Friday, July 30, 2010

BBQ Pulled Pork Quesadillas

When one of our friends came over to hang out the other night we celebrated her recent move to New York by ordering BBQ from Rack & Soul on the UWS.  Now I haven't tried everything that Rack & Soul has to offer yet, but I can say that everything I have tried has been delicious.  Their fried chicken was phenomenal, and their ribs and pulled pork were nothing to scoff at either.  The only thing I didn't like from there was their collards, but I am very very picky where collards are concerned.  Anyway, after ordering ourselves a serious BBQ feast we had a few ribs leftover, some sides, and a ton of pulled pork (the only measurement I can think of is sandwiches and we had enough left for roughly 2 nicely stuffed pulled pork sandwiches).  The first thought that came to mind as I tried to come up with a way to use the rest of that pulled pork was to make quesadillas with it.  Actually, what first came to mind was tostadas, but that thought quickly passed and the idea of quesadillas replaced it.  Then I had to decide whether to make my quesadillas more Mexican-inspired, or stick with a BBQ flavor profile.  In the end I chose to go with Mexican-inspired, so we added jalapenos, garlic, cilantro, scallions, red onions, and cotija cheese.  If I had decided to stick with BBQ-inspired quesadillas I was thinking Monterey Jack cheese, red onions, garlic, and greens of some sort (speaking of collards, we have those in the fridge from the CSA too).

Generally I am a big fan of cooking up my quesadillas in a frying pan on the stovetop, but this time I decided to try to cook them in the oven.  Since I didn't leave the office until 7pm and we had a long evening ahead of us I wanted to get all of our quesadillas cooked as soon as possible (and with as little effort on my part as possible).  Except I forgot to spray them with Pam before I threw them in the oven so they were a little drier and crispier than I had intended.  Oops.  We tried topping the quesadillas with Tabasco, tomatillo salsa, and Korean BBQ sauce.  Somehow we were out of both regular BBQ sauce, regular salsa, and sour cream.  Alex and I both agreed that the tomatillo salsa was definitely the way to go.  BBQ sauce was just too sweet and the Tabasco totally obscured the taste of the pork filling.  Perhaps in the future we will use a mix of cotija and Monterey Jack cheeses so that the quesadillas have more melty, gooey cheese in the filling.  While I love the taste of the cotija, it's more like Parmigiano-Reggiano in that it never melts and forms a gooey cheese filling.  If you have leftover pulled pork or some rotisserie chicken in the fridge, this is a really nice, easy meal that you can throw together with very little effort.  If we had any sweet corn left it would have been a perfect side dish if tossed with some lime juice, tomatoes, avocado, and maybe a pinch of dried cumin.  Maybe next time!

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sweet Corn, Spring Onion, and Heirloom Tomato Salad

What could possibly be more summery than corn, basil and heirloom tomatoes?  I literally can't think of a single thing.  Nor can I think of anything more delicious than fresh sweet corn in the summer.  Growing up we had corn growing in the backyard and every summer I would stuff my face with as much corn as I could possibly handle.  Yes, I know.  That's a wonderful mental image, but it's a fairly accurate description.  As far as I am concerned there are very few things that you can do to really improve upon sweet corn.  Simply steamed (or grilled) and spread with butter and salt it is delicious.  If you want to get creative you can make the Corn with Green Onion Oil that I made earlier in the week, or Mexican Grilled Corn (aka elote).  There are a lot of corn salad recipes out there that involve other summery combinations like avocado, lime, and black beans, or various other things.  But I wanted something simple that purely tasted of summer, so this was the recipe that I came up with, and summer is exactly what I got.  Alex got stuck making this dish for himself because I got held up at work after I swore I would make it home for dinner at 7:30 pm (oops - sorry hon, I owe you one).  And then he even took pictures for me.  Isn't he the best?  But this salad makes a perfect side dish - one that I will enjoy all summer long.  The combination of the corn, tomato, spring onions, and balsamic is a little on the sweet side, but in the freshest and most summery way possible.  I think it would be perfect served with some chicken paillards or some really nice seared sea scallops.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shrimp and Zucchini Orzo with Lemony Basil Pesto

Up until about a year ago I had never made homemade pesto.  Instead I just used the pesto that comes in a plastic container or a jar at the grocery store.  And then after I made homemade pesto there was no going back.  It is so simple and easy, and the flavors are so much purer and fresher than anything you can buy at the store, not to mention so much more vibrant.  With all of the fresh basil that we have been getting from the CSA recently this pesto was the perfect way to use up some of it.  We also have a monster zucchini in the fridge still waiting to be used, but I can only use one monster zucchini per night.  I thought about whipping together a quick zucchini bread this evening to use up the other monster zucchini, but that is going to have to wait until tomorrow.  Or maybe Friday.  But enough about that, back to tonight's dinner.

I loved the addition of the lemon to the basil in the pesto, and then the touch of heat from the red pepper flakes.  As much as I love spice, I wouldn't use more than a small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes because you don't want the heat from the pepper to overwhelm the summery flavors of the pesto.  With the combination of the pesto, the zucchini, the shrimp, and the ozro, the dish tasted like summer on a plate to me.  It there had just been some heirloom tomatoes and summer corn then it really would have been summer on a plate!

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Corn with Green Onion Oil Recipe

Many of you probably don't know this about me but I have an obsession, literally an obsession, with grilled corn.  My obsession started in China when street vendors with little portable charcoal grills would set up outside bars and sell skewers of grilled meat and vegetables to the waiting crowds.  I'm not sure exactly what the blend of spices was that they sprinkled over the meat, but boy was it phenomenal.  Ever since I tried their version of grilled corn I have been on the lookout for new grilled corn recipes to add to my repertoire.  This dish was adapted from a recipe I saw on Momofuku for 2 (which is an absolutely amazing food blog based out of Vancouver).  As always, I decided to play with the recipe a little bit and adapt it to my tastes.  I didn't have a red chili, so I used a jalapeno instead.  And then I wanted to throw in some cilantro because I just love cilantro.  After the experience with the fried corn at the New Amsterdam Market, I decided to try to pan-roast/pan-fry the corn in a cast iron skillet in some grapeseed oil.  I chose grapeseed oil because it has a high smoke point and also because I wanted an oil with a completely neutral flavor.

The green onion oil that goes with this corn is fabulous.  The fish sauce gave it just the right amount of salt and flavor to complement the fresh flavors of the scallion and cilantro, and the very slight heat from the jalapeno.  Combined with the sweet corn it was just fantastic.  In the future I will probably cut the kernels off the corncobs so that the green onion oil is more evenly distributed through the corn.  With the corn on the cob, there were patches where the oil really stuck and gave the corn great flavor and then there were patches where the oil with the green onions and cilantro slid right off.  I didn't want to cut the kernels off this time because I didn't want to take the time and risk the corn getting cold (plus it's just a pain to do), but I will just suck it up in the future because this recipe is totally worth it.  So I'm writing the recipe like I did cut the kernels off, but you can grill it whole instead of pan-roasting the kernels if that's your thing.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Turkey Kebabs with Tomato, Onion, and Cilantro Relish, and "Dry" Potatoes with Ginger and Garlic

I have been craving Indian food on and off for the past few weeks.  Rather than going out to eat Indian, I decided to use one of our Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks to make something since I got home early from work this evening.  Of course once I opened up Indian Cooking there were only about a dozen recipes that appealed to me.  But we had some ground turkey so the decision on what to make for our entree was fairly simple - Turkey Kebabs.  Madhur recommends serving these kebabs in pita pockets with cilantro chutney, or wrapped in parathas.  Since we grilled burgers the other night at a friend's place, I wasn't really feeling what sounded entirely too much like an Indian turkey burger.  Instead I wanted to eat it solo topped with some form of chutney or relish.  The relish that sounded the best to me with the combination of spices and ingredients in the turkey kebabs was her Tomato, Onion, and Cilantro Relish.  Then to go with it I originally wanted to make the Spicy Cucumber Wedges, but then we realized that our English cucumber had seen better days.  So I went back to the cookbook and picked out the "Dry" Potatoes with Ginger and Garlic.  We had some of the world's teensiest and most adorable new potatoes left from our CSA haul last week that I wanted to use and it seemed like a great side dish for our kebabs.

I think that Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks are among the most successful cookbooks I own.  I am very rarely disappointed when I try out one of her recipes.  The kebabs were intensely flavorful, not to mention moist.  I loved the interplay between all of the flavors.  With the addition of the relish they were amazing.  I am a ridiculously large fan of both these kebabs and the relish.  Alex said that the relish at first reminded him of a standard pico de gallo, but then you get hit with the taste of cumin and cayenne and you realize this is no pico de gallo, but something else entirely.  Delicious.  The potatoes were pretty good too, but I'm just not a potato lover - unless of course those potatoes are in really good french fry form.  Alex is a potato lover, but his complaint was that the potatoes didn't carry quite as much of the "spice flavor" as he expected.  Although the potatoes weren't exactly a smashing success, this Indian meal was more successful than some restaurant Indian meals.  Madhur Jaffrey is officially my hero.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Amsterdam Market

Even though it was blazing hot outside yesterday, Alex and I decided to visit New Amsterdam Market down at the South Street Seaport.  Although I have only been to the market twice (due to the fact that it is currently a monthly market and it's quite a trek to get there), it is one of my favorite places in NYC.  There are so many great restaurants that serve food there, as well as a ton of other farms, vendors, cheesemongers, etc. with amazing products for sale.  So we wandered on down there Saturday and had a delicious lunch, and then bought some random stuff.  By the time we got down there we were hot, sweaty, and starving so the most important order of business was food and something cold to drink.  The first thing we got (and potentially my favorite thing we ate there) was the fried corn (pictured above) from Marlow & Daughters.  They served the corn with some cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh chives, and a nice slice of watermelon.  It was delicious and oh so summery.  The corn had a wonderful texture and taste from being fried, and the fresh tomatoes and basil just lightened and brightened it all up.  I loved that corn.  Then we followed up the corn with another of our absolute favorite summer meals - lobster rolls from Luke's Lobster.  I'm not sure if the lobster rolls that they serve at the market are as good as the ones they serve at their restaurants, but if not, they are damn close.  Luke's consistently has the longest lines at the market, and once you take a bite of one of their lobster rolls you totally understand why.  We capped off our lunch with a mini porchetta sandwich from Porchetta, zucchini flatbread and blackberry-basil lemonade from Great Performances, and a barlett pear shaved ice from People's Pops.

Then we swung over to Third Rail Coffee so Alex could pick up some Stumptown coffee, and I wandered the market tasting things and buying random things.  Courtesy of my randomness we now have some fantastic sweet corn, a gorgeous heirloom tomato, two confit duck legs, and some hot Italian sausage in the fridge.  Yum.

More pictures after the jump!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Baby Carrots and Spring Onions

What do you do when your CSA keeps supplying you with carrot, after carrot, after carrot?  Particularly if you don't generally like cooked carrots?  You try cooked carrots again - in a new and more interesting way and hope that you like them better this time.  My typical problem with cooked carrots is the texture.  The texture tends to be somewhere between mushy and toothsome and reminds me of a combination of baby food and old people food.  And unlike fingerling potatoes or parsnips (or any of the other vegetables that you typically roast with a pot roast), carrots never get that nice crust on the outside.  They just sit there and get mushy.  This pork tenderloin just sounded so good and we had so many carrots that I couldn't resist this recipe.

This recipe made me a little nervous because there isn't much salt in it.  And it definitely needed just a little more salt.  Once we sprinkled some sea salt on top of the final dish the flavors all came together and the entire dish was just that much better.  So I have adapted the recipe to use the amount of salt we really should have used for optimal flavor.  Even after adding more salt, Alex and I both agreed that the flavors in this dish were nowhere near as vibrant as they could have been.  Don't get me wrong - I voluntarily ate roasted carrots which is huge in and of itself.  And the carrots were actually quite good.  But they weren't as good as they could have been when seasoned with jalapeno, cumin, ancho chile powder, garlic, etc.  With all of those spices I was really expecting a real burst of flavor and instead I got just a little taste.  So all-in-all I would give the recipe a solid B or B-.  With a few modifications it might even make it to a B+, but it definitely isn't quite there yet.
Recipe after the jump!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chicken with Chilies (La Zi Ji)

La zi ji (Chicken with Chiles) was one of the dishes from one of my first meals with a bunch of expats at a Sichuan restaurant in downtown Shenzhen.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I had already been in China for several days at that point and it's not like I refrained from eating until then.  Instead I was teaching English at a summer camp where we were stuck eating at the cafeteria with the students and other teachers everyday.  Gourmet food it was not, but what grade school cafeteria actually serves good food?  Anyway, this dish made an impression.  Nestled in a bowl of flaming red dried chilies were little nuggets of succulent chicken.  It looked scary hot, but so long as you stayed away from the chilies themselves you were fine and the chicken was barely spicy at all.  So after coming across this recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty I knew we had to make it.  I tried to track down Sichuanese chilies, but short of another trip to Chinatown, didn't think I was going to find any.  In the end I found some dried Tiensin Chinese chilies at Kalustyans that I decided to use.

As usual, I dug into my dinner first.  Alex is slow.  Once dinner is on the table I tend to dig right in.  Conversely, Alex wanders into the kitchen to pour himself another drink and then meanders on over.  So I dug into the bowl and plucked out a piece and chicken that I threw in my mouth.  And then I said "hmmmm" and nodded.  Alex's response was "well that's a good sign."  He knows me so well.  This chicken isn't exactly the same as the dish that I first ate in China, but it's really close.  And it's really good.  And I mean really really good.  In Alex's words, it's "not like your standard Americanized Chinese dish with a gloopy sauce."  Instead the dish is meant to be dry - not that the sense that the meat is withered and dried out because it's overcooked, but more in the sense that the chicken stands alone without a sauce.  And the chicken itself is has a nice and crispy exterior from being fried.  We didn't deep fry the chicken - instead I shallow fried it in a Le Creuset in 2/3 of an inch of peanut oil.  Then the chicken is tossed in the flavorful chili oil and suddenly it goes from just cubes of cooked marinated chicken to something else entirely.  Something totally delicious.  After you eat an entire bowl of chicken your tongue starts to go numb and tingly.  But your lips never burn because the chicken really isn't that hot and spicy, it's really just lightly perfumed by the all of the chilies.  I love it.  Alex loved it too.  Now he just has to remember not to rub his eyes after de-seeding all of those chilies...

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Beef Tacos with Radish and Avocado Salsa

So it seems that I like radishes.  A lot.  Who knew?  After we made (and loved) the Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Radishes, Mint and Ricotta Salata I decided to pick up some more radishes in the hope that we would get more sugar snap peas from our CSA.  But there were no sugar snap peas to be had last week, so I had to figure out something to do with our radishes.  This recipe was one of those recipes that just seemed to come together perfectly.  I had already defrosted a nice skirt steak and happened to have just picked up cilantro, scallions, and corn tortillas the other day.  The only thing we needed was an avocado.

Steak tacos are one of my absolute favorite quick and easy meals. Skirt steak and hanger steak are both so inherently flavorful that they make fantastic tacos. I have made several different variations - on the blog alone I have made Skirt Steak Fajitas with Lime and Pepper, Six-Spice Hanger Steak Tacos with Pickled Onions, and Skirt Steak Tacos with Roasted Tomato Salsa.  This version was delicious.  I loved the salsa.  It had very little heat, but a ton of flavor.  And the combination of the avocados and radishes gave the tacos some really nice textures to go with the bold flavors of the steak and lime juice.

Recipe after the jump!

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan Pine Nuts

I'm sure if I had ever lived on a farm I would seriously struggle with finding new uses for all of the zucchini and tomatoes that are in season during the summer.  I love both, but there are only so many uses I have found thus far for zucchini.  I have tried baking it into breads and cakes, mixing it into turkey meatloaf, sauteing it, grilling it, baking it, throwing it into frittatas and omelets, using it in various pasta recipes, and serving it on top of pizzas.  For years I have been seeing recipes for raw zucchini carpaccio, but somehow they never appealed.  Then I saw this recipe for Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan Pine Nuts and it seemed like a new and interesting way to use up my CSA zucchini.

We served the salad for lunch today with some organic boxed whole wheat mac n' cheese.  It was the perfect light side dish for yet another hot afternoon.  It wasn't my favorite zucchini recipe I have ever tried, but the combination of the lemon vinaigrette, fresh basil, and toasted pine nuts with the thinly shaved zucchini ribbons was an interesting and tasty one.  And when you take into account the fact that I didn't have to cook anything and it all came together in 10-15 minutes, I'm sold.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Eggplant Pizza

The inspiration for this pizza came from our local pizza place (Caesar's, not Little Caesars).  They have a cheese pizza topped with eggplant that I love.  It kind of reminds me of a much lighter eggplant parmigana in pizza form.  The eggplant from Caesar's is very lightly breaded, but I decided to skip that step.  Luckily we had an eggplant from the CSA sitting in our crisper drawer along with all of the baby arugula (also from the CSA) that we used for our White Pizza with Arugula.  I'm really trying to do my best to use up all of the CSA produce in our fridge, hence our two pizza pizza night.  Regular eggplant is something that I have never been a huge fan of (instead I tend to prefer the longer, skinner Asian eggplants), but I have recently discovered that it can also be delicious so I am determined to try it out more.  I have several recipes for eggplant that I have been wanting to try.  And now that eggplant is in season, I'm hoping that we get several more of them from the CSA in the weeks to come so I can try all of my new recipes out!

Anyway, this pizza was Alex's favorite from our recent pizza night.  I took a few shortcuts and used Mario Batali's canned Arrabiata Pasta Sauce.  It is one of our absolute favorite canned pasta sauces, with a nice fresh tomatoey flavor and just the right amount of heat.  I used some of the fresh local mozzarella that I picked up for the white pizza, along with the eggplant and some fresh basil (also from the CSA).  I brushed the eggplant with the garlic oil that I made for our white pizza and I think that was a great touch.  Then I topped the whole thing with parm-reg.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!

White Pizza with Arugula

Friday night of this past week was the first night that I was home before 7:30 pm, so we decided to take advantage of it by taking the dog for a walk and then making two kinds of pizza for dinner.  Even though I was home by 6:30, we still didn't manage to eat dinner until almost 9 pm.  Oops.  If we had stuck to just one pizza for dinner, we probably would have eaten by 8:30pm, but such is life.  I really liked both pizzas (actually I slightly preferred this white pizza, while Alex slightly preferred the Eggplant Pizza), so I think it was worth the extra 30 minutes!

This recipe was actually one of the main reasons I bought this Ina Garten cookbook and it was well worth it.  I love white pizza and I love pizza with arugula, but every time I have attempted to make either in the past it just hasn't been that great.  And I have never tried to make pizza dough before, but I kept hearing that this pizza dough was a great one to try.  I have to admit that this time we didn't bother to make the dough.  Instead, I picked up a ball of whole wheat pizza dough from Whole Foods.  But if you have the time and the inclination to make your own pizza dough, this is supposedly a great recipe to try.  One of these days I promise I will test it out, but until then you're on your own.  Another pizza dough recipe that I have heard is a great basic dough recipe is Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough.  I haven't tried it out either, but I hear really good things. Anyway, even with store-bought whole wheat pizza dough, this was a great white pizza.  I loved the blend of creamy mozzarella, tangy goat cheese, and smooth fontina cheese.  I also loved the garlic oil that you brush the dough with before topping with cheese, and then drizzle over the top.  If you want a particularly saucy pizza this isn't your recipe, but I rarely like a lot of sauce on my pizza, so this was perfect for me.  That was Alex's only complaint about the pizza - that there wasn't much sauce so it seemed a little dry, but I love my pizza that way.  It was nice, fresh, and light (mostly due to the arugula with the lemon vinaigrette on top).  I loved it.  Alex liked it.  I consider that a smashing success.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil

Sometimes you just need something simple, but flavorful for dinner.  There are times I am more interested in something elaborate and rich, but then there are times (like the other night when we made this pasta) where I just want something quick, relatively light, and delicious.  This pasta dish is perfect for one of those nights where you just don't have the time, let alone the energy, to slave away in the kitchen trying to coax flavors out of your ingredients.  Sure all of my Mario Batali cookbooks have recipes with more "interesting" flavor combinations and/or more esoteric ingredients, but like I said earlier - sometimes you want something a little simpler.  And this pasta is great, really great.  There was the heat of the red pepper flakes, the seriously garlicky goodness, the freshness of the parsley, and then the salty bite of the cheese.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!

Thai Red Curry Mussels

Alex has been in charge of dinner the last few nights so I thought it was only fair that I be in charge of dinner this evening.  So I hit Whole Foods after work today and picked up some mussels.  I love mussels, but we rarely cook them because the whole process of cleaning and debearding them is annoying, plus the fact that you should really cook them the day that you purchase them doesn't always work for me.  But tonight it did!  And the mussels were lovely.  They were very flavorful - it isn't often that the mussels can stand alone without their broth, but these totally could.  Alex and I both thought our mussels were better than the mussels I had a month or two ago at Fatty Crab (which I consider to be incredibly high praise since that is one of our favorite restaurants).  Our mussels were plump, juicy and full of flavor.  The red curry broth had a nice level of heat and flavor - if you don't like things spicy I would cut back on the amount of red curry paste, but I found the spice level to be perfect.  

We served the mussels with some coconut rice.  Generally I like some nice crusty bread to dip into the mussel broth, but since we were making Thai-inspired mussels, I thought rice would be the ideal accompaniment.  The rice added another level of flavor and texture, and was delicious when drizzled with the red curry broth.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Alex's Roast Chicken Breasts and "Greek" Salad

Since I started a new job today, Alex was in charge of dinner.  Generally this means that after first making sure that we have all of the ingredients, I tell him exactly what he is making and what recipe he is using.  Maybe that makes me a little Type A, but left to his own devices Alex is prone to eating peanut butter crackers for dinner.  However, if I give him a recipe and provide him with the ingredients he is a really good cook.  Now that I started my new job Alex is going to be in charge of a lot of meals as I will be working a lot later than I used to.  Tonight's dinner was a wonderful start.  I told Alex to cook the bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts we had defrosted (rather than the sausage we had also defrosted) and he took it from there.  Alex drew inspiration for our chicken from two chefs - Thomas Keller and Tom Colicchio.  Thomas Keller simply roasts a whole chicken with liberal amounts of salt and pepper and then later bastes it with the pan juices.  Before roasting the chicken he uses absolutely no oil or butter on the skin.  Tom Colicchio, on the other hand, seasons a whole chicken liberally with s&p before searing it in peanut oil on all sides until the skin is golden brown, and then roasting with herbs and butter.  So Alex browned the skin of our chicken breasts in our cast iron, before throwing the pan in the oven and roasting the chicken (adding butter and herbs for the last 5 minutes of roasting time).  After we took the chicken out of the oven we basted it with the butter that was seasoned with rosemary and thyme.  Somehow this chicken was the best roast chicken we have ever made.  The skin was nice and crispy, while the meat remained nice and juicy.  It was really really good.  The next time we make a roast chicken I am going to try this method and see if the results are anywhere near as delicious!

To go with the chicken I threw together a faux Greek salad, or what I am calling a "Greek" Salad.  I threw together all sorts of veggies from the fridge - arugula, flat leaf parsley, grape tomatoes, red onion, English cucumbers, and chickpeas, with some ricotta salata cheese.  Most, if not all, Greek salads use feta, but I really liked the ricotta salata.  Sometimes feta can overwhelm the flavor of all of the other vegetables with its saltiness, so the milder ricotta salata made the salad feel lighter and fresher.  I tossed the salad in a red wine vinaigrette that I threw together at the last minute and voila - an easy, delicious salad that cleaned out our vegetable drawer!

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula Salad

After gorging myself on meat earlier today, all I wanted for dinner was salad.  Lots and lots of salad.  So the first thing that came to mind was this watermelon and arugula salad that I have been meaning to make for weeks.  Watermelon is one of my favorite indulgences during the summer and there are various salads containing watermelon that I love to make/eat.  I can't wait until really nice heirloom tomatoes start overrunning the farmer's markets so I can make tomato-watermelon salad.  Other wonderful addition to watermelon salads are mint and and sweet onions.  I know that the combination of watermelon and onion sounds truly bizarre, but done properly it is delicious.  This watermelon, feta, and arugula salad is one of the simpler watermelon salads that I make, as there are only 5 ingredients - watermelon, feta, arugula, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper.  I know it sounds like a strange set of ingredients, but give it a shot.  I promise you won't be disappointed!
Recipe after the jump!

Meatopia 2010

So I'm not sure where I first read/heard about Meatopia, but after missing Big Apple BBQ this year Alex and I were determined to go.  So we emailed some friends who are also BBQ lovers and bought some tickets.  We headed off to Governor's Island this morning for some serious meat action.  Although this is the very first year that they have done Meatopia, I hope they continue to do it in the future.  With time they will attract other restaurants, work out any kinks, etc.  All things considered, I thought it was a fabulous event.  Sure the trek out to Governor's Island from the UWS took us a considerable amount of time (50 minutes give or take on the subway and then the ferry), plus it was a little hot out to be gorging on that much meat, but some of that food was seriously delicious.  Some of my absolute faves were the baron of beef from The Little Owl (so juicy and flavorful), the grilled bacon sandwich with pickled green tomatoes and Napa cabbage from Bobo (the combination of a really thick cut strip of bacon and pickled green tomatoes was genius), and the grilled marinated chicken with green papaya from Barbuto (the chicken had the best crispy chicken skin ever).  We also tried the whole roasted lamb from Boqueria (the above picture is Seamus Mullen and another chef basting their whole lamb), the MLT (mutton, lettuce and tomato) from Resto (which Alex really enjoyed), the pork shoulder tacos from La Esquina, grilled chicken sausage from The Smoke Joint, and a variety of other things.  I was a little disappointed in the Montreal smoked meat from Mile End, which was good, but nothing special.  And frankly, after reading all of the good press about Mile End I was expecting a little more.  Then again, Alex and I both agreed that it was better than Katz's, so we clearly weren't that disappointed.  So we ate lots of good food and drank some nice Sixpoint Sweet Action Ale, which made for a wonderful summer Sunday afternoon.  Oh and I met Jonathan Waxman from Barbuto, who really is just as nice as he appears on Top Chef Masters!  So that was fun too.

Here's hoping that Meatopia 2011 will be just as good, if not better, than Meatopia 2010!

Pictures after the jump!

Roasted Beets with Cumin and Mint

My favorite thing about this meal (aside from the fact that it is delicious) is that it used two ingredients from my CSA haul - beets and mint.  Beyond that, it is a wonderful variation from your standard roasted beets recipes.  I love the combination of the cumin and the mint to give the beets some flavors beyond just the sweetness typical of roasted beets.  The cumin gives the beets a wonderful smoky warmth, and the combination of the mint and lemon juice makes them fresh and vibrant.  My favorite way to serve these beets is over mixed spring greens or other tender greens with some nice goat cheese crumbled over the whole thing and some toasted walnuts for crunch.  If you use these beets as part of a salad you don't really need any additional dressing because the beets have plenty of dressing on their own (generally when I make these beets and serve them solo I cut down on the amount of dressing because it really is a lot). 

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vietnamese-Style Pork Chops with Rice Noodle Salad

The last time I visited the meat counter at Fairway I picked up a few gorgeous bone-in Berkshire pork loin chops.  They were absolutely beautiful.  We were struggling trying to figure out what recipe to make with them because with every recipe we came up with we were missing at least one essential ingredient and neither of us was willing to go to the grocery store.  It's just way too hot out for a trip to the grocery store if you don't really need to go.  So Alex came up with the idea of making some Vietnamese-Style Pork Chops.  We tried making Lemongrass Pork Chops Over Rice back in January, which were really good, but we wanted to try something new.  So Alex decided to wing it a little and came up with this marinade/recipe.  While Alex worked on the pork chop marinade and the nuoc cham (we used my go-to nuoc cham recipe from Andrea Nguyen), I threw together the rice noodle salad.  I also prepped a Spicy Napa Cabbage Slaw with Cilantro, which I will post about tomorrow (once the flavors have time to really meld together in the fridge).

As I remember it, the Lemongrass Pork Chops over Rice that we prepared last time had more flavor and were a little bit juicier, but that is probably due to the difference in marinating time.  With that recipe we marinated our chops overnight in the fridge.  This time we only marinated the chops for an hour.  Also, our chops last time were thinner so the flavor from the marinade really permeated the entire chop.  However, tonight's pork chops were somehow less tough than our last attempt.  Perhaps that is due to being cooked on the bone?  Who knows.  With all of that said, I really liked the pork chops we made tonight.  Dipped in the nuoc cham they were delicious.  I also think that the rice noodle salad was the perfect accompaniment - it lightened everything up and gave the meal some much-needed freshness considering it was a high of 99 degrees F outside today.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cascabel Taqueria

So after a lot of coin flipping (yes, that is how we chose what kind of food we wanted to eat tonight, although we got it down to tapas and Mexican through more conventional methods) and phone calls to determine what restaurants were open on the Fourth, we ended up at Cascabel Taqueria on the UES.  The funny thing is that it's actually only a block or two away from Luke's Lobster, where we went for lunch, so we ended up on the UES twice in one day for food, which is amusing because we have only traveled over to the UES to eat at a restaurant three times in the 2 plus years we have been living on the UWS - twice to Luke's and once to Cascabel and all three times within the past 2 months.  Alex said that we also went to dinner at Mia Dona a year and a half ago, but I kind of think of that area as Midtown East, rather than the UES.  Whatever.  My point still remains - we do not go to the UES to eat dinner because there is no need.  Or rather there was no need until Luke's Lobster moved up there a few months ago.  And until we discovered Cascabel.  Because Cascabel was awesome - the decor was super fun (luchador masks, and Mexican wrestling references everywhere) and the food is delicious.  It also has a great beer list and a nice tequila selection, but that's beside the point.

Tonight at Cascabel Alex and I started with the guacamole.  We literally can't set foot anywhere near a Mexican restaurant without ordering guacamole because it is Alex's favorite thing in the whole world (aside from pork belly).  Cascabel's guacamole isn't the best fresh guacamole that I have ever tasted, but it is solid.  Then we moved onto the tacos and shared the carnitas, the lengua (tongue), and the pollo chipotle.  Alex and I both agreed that the tongue was our favorite taco.  It was very tender, and incredibly flavorful.  The carnitas was our second favorite - it was a little dry, but the flavor was really nice.  I also loved that they topped the pork with puffed rice, and pickled red onion.  Yum.  The chicken tacos were nice and also flavorful, but not quite as good as the others (although I really appreciated the avocado on top).  We finished our meal with the elote asado (grilled Mexican corn), which was delicious.  I guess we're just going to have to make our peace with the bus ride from the UWS to the UES because we will certainly be heading back to Cascabel in the near future.

Pictures after the jump!

Happy Fourth of July!

Unlike most New Yorkers, Alex and I opted for a "staycation" for Independence Day.  Don't get me wrong, if we had access to a house in the Hamptons (or anywhere at the beach really) we would probably be there, but we both actually like staying in the city on a holiday weekend when most people are gone.  The streets are (relatively) empty, as are a lot of the typical tourist attractions.  Our day thus far?  Grabbing the perfect Fourth of July lunch at Luke's Lobster on the UES - a seafood schooner combo with a lobster roll.  I'm pretty sure that this is like the fourth time I have mentioned Luke's Lobster on this blog, but I just can't help it.  It really is amazing.  And since I finally thought to bring my camera with me I decided to take some pictures to share with my friends and family!  Eat your heart out guys.  We followed up our lunch at Luke's with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (at Alex's request).  While I have been several times, Alex has somehow neglected all of the museums in NYC, as well as the vast majority of other tourist attractions.  He and I had visited the Met briefly once before and he has been talking about going back to view more of the collection for a few months now.  Who knew my husband had such a thing for museums and Greek sculpture and/or pottery?

Since it's a holiday weekend and I refuse to cook, we're currently duking it out over where to go for dinner.  And when I say duking it out I really mean there is a lot of "well where do you want to go?  I don't know.  Where do YOU want to go?"  In Alex's case there's a lot of "uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..."  Stay tuned to see what we decide!

Another picture of my lobster roll lunch after the jump!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Radishes, Mint and Ricotta Salata

Planning out our menus around our CSA produce can get a little exhausting.  First of all, there is always at least one crucial ingredient for every recipe that we are missing, which requires a trip to the grocery store.  We have so much produce, but as we are trying not to buy anymore produce from the grocery store we are inevitably missing a crucial herb or something else.  For instance, we had everything for this recipe - the radishes, the mint, and the sugar snap peas were all from the CSA - except for the ricotta salata.  We probably have 10 types of cheese in the fridge right now, just not ricotta salata.  Bummer.  But considering this recipe is using up so much of our CSA produce I can't complain too much.

We served our Sugar Snap Pea Salad with some wild king salmon that we prepared using Tyler Florence's Salt and Pepper Salmon recipe - which incidentally is one of my absolute favorite ways to simply prepare a nice piece of salmon.  And it was a fabulous meal.  I loved the salad - it was so fresh and seasonal - and it paired wonderfully with the salmon.  I always like sugar snap peas, but the combination of the sugar snap peas, radishes, mint and ricotta salata just blew me away.  What a wonderful summer dinner.

Recipe after the jump!

Asian Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Today I was struggling to come up with any lunch ideas.  I pawed through our fridge for inspiration, but I just wasn't in the mood to slave away in a hot kitchen roasting beets for Roasted Beets with Cumin and Mint, or roasting salmon for Salmon with Sweet Chili Glaze, Sugar Snap Peas, and Pea Tendrils.  Plus that salmon recipe is just far too elaborate for a late afternoon lunch.  I thought about running to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for this Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Radishes, Mint and Ricotta Salata, but it is just way too hot out.  Then I looked in the pantry and discovered we had soba, so I decided to make a recipe for Asian Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce from my new Susan Spicer cookbook.  On that note, I need to thank my friends Jen and Dave for the book because the noodles were delicious.  They were also light enough to make a fabulous light (but still satisfying) meal on a hot day.  Alex and I agreed that the noodles would be great topped with some cooked shrimp or firm tofu if you wanted to jazz them up a little.  You could also throw in an assortment of vegetables - shelled edamame, sugar snap peas, and snow peas immediately come to mind.  While we ate the noodles warm, I think they would also be delicious cold if you wanted to serve them at a potluck or a picnic.  But the soba is nice and nutty, which I love, and the sauce is fresh and bright - particularly with a little extra squirt of lime juice and some additional sambal oelek for extra heat.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp with Sauteed Greens with Bacon

Today I made an expedition down to Chelsea Market, which is one of my favorite foodie meccas in NYC that I rarely visit.  I'm not really sure why we never go down there, except that it is kind of a trek and somehow I just forget about it.  But I had to make the trip down there to pick up some meat I ordered from Dickson's Farmstand Meats.  While I was there I was like a kid in a candy store today.  I came home with all sorts of things - cheese from Lucy's Whey, an assortment of Italian ingredients from Buon Italia (guanciale, bottarga, and calamari-shaped pasta anyone?), seafood from The Lobster Place, a raspberry-basil popsicle from People's Pops (well that didn't make it home, but it was delicious), and a ton of meat from Dickson's (duck breasts, a variety of sausages, bacon, ground beef, etc.).  I actually had to talk myself out of buying raw oysters, marrow bones, and all sorts of other fun goodies.  A girl can only spend so much on groceries in one day!  And as it was, I could barely carry all of my purchases home.

So I got home around 6pm and had to figure out what to do with all of my purchases.  One of my most exciting purchases was a pound of wild, never frozen, Georgia shrimp.  When you get shrimp that good you can cook it super simply and it still shines.  I figured who would know better how to cook nice Georgia shrimp than the Lee Brothers, who grew up in Charleston, SC and include a whole page of "Shrimp Shopping Notes" in their Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor cookbook.  The recipe that immediately caught my eye was "Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp" - which looked super simple and delicious.  And the recipe delivered - it only required 6 ingredients, including the shrimp, and was ready in less than 10 minutes.  Plus it was seriously tasty.

To go with our shrimp I wanted to come up with a vaguely Southern dish of sauteed or braised greens.  This week we got 1/2 a pound of Russian white kale, and 1/2 a lb. of Swiss chard from our CSA.  It wasn't quite enough of either green to build a meal entirely around it, but combined I had more than enough for a nice side dish.  To give the greens a flavor boost and make them feel more Southern, I added some bacon to my usual sauteed greens ingredients of crushed red pepper flakes, onions and garlic.  The bacon gave the greens an additional layer of flavor, as did the heat from the red pepper flakes.  It was the perfect side dish - one I definitely plan on serving again.
Recipes after the jump!