Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Momofuku's Ginger Scallion Noodles

I was looking through the New Books section in my local public library when I came upon a copy of the Momofuku cookbook. I snatched it from the shelf so fast I probably left a trail of smoke. Momofuku is a restaurant group based in New York City. The cookbook, written by chef David Chang with Peter Meehan, interweaves recipes from three of Momofuku's restaurants in the East Village (a fourth restaurant recently opened in midtown) with Chang's story.

Chang's tale of his not-so-smooth rise to award-winning chef is a great read and the book captures Chang's "badass" intense style (being a "badass" chef apparently involves heavy use of the adjective "fucking"). What I particularly admired was Chang's ability to turn things around when his restaurants were on the brink of failure, his passion and creativity, and his unerring commitment to quality.

The recipes in this book, however, are not exactly home cook friendly. There are two issues: first, many recipes are complex. For example, the "goal" of the "brick" chicken recipe "is to completely bone out a whole chicken and end up with two boneless halves," which are then made into a "brick" shape using transglutaminase or meat glue. (This explanation is abridged; the recipe runs three pages.) Another example is the 48-hour short rib recipe, which the authors note is "not a reasonable proposition for the home cook unless you are willing to buy a vacuum-sealing machine and fabricate a water circulator situation." Hey, I consider myself a reasonably adventurous cook, but vacuum-sealing machines and water circular situations are probably not in my future. 

Second, many ingredients used in this cookbook are difficult to find, especially if you, like me, don't live in a city with a large Asian population (and lovely Asian groceries). And I know, as the book rather unhelpfully says in its sourcing section, if you're unfamiliar with an ingredient or can't find it, Google it (well duh). I just think it's generally impractical to order ingredients online to try a recipe.

For these Ginger Scallion Noodles (among the book's most accessible to home cooks), I used regular soy sauce instead of usukuchi, a light soy sauce used often by Chang. After looking for usukuchi in four stores, I just gave up. Surprisingly, I even had a difficult time finding sherry vinegar. For the noodles, I used lo mein instead of ramen (as it turns out Chang also initially used fresh lo mein before he found someone to make ramen to his specifications). Despite these changes, the noodles were delicious and I will make them again, but, honestly, I probably won't be buying this cookbook.

Please don't get me wrong, I actually appreciate the fact that the recipes in this book are not home cook friendly. After all, when I go to a restaurant I generally like to order something I couldn't easily make at home. This book actually makes me want to eat at a Momofuku restaurant.  Until then, I'll just settle for these noodles.

Ginger Scallion Noodles
Adapted, by neccessity, from Momofuku

2-1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts), about 2 bunches
1/2 cup finely minced, peeled ginger
1/4 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
1-1/2 tsp soy sauce (or usukuchi)
3/4 tsp sherry vinegar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
6 ounces noodles, such as ramen or lo mein (fresh if you can find it)
Sliced scallions (optional garnish)

In a bowl, mix scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand 15 minutes before using. Refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature and stir before using. Makes about 3 cups.

To put together dish, boil 6 ounces of noodles, drain and toss with 6 tablespoons of scallion-ginger sauce (above). Top the bowl with 1/4 cup each of bamboo shoots (below), quick-pickled cucumbers (below) and pan-roasted cauliflower (below). Garnish with chopped scallions.

Bamboo Shoots

One 12-oz can sliced bamboo shoots, drained, rinsed
1 splash each: grapeseed oil, Asian sesame oil, soy sauce
Kosher salt, if needed

For bamboo shoots, in small saucepan, combine bamboo shoots, grapeseed oil, sesame oil and soy sauce. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Taste; season with salt if needed. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, up to 4 days. Reheat before adding to noodles.
Quick-Pickled Cucumbers

2 Kirby cucumbers, cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds (about 4 cups)
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt

For quick-pickled cucumbers, in small mixing bowl, combine cucumbers, sugar and salt. Toss by hand to coat well. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 4 hours.

Pan-Roasted Cauliflower

1 small head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
salt to taste

Divide cauliflower into florets. Heat oil in a hot wide pan, add florets and cook about 8 minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally,until florets are dotted with brown and cooked all the way through; season with salt.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Celery Root & Roasted Garlic Puree

Celery root is not going to win any beauty contests. It'll never be voted most popular. In fact, when I picked up a couple of these gnarly knobs at my CSA I heard several people ask "what are these?" which was inevitably followed by "what do I do with it?"

Celery root is actually a kind of misnomer. It is not the root of the much more common celery stalk. But celery root, also known as celeriac, is a member of the same family and it does have a similar flavor.

The best thing about celery root is that it's really delicious. This puree is a great alternative to mashed potatoes. It would make a luxurious side next to a holiday turkey or even perhaps, even better, as a bed for braised meat. Short ribs or lamb shank anyone?

Celery Root and Roasted Garlic Puree

2 medium celery roots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1-1/2 cups chicken broth (low sodium preferably) or vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
4 cloves roasted garlic (or more or less to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Simmer celery root and broth in saucepan until tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Transfer celery root, reserving liquid, to food processor or blender and puree with cream, butter and garlic -- adding reserved broth as needed for a smooth but not too runny texture. Salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Garlic
From Simply Recipes

1 (or more) whole heads of garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil per head of garlic

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2. Remove the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Cut off 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top of cloves with a knife to expose the individual cloves of garlic.

3. Place the garlic heads in a baking pan. Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil over each head and coat well using your fingers. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at  for 30-35 minutes (cloves should feel soft when pressed).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pork Tenderloin with Creamed Corn and Apple-Cranberry Chutney

I have really come to appreciate pork tenderloin. It's easy and quick to cook. It's tasty and it's economical. What more could you ask for?

This recipe combines rich, creamy corn, savory herb-marinated pork and a sweet-spicy-tart fruit chutney in one exquisitely balanced bite. In the summer, I like to use fresh corn and cook the pork on the grill. But, to me, this dish has more of a cool weather vibe; maybe because it's a little heavier than typical summer fare or maybe it's the apple chutney.

A load of just-picked apples -- mine came after my mom went apple picking in Vermont -- presents the perfect excuse to make this in the fall. This recipe makes more apple-cranberry chutney than needed, but it won't go to waste. Use it with chicken or turkey or another cut of pork.

Pork Tenderloin with Creamed Corn and Apple-Cranberry Chutney
Adapted from Bon Appetit

For the pork:

2/3 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
5 garlic cloves
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 shallots
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
2 12- to 14-ounce pork tenderloins, trimmed

For the corn:

6 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen, thawed
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1-1/2 to 2 cups whipping cream (or half cream, half half-and-half)
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the pork, combine first 6 ingredients in processor and chop finely. Blend in oil. Transfer marinade to glass baking dish. Add pork tenderloins to marinade and turn to coat. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

For creamed corn:

Cook 1 cup corn kernels in boiling salted water until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain well and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in chicken broth until mixture thickens and boils. Stir in cream. Bring mixture to simmer. Add remaining 5 cups of corn and simmer until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Transfer to processor and coarsely puree. Stir in 1 cup cooked corn kernels.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Remove pork from marinade. Add pork to skillet and sauté until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork until a meat thermometer inserted into center registers 180°F, about 10 minutes (or more).

Apple-Cranberry Chutney

2 cups apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
1 cup dried cranberries
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger (or about 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger)

Stir vinegar and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Boil without stirring until syrupy and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add all remaining ingredients. Simmer until apples are tender, liquid is absorbed, and mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

To put together: Bring corn to simmer. Spoon corn onto plates, dividing equally. Slice pork tenderloins and place atop corn, dividing equally. Top with Apple-Cranberry Chutney and serve.

Serves six

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tangerine Vanilla Loaf Cake

It's fall and many food blogs are featuring recipes made with apples and pears. While I too find apples and pears worthy inspiration at this time of year, autumn also brings to my mind other seasonal fruit -- citrus.

You see, we lived in Florida for five years and October marks the start of the state's citrus harvest. Large trucks filled with juice oranges become a common sight on the highways and fruit stands are stacked high with several varieties of just-picked, juicy citrus. We luckily lived near a small private citrus grove, where we picked oranges, grapefruit, tangelos (a delicious cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit) and, my favorite, tangerines.

Tangerines, also known as mandarins, are smaller and sweeter than oranges, with a distinctive flavor. They also have looser skin than oranges, making them easier to peel -- and easier to eat.  Freshly squeezed tangerine juice is totally luscious, great on its own or mixed with champagne (tangerine mimosa anyone?) I also like to use the juice in cooking. For example, a spritz in an Asian stir fry provides a nice twist.  

So when I saw this recipe for a quick bread using clementines, I instantly thought tangerines. I used five tangerines in total, but more may be needed depending on the size of the tangerines. I also substituted one vanilla bean (I only had one on hand) for a teaspoon of vanilla extract and it worked out fine. The bread, which I'm calling a loaf cake, is moist and full of tangerine flavor; a great afternoon snack with a cup of tea.

Tangerine Vanilla Loaf Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 tablespoon tangerine zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice, divided
2 tangerines, supremed* (for zest, juice and supremes about 5-6 tangerines total)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
2 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an flour 9-by-5 inch loaf pan.

2. Mix together 1/4 cup tangerine juice, heavy cream and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking poder and salt.

3. With a mixer on medium, combine tangerine zest, butter, 1 cup of sugar and vanilla seeds (about 4 minutes). Add eggs one at a time. With mixer on low, add about a third of the flour mixture, then half of the cream mixture, another third of flour, the remaining cream and then the last of the flour.

4. Fold in tangerine supremes and pour batter into loaf pan. Gently smooth top.

5. Place loaf pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake 55-65 minutes or until tester comes out clean from center of loaf.

6. While loaf is baking, put 1/2 cup of tangerine juice and 1/4 cup of sugar in small sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer forthree minutes.

7. Remove loaf from oven. With a skewer, poke holes all over the top and brush with half the tangerine syrup. Allow loaf to cool about 15 minutes, remove from pan, and cool completely.

8. Brush the rest of the tangerine syrup onto the sides and top (again) of loaf.

* To supreme the tangerines, use a small paring knife and slice off the top and bottom, to expose the pulp. Starting at the top, where the pith (white part) meets the pulp, slice off the skin following the curve of the fruit. When all the peel is removed, slice out each segment by cutting in towards the center of the fruit along the membranes. Remove the now supremed segments.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Swiss Chard Ricotta Gnudi with Fall Mushrooms

I've been a Bon Appetit subscriber for longer than I can remember. Recently, there's been talk that Bon Appetit and its sister publication, Gourmet, may face reduced publishing schedules and "streamlining" due to a downturn in advertising revenues. This is a shame. I look forward to receiving Bon Appetit each month and I am frequently inspired by their recipes and photographs. 

Although I spend a good amount of time gaping at the photos, I realized that I rarely make any of the recipes. I mean, I mean to, but I just don't get around to it very often.  So, I've decided to make at least one Bon Appetit recipe a month as a sort of show of support. This month I made Swiss Chard Ricotta Gnudi with Fall Mushrooms.

This recipe had several things going for it as far as I was concerned. For one thing, I had just picked up a bunch of Swiss chard from my CSA and, for another, I have been making homemade ricotta cheese and this seemed like an ideal way to use it. But the gnudi were what really sold me on this recipe.

Gnudi (pronounced nudie) means naked in Italian and, true to their name, they're like ravioli filling without the pasta. I adore gnocchi and gnudi are gnocchish (is that a word?), but gnudi are made with ricotta cheese instead of potatoes and are more delicate and creamy than gnocchi.

Actually, gnudi are easier to make than gnocchi, although they do need to be refrigerated overnight, which makes this a plan-ahead recipe. The gnudi are served with sauteed mushrooms and a reduced chicken broth -- both easy to make -- although I probably should have reduced the broth more. Overall, though, this recipe was a tasty success and I plan to use it as a base to experiment with gnudi.  

Swiss Chard Gnudi with Fall Mushrooms
From Bon Appetit

Serves 6

1 pound Swiss chard, stem ends trimmed
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup all purpose flour plus additional for shaping dumplings
6 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 shallots, thickly sliced
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms (such as shiitake, chanterelle, and crimini), stems trimmed and reserved, caps thinly sliced
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, divided
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt

To prepare gnudi:

1. Cut chard leaves from each side of center stem. Cut stems into matchstick-size strips. Cover and refrigerate stems for sauce.

2. Cook chard leaves in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain; cool. Squeeze chard leaves until very dry; place in processor. Using on/off turns, finely chop chard. Add ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, shallot, egg, coarse salt, pepper, and nutmeg; process to blend. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup flour; stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate dough overnight.

To prepare broth:

1. In large saucepan, bring chicken broth, sliced shallots, and mushroom stems to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture is reduced to 3 cups, about 35 to 40 minutes (after 40 minutes I still had more than 3 cups). Strain and discard solids. Return broth to saucepan. (The broth can be made 1 day ahead. Just cover and chill, then rewarm before continuing.)

2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat; add sliced mushroom caps. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until mushrooms are tender and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add reserved thinly sliced chard stems and sauté until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. (The mushrooms and chard stems can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

3. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon some flour onto large plate. Working in batches, drop heaping teaspoonfuls gnudi dough onto plate with flour to form about 36 gnudi. Using floured hands, gently shape each into 1 1/2-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick oval. Tap off excess flour; transfer gnudi to prepared baking sheet. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

4. Bring large wide pot of salted water to boil. Slide gnudi into pot; cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot broth. Season broth to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

6. Divide mushrooms and chard stems among 6 bowls. Add broth, dividing equally (about 1/2 cup each). Using slotted spoon, divide gnudi among bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cherry Tomato & Three Cheeses Tart

Every year our garden has a "star," that one plant or group of plants that produces an abundance (or over abundance) of gorgeous vegetables. One year it was the bell pepper, we ate peppers stuffed every which way and ended up with jars of roasted, marinated peppers. Another year it was yellow squash. We snuck squash into nearly every dish we made and took squash wherever we went to give away.  Still another year, it was tomatillos -- they grew like weeds and I still can't figure out why they're priced in stores like some rare commodity.  Then there was the year of the Jerusalem artichokes. We had so many, my husband finally just refused to eat them.

This year our garden star is the cherry tomato. For the last three weeks, we've been harvesting about a pint a day of Sweet 100s, Yellow Pears and, my favorite, the orange Sun Gold cherry. These babies are so easy to use up. They make great snacks on their own; sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic, and you've got a tasty pasta sauce. But I wanted to find other ways to use them, so came up with my borlotti bean salad and I made this appealing and delicious tart.

And it's so, so easy. I made it more complicated by making my own ricotta cheese (which is also easy and so good) using this recipe, and I suppose you could really do it up and make your own puff pastry, but I'm not there yet.

Cherry Tomato and Three Cheese Tart
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
About a pint of cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Chopped fresh basil, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Gently roll out puff pastry on lightly floured surface to even out. With a knife, score (don’t cut all the way through) a half inch border around the outside of the pastry as if making a frame. Place scored puff pastry on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled baking sheet.

3. Drain any excess liquid from the ricotta cheese. In medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, gorgonzola and pesto. Mix well. Spread cheese mixture evenly on puff pastry inside of border.

4. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place cut side up, tightly side by side, inside border.  Drizzle tomatoes lightly with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and top with parmesan cheese. Brush 1/2-inch pastry border lightly with olive oil.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pastry is puffed and golden. Let tart cool for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

Serves 4

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

The "season" may be over here on Long Island, but as far as I'm concerned summer doesn't end until September 21. So, I'm still churning out ice cream (as if it needs to be summer to make ice cream...I think not.)

My latest ice cream inspiration is the fresh local peach.  These local peaches -- still available at farm stands -- are so juicy and sweet that I've been looking for any excuse to eat them.  I eat them with yogurt and honey for breakfast.  I conjured up a kind of upside down caramelized peach cheesecake and actually attempted to reproduce this dream dessert, which is, how can I say this, still a work in progress. And I made a few batches of peach ice cream.

I made a few batches, because I wanted the ice cream to be really peachy.  Several recipes I reviewed didn't use very many peaches or obscured the peaches with other flavors. I wanted pure peach and this recipe I concocted delivers.

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

2 cups cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pound peaches
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rum
Juice of one lemon

1. Whisk the the cream and milk together with the sugar in a saucepan and heat just until bubbles form around the edges.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks thoroughly. Temper with about a cup of hot cream mixture. Whisk then add back to the rest of the cream mixture.

3. Cook over medium heat, stirring steadily, until the custard reaches 170 degrees F and coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. Stir in the vanilla, cover and put in the fridge to cool overnight.

4. Remove pits from peaches and peel. Chop the half of the peaches into 1/4 inch pieces and puree the other half in a food processor or blender. Combine the pureed and chopped peaches, and stir in the 1/4 cup of sugar, rum, and lemon juice. Put in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until slightly reduced and shiny. Refrigerate overnight.

5. Run the cream mixture through the ice cream machine for about 30 minutes. Toward the end, pour in the cold peach mixture or fold in by hand, if necessary. Freeze for at least four hours before serving.

Makes about 2 quarts.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thai Fried Chicken

I not sure what inspired me to tackle a this recipe for Thai fried chicken. I can't remember the last time I fried a chicken or even ate fried chicken. I blame it on geography. I live in the northeast, where fried chicken isn't exactly as popular as it is in the south.  My mother never made it (about as close as she got was Shake n' Bake and that does not count) and growing up I don't recall my friends eating fried chicken at home.

Plus all that hot oil makes me nervous; I was convinced I'd knock over the frying pan and start a grease fire. And speaking of grease, fried chicken isn't particularly the first thing that comes to mind when I think about healthy, low calorie eating.

Nevertheless, I got over my phobias when I saw this article on the Atlantic Food Channel. It sounded so good: spicy, crunchy Thai fried chicken. And it was good, with a zippy, crisp, golden crust encircling juicy, perfectly cooked chicken. I made both thighs and legs, but I'll probably use just thighs next time. Some of the article's commentors found it difficult to find cilantro root and used more stems instead, but I often buy cilantro in the grocery store with the root attached and I'm pleased to discover they can be used. For dipping, I used A Taste of Thai's Garlic Chili Pepper Sauce (I couldn't find Sriracha sauce).

2 lbs. chicken, thighs, legs or wings
2 large cilantro roots, scraped clean and finely chopped
5 cilantro stems, finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
7 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
7 tablespoons rice flour (I found rice flour made by Goya)
3/4 cup chicken
Oil for frying
Garlic Chili Pepper sauce, Sriracha sauce or Thai sweet chili sauce, for dipping

1. Place cilantro stems and roots and peppercorns in mortar and pestle and pound into a paste (or place in food processor to make paste). Add garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and keep pounding into a fine paste.

2. Put paste in large bowl, stir in fish sauce and chicken stock. Gradually add rice flour, stirring, to make a smooth wet batter.

3. Add chicken to batter, coat all pieces well and marinate in refridgerator overnight. (Can marinate for as little as two hours, but longer is better.)

4. Remove chicken from refridgerator and allow it to reach room temperature. Heat oil (I used canola) to 350 to 375 degrees F and fry chicken about 10 minutes each side until golden brown.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Long Island Crab & Corn Cakes

Whenever the topic is crabs -- or crab cakes—the state of Maryland comes to mind. But Maryland isn’t the only place to catch crabs, there’s plenty of blue crabs in the bays of Long Island and the season here is in full swing.

I like to go crabbing in the evening, when blue crabs swim to the surface and can be lured in toward a net with a flashlight. During the day, we toss in a line with bait (usually chicken) and wait for a tug to reel them in. And what do I do with them? After boiling the crabs and carefully picking the meat out of the shells, I make crab cakes.

This is my favorite recipe; it combines crabmeat and another seasonal Long Island treat -- corn. These two ingredients really work together well. There’s no need to catch your own crab, crabmeat from a fishmonger or canned crabmeat both work well. Serve them with some homemade tartar sauce.

1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 ear of fresh corn
16 ounces lump crabmeat
¾ to 1 cup fresh bread crumbs*
1 egg
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Vegetable oil, for cooking

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in small frying pan over low heat. Add shallots and cook until shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Steam corn or cook corn in boiling water about 4 minutes. Cool and remove kernels. Combine corn and crabmeat in large bowl. Add bread crumbs and mix lightly, trying to keep lumps of crabmeat intact.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together egg, mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, Old Bay and Worcestershire sauce. Mix in shallots and cilantro.
4. Pour egg mixture into crabmeat and gently combine. Divide mixture into about 6-8 portions and flatten into thick patties. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes to set.
5. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and a little vegetable oil, enough to coat the bottom of a large frying pan, over medium heat. Add crab cakes, in batches if necessary (do not crowd otherwise they will be difficult to flip) and sauté until golden brown on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Serve immediately.

*For breadcrumbs, can use about 5 inches of french bread. Slice as if making a sandwich and scrape out (or pinch out) white portion, leaving crusts.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Borlotti Bean Salad

My husband has this habit of buying mystery fruit and vegetables. When he brings these unknown items home, we have a conversation that goes something like this:

Me: What's this?
Him: It's a bean (or fruit or something equally obvious and unhelpful.)
Me: Well, what kind of bean?
Him: I'm not sure (or "I forgot.")
Me: So, what are you going to do with it?
Him: I don't know.

Yesterday he picked up a bunch of fresh, shelled, what-turned-out-to-be Borlotti beans. These tannish beans with pink splotches, about the size of kidney beans, are sometimes called cranberry beans. They're popular in Italy and Portugal, and no wonder -- their nutty flavor is delicious.

After finding out how long Borlotti beans need to cook, I came up with this salad recipe that includes roasted cherry tomatoes (the first big batch from my garden), sundried tomatoes, and a red wine vinaigrette with pesto. There was only one problem: I didn't make enough. This totally tasty recipe can easily be doubled.

For roasted cherry tomatoes:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. In medium bowl, mix tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet or pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 45 minutes, then set aside and let cool.

For Borlotti beans:
2 cups fresh, shelled Borlotti beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Salt, to taste

Over medium-low heat, cook sliced garlic and olive oil until garlic is fragrant, about a minute, Stir in Borlotti beans to coat in oil. Add water and pepper and simmer, covered, until beans are soft but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, salt to taste. Using slotted spoon, transfer beans into large bowl and cool.
For the salad:
Roasted cherry tomatoes
Cooked Borlotti beans
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped basil
Red wine vinaigrette, to taste (recipe below)

In bowl with beans, add roasted tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, chopped basil and enough vinaigrette to coat (or to taste, I probably used less than half amount below.) Toss well and serve. Adjust seasonings.
For red wine vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 generous tablespoon pesto

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil and then the pesto.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Asian Soba Noodle Salad

Sometimes I think I could eat something every day and never get tired of it. This summer, this salad featuring soba noodles, Napa cabbage and a really tasty Asian-inspired dressing, is one of those dishes.

I’m a big fan of soba noodles, skinny Japanese noodles made from buckwheat. I’m also a fan of Napa cabbage, a light, crunchy cabbage that is ubiquitous in Chinese stir fries. And it’s a good thing, because we recently had somewhat of a Napa cabbage crisis: A friend gave use several heads of cabbage the same week our CSA delivered a head.

My husband’s solution to this crisis was kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish made by fermenting cabbage and other vegetables. We used this YouTube video to make the kimchi and it turned out great (although I am still humming the background music.) I have to say that, for me, it was an entirely unique way of preparing food. It also called for ingredients I’ve never used, like sweet rice flour and garlic chives. Who knew?

I, on the other hand, knew exactly what to do with the cabbage: Make this salad. It’s perfect for lunch or a light summer supper. I think it would also work well as a side dish with grilled meat.

For the salad:
3-4 ounces snap peas or snow peas (one big handful), blanched 3 minutes
1 bunch soba noodles (they usually come packaged in 3 or 4 separate bunches), cooked about 5 minutes, drained and rinsed under cold water
Half head napa cabbage (depending on its size and your taste) halved lengthwise and sliced in thin ribbons.
3 scallions, cut in 1/4 inch slices, including green part
1/2 cucumber (or one small cucumber), chopped 1/4 pieces
1 red peppers, cut in quarters lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 wide ribbons or julienned
1 carrot, made into ribbons with a peeler or julienned
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
A handful of sprouts (optional)
A handful peanuts (optional)

Mix all ingredients well in large bowl and toss with dressing.

For the dressing:1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of half of one lime
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalepeno pepper, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well or combine all ingredients in a tupperware type container, cover, and shake to combine.

Makes 2 generous main courses

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pasta with Feta Cheese, Spinach and Sundried Tomatoes

We’re having a heat wave here, with record high temperatures and stagnant, sultry air . In this weather, my strategy for cooking is simple: spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.
This recipe exemplifies the laziness of summer. Crumbled feta and grated parmesan cheeses are simply folded into hot pasta, then combined with a flavorful mixture of sautéed spinach, onions, garlic and sundried tomatoes. I used campelle, but other types of pasta that hold sauce well -- such as orecchiette, gemelli or fusilli -- will also work well.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 medium-large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (or more to taste)
1 6-7 oz. bag of baby spinach
1 lb. box pasta, such as campanelle
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt, to taste
1. In large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add chopped onions. Saute onions, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add red pepper flakes and sundried tomatoes, stir. Then add spinach, cooking until spinach is wilted. Set aside.
2. Cook pasta as instructed, drain and place hot pasta in large bowl. Add feta and parmesan cheeses and mix well, allowing cheeses to melt. Fold in spinach mixture, pepper and salt. Drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with parmesan cheese.
Serves 4

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mud Pie

I don't know for sure if mud pie originated in Mississippi (and apparently either does anyone else), but I do know it's one of my husband's favorite desserts. He used to get his mud pie fix from Starbucks, which, for an all-too-brief while, made a sort of ice cream sandwich version that was really great. I still search grocery freezer sections for their mud pies, but I haven't seen them for more than a year. So, when my husband's birthday came around last week, I decided to make a mud pie.

This recipe, based on one my mom used to make, is an ice cream pie as opposed to a gooey chocolate-filled pie also called mud pie. My mom made it the easy way; she just bought already-made coffee ice cream and chocolate sauce, adding kahlua to the sauce, then made a pie crust and put it together. Still in the midst of ice cream-making mania, I decided to make everything from scratch, but, to be honest, next time I'll probably skip the homemade ice cream and just mix in a couple of tablespoons of kahlua into a softened pint of Haagen-Dazs.

Mud Pie

For the crust:
1-1/4 cup chocolate wafer crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter

For the fudge sauce:
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon kahlua

For the coffee ice cream filling:
3/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup dark-roasted coffee beans
1-3/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon finely grinded espresso powder
1 tablespoon kahlua

1. Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine chocolate wafers and butter, stir until well blended. Press into 9-inch pie pan and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool completely.

2. Fudge Sauce: Combine in a bowl over hot (not boiling) water 1-1/2 C chocolate chips, heavy cream, and butter. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remover from heat, stir in kahlua or other coffee liquor. Chill 10 minutes. Spread 1/3 cup sauce on bottom of chocolate wafer crust. Chill 15 minutes. Reserve remaining fudge sauce for the top of the pie.

3. Coffee Ice Cream: Combine Milk and coffee beans in a heavy saucepan and heat over medium heat to a simmer. Pour hot mixture into a bowl, cover and set aside for an hour. In a large bowl, use a mixer to beat sugar and egg yolks until mixture is thick and pale yellow, about four minutes. Beat flour and salt into egg mixture. Reheat coffee mixture until bubbles form at the side, remove from heat and remove coffee beans from milk with slotted spoon. Slowly pour hot milk into eggs, whisking constantly, to temper eggs. Pour entire mixture back into the saucepan and place over low heat, whisking constantly until custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Do not boil. Remove from heat and pour coffee cusard through a strainer into a large bowl. Cool 5 minutes, then mix in cream, vanilla, espresso powder and kahlua. Chill, covered, at least 4 hours. Stir and freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturer instructions. When done, pour ice cream into pie crust and freeze until hard. Remove from freezer and cover with remaining fudge sauce. Return to freezer until set.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ginger Margaritas

A couple of weeks ago I went to Spice Market restaurant in New York City. We had a great meal, but days later I'm not thinking about the food I ate there (sorry, Jean-Georges Vongerichten), I'm obsessing about this cocktail. It may be because summer is finally in full swing here on Long Island, with high temperatures and high humidity, and it's hard to get inspired about cooking or even eating (shock!) meals. The idea of sitting on my porch with this cold, refreshing, slightly spicy margarita, though, is quite appealing.
Ginger Margarita
Spice Market via Food & Wine
For a single serving:
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons añejo tequila
1 1/2 tablespoons Ginger-Lime Syrup (recipe below)
1 tablespoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 lime wedge, for garnish
1. Mix the ground ginger and salt on a plate. Moisten the rim of a margarita glass with water and dip the rim in the ginger salt to coat.

2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the tequila, Ginger-Lime Syrup, Cointreau and lime juice and shake well. Strain the drink into the margarita glass, garnish with the lime wedge and serve.
For a pitcher:
2 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons kosher salt
16 ounces añejo tequila
4 ounces Ginger-Lime Syrup (recipe below)
3 ounces Cointreau
1 ounce lime juice
8 lime wedges, for garnish
1. Mix the ground ginger and salt on a plate. Moisten the rim of a margarita glass with water and dip the rim in the ginger salt to coat. Fill glasses with ice.

2. In a pitcher, combine the tequila, Ginger-Lime Syrup, Cointreau and lime juice. Stir well and pour one-fourth of the mixture into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into 2 of the highball glasses. Repeat 3 more times, using fresh ice each time. Garnish each drink with a lime wedge.
Ginger-Lime Syrup
1 cup (about 4 ounces) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 stalk lemongrass, smashed and chopped (optional)
1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Boil for about 2 minutes, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool to warm, then puree in a blender.

2. Pour the puree into a fine strainer and press on the ginger to extract as much syrup as possible. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 1 week.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ricotta Vegetable Pie

Much of my cooking is based on refrigerator management; that is, using what's available in my fridge or, more likely, what needs to be used right now. This week, we received a bounty of vegetables from our CSA, including a load of yellow squash and a big bunch of escarole. Escarole? I also harvested the first couple of zucchini from my own garden, so I was feeling under a little vegetable pressure.

Recently, I discovered some recipes for Mediterranean vegetable pies in the New York Times and found them a great way to control the vegetable levels in my refrigerator. Although I took some inspiration from those recipes, this recipe differs in several respects. First, there is no crust. There could be a crust -- it would be delicious -- but I wasn't in a crust-making mood. Second, I had a big tub of ricotta cheese (it was on sale) that needed to go, so this pie is decidedly cheesier. Lastly, this is not a purely vegetable pie, I used a bit of prosciutto, but the meat could easily be eliminated.

Actually, this pie is perfect for substitutions. No escarole? Use spinach or Swiss chard or some other greens. Don't have any Gruyere cheese? Try Mozzarella or Swiss or Fontina. Fresh basil is great, but any fresh herbs or combination of herbs would do. You could also add chopped sun dried tomatoes or roasted peppers or sauteed mushrooms or a heaping tablespoon of pesto to the mix. Go wild and clean out your fridge.

1-1/2 lbs. zucchini or yellow squash (or combo)
1 head of escarole
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 slices prosciutto, chopped (optional)
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated cheese, such as Gruyere
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon ground pepper
salt, to taste
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped basil
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grate zucchini or squash. Place in a colander, salt generously, and let drain for about 1 hour, pressing down on it occasionally to squeeze out liquid. After an hour, take up handfuls and squeeze out moisture. Set aside.
3. Thoroughly wash escarole and slice leaves in 1/2-inch strips. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the onion and prosciutto, if using. Cook, occasionally stirring, about five minutes. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Add escarole, cover pan and cook until wilted, about 7 minutes. Add zucchini/squash, mix and cook uncovered, another 5 minutes. Drain any excess liquid from vegetables, I let them cool a bit and put them in the colander to drain.
4. In large bowl, mix cheeses, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and basil. Add vegetables and mix well. Pour into a lightly oiled (can use oil spray) 10-inch pie spring pan. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool 15 to 30 minutes. Slice in wedges and serve.
One 10- inch pie serves eight to ten.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fresh Corn Chowder

I admit it, I'm a corn snob. I refuse to eat corn-on-the cob in winter. I turn my nose up at those plastic wrapped-packaged ears you see throughout the year in grocery stores. For me, corn has to be just-picked from the farm. The good news is that local farm stands have been stocking fresh Long Island corn for the last couple of weeks and my CSA doled out its first batch of corn this week.

Usually, I just boil corn-on-the-cob for five minutes, butter it, sprinkle a little salt on it and eat it quite happily, but I also like to use fresh corn in a few recipes. One of my favorite recipes is one for corn chowder. This particular batch was made with sweet white corn, which is highly coveted by most corn hounds. I may be in the minority, but I prefer ears with both yellow and white kernels. While yellow and white corn may not be as sweet as white corn, I think it has a better corn taste.

Fresh Corn Chowder
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook
5-6 ears of corn (about 4 cups kernels)
3 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
2 medium/large potatoes (russet or yukon gold), peeled and cut into 1/4 dice
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt, to taste
1 red pepper, cut into 1/4 dice
3 scallions, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Chopped cilantro for garnish
1. Boil or steam ears of corn for about 4 minutes. Cool. Slice kernels off cob (hold cob vertically in shallow bowl and slice down cob, cutting off kernels)
2. In large pot, wilt bacon over low heat about 5 minutes to render fat. Add butter and melt completely.
3. Add chopped onions and wilt for 10 minutes over low heat. Add flour, stir over heat for 5 minutes.
4. Add chicken broth and potatoes. Raise heat to medium and cook 12-to-15 minutes until potatoes are just tender.
5. Add half-and-half, corn, black pepper and salt. Cook 7 minutes, stirring occassionally.
6. Add red pepper and scallions and cook another 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning, serve with cilantro (or not).
Serves 6

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wild Blueberry Scones

The path in the woods, where I walk my dog daily, is lined with hundreds, maybe thousands, of blueberry bushes. This year's crop was a bumper one; I guess the blueberries, unlike me, appreciated the cool, rainy weather in June.

I do, however, appreciate the wild blueberries. They're smaller and more tart than commercial berries, perfect for jams, pies and other baked goods. After making a batch of jam and some blueberry pancakes, there were still some berries left over. Not enough to make a pie, so what to do? I saw a recipe in a magazine for blueberry scones and, even though I hardly ever eat scones and have probably made them only once in my life (probably after a trip to England), I decided to try it.

I had a few obstacles: First, my kitchen was undergoing some repairs, which made baking a challenge (although after living in Manhattan I've gained expertise in cooking in tight spaces) and second, I was short some ingredients. The recipe called for buttermilk and even suggested using plain yogurt with a couple tablespoons of milk as a replacement for buttermilk, but I didn't have either and I was too lazy to drop everything and go to the store. Apparently you can also replace buttermilk with two tablespoons of lemon juice and enough milk to make a cup (let sit 5 minutes), but I didn't have lemons. Maybe I should have gone to the store afterall, but I did happen to have sour cream and it work beautifully.

A tougher problem was my lack of parchment paper. I googled "substitute for parchment paper" and found suggestions of wax paper (I didn't have any), silicone baking mats (nope, don't own one) and brown paper bags (but they sometimes catch fire in the oven -- no thanks, and there was some concern about some of the chemicals in the paper -- double no thanks). So, I just greased some tin foil and prayed to the cooking goddess . . . and it worked. The result? Delicious wild blueberry scones.

Wild Blueberry Scones
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter
cut into small pieces
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup sour cream (or buttermilk)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Cut in cold butter pieces with a pastry cutter (or rub in with fingers) until mixture has the texture of course meal. Stir in blueberries.

3. In separate bowl, mix together sour cream, 1 egg and vanilla; Drizzle over flour mixture and stir lightly with a fork until dough just comes together but some flour remains in bowl.

4. Put dough on work suface and gently knead a couple of times to incorporate flour. Pat dough into 1-inch high round and cut into 12 wedges. transfer to baking sheet. Lightly beat second egg and brush dough wedges with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 22 minutes, until golden and baked through. Cool.

Makes one dozen

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

My ice cream maker sat idle for years, stuffed in the far back corner of one of my kitchen cabinets. But this summer, I've become obsessed with making ice cream. It's my husband's fault. We were watching an episode of Top Chef, the one where the challenge was to make a "final meal" for a celebrity chef, and I turned to him and asked, "what would you choose for your final meal?" Without hesitation he answered "ice cream." So, I thought, geez, I really should make some ice cream.

My first attempt, a salted butter caramel ice cream, was, sadly, a failure; the mixture tasted great but refused to freeze (I do plan to attempt this recipe again). Next, inspired by just-picked strawberries from my CSA, I made a really successful batch of fresh strawberry ice cream. Encouraged, I made nutella ice cream, which was great but a bit rich for my taste.

My latest effort is mint chocolate chip ice cream. A confession: It's not my husband's favorite, it's mine. Plus I happen to have a nice patch of mint in my herb garden, so I searched the web -- accepting some ideas, rejecting others (no green food coloring please) and came up with the following recipe:

3 cups fresh mint (leaves only)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups cream
1 cup sugar
Pinch salt
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon rum (*optional)
6 ounces good quality dark chocolate

Whisk the milk, cream, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Heat just until it begins to bubble around the edges, then remove, add the mint leaves, and cover. Let steep, covered for at least an hour - preferably two. Strain out the mint leaves and reheat cream mixture to just under a simmer.

Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl and slowly mix in a cup of the hot cream to temper the eggs. Whisk eggs back into the saucepan and cook, stirring, until the custard reaches 170-174F (coats the back of a wooden spoon). Stir in the vanilla and rum, if using. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Chop the chocolate into chunks and flakes. Refrigerate chocolate.

Freeze the custard in your ice cream maker the next day according to directions. Add the chocolate bits about halfway through. Transfer ice cream to a bowl or plastic container, cover, and freeze for at least four hours before serving.
*The addition of rum (or perhaps a mint liquor?) helps keep the ice cream soft.