Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cauliflower Soup with Cheddar, Cayenne and Torn Croutons

I am clearly in a soup frame of mind.  We had soup Monday night for dinner and I can't stop thinking about making more soup for dinner tonight.  It's a soup obsession.  I want soup, soup and more soup.  And this weekend in Maine I am thinking about chowder.  Or chowda.  And lobster.  I can't wait to eat some lobster.  Maybe a nice lobster bisque is in order...  Anyway, this cauliflower soup was a wonderful weeknight meal because it is easy to put together and doesn't require a lot of ingredients.  The cheese made it rich without the need for heavy cream, although it does mask the flavor of the cauliflower itself a little.  As a side note, I have a really hard time putting heavy cream in my soups at home.  I don't mind ordering soups that I know are cream-based at restaurants, but somehow making them at home just seems wrong.  The soup was warm and comforting, with a little kick from the cayenne sprinkled on top.  And for the record, the reason our cayenne doesn't look like the ground cayenne you usually see at the grocery store is because it didn't come from a grocery store.  This cayenne is from the batch of home grown and home dried chilis that John gave us in Cincinnati.  It rocks.  And I decided not to throw the croutons on top because I really wanted you to see the cayenne (and not just more beige), but you have to make them with this soup.  They really add a nice crunch and a lovely garlicky/buttery flavor.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

S'mores Banana Bread

I know that I promised you guys two new banana bread recipes, but we got lazy and just made one.  Actually, that's not entirely true.  Alex shot down my second idea.  I wanted to make one loaf of s'mores banana bread and one loaf of pb&j banana bread.  Alex made stink face at the pb&j idea.  And since this was the second time I tried to talk him into a pb&j banana bread I just let it go.  I figure I will make it sometime when he's not home to shoot down my pb&j idea.  In the end I wasn't all that disappointed - who doesn't love s'mores?!  I came up with this idea because I really wanted to make s'mores brownies, but we had those bananas to use.  So I decided to make s'mores banana bread instead.  It turns out I am not the first person to have this idea, but then again I never am.  I'm just not that cool/creative.

Anyway, this banana bread is amazing.  And it's totally decadent - sweet (but not too sweet), rich and chocolately.  I gave a loaf to our neighbors who told me that it is delicious with coffee and I gave a nice thick slice to one of my coworkers, who promptly devoured it in front of me even though she kept trying to set it aside to save it for later.  It really is that hard to put down.  So it's not just me who thinks the banana bread is amazing.  All of the flavors just work together so wonderfully - although the marshmallows basically disolved into the banana bread, their sugary, creamy flavor is still well represented (and the charred ones on top are just heavenly), and then you have the mixture of the semi-sweet chocolate chips and the milk chocolate Hershey's bars, the mellow banana flavor...  It is just fantastic.  And very moist.  I think that the melted marshmallows really upped the moistness factor, but there was also some sour cream in the batter to ensure that everything stayed moist.  It is just so good and reminds me of being a kid again (not that my mom ever baked anything like this banana bread).  I know that two loaves of s'mores banana bread sounds a little excessive, but trust me when I say that you really do need to make both loaves (although you could split the recipe in half pretty easily if necessary).  Your kids/friends/neighbors/coworkers/spouses will love you for it.

Recipe after the jump!

Jalapeno (or Cayenne) Cheddar Cornbread

I'm going to go ahead and call it - fall is officially here.  I walked into work today and for the first time in a long time, I actually wore a coat (albeit a light one).  And I was still a little chilly.  How sad is that?  Granted, fall means that I can break out all of those cozy sweaters that I haven't been able to wear in months and I do love cozy sweaters, but it also means that pretty soon winter is going to be here, which means no more farmers' market!  Boo.  But we have a few more good months until that happens so I will enjoy them while I can!  With the advent of fall, all I want is pumpkin (and squash), soup, brussels sprouts...  And what goes better with soup than cornbread?  I know you traditionally serve cornbread with chili, but I think any soup works well with cornbread.  I particularly love chicken soups with hominy and cornbread.  And now that I think about it, we have totally made a chicken soup with hominy and buttery cornbread before on the blog (see recipe here).

Anyway, what I liked best about this cornbread was that it had great chili flavor without a lot of heat.  Don't get me wrong, I intentionally didn't de-seed my chilis very thoroughly so every once in awhile you get a bite with some kick and it is delicious.  You could totally be more thorough about it and get just the flavor and none of the heat.  You could also use jalapenos instead of the green and red cayenne chilis we used because we were out of jalapenos.  Depending on how spicy you like things, I might recommend sticking with jalapenos because they are milder, not that our cayenne chilis were all that hot.  Most of my coworkers would warn you to take anything I say about spice level with a grain of salt since my tolerance for (and love of) spicy food is higher than average.  My one minor complaint is that the cornbread was on the dry side.  So it works really well with soup, but eating just a hunk of cornbread on its own left me wishing that it was a little more moist.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pork Schnitzel (Take #2)

This isn't our first pork schnitzel (although it might be the first one that we made that looks like fish sticks - how did that happen?!).  And I'm sure that it won't be my last because I have a thing for schnitzel, be it chicken or pork.  But this schnitzel is a little more traditional than our last attempt at schnitzel (recipe available here) - there was no Parmigiano-Reggiano or cornmeal anywhere.  With the exception of panko bread crumbs, we tried to stay pretty classic here and it worked very well.  The only thing that would have made this schnitzel better is if we had made a riff on the ginger scallion and garlic relish from the Schnizel & Things truck because that sauce is absolutely awesome.  Some sort of a sauce (in addition to the mustard and lemon or in lieu of the mustard and lemon) would have been awesome.  I know that a sour cream-based sauce is more traditional, but that was taking things a little too far.  And we didn't have any sour cream so it would have required another trip to the grocery store.  No dice.  But even without a sauce, the pork was very nicely seasoned and perfectly cooked.  It was tender and almost juicy.  And unlike the last time, it was nicely porky.  You could actually taste that it was pork.  I'm not sure if it was the different cut of meat or the quality of the meat, but I really appreciated that you weren't biting into mystery meat because no one likes mystery meat.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jacked-Up Banana Bread

This banana bread was really right in Alex's wheelhouse for a number of reasons.  First (and definitely most important), it contains one of his favorite substances in the world - bourbon.  Second, I left out the pecans that I was DYING to add to this recipe.  I love nuts in banana bread.  And chocolate, bourbon and pecans are the most natural pairing in the world!  Unfortunately, we all know Alex's stance on nuts in baked goods.  It's totally maddening sometimes.  But I will survive.  Things I liked about this banana bread - it was moist and it was different.  Things I didn't like about the banana bread...  Actually, I can't think of any specific things that I didn't like about it.  I was worried that the bourbon flavor would be overpowering since I am not a huge fan of bourbon, but it really wasn't that strong.  You certainly smell/taste it, but it didn't bother me.  And yet I think (and Alex agreed) that we have made other banana breads that we enjoyed more - either we thought they had better flavor or were more interesting.

P.S. Get ready for a banana bread extravaganza this weekend.  We have 6 more bananas that should be ready by this weekend for more banana bread experiments and I have a ton of different ideas percolating!  I'm hoping to knock at least one of the three loaves we made this week out of the park, but we will see...

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Corn and Pepper Jack Quesadillas with Radish and Cabbage Slaw and Mexican Tomato Salad

I'm not quite sure how this happened (because it was not intentional), but this week we did Meatless Monday and then ended up with a Meatless Tuesday.  I hadn't actually thought about the fact that we were serving vegetarian meals two nights in a row.  Granted, it would not have made much of a difference because I wanted to use up our corn and tomatoes from the farmers' market.  It just kind of happened...  And when you buy as much produce from the farmers' market as I did this past Sunday, a few vegetarian meals are inevitable.  I have another vegetarian meal on tap for later in the week.  Don't worry though - tonight for dinner we will be making pork schnitzel.

I have to admit that this dinner came together kind of randomly.  We picked up tortillas and a shredded pepper jack blend this weekend at Trader Joes, so quesadillas sounded like a natural use for both of those ingredients.  And I had one ear of corn left over from Monday's Corn on the Cob with Lime Salt, so I figured I would throw some corn in the filling to the quesadillas.  And I got the idea to add mayonnaise to the filling from a recipe I found on Epicurious.  I was a little skeptical but I went with it and it really worked.  I had tomatoes to use, so I was going to make a salsa, but I decided to make a pico de gallo-esque tomato salad instead.  We also had radishes left over from the farmer's market so I wanted to make some sort of cabbage and radish salad/slaw of sorts.  So we ransacked the fridge (and I picked up some new cabbage from the grocery store since ours had seen better days) and we threw in a little bit of this and a little bit of that and made dinner.  I thought that considering how random my meal planning was this time, dinner turned out surprisingly delicious.  The brightness of the slaw and the acidity and faint heat of the tomato salad paired beautifully with the richness of the quesadillas.

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gazpacho Cordobes

Alex and I are trying to get into the habit of doing Meatless Mondays in our apartment.  I'm not going to avoid meat if we go out to dinner, but to the extent possible we try to cook and eat vegetarian on Monday nights.  This Monday we wanted to use a bunch of produce from the fridge and the farmers' market so we whipped up a batch of gazpacho (which we started on Sunday so it could sit in the fridge overnight and then all we had to do was blend and serve on Monday) and Corn on the Cob with Lime Salt.  The thing that most distinguished this gazpacho from others we have made in the past to me was the smooth and almost creamy texture.  Roasting the tomatoes and bell peppers intensified their flavors, but mellowed the flavor of the garlic.  The acidity of the tomatoes and the vinegar (as well as the fact that the soup is served chilled) makes the soup very light and refreshing.  I didn't really taste the tarragon, but I thought the soup was pretty tasty so I would make it as written again.  The only thing I might try is to crisp up some serrano ham and serve the soup with crumbled crispy serrano.  Yum.  But not on Meatless Monday of course.

Recipe after the jump!

Corn on the Cob with Lime Salt

The only sad thing about the transition to fall is the near immediate loss of corn at the famers' markets.  The loss of tomatoes makes me sad, but it's a little more gradual.  Corn just disappears one day and that is that.  So I have decided to take advantage of whatever corn remains and make as many corn recipes as I can using fresh corn from the farmers' market for as long as I can.  I am determined to make Ad Hoc's Creamed Summer Corn this weekend because it would be an absolute travesty not to, but I want to try some new recipes too (tonight the plan is to make quesadillas with fresh corn in the filling).  So I picked this one, which is also a Thomas Keller recipe, but is a much simpler alternative to his creamed corn.  Actually, it might actually be the simplest recipe in Ad Hoc at Home.  The best thing about this corn is how the emulsified butter really coats the corn with just the right amount of buttery goodness.  I don't know about you but I hate trying to butter corn on the cob - the spray butter is easy but doesn't taste as good and trying to evenly coat it with a pat of butter is impossible.  So I am going to use this method for buttering corn a lot in the future.  The lime salt was pretty tasty too.  I would like to try it with some mango and see how that goes...  Yum.  As for the chives, they were pretty but I'm not sure they added a ton of flavor.  We actually tried sprinkling a variety of different dried chili flakes that John gave us on the corn - I went for banana pepper and cayenne, Alex tried out just about all of them.  They gave the corn some kick in the best of ways.  So if you like spicy (and have some nice chili flakes on hand, or just some ground cayenne from the supermarket if that is all you have), you should definitely consider sprinkling a little pepper on your corn for some added flavor!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hoe Cakes (and our visit to Cincinnati)

I would jump right into describing how much I enjoyed these hoe cakes, but there is a bit of a backstory that needs to be discussed first.  A few weekends ago Alex and I went to Kentucky/Cincinnati to visit his family.  We did a lot of things when we were there - we visited with family, saw some fireworks, made about a billion gallons of chili (vegetarian and beef in case you were curious), ate some really delicious upscale Mexican food at Nada in downtown Cincinnati, took lots of pictures of the pig statues that are all over downtown Cincinnati (see below - I was a little obsessed), sampled Graeter's ice cream and also visited a town in Kentucky called (I kid you not) Rabbit Hash.  We happened to visit Rabbit Hash during their Old Timers Festival.  There was live music and food, plus there was this guy with a hundred year old corn/grain mill selling freshly ground cornmeal and grits.  I couldn't resist - I bought two big bags (one of yellow cornmeal and one of grits).  Along with his cornmeal he offered two recipes, one for cornbread and one for hoe cakes.  Now I wasn't born and raised a good Southern girl like Paula Deen so I had never tried a hoe cake before, but I decided to give it a shot.  And they were awesome.  Speaking of Paula Deen, she has a whole post about hoe cakes (including several recipes) on her website.  Anyway, I  liked that the hoe cakes were texturally a cross between a pancake and cornbread.  I also liked that they were just slightly sweet and somehow manage to avoid the heaviness and sleepiness that pancakes always evoke.

While in Cincinnati I also shocked Alex's family members with my ability to eat spicy food by accidentally dumping a heaping amount of dried chili on a pizza and then eating it all.  Incidentally, my tolerance for spicy food can be blamed on my mother, although it really took living in China for me to embrace truly spicy food.  I grew up with hot sauce on the Thanksgiving table to be served with the turkey and a planter of Thai chilis in the backyard (which was discarded after my parents learned that having kids near Thai chilis when they can touch the chilis and then rub their eyes is a terrible idea - many tears ensued).  Alex's uncle John grows his own hot peppers and makes his own wonderful dried chili powders (we are currently in possession of tiny apothecary-esque bottles of dried Hungarian wax, hot and medium banana peppers, habanero, cayenne, jalapeno and a spicy blend of several different chili varieties.  We haven't figured out exactly what we are going to use them for (although we have a couple of ideas), so stay tuned for some spicy recipes in the near-ish future!  Thanks John!

Recipe and more pictures after the jump!


In case you haven't noticed, there haven't been very many posts on the blog lately.  Sometimes the blog suffers from neglect because I am busy with work and sometimes it happens because I am traveling too much.  This quiet patch was due to the fact that we haven't had a quiet weekend in NYC in quiet some time.  Two weekends ago (Labor Day) we were in Cincinnati for Riverfest (which, incidentally included the most impressive fireworks display I have seen in quite some time) and last weekend we were in Chicago.  Thankfully we were in town this weekend and I carved out a few hours today to cook breakfast, post about our travels and to tee up some posts about the relatively few meals we have made recently. 

I had a large to-do list for our trip to Chicago and we somehow managed to do check quite a few things off our list.  We saw the Bean (pictured above) in Grant Park (which was pretty spectacular), we visited the Art Institute of Chicago and Navy Pier, we did the Chicago River architecture tour, we laughed our way through Second City, visited the Chicago beach at Lake Michigan and then we ate and drank a whole bunch.  We probably walked a good 10 miles over the course of the weekend.  I really wanted to go to The Girl and the Goat during our visit, but it was impossible to get reservations and we were only there for a short period of time so we skipped it.  But I checked out the Eater 38 for Chicago and added a few other restaurants to my list - two of which we managed to hit while we were there.  There was one other restaurant from the Eater 38 that I really wanted to visit while we were there, but it was kind of far away and given the time constraints we didn't make it there.  But the next time I visit Chicago I am hitting Urban Belly because the menu just looked so phenomenal and I will be making reservations at The Girl and the Goat insanely far in advance just to make sure that I get to eat there.

More pictures, etc. after the jump!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pear, Basil and Pecorino Toscano Salad

Fall is here (or almost here)!  And with fall - apples, pears and the very beginning of squash season.  This is my favorite time of year at the farmers' market because you still have a lot of the great summer produce (although fresh corn and basil will be disappearing shortly), but honeycrisp apples and acorn squash are making their debut.  It is so exciting.  To celebrate I decided to make this pear salad for breakfast along with some hoe cakes.  There is a story that goes with the hoe cakes, but you are going to wait until we post them to hear that particular story.  Anyway, I thought this salad was really interesting - the juxtaposition of sweet pears and basil with salty, nutty cheese totally worked for me.  It made a really nice breakfast/brunch dish.  We made the pears with hoe cakes, blending an Italian salad with a very traditional Southern dish, but I think it totally worked!

P.S.  Alex pointed out that you can see the reflection of the building across the street on the plate in our picture.  Living in an NYC apartment means that we don't exactly have a lot of options for taking pictures of our dishes, particularly not when we want natural light.  Our choices are basically the windowsill (like this picture) or the coffee table.  But I think this is the first time that we caught a reflection like that!

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Zucchini with Lentils and Roasted Garlic

Ok so first things first.  I know exactly what this looks like.  And it doesn't look appetizing.  When we first mixed the dish together I had some interesting thoughts - and few of them were good.  The one exception was that the smell of the spices (particularly the cumin and the coriander) was very nice.  But once you get over the texture, which is similar to baby food, it's not bad.  I would love to say that it's amazing, but it wasn't there for me.  Maybe it was the texture or maybe it was something else.  I just don't know.  I wish our dish had looked anything like the original on Steamy Kitchen, but clearly we messed something up there.  But let's be honest, even if the texture had been perfect it still would not have made it to my list of dishes that I love and can't wait to make again.  Oh well.  At least we tried!

Recipe after the jump!

Korean Chicken Salad

I am of the opinion that most things in life are not improved by the addition of mayonnaise.  I know that BLT's and other sandwiches need at least a touch of mayonnaise to be palatable (otherwise they are just too dry) and you need a little mayo in tuna salad.  But I can't really think of anything else that is improved by the addition of mayonnaise.  I have heard that you can use mayonnaise instead of butter when making grilled cheese sandwiches to help the outside of the sandwich toast up golden brown but I haven't tried it out so I can't speak to that.  But when Alex wanted to add mayonnaise to our Korean chicken salad I was very skeptical.  I think I made stink face at him when he brought it up.  And again when I tried it.  Had I been about two decades younger I probably would have thrown in an "ewwwww - mayonnaise!"  But it was really good with just a touch of mayonnaise!  The kewpie mayonnaise somehow pulled it all together - it thickened the dressing a little and gave it body, plus it balanced all of the flavors out somehow and added some sweetness and a touch of tartness/acidity.  It was yummy and it made the chicken salad (which was already pretty good but missing something), just that much better.  I heart this chicken salad, which by extension might mean I heart kewpie mayonnaise.  But let's not be too hasty.

P.S. The chicken by itself was really delicious and would make an excellent entree, or you could use the meat for sandwiches or soups or other things.  I was set on poached chicken breasts because I think their gentle chicken flavor and texture works really well for chicken salads, but Alex prefers roast chicken breasts (hence Alex's Roast Chicken Breasts).  Since he was cooking he got to choose the cooking method and in this instance, I might have to agree that he was right as I think we will be making those chicken breasts again in the future!

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bi-Rite Markets Lemony Kale Caesar Salad

I don't know how this happened, but I am currently obsessed with the idea of kale caesar salads.  I know we have made a few on the blog before, but I think saw a reference to kale caesar salad on NY Magazine's website a few months back and I have been thinking about it ever since.  Of course now that I am thinking about it I can't find the reference, but I am going to blame NY Magazine anyway.  Mature, right?  Anyway, I found this version of kale caesar salad on Serious Eats (which seems to have recently replaced Epicurious as my go-to source of recipes/inspiration).  If only we had made some homemade croutons I think it would have been kickass.  The salad was pretty good, but I think the buttery flavor and crunchy texture of the croutons would have taken it to the next level.  The dressing has some serious kick (which you will notice if you try it on its own), but you need a dressing with some real pizazz to jazz up the kale.

Recipe after the jump!

Szechuan Beans

I am going to start this post off by giving a brief shout out to Alex.  Last weekend we went to Cincinnati to visit his family.  We were supposed to make these green beans Wednesday night, but we had tickets to a show and too much going on to make them before the show, so it didn't happen.  Then we were going to make them Thursday night, but we had laundry to do and we just totally forgot.  Friday morning I looked in the fridge and realized that we had forgotten to make the green beans, but I had to run off to work.  So poor Alex got to hang out at home and make them that morning.  And they were way more labor intensive than I had realized.  Oops.  Thanks (and sorry) hon!  Actually, I end up doing that to him a lot - giving him a recipe and having him prep and start dinner for us while I rush home, only to realize that I never really read the recipe in the first place and it is way too labor intensive for a random Wednesday night when I don't get home until 9:00 pm.  So thanks for being such a good sport!

Now, back to the green beans.  I really wanted to like these green beans because the recipe sounded so promising, but they were a little too harsh for me.  The vinegar flavor was just really strong, although the flavor that really lingered on your palate after the quick burn of the vinegar was the sesame oil.  Alex says he wishes they had a little less sesame and a little more heat.  The write-up on Serious Eats was just so complimentary that I really expected to love the beans, but they left me feeling a little lackluster when eaten on their own.  We have another jar in the fridge that I think I will use as a garnish for soup or noodles.  We had a noodle dish while ago at Mission Chinese Food (see our post here) that combined soba noodles with radish, pear and cilantro that I thought was mighty tasty.  Perhaps we could make our own riff on it and use the remaining green beans?  Maybe it was a little silly on our part to expect them to stand entirely on their own...

Recipe after the jump!