Saturday, June 30, 2012

Banana Bread with Peanut Butter Chips

I wasn't going to post this recipe yet, but I couldn't stand June having only six posts, when I had others teed up and ready to go.  And by teed up and ready to go I really mean that I made the recipe, I have pictures of it and I have a critique in mind.  The logical thing to do would be to wait until tomorrow and sleep on it, but I just can't.  So, this post is going to be short and sweet.  I also have another post halfway teed up for a Susan Spicer recipe (picture and a critique in mind, but no recipe typed out as of yet), but I just didn't have the energy to work up another post this evening.  So June will just have to survive with 7 measly posts.  

I accidentally ripped off the tops of our bananas (again) earlier this week so I knew I had to make banana bread (or something else involving overripe bananas) this weekend.  I really need to start handling our bananas more carefully to avoid ripping the tops off all the time.  The bananas in NYC just seem so flimsy compared to the ones I am used to.  I swear the tops just rip right off with almost no provocation.  Anyway, I did it on Thursday so I had a few days to think about what I should make and I came to the conclusion that I just wanted to try something new, but easy.  I was going to make a banana bread with peanut butter and a swirl of jelly, but Alex was a little skeptical of the addition of jelly.  And then I was going to add walnuts, but Alex pitched his usual anti-nut stink, so I gave up on that.  I thought about it some more and then when it came down to it I got lazy and decided to just add peanut butter chips and call it a day.  So there you have it.  I also played with my standard banana bread recipes to add in a little moisture using a combination of vegetable oil and Greek yogurt, instead of butter, creme fraiche or sour cream.  All in all I thought it was a very successful banana bread.  It has a great light, moist crumb and a nice peanut butter flavor.  I was worried about it being too sweet, but it really isn't.  The balance of peanut butter to banana is perfect so you taste both without either flavor overwhelming the other.  And I think we made the right choice in leaving out the jelly, but I might still try it out in a future banana bread recipe...

Recipe after the jump!

Lemony Garlic Scape Hummus

It's too freaking hot out to cook.  And yet I decided it would be a brilliant idea to bake a loaf of banana bread and a rhubarb coffee cake.  Oops.  So with all of that slaving away in the already hot kitchen I couldn't bear the idea of cooking anything else.  So I made hummus and rinsed some cherries that we picked up from the farmers' market last weekend.  Actually, this hummus also uses a few ingredients from the farmers' market - a garlic scape and flat leaf parsley.  If you're not familiar with garlic scapes, they are crazy green curly stalks that farmers cut off the top of the garlic bulb.  They taste like garlic and are relatively potent, but raw garlic scapes don't have quite the bite that raw garlic can have.  I guess they are a little mellower, but that's not exactly the word I am looking for...  Anyway, rather than garlic cloves I decided to use the garlic scapes that were hanging out in the fridge.  The result was a very fresh and bright hummus with a lovely blend of garlic flavor and lemon acidity.  The Greek yogurt gave it a really nice smooth and creamy texture and a little tang.  And then you had just a hint of heat from the cayenne.  I had originally contemplated throwing in a little cumin, but I'm glad I didn't because I feel like the smoky flavor of the cumin wouldn't have complimented the flavors of the lemon and garlic scape.  I also thought about adding some tahini, but I'm glad I left that out too.  Sometimes I feel like the tahini contributes to a grainy texture that I don't enjoy.  And I think that the tahini flavor would have muddied the flavors of the lemon and garlic scape.  It was just lovely.

Recipe after the jump!

Thai Cucumber Basil Salad

This salad was a last minute replacement for our planned dinner.  We had everything out on the corner ready to cook dinner and then we realized that we were missing cilantro.  But we already had rice in a pot cooking and I refused to order dinner because all I have eaten recently is take out.  I just couldn't stomach the idea of ordering on a night when we could cook.  So we fried up a few eggs and served them on top of the rice and whipped up a quick cucumber salad.  This salad recipe was one that I found on Serious Eats that was intended to be served with grilled salmon.  I'm wondering if my mistake was in taking the salad and assuming it could stand alone.  Because it was good, but not great.  It just felt like it was missing something.  If I were to change this recipe in some way I would perhaps swap out the basil for Thai basil to give it a little more pop.  But I'm not sure if that would save the recipe.  I think the ideal solution would be to swap out the basil for Thai basil and serve over our favorite salmon recipe with crispy skin.  I think the richness of the salmon would do a lot for the cucumber salad.  It wasn't bad, it just felt a little... one note?  Alex kept asking me if I thought that some chili peppers would help, but I'm not sure that heat is what the dish was missing.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thoughts on 2012 thus far (including thoughts from our list of Restaurants to Try in 2012)...

 Let's see.... Where to begin?  I thought I was busy last year at work, but last year had nothing on the first half of this year.  This year has been a killer.  But through it all, Alex and I have managed to eat at a number of really good restaurants - including a few from our list of Restaurants to Try in 2012.  I consider it a huge accomplishment that we have made it to three of the restaurants on our list (Empellon Taqueria, Tertulia and ABC Kitchen) and two of the runners up (Ayada and Zabb Elee).  I know I made a resolution to (try) to knock off one restaurant a month from our list, so I am behind schedule, but I am hoping that we can visit a few more restaurants over the summer so that by August we will have made it to... 5 of the restaurants on the list (not counting runners up).  If we hit 50% of the restaurants on the list by the end of the summer I will consider this whole experience a win!  Either way, we are already ahead of 2011, where we only managed to hit 1 restaurant on our list...  And now that we have knocked off a few restaurants, I have come up with a few new restaurants for our list that either weren't open when I debuted the list originally, or somehow missed the cut - Empellon Cocina, Mission Chinese and Lotus Blue (which edged out the other new Yunnan restaurant Yunnan Kitchen by a hair based on the fact that it opened a month earlier).  My new runners up are Pok Pok NY and Red Farm.

More after the jump!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Moroccan Garbanzo Bean and Feta Pitas

I have one complaint about this dish - the chickpea salad is all one texture, a little mushy.  I wish there had been something crunchy to liven it all up.  One of the reviews suggested roasting the chickpeas for some crunch.  But we didn't want to take the extra time.  I wish we had.  If it hadn't required another trip to the grocery store (our 5th trip in 3 days), I would have picked up some kalamata olives to throw in for some salty kick.  I thought about adding some red bell pepper for crunch and a little sweetness, but I decided against it because the red bell peppers at the store didn't look that good.  I also thought about just serving the filling as a salad over a bed of romaine lettuce and serving it with pita chips for crunch, but Alex wanted pita sandwiches so we went with pita sandwiches.  I know I have already said it, but I really missed the crunch.  If I were to make this again (and I'm not sure that I would because nothing about the recipe really stood out for me), I would roast the chickpeas so they are nice and crunchy.  And I might still serve it with pita chips.  And I might kick up the flavor a little bit (or serve with hot sauce).  The flavor wasn't bad, but it didn't jump out at me either.  The Greek yogurt added a really nice flavor that I was initially skeptical of, but I ended up wanting more of it.  The yogurt was probably my favorite component.  Even though we had wonderful fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from the farmers' market, it was really the yogurt that shined.

Recipe after the jump!

Watermelon, Green Onion and Mint Salad

While I ate this salad the only thing that came to mind was that this is the most savory watermelon salad we have ever made. And that's not a complaint - it's merely a statement of fact. I know I have proclaimed other watermelon salads as being very savory (like this Watermelon, Cucumber and Feta Salad), but this one took the cake.  With all of the herbs and the jalapeno this watermelon salad was just incredibly savory.  And it's a little surprising considering that this watermelon salad contained no cheese (which I tend to find inherently savory).  I really expected it to be a little sweeter and less savory.  I guess I was wrong.  Part of the "blame" for the level of savoryness might fall on the watermelon itself because it wasn't the absolute sweetest watermelon we have ever purchased, but I really think it was the combination of jalapenos, scallions, mint and parsley.  And beyond the combination of those ingredients, it was the proportions of those herbs and peppers - if you just look at the picture you can tell that the watermelon was liberally coated in herbs and stuff.  We served the salad as a side dish with Mario Batali's Leo Maya's Chicken with Green Sauce.  It made for a very bright and summery meal.

Recipe after the jump!

Watermelon, Green Onion and Mint Salad
Bon Appetit
July 2003

5 cups 3/4- to 1-inch cubes seeded watermelon
1 cup chopped green onions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped seeded deveined jalapeƱo chiles
1/4 cup olive oil (we only used 2-3 tbsp at most)
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
Combine watermelon, green onions, mint, parsley, and chiles in large bowl.

Whisk oil and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Pour dressing over watermelon mixture; toss to coat. Season salad generously with salt and pepper.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Squash Blossom and Zucchini Frittata

After the world's LONGEST absence from home-cooked meals, Alex and I finally had the opportunity to sit down and make a meal together.  Well, I made the meal while Alex tried to talk to Time Warner about our lousy internet speeds.  But that's really beside the point.  The point is, after a few weddings (one in Connecticut and one in Kentucky) and a bunch of really late nights at work, I finally got to cook something and eat it.  Yay!  So I did what I always do and wandered around the farmers' market picking up things willy-nilly until I decided on something to make.  This time I picked up some zucchini, fresh sweet corn, green beans, sun gold tomatoes (greenhouse tomatoes, but still delicious), fresh basil and parsley, cherries, peaches...  I'm really bummed that I ended up missing sugar snap peas, pea shoots and the end of fresh asparagus season due to work, but I can't be too upset that more amazing tomatoes and corn are just around the corner. 

Anyway, this frittata accomplished something that most restaurant frittatas don't - it was moist, tasty and fluffy, not dry and tasteless.  The last restaurant frittata I had was at a place on the UWS called Tarallucci E Vino.  It was one of the driest, most disappointing frittatas I have had in a long time.  It made me remember why ordering a frittata at a restaurant can be a recipe for failure.  I can only think of one frittata I have ever had that was truly satisfying and that was at Spotted Pig, where everything you order could possibly order is delicious.  The one thing that made my experience at Tarallucci e Vino one to remember was the scenery.  And by scenery I mean Matt Damon.  He's just as cute in person as he is in the movies.  To be honest I almost missed him entirely because I was too busy oogling his wife's black asymmetrical tank top.  I didn't realize it was him until I heard his voice.  And for the record, Alex's PLT (pancetta, lettuce, tomato and sunny-side egg) sandwich was pretty tasty.  While we were sitting on the couch and eating this frittata I told Alex that I would be perfectly happy to be served this frittata at any restaurant.  And I stand by that statement.  It was great.  It also made me sad about how much I miss eating at home, but I am hoping that work will slow down a little bit and I will once again be able to eat dinner at home...  Until then, I have the memories of this frittata to keep me happy.

Recipe after the jump!