June 18, 2010

Hotplate Hiatus

Wow.  Has it really been a month already?  Ok, as I'm sure you've noticed from my absence, I have a lot on my (hot)plate.  And it's not just the wedding planning, which has really become all consuming (I can't believe I thought it would be a breeze....).  There's a lot of movement on the Hotplate Confidential front. Sam and I sadly moved out of our little junior one-bedroom apartment in the West Village over Memorial Day weekend.  I thought I would be so happy when the time came to have a real kitchen, but I really left with a lump in my throat and a tear for the hotplate I grew to love.  Sam is attending business school in the south this fall, and in July he will be moving down to an enormous (by our standards) 2 BR house with a real kitchen, a washer and dryer, and best of all, a backyard.  I'll be up here, living in my old bedroom again, frantically planning the wedding, saving money, and hopefully getting a chance to cook in a big kitchen once in a while.  Not an ideal situation, but my parents are saints for dealing with what I can only classify as a degenerative slide back to the moody teenage years.
So as I continue to think about what this blog will become and what I will do with my time without an apartment of my own and apart from Sam, I hope you will forgive the lapses in blogging.  I have one last hotplate dinner party (thanks, Nikki and Ben!) to blog about so look for that this weekend, but otherwise I'll try to post something from my "vacation" home in the suburbs every week!

May 17, 2010

Picnic Dinner in the Park

By now you know that Sunday night dinners have become a tradition for me.   I love having friends over for dinner, and Sundays are just the perfect time to relax before the hectic work week starts again.  I don’t always do something ambitious, but this time, I wanted to picnic.  It’s finally nice enough to eat outside, and since I’m in the West Village, I like to think of the green space and piers off the Westside Highway as my own personal backyard. Sam and I had tried this shredded pork dish I found on Saveur one night when we were out in New Jersey visiting my parents.  It was delicious and even better the next day on a roll with a red cabbage slaw and I wanted to try it for our dinner party.  Although this dish required a large heavy pot and 3 ½ hours in an oven, I decided I would attempt it on the hotplate, just in my Dutch oven. It ended up not quite as tender as the first try in a real kitchen, but not half bad considering my limited resources.  Paired with cheddar grits, and packed up for a picnic, it made for a lovely Sunday night dinner, en plein air.

Shredded Pork Shoulder (adapted from The Kitchn)
Serves 5

3 pound pork shoulder, bone-in
1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons cumin

1 ½ teaspoons paprika

½ tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into wedges

4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 12-ounce beer (I used Yuengling)

Trim the pork shoulder of any thick layers of fat. Combine the brown sugar, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the pork with the spice mixture, getting into crevices and on the sides. Allow the pork to sit for about 30 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pot. Add the onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, and beer. Bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to bring up any browned bits.
Return the pork to the pot. Cover and let simmer 3 ½ to 4 hours, checking once or twice, until the meat is extremely tender and pulls away from the bone easily. Shred the pork in the pot, using tongs to separate the meat from the fat. Discard the bone or set aside for another use.
Serve the meat with several spoonfuls of the vegetables and sauce.

Cheddar Grits
Makes 5 small side servings

OK, I admit it.  All I had were instant grits so I just used those.  I know, not the most culinary of choices, but it was fast and tasted great!

4 packages instant grits
2 c. water
2 tbsp. butter
½ c. shredded cheddar cheese
dash of salt

Boil water in a sauce pan.  Add the grits (about a cup), whisking constantly.  Once the grits have become smooth, after about 2 minutes of whisking, add the butter and combine.  Fold in the cheese and season as needed.  Warm up just before serving so the mixture does not solidify.

May 9, 2010

My Mother's Banana Bread

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would share a recipe that my mother made frequently during my childhood – Banana Bread.  Some people grew up with Julia or the Joy of Cooking, but I grew up with The Silver Palate.  Our family’s pesto recipe comes from it, our Christmas dinner comes from it, and of course our Banana Bread of choice comes from it.  I could go on and on. The recipes are all simple and based on local and fresh ingredients, and I used to love reading the sample menus that the authors would suggest.  It made me think of the all the parties I wanted to throw when I grew up – yes, I was already planning future dinner parties as an 11-year-old, I have always wanted to be the host. 
Our copy of the cookbook was so worn that it was literally in pieces, wide-open to the recipes that we used again and again. I finally replaced it for my mother when the 25th anniversary edition came out, but I still sometimes see her referring to the old one.  I guess it’s like an old friend at this point.
I now own my very own copy of The Silver Palate and continue to make recipes like pesto and ratatouille and last week, I finally made our banana bread in my toaster oven.  Sam and I returned home after a weekend away to some very very ripe bananas, the ones that you sometimes hope for just so you can make banana bread.  You know the ones, they’re so ripe that they’re sweet and starchy and too much to take on their own.  I think we love this recipe so much because of the whole wheat flour.  It cuts the sweetness and makes you almost think the bread is good for you. 

Banana Bread (from The Silver Palate Cookbook)
Makes 1 loaf

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
¾ c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 c. whole wheat flour
3 large, over ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ c. shelled walnuts coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.  Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Sift the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and salt together, stir in the whole wheat flour, and add the the creamed mixture, mixing well.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake on the center rack of the oven (or just in the toaster oven!) until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then on a rack.

April 30, 2010

Baking for Good.


Remember those bake sales of old?  The ones in elementary school that you would forget about until the night before when you made your mother scramble to make 3 dozen cupcakes because store bought baked goods just would not do?  Well now that we're "all grown up" the wonderful ladies over at Big Girls, Small Kitchen have partnered with Baking for Good for an extra special bake sale just in time for Mother's Day.  This Virtual Bake Sale for Pediatric Cancer is raising money for The Valerie Fund, a nonprofit that provides support for the comprehensive healthcare of children with cancer and blood disorders.  Baking for Good donates 15% of every purchase on their site to a charity of the purchaser’s choice, plus Phoebe and Cara are offering an extra 5% donation to The Valerie Fund when people purchase the BGSK M&M Blondies, even if another charity is selected as the primary recipient of the donation. These ladies have some serious skill in their small kitchens – don’t miss this great chance to buy some yummy treats for your mom AND make a difference!

April 26, 2010

Back in Action

What can I say?  It’s been an eventful few weeks!  The biggest thing that happened was that Sam and I got engaged (yay!) and with that came a dizzying week of dinners out and quick meals eaten at home after drinks with friends.  The ring was on tour, and now I’m in full wedding planning mode.  We barely made it to the grocery store last week, but after a weekend with my parents and a short “stocking up” trip to the more friendly and less expensive Jersey food stores, we’re back in action.  So what was on the menu tonight?  A classic yogurt quiche filled to the brim with onions, asparagus, and spinach - nice and warm on this wet April night.  Nothing too fancy, but the yogurt gives the quiche a lightness unlike others I’ve tried.  I caramelized the onions and sautéed the spinach before assembling the quiche, which gave it a nice depth of flavor, plus I didn’t use too much cheese so the vegetables really shown through.  The whole thing took a bit longer than usual to cook – the spinach gave off a lot of liquid – but it was a great combination.  Feel free to substitute as many vegetables as you want!

Vegetable Yogurt Quiche

9 in unbaked pie shell
1c. shredded swiss cheese
½ onion, thinly sliced and carmelized
8 asparagus spears, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 bag spinach, sautéed
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. plain yogurt
¾ cup milk
salt & pepper
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

Heat the oven to 375 F.
Sprinkle swiss cheese, asparagus, spinach and onion over the bottom of the pie shell. Whisk together eggs, yogurt, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour into pie shell. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a dash of pepper.  Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  The quiche should be set.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

April 13, 2010

Sunday Night Dinner

It’s spring! It’s finally, and really spring!  You know it.  You can smell it in the air.  It’s that perfect time of year just before it turns hot and muggy in the city.  And I’m vowing to take advantage of all the goodness that Spring has to offer.  
So now onto another pasta entry.  I know, you’re probably tired of pasta, but I’m not.  Plus, it’s about the only thing I can cook for a crowd it my tiny “kitchen”.  I just didn’t want this weekend to end, and like most Sundays, I invited people over so that I could forget it would be Monday again in just a few hours.  We would make fresh pasta!  For five! It would be perfect.  Sam went to work.  And after almost two hours of kneading and rolling out and cutting the almost two pounds of pasta, we basically had dough again.  The strands wouldn’t dry, and as soon as they touched, they stuck together like glue.  I finally had to tell Sam it was time to give up.  Our guests had arrived and we hadn’t started any other part of the meal.  It was not a pretty sight. 
So off to D’Agastino Sam went, and I made the delicious lemon sauce for the (store bought) pasta.  It ended up being fine and I thankfully have understanding friends, but it was just another instance when sometimes, the kitchen just beats you.  

Lemony Linguini for Five (adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis)

2/3 c. olive oil
½ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ c. grated fresh Parmesan
½ c. grated percorino
lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
salt & pepper
1 ½ lb dried linguini

In a large bowl, whisk the oil, cheeses, lemon juice, salt & pepper, and zest. Set aside.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package. Drain and reserve 1/3 c. of cooked pasta water.  Add the pasta to the lemon sauce and toss to until it is completely coated.  Add the pasta water if the pasta needs more liquid.  Serve with grated parm, pepper and lemon zest.

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

2 bunches asparagus
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
½ lb. thinly sliced Prosciutto
grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut off the woody ends of the asparagus and place in a large roasting pan.  Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the asparagus and top with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat them completely.  Place in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes until tender.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Wrap each spear with a small piece of Prosciutto and serve with grated parm.

April 5, 2010

Pasta Siciliana, a Neighborhood Favorite

There’s a tiny Italian take-out place near us in the West Village that is just amazing.  Now, I’m from New Jersey, the land of the cheesy Italian take-out joints, so I was skeptical when we first walked into Pepe Verde three years ago.  I was used to baked ziti that came burned and so full of cheese that it could give you a dairy allergy, but Pepe is different.  They turn out incredible dishes night after night from a kitchen that is barely bigger than my own.  You just put your order in at the counter and wait for your meal at one of their 7 tables with a plastic cup of wine, or order out on those nights that you want to eat at home, but just can’t seem to fathom cooking.  
Pepe Verde’s best dishes are its simplest; the pesto is creamy perfection and the eggplant parm is a weighty piece of expertly tiered, thinly sliced eggplant, red sauce and mozzarella.  But the dish that kept Sam and I coming back was the Pasta Siciliana.  With its combination of eggplant, tomatoes, and olives topped with a cool spoonful of ricotta, it was a rustic, salty, and sweet fresh dish that I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to recreate.  The ingredients seemed simple enough, but there was a special “Pepe” flavor that I just couldn’t seem to place. 
Nevertheless, last week, I finally attempted our favorite dish, and although it was wonderful, flavorful and delicious, it still lacked that special Pepe something. I guess we'll just have to keep going back for our Siciliana fix.

Pasta Siciliana
Serves 2-4

2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 in. cubes
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ c. thinly sliced pitted black olives
2 tbsp. ricotta, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the cherry tomatoes and eggplant on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and toss to coat the vegetables.  Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes or until they are tender and the eggplant is golden.  Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes to cool.  Process until just finely chopped in a food processor.  In a pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and add the sliced garlic.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until fragrant then add the diced tomatoes.  Add in the eggplant and tomato mixture to the pan and combine.  Season to taste and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the sliced olives and let simmer for another 5 minutes.  Serve over your choice of pasta and top with parmesan and a dollop of ricotta. 

March 29, 2010

A Taste of Morocco

After our relaxing Irish vacation and a brief Birthday Bonanza hiatus, we’re back! I’m sorry to leave you with nothing more than a loaf of bread to look at, but I have much more in store for you this week.  Being without a kitchen for a week made me anxious to come back and cook.  Plus after all that Guinness and all those scones, it was time for something a little more well-balanced.
When we got back, all Sam and I wanted to eat was simple pastas.  More on those later this week, but I just couldn’t wait to blog about tonight’s dinner! Since it’s cold and wet tonight, we decided to do a one pot wonder – a Moroccan lamb stew with carrots and raisins.  It was incredibly fragrant – sweet and savory at the same time – and I was pretty excited that such a spice-filled meal came successfully out of my generally spice-less kitchen.  It simmers for an hour and a half with hardly any need for attention, and it was perfect served over couscous.

Moroccan Lamb Stew 
Serves 2-3

¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 lb. lamb shoulder chop on the bone
olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 carrots, cut into inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 1/3 c. water
½ c. raisins

Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a medium size bowl.  Heat oil in a dutch oven or heavy pot.  Dredge the lamb in the spice mix and brown the meat in batches about 3 minutes a side.  Remove the meat and reserve.  Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and ginger to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes.  Return the meat to the pot and add the water.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and cover.  Let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.  After an hour, add the raisins and let simmer for another 30 minutes.  

Serve over couscous made with the broth from the stew and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

March 17, 2010

Erin Go Bragh

Sam and I are off to Ireland for 6 days tonight (yes, we’ll be flying with Guinness in hand) and I thought it only fitting to leave you with a quintessential Irish blog post, even if it is contemporarily conceived! I’ll be back next Wednesday with tall tales and gorgeous photos to share, but in the meantime, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
It’s probably not a real memory, but I just seem to always think of my grandmother when I think of Irish Soda Bread.  I don’t even know if she made Irish Soda Bread, and I certainly don’t remember making it with her, but I somehow do remember her soda bread…and I don’t remember it fondly.  Now, my grandmother was a wonderful cook and could have baked a perfect pie in her sleep, so I can only assume that I was too young to appreciate it.  Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to love the humble soda bread, and now really wish I could have learned to bake hers, real or imaginary.  This soda bread is a combination of a few recipes and is not at all traditional.  I chose not to use caraway seeds or currants, and instead borrowed an element from Ina’s Soda Bread recipe, orange zest, which makes this dense bread bright and fresh.  It’s wonderful toasted and paired with a nice cup of Irish Breakfast, but however you choose to celebrate the Irish today, make sure to enjoy every bite, sip, and song! 

Luck o’ the Irish Soda Bread
Makes one large round loaf

4 c. flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and diced
1 egg
1 ¾ c. buttermilk , shaken
2 tsp. orange zest
1 c. raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking pan.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, work the butter in to the flour mixture until is resembles coarse meal.  In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and zest.  Create a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the buttermilk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until fully combined the fold in the raisins.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough just long enough to form a rough, round loaf. Transfer to the greased pan and with a knife, score an “X” on top of the loaf.  Bake for 50 minutes until a tester comes out clean.  The loaf should sound hollow when you tap the bottom of it.

March 14, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie Revisited

As I’m sure you’ve realized, I love finding new ways to use up leftovers.  But when I find one that works, I use it over and over again.  So I was really excited to see a reimagined recipe for leftovers that I would generally have added to a chicken pot pie—Mark Bittman’s chicken and vegetable cobbler.  I was so intrigued by the buttermilk biscuit topping and the simplicity of the “slurry” (rather than the usual roux) that I had to try it immediately.  Remember that roast chicken I told you about last weekend? It provided the perfect amount of leftover meat for this savory cobbler, and best of all, I now have a killer buttermilk biscuit recipe to use again and again.  You can bet I’ll be revisiting it this summer when I’ve run out of ideas for all that fresh fruit.

Chicken and Vegetable Cobbler (adapted from The Minimalist)
Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 scallions, green and white parts sliced thinly
½ a small onion, diced
Salt and pepper
2 c. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ c. chicken stock
1 tsp. herbes de Provence
2 medium carrots, cut into coins
Leftover meat from 2 thighs and 2 drumsticks, shredded
1 c. + 2 tbsp. flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put oil in a dutch oven or oven proof pot over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the onions and scallions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until liquid has released and evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Add stock and herbs. Bring to a boil, and let bubble for a minute or two, then add carrots and chicken and reduce heat so the liquid simmers. Cook until carrots are almost tender about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk 2 tbsp. flour with a few tablespoons of broth in a small bowl to make a slurry. Add slurry to pot and stir until liquid thickens slightly. Turn off the burner and cover.
Put flour in a food processor with baking powder, soda and salt. Add butter and process until mixture resembles small peas, no more than 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a bowl and mix in buttermilk and egg until it just comes together; it should be sticky.
Drop spoonfuls of batter on top of vegetables and chicken and smooth with a knife, covering as much surface area as possible but leaving a few gaps for steam to escape. Bake for 35 minutes until golden on top and bubbly underneath. Scoop into bowls and serve immediately.

March 11, 2010

That's a Spicy Meatball!

Meatball fever has hit New York.  It’s a movement that’s been building for the past couple of years, but now it’s really in full force.  With a new restaurant, The Meatball Shop, that is devoted entirely to the tasty treats, it seems meatballs are all the food blogs can talk about.  Luckily, I love meatballs and that new restaurant? It happens to be conveniently located under my friend, Ms. VOK’s new apartment. Fate?  I think so.
This week, I decided we should make our own humble meatballs. And what better recipe to go off of than Ms. VOK’s?  But of course, this was also the week I decided to reconnect with many friends who I haven’t seen in the past few months.  So I left Sam to it! And boy did he come through.  Pair these meatballs with your starch of choice, or do as we did and just let them speak for themselves on a bed of spinach.  Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

Multi-Meatballs (adapted from Ms. VOK)
Makes 12-14 large meatballs

1 lb equal parts ground beef, veal and pork
1 c. bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg lightly beaten
Small bunch of parsley, chopped
1 c. freshly grated parmesan
Salt & Pepper
Large bunch of spinach, sautéed in olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Form into golf ball sized meatballs and set in the baking pan about a 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are crusty and they are cooked through.  Warm up the pasta sauce in a Dutch Oven or sauce pan, and place the cooked meatballs in the sauce for about 10 minutes before ready to serve over your choice of starch or vegetable.

March 8, 2010

The Sweetest Thing: Chocolate Oscar Cookies

After a fun but too short weekend with friends, Sam made me a delicious roast chicken for dinner on Sunday.  But while watching the Oscars, we had a hankering for something sweet.  Luckily, I had a cookie recipe I had been meaning to make for weeks, and the ingredients to do it.  With a little (ok maybe a lot of) prodding from Sam, we whipped up these cake-like chocolate cookies, which were the perfect pairing for all that Oscar glitter.  I halved and added an egg to Dorie Greenspan’s original recipe to make it a little less fudgy, and although her recipe called for some waiting time, we just didn’t have the patience and popped them right in the oven.  They were still delicious and made me think, once again, that toaster ovens really do make the best cookies.

Double Chocolate Cake Cookies (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies)
Makes about 12 cookies

2/3 c. all purpose flour
6 tsp. cocoa powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
6 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chip sized pieves
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 
Mix together the flour, baking soda and cocoa in a small bowl.  Cream the butter and sugars with a wooden spoon. Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.  Add the egg and mix until fully combined.  Add the flour gradually and mix just until combined.  The batter will be fairly dry.  Fold in the chocolate pieces. 
Spoon tablespoons of batter onto the baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

March 4, 2010

Ramen Noodles for Grown-Ups

Mark Bittman inspired me today.  His Yakisoba (“YAKISOBA!!”) noodle recipe left me thinking of the leftovers in my fridge just waiting for me at home. I also remembered I happened to have two packages of ramen noodles in my “pantry”.  I know, I know, I’ve been out of college way too long to be eating ramen, but how do you resist those 99 cent packs of goodness?  Either way, this recipe was delicious, simple, and of course, thrifty.  As Bittman tells us, there’s really no way to go wrong with the flavor profile – I just happened to have a leftover pork chop in the fridge, but this would be wonderful with chicken, tofu, or just an egg.  Instead of napa cabage, I used thinly sliced brussels sprouts—you may be tired of seeing them here, but I just can’t get enough of those bundles of cruciferous perfection—and added garlic and shredded carrot to complete the meal.  With a slight variation on Bitman’s sweet and spicy sauce, this quick meal was perfect for a Wednesday night.  Oh, and there were no leftovers on this one!

Ramen with Pork and Brussels Sprouts
Serves 2-3

2 packs of ramen noodles (3 oz. each)
1 pork chop, thinly sliced
½ small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 carrot, grated
5 brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced
3 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sugar
salt & pepper
4 scallions, chopped

Boil 4 c. water and cook the ramen for 3 minutes (throw the seasoning packet away).  Drain and run cold water over the noodles to stop them from cooking.  Drizzle with sesame oil so they don’t stick to each other.  In a wok, or large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp. sesame oil.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.  Add the pork and cook for about 8 minutes or until cooked through. Season with salt & pepper and reserve the pork in a bowl.  Heat another tablespoon of sesame oil in the wok and add the onions.  Sauté until just tender and add the carrots and sprouts.  Season with salt & pepper and drizzle with soy sauce.  Sauté until the vergetables are just tender then add to the bowl with the pork.  In a small bowl, combine the third tbsp. of sesame oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar.  Add the noodles back to the wok, pour the pork and vegetables over the noodles and drizzle it all with the sauce.  Toss to combine then serve with scallions.  

March 1, 2010

An Easy Osso Buco for a Sunday Supper Party

Even though I have a tiny apartment, I LOVE entertaining.  I can’t help wanting to make people dinner, even if it means a sometimes cramped setting for my guests.  I’m constantly inviting others over for meals, and especially if it’s someone who shows interest in my hotplate!  Last night, we had an intimate dinner party of four and I wanted to impress.  I’ve been into sweet potatoes lately (see the previous ravioli post) and wanted to use them in some way, but I also needed to make something that could cook by itself for a while as we got ready. I decided on an easy osso buco from Giada de Laurentiis and although it took 4 calls to butchers, and two different trips to the store to find veal shanks, it was worth it!  I made this version once before in a real kitchen, so I was glad the recipe worked just as well on the hotplate and in a toaster oven.  The meat was so tender it fell right off the bone and it was wonderful served over the sweet potato puree.   The meal was topped off with a delicious tiramisu, which was perfect even if it wasn’t completely thawed.  Definitely a meal for a special occasion!

Easy Osso Buco with Sweet Potato Puree (adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)
Serves 4

Kitchen twine, for tying the veal shanks
4 whole veal shanks (about 1/2 pound per shank), trimmed
Salt & Pepper
All purpose flour, for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 c. dry white wine
3 c. chicken stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 dry bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pat dry the veal shanks with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.  Secure the meat to the bone with the kitchen twine. Season each shank with salt and freshly ground pepper. Dredge the shanks in flour, shaking off excess.
In a large Dutch oven pot, heat oil until smoking. Add tied veal shanks to the hot pan in batches and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove browned shanks and reserve.
In the same pot, add the onion, carrot and celery. Season with salt and pepper to help draw out the moisture from the vegetables. Saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Add the wine and reduce liquid by half. Return browned shanks to the pan and add the chicken stock, bay leaf and thyme.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Cover the pan with tin foil and place in the oven for an additional 45 minutes or until the meat is falling off the bone.  Make sure to turn the shanks every 30 minutes and check the level of cooking liquid—it should always be about 3/4 the way up the shank.
Carefully remove the cooked shanks from the pot and cut off the kitchen twine and discard.  Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.  Serve the shanks over the sweet potato puree and pour the juices and sauce from the pot over the shanks.

Sweet Potato Puree 
Serves 4

3 medium sweet potatoes
½ tbsp. butter
salt & pepper
4 tbsp. braising liquid from the osso buco

Peel and chop the potatoes and place in a pot of cold water.  Boil the potatoes until tender and drain.  Puree using an immersion blender.  Add the butter, salt & pepper, and the braising liquid and blend to combine.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

The evening's appetizer: Goat Cheese and Tomato tartlets

February 24, 2010

Holy Ravioli!

Sam and I had an ambitious Monday.  We’ve become very good at planning for the week and trying to get as much as possible out of one or two grocery runs–as much as I talked about “shopping like a Parisian”, it’s now pretty tiresome.  But on Monday, we didn’t feel like having anything we’d planned for, we felt like cooking outside of the pantry.  Sam’s love of making pasta hasn’t worn off and he was dying to try ravioli, so we decided on a sweet potato version. Luckily, my shopping run was minimal, and the whole process was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be!  Maybe that was because I didn’t actually have to hand make the pasta. But the filling was delicious and simple, that I would be tempted to try my hand at it the next time.  Paired with a simple butter sauce, and tinged with aromatic thyme, this meal was satisfying and special on a raw Monday night.

Homemade Ravioli Dough

3 eggs
2 ¼ c. flour
pinch of salt

In a large glass bowl, add the flour and create a well for the eggs.  Quickly whisk the eggs then pour them into the well.  Combine the flour and eggs and as soon as it starts sticking together, knead the dough until it is no longer sticky.  

Wrap the ball in plastic and let it sit on the counter for 20-25 minutes.  Split the dough in half and roll each ball through the pasta maker on the widest setting at least 3 times.  Continue rolling the dough through at least 2 times at each successive setting until you get to your desired thickness. 

Sweet Potato Filling

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. milk
salt & pepper
¼ c. freshly grated parmesan

Peel and boil the sweet potatoes.  Alternatively, you can steam them in the microwave, which is a great idea when you only have two burners.  Once tender, chop the potatoes into manageable pieces and discard any tough or discolored parts.  Using a hand mixer, blend the potatoes until smooth.  Add the butter and milk and blend again.  Mix in the thyme, parmesan, salt & pepper using a spatula and taste.  Let cool for a bit before you dole out tbsp. sized filling for the ravioli.  Close and cut out the ravioli using a knife, or as I did, biscuit cutters.  They worked very well in sealing the ravioli.  When ready to eat, bring water to boil and cook the ravioli until all of it has risen. 

Butter Sauce
¼ c. butter
sprinkle of fresh thyme
salt & pepper
dash of fresh nutmeg

Melt the butter in a frying pan.  Add the thyme, salt & pepper, and nutmeg and stir until the butter just begins to froth and get brown.  Pour over the ravioli and serve with parmesan.

February 21, 2010

This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef...

Sam and I needed a vacation.  After a not so relaxing long weekend away and a business trip to LA (for me), we were ready to sit around and do a whole lot of nothing this weekend.  Of course, that never works out exactly how you’ve planned, but we did an excellent job of staying (mostly) in our neighborhood and using the weekend as a great stay-cation.  That included a delicious Saturday night of local beef and collard greens, a good bottle of wine, and a whole lot of watching of curling (is it just me, or is that “sport” on more than ever these Olympics?)
One of our favorite weekend activities is a trip to Chelsea Market.  If you live in New York, it is a must visit.  Every time we go, the selection just gets better and better – it’s really become a one-stop-shop for all our foodie desires.  With the addition of a great cheese shop filled with an all-American selection, and a big time local butcher, there’s little need to go anywhere else for all the fixings for a great gourmet meal.  Biggest plus?  Our gourmet meal for two cost only $20 – a price unheard of in our expensive Manhattan zip code.
Our meal was simple – a sirloin tip roast, collard greens, and polenta – but really hit the spot. Plus, I found another green winter vegetable that I just can’t get enough of! I made enough polenta to feed an army, but I’m going to use it later this week, so be on the look out! 

Roast Beef for Two

1 ½ lbs. sirloin tip roast
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
salt & pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a heavy pan.  When the oil is very hot and smoking, add the beef and sear, browning on all sides, about 2 minutes a side.  Remove from heat and add to a roasting pan.  Put the roast in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the temperature in the middle of the roast reaches 150 degrees.

Prepare the polenta according to the package instructions.  For a creamier polenta, add a tbsp. of butter and a little whole milk or cream once the polenta has finished cooking.

Culbreth Collard Greens

My southern grandfather would have been very proud of me on Saturday night.  My first attempt at cooking this hearty green was a success!  I chose to cook this much like I do kale and broccolini. 
olive oil
1 bunch collard greens, chopped length-wise, then in thirds.
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp. water

In the same pan that you browned the beef, heat oil.  Add the shallots and garlic and sauté until tender.  Add the collard greens and salt generously.  Add the lemon juice and turn to coat all of the greens.  Add the water and cover.  Cook for roughly 5 minute, or until the greens are just tender but still retain their crunch.

February 12, 2010

The Perfect Pairing for a Long Weekend: Cranberry Walnut Muffins

Long weekends are the best.  I love waking up on Monday and having it not be a “Monday”.  And for those days, what you really need is an easy muffin you can quickly bake in the morning that will leave your house or apartment smelling delicious for the whole day. This is especially enticing when it’s cold and snowy and you don’t have much incentive to leave said home. This long weekend also happens to be Valentine’s Day, and these spicy muffins flecked with cranberries, orange, and nutmeg, these will warm you to the core.  The perfect remedy for a chilly long weekend.

I made these muffins this week and they were particularly good when toasted with a little butter or orange marmalade.  I added orange zest and walnuts because I like my muffins to have a bit more texture, but I’m sure they would be delightful without those additions.  Nigella calls them “Christmas-Morning Muffins”, but I would suggest baking them from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day and any time in between.

Cranberry Walnut Muffins (adapted from Nigella’s Christmas-Morning Muffins from How to Be a Domestic Goddess)
Makes 12 muffins

1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. sugar
2 tsp. nutmeg
Juice from one orange
1 tbsp. orange zest
¼ c. milk
¼ c. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
½ c. dried cranberries
½ c. chopped walnuts

2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and nutmeg.  Squeeze the orange juice into a liquid measuring cup, then pour in the milk until the mixture comes up to the 2/3 cup mark.  Add the melted (and cooled) butter, egg, and the zest to the milk and juice and whisk to combine.  Pour the liquid ingredients in to the dry and stir til the ingredients are just combined.  Gently fold in the cranberries and walnuts and fill the muffin cups.  Mix together the topping ingredients and lightly sprinkle the mixture onto the tops of each muffin.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle of the muffins comes out clean.

February 8, 2010

A Whole Grain Kind of Monday

Ah the super bowl.  That special time of year when it seems perfectly normal to eat chips and salsa and beer for dinner.  Until you wake up and your body is in revolt.  As such, I knew I needed a healthy and nutrient packed dinner tonight.  I went to my standbys of course, Brussels sprouts and kale, but I also decided to live a little outside of the whole grain box.  I’ve discovered farro, you see, and although I might be a little late jumping on the bandwagon, I’m hooked.  It’s nutty and rich without needing much coaxing, and prepared risotto style it was filling and comforting.  Added bonus, because it’s not as starchy as Arborio rice, it does not require the same amount of constant stirring that a traditional risotto would.  I used a recent NY Times recipe for my inspiration and loved the earthy taste of the mushrooms with the farro. I prepared a raw Brussels sprouts and kale salad on the side, which with a citrus and sweet dressing was just what the doctored ordered.

Mushroom Farro Risotto (adapted from The New York Times)
Serves 2-3

Olive oil
¾ c. farro
½ c. onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
¼ c. white wine
2 c. chicken stock
1 c. water
salt & pepper
¼ c. grated parmesan

Submerge the farro in water for 10 minutes, drain and set aside. In a heavy pan heat the oil.  Add the onions and cook until tender.  Add the mushrooms and stir frequently for about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until the vegetables are completely tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the farro and toast lightly then add the wine and allow the liquid to absorb completely.  Add the thyme and cook down.  Add 2 cups of broth and cover the pan.  Let simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Check the risotto, the liquid will most likely be completely absorbed.  Add the remaining cup of water, cover, and allow to simmer for another 15 minutes or until the liquid is completely absorbed.  Add salt and pepper to taste and incorporate the parmesan just before serving.  Garnish with parmesan and pepper.

Brussels Spouts and Kale Salad (from Real Simple)
Serves 2-3 large side portions

5 large Brussels sprouts, sliced very thinly
1 ½ c. kale, sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. maple syrup
salt & pepper

Using a mandoline, thinly slice each Brussels sprout.  Slice the kale into thin strips and add both vegetables to a medium sized bowl.  Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and add to the greens.  Toss to combine.

January 31, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake: An Interpretation

 So my co-worker, who has watched me bring in various baked goods for other co-workers’ birthdays, had her own birthday request–strawberry shortcake.  Now, I generally adore strawberry shortcake, but unfortunately, her birthday was last week, not the most ideal time for sweet strawberries.  Plus, I was a little intimidated by the process baking, assembling, and then carrying them on my 25 minute walk to work.  So I decided to improvise.  First I thought, why not strawberry shortcupcakes? Everyone loves cupcakes (if they have a soul…) and they’re ideal for work parties.  Then I thought, what’s the best way to sweeten even the tartest of berries?  Add sugar!  So I made a small batch of strawberry jam and a batch of Nigella Lawson’s fairy cakes and layered them together.  The result was sweet, light and definitely reminiscent of a strawberry shortcake.  One word of warning, since I took the lazy woman’s approach and layered the jam rather than piping it into the middle of the cupcake, the jam did fall to the bottom.  Not unpleasant, just a little messy when the wrappers were peeled off.  This cupcake does not need much icing, in fact I think it would be overkill with the sweet jam and light vanilla cupcake.  I mixed a little confectioners sugar, milk and vanilla and just lightly iced the cupcakes, topping each with a dollop of jam.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, they were a hit with the co-workers.    

Strawberry Shortcupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

Strawberry Jam
1 pt. strawberries, hulled
1 c. sugar
juice from ½ a lemon

Add the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice to a small sauce pan.  Heat to a boil and stir frequently until the berries have started to break down.  Continue to cook at a rolling simmer and use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature of the mixture.  When the thermometer reads 220 degrees, the jam is ready.  Cook completely before adding it to the cupcakes.  Store the leftover jam in a small mason jar.  It will keep for approx. 2 weeks.  To keep it longer, can the jam and store for later use!

Cupcakes (slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Fairy Cakes)

½ c. unsalted butter, softened
7 tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
¾ c. cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  In a separate, small bowl, mix the flour and baking soda.  Add the vanilla to the butter and sugar and combine.  Add the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the flour mixture after each egg and stir to combine.  Add the milk and stir just until combined.  The batter will look as if you’ll never get 12 cupcakes out of it, but it will rise impressively.  Just be sure to dole it out evenly over the cupcake cups.  Layer jam into the batter–batter, a teaspoon of jam, more batter–and bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Wait until the cakes are cooled to ice them.

A couple of tips for the tiny kitchen dweller: 
1.  If you have a toaster oven, and do not have a muffin tin that will work in it, I like the aluminum foil cupcake holders, they really keep their shape!  Just be sure to place them on a flat baking sheet/pan first.
2.  If you do not have a piping bag, a ziplock baggie will do the trick.  Just fill the bag and cut off the tip of a corner (that's what I'm using in the photo at right).