Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reasons why jury duty in NYC doesn't totally suck...

Actually, there are really only two reasons.  First, you're not in the office and the days are shorter (now this can backfire because I had to go into the office after jury duty two out of three days, which made the days much longer).  Second, you are right next to Chinatown and every day you have at least an hour lunch break.  So I took it upon myself to eat at a new Chinese restaurant for lunch every day (some old favorites and one new restaurant) and to have a dan tat taste off (my favorite Portuguese-style dan tat at Double Crispy versus the traditional dan tat at Bread Talk pictured above).  For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, dan tat are Chinese egg custard tarts and they are pictured above.  I heart dan tatSerious Eats did a taste taste last August and they judged the ones at Bread Talk to be the best, so I had to give them a shot.  In the end I preferred the Portuguese-style dan tat from Double Crispy (I thought the texture of the creamy filling was better as well as the flaky, buttery crust).  I was actually somewhat sad when my jury duty stint ended yesterday because I had one more restaurant (and one more dan tat bakery) picked out to try.  Oh well!  I'm sure Alex and I will go down there soon enough.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tuscan Kale Caesar Slaw

    When we were at the farmers' market on Sunday I was so overcome with excitement over the return of my favorite booth that sells greens and the return of greens in general that I couldn't restrain myself from buying several bunches of greens, including two bunches of Tuscan kale.  The funny thing is that for years I kept stumbling across recipes that called for Tuscan kale, but I could never find the kale itself.  And now I feel like I see it all the time.  We only buy it every once in awhile, but I rarely have trouble finding it when it is in season.  I don't know if that means that Tuscan kale is more popular now (and therefore more common) or if I am just more aware of it now.

    This salad sounded interesting because I am a sucker for good caesar salads.  I am also a sucker for salad in general come spring time.  Sadly the wonderful spring weather seems to have disappeared, but I couldn't resist making the salad.  The one thing I thought the salad was missing was something with crunch and a buttery, richness - some toasted walnuts, some hand-torn croutons - something along those lines...  I thought the dressing had the right balance of assertiveness (hello anchovies and Parmigiano-Reggiano) against the fresh, clean flavor of the typical Dijon mustard, lemon juice and evoo vinaigrette.  I didn't love the salad, but I enjoyed it.  It was different.  And it was wonderfully spring-y (even if the weather is no longer so spring-y).  Doesn't it look spring-y?  I have to say that scraping egg whites and egg yolks through a strainer makes for a very pretty dish, even if the strainer is impossible to clean afterwards.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    Moroccan-Spiced Scallops with Lentils

    Some meals are more exciting than others.  This one, just didn't excite me.  It smelled good.  It sounded good.  And I am a big fan of the flavor combination of cumin, coriander and cinnamon.  But once we got everything on the plate it was just kinda... meh.  The flavors were decent, but I was hoping for one of those dishes where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.  And all I got was parts, none of which were bad but nothing that blew me away either.  My biggest complaint was that the lentils were verging on starchy mush (I would probably use green lentils in the future because I feel like they have a better texture better).  If I had read the reviews before making the dish I would have thrown in a little more spice and added some garlic for an additional flavor hit, but I'm still not sure that it would have saved the dish.  Actually, I have no idea what would have saved the dish.  Oh well - I guess this dish won't make it into our repertoire.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Ajam Seitan (Devilled Chicken)

    Happy Sunday everyone.  I love lazy Sundays.  This one has been less lazy than most thus far - we hit Costco early this morning to stock up on meat, seafood and toilet paper, then we went to the farmers' market, and then we cooked lunch.  I was planning on hitting the gym too but my instep and Brady's canine had an unfortunate run-in, so running shoes and spinning shoes are a little uncomfortable right now.  Oh well.  I kept telling Alex that Brady harpooned me, but the truth is that we were equally at fault.

    This recipe was another of Alex's selections.  Alex has a particular affinity for all things Dutch.  I have an affinity for all things Asian - so a Dutch/Indonesian recipe is right up both of our alleys.  This dish is fun because it is new and different.  I'm not used to the combination of mustard, lemon juice, sambal oelek, and ketjap manis.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with ketjap manis, ketjap manis is a thick, sweetened soy sauce.  It never would have occurred to me to marinate chicken thighs in mustard and then braise them in soy.  Those flavor combinations don't sound like they would work together.  And yet, they really do.  I'm not sure that I could taste the flavor of the mustard in the chicken, but the chicken was very flavorful.  The onions and ketjap manis gave the chicken a wonderful sweetness, and the lemon juice and the mustard gave it a nice acidity.  And then there is the spice and flavor from the sambal.  It is all very complex, but in some ways very familiar.  With the depth of flavor packed into the chicken, the cucumber salad is understandably light (almost bordering on bland).  And the yellow rice (basmati rice with some ground turmeric added in) was a really nice touch.  I didn't think that the turmeric would provide much flavor, but that subtle flavor worked really well with the chicken.  As far as meals go, it was a very successful one (aside from the fact that Alex had to run out halfway through when we realized we didn't have enough ketjap manis).  The flavors melded together really well and the components complimented each other nicely.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Saturday, March 24, 2012

    Hugh Acheson's Pickled Shrimp

    Once again I have to thank someone else for finding this recipe.  Alex decided that he wanted to make pickled shrimp so I tasked him with finding a recipe.  We tried pickled shrimp once before (Ashley's Pickled Shrimp and Bayona Caesar Salad) and I thought the shrimp was good, but not great.  So I wasn't totally on board with the pickled shrimp idea until he dug up this recipe from Hugh Acheson.  For those of you who watch Top Chef, Hugh was one of the judges this past season.  Specifically, he was the one with the unibrow (or as Alex called it, the monobrow).  Anyway, he says the most amazing and irreverent things.  For the record, I'm a big fan of him as a judge.  And after this pickled shrimp, I am a big fan of his food.  The shrimp were fresh and juicy - I really liked the combination of lemon juice and evoo.  Alex said that he wished they were a little more pickled (as in he wishes there had been some vinegar in the pickling liquid), but I liked them just the way they were.  We served the shrimp with some crusty bread and an arugula salad and it was a very fresh, light meal that still had a lot of flavor.  By the end of the meal I was mopping up the pool of pickling liquid with my bread.  And if we hadn't run out of bread I would have continued doing so.  I would totally make these again for a picnic or on any hot summer night when the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven or slave away in the kitchen.  The cooking time on these shrimp is totally minimal - 2 minutes and then they marinate in the fridge overnight.  The dish is incredibly simple and tasty, and it lends itself to a really nice summery meal.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Friday, March 23, 2012

    Pasta with Caramelized Cabbage, Anchovies and Bread Crumbs

    First things first - I have some friends to thank for this recipe.  I didn't find this recipe on my own.  Usually I am in charge of tracking down recipes, but this one was emailed to me by my friends Jay and Verna.  Thanks guys!  They told me it was a really hearty/homey recipe.  And they were right.  Those are exactly the words that I would use to describe it.  I feel like cabbage is inherently hearty and homey.  I'm not sure I can picture an elegant or refined dish that is cabbage-based (which isn't to say that cabbage isn't delicious).  If you think about it, cabbage usually features in dishes like sauerkraut and coleslaw, not fine dining.  But I'm not usually aiming for fine dining on a random Thursday night.  What I really want during the week (for the most part) is to come home from work and cook a nice, not too complicated, tasty meal.  It doesn't have to be fancy.  And this pasta isn't fancy.  It is comforting and homey, but it has great flavor.  You get to experience the sweet cabbage, the salty/nutty bread crumbs, the spice from the red pepper flakes, the rich fruity taste of the evoo and the bite of the cheese.  Yum.  Alex says it reminded him of a pasta dish his mom used to make him with caramelized onions, only with more flavor (red pepper flakes and anchovies pack a wallop, one that neither of our parents experimented with regularly but one that we both enjoy).  I was actually sad that Alex claimed the rest of the pasta for lunch today because I wanted it.  And you know a dish is good when I go to the trouble of fighting Alex for the leftovers.

    As a side note, I'm going to go ahead and call this recipe vegetarian, even though it contains anchovies.  If you don't want anchovies you can leave them out, but I really like the salty, nutty flavor they impart.  Speaking of anchovies, we are on a real anchovy kick this week because we used them in our Simple Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Onion and Anchovies earlier in the week.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Spring is here!

    It might be a little early to make this claim, but seeing as the highs this week have been in the mid-70's and my dog is panting every morning in the park like it's spring, I'm going to go ahead and say that spring is finally here.  Hurray spring!  I'm already gearing up for the spring bounty at the farmers' markets and a serious salad-making bender.  And in a few short months, it will be summer, which means that I can start picking up heirloom tomatoes, herbs and squash.  Yummy.

    Speaking of Brady, this is Brady (the blond in the back) with his friends Kody and Tucker at Central Park this morning.  I had to share because I thought it was just too freaking cute.

    Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread

    I'm not sure how I found this banana bread recipe (I'm going to "blame" it on Tastespotting), nor am I entirely certain what drew me to it.  I have that problem from time to time because I find recipes months and sometimes years before we actually get around to making them.  When I realized that we had 3 bananas that were verging on overripe last week, I set them aside to finally make this banana bread.  I also warned Alex not to touch them because he has a bad habit of eating my banana bread bananas, but that is beside the point. 

    My initial thoughts on the first bite I took of banana bread was that the glaze was overpowering and the bread itself wasn't as tender or moist as I would have hoped.  Granted, we were eating an end piece, which is like eating the corner piece of cake - there's always too much icing/frosting/graze for me and it tends to be a little on the drier side than the rest of the cake.  Unless we're talking red velvet cake or carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (or Carvel cake for that matter), I want a very light layer of icing/frosting/glaze on the top of my cake and nothing on the sides.  Otherwise it is just way too saccharine sweet for me.  So I tend to avoid the ends and corners of all square or rectangle cakes.  So I wanted to reserve judgment on the banana bread as a whole until I had another slice.  Then I had another slice for breakfast the next morning and I still didn't love it.  The bread just isn't very tender - which I attribute to the use of whole wheat flour, but you can let me know if you disagree.  And the glaze is still a bit overpowering.  I guess I'm just not into glazes.  Oh well.  It was a fun idea while it lasted and it's not actually a bad banana bread, it's just not my kind of banana bread.  I guess it's back to the drawing board (or at least back to the banana bread recipes we already know and love)!

    Recipe after the jump!

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Simple Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Onion and Anchovies

    I got the idea to make this cauliflower because I feel like the flavor combination of anchovies, evoo, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and parsley go together really nicely.  We have made all sorts of dishes (mostly pastas, but other things too) with that combination of flavors.  We did a Roast Broccolini with Parsley, Garlic and Anchovies awhile back that was delicious.  We also made a really nice Seared Radish Crostini awhile back that I really enjoyed.  So I decided why not use that flavor combination with another vegetable that I love?  So we made a flavorful paste of anchovies, garlic, onion, crushed red pepper flakes and evoo and then roasted our cauliflower in the oven.  This roasted cauliflower is the type of dish that I used to make a ton before Alex moved in.  It was pretty common for me to just roast up half of a cauliflower or a bunch of brussels sprouts with whatever seasonings, meats and aromatics that I had in the fridge and eat that for dinner.  Sometimes I would add pasta, sometimes I would just eat a big old bowl full of roasted veggies.  But then Alex moved up and those random roast vegetable meals just sort of disappeared.  In case you were wondering, my other default meal was scrambled eggs, which I continue to make fairly regularly on the weekend for brunch/lunch and for myself when Alex is either out of town or has other dinner plans.  So I would totally make this cauliflower dish again for dinner sometimes.  I might substitute bacon (or capers if you wanted to go the vegetarian route) for the anchovies or play with the proportions a little, but this is totally my kind of dish.  Alex was less enthusiastic about it.  He said that he didn't taste the anchovies, garlic and onion as much as he wanted.  I agree with him to a certain extent.  The dominant flavors were definitely crushed red pepper flakes, lemon juice and parsley (although my portion was more heavily parsley-ed than his because I love parsley), but I thought the salty/nutty flavor of the anchovies came through nonetheless. 

    Recipe after the jump!

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Black Beans and Rice with Chicken and Apple Salsa

    Even though I am typically not a fan of black beans I was really drawn to this recipe.  It just sounded so interesting - so different from the things we typically make.  And if we had made the recipe as intended (using a store-bought rotisserie chicken instead of roasting our own chicken breasts), it would have been a fairly quick and easy meal to throw together, so that was another draw.  As it turns out, I actually like black beans.  Or at the very least, I really liked these particular black beans.  My main problem with black beans is that they are often starchy and muddy tasting, with a really mushy texture.  These were really flavorful and we left them pretty much intact so they still had a little texture.  We added some serrano chilis to the black beans and the salsa to give it all some kick and I think that touch was key.  A little spice can work wonders for me.  The beans went really nicely with the chicken, the apple salsa and the brown rice.  I thought it all just worked really nicely together.  Alex and I were both surprised by how flavorful the dish was.  He actually liked it so much that he brought in the leftover beans, rice and apple salsa to work - even though he thought it made him look like a hobo since that entire portion probably cost less than $0.50.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Italian Wedding Soup

    Ummmmmm....  What to say about this soup?  It was neither my favorite, not my least favorite soup that we have ever made.  I would say that it falls somewhere in the middle.  It was good, but not great (or at least not as great as I had hoped it might be).  The turkey meatballs smelled amazing while they were browning in the pan, but finishing them in the simmering broth seemed to remove a lot of their flavor rather than adding flavor.  And the broth didn't seem to absorb much flavor from the meatballs either.  The broth did pick up a little flavor from the escarole, but not much else.  I must admit that the soup really improved once you dipped some bread into it.  Then it was pretty tasty.  But all things considered, I wish that we had just made Stracciatella instead - a lot less messy and labor intensive, but just as tasty.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Halibut with Chimichurri and Roast Broccolini

    You learn something new everyday.  Yesterday I learned a new word from someone at work - "preantepenultimate."  It means fourth from last.  Today I learned that kabocha squash doesn't roast very well.  Unlike acorn squash or delicata squash, kabocha is really fibrous and starchy.  It reminds me more of a sweet potato than a squash.  I think it would work really well in a braise or a stew.  Once upon a time in China I had a stewed pumpkin dish at a banquet that was delicious.  I think the kabocha squash would work really well in that dish.  But it didn't roast so well.  No matter, I had this post on deck anyway from the meal we made last night, which I guess I should talk about rather than just babbling about my kabocha squash debacle.  Let's see...  What should I say about the fish?  I thought it was really light and tasty - the perfect dish for the warm spring weather that we have been having recently.  Of course now that I said that I just know the temperatures are going to drop and we'll get snow next week.  I thought the chimichurri worked really well with the meaty halibut, although I'm not sure how well it would work with a more delicate fish.  I wish that I could have grilled or broiled the fish for some extra smokey flavor and char, but we don't have a grill and our broiler is beyond super powered so it wouldn't so much have cooked the fish as incinerated it.  So I decided to go the safe route and bake/roast our halibut filets instead.  As for the broccolini, we got the idea to roast it from Ina Garten's Parmsesan-Roasted Broccoli, but I think that roasting broccoli works a little better than roasting broccolini.  The broccolini is already so tender to begin with that it gets a little extra crispy, but that's ok.

    Recipes after the jump!

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Fluffy Baked Eggs with Roasted-Vegetable Hash

    When I was initially conceptualizing this dish I was thinking about making sweet potato hash with runny egg yolks.  But then I started playing around online and came up with this dish.  It wasn't exactly what I was planning on, but it seemed interesting enough to alter my tentative meal plans.  So we hit the farmers' market to stock up on eggs and mushrooms to go with the sweet potatoes we already had in the pantry.  I'm not sure exactly what inspired me to buy sweet potatoes, but I decided some time ago to pick up a few in an attempt to mix things up a bit more.  I was planning on making a Vietnamese curry with sweet potatoes, but somehow that never came to be.  And then I thought about making roasted sweet potato fries, but that never came to be either.  So today for lunch we finally used our sweet potatoes to make this dish.  And it was lovely - very autumnal, but not heavy and greasy.  The eggs were fluffy and light.  And delightfully cheesy, but not overwhelmingly so.  Alex was actually amazed by how much the eggs rose/puffed up during the baking process.  They almost reminded me of a souffle, but not quite as airy and far less labor-intensive to prepare.  It's not a dish that I will be dreaming about for years to come, but I was very pleased with it.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Candied Pork Shoulder

    I am a sucker for email listservs.  I probably get 10 emails a day from various listserves on food, fashion and everything in between.  Tasting Table is probably one of my favorites.  First and foremost, the emails from Tasting Table generally impart really interesting restaurant news/gossip.  I love knowing hearing about new restaurants opening in NYC and getting a preview of the menu.  And then there are the recipes contributed by various chefs.  A lot of the recipes sound really delicious, but require a little too much effort.  For instance, Floyd Cardoz's Coddled Eggs with Crab, Bacon and Leeks sounds amazing, but just look at the list of ingredients and the directions.  It's way too much trouble for a weeknight meal, but maybe we could try making the eggs on a lazy weekend?  On the other hand we have thoroughly enjoyed the recipes we have tried, including the Guacamole with Tomatillos and Queso Fresco and Bklyn Larder's Spicy Tomato Soup.  This recipe was one that was semi-complicated, but sounded totally worth the trouble.  Both Alex and I love pork shoulder and he really loves bourbon.  I knew it would be an easy sell.

    Things that I loved about the pork - the flavor of the spice rub and the glaze on the pork was excellent.  It had a really nice spice level.  I was worried that it would be a little too sweet and/or too boozey, but it really wasn't.  It was still a little sweet but the bourbon cooked off and the other flavors really balanced it out.  My one complaint was that the pork wasn't as juicy as I wanted it to be.  I'm not sure if it was the cooking method, or if we just overcooked it slightly.  Either way, it was a fun dish, one that I would make again with some tweaks. 

    Recipe after the jump!

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops

    Look!  I am back!  I said we would be back this weekend with more posts and here we are.  Hurray!  Alex and I made our first home-cooked meal in... 2 weeks?  The last meal we cooked and ate at home was when Alex made Candied Pork Shoulder on February 26, 2012.  And I haven't even had time to post that recipe, but I promise it is coming soon (maybe tomorrow).  There were a few nights during that two week span where we could have cooked at home, but we either didn't have the energy or we had friends in town.  Actually, February was terrible for home-cooked meals.  But I'm hopeful that March will be better.  I'm not confident that it will be better, but I think there is a distinct possibility that it could be.  And if so, I plan to cook and eat at home as much as humanly possible because April is already showing signs of impending insanity.

    I'm not exactly sure how we decided to cook pork chops for dinner tonight.  We had some ideas for side dishes for the next few days, but no ideas for main courses.  We randomly pulled a few different proteins out of the freezer to defrost this afternoon, but we knew that nothing would be defrosted in time for tonight's dinner.  So we went to Fairway and hashed it out there.  Pork chops (bone-in, of course) were the winner because it has been a really long time since we made them last and they sounded healthier/lighter than red meat.  We had some sugar snap peas in the fridge that somehow looked ok (even though we bought them weeks ago) so I wanted to make the Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Radishes, Mint and Ricotta Salata.  Granted, the peas were way out of season so they were nowhere near as sweet as they are when in season, but I wanted something fresh and light.  I was originally thinking about making shrimp or chicken with the salad, but then we decided to go with pork chops.  I randomly picked this recipe once I got home because it sounded both tasty and easy and off we went.  I was very pleasantly surprised by how tasty the pork chops were.  Alex was worried that they would be too sweet and I suppose I would have been worried too if I had thought about it.  But I know that the combination of reduced balsamic and black pepper works really well together so I just went with it.  The balsamic-glaze had a bit of sweetness to it, but the pork and black pepper combination made it nicely savory at the same time.  One of the things that I liked best about the dish is that I think this dish would be a really flexible dinner option - you could easily pair it with a number of different sides (roast squash in the fall, a nice salad and some bread in the summer, etc). 

    Recipe after the jump!

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012


    So I was really getting into a nice groove with the blogging for a little while there and work has once again issued a smackdown.  But it was nice while it lasted, right?  I promise that things will slow down soon (hopefully by the weekend) and I should have some new posts for you guys over the weekend!  If it makes you feel any better, I miss cooking and eating dinner at home more than any of you could possibly miss my ramblings.