Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baked Pork Chops with Swiss Chard

Sometimes you need a dinner that you can just throw in the oven and walk away from.  This is one of the best recipes I have found for baked pork chops.  You don't have to stuff the pork chops or babysit them.  Instead you toss a mixture of Swiss chard and cheese, and then top it with two pork chops simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  If you really want to get fancy you could brine the pork chops first, but I don't think it's totally necessary if you're using nice pork chops.  We used two organic center-cut, bone-in duBreton pork chops.  If you can find them, they are really nice - tender, juicy, and more flavorful than your average grocery store pork chop.  Even if you can't find duBreton products, you should try to get center-cut, bone-in pork chops because they really are that much tastier and the bone keeps the pork moist.  Granted, they take a little longer to cook, but it's well worth the extra few minutes of cooking time.  Anyway, this recipe came from a basic Food & Wine recipe that we first made about two years ago.  The first time we made it, it was a little bland.  When you managed to get a little bit of everything in one bite, it was pretty good, but the individual components were a little boring.  So we jazzed it up a little by adding onions, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic and more cheese.  Those simple additions made all of the difference.  This dish is something that I would serve for any family dinner.  It's relatively healthy (with lean pork instead of a fattier meat and a mountain of Swiss chard), quick and easy to throw together, and very tasty.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seared Tuna with Green Onion-Wasabi Sauce

I went on a grocery shopping spree the other day at Fairway and on a whim ended up popping into Citarella to see what they had at their fish counter because I have been craving fish recently.  I have this halibut recipe that I have been wanting to try, but after I saw the ahi tuna loin the Citarella fishmonger was handling I had to buy it.  I don't cook tuna often at home because it's kind of pricey and you can't be cheap about it because you really need to get high quality tuna to be able to sear it lightly and leave it raw in the center, but every once in awhile you just have to indulge.  And while it wasn't cheap by any means, the tuna at Citarella was actually cheaper than the organic Scottish salmon and various types of sea bass.  There were a few different seared tuna recipes that I considered making (including a recipe for Seared Tuna with Olive-Tapenade Vinaigrette and Arugula, and another for African Adobo-Rubbed Tuna Steaks), but ended up with this one because it was the only recipe I found where we already had everything.  I just couldn't deal with going to the grocery store again.  Both of my standard seared tuna recipes were out of the question because of missing ingredients and I really wanted something quick and easy.

This recipe was good, but not my favorite seared tuna recipe.  The sauce was both too watery and too harsh at the same time.  Every once in awhile you would get this sinus-searing burst of horseradish.  And then the next bite would be bland and watery.  I liked the combination of the seared tuna and the cucumber.  I served the tuna with some forbidden black rice because I thought the nuttiness of the rice would provide a good foil to the fish.  Overall the dish wasn't a failure, but it wasn't a smashing success either.  Next time I will probably revert back to one of my go-to seared tuna recipes.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thai Turkey Burgers

While walking to work yesterday, it occurred to me that instead of making larb with the ground turkey I had in the fridge, I should make Thai turkey burgers incorporating the flavors of larb.  By the time I got to work I had the recipe all worked out in my head - about 1/4 cup of herbs, some shallots, some scallions, lime zest, fish sauce and a spicy sriracha mayo.  So I sent Alex an email telling him that we were having Thai turkey burgers for dinner.  But we agreed to make the burgers tonight instead of yesterday since we already had dinner plans yesterday and he was already having burgers from Five Guys for lunch.  I had to ask him after dinner tonight which burgers he preferred - his Five Guys bacon cheeseburger with jalapenos, grilled onions, and BBQ sauce, or our Thai turkey burgers.  His answer?  Our turkey burgers!  He almost seemed a little mystified by the fact that he liked them as much as he did, since turkey burgers can get a little dry and lack the inherent hearty flavor of beef.  But these burgers were very flavorful, as well as moist.  The addition of herbs and lime zest made the burgers bright and fresh, while the fish sauce and shallots added flavor and kept them very moist.  This is the type of recipe where you could (and should) whip up a double batch and then freeze the extra burgers to cook in the future.  They really are that good.  I know it's kind of hard to believe that turkey burgers would be worth the extra batch, but I honestly think they are.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lemongrass Bars with Coconut Shortbread Crust

It's not often that I obsess over a dessert recipe, but I am mildly obsessed over this one.  Usually when I bake something, I have a few pieces and then happily bring the rest into work for my coworkers.  I might actually eat my way through these lemongrass bars because they are so good.  And Alex might actually go toe-to-toe with me for the last piece, which has literally never happened before.  The filling is creamy and lemony (it reminds me of a more floral/aromatic version of a lemon curd due to the addition of the lemongrass) - a little sweet and a little tart.  I don't usually like lemon bars because I find the filling to be overly sweet and goey, but this one is great.  It tastes fresh and bright, and not at all syrupy.  Not only is the filling good, but the crust is wonderfully buttery and crumbly.  I have never made a shortbread crust for a bar cookie before, but it's totally genius.  I also love the mild coconut flavor in the crust.  When we took the pan out of the oven and I really got a whiff of the fully baked dessert I knew I was in for a treat.  I knew they would be good, but I didn't realize they would be this good.

Recipe after the jump!

Stir-Fried Thai Rice Flake Noodles with Duck

Sometimes after I have a particularly delicious meal I start thinking about how I could make it at home, or at least incorporate some of the flavor profiles and combinations of ingredients into what I make at home.  Some dishes I take one bite of and know that they are so far out of my league that it's not even worth trying.  That happens a lot in NYC because we run into all sorts of situations where there are ingredients I just know we can't find, or we don't have an immersion circulator or any of the other tools necessary to test out some of the more molecular gastronomy-influenced dishes at home.  This dish from Thai Market (they called it Kui Teiw Kua Ped) was one that I knew I couldn't replicate exactly at home because I just don't have that much experience with Thai cuisine and this was a Thai dish that I had never tasted or seen before (or since for that matter).  So how do you replicate that?  All I knew was that the dish had flat rice noodles, shredded piece sof duck, egg, beansprouts, red onion, and scallions.  I want to say that there were some other greens mixed in, but I could be remembering incorrectly.  The sauce was savory and a little on the sweet side, with just a hint of spice.  And they served the noodles with either a lime or lemon wedge for some brightness.

So I picked up some Thai rice flake noodles from Bangkok Center Grocery, some Chinese flowering chives from Hong Kong Supermarket, defrosted some duck breasts, and tried to make a variation on the Thai Market noodles.  So no, these noodles weren't exactly like the ones at Thai Market, but they were a pretty good variation thereon.  Alex and I both really liked them.  They had a surprising amount of peanut flavor given that about 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts were added in at the very end and there were no other peanut or nut components to the dish.  I thought that the balance of ingredients to noodles was perfect - each bite had some noodles and then some veggies or egg or duck.  I hate it when you go to a Thai restaurant and order pad thai and you end up with a plate full of noodles, a little egg, 3-4 shrimp on top and that's it.  I like my stir-fries to be more substantial and varied than that.  Here we succeeded perfectly.  I might play around with the marinade and sauce ingredients a bit, just to see what happens, and try out normal rice noodles instead of rice flakes, but I think that this basic recipe was really good.  So I can consider this attempt at replicating a dish at home a success.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Co.'s Roasted Beet Salad with Arugula and Pepitas

Ever since last weekend I have been thinking about attempting to make Co.'s beet salad at home.  I just thought that the combination of the peppery arugula, salty crunchy pepitas, scallions and sweet roasted beets was genius.  I'm not sure what kind of vinaigrette Co. used on the salad, but I thought that a bright lemony vinaigrette with some parsley would be the perfect complement.  So I threw the beets in the oven, ran to the grocery store to pick up more ingredients for my Zucchini Souffle, and made my version of the Co. beet salad.  And I thought that in terms of flavors, I really nailed it.  No, it doesn't replicate the salad from Co. exactly, but that wasn't what I was trying to do.  I just wanted to put something together that would be a nice addition to our salad repertoire - bright, fresh, healthy and delicious.  And I accomplished that.  I wish I had roasted the beets just a few minutes longer - ours were a little on the al dente side, but that was my bad.  I think that if the beets had been properly roasted they would have added a little extra sweetness to the salad that would have made the salad even more delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Zucchini Souffle

I was feeling particularly ambitious today and decided to make a zucchini souffle for lunch.  I have no idea what inspired me to make a souffle.  It's one of the few things that I have stayed away from in the kitchen.  I don't want to say that souffles intimidate me, but that's definitely part of it.  In all honestly, the main reason that I stay away from souffles is that I'm just not certain that they are really worth the effort.  It takes a lot of work (and a lot of mixing bowls) to make this dish.  But every once in awhile you have to really push yourself.  This is probably the last souffle I will be making for awhile.  Don't get me wrong, it was delicious.  But man we used up nearly every utensil and bowl in the kitchen to prepare this dish.  And it took awhile to put it together.  If I were to make the dish again, I would probably mince the onion because I thought in some ways the chopped pieces of onion detracted a teensy bit from the light and fluffy souffle.  While the zucchini and cheese melted into the souffle, the onions didn't.  I might also consider adding a touch of fresh thyme because I think that zucchini and thyme pair very well together.  I thought that the flat-leaf parsley was a nice addition, but I think that a touch of thyme would be even nicer.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shrimp with Zucchinis

This is one of those recipes that I have proposed making several times and yet, for whatever reason, we never got around to it.  But last night I decided enough was enough and we made the shrimp tonight.  Part of the reason I found the recipe so appealing was that it came together so quickly, and used a lot of pantry and refrigerator staples.  We always have shrimp in the freezer and during the summer we tend to have lots of zucchini in the apartment.  I know it's not summer yet (actually it was pretty freezing in NYC today so I could almost swear that it's actually still winter), but zucchini is one of those ingredients that you can get at any grocery store, anytime.

I really enjoyed this recipe.  It was a great fresh and flavorful Indian dish.  Actually, when I took my first bite, the first thing that I thought was that the flavor profile didn't really strike me as Indian.  All of the spices and ingredients are fairly typical of Indian food, but somehow the combination didn't scream Indian food to me.  That's merely an observation and not a complaint.  And I guess it really shows how little I know about Indian food.  There are so many types of Indian food outside of the tandoori chicken and curries that show up all over the country (including the freezer section of most grocery stores).  I guess that means Alex and I need to start cooking a lot more Indian food...  Anyway, back to tonight's dish.  The shrimp and zucchini pick up a ton of tomato and lemon flavor, tempered with a hit of of cilantro and chilis.  I really liked the heat from the combination of the green chili (serrano in this case) and the cayenne.  If you don't like spicy food you should remove the seeds from your green chili and just use 1/4 tsp cayenne.

Recipe after the jump!

Bayona House Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roast chicken breasts with a simple side salad and fresh bread is one of our favorite meals.  There is something comforting and satisfying about a really good roast chicken.  The dish is a fundamental component of the American repertoire.  Our go-to recipe for roast chicken breasts is Alex's Roast Chicken.  We have found that it is the best recipe to get crispy skin, succulent chicken, and flavorful drippings.  Usually we pair our roast chicken breasts with a simple arugula salad and call it a night, but seeing as we had arugula for lunch and dinner already this week, I wanted to do something different to go with our chicken breasts.  Our Susan Spicer cookbook has some great salads (like the Bayona Caesar Salad we made back in February) and has become my go-to cookbook when I want to try out a new salad recipe.  I was flipping through the cookbook while trying to figure out what we should make with our roast chicken breasts for dinner, and I came across this recipe for Bayona House Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.  It seemed like a very simple salad, with a slight twist, which was exactly what I was looking for.  And then I gave the salad even more of a twist by topping it with Rogue Creamery's Smokey Blue Cheese, which I saw in Fairway and decided sounded interesting.  Apparently Smokey Blue Cheese is a Roquefort-style cheese that is cold-smoked for 16 hours over hazelnut shells to give it a unique distinctively smokey, but not overwhelming, flavor.  I really thought this cheese was fantastic.  It brought a whole new level of flavor to the salad.  I think that the salad would have been good with any good blue cheese, but it really sang with the Smokey Blue.  I thought that the dressing, with its combination of balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, evoo and fresh lemon juice was really nice.  I definitely preferred it to your textbook balsamic vinaigrette because it had a nice balance of sweetness and acidity.  And I thought the vinaigrette was really nice with the Satur Farms mesclun because it didn't overpower the delicate lettuces and greens.  Our only complaint about the salad was that we wished we had topped the salad with some toasted pecans or walnuts or homemade croutons to give the salad some texture.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Seared Steak with Rosemary and Broccoli Rabe

Sometimes you reach into the fridge to start dinner and you magically have everything you need.  Sometimes you go to cook a recipe and realize that everything you thought you had, you were actually out of, and everything you bought at the store was duplicitous because you already had it.  This was one of those times where I magically had everything I needed.  Alex told me that I have to stop writing posts and picking recipes by what ingredients luckily show up in my cabinets.  But I can't help it because this is another one of those meals.  For no particular reason I took two NY strips out of the freezer on Wednesday to defrost.  And then I just happened to pick up broccoli rabe from Fairway on Thursday, which is strange because we almost never make broccoli rabe.  The same goes for rosemary.  We typically have fresh thyme, not fresh rosemary, but I bought the rosemary for the Turkey Sausage, Red Onion and Shiitake Mushroom Pizza so we have been using rosemary for random recipes all week.  And for the record, I am pretty proud of us for sticking with my proclamation that we were going to turn over a non-Asian leaf.  Alex and I love Asian cuisine.  We argue over which Asian cuisine is actually the best, but we both agree that Asian cuisine is by far our favorite cuisine overall.  So an entire week of no Asian food is something of a feat!  Maybe next week we will throw in an Asian recipe or two, but try to mix it up a little more than we did in February and March...

So back to our steak.  I love a good steak about once a month, whether it is flank steak or skirt steak or a nice thick porterhouse.  We had NY strips this time because a few months ago we went to Costco and picked up a ridiculous number of NY strips.  I don't generally pair steaks with rosemary, but that is about to change.  I really thought these steaks were nicely flavored and nicely cooked.  I have never cooked a steak this way, by searing it on both sides, and then reducing the heat to cook it through.  I also really liked the method of deglazing the pan and topping the steak with pan juices, before cooking the broccoli rabe in the same pan.  The broccoli rabe absorbs a lot of flavor, but has a bitter and assertive enough flavor to stand up to the meaty steak.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chickpea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan and Fresh Herbs

Strangely enough when I was flipping through the April issue of Bon Appetit, this was the first recipe that caught my eye.  I say strangely enough because there are all sorts of exotic and delicious-sounding recipes in there.  Why in the word did I immediately focus on a simple chickpea salad?  To be perfectly honest, I have no idea.  I love chickpeas.  And I love basil.  It just seemed like the perfect easy lunch.  I decided that rather than just serving the chickpeas, I would serve the salad atop a bed of baby arugula.  For my portion I also threw on a nice tuna fillet but Alex is not a fan of tuna fish so that is his tuna-less bowl pictured above.  The dressing for this salad contains the exact same flavor profile as the Lemon Fettucine with Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, and yet I found this salad to be deliciously bright and fresh, whereas I found the sauce for the pasta to be harsh and overpowering.  I think it all comes down to the proportions of the lemon juice with the evoo.  Here there was close to the same amount of lemon juice and evoo.  In the pasta there was a substantially greater amount of lemon juice than evoo.  We also used a better quality evoo in this salad than in the pasta and that definitely made a difference.

Recipe after the jump!

Lemon Fettucine with Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I was sitting at my desk wondering what to make for dinner last night when I saw a really nice picture of "Lemon Spaghetti" on Tastespotting from the blog Plum Pie.  I had been thinking about making some sort of pasta and this just seemed like a nice, fresh, vegetarian option.  Best of all, we had all of the ingredients in the fridge or the cabinet.  So I sent the link to Alex and told him that he was in charge of dinner since I was going to be home late.  When I got home, the pasta was just about ready to serve - all we had to do was toss the sauce and pasta together and make dress the arugula salad.  Alex and I are in disagreement about this recipe.  I feel like that is happening more often of late.  He really liked the pasta.  He loves lemons.  He sucks on lemon wedges  I would never do that.  I find lemons overwhelmingly sour.  Anyway, I found the pasta to be a little... harsh.  Harsh isn't exactly the right word, but I'm not sure what other word to use.  There was a lot of acidity from the lemon juice and the slow roasted tomatoes.  The whole dish just seemed acidic and a little one dimensional for me.  I wish there had been a bit more basil flavor.  And while I generally love crushed red pepper flakes in pastas, I didn't care for them here.  They also contributed to the harshness for me.  And as for the slow roasted tomatoes, I think they would have been better if we had removed the seeds and roasted them for just a few more minutes to dry them out a little more.  I wish I got more of the flavor from the basil.  I didn't think it came through enough for me.  If I could start over from scratch, I would make the Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil instead because I found them to be somewhat comparable vegetarian pasta dishes that you can throw together with your pantry staples, and yet the Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil was just so much better.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Roast Purple Fingerling Potatoes with King Oyster Mushrooms

The other day at the Greenmarket I came across some beautiful purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes.  These things were the craziest, most gorgeous purple inside and out.  So I bought a pound.  And then I brought them home and realized I didn't know what to do with my little potatoes.  We don't eat a ton of potatoes in our apartment because I am just not that into them.  Alex, being the good little Polish-Irish boy that he is, loves potatoes.  I'm fairly indifferent.  But when we were on vacation with my family, my mother made us Jalapeno-Roasted Potatoes for dinner one night and they were actually pretty good.  So when I saw the pretty purple potatoes at the Greenmarket I decided that I should give fingerling potatoes another try. 

I have to admit that I still just don't get the roast potato - fingerling or otherwise.  Potatoes (without a ton of salt and other seasonings) are just so heavy and bland.  We tossed these potatoes in shallots, garlic, rosemary, evoo and s&p.  And then we roasted them to get them nice and crispy.  I accidentally set the temperature on the oven to 475 instead of 450 so we roasted the potatoes a little too long and they were a little dry.  They were dry enough that we topped them with some fresh ricotta cheese from Eataly to give the dish some moisture.  I had originally planned to top the potatoes with some poached or fried eggs (kind of like a hash), so that the egg yolk could ooze down over the potatoes and form a sort of sauce.  But in the end I decided against the eggs - mostly because I got lazy.  And in the end I think the eggs would just have made the dish feel heavier.  If we had cooked the potatoes correctly it would have been a much better dish.  However, I still think it would have been a bit bland.  I think that if you roasted the potato mixture alongside a whole chicken the drippings from the chicken would give the potatoes and mushrooms some much needed moisture and flavor.  Without what Alex and I like to call the "chicken juju" the potatoes were just missing something.  But they remained a very pretty purple color, so at least they were nice to look at?

Recipe (and a picture of the potatoes right after we cleaned them and halved them) after the jump!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Turkey Sausage, Red Onion, and Shiitake Mushroom Pizza

Meal number one in the new, non-Asian leaf we have turned over - pizza.  And a great pizza at that.  Restaurant-quality pizza.  For which I give a lot of the credit to the sausage and the dough.  The turkey sausage came from DiPaolo Turkey Farm at the Greenmarket and I think it is better than most pork Italian sausages.  Their turkey sausage is just so incredibly flavorful and somehow is less dry than other turkey sausages.  It has a ton of fennel seed and other spices to really make it special.  If the sausage hadn't been so flavorful the pizza wouldn't have been nearly as good.  The same goes for the dough (which I picked up from Eataly) - because the cooked pizza crust had the perfect taste and texture.  I guess some of the credit there goes to the pizza stone too.  That pizza stone is a pain in the butt and weighs a ton, but it can really make a difference to your meal.  Aside from the dough, the pizza just had a really nice flavor profile.  The onions gave the pizza some sweetness, the sausage gave it spice and a certain meatiness, and then the mushrooms made the pizza taste earthy and hearty.  I also loved the hint of fresh rosemary in every bite. 

The taste of this pizza had almost nothing to do with our skill as chefs, and everything to do with the quality of the ingredients.  I'm calling this pizza my quasimodo pizza since there was a bit of an incident when I transferred the pizza onto the pizza stone.  Generally Alex and I roll out the dough on a cutting board, then using the rolling pin we transfer the pizza to the back of a cookie sheet that has been liberally dusted with cornmeal.  The cornmeal acts like little ball bearings and turns the cookie sheet into a ghetto pizza peel.  But due to the weight of the toppings the pizza stretched out while I was trying to transfer it from the cookie sheet to the pizza stone, and so the stretched out pizza ended up flopping off the end of the stone.  I took a spatula and flipped the extra crust back on top of the pizza and called it a day.  So I may not be a perfect pizza chef, but who cares when the results are this tasty?

Recipe after the jump!


I have to say that it has been very good food weekend.  Saturday Alex and I had some really nice Thai with his family, then we hit Co. for dinner.  Sunday we found ourselves in the West Village around lunchtime and we decided to go to Taim for lunch.  I have never beer to Taim before, but I have been trying to visit for years.  When I was at NYU I ate a lot of falafel sandwiches at Mamoun's because it was close to campus and cheap.  But every time I ate at Mamoun's I would think about how one day when I had more time I should venture over to Taim.  And I finally got my chance.  So Alex and I decided to try out two of their different types of falafel - the original "green" falafel and the harissa falafel.  On a whim I decided to also order a side of fried eggplant.  I have never had eggplant with this texture - it was crispy on the outside and very tender on the inside.  Considering the fact that eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge and becomes quite heavy, this eggplant was incredibly light.  As for the falafel, it was by far the best falafel that I have ever tasted.  The texture was mindblowing - with a crunchy exterior and a very tender interior.  The fresh herbal flavors of the green falafel were really nice, but the harissa falafel was amazing.  I loved the slightly spicy harissa falafel balls with the addition of the cabbage and the Israeli salad.  It was brilliant. 

More pictures after the jump!


Co. is one of the many restaurants in NYC that I visited with friends and then never got around to revisiting with Alex.  Luckily this weekend I finally had my chance!  After the Get Real NY Craft Beer & Food Festival we were heading home when Alex asked me if I wanted a slice of pizza for dinner.  It occurred to me that we were only a few blocks away from Co. - Jim Lahey's pizza restaurant in Chelsea, so we headed over there to share a pie (they don't serve pizza by the slice and call all of their pizzas "pies").  And once we were there Alex requested the stracciatella pizza with crushed tomato, stracciatella cheese, arugula and black pepper.  I had been thinking of something more along the lines of their meatball pizza or the fennel and coppa pizza, but sure.  I love arugula.  And I have been talking about eating less meat (or at least about eating more vegetables), so I figured why not.  Then we got the pizza bianca appetizer with ricotta (because you absolutely have to get that if you are there), and the beet salad (pictured above) to squeeze in a few more veggies.  I loved the beet salad - I thought that the combination of the beets, scallions, arugula and pumpkin seeds was pure genius.  I might steal it and try to make something similar at home!  Beets can seem a little heavy, but the entire salad just tasted so bright and fresh.  The pizza was similarly delicious.  I really love arugula on pizza and I love the crust at Co.  It's blistered and charred to perfection, with a crisp exterior and a tender, chewy interior.  Some fancy pizza places tend to have crusts that get all floppy and soggy in the center from the toppings, but not Co.

Another picture after the jump!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Panfried Pork and Scallion Mini Buns (Sheng Jian Baozi)

On Saturday I told Alex that we should take a break from making so much Asian food and try some other cuisines.  I know that back in November I promised to make more Asian recipes, but maybe I took it a little too far...  So now I am going to try to make more varied cuisine - next up on deck are some Italian and American meals.  And then maybe more Middle Eastern and who knows what after that?  Anyway, to celebrate this resolution, I decided to go all out and make one last Chinese meal using my new Andrea Nguyen cookbook - Panfried Pork and Scallion Mini Buns.  I will go on record and say that this recipe is crazily labor-intensive.  It took hours for us to make the filling, then make the dough, then wrap the buns, and finally cook them.  It didn't help that there was about an hour of rising time for the dough.  Anyway, if you are going to make this dish for dinner you really want to start by 5 pm, rather than doing what we did by starting at 7 and finally eating at 10 pm.  Otherwise you get hungrier and hungrier while folding the buns and you start to feel like you won't be eating the buns for dinner, but for breakfast the next day.

So it was a bit of a late dinner, but it was totally worth it.  These buns are awesome - much better than the version I had last at Vanessa's Dumpling House on the LES.  I will probably roll the dough a little thinner next time because some of of the buns were a little doughy, but seeing as this was our first attempt at the buns, I think we did a darn good job.  Alex said that the buns were "kind of awesome" and I honestly agree with him.  They remind me of the buns I used to eat in China.  The filling was tasty and juicy, the dough fried up very nicely, and all together it made for an excellent meal.  We served the buns with some baby bok choy we made like the Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce.  What a wonderful way to end to a fantastic streak of Asian meals!

Recipe after the jump

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Get Real NY Craft Beer & Food Festival

I love beer.  And if it's possible, Alex loves beer even more than I do.  Actually, it's definitely possible because his love for beer is verging on obsession.  Anyway, New York is great because there are beer festivals all year long.  Every September we have NY Craft Beer Week and the rest of the year features various smaller events.  This weekend was the Get Real NY Craft Beer & Food Festival.  We went back and forth on attending because Alex's family is in the town this weekend, but we ended up deciding to just go for it.  The fun thing about this beer festival is that not only could you sample lots of different craft beers from different breweries, you could also sample food from twenty or so NYC restaurants.  Some of our favorite restaurants/stores were represented - shrimp rolls from Luke's Lobster (which were probably my favorite bite of the evening), chicken or pork tacos from Cascabel Taqueria (the pork tacos were my second favorite bite), pork sausages from Jimmy's No. 43, and cheeses from Murray's Cheese.  

And then there was the beer.  I think we tried roughly 16-20 beers (including the one pictured above).  Alex's two favorite beers were both by Williams Brothers Brewery - a Scottish brewery.  We tried their Fraoch Heather Ale and their Alba (a Scots Pine and Spruce Ale).  I will agree with Alex that their beers were by far the most distinctive of the bunch.  The Fraoch was strangely sour (but in a good way).  We actually had a pine ale a few weeks ago at What Happens When, so the Alba Ale wasn't nearly as surprising.  His next favorite beer was a "robust porter" that Bierkraft aged in a Tuthilltown Baby Bourbon barrel.  Otherwise we tried a bunch of IPAs (including Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA and Ballast Point Sculpin IPA), a bunch of pale ales (Lagunitas New Dogtown Pale Ale was one of the better ones), a few porters (including Stone Brewing Smoked Porter with Vanilla, which they were pairing with dark chocolate in a tasting panel we sat in on for a few minutes, and the Ridgeway Querkus) and a bunch of totally random beers.  There were just too many to remember.  Some of our more unusual beers (aside from the Williams Bros. beers I already mentioned), were the Ridgeway Querkus (a smoked porter) and the Sixpoint Righteous Rye.  I'm not enough of a beer snob that I could tell you about the flavor profiles of the beers, but I know what I like.  And this was a really fun way to try a bunch of new beers - several of which I have never seen before.

Guinness Stout Ginger Cake

While searching for an Irish recipe to make for St Patrick's last year I came across several dessert recipes involving Guinness.  Last February we made a Chocolate Guinness Cake for a dinner party, so it wasn't the first time we had baked using Guinness.  And when I originally found that recipe I stumbled upon a few other recipes that sounded interesting.  This was one of them.  The other recipe that I really wanted to make was one for Chocolate Guinness Goodness - basically a chocolate pudding recipe with Guinness in it and then fresh Guinness-infused whipped cream on top to mimic a pint of actual Guinness.  I don't know if I will actually like the taste of it, but I love the idea.  However we decided to make a Guinness Stout Ginger Cake from Gramercy Tavern tonight.  Having held onto this recipe for an entire year I was pretty excited to finally have the chance to make it.

Like many gingerbreads, this cake is deep and heavily scented with spices, but not very sweet.  Without a scoop of vanilla ice cream, I'm not sure that I would consider this cake to be a dessert.  I originally wanted some Haagen-Dazs Five ginger ice cream, but they didn't have any at the store.  On second thought, that might have been ginger overload so maybe it's a good thing that we had to substitute Tahitian vanilla gelato.  Also according to Alex the spices are almost harsh when you eat the cake by itself.  The vanilla gelato helps to tame them a bit.  The Guinness and oil kept the cake incredibly moist.  They also gave the cake a very fluffy/spongy crumb - almost like devil's food cake, and a wonderful crust on top.  This cake would be the perfect dessert for afternoon tea (or coffee) - or the perfect anytime dessert for people who don't like things too sweet.  I wish I had read the reviews of the recipe online because if I had, I would have known to pour the batter into two 9x5 loaf pans, rather than just one (the recipe called for just one).  Halfway through the baking process I told Alex that I wasn't sure if I liked the burnt/bitter smell of the cake, which we attributed to the molasses.  It turns out that the cake basically erupted and overflowed all over the oven.  And then the excess batter burnt to a crisp, which meant that when we opened the oven the first thing we saw and smelled was cake cinders.  Oops.  Next time if I make this recipe, I am either going to use two 9x5 pans, or a large bundt pan so that we avoid the smell of burnt cake and the subsequent cleanup.  Also, you need to watch the Guinness-molasses mixture while boiling it because it goes from simmering, to boiling over in a heartbeat.  Apparently this recipe is prone to overflowing in all kinds of ways.  Luckily Alex was watching ours so he prevented that mess from crusting itself to our stove top.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cold Sesame Noodles

Cold Sesame Noodles is a traditional Sichuan dish that seems to have made its way onto almost every Chinese restaurant menu and more than a few buffet or picnic lunch tables around the country.  The dish is simple to prepare, inexpensive, and quite tasty.  It is also the perfect lunch or dinner on a hot summer day.  It's not quite summer yet, but with temperatures in NYC in the low 70's today it was downright balmy.  Neither Alex nor I wanted to slave over a hot stove to make a complex dish this evening, so we cooked up some frozen dumplings from Flushing and threw together these noodles.  It seemed like the perfect quick and easy Chinese meal for a warm lazy night.

One word of advice when making these noodles is to make sure that your noodles drain pretty well before tossing them in your sauce.  We got a little impatient and tossed the noodles into the sauce while the noodles were still fairly wet, so the sauce didn't coat the noodles and stick to them as much as it could or should have.  Oops.  We also used the wrong kind of noodles (the only noodles we had were Chinese egg noodles, but they were the super thin variety that you use in wonton mee or in pan-fried noodles).  I suggested just using spaghetti but Alex wanted to use the Chinese egg noodles.  Even with the wrong noodles, it was a really delicious dish.  Alex kept dipping his fingers in the sauce and then licking his fingers while I was working on the noodles themselves.  He also repeated several times that the sesame sauce was "surprisingly tasty."  It didn't occur to me until after we had finished eating that I had forgotten the cucumber matchsticks that I intended to add to the pasta.  The next time we make this dish (and for the record there will be a next time), I won't leave the cucumbers out because they give the dish a nice crunch and fresh, cool flavor.  Make that I won't leave the cucumbers out intentionally but when it comes down to it I might just forget again.  I do that sometimes.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stout and Cheddar Rarebit with Fried Eggs

Happy St Patrick's Day!  I don't know much of anything about Irish food, except that it involves potatoes, corned beef and cabbage.  And anything involving Guinness has to be Irish, right?  At least that was my thought process when I picked this recipe for dinner.  I briefly considered making short ribs braised in Guinness, but that just seemed so heavy.  So I went to Epicurious and searched recipes using Guinness and this was what I came up with.  Apparently a rarebit (or a Welsh rarebit) is toast topped with a sauce made of beer, mustard and cheese.  Who knew?

Anyway, I'm not sure how I felt about this dish.  Alex really liked this.  I love toast with fried eggs.  I love eggs benedict.  Bread with any sort of runny egg yolk is awesome.  That holds true for this dish.  And I really liked the pickled onions with watercress too.  They gave the dish a nice brightness and acidity.  Like the parsley salad most restaurants serve with bone marrow, they also served to cut through the richness of the dish.  Plus the pickled onions provided some sweetness.  The element that confused me was the sauce.  I'm not sure if I could taste the Guinness in the cheese sauce.  Nor could I really taste that the cheese was actually extra sharp white cheddar cheese.  It was savory and a little earthy.  Also as it started to cool down the sauce started to congeal a little.  I think the dish definitely needed a sauce.  But I have to admit that I like an old-fashioned hollandaise and eggs benedict better. 

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Squid and Rice Vermicelli Salad with Ginger-Garlic Dressing

This recipe was adapted from the Squid with Ginger-Garlic Sauce recipe from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  We were originally going to follow the recipe as written and then I got the brilliant idea that rather than making the squid and then a random side dish, we should make the squid into a squid salad with some noodles.  I don't know.  It made sense in my head (and I contend that it would have made sense outside of my head too).  Anyway, it made sense, but it felt like the dish was missing something.  It was a nice and flavorful dish, not to mention light and healthy.  I just wished that there was something else to give the dish a little more texture and flavor.  Perhaps some fried shallots or peanuts for crunch?  Alex votes for peanuts.  I might have to agree with him.  The calamari itself had a ton of flavor, particularly given that it was basically just poached and tossed in a mixture of lime juice, s&p, and fresh herbs.  It also had a nice texture - a little chewy, but very tender.  The dressing (which was originally intended to be served with the calamari as a dipping sauce) had some serious kick to it.  I guess the jalapeno we threw in there was particularly fiery.  I find hot jalapenos to be much spicier than your average serrano chili and this one was HOT.  But I ate my plate full of salad and was left wanting more.  Not more calamari salad, but something else.  Something crunchy - perhaps a fritter of some sort or some prawn crackers.  Actually, I think if you served this salad with a plate of freshly fried prawn crackers that would be a fantastic meal.  Oh well.  Maybe next time!

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Merguez Sausage with Kale and Couscous

Merguez sausage was one of the discoveries that I made soon after moving to NYC.  Most specialty markets, and some regular grocery stores, stock D'Artagnan sausages, including the merguez sausages that I usually buy.  I generally pair their merguez sausages with our standard couscous that I cook in chicken stock and then mix with sauteed onions, currants, toasted pine nuts and cilantro.  But since we had a big bunch of kale in the fridge I decided to mix it up and make the couscous and top it with some sauteed kale.  So instead of adding the onions and currants to the cilantro, I used them to flavor the kale.  I also added a pinch of a few different seasonings that I tend to associate with Moroccan food to give the sauteed kale more flavor.  I liked the addition of the kale, but I think that in the future I will return to our tried and true merguez sausage and couscous combination.  Or I would do some combination of the two.  In the future I might throw the kale in with the couscous, along with the currants, cinnamon, cumin and crushed red pepper flakes.  Or something along those lines.  Alex and I both enjoyed the spices and flavors of the kale, but weren't sure that it was worth the extra pan and extra work.  With our standard recipe it takes exactly two pans and about 15 minutes for the entire meal to come together.  This version takes 3 pans and 20-25 minutes (which is still a fairly quick cooking meal).  Another alternative is to choose between the two versions depending on our mood and the contents of the fridge.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Luscious Chile-Oil Tofu

So this is a rather strange statement, but I wish Alex and I ate (and cooked) more tofu.  I really enjoy tofu.  It's a little strange considering as a child you couldn't have paid me to touch tofu with a ten foot pole and given that I rarely ate it in China (except mapo tofu and riben tofu - aka Japanese tofu, both of which I love), but there you have it.  I want to cook and eat more tofu - and not just because it's healthy and a good substitute for meat, but because I like tofu.

Anyway, I enjoyed this dish more than Alex did because I like tofu more than Alex does.  I think the only tofu dish he voluntarily orders is mapo tofu.  This tofu has just a hint of heat from the hot chili oil, some nice numbing spice from the Sichuan peppercorns, and the freshness of the scallions.  And then the pork gives it all another layer of flavor and texture.  I wish that the dish had a few more scallions.  Alex agreed with me there.  If I were to make this tofu again I would throw in another scallion or two - probably two.  I might even add in a garlic clove.  Alex as usual wishes the tofu had a little more heat to it, but I'm ok with the level of heat given that the dish includes both hot chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns.  There we can agree to disagree.

Recipe after the jump!

Nepali Green Bean-Sesame Salad

So this is my first ever attempt at making a Nepalese dish.  I actually Googled it (and found this Wikipedia entry) because I had no idea what Nepalese food was really like and I was curious.  The closest type of cuisine that Alex and I can recall trying in the past is Tibetan food.  Both cuisines feature meat dumplings called "momos," although that might be the extent of their similarity.  It seems that Nepalese cuisine is heavily influenced by Indian food, whereas Tibetan food is more heavily influenced by Chinese and Uyghur food, which makes sense given that Nepal is sandwiched between China (Tibet really) and India.  As I have never traveled to either region, I'm really not sure either way.  What I am sure of is that I thoroughly enjoyed this green bean salad.  I know that green bean salad sounds boring, but this was very refreshing.  I thought that the combination of the crisp-tender green beans, the tart lemon juice, the slightly spicy chilis, and the ground toasted sesame seeds was really nice and totally unlike any other green bean dish we have ever made before.  Alex preferred the green beans to the Luscious Chile-Oil Tofu dish we made alongside it, but I have to say that I am torn.  I thought both dishes were pretty tasty!

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sake-Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Scallions

After a week of eating fairly heavy meals on the ski slopes (think chili, hamburgers, tuna melts, curly fries, etc), I am dying for a few weeks worth of lighter, healthier meals.  And since the weather in NYC this week looks like it is going to hit the low 60's - which means that spring is finally coming - lighter, healthier meals seem even more apropos.  So we went to the grocery store today and ended up with about $150 in new groceries (which is surprisingly easy to do in NYC given how ridiculously expensive groceries are), including a whole chicken.  And since the whole chicken was by far the largest item we purchased, we decided to make it for dinner tonight.  I have some other things defrosting in the fridge for later in the week, but you will have to stay posted to see what else we make this week.  I have all sorts of ideas bumbling around in my head, but I'm not sure how many of them will come to fruition.  My menu planning always seems to work a little that way - I write out a week's worth of meals and it is a good week if we actually make 3 or 4 of them.  I guess that's not so bad if you really think about it.

I found this recipe on the NY Times website.  I really enjoy the blogs and recipes that you find on the NY Times.  Some of them are a little out there, but they are all very interesting.  I rarely steam things, partially because until recently we haven't had a pot with a steamer basket.  But we received the All-Clad Stainless Steel Multipot as a wedding gift and it occurred to me that this would be the perfect recipe to experiment with steaming in our new(ish) pot!  I thought that the chicken was good, but not earth-shattering.  Alex and I have made better chicken dishes at home.  Granted, we have also made worse, but let's stick with the positive for now.  The chicken is just barely kissed with the flavor of the sake and the steaming leaves the dark meat from the legs and thighs buttery and moist.  It is so tender that it almost falls off the bone.  The breasts are flavorful, but not as moist as you would hope for.  And I thought that the sauce was a little sweeter and heavier on the citrus flavors than I would have preferred, but when you combined the chicken and the sauce it made a very flavorful and unique combination.  We served the chicken with some black forbidden rice, the nuttiness of which I thought was a great foil to the sweetness and tenderness of the chicken.  All things considered, I would make the dish again, but I would play with the ingredients a bit.  In a lot of ways the dish reminds me of the Poached Chicken with Ginger and Scallion Sauce that we made back in the fall, but seeing as it was some time ago I can't provide a great side-by-side comparison.

Recipe after the jump!

Spinach with Sesame and Garlic

I am always looking for new easy vegetarian side dishes.  When it comes down to it, Alex is usually in favor of forgoing a vegetable side dish to an Asian meal in favor of rice.  As he said to me about 10 minutes ago "rice is a vegetable, it grows."  He usually enjoys the vegetable sides that we make (he particularly likes Sichuan Cucumbers), but as far as Alex is concerned, rice is always the better and easier option.  But sometimes I stick to my guns because I freaking love vegetables and because I am determined that Alex and I try to eat healthier when possible.  I'm totally on board with making pork belly and steak from time-to-time, so long as we balance it out with the occasional vegetarian meal.  I have briefly contemplated doing Meatless Mondays, but sometimes on Mondays I just want fried chicken.  Or a steak.  So long as we commit to having one vegetarian meal a week, I don't think it matters if it is on Monday, Friday, or Sunday.  I will admit that we have been terrible about eating vegetarian meals recently, as we are every winter.  Winter rolls around and I want heavier, fattier foods.  Then spring appears and with it I want salads, vegetables, and more fruit.  As soon as the farmer's markets come back to life I can't wait to experiment with veggies.  Today at the greenmarket behind the American Museum of Natural History I picked up some beautiful purple Peruvian fingerling potatoes and some honeycrisp apples.  As soon as squash season rolls around I will come home with all kinds of squash and eggplant to cook.  But until then, I will have to content myself with the staples that I can pick up in the grocery store - like baby spinach, napa cabbage, arugula, English cucumbers, and mushrooms.

I needed a nice and easy Japanese side dish to go with the Sake-Steamed Chicken we were preparing for dinner and this simple sauteed spinach dish seemed like the easiest choice.  It was my attempt to make goma-ae (spinach with sesame dressing).  The best thing about the recipe is that it is quick and easy to prepare, but flavorful.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Alex and I are back from Colorado!

After a really nice week of skiing in Colorado, Alex and I are finally back in NYC!  I promise that we will have some posts for you soon, but first we need to do some grocery shopping and menu-planning...  So it might take a day or two, but I promise that we will be back with new posts ASAP.  I'm thinking an Asian meal or two (no big surprise there) and then who knows what else?  We haven't made any Middle Eastern meals in awhile so maybe Middle Eastern?  Some good Southern food sounds good too...  I guess we will have to figure it out.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Green Beef Curry with Thai Aubergines (Eggplants)

As our last Southeast Asian meal before heading off to Colorado, I thought it would be a good idea to use up the remaining Thai ingredients - the Thai basil, Thai eggplants and kaffir lime leaves in particular.  The only recipe that I could find that used all of the ingredients, including the Thai eggplants, and didn't require yet another trip to the grocery store was this one.  So we made it.  I know it's a pretty lame reason for choosing a recipe, but sometimes I am lame.  I just can't help it.  And considering we will be leaving tomorrow for an entire week, I really didn't want to go out and buy more ingredients and more groceries.

I guess it is no surprise that this recipe was my least favorite of the six Vietnamese and Thai recipes that we have made over the course of the last week.  I thought that it was the least flavorful, which is kind of surprising considering the punch that our green curry paste packs.  I also thought that the beef got a little tough and didn't absorb much of the curry flavor.  Neither did the eggplant.  I wish that we had lightly salted the eggplant or something before tossing it into the curry.  If the eggplant had simmered in the curry for longer it would have absorbed more flavor.  And if we had used a different cut of beef it would probably have been more tender (and potentially also absorbed more flavor).  I thought that while the recipe was perfectly fine, it was no better than the curry you could find at any of a thousand Thai restaurants around the country.  We have certainly made better curries before and I hope that make even better curries in the future.  I just purchased Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent and I think that it has some Sri Lankan and Indian curries for us to try.  Seeing as the cookbook is by the same authors as Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia (a cookbook we love and have had some real success with), I have high hopes!  I also just bought Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas and More, so get ready for some more dumpling recipes after we return from Colorado! 

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thai Fried Rice

I knew that during our streak of Thai meals I had to make a fried rice.  I love Thai fried rice.  And I love fried rice in general.  But when you're making this many meals with rice, it's inevitable that you will end up with some leftover rice and by the end of the week you should have more than enough leftover rice to whip up a batch of fried rice.  The past few meals have been chicken, beef and shrimp, so I figured we should go back to pork for the fried rice.  Originally I was going to serve the fried rice with either a tom yum soup or maybe some sauteed cabbage on the side, but in the end I decided that the fried rice could stand on its own.  And I'm glad I did.  Because if I had served anything as a side dish to this rice, it would have to be pretty darn good to compete.  Because this fried rice was pretty awesome.  I really liked the spritz of lime juice and the Thai Fish Sauce with Hot Chilis on top of the rice.  It really made the dish.  The freshness of the lime and the salty, spicy flavor of the fish sauce totally brought the rice up to another level in terms of flavor and complexity.  And really brought the whole dish together.  When you cut into the egg yolk and it oozed down into the rice it almost gave the fried rice a sauce and bound it all together.  I generally prefer to cook my egg into thin pancakes and then mix it in with the rice, but I think that for this dish the fried egg with the runny yolk was a much better choice than the egg pancakes.

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Egg, Shrimp and Scallion Pancakes

After the past few meals we made for the blog, all of which were fairly meaty, I was craving an easy seafood option.  This was one of the first options that I came across in my Into the Vietnamese Kitchen cookbook and it seemed perfect - super easy, very few ingredients, and full of yummy shrimp.  At first I thought about making a shrimp stir-fry or another seafood dish (and saving this recipe for another day), but the fact that this recipe was so easy was the deciding factor seeing as I wanted to go to spinning and we had to do laundry tonight too.  There is nothing worse than trying to do laundry while cooking dinner - periodically running down to the laundry room in the basement of the building, having your dinner grow cold while you are grabbing your laundry, and then at the end of the night having a kitchen full of dirty dishes in addition to several laundry baskets full of freshly clean laundry to fold.

This is the type of dish that reminds me of something my grandmother would have made - homey, easy, and filling.  It is not a dish that you would ever find in a restaurant.  The pancakes only require 5 ingredients, plus some soy sauce or fish sauce to serve as a dipping sauce.  We served the pancakes with some of our leftover pickled carrots and daikon from our Vietnamese Noodle Combos with Vietnamese Grilled Pork Balls, but I would typically serve them with some rice.  The beauty of this dish is the simplicity of it all.  It's easy, the flavors are simple, and the pancakes are very satisfying.  It's nostalgic and comforting, like the food that any grandmother would serve.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tom Kha Gai - Take 2 (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)

This variation on tom kha gai comes from our friend Mark (and he in turn stole it from his mother).  We modified it a little to make use of some of the Thai ingredients we picked up at Bangkok Center Grocery on Saturday, but as written the recipe can be made with ingredients you can almost always find in your normal neighborhood grocery stpre.  The only things you need to visit an Asian market to buy are the green curry paste and the fish sauce.  Otherwise you can pick everything you need up in any moderately well-stocked grocery which is awesome for those people who don't have a Thai market in the vicinity.

I really liked this soup.  It was easy to put together, required very few esoteric ingredients, and came together really quickly.  It was also very flavorful.  Rice isn't a traditional addition to tom kha gai (at least not to my knowledge although I don't claim to be an expert on Thai food), but it helps transform the soup from an appetizer to a full and hearty meal.  I guess with the addition of the rice, this soup becomes a combination of a traditional Asian rice soup (like congee in Cantonese food) and a tom kha gai soup.  And for the record, tom kha gai soup is one of my absolute favorite Thai soups - it was one of the first few Thai dishes that I tried and has remained one of the things I love best about Thai cuisine.  The only problem is that tom kha gai is often too sweet or too thin.  Unlike most of those innocuous and overly sweet soups, this one has the lime and coconut flavor, the slight heat, and the freshness of a true tom kha gai soup.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!