Friday, December 31, 2010

Coffee-Beer-Braised Short Ribs

Gentle reader, read this recipe quickly, as it might soon be illegal. Since NYC has banned sales of Four Loko, that can of pure vile that equates to the alcohol of three beers and the caffeine of three cups of coffee, there could be trouble if the authorities get wind of this short-rib braise consisting of near-equal parts—you guessed it—beer and coffee.

Short ribs are a wonderfully rich and flavorful cut of beef; they’re inexpensive, though there is a fair amount of bone and fat going on in the cut, so I recommend buying a bit more weightwise per person than you would of a steak-type cut of beef. This is a great comforting winter dish to feed (and impress) a crowd, for waaay less money than a tenderloin or rack of what-have-you.

Although short ribs do need to be slow-cooked for a long time, they need no maintenance while they’re in the oven. I recommend cooking them a night or two in advance (I often multitask by browning and braising the ribs while I whip up a quick meal for that night). Another advantage of advance cooking is that once you put the dish in the fridge, the fat from the short ribs forms a solid layer on top of the liquid, which you can then skim off before reheating and serving.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saturday night comfort food: Lentil Soup

Hello Holiday Hobgoblins

It was another Saturday night, and while I was feeling a bit better than the week before, I think I am in the midst of some winter doldrums. I won't lie, I'm very much looking forward to the completion of today, December 21st- I always feel better when the shortest day of the year is behind us. It may be imperceptible at first, but at least you know in your head, that the days are starting to get longer again. In the meantime, of course, I am doing what I can (and I hope you are as well) to stave off the winter downs... a lot of my weapons are food.

So bring out the weapons! I took some time on Saturday (curled up in a nice blanket) to page through the latest Bon Appetit. There were lots of lovely recipes for Christmas day- lamb, ham, spam. No, just kidding about spam. I'm a sucker for a rhyme. There was ALSO a recipe for a lentil soup. Being a sucker for a soup, a legume, and a new recipe, it won't surprise you to hear that I was completely taken in- What's better than hot lentil soup on a cold Saturday night? ok ok, a lot of things. but bear with me, this is a food blog.

I took a look at this recipe, and realized I had just about everything I needed for it in the kitchen, except for the "special" french lentils. It was Saturday. I decided to brave Fairway. I found the special lentils. I was good to go.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Saturday night comfort food: Aglia e Olio

Dear Readers,

I was feeling kind of down. In truth, I was feeling really down. I was kind of at a variety of loose ends, unsure of what to do to cheer myself up. Luckily, I live right near the Red Hook Fairway, and decided to treat myself. I headed over, and decided I would impulse grocery shop. I put only things that really appealed to me in my grocery basket. Here's what I ended up with (in the order I picked it up):

* a pomegranate
* a bag of clementines
* a bunch of parsley
* baby spinach
* celery (see: bloody mary)
* head of garlic
* sweet onion
* fresh salsa
* good bleu cheese (see how i emphasized the "good" by spelling it "bleu"?)
* spicy V8 (see: bloody mary)
* barilla thin spaghetti
* tortilla chips

I had decided that I would indulge on snacks (chips and salsa, bleu cheese and crackers) while making myself my most favorite, most comforting dish ever: Aglia e Olio. If you're new here- guess what, I love garlic. I also love the simplicity of aglia e olio. pasta, garlic, parsley, olive oil, red pepper flakes, topped with parmesan. there is nothing better. I was going to feel better. I won't lie, I have eaten my feelings before, I figured I would try to make it a productive exercise for myself and you, dear readers, by chronicling a simple, straightforward, immensely appealing recipe.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving 101: Using Up Leftovers

What’s up with people saying “We have so many leftovers!” like it’s a bad thing? If you still have remains of Thanksgiving Day in your fridge, and you're sick of sandwiches, here are a few ideas on reducing, reusing, and recycling that food.

Most of your meal should still be edible five days out...but as always, gentle reader, we disclaim any liabilities for food-borne illness. (And yes, fine, maybe you could have used these tips a few days ago, but it took a while to recover from this meal's ensuing food coma, mmmkay?) If you're out of Turkey Day remnants, keep these tips in mind for future occasions when you've cooked too much.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Brooklyn Thanksgiving 2010: A Menu Recap

So, Thanksgiving came and went, and we did pretty damn good, if I say so myself.

Other than a minor mutual meltdown when The Beez and I mistakenly thought we had ordered a “maple-crusted” turkey (The Rob, who was nice enough to pick it up, remarked that we were one of only two orders placed at the Brooklyn Fairway for a Maple Crest turkey, and a game of Telephone ensued), we managed to execute our entire menu sans agita. Thanks to our OCD planning of the grocery shopping and menu, there were no last-minute freakouts (though we may not have been smiling quite as widely as the ladies pictured above right, gentle reader).

We decided to do a dry brine on the turkey due to refrigerator-space constraints, and while I would still use the wet-brine method for smaller cuts of meat, I think this will be our go-to method for Thanksgiving turkeys henceforth; it turned out incredibly flavorful and moist, and we didn’t have to deal with the logistics of chilling a 20-lb. turkey in a massive vessel of liquid.

Here’s the menu we ended up with (to serve 12):

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!

(just channeling a little paula dean. I know you can't see me, but I promise, I'm holding a stick of butter)

So today's the big day, and of course, I mean big football day. But seriously, my lovely co-blogger has been doing a wonderful job of providing fantastic thanksgiving day tips for preparing the big meal (thanks Kitty!), and as I type this, I am sitting in my parents living room, the (relatively small) 13 lb bird, is sewn up, in its olive oil coated brown paper bag in the oven.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving 101: Turkey! (And Pan Gravy)

Before we begin, could we all take a moment to be thankful for the fact that I did not title this post "Talkin' Turkey" or something equally cheesy? You're welcome! Now, since we don't have much time before T-Day, let's get right to the point: how to ensure the bird is prepared properly and deliciously.

Now, there is no one exact right way to cook a turkey, although there are certainly right and wrong things to do with each method. I’m personally a proponent of going the classic roasting route, but if you want to do your bird deep-fried (I’ve sampled such a bird and found it surprisingly non-greasy)—or whatever other trendy method you’ve read about—go for it. I would just suggest doing a trial run if you’re trying a brand-new technique; a holiday meal where everyone is gathered is not the best time to experiment.

  • First, figure out how much turkey you need. For a smaller group, you might want to consider doing just a bone-in turkey breast, which still has an ooh-and-aah-inducing effect presented on a platter. For a larger group, consider buying an extra package of drumsticks in addition to the whole bird, so nobody has to fight over them. (Apologies if you could have put this advice to use sooner, gentle reader; planning my own feast and, oh yeah, working for a living have been sucking up precious blogging time!)
  • I am a fan of brining the turkey, though this is not necessary. A lobster pot or even a brand-new plastic garbage barrel are good vessels to contain the bird and the liquid, which tend to be heavy. You can brine the bird overnight; if refrigerator space is an issue and you live somewhere the temperature drops below 30° at night, you can keep the container on your porch. (This year, we're doing a dry brine since The Beez's fridge isn't big enough, and it's supposed to be like 50° in Brooklyn. Thanks a LOT, global warming!)
  • Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Thanksgiving 101: Timing Is Everything

    Timing is a challenge in any kind of cooking—and especially when it comes to a meal as ambitious and symbolically significant as Thanksgiving.

    Much as I love the fact that my cousin and I have taken over making our extended family's T-Day dinner, there are always some performance-anxiety jitters about getting everything on the table on time. In fact, in the week or so leading up to the big meal, I invariably have an annually recurring nightmare that we are supposed to serve dinner at 4:00 but it's 3:30 and the turkey has not gone into the oven yet. (Seriously, it's a really specific dream—even my subconscious is anal-retentive.)

    To keep you from getting Butterball-related butterflies in your stomach, here are some tips on Thanksgiving-dinner time management.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Thanksgiving 101: Meal Planning

    Planning the Thanksgiving menu is exciting and daunting at the same time. You don't want to serve so many dishes that preparing and heating them becomes unmanageable—but nothing would be worse than not having enough to eat on the most gluttonous day of the year. I use a chart to get a handle on the menu and keep all relevant recipes handy. Not only is this chart illustrated below for you, gentle reader, but it has been populated with links to many BGC recipes that might be welcome on your Thanksgiving table!

    Our Thanksgiving meal is usually a mix of tried-and-true family favorites, and new recipes culled from cookbooks, magazines, and the Interwebs. I recommend that you compile a list of dishes for each course (appetizers; soup, pasta, and/or salad course if you do that; turkey, sides, and accoutrements; and desserts) and then add/whittle down to what seems appropriate for your size group. Try to think about what can be made in advance and reheated, and what others will be bringing—and bear in mind the limits of burner and oven space.

    Below (after the jump) is a sample menu. You could add more fields to your chart -- e.g., how much to multiply a recipe by; how many days in advance a dish can be prepared; a "Vegetarian?" checkbox to gauge whether meat-averse guests will have enough options; and so on. If a recipe is not online, you might want to note the cookbook/magazine issue date it comes from, and the page number, in the Recipe field.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Thanksgiving 101: Grocery-Shopping Template & Tips

    For the past few years, my cousin The Beez and I have more or less hijacked the planning and preparing of our extended family’s Thanksgiving dinner. And while hosting Turkey Day (or Tofurkey Day, if your relatives are hippies) for a crowd is many people’s worst nightmare, we get totally geeked out about it, to the point of making multiple spreadsheets for planning purposes. (Oh, you snicker now, but if you skip our advice and end up running out to 7-Eleven at 4pm on Thanksgiving Day for canned cranberry sauce, who will be laughing?)

    This year, rather than schlepping on the Bolt bus on the most nightmarish travel day of the year, we are having T-Day right here in Brooklyn, chez The Beez. The prospect of not leaving the mother of boroughs is a massive relief to both of us. And I would like to pass that stress savings along to you, gentle reader; hence Thanksgiving 101, the BGC guide to Thanksgiving planning!

    Herewith, the first installment of we-haven't-decided-how-many-yet in our Thanksgiving 101 series: how to gather all the groceries you need without running around town like a turkey with its head cut off. (See what I did there?)

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    sunday night meal- yep, chicken

    Hi all,

    Earlier this month, I was sick for over a week, which is very much out of the ordinary. I get sick every once in a while, but don't normally feel under the weather for more than a few days at a time. I eat a lot of garlic, take vitamins, have a balanced diet, etc. etc, which makes me surprised when it happens, but every once in a while a cold just takes me out. And I got taken out. One of the side effects was a loss of appetite. Don't get me wrong. i was eating. I knew I needed to eat, but I didn't have any cravings, I didn't feel hungry. I wasn't having any "oooooh, where's my sushi at" moments. Normally I crave. I think about what I want to eat, I work to make it happen.

    It was a tough couple of weeks.

    Thankfully, I got my appetite back last night! And in honor of that, I wanted to make a nice sunday dinner that would help set me up for lunch for the rest of the week. I didn't have the energy to do a full Fairway shopping, and I had a fair amount of stuff in my fridge that was fair game, so I went to the market with a small basket, and picked up a few things. They were having a sale on chicken breast, $1.99/lb, so i got 5 large boneless skinless chicken breasts for less than 11 dollars. I felt flush. I picked up a few other things I needed for the week and went home.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Honey-Mustard Roast Chicken

    This recipe, and with it one of my fundamental tenets of thrifty cooking, had its genesis in a memorable meal my mom made when I was young. Not having much in the fridge, she ran out to the car and grabbed some of the plastic-encased condiments that were always stashed in the glove compartment. These proved to be honey-mustard packets from Chicken McNuggets, which were then still novel and advertised by the short-lived Birdie character (so I must have been about seven or eight…I mean, a fetus. Did I say seven or eight? Because I meant a fetus).

    Anyhoo. Said packets were used to glaze roast chicken drumsticks, and Honey-Mustard Roast Chicken, a future staple of my cooking repertoire, was born…as was my belief that good recipes can come from small packets—and leftovers—so you should never throw out your take-out condiments.

  • Start with a package of chicken drumsticks (about 8) or whole (thigh + drumstick) legs (about 4). You can leave the skin on or try this trick for removing the skin while retaining some of its flavor/fat in the finished dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°.
  • Line a shallow roasting pan or metal baking sheet (don’t use a pristine one, it’s gonna get greasy up in here) with tinfoil. (If you're a total ecorexic and feel like spending four hours of your time scrubbing the pan is worth it to avoid that foil spending eternity in a landfill, feel free to skip the foil. I reduce, reuse, and recycle six ways till Sunday, but my laziness trumps my greeniness once in a while.)
  • Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Branzini- what's that?

    Greetings all,

    Apologies for my extended absence. There has been an addition to my family (new nephew!) and then i got sick. really sick. so all the soupiness that BGC has been focusing on has been even more helpful in my time of ill.

    My mom was in town over the weekend, taking a little tour of the NY, NJ, Philly area to see some family members (who knew October was such a family-oriented month?) and in her Fairway run to pick up the additional ingredients we needed to make a soup for sick ol me, she couldn't resist the fish counter- they had fresh whole branzini (aka mediterranean sea bass).

    So they filleted them up for her, and she brought them home. By the end of the day, our soup making and general lazing about had both exhausted us and filled our tummies, and the branzini fillets remained in the fridge untouched. I promised her that I would cook them up today, while i stayed home and continued my recovery, and I figured it was worth documenting for the fantastic cause of Operation DATES (Developing A Taste for Eating Seafood).

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Roast Panko-Mustard-Crusted Lamb With Rosemary Potatoes

    My friend Jacqueline recently returned from a trip to Portland, Oregon, where she visited our Brooklyn-expat friends J.J. and NeNe and their new bay-bay. Baby is really cute, super happy for them, yadda yadda yadda…point being, Jackie brought me back some rosemary from their backyard and some nice seedy mustard from Kruger’s Farm Market, and I wanted to do justice to these lovely ingredients. And what goes with rosemary and mustard like lamb? Duh.

    For two, I got two round-bone lamb chops, about .60-.65 lb. each. This preparation would also be great with a rack of lamb for a dinner party, but I would recommend Googling the cooking time for its weight, and searing all sides of the meat in a pan before you do the mustard schmear/crumbing.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Mushroom Gravy

    The expression “It’s just gravy” suggests that gravy is something optional, a gratuitous bonus above and beyond the essentials … the proverbial icing on the cake. Gentle reader, this is not the case in our household, for The Rob regards gravy as effectively being a food group. He considers it as essential an accompaniment to a steak, a pork chop, or a piece of chicken as a green and a carb, and I can’t say I blame him. (Come to think of it, a cake without icing is pretty incomplete as well, but that’s a post for another day.)

    These proportions will serve two people with a couple of steaks or chops or a chicken, but can be easily multiplied. I served it with grilled pork chops in a soy/mustard-based marinade; green beans with shallots, bacon, and garlic; and mashed potatoes, which are also, to The Rob, incomplete without gravy.)

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Technique: Substituting Whole-Wheat Flour in Baked Goods (Without Making Them Suck)

    Tweaking recipes to make food healthier is a noble endeavor, but all too often it is achieved at the expense of taste and texture. Case in point: substituting whole-wheat flour for all-purpose in baked goods. Whole-wheat flour has more nutrients such as fiber, because in white flour, those nutrients have been refined out. But those same qualities are what can make baking with whole-wheat flour result in leaden, tasteless, dense, gluey-yet-crumbly lumps that would function better as doorstops than as treats.

    However, hot on the heels of my life-changing sandwich-packing innovation (okay, fine, let's say lukewarm on the heels—look, I've been busy), I have another technical kitchen breakthrough to share: how to use whole-wheat flour in baked goods without making them too dense or gluten-y.

    You can try this technique for less-sweet baked goods like bread and flatbread; semisweet ones like muffins, biscuits or banana bread; and even—more cautiously—on sweet baked goods like cookies, doughnuts, and cakes, which are harder to incorporate whole-wheat flour into, because their texture is intended to be lighter and crumbier.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Pack a Non-Soggy Sandwich for Lunch At Last!

    Last night I had the very cool opportunity to attend a reception for Popular Mechanics’ annual Breakthrough Awards, which featured demonstrations of these amazing scientific innovations. And clearly, upon my return home, I was inspired by that spirit of innovation. Except, instead of thinking of ways to benefit human beings’ quality of life via genetics or engineering or green energy, I opted to do so by improving the quality of their sandwiches.

    Although I doubt this particular innovation will make next year’s awards list, I am nevertheless pretty excited to have developed a method that solves a major and persistent problem in our fast-paced modern workaday society: how to pack a sandwich for work or school the night before, without the bread ending up soggy and bloated like a body that Benson and Stabler just dragged out of the East River. In fact, my new technique ensures that—brace yourself—the bread remains completely impervious to moisture absorption the next day. Suspend your disbelief, gentle reader, for it is true! Behold, the future of sandwiches is here now!

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    Curried Butternut Squash Bisque

    Summer in New York City has a kind of charmed quality, and come every autumn, I mourn the passing of another magical season of sun, strappy dresses, and (cold, gray, polluted) surf. But there are a few things making their annual debut in September that console me for the loss of summer: squashes, soups, the new season of 30 Rock, pies, and—ever since The Rob entered my life—New York Rangers hockey. This post concerns the first two, though future ones may touch upon the fourth…and possibly even the fifth, since God knows Alyce uses every excuse she can to gratuitously mention the Celtics. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

    But I digress. On a recent evening, the aforementioned The Rob’s dinner suggestion was squash soup, which struck me as a perfect choice to put a positive spin on the fact that the temperature had just dropped 20 degrees from the day before. (Obviously, we have soup on the brain lately at BGC.)

    The ingredients for a big quantity of this bisque are really cheap; it freezes very well (you’ll want to wait to add cream until defrosting the soup). I like to use chicken stock, but you can make this recipe vegetarian with vegetable stock.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Hey! Don't Throw That Away! Part 2: Potato Leek Soup

    Hey all,

    If you had a chance to read my last post about chicken stock, you know it was the start to a fun weekend of cooking.

    So it was the end of the week, and I had all this lovely chicken stock. We were coming up on labor day weekend, and holiday weekends in New York tend to be a great time when enough people leave that it seems like the city is empty. This empty city led to a text from a friend, asking if i was in town, and if so, i could go and pick up their CSA I happily agreed, not being a member of a CSA myself, to partake in fresh veggies. So on Saturday morning I headed down the block and picked up: 4 carrots, a bunch of beets, 2 leeks, a bunch of kale, 4 heads of garlic, a bunch of yellow wax beans, 4 ears of corn, and two onions.

    It was such a wonderful experience, to get to the park and take the allotted veggies from the containers full of freshly harvested, organically farmed beautiful vegetables. When i got home I assessed the bounty and decided (among other things) to make a potato leek soup.

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Red Chard with Bacon and Cannellini Beans

    I once attended this awesome lecture class at the Natural Gourmet cooking school, taught by Annemarie Colbin, whom I admire very much for proving that it’s possible to believe in holistic health and nutrition without being pretentious or preachy. To wit: At one point she said something like, “I just know there’s something medicinal about bacon. I haven’t figured it out yet, but it’s just so delicious, there has to be!”

    That quip came to my mind while making Red Chard with Bacon and Cannellini Beans (above left), since if you operate with the assumption that bacon is indeed somehow medicinal, this would be, like, the healthiest dish ever. You could, of course, omit the bacon and just use olive oil to sauté your veggies, but bacon is a great complement to bitter greens and really just brings all these flavors together.

    (Also, you could use kale instead of chard, though I might discard the stems and use solely the leaves, and also cook it about 10 minutes longer. But I love red chard [above right], because it cooks into such a pretty pink color.)

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Hey! Don't Throw That Away! Part 1: Chicken Stock

    Hi all,
    I had such a great weekend of cooking, that I wanted to share some of it with you. To tell you about it, i have to go back about two weeks, on a Sunday afternoon when i decided to roast a chicken in order to have some food options for the coming week (which just happened to be my first week of work at a new job!). This decision to roast a chicken, combined with a few other happenings, led me to a fun cascade of cooking decisions.

    First, and it's pretty exciting, so it bears repeating- I got a new job! When i spend my days in the office, I try to pack a lunch as frequently as possible. This preference is a combination of my dissatisfaction at the lunch choices available to me on a regular basis, and my cheapness. I don't always manage to pack, and I definitely enjoy a dose of Chipotle every once in a while, but this particular week being my first week, I enjoyed chicken for lunch in a few different forms. When all that was left was a carcass, it was the end of the week, and I decided to make some chicken stock.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    How-to: Cutting Butternut Squash / Toasting Squash Seeds

    Fall—a.k.a. squash season—is just about here! A recipe for curried butternut squash bisque is forthcoming on BGC…but for now, I thought I'd get everyone in the squash spirit with a quick how-to on cutting butternut squash, which can be daunting since it's so dense. As you may have learned from experience, randomly hacking away with a kitchen knife is likely to result in a frustrating "Sword in the Stone"-type moment.

    (Plus, below is a bonus how-to on toasting seasoned squash seeds, which make a great healthy munchie or a sophisticated garnish—throwing the raw seeds out is such a waste!)

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Grilled Flatbread

    Despite dire hurricane predictions, I went to Provincetown, on the very farthest tip of Cape Cod, with my cousin over Labor Day. The whole weekend turned out gorgeously sunny and cloudless, with the exception of a rainy Friday night…which we made the most of by grilling out on the deck.

    Now, since I have no outdoor cooking options at home in Brooklyn, when I am near a grill, I want to use it as many ways as I can. This dinner involved grilled pork loin with marmalade glaze, grilled asparagus, grilled corn on the cob, mashed potatoes with shallots and sour cream (not on the grill—not everything can be on the grill), and grilled flatbread.

    I’ve loved making bread on the grill for years, but always consulted a recipe. In the “rainy day” spirit that ultimately anticlimactic Hurricane Earl begat, I decided to wing it by making up my own, all seat-of-pants-like. Gentle reader, it turned out awesome. The process does take a couple hours, although 75% of that time is spent waiting for the dough to rise. (It has to rise twice; I strongly suggest reading through this whole recipe before you start so you can time-manage.)

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Beef and Noodle Soup

    There is a category of my cooking I refer to as “Ignorant American Fusion”: basically, it involves dilettante-y co-opting of other cultures’ cuisines much as Madonna does to their fashion, religion, and dancing styles. This dish (much like the Hoisin Pork with Scallion Crepes) falls into that category, since it derives inspiration from American Chinese food but in no way is an attempt to reproduce it authentically. Hell, that would involve actual research, as opposed to just throwing something together!

    This noodle soup came to mind as a cheap way to eat beef, because you can get a tough cut that will tenderize in the broth. (I ended up spending about $2 on the chuck beef, which was $3.99 a pound at my Met Foods. You could also slice up leftover steak to do this.) I also had half a package of mushrooms that were on track to go bad, plus it occurred to me that The Rob’s favorite meals are steak with mushrooms, spaghetti, and soup, so he would probably be really excited if all those things became as one.

    This dish is a one-pot stovetop meal/one-bowl dinner and can be done in 30-45 minutes. It’s pretty balanced and pretty healthy, more so if you want to use buckwheat (soba) or whole wheat noodles. These proportions served two very generously (all we had on the side was diced cucumber and diced red onion in a rice-vinegar vinaigrette), but this would easily multiply, and would freeze and/or microwave well if you want to make extra. Though I don’t have rugrats, I would think this would make for a pretty good family meal for all ages.

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Cooking With Mom! Stuffed Squash Blossoms

    Hello dear readers, and happy end of August!

    I have mixed feelings about the month- while it is the month of Leo, and thus, my birthday, it is also the month that seems to herald the end of summer, and I will admit that the waning days of summer do always make me a bit melancholy. So, it's with happiness that I write about a cooking experiment that I embarked upon earlier in the summer with my cooking idol- my mom!

    I went up to the MA homestead and got to partake of my moms awesome garden. She was just experiencing the beginnings of what would be a bumper crop of zucchini. The evidence of this was an abundance of zucchini blossoms, which we decided we wanted to do something fun with, and soooooooo, stuffed squash blossoms it was!

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Hoisin Pork With Scallion Crepes

    Sounds fancy, right? But the skills required to make this pseudo-Chinese dish are on a par with those involved in brushing pre-made barbecue sauce on meat and whipping up a batch of pancakes with Bisquick batter. Not that either of those ingredients are involved, mind you--I’m just saying if you can do those, you can make this.

    To further assuage any pancake performance anxiety, this recipe is proportioned so that, for two people, you should have either (a) leftover crepes or (b) enough crepes even though you messed a few up and had to throw them out. Accepting that some things will end up in the garbage is a necessary prerequisite to kitchen experimenting. Nothing ventured, nothing eaten!

    Start with three or four pork chops: Boneless is easiest since you’ll be slicing them after cooking, but those big, thin bone-in chops that have some darker meat on them would be good for flavor. Marinate them in about a quarter cup of hoisin sauce, which you can find in supermarkets and some bodegas; it keeps forever in the fridge and can be used as an insta-marinade for any meat.

    (If you have some, you can add about ½ teaspoon of five-spice powder to your hoisin marinade. Do NOT go all, “Oh, I like really spicy food,” and dump in more, because five-spice powder is not about heat; it’s a pungent mix of stuff like anise and licorice and cinnamon, and if you add too much your meat is going to taste like a sachet from a dresser drawer. Even if you’re into that George Costanza eating-meat-in-bed-is-erotic thing, this will not taste good, trust.)

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Chipotle Potato Salad

    This spicy potato salad is a great side dish to bring to cookouts and picnics as you savor the rest of August. Now, I personally find that a lot of potato salads (especially the premade supermarket ones) are bland if not outright icky-tasting, and have a mealy-creamy hospital-food mouthfeel -- but this has a good kick and a chunky texture, and makes a nice complement to grilled steaks, burgers, and many other charred meats of summer. Plus, the ingredients for a pretty large quantity cost about $5 -- you can easily multiply based on the size of your gathering. (I brought this today to a cookout that featured a roast pig, which was pretty exciting.)

    This recipe uses red, or new potatoes, which tend to be the best for potato salad because they hold their texture and don't get grainy or crumbly, as brown (russet) potatoes do. Yellow waxy potatoes are another option, or you could try purple fingerlings sliced in half, for the visual effect. I peel off just the eyes and any brown spots on the potatoes, but you can peel them completely if you prefer (though I wouldn't with the fingerlings).

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    You can make this yourself: Green Salsa!

    Dear readers,
    It has been a hot and humid summer, the city is emptying out for August vacations, and we are coming up on a weekend of Red Sox-Yankees action. All of these factors are contributing to good moods, good times and an excitement about the food and sporting events that I will get to consume over the next few days.

    With that in mind, I want to share a super easy salsa recipe that is perfect for a hot summer day, a bbq, sitting on the couch watching sports, or an accompaniment to a multitude of dishes- my favorite, Tomatillo salsa.

    Tomatillos are small-to-medium sized hard, green tomatos that have a papery husk on them.

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Chocolate Ice Cream

    Some people buy an ice-cream maker on impulse and never use it—as if it were something horrible like a treadmill. As for me, I got an ice-cream maker a few years back and, for a while, used it so often that I wondered whether an A&E crew might show up to stage an intervention. After not using it for at least a year, I busted it out upon finding myself with five egg yolks awaiting a purpose. (Why I had five egg yolks in my fridge is a whole nother story involving a cake and two batches of royal icing, the first of which went wrong. Actually, that’s pretty much the whole story.)

    This is a pretty easy recipe for a ridiculously rich chocolate ice cream (though you should know it won’t be ready till the next day). If you don’t have an ice cream maker, just post on your Facebook or something that you want to borrow one. I guarantee one of your friends who just got married will have one they’ve never even taken out of the box.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Stuffed Peppers with Andouille Sausage and Rice

    Sometimes I plan a dish around using up a given leftover, only to defeat the point by buying $25 worth of ingredients (okay, granted, $10 of that is probably for a bottle of wine—but how else are you supposed to make leftovers palatable?). However, tonight—said leftover being a pint of white rice from last night’s Chinese food—I opted for stuffed peppers, a dish that absorbs cheap ingredients and random scraps of leftovers like Lindsay Lohan’s liver absorbs toxins.

    The ingredients in stuffed peppers can easily be switched up depending on what’s in the fridge, as well as multiplied to feed an army. They’re quick and easy, and pretty healthy (well, I’ll give you options besides the sausagey version), and they require just one bowl and one pan.

    There are many ways to make stuffed peppers. Since my mom used to make them regularly when I was a kid (with ground lamb), my method is derived from hers. Considering the present heat wave, I opted to be cheesy and use the toaster oven—just make sure your peppers have sufficient clearance from its ceiling, lest fire and brimstone ensue.

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Burger Time

    Summer is burger season! But please don’t show up at a cookout with those hockey-puck-shaped premade patties, which have no flavor. The best burgers are made with a big old package of ground beef that has been seasoned and molded into patties by hand. The burger pictured was made in my grill pan, but might’ve been even better on an outdoor grill, if I had one.

    We will now walk through the two stages of making a good burger: prepping the meat, and grilling the patty. You could also do your burgers in a skillet with a lid on the stovetop, and the same cooking tips will apply.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    Kitchen Tip: Chopping Cherry Tomatoes

    Here is a tip for easily halving cherry or grape tomatoes, a staple for summer salads—and also awesome in omelets, sandwiches, pasta, et al. These small tomatoes can be squirmy and annoying, but I’ve figured out a trick for cutting them easily. Doing so is worth it, because no matter what you’re eating, biting into a whole cherry/grape tomato and having it splurt all over you is annoying; plus, the flavor integrates more easily when they’re chopped. (Food freak though I am, I stand by the priority order of these reasons; do I need a dry-cleaning bill? No.)

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Chili Cheese Pie

    Among the joyful signs that summer has arrived in Brooklyn are the appearance of Mr. Softee trucks, Red Hook taco vendors, and stoop sales. It is a triumph to score a $50 hardcover coffee-table cookbook that was hardly, if ever, even cracked open, for a few bucks.

    A few weekends ago at a BK stoop sale, I acquired Alfred Portale’s Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook ($5), plus a vintage original 1984 edition of Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres ($1), both utterly pristine (except for a super-endearing inscription in the Portale, “Merry Christmas '97, Handsome”--which led to a whole discussion speculating about whether one of the guys I bought it from had written it to the other and they were just clearing house, or if the current boyfriend had demanded that the cookbook inscribed by the ex be put out at the stoop sale. Being a romantic, I assumed the former and was crestfallen when someone to whom I was eagerly showing my finds pointed out the possibility of the latter. But I digress).

    Flipping through the Martha book, I instantly fixated on a recipe for Corn Cups Filled With Beef Chili, and decided to adapt it into a full-size entree pie.

    This recipe can be done in under an hour -- you just add the hot filling to the baked pie crust (which is REALLY EASY TO MAKE, I SWEAR), so you can make your filling as the crust bakes. (Of course I felt the need to top the whole thing with cheese, requiring a few more minutes of oven time, but that’s your call.)

    This would be a great meal for a family with kids; it looks like a cross between hamburger, pizza, and pie, and feeds plenty of people with one big dish. It can include a variety of veggies and could be done with ground turkey or chicken, or just beans if your fam is vegetarian.

    Saturday, July 10, 2010


    ok, so i like a lot of stuff in my salad. i swear there is lettuce in there somewhere.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010

    Ah, There's the (Spice) Rub

    A spice rub is a wonderful thing to have on hand -- especially during grilling season -- so you can instantly season things in one fell swoop. It keeps pretty much forever, and all you do is take five minutes to mix up some of your favorite dried and ground spices in an empty spice jar or Tupperware container. Now would be an excellent time to do so, as you can then use it on the chicken, burgers, ribs, and what have you at your Fourth of July cookout/barbecue.

    This is a combo I frequently use on roasted chicken thighs or drumsticks, pork chops or ribs, roasted potato wedges tossed in olive oil...the possibilities are endless. Right now, this rub is on six pounds of pork shoulder in my fridge, waiting to be smoked and then shredded into soft tacos garnished with chipotle slaw.

    The recipe is phrased in terms of ratios rather than exact measurements so you can make as much as you think you’ll use. Maybe start with a couple tablespoons of each ingredient on the list right after the jump.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    Veal in Lemon Sauce With Asparagus and Capers

    I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve made veal, not because of a moral thing (leave your outrage in the comments section, please), but because I’m usually underwhelmed by the flavor and haven’t experienced it to be the tender delicacy it’s cracked up to be.

    But when I asked The Rob what he wanted for dinner Sunday night, he said, “Not chicken. Not steak. And not pork. Veal! Veal with gravy! You know, that kind of gravy that goes with veal?”

    Gentle reader, I did not. However, I intuited that he meant not gravy but sauce, and came up with a take on Veal Piccata incorporating asparagus and capers, that took under an hour, including fettucine and salad on the side.

    Though the recipe itself was easy, getting the veal was not. My regular Met Foods, unsurprisingly, did not have it. At the schwanky market in Fort Greene (let’s just call it Stop & Gentrify), the guy behind the meat counter responded to my request with a hollow, pitying “Nooo,” as if to say, “Sooo sorry we can’t accommodate your sick fetish, Jeffrey-Dahmer-of-baby-cows.”

    Based on my location, this led to a horrible sinking realization: I would have to forsake my vow to never return to the Pathmark at the Atlantic Center, the mall I’m pretty sure is modeled on a few of Dante’s circles of hell (only less efficiently designed), with the Pathmark representing the deepest and most horrific level.

    After I trekked there, my heart sank, for I had no success finding veal. But to my pleasant surprise, just as I was about to sink to my knees on that filthy floor and curse to the heavens about what kind of God would allow me to go to the Pathmark in vain, an employee whose nametag read “Diddy” led me to the exact super-thin sliced cutlets I wanted. Gentle reader, this was a Gay Pride Day miracle as far as I was concerned--I mean, it was a miracle, and it was Gay Pride Day, so there you go.

    However, I still had to wait 15 minutes in the “express” line, where you have to scan your own groceries. This was an utterly new and bewildering experience, which seriously caused me to act like a scene out of Demolition Man or Encino Man or any of those “Man” movies where someone from the past gets unfrozen and is hopelessly confused by technology. So that was another ten minutes, during which I had to ask the Pathmark hall monitor for help like, six times.

    But anyhoo! I procured the veal and cooked it, and it was pretty good! And here’s the recipe!

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Veggie Rage: Broccoli Rabe

    Hi all!

    As you may or may not know about me, I really like veggies. I like almost all veggies. In fact, as I sit here, trying to think about a vegetable I don't like, I am coming up... empty. I can't, at this moment, think of a vegetable that I won't eat. It is this love that I have for all things green (and red and yellow and white and orange) that is injured whenever I see these food corporations blithely, and with an ironic "wink wink", showing us how to choke down servings of vegetables in a quick tasty beverage, and sneak vegetables to our children. Heaven forbid anyone should prepare with excitement, and consume with enjoyment, a vegetable that actually resembles a vegetable.

    I have called attention to some of the more egregious examples of this in a previous "Veggie Rage" post about brussels sprouts, but today I am turning my attention to another of my favorite bundles of green: Broccoli Rabe.

    If you're not familiar with this delightful combination of floret and leafiness, it resembles kale (although not as curly) with smaller, looser, larger-sprouted broccoli florets.

    Broccoli Rabe, also known as Rapini, is more bitter than your standard broccoli, but is just as, if not more, versatile than our old friend broccoli (which i would never disparage. I promise, broccoli, i have nothing but love for you and will definitely do a broccoli-focused post at some point). Broccoli Rabe makes a lovely side accompaniment, pasta dish, and I have been known to consume it as a main dish, which I happened to do this particular evening.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Quick Comfort Food: Fiori With Ham and Peas in Cream Sauce

    As I've mentioned before, pasta is pretty much my go-to dish, and frozen peas are a staple. The simple one-pot, one-bowl meal I made tonight has some elements in common with Pasta With Peas and Bacon, and I think it serves to illustrate what a wide range of everyday pasta dishes you can make with a mix of rotating and standby ingredients.

    This probably won't take more than 20 minutes, start to finish. You can use any pasta you like, but I thought fiori (Italian for “flower”), pictured at right, were awfully cute and would soak up a cream sauce nicely. (Incidentally, an image search for “fiori pasta” yielded this work of genius.) About three-quarters of a 1-lb. box of pasta serves two generously, although it's annoying to have a small amount left over, so you could always make the whole box and reserve some plain cooked noodles to add to salads or soup.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    You Can Make This Yourself: Babaganoush!

    Hi Everyone,

    Sorry again for what feels like an extended absence. Instead of making excuses about being busy (everyone is busy) I figured that in order to make amends, I would post about something that I get recipe requests for constantly. It's delicious, easy to make, and always a hit as a side dish, condiment, or sandwich spread (or are condiments and sandwich spreads the same thing? I have no idea, I am just trying to tell you it's damned versatile) It's babaganoush!

    Eggplants are our friends, and if you've been following the blog, and have made hummus, then aside from picking up some eggplants, you have ALL the ingredients in your kitchen to make babaganoush.

    I went to my favorite produce place over on third avenue and 26th street in Brooklyn, Rossman Fruit and Vegetable where I can load up on provisions for at least a week and spend around $20. They had what it took to fill my eggplant needs- eggplants for $0.99/lb, and I promptly picked 4 medium sized, firm skinned purple beauties. As I made my way further into the store, I saw more eggplants for $0.69/lb. I looked at them, saw that they had a few more blemishes than the $$0.99/lb babies- see said blemish?

    But with babaganoush, the skin blemishes don't really matter too much, plus I knew I was going to be cooking them right away, so I celebrated my $0.30/lb savings, let the other guy who had picked up some "expensive" eggplants that there was an eggplant bargain around the corner, and continued with my shopping.
    (seriously, if you live anywhere in the vicinity, go to Rossman!)

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    Roasted Fennel

    So, I roasted a chicken for dinner tonight, but I can't write about that, because as soon as our friend Chloe gets back from her exciting international trip, she's going to be the pupil at the first official Brooklyn Girls Cooking cooking lesson, Roast Chicken 101! See, when I blogged about Curried Chicken Salad, she pointed out that it was putting the cart before the horse for kitchen newbies to have a recipe calling for leftover cooked chicken, so Alyce and I are going to teach her, which we're very excited about. (Granted, another reader simply bought a cheap rotisserie chicken instead of whining about it, but whatever, I digress.)

    Aaanyhoo, I decided to instead let y'all know about one of the accompaniments to the chicken, a roast fennel (top left in photo above) that I considered doing in the pan with the chicken but ended up doing in a separate dish -- thereby not putting the cart before the horse with a roast-chicken-derived recipe this time.

    This serves two and involves little more than a toss in oil. It shrinks down a lot in the oven, so it's not so much a full vegetable side, more like a garnish to serve with meat in lieu of a sauce. (I served with green beans and roasted yellow peppers, and potato slices pan-roasted with the chicken. Hey, the air finally cooled off so I thought I should get a last hurrah out of the oven for the season.)

    You may think of fennel as being crisp and having a licorice taste, but that's just when it's raw. Roasted, it softens, develops a rich but subtle not-quite-sweetness, and becomes addictively caramelized. If you do cook it with meat, it will soak up the liquid and flavor and get that much more tender.

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    Parsley-Pesto Pasta

    Remember back in the '80s, when pesto was the height of worldly, sophisticated cuisine and – perhaps not coincidentally -- Cuisinarts were high-end, cutting-edge technology? Nowadays, pesto is an everyday all-'Merickan dish*, and it is ridiculously quick and easy enough to make any weeknight, especially if you have one of them thar no-longer-so-newfangled food processors. It's so versatile (and keeps for so long) that it's worth having a batch in your fridge as a go-to for pasta, salads, and sandwiches.

    As with hummus, you can easily make and store massive quantities of pesto on the cheap with just a whirl of the aforementioned processor (or a blender/immersion blender), as opposed to spending $5 on that 8-ounce plastic package that contains Lord knows how much sodium and what kind of preservatives. And there are plenty of even cheaper variations on the classic basil-and-pine-nut variety, like the nutless parsley-based version I made last night. I used cheese tortellini and added some diced tomatoes and yellow pepper (pictured), but you could skip those and/or add anything else you like.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Chicken Curry With Baby Spinach

    After a (gloriously) red-meat-filled Memorial Day, I thought we should have a light Tuesday supper (especially since it was 85 degrees and muggy out), and opted for an extremely simplified take on chicken curry with baby spinach and tomatoes, served over rice with green peas.

    This dish is quick, easy, and healthier than most things I make. It serves two, and you might have enough left over for one person’s lunch.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Good Quesadilla, Bad Quesadilla


    One irony about cooking is that it's often the simplest dishes, the ones that seem un-screw-up-able, that you are most likely to -- wait for it -- screw up. Maybe it's overconfidence, or maybe it's that simplicity does not always equal lack of difficulty. Or maybe it was a combination of the two that led to last night's Quesadilla Fail.

    A quesadilla seems like a no-brainer, right? But I made two fatal errors, both intended as concessions to "health-consciousness": (1) using whole-wheat tortillas; and (2) using the toaster oven instead of frying in a generously buttery saucepan. The result was a goopy, curdly mess inside (I had included some leftover pork and beans, which did not help the aesthetics) and resembled leather in both appearance and taste outside; in short, it did not deserve to be called the Q-word.

    So tonight, I was taking no chances. I vowed that my next quesadilla would be the ultimate quesadilla.

    First I covered a big white-flour tortilla with thin-sliced cheddar. You want to leave a margin around the outside of your fillings (proportionally, think the width of a pizza crust in relation to the toppings) so the filling won't all ooze out when you cut it, and it won't be unwieldy to handle.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    Pork and Beans

    Inspired by Alyce's pimp-my-prepackaged-foods post, I would like to share another "semi-homemade" strategy: recycling restaurant leftovers.

    Most of us usually end up throwing out that sad tin of food we get wrapped up to go, myself included. In fact, the more expensive the entrée, the more likely it is to be unappetizing when reheated. (I'm thinking the continuum goes from pizza to duck breast.) However, if you disguise leftovers as ingredients in dishes rather than just microwaving them, they're much more appealing.

    In this case, I combined some leftover restaurant pork ribs with a can of pink beans and some other refrigerator go-tos for a really flavorful, totally homemade-tasting dish. (If you have leftover pork chops or something similar, you could dice these. Diced ham, sausage, or, hell, hot dogs would also work. It's pork and beans, people, you're supposed to work with whatsoever hunk of meat you have.)