Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coconut Macaroons

I'm not certain what it is that I like about coconut macaroons.  But I really like them.  I like everything about them.  I might even like them more than I like cookies, which is shocking.  They are sticky, intensely coconut-y and delicious.  I like them chocolate-dipped, with almond extract, and plain.  I like all of them.  I guess most of that can be attributed to the fact that I really love coconut and always have.  I have really only found a few macaroon variations that truly disappointed me enough that I couldn't finish them.  Conversely, I have really only found a few variations that were good enough that I remember them distinctly.  One variation on a macaroon that I love is the macaroon and nutella sandwich cookie that they serve at the Street Sweets truck.  The macaroon at the truck is thin and crispy, almost like a florentine.  And I had never considered the combination of nutella and coconut before, but it was totally delicious.  And I generally like my macaroons a little on the sticky side, but they taste really nice crispy like that.  Joe the Art of Coffee on the UWS also has really nice chocolate-dipped macaroons.  They're not too sweet, not to sticky - a very classic macaroon.

I have never tried a macaroon recipe that uses condensed milk before, but I figured why not give it a try?  The last batch of macaroons I made using a more traditional recipe just weren't quite as good as I was hoping for, so I was looking to try something new and different.  I kept finding blog posts and recipes that used condensed milk, so apparently it's not that uncommon to add it to your macaroons.  Who knew?  As you might expect from macaroons that used condensed milk (or from any baked good that uses condensed milk), these macaroons were a bit on the sticky side.  But that's ok, because I like sticky.  They also spread out and ooze a lot more than your typical macaroon (which is made up of coconut, egg white, vanilla extract and very little else) during the baking process.  The macaroons weren't crispy enough for me to want to make sandwich cookies out of - I think if you're going for that kind of recipe we would need coconut that is more finely ground, a touch of flour to bind the ingredients and give them a more cookie-like texture, and no condensed milk.  The fact that we started out with over a dozen macaroons and now only have one or two left should bear witness to the fact that these macaroons weren't too shabby...

Recipe after the jump!

Homestyle Bean Curd

I have to admit that I am very lucky that Alex will eat just about anything that I throw at him.  Not many people I know would be excited by the idea of tofu.  But Alex loves just about any authentic Chinese dish that I make at home or order in a restaurant (although I'm sure there would be some exceptions if we ever actually make it to China).  This tofu dish was no exception.  After a series of fairly heavy, meaty meals I really wanted something vegetarian for dinner.  This was what I picked.  Well, this with some Sichuan Cucumbers and some white rice.  I'm always saying that we need to use our Fuchsia Dunlop cookbooks more than we do, and when I have the chance to do so I tend to take advantage.  By some random chance we had everything we needed for this recipe in our apartment.  That almost never happens without some degree of advance planning on my part.  Even with some advance planning on my part we are often missing at least one or two key ingredients for any given dish.  So it was pleasantly surprising that we had everything we needed here.  I briefly considered doing a little victory dance, but decided against it.  

Alex said that this dish was his favorite of the proteins that we have made over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I was kind of shocked.  It's tofu and it was competing against a very nice rainbow trout, as well as a lovely lamb chop.  But Alex really enjoyed it.  And I did too.  It was wonderfully flavorful and fairly easy to prepare.  The description of the dish as "homestyle" is well-deserved.  It tastes like something my grandmother would whip up (supposing that she were still alive and she was actually Sichuanese, rather than Cantonese - details, details).  It's not fancy.  It's the type of dish, and combined with the cucumbers and the rice, the type of meal that I expect thousands of people in China eat at home regularly.  And that is huge praise.
Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices

Every once in awhile I stumble across spaghetti squash recipes that call for substituting spaghetti with spaghetti squash and dousing it with tomato sauce.  As if the kids wouldn't notice that their "spaghetti" is suddenly a completely different texture and has a strange non-pasta aroma to it...  I must admit that I am very skeptical of those recipes, partially because I know that spaghetti squash can be incredibly delicious.  For instance, this spaghetti squash recipe calls for a melted butter and Moroccan spice mixture.  It is amazing.  The spaghetti squash gets richness from the butter, smokiness from the cumin, a hint of spice from the cayenne, and then a blast of freshness from the cilantro.  Now I'm not an expert on what kids will and won't eat, but wouldn't you rather serve them (and yourself) something delicious?

Recipe after the jump!

Charmoula Lamb Chops

When I was younger I had a serious love of lamb and duck.  Chicken and beef were fine and all, but somehow I preferred less common variations on the same theme.  As I have grown older I have re-discovered chicken and beef, particularly when cooking for myself at home (partially because they are so much cheaper than the alternatives).  I would say that we make lamb about once every 3-4 months, and the same with duck.  And when we do make lamb, it tends to be ground lamb - perhaps lamb burgers or lamb kebobs.  In the past year I think we have only made lamb chops once and they were shoulder chops for our Indian Lamb Chops with Curried Cauliflower, rather than loin chops or rib chops.  So I guess in another 3-4 months we will attempt some lamb loin chops.  And after today's experiment I am looking forward to the loin chops!

These Charmoula Lamb Chops were delicious.  Charmoula (or chermoula) is a sort of Middle Eastern variation on chimichurri that is used in Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian cooking.  In this charmoula I used mint, cilantro and parsley in addition to evoo, garlic, shallot and lemon juice, but I have seen other recipes that are vastly different.  I even found a recipe that called for red bell pepper.  But it is my understanding that the common components to any charmoula are herbs, oil, lemon juice and spices.  I love that this charmoula is fresh and flavorful.  It really makes lamb, which can come off as a little heavy and greasy, taste vibrant and fresh.  The only problem is that the chops could have used a hint more char.  That was partially my fault because I was afraid to really turn the heat up without burning the herbs in the marinade or overcooking the lamb, since I prefer it medium-rare.  But a little more char is definitely in order in the future.  A grill would really help with that, but unfortunately I don't have access to one.  I think this dish would be a really nice dinner party entree.  I actually said the same thing about the Rainbow Trout we made last night, but I think this would be even more ideal.  The dish is elegant and refined, as well as delicious. 

Recipe after the jump!

Buttermilk Biscuits

I have been on the search for the ultimate biscuit recipe for years.  There are a few that I have discovered that I really enjoy, but none of them are plain buttermilk biscuits.  Instead they usually involve the addition of cheese and other herbs or seasonings.  And as much as I love these fancied up biscuits, I am always trying to find the PERFECT biscuit recipe that I can make for any occasion and serve slathered with white sausage gravy, just as easily as in a bread basket with dinner.  Today I stumbled across this recipe and in my neverending hunt for the perfect biscuit I gave it a try.  

So this biscuit recipe falls somewhere between a scone and a sweet biscuit that you would use for making shortcakes.  It's definitely not the savory biscuit that I was planning on when I first started baking.  It's probably my fault for not thinking the recipe through more clearly.  All I saw was a biscuit recipe that was very simple and only included ingredients I already had in the kitchen.  I didn't stop to think about it further.  But had I stepped back and thought about it, I would have realized that any biscuit recipe that contains 1 1/2 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp of heavy cream brushed over the top of the biscuits would end up being more scone-like than biscuit-like.  So I might end up having the rest of these biscuits for breakfast slathered with jam and served alongside a cup of tea.  I think they will be delicious that way.  I also think that with a little extra sugar sprinkled on top that they would make a fantastic cobbler topping.  The hunt for the perfect biscuit continues...

Recipe after the jump!

Whole Roasted Rainbow Trout

I have been wanting to cook a whole fish for some time now.  Every time I visit Whole Foods or Fairway I end up staring at the whole brook trout and branzino in the fish case and briefly consider buying them.  Then I usually wimp out and buy some shrimp or other fish fillets because obviously cooking a whole fish is more complicated than cooking up some fillets, right?  Wrong.  Really really wrong.  Because this fish was amazingly easy to cook and it was delicious.  All I had to do was season it a little, stuff it with some lemon, herbs, and shallots and throw it in the oven.  Fifteen minutes later I had two gorgeous rainbow trout sitting on the dining room table in their cute little foil packets.  The entire recipe probably took 20 minutes from start to finish (it would take substantially more than that if you had to clean the fish yourself, so get your fishmonger to do that for you).

I suppose you can use any herb you want with this recipe.  While looking up various recipes for inspiration, I came across recipes that involved fresh tarragon, fresh dill and rosemary.  Alex swears that he saw another recipe that called for sage.  We happened to have parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and rosemary all in the fridge.  Oh and fresh mint.  But I thought the mint and cilantro were obviously not going to work, and Alex isn't a huge fan of fresh parsley, so that left thyme, oregano and rosemary.  Originally I was planning on using both the thyme and the oregano and then I decided to go the simple route and just use rosemary instead.  I actually picked up the rosemary to make an olive oil cake, but I figured it would work here as well.  And boy did it.  I'm sure that the other herbs would have produced an equally lovely trout, but I loved how the trout was lightly perfumed with that woodsy rosemary scent, balanced out with a nice punch of lemon and a hint of sweetness from the shallots.  I briefly contemplated adding garlic, but I am glad I didn't because I think it would have been a little aggressive in this dish, which was very delicate.  I would like to try this recipe (or variations on this recipe) with other whole fish - perhaps a whole brook trout for instance.  I think if I were to make a whole branzino I would go a little more Mediterranean with it, but I think this recipe would work well with branzino too!  Hurray for an experiment that turned out even better than I had hoped for.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pan-Roasted Squab, Polenta and Broccolini

What do you do when you're flying solo for Thanksgiving?  Well, I guess Alex and I weren't really flying solo, since we were together, but we were both away from home for our first Thanksgiving together.  And seeing as I didn't get off work until almost 11pm on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we literally didn't have a clue what we were making.  So Thursday around 1 pm we trudged on down to Fairway to try and figure out a nice Thanksgiving meal for the two of us.  Alex was thinking poultry (although to be honest I wasn't really thinking at all) so we headed to the meat counter and found some cute little squab.  Now I like squab, but it has certainly never occurred to me to buy it and cook it at home.  I would have been more excited about some guinea hens or some duck breasts, but seeing as it was already after 1 pm on Thanksgiving Day, we picked up the squab and ran with it.  After we decided on squab I decided that I wanted to make polenta and some sort of greens to do with it.  So I picked up some red kale, some broccolini and some arugula.  I figured that between the two of us we would figure out some sort of vegetable recipe with those options.  I considered picking up some other vegetables too, but figured there was no point in being over-ambitious, especially seeing as I am going to have to work all weekend again.  So we got home, and started with Google to get some inspiration.  Then I stumbled across a recipe for Barbequed Squab with Porcini Mustard in The Babbo Cookbook and we decided to use that roughly for inspiration with our squab.  As for the polenta and the broccolini, we relied on Epicurious to point us in the right direction there. 

So we essentially used the Batali marinade of honey, balsamic, evoo, thyme and red onion to marinate the squab for about 6 hours before cooking it.  Then we seared both sides in a cast iron pan, before tossing it in the oven to roast.  Beware, because of the honey and balsamic in the marinade the squab skin goes from completely raw to almost burnt very quickly.  So you're going to go to flip over the squab after searing the first side and think that you totally ruined it.  But you didn't.  At first we were totally worried that we had burnt the squab and were going to have to order Chinese takeout or something, but that's just what happens with this marinade.  Although the Batali recipe calls for grilling, and also calls for the breastbones on the squabs to be removed (neither of which we did), we did weight the squab down on the pan as he recommended to give the bird a crisp skin and ensure quicker cooking.  Now cooking and eating squab requires that you get over your fear of serving poultry with the slightest bit of pink inside, because like duck, this squab should be served medium-rare.  We read somewhere that overcooked squab has a flavor and texture similar to liver.  Gross.  So anyway, we were very careful not to overcook the squab.  And the meat was tender and juicy, rather than liver-like.  However, it was almost crying out for some sort of sauce.  The Batali recipe called for a porcini mustard to be served with the squab, but that just didn't do it for me.  I was thinking some sort of agrodolce sauce or a fig mostardo would be phenomenal with the squab.  Something a little sweet, a little sour, and with a hint of black pepper to it would really have elevated the dish to another level.  It was good, but it just needed something.

As with all Thanksgiving feasts, I was way more into the sides than the main course.  The broccolini was delicious - something I definitely plan to make again and again.  The combination of the smoked paprika, garlic, almonds and sherry vinegar was genius.  I loved it.  And then the polenta was totally luscious and decadent - the corn gave it that little something extra, a little sweetness and brightness, that I really enjoyed.  I will definitely be making both the polenta and the broccolini again, although I will have to decide what dishes to serve them with next time as I'm not sure that the squab will be a repeat experiment...

I hope that everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

So I have been meaning to do a post about great Thanksgiving recipes for some time now.  Only I haven't had the time to do so.  I really wanted to test out a few more recipes before doing this post, but unfortunately, that isn't going to happen.  So this post will be restricted to only those dishes that I have made for Thanksgiving in the past that I have really enjoyed (along with a list of other dishes that I would make for an ideal Thanksgiving feast).  First on my list is this Sourdough Bread Stuffing.  Every Thanksgiving table needs stuffing and this stuffing remains my favorite.  I have tried all sorts of other stuffings - including cornbread stuffing, oyster stuffing/dressing, Stovetop stuffing, and stuffing with Italian sausage.  I have never tried a wild rice stuffing, so I might add that to the menu the next time I am preparing Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd.  If you're not a lover of brussels sprouts, this brussels sprouts dish might even convince you.  I got my family to eat an entire platter-ful, which is unheard of.  My aunt even asked for the recipe!  And last, but not least, there is this gravy - I love the hint of the richness and depth of flavor that the red wine produces.  Sometimes I throw in some fresh herbs, but I've done it before without any herbs and it was nice too.

Since it's just Alex and I for Thanksgiving this year, we won't be doing a whole Thanksgiving spread.  I was thinking we might make something completely not traditional, because how depressing would it be to cook an entire turkey for two people?  Now if we were planning a feast (and time and oven space were no object), this is the menu I would propose in addition to the recipes that I have included down below: Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs and Shallot-Dijon Gravy, Real Creamed Corn Pudding, Cranberry Sauce with Port and Cinnamon, Sourdough Bread Stuffing (recipe below), Brussels Sprouts with Shallots and Wild Mushrooms, Moroccan Arugula Salad with Beets and Ricotta Salata, Kale, Butternut Squash, and Pancetta Pie and Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce.  And for appetizers I would make Sweet Potato Biscuits with Ham, Mustard, and Honey, Warm Goat Cheese Toasts with Rosemary, Walnuts, and Honey, kale chips, and some candied nuts.  Doesn't that sound delicious?

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes with Bacon

So Alex felt the need to point out to me today that that brussels sprouts are spelled like the city of Brussels, with an "s," and not brussel sprouts.  And I of course responded that I knew that and that I always spelled them "B-R-U-S-S-E-L-S" sprouts, to which he pointed out about a zillion instances in which I called them "brussels sprouts" and "brussel sprouts" interchangably in the same post.  Oops.  Apparently I am terribly inconsistent.  But I will do my best to be more consistent in this post.  And I am creating this post with a caveat - I made these brussels sprouts two weeks ago before work got absolutely crazy (and by crazy I mean I haven't been able to leave the office before 10 pm to midnight in over a week and therefore have not eaten a single meal at home since last Sunday, let alone cooked one) and am only getting around to posting about them now because I have a brief moment of calm and sanity.

If you can't tell, I love brussels sprouts.  They are fantastic.  This might not be my favorite variation on brussels sprouts, but it was a good one.  Who can resist bacon and crispy roasted potatoes served with nutty roasted brussels sprouts?  By itself the dish makes a perfectly hearty meal for two people, or would be a nice side for a family of four. 

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Easy Sole Meuniere

For the first time this month, I didn't have to work on a Sunday.  It was blissful.  I went to the gym, we cleaned the apartment (not so blissful, but necessary), we ran errands...  It was a wonderfully productive and only semi-lazy Sunday.  And so I celebrated by cooking dinner!  Actually, we made lunch too but as I have already posted about the Tunisian Soup with Chard and Egg Noodles, there is no need to post about it again.  But since dinner was a random recipe that I have been wanting to try, I get to post about that!

Sole Meuniere is a classic French dish that is often made of Dover Sole and costs a fortune at some fancy French restaurants. I'm not sure if the Dover Sole itself is extremely expensive, but I figure that it must be since the rest of the ingredients are cheap.  Since I don't have a fortune to spend, I often avoid the dish entirely.  But as Fairway had some really nice lemon sole fillets when I swung by yesterday, I decided to go home and make it myself.  And it is both remarkably easy to make (not to mention quick cooking - as the sole only takes about 4-5 minutes total to cook through), and remarkably tasty.  I have tried other meuniere recipes with capers in them, which provides a nice salty bite to the dish, but I might actually prefer the dish without capers as the capers detract from the delicate flavor of the sole.  Then again, sometimes I do want big bold flavors and the capers would be perfect.  So I guess you can adapt this recipe to taste and either add some minced capers when you add the lemon juice, or just leave them out entirely like I did here.  Either way the dish is light, but still very flavorful.  If you're not a big fan of lemon, then you could cut back on the amount of lemon juice, or if you want to lighten the dish you could use half butter and half evoo.  But the recipe is simple enough and uses such easily recognizable flavors/ingredients that you can play with it pretty easily to suit your tastes.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Korean Steak and Kimchi Quesadillas

I love meals made almost entirely from repurposed leftovers.  They make me feel so virtuous and thrifty.  Plus meals are so much easier to make and quicker to put together when your proteins are already cooked and some of your ingredients are already prepped.  I made these quesadillas with the leftover Momofuku Marinated Hanger Steak Ssam with Red Kimchi Puree and Ginger Scallion.  We used the leftover hanger steak, the leftover red kimchi puree, and the leftover ginger scallion sauce.  I had originally intended to make our quesadillas with some brown rice tortillas that I picked up at Trader Joe's, but when I took them out of the fridge today they looked a little moldy.  So I threw them out.  And decided to use some lavash (also purchased at Trader Joe's) for our quesadillas, which actually worked quite well.  The only other thing we needed was some grated cheese and we were in quesadilla-making business.  And it was good business.  Our quesadillas were quite delicious.  I really enjoyed them - they were really easy to make, and very tasty.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Bittersweet Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

So I have been sitting on this post for some time, partially because I have been so freaking busy, and partially because I already have a few other pumpkin bread recipes on the blog so I was in no hurry to post this one.  But Alex was basically obsessed with this pumpkin bread, as were his coworkers when he brought it in to work one day.  So I had to post it.  I baked two loaves of pumpkin bread because Alex wanted his loaf with semisweet chocolate chips and no walnuts, whereas I wanted bittersweet chocolate chips and lots of walnuts.  And since I was the one who baked the bread, I am posting my favorite of the two loaves, both of which used the same basic recipe.  Oh, but I was too excited to try my loaf, so I cut into it before I could take pictures.  Oops.  So the picture above is of Alex's loaf with the semi-sweet chocolate chps and no walnutsIf you want to mix it up with the chocolate chips and/or nuts (or omit both entirely), you can easily do so.  But the bread is very moist and the crumb is almost luscious and fluffy.  I think the combination of sour cream and pumpkin puree, along with the spices really make the bread fun and different.

Recipe after the jump!

Momofuku Marinated Hanger Steak Ssam with Red Kimchi Puree and Ginger Scallion

So this might be our last Asian-inspired meal of the week.  Or at the very least it is the last Asian-inspired meal that I had planned on making.  Actually, that's not entirely true because we made enough steak for two meals, which means that we are going to do the trendy thing and make some Korean quesadillas later this week.  But I'm not sure it counts as Asian-inspired when you start making quesadillas, which are totally Mexican-inspired...  But anyway, for the last Asian or Asian-inspired meal for the week, I had to go to David Chang because I love David Chang and his whole Momofuku empire.  Actually, randomly enough Alex and I went to Ma Peche last night and had a fantastic meal.  Ma Peche is David Chang's newest restaurant in the city and his first restaurant drawing on Vietnam for inspiration.  It's also his first restaurant outside of the East Village and how lucky am I that it ended up opening up a few blocks away from my office?  More on Ma Peche later.  For now, back to these hanger steak ssams.  My original plan was to use this marinade to make the beef, and then to use the beef in quesadillas.  But then I realized that we had two hanger steaks in the freezer, so I thought why not make the ssams and then use the remaining marinated steak to make quesadillas later in the week?  I love it when you can use "leftovers" again to make an entirely different dish!

So this hanger steak itself has really nice flavor to it.  But hanger steak always has great flavor.  Except that when you marinate the hanger steak in apple juice, onion, etc. you end up with hanger steak that is sweeter and less beefy than usual.  Not that the steak was super sweet, but it definitely had a distinct sweetness to it.  The sweetness was balanced out by the spicy funkiness of the kimchi puree, and the brightness of the ginger-scallion sauce.  Now I have had the hanger steak ssams from Momofuku Ssam Bar back in the day before they took all of the ssams but the Bo Ssam off the menu.  While our homemade version based off the recipe in the cookbook was good, I thought you could definitely taste the difference between the restaurant version and our homemade version.  But who really cares?  It was still delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Poached Chicken with Ginger and Scallion Sauce

Growing up I ate a lot of Cantonese food - some that my mother or grandmother made, and then some that they purchased at various restaurants.  I loved eating things like roast suckling pig, drunken chicken, wonton noodle soup, and dim sum.  Well, I still love eating those things.  Any sort of roast meat of the sort that you can find hanging in the window in Chinatown brings me back to my childhood, as does this dish, which you often find called "White-cooked Chicken," which describes the cooking method just as much as it describes the dish itself.  It's one of those dishes, like my mom's Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup, that I find incredibly comforting.  Alex was worried that it would be bland because basically all you're doing is poaching a chicken in water (most recipes call for whole chickens, but since we just eat the breasts anyways we poached a whole skin-on, bone-in chicken breast) and then topping it with a sauce made of peanut oil, ginger, scallions, soy sauce and shaoxing cooking wine.  I get why he would be worried.  Poached chicken does sound terribly bland. 

All in all I really liked this chicken, but I might be biased due to nostalgia.  Then again, Alex (who was initially skeptical) liked it too.  There are a few things that I think could have been executed a little better with our recipe.  First, the ginger just didn't seem to cook all the way through in the sauce.  I might recommend mincing the ginger, or shredding it, rather than grating it in the future.  The grated ginger was a little too wet to really fry up in the oil.  Also, I might add the ginger first and then the scallions in the sauce to give the ginger a little extra time in the pan.  As for the chicken itself, while I don't think it's absolutely necessary, I think in the future I might try Kylie Kwong's recipe for White-Cooked Chicken, which calls for a flavored stock in which you poach the chicken.  The chicken itself is supposed to be delicately flavored, deriving most (if not all of the flavor) from the scallion and ginger sauce.  But it wouldn't hurt to have a slightly more flavorful base to begin with.  Generally you serve this chicken over steamed white rice, but Alex really wanted to serve it over noodles and of the varieties of noodles that we had in the apartment, the rice vermicelli seemed like the best option (although in the future I think I will insist upon actual rice because I think it soaks up the sauce better). 

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Moroccan Carrot Salad

So carrot salad - sounds a little gross, huh?  It reminds me of jello molds and various other weird 1950's-esque potluck dishes.  For some reason, it sounds like it should have mayonnaise and raisins in it.  Maybe carrot salads in the US traditionally have both in them.  Actually, I just Googled "carrot salad recipes" and they do in fact traditionally have raisins and mayo in them.  Gross.  And it appears that they sometimes have pineapple in them, or various other fruits.  Also gross.  This carrot salad has none of the above.  And I'm not exactly sure what inspired me to make a carrot salad, except that I was thinking Moroccan and had a ton of carrots from the CSA in the fridge.  But I saw a recipe on Epicurious for a Moroccan Raw Carrot Salad and it piqued my interest.  The best thing about it was that there was no mayo or raisins involved, just evoo, lemon juice, cilantro and spices.  Actually, that was the second best thing.  The best thing was that the carrot salad was good.  Really good.  Alex ate forkful after forkful, and he was even more skeptical about making carrot salad than I was.  I knew it had to be good after I saw Alex go back for his third forkful.

Recipe after the jump!

Faux-Moroccan Roast Chicken with Harissa Sauce and Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon Juice

So I must admit that I am rather proud of myself for sticking with my resolution to make more Asian recipes this week.  And here I am making Moroccan food, which I also mentioned that I had been wanting to make.  I seem to be on something of a Moroccan (or faux-Moroccan because I'm certainly no expert on Moroccan food) kick lately.  Not too long ago we made Quasi-Moroccan Turnip Greens and Moroccan Meatloaf.  And before that I made some Crispy Roasted Chickpeas with a homemade Moroccan spice blend.  We also made a Moroccan carrot salad, but I will have to post about that later.  I really enjoy the flavor combinations in Moroccan food - the sweetness of cinnamon, the smokey cumin, the spicy cayenne, the floral coriander...  It all just works so beautifully together.  I go through spice phases and this seems to be my current phase.  

Anyway, you have to try this chicken.  I know that I am always roasting chicken breasts and then posting about how wonderful they were, but these were truly spectacular - moist, juicy and very flavorful.  The light dusting of flour on the chicken helped to turn the skin nice and crispy by forming a light crust.  Otherwise I think that the skin would have remained flaccid and gummy from soaking overnight in the marinade.  The chicken was really lovely when dipped into the spicy and vinegary harissa sauce.  It would have been good without the harissa, but the harissa really gave it that something extra.  Plus it gave it some heat and I just can't help but to enjoy spicy things.  The couscous was pleasant, but a little bland. Then again, I purposefully looked for a couscous recipe that sounded a little bland because I figured that the thicken would be very flavorful and I didn't want competing flavor profiles.  Really all I wanted with the couscous was a nice side that would complement or balance out the chicken.  And I got that.  If I were to serve the couscous with a slightly less flavorful main dish, I would probably cook the couscous in chicken stock (instead of water), add more lemon juice/zest, and perhaps toss a bit of cayenne pepper in with the couscous while it steamed.

Recipes after the jump!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Coconut Shrimp

I have had this recipe bookmarked to try for awhile.  And when I say bookmarked, I mean that I flagged it with a little sticky when I first bought The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.  I tend to scan through brand new cookbooks within the first few days and bookmark/flag all of the recipes that really interest me.  And then once I make those recipes, the flags come off.  What can I say?  I'm a lawyer.  I love little stickies and I particularly love those highlighters that come with flags in them.  They are awesome.  Ok so I'm a geek.  What of it?

Anyway, considering that I had been waiting months to make this recipe and was all excited about it, in the end I thought it was not that exciting.  Don't get me wrong, it was good.  I ate it all, but I don't think I would make it again.  Now part of that might be due to the fact that I had to substitute sherry for cognac (since I didn't have cognac, brandy or rum), and I tend to find sherry to be a bit overwhelming.  I briefly considered adding some dry white wine in lieu of the cognac and maybe that would have been a better substitution.  I also thought that the toasted coconut got soggy way too fast when you added it to the shrimp, which seemed to defeat the purpose of toasting it in the first place.  I'm not sure.  I think I was just expecting more from the dish since the rest of the recipes I have tried from the cookbook have been so great.  I also really love the combination of shrimp and coconut - but I just didn't get much coconut flavor from the dish.  All I really tasted was sherry (which, again, was more my fault than anything else).  I also thought the dish was crying out for something else to give it another layer of flavor.  Perhaps some minced ginger (just a little bit) would have been a nice addition?  I don't know.  But in the future if I have a craving for coconut shrimp, I will probably make these Coconut Shrimp instead.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Crazy Chicken (Turkey) Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

Look at how good I am!  Two nights, two Asian recipes in a row.  Go me!  Or go us, since Alex has been equally responsible for cooking (although I have done all of the menu planning and almost all of the grocery shopping).  So thank you hubby for making my Asian recipes possible.  And thanks also goes out to our friend Mark for telling us about this recipe in the first place.  I can't remember how long ago it was that Mark first told me about this recipe, but Alex and I made it once years ago and then forgot about it entirely.  And then when I was thinking about Asian recipes earlier this week I suddenly remembered this recipe.  Luckily, all we needed from the grocery store were some rice sticks/stir-fry noodles and some basil and we were in business.

Yum.  This recipe was even better than I remembered.  I think last time we used ground chicken instead of ground turkey and the chicken was dry and didn't soak up much of the sambal and lime juice mixture.  And if I recall correctly, the noodles were overcooked and a bit gummy, so they didn't soak up the sambal-lime mixture either.  But this time the entire dish had some serious flavor and a good measure of heat to it.  We slightly increased the amount of sugar and lime juice in order to give the sauce balance (before we did so all we were tasting was sambal with undertones of fish sauce).  And then I squeezed some additional lime juice over the top of the noodles before we ate to give it some more fresh lime flavor.  Don't skimp on the fresh basil for garnish, because the basil that you toss with the noodles loses a lot of its bright, fresh flavor once it is heated up.  So you really need the fresh basil in addition to the basil that you threw into the wok with the scallions.  But even without the fresh basil, this dish is delicious and very easy to make.  From start to finish, it took less than 30 minutes, including prep time.  I guarantee that it won't be another few years before we make these noodles again!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi Puree and Bacon

So to address my lack of Asian (or Asian-inspired) recipes of late, I decided to make a brussels sprouts recipe from the Momofuku cookbook.  Now I know that brussels sprouts aren't an inherently Asian ingredient.  In fact, I would be shocked if they ever turned up in any form of Asian cuisine.  But these are tossed in kimchi puree, so that has to count for something, right?  Granted, there is bacon and butter in there, but come on.  You have to give me points for trying, especially since I didn't get home from work until about 8:45 pm tonight with the brussels sprouts.  Luckily I had Alex at home cutting up the bacon batons and making the kimchi puree.  I really do need to use this cookbook more.  When you flip through it there are so many fabulously interesting recipes!  And most of them are at least nominally Asian, which goes perfectly with my renewed desire to cook lots of Asian (or Asian-inspired) recipes.  Next up, the Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg and Miso Butter (even though asparagus are not exactly in season right now) or the Pan-Roasted Bouchot Mussels with OS.  Yum.  

I think I will cut down on the amount of butter next time, because I didn't really think it added much to the brussels, except to make them a little soggy.  I would have preferred that the brussels remained charred and crispier.  So maybe I will halve the amount of butter next time and char the brussels sprouts just a few more minutes.  Since our brussels sprouts were pretty small, I only cooked them for 10 minutes once I returned them to the oven.  Next time I will go at least 12 minutes, but probably the entire 15 minutes, and then cut down on the butter.  But I loved the combination of the brussels sprouts, the kimchi, and the bacon.  It's not a flavor combination that would ever occur to me on my own, but they are awesome together.

We served our delicious brussels sprouts with some sunny-side up eggs with runny yolks that we drizzled with soy sauce and topped with more of the kimchi puree.  I think that together they made the perfect meal. 

Recipe after the jump!


I just looked through my posts for the past 1-2 months and realized that they have all been primarily American or Italian, which is very unusual for me.  I will do my best to mix it up a little more than I have been.  I have a few Asian recipes on deck that I have been waiting to try, it's just a matter of tracking down all of the ingredients and having the time to really cook.  But I promise to send some more Asian recipes your way as soon as possible!  Hopefully in the next week I can make this Thai Noodle Salad recipe I have been dying to try and/or some form of stir-fry.  I also want to cook more Moroccan food (perhaps a couscous and a tagine are in order).  So I just wanted to let you know that I just noticed how American my recipes have skewed of late, and I promise to try to balance it all out ASAP.

Ricotta Gnocchi

Ricotta gnocchi sounds delicious, doesn't it?  It brings to mind light, fluffy, pillowy goodness.  And when I found this recipe on Mark Bittman's blog on the NY Times, I couldn't resist making it.  Who knew homemade gnocchi was so easy to make?  Anyway, these gnocchi were pillowy and delicious, but they were far from light.  Instead they were very rich.  And I mean very very rich.  Then again, if I had really thought about it, I would have expected them to be rich - they were essentially made of cheese (ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano), eggs, and flour, and then tossed with butter.  It's kind of a given that they would be rich.  I have had actual potato gnocchi that somehow seemed lighter to me (or at least less rich).  But, regardless of how rich they were, these gnocchi are delicious and full of cheesy goodness.  I think I will add a few more sage leaves in the future (we used the 10 that Mark Bittman called for) because I didn't get quite as much sage flavor as I wanted.  Instead the dish tasted almost exclusively of browned butter and cheese.  Which isn't really a bad thing if you think about it...

Recipe after the jump!