Friday, August 31, 2012

Thai Soup with Shrimp, Cabbage and Mushrooms

I am embarassed to say that I have been sitting on this post for a couple of weeks - long enough for me to forget the finer points I might have made.  Oops.  But I wrote down a few notes right after we made the soup from Alex, who thought the soup was "pretty good," "wasn't that hard to make" and "had pretty good balance of flavors."  So there you have it.  I agree with Alex that the soup was "pretty good," although I thought the broth itself needed something to give it a little more depth of flavor.  It tasted a little thin for me.  I'm not sure that thin is the right word (although it does describe the consistency), but I just wanted the broth to be a little richer and more flavorful.  The night we made this recipe I really wanted to make this Thai Shrimp and Coconut Soup with Lemongrass by Harold Dieterle, but it required yet another trip to the grocery store for lemongrass, tamarind concentrate (I think I threw the rest of ours out) and Thai chilis.  And I just got too lazy, so we used Thai curry paste and some dried lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves to spice up the broth.  It did give it some heat and flavor, but I just wanted it to be bigger/better.  Next time, I will plan more in advance and go buy the fresh lemongrass, etc. and make the Harold Dieterle soup because it really does sound fantastic. 

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Heirloom Tomato Salads

The moment that I have been waiting all summer for finally arrived - heirloom tomatoes are at the farmers' markets!!!!!  Hurray!  I celebrated by buying 2 pounds of tomatoes - green zebras, Brandywines, purple Cherokees, striped Germans, sungolds...  I bought them all.  And then I proceeded to eat them all.  We have had heirloom tomato salads the past two nights in a row, plus we had one on Saturday.  We would have had another on Sunday, but we already had dinner plans with friends for that night.  My absolute favorite new thing to do with our heirloom tomatoes comes from Andrea Reusing - slice or chunk them up and then sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper and set aside for 30 minutes. There is no real recipe - just drizzle with a little evoo, some vinegar (we have been doing the red wine vinegar thing, but I love balsamic vinegar with heirloom tomatoes too) and then top with whatever herbs you have handy and serve.  When the tomatoes are this good, that is really all you need.  Saturday called for fresh oregano and some really thinly sliced red onions that we soaked in cold water for 10 minutes to remove some of their onion-y bite.  On Monday we decided to go with s&p, evoo, red wine vinegar, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, delicious feta from the farmers' market, mint and more red onions.  I thought about adding fresh cucumbers (also from the farmers' market), but decided to stick to just tomatoes.  Then tonight we combined two different variations on traditional caprese salad that we have made in the past and made a quinoa salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes, bocconcini (little mozzarella balls), Thai basil, shallots, garlic, sesame oil and rice vinegar.  Tonight's meal got a little too fancy for me, which took a way from the pureness and sweetness of the tomatoes themselves.  I really missed the simplicity of our other tomato salads.  Luckily, there are still a few more weeks for heirloom tomatoes so I can experiment a few more times with different herbs and vinegars to see what combination I like best!  Yum!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lamb Chops with Lemon

Growing up lamb was something I enjoyed on special occasions.  Every once in awhile we would go out to dinner and I would order myself a nice little rack of lamb, but we never really had it at home.  My mom wasn't the type to do a roast leg of lamb for Easter or anything.  The same goes for duck.  I had this thing for duck a l'orange but I only ever had the chance to occasionally eat it at restaurants.  Now that I am an adult planning my own meals, both duck and lamb have remained indulgences that we make at home a few times a year.  It is partially due to expense and partially to availability - you can certainly find duck breasts and lamb chops at a nicer grocery store like Fairway or Whole Foods (although not at your average D'Agostinos), but they are going to set you back a nice chunk of change.  Actually, I discovered about a year ago that CostCo is a wonderful source of reasonably priced lamb and picked up a boneless leg of lamb, with which we made Moroccan kebobs, Xinjiang kebobs, Mongolian lamb, and souvlaki.  Unfortunately, CostCo doesn't carry duck so I guess that duck is just going to have to remain special occasion fare.

We have been saving these lamb chops for awhile, but I decided it was finally time to break them out and enjoy.  The lamb chops were nice and with a little more salt these would have been really nice.  But we forgot to add the s&p to the olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest mixture.  Oops.  Even without the salt, they were incredibly tender and tasty.  The combination of herbs, shallots and lemon was lovely, but a little additional seasoning would really have made them sing.  But given how tasty they were even without the salt, I think I will make them again in the future.  Only I will read the recipe a little more thoroughly next time...

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Canteloupe Salad with Lime, Mint, & Ginger

Before I say anything about this recipe, I should say that I have made it in the past (back when I was in law school actually) and really enjoyed it.  But the melon I picked up at the farmers' market this time was strangely flavorless.  It was insanely juicy, but sadly lacking in flavor - almost like the juice of the melon watered down the flavor.  It was really weird.  Just judging from how much juice came out while Alex was chopping the melon I was worried that the melon would be overly ripe and too sweet.  It might have been a touch over-ripe, but it wasn't sweet at all.  And this salad needs some sweetness from the melon (in addition to the sugar and honey) to make it all come together.  Otherwise it doesn't quite come together.  You need the intensely sweet flavor of good ripe cantaloupe to contrast against the warmth of the ginger, the slight sour/floral flavor of the lime juice and zest and the freshness of the mint.  With all of that said, when you have a nice ripe melon this is a great dish.  You could mix it up with a combination of watermelon and cantaloupe (or stick to the recipe and just use cantaloupe) and serve alongside your typical breakfast spread for a lovely brunch.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chilaquiles with Pepitas, Charred Corn and Black Beans

There are a few things in just the title of this recipe that caught my eye - charred corn and chilaquiles.  I love chilaquiles and you just don't see them enough here in NYC.  I guess it's not sexy enough for all of the upscale Mexican restaurants in the city and there really aren't many decent hole in the wall Mexican places either.  And of the Mexican restaurants that I know of, none of them except for Cascabel serve chilaquiles (although I am sure that there are others out there that do).  Earlier this year The Village Voice had a blog post about how chilaquiles are finally making their way to NYC.  I am going to have to try out some of their recommendations.  Actually, looking at Toloache's brunch menu I totally have to go there.  They have all sorts of yummy things on there - including chilaquiles.  I think these chilaquiles would have benefited from the addition of a little crema for additional creaminess and a nice tangy flavor.  The toppings were all a little on the dry side (think corn, beans, onions and pepitas) so it would be been nice to have a little something else to lend some moisture.  Otherwise, I thought it was a good dish.  I know I am being a little picky here, but the dish required a decent amount of time and effort so I had hoped for it to have slightly more wow factor, but I think that the crema would totally have made the difference.  Oh well. I have another chilaquiles recipe from Rick Bayless to try out and next time I will make sure to have crema on hand so we don't run into that problem again.

Recipe after the jump!

Spanish Tortilla with Broccoli, Chorizo and Onion

You might not know this, but eggs are kind of my thing.  If you have read this blog at all in the past (or gone to brunch with me) then it should be fairly obvious.  Then again, Alex does try to curb my egg obsession so there aren't as many egg recipes on this blog as there might otherwise be...  So maybe it's not as obvious as I think it is.  Actually, I tried to add eggs to our dinner last night and Alex shot me down.  Anyway, I decided that I wanted to make this recipe to use the broccoli I picked up from Fairway last week along with the eggs from the farmers' market.  And for those of you not familiar with Spanish tortillas - they are essentially heavier frittatas with thinly sliced potatoes inside. used As we started to make the dish Alex told me that I had selected two of the things that we are worst at in life - flipping eggs and homemade mayonnaise (or aioli in this case).  We have tried to make mayonnaise three times in the past - once with the food processor, once with our immersion blender and once with the blender.  All three times we failed.  Epically.  We ended up with thin, runny, greasy messes each time.  And it happened again.  Apparently we really suck at making mayonnaise.  But this time we Googled how to rescue a broken aioli and found out that we are not the only people who have this problem.  There were several articles and blog posts citing Julia Child's method for saving a broken aioli or mayonnaise.  We used her method and it totally worked!  Hurray!  But our tortilla didn't flip too well...  It broke into a million pieces and chunks got stuck to the pan.  So we failed there too.  And there was really no rescuing it because it's not like you can put a frittata/omelet/Spanish tortilla back together.  But in the end it's the flavor that matters and the flavor was good.  It didn't really occur to me until we put the ingredients in the pan, but I think you should either add more eggs or cut down on the amount of broccoli and chorizo in the future.  The ratio of filling to eggs is a little off and the broccoli is heavy, which makes it hard to flip the tortilla successfully.  It was still pretty heavy (partially due to the ratio of eggs to filling and partially because of the combination of ingredients and flavors), but I knew that was likely to happen going in because Spanish tortillas always strike me as heavy.  I thought that the absence of potato would make more of a difference and make it taste a little lighter, but not so much.  Either way, it was a tasty dish and we finally made a (semi-)successful aioli!  Yay!

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grilled Ratatouille

 Are you ever surprised by a dish?  We thought this grilled ratatouille (which we served with Alex's Roast Chicken Breasts) would be good since we had wonderful produce, but neither of us expected to like it quite as much as we did because it was so very simple.  I don't know what the French traditionally serve with ratatouille, but this worked so brilliantly with the roast chicken breasts that I am not sure I would serve it with anything else.  It was easy to make and very tasty.  We have a ton of leftovers, but I am excited to try the ratatouille ladled over a bed of pasta or couscous or as a topping for some good crusty bread.  I wonder what else I should do with my leftover ratatouille?  Before summer wraps up I plan on making this at least once more.  This ratatouille might become my new go-to side dish for our roast chicken breasts.  The go-to side dish used to be a simple arugula salad, but so long as the fresh basil, tomatoes and zucchini remain available at the farmers' market, I am going to make ratatouille!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Soy-Glazed Pork Chops with Sauteed Spicy Green Beans and Tomatoes

In theory, pork chops and green beans sounds like an all-American meal.  But the pork chops had more of an Asian flair to them - a soy, ginger, garlic and honey marinade for the pork chops and the green beans had slightly Middle Eastern leanings - cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne.  Given the different flavor profiles the meal went together surprisingly well.  The pork chops were tender, and juicy with a slightly sweet, slightly spicy flavor.   I generally prefer using bone-in pork chops because boneless pork chops have a tendency to dry out on you, but these were not dry at all.  As for the green beans, they had a really nice blend of savory and sweet (thanks to the caramelized shallots and the cinnamon) flavors to them as well.  We didn't toast the almonds as much as we should have (there was too much going on so we took them out earlier than we usually do).  I really thought this was a very pleasant (although not very all-American) meal.  I would definitely use components of it again in the future.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

As far as I am concerned, elote (Mexican corn slathered in mayo and topped with cheese, lime juice and chili powder) is one of the best things to happen to corn since...  Well, since ever.   I discovered elote a few years ago at a Mexican restaurant in NYC and haven't looked bad since.  It is just so delicious.  I have never heard of esquites, but according to Wikipedia, esquites is what happens when you cut the kernels off the ears of corn and make a salad out of the elote, rather than serving the whole corn on the cob.  Although I have been tempted several times to just bite the bullet, we never made elote at home because I have an aversion to adding mayo to dishes.  Somehow I can eat dishes at restaurants that I know include mayonnaise (provided that the level of mayo isn't crazily apparent), but making anything at home that includes more than a tbsp of mayonnaise just isn't my thing.  But this dish might change my mind.  Somehow it seems more palatable to me to add a little mayonnaise to a corn salad, rather than slathering it all over corn on the cob.  I know it makes no sense, but sometimes I just don't make sense.  I am ok with that (and I like to think that Alex is too).  This dish had everything that I love about elote (the combination of sweet corn, salty cotija cheese, cilantro and the warmth of the chili powder is delicious) in a form that I think works better for apartment living.  If we had a grill it would be a lot easier to grill whole ears of corn, but in an apartment it works better to just cut the kernels of corn off the ears and sear them in a cast iron skillet.  And it is just yummy.  I don't know if traditional recipes for elote include scallion greens and jalapenos, but I thought both were really nice additions to the dish, which made it feel a little more salad-like and gave it some additional freshness and flavor.  I would make this dish as a side for any Mexican meal - some esquites, fresh guacamole and tacos sounds like a perfect summer meal to me!

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chicken Lo Mein

I will be the first to admit that lo mein generally isn't my thing.  I could never understand growing up why so many of my friends would order shrimp lo mein (or fried rice for that matter) when we would go to a Chinese restaurant.  A large percentage of the time lo mein verges on being greasy/oily, as well as not very flavorful.  If I had to choose between lo mein and fried rice, I would order fried rice 9 times out of 10.  Strangely enough, when it comes to Thai restaurants I order noodles with impunity and I think that I would order noodles 8 times out of 10 if I had to choose between noodles and fried rice.  Random but true.  But we had all of the ingredients for lo mein, so I had to go ahead and make it (even though I was a little skeptical).  And yet, there was something comforting and wonderful about this dish.  It just felt so homey.  I really liked the profusion of vegetables in this dish - shiitake mushrooms, bell pepper, bean sprouts and scallions.  It just made it all look so pretty and gave the dish a nice variety of flavors and textures.  I also thought the flavors of the chicken and the noodles were really nice.  I would definitely marinate the chicken this way again because it really does make a huge difference.  The noodles almost tasted a bit peanutty - the first bite reminded me of the peanut noodles we have made in the past, which is interesting because there was no peanut in here to speak of and very little sesame oil.  As with most stir-fries, the time commitment here is really on the front end - chopping and prepping all of the individual ingredients.  Once you have everything prepped and ready to go the dish comes together fairly quickly and easily.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Zak Pelaccio's Skirt Steak Salad

I must admit, I was really excited for this recipe.  Zak Pelaccio owns Fatty Crab, which is one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the city.  The food is really good (although there are some misses from time to time), the vibe is fun (if a little loud and raucous at times) and it's just different from most of the other restaurants on the UWS.  I wanted the recipe to have everything that I love about Fatty Crab - spice, flavor and fun.  But it ended up dominated by the fish sauce.  We kept adding more sugar and more lime juice to the dressing to try to balance it, but no matter what we did the fish sauce dominated.  We finally got it to a place where we thought it would be good, but once we tossed everything together the dominant flavor was the saltiness of the fish sauce.  Perhaps if we had used the full number of chili peppers that Zak had called for, we wouldn't have run into that problem.  But I wanted to cut down on the number of chilis (he wanted 6 Thai chilis and 2 Anaheim/Hungarian Wax chilis) so that the dish was spicy, but not blow your mouth out spicy.  Actually, you would still have the problem of a one note dish - the dominant note would just be heat in lieu of fish sauce.  The licorice flavor of the Thai basil was the only flavor that really managed to overcome the flavor of the fish sauce.  But in some bites, the licorice flavor was totally overpowering so I thought that the bites with the Thai basil were at times the best and also the most jarring bites.  My final complaint (although I would like to think that it is constructive criticism for my future attempts at making Thai-inspired beef salad) is that this dish isn't exactly much of a salad.  It is really just a skirt steak that happens to have a little herb, chili, ginger and garlic garnish.  I wish there had been some watercress or another green to give it more of a salad feel.  Or maybe some green apple or something to give it a little sweetness?  The more I think about it, the more I want to tweak this salad until it is more like the Spicy Beef Salad at Land Thai Kitchen, which we vaguely paid homage to here.  All in all, I just wanted the salad to be more of a salad and the flavors to be a little better balanced - less salty, more sweet and more brightness/freshness.

P.S.  If you want to take a look at the original recipe, it is also available on Serious Eats.  I appear to be on a serious Serious Eats kick lately...

Recipe after the jump!

Mark Bittman's Roasted Salmon with Butter

I am always looking for easy recipes that you can make with one arm tied behind your back and that don't require a ton of ingredients.  Oh and it helps if those dishes are at least relatively healthy.  This recipe has exactly those qualities.  It really doesn't get any simpler than this - both in terms of the effort required and the number of ingredients.  Including the salmon, the dish only required 5 ingredients.  And since the dish was basically just salmon (with a little butter coating the pan), s&p and parsley, the dish is also relatively healthy.  Hurry omega-3 acids!  Considering how tasty the dish was, it is rather unbelievable that the dish was so easy to throw together.  The salmon was really nicely cooked and seasoned.  We cooked our salmon for 8 minutes and it was perfect - with a pink, slightly translucent center.  And it was so easy!  We served it with a simple arugula salad and watermelon and it was a perfect mid-summer mid-week meal.  This is the second post in a row where I have to thank Serious Eats for a lovely meal!  And Serious Eats also includes various riffs on this recipe using different herbs, or evoo in lieu of some of the butter that provide a few interesting modifications on this recipe, which makes it even more fun and attractive.  So I will have to try some of those out (or come up with my own interpretations) and figure out which is my favorite!

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Moroccan Baked Scallops

I will be the first to admit that scallops in our apartment tend to be epic failures.  Actually, I am being a bit hyperbolic there.  The few times we have tried to cook scallops they have tended to be quietly sad and disappointing.  Sometimes they are overcooked, sometimes they are underseasoned...  They just don't seem to work out for us.  But these scallops were by far the best scallops we have ever made.  They were beautifully cooked and very tasty.  The word that comes to mind is lovely.  The scallops were tender and silky, with a really nice crispy breadcrumb topping.  Texturally speaking, they were flawless.  And the compound butter added just the right level of spice and flavor without overpowering the natural sweetness and flavor of the scallops.  I was a huge fan.  Even Alex, who is generally not a big fan of scallops, was really impressed by this dish.  I think that one of the best things about this dish is that it could be the perfect dinner party dish because it is both elegant and delicious, but it could also be an easy midweek dinner dish because it is so easy to put together.  And the recipe would be easy to tweak to use slightly different flavor combinations.  I'm thinking it would be really easy to do Italian - use some parsley and lemon zest in the bread crumbs and garlic and more herbs in the compound butter.  Maybe add a little white wine to the bottom of the gratin dishes to add some steam and extra flavor?  I don't know.  I just know that I really really liked this recipe.  Thanks Serious Eats!

Recipe after the jump!

Quasi-Moroccan Corn Succotash

This dish came about as an effort to use up some of the copious amounts of fresh produce I picked up at the farmers' market before we were out of town for the weekend.  I have a bad habit of picking up tons of food and realizing that, crap, we only have 3 nights to cook that week and then we either have dinner plans the next few nights in a row or we have travel plans.  So we came up with this recipe as a way to use the parsley, zucchini, tomato, and fresh corn I picked up.  We were making some Moroccan scallops (which I promise to post about later because they were delicious), so I wanted something summery with a vaguely Moroccan feel.  As a brief side note, I just realized that I seem to use the word "quasi" when describing Moroccan dishes.  I guess it's because I'm not altogether that familiar with Moroccan cuisine and spices, so I just don't really know if what I am making is Moroccan or not, but I feel like it is Moroccan-ish enough to be labeled as "Quasi Moroccan."  Moving on.  I decided I wanted to use the corn and we came up with this dish!  Alex stumbled across a few raw corn salad recipes but I wanted something more along the lines of a succotash because I'm not sure that the fresh corn is quite at the peak of its sweetness yet and we had other ingredients (like the zucchini and the sweet onion) that I think often fare better when cooked.  And in the end, I am glad we went this route because I thought the corn salad was very tasty and was the perfect side for our scallops.  The dish was bright and summery, but the flavors were harmonious and light enough that they nicely complimented the scallops and would easily compliment a variety of other entrees - Moroccan or not.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sizzling Cumin Lamb Burgers

So as much as I would like to (and I would really like to), I can't take full credit for this recipe.  For the most part, the ingredient list comes from a Danny Bowien recipe in Bon Appetit.  But I took his recipe for braised lamb shoulder over ramen and modified it to make it into a burger because I was in a burger kind of mood and we had ground lamb rather than lamb shoulder in the freezer.  So I modified the proportions of the ingredients and tossed out the ingredients that I didn't think we needed and we made burgers.  And they were awesome burgers.  As you would expect from Danny Bowien, all of the flavors went together perfectly.  Another thing you should expect from Danny Bowien - there was a lot of heat in that cilantro salad.  We decided to go ahead with the cilantro salad as a topping on the burgers because it was kind of like the cilantro salad they serve with the steamed pork buns at Fatty Crab.  I was originally thinking maybe some sliced cucumber or some other combination of toppings, but decided to just modify Danny Bowien's ramen topping to make it into a burger topping.  Even with all of our modifications it was more of a composed dish than a lot of other recipes we have made recently.  Both Alex and I were huge fans of the burger.  Actually, Alex thinks it is the most successful dish we have made in awhile.  And for him to say that about a burger is HUGE.

P.S.  The reason I have been flooding the blog with posts is that I finally got a new memory card reader (mine broke) so I can upload the pictures of all of the dishes Alex and I made over the past few weeks and post the recipes.  We cooked a decent amount last week so I still have a few more posts to get up in order to catch up, but I am going to keep uploading pictures and plugging away until we are up to date!

Recipe after the jump!

Parmesan-Crusted Summer Squash

I picked this Jean-Georges recipe for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, I just had a great meal at ABC Kitchen recently so it inspired me to get the cookbook out again.  I know I posted a little about ABC Kitchen not too long ago and said it was disappointing, but I have come to the conclusion that the restaurant is just inconsistent.  Although the service is consistently slow.  Our first meal there was good, but not great.  And it was expensive enough that it really should have been great.  But the lunch I had there recently was delicious so I wanted to see if the cookbook had any of the recipes for the dishes we had at lunch.  For the record, it has variations on some of the recipes (or what I assume are the recipes that we were served), but not all.  Secondly (and this is definitely more important than the first reason, although my meal at ABC Kitchen was the inspiration for my pulling out he cookbook in the first place) I thought the description Jean-Georges provides in the little blurb above the recipe of the squash as having an almost "fluffy texture" sounded really interesting.  I love squash but it does often feel heavy and soggy when you cook it.  And lastly, it looked really simple to make (which is a refreshing change from some of the recipes we make) and it used a novel roasting technique to cook the summer squash.  

So I bookmarked the recipe and ran over to the farmers' market and bought some cute little squash.  When we made the squash my reasons for making it totally panned out - the texture was really light and fluffy (which I thought was awesome) due to the way Jean-Georges roasts it on a wire rack and it was totally easy to make.  But it was missing something.  Alex and I both thought that some sort of fresh herb would be a nice addition to the recipe (I suggested fresh thyme).  The squash just needed something else, another layer of flavor to play off the salty Parm-Reg and the grassy evoo, to really make it shine.  The lemon juice helped, but it still left me wanting more.  So I think we will make this again (and maybe try this cooking technique with zucchini as well) and test out a few different fresh herbs or spices to see what works best.  So the recipe was not a resounding success, but it has serious potential to become one.  I'm going to play with it a bit more and see what happens, but I'm thinking a little fresh thyme would make this dish a total winner.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Festivus Chocolate Salami

Once upon a time my parents and I used to go to a restaurant called Il Pizzico in Rockville, Maryland for all special occasions.  Actually, when we first started going to Il Pizzico it was more of a cafe than a restaurant and it wasn't restricted to special occasions.  But as time went by it became fancier and more expensive, so it was relegated to the special occasion category.  But back when we first started going there they had this desert called chocolate salami that I used to love.  The first time I ordered it the waiter had to convince me that it was a legitimate dessert and not some weird meat product.  The dessert looked like 3 or 4 chocolate cookies in a small puddle of creme anglaise (or a similar sauce).  I loved it.  Unfortunately, as the restaurant got fancier the chocolate salami disappeared from the menu.  I guess it wasn't fancy enough.  I recently decided that I wanted to try and recreate the chocolate salami I remembered from Il Pizzico at home.  But once I started playing around online I realized that there were all sorts of different chocolate salami recipes out there.  Giada De Laurentis's recipe uses walnuts, almonds, coffee, orange zest and biscotti, La Mia Vita Dolce's recipe uses rum, hazlenuts, almonds and pistachios, Pink Bite's recipe uses raisins, cognac and condensed milk...  I could go on forever, but I think you get the picture.  The only constants in the recipes that I found online were butter, egg, cocoa, sugar, and some sort of cookies. 

In the end I decided to go with the "Festivus Chocolate Salami" recipe that I found on the Saveur website, not because of any enduring love of Seinfeld or the Festivus holiday, but because it sounded the most interesting to me.  I really think it was the cocoa nibs and the orange liqueur that got me.  Anyway, I really thought the chocolate salami were yummy.  It had good texture and really good flavor - chocolately, sweet (but not too sweet) with a hint of orange.  The gingersnaps we used had a really strong ginger flavor that almost made the chocolate salami taste... minty.  I know that doesn't make sense, but both Alex and I noticed it.  We served the chocolate salami thinly sliced (and you want to make sure it is thinly sliced, otherwise it is a little too much) with some strawberries.  I wish I had made some creme anglaise or something else to go with the chocolate salami to provide some creaminess and sauce, but it worked pretty well with just the strawberries!  I think if you had a small pool of creme anglaise under the chocolate salami, along with the strawberries it would have been a really elegant, yet fun dessert appropriate for a dinner party.  One of the best things about it is that you don't have to bake it so it works really well for the summer when turning on the oven is the very last thing you ant to do! 

Recipe after the jump!

Peach and Mixed Greens Salad

I found this recipe on Epicurious when I was looking for a non-dessert way to use up the fresh peaches I bought at the farmers' market.  The recipe sounded mildly interesting - I liked the combination of the pancetta and the peaches with the arugula and ricotta salata.  In the end, this dish couldn't hold a candle to the Grilled Peach Panzanella we made last summer.  Everything about that salad was just wonderful.  This salad was good, but it never approached wonderful.  It just didn't quite come together for me.  Alex's main complaint about the salad (which I agree with, although it wouldn't have been my biggest complaint) was that sauteing the peaches in a pan with evoo and the rendered fat from the pancetta made the peaches have a greasy/oily mouthfeel.  He would have preferred to wrap the peaches in pancetta and then roast them over a cooling rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet (similar to how you can roast bacon in the oven) because that way the pancetta fat would have dripped off the peaches and would have obviated the need for the additional evoo.  I suggested maybe grilling the pancetta-wrapped peaches for a similar effect.  Either way, it wasn't my favorite peach salad (although it was far from terrible and we ate it all) and I doubt we will be making it again.  Oh, one more thing, you definitely want to use toothpicks to secure your pancetta.  The recipe doesn't call for them but otherwise your pancetta ends up falling off all over the place and not on your peaches.  We would have used toothpicks, but we ran out.

Recipe after the jump!

Veggie Ciabatta Pizza with Spicy Basil-Mint Pesto

This dish came about as a way to use up some of the large bunch of basil that I picked up at the farmers' market.  But we wanted to do something a little different.  So I decided to throw in some mint.  And then I saw a Mario Batali pesto recipe online that used a serrano chili, so I threw that in as well.  We also got the idea to throw in fennel seeds from the Batali recipe.  We were out of pine nuts and I wasn't feeling like pistachios or walnuts, so we used blanched almonds instead.  Alex wanted to use the pesto for sandwiches, but I thought that pizza sounded like a better idea.  I just wasn't feeling sandwich-y.  And then I started thinking that if we were going to make a pizza, we should make it a vegetable pizza with lots of produce from the farmer's market.  I love the farmers' market.  So we defrosted a ball of pizza dough.  And then I started thinking that a ciabatta pizza would be even better than a typical pizza.  So we picked up a loaf of ciabatta at the farmers' market.  And we will use that ball of pizza dough to make another pizza later in the week - I'm thinking pizza with zucchini and speck.  When I told Alex my idea for the zucchini and speck pizza his response was "don't you ever eat normal pizza?!?!"  Whatever.  I have tried that combination at a restaurant near my office called Pizzarte (where the zucchini and speck pizza is their signature pizza) and it's delicious.

The thing I loved about this pizza is how easy it was to put together and how tasty it was.  The veggies were fresh and flavorful and made me feel virtuous, even though I was eating pizza.  And I really liked how the ciabatta got nice and crusty and crispy.  The dish was also mildly nostalgic - it reminded me of the french bread pizzas I used to eat.  Alex's favorite thing about the pizza was the pesto.  It was very flavorful - a little spicy, a little salty, and nicely herbaceous.  I think the pesto worked wonderfully here, but it would work really nicely on sandwiches and on pasta too.  I always find pasta with just pesto to be a little boring, but this pesto is a little kickier than most, so it might work. 

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Salmon Bulgogi with Bok Choy and Mushrooms

    Now that work has calmed down a bit, we have time to cook again.  I'm hoping that this entire month is on the slower side so Alex and I can cook and eat a bunch of meals at home, but we will have to wait and see what happens.  It has been so long since I had the time to really sit down and plan my meals that I find that I am a little rusty.  When I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner this week I literally had no inspiration whatsoever.  I couldn't think of a single thing I wanted to make, so I just dug through the freezer until I found a few proteins, picked up a few veggies at the farmers' market and then searched Epicurious to come up with some recipes.  This salmon dish was what resulted.  I do have an idea for some Chinese-inspired lamb burgers for this weekend, but we haven't made them yet so I can't take any credit.

    When Alex took his first bite of the salmon he predicted I would have two thoughts - that the marinade was kind of salty and kind of harsh.  My first thought was actually that the marinade was almost ridiculously gingery.  We kind of eyeballed the proportions here so the abundance of ginger could be Alex's fault (he did the solids) and the saltiness could be my fault (I "measured" the liquids).  My second thought was that the bok choy and shiitake mushrooms were underseasoned.  But I found that when you tossed the veggies in the reduced marinade that the dish worked out pretty well.  The veggies on their own were kind of bland and the salmon with the reduced marinade/glaze on top was too highly seasoned.  When you put them together (and scraped some marinade off the salmon) it balanced out.  I was a little worried about cooking the salmon at such high temperatures, but that worked out pretty well too.  The salmon turned out to be very nicely cooked - still a touch pink in the center (which I like) and not dry like I had feared.  This will never be my favorite way to cook salmon, but with a few tweaks I think it could be a very pleasant weeknight meal since it is very simple to put together and doesn't require a ton of time, effort and/or ingredients.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    Zucchini Keftedes with Feta and Dill

    The inspiration for these keftedes (Greek zucchini pancakes) came from a meal I ate at the office recently.  My office has been insanely busy of late and last week we made a few massive delivery orders for everyone on our floor.  I think there were like 10-12 of us here each night.  One night we ordered Chinese and the next night we ordered Greek.  As part of our Greek food fest (we ordered just about the entire menu - it was insane), we ordered two batches of keftedes and they were amazing.  So I wanted to see if we could make equally delicious keftedes at home.  Unfortunately, the delivery keftedes were better than ours - with a crispier texture and a more flavorful interior (and sauce).  The texture was so crispy that it makes me wonder if they deep fried theirs...  The feta that we used didn't have as much salty bite as I thought it would so that led to the keftedes themselves being a little underseasoned.  You could still taste all of the fresh herbs, but the flavors just came off a little muted.  I guess I should have tasted the feta before deciding that it would be salty enough to forgo adding any salt to the zucchini mixture...  Oops.  I actually threw a tiny pinch in (even though the recipe didn't call for it) but I wish I had thrown in at least a 1/2 tsp.  Another thing I wish I had done is make a sauce out of the Greek yogurt, rather than just serving the keftedes with dollops of plain Greek yogurt and a sprig of dill.  Alex and I actually discussed grating in a little garlic and maybe a pinch of lemon zest, but we decided it wasn't necessary.  Maybe next time?

    Recipe after the jump!

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Asian Shrimp Boil with Asian Dipping Sauce

    What do you serve when it is entirely too hot outside to cook, but you have raw shell-on shrimp in the fridge?  If you are me, you make a shrimp boil.  If you are Alex, you propose making an Asian shrimp boil.  Then he got a little worried that the Asian shrimp boil wouldn't be Asian enough so he proposed making an Asian dipping sauce to go with our Asian shrimp boil.  At that point, why not?  I figured that an Asian shrimp boil sounded like an interesting proposition and his Asian dipping sauce could be interesting too.  So we went for it.  And it was pretty tasty.  It was also very summery and easy to make.  If you make just the shrimp you won't be wowed by the amount of Asian flavor in the shrimp, but it is tasty nonetheless.  I highly recommend making the shrimp and the sauce if you want the full effect.  If we had only made the shrimp I might have longed for a more traditional shrimp boil with heaps of Old Bay.

    Recipe after the jump!

    Farro Pasta with Roasted Beets, Beet Greens and Pine Nuts

    We got the idea for this pasta as a combination of two recipes that I found on Epicurious - Farfalle with Golden Beets, Beet Greens and Pine Nuts and Farro Spaghetti, Beets, Brown Butter, Poppy Seeds.   I wanted to make an easy vegetarian dish that would take advantage of the beet greens on the cute little beets that I picked up at the farmers' market today.  Usually the greens on beets from the super market look a little pathetic.  But these were bright green and lovely.  I had another beet recipe for Maple Horseradish Glazed Beets that I really wanted to make, but we ended up going for this one because the other one didn't use the greens.

    The thing I liked most about the recipe was that all of the ingredients had a purpose.  Every element was a crucial component - nothing felt gratuitous.  As we were eating I mentioned to Alex that toasted pine nuts often feel gratuitous to me, but in this dish the texture and buttery, rich flavor they added were just what the dish needed to elevate itself.  The sweetness of the carameliontrzed onions and the roasted beets contrasts nicely with the salty, nutty cheese and the slightly nutty farro spaghetti.  The beet greens lend a little volume (plus some vitamins) and have a very mild flavor similar to Swiss chard.  I thought they might be a bit more bitter, but I'm glad that they weren't.  Another plus with this recipe is how easy it is to prepare.  It is a little time-intensive since you have to roast the beets and caramelize the onions and both of those things always take forever, but it doesn't require a ton of effort or ingredients to produce.  And if you use red beets, the pasta ends up looking all beautifully pink and delicious.  In my opinion that's another reason to make the dish.

    Recipe after the jump!