Monday, January 27, 2014

Roast Salmon and Broccoli with Chili-Caper Vinaigrette

I always have my eyes peeled for new salmon and chicken recipes.  I have my favorite recipes, but I can't help thinking that there might be something better (or just different, but still worth trying) out there.  When I have a really nice thick wild salmon fillet I want to sear it and eat it medium-rare, but when the salmon doesn't seem quite as fresh or it's not quite as thick, I like to roast it. This time the salmon was a little too skinny for searing so I decided to roast it.  And then I poked around online for a bit.  The thing that really drives me nuts about salmon is how many people seem to love it lacquered or glazed with some sort of random and quasi-Asian sauce.  I feel like every third recipe I found either called for teriyaki sauce or sugar/maple syrup/honey in the marinade or glaze.  I have been suckered into one or two of those recipes and regretted it every time.  I don't want my salmon to be sticky sweet - sweet fish just doesn't do it for me.  I also don't want dairy with my fish (unless it's lox and cream cheese on a bagel).  I will make an exception for creme fraiche (on rare occasion) and butter is always fine, but I can't understand the combination of mayonnaise and salmon.  It just weirds me out.  

This recipe, which I had considered making a few times in the past, looked both easy and intriguing, which is a really nice combination for a meal mid-week.  More importantly, it didn't trigger any of my instinctive aversions (i.e. there was no mayonnaise, teriyaki or sugar required).  When we were making dinner and I saw the chili-caper vinaigrette I was a little worried that the elements of the dish wouldn't really work together.  The combination of jalapenos, rice wine vinegar, capers and evoo just seemed (and looked)... strange.  But once you put it all together the flavors worked surprisingly well together.  One commenter on Epicurious called the combination of flavors "surprisingly delicious" and that's exactly how I felt.  I thought it would be interesting at the very least, but I didn't have high expectations.  I used the vinaigrette pretty sparingly because I didn't want it to overpower the flavor of the salmon and I thought that the bright, briny and slightly spicy flavor worked really nicely with the richness of the salmon and the slightly nutty flavor of the roasted broccoli.  This recipe won't replace my favorite Salt and Pepper Salmon, but I can definitely see us making it again - it's easy and tasty.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rodrigo-Style Fish Tacos

I wanted something healthy and easy for dinner tonight after feasting on black and white cookies and other baked goods today and immediately thought of seafood.  So I sent Alex off to pick up some chicken for tomorrow night's dinner and headed to the seafood counter.  Fairway had some wild striped bass fillets that looked really nice and decided that we should make fish tacos.  I love tacos.  And I love seafood.  So it is natural that I try to combine the two fairly regularly.  I found the recipe for Rodrigo-Style Fish on Serious Eats several months ago, but we never got around to making it.  I looked at it while at the grocery store and decided that we could make some variation on it and turn it into tacos.  I didn't read far enough to see that the author already suggested serving the fish with corn tortillas, but clearly we were on the same wavelength.  Since the striped bass I picked out looked so nice I adapted the cooking method to basically season it with salt and pepper and sear it using another recipe/cooking method that I found online for perfect seared fish.  I highly recommend trying the cooking method for the fish.  Our striped bass was beautifully cooked, with a wonderfully crispy skin and a moist, flaky flesh.  It was perfect.  This fish would have worked with a just a squeeze of lemon, but I thought the sauce was a really nice touch - full of citrus and herbs.  I never would have thought to use Maggi sauce because when I think of Maggi sauce I think soy sauce and Asian food, but it added a nice saltiness to the fish.  I'm a huge fan of this recipe.  I would definitely try both the fish and the tacos again separately and together, and also with other types of fish depending on what is fresh.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spicy "Fried" Chicken Spinach Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

We have made a bunch of variations on this salad before with our Spicy "Fried" Chicken Cutlets.  We tend to vary the type of greens, the dressing and the veggies that go in the salad, but this might be my favorite combination yet.  I thought the buttermilk dressing was really nicely fresh and tangy and it worked really well with the spicy "fried" chicken.  I have always been hesitant to use mayonnaise in salad dressing, but it worked beautifully here.  Now that I have learned my lesson I won't be such a chicken in the future when it comes to using mayonnaise in my salad dressings and/or sauces.  You can include any number of veggies (we had cucumbers and radishes in the fridge) and any salad green (baby spinach this time) so consider those ingredients as mere suggestions, but I highly recommend the combination of the dressing and the chicken!

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Restaurants to Try for 2014 and My Favorite Restaurants of 2013

My restaurants that I am dying to try in 2013 (in no particular order, except that restaurants that have been on the list since last year are at the top) are:
  1. Brooklyn Fare (still dying to go - maybe one day) 
  2. Parm and Carbone (we made it to Torrisi Italian Specialties and it was amazing) 
  3. Empellon Cocina
  4. Pok Pok NY (we really enjoyed Pok Pok Phat Thai
  5. Roberta's and Blanca
  6. Fung Tu (I love Nom Wah so why wouldn't I love this upscale version?)
  7. Alder (I have made and canceled reservations at Alder 3-4 times now but I am determined to go by the end of February) 
  8. Mission Cantina (Alex went but I didn't get to go) 
  9. Pearl & Ash
  10. Estela 
Runners Up:  M. Wells Dinette, Sripraphai, Perla, Charlie Bird, Toro, Betony, Sushi Nazakawa, The Cecil, Contra

More after the jump!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Lablabi (Tunisian Chickpea Soup)

Sometimes I pick out a recipe and I don't expect much from it.  Take this recipe for instance.  I thought it would be good, but mostly I wanted another easy vegetarian recipe and I got suckered in by the poached egg in the photo.  I'm such a sucker for poached eggs.  Runny egg yolk is my jam.  And yes, I know I sort of mis-used that term.  So I sent Alex the recipe and said "hey, we should make this sometime."  And then we both proceeded to not do anything about it until New Years Eve rolled around and I wanted a simple dish to make for lunch that didn't require too many ingredients from the grocery.  Luckily, we had everything we needed in the fridge.  In the spirit of full disclosure, if we had been short on eggs I would have made a special trip to the grocery store just to get eggs.  There was no way that I was going to make this soup without poached eggs.  It was one of the "optional enhancements" listed in the original recipe but I think it is totally crucial.  Even if I weren't obsessed with poached eggs I would think it was crucial for the recipe as a whole.  Without the egg the soup lacks body and richness.  As the egg yolk melts into the soup it makes the broth a little creamier.  And while we're on the topic, I think the harissa is another necessary element.  If you don't like heat, just add a little, but I think that without harissa you will be missing out.  The same goes for the fresh herbs - the parsley and mint gave the soup some brightness and freshness.  But if you absolutely had to pick one thing to leave out, I would leave out the herbs.  Or the drizzle of evoo.  You could leave that out too. But if you make the soup and add the egg and harissa you will be pleasantly surprised by just how tasty the soup is.  Don't get scared when you taste the chickpeas by themselves prior to adding the garnishes.  They taste a little bland, but the broth is delicious.  And the soup as a whole with the addition of the garnishes is warm and comforting, not to mention really tasty.

Recipe after the jump!

Spanish Roast Chicken with Romesco and Grilled Onions

I'm not sure how or why I ended up deciding that roast chicken or roast duck would be the perfect meal for New Years Eve, but I got it in my head that I wanted to roast a whole bird of some sort and I went to Fairway to buy both.  And then I looked at the recipes I wanted to make and decided that we would make the chicken for New Years Eve and make the duck on January 1.  We had to re-evaluate the duck and push it back until the weekend because the bourbon-pickled jalapenos need to pickle for 3 days so I'll report back sometime this weekend on how the duck worked out.  I'm pretty excited.  

Anyway, it has been a long time since we last roasted a whole chicken.  For the most part we roast bone-in chicken breasts because it is far less time and labor-intensive than roasting a whole chicken.  It also seems a little wasteful to roast a whole chicken when I'm really only interested in the breasts.  But every once in awhile we give it a shot.  And this recipe has me totally inspired to go out and roast more whole chickens.  It was delicious - the smoked paprika rub gave the chicken a really wonderful smoky, earthy flavor.  We were both a little worried when we pulled the chicken from the oven that it would be totally overdone (just look at how brown the skin is) but it wasn't at all.  The chicken was moist and juicy.  And when you ate it with the romesco (which was wonderfully smoky, bright and acidic and ever so slightly spicy) it was delicious.  I also loved the grilled scallions on the side.  We had some king oyster mushrooms in the fridge that I wanted to use so we threw them on the grill too while we were grilling up the scallions.  They kind of look like sunchokes in the picture, but they were mushrooms.  I can't wait to bust this recipe out at some future date.  There is more than enough romesco for 2 whole chickens.  I think if I were to have 4-6 people over I would cook two chickens, double the number of scallions, grill up some more mushrooms and serve it all with a salad and some nice bread.  Done.  Maybe I would start off the meal with some cheese and some Marcona almonds, but it would be a totally wonderful and relatively simple meal.  Now that I am back into the whole roast chicken game, there is an Ina Garten roast chicken recipe that I have been meaning to try for awhile that might just be my next attempt...

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chocolate-Bourbon Tart

This year Alex and I were responsible for bringing dessert for dinner on Christmas Eve with his cousins.  Given Alex's love of all things bourbon and my love of all things chocolate, this dessert seemed like the natural choice.  Note to self - next time I decide on a "simple" dessert recipe based purely on the number of ingredients, I should also take a gander at the steps.  Because this recipe wasn't hard, but it took a LONG time to put together.  First you make the pastry for the tart shell, then you chill, then you blind bake, then you cool, then you bake some more, then you chill again...  It goes on more like that for awhile.  But, this tart has one of the best tart shells that I have ever tried.  It has a lot of steps, but it is totally worth it.  It has great rich, chocolatey flavor and just the perfect amount of sweetness/saltiness.  It also had a really lovely texture - flaky, without being dry.  I know that I'm not doing it justice, but I honestly can't think of the right words to use to describe it.  Pastry just isn't my forte.  I am definitely going to save it for future tart-making experiments.  I was a little nervous that the filling would be too bourbon-y, but it wasn't at all.  The filling was darkly chocolate-y and the bourbon added a nice smoky flavor and depth.  If I didn't know that the bourbon was in there I'm not sure I would have recognized it, but I would have known that it was definitely not a straight-up chocolate filling.  The filling isn't too sweet and it has nice smooth texture.  Some tart fillings are too ganache-y, while others are too custard-y.  This filling was almost like a textural cross between a custard and a brownie.  It was interesting.  I didn't like the filling quite as much as I liked the crust, but it was quite pleasant and I would make it again.  It would be a really good addition to any potluck or holiday dinner with multiple desserts.  I might try it with other flavors and/or liquors - some orange zest or Grand Marnier would be an interesting twist.  And stout could work with a few minor modifications.  We served the tart with vanilla ice cream, which provided some additional creaminess and sweetness.  I thought it was a really nice and festive combination.

Recipe after the jump!

Happy New Year! And resolutions for 2014...


It has been a really long year.  We have traveled a decent amount - we started off the year with skiing in Vermont and then a month later we were skiing in Tahoe, which we followed up with a trip to Austin the following weekend.  And then we had a few low key months before we headed to France and Belgium in May.  Then there were trips to visit the family in Cincinnati, Maryland and Philly.  Last but not least, my mother and I went on a girls' trip to Hawaii.  By December I had almost nothing left in the tank and I knew I would probably have to work so we hunkered down in NYC for the holidays.  We already have a number of trips planned for early 2014 (starting with a trip to Arkansas in less than 2 weeks and then skiing in Whistler in early March)  And work was crazy again, but I guess I should just accept that work will always be crazy (at least during the last quarter of the year).  I worked until 3am on Sunday night, which basically meant that when Alex asked me last week what I wanted to do for  New Years Eve I told him that literally all I wanted to do was sit on the couch with him and Brady and a bottle of champagne.  I was way too pooped to even think about making plans for NYE.  And I wanted to cook dinner because I haven't been able to really plan and execute a meal in forever.  Those were my only requests.  What little cooking we have done in the past few months has been last minute and scavenger-esque.  It involves a lot of opening the fridge and realizing there is absolutely nothing in there and then throwing together what we can. And the very few meals that we planned in advance ended up being ok, but nothing special.  So I was a little discouraged and a little over it.  And given how much I was working and how little time I had to play around on the blog, it seemed like a total waste of time to blog about those paltry few and merely passable meals.  It got to the point where I told Alex that I was thinking about shutting down the blog entirely.  But the dishes that we cooked on New Years Eve (both the soup we made for lunch and the roast chicken we made) were really good.  And I got a few new cookbooks that I have high hopes for (including Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee)So my goal for 2014 is to cook when I can, post recipes when I can (and when I think the dish was worth it) and leave it at that.  I'm hoping that 2014 will be a little slower at work so I will have more time to plan meals in advance and make recipes that interest me.  I'm also hoping to have more time to try new restaurants (although we did a pretty good job of that this year) and return to some oldies but goodies.  Anyway, this was all a slightly meandering and long-winded way of saying I'm sorry that I haven't been around and that I will try to do better next year.  Here's to 2014!