September 30, 2009

Food 52 Cookbook, Here I Come!

Thank you so much to all of you who voted for my dish this week on!  I won the contest with an extremely simple and delicious dish of Linguini, Breadcrumbs and Kale, and I hope that will inspire many of you homecooks out there!  Dinner doesn’t need to be fancy to be perfect, and a few simple, good ingredients are all you need to make a meal that will make your night. (Or your Wednesday, as it turns out!)

Tonight Sam and I are celebrating by going out to dinner (don’t worry-the meal I made last night will be up tomorrow!) and sharing one of our favorite wines.  It’s a pinot noir from Oregon called Sharecropper’s and at under $25, it’s perfect for a little celebration.  Try it sometime…if you can find it!

September 29, 2009

Monday's Hit - Tomato Soup and a Classy "Grilled" Cheese

Fall is here, but there’s still time to use those last few tomatoes that are in the farmers markets right now.  When I got back to work yesterday, my colleague was looking for the perfect easy tomato soup recipe – so it of course got me thinking of one of my favorites!  I make this one a bit quicker by using whole peeled tomatoes, and less creamy by just using ¾ of a cup of milk instead of cream.  Paired with a grown up version of “grilled cheese”, this made a perfect Monday night meal!

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup (adapted from Ina Garten’s barefoot contessa back to basics)

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 small cloves garlic
2 28-oz. cans of whole peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. tomato paste
3 c. chicken stock
salt & pepper
¾ c. whole milk
3 tsp. dried basil

Heat oil in a large stock pot (mine is 2 ¾ qt. and this just fit!).  Add the onions and carrots and sauté for about 7 minutes, or until very tender.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir well.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat, and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes.  The tomatoes should be very tender.  Add the cream to the soup, and using a hand blender (or a food mill or regular blender), blend until smooth.  Reheat the soup and taste, adding salt & pepper as needed. 

When the soup is simmering, start making the tomato and goat cheese tarts.

Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts (adapted, barely, from barefoot contessa back to basics)

¼ of a sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper
1 tbsp. dry white wine
1 tbsp. grated parmesan
2 oz. goat cheese (I only had plain on hand, but Ina recommends garlic-and-herb)
3-4 ¼ slices of tomato

Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Heat oil in a small skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic.  Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the pan.  Add salt & pepper and the wine and sontinue to cook for another 5 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed and the onions are browned.  Remove from heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a ¼ inch wide border around the pastry.  Prick the pastry inside the score lines with a fork.  Place the onion mixture within the scored edge and crumble the goat cheese over the onions.  Place the slices of tomato on the tart and sprinkle with salt & pepper and the grated parmesan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

September 27, 2009

Comfort Meal After a Great Weekend Away

After spending a really wonderful weekend with the girls, I have tons of ideas for the next few weeks of posts – most of which are great ideas for using leftovers of all kinds! It seems like as soon as we got out of the city, it felt like fall. The weekend was chilly and damp, all together perfect. We stopped for lunch in a cute town (literally every other store sold antiques) and had a quick bite to warm us up before heading out to a vineyard. One of my friends got a potpie that was only ok, but it inspired me to make a better version of one. The best part? I already had leftover chicken from the roast chicken I made last week! This recipe is fairly quick and with the addition of white wine and thyme, it reminds me of a dish called Bouche a la Reine. I made this one with a store bought puff pastry that I would absolutely cover with foil the next time I make it – just 30 minutes in my littler toaster over left it a little burnt on top and not fully cooked through.  The filling though, was perfect!
French Style Leftover-Chicken 
Pot Pie

2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion diced
5 small potatoes, diced
3-4 small carrots sliced
3 tbsp. flour
½ c. milk
4 c. chicken stock
1 c. frozen peas
Leftover chicken, cut into bite sized pieeces (light and dark meat)
¼ c. wine
1 tbsp. thyme
salt & pepper
puff pastry or prepared pie crust

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In a small pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil and allow it to reduce by half. While this is reducing, in a sauté pan, heat up 2 tbsp. butter. Add onions and sauté for a minute. Add the carrots and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the potatoes and sauté until vegetables are tender. Stir in the flour and stir continuously until it is all combined. Add dashes of salt & pepper. Add the reserved 2 c. chicken stock and milk. Bring to a boil and allow it to thicken. Add the thyme, more salt & pepper, and wine, then add the chicken. Stir and allow peas to defrost a little. Taste the broth and add more seasoning to taste. Pour filling in to a 2 qt. baking dish or into individual ramekins. Top with puff pastry or pie crust – be sure to leave an inch and a half overhang on the pastry, it will shrink up. Bake the potpie for 30 minutes, or until bubbling and the pastry is golden.

September 25, 2009

A Pound Cake is the Perfect Way to Start a Weekend

So wonder upon wonders, not only was I featured on on Thursday, but I am now a finalist in one of their contests!  It’s really exciting, and I’m honored that out of 51 contestants, my dish was chosen as one of two finalists.  For this week’s contests, Amanda and Merrill chose the “Your Best Brunch Eggs” and the “Your Best Way to Cook Greens”.  I entered the greens contest with the Linguini with Breadcrumbs and Kale, featured here on September 3 in Carbo Loading.  Voting ends early next week – I can’t wait to hear the results!

But in the meantime, I’m in Rhinebeck, NY this weekend with my best friends from high school.  It’s gorgeous out here and we’re staying on cute farm that has a B&B.  We can’t wait for the breakfast! It’s sure to be a weekend of reminiscing and laughing, and of course, wine!  More to come on that, but here’s a little something sweet to take you into the weekend.  I made this delicious pound cake earlier this week and even brought in the leftovers for my co-workers – it was a hit!  This cake was dense (in a good way!) and fragrant - the hints of lemon and honey were perfect and the texture reminded me of a denser French madeleine.  Plus, it’s from Ina Garten’s Back to Basics, a cookbook that is quickly becoming a standard here at HC!

Honey Vanilla Pound Cake from Ina Garten’s Back to Basics (with a few tweaks)

½ lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter at cool room temperature

1 ¼ c. sugar

4 extra-large eggs at room temperature

2 tbsp. honey

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp grated lemon zest

2 c. cake flour

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.
Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes. (I found it best to do this with a wooden spoon). Meanwhile, put the eggs, honey, vanilla, and lemon zest in a separate bowl. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the egg mixture, one egg at a time, scraping down the bowl and allowing each egg to become incorporated before adding the next egg.
Wisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. With the mixer on low speed, add it very slowly to the butter and egg mixture until just combined. Finish mixing the batter with a rubber spatula and pour it into the prepared pan. Smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (In the toaster oven, it was about 75 minutes.  I made sure to check it every few minutes until it was done). Cool for 15 minutes, turn out on a baking rack, and cool completely.

September 24, 2009

Adding Fuel to the Fire!


I woke up this morning to a really really pleasant surprise! A highlight on! If you haven't heard of this new recipe collective website, get to know it. It's a fabulous idea from ex-NYTimes food reporter, (and author of Cooking for Mr. Latte!) Amanda Hesser, and her friend and fellow food journalist, Merrill Stubbs (who notably worked at the wonderful Flour Bakery in Boston!) Their idea? To create a cookbook filled with the best recipes from homecooks everywhere – posted by you, the homecooks, and then tested and voted upon. Every week they hold these recipe contests and after one year, the winners will be published in a beautiful, glossy, cookbook! So get cooking!

Oh, and here’s the note about Hotplate Confidential:

“On Hotplate Confidential, Erin Culbreth (Hotplate Gourmet on food52) writes about the gorgeous meals she cooks for herself and her boyfriend, detailing both weekend projects and weeknight practicalities. The catch? She does it all with a two burner hotplate, a mini fridge, and a toaster oven. That's it. The most intriguing post? Erin's claim that toaster oven Chocolate Chip Cookies are better than the rest. We may have to try them out in order to judge for ourselves. She's just starting out, but we're looking forward to seeing what else she creates in her truly tiny ‘kitchen’.”

September 23, 2009

1-2-3 Dinner!

Once you learn the beauty of roasting your own chickens you'll never be able to pick up one from the supermarket again - it's just too easy (and fills the apartment up with such delicious smells!)  It may not be done on a rotisserie (although I'd LOVE for someone to try that in my kitchen... when I'm not there...), but it's incredibly easy, and great if you have guests.  Just pop it in for about an hour and you have plenty of time to chat and drink wine with your friends!  Plus, you'll look like an A plus chef without trying very hard.

I say this because tonight Sam did the chicken!  I was going to my very first real cooking class and wasn't going to get home in time to do much of any cooking, so Sam took it on!  And as you might be wondering, I actually didn't do any actual cooking in the cooking class, but I did learn the proper technique to use when cutting up an onion (apparently, you do not chop it!)  I came home with some pretty sweet knives - safest I've ever felt walking home, by the way - and was hit with the delicious aromas of home cooking a la Sam.

This is really the simplest Roast Chicken Recipe, as it uses stale bread as the "roasting pan" which then doubles as tasty croutons as well!  I think I found it in the NYTimes, but if anyone knows where it's actually from, please let me know so I can give them credit!

Incidentally, by cooking this tonight, I found out that I'm in dire need of the second knife skills class, in which you learn, among other things, how to carve a chicken.

Lazy (Wo)Man's Roast Chicken

3 1/2 lb. whole chicken, giblets discarded
1/2 lemon, sliced
4 large cloves of garlic
fresh thyme
olive oil
salt & pepper
4 slices day old bread (it can be any crusty bread - I've used olive loaf and this time used a rosemary loaf which worked well)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Wash and pat dry the chicken, including the inside.  Sprinkle the inside and outside with salt & pepper and drizzle a bit of olive oil on the outside.  Stuff the garlic, thyme, and lemon into the chicken and place it in a pan directly on the slices of bread.  Cook for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (this will vary depending on the size of the chicken, but the inside temperature should register 180 degrees when the chicken is ready.) Serve the chicken with or without the croutons (but I really recommend trying them!)  You'll have leftovers, but they're perfect for an end of the week dinner salad.

September 20, 2009

Fall's Bounty

This weekend was the first time I’ve gone to the farmer’s market and actually felt the chill of fall in the air.  It made me giddy!  There’s so much to look forward to – kale, swiss chard, root vegetables, apples of every kind, and brussels sprouts, oh brussles sprouts! I could eat them for every meal.  And if you think you don’t like them, it’s only because you’ve never had them cooked properly for you.  (Not to insult any homecooks out there, but they are simply horrible when overcooked. Completely bitter.)

When I saw them sitting there I just couldn’t resist.  I didn’t care what else I made, the sprouts would be the centerpiece of the plate.

But then I got ambitious, as usual.  I bought what should have been a wonderful piece of beef from market (it wasn’t, although the marinade was good) and then picked up some fennel for a great salad, and fresh bread to top off the meal.  The fennel salad is a wonderful addition to my rotation (thank you Melissa!) and I did almost nothing to the brussels sprouts – this meal just highlights the food in it’s most basic form.

Easy Beef Marinade

2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ c. red wine
salt & pepper

Pour the olive oil on the meat and coat on both sides. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the meat.  Add the garlic and the wine and let sit for at least 2 hours.

Perfect Brussles Sprouts

I usually like to make these with chicken stock, but I didn’t have any on hand so I improvised. 

2 large handfuls of brussels sprouts, cleaned and cut in half
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ c. water
salt & pepper

Heat oil in a pan.  Add brussels sprouts and salt & pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally.  Cook until they are just browned, about 3 minutes.  Pour in water and cover the pan.  Cook for about 3 minutes until just tender.  Uncover and cook for another two until the water is evaporated.  Taste them when then get tender - they should still be crisp, not soggy and falling apart.

Fennel and Onion Salad

This is a wonderful start or finish to a meal.  But a word of warning, you may not want to take these leftovers to the office, especially if you know you’re going to be in a lot of meetings…

1 fennel bulb, greens discarded, cut in slices twice
1 small onion, cut in slices twice
juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp. fresh thyme
2 tbsp. olive oil (or more to just coat)
salt & pepper
freshly grated parmesan

Place the fennel and onion in a bowl.  Toss with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper.  Add the thyme.  Adjust ingredients as needed.  You may need more lemon juice to give it additional acidity, according to your taste.  Once plated, grate the parmesan directly onto the salad – this gives it a wonderful nutty flavor that cuts the onion nicely.

September 17, 2009

Comfort Food is Good for the Soul

I’m still getting into the swing of things here (yes, I realize it’s Thursday).  Going back to work after over a week of vacation is hard!  Plus Sam has decided to row in the Head of the Charles in October, so we’re kicking it into overdrive here at Hotplate Confidential.  If you ever wonder how we cook dinner after work so often, it’s really because we never eat dinner before 9pm.  There’s just not enough time in the day!

This week, with leftover supplies, some pantry diving, and a very minimal grocery store run, we were able to make three pretty great, if simple, meals.  Quick and tasty.  I even cooked for three one night (not just for two with 3 helpings…)

The first makes enough for 4 (or lunch for a few days), the simple pasta sauce is my go to on nights when I don’t feel like cooking (they’re rare), and the third dinner we managed to cook even with some electricity outages!  That’s difficult to do with an all electric “kitchen”…

Here are some highlights:

Turkey Meatloaf with Feta (adapted from Giada De Laurentis)

½ c. plain breadcrumbs
1/3 c. chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
2 tbsp. whole milk (I’m sure skim is fine)
½ c. feta, cubed
¼ c. tomato paste
1 lb. ground turkey
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375° F.
In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, tomato paste, garlic, eggs, milk, feta, salt & pepper.  Add the turkey and gently stir to combine – don’t overwork the meat.
Pack the mixture into a loaf pan (mine is 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 and it was at half full) and bake in the (toaster) oven for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 165°F.

Simple Pasta Sauce

28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper
½ tsp. sugar

Heat oil in a sauté pan.  When hot, add the onions and stir for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir until the onions are translucent and tender.  Add the whole peeled tomatoes and cut them in half in the pan.  Add the sauce, tomato paste, sugar, and salt & pepper and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  This sauce is best when given a little time, but in a pinch, can be ready in 45 minutes.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 medium red potatoes, washed, skin on, cut in quarters
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. butter
½ c. milk
salt & pepper

Boil the potatoes with the cloves of garlic.  Once tender (about 20 minutes) drain the potatoes and garlic and put back in the same pot.  Add butter, milk, salt & pepper and “mash” using an immersion blender until smooth.

Now I just love my immersion blender so I tried it out on this for the first time tonight.  It worked wonders!  But, you can also use a ricer, just rice the potatoes and garlic before adding the other ingredients.

I promise posts to come will be more exciting!  I’m planning on going to the farmer’s market on Saturday and can’t wait to see what’s new!  Oh, and maybe I’ll be able to cook without losing electricity this time….

September 14, 2009

Back from the North - Still Full

And we’re back!  A little begrudgingly, I’m afraid.  Sam and I were in foodie heaven last week, so we weren’t at all surprised to come home to the newest issue of Bon Appétit and find it highlights Portland, Maine as “America’s Foodiest Small Town 2009”!  Check out the article if you have a chance, there are some perfect suggestions (including a few of my own!)
After eating our way through Portland (and Boston this weekend), Sam and I needed a break – and something with a lot of vegetables.  These stuffed tomatoes can be made with a variety of ingredients.  I’ve tried them with ground lamb (delicious!) and beef, but tonight I went with mushrooms and feta cheese.  I also bought a zucchini, which I of course forgot to use and is still sitting in the fridge, but I think it would be a nice addition.

You can make the filling in advance and then just hollow out the tomatoes when you get home for a tasty and simple weeknight meal.  I like them with just a simple salad but with smaller tomatoes, they could also be a great side dish.

Stuffed Tomatoes for a Food Hangover

4 large tomatoes, with the flesh scooped out and reserved.
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 c. chopped mushrooms (I used cremini)
4 oz. feta cheese, cubed
½ c. breadcrumbs
¼ c. parsley, chopped
salt & pepper

Preheat the (toaster) oven to 375º F.
Cut off the very top of the tomatoes, saving the tops, and use a large spoon to hollow out the flesh of the tomato. Reserve this in a medium sized bowl.  Once you’ve hallowed out all 4, strain the pulp out once to get rid of most of the juices.  Make sure that the remaining tomato pulp is diced.  Mix in the chopped mushrooms, garlic, feta, breadcrumbs, and parsley until just combined.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Place the hallowed out tomatoes on a baking sheet and fill with the mixture.  Cover with the reserved tops.
Place the tomatoes in the oven for 10 minutes.  Take off the tomato tops and bake for another 10 to 15.  

September 4, 2009

Maine, the Way Life Should Be

It’s only been two weeks, but I’m already taking a break!  Sam and I are finally taking a “summer” vacation so I thought I would leave you with a little something while we’re gone next week.  We’re of course going back to Maine 1.  Because it’s the greatest place on Earth 2. Because it’s Vacationland and 3.  Because I just can’t fathom going through another season without seeing Portland.

If you’ve never been to this magical land, I’m going to give you a few tips.  They’re essentially all about eating, but that’s what this blog is about so it’s really very fitting.

1.    Go to Duck Fat.  I’ll say it again, Go to Duck Fat.  I never knew about this place when I was in school, but thankfully, my eyes were opened to it.  They have an amazing Duck Confit sandwich and fries fried in what else, duck fat.  Can you get any better (or any closer to a heart attack?) Duck Fat 43 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101-4213  (207) 774-8080
2.    Visit the Standard Baking Co.  I was so excited when Molly Wizenberg profiled this bakery in Bon Appetit this spring.  She focused on their world-class scones, but honestly, they make the best croissants I’ve had this side of Paris.  Standard Baking Co.  75 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101
3.    If you can manage it and really want a special meal, make a reservation at Fore Street.  It’s priced like New York, but it’s amazingly innovative and seasonal.  Its kitchen sources its ingredients locally and the open kitchen is always entertaining.  To top it all off, the restaurant was nominated for a James Beard Award this year!  Fore Street, 288 Fore Street, Portland ME, (207) 775-2717
4.    When in doubt, eat lobster.  I’m not actually a lobster lover (I know, I know, sacrilege!) but Maine has it’s stereotypes for a reason.  Best of all, you can just go to any lobster shack by the water and get a lobster roll and a beer.  No need to get all fancy.
Have a wonderful week!  Many more recipes to come from my hotplate when I get home.

September 3, 2009

Carbo Loading

Sometimes you just need an amazingly easy, delicious meal to get you through the week.  This dish is so easy in fact, that I didn't even have time to take proper photos of the whole process!  Sam and I are getting ready to go on vacation next week (more on that to come!) and we are trying to work down what is in our mini-fridge.  This is a perfect leftover meal - you can use whatever greens or herbs you have lying around and day or two old bread makes the best breadcrumbs.  It took me about 30 minutes in total (including making the breadcrumbs!) and really spiced up the regular old pasta and tomato sauce routine.  Let's just say there were no leftovers on this one.

Linguini with Breadcrumbs

½ lb linguini (or other long pasta)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices day old bread, cubed
½ c. olive oil
½ bunch of kale, chopped
¼ c. parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

Boil pasta in salted pot.
Process bread in a food processor until it’s about the consistency of coarse cornmeal.  Heat ¼ c. oil in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs.  Once the breadcrumbs are slightly toasted and golden brown, add the garlic and continue to stir until well toasted.  Add the kale to the frying pan with a little bit of the pasta water and sauté quickly.
Toss the oil mixture with the drained pasta and add salt & pepper to taste.  Add the rest of the oil as needed.  Mix in parmesan and serve.