Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Maple-Roasted Delicata Squash and Spinach Catalan-Style

If you're like me, you have no idea what delicata squash is.  But we ended up with a couple of random squash from the CSA and had to figure out first what it was and then how to cook it.  So I handed a squash to Alex and told him to start Googling.  A few minutes and one Wikipedia entry on squash varieties later, Alex told me that the squash we had been given was a sweet potato squash aka delicata squash.  And just for the record, there are way more varieties of squash out there than I realized!  I mean, who has ever heard of turban squash?  Anyway, we decided to simply roast the delicata squash as if it were a butternut squash with maple syrup, butter, and brown sugar.  As with roasting butternut squash, you end up with an amazingly flavorful layer of squash, with a bland layer down below that never came into contact with the maple syrup mixture.  Alex called it the "Tale of Two Squashes."  Yes, my husband is a dork.  But that's ok, because so am I.  It takes one to know one I guess.  Back to the squash.  Those bites you get where the sugar and syrup formed a nice caramelized crust on the squash are simply amazing.  I highly recommend using just a pinch of cayenne pepper on the squash because I think it really makes the flavors come together.  Otherwise you would just end up with a really sweet squash dish, without any complexity to it.

To go with the squash we decided to cook up the spinach that also came from our CSA.  We have a recipe for Spinach Catalan-Style from Spain: A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali that I really enjoy because it is tasty, easy, and best of all, it comes together in minutes.  I really enjoy the combination of the buttery pine nuts, the sweet currants, and the fresh sauteed spinach.  The first time I made the recipe I was a little skeptical that it didn't contain garlic or onions.  I quickly realized that it didn't need either.  This is probably one of the quickest and easiest side dishes in our repertoire.

Recipe after the jump!

Grilled Zucchini with Red Wine Vinaigrette

I have been sitting on this recipe for a few days now.  Not because it wasn't good (it was) or even because I was so busy that I didn't have time to post it (I did have time).  I just got lazy.  And then I forgot all about it.  Oops.  Luckily it occurred to me this afternoon that I hadn't posted this recipe yet.  So here I am.  Grilled zucchini is always a wonderful side dish.  I love when grilled zucchini and squash are lightly tossed with some sort of olive oil-based vinaigrette and served on the side.  Unfortunately, we don't a grill in NYC.  So I have to make do with my grill pan, which actually works pretty well (smoky apartment notwithstanding), although you miss out on that nice smoky grilled flavor that the grill imparts.  Oh well.

This salad was a last minute addition to our dinner.  I had meant to make an heirloom tomato salad, but it turned out that my tomatoes were bad.  Actually, if we are being truly honest, I dropped the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes on the ground on my way home from the farmer's market.  And they exploded.  Ka-boom.  No more heirloom tomato salad for me.  So I rummaged through the fridge and came up with some zucchini that I had originally bought to make another batch of zucchini bread.  And after a few seconds of staring aimlessly at the zucchini, this salad was born.  This is a rather acidic vinaigrette, so if you like your vinaigrettes a little smoother, you are going to want to cut down on the amount of red wine vinegar and adjust the ratio of evoo to vinegar.  The dish we were eating this with was rather rich, so I wanted something bright and acidic to cut through that richness.  I think this salad would have benefitted from the addition of some crumbled goat cheese, or something to give the salad a little creaminess, and to provide a little textural contrast.  Perhaps a ricotta salata would have worked.  Unfortunately, I was out of both.  I also would have loved a hint of fresh basil, oregano or chives to give the dish a little something extra.  But we didn't have any of those either.  Also, if I had more time I would have made a marinade that was less acidic and allowed the zucchini to marinate for an hour to gently soak up more flavor.  But we were only 10 minutes away from eating when I conceived of this dish.  Considering our fridge was fairly empty and I had to pull this salad out of nowhere in 10 minutes, I think I did pretty well!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies

The other night I had a dream about peanut butter and jelly and I woke up with the thought stuck in my head that I absolutely had to make peanut butter and jelly cookies.  Don't ask me where my dream came from, or what else happened in the dream because I have absolutely no idea.  I basically rolled over in bed and told Alex that I had a dream about cookies.  Then I immediately got out of bed and went to look up recipes.  I found the 'wichcraft recipe for Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies and decided to modify the recipe a little and add some jelly
So this might sound like a strange recipe, but these very well might be my new favorite cookies.  The peanut butter cookies themselves are delicious, with a slightly dry and crumbly texture (which is a little like shortbread) and a little crunch/texture from the toasted oats.  The cookies aren't that sweet, and are almost a little salty.  Then you get a mouthful of the creamy peanut butter filling combined with the jelly and it's a total epiphany.  It has that whole salty-sweet thing going on that I love, plus I think the combination is every child's absolute fantasy.  Now if you don't like peanut butter (and I have been informed that some people just don't like it), these are definitely not going to be your new fave cookie recipe.  You might want to stick to chocolate chip.  Or anything else really.  But if you love peanut butter as much as Alex and I do, then you need to try these.  They are fun and totally different from your typical bake-sale cookie selection, but once you try one you will be in love.

Recipe after the jump!

Cornflake Chicken Katsu with Tonkatsu Dipping Sauce

I discovered tonkatsu (panko-crusted pork cutlets or sometimes chicken breasts served with a sweet dipping sauce) while I was living in China.  Since coming back to the US I have had far less opportunity to enjoy tonkatsu than I did while abroad.  Actually, the opportunity still exists, but the variety of Japanese food options here in the US far exceeds what I experienced in China, where my options were basically limited to conveyer belt sushi, various types of udon, and tonkatsu.  Here in NYC I can enjoy ramen at Ippudo, soba at Soba Nippon, tempura udon at Momoya, sushi everywhere (Sushi Yasuda if you're a purist or Sasabune if you want a really interesting omikase experience), yakitori at Yakitori Totto, etc.  Somehow tonkatsu and katsu-don (tonkatsu served over rice with an egg on top) never seem to make the cut.  But I have been thinking about chicken katsu recently, so I decided to make it at home.  I find that a combination of panko and cornflakes provides a better crust than just panko if you're pan-frying or baking your chicken.  I'm sure if you deep fried the chicken it wouldn't make a difference either way, but we all know how I feel about deep frying at home.

I really like baking chicken cutlets with a variety of different crusts, and serving them with a variety of dipping sauces.  This chicken was good, and an interesting departure from our usual chicken cutlets, but Alex and I both agreed that we preferred the Spicy "Fried" Chicken Cutlets with Honey-Tabasco Sauce and the Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mango Chutney, Prosciutto and Paneer Pizza

Apparently this recipe comes from the winner of The Next Food Network Star, Aarti Sequeira.  I was just browsing the Food Network website and saw some reference "The Pizza Recipe."  So of course I clicked on it.  I love pizza and if there exists a recipe so delicious as to be called "The Pizza Recipe" I want to know what it is.  At first I was a little confused by the ingredient list and then I decided that the combination of those ingredients and flavors sounded like it could be really good.  Then I read the reviews and while most of them were endorsements of Aarti and not the dish itself, it got me intrigued enough to try making the pizza myself.  I figured Alex would be excited by the recipe for, if nothing else, the fact that this pizza is topped with prosciutto.  Don't get me wrong - Alex enjoys Indian food, as well as pizza, but give him prosciutto (or serrano ham) and he is a very happy husband.  Luckily we have prosciutto and I know exactly where to go for paneer cheese, frozen naan, and sweet mango chutney.

This pizza was really easy to make, which I generally expect from Food Network recipes, and was very tasty, but needs some work (which I also expect from most Food Network recipes).  It needs a little tweaking to really make it shine.  We tweaked some while cooking, but I wish we had tweaked a little more.  Alex and I both wished that the pizza had more heat to it.  We used the 1/4-tsp or crushed red pepper flakes that we specified below, but in the future I will probably bump it up to about a 1/2-tsp (at the very least).  We both also thought that the pizza would benefit from more ground cumin to add a little smokiness. All things considered I thought it was an easy and interesting lunch, and would make a nice quick and easy dinner if served with a side salad.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Eggplant Caponata and Salumi

While out running errands this afternoon, Alex and I decided to purchase a few varieties of salumi from Salumeria Rosi.  We tasted several varieties of sausages and prosciutto and picked out four to take home with us - spicy soppressata, sweet cacciatorino, 12-month aged prosciutto, and 24-month aged prosciutto.  If you live on the UWS, or really anywhere in NYC, Salumeria Rosi is worth a visit just for their salumi.  It is amazing.  If you have any interest in salumi at all and decide to eat at the restaurant (rather than taking some salumi to go) you need to order the Selezione de Salumiere so you can try as many varieties as possible.  Yum.

To accompany our salumi, Alex and I decided to make some caponata and rosemary focaccia.  I can't say that I have ever eaten or made caponata before, but there was some in the display case at Salumeria Rosi that looked good, plus I knew it would use up the eggplants hanging out in our vegetable drawer.  Done deal.  I briefly considered making some sort of heirloom tomato salad with the tomatoes I picked up at the farmer's market today to go with the salumi, but decided that the caponata just sounded better (regardless of the fact that I had never tasted it before, I had some vague idea of what went into it and how it should taste).  From the endless hours of Food Network I watched while studying in law school I knew that caponata is a Sicilian dish and should be both sweet and sour and would contain eggplant, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar.  So I went home and turned to Mario Batali to tell me what to do to make caponata.  I knew that there had to be a recipe for caponata in at least one of the four Batali cookbooks we own.  Luckily, we found a recipe for caponata in Molto Italiano.  Even more luckily, we had everything we needed to make it without another trip to the grocery.  I also took a brief look at a few other recipes online, but decided to just stick with Mario and see how it turned out.

So never having had caponata before, this was everything I hoped it would be and more.  It was delicious.  Sweet and sour from the sugar, dried currants and balsamic (just like I expected) but also wonderfully spicy from the crushed red pepper flakes.  The recipe also called for cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa, which sounded super strange.  But the spices smelled amazing while the caponata was cooking and helped give the caponata serious flavor and complexity.  I forgot to add the pine nuts (which neither of us noticed until I went back to the recipe to add it to the blog), but I didn't miss them.  Although the pine nuts would have added some butteriness and some crunch to the caponata, it was still perfectly delicious without them.  Unfortunately, our focaccia wasn't quite as successful.  Alex called it the "focaccia pretzel" because it was dry and dense, and had more of a crust than any focaccia I have ever tried before.  It still tasted good, but it wasn't exactly a focaccia.  I don't think we let it rise long enough, and I also think that I should have added more evoo to the dough.  Don't get me wrong.  We still ate it.  And it was nice topped with the caponata, but it wasn't focaccia.  Oh well.  The salumi and the caponata more than made up for the wonky focaccia.

Recipe (and pictures of the salumi) after the jump!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Unda Chicken Kati Rolls

Since I graduated from NYU I have had very few chances to head back down to Kati Roll for their Unda Chicken Kati Roll.  And man I loved that roll.  So now I have decided to try and make it at home.  On our last shopping trip to Kalustyans we picked up a package of their fresh parathas so I have been looking forward to making kati rolls ever since.  I know I have talked about making homemade kati rolls for some time now, and I have made variations on the kati roll several times, Scallion Pancake Roll-Ups with Five Spice Duck Breast for instance.  But now that we have parathas we are making actual, honest-to-God kati rolls.  Or at least my version of the same.  

I will admit that when making any Indian dish, my first resource that I always turn to is Madhur Jaffrey.  So for this dish I looked at her recipes for Tandoori Chicken and Cilantro Chutney for inspiration.  I knew I wanted to marinate the chicken in yogurt because by marinating the chicken in yogurt you get wonderfully succulent chicken, even when you use boneless skinless chicken breasts.  The flavors I taste most in the chicken itself are ginger and lemon.  Alex said he tasted turmeric.  I mainly added the turmeric for the lovely warm, golden color it gives the marinade, but sure.  I thought the chicken would be a little spicier than it was, but that isn't really a complaint.  We served the chicken with a rather incendiary homemade chutney so it's a good thing that both elements weren't super spicy.  In Alex's words, the kati rolls were "quite tasty, but messy."  I would agree with both of those things.  I thought that these kati rolls were really good, but not quite as good as the ones I used to enjoy at Kati Roll downtown.  I'm not exactly sure what was missing, but some integral element of their unda chicken was missing.  I think I have to go back to Kati Roll to refresh my memory in order to really recreate their dish.  I have all of the basic flavors and concepts, but I am missing something...

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Watermelon Popsicles

At the beginning of the summer I bought a popsicle mold at Bed Bath and Beyond with the belief that I would make popsicles all summer long.  And then the popsicle mold ended up in the back of the cabinet and was forgotten.  I unearthed it this weekend and decided I no longer had any excuse for not making popsicles.  Originally I was trying to make the watermelon-kaffir lime juice from Fatty Crab in popsicle form, but I wasn't sure how I wanted to deal with the kaffir lime.  I thought about making a kaffir lime simple syrup, but decided that was too much trouble.  So I decided to blend up some of the watermelon I had cubed in the fridge with some lime juice (and zest), a little sugar, and some herbs.  Luckily after our Asian cooking extravaganza this weekend we had fresh mint, fresh basil, fresh Thai basil, and fresh cilantro in the fridge.  I couldn't decide between watermelon-mint and watermelon-basil (in honor of the watermelon-basil margaritas at Cascabel) popsicles, so in the end I decided to throw both in there and see what happened.

I really liked these popsicles, although there was a slight execution problem in that all of the lime juice ended up settling in the bottom of the molds (i.e. the top of the popsicles themselves).  But I loved the combination of the watermelon, mint, basil and lime.  It was seriously refreshing.  As a side note, these popsicles might just have been my dog's favorite treat ever.  He loves both watermelon and ice cubes, so he was downright slobbering over our watermelon popsicles!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, September 13, 2010


So I have to preface this recipe with  an admission.  This isn't real cassoulet.  Or at least it isn't traditional French cassoulet (a thick bean stew/casserole containing pork sausages, other cuts of pork, duck and white beans).  Or at least this isn't that similar to the French cassoulet that my host family used to make for me when I lived in France.  This is my version of cassoulet, based on whatever we had in the fridge and/or the pantry, which in this case was 2 legs of duck confit, 4 pork sausages of some sort (we got a Grilling Spectacular package from Dickson's Farmstand a few months ago, which contained 3 different varieties of pork sausage, none of which were labeled), and one lb. of dried white coco beans (which it turns out are traditionally used in cassoulet).  We also threw in some onions, carrots, fresh herbs, red wine, San Marzano tomatoes, and then topped the whole mess with panko bread crumbs.  I really wanted to add some fresh parsley, but unfortunately we were all out.

So this recipe might not be your traditional cassoulet, but it was close enough.  And it was yummy.  This is the type of warm, filling, and comforting dish that would be perfect after a long day of skiing or any other cold weather activity.  Alex and I both gave it a solid B, even though it was more suitable for 40 degree weather than the current temps in the mid-60s.  I really wish that we had some fresh parsley to mix in with the breadcrumbs to lighten things up a touch, and I also wish that the breadcrumbs had formed a better crust on top.  Otherwise, I thought it was a fairly lovely and hearty dish.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yunnan Greens

During our shopping expedition to Chinatown this weekend I ended up buying what amounts to 2-3 lbs of baby bok choy.  In case you have trouble visualizing that much bok choy, imagine an entire plastic shopping bag packed to the brim with vegetables.  So I had to do SOMETHING to use up some of the baby bok choy in the fridge, or risk it totally overtaking the entire vegetable drawer.  So I flipped through the cookbook we were using for our butternut squash soup and found this recipe, which calls for bok choy or Shanghai bok choy (aka baby bok choy).  Perfect.

Considering that there were only 3 dried, whole Thai chilis in the stir-fry for 1 lb of bok choy, this dish had a surprising amount of heat to it.  The heat was subtle, but it was definitely present.  My one complaint about this dish is that I think a couple cloves of garlic would have really added something to the dish.  Otherwise, it was an easy and tasty side dish.  And with the addition of garlic I would totally make it again.

Recipe after the jump!

Silky Coconut-Pumpkin (Butternut Squash) Soup

Butternut squash soup is one of my favorite things about fall.  It is so soothing and delicious.  Nothing makes me think fall more than butternut squash soup and apples.  And I guess traditional Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, but when I think of those dishes I think specifically about Thanksgiving rather than fall as a season.  Anyway, now that the weather has finally cooled down after a brutally hot summer (right now it is 61 degrees outside and raining - perfect soup weather) I was super excited to make a batch of butternut squash soup for dinner.  I had two butternut squash recipes bookmarked to try - this recipe from Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia, and another recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary from the Lee Brothers Simple Southern Dinners.  Since we used the Lee Brothers cookbook all of last week (I think we made three recipes out of it) and since I have an infatuation with coconut milk and all things Asian, we had to make this recipe.  And honestly, how awesome does "Silky Coconut-Pumpkin Soup" sound?!

As high as my expectations were, this soup totally delivered.  It is warm and soothing - comfort food at its best.  Because of the coconut milk, cilantro, and fish sauce it is also a little exotic, which was totally fun.  I thought that the scallion garnish was a wonderful touch.  It gave the soup a little texture and some freshness so it lightened up the richness of the coconut milk and butternut squash.  I love fall.  Or I will love it once it actually arrives.  For now I guess I just love this soup.

Recipe after the jump!

Short Rib Rendang and Coconut Rice

This short rib rendang was inspired by the version served at Fatty Crab.  The only experience I have with making any sort of rendang was at a cooking class Alex and I took at the Institute of Culinary Education last Christmas, where we made chicken rendang.  So this was something of a novel experiment for me.  I found the actual recipe from Fatty Crab online and was all excited about it until I discovered that it called for all sorts of esoteric ingredients and was overly complicated.  Assam skin and Gula Jawa?  What are those?  Anyways, not going to happen.  So then I looked back over the recipe from our chicken rendang and then looked at a few other recipes online and decided to just throw something together and hope for the best.  I figured there were some ingredients that showed up in all of the recipes (ginger or galangal, chilis, coconut milk, toasted coconut, shallots), and only a few ways to braise short ribs.  How wrong could I possibly go?

My short ribs cannot compete with Fatty Crab's, but that is no surprise.  Fatty Crab is fantastic at putting together very aggressive, funky, delicious flavors and I am nowhere near that skilled (or that bold when it comes to flavoring).  I also had to dial down the spice level of the dish (we only used 3 Thai chilis) because Alex didn't want me to blow any of our friends' tastebuds out with Thai chili peppers.  I wanted to throw in five chilis, but Alex was worried it would get too spicy.  Oh well.  Next time!  For our first attempt at short rib rendang, without a recipe to follow, I think we did a pretty good job!  A little more tweaking and the recipe will be truly fantastic! 

And just as a side note, these short ribs taste even better the next day (like with all braised things) as the flavors have time to concentrate and really infuse the meat while sitting overnight in the braising liquid in the fridge.  We had the ribs for lunch today and they were just that much sweeter and more flavorful so I highly recommend making enough short ribs so that you can eat them as leftovers too!

Recipe after the jump!

Spicy Rainbow Papaya Salad

Alex and I had friends over for dinner and we decided to make an Asian-themed dinner.  So I said we should make short ribs rendang and coconut rice (a la Fatty Crab) and then left Alex to come up with a side dish.  And his suggestion was green papaya salad.  He even found me the recipe for Spicy Green Papaya Salad that Zak Pelaccio (the chef at Fatty Crab, Cabrito and Fatty Cue) had published in Food & Wine.  So on our grand shopping trip in Chinatown this morning we hit several grocery stores looking for green papayas.  And we found nothing.  Actually, we found some little papayas at the grocery store on East Broadway down under the bridge (the grocery store is literally under the bridge), but you had to buy an entire $16 box of papayas, rather than buying them individually.  No thanks.  Luckily when I hit Fairway later this afternoon to find short ribs they happened to have papaya.  So I found what looked like the most unripe papaya with the greenest skin and bought it.  I was so proud of myself too.  And then I got home and went to cut it open and the papaya was bright orange inside, but still clearly unripe.  So I guess I got 50% right?  Maybe the $16 box of papayas down in Chinatown was green?  Who knows.  And at that point I figured what the heck.  We could make a rainbow papaya salad rather than a green papaya salad.  

I love the spicy lime dressing for this salad.  Combined with the sweetness of the mango and papaya (even though both were unripe, or just verging on ripe), and the cilantro and mint it was such a fresh and delicious combination.  One of my favorite things about Thai and Vietnamese food is the combination of spicy, sweet, and sour flavors all in the same dish and this salad was the perfect example of that flavor combo.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Buttermilk Herb Gouda Biscuits

Since the Lee Bros. cook good Southern food, I thought what could be better with our salmon than some buttermilk biscuits?  So I sent Alex off to find us a new buttermilk biscuit recipe to try before remembering that I had a recipe for Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits from Ina Garten's Back to Basics cookbook that I had been wanting to try.  So I guess you could say I cut him off at the pass and decided to use my own recipe, rather than anything he came up with.  We didn't have any cheddar to use for the biscuits, but I knew we had some herb gouda in the fridge that would work nicely in a biscuit so I used that instead.

These biscuits came out amazing.  Just like the cookbook says, they are light and flaky, but still moist.  The biscuits are buttery and fabulously cheesy.  If we had some extra sharp cheddar in the fridge I think the biscuits would have been a little, well, sharper, but the gloriously flaky texture and cheesy flavor still would have been fantastic.  Alex said that he prefers these biscuits to the Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits that we typically make because these biscuits have a more typically tender, flaky crumb, whereas the other biscuits use both cornmeal and flour and so they have a grittier crumb along with a crust that forms on the bottom of the biscuits themselves.  I agree with him as far as texture goes - these biscuits have that perfect, flaky biscuit texture that I grew to love at UNC.  However, I do like the combination of cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and scallions in the other biscuits.  So I think it's a tough decision (or at least a tougher decision than Alex found it to be).  But I agree with him that these biscuits come out on top.  You just can't beat that wonderful biscuit texture and taste.

Recipe after the jump!

Crispy-Skin Salmon with Buttermilk-Mint Sauce

While growing up I don't think that I had any idea that buttermilk existed.  The only time I might have been exposed to it, even peripherally, was when I was at college and grew to seriously love buttermilk biscuits.  In the past year I have discovered that buttermilk might just be one of the best things ever to have in your fridge.  Buttermilk is great for marinating chicken - either real fried or oven-baked "fried" chickens both benefit from a bath in buttermilk.  The chicken is so much more flavorful and moist after a buttermilk bath!  Buttermilk is also instrumental in making some of the moistest cakes I have ever had the pleasure to bake (and then eat).  And then there are buttermilk biscuits.  Which I love.  You obviously can't make a buttermilk biscuit if you don't have any buttermilk in the fridge.

I grew up eating salmon, but the idea of eating salmon skin never occurred to me when I was younger.  We ate a lot of salmon, but it was always roasted in the oven and the skin was certainly never crispy.  Then I tried Tyler Florence's recipe for Salt and Pepper Salmon and it totally changed my life.   Who knew crispy salmon skin could be so delicious?  We eat salmon fairly often now for a variety of reasons.  First, unlike a nice tuna steak, it doesn't have to cost $20 a pound (although I must admit that this wild salmon I bought today for tonight's dinner did in fact cost $19.99 a pound, which is totally scandalous).  Second, it is so versatile and can be delicious if prepared correctly.  Lastly, salmon's fattiness makes it a little more forgiving to cook than a lot of other fish.  There is nothing worse than spending $20 on a pound of fish and then having to throw the entire thing in the trash because you didn't cook it quite right.  And to be perfectly honest, that has happened to me more than few times.  Depressing, I know.

This recipe combined two things - buttermilk and crispy salmon skin - that have become relatively recent faves of mine, with a few things I have always loved, like fresh mint.  We served the salmon with baby spinach and Swiss chard simply sauteed in evoo with shallots, garlic, and a touch of lemon juice.  It was a lovely meal.  The salmon skin was nice and crispy, and the buttermilk-mint sauce made the whole dish seem very tangy and fresh.  Salmon cooked medium-rare is very rich, but when served with this sauce and the sauteed veggies it made the whole dish seem much lighter.  Either way it would have been delicious, but I really did enjoy the sauce.  It was a very interesting and delicious take on one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon!

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Skillet Green Beans with Orange

Tonight somehow ended up being all about the Lee Brothers.  Actually, this week has been very Lee Brothers and Susan Spicer-inspired thus far.  We have tried two recipes from each of the cookbooks (and I am planning on making one more Lee Brothers dish later in the week if I happen across some nice wild salmon at Fairway or Whole Foods).  I resolved earlier this summer to use the cookbooks on our bookshelf more often, particularly those cookbooks that I have neglected in the past.  Both the Lee Brothers and the Susan Spicer cookbooks were new to us this year and up until this week we had only made one recipe from each.  Since tonight's soup was so light and fresh, I wanted to make something with a little more substance as a side than a simple salad.  I also wanted to keep the meal vegetarian, so that limited things a little.  We had some green beans and I saw this recipe in the same Lee Brothers cookbook, so I figured those would be a nice accompaniment to our gazpacho.  

These green beans were good, but not amazing.  I liked the idea of blistering the beans to give them some char, but I thought that the amount of orange zest and overall orange flavor was a little overwhelming.  I wish there had been a little heat or just a little something to cut through the citrus flavor.  But with all of that said, I enjoyed the dish and we cleaned the plate.  And to be perfectly honest, how amazing can green beans really be?

Recipe after the jump!

White Gazpacho

Generally when I think white gazpacho, I think grapes and almonds, thickened with stale bread.  This recipe for white gazpacho comes from the Lee Brothers and is not a traditionally Spanish recipe.  Instead this recipe is very similar to a traditional gazpacho minus the bell peppers, just more modern.  Instead of using bread to thicken the gazpacho, the recipe relies on yogurt to make it creamy and give it some body.  And instead of combining all of the ingredients together into one cohesive gazpacho, the cucumber-based soup is kept separate and distinct from the tomato-based garnish that ties it all together.  So this recipe was different and sounded very interesting to me.  I typically start planning meals in one of two ways: first - by leafing through cookbooks and just seeing what catches my eye, and second - by looking through the fridge or through the grocery store to find an appealing ingredient to build a dish around.  Sometimes the recipes that catch my eye are completely out of my league, both in terms of the ingredients they call for and the techniques.  If the ingredients are too esoteric or expensive I don't even consider the recipe because what's the point.  The same thing goes when I start looking at how many steps (not to mention pots and pans) a recipe calls for.  If a recipe calls for 3 pots and pans, 2 cutting boards, multiple knives, and 20 steps, there is no way I am making it.  Luckily this soup was pretty simple to make.  

When I tasted each of the individual components I wasn't sure how the soup would taste once you combined everything in one bowl.  I was really hoping that the soup was more than just the sum of its parts, because while both the soup and the garnish were nice on their own, I was really hoping for something better than just nice.  The soup is fresh, with the fresh taste of the cucumber, some tang and creaminess from the Greek yogurt, and a tiny touch of heat from the jalapeno.  Then you mix in the tomato mixture, which brings some much needed acidity and brightness to cut through the cool, creamy cucumber soup, as well as some textural contrast.  Each spoonful of soup had lots of distinct flavors that really came together to make a delicious and refreshing soup that is perfect for summer.
Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ad Hoc's Creamed Summer Corn

While trying to plan a meal around our Summer Crab Salad with Carrots, Basil, and Lime I decided that corn would be the perfect summery accompaniment.  It took me all of about 1 second once I came to that decision to make Thomas Keller's creamed corn from his Ad Hoc at Home cookbook.  I have been holding onto this recipe for MONTHS waiting for the perfect night and the perfect corn.  So this morning I went out and bought some local sweet corn from New Jersey.  And then I showed Alex what I wanted to make and we went to town.

ZOMG.  This creamed corn might be the best thing I have eaten all summer.  I don't even like creamed corn, but I decided that if Thomas Keller came up with the recipe it had to be good.  And it was.  Actually, it was better than good.  It was phenomenal - rich, flavorful, and sweet.  By sauteing the corn in butter and then in heavy cream for a total of 20-25 minutes you concentrate and intensify the natural sweetness of the corn until it is so intensely sweet and corny that it is almost mindblowing.  Then you get the hint of heat from the cayenne and the brightness from the lime zest and lime juice.  The corn absorbs almost all of the heavy cream so that it's not soupy and bland.  Instead everything comes together to form a rich, comforting, and amazingly complex dish (particularly given that the recipe only uses 7 ingredients).  If you like corn, you have to make this dish.  It is a revelation.  I promise.

Recipe after the jump!

Summer Crab Salad with Carrots, Basil, and Lime

If you grew up anywhere near the Chesapeake Bay, nothing says summertime more than blue crabs and corn.  Crabs come in many forms - crabcakes, bushels of steamed or boiled crabs, crab dip, softshell crabs, etc.  This crab salad came from the Susan Spicer cookbook one of my friends gave me as a wedding gift.  It seemed like the perfect dish to mark the end of summer 2010, both because the ingredients encapsulate all that is summer to me, and also because after a long weekend of gorging on pork, I really needed something light and fresh.

This crab salad was nice and light, with a subtle sweetness from the crab, carrots, and basil, balanced out by the slight heat from the hot sauce and the brine of the capers.  The lime vinaigrette makes the whole thing taste even more bright and summery, if that is even possible.  My only complaint is that, while this salad was lovely, when I think crab I think Old Bay and there was obviously no Old Bay present in this salad.  So when I took my first bite all I could think was "man, crabs just aren't the same without Old Bay."  But with all of that said, this crab salad was bright and lovely.  Then again, of the two dishes I made tonight - this salad and creamed corn, the corn took the cake.  By a landslide.  But it's not because the crab salad wasn't nice.  Instead the corn is really just that awesome.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Watermelon, Cucumber, and Feta Salad

After a weekend of gorging myself, the only thing I really wanted for dinner was salad.  But I didn't want any old salad.  I wanted a salad that was more than just boring lettuce, tomatoes, onions and dressing.  What can I say?  I'm a salad snob.   I love the idea of salad, but I find that they are often very disappointingly mundane and are rarely filling.  The salads I tend to like have unique combinations of ingredients, either with or without protein, and more substance to them than your average side salad.

I have made (and eaten) several different kinds of watermelon salads, including this Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad.  This one might be my favorite.  I really liked the combination of the citrus dressing and fresh mint with the watermelon, feta, onion and cucumbers.  Perhaps because the salad was more savory than sweet, I just found it to be more interesting and more filling.  Between Alex and I we finished off an entire large mixing bowl of the salad, which would have been harder to do with a sweeter watermelon salad.  But with this salad, every bite was completely different than every other bite because of the distinct tastes of each ingredient.  In each bite you have the sweetness of the watermelon, the saltiness of the feta, the bitterness of the arugula, the bite of the red onion, and the freshness of the cucumbers.  This salad was exactly what I needed after a weekend of gorging on everything in sight.

Recipes after the jump!

Happy Labor Day!

Unlike everyone else in NYC, Alex and I elected to stay in the city for Labor Day and to have our best friends come up to visit.  Every time Mark and Robin come visit we end up having a crazy weekend full of good food and lots of beer.  This weekend was no exception.  In the four days that they were here we hit: Fatty Crab, Canteen 82, Xi'an Famous Foods, Ippudo, Absolute Bagels, Cascabel Taqueria, Luke's Lobster, the Wafels and Dinges truck, and Bia Garden.  We ate a ton of amazing food and overall had a really good time hanging out.  But my favorite dishes we ate all weekend (and we ate a LOT) were the following:
  • Fatty Crab - As much as I love everything on the menu here, this time I was all about the Short Ribs Rendang.  They are served with this luscious coconut rice and are so tender that they just melt in your mouth.
  • Ippudo - We tried four of their ramens, but my favorites were the Shiromaru Hakata Classic ramen and the Akumaru Modern ramen.
  • Cascabel Taqueria - It's not on the menu, but their Carnitas and Red Chili Tamale is amazing - so tender, moist, and flavorful.  I also highly recommend their queso fundito with chorizo and roasted poblano peppers.
  • Wafels and Dinges - Their liege wafel is simply amazing.  It has a texture and a sweetness that is completely different from what most people think of as a Belgian waffle.  Have it topped with spekuloos and whipped cream in the Throwdown special and you won't be disappointed.
  • Bia Garden - This is our first time eating at Bia Garden (pictured above) and it was a smashing success.  The restaurant has a great beer selection with beers from all over Asia, as well as some really nice dishes.  My two favorite dishes were the Sweet Sugarcane Shrimp special, and the Lemongrass Pork Sausage.  Both were absolutely delicious.  There is a rumor going around that the owner is going to turn the restaurant into an Asian taco joint sometime this fall, which would be really disappointing because we really enjoyed Bia Garden and the food (and beer) we had there.  The entrance to the restaurant looks a little sketchy, but after you walk through the kitchen and walk-in cooler to the beer garden in back you realize just how great this place really is! 
After all of that food I will probably eat salad for a week, but man it was worth it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chicken Soba Salad

The inspiration for this salad came from a salad that I love at a restaurant in NYC called Soba Nippon.  I have been there twice in the past month and every time I go I order this salad.  They top a salad of soba noodles, lettuce, cabbage, onions, carrots, dried seaweed, and crispy noodles with shredded, steamed chicken breast and this amazing Asian sesame dressing.  I like to pretend that the salad is totally healthy for me, but most salads are nowhere near as healthy as you think they are.  At the very least, the salad from Soba Nippon is delicious.  One of my favorite things about this salad is that it is both light and hearty at the same time.  One of the worst things about eating salad is that I get hungry again about an hour later.  Actually, I have the same problem with sushi.  But I feel like the soba noodles in this salad make the whole salad more filling without detracting from the lightness of the salad.  I knew we couldn't duplicate the salad exactly, but I figured we could put together a tasty and reasonably healthy facsimile.

This method for roasting chicken breasts is one of my absolute favorites (and Alex's too).  The chicken is so flavorful and juicy.  It would be delicious on top of any salad, or stuffed in any sandwich.  It makes this soba salad really sing.  All of the ingredients would be delicious on their own, but when combined they are delicious.  I think that some shelled edamame and/or some snow peas would also be delicious additions to the salad.  While this salad is not a perfect approximation of the one served at Soba Nippon, it sure was a really nice dinner.

Recipe after the jump!