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.


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