Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tofu with Vegetables in Green Curry Coconut Sauce

Since Alex and I are talking about going out for BBQ for dinner, I only felt it appropriate that I eat vegetarian for lunch.  I had a package of tofu in the fridge, as well as an assortment of vegetables and an open container of green curry paste.  More than half of the lunches I make are usually an experiment in fridge shopping - open up the door, see what's inside and hope for the best.  Sometimes it works out, but sometimes it's an unmitigated disaster.  Recently I have been very busy with work so I haven't had the time to whip up anything more gourmet than a simple omelet or reheated leftovers for lunch.  But since I have the free time and the inclination to make lunch today, I am going for it - particularly since I am already planning on stuffing my face with ribs this evening.

I served my tofu over the leftover coconut rice from last week so it was a very coconut-y meal.  You could also serve the tofu over regular steamed rice, or solo.  I really liked doubling up on the coconut, but it's probably not for everyone.  My thoughts on this meal are best summed up by saying that if there is a meal that could turn me vegetarian, this isn't it.  It was good, but not amazing.  The tofu wasn't quite as flavorful as I had hoped for, nor did it crisp up as much as I intended it to.  I probably didn't pat it dry well enough after marinating it in the soy sauce.  But all of those criticisms aside, I liked the meal.  It made a nice lunch.  In the future I might play with the ingredients a little more to give it a bit more kick - perhaps a little more green curry paste, more lime juice, or the addition of cilantro.  I would also toss the cashews in with the sauce when I sprinkle in the lime juice so that they get coated in the green curry coconut sauce.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wild Mushroom Soup with Thyme and Parsley

Growing up my father and brother used to eat a lot of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup.  Somehow I never got into it - probably because the only cream-based soup I liked was New England clam chowder.  I'm not really sure why that is, but so be it.  I've tried several mushroom soup recipes, both cream-based and otherwise.  My mother gave me a fantastic recipe using fried wild mushrooms, sherry and cream that I will make at some point for the blog, but right now I am out of dried mushrooms.  Since I saw a bunch of fresh wild mushrooms at the grocery store the other night I decided to make myself some mushroom soup using a mix of fresh wild mushrooms - creminis, oyster mushrooms, and shiitakes.  I thought I had some dried porcinis at home as well, but I was wrong so I had to do without.  Oh well.  It was still delicious without the porcinis, although the dried porcinis would have made the soup darker, richer and more earthy.

I have always thought that fresh thyme and mushrooms are brilliant together.  In some recipes and/or dishes I will use rosemary with mushrooms - particularly with creminis or portobellos which are meaty and can stand up to the pungent flavors of the rosemary.  But since the soup used oyster mushrooms, which are fairly delicate in terms of flavor, I stuck with fresh thyme and flat-leaf parsley.  Personally I think that the fresh thyme really makes the soup.  If you wanted to make this recipe vegetarian, all you have to do is use vegetable or mushroom broth instead of chicken stock.  We served the soup with some toasted baguette and a spinach salad, for a nice light weeknight meal.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Levain Bakery makes absolutely amazing dark chocolate peanut butter cookies.  They are fantastic, as well as gigantic.  I was baking cookies as a gift for some friends the other day when I decided to make some dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookies of my own.  My cookies are a little less sweet than Levain Bakery's cookies, but they are incredibly chocolatey - far more so than Levain's.  If you love dark chocolate, these cookies are decadent and I highly recommend them.  But if you want a sweet cookie, and are more of a milk chocolate lover, you are going to need to use semisweet chocolate rather than bittersweet.  While the taste of peanut butter is definitely present, these cookies are all about the chocolate.  My friends loved them and so did I.

Recipe after the jump!

Sauteed Snow Peas and Asparagus

Sometimes you just need a dish of simple sauteed veggies as part of your dinner.  This is the perfect light side for almost any Asian dish.  The flavors of the ginger, garlic and sesame oil are wonderful, but light so that they won't compete with the flavors of your entree.  I love the crunch of the snow peas, and I think that the combination of the snow peas and the asparagus created wonderful dish - both in terms of texture and flavor.  This whole dish just screamed spring to me, which I love.

Recipe after the jump!

Coconut Rice

Mangoes over coconut sticky rice is one of my favorite Asian desserts.  If we're being honest here, there are very few Asian desserts that are any good.  The Chinese like to throw beans in things and call it dessert (like baobing - Taiwanese shaved ice with beans, fruit and syrup).  But mangoes over coconut sticky rice is unbelievably delicious.  The idea to use coconut rice as a savory component to a meal, rather than as a dessert, came from Fatty Crab here in NYC.  They serve coconut rice with their chili crab and their mussels.  The coconut rice is also used in their nasi lemak and the Malay fish fry we tried there the other night.  So as a side for the Spiced Chicken with Coconut Cream we made the other night I decided to go ahead and make some coconut rice and serve it both as a more savory side and for dessert.  The texture of the coconut rice isn't the same as the sticky rice, thus it's not quite as dessert-like, but it makes an amazing side dish.  One that we will definitely be making more often.

Recipe after the jump!

Spiced Chicken with Coconut Cream

A year or two ago I discovered that bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts are so much better than boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  The discovery came after watching the Barefoot Contessa roast some chicken breasts on Food Network and deciding to try it out for myself.  Who knew that the bones and skin (even if you end up picking most of it off like I do) could make such a difference?  One of my favorite things about roasting bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts is how easy and versatile it is.  All you have to do is rub your chicken breast with evoo, s&p and whatever fresh herbs or spices you desire and you will have a wonderful dinner entree.  You can stick to the basics, or you can get really creative.  It's all up to you.  This recipe falls under the heading of really creative.  It's actually a recipe that I heavily modified from Street Food: Exploring the World's Most Authentic Tastes by Tom Kime.  The recipe was written for use with poussins (baby chickens), or whole roasted chicken at the very least.  But since I almost always have bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in the freezer, and rarely ever have poussins or whole chickens, I decided to play with the recipe a bit to make it work for me.  The chicken here is also meant to be grilled.  Since I live in an apartment in NYC that's clearly not happening, but I can make it work.  After all, that is one of the things that amuses me most about cooking - it gives me the ability to take one thing and adapt it to suit my tastes.  I love being able to do that.

This chicken was moist, but it wasn't as flavorful as I had predicted given the ingredients in the spice paste/marinade and the basting liquid.  However, the juices and leftover paste on the chicken was wonderful when mixed with the coconut rice I served with the chicken.  I had originally made the coconut rice to serve with the champagne mangoes I bought at Whole Foods (which I did still serve for dessert), but I discovered that the rice was equally delicious with the chicken.  Perhaps in the future I will add more salt to the marinade/spice paste.  Another problem was that the skin on the chicken didn't crisp up at all.  So I've got some work to do on perfecting this recipe, but have faith - I will get there eventually.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Oyster Mushrooms and Asparagus Over Eggy Rice

So the thought of putting a raw egg yolk on rice and then mixing it up might not appeal to some.  If you're one of the people who is totally grossed out by that, no need to read any further.  But there are lots of dishes in which you serve a raw egg or raw egg yolk over some sort of rice or pasta and let the heat of the rice or pasta cook the egg.  For instance, that's how pasta carbonara is traditionally made.  And bimbimbap.  So when I had the negi tori don (charcoal broiled organic chicken with scallion and raw egg over rice) at Yakitori Totto recently it started me thinking why not make something like that at home?  Alex was a huge fan of the idea so today for lunch I gave it a shot.  For the record, Mark already beat me to the idea and made what I am calling eggy rice (for lack of a better term) for dinner last night.  Great minds think alike.  Or something.  For lunch today, I made a pot of steamed rice, and then I sauteed together oyster mushrooms and asparagus to serve with my rice, and tossed it all with a raw egg yolk.  I seasoned my vegetables liberally with shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) to give it some kick.  If you're not a huge fan of shichimi togarashi - the main ingredient of which is ground red chili pepper, you should cut back on the amount I used.  Voila!  A delicious, hearty, fairly healthy, vegetarian lunch.  I love it.  

Recipe after the jump! 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hui Guo Rou (Twice-Cooked Pork)

There's a Sichuan restaurant called Little Pepper in Flushing, Queens that has amazing Sichuan food.  One of my favorite things on the menu after their explosively spicy and delicious hot pot is their hui guo rou (twice cooked pork).  Traditionally it is pork belly that is first boiled and then fried in a sizzling hot wok with lots of spicy/beany flavorings and baby leeks, served with white rice.  We didn't have any pork belly.  Actually, we thought we had pork belly, but it turned out we had thinly sliced Kurobuta (aka Berkshire) pork loin.  And Alex had originally decided that we should make Fuchsia Dunlop's hong shao rou (red-braised pork) from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province, but seeing as we had pork loin and not pork belly we had to completely re-think our plan.  I had originally suggested cooking hui guo rou, but Alex had shot me down in favor of the hong shao rou.  Granted, we were missing a few ingredients for Fuchsia Dunlop's hui guo rou from Land of Plenty, but since when has that ever stopped us?  Besides, given that we were using thinly sliced Kurobuta pork loin rather than pork belly, why not improvise a little more?  We had the Korean equivalent of the Chinese bean paste and Korean hot pepper paste, so I threw those instead of the sweet bean paste and the chili bean paste that the recipe usually requires.  And when it wasn't spicy enough I threw in some Korean red pepper flakes for good measure.  So I guess you could call this the Korean-Chinese-American version of hui guo rou.

Whatever you call this - it was a really good meal.  We were a little nervous about the amount of improvising we did, but in the end it was delicious.  I would say the main difference between this version and the one served at Little Pepper (aside from the fact that they used pork belly and we used pork loin), is that this version is beanier.  I know that sounds weird, but I don't mean beany in a bad way.  It's quite good.  The version at Little Pepper has more sweetness and spiciness than ours, and less deep and savory bean flavor.  But both versions are delicious.  And I have to say that I am super happy with our dinner.  It was tasty and not only that, since it's a stir fry, it was ready in under 15 minutes. Yay!

Recipe after the jump!

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Somehow I don't bake cookies very often.  It's probably because somehow I feel like cookies involve so much more mess and effort than simply baking a cake.  But nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace a really good cookie in my book.  Case and point, the cornflake marshmallow chocolate chip cookies I am always raving about from Momofuku Milk Bar and the chocolate peanut butter chip cookies from Levain Bakery.  After snacking on those all weekend I couldn't resist the chance to bake myself a batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  Then I got the grand idea that I should add some oats so I could at least pretend that the cookies were healthy (or healthier).  Since I'm giving the majority of these cookies away the health factor doesn't really matter (and it gets me around Alex's baking moratorium, which I already circumvented with two batches of banana bread last week), but let's keep pretending that we're being good here.  I used to have a really kicka** recipe for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies that I lost.  And no batch that I have made since then has quite compared.  So instead of increasingly futile attempts to recreate those cookies, I have started purposefully straying from them in hopes that I will find something different, but equally delicious.

These cookies are interestingly fluffy.  The texture that I was expecting from the cookies was not the texture that came out of the oven.  I think it has something to do with the combination of old-fashioned oats and flour in this ratio. Texturally, these cookies are more like peanut butter cookies in that they are somewhat dry and crumbly like a lot of peanut butter cookies, rather than gooey and soft like chocolate chip cookies.  The cookies also weren't as sweet as I expected.  I considered rolling the dough in granulated sugar before baking them (a la Magnolia Bakery), but decided against it because I was worried they would be too sweet.  In the future I think I will play with the balance of oats and flour, and perhaps add a little more brown sugar.  Oh and I will go back to using Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of the mini Tollhouse chocolate chips.  They were out of the Ghiradelli chocolate chips when I went to the store the other day, so I had to improvise.  I'm a big believer that the chocolate can really make the cookie.  All things considered, this wasn't my best cookie ever, but for a first attempt it wasn't bad at all!  One of these days I will find (or make up) a new go-to chocolate chip peanut butter cookie, with or without oatmeal.  And when I do, you all will be the first to know.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tunisian Soup with Chard and Egg Noodles

So our best friend Mark came to visit, which is great because we love Mark.  And also because when he is in town we eat great food and give Mark a tour of our favorite NYC restaurants, bars, etc.  It has become a tradition that every time he comes to visit, he gets off the bus in NYC on Friday, takes a cab to our apartment, and we head straight to Fatty Crab UWS where we get the steamed buns, the sliders, the wonton mee, the watermelon pickle with pork belly, and whatever else strikes our fancy.  This time we tried the Malay fish fry and the fried chicken (which was so ridiculously good).  Then Saturday for lunch we hit Ippudo for ramen, and then Yakitori Totto for dinner.  Both were sickeningly good.  I will be dreaming about the special spicy ramen at Ippudo, as well as the tsukune (chicken meatballs), the chicken wings, and the negi tori don (charcoal broiled chicken thighs and scallion with raw egg over white rice) from Yakitori Totto for weeks to come.  If you live in NYC and haven't been to either place yet, you really need to get over there.  They are delicious.  In between all of these delicious Asian meals we were snacking on cookies from Levain Bakery, and more cookies and soft serve from Momofuku Milk Bar.  Then we finished off our dining extravaganza on Sunday with brunch at B. Cafe for burgers, croque monsieurs (or madames) and french fries.  Aside from breakfast, it was our only non-Asian meal of the weekend, which is how things typically go when Mark comes up to visit.

So while all of that food we consumed this weekend was crazy delicious, now I feel like a python who swallowed a whole cow - all lethargic and sleepy.  That burger Sunday afternoon might have put me over the edge.  After that meal Alex and I both had to hit the gym.  Later Sunday night we didn't have the energy to cook so we got delivery.  So for tonight's dinner I wanted something light and vegetarian.  After a particularly gluttonous weekend, vegetarian just seems like the way to go.  And since it is still cool outside, soup sounded like a great option.  This soup manages to be both light and hearty at the same time.  The spiciness of the harissa and the smokiness of the toasted cumin seeds give the soup some serious flavor.  I modified the recipe to add more Swiss chard, more noodles, and a bit more chicken stock.  I love chickpeas, but I think that the Swiss chard is more where it's at with this soup.  I like the chickpeas and all, but they don't absorb the flavors of the soup the way that the chard and the noodles do.  I love soup.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asian Noodle Salad with Shrimp

The first time Alex and I tried this recipe, we were a little skeptical.  We were worried that the dressing wouldn't have enough time to really give the shrimp and noodles the depth of flavor we wanted because it doesn't get mixed in until everything else is already cooked.  Boy were we wrong.  This dressing packs a punch and a little spooned on at the end goes a long way.  The dressing gives the shrimp and the noodles a wonderful lime-y, salty, spicy flavor.  When you toss the rice noodles and vegetables with the dressing, the noodles soak up those wonderful flavors, while the vegetables remain fresh and crisp.  It is a beautiful combination of tastes and textures.  If you're really in a rush you could just as easily purchase pre-cooked shrimp and use them instead of roasting the shrimp yourself.  Actually, the recipe as written in Bon Appetit called for pre-cooked, rather than raw shrimp.  Then it's just a matter of cooking some rice noodles - which only takes about 5 minutes, and chopping up some vegetables.  If you use pre-cooked shrimp, this whole meal could go from fridge to dinner table in 15 minutes.  And not only is it easy and fast to prepare, it's also healthy and delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Green Curry Coconut Banana Bread

So after baking a loaf of Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Banana Bread the other day I had a few bananas left over for yet another banana bread baking experiment.  I thought about returning to an old fave, but decided to just go nuts instead.  Momofuku Milk Bar has this green curry banana bread that I tried a bite of once upon a time, and since I had bananas and green curry paste I figured I could whip up a batch of my own.  I always think that coconut and curry go wonderfully together, plus I wanted some extra sweetness to balance out the heat of the Maesri green curry paste (which is pretty fearsome stuff), so I also threw in some sweetened shredded coconut.  I didn't have any sour cream or unsalted butter left, but I did have some leftover creme fraiche, eggs, buttermilk and vegetable oil, so I decided to use what I had to throw together a batch of banana bread.  I decided against the buttermilk because I thought the slight tang of it might not go well with the coconut and green curry paste, but I figured that eggs, creme fraiche and vegetable oil wouldn't clash with my vaguely Southeast Asian flavor profile.  I was a little hesitant about the creme fraiche at first but I love adding dairy products like creme fraiche, sour cream and buttermilk to baked goods for the richness and moistness that it produces, so I decided to just go for it and try it with the creme fraiche.

While the bread was baking I could only get the faintest whiff of the green curry paste, although the aroma of something banana-y and delicious wafted through the whole apartment.  Actually, I'm not even sure that I smelled the green curry paste so much as I might have imagined myself smelling it, but what can you do.  When I tasted the batter there was a subtle kick of heat and spice to it that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I thought about adding more green curry paste, but decided that I didn't want the taste of the green curry to completely overpower the taste of the banana and coconut.  And in the end I think I used the perfect amount of green curry paste.  This bread is fantastic.  The taste of the green curry is subtle, but definitely there.  It lingers on the tongue and gives the bread a savory quality lacking from most banana bread recipes.  It's definitely not in your face, but it's impossible to miss (even if you can't quite figure out what it is).  The sweetness of the coconut is subtle as well, but I think it really adds something.  The crumb is wonderful as well - super moist, with a nice crust that formed on the top.  Unlike the Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, this banana bread is more bread and less cake - both in terms of sweetness and the crumb itself.  I only baked the Green Curry Coconut Banana Bread today, but at the rate we're eating it I might have to go bake another loaf!  It's really that good.

Recipe after the jump!

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

The problem with buying bananas in NYC is that you either end up with 3-4 bananas, or you end up with an entire bagful of 6-7 bananas.  I have a specific range in which I consider bananas edible - when they are too green and unripe I hate how they stick to your teeth, but then once they start turning brown and mushy I don't like them either.  Basically, I will eat bananas anytime from yellow, to yellow with some brown spots.  The second they turn the corner to too brown for me, I start thinking about banana bread.  This banana bread recipe from Savory Sweet Life is one that I have been looking forward to baking for some time now, but it seems that every time I have enough overripe bananas, I am missing at least one of the other key ingredients (usually sour cream).  Somehow this time I have everything I need!  Score.

I have been wanting to make this recipe since the end of January, so I've had some time to build it up in my head, while wondering how sour cream would work with banana bread.  Luckily, the bread lived up to my expectations and more.  Granted, banana isn't the dominant flavor - instead I tasted chocolate more than anything else, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  After all, I do love chocolate far more than I love bananas.  Who doesn't?  And that's not to say that you don't taste the banana at all, the bananas are definitely present - they just aren't dominant.  Most importantly, the banana bread is wonderfully moist - with a very fluffy crumb.  Some banana breads can be a little dense and dry, as can all quick breads, but the sour cream worked wonders to keep the bread light and moist - more cake-like than bread-like in some ways.  I'm not sure if this will be the only banana bread recipe I will cook from now on, but I will certainly add it to the rotation!  In some ways I miss the flavor of the spices (particularly the cardamom) and the prevalent banana flavor from Granny Foster's Banana Bread, but in others I love the gooey chocolatey goodness of this recipe.  Decisions, decisions!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spicy Glazed Eggplant

I thoroughly enjoy the idea of vegetables.  I don't always enjoy eating them, but I think some of them are seriously delicious when prepared well.  Asian eggplant is one of those vegetables that I find especially delicious when prepared well.  It can be incredibly savory - umami if you will.  I also find that it's hearty enough that I rarely miss meat when I'm eating eggplant, which is advantageous when you're trying to eat vegetarian once or twice a week.  I could never forgo meat entirely, but roughly once a week I really like a huge serving of vegetables.

This recipe for Spicy Glazed Eggplant has been on my radar for a little while as quick and easy midweek vegetarian meal.  When I say quick and easy I am ignoring the 45 minutes that the eggplant sits in a colander in the sink after you slice it and sprinkle it with salt.  Ignoring that 45 minutes, the eggplant really only takes 10 minutes from start to finish - you really can't beat that.  And it's tasty (although I think that calling it spicy is a misnomer because I didn't think it was spicy at all).  Look at it this way.  You can slice your eggplant and throw it in a colander right when you get home, then you can change into sweats and lounge on the couch, or go to spin class like I did this evening, and then come home and whip up a quick meal.  Granted, you should stir the eggplant a few times while it's resting in the colander to ensure that the salt draws out the moisture evenly, but I won't tell if you won't.  If you're feeling more ambitious you could serve this as a wonderful side dish to an Asian meal and prepare the main course and the rice while the eggplant sits in the colander.  I think pork would make a wonderful accompaniment.  No pressure though!

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


It's not everyday that I visit both locations of Boqueria in one day.  Actually, that has never happened to me before in my life.  But Alex and I went out for brunch at the Soho location earlier in the afternoon last Saturday and then we ended up meeting friends for a drink at the Flatiron location later that day.  I think Boqueria has some of the best tapas in the city.  Tapas have become altogether too common here in NYC and most of the restaurants are barely passable.  There are some obvious exceptions to the overwhelming mediocrity of NYC tapas restaurants.  Txikito, El Quinto Pino, and Tia Pol are all fantastic.  And I have yet to try Tangled Vine, a new tapas restaurant that just opened on the UWS, so I will reserve judgment until I have.

More after the jump!

Smoky Chipotle Hummus

  • 2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)*
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chilies**
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 4-ounce jar sliced pimientos in oil, drained
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • For our dinner party last night we made both tzatziki and hummus to serve with pita and some of those mini sweet peppers that are super tasty.  Since I couldn't decide which one I wanted to make, I made both.  Sometimes less is more, and sometimes more is just... more.  The only problem with making both sauces/dips was that I had to wash my food processor twice.  Oh well.  It was worth it!

    The smokiness of this hummus was wonderful.  I tend to love spicy hummus recipes, rather than the more traditional hummus flavored simply with tahini and lemon juice.  Nothing against traditional hummus, but spicy hummus is just way better.  Generally I go for jalapeno hummus, rather than chipotle hummus, but this time I was in the mood for something a little different.  This hummus is all about the smokey flavors of the chipotles and the ground cumin.  I loved the smokiness, but if you're not into smokey flavors, the combination of the chipotles and the cumin might be a little much.  Feel free to omit the pimentos if you don't have any, because I don't feel like they really added anything in terms of taste to the hummus itself, but they are nice for a burst of additional color. 

    Recipe after the jump!


    I love tzatziki sauce.  Tzatziki sauce served with some fresh, fluffy, warm pita is one of my very favorite things to eat at Greek restaurants.  Actually, it's one of my favorite things to eat anywhere.  I've also used it on various sandwiches and burgers, which I think is lovely.  This version of tzatziki sauce has become my new go-to.  I've tried several versions of tzatziki, including some with mint instead of dill, or with mint in addition to dill.  This version has a wonderful balance between the freshness of the cucumber, the creamy tang of the yogurt, the bright lemony flavor, and the dill.  None of the flavors overpowered the others, which was a huge plus.  And the thing I love most about this sauce is that you can basically throw everything into the food processor and let it do all of the work.  I got the idea to use the food processor from Kalyn's Kitchen and I will never go back.  Some recipes require that you grate the cucumber and then squeeze out all of the liquid, before making a paste of the garlic, but this is way better.

    I served this tzatziki as an appetizer before a roast leg of lamb and Greek salad.  I figured while I was going Greek for dinner, I might as well pull out one of my favorite Greek menu items!  Seeing as it was a big hit I'm glad that I did.  It was totally delicious and well worth making.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Epic fail...

    Tonight was our first (although I'm sure it won't be our last) epic blog post fail.  While in Chinatown last week I bought a whole duck.  I figured we deboned a whole chicken last week - why not try a duck?  Ambitious?  Maybe.  But it seemed do-able.  And when I saw pre-made steamed buns in the freezer and refrigerator section at the same grocery store I started to get ideas about Peking Duck and how delicious that would be.  So I went home and I found a recipe for Hoisin Lime Roast Duck that seemed promising - not quite Peking duck, but close enough.  Last night we whipped up the marinade and marinated it overnight in the fridge.  Then we took it out this evening and roasted it.  When we took it out of the oven it looked and smelled delicious.  After allowing it to rest for 10 minutes, we started trying to carve it.  I'm not exactly sure where we went wrong here. 

    The duck was nearly meatless.  The duck breast was less than 3/4 of an inch thick and a thick fat cap accounted for maybe 1/2 of that.  Now I don't mind duck skin if it's crispy, even if there's some significant fat attached, but when it is straight up fat, that just doesn't do it for me.  Not only was the skin completely not crispy, it also had very little flavor.  Seeing as the duck marinated for almost 24 hours I really expected there to be a lot more flavor.  If the skin had little to no flavor, the meat was even less flavorful.  And then the steamed buns were hard.  Bummer.

    So instead of duck, we're now eating peanut butter crackers.  We tried to make mac n cheese and then realized that we didn't have any milk either since Alex finished it off earlier today.  Epic fail.

    Whole Wheat Penne Rigate with Summer Squash and Ricotta

    I love zucchini and other summer squash.  It's delicious.  But it can get somewhat tiring trying to come up with new recipes and new ways to use all of the squash I pick up during the summer when it seems to overrun the farmer's market.  This summer I am determined to join a CSA so I am certain that I will be eating even more squash than usual, which means I need to figure out even more ways to use it.  So when I picked up Mario Batali's new vegetable-driven cookbook, Molto Gusto, and saw the recipe for Pennette with Summer Squash and Ricotta, I knew I had to try it.  Not only does the recipe use squash, but it pairs squash with ricotta and mint, which I think is a fabulous combination.  The cookbook also contains a recipe for Linguine with Zucchini & Bottarga that I am determined to try once I track down some bottarga, which I believe I have seen at Chelsea Market.

    While I do intend to make this recipe as written at some point, today I decided to play with the recipe a bit.  Generally I make the recipe as written the first time and then start playing to my heart's content (unless upon first glance at the recipe I feel like I can improve upon it by adding this or cutting that), but we're doing it all backwards this time.  I included Mario's recipe as intended, as well as the recipe as I adapted it.  I like to give credit where credit is due, and I certainly didn't come up with the whole recipe on my own.  I didn't have any normal pennette rigate.  Instead all I had was whole wheat penne rigate.  I'm not sure how or if pennette rigate differs from penne rigate, but that's ok.  Since I was using whole wheat pasta, I had to amp up the flavor of the zucchini and the ricotta a tiny bit.  I find that whole wheat pasta is far drier than regular pasta, not to mention grainier.  I also find that it requires far more salt and seasoning to make it flavorful.  So I added some crushed red pepper flakes to amp up the flavor of the zucchini a little more, as well as some lemon zest to give the ricotta mixture a little more tang.  I also upped the amount of fresh mint that I added to the pasta, but that change was fairly minor in comparison to the others.

    I really liked this pasta recipe.  It made a wonderful healthy lunch!  Actually, healthy or not, it was wonderful.  The addition of the crushed red pepper, the lemon zest, and the additional tablespoon of fresh mint were lovely.  Without them I don't know if the pasta would really sing.  I'm not sure if the creaminess of the ricotta and the sauteed zucchini could carry whole wheat pasta without the other additions.  Shockingly enough, I didn't even miss the regular pasta - which is saying a lot!  Give it a shot both ways and let me know what you think.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Fattoush (Toasted Pita Bread Salad)

    I don't think words exist to describe how enamored I am with this salad.  I knew I liked fattoush, but I'm coming to realize that I really LOVE fattoush, or at least I really love this fattoush.  Usually I order fattoush when I am ordering falafel or shwarma, but I am going to make it at home from now on because it really is that much better.  Homemade fattoush is so much brighter and fresher, with crazily vibrant flavors.  You have the sourness of the lemons, playing off the brightness of the herbs, the freshness of the cucumbers, the tartness of the ground sumac, the peppery spiciness of the arugula, and the sweetness of the tomatoes.  It's brilliant.  I'm fairly certain that I have never had such a delicious salad before in my life.  Or at least not in the past few months because I can't honestly remember any salads in any real detail from before then.  This salad is perfect on a day like today where somehow it is gloriously sunny and 90 degrees outside.  In April.  I would complain about the evils of global warming screwing up the weather, but I am too excited by this salad.  I couldn't have made a more perfect lunch if I tried.  I love it when that happens.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Crispy Basa (Catfish) with Onions and Ginger

    Basa are a type of catfish native in to the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam.  I've never tried cooking with it before, but as it seems to be widely (and cheaply) available in NYC, I decided to go ahead and try it out.  Generally catfish is not my favorite fish, but I have had some dishes recently that have made me reevaluate my former disdain for the fish.  The ginger-rubbed catfish num pang (the Cambodian equivalent of the banh mi) at Kampuchea on the LES was one such dish.  It was delicious.  Usually I object to the texture and somewhat muddy taste of catfish, but this was a completely different catfish from what I had experienced in the past.  After trying that catfish I have been tempted several times to order the peppercorn catfish num pang at Num Pang, which is basically a little sandwich take out shop by the same chef as Kampuchea located just south of Union Square, but their pork belly num pang and I have a little love affair going.  I can't seem to pass it up.  And on the rare occasions that I do convince myself to order something else, the coconut tiger shrimp and duroc pulled pork are simply too good.  One of these days I swear I will try the peppercorn catfish - even if it takes me another year to do it.

    This catfish was amazing.  The outsides were nice and crisp and the insides were tender, but not at all mushy.  The fish itself also had some really great flavor.  Alex and I were both shocked by how much we liked this dish, particularly since we aren't usually huge fans of catfish.  This was a revelation.  I really like catfish!  Who knew?  If you're unsure about catfish like I was, I totally recommend trying out this recipe.  You won't be disappointed.  I loved the onions and ginger with the catfish, but you could also just use this method of cooking the catfish and serve it on a banh  mi (Alex's suggestion), or in a variety of other different ways.  We served it tonight with a bowl of rice noodles, mint, cilantro, English cucumber, red-leaf lettuce, and nuoc cham.  The idea was that either you could eat the noodles separately as a cold and refreshing noodle salad, or you could roll the catfish up in the lettuce leaves and make little Vietnamese lettuce rolls.  The catfish would be equally good served over a bed of steamed rice, but after the fried rice last night I wanted to do something different.  I loved our meal, but there are about a zillion different ways you could serve this catfish, all of them delicious.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage and Chicken Adobo with Sauteed Baby Bok Choy with Garlic and Ginger

    I know I have written before about how much I love fried rice so I won't bother to go into it again.  The inspiration for this fried rice came from the bahay kubo fried rice we tried at Umi Nom a few weeks ago.  The fried rice there had chicken, Chinese sausage, shrimp, garlic, egg and soy sauce.  We had leftover chicken adobo from the other night, plus I picked up some Chinese sausage and other fun ingredients down in Chinatown this evening with fried rice in mind.  I'm actually really excited about some of my other purchases (including a whole duck, pork belly, and steamed buns like the ones David Chang uses for his steamed pork buns), which I will be using in future meals/blog posts, but we will get into those later.  Tonight is all about fried rice.  And baby bok choy, which I served to satisfy my rampant springtime cravings for fresh vegetables.

    Along with the leftover chicken adobo and the Chinese sausage, my fried rice included garlic, ginger, Chinese chives, carrots, eggs, mushroom soy sauce, fish sauce, and sesame oil.  I subscribe to the more the merrier philosophy when it comes to fried rice.  Can you tell?  Anyway, this fried rice was a welcome departure from my standard fried rice recipes.  I have never added fish sauce to fried rice before, but I though that the salty, funky flavor would go well with my other ingredients.  And this was my first time ever using mushroom soy sauce, so that was kind of exciting too.  Generally I don't add soy sauce or any other liquids to my fried rice, except for a touch of sesame oil, so this was a whole new way to make fried rice for me.  The reason we added so many liquids this time was because the fried rice at Umi Nom was wet, or at least more wet than my fried rice, and I figured if I was going to steal the idea of using Chinese sausage and chicken in fried rice, I might as well try adding some soy sauce, etc. to my rice as well.  The other thing that differentiated their fried rice from my fried rice is that they didn't make the egg pancake and then chop it up, which leaves the fried rice flecked with little pieces of fried egg.  Instead, they poured the beaten eggs down over the rice while frying it.  Doing the eggs that way ensures that each grain of rice is coated in a thin coat of eggy goodness, rather than each bite being seeded with fried egg.  Cooking the eggs in the rice also serves to make the rice a little wetter and denser, which sounds kind of strange but can be really nice.  Now our fried rice was by no means as crazily delicious as the one we had at Umi Nom a few weeks ago, but it was nice.  Or as Alex said, "most deliciously tasty."  

    And if you're craving vegetables, try the baby bok choy.  It was faintly sweet from the oyster sauce, and seasoned with garlic and ginger.  This cooking method works for almost any Chinese greens, but I particularly enjoy it with baby bok choy.  

    Recipes after the jump!

    Sunday, April 4, 2010

    Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

    All of this glorious spring weather has made me yearn for salads.  Every time spring rolls around I go through a brief period of craving and eating salads by the bowlful.  Then it ends.  A diet built on salads certainly is not meant to last.  One of my favorite salads is mixed greens with roasted beets and goat cheese.  Another favorite is fatoosh - a Middle Eastern salad made with romaine, toasted pita bread, roma tomatoes, and cucumbers.  I briefly considered making fatoosh for dinner this evening, but the bodega was out of both roma tomatoes and English cucumbers.  Oh well.  After a delicious dinner at Joseph Leonard in the West Village last week where I tried their beet salad with goat cheese croquettes and olive toast, I have been going on and on about how we should make roasted beets at home.  Generally I have a no roasted beets at home policy because the whole process takes awhile and stains my hands bright magenta.  But policies like that are just meant to be broken.  Tonight seemed like the perfect opportunity.  

    When we started thinking about a salad built around roasted beets, I knew I wanted to pair it with goat cheese and candied pecans.  I love the addition of candied pecans - sweet with honey, and spicy with cayenne - in almost any salad.  They make everything better.  Actually, I don't even need salad to eat them.  I can eat them by the handful all by themselves.  Yum.  Goat cheese and beets are such a natural pairing.  The sweetness of the beets, paired with the creaminess of the goat cheese is dynamite.  Throw in a nice red wine and sherry vinaigrette and some candied pecans and you have a fantastic salad.  We paired the salad with some stracciatella soup that we made with our homemade chicken stock.  I never thought that homemade chicken stock was worth the trouble when they sell perfectly decent stock in a box, but it really is worth it.  In the homemade stock you could actually taste the herbs (fresh thyme and parsley) and the other vegetables that I made the stock with.  And it tasted deeper and richer than the pre-made stocks.  I'm certainly not going to whip up a batch of homemade stock every time I need chicken stock to make soup, but this certainly won't be the last time I make homemade stock - particularly now that we know how to debone a whole chicken!

    Recipe after the jump!

    Saturday, April 3, 2010

    Chicken Adobo

    My first experience with Chicken Adobo in years occurred at the cooking class I took with King Phojanakong in February.  Now that Chicken Adobo made its way back on my culinary radar I couldn't wait to make it at home.  This evening Alex and I finally had the chance.  I picked up a whole chicken from the grocery store the other day and it was happily waiting for me in the refrigerator when I returned home from running errands this afternoon.  All we had to do was de-bone the chicken, and then start braising it in a mixture of soy, vinegar, coconut milk, and various other spices.  And then we went ahead and made homemade chicken stock with the remaining carcass.  This was a day of two firsts for us - first deboning the whole chicken, and then making homemade chicken stock from the bones.

    From what I understand about Chicken Adobo, there is no one recipe.  I looked over several different recipes, including the recipe from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Homecooking from Asian American Kitchens by Pat Tanumihardja.  Many of the recipes, including this one, included the same key ingredients (vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and water), but changed the proportions and the cooking instructions to some degree, and then added other ingredients to suit myself, including coconut milk and dried Thai chilis.

    We only served the white meat tonight because I am planning on making some quasi-Filipino or Indonesian garlic fried rice later in the week with the leftover dark meat and Chinese sausage.  I can't wait to try the dark meat, because the white meat was delicious, if a little dry.  We removed the breasts from the bone this time, but the next time we make this I plan on keeping the breasts on the bone to retain more moisture.  Even though the breasts were a little dry, the adobo sauce was fantastic - faintly spicy, and incredibly savory.  I couldn't taste the coconut milk, but seeing as I only added 1/2 of a cup, that is no surprise.  Honestly, I didn't miss the taste of the coconut milk at all.  The scallions provided some freshness to contrast with the intense flavors of the adobo sauce.  The rice soaks up all of that wonderful sauce and becomes just as delicious as the chicken itself.  The next time we try it, I might go ahead and use pork for fun.  We will have to increase the braising time, but who doesn't love braised pork shoulder?

    Recipe after the jump!

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    Quinoa Caprese

    This seems to be the week where I keep going back to old favorites and re-posting recipes that I have already posted here in some form or another.  That's kind of sad considering I started this blog in December, but they wouldn't be old favorites if I didn't keep making them.  And, in my defense, I hadn't posted pictures of either of the two recipes that I re-posted this week because they had both been included in posts with multiple recipes.  So this time my Quinoa Caprese and my Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits get posts of their very own, with pictures and everything.

    This salad is one of my favorite light summertime lunches.  It would also be a fantastic picnic lunch or potluck dinner dish.  It is divine when tomatoes and basil are in season and you can grab pints of mini-heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market.  Yum.  I am getting all excited just thinking about tomatoes at the farmer's market.  But since these little cherry tomatoes from Fairway looked pretty delicious, even out of season, and since it was so wonderfully warm out today, I couldn't resist my craving for this salad.  I can't get enough of the way the sweet, but tangy tomatoes, pair with the creamy mozzarella cheese, fragrant basil and nutty quinoa.  And then there's that lemon vinaigrette to tie it all together.  I could wait until summertime to enjoy, but why deprive myself of something so healthy, yet tasty?

    Recipe after the jump!

    Pizza night


    So tonight was pizza night.  We bought the dough (I usually get mine from Whole Foods, but you can also go to a lot of pizza parlors and ask to just buy a ball of dough), and then we had all sorts of ideas for topping ingredients.  I couldn't decide which pizza to make so I tried to convince Alex to make four pizzas in one, but he didn't like that idea.  Then when our pizza dough ended up in the shape of an oval Alex agreed that we could use three different sets of toppings, one set on each third of the pizza.  And it just so happened that I had three different pizzas that I was deciding between.  I love pizza night!

    So our pizza was one-third pizza bianca a la Jim Lahey at Co., where the dough is simply sprinkled with rosemary, evoo and sea salt.  And then served with fresh ricotta cheese, mixed with crushed red pepper flakes, evoo and salt.  We added a touch of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a ton of garlic for fun, but overall tried to stay somewhat true to Co.'s pizza bianca.  Granted, I had the pizza at Co. roughly two months ago so I'm not sure how true to the original I actually was, but that's ok.  I tried.  Another one-third was your basic margherita pizza with large slices of beefsteak tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and dried oregano.  The last one-third of our pizza was smoked mozzarella, asparagus, and serrano ham.  All of the pizzas started with a base of dough brushed with evoo, sprinkled with garlic and sea salt.  Our favorite?  Hands down the pizza bianca.  The other two pizzas were good, but the pizza bianca was fantastic.  Since Alex has never been to Co. before he had nothing to judge it against, but I think we totally knocked it out of the ballpark.  So delicious!

    In an effort to at least pretend to be healthy, we served the pizza with our version of Anne Burrell's Asparagus, Pecorino and Red Onion Salad recipe.  I love vinegar as much as the next person, but her recipe as written is scary on the vinegar.  We mellowed it out by cutting back on the amount of red wine vinegar and adding some balsamic to sweeten it up and cut out some of the acidity of the red wine vinegar.  This is a great salad when asparagus is in season in the spring and is sweet and amazing.  We jumped the gun a little here since asparagus isn't quite in season yet, but I couldn't resist.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits

    I know that I have referenced this recipe before in my post on Cheddar Biscuits, but I made a fresh batch last night and just had to share the pictures (and the recipe) with you all again.  I had a thing of buttermilk in the fridge fast approaching its expiration date and when I realized that I had all of the ingredients for these biscuits I knew I had to make a batch.  I briefly considered making this recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits with Green Onions, Black Pepper and Sea Salt from Bon Appetit, but I didn't have any self-rising flour.  Maybe next time.  As I mentioned in my previous biscuit post, these biscuits do not have an overly traditional texture to them due to the addition of the cornmeal.  The cornmeal makes the crumb a little coarser and "grittier," although not in a bad way.  They just aren't quite as tender as a traditional buttermilk biscuit should be.  Instead they are wonderfully cheesy and savory, which is a trade-off that I am willing to make.  Alex and I think they are absolutely wonderful, but that's just us.  Let me know what you think!

    Recipe after the jump!