Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rustic Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

Who doesn't love the combination of tomatoes, basil and cheese?  Generally I pair tomatoes with fresh mozzarella rather than goat cheese, but goat cheese gives this tart a nice tangy richness that would have been lacking if I had used mozzarella instead.  With the goat cheese I couldn't resist a touch of lemon zest to mix up the flavors a bit.  I also thought about using a little fresh thyme mixed in with the goat cheese and lemon zest, but I realized that we were out.  Oh well.  It was lovely with the basil.  Perhaps if I try the tart again using puff pastry or different vegetables (I have been considering making a variation on this recipe with zucchini or summer squash for a little while now) I will use thyme instead of basil.

Alex's only complaint about dinner was that the part of the crust covered by the tomato and goat cheese mixture was not as flaky as he would like (translation - it was a little soggy).  Unfortunately with this kind of tart I didn't think I could blind bake the crust for a few minutes before topping it with goat cheese and tomatoes and folding the edges up.  I'm not really sure how to fix that issue, but for me it wasn't a problem.  The folded up portions of crust were more than flaky and buttery enough for me.  I don't think that a homemade pie crust would have been any flakier than the store bought one, but it might.  I will have to experiment with a homemade crust next time to make sure.  If I had more time tonight I would have whipped up a crust in my food processor, but by the time we started on dinner it was already past 7pm and I didn't want to make the crust, and then let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before I could move on to rolling the crust out and starting the tart. I'm also not sure that the puff pastry under the goat cheese would have crisped up during baking, but I think that I could at least dock it (poke the dough full of holes so it doesn't rise too much) in the center, and then bake it for 5-10 minutes before adding the goat cheese mixture.  Since I wouldn't fold up the edges with the puff pastry, but would instead allow the pastry to puff up and form a crust by not docking the outsides, it should work...  Since we are just starting to head into tomato season now I should have plenty of chances to experiment!

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Asian Kohlrabi Slaw

Our meal tonight was another attempt to use up produce from our CSA, as well as food from our freezer.  Since we had frozen pork and chive dumpling filling and frozen wonton wrappers, we made pork dumplings.  To go with it we threw together an Asian slaw with the kohlrabi and cabbage from the CSA.  I'm not usually a huge coleslaw component - all of that cabbage and mayo together just throws me off.  But what else do you do with a head of cabbage and some kohlrabi?  I liked the idea of an Asian-inspired slaw because it wouldn't require the use of mayonnaise.  I know that I am ridiculous in my bias against mayo, but I just can't help it.  So instead of mayo I made a dressing with toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, fish sauce and lime juice.  Yum.  This slaw is a lovely side dish for any meal, Asian, Asian-inspired, or not, and is perfect for a hot summer day when the thought of eating anything heavy just makes you cringe.  It is light, fresh, and very tasty.

Recipe after the jump!

Farro with Garlic Scape Pesto

One of the best (and worst) things about belonging to a CSA is that you end up with all sorts of random veggies that you then have to learn how to cook.  For instance, as of this afternoon we had 12 garlic scapes in the fridge, 1 kohlrabi, 1/2 lb. arugula, 1/2 lb. dandelion greens, 5 radishes, 6 turnips, 1 head romaine lettuce, and 1 head cabbage.  So tonight's dinner was inspired by a desire to get some of that produce out of the fridge.  Although, looking back, I should have picked one of the bulkier items to get out of the fridge.  Instead I picked the absolute smallest thing in there.  Oh well.  Live and learn.  We have been using the garlic scapes in small amounts in various dishes for the past two weeks.  But what do you do with 12 garlic scapes?  The only thing that came to mind was to make a pesto.  But I wasn't in the mood for pasta, so I decided to cook up some farro and toss it with the garlic scape pesto.  I figured that farro requires some seriously robust flavors.  When cooked and served plain, it reminds me of eating plain oats or barley, with a hint of brown rice thrown in.  But it can be made into a farro risotto aka a "farrotto" (like the one I tried at Perilla in New York), or it can be cooked in various vegetable soups like a pasta to give them more body and make them heartier.

This pesto is very assertive.  Garlic scapes are fairly mild when cooked, but keep some of their garlicky bite when raw.  But farro benefits from assertive flavors, so I thought it would be a natural pairing.  Alex and I both agreed that while we were trying for a vegetarian dinner (after dinner on Wednesday at 5 Napkin Burger, and Prune on Tuesday we really needed something light), this farro would be great served with chicken sausage.  Or if you wanted to buy a rotisserie chicken you could toss that in with some grilled asparagus for a wonderful meal.  We served the farro with a nice tomato-mozzarella salad and that was lovely as well.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


This evening Alex and I tried the restaurant Prune down in the East Village for the first time.  And I am in love.  I cannot describe in words how much I truly enjoyed tonight's meal, but I can say that I enjoyed it more than recent meals at Volt, Ouest, Tangled Vine, Co., and maybe even Marea.  The only restaurant that Alex and I could come up with that we might have enjoyed as much as Prune was Umi Nom out in Brooklyn.  But I have to say that Prune won that battle for me.  I can best describe what we tried there as the very best versions of the very best ingredients, so simply prepared that all you taste are the purity of the ingredients themselves.  And it is WONDERFUL.  Now I know why Anthony Bourdain is always talking about Prune (and chef Gabrielle Hamilton) and how much he loves it/her.  I only wish I had brought my camera with me to take pictures, but to be honest, pictures wouldn't have done the meal justice.  For those who are curious about what we ate (even though there are no pictures), Alex and I had:
  • Roasted Marrow Bones, parsley salad, sea salt
  • Marinated White Anchovies, celery hearts, toasted Marcona almonds
  • Fried Sweetbreads with bacon and capers
  • Seared Duck Breast with dandelion greens, raisin-caper dressing
  • Coco Blanc Beans with Chanterelles and Maine shrimp.
Every last dish was amazing.  But you have to try the marrow bones.  Alex and I came up with the same phrase to describe the marrow - it's like the most delicious butter ever.  And who doesn't love butter?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Buta no Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly)

Pork belly is far and away Alex's favorite meat.  If there is pork belly on a menu I know that he will zero in on and it, and unless the cooking method is completely outlandish, he will want to order it.  It's just his thing.  And I admit that I really enjoy pork belly in all kinds of dishes - Momofuku's steamed buns (or Tangled Vine's pork montaditos), the watermelon pickle and crispy pork at Fatty Crab, and the siu yuk (crispy Cantonese pork belly) served in Chinatown to name a few.  But because pork belly takes so incredibly long to cook and isn't readily available in your average grocery store or butcher, we have never made it at home.  Instead it has remained a restaurant only indulgence.  But I got a little overexcited on one of my recent shopping trips in Chinatown and came home with a pound of pork belly that has been languishing away in the freezer.  So it was time to suck it up and make something deliciously fatty with it.  This dish (and pork belly in general) is kind of a gut buster, so I wouldn't recommend making or eating it very often, unless of course you are trying to seriously clog your arteries and pack on more than a few pounds.

Alex and I spent awhile online Googling recipes and randomly both came up with different recipes for buta no kakuni (Japanese braised pork belly).  It sounded delicious, and pretty easy, so why not?  All of the recipes I came across online had some standard ingredients (sugar, ginger, star anise, soy sauce).  And then some mixed it up a bit and added in leeks, hard-boiled eggs, and sake.  One or two of the recipes served the pork belly with a spicy mustard paste.  So I went through all of the various recipes and came up with my own to use the ingredients we had in the fridge.  Somehow the pork wasn't quite as rich and flavorful as I had thought it would be after the 3 hour braise.  It needs some sort of spice or something to jazz it up a bit.  That might be because I was expecting a flavor profile more like a traditional Chinese red braised pork aka hongshao rou (which is a dish that I love that uses similar ingredients and a similar cooking method), but who knows?  We didn't have any of the Japanese mustard that the dish is sometimes served with, so we tried topping it with sesame oil, shichimi togarashi, and wasabi paste.  The pork belly was good, but there's something missing.  It might take another attempt to figure out just what was missing, but I will figure it out now that I know how simple pork belly is to make!  Or maybe I will try and make myself some hongshao rou instead...

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce

This is the type of easy meal that I love to make during the week when I want something tasty, but I'm just not in the mood for fancy recipes that dirty up lots of pots and pans, or that require tons of time and effort.  I love boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets for this dish because they cook up quickly and easily - by the time the cornmeal crust is nice and golden brown, the cutlets inside are perfectly cooked.  If you tried to use regular chicken breasts you would either have to slice them thinly (so that the slices are about 1/3-inch thick), or pound them to the same thickness (which is something I hate doing).  In this case, I'll take the shortcut from the grocery store and use the pre-sliced cutlets.  One of the greatest things about this recipe is how versatile it is.  You can use whatever herbs and seasonings you want in your crust - this time I used fresh parsley and thyme because I like the combination of them with the Dijon mustard, but if you don't have any fresh herbs feel free to use whatever dried herbs you have in your pantry.  You can also omit the Dijon mustard entirely if it's just not your thing.  I personally think that the Dijon gives the chicken a little extra tang and some nice flavor, but that's just me.  I also like to make a dipping sauce of coarse Dijon mustard, honey, and a tiny drizzle of evoo to thin it out a bit to serve with the chicken.

We served up the chicken with the rest of the store-bought dried spaetzle (tossed lightly in evoo and freshly ground black pepper), and a simple arugula salad.  You could also serve the chicken over pasta as a sort of chicken parm, or serve it over a nice mixed greens salad.  Alex thinks that it would be equally good served with sweet potato, or regular potato fries.  He also recommended serving it with a cold pasta or potato salad.  My husband loves starch - can you tell?  This was exactly the type of light, fresh, easy, but still delicious meal that I was craving after a nice work out at the gym.  If only all of my meals came together this quickly and this successfully!

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Merquez Sausage Sandwich

A few years ago I discovered D'Artagnan's sausages.  I have tried several of the different varieties, including the wild boar sausage, the Andouille sausage, and the lamb merguez sausage.  Thus far, the merguez has been my favorite.  It's nicely spicy and incredibly flavorful.  Generally I cook the sausages in skillet and then serve them with a couscous I like to make with a combination of sauteed yellow onions, currants, toasted pine nuts, and flat-leaf parsley.  The sweetness of the currants pairs with the spicy sausages, and the couscous soaks up all of the wonderful sausage juices.  But last night I wasn't feeling the couscous (which is good because when I looked in the cabinet I discovered we were out of currants).  Instead I took some inspiration from B.Cafe and whipped up a mergeuz sausage sandwich on nice crusty bread, which we topped with sauteed red onions and garlic scapes, plus a nice fried egg (I love fresh organic eggs - they have such wonderfully rich, orange yolks).  I served my sandwich open-faced because for once I didn't want all of the bread, but Alex wanted an actual sandwich so that's what he got.  

This sausage sandwich is seriously yummy.  The egg yolk give the whole dish some extra richness, and provides it with something of a sauce.  The sauteed onions and garlic scapes provide a bit of freshness and another layer of flavor.   Then there's that delicious sausage.  But this certainly isn't a light meal - you need to serve it with a nice arugula salad to cut the heavy, rich flavors.  We were out of arugula so I served it with a big bowl of nice cherries from our CSA, and that also helped to balance out the richness of it all.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuna Salad with Cannellini Beans

Sometimes on the weekend Alex and I run out of inspiration when it comes to making lunch.  So we end up going out to lunch a lot.  That would be ok, except that we end up going out to dinner a lot on the weekend too.  So after awhile going out to lunch all the time on the weekend begins to take its toll on our wallet (and our waistlines).  We were talking about going out to lunch again today (and struggling to pick a restaurant) when I decided that since we are meeting friends for dinner tonight, we should just forage in the fridge for lunch.  Alex ended up eating leftovers and I ended up with this tuna salad.  It was either that, or boxed mac n cheese.  I think I made the right choice with the tuna.

Initially I was thinking about making tuna tartines, but the bread we used for our radish crostini and the merguez sausage sandwiches last night (which I haven't posted about yet, but I promise to do it sometime today) was a little stale.  So I decided to just serve the salad as is.  If I had any arugula in the fridge I would have served this tuna salad atop a bed of arugula and made an actual salad out of it all.  I guess you could say that this tuna salad is vaguely Italian with its combination of basil, parsley, lemon, evoo, and just a touch of balsamic.  All I know is that not only did I like the tuna salad, but Alex, who has long professed a hatred of all things tuna fish, tried it (after some admitted bullying on my part) and he actually liked it.  Boo-yah!  So it has to be pretty good, right?

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sauteed Swiss Chard over Quinoa

After a few gluttonous weeks, I felt the need for a simple, vegetarian meal with whole grains.  I knew I wanted to use quinoa as the grain and after scanning my stash from the CSA I figured I would use some Swiss chard and throw in some garlic scapes for fun.  I also thought about poaching one of the farm fresh eggs that I also picked up from the CSA, but decided that was more ambitious than necessary.  However, I have done almost this exact same sauteed Swiss chard recipe over toasted crusty bread and topped it with a poached egg and it was delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Seared Radish Crostini and Wilted Mustard Greens Salad with Bacon

The past two weeks radishes have been part of my haul from my CSA.  I don't know about you but I generally find radishes pretty to look at, but not all that palatable.  I don't mind them thinly sliced in salads, but their peppery bite is something that I'm not altogether sure I enjoy in big moutfuls.  My father used to eat raw radishes and scallions with just a sprinkle of salt - something I will never be able to do.  Since I don't really enjoy the taste of raw scallions (although I do love the crunch), I decided to try roasting them.  Depending on the ingredient, roasting can either mellow flavors out or intensify them.  In this case, I was hoping that roasting the radishes would mellow them out and make them a touch sweeter.  About a month ago I saw a recipe on the NY Times website that called for roasting radishes and making crostini out of them so I have been saving it for the day when I had enough radishes from the CSA to whip up some crostini.  To go with the crostini I decided to make a salad with another part of our CSA haul - half a pound of mustard greens.  I'm not overly familiar with mustard greens, so rather than go at it blindly I decided to hit Epicurious for some recipes and inspiration.

I was very happy with tonight's dinner.  And by extension I am super happy with our CSA Chubby Bunny.  All of the produce we picked up yesterday was super fresh and super delicious.  The radish crostini was really interesting.  I loved the combination of the toasted bread, the nutty and buttery bagna cauda-based sauce, and the roasted radishes.  I might very well be a radish convert.  I do think that the recipe makes an enormous amount of sauce for the amount of radishes it calls for, but that's ok with me.  I used a levain boule from Balthazar as the base for my crostini and it worked out fabulously.  I thought that the salad was also pretty fabulous.  The balsamic and the onions made the salad slightly sweet, and the bacon gave it a nice porky, salty flavor.  Hurray CSA and hurray dinner.

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brownies Galore!

I recently promised some friends that I would make them brownies.  All of the brownie recipes I had bookmarked to make here were a little fussy and what I really wanted to make for them was a richer, more traditional brownie than the Mexican chocolate brownies I plan on making for myself later.  So I started looking around for some decadent (but still traditional) brownie recipes and I kept stumbling across blogs that referenced two different brownie recipes - these Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies from Baking Illustrated and the brownies from the Baked: New Frontiers in Baking cookbook.  I had never heard of Baking Illustrated before, but once I realized it was published by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, which is a phenomenal publication, I knew I had to try the recipe out.  But at the same time I have been reading and hearing about the Baked cafe in Brooklyn and how great their brownies are, so I really wanted to try them too.  And then I decided to just go ahead and make both.  

I wanted to jazz at least one batch of the brownies up a little so I added some dark chocolate and mint chips that I recently unearthed in our kitchen cabinet to the Baking Illustrated recipe.  The baking supplies are up on the highest shelf (and our highest shelf is a good 6 plus feet up there) and unless I climb on the counter so I am eye level with the cabinet, things tend to get lost in there.  I bought the dark chocolate and mint chips after Christmas to make some brownies and then promptly forgot about them.  Oops.  The Baked brownies already had a touch of espresso powder in them so I decided to leave them as my "plain" brownies. Since I modified the Baking Illustrated brownies by adding mint extract and mint chips, I'm not exactly sure how the basic recipes would fare in a side-by-side comparison.  The Baked brownies are fudgier and very buttery.  I think the addition of brown sugar also makes them taste a little richer.  The Baking Illustrated brownies were a little thicker and more cakey in texture.  I actually preferred the Baking Illustrated brownies, both texturally and flavorwise, to the Baked brownies, but that's probably partially due to the fact that I have always found plain brownies to be a little boring.  I love it when brownies have a little something extra to take them to the next level.  However, I do admit that the Baked brownies make a dynamite brownie sundae when paired with the Jeni's Salty Caramel ice cream I picked up at Dean & Delucas yesterday. Sooooo good.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Japanese Block Fair

By some random chance, there was a Japanese Block Fair that ended up on Broadway right next to our apartment.  Alex actually saw something about it online so we knew it was coming, but I had forgotten all about it by this morning.  I wandered there this morning with the dog while they were finishing setting up and decided that instead of cereal for breakfast, we would have pork buns, udon noodles, and the okonomiyaki from Go!Go!Curry (pictured above).  So we wandered on down to Broadway around 11:30am and gorged ourselves on Japanese food.  It was way better than a bowl of Cornflakes.

More after the jump!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I had a personal request from a friend of mine for pumpkin soup.  I know it's not exactly soup season right now (I tend to think of fall and winter as perfect soup weather), nor is it pumpkin season, but at our rehearsal dinner in Aruba they served a wonderful pumpkin soup.  It was sweet and had a creeping spice level that built up on the back of your palette as you ate and danced on your tongue.  It was delicious.  Although we were all totally skeptical about pumpkin soup in 80something degree heat on a beach in Aruba, everyone at the wedding raved about the soup.  I guess the chefs at the Westin, as well as the wedding planners know what they're doing after all!

Anyway, I tried to make a soup with similar flavors, particularly with that slight creeping heat to it, which was by far my favorite thing about the soup.  In addition to the butternut squash we roasted a sweet onion and an apple.  I wanted the soup to be naturally sweet, which roasting helps, and also thought that roasting the ingredients would give them a deeper, darker flavor.  I thought about adding some fresh herbs to the soup, but since I didn't taste any herbs in the Aruba soup and I was trying to replicate it, I left the herbs out.  And while I know it sounds really weird to add a pinch of cinnamon to the soup, don't leave it out.  It really made the soup.  With just the curry powder and the cayenne pepper it was a bit one dimensional, but the ground cinnamon really made it sing.  Yum.  We served our soup with a nice fresh arugula and toasted hazelnut salad and some toasted brioche.  The warm, buttery brioche was delicious when dipped in the soup.  And then the slight bitterness of the arugula lightened the meal up and made it all feel a lot more appropriate for dinner on a warm summer night.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Instant Flatbread and Tomato-Basil Salad

I stumbled upon this recipe for instant flatbread on the blog Orange & Salt quite a long time ago.  Alex and I are big fans of easy pizza, including those made with the pre-made flatbread you purchase at the grocery store.  Granted, not all of these grocery store pre-made flatbreads are created equal, but I have found that many of them make an acceptable crust for a quick and easy weeknight pizza.  But anything that works with pre-made ingredients has to be better with freshly-baked homemade bread, doesn't it?  At the very least, that was my rationale for making this instant flatbread recipe.  Incidentally, according to Orange & Salt, this recipe was originally created by Jacques Pepin, which I find even more alluring.  Because honestly, who doesn't love Jacques Pepin?  He's amazing.  And I think he might just be the most adorable chef alive.

We didn't make the flatbread into a pizza per se, but we topped it with a mixture of ricotta, evoo, rosemary, garlic and dried chili flakes like the pizza bianca at Co. (just take all of the ingredients and combine to taste), which we already made back in April.  For more on that, see here.  I'm not sure that the flatbread was amazing, but it was simple and tasty.  Be careful not to make the flatbread too thick, or it will burn on the outside before it cooks through on the inside.  

We tried to serve our flatbread with sauteed dandelion greens from the CSA, but after tonight's experience Alex and I are both fairly sure that we are not fans of dandelion greens.  They were so pretty, but so bitter!  We followed a recipe that called for the greens to be sauteed in a mix of anchovies, garlic and evoo, which sounded promising.  But I just found the whole dish to be incredibly salty and unappetizing.  Alex took one bite and refused to eat anymore.  I was stubborn enough to try and finish off my portion, but it's something I will think long and hard about before attempting again because it just was not good.  After the total failure of the greens I tossed our remaining cherry tomatoes with basil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper and we had that instead.  The Tomato-Basil Salad is one of my favorite easy sides to throw together in the summer when tomatoes are deliciously sweet and flavorful.  It isn't quite tomato season yet, but I have found that Campari tomatoes are often flavorful enough to cheat a little.

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lamb Kebobs and Quinoa Tabouli

Traditionally tabouli (or tabouleh) is almost all vegetables with very little fine bulgar.  Since I don't have any bulgar in the apartment, but I do have quinoa, I decided to substitute quinoa for the bulgar and ramp up the amount of quinoa a bit to make the salad a little heartier without messing with the traditional flavors of tabouli.  I love the freshness of the tabouli, so I didn't want to mess with that at all.  I just wanted to make it into more of an entree salad and less of a side dish.  Plus I really love the taste of quinoa, so I wanted to make sure that it didn't get lost in all of the vegetables.

Generally I design my meals around the protein, but this time the quinoa tabouli came first and then I had to decide what protein to serve with the tabouli.  Kebabs seemed like a natural choice.  Luckily I had some ground lamb in the freezer that I have been talking about using for a week or two now.  So I threw together some ingredients for the kebabs with the help of my food processor and we had kebabs.  I think the flavor of these kebabs is fantastic.  You get the hint of spice from the cayenne, the warmth of the allspice and cinnamon, and plenty of fresh herb flavors from the parsley and cilantro.  Don't chop the pine nuts too finely because they provide some much needed texture.  The pita keeps the kebabs very moist, but can make them feel a little mushy.  You want to sear the outsides of the kebabs so they have some nice crust and texture to them for some contrast to the moist, soft interiors of the kebabs.

Recipes after the jump!

Banana Bread with Coconut and Chocolate Chips

Even though I am fairly certain that I have come up with the ultimate banana bread recipe with my Green Curry Coconut Banana Bread, I am always on the hunt for new recipes.  You never know when you might stumble upon something new and delicious.  Also, I was out of creme fraiche and green curry paste, so I couldn't make my favorite banana bread anyway.  Oh well.  This banana bread was good, but it just can't compete with the green curry banana bread.  It had a nice crisp exterior and a moist crumb.  Because I used bittersweet chocolate chips the banana bread wasn't nearly as sweet as I thought it would be.  I was a little nervous about using an entire cup of sugar, and if I used semisweet chocolate chips instead of bittersweet, I would probably cut back to 3/4 cup sugar.  Unfortunately the Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips I used are about twice the size of regular chocolate chips and they sank to the bottom of the banana bread.  I have heard that if you toss the chocolate chips with a little flour before adding them to the batter it solves this problem, so I will give that a shot next time.  I love the texture and taste of the coconut flakes in the banana bread, something that is also true of my Green Curry Coconut Banana Bread (which is where the idea came from).  I was hoping that you would taste the ground cardamom a little more, but you only get a tiny hint of it.  And if you didn't know to look for it, you probably wouldn't notice it at all.  That isn't necessarily a bad thing mind you - the flavor of cardamom can be a bit overwhelming at times.  All things considered, I would probably give this banana bread a solid B, which isn't bad for an hour's work.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Catfish Simmered in Caramel Sauce

I always feel bad saying I didn't like a recipe.  I thought the catfish was mushy and the flavors were muddy.  Actually, I often think that with catfish.  I also thought that the sauce was rather sweet and one note.  But in the recipe's defense, Alex really enjoyed it.  And we modified the recipe quite a bit to use catfish fillets instead of catfish steaks.  I just didn't like it.  But I rarely like catfish.  I thought after we made the Crispy Catfish with Onions and Ginger from the same cookbook that I absolutely loved, that I was over my general dislike of catfish, but maybe not.  So again, I can't blame much of anything on the recipe itself.  Instead I think our modifications are to blame.

Then I made Komatsuna and Spinach Stir-Fried with Garlic.  Alex and I joined a CSA and I was super excited after we picked up our first batch of veggies today.  In addition to the komatsuna (aka Japanese Mustard Spinach) and the spinach, we also got dandelion greens, arugula, oregano, breakfast radishes, and scallions.  I can't wait to use all of them.  Since we were already going Vietnamese with the catfish, I decided to adapt a recipe intended for water spinach to use for our veggies this evening.  Again I thought the recipe was a little sweet, but once I topped it with a little sriracha I liked it, although I thought it could have used a touch of acid.  

Not our best dinner ever, but it was far from a bad meal.

Recipes after the jump!

Spicy Turkey Meatball Subs

The Greenmarket in NYC sells spicy turkey sausage that I am obsessed with from DiPaolo Turkey Farm.  It is delicious.  I bought some recently and have been pondering what to do with it.  The idea that I kept coming back to was making a meatball sub.  What makes that idea unbelievably strange is that I have never ordered a meatball sub in my life, nor have I ever been tempted.  But I couldn't resist the idea of ciabatta bread filled with spicy turkey sausage meatballs, topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, and lots of fresh basil.  We cheated and used jarred tomato sauce, but the sub was all about the other ingredients for me anyway.  I just wanted the tomato sauce to add a little moisture and a hint of tomato sauce flavor.  I briefly considered making some homemade tomato sauce and decided that was taking a meatball sub just a little too far.

Seeing as I have absolutely zero experience with meatball subs, I am not sure that I am a fair judge of how this one ranked against the all of the legitimate meatball subs out there.  Nor do I even know what makes a standard meatball sub.  Alex tells me that our sub wasn't as saucy as a normal meatball sub and that our mozzarella was much fresher and higher quality than what you would usually find on a meatball sub.  So that is the sum total of my meatball sub knowledge.  With all of that said, I really enjoyed this sandwich.  The fresh mozzarella melted down over the meatballs and was all warm, gooey and delicious.  The meatballs were moist and very flavorful, both of which are serious achievements with turkey.  The sausage we used was fairly spicy, but if you are using a sweet turkey sausage, or if your sausage just isn't that spicy, you can add a pinch of dried chili flakes to the spaghetti sauce.  Then you had all of that fresh, sweet basil to give the dish a little something extra.  If you don't love basil as much as I do (and I think it's absolutely heavenly), then you can cut back on the amount of basil in the sub and be just fine.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hanger Steak Sandwiches with Romesco Sauce, Arugula and Onions

When Alex and I made our Hanger Steak with Roast Vegetables and Romesco the other night we made two steaks, which left us with a nice rare hanger steak hanging out in the fridge, plus a tupperware full of leftover romesco sauce.  I had this vision in my head of a steak sandwich on ciabatta with the leftover steak, arugula, roast asparagus, and onions.  But then the grocery store didn't have any ciabatta, or really any bread that we wanted at all.  So we had to settle for an Italian loaf (the baguettes were totally skinny).  And we ran out of asparagus so there went the roast asparagus.  But this sandwich was really yummy regardless.  My only complaint was the bread - it was a little dry and tasteless, but sometimes you don't have time to hit a nice bakery for bread and have to deal with whatever is left at the grocery store.  It happens.  But if you make our Hanger Steak, I highly recommend doubling the amount of steak so you have some leftover and can make some steak sammies.  They're yummy.  I'm not going to post a recipe, since this sandwich is really just bread, a handful of arugula, some sliced steak, thinly sliced onions, and a generous smear of romesco sauce.  If you have roast asparagus or a nice tomato, feel free to add that too.  I also think a nice fried egg with a runny yolk would be a wonderful addition if you want to get messy.  And you can always customize to your own personal tastes.  That's the beauty of sandwiches.  Enjoy!

Caramelized Onions

NYC is a city full of gourmet burgers and burger snobs.  There is the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern - a $26 La Frieda burger (made from a mix of dry-aged ribeye, brisket, and skirt steak) that is drizzled with clarified butter and topped with caramelized onions.  Then there are various other burgers that are less expensive, but are equally popular - like the Shack Stack at Shake Shack (a cheeseburger topped with a fried, cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom cap) and the burger at Spotted Pig (topped with Roquefort cheese and served with some of the best shoestring fries I have ever tasted).  And for those of us who want to cook fancy burgers at home, there are Wagyu (American Kobe beef) burger patties for sale at Fairway, and you can buy several different La Frieda burger blends online at Fresh Direct.  Also, some butchers have their own burger patties made with skirt steak, short rib, etc.  For these burgers I picked up some fancy burger patties from our local butcher, as well as some TomCat Bakery brioche burger buns and some aged extra-sharp cheddar.  Yum.  When you have burgers and buns this nice, you really need very little embellishment to make them delicious.  One of my favorite toppings for burgers at the moment is a healthy dollop of caramelized onions.  Don't get me wrong - kimchi and Korean BBQ sauce make for a mean burger, as does fresh prosciutto, mozzarella and basil, but if you're going for a more standard cheeseburger then caramelized onions are definitely the way to go.

I took this recipe from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook.  I liked that these caramelized onions didn't call for the addition of sugar (unlike some other recipes I have used in the past).  I wanted our onions to be both sweet and savory, rather than the overly sweet caramelized onions that can result with the addition of too much sugar.  I was also intrigued by the addition of sherry vinegar and fresh thyme in her recipe.  If you're looking for onions the consistency and sweetness of a chutney, these aren't your caramelized onions, but if you're looking for a nice, unique burger topping then by all means give them a shot.

Recipe after the jump!

Gambas al Ajillo (Traditional Garlic Shrimp)

Jaleo was one of the first tapas restaurants I remember visiting with my family around 5 years ago.  We visited both the Washington, DC and the Bethesda, MD locations.  Since then I feel like tapas restaurants of every possible variety have opened up in NYC and across the country.  And not all of those tapas restaurants are serving authentic Spanish tapas - there are plenty of restaurants claiming to serve Asian, Mexican, Greek (tapas are properly called mezze across the Eastern Mediterranean) and fusion "tapas."  Three or four years ago tapas were the next big thing.   Now they are kind of old hat, but in the best way possible.  Since Jaleo was one of the first tapas restaurants I visited in the US it holds a special place in my heart.  So a few years ago I picked up Jose Andres' cookbook Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America because he's the chef/owner of Jaleo and he's one of the best tapas chefs, both of traditional tapas and of more innovative tapas based on molecular gastronomy.  Somehow the cookbook got shuffled to the bottom row on the bookshelf and we forgot about it for awhile.  Oops.  But after tonight's dinner, I'm going to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

While I was at the gym I left Alex in charge of figuring out what recipe to use with the jumbo shrimp I picked up at Fairway yesterday.  When I got home he told me we were making Jose Andres' Gambas al Ajillo.  I was both impressed and excited.  Good job honey.  The shrimp were amazingly quick-cooking and tasty.  From start to finish I think the recipe took 10 minutes.  The flavor of the shrimp was all about the garlic, with just a touch of heat from the red pepper flakes and then sherry for some zing.  The Red Cat Zucchini we prepared with the shrimp made the perfect light and quick summer dinner.  It probably took me 15 minutes from start to finish to prepare the zucchini, but a grand total of 3 minutes (or less) of actual cooking time.  Combined the two dishes used up one cutting board, two pans, and less than 30 minutes.  What a wonderful, quick, and easy summer dinner.

Recipes after the jump!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sweet and Sour Radicchio

Who knew radicchio could be used in so many ways? In the past few weeks I have grilled it, tossed it raw in a salad, and now I have sauteed radicchio into a Sicilian-style agrodolce. I was a little nervous that the sweet and sour would be a little too sweet because of the sugar and the raisins, in addition to the apple cider vinegar which is fairly sweet in and of itself, but I really liked it. I served the radicchio with some spaetzle (not pictured here) that I tossed lightly in evoo and freshly ground black pepper.  I originally thought about tossing it with fregola or Israeli couscous, but somehow serving it with the spaetzle seemed like a better idea.  It was a wonderful combination.  I don't think I could eat a huge bowl of this radicchio, but it makes a very nice side dish.  In the future I think I will pair it with a simple herb roasted pork tenderloin and more spaetzle.  If you can't tell, I really liked the pairing of radicchio and spaetzle!  I think that spaetzle held up better than orzo pasta would have, and was really nice both on its own and when mixed with some of the radicchio.  Also, the spaetzle (due to the fact that it's egg-based) has the richness to cut the sweet and sour sauce that the radicchio was tossed in.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sichuan Cucumbers

My mother has made these cucumbers for as long as I can remember.  Well, that's not exactly true.  As far as I can recall, my best friend Mark's family introduced me to a northern Chinese restaurant in Rockville, MD called A&J Restaurant (thanks guys!) when I was in high school, where I first tried a version of these cucumbers.  Soon after I went for the first time I took Mom there and she has been making these cucumbers ever since.  They showed up on the Thanksgiving dinner table several times.  They used to make their way into my lunches in high school.  And yes, my mother still packed me lunch until my senior year of high school.  Make fun of me if you will, but I thought it was a pretty sweet deal.  As much as I loved the Sichuan cucumbers when they showed up in my lunchbox, they did have a habit of making an oily mess of things if the tupperware sprung a leak (which happened numerous times).  That's ok.  It was well worth it.

This is my version of my mother's recipe.  I changed it a bit to get a bit more sweetness and a bit more garlic.  I also modified it to use Korean ssamjang paste because we are out of Sichuan hot bean paste.  But give it a shot!  I love it.  I hope you will too.

Recipe after the jump!

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pao Chicken aka Sichuan Chili Chicken)

When Americans think of Kung Pao Chicken, one of the first things they think of is the mediocre Chinese food at the mall or a crappy Chinese buffet.  But Kung Pao chicken is one of the few dishes served at those places that is a traditional Chinese dish served at restaurants across China today.  Actually, sweet and sour pork also exists in China but the authentic versions of both dishes bear little to no resemblance to the versions served at most Americanized Chinese restaurants in the US.  And the authentic versions of both dishes are just so much better.  Real Kung Pao Chicken (or Gong Bao Ji Ding) is a Sichuan dish and as such, is both sweet and spicy, with an extra kick from the Sichuan peppercorns (which the American version omits entirely).  And for the record, real sweet and sour pork lacks that totally neon orange, thick, sweet, gloopy sauce, as well as the overly thick dough/breading.  I think it is worth noting that the recipe I used from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens omitted the Sichuan peppercorns.  Fuchsia Dunlop has a nice explanation of the history of Kung Pao Chicken in Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking, as well as a description of the flavors of an authentic Kung Pao Chicken.

This is a really nice version of Kung Pao Chicken, although it can't quite compare to the Kung Pao Chicken served at Little Pepper in Flushing.  I've never heard of using oyster sauce in Kung Pao Chicken before, but I am only really familiar with Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe and this one.  Generally I think the sauce is a little less thick and has a little more balance - more sourness and more spice to balance out the sweetness.  But with all of that said, this is a great American home cook's version of an authentic Sichuan dish.
Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hanger Steak with Roast Vegetables and Romesco Sauce

Tonight's dinner was a slam dunk.  I loved it.  There might not be words enough to describe how much I enjoyed it.  And I can't even think of a single thing I would change about it - which is absolutely unheard of.  I rarely hit this kind of high with steak.  I like steak.  I like it a lot.  But I have never been a steak and potatoes type of girl.  Generally I find seafood much more appealing and inspiring.  But that might be about to change.  I might now be a hanger steak type of girl.  I rarely buy hanger steak.  I'm not sure why that is, but I tend to stick to skirt steak over hanger steak.  I think that is generally because skirt steak is easier to find, and often cheaper than hanger steak.  Any decently well-stocked butcher will have skirt steak, but not all have hanger steak.  I have heard that is due to the fact that there is only one hanger steak per animal, but who knows.  Both hanger steak and skirt steak come from the cow's diaphragm, and both are incredibly flavorful, but not especially tender.  You have to cook them quickly over high heat, and cook them no more than medium-rare for maximum tenderness.  

The hanger steak had so much flavor that it didn't even need the romesco sauce, which I had originally intended to be served with both the vegetables and the steak.  However, the vinegary, spicy bite of the romesco did a wonderful job of cutting through the richness of the meat.  It also paired very well with the simple roast asparagus, red onion and cherry tomatoes.  I will admit that the roast red onion might not be for everyone - if you aren't an onion lover you are going to want to either substitute Vidalia onions or omit the onions entirely.  But since I love onions, yum.  Love it.

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Blackberry and Thyme Buttermilk Cake

Recently I found a recipe for Blackberry Thyme Clafoutis by Tim Love in InStyle magazine (who knew they had recipes) that caught my eye.  The combination of blackberry and thyme sounded intriguing, plus the dessert is baked in on of my absolute favorite things - my cast-iron skillet.  So I started to make it and then realized that we didn't have any whole milk.  And the clafoutis is something of a custardy or puddingy cake, and I wasn't sure how we would feel about that as a leftover.  So instead of making the clafoutis like I had intended, I decided to take Tim Love's flavors (namely the combination of the blackberries and thyme, served with vanilla ice cream) and instead modify the Raspberry Buttermilk Cake recipe I love so much to use those ingredients.  For those of you who have whole milk or are making dessert for a blackberry-loving dinner party, I am also including the recipe for the Blackberry-Thyme Clafoutis that first caught my eye.

I love this cake.  Alex was slightly less of a fan, but I loved the faint hint of thyme flavor combined with the lightly sweet, very moist cake.  I will agree with him that the blackberries weren't very sweet, which made some bites very tart, but I thought that combined with the vanilla ice cream it was perfectly lovely.

Recipe after the jump!

Miso-Marinated Salmon with Cucumber-Daikon Relish and Green Tea Soba

I am always interested in new salmon recipes.  I have my favorites that I make over and over, but it's nice to mix it up every once in awhile.  Salmon is one of my favorite fishes - it can be prepared in hundreds of ways and is fairly forgiving.  I think it's a good gateway fish for people who don't cook a lot of fish.  The fat content is high enough that it stays moist, and it's hardy enough that it doesn't fall apart easily.  This miso-marinade is one of the best I have tasted in a long time.  The marinade gave the fish so much flavor during the two hours it marinated in the refrigerator.  The salmon was sweet from the mirin, but not overpoweringly so, and had nice savory undertones from the miso paste.  I don't think I have ever described salmon as rich before, but that is the word that comes to mind to describe this salmon - rich.  The cucumber-daikon relish cuts the richness nicely.  Without the relish the salmon would still be a good piece of fish, but I think the relish makes it all come together in your mouth.  You definitely want to use a nice piece of wild salmon for this dish if you can get it.  Then again, I think you should always use wild salmon.  

The green tea soba was a nice accompaniment to the salmon.  It was light and fresh, but still had nice flavor.  With the richness of the salmon and the flavors of the relish, you really needed something simple to not compete with all of those tastes already on the plate.  I really liked the dipping sauce and might actually try it out with regular buckwheat soba next time for some additional nuttiness.
Recipes after the jump!