Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cardamom and Black Pepper Chicken

This chicken is delicious.  Super delicious.  And so was the cauliflower.  I know I usually babble on for awhile about how I chose the recipe, etc., but this time I just had to say something about how good the chicken was before I babbled.  Now on to the babbling.

The only Indian cookbook I have ever owned is by Madhur Jaffrey.  Several years ago when I first moved to NYC, I visited Kalustyans and asked the Indian ladies working there for a recommendation on a good Indian cookbook.  They pointed out Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey in a split second.  So I bought it.  And all of the recipes I have tried from it (with the exception of one) have been delicious.  So at the library the other day I saw another one of Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks, From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail so I checked it out.  And then proceeded to go through the cookbook, flagging all of the recipes I wanted to try.  This recipe for Cardamom and Black Pepper Chicken was one of the ones that first caught my eye.  And then I thought while I was at it, I should try one of the cauliflower recipes that had also caught my eye.  So our meal of Cardamom and Black Pepper Chicken with Quick Cauliflower Bhaji was born.  I also served it with plain basmati rice and naan (not homemade unfortunately).  Yum.  Both the chicken and the cauliflower had some spice to them, but not an overwhelming amount.  The heat level was lingering and meshed well with the various spices, cumin and coriander in particular.  In the case of the chicken, the spice was additionally balanced against the perfume of the cardamom, the sweetness of the cinnamon, and the tang of the fresh lemon juice.  Very tasty.  I considered making some cilantro chutney with the meal to give it some additional freshness and color, but decided against it.  In the future I might top the chicken with some roughly chopped cilantro because I just love cilantro and otherwise the meal is a study in beige, but it certainly didn't need it flavor-wise. 

Alex kept stopping mid-bite and saying how pleased he was with the meal.  You know it's good when your husband stopped eating long enough to compliment you and/or your food.  Several times.  What can I say?  I'm just that good.  Or Madhur Jaffrey is.

Recipes after the jump!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

Maybe pasta with red clam sauce isn't the classiest and most complicated of Italian dishes, but I have always had a thing for clam sauce - either white or red.  I actually prefer white clam sauce to red, but Alex requested pasta with red clam sauce this evening.  Then he dug up this recipe from Food & Wine, which I find mildly ironic after my post with the Carrot-Ginger soup where I blathered on for an entire paragraph about how we never make recipes from Food & Wine.  And here we are making a dish closely adapted from a Food & Wine recipe just a few days later.  Oh the irony.

This recipe isn't the best Linguine with Red Clam Sauce I have ever had, but it is easy and tasty.  It's also better than some restaurants' versions that I have tried.  All in all I would say this recipe is good, not great, but sometimes that is really what you are going for.  We changed the original recipe some to boost up the spice factor.  We also used one pound of fresh egg linguine, rather than using dried pasta.  In the future I might use dried pasta, rather than fresh, because it has more bite to it.  It's almost impossible to cook fresh pasta al dente, but some bite to the pasta would provide a nice textural contrast to the softness of the clams and stewed tomatoes.  I would probably also add some cockles to the pasta in addition to the canned clams, in order to increase the quantity of clams/cockles in the sauce and to give the sauce some variety.  After all, if canned clams make the sauce tasty, fresh cockles could only make it better.  Fresh cockles would obviously add another level of complexity to the dish, but a little complexity never hurt anyone. 

Recipe after the jump!

Cornbread with Caramelized Onions, Apples and Cheddar

I know that I have mentioned my love of Momofuku Milk Bar several times on this blog.  Their soft serve flavors are amazing (if a little weird at times), and their cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookies are absolutely out of this world.  Speaking of their soft serve flavors, right now they have cream cheese frosting soft serve.  It is delicious topped with their carrot cake crumble or the cornflake crunch.  Run, don't walk there, if you love cream cheese frosting because it's fantastic.  Anyway, along with their cookies and ice cream, they have daily bread specials that are quite good.  A few months ago I had their cornbread, which inspired me to create this recipe.  In the past I kept my cornbread quite simple - with fresh (or frozen) corn and some cheese thrown in for good measure.  Oh and scallions from time to time as well.  This is my first attempt at a really out there cornbread.  I can't take all of the credit since I got the idea from Milk Bar, but I think I deserve at least a little credit for coming up with a pretty delicious and interesting cornbread.

Because I love buttermilk in baked goods (it makes them so moist and faintly tangy), I made this a buttermilk cornbread recipe.  I also like my cornbread on the sweeter side but because I was already adding caramelized onions and sauteed apples, I didn't want to add any sugar.  Instead I threw in some honey.  While I thought about throwing in a teaspoon or two of fresh thyme, I decided against it in the end.  Maybe in the future I will experiment with thyme in the cornbread, but this time I really wanted to taste the interplay between the cheddar, the apples and the caramelized onions.  This definitely isn't your grandmother's cornbread - it is far too funky (in a good way) for that.  The best way I can think of to describe it is to say that it is deeply rich and savory.  And incredibly moist.  If that sounds appealing to you, then give it a try!

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Carrot-Ginger Soup with Coconut Shrimp

Of the three traditional food magazines, Food & Wine was always my least favorite.  Then Gourmet was canceled last year, and I found myself turning to Food & Wine more.  This is one of the few recipes that we have actually made from Food & Wine.  Generally I turn to it for inspiration, but don't bother making the recipes.  I'm not really sure why that is, but I do tend to find the recipes from Food & Wine to be more complicated than those from Bon Appetit and Gourmet.  Granted, that's something of a gross generalization, but beyond that I'm not sure why I don't subscribe to Food & Wine like I did to Gourmet, or make more recipes from it.  Then again, I somehow ended up with a subscription to Everyday by Rachael Ray and even though I had all of the issues, I can't remember making a single recipe.  Nothing against the magazine, I just rarely found things that excited me enough to break out my knives and get cooking.

This recipe from Food & Wine is delightful.  Prior to making the soup tonight, we had made the coconut shrimp a few times.  If you're just making the coconut shrimp, I recommend adding some lime zest to the grated coconut and serving it with sweet chili dipping sauce.  It's delicious.  The original recipe doesn't specify whether to use sweetened or unsweetened grated coconut, but I like to mix the two.  If you use all sweetened coconut and serve it with the sweet chili dipping sauce it gets a little cloyingly sweet.  But if you mix the two coconuts it's perfect.  The shrimp are also delicious when served with this soup.  The soup is a little sweet from the carrots and the onions, with definite peanut butter undertones.  The addition of the milk and the coconut milk make the soup velvety smooth and creamy.  Both the soup and the coconut shrimp have a little heat to them from the crushed red pepper flakes and the cayenne pepper respectively.  I know that Alex and I like spicy more than some, but the hit of mild and creeping heat makes the soup for me.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuna Mac

When I was in college one of my roommates introduced me to the concept of tuna mac.  She would take canned tuna, mix it with mayo and various other things, and then mix it in with plain, cooked macaroni.  Gourmet food it was not, but when you're an 18 year old living in the dorms you make do with the limited resources you have.  Now tuna mac is not something I make often, nor do I make it in a form that resembles what my roommate used to make in the dorms back in the day, but every once in awhile when I have leftover tuna in the fridge I toss it with some freshly cooked pasta and veggies.  Or sometimes I top some baby spinach with it and make a salad, but that's for another day.  Today I took the leftover tuna mixed with homemade pesto from my tuna tartines, and mixed it with farro pasta, shredded radicchio leftover from the turkey parm burgers, and fresh basil.  I'm on this kick right now of trying to be better about reusing ingredients leftover from previous meals.  How often do you buy a batch of fresh basil for some recipe or another and then end up throwing half (or more) of it away later in the week because you forgot all about it?  I know it happens to me all of the time.  So this was an attempt on my part to clean out the fridge and be more environmentally (and budget) conscious by re-using ingredients!  Not only was my lunch healthy, it was tasty!  I loved the slight bitterness of the radicchio contrasted against the sweetness of the red onions and the nuttiness of the pasta.  And then the basil and tuna really brought it all together.  Suffice it to say that I'm rather proud of myself at the moment. 

Seeing as I am going to be wearing a bikini (and a wedding dress, but that's a long story that I won't get into here) on the beach in Aruba in two short months, I'm trying to cook more figure-friendly and/or health conscious than usual.  All things considered, I am a moderately healthy eater.  I try to get in my servings of fruits and vegetables, I don't drink a lot of soda or caffeine of any sort, and I try to limit my intake of both red meat and fried food.  I'm not psycho about it.  I love food way too much to deprive myself of a nice juicy burger and french fries, or a big slice of Carvel cake (a guilty pleasure) every once in awhile when I get a craving.  And I refuse to diet because that would take all of the fun out of eating and cooking.  Which would then take a lot of the fun out of life.  But I am trying to be a good little eater and eat whole grains instead of white, and bake instead of fry, as much as possible.  We will see if it was all worth it two months from now!

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Six-Spice Hanger Steak Tacos with Pickled Onions

For the past year I feel like you couldn't turn around without hearing some reference to the Kogi taco truck and Asian-inspired tacos, quesadillas and hot dogs.  Most of the variations that I hear about are Korean, but I decided to whip up some Chinese-inspired tacos using hanger steak.  Part of this decision was based on our lunch today at Umi Nom out in Brooklyn where we had some seriously delicious Filipino or more generally Asian-inspired dishes.  Actually, one of the dishes we had today, the crispy chicken wings, seemed like a good variation on one of my favorite dishes, butter-fried frog legs, served at Huong Viet, a Vietnamese restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia.  The main difference (aside from the fact that these were chicken wings and the others are truly frog legs) was that at Umi Nom the chicken wings were made using tempura batter, rather than a more standard batter for deep frying, so the coating was shatteringly crisp.  So delicious.  The bahay kubo fried rice with chicken, shrimp, and Chinese sausage was similarly delicious.  What a great restaurant.  Too bad it's all the way out in Clinton Hill.  After such an amazing lunch I couldn't decide whether making another Asian-inspired dish was a good idea since I was worried that anything Asian we made couldn't possibly compare to our lunch.  And in some ways I was right because I am no professional chef, but these tacos were truly delicious.

This recipe is a play off a hanger steak recipe that I featured in My favorite recipes of 2009 post.  Generally speaking, you have to be somewhat wary of Sichuan peppercorns in any recipe because they can be somewhat overpowering.  And our current batch of peppercorns is far more pungent than our last batch, so I had to seriously dial down the amount of Sichuan peppercorns in the recipe here.  Otherwise you would quickly learn why the Sichuan peppercorns are sometimes referred to as "numbing" - after an overdose of Sichuan peppercorns your entire mouth tingles and then eventually go numb.  It's definitely a peculiar and not altogether pleasant sensation.  When all of the ingredients in this spice rub are in proper balance, it results in a very flavorful piece of steak.  When served with my pickled onions, fresh cilantro, a squirt of fresh lime juice, and sliced avocado it results in a very delicious and unusual taco.  The creaminess of the avocado is the perfect foil for the six-spice seasoning.  It gives the dish some richness and fat to balance out the fairly assertive flavors of the six-spice.  The sweet, yet savory pickled onions (based off a recipe by David Leibovitz) add another fantastic level of flavor.  Those onions are seriously amazing.  I definitely recommend making them, if nothing else.  They would be delicious on top of almost any sandwich, or served alongside all sorts of other dishes.  On top of everything else, the fresh flavors of the lime juice and the cilantro brightens the entire dish.  Every bite of the tacos sings.  There are levels upon levels of flavor that play off one another.  Now maybe these tacos weren't as well-executed, or as fancy, as the dishes we enjoyed today at Umi Nom, but they sure were delicious. 

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sausages with White Beans in Tomato Sauce

I have to admit that I am very pleased with this series of recipes.  Somehow it all came together with very little effort from me.  I had everything I needed for every single recipe, with the exception of fresh bread (which you really need to purchase fresh every time if you really want to do things the right way) and some produce.  If the squid salad was nice and summery and light - perfect for a meal on a warm spring or summer day, these sausages were perfect for a cool spring, fall or winter meal.  Luckily, the beginning of this week was nice and warm and it got cooler and damper as the week went on.  So somehow the recipes even ended up matching with the weather.

I have never been much of a bean eater.  I have friends (who will remain nameless), who can eat black beans straight out of a can.  I am so not into beans like that.  Truth be told, the only beans I actually like are white beans and I only like them some of the time.  This dish was a perfect white bean dish for me.  It was hearty and rich, not to mention flavorful, but it didn't tip over into the overly starchy, heavy realm of bean dishes that I really dislike.  And the beans retained some of their bite so they didn't dissolve into mush in your mouth, which is another tendency of beans that I really dislike.  Instead, this recipe had wonderfully savory chunks of Italian sausage stewed in a mixture of San Marzano tomatoes and hearty white beans.  While not a show-stopping 4 star dish, it was tasty and filling.  Not only that, it was remarkably easy and quick to prepare (once you have the white beans made that is).  Come next fall I will definitely be adding this dish to the regular rotation.  I can make the white beans over the weekend and then for an easy weeknight meal just throw them in there with the sausages, sage and tomatoes.  On a busy night in the middle of the work week, that's my kind of meal - beans and all.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuna Tartines with White Beans and Pesto

So this tartine was a play off one I had at Le Pain Quotidien the other day.  It was the dish that kicked off this whole week of recipes built around white beans.  For those of you who live in NYC and like Le Pain (and like tuna), I totally recommend the tartine.  It's delicious.  But if you don't live in NYC, you can now make my version of the tartine at home!  It's not going to win any beauty contests, but it's delicious.  My version isn't an exact copy of the Le Pain tartine because, as always, I tweaked it a bit.  Instead of a regular hummus spread lightly on the bread under the tuna, I made a white bean "hummus" with some of my leftover cooked white beans.  And then I scattered a few white beans on top for even more bean action.  My second tartine was more liberally topped with additional white beans, but unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it.  I also made homemade pesto, which I mixed in with both the white bean hummus and the tuna fish itself.  The Le Pain tartine was drizzled with a very loose and runny type of pesto, but I made a more traditional pesto and served it mixed in with the ingredients, as well as smeared on top.  You could also use store bought pesto, but since I had fresh basil I decided to go ahead and make it myself in my adorable little Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus.  Lastly, I used thick slices of the leftover fresh sourdough as the base of the tartine, rather than the heartier, more thinly sliced whole wheat bread they used at Le Pain.  All in all, I loved my version.  I might even like it more than the Le Pain version, although I would have to try them both again to decide...  Life is tough.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring is officially here!

I visited the Union Square Farmer's Market today and after seeing all of the beautiful flowers I am declaring that spring is officially here!  That means pretty soon I can go pick up all sorts of random produce that I then have to figure out how to cook.  Get excited!  I know that I am.  I love shopping at the farmer's market from spring through late fall.

Turkey Parmesan Burgers

I am always on the lookout for new burger recipes.  I have tried burgers made from beef, lamb, chicken, and turkey.  The only thing I don't make burgers from is seafood.  Somehow I'm just not into that.  If you're going to eat seafood, eat a wonderful piece of seafood.  Why grind nice seafood up into burgers?  I guess I am a seafood snob.  Anyway, I have recently found that turkey burgers are among my favorites - even ranking up there with beef and lamb burgers, while I'm not a huge fan of chicken burgers.  I think that turkey burgers tend to stay moist, whereas in my experience chicken burgers dry out more easily.  That is perhaps because when I buy ground chicken I tend to buy ground white meat chicken, but who knows?  Regardless, when I saw this chicken parmesan burger recipe from Bon Appetit, I decided I would have to try the whole thing with turkey and with some other significant modifications.

These burgers were definitely yummy.  All Alex had to say was that they were "tasty."  Because they were turkey burgers I don't have to feel so guilty about inhaling mine.  And for the record, I definitely inhaled it.  The burgers are pretty hefty, but still manage to be light, juicy and flavorful.  It was a fun and tasty interpretation of two American favorites - burgers and chicken parm.  I think the addition of the the fresh herbs (particularly the basil) and the toasted sourdough made the burger for me.  And then the radicchio, the marinara, and the mozzarella give the burger some wonderful color and flavor.  As far as I concerned, this burger is a definite keeper, and not just because it's pretty.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

White Beans with Squid, Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes

Recently I went to Le Pain Quotidien and fell in love with one of their tartines (open faced sandwiches on nice hearty wheat bread).  I actually really like quite a few things that Le Pain serves, but this tuna tartine special was delicious.  The tartine had a thin layer of hummus, topped with tuna and cannellini beans, then drizzled with freshly-made basil pesto.  Somehow the entire thing just sang spring to me.  I'm hooked.  So I went out and bought a bunch of basil and some tuna and a bag of dried beans to try it out.  And I downloaded a recipe for cannellini beans.  In the same shopping trip I picked up some calamari.  Then while looking for nice spring-appropriate calamari recipes, I stumbled across this recipe for White Beans with Squid, Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes, which featured the same recipe for Cannellini Beans with Garlic and Sage as one of the components of the recipe.  I love it when things just come together like that!  These beans are actually featured as a component of several delicious-sounding recipes on the Epicurious website.  As soon as I try all of them, I will have to let you know!  First up for tonight was the calamari, then maybe this recipe for Sausages with White Beans in Tomato Sauce.  Oh and I won't forget my version of the Le Pain tuna tartine either.  Don't you worry.

This salad was a nice light summer or spring time meal.  I served it with toasted baguette crostinis slathered in the nice soft garlic that I simmered with the white beans.  And then topped with sea salt.  The addition of the crostini honestly made the dish, so definitely don't throw that garlic away.  I also think this salad would be improved by the addition of some thinly shaved red onions, but that's just me.  I love onions.  Plus they would provide the salad with some bite, as well as the textural contrast of the onions.  I also think that the next time I make this salad, I might halve the amount of calamari and throw in some cooked shrimp, for the sake of variety.  I love playing with recipes.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Seared Sea Bass with Pan-Roasted Cauliflower

So I have been taking a photography class to learn how to take pictures with my new fancy camera.  And in this class we take pictures in black and white.  When Alex grabbed the camera to take pictures of dinner tonight he didn't notice that the camera was set to black and white (or that it was set to manual mode), so now we have black and white pictures of our seared bass.  Oops.  Now, if the problem had been reversed and we had color pictures when we wanted black and white the camera could just alter the image to make it black and white.  Unfortunately, when you start with a picture in black and white the reverse is not possible.  Somehow he managed to get close to proper exposure and everything with the camera in manual without knowing anything about F-stops and shutter speeds, purely through dumb luck.  Then again, the last pictures I took were indoor with bright studio spotlights, so that's pretty close to the conditions under which the sea bass photos were shot.  Either way, my apologies for the black and white photo!

I love few things more than a properly cooked piece of fish - particularly one with a nice crispy skin.  Sure meat is great, but in my opinion fish is way better, not to mention harder to cook.  I would be perfectly happy with this piece of seared Montauk sea bass over cauliflower in almost any restaurant.  Perhaps not a Jean Georges level restaurant or Marea, but nearly anywhere else.  It was lovely.  Fresh, lively and perfectly crispy.  Alex said the fish was on the same level as the short ribs, but I think it was on a completely different level.  This is one of my favorite meals that I have prepared recently.  And that is saying a lot.  I loved it!  So amazing.  If you love sea bass, you will love this dish.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Char Siu Fried Rice

One of the best things about Asian leftovers is that you can always turn them into fried rice.  Well, almost always.  For instance, leftover skirt steak or flank steak marinated in a mixture of soy, ginger, garlic, and sriracha makes a wicked Korean fried rice with kimchi.  And this leftover char siu made a fantastic fried rice as well.  The nuggets of meat were both salty and sweet from the hoisin, and contrasted well with the sweetness of the onion and carrot.  The sesame oil gives the fried rice a nice subtle perfume and taste, while the soy sauce provides the necessary saltiness.  From start to finish,  including digging through the fridge before prepping and chopping all of the ingredients, the fried rice took less than 30 minutes, which is a miracle in our kitchen!  And visually speaking, the fried rice is beautiful and colorful.  I love it.

Recipe after the jump!

Stout-Braised Short Ribs

These short ribs were the dish I originally intended to make on St. Patrick's Day.  But with everything conspiring against me, I tabled them for this weekend, when I would have more time to prep and braise them until they were fall off the bone tender.  Granted, these short ribs don't feel very seasonally appropriate seeing as it has been gorgeous outside all week, but what can you do?  And as there is really no way to lighten up a dish of braised short ribs without losing everything that makes them luscious and delightful, I didn't even bother trying.  Sometimes you just have to be a gluttonous carnivore, spring weather or no.  That's really all there is to it.  And then you have to remind yourself to eat salads for the next few days to make up for your indulgence, but that's another matter entirely.

I was a little worried that braising the short ribs only in Guinness would make them a little bitter, but went ahead with it anyway.  I considered adding some canned diced tomatoes (and their juice) to give the short ribs some sweetness and a little freshness and acidity, but decided that the whole point of braising the short ribs in stout was to really taste the stout.  I really wanted to pick up some Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout, but as this was originally supposed to be an Irish dish for St. Paddy's, I decided to just stick with Guinness.

The sauce is a little bitter, but not overly so.  While it is a little bitter, you can still taste the heartiness of the beef and the sweetness of the vegetables in every bite of the sauce.  Overall, I feel like this recipe is missing something, but Alex really likes it.  I also thought that the short ribs weren't quite as tender as I would have hoped.  Perhaps our short ribs weren't as fatty as usual, but the silky smooth mouth feel was missing for me.  Instead the meat was a little "toothsome" to use a word from Top Chef.  When I want short ribs I don't want toothsome.  I want the meat to basically dissolve in my mouth.  The meat can't be mushy, but it should be silky and incredibly tender.  And you shouldn't need a knife at all.  These short ribs weren't as tender as I like, but Alex has this thing against ribs of any sort that fall off the bone so these were perfect for him.  We usually see eye-to-eye when it comes to food (although he tends to like things a little saltier and a little spicier than I do), but this time we will have to agree to disagree.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Turkey Breasts with Leeks, Mushrooms and Colcannon Cakes

Basically, as a preface to this recipe, I am going to admit that yesterday practically NOTHING went my way.  Because of St. Paddy's day, the parade made it absolutely impossible to get around the city.  And when I went to the grocery store that afternoon to buy the last few things I needed for dinner, the first grocery store didn't have all-purpose flour.  Who doesn't have all-purpose flour?  They had all sorts of fancy cake, buckwheat, self-rising, and other gourmet flours, but no plain old all-purpose flour.  So it was on to grocery store number two.  And then while at the grocery store I looked at my watch and realized it was already after 4pm.  The stout-braised short ribs I had intended to cook needed to braise for at least 4 hours, after having been browned and getting the vegetables all prepped and sauteed.  So I realized that unless I wanted to eat at 10pm, I was going to have to come up with an Irish plan B.  So I called Alex in desperation and he went online and found some Irish recipes on the BBC website.  This turkey recipe won by default because I had all of the ingredients I needed, except for the turkey breasts.  Only the grocery store didn't have turkey breasts.  Crap.  So it was off to the butcher, who luckily for me, I knew had turkey breasts because I had walked by with the dog and seen them in the display case that morning.  Score.  By the way, I love my butcher.  The guys there are all super nice.  Moving on.

By that time it was 6pm.  So Alex and I ran home, printed out the recipe, and realized the recipe wanted me to use basically every pan and/or pot in the entire house, plus stove-top burners that I just don't have.  It wanted me to have like 5 pans going at one time.  Double crap.  But since we had everything all ready to go, I started figuring out how to modify the recipe to cut down on pans.  As it was, I used 1 large soup pot, 1 huge non-stick pan, 2 10-inch saute pans, and a cast iron skillet.  That doesn't even begin to take into account the number of cutting boards, knives, prep bowls, etc.  As I was prepping and then cooking (and imagining what a Herculean feat cleaning would be) all I could think was "this turkey had better be freaking awesome!"

And it was delicious.  In the future I might forgo the Colcannon cakes (which were also very tasty), but the turkey itself is a definite keeper.  The skin was golden brown and crispy, and it had amazing flavor once you drizzled some of the shallot white wine sauce over top.  As an aside, the recipe used up an amazing amount of butter (even though I cut down on the amounts it asked for dramatically).  And everything tastes better with butter!  So if you're not butter-shy, or afraid of some serious dish-washing after dinner, give this a try!  And even if you are terminally afraid of dish-washing, go ahead and just make the turkey and the sauce.  Which will only use up one cast iron pan (or other oven-safe pan), and will be well worth your trouble.  I promise.  Served with a nice salad and some fresh bread (and you don't even have to bake your own Irish soda bread like I did), it would be a wonderful meal.

Recipe after the jump!

White Irish Soda Bread

Happy (belated) St. Paddy's Day!  For dinner on St. Patrick's Day Alex requested a loaf of soda bread.  Since he rarely requests things, and since I was already planning on making an Irish (or Irish-inspired, you be the judge) meal for St. Patrick's, I figured why not.  I've never baked a loaf of bread before, but soda bread sounded easy enough.  Then we started looking at recipes and Alex started complaining that he didn't want any raisins or any caraway seeds in his soda bread.  Alex doesn't like anything in his baked goods - particularly not raisins.  And he hates caraway seeds.  Sometimes he is difficult.  Then again, he's mostly very appreciative of everything I cook (even the weird things), so I will give him a bye on this one.  Plus he is a very good sport about helping me cook up some of the weirder and more complicated recipes that I come across.  In my defense, he does come up with some pretty weird recipes on his own too.  And then he is fabulous about helping me clean up afterward.  Ok, so he's pretty great (raisin and nut discrimination notwithstanding).

This soda bread recipe is about as easy and simple as they get.  All you need is baking soda, flour, buttermilk, and salt.  That's it.  Oh and I brushed the outside of the loaf with a little melted butter as it was baking to give it that nice golden brown shiny crust, but that is certainly not required.  Some Irish soda bread recipes contain brown sugar, and other random ingredients, but if I was going plain, I wanted to go really plain.  I served the soda bread warm and slathered with some fresh sweet butter sprinkled with a little sea salt.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Char Siu Pork (Chinese Roast Pork)

It might seem a little strange to make a traditional Chinese roast pork from a recipe found in a Vietnamese cookbook, but since the Chinese have so heavily influenced the cuisine in most of South East Asia, it's actually not as bizarre an idea as it might first seem.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with char siu, it's the violently red and sweet pork filling often found in steamed buns (bao).  It also turns up in various forms in dim sum, and can be found hanging in windows all over Chinatown next to roast ducks and the like.  When done right, char siu has an appealingly crunchy exterior that contrasts wonderfully with the meltingly tender pork.  When done poorly, it's just appallingly sweet and mushy.  Any Chinese grocery store sells pre-mixed seasoning packets or marinades that you can use to create your own char siu pork at home, but what fun is that?

Because I always have pork tenderloin in the freezer, I decided to use that instead of the pork shoulder that Andrea Nguyen uses in her recipe.  Then I tweaked the cooking instructions to use pork tenderloin, rather than slices of pork shoulder.  Pork shoulder should give you a texture more similar to traditional char siu than the pork tenderloin will, but I always find using pork tenderloin to be much simpler than wrestling with pork shoulder.  The only time I really mess with pork shoulder is when I am making BBQ.  Oh and if I am braising pork, because pork shoulder takes a braise really really well.  Otherwise I am all about the pork tenderloin.

This version of char siu is delicious.  Texturally-speaking, it's not exactly traditional but the flavors hit all of the right notes.  The pork is sweet, but not overly so, and is wonderfully savory at the same time.  We served the char siu over steamed rice, but I think next time I might serve it over pan-fried noodles.  As of right now I am planning on mixing the leftover char siu with the leftover rice from tonight's meal and making some roast pork fried rice.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tres Leches Cake

So this cake was the result of the fact that literally none of the four grocery stores I tried on the UWS carry peanut butter chips.  I was trying to make this Black-Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie to bring to a dinner party, but without peanut butter chips I had to come up with a plan B.  I have been meaning to try to make tres leches cake for some time now and I figured now was the perfect opportunity.  I was also planning on making a Latin American dish for dinner the night after the dinner party, so I figured tres leches was definitely the way to go.  I looked at several recipes while trying to decide exactly how I wanted to prepare my cake, including this recipe from Ree Drummond's blog, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, an Alton Brown recipe, an Emeril recipe, and this recipe from Food & Wine.  The Food & Wine recipe had a particularly intriguing cinnamon-scented dulce de leche component that you drizzle on top of the cake after it is completed, but I didn't have the time or the whole milk to make it.  But I am definitely going to make it the next time I try my cake because it sounds amazing.  One of my favorite versions of tres leches cake I have ever eaten was at a restaurant in Maryland where they serve the cake drizzled with a cinnamon simple syrup of sorts.  It is amazing - kind of like red hots in liquid form.

This cake recipe is easy, but it does require several steps and lots of dish washing.  When I prepared it I used my stand mixer three times, which required three washes, various measuring cups, etc.  So if you're looking for a recipe that doesn't make a mess of the kitchen, this probably isn't the recipe for you.  But if you don't mind a little dishwashing so long as it produces delicious results, I say give this recipe a try!  The cake is delightfully moist, sweet and somehow light.

Mario Batali's Leo Maya's Chicken with Green Sauce

My husband stumbled on this recipe on Serious Eats a few years ago.  We rarely make it, but not because it isn't delicious, it's more a matter of the three pounds of tomatillos.  This dish is incredibly easy to make and actually doesn't require that many ingredients.  It does take a while, as braising always does, but the braising leaves the chicken thighs incredibly tender and flavorful.  And the green tomatillo-based sauce packs a serious punch.  It is nice - with some serious heat, and a nice sour flavor due to the lime and tomatillos.  We generally serve the chicken with more sauce, tortillas, thinly sliced red onions (optional), and sour cream, but you can serve it however you want.  Batali recommends hot sauce, but we usually find that the sauce itself is spicy enough.  Alex leaves the sour cream off, but I think that the creaminess of the sour cream really complements the heat and tang of the chicken beautifully.  I tried to find some nice queso blanco or cotija cheese to top the soft tacos with, but the grocery store was out.  Oh well.  This chicken would also be a wonderful filling for enchiladas, or a nice Mexican lasagna. 

After braising the chicken you end up with a lot of leftover green sauce.  If you make enchiladas then you will have plenty of sauce for your enchiladas.  If you make tacos, you will have at least a few cups of sauce leftover.  We freeze the sauce and defrost it later for other meals.  You can use it with plain (store-bought) rotisserie chicken to make enchiladas, you can top eggs with it, you can serve it with skirt steak or shrimp tacos, etc.  It really is that good!

 Recipe after the jump!

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata

I woke up this morning to an almost unbearably dreary, rainy day.  It's the type of day that just makes you want to curl up on the couch in your pajamas with a nice steaming mug of hot tea (or hot chocolate) and a nice book to read.  And never venture outside.  On days like these, a bowl of cereal just doesn't cut it.  I seriously considered making homemade buttermilk biscuits, but somehow I just wasn't feeling it.  Then it occurred to me that I had some amazing Gaspe and Irish organic smoked salmon from Russ & Daughters sitting in the fridge.  Thus this smoked salmon frittata recipe was born.

I went through the fridge and started pulling out things for my frittata - eggs, creme fraiche, goat cheese, herbs, scallions, and the Irish salmon.  I don't know about the rest of you, but the idea of adding cream cheese to a frittata, which is what most smoked salmon frittata recipes calls for, was just very strange to me.  I am a big proponent of cream cheese in frosting, on bagels, and in cheesecake, but somehow I cannot see using it in a frittata.  It's a quirk of mine that certain ingredients belong in certain places and it takes some pretty convincing proof before I can be swayed to believe otherwise.  Either way, I just prefer goat cheese to cream cheese anyway.  What's not to love about goat cheese?  It's creamy, tangy and just utterly delicious.  And I think it pairs incredibly well with buttery smoked salmon.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Foods & Flavors of the Philippines

Last night Alex and I headed down to the Whole Foods on Houston and Bowery for a cooking class taught by King Phojanakong.  New Yorkers might be familiar with him from his restaurants Kuma Inn and Umi Nom, or you might have seen him on Chopped on the Food Network sometime in the past year.  Of the two restaurants I have only been to Kuma Inn, but one of these days I am going to make the trek out to Brooklyn to try Umi Nom.  It has been getting rave reviews.  Anyway, the class was great.  I had such a fun time watching King cook and hearing about Philippino cuisine.  We made chicken adobo, lumpia shangia (crispy spring rolls), pancit canton (stir-fried egg noodles), and sauteed Asian greens.  My favorite of the four dishes was the lumpia shanghai.  When served with the sweet chili dipping sauce they were seriously addicting.  The next time I have people over (and a bunch of time on my hands to roll dozens of spring rolls) I'm definitely going to make them.

Unfortunately the only picture I took of the spring rolls looks terrible, so I'm not going to post it.  But trust me that these are delicious and go ahead and give them a shot!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Roast Salmon with Zesty Creme Fraiche

This recipe fits nicely in the category of light, fresh and easy weeknight meals. I used to be skeptical of seafood with dairy, but after this recipe I am all about it.  Just like the use of Greek yogurt to marinate chicken before cooking it, roasting the salmon under a layer of creme fraiche leaves it very moist and slightly rich.  Generally I love salmon with dill, but Alex is not a fan of dill, so I agreed to substitute chive and basil.  When combined with the lemon zest and the horseradish, it results in a lovely, light and fresh salmon dish.  The horseradish gives the salmon a hint of a zesty tang, while the lemon and herbs give it a subtle brightness.

We served the salmon with a baby spinach salad topped with toasted hazelnuts and crumbled Cherry Glen Monacacy Silver goat cheese.  The goat cheese is one of our favorites, and was a gift from a couple of good friends. All in all the meal was fantastic.  And a perfect marker for the transition to spring.

Recipe after the jump!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I'm not sure why the idea of Chocolate Zucchini Cake was so appealing to me.  For whatever reason the thought of baking a Chocolate Zucchini Cake has tantalized me for some time now.  So I decided to bite the bullet and go ahead and make it.  =I have never never tasted a Chocolate Zucchini Cake, so I basically made the cake just so I could try it and see if the cake could possibly live up to what I hoped it could be.  Seeing as I have absolutely no baseline upon which to judge my cake against other cakes, all I can say is that I thought my cake was delicious.

The flavor of the cake is deeply chocolately, and the crumb is incredibly moist and fluffy.  You can't taste the zucchini, but it does help make the cake incredibly moist, as does the use of buttermilk.  The cake has a very light background flavor that reminded me of very chocolaty gingerbread, rather than a typical chocolate cake, but it's really hard to describe.  I think that the touch of cinnamon and the use of brown sugar in addition to the granulated sugar are the cause.  It's really unique so I like it.  I also like that the cake isn't as sweet as a lot of other cake recipes.  We left the walnuts out this time because Alex doesn't like nuts in baked goods, but I think that walnuts provide a wonderful textural contrast to the fluffy cake, as well as a slight bitterness that I always find very appealing in baked goods.  If you are using the walnuts, I would probably recommend cutting back on the amount of chocolate chips.  Even if you aren't adding walnuts, you can cut back on the amount of chocolate chips to cut back on sweetness and richness if that's your thing.  Originally I was thinking about slathering this cake in some cream cheese frosting, but it really doesn't need it.  And considering how much I love cream cheese frosting, that really says something!

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Skiing in Colorado

So after my longest absence from the blog yet, I am writing to apologize.  I meant to warn all of you that I was going to be skiing in Colorado for a week, and thus would not be creating any new posts for a week and a half, but in the rush of packing and jumping on a plane I totally forgot.  Sorry!  I promise that I will have some new posts up this week!