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