Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pork Chops with Horseradish Cream Sauce

Pan-roasted Pork Chops
2- 2" bone in pork chops
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1 Tbl. olive oil
2 carrots- chopped
1 celery stick- chopped
1 bay leaf
2 c. chopped brussel sprouts

1. Preheat oven to 425. Bring the chops to room temperature and rub with the salt, pepper, allspice and marjoram. Heat a saute pan to medium high, add in the oil and when the oil's hot but not yet smoking, add the chops. Let brown on all sides.

2. Add the carrots, celery and bay leaf around the chops in the pan, then over that add the brussel sprouts. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, then remove and cover the pork. Pour out and reserve 1/4-1/2 cup of the pan juices. Keep roasting the vegetables for another 15-20 minutes until tender.

Horseradish Cream Sauce
1 c. heavy cream
1/4- 1/2 c. of the reserved pan juice (depending on how much you have, add in 1/2-3/4 c. chicken or beef stock)
1/4 c. grated horseradish
1/4 c. diced apple
2 Tbl. finely chopped scallions (original recipe calls for chives)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
Salt to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and let simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes. Taste for and add salt. You can serve with the apples and scallions for a chunkier sauce or strain them out with a sieve.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kale and Almond Pesto

Kale and Almond Pesto
3 c. kale- roughly chopped
3-4 basil leaves
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/2 c. roasted unsalted almonds
1 garlic clove
1/4 grated parmesan- plus extra to shave over
1 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a food processor add in the basil leaves, parsley, almonds and garlic. Set a salted pot of water over medium high heat and once boiling, add in the kale. You made need to do this in batches. Blanch the kale for 1-2 minutes, then remove, drain and add to the processor (it’s ok if a little water from the kale gets in).

2. Add the grated cheese and then blend together. While blending drizzle the olive oil in through the top until it has a creamy consistency- you may not need all the oil, or you may need more. Taste for salt and pepper and then serve over pasta with some grated parmesan on top.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Turkey Chili Revisited

The past few days in NYC have been perfect chili weather. Cold, a bit dreary. The part of fall I tend to dislike the most as too many of these gray days have me wishing I could bottle the endless blue sky autumn days, have me thinking too much about what’s next to come. One or two gray days can be feasible though, finding someone special to cuddle under blankets with, watching old movies, making warm, hearty meals. But only one or two and then I get antsy, thinking this favorite season of mine has already come and gone. But for now I’m staying optimistic. We’ll have beautiful blue sky fall through November, at least.

But I digress. So on gray day #1 I made turkey chili. An all day project for a day I had nothing planned and where the weather outside was not one bit hospitable. I’ve posted my chili before but this time I made a few different tweaks in order to keep myself from having to venture out. The first change was no beer. It may sound like blasphemy but it’s true. My desire to stay warm and dry outweighed having beer in my chili and I can live with that. Second change was tomato paste, that just happened to be hanging out in my fridge, begging to be used. And it’s funny how two little adjustments can make something just that much different. In a good way. A great way actually. The addition of paste and lack of beer I think made it richer all around, there was still plenty of depth (I mean there’s bacon, molasses, ancho chile cacao all in here… on top of everything else) but with beer there probably would’ve been that extra hoppy layer. But it was a success, especially for a recipe that I considered pretty perfect from the start. The perfect meal to brighten up a dreary fall day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tomato & Ricotta Salad

It’s so hard to believe that fall is in full force. Although I love to dress for autumn this morning I decided to take advantage of the days when I can still wear peep-toe shoes and capris without risking a cold, as I feel those days will just become fewer and further between. I got back late last week from a week long Texas trip and Friday was off to the grocery to restock the shockingly bare fridge. We like to eat as seasonally as possible, and while I’ve been craving hearty stews and heavy braises lately, when I spied the still-heavily-stocked heirloom tomatoes it took such a strong will to not reach for one. To taste just one more juicy, sweet tomato before it’s time to call it for the season. While I’m sure a few good, late summer tomatoes can still be found, I’d rather it be at the farmers market than Whole Foods any day and may just have to take a lunch break this week to check out what’s currently at  the market (also craving a hearty lamb tagine, would love to grab ingredients for that as well for when the temperatures dip again later this week).

I love the simplicity of this recipe but also how decadent it can be at the same time. An overindulgent dollop of creamy, herby ricotta over silky sweet and juicy slices of tomato and a drizzle of spicy, bright olive oil to finish it off, it’s light and rich at the same time. The perfect transition food. From summer to fall. From light to hearty and so on and so forth. I’m sad to lose summer, but the wonderful thing about living in the Northeast is that every season is such a noticeable change, so while it's hard to say goodbye to sandals and skimpy dresses and the bounty of produce that New York has to offer in the summer, I’m so looking forward to pumpkins, to tall boots, warm scarves, and hearty stews. But until the warm days are officially gone, hand me a gorgeous, plump  tomato and let me enjoy the last trace of summer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cornflake Salmon

I'm going to clue you into a little known fact about me that most people don't know. I hate milk. More than just a casual dislike, everything about it is  disgusting, abhorrent, completely unacceptable. My family can attest to my numerous tantrums and dinner table bargaining as a child anytime I was faced with a tall, cold glass of... milk. Even now, when it’s easier to avoid, I still won’t go near anyone who’s recently drank it and will buy buttermilk or cream any day before I'll keep milk in my fridge (which are acceptable to me… go figure).

So needless to say, I don't eat much cereal. It's a wonder I'll even eat cereal in the first place, but it can be a filling (and economical) snack/lunch/light dinner. However, I'll only eat 2 kinds: grape nuts  and cornflakes... and dry of course. I even used to pick out the cornflakes from Honey Bunches of Oats, that's how much of a breakfast weirdo I am and how much I love those slightly sweet, light buttery flakes. And so it should come as no major surprise that outside of just snacking and coating chicken in, I try to find as many uses for cornflakes as possible, sometimes the more unorthodox the better.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Shishito Peppers

What a day and it's not even close to over. If you live in the NYC area or happen to be watching the news this morning you already know about the shootings near the Empire State Building, which happens to be a block away from my office. It makes me sad that there are people in the world who have no regard for human life and angry that these things happen at all, but with increased occurrence lately. And it serves to remind me how fragile a sense of normalcy can be. With everything under control outside by noon though I was antsy to get out of the office, anxious to continue back to the what I had planned for the day, and just clear my head away from midtown, especially before the claustrophobic evening rush.

I wandered down to the Union Square farmers market and took in the plethora of fresh vegetables and flowers, then turned North and wandered around Eataly. If you haven’t been, it’s worth a trip but go with a plan and don’t go hungry. I’d been treating myself to a weekly Friday Eataly excursion lately and have been surprising myself by getting out of there with less than $20 spent and some pretty good finds for dinner. Last week was perfect pillows of gnocchi, heirloom tomatoes and a surprise acquisition of shishito peppers. This week I walked out of there with a wedge of sharp Parmigiano Reggiano, nearly a pound of sugar snap peas (which I LOVE to snack on raw, but also for a mint pea pesto for dinner) and I basically cleaned them out of shishito peppers. All for a little over $12.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tomatoes with Miso Dressing

It's hard to believe it's mid-August. I have so many trips and adventures planned for the fall through the winter that I'm so looking forward to but I've had to wake up and be in the moment. Summer is here right now, and it's a season I love but before I know it it'll be over. But while it's here I'm going to enjoy all the best parts of the season. Outdoor concerts and movies, baseball games, boat rides, as many beach trips as possible, exploring my city and of course enjoying the produce of summer.

Since the move it's been hard to get back to my weekly Saturday morning farmers market trip. Even if I was just picking up one little ingredient or something unusual and fun to make my week brighter, it was helpful to just walk around to see what was truly in season. So it had completely slipped my mind that I'm completely missing out on tomatoes at their peak, until I visited my favorite Izakaya where we had a gorgeous heirloom tomato salad with miso dressing.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Buttermilk Pie

With this pie, I take back everything I've ever said about not liking sugary sweet desserts. This is it. The one and only where I can't get enough, that overwhelming sugary vanilla custard that's only slightly offset by the pucker-y lemon buttermilk. From my earliest memories this was my favorite pie, the pie that sealed my love for pies in general, but a dessert I make sparingly because I know my self control would not be able to hold back and my waistline would hate me for it. But sometimes, especially on quiet summer weekends, you have to indulge.

If you aren't familiar, buttermilk pie is a southern dessert. It's similar to chess pie but doesn't include any cornmeal, though I see the appeal of the extra added texture of crunch. It's got that beautiful tang from the buttermilk, another favorite from my childhood, that's almost brought to a completely different level with the complementary lemon, while cooking the top forms a delicious browned crunch. Once chilled it's irresistible, completely addictive. It's special occasion, a once in a summertime blue moon pie but so worth the extra hours at the gym.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pebre... World's Best Condiment

Pebre is a Chilean condiment, but it wasn't until my parents went back there a few years ago and found it everywhere in the same way you'll find salsa on every Mexican restaurant table in San Antonio that it made it's way back to the states and into my parents' home as a permanent fixture. It's like a pico de gallo shot with a ton more acid, the South American, chimmichurri-esque note. When I'm home in the summer I can basically count on it always being a staple in the fridge, and it's nice to have it in my New York apartment too, another touch of home that works so well with the fresh northeast summer produce.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cornflake Chicken

I wasn’t initially intending to blog this meal but I received  requests from my sis for the recipe and besides being on the healthier side, it was pretty darn tasty so I figured why not. This was actually my first attempt in making cornflake chicken which is surprising because in college it was one of my favorite meals served at my sorority house (besides breakfast-for-dinner night there and who can argue with that).

My sophomore year of college I lived in my sorority house. It was a great experience, the perfect transition between the overcrowded personalities in the dorm and the lonely independence of apartment living. My favorite memories were a mix of wonderful and bittersweet. Heading out to class on jersey days. Friends crowding in my room during rush breaks to catch an episode of Sex and the City. Groups getting ready to go out, the electric excitement running through the house before a mixer or party. Girls packed like sardines into the downstairs hallways during tornado warnings. Everyone sitting in the living room, locked in shock, watching as 9/11 unfolded before our eyes. And through all that we had an amazing group of women who day in and out would prepare all our meals, would laugh and cry along with us, and solidified that it wasn’t just a house, but a home.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Garlic Parmesan Popovers

This has not turned out to be the weekend I thought it would be. My beloved kitten, Huxley, had jumped off the bed and hit his back paw wrong and then refused to walk. He's had little sprains like this before but as he's getting up there (9! Yikes) I figured we should rule out anything bad. So that night it was off to the vet.

$528 later they had ruled out any diabetes, kidney, liver, worms, ticks/fleas, upper respiratory, hydration problems and most importantly, paw issues (not even a sprain, better than I expected). Which was a relief. And the vet was amazing. I was also in and out in less than an hour, which helped stress levels for both myself and the Hux. My goodness though... I was not expecting that kind of bill. But this is what savings is for, right? And so, for the next 2 months I'm pretty much broke. Which pretty much put my weekend plans on immediate hold.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dry Sauteed String Beans

When I first moved to New York, take out was a new and exciting experience. In Dallas we'd get pizza delivered... and that's about it. So coming to a city where I could get everything from Cuban to Malaysian to Salvadorian and at any time of the day... well it was just a tad overwhelming. Thanks to chowhound, menupages, yelp, etc I found some must haves, one of my favorites being Dry Sauteed String Beans at Grand Sichuan.

The beans are nicely blistered, but not burned and the pork adds some nice fatty deliciousness and also picks up the sugar, soy and of course the spice from the chilies. Over some brown rice all the textures work perfectly and even though I wouldn't call it the healthiest meal, it's fairly balanced. And it's a dish I crave over and over, throughout the seven years I've lived here. And even though I've now moved back into delivery range for Grand Sichuan, why not try to recreate this at home?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Honey Soy Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry

Well I've got a few recipes I need to type up and get out there but I figured I'd start with this one first because it was pretty delicious, fast and made somewhat on the fly. Exactly what you want for a busy weeknight. I had gotten into my head that I wanted to do a miso glazed cod (a la Nobu), but that needed a while to marinate so while I was at the fish counter I grabbed some shrimp that I could do a quick, Asian-flavored marinade with some fresh ginger and honey.

Having also ended last weekend at a friends' BBQ where the hosts had made some pretty delicious coconut rice with golden raisins, I was determined to recreate as I couldn't get enough. If you remember, I'm quite fond of coconut rice... and was able to find some 5.5 oz. cans of coconut milk from Thai Kitchen which is pretty much the perfect size to get some great coconut flavor with only a touch of the fat. I topped off the rice cooker with some fresh kale leaves to steam (my new favorite dinner trick) and stir fried the shrimp with some shitakes. Balanced, delicious, easy and pescatarian. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Midtown Lunch: Lena Latin Grill

Last week’s midtown lunch was a wash. With the heatwave going on all I wanted to do was stay in my cool building. The weather today however... gorgeous. Sunny, just a few clouds and a perfect 75. Just the right day to head out for a midtown lunch expedition with my friend Robin, aka Ms. Silk Purse, who’s been such an inspiration lately in getting me out of the office during lunch.

I did some quick research into what was equidistance between our offices (I’m in Herald Sq and she’s up near Bryant Park) and settled on Lena Latin Grill. Described as the Chipotle of South American cuisine, it was also the perfect quick serve, yet sit down set up for us to chat and catch up in an hour. Still on my pescatarian fix, but having fish tonight, I settled on a nice and light tofu salad. Added in were grilled corn and queso fresco (a last minute splurge made while looking at their overwhelming sides list) and I topped it off with some chimichurri.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Urban Herb Garden

One of the things I was most excited about with the new place was my balcony. Facing the back of the building with a good sized alleyway between the building across the way, it gets great sunlight and a cool breeze. And having a balcony means I can have an herb garden, albeit a small one, as the actual balcony size is pretty small. But I have sunlight, good drainage and good air circulation, all necessities for growing herbs.

So in the past few weeks I've set out to make this dream a reality, researching everything from the types of herbs I wanted, to the places to get them, to planting the right combinations, to the actual planters they'll go in. I settled on a 36" and a 24" CobraCo English Horse Trough balcony planter that hangs over the railing of our balcony to maximize space. Then I was off to get potting soil and herbs. After an unsuccessful trip to Home Depot I did some more in depth yelping research and came up with a hardware store that got kudos for having lots of organic products as well as being pretty economical. Plus it's only 10 blocks or so from my place.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lunching It Up In Midtown & Other Local Excursions

I rarely leave my office for lunch. In fact, I rarely leave my desk. And some days I’m so busy that taking the 5 minutes I need to heat up food can be too much. Plus it’s expensive. If I want to eat my favorite healthy salad, that’s $10. If I feel like being a little gluttonous with a burrito bowl at Chipotle (don’t judge… I love their burrito bowls and have perfected the combination- mix white and brown rice, no beans, chicken, tomatillo salsa, pico de gallo, lettuce and guacamole… not so unhealthy) that’s $10. And $10 every day, or even a couple of days a week can add up. I also work in what is generally considered a culinary no man’s land, so that definitely doesn't help either.

But some days, especially the nicest days all I want to do is get out, even if I’m just running across the street. I remembered those long ago days when I had just started this job and would go sit out in Herald Square or read next to the windows in the now shuttered Borders in Penn Station. So I’ve started trying to make the time. Come in just a little earlier, get those reports done a tad sooner. Once a week just get out, even if I’m just heating up my lunch and taking it outside. But even more fun would be those days I can go try something new. I'll occassionally grab Korean food- kimchee pancakes, mandoo or kimbap- but this is basically owing to my close proximity to K-town. I want to branch out further. Elusive food trucks, ethnic carts hailed by Chowhounders, that crazy sandwich on Serious Eats or specialty salad featured on Midtown Lunch. $10 once a week, I can handle that. So beginning today it was a chicken tikka kati roll at The Kati Roll Company. Tender chicken, spice sauce, an equal parts soft and crispy kati wrap. And $5 for a me-sized roll (though those with a bigger appetite may want to go for the 2 roll special), well that’s doable.
Meant to take a picture before I scarfed down 1/2 the roll but oh well

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mediterranean Chicken with Lemony Spring Vegetable Orzo

One of the things I was determined to set up as soon as I found out I'd have a little bit of outdoor space was an herb garden. I grew up with an outdoor garden where my Mom grew everything from tomatoes to peppers and of course a few herbs and although I didn't fully appreciate that idyllic sort of self-sufficiency at the time, now I would give anything to gather edibles from my backyard for the dinner table. So I'm flexing my untried thumb to find out exactly how green it is with a few staple herbs: rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, cilantro, sage and mint. I'm a little over a week into it but being my usual impatient self, the other night I decided to snip some rosemary, oregano and thyme to make a modified version of Mark Bittman's Grilled Mediterranean Chicken I saw on Serious Eats.

I was drawn to this recipe not only for the herbs, but for the brightness that the lemon added and to give me a chance to grow to love my temperamental oven by roasting some chicken (as sadly I do not own a proper grill, only a stove top one that seems to work best on veggies and shrimp). Combined with a light and creamy orzo flecked with some grilled asparagus and thawed out peas and corn kernels, it was a perfectly light and yet deliciously decadent week night meal. Eaten cold the next day, with the crispy skin removed it was a different, yet equally tasty result, somewhat like an herby cold rotisserie chicken (does anyone else out there enjoy cold chicken, or am I just a weirdo?). But the fresh herbs really helped to push the whole meal into an over the top type of wonderful and just served to remind me how delicious something fresh and simple can taste.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

So this is another recipe I wasn't initially intending to blog about because goodness knows if you google strawberry shortcake you'll get dozens of recipes, but I've been in a little cooking funk lately so I figured what the heck, the interwebs could always use one more recipe, right? Oh and a chance for me to bitch about some things on my mind. The thing is, this past weekend I made a few things I was pretty psyched about; a saag paneer with kale and buttermilk that I scarfed down before heading out on Friday, some oven roasted dry rub baby back ribs that were pretty amazing, despite oven issues, but I forgot to take a picture of both and finally some lemon buttermilk sorbet that I just haven't gotten around to eat because the temp dropped back to the 60s. Oh, and I made pizza dough using some Shiner Bock brought especially for me from one of my Dallas reps (I love my biz), but didn't get around to actually baking the pizza due to the above mentioned oven issues.

Between a microwave that doesn't work (which, ok, I don't use a microwave like ever really), a washing machine that worked once then crapped out (maybe due to someone trying to be economical and overloading... but come on, things shouldn't just break like that), the fact that I can't keep my hair dryer on for more than 2 minutes without it short circuiting (fine, I'll get a surge protector for the bathroom... unsightly, but whatevs, I kind of have to dry my hair for work), the oven is where I draw the line. It just doesn't want to stay on which is kind of a problem for, you know, cooking things. And it's kind of the straw that broke the camels back for me. So I'm mad at appliances. Weird, but true. I feel terribly childish in my anger, like I want to stomp my feet and scream, but the short of it is, having a working oven is kind of a necessity for me.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mexican Corn Salad

If you aren't familiar with elote, or sometimes more commonly referred to as Mexican Corn, you have no idea what you're missing. Corn on the cob was one of those childhood veggies I was always on the fence with, between kernels constantly getting stuck in my teeth to the braces faze where it was next to impossible to eat. When I got older I took to removing it from the cob automatically if/when I deigned to eat it, which wasn't often. Jump to my first summer here in Manhattan (7 years ago! Has it really been that long?!?) and my co-workers are introducing me to the corn at Cafe Habana, and it forever changed my outlook of the vegetable.

Of course, when you take a grilled corn on the cob and smother it in mayo, dust it with chili powder, sprinkle... with a heavy hand mind you... cotija cheese all over it and then spritz with some lime, it's hard to be anti corn on the cob. Mexican corn will always remind me of summer, it brings me back to the days where I was still so overwhelmed with this city, in awe of the never ending heights and sprawl. I still am, too. There are still many times I'll splurge on a cab and just press my face against the glass and stare up, just the same as I did 7 years ago.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

I am still very much on my veggie kick. After a weekend full of BBQ, burgers and the meaty like I headed to Whole Foods tonight on a vegetable mission. If you are in any way familiar with my weeknight eating habits, you know I'm a huge fan of chicken sausage. Any type. And it just happened to be on sale today. So I grabbed up some andouille, some peppers, some kale, and ciliegine mozzarella (the cherry tomato sized cheese in water) and came home with a grand idea. Stuffed peppers.

I threw some brown Texmati rice in my rice cooker and filled it to the brim with chopped kale, a few spices and a scant amount of salt and let it steam away. While that was going on I chopped up the sausage and cheese and cut up the peppers. Once it was all ready to go, into the peppers it all went, the cheese pressed on top of the mixture and tucked into the oven. And then I went out on the balcony to watch the storm.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Prajitura Cu Caise or Romanian Cake

There are only a few things I know about my maternal Grandmother. She was from a small town in Minnesota. She came from a  very large family (13 kids!). After high school she left home to go to Washington D.C to work as a secretary in the Pentagon. She played the guitar. She looked a lot like my Mom. My name is the Spanish translation of her middle name, Alice. And her father, my Great-Grandfather, was Romanian. I talk a lot about my South American heritage, namely because I grew up thoroughly entrenched in it, as much as a 2nd generation American can be, thanks to my paternal Grandmother. But with my Grandmother on other side there’s a sort of missing space, all kinds of unknowns. Language, religion, traditions, family history… and of course food.

Outside of the food portion though this post has taken me a very long time to put together. The amount that I write and erase and repeat the process is so much more than I’ve done with any other post. And I guess it’s just harder to write about a someone you never knew, especially one who’s been gone for over half a century. I don’t want to make assumptions, to finish thoughts that aren’t my own. I never knew this Grandmother, she passed away when my Mom was barely 2 after battling a terminal illness she was diagnosed with when she was 16, so even my Mom has not much of an idea. But I imagine she had to have been very strong, to be faced with such crushing news at such a young age, then to leave her family and her home to go to Washington D.C. She must have been a bit ambitious, she was a secretary at the Pentagon for goodness sakes! And she must have been pretty willful and stubborn, to defy the odds and her illness in so many ways, but especially in choosing to have a baby (my Mom) when all her doctors warned her with her condition that it would kill both herself and the child. All those traits I see in my Mom, in my sister’s and in myself, for better or worse. I can't say if these traits are particular to the Romanian people or if my Grandmother was just a very strong woman, who knows.
The fig cake

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Kale and Caramelized Onion Frittata

Recently in the food world there was a bit of a debate over how long it takes to caramelize onions. You can check out the article here, but the gist of it is that *some* recipe authors are carelessly writing into recipes that caramelizing onions takes only 5-10 minutes. I posted the article on to my facebook site that 10 minutes was laughable and got into a debate with a friend, her saying that how familiar one was with a cooking technique could depend on the timing of the recipe. That's absolutely true, but I think the main problem are the liberties that authors take with cooking times. There's nothing more frustrating then deciding on a particular recipe, namely because it only takes a certain amount of time, and then have that timing be grossly untrue.
The eventual frittata I made with said caramelized onions
Here the main culprit is caramelized onions but I'm sure this could also be true of braises, stocks, sauces, etc. But going back to the original I decided to test this out. I've caramelized onions many many times and I would never describe the process as speedy, but I'd never actually timed myself. Now keep in mind, there are many factors at play here, such as the type of onion, the uniform thickness that it's been sliced (you really want the thinnest slice possible, so that as much of the onions surface is touching the heat as possible), the inclusion of a touch of sugar (so as to help bring out the natural sugars in the onion), and how many onions you're using (how crowded is the pan). Depending on all those above things, it could be a longer or shorter process, but again I was very skeptical of 10 minutes. So I used one fairly large Spanish onion, cut fairly thin, about a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and a tiny sprinkle of some turbinado sugar while nearly constantly stirring. Also, I'd consider myself fairly expert. It took me just over 15 minutes.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Currant Cream Scones

I lifted nearly this entire recipe from Smitten Kitchen... but naturally, NATURALLY, I just cannot resist playing around with a few things here, another tweak there. It's a real issue that's maybe good for other hobbies and professions (my day job for one) but with baking... no way. You need to be exact. Precise. My sister even got me a baking scale for Christmas for goodness sakes so I should be doing this correctly. I just can't though.

This time... well it turned out pretty delicious. Because I kept the changes to a minimum. I soaked the currants in some sherry to see if that would lend another flavor. Normally I'd start adding in cinnamon, nutmeg, even cardamom, but I wanted to see what a liquid change would do, especially one with such a heavy almond aftertaste. The result... nothing I can really notice. The second was replacing a teaspoon of the flour with some cornmeal. Maybe it's the Southern girl in me try to get every possible taste of home into a baked good, but I like the crunch and extra little bite when there's a touch of cornmeal in something.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Repollo en Nogada... esque

Something about Cinco de Mayo, Derby and Caps v. Rangers playoff got me in the mood for something completely eclectic but fused from these 3 events taking place today. Earlier this week I had bought some savoy cabbage, thinking I might do a lightened version of the traditional Eastern European dish of stuffed cabbage, but having been absolutely exhausted this past week with apartment hunting (and more on that soon), I've been doing terrible things like ordering in and eating out.

Today though, while out running errands, being Cinco de Mayo it made me think of chile en nogada... considered to be the national dish of Mexico and I thought, why not make it with cabbage, "repollo" in Spanish? Making a complete generalization here I figured there are more than a couple hockey players that come out of Eastern Europe(perhaps I'm reaching a little here),  and if I soaked the raisins in some bourbon it would give it a Kentucky twist. So there you have it... Cinco de Mayo Derby NHL Playoff repollo en nogada... esque.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs

For years chicken has always eluded me. There was something I just didn’t like, couldn’t wrap my head around. Moist, dry… all the same I just didn’t like the taste. Granted, when I ate chicken it was mostly some big name brand chicken from the supermarket, all white meat and usually precut into individual servings. I thought it would be healthy, but healthy doesn’t cut it if it doesn’t taste right. And then I took a cooking class where we roasted a whole chicken. And I discovered dark meat… and have been sold ever since.

I do eat more white meat now, especially since my fancy market sells breasts with the bone on- but chicken breasts can be so unnecessarily expensive. Thighs are super cheap (like under $2-3 for 3 pieces of organic, humanely raised, hormone free… probably still cheaper to buy the whole chicken but I am just 1 small girl watching her weight), are automatic portion control due to their size and it takes a lot to really screw them up. The meat is tender, better tasting (to me) and while some people may be scared off by the fact that they come skin on, if that really bothers you then don’t be afraid to get a little dirty and just remove it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Warm Chickpea Salad

This past weekend my parents came into town, which is a rare treat. While I do love them to visit as often as possible, when it comes to travel I prefer to be the one making the journey to my hometown. But this was exciting, my Mom had been to visit a little over a year and a half ago but my Dad hadn’t come to visit since 2006 so we really did it up. AND… since this might be the last time they visited while I lived in my lovely Brooklyn neighborhood, I had planned for us to hit up one of the hotspot restaurants I still hadn’t had a chance to go to- Al Di La.
Now if you’ve lived in New York, and/or have ever looked at a must-go Brooklyn restaurant list Al Di La almost always makes the cut. Innovative and delicious, it’s been touted as some of the tastiest Italian food in the area. But I wasn’t sure if the hype was worth it… so I took my parents. The verdict: after a fairly long, albeit expected, wait as well as a mishap with their credit card machines (the machines weren't working the whole night- so we had to be cash prepared) we had some pretty darn delicious food. Would I go back? Absolutely! Would I go back on a weekly basis? Probably not- but on a random weeknight when the crowds should be somewhat thinned out and I’m looking for a good place to eat out in the hood this would be a top choice.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Creamy Avocado Pasta

My goodness. This was super yum. And just what I needed after a stressful day followed by some much needed spin. With the upcoming move I'm trying to get into the "get rid of" mode, as opposed to my usual  nightly stops by the fancy market or deli to satisfy an immediate craving (i.e. the warm chickpea salad I'll be posting about soon). And if anyone has ever seen my freezer, it's filled to the gills. Mostly with frozen meats, veggies, and leftover meals to take into work, but there's also a pig head for stock, all variety of nuts, butter, cheese... you name it, it's in my freezer. So between that and my overflowing pantry, plus whatever I'll grab once a week from the market I'm set to start chipping away at my current food stockpiling.

So heading home on the subway, both hungry and exhausted I thought of what I could possibly make that would take less than 30 minutes, be somewhat healthy, but also satisfy my craving for comfort. I had pinned this recipe a few days ago and it came to me on the subway, and once I got home I tweaked it to fit what I had on hand. I also left it hot because... timing mainly. But I'll try the leftovers chilled tomorrow and see how it adds up.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Food on Film

I've worked in plenty of restaurants, but always in the front of the house. None of them were spectacular places by any means but it always struck me, for as much as I love and am so inspired by movies revolving around fabulous food and misunderstood chefs and that scrappy restaurant that could, I have absolutely no interest to be in the back of the house. It's funny though because people always tell me "Oh you should've been a chef" or "Do you ever think about opening a place." No and no and absolutely no regrets or what-ifs. And it makes me wonder if those people telling me these things have ever even stepped foot in the back of a restaurant. Maybe that's the general thought, by everyone who has never been "hey mami'd" 20 times a night (and usually worse) or was screamed bloody murder at for being 5 minutes late dropping off a plate... that it's just like in the movies.

Loving to cook is only one tiny piece of the puzzle that makes up a good chef, much less a great one. It's not pretty and by no means glamorous. And it was never the lifestyle for me. Even running to the dry pantry to grab supplies or to pick up food being expedited, I knew I was not meant for that back of the house world. But I love watching the pretty, Hollywood-ness on film. It may not be my calling in life and I may know from the start that it's far from reality, but I can content myself with film. And something about watching these movies, seeing these passions play out, well that's inspiration enough. So it got me thinking about my most inspiring food movies. Here are a few:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lamb with Roasted Jalapeno Harissa and Pearled Couscous

These days have been flying by, in a way that will never fail to amaze me. I didn't really connect that it was the middle of March until this morning, as I belatedly changed my clock radio for daylight savings and saw the date flashing as well, March 16th. The weather lately has seemed like an amazing gift, but in no way had I wrapped my head around the fact that spring was fast on my heels. But here we are, and I find more and more that instead of talking myself into embracing a day, I'm just rushed along into it and in a way that makes time just fly. And that's ok. That's the way spring should be.
Lamb is such a spring meal and with the shift in weather I've felt a shift in my taste buds as well. Roasts and stews and anything heavy or fatty is out. I'm craving salads, Mediterranean flavors, crispy veggies and puckery lemon. Cold hard cheeses like ricotta salata  and feta or chiffonade mint sprinkled over some pearl couscous with just a drizzle of olive oil and maybe a slab of grilled zucchini or eggplant. Perfection. But right now this is about lamb. And a delicious harissa.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Turkey Sausage and Collard Greens over Horseradish Polenta

Healthy, easy, fast. The theme of my meals thus far in 2012. I mentioned in my previous post that my most frequent go-to dinner lately was a poultry sausage of some kind, a green and a carb. Pretty basic. But then you jazz it up a little with a pretty spectacular turkey sausage with wild mushrooms and cognac, some quickly sauteed collards and garlic and then an amazing horseradish polenta and you have my meal tonight, in under 30 minutes from prep to plating.
I love chicken or turkey sausage mainly because it's pre-cooked and packed with flavor. Not that cooking an uncooked sausage or a chicken breast, for that matter, would take that long but it really does make all the difference. It's also great for portion control and keeping groceries within the budget... 1 link is perfect for dinner for me, and then I have 3 or 4 left for another night. And the green could really be anything. Collards, kale, broccoli... you name it and it'll more than likely work. But I particularly love how sauteed collards have a great texture that works so well with a creamy carb and a rich turkey link. The true piece that sets this meal apart and above though is the horseradish polenta. Just potent and spicy enough to provide a great punch of flavor and horseradish over say cheese or cream keeps it a lightweight base.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Caramelized Mustard Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Blogging has been near impossible lately. I can blame it on any number of things but mostly it stems from just the very basic human need to just eat and forgo the whole archiving of the meal which blogging necessitates. Also I've been making a lot of my "safe" meals, things I can put together in just a few minutes, or some half-hearted "homemade" meals, the type using pre-made chicken sausage with veggies and a carb. Nothing special, certainly nothing blog worthy. So tonight I decided to keep it simple, but interesting. Enter Brussels sprouts, which for any normal person this would be a great side. But after a long day at work, and then running around my apartment the minute I got home with cleaning, laundry, entertaining a kitty and then wanting to be on the couch by 8pm for my Bachelor night (ugh, but true), well a warm salad sounded perfect.
And I loved this combination. Tangy and sweet, a little crunchy and smokey... it was another mostly me throwing things  together I thought would work to create a pretty damn good dish. And while I love the perfect marriage of Brussels sprouts and bacon, the bacon isn't completely necessary, for any vegetarian or weight watching friends out there. There's already so much flavor, it's just one more layer. But the absolute best thing was how quickly it came together. Not even 10 minutes prep, then 15 minutes on the stove and then that's it, dinner is done. My kind of Monday night (or let's be honest, any week night) meal.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Smoked Trout and Sauteed Vegetable Farfalle

I believe its been mentioned before but I love smoked fish in a tin. It's probably totally weird I know, but I just can't help myself. Growing up it was smoked clams over saltine crackers, they were my go to when it came to camping, road trips or just nights where turning on the stove was too much effort. I discovered at my fancy market, shortly after moving to Brooklyn, Cole's Smoked Trout and that became my new favorite smoked fish. At any given time you can find at least 3 tins of this in my pantry. Heck, I even keep an extra tin at work in case of emergencies. And going back to childhood, I usually just fork it out and eat it straight from the tin, but this Friday realizing it was the first Friday of Lent (therefore no meat other than fish) I thought... why not throw it in some pasta? With some caramelized onions and bitter radicchio and creamy eggplant? A light dusting of shredded sharp asiago over? Creamy, crunchy, bitter and sweet, sharp and smokey. Friday perfection.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lamb Tagine

Well it's a year that's turning out all sorts of accomplishments and New Years Resolutions fulfilled. I joined my new gym and love it, but between my new role at work, spinning 3+ days a week, making time to see not only friends but to enjoy the everyday stuff that comes with keeping up with life, it's a never ending whirlwind. But one of my resolutions was to keep learning something new. I had gently chided myself at the beginning of the year over all my unused and under-appreciated kitchen appliances, namely my tagine, but also my roaster, my popover pans, my lobster pot, all of my canning supplies. And I promised myself that I would use every last one of them at least twice this year. So let's start with the tagine.
It's actually a shocker that I went a whole year without making this because I love lamb tagine. I first fell in love with the dish in Morocco years ago, along with the dramatic serving in the true Moroccan tagine. And  before I even owned a proper tagine apparatus I would make the savory, sweet Moroccan stew in my Le Creuset, slow cooker style. Even if you don't have a tagine, any sort of "tagine" recipe can easily be replicated in a crock pot or a dutch oven. This particular meal is rich and hearty, perfect for the colder months, though there are plenty of other recipes for chicken with olives or preserved lemons that are more suited for a spring or autumn day. But lamb tagine is best in the winter, the outside world buried under a blanket of snow while inside you're warmed by good company and delicious food, that's thick, sweet, savory and spiced just perfectly over a bed of fluffy couscous to cut the richness. This is winter's recipe at it's finest.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cheesy Stuffed Turkey Meatloaf

This was completely one of those end of the month, what do I have in the fridge and don't have to buy type of meals. And yes, meatloaf. It's not exactly exciting or life changing, but neither is staring into a mostly empty fridge with a mostly empty bank account. It can be dressed up any number of ways and mostly with non-perishable items, which means that if you have a well-stocked pantry, a condiment or 2 and a good number of herbs and spices, you too can make a delicious meatloaf. It's also a no brainer meal. Sure you can get creative in any number of ways but mostly it's just seasoned meat, topped with a sauce and thrown in the oven.
And I've needed a lot of those these days. Between a lot of ups (promotion, sister visit this weekend, Virginia visit soon, parents and one of my Texas friends' visit back to back) and a few downs (taxes... ugh, not being able to attend my other bestie's baby shower in Texas) I need easy when I get home. Just today I had my first foray into the world of baby products (no, not for me) and the AMOUNT. OF. JUDGEMENT I came across. My goodness. Is it just me or does the meaning of the word "opinion" and "choice" just fly out the window when it comes to a baby? And if I'm already so sensitive to it now when it's not even my child I'm getting the product for... what in the world will I do when it is mine? Where did my fearless self-confidence go? (But on a good note I already have my future far away baby's diaper bag picked out- thank goodness for Pinterest! And I know more about diaper bags then the average non-mom now).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Superbowl Suckling Pig

Happy Superbowl everyone! A little belated, but here's my little celebratory review of our suckling pig roast. You read that right. A suckling pig. Roasting in my little oven. 1 pig in a NYC apartment... ok you get the picture. But we pulled it off and boy was it delicious. The pig was about a 12-13 pounder so definitely on the small side and I ordered him from D'Artagnan and in case anyone out there is thinking of doing this please note that it's pretty pricey. But our little pig easily fed about 10 people, so you should also take that into consideration too.
We called him Brady
There were tons of other goodies from our friends and a few dips that I threw together. There were collard greens cooked in bourbon with bacon and sweet sausage, a 7 layer dip (courtesy of my Texas self), roasted potato salad, spicy crab dip, chili, lumpia- which are absolutely delicious Filipino meat spring rolls, a bean dip, and a few other various goodies of both the eating and imbibing variety. It was so much fun, mostly to gather with friends, see how many people I could comfortably fit inside my apartment and do something absolutely crazy, like roast a pig! And while I won't pretend to even remotely be a Giants fan (in fact Wes Welker carried my fantasy team this year and Sterling Moore is a fellow SMU grad) I was happy that my city got to experience another win. New Yorkers really do know how to go crazy with those things.

Aji de Gallina

This is hands down my favorite meal. Of all time. Seriously. It's that nostalgic comfort meal from childhood that immediately takes me back to my Grandparents house. How I loved this dish but didn't even know the name of it for years. It was just the creamy chicken with pecans and how delicious does that sound?
Between the time that my Grandmother passed away and I moved to New York, where seeking out Peruvian food became my ultimate culinary quest (and a lot more feasible given the immigration),  I don't think I had aji de gallina once. And even in New York, even at the most authentic of Peruvian joints across all boroughs it wasn't the same. There would be peanuts instead of pecans, not enough or too much spice, they would serve it with shrimp instead of chicken (more likely at the Peruvian fusion places, but still). So I decided I had to go back to the source, because if you want something done right (or at least done the way you prefer) you have to do it yourself. The first time I made it... well it was ok. Several tweaks later and I've found that to taste like my Grandmother's I had to use Kraft parmesan (yes, believe it or not... the fancy, unprocessed stuff didn't work). I had to use pecans and I had to throw in a little parsley. And most importantly, I had to use aji amarillo paste (some recipes say you can substitute with cayenne but I've tried this and not the same). Aji amarillo paste can be found at just about any South or even Central American market.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Garrison Brothers Bourbon

A very belated post but better late than never, right? Well one of my favorite things I did on my extended Texas Christmas vacation was take a day trip up to the Hill Country to visit Texas' first and oldest legal Bourbon distilleries, Garrison Brothers. I took pretty careful notes, and since this blog is half bourbon I thought I'd give you a proper bourbon distillery tour in pictures but just to caveat- my notes may be a little off. If you're familiar please feel free to correct. It was fast typing the way the tour was moving and with all the information given.
A few twists and turn off a minor Texas highway, and then up a mostly dirt road to the starting point of the tour, you then park your car and are then loaded onto a tractor bed of sorts, to be taken the rest of the way to the distillery. For those not from Texas this may be the start of something that sounds terribly cliche and stereotypical, but I assure you there was nothing kitschy in this. It's just Texas. Plain and simple.

Green Harissa and Mussels

While I was in San Antonio most recently, on my last night there I ventured down to Southtown to a little restaurant called Feast. Southtown is a neighborhood just south of the bustling riverwalk-and-Alamo downtown, an art driven bohemian type community on the cusp of the King William historic district. Back in high school I used to go there with friends for the First Friday art festivals and these days it's in slightly better shape and houses some of my favorite San Antonio restaurants one of which, Feast, is tucked into a renovated house decorated inside like a Miami nightclub. You can read more about this restaurant, including it's eclectic decor, in the latest Texas Monthly here, but one of the absolute favorite things we ordered, and almost overlooked, were the Green Harissa Mussels which were also described in the article as one of the best dishes on the menu. My goodness, were these delicious. We were sopping up every last drop with our bread, unable to let a single bit of the broth go to waste.
All that was left before we grabbed some bread and dug in
And in typical me fashion, I wondered if I could recreate this dish with just the vague menu description of "white wine/cream/green harissa" listed. Well the green harissa was going to be the biggest challenge, but while googling recipes for it I discovered that it is actually another name for Zhoug, a Middle Eastern salsa/condiment. Like a pesto almost and I'm certainly no stranger to pesto. I found a recipe online from Ana Sortun, chef at my favorite Boston restaurant, Oleana, and made my own little adaptations, let it sit for a day or so and then basically threw it all into the mussel broth. And clearly this was a success. Seriously, I was licking the container and having to restrain myself from just gobbling up the whole thing every time I went into the fridge to get something else during the time I let it marinate. The best part though was that while the green harissa was perfection with the mussels, I could see it with so many other things too. Brushed over fish or meats, roasted with some veggies, tossed with some couscous. Even mixed with a broth for a soup in a similar fashion to the mussels. And even better is that without cheese, it's the healthiest "pesto" yet.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tom Kha Gai-esque Soup

It's probably not all that unique how I crave soup in the dead of winter but there's just something so wonderful and complete about filling my body with a soothing liquid to heat me up and I think most people would agree. To keep me balanced on those days where the weather has me thrown for a loop. Something about the act of wrapping my hands around a bowl and letting the hot liquid steam up over me face...  it just makes my day. And when that soup happens to be one of my absolute favorite Thai soups, Tom Kha Gai, then double score... it alleviates ordering out for it, I can make it lighter by controlling all the sodium, vegetables, fat etc, and I can make it heartier by adding in some glass noodles to make it more of a full meal, some tofu, even some quinoa for a South American twist.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dr. Pepper Cupcakes

I love the first snow in New York. It helps me slow down, take a breath. I feel perfectly content holing up in my cozy apartment, venturing out maybe for some groceries here, a little spin class or 2 there and basically just recuperating for another busy week ahead. Why leave if you don't have to, right? And of course my to do list always includes cooking. Specifically a little Texas treat I've been craving since I first read this blog post by my favorite Texas via New York blogger, Ms. Homesick Texan.
While exchanging some emails with my friend Ms. Robin, aka Silk Purse and Sow's Ear, she brought up this delicious sounding recipe again and that sealed it. Although Dr. Pepper may be my least favorite soda, next to Big Red (what a terrible Texan I am), I could see exactly how well it would work in a spice cake. Even on a whim after I got the soda I tried to take a sip, but the sweet sweet and spiciness of it just didn't work on it's own. But in a cake/cupcake batter, oh absolutely. And with some homey, hearty oatmeal, the addition of wintery spices,  a splash or two of warm bourbon (because it's me) and you have a delicious mini cake. That was devoured by everyone who they came in contact with. So try them. Especially if you can get your hands on some Dublin Dr. Pepper for nostalgia (and cane sugar over high fructose corn syrup) sake.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Panko Crusted Mustard Chicken Revisited

This is, has been, and always will be my go to meal. Perfect for nights where I can't think of making anything. Perfect for nights when I just need something comforting. Perfect for nights when I need that no brainer meal for someone, or many someones, special (it is after all a great dinner party meal). And while I love it with chicken legs when I'm feeling indulgent, it's also great with chicken breasts, salmon filets, duck legs, or pork chops. Roast up a veggie or two, a quick side of rice, or quinoa or both and there you have it. My favorite easy meal.

Roasted Broccoli and Potatoes

Snooze right? Just another boring side. Another weeknight spent trying to use up what's in the fridge before it goes bad. But no. No! This simple side was so delicious I had to take pictures of it before it was even plated. Before the rest of my dinner was even done. Because if I hadn't, I would've eaten the whole thing. It's just that good. Oh, and did I mention simple? Seriously, take some broccoli florets and quartered creamer potatoes, maybe a few garlic cloves and then liberally drizzle olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Throw it in the oven. Take it out when it's all nice and browned and then zest a little lemon over and grate a nice, hard, nutty cheese over. Voila.


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