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.
3.16.11 § 21 Comments
I know. The name is kinda scary. When people ask me, “Why is it called crack pie?” I get a bit frustrated, because with a name like that, I would think it’s pretty obvious. I have never tried crack, but if it’s even half as addictive as this pie, I can understand why people get hooked. (I also get a little frustrated when people ask what’s in it, because with a name like that, do you really think you want to know? No.)
I’ve only eaten the real crack pie, which comes from Momofuku Milk Bar here in NYC, once. I had gone on a dinner date to Momofuku Ssäm Bar, and when we sat down, dude said, “You know, I usually order everything I want to taste from the menu.” And in that moment, I had two thoughts. One: “Wow, I usually order only what I want to taste the very most because I’m broke and this shiz is expensive.” And two: “Dude knows the way to my heart and he is NOT playing around.” Needless to say, we had an amazing dinner, and just when I thought I was going to pass out from overeating, I was told we had to go next door to the attached Milk Bar to have crack pie. Pie was the last thing I wanted, but I rarely turn down food, so we had the crack pie. And it. Was. Awesome. We couldn’t finish it, so I tucked the last few bites in my purse and ate it the next morning for breakfast.
I haven’t been back to Momofuku Ssam or Milk Bar since that night, because I’m a little worried about my self restraint slash lack thereof (the pork buns are also to die for and I could easily eat about 20 of them, which would not be good). So, when I went to visit Boston this past weekend for my friend Merri’s birthday, I was beyond thrilled when she informed me we’d be making crack pie. Making it! At home! I actually didn’t believe that it could ever be as good as the real thing, but I was not disappointed. It was so good that after serving it at the birthday party on Saturday night, I found myself sitting on the couch Sunday morning, still wearing my party dress, and eating crack pie leftovers straight from the pan. With a plastic fork. What can I say? Breakfast of champions. Is anyone else noticing a trend?
So, without further ado, here’s the recipe. I recommend you make this when there are going to be some other people around, because if you do it when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you will eat the whole thing yourself. Not a good plan.
Adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar NYC/Bon Appetit
*Note: If you’re going to make this, note that the crust must bake, then cool, and the filling then has to bake for nearly an hour, then cool for like two hours, then chill for a few more hours/overnight. It’s quite the process, but it isn’t hard, just time consuming!
Oat cookie crust:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
5 1/2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
6 1/2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper and coat it with nonstick spray. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes), scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Add the egg and beat until pale and fluffy. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until well blended (about 1 minute). Turn oat mixture out onto prepared baking pan and press it out evenly to edges of pan. Bake until light golden on top, 17 to 18 minutes. Transfer baking pan to rack and cool cookie completely.
Using your hands, crumble oat cookie into large bowl. Melt the remaining butter in a bowl or small saucepan, and add the butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar to the cookie mixture. Rub in with fingertips until mixture is moist enough to stick together. Transfer cookie crust mixture to 9-inch-diameter pie dish. (A cake pan will work if you don’t have a pie dish.) Using your fingers, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie dish. Place pie dish with crust on rimmed baking sheet.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Whisk both sugars, milk powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and whisk until blended. Add cream, then egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie for 30 minutes (filling may begin to bubble). Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake pie until filling is brown in spots and set around edges but center still moves slightly when pie dish is gently shaken, about 20-25 minutes longer. Cool pie 2 hours in pie dish on rack. Chill uncovered overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep chilled.
Sift powdered sugar lightly over top of pie. Cut pie into wedges and serve cold.
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.