Monday, May 31, 2010

Stir-Fried Sugar Snap Peas with Chinese Sausage

I have a bad habit of buying far too much produce anytime I hit the farmers' market or the grocery store in early summer.  Everything just looks so fresh and delicious.  Even though our fridge was already full to the brim, I couldn't resist buying some more fresh asparagus and sugar snap peas, as well as a gigantic daikon, at the farmers' market behind the Museum of Natural History on Sunday.  So today for lunch I had to figure out how to use some of that produce.  This was the result.  We had to modify the recipe somewhat because it called for far too much liquid, but I am modifying the recipe even further here so the sauce thickens up even more.

The flavors were really good here.  I loved the combination of the sweet Chinese sausage and the sugar snap peas and asparagus.  You have to be really careful not to overcook the vegetables because then they will just be mushy and gross.  Part of the beauty of this dish is tasting the rich, savory and sweet sausage balanced against the fresh crisp vegetables.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Shrimp and Pineapple Salad

There is a Vietnamese restaurant called Present in Falls Church, VA that my mother and I love.  The food is absolutely delicious, and the atmosphere far surpasses that of all of the other Vietnamese restaurants in the Falls Church/Eden Center area.  For those of you unfamiliar with that area of Virginia, it is Vietnamese restaurant central.  Some of our other favorites in the area include Huong Viet and Viet Royale.  If you're in the area you really have to check them out.  Try the butter-fried frog legs and lotus root salad at Huong Viet, and the banh xeo and caramel shrimp at Viet Royale.  But if you go to Present, you absolutely have to try two things - the "Treasure of the Sea" (a fantastic salad made with pineapple, carrot, onion, lemongrass, fried garlic, roasted peanuts, tiger shrimp, and calamari) and the "Silken Shawl Imperial Autumn Roll" (the best pork and shrimp stuffed Vietnamese spring roll that you have ever had).

Today for lunch I decided to try and make a version of their "Treasure of the Sea" using large shrimp, pineapple, red onion, cilantro, mint, roasted salted peanuts, lime juice, fish sauce and a touch of sugar.  I can't claim that my version of the salad is anywhere near as good as the one they serve at Present, but it was still a really nice fresh, tasty lunch on a warm late spring/early summer day.  The next time I make the salad I think I will add in calamari for variety and perhaps some fried shallots for crunch.

Recipe (and pictures of the food at Present) after the jump!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Linguine with Clams

One night in Aruba we ate at an Italian restaurant called Gianni's with some of our friends who attended the wedding.  I ended up ordering a shrimp scampi pasta instead of their fettucine with clams, but I have been thinking about pasta with a white clam sauce ever since.  I actually went grocery shopping at Zabar's yesterday and came home with a pound of fresh linguine and told Alex that I demanded linguine with clams one night for dinner next week.  Today we went out to lunch at Mad for Chicken with some friends of ours in K-town (aka Koreatown) where I introduced everyone to Korean fried chicken.  For those of you who haven't had it, you are really missing out.  The skin is light and incredibly crispy, without all of the extra breading that Americans use.  And they serve it in one of two sauces - a sweet soy & garlic soy and a hot & spicy sauce.  Both sauces are delicious.  Anyway, back to the linguine.  So after we went to lunch we went grocery shopping at H-Mart (a Korean grocery store) and I saw some gorgeous little neck clams.  And the light said "linguine with clams for dinner tonight!"  Actually, these clams were so little that I was almost convinced they were cockles, but they would have been pretty huge for cockles and they were clearly clam shells.  Moving on.

I bought Mario Batali's Molto Gusto cookbook a few months ago and I have been rather obsessed with it ever since.  As I was explaining to Alex, this cookbook is so much more approachable than his other cookbooks, which often require esoteric ingredients and very labor-intensive preparations.  We made one of his pasta recipes from the Babbo Cookbook a few years ago and it took us about 4 hours to make the ragu, make the homemade pasta, and serve dinner.  Don't get me wrong - the meal was delicious.  But 4 hours?  Anyway, I have been eying the recipe for Linguine with Clams in Molto Gusto ever since I bought it.  We finally made it this evening and it was everything I hoped it would be.  One of the beauties of a good white clam sauce is that it is incredibly simple - you mix evoo, garlic, white wine, red pepper flakes, and parsley with some clams and some pasta and it's just wonderful.  The pasta is light and fresh, but very flavorful.  The linguine itself soaks up so much flavor from the sauce, and the clams remain nice and sweet, with a kick from the red pepper flakes.  Better yet?  Dinner was on in the table in 20-30 minutes!  And that included a quick salad of cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, sea salt and balsamic vinegar that I threw together, which incidentally was a perfect accompaniment to the pasta.

Recipe after the jump!

Thank you

It occurred to me this morning while I was washing dishes after our eggs benedict experiment that I really owe some thanks to everyone who made this blog possible.  For late 20-somethings, Alex and I have an incredibly well-equipped kitchen, even before we were married and the wonder of the wedding registry kicked in.  Thanks to Alex's family we have a huge collection of All-Clad pots, pans, utensils and even an All-Clad slow-cooker.  Thanks to mine we have a KitchenAid stand mixer, a food processor, a mini-prep food processor, a blender and an immersion blender.  And thanks to our friends we have wine glasses, mixing bowls, dishes, All-Clad measuring cups, Shun knives, cutting boards, serving platters, etc.

So thanks everyone!  We love you guys and we think of you every time we cook.

Eggs "Benedict" with Asparagus and Prosciutto

While in Aruba I got in a conversation with friends about how I am intimidated by hollandaise.  I'm not really sure at this point why I stay away from hollandaise in my kitchen, I just know that I have yet to make eggs benedict at home, because it would require me to make hollandaise sauce.  I've always heard that hollandaise is hard to make - it breaks, you have to whisk it by hand over a saucepan of gently simmering water, etc.  Then I realized, if you're going the home cook version, you can also make hollandaise in a blender.  Genius!  But when I told Alex that we were going to make the hollandaise for our eggs benedict in a blender he shamed me into doing it the old-fashioned way.  Well, really he shamed himself into it because I refused to be the one standing over the saucepan of gently simmering water whisking away.  Instead, Alex had to whisk the eggs into submission while I commentated.  And for the record, the first batch of hollandaise we made broke.  So we had to start over.  See?  I had reason to stay away - hollandaise is finicky!  But in the end, particularly once you know what you are looking for, it's not hard to make.  Basically, we learned that the hollandaise goes from thin, to thick, to thickest - almost the consistency of aioli or homemade mayonnaise.  Stop once you get to that really thick point, otherwise your sauce might break and end up a buttery, liquidy mess.  It just requires some knowledge, babysitting and arm muscle.

I decided to top my eggs benedict with asparagus and prosciutto rather than smoked salmon, or the more traditional ham.  And I decided to serve it on toasted crusty sourdough from Amy's Breads.  Alex and I both agreed that we loved the sourdough in our version of eggs benedict.  It soaked up the runny egg yolks and the hollandaise sauce without getting mushy, and it gave the dish great flavor.  Also, this hollandaise was lighter (overall it was just less heavy and rich) and more lemon-y than most I have tasted.  I know a lot of recipes call for either vinegar or lemon juice and I have to say that with the asparagus I loved the noticeable lemon flavor of our hollandaise.  The proscuitto added just the right note of rich, salty, porky goodness - without it I think the dish would have been missing something.  As much as I loved this dish, I think we will probably only make it once every 6 months or so because it requires so many pots and pans and a good amount of effort.  But it was delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lemony Garlic Roast Chicken Breasts and Radicchio Salad with Gorgonzola and Peppered Walnuts

Roast chicken is one of our old standbys.  We tend to keep bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in the fridge at all times.  Roasting them up takes little to no effort or thought and provides us with a delicious dinner.  Another thing I love about roasting chicken breasts is that you can mix up flavors, seasonings, and herbs to make it a new dish every time.  The most common combination of flavors for us, and the one we used this time, is evoo, s&p, garlic, fresh thyme, and lemon.  The flavors are nice and light, and vaguely Mediterranean.  The only caveat is that if you use too much lemon the skin of the chicken never crisps up and the flavor and acidity of the lemon dominates everything else.

I went a little nuts at the grocery store the other day and bought three beautiful heads of radicchio (mostly because they just looked so pretty).  We used one last night for our Prosciutto-Wrapped Radicchio, but there were two more heads of radicchio staring up at me from the vegetable drawer.  So I decided to make some sort of salad to go with our roast chicken for tonight.  Actually, I gave Alex the option of making a random mixed green salad with leftover romaine or concocting some sort of radicchio salad.  He chose the radicchio over the romaine based on the justification that if we didn't use the radicchio up ASAP we would forget about it.  I think the same rationale applies to the romaine (which we have forgotten about in the past), but I'll go with it.  So I started looking up various radicchio salad recipes and this is the one Alex picked.  We didn't have any Cabrales blue cheese, and I'm not a huge fan of Roquefort, so I substituted Gorgonzola cheese, which I love.  If we had any Valdeon in the fridge I would have thrown that in as well, but our fridge isn't fully back up to speed after Aruba yet, although it is getting close.

Recipes after the jump!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Disappearing Zucchini Orzo and Prosciutto-Wrapped Radicchio

Several years ago I read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:  A Year of Food Life.  I went through a phase where I read every book even remotely related to food.  I have since grown out of that phase, but it must be said that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was one of the better books I read then.  While the book was a very interesting read, what really stuck with me was her recipe for "Disappearing Zucchini Orzo."  I had grated zucchini to use in zucchini breads before, but mixing grated zucchini into pasta had never crossed my mind.  And boy is it good and easy.  I think this is the perfect gateway dish to get kids to eat zucchini (then again how would I know since I don't have any).  The zucchini isn't a distinct and overwhelming flavor in this dish - instead it is somewhat masked by the taste of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, but you are still getting several servings of zucchini down in a really delicious fashion.  I also love that the whole dish comes together in a matter of minutes.  While you boil the pasta, you can grate the zucchini, chop the onion and garlic, then saute everything together.  Voila!  An easy, healthy, vegetarian weeknight meal.

We served our orzo this evening with prosciutto-wrapped radicchio - something I have been meaning to make for months now.  Alex loves prosciutto and I love the idea of using random vegetables like radicchio in different ways, so it really was the perfect dish for us.  I think the tang of the balsamic vinegar that I sprinkled on after I took the radicchio out of the pan was what really made the dish come together.  Without the balsamic it would have been a little blah, but with the balsamic it was yummy.

Recipe after the jump!

Roast Asparagus

Asparagus is and always has been one of my favorite vegetables.  During the spring I make it in every way possible.  Once asparagus is no longer in season I move onto zucchini and summer squash.  But while asparagus is in season I eat it as often as I can.  One of my favorite things about asparagus is that you can simply roast it in a cast iron pan with evoo, s&p - sometimes sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and sometimes not, and it always tastes amazing.  You can do essentially the same thing with a grill, but I think the asparagus tastes even better in a cast iron pan.

Recipe after the jump!

Jalapeno Hummus

Ever since the success of our first hummus attempt, I have been considering different hummus recipes to try.  Should I make jalapeno hummus (which I love)?  Or red pepper hummus?  Should I go completely outside the box and make black bean hummus or white bean hummus?  Or should I make more traditional hummus?  Today I was in the mood for something lightly spicy, but not too complicated.  I think that's mostly because for the past week plus I have been gorging myself on food in various Aruban and NYC restaurants.  After eating so much rich and intensely flavorful food, I wanted something light and simple.  So I took a traditional hummus and added jalapeno and a pinch of cayenne pepper for some additional kick. 

Thus hummus had good flavor, but it wasn't as creamy and different as the Smoky Chipotle Hummus I made a few months ago.  You can taste the chickpeas and tahini more in this recipe than in my previous hummus, and you can taste the jalapeno without it overwhelming you with spice, which is kind of what I was looking for today.  Generally I love funky, outside the box foods, but sometimes I really want simpler, more traditional flavors.  This totally fit the bill.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Goat Cheese Sandwich with Bacon and Honey-Vinaigrette

So this sandwich is an interpretation of another of our favorite meals in Aruba, this one served at a restaurant/bar called Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill on De Palm Pier.  If you are staying anywhere from Holiday Inn down to the Westin in Aruba, you really need to check it out.  The view is amazing because the restaurant is on a pier jutting out into the water, and the food is fantastic.  The week that we were in Aruba, Alex probably had 5-6 of these goat cheese sandwiches.  The first time we had the sandwich was in August 2008 on our first trip to Aruba and it was entirely due to our love of that sandwich that we went back to Bugaloe.  They really are that good.  I also really enjoy their grouper sandwich, but I have to find some really good grouper before I attempt that one.

My version of the goat cheese sandwich is a little different from the one they served at Bugaloe, but I think it's just as good.  First, I used baguette, instead of the softer bread they used in Aruba.  Second, I toasted the bread to warm it up and make it crustier, rather than warming the goat cheese while leaving the bread un-toasted.  Third, my honey-vinaigrette is sweeter and thicker than the version they served with their sandwich.  Last, and this was somewhat out of my control, our bacon was thicker and therefore packed more of a salty, porky punch than Bugaloe's.  And our goat cheese was creamier, whereas theirs was tangier (again, not much I could do about that).  With all of that said, this is a seriously delicious sandwich and so long as tomatoes are in season, I highly recommend whipping up a sandwich or two.  In each bite you get salty bacon, creamy/tangy goat cheese, sweet honey-vinaigrette, lettuce and tomato.  It's kind of like a BLT, only light years better.

Kelly, this one is for you!

Recipe after the jump!


Gazpacho is one of those classic dishes for which there are thousands of variations (white gazpacho, or melon gazpacho anyone?) and different recipes.  I had a delicious bowl of gazpacho with a vaguely Asian twist at a restaurant in Aruba called the Flying Fishbone (which is my absolute favorite restaurant in Aruba).  The gazpacho was nice and spicy, without tasting like I was drinking Tabasco or Worchestershire (which always reminds me of a bloody mary), and was served with two giant tempura prawns.  It was delicious.  After returning from Aruba and realizing that it was going to be a high of 92 degrees in NYC today, I figured gazpacho would be the perfect light dinner.  I refuse to make a fussy/fancy gazpacho where you peel and seed the tomatoes or blend all of the ingredients separately.  One of the most glorious things about gazpacho is that you can just throw everything in a food processor and at the touch of a button you have a wonderful, refreshing soup.  Well, first you have to refrigerate it for a few hours to let all of the flavors meld together, but we'll ignore that step for now.

This gazpacho is on the rustic side, with a little texture left.  Some people like to either process their gazpacho in their food processors until smooth, or if you're even fancier some people then pass the gazpacho through a chinois to make sure not even the smallest pieces of solids get through.  I don't want my gazpacho to be thick and chunky like salsa, but I want at least a little texture to it.  This gazpacho is also quite spicy.  It has a slow burn to it that builds slowly on your tongue, which I love.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back from Aruba!

Alex and I returned from our wedding in Aruba this evening so in a few days the posts should resume!  Until then, I'm going to post a few pictures of our wedding for you to enjoy.  I promise to post more recipes and reviews as soon as we recuperate from the festivities.

More photos after the jump!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tangled Vine

Tapas are an enduring love of mine - both the flavors and the concept of sharing tons of small plates of food.  So when Tangled Vine opened up on the UWS I was very excited.  Then once I noted how crazy busy Tangled Vine gets every night of the week my excitement waned.  Today when we were out running errands around 5pm I was suddenly starving and it occurred to me that it was probably the perfect time to give Tangled Vine a try since we were only 2 short blocks away.  We ended up ordering the sobresada & quail egg crostini, the pork montaditos (pictured above), and the fideos negros.  I really wanted to try the mushroom fricassee, but it just seemed like a ton of food, and not seasonally-appropriate given the warm weather.

More after the jump!

Samoa Blondies

I think I'm like everyone when I say that growing up in the suburbs, I loved Girl Scout Cookie season.  Actually, I'm all grown up now and I probably love Girl Scout Cookie season even more now than I did back then because you never run into Girl Scouts selling cookies in the city.  Until I went skiing in Colorado this past year it had been years since my last Girl Scout cookie experience.  My absolute favorite of their cookies is the Samoa, followed by the Thin Mint (who doesn't love Thin Mints)?  Alex's favorites are the Do-Si-Dos.  According to the Girl Scout Cookies website, there are all sorts of new types of cookies that I have never seen or tried before, but in this one instance, I am happy sticking to the cookies I already know and love.

I have been reading the blog Savory Sweet Life ever since I stumbled across one of their posts on Tastespotting several months ago.  When I saw their newest post today on Samoa Blondies, I knew I had to make them ASAP.  There are few things I like more than coconut, chocolate and caramel combined in one sweet and gooey little package.  Now these blondies aren't quite the same as Samoas.  For one, they lack the darker, deeper caramel of Samoas.  Also, since they're blondies instead of cookies the texture is different - more cakey and less crispy.  But with all of that said, they are really good.  They are also quite rich so you might want to cut them in smaller pieces than I did (I cut the entire 8x8 pan of blondies into 9 squares), and definitely serve them with milk.  I love coconut, so these were perfect for me, but if you're not a coconut lover you might want to stick with brownies or plain old chocolate chip cookies.  Also, if you're a Samoas purist, this isn't the recipe for you, but it sure is a great start.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A few thoughts...

So for those of you who know Alex and I personally, we got married at City Hall in NYC in advance of our destination wedding in Aruba.  The time for Aruba is almost here and we're busy with a ridiculous amount of prep-work before we leave next week.  So I want to apologize in advance for what is sure to be a slow week on the blog this week, and then a nonexistent week of blogging next week.  We should be back from Aruba on May 25, 2010 after a week of sun, fun and a wedding reinvigorated and ready to blog again.

I am hoping to add one or two additional blog posts before we leave for Aruba, but at this rate who knows if that will happen.  In the interim, I wanted to share a few thoughts and other reading material with you.  Enjoy!

More after the jump!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pasta with Asparagus Pesto

I was reading the NY Times Dining & Wine section the other day and came across the strangest recipe on Mark Bittman's blog for Asparagus Pesto.  I have heard of all sorts of pestos before - sun-dried tomato pesto, pesto genovese (the traditional basil-based pesto that everyone is used to), arugula pesto, etc.  But I have never heard of asparagus pesto.  And then I figured, what the heck.  I love asparagus.  And right now since asparagus coming into season it is everywhere, as are recipes and suggestions on how to cook it.  As much as I love asparagus, grilling it can get old, as can lightly steaming it and serving it with a mustard vinaigrette like my mom does.  I love her asparagus.  Lately I have a bookmarked a few new asparagus recipes to try while I am feasting on one of my favorite seasonal produce items of the year.  This was one of the first of my new recipes that I tried out and I am a huge fan.  Mark Bittman's recipe was just for the pesto itself, but the idea of mixing it with pasta was an elementary one.  We tossed the pesto with some cooked asparagus spears and strascinati pasta that we bought at Zabar's.  As an alternative, I would recommend tossing it with gemelli or another similarly-shaped pasta.

The asparagus pesto was much subtler and more delicately flavored than most typical pestos made from basil.  The addition of the lemon juice brightens it all up and just reminds me again how much asparagus tastes like spring to me.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Recently I visited a Scottish restaurant called Highlands in the West Village with a friend.  We had a really great meal, starting with the lamb roll appetizer and ending with a dessert called cranachan.  I had no idea what cranachan was until the waitress explained that it is basically whipped cream with fresh berries.  What she didn't explain was that in the whipped cream was toasted oats, honey and whiskey.  I didn't know about the honey and whiskey for sure until I came home and Googled the dessert to find out exactly what traditionally goes in it.  All I knew was that there were definitely three things: (1)toasted oats, (2) only slightly sweetened whipped cream, and (3) berries.  At Highlands they had blackberries and raspberries in the dessert, but according to my Google searches, traditionally the dessert only includes raspberries.  Seeing as I'm not even the slightest bit Scottish, I feel like I can take some artistic license and include whatever berries I so choose.  In this case, I am including strawberries (because who doesn't love strawberries with fresh whipped cream), raspberries, and blackberries.

I love the cranachan because it is a nice variation on simple whipped cream and berries.  The toasted oats provide a wonderful textural contrast to the soft pillows of Scotch-spiked whipped cream, and the ripe berries.  I also tossed the oats in a hint of honey so that they added just a touch more sweetness.  It was a perfect dessert for warm summer weather when you want something sweet, but don't want anything too heavy or rich.  Two thumbs up for my first ever Scottish "dish."

Recipe after the jump!

Tacos of Carnitas Roasted with Orange, Milk and Pepper

Pork is by far Alex's favorite meat.  I'm on the fence.  I love meats of all sorts, but I'm not sure that I can pick a favorite.  I mean, I love a great steak or a juicy burger just as much as I love pork belly and pulled pork.  And then there is always my occasional yen for lamb.  And don't get me started on poultry.  Guinea hen anyone?  Yum.  Anyway, making carnitas has been on my mind for quite some time.  Sometimes I get an idea in my head and then I just fixate.  I found this recipe last week, and then stumbled across a beautiful hunk of pork shoulder at the butcher.  And luckily I had most of the other ingredients in the fridge, with the exception of one ingredient, the chicharrones, that we ended up leaving out of the recipe entirely.

The orange flavor of the pork is very delicate.  I would say that the carnitas are intensely porky and only just slightly perfumed by the orange.  Over a year ago Alex and I made a recipe from Top Chef - Howie's Braised Pork Shoulder with Yucca and Pickled Onions.  That pork was far more flavorful, but much less intensely porky.  Instead you tasted primarily the sweetness of the oranges and brown sugar, the perfume of the spices (cinnamon, star anise and ginger), and the sourness of the lime and vinegar.  The meat was wonderfully flavorful, as were the pickled onions, but it definitely wasn't all about the flavor of the pork itself.  Now with that said, I have to say that in the future I might add some more spices and other elements from that recipe when I make carnitas in the future.  For instance, I might add some additional orange juice and spices to the braising liquid just to kick up the flavor a bit.  But, at the same time, I wouldn't want to overpower the more subtle flavors of the pork itself.  It's a rather difficult balance to achieve.  With all of that said, this was a delicious dish.  When you layered the flavors of the pork, the bright cilantro, the sharp red onion, the tangy tomatillo salsa, and the creamy avocado everything came together.  If your intention was to eat the pork solo I would recommend flavoring the braising liquid with a heavier hand, but if your intention is to enjoy the taco as a whole, then it's pretty perfect as is!
Recipe after the jump!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

Roast chicken is one of those dishes that I think never goes out of style.  Anyone who can do a really good roast chicken is a good cook, even if you don't have a ton of other dishes in your repertoire.  They always say that one of the biggest tests of a new chef in a kitchen is how he cooks eggs, but I think a better (or at least an equally significant) test is how he or she cooks a chicken.  Chicken is such a great blank slate.  It works well in almost any flavor combination and can be prepared in nearly any way known to man.  It really is that versatile.  However, I have almost stopped ordering chicken entirely in restaurants because of the number of times I ended up with a slightly rubbery, bordering on tasteless piece of meat.  Part of that is my fault because I have this ridiculous aversion to dark meat, which doesn't make much sense since I really love duck.  I like braised chicken thighs, but that's about it when it comes to dark meat chicken.  Otherwise it's all breasts, all the time.  And since breasts have less fat, it's much much easier to dry them out and end up with that aforementioned rubbery, tasteless piece of meat.

That's where roast chicken comes in.  With really good roast chicken (or really good fried chicken for that matter), you can get a juicy breast, crispy skin, and tons of flavor.  The trick is finding really good roast chicken.  A few restaurants in NYC have it, but a really good roast chicken is kind of hard to find.  Thus began my obsession with finding myself a really good roast chicken recipe to make at home.  Generally Alex and I just roast bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and call it a day because when you roast a whole chicken you end up with all sorts of meat (mostly dark meat) leftover that I don't know what to do with.  But you just don't get quite the same effect with chicken breasts as you do with a whole chicken so I went to the butcher and bought myself a whole organic chicken to experiment with.  In case you haven't figured it out yet, experimenting is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world.  Obviously some of my experiments fail (and some of those that do fail, do so miserably), but some of them are such smashing successes that they keep me coming back for more.  And when it comes to whole chicken, buying a whole chicken (organic or not) is often less expensive than buying just the breasts because of the time and effort it takes for the butcher to prepare the breasts.  So even if we end up not eating the dark meat, in the end we are saving money because we have chicken breasts to eat, plus a carcass to make homemade stock with!  Aren't I economical?

Anyway, this was a very good roast chicken dish.  I'm not sure that it was restaurant-worthy so to speak, but it was very nice nonetheless.  I find that the only way to really get crisp skin on a roast chicken is to flatten it out and cook it under a brick, but I keep hoping that we will find another (more traditional) way.  The meat, including the breasts, was nice and juicy and fairly flavorful.  I did enjoy the pan juices, although I might have preferred that it was a bit thicker - more along the lines of a gravy, than pan juices.

Recipe after the jump!

Watercress, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

I'm always on the lookout for interesting salad recipes.  Sometime in the past year I discovered that I thoroughly enjoy watercress - both in salads and other dishes.  I also discovered that I love pears in salad.  So when I stumbled across this recipe in the NY Times I decided to run to the grocery store and buy all of the ingredients to make it for dinner.  

The salad was lovely.  It made a very nice accompaniment to the Roast Chicken we served it with.  It would also make a very nice light lunch served with some soup or a small sandwich.  This salad also reminded me that I really like aged Gorgozola cheese!  I'm always a little wary of blue cheese because the pungency of it can completely overwhelm everything else in the same dish.  But this salad was perfectly balanced.  I really enjoyed the sweetness of the pears and dressing, contrasted with the peppery notes from the watercress and the tangy Gorgonzola cheese.  Delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Cardamom and Nutmeg

Crisps and crumbles always make me nervous.  You just never know when the filling is going to be soupy and overly sweet.  So I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to adding sugar to any dessert with a fruit filling.  It doesn't help that Alex is terribly afraid of sweet fruit fillings.  I also feel like so long as I don't make the crisp too sweet that I can eat it for breakfast with a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt and a squeeze of honey, or I can eat it for dessert with whipped cream or a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

I love rhubarb - both aesthetically/visually and taste-wise.  Whenever I see it at the farmer's market I have to buy it.  This time I jumped the gun and purchased it at the grocery store, but it looked phenomenal.  I couldn't resist.  Last summer I made a rhubarb compote that we served with pork that was delicious, as well as a raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb crumble that was also very good.  I wanted to try something new, and since I generally prefer the sweet and crunchy topping of a crisp to the doughy topping of a crumble, I decided to make a crisp.  I got the idea to use cardamom and nutmeg in my crisp from this recipe from Bon Appetit, however I didn't like the proportions or the idea of baking multiple smaller crisps when I could just make one gigantic crisp.  Anyway, I liked this crisp, but I didn't love it.  My favorite part was the topping.  I loved the oats and the sliced almonds.

The orange flavor in the filling doesn't come through as much as I would like in the crisp, although if you really paid attention it was there.  The original recipe called for less zest and the addition of orange juice, but I didn't add the OJ since the last time I made a crumble with rhubarb I remember how wet the filling ended up.  I also didn't taste the cardamom and nutmeg quite as much as I thought I would, even though I doubled the amount of nutmeg in the filling.  I thought the spiciness of the nutmeg and the perfume of the cardamom would come through a little more.  Again, they were subtle, but there.  I thought about adding some ground black pepper, but you have to be very very careful when adding things like pepper to a dessert.  It helps if you're a pastry chef.  Before I make the crisp again I would make some minor changes (like adding more orange zest, nutmeg, cardamom and a little more sugar in the filling), but it has some serious potential.  Topped with ice cream or sweetened homemade whipped cream it makes a very nice dessert.  And with some Greek yogurt it makes a wonderful breakfast.  For breakfast I only warmed it in the microwave for 40 seconds and while lukewarm I found it easier to taste the spices than while piping hot and topped with whipped cream.  Go figure.

Recipe after the jump!

Cilantro Lime Brown Rice and Roasted Corn

Since we went a little overboard on the fajitas and the shrimp last night, we have a nice big hunk of steak leftover.  When I was trying to think of what to pair with it, the first thing that came to mind was cilantro lime rice, like they serve at Chipotle.  And when when I typed "cilantro lime rice" in my Google search engine all sorts of blogs and other recipes popped up.  Apparently I'm not the only one who loves that freaking rice.  It's delicious.  I guess I should have known or assumed that other people would have attempted to replicate the Chipotle rice at home in the past.  To go with our rice and steak, we decided to roast some corn.  Since Alex and I are trying to do the healthy thing and since we are out of regular basmati rice, I decided to try to make my version of Cilantro Lime Rice with brown basmati rice.  Generally I am not a fan of brown rice over white rice because it tends to take so much longer to cook and it tends to have an interesting toothsome texture, but I figured what the heck.  Rather than going out to the store to pick up some more white basmati rice, I might as well use what I have and pretend that I'm being healthy instead of just lazy.  Since I think that brown rice, like most whole grain versions of pasta, rice, etc., requires a little more seasoning to make it palatable, I cooked my rice in chicken stock instead of water.  You could just as easily use vegetable stock, but we had chicken stock so I used it.  I also threw in a little sauteed garlic and some chopped scallions in addition to the lime zest, lime juice, and chopped cilantro.

Overall, I would have preferred to use white rice instead of brown.  I just think that the nuttiness of the brown rice competed a bit with the flavors of the lime, cilantro and the scallions.  Also I think that white rice cooks up much fluffier than brown rice, no matter what type of rice it is.  All-in-all, I would make the rice again.  I would just try white rice instead and I think it would be a completely different dish.

The corn however was a great success.  I love elote - Mexican grilled or roasted corn smeared in mayonnaise with chili powder, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.  It's messy, but unbelievably delicious.  However, I just can't justify the wanton use of mayo in my own kitchen so I made a modified version.  I think the corn tastes best when grilled so it can get the smoky flavor of grilling and the char from the flame.  This version lacks that smoky flavor and char, although I did try to impart some smokiness with the use of ground cumin, and also lacks the creamy goodness of the mayo but it is a wonderful summer side dish nonetheless.

Recipes after the jump!

Scrambled Eggs with Cotija, Scallions and (Leftover) Avocado Corn Salsa

After we finished off the Chili-Rubbed Shrimp with Avocado Corn Cocktail, we still had about one cup of leftover Avocado Corn Salsa.  We couldn't let something that tasty go to waste, so I based my lunch around it.  Originally I was going to make some egg tacos with grilled scallions, grilled poblano peppers, cotija cheese, and salsa.  Then I got held up at work and moved on to plan B - an omelet using all of the above ingredients, minus the grilled poblanos because that would have required another trip to the grocery store.  Another hour later, I moved on to plan C - scrambled eggs.  My favorite thing about scrambled eggs is that you can throw them together in minutes, no muss, no fuss.  You can be as gourmet or ghetto with them as you want.  I would consider this version semi-gourmet, and very tasty.  And they were ready from start to finish in less than 15 minutes from when I walked in the door.  Granted, if I had had to make the avocado corn salsa from scratch it would have taken me much longer to prepare my lunch, but seeing as it was already sitting in the fridge, all I had to do was quickly chop some scallions, break some eggs, and get cooking!  It will probably take me longer to clean up the kitchen than it did to make and then eat my very yummy and very appropriate day after Cinco de Mayo lunch.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Skirt Steak Fajitas with Lime and Pepper

Somehow I don't think I have ever made fajitas before.  I'm not really sure why that is, since we make soft tacos with all sorts of fillings fairly regularly, but we never ever make fajitas.  Growing up I always associated fajitas with chicken, grilled bell peppers and grilled onions.  Somehow they never quite did it for me.  If I had known that fajitas could be this good I would have made them long ago!

This recipe was based off one I found online at Epicurious that was from an old issue of Gourmet.  As I mentioned in my Chili-Rubbed Shrimp with Avocado Corn Cocktail post, I found two recipes that I was interested in making for Cinco de Mayo and we decided to make both.  Well, Alex decided to make both.  I just went along for the ride.  And since the shrimp was our original plan, I'm really glad that we decided to make the steak as well.  I loved these fajitas.  I think it was the onions that did it for me, although I also liked the steak itself.  It never occurred to me before to grill sweet onions and then toss them in balsamic vinegar.  Plain old grilled onions are tasty.  Grilled onions tossed in balsamic vinegar are amazing.  I'm going to start throwing them in all sorts of dishes!  There was something really wonderful about the combination of the bright cilantro, with the zip of the lime, the savory and yet sweet onions, and the skirt steak.  Skirt steak is one of my favorite cuts of steak.  It has so much flavor in and of itself.  Unlike other cuts of meat, you really can just throw some salt and pepper on skirt steak, and a little oil, and end up with a wonderfully tasty piece of meat.  I use skirt steak everytime we make tacos and from now on, I am going to use it for all of my fajita-making endeavors!

I love Cinco de Mayo!  And I love my new plates!  Aren't they pretty?

Recipe after the jump!

Chili-Rubbed Shrimp with Avocado Corn Cocktail

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!  In honor of Cinco de Mayo I originally wanted to make carnitas, but as the butcher was out of pork shoulder I had to improvise.  I had some jumbo shrimp in the freezer and when looking up shrimp recipes I found this one online at Epicurious.  I sent it to Alex, along with a recipe for skirt steak as options for our own little Cinco de Mayo celebration and he said we should just do both.  It was probably a little overambitious and gluttonous on our part, but Cinco de Mayo only comes once a year so you might as well live it up a little.

Alex and I disagreed over which part of our meal was our favorite.  I thought that the shrimp had excellent flavor, as did the Avocado Corn Salsa, but I somehow preferred the fajitas.  I'm not really sure why.  It was a really close call for both of us as to which recipe won.  For me it came down to a judgment call between the salsa from the shrimp and the grilled sweet onions from the fajitas.  While I love a good salsa, those onions were amazing.  Anyway, more on that on another post.  This shrimp kicks some serious ass.  The marinade is somewhat similar to the marinade I use for shrimp tacos, only I tend to throw in lime zest and use slightly different spices.  I tend to use other chili powders in addition to the ancho chili powder - often chipotle chili powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper for good measure.  But the proportions here allow the other spices to shine as well, instead of it being all about the heat of multiple chili powders.  The shrimp are a little spicy, a little smoky and a little sweet.  The contrast between the shrimp, the lime juice and the Avocado Corn Salsa makes it a wonderful dish - one that I thoroughly intend to enjoy more often now that I have discovered it.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oeufs en Cocotte

Alex and I have one thing in common when it comes to brunch - we LOVE eggs with runny yolks, whether they are poached, fried, baked, coddled, whatever.  Otherwise he's more of a french toast person whereas I am all about eggs benedict, pancakes or a really nice frittata.  Oh and Belgian waffles.  I love me some Belgian waffles.  But we have been making versions of Oeufs en Cocotte (which are traditionally eggs baked in ramekins with some sort of cream) for years now.  Sometimes we do a spicy Latin combo of Mexican chorizo, scallions and cilantro, but sometimes we just throw in chives and some Parmigiano-Reggiano and call it a day.  Both versions are lovely, as are all of the others we have tried along the way.  I recommend serving these eggs with toasted baguette or other pieces of bread to soak up the egg yolk.  Sometimes I cut the bread into small cubes and add it to the egg mixture before cooking and they get all warm and juicy and happy baked inside the eggs, but sometimes I just serve them on the side for dunking.  Take your pick.

This would be a lovely (and easy) recipe to serve if you are having people over for brunch because you don't get stuck in the kitchen slaving over pancakes, waffles, or omelets.  You just have to throw everything in your little individual baking dishes before people get there and once you are ready to eat you can just throw them in the oven and call it a day!  In 10 minutes or less you will have piping hot eggy goodness for everyone and you can actually spend your time hanging out with your guests instead of flipping, baking, cooking, whatever!  Alternatively this makes a lovely light lunch or dinner when served with a simple side salad.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Eggplant Slices with White Miso and Cold Sesame Udon

For a change of pace Alex and I decided to have a vegetarian meal this evening.  Since it was hot and muggy out, the first thing that came to mind was a cold soba noodle salad with snow peas, cucumbers, carrots and sesame oil.  Then I decided that I would make some eggplant to go with it.  And after our meal at Yakitori Totto a few weeks ago, the first thing that came to mind was glazing some eggplant with miso and then broiling it.  We had both tofu and eggplant prepared that way and it was delicious.  Paging through my new Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, World of the East Vegetarian Cooking, I found across her recipe for Eggplant Slices with White Miso and decided to modify it to suit us.

So when looking through the cabinets before making my meal I grabbed the udon on accident instead of the soba.  And then I decided why not try it with udon instead?  I've never had a cold udon noodle salad before, and I actually prefer the taste and texture of udon to soba.  So we gave it a shot.  And while the udon lacks the nuttiness of the soba, it makes a really nice change.  Udon has a wonderful meaty texture and picks up the flavors of the sesame oil, etc. better than soba does.  With the fresh sugar snap peas (which I bought instead of snow peas for another change), carrots, cucumber and scallions it was a perfect meal on such a humid late spring evening.  It also made a really nice accompaniment to the eggplant slices.  The miso paste is deeply savory, and gives the eggplant some great flavor.  I think I might tweak the recipe some next time and try it with either sweet miso or dark miso, rather than regular white miso.  I also might top it with some thinly sliced scallions for some freshness.  It's a great base, but I think it can use some slight tweaks.  So many options, so much time.

Recipe after the jump!