Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cumin Seed Roasted Cauliflower with Yogurt

In case you couldn't tell, I am still clearly in the midst of my cauliflower obsession.  But this is our last cauliflower dish for the week.  I think.  I try to plan out all of my meals for the week over the weekend, but I rarely stick to my plan.  Sometimes I just can't find an ingredient and end up scrapping or revamping a dish.  Sometimes I end up picking up some random ingredients that I have to cook ASAP that bump another dish off the menu.  And then sometimes work comes up and messes up my plans.  This week I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do towards the end of the week, but everything came together really well.  I picked up a bunch of nice fish at Citarella on Tuesday and I really wanted to cook some of it.  So we had the striped bass on Tuesday and on Friday we cooked up some Salt and Pepper Salmon to go with this cauliflower.  I had originally intended for this cauliflower dish to go with a nice bowl of stracciatella soup, but since we made Smoky Shrimp, Hominy and Tortilla Soup on Thursday and I bought those nice organic salmon fillets we went with the salmon instead.

This recipe came from one of the cooking blogs that I read regularly - Smitten Kitchen.  The blog always has beautiful pictures and wonderful recipes.  This recipe was featured recently and I knew I had to make it because it incorporated a lot of flavors that I know work together well.  I really liked this cauliflower dish just like I thought I would.  It had a lot of interesting flavors that worked together very nicely.  I wouldn't say that it was my favorite cauliflower dish that we have ever made, but if I had to give it a letter grade I would give it at A-. I told Alex that this was the type of dish that if I happened to have the ingredients in the apartment (or if I happened to be at the grocery store conceptualizing dinner and picking up a few necessary things) I would be excited and happy to make it again, but I might not make a special trip to the grocery store to pick up ingredients specifically for it.  I think that make sense.  It made sense in my head.

Recipe after the jump!

Smoky Shrimp, Hominy and Tortilla Soup

I have had many bowls of chicken tortilla soup over the years, but I have never come across shrimp tortilla soup.  So when I saw this recipe for Shrimp, Hominy and Tortilla Soup I was intrigued.  I love tortilla soup and I love making soups with hominy in them.  Whenever I make chicken chili or chicken tortilla soup I throw in a can of hominy for kicks.  The hominy gives the soup body without feeling quite as heavy or starchy as potatoes or as dense as beans.  If you haven't noticed before, I am not a huge fan of beans.  I try to eat them and enjoy them because they are so healthy, but for the most part I don't want them anywhere near my food.  I do like white beans and every once in awhile I surprise myself by liking black beans.

This recipe had a really great flavor to it and a nice balance of ingredients.  It's also really nice because it can be made with staples in your pantry.  Most people might not consider hominy or chipotles to be pantry staples, but we almost always have them in the pantry.  Sometimes we run out and forget to restock, but we keep them on hand in most normal circumstances.  The same goes for shrimp, cilantro and tortillas.  Using homemade chicken stock would obviously be awesome if I had some, but boxed stock still gives the soup a lot of flavor.  Don't forget to squeeze in the lime juice and the tortilla strips to the soup, because they make all the difference in terms of flavor and texture.  Actually, the tortilla strips were the only thing in the dish that really disappointed me.  Air drying them like that was super easy and you ended up with fairly crispy tortilla strips, but the tortilla strips lacked any real flavor.  I would prefer to fry them up like we did with our Mache and Avocado Salad with Tortilla Strips for the same (or slightly better) crunch and more flavor.  I say slightly better crunch because by frying the tortilla strips you get the real crispness of a chip, whereas by air drying them they feel crispy, but a little stale.  Even with the slightly disappointing tortilla strips, I thought the soup overall was very successful.  I would definitely make it again and I might try using almost the same recipe with rotisserie chicken instead of shrimp for a variation on the recipe.

Recipe after the jump!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peppered Tuna and Hoisin Dipping Sauce with Asian Cucumber Salad

Alex and I made a trip out to Costco today and stumbled upon some thick cut amazing tuna steaks.  They were beautiful.  So we decided to pick some tuna steaks up and make them for dinner!  This has been a very seafood week for us - striped bass one night, then shrimp, then salmon last night and now tuna.  Up until now the shrimp was my favorite dish, but this tuna has supplanted it as my favorite.  Everything about the dish just works.  The recipe was supposed to come with Asian guacamole instead of an Asian cucumber salad, but it is foul outside (wintry mix in late October is not my friend) and we didn't want to go pick up avocados.  We picked up some Persian cucumbers today while we were at Costco and I think cucumbers go really well with seared tuna.  I briefly considered doing asparagus instead, but decided that cucumbers would be the better choice.  So we went with cucumbers and I was not disappointed with our choice at all.  It was fabulous.  The cool and vinegary cucumbers were the perfect contrast to the warmth and spice of the Sichuan peppercorns and star anise of the tuna, and the richness of the hoisin dipping sauce.  Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by the cucumbers.  Sometimes cucumber salads are so lightly flavored that they are forgettable and only really work when served as an accompaniment to a really flavorful meal.  While the cucumbers were a great compliment because they were refreshing and didn't compete with the flavors of the tuna, they were also tasty enough that they stood on their own.  They were really good.  I would definitely make them again, with or without the tuna.  And I definitely plan on making the tuna again.  Maybe next time we will make the Asian guacamole that Susan Spicer intended to go with the dish.  I think if we fried up some dumpling wrappers as if they were tortilla chips to eat with the guacamole that would be pretty fabulous.  This was a really excellent meal - one of my favorites that we have made recently.

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grilled Striped Bass with Indian-Spiced Tomato Salad

Until earlier this year I had never really heard of Floyd Cardoz.  I vaguely knew he was a chef in NYC, but I didn't know where or what kind of food he cooked.  Then he competed on Top Chef Masters (and won) and all of a sudden my interest was really piqued.  Unfortunately I never got to experience his food at Tabla, but I was pretty excited when I found out that he was participating in Meatopia 2011.  His roasted kid goat dish there did not disappoint.  I can't wait until I can try his dishes in an actual restaurant.  Luckily for those of us who live in NYC, Floyd will be heading up Danny Meyer's upcoming North End Grill (originally scheduled to open around the end of the year, but I have no idea when it will actually open).  Until then, I found this recipe online and decided that it sounded interesting.  

And guess what - it was really interesting.  I thought the combination of herbs (rosemary and basil) and spices (coriander and black peppercorns) was totally unique.  Heirloom tomatoes and basil are a natural pairing, but to add toasted coriander, peppercorns and fresh ginger was a different touch that lent some warmth and spice.  I really enjoyed it.  And I thought that the combination of the moist, white fish and the spiced heirloom tomato salad was really wonderful.  I was worried that the flavor of the rosemary would be a little overwhelming, but since there was so little rosemary and most of it didn't adhere to the fish you only had a hint of rosemary flavor.  My only complaint was that grilling the striped bass in a grill pan didn't crisp up the skin as much as I wanted.  In the future I would sear the bass in a skillet like we did with our Seared Sea Bass with Pan-Roasted Cauliflower to get some seriously tasty, crispy skin.  In my opinion flaccid fish skin is just gross.  In order for fish skin (whether the fish is salmon, bass, etc) to be palatable, it has to be really crispy.  Maybe if we had been using an actual grill this would have worked out better, but until we have access to one of those (and even after we have access) I am going to go ahead and pan-roast/sear our fish in a pan rather than a grill pan.  This is a really nice summery dish and it was a really nice/inventive way to use up some of the last heirloom tomatoes of the season.

Recipe after the jump!

Butternut Squash and Radicchio Pasta

I wasn't going to post about this recipe because I didn't think it was particularly successful, but Alex told me that I should go ahead and post it anyway.  So here I am posting about a recipe with very little to say.  My biggest complaint with this pasta was the radicchio.  Its bitterness is totally overpowering.  In every bite that contained even the smallest speck of radicchio I couldn't taste the sweetness of the butternut squash, the saltiness of the cheese or the buttery toasted pine nuts.  Nor could I taste the sage, which I think is the perfect herb accompaniment to butternut squash.  It was just bitter.  If I were a bigger fan of radicchio I would be a much bigger fan of the dish.  If you are a fan of radicchio then you will (probably) be a bigger fan of this dish than I was.  And that's all I really have to say about that...

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Five-Spice Pork Lettuce Wraps

Once again, this meal was dictacted by the random assortment of ingredients in our fridge/cupboard.  I originally bought the butter lettuce for a Jicama, Radish and Pepita Salad, but then our jicama went bad.  So I was stuck with a thing of really nice butter lettuce from Whole Foods that I needed to use.  We had defrosted the ground pork to make our Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms, which required only 2 oz of ground pork when we had to defrost roughly 3/4 of a pound.  So we had about 1/2 a pound of ground pork to use in addition to the lettuce.  I was originally going to make some sort of Vietnamese pork meatballs for our lettuce wraps, but I got lazy and decided to just saute the ground pork instead.  I added some water chestnuts because I noticed that we had several cans when cleaning out the pantry the other day and wanted to use one up.  Plus I love the crunch that the water chestnuts imparts.  The carrots, cucumbers and cilantro are typical banh mi toppings that I decided to throw on for garnish and added freshness (although I decided not to pickle them), whereas the cashews were there for some more texture and salt.  I'm a big believer that almost every Southeast Asian dish is better off with a healthy squeeze of lime juice and a dollop of sriracha so we served those with the dish as well.

This dish really needs a healthy squeeze of lime juice to make it all come together and pop.  When you get that lime flavor it really comes to life.  Without the lime it is a little boring, but with the lime you can really taste the slightly sweet, floral qualities of the five-spice and the sweetness of the brown sugar.  Add a little dollop of sriracha and you have the heat and acidity of the sriracha, the sweetness of the sugar, the warmth of the five-spice and the sweet tartness of the limes.  Yum.  I seriously considered squeezing two tablespoons of lime juice or so over the entire bowl of pork filling before serving, but I think that in the end being able to customize your wrap is one of the best parts so I served the lime wedges on the side.  Just don't be stingy on the limes or you might be a little disappointed in the filling.  Also, don't buy unsalted cashews on accident like I did because that's just a total bummer when you bite in expecting that salty crunch and instead you just get crunch.  It's very sad.

Recipe after the jump!

Mesclun and Ricotta Salata on Grilled Garlic Toasts

So this dish is a little random.  We ended up making it after I bought some really pretty mesclun blend from 5 lbs of Dirt at the farmer's market.  I know I have blathered on about them before so I am not going to do so again, but anyway, I had these gorgeous greens (with a pretty orange edible flower that I'm pretty sure I didn't eat) and I didn't want to do a plain salad.  I wanted something a little more fun.  And these crostini sounded fun/interesting.  Now I'm not sure that this needed to be eaten as a crostini.  I think I would have been just as happy with the dish (and it certainly would have been easier to eat) if the salad component had been served as a salad with the garlic toasts on the side.  Because what kept happening is that I would pick up my crostini to take a bite and everything would fall off - especially the little heirloom cherry tomatoes.  So I would end up having to eat the mesclun, tomatoes and ricotta salata off the plate with a fork every other bite.  In my mind, if you're having to do that you might as well just keep the salad on the plate and fork up a bite of salad, followed by a bite of bread, and so on and so forth.  With all that said, I thought this was a really nice side or starter.  It was light and fresh and it gave me another recipe to showcase the beautiful greens and some of the last heirloom tomatoes of the season.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cauliflower and Feta Omelet

I'm going through a bit of a cauliflower phase right now.  Every time I go to the farmers' market I end up picking up some more cauliflower, or I have to talk myself out of doing so.   I keep waiting for broccoflower/Romanesco broccoli to show up but I never see it.  A few weeks ago one of the vendors there told me they should have it in 2 weeks, but no such luck.  So I picked up another head of cauliflower today and we decided to use some of it today for this omelet, but save some later for roasting.  The reason we made this omelet tonight is that one of our best friends was visiting for the weekend and we gorged ourselves all weekend on Asian food - ramen, soba, yakitori and Fatty Crab.  We also had bagels, lots of cookies and chocolate.  I needed to reboot my system with some veggies and I didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  So we made an omelet with the cauliflower, plus some parsley and free-range eggs, all of which came from the farmers' market.

This omelet is really easy and really filling.  It also cooks up in a flash.  Neither Alex nor I was particularly hungry this evening for dinner so we shared the omelet and that was plenty for both of us.  We were originally going to make a beet salad with it, but once we ate the omelet we decided to save the beets for tomorrow night.  Since the omelet is so simple, you really have to like the ingredients that go into it.  If you're not a fan of cauliflower, feta or parsley, don't bother.  You could try it with another type of cheese - maybe some romano cheese that you grate into the omelet while it is setting, rather than just sprinkling it over the top once you remove it from the pan.  Or you could season the cauliflower with some garlic and smoked paprika and take it a more Spanish direction with manchego.  There are a lot of options if you want to adapt the recipe to your own preferences.  I thought that sometimes the feta overwhelmed the rest of the dish, whereas Alex found the parsley a little overwhelming.  Both ingredients have pretty intense flavors so if you get a big old bite full of parsley or feta it can be a fairly serious jolt.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I think if I make the omelet again I will probably play with the proportions a little and try different cheeses and/or herbs.

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli

This dish represents everything that I love about Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa).  She makes the best simple variations on classic dishes that I have ever seen.  None of her recipes are earth-shattering or particularly inventive, but they are the types of recipes that you love to make and eat at home.  And I don't mean to be insulting when I say that her recipes aren't earth-shattering or inventive.  It's like she takes the recipes that you know and love - like cheese grits, biscuits and steak sandwiches, and just makes them that much better with a few tweaks here and there.  She really is just that good.  I used to scoff at her show on Food Network because it all seemed so boring, but I can admit now that I was totally wrong to do so.  There is nothing wrong with cooking really simple, but delicious food.  Those two adjectives are not mutually exclusive.  Take this broccoli for instance.  There's nothing groundbreaking about it - you roast it with evoo, s&p and then top it with lemon zest, lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil.  Done.  Simple, right?  And yes.  It is very simple.  But it is also very very good.  It's the type of dish I can see myself eating years from now with my grandkids (which really is years and years away since I don't have kids yet and don't plan on having them anytime soon), loving it just as much then as I do now.  I might try a few tweaks here and there (like adding a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes), but I think I will always return to her base recipes.  Ina Garten writes the type of recipes that you would never outgrow because she doesn't buy into all the gimmicks and trends like most younger chefs.  Her recipes never call for things like sous-vide or immersion circulators.  Nor does she throw together terribly random combinations of ingredients that somehow work together and yet make you question the sanity of the chef behind the dish.  Instead she relies on simple techniques (like oven roasting) and great ingredients and creates really delicious dishes that anyone can make at home, no matter their skill level.  And you have to respect that.

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Grilled Treviso (Radicchio) with Balsamic Vinaigrette

When I was conceiving of tonight's meal I knew I wanted to make our usual roast chicken, but I didn't want to do an arugula salad with it.  I wanted something a little more seasonal - a little different.  So I decided to "grill" up some Treviso radicchio.  I say "grill" because we don't have a grill here in NYC.  Instead I seasoned the radicchio with evoo, s&p and cooked it on the stove top in our grill pan.  Cooking it in the grill pan rather than on a grill means that you miss out on the smokey flavor of the grill, but you get a similar caramelization.  Cooking the radicchio mellows some of the bitterness and the balsamic offsets that natural bitterness nicely.  You really need to use a nice aged balsamic here or it will be more acidic than sweet.  Radicchio still isn't one of my favorite lettuces or veggies and I still prefer a simple arugula salad overall, but this was a really nice change and very seasonal.  The flavor of the grilled radicchio and the balsamic seemed so perfectly autumnal to me.

Recipe after the jump!

Ginger-Cilantro Rice

I love rice.  Even if I didn't love rice, we would eat it all the time in our apartment because Alex is verging on obsessive about rice.  He has eaten big bowls of plain buttered rice before.  Just rice with a little butter, s&p.  That's it.  I'm telling you, he's crazy about his rice.  Because I'm not quite that crazy, this isn't plain buttered rice.  Instead this is a fancy rice tossed with a ginger-cilantro-scallion sesame oil mixture.  I guess the lesson learned is that Alex goes plain and homey, I go fancy.  I really wanted this rice to go with the Miso-Marinated Chilean Sea Bass.  I originally wanted to make brown rice, but I thought that it would be fun to serve the sea bass with a more flavorful/interesting alternative.  I wish there had been a more balanced flavor profile to this rice.  The flavor and aroma of the sesame oil was a little overwhelming.  And it almost tasted a little bitter or acrid.  I assume that is from the sesame oil because there weren't any other ingredients in the rice that could result in that bitter flavor.  I wanted this rice to have more of the flavor of the herbs and less of the sesame oil.  So if I were to make it again I would cut the amount of sesame oil in half.  You could taste the ginger, but not the cilantro or the scallion and those were the ingredients that I really wanted to taste.

Recipe after the jump!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spicy Long Beans with Sausage and Mushrooms

One of the thing I love most about Asian grocery stores is the rather random assortment of fun ingredients like long beans.  I always think about buying them, but I never do because I end up buying pea shoots, yu choy or gai lan.  About a month ago I finally pulled the trigger and bought some.  Then I got busy at work and forgot all about them.  They turned up in the bottom of the crisper about a week or two later, moldy and gross.  Fail.  But I decided this past weekend to try again so I picked up another bunch.  And we finally made long beans!  One of the things that immediately drew me to this recipe (aside form the long beans of course) was the fact that everything in the recipe is a staple that we keep in the pantry or refrigerator.  We didn't have to go out to buy anything.  Go us.  However, this recipe used up the rest of our sesame oil so before we can make it again we need to stock back up.  Here's hoping that I remember to pick up some more sesame oil on my next trip to the grocery...

I am pretty impressed with our first attempt at long beans.  They were really tasty and interesting.  Every time we make a dish with dried shiitake mushrooms I am reminded of just how much I like them as an ingredient.  We made Stir-Fried Rice with Pork and Shiitake Mushrooms back in February that was absolutely delicious, which I totally attribute to the earthy, funky flavor of the mushrooms.  The same held true here - I loved the flavor of the mushrooms.  The preserved vegetables added some funk of their own to the dish too, but in a slightly different way.  The mushrooms are more deeply umami whereas the preserved vegetables are pungently salty and garlicky.  I also thought that the ground pork and Chinese sausage together were a really nice combination.  The Chinese sausage is rich and porky, but sweet and has a nice crisp texture to it, while the ground pork is meaty and homey.  I thought this was the type of dish (with slightly different proportions to be heavier on the green beans and lighter on the meat) that I could totally have seen myself eating in a back alley restaurant in China with plastic stools and little tables set up outside on the sidewalk.  It was totally satisfying and not at all pretentious.  Two thumbs up.  I told Alex that this is my favorite recipe we have made from this particular cookbook yet.  The Five-Spice Chicken with Sugar Snaps was pretty good, but as far as I am concerned this dish was better.

Recipe after the jump!

Miso-Marinated Chilean Sea Bass with Sauteed Asian Greens

So there are a billion different recipes for miso-marinated or miso-glazed sea bass out there.  This was our version.  I picked up some pre-portioned sea bass fillets from Whole Foods and wanted to do something easy and vaguely Asian with them.  I tend to like Chilean sea bass when prepared with Asian ingredients (a combination of ginger, soy, lime and cilantro being my typical marinade/sauce) and flavors, so I decided to stick with similar Asian flavors, but try a different recipe.  So we went with miso, mirin and sake.  And then we served the fish with some Ginger-Cilantro Rice (which I will post about later) and some Asian greens (hon tsai tai - a mild Asian mustard green) sauteed simply with garlic and soy sauce.

I thought the fish was crazy delicious - one of my favorite things we have cooked recently.  It was sweet, but not cloyingly so.  Then there was the miso that shone through the sweetness without overpowering the other flavors.  Most importantly, the fish was very moist and tender - perfectly cooked.  Beyond being tasty, the fish is super easy to make and requires very few ingredients.  Marinating the fish takes a few hours, but the dish is just so easy and the marinade imparts so much flavor that I can't hold the marinating period against it.  I would gladly marinate everything that went through our kitchen if the end result was this good.  As for the sauteed greens, I love Asian greens simply stir-fried with garlic.  This is one of the basic recipes for stir-fried greens that I use and vary depending on my mood and what we have in the fridge.  I wanted it to be super simple to go with the sea bass so all I threw in was garlic, soy and sesame oil.  Sometimes I mix things up with ginger or hoisin or cornstarch to thicken the sauce up.  But not this time.  This time I wanted it to be as basic as could be so I could both taste the hon tsai tai (which I have never tried before and thoroughly enjoyed) and so the flavors didn't compete with the fish or the rice.  The greens weren't as delicious as the sea bass, but I thought they were the perfect simple side for the meal.

Recipes after the jump!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli

After New Hampshire I craved salad - big mounts of leafy greens topped with all sorts of delicious things.  Alex craved soup with a bunch of veggies.  Clearly we were on the same page with the veggie cravings but had very different ideas on how to fulfill those cravings.  So this was a soup I came up with in honor of his request.  I guess I can't say that there were a ton of veggies in here - there was kale, carrots and celery.  That should count for something, right?  And I have been wanting a soup with cannellini beans since it started getting cooler so I wanted those to be in the soup as well.  And since Alex is a huge fan of bacon, I threw that in too.  As a side note, I can't claim credit for this recipe entirely.  I stumbled across the base recipe online somewhere and then played with it a bit (but now I can't seem to find it online so I can't give a shout out to the source of the original base recipe).  Then we made ourselves some soup.  Really good soup.  Some might say it was the ideal soup for the winter - filling and satisfying, with lots of different (but complimentary) flavors and textures.  Or at least the ideal soup for those who don't particularly like most chili recipes.  It was nice to have bites composed of different ingredients that all worked together so well.  I liked the subtle bacon flavor (as well as the texture of the crunchy bacon in the soup) and the creamy, starchy quality of the beans contrasted with the toothsome quality of the al dente orecchiette pasta.  I also really liked the drizzle of evoo on top to give the soup an extra layer of fruity evoo flavor.  It sounds like a really strange thing to add, but if you use nice high-quality evoo it's a delicious addition.  We served the soup with some nice hearty pane pugliese from Sullivan Street Bakery.  I figured some nice crusty bread, toasted and drizzled with more of that evoo, would be the perfect accompaniment to this soup.  If you wanted to, this batch of soup could easily serve a family of four for dinner.  Throw in a small salad and some toasted bread and you have yourself a meal.  For just Alex and I a salad seemed like overkill so we just did the bread and it was more than enough.  We have enough soup left for lunch later in the weekend sitting in the fridge.  I love fall - such perfect soup weather!

Recipe after the jump!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tofu Dengaku (Broiled Tofu with Miso)

What do you do when it's 8:00 pm and you realize that your dinner that you were in the midst of making is going to take another 2 hours?  Well if it's the weekend and you're Alex and I you probably have a snack and stick with it.  But if it's mid-week, you scramble for something else that cooks up in 30 minutes or less.  In this case, you go ahead and broil up some tofu smeared with miso paste.  We have made a similar recipe before with eggplant, but I have been holding onto this recipe for an occasion like last night where you need to whip something up in a hurry for some time.  And man does this cook up in a hurry.  Miso packs such a punch that a little goes a long way - the tofu doesn't require any salt (or additional seasoning) whatsoever.  I think Alex liked the dish a little more than I did, but he generally likes miso more than I do.  For the record, it's not that I disliked the dish in anyway, it's just that I had my heart set on something else and somehow this didn't quite satisfy in comparison.  I also tend to find almost straight up miso a little overwhelming at times.  But no complaints here.  The dish was very quick, super easy and fairly tasty.  What more can you ask for?

Recipe after the jump!

Broccoli Rabe Orecchiette

I must admit that I am not a very inventive vegetarian cook.  When I start thinking about making a vegetarian entree the first thing that comes to mind is pasta.  Pasta is the best vehicle for vegetarian meals ever.  After pasta I default to soups or a random assortment of items together (for instance, Monday night Alex and I had Momofuku Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette with the leftover vinaigrette from our Momofuku Roasted Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette and scrambled eggs for dinner).  I was pretty proud of myself for the vegetarian meal I put together last month of Spinach Salad with Walnuts and Grilled Eggplant with Lebneh.  The meal had a theme and I actually thought it through.  Usually it comes down to what we have in the fridge when I decide that I need to give my system a much needed dose of veggies.  And what we have in the fridge tends to be a little unpredictable at best because I'm a spastic grocery shopper - particularly when you let me loose at a farmers' market.  But this time I had a goal for my vegetarian meal.  I was trying to use up the broccoli rabe I bought at the farmers' market AND use up some of our overabundance of pasta.  Our pasta has started exploding out of our kitchen cabinets again because I keep thinking we are out or seeing a new fun type and buying more.  Oops.  So this one time I didn't just default back to a vegetarian pasta meal - I was specifically aiming to make a vegetarian pasta meal.  Only I decided to throw in some anchovies at the last second, so I guess it's not technically a vegetarian dish, but you can easily omit the anchovies.  I did say they were optional afterall.

This pasta isn't going to win any beauty contests.  Nor is it going to win any accolades for being new and inventive.  And if you don't like broccoli rabe, don't bother with it altogether.  It's a very homey and simple pasta that is easy to throw together.  But I didn't have the time or the energy to put something more complicated together.  It was exactly what I knew it would be.  And yet I have to admit that I spent a lot of the time wishing there was just a little Italian sausage mixed in with the pasta.  I really love broccoli rabe with Italian sausage.  But that would defeat the purpose of making a vegetarian meal.  Granted, anchovies probably defeat that purpose too, but somehow they didn't in my mind when I was conceiving of the dish...

Recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chipotle Turkey Cutlets with Charred Corn Salsa

While Alex and I have hundreds of chicken recipes, we have very few turkey recipes.  Just looking at the blog, we have 50+ chicken recipes and only 9 turkey recipes.  And I would say that is a fair representation of our overall repertoire.  And out of the 9 turkey recipes, only 1 other recipe uses anything but ground turkey or turkey sausage.  All of our other recipes are for turkey meatballs, turkey burgers, turkey meatloaf and various other applications using ground turkey.  But I guess that isn't very surprising considering that the only time you can reliably find turkey breasts or cutlets in your average grocery store is around Thanksgiving.  Otherwise you might find turkey breasts or you might not.  The same goes for whole turkeys.  But our farmers' market has a great turkey farm called DiPaolo Turkeys that I love.  I typically buy their spicy turkey sausage (which I know I have referenced several times on the blog before), but I have been thinking about buying turkey breasts from them for a long time now.  I was initially looking for bone-in, skin-on turkey breasts for a recipe called Turkey with Mint and Hot Chilis from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, but ended up with boneless turkey breasts instead.  Boneless turkey breasts happened to be all they had that day.  But it was surprisingly easy to come up with other recipes that I was interested in making with the turkey breasts I picked up.  This was one of them.  I was initially interested in the recipe because it looked easy and sounded tasty.  It's also a different flavor profile and set of ingredients than we typically use.

I thought the dish was delicious and very successful when you ate all of the components of this dish together with a healthy squeeze of fresh lime juice.  It was bright from the lime juice, slightly spicy and smokey from the chipotle chili powder, and sweet from the corn.  The recipe said that the turkey and salsa should be served with tortillas and steamed, buttered summer squash.  We served it with brown rice instead (and omitted the summer squash), which I thought was very successful.  I liked the dish more than Alex did.  He said it was good.  I thought it was really good - something that I will definitely add to our limited repertoire of turkey recipes.  And since this recipe turned out so well, I am heading back to DiPaolo for more turkey breasts and to the internet for some inspiration for more recipes.

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Back from New Hampshire and Maine!

Alex and I just got back this afternoon from a long weekend in New Hampshire and Maine where I gorged myself on lobster.  And to think that once upon a time I swore that I didn't like lobster.  So it will take a few days to get any new posts up (although I think I have one that I started but never finished before leaving so I might be able to get that up in a day or two), but I promise to post something by mid-week!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Momofuku Roasted Cauliflower with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

In my book, this is one of the absolute best ways to prepare cauliflower.  It's not exactly quick and easy (you have to deep fry cilantro for Pete's sake), but it's so delicious that it is all worth it.  And if you compare the recipe against the other recipes in the Momofuku cookbook, it's really not all that labor intensive.  Some of those recipes are complicated beyond all comprehension.  But man some of them are amazing.  Living in NYC where all of the restaurants are located, there is no need for me to attempt most of the recipes at home when I can just wander down to the East Village and have them in all of their glory.  But some of the recipes (like this one) are definitely worth making the effort of making them at home.  And like I said, this recipe is not as bad as most.

When you are roasting the cauliflower you are going to want to add some salt.  I know I wanted to.  Don't.  It goes against everything I believe in when roasting or cooking to not add salt.  But the fish sauce vinaigrette that you douse the cauliflower in after it roasts will provide more than enough salt and flavor.  Cauliflower is particularly good at soaking up bold flavors.  I'm not sure that the fried cilantro provides anything significant to the dish, but it sure looks cool.  You already get plenty of fresh cilantro flavor from the cilantro stems.  The Rice Krispies tossed in the shichimi togarashi on the other hand add flavor and texture to the cauliflower.  When you combine all of the ingredients together it equals an amazing dish - you have nutty cauliflower, heat, salt, texture, acidity and the brightness of the herbs.  Delicious.

Recipes after the jump!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wonton Noodle Soup (Wonton Mee)

Up until middle school my Chinese grandmother (popo) lived with us.  And I always got excited when my other non-Chinese grandmother came to visit because popo would then make us all homemade wonton soup.  And I loved her wonton soup.  It was amazing.  I wouldn't eat wonton soup at any restaurant, except for one restaurant in Wheaton, MD called Full Kee, because I thought it just didn't compare.  Years later my mom told me that the secret to her wonton soup was the jar of MSG she kept in the pantry.  Whatever her secret was, those wontons were delicious.  And now that popo is no longer with us, I have had to resort to wonton soup or wonton noodle soup (aka "wonton mee") from restaurants for years.  I have found a few decent bowls of wonton mee here in the city, including the one at Great NY Noodletown, but none that are as good at popo's wonton soup or even as good as Full Kee's.  And I can't tell you how many mediocre bowls I have had throughout the years.  But it is still my go-to soup at Chinese restaurants.  It's also a benchmark by which I judge all Cantonese restaurants, although I only order the noodles when I am confident that I am in a true Cantonese restaurant.

This soup was a pretty decent first attempt at homemade wonton soup.  I think the broth needed more depth of flavor (I wish we had added some pork so it wasn't just a chicken stock), but since we made the broth separately that's a whole separate critique.  The next time I make this soup I will whip up another batch of stock with a heartier flavor.  I also wish I had some veggies to throw in the soup because a lot of the time wonton mee has random wilted greens (sometimes baby bok choy) floating in the broth.  But the wontons were pretty darn good for our first attempt.  I was fairly impressed with us.  I did look at Asian Dumplings: Mastering Spring Rolls, Samosas and More for some guidance, but the recipe there was for pure shrimp wontons and I was in the mood for mixed pork and shrimp.  So I decided to just wing it.  I had some trouble deciding on the proportions of shrimp and pork, but decided that 50-50 sounded safe.  And I remembered my popo's wontons tasting like sesame oil and white pepper so I added a decent amount to the wontons themselves and also to the soup.  I can't remember if she used scallions in her dumplings, but I happen to like scallions in my dumplings so I threw those in too.  The soup was a bit labor intensive, but it was comforting and very satisfying.  And for me, it was more than a little nostalgic.  Alex and I both enjoyed it.  If I made it again I would make a few tweaks here and there - making a better stock being the most important one, and potentially blanching the wontons and the noodles in a separate pot of boiling water like they do in most restaurants before adding them to the broth so as to not dilute/muddy the flavors of the broth.  If you cook the noodles in the broth they release starch into the broth, which makes it a little starchy and changes the flavor a bit.  It also makes the broth a little cloudy.  I just have to decide whether the purity of flavor of the stock is really worth using (and cleaning) another pot...

Recipe after the jump!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fuji (Honeycrisp) Apple Salad with Kimchi, Bacon, Maple Labne

When I first moved to New York one of my law school classmates told me about Momofuku Noodle Bar.  By the time I got home that evening I couldn't remember what it was called so I told Alex on the phone that there was a restaurant named "Wabonka" that we needed to try.  That's right.  Wabonka.  Alex still makes fun of me to this day about the mix up.  And I (probably) deserve it because I was way off.  It happens from time to time.  During my first few trips to the Momofukus, this was the dish that stood out the most in my mind.  I tried several dishes - but this was by far my favorite.  I have been there several times since then and added several more dishes to my list of favorites but this is the only dish that I regularly try to recreate (although not in all of its glory) at home.  This is the first time I have ever made the apple kimchi with bacon and it's certainly the first time I have made the maple labne.  Maybe the full recipe at home reminded me again just how much I love the Momofuku restaurants.  Where else would someone combine a Midde Eastern yogurt, maple syrup, bacon, apples and kimchi?  But somehow it works.  Actually, Alex and I made another Asian-inspired dish using maple syrup several months ago - Fatty 'Cue Brussels Sprouts.  It was pretty freaking good, and this dish is too.  You get a very complex assortment of flavors - spicy kimchi, sweet apples and maple syrup, tart labne, meaty salty bacon and peppery arugula.  It just works.  I don't know how but it does.  All of the flavors are assertive and bold, yet the dish was very nice balance.

Recipe after the jump!

Biscuit Fail

Alex was browsing CNN the other day and came across a new buttermilk biscuit recipe.  Only it's not a new recipe.  It showed up on the Homesick Texan blog back in 2007.  It's just a recipe that is new to us.  And it involved a technique new to us - beating your biscuits with a rolling pin.  According to Homesick Texan, before baking soda and baking powder cooks would beat their dough with a mallet or a rolling pin to make it rise.  Alex thought the technique was interesting enough to try it out.  So we did.  I got home from hot yoga (and was that an experience or what) and I was starving.  And I was seriously craving some biscuits.  I'm not sure what we did wrong here, but the biscuits didn't quite work out as planned.  I don't know if we beat the biscuits too much, or not enough.  Or if we overworked the dough in some other way.  But they weren't as light and fluffy as I had hoped they would be.  Actually, they were kind of dense.  There was no fluffiness whatsoever.  I'm sure it was our fault (or Alex's fault since he made the biscuits while I supervised) and not the recipe.  Oh well.  Better luck next time.  And for the record, I still ate three of them.  Haha.  I clearly have a problem.

Buttercup Squash Soup with Rosemary

Ever since I stumbled across the Lee Bros. new cookbook at Barnes & Noble I have been dying to try this recipe (among others).  But when it's bitter cold outside, nothing appeals to me quite as much as a nice piping hot bowl of soup.  So when I received The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor as a Christmas present last year, I knew I had to try their Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary.  Butternut squash soup is one of my absolute favorites and I have been dying for a new recipe to try.  But then the winter got away from me.  And soup is not exactly good summer-fare.  So I waited until it finally got cold again before I made it.  Since today was in the mid-60's and rainy it was perfect soup weather. 

I'm not going to say that the soup was disappointing.  But it wasn't the best squash soup we have ever made.  I had a butternut squash from the grocery and a buttercup squash from the CSA.  I have never cooked (or to my knowledge, eaten) a buttercup squash before.  And in this soup I'm not certain that I could say how a buttercup squash tastes compared to a butternut squash.  I know that the soup wasn't as sweet as I had expected it to be.  And I know that I prefer a squash soup with a bit of heat or curry, to this version with country ham, buttermilk and rosemary.  Part of the problem with this soup is that I felt like the flavors never really melded together.  It wasn't sweet from the squash or tangy from the buttermilk.  And the country ham didn't give it that deep, salty flavor I expected.  Instead it just tasted a little muddled.  It had potential, but it didn't quite make it.

Recipe after the jump!