Tuesday, September 29, 2009

9/29/09 - Beef & Barley "Soup" (with a whole bunch of veggies)

So its official I am sick... so sick in fact that I had to go home from work today. But since dinner wasn't going to cook itself (wow I am turning into a mother!) I decided to get this heating on the stove so that I could get in a quick nap before everyone else got home for the day. The best thing about making soups is that a little work and a lot of time is all that is needed. I wasn't sure if I should use my large stock pot or my medium size one - I decided on the smaller one but it would have been nice to have a little extra room so I didn't have to really mess with it. This is "soup" is really more of a stew (at least this version of it) I was planning on making some dropped biscuits as well but between the coughing fits and the rich creamy texture I decided to skip them.

Like a lot of the things that I make this is far from a traditional beef & barley cause I couldn't resist adding just about one of every vegetable I had sitting in the fridge (the fact that I was going away the next day also helped that decision along..... most of my meals are based on my travel schedule it seems). But you of course are free to add or omit anything you don't like.

Beef & Barley "soup"
4 cans low sodium beef broth
2 c pearled barley - rinsed
1.5 lb stew beef - cut into bite size chunks (about 3/4" cubes raw)
1/2 bell pepper - diced
1 onion - diced
2 stalks of celery- diced
2 carrots - in 1/8" coins
1 zucchini - in 1/8" coins cut in half
10 mushrooms - sliced
1 tbsp oil
salt & pepper

1) in a large hot pan - brown meat over med/high heat
2) after 3 min stir to flip sides
3) once brown through out remove from pan and set aside
4) add oil to pan (not needed if there are a lot of juices)
5) add carrots, onions, celery and peppers - saute until soft
6) add meat back into pan and add 3-4 cans of broth (until all meat & veg are covered) and barley
7) bring to a simmer and then lower heat to med/low and let cook (covered) for 3-4 hours stirring occasionally
8) about 30 min before serving add mushrooms and zucchini - stir to combine and recover and heat through

FYI - you made need to add more broth or just some water during the cooking as this gets thick fast!

9/28/09 - Mac & Cheese

Well after a hard day at work (coming down with a cold it seems and a ton of things to get done for a 9AM call), a torture session at the salon (trust me you don't even want to know!) and getting caught in a downpour at the grocery store before I was able to get all the ingredients for my beef & barley soup (that's getting postponed till tomorrow...sorry!) so thankfully I had a plan B ready to go...... mmmmm Mac & Cheese even the just saying the name makes me feel all warm and better! Sometimes a simple easy dinner is the best!

I think this batch of mac & cheese is one of the better ones I have made... most likely cause I was a little preoccupied and let the roux brown up a little to remove any of the starchy taste from the flour. I made this recipe with more of a mild adult flavor... I wish I had some bacon to start things up but since I was dependant on what was in my pantry for the night I just went with a basics and a bit of garlic and bread crumbs for an added touch. However you can take this basic recipe and spice it up with meats (ham, bacon, even tuna!), veggies (broccoli, spinach, other leafy greens - just blanch them first!) or spices (hot sauce etc)

Mac & Cheese
1 box elbow or other shape pasta (this was a fun new shape for me but I can't for the life of me remember the name! it was like a lined rigatoni elbow with a twist -ish)
3 c skim milk (or what ever % you use)
1/2 c flour
5 tbsp butter (about 1/2 a stick)
1 c aged gouda - grated
1 c gruyere - grated
1/2 c chedder - grated (I added this in since we had some really nice farm cheese that was in danger ofg going bad!)
1/4 c provolone- grated (this is a sharp one so make sure you like it!)
1/2 c bread crumbs
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper

1) in a large pan cook pasta in salted water according to instructions and drain
2) in med sauce pan melt butter over medium heat
3) using a tbsp sprinkle flour into butter and stir until combined
4) let bubble over medium heat until slightly browned (BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO BURN!!!!!) - keep watching and stirring! (about 5-10 min)
5) in a glass bowl/ measuring cup heat milk in microwave (or on stove top) for about 5 min or until hot
6) slowly add milk to roux while stirring about 1/4 c at a time and then mix until combined
7) once all milk is added let sauce come to a slow boil and thicken
8) keep stirring so that bottom does not burn and add grated cheese (about 1/2 a cup at a time)
9) season with salt, peppers and garlic powder to taste
10) toss sauce with pasta, stir in bread crumbs for some texture and serve

FYI.... on of the best ways to reheat this is in a frying pan with a splash of milk it will make the sauce nice and creamy again!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

9/27/09 - Homemade Gnocchi with Fresh Tomato Sauce

When I was considering dinners for the other night the idea of a little gnocchi making party appealed to me but in the end I decided that something that was more drinking and less working would be a better option. However I didn't forget about it and tonight I decided to break out the left overs from the 5 lb of potato I bought on Friday and go to it. Making the gnocchi is actually quite easy though it does take a bit of time with the whole boiling and mashing of the potatoes. Once the potatoes were all boiled and soft, Mary and I mashed, mixed and rolled them out in about 30 min or so for 3 full trays (serves 6+).
I will suggest using either a good masher or a ricer (what my grandmother used) as its very hard to get put all the lumps of potato otherwise. I might try using the immersion blender next time but you do have to be careful they don't get gummy. This sauce (diced fresh tomatoes, garlic, oil, parsley, basil, salt and pepper) was just made up from a few things that I had in the house and wasn't anything amazing but it did let the delicate dumplings shine through. You also might notice my love for cheese.... this pasta dish is no exception I like it all ooey-gooey!

Homemade Gnocchi
6 russet potatoes - peeled and cubed
2 eggs - beaten
3-4 c flour
1 tbsp salt

1) Boil potatoes until soft about 35-45 min
2) Mash or rice and let sit until cool enough to handle
3) Make a mound on the counter and for a well in the center
4) Combine egg, potato, salt
5) Add flour until dough is dry enough to work
6) Take about 1/8th of the dough and roll into a long rope (about 1/4" thick)
7) Cut into 1" chunks and roll with thumb to curve or over a fork (there are a few ways to do this -- this video is pretty decent)
8) Place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper (at this point you can freeze them, place in a zip top bag and save for later)
9) To cook, boil salted water and add gnocchi
10) When they float to the top (2-4 min) remove from water and toss with sauce

Saturday, September 26, 2009

9/26/09 - Thai Beef Salad

One of my favorite Thai dishes is the spicy beef salad. I consider a bowl of Tom Yum Goong soup and Thai beef salad to be a perfect lunch. Since the recipe seemed rather easy and I actually had most of the ingredients from when I tried out making the soup I decided to go for it. I used some strange micro baby greens from the farm that looked like weeds but tasted great as the base instead of a traditional salad but use the lettuce you most enjoy.

1 lb flank steak
1/2 c lime juice
1/4 c chopped cilantro
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp thai fish sauce
2 tbsp shirachi sauce
2 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 red onion - finely sliced
3 tomatoes - quartered
1/2 english cucumber (or seed a normal cucumber) - in thin slices
3 c mixed micro baby greens
2 tbsp chopped mint

1) Combine lime, fish sauce, cilantro, garlic, shirachi sauce and brown sugar
2) Use half of the sauce mix to marinate the steak for 20 min
3) Cook steak on heated grill pan to desired doneness
4) Let cooked meat sit for 5 min
5) For each serving, top 1 c of baby greens with tomato, cucumber and onion slices
6) Slice meat against the grain in long strips
7) Arrange a few strips over each salad and top with 1 tbsp of sauce and a sprinkle of fresh mint

9/25/09 - Duo of Roasted Root Soups

Its been almost a week since I cooked anything but we had plans for the night so I wasn't in a hurry to hit up the supermarket. However as always plans change and instead I ended up having some people over. Since I had noticed leeks in this weeks CSA share and I had some potatoes left over I decided to make a soup (not the mention the recently chilly nights). One thing led to another and all of a sudden I had an official girl's night in the making. I wasn't sure about just serving the soup and I needed a few extras anyways so I did a little internet searching and ended up with more than one idea before I journeyed to the store. (More on the rest of the goodies from this shopping trip later!)

Some how Roasted Potato Leek Soup turned into a dual bowl with a Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. I based the two soups on recipes I had found on the internet but as always there was a few changes since apparently I can't really read directions (and didn't actually get leeks they were really onion stems)! The sweet and savory combo was a big hit with everyone and even the potato haters loved this version of the soup. The soups were served with a nice crusty loaf from our local organic bakery, Made with Love.

Roasted Potato Leek Soup
2 pounds Russet Potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 cups chopped onion stems
3 cloves garlic - sliced in half
1/4 cup good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 to 7 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sour cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Provolone
2 tbsp fresh chives - diced

1) Heat oven to 400 F
2) Toss the potatoes, onions and garlic in the oil and season with the salt & pepper
3) Roast in oven 45 min - 1 hour or until very soft - flipping periodically to brown all sides
4) Once softened place in large bowl with 1 cup of broth and use immersion blender to smooth
5) Add mixture to large pot with remaining broth and stir until combined
6) Stir in sour cream and cream - combine and reduce to a simmer
7) Once thickened - top with chives and serve

In this next recipe you are suppose to toss the squash with the brown butter mixture before roasting it but unfortunately I didn't really read this well so I didn't notice that until about 45 min into the roasting so I just added it to the cooked squash instead. It actually came out great and it was no problem at all... though I am excited to try this the correct way next time!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 large butternut squash - peeled and cubed
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh sage
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced carrot
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup cream
Salt & Pepper
optional - candied ginger to garnish

1) Heat oven to 400 F - toss squash with 2 tbsp oil and season with salt & pepper
2) Cook for 45 min or until soft
3) Heat butter on med until foaming and brown - remove from heat immediately and add sage, sugar, vinegar and the spices to make a paste
4) In a large bowl mix the cooked squash with the brown butter mixture
5) Using an immersion blender smooth the mixture
6) In a large soup pot, heat remaining oil and saute onions and celery until soft and add broth
7) Stir in squash puree and combine - use immersion blender to smooth
8) Reduce to a simmer and add cream and season to taste with salt & pepper

9/23/09 - Tink's Cafe (Cincinnati, OH)

One of the pitfalls of traveling for work is dinner – either you are with a group and its hard to please everyone or you are alone and dining by yourself isn’t much fun either. Luckily I stumbled upon Tink’s Cafe on one of my first visits to Cincinnati after getting a recommendation from a hotel employee.
Tink’s is New American food with a twist of Southern cooking. The menu changes periodically but luckily two of my favorite dishes are house specialties so they remain no matter the season. Before getting into tonight’s menu choices though I have to mention the ambiance at Tink’s – while a casual establishment live jazz really enhances the atmosphere and creates a fun and interesting mood which can save the night if you are with co-workers rather than friends as the music fills in some of the quiet space in between talk of reports and deadlines. The service is also impeccable – never a rushed feeling but your glass is always filled and dirty dishes promptly cleared.

Now onto the menu…. during my two visits there I have to admit I have stayed true to the shrimp and grits – taking it as a starter on my first trip and as my main course tonight. Their version of shrimp and grits has all of the southern charm you would expect in this dish but a added boost of flavor from the Tasso Ham glaze. As with all the dishes the flavor isn’t shy – it comes right out and bites you with a hint of spiciness. However that is just the start as its really multi-layered tastes of the sweet creaminess of the grits, perfectly grilled shrimp and rich spice of the sauce.
Going back to my starter tonight – I enjoyed the Caribbean steak tartare which again layered flavors to make this very enjoyable. The sweet spice that reminded me of a Thai dish combined with the sweet and savory mango salsa and crisp plantain chips made this dish a winner in every way.
However it was my dessert – chocolate creme brulee which will leave me with sweet dreams tonight. After having a version of this years ago at a the Cafe Fluri in Boston (I think?) I finally found it again. Honestly I have searched bakeries and sweet shops high and low looking for this combination of what might be my two favorite things on earth – chocolate and caramelized sugar. The addition of some chili powder gave this desert a kick that prevented it from getting too sickly sweet (which can sometimes turn off even a chocolate lover like me)

Other dishes that were tried tonight were the Diver Scallops (which I enjoyed as my main on my last visit) that looked so lovely on my co-workers plate that I almost was reconsidering and the Hunter’s Chicken which left my other co-worker speechless as he ate every bit of perfectly browned skin and succulent chicken.

I don’t think that I will ever again considering eating in the hotel restaurant when visiting Cincinnati – Tink’s menu is just too good to pass up!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

9/21/09 - Rosh Hashana Leftovers

Since I went a little overboard for Rosh Hashanah Dinner I ended up with a few items left over for dinner on Monday which was lucky since I was leaving for work on Tuesday and didn't feel like shopping. Instead I was able to enjoy my Wild Rice Stuffed Vegetables with a side of Moroccan Meatballs when I wasn't overwhelmed by the brisket and sweet vegetables. Unfortunately the photos of the food were not all taken before everything was served and in the end I had to take this one with a left over! Either way I think the vegetables look fine even though I am missing the eggplant but the meatballs didn't make it at all.... oops maybe next time!

I started these vegetables the night before by cooking the rice so that is was on hand when I was ready to stuff and roast the vegetables. It made everything come together a bit easier.

Wild Rice Stuffed Vegetables
2 c wild blend rice (I like Lundburg Wild Blend)
6 bell peppers of various colors
2 small eggplants
1 med onion
2 celery ribs
2 c baby spinach
1 c multi color raisins
1/2 c pinenuts
1 tbsp oil
1 c vegetable broth
poulty blend herb sprig

1) cook rice using rice cooker - place in large bowl
2) prep peppers by washing, cutting off top 1/4 and removing seeds and ribs, prep eggplant and wash and cut out bowl shaped indent
3) cut stems off pepper tops and dice excess pepper
4) dice onion and celery
5) heat pan with 1 tbsp oil and add diced vegetables - sautee till soft
6) add spinach and wilt with a splash of vegetable broth - add to rice
7) heat remaining oil in small pan and toast pinenuts - careful to not burn
8) add pinenuts and raisins to rice mix and blend together
9) stuff vegetables and place upright in a baking pan
10) add herbs and vegetable broth to bottom of pan, cover with foil and bake at 350 F for 40 min or until soft

Moroccan Meatballs (By Tova's Mom)
5 extra large white onions, sliced into thin strips
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground allspice
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

For Meatballs
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground chicken or beef
1 egg
1/4 cup crumbs
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons dried chives
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch ground black pepper

2 cups beef broth

1) Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over med-low flame.
2) Add the onions, cumin, curry powder, tumeric and allspice and mix well.
3) Sauté the onions for about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
4) Reduce flame to low and cover pot.
5) Stir every minute or two to prevent the onions from sticking to bottom of pot.
6) In a large mixing bowl, add both ground meats, egg, Crumbs, and all the dry spices.
7) Mix well. Shape into meatballs, each one smaller than a golf ball.
8) Remove cover from pot and using a slotted spoon take half of the onions and place into a separate bowl.
9) Place the meatballs gently into pot nestling them into the onions. Place the remaining onions on top to cover the meatballs.
10) Raise the flame to medium-low. Add the Beef Broth.
11) Cover pot and cook for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove cover and stir gently with a wooden spoon.
12) Cook for another 10 minutes or until the broth has reduced to about half.
13) Remove from flame and let cool slightly before serving.

She recommends serving the meatballs over rice but I had them with my stuffed veggies using the excess sauce to moisten up the rice stuffing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday 9/20/09 - Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Sunday dinners were always a tradition in my house but unfortunately since I have moved out on my own I haven't really had a chance to host many big Sunday gatherings. For most people Sunday is recovery day so leaving the house gets difficult, that is unless its for football. I tend to be a little lazy myself on Sundays so this dinner was mostly done in advance so my day was actually pretty easy. I decided to do a mix of Ashkenazi & Sephardic dishes and I cooked most of the vegetable sides separately as we had our regular vegetarian attending.

The Menu:
Pinto Bean dip
Spinach Dip

Apple Butter
Apples & Pomegranate

Tzimmes and Sweet Potatoes
Stuffed Peppers & Eggplant
Moroccan Meatballs

Spinach Kugel

Strawberry Tarte
Caramel Apple Tarte
Chocolate Cherry Rugelach
Fresh Whipped Cream
Vanilla Ice Cream

Some of the things were blends of recipes I found online or made up on my own, the meatballs were from a friend's mom and the Strawberry Tarte is something I learned from my Aunt Sandra so its probably just easier to write my own instructions but they will have to wait for now......

Spinach Dip
This idea came from a Girl's Night Out at Vento. Our table took forever to leave so we ended up with some champagne and spinach dip to ease the time away. The dip was excellent and when we asked what was so different- the waiter spilled the secret was in the Ricotta Cheese so I used that as my model.
2 frozen spinach - thawed in microwave and squeezed dry then diced
14 oz part skim ricotta cheese
4 oz light cream cheese
2 jar marinaded artichoke hearts
1 c Parmesan cheese - grated
6 cloves of roasted garlic- smashed
salt & pepper

1) Using the immersion blender smooth out the artichoke hearts
2) Add cream cheese, ricotta cheese, garlic, spinach, 1/2 c of the Parmesan and salt & pepper to taste - mix to combine
3) Spoon into a oven proof crock and top with the remaining Parmesan and place in oven at 350 F for 15 min or until browned and bubbly

Apple Butter
This is sort of a fast easy cheater version but it tastes great!
2 apples - peeled, cored and diced
1/2 c dark brown sugar - packed
2 tbsp cranberry juice
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

1) Add ingredients to sauce pan and cook on med until cooked down - 30-45 min
2) Use immersion blender to smooth out

Rosh Hashanah - Chocolate Cherry Rugelach (finally!)

So this recipe was attempted for the first time last year for Yom Kippur which was my first High Holiday ever (Izzy's Mama was a big help by giving me all her tried and true as my welcome to Jewish holidays). Unfortunately they didn't really come out as I expected. They ended up being a bit messy - some unrolled, some burned, some overstuffed and dripping carmelized jam - not terrible tasting but certainly not pretty. So this year I was determined to get them done right. However that is easier said than done and to be honest out of the 6 trays I made (3 recipes) I am really only 50/50 which isn't good odds. All of my Jewish friends said that rugelach is something that is best bought and not attempted at home but if you know anything about me that just makes me want to make them even more!
My major issue seemed to be that I was overstuffing these and not really cutting them correctly which lead to the little rolls busting open and spilling all the jammy goodness all over (which then burns). My first batch came out similar to last year and so I had to try for another shot at these later in the week.
I ended up finally getting this right on thursday after switching up my jams (try to find one without any chunks of fruit), lowering my oven temp (350 F) and shortening the cooking time (30 min). These cookies are definitely best when they are just barely browned off so don't cook them too long or else they get crunchy instead of light and flakey.

I also ended up rolling the dough into 2 large rectangles instead of a round and making large triangle shapes (similar to what pre-made cresent rolls in the can look like). I also placed just a few dried cherries and chocolate chips on the wide side of each so that I was able to roll them easily.

original recipe from: http://www.izzyeats.com/2007/09/must-stop-eating-these.html

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 ounces chilled cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons cherry preserves (Polaner all fruit works well)
8 tablespoons dried tart cherries
8 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/3 cup (about) whipping cream

1) Preparation for dough by all ingredients to mixer (I used a kitchen aid with the paddle, hand mixers are too weak but the original recommends a food processor but unfortunately I don't have one....yet!) and blend together until it begins to clump together.
2) Gather dough into ball.
3) Divide dough into 2 and roll out each between wax paper into a large rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4" thick and refridgerate 30 min or more
4) Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
5) Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.
6) Take the dough from the fridge, peel off the wax paper and dust with powdered sugar if it is sticky.
7) Spread 3 tablespoons cherry preserves over dough, leaving 1-inch border and sprinkle it with 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar.
8) Trim into triangles and place a few chocolate chips and cherries on the wide edge.
9) Starting at wide end of each wedge, roll up tightly.
10) Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart
11) Place baking sheet in freezer 30 minutes.
12) Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.
13) Brush cookies lightly with whipping cream. Bake frozen cookies until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

9/17/09 - Asian Shrimp Lettuce Cups

Even though I was elbow deep in flour getting all the baking done for my Rosh Hashanah dinner, I couldn't resist making this simple shrimp dish a little more exciting. Since Jeremy over-ruled my suggestion of Vietnemese this week in favor of Sushi this was my nod to those flavors.

This was a simple dinner that only took a few minutes to prep but ended up being big on flavors thanks to the carrot ginger marinade. I found Cindy's Kitchen line of fresh marinades and dressings in my local Fairway market and I have to say they really help when the clock is ticking and dinner still is nowhere in sight.

Asian Shrimp Lettuce cups
1 head boston lettuce
1 lb shimp - peeled and deveined
2 tbsp Cindy's Kitchen Carrot Ginger Vinegrette
1/2 red bell pepper - thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper - thinly sliced
1/2 onion - thinly sliced
1 tbsp oil

2 c orzo salad
1/2 c guacamole

1) Marinade shrimp in vinegrette for 20 min
2) Heat grill pan until hot and add shrimp, cook 3-5 min or until pink and flip to other side for another 3 min - put aside
3) Heat small sautee pan and add oil
4) Add peppers and onion and sautee until soft - set aside
5) Heat Orzo Salad mixture (microwave or sautee w some oil)
6) Slice head of lettuce in half and remove the leaves - rinse and pat dry
7) Assemble by placing a spoonful of Orzo mix on a lettuce leaf then adding slices of pepper and onion and topping with 3 shrimp and a dollop of guacamole

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

9/16/09 - Tortilla Soup

As you probably have guessed by now (seeing that I mention it in just about every post) during the growing season I belong to a CSA here in Jersey City. However my farmer also makes deliveries to some other local towns and other members have blogs as well. One of those members is a feature writer on Serious Eats. Her segment is called the Crisper Whisperer and she post recipes that help deal with the sometimes *interesting* produce we receive. Her latest handles the tomatillo - which I made salsa with the first year, let them rot in the fridge the second year and promised myself that I wouldn't ignore them this year! I was going to go the salsa route again and so I got to roasting the tomatilloes when I had the oven running the other night cooking some cookies (Rugelagh.... sorry these still need some help before they are post-worthy)

But once I saw the Tortilla Soup recipe I couldn't say no! (Not having much else in the fridge might have helped this along as well) I followed the idea that was in the recipe above but since I had already started this as a salsa I did a few things differently.

Tortilla Soup
5 tomatillos
3 large tomatoes - diced
2 bell peppers (any color - I used a red and a green)
1 1/2 onions
1 jalapeno
1 cherry bomb (another CSA find)
2 ribs celery
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red paprika
1 tsp srirachi sauce
1 container beef broth
2 limes
4 tbsp cilantro
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp corn starch
salt & pepper

1 c shreded mexican blend cheese
4 tbsp guacamole
handful tortilla chips

1) rough chop 1 pepper, jalapeno, 1 onion and the tomatilloes and coat with 2 tbsp oil and salt & pepper
2) cook in over at 425 F for 20 min or until browned and soft enough to smush with a fork - set aside once done (can be done in advance)
3) in large soup pot - heat 1 tbsp oil & dice and add remaining peppers, onions, garlic and celery and sautee till browned
4) add 1/4 c beef broth and and cook veggies until softened
5) remove veggies from pot and place in bowl to cool
6) add remaining oil and brown ground
7) add chili powder, cumin, paprika, and srirachi sauce
8) using immersion blender blend tomatillo blend and veggie blend until smooth but still chunky
9) add diced tomatoes, and both veggie purees to the pot along with the beef broth
10) add juice of 1 lime and 2 tbsp cilantro - bring to a boil
11) add cornstarch to small bowl and add water to make a slurry - slowly add to soup while stirring
12) bring back to a boil and then remove from heat and let thicken
13) serve with a handful of cheese, spoonful of guac, 1 tsp cilantro, lime slice and a handful of chips

Tortilla Soup on Foodista

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

9/14/09 - Cider Brined Pork and Orzo Salad

The plan for tonight's dinner was getting some fish at the farmer's market however for the second week in a row the fisherman was not there! I am hoping that the season isn't over already and that he is going to return since I love getting fresh LBI fish. For my contingency plan I decided to use up the pork that added other half of the cider brine from the chicken. While I did a lot of veggie shopping at the market everything was sort of planned for the weekend so I didn't want to mess up my recipes. So into the pantry I went for a side that was easy to doll up with the few things I had on hand.

Since I sort of had the meat started before I had my sides together it came down to something that would cook fast! With brown rice taking 45 min or more I knew that was out so I decided on this tri-color Orzo pasta with its lightening fast 10 min boil. I seasoned the Orzo with some lemon, cilantro and scallions to give it a frehser taste and dressed the grilled pork with some ginger carrot vinegrette. In order to get dinner on the table I seared the pork on all 4 sides for 5 min each then sliced it into thick chunks and cooked it to medium (about 5 min each side) which took about 30 min off of my cooking time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rosh Hashanah - Round Challah bread

Last year was my first time celebrating the High Holidays of the Jewish faith and I decided that I would bring a homemade Challah bread with me to Yom Kippur dinner. It was one of my first times meeting my boyfriends parents so I wanted to make sure everything was perfect so I went to my trusted CSA friend who alwas is making something delicious for some help. She was kind enought to post her favorite recipe on her blog (which is by way of the Silver Palate cook book) and this year my loaf came out perfect!

I ended up diving the dough 2/3 into the above picture 6 strand braid circle (which is traditional for the Jewish New Year celebration) and the other 1/3 into a smaller loaf also with the 6 strand braid. I used a youtube video from Maya to get the braid perfect and this year was a lot better! I just had to keep repeating 2nd strand over and other side in the middle till I was finished.

taken from: http://www.izzyeats.com/2008/09/rosh-hashanah-is-almost-here-time-to.html

2 cups milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) sweet butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon cold water
poppy seeds

1.)Bring milk, 6 tablespoons of butter, and the sugar to a boil together in a medium-size saucepan. Remove from heat, pour into a large mixing bowl, and let cool to lukewarm (105° to 115° F).
2) Stir yeast into the milk mixture and let stand for 10 minutes.
3) Beat 3 of the eggs well in a small bowl, and stir them and the salt into the milk-and-yeast mixture.
4) Stir in 5 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you achieve a sticky dough. Flour a work surface lightly and turn the dough out onto it. Wash and dry the bowl.
5) Sprinkle additional flour over the dough and begin kneading, adding more flour as necessary, until you have smooth elastic dough.
6) Smear the reserved 2 tablespoons of butter around the inside of the bowl and add the ball of dough into the bowl, turning to coat it lightly with butter. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside to let dough rise until tripled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
7) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and cut into halves and then braid
8) Sprinkle a large baking sheet with the cornmeal, and transfer the loaves to the sheet. Leave room between the loaves for them to rise. Cover loaves with the towel and let rise until nearly doubled, about 1 hour.
9) Preheat oven to 350° F.
10) Beat the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon cold water together well in a small bowl. Brush this egg wash evenly over the loaves. Sprinkle immediately with poppy seeds to taste.
11) Set baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when their bottoms are thumped. Cool completely on racks before wrapping. Makes 2 large loaves.

9/13/09 - Cider Roasted Chicken

About 8 months ago I decided it was time that I learned to roast a chicken. When I first started cooking things with bones really intimidated me and I still can't say I love rubbing a raw whole chicken but I guess I do think that the end result is just delicious. This recipe is from cooking light and is the only way I have ever made a chicken. It just come out so wonderfully moist that I can't help but going back to it every time.

The secret to the juicy meat but crisp and crunchy skin is the apple cider brine which is one of my favorite flavors. Brining is an easy but somewhat long process but if you have the time this is an easy way to guarantee a delicious meal. After the chicken roasts I used the pan drippings with some cider to make a sauce for the meat and mashed potatoes. I used the method described on cooking light to seperate the fat from the sauce with a plastic ziplock bag since I still don't have one of my own. The potatoes were mashed with a tbsp of sour cream, a few cloves of roasted garlic and some herbs (oregano & rosemary) while the green beans were actually yard beans from my CSA. After blanching them I sauteed them up with some oil and garlic as well.

Cider Brine
3 quarts water
1 quart apple cider
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 bay leaf

1) heat all the ingredients until salt is dissolved
2) cool to room temp

Cider Roasted Chicken
4 q brine
1 lemon or orange
parsley spring
5 garlic cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
2' kitchen twine

1) soak chicken 8 hours of overnight
2) rinse chicken and stuff with quartered citrus, garlic and parsley then truss it
3) rub it with oil and salt & pepper
4) place in 400 F oven until 175 F inside (about 1 hr 45 min)

Cider Gravy
1) add 1 c apple cider to pan drippings and scrape up all bits over med heat
2) bring to boil and add a shake of wondra flour to thicken
3) once thick (10- 15 min) remove from heat
4) set a sandwich baggy in a measuring cup and strain sauce into it
5) allow to separate and then snip one corner to allow gravy to seep out - discard fat

9/12/09 - Julie & Julia inspired omelets filled

You would have to be living under a rock to not have noticed the new movie/book Julie & Julia that recently came out that gave all food blogs a boost of hope. It makes you feel like maybe all those dinners spent agonizing over which side of the plate is most photogenic aren't in vain. The amount of food blogs out there has increased since 2002 when the Julie Powell's blog began her experiment in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not to say anything of the content - there are now blogs devoted to cooking everything out there vegan cupcakes to ancient grains. All this info however only takes you so far when you actually have to attempt making something new on your own at home.

What does all this have to do with the omelet pictured above you might ask? Well an early chapter of the book is dedicated to Julie trying to master the art of flipping an omelet - something that I must admit I had yet to do. I know the idea behind it and I understand the concept but something happens whenever I attempt an omelet and it ends up looking more like a clumpy mess. So first thing Saturday morning I decided that if Julie in her beat up old Long Island City kitchen (which coincidentally is where my BF lived before we found our place together in Jersey City) could do it so could I! As you see from above it came out quite nicely however I have to admit I didn't have the nerve to flip it with out the help of a plate....maybe next time.

Sometimes its the simple things that are the hardest to master!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

9/10/09- Restaurant Review - Another Thyme (Durham, NC)

I had the opportunity to visit Durham, North Carolina the other day. As I was walking around Brightleaf Square - an old tobacco warehouse turned public space I noticed a sandwich board advertising fresh figs stuffed with marscapone cheese and prosciutto. I recently discovered the amazing world of fresh figs so even the board across the street promising raw oysters couldn't compete for my attention.

Once I sat down I realized that the fresh figs were the just the beginning of spectacular dinner. Since I was dining alone (the downside of traveling for work) I decided that the best way to get a good sampling of all the dishes was to stick to the 1st course menu and save the entrees for another time. I stuck with the seasonal specials since I find that its always best to go with the chefs suggestions!
My first plate was the fresh North Carolina Figs stuffed with Marscapone and wrapped in Prosciutto served with a Balsamic reduction. This dish was so fresh and flavorful... I only wish that there was a bit more prosciutto as it was the best part of each bite.

The second course was Ginger Lime Tuna Tartare with Sliced European Cucumbers and Scallions. Since I am a huge tuna fan I couldn't say no to this dish, and it didn't disappoint. The delicious tuna had just the right amount of bite with slices of freshly pickled ginger amply spread about the plate. The soft creamy texture of the tartare with the crisp cucumber was a perfect pairing.

Finally, I decide on the homemade Gnocchi as this is another dish that is hard for me to pass up. I can't help but think back to my grandmother's kitchen and I am hoping to someday find something that replicates it. This dish had light, subtle flavors and didn't over power either of the previous courses. The dumplings were very light and airy which was a pleasant change from the small doughy rocks that are often sold as gnocchi.

I very much enjoyed my evening at Another Thyme and look forward to visiting again and trying out a few of the main entrees!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

9/9/09 - Grass Fed Burgers

About 2 weeks ago I decided to visit the farmer's market on the other side of town in Van Vorst Park. While I wasn't too excited over most of the offerings, I decided that I did want to try the grass fed ground beef that was raised by one of the farmers. He has little bags made up and frozen that were 1 lb each and he said it was 95% lean.

These burgers are about 1/4 lb each and were topped with some swiss cheese, a blend of onions and peppers finely diced and a slice of fresh tomato. This burger was so much better than the greasy ones that I think most people are accustomed. Definitely a step up from the ones served at the truck outside my work!

Unfortunately I still have to work on getting my burger to match my bun size thought. I seem to make my burgers a little too thick! Perhaps 1/3 lb burgers would have fit better?

Any tips for proper burger patty size - it seems too thin when I make them flatter?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

9/8/09 - Seared Tuna with mashed potatoes and wilted spinach

With all the feasting we did this weekend I wanted to try and make tonight's dinner a little lighter so we had a piece of tuna that I had in the freezer. I love tuna and enjoy it as sushi just as much as in any other form so I wanted to try and keep this nice and rare. I also cooked up some spinach that was planned for last week and I noticed it was wilted down to nothing. Since lunch was hours ago and the potatoes are filling up the CSA right now I figured I better stay on top of them and I made up some mashed potatoes (using my pastry cutter!)

I finally plated something that seems worthy of all the lovely dishes that I see so often on many blogs. I wish that I did a little bit better at my plating but for me I am often hungry by the time I finally get dinner started and on the table so convenience overrules aesthetics.

This dish was fairly easy to make and because I used sour cream and fresh parsley in the mashed potatoes it was quite tasty as well.There is a pre-made orange-carrot vinaigrette drizzled over the tuna for a little hint of asian flare.

Monday, September 7, 2009

9/7/09 - Lobster Salad and Chopped Caprese Salad

This week I have to admit I have sort of been a bit obsessed with food blogs. I found this site that is a collection of blogs and it makes it too easy to search out new recipes. But today my plan was clear, there was a deconstructed Chopped Caprese Salad on smitten kitchen and tried I it a day later but ate it before I could get my camera out. A few days later, Izzy's Mama (a local JCer) tried her own version and that looked even better with the addition of pancetta.

I included a few of my own favorites (baby arugala) and again had to "make do" with fresh basil instead of pesto (some day I will actually have all the correct ingredients on hand). I added a lobster salad roll to complete the meal (brunch?) which combined the lobster meat that I prepped yesterday and another of the Eli's rolls. I think maybe we should have gotten a dozen since 4 of the 6 are already gone!

Carla's Chopped Caprese
4 heirloom tomatoes (various colors) - chopped
1/2 large mozerella ball - diced
1 can canellini beans - rinsed and drained
1/4 lb pancetta - diced into cubes
2 c baby arugala
1 bunch basil - in ribbons
2 tbsp garlic - diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

1) in a small frying pan add diced pancetta and heat over med heat until browned
2) combine other ingredients in a large bowl and mix together
3) when pancetta in done remove excess greas on a paper towel and add to salad
4) mix and serve

Lobster Salad
2 c cleaned lobster meat - chopped
2 tbsp light mayo
1 celery stick- diced fine
2 scallions - diced
1 tsp old bay seasoning
salt & pepper
1 roll

1) combine and served on a buttered and toasted roll

Saturday, September 5, 2009

9/5/09 - Steak Sandwiches

With the holiday weekend here we thought that NYC would be empty allowing us to take a quick trip over into Brooklyn to hit up the Fairway in Red Hook and finally get a slice of the much famed Grimaldi's Pizza. However we were wrong - very, very wrong. It seemed about 3/4 of Manhattan had the same idea and since we had a car full ($285!!!! ouch) of groceries (and somehow I forgot my cooler bag!) we couldn't justify waiting over 2 hours for some pizza..... no matter how good it might be! So after quick walk around the water front parks and a personal tour of some of the older building by my favorite architect back into the car and over the bridge we went. I don't know if its the economy or the late holiday that has so many people staying in the city. The line for Governor's Island ferry was outrageous spilling out into the street for what seemed like forever.

Back in Jersey City, groceries were unloaded, meats were packed for the freezer (2 beautiful beef tenderloins that are ready and waiting for a cool day!) and lobsters were boiled (for a lobster salad sandwich tomorrow after pilates). Since I bought a whole tenderloin there were a few small chunks that were left over from the steaks. Into the grill pan they went and this steak sandwich was born....

Steak Sandwich
1/4 lb per person steak (I used the leftover bits from a tenderloin but you can use many other types of cuts as well - about five 1" cubes per sandwich)
salt & pepper
1/2 green bell pepper - in slices
1/2 yellow bell pepper - in slices
1 red onion - sliced
1 small hot pepper - diced (I used a jalapeno)
1 tsp olive oil
2 slices swiss cheese per person
1 roll per person ( we had rolls from Eli's and they were amazing!)
condiments of choice (Jeremy used some ketchup and mayo.... I kept it plain)

1) heat olive oil in pan
2) add peppers and onions - saute until soft and starting to caramelize - do not let burn (10 min)
3) on hot grill pan - cook meat seasoned with salt and pepper on high heat until browned on all sides (5 min total)
4) toast rolls on edge of grill pan (or in toaster) until warm and crusty but not burnt
4) assemble sandwich - bottom roll, steak, slices of swiss, peppers and onions, condiments, top roll

Friday, September 4, 2009

9/4/09 - Figs with honey, almonds and spices ....bedtime snack

Since tonight was spent at home lazily watching 80s movies I was looking through my newest go-to site and found this post and couldn't wait to try it especially since I had just bought some fresh figs a few hours ago.

It was fast and delicious (I didn't wait the recommended 1 hour chill time) though the original is definitely much lovelier.

I would serve this again especially as a little sweet treat after a dinner - one perfect bite!

9/4/09 - Krave Truck at Grove PATH (Marin & Columbus Jersey City, NJ)

So food trucks are all the talk around town - from LA to NYC and cupcakes to dumplings, these low rent high taste establishments provide good eats on the go. Unlike your standard street cart, each truck has its own specialty leading to a fun tasty treat. With a write up in the NY Times on the Korean Taco craze in L.A, it seemed only fair we get one here in NYC as well but instead Krave Truck has taken up shop in Jersey City. After a failed attempt to check it out last week (apparently it isn't summer any more and it gets dark at 7:30 PM?) we used the start of the holiday weekend to peek at the artists stands outside the PATH and grab a tasting sampler of tacos.

We got 1 of each version of taco -sesame chicken (front), galbi short ribs (back right) and spicy pork (back left). I was a little scared of the kim chee quesadilla but after using the sauce (pureed kim chee?) on the tacos I wouldn't mind another taste. It definitely had a kick to it but more vinegar based and almost pickly than a chili pepper type spice which I liked.

In fact if it wasn't for the wait I might actually run back for another taste! Another JC treat with a line to match...... seems all the locals are excited

Thursday, September 3, 2009

9/3/09 - Spinach Tortelloni w Veggie Stuffed Sauce

With the left overs finally subsiding in my fridge I was ready to start cooking tonight and get the rest of the things moving. I couldn't resist the fresh pasta case at Fairway and since we had been contemplating tortellini vs tortelloni (answer: size differentiates - approx 2 grams vs 5 grams respectively) I decided on a a spinach tortelloni. Though we have been so carb heavy lately with all the potatoes and rice I did want to use the remaining meat sauce that I had defrosted for some cavatelli (Stew Leonard's fresh pasta) so I ended up blending some CSA veggies (zucchini, peppers, onions) for a one dish meal.

Veggie Stuffed Sauce
1/2 zucchini- shredded
7 mushrooms- sliced
1/2 green bell pepper- diced
1 small hot pepper - finely diced
1 shallot - finely diced
3 cloves of garlic - finely diced
2 c meat sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh basil
1 c Italian blend 2% cheese
1 tbsp grated Parmesan

1) add oil to wok pan - heat on med -high
2) add shallots, garlic and peppers - heat 5 min
3) add zucchini and mushrooms - cook 2 min
4) add sauce - mix together - cook 4 min
5) add cooked and drained pasta
6) turn off heat and add basil and cheese - combine
7) serve and top with grated Parmesan cheese

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

9/2/09 Guest Drink Special...the "SURE!"- tini

My friend Mary was over this week was kind enough to bring over some yummy tropical sherberts which were just begging to be paired with a bottle of Absolute Mango that was donated to the liquor cabinet. Since she is the resident mixologist she did he honors of coming up with an amazing drink and shared the details with us all here:

We decided to drink our dessert this evening to unwind after a long, hard, hump-day and naturally, celebrate our daily achievements. Not wanting your usual run-of-the-mill beer or martinis, we took a different route and made things a little fruitier and more dessert-like. We decided to call it the "SURE!-tini".

2 parts Absolut Mango Vodka
1 1/2 parts Pomegranite/Acai Iced White Tea (We recommend Turkey Hill)
1 Splash of Lemonade (We recommend Simply)
Garnish with 1 small scoop of Mango Sherbet (if in Jersey City, this absolutely must be procured at Torico's)

Drop sherbet scoop into martini glass
Chill vodka in shaker and strain into martini glass
Add Tea and follow with one splash of lemonade

Round two....with a bit a fresh peach!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

9/1/09 - Field Trip to Torico's Ice Cream in Jersey City

So after devouring about 6 lbs of fresh Fillet Mignon at dinner we decided to make a trip out to the local ice cream parlor. With too many flavors to mention it was quite the decision to make (especially after more that one bottle of wine) and a number were sampled before the final scooping

Carla - Cherry Vanilla & Mint Chip
Tova - Pumpkin Pie & Almond Coconut
Stephen (and Jeremy who wasn't available to choose)- Pumpkin Pie & Poundcake
Jess - Avocado & Pumpkin Pie
Mary - Dulce de Leche & Cookie Dough

The avocado was a big hit making Jess question her BF's skills as it made everything tingle!

I think that an ice cream maker is in my near future... I just can't resist a treat.

9/1/09 - Steak for 6!

So tonight was one of the larger crowds I have had over for a non-party dinner..... things got a little confusing as dinner time approached but I had planned most dishes ahead so it wasn't too bad. And luckily with steaks its easy as tossing them on the grill for a few minutes and serving! However as always we have our favorite vegetarian to consider so some eggplant was also served up as her tasty treat. During dinner the discussion turned into our (irrational?) food fears (dislikes? hates?) --- seems that texture is the worse offender with raw tomatoes leading the pack on most feared. Anyone out there want to share with the class the food that you love to hate?

Dinner was served family style since everyone had different tastes. I went with cold sides for the most part given the easy prep and seasonal produce available. The steak was barely seasoned with a tiny bit of Salt and Pepper then served a bit closer to medium than medium rare for my liking but luckily it still was quite tasty. The rice blend was done in the electric rice cooker (and again started a few minutes later than it should have been as we had to break into a bottle of wine while we waited for it to pop). The other two sides were a bit of "left overs" from the previous night. After our Lobster Boil we were too stuffed to consider the tomato salad so it was nicely marinaded and juicy....perfect for the 7 grain boule from Fairway. The 3 bean salad started out with beans and ended up with a bit of everything tossed in!

3 Bean & Potato Salad
1 can of red kidney beans
1 can wax beans
1 can garbanzo beans
2 c sliced cooked potatoes (baby red)
1 jar marinaded artichoke hearts
2 shallots- diced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh sage - diced
salt & pepper

1) drain and rinse the beans - place in large bowl
2) dice artichoke hearts and add
3) add remaining ingredients + 1 tbsp artichoke marinade liquid and mix

This is the vegetarian version with the eggplant in the upper left corner - all the sides were prepared the same way.

Pan-Fried Eggplant
1 eggplant - skin removed and cut in 1/2" slices
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dry basil
1 tbsp dry parsley
salt & pepper

2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter

1) place eggplant slices on paper towel and salt - let sit 20 min to remove excess moisture
2) place in bag with remaining ingredients and let marinade 20 min
3) add oil and butter to hot pan - add sliced of eggplant - cover
4) flip after 5 min - cook 5 more min or until soft