August 31, 2009

No Trimming the Fat Here

Sunday was just a perfect day.  It was warm but had all the smells and whispers of fall in the air.  It was not a day to stay inside!  After a bike ride and an hour or two off the island and onto another one, Sam and I decided to cook dinner again – after all, we had done some damage at Whole Foods the day before and had leftover ingredients from the soup.

After a quick perusal of the meat section, we decided on the most delicious looking pork chops which the butcher promptly took a cleaver to – so fresh!

Some kale and the leftover carrots created an inspired Sunday evening feast that was easy but tasted like we actually worked for it.  I recommend this meal for a fall evening, or just one when you’re dreaming of the upcoming season.

Best of all, you get to use the toaster over, AND the hotplate in this one!  Be warned, I broke out some of my fancy kitchen tools.  It’s true - I’m just compensating for something…

Pork Chops for Two
The best part of this meal is that you barely need to do a thing to the pork.  These were fatty chops so kept all that goodness on and let it do the work in the broiler.  Just a little salt and pepper on both sides was all they needed.
The tricky part of this type of meal is getting all of the components done on two burners at roughly the same time.  You’re going to have to reserve the broth you cooked the carrots in to cooked the kale, while you purée your carrots. 
Before anything, preheat the broiler / toaster oven to 400°F (or as high as it will go!) and salt & pepper the pork on both sides.
Then, cut carrots and set to boil in chicken stock on the hotplate.
Once the toaster oven is hot, place the pork on a broiler pan and cook for 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked all the way through. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
As the pork is cooking, assemble the sides.
Wash kale and place in a frying pan on the second burner, then tend to the carrots.

Carrot Purée
5 carrots
2 cups chicken stock
salt & pepper
1 tbsp. butter

The carrots should take about 15 minutes to be tender.  Once they are cooked, drain them but reserve the stock.  You’ll use this to sauté the kale.
Using an immersion blender, (or a hand blender, my new favorite kitchen appliance!) purée the carrots with 1 tbsp. of butter, salt & pepper.  You can also do this in a food processor, or if you’re really in a bind, a hand mixer or potato masher.  Season purée to taste and let sit.

Sautéed Kale
Turn burner under frying pan filled with kale on.  Let it get hot them pour 1 cup of the reserved chicken stock into the pan.  Cover and let wilt.  Sauté with a little salt & pepper for a minute or two and then turn off the heat.
Plate the side and once the pork has rested, serve it as well.  The whole thing sounds much more complicated than it is.  It should only take you 35 minutes to make the full meal!

August 30, 2009

A Saturday Evening at Home

This Saturday was rainy and overcast and after last week, Sam and I were both ready to hibernate.  So we stayed in to relax and make a feel-good meal of lentil soup.  I adapted this recipe for 2 (plus leftovers for lunch) from Ina Garten’s the barefoot contessa cookbook.  Ina holds a special place in my heart, and for that matter, my stomach.  I have never been disappointed by any of her recipes, and let’s face it, she’s just adorable in those denim shirts.

**For my vegetarians, I used chicken stock in this version but you can easily substitute vegetable stock for an easy, vegetarian-friendly meal.

I cut out a few spices and flavors in this recipe to make it small kitchen /budget friendly. Cumin is the only spice that I didn’t already have in my pantry, but I consider it a good investment.  I’m going to want to make this soup again and again.

A Perfect Rainy Day Lentil Soup

(Adapted from Lentil Vegetable Soup, the barefoot contessa cookbook)

Makes 4 servings
½ lb green lentils
1 Large yellow onion, chopped
2 Cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
½ Tsp. ground cumin
Salt & pepper to taste
1 ½ c. chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
1 ½ c. chopped carrots (about 4 carrots)
1 ½ Quarts (6 cups) chicken stock
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
Splash of red wine
In a large bowl, cover lentils with boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes.  Drain.
In a large pot (mine is 2 ¾ quarts), sauté the onions, garlic, salt & pepper, and cumin with the oil until the onions are translucent and tender.  Add celery and carrots and sauté for another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, lentils, and tomato paste and stir.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for one hour – lentils should be tender and cooked through.  Season with salt & pepper again to taste and add a splash of red wine.  Serve with a good, crusty bread.   

August 29, 2009

Toaster Ovens Make Better Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've done a few experiments and there's no denying it—toaster ovens just make better cookies.  Chocolate Chip cookies to be exact.  There was a lot of talk last year about “the perfect chocolate chip cookie” and although I am sure those other versions were wonderful, I still firmly believe there’s no beating Ruth Graves Wakefield’s original Toll House Cookie recipe for taste, and more importantly, ease. I do agree with modern day bakers on one important point though: salt.  Salt is the key to a truly delicious chocolate chip cookie–one that is luscious and filled with gooey chocolate until that one bite when you hit a salt crystal and it blows your mind.  I’m serious.  For that reason I substitute big crystals of sea salt for regular old salt in the THC recipe.
Any baker, in any kitchen, can make this chocolate chip cookie recipe. The secret, for all you mini-kitchen dwellers, is in the toaster oven.  Maybe it’s the magic of a perfect balance in heat and surface area, or maybe it’s just the fact that you can feel like you’re baking in your easy-bake-oven again.  Whatever it is, the cookies that come out of a toaster oven are just better.  I dare you to try it.

My Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie (adapted from Nestle Toll House)
Makes 14-20 cookies
1 c. all purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea salt
1 stick of butter, softened
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 c. (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in large bowl until creamy.  (**It’s very important to do this with a wooden spoon, not a hand mixer.) Add egg and beat well.  Gradually stir in flour mixture until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Spoon tablespoon sized amounts of dough on to your “baking sheet” (or the only pan a toaster oven comes with…) and cook for 10 minutes exactly. 

Now, working with a toaster oven means that it would take twice as long to make a whole batch of these than it would in a normal oven.  I usually just make the amount of cookies Sam and I will eat that day/night and put the rest of the dough in a container in the fridge for those nights when you just really need a freshly baked cookie…  Enjoy!

August 26, 2009

Sticking with Tomatoes

When you are cooking for two the name of the game is "waste not". Even though Sam often eats for three, we still have an extra one or two ingredients left over. The trick is to use up as much as possible throughout the week, especially when you're working with a mini-fridge, which tends to speed up the spoiling process.

One of the best things to cook in the summer is pasta with a fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil sauce, which easily uses up my left-over ingredients.

Side Note: It's very important when cooking with a limited pantry that you at least buy the best ingredients you can find. For that reason, I always have a good block of parmesan cheese, sea salt, and good olive oil in my kitchen. They can make all the difference in a simple dish.

Fresh Summer Pasta for Three

½ lb. fresh capellini (or pasta of your choice)

1 c. chopped tomatoes (cherry or otherwise)

1 c. chopped basil

1 c. diced mozzarella

¼ c. olive oil

¼ c. freshly shredded parmesan cheese

salt & pepper

Salt and add oil to water. Add pasta when boiling and cook according to package directions. Drain and run cold water over the pasta to stop it from cooking. Transfer to bowl.

Add the oil and mix into pasta. Add the tomatoes and basil, saving the mozzarella until the end so it does not melt in the bowl. Add parmesan, salt & pepper to taste, and mix thoroughly. Serve with more parmesan and freshly ground pepper.

August 23, 2009


So when I wrote my first post almost a year ago I was just so excited about the thought of writing a blog that I never actually got around to doing it diligently. One week became two, and a month became four. By then, it was just embarrassing.

But here I am once again, and this time I'm going to really try!

So let's start off with something easy. One thing you'll learn about me as we go along is that I cannot stay away from a market. Any market. Now that it's August and the farmers markets are just full of gorgeous tomatoes (a little less so this year...), corn, and stone fruit, I try my best to cook with these freshest of ingredients. Tonight, it was the tomato, and boy, was it worth it.

Sam and I wanted something easy after an afternoon of museums and a round (or two) of drinks with my parents and friends. So Balsamic Chicken it was! This is the easiest and one of the most delicious ways of cooking chicken and is one of Sam's specialties-so I let him handle it!

Balsamic Chicken for Two

In a frying pan:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of balsamic vinegar (enough to fill the pan a quarter of the way up the breasts)
Salt & pepper

Heat up the frying pan and pour in the vinegar.
Place the chicken in the pan, add salt and pepper liberally, and cover. Cook for 1 minute on each side , then let cook (covered) for 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from pan once the juices run clear when the meat is cut into.

For the tomatoes, I had some day old bread and tons of basil, and since we were already making Balsamic Chicken, I whipped up a quick bruschetta.

Quick Bruschetta

6 slices day old baguette
half a tomato
1 garlic clove
5 basil leaves
balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

Chop the tomato into cubes, mince garlic, and chop the basil. Mix together in a small bowl. Pour oil and vinegar over just until it just coats the tomatoes lightly. Add salt & pepper and let sit.

Toast baguette slices and let sit.

In the meantime, I also prepared a small "caprese" salad with the rest of the tomato, a few slices of good mozzarella, and additional basil leaves. A little oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper and you're all set!

Once the chicken is done and you're ready to plate, place a spoonful of the bruschetta topping on each slice of toast and finish the whole plate with a little ground pepper. The whole process takes no more than 35 minutes and is a nice way to end the weekend.

By using so many similar ingredients, you save space on your counter, and on your shelves. And the best part of this meal is that you can cook an extra chicken breast and have an incredibly flavorful addition to a salad for lunch on day!