Monday, July 16, 2012

Mission Chinese Food

With this post I am officially and gleefully jumping on the Mission Chinese bandwagon.  The place is AMAZING.  One of the best Asian meals - traditional, fusion or otherwise - I have had in a really long time.  If you find yourself anywhere near the LES of Manhattan and you enjoy spicy, interesting food, you should haul ass to Mission Chinese.  And then be prepared to wait because the place is tiny and well worth all of the buzz.  Or you could do what Alex and I did and trek down there from the UWS at 2:30 pm on a freakishly hot Sunday and avoid the wait.  But if you are like us and you are running late (which was only partially our fault) you might give yourself heat stroke or an aneurysm over worrying whether or not you are going to make it before they stop serving lunch at 3:00 pm, so you should weigh your options and decide whether you want to risk missing lunch (and the ensuing depression, etc) or whether you want to just bite the bullet and wait... 

More (including more more pictures) after the jump!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Green Beans (and Wax Beans) with Garlic Bread Crumbs and Tomatoes

This green bean dish is one that has been stuck in my head for months.  I'm not exactly sure why it is that every once in a great while I will read a totally random recipe that doesn't even involve any of my favorite ingredients and it will just get stuck in my head.  I like green beans, I like tomatoes and I like the sound of garlic bread crumbs, but I honestly have no idea why this particular recipe spoke to me.  Andrea Reusing serves the green beans with her fried chicken, but we went ahead and served it with a variation on our Spicy "Fried" Chicken Cutlets.  I say it was a variation because we used that same buttermilk and Tabasco marinade, but we marinated it for 8 hours instead of 1-2 hours (which I highly recommend if you have the time), crusted it with a mixture of cornmeal and panko without any cheese, mustard or herbs, and then pan-sauteed it rather than baking it in the oven.  I enjoyed this green bean salad - it was summery, tasty and fresh, perfect picnic fare.  Alex thought it required a few too many steps (particularly making the garlic bread crumbs), but said that if you had the bread crumbs already made that it would be worth making the dish again.  I think even without the pre-made bread crumbs it would be worth making again.  You would just need to find a use for the rest of the bread crumbs - which shouldn't be hard to do.  I would recommend using some of the remaining toasted bread to make the Italian-Style Bread Crumbs posted with this recipe, which keep for quite awhile and are totally delicious.  I think that would make it worthwhile.  Alternatively, if you already have some of those Italian-Style Bread Crumbs or other homemade bread crumbs at home, go ahead and use them.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Baked Eggs with Yogurt and Chile

This recipe was one that immediately drew me once I opened up Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I can't express to you how much I love baked eggs.  It has gotten to the point where certain individuals (and I am not going to name names here, but you know who you are) make fun of my obsession with baked eggs.  I can't help it.  They are uber yummy.  Plus I am on a Middle Eastern kick of sorts right now so I am drawn towards anything with that flavor profile. 

I have to say that these eggs were very interesting, although not the most successful baked eggs we have ever made.  I liked the addition of the yogurt sauce and the addition of the chilis, but I'm not sure how I felt about the arugula.  I think in the future I would potentially use a different green (maybe spinach).  My biggest complaint was that it never quite felt like it came together at the level that I wanted it to.  It smelled great and looked delicious, but it was good (verging on, but not quite making it to, very good).  The bottom line is that it wasn't amazing and I wanted it to blow my mind.  I guess my expectations were set a little too high here...  We didn't use the sage or the amount of butter that the recipe called for, but we added some scallions and I think the butter level in our dish was more than sufficient.  If I had added more butter I worry that it would have felt heavy and/or greasy.  And sage sounded like an odd ingredient to me.  When I think sage I think Thanksgiving - stuffing, turkey, butternut squash.  I don't think arugula, eggs and Greek yogurt.  But maybe that's my bad.  It's entirely possible that if we had made the dish exactly as written that it would have been the mind blowing experience I was looking for.  Instead I had to settle for good. 

Recipe after the jump!

Grilled Zucchini with Burrata

This post includes a few things I never thought I would say.  First, I thought the recipe might have been better without the burrata.  That never happens because I love burrata.  Maybe fresh mozzarella would have worked better?  I don't know but the burrata just didn't seem to really work here.  It was lovely and creamy, but the flavor didn't really seem to work with the acidity of the white wine flavor and the flavors of the marinated zucchini.  And as much as I liked the flavor of the zucchini, it got a little old after awhile.  Maybe in the future I should mix it up and serve several different types of grilled vegetables in the same marinade (but perhaps cut down on the amount of vinegar just a touch) and leave out the cheese as a grilled vegetable platter.  That might work.  Second, the garlic and vinegar here were good in the first bite and then it got to be a bit much.  So I might cut back on those as well.  Otherwise...  Well that might be all I had to say because I can't think of anything else.  If I were to give the dish a grade it would be a B-.  We didn't hate it, but it certainly wouldn't make my list of dishes that we need to make again in the future.  I thought about not bothering to post it at all, but I figured I should own up to my recipe failures (and this wasn't exactly a failure) as well as my successes.  This one fell somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Marinated Kale and Chickpea Salad with Sumac Onions

Sunday at the farmers' market I picked up a couple different varieties of extremely tender kale - one of which I had never seen or heard of before - from 5 lbs of Dirt.  The kale was tender enough that I didn't want to cook it, but still hearty enough (because it wasn't baby kale, which cost a whopping $8 per 1/4 lb and if I am brutally honest, my blog and I are not worth $8 per 1/4 lb) that I wanted to wilt it a little bit.  So often when we buy kale we end up braising it or otherwise cooking the bejesus out of it, but I wanted to serve the kale we bought at the market as close to its raw state as possible this time since it was so beautiful and tender.  So I dug through my stash of recipes to find this one, which I came across a few months ago in the midst of a recipe downloading blitz.  I remembered two things from reading the recipe.  First, that it was from a collection of vegan recipes.  Second, that the author of the recipe spent some time talking about wilting kale in dressing, which we have never tried before.  Actually, I guess I remembered a third thing, that the recipe was from Kenji at Serious Eats but that's not really relevant.  Last night we went ahead and "wilted" the kale in dressing.  And it worked out really well.  Actually, the whole recipe worked out really well.  Not only was the kale itself the perfect degree of tender, but the Dijon-based dressing was really nice and the sumac onions were fantastic.  I thought they added a really nice sweetness, flavor and texture to the salad.  It never would have occurred to me to first soak the onions to remove any harshness and then season the raw onions with spices and sesame seeds.  It was kind of a brilliant move if you ask me.  I was actually stealing them out of the bowl while we finished up our entree and eating the onions one by one with my fingers.  I'm like a small child.  But I would like to maintain that unlike a small child I make really good food!

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Vietnamese Peach Relish and Fresh Green Peas and Sugar Snap Peas in Sesame Dressing

What do you do when you end up with tons of random farmers' market produce?  We had peaches, shelling peas, sugar snap peas, green beans, wax beans, cherry tomatoes and a bunch of other goodies in the fridge, so it struck me that tonight's meal had to involve at least a few of those ingredients.  I thought a bit and came up with this Vietnamese Peach Relish (served with seared halibut) and a green pea and sugar snap pea salad.  And then you make a salad the next night and another salad the night after that...  Anyway, this dish was one that I thought would be interesting, fresh and vibrant.  And it was all of those things.  Plus it looked pretty on the white plate we served it on.  But Alex and I came to the conclusion that this peach relish (for better or worse) could have been served with anything - grilled chicken breasts, shrimp, pork chops...  You didn't need to spend $20 a pound for halibut because it doesn't really do anything spectacular for the halibut that it couldn't do just as well for another protein.  If I had to pick a halibut recipe to make again, I would go with the Pistachio-Crusted Halibut with Spicy Yogurt that we made last week because that dish was phenomenal and really showed the halibut off nicely.  If I make the relish again (and I think that I will because I liked it and found it interesting) I might try it with a meat to see how it works out.  As for the peas, they were nice but I almost preferred them in their raw state to cooked because the soy sauce and the sesame oil obscured some of the natural sweetness and flavor of the peas.  I also think we needed to dry the peas off a little better so that the dressing would adhere a little better and not be diluted with the cold water that we rinsed the peas with.  My bad.

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

First and foremost, I wanted to say how excited I was when we bought Yotam Ottolenghi's new-ish vegetarian cookbook, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi.  All of the recipes in there looked so interesting and the pictures were so beautiful, but I kept picking it up and putting it down because we already have so many freaking cookbooks.  I just didn't want to buy another.  But I am really excited that I finally caved.  Second, my pictures of this dish look awful compared to the pictures in the cookbook.  Just look at the cover of Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi and you can't help but be impressed by how utterly gorgeous his food (and the pictures of his food) is.  And then you look at my picture.  And the eggplant kind of looks like a... well I'm not going to say it because it's not at all appetizing.  But my pictures are nowhere near as pretty.   

Since this recipe is the picture on the front cover of the book and therefore a large part of the reason that I bought the book, I thought it was a fitting first dish for us to make.  And if this dish is representative of the other recipes in the cookbook, I am infinitely glad that we did.  Of the two of us, I thought that I would be a bigger fan of this dish but it turned out that Alex was.  He said that love was too strong of a word, but he "enjoyed" the dish and described it as having an interesting blend of flavors - the buttermilk/yogurt sauce was kind of tangy and the pomegranate gave it a nice sweetness without the whole thing being too sweet.  I would agree with all of his comments, but add that the fresh thyme was a really nice herbal (slightly floral) addition.  The eggplant itself was almost creamy and with the pop of the pomegranate seeds you ended up with a nice textural contrast as well.  My one complaint is that some bites of the dish just weren't as well seasoned as others, but you run into that problem with most roasted vegetables.  I know we make that comment/criticism of a lot of roasted squash recipes.  The layer of eggplant at the top that really absorbed the evoo and buttermilk sauce was delicious.  The layer that you scraped off the bottom (even after the addition of more buttermilk sauce) was less so.  All things considered it was a really interesting dish.  It was not my favorite dish that we have ever made, but the recipe is definitely worth trying.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Panzanella Salad

I know this recipe isn't exactly original or innovative.  Recipes for panzanella salad are everywhere.  Some add bell peppers, capers, olives or cheese, but all of them are made with bread, tomatoes, basil and cucumbers.  We didn't try for anything new and exciting here - we just went with the staples and made ourselves a standard panzanella salad, although we used a lemony vinaigrette, rather than red wine vinegar, which I tend to find a little harsh.  And then we added some seeded and minced jalapenos for a little something new.  I really enjoyed it.  But I love bread, tomatoes and basil.  And what could possibly be better at the height of summer?

Recipe after the jump!

Pistachio-Crusted Halibut with Spicy Yogurt and Green Beans with Lemon and Parsley

For the first time in a LONG time, I left work at 5:00 pm, which meant I had time to hit the grocery store on the way home, buy nice seafood, take the dog to the park, and then cook a nice meal.  In case you haven't noticed, we have been making mostly vegetarian meals lately, which is partially due to the fact that we have all of this wonderful produce from the farmers' market, but is mostly due to the fact that I can't commit to buying nice seafood or any other proteins when I don't have any idea if I will ever make it home for dinner.  I refuse to buy seafood or meat (both of which are expensive in NYC) and end up throwing it out because of work.  I hate throwing produce out, but that I can stomach because it's generally much cheaper.  Every time I go through weeks/months like this with work we eat a lot more tofu and pasta than usual because they require less planning and far less commitment on our part.  But because of the Fourth of July, this week was blessedly quiet and we actually had the opportunity to make a really nice meal for dinner!

And not only did we have the time to make a really nice midweek dinner, this recipe goes down as my favorite recipe we have made thus far in the month of July.  Actually, why don't we go ahead and include June too (seeing as we barely cooked in the month of June it's not much of an addition, but whatever).  Dinner was delicious.  The halibut was perfectly cooked and the pistachio-crust kept it moist, while adding some lightly crunchy texture.  The spicy yogurt sauce had a great blend of flavors.  It was tart, spicy, fresh and vibrant.  I loved it.  When you ate a bite of halibut dipped in the yogurt sauce it worked together brilliantly.  The green beans were a simple side dish that worked really nicely with the halibut.  They were fresh and green and lemony, and the simple flavors complimented/mirrored the spicy yogurt.  Actually, at the end of the meal Alex was dipping his green beans into the leftover spicy yogurt.  I guess they went with the yogurt even better than I thought...

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Egg and Spinach Kati Rolls with Cilantro Chutney

Happy Fourth of July everyone!  This dish had nothing to do with the Fourth (we didn't make it or eat it today), but I am going to post it anyway since I have the time on my hands to do so. But it's going to be a short post because...   Well because I am tired and i have work tomorrow!  Suffice it to say that this is one of my favorite meals that we have made of late.  It was totally delicious.  The kati rolls had a really nice combination of flavors and textures - buttery, flaky parathas, the sweetness of the onion and the garam masala, the slight smokiness of the cumin in the eggs and the chutney and the fresh, bright flavor and kick of the cilantro chutney...  And by the way, our cilantro chutney had some serious heat so a little went a long way.  It was just so yummy.  In case you couldn't tell, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was surprised by how well all of the elements came together because sometimes when I conceptualize a dish in my head it never quite comes together.  But this was a total (vegetarian) winner.  Yay!

Recipe after the jump!

Rhubarb Coffeecake

Before I say anything about this cake, I have to say that I am generally speaking not a fan of coffee cake.  It's often kind of... dry.  And I generally think the ratio of cake to topping is off.  Sometimes there soooooo much crumb topping and not enough cake (or vice versa).  I just don't get it.  Alex likes coffee cake though.  And I like rhubarb.  Plus I wanted to try a new recipe.  I was originally going to do a play on my usual Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, but use rhubarb instead.  But I decided to try something new.  So I started thinking about making strawberry-rhubarb pie, which I LOVE.  But I didn't want to go to the trouble of making pie.  Pie is just generally beyond me - I don't have the patience to make the pie crust and do the lattice top.  And I am pretty sure that my crusts could never hold a candle to the fabulous pies that Aunt Loretta made at her daughter Christine's wedding that I attended in Kentucky back in early June.  Loretta made 16 pies for the wedding - including strawberry rhubarb, chocolate, apple and pecan pie.  Needless to say, the strawberry rhubarb was my favorite, although I the chocolate and the pecan pies were also delicious.  I might have to ask her for her recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie if I ever get up the gumption to actually bake a pie from scratch.  Speaking of Kentucky, I learned a few valuable lessons during my trip there.  First, if you visit the Applebees in Madisonville, KY and order a margarita on the rocks, you are liable to end up with what I call a "marga-tini" - a cocktail shaker full of margaritas of dubious quality, served with a martini glass with 3 olives in it, a salt rim and a lime wedge...  I wouldn't recommend it.  Stick with beer.  Also, the Kentucky hot brown (an open-faced sandwich with turkey, bacon and tomatoes, smothered in bechamel and cheese) is a heart attack on a plate, but it is seriously delicious.  Moving on.  I kept puttering around the internet until I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and I had to throw out my prejudices against coffee cake and give it a shot.  It just looked so good!  Although, had I read the recipe from start to finish, I might have abandoned ship and gone with another recipe because it was more than a little labor intensive.  Actually, it wasn't that it was overly labor intensive.  The problem was that the cake required so many individual components to be prepared separately and incorporated at the very end that we dirtied just about every bowl, spoon, spatula, measuring cup, etc. in the apartment.

This cake was delicious - not too sweet and not too tart.  I was worried once I cut the cake and looked inside and saw how little rhubarb there really was that you wouldn't be able to taste the rhubarb at all, but you totally could.  And the rhubarb helped to keep the coffee cake really moist.  You could also taste the gentle background warmth and slight spicy flavor of the cinnamon and the ginger.  My one complaint was the crumb topping - I think there was a little too much flour in it, which almost left it tasting soapy/chalky to me.  If I were to make it again I would cut back on the flour by 1/4 cup or so and see if that changed things at all.  But I was really happy with this recipe!  I know it was labor intensive but I really think it was worth it.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stir-Fried Lettuce with Seared Tofu and Red Pepper

This recipe is one that I found a few weeks ago when looking for new tofu recipes.  It sounded a little weird, but intriguing.  I have never used lettuce in a stir-fry before.  And we don't use a ton of red bell peppers in our cooking because I often don't think they add much of anything to a dish.  But this dish was the exception - I thought the red pepper peppers were totally crucial here.  They add a nice sweetness and a crunch that would otherwise be lacking.  I really liked them.  As for the lettuce, Alex said that he would have preferred cabbage to lettuce in the stir-fry, but I liked the lettuce.  Napa cabbage would have been a little sweeter, but similarly crunchy.  So I guess it's a matter of preference.  I really liked this dish.  I think I liked it more than Alex did, but I generally like tofu dishes more than Alex (at least I think I do, although he might like ma po tofu more than I do).  But I thought this dish was light and healthy, but very flavorful.  Given the small amount of jalapeno in there I didn't know if you would get any heat, but the heat was definitely there.  I wouldn't call it a spicy dish, but you could taste the heat of the chili in every bite.  You could also taste the garlic and the ginger in every bite.  I really liked it.  And I felt very... virtuous and healthy eating it, which was a plus.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pumpkin Seed Pesto Two Ways

This base recipe for Pumpkin Seed Pesto came from our Susan Spicer cookbook.  And then I took it and served it two ways - one as a dip for tortilla chips with some avocado mixed in, and then I tossed some chili-rubbed shrimp in the pesto and served that with additional pesto for dipping.  Of the two variations, I preferred the dip.  It was very interesting.  Given the choice I would prefer guacamole, but I thought the dip had a pleasing blend of flavors and a nice lush, creamy texture.  I think the element that really threw the pesto off for me  was the feta.  Perhaps if we had used cotija cheese it would have worked better?  I just thought the feta added a slightly out of key, discordant flavor to the dip that was more evident in the pesto itself, than it was in the dip.  The pesto also seemed a bit... heavier and greasier.  I'm not sure those are the correct words to use to describe it, but I can't think of any better adjectives.  We made a Pan-Seared Salmon with Pumpkin-Seed Cilantro Pesto that I found more successful overall, if perhaps a little less interesting.  If I had to pick one dish to make again (since they are fairly similar) I would pick the salmon because I thought as an overall dish it was more successful.  I also thought that pesto was just brighter and tastier.
Recipes after the jump!

Southern BBQ Rotisserie Chicken Salad

This salad came about as an easy and lazy way to make a midweek dinner.  I have friends who pick up a rotisserie chicken and a big bag of mixed greens every week and use them to make salads for lunch every day.  Now I don't have the motivation to make lunch every day, although I really should because it is the financially responsible thing to do.  But I can't eat the same thing for lunch every day - I just get bored with it and then end up going out to pick something up anyway.  But I decided that a salad with rotisserie chicken and a selection of farmers' market produce would be a brilliant idea for a quick and easy dinner.  Then I got it in my head that we should make this a Southern salad once we saw that Zabars had BBQ rotisserie chickens.  So Alex whipped up a batch of this Crispy Corn Bread, which I had set aside for future corn bread crouton use.  I love corn bread croutons.  And then we stuck with the Southern theme and the Lee Bros and made their Buttermilk-Lime Dressing too.

The best thing about this salad was that it was easy to throw together and involved a number of wonderful ingredients.  Oh and the corn bread croutons.  I loved the corn bread croutons.  They were the star of the show for me.  I thought the combination of the sweetness of the roasted corn, the creaminess of the avocado, and the acidity of the tomatoes were really wonderful together.  I really liked the dressing, but I am not certain that it was the ideal dressing for this salad.  I wish the dressing had a little more punch and substance to it.  The dressing is tart, fresh and acidic, but it needed a little more body.  So I might try the salad again, but try a new dressing....  This dressing is marvelous with fried green tomatoes where its freshness and acidity cuts through the richness of the fried green tomatoes.  But this salad really needed something a little richer.

Recipe after the jump!