Thursday, July 31, 2008

i practically sacrificed a finger for this pasta

An incredibly easy and reasonably healthy weeknight dinner, despite the fact that I stabbed myself in the finger with a shrimp tail and I think I got a piece of shell stuck in there because it hurt for days until the skin peeled off and the spot disappeared. It is exactly what it looks like - pasta, shrimp, grape tomatoes, basil, garlic, oil. This one took less than 15 minutes, but the complexity of flavor that the grape tomatoes take on when cooked just enough makes it taste much more developed that it actually is. Recipe after the jump:

1 lb whole wheat penne
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed but still intact
1 pinch dried hot pepper flakes
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 small bunch fresh basil, chiffonaded
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. In a large heavy skillet or saute pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes per side, or until it just starts to turn opaque, but are not fully cooked through. Remove the shrimp to a plate. Add the remaining tbsp of oil, the garlic and the hot pepper flakes and let sizzle for about 1 minute. Turn the heat to high and add the white wine, allowing to simmer until just starting to reduce. Add the tomatoes and saute for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes start to soften and give off their juices. When the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving some pasta water, and add to the skillet with the tomatoes. Add back the shrimp and toss to combine. If the sauce is too dry to coat the pasta, add a bit of the pasta water and allow to simmer and reduce into a sauce. Season with salt and pepper and top with the basil. Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil to serve.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

obsessive couscous

Remember a few posts ago when I said that I get obsessive about Israeli couscous? Well I wasn't kidding. It's all I want lately, and I can't get enough of it when I do have it. This is actually my favorite way to have it, a sort of faux-pilaf with wheatberries. When the wheatberries cook, they plump out to be pretty much the same size and shape as the couscous, so it's a perfect match. Plus the toastiness of the couscous married with the nuttiness of the wheatberries makes this dish so much more flavorful than either would be on it's own. It looks kind of boring, but don't let that fool you. Recipe after the jump:

1 cup wheatberries
1 cup Israeli couscous
4 cups water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the wheatberries and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 30 minutes. Add the couscous, and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until tender. If too much water evaporates before it's time to add the couscous, simply add more and bring the heat up to get it simmering again. When both the wheatberries and couscous are tender, drain any excess water, add the olive oil, oregano, and thyme, and toss to coat well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

the mountain house: times when we weren't eating

It was freakishly beautiful upstate this past week, despite that fact that it was pretty much raining nonstop. There was certainly a delicious coziness going on, and it was a welcome relief from the 97 degree day we left behind in the city. Here are some other highlights from the week, what we did when we weren't eating.

The gorgeous view from the side porch:

The fireplace, lit every night and the site of many s'mores and panini:

Captain Jinks - a song found in a very old songbook at the house, about a smarmy captain in the army who liked to "sport" teenage girls. Dirty!

A giant moth that got into the house, photographed next to a deck of cards for size reference. Really, it was big.

Numerous trips down the mountain to the Stewart's for sodas. Delicious:

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

the mountain house: culinary highlights

I'll admit it, I pushed to go to this house for our family vacation because I saw that kitchen, and I needed to cook in it. That huge Garland professional range with 6 burners, double ovens, salamander broiler, and griddle top. The icing on the cake was the industrial steam dish sanitizer that washed a load in less than 5 minutes. With 9 adults and 3 kids - all of us huge foodies - we needed that dishwashing power.

So here are some of the culinary highlights of our Adirondack family vacation, and really this is only the tip of the iceberg since I didn't take pictures every evening, especially if I was at all involved in the cooking.

UPDATE: Jenn has graciously provided some of her food pics from the week, namely the two pics of pasta making, and those awesome roasted brussels sprouts. Thanks Jenn!

#2's leek tortelloni, I served as sous chef:

It took ALL DAY:

Peppers, onions, and Italian sausage on the griddle:

A mountain of grated potatoes...

for Brother #2's ginormous Rosti:

Brother #3's pork roast stuffed with white peaches and goat cheese:

With roasted brussels sprouts:

Pam's gorgeous white peach pie:

And peach blueberry pie:

Sadly not photographed: Mom's empanadas; My fresh ricotta cheese, used in a pasta with peas, lemon, and mint; My roast chicken with lemons; Brother #1's beef stew; Brother #3's obscenely giant pot of chili with cheddar cornbread; Jenn's oatmeal chocolate chip cookies; Pam's brownies; Pam's other brownies; Pam's blueberry crostata.

And finally - the countless 2AM paninis that #2 and I cooked up in the fireplace night after night. They were miraculous.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

cauliflower, my love

I LOVE cauliflower. It might be my favorite vegetable. I've never eaten a cauliflower dish I didn't like. I like it raw, cooked, whatever. So how happy was I when I found a recipe that marries my favorite vegetable with my #1 favorite food, pasta? Crazy happy.

This recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables also makes me happy because it actually calls for whole wheat pasta, so I'm not subbing it in as I normally do. It's true, it's a real recipe for a truly healthy dish. And it's delicious. Recipe after the jump:


1 head cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 medium onion, sliced into thin half moons
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pound whole-wheat pasta
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes
White wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
4 ounces ricotta salata or feta cheese

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil. Start the sauce when the pasta goes into the water. Saute the cauliflower in olive oil in a large saute pan. When the cauliflower begins to soften, season with salt and pepper and add the sliced onion and red pepper flakes. Saute over medium to high heat until the vegetables are brown and tender. The cauliflower should still be slightly crunchy and should not taste steamed. Add the garlic and remove from the heat, tossing and stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add a generous splash of vinegar and the lemon juice. Cauliflower requires a fair amount of seasoning, so don't be shy with the acids. Add the toasted walnuts and toss to combine. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the cauliflower, adding additional extra virgin olive oil to coat the pasta thoroughly, toss together and serve, topped with the crumbled cheese.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

a tart. a little, tiny tart

I have three brothers. That means that I have three sisters-in-law. Just as I love each of my brothers in different ways, I love my sisters-in-law in different ways. Now I'm not saying that I love Pam solely for her baking skills, which this post and the previous crostata post might suggest, but I will say that it is one of the things that probably won me over way back when I first met her. I think these pecan tartlets were one of the first things I ate of hers, and I was sold immediately.

Simple, buttery, flaky, sweet, nutty, perfect. I don't even like pecan pie very much, but I love these tartlets. Now that Pam's been part of the family for many years, the pecan tartlets have become a mainstay at family holiday meals, and I have occasionally stepped in to make them when Pam was away, or, you now, giving birth.

Pam's pecan tartlets. The only reason I own a mini-muffin pan. Recipe after the jump.

For the crust:
1 cup flour
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened

For the filling:
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup pecans

Mix together the crust ingredients until well incorporated. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes until cooled. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix together the filling ingredients and set aside. Remove the chilled dough, and roll into 1-inch balls. Place the balls in a mini-muffin tin, then press into the muffin tin to line each divot. Fill the dough with the pecan filling. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until golden brown.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

super simple sides: israeli couscous with zucchini and onions

I've got a thing for Israeli couscous lately. I always get into obsessive behavior when I have Israeli couscous. I eat it once, then I think about that delicious toasty flavor constantly for days and have to keep eating it. Luckily, its super simple to make, and goes with a lot of great stuff. Tossing it with some sauteed onion and zucchini is perfect for this time of year, and makes a 2-in-one side dish that would go well with chicken or fish. Recipe after the jump:

2 cups Israeli couscous
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 tbsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous and simmer on low for 10 minutes or until tender. If there is any water that has not been absorbed by the couscous, drain it off. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until just beginning to soften. Add the zucchini and saute until tender, but still firm to the tooth. Add the cooked couscous and the fresh thyme leaves and toss, adding the remaining olive oil if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

salads that are not good for you: asian noodle

Okay, this one isn't really all that bad for you, but again it's a salad with pasta in it, so it's kind of pushing the definition of salad. This salad also has a magical way of multiplying itself. I swear I start out with the intention of making just enough for dinner one night and lunch the next day. The next thing I know, I'm trying to get anyone in a 5-mile radius to take some salad off my hands, just a bit, I have no idea what I'll do with all of it.

It starts off innocently enough. A bit of Napa cabbage, some peppers, baby spinach, radicchio, mung bean sprouts. There's veggies in my fridge, they all look tasty, a little of this and that would only make this salad better. And bigger. And bigger. When the vegetables start to fill up the biggest mixing bowl you have and you haven't even added the noodles yet, well, then you might be in trouble. I would say that there's never too much of a good thing, but that's a lot of salad. Recipe after the jump:

adapted from The Pioneer Woman

For the salad:
1 lb whole wheat linguine, cooked, rinsed, and cooled
1/2 head sliced Napa cabbage
1/2 head sliced radicchio
1 cup chopped baby spinach
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
1 cup mung bean sprouts
3 sliced scallions
LOTS of chopped cilantro—up to one bunch
1 ccup whole cashews, lightly toasted in a dry skillet

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lime
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 hot peppers or jalapenos, chopped
More chopped cilantro—LOTS

Toss together salad ingredients. Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Mix with tongs or hands and serve.
*Dressing keeps up to three days before serving, WITHOUT cilantro.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

mutant fruit: a series



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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

the great steak sandwich

Ginger and sesame marinated flank steak, grilled medium rare. Horseradish yogurt-mayo. Grilled red onions. Peppery arugula. Crusty ciabatta.

Need I say more? Recipe after the jump:

1 (5-inch) piece ginger, sliced thinly
1/4 cup sesame oil
8 garlic cloves, smashed
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pound flank steak

Whisk together marinade ingredients until well incorporated. Poor over the steak, cover, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Remove the steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring the meat up to room temperature. Preheat a grill pan over high heat. Grill the steak for 5-6 minutes per side for medium rare, or an internal temperature of 130-140 degrees. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain into 1/4-inch slices.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

in season: blueberry-peach crostata

Pie. My mother tells me that when my father first came to the US, he discovered pie and loved it so much he ate an entire one by himself every day. Until he realized that his pants were getting tight, then he exercised tremendous restraint and cut down considerably. I, unfortunately, inherited his great love of pie, but not his admirable willpower.

My father was so fond of pie that I distinctly remember one Christmas when Brother #2 actually bought him something like 3 apple pies as his present. I can totally get behind that.

On my birthday, my co-worker Christine asked me what my favorite cake is, and I answered "Pie". She actually went all the way up to midtown to get me pie for my birthday, because she's awesome like that. And probably because she knows that no one gets between me and my pie.

This is a pie. It looks kind of flat for a pie, but it's a pie. It's got a fancier name, but it's still a pie. My sister-in-law Pam, an incredible baker, is famous for her crostatas, and this is my version of her recipe. And it's good. Recipe after the jump:

For the crust:
3/4 - 1 cup all-purpose flour (you may need more in humid climates)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg, beaten

For the filling:
2 cups blueberries
2 medium ripe peaches, pitted and sliced thinly, peeled if desired
2 tbsp sugar plus more for sprinkling
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp pure vanilla extra

To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Quickly cut in the butter until mixture resembles small peas. Add the egg and mix until the dough just comes together. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll the chilled dough out to about 1/8 inch thickeness and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Mix together the flour and sugar and sprinkle evenly on the crust, leaving 1-2 inches of border all the way around. Arrange the peach slices in the center of the crust, then mound the blueberries around the edges and in the very center. Sprinkle the vanilla and sugar over the fruit. Fold the border over the edges of the fruit. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes until fruit is bubbling and crust is golden brown. Serve with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

sunday supper: a summer day in spain pt. 2

A ubiquitous tapa dish in Spain, the tortilla de patatas is often called the tortilla espanola. That's how common it is, I suppose. I don't know that I ever had a meal of tapas in Spain that didn't include this dish. It is such an incredibly simple dish that it almost seems impossible that such a complex flavor could come of only three ingredients: eggs, potatoes, and onions.

Indeed, despite it's apparent simplicity, tortillas espanolas are no easy feat. I have attempted this dish at least a half dozen times before, and I still feel like I am far from presenting one that I would deign to serve a Spaniard. The trickiness is all in the technique. How to keep the eggs from getting rubbery and tough while achieving a good thickness, yet cooking it all the way through.

Because of course, being the carb-addict that I am, I like to really stuff the hell out of it with sliced potatoes. And though I doubt it is remotely authentic, I have decided after several attempts that waxy red potatoes are the best, because I just don't like a starchy potato that gets too soft. I also don't peel them, so kill me. Recipe after the jump


8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 red potatoes
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
chopped parsley, to garnish (optional)

Slice the potatoes very thinly with a mandoline or adjustable blade slicer. Pat dry with paper towels. Heat 2 tbsp oil over moderate heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the potatoes and saute until just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Beat the eggs with the milk, salt and pepper. In a small nonstick skillet or saute pan(about 8-inch diameter and 2-3 inches deep), heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil over medium-low heat Transfer the potatoes to the small pan and lay evenly across the pan. Pour the eggs evenly over the potatoes. Using a spatula, gently pull the eggs from the side of the pan as they start to solidify, allowing the liquid to flow into it's place. Continue until there is no more egg pooling over the potatoes. Using a plate, flip the tortilla out, then slide back into the pan, cooked side up. Cook for another 5 minutes, or transfer to a 350 degree oven to heat through. Serve warm or at room temperature, sliced into wedges and garnished with the chopped parsley.

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sunday supper: the perfect summer soup

It's hot out, folks. So, in part one of my Hot Summer Sunday Supper from Spain, that classic Andalusian cold soup: Gazpacho. Throwing all caution to the wind, we ate us lots of raw tomatoes. This also served as a detoxifier of sorts, after a long weekend of gluttony that included fantastic BBQ and ginormous donuts. By the time that 3rd day of the weekend rolled around, we were juicing veggies and bemoaning our gustatory abandon.

Luckily, gazpacho is low on effort and high on flavor. I've spent some time in Spain, tasted dozens of gazpachos, and it varied so much from place to place that in all honesty I'm not sure what the absolute classic should really be like. But I tend to like a little bit of chunkiness, the bite from garlic and onion, the freshness of lots of cucumber. So here's my take. Recipe after the jump:


2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups cucumber, peeled and diced
1 cup red onion, diced
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pound country style bread, crusts removed
1 cup water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably a fruity Spanish oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Chopped cucumber, tomatoes, red onions, parsley, bell pepper, or hard boiled egg.
Drizzle with olive oil.

1. Soak bread in 1 cup water for about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in food processor or blender, process tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and garlic until no large pieces remain.

3. Squeeze bread dry; crumble. Mix bread with oil, vinegar, salt and cumin. Add to vegetable mixture; blend. If gazpacho is too thick, add a little water. Taste for seasoning; if desired, add more salt and cumin.

4. Force gazpacho through strainer or food mill if desired. Refrigerate 2 to 4 hours or until very well chilled before serving.

5. Serve in glasses as a beverage or in bowls as a soup with desired garnishes.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

if you watch this and you don't cry, you may not have a heart

And I don't mean cry because of the soundtrack...

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sunday supper: embrace the slime

It's true, the slime of okra can be somewhat off-putting. But the thing to remember is that while it really looks slimy, it doesn't really feel slimy. Plus, that slime serves as a pretty nifty thickener when okra is used in stews and gumbos. But there is much more to okra than stews.

I mean, okra really is a summer vegetable, and stew is not so much a summer dish, so doesn't it make sense that okra should have some more versatile applications that highlight it's freshness? It makes complete sense to pair it with other classic summer vegetables - like tomatoes and corn. This is done beautifully in this recipe for a skillet salsa from The Kitchen Sink, a food blog far more worthy of your perusing than this one.

I served this winner with baked wild striped bass, a perfect summer menu, and nothing to feel guilty about, for a change. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Cooking Light

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup fresh yellow corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound okra, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 3 1/2 cups)
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add corn; saute 3 minutes. Add jalapeno, garlic and okra; saute 3 minutes. Stir in spinach; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in tomatoes and remaining ingredients.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

another day, another gelato

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed with last week's white peach gelato, because I just felt that if I had followed my instincts and not gone with so much water, it would have turned out creamier and less icy. In any case, we still ate every bit of it, so obviously it wasn't bad. But as is my way, I wanted another shot at it. This time, I decided to go with blueberries, my favorite fruit of all time.

Whereas the white peach recipe fell somewhere between a gelato and a sorbet, this recipe fell somewhere between a gelato and an ice cream. It required a bit more work and patience, calling for cooking the berries then cooling for a few hours. This is always the hardest part.

In the end, the added time was well worth it, as this one came out exactly as I had hoped. Creamy, full of blueberry flavor, fresh and sweet. One thing I might choose to do next time is strain the fruit after cooking. Though I have had blueberry gelato with the skins left in, I thought there was a little too much of it in this batch.

One word of warning: this will turn your mouth purple. Recipe after the jump:


2 1/2 cups blueberries, picked over
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup cold milk (whole)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

Combine the blueberries, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the blueberries soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and puree. Alternately, you can put the mixture through a food mill. Stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest, then chill the fruit puree until it is completely cold.

Just before you make the gelato, add the milk and cream to the blueberry puree. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the gelato in an air-tight container and press a piece of plastic wrap against the top surface to prevent ice crystals from forming. Cover the container with a lid and freeze for up to 1 week.

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