Monday, December 15, 2008

Steel cut

I accidently bought steel cut oats instead of regular oats at the grocery store.  Not wanting to throw away a giant tub of them, I searched for recipes using them.  I found this on the Anson Mills website, and modified it a bit to include fresh cranberries and chocolate chips instead of coconut.  They're substantial little cookies, but I mean that in a good way.  Tart and sweet.  

Cranberry chocolate chip cookies

You will need: 

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper of Silpat.  Turn the flour, oats, cranberries, baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon into a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Beat the butter with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in both sugars until the mixture is light and aerated. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and vanilla, and then the milk. Stir in the dry ingredients and chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. 

Using an ice cream scooper, spoon cookies onto cookie sheet. Bake 13-15 minutes, and allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Too much? What's too much?

This article in the New York Times Dining Section is causing a bit of fuss. Frank Bruni writes about finding nice meals for two at restaurants in Manhattan that come in under $100 (excluding drinks). Part of the challenge is to have a traditional three course meal, and have enough for a 20% tip.

The basic jist of the comments (so far there are over 200) is that this is an awful lot of money to spend on an ordinary dinner for two. I don't disagree; $100 is a lot of money to spend on one meal. One woman writes:

"I read the header for this and was astonished-- your favorite restaurants at a good price-- good price being $100 or so???? Do we really need this kind of thing while people are losing jobs, homes, retirement, life savings and kids are looking at a future with college unaffordable? Perhaps I live in a strange world, but I would not dream of spending $100 on a meal in a restaurant. "
— Stephanie Gilmore, Blacksburg, Virginia


Almost all of the comments are from people living outside of New York City. And I feel like dining in New York is a different experience than it is anywhere else in the country.

Is it more expensive? Yes! But is the food better? Yes!

This isn't to say that every restaurant in NYC is the best you've ever been to (far from it). But in New York, you have access to more than 20,000 restaurants. That choice, that accessability, that variety -- it's part of what you're paying for each and every time you go out.

For us, on this blog, I consider a bill under $50 before tip to be a cheap date spot. I consider any bill higher than that to be a celebration stop. I know that those are high figures for some people, and believe me, it doesn't exactly feel cheap to us, either. But restaurants are important to us, and while we couldn't do it every day, we're willing to pay the price when we do go out.

Peter and I were talking about this article last night at dinner, and he said he wished Bruni spent more time searching for hole in the wall spots that serve a great meal for a low price, or that Bruni went to truly fantastic, very expensive restaurants and worked the menu to keep the cost down. I think both of those are great ideas, but that may be because they also happen to be the exact approaches we take when dining out!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Slow down

I love the idea of a slow cooker.  Do a little chopping and dropping in the morning; come home to a delicious meal at night.  But it can be hard to find things to cook in it that don't involve a can of cream soup.   

Last Christmas I got one of those slow cooker recipe magazines in my stocking (you know the ones lining the check out aisle in the grocery store?).  A lot of the recipes rely on that can of cream soup, but the one I tried today was delicious and easy to put together -- exactly what I want from my slow cooker.  The list of ingredients looks long, but it's all stuff I usually have on hand. 

African groundnut stew with chicken

You will need: 

4 chicken drumsticks
1 large shallot or medium onion, chopped
1 big glop of peanut butter (about 1/4 cup)
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

Layer all the ingredients into the slow cooker, spread the peanut around in dollops.  Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours.  Break up the chicken and discard the bones before serving.

I added about 1/2 cup of cooked rice, a scoop of Greek yogurt, and some chopped celery greens to ours before serving.  Amazing.  

It happened

I know these are the last things people want to see right now, but I have to document the success of our first Thanksgiving somewhere!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oh my

The turkey's swimming in apple cider, all spice, and salt. There are plastic containers of homemade stock, curry butternut squash soup, and chestnut soup sitting in the fridge. Last night I made ice cream with maple syrup and toasted almond. And there are turnips, potatoes, green beans, corn bread, and pumpkin crunch ready to be made when I get home.

Oh my.

Happy, happy thanksgiving. So much to be thankful for.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fresh, zesty

On Friday night, when it was painfully cold outside, Peter found a place a fantastic new Mexican spot to try. But it was a bus ride away.

Buses are the absolute worst way to travel when it's cold outside because you have to stand still outside. Peter's solution to this is to walk to the next stop instead of standing around and waiting until you and the bus finally cross paths. Not fun.

BUT! The Mexican place. That was fun.

A lot of people aren't too fond of Mexican food from New York, and I don't entirely disagree. It can be sticky and gooey and bland -- a far cry from the fresh, zesty stuff from Mexico.

Chavella's is much, much better than the other places we've tried around the city. It's on a very non-descript street with a giant nursing home across the way. But the inside is quite charming. Warm paint colors, a view into the tiny kitchen, and very sweet servers.

We started with some guacamole (good, but not great), then got an order of tamales with chicken. This was yummy -- a nice corn texture, a little bit of heat. I adore the corn that they sell at the Red Hook food stands covered with mayonnaise, cumin, chili powder, and Parmesan, and when I saw something like it on the menu, I had to have it. It was delicious, but would, of course, be better when corn is actually in season.

We shared a taco filled with potatoes and chorizo, which was the most memorable dish of the night. The chorizo/potato mixture had a very smooth texture, but a nice bite to it -- by far my favorite dish of the night. Then we had enchiladas with a mole sauce with just the right amount of muted chocolate in the background.

After we'd paid our bill ($30!), and were walking between bus stops trying to stay warm, Peter said, "I feel like we were missing that sort of place in our rotation." I'm so happy we have it now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Occasionally delicious

I have butternut squash, brussel sprouts, spinach, acorn squash, beets, and broccoli.  What did I decide to do with this bounty?  

Eat hot dogs wrapped in croissants stuffed with cheddar cheese. 

It's a travesty, I know.  But my mom just gave me some fancy hot dogs from Omaha, and whenever I get hot dogs, I just can't seem to help myself.  I wrap them in pastry and stuff them with cheese.  It's delicious.  

This is something we had occasionally growing up, but I'm not sure where my mom got the idea. But now it's one of my favorite (occasional) things to eat. 

Croissant dogs

You will need:

4 delicious hot dogs
1 package refrigerated croissants (I used a Pillsbury version with six extra large rolls and butter!)
4 slices of sharp cheddar cheese

Pop open up the package of croissants and place a sliver of cheese in the widest part of the triangle.  Wrap the croissant around the hot dog, and repeat three times!  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Food cultures of Italy

In college, I spent a semester in Italy.  Besides the weekend travel, the dozens of scarves I was able to buy for 3 euros each, and the copious amounts of pasta I consumed, the very best thing about my time there was going to class.

I should clarify.  I didn't love going to class in the general sense.  I loved going to my favorite class -- food cultures of Italy.  We did olive oil tastings, visited a chocolate factory, and celebrated the release of vino novella.  It was as amazing as it sounds.  One of the best days of the entire semester was when we went to a Tuscan farmhouse and got to cook with a few wonderful old Italian women. We made three kinds of brushetta, soup, hand-rolled pasta, meat sauce, and chocolate cake.  

They sent us home with all the recipes, and the soup we made that afternoon is one of my absolute favorite things to make.  Like so many great Italian dishes, it's casual and forgiving, and very adaptable. 

I wrote out what I used today in the soup, but you can make this a dozen different ways. Use whatever beans, greens, and starches you have on hand.  I've made this with white beans, spinach, beet greens, pasta, and rice, and it always come out beautifully.  

Italian vegetable soup

You will need: 

1 medium yellow onion
2 large cloves garlic
1 very large carrot, or three regular sized carrots
3 potatoes, peeled
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can pink beans
1 teaspoon dried basil and oregano
2 cups chopped cabbage

Chop your onion and garlic.  Add to a large soup pot with a splash of olive oil.  Add a sprinkle of salt and let the onions sweat. Add peeled rounds of carrot, cut about 1/4 inch thick.  Add in bite sized chunks of potato, and stir everything around in the oil to coat.  Fill pot with enough water to just cover everything.  

When carrots and potatoes have started to soften, add in tomatoes with all the juice, the beans, and the herbs.  Stir in the cabbage in handfuls. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a bit of parmesan if you have it (the rind works particularly well!).  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Almost there

I love the holiday season. Peter made fun of me last night because I started whining about it being over soon, to which he replied -- quite correctly -- that it hasn't even officially started.

It's just so short. I want the food and the decorating and the parties to last a lot longer than five weeks. Am I alone here?!

Anyways. I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I'm feeling very grown up about it. To be fair, though, I'm only cooking for six people, and three of them are in my immediate family. Not so high stress.
This weekend, my mom and I spent some time putting the menu together, taking lots of inspiration from Good Housekeeping. Is it embarassing for a person under the age of 25 to declare their love for this magazine? I hope not, because I totally fell in love with this issue of Good Housekeeping. All the recipes were simple and quick and a little bit fancy. My favorite combination.

We're still tweaking our menu a little bit, but this marmalade cranberry sauce is definitely going to make the cut. Doesn't it sound great?

And, for even more inspiration, the New York Times dining section is all about Thanksgiving this week! I particularly loved this article about the (mostly) ignored cranberry.
*Photo from the New York Times.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Before I lived in New York, I thought that Midtown was New York. Times Square, Rockefeller Center, shopping on Fifth Avenue, the Hard Rock Cafe. Sure, I knew other neighborhoods existed. But Soho? The Village? Little Italy? I thought these would all look and feel a lot like the parts I'd grown up visiting. That crowded, expensive, bright "neighborhood" smack in the middle of it all.

I try especially hard to avoid the chaos of Midtown now, mostly because I know how fantastic the other parts of the city are. But sometimes it just doesn't make sense to do so. When friends are travelling in town for business, when meeting co-workers for drinks after work, and when you need to kill some time and fill up before heading to show, you need Midtown to deliver. And if you're not the sort of person who likes to rendezvous in a massive Olive Garden for these fun occasions, let me introduce you to my favorite go-to Midtown spot.

BXL is a Belgian restaurant and bar with mussels and pom frittes and delicious light and fruity beers. It has a near perfect central location at 43rd St. between 6th and 7th. The staff and bartenders and nice and attentive, and while it isn't wildly cheap, it isn't wildly expensive, either. For Midtown, it's just about perfect.

TC: S5

Peter and I are so excited for Top Chef to return next week. New York magazine loves the show way more than we do though, so its always a great spot for Top Chef news. Sometimes the magazine will ask a food-ish person to keep a diary of all the amazing things they eat for a week (Like this fun one with Lidia! I just love her. And her grandmother.). And what do you know -- this week Top Chef judge Gail Simmons did it!

She's not my favorite person on the show (isn't she a little harsh sometimes?), but this is a fun article about all the fantastic places she visits. This is my favorite thing she wrote:

"At the end of the day I went over to Nikki Cascone’s restaurant, 24 Prince, and we had pizza night together. I came up with three special pizzas for the night. The first was a sweet-potato purée base with roasted cauliflower, mushrooms, ricotta salata, and fresh sage. The next was basic tomato with Pecorino and Comte cheese with sweet sausage topped with fresh arugula, and the third had a jalapeño-and-caramelized-onion relish with pulled roasted chicken, roasted fennel, and garlic. That’s really what I ate for dinner, I had a few bites of each."

Don't those pizzas sound great? Especially the sweet potato. Maybe the perfect thing to make for the night of the premiere!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I don't have an appropriate label for this sort of post

There are many things I love, food aside. Like words, to name just one other thing. And what wonderful, wonderful words I've been reading these last few days. I'm swelling up inside with happiness, and I decided that it would be nice to have some of my favorites collected here, both serious and not so serious.

"America can mean what it says. It can respect its friends and probe its enemies before it tries to shock and awe them. It can listen. It can rediscover the commonwealth beyond the frenzied individualism that took down Wall Street."
-- Roger Cohen, from the New York Times

"For as long as we can remember, we have been Europe's fat, awkward friend, the friend that it didn't really like but had to hang around with because of circumstance. Europe disapproved of our flashy, loud, aggressive parents and was disgusted by what they perceived as our own flaccid response to them. And no matter how hard we tried with Europe, despite the fact that we let them raid our closets (and our clothes always looked better on them than us), and were bend-over-backward nice and flattering and totally self-deprecating, in the end they'd always just look at us like, "Do you really want to eat those fries?" But now, finally, we have done something to impress Europe."
-- Jessica Pressler, from New York Magazine

"What I love about America---what I've always loved about America, why I moved here in the first place, why I'll probably never leave---is that absolutely anything is possible. People come here seeking themselves, they come to make things better, and if you're lucky enough to be born here? Well then, gracious, you can be whatever you want to be: even the president of the United States.

"Shakespeares are this day being born on the banks of the Ohio," wrote Melville in Moby Dick, a line that's stuck with me ever since I read it in a musty classroom years and years ago. Thank god for a country where we still believe that and where we get to prove---not just in this election, but time and time again---that it's true."
-- Holly, from Nothing But Bonfires

"I believe that during the campaign McCain’s great friend Senator Lindsey Graham said something along the line of promising to drown himself if North Carolina went for Obama. I believe I speak for us all, Senator Graham, when I say that we are feeling extremely mellow today and you do not have to follow through."
-- Gail Collins, from the New York Times
"In America, a man is not held responsible for choosing his parents, only for his own life and conduct. This man promises to take us into a new era where we aren't defined by our differences, Short vs. Tall, Pale vs. Freckled, and can take a deep breath and do what's best for the country."
-- Garrison Keillor, from The Old Scout

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Perfectly easy

When I get an idea to make something -- say, homemade pasta, or butternut squash soup, or brownies -- I often find myself searching Google for "easiest homemade pasta" or "perfect chocolate brownies."  

Not many recipes come along with my superlatives.  Why is that?  

This weekend I searched for the easiest/most perfect vanilla birthday cake.  No dice.  But I turned to Joy of Cooking, where many of the recipes seem to come built in with these preceding descriptors.  So easy, so perfect. 

Perfectly easy four-egg yellow cake
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

You will need: 

2 2/3 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract 
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar plus 3 tablespoons
4 large eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 inch cake pans or line with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, combine milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Add the butter and beat at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add in the 1 1/2 cups of sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in four egg yolks one at a time. On a low speed, add the flour mixture into the milk mixture in three batches. 

Using clean, dry beaters, mix egg whites until soft peaks form. Add in the 3 tablespoons of sugar and beat a little more. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in about a quarter of the egg whites into the cake batter. Once incorporated, gently fold in the rest of the egg whites. Divide the batter and spread evenly in the cake pans. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake. Remove from pans to cool.  

For frosting, I made the simple butter cream recipe on the back of boxes of confectionary sugar (1 box sugar, 1 stick of butter, and 4 tablespoons of milk, beat until creamy).  I added in about a tablespoon of strawberry jello mix to make it pink and give it a slight strawberry flavor.  

I like my new farmer's market

Isn't it cute?  

The fruit guy always says, "See you next week, yeah?"  

I just love that.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chinese eating extravaganza

Last night, we did something that's been on Peter's New York to-do list ever since we saw this article in the New York Times -- have a Chinese eating extravaganza in in Flushing.  He did research in the afternoon while I went shopping, and met me at the subway armed with a map. Dumplings, seafood, and dessert were covered.

We started with dumplings at a Shanghai style restaurant. We ordered steamed pork and crab dumplings, noodles with scallion sauce, and, upon the suggestion of the wonderful family next to us from Shanghai, dark mushrooms with green bok choy.  Our lovely table mates even taught us the right way to eat those tricky  dumplings!  

You pick one up with the tongs and put it on your spoon.  Then you take a tiny bite off the top of the dumpling, right where the dough has been nipped together.  It's a bit sticky and can cling to your mouth, but be careful not to take too big a bite or you won't be able to experience the wonderful next step.  Pour a spoonful of the vinegar into the opening you just made on the top of the dumpling.  Then put your mouth on top and suck out all the liquid inside.  It's a bit like vegetable broth, but with that acidic taste from the vinegar.  It's wonderful. Once you've gotten all the liquid out, you can bite the dumpling.  Inside, there's a meatball like thing of the crab and pork.  

The noodles were good, but they took up some valuable stomach real estate.  The mushrooms and the bok choy, though.  Oh wow.  The mushrooms were very dark and so earthy -- I have no idea what they did to make them that way, but I'm happy that they did it.  

Next we went to a seafood Hong Kong style restaurant.  (I know this seems very glutenous, but figured if we made it all the way out there, might as well take full advantage.)  The waitress convinced us to get an order of crispy seafood rolls to go along with our Dungeness crab with glutenous rice.  Those crispy seafood rolls were not very good.  Don't let your waitress boss you into ordering them!  They were mayonnaise-y, even though I highly doubt they had any mayo inside.  Which makes we really wonder what that white stuff was.

But the crab!  And the glutenous rice!  Yes, definitely allow yourself to be bullied into that. They crabs have a soft shell that you can break with your fingers, but using the cracker is fun. Inside, there was lots of flaky white crab meat.  The rice is lightly spiced and super sticky.  A delicious combination.  

We had high hopes of venturing into one of the mall food courts for some red bean shaved ice in the name of adventurous eating, but we were just too full. Next time.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How nice it is

When you bring home dinosaur-sized carrots from the farmer's market on Saturday and are trying to come up with quick weeknight dinner on Tuesday, there is really only one good thing to do.

Make curry carrot soup!

It's fast, but it still provides all of those warm and fuzzy cooking feelings that come from peeling, chopping, and stirring. And it makes excellent left-overs. How nice it is to have a bright bowl of orange soup in your Tupperware this time of year.

Curry carrot soup

You will need:

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Splash of olive oil and small knob of butter
3 giant carrots or 6 regular sized carrots
1 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pour a splash of a olive oil and your butter into a large soup pot. Turn on heat to medium. Add onion and cook for a few minutes before adding garlic. Peel and slice the carrots to about 1/4 inch thick. Add to soup pot and stir to coat in butter and oil. Add your stock and then add enough water to the pot to just cover the carrots. Turn heat up just a titch and allow it to come to a boil, stirring occasionally. When carrots are soft, use an immersion blender to smooth out the big lumps (or transfer in batches to your blender). Stir in curry powder and salt and pepper. Add more curry if it isn't strong enough, but in small amounts. You can always add more, but can't take it out! I find that for me, 2 teaspoons provides just the right amount of warmth.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Farm on Adderley

Saturday night, Peter and I went to The Farm on Adderley for dinner. It's warm and cramped and wonderful inside. Waiting for our table (about 25 minutes at 8:00 PM on a Saturday night -- not bad, right?), Peter said that if he ever made a restaurant, he'd make it just like The Farm. I think at this early stage, he was mostly woo-ed because they were playing all of his favorite songs.

We got a fantastic bottle of rosé, but I can't share the name since the wine menu isn't posted online. It was the only rosé on the menu, though. Rosé can have a negative reputation, at least for me, because of all that terrible pink wine out there. But it can be so wonderful. This bottle was like a very full white wine. It was even, gasp, from Long Island. Crushing two unfair wine stereotypes in a single bottle!

We started with the serrano ham. It was thin, soft cuts of ham with cauliflower, squash, and brussel sprouts. All things I would never put together when left to my own devices, but a fantastic example of a dish that works because when they grow together, they go together.

Peter had striped bass with squash and grits and curry oil, which he loved. And I had a lovely piece of grilled char that was placed on top of roasted beets (my weakness!). On top of the fish was a healthy pile of lentils. I can't remember ever eating lentils outside of a soup, but they were perfect here -- earthy and muted alongside the tangy beets and buttery, salmon-like fish. Such a great mix of textures. They had a special that night with blue and white potatoes topped with creme fraiche and caviar. I was a little leary of the caviar, but it just gave them a nice salty taste.

At the beginning of the meal, we had planned on finishing off with the cheese plate. But, when the time came, we just couldn't do it. We needed something sweet instead. We had gingerbread cake with some kind of ice cream (passion fruit, I think). I usually think that restaurant desserts should be chocolatey, or at the very least, something I'd have a hard time re-creating at home. This didn't fit the bill, but it was perfect for the end of this lovely meal.

Peter even declared The Farm his favorite restaurant in Brooklyn! Well, he actually said it was a tie with Al Di La, but still, incredibly high praise. And this time when he said it, it wasn't just about the music.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Getting along in the kitchen

Peter made an incredible butternut squash risotto on Sunday night, based on this recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. He's made risotto before, but this was really execptional. The creaminess was just perfect, which I think is the hardest part to get right, and his finished product looked a lot like hers. Always a good sign.

This got us chatting about Ina Garten, specifically how much Peter loves her recipes. She's precise, gives very clear, detailed directions that he loves to follow, and, as Peter said, she never skimps on the "good stuff," like good cheese, saffron, or chocolate, just to name a few of their shared favorite ingredients. This approach is totally in sync with Peter's. The two of them get along in the kitchen very well.

But Ina and me -- we aren't so close. For all the reasons that Peter loves her, I find her a bit stiff and stifling. I want a recipe to give me an idea, and then give me permission to shuffle it around to my heart's content. I want to get the most that I can from my ingredients, and this often means using less than a recipe calls for. I want things that are fast, and not too fussy.

Because we have such different styles, I'm constantly grousing at Peter for using too much of an ingredient I wanted to hang onto for a while longer, or for moving along too slow. He takes it all incredibly well, but I know he thinks I should be following the directions more closely for better results.

For now, we decided I might be more of a Rachel Ray, which I think is fair. But I'm sure there are other recipe-writing soul mates that exist out there somewhere, for all of us. How wonderful that we get to keep browsing cookbooks and blogs, hoping to find another match.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The other box for brownies

Last night, mere minutes before Mad Men was beginning, I was frantically searching in the freezer and cabinets for some sort of dessert. The results were not good. There was nothing, except for a small box of crumbly amaretto cookies (perfectly wonderful in certain situations, but this just wasn't one of them). This was a chocolate dessert day.

I did a quick search online for easy chocolate brownies, and let me tell you, the results were not good for this either. They had long lists of ingredients, long baking times, and worst of all when urgently searching for a recipe, included things I didn't have in my baking cabinet.

And then, I remembered something I so rarely turn to -- my recipe box. It was a gift from my Mom when I first moved into my own apartment in college. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my Mom and her recipe box, picking out all the things I wanted us to copy over. One of the wonderful things that made it in was a truly easy recipe for chocolate brownies from my great-grandmother.

It's made with ingredients I always have on hand, I put it together in about 15 minutes, and it came out the oven during a commercial break. It's more delicate and less dense than brownies from a box, and if you ask me, that's just about perfect.

Nana's easy chocolate brownies

You will need:

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
2 squares Bakers semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup unsifted flour
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the shortening, butter, and chocolate together in a sauce pan on low heat. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl. Beat eggs with a mixer until light and foamy. Add sugar and beat a little more. Pour chocolate mixture into egg mixture and blend. Stir in flour mixture in two or three batches until incorporated. Stir in vanilla and nuts, if using. Pour into 8x8 baking dish and bake for 25 minutes or until just cooked. Don't overbake! Ere on the side of undercooking for better brownies.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A winning strategy

I, like most sensible people, have never really had a thing for cabbage. It's a bit stinky and bitter. In the big platters my grandmother served at St. Patrick's Day with corned beef, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage, those slippery greenish strings were always getting in the way of the good stuff. Like everything else on the platter.

But something's happened to cabbage, or, more likely, something's happened to me. Because at the farmer's market, it looked good. Inviting, even. All gigantic and leafy and heavy. I made a version of this pork and cabbage dish from Amateur Gourmet, and it was, I don't know. Kind The whole thing smelled like delicious butter when it was cooking, but the greens were bitter and mushy.

Then I found this cabbage casserole on the kitchn (oh, kitchn, you never let me down!). And let me just say, this is plus 25 points for the you-can-add-bacon-and-sour-cream-to-anything-and-it-will-taste-better team. That team is always so annoyingly ahead, aren't they? But they have such a winning strategy.

Cabbage casserole
Adapted from a recipe on the kitchn

You will need:

4 slices of bacon (the fatty kind, if you have it -- I had center cut and it didn't have quite enough fat for cooking the cabbage in)
1 small cabbage or part of a gigantic cabbage, shredded
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup cream cheese, stirred together

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook four slices of bacon over medium heat, cooking slowly to get as much fat out of the bacon as possible, while leaving the bacon very crispy but not burned. As the bacon cooks, shred your cabbage. Pull the bacon from the pan and cook the cabbage and onion in the fat. Add salt to taste

Cook until the cabbage has started to shrink down and soften, but still has a bit of crunch left. Put the cabbage and onion in a baking dish. Then, top it with the sour cream and cream cheese mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sour cream begins to brown and lose some of its moisture. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle it on top.

This went beautifully with buttered noodles and sausage for an excellent weeknight meal.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Taking what the garden gives

My mom is incredibly generous with the vegetables her beautiful garden produces. She shares bags full of fresh basil, dozens of tomatoes, and tiny jalepeno peppers with me all summer long. And last weekend, she gave the gift of all gifts: the only eggplant her garden grew.

He was a fine looking specimen, though. Fat and purple and heavy for his size. But there was a certain amount of pressure to do something worthwhile with him. The garden gave us just the one, after all.

I was flipping through the newest Food & Wine searching for some dessert inspiration. I didn't find any, but I did find this. A great way to showcase the lonely eggplant.

Eggplant Parmesan with Bread Crumb Topping
Adapted from Food & Wine

You will need:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus about 2 cups for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 can of crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 medium sized eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped basil
1 cup Parmisan cheese3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

In a large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, about 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil. Season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper. Working in several batches, cook the eggplant over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 8 minutes per batch; add more olive oil to the skillet between batches. Drain the eggplant slices on paper towels.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread some tomato sauce in the bottom of a pie plate. Arrange one-third of the fried eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese*. Repeat this layering twice. Sprinkle the bread crumbs all over the top of the eggplant Parmesan. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the top of the eggplant Parmesan is golden and the tomato sauce is bubbling. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

*The original recipe calls for some mozzarella added in between the layers along with the Parmesan cheese, which would have been wonderful, I'm sure, but I didn't have any on hand.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

That culinary couple

I'm always on the look out for other food-minded couples, so when a wonderful friend told me about the Culinary Couple, I knew I had to get in touch. Emily and Nick write up their homey, comforting adventures in the kitchen on their blog, and do adorable things like challenge each other to their very own Iron Chef competitions.*

I was able to chat with the Culinary Couple last week about cooking with your significant other.

What is the best thing about being a culinary couple?

We both feel fortunate to have found a mate who can share a love for food. Food is woven into every part of our lives and our relationship. It’s in celebrations at fancy restaurants and experimentations in the kitchen. It’s in holidays with family and dinner parties with friends and quiet dinners over candlelight. We take pride in being a young couple that is not afraid to test our culinary boundaries.

How has cooking and food helped shape your relationship?

To us, cooking isn’t just about preparing delectable dishes. It’s about making memories in bites bursting with flavor, taking pleasure in other cultures, and sharing a bottle of wine while sautéing, stirring, and simmering.

We learn lessons together in the kitchen. We experiment and laugh at our mistakes. We tell secrets while savoring bowls of homemade soup and share dreams while eating strawberries in the warm sun.

Now, and in the future, we will always find time in our busy lives to enjoy a meal together.

I find that one of the best parts about cooking in a team is that you push each other to test your culinary boundaries with new ingredients and techniques that might seem a bit ambitious or scary when cooking for one. Do you find this to be true for you all?

It’s true that we wouldn’t attempt many of the meals we do without each other. Besides the fact that it’s much more fun to share a meal, we’ve introduced each other to new flavors and ingredients.

Emily has shared her love for mushrooms, shrimp, and cherries, and Nick has introduced her to blue cheese burgers and authentic German cuisine. He makes a mean Wiener Schnitzel!

Together we’ve experimented with pumpkin and pomegranates and avocados. We’ve tried escargot, duck, and Chilean sea bass. We have no fear when it comes to testing our taste buds!

What would a perfect day in the kitchen look like?

For now, we have to settle for an apartment kitchen with a four-burner stove, a small refrigerator, and limited counter space — but we make it work. It feels like home when the kitchen table is speckled with flour and pots crowd the stovetop and sweet smells drift from the oven. While one chops, the other stirs, and it doesn’t matter that we’re constantly bumping into each other. We sip beer and set the table while listening to music. It’s casual and comfortable and cozy.

We dream of one day cooking in a gourmet kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a double oven, a spacious island, and a gas stove. But for now, our apartment kitchen is just perfect.

What are your all-time favorite books to turn to for culinary inspiration?

We look to the Web for inspiration more often than print cookbooks. Some of our favorite sites are,, and Of course, we also have a collection of cookbooks including several versions of Betty Crocker, a few written by Rachael Ray, and one that showcases the best Amish recipes. And our coffee table is always stacked with food magazines like Bon Appetit, Taste of Home, and the latest from Wegmans.

Favorite cooking shows?

We love the thrill and spontaneity of the Iron Chef. We marvel over the chefs' abilities to convert simple secret ingredients into pieces of art — both to the eye and to the tongue. We even adapted the television show into our own competitive version! So far we’ve challenged each other to Battle Limes, Battle Peanuts, and Battle Apples.

We also enjoy watching Bobby Flay grill from his Brooklyn brownstone and Jamie Oliver offer tips from his garden.

Do you have a go-to weeknight dinner?

We love all pasta, but our favorite is simple whole-wheat spaghetti topped with an easy and flavorful homemade sauce. The sauce is a combination of sautéed garlic and onions and canned stewed tomatoes. We add lots of oregano, crushed red pepper, and fresh basil. Sometimes, if we’re really hungry, we add chicken or sausage. The longer it simmers, the better it tastes. This is our go-to meal because we always have the ingredients on hand, and it’s just so yummy!

What’s the best special occasion dinner you’ve made together?

Valentine’s Day 2008 — it was our first valentine’s day together, and rather than paying $100 for a fancy fare, we created an impressive and delicious meal of our own. After watching “No Reservations,” we poured glasses of wine, tuned the laptop to Pavarotti, and began to cook. We seared scallops and added them to wild mushroom risotto. This was served after an appetizer of white asparagus and heirloom tomatoes with warm shitake dressing. And for dessert we made a heavenly chocolate hazelnut lava cake.

*I have a not-so-secret wish to challenge the Culinary Couple to an Iron Chef competition! Wouldn't that be fun?!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The words we eat

I have an enormous crush on Garrison Keillor. My mother swears he looks like Dwight from the Office, but I find him to be adorable.

Everyday, a version Keillor's Writer's Almanac is emailed to me (usually at 4:00 AM -- who is the poor American Public Media intern emailing this out at 4:00 AM?). There's a poem at the beginning, and then little tidbits about writer's on their birthdays, anniversaries of historic events -- that sort of thing. It provides a nearly perfect five minute break in the afternoon with a cookie and a cup of tea.

All this week, they've been writing in celebration of the anniversary of the Norman invasion of 1066 and what that defeat meant for the English language. And today, it's all about the French food and cooking words that entered our vocabulary as a result of the English defeat.

Read it here.

Now I just need decide how to super. Beef? Pork? Mutton?!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The perfect thing

When you're moving, it's customary to eat icky delivery pizza and cold chinese food, or so I've heard. Thanks to my fantastic mom, I didn't have to suffer one bit this week in the kitchen.

Last weekend, my parents drove to the city from Connecticut to drop off some old family furniture, stock up my brand new fridge, and take Peter and me to a nice dinner in our new neighborhood. For a moving weekend, it was pretty fantastic.

On Saturday night, we ended up at a table in the garden of Franny's and then at the Chocolate Room for dessert. It was a lovely welcome to the neighborhood.

But it was the homemade food that really made the weekend. My mom makes fantastic breakfast casseroles, and she brought one with new potatoes, spinach, sausage, eggs, and cheese to have for brunch on Sunday. And she also gave me one all time favorites to have on hand this week while unpacking -- chicken and rice casserole. It was a more knock-out version than usual because she added roasted red peppers, mushrooms, and then covered the top with almond slivers. It's so gooey and comforting, and it's something I never make for myself. It was the perfect thing.

Mom's chicken and rice casserole

You will need:
1 cup uncooked rice
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup cream or whole milk
1/2 soup can water
4 chicken breast halves
1 cup mushroom, sliced
1/2 cup roasted red peppered, sliced thinly into strips
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Boil 1 1/2 cups of water, add rice, turn down the heat to medium and cover until the rice has absorbed the water. There will be some bite to the rice. Stir in a few tablespoons of butter and set aside. In another pot, boil water and add chicken breats. Cook until done. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. In a pan, saute mushrooms in butter until tender, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour and butter in a small sauce pan. Stir until it forms a roux. Add cream, stir until combined, and remove from heat. In a large bowl, combine the rice, chicken, mushrooms, roasted pepper, and the cream sauce. Add this to a large casserole dish and sprinkle almond slivers on top. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

*This casserole isn't really much to look at, so I didn't bother to take a picture. Plus, I'm not 100% sure where my camera is among all these boxes and crates. But trust me, it's fantastic.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Manhattan Vally/Morningside Heights favorites

Well, in this week of packing and taping and driving and unloading, I've progressed quite nicely from feeling nostalgic about leaving our current neighborhood to being just plain antsy to settle into the new one. Still, it feels like the right time to compile a little list of neighborhood favorites. While it's still fresh, and all.

1. Toast on Broadway and 125th. This bar and restaurant also has a location "downtown" on Broadway and 105th, but if, like me, you enjoy eavesdropping on Columbia students' dates, then the original is your best bet. This is a wonderful Friday night cheap date spot for big burgers and a slew of fun beers to try. The blue cheese stuffed burger is particularly good.

2. Voza on Columbus and 106th. When I first came to New York, I had the crazy idea to walk home from Rockefeller Center. It took over an hour, and I never did it again, but it was a great way to see a lot of the neighborhood. I passed by Voza on this walk, and it looked so charming that Peter and I went there for dinner the very next night. It's not life-altering food, but is that what you really want from your neighborhood spot? It is cute and the service is good and (if you're lucky!) they'll bring you a free little appetizer while you're waiting for your food.

3. El Malecon Restaurant II at Amsterdam and 97th. Really, really great rotisserie chicken and fried plantains for really, really cheap.

4. Thai Market at Amsterdam and 108th. I suppose most people have a favorite Thai place in the city, and this is certainly mine. It's clean and quick and the Pad Thai is consistently delicious. It's also a great place to take guests for a fun New Yorker-ish experience without being very expensive. Peter and I have both taken our families and friends, and it's always been a hit.

5. Absolute Bagels at Broadway and 108th. Arguably the best bagel in the city. The everything bagel with fresh herb cream cheese, the sesame bagel with cheddar and bacon cream cheese, the plain bagel with garlic and chive cream cheese. I could go on, but you should really just hop on the 1 train and experience it's awesome-ness for yourself.

6. La Negrita at Columbus and 109th. A great neighborhood bar for going out to when you don't feel like going out (I can't be the only one who feels this way with some regularity...). They have comfy couches and live music and trivia. And, of course, fun drinks.

7. Max Soha at Amsterdam and 122nd. A wonderful pasta place. Also a fantastic spot for spying on those precious Columbia students. The service can be slightly spotty, but when you're bill is so inexpensive and the pasta is so good, all is forgiven.

8. Taqueria y Fonda la Mexicana at Amsterdam and 108th. Delicious, gigantic burritos. Peter requested this be our last meal here. That's probably as good an endorsement as any.

Friday, September 12, 2008

From the tippy top of the Upper West Side

This is our last weekend as Manhattan-ites. Next week, we'll be packing up our books and ice cream maker and lacey curtains and heading across the water for a new apartment in Park Slope. And I'm excited about the move, I really am.

But it's just that so many really great things that happened to me in Manhattan. Like picnics in Central Park, and amazing dinners at Gennaro, and winning lottery tickets to see plays on Broadway. All of these things can still happen when we're living in Brooklyn, I know. But these are the things that have colored my year in Manhattan. Not to mention the countless meals Peter and I have cooked in our tiny Manhattan kitchen.

It was here, living together for the first time, that we grew and played and mastered a lot of culinary feats in the kitchen. And our food adventures were fueled by supplies bought in neighborhood, like olives and cheese from Zabar's, vegetables from the farmer's market at the base of Morningside Park, and the freshest looking fish at our very own fish market.

Peter keeps reminding me that we'll have a fresh crop of favorite things just waiting to color our new life in Park Slope, and I know that he's right. But even as I type this, a fat tear rolled down my cheek and fell onto the desk. (I'm a bit of a sap, I know. You would think we were moving to Burundi, not Brooklyn.)

And so, in homage to our first New York City neighborhood, we're going out for some soul food in Harlem, a long walk through Central Park, and for a bit of gelato. I hope you have a lovely weekend celebrating your neighborhood, whereever you are.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Soup season

I know I might be declaring the official season of soup a bit prematurely, but tonight was definitely an opening ceremony of sorts. For the first time in months, it feels like there's a hint of fall in the air. I took it as a sign. A soup sign.

I decided to make the corn, tomato, and basil chowder featured in last week's New York Times dining section. It's a perfect end of summer recipe, using all sorts of farmer's market ingredients that we won't be able to enjoy in just a few short weeks. But the recipe allows you to play a bit more tricks with all the goodies -- no plain corn on the cob or tomato salads for this dish (much as I adore both of the those things). Like all nice chowders, this one is thick and hearty, even without cream or milk. The perfect warm supper for the first cool night of the season.

Corn, tomato, and basil chowder
Adapted from the New York Times

You will need:

5 beautiful ears of fresh corn
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 cups of chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped basil
Juice of 1/2 lime

Slice corn kernels off cob and place in a bowl. Run back of a knife along each cob to remove additional corn pulp Add pulp to bowl and reserve the cobs. In a large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add in onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add broth, reserved cobs, 1 cup of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt to the pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove cobs. Stir in the corn, tomatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in basil and lime juice. Let soup cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Peter Lugar's

Yesterday afternoon we found ourselves in Williamsburg at the Radegast Hall & Bierbarten with friends. The torrential rain kept us there drinking fun beers for a while, and before we knew it, it was dinner time and Peter happened to remember that we were only  a few blocks away from Peter Lugar's Steakhouse.  We figured that the rain might keep enough people away that we could hop in without a reservation. 

It's surprisingly well-lit and casual, which was fine by us since we were wearing shorts (that happened to be completely soaked).  The waiter's have a reputation for being a bit brusque, but our server was quite nice.  He did start by telling us exactly what to order, but it sounded so good we didn't really deviate from his suggestions.

We started with the tomato and onion salad.  It's quite good, especially with their steak sauce spooned on top, but I think we've been so spoiled with truly amazing tomatoes lately that it didn't really sing for me.  Next he brought over a long piece of the thick cut bacon.  Now this sang.  It's salty and crispy and the fat does this incredible melt in your mouth trick that I've never experienced before.  Life changing bacon (if bacon had the ability to change lives, of course...). 

The steak for two came out next on a scorching hot plate.  We told our server that Peter liked his steak medium rare and I liked medium, and he when he said, "No problem!" I wasn't quite sure he was going to resolve this issue.  But when he set the platter down, he quickly picked up a few pieces and put them on the side of the plate -- they sizzled like they were going into a hot skillet and browned up a bit to a perfect medium.  He wouldn't tell me how they got the platter so hot, but when we got home, a show on the top steak houses in America happened to be on the Food Network (Peter Lugar's was chosen as the best).  I saw a shot of them pulling the plates out the massive oven with the meat already on top!  There's clarified butter and delicious steak juices floating on the platter, and he spooned right on top of our plates. 

The sirloin pieces were meaty with the great little lines of fat running throughout; the fillet pieces were buttery and so, so soft.  We got the creamed spinach to go with it, which was truly the perfect companion because it was a different taste without taking up too much room in the stomach.  Because trust me, you want as much space in your stomach as possible for this meal.  

Saturday, September 6, 2008

On a sticky day

I'm a big fan of open face sandwiches, especially when they're topped with eggs. We had a lazy (and sticky!) Saturday morning, and this was the perfect lunch. 

Open face sandwich topped with a poached egg

You will need: 

2 slices of nice bread (if it's a little stale, all the better)
1 ounce goat cheese 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
1/2 cup arugula
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Toast the bread lightly and spread generously with goat cheese. Set aside.  Pour olive oil into pan and add tomatoes, mushrooms, and basil. Cook uncovered over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.  Stir in arugula and remove from heat. While vegetables are cooking, heat 1 inch of water in a pan. Let it come to a gentle boil and crack the eggs directly into the water. Let cook for about 3 minutes -- you want the yolk to be very runny.  

Spoon the tomato, mushroom, and arugula onto the toast. Remove the poached eggs from the water with a slotted spoon. Tear a few leaves of fresh basil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  

Thursday, August 28, 2008

36(ish) hours in the Berkshires

Friday:7:30 PM: Head to Route 7 Grill (999 Main St., Great Barrington, MA) for some of the best farm-to-table BBQ around. Eat pulled pork, baked beans, corn bread, and some that amazing macaroni and cheese with the hardened cheesey top. Buy an "eat meat" shirt on the way out.

9:00 PM: Drive to up route 7 into Dalton. Eat the raspberry filled sugar cookie that your mom has brought to the house. Sleep like you're dead.

12:00 PM: Drive to Lenox. Poke around The Bookshop, grab an ice cream cone at SoCo Creamery, and walk through the craft fair across the street from the library.
6:00 PM: Visit Tanglewood for the last concerts of the season at the Jazz Festival. Put your quilt down and fire-up your tea lights. Climb the tree and wander around in the maze before it gets too dark. Have a glass of wine, eat some olives, talk about teaching and college and golf with your parents.

8:00 PM: Eat Peter's summer chili with homemade fresh salsa. Put your fleece on (it's already chilly), and lie back to watch for shooting stars.
12:30 PM: Head to Saratoga for the last horse races of the season. Read what the experts are picking and place $2 bets on the long-shots for every race. Win big.

5:00 PM: Walk around Saratoga. Wander into the wine store if they're doing a tasting, buy a scarf, check the sale rack at the Gap.

7:30 PM: Eat dinner at Max London's (466 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY). Order the lemony anchovie crostini and the fantastic clam pizza.

8:30 PM: Stop at Eugenio's Cafe (419 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY) for a bambini gelato and a quick coffee before the drive home. Good bye summer, hello New York.

Update on 10/12/12: Fun news, friends! I put together a mini travel guide on the BerkshiresI kept it short so that I was only sharing my absolute favorite things in that area. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So long, summer vacation

Even though I don't get the summer off, I certainly benefit from it in some ways while Peter is on summer vacation. This week, Peter is returning the world of early (very, very early) mornings, lesson planning, and paper grading, and I thought it would be the perfect time to make him a gussied-up version of a weeknight dinner.

I know that ratatouille might not be categorized as fancy food by some, but I'd never made it before, and I'm always a bit leery of recipes with lots of ingredients and steps (even if the ingredients are all from the farm stand and the steps are just a long series of chopping and stirring).

For the main course, I decided to try a version of this stuffed chicken recipe from the kitchn. It felt fancy but still easy -- the perfect combination for this kind of dinner. I made mine with lots of fresh basil and goat cheese, but the idea is the same, and it was a total hit.

And dessert. This little dinner offered the perfect excuse (ahem, opportunity) to make this truly life changing molten chocolate cake with peanut butter filling.  


You will need:
3 medium tomatoes (like these!)
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
2 small eggplants or 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 medium onion
1 bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
Black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Cut an "X" in the bottom of the tomatoes and put them into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and cool enough so that you can remove the skin. Chop them up and add to a pot with the basil, garlic, and some olive oil. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, toss your eggplant with a touch of salt and let it sit in a colander in the sink for about 30 minutes. 

In a large pot, cook the onions with a sprinkle of salt and olive oil for about five minutes, and then remove to a bowl. Repeat this process with the pepper, zucchini, and finally the eggplant.  Add all the vegetable back to the pan, and pour the tomato sauce on top. Cover and simmer for at least half an hour, but an hour is better.  Serve with some parmesan cheese on top. 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stark tomatoes

I'm a bit of a worshipper when it comes food celebrities. So when I saw these gorgeous bins of heirloom tomatoes at Union Square from Tim Stark, I knew it would be worth it (even at $7 a bin). 

And oh my, it was.  It would be silly to write a recipe for this little salad since all I did was drizzle the sliced tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on top.  Each color had a different texture to the skin, a different tang to the acidity. 

Here's to hoping you have some beautiful tomatoes of your own to enjoy this week.  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Makes my lips tingle

Last night, a wonderful friend came by for dinner. And she even brought flowers and chocolate! I told you she was wonderful.

We drank frozen margertitas (Have you tried these? They're AMAZING.) and got to catch up on gossip and decorating and books. Peter kept us out of the kitchen while he whipped this up. This is a dish he's made for me before, and I absolutely love it. He used a spicier curry in last night's version, and it made my lips tingle a little (in a good way, of course!). And it happens to use a lot of the wonderful things out in the farmers market this time of year -- fresh corn, peppers, jalepeno, and tomatoes.

Curry chicken with yogurt:
Adapted from Food and Wine

You will need:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 big red bell pepper—cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 large tomato, cored and coarsely chopped
2 fresh ears of corn, cut off the core
1/4 cup Greek-style plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup water

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour, tapping off the excess. Cook the chicken over high heat, turning once, until lightly browned and then transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the ginger, garlic, chile, and bell pepper to the skillet and cook over high heat until slightly softened. Stir in the curry powder and then add the tomatoes, corn, yogurt, and water. Season with salt and pepper.

Return the chicken to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over very low heat until the chicken is tender and the juices are slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. We served ours over rice to round out the meal, and have the most delicious left-overs covered in this spicy curry.

P.S. I made a version of this for dessert (substituted amaretto for almond tequila and toasted almonds for candied walnuts, but the same basic idea). A stellar finish to a fantastic visit.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

They have better homes in Australia

We've done a much better job eating at home this week. I know it's boring, but I love the routine of coming into the apartment after being pushed and sholved on the subway. Sitting on the couch, going over the silly and sometimes irritating items of the day with a glass of wine in hand and Rachel Ray chattering in the background. It's delightful.

It's the night before we skip out of town again, and I'm left making dinner with the odd things left in my fridge. I've got an avocado, a single ear of corn, some pretty purple shallots...and that's about it. I did a quick internet search of "avocado and corn" and came across this for inspiration. Pretty good looking, right? And it even uses the shallots!

Fish with avacodo, corn, and rice

You will need:

2 fillets of fish (I used tilapia because it looked good at the fish market)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, diced
1 clove fresh garlic
1 ear fresh corn
1 ripe avacodo
1 cup rice
splash of white wine vinegar (or white wine!)
1/4 cup water
Juice from half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil to a large frying pan and heat over medium high until the oil is just rippling. Wash and dry the fish. Spinkle with salt and pepper. Add to the pan and sear on each side for a few minutes -- ere on the side of undercooking. Cover fish in foil and place in a low oven to keep warm. Add shallots and corn to the hot pan you cooked the fish in. Cook about two minutes, then add vinegar, water, and avocado. Cook for one more minute, covered. Remove from pan and add lemon juice, butter, and a splash more of vinegar to the pan. Stir.

I served this over rice, so I put a nice scoop of rice in the dish, the avocado, corn, and shallot mixture next, then the fish, and then I drizzled the sauce on top. Light and lemony and creamy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Here we go again

While making $2 bets last weekend at the Saratoga horse races, Peter and I actually made $42! I know -- I was amazed, too.  We decided to use if for a fun date night back in the city.  The only problem with this plan is that it can be quite difficult to have a fun date in New York City for only $42.

We decided to use it one of my favorite spots, Taim, in the West Village. It's very tiny -- just a counter with six stools -- but it's charming in it's own strange way.  There are large glass windows facing the street, and there are usually some odd conversations taking place inside that are well worth over-hearing. 

While we were making our final decisions, we got a tall glass of the ginger mint lemonade, which is so refreshing and crisp tasting, especially this time of year. We decided to order the mixed falafel platter, which comes with green, red, and harissa flavored mini-falafels sitting on top of a giant mound of creamy hummus sprinkled with smokey paprika. There are piles of Isreali salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions chopped up together), green, tangy tabouli, and three other sauces to pour on top. We got the white pitas (they also have wheat), which come out warm and covered with dried herbs and salt. This time we remembered to order an extra couple of pitas to go along with the platter since it only comes with two and there is more than enough on the platter to make four. 

I should also mention that Tiam has the best french fries in the city. Rather, they have the best french fry accompaniment in the city. It's a thick, yellow saffron aioli that is totally and completely wonderful.  It's the dressing that thin, crispy fries everywhere would cry out for if they could. 

All this was only $20.  Leaving us with $22 to spend on movie tickets to Mama Mia!  

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What's too much?

It started with burgers, french fries, and onion rings and P.J. Clarkes. Then it was sausages and a soft, salted pretzel at Shea Stadium. We rounded out the week with pork belly and sweet and sour chicken at Szechuan Gourmet.

Just. Too. Much.

Needless to say, it's salad, rice, and a plain old pork chop for tonight. For the salad, I drew inspiration from the incredible Splendid Table newsletter and added some curry to my dressing.

Simple summer salad

You will need:

1 clove fresh garlic, chopped finely
1 small purple scallion
1 ripe tomato
Nice chunk of cucumber
Small bell pepper (mine was lovely and purple!)
Teaspooon of curry
Splash of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Sprinkle of salt and pepper

In the bottom of your salad bowl, whisk together the curry, chopped garlic, chopped shallot, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Chop nice chunks of tomato, cucumber, and the red bell pepper. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer chil(i)

It's sticky in the kitchen tonight, but that's only because I was craving some decidedly un-summery things. We had all the stuff for a great chili (one of Peter's specialities), and cornbread just seemed like the perfect thing to go along with it, but that meant I had to turn on the oven. To four hundred degrees. So it goes when a craving comes along. I rounded out the meal with my favorite summer salad -- sliced cucumbers and tomatoes with basil, oil, salt, and pepper on top.

And then, because it's Peter's favorite and I happened to have a giant peach, I made him some peach ice-cream. I cut the recipe in half, since we only had a small container of sour cream on hand.

Peter's summer chili

You will need:
3 strips of bacon
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 can pink beans
1 ear fresh corn
2 medium tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
ground cumin, cinnamon, and dark chili powder, to taste

Chop your bacon up into bite sized pieces and put at the bottom of your stew pot. Once your bacon has crisped up, take out some of the bacon fat, but not all. Add your chopped onion, red pepper, and jalapeno. After a few minutes, add the ground beef and cook until the meat is brown. Season with chili powder, cumin, and a little shake of cinnamon. Cut your fresh corn off the ear and saute in a dry pan a few minutes. Add your corn, chopped fresh tomatoes, can of drained beans, and your can of crushed tomatoes, with the juice. Fill up the tomato can with water and add it to the pot. Let it cook down about 30 minutes. Serve with corn bread, sour cream, and cheese.

Peach ice cream
Recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop:

You will need:
1 giant peach (or 2 regular sized peaches)
1/4 cup water
Just under 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Handful of mini chocolate chips

Peel and dice your peach, and put over medium heat with water. Cook about 10 minutes, until the peaches are soft and mushy. Stir in the sugar and let cool about 30 minutes. In a blender or food processor, mix together the cooled peaches and any liquid they have along with the sour cream, cream, and vanilla*. I made my mixture quite smooth because I hate fruit chunks in my ice cream, but you are welcome to make this as chunky as you'd like. Chill the mixture in the fridge until cool, and then add to the wondrous ice cream machine. At the very end, I added in a handful of mini-chocolate chips.
*The original recipe calls for some lemon juice added in at this point, which would be delightful, I'm sure, but I didn't have any.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chocolate sorbet

To be honest, chocolate sorbet didn't sound so appealing to me at first glance. Isn't the creaminess of chocolate ice cream a major part of its appeal?

But it was 8:30, we were about to settle into episodes four and five of our Mad Men season one marathon, and I just didn't feel like running out for whole milk and heavy cream. Dairy-free chocolate sorbet was starting to look pretty good.

And oh my, it didn't disappoint. In fact, even without the cream and milk, it manages to be smooth and comforting, like the summer equivalant of decadent hot chocolate.

Recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop.

You will need:

2 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup of cocoa
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, 2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

Combine 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, cocoa, and salt. Heat over a medium burner, whisk the mixture frequently until it comes to a boil. Add chocolate, vanilla, and 3/4 cup water and stir until melted. Put the mixture in the fridge to cool, and then add it to your wonderful ice cream maker. Let the magic churning begin!

I topped ours with some fresh raspberries because I had them in the fridge (and you know how quickly those guys turn), but this this would be delightful with white and dark chocolate chips, sprinkles, or any other fresh fruit sprinkled on top.
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