Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Grilled Swordfish with Lemon and Oregano

This swordfish was the last of the fish I picked up at Citarella last Saturday and it is probably the last seafood dish we will make this year.   It isn't the most successful seafood recipe we have tried this year, nor is it the most successful swordfish we have ever made.  But it was light, fresh and very easy to put together.  Speaking of the other fish recipes we made this year, my favorites were probably the Swordfish with Chile Pesto, the Pistachio-Crusted Halibut with Spicy Yogurt (this halibut was my favorite new fish recipe of the year) and Mark Bittman's Roasted Salmon with Butter.  If we broaden the category to include seafood other than fish, one of my favorite recipes from this year I have to mention these Moroccan Baked Scallops.  But this was a nice seafood recipe to close out the year with and it was an excellent counterpoint to the duck breasts we are going to have tonight and the pork belly we had last night for dinner.  I bet if we had a grill and had been able to grill the fish to give it that extra smoky flavor, it would have made a big difference.  It is the type of fish dish that it is reminiscent of lazy evenings at the beach in summertime - I think it's the bright/summery combination of the lemon, herbs and evoo.  I have never been to Greece but the swordfish feels like it should be eaten on a white sand beach in Greece. 

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark and Candy Cane Pretzel Bark

This past week at work was a tough one - we were crazy busy and there were goodies everywhere.  So I sat at a desk and ate lots and lots of cookies.  And candies.  And candied apples.  My absolute favorite goodies were the chocolate-dipped and candy cane-dusted pretzels that someone received as a gift and left out for all of us to snack on.  I snacked on several of them.  After we ran out of goodies I decided to try to make them at home, only the grocery store didn't seem to have any large pretzels (or pretzel rods).  I ended up buying mini pretzels instead and decided I would make a lazy pretzel bark with them.  And while I was thinking pretzel bark, I thought why not make a salty-sweet pretzel bark as well.  The obvious choice was salted caramel pretzel bark.  And it's a good thing we made that salted caramel pretzel bark because I love it.  Of the two pretzel barks, it is my favorite.  I love the combination of salty and sweet.  It totally does it for me.  I wish we had salted the candy cane pretzel bark a little more, but I barely dusted it with sea salt (and I'm pretty sure that most of the sea salt fell off along with some of the pretzels and the candy cane bits) so really it was just sweet with sweet.  Sweet with sweet is yummy too, but nowhere near as good as the combination of sea salt, buttery caramel and chocolate.  Yum.  There is one problem with the salted caramel pretzel bark - you need to keep it cold or the caramel gets all melted and sticky.  I thought it was amazing right out of the freezer.

Recipe after the jump!

Restaurants in NYC in the Last Six Months

I will be the first to admit that I have been a little lazy with the blog recently.  My posts are becoming shorter and shorter and some just never make it up there.  For instance, Alex and I had two great meals at City Grit (one with Paul Qui as the guest chef and another with Ricardo Zarate as the guest chef) and I never posted about either.  We also tried a number of other restaurants that somehow never made the cut, even though we really enjoyed our meals there.  Sorry everyone.  I know there is no real excuse for being so delinquent.  I have decided to post at least a few of the pictures of the meals I enjoyed most over the past six months or so with some (brief) commentary.  
First and foremost, City Grit is one of my favorite discoveries of this year.  It calls itself a "culinary salon," which really boils down to the fact that they host a few dinners a week in a furniture showroom connected to a parochial school (no joke - you actually use the parochial school bathrooms), some of which feature guest chefs from all over the country.  Paul Qui won the last season of Top Chef and we had an amazing meal at Uchiko in Austin earlier this year.  So when I saw him on the schedule at City Grit (and I honestly have no idea how I came across City Grit) I knew we had to go.  We had a number of memorable dishes that night - my favorites were the tuna jamon (raw tuna wrapped in lardo with melon) and the pork jowl (pictured below).  I also really enjoyed the "tomato water" (a tomato consomme with mussels, celery and basil - pictured above) and the sunchoke dashi (pictured below).  So that was Paul Qui.  And then a few months later Ricardo Zarate came to town and I bought tickets to his dinner.  I had never heard of him before, but his restaurants in LA sounded really interesting and we don't have a lot of good Peruvian in the city so I decided to give it a shot.  When the meal kicked off with a kampachi ceviche with leche de tigre jelly, I knew we were in for a fun (and delicious) meal.  The next two dishes - a Peruvian bouillabaisse with crabmeat and a raw quail egg (pictured below, although my picture was taken before they added in the broth) and a scallion and uni tiradito (also pictured below) were my two favorite dishes of the night.  That night I was introduced to a crazy Amazonian fish called paiche that is apparently among the largest freshwater fish in the world and is similar in texture to Chilean sea bass.  The meals at City Grit take forever and the air conditioning leaves a lot to be desired, but it is a really fun experience.

 More after the jump!

Steamed Snapper with Ginger, Lime and Cilantro

All of the late nights eating dinner at my desk mean that I end up eating a lot of pan-Asian (the easiest thing to share with a bunch of coworkers, including one that has a gluten allergy, is Thai or pan-Asian).  And there is the occasional pizza or burger thrown in at 11 pm for good measure.  After I finish one of those work benders all I want is vegetables and simple home-cooked meals, including lots and lots of seafood.  It's hard to order decent seafood for delivery (except sushi, which I order if I am eating by myself).  Since I have a few days off for Christmas I dragged Alex to Citarella on Saturday afternoon for some nice fish.  That night we made some nice rainbow trout (seasoned lightly with cayenne pepper and s&p, before being lightly dredged in flour and pan-fried in butter with a squirt of fresh lemon juice for serving) and yesterday afternoon we made red snapper.  Red snapper isn't one of my favorite fish, but I do enjoy it from time to time (plus it looked really good so I couldn't resist).  Since I was looking for something really light and simple we decided to make this steamed snapper recipe I found on Epicurious except that instead of steaming it we made little foil packets and baked the fish in the oven (which basically braised/steamed it).  The fish was easy and fresh - which was exactly what I needed.  And served with some coconut rice it made a simple, but flavorful meal.  The sauce that you steam/bake the fish in is really nice (the combination of lime, herbs, soy, fish sauce, sesame and soy is right up my alley) and it really helped take the very mild flavor of the snapper and amp it up without totally overpowering the fish.  

Now I just have to figure out what I want to do with the swordfish we picked up at Citarella.  I'm thinking we will stick with simple - lemon juice, some herbs, and evoo are at the top of my list right now.  We need something light to balance out the pork belly we are eating for dinner.  But it's going to have to be a game time decision...

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Roast Sunchokes

My favorite new farmers' market discovery of the year is definitely the sunchoke (aka the Jerusalem artichoke).  We have made some fabulous dishes with a number of other farmers' market purchases - broccoli spigarelli was my second favorite (which is lame because I didn't take pictures of it and we only made it once before it disappeared from the farmer's market).  I was shocked by how much I loved the sunchokes.  I don't typically love potatoes and I assumed that the sunchokes would be similarly starchy and bland.  But they weren't.  They don't have the heavy, starchy flavor and texture that I dislike about roast potatoes.  Instead they are wonderfully sweet and just a hint nutty.  And if you roast them long enough they turn nice and caramelized and crusty on the cut sides, with a soft and slightly pillowy interior.  Alex compared them to sweet potatoes, although I don't think they taste like sweet potatoes at all.  Supposedly they taste like artichokes, but I didn't taste artichoke at all.  We tried adding some fresh thyme to the pan with the sunchokes this time, but I don't think it really added anything.  I liked them just as much when roasted simply with evoo, s&p.  We served them tonight with roast chicken breasts, but I think roast sunchokes would go with any number of meat dishes.  Given how successful we have been roasting them, soup is the next step.  Perhaps next fall...

Recipe after the jump!

Roast Romanesco Cauliflower with Chistorras

A few weeks ago we picked up some chistorras at Despana and we had to figure out what to do with them.  We served them one night with cheese and crackers and then I had to think of another use for them.  Since chistorras remind me of chorizo I decided to use them like I would use chorizo and roast with vegetables.  We had a head of romanesco caluflower in the fridge so I figured why not roast the chistorras with the romanesco cauliflower.  So we tossed the cauliflower with the usual assortment of ingredients - evoo, crushed red pepper flakes, s&p - and roasted them halfway before throwing in the chistorras.  I had never tried romanesco cauliflower on its own before but it was a really interesting and eye-opening experience.  I took my first bite of the romanesco cauliflower and was instantly stumped.  It tasted like popcorn to me.  I can't explain it.  It had a very different texture from normal cauliflower (a little more delicate) and the taste was much sweeter and perhaps a touch nuttier.  The chistorras added a nice porky, spicy (not in the sense that it was hot, but more in the sense that it had a lot of flavor and spices) flavor, which gave the dish some real depth of flavor.  And the lemon added that hit of acid and brightness to balance out the richness of the chistorras and the sweetness of the romanesco cauliflower.  I thought it was really cool combination.  And I was intrigued enough by it that I couldn't resist picking up another head of romanesco cauliflower for further experimentation!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hot and Sour Soup (Suan La Tang)

This soup doesn't look like much - in fact, it kind of looks like gruel (or something equally gross).  But it was actually one of my favorite soups we have made all year.  It had a ton of flavor and a wonderful rich texture.  I'm not really sure how to describe the texture, except to describe it as slightly unctuous.  I know that unctuous can be an unappealing adjective to describe food, but I can't think of a better way to describe the soup.  And hot and sour soup is supposed to be a little unctuous.  The cornstarch slurry did its job in thickening the soup a little, but I think a lot of the texture also had to do with the richness of the homemade broth we used from our Chicken Pho (Pho Ga).  When we took the broth out of the fridge to use it, it already had some body to it.  Actually, it almost appeared to be verging on gelatinous in its chilled form.  It actually jiggled.  And even once we heated the broth up, it retained a lot of that richness, as well as the complexity of flavor that I babbled on about in my post about the pho.  And after we added in all of the additional ingredients, the soup was beautifully complex, yet balanced.  The dried mushrooms added a touch of earthiness and umami, the vinegar added the sourness and bite that you want in a hot and sour soup, the white pepper added a hint of heat, the eggs added creamyness to the already rich broth and the scallions/cilantro on top added a little brightness.  It was awesome.  I heart this soup. 

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Steamed Eggplants with Chile Sauce (Hong You Qie Zi)

When work starts to get busy for me, it becomes a game to figure out exactly what produce we can buy from the farmers' market (or at the grocery store) that won't go bad before we have a chance to use it and is also fairly easy to throw together at the last minute.  Take these eggplants - we had them for over a week before we used them.  And that worked out fine.  Actually, a lot of the fall vegetables last for a fairly long time (although you can get into trouble with greens).  Part of the reason we end up eating so much cauliflower and squash in the fall/winter is because both items have a pretty good shelf life.  And with a job like mine - you need some shelf life from time to time.  I think I have finally figured out what works for us and what doesn't.  For the first year or two of work we ended up throwing away a lot of produce because we would buy it and then suddenly work would pick up.  And before we knew it, 1-2 weeks would have gone by with me eating every meal at my desk (and Alex eating peanut butter crackers at home) and we would then throw away everything in the refrigerator and start from scratch.  Things still crop up unexpectedly occasionally, but I like to think that we have learned to manage it better.

This eggplant dish was something of a last minute side dish.  It was cold and rainy out, so I wanted to make hot and sour soup (which had the added benefit of using up the rest of the leftover homemade chicken stock from the Chicken Pho (Pho Ga)).  And we had this eggplant just kind of hanging out in the fridge from our shopping trip to Chinatown so I decided to try to come up with an easy Chinese side using the eggplant.  Of course we turned to our two Fuchsia Dunlop cookbooks first and then we picked this recipe because it looked like the easiest one.  My favorite thing about the dish was the silky texture of the steamed eggplant.  And I really appreciated how easy it was.  This would be a really easy side dish to put together to round out a nice home-cooked Sichuan meal.  It's not the greatest eggplant we have ever made, but it really went perfectly with the hot and sour soup.  We ended up drizzling the dipping sauce over the eggplant (and adding some scallion greens for color and to add a bit of additional flavor).  The dipping sauce is nicely salty and spicy and the steamed eggplant just soaks it up like a sponge.  Our chili oil had peanuts in it and they provided a nice little textural contrast, but totally aren't necessary.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Chicken Pho (Pho Ga)

This chicken pho recipe has been a long time in coming.  I think we made it 3 weeks ago, but I have been pretty swamped at work (and as you will notice below, the recipe is really long) so I haven't had time to post about it.  But instead of attending a holiday party that we were invited to, I'm stuck at home this evening with a pretty awesome head cold, so I decided this was the perfect opportunity to post about the soup.  First things first - this broth was amazing.  It is totally worth the extra steps to char the onions and ginger, parboil the chicken parts, and strain it.  It was delicious and very complex.  It was also clear (hurray for parboiling) and rich.  We used the leftover broth in two more soups later that week (and the following week), including a Shrimp, Pumpkin and Coconut Soup we have already posted about and a fantastic hot and sour soup that we haven't posted about yet, because you end up with a ridiculous amount of broth from this recipe.  The recipe probably took 4 hours from start to finish, but I thought it was well worth it.  The chicken breasts were succulent and had an almost silky texture.  Andrea Nguyen says that you should start with a quality bird for this recipe and I totally agree.  We used nice locally raised organic chicken and chicken parts that we picked up from Fairway.  The soup might have been even better with some of the nice organic chickens from the farmers' market, but we used what we had.

We made another Vietnamese chicken soup called mien ga from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen cookbook some time ago.  I think this pho ga blew the mien ga right out of the water.  The broth was so nuanced and yet the dish had the freshness that the other soup was lacking.  The fresh herbs had a lot to do with that freshness, but it was also the broth itself.  I'm not sure how you make such a rich broth still taste light and fresh.  It was just so bright and had so much flavor.  I loved it.  Clearly this isn't a soup that you could make every day (or even every month), but it is definitely going into my lazy Sunday rotation for the future.  The broth alone is well worth many repeat visits.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rice Noodles with Chinese Chives and Egg

Two weekends ago Alex and I trekked down to Chinatown for lunch and groceries.  I love grocery shopping in Chinatown - everytime we go down there I come back with such an interesting assortment of goodies (like my favorite Ching Kee Cookies, which are both delicious and amusing).  During our last visit I came back with a package of fresh wide rice noodles, flowering chives, fried tofu, Thai chilis and a bunch of other fun things.  I started trying to come up with dishes to cook using those ingredients and ended up deciding to throw them all together in one noodle dish.  The biggest hurdle was trying to loosen the fresh rice noodles because mine were stubbornly stuck together.  I used a combination of the two methods noted below - soaking them in hot water and then microwaving them.  I had never heard of throwing fresh rice noodles in the microwave to loosen them, but I found a post on About.com saying that it worked and I tried it.  It really did work.  Brilliant.  Beyond learning how to nuke fresh rice noodles, I realized a few things while cooking this meal.  The first is that I really like fried tofu.  I need to buy the packages of dried tofu more often because they are brilliant.  You totally don't need meat of any sort when you have some dried tofu in the dish.  The second is that noodles are always better with a little egg mixed in.  The third is that you really need to cut flovering chives up into slightly smaller pieces (especially if you are barely cooking them at all).  Ours were roughly 2 1/2-inches in length and that was just too long.  I'm thinking 1 to 2-inch lengths in the future.  The last thing I realized is that it takes a really long time to prep a meal like this, particularly when you decide to serve the noodles with a side of yu choy, which requires chopping.  There is a lot of chopping involved.  And when there is a lot of chopping involved, there is a lot of mess (and a lot of dishes) involved.  When Alex got home he asked me if I used every single dish in the kitchen.  The answer was close, but not quite.  But it was totally worth it because the noodles were tasty.  And in my opinion, the end (a delicious lunch) totally justifies the means.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shrimp, Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

We made chicken pho last weekend (which I will post about later this week - I promise) and we ended up with a ton of really good leftover Asian chicken stock.  The only logical thing to do when you have 8 cups of leftover homemade chicken stock (and you already have some homemade chicken stock in the freezer) is to go on a soup-making extravaganza.  And given the cool temperatures and rainy weather outside, soup was the ideal meal.  Last night we made this shrimp, pumpkin and coconut soup.  We had a cheese pumpkin and some Thai basil hanging around the apartment that I wanted to use so I started thinking pumpkin soup.  And then I started thinking pumpkin and coconut soup because they work brilliantly together and are fairly common in some Asian cuisines.  So I started paging through our Thai cookbook and stumbled pretty quickly on a recipe for a pumpkin coconut soup (which I have renamed Shrimp, Pumpkin and Coconut soup since it has shrimp in it too).  We adapted it a bit to work with what we had in the apartment and then went for it.  

I thought that the soup was a success in a lot of ways.  It was tasty and fairly easy.  And the flavors were pretty complex.  I think some of the complexity was due to the homemade stock, but some of it was due to the spice paste and the other ingredients.  The soup had a lot of intense flavors without tasting fishy - and given that it had dried shrimp, fish sauce and shrimp in it (and given the smells that filtered out into the hallway as the soup simmered) I was worried it would taste a little fishier.  But the sweetness of the pumpkin, coconut milk and the coconut sugar and the heat of the jalapeno and the Thai chili really balanced it out.  After tasting the soup we decided to add a little squeeze of lime juice at the end and the acid really brought it all together.  Yum.  Hurray for soup.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saigon Chicken Salad

 Two weeks ago I was struck with a vicious Vietnamese chicken salad craving.  I wanted cabbage, peanuts, poached chicken, dressed with lime juice and fish sauce.  Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out a single place near my office that serves Vietnamese chicken salad so I had to go without.  And last weekend I decided that if I couldn't find a restaurant that would serve me Vietnamese chicken salad I would just make some for myself.  First I had to go down to Chinatown to buy all of the various ingredients - it goes without saying that the grocery stores on the UWS aren't exactly chock full of things like long beans, green papaya and Thai shrimp paste.  And then after we bought all of the ingredients we spent what seemed like several hours, chopping, cleaning and prepping the various salad ingredients.  Peeling, de-seeding and chopping up the green papaya felt like it took 30 minutes alone.  Once you add in all of the other ingredients that needed to be julienned/chopped/shredded - tomatoes, cucumbers, carrot, napa cabbage, long beans, etc., it's no wonder that this salad took forever to prepare.  Even the nuoc cham dressing was more labor-intensive than usual.  I have never toasted shrimp paste for a nuoc cham before.  But I will be the first to admit that the dressing was pretty kickass.  We were worried that it would be overly salty/fishy but it worked beautifully.  I would use this dressing on any future Vietnamese chicken salad attempts.  Actually, I would use it on any variation on a Vietnamese salad - shrimp, beef or chicken, noodle-based or not.  It was that good.  The only problem is that the dressing does not improve with age.  By the next day the dressing had lost its piquancy and the salad just seemed a little limp and sad.  But the day that we made the salad it really hit the spot.  It was bright and flavorful, as well as full of crunch and texture.  I really enjoyed the combination of the various ingredients (although it was pretty painful to chop and prep all of the vegetables) and I thought that the chicken itself was very tender and flavorful.  In the end, I think the two things that I would definitely use again from this recipe are the marinade/cooking method for the chicken and the recipe for the nuoc cham.  While I enjoyed them, I'm not sure that the green papaya and long beans added enough to the salad for me to trek down to Chinatown every time I want a Vietnamese chicken salad.  And I probably won't go out and buy a whole bunch of celery just for the celery leaves again.  I can (and probably will) make a passable version of the salad with just chicken, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, cilantro and peanuts.

Recipe after the jump!

Cauliflower Curry

I'm currently at the tail end of a cauliflower obsession.  Every fall I go through a cauliflower phase where I buy oodles of it at the farmers' market.  And then I have to take a break because it gets a little monotonous after awhile.  We have another head of cauliflower in the fridge right now (romanesco cauliflower to be precise) so I was trying to come up with two very distinct recipes for the cauliflower.  I picked this one because it seemed interesting and it was very different from all of the other recipes that I was considering.  I'm hoping that the other cauliflower recipe turns out better than this one because truth be told, I was a little disappointed in this dish.  The cauliflower was mushy and the balance of flavors just seemed off to me.  Alex thought it was missing something, whereas I thought the flavor of the coriander was a little overpowering (I would definitely reduce the amount of coriander seeds) and the dish tasted really sweet.  I actually asked Alex if he added sugar, but it was just the sweetness of the onions and the cauliflower itself.  All in all it tasted a little... uneven?  I don't think the flavors melded as harmoniously as I thought they would.  Anytime you use cumin seeds and coriander seeds rather than the ground variety you run the risk that some bites will have a surplus of spice, while others will have little to none.  This recipe suffered a lot because of it.  So you would have some really sweet bites, others with a burst of floral/peppery coriander flavor and others with a hint of smokeyness from the cumin.  But I didn't have a single bite that successfully blended all of those flavors.  And then there was the texture, which I found slightly off-putting.  Note to self - roast cauliflower is way more my speed than stewed cauliflower.  I love the crunch of roast cauliflower and the richer flavor of the caramelized florets, whereas I don't particularly love the mushy texture of stewed cauliflower.

P.S.  I have been a little swamped at work the past couple of weeks so I am a wee bit behind on my posts.  More will be forthcoming as soon as I have time to put them up - I promise.  I have some new Vietnamese and Thai recipes to post about, as well as a few others.  So stay tuned.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mustard-Crusted Salmon

Every time we drive down to Maryland to visit my parents we come back with a cooler full of random food and a trunk full of clean laundry.  We also tend to come home with Cost Co-sized bags of toilet paper and paper towels, but that is entirely beside the point.  This past visit I appropriated a few things from the freezer for the trip home - including a salmon filet and some pre-marinated Korean spicy pork.  I couldn't tell what kind of salmon it was, but it looked really red like Coho or sockeye salmon.  Rather than stick with our tried and true salmon recipes I decided to do something new.  This recipe was vaguely inspired by a Rachel Ray recipe I found awhile ago for salmon with a matzo and herb crust.  I started trying to think of creative ways to use up the herbs we bought for Thanksgiving with the salmon and that made me think of the herb and matzo-crust.  I didn't bother to look back at the original recipe but the idea of an herb-y crumb topping stuck with me.  We don't tend to keep matzo around the apartment so I didn't have any matzo to use, but we did have some leftover baguette from the night before.  So we whipped up some fresh bread crumbs and crusted our salmon with a mixture of bread crumbs, mustard and fresh thyme.  Oh and we threw in some butter for good measure.  And since we both love crispy salmon skin Alex and I decided to crisp up the salmon skin in a pan on the stove-top and then broil the salmon quickly to brown the bread crumbs and to cook the top side.  I think in the future I would use finer bread crumbs.  Our crumbs were more like small bread chunks.  I also might trip throwing in some fresh parsley or other herbs.  Otherwise I think it was a really nice and fairly easy recipe.  And our salmon was very nicely cooked.  The next time I pick up some matzo I might try the Rachel Ray recipe, but seeing as that almost never happens, maybe we will just stick with our own mustard-crusted salmon.

Recipe after the jump!

Stripetti Squash with Garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Herbs

So we took a break for a few weeks (a much needed squash hiatus) and we finally got around to cooking the stripetti squash that I picked up at the farmers' market in early to mid-November.  One of the best things about squash is that you can buy it and then hang onto it until you are ready to cook it.  We also have a cheese pumpkin sitting on the hutch that I picked up a few weeks ago that we hang onto until this coming week.  I don't have any inspiration for what I want to do with it, but I'm sure something will come to me eventually.  

If I hadn't bought the squash in the first place and seen the whole squash prior to cooking, I'm not sure that I would have been able to tell that this was a different variety of squash.  I think the stripetti squash was a little sweeter than spaghetti squash, but they are similar enough in appearance, taste and texture that it wouldn't have occurred to me that this was a different variety.  With that said, I really liked it.  And I would totally buy it again.  As for the recipe, I think it was nice.  I have never tried adding cheese and herbs of this variety to spaghetti squash so it was a very different take on squash for us.  But I wanted to use up some of the fresh herbs leftover from Thanksgiving so I decided this was a good opportunity to do so.  I originally planned to serve this squash with some turkey meatballs but I decided that after the meatloaf I wasn't really feeling meatballs.  But the dish had a very nice combination of flavors and made a really nice side dish.  Between Alex and I we ate the whole 4 cups of squash so that really says something.  In case you're wondering about the cooking method for the squash (boiling it, rather than roasting), we boiled the squash because that's what they told me to do at the farmers' market.  It seemed like a strange cooking method to me, but that's what they said to do so we did it.  And it worked.  I might try roasting it next time just for the sake of variety, but boiling it worked just fine. 

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Moroccan Meatloaf

This might sound a little weird if you know me (because all-American dishes like meatloaf and casserole aren't really my thing), but I have been craving meatloaf for awhile now.  I am going to blame it on the Grandpa Jack sandwich I had in Maine back in October (which was absolutely delicious) and inspired me to pick up some Moroccan meatloaf at a gourmet market near the apartment a few weeks later.  That Moroccan meatloaf was also delicious and it inspired me to plan a Moroccan-inspired meatloaf of my own.  Since this is probably only the 5th or 6th time in my life that I have ever eaten meatloaf (and only my second attempt at making it - my first attempt was a Turkey Meatloaf) I wasn't really sure what went in it.  But I knew that I wanted to use carrots, onion, garlic, harissa, tomato paste and herbs.  I couldn't decide what meat to use but ended up just picking up a pack of meatloaf mix (ground veal, ground pork and ground beef) at Fairway and going with that.  Then Alex and I did a little research to determine exactly what goes in a typical meatloaf and discovered that we weren't far off the mark.  Alex really wanted a glaze on top of the meatloaf and I wasn't sold on the whole ketchup glaze, but agreed to it because I wasn't sure if the meatloaf would be sad and lacking without it.  But I added some harissa and some spices to the ketchup glaze to mix it up a little.  In the end, I'm glad we went with the glaze because I think it really added a nice sweetness without being cloying, which was my biggest fear.  And all of the spices and things we added really gave the meatloaf a nice flavor.  If you think you have the patience, I would totally make this the day before you want to eat it because it was even better the next day.  When I had it a few days later the flavors had really melded and it would have made an amazing meatloaf sandwich.  I wish that the meatloaf itself had been just a little more moist - we might need to soak the bread crumbs in milk or something first next time (like you do with meatballs) to provide a little extra moisture.  Or maybe we will replace the tomato paste in the meatloaf with ketchup...  I had hoped that the combination of the evoo, harissa and tomato paste would provide a little more moisture than it actually did.  But, with a little tweaking I think this recipe could be really fabulous.  I don't know if it can compete with the Grandpa Jack, but I think we are on to something here.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sam Sifton's Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy Bread Crumbs

The week  leading up to Thanksgiving we ended up eating a lot of random vegetarian meals.  It just seemed like the proper (and healthy) thing to do since we knew we would be stuffing ourselves silly on Thanksgiving.  And logically, some of those vegetarian meals were based on recipes that I had considered making as a side dish for Thanksgiving, but didn't quite make the cut.  Before I go any further I should state that this dish was only in the running because Serious Eats raved about it.  It didn't actually go with anything else we were serving (more on that later) but it sounded interesting enough that I bookmarked it as an option if we changed up the menu (we didn't).  Once I knew our menu was set and this dish wasn't going to make it onto the Thanksgiving table, I decided to try it out on just Alex and I.  Our end verdict was that while the cauliflower was pretty good, it wasn't as good as other cauliflower dishes we have made in the past - in terms of texture and flavor.  The bread crumbs did provide a promised hit of "salty-funky" flavor, but I felt like you didn't taste the sage or the lemon.  I also thought the bread crumbs weren't quite as delicious as I had hoped.  As I mentioned below, they were a little oily and gummy, rather than crispy and flavorful.  If I were to make this dish again I would substitute the bread crumbs and the almonds from Mario Batali's St. John's Eve Pasta for the bread crumbs here.  And then I would probably roast the cauliflower much longer - like we did with the Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Cumin a few weeks ago.  Roasting it longer would provide the wonderful sweet, nutty flavor and crispy texture that I really enjoyed with that dish.  To be perfectly honest, with all of the changes I would have to make to this dish before I would make it again I'm not sure there will be a re-do, but such is life.  It wasn't a bad dish.  It just wasn't anything to write home about, nor was it a dish that I would be dying to serve to my family for future Thanksgivings...

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Roasted Japanese Turnips with Honey

I feel like this is one of those dishes that we tried where we spent the first few bites trying to figure it all out, the next few bites growing to really enjoy it and then I promptly got bored with it.  But let's be honest, who really enjoys every bite of an entire bowl full of turnips?  Even split between the two of us that is a LOT of turnips (particularly when you're not even sure that you really like turnips).  I have no complaints about the recipe itself - this post is more of a commentary on my poor planning in basically designing a meal around a vegetable that Alex and I are firmly on the fence about.  I have had some good turnips in my life (my school in China served a really nice soup with turnips in it and I love the little dim sum cakes with turnip), but generally they strike me as being a little lackluster.  The honey glaze really helped to tame the aggressive peppery flavor of the turnips and the cayenne pepper provided some lovely heat, but after awhile it all just got a little blah.  And the honey mixture really only coated the outermost layer of the turnip and didn't flavor the turnips as a whole.  I think I would have preferred pan-roasting (or oven-roasting) the turnips a little longer until they got a little crisp and developed a little of their own natural sweetness.  But I was afraid to burn them (or overcook them until they were soggy, although I have no idea if that is even possible with turnips) and once I added in the honey mixture I was afraid that the honey would burn if I left the turnips in the pan too much longer.  So I think the end verdict is that this dish is lovely as a side - it really does have a nice and interesting flavor to it, but unless you are a real turnip lover, you shouldn't make it the focus of your entire meal.  If you are a turnip connoisseur, then go to town and ignore everything I said.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nigel Slaters's Shrimp with Asian Greens

Look - another seafood dish!  Go us!  And this will officially be your last seafood post from us (and potentially your last post) until after Thanksgiving.  Turkey here I come!  I found this recipe during one of my various recipe hunting jaunts.  One day I pulled open my iPad and there it was.  I have no idea when I first found it, but it has been staring at me every time I opened up Safari on my iPad for the past few weeks.  So we finally gave it a go.  I don't have any idea who Nigel Slater is, but given how much we liked this recipe I might have to track down some more of his recipes.  I had this impression that he is the UK equivalent of Mark Bittman (lord only knows where I came up with that idea, but a brief Wiki session seems to substantiate it).  The recipe was simple and came together relatively quickly (once you finished prepping).  And it was more than the sum of its parts - the flavor of the basil and the aromatics (particularly the lemongrass and the ginger) came through really well and it had a lovely balance of sour, sweet, spicy and salty.  I was worried that the fish sauce and lime juice combo would lead to it being kind of one note, but it really worked.  And it was surprisingly spicy given that we only used one serrano chili for 3/4 pound each of baby bok choy and shrimp. I loved serving it with brown rice because I thought the nuttier flavor and chewier texture of the brown rice was a nice complement to the dish.  I know we made a good dish when Alex pours the rest of his shrimp juju over his rice and then cleans his rice bowl.  And he did it this time.  Even though he doesn't really like brown rice.  If my word that the dish was good isn't enough for you, I'm sure that you will find the Alex rice bowl test totally persuasive.  Now if only I had taken a picture of the empty rice bowl...

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Swordfish with Chile Pesto and Avocado Salad

We really need to make more swordfish in our apartment.  Every time we make swordfish at home (and don't screw it up because we have done that before) I am reminded that I really do like swordfish.  We probably make it about twice a year, but I really think we should bump it up to every few months.  If all of our swordfish recipes turned out this well I think we would definitely make it more.  The swordfish itself was juicy and perfectly cooked.  And the chile pesto was very interesting - it had a ton of chile flavor.  I would use it again with pork and maybe beef.  I would also consider using it with duck.  My one complaint with the pesto was that the texture was a little gritty and in some bites you ended up with a big chunk of dried chili.  But it had a lot of good flavor.  We added a little honey to the pesto because it was initially a little bitter for us, but a tsp or two of honey nicely counteracted the bitterness of the dried chilis.  I would definitely recommend serving with some avocado salad because the creaminess of the avocado works really nicely with the meatiness of the swordfish and the spice of the pesto.  If you were to make the recipe as written and serve the swordish as a topping for tacos, don't forgo the avocado slices.  I wished we had topped the swordfish with a few pepitas for crunch and texture (or perhaps thinly sliced some corn tortillas and fried them until crispy), but even without that additional textural element it was pretty tasty.

Recipes after the jump!

Baked Bass with Spicy Rub

I woke up from a nap last weekend and decided that I was in the mood for seafood.  We have been really vegetable and meat-oriented in our kitchen recently and there hasn't been much seafood in the apartment.  Actually, even our dinners out at restaurants have been very meat and vegetable-oriented.  I am going to try to remedy that for the rest of the year, but I'm not going to make any promises because we all know how well I live up to my blog promises...  I have a shrimp recipe that I want to try (maybe we will get around to that one tonight) and I really want to cook some more fish.  We also cooked some swordfish earlier this week that I have yet to post so stay tuned for that recipe.  Actually, if we make the shrimp this weekend I will consider my blog promise to have been fulfilled - three seafood recipes in one blog week is pretty huge around here.  And given that next week is Thanksgiving I'm not sure how much seafood I am going to be able to squeeze into my diet amidst all of that turkey and stuffing.  I do want to go out and have some nice sushi, but that is going to have to wait until after Thanksgiving.

This fish was really easy to make and pretty interesting.  It wasn't my favorite whole fish recipe ever because I didn't think that it had as much flavor as I had hoped for.  The spicy rub was surprisingly spicy from the black pepper, but I wish it had more lemongrass and cilantro flavor.  If I were to make it again I would cut back on the amount of black pepper and up the amount of the other aromatics.  I might also stuff some lime slices in the belly of the fish with the lemongrass.  Another problem with the dish was how many little bones the fish had - which isn't really a problem with the recipe but is a problem inherent with eating whole fish.

P.S.  I couldn't decide which picture was the least creepy of the bunch (and they were all pretty creepy) so I posted what I considered to be the two un-creepiest and most appetizing looking.  Because really, who doesn't love having fish eyeballs staring you in the eye while you eat?

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Roasted Acorn Squash and Onion with Tahini and Za'atar

I think it is time for me to stop buying so much squash at the farmers' market.  Every week I see a new variety and pick up more squash.  So we have been battling our ever expanding squash selection little by little.  Right now I have a stripetti squash at home (which is apparently a cross between a delicata squash and a spaghetti squash).  Once I read the little blurb claiming that it was a cross between a delicata and a spaghetti squash I couldn't resist buying a stripetti squash because those are my two favorite squash varities.  But I think we are about to hit Alex's squash tolerance soon and I am running out of new and inventive ways to cook squash.  So I might take a week or two off and then go back to buying more squash.  I am still determined to buy some more new squash varieties, but we just need a break until we use up all of the squash we have and until I come up with some new recipes.  I definitely want to make some soup and to also make some baked goods.  This Pumpkin Pecan-Praline Pie from Martha Stewart sounds particularly tempting and it might just be tempting enough for me to break my no pie rule...  Probably not though.

This recipe by Yottam Ottolenghi was one of two of his recipes that I had set aside for future squash experimentation this fall.  We had to make a number of modifications to the recipe becase we had acorn squash instead of butternut squash, we were out of pine nuts and we only had half of a red onion left, but we had a Vidalia onion in the pantry.  But we tried to stay true to the rest of the recipe as much as possible.  As with all Yottam Ottolenghi recipes my first thought upon tasting the dish was "this is interesting."  He combines ingredients in ways that I would never contemplate on my own (although the combinations might be totally commonplace to someone of Middle Eastern descent) and I find myself having to re-evaluate flavor combinations every time we make one of his recipes.  This was neither our most successful, nor our least successful Yottam Ottolenghi dish.  I liked it, but I would like to try it again as written and see how that changes things.  Acorn squash has always seemed a little starchier and less sweet than butternut squash to me and I think that this recipe would benefit from a slightly sweeter, moister squash.  We also incinerated our onions a bit because we lost track of time.  The onions that were salvagable were really delicious with the squash and the seasonings.  This is one of the few times that perhaps sticking to the recipe as written might have been the way to go...

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Green Tomato Frittata

I got a little crazy at the farmers' market last weekend and picked up 3 pounds of green tomatoes.  Alex shook his head at me, but I love green tomatoes.  I have only recently discovered all of the wonderful things that you can do with green tomatoes instead of just making more fried green tomatoes.  Who knew you could pickle green tomatoes, or make baked goods with green tomatoes?  I am really tempted to make a green tomato pie as well (like this one from honey & jam), but that would involve making pie and we all know my feelings on doing that at home.  Given the number of green tomatoes we found ourselves with I started fishing around for more green tomato recipes and ideas.  Once I saw a green tomato frittata on the NY Times I knew I was going to give that a try.  But the NY Times recipe was a little more labor intensive than I was really aiming for - it involved frying half of the green tomatoes and peel and dicing the others - so I decided to ignore that recipe and just make a really basic frittata.  I have to say that this recipe highlighted the tart flavor of the tomatoes themselves far more than any other green tomato recipe we have made.  I thought the little bursts of tart green tomato were fabulous with the rich egg-y frittata.  If you served this frittata with a nice little green salad, croissants and some fruit, this could be the unique centerpoint of a lovely brunch.

P.S.  I am a little behind on posts again due to work, but I have a number that should be coming in the next few days...  So stay tuned.

Recipe after the jump!

The Best Eggplant Dish Ever

I'm going to start off by saying that contrary to the title, we did not find this to be the best eggplant dish ever.  Of the various eggplant dishes we have made for the blog, I vastly preferred the Andhra Spiced Eggplant, the Indian Spiced Eggplant and the Eggplant Caponata.  We have also made a number of other recipes that included eggplant that I preferred to this dish, but I am only listing the recipes that really featured the eggplant.  With all of that said, this wasn't a bad dish.  It just didn't really do anything for me.  While we were cooking the eggplant I started to get worried that it was going to be really fishy because the dried shrimp gave off a thoroughly fishy aroma as the eggplant braised away.  I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't fishy but it just didn't do it for me.  The dish was lacking the balance of flavors that I usually find in this cookbook and really only tasted like moderately spicy eggplant mush.  Come to think of it, the dish looks exactly like it tastes.  Now maybe it was a problem of execution.  Perhaps if we had added the optional ground pork it would have really taken the dish to another level.  I didn't think the dish was really lacking a "meaty" element because eggplant itself is already pretty filling and rich.  But it would have added a little flavor and a different textural element at the very least.  We tried serving the dish with both naan and basmati rice - I preferred it with the naan but that's purely a matter of personal preference.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Cumin

I have never roasted cauliflower this long - when we roast cauliflower we tend to only roast it for about 30 minutes, which often results in tender, but slightly soggy cauliflower.  I was worried that roasting it this long would result in bitter, overly charred cauliflower.  But it resulted in sweet, crispy, slightly nutty cauliflower.  And when the roast cauliflower itself is that tasty, you don't need a lot of seasonings and flavors.  For this entire head of cauliflower there was less than 2 tsp of spices - the majority of which was cumin.  And yet, the cauliflower ended up tasting buttery and spicy (although the spicy flavor was not unexpected given the red pepper flakes) and not smoky.  I thought it would need some acid, perhaps a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, but it didn't.  The fresh mint and cilantro provided the perfect fresh counterpoint, while the toasted pine nuts provided some nice crunch.  From now on, I am totally going to roast my cauliflower for an hour (provided that it doesn't contain any garlic or anything else that could burn and turn bitter) so it gets that whole sweet, nutty and crispy texture and flavor.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Buttermilk Banana Bread

I have been contemplating making buttermilk pound cake for a few weeks now.  The idea came from a pint of roasted strawberry buttermilk ice cream I picked up a few weeks ago.  When I saw the ice cream the idea of buttermilk pound cake just kind of popped into my head.  I was thinking we could grill up slices of the pound cake and top with some strawberry buttermilk ice cream and some nice fresh mint.  It sounded like a brilliant idea.  Only I didn't have lemon extract or enough sugar or butter to make the pound cake.  Nor did I have a bundt pan.  And I'm sure I could have used a different assortment of pans to approximate the size of a bundt pan (two loaf pans perhaps), but the lack of ingredients wasn't something I could fix without another trip to the grocery store.  And I was past my grocery store quota for the weekend.  And once I remembered that I had three overripe bananas in the apartment I abandoned that plan and decided to make buttermilk banana bread.  I thought about making up my own recipe, but decided to be a little lazy and find some recipes online.  This recipe seemed like a good starting point.  I was going to add chocolate chips and other ingredients, but Alex made fun of me for my inability to make a simple loaf of banana bread.  So I stuck very closely to the recipe.  The flavor here is very light and pleasant - and when I say light, I mean that the banana flavor doesn't really jump out at you.  That could be the fault of the bananas - they were properly overripe, but some bananas are just more flavorful than others.  And I didn't mind the lack of concentrated banana flavor.  What really threw me was that the texture was a little spongy and dense.  It was almost too moist.  You can actually see how dense it is in the photo.  Maybe we pulled it out of the oven a minute or two early, although the toothpick came out clean.  I prefer my banana bread, zucchini bread and pumpkin bread to be a little fluffier than this, which generally (although not always) means that your bread is a little less moist.  I'm glad that I didn't add any chocolate chips or nuts to this recipe because I think that would have resulted in an even more dense loaf.  Next up, buttermilk pound cake!

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Black Pepper Tofu

This recipe is easily (and unequivocally) our favorite dish we have made from this cookbook.  Alex and I were unanimous on that point.  And I think both of us reached the decision independent of the other within minutes of taking our first bites of the tofu.  Everything in the cookbook has been very interesting and very unique.  I can honestly say that we don't have a single other cookbook that combines flavors and ingredients in the way that Plenty does.  But not everything has been something that I would make again.  I would make this recipe again and again.  It is delicious.  I would make a few modifications to the recipe.  For one, the original recipe calls for 11 tbsp of butter.  That is an insane amount of butter.  We used about one-third that amount (and substituted 2 tbsp of vegetable oil for 2 tbsp of butter).  We also cut down on the amount of black pepper that the recipe called for because it also sounded slightly excessive.  And then we made one last substitution/alteration - the recipe calls for mild red chilis but the only red chilis I could find at the grocery store were all fairly spicy - cayennes, fresno chilis and cherry peppers.  So we just lazily seeded them and went with it.  I mean, it's not like we used habaneros or anything, but none of those chilis are particularly mild.  One alteration that I wish we had made is to only use the scallion greens for the recipe, or to add the whites to the dish much earlier to cook them down a bit so that they lost a little of their harshness.  I guess another alternative would be to chop the scallions much finer and to potentially use fewer scallions overall (maybe thinly slicing the white and green parts and using say 10 scallions instead of 16 would be enough to tone it down).  Adding the such large hunks of raw scallion at the very end leads to some aggressive onion-y flavor that I wish had been toned down just a bit.  But the flavors of the sauteed shallots, chilis, garlic, etc was delicious.  And it went very nicely with the fried cubes of tofu.  I loved the texture of the tofu cubes - crisp exteriors with soft, pillowy interiors - and the flavor of the sauce, which was sweet, but savory and spicy.  It was absolutely wonderful.  You definitely want to serve this tofu with white rice to soak up the flavors of the sauce because it is delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Squash Half-Moons with Butter, Sesame and Salt

We actually made this squash recipe during the hurricane, but since I had a picture of it (unlike the Mexican Chicken Soup or the Lettuce in Sesame Sauce) I decided it deserved its own post.  Plus I didn't want to bury it in the group post because I thought it deserved better.  I know the picture isn't exactly the best picture in the world, but I think I deserve some credit for thinking to take a picture in the first place.  Actually, Alex took these pictures and he got all artsy with them - close-ups galore.  This picture was my favorite of the bunch.  Squash isn't an ideal subject, but we deserve points for trying!  Anyway, this might have been my favorite dish of the hurricane.  I loved the combination of the toasted sesame seeds, the spices (curry powder, garam masala and cinnamon), the butter and the squash.  Given how sweet kabocha squash is naturally you don't need any additional sugar.  It was absolutely wonderful.  The flavors of the spiced butter complimented, rather than obscuring, the sweet flavor and almost sweet potato-like texture of the kabocha squash.  And the toasted sesame seeds provided a really nice complimentary flavor and texture.  This recipe definitely has become one of my favorite squash recipes.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Cooking - Dan Barber's Brussels Sprouts, Mexican Chicken Soup, Lettuce in Sesame Sauce

First things first - the hurricane hit and we are A-OK.  I know that much of lower Manhattan (as well as various suburbs and boroughs of Manhattan) are underwater and without power, but we survived pretty much unscathed.  While we were cooped up in the apartment we ended up cooking quite a bit, so this is going to be one large post containing a number of new recipes that we made over the past few days, in no particular order.  We also made a bunch of recipes that we have made before (like these Buttermilk Biscuits with Green Onions, Black Pepper and Sea Salt) And due to the weather, we don't have pictures of all of the recipes, which is unfortunate, but what can you do?

First up is this brussels sprouts recipe, which I saw on Serious Eats and got really excited about because it couldn't be easier.  Once I started reading further I realized that it is a little finnicky and tedious in that you are supposed to make sure all brussels sprouts are first added to the pan cut-side down, and then "turn each sprout over carefully on its back" after the brussels sprouts have seared up nicely on the cut side.  We cut corners a bit and weren't as precise in the cooking process as perhaps we could have been.  Things I will use from this recipe - the cooking method.  You get an unreal amount of caramelization on the brussels sprouts in a fairly short time period.  I would probably try different vinegars and seasonings in the future, but it was a beautifully simple recipe.  You got nice sweetness from the balsamic, balanced nicely against the nutty flavor of the caramelized brussels sprouts.  It wasn't the most amazing recipe I have ever made, but it was a really nice, simple side.

Now for the Mexican chicken soup.  This was something of a day long endeavor.  I started prepping the stock while on a conference call at 11:00 am.  The stock took about an hour to prepare, before we let the chicken cool in the stock for another few hours.  Around 6:30-7 pm we got started on making the soup to serve to some of our neighbors.  It smelled wonderful while it simmered away.  By the time the soup was ready I was really hungry and excited to finally taste it.  We don't often go to the trouble to make homemade stock and every time we do it really excites me because soup made with homemade stock is better than soup made with boxed stock by several orders of magnitude.  And when you make homemade stock you can season and modify your stock so that the flavors best suit the soup you are preparing.  This time I added various ingredients that are typical of chicken stock (onions, carrots, celery, thyme, garlic, bay leaves) and a few ingredients that I think of as being typically Mexican (chilis and cilantro).  I think that the flavors of the soup were really interesting.  I was a little worried about the texture of the blended hominy and chilis, but it ended up being nicely thick and hearty.  The chilis gave the soup a nice slightly sweet, slightly spicy flavor.  I will definitely be making the soup again because it's great cold weather fare and pretty simple.

Now for the Lettuce in Sesame Sauce.  I'm not really sure what there is to say about this recipe - I have a feeling that the sesame sauce is not going to appeal to a lot of palates.  I told Alex I thought the salad would go really nicely with a batch of Sichuan Dumplings in Chili Oil.  The combination of the thick and nutty sesame sauce would be nicely offset by the sweetness and heat of the chili oil.  We ate it with fried rice, which wasn't the most ideal pairing, but we had a limited selection of ingredients left by Tuesday afternoon...

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Slow Cooker Korean Beef Stew with Napa Cabbage and Pickles

Alex and I have a rather glorious All-Clad slow cooker in the closet that we almost never use.  I am determined to change that this winter.  I want to make at least one batch of slow cooker chili and at least one stew (or other braised dish).  I guess this recipe would take care of the stew, but let's get a little crazy and make another stew because why not?  But seriously, a slow cooker is brilliant for a lazy Sunday wintertime meal.  You throw it together in the morning (or the afternoon) and wander off for a few hours.  And later that evening you end up with something warm and hearty.  Today we started putting dinner together around 3:30 pm.  After we seared up the beef and threw it in the slow cooker, we took the dog for a long walk and hung out on the couch for awhile.  And then around 7:30 pm dinner was ready!  This recipe was fairly labor-intensive for a slow cooker recipe - there were several stages and several pots used, but it simmered away unattended for 3 plus hours, which was nice.  The dish that finally emerged from the slow cooker was warm, rich and comforting - perfect for a slightly chilly lazy Sunday.  It had a rich meaty flavor from the beef and the beef stock, plus a nice sweetness to the broth overlayed with the aroma of toasted sesame oil.  With each bite you got shreds of sweet cabbage, hunks of tender beef, steamed rice, and the slight crunch of bean sprouts.  My favorite element might have been the pickles.  I really loved the how the pickles provided lovely little bursts of acidity and a little heat.  And they held up a lot better once we added them in the slow cooker than I thought they would.  I took a few bites and told Alex to break out the kimchi because I thought the kimchi would be a nice spicy side and would provide some complimentary (but absent) flavors and a nice textural contrast.  When I asked Alex what he thought about the stew he said (and I quote) "I think it was very good - I think serving it with kimchi made it better." 

Recipe after the jump!

Spinach with Melted Leeks and Cardamom

I can't figure out what it was about this recipe that made me want to cook it.  I have never been a huge fan of creamed spinach - if it is there I will certainly eat it, but I have never ordered (or made) creamed spinach in my life.  I do like sauteed spinach, either by itself or folded into pastas or omelets.  The Spinach Catalan Style is one of my favorite sauteed spinach recipes.  But spinach is everywhere right now (both in the farmers' market and the grocery store) and it seemed due time to try a new spinach recipe.  I know I mentioned that I was planning on making this dish along with a few others when we made the Warm Mushroom Salad with Shallots and Sherry Vinegar.  And I am determined to use the Andrea Reusing cookbook now with the remaining bounty at the farmers' market.  So this seemed like a match made in heaven.  The only problem was that Alex and I both found the dish to be a little muddy tasting.  When we tasted it in the pan it was tasty - perfumed nicely with the cardamom and with the creamy tang of the creme fraiche.  But by the time we plated the spinach and got it to the table (which took no more than a minute), the flavors got muddled and the spinach itself developed a somewhat slimy texture.  Perhaps we should have skipped that last minute of cooking everything together with the creme fraiche and leeks and pulled the spinach from the pan a minute earlier to prevent any overcooking.  Or perhaps we should just recognize the fact that we don't really like creamed spinach and call it a day. 

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eggs with Curry Leaves

This is the second version of scrambled eggs that we have made from Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent.  Sadly, neither Alex nor I can remember the other scrambled eggs recipe well enough to decide which one we liked better...  I remember being pleasantly surprised by how palatable I found the tomatoes in the Andhra Scrambled Eggs.  But what I really remember from that meal was being blown away by the Andhra Spiced Eggplant.  Speaking of that eggplant, we need to make it again ASAP because it was delicious.  I have one minor criticism of this particular scrambled eggs recipe; I prefer my eggs cooked gently and slowly over a moderately low temperature, rather than scrambled quickly over a higher heat.  That way the eggs remain light, fluffy and moist.  Because the eggs here were poured in a much hotter pan than I usually use to scramble eggs, they were a little dry.  They also felt a little... heavier and more filling than typical scrambled eggs (both because of the cooking method and the amount of ingredients in the eggs).  On the plus side, the flavors here were quite interesting and were fun to experiment with.  These eggs were heavily spiced with curry leaves, cayenne chili, shallot, ginger and scallions.  In terms of sheer flavor, they packed a wallop.  And I usually love that kind of thing.  But part of me would have preferred a really simple plate of pale or golden yellow, fluffy scrambled eggs with just a few chives on top for color.  Simple, but satisfying.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roast Spaghetti Squash with Shredded Coconut

I am so excited that squash season is finally here.  Yay.  I know you can get butternut and spaghetti squash year-round at most decent grocery stores, but I love the selection of fresh squash at the farmers' market during the fall.  I have been on the lookout for delicata squash (which I think is my favorite of the squash varieties I have tried) but I am also determined to try a few new varieties this year.  I am thinking cheese pumpkins or blue Hokkaido squash (if I can find it).  We have a kabocha squash at home right now, but I pick at least one kabocha squash up per season.  Strangely enough, I never ate any variety of squash prior to moving to NYC.  My first year here I was wandering through the farmers' market in Union Square where I saw a squash that looked interesting and I bought it.  I haven't looked back since.

We tend to be a little lazy with spaghetti squash and we make our Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices repeatedly without even considering searching for a new recipe.  This time I wanted to try something new and I took some inspiration from a pumpkin-coconut curry that I was considering making with our kabocha squash.  One thing I will say about roasting the spaghetti squash in the oven is that it cooks far more evenly.  Cooking it in the microwave is obviously much faster, but you end up with pockets of undercooked or inconsistently cooked squash.  So I would recommend that if you have the time, go ahead and roast your spaghetti squash.  It is worth it.  As for the seasonings, I thought that the combination of the heat of the cayenne chili (we added additional cayenne pepper, but it might be spicy enough with just the chili for most people) and the sweetness of the squash and coconut was lovely.  I have never tried cooking with coconut oil before but I thought it was a nice way to add a little additional coconut flavor to gently perfume the whole dish in addition to the more concentrated flavor of the dried shredded coconut.  I might try the coconut oil in a few more stir-fries until I figure out exactly what role it is going to play in our kitchen, but this was a good first attempt!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mini Buffalo Chicken Balls with Blue Cheese Dip

I really love a good meatball so this recipe sounded really interesting to me.  Buffalo wings are awesome.  Meatballs are awesome.  Why wouldn't they be awesome together?  The problem with these meatballs is that they are lacking a key component to the buffalo wings - texture.  When you bite into a nice buffalo wing you have the crispy deep-fried skin with the moist chicken.  These meatballs have the right flavor.  And they are moist.  But they are one big ball of smush.  There was literally no texture to them.  I had hoped that the celery and the shallot would provide a little texture, but no such luck.  When I saw how wet and soft they were I decided to broil them for a few minutes at the end of the cooking process to try to get a crust to form on the exterior.  No dice.  The broiling did help to firm them up a little, but no crust formed because they were too wet.  The blue cheese dip was pretty chunky (which was a conscious decision on our part to provide texture).  I also ate my meatballs with celery sticks because I needed the crunch.  And I really enjoy the combination of buffalo wings, blue cheese and celery.  It works for me.  Alex took one bite of the celery and gave me the rest.  Sometimes it's not such a bad thing that Alex doesn't like celery.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quasi-Asian Club Sandwiches

What do you do when you have an entire roast turkey breast (and then some) left over in the refrigerator?  If you're Alex, you make club sandwiches.  And since the Roast Turkey Breasts with Asian Spice Rub was quasi-Asian to begin with, you make quasi-Asian club sandwiches.  To be perfectly honest, the only Asian (or quasi-Asian) elements to these sandwiches were the turkey breasts themselves, which were seasoned with an Asian spice rub of Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, clove, coriander, fennel and cinnamon, and the spicy mayo Alex put together, which was seasoned with sriracha and a pinch each of ground coriander and ground cumin.  Otherwise, these sandwiches were basically traditional turkey clubs, which are a perfect lazy Sunday meal!

There is no real recipe here, although I can post the method we used for cooking the bacon in the oven.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a cooling rack on top.  Lay the bacon strips out on top of the rack and then slide the pan into the oven.  Turn the oven on to 400 degrees F and allow bacon to roast until they reach the desired level of crispness, about 20-25 minutes.  It's almost too easy.