Monday, April 30, 2007

sunday supper: more pasta, more green

It's a spring thing.

The weather gets warm and I want green stuff. And I just always want pasta. Last night's dinner was a pasta sauce from Lidia's Family Table by Lidia Bastianich. Back when I was with the BBC and working with PBS stations, I was lucky enough to go to an American Public Television conference where Lidia was promoting her new series and it's accompanying cookbook. A signed copy of the book was by far the best conference swag I've ever gotten. I've been a big fan of hers for many years. This was a sauce of asparagus, peas, leeks, and scallions. A simple, fresh topping for pasta, or a great base for a risotto.

Dessert was also spring-inspired, a mixed berry strata that I saw Giada make a couple of weekends ago.

J-Cat could not stop eating this. You can see the complete recipe here. I did choose to add more bread than the recipe called for (which was 4 cups). I added probably 1 additional cup, because it just seemed a little too liquidy when I initially mixed it. I used challah bread, and cooked it about 5 minutes longer than the recipe called for. I actually thought it would end up more custardy, but it was fantastic the way it was.

Continue Reading "sunday supper: more pasta, more green"

Friday, April 27, 2007

the mysteries of cravings

I'm wondering if my complaints last Friday about having a bad couple of weeks have come back to kick me in the ass, insuring that this past week would far surpass any bad week I've ever had. With my father in the hospital all week and things look very grim right now, I honestly haven't even thought of food, much less cooking. I guess I am unlike many people who eat when they're depressed. I tend to lose my appetite when I'm upset or stressed, or I fixate on only one food that I feel like I can stomach. (Last night it was pizza). I must have inherited this from my dad, because although he has been completely uninterested in food all week, he decided the one thing he really wanted was Hawaiian Punch.

This is a strange craving to say the least. I can't even recall my father having Hawaiian Punch ever in his life, much less recently enough to have it in his mind. I certainly haven't had it since I was a kid, although I do have a beach towel with Punchy on it that is older than almost anything else I own. Is that what it is? Remembering a time when we were kids and liked red sugary drinks and things were all okay? He's not exactly a sugary drink kind of guy.

Continue Reading "the mysteries of cravings"

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

welcome ripplers!

Traffic here is suddenly through the roof, all because I have joined the gang at the No-End-In-Sight Ripple-Along. What the heck is that? Well, you can't expect me to cook all the time, I have to have other things to occupy my mind.

This is the pathetically meager beginning to my ripple afghan, and sadly that represents almost a month of occasional work. At this point I really don't know if I'll ever finish. If I'm lucky I get through one stripe (2 rows) a night. I just had to have it wide enough to cover my bed. And since I know pretty much nothing about gauge and determining the resulting size of a crocheted piece, this is really wider than it necessarily needs to be to cover a queen-size bed. Oh well, maybe this will be finished by the time the cold weather rolls around again.

In other news:

Continue Reading "welcome ripplers!"

Monday, April 23, 2007

sunday supper, continued : pesto! and another way to get rice into the meal

Amazingly, I did not eat the Branzino with rice. At least, not during the main part of the meal. The theme of fresh started with the pasta course, Pesto alla Genovese.

But of course, I'll still manage to sneak some rice into the meal, and we finished off with Arborio Rice Pudding.

Recipes after the jump:

The pesto recipe is adapted from one by Mario Batali on Molto Mario:


For the pesto:
5 tablespoons pine nuts (I used more pine nuts and more basil than the original recipe called for because I just like it a little less oily)
2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, preferably "picolo fino"
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pinch sea salt
5 ounces Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil
(I admit, I threw some parmiggiano-reggiano in the mix, which Mario does not do. He might hate me for that, but it was good. I only used a small chunk. At least it was really good cheese...)

For the pasta:
1 lb dry linguine (Mario's recipe calls for Trenette, which is pretty much the same thing as linguine, but from Genoa and the Liguria region of Italy.)
6-8 baby red potatoes, boiled and halved
1/2 pound haricots verts, blanched and refreshed

In a food processor, combine garlic and pine nuts, pulse a couple of times to chop. Add basil and salt (and cheese if using), and process to a paste. With the processor running, open the tube in the cover and slowly drizzle in the olive oil so that it is completely incorporated. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is al dente, drain and add to a bowl with the cooked potatoes and haricots verts. Add the pesto (about a cup is good for a pound of pasta, but just add to your taste) and toss well to coat the pasta and vegetables. If you have any leftover pesto, you can store in a jar, topped with olive oil, and keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

The rice pudding was a very simple classic recipe for Spanish rice pudding (Arroz con leche) from "Seductions of Rice" by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. That is an awesome title for a cookbook. I adjusted the amount of sugar in the recipe because I find it way too sweet.


4 1/2 cups whole milk
1 2-inch stick cinnamon
rind of half a lemon, in large slices
3/4 cup Spanish or Italian medium-grain rice (I used Arborio, which is short grain, but that's what I had. Arborio is nice and starchy, and does away with the need for an egg to thicken the pudding)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
ground cinnamon for dusting

Combine the milk, cinnamon stick and lemon rinds in a medium saucepot and heat until almost boiling. Add the rice and stir, lower the heat to a very slow simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking, for 45-50 minutes. When rice is tender, add the butter, sugar and pinch of salt. Continue to simmer, stirring, for 5 more minutes. Serve hot or cooled with a dusting of cinnamon.

Continue Reading "sunday supper, continued : pesto! and another way to get rice into the meal"

sunday supper: spring cleaning

Finally the awesome weather! As much as I would have loved to spend all day yesterday out in the sun and warmth, I had been determined for several weeks to do a major cleaning of the apartment. I get this urge approximately once every 2 years, so if I were to ignore it, we'd be in serious dirt trouble. A warm day meant that all of the windows could be opened; great to keep air circulating while we were stirring up dust, and great for Opaw to get out from under our feet and onto the windowsill to chirp at birds.

A day of hard cleaning and organizing meant that I wasn't going to have time to spend on an elaborate dinner. The great weather also meant the end of the braised meat season, and the beginning of fresh flavors. The main course of last night's meal was salt-baked Branzino, a dish that I for some reason assumed was complicated, but is totally not.

Step one, whole Branzino, a small fish related to a bass. These were approximately 1 pound each. First rinse and pat dry, then fill the cavities with fresh parsley, fresh rosemary, sliced garlic, and lemon slices.

Step two, making the salt crust, simply a mixture of sea salt and egg whites. I used about 2 lbs of sea salt for 2 fish, and just kept adding egg whites and mixing until it resembled wet sand. I think I used a total of 4 egg whites, but honestly I lost count. Press the wet salt firmly onto the entire fish. PS. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or removal will suck.

Step three, bake for 15-18 minutes at 400º, adjusting time if your fish are different sizes. The edges of the salt crust will start to brown. Finally, release the fishies from their salty coffins. You'll probably want to scrape away a good deal of the salt if you intend to eat the skin and don't want hypertension. Delicious!

Up next, the pasta course!

Continue Reading "sunday supper: spring cleaning"

Friday, April 20, 2007

another crapass week

I just don't even have the energy to talk about it. First the massacre, then the constantly worsening pet food recall, then the Supreme Court sucks out the last remnants of my will to get out of bed. You know shit's gotta be bad if I'm not in the mood to talk about food.

Okay, I'll talk about it for 5 seconds. J-Cat needed comfort food on Wednesday night, and his kind was really spicy Chinese food and bubble tea. This is a dangerous combination that I won't elaborate on. I needed comfort food last night, so I made eggplant parmigiana. And ate it with rice. It may sound weird, but it belongs on rice. Short grain Asian rice. But I didn't take any photos because eggplant parmigiana kind of looks like a mess. And I just wanted to eat it, and wallow in the melty cheese goodness of it.

I also bought a box of this Polish cookie-type thing called Chruscik. If you do a Google image search of the word "chruscik", you'll see a lot of pictures of bugs. It's not bugs. It's basically just pastry dough that's fried and covered with confectioner's sugar. Confectioner's sugar that is quite possibly laced with crack. J-Cat loves this stuff, and the end result is that when he passes out on the couch, his face and shirt are covered in sugar. It's really so sexy.

Continue Reading "another crapass week"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

argh, continued

Please excuse me while I rant for a moment. Actually, this is my blog, so I don't need anyone's permission to rant. The pet food recall continues to grow, with each day revealing even more unsettling and infuriating information that forces vigilant pet owners to completely mistrust every level of the industry. But what really saddens me is the complacency of an even larger number of pet owners, people who don't seem to care or understand the significance of what's been happening. I'm beginning to feel like some psycho-obsessive cat lady, because several times that I have mentioned some of the more egregious examples of misinformation and ineptness, I have been met with a relative lack of interest. Considering that I'm only really saying anything about it to people I know who also have pets, this is rather disturbing. Is it simply that they think I am overreacting, or do they not care as much? I have a hard time believing the latter. So is it overreacting that I am seriously concerned about what to feed my cat - whom I love immensely - when I've seen accounts attributing some 4,000 deaths and countless more serious illnesses to contaminated pet food? Well, on Sunday, one of the dry foods that I started feeding Opaw just two weeks ago was recalled, when it was found that the same contaminant from the first recalls were found in a different ingredient. I had done my research and sought out a food that I thought highly unlikely to cause a problem, a food with high accolades, hundreds of testimonials, and a reputation for high quality ingredients. The contaminant - melamine - was previously found to be contaminating wheat gluten. I sought out foods with not only no wheat gluten, but no grains or derivatives of grains whatsoever. I thought I would be safe. What I didn't realize at the time is that even a company with a great reputation can flat out lie. Here is the rundown of what has gone down in the last couple of days regarding this food:

1. On Monday, I discover that Natural Balance has recalled the Venison & Green Pea Dry Cat Food, along with a venison-based dry dog food. They claim that they have received a few customer calls about gastric upset and kidney "problems", but do not know what is causing the problem.
2. On Tuesday, I see reports that melamine has been discovered in rice protein concentrate, an ingredient in both of those foods. I wonder to myself how a food marketed for cats with allergies that claims to have no grains whatsoever and venison as it's single source of protein would contain rice protein concentrate. I also wonder how I could have missed that ingredient on the label of the bag, and on the company website where I researched the food before purchasing it. I was specifically looking for foods with no grains, both as a precaution during the food recall, and because I was trying to figure out what was causing Opaw's stomach troubles.
3. Shortly after the discovery of the melamine in rice protein concentrate, several posters on sites discussing the recalls point out that rice protein concentrate is listed as an ingredient on NB's website for these foods, but swear that it was not there just a couple of days ago. Searching for cached versions of the webpage confirms that they updated the website to include the ingredient within the last couple of days.
4. Natural Balance reveals that they recently reformulated these foods to include the rice protein concentrate. So much for no grains, so much for single source of protein, so much for informing customers.
5. So much for claiming that they source all of their ingredients from within the US (the venison being the exception, it comes from New Zealand). Today it is revealed that the rice protein concentrate was supplied by a San Francisco-based company...who bought it from China.
6. This supplier states that it shipped rice protein concentrate to four other pet food manufacturers, but decline naming the companies at this time.
7. I sit here and wonder if the companies that make the other foods that I feed Opaw might be one of those four. I look at their websites and see none of the suspect ingredients listed. I look at these companies that claim there are no grains or grain derivatives of any kind in these foods, no glutens or protein concentrates, no ingredients that have magically appeared on the list where they weren't two days ago. I don't trust them.

Continue Reading "argh, continued"

green. cheese. good.

Did I ever mention that I love pasta? It used to be that I had to have rice at pretty much every meal, every day, but in the last few years, I find myself craving pasta almost as often. One of the best things about pasta is it's versatility; you can mix it with pretty much anything and it will be awesome. Monday night's pasta was a sort of faux-pesto, featuring two cheeses and fresh baby spinach. It was adapted from a recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis on her show Everyday Italian. Yeah, so, I'm pimping the network, but this has become one of my quick and easy dinner favorites. It's reasonably healthy, with tons of fresh spinach and whole grains, and the hardest thing about it is washing the food processor. Recipe after the jump:

adapted from Everyday Italian

1 lb whole wheat penne
3 garlic cloves
2 ounces goat cheese
2 ounces cream cheese (Giada calls for 1 ounce reduced-fat cream cheese. I like it cheesier, I like it fatter, what can I say?)
2/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
6 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (I use a whole pkg, I don't even know how many ounces that is)
3 tbsp fresh basil leaves (optional)
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan (yes, that is more than her recipe calls for, see above note regarding cheese and fat)
3 tbsp toated pine nuts

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to boil and drop in your pasta. Cook according to package directions, usually approximately 8-12 minutes, but be careful not to over cook.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, mince the garlic. Add goat cheese, cream cheese, salt, pepper, basil, and half of the spinach leaves and process into a creamy sauce.

In a large bowl, place the remaining spinach leaves. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the bowl on top of the spinach. The heat of the pasta will help to wilt the spinach leaves. Add the sauce and toss to combine, adding pasta water if the sauce is too thick. Check the seasonings, add the parmesan and toss again. Serve topped with toasted pine nuts.

I added basil to this recipe because I love basil and it adds another dimension to the flavor, but this is certainly optional. The sauce on it's own is perfectly flavorful, but if the season is right and you have any fresh herbs on hand, it definitely can't hurt.

Continue Reading "green. cheese. good."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


GOOD FREAKING GOD! When will this pet food recall madness end?! After everything that's gone down in the last few weeks, all the research that I did to find foods for Opaw that contained nothing suspect, that were considered the highest quality and most recommended, one of her dry foods has been recalled!! I can't take this anymore, I can't deal with constantly being afraid that what I chose to feed my cat will kill her. One of the dry foods that I had added to Opaw's rotation was Natural Balance Venison & Green Pea, a food recommended for cats with digestive issues and that contains absolutely no grains. You would think that if all of the current issues were caused by contaminated wheat or wheat gluten, a food with no grains wouldn't cause any problems. It is still not revealed what exactly is the problem with Natural Balance, but my fear is discovering that you cannot even trust the list of ingredients on the labels. Maybe they claim to use no grains, but with no government oversight, no criminal consequences, who's to stop them from putting whatever they want into their food? I just want to be able to feed my cat food that is good for her and that she likes to eat, and not be worried about hurting her. J-Cat and I have already gone through a devastating loss, and we really can't handle another one. I guess I should give the raw food another try, at the least, if she refuses to eat it, it's still safer to eat nothing than to eat the poison that they're selling us.

Continue Reading "aaarrrrggghh!!!!"

Monday, April 16, 2007

everybody loves strawberry shortcake

And it's really pretty easy to make.

Springtime is strawberry time, and any time is whipped cream time. Though many people might think of the spongy cake covered in whipped cream when they hear strawberry shortcake, I actually prefer the more classic biscuit-style version, which is what shortcake really is. A simple sweetened biscuit recipe topped with sugared fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream is a great dessert when you have company, because you can make all three components ahead of time, and simply construct the dessert just before serving. Recipe after the jump:

This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown's recipe for Blueberry Shortcake from his book "I'm Just Here For More Food". I love blueberries and would love to make it his way, but it's just not season yet. This recipe makes about 8 3-inch shortcakes:



4 cups sliced strawberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar (he calls for a full cup, I found that way too sweet)
2 tbsps lemon juice

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar (again he called for more, I must just not like sweet as much)
6 tbsps cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg

Whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract


Combine strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and set aside at room temperature while you make the shortcakes. Preheat oven to 400º. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, incorporate the cold butter into the flour. Only combine enough so that there are no large chunks of butter. If you try to break it down too much you will heat and soften the butter and this will result in a denser, flatter cake. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the heavy cream and egg in the well. Combine well with a fork. Turn out the dough onto a flour surface and knead just until dough comes together. Alton then breaks up the dough into 8 pieces and shapes by hand. I wanted to fancy it up a bit with a fluted biscuit cutter, so I flattened it to a 1/2 inch thick disk and cut the cakes out.

At this point, you could melt butter and brush the tops of the cakes if you wanted a nice shiny finish, but I didn't bother because I was just going to eat these right away. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until risen and lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool. In the meantime, make the whipped cream.

When biscuits have cooled, slice in half. Cover the bottom half with the strawberries, which by now should be sitting in a pool of delicious syrup. It is a good idea to use some of that syrup to soften the bottom shortcake. Top the strawberries with a big dollop of whipped cream, then replace the top half of the shortcake.

Continue Reading "everybody loves strawberry shortcake"

sunday supper: nor'easter sunday

The grossest day we've had in a long long time. One of those days when you don't want to do anything but lay around, watch TV, read, and eat junk food. I certainly didn't have it in me to cook anything elaborate, and luckily the perfect dinner on a rainy, stormy day isn't elaborate at all. Chicken soup.

There is definitely no recipe for this soup. My soup is all about using up leftovers and jamming it full of veggies. I made the stock with the carcasses of those cornish hens from last week, simmering them with various veggies and herbs for about 4 hours. It made the apartment smell homey and delicious. Once the stock was complete, it was quick work assembling the soup. I sauteed some onion and garlic, added the stock and some barley, ginger slices, lemon juice, and any dried herbs I felt like throwing in. I simmered that for about 30 minutes, until the barley was almost cooked. That's when I added most of the veggies. I don't like super soggy veggies in my soup, and since the stock had been simmered for hours with carrots and celery and onions, the flavor was already there, no need to add them to the soup so early. I dumped in the carrots and celery, some fresh corn that I cut off the cob, chopped Lacinato kale, and finally, a bunch of leftover chicken that I had shreded into bite-size pieces. Just a few minutes of simmering the assembled soup, adjusting the salt, pepper and lemon juice, and throwing in any chopped fresh herbs that I had lying around and it was all done. This thick and hearty soup was more than enough for a meal on it's own, but I threw in some crusty baked bread so sop up some of the broth. We went from a chilly, soggy night, so warm and toasty and full.

Continue Reading "sunday supper: nor'easter sunday"

Thursday, April 12, 2007

rockin the shrimp

Rock shrimp is awesome. They're like bite-sized lobster tails! The flavor of the sea permeates everything you cook it with. Last night I spun the wheel of pasta sauce ingredients and came up with the fresh and delicious combination of rock shrimp, asparagus, and snap peas. Even though the weather outside wasn't very spring, I tried to bring a little spring flavor inside with some beautiful green veggies.

I paired that up with some bowtie pasta, butter, olive oil, lots of garlic and fresh herbs, and some parmiggiano -reggiano for a 15-minute dinner. Well, not counting the amount of time it takes to boil the water. That can take awhile. My recipe after the jump:



1 lb bowtie pasta
3/4 lb rock shrimp, peeled and cleaned
1/2 lb sugar snap peas
1/2 lb asaparagus, cut in 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh thyme
1/2 cup grated parmiggiano-reggiano
salt and pepper, to taste


Boil 4 quarts of water with a generous handful of salt for the pasta. When the water comes to a boil, drop in the snap peas and asaparagus, blanch for 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender but still crisp, and a vibrant bright green. Remove the vegetables with a strainer and set aside to drain, but do not turn off the heat. When the water returns to a boil, add your pasta. About 5 minutes before your pasta will be done, heat the butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When the butter foam begins to subside, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the blanched vegetables and saute for another minute. Add the rock shrimp and saute for 2 minutes, until they just begin to turn pink and firm.

Using a strainer, drain the pasta and add to the vegetables and shrimp in the sautee pan, toss to combine. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. (Rock shrimp tend to have a distinct salt water flavor, be careful not to over-salt). Finish with the fresh herbs and cheese.

Continue Reading "rockin the shrimp"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

macavity the mysterious commuting cat

This story in England's Daily Mail is exactly what I needed to cheer me up. Several bus drivers on the No 331 bus in the West Midlands region of England have discovered a cat who likes to ride the bus. This cat, who they have nicknamed Macavity (after a mysterious cat in a T.S. Eliot poem) rides the bus one stop from Walsall to Wolverhampton at least 2 or 3 mornings a week. He always gets on and off at the same stops, at about the same time of the morning. The stop where he gets on is in a residential area consisting of several semi-detached houses, while the stop where he gets off is in front of a row of shops, suspiciously close to a fish and chip shop. Apparently he doesn't have to pay for this service.

Continue Reading "macavity the mysterious commuting cat"

Monday, April 09, 2007

goodbye sweet gaia

We love you, and we'll miss you forever. Be good, sweet puppy.

Continue Reading "goodbye sweet gaia"

chocolate eruption

I'm not hugely crazy about chocolate. Sometimes I think this makes me insane. Most everyone else I know, especially women, are obsessed with chocolate and must have some everyday. For me, I definitely love a really great chocolate dessert, and I do have the occasional craving, but maybe 8 times out of 10, I'll choose a dessert that isn't chocolatey, and I don't think cheap chocolate is generally worth it. J-Cat is the same as me, we're big into the pies and tarts and pastries, not so much chocolate cake. So I guess that's why I haven't done a whole lot with chocolate in my time, and my double boiler often sits unnoticed in the cupboard. But for some reason the other day I had a desire to play with chocolate, so I went searching for a cake recipe. The one that caught my eye was this Chocolate Lava Cake at CacaoWeb. When I do have a chocolate dessert, I like it hot and moist, and oozing is definitely a plus. Sounds sooooo dirty...

The strange thing about my relative indifference to chocolate is that when I look at melted chocolate, I can't imagine anything being more luscious and delicious looking. That may be due to the humongous hunk of butter that you melt it with. This recipe called for either semi or bittersweet chocolate. I went for a 72% cacao chocolate, which is bittersweet, because for me, the darker the better. I used the Sunset Chocolate Pistoles by E. Guittard, which are wafer-shaped and thus easy to melt without having to hack up with a knife and make a huge mess.

This is an artisan single-origin chocolate, meaning the cocoa comes from one specific region of the world. This gives them a quality not unlike a wine from a single vineyard; there are distinctive notes to the flavor. Hey, if I'm going to mess around with chocolate, I want some good chocolate!

Yield: 10 servings

10 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate (preferably 70 % cocoa)
4/5 cup unsalted butter
8 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

PREPARATION: 1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
2. Grease 10 large muffin tins or cups; paper muffin bake cups can also be used.
3. Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt it with butter over hot water.

4. Beat the eggs with sugar and mix with flour.
5. Slowly fold in the melted butter and chocolate.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for only 8-12 minutes; the outer part should be cooked and the inner part liquid.

The result was quite good, although the next time around I will probably reduce the sugar to 1 cup, as I still thought this was a tad too sweet. I was also clumsy with cooking times. My first pan baked a little too short, my second a little too long. Tonight I am going to try to bake the remainder of the first pan further, I wonder if that will not only firm a little bit more of the cake up, but will make it taste fresh and warm. I served these with fresh whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

Continue Reading "chocolate eruption"

sunday supper: easter hens

Yesterday's dinner was almost entirely influenced by what was on sale at Fresh Direct. The main course was Cornish Hens with Herb Butter, from the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, posted as one of the One-Click Recipes on Fresh Direct. I have the original Silver Palate cookbook and it's one of my favorites, this recipe lives up to that. I served the hens with wild rice and artichokes, and followed it up with mini Chocolate Lava Cakes with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

The cornish hens turned out to be much larger than I'm used to, close to 2 pounds each, so we had an obscene amount of food. Usually, a 3/4 lb or 1 lb hen is perfect for one person, instead we each only ate half. But the leftovers should make great chicken salad.



6 Rock Cornish Hens (3/4 to 1 pound each)*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup snipped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons crumbled dried sage

PREPARATION: 1. Rinse the birds and pat dry. Sprinkle the cavity of each bird with salt and pepper.
2. Process to a paste the butter, parsley, chives, rosemary, thyme and fresh sage in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

3. Carefully separate the skin from the breast of each bird. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the herb butter between the skin and breast of each bird. Smooth the skin into place and truss.

4. Preheat oven to 450° F.
5. Rub the oil over the bird and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Finally, rub the dried sage evenly over each bird and place in a roasting pan.
6. Roast for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350° F. Continue roasting until juices run clear when the thickest part of a thigh is pierced, about 40 more minutes. Baste frequently with the pan juices. Serve immediately.

One thing I thought odd about this recipe is that it called for chopped fresh herbs for the herb butter. Since you're putting the butter and herbs into a food processor to make the herb butter, I don't know why you would bother chopping them first. Just put the herbs in the processor, pulse them a few times, then add the butter and process to a paste. Voila, super easy. It's much more difficult to actually wash the damn bowl.

I simply steamed the artichokes, trimming the stem, removing some of the small outer leaves, and slicing across the very top. I steamed them for about 30 minutes, then served with melted butter. As easy as it gets.

Continue Reading "sunday supper: easter hens"

Sunday, April 08, 2007

pantry cookies

It was a long, exhausting, and emotionally trying week, and all I wanted to do was have a quiet, solitary Saturday night at home. This was somewhat ruined by the utter horror that was The Lake House on HBOHD, but luckily I decided to bake cookies while it was on so I could tune out the wooden tones of Keanu Reeves (this somehow seeming easier than changing the channel).

In my less than classy neighborhood, the supermarket closes kind of early, so I had to figure out what kind of cookie I could make with only the ingredients the I already had in the pantry. And that's how I decided on Thumbprint Cookies. My grandmother used to make these cookies, filling the hole you make with your thumb with jam. Unfortunately, I never got her recipe and hers were somehow better than every other Thumbprint Cookie I've ever had, but this recipe does come close.



1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg, separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 3/4 cup (100 grams) nuts (I use walnuts, but any will do) toasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup jam


Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, approx. 2-3 min. Add egg yolk and vanilla and combine. Combine flour and salt in a sifter and sift into wet mixture, stirring until it just comes together. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic and store in fridge while preparaing the nuts.

Chop nuts very finely.

I used my mezzaluna for this, which isn't the most efficient way, but I hate cleaning the food processor so there it is. To toast, spread the chopped nuts onto a baking sheet and place in the 350° oven for 8-10 minutes. They should be lightly browned and aromatic.

Whisk the egg white until frothy. Remove the dough from fridge. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, coat in egg white, then roll in chopped nuts and place 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.

Use the tip of your thumb and press down into the top of each ball to make a well.

Fill each well with jam, I used strawberry and black currant because that's what I had. Raspberry and apricot are probably more classic. Bake for 15-18 minutes until cookies are set and lightly browned.

Cool on a wire rack. Devour.

Continue Reading "pantry cookies"

Friday, April 06, 2007

beans beans good for your heart

And so easy to make. Recipe after the jump...

Healthy, delicious, and about as easy as it gets. I doubt my black beans and rice is particularly authentic, but I'm okay with that. This is of course best made with dried beans, but canned will do fine for a really quick dinner.



1 lb dry black beans, soaked overnight in cold water and drained
4 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium green peppers, diced
2 small yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups cooked long grain white rice


Combine black beans and 4 cups water in a large stockpot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender, approx. 1 1/2 to 2 hours. [Note: I add an inchlong piece of dried kombu seaweed to the water as that supposedly cuts down on the gas. I'm not sure it really works, but I do it anyway. You just remove the piece of kombu when the beans are done]

Once the beans are tender, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and green pepper and sautee until soft, approx 5-7 minutes. Add beans, oregano, cumin, jalapeno, and cider vinegar. If there is not enough liquid from the beans, add water to your liking. Some like these beans a little soupier, I prefer them on the drier side. Let the beans simmer for about 10 minutes, then adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over the rice.

Continue Reading "beans beans good for your heart"

unpack and chill immediately

Opaw chillin'.

Continue Reading "unpack and chill immediately"

Thursday, April 05, 2007

coyote not lacking any meat

A coyote wandered into a downtown Chicago Quizno's yesterday and lounged in a cooler on top of a bunch of sodas. It apparently had tried to get behind the counter - presumably for one of those toasted subs - but an employee blocked it with a swinging door so it decided to chill out in the fridge instead. My favorite part of the article is when it says that a couple of patrons stayed in the restaurant to finish their sandwiches after the coyote came in. Nothing comes between fast food patrons and their meat.

Continue Reading "coyote not lacking any meat"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

molecular gastronomy, yum!

I've never eaten at a restaurant featuring so-called "molecular gastronomy", like WD-50 or davidburke & donatella. I guess the main barrier for me ever trying this kind of food is the price, but I will admit that I also don't really find it all that appealing. I find it fascinating, but that doesn't mean that I want to spend big bucks to eat it. The art of cooking has always been a science as well, and I definitely see the appeal of taking this idea further and experimenting with the strange things that science can bring to the creativity of cooking. But when a menu lists foam or air as food? I don't know, maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough to appreciate it, after all, my dining preference has always leaned much more toward the hole-in-the-wall-hearty-peasant-fare kind of thing than to the have-to-wear-a-jacket-tiny-portion-huge-plate kind of thing. That goes for what I like to cook as well. And though this dessert pictured on today's Gothamist interview of WD-50 pastry chef Alex Stupak is plated in such an artful and whimsical way that it made me smile, I can't really get past the fact that the orange-colored "rooibos air" looks exactly like the foamy bile that my cat horks up on a regular basis...

Continue Reading "molecular gastronomy, yum!"

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

i got served

I haven't cooked in a few days, and man does that feel weird. I had a concert on Sunday, which meant that the whole weekend was spoken for and our Sunday supper consisted of Catfish Taco Locos at San Loco. Hey, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than a couple pounds of lamb. Now it's Passover, so I didn't get to cook last night and won't cook tonight either. Last night we went out to J-Cat's friend's place in Midwood for a Seder. I had never met these people so I was a little apprehensive and was wondering if I should have snacked before going over there. Turns out that it was totally not necessary, because the food was fantastic. It was really pretty nice to get cooked for for a change. J-Cat's friend Shlomy is Israeli, so his food was strongly inspired by Middle Eastern flavors. In addition, his wife's mother is Russian, so we had a nice spicy Borscht thrown in for good measure.

The first course was a variety of cold salads including spicy carrots, herbed beets, potato salad, and babaganoush. Next came the borscht, which was sweet and spicy at the same time. This was followed by some fantastic fish cakes made from a mixture of cod, tilapia, and fresh herbs, plus a sauce on top which I unfortunately couldn't understand the name of, but it clearly had tahini in it. This was paired with a vegetable-stuffed potato skin. The main course was a wonderful beef roast, covered in garlic and herbs and cooked until it was falling apart. I was so full by this point, but I couldn't miss anything. Luckily we had a little break before the intense dessert, a homemade gelato made with halvah and topped with a warm sauce made of liqueur and fresh berries. This was really sweet but a very interesting flavor. Sesame is definitely a great base for an ice cream.

Tonight will be a very different flavor of Seder, over at Gene and Olivia's house. I really want some charoset, they didn't have that last night and I missed it. It's just not Passover without the charoset.

Continue Reading "i got served"