Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Little Texas Beer and Bourbon

All right. Let's get all the misconceptions out of the way. Yes, bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States. No, it doesn't just come from Kentucky or Bourbon County Kentucky. Bourbon must be at least 51% corn, but this can be corn produced anywhere, like say... Texas. And it must be stored in new, charred oak barrels. These are the basics of Bourbon. You can also read about this in my Bourbon Notes.
This fun submarine-y looking thing is where all the magic happens
So with that in mind on Christmas Eve my family, sans littlest sis who had to work, went on a beer and bourbon tour at Ranger Creek Brewstillery, right here in San Antonio. If you are in town and have a chance, I definitely recommend it. At $5 for 3 beers (+ keepsake pint glass) and an extra $2 for their bourbon tasting, it's a steal. And they don't skimp on the product. Starting the tour with a full pint glass of the first beer, they do a brief explanation of how they came about as a brewery and a quick 101 on beer brewing and then they're off showing you around.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Cookies!

There's nothing about Christmas Cookies that wouldn't warrant an exclamation point at the end. They're festive, sugary cutouts in all various shapes, slathered in buttercream frosting and dusted with all kinds and colors of sprinkles. They make me so happy, just to look at or to pop one in my mouth... for me it's on the top of my "Christmas is here" checklist. My Mom makes them each year, but this was the first time I'd been around early enough to help decorate in a few years, and so tonight, my first evening at home, my Texas home, we sat and decorated.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Seven Fishes in Five Dishes

Being home for the holidays means I get to finally hang out with my whole family, which as it so happens hasn't occurred since May of 2010. And I'll be away from my city, my home, for over 2 weeks. So as a little nod to my oh so Italian Brooklyn home, I decided to put on a Seven Fishes dinner. Originally meant to just be 3-4 fishes, once I actually got to the fish market my stomachs made all the decisions and I turned it into  a pretty aggressive seven fishes in five dishes dinner.
The stone crab claws were our number 1 last minute decision. Meaty, unctuous, delicious... if you haven't tried them yet, book a trip to Miami asap and go here. Or if you can't do that, just check with your local fish market, as these puppies are in season right now. Oh, and they're also a sustainable fish, as they aren't killed to get their claw meat, the crabs just regenerate another one.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lamb Steaks with Orzo Pilaf

Appliance Love: My Cuisinart Food Processor

If you couldn't tell from the amount of pesto I've been making lately, I am head over heels in LOVE with my food processor. It's a Cuisinart Prep 11-cup that I got as a birthday present from my wonderful parents (probably hinting a little when they decided on an 11-cup over the 9 or 7) in a beautiful stainless steel color, but it also comes in white. The 11 cup is a bit pricey at $200+ but the 7 and 9 are much more affordable at $130+ and $150+ respectively, but don't come with the dough control technology, which I'll admit, I haven't used yet as I make my dough's by hand but will probably take advantage at some point in the near future.
Did I also mention that it is insanely easy to use. So much so that when I first put it together I was making it much more complicated than it needed to be, but it does come with a handy little DVD that you can watch to actually see how it comes together. Basically it just slides and snaps in. And... if you recall one of the many reason why I hated my former food processor, this one is quiet. Not silent by any means but I don't feel like I'm in danger of disturbing my neighbors, much less my ear drums. It also processes fairly quickly to allow you to get those great silky smooth purees but not so fast that you don't get the chunky quality when desired. And 11 cups is perfect for me to double, or even triple a recipe, as I am quite fond of freezing things back, though when I do make individual servings it doesn't hinder the machine either.

Pesto di Pistacchio

Pesto di Pistacchio
1 1/2 c. packed basil
1 c. olive oil
1 c. dry-roasted pistachios

2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. packed parsley
1/4 c. finely grated piave- or parmesan
1 tsp. lemon zest

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper- optional
3 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Process all ingredients except the salt and pepper in a food processor until it comes together (I prefer mine a little chunkier with the nuts but it's to your preference), then add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Garlic Ancho Chile Roasted Cornish Hen

Garlic Ancho Chile Roasted Cornish Hen
1/4 c. olive oil
1 Tbl. white wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves peeled
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 Tbl. ancho chile powder
1 Tbl. lemon juice
1 Tbl. brown sugar
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cornish game hens
1 lemon- cut in half

1.Remove hens from packaging and pat until dry. Remove anything from the cavity (gizzards, neck, etc) and put into a large plastic bag.

2. Combine the top 10 ingredients listed above in a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste and pour over the hens. Seal plastic bags and let marinate for 24 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 450. Once heated, bring temperature down to 350. In a roasting pan lay hens breast side up, try to get as much of the marinade/rub over and insert 1 half of a lemon into each cavity. Bake for 45 minute, until skin is crispy and juices run clear. Tent in aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spicy Peanut Noodles

If there's one food fear I can say I faced fully head on and mastered this year, at least in the extent of making something that's not only edible but pretty darn delicious, it would be Asian food. Now when I say "master" I'm taking major liberties, as I am no Chen Kenichi... yet, but I can whip up a pretty tasty stir fry. And that's a lot more than I could say a year ago. For also being the number one thing that I'll order take out of, well at least I can now make a homemade meal for not only a fraction of the price, but a meal where I'm controlling most of what goes into my meals as far as meat, veggies, sodium, etc are concerned.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tuna Orzo Pasta

Tuna Orzo Pasta
1/2 c. orzo- I use tricolor
1- 7oz. can of tuna packed in olive oil
1 strip of bacon
1 small onion- sliced thin
1 garlic clove- sliced thin
1 small head of radicchio- sliced thin
1 Tbl. olive oil
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Dollop of Dijon mustard or pesto- optional
Grated hard cheese-optional

1. Set a salted pot of water to boil and once boiling, throw in the orzo and cook per instructions- or until orzo tastes al dente. Drain and put pasta back int he warm pot. Cover and set aside.

2. While pasta is cooking, in a saute pan cook the bacon. Remove, drain and crumble when cooled. Remove bacon fat until there's just approx 1 teaspoon left. Add the onions, radicchio and garlic. Cook until tender and onion is translucent over medium high heat. Add in oregano, crushed red pepper, drained tuna and the cooked bacon. Add in the orzo and mix well. Serve with pesto or mustard or an optional grating of a hard cheese (like Parmesan or Piave) over.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pesto di Prezzemolo

Before I tell you what's in that particular pesto I'm going to ask you to trust me. This is delicious, so bright, green, just beautiful. And to have such a burst of not only color but flavor as the winter months get into gear... well that's just heaven. This is a parsley pesto, flavored with salty anchovies and briny olives, some garlic cloves that pack some punch along with a little crushed red pepper. And of course a few healthy dashed of white wine vinegar and finished off with a few pinches of grated piave.
I taste tested the pesto after I made it on some little crostini, but found worked best tossed with my tuna orzo pasta. It's almost like a chimichurri, but taken up a notch or 2 with addition of the anchovies, olives and cheese, so even over a steak or lamb might be equally delicious. And of course, letting it sit in the fridge overnight will just help to meld and marry all those delicious flavors.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cranberry Onion Jam

I made this for the first time last Thanksgiving and was hooked. Immediately it became a must have for all future giving thanks holidays, and I think it works especially with a smoked turkey (another Thanksgiving tradition). It's punchy, puckery, oniony and there's this caramelized depth that is just so many flavors in one in your mouth. It's so bright, just so... holiday-y. It's sweet but it also has an undeniable presence. And it's really not that hard to make. No, not as easy as popping open a can of cranberry jelly and scooping out into a bowl, but it's so much more worth it, if anything for the flavors that aren't one-note, but many.
This may have been one of the first recipes of Luisa's (The Wednesday Chef) I ever made, as it fell right around the holiday a year ago when I got really engrossed in her blog. I think it was also the first bright thing I made after days and days darkness and what first started to bring my appetite back (if you need clarification on this you can read here) and one of the first things that made me finally put pen to paper (so to speak) and actually start up this little blog. And it's amazing how many things can change in a year while some things always stay the same. I mean that in the best way, in having a new recipe to add to the many Thanksgiving's to come, a new tradition to add to the old, a new thing that moving forward will stay the same, even as so many other things change.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How To: Quickly Roast Peppers

I figured I'd set up my next post with a quick how to on roasting peppers. It's a snap, and it makes all the difference in the world for having those lovely layers of flavor to add to almost any dish. In this case I made possibly the most typical form of roasted peppers, stuffed poblano, but this can be used for any kind of pepper out there.

And yes I KNOW, a true, lovely and silky roasted pepper comes from the oven, baked luxuriously for over an hour until charred and filled with flavor. But in this case, I'm doing a quick roast, then stuffing and baking. So if you have time, check out this post from Luisa... if anyone understands and can really impart the importance of taking your time with food its her. But if it's a Monday night, you've worked all day and then run errands all night, sometimes this will just do.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

So now that we all know how to quickly roast some peppers, it's time to move on to the meal. Poblanos stuffed with Mexican spiced shredded chicken and smokey cheddar cheese and topped with a tomatillo salsa, there's something just so... home... about this dish. And it's so easy, an excellent Monday night meal.
And the beauty of roasted stuffed peppers is, there is no right way to make them. I just happened to have chicken and cheddar in my fridge that needed to be used before I left, but this could easily be vegetarian or vegan, you could use pork or beef or any even seafood, with a nice spicy red sauce or even mole. Any number of vegetables like mushrooms, eggplant, corn, zucchini, spinach, huitlacoche, etc could be used. You can skip cheese altogether and go for a Mexican crema or sour cream. And one of my absolute favorite versions if a traditional Mexican dish called chile en nogada, a recipe I usually defer to the experts when I visit home instead of attempting on my own.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blog Love: Commuter's Kitchen

I've mentioned it before, buried in some other post, but I wanted to make this a full blog love. For my sister's new blog: Commuter's Kitchen. And not coincidentally, but a post about all the delicious things we'll be making in just a few short days. Check it out, subscribe, etc. And of course, come back here in a few days for posts on oyster stuffing, how amazing a smoked turkey can be, some fabulous pies, casseroles, and such.

Thanksgiving Gear-Up: Four Days To Go

Thanksgiving is an odd holiday for my family–starting back in college, we let the holiday fall by the wayside, focusing more on Christmas dinner. That, and the fact two trips from the East Coast to Texas in a month can get pretty pricey, has led to my sister and I forming our own celebration on our own. We are both foodie bloggers, so it’s become more a cooking challenge. This year, she’s coming down Wednesday and staying through the weekend, so we’ve planned out a fantastic menu for her, myself, Chris, and any other friends who need a place to eat/escape on Turkey day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How To: Caramelize Onions

There's nothing better than a plain old cheeseburger sometimes. The soft yet toasty sesame seed bun, the juicy meat with just a touch of pink for me (I'm the weirdo that loves my steaks black and blue but my burgers have to be at the very least medium), melty sharp cheddar, the crisp of the lettuce and the soft, satisfying bite of an almost sweetly acidic of the tomato. Perfection... almost.
The only thing missing to take it from good to absolute carnivore deliciousness is the onions. No, not raw (which for some reason give me a headache), but those lovely, browned, sweet with a hint of char, caramelized onion. Not just the perfect accompaniment for a burger, but for steaks, dips, soups, pastas, omelettes... I could go on, but you get the idea. It's a little time consuming, especially if you're making a bunch, but it's so worth it. 1 large onion will yield about 1/4 cup so you can judge from there how many you should use.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Spiced Pepita Crusted Tilapia with Pickled Green Tomatoes

This was a pretty cool little recipe I came up with pretty much on the fly. And a great back story which is always fun in explaining the back end of how something came together. My parents just returned from a epic tour of the South and let me tell you, they know how to live it up. The best hotels, amazing activities, and of course, the most decadent food that could be had in New Orleans, Mobile, Charleston, Florida, etc. One of the things my Mom picked up for me in a little shop in Charleston though was a jar of our shared love, pickled green tomatoes. No, not chow chow, but largish green, perfectly pickled green tomato pieces. The kind that I'll eat straight from the jar, but are also excellent with a deep fried piece of catfish.
So coming home from the airport on Monday after a wonderful alma mater Homecoming weekend in Dallas, those pickles were all I could think of. And yes, I'd happily make those my dinner any exhausting night of the week but sitting on a plane for 4 hours also allows for my creative juices to flow so it just evolved from there. Catfish, breaded and  panfried. Maybe some roasted onions and okra. But that's just so... plain. And the catfish at the fish market looks... not good. But the tilapia looks fresh and it's another fresh water flakey white fish. And how about some roasted ground pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) in place of the breadcrumbs, with the same delicious spices? Served over my favorite carb mixture of Texmati and quinoa. Well the verdict is, it works. Actually it's delicious, the pepitas make it so fitting for autumn, but it's still light and provides a nice crispy breading for the fish which is a nice compromise between regular breadcrumbs and all out nut crusts like pecan. And the leftover ground pepita mixture helped to thicken up the sauce without the use of any cream.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mustard Cream Sauce

I love how a sauce can really elevate a dish. For whatever reason, a (mostly) simple liquid drizzled over a piece of chicken or salmon or a crawfish cake can bring in a certain elegance, and give a dish depth. That's why they're great for dinner parties. With this one particular recipe, where I cheated by buying pre-made crawfish cakes, the sauce helped tie in a homemade element to personalize the meal. And  honestly, you can't go wrong with a mustard sauce in almost any situation... mustard just equals delicious in a way that few condiments can exemplify.
I don't make sauces this complex often because they usually involve butter, cream and other fatty ingredients, but sometimes you have to splurge. Though even just some reduced white wine with mustard and chicken stock would make a delicious topping as well, it's the special occasion feeling that allows me to indulge with cream. And over a simply grilled chicken breast or broiled salmon fillet it isn't as much of a caloric splurge as it may seem.

Banana Nutella Cake

A million years ago you might recall I had a dinner party. And promised recipes. So here is where I make good on my promise... albeit quickly, on a busy Monday. But I figured for whatever reason that this recipe seemed to fit well with the holiday (Happy Halloween!), so here goes.
This cake is very much like banana bread. It is super simple and a snap to make, plus it isn't one of those cakes that require a lot of hand holding or any sort of complicated techniques or tricks to make. And the Nutella "frosting" I put in quotes because it's really just straight out of the jar. So there's nothing to that. Oh I'm sure you could whip up some cream and fold it together to get something a little more mousse-esque, but if you dont' have the time, don't worry about that. The way the banana and chocolate and the pecans and the hazelnut just flow so well together, no one will dare say that it isn't anything but the most delicious cake.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Raosted Vegetables and Hill Country Brisket Pasta

On my laundry list of errands is buying a new memory card for my camera

Roasted Vegetable and Brisket Pasta
2 c. whole wheat fussili pasta
1/4 lb. precooked (smoked) chopped brisket
1 radicchio- sliced
1 small eggplant- cut into thin rounds
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 Tbl. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Hard, sharp cheese for grating

1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss vegetables in oil, spread in 1 layer over a baking sheet and sprinkle salt over. Roast for 30-40 minutes. While vegetables are roasting, cook the pasta.

2. If brisket is frozen, wrap in aluminum foil and throw in the oven for the last 10-15 minutes that the vegetables are roasting. When done, toss vegetables, brisket and pasta together and grate cheese over. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Homemade Chinese Takeout: Cashew Chicken

One of my absolute favorite meals that I've been making recently is cashew chicken. It tastes remarkably like the stuff you get in the little white box from that takeout Chinese joint but I have the added satisfaction of knowing exactly how much oil goes into it and how much sugar (if any). I control the sodium, the kinds and amounts of vegetables, and the type of chicken used. And I usually pair it with quinoa mixed with rice, for added protein. Seriously, you can't tell the difference between the homemade stuff and what you'd get in a restaurant and that it's so easy to make is even better. Plus it's fast, great for nights where I'll spend an hour plus at the gym.

I also love the versatility. Ideally I like to keep it as close to "Chinese take out" as possible which means veggies like bok choy, shitakes, lemongrass, etc... but when I don't have those on hand I'll make do with whatever greens I have: spinach and brussel sprouts work great, any of the dark leafy greens that are so great for you, squash, zucchini, eggplant. I use low sodium tamari and will replace the granulated sugar for the sauce with brown sugar or honey. For oil I use 1/2 a Tbl for the veggies and 1/2 a Tbl for the meat and once I've cooked the veggies I'll let them drain on a paper towel while I cook the meat.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bourbon: There's An App For That

Like bourbon but sometimes just get so overwhelmed with the selection that's out there? Want to try new ones but forget the old one's that you liked? "Was it Old Forester or Old Crow? Booker's, Baker's or Basil Hayden?" Well just like basically everything else out there... there's an app for it. It's called Bourbon Enthusiast and it's $0.99, not unreasonable for a regular bourbon connoisseur. It also has a lot of features I really appreciate, like the ability to check it off the ones I've tried, show that I liked or didn't like it, make notes, view bourbons that are similar, go straight to the webpage, and even forward it on to email, facebook, twitter, etc.
As I have an iphone, I'm not sure what other providers have the same app, but I'm sure there's something similar if not. Give it a shot, if anything just to see the overwhelming amount of bourbon available out there.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dinner Party

I don't do a lot of these, but when I do, I think I can pull them off pretty well. The secret is simplicity and a few shortcuts here and there. Oh, and also timing. Because no one wants to attend this dinner party waiting for the osso buco to be ready.

1. Shortcuts. For the appetizer I did a crawfish cake over sauteed shredded brussel sprouts and a mustard cream sauce over. The crawfish cake was not homemade- in fact premade at Whole Foods and just warmed up at my house. The sauce and sauteed brussel sprouts... yes, those were homemade, but didn't take long at all and only used 1 pan. Which brings me to my next dinner party hint.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oak Barrels Post Bourbon

If you've ever taken a tour of a winery you'll find, especially for some of the smaller places, that they'll buy up recycled barrels that have been cast off from the big boys in France or California, as it's relatively cost efficient compared to a brand new oak barrel. So it's interesting to see how used bourbon barrels (also oak) are being used after the fact. Both Pappy Van Winkle and Woodford Reserve barrels are reused at Brooklyn Brewery which, as it just so happens, I will be visiting this Sunday! But very interesting, especially for the seemingly random things like herb planters at Alinea, Chicago's go-to for molecular gastronomy from chef Grant Achatz. In my dream yard I'm now picturing adorable used barrel planters too!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Welcome to fall. Despite the balmy 80+ degree weather we've had here in New York this past weekend, of course. I have no doubt though that soon we'll be fully immersed in autumn, for better or worse. Which means roasting, soups, stews, all those meals that'll warm up not only your home but erase the chill from your bones as well. And because you're roasting the vegetables prior they pick up further layers of flavor, so you don't need to simmer your soup for hours on end. This could actually be a meal made on a weeknight.
I love this particular soup because it's equally healthy: roasted squash, garlic, tomatoes with some spinach thrown in for good measure too, and also just as equally bad in all those delicious ways: caramelized onions, bacon, cream. It's thick and rich though, so you don't need to eat that much to fill up and freezes well, so you can make a large pot to put back for all of winter, or however long it'll last before being completely devoured because... well it's delicious. And it also gave me the chance to try out my brand new food processor (major appliance love post to come soon... this thing is seriously amazing).

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Sweet Stuff: Hummingbird Cupcakes

Rich. Decadent. Sweet, but in a Caribbean island dessert type way. Like lying on a hammock in the shade of a palm tree, drinking a tropical something with an umbrella in it , if that makes any sense. But that is Hummingbird Cake. There's no method to the madness that is this little cake. Full of banana, crushed pineapple, coconut and crunchy pecans, then luxuriously topped with decadent lemony cream cheese frosting. Like good Southern charm it's hard to resist.
If you aren't familiar, Hummingbird Cake is a Southern treat. Why it's called a Hummingbird Cake? Because life is sweeter in the South? Because only Southerners would name a cake after a flighty tiny bird with a serious sweet tooth? Actually no idea. The reason behind the name remains a mystery. First published in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living, the recipe was credited to a Mrs. Wiggins of Greenville, NC, though no explanation was given for the name. But one bite and the cake itself needs no explanation, it's sweet and delicious. It's a great use for overripe bananas, it freezes well and, most importantly, it's a snap to make.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Last Happy Birthday This Year

It's October, so the birthday month (the only full month I've celebrated ever) is officially over. And I got back from Portland (also my last birthday trip) today to find this little present waiting for me. How fun! My last birthday present this year. From Champagne Layer Cake to Hard Cider Apple Pie to "Old Fashioned" Snickerdoodles... I can't decide what to make first. Albeit after the post birthday mega diet. There's even a recipe for Beer Margaritas, so commence the college dorm flashbacks.
So thank you little A for the awesome birthday present! For the girl who'll add bourbon to just about anything this is just the perfect gift, and might help expand my booze, and wet bar, horizons. Anyone who wants to check out the book just go here. First person to comment on what sounds like the best recipe will be the first one I make. Promise.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Papas a la Huancaina

Relax... this isn't anything crazy. It's basically just a Peruvian potato salad of sorts, with a creamy spicy cheese sauce that's topped with chopped up hard boiled eggs and olives. It's an appetizer you'll find at almost any Peruvian restaurant and it's delicious. The potatoes even I could do without, it's the sauce that's the star and would be great over chicken or shrimp. This is a recipe that'll feed about 10-15. It's great for picnics, bbq's, family gatherings or any situation where you need to feed a crowd. Super easy, a little spicy and more complex than your average potato salad.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tuna Meatballs

The tuna is both light but also rich and the bacon adds such a smokey flavor to it. I shaved in some Robusto cheese, a gouda type cheese that has that sharp, nutty Parmesan bite. With a little oregano, rosemary, some crushed red pepper, breadcrumbs and Marsala thrown in for good measure, then just the egg to bind it together. Topped with the sweetness of the caramelized onion, the depth of the Marsala and spicy mustard in the sauce, all over some pasta. Just try it.

Peanut Butter Jalapenos

Being in a Fantasy Football league this year and actually being an active participant (yes, I'm doing research, following blogs, etc), good football snacks have become a focus. This isn't much of anything, at least as far as an in depth recipe goes, but it's great as a snack or as an appetizer for a party or game. Especially if said football game is in Texas because where else would people think to combine jalapenos and peanut butter?
I first had these years ago, served by one of my Mom's very good friends and another Texas native and always had the recipe in the back of my mind as something fun to make for a football party with a match up against the Cowboys or Texans. They're crunchy and creamy, just like peanut butter and celery but with a little more spice and less stringy celery strands. For any naysayers, if you like Thai food, especially the peanut sauce, you will like this. Trust me. Plus it's vegetarian (and vegan!) and since it's 1/2 vegetable, it can make you feel like you're being healthy, even though the peanut butter is definitely not... though, hey, it's protein! And if you want to be more health conscious you can use some health food peanut butter and simply top with raisins for that sweetness... just like ants on a log, except this would be the spicy version.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I love this place. There's good wine, amazing views, and an appreciation of life moving at a slower pace. All surrounded by tall trees and in the shadow of the Appalachians, with autumns' smokey, woodsy smells in the air. And it's the place I chose to spend my entrance into thirty this past weekend. This is mostly pictures, memories now, of an amazing weekend with some really great people.
Warming up at the Avett Brothers concert
Starr Hill Brewery. The 3rd tap from the right was my favorite

Autumn Farro Salad

There was a point tonight when I completely thought my dinner would consist of almonds. First, an almond cookie at work when I realized what time it was, not quite sure I'd make it home with energy to do anything much less cook. Then a handful of smoked almonds I grabbed from the store on the way home. After that I upgraded slightly to slices of mozzarella and finally I got my act together and made this tasty autumn rice salad.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Last Summer Salad

You may think that watermelon is strictly a dessert fruit but hopefully this salad will convince you otherwise. It's sweet and crunchy from the melon, creamy and salty from the ricotta salata and the basil gives it a lovely herby, savory finish. The flavors mesh so well in a way you'd never expect that even though it may seem so wrong in your head it is just one of those crazy things that actually works. I served this salad at a little Dallas dinner party with some friends alongside grilled chicken. It was light but complex and worked very well with the grilled meat. And even better, it was a snap to make- 3 ingredients, 1 bowl, very little prep and a completely surprising and colorful addition to a party.
My friend Robin, of Silk Purse and Sow's Ear, has been part of a CSA share this summer and I've loved following her veggie takes. As much as I'd love to do a CSA it's so hard when I travel so much, so I play voyeur with hers. And every week there seems to be one little watermelon, so when we had dinner last night I talked up this salad, and how she absolutely has to try it. But Robin is also lactose intolerant... so I've been trying to think of ways to make this without the cheese and still have it stand up pretty well. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Early Birthday... New York Fashion

So I do have about 5 posts that are thiiissss close to being ready and yes, they are actually about food. But first I want to share what I did tonight. Because it's neat and I'm a nerd about all things food and most things Texas. And this was one of those things that's so New York and so me in the go and do sense. And it fits so well here because tonight I went to the book launch and signing of my home chef food blog idol Lisa Fain aka the Homesick Texan!
Lisa's blog was one of the first that I discovered when I moved to New York City... and I've made references to her about a million times here. Because she hasn't just been a blogging idol, she was a life preserver. An anonymous person in a sea of so many but one that made me feel a little less alone, less misunderstood here. And I was so homesick and trying desperately to find a middle ground of chasing my dream and missing a place that's so much more than just a big state. And when I started the blog it was with her stories from the heart and unsatiated quest for the taste of home that I had in the back of my mind.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beef and Eggplant Stir Fry

My Mom lived in Japan for a few years during her childhood (my Grandfather was stationed there in the Navy) and while there she picked up different a few Japanese dishes that she made for us growing up, such as sukiyaki, various stir frys, teriyaki, etc. It was through her that I fell head over heels in love with Japanese pickles and also through her that I learned from a young age to eat with chop sticks - and was actually complimented on my form by an Asian couple at a Chinese wedding banquet a year ago! So that should at least be a good base for me, right? Wrong. Totally wrong. Besides my one success with coconut rice... which, let's be honest here isn't exactly Asian brain surgery, I can really only do miso marinades. Every other time I've tried to do a true stir fry or a warm curry or even a soup... fail. It's just not good, not appetizing. But I'm determined to break this trend.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pane all'Olive... or in English, Olive Loaf

Hawaiian Breeze and Apple Cinnamon. The leftover candles I promised my Mom I would have on hand for the hurricane. The only candles I could find as the store was nearly cleaned out. And that's what my apartment smells like right now, as the cool wind blows through my windows after the storm. Well that, and fresh baked bread. Fresh baked olive loaf bread. The other staple that stores were cleaned out of this weekend. But that was no matter to me, because I can bake my own. And this was the perfect excuse to do so on this quiet, and yet anxious weekend.
After the second rise
I knew I was going to make bread and I knew I didn't want to make the same old no knead that's been my go to. With virtually no plans to go anywhere and most of my to do list foiled by the advent of Irene, I wanted to branch out and do something different. And perusing Jim Lahey's book (aka my bread bible) I stumbled almost right away on olive loaf. So perfect too, considering I had made a seemingly terrible last minute purchase a few weeks back of some cured Moroccan olives that I had promptly forgotten in the back of my fridge and now needed to use sooner rather than later.

Grilled Peach and Blueberry Pie

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mustard Marsala Duck Legs

Ok, so maybe duck legs aren't so every day, but if you don't have the hook up like I do with the cutest old men butcher's down in the West Village, you can just use chicken legs. Or chicken breasts, or veal, or pork chops. In fact you can use just about any white meat or foul you want. Because the secret is in the sauce. And it's so easy, and yet so delicious.

Cherry Pie Turnovers

How much more fruit can you take? Because just to warn you, I still have a grilled peach and blueberry pie post to come. If it isn't already clear, this summer I've enjoyed a plethora of fruit. Strawberries, cherries, gooseberries, apricots, blueberries, peaches. The past few weekends at the farmers market I felt like I had to physically will myself away from the tables upon tables of blackberries... as my favorite jam of all time is blackberry. And in my head, that luxurious shiny spread over a bit of butter and homemade bread... too much! I am not ready to face canning again... just yet.
Red on red
And maybe not exactly pie, but I am loving preserving in the form of turnovers to be frozen back. The strawberry ones were such fun that I decided to go for the same with some cherries, only mix it up a little with the ingredients and spices. Where the strawberry ones were so bright and summery, with the cherry I knew I wouldn't be eating them until the fall or winter so I made them warm, smooth, a wrapped up in a blanket near a fire kind of taste. I also did my pie crust with a portion of almond flour, to give it a different sort of texture and crumb. It was nice, a little different and added a lovely nutty flavor, which I thought would go well for fall. A last minute spontaneous decision that I know... I know... I shouldn't do when baking, but we all know I'm never going to stop trying.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hey Y'all

This weekend I am home sweet home in Texas, so blogging is on a little vacation hiatus. I've got a cold beer in one hand and the most cooking I'm doing is making queso in a crock pot (the best kind) for 9 hungry guys and my girlfriend. Steaks hot off the grill and my favorite spinach salad tonight. Hope y'all have a great weekend too!
Combine in crockpot. Stir. Serve.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More on Risotto... Sangiovese Farro Risotto

So if the risotto I made last time was a using up leftovers kind of meal, this one is definitely a notch or 2 higher, a bit fancier, a perfect Friday meal. It's the novelty of the farro, the way the wine makes the grains sing with flavor, the crunchy bitter of the rapini, the sweet of the onions, the fatty luxury of the sausage and the spicy essence of garlic and crushed red pepper, marrying together perfectly all in one bite. Without the farro, this favorite pasta dish is usually served with orecchiette, the little ear pasta... but I thought the richly wined farro would pair well with the broccoli rabe and accompaniments.
Delicious as well as colorful
The original recipe I saw for this called for Chianti, but in hitting up the wine store, I happened to taste a fun little sangiovese and decided that would suit just as well. Having had a late and interesting Thursday night, as well as a Friday chock full of fun work adventures, I was ready for home, for cooking up a quick meal, maybe some reading and then lights out at an early hour. This risotto was great because it only used about 3 cups of wine and a 1/2 cup of broccoli rabe blanching water and it was done. The vegetable and the sausage cooked up quickly as well. But all the unique flavors melding together into the meal made it seem like one could've easily slaved over the stove for hours, so a good recipe to keep in the back of your head when you need something special but quick.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Risotto

Risotto may seem like some kind of fancy, complicated meal but more times than not, I make it when I want to clean out my fridge. Doesn't sound very extravagant when you put it that way, but when you have veggies, stock, cream/milk, cheese, etc that's about to be borderline and you just need an easy way to get rid of all in one fell swoop... risotto is my favorite go to meal for that. It's great also because it can be as light or as heavy as you want, and can be vegetarian, vegan or you can go all out carnivore and throw in all kinds of meat. And once you've made it you'll find that all it takes is some attentiveness and a good stirring spoon.
Toasting the arborio and farro before adding in wine and stock
Thinking that I'd make ratatouille at some point this past week (my plans were foiled by the discovery of crawfish), I had some eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and thyme lying around, and also some ricotta and piave, as well as some vegetable stock that needed to be used asap. Instead of sauteing I decided to roast the vegetables, allowing for a deeper flavor to emerge as well as not letting the eggplant soak up oil like a sponge, as it is known to do over a stovetop. So the risotto was made solo, with both arborio and farro, then the cheese and vegetables added once everything was all done. The wine I used was a sharp, citrus-y sauvignon blanc and that lent a nice lightness to the dish, as well as not using any cream or butter. It was still rich and creamy but also not too heavy and the roasted vegetables were the perfect accompaniment to keep it feeling like a summer meal.

Spiced Strawberry Turnovers

With the strawberry jam made and no immediate inclination to preserve again any time soon, I've been racking my brain for what to do with the carton and a half left of strawberries. I adore strawberry rhubarb, but mostly for the rhubarb and I've done that already. I don't need sugary stuff lying around for those nights when my sweet tooth comes out of hibernation and there aren't that many savory dishes with strawberries that I can do... especially using the whole carton plus. So I decided to channel my baking idol and mentor, my Mother, and do as she does every year after her annual peach picking excursions and make turnovers.
So maybe not absolute beauties but pretty in a rustic way
Turnovers are great because they're small, as small as you want them to be, and they freeze well. They're great for snacking, picnics, beach days or if you hold off especially perfect for those dark days of winter when you need something that tastes like summer to get you through. With the filling I was able to add my own little creative tweaks, like a (big) splash of bourbon, some golden raisins, cardamom, cinnamon without worrying about messing too much up. And for the crust I used a full butter crust (I cannot find shortening.... granted I'm probably looking in all the wrong places but where in the h can I get some Crisco around here?) and made it the way I was taught in my pie baking class a few weeks ago- large fat pieces, bake on high heat, egg wash, sprinkled with raw sugar, otherwise not too much different than my usual pie crust. The result was a flaky and tender crust and the filling was sweet and spicy, in a spiced way like apple cider, not like spicy heat. A pretty good use for preserving strawberries, and a way that fits my comfort zone perfectly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crawfish... Tex-Mex Style

What happens when you mix a little dirty South with some Tex-Mex? No, this is not a joke (though I'm sure there is one out there)... just the makings of a completely fun Friday meal. And I'm sure you're saying but it's Wednesday... well this was last Friday's delicious meal. It just took this long to actually put it into words.
I'm not sure what I'd call this. A mishmash of ingredients, a Mexi-Cajun fusion casserole. What I can tell you is how ecstatic I was wandering through Whole Foods, my Friday treat to myself, and saw those little red critters in the seafood section. A complete no-brainer. The roasted ratatouille I had initially planned to shop for was cast aside in my mind... but how exactly could I use the crawfish in a dish outside of just pouring old bay seasoning over and serving up with corn and potatoes? Besides these were already cooked. A casserole formed in my head... like a grits casserole, but with hominy as the base, then layered with some sauteed vegetables like okra, onion and chayote (looks like a green apple but tastes like a sharper squash) infused with some chile powder or even old bay, then topped with earthy huitlacoche and some lovely, melt-y queso oaxaca. Then the crawfish tails. All roasted and then sprinkled with  chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime. What a delicious little accident of a meal.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Strawberry Jalapeno Jam

Basically ever since I moved into my latest home, and came into such a plethora of storage space in the form of a modern lean-to between my bathroom and the backyard, I knew that I wanted to get into canning. I imagined jars upon jars of pickled okra, chow chow, and of course jams and jellies, and jars and jars of them hanging out there, waiting for months where cravings didn't quite match up with the seasons. Being an absolute lover of the farmers market since I moved to New York, what better way to hold on to those beautiful fleeting tastes of spring, summer and fall than to preserve? It's a second step in my main objective which I hope to one day fulfill in life, of near complete self-sufficiency, which is a larger topic I'll elaborate on in a later post someday.
So here it is... finally. My first official, all by myself canning experience. How did it go? It was good and bad. The good was that I made an absolutely delicious strawberry jalapeno jam, sweet but also oh so spicy as a perfect accompaniment to cheese, meats like pork, or even over buttered toast. It tastes like Texas, like home, in one small spoonful. The bad was that this was my first time actually wielding the instruments, boiling the water, watching the mixture turn to jam with only my own judgement to make the call when it was done.  My jam yielded 3- 1/2 pint jars and then my inexperience messed up 2 irreparably in the water process. So I was left with one. One tiny little half pint of deliciousness... and whatever was left in the pot that was too little to process. You could bet that I was saving that too of course, especially after I had a taste. But so be it. This is my first try and I did it all by myself. To have even 1 jar makes me so happy and proud.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Farmers Market Find: Thai Basil

Those wonderful, rare weekends where I'm in actually in town with not too much planned go a little like this: am spin, hit up the farmers market, become entirely overwhelmed and purchase something completely random, walk through the park afterwards contemplating what the h I am going to do with said random item, get home, make a delicious meal with previously mentioned random item, if it's nice out I'll usually sit in my backyard with a glass of wine and good book, and usually end the night going out with friends or having a quiet movie night while relaxing at home. Sounds nice, right? I wish I had more of these... some day I suppose.
This time the random purchase was thai basil, a wonderfully fragrant herb you've probably had in Thai or any southern Asian cooking. It's also quite beautiful and after washing I thought it would be nice to place the stems in a vase and let the delicious fragrance waft through my apartment. I still have last nights dinner leftovers to eat so I decided to make a thai basil marinade, throw on some chicken breasts, wrap it all up in individual plastic bags and keep in the freezer for a night I don't feel like all out cooking. I love doing this, for nights I get home late from work, or spin, or am just out, and while it's not exactly a novel idea, it does fit the needs of a busy girl to a T.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Curried Almonds

I decided to make these their own post because a) they are AMAZING and delicious and would hate for them to be buried in another post and b) because nuts kind of sums up my life right now. Ha, funny... because what else is new. But seriously, lately it's been where I don't know where one thing stops and others begin but life is good in general and that's all that matters. 

Curried Almonds
1 c. raw almonds
1/2 Tbl. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. sugar
11/2 tsp. curry powder

1. In a saute pan heat oil on medium low heat and add the almonds, salt and pepper. Keep low, until almonds brown, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and toss with sugar and curry powder. Lay out on a paper towel for 10-15 minutes before using to allow to cool.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Over at Le Culinary Creusette, my sister had challenged her readers a week ago to make her sugar snap pea salad better. My first thoughts were to keep it simple. Radishes work best in my opinion with creamy things- on buttered bread, or with a mayo based dressing so I left them out. Same with the sumac, because its something I simply didn't have. I thought some sweetly spiced curry almonds would mesh well, and also provide a different kind of crunch against the peas, and kept the ricotta salata for a sharp creaminess. I made my vinaigrette with champagne vinegar instead of white wine, and threw some curry powder in that to tie it all together. I wish I had some butter lettuce or another vegetable but it wasn't necessarily something I missed. The result... not bad. Easily a good lunch salad or appetizer. Or perfect for a night spent nursing a sunburn after a long, hot, weekend at the beach.

Sugar Snap Pea Salad
1/2 lb. sugar snap peas, trimmed with string removed and cut in half on a bias
2 oz. ricotta salata, crumbled
1/2 tsp. champagne vinegar
1/2 Tbl. olive oil
2-3 shakes of curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Curried Almonds

1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add sugar snap peas and let blanch for 2-3 minutes. Remove and shock with ice water. Trim and set aside.

2. In a bowl whisk in curry and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste for salt. Pour over the peas and crumbled ricotta salata and toss well. Add the curried almonds.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Huitlacoche... An Exercise in Trust

Ok, you have to trust me on this one. Like a full faith, 100%, would I lead you astray type of way. It's called Huitlacoche (kweet-lah-KOH-chay), but it's also known as the Mexican truffle, which sounds delicious, right? But another name for it is "corn smut" which sounds disgusting and reminds me of what someone would call a porno that was shot on a farm. And technically it is corn that has been infected, grown bulbous and black on the cob, and while in Mexico it is canned and sold as a delicacy, in the US when this happens it is more often than not destroyed. But ignore that, think truffle, think delicacy. Because regardless of what it is called it is earthy richness, a lovely sweetness and is just perfect in so many dishes.
Definitely much prettier than Huitlacoche... but don't let that deter you
I remembered it from growing up in South Texas, found in some Tex-Mex restaurants, but primarily available in the full fledged Mexican joints. I had actually seen it at my local deli in Brooklyn and it caught me by surprise, but then, in a night of ordering in weakness I also saw it on a local Mexican restaurants' menu and ordered. And was hooked. It should be located in the ethnic/Mexican section of any major grocery store and it comes in a can (so also non-perishable!) Throw it in a quesadilla or enchilada with some melty cheese and you will forget everything except how absolutely delicious it is. Let me warn you though, huitlacoche is not pretty in the least, looking kind of like smallish black mushrooms that are very moist and gooey. Gross sounding, I know, but this is a trust exercise here. So trust me, and try these!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spicy Cashew Chicken

Nights I go to the gym are always tough. I'm rushing out of work early but also getting home from the gym too late to begin making something too intensely homemade. I'm sweaty, humid from my shower and exhausted. But exercising, especially spinning, is such an amazing work out that I always have some sort of leftover energy. So I drag myself up from the couch or the bed or wherever I've planted myself post-shower to the kitchen to create a meal. Tonight, inspired by both Homesick Texan and Simply Recipes, I made spicy cashew chicken.
It's not what you think when you initially hear "cashew chicken." This is spicy, with some bite from the smokey chipotles, and a little creamy from the light mayo thrown into the marinade. There's a beautiful sour pucker from the lime zest, umami from the tamari, and of course a sweet crunch from the cashews. And it's all so easy to throw together. Despite my food processor/blender dying for good (yeah, that'll be an unloved appliance post soon)... it wasn't so bad to combine and absolutely delicious over the chicken.


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