Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Korean Mixed Simple Salad (Sangchu Kutjuri)

Sometimes when I come up with a meal there is one component that is a clear winner.  In the Korean meal we made last night with this Mixed Simple Salad and a Pork and Potato Saute, I thought this salad was definitely the winner.  At the very least, it was the dish that made me want to go back for seconds.  The flavors were fresh and vibrant and it put a whole new spin on salad.  Generally when you have an Asian-inspired salad it has some sort of sesame-ginger dressing on it.  While I like those gingery dressings, this was a really nice change of pace.  And it was incredibly easy to throw together.  You didn't even have to make a dressing per se - instead you drizzled a few different liquids on top of some lettuce, sprinkled the lettuce with some scallions, Korean chili flakes and sugar and voila, your salad is ready.  From now on I am making this salad as a side dish to any Korean barbeque meal.  If you serve the meat with some white rice, store-bought kimchi and salad you will have a marvelous meal.

Recipe after the jump!

Pork and Potato Saute (Jeyuk Sun)

I feel like Alex and I have been on a Korean kick lately.  A few weeks ago we made a Korean chicken dish and we had kalbi over the weekend.  And then I found this Pork and Potato Saute in our Korean cookbook, which we served with a Korean Mixed Simple Salad from the same cookbook.  And if I get out of work in enough time tomorrow we are going to make a Korean cucumber salad and the apple kimchi from our Momofuku cookbook.  See?  It's a total Korean kick!  If this is the least successful of our Korean recipes, I will be a very happy cook.  While I didn't love this dish, it was a really homey, rustic dish - the type of dish that would be really welcome on a really cold winter day.  The potatoes soak up a lot of flavor from the braising liquid and make the dish feel very hearty.  The pork on the other hand, does not.  I wish there had been a little more spice and depth of flavor from the gochujang-marinade.  I also wish there had been more soy (or salt).  Instead of braising future pork dishes I might make a variation on the Korean Spicy Chicken (Dak Bulgogi) we made earlier this month with pork instead of chicken.  I just thought the dak bulgogi had better flavor.  Alex agreed that the chicken was better, but he said that he enjoyed the pork and potato leftovers today for lunch.  My problem with this dish is the same problem that I have with most braises.  I always expect the meat in a braise to be imbued with the flavor of the braising liquid and that is rarely the case.  I also expect the meat to be moist, when it is often dry.  Leftovers are often better because as the meat sits in the braising liquid in the fridge overnight it soaks up some of the braising liquid and becomes more flavorful.  So maybe that is why Alex enjoyed his leftovers today as much as he did...
Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Four-Spice Salmon with Refreshing Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad

I would say that this dish came about pretty randomly.  As far as I am concerned, the two components were never meant to go together.  Sometimes our meals are planned from beginning to end - I know that I want to serve a main course and I come up with a side dish to compliment it (or vice versa).  This meal was two completely separate dishes that I threw together into one meal just because it was all we had in the fridge.  And the ingredients weren't so crazy that we couldn't combine them.  So we did.  And it worked out ok.  The flavors didn't exactly compliment each other, but they weren't completely at war with each other either.

Alex thought that the salmon was ok, but a little dry.  Spice rub seared onto the surface of fish always reminds me of blackening seasoning on catfish and redfish.  The spices dry out and get a little charred.  I thought that the flavors of the spice rub that went on top of the salmon were pretty nice.  Alex wanted more of the spice rub (or at least more powerful flavors from the spice rub).  I liked the flavors the way they were - subtle, but highly aromatic.  This wasn't my favorite salmon recipe, but I thought it was an interesting variation on our typical Salt and Pepper Salmon.  The watermelon salad was probably my favorite part of the meal.  I love watermelon salads and we have made several versions over the years.  But I have never combined watermelon with heirloom tomatoes.  I really liked the sweetness of the watermelon, the acidity of the tomatoes, the fresh mint flavor and the punch of saltiness from the feta.  The dish was just so summery and fresh and the flavors really work amazingly well together.  It was delicious.  Word to the wise - be careful when reducing the balsamic glaze, otherwise you end up with a really thick sticky mess that is less of a glaze and more of a molasses-like taffy substance.  Even with the balsamic candy/taffy instead of a glaze, I thought the salad was fabulous.  As a side note, in case you are confused by the pictures we used yellow watermelon and a red heirloom tomato.  Pretty, no?

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy Buttermilk Sauce

What do you do when all of your dinner plans are shot to hell in the space of a few minutes?  If you're Alex and I, you tend to make very random vegetable dishes.  I am a crazy farmers' market shopper all summer long so we always end up with random produce around the house to use.  I had purchased these green tomatoes with the idea that I would make some sort of chutney with them.  I also found a recipe for a frittata with green tomatoes and a green tomato pie - both of which I thought sounded really interesting.  But when it came down to it, we couldn't resist another batch of fried green tomatoes.  I was planning on just making the same Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk-Lime Dressing, only I wanted to make some sort of spicy buttermilk dressing instead of the buttermilk-lime dressing.  But Alex found a recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy Buttermilk Sauce on a blog called Authentic Suburban Gourmet so we decided to try that instead.  While I enjoyed this version, in the future, I will probably go back to our original recipe.  I liked the coating/breading better in the original version.  I preferred the texture of the cornmeal and flour crust to the polenta and panko crust here.  I really thought that the other crust adhered to the tomatoes better, but this crust was a little sandy/crunchy for me.  And the polenta tasted a little raw to me.  I also liked the Buttermilk-Lime Dressing from the original recipe better than this Spicy Buttermilk Sauce.  Part of the problem for me with this sauce was that I am not a particularly big fan of mayonnaise.  This dressing was a little too distinctly mayonnaisey for me, although I didn't find the taste objectionable when combined with the richness and tartness of the tomatoes.  When I tasted the dressing on its own prior to frying the tomatoes I think I made what Alex calls "stink face."  I just don't like mayonnaise.  I can't help it.  Beyond the mayonnaise, I really loved the flavors of the basil and the lime in the other dressing.  It was just so bright and refreshing.  As far as he can remember, Alex liked both recipes equally.  That's not surprising since he actually likes the taste of mayonnaise.  This was still a really good recipe (and I am glad we tried it), but I just liked the other recipe a touch better. 
Recipe after the jump!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese chicken rice is a dish that sounds like it should come from Hainan Island off the south coast of China, but I saw it far more in the week I was in Singapore than I ever did in China.  It's entirely possible that I just wasn't looking while I was in China, but there you have it.  Hainanese chicken rice has always reminded me of White-Cooked Chicken (aka Poached Chicken with Ginger and Scallion Sauce).  But I love White-Cooked Chicken, so that's a good thing.  In my mind there is no other way to cook chicken that leaves it that succulent and moist.  Alex's complaint is that poached chicken doesn't have the flavor of other chicken preparations, but I feel like nothing tastes more purely of chicken than poached chicken.  And if you love chicken the way I love chicken, that is a really good thing.  Granted, I always want poached chicken to be served with some sort of sauce (like a ginger-scallion sauce, or this spicy chili sauce).  As usual, Alex's complaint was that he wished the poached chicken had more flavor.  I thought it was delicious.  And I thought the spicy chili sauce that was served with it was also delicious.  It was spicy, bright and just a little sweet.  The one criticism of Alex's that I will agree with is that the flavors of the chicken are subtle and delicate enough that the sauce obscures the flavor of the poached chicken.  So use the sauce judiciously if you really want to taste the chicken.  But if you're going for spicy goodness, by all means dunk your chicken right in the sauce and go with that.  Either way you will have a wonderful meal.  

But (and I say this because I am trying to save you from repeating our mistakes) do not make the mistake of starting to cook at 7 or 8 pm.  If you do that you won't be eating until 9 or 10 pm because scrubbing the chicken, seasoning the chicken, and then poaching the chicken takes a long time.  It's fairly easy to do, but it does take awhile.  And I didn't read the recipe all the way through so I didn't realize just how long it would take when I proposed it.  I have a bad habit of doing that...  So unless you really do want to eat a late dinner (even by NYC standards), my advice would be to go ahead and get started on this bad boy on the early side.

Recipe after the jump!

Pork Schnitzel

This is probably the first time that I can ever say that I designed a meal around a mustard.  Yup.  You read it right - mustard.  Alex and I picked up a jar of this Jalapeno IPA Mustard from My Friend's Mustard back in March at the Get Real NY Craft Beer & Food Festival that has been sitting in our cupboard, lonely and dejected, ever since then.  In an effort to finally use some of our delicious beer mustard, I came up with this recipe.  I know that schnitzels don't traditionally use panko breadcrumbs, cornmeal and Parmigiano-Reggiano as the breading, but panko is my go to breadcrumb and lately I have really been enjoying the combination of panko and cornmeal for a little extra crunch/crispy texture for the crust.  So I went with it.  I also love how Parmgiano-Reggiano turns a wonderful golden brown and adds a lovely salty flavor when roasted or pan-fried as part of the breading, so I threw that in too.  Generally I would also add some herbs or other seasoning to the flour and the breadcrumb mixture, but since we were pairing the schnitzels with the spicy mustard, I didn't want to have too many competing flavors and I just threw in some s&p.  So I'm not really sure if this is a schnitzel or a milanese or some other random dish, but I'm going to pretend it's a schnitzel because that is what I was thinking of when I made it, and call it a day.

So there are some pros and cons to the dish.  The coating on the schnitzel was marvelous and the pork was perfectly cooked.  Alex and I were both in complete agreement on that.  I was actually surprised by how juicy the pork was seeing as I didn't have time to brine it or anything.  Next time I will go ahead and brine or marinate the pork so that the pork itself soaks up a little more flavor, because as juicy as the pork was you could have been eating any sort of meat under that wonderful breading.  Depending on what I intend to serve with my schnitzel I will also add some seasonings/herbs to the breadcrumbs.  Another alternative to make the dish seem a little (or a lot) lighter would be to serve it with lemon wedges and an arugula salad lightly dressed with lemon juice, evoo and a sprinkle of flaked sea salt.  You could also very finely mince up some flat-leaf parsley or thyme and a garlic clove and throw the herbs in with the breadcrumbs for some extra freshness and flavor.  Basically, it's a really great base recipe for you to play with and season to your own liking!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sauteed Greens

One of my favorite stalls at the farmers' market behind the Museum of Natural History is 5 lbs of Dirt Farm.  5 lbs of Dirt is a small farm in the Hudson Valley that grows (in my opinion) some of the best lettuces, greens and other veggies that I have ever seen.  Just look at their pictures on Facebook.  They are absolutely beautiful.  I have been eying what they call "big mix" for awhile now and I decided on Sunday to go ahead and buy half a pound.  One of the ladies there assured me that it is her favorite of the greens.  She eats it raw, but said that it would be delicious sauteed.  I'm not sure exactly what is in big mix, but it looked (and tasted) like Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, tatsoi, arugula, spinach and various crazy looking lettuces/greens.  I have no idea what some of them are.  If I had been thinking ahead I would have taken some pictures of the greens before and after cooking them so you could get a sense of what exactly was in the "big mix."  But if you're that interested, pop on over to their Facebook page where they have several pages of it.

This recipe was a nice foil for the pork schnitzel that we served with it.  I wanted something to cut through the rich, hearty schnitzel so I thought that some apple cider vinegar would be both sweet enough and acidic enough to work well to balance out the pork, while also compensating for the bitterness of some of the greens.  I briefly considered throwing in a pinch of sugar, but I decided against it because the onions and apple cider vinegar should already provide the dish with some sweetness.  I liked these greens.  Alex thought they were fine, but not amazing.  Then again, he's not a huge fan of sauteed greens.  I really like sauteed greens in theory, but I often find the greens themselves to be too bitter for me.  I thought these greens were nice because we got to experiment with the gorgeous "big mix" without being overwhelmed by the bitterness of some of the greens.  The flavors here were fresh and vibrant, with a subtle kick from the crushed red pepper flakes and the acidity from the apple cider vinegar, tempered with the richness of a tbsp of butter.  I have to admit that I stole the idea for the butter from some recipe that I stumbled across online.  It seemed like an interesting idea so I went ahead and incorporated it.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bean Curd with a Deliciously Spicy Sauce

After Alex's work retreat this weekend (which I sometimes refer to as "science camp") he requested something light and not buffet-like for dinner.  I figured that tofu was light, and as not buffet-like as you can get.  I guess you might find tofu on some Asian buffets, but I'm fairly certain that you won't find it here in the United States.  I had initially intended to make tofu dengaku, but we were out of red miso.  And we had everything we needed for this recipe.  So I decided this recipe would be an equally tasty alternative.  It's basically a vegetarian version of mapo tofu, only less spicy and with less chili bean paste/fermented black beans.  I have to say that I preferred this dish to the Ma Po Tofu we made back in August.  This dish was far less oily than the Ma Po Tofu, which made the flavors taste cleaner.  You could really taste and savor the flavors of the garlic, ginger and scallions, whereas the flavors in the other dish were a little muddled.  And I think adding just a little of the chili bean paste and/or fermented black beans made the dish taste much lighter.  It was flavorful enough that I didn't miss the ground pork (or beef) at all this dish.  Actually, adding the pork would have just made the whole dish feel a little clunkier.  So I'm glad we left it out.  I found this tofu dish to be totally delicious and satisfying.  Welcome home honey - I hope dinner was everything that you were hoping for.

Recipe after the jump!

Zucchini Carpaccio with Ricotta

I really love cooked zucchini (or squash), but somehow raw zucchini never quite does it for me.  I stil like raw zucchini, but when it comes down to it I would prefer it cooked.  This is the third raw zucchini dish that we have tried in the past few years.  Last summer we tried a Zucchini Crudo and a Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan Pine Nuts.  All three of the raw zucchini salads were good - light, fresh and summery, but I think that I prefer Red Cat's Quick Saute of Zucchini, Whole Wheat Penne Rigate with Summer Squash and Ricotta, Disappearing Zucchini Orzo and Ad Hoc's Summer Vegetable Gratin.  This carpaccio was no exception.  It was good, but I really wanted there to be something more to it.  The fresh ricotta was lovely, and the basil was too, but it lacked anything to make it really stand out.  I told Alex that in the future I would make this dish as a side if I were to have say an Easter dinner with baked ham and a bunch of sides because it's easy to make (bonus points since it doesn't require any cooking) and it's beautiful to look at.  Don't get me wrong, the dish is far from bad, it's just that it's not amazing either.  I have been waiting to post the recipe since last Sunday because I just didn't know what to say.  I still don't but I figured at this point I might as well go ahead and say what little there is to be said and call it a day.

Recipe after the jump!

Lavash Pizza with Eggplant and Arugula

What do you do if you're home alone for the weekend and you have a little bit of a lot of different produce in the fridge to use up?  You come up with a variety of salads, sides, and lavash pizzas!  And you order sushi on Friday night when you just don't like cooking.  But as a trade off, you make a deal with yourself to cook/eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at home on Saturday.  This recipe started as a way to use up some eggplant, basil and cherry tomatoes.  While I was at Zabar's this morning it occurred to me that I could make a lavash pizza.  So I picked up some whole grain lavash (it's that resolution to eat healthy again), some smoked mozzarella and some more arugula.  And then I decided to go ahead and wing it for dinner.  In case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty into winging it.  Sometimes it works out well and sometimes it doesn't.  But I always have fun along the way.

This recipe worked out pretty well.  Lavash pizza is such a great alternative to making pizza at home.  This lavash pizza was basically a less labor intensive combination of two pizza recipes we have made in the past - Eggplant Pizza and White Pizza with Arugula (which wasn't my intention going into it, but was what resulted).  I didn't want to go to the effort to make a garlic oil (although that would have been absolutely delicious here) and I wanted to use up my cherry tomatoes rather than use a canned tomato sauce.  And I certainly didn't want to go to the trouble to roll out pizza dough.  In the future I would prob throw a little Parmigiano-Reggiano on top of the eggplant slices on the pizza for an additional level of its nutty, salty flavor.  And I would probably whip up some of the garlic oil, because it went so well on the eggplant last time.  Minced garlic and a drizzle of evoo works fine in a pinch, but it just can't compare.  Otherwise, I think it all worked out pretty well for a dish I cobbled together on a whim with the random produce in our apartment!  Speaking of random produce, I went to the farmers' market again today and picked up some more...  I really do have a problem.  So stay tuned.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cherry Tomato Salad

This salad came about as part of an effort to use up things in our kitchen.  We had cherry tomatoes from the farmers' market, plus an English cucumber, feta cheese, kalamata olives and fresh parsley, all in the fridge.  It was also part of our millionth resolution to eat healthy.  As always, I have my doubts that our resolution will stick, but that's ok.  At least we get a few healthy meals out of it.  

I found this recipe on The Way the Cookie Crumbles, which originally found the recipe in Cook's Illustrated.  And then I also saw it on Annie's Eats.  Both blogs had much prettier pictures than mine.  Oops.  I am perfectly happy to admit that food styling is not my forte and my dishes are pretty boring.  If only I had a house with a decent sized kitchen I would own a variety of fun serving dishes, but I just don't have the cabinet space in my little NYC apartment kitchen!  I am always oogling pretty new dishes from Anthropologie, Fishs Eddy and Crate and Barrel.  I went through an Etsy obsession too, but I had to rein myself in.  Anyway, this salad might not look pretty but it was pretty nice to eat.  It's not one of those "oh my god, where have you been all of my life" recipes, but I didn't think it would be.  I liked the concept of using the tomato liquid to create a vinaigrette so the salad really is all about the tomatoes.  The shallots that are simmered in the tomato liquid while it is reducing become super sweet and delicious, which I thought was really nice.  I might follow the lead of The Way the Cookie Crumbles and Annie's Eats and omit the kalamata olives in the future.  I love olives, but I felt like they were a little overwhelming in this recipe.  The ingredients are very similar to other quasi Greek salads we have made before, but somehow the salad tasted pretty unique.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Roasted Beets with Lebneh and Mint

    Last night I was trying to think of a way to use up my beets from the CSA and I kept thinking about the lebneh I had left in the fridge from our Grilled Eggplant with Lebneh.  I really liked the combination of the garlic in the lebneh with the fresh mint.  And I thought that it would work with some roasted beets, but I wasn't sure so I checked Google.  When I Googled I found a variety of recipes including beets and yogurt - most of which wanted you to grate the beets and mix with plain yogurt.  That reminded me a little too much of a coleslaw and the proportions of yogurt to beet sounded off to me, so I decided to just wing it.  I found a Madhur Jaffrey recipe on Epicurious that called for a pinch of cayenne so I appropriated that idea and started cooking.  And man, that cayenne was genius.  But I have to give us credit for coming up with such a genius idea in the first place.  Alex actually said that this was one of his favorite beet recipes ever.  Not that we make beets that often, but I still consider that to be a serious accomplishment.  Once you stir it all together, the tartness and coolness of the lebneh was the perfect contrast to the heat of the cayenne and the sweetness of the beets.  And then there was the brightness of fresh mint and the hint of fresh garlic.  Yum.  It was just really good.  And the bright fuchsia color was just beautiful.  In fact, it was so good (and so pretty) that I even considered stealing the last bite away from Alex and eating it myself.  But I didn't.  I'm a good wife like that.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011


      I honestly couldn't tell you when and where I first had migas.  I remember having a rather excellent version of chilaquiles, which are somewhat similar to migas, out in San Francisco, but I honestly don't have a clue where I had migas for the first time.  I have never been to Austin, Texas where I hear they serve migas almost everywhere.  What I can tell you is that the last time I had migas they were fairly mediocre and to cap it all off, I got an excellent case of food poisoning.  Awesome.  But clearly it wasn't bad enough to dissuade me from making migas at home. The food poisoning might have actually incentivized me to make my migas at home so as to avoid any future bouts with migas-induced food poisoning at that particular restaurant, which is the only restaurant I know of near my apartment that serves migas.

      My favorite thing about migas is the variety of flavors and textures.  Different versions have a different blend of veggies and other ingredients.  I know I have seen some versions served with salsa, some that include the veggie-equivalent of a pico de gallo, and others that are chunkier and more rustic.  I decided to use up what we had in the fridge in our migas - corn tortillas, fresh chorizo, red bell pepper, onion, half of a jalapeno, cotija cheese and cilantro.  We had a jar of salsa in the refrigerator (which would have been an easier approach than chopping up and sauteeing all of the fresh veggies), but what fun is that?  We didn't have any avocado, otherwise I might have served some of that on the side.  I briefly considered adding tomatoes (which I believe is traditional), but I didn't want to add anything that would make the dish watery.  As for the chorizo, I have never had a version of migas with chorizo in it before but the flavor profiles seemed to work in my head so I decided to go for it.  I'm not sure if it is traditional or not.  Regardless of tradition, my migas were delicious.  They were hearty and flavorful.  And the homemade crispy corn tortillas were delicious.  I think that traditionally you toss all of the crispy tortillas in with the eggs as you cook them so they can soak up the juices and flavors of the migas, but in my mind that defeated the  purpose of crisping them up in the first place.  I wanted some of them to remain extra crispy.  So I threw half of them in and reserved the other half to be served with the migas.  It was an excellent idea if I do say so myself.  And I really liked the blend of textures and flavors with the fresh veggies - the bell peppers stayed somewhat crisp and sweet, the onions mellowed and softenened and the jalapeno gave it all some kick.  It was really good - good enough that I might have to go to Austin to try some authentic migas and see how mine stack up.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Sunday, September 11, 2011

      Spicy Seared Shrimp

      Every once in awhile my mom will enjoy a recipe enough to pass it along to me.  This was a recipe that she gave me years ago and I never made because at the time I didn't have turmeric in the kitchen.  And then I just forgot about it and shoved it into a cookbook as a bookmark.  The other day I was going through some of the cookbooks that I haven't used in awhile and this recipe fell out.  Seeing as it was probably lost in that cookbook for 1-2 years I figured it was past time that I finally made it.  My mom knows what I like and we have similar tastes so when she recommends a recipe I generally trust her.  In the past month she sent me a cornbread recipe and a salmon recipe, both of which I plan to try soon. 

      We served this shrimp as shrimp tacos with corn tortillas with some thinly sliced avocado, but I think t would work just as well (if not better) served on a bed of yellow or basmati rice to soak up all of the marinade.  It didn't occur to me at the time to serve it that way, but I kind of wish I had.  It would have been delicious.  As it was, the shrimp made for some pretty tasty tacos.  It's not really a Mexican flavor profile, but I'm not sure that I found it to be an Indian or Middle Eastern flavor profile either (which is what the addition of turmeric suggests to me).  Actually, with the garlic, cilantro, lemon juice and turmeric I guess it is a fairly Indian flavor profile, but not so much that it really screams Indian cuisine.  Considering how easy this dish was to make and how quick it all came together I would be happy to make it again sometime.  And now that the recipe is on the blog I can't lose it again and forget to make it for years.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Peach, Prosciutto and Ricotta Crostini

      When I was younger my favorite restaurant was an Italian restaurant in Rockville, Maryland called Il Pizzico.  They had a few dishes that I loved - a shrimp and tomato crostini, a pasta with stewed calamari and dessert called "chocolate salami."  We started going there for dinner when it was a really small cafe with a glass case at the front full of desserts and stopped going after it got all fancy and expensive.  I believe Il Pizzico was also my first experience with tiramisu, but I didn't grow to love tiramisu until years later.  Once they fancied the restaurant up, they took all of our favorite dishes off the menu in favor of other, less homestyle dishes and raised prices dramatically.  So that was the end of that.  I haven't been back to Il Pizzico in at least 15 years, but it had a lasting effect on my diet - my love of crostini stems from meals I ate at that restaurant.  I really should ask my mother what went in the crostini aside from shrimp, scallions and tomatoes because she used to make a version of it at home that I would love to recreate.  And I am determined to make chocolate salami eventually just to see if it can possibly be as good as I remember it being. 

      Back in June of this year Bon Appetit had an article called "Summer Crostini 7 Ways."  Two of the recipes from that article immediately caught my eye - this one, and a recipe for Tomato, Mozzarella and Thai Basil Crostini that we made about a month ago.  There are a few other recipes that I want to try from that issue (including one for Peas, Mint and Parmesan Crostini), but I figure I will get around to them eventually.  I decided this morning that these crostini would be the perfect light lunch served alongside a simple arugula salad.  We had some of the really nice local ricotta that I picked up from Whole Foods the other day left in the fridge, so we went to the farmers' market this morning and picked up some fresh peaches and some ciabatta bread.  Then we wandered down to Salumeria Rosi to pick up some of their amazing prosciutto.  By the time we accomplished all that it was about 12:45 pm and I was starving so we whipped up some crostini.  I really liked this recipe, but Alex and I both agreed that the Tomato, Mozzarella and Thai Basil Crostini was better.  Alex wanted there to be more prosciutto on each crostini, but that's because he is obsessed.  I thought the amount of prosciutto he wanted totally obscured the flavor of the ricotta and the fresh peaches.  The recipe is inspired by the traditional Italian combination of prosciutto and melon and all in all, I think in this case traditional might be better.  While I enjoyed the summery flavors of this crostini, the combination of peach and prosciutto wasn't quite as successful to me.  Even so I thought it was a really lovely lunch.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Saturday, September 10, 2011

      Spinach Salad with Walnuts (Salatet bil s'banegh joz)

      First and foremost, isn't this salad beautiful?  I'm not sure that this picture does it justice but trust me, the colors are gorgeous in person.  The ruby red pomegranate seeds, white yogurt, and green mint just look so wonderful together.  And they actually taste pretty good together too.  But as pretty as the salad was, we both agreed that it needed something.  In certain bites where you had the proper balance of all of the ingredients it was quite good.  Then you would have another bite that would be somewhat bland and boring.  I guess that is what happens when you have a salad with this many ingredients.  It's pretty hard to make sure that each bite is perfectly balanced.  But even in the ideal bites you could still sense that the salad was just missing something.  Something with a little more bite or perhaps a little more sweetness.  Alex wanted the pomegranate seeds to be sweeter.  I thought the pomegranate seeds were sweet enough, but there was just something else it all needed to come together.  I just don't know what.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Summertime Lasagna

      Lasagna is not something that I make very often.  It is just far too time consuming.  I think I have only made two lasagnas in all of the years that I have been cooking - a Wild Mushroom Lasagna from Gourmet that I made for Thanksgiving a few years back (it was totally fabulous btw so I highly recommend making it) and this "summertime lasagna," which was only a lasagna in that lasagna noodles were layered with veggies and ricotta.  It makes a great summertime version of lasagna because you don't have to bake it in the oven and heat up the whole house.  Plus it just feels so much lighter.  The traditional balance of noodle to filling is turned upside down and this becomes a celebration of fresh ricotta, tomatoes and zucchini than a gooey, cheesy lasagna.  I really liked it and Alex did too.  In the future I might try drizzling the burst cherry tomatoes with a little aged balsamic for a little more acidity and sweetness.  If you are going to make this dish I would recommend picking up some local fresh ricotta (or making your own) because it's so much richer and more flavorful than the ricotta you pick up from the grocery store.  I also recommend using fresh cherry tomatoes (we used a mix of sun golds and traditional red cherry tomatoes) and zucchinis (we used Italian striped zucchini) from the farmers' market.  Since this dish is so simple and lacks the cheese and tomato sauce or bechamel of a baked lasagna, you really need to make sure your individual ingredients are as fresh and delicious as possible.  If you do that you will end up with a really nice dish.  If you use out of season cherry tomatoes and a tub of ricotta from the grocery store, it might end up being a little blah.  So I guess it's a summertime dish in more than name.
      Recipe after the jump!

      Thursday, September 8, 2011

      Sauteed Pea Shoots

      Dou miao (pea shoots) are one of my favorite simple Chinese sauteed vegetables.  All you do is stir-fry them briefly with minced garlic, a splash of soy, a little chicken stock and voila.  It's totally delicious and incredibly easy to throw together as a quick side.  Pea tendrils earlier in the season are a little more delicate than pea shoots, so I would recommend using those instead if you can find them.  At this point in the summer all that I could find was pea shoots, but it worked out ok.  I would probably roughly chop the pea shoots in the future so you don't end up with really long strings of veggies in every bite, but otherwise I think the dish was pretty good as is. 

      Recipe after the jump!

      Wednesday, September 7, 2011

      Chicken Meatball Summer Rolls and Hoisin-Garlic Sauce

      This recipe was inspired by a recipe that I found in my Vietnamese cookbook and the pork summer rolls at Ma Peche.  I was originally planning on making tiny pork meatballs or patties flavored with lemongrass for my summer rolls but then I decided to go a little healthier and stick with chicken meatballs.  Sometimes I do try to be healthy.  I periodically swear that I am going to eat more veggies and eat healthier, but throw me an interesting pork belly recipe and all of my good intentions go to hell in a handbasket.  I can't even count the number of times that it has happened.  But every once in awhile I pick the healthier option, like picking chicken over pork with this meal. 

      In the end, I kind of wish I had made traditional summer rolls with poached shrimp and pork.  The chicken meatballs were good, but they made the summer rolls feel a little clunky/heavy.  Their heaviness obscured the fresh and delicate flavors of the herbs, cucumber and lettuce.  And just seemed out of kilter with the rest of the dish.  I think the meatballs would work really well in a play on a banh mi - with pickled vegetables and herbs.  I also think they would work better in the summer rolls if we adjusted the ratio of meatball to herbs.  I think that cutting the meatballs into quarters and upping the amount of herbs and cucumber would be better.  And they need a different sauce.  We served the summer rolls with the modified hoisin-garlic sauce from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, but the sauce really didn't work for me.  You couldn't eat the summer rolls without the sauce, but I felt like the flavors really didn't compliment each other very well.  I would prefer a more standard nuoc cham dipping sauce with those meatballs.  Or maybe a spicy sriracha mayo if you made banh mi.  Actually, that sounds like a pretty good idea.  But if I were to make the meatballs again I would play around with the ingredients a little to modify their texture.  I think I would add some minced lemongrass and more shallots and cut out the potato flour.  I might have to add more roasted rice powder to help bind the mixture together if I cut out the flour entirely, but I'm ok with that.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Grilled Eggplant with Lebneh

      Somehow we never cook Middle Eastern at home.  I don't know why.  Actually I guess I do know why - it's just not something that occurs to me when I am planning dinner.  I don't stock most of the ingredients and spices at home.  So I have to make a conscious decision and effort to make Middle Eastern food.  Generally it involves a shopping trip to Kalustyans and some degree of forethought.  Forethought isn't always my friend.  But I decided yesterday that we were going to make a vegetarian Middle Eastern meal - this eggplant dish and a spinach and pomegranate salad.  The meal evolved around this eggplant dish because we got three eggplants from our CSA last week and thus far had only managed to use one of them.  And I am trying to be extra good about using all of our CSA and farmers' market produce this summer.  I also needed to free up some space in our refrigerator, which is verging on crazy full right now.  So we picked up the few ingredients we were missing and we made ourselves some Middle Eastern food.  And this eggplant dish was the clear winner of our Middle Eastern experiment.  It was very easy to make.  And it was delicious.  I have never tried lebneh before but it was delicious, similar to Greek yogurt but not quite.  Both yogurts are tart and thick, but the tartness is a little different.  And I think it is even thicker than Greek yogurt.  But it was delicious on the eggplant.  The mint really was the perfect touch.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.  And it provided me with enough incentive to add more Middle Eastern recipes to our repertoire.  Just eggplant today, but who knows what we will be making tomorrow?

      Recipe after the jump!

      Monday, September 5, 2011

      Fallen Grits Souffles with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

      I'm not really sure what inspired me to make this recipe.  When I stumbled across the recipe I was trying to find recipes that I thought would show off my sun gold tomatoes to their advantage.  There were a bunch of salad recipes and pasta recipes using cherry tomatoes, but I just wasn't feeling either of those things.  Then I saw this recipe.  I love grits.  I like soufflés.  And it featured the raw cherry tomatoes drizzled with evoo and seasoned with s&p on top.  I figured what the hell?  It sounded really different and I like different.  Plus it's fun to mix it up when you have the time to do so.  And given that today is Labor Day, we had plenty of time.  Granted, we didn't eat lunch until 4:00 pm because it took a lot longer to prepare than we had anticipated (one day I will learn to read the recipe all the way through before cooking), but seeing as we had no real plans and didn't eat breakfast until 11:30 am it wasn't a problem.

      So this was an interesting meal to make.  And a tasty meal.  Something that you would put on a brunch spread the first time your in-laws came to stay for the weekend if you were inclined to put out a brunch spread.  But neither Alex nor I were certain that it was entirely worth the effort.  I don't know that it was any better than the Creamy Cheddar Grits that we made earlier this year.  The cheddar grits are luscious and comforting - exactly what you think of when you think grits.  The soufflé was much lighter, both intrinsically as a soufflé and due to the brightness and acidity of the cherry tomatoes.  The soufflé is also infinitely more elegant, but I'm generally not looking for elegant when I am craving grits.  Sun gold tomatoes, soufflé and aged goat cheese are just inherently elegant.  I thought the dish was fun (if labor intensive) to make, nice to eat and beautiful to look at, but who knows if I would ever take the time and effort to make it again.  As with all soufflés, I feel like the presentation is what you are going for rather than taste.  There are tons of preparations that I think are tastier or more satisfying (or at the very least just as tasty or satisfying) than a soufflé, but nothing that can match up to it in sheer wow factor.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Sunday, September 4, 2011

      Rice Noodles with Chinese Chives, Shrimp and Pork

      When we got home yesterday after our shopping expedition to Chinatown I realized that we had far too many noodles in the apartment.  And 2 lbs worth of Chinese chives.  So I had to come up with a recipe to use up some of both.  Luckily, our Vietnamese cookbook had a recipe that used both rice noodles and Chinese chives.  We did have to run to the regular grocery store to buy some ground pork and shrimp, but Fairway is nearby so it was no big deal.  Let's be honest.  I trek all over the city for some of my more esoteric groceries.  By comparison a trip to Fairway is nothing.  I consider the effort well worth it when we get a delicious dish out of it.

      These noodles kind of reminded me of Ming Tsai's My Crazy Chicken (Turkey) Rice Noodle Stir-Fry, except that Ming's noodles skew a little more Thai/Malaysian while these noodles are more Vietnamese.  I really loved the Chinese chives in this dish.  They are crazy aromatic and delicious.  Chinese chives have a garlicky flavor rather than an oniony flavor.  And they smell amazing.  I really enjoy them, but I generally don't buy them because they come in huge bundles and I don't have that many uses for them.  Sometimes I roll them in with my Vietnamese summer rolls.  Other times I have thrown it into shrimp and pork stir-fries.  If it had occurred to me I would have served these noodles with some sriracha.  Or we could have taken a page from Ming's recipe and mixed some sambal in with the noodles as they stir-fried.  But I forgot all about it until after I finished eating.  Alex wanted some more nuoc cham to go with the noodles but I was worried that it would obscure the delicate flavors of the Chinese chives and the flavor of the shrimp and pork.  Alex liked the Ming Tsai noodles better because their flavors are a little more assertive - more spice, more lime, just more.  But I really liked the subtler flavors here.  In the end, I think it's a toss up for me.  Both recipes are good, but for different reasons and different moods.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Spicy "Korean" Corn Salad

      I have no idea if Koreans eat corn.  Corn turns up in various Southeast Asian cuisines and I know that I ate plenty of grilled corn in China, but I have never seen or heard of a Korean corn dish.  But since we are still working on using up our accidental corn bounty, I thought we could cook up some kernels and toss in Korean red chili flakes, scallions, sesame oil and soy and come up with a nice easy side dish for our Korean Spicy Chicken Barbecue.  I wasn't going to bother blogging about it, but Alex told me that it was good enough that I should go ahead and document it on the blog.  So I am going to apologize in advance for not having exact measurements for the ingredients.  I kind of threw it all together to taste.  But sometimes that is the best way to come up with a new recipe - a pinch of this, a little of that and just see what happens.  With a few pinches of Korean chili flakes, a dash of soy, a handful of scallions and a splash of sesame oil you end up with a very flavorful side dish.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Korean Spicy Chicken Barbecue (Dak Bulgogi)

      After a few somewhat generic, but delicious meals, I felt like it was time to make something Asian.  So we trekked down to Chinatown after the Hester Street Fair yesterday and bought a bunch of Asian groceries.  I say "Asian groceries" because we picked up Korean ingredients, Chinese ingredients, Vietnamese ingredients, Thai ingredients and various generic ingredients that could be used in a variety of Asian cuisines.  I was kind of all over the map.  Then again I often am.  So expect a bunch of Asian meals over the course of the next week.  Right now I have plans for Vietnamese for dinner tonight and possibly for lunch tomorrow and potentially a Burmese curry for later in the week.  But Korean won out for lunch today.  There is a omni-deli near my office (I call it an omni-deli becaue it literally has everything - pizza, pasta, sushi, Korean, sandwiches, a hot food bar) that serves a really delicious spicy chicken dish that I believe is one of its best sellers.  But I rarely order it because when I go there it's usually because I am in the mood for soondubu (Korean tofu stew).  So I decided to make the spicy chicken at home.  I'm calling it dak bulgogi, although I'm not sure that this is actually a traditional dak bulgogi.  I wanted the chicken to be spicy and hearty, but still a little sweet.  So I threw together a barbecue sauce-like marinade with gochujang (a Korean fermented chili paste), garlic, ginger, sesame oil and scallions.  And I stole a random recipe idea from The Korean Kitchen by Copeland Marks and "marinated" the chicken chunks in sugar to tenderize it before throwing in the rest of the marinade ingredients.  I'm not sure if that step made any sort of difference either way, but it was fun to try something new.  The marinade resulted in a wonderfully flavorful Asian chicken barbecue dish.  It had heat, sweetness, aromatics and a striking depth of flavor from the fermented chili paste.  It was really good.  I liked the chicken wrapped up in the lettuce leaves and garnished with a sprinkle of scallions for a hit of fresh, mild onion flavor.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Saturday, September 3, 2011

      Hester Street Fair

      If you are like most Americans (or at least if you are like me), poffertjes are probably not something you eat on a regular basis.  Up until a few years ago, I had never even heard of poffertjes.  But Alex lived in the Netherlands for a few years while he was in elementary school so he knew all about them.  As a side note, for those of you who have never heard of poffertjes, they are delicious little Dutch pancake thingies.  During out first trip to Aruba Alex and I happened across a little Dutch pancake restaurant that just happened to serve poffertjes.  I think we had them at least three times the week that we were there.  But they were nowhere to be found in NYC, at least not until a few weeks ago when I got an email from Tasting Table about a couple who had started a business, called the Poffertjes Man, and brought pofferjes to NYC.  Needless to say we were pretty freaking excited.  So we trekked down to the Hester Street Fair this morning, only to find out that they weren't there this morning.  Boo!  Alex said that he looked at the Hester Street Fair website on Wednesday, August 31 and saw that the food lineup didn't include the Poffertjes Man, but he assumed that they were only missing for Wednesday's market.  If he had only looked a little further he would have realized that the market is only on Saturdays.  And they post the lineup for the upcoming Saturday market every week on Wednesdays.  Oops.  So really, I blame him for getting me all excited (and for getting himself all excited), only to realize that they weren't even there today.  

      More after the jump!

      Friday, September 2, 2011

      Edamame Succotash

      I had a dream (or a menu planning day dream because I have those too) about making seared scallops and succotash the other day.  And then it occurred to me that with my corn bounty, succotash was a great idea.  The scallops on the other hand are going to have to wait until next time.  I have too much produce and other things on hand to go out and buy more ingredients, particularly after I hit the farmers' market again today to pick up some more fresh produce.  Can you tell how obsessed I am with the farmers' market right now?  After eating dinner at my desk and not cooking for almost a month I am on produce overdrive.  I just can't help myself because every time I go anywhere near fresh produce I have to buy it.  I just can't resist.  Today I bought a couple heads of very fresh lettuce, fresh basil, sun gold tomatoes, striped zucchini...  I have a problem.  I just can't help myself!  And let's be honest - produce is one of the most benign problems I could possibly have.  My shoe addiction on the other hand...  Just kidding.  Well, not really.  I have made a few glorious shoe purchases recently.

      Anyway, I don't know where succotash originated and I don't care.  It's delicious.  Or at least this version is delicious.  But you really need to use fresh sweet corn when it is in season and not frozen (we all know that I have a ton of corn left over from my unintentional 16 ear CSA haul).  And cherry tomatoes straight from the farmers' market.  Both the corn and the cherry tomatoes were from our CSA and the fresh basil came from my run to the farmers' market today.  In a dish like this it really does make all the difference if you are using fresh, seasonal, local produce.  The only exception to that rule is that you can go ahead and use frozen edamame.  I have never seen fresh.  Or if you have access to fresh of frozen lima beans (which I hear is more traditional in succotash) use those.  We always have edamame in the freezer so I went ahead and used it for the bean component of our succotash.  But the fresh corn was super sweet, the onions are sweet and the tomatoes were a little acidic but still a little sweet too.  Yet it's not at all a sugary sweetness.  Instead the dish has all of the freshness and sweetness of really great summer produce, tempered by the crunch of the edamame, the taste of the basil and the acidity of the tomatoes.  It has really great balance and depth of flavor.  What a fun summertime side dish.  This recipe makes more than enough for a family of four to use as a side.  We served the succotash with BLT sandwiches (another of my favorite summer dishes) and will have plenty leftover for a snack tomorrow.  I can't wait to see how it tastes chilled!

      Recipe after the jump!

      Pasta with Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free Puree

      So I was blog-stalking awhile ago (I think it was last summer, which is kind of amazing and depressing all at the same time) and found a whole bunch of interesting vegetarian recipes that I want to try.  First I saw the Vegetable Pie with Zucchini Crust on For the Love of Cooking.  Zucchini crust?  Sign me up!  I love zucchini.  Then I saw the Summertime Lasagna on Steamy Kitchen on TLC.  Fresh ricotta, basil and tomatoes in a pasta dish that doesn't need to bake for hours and heat up the apartment.  I'm sold.  Last, but certainly not least, I came across Francis Lam's Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Spaghetti on The Wednesday Chef.  I have to admit that I clicked on it more out of rampant curiosity because of the strange name, rather than out of any desire to make it.  And then I read the recipe (plus Francis Lam's post on the Gourmet website) and realized that I do in fact want to make the recipe.  Granted, it took me an entire year to get around to actually doing that, but such is life.  I had some eggplants from my CSA so I remembered about this recipe and decided that we should make it.  Seeing as both Alex and I made it home for a late lunch today (hurray for holiday weekends because no one bothers to come into the office), it was a perfect dish for a late light lunch.  The eggplant sauce had a ton of flavor, which I enjoyed, but it wasn't as much of a "sauce" as I was expecting.  The spaghetti kind of soaked up all of the eggplant juju and it definitely needed the extra drizzle of evoo and a little pasta water to loosen it all back up.  All in all, I thought it was a really nice vegetarian lunch when served with a simple arugula salad.  Have we made better vegetarian pastas?  Yes.  Just last month we made a vegetarian Pasta with Sun Gold Tomatoes that was absolutely delicious.  But was this pasta totally worthwhile?  Absolutely.

      Recipe after the jump!

      Thursday, September 1, 2011

      Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

        Alex and I are still on our mission to clean out the freezer.  Little by little we are getting there.  I picked up this skirt steak sometime early this year or late last year from Dickson's Farmstand Meats and it has been hanging out in the freezer ever since.  But we finally liberated it for dinner tonight and served it with a nice quick chimichurri we whipped up in the mini food-prep.  Skirt steak and chimichurri make for a wonderful pairing.  Alex described this dish as full of "herby, spicy, saucy goodness."  If I were to translate that into a more sophisticated description, I would say that the chimichurri is a really bright, fresh and delicious sauce, with a nice kick to it from the vinegar and red chili flakes, that compliments the rich, meaty flavors of the skirt steak.  The chimichurri is a little too intense to work well with fish or even chicken breasts.  I think it would pair best with steak (like we did tonight) or lamb.  It also might work just fine with some nice chicken thighs.  I know there is some debate about whether you should salt your steak a little (or a lot) in advance of cooking it and let it sit there, or if you should season your steak just before throwing it on the grill.  The debate is actually divisive enough that there is actually an article from Food & Wine about the proper time to season a variety of different meats.  Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen is a fan of "massively salting" her steaks an hour before cooking them.  I'm being completely honest when I say that I am not entirely certain that I can tell the difference.  The steak was juicy, but I don't know that it was any more juicy than it would have otherwise been.  And unlike the writer from Food & Wine, I am not motivated enough to do a side-by-side comparison.  All I know is that the steak was good and the chimichurri was really good.  It was a simple and flavorful meal that I can see myself making in the future.  The end.  If you want to experiment with salting your steak, well then that is your business. 

        Recipe after the jump!

        Roast Corn with Cilantro-Lime Butter

        I went to pick up my CSA order today and realized that I had accidentally ordered 4 orders of sweet corn, each of which consisted of 4 ears of corn.  So I ended up with 16 ears of corn.  Oops.  I thought that I was just ordering 4 ears of corn.  I guess that will teach me to pay attention to the quantity that I am actually ordering, rather than making random assumptions.  I swear that the last time I ordered 4 orders of corn, it was just 4 ears of corn, rather than 16 ears.  But let's be honest, I didn't exactly pay much attention.  Besides there are worse things that could happen then being surprised with 16 ears of fresh sweet corn, rather than 4 ears.  And if we're being honest, I'm going to continue to not pay attention and blindly order when the impulse strikes.  It's just so much more fun that way.  For dinner tonight we went ahead and roasted 4 of the ears of corn in the oven and slathered them in a cilantro-lime compound butter.  The only thing that would make this dish better is if we could have grilled the corn instead of roasting it.  And, while the flavors of the lime and cilantro in the compound butter were pretty awesome, maybe adding a pinch of cayenne to the compound butter would make it even better.  Roasting corn concentrates the sweetness of the corn, but not to the same degree that grilling it does.  I think that hint of char from the grill really helps to caramelize the sugars and make the corn super sweet.  So in an apartment, I always resort to roasting, although I agree that steaming it is pretty good too if the corn is very fresh and sweet, but if I had my way (and a grill) I would grill corn every time.  Maybe with another 4 ears I will try roasting the corn and then shucking it and charring it up over the stove top.  That's like grilling it, right?  And then with the other ears I was thinking about making a corn soup or a corn pudding and maybe making some vegetarian tacos.

        Recipe after the jump!