Monday, October 29, 2012

Slow Cooker Korean Beef Stew with Napa Cabbage and Pickles

Alex and I have a rather glorious All-Clad slow cooker in the closet that we almost never use.  I am determined to change that this winter.  I want to make at least one batch of slow cooker chili and at least one stew (or other braised dish).  I guess this recipe would take care of the stew, but let's get a little crazy and make another stew because why not?  But seriously, a slow cooker is brilliant for a lazy Sunday wintertime meal.  You throw it together in the morning (or the afternoon) and wander off for a few hours.  And later that evening you end up with something warm and hearty.  Today we started putting dinner together around 3:30 pm.  After we seared up the beef and threw it in the slow cooker, we took the dog for a long walk and hung out on the couch for awhile.  And then around 7:30 pm dinner was ready!  This recipe was fairly labor-intensive for a slow cooker recipe - there were several stages and several pots used, but it simmered away unattended for 3 plus hours, which was nice.  The dish that finally emerged from the slow cooker was warm, rich and comforting - perfect for a slightly chilly lazy Sunday.  It had a rich meaty flavor from the beef and the beef stock, plus a nice sweetness to the broth overlayed with the aroma of toasted sesame oil.  With each bite you got shreds of sweet cabbage, hunks of tender beef, steamed rice, and the slight crunch of bean sprouts.  My favorite element might have been the pickles.  I really loved the how the pickles provided lovely little bursts of acidity and a little heat.  And they held up a lot better once we added them in the slow cooker than I thought they would.  I took a few bites and told Alex to break out the kimchi because I thought the kimchi would be a nice spicy side and would provide some complimentary (but absent) flavors and a nice textural contrast.  When I asked Alex what he thought about the stew he said (and I quote) "I think it was very good - I think serving it with kimchi made it better." 

Recipe after the jump!

Spinach with Melted Leeks and Cardamom

I can't figure out what it was about this recipe that made me want to cook it.  I have never been a huge fan of creamed spinach - if it is there I will certainly eat it, but I have never ordered (or made) creamed spinach in my life.  I do like sauteed spinach, either by itself or folded into pastas or omelets.  The Spinach Catalan Style is one of my favorite sauteed spinach recipes.  But spinach is everywhere right now (both in the farmers' market and the grocery store) and it seemed due time to try a new spinach recipe.  I know I mentioned that I was planning on making this dish along with a few others when we made the Warm Mushroom Salad with Shallots and Sherry Vinegar.  And I am determined to use the Andrea Reusing cookbook now with the remaining bounty at the farmers' market.  So this seemed like a match made in heaven.  The only problem was that Alex and I both found the dish to be a little muddy tasting.  When we tasted it in the pan it was tasty - perfumed nicely with the cardamom and with the creamy tang of the creme fraiche.  But by the time we plated the spinach and got it to the table (which took no more than a minute), the flavors got muddled and the spinach itself developed a somewhat slimy texture.  Perhaps we should have skipped that last minute of cooking everything together with the creme fraiche and leeks and pulled the spinach from the pan a minute earlier to prevent any overcooking.  Or perhaps we should just recognize the fact that we don't really like creamed spinach and call it a day. 

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eggs with Curry Leaves

This is the second version of scrambled eggs that we have made from Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent.  Sadly, neither Alex nor I can remember the other scrambled eggs recipe well enough to decide which one we liked better...  I remember being pleasantly surprised by how palatable I found the tomatoes in the Andhra Scrambled Eggs.  But what I really remember from that meal was being blown away by the Andhra Spiced Eggplant.  Speaking of that eggplant, we need to make it again ASAP because it was delicious.  I have one minor criticism of this particular scrambled eggs recipe; I prefer my eggs cooked gently and slowly over a moderately low temperature, rather than scrambled quickly over a higher heat.  That way the eggs remain light, fluffy and moist.  Because the eggs here were poured in a much hotter pan than I usually use to scramble eggs, they were a little dry.  They also felt a little... heavier and more filling than typical scrambled eggs (both because of the cooking method and the amount of ingredients in the eggs).  On the plus side, the flavors here were quite interesting and were fun to experiment with.  These eggs were heavily spiced with curry leaves, cayenne chili, shallot, ginger and scallions.  In terms of sheer flavor, they packed a wallop.  And I usually love that kind of thing.  But part of me would have preferred a really simple plate of pale or golden yellow, fluffy scrambled eggs with just a few chives on top for color.  Simple, but satisfying.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roast Spaghetti Squash with Shredded Coconut

I am so excited that squash season is finally here.  Yay.  I know you can get butternut and spaghetti squash year-round at most decent grocery stores, but I love the selection of fresh squash at the farmers' market during the fall.  I have been on the lookout for delicata squash (which I think is my favorite of the squash varieties I have tried) but I am also determined to try a few new varieties this year.  I am thinking cheese pumpkins or blue Hokkaido squash (if I can find it).  We have a kabocha squash at home right now, but I pick at least one kabocha squash up per season.  Strangely enough, I never ate any variety of squash prior to moving to NYC.  My first year here I was wandering through the farmers' market in Union Square where I saw a squash that looked interesting and I bought it.  I haven't looked back since.

We tend to be a little lazy with spaghetti squash and we make our Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices repeatedly without even considering searching for a new recipe.  This time I wanted to try something new and I took some inspiration from a pumpkin-coconut curry that I was considering making with our kabocha squash.  One thing I will say about roasting the spaghetti squash in the oven is that it cooks far more evenly.  Cooking it in the microwave is obviously much faster, but you end up with pockets of undercooked or inconsistently cooked squash.  So I would recommend that if you have the time, go ahead and roast your spaghetti squash.  It is worth it.  As for the seasonings, I thought that the combination of the heat of the cayenne chili (we added additional cayenne pepper, but it might be spicy enough with just the chili for most people) and the sweetness of the squash and coconut was lovely.  I have never tried cooking with coconut oil before but I thought it was a nice way to add a little additional coconut flavor to gently perfume the whole dish in addition to the more concentrated flavor of the dried shredded coconut.  I might try the coconut oil in a few more stir-fries until I figure out exactly what role it is going to play in our kitchen, but this was a good first attempt!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mini Buffalo Chicken Balls with Blue Cheese Dip

I really love a good meatball so this recipe sounded really interesting to me.  Buffalo wings are awesome.  Meatballs are awesome.  Why wouldn't they be awesome together?  The problem with these meatballs is that they are lacking a key component to the buffalo wings - texture.  When you bite into a nice buffalo wing you have the crispy deep-fried skin with the moist chicken.  These meatballs have the right flavor.  And they are moist.  But they are one big ball of smush.  There was literally no texture to them.  I had hoped that the celery and the shallot would provide a little texture, but no such luck.  When I saw how wet and soft they were I decided to broil them for a few minutes at the end of the cooking process to try to get a crust to form on the exterior.  No dice.  The broiling did help to firm them up a little, but no crust formed because they were too wet.  The blue cheese dip was pretty chunky (which was a conscious decision on our part to provide texture).  I also ate my meatballs with celery sticks because I needed the crunch.  And I really enjoy the combination of buffalo wings, blue cheese and celery.  It works for me.  Alex took one bite of the celery and gave me the rest.  Sometimes it's not such a bad thing that Alex doesn't like celery.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quasi-Asian Club Sandwiches

What do you do when you have an entire roast turkey breast (and then some) left over in the refrigerator?  If you're Alex, you make club sandwiches.  And since the Roast Turkey Breasts with Asian Spice Rub was quasi-Asian to begin with, you make quasi-Asian club sandwiches.  To be perfectly honest, the only Asian (or quasi-Asian) elements to these sandwiches were the turkey breasts themselves, which were seasoned with an Asian spice rub of Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, clove, coriander, fennel and cinnamon, and the spicy mayo Alex put together, which was seasoned with sriracha and a pinch each of ground coriander and ground cumin.  Otherwise, these sandwiches were basically traditional turkey clubs, which are a perfect lazy Sunday meal!

There is no real recipe here, although I can post the method we used for cooking the bacon in the oven.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a cooling rack on top.  Lay the bacon strips out on top of the rack and then slide the pan into the oven.  Turn the oven on to 400 degrees F and allow bacon to roast until they reach the desired level of crispness, about 20-25 minutes.  It's almost too easy.

Celery Root and Apple Soup

I have a new farmers' market resolution.  I want to pick up one new ingredient that we have never cooked with each week and figure out how to cook it.  Last weekend my new ingredient was celery root.  When I picked up the celery root I had grand ideas of soup or puree.  I feel like celery root puree is everywhere in NYC restaurants.  I didn't realize when I picked up the celery root just how much it would taste and smell like celery.  For some reason I expected it to be sweeter and less celery-flavored.  Had I known that celery root tasted like celery I probably would have picked up a different vegetable given that Alex isn't exactly a fan of celery.   And after prepping this soup I am not sure that Alex will ever voluntarily cook with celery root again - it is kind of a beast to peel and chop up.  Oops.  This weekend I picked up sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) so that will be our next experiment.

When everything was said and done, this was not our favorite soup ever.  I... liked it.  I thought that when you got a spoonful with the bacon it was pretty tasty.  Bites without bacon were less so.  Without the bacon I felt like the soup lacked depth of flavor.  Alex was on the fence.  Actually, saying that he was on the fence is sugar coating it a little.  Without the bacon he thought the soup had the texture and flavor of baby food.  Once I realized how much the celery root smelled like celery I knew I was fighting a losing battle.  Expecting Alex to love a soup with celery root as the main component was a bit optimistic on my part.  Oh well. Better luck next time.

Recipe after the jump!

Salad with Pecans and Blue Cheese

I don't know why I am always experimenting with different salad recipes.  I have a few go-to greens (baby arugula and big mix from 5 lbs of Dirt are the most common salad greens in our apartment) but we tend to mix it up with dressings and ingredients.  I bought some nice blue cheese at my new favorite cheese shop last weekend (more on that later) and I have been trying to figure out what kind of salad to make with my cheese.  I thought about getting some pears and doing roasted pears with blue cheese over salad greens, but decided to go with this salad because it used ingredients we already had in the apartment.  My one complaint with the salad was that this salad dressing combined with the dried cranberries (which for the record were unsweetened) was a little sweet for me.  I would probably cut back a little more on the amount of maple syrup or use a more bitter green.  The big mix is fairly bitter because it has baby kale and chard and mustard greens in it, but it' not as bitter as some other greens.  I definitely would tone the dressing down before using it with something as mild as baby spinach.  When you got a bite that combined all of the ingredients the blue cheese and the toasted pecans really helped to cut through the sweetness of the dressing.  But there were a few bites with just lettuce and the sweetness was a little overwhelming.  I think there are other salads with blue cheese and fruit out there that do a better job of striking a balance between the pungent flavor of the blue cheese and the sweetness of the fruit or the dressing.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cumin-Coriander Beef Patties and Green Tomato Curry

There are very few dishes that I am instantly completely and utterly enamored of.  Dishes that I never want to change in any way.  Dishes that are completely perfect as is.  I had a good feeling about this meal, but I thought it had the potential to go wrong in a big way.  I was fairly certain the Cumin Coriander Beef Patties would be good because those flavors are ones that we are pretty familiar with.  We use a lot of cumin, cayenne and coriander in the apartment and we know they taste marvelous together.  And let's be honest - ground beef is a pretty forgiving medium.  How often have you had a truly bad hamburger?  And they were very tasty - with a nice crust on the exterior and tender and aromatic interiors.  If you look at the picture above you can see the flecks of cilantro and onion in the patties.  Yum.  But the Green Tomato Curry made me a little nervous - I figured it had the potential to either be surprising and delicious, or just plain weird.  But I think Alex's word's said it all, "This... is awesome."  And I concurred.  It was amazing.  The Green Tomato Curry had the most amazingly vibrant combination of tartness, heat and sweetness.  I loved it.  It was funky and delicious.  It had a lot going on, but everything just worked together so... perfectly.  I think this is the first Sri Lankan recipe we have ever attempted at home and it was a smashing success. Yay!  I knew Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid wouldn't let me down.  Strangely enough, earlier this week I had decided to do both of these recipes this week on different nights before I realized that the cookbook actually suggested serving them together.  Pure genius.  They really worked together, although I suppose you could serve the curry with a number of different kebob recipes or serve the patties with a number of different side dishes.  They don't have to be served together; they just worked very nicely together.  We served everything with frozen garlic naan from Trader Joe's, but I think the recipes would also work with basmati rice or roti.  Anyway, I wish there was more to say about these recipes but there really isn't, except to say that if you like spicy dishes, you should make this one ASAP.

P.S.  I know that neither of these dishes look all that impressive, but don't let that dissuade you from making them because they really are stunning.  They just aren't very pretty.

Recipes after the jump!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sauteed Savoy Cabbage with Speck and Lemon

Say hello to what might be my new favorite cabbage variety.  There are a few reasons for my changing allegiance, including aesthetic ones - Savoy cabbage is way prettier than regular green cabbage.  Plus, the leaves were much more tender than regular cabbage.  It was also pretty sweet, although the chicken stock and the speck in this recipe masked the sweetness a little with their meaty, savory flavors.  I'm sure if you simply sauteed some Savoy cabbage until lightly caramelized it would pack a lot of sweetness.  I am going to have to buy a few more heads of Savoy cabbage at the farmers' market this fall and winter to experiment.  As a side note, I know that I promised you guys that I would be making this recipe in my last post, Warm Mushroom Salad with Shallots and Sherry Vinegar, although I thought it would take me at least a few more days to get around to it.  But we decided to scrap our original plans and make this sauteed cabbage recipe last night because it was a little chilly out so the warm savory cabbage sounded delightful and (more importantly) the Savoy cabbage was taking up a lot of space in the refrigerator.    It was warm and comforting and very flavorful.  Sauteing the cabbage in the chicken stock really imparted a lot of flavor into the cabbage.  And every once in awhile you got a nice meaty bit of speck that gave the cabbage some of its smoky, porky flavor.  That generous squirt of lemon juice right at the end gives the whole dish some brightness and acidity to counterbalance the heavier, meatier flavors of the stock and speck.  Yum.

In the end, this simple little sauteed cabbage dish outshone the salmon we served with it.  In the salmon's defense - this wasn't a really nice $20+ per pound piece of wild organic salmon.  It was organic salmon, but it was farmed.  I know, I know.  It is my own fault for buying farmed salmon (which incidentally still cost about $14 per pound).  But the wild salmon at the grocery store didn't look particularly nice so I decided to be lame and buy farmed salmon.  Lesson learned - this particular salmon had literally no flavor whatsoever.  I won't stray again.
Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Warm Mushroom Salad with Shallots and Sherry Vinegar

Every time we use our Andrea Reusing cookbook I am reminded of how much I enjoyed her restaurant Lantern in Chapel Hill.  It is a phenomenal place.  Her cookbook features a different type of cuisine than the restaurant did (the restaurant was Asian-inspired, whereas the cookbook is very seasonal and American), but it really is lovely.  We should use the cookbook more than we do because it really is great for seasonal meals made of ingredients we picked up from the farmers' market.  The recipes are not overly complicated and the ingredients are often relatively easy to find.  The next few recipes I have bookmarked to try are her Spinach with Melted Leeks and Cardamom, her Roasted Spareribs with Crushed Fennel and Red Chiles and her Sauteed Savoy Cabbage with Speck and Lemon.  The savoy cabbage might actually happen later this week since we just so happen to have both savoy cabbage and speck in the refrigerator right now.

This particular salad recipe has been on my list of recipes to try for some time now - one of the first that I bookmarked and decided that I wanted to try when I bought the cookbook.  Some salads fall into the category of being both incredibly seasonal and delicious.  This salad falls among them.  Roast mushrooms scream fall to me - warm, savory, nutty and richly flavorful.  Sherry vinegar, shallots, garlic and parsley are all natural pairing for mushrooms but combining the mushrooms with frisee, lemon juice and chives was new to me.  The dressing lightened and brightened up the umami flavor of the mushrooms, while the frisee gave it a hint of bitterness that was balanced out by the sweetness of the roasted shallots.  And the garlicky croutons gave the salad both texture and flavor.  I loved the roughly torn look and the crunch of the croutons.  The original recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms, but I drew the limit at spending $30 at the farmers' market on wild mushrooms.  And I kept the amount of the other ingredients the same so that it was more of a salad with roasted mushrooms, rather than a side of roast mushrooms tossed with a little frisee.  After eating this dish (and walking home from the grocery store in the cool rain) I have to say that fall is officially here.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pickled Green Tomatoes

We finally succesfully pickled something!  Hurray us!  This is our third attempt at pickling since Alex bought us a bunch of mason jars.  First we made pickled rhubarb - which might have been totally delicious, except that it got shoved to the very back of the refrigerator and forgotten.  By the time work slowed down and I found it I was too skeeved out by the fact that it had been in there for a few months to eat it.  Pickling attempt #1 went in the trash.  Then we tried pickling green beans.  Our Szechuan Beans weren't a total failure, but we weren't happy with them.  But these pickled green tomatoes were full of wonderful complex flavors.  They were much better than the green beans, which were harshly vinegar-flavored and left you with an oily aftertaste.  These green tomatoes were spicy, with a very distinct floral flavor from the coriander and the sweetness of the cider vinegar and honey.  Delicious.  I have to give a shout out to Jacob's Pickles for giving me the idea to pickle green tomatoes in the first place.  Their green tomato pickles are delicious, but I would pit ours, which I think were more aromatic and spicier, against theirs.  You are going to want to serve these pickles with something meaty or fatty to offset the bite of the pickles.  In my opinion, eating a bowl full of just these pickles would be inadvisable.  You would totally blow out your palate after the first few and wouldn't be able to enjoy them as fully.  We served them with our Roast Turkey Breasts with Asian Spice Rub, but I think fried chicken, juicy bone-in pork chops or egg and cheese biscuits would work too.

Recipe after the jump!

Roast Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower with Maple Syrup, Bacon and Cayenne

We found ourselves in the interesting position yesterday afternoon of having a half serving each of cauliflower and brussels sprouts in the fridge left over from the Brussels Sprout Fried Rice with Crispy Cauliflower.  I was trying to figure out how to use those vegetables individually (I was going to make a pizza with the brussels sprouts and some bacon or speck), but I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do with the pretty yellow cauliflower.  And then I decided, why not throw them both together and roast them in a single dish.  Genius.  My initial thought was to make a riff on the Momofuku Roasted Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette and make a batch that included both brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  We make that recipe with both ingredients separately, why wouldn't it work with them combined?  Easy peasy.  But we didn't have mint or Rice Krispies and we had a nice piece of slab bacon in the refrigerator just begging to be used.  So I decided to roast the veggies with bacon, maple syrup and cayenne.  Alex asked if I wanted to add garlic and/or onion, but I decided that I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.  I really liked our roast veggies - but then again, I always like roast veggies (particularly roast brussels sprouts and cauliflower).  And just like always, Alex liked the veggies but wasn't as happy with them as I was.  He doesn't mind roast veggies, but unlike me he never really craves them.  I really like the combination of sweet, salty and spicy flavors in this dish.  My love for those flavor combinations shouldn't be any surprise to anyone since I have made a number of brussels sprouts dishes with bacon and various spicy sauces in the past.  It's not as spicy, exotic or audaciously flavored as the Fatty 'Cue Brussels Sprouts or the Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi Puree and Bacon, but our was tasty and a lot easier to put together. 

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Roast Turkey Breasts with Asian Spice Rub

If I were more into preparation and testing recipes in advance to serving them to guests, October would make an ideal time to try out a few different roast turkey recipes using turkey breasts to see what seasonings you liked best.  I wish I could say that we were that forward-thinking, but the reason we are making turkey right now is because I wanted to get the bone-in turkey breast out of our freezer.  It took up a lot of room!  Earlier this week I found a base recipe for cooking the turkey breast and then considered a variety of different seasonings and spice blends - Asian, Cajun or more traditionally American.  I decided not to brine the turkey this time due to the lack of space in our refrigerator.  I asked Alex which he preferred and of course he picked Asian.  But I guess I am equally at fault for always agreeing when he suggests Asian.  In this instance Asian goes really well with my plans for using the leftover turkey meat - maybe a noodle soup, or a Laotian turkey salad that I have been wanting to make for awhile.  Alex suggested Asian-inspired club sandwiches.  After tasting the turkey I think I am leaning towards the club sandwiches.  And here's why - the turkey was heavily seasoned enough that I think throwing it into a soup (where the seasonings on the turkey breasts would mask any subtle flavors in the stock) or another highly seasoned salad would just be too much.  But if you threw the turkey meat into a sandwich with some nice mayo, lettuce and tomatoes I think it would totally work.  Also, some of our turkey meat was a little dry.  I'm blaming that on the fact that our turkey tipped over (in the rack on the roasting pan) in the oven.  I think that the breast that ended up on the bottom retained a lot more moisture (and was juicy and delicious), but the breast that ended up on top got a little dry.  I had pieces for dinner tonight that were juicy and delicious and other pieces that were nicely seasoned, but dry.  And we went a little heavier on the salt than I am noting in the recipe down below, but I cut it back a bit in the recipe because it was a little too salty for me.  I'm thinking 1 tbsp of kosher salt (instead of the 2 tbsp we used) would be better. 

With a few tweaks, I would totally make this recipe with a whole turkey breast for Thanksgiving.  I think I would cut up the orange that we zested and shove it in the cavity of the turkey along with some scallions and maybe some spices.  And I would pour some chicken stock into the bottom of the roasting pan to help retain moisture.  I would probably also brush the outside of the bird with some melted butter as it roasted.  And then I would make some sort of sherry-flavored gravy to serve with it.  Yum.  We served the turkey with green beans that I blanched in boiling salted water and then tossed simply with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.  It was a really nice pairing - the green beans were mellow and simply flavored, whereas the turkey was more complex and more highly-seasoned.  Nicely done us.

Recipe after the jump!

Chinese Braised Tofu and Eggplant with Ground Pork

It looks like we are making up for the lack of recent Chinese meals with a vengeance.  First there was the Fish-Fragrant Eggplant (Yu Xiang Qie Zi), then there was the Brussels Sprouts Fried Rice with Crispy Cauliflower (which isn't exactly traditional but I am including it since it is fried rice) and now this braised tofu dish.  I'm not even counting the Roast Corn with Spicy Miso Butter or the Asian-Marinated Flank Steak that we served it with, although those dishes were also Asian-inspired.  So I am thinking that I might move on from Chinese for a little while and try some other cuisines.  I am thinking about doing a few farmers' market-inspired meals at the beginning of the week (celery root and apple soup and warm mushroom salad anyone?) and then trying out a few recipes from the Indian subcontinent that I found in Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent.  There is a green tomato curry that I am particularly intrigued by.  And I just so happened to pick up 2 pounds of green tomatoes at the farmers' market this morning and curry leaves at Kalustyans this afternoon.  So we are good to go.  Stay tuned for that recipe.  But I think we should shift our focus from China to other continents (or subcontinents).  And then maybe we will return to China the following week.

This recipe was homey, warm and comforting - the type of dish that warms you from the inside out.  My Chinese grandmother never made tofu for me, but this dish screams Chinese grandmother to me.  It was absolutely perfect for a brisk fall day.  The original recipe on Steamy Kitchen called for a pound of ground pork (and we used an entire pound although I wanted to use half of the package - Alex said using half was more complicated than it was worth and dumped the whole shebang in there), but I thought that was way too much pork.  I would definitely recommend cutting it down to half a pound (although if you are into meat, then go for the full pound).  The original recipe also didn't use eggplant, but I loved the Japanese eggplant in there.  I might even up the amount of eggplant next time.  The eggplant soaks up so much flavor and has such a wonderful soft texture (without being mushy).  Alex said that what he remembers best about the eggplant was "bursts of flavor."  I just thought it was delicious.  If you are not an eggplant fan, then you can omit it but you might actually surprise yourself if you try it...

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Brussels Sprout Fried Rice with Crispy Cauliflower

Alex disagrees with me on this - but this dish was my favorite thing we have made all week.  He preferred the Fish-Fragrant Eggplant (Yu Xiang Qie Zi). And it was vegan!  I'm not saying that I want to be vegan (or vegetarian for that matter), but I thought it bore mentioning that this recipe is vegan.  Alex said he would have liked the dish more if we added some finely chopped egg pancake (which we briefly considered doing until we realized that we were out of eggs).  I get where he is coming from, but I don't think the lack of egg hurt the dish at all.  I think the addition of egg would be tasty, but I don't know that it would unduly improve the recipe for me.  My favorite thing about the dish was that the flavors were simple, but fantastic - slightly spicy, salty and full of vegetable goodness.  This is the type of dish I would make for myself all the time if Alex weren't around - I love plates or bowls full of roasted vegetables.  And brussels sprouts and cauliflower are among my absolute favorites.  Instead I have to settle for eating this kind of dish occasionally because it's not really his thing.  He is a good sport about it, but there are other dishes (most of them Asian, pork-based or spicy) that he would prefer.  But that's ok.  I just have to sneak in my roasted vegetable fixes at lunch since he is not around!

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Barley and Pomegranate Salad

We occasionally try recipes for the blog that I can't decide if I like.  They are interesting.  And I enjoy eating them because they interest me, but I just can't figure out if I actually like them or not.  This recipe... intrigued me.  It had a really interesting combination of flavors and textures - a healthy dose of acidity from the sherry vinegar, the grassy flavor of the celery, the sweetness of the pomegranates, the floral warmth of the allspice and the flavor of the herbs.  It was a very strange but interesting dish.  I can't say it was my favorite thing we have ever made, but it was one that will not soon be forgotten.  Alex was a little worried about the recipe since it includes a number of ingredients (like celery, dill and parsley) that he isn't particularly enamored of.  In the end he liked the recipe, but didn't love it.  I definitely liked it more than he did.  After some debate we served the barley salad with a riff on Alex's Roast Chicken Breasts.  To stick with the Middle Eastern theme we dusted the chicken breasts with a combination of za'atar, sumac, s&p before roasting it.  At the end we added a few thinly sliced rounds of fresh lemon to the hot pan when we added the butter and then topped the cooked breasts with the roasted lemon slices.

I wonder if all of Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes will be similarly intriguing.  Thus far, I have found the three recipes that we have attempted from his cookbook to be interesting and unusual, but I have yet to be overwhelmed with how delicious they are.  I'm going to keep trying new recipes from the cookbook because thus far I have yet to be really disappointed, plus the pictures are so stunning that I can't resist them.  And I like recipes that push us outside of our comfort zone.  We are not as adept with Middle Eastern flavors and ingredients, but I really want to become more familiar with them.  And I keep saying that we are going to eat more vegetables, so a vegetarian cookbook seems like the logical place to start.  The next few recipes I have bookmarked to try are his Black Pepper Tofu (definitely not Middle Eastern, but interesting nonetheless) and maybe the Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices, Lime and Green Chile.

Recipe after the jump!

Asian-Marinated Flank Steak

Alex came up with this flank steak recipe with a little inspiration from a short rib recipe in our Zak Pelaccio cookbook.  I think the ingredients he used were intended to be the braising liquid for the short ribs in that recipe, but he turned them into a marinade.  I had asked him to come up with an Asian-inspired flank steak recipe to go with the Roast Corn with Spicy Miso Butter.  I described the corn as being a Fatty Crab-esque dish - Asian-inspired and spicy, but not truly Asian.  So he decided to make a Fatty Crab-esque flank steak dish to go with it.  And then he decided to make a riff on the cilantro salad they serve with the steamed pork buns at Fatty Crab to accompany the flank steak.  I thought the cilantro salad was a brilliant idea.  I only wish we had some pickled radishes to throw in there with it.  Part of the reason that the cilantro salad was so great was that the steak wasn't as flavorful as I had thought it would be.  I really thought there would be more spice and more boozy flavor from the marinade.  The bottom line was that it was good, but it totally needed something to boost the flavor up a notch.  Every once in awhile you bit into a mustard seed or a coriander seed that managed to survive the grilling process and you get a burst of spicy, floral or peppery flavor (depending on what type of seed you bite into).  Otherwise I really tasted the beef and just a hint of booze.  Thanks to the chilis the the steak got some heat.  And thanks to the cilantro and the vinegar, it got some freshness and some acidity.  The bottom line was that the steak wasn't bad by any means, but I think we have made better Asian-inspired steaks in the past. 

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roast Corn with Spicy Miso Butter

I was pretty shocked to see fresh ears of corn still at the farmers' market this past weekend, but I bought a few on the off chance that they were still good.  Given that I wasn't sure how fresh and sweet the corn would be I thought it would be good to both cook it and slather it in some source of sauce.  I settled on this spicy miso butter because I thought it looked significantly different from anything we had made with corn in the past.  I also thought it would be fun to pair a savory and spicy butter with the roasted sweet corn.  Turns out that despite my skepticism, the corn was pretty sweet.  I actually asked Alex if there was any sugar in the miso butter.  While this recipe works really nicely with fresh sweet corn from the farmers' market, the miso butter packs enough of a punch that you could totally use it on out of season corn.  For a quasi-Asian barbeque I think this would make an excellent side.  The one thing I will note is that the miso butter was nowhere near as spicy as I had thought it would be given the amount of Sriracha and cayenne in it.  It was actually very mellow.  But delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fish-Fragrant Eggplants (Yu Xiang Qie Zi)

It occurred to me recently that we have been remiss lately by cooking too much American and European food to the exclusion of Asian food.  We have made a few Asian dishes that haven't made it to the blog, so the dearth of Asian food isn't quite as extreme as it appears.  But I can't think of the last Chinese dish we made at the apartment.  Actually, that's a lie.  We made stir-fry a few weeks ago.  And I think that was it.  So I am determined to consciously tweak our menu planning for the next few weeks to incorporate more Asian meals and flavors.  This eggplant is one of my favorite Sichuan dishes.  I love yu xiang qie zi.  It combines a lot of the pungent and spicy flavors from Sichuan province that I love.  And before I go any further, I should explain that Fish-Fragrant Eggplant doesn't actually contain any fish.  Fish-fragrant eggplant is called "fish-fragrant" because it uses the sauce and flavorings typically used for cooking fish.  As a side note, when I came back from China I thought the translation was "fish-taste eggplant" until my mother corrected me.  Oops.  So this isn't the best version of yu xiang qie zi that I have ever tasted, but it is a really nice version.  I told Alex it was a little salty for me, but he disagreed.  As always, Alex likes things a little saltier than I do.  Alex also chopped the eggplant the wrong way.  I tried to explain it to him over the phone that the eggplant should be cut in batons, but we ended up with half-moons of eggplant instead.  Another oops.  The batons tend to cook a little more evenly and get all melty and delicious.  But the think chunks of eggplant don't cook as evenly and some pieces weren't as tender as I would have liked - some of the skins verged on tough.  But I thought it was a pretty successful first attempt.  I have had many restaurant versions that were worse than our very first attempt at the dish so I really can't complain.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Roast Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad

Lunch today felt very... virtuous.  Broccoli from the farmers' market with a spiced yogurt sauce?  How much more virtuous could you be?  I mean honestly.  And then dinner was as far from virtuous and healthy as we could get.  Dinner was pure gluttony.  Bone marrow is like the best butter ever created and then some.  It is a heart attack on a plate.  It is delicious.  And I had no idea until today how easy it is to roast bone marrow until tonight.  You just stick it in the oven for 20 minutes and you're done.  Ta-da!  Our average meal is 10 times as complicated.  Even so, this might be the first (and last) time we ever do it in the apartment because I can only get behind so much gluttony at home.  Somehow eating bone marrow at a restaurant feels indulgent (verging on decadent) but not unforgiveably so.  Eating it at home makes me feel like I gained 10 pounds.  Everyone knows that calories you consume at a restaurant don't count!  Regardless of the insane calorie and fat count, it was an excellent experiment.  Not only did I get to cook something new at home, I got to try a Fergus Henderson recipe.  For those of you who aren't quite as obsessed with the world of food and restaurants as we are, Fergus Henderson is the Brittish chef who popularized nose to tail dining.  And according to Bon Appetit, he is the one who helped popularize bone marrow on restaurant menus around the world.  Thanks Fergus!  I don't think that our bone marrow was quite as good as the marrow I have tried at Ouest or Prune, but it was pretty tasty.  I hear that the bone marrow at Blue Ribbon is amazing, but I haven't tried it there yet.  This preparation reminded me very much of the bone marrow at Prune - which is served with a simple lemony, parsley and caper salad, grey sea salt and well-toasted bread spears.  You really need that bright, fresh and acidic parsley salad to cut through the richness of the marrow.  You also need nice crusty, well-toasted bread to spread the roast marrow on.  And then you need to go run 5 miles to work off those calories. 

P.S.  There is a back story to this meal.  We were at the farmers' market this morning when I was on my vegetable kick and I decided that we should get some Boston butt from one of the farms to make Kalua pork.  But they were sold out.  And the people there thought Brady was so cute (and realized how incredibly spoiled he is) that they told us we should buy him some marrow bones as a treat.  Marrow bones you say?  I decided instead to buy myself the marrow bones as a treat.  Hey - I went to spinning today.  I totally deserved this!  I also bought some leaf lard, but I am going to save that for another day.  In case you are as clueless as I initially was, leaf lard is not made from leaves (or any vegetable product).  The word "leaf" refers to the cut of the pig and leaf lard is the "highest grade of lard" and supposedly makes amazing pie crusts.  Who knew?

Recipe after the jump!

Indian-Style Broccoli with Spiced Yogurt

For some reason I have been talking about broccoli all weekend.  Alex finds it totally mystifying when I get so fixated on vegetables but I can't help it.  Apparently he never craves vegetables.  All I can think about right now is broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.  Don't get me wrong - I am happy to eat other things along the way, but I need some veggies in my life ASAP.  Luckily, Sunday is farmers' market day.  I also wanted delicata squash, but they didn't have any so I ended up getting a nice spaghetti squash along with my broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and fresh bread.  I also thought about getting green tomatoes, but Alex shot me down.  I admit it - sometimes I need to be reined in a little.  We already had more produce than we can easily eat in a week.  Anyway, since I have been babbling about broccoli all weekend I decided that the first order of business would be to make some broccoli for lunch.

It is pretty easy to sum up my thoughts on this dish.  The flavors are fantastic - I thought the spiced yogurt worked beautifully with the broccoli.  And the slight gritty-ness of the coarsely ground spices added some nice texture and little bursts of flavor.  We were both a little worried at first that the spices should have been more finely ground, but I actually really enjoyed biting into the occasional toasted cumin seed or fennel seed.  My one complaint/modification would be to the cooking method - instead of blanching and then pan-roasting the broccoli in the future I would just roast it in the oven.  There is no point in boiling something and getting it kind of soft and soggy before trying to sear it up and crisp it around the edges.  It doesn't make sense.  So in the future I would totally toss the broccoli florets with a little evoo and s&p and throw it in the oven at 425 degrees F for roughly 25 minutes - until the broccoli is crisp-tender and starting to brown around the edges.  And then I would drizzle it with the sauce.  I think that would be a better (and easier) variation on the dish.  As an added benefit there would be one less pan/pot to wash!

Recipe after the jump!

Ted's Fiery BBQ Pork Tenderloin with Simple (Cheese) Grits

Before we ventured off to Maine last week for a long weekend I decided I wanted a good Southern meal (plus I was trying to clear meat out of the freezer and the pork tenderloin was just begging to be used).  And what could be more Southern than BBQ and cheese grits?  Granted, this isn't a particularly traditional BBQ recipe.  Plus, as the Lee Bros. cookbook admits, calling it BBQ wouldn't fly with a lot of BBQ purists because this pork tenderloin is not smoked or grilled - it is pan-seared and then roasted.  But that's ok because authentic BBQ or not, it's still Southern to me.  And when you add in cheese grits, you have a Southern feast.  

What I liked about this meal was that it was really different.  The pork was spicy and sweet, plus it was nice and juicy.  The pork itself was really good - I would make it again.  As for the sauce, I didn't love the flavor of the BBQ sauce, but I thought it was really interesting.  And I think the pork needed some sauce (or maybe a glaze of some sort).  It had nice flavor, it was just a little muddy tasting for me.  Muddy isn't exactly the right adjective, but I'm not really sure what is.  None of the flavors really shined for me - they weren't distinct, but they didn't exactly combine in a way that highlighted the ingredients.  As for the cheese grits, I actually liked Ina Garten's Creamy Cheddar Grits better than these cheese grits.  I thought those grits were both creamier and cheesier, and I missed the freshness of the scallions.  Part of the problem this time was that the grits were much more coarsely ground than I am used to so it almost felt gritty - perhaps if we had cooked them slightly longer it would have been better texturally.  But I think I still would have preferred the taste of the Creamy Cheddar Grits more...

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Brady goes to Maine

Generally my travel posts are a little more about food and a little less about the destination, but this time I think the post has to be a little more about the destination for a number of reasons.  First, I didn't really take any pictures of the food.  Actually, that's not entirely true.  I did take some pictures but none of them really turned out (including one picture of a delicious popover that looked suspiciously like a turd).  So I'm not using them.  But between Alex and I we managed to take some WONDERFUL pictures of the dog (hence the title of the post) and the scenery on Mount Desert Island.  For those of you who don't know anything about Maine (and until last week I certainly would have counted myself among you), Mount Desert Island is in the Gulf of Maine and Bar Harbor is on the island.  If you have ever seen restaurant menus talking about oysters or other seafood from Frenchman's Bay, that's right there too.  We happen to have some friends who have a place on Mount Desert Island (or MDI for short) and they invited us to come and visit.  So we booked ourselves a rental car and made the 8-9 hour drive from Manhattan to MDI this past weekend for some friends, food and fun. 

If you can't tell from the picture above, Brady had an amazing time in Maine.  During our brief visit he got to swim in a pond, a creek and the ocean/the sound.  He spent a lot of time getting wet, before drying and then getting wet all over again.  It didn't help that the first few days we were there it rained on and off the whole time so not only was he swimming, he was running around in the rain (and mud puddles) too.  Beyond his escapades in various bodies of water, Brady also got to go on a number of long walks and hikes through the woods.  He was in heaven.  Acadia State Park has 45 miles of carriage roads, which you can hike, bike or ride horses on.  There is also one section of the carriage roads that is privately owned by the Rockefellers near the park and it is dog friendly - which means no leash 24/7. Brady had a blast wandering around in there.  Alex declared our trip Brady's best vacation ever and I am pretty sure he was right.  Just look how happy he is in the picture after the jump!

More after the jump!