5.19.11 § 5 Comments
Hi bloggy world! Hi, hi, hi! Sorry, I’m really excited to be writing a post. I’ve missed this! And I know, I know, we JUST covered pesto like two posts ago, but this is different. Really. I promise! First, let me rewind a bit.
This past week and a half, my mom has been visiting me. We decided to hit ‘em up style this trip, so we basically ate our way through my dream restaurant list in the NYC area. My favorite meal by far was up at Blue Hill Stone Barns, where I became absolutely giddy with food-love-joy. Why the giddiness? Because this place is basically the coolest restaurant ever. It’s on a huge farm near Westchester, and before you eat you can walk around and see the greenhouses and the animals, etc. All of the ingredients are locally sourced. You don’t order from a menu; instead, you simply specify five or eight courses for the “farmer’s feast,” which is composed of dishes based on the day’s harvest. (Obviously, we went with eight courses. For the record, that is a lot of food.)
We’re talking homemade ricotta from chef Dan Barber’s family farm, heaped on top of ramp jam, which is smeared on brioche made from red fife grain (which, incidentally, was ground into flour the very same day). Three kinds of butter, each from a single cow in the same herd, all with distinctly different flavors. A selection of greens arranged on a huge palette with smears of homemade yogurt. Oh god, it was like being in heaven. I don’t even remember it all, it was so good I think I blacked out. (That was probably aided by the wine expertly recommended by the sommelier, who was awesome.) One of my very favorites was the pea shoots. They were brought to the table still in the soil in which they were grown with clippers on the plate to snip the shoots off before dipping them in a lemon vinaigrette and eating them. It was just so very, extremely, unbelievably cool.
When my mom accidentally got to spend an extra day in the city due to flight delays, we decided to seize the chance to make a meal at home, which we really hadn’t done the entire time she was here. We ventured to the Union Square Greenmarket where we picked out asparagus, potatoes, and finally, pea shoots! I’m kind of obsessed with them since the Blue Hill Stone Barns experience, and right on the booth was a recipe from the NYT for pork chops with pea shoot pesto, so my little heart was sold. We snagged half a pound of those babies, and after a brief stop at ABC Kitchen to get a snack (the goat cheese, spinach, and herb pizza is divine by the way), we headed home with our bounty.
The meal was amazing. Pan-seared pork chops with pea shoot pesto, creamed potatoes, and asparagus quickly sautéed in butter. So simple and delicious after a week and a half of rich restaurant meals. And now I have pea shoot pesto left over! I’ve been eating it on sandwiches, spreading it over roast chicken, and I hate to admit, occasionally nomming on it by the spoonful straight from my refrigerator.
If you haven’t yet discovered the wonderful ingredient that is pea shoots, I suggest you get on it. And if you live in the NYC area and you haven’t yet eaten at Blue Hill Stone Barns, I suggest you stop what you’re doing and make a reservation. Seriously, do it now…you’ll get a table in approximately two months, and it will totally be worth it. If you don’t live in the area, maybe you should plan a trip around a visit to this restaurant. And invite me, okay?!
Pea Shoot Pesto
adapted from the New York Times
1/2 lb (about 3.5 or 4 cups) of pea shoots
3/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
3 good-sized garlic cloves
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 cup parmesan
salt to taste
Like the last pesto recipe I posted, this one requires lots of chopping unless you have a food processor. However, it’s really easy.
Throw down a handful of pea shoots, then start chopping. When they’re getting small, throw in some pine nuts and chop some more. Throw in part of the garlic and chop. Add some more pea shoots and chop. Next, add pine nuts and chop. Then add your cilantro (or part of it) and some more garlic. Just keep repeating until it’s all chopped up into a chunky, paste-like mixture.
Grate the parmesan over the top and then chop some more to mix it in. Generously sprinkle the whole thing with some sea salt. Transfer all of it to a bowl and stir in a drizzle of olive oil. I think I probably used between one and two tablespoons. Taste it and add more salt if needed.
Basically, add, chop, add, chop until you’ve used everything up. Enjoy!
4.14.11 § 10 Comments
I grew up hating pesto. Like, with a passion. I remember one time I was out to what I thought was a super fancy dinner, and I ordered pesto on my pasta. I didn’t know what it was, but I thought it sounded cool. It. Was. Disgusting. I didn’t even eat my pasta – just pushed it to the side and picked at everyone else’s food.
But, then I got older, and I got into food, and I eventually saw a recipe for pesto. Basil, parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil. What’s there not to like?! So, tentatively, I started letting pesto back into my life, and it wasn’t so bad. I tried it out on pastas and sandwiches at relatively nice restaurants, and you know, things were going okay for me and pesto. We were getting along just fine, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I had hated it so much as a kid.
It wasn’t until a friend offered to make me a sandwich with pesto on it that it clicked: I hate pesto that comes from a jar! Hate, hate, hate. I ate my sandwich (I didn’t want to be rude), but now, I’m that annoying person that always asks “Is it fresh?” anytime someone offers me pesto, regardless of if it’s at a restaurant or someone’s home.
But let’s be honest here: fresh, handmade pesto rocks. Really. It’s just so damn good. I didn’t even realize how good it was until I made it for myself one night and had one of those “Oh my god this is the best thing I’ve ever made!” moments. Even better? It’s pretty easy. Yes, it requires lots of chopping, but for me, lots of chopping is therapeutic. (Unless I’m dealing with a dull knife. Then, this amount of chopping makes me want to pull my hair out. (I was going to say it makes me want to stab someone, but there’s really no need for violence here. Right? Especially with a dull knife.)) Another great thing about making pesto, at least for me, was that it is something it had never occurred to me could be made at home! (I know, eye roll.) I kept saying to my dinner guests, “Look! I’m making pesto! Like, making it!” (I’d like to mention that I had had a glass of wine at this point. But still.)
Anyway, listen. If you can get your hands on a fresh bunch of basil, you’ve really got to try this. Especially if, like me, you’ve been on the fence about pesto at some point in your life. Once you’ve made this, and have fallen absoluuuutely in love with it, you can spread it on sandwiches, mix it into pasta, serve it on crostini, etc. And you can feel proud, because you just made pesto.
from 101 Cookbooks
Heidi over at 101 cookbooks says that the way she learned it, the best technique is “chop a bit, add some ingredients, chop some more.” She was taught by an Italian grandmother and her guess at the reasoning is that “some things get chopped into oblivion, while some not as much – it encourages spectrum of cut sizes throughout the pesto contributing to the overall texture.” And, it takes awhile. It probably took me about 25 good minutes, with breaks to sip my wine.
Also, note that this recipe has no salt in it, so you will need to adjust the seasoning for whatever you’re using with the pesto. If it’s pasta, make sure to salt the cooking water for the pasta, and then you’ll probably need to salt to taste.
1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
5 medium cloves of garlic
one small handful of raw pine nuts
roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and FRESHLY GRATED
A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Start chopping the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. The trick is to chop for a bit, then scrape it all together, then add a bit more, chop some more, and scrape it all together again. (Just don’t use the blade of your knife! It dulls it!) At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop, then add the rest of the pine nuts and chop some more. Add half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop. When the ingredients are fine enough, you will be able to mold them into a little loaf-type thing, and the ingredients should hold together. Cover the pesto with a bit of olive oil, it doesn’t take much, just a few tablespoons.
It’s ready to eat! Either set it aside or stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it, giving it a quick stir before you add it to whatever you’re making (to incorporate the ingredients).You can set this aside or place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
4.11.11 § 8 Comments
I’ve become obsessed with roast chicken as of late, which is kind of funny, because unless I’m going to a place that is famous for it, I usually steer away from chicken on restaurant menus. Chicken is so often boring, and in my opinion, if it’s dry or poorly cooked, it’s not worth eating. However, I’ve discovered that it’s laughably easy to make a roast chicken at home that will knock your socks off and impress the heck out of any dinner guests. And there is definitely more than one way to do it.
Take for instance, spatchcocked roast chicken. It’s not the prettiest presentation, but using this technique is sure to give you an evenly cooked bird every time. Click on over to my previous post to read more about spatchcocking. Or click here to learn about why it works so well.
Or, there’s yogurt-marinated chicken with roasted red pepper sauce, which I found on The Wednesday Chef and made about a month ago but never got around to posting. While this recipe requires a bit of forethought (the marinade needs to sit on the chicken for a awhile), again, the end result is a tender, juicy chicken, and the roasted red pepper sauce is absolutely to die for. Seriously, I could eat it with a spoon.
And last but not least, the star of today’s post: an incarnation of the roast chicken served at Chez Panisse, which I adapted from the version I found over on The Amateur Gourmet. This chicken doesn’t require any advance preparation. You simply throw together a quick spice rub (pictured above), massage it into the chicken, tie up some strings, and throw the chicken in the oven. Walk away for an hour, and when you come back, you have a succulent, flavorful meal that looks absolutely gorgeous on a serving platter.
The most amazing thing is, unlike many other recipes for roast chicken, this one has no added fat! I’m not usually one to advocate for low-fat cooking, but due to an upcoming trip to tropical paradise, I’ve been thinking I should cut back on the butter. Okay, that’s not really true. But I guess that every once in a while, it might be nice not to kill dinner guests with butter, right? (I don’t know, you’ll have to tell me the answer to that one…) I guess the bottom line is that I never would have imagined that something made with no added fat could be so good! Really! It’s like magic! The entire chicken is so tender and juicy that you won’t believe there’s no voodoo involved.
And the very best part?! (I know, I know…it’s unbelievable that this gets any better…) You can make two of these at once (or one will suffice if you aren’t cooking for a crowd) and use the meat to make meals all week! I’ve been noshing on chicken quesadillas, chicken salad, chicken sandwiches…the list goes on. This is really awesome when you’re making lunches during the week and you don’t have tons of time to cook. If fact, I think I’ll go make a chicken sandwich right now! My new favorite is chicken with jalapeno hummus, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, and avocado mash (pictured below).
It’s pretty easy to get creative when the protein is taken care of. Man, this lunch rocks.
Chez Panisse Roast Chicken
adapted from Amateur Gourmet, where it was adapted from Chez Panisse Cookbook
3 to 4 pound whole chicken (I try to get close to 4 pounds)
3 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
handful of red potatoes
1 head of garlic
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees farenheight. Remove the giblets, which are usually in a sac in the chicken’s cavity, and wash the chicken under cold water. Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry. You want to get it really dry so the skin will crisp in the oven. If not, it will just steam. Stuff the cavity with a handful of fresh thyme.
In a small bowl, mix together the salt, fennel seeds, and cayenne and black peppers. Sprinkle some of the spice mixture into the chicken’s cavity, and then rub the rest all over the chicken. You want to get it both on top of and under the skin. You may have to use your fingers to loosen the skin a bit before you can get the spice rub in there.
Get your twine ready. Pull the legs together and tie them at the feet. Next, use a larger piece of twine to go around the top section of the bird, tying the wings closely to the body. Trim the ends of the twine and place the chicken into a roasting pan or large dutch oven.
Now, cut your red potatoes in half, toss with a little bit of olive oil, and place cut-side down around the chicken. Finally, separate the cloves of garlic, but don’t peel them! Sprinkle the cloves in with the potatoes.
Place it in the oven and roast for about an hour. Remove the chicken from the oven, and if you made it in a dutch oven, put the lid on and let it rest for about 15 minutes before you carve the chicken. If you used a roasting pan without a lid, you can cover it with foil.
If you’d like to make a pan sauce, pull the chicken and potatoes out onto a platter and then use a bit of white wine to deglaze the pan over medium heat, scraping the brown bits off the bottom and allowing it to simmer and thicken a bit.
Cut the strings and remove them, carve the chicken and serve. The roasted garlic is great squeezed out of its peel onto some toasted bread or just eaten with the chicken and potatoes.
4.8.11 § 9 Comments
Unlike a lot of people, I love grocery shopping. I love picking produce, especially when you have to smell it to know if it’s ripe (peaches, pineapple). I love staring through the glass at the meat counter, trying to pick the perfect cut and imagining what I’d buy if I had an income. I love grabbing a freshly baked loaf of bread and then pulling pieces off to nibble on the way home. Give me a grocery store and a credit card and I’m a happy girl.
Which is why, after not having any time to shop or cook at all last week, this week I went a little nuts: No less than three trips to various Whole Foods around the city, two visits to my neighborhood supermarket, and approximately $200 spent on groceries. (I’d compare my behavior to someone on Easter who gave up sugar for lent. (Which is crazy.))
The height of my craziness was purchasing some halibut, which, as some of you may know, is damn expensive. I got it 25% off at Whole Foods and it was still $15 a pound. Regardless, I thought the sale was kind of a big deal, as I’ve never seen it for less than $20 a pound, so I bought just enough to make dinner for one. I figured I deserved a treat after my previous week of ramen noodles and chips and salsa.
I had a recipe in mind as soon as I saw that sale tag. Like many of my favorites, it comes from one of the Foster’s Market cookbooks, and what can I say? It totally rocked. If I could afford to buy enough halibut to feed more than one person, I would definitely make this for a dinner party, because the components are really easy to throw together (especially if you buy the butternut squash that is already cut into chunks, which is what I did because I loathe that butternut squash gook that gets on your hands).
That said, this recipe does works great with tilapia too, so if you want to try it out but not spend a fortune, you should definitely go with that. Either way, you won’t be sorry. Oh, and if you live in a small town like Clovis, New Mexico (which is where I’m from), good luck finding sherry vinegar. I scoured the grocery stores and couldn’t find it when I wanted to make this for my fam. You can either substitute red wine vinegar or balsamic, but if using balsamic, reduce the amount just a tad. Or you can order sherry vinegar here, which is what I’d recommend. It’s good to have in the pantry.
I almost forgot, I have news! Thanks to a recommendation from one of the editors at SAVEUR, I’ve landed a short-term, freelance gig doing some research at the Food Network. Anybody heard of a show called Chopped? Let’s just say, I’m going to have some insider info on what’s in those ingredient baskets! Not that I can tell you…
Pan-Roasted Halibut with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Butternut Squash
adapted from Fresh Every Day
As written, this recipe serves four. To cut it down, I just halved the squash/tomato part and used 1 fillet.
1 small butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
5 tbsp olive oil
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
4 halibut fillets, cut 1 inch thick, skin on (about 6 oz each) – tilapia can be used as a substitute
2 tbsp fresh marjoram leaves or 2 tsp dried marjoram
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the squash, cut-side down, on a baking sheet with sides. Pour 1 cup water and 1 tbsp of olive oil in the pan around the squash and roast for 40 to 45 minutes, until the squash is soft when the long section is pierced with a small knife. Check periodically while it’s cooking and add more water if needed. (*If you’re using squash that is pre-cut into cubes, toss the cubes with olive oil and salt, place on a baking pan with a little bit of water, and roast for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.)
While the squash roasts, place the tomatoes in a small baking dish, and drizzle them with 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of the vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. When there is about 20 minutes left on the squash, slide the tomatoes in the oven, roasting for the remaining 20 minutes or until they are slightly brown and wrinkled.
Let tomatoes and squash cool on the counter; reduce oven temp to 300 degrees.
Meanwhile, rub the halibut with salt, pepper, olive oil, and marjoram. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a nonstick skillet until the oil is about to smoke (until a pinch of salt sizzles when placed in the oil). Place the halibut fillets in the pan, skin side down. It may splatter, so if you have a splatter screen, get it out! Reduce the heat to medium and cook the fish without moving it until it is opaque halfway up the side, about 4 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the fish over, and squeeze the lemon over the fish. Cook about 3 minutes longer, until opaque, tender, and flaky when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Transfer the fish to a platter, cover it with foil, and place it in the oven to keep warm. (If you’re substituting tilapia, which is not as thick, reduce the cooking time accordingly.)
Pour the wine, broth, and remaining vinegar into the pan you cooked the fish in. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 2 or 3 minutes, until the sauce bubbles and thickens slightly. Turn off the heat and whisk in the tbsp of butter.
Remove the skin from the squash with your hands, and cut the squash into bite-sized chunks. Add squash and tomatoes to the pan with the sauce and stir to coat. When warm, season with salt and pepper to taste. Plate (or bowl) your fish, and spoon the sauce, squash, tomato mixture on top and around it. Serve immediately.
4.5.11 § 12 Comments
This past week I was so busy with a freelance job that I didn’t even have time to grocery shop (or blog, obviously). It was pretty awful, but yay, money! Thankfully I had some chicken breasts in the freezer, so when I finally got tired of munching on ramen, I thawed a couple of those and poached them with some onions, celery, and carrot. I was planning to us the chicken in a quesadilla, but lo and behold, when I opened the refrigerator, there were no tortillas! (Story of my life.)
I had an apple on hand though, and I knew there were some cashews in the pantry, so I decided to make my all-time favorite chicken salad. It’s not exactly revolutionary, posting a recipe for chicken salad, but I had never had this version before I moved to Durham for college, and I love it, so I want to share it with you.
Even now, two years after graduating, I crave this sandwich, and I find myself improvising versions of this chicken salad all the time. It’s especially comforting when I’m swamped with work; I think it’s because when I was pulling all-nighters writing papers or studying for a test, the only break I’d often take was to nom on this sandwich from Mad Hatter’s.
Anyway, if you’re bored with your normal chicken salad routine, mix it up with this cashew-apple concoction. You might be a convert…
Cashew-Apple Chicken Salad
adapted from Mad Hatter’s Restaurant, Durham, NC
*This isn’t so much a recipe as a method. I think on things like tuna and chicken salad, you’ve pretty much got to decide on your own ratios. Some people like more or less mayo, etc.
White meat from a chicken breast (you can use dark if you prefer, but for chicken salad I always use white)
Granny Smith or other tart apple
Cashews (I use salted for this, but you can use unsalted and then add salt if you like)
Scallions, roughly chopped (optional)
Juice from half a lemon
Dijon mustard (this time I used coarse grained, and I loved it!)
Either chop your chicken into bite-sized pieces, or use a fork to shred it if you prefer. Core your apple and cut it into small cubes. Throw the apple and a handful of cashews in with the chicken. If you’re using scallions, mix them in. Add mayonnaise just a spoonful at a time, mixing it in and adding more until you’ve got the right amount for you. Add a dollop of mustard (I use a large dollop) and then sprinkle the salad with salt and pepper. Squeeze your lemon over it and mix once more, until everything is incorporated.
If making a sandwich, slap the chicken salad on some bread with a slice or two of tomato and some lettuce, and you’re good to go!
3.22.11 § 18 Comments
So, I’ve been all about personal growth lately and I’d like to share something I’ve learned: start small. In a moments of panic when I feel like the world is closing in, which is happening all too often since I left SAVEUR, I have to take a deep breath and a step back and take on a task I know I can handle. Or at least that I hope I might be able to handle. Case in point: frying an egg. It’s something I never really learned how to do. (Funny how I am this “food blogger” who has such glaring gaps in knowledge. A day or two ago I actually had to call my mother to ask her if I should wrap a potato in foil or not before baking it in the oven. *Rolls eyes at self.* The answer is yes, wrap it in foil. Thanks, mom.)
Anyway, back to the point. Whenever I face a huge life change (moving to New York, looking for a job, leaving a job, etc), I tend to enter into a period of immense self-doubt characterized by near paralysis. In other words, up until yesterday when I was actually kind of productive (which only happened after the egg frying), the only thing I’ve accomplished since leaving SAVEUR two full weeks ago is finishing the entire Battlestar Galactica series. Yes, you read that right. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.
So, after wrestling with this self-destructive behavior off and on for about three years now, I’ve finally figured out a little trick. When I start feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand (getting my life together), I try to pick something small and concrete to do. Because accomplishing something, anything, makes me feel better about myself, which makes it easier to be productive.
Unfortunately, while I did try to fry an egg, I still haven’t mastered it. That’s okay, because now I have something to work on. And my a-bit-too-fried egg was still delicious over some couscous with sauteed asparagus and cheese. If you also need some help frying an egg, look below for the instructions slightly adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. And if you want to read more about my self-destructive behavior, which I’m currently working on fixing, hop on over to Feministe, where I’ve written about it here and here in more detail.
Goal: Another blog post on Thursday. See? Now that I’ve put it out there, I kind of have to do it. Right?
adapted from The Art of Simple Food
Alice Waters says, “The key to frying eggs is finding the right pan–mine is a well-seasoned, 10-inch cast-iron pan–and taking care of it. Wipe it clean after you use it, or wash it with water if there’s any food stuck on it, but keep it out of soapy water and the dishwasher, and keep it dry.” I never really knew you should use a cast-iron, but I did this time, and it worked nicely.
Warm your cast-iron pan over medium heat. After a minute or so turn the heat to low and add a piece of butter or a splash of olive oil. (When I did this, I added a bit too much butter I think…) Swirl the pan around to cover the bottom with the melting butter or oil, then gently crack open the egg into the pan. Lightly salt and pepper the egg, cooking it until the white is almost completely set. Gently coax a spatula under the egg. (You’ll want a fairly large spatula to fit as much of the egg as possible.) With a smooth motion, turn the egg over in the pan without breaking the yolk; this is difficult with a slow-cooked egg because the yolk is still quite tender. Season the egg again with salt and pepper. For a very runny yolk, cook for just a few seconds more. For a firmer yolk, cook for another minute or so. For those who do not like their yolks the least bit runny, break the yolk just before flipping the egg over, turn off the heat, and allow the egg to be cooked until done by the residual heat of the pan.
3.10.11 § 8 Comments
This is a true story. Almost one year ago, I was walking to the subway on my way to work when I realized I was walking next to James Oseland, editor-in-chief of SAVEUR magazine. I was so excited to see him that I reached out and touched his arm without pausing to think about how inappropriate this was. Then, to cover up for my inappropriate touching, I obviously had to start talking. Mr. Oseland was unbelievably gracious as I stumbled through my greeting, and long story short, about four months after that I had left my full-time job at a nonprofit and was working as an editorial assistant (read: glorified intern) at SAVEUR. For weeks I kept needing to pinch myself once or twice a day to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
The position, which was originally slated to last only three months, somehow stretched into seven, and during that time, I had some really amazing experiences. I got to see how SAVEUR works, tasted some amazing creations from the test kitchen, and even tried my hand at writing a few short pieces for the magazine. The most exciting moment was when I inserted myself into a conversation I had been eavesdropping on (well, not eavesdropping exactly, the office is open so it’s kind of hard not to hear what’s being said), and before I knew it I had landed the responsibility of writing an article. Like, a real one. Not written in the third person!
Writing that article was the biggest learning experience of all. I was lucky to work with senior editor Betsy Andrews, who simultaneously scares me and inspires fierce respect. Somehow (I’m placing my bet on magic), she took my unpolished 600 words about hearts of palm and came out with 250 or so words that, what do you know, were exactly what I meant to say. While it’s weird to see a finished article that’s pretty different from what you wrote, I’m amazed and thankful for the amazing job that the SAVEUR editors do. And really, who cares if it’s exactly what I wrote?! Something of mine was in SAVEUR magazine! And boy howdy, I even got to handpick the accompanying recipe. (To me, choosing a recipe to be included in the magazine felt like a really big deal.)
I thought it only appropriate that on my last day at SAVEUR I should make that recipe, Hearts of Palm Fries, to go with my steak dinner. I was celebrating. I needed to celebrate because one year ago, if you’d told me I’d be coming off a seven-month stint at one of the most respected publications in the world of food, I would have called you crazy. I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had, because it’s they’re mostly a result of dumb luck. Well, and of my inability to keep from touching famous people on the street. Thanks to the SAVEUR team for taking me in and teaching me some tough lessons. It was an amazing ride.
PS – Please don’t ask me what I’m going to do next…because really? Hell if I know.
Hearts of Palm Fries with Spicy Chipotle Mayonnaise
adapted from SAVEUR
*Making this for just myself, I cut the recipe for the mayo in half and cut the recipe for the fries themselves into like one quarter. I still had more than enough fries.
1 cup mayonnaise
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced and spooned sauce from the can
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
Canola oil, for frying
4 cups panko bread crumbs
2 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
2 28-oz. cans hearts of palm, large pieces halved lengthwise
Kosher salt to taste
In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, chiles, lime juice, honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil. I just eyeballed my amounts, but if you make your nervous you can definitely measure. If you like your spicy mayo to be extra spicy, spoon some of the sauce from the can into the mayonnaise.** I highly recommend this. Set the mayo aside.
Pour oil into a saucepan that isn’t very big, because you’ll want 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil for frying.*** Heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 375°. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer (I don’t), the way to tell the oil is hot enough is by inserting a wooden spoon into the oil. If tiny bubbles come up around the edges like the spoon is frying, it means you’re good to go! Meanwhile, place bread crumbs and flour on 2 separate shallow plates and set both aside. Whisk together buttermilk and eggs in a medium bowl. Make yourself a little assembly line with a clean plate standing by. Working in batches, toss hearts of palm in flour until evenly coated, shaking off excess and then place them to the side. Once they are all floured, dredge them in the egg mixture. Next, lay them on the bread crumbs and toss to coat. Fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel—lined plate to drain and immediately season with salt. Serve warm with chipotle mayo.
**When a recipe calls for chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, it usually only calls for one or two, and there are usually about 12 in a can. This is annoying. I’ve recently discovered that you can put the rest of the chiles and the sauce into a ziploc and stick it in the freezer. Just get them out the morning before you want to cook with them. This trick is awesome! Also, if you don’t know where to find chipotle peppers, they’re with the Mexican/Latin ingredients in the grocery store in a short, fat can.
***This is a lot of oil. I was really upset about having to waste this much oil, so I started googling, and I found out that you re-use oil. To get the panko crumbs out, I strained the oil through a coffee filter and then poured the clean oil back into its container. I’m going to refrigerate this. I’m not sure if it’s necessary or not, but someone on the internet said it was, so I’m thinking better safe than sorry.
3.5.11 § 5 Comments
“When do you stop being just someone who cooks and start being someone who is more like a chef or who has the know-how to write your own recipes?” This was the question of the hour at my latest dinner party. *Note: Didn’t realize my camera lens was dirty. Sorry for the smudgy pictures!*
Last Thursday, I met up with Sofia for our first cooking date. You see, she and I are cyber friends. We met over the internet when she started commenting on my blog, and after about 8 months of reciprocal comments, tweets, etc., we decided we should be friends in real life. This is how the world works now I guess…welcome to the future.
Anyway, this is the question we were pondering as we finally sat down to dinner, and thankfully, it was very appropriate for the evening’s meal. You see, I’ve made (and even posted about) a version of this pasta before: Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Radicchio. And I’ve also made a slightly different pasta that I found over on The Wednesday Chef: Egg Pappardelle With Bagna Cauda, Wilted Radicchio and an Olive-Oil-Fried Egg.
Unfortunately, I never posted about the version from Luisa’s website, because despite her proclamations of love for the dish, I wasn’t sold. I attribute this to a couple of things. First, I don’t really know how to fry an egg. I know, *eye roll.* Second, I really hated the bagna cauda that I made. For anyone who doesn’t know what bagna cauda is, the New York Times says:
Bagna cauda, also spelled bagna caôda, means “hot bath.” The bath — olive oil — is gently warmed with garlic cloves and anchovies until the oil is scented, the garlic is softened, the anchovies are dissolved and tamed. Essentially, it’s Italian dip.
The first time I made bagna cauda was the first time I had ever touched an anchovy. It was a big step for me because, like many people in my age group, I was taught at a young age by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that anchovies are gross. And it’s kind of true. They have these tiny little bones sticking out of them that are thin enough they look like hairs. It’s totally fine to eat them, but I was not prepared for this and got really skeeved out during the cooking process. Combine that with my inability to make a good fried egg, and by the time dinner was ready, I was not all that excited.
However, I had a chance to try bagna cauda again in a restaurant kitchen, and it was delicious! So, when I was attempting to pick a recipe for Thursday night’s shindig, I considered making Luisa’s recipe once more, but eventually chickened out and went with my old standard pasta. Then I thought, “That’s dumb! You’ll have nothing new to write about.”
Ever so hesitantly, I decided to try combining the two – adding bagna cauda to a recipe I already knew I loved. This time around I bought slightly pricier anchovies ($12 as opposed to $3) hoping that higher quality would mean less bones. I was right about this. Believe me, that extra money was worth it.
When I told Sofia what we were making, I could tell she’d probably also watched Ninja Turtles as a child, because she did not look excited about an anchovy sauce. I promised that I’d make the bagna cauda and that we could both taste it before putting it anywhere near the pasta. Rather than relying solely on the recipe from The Wednesday Chef, I did a bit of research about how to make bagna cauda. I eventually found a description in La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy, which said:
This is the traditional process: in a large earthenware pot, over a low flame and stirring constantly for at least 30 minutes, slowly dissolve thinly sliced garlic cloves in extra-virgin olive oil and butter. Once they have become a creamy homogenous sauce, add the Spanish red anchovies and more oil and cook slowly until the anchovies dissolve, blending with the garlic and oil to create a light brown sauce…Firm traditionalists insist on a full head of garlic per person…[and] two to three anchovies per person.
In the end, I kind of made it up. I minced a full head of garlic and did heat it in oil over a low flame for about half an hour. Then I used ten anchovies, mashing everything a little with a wooden spoon because it didn’t really “dissolve.” And you know what? The end result was delicious. We began by putting only half the bagna cauda on the pasta, but when I went back for my second helping, I dumped in the rest. It really made the dish, which surprised me because the pasta was pretty stellar to begin with.
And so, in a very roundabout way, I think the difference between someone who cooks solely from recipes and someone who begins to command a bit more authority in the kitchen is this: the latter is a person who becomes comfortable enough that they are able to draw from many sources, synthesizing information and taking inspiration from previous experiences to create amazing meals. Does that mean I’m getting somewhere? I don’t usually think so, but as I grated extra ricotta salata cheese over top of the pasta that I just couldn’t stop eating, I have to say, I was a little bit impressed with myself.
For the bagna cauda:
1 head of garlic, minced or if you want to try it the traditional way, very thinly sliced
10 anchovy fillets in olive oil (they come in a tin or the pricier ones are in a glass jar)
For the pasta:
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 heads of radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
8 – 9 oz of egg pappardelle
1/3 cup of pine nuts
1 cup grated ricotta salata (you can substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano if you can’t find ricotta salata – I got mine at Whole Foods)
Start the bagna cauda while you prepare the ingredients for the pasta. Heat oil over low flame (I eyeballed the amount but Luisa uses 1/4 cup), and then let the garlic go over the lowest heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients for the pasta. When you’re ready, put water on to boil, and heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and wait while it turns golden brown, this will take about two minutes, then add the pine nuts. Move the nuts around so they get toasted, this should take only two or three minutes. Remove the nuts from the pan with a slotted spoon – place in a bowl and set aside.
Now add the butternut squash to the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and just tender (not mushy!), 6 to 8 minutes. Add the radicchio and ½ tsp each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until wilted and just tender, about 3 minutes. (You may have to add a little bit of the radicchio at a time, as it will take up less room as it wilts, allowing you to add more.)
Meanwhile, cook pappardelle in boiling salted water until al dente. Keep in mind that egg pasta cooks much more quickly than regular pasta!
When you put the pasta in to cook, add your anchovies to the garlic mixture. Allow them to rest over low heat while the pasta cooks.
When the pasta is done, reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta. Combine pasta with radicchio-squash mixture and ½ cup cooking water. Toss together over low heat until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Add more cooking water to moisten as necessary.
If your bagna cauda isn’t a uniform sauce, mash it a little with the end of a wooden spoon. Then add it to the pasta. If you’re hesitant, add just a little, then taste before adding more.
Transfer pasta to bowls, top with toasted pine nuts, and finish with a generous amount of grated ricotta salata.
2.8.11 § 18 Comments
Living alone can be tough for someone who loves to cook. I get annoyed by halving recipes and I can’t always muster the willpower to eat the same thing every day for a week. However, all of this has an upside too: my freezer is full of frozen food. That’s been especially important this last week, as I’ve been so busy I haven’t even had time to breathe, let alone cook. It’s also been good because I’m getting to put some of that tupperware back into rotation *fist pump*.
This week’s star was the sauce for chickpea spaghetti, which I made a few weeks back. It was really simple to make and the deliciousness level totally blew me away. It didn’t disappoint on its second run either, although it was decidedly less pretty the second time around (which is when the picture is from).
This recipe, adapted by Deb at Smitten Kitchen from a Michael White gem, is definitely making its way into my favorites file. As Deb suggested, I doubled the sauce, and man, am I glad I did. I couldn’t get enough. She also says that this dish is great for carb-loading (it was originally run in NYMag right before the NYC marathon), but seriously, since when do I need an excuse to load up on carbs? Since never, that’s when.
So without further ado, here’s the recipe. Make it in big batches. Trust me, it’s an amazing thing to discover in your freezer.
2 15 ounce cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained or about 4 cups, freshly cooked chickpeas
1 cup chicken stock
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup pancetta, diced (about 4 ounces)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
10 cloves garlic, minced
Generous pinch chile flakes
2 14-ounce cans of tomatoes, chopped
20 to 25 basil leaves
Salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Set 1/2 cup of chickpeas aside. In a blender or food processor (or using an immersion blender, which is what I did), combine remaining chickpeas with chicken stock and pulse a few times until chickpeas are chopped but not smooth.
Place a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil and diced pancetta. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned. You’ll probably want to use a splatter screen if you have one. Add onions, garlic, and chile flakes. Continue cooking until onions and garlic are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add chickpea mixture, tomatoes, and basil, and let it all simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt. While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook until nearly al dente (about one minute less than you normally would). Reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the rest. Toss the pasta with chickpea sauce, reserved chickpeas and half of the reserved pasta water until evenly coated and heated through. If sauce still feels too thick add reserved pasta water as needed. (I didn’t need to do this.) Season again, as needed, and serve with grated Parmesan to pass.
1.27.11 § 22 Comments
You know lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time being sad, which is to be expected, considering what’s been going on in my life. On top of that, the snow and slushy weather isn’t helping much. What was that you said about seasonal affective disorder?
Fortunately, I’ve figured out how to keep myself happy, at least part of the time: comfort food. For me, the idea of “comfort food” has lately come to mean so much more than food that warms you up and fortifies you to face this kind of cold. The more important meaning, at least for the moment, is the comfort I’ve found in the preparation.
I get lost so easily in the rhythms of the kitchen: washing fresh vegetables, dicing onions, grating big blocks of cheese into messy piles and then scooping up the stray strands, popping them into my mouth like I don’t want anyone to notice…even though I’m alone. Those rituals I have in the kitchen are quickly becoming sacred to me, a refuge from the storm, so to speak.
To add to that, I’ve also been giving into small indulgences lately: caramelizing onions in a scoop of newly purchased duck fat instead of butter, buying the slightly more expensive but definitely better tasting cheese, and then using just a bit more than the recipe calls for. Actually, if we’re being completely honest, I always add extra cheese.
And you know what? It’s making me feel better. So for now, I’m going to stick with it. I’m also starting to take hot yoga classes to balance out those “indulgences.” (I bought a 30-class card, which is basically the equivalent of forcing myself to do something active. As in, I can’t stand to waste the money, so I know I’ll go to class. Whatever works. Right?) Regardless, I’m working really hard to find some kind of balance, since the equilibrium of my universe has been a bit off lately.
But seriously, what’s better after a good workout than a huge bowl of macaroni and cheese? And if sometimes there is so much snow on the ground that you skip yoga, that’s okay too. Right? Just say yes.
Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from SAVEUR
1 large yellow onion, diced
Kosher salt, to taste
12 oz. hollow pasta, such as penne
8 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup panko
1 cup freshly grated parmesan (about 1 oz)
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups milk (not skim)
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere (about 4 oz)
1 1/2 cups grated Comté or Cantal (about 4 oz)
1 1/2 cups grated fontina (about 4 oz)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
First, begin to caramelize the onions. (I diced the onions and started them before I even grated my cheese.) Melt your fat of choice (probably butter, although in this instance, I used 2 tbsp duck fat instead of butter, just because I could) in a medium skillet. Place the onion in the skillet and cover with a lid. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes to sweat the onions. Remove lid and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cook your pasta until not quite al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Melt 3 tbsp of butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the panko and parmesan, stir to mix. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Wipe out the saucepan and put it over medium heat. Melt the last 3 tbsp of butter and whisk in your flour until smooth. Now whisk in the milk, cooking and whisking often until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in all of the Gruyere, 1 cup of the Comté, and 1 cup of fontina. Whisk until cheese is melted and incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from heat and stir in your pasta. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart baking dish and top with the remaining Comté and fontina. Sprinkle the panko-parmesan mixture over the top.
Place the baking dish on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and put in the oven. (Mine ran over, so I definitely recommend putting something under your baking dish.) Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.