Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sam Sifton's Roasted Cauliflower with Anchovy Bread Crumbs

The week  leading up to Thanksgiving we ended up eating a lot of random vegetarian meals.  It just seemed like the proper (and healthy) thing to do since we knew we would be stuffing ourselves silly on Thanksgiving.  And logically, some of those vegetarian meals were based on recipes that I had considered making as a side dish for Thanksgiving, but didn't quite make the cut.  Before I go any further I should state that this dish was only in the running because Serious Eats raved about it.  It didn't actually go with anything else we were serving (more on that later) but it sounded interesting enough that I bookmarked it as an option if we changed up the menu (we didn't).  Once I knew our menu was set and this dish wasn't going to make it onto the Thanksgiving table, I decided to try it out on just Alex and I.  Our end verdict was that while the cauliflower was pretty good, it wasn't as good as other cauliflower dishes we have made in the past - in terms of texture and flavor.  The bread crumbs did provide a promised hit of "salty-funky" flavor, but I felt like you didn't taste the sage or the lemon.  I also thought the bread crumbs weren't quite as delicious as I had hoped.  As I mentioned below, they were a little oily and gummy, rather than crispy and flavorful.  If I were to make this dish again I would substitute the bread crumbs and the almonds from Mario Batali's St. John's Eve Pasta for the bread crumbs here.  And then I would probably roast the cauliflower much longer - like we did with the Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Cumin a few weeks ago.  Roasting it longer would provide the wonderful sweet, nutty flavor and crispy texture that I really enjoyed with that dish.  To be perfectly honest, with all of the changes I would have to make to this dish before I would make it again I'm not sure there will be a re-do, but such is life.  It wasn't a bad dish.  It just wasn't anything to write home about, nor was it a dish that I would be dying to serve to my family for future Thanksgivings...

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Roasted Japanese Turnips with Honey

I feel like this is one of those dishes that we tried where we spent the first few bites trying to figure it all out, the next few bites growing to really enjoy it and then I promptly got bored with it.  But let's be honest, who really enjoys every bite of an entire bowl full of turnips?  Even split between the two of us that is a LOT of turnips (particularly when you're not even sure that you really like turnips).  I have no complaints about the recipe itself - this post is more of a commentary on my poor planning in basically designing a meal around a vegetable that Alex and I are firmly on the fence about.  I have had some good turnips in my life (my school in China served a really nice soup with turnips in it and I love the little dim sum cakes with turnip), but generally they strike me as being a little lackluster.  The honey glaze really helped to tame the aggressive peppery flavor of the turnips and the cayenne pepper provided some lovely heat, but after awhile it all just got a little blah.  And the honey mixture really only coated the outermost layer of the turnip and didn't flavor the turnips as a whole.  I think I would have preferred pan-roasting (or oven-roasting) the turnips a little longer until they got a little crisp and developed a little of their own natural sweetness.  But I was afraid to burn them (or overcook them until they were soggy, although I have no idea if that is even possible with turnips) and once I added in the honey mixture I was afraid that the honey would burn if I left the turnips in the pan too much longer.  So I think the end verdict is that this dish is lovely as a side - it really does have a nice and interesting flavor to it, but unless you are a real turnip lover, you shouldn't make it the focus of your entire meal.  If you are a turnip connoisseur, then go to town and ignore everything I said.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nigel Slaters's Shrimp with Asian Greens

Look - another seafood dish!  Go us!  And this will officially be your last seafood post from us (and potentially your last post) until after Thanksgiving.  Turkey here I come!  I found this recipe during one of my various recipe hunting jaunts.  One day I pulled open my iPad and there it was.  I have no idea when I first found it, but it has been staring at me every time I opened up Safari on my iPad for the past few weeks.  So we finally gave it a go.  I don't have any idea who Nigel Slater is, but given how much we liked this recipe I might have to track down some more of his recipes.  I had this impression that he is the UK equivalent of Mark Bittman (lord only knows where I came up with that idea, but a brief Wiki session seems to substantiate it).  The recipe was simple and came together relatively quickly (once you finished prepping).  And it was more than the sum of its parts - the flavor of the basil and the aromatics (particularly the lemongrass and the ginger) came through really well and it had a lovely balance of sour, sweet, spicy and salty.  I was worried that the fish sauce and lime juice combo would lead to it being kind of one note, but it really worked.  And it was surprisingly spicy given that we only used one serrano chili for 3/4 pound each of baby bok choy and shrimp. I loved serving it with brown rice because I thought the nuttier flavor and chewier texture of the brown rice was a nice complement to the dish.  I know we made a good dish when Alex pours the rest of his shrimp juju over his rice and then cleans his rice bowl.  And he did it this time.  Even though he doesn't really like brown rice.  If my word that the dish was good isn't enough for you, I'm sure that you will find the Alex rice bowl test totally persuasive.  Now if only I had taken a picture of the empty rice bowl...

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Swordfish with Chile Pesto and Avocado Salad

We really need to make more swordfish in our apartment.  Every time we make swordfish at home (and don't screw it up because we have done that before) I am reminded that I really do like swordfish.  We probably make it about twice a year, but I really think we should bump it up to every few months.  If all of our swordfish recipes turned out this well I think we would definitely make it more.  The swordfish itself was juicy and perfectly cooked.  And the chile pesto was very interesting - it had a ton of chile flavor.  I would use it again with pork and maybe beef.  I would also consider using it with duck.  My one complaint with the pesto was that the texture was a little gritty and in some bites you ended up with a big chunk of dried chili.  But it had a lot of good flavor.  We added a little honey to the pesto because it was initially a little bitter for us, but a tsp or two of honey nicely counteracted the bitterness of the dried chilis.  I would definitely recommend serving with some avocado salad because the creaminess of the avocado works really nicely with the meatiness of the swordfish and the spice of the pesto.  If you were to make the recipe as written and serve the swordish as a topping for tacos, don't forgo the avocado slices.  I wished we had topped the swordfish with a few pepitas for crunch and texture (or perhaps thinly sliced some corn tortillas and fried them until crispy), but even without that additional textural element it was pretty tasty.

Recipes after the jump!

Baked Bass with Spicy Rub

I woke up from a nap last weekend and decided that I was in the mood for seafood.  We have been really vegetable and meat-oriented in our kitchen recently and there hasn't been much seafood in the apartment.  Actually, even our dinners out at restaurants have been very meat and vegetable-oriented.  I am going to try to remedy that for the rest of the year, but I'm not going to make any promises because we all know how well I live up to my blog promises...  I have a shrimp recipe that I want to try (maybe we will get around to that one tonight) and I really want to cook some more fish.  We also cooked some swordfish earlier this week that I have yet to post so stay tuned for that recipe.  Actually, if we make the shrimp this weekend I will consider my blog promise to have been fulfilled - three seafood recipes in one blog week is pretty huge around here.  And given that next week is Thanksgiving I'm not sure how much seafood I am going to be able to squeeze into my diet amidst all of that turkey and stuffing.  I do want to go out and have some nice sushi, but that is going to have to wait until after Thanksgiving.

This fish was really easy to make and pretty interesting.  It wasn't my favorite whole fish recipe ever because I didn't think that it had as much flavor as I had hoped for.  The spicy rub was surprisingly spicy from the black pepper, but I wish it had more lemongrass and cilantro flavor.  If I were to make it again I would cut back on the amount of black pepper and up the amount of the other aromatics.  I might also stuff some lime slices in the belly of the fish with the lemongrass.  Another problem with the dish was how many little bones the fish had - which isn't really a problem with the recipe but is a problem inherent with eating whole fish.

P.S.  I couldn't decide which picture was the least creepy of the bunch (and they were all pretty creepy) so I posted what I considered to be the two un-creepiest and most appetizing looking.  Because really, who doesn't love having fish eyeballs staring you in the eye while you eat?

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Roasted Acorn Squash and Onion with Tahini and Za'atar

I think it is time for me to stop buying so much squash at the farmers' market.  Every week I see a new variety and pick up more squash.  So we have been battling our ever expanding squash selection little by little.  Right now I have a stripetti squash at home (which is apparently a cross between a delicata squash and a spaghetti squash).  Once I read the little blurb claiming that it was a cross between a delicata and a spaghetti squash I couldn't resist buying a stripetti squash because those are my two favorite squash varities.  But I think we are about to hit Alex's squash tolerance soon and I am running out of new and inventive ways to cook squash.  So I might take a week or two off and then go back to buying more squash.  I am still determined to buy some more new squash varieties, but we just need a break until we use up all of the squash we have and until I come up with some new recipes.  I definitely want to make some soup and to also make some baked goods.  This Pumpkin Pecan-Praline Pie from Martha Stewart sounds particularly tempting and it might just be tempting enough for me to break my no pie rule...  Probably not though.

This recipe by Yottam Ottolenghi was one of two of his recipes that I had set aside for future squash experimentation this fall.  We had to make a number of modifications to the recipe becase we had acorn squash instead of butternut squash, we were out of pine nuts and we only had half of a red onion left, but we had a Vidalia onion in the pantry.  But we tried to stay true to the rest of the recipe as much as possible.  As with all Yottam Ottolenghi recipes my first thought upon tasting the dish was "this is interesting."  He combines ingredients in ways that I would never contemplate on my own (although the combinations might be totally commonplace to someone of Middle Eastern descent) and I find myself having to re-evaluate flavor combinations every time we make one of his recipes.  This was neither our most successful, nor our least successful Yottam Ottolenghi dish.  I liked it, but I would like to try it again as written and see how that changes things.  Acorn squash has always seemed a little starchier and less sweet than butternut squash to me and I think that this recipe would benefit from a slightly sweeter, moister squash.  We also incinerated our onions a bit because we lost track of time.  The onions that were salvagable were really delicious with the squash and the seasonings.  This is one of the few times that perhaps sticking to the recipe as written might have been the way to go...

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Green Tomato Frittata

I got a little crazy at the farmers' market last weekend and picked up 3 pounds of green tomatoes.  Alex shook his head at me, but I love green tomatoes.  I have only recently discovered all of the wonderful things that you can do with green tomatoes instead of just making more fried green tomatoes.  Who knew you could pickle green tomatoes, or make baked goods with green tomatoes?  I am really tempted to make a green tomato pie as well (like this one from honey & jam), but that would involve making pie and we all know my feelings on doing that at home.  Given the number of green tomatoes we found ourselves with I started fishing around for more green tomato recipes and ideas.  Once I saw a green tomato frittata on the NY Times I knew I was going to give that a try.  But the NY Times recipe was a little more labor intensive than I was really aiming for - it involved frying half of the green tomatoes and peel and dicing the others - so I decided to ignore that recipe and just make a really basic frittata.  I have to say that this recipe highlighted the tart flavor of the tomatoes themselves far more than any other green tomato recipe we have made.  I thought the little bursts of tart green tomato were fabulous with the rich egg-y frittata.  If you served this frittata with a nice little green salad, croissants and some fruit, this could be the unique centerpoint of a lovely brunch.

P.S.  I am a little behind on posts again due to work, but I have a number that should be coming in the next few days...  So stay tuned.

Recipe after the jump!

The Best Eggplant Dish Ever

I'm going to start off by saying that contrary to the title, we did not find this to be the best eggplant dish ever.  Of the various eggplant dishes we have made for the blog, I vastly preferred the Andhra Spiced Eggplant, the Indian Spiced Eggplant and the Eggplant Caponata.  We have also made a number of other recipes that included eggplant that I preferred to this dish, but I am only listing the recipes that really featured the eggplant.  With all of that said, this wasn't a bad dish.  It just didn't really do anything for me.  While we were cooking the eggplant I started to get worried that it was going to be really fishy because the dried shrimp gave off a thoroughly fishy aroma as the eggplant braised away.  I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't fishy but it just didn't do it for me.  The dish was lacking the balance of flavors that I usually find in this cookbook and really only tasted like moderately spicy eggplant mush.  Come to think of it, the dish looks exactly like it tastes.  Now maybe it was a problem of execution.  Perhaps if we had added the optional ground pork it would have really taken the dish to another level.  I didn't think the dish was really lacking a "meaty" element because eggplant itself is already pretty filling and rich.  But it would have added a little flavor and a different textural element at the very least.  We tried serving the dish with both naan and basmati rice - I preferred it with the naan but that's purely a matter of personal preference.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Cumin

I have never roasted cauliflower this long - when we roast cauliflower we tend to only roast it for about 30 minutes, which often results in tender, but slightly soggy cauliflower.  I was worried that roasting it this long would result in bitter, overly charred cauliflower.  But it resulted in sweet, crispy, slightly nutty cauliflower.  And when the roast cauliflower itself is that tasty, you don't need a lot of seasonings and flavors.  For this entire head of cauliflower there was less than 2 tsp of spices - the majority of which was cumin.  And yet, the cauliflower ended up tasting buttery and spicy (although the spicy flavor was not unexpected given the red pepper flakes) and not smoky.  I thought it would need some acid, perhaps a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, but it didn't.  The fresh mint and cilantro provided the perfect fresh counterpoint, while the toasted pine nuts provided some nice crunch.  From now on, I am totally going to roast my cauliflower for an hour (provided that it doesn't contain any garlic or anything else that could burn and turn bitter) so it gets that whole sweet, nutty and crispy texture and flavor.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Buttermilk Banana Bread

I have been contemplating making buttermilk pound cake for a few weeks now.  The idea came from a pint of roasted strawberry buttermilk ice cream I picked up a few weeks ago.  When I saw the ice cream the idea of buttermilk pound cake just kind of popped into my head.  I was thinking we could grill up slices of the pound cake and top with some strawberry buttermilk ice cream and some nice fresh mint.  It sounded like a brilliant idea.  Only I didn't have lemon extract or enough sugar or butter to make the pound cake.  Nor did I have a bundt pan.  And I'm sure I could have used a different assortment of pans to approximate the size of a bundt pan (two loaf pans perhaps), but the lack of ingredients wasn't something I could fix without another trip to the grocery store.  And I was past my grocery store quota for the weekend.  And once I remembered that I had three overripe bananas in the apartment I abandoned that plan and decided to make buttermilk banana bread.  I thought about making up my own recipe, but decided to be a little lazy and find some recipes online.  This recipe seemed like a good starting point.  I was going to add chocolate chips and other ingredients, but Alex made fun of me for my inability to make a simple loaf of banana bread.  So I stuck very closely to the recipe.  The flavor here is very light and pleasant - and when I say light, I mean that the banana flavor doesn't really jump out at you.  That could be the fault of the bananas - they were properly overripe, but some bananas are just more flavorful than others.  And I didn't mind the lack of concentrated banana flavor.  What really threw me was that the texture was a little spongy and dense.  It was almost too moist.  You can actually see how dense it is in the photo.  Maybe we pulled it out of the oven a minute or two early, although the toothpick came out clean.  I prefer my banana bread, zucchini bread and pumpkin bread to be a little fluffier than this, which generally (although not always) means that your bread is a little less moist.  I'm glad that I didn't add any chocolate chips or nuts to this recipe because I think that would have resulted in an even more dense loaf.  Next up, buttermilk pound cake!

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Black Pepper Tofu

This recipe is easily (and unequivocally) our favorite dish we have made from this cookbook.  Alex and I were unanimous on that point.  And I think both of us reached the decision independent of the other within minutes of taking our first bites of the tofu.  Everything in the cookbook has been very interesting and very unique.  I can honestly say that we don't have a single other cookbook that combines flavors and ingredients in the way that Plenty does.  But not everything has been something that I would make again.  I would make this recipe again and again.  It is delicious.  I would make a few modifications to the recipe.  For one, the original recipe calls for 11 tbsp of butter.  That is an insane amount of butter.  We used about one-third that amount (and substituted 2 tbsp of vegetable oil for 2 tbsp of butter).  We also cut down on the amount of black pepper that the recipe called for because it also sounded slightly excessive.  And then we made one last substitution/alteration - the recipe calls for mild red chilis but the only red chilis I could find at the grocery store were all fairly spicy - cayennes, fresno chilis and cherry peppers.  So we just lazily seeded them and went with it.  I mean, it's not like we used habaneros or anything, but none of those chilis are particularly mild.  One alteration that I wish we had made is to only use the scallion greens for the recipe, or to add the whites to the dish much earlier to cook them down a bit so that they lost a little of their harshness.  I guess another alternative would be to chop the scallions much finer and to potentially use fewer scallions overall (maybe thinly slicing the white and green parts and using say 10 scallions instead of 16 would be enough to tone it down).  Adding the such large hunks of raw scallion at the very end leads to some aggressive onion-y flavor that I wish had been toned down just a bit.  But the flavors of the sauteed shallots, chilis, garlic, etc was delicious.  And it went very nicely with the fried cubes of tofu.  I loved the texture of the tofu cubes - crisp exteriors with soft, pillowy interiors - and the flavor of the sauce, which was sweet, but savory and spicy.  It was absolutely wonderful.  You definitely want to serve this tofu with white rice to soak up the flavors of the sauce because it is delicious.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Squash Half-Moons with Butter, Sesame and Salt

We actually made this squash recipe during the hurricane, but since I had a picture of it (unlike the Mexican Chicken Soup or the Lettuce in Sesame Sauce) I decided it deserved its own post.  Plus I didn't want to bury it in the group post because I thought it deserved better.  I know the picture isn't exactly the best picture in the world, but I think I deserve some credit for thinking to take a picture in the first place.  Actually, Alex took these pictures and he got all artsy with them - close-ups galore.  This picture was my favorite of the bunch.  Squash isn't an ideal subject, but we deserve points for trying!  Anyway, this might have been my favorite dish of the hurricane.  I loved the combination of the toasted sesame seeds, the spices (curry powder, garam masala and cinnamon), the butter and the squash.  Given how sweet kabocha squash is naturally you don't need any additional sugar.  It was absolutely wonderful.  The flavors of the spiced butter complimented, rather than obscuring, the sweet flavor and almost sweet potato-like texture of the kabocha squash.  And the toasted sesame seeds provided a really nice complimentary flavor and texture.  This recipe definitely has become one of my favorite squash recipes.

Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Cooking - Dan Barber's Brussels Sprouts, Mexican Chicken Soup, Lettuce in Sesame Sauce

First things first - the hurricane hit and we are A-OK.  I know that much of lower Manhattan (as well as various suburbs and boroughs of Manhattan) are underwater and without power, but we survived pretty much unscathed.  While we were cooped up in the apartment we ended up cooking quite a bit, so this is going to be one large post containing a number of new recipes that we made over the past few days, in no particular order.  We also made a bunch of recipes that we have made before (like these Buttermilk Biscuits with Green Onions, Black Pepper and Sea Salt) And due to the weather, we don't have pictures of all of the recipes, which is unfortunate, but what can you do?

First up is this brussels sprouts recipe, which I saw on Serious Eats and got really excited about because it couldn't be easier.  Once I started reading further I realized that it is a little finnicky and tedious in that you are supposed to make sure all brussels sprouts are first added to the pan cut-side down, and then "turn each sprout over carefully on its back" after the brussels sprouts have seared up nicely on the cut side.  We cut corners a bit and weren't as precise in the cooking process as perhaps we could have been.  Things I will use from this recipe - the cooking method.  You get an unreal amount of caramelization on the brussels sprouts in a fairly short time period.  I would probably try different vinegars and seasonings in the future, but it was a beautifully simple recipe.  You got nice sweetness from the balsamic, balanced nicely against the nutty flavor of the caramelized brussels sprouts.  It wasn't the most amazing recipe I have ever made, but it was a really nice, simple side.

Now for the Mexican chicken soup.  This was something of a day long endeavor.  I started prepping the stock while on a conference call at 11:00 am.  The stock took about an hour to prepare, before we let the chicken cool in the stock for another few hours.  Around 6:30-7 pm we got started on making the soup to serve to some of our neighbors.  It smelled wonderful while it simmered away.  By the time the soup was ready I was really hungry and excited to finally taste it.  We don't often go to the trouble to make homemade stock and every time we do it really excites me because soup made with homemade stock is better than soup made with boxed stock by several orders of magnitude.  And when you make homemade stock you can season and modify your stock so that the flavors best suit the soup you are preparing.  This time I added various ingredients that are typical of chicken stock (onions, carrots, celery, thyme, garlic, bay leaves) and a few ingredients that I think of as being typically Mexican (chilis and cilantro).  I think that the flavors of the soup were really interesting.  I was a little worried about the texture of the blended hominy and chilis, but it ended up being nicely thick and hearty.  The chilis gave the soup a nice slightly sweet, slightly spicy flavor.  I will definitely be making the soup again because it's great cold weather fare and pretty simple.

Now for the Lettuce in Sesame Sauce.  I'm not really sure what there is to say about this recipe - I have a feeling that the sesame sauce is not going to appeal to a lot of palates.  I told Alex I thought the salad would go really nicely with a batch of Sichuan Dumplings in Chili Oil.  The combination of the thick and nutty sesame sauce would be nicely offset by the sweetness and heat of the chili oil.  We ate it with fried rice, which wasn't the most ideal pairing, but we had a limited selection of ingredients left by Tuesday afternoon...

Recipe after the jump!