Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dry-Fried Green Beans (Gan Bian Si Ji Dou)

This dish is one that I love to order at Sichuan restaurants and one that I really rely on to judge the quality of a Sichuan restaurant along with Fish-Fragrant Eggplant aka Yu Xiang Qie Zi (which is way better than it sounds) and Ma Po Tofu.  If a restaurant can't prepare dry-fried green beans than it really has no hope of mastering some of the more complex Sichuan dishes.  This version of the dish is what I would call the home cook version.  It doesn't have the bells and whistles of the restaurant versions - no chilis or Sichuan peppercorns, no sugar, no ginger or garlic.  But it's deliciously homey and satisfying.  Alex and I shared a plate of the green beans and a bowl of rice for lunch and it was a perfect lunch.  If you're cooking dinner for a few people, I would totally recommend this as your side dish.  Next time I make the dish I might toss in a pinch of ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns or a little chili paste and sugar to give the dish some heat and a hint of sweetness.  I don't know.  But as I told Alex "I would super make this again."  And yes, I know that doesn't make any sense, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Recipe after the jump!

Scrambled Eggs with Chives and Ricotta

I have been making different versions of this dish since I first discovered adding chives to scrambled eggs back in high school.  I was over at one of my friends' houses after school and she made us scrambled eggs for an after school snack and tossed in some chives.  I'm not even sure I knew what chives were at that point in time, but I loved them.  Prior to that the only thing I had ever added to scrambled eggs was sauteed onions (my dad is firmly of the belief that you can never have too many onions in your eggs).  I had never cooked my scrambled eggs in butter prior to that either, but I totally stole that from her as well. After that I started stocking jars of dried chives and packets of frozen chives in the kitchen, both of which work in a pinch, but I really recommend using fresh chives whenever possible.  Anyway, the dairy I use in this dish varies.  Sometimes I use ricotta, sometimes I throw in a tablespoon of heavy cream in my eggs and add a pinch of Parmigiano-Regiano, sometimes I use creme fraiche.  But I always use some sort of dairy because I really like the creaminess that a bit of dairy adds to scrambled eggs.  I also love serving some nice toasted bread (baguette is my personal favorite, but we used ciabatta this time) with my eggs.  So go ahead and play with it - but definitely try the chives because they are fantastic.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grilled Peach Panzanella Salad

I have to thank Tastespotting for providing me with the inspiration for this salad.    A few days ago I was scrolling through the recipes and pictures on Tastespotting and this recipe for Grilled Peach Panzanella Salad caught my eye.  We had some nice fresh peaches from the farmers' market that I had no idea what to do with.  Neither Alex nor I like peach cobbler so that would have been a waste.  Nor do I typically like peaches enough to just eat one.  And Alex dislikes anything peach-flavored (which means that he has never eaten a raw peach before), so I was justifiably nervous about what we made with the pretty peaches I picked up.  This recipe seemed perfect because it showcased the peaches, but toned them down a little by combining them with ingredients like arugula, fresh mozzarella and great bread that we already know and love.  

This salad really blew me away.  When I tasted the dressing by itself I thought the balsamic was overpowering.  And then I tossed it all together and it was marvelous and wonderfully balanced.  It was delicious.  It was so summery and fresh.  After this I think I might be able to convince Alex to try more peach recipes.  I might even get him to eat a peach by itself!  That in and of itself would make the salad an unqualified success.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella Calzones

     Now that we have used up all of our CSA produce (or at least the vast majority of it) we are on a mission to use up everything in our freezer.  I periodically stock the freezer up until it's ridiculously full and then go to the other extreme and try to empty everything out.  After awhile you start to forget just what you have in there.  I know I do.  The other day when I was trying to reorganize the freezer I realized that we had a ton of hanger steak and random cuts of pork in there, as well as a variety of sausages.  Who knew?  We also had a few balls of pizza  dough.  So I decided that at the very least we should use a ball of pizza dough and a hanger steak.  When you start to find forgotten and buried treasures in the freezer (some of which are so freezer burned to no longer be treasures in any sense of the word) it is time to clean out the freezer and start over from scratch.

    The inspiration for this recipe came from a recipe for Cherry Tomato Pizza Margherita that I found on Epicurious.  I liked the idea of turning cherry tomatoes into the sauce for the pizza, but I wanted to make calzones instead of pizza.  We make pizza all the time, but we rarely make calzones.  To be fair, the last time we made calzones we made one giant calzone and it exploded and oozed everywhere.  Oops.  So I was very careful sealing the calzones this time in order to prevent them from forming another oozing, soupy mess.  And it worked!  I know they're not exactly pretty to look at (and they didn't turn as golden as I wanted them to, but I was afraid to cook them any longer for fear that they would explode), but they were pretty yummy to eat.  Actually, the calzones came out looking a lot like samosas...  Oh well.  My favorite thing about the calzones was definitely the fennel seeds in the tomato sauce.  It gave the calzones a truly unique and delicious flavor.  I also liked the addition of the crushed red pepper flakes.  The sauce is very flavorful - fresh and sweet from the cherry tomatoes and basil.  The sauce is so good that Alex and I were actually discussing using it with pasta in the future.  I think it would work really well with pasta.  And I would definitely use it with pizza.  The sauce is so easy and flavorful that there is absolutely no reason to ever use canned pizza sauce or marinara sauce again.  You could substitute the fennel seeds if fennel just isn't your thing, omit the crushed red pepper flakes, or try oregano instead of fresh basil.  There are all sorts of ways you could adapt the basic recipe and make it work for you!

    Recipe after the jump!

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Grilled Halloumi with Watermelon and Basil-Mint Oil

    One of the best things about cooking is when it surprises and interests you.  You come across a recipe, you decide to give it a shot and you are wowed.  Sometimes it's a good wow, sometimes it's a bad wow.  But it always teaches you something.  This recipe for instance - the combination of halloumi cheese plus watermelon, tomatoes, mint and basil could either go really right or really wrong.  But somehow it all works.  We have combined salty cheese and watermelon before, so I know that combination works.  But adding in tomatoes?  And drizzling them with basil and mint infused evoo?  It's all a little weird.  But like I said, it works.  It's surprising, interesting, and it works.  I've said that about ten times, but it does.  I'm just not sure what else to say.  Alex said the dish would have been better if the cheese had stayed warm (it cools and hardens until it has a consistency similar to cheese curds) and the watermelon had stayed cool.  I get what he means.  The salad would be a little more striking with the contrast in temperatures.  But it still wouldn't be my favorite watermelon salad.  Because the salad has hot cheese and tomatoes it's nowhere near as refreshing as this Watermelon, Cucumber and Feta Salad.  And when I want a watermelon salad I want something light, fresh and delicious. This is delicious.  And interesting.  But it loses points when it comes to being light and fresh.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

    Sometimes when you're me recipes come about by accident.  Take this cake for instance.  I wasn't planning on making a cake this weekend.  It was actually the very last thing I had in mind this weekend.  But when I went to break off a banana from our bunch on Sunday for breakfast I ripped the stems off the entire bunch.  Oops.  Which meant all of those four bananas had to be used or eaten.  Stat.  So I was going to make banana bread, but after making a loaf of Zucchini Cornbread Saturday I wanted to do something a little different.  I decided that the logical thing to do was to make the banana cake that I remembered from Susan Spicer's cookbook.  I grabbed the cookbook to make sure we had everything and somehow we did.  It was clearly meant to happen.  Everything from the unintentional banana demolition to the Zucchini Cornbread was pointing me towards this cake.  So I baked a cake.  And for the record, this was my very first attempt at a layer cake  So any issues with frosting, etc. should be excused.  I tried.  It might not be pretty but I should get some points for effort.  One thing I will say is that I wish I had just a little more frosting to spread between the layers of cake.  There just wasn't enough to cover the whole cake and still have a nice layer in there in the middle.  Oh well.

    My cake was yummy.  Really yummy.  I had two pieces.  And I know that I have a sweet tooth, but I never have two pieces of cake.  I typically don't like cake that much.  Cupcakes yes, cake no.  Cakes are never moist enough for me and I don't like most frostings.  But this cake was very moist and the peanut butter cream cheese frosting was delicious.  I licked my fingers after frosting the cake.  A lot.  I love peanut butter and chocolate together.  With or without banana that flavor combo is a winner in my book.  But when you add in the banana here it all just comes together so well.  It's delicious.  I briefly considered eating a piece for breakfast, but I decided that was entirely too gluttonous.  I guess that I'm just going to have to wait until after dinner.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Spicy Coriander Salad

    So here I am again with more of those posts that I promised you.  This recipe for Spicy Coriander Salad comes from Fuchsia Dunlop's Hunan cookbook rather than her Sichuan cookbook.  My default Chinese cookbook is her Sichuan cookbook and I have to remind myself from time-to-time that her Hunan cookbook deserves love too.  Somehow it has become the ugly stepsister that never gets any attention.  But everytime I make a recipe from the Hunan cookbook I am reminded that it is full of delicious recipes that I have been neglecting.  Take this recipe for instance.  It doesn't sound like much.  And I'm sure that most people are puzzled by the use of cilantro as a salad green.  But it totally works.  We had a nice big bunch of cilantro from the farmers' market that I used for the recipe, but a bunch from the grocery store would work just as well.  The recipe is super easy to put together if you have all of the ingredients on hand.  With a few exceptions, most of them are available in any grocery store.  Chopped salted chilis are a different matter, but once you find a jar of chopped salted chilis at an Asian grocery store you can keep it in the refrigerator forever and ever.  Alternatively you can make your own chopped salted chilis because low and behold, this cookbook also contains a recipe for those.  A little spoonful of chopped salted chilis goes a long way; keep that in mind while you are whipping up the dressing.  Also think about the spicyness of your chili oil.  We made some homemade spicy chili oil (also from Fuchsia Dunlop, but from her Sichuan cookbook this time), which can pack a lot more kick than the "chili oil" that you pick up at the grocery store.  Now that I think about it, we should post that recipe.  I promise I will post it later.  It is really simple and delicious.  You can whip up a big batch one afternoon and have enough chili oil to last out the year.

    So with this dish you need something aromatic and somewhat assertive like cilantro to toss with this dressing.  A more delicate green would be totally overwhelmed by the chilis and vinegar.  I thought that the salad was refreshing, but spicy and totally fun.  I really appreciated that it was very different from anything else we have ever made.  And it's more than enough to inspire me to make more recipes from this cookbook.  For real this time.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Spicy Cold Noodles with Chicken Slivers

    Cold noodles are wonderful on a hot summer day.  Up until now Cold Sesame Noodles and variations on Asian-style peanut noodles have been our go-to.  This is our first attempt at making this recipe, but I think it's a keeper.  I felt like it was something I would be happy eating at a restaurant.  I liked the juicy poached chicken that was shredded on top and the surprise of the bean sprouts at the bottom of the bowl.  All of the flavors melded together very nicely once you mixed the noodles up.  There was a hint of heat from the Sichuan peppercorns and the chili oil, a burst of freshness from the scallions and the nutty savory flavor of the sesame paste.  It was just really refreshing and a little complex.  Some peanut and sesame-based sauces are so dominated by the flavor of the sesame paste and/or peanut butter, but this sauce was nicely balanced.  Alex liked that the recipe was fairly easy to make.  You could really make it a one pot meal if you want (poach the chicken, then cook the noodles in the poaching liquid, and then add a little more water to blanch the bean sprouts).  It takes a little longer that way, but it cuts down on the clean up.  While the ease of cooking is nice, my favorite thing about the noodles was the fact that I can easily picture eating them in a restaurant.  They probably wouldn't be my favorite thing on the menu, but they would be a totally solid dish that I would order when the urge struck.

    P.S.  I know this is like my billionth post of the weekend.  But we were really in a groove this weekend with new recipes, so get excited because we have a few more to post...

    Recipe after the jump

    Roasted Corn with Manchego and Lime

    I love summer.  Now if only the temperatures in NYC would drop back down to 80 degrees or below I would be a happy happy girl.  I'm totally over it with the 90-100 degrees plus humidity.  But I still love summer and fresh sweet corn is one of my favorite things about summertime.  That and watermelon.  And once upon a time, summer vacation.  But I love corn and I always have.  Growing up my dad grew corn in the backyard and we would eat it steamed with some butter and a sprinkling of salt.  Then I got to China where I would eat it fresh off the grill from Xinjiang food vendors with some sort of spicy seasoning blend.  When I moved to NYC I discovered Mexican elote, which is boiled or roasted corn on the cob topped with mayo, chili powder and cheese. This recipe vaguely reminds me of elote, only without the mayo.  But the combination of cheese, lime and a hint of heat with your corn is totally reminiscent of elote, even if this version is a little fancier (which you would expect it to be since the recipe comes from Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen).  The flavor profile totally works together and you don't want to mess too much with a good thing, but there's nothing wrong with adding a few fun flourishes!  And these flourishes (particularly the jalapeno and the lime zest) totally worked for the dish.  We will definitely be adding this recipe to our list of those that we will make again. 

    Recipe after the jump!

    Yellow Gazpacho

    What do you eat to give your body time to recover from gorging yourself on meat at Meatopia?  In our case, you eat the soup equivalent of salad - gazpacho.  And not just any gazpacho.  You run to the farmers' market in the morning to pick up yellow beefsteak tomatoes to make a yellow gazpacho.  Why do you do that?  I'm not really sure, but I wanted to do it so I did.  This gazpacho should complete a gazpacho trifecta - we have already made traditional red gazpacho and white gazpacho (which was really pale green gazpacho and not a traditional white gazpacho with grapes and almonds).  Now all we have to make is some sort of melon gazpacho and maybe the traditional white gazpacho and we will have covered all of the different colors and types of gazpacho.  But that is going to have to wait for another day because we were all about the yellow gazpacho today.  My favorite thing about this gazpacho was probably the hint of sweetness from the orange.  Don't add too much Tabasco or it will obscure that flavor.  I also thought it was just really fresh.  Was it my favorite of the gazpacho recipes we have tried?  I'm honestly not sure.  But I can say that it was cool, refreshing, and perfect on a day like today.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Meatopia 2011

    I love living in NYC.  There are so many things I love about it that I can't picture living anywhere else right now.  I hear that it eventually gets old, but I'm nowhere near that point right now.  Food festivals are among the many things I love about living in NYC and Meatopia is one of the best.  Alex and I had a long discussion on our way back from Meatopia about which food festival is our favorite and we had a hard time deciding between Meatopia and LUCKYRICE Night Market.  In the end I think we decided that LUCKYRICE was our favorite because there was more variation in the dishes we ate there.  Meatopia is obviously all about the meat (which generally meant sandwiches of some sort, or random hunks of meat), whereas at LUCKYRICE we had soups, salads, tofu, noodles, spring rolls, and sliders.  I would say that the quality of the food was the same at both.  We had some really delicious dishes, some good dishes and some forgettable dishes at both.  Not everyone can be a winner I guess.

    There were a lot of really good dishes at Meatopia last night.  My favorites included the spicy lamb ribs from Ilili (pictured above) , the Mangalitsa pig's head torchon from Edi & the Wolf (pictured after the jump), the roasted kid goat from Floyd Cardoz (no picture, but Floyd just won Top Chef Masters and I can totally see why) and the Vietnamese-style Mangalitsa ham and bacon pops from Lee Anne Wong.  There were two other dishes that really stuck out in my head as being very good, but didn't quite make the favorites list - the spit-roasted whole sheep served on flatbread with cherry tomatoes from Seamus Mullen (his restaurant Tertulia should be opening soon and I can't wait to try it out) and the mulefoot whole hog pulled pork sandwich from April Bloomfield of The Breslin, The Spotted Pig and The John Dory Oyster Bar (pictured after the jump).  We tried a ton of other dishes, but those were definitely my favorites of the day.  The coolest spread was definitely at Bar Basque.  They made Hampshire pork 7 ways - pork belly, steamed buns, sausauge, ice cream...  We tried their pork belly and clams and their bacon ice cream, both of which were very nice, but weren't among my favorites.  I wish I had been able to try their morcilla sausage (aka blood sausage) but they were out when I wandered by.  Oh well.  But now that I know their food is so good, I am adding the restaurant to my list of places to try.  The same goes for Ilili and Edi & the Wolf.  I recently tried Seasonal, which is the other restaurant by the same people as Edi & the Wolf and it was delicious, so it's no surprise that Edi & the Wolf was so good.  Another thing I love about Meatopia is the demonstrations - while we were there they had butchering demos and Pat LaFrieda was roasting an entire cow.  And they left the head on so it stared at you while they cooked it.  I'm not going to lie - it was kinda creepy, but cool at the same time.

    More pictures after the jump!

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    Zucchini Cornbread

    I was looking back through the blog and I think we have by far the most posts about zucchini (or summer squash) of any vegetable.  We make zucchini quite often as a side dish, but we have also incorporated it into various zucchini breads and cakes, pastas, and other dishes.  We just love zucchini.  Or maybe I just love zucchini - Alex informs me that it is mostly my fault that we make so much of it.  Whatever.  So I love it.  It's delicious.  But when I saw this Zucchini Cornbread recipe in the July 2011 issue of Bon Appetit I was immediately hooked.  I had to make it.  And now, thanks to my CSA, I finally have.  As a side note, the July and August 2011 issues of Bon Appetit were both really good!  I have a ton of recipes picked out from July especially that I can't wait to make.  But back to the cornbread.  Things I really enjoyed about it - the cornbread is really moist (I love how zucchini and buttermilk leave baked goods nice and moist), with a subtle tang from the buttermilk, and a richness and depth of flavor from the browned butter.  And by using sea salt instead of kosher salt you get these little explosions of salt flavor spread throughout the cornbread.  There's also a really nice crust on top and texture from the cornmeal.  I think the proportions of flour to cornmeal were perfect to give you a really nice fluffy loaf without sacrificing the integrity of the cornbread.  I think in the future I will make the cornbread in a 9x9 inch pan, rather than a loaf pan because it would bake faster that way (maybe 35 minutes instead of 55-65) and you will end up with more of that wonderful crust on top of the cornbread (which is always my favorite part).  And I might even through in a few handfuls of fresh corn to just have a little fun with it.  But two huge thumbs up for yet another delicious way to use zucchini.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk-Lime Dressing

    Strangely enough both Alex and I went to school in the South (although I maintain and Alex agrees that Chapel Hill was more Southern than Atlanta) and neither of us had ever tried fried green tomatoes.  Whenever I hear someone talk about fried green tomatoes my first thought is about the movie Fried Green Tomatoes from the early 90's and the Whistle Stop Cafe.  But from now on I might just think of the food first.  Because these bad boys were seriously good.  Alex described them as "surprisingly flavorful and filling."  I wasn't surprised by how flavorful they were.  I was actually dancing around the kitchen in excitement while we were prepping the tomatoes.  I was expecting (or at least hoping) that they would be totally delicious.  And they were.  I will however agree with Alex that the tomatoes were surprisingly filling.  I thought that we would finish the tomatoes and the Radish Butter and still be starving.  But I was pretty full and totally satisfied.  I originally wanted to make a remoulade to serve with the tomatoes, but I'm glad we went with the Buttermilk-Lime Dressing.  The tartness and freshness of the dressing really complimented the tomatoes.  And even though the tomatoes were fried, they didn't seem heavy at all.  I think a lot of that was due to the lightness of the dressing.  The remoulade would have made the dish seem a lot heavier.

    Don't my Fried Green Tomatoes look purdy?  As pretty as they look, I promise they tasted better.  I would be a happy girl if only green tomatoes were available in NYC year round.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Radish Butter

     When I studied abroad in France I could never understand the French proclivity for eating radishes with butter.  I just didn't get it.  Granted, at the time I thought radishes were pretty nasty, bitter, peppery little creatures.   My dad used to eat them at home with just a sprinkle of table salt, which I found equally baffling.  But over the past few years I have discovered that radishes aren't so bad.  And from time to time, they're actually quite good.  I would never order a plate of radishes and butter.  Gabrielle Hamilton serves radishes and butter at Prune (which I have briefly considered ordering because it is Prune after all) but I just don't like radishes that much.  With that said, this Radish Butter was one of the recipes that first drew my eye in The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern.  I have no idea why it drew my eye, but it looked so pretty in the picture and the recipe was so simple.  Plus I love how pretty the radishes are at the farmers' market.  I literally have to seriously restrain myself from buying them they are so pretty.  And I find that I have a need to try ingredients that I don't particularly like over and over again until I either decide I like them after all, or I finally admit defeat.  It's kind of like poking at a bruise (and yes, I do that too) - you keep poking at it and it keeps hurting, but somehow you expect a different result.

    I think the key to this recipe is to use some really nice butter.  We picked up some butter from Ronnybrook Farm, which was delicious on its own and could only become better with the addition of radishes fresh from the CSA.  It was butter with a slight peppery kick and crunch.  Alex said it grew on him, but I thought it was pretty delicious from the start.  I thought that the butter really improved after we let it sit for 10-15 minutes while we fried up our Fried Green Tomatoes (more on those later).  The flavors really melded.  I think part of that was because our butter and radishes weren't exactly at room temperature when we mixed them together so as they sat they warmed up and the flavors intensified.  Yum.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Roast Chicken Breasts with Garbonzo Beans, Tomatoes and Paprika

    Sometimes I think that Alex and I make entirely too much roast chicken.  I would say that we roast up some chicken breasts at least once a month.  Roast chicken breasts really have become one of our easy go to weeknight meals.  So it's no surprise that I have a hard time resisting new roast chicken recipes.  I found this recipe when I was trying to figure out how to use the gorgeous yellow heirloom cherry tomatoes that I got from Holton Farms this week.  Have you ever picked a tomato from a farmer's market (or a garden if you are lucky enough to have one) and smelled that lovely tomato scent of a really nice, ripe, fresh tomato?  So heavenly.  It makes me sad that you so seldom find a nice tomato here in NYC unless you're lucky enough to take part in a CSA or have time to hit the farmer's market.  Actually, I heard a customer in a long conversation with the manager at my local grocery store complaining about just that - the dearth of good tomatoes at NYC grocery stores.  Anyway, I found this recipe and once I started reading through the ingredients I became really intrigued.  I love chickpeas and roast chicken.  And a spiced oil of garlic, cumin, smoked paprika and crushed red pepper flakes to flavor it all?  Genius!

    My only complaint about this recipe was that the chicken skin didn't crisp up like I wanted it to.  But I make that same complaint 90% of the time when we make roast chicken breasts.  Getting the skin crispy while keeping the meat moist is really freaking hard!  This meat was crazy moist.  And it was really flavorful.  And those tomatoes and chickpeas were to die for.  The chickpeas were slightly crispy and the flavor of the tomatoes had concentrated during the roasting process until they were super sweet and juicy.  I wasn't sure how I would feel about the yogurt sauce, but it was really nice.  Mixing just a teaspoon of the oil in gave the yogurt really amazing flavor.  The recipe suggests saving some leftover chicken and making pita sandwiches with the chicken (once you rip the meat off the bone) and the tomato-chickpea mixture.  Drizzled with some of that yogurt sauce I bet it would be pretty delicious.  This recipe goes on the list of ones that we will definitely make again.  I might tweak it a little bit to get the skin a little crispier, but that's the only change I would make.  I love it when you start with a great base recipe like this one.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges and Beet Greens

    This is another recipe that was inspired by my CSA haul.  I'm really trying to make sure that we use all of the wonderful produce that I picked up so we built this meal around beet salad.  I proposed making Zucchini Cornbread to go with the beet salad.  Alex wasn't a fan of that idea.  Then I proposed making fried green tomatoes.  He didn't shoot that one down, but he didn't jump up and down in joy either.  And then I proposed making a Cherry Tomato and Lemon Salad.  Alex's response was "a salad with a salad?"  So he clearly wasn't a huge fan of that idea either.  But I was determined to make this beet salad so I stuck with it.  How's that for perseverance?

    Generally when we make beets we either serve them over some mixed greens with goat cheese and nuts as a beet salad, or we serve them solo.  It has never occurred to me before to mix them with the beet greens.  When I buy beets at the grocery store the first thing I usually do when I get home is chop off the greens and throw them away.  Granted, the beets at the grocery store are nowhere near as fresh as the ones I picked up from Holton Farms the other day.  The greens on this bunch actually looked wonderful.  So I was excited to try them out.  Unfortunately we didn't have enough beet greens to make a dish with just the greens (unless of course I only wanted enough for each of us to have 2 forkfuls), so I had to serve the greens with something else.  I found a few recipes that mixed together the beet greens with the beets themselves and that seemed like the logical way to go.  So I found a recipe that did just that.  I really liked the combination of the sweet onions, beets, beet greens and oranges.  I have never mixed any of those ingredients together before so it was a totally new flavor profile for me.  Our orange was kind of anemic.  I really wish it had more bold citrus flavor, but I guess that's my fault for picking out a mediocre out of season orange.  Even with an anemic orange, the flavor was quite nice.  You want to cut the onions fairly thin so they can't overwhelm the other subtler flavors in the dish.  But when everything is in balance it is truly lovely.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Indonesian Grilled Swordfish

    As promised, we made swordfish tonight!  The first seafood experiment on my list has now been checked off.  Swordfish is one of those ingredients that I feel is unfairly maligned.  Swordfish, when cooked properly, can be really delicious.  When overcooked it takes on the consistency and dryness of an overcooked pork chop.  Swordfish is so meaty and yet it lacks a ton of fat to keep it moist, which means that it dries out easily.  So I don't order (or buy) it often, but every once in awhile I do indulge.  I have another swordfish recipe for Sicilian-Style Swordfish I want to try, but that is going to have to wait until next time.  This time we went for a Indonesian Grilled Swordfish recipe from Ina Garten.  I'm not certain Ina Garten is an authority on Indonesian food, but thus far we have had a lot of luck with her recipes so I am willing to try it out.  And how can you go wrong with a marinade of ginger, garlic, soy?

    The answer is - you can't.  Well, I guess you can go wrong but we didn't here.  My only warning is to be cautious with the kosher salt.  Otherwise you could end up with some seriously salty fish.  Marinating the fish overnight in soy tenderizes it and lends it a lot of flavor so you don't need a ton of additional salt.  It didn't have a ton of distinctly Asian flavor to it, but given that the marinade had Dijon mustard and lemon juice in it, I didn't really expect the flavors of the dish to scream Asian.  But with that said, I liked the recipe.  Alex did too since he said it was tasty.  As with most of the recipes that we cook on a grill pan rather than on a grill, it would be better if actually grilled to give it that smokey flavor, but what can you do? 

    Recipe after the jump!

    Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame Dressing

    For our Indonesian Grilled Swordfish we needed some sort of quasi-Asian side.  I went through the produce in the fridge and the sugar snap peas seemed to fit the bill best.  So we blanched them, threw on a vaguely Asian sesame oil-based dressing and there you have it.  It was nice and simple.  And tasty.  They weren't a show-stopping side dish, but they weren't meant to be.  I thought that they served their purpose perfectly.  They complimented the swordfish with their subtle Asian flavors without distracting from it.  Better yet, they were super easy.  I'm sure we will make them again in the future.  I might even try the same dressing with a variety of other vegetables.  Maybe asparagus would work?  Or snow peas?

    Recipe after the jump!

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Pappardelle with Corn, Summer Squash and Basil

    After a weekend of dining out at restaurants, it was nice to have something homemade and on the lighter side.  The corn and the squash came from a CSA I just joined called Holton Farms.  I picked up a huge bag full of produce from the CSA today, including zucchini, squash, corn, beets, radishes, and green tomatoes.  I have some serious plans for the green tomatoes (fried green tomatoes anyone?), but I decided that since we had a lot of pasta and zucchini goes with pasta, why not make some sort of pasta with zucchini mixed in.  My first candidate was this Fried-Zucchini Spaghetti, but we didn't have any spaghetti in the apartment.  My next thought was to make a No-Bake Summertime Lasagna from Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen.  But we didn't have lasagna noodles or fresh ricotta.  Then I started thinking about making some sort of pasta primavera with a variety of different fresh veggies from the CSA.  Seeing as I have never had a pasta primavera before I have no idea what veggies are usually in the dish, but for some reason I picture zucchini, bell peppers and carrots.  But I decided to use fresh corn and zucchini.  And out of the random pastas in our cupboard I decided to use pappardelle.

    Alex liked the pasta because in his words it was "fresh and light."  I liked it because it let some very amazing produce take center stage. I wasn't in love with the recipe, but I thought it was pretty nice.  It was light and fresh.  And unlike a lot of heavier meat pasta sauces, it doesn't leave you feeling bloated and gross after you eat a serving.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin and Broccoli with Toasted Bread Crumbs

     We're back from St. Thomas!  I meant to warn everyone that we were going in the first place, but I was so busy at work clearing off my desk before the trip that I forgot all about it.  Oops.  But we are back now and I promise that more posts will be coming soon.  Luckily I have one queued up and ready to go!  We made this pork tenderloin and broccoli dish last Thursday night before we left for St. Thomas, but seeing as we left bright and early Friday morning I haven't had time to post about it yet.

    This recipe was an attempt by me to use up some of the proteins in our freezer, along with the herbs and vegetables left in our fridge before we left for vacation.  I'm on a massive project to empty out our freezer, so our next few meals are going to be dictated by what is already in there (chicken breasts and swordfish are up next).  We had some broccoli left over from one of our last grocery shopping trips so we decided to serve that as the side.  We used to make this broccoli all the time, but for some reason we haven't made it in awhile.  Actually, we haven't been making broccoli very much at all lately.  I'm trying to change that.  But I love the addition of toasted panko bread crumbs and garlic to the broccoli.  It really livens it up a bit.  Anyway, back to the pork.  Marinating it in the lemon, evoo and herb mixture overnight left it very lemony and moist.  The pork had really good flavor - you could definitely taste the oregano, thyme and garlic.  I thought it was really nice.  If you wanted to you could use a different mixture of herbs - I think rosemary and thyme would be nice, or you could easily substitute dried herbs instead of fresh.  All in all, it's just a really nice American family meal.  There are no bells and whistles, but sometimes simple is the way to go.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Shrimp with Garlicky Cuban Mojo

    I have been thinking recently that I make way too much shrimp.  Sadly shrimp has become my go-to seafood.  We always have it in the freezer and everytime I go to Fairway I find myself buying more.  Part of that is due to the fact that shrimp doesn't suffer as much from being frozen.  With some types of fish I am always convinced that the texture (and flavor) really suffers when you throw it in the freezer.  You lose any freshness the fish once had, it sometimes starts to smell funny, etc.  Maybe it's entirely mental, but that's how I feel.  So we eat a lot of shrimp.  And I mean a whole lot.  If you look at the recipes we have made you will see just how often we eat shrimp.  It's kind of sickening really.  But I can't help it!  We cook it so often at home that I almost never eat shrimp at a restaurant because I'm getting more than enough at home.  So I guess we will have to try to switch it up a little more.  Perhaps try out a few different fish and shellfish recipes.  I have two swordfish recipes that I have been wanting to try, so that will be our first seafood experiment.  And I have been wanting to cook clams or cockles for awhile, so that will be next.  After that who knows?

    Anyway, back to this particular recipe.  I liked it, but I didn't love it.  There was nothing about the dish that really blew me away.  I thought the mojo would make an interesting marinade, but it was a little on the sweet side for me.  Alex said he wanted more heat.  I just wanted more... something.  More depth of flavor?  More wow factor?   Crushed red pepper flakes are probably a good place to start.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Dinner Spanakopitas

    Every once in awhile Alex and I take out all the stops and make a crazily labor-intensive meal.  It seems that every time we decide to stuff something, be it dumplings, pan-fried buns, or spanakopita, it takes us forever.  For instance, with this recipe we took the phyllo dough out of the freezer around 2pm so that it would be defrosted in time for dinner.  According to the package instructions, the best way to defrost them phyllo is to leave the box of phyllo out on the counter at room temperature for 5 hours.  Realistically Alex and I can only do that on the weekend, unless we want to eat dinner at midnight.  On my way home from work this evening (yes I know it's a Sunday, but sometimes I have to go into work on the weekend) I swung by the grocery store to pick up the last remaining ingredient for our spanakopita.  I had already picked up everything, we ended up using the eggs this morning for breakfast so I had to go pick some of those up.  Once I got home it was about 8:30 pm and then we had to go through the whole process of making the filling (which Alex had already started on).  And then I had to figure out how to butter the phyllo dough and roll it up properly.  I'm not going to lie, it was another 10:00 pm dinner.  I imagine that working with phyllo dough gets easier the more you do it, but man that stuff is fragile.  The last time we made a meal this crazy was when we made our Panfried Pork and Scallion Mini-Buns.  Granted, those mini-buns had more active cooking time because we had to make the dough, rather than just defrost some phyllo.

    While this meal was easier to make than the mini-buns, the mini-buns were worth the extra effort.  At a certain point if you are going to put forth a ton of effort you might as well put forth a little extra effort for a more successful final product.  Don't get me wrong, these spanakopita were far from bad.  In fact, they were quite good.  With a few tweaks here and there to the filling and a little practice with phyllo dough, they could be even better.  But they weren't the best spanakopita I have ever had and if you're going to go to the trouble to make them at home, you really want them to be amazing.  If I can go to Trader Joe's and buy a package of frozen spanakopita that are as good as the ones I am spending hours to make at home, that really makes you wonder why you are bothering.  With all of that said, I'm really glad that we finally bit the bullet and made this recipe because I have wanted to make it for awhile now.  I'm not sure if I will be making it again anytime in the near future (esp since there is a little Greek take out shop a few blocks from our apartment that supposedly has amazing spanakopita that we have yet to try), but I'm pretty excited to add a new dish to my repertoire.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Pecorino

    So this is the other Tuscan kale (aka lacinato kale) salad recipe that I have been wanting to make.  This one comes from Melissa Clark of the NY Times, whose recipes we have tried before a few times with varying degrees of success.  Most recently we made her Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Watercress, Walnuts and Gruyere back in January and her Sake-Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Scallions in March.  I have also bookmarked a few of her other recipes (including a Caramel Rice Flan and a Mango Tres Leches Cake) to try in the future.  All in all, I really enjoy her recipes.  She explores a variety of cuisines, but her recipes are fairly simply and don't call for esoteric ingredients and complicated cooking methods.  Take this salad for instance - none of the ingredients (with the exception of the Tuscan kale, which isn't as easy to find as regular curly kale) are hard to find.  And all you really have to do is chop it all up and toss it together in a bowl.  Done.  And not only is it easy, it's really tasty.  I liked this recipe more than the Lacinato Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad.  I liked the hint of heat from the crushed red pepper flakes and the flavor and texture of the homemade bread crumbs.  I also thought the dressing was better - more lemony by far and the pecorino cheese carries a salty, nutty bite that ricotta salata is lacking.  So I guess now I know what was missing in the other salad - basically everything that this salad had was just one small step better, plus this one added in some bread crumbs.  Two thumbs up for our second attempt at a Tuscan kale salad!

    Recipe after the jump!

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Minced Lamb with Mint Stuffed Zucchini and Rice

    I would rank this both as one of the most interesting and the most satisfying meals we have cooked recently.  I have never made stuffed zucchini (or any sort of stuffed vegetable with the exception of these Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms we made last month).  And I have never tried either of these recipes from Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey.  Madhur Jaffrey suggested stuffing her Minced Lamb with Mint into tomatoes before roasting the tomatoes in the oven, but I have a longstanding prejudice against stuffed tomatoes.  I really don't enjoy them.  Alex and I both really enjoy zucchini and Google turned up all sorts of stuffed zucchini recipes when I searched.  Plus stuffed tomatoes are all gross and mushy.  So I decided that stuffed zucchini sounded like a better option.  And I decided that we should make some fancy rice rather than plain basmati rice.  I really prefer plain basmati rice, but I know that Alex really enjoys spiced rice so every once in awhile a try to throw him a bone.  And this rice was really nice.  The sweetness and floral quality of the spices was a nice counterpoint to the spicy lamb mixture.  As for the lamb, it was just delicious.  It had some serious heat, but the spice wasn't  overpowering.  You could still taste the aromatics and the spices in every bite.  The zucchini really soaked up some of those intense flavors, but still provided a nice textural counterpoint to the ground lamb mixture.  It was just a really really nice dish.  Both the lamb and the rice take some time and effort, but they are more than worth it.  The best endorsement that I can give for this meal?  I would make it again and I wouldn't change a single thing.  It really was that good.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Lacinato Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad

    I know this salad sounds a little weird.  Who eats raw kale?  I actually had a conversation with one of my friends the other day about someone liking kale so much they actually eat it raw.  But I have been wanting to make this recipe for a long time for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost - the recipe is inspired by a dish from Lupa, which is one of my favorite Mario Batali restaurants.  And I have a huge amount of faith in anything that is in any way related to a Batali recipe.  Second, I have never tried Tuscan kale before (also known as lacinato kale).  I saw it at the farmers' market and it looked so pretty (which tends to be my justification for buying all sorts of ingredients at the farmers' market).  I actually had two different kale salad recipes in mind when I bought the kale, so I bought two bunches.  So stay tuned for another kale recipe this weekend.  I'm not really sure what to say about this recipe.  I thought it was good.  I would make it again because it's really different and it's really easy to make.  Alex and I both thought it was missing something, but neither one of us could identify what was lacking.  I said that maybe we needed to add more lemon juice or some crushed red pepper flakes to the dressing, but I'm not sure that's it.  Once I try out my other kale salad recipe I might have a better idea what is missing, but until then I honestly just don't know. 

    Recipe after the jump!

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Tofu Omelet with Sweet Peanut Sauce (Tahu Telur)

    What does it say about Alex and I that when we were looking through our fridge and the only things we had to make were eggs and tofu my first thought was to make a tofu omelet.  I knew that The Asian Grandmother's Cookbook had a recipe for a tofu omelet and I was pretty sure that we had everything we needed.  Alex kind of laughed about it - of course this was the recipe we came up with after scrounging around in our fridge for a little while with no idea what to make for dinner.  In his opinion most normal people would make spaghetti or chicken parmesan after scrounging around in their fridges, but we made a recipe with esoteric ingredients like shrimp paste, Indonesian sweet soy (ketjap manis) and tofu.  Most people would have to plan ahead and search for ingredients like those.  We just have them.  I said it was a little scary that the second he started talking about eggs and tofu I knew exactly what cookbook had a recipe for a tofu omelet, but otherwise I didn't think it was that weird.  In the spirit of full disclosure I must admit that I spend a lot of time pouring over our cookbooks while sitting on the couch.  I find that flipping through cookbooks while meal planning inspires all sorts of fun ideas.  And I like fun ideas.

    This recipe isn't for just anyone.  I know that I talked about the intensely shrimpy and funky nature of shrimp paste when we cooked Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste and Chilis (Kangkung Belacan).  The recipe actually called for black shrimp paste, which is different from the belacan dried shrimp paste that we used for the water spinach.  But we figured that we could use a little of the belacan (less than the recipe called for since black shrimp paste has sugar and water and isn't quite as pungent) and add a little sugar to the sauce to make up for the substitution.  The sauce has a ton of components - fried garlic, chilis, lime juice, Indonesian sweet soy (ketjap manis), peanut butter and water - but less than a teaspoon of shrimp paste still provides it with a distinct funk.  I liked the funk.  I thought it was an acceptable level of funk, but if you're not into funk then leave the shrimp paste out entirely.  The omelet is really hearty and filling, but if you think about it the omelet has 5 eggs and just under a pound of tofu in it.  Of course it's filling.  I was worried that we wouldn't have enough to eat, but I couldn't even finish my half.  Granted, I threw on a few handfuls of pea shoots that I picked up at the farmer's market on Sunday.  The recipe called for celery leaves or cucumber as a garnish, but I wanted to use up my beautiful pea shoots instead.  It was definitely an interesting meal.  I enjoyed it.  I don't think it will be a crowd-pleaser because of the moderately high funk factor and somewhat lame description (a tofu omelet sounds about as exciting as a study in beige), but I'm glad we made it.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

    I periodically feel like Alex and I should make more of an effort to eat healthy.  It's not that we are terribly unhealthy eaters, but everyone could use a few diet tweaks from time to time.  Our current diet tweak is to try and eat more vegetables and maybe a few less carbs.  Don't get me wrong, I love carbs and I refuse to cut them out of my diet entirely.  What self-respecting Asian (or half-Asian as the case may be) refuses to eat rice or noodles?  I mean seriously.  But if I can substitute one or two servings of pasta or bread a week with some veggies, then why not?  The tweak actually has a dual purpose.  We end up wasting so much produce every week and I am hoping that this diet tweak will help us stop wasting produce so we can save a little money on groceries.  Groceries are expensive.  We have been pretty good this week with our squash blossoms, sugar snap peas, pea shoots, salads, etc.  And then tonight we had broccoli.  I'm actually planning on cooking more broccoli later this week because I bought two bunches.  My plan right now is to roast the second bunch of broccoli, but I will figure that out later.

    The inspiration for this recipe came from Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge by Grace Young.  She had a recipe for beef with broccoli and it occurred to me that I had a massive chicken breast defrosted in the fridge.  I briefly considered just substituting the chicken for the beef in that recipe, but decided it sounded a little heavy.  The cookbook also has a bunch of recipes that call for velveting chicken (marinating the chicken in a mixture of egg white and cornstarch before stir-frying) and since I had never tried that before I decided to give one of those a try.  So this recipe is actually an adaptation of another recipe in the book for Chinese Indian Chicken Manchurian, which we tweaked a bit before adding some broccoli.  And it was a total success.  The chicken was very moist from the velveting and it had a very tender, silky texture.  It also had a surprising amount of flavor.  Chicken breast is usually the most disappointing part of any stir-fry, dry and bland.  This was the exact opposite.  Not only was the chicken delicious, the broccoli was perfectly cooked and flavorful.  I loved the hint of heat from the chili and the fresh flavors of the scallions and cilantro.  The combination of chicken stock and soy sauce made a really simple and nice stir-fry sauce.  I might use it on future stir-fry variations in the future.  We usually add sesame oil to stir-fry and some rice vinegar, but I didn't miss them at all in this recipe.  It was all a lot fresher and brighter than our normal stir-fries and made me think that maybe simple is better.  A stir-fry made of chicken and one fresh vegetable might just be better than chicken stir-fry with a variety of canned and fresh vegetables.  Just a thought.  In the name of healthy eating we served our stir-fry with brown rice.  Go us.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Squash Blossom Quesadillas

    Along with the snow pea shoots I picked up at the farmers' market yesterday, I grabbed some beautiful squash blossoms.  The few months out of the year when squash blossoms are available I tend to make frittatas with them.  We have tried sauteing them with baby zucchini (not good enough to merit a post) and breading them and "frying" them in the oven (good but not great).  So when I picked up the squash blossoms I was originally contemplating making a frittata with mint or basil and some creamy cheese.  But once I got home and started thinking about it, I changed directions.  I started thinking that the way to go might be quesadillas instead of a frittata.  When I Googled "squash blossom quesadillas" I kept coming across references to recipes using grilled poblano peppers and epazote.  I didn't have any epazote, but I figured I could substitute cilantro instead.  Since literally every recipe I came across called for poblano peppers and I needed to go to the grocery store anyway, I decided it was worth picking up at the store.  So after a crazy work out session (remind me that pilates followed by a really hard spinning class - perhaps the hardest spinning class I have ever taken - is completely nuts), I ran to the grocery store and picked up my poblanos, tortillas and Monterrey Jack cheese.  And then we came home and made lunch.

    Quesadillas aren't exactly traditional Fourth of July fare, but they are delicious.  And these were no exception.  We served the quesadillas with homemade pico de gallo (a combination of Roma tomatoes, sweet onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, salt and lime juice).  It was a wonderful meal.  The squash blossoms taste faintly like zucchini and their inherent delicacy makes the quesadillas feel that much lighter.  Yum.  I love summer.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Asian Flank Steak with Sugar Snap Pea and Pea Shoot Salad

    This flank steak had about 10 different mental incarnations.  First I was going to stir fry it with snow peas and serve with pan-friend noodles.  My next idea was to simply season it with salt and pepper, grill it up and serve it with a homemade chimichurri sauce.  Then I was going to make a steak salad of some sort.  Finally I came up with this recipe after I got super excited at the farmer's market and bought some pea shoots.  They were just too beautiful to pass up.  I'm not sure that I have ever had fresh pea shoots in American cuisine, but they are one of my absolute favorite vegetables in Chinese cuisine (dou miao), where they are simply sauteed with garlic.  I love pea shoots cooked that way.  But I don't think I have ever had them raw.  The idea to put them in a salad came from my Cooking in the Moment cookbook by Andrea Reusing where Andrea has a recipe for a Pea Greens with Ume Plum Vinaigrette and Chive Blossoms.  We didn't have enough pea shoots to saute them (unfortunately), but we had a perfect amount for a salad.  So I re-evaluated my flank steak recipe and decided I wanted a vaguely Asian flank steak to go with a vaguely Asian pea shoot salad.  I had a few different ideas for an Asian marinade - the first thing I had to decide was whether I wanted to go Thai/Vietnamese with fish sauce, etc. in the marinade, Japanese with sake, Korean with some sesame oil and Korean red pepper flakes, or Chinese.  I ended up going vaguely Chinese with sherry and soy.  

    I thought that these two dishes work together beautifully as a meal.   The flank steak is bold and in your face, with the savory flavors of the soy, the sweetness from the Sherry and the honey, and just a whisper of heat from the sriracha.  Then you contrast the boldness of the flank steak against the subtle flavors of the sugar snap pea and pea shoot salad.  The dressing is not going to blow anyone's mind or change anyone's life, but its subtlety really works to let the delicacy of the fresh pea shoots shine.  I'm a sucker for sesame oil so of course I like the dressing.  I really liked combining the salad and the steak together in each bite because I thought that they complimented each other so well, although both dishes were perfectly fine on their own.  Alex ate them separately and he thought the combination was really nice too.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Pistachio-Crusted Arctic Char and English Peas with Mint

    My first experience with peas was in a casserole that my grandmother prepared.  I want to say that she made the same exact chicken casserole every single time that we visited her; it was something that I began to associate with visits to her house at an early age.  I wouldn't be surprised if there was a nice can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup in there too, but I'm not judging.  I don't think that I had a single fresh pea until I moved to NYC.  They weren't something that we ate at my parents' house.  But I saw fresh English peas at Trader Joe's and thought in the spirit of the season we should get some.  Actually, this dish probably also marks the first time that I had peas as more than a minor component of a dish.  I know you sometimes see peas in chicken pot pie and I generally throw it in there when I make pot pie, but I can't think of a single time that I have ordered or eaten peas by themselves as a side.  I am on a mission to try to expand our vegetable repertoire.  You could say this was something of an experiment.  We eat asparagus and arugula all the time.  They are our go-to vegetables.  When we decide to mix it up we usually move on to some baby spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, green beans or sugar snap peas (only recently have we begun to play with sugar snaps).  But I really want to add some new veggies and veggie recipes into our catalog.  While I have spent the majority of this post talking about the peas, what I really should discuss is the arctic char.  Char is a fish that I first experienced in NYC.  It's fairly similar to salmon in taste and fat content, although I believe it is a trout.  I'm no fish expert, but I know that I like it.  I found a recipe on Epicurious for Pistachio-Crusted Arctic Char that sounded delicious so I decided to make that along with our peas.  The recipe for the peas was a combination of several recipes I came across, including the one on the label of the peas.  I knew that mint was a natural choice for seasoning peas, but having never made them before I needed some guidance as to cooking time, etc.

    So the real winner of this meal was the arctic char, and not the peas.  The basil in the crust got really nice and sweet while roasting in the oven.  The shallot probably contributed to the sweetness too, but what I really tasted was the basil.  The pistachio gave the crust some texture and body - without it the crust would have basically been a sweet basil butter.  While not an amazing fish dish, it was really solid.  The peas on the other side were a little bland and boring.  I guess we didn't use enough salt when we first simmered them and after that nothing we did really gave the peas enough flavor.  In the bites with fresh mint you would get a sense of what the peas would or could taste like if properly cooked and seasoned.  They were also a little starchy, which I guess means we didn't cook them long enough.  Oh well.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Tacombi at Fonda Nolita

    After my pilates class yesterday Alex and I were wandering around Soho trying to figure out what to eat for lunch.  Generally when I do pilates downtown on Saturdays we head down to Chinatown afterwards for dim sum.  But as I mentioned in last night's post on Pork Souvlaki, Alex didn't think that dim sum was appropriate hot weather food.  He either wanted something cold, or just something on the lighter end of the food spectrum.  First I suggested Cocoron for some cold soba, but then I remembered that there was a taco place nearby I had been meaning to try.  Alex agreed that tacos were appropriate hot weather food (his logic was along the lines that Mexico is hot, therefore the food they serve there is hot weather food).  So I busted out my phone and started Googling for tacos in Soho.  I love Google.  And to be honest, I have no idea how I survived before I had a smartphone.  The ability to Google on the go, or do a Yelp search for nearby restaurants is totally key when Alex and I are wandering around NYC trying to decide where to eat.  And then the maps are key once we figure out where we want to go, but don't know exactly how to get there.  Anyway, after about 15 seconds on Google I found what I was looking for - Tacombi @ Fonda Nolita.  As you can see in the picture above, Tacombi @ Fonda Nolita features an old school VW van parked inside what looks like a former garage.  According to NY Mag the space actually used to be a clothing store, but that is beside the point.  The idea with Tacombi was to replicate the feeling of a taco truck at the beach in Mexico (the original Tacombi, launched by the owner of Tacombi @ Fonda Nolita, was actually parked in Playa del Carmen).  The idea is really interesting and I'm of the opinion that it is totally successful.  When you walk in the first thing you notice is the VW van, but then you start noticing the rest of the decor.  It easily could come off as cheesy, but I think it really works to make the place low key and fun.  After a brief primer on how to order and pay (you buy tickets at the counter and then take the tickets to one of two windows for your food - the VW van has all of the meat and vegetarian options, the window in the back has the breakfast tacos and fish tacos), we picked out 6 tacos (3 from each window) and sat down to eat.

    Pictures and our favorite taco after the jump!

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    Pork Souvlaki

    When I was younger my parents used to take me to this a food court in a mall near our house where I would eat pork souvlaki.  Looking back on it I'm not sure if their souvlaki was actually any good or not, but I sure liked it (although I certainly didn't know any better at the time).  My parents liked it too and I assume that they had a better basis for judging the quality of the souvlaki.  For the record, this wasn't one of those typically terrible food courts that you find in most malls and airports; it was better than average and offered options beyond Panda Express and Sbarro's.  Since then I have tried the pork souvlaki at various restaurants (rather than food courts), but I have never made it at home.  We had some pork shoulder defrosted for a stir-fry that I had intended to make tonight for dinner, but a comment Alex made this morning when we were discussing lunch about wanting hot weather food rather than dim sum resonated with me.  As a side note, we both decided that the appropriate food for hot weather was tacos, but more on that later.  So when I started thinking about dinner I decided that wasn't really in the mood for stir-fry because it struck me as heavy.  Somehow souvlaki sounded lighter and more appropriate for hot weather.  So we made souvlaki instead.

    And it was delicious.  The pork was so moist and tender, plus it had great flavor.  We let it marinate for just over 4 hours, but it really picked up a lot of flavor from the marinade in that time.  I wonder how much more flavor it would have absorbed if we had left it to marinate overnight?  I guess I will have to find out next time!  You can clearly taste the lemon, garlic and oregano, all of which scream Greek food to me.  We served the pork with some tzatziki and a fattoush salad - a recipe that I tried out for the first time just over a year ago.  It's a marvelous salad, with flavors that totally complimented the souvlaki.  Actually, this meal was so successful that I think I am going to try out some spanakopita later this weekend!

    Recipe after the jump!