Monday, May 30, 2011


Another epic barbecue in the books, with an epic post to match. We had to kick people out early because Matty's leaving for tour tomorrow, but we still managed to eat all of this:

Roasted Chile Ricotta
adapted from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors

4 poblano chiles
olive oil
6 green onions, thinly sliced
3 T. chopped cilantro
3 T. chopped mint
15 oz. ricotta
4 oz. canned green chiles, optional

1. Brush the poblanos with olive oil to coat. Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil for 30 minutes, turning occasionally so that all sides blister and char. Remove the poblanos to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for about 15 minutes.

2. After 15 minutes, peel and seed the poblanos. Dice finely, and toss in a medium bowl with the green onions, cilantro, mint and ricotta. Salt and pepper to taste. If you prefer a little more pepper flavor, add the canned chiles to taste. I used the entire 4 oz. can. Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.

- Absolutely delicious. I'd cut down on the green onions or dice them finer next time - I felt they stuck out just a little bit.
- I intended to warm up small tortillas to serve this on, but keeping them warm all day would have been a challenge, so I just left this out as a dip bowl for people to pick among the crackers and tortilla chips that were around.

Bacon-Artichoke Crostini
inspired by The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook
Makes about 30 crostini

1 lb. bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
three 15-oz. cans artichoke hearts, drained
salt and pepper
1/4 c. grated Gruyere
1 baguette

1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp. While the bacon is cooking, roughly chop the artichoke hearts.

2. When the bacon is done, drain it on a paper towel-lined plate. Wipe out the pan. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to heat through. Add the bacon and stir to combine. Turn off the heat.

3. Slice the baguette into thin slices. Top with about one T. of the bacon-artichoke mixture and sprinkle on a few shards of Gruyere. Bake in a 350-degree oven until cheese is melted.

- This came about because I love carbs, and was too lazy to make dressing. I took the idea behind a warm bacon-artichoke salad and put it on bread. Delicious.
- There's a bit of bacon-artichoke mixture left, and it's going straight into some pasta tomorrow.

Bacon Chipotle Slather Sauce
from Serious Eats
Makes 4 cups

2 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. tomato paste
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. water
2 T. molasses
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 canned chipotle in adobo
salt and pepper

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Add the shallots and garlic, and for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

2. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Store in the refrigerator or freeze to use later.

- We painted the ribs with this sauce with about 5 minutes left in the smoker. Another coat went on when the ribs came off and got a 15-minute rest. More sauce on the side just because it's that good. Rumor has it, folks were dipping chips in the sauce by the time the afternoon was out.
- Note to self: buy small Mason jars and plan on making this sauce for Christmas presents this year.

Blackberry Pie
adapted from Baked Explorations

For the crust
3 c. flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
8 oz. butter
3/4 c. ice water

For the filling
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 c. flour
7 c. blackberries
1 1/2 T. butter, cut into 8 pieces

1 large egg, beaten

1. Make the crust: Combine all ingredients except the water in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand. Slowly add water and process until dough comes together in a ball. Divide into two disks, wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine lemon juice, zest, sugar and flour in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the blackberries, and gently toss everything together with your hands. Set aside.

3. Roll out one disk to a 12-inch circle and fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Fill the plate with the blackberry mixture and top with butter pieces. Roll the second disk to a 12-inch circle and fit over top of the blackberries. Crimp the edges to seal, and brush with the beaten egg. Cut 6 long steam vents into the top crust. Bake the pie until the filling bubbles and the crust is golden, about 1 hour. COol the pie on a rack for at least 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

- Delicious, but super soupy. Literally cut into it, and juice went sloshing over the side of the pan. Good thing we have hardwood floors. That would not have come out of carpet.

Creamiest Lime Cream Pie
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 c. sugar
grated zest of 3 limes
4 large eggs
3/4 c. lime juice (from about 6 limes)
1-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 t. cornstarch
10 oz. unsalted butter, cut into Tablespoon-sized pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch graham cracker crust

1. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

2. Put the sugar and zest into a heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest between your fingertips for a few minutes, until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lime is strong. Whisk in the eggs, then whisk in the juice, ginger and cornstarch.

3. Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lime cream until it reaches 180 degrees. As your whisk - you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling - you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point - the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience - depending on how much heat your'e giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

4. As soon as it reaches 180 degrees, remove the cream from the heat and pour the cream into the container of a blender. Let it cool until it reaches 140 degrees, about 10 minutes.

5. Turn the blender to high speed and add the butter a few pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. After all the butter is in, continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If you find the machine is getting really hot, work in 1-minute increments, giving the machine a little rest betewen beats.

6. Pour the cream into the graham cracker crust and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

- I knew this was going to be amazing because it uses the same technique as Dorie's Lemon Cream Tart. I was hoping for a little more ginger flavor, though - will have to increase next time.
- Grating tip: don't cut off the 1-inch piece of ginger you need. Just peel that much off the root, and use the rest of it is a handle as you grate.
- I didn't feel like a meringue topping, so I just topped it with slices of mango.

Coconut Passion Fruit Creme Caramel
adapted from Technicolor Kitchen

10 medium passion fruit
2 c. sugar, divided
1 1/2 c. coconut milk
2/3 c. heavy cream
4 eggs
4 egg yolks

1. Halve the passion fruit and scoop the pulp out into a blender. Puree to break up the seeds, and strain the juice into a measuring cup - you'll need 2/3 c. of juice.

2. Combine 1 c. sugar and1 cup water in a small saucepan and stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil and cook for 4-5 minutes or until caramelized. Remove from heat and pour into a bundt pan. Set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine remaining cup of sugar, coconut milk and cream in a saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, yolks and passion fruit juice to combine. Slowly pour the cream over the egg mixture, whisking to combine, then strain into the bundt pan.

4. Place the bundt pan in a roasting pan. Fill pan halfway up sides of the bundt pan with boiling water, cover pan with foil and bake for one hour or until just set. Remove the bundt pan from the water and refrigerate until cold. To serve, dip the bundt pan in boiling water and invert onto a serving plate.

- Have to tell you a secret - this creme caramel actually got turned into "pudding," and is what you see in the long serving bowl in the photo above. I meant to make it to supplement the BFF's birthday, but after hours in the oven, it was still impossibly jiggly. Could have been that in the hurry of Saturday morning, I whisked all the ingredients together instead of boiling the cream and coconut milk separately. Turns out, it's not the same if you just try to heat the whole mixture before baking. Oops.
- That being said, the pudding was delicious. You could hardly taste the passionfruit - it was all coconut. But what do I know, maybe if I had followed instructions, it would have tasted right.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

tropical remix

In the last year or so, my obsessive compulsive tendencies have really reached new heights. On a resume, it's one of those things that translates into "eye for detail" or something equally positive, but these days, I feel straight crazy with it.

Take this birthday cake, for example. Sure, it was for the BFF, so I took a little more care than usual in selecting just the right one. But once I got the direction to go "tropical," I couldn't help but go on a complete Internet rampage finding just the right one. Coconut cake, obvious. Add pineapple, and it's a pina colada cake. What about guava and passionfruit? Is grapefruit tropical? Strawberries aren't really, but am I supposed to resist those little springtime jewels?

Last week, I tested two coconut cakes. I filled them with the strawberry whipped cream in Deborah Madison's Strawberry-Passion Fruit Cream Cake (except I couldn't find passionfruit, so I used dragonfruit, which in case you were wondering, tastes as close to nothing as anything could possibly taste). The coconut cakes were good - interestingly enough, the one that tasted most coconut-y in its batter state was not the most coconut-y when baked. But once the coconut cakes combined with the strawberry whip filling, most of the coconut flavor was hidden. You still had wonderfully moist, buttery cakes, but I felt I would be setting her up for a coconut let-down.

I revisited Local Flavors, and instead of focusing on the filling, I made the cake - an ethereal, orange-scented cake that was very much like angel food when I tested it on my Chorale as mini cupcakes. This was it, I thought.

But what to fill it with? Surely if the strawberry whip was going to overwhelm the much more substantial coconut cakes, I shouldn't expect a different result with this sponge-like orange cake. In keeping with the tropical theme, I pulled a pineapple curd from the archives, the filling from what is still one of my favorite pies to date.

And what of the frosting? I am historically (hysterically?) bad at cake-decorating. I have not the patience nor the gentle hand that is required. So Zoe's toasted meringue frosting (from one of the coconut cakes I tested) held huge appeal. You just glop the stuff on, torch it, and it's beautiful! I'm in. I did have a little difficulty in making the curls - the meringue is very sticky! But the more frosting you slather, the the more dramatic the cake. I couldn't bring myself to make that thick of a layer of frosting, and with the sweetness of the pineapple curd, I'm glad I sacrificed the height of the curls.

So to recap, three cakes later, I couldn't be happier with the final product:

Orange Cake with Pineapple Curd + Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
cobbled together from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors, Foodess and Zoe Bakes
Makes one 9-inch cake

For the cake
8 T. butter, melted
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
12 eggs, separated
1 3/4 c. sugar
1 t. salt
2 t. vanilla extract
grated zest of 2 oranges
1/2 c. orange juice

For the filling
1 1/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. cornstarch
4 cups canned pineapple with juice, pureed
10 egg yolks
1 t. vanilla

For the frosting
1 c. egg whites (from about 8 large eggs)
2 c. sugar
pinch of salt

1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the 8 T. of butter in a medium microwavable bowl, and set aside to cool. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease the pan and paper.

2. Beat 12 egg whites on high until they're foamy, then gradually add 1 3/4 c. sugar and 1 t. salt. Continue beating until the whites form moist, stiff peaks. Add 2 t. vanilla.

3. Add the zest to the butter. Beat in the 12 egg yolks, and then fold the mixture in with the egg whites. Fold in the flour and baking soda a half-cup at a time, then fold in the juice. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

4. Make the filling: Whisk together 1 1/3 c. sugar and 2/3 c. cornstarch in a large saucepan. Add the 10 yolks and pineapple puree, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and bubbles, about 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla, and set aside.

5. Make the frosting: Whisk together 1 c. egg whites, 2 c. sugar and pinch of salt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Place it over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar has melted and doesn't feel grainy to the touch, about 3 to 5 minutes. Place the bowl onto the mixer and whisk on high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy, about 8 minutes. Set aside.

6. Assemble the cake: Carefully slice each cake crosswise to form 4 total layers. Set the first half on your cake stand and top with a third of the pineapple curd, spreading to within a half inch of the edges. Repeat with remaining cake layers and pineapple curd, ending with cake.

7. Thickly cover the cake with meringue. Glob on the remaining meringue with your hands, pulling away to form the curls. When you're satisfied, use a blowtorch to toast the meringue. A few of the tips may catch fire - just blow them out as you go.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

you know i like my chicken fried

I made a big mistake Monday night. I watched "The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Fried Chicken."

I'm surprised I didn't dream about chicken that night, but all day Tuesday, I was jonesing. I discovered that Koo Koo Roo has chicken strips on their menu, and even had someone willing to lie that they were picking up for a kid. Unfortunately, they needed a 20-minute heads-up on the order - I mean what if I was an obnoxious kid who didn't want to wait for 20 minutes for chicken strips? Luckily for everyone involved, I am an adult and consoled myself with some rotisserie and mac and cheese.

However, I did spend a little time on Chowhound researching LA fried chicken. Despite my misgivings, I decided to go with the handful of people who contributed a very surprising suggestion - Albertson's.

Well, I did it, and I regret it. And now it's two days later, and I've still not gotten a real fried chicken fix. This Olympic Seoul Kitchen was on the menu tonight, and I almost skipped it because I knew I was going to be disappointed that it wasn't fried chicken. Not to say it wasn't good - it was lovely. All very mild - not particularly gingery or garlicky or vinegary. In fact, I didn't think it was particularly "Asian" tasting, either, despite the ingredient list. But Matty did such a beautiful job plating it, and it was actually a very comforting dish, so I couldn't hold my fixation against it.

Olympic Seoul Chicken
adapted from David Lebovitz
Serves 4

8 skinless chicken thighs
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 t. chili powder
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 c. seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 c. soy sauce

1. Heat enough oil in a large skillet until it just covers the bottom. When it’s hot and shimmering, sauté the chicken thighs until well-browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the ginger, garlic and chili powder and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn.

3. Pour in the vinegar and soy sauce, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until done. While the thighs are cooking, turn them a couple of times in the marinade.

4. Once they’re done, remove the cover, add the green onions, and cook for another minute or so, until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Monday, May 23, 2011

the good stuff

You all know I hate salad. This Green Bean + Seared Shrimp Salad with Spicy Curry Vinaigrette is not salad. It's all the good stuff without that crazy filler known as lettuce. Tossed in a lovely, bright curry sauce. I mean, I more than doubled the amount of curry paste called for in the original recipe to taste the curry at all, but I'm sure if you had real curry paste and not Asian-aisle-of-Gelson's curry paste you might need to watch yourself a little more carefully and not go willy-nilly on adding it into the dressing. Was that a run-on sentence? I feel a little loopy. I'm sorry.

I sliced the shrimp in half lengthwise. Is that the right word - lengthwise? I halved them along the deveining line so that it looked like I had two thin shrimp out of the one. Laterally? See, I told you I was loopy. I can't even use my words.

Anyway, I just thought it would make for a prettier presentation than little nubbins of shrimp. Another change: cashews instead of hazelnuts. I thought the richness of cashews would go better with the otherwise light components of the salad. And I was out of hazelnuts. I'm also sure this would taste equally good with scallops, all my worms-of-the-sea-haters out there.

And because I never think we have enough food (even though the salad easily serves 4), I made 4 quick BLT Spring Rolls, lifted straight from White on Rice. You heard me. B. L. T. Spring rolls. It's exactly what you think - bacon, lettuce and tomato in rice paper. File that one under "Why Didn't I Think of That?"

Green Bean + Seared Shrimp Salad with Spicy Curry Vinaigrette
adapted from Barbara Lynch's Stir
Serves 4

1 1/2 T. finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 T. white wine vinegar
1 1/2 T. Thai red curry paste
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. creme fraiche
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
1/2 c. cashews
1 T. olive oil
1/2 lb. shrimp, shelled, deveined and cut in half lengthwise
salt and pepper

1. In a medium bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar and curry paste. Slowly whisk in the vegetable oil, creme fraiche and lemon juice. Add additional curry paste to taste.

2. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, and boil the green beans until just crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and cool by running cold water over the green beans.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the cashews and toast for a few minutes until the cashews just begin to take on color. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

4. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil. Cook the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until pink and just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The shrimp can be served warm or at room temperature.

5. To serve, toss the green beans, nuts and shrimp together with the dressing in a large bowl.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

two out of three ain't bad

Two out of three ain't bad. Braised duck - good. Braised cabbage - good. Blue cheese polenta - meh. It was just too strong to mesh with the rest of the plate.

This was meant to be the feather in the cap of Matty's birthday week, but last Saturday got so out of hand that we gave up and walked down the street for a hassle-free bite at The Alcove with our friend Greg. We desperately needed to be social anyway. And nothing beats their fish and chips - with sweet potato fries!

Anyway, last Saturday's weather was much more conducive to the all-braising menu, but everything is so hands-off that you definitely don't need to be in the kitchen that long while the oven is on.

The duck was absolutely stellar. And it finished a half hour early, which was pure torture since the cabbage still had an hour to go. The only hassle in this dish was the unpitted olives - they really slow you up when you're trying to devour the dish. However, they lent an amazing flavor to the dish. In fact, I would love to make the "soffrito" of leeks, carrots and olives (pitted) on their own to top crostini. Maybe slowly cooked in some duck fat for extra decadence.

Braised Duck Legs with Leeks + Green Olives
adapted from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food
Serves 2

4 duck legs
salt and pepper
2 T. olive oil
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 thyme sprigs, leaves only
1 bay leaf
1 c. green olives
1/2 c. white wine
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 strip lemon zest

1. The morning before cooking, trim the excess fat from the duck legs and generously season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to braise.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil. Add leeks and carrot, and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the thyme, bay and olives and cook for another 3 minutes.

3. Place the duck legs skin-side down in the skillet. Add the wine, broth and zest. Raise the heat, bring to a simmer and immediately put the skillet in the oven.

4. After 30 minutes, turn the legs skin side up. If necessary, pour off some liquid so that all the duck skin is exposed. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees and continue cooking for 1 to 1 1/2 hours more, or until the skin is browned, and the tip of a knife slips easily in and out of the meat.

This picture is obviously pre-braise. Because once the cabbage is braised, it is not cute. But like all delicious melty, sweet, roasted brassica, beauty is something you ignore. Molly Stevens claims this serves 6. Not true. Matty and I had the whole thing.

Braised Green Cabbage
adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
Serves 2

1 medium head green cabbage
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1/4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. olive oil
salt and pepper
crushed red pepper flakes

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.

2. Cut the cabbage into 8 wedges, and arrange in the baking dish in a single layer. Scatter in the onion and carrot, and drizzle with broth and oil. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

3. Cover tightly with foil and braise in the oven for about 2 hours, turning the cabbage wedges halfway through.

4. Once the cabbage is completely tender, remove the foil, increase the oven to 400 degrees, and roast until the vegetables being to brown, another 15 minutes or so. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, May 20, 2011

sounds good

Every time I've ever thought I wanted a tuna fish sandwich, I've been proven wrong. I mean, it sounds good in principle. It's relatively healthy - never mind the glops of mayonniase, it's fish! A tuna melt always sounds like it would be even better - cheese! But any time I order either, I'm disappointed - it's soggy, it's stinky, it's lifeless.

So why did I choose to basically make a tuna quiche? Because, well, it sounded good! Luckily, it really did end up being absolutely delicious.

Neither of us are particularly fans of canned tuna, so originally, I was going to get a tuna steak and braise it a la Molly Stevens, but I got to the store, and nearly fainted at the $20/lb. they were asking for ahi. For a recipe I've never tried, despite it's pedigree, I couldn't bring myself to do it. I called Matty and got the go-ahead to try it with Genova olive-oil packed tuna. $6/lb. I can swing.

I was still quite trepidatious as I cracked open the can. Good sign #1, it wasn't stinky immediately upon opening. In it went with things I know I like - eggs, Gruyere, tomato paste, creme fraiche - and 45 minutes later, with the lovely floral aroma of tomatoes wafting throughout the kitchen, we sat down to a lovely light dinner.

It was creamy without being gloppy, felt light and healthy, but was actually quite filling. We alternated bites of it plain and spread on crackers. I actually think it would make a great sandwich filling (begone, tuna melt!), or even a party dip.

Bouchons au Thon
adapted from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life
Serves 4

5 oz. canned tuna in oil, drained
3 T. tomato paste
5 T. creme fraiche
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. grated Gruyere
2 T. finely chopped parsley
1/4 of a large onion, diced
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and spray 4 ramekins with cooking spray.

2. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, and add the tuna, tomato paste, creme fraiche, Gruyere, parsley, onion. Mix well, mashing the tuna a bit - the batter should be relatively smooth. Lightly salt and pepper.

3. Spoon the batter evenly into the ramekins, and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the bouchons are golden around the edges and do not jiggle when you shake them.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

agree to disagree

Matty thought there was everything weird about this salad. But you know what, his birthday week is over. This one's for me. ;)

No, I wouldn't be so cold. But I thought I was going to lunch on my own today, so I planned on making egg salad; a salad I love, but is on the list of salads he hates (joining pasta salad). Turned out, though, that we were both delayed at our various appointments, and when we reconvened at the house around 3p, we were starving. I carried on with my egg salad plan, but had tons of extra mushrooms, so I made him open-faced toasts with Brie and half of the sauteed mushrooms.

I had the extra mushrooms because the original recipe called for a pound of them, and I thought that was entirely too much. I ended up tweaking a lot of the measurements - less oil, way less mayo (3/4 cups for 4 eggs?? Glop-a-rama!), and a touch less mustard. I sliced my mushrooms instead of chopping them, and I think leaving them in larger pieces prevented them from coloring the rest of the mixture into the unfortunate gray that is featured on Saveur's site. Not that my version is going to win any beauty contests either, though.

My egg yolks were just barely set, so when mixed all together and served on an open-faced baguette, it tasted vaguely of an eggs Benedict with mushrooms. While it was part of the reason why I liked it, Matty thought it was weird was that the mushrooms weren't completely chilled while the eggs were. I didn't mind, but am looking forward to the leftovers, which will all be one temperature tomorrow.

Russian Egg + Mushroom Salad
adapted from Saveur
Makes 2 cups

2 T. olive oil
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 small red onion, diced
2 T. minced chives
4 hard-boiled eggs
2 T. mayonnaise
1 T. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions, and cook until browned and all liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, roughly mash the eggs with the mayonnaise and mustard. Add the mushrooms and chives and gently combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Friday, May 13, 2011

a heart attack, -ack, -ack, -ack, -ack, -ack

Don't even look at this recipe if you're not absolutely positive you have salad fixings or some seriously green vegetables in your crisper. You'll need a power hose to clear out your arteries just from reading this.

This Gnocchi Mac + Cheese is intense. Rich cheese sauce soaking completely leaden flour bombs. Now, the leaden part is my fault. I couldn't leave well enough alone and tweaked the gnocchi in two ways: 1) instead of a normal potato-based gnocchi, I rehashed Goat Cheese + Chive Gnocchi with Trader Joe's four-pepper and garlic-herb goat cheese, and 2) I pan-fried the gnocchi instead of just boiling them. I think both contributed heavily to the heaviness of the dish. If it weren't for the completely plain green beans I steamed up on the side, I am sure I would have food coma'd about 2 bites in.

Matty got seconds - I mean it is his birthday celebration after all. I didn't even want to walk by a mirror for the rest of the evening. But I will try this recipe again with the standard boiled potato gnocchi, and see if it was the fluffy cheesiness I originally imagined it to be.

Goat Cheese + Chive Gnocchi Mac + Cheese
adapted from The Kitchn and Noble Pig

For the gnocchi
7 oz. goat cheese
1 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. fresh chives, chopped
2 t. salt
1 c. all purpose flour
2 T. olive oil
OR 1 lb. prepared gnocchi, prepared according to package directions

For the cheese sauce
4 T. butter
2 T. garlic, finely chopped
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. milk
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. Gruyere cheese, shredded
1/2 c. Italian truffle cheese, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 c. Parmesan, shredded

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine goat cheese, Parmesan, egg, chives and salt. Mix with a fork until smooth. Add flour a spoonful at a time until dough comes together but is still a little wet.

2. Lightly flour a work surface and line a jelly roll pan with wax paper. On the floured surface, knead dough for about a minute. If it's still a little sticky, add some flour as needed, a spoonful at a time.

3. Divide dough in half. Flour hands and roll into each piece back and forth until it becomes a rope about 1-inch thick. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. If desired, roll each piece against the back of a fork to add texture. Place gnocchi on wax paper-lined pan and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour until it thickens and bubbles, then whisk in milk and mustard. Continue to whisk mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

6. Add cheese by the handful to milk mixture, stirring until melted before adding the next handful. Once all cheese is melted, season sauce with salt and pepper.

7. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Brown the chilled gnocchi in batches, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a baking dish, and pour cheese sauce over. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

8. Bake gnocchi until they puff and cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let gnocchi rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

fast forward

Meal #4 for Matty's birthweek: Truffled Broccoli Calzones. How did I get to #4, you ask? Well, the post for #3 was eaten up, then just plain delayed, by the Blogger-Fail of 2011, so I'll have to keep you in suspense for scallops and garlic noodles. Then we had a lovely meal out when we went to see the incomparable Gabe Dixon play at Room5 Wednesday night. And here we are, #4.

The truffle in this calzone was from Trader Joe's Italian truffle cheese, one of my favorite cheese board treats from that fine establishment. It's a fairly mild truffle flavor, so between all the broccoli and pizza dough, it does get a little lost. However, outside of the pizza dough, you can still taste it - it was all I could do to not eat the cheesy broccoli filling straight from the pan. In fact, I think it would make a lovely pasta topping, perhaps on top of plainly cooked pasta slicked back with truffle oil to further pronounce that earthy flavor.

I served it over Barbara Lynch's Butcher Shop Bolognese, which had been living in my freezer for the last 4 months (and none the worse for wear). The heaviness of the sauce very nicely rounded out the meal, but if you wanted to keep it entirely vegetarian, a simpler tomato sauce make for a lovely light summer dinner.

For the photograph's sake, this particular serving couldn't be hand-held, but it would otherwise make a neat, fun broccoli pocket. If it weren't such a pain to roll out pizza dough, I'd be open to halving the size of these to serve as appetizers alongside a shot glass of tomato sauce.

Truffled Broccoli Calzones
adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 8 calzones

2 T. olive oil
24 oz. broccoli florets, chopped if large
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 t. red-pepper flakes
2 lbs. fresh pizza dough
1 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c. shredded Italian truffle cheese
salt and pepper
your favorite tomato sauce, optional

1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium. Add garlic, broccoli and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Stretch each piece out into a 6x8-inch oval.

3. Stir cheeses into cooled broccoli mixture; season generously with salt and pepper. Spread a rounded 1/2 cup broccoli mixture over half of each piece of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border; fold over to form a half-moon. Press edges to seal. With a paring knife, cut 2 slits in the top of each calzone.

4. Using a wide metal spatula with a thin blade, transfer calzones to 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper; reshape if needed.

5. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Serve with tomato sauce, if desired.

Monday, May 9, 2011

filled with memories

When I was a freshman in college, every Tuesday was La Salsa night. No Taco Tuesday for me - it was always Quesadilla Tuesday. There was the occasional gathering at El Cholo, but for the most part, La Salsa was my main Mexican food experience for years. Even my then-unrefined palate knew Tuesdays were more about the company than the food, but it's not like anyone was going to screw up a quesadilla.

These days, my Mexican food options around the office very much resemble my college experience - Poquito Mas, Chipotle, and the closest to my near-and-dear La Salsa, Baja Fresh. But now that my taste buds are total snobs, I only begrudgingly agree to order my standard quesadilla when the office wants Mexican.

However, I have found a new favorite over at Poquito Mas, their Scampi Burrito. Nothing but shrimp, rice and salsa. I called upon this favorite when I saw Elise's Baked Shrimp + Tomatillos, and instead of stuffing them in a flour tortilla like the Mas, I stuffed mine in a roasted pasilla pepper to make another Matty-approved birthweek dinner.

I loved the tomatillos in this - a little less tart, but at the same time, a little more citrusy than the tomatoes in that inspirational burrito. I used langoustines in this particular version because I can't pass them up every time I see them in the frozen section at Trader Joe's, but regular shrimp would be more than satisfactory. The panela cheese gave the dish pops of saltiness, but never weighed it down.

And the slacker side dish, which turned out to be completely addictive and delicious, was a 14-oz. can of Cuban black beans, a 14-oz. can of corn and 2 handfuls of spinach, tossed in the juice of half a lime and a couple glugs of olive oil. The spinach wilts a bit, the beans add a little heft to the meal, and the sweetness of the corn balances everything right out.

Chiles Rellenos with Roasted Shrimp + Tomatillos
inspired by Simply Recipes

4 pasilla chiles
2 T. olive oil
1 c. rice
2 c. water
1 T. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded, minced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lb. tomatillos, chopped
salt and pepper
3/4 lb. shrimp
8 oz. panela cheese, crumbled
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

1. Preheat the broiler. Brush the pasillas with olive oil and broil in a cast iron pan, turning occasionally, until charred. Meanwhile, cook 1 c. rice with the butter in 2 c. boiling water according to package instructions. Set aside.

2. When peppers are done, remove to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside until cool enough to handle. Turn off the broiler and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

3. Add the onions and jalapeños to the same cast iron pan and cook for 5 minutes on medium high until the onions begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the tomatillos, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, until the tomatillos are cooked through. Add the shrimp. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir through cooked rice, cheese and cilantro. Set aside.

4. When pasillas are cool enough to handle, peel and seed them, taking care to keep the pepper as intact as possible. Stuff with shrimp mixture - you'll have leftover filling. Return pasillas to the oven just before serving to heat through. Serve immediately.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

happy birthday to you, my love

It's Matty's birthday! I freaking love birthdays, and celebrating birthdays, and when it's my favorite's? I mean, I get nuts. We spent the day Rose Bowl Flea Market-ing, record buying, crossing off breakfast burritos off Serious Eats' list-ing - just having a magnificent us-day. And to cap off the day? Ribs, cornbread and greens, of course. This is a first in a series of birth week dinners of his favorite things.

For a brief moment in prepping this, I thought I was going insane. Despite it being in the title, I couldn't for the life of me figure out where the cayenne went. I left it out, and it still had a bit of kick to it. Add cayenne at your discretion. Oh, and add maple syrup at your discretion, too. I thought it came out just a little too sweet, so next time, I would skip the maple altogether. There's plenty of brown sugar in the rub for your sugar fix.

I think in general, I'm not the biggest fan of pork ribs. I mean, why bother when there are beef ribs to be had? But in fairness, the ribs were wonderfully juicy, and while the flavors were obviously more concentrated on the crust since there was no marinade time, it still had enough kick to make each bite interesting. Of course, if you can smoke these in a smoker, or even quickly grill them off, you'd only be improving them.

Spicy Cinnamon Baby Back Ribs with Maple Glaze
from Steamy Kitchen

1/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 T. garlic powder
1 T. paprika
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. crushed red pepper
1 t. salt
3 lbs. pork baby back ribs
1/4 c. maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tough membrane from the underside of the ribs.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, garlic powder, paprika, ground cinnamon, crushed red pepper and salt. Place ribs on a double layer of tin foil (large enough to wrap around ribs) and season the ribs on both sides with the rub. Fold over foil and completely cover ribs. Place ribs on baking sheet or roasting pan.

3. Bake 1 hour or until meat starts to pull away from bones.

4. Turn broiler on to high and move rack to upper-mid position. Carefully open foil. Brush ribs with maple syrup. Broil ribs 3-4 minutes until browned.

For the greens, I just chopped a bunch of kale and tossed it with one mashed avocado, the juice of half a lemon and a couple glugs of olive oil. The kind of salad I could eat every day for the rest of my life. Virtuous but creamy, rich but bright from the bare whisper of acidity the lemon brings to the table.

Oh, and what's that shining brick of deliciousness on the right there? Oh, no big deal - it's just Molly Wizenberg's Custard Filled Cornbread. I mean, doesn't the name alone just beg you to make it? In a fascinating trick of pure bewitching, the cup of cream poured into the middle of the pan of batter becomes a luscious layer of custardy goodness, capped by the crunch of medium grind cornmeal. As good as a side as it would probably be for breakfast - Matty suggested French toasting a couple slices. I don't generally eat breakfast before I work out on weekdays, and the leftovers will be gone by the weekend, so it looks like I'm going to have to restock the cornmeal for another batch.

Custard Filled Cornbread
adapted slightly from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life

3 T. butter
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. yellow cornmeal, medium ground
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
2 large eggs
3 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 c. whole milk
1 1/2 T. distilled vinegar
1 c. heavy cream
pure maple syrup, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square pan. Put the buttered dish in the oven to warm while you make the batter.

2. In a large microwavable bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Cool slightly.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda.

4. When the butter has cooled a bit, add the eggs and whisk to blend well. Then add the sugar, salt, milk and vinegar and whisk well again. Whisking constantly, add the flour mixture. Mix until batter is smooth and no lumps are visible.

5. Remove the heated pan from the oven, and pour in the batter. Then pour the cream into the center of the batter. Do not stir. Carefully slide the pan back into the oven, taking care not to knock, and baked until golden brown on top, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm, with maple syrup.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

all for mama

Food coma. Physically unable to do a real post. Have no idea how I made it through the drive home. Here are the bullets on Crab and Pinenut Lasagna for an early Mother's Day dinner:

- Holy crap, this is good.

- It's very creamy. It may have set up a little nicer if it had a few more minutes of rest (I gave it about 10 minutes), but I could probably also cut the bechamel down by a cup of milk. Could probably stand to get rid of the ricotta, too.

- I upped the crab a bit from the original recipe, and I thought it struck a nice balance with the other ingredients. I feel that a lot of crab dishes, especially in restaurants, don't have enough - splurge for your mama.

- The original recipe calls for throwing in raw mushroom slices. I was afraid things could get really watery without a pre-saute, so I cooked them down with thyme first. Liked the additional herbal flavor that added.

Crab and Pinenut Lasagna
adapted from Saveur

For the béchamel:
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 t. extra-virgin olive oil
8 T. butter
1/4 c. sifted flour
4 c. milk
Grated zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

For the filling
1 lb. crab meat
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 T. olive oil
1 t. thyme
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
1/2 c. ricotta
3/4 c. pinenuts

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put garlic and oil in center of a medium piece of foil, fold foil into a packet, then roast in oven until garlic is soft, about 45 minutes. While garlic is roasting, saute the mushrooms in 1 T. olive oil until they release their liquid. Add thyme and saute until liquid has evaporated. Set aside. When garlic is done, mash into a paste and set aside.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring for 1 1/2 minutes. Whisk in milk and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is as thick as heavy cream, about 20 minutes. Add garlic paste, lemon zest, and salt to taste. Remove pan from heat.

3. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter. Line bottom of dish with 3 lasagna noodles. Scatter half of the crab, half of the mushrooms and 1 c. of the béchamel on top, then sprinkle with half the Parmesan. Cover with another layer of pasta, scatter remaining crab, mushrooms and Parmesan on top, add dollops of ricotta, and spread another cup of béchamel on top. Cover with another layer of pasta, spread the remaining béchamel on top, sprinkle with the mozzarella, and scatter pine nuts on top. Bake until bubbling and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 2, 2011

some like it hot

Matty hates pasta salad. I was devastated when I found that out. I ate pasta salad by the bucketfuls in college (hello, Freshman 15), and I still find it difficult to consider a barbecue complete without it. But I'll take pasta any way it comes, and this Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta is just as good warm as it is cold. I'm thinking of cheating on my juice fast with the leftovers.

I was afraid, for a brief moment, that I was overwhelming the dish with too many flavors. The sun-dried tomatoes. The fennel. The arugula. The feta-stuffed peppers from Whole Foods I was going to top the dish with. It was a taste bomb for sure, but luckily, all the flavors worked very well together.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta
adapted from Shutterbean
Serves 4

For the pesto
4 oz. sun-dried tomatoes
2 medium shallots
1/2 c. walnuts
1 t. fennel
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. olive oil

For the pasta
1 lb. fusilli
7 oz. arugula
one 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Soak the tomatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes.

2. While the tomatoes are re-hydrating, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Saute the arugula in olive oil until just wilted, then add the artichoke hearts to heat through. When the pasta is done, drain and toss with the vegetables.

3. Drain the tomatoes and add to the bowl of a food processor along with the shallots, walnuts, fennel and salt. Process until the mixture is homogenous. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil until emulsified. Add more olive oil if you prefer a creamier texture.

4. Toss the pasta-vegetable mixture with the pesto and serve immediately. If you would prefer to serve this as a cold pasta salad, refrigerate the pasta and pesto separately and combine just before serving.

there's too much

I never think I have enough fruit in my diet. Occasionally, this manifests itself in a massive buying spree, and inevitably ends in a few things being tossed out because I haven't made room for them in my belly. Today's surplus came from over-buying bananas - I needed a few for some Baked Oatmeal (this time with blackberries), but I over-estimated how many we'd want to snack on this week. By Friday, I still had a speckled group taunting me from the counter.

I've made a variety of banana-centric goods on this blog, from breads to puddings to even empanadas, and I've loved them all, but I wanted to try something new. A Google search for "banana bars" yielded these amazing Roasted Banana Bars, and I may never go back to any other recipe.

The distinction between this and other banana breads is the roasting step - it adds 35 minutes to the process, but in those 35 minutes, the bananas commingle with brown sugar to form a rich, luscious concentrated potion that perfumes every bite of the finished cake and stays in your memory for days and days. It's very sweet, but not cloyingingly so, although I hesitate to add the frosting from the original recipe - you don't need it, especially if you intend to call it breakfast. In future, I might even decrease the amount of granulated sugar, and use a darker brown sugar to add another level of depth to the cake.

The texture is also fantastic - light and fluffy, but not too crumby that you couldn't walk around the house snacking on a bite without fear of leaving a trail behind you. I should know - I've been doing that all weekend.

Roasted Banana Bars
adapted from Cooking Light

2 c. sliced ripe banana (about 3-4 medium)
1/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 T. butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
9 oz. cake flour (about 2 1/4 c.)
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Combine banana, brown sugar, and 1 T. butter in an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cool slightly.

3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

4. Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl. Combine banana mixture, buttermilk, and 1 t. vanilla in the baking dish.

5. Place 1/2 c. butter and the granulated sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer, and beat at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs; mix well. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture in 3 batches, alternating with banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

6. Pour batter into a lightly-greased 13x9–inch baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

simple together

A really quick one to recap our last home-cooked meal before Matty's parents went back East. No recipe, just general notes. A real team effort with the men at the grill and the women on the sides.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous for their trip. They've only visited us twice before here - once in June when it was hot as Hades, and once in October when, you know, it's unpredictable October weather. LA trying to be "fall." But this week was perfect - upper 70s and low 80s during the day, turning into a light chill in the evening (but of course, not too chilly to walk down the street for gelato).

We decided to take advantage of two of the greatest perks of living here - the gorgeous weather to grill our dinner, and our favorite local meat and fish purveyors, McCall's. It wasn't there the last time they visited, so Matty took them down to make a selection for the grill.

What they came back with was 4 gorgeous pieces of halibut. We didn't want to do any rubs or marinades that would overwhelm and detract from the gorgeous fillets, so Matty simply salted the fish and planked them on a piece of wood, cooking for a few minutes a side. What came out was perfectly flaky, golden morsels with edges just smoky enough to hint to the special preparation.

The most fun for me was making different herbed brown butter "sauces" to go with the fish. I browned a stick of butter over very low heat, near the point of burning. I mean, literally, I was checking email, and were it not for Deb's asking if I meant to let the butter foam up like crazy, we would have had a disaster on our hands. But anyway, the browned butter got divided evenly into four ramekins each containing chopped oregano, thyme, sage or parsley. I think the consensus was that the parsley was best. While the other three were good, they were a little too earthy, and didn't contrast well with the smoked flavor. The parsley really livened up the palate.

The sides were simply sauteed chopped broccoli and green onions stirred into a pot of rice, and buttered green beans. Lovely and simple. Easy and perfect.