Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ginger Spice Scones

My secretary loves scones, particularly the scones from the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle in NYC.  Now I don't know if these scones are particularly traditional, or just that good.  A few weeks ago I found myself at Whole Foods before work and I picked up a few scones for her in addition to lunch for me.  Ever since I have found myself thinking about scones.  So tonight I decided to actually make some scones, which was a first for me.  I figured scones are a lot like biscuits, which I have made several times in the past, so how hard could they really be?  The answer is, not that hard.  And they are wonderfully adaptable.

For our scones I decided to use crystallized ginger and a combination of Asian spices - cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, and cloves.  Originally I wanted to throw in some dried currants in lieu of the ginger, but the local grocery was out.  So I decided to just stick with crystallized ginger, which might actually have been a better choice anyway.  Alex said that the scones were a little dry, but scones are supposed to be crumbly and a little dry, aren't they?  Otherwise he said they were really good and that he really liked the flavor.  I think they would be wonderful served with some clotted cream, which I think would solve Alex's complaint that the scones were dry.  But where does one buy clotted cream?  I also think they would be lovely spread with a little orange marmalade, but Alex disagrees.  He thinks that the marmalade would mask the flavors of the spices and ginger.  Now that I know how easy scones are to make I will definitely be making more.  Perhaps my next batch will be pumpkin caramel scones for fall.  Or more likely, some raspberry chocolate chip scones.  I might tweak the recipe a little to combat Alex's complaint of dryness, but then again, I might not!

Recipe after the jump!

Baked Eggs with Bacon and Spinach

Tonight was another one of those nights where I had no inspiration for dinner, except that I had a few recipes dogeared in the September issue of Bon Appetit.  After looking through those recipes, the only one that we could make with the ingredients we had on hand was this recipe for Baked Eggs with Bacon and Spinach.  I have this thing for baked eggs.  I have made several different varieties with different cooking temperatures, different cooking times, and most importantly, different mix-ins.  One of my favorite versions of baked eggs was this Oeufs en Cocotte, which is creamier and cheesier than this version.  I also really love making baked eggs with Mexican chorizo, minced garlic, scallions, and cilantro - which is amazing when served with little toast soldiers made out of cornbread or a nice rustic bread.

This version of baked eggs was very good.  I liked the combination of eggs, bacon and spinach, but like Alex said, it was missing something.  It was all very tasty, but a little one note.  However, I really liked the idea of toasting the English muffins and layering them at the bottom of the ramekin so that they can really soak up all of the eggy, creamy goodness without becoming overly soggy. 

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chickpeas with Chorizo

Chickpeas and chorizo are a very standard combination in Spain.  Sometimes you see chickpea and chorizo stews and sometimes you just see chickpeas and chorizo sauteed together.  Every once in awhile you see some spinach thrown into the mix.  Tonight we decided to sautee together chickpeas, onions, garlic, chorizo, and flat leaf parsley, all seasoned with a pinch of sweet paprika and a splash of sherry vinegar.  Together they make a hearty, satisfying meal - one that we served with some pan con tomate and a simple arugula salad.  The bitterness and freshness of the arugula salad helped lighten the whole meal up so that it felt appropriate for a 90 degree summer evening.  I know that some recipes include some toasted bread crumbs in their chickpeas with chorizo and I think we will definitely try that out next time.  I also might throw in some baby spinach to saute up with the chickpeas and chorizo for a little variety.  That would make this dish more of a one pot roughly 20 minute meal, which sounds pretty awesome to me.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tomato and Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing

When I started digging through the fridge for dinner what I was envisioning was a tomato-cucumber-onion salad.  Then I discovered we were out of cucumbers and I had to come up with a Plan B.  And Plan B involved this Tomato and Onion Salad with Tahini Dressing by Mark Bittman.  We had a ton of gorgeous tomatoes - including one yellow and red heirloom tomato from Whole Foods, and two beautiful ruby red tomatoes from the CSA.  We tried to take some pictures of them but none of the pictures we took really did them justice.  Oh well.  That's what happens when you cook at night in your NYC apartment with a desk lamp as lighting.

I liked this salad.  I thought it was light and fresh, and really different.  It wasn't perfect - I wish you could taste the lemon juice more, instead of mostly tasting the tahini.  And I think in the future we will seed the tomatoes a little because otherwise it's just gets a little too watery.  Alex said all he could taste was the parsley and he wants to cut down on the amount in the future, but as I've said before, I love parsley.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I know that for some people, macaroons are an acquired taste.  Boy have I acquired that taste.  I find it really difficult to resist a nice fluffy, moist coconut macaroon - chocolate-dipped or not.  I'm not sure where my love of coconut macaroons stems from because I can't ever remember eating them when I was younger and I'm not sure what possessed me to try them as I got older, but I am sure glad that I did.  I know that some recipes use sweetened condensed milk, but I really wanted to stick to the traditional macaroons before branching out and using condensed milk (although I bet that macaroons made with condensed milk instead of egg whites are fabulously rich).

These macaroons have a really nice almond flavor to them.  If you don't like almonds, or marzipan, I would recommend using all vanilla extract and leaving out the almond extract, or just cutting down on the amount of almond extract.

Recipe after the jump!

Zucchini Pancakes

This summer I am trying harder than ever to make sure that Alex and I have at least one vegetarian meal a week.  We just have so many veggies in the fridge from our CSA, it is impossible to use them all without having at least one vegetarian evening per week.  The problem with our vegetarian nights is that they often involve a ton of carbs - pasta, bread, etc.  But tonight we decided to make zucchini pancakes from a recipe I found on the NY Times website, and serve it with some caprese salad.  Lots of vegetables (and cheese), but no carbs!  Good for us.

These pancakes were really good.  They had nice flavor and I really liked the yogurt sauce with them.  I also thought they were a novel way to use up more zucchini.  After all, you can only eat so much pasta with zucchini and/or zucchini bread.  But Alex and I both agreed that we would prefer the Thai Corn Fritters we made a few weeks ago to these pancakes, mostly due to the texture.  These pancakes had a nice crispy exterior, but they got soggy fast and the interiors had little to no texture.  The Thai Corn Fritters retained their texture better - mostly due to the profusion of sweet corn kernels, and they had more explosive and fresh flavors.  They just tasted so much brighter, probably due to the sweet chili dipping sauce and the amount of cilantro.  But since these zucchini pancakes were so different, it's hard to compare them to the Thai Corn Fritters.  If I were to make these pancakes again, I would tweak them to give them more texture and more fresh, herbal flavor.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Banh Mi Sliders

I'm not sure where I came up with the idea for these sliders.  Sometimes the genesis of a particular recipe is clear, but this is one of those instances where we had ground beef defrosted for no particular purpose, and two nights ago I decided while laying in bed that we should make Vietnamese-inspired burgers.  So I started listing the ingredients that I wanted to include in my burgers until Alex basically told me to go to sleep.  Haha.  Originally I wanted to make actual full-size burgers, but after looking at the width of the baguette I picked up from Sullivan Street Bakery, we realized that there was no way a burger would fit.  So we decided to make some cute little sliders instead.   

We seasoned our sliders with fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, shallots, and brown sugar.  Fish sauce sounds like a really strange addition to a burger, but it didn't make it fishy at all.  Instead the fish sauce gave the meat great depth of flavor and replaced the kosher salt I usually throw in my burgers.  The brown sugar gave the meat a nice subtle sweetness that I thought was a very pleasant counterpoint to the other more savory flavors of the burgers.  I have to give credit to Alex there because the brown sugar was his idea.  The sliders were really juicy from the fish sauce, soy, sriracha and shallots, which was awesome because it's very easy to dry sliders out since they are so little.  There is nothing worse than biting into a slider and realizing that the meat is so overcooked and dry that you might as well be chewing on a hockey puck.  I'm not sure that you could taste the sriracha, but every once in a while when you had a bite there was a hint of spice that I don't think came from the jalapenos although it's really hard to say.  The toppings were a really nice touch as well.  I love being able to customize your burgers.  I also love adding things like quickly pickled carrots and daikon because they cut through the rich fattiness of the burger and give it a really nice freshness.  The same goes for the cilantro, jalapeno, and the cucumber.  All of those toppings are traditional banh mi toppings, as is the mayonnaise, although it's not always kewpie mayonnaise.  These might not be my favorite burgers that I have ever made, but they are definitely up there.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chilled Edamame and Bacon Soup

So I know this soup sounds weird.  Edamame soup?  With bacon?  And chilled no less?  But sometimes weird is fun and good, so I figured why not give it a shot.  And the soup even looks weird.  It's all minty and pastel.  And in the picture Alex took it looks like it's floating around like Slimer from Ghostbusters.  Haha.  I was originally looking for a corn-bacon chowder recipe, but when I came across this recipe it intrigued me enough to make me stop and make it instead.  One of the first things that drew me here is that I love edamame and I mean I really love it.  When I go out for sushi I am perfectly happy to gorge myself on an entire bowl of edamame with a side of sushi.  I used to eat it so much that I even got my mom hooked on it after college.  We would go to Cost Co or Sam's Club and buy these individual packs of edamame that you cooked in the microwave and just snack on edamame by the handful.

And I generally love edamame.  I really do.  But this soup?  I don't love it.  Alex referred to it as porridge and the texture was somewhat grainy and gruel-like.  The flavor was nice, but the texture was just not appetizing.  And I guess I can't really blame that on the edamame itself.  The soup just wasn't meant to be.  But you win some, you lose some, right?

Recipe after the jump!

Pappardelle with Truffle Butter and Sweet Corn

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that this recipe was inspired by Ina Garten's recipe for Tagliarele with Truffle Butter from her cookbook Back to Basics and some Cacio e Pepe Papperdella with Sweet Peas I saw other people eating at Pier i Cafe in NYC last night.  That pasta last night just looked so luscious and delicious that the first thing that came to mind when I decided to recreate it was some sort of pasta dish with truffles.  Since truffles are far out of my price range we used a nice black truffle butter that I picked up at Zabars a few weeks ago.  I wanted to do a really lush, gorgeous pasta, but I didn't want to just have buttered pasta.  I really wanted to add something fresh and seasonal like the sweet peas that Pier i Cafe threw into their cacio e pepe, so I decided to throw some fresh sweet corn in there.  Unfortunately, the corn that we picked up from the CSA this week had seen better days so we had to resort to using frozen sweet corn kernels.  Oh well.  Even using the frozen corn, this dish was unbelievably luxurious and delicious.  The truffle butter made the pasta so earthy and decadent, and the corn and chives gave it a little summery freshness to lighten it all up.  This dish is one of my absolute favorite pasta dishes that we have ever cooked (and we have made a ton of pastas in our time), plus it was so easy to put together that I know we will cook it again and again.

Recipe after the jump!

Mom's Amazing Banana Bread

So the name of this recipe is a little misleading because it has nothing whatsoever to do with my mother.  Actually, I don't think my mother has ever made banana bread, but that's beside the point.  And the name is misleading in other ways too, but I will get to that later.  This recipe came from a cookbook that one of my friends gave me as a wedding gift.  And when I saw a recipe for making banana bread in a cast iron skillet I thought it sounded interesting enough to merit a try.  Then when I saw the recipe included, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, and sour cream, I decided that my attempt should be sooner rather than later.  Ever since I tried Granny Foster's Banana-Walnut Bread I have been obsessed with the use of cardamom in banana bread.  And then I made a loaf of Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Banana Bread and realized that sour cream (or creme fraiche) in banana bread is wonderful because it keeps it so moist.  Somehow this recipe combined some of my favorite elements from earlier banana bread experiments, but baked the bread in a cast iron pan instead of a loaf pan, which was totally new to me.

So this banana bread was good (not amazing, but good).  But it just couldn't compete with some of the other banana breads I have made in the past - particularly my Green Curry Coconut Banana Bread.  I really need to stop experimenting and just bake myself another loaf of that banana bread.  I thought that cooking the banana bread in a cast iron pan would contribute to a really nice crusty top/bottom/overall exterior, but it didn't.  Instead there is no crust to speak of and I really love that crust.  I would say that the crumb was very standard - not too moist, not too dense, not too cake-like.  The bread has good flavor, although Alex points out that it is more savory than our last few banana breads.  I'm not sure what to say about the banana bread, except that it is really just a totally standard banana bread.  And if you like that more than some of the crazier concoctions I like to whip up, then this recipe should be perfect for you.  Me?  I'll take crazy any day.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Pita Bread and Za'atar

What do you do with dozens of cucumbers?  Almost all recipes now ask for English cucumbers because they don't have any seeds, but our CSA gives us tons and tons of regular cucumbers.  I have a few cucumber soup recipes tee-ed up to make, but somehow when I start messing around in the kitchen to make lunch or dinner, the thought of a cold cucumber soup just doesn't appeal.  So this afternoon for lunch I decided to make a tomato and cucumber salad.  Did I mention that we had a few gorgeous tomatoes from our CSA as well?

I liked this salad.  It was cool and fresh and reminded me of a Persian shirazi salad.  Alex wished that the salad had less parsley and more fresh mint.  I told him there was no fresh mint in here to begin with so more would really mean adding any fresh mint.  I see what he means about the mint, it would be a nice addition to the parsley, but I really love the taste of fresh flat-leaf parsley!  And I think the combination of parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, evoo and lemon juice is a wonderful one, but if you're not a huge parsley fan then go ahead and cut down on the amount of parsley and add in some mint!  Salads are great like that because you can adapt them so easily to your own tastes and preferences.

Recipe after the jump!

Zucchini Crudo

Another day, another zucchini recipe.  This is the second raw zucchini salad of sorts that I have made this summer.  The first, a Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan Pine Nuts, was a light salad made from ribbons of zucchini, tossed with lemon juice, evoo, pine nuts, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.  This crudo use the same combination of lemon juice and evoo, but substitutes feta for parm-reg, omits the pine nuts, basil and crushed red pepper flakes.  Then the salad is topped with an assortment of fresh herbs - mint, parsley, and chives.  While both salads are delicious and incredibly summery, I have to say that I enjoyed the combination of mint, parsley, and chives more than the basil and crushed red pepper flakes.  In the future I might try substituting fresh ricotta or a nice creamy goat cheese for the feta, but all in all this was a delicious salad - one I definitely plan on making again before my supply of fresh CSA zucchini dries up.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zucchini Strand Spaghetti

We are starting to hit that point in the summer where you struggle to figure out what to do with all of your zucchini and squash from the farmer's market/CSA.  Or if you are lucky enough to have your own garden, then you are probably inundated with insane amounts of squash of all sorts.  Luckily we have a small share at our CSA and only end up with 1-2 zucchinis and/or squashes every week.  Thus far this summer I have made zucchini bread, a few pasta recipes with zucchini, a zucchini salad, roast zucchini, and sauteed zucchini.  I still have zucchini fritters/pancakes, a lasagna recipe with zucchini, zucchini soup, zucchini pesto, zucchini crudo, and a zucchini tart left to go.  Hopefully by the time that I finish all of my recipes, our summer zucchini bounty will have dried up.  Otherwise I am going to start floundering for more zucchini recipes!  Pasta is a great vehicle for using zucchini.  We have already made spaghetti, orzo, and penne rigate with zucchini.  If I stay at it, we might move onto shells and various other forms of pasta.  But I'm trying not to fall back onto pasta too much in my quest to use up all of this gorgeous zucchini.

This pasta dish was nice and fresh, but not my favorite zucchini pasta dish that I have ever made.  Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but if it came down to a choice between this pasta versus the Disappearing Zucchini Orzo I would make the orzo.  But I did like the combination of the nutty whole wheat pasta, the zucchini, a touch of heat, and the basil.  If I had made Michael Chiarello's recipe as he wrote it and made the basil oil, it might really have brought this dish up another notch.  I think the basil oil would have added another wonderful level of freshness and flavor to the dish.  Unfortunately, we didn't have the time once I got home from work at 8pm or the patience to make the basil oil.  Maybe next time? 
Recipe after the jump!

Kale Chips

Recipes for kale chips and blog posts about the same have recently taken over the internet.  Not to jump on the kale chip bandwagon, but they are everything that other bloggers have claimed - addictive, delicious, crispy, easy to make, and fairly healthy.  This is our fourth batch of kale from the CSA and every week I intended to make kale chips.  And then somehow I would forget about the kale entirely and/or use the kale to make something else.  But this week I put Alex in charge of making some kale chips and told him to knock himself out coming up with different spice mixtures to sprinkle over the chips.  We made one batch with just sea salt; one batch with a mixture of coriander, cayenne, and sea salt; and a final batch with smoked paprika and sea salt.  All of them were delicious, although I probably preferred the batches with spices to the plain sea salt batch.  If we had any Old Bay seasoning in the apartment I would have demanded a batch with Old Bay, but what can you do?

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Green Chicken Enchiladas

So this is my very first attempt at enchiladas.  We have made all kinds of tacos, but it has never occurred to me to make enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, etc.  Go figure.  But tonight we decided to make enchiladas using Mario Batali's Leo Maya's Chicken with Green Sauce as both the stuffing and the sauce.  Then we added some red onions, some cotija and Monterey Jack cheeses, and cilantro.  And there you have it - our very first attempt at enchiladas ever. 

These were delicious - absolutely insanely delicious.  I even think these were better than the tacos we generally make with the chicken.  The sauce permeates the entire dish far more than with the tacos, and this sauce is fantastic.  As Alex said, his biggest pet peeve with enchiladas is generally that they are all about the cheese, but these were all about the chicken and that tomatillo salsa.  The cotija cheese and the Monterey Jack were the perfect cheeses for these enchiladas, but we used limited amounts so as to not obscure the taste of the chicken.  I originally wanted to dip the tortillas in the salsa before rolling and stuffing them, but I got a little lazy and just nuked the bare tortillas before filling them and then ladling sauce over the top.  And I honestly don't think that dipping the tortillas in the sauce and then briefly pan-frying them to seal the sauce into the tortillas could have made these enchiladas any more delicious.  I think that is mostly due to the fact that we already braised the chicken thighs in the sauce, so if I were ever to make enchiladas with a rotisserie chicken I would definitely take the time to dip the tortillas in sauce and fry them.  These are so good - really so good that if I weren't incredibly full I would go back and eat more and more of them.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pork Belly Adobo

Alex has been requesting pork belly adobo for some time and tonight we finally got around to making it.  I found all sorts of interesting recipes online (including one by Manila Machine that used pineapple chunks that I found on Tastespotting's blog), but opted to just make something up.  When we made our chicken adobo we used rice vinegar (in lieu of Filipino cane vinegar which we don't have), so this time I decided to use apple cider vinegar to see how that would change the flavor of the adobo.  Next time we will probably use white vinegar.  I think the apple cider vinegar made the adobo a little sweeter than it would have been if I had used white or rice vinegar.  I also opted to leave out the coconut milk and dried chilies and stick with a straight up pork belly preparation.  I think that chicken is often benefited from the addition of spices and other ingredients to impart more flavor, but I think with pork belly you can get away with doing less because the flavor of the pork itself should also shine.

The pork belly was very yummy and crazy flavorful - with a nice sour tang from the vinegar, but some sweetness as well to balance it all out.  While you don't have to crisp up the outsides of the pork belly, I tend to like my pork belly with some texture to it beyond the gooey texture of pure fatty goodness.  We did it in a cast-iron skillet, but you could also throw the pork pieces under the broiler for a few minutes to achieve the same effect.  And if you prefer your pork belly to just be unctuous and delicious, feel free to forgo the crisping process entirely.  I think in this dish it would be equally delicious either way.

Recipe after the jump!


I am a big believer that sometimes you just need particular things.  Sometimes you just need a big huge bowl of salad.  Other times you need a big, greasy burger and french fries.  Sometimes you really just need a fabulous pair of shoes, but that is beside the point.  I guess I am am a believer that you should eat everything in moderation, but if you really need or want something, I say go for it.  While my wants/needs aren't always healthy, I figure they balance out okay in the end (although you periodically have to do the "are my pants getting snug?" readjustment).  Take today's lunch for example.  After feasting on chicken, vegetables, and bread from last night's Roasted Chicken with Vegetables, what I really wanted for lunch was a big bowl of salad.  And some hummus and pita to round the whole lunch out.  The craving for salad was helped along by the knowledge that for tonight's dinner we were going to clog our arteries with some pork belly adobo.  So I started looking through random cookbooks for ideas on what kind of salad to make based on the ingredients we have in the fridge, and I found this recipe for misticanza in Molto Gusto.  I love arugula salads, and we had both radishes and fennel in the fridge so I was totally on board.  Luckily Alex agreed to go along for the ride.  Given the combination of ingredients we knew that there was little chance that we would love the salad, but I would give it a solid like.  It was different.  And interesting.  But you had to make sure you got a little bit of everything in every bite, because the whole was more than the sum of its parts.  Each individual part was a little boring, but together it was a nice salad with an interesting combination of ingredients.

Recipe after the jump!

Olive Oil and Fresh Rosemary Cake

What do you make for dessert to eat with champagne?  And what do you make for dessert for two people?  Chocolate-covered strawberries would be fantastic, but it just seems a little indulgent.  Somehow olive oil cake seems more appropriate.  I'm not sure that makes sense, but it made sense in my head.  You know how those things go.  Plus I have been meaning to try some of the other recipes for olive oil cake that I found the last time I decided to make an olive oil cake.  We didn't have oranges on hand to make the olive oil cake from Molto Italiano, but we had everything we needed to make the olive oil cake from The Babbo Cookbook.  I tried to find a gelato or ice cream that I thought would pair well with a rosemary olive oil cake, but somehow all I could find was Tahitian vanilla.  In The Babbo Cookbook Mario Batali says they serve this cake with braised fresh figs and a raspberry sorbet, but I found neither.  And to be honest, I didn't want either, although I thought that I might be able to find Ciao Bello's blackberry cabernet sorbet and that sounded like a fabulous pairing for my cake, but Zabar's didn't have that this time either.  I briefly considered serving it with strawberries and homemade whipped cream, but then decided to just go with the vanilla gelato.

This olive oil cake isn't as moist as I thought it would be.  Instead it is crumbly and only slightly sweet (which I did expect).  And it is bordering on dry in that way that some Italian desserts and breads are.  So I guess I should have expected that, although the Almondy Citrusy Olive Oil Cake I made previously was a little more moist.  The flavor of the rosemary is fairly subtle, but the olive oil comes through very nicely.  I think this cake would make a great mid-afternoon snack with a cup of tea, or a very nice breakfast (which is how I had it this morning).  Since it isn't that sweet it doesn't have to be dessert.  I actually preferred the cake for breakfast, toasted, and smeared with Tiptree Orange Marmalade, rather than as dessert with vanilla gelato, but that's just me.
Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

As I grow older, there are a few dishes that I become more and more interested in perfecting - ones that never would have interested me five years ago.  When I first realized how much I loved to cook and then became comfortable in the kitchen I would pick very elaborate recipes and esoteric ingredients to experiment with.  There was one year where I picked out a new random, ingredient every other week and had to figure out how to cook it.  That experimentation led to my realization that I love roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts, prefer Japanese/Asian eggplant to Italian eggplant, and that there are some things better left to restaurants to prepare.  It also taught me that experimentation in the kitchen can be quite expensive!  But now that I have tried most things I am interested in at least once, I keep coming back to simpler dishes - like the perfect roast chicken.  Not too long ago I got to try some roast chicken prepared by Jonathan Waxman, who is the indisputable king of roast chicken.  It was amazing.  The skin was nice and crispy, rather than flaccid and/or rubbery, and the meat itself was both juicy and flavorful.  After that I remembered that there was a recipe for roast chicken that Elia made in Season 2 of Top Chef that everyone raved about.  Luckily I have the cookbook and we had everything we needed for it (minus the chicken itself that is).

We were supposed to make this chicken last night for a dinner party, but there ended up being a change of plans and we ended up going out for Mexican instead.  So Alex and I downsized the ingredients for the recipe, including the chicken, and made it for ourselves tonight.  As the chicken roasted the apartment started to smell fantastic.  You could smell the thyme, the mushrooms, and the smells of roasting meat.  And it was delicious.  I think that the vegetables could have used a touch more salt (salt them generously!) and the potatoes were a little undercooked, but the chicken was fantastic.  The breasts were juicy, the skin was nice and crispy and the chicken drippings were delicious when you dipped a nice baguette in them - buttery and rich.  I'm not sure that this is the ultimate roast chicken recipe, so I might keep looking, but it was a definite winner in my book.

Recipe after the jump!

Summer Caprese Salad

About once or twice a month I made a trip to Zabar's for random semi-gourmet grocery items (harissa for my in-laws, stroopwafels, olive bread fresh from the oven, and olive oils top the list) and I can't seem to resist their cheese counter.  I love cheese.  And they have all kinds of cheese.  Sometime in the past few months they started carrying burrata and I got super excited.  I love caprese salads and most uses of fresh mozzarella and burrata is an amazingly creamy, luscious type of mozzarella that I am just obsessed with.  Granted, it's not the best cheese to use on pizza and there are a few other dishes in which regular fresh mozzarella works better, but burrata is just amazing in a caprese salad.  This recipe comes from Molto Gusto and I have been waiting for tomatoes to come into season here in NYC so I could make it.  Luckily, we finally have some fresh tomatoes from the CSA to work with.

And this salad shows off the fresh summer tomatoes and the burrata to its advantage.  The vinaigrette is so light and sweet from the tomato juices and champagne vinegar.  And then that burrata is just amazingly creamy.  If you pick up some heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market and a really nice ball of fresh mozzarella for this recipe, you won't be disappointed.  It is divine.  Like I said to Alex "This recipe is yummy.  I would eat it over, and over, and over again."  And it's just so pretty I couldn't resist adding two pictures to the post, even though they are essentially the exact same picture.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cabbage with Miso

Cabbage is not one of my favorite things.  I'm just never quite sure what to do with it and up until this summer, I can't recall cooking cabbage more than once in an entire year.  About once a year I cook up a batch of sauerkraut, or put together some sort of slaw.  But with our CSA we have ended up with head after head of cabbage and it has taken some serious thought to come up with recipes using cabbage that don't remind me of (for lack of a better term) nursing home food.  I originally thought about making tofu to go with our soba noodles, but then decided that I would rather use up another CSA vegetable and leave the tofu for another day.  Once I settled on either cucumbers or cabbage I went and looked in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking and found this recipe.  The cabbage we had was a green cabbage that was rather conical in shape.  If I were more familiar with cabbage I might be able to say exactly what variety of cabbage it is, but all I know is that it was a type of green cabbage - not savoy and not napa.

This dish was fine.  It wasn't amazing, but it wasn't bad either.  We ate the entire bowl so it obviously wasn't bad.  The dressing was very thick and savory, but all about the miso.  Alex and I both thought that the recipe was missing something - the balance was somehow off and it was really one-note.  But what do you expect with a big bowl of cabbage?

Recipe after the jump!

Soba Noodles with Sesame Roasted Eggplant

So I have to apologize for a rather extended absence (for me) from the blog.  Work went from busy to absolute insanity and I haven't eaten dinner at home for over a week.  Yeah.  And it's not like I have been going out to dinner - I have been eating dinner at my desk.  Every night.  Seamless Web is my new best friend.  Last night I didn't actually eat dinner, but after working so many days around the clock all I wanted to do was have a glass (or two) of wine and then pass out.  So that is what I did.  But now that I finally got home at a reasonable hour this evening, we are cooking!  And after all of those nights eating random food at my desk, all I want is a meal that is on the lighter side with vegetables - lots and lots of vegetables.  And with the CSA and my week-long absence, all we really have in the fridge is vegetables, so it works out.

When I started thinking light and vegetarian, somehow I started thinking about tossing eggplant in sesame oil and shichimi togarashi, before roasting it and serving it on top of a cold soba noodle salad.  Then I started thinking that a cold noodle salad topped with hot eggplant sounded a little weird, so I decided to serve the eggplant on top of a warm soba noodle salad.  After a week of catered lunches and delivered dinners at my desk, this was such a lovely home-cooked meal.  It was everything I wanted it to be, although Alex was trying to figure out how to cook the eggplant differently.  Perhaps next time we will broil it to give it a little more char on the outside, and a nice smooth interior that just melts in your mouth.  I see what he means, but I liked the dish fine the way it was.  The flavors were really nice, and this was the perfect meal to (almost) end a long busy week with.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions

Do you ever hold onto recipes that you want to make and months later (or even years later) realize that you still haven't made them?  That's how this recipe was for me.  Some recipes you see and immediately know that you need to make them and you run to the grocery store and make them for dinner the very next day.  Others don't merit that degree of urgency and get pushed to the backburner while other, somehow more exciting, recipes are made.  Now the reason that this tomato sauce ever even crossed my radar was because I first stumbled across it right after eating at Scarpetta for the first time where I tried Alex's Spaghetti + Tomato & Basil.  It was mind-blowing.  So simple and yet so amazing.  It blew every other dish we ordered that night out of the water.  So I saw this recipe by Marcella Hazan and figured if Scott Conant (the chef at Scarpetta) can make something so amazing out of tomatoes and basil, I'm sure that Marcella Hazan (one of the foremost authorities on Italian cooking) can do the same.  And everytime I turned around it was almost as if another one of my favorite food blogs was giving Marcella's recipe a try.  First it was Rachel Eats, then Smitten Kitchen, then Steamy Kitchen, and most recently, Momofuku for 2.  At that point, I figured that if all of these great bloggers made (and enjoyed the recipe) I really needed to suck it up and bump it to the front of the line of recipes for the week.

So Thursday night Alex was in charge of following one of the simplest recipes to ever grace our little kitchen.  Unfortunately, I was stuck at work until 10:00 pm so I missed out on dinner entirely and had to wait until lunch Friday to give this pasta a shot.  We used bucatini as the pasta for the sauce because I really just love bucatini.  It's like spaghetti - only ten times better, with a completely different mouthfeel to it.  Anyway, what can I say about this sauce?  It is simple.  And very tasty.  It is very buttery and almost velvety in the way that it coats the pasta.  Is it mindblowing?  No.  But is it fairly stunning for all of its simplicity?  Absolutely.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Xi'an Famous Foods

Ever since I moved to NYC in 2006 I have been meaning to try Xi'an Famous Foods.  Up until recently you had to trek out to Flushing to eat at the Golden Mall if you wanted to try the restaurant, but sometime in the last year (I think January 2010, but it could have been December 2009) they opened a branch of the restaurant in Chinatown.  It was a huge deal, but somehow Alex and I never made the trek down there.  The problem with the Chinatown branch was that it was basically a take-out place with no seats or tables to eat at, just a counter.  And then in July 2010 they finally opened a branch with a few tables and seats in the East Village on St. Marks.  We finally made it down to the EV to try it out and boy was it worth the trip, even if we had to sit on a nearby bench to eat our food in Styrofoam containers because the restaurant itself was so packed!  So I apologize for our pictures, which are far from fantastic, but that's what you get when you eat from takeout containers on the sidewalk.  That yellow blob in the picture of our half-eaten pork burger above is one of the many taxis that went zooming by while we were eating.  How's that for atmosphere?

Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles might not sound (or look) like much, but they are amazing.  The wheat noodles and tofu mixed together in a chili oil with cilantro and scallions are fantastic.  For the record, there is no skin of any sort involved.  I haven't tasted anything like them since I returned from China in 2005.  They were hands down our favorite dish.  We also tried the Savory Cumin Lamb Hand-Pulled Noodles and they were our second favorite dish of the evening.  The noodles were soft and doughy, but in the best way possible, and clearly homemade.  The lamb was very flavorful, with lots of cumin (which I love), but I wish the dish had a bit more of what the Chinese call "ma la" to it - that spicy, Sichuan peppercorn numbing pepper effect.  Instead the sauce was a little lighter than I had been expecting, but was still seriously delicious.  The last dish we tried tonight was the Stewed Pork Burger.  I was torn between the Savory Cumin Lamb Burger and the pork burger since Chowhounds are always debating which one is better, but I figured I would round out our meal with pork instead of more cumin lamb.  I really enjoyed the pork burger, but Alex thought it was just a tad dry, which isn't that surprising as Alex loves things saucier than I do.  

More (including more pictures) after the jump!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thai Extravaganza: Corn Fritters and Chicken Red Curry

Tonight we went to pick our produce up from the CSA and when we got home I had to figure out what to do with the massive amounts of produce and the defrosted chicken fingers that as of 6:30 pm were residing in our fridge.  The first thing that came to mind for the chicken was a Thai red curry.  Afterall we had some Thai red curry paste in the fridge too.  Not to mention all kinds of canned and fresh vegetables.  To go with the Thai curry, we decided to make corn fritters.  Luckily our old school Thai cookbook had a recipe that we could adapt.  Somehow I always like the idea of curries more than I like the curries themselves.  The same held true for our curry this evening.  It was fine.  But the corn fritters were by far the star of the evening.  They were absolutely and astonishingly delicious.  I have had a version of these corn fritters at a Thai restaurant here in NYC and I remember them being doughier (but still good).  But these fritters consisted mostly of corn and more corn with very little filler - just like the very best crab cakes are mostly crab with very little filler.  Sure there is a little all-purpose flour and two eggs to bind the fritters together, along with scallions, garlic, cilantro, and a chili for flavor.  But the fritters are definitely all about the fresh, sweet and summery corn.  Dipped in some store-bought sweet chili sauce these fritters were sweet, savory, and just a little spicy.  Poor curry didn't even stand a chance.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Baked Squash Blossoms with Ricotta, Basil and Mint

Today at the farmer's market behind the Museum of Natural History I was struck by the number of vendors selling squash blossoms, as well as how lovely the squash blossoms looked.  Since we had no dinner plans for the evening, I picked up a dozen squash blossoms.  On our way home Alex and I were discussing what to do with our squash blossoms.  In the past we have had the most success when we made fritattas with our squash blossoms (once we tried to simply saute them and somehow it just wasn't very good).  We have been talking about making squash blossom quesadillas for awhile as well, but seeing as we just had quesadillas last Friday we wanted to try something else.  Instead we decided to make "fried" squash blossoms by breading them with panko breadcrumbs and then baking them in the oven.

So I would say these squash blossoms aren't one of our biggest successes, but they were quite good.  Alex said that the filling needed some crushed red pepper flakes and I might have to agree with him.  The filling definitely needed something additional to make it sing.  Perhaps if we had served the squash blossoms on top of a white pizza with lots of garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and a little Italian parsley, or a pasta dish they would have been a star, but served on their own they didn't quite get there.  The filling was tasty - nice and fresh, and the breading was nicely crispy, but something was missing.  Perhaps a dipping sauce?  Or perhaps baked squash blossoms just can't compare with their fried counterparts.  Thoughts?

Recipe after the jump!

Eggplant Bruschetta

One of the problems with our CSA is that we often get one of each item, instead of several.  All of the recipes that I have earmarked for eggplants require several eggplants and at any given time I have only received one.  So I had to resort to new recipes.  This recipe was in my new favorite vegetarian-friendly cookbook, Molto Gusto: Easy American Cooking by Mario Batali and Mark Ladner.  We only had one eggplant, so I halved the recipe, which was easy enough to do.  While I'm not sure that this bruschetta was the most successful bruschetta that I have ever made, but it was quite tasty.  I never would have thought to make an eggplant dish with a combination of tomatoes, mint, and hot red pepper flakes, but it was delicious.  Unfortunately, the only bread we had was a levain sourdough boule, which wasn't quite the perfect match with the eggplant topping, but it was still quite tasty.
Recipe after the jump!

Carrot-Zucchini Bread with Candied Ginger

So I love carrot cake.  And I love zucchini bread.  But I have never combined the two.  The other day I was trying to recreate a zucchini bread recipe I made once before using candied ginger and came across this recipe online on the Chicago Sun-Times website.  The recipe sounded really interesting (the person who came up with combining carrots, zucchini, and ginger into a bread is the type of mad kitchen scientist that I would love to meet).  Better yet, through some vagary of fate we have all of the ingredients in the kitchen for once - with both the zucchini and the carrots coming from our CSA.  So that seemed like a definite sign to me that we had to make this bread, and we had to do it soon!  Although baking was the very last thing I wanted to do this evening after a long week at work, I figured if I didn't make the carrot-zucchini bread tonight, I was never going to make it.  So after we finished cleaning up from dinner, I started right on making yet another mess of the kitchen.  Have I mentioned recently how much Alex hates it when I bake because I tend to make huge floury messes?  Sorry hon.

This bread smelled delicious while it cooked.  I couldn't wait to cut off a huge slice and try it out.  The last time I baked with zucchini I made a Chocolate Zucchini Cake that was tasty, but you really couldn't taste the zucchini at all.  What I was hoping for here was a far more summery bread where the taste of zucchini and carrots would be far more evident.  If I were to make a cake version of this bread (which would require making it quite a bit sweeter), I would top it with some homemade cream cheese frosting.  I made one loaf with chopped walnuts for me, and one loaf without any nuts for Alex because he has a serious hatred of baked goods with nuts in them.  And boy was that a good call.  When Alex took a bite of his loaf his first words were "yummmm, I think this is kind of awesome."  And for the record, that is huge praise from Alex.  The bread isn't super moist, but the flavor is really nice.  I love the combination of the carrot, zucchini, ground ginger, candied ginger, and cinnamon.  Alex was right - it is kind of awesome.

Recipe after the jump!