Monday, April 30, 2012

Bayona Chicken Caesar Salad

This recipe is a variation on a caesar salad recipe from Susan Spicer that we made sometime back.  Last time we made the salad as a side dish, but I wanted to turn it into an entree salad with the addition of some chicken.  Chicken caesar salad was the first salad I learned to enjoy so I wanted to pay homage to it here.  When we made the salad last time I posted about how it would make a fantastic entree salad with the addition of some chicken or shrimp.  It just took me a little while to get around to making it.  But good things come to those who wait, right?  And I have to say, this salad was every bit as good as I thought it would be.  I'm not sure that you need to go to the effort of cooking your own chicken - a store-bought rotisserie chicken would be just as delicious here (and would save you some time), but since we cooked our own chicken I included those instructions in the recipe.  If you are doing shrimp I probably would cook them rather yourself than using the pre-cooked shrimp from the grocery store, but you could totally do that too if you were feeling particularly lazy.  Then again, if you are going to go to the trouble of making the dressing and everything from scratch, you should take the time to cook the shrimp.  Cooking shrimp just takes a few minutes whereas roasting a whole chicken (or even just roasting bone-in chicken breasts) takes forever. 

Recipe after the jump!

Cucumber and Watercress Salad

I was really excited about this salad because I love playing with random simple salad ingredients (and it received very high reviews at the FoodNetwork website).  I have to say that for a number of reasons it was just ok for me.  First, I thought the dressing was a little too sweet.  I love adding a little honey to salad dressing, but this was more honey than I wanted (or needed).  Our other big problem was that our grocery store cucumber had less than no flavor (which was the fault of the cucumber and not the recipe).  It literally just tasted like water - there was no flavor to it at all.  And the watercress wasn't as peppery as some I have had, which I thought would make for a great salad, but that extra peppery flavor might have done more to balance out the sweetness of the dressing.  Overall, if the cucumber had that fresh cucumber taste that I really enjoy the salad would not have been quite as disappoinging.  It would have been a little sweet, but still tasty.  Instead I'm just going to have to settle for the salad being pretty and easy to make, but a little blah.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Midnight Asparagus with Creamy Eggs

It's finally fresh asparagus season!  Hurray!  In the next few weeks I will probably have a crazy number of asparagus recipes on the blog.  I just can't help myself.  This recipe was one I found on Serious Eats during a recipe garthering/meal planning binge a few weeks ago.  Once I start looking up recipes I can't seem to stop myself!  The thing that I like most about this recipe is how "springy" it is.  Asparagus is essence of spring in vegetable form and once you add in the lemon juice for me it just screams spring.  I'm not certain that it is the most successful asparagus recipe (or egg recipe for that matter) that we have ever done, but it was a really nice meal.  And on top of the taste, it was a super easy one pot meal, which made it even more awesome.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Garlic Knots Two Ways

The problem with making Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough is figuring out what to do with the remaining dough.  We used one ball of dough to make our White Pizza with Ramps, but we had 2 more balls of dough left in the fridge.  I knew right away that I wanted to make a batch of garlic knots and I was thinking about making a calzone with the other dough, but we couldn't decide what kind of garlic knots to make so we decided to make two batches of garlic knots and save the calzone for later.  The Emmentaler and Caraway Garlic Knots were inspired by the cheesy garlic knots that John Fraser's temporary restaurant What Happens When.  We were both obsessed with the garlic knots he served the two times that we ate dinner there.  The Gouda and Cumin Garlic Knots were inspired by a cumin-flavored gouda cheese that was part of the cheese platter at Vandaag.  Alex suggested the second flavor combination and preferred that flavor combination, but I think that his preference is mostly due to the fact that he is not a huge fan of caraway seeds.  I really liked them both and I keep trying to pick a favorite, but I can't.   That's not a bad thing.  The garlic knots had a nice crispy exterior and a really fluffy, moist interior.  They were so good that we had garlic knots for dinner last night and then I had another few for breakfast this morning.  They are definitely best fresh out of the oven, but they aren't bad the next day!

Recipes after the jump!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

White Pizza with Ramps

This is recipe number 2 from our experiment with ramps.  And I have to say that this one was more successful than the first.  Alex actually said that this might just be the best white pizza he has ever eaten.  I was stunned.  If I am not mistaken, my response was something along the lines of "Really? Wow."  And then I think I looked at him dumbfounded.  But let me back up a few steps.  Yesterday I went to the farmers' market down at Union Square during my lunch break.  I was just poking around to see what vegetables were available, but when I saw the ramps I had a hard time resisting them.  And once I had them in my shopping bag I started thinking about pizza.  I was thinking about this pizza recipe from the new Jim Lahey cookbook we just bought - the bird's-nest pizza (a white pizza with asparagus and quail eggs).  I was going to just toss a few ramps in with that pizza and call it a day.  But then I started thinking that a white pizza would be a better way to feature the ramps.  So I found a recipe from Food & Wine by Tony Mantuano for a White Cheese Pizza with Ramps.  I used that as the base recipe, but used Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough recipe for the crust because he makes amazing breads and pizzas.  Plus we had the new cookbook so I had to try it out.  I have to say that the pizza was one of the best we have ever made at home.  Everything about it worked.  It had the perfect ratio of cheese to topping, the crust was delicious, and it cooked up like a dream.  And the flavor of the gentle, garlicky ramps was fantastic.  I was thinking about adding some crushed red pepper flakes, but I am so glad that I didn't because the pizza was perfect as is.  Man was it good.  I have to admit that I wasn't sure what all of the fuss was about with ramps in our first attempt at making them at home, but now I totally get it.  Yum.

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Grilled Romaine and Halloumi Cheese with Mint Vinaigrette

This recipe wins the award for being the most interesting recipe that Alex and I have made this month.  If we had both an outdoor space to entertain (it could be a rooftop or a backyard - I'm not picky) and a grill, I would love to serve this to friends and family at a backyard BBQ of sorts.  I say "of sorts" because I'm not planning on serving hamburgers, hot dogs and pasta salad here.  I'm talking a backyard get together with fun (and tasty) food.  Anyway, I thought the dish was different enough to be a lot of fun, but not labor-intensive.  It also was familiar enough that I think it would appeal to both picky eaters and adventurous ones.  And it was really tasty.  I love halloumi - it is a salty, firm little cheese that fries or grills up really well.  There is a Druze restaurant near my apartment that makes a wonderful little salad with fried cubes of Halloumi.  They are essentially the best croutons ever.  The only problem is that as the cheese cools it hardens back up and gets a little gummy.  So you are going to want to eat this salad fairly quickly.  But if you take that into account and eat quickly, you will thoroughly enjoy the salad.  The grilled onions are nice and sweet and the grilled romaine is delicious.  The combination of the sweetness of the onions, the zesty dressing and the freshness of the mint worked brilliantly together.

Recipe after the jump!

Madhur Jaffrey's Shrimp Biryani

I have been wanting to make Indian food for a few weeks now.  But something always got in the way.  Tonight we finally had the opportunity to make some biryani.  Biryani is a dish that I have enjoyed at restaurants in the past (although I typically eat chicken biryani rather than shrimp biryani), but I have never attempted to make it at home before.  Madhur Jaffrey is my go-to Indian chef so I decided that I had to use one of her recipes for my first attempt at biryani.  One of our Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks contains a recipe for lamb biryani, but I found this recipe online at Serious Eats.  Since we had shrimp in the freezer and shrimp is healthier than lamb, I decided to go with the shrimp biryani, rather than the lamb.  Another benefit of making shrimp biryani rather than chicken or lamb biryani is that a biryani with meat takes far longer to cook.

Alex and I are agreed that the biryani was good, but not our favorite Indian dish that we have made.  The shrimp had nice flavor, but the rice was less flavorful than Alex had hoped.  We added a little more lemon juice to the shrimp, which I think was a nice touch, but I wish we had added a little more cilantro to the rice as well.  It also occurred to me after the fact that we could have added some mango pickle (like they do at the biryani cart near my office) or something else to the dish to give it some kick.  Maybe next time?

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spice-Crusted Salmon with Ginger-Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

The smell of this salmon is going to stick with me for days to come (in more ways than one because the smell of cooked fish is still lingering in our apartment).  When I was crushing up the fennel and coriander seeds they were both releasing a wonderful scent. They were so aromatic that I could smell them through the ziploc bag.  The crushed coriander seeds smelled nicely floral (and just slightly peppery), whereas the crushed fennel seeds smelled like licorice or anise.  And then when we cooked the salmon you still got those aromatic scents, combined with the smell of the salmon itself.  I thought that overall the salmon was nice.  The floral warmth of the coriander and fennel rub paired nicely with the richness of the salmon and the lime juice (and the yogurt sauce) really cut through the richness and gave the dish some acidity.  I thought the flavor of the yogurt sauce was a little overpowering at times - particularly when you happened to bite into a piece of minced ginger.  In the future I would probably grate the ginger instead of mincing it to avoid any such mouthfuls of ginger.  I would also probably cut back on the amount of yogurt sauce that I serve with each piece of salmon.  I don't think you can get rid of the yogurt sauce entirely because the spices might otherwise prove a little too powerful - I think you need the creamy coolness and acidity of the yogurt sauce to act as a counterpoint to the spices.  All in all, I would say that this was a nice salmon dish and a nice alternative to our usual salmon recipes, but it was just "nice" and nothing spectacular.

Recipe after the jump!

Fried Eggs with Sauteed Ramps and Duck Bacon

Somehow (and this is truly shocking living in NYC) I have never had ramps before.  Every spring ramps pop up on restaurant menus all over the city and appear at the farmers' markets, where people buy them en masse.  Some of my favorite restaurants (including Momofuku) put ramps on the menu for the brief month that they are in season.  And yet, I never managed to eat any.  The other day when we were at the farmers' market I happened to come across a large pile of ramps at the table for Mountain Sweet Berry Farm and I snagged a few bunches to experiment with.  Incidentally, Mountain Sweet Berry Farm also makes these amazing homemade potato chips that they sell at the market in little paper bags.  You should definitely try them if you find yourself near Union Square on Wednesday or Saturday.  Moving on, never having cooked (or eaten) ramps before, I was at a loss for how to prepare them.  I know I have seem them on menus pickled, in pastas and on fancy-schmancy pizzas, but I wanted to know how best to prepare them at home.  The guy manning the Mountain Sweet Berry Farm table recommended sauteeing them or serving them in salads.  But I didn't know what to serve the sauteed ramps with.  I decided to turn to Google and stumbled across a bunch of recipes that referenced serving the ramps with eggs.  I had picked up a dozen eggs from the farmers' market too that day.  Perfect!  So we used a recipe from Serious Eats for guidance and made ourselves some eggs with sauteed ramps and duck bacon.

I had no idea that ramps would taste so garlick-y and onion-y all at the same time.  They reminded me slightly of garlic chives, only more intense.  Alex called this dish "ramps with cholesterol and more cholesterol."  I have to admit that he has a point - it wasn't exactly healthy.  But I thought it was pretty tasty.  And I thought that the flavor of the ramps paired really well with the runny egg yolk.  It did a pretty good job of cutting through the richness.  Mostly I'm just glad that I finally had the chance to cook and eat ramps!

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Winter Caprese Salad (Take #2)

I know that I have already posted a few different Mario Batali recipes for caprese salad, including another one called Winter Caprese Salad.  Apparently his names for recipes aren't very creative.  Then again, how many different names can you come up with for caprese salad?  He already has a Summer Caprese Salad as well.  I have been thinking about caprese salad ever since it started getting warmer out and greens started re-appearing at the farmers' market.  But local heirloom tomatoes won't be around for awhile yet, so I figured we had to go with one of the caprese recipes using roasted tomatoes.  Luckily we had a bunch of Roma tomatoes leftover from the other evening that I had bought to make salsa.  And with Zabar's and Salumeria Rosi nearby I always have a ready source of fresh mozzarella and/or burrata.

This recipe actually calls for mozzarella but I was in a burrata mood so we did that instead.  As you can see in the picture above, burrata is a lot creamier and oozes a lot more than regular mozzarella.  I thought it was a really lovely take on caprese salad.  I might slightly prefer Mario Batali's other Winter Caprese Salad recipe (and I think my all-time favorite might be his Summer Caprese Salad but that might just be because I love heirloom tomatoes fresh from the farmers' market and no matter how delicious a roasted Roma tomato is, it just can't compare with a fresh in-season tomato) because this one was a little sweet for me.  Roasting the tomatoes already intensifies their natural sweetness and then adding the agrodolce might have pushed them over the edge of too sweet for me.  But I am being really picky with that criticism.  It was still a wonderful dish.  The man really is a genius.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Baby Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata

Another day, another salad.  Yay!  Actually, I had salad for lunch yesterday and today as well.  I told you I am obsessed.  That is three salads in 2 days (plus some sauteed greens with dinner last night), with different greens in each.  I came up with this salad in order to use the baby red Russian kale that I picked up at the farmers' market this weekend.  I went into 5 lbs. of Dirt to buy one thing of salad greens and ended up buying three - this kale, senposai, and some teenage lettuces (lettuce that is past the baby greens stage, but not quite adult).  I was originally planning on whipping up a new lemon vinaigrette until I remembered that I had a little bit of vinaigrette leftover from Co.'s Roasted Beet Salad with Arugula and Pepitas.   And it was exactly what I was looking for (although I did punch it up with a little extra lemon juice).  I crumbled in a little ricotta salata (also leftover from the beet salad) and voila - a perfectly light and spring-y salad.  I love the combination of lemony vinaigrette and ricotta salata, and the baby kale worked really well with both.  The baby kale was just assertive enough to stand up to it all.  I have never tried baby kale in a salad before, but I thought it was really successful.

Recipe after the jump!

Thai-Style Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I will be the first to admit that chicken salad sandwiches aren't really my speed.  I mean honestly, I almost never propose making something with mayonnaise (except for devilled eggs because I have an unnatural thing for them).  I really dislike most deli "salads" (chicken salad, egg salad, tuna salad) because there is way too much mayonnaise.  But I really do like to make tuna salad at home with just a touch of mayo, so I guess it's not altogether that surprising that I might like an Asian-inspired chicken salad with a little mayo...  Alex gets the credit for coming up with the majority of this recipe (although I was the one who proposed an Asian-ish chicken salad).  I was originally planning on poaching the chicken, but he wanted to marinate it in a mix of coconut milk, Thai green curry paste, ginger, lime juice, herbs and chilis.  And then he roasted it in the oven.  After he roasted the chicken, he shredded it and tossed with more herbs, shallots, scallions, lime juice, fish sauce, chilis and mayo.  He wanted to use a lot more mayo than I was comfortable with, but what else is new?  Alex likes mayo.  I do not.  I briefly considered topping the chicken salad with some fried shallots for crunch, but I didn't really want to add anymore salt.  I kind of wonder how it would have tasted if I had added a few.  I also proposed adding the romaine because I think that some salad greens in a sandwich are always welcome.  Plus, I had this whacky idea that lettuce is a traditional thing to include in a chicken salad sandwich.  I don't know for sure because I have never ordered one (or to my knowledge, eaten one), but it made sense in my head because it would keep the bread from getting soggy.  Plus a little lettuce never hurt anyone!

As far as chicken salad sandwiches go, I thought this one was pretty tasty.  The chicken salad was nice and fresh and clean.  Alex and I were both pretty happy with it (although we had to agree to disagree regarding the amount of mayo).  I know that for most people chicken salad is a totally standard thing, but for me it was a little outside of my comfort zone.  So I am pretty impressed with myself for both suggesting it and enjoying it.  Go me.  And go Alex for actually making the chicken salad (although I like to think that my original proposal and my trip to the grocery to store to pick up a baguette and mint were just as important as actually cooking).

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Broccoli Rabe with Mozzarella Crema

I used to hate broccoli rabe.  Actually, I used to hate all bitter greens.  Hate is pretty strong - let's just say I disliked them.  I disliked all bitter greens.  I just couldn't understand why anyone would want to eat them when there are so many other more palatable options.  But I kept trying them and trying them and trying them because I have this thing about wanting to like good food.  If someone says it's good, I want to like it too.  And then one day I tried a pizza with sausage and broccoli rabe at Keste and surprisingly, I really liked it.  I'm still somewhat particular about broccoli rabe - simple sauteed broccoli rabe with garlic and evoo just doesn't do it for me.  I need some crushed red pepper flakes or some red wine vinegar, or something else to amp up the flavor and counteract some of the bitterness.  But anytime you combine it with Italian sausage I find that I really enjoy it (granted, a lot of vegetables are probably better with a little sausage).  But most of the broccoli rabe I buy comes straight from the grocery store so I acknowledge that I haven't been eating broccoli rabe at its best.  This past Saturday I saw some broccoli rabe at the farmers' market that just looked so beautiful.  I had to buy it.  The stalks were smaller and the leaves were more tender.  I knew it was going to be delicious.  So I decided to try to find a simpler way to prepare it where the flavor of the broccoli rabe wouldn't be masked too much by sausage.  After a little hunting through various cookbooks, I narrowed it down to two different Mario Batali recipes, this recipe and another recipe for Braised Broccoli Rabe in the Style of Puglia.  Once we realized that we didn't have black olives, this recipe was the only one left standing.

I enjoyed the broccoli rabe. It was incredibly simple and fresh.  You didn't get a ton of flavor from the mozzarella, but mozzarella isn't exactly a pungent cheese.  I tasted the nice grassy evoo we used more than I tasted the mozzarella, but the mozzarella did lend the dish a certain level of creaminess.  And I think the simplicity of the dish worked really nicely with the young, tender broccoli rabe.  If we had been using older broccoli rabe I think the bitterness of the green would have totally overpowered the mozzarella crema and the dish would have been far less enjoyable.  In Alex's opinion the broccoli rabe was just "fine" (which I knew he was going to say), but I like broccoli rabe a lot more than he does.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Carne Adobada (Grilled Adobo-Marinated Skirt Steak) and Corn Pudding

We made these dishes last weekend when we had friends over for dinner, but I didn't get around to posting about them until now.  I guess that's because I didn't find either dish to be super exciting.  They were both good.  I was happy to eat them.  But neither blew me away.  Alex was in the same boat.  With respect to the steak, think that the flavor was pretty good, but we were both hoping for a little more kick or pizazz from the adobo.  We tried eating the steak as tacos (with corn tortillas, jalapenos and cilantro) and then alone; I think I preferred it solo.  I thought that the flavor of the steak was muted enough that the corn tortilla masked it a little too much.  I wish we had made a salsa or something to go with it, but we ran out of time.  And I'm not really sure what kind of salsa I would had served.  The recipe was intended to be served as part of a taco party menu and there were two salsa recipes and one guacamole recipe on the menu.  I wish we had made one of them because I think that would have made a real difference and then the tacos would have been much more successful.  

As for the corn pudding, it was sweet and I thought the flavor of the roasted poblano pepper was really nice in it.  Even though the poblanos were just on top, the flavor really permeated the entire pudding.  And the texture was really nice - tender and creamy, but not as fluffy and airy as a souffle, or as dense as cornbread.  It was also nicely moist without being wet.  But it was fairly labor intensive to make (almost like a souffle since you had to separate the eggs and whip up egg whites).  To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure that the flavor of either dish was worth the time and effort.

Recipe after the jump!

Negima (Japanese Grilled Chicken Thigh Skewers with Scallions)

I realized yesterday that it has been weeks since we made an Asian meal.  It's entirely my fault because when I go into my salad kick I don't think of any Asian salads.  I mean, to be perfectly honest, there really aren't many Asian salads (at least not using lettuce).  So I tend to stray a bit more into American and Italian cuisine during the spring and summer when produce at the farmers' market is just so irresistible.  But after a week or two of non-Asian food I start to think about how much I miss it.  This time I thought negima would be the perfect use for some of the gorgeous scallions I picked up at the farmers' market.  When the scallions were raw they were actually purple in places.  Apparently just like you can buy white and red onions, you can buy red and white scallions.  Who knew?  I was planning on saving these red scallions for a different use and using the regular scallions we picked up for the negima, but Alex was prepping lunch and he had different ideas.

Weather like this and dishes like this make me wish that we had a grill.  As I'm sure you can imagine (and as I have said before) you don't find a lot of grills in Manhattan.  So we are stuck "grilling" inside on our grill pan.  But I miss the flavor that the grill imparts.  The grill would have done wonders here to just add another level of smokey flavor.  The combination of smoke and the slightly sweet sauce would have been delicious.  Even without a grill it was a nice dish.  But it could have been that much better.

P.S.  I'm not sure how we ended up with two kebobs/skewers in a row (especially since we made the lamb for dinner on Thursday and cooked the negima for lunch today, but such is life. I promise no more kebobs for the week!

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Moroccan Lamb Kebobs with Mint Dressing and Middle Eastern Yogurt Sauce

It's almost Easter!  Yay.  When I think Easter, I think roast lamb or honey-baked ham.   And Cadbury Mini Eggs, which are the best Easter candy ever.  If you have never had Cadbury Mini Eggs before I highly recommend running to the nearest Duane Reade (or Sam's Club, which is where my mom picked up the 36 oz package that she bought me) to pick some up.   Yum.  Anyway, I decided we should do some lamb kebobs in honor of Easter.  We obviously weren't going to roast a whole lamb leg or a honey-baked ham, so lamb kebobs seemed like a good compromise.  I found a recipe for a Moroccan leg of lamb with a Mint Dressing on the NY Times website so I stole the idea for the flavors of the lamb marinade and then made the Mint Dressing as written.  And then Alex decided to whip up a yogurt sauce (similar to a tzatziki, but without the cucumber).  So we ended up eating a dinner composed of store-bought pita, lamb kebobs with mint dressing and yogurt sauce, and a simple salad.  All things considered, it was pretty tasty.  My only complaint was actually with the Mint Dressing - which I found to be a little acidic/bitter.  I really wish that the flavor of the mint had dominated, but all I really tasted was red wine vinegar and shallot.  So I would probably cut back on the amount of vinegar and maybe up the amount of herbs - perhaps add in some cilantro?  I don't know.

Happy Easter everyone!

Recipes after the jump!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mixed Greens with Caper Vinaigrette

If you haven't already noticed, my annual spring salad obsession has kicked in.  It happens every year - spring rolls around and then I go nuts at the farmers' market buying ingredients for salads (only some of which include lettuce/greens).  I can't wait for asparagus to pop up the farmers' market.  I love asparagus and asparagus salads.  And once tomatoes show up at the farmers' market that will trigger a whole round of tomato-mozzarella salads and other tomato salads.  I get a little crazy with it all, but it is all so delicious that I can't help myself.  Unfortunately, it is still early enough in the season that greens of various sorts are the only thing that is really available.  So I am making a lot of salads with various greens.  Maybe in another week or two other things will crop up for me to play with.  And then before you know it summer will be in full swing!  Yay!

My favorite thing about this salad is just how pretty it looks.  I said something crazy about wanting to just look at/take pictures of this salad all day long last night while looking at the pictures I took on my camera and Alex laughed at me.  But seeing as neither of us can remember exactly what I said, I guess it wasn't that funny or memorable.  Similarly, I'm not sure that this salad was that memorable.  It's very fresh and I like the vinaigrette, but I think it is missing something.  I proposed adding some chopped up egg whites or some toasted walnuts to the salad to give it a little extra something.  I'm not sure exactly what it was missing, but the salad definitely needed something extra.  I think the other possibility is to add a whole lot of extra ingredients (maybe some tuna and chickpeas for instance) and make this into an entree salad using this dressing.  I actually think that would work nicely.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jicama, Radish and Pepita Salad

I love this salad.  It is everything I wanted it to be - fresh, bright and clean.  The flavors work together really nicely to give you a wonderfully refreshing salad with a hint of sweetness (frmo the honey and jicama) to counteract the slight peppery flavor of the radishes and the salty flavor of the roasted salted pepitas and Cotija cheese.  It also has great texture (lots of different types of crunch).  I was really happy with it.  And I know I will make it again because it is exactly the type of salad that I crave all spring/summer long.  In a throwdown between this salad and my other favorite "Mexican" salad (Mache and Avocado Salad with Tortilla Strips), I'm not sure exactly which one would win.  They are both delicious and easy to make, but they are very different salads.  I'm going to call it a tie because I'm not sure I could choose a winner (and because I will definitely be making both salads for years to come).

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Roast Beet Salad with Ash-Coated Goat Cheese

So this beet salad was an amalgamation of a couple of different recipes that Alex found on  I have to admit that I wasn't thrilled with it for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, the goat cheese we bought was just way too strong.  Its flavor overpowered everything else in the dish.  You literally couldn't taste anything (except the onions).  Alex said that as far as he is concerned, we have made better beet salads and worse beet salads.  In his mind this came in somewhere in the middle.  In mine, it was near the bottom.  As far as I am concerned, the most successful recipes we have made were Roasted Beets with Lebneh and Mint, Co.'s Roasted Beet Salad with Arugula and Pepitas, and Roasted Beets with Cumin and Mint.  I'm not sure exactly where this one would fall, but I'm thinking if it's not the worst, it's among the worst.  Sorry hon - I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

Recipe after the jump!

Mexican Brownies

I served these brownies as dessert during a recent dinner party with a Mexican theme.  I had a bunch of different dessert ideas but Alex requested that I make the "easiest" dessert option as we were already trying out 3 other new dishes.  So I went with brownies because I figured brownies were easier than either a Mexican Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon-Spiced Pecans or Mexican Wedding Cookies.  I took a really basic brownie recipe (one that is fairly similar to the Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts recipe I made awhile back) and added cinnamon, cayenne and chocolate chips to give it a little extra something.  I spent a few minutes deliberating about the use of cayenne versus ancho chili powder or another type of chili powder, but Alex and I decided that we wanted a hint of heat more than we wanted the smoky flavor of chili powder.  I also used Dutch-processed cocoa powder because I thought it would be smoother (and less bitter) than regular unsweetened cocoa powder.  I briefly debated that decision too until I realized that all we had was Dutch-processed cocoa powder.  I wanted to use bittersweet chocolate chips instead of semisweet, but Alex was busy and I couldn't reach the bittersweet chocolate chips so I just went with semisweet.  I also thought about adding pecans, but Alex is not a fan of nuts in baked goods so I decided to leave them out.

I thought that the brownies had a really nice smooth chocolate flavor and creamy texture with just a hint of cinnamon and cayenne.  I would say that the brownies were fudgy, rather than cakey (although they weren't super fudgy).  I liked the addition of the chocolate chips for a little texture and richness, although I wish that I had added the pecans for a little more texture.  We served the brownies with some nice vanilla ice cream and I thought they were a very nice ending to a successful meal (more on the rest of the meal later).

Recipe after the jump!