Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Red Onion Sambal and Watercress

Unless you're a vegetarian, I'm fairly certain that everyone out there can use another chicken recipe.  I know that I can always use another easy chicken recipe.  I know that I have made yogurt-marinated chicken before, so it's not necessarily a completely groundbreaking thing.  But I love the Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper so much that I couldn't resist trying out a new recipe.  Marinating the chicken in yogurt makes the chicken so moist and gives it such wonderful flavor.  I wish we had a grill on which to cook this chicken, or that we had cooked it in the grill pan to give it some nice char.  We broiled it in our toaster oven (which is nowhere near strong enough to give the chicken any char at all) because our actual broiler is terrifying and so small that the chicken would have been so close to the heating element that it would have burnt to a cinder long before it cooked through.  I wish that we had added some more spice to the marinade to just bring another level of flavor.  Or perhaps added a few extra spices - some garam masala might have been nice.  The flavor of the garlic, scallions and lime is very delicate and gently perfumes the chicken.  I probably like the Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper a little better than these kebabs because the flavors in that dish are a little more pronounced.  I'm definitely glad that we made the sambal with the chicken because it gave some nice heat and another level of more assertive flavor that balanced the more subtle flavors of the chicken.  I wish it had a little more heat, but our serranos just weren't that hot.  But the sambal still had really nice flavor from the lime juice and shallots (and a hint of slowly building heat).  As for the watercress salad, I thought it was a really nice counterpoint to the kebabs.  It was bright and refreshing (and really simple to make), and I think you could serve it with lamb kebabs or any other really meaty dish.  Actually, I think you could serve it on top of a lamb and feta burger and that would be phenomenal as well.

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce and Korean Cucumber Salad

I have been meaning to try out this recipe for awhile.  It wasn't exciting enough to make the list of "must try" recipes, but I bookmarked it a year or two ago for a nebulous future (vegetarian) dinner.  It was something along the lines of an experiment because we have never cooked soft tofu before.  Somehow we always pick out recipes that call for firm tofu.  And this recipe seemed so perfectly simple that it was hard to resist.  Who doesn't love the idea of throwing something in a pot and forgetting about it for awhile?  And by awhile, I mean 5-10 minutes.  According to the recipe you can keep the tofu warm in the simmering water over very low heat for up to 4 hours, so if you wanted to forget it for a few hours, that is an option too.  Either way, simmering the tofu gave it a really nice texture.  I expected it to make the tofu softer and mushier, but instead it seemed to firm it up a little.  It was still definitely soft tofu, but it almost felt like it retained its shape a little better than soft tofu generally does due to the bath in simmering water.  You drizzle the spicy garlic sauce over the warm tofu and voila.  The spicy garlic sauce is really potent and it gave the tofu a lot more flavor than I expected, especially considering the tofu was simply simmered in water without any seasonings.  There wasn't even any salt in there.  Actually, I found the sauce to be a little too salty - perhaps I should have used a low sodium soy sauce or simply cut back on the amount of soy sauce a little.  We did leave the sauce out on the counter for a few hours, which might very well have contributed to the overall saltiness.  Oops.  Our bad.  But it was a very satisfying vegetarian main course.  We served the tofu with a Korean cucumber salad that we found in our cookbook Korean Kitchen and some white rice.  The cucumber salad was nice and fresh and spicy, all at the same time.  It was a really nice side for the tofu and I think it would be a nice accompaniment to any Korean meal.

Recipes after the jump!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hot-and-Sour Prawn Soup (Tom Yum Kung) and Thai Asparagus

There are soups that take forever to cook and then there are soups that come together very quickly, and are so tasty that you would think they took ages.  This soup is one of those soups that comes together in the blink of an eye and yet tastes like you have been simmering the broth all day.  It's sour, spicy, a little funky and a lot delicious.  It's not the best version of tom yum soup I have ever tasted, but it is definitely better than the versions they serve at most neighborhood Thai restaurants.  And it was so easy (and quick) to make!  As for the asparagus, we had already made a variation on the recipe with some haricots verts, so we knew that we liked the flavors.  But since we had some asparagus in the fridge and no real ideas on how to cook it, we thought it was a good opportunity to try out the same recipe as it was written (well, we modified it a little bit, but at least we used the correct vegetable this time).  As with the green beans, the asparagus came together very quickly and easily and tasted pretty good.  I'm not sure whether I liked the green beans or the asparagus better, but part of me thinks that the green beans might have been just a smidge better.  Maybe it's because we have asparagus all the time so the green beans were a nice change from our usual.  Or maybe it's because they were just better.  I'm not really sure.  Regardless of which vegetable is better, the meal was a very nice one that came together quickly and was quite tasty.
Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote with Fresh Mint

Rhubarb was one of the ingredients I had never experienced until I moved to NYC.  My first spring in NYC I noticed that it was on restaurant menus everywhere.  In the past few years I have made a few dishes with rhubarb (like this Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Cardamom and Nutmeg) and I have a few others, including a cake, that I would like to try.  This compote served with vanilla ice cream was the dessert I served with our ribs, coleslaw and cornbread.  It was delicious with the vanilla ice cream.  I loved the slightly tart rhubarb with the strawberries and the fresh mint.  I think the fresh mint is what really made it.  If you like things a little less sweet, I would cut back on the sugar a little.  But a really nice dessert.  I think the compote would work really well on top of some angel food cake or Belgian waffles.  And I'm considering eating it tomorrow for breakfast on top of some Greek yogurt, because why the heck not?

Recipe after the jump!

Cayenne Cinnamon Baby Back Ribs with Maple Glaze, Spicy Coleslaw and Buttermilk Cornbread


A friend came over for dinner this weekend and we decided to make ribs.  We went back and forth for almost an hour trying to decide what to make for dinner - we started with Thai and Indian cuisine and somehow ended up with ribs.  We couldn't think of anything that would be relatively easy to make and wouldn't require too much attention or effort.  Then Alex remembered that I had sent him a recipe from Steamy Kitchen for some baby back ribs about a month ago.  It seemed like a good option because we could just throw it in the oven and go hang out.  Good call hon.  As sides for the ribs we threw together some spicy coleslaw and buttermilk cornbread.  Rather than using one of the recipes that we have made in the past for cornbread (and there have been a few), I decided to try something new.  I wanted a plain, but moist cornbread to go with the ribs and coleslaw.  While puttering around on the internet for some inspiration for the cornbread, I  found a buttermilk cornbread recipe on Allrecipes with some of the strangest directions I have ever seen.  So I decided to go ahead and make it because that's just the way I roll.  We also made dessert, but I will post about that later.

According to Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, there are two camps when it comes to ribs - those who want the meat to be fall off the bone tender, and those who want a little "bite" and "chew" to their ribs.  Alex is decidedly in the second camp.  These ribs are as well.  I tend to like my ribs a little on the more tender side - I don't need the meat to fall right off the bone, but I don't really want any resistance in the meat when I go to bite it off the bone.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, I liked the ribs, thought they were interesting (if a little sweet), but I would probably cook them low and slow next time for a much longer period of time so that they get a little more tender.  I would probably also cut down on the amount of brown sugar slightly since the maple glaze gives the ribs plenty of sweetness.  Considering this was our first attempt at making baby back ribs, I think it went really well.  As far as the spicy coleslaw went, it was vinegary and spicy.  I tend to not like coleslaws that are mayonnaise-based, so I decided to make an apple cider vinegar-based dressing and add just a tiny bit of mayo for creaminess.  If I had thought about it I might have cut back on the vinegar a little bit and maybe added some lime juice.  I also would have adjusted the seasonings.  I saw some recipes for sweet and spicy coleslaw that I might try out next time.  And as for the cornbread, I really enjoyed it.  It was on the sweet side, but I thought that it was really nice.  I might cut back on the amount of sugar just a little bit and throw in some frozen (or fresh) corn for texture and go with it.  The cornbread turned out nice and moist and is a nice basic recipe that you could add a variety of ingredients and flavors to.  I have been considering making a white cheddar, poblano pepper cornbread for awhile and this might be the perfect base recipe to use for that experiment.  I thought it was a really nice summery meal - sweet and spicy ribs, spicy coleslaw and sweet buttermilk cornbread.  It's like a backyard barbeque, in the safety of our NYC apartment.

Recipes after the jump!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Black Market Bistro

Back in high school my best friend's family introduced me to a restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland called Black's Bar and Kitchen.  I loved it so much I took my family and we have been going there ever since.  Sometime when I was in college (or not too long after I graduated), the owners of Black's opened up two additional restaurants in Maryland and DC - Black Market Bistro and Black Salt.  For Father's Day I decided to take my parents to Black Market for dinner.  The last time we went there was back in 2005-2006, before I moved to NYC and I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered.  The last time we went, the dish I remembered loving the most was their New Orleans style shrimp and grits.  I had never heard of shrimp and grits before I went to UNC, but I love them now.  And man did Black Market make an awesome version.  It was just as good as I remembered - creamy, cheesy corn and cheddar grits topped with perfectly cooked and seasoned shrimp and some sauteed veggies.  I couldn't tell if the greens were collards, or something else, but they were nice.  My dad ordered the seared sea scallops special and my mom ordered the Addie's Mussels.  They each had gazpacho for their starter and I tried the wax bean salad (also a special).  Everything we ordered was perfectly cooked and seasoned - the mussels were tender, the shrimp was flavorful and the scallops were meaty and sweet.  I absolutely love this restaurant.  The food is so good - homey, but ten thousand times better than anything you could ever make at home, unless you were a four star chef.  I loved it.  I would kill for a restaurant like that here in NYC.

More pictures after the jump!

Quinoa Cakes

I feel like blog posts about these quinoa cakes have been storming the internet recently, so I'm not going to write a super detailed post, when you could find one here, here or here.  And the more I saw about the quinoa cakes the more interested I was in making them.  I came to the conclusion thatAlex and I should explore some healthy recipes now that it's summer and all, and what could be more healthy than quinoa?  I really enjoyed the texture of the cakes - you got a nice crispy exterior and a nice soft interior.  And I thought they tasted nice and were very satisfying.  However, I think that these cakes would be even better if there was some sort of sauce.  Something to give them a little more flavor and moisture.  I saw people putting fried and poached eggs on top of their quinoa cakes and that sounds like a nice option, but we had scrambled eggs for breakfast and there are already 4 eggs in these bad boys, so I just wasn't feeling the whole egg on top routine.  We served the quinoa cakes with this sugar snap pea salad for a nice healthy lunch.

Recipe after the jump!

Ancho and Cocoa-Rubbed Skirt Steak Tacos

 A long time ago I saw a recipe in Gourmet magazine for carne asada using ancho chili powder, cocoa and cinnamon.  It sounded interesting enough that it stuck with me.  And tonight when I was trying to come up with a spice rub for some tacos I hit up Epicurious (which is my go-to website for finding recipes) until I found the recipe from the May 2009 issue of Gourmet for Ancho and Cocoa Carne Asada.  Score!  I roughly stuck to the proportions of the chili powder-cocoa-cinnamon spice rub and then decided to play around with the toppings.  We pickled some jalapenos and shallots, chopped up some avocado and cilantro, and charred up some scallions.  I love being able to throw different toppings together with tacos to see what I like best.  My favorite topping here was the quick-pickled shallot and jalapeno mixture because it really brightened up the tacos and gave them a lot of flavor.  The shallots actually absorbed some of the heat from the jalapenos, which was new and interesting.  For my last taco I threw on all of the toppings for a super taco and I think that one might have been my favorite combination - a little bit of everything. 

As for the skirt steak itself, I'm not sure that I was a fan of the chili powder-cocoa-cinnamon spice rub.  It was kind of gummy and mushy; it just coated the outside of the steak in a really strange way (and then your tongue) that I didn't find particularly appetizing.  I think it was the cocoa powder.  The steak was fine when you had it with the toppings, but I would never eat it alone.  Beyond the strange mouthfeel, I'm just not sure that the flavor was all that great.  I much preferred the Beef Tacos with Radish and Avocado Salsa (where the steak is seasoned with cumin, s&p) and other tacos we have made where the skirt steak was seasoned simply with s&p and served with some sort of salsa, like the Skirt Steak Tacos with Roasted Tomato Salsa.  I thought that the flavor of the beef itself really shined in those recipes and was augmented by the seasonings, whereas I thought the flavor here was obscured by the overpowering (and almost cloying) flavor of the cocoa powder in this recipe. 

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chili Shrimp Stir-Fry

I have very little experience with Sri Lankan and Goan cuisine, but if the authors of Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent say that this dish is Sri Lankan or Goan, I believe them.  In my experience Sri Lankan food is much spicier than this dish was, but I could always amp it up in the future to make it a little more "chili-hot."  When I tasted the stir-fry I said that it was interesting and "not Indian, but similar."  Alex said that it reminded him of Singaporean food because every time he has had a dish labeled Singaporean in a Chinese restaurant, it tasted like this shrimp.  I sort of get what he is saying because the lime, garlic, onions and turmeric reminds me of Singapore Rice Noodles without the curry powder.  But for the record, I won because was closer geographically than he was.  But enough of that - back to the shrimp stir-fry!  The chilis we used were rather mild, but that was my only complaint.  I wanted the dish to be much spicier.  I thought that the flavor was really interesting - I loved the aromatics (cardamom, cinnamon and cloves), the lime, and the sweetness of the onions.  I kind of wished there was another vegetable in the stir-fry, just to mix things up a little, but in the future I will just saute some snow peas or something and serve it on the side along with some basmati rice.  If I had to give the dish a letter grade I would give it a B+.  If it had been spicier I think I would bump that up to an A-, but better luck next time.

Recipe after the jump!

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

So along with the 5 pounds of berries I brought home from Maryland, I also brought home four gigantic portobello mushrooms.  My mom is a big believer in Cost Co. because everything there is super-sized and a good value, and these mushrooms were no exception.  I'm not sure that I have ever seen portobellos this huge before!  But seeing as we had the mushrooms and had nothing defrosted or planned for dinner last night, I decided to make stuffed mushrooms.  Growing up I loved the stuffed mushrooms at an Italian restaurant near my parents' house in Maryland, they had meat, cheese and bread crumbs in them and were totally delicious.  For last night's version I decided to go vegetarian (for once we actually did a Meatless Monday - go us).  We tossed in fresh herbs, cheese, spinach and some of our homemade Italian-Style Bread Crumbs.  Then we just threw it in the oven until cooked and broiled it for a minute to toast up the bread crumbs on top.  It was as simple as that.  And the mushrooms were delicious.  They were hearty and savory.  I didn't miss meat in the filling at all.  In fact, I think they were even better without meat in them.  I'm not sure that I tasted the individual components of the filling in every single bite (particularly the spinach, although you could taste the garlic and the red pepper flakes) but they all came together really nicely.  Alex and I both agreed that we would definitely make the mushrooms again.  If you served one mushroom per person they would make a nice appetizer and two per person is more than enough for an entree.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Strawberry Shortcakes with Balsamic Vinegar

I came back from Maryland this weekend with about 5 pounds of strawberries and raspberries, which meant I immediately started thinking about what dishes I could cook or bake using some of those berries.  My first thought was some sort of rhubarb and berry crostada, tart or pie.  I also thought about making a compote, but we were out of rhubarb and I didn't feel like going to the store to get more.  So I settled on making some strawberry shortcakes because we had everything we needed in the fridge and there is really no dessert that brings to mind summer as much as strawberry shortcake.  And since it is now late June and over 80 degrees all week long, it seemed rather appropriate.  Rather than making our regular recipe (which I'm not sure I can call a regular recipe since we have only made it once before), I decided to make something a little different.  But since I am feeling generous, I will post both recipes down below!  I think that the biscuits in this new recipe are the perfect biscuits for shortcakes.  Thanks Bon Appetit!  They were really tender and had just the perfect amount of sweetness.  They were a little small, but I guess that's a good thing because they force you to eat a smaller portion.  Depending on whether we stick to a more traditional filling or not, I might add a little orange zest to the biscuits and a splash of Grand Marnier to the whipped cream.  That would be a fun minor variation on a classic strawberry shortcake recipe.  I thought that the balsamic vinegar-macerated strawberries were a nice touch, but I'm not sure that they were necessarily any better than your standard macerated strawberries.  I'm actually thinking about eating them on top of some Greek yogurt tomorrow for breakfast.  But who am I kidding?  If I'm going to eat more berries for breakfast, I am going to eat another whole shortcake.  Yum!   

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Olive Oil Fried Eggs with Mozzarella and Harissa

I first came across this recipe when I made a resolution back in November to make more Moroccan food.  I sat on it for awhile because I couldn't find hot pepper relish or paste.  But the other day at Kalustyans I stumbled across something labeled hot pepper paste that looked promising, so we finally got the chance to make our fried eggs.  We ate these for dinner last Wednesday (I think), but I haven't had time to post about them yet, partially because we went to Prune for dinner last Thursday night (which remains by far one of my favorite restaurants in NYC) and then headed down to Maryland for the weekend so Alex could go to the U.S. Open with his father for Father's Day (and so I could take my parents out to one of our favorite restaurants in Maryland, but more on that later).  So I will be upfront in saying that I don't remember every last detail about the dish.  What I do remember is that I really liked the harissa-sauce mixture on top of the fried eggs.  I was thinking about using that sauce in other dishes.  I will keep you posted if I do, but I think it would be nice over other egg dishes or chicken.  Speaking of eggs, ours were perfectly runny, which was really nice.  I love a nice runny egg.  My only real complaint about the dish is that I thought that the toast-to-egg ratio was off.  I think in the future I would either cut the toast thinner, or leave it thick and put two large eggs or one extra large egg on top of each large slice.  We actually used some brioche hamburger buns because they were what we had in the apartment, which worked out just fine, except that they were a little too thick and a little too large for me.  I basically liked the recipe and it was pretty good, but it needs something (aside from smaller toast pieces) to really make it shine.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad

The idea for this salad came from a dish we ate at LUCKYRICE 2011's Night MarketAn Choi served an amazing chicken and cabbage salad on top of prawn crackers.  There was a recipe for a Spicy Chicken and Cabbage Salad in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors but it didn't incorporate some of the things that I wanted in it - namely the prawn crackers and a healthy squeeze of lime juice.  Plus I wanted to use red cabbage instead of green cabbage, because I think it's so much prettier.  So I took the recipe as inspiration and a starting point and went to town.  Our recipe was spicy, fresh, and bright.  It carried a lot more heat and acidity than the version we had at LUCKYRICE, which I think made it a little less fresh and clean, but no less delicious.  The poached chicken was moist and very flavorful.  With poached chicken you often end up with a somewhat flavorless piece of meat, but the dressing packed more than enough punch to make it incredibly delicious without obscuring the flavor of the chicken itself.  And the texture of the chicken was almost lusciously tender.  I once read a description of a steamed chicken with breast meat as "soft as custard" and this is the first time that I have ever understood that description in the context of chicken.  And when you contrasted the tenderness of the chicken against the crunch of the cabbage, the carrots and the prawn crackers you get a pretty fabulous salad with lots of flavor and lots of textural contrasts - a perfect refreshing summer meal.

Recipe after the jump!

Roasted Coconut Cashew Nuts

Cashews are my favorite nut.  And once upon a time we had some amazing cashews at an Indian restaurant named Dhaba in NYC.  The cashews were flash-cooked with chilis and spices and called tale huay kaju.  They were amazing - slightly charred, spicy, and totally delicious.  They were the perfect snack.  After eating the cashews at Dhaba I stumbled across a recipe for Roasted Coconut Cashew Nuts in one of our Thai cookbooks.  I knew right then we had to make them.  And it took us a little while, but we finally got around to it this weekend.  The cashews were yummy.  They weren't as good as the version we had at Dhaba, but they were a fun snack.  Alex said that they weren't amazing, but then again, we couldn't stop eating them.  They had some spice, some richness from the coconut and the cashews themselves, and a little sweetness from the honey.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Five-Spice Chicken with Sugar Snaps

Stir-fry is wonderful because it is one of the quickest, easiest things you can make.  You just need to get your ingredients prepped and toss them in a hot wok, then minutes later you have a wonderful meal.  And you can really let your imagination go wild with stir-fry - you can throw in a variety of veggies, meats or seafood, different seasonings, etc.  I enjoy stir-fry so much that I actually bought an entire cookbook devoted to stir-fry.  I have easily a dozen recipes that I have already bookmarked to try.  This was one of them.  I had it down to either this recipe or one for Sichuan Pork with Peppers and Peanuts, but I ended up picking this one.  But don't worry, I will make the Sichuan Pork soon.

My favorite thing about this dish was the sugar snap peas.  I love sugar snaps, but for some reason when I am thinking stir-fry I usually default to snow peas.  But after this, I am going to use sugar snaps in more future stir-fries.  Overall, I thought the dish was good.  It was tasty, the chicken was flavorful and moist, it was simple to make, and it put a whole new spin on stir-fry.  I have never thought to use five-spice in a stir-fry marinade.  And I have certainly never thought to add ketchup to a stir-fry.  The only use for ketchup in my apartment is generally burgers, french fries, and onion rings.  And I'm not sure that I will add ketchup to any future stir-fries, but it was an interesting addition.  I will however use chicken thighs rather than chicken breasts in some of my future stir-fries.  I won't forgo chicken breasts entirely in favor of chicken thighs, but I will mix it up in the future.  And I will definitely experiment more with five-spice!

Recipe after the jump!

"Thai-Style" Green Beans

We needed a simple Thai side to go with our Stir-Fried Eggs with Cellophane Noodles.  Alex originally suggested eating peanut butter crackers with our stir-fried eggs, but I told him that was totally  unacceptable.  So I decided to cook up some of the haricots verts we had in the refrigerator in a vaguely Thai style.  I took some ginger, garlic and a Thai chili from the refrigerator along with the green beans, and then grabbed a few ingredients from the pantry and went to town.  I thought it turned out pretty well.  You got a good hit of heat from the Thai chili, balanced against the savory/salty flavors from the fish sauce and soy sauce, and the snap of the crisp-tender haricots vert.  I briefly considered throwing in some cashews, but then I decided that sesame seeds would be easier and would probably be incorporated into the dish better.  All things considered, it was a quick and easy side dish that we threw together on a whim and came out quite nicely.

Recipe after the jump!

Stir-Fried Eggs with Cellophane Noodles

So I had a few bites of these eggs and told Alex that I found this dish "surprisingly delicious."  Alex took issue with my use of surprising.  He didn't think it was surprising that the eggs were delicious.  But there were so few ingredients - eggs, cellophane noodles (and who has ever heard of tossing cellophane noodles in with scrambled eggs), fish sauce, lime juice, shallots, scallions, etc.  I don't know why but I had this idea in my head that it would be good, but not amazing - an easy satisfying lunch that wouldn't blow anyone's socks off.  I was totally wrong.  And I like to think that I am pretty honest about it when I am wrong about a recipe.  I found the recipe in Hot Sour Salty Sweet, which designates the recipe as Laotian or Thai.  I have to admit that if the recipe wasn't in one of the cookbooks that we have had such success with, I probably wouldn't have looked twice at it and I certainly wouldn't have bookmarked it for the blog.  One of the best things about the dish was that you could taste every ingredient in every bite, and every ingredient worked so well in the dish.  It was light and flavorful, but totally delicious.  And it was incredibly easy to make.

Alex said that if all brunch dishes tasted like this, he would actually like brunch.  I love brunch, but I thought this dish was pretty freaking amazing.  It is my favorite dish that I have made in the past few weeks.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beets in Vinaigrette

Sometimes you need to mix things up a little.  My favorite recipe for beets is Roasted Beets with Cumin and Mint.  It's fresh, savory and delicious.  But the flavors are pretty distinct and the dish doesn't go with everything.  I also love a good arugula salad with ricotta salata and some roasted beets.  But sometimes you don't want that either.  To go with tonight's pasta I decided to just throw together a really simple beet salad, with simple flavors that would compliment, rather than compete with, our Pasta with Tuna Bottarga and Bread Crumbs.  While I prefer roasting beets, our beets were gigantic enough that I was worried that they would take forever to roast.  So I decided to go ahead and follow this recipe and simmer the beets instead.  You lose a little of the super sweet flavor of the beets when you simmer them instead of roasting them.  But this beets were a nice simple side dish, nothing spectacular, but nice nonetheless.  I liked the versatility of it.  And I liked the tartness of the vinegar in the dressing.  Overall, a nice dish.  As with the pasta, I would put it in the category of solid like.

Recipe after the jump!

Pasta with Tuna Bottarga and Bread Crumbs

Last weekend when Alex and I went to Chelsea Market we ended up buying a little thing of tuna bottarga (Italian dried tuna or mullet roe).  I knew that there were a few Batali recipes picked out that I wanted to make if we ever happened to buy some bottarga at Buon Italia.  And now that we bought bottarga, we just had to figure out which recipe to make.  I got it down to two recipes - this recipe for Chitarra with Tuna Bottarga and Bread Crumbs from our Esca cookbook, and a recipe for Linguine with Zucchini and Bottarga in Molto Gusto.  In the end we decided to make this recipe because it didn't require another trip to the grocery store and it was easier.  After gorging ourselves on meat at Big Apple BBQ this morning we were both in the mood for a simple meal.  We also really needed to use up some of the pasta we have stocked up on recently.  Somehow we have gone from having almost no pasta in the house to having dried pastas of all sorts - tagliatelle, pappardelle, orzo, farro spaghetti...  Since our cabinet space is at a premium here in NYC, we really need to clear out the cupboards a little bit.  So don't be surprised if we go on a bit of a pasta binge in the coming weeks.

I would put this recipe on my solid like list.  It was easy to throw together and tasty.  It wasn't the most amazing pasta that I have every made or eaten, but it was a fun departure from our usual recipes.  I'm not certain that I have ever had bottarga before, but it was rich, salty and funky.  It's a little fishy, but not as fishy as I thought it would be.  The homemade bread crumbs provided a really nice touch.  I'm currently trying to come up with more recipes to use the bread crumbs because once you make a batch you end up with a TON of really nice bread crumbs.  Hurry for good food!

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gambas a la Plancha

So I know I promised to say more about those crazy Mayan Shrimp that I picked up at The Lobster Place.  We picked them up on Saturday, and made them for a late lunch on Sunday, but I never got around to posting the recipe that night (or Monday night for that matter).  But here I am finally; better late than never.  As for the shrimp themselves, they were by far the largest shrimp or prawns that I have ever purchased (or seen for that matter).  The name shrimp is totally deceptive because it conjures up much smaller mental images.  These shrimp are colossal.  Dave Pasternak at Esca described them as "Chernobyl shrimp."  I think we bought just over a pound - maybe 1.15 lbs, and we only bought 8 of those bad boys.  I knew that my Mario Batali cookbooks had some recipes for giant prawns/shrimp, so they were the first place I looked when I wanted to figure out what to do with my shrimp.  This recipe won out because it was the simplest, and as such, seemed like it would be the best way to really showcase the shrimp themselves.  If you are going to go to the expense and trouble of buying these crazy shrimp (which I think cost roughly $20 a pound), you should make sure that you don't mask the sweetness of the shrimp by using an overly complicated recipe and overly powerful ingredients or seasonings.

And with this recipe all you tasted was shrimp.  It really was sweet and meaty, with a far more intense flavor than your average shrimp.  The shrimp were also really juicy.  Alex's complaint about the shrimp was that they were a bit of a pain in the butt to eat.  Apparently when you don't have any fingernails it can be quite difficult to peel a Mayan shrimp.  I didn't have any trouble, but Alex certainly did.  I countered by saying that they are no more a pain in the butt than crabs and crawfish.  Alex's response to that was that we're from Maryland - blue crabs, beer and football are what we do.  I guess I can't argue with that.  But even if the dish was a bit messy and labor-intensive, I thought it was quite tasty and fun to make.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Seared Tuna with Olive Tapenade Vinaigrette and Arugula

On Saturday Alex and I went to Chelsea Market after having lunch at The Spotted Pig.  I went a little crazy at The Lobster Place buying fresh seafood.  There were these amazing Mayan Shrimp from Guatemala (biggest shrimp I have ever seen - more on that later), gorgeous ruby red tuna steaks, huge lobsters, Dungeness crab, etc.  If good seafood wasn't so expensive I would have gone buckwild.  But I managed to restrain myself with 3 things - the Mayan shrimp, the tuna and some nice wild salmon.  I know it's lame that I always buy salmon, but I can't resist.  It's delicious, easy to cook and one of my favorite fish.  Next time I promise to get something a little more exotic.  Anyway, back to my tuna!  When we cooked up the recipe in my last post about tuna, Seared Tuna with Green Onion Wasabi Sauce, I had two other recipes that I really wanted to make, but we didn't happen to have the ingredients at the time.  So I decided to go ahead and make one of them, only once again we didn't have all of the ingredients.  But I picked the recipe that required the fewest ingredients we didn't have at home (in this case basil and baguette) and ran by Fairway on the way home from work.

I have to say that the tapenade in this dish was fantastic.  I have never thought to add balsamic vinegar, basil and lemon zest to olive tapenade but it really worked.  I also never would have thought to serve tuna steaks with olive tapenade, but that worked too.  The tapenade was equally delicious when drizzled over the tuna steaks or spread on the toasted baguette slices and provided a ton of flavor.  Without the tapenade the tuna steaks would have been a little blah, but with the tapenade it was a completely different dish.  I might try out the tapenade with other dishes - perhaps with some roast chicken breasts or a nice seared piece of striped bass.  I'm not sure if I will make this tuna recipe the next time I pick up some nice tuna steaks, but I am glad that I finally got the chance to try it.

Recipe after the jump!

The Spotted Pig

There are a few restaurants in NYC that truly live up to the whole "gastropub" trend.  The Spotted Pig was probably the first of those and I believe it remains the most successful of them.  Jimmy's No. 43 and Jones Wood Foundry are two others that immediately come to mind - both of which are quite good.  And there are plenty of casual restaurants that label themselves gastropubs, but don't seem to live up to the designation to me.  According to NY Mag's website, there are 36 restaurants in the city that have designated themselves as "gastropubs."  The Spotted Pig is one of those restaurants that actually deserves its hype - the food is amazing.  Even for lunch the waits can run up to an hour or more.  If you get there early enough (we walked in at 12:10 pm on a Saturday), you should be able to get in pretty easily.  By 12:30 the waits were running 20-30 minutes for a table for two and longer for a larger table. 

Usually when I go to The Spotted Pig I am there specifically for their Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese & Shoestring Fries.  It is by far one of the most amazing burgers in NYC and those fries are to die for because they fry garlic and rosemary along with the fries so they have this amazing flavor.  Anyway, after taking some summer associates out to lunch at BLT Burger last Friday I wasn't feeling like chowing down on another burger, so I decided to stick with the Market Salad with Sheep's Milk Cheese and a Prosciutto & Ricotta Tart with Marjoram.  Alex got the Fried Poached Eggs with Chorizo Stew (pictured above) and then we shared one of their homemade donuts with strawberry jam and cream for dessert.  Everything was amazing.  The market salad was delicious - full of bitter greens, fresh asparagus, and a few little sprigs of spearmint.  I know that mint in a salad sounds odd, but it was amazing.  The tart had a crazy flaky and buttery puff pastry crust, topped off with some prosciutto, ricotta and arugula.  The entire thing was garnished with more shaved cheese that reminded me of pecorino romano or gruyere.  It was so good.  And then there was Alex's fried poached egg dish.  I have never had chorizo that was so intensely sweet and spicy at the same time.  It was really good.  I have had slightly better fried poached eggs at Nougatine, but it's a very minor complaint because they were pretty great.  Last but not least, the donut.  Yum.  Who doesn't love a homemade sugar donut with strawberries and cream inside?

More pictures after the jump!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Roasted Wild Mushrooms with Rosemary and Garlic Oil

Mushrooms don't show up in our apartment a lot.  We go months without cooking mushrooms and when we do cook them, they're usually just one component in a dish - part of a stir-fry or one of several toppings on a pizza.  Although I really enjoy mushrooms, I almost never cook up a side of just mushrooms.  I don't know why that is.  I guess we all have our go-to dishes or ingredients.  Mushrooms just don't happen to be one of mine.  And every time I cook them I wonder why I don't make them more often.  Because roasted mushrooms are good - meaty, hearty and flavorful.  If you toss them with a homemade garlic oil they are just that much better.  I know they aren't pretty, nor are they earth-shattering, but they are yummy and very easy to make.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Indonesian Pork Sates with Thai Peanut Sauce

When you work at a large NYC law firm, sometime in late May your summers suddenly become consumed with activities for the summer associates (second year law school students aka 2L's who have a summer internship at your law firm).  At least once a week there are cocktail parties and other random events in the evening, in addition to all of the fancy 3 course lunches that you escort the summers on.  And all of that is in addition to your regular work load.  Tonight we had a cocktail party at the office to kick of our summer program.  They served all sorts of good food - sushi, sashimi, a fajita bar, antipasto platters, sliders, etc.  But I was determined to eat dinner at home.  So I purchased all of the ingredients, handed Alex a recipe and told him that I would call when I was on my way home so he could start cooking.  I told him that I would be home around 8:30 pm, but he should know by now that when I say 8:30 pm and I am at a work event that he should build in an extra 30-45 minutes.  Just after 9:00 pm I jumped in one of the company cars and called him to tell him that I was on my way. 

It's a good thing that Alex can cook because otherwise we would order a LOT of pizza.  And as much as I like pizza, I really think that these pork satays were better than any slice of pizza could possibly be.  The marinade on the surface of the pork caramelizes up nicely and it gives the pork such great flavor.  I loved the pork dipped in the Thai Peanut Sauce, but it was flavorful (and moist) enough on its own that it almost didn't need the sauce.  We served the pork satays with the peanut sauce, some white rice and some roast asparagus tossed in sesame oil.  So good.  Pizza, eat your heart out.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Perfect Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs (with Rosemary Garlic Pan Sauce)

I have this insatiable curiosity about recipes that are labeled the "perfect" anything.  If the recipe is for any dish that I have any interest in I have to try it.  I just have to.  So even though I am generally against dark meat chicken (or poultry of any sort), I had to try these Perfect Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs.  Oh my god.  They are delicious.  The skin is amazingly crispy, the chicken is juicy and flavorful (without being greasy) - the chicken is just fantastic..  And I don't even like chicken thighs!  We made one of the pan sauces from the same Bon Appetit article, but I'm not even sure that the chicken actually needed it.  The rosemary garlic pan sauce was amazing to dip bread in, but while eating the chicken I found that I ignored it entirely.  We didn't drizzle it over the chicken.  Instead we served it on the side and dipped as necessary.  I think I dipped exactly two bites worth of chicken in the the sauce along with a huge hunk of whole wheat baguette.  It really is that good.

Recipe after the jump!