Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pan-Roasted Swordfish Steaks with Peppercorn Butter

When I work too much (which happens a LOT this time of year), I end up craving seafood and veggies.  While charging delivery from Seamless to the client sounds like an interesting way to try new restaurants without having to foot the bill, it gets pretty old after awhile.  There are a few decent restaurants that I order from on occasion, but after awhile all I want is a home-cooked meal consisting of less starch, less meat and more seafood and veggies.  Alex is pretty used to it by now and given that he eats toaster oven quesadillas, peanut butter crackers, pizza and fried rice while I am gone, I would imagine that he doesn't mind when I go on one of my seafood and veggie kicks.  My current veggie obsessions are broccoli and brussels sprouts.  I was on a cauliflower kick earlier this fall, but that ran its course by mid-November.  After I eat a few good seafood and veggie meals I then switch over to craving salad, but more on that later.  This swordfish recipe was one that I found online after coveting (and then buying) some really nice swordfish steaks at Fairway.  I originally wanted to make this Sicilian-Style Swordfish, but we decided to mix it up a bit.  The amount of butter originally weirded me out (and we did end up using less of the butter than called for), but I was intrigued enough to give it a shot.  And I'm glad I did because it was good.  The swordfish was nice and moist, which is always my first requirement for good swordfish.  There is nothing worse than dried out, leather-like swordfish.  It also had nice flavor - the compound butter is rich, but it retains a really fresh and bright flavor because of the herbs, the pepper and the lemon zest.  I think I slightly prefer the Sicilian-Style Swordfish, but this is a lovely, fresh alternative.

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, December 27, 2013

S'mores Pumpkin Bread

Given how well our S'mores Banana Bread turned out I have been contemplating making other s'mores breads for a little while now.  S'mores pumpkin bread seemed like the obvious next step.  This afternoon while working from home I had a break and all I could think was s'mores!!!!!!  I started rummaging through the cupboards and we literally had everything we needed, except eggs.  So I ran to the grocery store quickly for eggs and threw together a batch of s'mores pumpkin bread.  As I was stirring in the marshmallows and chocolate chips I started getting a little concerned about how much batter I was creating, but I decided that I was just being silly.  And then I started to fill the loaf pans and realized it totally wasn't going to fit.  So I abandoned about 1/4 cup of batter (which I made sure to taste and it was delicious) and filled the loaf pans as full as I dared.  I got a little scared at the last second and put the loaf pans on top of a sheet pan just in case there was an exploding/oozing pumpkin bread situation.  Luckily, nothing exploded (more on that later), but better safe than sorry.

As the pumpkin bread baked it smelled amazing and I kept getting more and more excited.  After the timer went off the first time I checked it, noticed it wasn't fully cooked and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes.  Alex then went and checked it out, stabbed it with a toothpick, which he brought over to me, and pulled the pumpkin bread from the oven.  After I finally finished up my work for the evening and ate some dinner at my laptop I decided that I deserved a slice of pumpkin bread for dessert.  And then I looked at the pumpkin bread and saw that my beautiful loaves of pumpkin bread were crazy and cratered.  Turns out the pumpkin bread wasn't fully cooked and it sank like the Titanic.  Womp womp.  But I promise that the end pieces that I did try were delicious.  And I promise that I will make the pumpkin bread again, but I will make sure it is fully cooked.
Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Uncle Lang's Three Tea-Cup Chicken

For a long time I had a strict no dark (poultry) meat policy.  Considering how much I love duck it made absolutely no sense.  Clearly I don't a problem with greasier, moister meat.  I just don't like dark meat chicken or turkey.  It's both a textural and a flavor issue for me.  I know it doesn't really make sense, but I just can't help it.  In the past few years I have discovered that I do like dark meat in a few limited applications.  When I order Indian or Chinese chicken dishes I try to plan my orders around those dishes that will involve chicken breasts, rather than chicken thighs or legs.  When I order fried chicken, I eat the breast and then give Alex the legs, thighs or drumsticks.  The Perfect Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs and Mario Batali's Leo Maya's Chicken with Green Sauce are among the only recipes we have made at home using dark meat chicken that I have enjoyed.  There are a few Asian stir-fries where I haven't minded the use of chicken thighs, but left to my own devices I would use chicken breasts and deal with the potential dryness if necessary.

So I guess it's not too surprising that I didn't love this dish.  Don't get me wrong - it was fine.  And the sauce was actually quite flavorful.  I was pretty happy with the sauce and would definitely use it to braise things in the future.  But the sauce didn't really penetrate the chicken legs.  If it had, the dish would have been immeasurably better.  Once you got past the surface layer it was just... dark meat chicken.  And maybe if you actually like the flavor of dark meat chicken that's not such a bad thing.  But I don't...  Like I said, it's no surprise that I didn't love it.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pressed Tofu and Peanuts in Spicy Bean Sauce (Hua Ren Dou Fu Gan)

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!  I don't know about y'all, but as much as I enjoy Thanksgiving, it wrecks me for weeks to come.  Too much starch, too much dairy, too much dessert, too much...well everything really.  Alex and I got back to NYC last night after spending Thanksgiving with his family and all I wanted for dinner was either straight up veggies or seafood.  We settled on sushi - low carb, no dairy and simple.  Well, I assume it's not that simple for the people preparing it, but it doesn't get much simpler for us than picking up the phone and ordering delivery.  Today we are having a very simple kabocha squash soup for lunch and some swordfish for dinner.  I can't even think about another plate of turkey, stuffing or corn pudding for at least another month.  

This tofu dish would have made a good weekend after Thanksgiving meal too - it is satisfyingly spicy and tasty, while still being pretty simple to prepare.  We actually made it the weekend before Thanksgiving, but I didn't have time to post it before the holiday.  If I have my way I will be digging into the leftovers shortly.  My favorite thing about this recipe was how the flavors of the smoked tofu and the 5-spice seasoned tofu combined with the sauce.  We used a combination of the two because we had both in the fridge and it just seemed like a good idea.  We also didn't have quite enough of either to make the full recipe - either we made a half recipe with one type, or we combined both and made the full recipe.  And as much as I love smoked tofu it can get a little overwhelming.  The sauce is assertive enough that you would probably be ok using just smoked tofu, but we figured why not combine the two?  I love the texture of pressed tofu, which is firmer and has more of a springy/chewy texture than even extra-firm tofu does.  We typically use smoked or seasoned pressed tofu in simple salads with celery and peanuts, like this Smoked Tofu with Celery and Peanuts.  Mark Bittman also has what looks like an interesting take on the classic Celery and Tofu Salad that I want to make the next time we hit Chinatown for groceries.  We served the tofu with some sauteed bok choy with garlic and it was a perfect, light and easy meal.  And it was about as un-Thanksgivingy as it gets.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Aloha! And reasons I love Maui...

If I had my way, we would visit Hawaii every other year for vacation.  Unfortunately, Hawaii is rather far away and rather expensive.  And don't get me started on the flight there.  Luckily, Hawaiian Airlines now has direct flights from JFK to Oahu but the flight is still roughly 11 hours on the way there.  It's a long flight but I think it's totally worth it.  Just look at that picture above of the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park.  I was playing with the various settings and filters on my camera a bit, but it really is that gorgeous.  Waianapanapa State Park is on the road to Hana, which (if you haven't done it before) is one of the craziest drives I have ever done.  The road itself is a tiny little 2 lane-road that has 54 one-lane bridges and something like 600+ hairpin curves.  The drive is about 50 miles from one end to another, but it takes 3 hours to drive those 50 miles.  And then you have to turn around and go back.  The day we drove the road to Hana we left our hotel just before 6:00 am and didn't return until after 7:00 pm.  We were staying on the other side of the island from Paia (which is where the trip really kicks off) so it took us an hour and a half or so to get there, but we were still out and about for 13 hours.  And we didn't stop at half of the stops.  Some people split the drive up over a number of days, which is what you really have to do if you want to enjoy each stop along the way, but we packed it all into one.  If you ever think about heading to Maui I highly recommend the drive.  Bring tennis shoes and a water bottle because there is a fair bit of hiking, along with a good camera to catch some pictures of beautiful beaches, waterfalls and other scenery along the way.  And don't forget your swim suit.  If you want a more relaxing day in Maui you can always hit Kaanapali Beach (picture below).  It's so pretty.  

More (including more pictures) after the jump!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

S'mores Brownies

There is something so wonderful and nostalgic about s'mores.  And how can you resist brownies?  I have been thinking about making s'mores brownies forever and ever.  I kept thinking through recipes and coming up with different brownie alternatives - using marshmallow fluff instead of mini marshmallows, graham cracker crust versus no graham cracker crust...  And then every time it came down to it I ended up going with something else.  But this past weekend we were supposed to bring dessert to a friend's apartment and I FINALLY made my s'mores brownies.  I ended up going with the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker even though I second and third guessed her brownie recipe.  The idea of adding boiling water to cocoa powder and then throwing in chunks of bittersweet chocolate at the very end was seemed totally bizarre to me.  But I did it anyway because in the end, why not?  I was going to make the Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies from Baking Illustrated, but I didn't feel like modifying the recipe for a 9x13x2 pan.  And once I realized that the base recipe from Brown Eyed Baker was from Cook's Illustrated I decided to go with it.

These brownies might be my new favorite brownie recipe.  And they are probably the best thing I have ever baked and brought into work.  A few of my coworkers and I are obsessed with the combination of salty and sweet flavors.  I was a little worried that the brownies would be too sweet, but they had an ideal level of saltiness and sweetness.  Once these brownies had sat around for a day the balance of flavors with the saltiness and the sweetness got even better.  And the day after that the balance of flavors evolved even more.  Of course I made sure to taste them every day to ensure that they aged well.  Bad for the waistline, but so very delicious. 

Recipe after the jump!

Raw and Fried Tuscan Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

I love kale salads.  And yet, so many of the ones we make at home are vaguely disappointing.  I feel like it's tough to strike the right balance with a kale salad - you need the dressing to be fairly assertive because kale is a hearty little green with a slightly bitter flavor.  If you try to dress it the same way you would dress baby spinach or really tender young salad greens with a light balsamic vinaigrette it's just not going to work out.  But sometimes the dressing just goes a little too far in the wrong direction and gets too assertive and you lose the kale.  I have been trying for months to come up with a spicy Asian kale salad with cashews (for some reason I am really stuck on the cashews) and I keep failing.  The first time the dressing wasn't flavorful enough and the second time it was too harsh.  It was a bummer.  But this recipe is a wonderful quasi-Asian take on a kale salad that combines two of my favorite greens/vegetables - kale and brussels sprouts.  It has great flavor - bright fresh herbs, slightly bitter greens, and fried greens all tossed in a spicy fish sauce vinaigrette.  And it has wonderful texture.  But I should point out that it is labor intensive.  Alex took one look at the recipe and his comment was "at least you picked a simple recipe for dinner."  I believe my response was along the lines of if he does the menu planning in the future he can avoid over-complicated salad recipes, but until then...  We will make at least one change in the future to simplify the recipe a bit - roasting the kale and brussels sprout leaves in the oven saves us the time, aggravation and oil spatter of frying them in small batches.  I really liked the crispy texture and the nutty, concentrated flavor of the fried kale and brussels sprouts because it added depth of flavor and additional texture to the salad.  But you can achieve a nearly identical result (without risking third degree burns) by roasting the kale and brussels sprouts in the oven.  I'm also tempted to try to transform this into an entree salad by serving it with some tofu (we might roast that too) or shrimp.  I will probably play with it a little more, but I really liked this salad and aside from tinkering with the cooking method out of self-preservation and laziness, there isn't anything else I can think of that I would change to the base recipe.  As a side note, just because I found this recipe doesn't mean I am going to quit my quest to find a perfect spicy Asian kale salad.  I'll get there eventually.

P.S.  The picture sucks because we misplaced the memory card for our camera and had to use my cell phone.  And my iPhone 5s (which has otherwise taken excellent pictures) absolutely and utterly refused to cooperate.
Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blasted Broccoli with Fish Sauce

This recipe has quickly become my new favorite broccoli recipe.  I know it doesn't look (or sound) like much, but it's the perfect side dish.  It is insanely easy to make and very tasty.  I'm not ashamed to admit that we have made it twice in the past week.  Last week Alex and I were making one of our favorite quick and easy meals (Stir-Fried Eggs with Cellophane Noodles) for dinner and I wanted a really simple side to go with the eggs.  We had some nice broccoli that we picked up at the farmers' market and I looked through a few Asian-y recipes we had made in the past with either broccoli or Chinese broccoli but none of them looked quite right.  So I Googled "broccoli fish sauce" and found this recipe on Andrea Nguyen's blog Viet World Kitchen.  And I love it. The broccoli is perfectly cooked - tender, but crispy and toasty.  Somehow it avoids the pitfall of high heat roasting - overly charred and slightly bitter veggies, as well as the pitfalls of steaming, sauteing or otherwise cooking broccoli so that it ends up kind of mushy and blah.  Beyond all that the saltiness from the fish cause provides good flavor, without obscuring the flavor of the broccoli.  I should note that we have used nice fresh broccoli from the farmers' market both times we have made the recipe, so I don't know how well this recipe would suit out of season grocery store broccoli that has less inherent flavor and tenderness.  But I am sure that at some point we will give it a try.  I might also try this with broccolini and just adjust the cooking time as necessary or try it and modify the ingredients slightly.  I bet it would work nicely to blast the broccoli in a combination of oil, s&p and then toss in a thinned out harissa paste mixture for some heat...

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tacos de Camaron

There is a restaurant in the East Village called Mercadito that has the best shrimp tacos I have ever tasted.  They also make really good fried fish tacos and guacamole, but it's the shrimp tacos that really stick with me because the shrimp are in this creamy, spicy chipotle sauce that I love.  Yum.  About a month ago I saw a recipe on People.com for those tacos and I got really excited.  We had originally been planning on making a variation on some shrimp tacos that I had at Nada in Cincinnati, but I got all excited when I saw this recipe.  The tacos were good, but I'm not sure how faithful they are to the recipe that the restaurant actually uses.  At the very least, they have to puree the chipotle sauce because the shrimp is bathed in a really creamy, spicy and rich sauce at the restaurant with no discernible chunks.  This version was a lot more rustic (and a lot spicier than I remember), which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  The sauce was a lot thinner - I think to replicate the sauce you would have to add some more butter and puree.  It might need a little something to give it some more oomph.  I didn't bother to take a bunch of pictures trying to get a really nice one because the tacos looked like a mess on a tortilla and there's really only so much you can do about that.  So long as you aren't afraid of mess, spice or chipotles, they are very tasty.  These aren't the best shrimp tacos we have ever made, but I would make them again with a few minor tweaks.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Heirloom Tomato Salads (Take 3) - Panzanella with Pickled Shallots, Fattoush with Heirloom Tomatoes and Olive Bread and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pomegranate-Sumac Dressing

The summer is officially over which means that heirloom tomatoes will be disappearing from the farmers' market any day now.  To be perfectly honest, the best ones are probably already gone.  Every time I walked by a farmers' market in the months of August/September with a decent heirloom tomato selection I couldn't seem to stop myself from picking up another handful (or two) of tomatoes.  At least half of the heirloom tomatoes ended up in tomato-mozzarella salads and the like, but I do occasionally feel the need to experiment a bit.  I'm currently in a bit of a panzanella phase so I keep making tomato salads with giant croutons of sorts tossed in.  I also included a variation on a fattoush in this post that we modified from a Susan Feniger recipe from her Street Food cookbook, but aside from the spices, the salad reminded me more of a panzanella because the bread was olive bread, cut into large croutons, rather than smaller pieces of crispy pita.

My favorite of these three salads was probably the panzanella.  It had the right balance of tomato and acidity with the pickled shallots.  I might take those shallots and use them in other dishes because I thought they really worked.  My second favorite was the heirloom tomato salad with pomegranate-sumac dressing.  I thought the flavor of the pomegranate-sumac dressing with the herbs and shallots on top was really nice.  My only complaint was that the sumac left it a little gritty.  And you have to like the flavor of pomegranate molasses in order for this dish to work for you.  You rarely see pomegranate molasses left to shine on its own in quite this way and the rather concentrated sweetness might throw some people.  And the sweetness of the pomegranate sweetness masks a bit of the natural sweetness of the tomatoes themselves.  As for the fattoush it was my least favorite of the three.  I really thought it was going to be amazing, but it was a little heavy and it just wasn't as vibrant and fresh as the other two salads.  The heirloom tomatoes just got a little lost.

Recipes (and more pictures) after the jump!

Another Update on Restaurants in 2013

I know it has only been a month since my last restaurant update, but I had so much to add (and so little to say otherwise) that I couldn't resist posting another update.  Check it out - in the month of September I visited Locanda Verde, Torrisi Italian Specialties, Pok Pok Phat Thai and Boulud Sud.  And today we hit Red Farm after I saw on Eater that it was open for lunch starting today.  I made an emergency phone call to Alex and cancelled our original lunch plans so we could check it out.  I had a minor break from work (not enough to have time to plan and cook meals at home, but enough to make a few dinner reservations) and we went a wee bit crazy.  We also crossed an item off my NYC bucket list last weekend - walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, which is something that I was particularly excited about (hence the picture above).  We have been to Brooklyn, including DUMBO, a few times but somehow we have never visited or walked across the bridge.  We were in DUMBO for the DUMBO Arts Festival on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and after eating lunch at No. 7 Sub in Brooklyn Bridge Park we couldn't resist walking the bridge. 

Restaurants to Try in 2013

  1. Brooklyn Fare (still dying to go but it's totally impossible to get reservations and really pricey)
  2. Locanda Verde
  3. Torrisi Italian Specialities and Parm (should also add Carbone and ZZ's Clam Bar)
  4. Empellon Cocina
  5. Pok Pok NY and Pok Pok Phat Thai
  6. Biang
  7. Red Farm (the new UWS location opened today for lunch!)
  8. The Marrow
  9. Roberta's and Blanca
  10. Acme
  11. Khe-Yo
  12. ABC Cocina
Runners Up:  M. Wells Dinette, Pig and KhaoSripraphai, Boulud SudYunnan Kitchen, Red Rooster 

Runner Up from 2012: John Dory Oyster Bar

More after the jump!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Basil Caesar Salad with Little Gem Lettuce

A few weeks ago Alex and I were at an impasse.  We have been too busy to cook and when we do cook, we cook the same things over and over again because they are easy.  But I picked up some little gem lettuce and we had a huge basil plant from the farmers' market and I wanted to do something fun with them.  So we made this salad.  My original plan was to pick up a rotisserie chicken from Citarella and throw it on top, but they were sold out by the time I made it to the store.  So we ended up making this salad along with an heirloom tomato and fresh mozzerella salad with even more of the fresh basil.  As far as this salad went, I wished the dressing had a little more umph to it.  It was good.  I liked it.  And I always like homemade croutons.  But I wanted a little more rich, nutty flavor from the anchovy and more basil flavor.  Also, in the future I will probably stem and hand tear my little gem lettuce.  We left the cute little heads of lettuce mostly whole here, which meant that the dressing didn't really penetrate into the heart of each head of little gem.  The next time I get my hands on little gem lettuce there is a Nancy Silverton recipe I want to try in her Mozza cookbook.  But lord only knows when I will find more little gem lettuce at Fairway as well as the free time to cook, so it could be some time before we get around to it...

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Stacked Veggie Enchiladas

I have been trying to come up with a really good recipe to break my blogging fast, but we haven't been cooking much recently.  I've been busy with work and we have been a little lazy of late - when we do cook, we tend to stick with easy riffs on dishes we have made in the past.  I just don't have the energy to make elaborate meals when I am this busy.  Alex has also been pretty busy with school so he hasn't had the time to cook either so the blog has just been kind of hanging out there all alone.  Sorry blog - I just don't have time for you like I used to.  And I can't see that changing anytime in the near future.  I salute anyone who works full time and still manages to post several times a week, but I don't think I can do it anymore.  Anyway, I kept trying to come up with something really amazing for the blog (rather than the random salads and such we have been making recently), but I finally decided that I needed to just post the next thing I made that was new.

I'm not sure why or how I started thinking about making enchiladas, but this dish has been a few weeks in the making.  It's the end of the summer and a lot of my favorite vegetables (like corn) are about to disappear from the farmers' market so I wanted to take advantage of them while I can for this dish.  I was originally going to make chicken and zucchini enchiladas with salsa verde, but I changed my mind once I saw fresh corn at the market.  I also abandoned the idea of salsa verde once I realized that I had everything I needed at the apartment to make a quasi-traditional red enchilada sauce.  I used a recipe from Homesick Texan for the sauce and then started playing around.  I threw onions, zucchini (also from the farmers' market) and corn in the enchilada filling.  I also added some cilantro stems, which is a recent thing that I secretly love doing.  It's my new little thing.  I didn't feel like going through the process of rolling my enchiladas so I stacked them instead (kind of like a Mexican lasagna with corn tortillas instead of noodles).  And then I threw it all in the oven and baked it.

All things considered, I think this was pretty successful.  We have only made enchiladas once or twice before (and never stacked enchiladas) and I'm always pretty happy with myself when we are winging it on something this new and it turns out.  I would probably play with the recipe a bit in the future to make it perfect, but it was pretty good.  The sauce had good flavor - nice and smoky, with some heat without being bitter or gritty.  The vegetables had good flavor too (although you could swap out the veggies we used for whatever was in season).  I had originally worried that the vegetable filling wouldn't be filling enough without some black beans or another zucchini, but I think we ended up with just the right amount (and it was plenty filling).  One thing we did mess up on - we forgot to cover the enchiladas with tin foil for the first 20 minutes, which would have helped the enchiladas stay moister/saucier.  Oops.  That was both Alex's and my chief complaint - that the enchiladas dried out a bit.  I would definitely cover them in the future. 

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Restaurants in 2013

I thought that since summer is quickly drawing to a close that I would post an update on the restaurants that I said I was dying to try in 2013 (and one from 2012).  We're not doing quite as well as last year in knocking restaurants off the list but we are trying!  I made reservations at Torrisi Italian Specialties for mid-September so that will take care of another restaurant.  Go us!  And I am determined to hit one of the Pok Poks, Red Farm and Khe-Yo by the end of the year.  I only have four months left so I had better get cracking.  The others will probably stay on the list for at least another year...  There are a few other restaurants that recently opened that I am dying to try, so I added them at the bottom even though they weren't on the original list.
  1. Brooklyn Fare (still dying to go but it's totally impossible to get reservations and really pricey)
  2. Locanda Verde
  3. Torrisi Italian Specialities and Parm (should also add Carbone and ZZ's Clam Bar)
  4. Empellon Cocina
  5. Pok Pok NY and Pok Pok Phat Thai
  6. Biang
  7. Red Farm (the new UWS location is set to open in late September so I am determined that we will try it by the end of the year)
  8. The Marrow
  9. Roberta's and Blanca
  10. Acme
  11. Khe-Yo
  12. ABC Cocina
Runners Up:  M. Wells Dinette, Pig and Khao, Sripraphai, Boulud Sud, Yunnan Kitchen, Red Rooster 

Runner Up from 2012: John Dory Oyster Bar

Of the restaurants we have tried, I have to say that Biang, Acme, Pig and Khao and Boulud Sud were all very different, but pretty fabulous nonetheless.  The Marrow was good, but not quite as good as the others.  Part of that might be due to the fact that we ate a meal that would have been very well suited to a cold fall or winter day in mid-July, when it was 90 degrees outside.  I should mention that we did have a fantastic corn salad there that might be one of my favorite side dishes for the year.  Yunnan Kitchen and John Dory Oyster Bar are probably the next level down.  The meals I had there were good, with a few memorable dishes, but they couldn't quite live up the meals we had at some of the others.

P.S.  I think it bears mentioning that we went to a number of other fabulous restaurants that weren't open yet when I wrote this list, including Mighty Quinn's Barbecue and Uncle Boon's, both of which are serious contenders for my favorite new restaurants of 2013.  This year's list is going to be a little all over the place because there are some restaurants we visited in Austin, TX (random but true) and Europe that definitely deserve to make the list.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Broccoli Rabe with a Hint of Pork

I was really intrigued when I saw a recipe for broccoli rabe in Naomi Duguid's Burmese cookbook.  Broccoli rabe is not a traditional Asian ingredient so I had to pause and take a look.  I'm a big fan of broccoli rabe, but Alex doesn't enjoy the inherently bitter flavor of broccoli rabe quite as much as I do.  And to be perfectly honest, it took me awhile to learn to like it.  I keep hoping that one day it will grow on Alex too.  Left to his own devices he likely would not have made this recipe, but I took the decision out of his hands by going to the farmers' market near my office and picking up the broccoli rabe specifically to make this recipe.  Unsurprisingly, he said the dish was "fine" but "not his favorite."  I knew going in that would be another dish that I would probably like more than him. There are a few things I can say unequivocally about this dish.  First, it has a lot of flavor.  Broccoli rabe has a lot of flavor in and of itself, but as with the other recipes we have tried from Naomi Duguid's Burmese cookbook, the dish picked up a surprising amount of heat and flavor from simmering for 3-4 minutes.  Second, it seems that all of the recipes from this cookbook are quite... wet.  It seems that the Burmese are really into simmering dishes in very thin sauces.  The Chinese tend to add cornstarch slurries to their stir-fries to thicken the pan juices into a sauce.  They also tend to stir-fry rather than simmer.  Given the dishes we have made from our cookbook, it seems that the Burmese have a different (but equally flavorful) philosophy. 

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Watermelon Gazpacho

For the past few years I have gone on a summertime gazpacho kick.  What tends to happen is that Alex and I make at least 2 batches of gazpacho (some more traditional than others) over the course of the summer and I find it hard to resist gazpacho when it makes its way onto the menu at some of my favorite restaurants.  This summer I have expanded into trying the various take-out gazpacho offerings from my favorite soup and lunch places.  For the record, this summer I have been particularly into the Andalusian gazpacho from Zabar's (which I think is better than their traditional gazpacho).  I'm not exactly sure why, but I have been fixated on the idea of watermelon gazpacho since last summer.  I can't remember ever trying watermelon gazpacho but it sounded delicious, refreshing and oh-so summery.  I looked at a number of different watermelon gazpacho recipes and this recipe from CHOW seemed like a good starting point.  I meant to play with it a little more, but we ended up making it almost exactly as written.  I wish I had played with it a little more because there are a few changes I think I would have made.  I would have cut down on the amount of garlic, used shallot instead of onion and maybe cut down on the amount of vinegar.  Of course it's easy to say that I would have made those changes after the fact, because those are the same changes that I would make after having tasted the gazpacho.  I found the gazpacho slightly harsh and acidic.  I'm not really sure how to explain it, but it had a lingering aftertaste that I didn't find altogether too pleasant.  When I first tasted the gazpacho it didn't immediately strike me as harsh or acidic, but the more I ate, the more those flavors seemed to intensify.  We let our gazpacho hang out in the fridge overnight on the theory that the flavors could really meld that way and maybe that was the problem?  Maybe this is the type of soup you need to eat right then and there because given too much time the flavors overdevelop?  Who knows.  Either way, this wasn't our most successful gazpacho ever.  I am thinking that for our next gazpacho experiment we will make this Cucumber Gazpacho with Shrimp and Melon, which I considered (and discarded) for this batch because I decided I wanted a gazpacho that was more melon and less other stuff.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Heirloom Tomato Salads (Take 2) - Shirazi Salad and Heirloom Tomatoes with Black Garlic and Basil Vinaigrette

For the past few weeks I have been going a little crazy with the heirloom tomatoes at the farmers' market.  I can't help myself.  Ever since I discovered just how wonderful heirloom tomatoes can be I have been a little obsessed.  Between the heirloom tomatoes and the fresh corn at the farmers' market I have a bad habit of focusing on them to the exclusion of all other vegetables.  And then I have to scramble to find new and interesting recipes to use all of the corn and heirloom tomatoes ASAP because neither of them have a good shelf life.  If I were a more strategic farmers' market shopper I would only buy ingredients with a better shelf life - like zucchini and/or eggplant.  Anyway, I bought somewhere between 2 and 3 lbs of heirloom tomatoes at the farmers' market last Friday and then had to figure out what to do with them over the weekend.  I wanted to try something new and since we had a lot of tomatoes, I decided to make a recipe from our Susan Feniger cookbook (Heirloom Tomatoes with Black Garlic and Basil Vinaigrette) and a recipe that I had bookmarked from Bon Appetit for shirazi salad with heirloom tomatoes.  There is an heirloom tomato tart recipe that I have been dying to make, but it's just too time/labor intensive.  I am going to try to make it before the end of the summer but I make no promises.  The other thing that keeps me from making the recipe is that it requires turning on the oven, which is the absolute last thing I want to do on a hot summer day, no matter how delicious the end results might be...

Alex and I disagree over which recipe we preferred, which happens from time to time.  He preferred the Susan Feniger recipe, whereas I preferred the shirazi salad.  As soon as I took a bite of the shirazi salad I knew it wasn't going to be his favorite.  Alex has a healthy suspicion of parsley and dill when used in abundance and Middle Eastern cuisine can be a little aggressive in its usage of parsley.  I really like the flavors of both, so I didn't have a problem with it but I wasn't surprised to hear that it wasn't his favorite tomato salad ever.  If you look at the picture after the break you will see how heavily herbed this dish was.  As for the Susan Feniger recipe, it was very tasty.  I always love the combination of tomatoes and basil.  But I didn't think it really distinguished itself from other tomato-basil salads we have made.  Perhaps if we had the black garlic (which has a pretty distinctive taste) it would have made more of an impression?  I don't know.  Our tomatoes also had a ton of juice so they thinned out the vinaigrette a lot and it didn't really coat the tomatoes as well as I had hoped.  Perhaps we should have drained some of the tomato juice first but I didn't want to waste any of the tomato-y goodness...  It was delicious (as far as I am concerned, it would be nearly impossible for a salad made with ripe heirloom tomatoes, basil and balsamic to not be delicious) and I would eat it again, but I don't think it will stand out in my mind in comparison to all of the other heirloom tomato salads.  If I can track down some black garlic in the coming weeks I will have to try it again (and maybe drain some of the juice) and see if that makes a difference or not. 

I have another 1 1/2 lbs of heirloom tomatoes that I picked up at the farmers' market yesterday.  Later today I will sit down and figure out what I want to make next...

Recipes after the jump!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Chicken in Tart Garlic Sauce and Everyday Cabbage-Shallot Refresher

I don't have a lot of experience with Burmese food, but I got pretty excited when I saw that Naomi Duguid had a new cookbook.  Hot Sour Salty Sweet is one of my favorite cookbooks and I'm always thrilled to try new cuisines and cookbooks, especially when I have reason to think that they might be good.  Given the author and the general beauty of the cookbook I had pretty high hopes from day one.  For our first meal I bookmarked a number of recipes and then let Alex pick which one(s) to make.  One of the great parts of being an attorney is an endless supply of flags and post-its, which I put to good use marking documents (as well as cookbooks).  He picked the chicken and I decided that we should make the simple cabbage-shallot salad to serve on the side.  It didn't occur to me (although it really should have) that both recipes would be on the spicy side.  I'm pretty good at entirely ignoring aspects of a recipe while salivating over it.  I usually do that with the amount of time it will take to make something (long marinades or braises always kill me), but it never really occurred to me just how many cayenne chilis these recipes called for.  Granted, the chicken is much spicier than the cabbage-shallot refresher, but neither one is suitable for people with a wimpy palate.  If you like just a hint of heat, go with the cabbage-shallot salad and maybe cut back on the chili a little.  I would pick an entirely different entree because the spicy punch of the chicken really makes the dish shine.  It's spicy and funky and fun.  The next time I make the chicken I will probably cut the amount of water in half and/or add a little cornstarch slurry to the dish to thicken it up a bit.  The ju-ju (for lack of a better term) is pretty thin and watery, but if you thickened it up a bit I bet it would be delicious.  The chicken itself absorbed a ton of flavor from the ju-ju - heat being one of the predominant flavors, along with the savory flavors of ginger and garlic and the tartness of the lime juice.  It was really good, and very different.

As for the cabbage-shallot refresher, I would totally serve this with both Asian and non-Asian meals (with a few minor twists).  For instance, I could totally see skewing it a little Latin and using it on top of tacos or serving it with enchiladas.  I liked how bright and fresh it was.

Recipes after the jump!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Thai-Style Radish and Watermelon Salad with Sizzling Ginger-Lemongrass Tofu

Clearly I am fickle because I just found my new favorite watermelon salad.  And I think I declared my previous favorite (Hugh Acheson's Watermelon-Feta-Arugula Salad with Serrano Chili Vinaigrette) about two weeks ago.  So it had a short but well-deserved reign.  Both watermelon salads have a wonderful balance of sweet, spicy and savory, but this one won by a nose.  I think it was the addition of the Thai basil and radishes.  I really liked the crunch and the slight peppery flavor of the radishes, as well as the peppery fragrance of the Thai basil.  And the fish sauce.  I don't know.  It just works so well.  I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the radishes with the watermelon, but it worked.  It's light and refreshing, but full of punch Asian flavors.  And Asian flavors beat feta cheese for me 9 times out of 10.  I really enjoy feta cheese but I love fish sauce.  After eating a fairly heavy meal at The Marrow last night (duck schnitzel, crispy kale with scallops and bone marrow with uni anyone?) and greasy Chinese at my desk for lunch, I really needed something light for dinner.  This salad couldn't have been more delicious.  Note to those who don't love spice - you're going to want to cut back on the amount of sambal oelek and chili or seed your chili prior to throwing it in.  Just like Hugh Acheson's recipe, there is some fairly serious kick to this dish.  Another note, if you're a Top Chef nerd like I am, it's kind of funny to compare recipes between Tom Colicchio and Hugh Acheson since they are both judges on the show and Hugh was a contestant on Top Chef Masters a few seasons ago.

We served the watermelon salad with sizzling ginger-lemongrass tofu.  We had a block of handmade firm tofu from The Bridge that I picked up at Fairway that I wanted to use and I wanted something different.  So we went with another recipe from Food & Wine that sounded like it would be a good pairing with the watermelon salad.  If you can find tofu from The Bridge in your local Whole Foods I would highly recommend it.  It had a really nice firm, but still creamy texture and it had more flavor than your average block of supermarket tofu.  It was really good.  I can't wait to try it in other dishes.  As for this dish, it was good.  I'm always surprised how much flavor a dish can pick up by just sizzling some aromatics.  And it did go very well with the watermelon salad.  I would totally make them together again in the future.

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Corn Som Tam with Rock Shrimp

Last June I saw this recipe on Serious Eats for Corn Som Tam and got all excited.  Then life got in the way and before I knew it corn season was over at the farmers' market so I never had the chance to make it.  It was very sad.  But as soon as I saw the fresh corn at the farmers' market this morning I knew we had to make this.  So I spent a little time on my iPhone figuring out exactly what ingredients we needed (the rock shrimp was an impulse buy yesterday afternoon) and we picked up cherry tomatoes, some beautiful haricots verts and corn.  Then I hit the grocery store for more limes and shredded carrots.  It has been a really long time since I have had the time to sit in the kitchen and take my time making a meal from scratch so this was something of a fun zen experience for me.  Most meals of late have been hurriedly thrown together (mostly by Alex, with some fly by assistance from yours truly) in brief breaks between doing work, but I had the whole afternoon to myself today to play in the kitchen.  I made a hell of a mess (and Brady helped by leaving green bean bits all over the floor), but I got to make lunch all by myself!  This might not sound exciting to most of you, but I really miss cooking when work becomes all-consuming.  Don't get me wrong, it's great when Alex cooks dinner because he is a pretty darn good cook, but I miss being able to cook and menu plan at my leisure.  

As far as som tams go, I might prefer the version with green papaya for the interplay of texture and sweetness, but this was a nice summery alternative.  I love Thai flavors, fresh corn salads and great summer produce so this recipe combined a number of things that I enjoy.  I think this would make a really nice component of a larger meal but it's pretty light to be the only dish.  If I had been cooking lunch or dinner for 4 (or more) people, I would have made a larb or maybe this Crying Tiger Grilled Steak to go with the som tam.

Recipe after the jump!

Charred Corn and Zucchini Tacos

Hurray tacos!  I love tacos.  And I love fresh corn.  So I knew this recipe was going to be good.  There are actually a ton of corn taco recipes out there so before fresh corn season ends I hope I have the chance to try out a few more.  This recipe was one of the easier ones out there and didn't require an additional trip to the grocery store.  It also included a number of ingredients that I love (corn, zucchini and cotija cheese) and that are at the peak of their season right now.  I thought these tacos were nice (and very summery), but I'm positive that the perfect corn taco is out there.  I just know it.  I tried the tacos with two different salsas and I thought the salsas added another level of flavor that I really appreciated.  I might try the corn-zucchini filling for quesadillas, enchiladas or tostadas.  And I wonder if some blackbeans would make a good addition?  So many thoughts, so little time left before fresh corn goes out of season...

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tyler Florence's Peach, Mozzarella and Crispy Prosciutto Salad

Here's another salad for you courtesy of the farmers' market.  Work is busy enough that I only have the opportunity to cook/eat 1-2 meals per week at home so I really want to take advantage of the produce at the farmers' market and make great meals when I can.  This salad started with the peaches.  I love the smell of fresh peaches, but I just can't get into eating them solo.  It's the fuzz on the skin that really throws me.  But when you combine fresh peaches with other ingredients in a salad or crostini I really enjoy it.  Go figure.  I was going to make this Grilled Peach Panzanella Salad but I thought it would be fun to try something new.  Since I really liked the combination of prosciutto, peaches and dairy in the crostini I wanted to make a salad that used those ingredients.  This Tyler Florence recipe fit the bill perfectly.  It wasn't the most amazing salad we have made but it was fun and different.  I liked the crispy prosciutto and the fennel.  We don't use fennel a lot, but it is really growing on me.  The anise flavor and the crunch of the fennel works beautifully in a salad.  While the salad was nice, it didn't really come together for me.  If you had a bite with equivalent amounts of every single ingredient in it, it wasn't bad, but if you had a bite without the prosciutto it lacked seasoning/salt.  It was still yummy, but it wasn't quite as delicious as I had hoped for. 

I'm hoping that work will slow down enough for us to make a few more farmers' market-inspired meals.  At the very least I have a few more to post about, including the Corn Som Tam with Rock Shrimp we made this afternoon.

Recipe after the jump.

Watermelon-Feta-Arugula Salad with Serrano Chili Vinaigrette

I know I referenced this recipe weeks ago and promised to post about it.  And then I didn't.  This isn't going to be the longest post ever but I know myself and if I don't get something up about it now it's not going to happen.  So here goes.  This recipe was the first recipe we made from Hugh Achesons' cookbook and I loved it.  The serrano chili vinaigrette is not shy - it's spicy.  But it works really nicely with the sweet watermelon.  If you don't like spice, you should cut the number of chilis in half (or seed some of the chilis).  We like spice so we went whole hog, but I think it would be a little too spicy for a lot of people.  Anyway, I know we have made a number of watermelon salads on this blog (I have a thing for watermelon salad), but this might have been my favorite one ever.  It had a perfect balance of salty, sweet and spice.  Sometimes the cheese can throw off the sweetness and freshness of the watermelon (particularly if your watermelon isn't very sweet), but this salad retained all of the fresh and bright flavors that I love and added some kick.  We did cut back on the amount of cheese slightly, but that was due to the fact that we ran out (not because I made the strategic decision to do so).  I thought the amount of feta was fine as we made it so I will probably continue to use a little less cheese than the amount the recipe calls for in future watermelon salads.  But if you want a fun and funky take on a classic summertime treat, make this salad.  If your tastes are at all similar to mine, you will love it.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Spicy Pickled Tomatoes

I have a new favorite cookbook.  I know it's a little ridiculous to call something my new favorite cookbook when I have only made a salad and a condiment from it, but I LOVED both of those dishes.  And the only reason I bought the cookbook is because it was on sale at Anthropologie.  I didn't even realize they sold cookbooks but it was on sale, the pictures inside were pretty and Hugh Acheson is perhaps my favorite Top Chef judge of all time.  So I bought it.  And I am genuinely (and thoroughly) excited by a number of recipes so it worked out really nicely.  Stay tuned.  If I had my way (instead of work having its way with me) I would have made at least 3-4 other recipes from the cookbook already.  I have 4-5 more recipes already bookmarked that I want to make as soon as possible.  I promise to make more as soon as I can.  I guess I should mention the name of the cookbook sooner or later - it's A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for your Kitchen by Hugh Acheson.  It helps that I am in a Southern phase recently - this weekend we had great meals at Maysville and Mighty Quinn's Barbeque.  I didn't take any pictures since we were at both restaurants with friends, but they were both totally yummy.  Every year summer hits and I start thinking about Mexican food and Southern food.  I want tacos, barbeque, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread and beer.  And tonight, Alex really wanted grilled cheese, which isn't exactly Southern, but it's not not Southern?  I had mentioned grilled cheese as a natural pairing for these pickled tomatoes when I asked Alex to make them last week, but I didn't know that Alex was going to get so fixated on the grilled cheese idea.  I went to the farmers' market this afternoon after the gym and was ready to make a peach, prosciutto and mozzarella salad for dinner but Alex was dead set on the grilled cheese with spicy pickled tomatoes idea.  I picked a rather labor-intensive grilled cheese recipe from Serious Eats that I saw a few months ago because I always feel like our grilled cheese sandwiches aren't as crispy as I want.  This grilled cheese took awhile, but it was perfect.  And I do mean PERFECT.  As far as methods go, I don't think it can be improved upon.  I might experiment with adding new ingredients in with the cheese (or try other cheeses or types of bread), but I have never had such a nicely cooked grilled cheese.  And the spicy pickled tomatoes were delicious.  It was such a fun play on grilled cheese with tomato soup (or ketchup).  The acidity and heat of the tomatoes really complimented and cut through the richness of the grilled cheese.  I can't wait to try these tomatoes in other dishes - I'm thinking cornmeal-crusted chicken breasts or sauteed chicken breasts.  I don't know, but I think these tomatoes are the perfect thing to keep in the fridge at all times to really jazz up a meal.

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Europe 2013: Spring versus Volta

It seems a little odd to mention these two restaurants (and pit them against each other) in one post but the comparisons were inevitable.  For our Europe trip, I wanted to play things by ear for the most part, but I did want to try to plan two nice dinners - one in Paris (obviously) and one in Belgium.  I left Alex to make the plans for Belgium (picking the restaurant, making the reservations, etc.) and I took care of Paris.  I had the choice narrowed down to a few different restaurants in Paris (Spring and Septime were the frontrunners) and Alex found a trio of restaurants in Ghent that looked interesting (Volta, De Vitrine and Jef).  I ended up picking Spring and Alex went with Volta.  Both restaurants do a tasting menu and both are comparable in terms of price, so it was natural to compare the two, even if they serve very different food.  Both of these meals were incredibly memorable.  Both were delicious.  But the experiences couldn't have been more different for a number of reasons that I will go into in more detail below.  

If you held a gun to my head and made me choose which restaurant I had to go back to, I think I would pick Spring.  But if you made me pick which overall experience I preferred, I would pick Volta.  In a head-to-head taste off I thought the rankings were as follows:
  • Spring won the amuse-bouches.
  • Spring and Volta tied for the red mullet versus the eel - the eel at Volta was more interesting, but I would be more likely to order the red mullet from Spring again.  I might give a slight edge to Volta because it really was tasty and memorable (as well as interesting).
  • Volta won for the ham (and we can include the fish since there were an uneven number of courses, but it would have won on the ham alone) over the lobster and asparagus dish from Spring.
  • Spring won on the lamb versus the turkey leg.
  • Spring won on the desserts for me, although I much preferred the little cake at Volta to the chocolate tart at Spring.  In the spirit of full disclosure, Alex preferred his cheese plate and the cake at Volta to anything we had at Spring.
More details and pictures after the jump!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Europe 2013: Le Comptoir, L'Avant Comptoir and L'Office in Paris...

When we arrived in Paris I was starving.  I really needed some serious food and a glass of wine.  Traveling does that to me sometimes.  Alex was in even worse shape - not eating enough tends to leave him vaguely nauseous.  I just get cranky.  And I get progressively worse until I am fed.  You don't have to point it out - I am well aware that I'm rather like a 3 year old in that respect.  Unfortunately we arrived the afternoon of the same sex marriage protest and it was nearly impossible to get around.  Luckily our hotel happened to be located near one of the restaurants that we wanted to try.  We got a little lost on the way there but after about 10-15 minutes of walking/wandering we found Le Comptoir.  Only there was a wait for a table.  And we were too hungry to wait.  So we decided to belly up to the counter at L'Avant Comptoir for some wine and snacks.  Alex let me do the ordering while he polished off a crepe from their walk-up window outside.  Actually, Alex let me do the ordering throughout our trip since I speak French and he doesn't.  There were a few mistakes along the way, but I think my French served us remarkably well considering it has been years since I practiced.

Anyway, as soon as I looked at the menu cards dangling from the ceiling I couldn't resist ordering the pate (I have always had a weakness for pate), the pig ears (pate and pigs ears pictured below) and some sardines (pictured above).  I also wanted to order the croquettes, but I wanted to see how big the other dishes were first.  And then I forgot.  I probably ate more pate than you should safely eat in a year but I have no regrets.  It was deliciously porky and fattening.  Strangely enough, the sardines were my favorite of the dishes.  They were buttery, fresh and delicious.  And the butter they used in the sauce wasn't just regular butter but Bordier's salted butter, which is absolutely fantastic.  I loved those sardines.  And I dredged the bread all through the sauce because you really can't waste the butter.  It made me so happy.  Oh and I can't talk about dining in Paris without mentioning the wine.  I had a blast trying a bunch of different wines by the glass.  At L'Avant Comptoir we tried two different reds by the glass, but as the trip wore on we became far bolder about ordering lots of different wines by the glass.  If only the wines in the United States were as wonderfully plentiful, tasty and cheap by the glass.  Or by the carafe.  Being able to buy quality wine by the bottle, large carafe, small carafe and by the glass is amazing.  

More after the jump!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Europe 2013: Second Stop, Paris...

Before I get started I have to give Alex credit for the picture above.  While we were wandering around the Louvre our first day in Paris Alex decided to start messing with the settings on our camera.  Some of the pictures (like the one above) turned out really nicely.  Others were a little more whacky.  But since this photo turned out to be one of my favorites from Paris I'm considering it a photography win.  Sadly we have had our camera for almost 2 years now and this is the first time we have really experimented with some of the settings.  Oops.

Ok, now back to Paris.  Given the number of pictures we took and the amount of amazing food we ate, I am going to have to split Paris into several posts.  This post is going to be about the city in general and will touch briefly on the food, but won't go into a lot of detail about the individual meals we had.  I'll try to post about some of the restaurants we visited in Paris later this week (or over the weekend).  I have TONS of food pictures (what else is new), so that post should be a fun one.  Then again, as far as I am concerned, any post about Paris is a fun one.

More after the jump!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Europe 2013: First Stop, Belgium...

I have been dying (and I do mean dying) to go back to Europe for years.  Alex and I had originally planned to go to the Netherlands and France back in fall 2010, but once I started work that was clearly not going to happen.  And we kept saying that we would go, but a few years went by and it didn't happen.  It's not that we didn't travel from 2010 until now, it's just that we had so many weddings and family vacations to go on which used up all of our vacation time.  Sometime last fall I had finally had enough and I bought us plane tickets to Brussels.  After some negotiation Alex and I decided that we would go to Belgium (his choice) and France (mine).  I am firmly of the belief that Paris is one of the best cities on Earth.  When I studied abroad in college I was in the south of France, but I couldn't get over how much I loved Paris.  I love the food, I love the museums, I love the parks, I love the city...  I just love every single thing about it.  If it were up to me we would have spent the entire 10 days in France, but Alex wanted to go somewhere new.  After some discussion we decided on Belgium.  And then we started researching three things - chocolate, beer and mussels.  Let's be honest, I focused on the chocolate and to a lesser degree, the mussels.  Alex focused on the beer. 

More after the jump!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Back from Europe!

Hi everyone.  I feel like there have been an inordinate number of apologies on here lately, but I owe you another one.   Before we left for Europe I had grand intentions of posting a few recipes and posting a teaser of our trip to come.  And then life (mostly work) got in the way.  Apparently the road to Europe is paved with good intentions just as much as the one to hell.  Luckily neither work nor life interfered with our trip to Belgium and France!  I promise that this weekend I will sort through our pictures and everything from Europe and put up a few posts.  Until then, this picture of the sun setting over the Seine in Paris will have to do.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Kohlrabi (or Daikon) Salad with Sesame Oil

Kohlrabi is one vegetable that I just can't into.  It's fine.  But I'm just not sure that it is worth the trouble to peel and cook at home.  The flavor and texture is vaguely turnip or potato-like and since I'm just not that into turnips or potatoes, it makes it hard for me to really enjoy kohlrabi.  The first time we tried to cook kohlrabi at home we didn't peel off enough of the outer layer, which was incredibly fibrous and hard.  The second time we roasted it with garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano.  It was pretty tasty that way, but it was pretty ugly so we didn't bother to take pictures and post the recipe.  This recipe is obviously more photogenic and it is also pretty tasty, but it didn't blow me away.  We made this recipe previously with daikon and I think I liked both the crunchier texture and the slightly peppery flavor of the daikon better in this dish.

Recipe after the jump!

Spaghetti with Crab, Lemon and Chili

For some reason on our last trip to Cost Co I decided to pick up a can of jumbo crab.  I say "for some reason" because I am not actually a huge fan of crab meat in things.  I love crabs.  But I think that, at least for me, the whole experience of cracking and picking apart crabs smothered in Old Bay and drinking a beer is what makes crab worthwhile.  It should be messy and un-refined.  I also really enjoy a good Dungeness crab from time to time, but again it's the experience of eating the whole crab that I really enjoy.  I will also occasionally eat crab cake, but I am very picky about my crab cakes.  Growing up in Maryland can turn people into total crab cake snobs.  I also love soft shell crabs in a number of different preparations (fried Asian soft shell crabs rock my world).  But crab on pasta just didn't do it for me.  I have wanted to try a pasta with chilis and crab for a long time.  And maybe we just didn't do a very good job with it.  But I thought the flavor of the chilis totally overpowered the flavor of the crab and the basil.  It was fine (and we both cleared our plates), but I wouldn't make it again.  Luckily we have just under a pound of crab meat leftover so I think we are going to make some crab cakes for dinner.  Here's hoping that the crab cakes turn out better than our pasta...

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Gooey Cinnamon Cake

Recently I have spent dozens of hours reading a number of different Paris food blogs in preparation for our trip to Paris at the end of May.  Most of the blogs are dedicated to the Parisian restaurant scene, but David Lebovitz's blog is dedicated to dessert and Paris.  All of the blogs get me all worked up like a little kid on Christmas Eve or like Alex after eating dessert too late at night (i.e. bouncing around and unable to sleep).  We currently have reservations at a few restaurants and I'm pondering my options for our remaining meals.  I'm having trouble narrowing it down because I want to eat everywhere, but I'm going to have to make some tough decisions soon.  I can't wait.  But enough about that - back to David Lebovitz.  I stumbled across his Gooey Cinnamon Cake recipe a few months back but the number of steps/layers that it involved was sufficient deterrent to keep me away.  But I kept coming back to it.  I'm not sure what it was about this cake recipe that kept bringing me back for another look but after my 10th visit I decided that I had had enough.  And that is the story behind this cake.  It's not much of a story, but this cake was inspired by our upcoming trip to Paris (in a rather backwards and roundabout way).

I'm not sure what I expected the cake to taste like, but it strongly reminded me of coffee cake.  And I'm not a huge fan of coffee cake, but I found this cake to be strangely delicious.  Other bloggers have said that these cake squares reminded them of snickerdoodles, which makese sense given the prevalence of the cinnamon.  I expected the upper layer to be a little more buttery and gooey-er than it actually was, but that didn't bother me.  And it did become gooey-er after a day or two.  All in all I considered it to be a very pleasant cake.  It tasted (and looked) homemade and just struck me as a very simple dessert (notwithstanding how long it took me to put it together).  I could see making it if I ever had people over for brunch.  It didn't blow me away and I wouldn't make it the centerpiece of a dinner party, but I think brunch would be the perfect opportunity to make it again.  Then again, I might prefer a french toast bread pudding, which would be equally brunchy and potentially more scrumptious...

Recipe after the jump!

Miso-Marinated Chicken Breasts and Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes with Scallion Butter

For the record, Alex rocks.  Sometimes my job explodes and I basically disappear.  I would say that it's like magic, only the use of the word "magic" makes it sound fun and exciting when it is often exhausting for both of us.  Last Sunday he did the laundry, made us both dinner and cleaned up after dinner while I was on an epic conference call for work from 6:00 pm to nearly midnight.  And that's after I basically worked all evening on Saturday as well.  He also made me this Red Cabbage Salad with Warm Pancetta-Balsamic Dressing for lunch.  I picked out all of the recipes and bought most of the ingredients, but he handled everything else and there is a lot to be said for a meal magically appearing in front of me while I tap away at my laptop.  It's pretty awesome.  This meal started with the Japanese sweet potatoes that I picked up at a little Japanese deli near my office.  Once I had the sweet potatoes I needed to figure out what to do with them.  This sweet potato recipe seemed like a perfectly simple recipe to feature the Japanese sweet potatoes but not drown them in sugar and other stuff.  And the chicken naturally followed.  If we were making a miso-scallion butter for the sweet potatoes, why not marinate the chicken breasts in miso and aromatics? 

In some ways this dish was exactly what I needed to get me through that conference call.  It was warm, conforting and had good flavor.  It was also easy to eat one-handed (and relatively easy for Alex to prepare on his own).  I really liked the combination of miso-scallion butter with the sweet potatoes.  The delicate sweetness of the sweet potatoes worked really nicely with the savory butter.  I was surprised by how the texture of the sweet potatoes differed from the American sweet potatoes that I am used to.  The flesh was a little drier and starchier (which required more butter than I typically use with sweet potatoes).  I also liked the marinade for the chicken and was pleasantly surprised by how much flavor the chicken picked up.  I could imagine using these chicken breasts in a number of dishes.  They would be delicious either in a salad or a sandwich.  They were also quite nice as a stand alone entree.  They didn't have any noticable heat to them, but I was ok with that.  I think that the addition of more Korean red pepper flakes would have detracted from the overall comforting quality of the dish.  And after hour 3 of my conference call I was dying for some comfort.

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