Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Saag Paneer"

I will be the first to admit that I am not an authority on saag paneer.  The last time I had saag paneer was roughly 2 years ago and it was from a mediocre buffet.  While Indian buffets can be fabulous, this one was decidedly not.  The saag paneer there reminded me of baby food.  It looked like it had been pureed, mixed with cream cheese or heavy cream, and then studded with pallid chunks of paneer cheese.  Thinking back, I guess it looked like creamed spinach, only the spinach was seriously pureed, thus the nod to baby food.  I wasn't a huge fan of my last saag paneer experience and have been in no rush since then to try it again.

Then I bought a brick of paneer cheese on my epic shopping trip last weekend, so I had to figure out something to do with it.  I love sauteed spinach, so I figured I would try to make up my own saag paneer recipe, one that used sauteed spinach that wasn't pureed into a consistency that belonged in a Gerber baby food jar.  I also decided that my take on saag paneer would use more spices and no cream.  While cream definitely improves some dishes, it just seemed strange here.  And since Alex is out of town, I figured I could experiment in the kitchen more than usual - if dinner didn't turn out, only I would suffer.  Sometimes it's nice to have someone to use as a guinea pig, but sometimes it's best to try new things out on yourself before subjecting anyone else to them.

So I went in the kitchen and started deciding what I would throw into my saag paneer.  First I sauteed some spinach with onions, garlic, jalapeno, ginger, diced tomatoes and spices.  Next, I pan-fried the paneer cubes to give them some texture.  And then I threw them all together with turmeric, garam masala, ground roasted cumin seeds, cinnamon, ground coriander, s&p.  I'm not sure which (if any) of those spices traditionally go in saag paneer, but one of my favorite things about Indian food is the variety of spices used.  And when I did some brief online research to decide exactly what I should throw into my saag paneer, it seemed like you could throw in pretty much everything and call it saag paneer, so long as you used spinach and paneer.  So I took a little artistic license.  I pretty much started throwing things into the pan willy-nilly (including a heaping tablespoon of cilantro chutney I had made this morning) and what resulted from my experimentation far exceeded my expectations.  The sauteed spinach mixture was delicious!  It probably didn't taste anything like saag paneer is "supposed" to taste, but that's just fine with me! 

Recipe after the jump!

Parmesan Crusted Baked Zucchini Sticks with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

In the past 2 years I have developed an obsessed with fried zucchini.  I'm not sure when fried zucchini first started showing up on restaurant menus, but now I order it almost anytime I see it.  One of my favorite versions of fried zucchini is served at Harriet's - a small takeout burger place on the UWS.  They serve the fried zucchini sticks with a creamy horseradish sauce that is just amazing.  Most restaurants (and bars) serve their fried zucchini sticks with marinara sauce, which is also tasty, but nowhere near as good as Harriet's creamy horseradish sauce.  For the record, I also don't find my attempt at creamy horseradish sauce to be as good as Harriet's, but it's a work in progress.  While I enjoy horseradish sauce on prime rib, it never would have occurred to me to pair it with zucchini until Harriet's.

After one miserable attempt at baked zucchini sticks of my own (I cut them too thin so by the time the breading had browned the insides of the zucchini were mush), I stumbled across a few recipes for baked zucchini sticks.  I took the one that seemed the most promising and whipped myself up some baked zucchini sticks crusted in Parmigiano-Reggiano and panko bread crumbs.  Yum.  While it's not quite the same as the deep-fried version (because lighter versions of our favorite fattening foods never are), it is a wonderful version that I can make at home and not feel guilty about eating.

Recipes after the jump!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Winter Caprese Salad

While I have already posted this recipe in My Favorite Recipes of 2009 post, I thought I would post a picture of the lunch I made myself earlier this week.  One of my absolute favorite dishes to eat during the summer when tomatoes are at their best, is insalata caprese (tomato mozzarella salad).  If I had access to beautiful heirloom tomatoes, basil and good quality fresh mozzarella year round, I would eat a simple tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil salad all year round with thick slices of juicy tomato, torn basil leaves, and soft creamy mozzarella drizzled simply with some good quality evoo, s&p.  Unfortunately, come November the tomatoes at the grocery store are about generally as appetizing as cardboard.  They can be terribly mealy, and even worse - they have absolutely no flavor.  And then they stay that way until early summer.  Yuck.

That is one reason I think this recipe is pure genius.  By slow roasting Roma or plum tomatoes for 2 hours you concentrate their flavor into something delicious, even if it's not quite the same as a fresh juicy heirloom tomato picked at its prime.  And since basil isn't exactly at its best either during the winter, you turn it into a simple pesto sauce with Parmigiano-Reggiano, garlic, and evoo.  Then you top the whole dish with some buttery toasted pine nuts.  Yum.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

Tonight was a two for the price of one type deal.  A two-fer.  Since we made two distinct dishes, I figured each deserved its own post.
To go with our dumplings we needed some sort of Chinese side dish.  The first thing I pulled out of the fridge that seemed appropriate was the Japanese eggplant, so that was easy enough.  We didn't have any ground pork, so I couldn't make Fish Fragrant Eggplant from Fuschia Dunlop's Land of Plenty Sichuan cookbook (which really is much tastier than it sounds), but I found this recipe in The Shun Lee Cookbook, which seemed promising.  

Since I only had 2 eggplants left, I halved the recipe and had to play with it a bit to avoid what the cookbook calls "passing through."  Passing through is an important technique used in Sichuan cooking whereby an ingredient (usually a meat) is cooked very briefly in a pool of hot vegetable oil in a screaming hot wok before being removed from the wok.  To finish cooking the meat, almost all of the oil is poured from the wok and the remaining oil is used to create the sauce.  The meat is then thrown back into the wok, where it is stir-fried in the sauce.  And there you have "passing through."  As I mentioned in a previous post, I hate deep-frying things, and passing through is just another form of deep frying.  I just don't know what to do with all of the leftover oil!  Instead of cooking my eggplant that way, I quickly roasted it in the oven and then threw it in the wok with the sauce.  Granted, the texture would have been much silkier if I had just sucked it up and done the whole "passing through" bit, but what can you do?  The eggplant was still delicious.  If you want the real recipe with the instructions for "passing through" the eggplant, you can leave me a comment here and I will post it.

Recipe after the jump!

Shrimp and Scallion Dumplings

I love dumplings - boiled, steamed, or pan-fried.  I love eating them, I just don't particularly like making them (although every time it does get a little easier/better).  Usually when we try to make dumplings we end up making a HUGE mess of the kitchen.  I am talking flour and filling all over the place, and stuck under my nails.  Gross.  And we usually end up with at least a few dumplings that weren't sealed properly and thus explode in our pot of simmering water.  I don't know if that has ever happened to any of you, but it isn't pretty.  The same thing tends to happen when we try to make ravioli, which means that we give dumplings and ravioli a shot about once a year each - maybe twice if we're feeling really ambitious.  That is actually kind of sad considering we almost always have wonton skins in the freezer, which makes it all so much easier.

I've actually been thinking about buying Andrea Nguyen's new cookbook, Asian Dumplings, for awhile now but seeing as we make dumplings so infrequently, it just seems like a waste of good shelf space.  Then again, if we had a book full of delicious dumpling recipes we would probably try at least a few of the recipes out this year...

Speaking of dumpling recipes, I have been dying to make these shrimp and scallion dumplings ever since I saw the recipe in Gourmet last year.  I think I actually emailed the recipe to myself 3 times from Gourmet's website.  Side note - have I mentioned recently how absolutely bummed I am that Gourmet didn't make it through 2009?  I really loved that magazine.  Anyway, these are some delicious dumplings.  We usually make pork and chive dumplings, but I figured we should try something new this evening.  These dumplings were much lighter than our usual pork dumplings, and were just as flavorful.  Maybe this will be our year of the dumpling!

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lemongrass Pork Chops over Rice

One dish that I see at nearly every Vietnamese restaurant I have ever been to is grilled lemongrass pork, served either with rice or rice vermicelli noodles (bun).  Bun thit nuong cha gio (rice vermicelli with spring roll & grilled pork) is one of my very favorite Vietnamese dishes, so I decided to try and replicate it here with some small changes.  The biggest change is that I don't have any rice vermicelli noodles, and neither did the grocery store across the street from our apartment.  Oh well.  I am also omitting the cha gio (spring rolls) because I hate deep frying things.  You end up with oil splatters all over the kitchen and I never know how to dispose of the leftover frying oil.  I refuse to pour it down the drain, but what do you do with a cup of used oil?  Another change I made was to use boneless center-cut pork chops (which I cut in half and then pounded thin) instead of thinly sliced pork tenderloin, pork shoulder or pork butt.

I was very surprised that my go-to Vietnamese cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:  Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavor by Andrea Nguyen, didn't have a recipe for bun thit nuong or for grilled lemongrass pork.  But it did have a recipe for lemongrass pork riblets and a recipe for bun thit bo xao (rice vermicelli with stir-fried beef), both of which I decided to adapt to suit me.  I stole the ingredients and proportions she used for her marinade (although I didn't grind them with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor like her recipe instructed) and used them to marinate my pork chops overnight in the fridge.  Then I used her rice vermicelli with stir-fried beef recipe to prepare the fresh herb salad that is served with the pork.  I also used her recipe for nuoc cham (basic Vietnamese dipping sauce based heavily on fish sauce).

The flavor of the pork chop was wonderful.  But in the future I will either buy thin cut pork chops (instead of buying 1-inch plus thick pork chops and then having to pound them thin, and then have them plump back up in the marinade), or I will try this with pork tenderloin (or another cut of pork).  Another wonderful sounding option is to use the marinade on a piece of flank or skirt steak.  Alex came up with the steak option, and I have to admit that it sounds delicious.  I loved the freshness of the herb salad, tossed in a touch of the nuoc cham dipping sauce.  And it bears saying that this is a very nice nuoc cham recipe.  I have never added rice wine vinegar before, but it was delicious.

Recipes after the jump!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Indian Lamb Chops with Curried Cauliflower

After this weekend we have been on an Indian kick.  A few weeks ago I came across this recipe in the January issue of Bon Appetit and decided that I had to try it.  I rarely get the chance to cook lamb, and this looked too good to pass up (with a few modifications of course).  Seeing as we finally have all of the necessary ingredients (our lack of mango chutney had been holding me up), I decided to pull the trigger on the recipe.

I have never tried cooking lamb shoulder blade chops, and in the future I might substitute lamb rib chops, or even a rack of lamb for the shoulder blade chops.  The shoulder blade chops were a little fatty and had lots of bone and other undesirable chewy bits.  Even with the somewhat strange meat choice, this dish was really nice.  The curried cauliflower is seriously delicious.  Alex said that he would serve the curried cauliflower over, or with, any kind of meat, including chicken, beef or lamb.  I think it tastes great with the rich fattiness of lamb, but would also be delicious as a side dish on its own.  This dish would be lovely served with spiced rice.

Recipe after the jump!

Thai Green Curry with Shrimp, Bay Scallops and Calamari

After this weekend's epic grocery shopping trip to the Indian and Korean grocery stores I have been dying to make some green curry.  I had a bag of frozen seafood mix from Trader Joe's in the freezer and all kinds of wonderful Asian produce to throw in.  The one thing that I wanted but didn't have was Thai basil, but regular basil works fine in this too.  So after looking through all of my ingredients I realized that I didn't have a recipe to follow.  The Thai Green Curry with Seafood recipe from a recent issue of Bon Appetit looked ok, but I wanted to use different vegetables.  I wanted to throw in some of the beautiful produce I had purchased yesterday along with a few other things that I found in the pantry and the fridge.  So I looked at a few other curry recipes that I had bookmarked over the years, including this recipe for Jungle Curry with Pork and Thai Eggplant from Gourmet and Nigella Lawson's recipe for Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry.  None of them were really what I was looking for, but as always, I stole things I liked from each recipe and ignored everything else.

This curry has a great spice level to it.  It isn't "Thai spicy", but it is spicier than I know a lot of my friends would be able to eat.  The rice does a lot to soak up the spice on your palate but this curry isn't for wimps.  I would actually be perfectly happy to leave the seafood out of the curry because the vegetables were my favorite part as they soaked up the most flavor from the curry broth.  Next time I think I will try it with fresh shrimp, scallops and mussels and see if that changes my mind at all.  I am glad I decided to use the Asian eggplant, zucchini and baby corn in the recipe because they were all delicious.  If I had been in the mood to use red curry paste instead of green, I might have thrown in a few cubes of fresh pineapple for a little sweetness.  My one complaint about this curry is that it did turn out rather soupy.  I have changed my recipe to cut down a bit on the amount of liquid.

Recipe after the jump!

Korean Squash (or Zucchini) Frittata

I generally make this frittata with zucchini, but since I had some cute little round Korean squash in the fridge I decided to use those instead.  Korean squash taste a lot like zucchini, but are a bit more delicate.  I can't taste the difference between the two when used in a frittata like this but maybe you can.  The inspiration for this frittata came from a zucchini and zucchini blossom frittata that I had at The Spotted Pig in summer 2008.  Zucchini blossoms are only in season for a brief period of time during the summer, so I have adapted this recipe to leave them out entirely.  I play with the recipe from time to time (for example, this time I was out of ricotta cheese, so I threw in some nonfat Greek yogurt instead), but there are a few constants: fresh mint, fresh thyme, ricotta salata, and zucchini.  Most zucchini frittata recipes use basil instead of mint, but I just can't get over how amazing the mint tastes with the zucchini in this frittata.

What I love about this frittata, aside from the interplay between the mint, the ricotta salata, and the zucchini, is that it is the perfect balance between egg and filling.  Sometimes I feel like you order a frittata and all you get is this massive pillow of egg with very little filling.  On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes you get a dessicated egg pancake with a ton of filling.  My recipe is on the thinner side as frittatas go, but I find that if I make the frittata much thicker it doesn't cook evenly and you end up with an eggy mess that is brown on the outsides but a little runny in the center.
Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A perfect Saturday afternoon

When I first moved to NYC I lived in Murray Hill/Gramercy.  The area itself was ok, but I vastly prefer my current neighborhood.  The one thing I really miss about my old neighborhood was its proximity to Curry Hill - a stretch of Lexington Avenue between 27th and 30th Streets.  There were two things that I loved about Curry Hill, Kalustyans and all of the great Indian restaurants.  Since Alex and I had no plans today, and the MTA seriously screwed up our original lunch plans by doing construction on both the downtown 1 line and the 7 line to Flushing, we decided to head down to Curry Hill to have some Indian for a late lunch.  

I poked around online briefly and the one place that sounded the most interesting to me was a restaurant named Dhaba that didn't open until over a year after I moved away from the area.  Dhaba focuses on Northern Indian cuisine and after reading this review from the New York Times I knew exactly what I wanted to order.  We started with the Tale Huay Kaju (spiced cashews, black pepper, chaat masala), then gorged ourselves on Dahiwala Murgh (white meat chicken, yogurt, fresh coriander, onions, bay leaf, black cadamom),  Kadai Goat (goat, onions, bell peppers, dry kastoori meth, ginger), the chili-onion naan, missi roti, and basmati rice.  Several hours later I am still unspeakably full, but man was it worth it.  The cashews were the perfect start to our meal - light and buttery, with the perfect blend of spices, cilantro, onion and green peppers.  The chicken was light and creamy, with easily distinguished notes of coriander (aka cilantro) and cardamom.  It was also incredibly moist.  The goat was very tender, which is unusual for goat.  I usually find goat to be tough and stringy.  The sauce for the goat was warm and a touch spicy.  The chili-onion naan was awesome dipped in either sauce.  I wish more restaurants added chili-onion naan to their menus!  The roti was nothing to write home about - the texture reminded me of a cross between a rather dry pancake and a johnny cake.  And the taste was nothing special.  As for the basmati rice, it wasn't as light and fluffy as I would have liked.  Instead it was topped with a spoonful of peas and some cumin seeds.  But who needs basimati rice and roti when you can stuff yourself with other things?  Since I am too embarrassed to lug my big DSLR to restaurants and whip it out to take pictures of the food, you guys are going to have to satisfy yourselves with some mediocre pictures I took on my little point and shoot in rather dim lighting.  Sorry about that.

More after the jump!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Simple Roast Cauliflower and Roast Brussels Sprouts

Sometimes the best meals come from the humblest beginnings.  And sometimes, simpler really is better.  I don't know about you, but when I first started out cooking I always assumed that the more ingredients a recipe had, the better it would taste.  It is only in the past year or two that I am realizing that a few killer ingredients can make a much better tasting dish than a gazillion ingredients thrown in willy-nilly.  Obviously, there are some exceptions.  You cannot get the depth of flavor in a really good curry without galangal, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk and a host of other ingredients.  But when you are roasting a vegetable or a really nice steak, simple is key.  

Recently I have been obsessed with roasting vegetables in a cast iron pan.  It all started when I stumbled across Simply Recipe's Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  I just started branching out from only cooking meat in the cast iron and I only wish I had made that leap years ago.  Vegetables roasted in a cast iron are amazing.
My favorite thing about roasting the cauliflower in the cast iron is that it gets wonderfully sweet.  And roasting it in thick slices, rather than in florets is genius because you get more caramelization across the whole surface of the cauliflower.  Whenever I try to roast florets of cauliflower I get caramelization in places and then end up with some of the florets burnt to a crisp.  There is a fine line between caramelized and cinder.  The one thing I don't like about the whole slice of roasted cauliflower is the stem.  It gets a little mushy and has a strange texture.  But there is an easy solution to that problem - just don't eat that part! 
Roasting brussels sprouts in the cast iron turns them nutty, crunchy and delicious.  The lemon juice gives them a little zing, the pecans add even more crunch, and the Parmigiano-Reggiano gives the brussels a wonderful saltiness.  Yum.  Whenever I used to roast brussels sprouts I used to throw in bacon, onion, garlic, evoo, cheese, etc.  No longer.  From here on out I am simple all the way.

Recipes after the jump!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quinoa with Spiced Zucchini

From the most recent posts on my blog you might think that I am trying out being vegetarian.  I guess after a few very heavy, meaty meals (like my cheeseburger the other night, which while delicious was a whopping 870 plus calories according to the nutritional facts chain restaurants are required to post in NYC), I can't help but feel the need to throw a few more fruits and vegetables into my diet.  And I love fruits and vegetables, but who honestly gets the recommended number of servings a day?  I certainly don't, although not for lack of trying.  I ate an Asian pear and an orange today, in addition to a few servings of zucchini, and considered that quite the accomplishment

Today for lunch I was looking in the refrigerator and the only thing I found that truly looked appealing to me was zucchini.  Now during the summer I buy tons of squash of all varieties from the various farmer's markets around the city.  Pattypan squash, zucchini, summer squash, crookneck squash - you name it, I have purchased it.  And then I end up trying to devise ways to use all of the lovely squash sitting in my refrigerator.  One of my favorite ways to use squash is to make Barbara Kingsolver's Disappearing Zucchini Orzo from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Her recipe of grated zucchini mixed with onion, orzo, fresh herbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano is far more than the sum of its parts.  If I had children I would think that dish would be the ultimate way to sneak some zucchini into their diets without them either knowing, or caring.  Another favorite zucchini recipe is the Red Cat Zucchini I mentioned in my "Favorite Recipes of 2009" post.  I have also tried making various frittata, pasta and couscous recipes featuring squash.  April Bloomfield actually makes a delicious squash and squash blossom frittata at The Spotted Pig with mint and ricotta salata that I have tried to replicate several times.  One thing I always mean to do with squash, but never quite get around to, is baking.  I actually purchased the zucchini that I used for my lunch today because I wanted to make a chocolate zucchini cake, but somehow they were just languishing away in the fridge.  After my baking binge of the last few weeks I feel the need to take at least another week off before attempting another cake.

This recipe was a play on a couscous recipe from the September 2005 issue of Gourmet I made awhile ago.  Somehow I wasn't in the mood for couscous today and I wanted quinoa, so I adapted the recipe to use quinoa instead.  There is something about the texture of quinoa that I really like and it always makes me sad that I rarely think to make quinoa.  While couscous is rather bland on its own, quinoa has its own wonderful nuttiness that I was craving.  I had to play with the amount of spices, etc. because I find that couscous picks up flavors quicker and easier (due to that blandness) than quinoa does.  All things considered, I count this recipe to be a wonderful (mostly) vegetarian success since I did use chicken stock to cook my quinoa!

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spicy Peanut Noodles

These noodles are another one of my quick and easy weeknight meals.  I have found several peanut or sesame noodle recipes and tinkered with them until I came up with this one, which I think has the perfect blend of spiciness, peanutty-ness and just a touch of sweetness.  When I was growing up my mother always made cold sesame noodles for every potluck I went to.  She tossed in cooked shredded chicken breast, shredded snow peas, shredded carrots, chopped peanuts and a few other things depending what was in the fridge.  While I love her cold sesame noodles as a lunch or potluck option, I rarely find them sufficient by themselves for dinner.  For dinner I usually want something warm - particularly in the winter when it is cold outside.

From beginning to end these noodles take less than 30 minutes, which is fabulous on a Wednesday night in the middle of a busy week.  You can also add whatever vegetables you happen to have around the house.  Tonight we used fresh shitake mushrooms and tofu.  I felt the need to do a nice vegetarian meal this evening after pigging out on a big fat cheeseburger from Five Guys last night for dinner.  Usually if I have red bell peppers, carrots or snow peas I shred them or slice thinly and throw them in when I toss the noodles with the sauce, but the fridge was a little barren this week.  Anyway, the beauty of a recipe like this is that you can feel free to add whatever you want to your noodles.  Get creative!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Spicy "Fried" Chicken Cutlets with Honey-Tabasco Sauce

Back in November Alex and I went to WD-50 for the first time.  Everything was very interesting and very good, but one of our favorite things was the Cold Fried Chicken with Buttermilk Ricotta, Tabasco and Caviar.  The Tabasco was in a pool of buttery sauce served next to the chicken (which incidentally was cooked sous-vide then topped with crispy breadcrumbs and not actually fried).  I can't remember how the server described the sauce, or exactly how it tasted, but I remember it being both tangy and hot from the Tabasco, and sweet from the honey.  It was divine.  Before then when I made my "Fried" Chicken Cutlets I would serve them with a tangy honey mustard sauce, but this Tabasco and honey sauce just blew any form of honey mustard sauce out of the water.  

So a month after we went to WD-50 I decided to try to recreate the sauce to go with a new variation on my chicken cutlets.  I marinated the chicken in buttermilk, grated garlic, a touch of dijon mustard, and a healthy dose of Tabasco.  Then I breaded it and baked it in the oven on top of a cooling rack.  I have to credit for the idea to bake the chicken like that to The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.  Such a great idea!  The bread crumbs stayed nice and crispy, without getting all soggy on the bottom if you baked it, or falling off when you tried to flip it while sauteing.  And I served the chicken drizzled with my new favorite honey Tabasco sauce.  Delicious.  I serve this chicken with a simple arugula salad tossed with a light lemony vinaigrette, but I think it would be fabulous served with just about anything.

Recipes after the jump!

Almondy Citrusy Olive Oil Cake

Olive oil sounds like such a weird thing to put in a cake (or in any dessert for that matter).  But after having tried the olive oil gelato from Otto I knew that done right, olive oil in desserts can be AMAZING.  Just trust me.  If you don't trust me, then go ahead and Google "Otto olive oil gelato" and be prepared to read all of the bloggers' crazily rhapsodic accounts of their first taste of Otto's olive oil gelato.  And yes, it really is that good.

So this weekend I decided that I wanted to make an olive oil cake.  Why not come up with a baking project for the 3-day weekend?  At first I was going to make an upside-down pear cake, but considering I made the cake with Asian pears just last week, I figured I needed to do something different.  Like all good little bloggers I started searching the internet and my bookshelf for inspiration.  First I stumbled across this Almond Olive Oil Cake from Gina DePalma (Babbo's pastry chef).  But that was out because I don't have any almond flour, plus I am not sure about the whole glaze thing.  Then on the bookshelf in The Babbo Cookbook I found their Olive Oil and Fresh Rosemary Cake.  But I am out of fresh rosemary.  As a side note, the Babbo cookbook also has the recipe for that amazing olive oil gelato that I talked about above, but there is no room in my NYC kitchen for a gelato/ice cream machine.  Blast.  Similarly, Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook has a recipe for Olive Oil and Orange Cake, but I don't have 6 oranges on hand to zest and juice.  Then I remembered that a long time ago I bookmarked Giada's Almond Citrus Olive Oil Cake recipe.  I had yet to make it because I just wasn't sure about the citrus compote that goes with it.  However, the recipe itself seemed like a good base for my cake recipe and after reading most of the other cake recipes I came to the conclusion that I could just make the cake without the compote and serve it like that. 

As all olive cakes tend to be, this is more of a savory cake than a sweet one.  If you want to make it sweeter, feel free to add a bit more sugar or honey.  Better yet, serve the cake with some nice vanilla gelato.  Then you get the savory warm cake and the sweet cold gelato together.  Yum.  One last option that I might recommend (and I never thought I would say this) is to prepare a lemony glaze like in Gina DePalma's recipe, instead of just sifting powdered sugar on top.  The glaze should run down into the cake and make it both sweeter and a bit moister.  I however am a fan of the sugary-salty blend with desserts so the savoriness of the cake is very appealing to me.  Either way, the cake has a wonderful crumb and is neither too moist, nor too crumbly.  It really would make a delicious breakfast or snack with a cup of tea.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Must try restaurants for 2010

So I saw a post on Chowhound the other day where various people were discussing their must-try restaurants for 2010.  It got me thinking - where do I really want to go in 2010?  I have already been to a good number of restaurants all over NYC, but there are always more to try.  Some of the more notable restaurants I tried for the first time this past year included WD-50, Momofuku Ko, Falai, Scarpetta, Fatty Crab UWS, Luke's Lobster, Little Owl, and Volt (while not in NYC it definitely deserves a mention).  Other restaurants that I tried, but wasn't as thrilled by included A Voce Columbus and DovetailConsidering all the hype about both of them I was really expecting more.

In 2010 there are a TON of restaurants I want to try (as always), but if I were to name 10 restaurants (in no particular order) that I am dying to try in NYC, my list would include:
  1. Marea
  2. Ma Peche
  3. Locanda Verde
  4. Prune
  5. Co.
  6. La Superior
  7. Per Se
  8. Eleven Madison Park
  9. Sripraphai
  10. Le Bernadin
Runners up include: Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing; Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria (with Nate Appleman at the helm); Back Forty; Xi'an Famous Foods (either in Flushing or the new outpost in Chinatown); Yakitori Totto; Vinegar Hill House; Minetta Tavern; Aldea; Convivio; Fetta Sau; and Roberta's.

    Breakfast - It's What's for Dinner

    I don't think I am alone in loving the whole breakfast for dinner thing when I am feeling too lazy to make dinner.  Breakfasts are usually lighter and quicker to prepare than making dinner.  Often cooking is a two day process for me that starts with defrosting a protein, marinating, roasting, preparing some sort of side, etc.  And sometimes, I just don't have the energy.  

    After a long weekend of gorging myself I really wanted something light to eat.  I was thinking vegetarian, but my husband is a huge lover of all things pork so I decided to throw some prosciutto in what was supposed to be an omelet.  He doesn't particularly love mushrooms so I thought that would be a fair trade.  Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of either overstuffing my omelets until they explode, or trying to make omelets that are too big for me to flip successfully so that I end up with a saute pan full of eggy mess.  Tonight I ran into the latter problem.  Oops.  No matter, this dinner works equally well as an eggy mess topped with the sauteed mushrooms and arugula!  An omelet looks prettier, but as far as taste is concerned it makes absolutely no difference.  Alex keeps telling me that I should just make smaller individual sized omelets rather than trying to make 1 bigger omelet for two and I know I should, but I keep trying anyway.

    Anyway, my favorite endorsement from Alex (or from myself for that matter) is that a dish restaurant-worthy and I truly think this one is.  I would order this dish for brunch and pay a good $12 for it and be very happy.  Those oyster mushrooms from the Greenmarket were really the star - lightly sauteed with shallots, garlic, fresh thyme and lemon zest.  After this meal Alex might even be a mushroom convert!

    Recipe after the jump!

    Wonderful MLK weekend

    This weekend I was lucky enough to have friends in town so I didn't get to do any cooking or baking (sad), but I did get to eat lots of yummy food.  Over the course of the weekend we hit Fatty Crab UWS, Vanessa's Dumplings in Chinatown, Craftbar and Momofuku Milk Bar.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to take pictures of most of it and the pictures I did take didn't do the food justice.  Oh well.  

    Among the tastiest things we ate this weekend were: 
    • Our old standbys at Fatty Crab (the pork belly and watermelon pickle salad, wonton mee, and steamed buns with pork) and a new addition - the lamb shoulder roti, although they need to give you more bread to sop up the lamb juices with;
    • The pork and chive fried dumplings from Vanessa's Dumplings;
    • The sesame pancake with roast pork from Vanessa's Dumplings;
    • The cornflake-chocolate chip marshmallow cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar (pictured above); and
    • The Spanish Octopus with fingerling potatoes and lemon puree at Craftbar - which might actually be the most tender octopus I have ever eaten.
    More after the jump!

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Semi-Old-Fashioned Asian Pear Star Anise Cake

    I looked in the fridge the other day and realized that I have a ridiculous number of apples and pears in there - far more than Alex and I could or would eat in the next few weeks.  So the obvious solution was to try to make with some of them.  The honeycrisp apples I will eat on their own, so there was no need to bake those.  Aside from them I had red Anjou pears, green Bartlett pears, Asian pears, and Granny Smith apples.  The obvious choice was to make an apple pie or apple crisp, but for some reason Alex doesn't like either of those.  Plus I have a ton more pears than apples, so why not use pears instead.  I started looking around and stumbled upon Ming Tsai's Cranberry-Asian Pear Star Anise Cake, which looked  really interesting, but far too complicated.  Then I saw Cele's Old-Fashioned Pear Cake recipe on 101 Cookbooks, which looked very simple but perhaps wasn't as interesting.  So I decided to come up with something that used similar flavors as Ming Tsai's recipe, but Cele's batter.  Sounds easy enough, right?  I am going to call my creation my Semi-Old-Fashioned Asian Pear Star Anise Cake as a nod to the two recipes where I found my inspiration.

    There is something glorious about the smell of baked goods with unusual spices like star anise, cardamom and five spice in the batter.  While the aroma of baked goods is always wonderful, there is something spicier and more luscious about the smell of cakes in the oven with a healthy dose of star anise in them.  It kind of reminds me of the smell of apple cider versus mulled wine simmering on the stove.  Both smell wonderful but the extra kick of the allspice and other mulling spices in the wine just take it up a notch.

    One of my favorite things about this cake is the light and clean flavor of the Asian pears, combined with the flavor of the star anise.  Also, the cake is wonderfully light and crumbly.  I do love a moist cake, but the texture of this cake is almost scone like - lighter and fluffier than your average cake.  It makes for a nice departure from some of the heavier cakes I have tried recently, particularly when served with some Haagen Dazs Five Ginger Ice Cream.  Also, since this cake is only lightly sweetened and the texture is scone-like, it would make a delicious breakfast with a nice steaming mug of tea.  Yes tea, not coffee.  I might be one of the few people left on Earth who don't drink coffee.  But I suppose the cake would make an equally lovely breakfast with a cup of coffee, if I were so inclined.

    Speaking of ice cream, I discovered that making quenelles is WAY harder than the people on Top Chef make it look.  Alex and I were shooting ice cream all over the kitchen.  So pardon our lame presentation - we tried! 

    Recipe after the jump!

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Bistecca Fiorentina a la Vicki

    Traditionally, Bistecca Fiorentina is made with porterhouse or T-bone steaks.  But recently, I had a version of Bistecca Fiorentina at a restaurant on the UWS called Celeste (which incidentally, is a great restaurant - aside from the cash only policy) made with a seared well-marbled ribeye over arugula.  Now I typically enjoy NY strips (aka shell steak) more than ribeyes and what do you know - I just happened to have two beautiful bone-in NY strips sitting in the freezer.  Sometimes life is good.  And while I don't have a grill to cook my steaks, I have a nice cast iron skillet, which I am convinced might very well be better.

    I love a nice medium-rare steak.  I mean, I love a good steak in general, but for me medium-rare is totally the way to go.  When I was at college I worked at a steakhouse and nothing bothered me more than when people would order a beautiful steak and then ruin it by cooking it well-done.  Well-done?!?!  Why bother paying good money for a piece of gnarled shoe leather?  But that's just me.  My mother, like most Asians, is a lover of all meats cooked to at least medium-well.  Oh well.  What can you do?  At least I talked her down from ordering her steaks well-done to medium-well.

    In a concession to healthy-eating, which isn't much of a sacrifice since I really do love a good arugula salad, I have started serving steak salads instead of big hunks of meat with potatoes, or another starch.  I like to at least pretend that way that I am eating healthy.  It's just a salad, right?  When I am in the mood for steak salad, I generally make Steak with Parmesan Butter, Balsamic Glaze, and Arugula.  It is a recipe that I pulled from Bon Appetit a few years ago and genuinely enjoy, but this time I wasn't in the mood for the sweet balsamic glaze.  And in a nod to being healthy, I decided to forgo the Parmesan butter as well.  But, since I am nice, I will post both recipes and you can decide which recipe to try!  My recipe is a little simpler and lighter, the other is sweeter and a bit more complex.  Take your pick!
    Recipes after the jump!

    Roasted Parsnips with Mint

    Going to the grocery store, or the farmer's market, is dangerous for me.  More often than not, I come home with a completely and utterly random ingredient that I then have to figure out how to cook.  In the past I have purchased squash blossoms, lovely purple cauliflower, beets, rhubarb and sugar snap peas this way.  This week my random purchase was parsnips.  Then I was flipping though The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor last night and stumbled upon their recipe for Roasted Parsnips with Mint.

    I have to post this with the caveat that I have never cooked parsnip before.  Actually, I don't think I have ever eaten parsnip before - except in purees.  I feel like parsnip and sunchoke purees are now the de rigeur things to serve with your saddle of lamb or any other hunk of rich meat.  And in that preparation I really like parsnip.  Same goes with parsnip soup.  In this preparation?  To be honest, I'm not so sure.  Somehow the parsnips became a little oilier than I liked and the flavor of the mint and the parsnip didn't quite seem to gel.  I also thought that the parsnips would get a little sweeter as I roasted them.  Granted, we didn't get quite as much caramelization as I would like (even though we roasted the parsnips 7 minutes longer than the recipe dictated).  So I have modified the recipe in my post to reflect how I wish I had prepared the parsnips this time.

    If anyone else has any luck with the recipe, or any suggestions on how to cook parsnips in the future, please let me know!  I am always on the hunt for new recipes, or new tips!  Perhaps next time I will try a parsnip soup...

    Recipe after the jump!

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Chicken "Chili" with Hominy and Buttery Cornbread

    I'm not sure whether or not I can legitimately call this a chili recipe, since it has no beans in it and no chili powder, but that's what it reminds me of so that is what I am going to call it.  Alex and I both have head colds right now and in my congested stupor all I could think of was chicken soup - chicken chili in particular.  But I didn't like any of the chili recipes I kept coming across, nor did I have any canellini or navy beans that I had soaked overnight to make a chicken chili.  Enter plan B.  I figure soup is one of the best vehicles for using up random produce or canned goods, and I always have a ton of random produce and canned goods.  So I climbed up on the counter to see what was in my cabinets (I admit, the top shelf is a pipe dream for me if I'm standing on the ground - the only way for me to see what is up there is to climb up on the counter like a little kid) and started pulling everything down I thought I could work with.  That included a large can of white hominy, a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, chicken stock, and various spices.  Then in the fridge I had two bone-in skin-on chicken breast halves, garlic, scallions, cilantro, limes, and a bag of frozen yellow sweet corn. Perfect!

    The chicken chili was great - perfect since it is once again freezing outside.  It definitely makes the list as one of my favorite soups I have made.  And with the addition of several teaspoons of Tabasco, it did a great job of temporarily clearing my sinuses up.  Unlike a lot of chilis, it wasn't overly heavy (which is something I usually attribute to the surplus of beans used in most chili recipes).  Instead, with the addition of corn, hominy, cilantro, lime and tomatoes, the chili was very fresh.  While San Marzano tomatoes aren't the tomatoes usually used in chili recipes, their slight sweetness went very well in this soup.  Maybe next time I will try one of the cans of tomatoes with chilis, etc. already mixed in, but then again, probably not.  I really liked the San Marzano tomatoes in here.

    Nothing appeals to me more with a bowl of chili than a nice piece of cornbread.  And as far as cornbread goes, it has to be moist and a little on the sweet side.  Biting into a dried out hunk of cornbread is terribly sad.  Our last few experiments with cornbread haven't been the best, but I knew we were on the right track.  I wanted to try to replicate the cornbread they serve at Momofuku Milk Bar, only cornbread with white cheddar, caramelized onions and apples didn't quite seem appropriate with chicken chili.  Oh well, there's always next time.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Saturday, January 9, 2010

    Spot Dessert Bar

    On my way to brunch at Paprika in the East Village (which is delicious and super affordable), I walked past Spot Dessert Bar on St. Marks.  I knew I had to stop by to pick up some dessert.  And boy am I glad that I did.  I grabbed two cookies (chocolate mint and a coconut macaroon with nutella and almonds) and two cupcakes (vanilla caramel Vietnamese coffee and mocha Maldon salt caramel) and brought them home to Alex.  We devoured all of it in less than 5 minutes.  

    Details after the jump!

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Scallion (or Sesame) Pancake Roll-Ups

    This recipe is another one of my favorite quick and easy weeknight meals.  I got the idea from a place down by NYU called Kati Roll.  At Kati Roll they serve a variety of different meats rolled up in Indian flat bread (aka paratha).  My favorite roll is the Unda Chicken, in which they put marinated chicken, a thin layer of scrambled egg, various herbs, red onion, and some hot sauce upon request.  It is delicious.  Since I don't have paratha at hand, but I often have frozen scallion pancakes in the freezer, I have made a more Chinese version of the my favorite Unda Chicken kati roll.

    Generally I use whatever leftover meats I have at hand, although sometimes I whip up some five spice duck breasts to throw in there.  Those are probably my favorite, although some leftover skirt or flank steak is fabulous too.  I also make a vegetarian version with scallions, cilantro and thinly sliced red onion from time to time.  The one I made today was vegetarian because the fridge is rather empty at the moment.  This recipe is incredibly easy to customize because the only real requirements are the frozen scallion or sesame pancakes and an egg or two.  You can by frozen scallion pancakes at almost any Asian market, although I don't see the sesame ones quite as often.  I actually prefer the scallion pancakes, but since the sesame ones were on sale the last time I picked up one of those too.

    As a side dish I served a lazy knock off of the apple kimchi they serve at Momofuku Ssam.  I have the recipe in the cookbook, but I am too lazy to cook up bacon and whip up maple labne on a regular basis.  As a side dish, this works just as well and takes no time. 

    Recipes after the jump!

    The 2010 Saveur 100 List

    So I'm not sure what the process is for deciding what makes the 2010 Saveur 100 List, but I think it's awesome.  After reading through it I can't wait to hit Arthur Avenue (#19), which I have been meaning to visit since I moved to the city but somehow I haven't made it there yet!  I am also dying to try Sichuan Dipping Salt (#5), Crispy Pata (#27), Ssam Jang (#57) - which has been on my grocery list for weeks for my next shopping trip to Koreatown, Temptation Barrel-Aged Ale (#63), Olive Oil Tortas (#69), and Lingham's Hot Sauce (#93).  And I am now researching cooking classes to take at Astor Center (#68) - perhaps the Cuisine of Southern India or Rose Petals and Saffron: Hands on Cooking with the Flavors of the Persian TableEven more impressive, the list actually made me want to visit Wisconsin (#91) , which up until now was not on my foodie radar at all.

    I just wish that more of the restaurants and foods were located nearby on the East Coast, rather than across the country (or around the world) where I can't get to them!

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Roman Egg Drop Soup (Stracciatella alla Romana)

    So after a nice break for the holidays, work has gotten CRAZY again, which means that I have far less time for cooking than I would like.  It also means that I am going a little stir-crazy.  Tonight was laundry night and the puppy kept trying to steal my socks, so I decided the obvious response was to make him wear the socks.  And a tshirt.  Strangely enough, he seemed to like it.  But that's entirely beside the point.  

    Being so crazy busy also means that I am falling back on my roster of quick and easy weeknight meals, plus some judiciously ordered takeout, in order to survive.  So I apologize in advance if I don't get around to posting as much as I have been for the past few weeks in the weeks to come.  I guess I could always lock myself in the kitchen all weekend, but I think we all know that isn't going to happen.  Hopefully things will slow down after MLK weekend and I will be able to try out some more new recipes.  In the interim, I hope you enjoy some of my quick and dirty meals.

    One of my favorite quick and easy weeknight meals has already been posted - my mom's Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup.  Another of my favorite soup recipes is this Italian egg drop soup recipe from Mario Batali.  It is on the table from start to finish in 20 minutes and requires ingredients that are always in my pantry, and should always be in any moderately well-stocked pantry.

    I generally serve it with a baguette, or other bread that I picked up at the grocery, and a very simple arugula or spinach salad. 

    Recipe after the jump!

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Korean BBQ-Style Burgers

    I love burgers.  Alex always makes fun of me because I have this unceasing obsession with burgers.  And he thinks that since I have rather "gourmet" tastes otherwise, it's funny that I like burgers as much as I do.  We have tried all kinds of burgers - from Italian-inspired burgers with prosciutto, basil, and mozzarella, to Southwest-inspired burgers with bacon, guac, pickled jalapenos, and monterey jack cheese.  But since I am currently obsessed with The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook and Korean food, we decided to make the Korean BBQ-style Burgers.  We also had a great jar of Mother-in-Law's Kimchi in the fridge that I have been wanting to use so it all just seemed like fate.  Well, it would have seemed more fateful if I hadn't had to make a last minute trip to the grocery to buy hamburger buns, but what can you do?

    Anyway, one of my favorite things about this burger is that it uses flavors traditionally used in Kalbi or Bulgogi marinade and then pairs it with kimchi and quick cucumber pickles - all on a bun.  The burgers were very moist and very flavorful, although when I make them again I might add a pinch or two of Korean red pepper flakes and 1 tsp of salt to the burger mix to give the burgers a bit more spice and heat.  Otherwise, they were delicious.  We served them with my favorite sweet potato fries from Trader Joe's.  Yum.  We also tweaked the recipe a little and since we had some left over mixed vegetable pickles that I made a week ago, instead of making Jaden's quick cucumber carrot pickle from the cookbook, we just thinly sliced some scallion and cucumber and threw it in with the mixed vegetable pickles.  Done deal. 

    Recipe after the jump!

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Recent pumpkin bread baking experiments...

    During the winter - particularly around the holidays - I am all about pumpkin.  I've never been a huge fan of pumpkin pie but I love pumpkin breads and muffins of all shapes and sizes.  My only problem with most pumpkin bread recipes is that they don't often taste as intensely pumpkin-y as I want.  Often I can smell the pumpkin, but the bread just doesn't carry the flavor of the pumpkin and accompanying spices as well as I want.  Recently I have tried out two pumpkin bread recipes, both of which were very moist and wonderfully pumpkin-y.  And then I made up my own!  The first, is a straight-up Spiced Pumpkin Bread from The Foster's Market Cookbook.  For those of you who didn't go to Chapel Hill, you have probably never heard of Foster's but it was one of my favorite hangouts in college.  They had a delicious brunch/breakfast and wonderful salads.  The other pumpkin bread recipe is Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake from Bon Appetit - because sometimes you just have to have chocolate.  Then I decided to try making up a pumpkin bread recipe of my own.  I saw a recipe for Pumpkin Five Spice Sweet Rolls on Coconut and Lime and thought that I had to try out some sort of pumpkin bread with five spice.  I'm half-Asian, why didn't I think of that?  I have to admit that the idea of using five spice in baking had never occurred to me.  I love it in savory applications, but why not bake with it too?  The results?  Totally delicious.  It might actually be my favorite of the three.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Spicy Korean Tofu Stew

    Generally speaking, I'm like a lot of Americans when it comes to tofu.  Well, a lot of Americans don't eat tofu at all, but I am like the majority of tofu-eating Americans.  In theory tofu is a great thing, but I find it awfully hard to cook tofu so that it tastes good.  Theoretically tofu should soak up flavors really well, but I usually end up with these bricks of tofu that might taste good around the perimeter, but with dense and flavorless centers.  And then I can't help thinking that the dish would have been so much better if I hadn't tried to be healthy and had just used meat instead.

    But in the spirit of being a good little half-Asian, I decided to make another attempt - this time with silken tofu, rather than firm or medium.  I found this recipe in The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook, which I picked up at the store recently after being a fan of Jaden's blog for a long time.  Speaking of her blog, she just posted a recipe for the Scarpetta's Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Garlic Basil Oil that I must try.  I actually went to Scarpetta the other day and tried their spaghetti and it is AMAZING - so fresh and tomato-y, but not cloyingly sweet like some simple tomato sauces can be.  Speaking of sweet tomato sauce, when I studied abroad in France they once offered me "cold tomato sauce" to put on my pasta, which turned out to be a bottle of Heinz ketchup.  Ick.  Totally, irrelevant, but still - ick.  But the spaghetti recipe is a post (and a recipe) for another day.

    This stew is nice because you can modify it easily to suit your tastes - add more chili flakes to make it spicier, substitute some enoki and oyster mushrooms for the beef to make it vegetarian, etc. My husband and I threw in 4 tbsp of Korean red chili flakes and it was perfectly spicy, but if you don't like spicy food as much as we do (and this was legitimately spicy), take it down a notch and only add 2-3 tbsp.  We also substituted some thinly sliced skirt steak for what I assume was meant to be raw bulgogi meat (which is generally made with thin slices of sirloin).  Skirt steak is great because it is cheap, and it has some serious flavor.  Either way, this spicy stew was the perfect dinner on a cold New York winter day.  The egg that is boiled in the soup until essentially poached was my absolute favorite part.  So delicious.  But then again, I have a serious thing for runny eggs.  And, I am proud to report that I am now a tofu convert!  At least when using this particular recipe...

    Recipe after the jump.

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

    Ever since I was a little girl, this has been one of my favorite meals that my mom made.  Now that I live in NYC, I make it for myself.  This is my version of my mom's recipe that can be easily modified to suit your own tastes, or to use up whatever produce you happen to have on hand.  I almost always add shitake mushrooms (either fresh or dried - if dried you can soak them with the noodles to rehydrate), cilantro and red onion.  But if you have some leftover bok choy, napa cabbage or bean sprouts they all work fabulously in here too.  Furthermore, if you have been ambitious and have some homemade chicken stock in the freezer then obviously use that in place of the bouillon cubes that I used here.  This is my ghetto pantry version as I rarely have homemade chicken stock on hand.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Turkey Meatloaf

    Growing up with an Asian mother, I managed to miss out on most of the "American classics."  I never tried homemade lasagna, real mashed potatoes (the only kind we ate in my family came from a box of dehydrated potato flakes that you cooked in the microwave), meatloaf, chicken pot pie, or any of the other things my friends ate regularly.  Not all of this was my mother's fault - I had a very picky sibling, and a moderately picky father as well.  My father was actually the reason we never had meatloaf.  Instead, we ate stir fry, Korean bulgogi, Vietnamese summer rolls, fried rice, homemade wonton soup, and pho ga (Vietnamese chicken noodle soup).

    It wasn't until I moved to New York that I started trying to make up for lost time so to speak, and try out some of those American classics that I had missed out on while growing up.  However, I usually end up giving them something of a twist to suit my palate.  For instance, this turkey meatloaf was my attempt to use up a lot of produce in my fridge (a New Year's resolution of sorts), as well as to avoid the normal pitfalls of both turkey and meatloaf.  Turkey is often so dry because it is so lean.  And it also has a tendency to be flavorless.  I wanted something moist and full of flavor.  Meatloaf itself often seems very clunky to me.  I wanted something fresher - full of vegetables and fresh herbs.

    Considering I have never made a turkey meatloaf in my life, I was very pleased with the results of this one.  My one complaint being that I wish it had more of a crust to it.  Maybe next time I will put it under the broiler for a minute or two to get it nice and crusty.  Otherwise, it was incredibly moist, full of flavor, and went wonderfully with the cranberry ketchup.  Usually when I try to substitute turkey for beef in a recipe I end up missing the richness and moistness of the beef, but I didn't miss it here at all.  The turkey was fresh and lovely pared with the vegetables and tartness of the cranberry ketchup.  The picture doesn't do it justice, but then again meatloaf is never pretty.

    I served the meatloaf with watercress that I simply sauteed in evoo with minced garlic, s&p.  Delicious.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    My favorite recipes of 2009

    Happy New Year everyone!  I hope that 2010 is just as exciting and delicious for all of you as 2009 was for me!

    Throughout the year I cooked a lot of recipes from a lot of different sources.  Some were great, some were total flops, but all of them were interesting to make.  Below are my favorite recipes of 2009 - some of which I discovered in 2009 (even if they were published long before 2009), some of which I have been making for years, but are still fan faves.

    My top 10 recipes of 2009 (in no particular order):
    1. Red Cat's Quick Saute of Zucchini
    2. Raspberry Buttermilk Cake (pictured above)
    3. Bucatini All'Amatriciana with Spicy Meatballs
    4. Six-Spice Hanger Steak
    5. Skirt Steak Tacos with Roasted Tomato Salsa
    6. Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices
    7. Kalbi (Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs)
    8. Winter Caprese Salad
    9. Quinoa Caprese
    10. Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Spicy Hoisin Garlic Dipping Sauce
    Recipes for all of these dishes after the jump!

    Cranberry Ketchup

    Ever since I tried cranberry ketchup that was served with a tourtiere (a traditional Quebecois meat pie) from Hugue Dufour (formerly of Quebec's infamous Au Pied de Cochon) on Christmas Eve, I have been dying to try to make some cranberry ketchup.  Unfortunately, I have no idea how to can or preserve things so that deterred me for a little while.  Well, it deterred me for about a week.  Then I saw the bags of fresh cranberries at my grocery store and decided to just go for it.  So this morning I did some research, found some recipes to base my own cranberry ketchup off of and made myself a cranberry ketchup.

    The cranberry ketchup served with the tourtiere was sweet, but still a little tart and had a slight kick to it.  It also tasted of allspice.  So I kept all of that in mind as I tried to design my own version.  I have to say that I am quite pleased with the results.  So right now I am planning a turkey meatloaf for tomorrow to serve with my cranberry ketchup.  And later in the week I want to try to make a Vietnamese Pate Chaud (a traditional Vietnamese meat turnover wrapped in puff pastry) to try with it.  Served with the tourtiere, the tartness of the cranberry ketchup cut the rich meatiness of the pie beautifully.  If the ketchup goes half as well with the pate chauds as it did with the tourtiere, then I will be a very happy cook.  This might be the beginning of a beautiful holiday tradition!

    Recipe after the jump!