Saturday, August 25, 2012

first of summer

Please meet Thomas and Thomasina Tomato, the first two tomatoes from our garden. And in case we haven't met, we're Ngoc and Matt, hands-down the nerdiest first-time gardeners in the world.

Now, I know it might sound like sacrilege to roast the first tomatoes of the summer - I can see the diehards stumping for tomato and mayo sandwiches already - but frankly, I didn't know what to expect from a hardware store plant, and I couldn't bear the thought of having this first experience be ruined by a lackluster varietal. I knew roasting would get that summer-sweet flavor out of even a grocery store tomato, so I used the technique as my insurance. There will be plenty of raw tomato applications to come - the plant is heavy with fruit, and I just hope we're not doing anything terribly wrong by not having a full tomato cage up.

Anyway, back to the food. The risotto was absolutely fantastic. It got a lot of body from the green pea pesto, and had a faintly floral, exotic flavor from the coconut oil. As much as risotto can be light, this was. The tomatoes only elevated that feeling.

The fun part - take out the Parmesan (which I didn't use for my dish), and this is not only vegan, but it's nice enough for your vegan friends. If you need something more substantial, I imagine this would be lovely with a white fish.

Risotto with Green Pea Pesto + Roasted Tomatoes
adapted from Food52
Serves 6-8

6-8 large tomatoes, halved
a couple pinches salt, pepper and sugar
a couple pinches grated Parmesan
2 T. olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 c. risotto rice
6-8 c. vegetable stock
1 c. packed basil leaves
1/2 c. pine nuts
12 oz. frozen peas, thawed
3 T. coconut oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the halved tomatoes cut side up and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Set aside.

2. Place half of the peas, all of the basil and pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until well-blended. With the machine running, slowly add the coconut oil, until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the risotto rice, and stir to coat for about 1 minute. Gradually add the stock, and continuously stir until the risotto is thick and the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes. Add the pea pesto and the remaining frozen peas and stir to combine and heat through. Adjust seasoning to taste.

4. Preheat the broiler and sprinkle a couple of pinches of Parmesan over the tomatoes. Broil until the cheese is a light golden brown, then serve on top of the risotto.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

more for me

I thought we were going to have company tonight, so I went to town on marinating a pile of pork chops, but it turns out I overplanned. No matter - these pork chops were amazing, and I'm glad to have leftovers.

The original recipe involved skewers, and frankly, I couldn't be bothered, so I bought the thinnest pork chops I could find so I wouldn't have to marinate it for much longer than suggested. I wouldn't say that any of the flavors jumped out too much - you could smell the fish sauce while cooking, but it faded into a pleasant saltiness, and the coconut milk and sugar into a faint sweetness. I love the broiler for the ease of clean-up, but I think next time, I'll pan-fry them to get a good-looking sear on both sides. These turned out a little pale - thank goodness for Instagram filters.

I served the chops with some leftover fried rice - the only thing my wasted brain was able to conjure up Monday night when I got home from work, which I gone to directly from the airport, after 4 hours of sleep at the Crowne Plaza O'Hare, after we missed our connection in ORD from a 3-hour mechanical delay in Rochester.

That ordeal has completely screwed up my week, and my back, so I've been comforting myself with heavier food than I'd normally like. I've also been super lazy about the gym (what triathlon?), so starting next week, you're going to see things start getting crazy healthy. Maybe.

Thai Pork Chops
adapted from Leite's Culinaria
Serves 4

2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 T. fish sauce
1/2 c. coconut milk
1 T. vegetable oil
1 T. powdered sugar
2 lbs. pork chops, about 1/2"-3/4" thick

1. Combine all the ingredients in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and whisk to combine. Add the pork and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the broiler. Set the pork chops on a large foil-lined baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes on each side, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a chop comes to 165 degrees. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

your summer dream

Two things drove tonight's dinner selection - the fact that I needed to majorly detox from cheating on my no-pasta, no-dairy diet at Matty's cousin's wedding this weekend and because tomorrow is National Eat-A-Peach Day!

I love random food holidays. So much so that I changed out the nectarines in the original recipe for peaches. Revolutionary, I know.

This is summer happiness on a plate, though, peaches or nectarines. I wish our tomatoes were ready, but they're still on the shy side of ripe, so we made do with sugar-sweet grape tomatoes from the store. The peaches need to hold their shape while grilling, so don't pick the ones that you would normally happily slurp over the kitchen sink. Don't worry - you'll still get the same sweetness - that heat really does wonders.

Grilled Peach + Shrimp Salad
adapted from Epicurious via Je Mange le Ville
Serves 4

6 oz. mixed greens
kernels from 2 large ears of corn
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
8 basil leaves, chiffonaded
juice of 1/2 lime
olive oil
2 firm but ripe peaches, cut into 8 wedges
16 large shrimp

1. In a large bowl, toss together the greens, corn, tomatoes, 2 T. basil, lime juice and about 2 T. olive oil. Set aside.

2. Heat about 2 T. olive in a grill pan until you can no longer hold your hand over the pan. Add the peaches and grill about 1 minute per side, or until you get nice grill marks. Remove and repeat the process with the shrimp.

3. Plate the greens mixture and top each pile with 4 slices of peach and 4 shrimp. Sprinkle with additional lime juice and basil, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

i remembered your birthday

If you've been online at all today, you know that today would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday. Between the Google Doodle and the food bloggers, there's no missing it.

I wanted to celebrate, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to what with it being a school night. I always have the idea that every Mastering the Art of French Cooking recipe is a cassoulet - days of prep - but then I have to stop and remember that the reason she wrote the book at all is to make French cooking more accessible to Americans who didn't have servants. Check and check.

I had already picked out her Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence, and planned to serve it simply with some spinach on the side, but Matty reminded me that we had two very ripe peppers in our garden, ready for picking. I thought of stuffing them with rice or quinoa for a side, but then I remembered Julia and my mutual love for La Super Rica, and I decided to caramelize those peppers with some onions (call it Julia's Piperade, if you must) and salute the woman with tacos.

I would have killed for La Super Rica's handmade tortillas, but made do with some blue corn ones from Trader Joe's, and had an absolute feast. The sauce from Julia's chicken recipe made for the perfect sauce - who needs crema when you have the perfect love child of hollandaise and gravy?

Chicken Tacos for Julia
Serves 4

8 T. butter
3 lbs. chicken legs and thighs
1 t. chopped fresh thyme
2 T. + 1 t. chopped fresh basil, divided
1/4 t. ground fennel
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
2 T. olive oil
3 bell peppers, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
2/3 c. + 1 T. dry white wine, divided
2 egg yolks
1 T. lemon juice
8 corn tortillas

1. Melt the butter in a pan large enough to fit the chicken pieces without overlapping. When the butter is melted, add the chicken and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, turning often. Add the thyme, 1 t. basil, fennel, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and continue cooking the chicken for another 10 minutes, or until done, turning and basting often. Remove the chicken to a cutting board, allow to cool, and then slice or shred. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a separate pan and add the bell pepper and onion. Saute until the vegetables are soft and caramelized. Set aside.

3. Deglaze the chicken pan with 2/3 c. of wine. Reduce the mixture over high heat until you have about 3/4 c. liquid.

4. In a small saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining 1 T. of wine and lemon juice. Slowly drizzle in the wine reduction, whisking constantly. Transfer the saucepan to the stove and cook over very low heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce takes on the consistency of hollandaise. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Assemble the tacos with your best ratio of peppers to chicken. Top with the hollandaise and serve immediately.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

put a ring on it

I made this Butterscotch Pudding Pie for my dear friend Kathryn's pie-themed engagement party. I mean, if I ever get a ring put on it, I am pretty much stealing this idea, and our mutual friends will just have to deal with a lot more pie in their lives.

At first, I thought I'd be clever and go for a savory pie. There's a duck pie out there that I've had Pinned for ages, as well as one of my favorite meat pies ever, Lamb Pie from last Easter.

Luckily for me, I remembered a dinner we shared in Reno last year, where I discovered that the only person who loves pudding more than me is Kathamo, because it turned out the Clever Award went to the folks who brought the Boston Cream Pie (get it? not pie!), and her mom had made a lamb shepherd's pie. And honestly, the only thing more embarrassing than wearing the same outfit to a party is bringing the same pie. The horror!

Anyway, this pie was fine, but what I had in my head was the butterscotch pudding from Arroyo Chophouse, and if you've been, you know that meant I was only setting myself up for failure. I don't know what kind of voodoo they put in their pudding, but I couldn't duplicate it, and it made me mad. At least I got a couple oohs and aahs for the chocolate chips (thanks, OCD!). If anyone can get me the recipe, I will most certainly put it in a pie crust for you - ring, or no ring.

Butterscotch Pudding Pie
from Serious Eats

your favorite pie crust
6 T. butter
2 c. brown sugar, packed
3 T. Maker's Mark
1 c. heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4 c. cornstarch
3 c. 2% milk
1/2 t. salt

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees. When oven is ready, line chilled pie shell with foil or parchment paper and fill with weights. Bake on the lower rack of the oven for 15-25 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown. Remove pie shell from oven and allow to cool completely.

2. In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Once butter is melted, add the brown sugar and whisk until the brown sugar is melted and begins to bubble, approximately 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the Maker's Mark. Add the cream, and whisk until any solid particles have dissolved. Set mixture aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together egg and yolks until they are pale yellow. Add the cornstarch, and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Set aside.

4. In a large saucepan set over low heat, combine the milk and salt and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and temper the egg mixture with the milk by adding the milk in small amounts and whisking between additions. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and set over low heat, stirring continuously. When the mixture begins to thicken, add the butterscotch mixture and continue to whisk. Watch for the mixture to begin bubbling, about 3 minutes. Once it starts to bubble, whisk for two additional minutes, then remove from heat. Scrape the pudding mixture into the pie shell and press plastic wrap directly on top. Chill for at least three hours, or overnight.

5. When ready to serve, decorate the top as you like - I used chocolate chips, the original recipe suggests whipped cream and chopped nuts.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

from what's left, you'd figure it out

This recipe was inspired by an overabundance of leftover green beans. For some reason, I thought it'd be a good idea to have buttered minty beans one night, and then beans with faux pesto (food processor-less, just finely chopped basil and olive oil) the next. Not doing a very good job of planning my vegetables.

How to deal with the surplus? Naturally, Nicoise salad. I don't know why that's the first thing I thought of, but I'm pretty happy I did. I borrowed a page from the Colombian papas criollas for the potatoes - my new favorite way to do potatoes - no prep, creamy perfectly cooked spuds every time.

I was going to do the traditional tuna, but then ran across a Salmon Miang Pla that sounded so much more interesting. To be honest, I hate seared tuna. I love tuna sushi or sashimi, but the juxtaposition of cooked and raw just doesn't work for me. Don't ask me why it's okay when it's a perfectly rare steak, though. It just is.

In any case, this salmon was delightful. A very quick dip into some hot oil yielded slightly crispy, still juicy bites that went great with the herbs in the beans. Another plus - you feel less guilty about the amount of oil you're throwing out with the potatoes because they have at least one re-use with the salmon.

Salmon Nicoise Salad
Serves 4
inspired by leftovers, SheSimmers and Serious Eats

12 oz. salmon, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 T. soy sauce
1 lb. tiny potatoes

vegetable oil
3 T. cornstarch
mixed greens
minted green beans
10 quail eggs, hard-boiled and halved

1. Marinate the salmon pieces in the soy sauce for about 15 minutes.

2. Place the potatoes in a deep skillet wide enough to hold them all in one layer. Add oil until the potatoes are two-thirds covered. Heat over high heat until oil is bubbling steadily and adjust heat to maintain temperature. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until potatoes show no resistance when pierced by a sharp knife, about 15 minutes. Remove onto a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

3. Add the cornstarch to the salmon and toss thoroughly to cat. Fry the salmon in the same oil/skillet as the potatoes just until light golden-brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove onto a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

4. Assemble your salad: plate your desired amount of dressed mixed greens on a plate and pile on the salmon, potatoes, green beans and quail eggs. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

make a toast

These may just be my new favorite cookies. They're not quite as eye-poppingly gorgeous like Joy's, but    I couldn't quite justify buying black sesame seeds when I have a lot of white sesame seeds in the pantry. I did read that the white ones don't have quite as much sesame flavor as the black ones, so I toasted them before they went into the dough.

What resulted was a really rich, exotic cookie that combined the comfort of your very favorite chewy chocolate chip cookie with the sophistication of toasted sesame and intrigue from the soy sauce. You don't really taste the soy sauce - it's just a dark saltiness that just takes the edge off the chocolate. I'd err on the side of under-baking these for maximum gooeyness and sesame flavor - I feel once it gets into crispy cookie range, the sesame flavor gets too toasted and tastes more burnt than anything.

Sesame Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Joy the Baker
makes about 48 cookies

2 T. white sesame seeds
2 1/4 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla
3/4 t. soy sauce
1 c. dark chocolate chips

1. In a small skillet, toast the sesame seeds until light golden. Set aside to cool.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk, and beat on medium speed until mixture is fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and soy sauce. Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients, all at once to the butter mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined. Stop the mixer, add the sesame seeds and chocolate chips, and fold together with a spatula until well combined. Roll the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and let rest in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.

4. Just before you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the cookie dough on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

sweet, sweet corn

This Corn, Bacon + Clam Stew may be my new favorite summer meal. The corn. The clams. The paprika. The bourbon. I'm not sure more words are necessary, but I'll attempt to control my elation enough to form coherent sentences.

First, the corn. Summer corn. I'm not sure there's anything better. These particular ears were so good just raw off the cob, that I admit I had second thoughts about cooking them. I'm glad I sacrificed them for the greater good, though as much as I loved the corn, I think 4 ears would have been plenty. Six was just hedonistic. I'm glad I threw in the bell pepper - it helped cut the sweetness a bit.

The clams. I saw massive cherrystone clams at the grocery store, and my curiosity got the best of me, so I bought 6 to supplement the sweet Manila clams. I'd stick to the Manilas next time - there's something unbecoming about the cherrystones, and with shells that heavy, what are you paying for anyway?

And finally, the spices. I wouldn't say this screamed paprika or bourbon or anything else. Everything just coexisted in perfect harmony, working only to enhance the others.

There are plenty of leftovers for tomorrow, so I'm thinking of throwing in some scallops and/or shrimp just to liven things up a little. I hear chicken is a good substitute in here as well, and I can't imagine a nice white fish not working here as well. 

Corn, Bacon + Clam Stew
adapted from Food52
serves 4

1/2 lb. thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
1 T. smoked paprika
6 ears corn, shucked and cut from the cobs
1/2 lb. yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1 green bell pepper, diced
half of one lemon
3 T. bourbon
salt and pepper to taste
2 dozen Manila clams
chopped herbs for garnish

1. Place a large, deep heavy pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, and cook until the fat is rendered and the lardons are browned. Stir in the paprika and cook for 30 seconds.

2. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper and stir, cooking for about 2 minutes. Stir in the corn, juice from the lemon and bourbon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add the clams with the mouth facing up. Cover the pot and cook until the clams open, 5-10 minutes. Serve over quinoa and garnish with your favorite herbs - basil, mint, parsley are good options.

Friday, August 3, 2012


I first had a spiedie at the River - makes sense since, according to Wikipedia, it basically originated in Central New York. Wikipedia also tells me that the name spiedie comes from the Italian spiedo (meaning spit) or spiedini (meaning cubes of meat cooked on a skewer).

Oh. So I guess I won't tell you that for the last 7 years, I thought it referred to how quickly this gets on the table, and then into your mouth simply by grabbing a piece of bread and pulling the meat off the stick). 

And it's all a brilliant concept. It's meat marinated in a vinegar-y sauce filled with just about all of my favorite herbs, conveniently harvested from the garden. Then you broil (or grill) for just a few minutes, and then you take a piece of bread, fold it around the top half of the skewer, pull off some meat, and you. have. a. sandwich. 

Brilliant, right? I only doctored up Matty's sandwich with some caramelized mushrooms. The green beans were lightly buttered and then tossed with some of the extra chopped herbs from the marinade. (I get a little excited when I harvest and occasionally clip more than I need).

My slightly less fun, but still delicious low-carb version: a skewer served over mixed greens, the minted green beans and caramelized mushrooms:

adapted from Saveur
Serves 4

2 lbs. trimmed pork loin, cut into 1 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1 T. finely chopped mint
1 T. finely chopped basil
2 T. finely chopped parsley
2 T. finely chopped oregano
1 t. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices of bread

1. In a large Ziploc bag, toss together the pork, olive oil, vinegar, mint, basil, parsley, oregano, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Chill for at least 3 hours and up to overnight. Soak 4 wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes, drain and set aside.

2. Arrange an oven rack 4 inches below the broiler element and set oven to broil. Divide the pork cubes among the skewers. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet and broil for about 15 minutes, turning to brown evenly.

3. Grab a piece of bread to use as a glove to pull the pork off the skewer and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

savory, savoring

Don't get freaked out that there's cinnamon on this chicken. Cinnamon doesn't turn it into a chicken dessert - that would be sugar. There's cinnamon all up in pho, and you like pho, don't you?

This is the cheater version of an already-simple recipe. The original calls for a whole chicken, but for some reason, I have a clear disability in roasting an entire chicken, so I just used my favorite parts, the drumsticks and the thighs.

The original also calls for making a spiced butter, and I'm trying to stay away from butter where I can personally help it, so I just seasoned the chicken with salt and cinnamon and drizzled on olive oil to help the chicken brown. In hindsight, I probably could have basted some kind of cinnamon-y oil mixture throughout in order to highlight the spice. As it was, it was very fragrant, but the actual cinnamon flavor was lost.

Baked Cinnamon Chicken
adapted from Leite's Culinaria
Serves 4

1 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
4 drumsticks + 4 chicken thighs
olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Pat the chicken pieces dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and cinnamon. Place them in a large cast-iron skillet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into a piece reads 165 degrees.

3. Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes, then serve.