and crispy, almost like a florentine.  And I had never considered the combination of nutella and coconut before, but it was totally delicious.  And I generally like my macaroons a little on the sticky side, but they taste really nice crispy like that.  Joe the Art of Coffee on the UWS also has really nice chocolate-dipped macaroons.  They're not too sweet, not to sticky - a very classic macaroon.

I have never tried a macaroon recipe that uses condensed milk before, but I figured why not give it a try?  The last batch of macaroons I made using a more traditional recipe just weren't quite as good as I was hoping for, so I was looking to try something new and different.  I kept finding blog posts and recipes that used condensed milk, so apparently it's not that uncommon to add it to your macaroons.  Who knew?  As you might expect from macaroons that used condensed milk (or from any baked good that uses condensed milk), these macaroons were a bit on the sticky side.  But that's ok, because I like sticky.  They also spread out and ooze a lot more than your typical macaroon (which is made up of coconut, egg white, vanilla extract and very little else) during the baking process.  The macaroons weren't crispy enough for me to want to make sandwich cookies out of - I think if you're going for that kind of recipe we would need coconut that is more finely ground, a touch of flour to bind the ingredients and give them a more cookie-like texture, and no condensed milk.  The fact that we started out with over a dozen macaroons and now only have one or two left should bear witness to the fact that these macaroons weren't too shabby...

Recipe after the jump!

Homestyle Bean Curd

I have to admit that I am very lucky that Alex will eat just about anything that I throw at him.  Not many people I know would be excited by the idea of tofu.  But Alex loves just about any authentic Chinese dish that I make at home or order in a restaurant (although I'm sure there would be some exceptions if we ever actually make it to China).  This tofu dish was no exception.  After a series of fairly heavy, meaty meals I really wanted something vegetarian for dinner.  This was what I picked.  Well, this with some Sichuan Cucumbers and some white rice.  I'm always saying that we need to use our Fuchsia Dunlop cookbooks more than we do, and when I have the chance to do so I tend to take advantage.  By some random chance we had everything we needed for this recipe in our apartment.  That almost never happens without some degree of advance planning on my part.  Even with some advance planning on my part we are often missing at least one or two key ingredients for any given dish.  So it was pleasantly surprising that we had everything we needed here.  I briefly considered doing a little victory dance, but decided against it.  

Alex said that this dish was his favorite of the proteins that we have made over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I was kind of shocked.  It's tofu and it was competing against a very nice rainbow trout, as well as a lovely lamb chop.  But Alex really enjoyed it.  And I did too.  It was wonderfully flavorful and fairly easy to prepare.  The description of the dish as "homestyle" is well-deserved.  It tastes like something my grandmother would whip up (supposing that she were still alive and she was actually Sichuanese, rather than Cantonese - details, details).  It's not fancy.  It's the type of dish, and combined with the cucumbers and the rice, the type of meal that I expect thousands of people in China eat at home regularly.  And that is huge praise.
Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices

Every once in awhile I stumble across spaghetti squash recipes that call for substituting spaghetti with spaghetti squash and dousing it with tomato sauce.  As if the kids wouldn't notice that their "spaghetti" is suddenly a completely different texture and has a strange non-pasta aroma to it...  I must admit that I am very skeptical of those recipes, partially because I know that spaghetti squash can be incredibly delicious.  For instance, this spaghetti squash recipe calls for a melted butter and Moroccan spice mixture.  It is amazing.  The spaghetti squash gets richness from the butter, smokiness from the cumin, a hint of spice from the cayenne, and then a blast of freshness from the cilantro.  Now I'm not an expert on what kids will and won't eat, but wouldn't you rather serve them (and yourself) something delicious?

Recipe after the jump!

Charmoula Lamb Chops

When I was younger I had a serious love of lamb and duck.  Chicken and beef were fine and all, but somehow I preferred less common variations on the same theme.  As I have grown older I have re-discovered chicken and beef, particularly when cooking for myself at home (partially because they are so much cheaper than the alternatives).  I would say that we make lamb about once every 3-4 months, and the same with duck.  And when we do make lamb, it tends to be ground lamb - perhaps lamb burgers or lamb kebobs.  In the past year I think we have only made lamb chops once and they were shoulder chops for our Indian Lamb Chops with Curried Cauliflower, rather than loin chops or rib chops.  So I guess in another 3-4 months we will attempt some lamb loin chops.  And after today's experiment I am looking forward to the loin chops!

These Charmoula Lamb Chops were delicious.  Charmoula (or chermoula) is a sort of Middle Eastern variation on chimichurri that is used in Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian cooking.  In this charmoula I used mint, cilantro and parsley in addition to evoo, garlic, shallot and lemon juice, but I have seen other recipes that are vastly different.  I even found a recipe that called for red bell pepper.  But it is my understanding that the common components to any charmoula are herbs, oil, lemon juice and spices.  I love that this charmoula is fresh and flavorful.  It really makes lamb, which can come off as a little heavy and greasy, taste vibrant and fresh.  The only problem is that the chops could have used a hint more char.  That was partially my fault because I was afraid to really turn the heat up without burning the herbs in the marinade or overcooking the lamb, since I prefer it medium-rare.  But a little more char is definitely in order in the future.  A grill would really help with that, but unfortunately I don't have access to one.  I think this dish would be a really nice dinner party entree.  I actually said the same thing about the Rainbow Trout we made last night, but I think this would be even more ideal.  The dish is elegant and refined, as well as delicious. 

Recipe after the jump!

Buttermilk Biscuits

I have been on the search for the ultimate biscuit recipe for years.  There are a few that I have discovered that I really enjoy, but none of them are plain buttermilk biscuits.  Instead they usually involve the addition of cheese and other herbs or seasonings.  And as much as I love these fancied up biscuits, I am always trying to find the PERFECT biscuit recipe that I can make for any occasion and serve slathered with white sausage gravy, just as easily as in a bread basket with dinner.  Today I stumbled across this recipe and in my neverending hunt for the perfect biscuit I gave it a try.  

So this biscuit recipe falls somewhere between a scone and a sweet biscuit that you would use for making shortcakes.  It's definitely not the savory biscuit that I was planning on when I first started baking.  It's probably my fault for not thinking the recipe through more clearly.  All I saw was a biscuit recipe that was very simple and only included ingredients I already had in the kitchen.  I didn't stop to think about it further.  But had I stepped back and thought about it, I would have realized that any biscuit recipe that contains 1 1/2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp of heavy cream brushed over the top of the biscuits would end up being more scone-like than biscuit-like.  So I might end up having the rest of these biscuits for breakfast slathered with jam and served alongside a cup of tea.  I think they will be delicious that way.  I also think that with a little extra sugar sprinkled on top that they would make a fantastic cobbler topping.  The hunt for the perfect biscuit continues...

Recipe after the jump!

Whole Roasted Rainbow Trout

I have been wanting to cook a whole fish for some time now.  Every time I visit Whole Foods or Fairway I end up staring at the whole brook trout and branzino in the fish case and briefly consider buying them.  Then I usually wimp out and buy some shrimp or other fish fillets because obviously cooking a whole fish is more complicated than cooking up some fillets, right?  Wrong.  Really really wrong.  Because this fish was amazingly easy to cook and it was delicious.  All I had to do was season it a little, stuff it with some lemon, herbs, and shallots and throw it in the oven.  Fifteen minutes later I had two gorgeous rainbow trout sitting on the dining room table in their cute little foil packets.  The entire recipe probably took 20 minutes from start to finish (it would take substantially more than that if you had to clean the fish yourself, so get your fishmonger to do that for you).

I suppose you can use any herb you want with this recipe.  While looking up various recipes for inspiration, I came across recipes that involved fresh tarragon, fresh dill and rosemary.  Alex swears that he saw another recipe that called for sage.  We happened to have parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and rosemary all in the fridge.  Oh and fresh mint.  But I thought the mint and cilantro were obviously not going to work, and Alex isn't a huge fan of fresh parsley, so that left thyme, oregano and rosemary.  Originally I was planning on using both the thyme and the oregano and then I decided to go the simple route and just use rosemary instead.  I actually picked up the rosemary to make an olive oil cake, but I figured it would work here as well.  And boy did it.  I'm sure that the other herbs would have produced an equally lovely trout, but I loved how the trout was lightly perfumed with that woodsy rosemary scent, balanced out with a nice punch of lemon and a hint of sweetness from the shallots.  I briefly contemplated adding garlic, but I am glad I didn't because I think it would have been a little aggressive in this dish, which was very delicate.  I would like to try this recipe (or variations on this recipe) with other whole fish - perhaps a whole brook trout for instance.  I think if I were to make a whole branzino I would go a little more Mediterranean with it, but I think this recipe would work well with branzino too!  Hurray for an experiment that turned out even better than I had hoped for.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pan-Roasted Squab, Polenta and Broccolini

What do you do when you're flying solo for Thanksgiving?  Well, I guess Alex and I weren't really flying solo, since we were together, but we were both away from home for our first Thanksgiving together.  And seeing as I didn't get off work until almost 11pm on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we literally didn't have a clue what we were making.  So Thursday around 1 pm we trudged on down to Fairway to try and figure out a nice Thanksgiving meal for the two of us.  Alex was thinking poultry (although to be honest I wasn't really thinking at all) so we headed to the meat counter and found some cute little squab.  Now I like squab, but it has certainly never occurred to me to buy it and cook it at home.  I would have been more excited about some guinea hens or some duck breasts, but seeing as it was already after 1 pm on Thanksgiving Day, we picked up the squab and ran with it.  After we decided on squab I decided that I wanted to make polenta and some sort of greens to do with it.  So I picked up some red kale, some broccolini and some arugula.  I figured that between the two of us we would figure out some sort of vegetable recipe with those options.  I considered picking up some other vegetables too, but figured there was no point in being over-ambitious, especially seeing as I am going to have to work all weekend again.  So we got home, and started with Google to get some inspiration.  Then I stumbled across a recipe for Barbequed Squab with Porcini Mustard in The Babbo Cookbook and we decided to use that roughly for inspiration with our squab.  As for the polenta and the broccolini, we relied on Epicurious to point us in the right direction there. 

So we essentially used the Batali marinade of honey, balsamic, evoo, thyme and red onion to marinate the squab for about 6 hours before cooking it.  Then we seared both sides in a cast iron pan, before tossing it in the oven to roast.  Beware, because of the honey and balsamic in the marinade the squab skin goes from completely raw to almost burnt very quickly.  So you're going to go to flip over the squab after searing the first side and think that you totally ruined it.  But you didn't.  At first we were totally worried that we had burnt the squab and were going to have to order Chinese takeout or something, but that's just what happens with this marinade.  Although the Batali recipe calls for grilling, and also calls for the breastbones on the squabs to be removed (neither of which we did), we did weight the squab down on the pan as he recommended to give the bird a crisp skin and ensure quicker cooking.  Now cooking and eating squab requires that you get over your fear of serving poultry with the slightest bit of pink inside, because like duck, this squab should be served medium-rare.  We read somewhere that overcooked squab has a flavor and texture similar to liver.  Gross.  So anyway, we were very careful not to overcook the squab.  And the meat was tender and juicy, rather than liver-like.  However, it was almost crying out for some sort of sauce.  The Batali recipe called for a porcini mustard to be served with the squab, but that just didn't do it for me.  I was thinking some sort of agrodolce sauce or a fig mostardo would be phenomenal with the squab.  Something a little sweet, a little sour, and with a hint of black pepper to it would really have elevated the dish to another level.  It was good, but it just needed something.

As with all Thanksgiving feasts, I was way more into the sides than the main course.  The broccolini was delicious - something I definitely plan to make again and again.  The combination of the smoked paprika, garlic, almonds and sherry vinegar was genius.  I loved it.  And then the polenta was totally luscious and decadent - the corn gave it that little something extra, a little sweetness and brightness, that I really enjoyed.  I will definitely be making both the polenta and the broccolini again, although I will have to decide what dishes to serve them with next time as I'm not sure that the squab will be a repeat experiment...

I hope that everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

So I have been meaning to do a post about great Thanksgiving recipes for some time now.  Only I haven't had the time to do so.  I really wanted to test out a few more recipes before doing this post, but unfortunately, that isn't going to happen.  So this post will be restricted to only those dishes that I have made for Thanksgiving in the past that I have really enjoyed (along with a list of other dishes that I would make for an ideal Thanksgiving feast).  First on my list is this Sourdough Bread Stuffing.  Every Thanksgiving table needs stuffing and this stuffing remains my favorite.  I have tried all sorts of other stuffings - including cornbread stuffing, oyster stuffing/dressing, Stovetop stuffing, and stuffing with Italian sausage.  I have never tried a wild rice stuffing, so I might add that to the menu the next time I am preparing Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd.  If you're not a lover of brussels sprouts, this brussels sprouts dish might even convince you.  I got my family to eat an entire platter-ful, which is unheard of.  My aunt even asked for the recipe!  And last, but not least, there is this gravy - I love the hint of the richness and depth of flavor that the red wine produces.  Sometimes I throw in some fresh herbs, but I've done it before without any herbs and it was nice too.

Since it's just Alex and I for Thanksgiving this year, we won't be doing a whole Thanksgiving spread.  I was thinking we might make something completely not traditional, because how depressing would it be to cook an entire turkey for two people?  Now if we were planning a feast (and time and oven space were no object), this is the menu I would propose in addition to the recipes that I have included down below: Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs and Shallot-Dijon Gravy, Real Creamed Corn Pudding, Cranberry Sauce with Port and Cinnamon, Sourdough Bread Stuffing (recipe below), Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Wild Mushrooms, Moroccan Arugula Salad with Beets and Ricotta Salata, Kale, Butternut Squash, and Pancetta Pie and Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce.  And for appetizers I would make Sweet Potato Biscuits with Ham, Mustard, and Honey, Warm Goat Cheese Toasts with Rosemary, Walnuts, and Honey, kale chips, and some candied nuts.  Doesn't that sound delicious?

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes with Bacon

So Alex felt the need to point out to me today that that brussels sprouts are spelled like the city of Brussels, with an "s," and not brussel sprouts.  And I of course responded that I knew that and that I always spelled them "B-R-U-S-S-E-L-S" sprouts, to which he pointed out about a zillion instances in which I called them "brussels sprouts" and "brussel sprouts" interchangably in the same post.  Oops.  Apparently I am terribly inconsistent.  But I will do my best to be more consistent in this post.  And I am creating this post with a caveat - I made these brussels sprouts two weeks ago before work got absolutely crazy (and by crazy I mean I haven't been able to leave the office before 10 pm to midnight in over a week and therefore have not eaten a single meal at home since last Sunday, let alone cooked one) and am only getting around to posting about them now because I have a brief moment of calm and sanity.

If you can't tell, I love brussels sprouts.  They are fantastic.  This might not be my favorite variation on brussels sprouts, but it was a good one.  Who can resist bacon and crispy roasted potatoes served with nutty roasted brussels sprouts?  By itself the dish makes a perfectly hearty meal for two people, or would be a nice side for a family of four. 

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Easy Sole Meuniere

For the first time this month, I didn't have to work on a Sunday.  It was blissful.  I went to the gym, we cleaned the apartment (not so blissful, but necessary), we ran errands...  It was a wonderfully productive and only semi-lazy Sunday.  And so I celebrated by cooking dinner!  Actually, we made lunch too but as I have already posted about the Tunisian Soup with Chard and Egg Noodles, there is no need to post about it again.  But since dinner was a random recipe that I have been wanting to try, I get to post about that!

Sole Meuniere is a classic French dish that is often made of Dover Sole and costs a fortune at some fancy French restaurants. I'm not sure if the Dover Sole itself is extremely expensive, but I figure that it must be since the rest of the ingredients are cheap.  Since I don't have a fortune to spend, I often avoid the dish entirely.  But as Fairway had some really nice lemon sole fillets when I swung by yesterday, I decided to go home and make it myself.  And it is both remarkably easy to make (not to mention quick cooking - as the sole only takes about 4-5 minutes total to cook through), and remarkably tasty.  I have tried other meuniere recipes with capers in them, which provides a nice salty bite to the dish, but I might actually prefer the dish without capers as the capers detract from the delicate flavor of the sole.  Then again, sometimes I do want big bold flavors and the capers would be perfect.  So I guess you can adapt this recipe to taste and either add some minced capers when you add the lemon juice, or just leave them out entirely like I did here.  Either way the dish is light, but still very flavorful.  If you're not a big fan of lemon, then you could cut back on the amount of lemon juice, or if you want to lighten the dish you could use half butter and half evoo.  But the recipe is simple enough and uses such easily recognizable flavors/ingredients that you can play with it pretty easily to suit your tastes.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Korean Steak and Kimchi Quesadillas

I love meals made almost entirely from repurposed leftovers.  They make me feel so virtuous and thrifty.  Plus meals are so much easier to make and quicker to put together when your proteins are already cooked and some of your ingredients are already prepped.  I made these quesadillas with the leftover Momofuku Marinated Hanger Steak Ssam with Red Kimchi Puree and Ginger Scallion.  We used the leftover hanger steak, the leftover red kimchi puree, and the leftover ginger scallion sauce.  I had originally intended to make our quesadillas with some brown rice tortillas that I picked up at Trader Joe's, but when I took them out of the fridge today they looked a little moldy.  So I threw them out.  And decided to use some lavash (also purchased at Trader Joe's) for our quesadillas, which actually worked quite well.  The only other thing we needed was some grated cheese and we were in quesadilla-making business.  And it was good business.  Our quesadillas were quite delicious.  I really enjoyed them - they were really easy to make, and very tasty.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Bittersweet Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

So I have been sitting on this post for some time, partially because I have been so freaking busy, and partially because I already have a few other pumpkin bread recipes on the blog so I was in no hurry to post this one.  But Alex was basically obsessed with this pumpkin bread, as were his coworkers when he brought it in to work one day.  So I had to post it.  I baked two loaves of pumpkin bread because Alex wanted his loaf with semisweet chocolate chips and no walnuts, whereas I wanted bittersweet chocolate chips and lots of walnuts.  And since I was the one who baked the bread, I am posting my favorite of the two loaves, both of which used the same basic recipe.  Oh, but I was too excited to try my loaf, so I cut into it before I could take pictures.  Oops.  So the picture above is of Alex's loaf with the semi-sweet chocolate chps and no walnutsIf you want to mix it up with the chocolate chips and/or nuts (or omit both entirely), you can easily do so.  But the bread is very moist and the crumb is almost luscious and fluffy.  I think the combination of sour cream and pumpkin puree, along with the spices really make the bread fun and different.

Recipe after the jump!

Momofuku Marinated Hanger Steak Ssam with Red Kimchi Puree and Ginger Scallion

So this might be our last Asian-inspired meal of the week.  Or at the very least it is the last Asian-inspired meal that I had planned on making.  Actually, that's not entirely true because we made enough steak for two meals, which means that we are going to do the trendy thing and make some Korean quesadillas later this week.  But I'm not sure it counts as Asian-inspired when you start making quesadillas, which are totally Mexican-inspired...  But anyway, for the last Asian or Asian-inspired meal for the week, I had to go to David Chang because I love David Chang and his whole Momofuku empire.  Actually, randomly enough Alex and I went to Ma Peche last night and had a fantastic meal.  Ma Peche is David Chang's newest restaurant in the city and his first restaurant drawing on Vietnam for inspiration.  It's also his first restaurant outside of the East Village and how lucky am I that it ended up opening up a few blocks away from my office?  More on Ma Peche later.  For now, back to these hanger steak ssams.  My original plan was to use this marinade to make the beef, and then to use the beef in quesadillas.  But then I realized that we had two hanger steaks in the freezer, so I thought why not make the ssams and then use the remaining marinated steak to make quesadillas later in the week?  I love it when you can use "leftovers" again to make an entirely different dish!

So this hanger steak itself has really nice flavor to it.  But hanger steak always has great flavor.  Except that when you marinate the hanger steak in apple juice, onion, etc. you end up with hanger steak that is sweeter and less beefy than usual.  Not that the steak was super sweet, but it definitely had a distinct sweetness to it.  The sweetness was balanced out by the spicy funkiness of the kimchi puree, and the brightness of the ginger-scallion sauce.  Now I have had the hanger steak ssams from Momofuku Ssam Bar back in the day before they took all of the ssams but the Bo Ssam off the menu.  While our homemade version based off the recipe in the cookbook was good, I thought you could definitely taste the difference between the restaurant version and our homemade version.  But who really cares?  It was still delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Poached Chicken with Ginger and Scallion Sauce

Growing up I ate a lot of Cantonese food - some that my mother or grandmother made, and then some that they purchased at various restaurants.  I loved eating things like roast suckling pig, drunken chicken, wonton noodle soup, and dim sum.  Well, I still love eating those things.  Any sort of roast meat of the sort that you can find hanging in the window in Chinatown brings me back to my childhood, as does this dish, which you often find called "White-cooked Chicken," which describes the cooking method just as much as it describes the dish itself.  It's one of those dishes, like my mom's Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup, that I find incredibly comforting.  Alex was worried that it would be bland because basically all you're doing is poaching a chicken in water (most recipes call for whole chickens, but since we just eat the breasts anyways we poached a whole skin-on, bone-in chicken breast) and then topping it with a sauce made of peanut oil, ginger, scallions, soy sauce and shaoxing cooking wine.  I get why he would be worried.  Poached chicken does sound terribly bland. 

All in all I really liked this chicken, but I might be biased due to nostalgia.  Then again, Alex (who was initially skeptical) liked it too.  There are a few things that I think could have been executed a little better with our recipe.  First, the ginger just didn't seem to cook all the way through in the sauce.  I might recommend mincing the ginger, or shredding it, rather than grating it in the future.  The grated ginger was a little too wet to really fry up in the oil.  Also, I might add the ginger first and then the scallions in the sauce to give the ginger a little extra time in the pan.  As for the chicken itself, while I don't think it's absolutely necessary, I think in the future I might try Kylie Kwong's recipe for White-Cooked Chicken, which calls for a flavored stock in which you poach the chicken.  The chicken itself is supposed to be delicately flavored, deriving most (if not all of the flavor) from the scallion and ginger sauce.  But it wouldn't hurt to have a slightly more flavorful base to begin with.  Generally you serve this chicken over steamed white rice, but Alex really wanted to serve it over noodles and of the varieties of noodles that we had in the apartment, the rice vermicelli seemed like the best option (although in the future I think I will insist upon actual rice because I think it soaks up the sauce better). 

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Moroccan Carrot Salad

So carrot salad - sounds a little gross, huh?  It reminds me of jello molds and various other weird 1950's-esque potluck dishes.  For some reason, it sounds like it should have mayonnaise and raisins in it.  Maybe carrot salads in the US traditionally have both in them.  Actually, I just Googled "carrot salad recipes" and they do in fact traditionally have raisins and mayo in them.  Gross.  And it appears that they sometimes have pineapple in them, or various other fruits.  Also gross.  This carrot salad has none of the above.  And I'm not exactly sure what inspired me to make a carrot salad, except that I was thinking Moroccan and had a ton of carrots from the CSA in the fridge.  But I saw a recipe on Epicurious for a Moroccan Raw Carrot Salad and it piqued my interest.  The best thing about it was that there was no mayo or raisins involved, just evoo, lemon juice, cilantro and spices.  Actually, that was the second best thing.  The best thing was that the carrot salad was good.  Really good.  Alex ate forkful after forkful, and he was even more skeptical about making carrot salad than I was.  I knew it had to be good after I saw Alex go back for his third forkful.

Recipe after the jump!

Faux-Moroccan Roast Chicken with Harissa Sauce and Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon Juice

So I must admit that I am rather proud of myself for sticking with my resolution to make more Asian recipes this week.  And here I am making Moroccan food, which I also mentioned that I had been wanting to make.  I seem to be on something of a Moroccan (or faux-Moroccan because I'm certainly no expert on Moroccan food) kick lately.  Not too long ago we made Quasi-Moroccan Turnip Greens and Moroccan Meatloaf.  And before that I made some Crispy Roasted Chickpeas with a homemade Moroccan spice blend.  We also made a Moroccan carrot salad, but I will have to post about that later.  I really enjoy the flavor combinations in Moroccan food - the sweetness of cinnamon, the smokey cumin, the spicy cayenne, the floral coriander...  It all just works so beautifully together.  I go through spice phases and this seems to be my current phase.  

Anyway, you have to try this chicken.  I know that I am always roasting chicken breasts and then posting about how wonderful they were, but these were truly spectacular - moist, juicy and very flavorful.  The light dusting of flour on the chicken helped to turn the skin nice and crispy by forming a light crust.  Otherwise I think that the skin would have remained flaccid and gummy from soaking overnight in the marinade.  The chicken was really lovely when dipped into the spicy and vinegary harissa sauce.  It would have been good without the harissa, but the harissa really gave it that something extra.  Plus it gave it some heat and I just can't help but to enjoy spicy things.  The couscous was pleasant, but a little bland. Then again, I purposefully looked for a couscous recipe that sounded a little bland because I figured that the thicken would be very flavorful and I didn't want competing flavor profiles.  Really all I wanted with the couscous was a nice side that would complement or balance out the chicken.  And I got that.  If I were to serve the couscous with a slightly less flavorful main dish, I would probably cook the couscous in chicken stock (instead of water), add more lemon juice/zest, and perhaps toss a bit of cayenne pepper in with the couscous while it steamed.

Recipes after the jump!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Coconut Shrimp

I have had this recipe bookmarked to try for awhile.  And when I say bookmarked, I mean that I flagged it with a little sticky when I first bought The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.  I tend to scan through brand new cookbooks within the first few days and bookmark/flag all of the recipes that really interest me.  And then once I make those recipes, the flags come off.  What can I say?  I'm a lawyer.  I love little stickies and I particularly love those highlighters that come with flags in them.  They are awesome.  Ok so I'm a geek.  What of it?

Anyway, considering that I had been waiting months to make this recipe and was all excited about it, in the end I thought it was not that exciting.  Don't get me wrong, it was good.  I ate it all, but I don't think I would make it again.  Now part of that might be due to the fact that I had to substitute sherry for cognac (since I didn't have cognac, brandy or rum), and I tend to find sherry to be a bit overwhelming.  I briefly considered adding some dry white wine in lieu of the cognac and maybe that would have been a better substitution.  I also thought that the toasted coconut got soggy way too fast when you added it to the shrimp, which seemed to defeat the purpose of toasting it in the first place.  I'm not sure.  I think I was just expecting more from the dish since the rest of the recipes I have tried from the cookbook have been so great.  I also really love the combination of shrimp and coconut - but I just didn't get much coconut flavor from the dish.  All I really tasted was sherry (which, again, was more my fault than anything else).  I also thought the dish was crying out for something else to give it another layer of flavor.  Perhaps some minced ginger (just a little bit) would have been a nice addition?  I don't know.  But in the future if I have a craving for coconut shrimp, I will probably make these Coconut Shrimp instead.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Crazy Chicken (Turkey) Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

Look at how good I am!  Two nights, two Asian recipes in a row.  Go me!  Or go us, since Alex has been equally responsible for cooking (although I have done all of the menu planning and almost all of the grocery shopping).  So thank you hubby for making my Asian recipes possible.  And thanks also goes out to our friend Mark for telling us about this recipe in the first place.  I can't remember how long ago it was that Mark first told me about this recipe, but Alex and I made it once years ago and then forgot about it entirely.  And then when I was thinking about Asian recipes earlier this week I suddenly remembered this recipe.  Luckily, all we needed from the grocery store were some rice sticks/stir-fry noodles and some basil and we were in business.

Yum.  This recipe was even better than I remembered.  I think last time we used ground chicken instead of ground turkey and the chicken was dry and didn't soak up much of the sambal and lime juice mixture.  And if I recall correctly, the noodles were overcooked and a bit gummy, so they didn't soak up the sambal-lime mixture either.  But this time the entire dish had some serious flavor and a good measure of heat to it.  We slightly increased the amount of sugar and lime juice in order to give the sauce balance (before we did so all we were tasting was sambal with undertones of fish sauce).  And then I squeezed some additional lime juice over the top of the noodles before we ate to give it some more fresh lime flavor.  Don't skimp on the fresh basil for garnish, because the basil that you toss with the noodles loses a lot of its bright, fresh flavor once it is heated up.  So you really need the fresh basil in addition to the basil that you threw into the wok with the scallions.  But even without the fresh basil, this dish is delicious and very easy to make.  From start to finish, it took less than 30 minutes, including prep time.  I guarantee that it won't be another few years before we make these noodles again!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi Puree and Bacon

So to address my lack of Asian (or Asian-inspired) recipes of late, I decided to make a brussels sprouts recipe from the Momofuku cookbook.  Now I know that brussels sprouts aren't an inherently Asian ingredient.  In fact, I would be shocked if they ever turned up in any form of Asian cuisine.  But these are tossed in kimchi puree, so that has to count for something, right?  Granted, there is bacon and butter in there, but come on.  You have to give me points for trying, especially since I didn't get home from work until about 8:45 pm tonight with the brussels sprouts.  Luckily I had Alex at home cutting up the bacon batons and making the kimchi puree.  I really do need to use this cookbook more.  When you flip through it there are so many fabulously interesting recipes!  And most of them are at least nominally Asian, which goes perfectly with my renewed desire to cook lots of Asian (or Asian-inspired) recipes.  Next up, the Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg and Miso Butter (even though asparagus are not exactly in season right now) or the Pan-Roasted Bouchot Mussels with OS.  Yum.  

I think I will cut down on the amount of butter next time, because I didn't really think it added much to the brussels, except to make them a little soggy.  I would have preferred that the brussels remained charred and crispier.  So maybe I will halve the amount of butter next time and char the brussels sprouts just a few more minutes.  Since our brussels sprouts were pretty small, I only cooked them for 10 minutes once I returned them to the oven.  Next time I will go at least 12 minutes, but probably the entire 15 minutes, and then cut down on the butter.  But I loved the combination of the brussels sprouts, the kimchi, and the bacon.  It's not a flavor combination that would ever occur to me on my own, but they are awesome together.

We served our delicious brussels sprouts with some sunny-side up eggs with runny yolks that we drizzled with soy sauce and topped with more of the kimchi puree.  I think that together they made the perfect meal. 

Recipe after the jump!