Tuesday, April 28, 2009

easy weeknight dinner: cinnamon chicken

Remember that episode of Little House on the Prairie where Mrs. Oleson tries to snag Almanzo for Nellie by having her cook him dinner, but Nellie can't cook so Laura offers to help her, all the while plotting to sabotage the dinner because she's really in love with Almanzo but she's still a kid and he doesn't see her that way? Well, the dish Laura is supposed to cook for them is cinnamon chicken. But she "accidentally" uses cayenne instead of cinnamon and totally ruins the dinner set-up. Of course, it all backfires on Laura, who gets in big trouble when Caroline finds out, plus Nellie gets back at her by feeding her incorrect information for her teacher's exam. They end up having a huge catfight in the mud, then Almanzo takes Laura home to help her clean up (because, let's face it, he loved her from the very beginning), and Charles barges in and sees Laura in a robe and thinks Almanzo has taken advantage of her. It's actually a two-part episode, that's how awesome it all is. Anyway, what was my point? Oh yeah, cinnamon chicken. I always thought cinnamon chicken sounded tasty, but of course I have no idea what Laura's cinnamon chicken contained. So I just searched around for something that sounded tasty, and this was the result.

There really is nothing more to this recipe than some cinnamon and some ginger. But the best part is that you end up cooking your starch right in the same pan, which I always appreciate. You also use the same seasoning for the couscous, and the golden raisins are the perfect hint of sweetness to give this dish a bit of a Moroccan flair. I can imagine that if Laura did cook this chicken and Nellie passed it off as her own with Almanzo, history may have turned out a bit differently and the next generation of Wilder kids would have been really really blonde. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Epicurious.com

4 whole chicken legs (about 3 pounds)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon ground ginger, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup golden raisins, or mixed chopped dried fruit (such as currants, apricots, and prunes)
1 14-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
1 cup couscous
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint, divided

Preheat oven to 375°F. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces, skin side down, and cook until skin is brown, about 8 minutes. Turn chicken and transfer skillet to oven. Roast chicken until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; tent with foil.

Discard excess chicken drippings from the pan, leaving about 1 tbsp of fat. Add onion to drippings; sauté onion over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add raisins and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ginger; stir to coat. Add broth; bring to boil. Remove skillet from heat, stir in couscous and 1 teaspoon mint. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork to separate and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mound couscous on platter; place chicken atop couscous. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon mint and serve.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

sunset park food binge: chinese long beans

We're finally getting pockets of gorgeous weather here and there in NYC, and it is especially nice that these pockets tend to happen on the weekend. Last Saturday we had an amazing spring day and it was the perfect day to spend eating our way through Sunset Park, Brooklyn. We were taken on this food tour by the lovely Lofts twins, Greg and Steve, Sunset Park residents and champions. And - perfect for us - big time foodies. The food tour included Banh Mi, oyster cakes, curry fish balls, fried taro, chicken wings, spicy squid, hand-pulled noodles, donuts, cream buns, bubble tea, and plenty of grocery shopping in the numerous Asian markets along the way.

Sunset Park contains one of three Chinatowns in NYC. It's the smallest, but it's not small, and it has the advantage of being somewhat less insanely crowded than either the Manhattan or Flushing Chinatowns. Whenever I'm in any of the three Chinatowns, I go buckwild buying groceries. There are a lot of treats that I grew up on that I can only find in Chinatown - pork buns, sticky rice, Chinese broccoli, fresh water chestnuts, lotus root, steamed flower buns, Shanghai Noodles, the list goes on and on. I lugged a whole lotta groceries home on the subway that day. One of those items were these Chinese long beans.

Chinese long beans are pretty similar to string beans and can generally be used interchangeably. Their texture is a little less snappy than green beans, but I love how thin they are, and I think they have a distinctly different flavor. As with string beans, I prepare long beans in a super simple way because I mostly just want to enjoy their fresh flavor. Recipe after the jump:


1 lb Chinese long beans, stem ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp water
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
2 scallions, chopped

Mix together the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, water, and sugar and set aside. Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Add the canola oil to the hot pan and heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant, being careful not to burn it. Add the long beans and saute for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften. Add the liquid and toss to coat, when the liquids begin to boil, lower heat to a strong simmer and allow the liquids to reduce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow beans to simmer until tender-crisp, it should not take more than a few minutes. Add in the chopped scallions just before taking it off the heat, reserving a few tablespoons for garnish. Serve with steamed white rice.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

sunday supper: pomegranate-glazed cornish game hens

Sweeeeet. I love a chicken with a sweet, tangy, crisp skin. You really can't beat that. And you really can't beat how completely easy it is to achieve that. These little cornish game hens with a pomegranate-honey glaze have the zing of ginger and the mellowness of scallions for an Asian-inspired flavor.

Not to mention how juicy these little hens come out. The breast meat doesn't dry out at all, the leg meat is super succelent, and a little 1-pound bird is the perfect size for a hearty Sunday Supper. And all there is to it is a little brushing, and 1 hour of your time. Recipe after the jump:


2 rock cornish game hens (approx 1 to 1 1/2 pounds each)
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup pure pomegranate juice (be sure this is not a juice blend)
1 1/2 tbsp honey
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the hens and pat very dry with paper towels. Truss the birds, then season liberally with kosher salt, rubbing it into the skin. Place the birds in a roasting or baking pan and roast dry for 15 minutes.

While the birds are roasting, heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and allow to heat. Add the ginger and garlic and saute until fragrant, being careful to not allow it to burn. Add the scallions and saute until softened. Add the pomegranate juice and the honey and stir until the honey is well dissolved. Lower the heat to a very gentle simmer.

After the hens have roasted for 15 minutes, lower the heat to 350. Brush the birds well with the pomegranate glaze. Continue to roast the birds, basting every 15 minutes, until they have cooked for 1 hour total.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

true fusion: kedgeree

A few years ago some Brits made me a interesting dinner that I'd never had before: Kedgeree. It was my kind of food. Rice and stuff, all mixed up in a vat. You know how I love vat food. But this had an interesting flavor and a curious heritage. Clearly it is a fusion of Indian and British flavors, but it's primary origin seems to be under question. Some say it comes from Scotland and was taken to India by troops during the British Raj, where it adopted it's Indian flavors. Others say it originated in India and was brought back to the UK by British soldiers where lentils were swapped out for fish and it transformed into a breakfast dish. Chicken and the egg I guess.

So nowadays, Kedgeree is all about smoked fish. Usually haddock, but I went with this gorgeous smoked trout. Because it's gorgeous.

Another important component of kedgeree is hard boiled egg. The first time I had it, it was chopped up and mixed in with that vat-food style I so love. But I guess many people just halve or quarter the eggs, and I guess it looks a little nicer that way. Otherwise this dish just looked like a pile of rice. I also used brown basmati rice instead of white because it's what I had. This did take quite a bit longer to cook as a result, but the nutty flavor of the rice was really fantastic. And finally, I threw in about a cup of freshly shelled peas because it needed something green, and I figured peas are pretty British. Recipe after the jump:


2 tbsp ghee
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 cup vegetable or chicken stock, or water
salt and pepper, to taste
6-8 ounces smoked trout
1 cup fresh shelled peas (or frozen)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 eggs

In a medium pan, heat the ghee on medium heat until ripply. Add the onion and sweat for about 5 minutes. Add the rice, curry powder, and paprika and saute until the rice is coated with oil. Add the stock or water, bring to a strong boil, then lower to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 35-40 minutes until water is absorbed and rice is tender.

While the rice is cooking, place the eggs in a small pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cover, turn off the heat, and allow to sit undisturbed for 7 minutes. Remove the eggs to a bowl of cold water and peel immediately. Set the eggs aside until the rice is done.

When the rice has about 5 minutes left to cook, stir in the peas. Once the rice is fully cooked, flake the smoked trout and stir into the rice to heat through. Add the parsley. Serve with the eggs quartered, or chop the eggs and mix in.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

recipe for passover: mama j-cat's matzo lasagna

I know that Passover is just about over, but I'm pretty sure it's impossible to not have some leftover matzo. So why not do something fun and strange with it? This Matzo Lasagna is a recipe from J-Cat's mom. I first had it a couple of years ago at his sister's seder, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. So I decided to get the recipe and make it for J-Cat, who is a sucker for nostalgic foods that he ate growing up. The secret ingredient that really makes this lasagna sing is wine. The recipe doesn't specify what kind of wine, but I thought to myself that back in the day when it was probably written, the only kind of kosher for Passover wine most people could get their hands on was Manischewitz, that classic, super sweet concord grape wine. These days there are many more choices of kosher wines with much subtler flavors, so I went with a Riesling, which has a fruity sweetness that approximates Manischewitz without knocking you over the head with it. Recipe after the jump:

NOTE: This recipe makes a giant pan appropriate for a large seder. I halved the recipe for the two of us and had plenty left over for the next day.

6 large onions, chopped
6 to 8 matzohs
3 to 4 lbs chopped meat
2 to 3 can tomato mushroom sauce
6 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup wine
garlic, oregano and parsley to taste
1/2 cup oil

Saute the onions in oil until tender. Add meat and cook until red color of the meat disappears. Add sauce, salt, pepper,garlic, oregano, and parsley to taste.

In separate bowl beat the eggs and wine. Grease foil Lasagna pan. Dip matzoh in egg wine mixture and line the pan. Add 1/3 of the meat mixture. Place matzah dipped in wine on top. Repeat layers ending with matzah on top. Pour remaing egg wine mixture over top. Cover with foil and bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 1/2 hour.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

pain francais

And I'm back. If anyone even noticed I was gone. Things were a little quiet on *the passionfruit* last week, due in part to the computer being out for repairs. But alas, he is back and ready to gobble up endless food photos. There is, however, another reason I have been a little scarce on here. I haven't been cooking. Shhhh. I mean, I've been cooking here and there, but nothing much of interest. Basically, J-Cat and I had use of a car two weekends in a row, and that resulted in driving all over the city and eating everything that we're normally too lazy to drag our asses out to on the subway. The list includes Uighur food in Brighton Beach, Uzbek food in Rego Park, Ukrainian food also in Brighton Beach, Italian in Tudor City, Banh Mi in our own neighborhood, and a failed attempt at IHOP in Jackson Heights. Yeah, we tried to go to IHOP. Give me a break, we never get crap like that in the city, as evidenced by the enormously huge line trying to get a table on a Saturday morning.

Anyway, yesterday was J-Cat's birthday(yay!). We celebrated on Saturday with a trip to the famous Mandolin Bros. shop in Staten Island for his brand new Collings MT A-Style Mandolin. He's in heaven. For dinner that night, we went to the fantastic Convivio in Tudor City. Four courses for $59, and some of the best pasta I have ever had. This place is a true gem. We struck out yesterday by going to a supposed bluegrass brunch at Superfine in Dumbo. It was both not bluegrass music and not super fine. But he was happy nonetheless because our Convivio dinner more than made up for it. In fact, all of our awesome food adventures over the last couple of weeks were more than enough to satisfy us for a while. At least, until we buy a car of our own, which we are now determined to do because it is just too much fun motoring around to the far corners of the city for the best food it has to offer.

So I don't have any good recipe for you today. I have a pretty picture of some delicious french toast I made a while back, but it's not really a recipe. It's just some great brioche from Amy's bread, dipped in an egg and cream mixture. Can't beat that. It prompted J-Cat to ask if they will have french toast in Paris, which, actually, I don't know the answer to, but am excitedly looking forward to finding out.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

recipe for passover: cilantro-mint quinoa with cashews

Did you know that quinoa is kosher for Passover? Quinoa, though treated like a grain, is actually a seed, and thus not considered kitniyot. I know some people who are pretty excited to know this. I mean, I actually love matzo, but I can see how it gets old. So if you're looking for a new side dish for your Pesach table, try a quinoa pilaf. My pilaf has a bit of a middle eastern flair, spiked with cilantro and mint and topped with toasted cashews. Recipe after the jump:


1 cup quinoa
3 cups water or chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/3 cup toasted cashews (toast on a dry pan until fragrant and brown)

Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear.

Bring the water or broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt and the quinoa. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and translucent, and each grain displays a little thread. Drain and return to the pan. Cover the pan with a clean dish towel, replace the lid and allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork to separate. Drizzle the olive oil over the quinoa, then add the chopped herbs and cashews. Toss to mix well and taste for season. Season with additional salt to taste.

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easy weeknight dinner: asparagus, leek, and grueyere quiche

Eggs + Pie = Delicious. I'm officially protesting the recent popularity of the "crustless quiche". There are two major reasons that the idea offends me: 1. It's an oxymoron. If there is no crust, it is not a quiche. Perhaps it is a frittata. 2. The crust is the best part. No crust means that I am no longer half as interested.

I have tried to figure out why one would want to make a crustless quiche, and I'm guessing there are two major motivations: 1. People believe crust is a pain to make, or 2. Crust is not good for you. To that I say, get over it. Crust is pretty simple, but if you really don't want to bother, just buy a pre-made crust. It's still better than no crust. And as for it's relative unhealthiness, you can just pack your quiche full of healthy vegetables to counteract it. And as a wise friend just told me, if you drink tea after you eat, it doesn't count. Recipe after the jump:


1 tbsp butter
1 large leek, cut in quarters lengthwise, rinsed thoroughly, and thinly sliced
1 shallot, minced
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 pie crust for a 9"-inch single crust pie, or storebought crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Saute the shallot and leeks in the butter until just softened. Add the asparagus and saute until bright green and tender, about 6-7 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper.

Place pie crust on a baking sheet. Spread the vegetables on the bottom of the crust, then top with the cheese. Pour in the egg mixture evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes until the center is just set, rotating once during baking. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

intoxicating honey wheat bread

There is great danger in baking my own bread. Namely, that I will eat an entire loaf of bread. No matter how great a loaf I can get at the numerous fantastic bakeries in this city, for some reason even the simplest loaf baked at home will beat it. I guess there is just no comparing a loaf of bread straight out the oven, even to a loaf baked mere hours before.

This honey wheat loaf is bread baking at it's most basic and simple, and makes me wonder why I ever thought that baking bread was remotely complicated. The only issue that I had was my loaf pan. For some freakish reason, I have a 9.5" loaf pan, and most recipes I've come across are for 8" loaf pans. So I always end up with bread that looks a little flat and depressing, even if it rises very well. I know it doesn't really make a difference, but I think I have to get an 8" pan to satisfy my cooking OCD. Recipe after the jump:


1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110F)
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup bread flour (if you don't have bread flour, AP is fine)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp salt

In a large bowl, stir together yeast, warm water, and honey. Let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy. Stir in melted butter, flours, and salt. You may need to add as much as 1/2 cup additional flour if your dough is too sticky, otherwise stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead into a smooth ball, about 2 minutes. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, 1-1 1/2 hours.

Remove dough again to a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate dough. Press the dough into a large rectangle, then fold over in thirds like a letter. Starting at one of the open ends (not a crease end), roll the dough into a cylinder and use the side of your palm to seal the edges. Place seam-side down in a greased loaf pan, cover with the kitchen towel, and let dough rise until doubled, 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F.

Bake for 25 minutes at 400F, until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Let loaf cool before slicing. Makes one loaf.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon!!!

So maybe this doesn't look like much. It looks like dark, shiny bacon. But picture this bacon being made during a cooking show, and a crew of a dozen people sitting at the edges of their seats just waiting to lunge as soon as we hear "cut!". Because this particular bacon is - simply put - magical. And when you find out how easy it is to make it, you'll really believe in magic.

This is the most talked about, most eaten, most craved, and probably most crew-cooked recipe of the whole run of our newest show 5 Ingredient Fix, featuring our newest star Claire Robinson, and premiering this Saturday, April 4, at 9:30 AM. DON'T MISS IT. Srsly.

And as a bonus, check out the show page for some behind the scenes photos shot by yours truly, plus watch the FN Dish Behind the Scenes videos and see me laughing like a giant doofus. Twice.


1 lb thick cut bacon
1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
1 tsp dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, then set a baking rack (nonstick if you have it) into the pan. Lay the bacon strips onto the rack. In a small bowl, mix together the maple syrup and dijon mustard, then brush thickly onto the bacon. Bacon for 12 minutes, then flip the strips and brush the glaze onto the other side. Bake for another 10 minutes or until they're the crispness that you like. I like them very crisp, and I let them rest a few minutes when they're out of the oven to harden slightly.

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