Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Baby (bok choy)!

Happy New Year Readers!

It's almost a brand new year! I know I never told you about our Thanksgiving fun, brining the turkey. I also realize I haven't said a peep about our Feast of the Seven Fishes at Christmas. Here I've been, dropping the holiday ball, but I promise that I will catch you guys up on everything, it has been mostly delicious!

But here we are, about to ring in the new year, and I have something quick and easy to share. I am hoping to stop by a couple of lovely parties this evening, but I am not sure what the actual food plan is besides snack foods, so I wanted to have something substantial in my stomach before the wine starts to flow, and I had a bag baby bok choy in the fridge. Et Voila! Brown rice and bok choy.

Lamb Shank Stew With Tomato and Butter Beans

It is an all too rare occurrence that my co-blogger and I cook and eat a meal together. But a few days before New Year’s, we found ourselves free of plans. Serendipitously, I had a pot full of lamb shank stew that I had planned to serve over rice, and Alyce was…making rice. It was totally like I was a crocodile and she was that bird that picks food out of its teeth, or something. So, Alyce jumped in her car to come pick me up, I threw my pot into a canvas shopping bag (have lamb, will travel!), and we proceeded to have the best impromptu dinner party ever.

How, gentle reader, did I come to have said pot of stew in my possession? Well, the previous night, I had made tomato soup (recipe to come, sooner or later) and grilled cheese sandwiches (with fancy artisanal bread from Brooklyn Victory Garden and Kraft singles from Met Foods) for myself and The Rob, and prepped this lamb stew for later in the week. See, on weeknights, I like to throw together something quick for that night’s dinner (say, pasta) while simultaneously pre-cooking something that can be reheated another night. Cheap cuts of meat like lamb shank and beef short ribs take a long time to slow-cook but require zero maintenance while doing so, and serving them on the next night or two is actually preferable because (a) the flavors develop that much longer and (b) during overnight refrigeration, a layer of fat congeals at the top of the liquid and can be easily skimmed off before reheating.

So, here’s how to put this dish together. It takes time management (you want it to cook 4 hours on night 1) but very little hands-on time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Dinner 2011: Beef Tenderloin and Nostalgia

Christmas Day, we drove up to my grandmother’s house in Western Massachusetts—where she always cooked Christmas dinner for the whole family when I was growing up—and my mom, the Beez, and I cooked Christmas dinner for the whole family. Though I have fond childhood memories of making E-Z-Bake Oven mini-cakes and baking cookies with my grandmother (I was particularly excited by her pizzelle press), this was the first time I’ve ever actually prepared a meal in her kitchen.

Our mission was to update some family Christmas classics, which include a hodgepodge of Middle Eastern influences (we’re of Assyrian descent—look it up) and 1950s Americana. So, on the appetizer table was pre-cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce straight from the jar, alongside stuffed grape leaves and spinach-feta-phyllo triangles. However, we skipped the canned-peas-with-meatballs-in-tomato sauce that was a vile annual staple of the holiday dinner table, and the Kool-Whip-and-God-knows-what-else-based frozen green pie for dessert. And since Aunty Olga was out of town, there were no Tollhouse cookies for the first time in my memory.

As is customary, we overdid appetizers—but this year we were shockingly conservative on desserts, with only two for seven people (compare with Thanksgiving). For the main course, we eschewed my grandmother’s usual entrée excess (we’re talking a roast turkey, a ham, roast beef, and maybe a lasagna thrown in for good measure) for a single beef tenderloin.

The tenderloin was cooked to perfection (we cut it with butter knives) but a little overwhelmed by the flavor of the smoked paprika I had carelessly overused in the dry rub. Everyone assured me it was good, but I imagine Tom and Padma might have sent me packing for that paprika-palooza.

In any case, here is our Christmas Day menu:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Cookies

Gentle reader, this recipe isn’t an original, but I keep coming back to it year after year. This holiday season, if you care enough to give your loved ones something homemade (read: can’t afford/are too late to actually buy them presents), this Martha recipe has everything going for it: It combines the classic holiday-treat flavors of chocolate and gingerbread for an unexpected twist while remaining fully in keeping with tradition; and it keeps and travels well for at least a week or two, pretty much without crumbling or breaking.

The one original spin I put on them is to use M&Ms, sometimes the mini red and green ones, in lieu of the chocolate chunks, to make them look more festive. (And I use regular cocoa powder since that’s what I keep in the cupboard.) Oh, and rather than have the actual shreds of fresh ginger in the cookie, which can have an annoyingly fibrous consistency, I grate the ginger into a bowl—maybe a little more than the recipe calls for—and squeeze the liquid out into the butter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leftovers Love: Chicken Tetrazzini

What exactly is tetrazzini? In order to use up leftovers, I made a variation on what I thought its main constituent parts to be—turkey or chicken, pasta, cream sauce, peas, and mushrooms—only to look it up after the fact and learn that there is no actual consensus on what exactly it consists of. (Also, that the dish was named after the opera singer at left.) So my variation was as good as any—not to mention being a quick and hearty reworking of leftovers to the tune of $3 in new ingredients.

Backstory: Monday, I made roast chicken, which I had marinated in Brooklyn Lager topped off with some chicken stock, rubbed under the skin with Old Bay and garlic powder, and stuffed with a sliced clementine and a head of garlic for flavor infusion. While the chicken rested, I made pan gravy with the drippings and more chicken stock plus a little of that beer brew. Also, I made frozen peas and Stove Top. (As regular readers may recall, the Rob loves his Stove Top.) This was a very satisfying meal, and also I made a very flavorful stock out of the chicken carcass.

Fast-forward to this evening (is this an action-packed saga or what?!): I purchased a bunch of parsley, an 8-oz. package of mushrooms, and a box of linguine—which frankly I should have already had on hand, but for once I was out of dried pasta.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spicy Lamb-Stuffed Mushrooms

Gentle reader, I would be the first person to say that Thanksgiving is not the time to experiment with new dishes. Duh, you don’t want something to fail miserably on the biggest food day of the year, when a crowd is depending on you to provide for them. However, a dish that The Beez and I came up with last Thanksgiving was a huge hit that became an instant family classic.

Last year we came up with the idea of a stuffed-mushroom appetizer with a ground-lamb-based filling. In a wacky-sitcom-ish occurrence, unbeknownst to each other, The Beez and I both added hot spice to the mix as it was sautéing on the stove top. So it ended up being reeeally spicy. But everyone loved it and agreed we should make it again, and so we did.

After winging the preparation last year without writing anything down, we freestyled it again this year, with The Beez suggesting the addition of feta cheese, which proved awesome. The spice balance is up to you, but these definitely work nicely with a little heat. You may end up with some extra filling which you can save (to reheat and eat in a pita or over rice) or just eat with a spoon out of the pan.

Friday, November 25, 2011

This Year's Thanksgiving Dessert Table

Clockwise from top left (pie pan rim touching wine bottle): Pumpkin pie, buttermilk-lemon chess pie, chocolate-pecan-coconut-bourbon tart, pumpkin chocolate squares, chocolate chip cookies*, spiced apple pie, cheesecake with cranberry topping 

Note: We had 11 people for Thanksgiving. 

* These were provided by Aunty Olga. Brooklyn Girls Cooking is not affiliated with these cookies.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Braise? What braise?

Hello readers!

Thanksgiving approaches, and I have the family coming into town. OK, I admit, that has nothing to do with this post, but I have a lot of Thanksgiving foods on my mind with the approaching holiday. This weekend I got my half of our CSA share, and man did we have a lot of root vegetables...
by root vegetables I mean turnips, we got a lot of turnips. A lot. With the holiday coming up, I am loathe to over-buy food right now. I know there will be lots of leftovers, and I'm excited to tell you all about our Thanksgiving plans (yes! my family is coming to NY!) but here I was on a Sunday evening, I had some brown rice I had cooked the night before, and I had a plethora of turnips.

Thanksgiving Made Easy! (Well, Easier.)

Last year, as regular readers may recall, my cousin The Beez and I prepared a very Brooklyn Thanksgiving for our family who were kind enough to travel to us. This year, Turkey Day dinner will be at the Massachusetts home of our aunt (a.k.a. the Turkey Ninja) and uncle, and we will be preparing apps and desserts with my mom. I have mixed feelings about not being responsible for the whole feast; on the one hand, it’s a welcome respite from pressure at a time when I’m emerging from an all-consuming work wormhole; on the other, I’m kind of bummed to miss out on preparing the biggest meal of the year.

(On that note, I’m excited for, though slightly envious of, Alyce that her fam will be having Thanksgiving dinner at her BK apartment this year—at least one of the Brooklyn Girls Cooking will be cooking in Brooklyn on this high holy foodie day!!!)

While Thanksgiving dinner is made easier for me this year by the fact that I’m not making it, you, gentle reader, should have the benefit of learning from the meal-planning lessons of the past. Herewith, please find some of BGC’s classic (read: year-old) Thanksgiving how-to posts…because recycling is good for the planet, amirite?!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Pork Chops: So, That Happened.

I’m baa-aack, did you miss me? Gentle reader, I am just setting foot in the kitchen again after weeks of what I dubbed the Taco Diet, and leave it to me to eat even less nutritiously when cooking at home.

The Rob, as I have mentioned, enjoys very much the Stove Top, and I cannot deny that I see where he is coming from. The other night when I asked if he had any requests, he said he wanted Stove Top, but not chicken. Clearly, that was just silly. But I took this as a challenge and ended up inventing a sort of unholy inside-out pork sandwich, or maybe an inverted version of a KFC Double Down but with pork. If both of those concepts intrigue and excite you, you’ve come to the right post. This meal couldn’t have been simpler to put together and was shamefully satisfying.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sarma- aka Stuffed Grape Leaves

Well readers!

Way back when this summer, my birthday was extra special this year because my Grandma Viola trekked all the way up north from Florida by train so we could celebrate our birthdays together. In honor of this momentous occassion, we had a party with a ton of great food. There was lobster involved, so you know I was happy.

One of the dishes we made was one of my all time favorites- sarma, stuffed grape leaves. If you have never had stuffed grape leaves before, well, i am shaking my head. GO! Find them! Make them! Eat them!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

snow day

It was a snow day and I was being productive. Seemed like a good time to wash all my dishtowels. How often do you wash them? I get a little lazy sometimes.

Hello Gnocchi!

Dearest Readers,
if you have ever eaten dinner with me at an Italian restaurant, you know how much I love gnocchi. It's the kind of depth of feeling where if I see it on the menu and don't order it, I feel a little guilty- like I've betrayed the gnocchi. So you can imagine my excitement when, while at cooking school at Tasty Tuscany, I saw that we would be making pumpkin gnocchi. It was divine. It was pumpkin-y and light and melty and delicious.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Straight to you from the Fairway meat counter!

I'm back!

Hi everyone, it has been a while, and I have been in a whole host of places. The most exciting of which was (wait for it) cooking school in Tuscany. Yes. I went to cooking school. In Tuscany. If that conjures up beautiful images of sunflowers and villas, bread and cheese, olives and grapes and lots and lots of vino for you, well, then the images in your head are almost as nice as the trip was.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Corn-Tomato-Arugula Sauté

To all of you who have lots of corn and tomatoes from the garden to use up as summer turns to fall…well, screw you! I can’t even have a window box of basil with the amount of exhaust-fume buildup that collects on my windows from the busy Brooklyn avenue they face! But because I am incredibly generous and selfless (pfff), I will provide for you a very easy and yummy recipe that uses up both of those. You could also use up your basil or other herbs with this warm veggie side dish, which could also be served cold or at room temp as a salad.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ricotta Dip

Just came up with this quick app that I made ahead for tomorrow night’s dinner, and it’s the easiest thing ever. Spread it over toasted baguette slices (or, even better, flatbread) and it’s kinda like a DIY white pizza. (And this is coming from someone who was never fooled by that “English muffin pizza” nonsense. Seriously, what are we, stupid? That shizz is not pizza.)

Anyhoo, I made this with White Rose supermarket-brand ricotta; the other ingredients give it mad flavor, so don’t stress about getting a fancy expensive ricotta—it’d be like ordering top-shelf tequila in a margarita. (Really? You do that? Oh, honey, nobody is impressed.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Winner, Winner, Cheap and Easy Chicken Dinner

For my first real foray back into the kitchen since, oh, June, I opted to keep it simple (as in no turning the oven on, and taking under 45 minutes) and cheap. Gentle reader, although I emerged unscathed from the recent stock market dive (after freelancing for 10 years, I didn’t have any retirement investments in the first place—jealous?!), months of lunching on overpriced so-called “paninis” in midtown have taken their toll on my wallet.

So, I went to Met Foods and bought a package of 5 chicken legs (thigh + drumstick) on sale for $1.49/lb., a yam on sale for 99¢/lb., and a handful of green beans…I forget their cost per pound, but the total came to $3.13. Plus, I knew I would have enough chicken left over for a sandwich for lunch, so I stopped at Brooklyn Victory Garden to buy a small baguette—half off, at 75¢, since it was after 8:30pm—and have a cheese sample as an amuse bouche. Kitty keeping it classy!

This whole meal took like 45 minutes from start to finish—of which only the first 10, the last 5, and a couple in between involved prep work. It is kind of a light August spin on hearty autumn-ish fare, but since the chicken cooks in the toaster oven and the yam on the stove, it doesn’t heat up your apartment. (You could of course do it in the oven as well.) Plus, it was a low-maintenance but wholly satisfying and balanced dinner for one that didn’t entail buying excess.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Grandma's DIY Rice Pilaf

Gentle reader, my grandmother makes the best rice pilaf there is, and that is a fact.

Although Alyce and I have taken sides in the battle of sides, with her being Team Rice and me Team Potatoes, I still have to represent for my grandmother’s rice pilaf recipe. Unlike those expensive boxes containing packets of dried, preservative-laden God-knows-what powder, this is something you can make easily out of regular rice and vermicelli for far less cost per serving, while knowing what’s in it. She has written out the recipe for me, and I am sharing it here.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Smoking Is Addictive: Brisket

Gentle reader, between the 100-plus-degree temps afflicting Brooklyn this summer and the fact that I have a new new job, my commitment to cooking at home has kind of fallen by the BQE-side. In fact, I have barely set foot in my kitchen in weeks, other than to deposit cold beers in the fridge and then take them out. (Mad props to Alyce for picking up my posting slack and then some!)

However, thanks to our friend Lawyer Mike, I do have some food news to report. You see, it turns out that smoking meat is every bit as addictive as smoking cigarettes or crack, though perhaps slightly less carcinogenic.

You may recall that on Memorial Day weekend, I smoked a pork shoulder at a friend’s place. This experiment gave rise to a weekend-ly smoking ritual: Since then, that friend, Lawyer Mike, has regularly embarked on meat-smoking projects—including ribs, pastrami, pork butt, and brisket—on pretty much every subsequent Saturday this summer (with The Rob's sporadic assistance). While all of these endeavors have yielded results ranging from "pret-tay, pret-tay good" to "nomnomnomnom," Mike's second take on brisket was a serious case of practice makes perfect—OMG, it was fantastic.

Now, I'm not gonna lie: Apart from repeatedly whining "When is it gonna be readyyyyyy?!", my only involvement in this meatsterpiece was slicing it up (which busted open the preexisting chopping callous at the base of my right index finger, causing a blister—does that count as a sports injury? Because I've never had one otherwise...) and subsequently eating it. But I feel that you, gentle reader, should nonetheless reap the benefits of this triumph of smokeration.

Thus, I grilled Lawyer Mike (get it? Because a smoker has a grill, and also he is a lawyer—see what I did there???) on the steps he took to create this unbelievably tasty and tender hunk of meat. (Caveat eater: This will take time, and lots of it.) Here’s what he told me:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Bounty: Easy Squash

Dear Readers,

With the small respite from the heat wave, I finally got back into the kitchen. Sometimes it's too hot to turn on the stove. You know what I'm saying.

Last night I was enjoying a lovely dinner with my co-blogger Kitty and the Rob. We were having a chuckle at my recent RAMPSCAPE debacle, discussing brisket injuries and trying to rediscover our enthusiasm for the proposed epic battle "Potato versus Rice" (now dinner is a write-off, right Kitty?) when our friend Hollister popped in to have a glass of wine with us while we were finishing up our meal. While we were chatting, she asked if we could write a post that is "really easy". Now readers, I want to apologize if we haven't been living up to our desired mission- "to make cooking easy fun and delicious", and assure you that most of what we post here, if we've tagged it as "easy" is stuff that you are all perfectly capable of doing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Massive Errata

Dear Readers,

I am embarrassed to say that for the past many weeks, the veggie item I thought were RAMPS are actually garlic SCAPES.

I am also pleased that I learned something, and thanks to Sarah Nolan for setting me straight last night when I brought her some pickled... Scapes! It's funny, I am thinking back on all the recipes I looked up for ramps, it might be fun to try them with actual ramps...


Monday, July 11, 2011

Pickles! (now with gratuitous garlic scapes)

Hello and happy high summer!

With high summer comes fresh produce, and when you have a CSA, sometimes you can end up with a lot of something that you don't necessarily have the impetus to cook with.
To that end, something I have gotten a lot of this year (I am sure you are shocked to hear based on this post, and then this post) are garlic scapes. Giving scapes a run for the money in the excess department? Fennel. I was overloaded, I didn't feel like cooking anything major (it's hot, turning on the stove takes effort) so I decided to pickle my excess veggie blues away!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Who's Bad? (Scape it up)

In the face of an excess of garlic scapes (thanks CSA!), as well as a bunch of produce that was calling "cook me now or lose me forever", I decided to cut up a bunch of crap and make something with it.
Literally, that was my approach- I stood in front of my open fridge, grabbed the bag from my CSA pickup Saturday (damn! the broccoli was already yellowing), saw some carrots that had to be weeks old, red peppers that didn't make it onto veggie skewers at the bbq, celery, oldish lettuce, lettuce and tomato pre-cut for bbq burger toppings, and an open package of andouille sausage i didn't use up from shrimp-sausage skewers assembly. I turned to my cupboards for garlic and onions that had been up there for too long, and finally on the counter, one huge and one small tomato, red and about to start severely wrinkling.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Curried Potato Salad With Zucchini and Chives

With July 4, one of the high holy grilling days, at hand, Alyce is having a BBQ tomorrow! And so are our friends who had the Memorial Day BBQ for which The Rob and I smoked a pork shoulder. (Turns out that smoking is highly addictive: Since then The Rob has been over there almost every weekend for a smoking adventure such as ribs, brisket, or chicken… and for tomorrow they’re attempting a Pastrami Project.)

Since Alyce’s BBQ starts at 3 pm and our other friends’ at 6 pm, I’m planning to two-time them by bringing the same potato salad. Except I was at the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket today and I saw some lovely-looking little zucchinis, so I decided on a whim to get one and shred it into the Alyce-BBQ-bound potato salad, because, why not?

The zucchini was small, and I correctly guessed that it would not really have any seeds to speak of; if you use a larger, seedy one, I would probably scoop the seeds out of it. I used one zucchini, but I would use two next time to make the flavor and texture stand out more.

I proportioned this recipe for about 5 pounds of potatoes, but obvi, you could multiply it as you like.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Breakfast for 4!

hello readers, happy july!

In celebration of this great month and this great holiday (holla 4 days off in a row!) I have a bevvy of beautiful ladies hanging out. My sister is in town, her friend Kelly is in town, and Tamah came over to hang. With a morning hangout coming, I was racking my brain over what to put on the table. We couldn't go out to eat, as I had a roof guy coming over to check out the situation up there, and August coming to drop over her keys so i can do some kitty-sitting this weekend, hence the home hang-out time. I didn't have a ton in my fridge, but I did have eggs, I had some greens from my CSA, and I had a couple of tomatos. I was going to start from there.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

To brine or not to brine

Well, it's a question.

I had never thought about brining, until I heard about it from my lovely co-blogger Kitty, and then I was intrigued. I had a barbecue coming up and thought I would give it the old college try. Of course by the old college try, I do NOT mean drinking box wine directly from the box and playing beer pong, but feel free to partake in those activities after the grill is turned off.

I have, recently, developed a fondness for drumsticks. Don't ask me why I didn't like them in my earlier years, I have no explanation for my strange, youthful preference for boring breast meat. Thinking back on my requests, as a kid, for only breast meat, I actually think it can be attributed to my mother's excellent cooking. As a child I had no idea that breast meat could be dry and tasteless until I was much much older- THAT'S how good my mom is. Seriously.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lemony Chicken and a Series of Mildly Unfortunate Events

Despite this post’s title, tonight’s meal was a triumph, for I was able to bang it out in near-record time: under half an hour (suck it, Rachael Ray). AND everything was done at once! (Ironically, the meal then had to sit and wait, but we’ll get to that.) Oh, and it was light and healthy fare...well, with the exception of the Rice-a-Roni.

Okay, here’s what happened: The Rob called and said he would be stopping home for dinner, before going back to work for a night project, in about an hour. Prompted for a request, he suggested chicken with lemon sauce, broccoli, and—wait for it—Rice-a-Roni. (I’m not gonna lie: I love the so-called chicken flavor. Don’t judge me, gentle reader.) So, I headed to the Met Foods for groceries.

Mildly unfortunate event #1: The guy in front of me in the checkout line, upon reading his receipt, realized he had been overcharged for turnip greens—$2.99 a pound instead of 99 cents—which led to a heated exchange with the cashier and a protracted process of re-scanning and refunding that included the cashier’s extended disappearance into the produce aisle. As a result, when The Rob called to say he was on his way home, I had just gotten home myself. But I kicked it into high gear.

Monday, June 6, 2011

You Can Make It Yourself! Fruit-on-the-Bottom Yogurt

I always resent those sanctimonious “Your Money” articles that local papers periodically run, telling you that you could save ever so much bank if you would just, say, make your coffee at home every morning. As if forgoing that $1.50 large with half-and-half at the bodega is really going to solve all your budgetary woes? Listen, all New Yorkers are pretty much financially screwed to varying degrees—so let us have a little indulgence like a damn cup of deli coffee on the way to work without feeling guilty about it!

That said, there are some really overpriced food items 9-to-5-ers get suckered into buying o’er on the dreaded isle o’ Manhattan, that I do believe you’re better off prepping and schlepping. Case in point: those stupid yogurt cups with fruit and granola that cost, like, $3.50 in the refrigerator cases of your fancier midtown delis. How hard is it to buy a quart of yogurt, a pint or two of berries, and a box of granola for the week, and combine into individual servings in Tupperware the night before work?

And if, like me, you enjoy taking a fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt cup as your morning repast, you’re looking at probably upwards of $1 a pop…not to mention whatever additives, preservatives, and sweeteners. If you make a batch of fruit sauce at home and buy a quart of yogurt at the supermarket, you’ll have a few days’ worth of healthy morning or afternoon snacks for less money (and not much time), and you’ll know what you’re eating.

This is a great way to use blueberries that are a little past the peak of ripeness. Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and sliced peaches would all work in lieu of or in addition to blueberries. But if you have really fresh fruit straight from the farmstand, you might just want to enjoy it raw with the yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup or agave nectar.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Purple Chipotle Slaw

So, this is the slaw I served atop pulled smoked pork shoulder on soft corn tortillas this past Memorial Day weekend; I’ve also done it with braised pork shoulder. But as a stand-alone, this would be a welcome side dish at any cookout or picnic, and it’s a good way to feed a crowd—red cabbage is cheap! Plus it takes very little time to throw together.

I recommend making this the night before so that the flavors set up and the cabbage softens into the dressing. The cabbage I used in the recipe below was a little under 2 1/2 pounds; tweak the dressing proportions if yours is significantly bigger or smaller.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Smoking Is Good for You: Smoked Pork Shoulder, Part 2

Gentle reader, as you may already have surmised from the fact that you’re reading this post, the smoked pork shoulder was a success! Mind you, much of the credit must go to The Rob, who got up at 7 AM to go set up the smoker in our friends’ backyard, and spent the next several hours peering at the temperature gauge, twiddling the vents, and replenishing the water. Since I am constitutionally incapable of getting up before the crack of noon on a Sunday, I really appreciate him shouldering this huge responsibility. Get it? See what I did there? SHOULDERing! BWAAAAHAAahhahaaaaahaaa...

Ahem. Anyhoo. I arrived at my friends’ BBQ around 6 PM to man the smoker for the last few hours, before pulling the meat and serving it on soft corn tortillas with a chipotle slaw. So here’s a little post-pork analysis of the lessons I learned.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Smoking Is Good for You: Smoked Pork Shoulder, Part 1

Ah, Memorial Day weekend. A time for honoring America’s war heroes, and for cooking large quantities of meat. Alyce got a jump on the official start of grill season with a fab rooftop cookout Thursday, and today, I am marinating a pork shoulder to be smoked for a backyard gathering tomorrow evening. And by “marinating,” I mean I am sitting outside with my laptop drinking a beer while the pork sits in the fridge inside.

A pork shoulder is a great cookout option: The meat is cheap (about $1.50 a pound), it requires very little hands-on time, and a whole one will feed a crowd. (The one I bought was about 7 pounds.) The reason it’s cheap, however, is that it is a very tough cut that takes a long time to cook. You want to cook it at an extremely slow temperature so that the meat breaks down and all the fat gets nicely rendered into it; when it’s finished cooking, you should be able to pull strands of meat apart with your fingers. Again, you don’t really have to tend to it at all while it’s cooking, you just have to plan to get it cooking several hours before serving. One good way to cook a pork shoulder is by braising it in the oven at, like, 250° to 300°. And another is to put it in a smoker.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spaghetti With Zucchini and Roasted Tomatoes

Gentle reader, at every Brooklyn street fair, it seems I end up disappointing myself. I gravitate toward the first greasy street foods in sight, then end up too full to try things I encounter later. (Hint: Avoid the mozzarepas—they expand in your stomach and ruin you for the rest of the day in one shot.) However, this past Sunday, at the Fifth Avenue Street Fair, I had the opposite problem: not getting enough street food. Oh, the irony!

See, after much cautious passing-up of various pulled-pork purveyors, I threw in my lot with a brisket slider from Benchmark. (Yummy, if messy. Note to self: Put Wet-Naps in purse before next street fair.) But by then it was getting pretty late, and it started to rain, and all the vendors started packing up, so I was unable to follow up with a chicken taco, much less funnel cake for dessert. And let me just say—at the risk of sounding melodramatic, which I would never, ever, ever do—that for a moment I hoped those people carrying signs about the End of Days coming next Saturday were right. Because seriously, what kind of a God would want to rain on His children’s funnel-cake parade?!

After I finished shaking my fists at the heavens, I proceeded to the after-party, chez the Beez (what, you don’t have after-parties for street fairs? Laaame), where I proceeded to overcompensate by eating pizza (you never saw a group of people tear into a pizza like that straight off a street-fair fried-food crawl) … at which point someone brought over a triple-crème cheese and crackers … and then I may have stopped for a couple of fried chicken drumsticks at Yafa Deli on the way home. What? Don’t judge me! I did a lot of walking at that fair!

Anyhoo. My point being: For the past couple of days, I’ve felt the need to eat relatively healthy, vegetable-driven meals that are neither deep-fried or on a stick. Hence I came up with this simple pasta, with a low ratio of noodles to veggies.

(Yes, that’s where I was going all this time. I’ll pause for you to overcome your indignation.)

So, yeah! This is a no-brainer-easy, vegetarian alternative to your average pasta with preservative-laden jar red sauce. Ingredients total around $5—and might be even cheaper come summer’s end, if you have a garden overflowing with tomatoes and zucchini. Personally, I don’t have a vegetable garden, so if you do, gentle reader, the polite thing would probably be to share some of your extra produce with me. I did share this recipe with you, after all, so it’s really the least you could do.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Celery Root and Apple Soup

Hello and happy May Day!

Yes, it's May and I know what you are thinking- soup? Celery root soup? Come on Alyce, winter's over, where's the grill? It's almost cinco de Mayo, how about some fajitas?
I know, trust me I know, but the other day I was in the grocery store, saw a big ole celery root and had to pick it up. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with it. Wasn't in a gratin-y mood, and wanted to do something a little more substantial than a salad, so I looked online and found a recipe for soup with celery root and apple that piqued my interest, seemed really simple, and so I got to work.

Friday, April 15, 2011


When I get the baby asparagus
And see all the green
I feel the spring!
Now it's the trees' turn

(happy "it's not tax day on April 15th for the first time since i can remember")

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Quiche vs Tart: Part Quiche

Hello my friends, Are you as excited for part 2 of this tart-quiche saga? I know I am. As you may have previously read, I made a tart, in an effort to learn the tart/quiche process. I also decided to make a quiche, in an effort to try a different recipe and see what worked for my preferences.

I turned to where I had pulled a recipe called "Broccoli Cheddar Garlic Quiche". If you've read here before, you know that they had me at "Garlic". This recipe called for a home made crust, and my freezer was fresh out of pie crust, so i made the dough for the quiche while the tart baked. I promise to talk about my positive dough experience soon.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sunchoke Puree

Today, with the temperature finally cracking 60 degrees, I visited the greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza for the first time since last year. Along with trying samples of three kinds of sausage (hot pork Italian sausage, duck salami, and turkey sausage), I got a couple of delicacies. I splurged on a leg of duck confit for $6 (after forbearing at the supermarket earlier this week, I gave in rationalizing that this one was straight from a real farm), and I bought a little over a pound of sunchokes, also for $6.

Sunchokes, which are really called Jerusalem artichokes but were evidently rebranded, as it were, for marketing purposes, have a subtly rich taste that I can only describe by saying it’s kind of like if you somehow infused a potato with the flavor of an artichoke. Texture-wise, they’re also much like potatoes, albeit less starchy, and can be cooked as potatoes are. The one thing that’s annoying about them: They are knobby like ginger roots, and therefore a pain to clean and peel. But once you take the time to prep them, this mashed-potato-style dish is very easy to make.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cassoulet, Brooklyn-Style

Yesterday I was perusing the meat aisle of my local Met Foods trying to come up with a dinner idea that wasn’t just a straight-up meat-vegetable-starch plate, when I suddenly came upon packages of confit duck legs. While a nuanced discussion of gentrification in Brooklyn neighborhoods is outside the scope of this post, I will just say that the presence of duck confit there was about as surprising as discovering that the G train was running normally on a weekend.

At $6 a leg, I realized, I could not afford the confit. However, the idea of using it in a cassoulet had already taken shape in my mind, and I decided to try my own spin on that one-pot meal using turkey drumsticks, which were packaged at the Met for about $2 for two.

As usual with my cooking, this makes no pretense to be faithful to the classic dish, in this case a French-countryside-y bean stew with a mélange of rich meats. I looked up cassoulet in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking when I got home, and her rendition is a five-page, three-day affair for 10-12 people involving “pork loin, shoulder of mutton or lamb, and sausage,” with suggested variants such as duck, goose, confit goose, veal shank, and partridge—all compiled under the unassuming recipe title “Cassoulet: French baked beans.” (Sorry to get all “Kitty and Julia” on you, but she is the authority on French cuisine.)

Along with the turkey drumsticks, my cheapo version uses the packaged horseshoe-shaped supermarket kielbasa, plus two Goya cans of butter beans—large white beans whose starch gives the sauce an almost creamy texture. It does take upwards of two hours, so you may want to prepare it on a Sunday; this is one of those dishes that might be even better reheated. The below proportions would easily serve four for dinner, but I made it for two with plans for leftovers.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quiche vs. Tart: Part Tart

Dearest Readers,

Hello! How have you all been? I hope everyone had a lovely winter! Personally, I took a bit of a hiatus, enjoying some time in the Maldives. It was rather boring, as I’m sure you can imagine: Get up in the morning, have some fresh fruit, put on a bathing suit, lounge in the sun, read the paper, take a nap, go shopping, pick a place for dinner, go for a late night swim, and then get plenty of sleep in order to start fresh again the next day. I know it sounds tiresome, but what can you do when you live a life of leisure. Oh wait. I actually haven’t won the lotto yet. A girl can dream though, right?

I too have been struggling through this seemingly endless winter, and there was a time in early January when I had been suffering a fair amount of food malaise. I sunk into a bit of a food funk- not cooking anything fun, going through the motions at the grocery store, turning to my freezer for Ling Ling's potstickers in my time of need. The situation was verging on dire.

I took a trip to Fairway in the midst of a bad head cold which only perpetuated my food doldrums- I decided to partake in some prepared foods. As I don't usually spend much time in the prepared food section, I am always impressed by the selection. I was, that cold winter evening, sniffling into my crumpled tissue, totally taken in by a small broccoli-cheddar tart. It looked delicious, like the perfect little treat to take to work the next day for lunch, so I bought it. Dear readers, it was, simply put, really disappointing. While I'm not sure that anything could have lived up to my expectations, it fell short on texture and taste, and suddenly, this slight let down of a mid-week office lunch sparked some inspiration in my lazy food bones. I would make a broccoli cheddar tart! I would make a tart and it would be good! Wait when was the last time I made a tiche (tart/quiche)?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Curry-Rubbed Lamb Ribs

Two years ago this time, gentle reader, you could not get through a restaurant review in a New York–based publication without encountering the R-word: “recession.” And we're still feeling the culinary repercussions of that market meltdown.

See, back in the '09, with the economy a bigger hot mess than a school-cafeteria Sloppy Joe, the sanctimonious contingent of the Brooklyn restaurant scene (think seasonal/local/sustainable/blah-blah-blah) eagerly embraced the frugal, down-home aesthetic of “upscale comfort food”—often, a euphemism for “We buy cheap cuts of meat and cook them for a long-ass time, and for that we will charge you in the vicinity of $20 for a small but beautifully plated portion of some obscure, newly acceptable part of the animal.”

The economy has theoretically picked up, but this credo of Brooklyn restaurant cooking remains rampant. And while I love rich, slow-cooked, meat-based dining—and respect the bargain-hunter impetus behind it—I resent the massive markup. So I was excited when I saw a 4-pound breast of lamb ribs—a cut I had tried only twice, each time at trendy Brooklyn restaurants that shall remain nameless, since I genuinely enjoyed and do not want to badmouth them—for $4 at a market on Washington Ave.

Lifelong lover of lamb though I am, I was utterly unfamiliar with preparation methods for this cut, and hence worried about my ability to cook down the significant layer of fat without drying out the meat. But for $4, I decided to go for it. I'd say this should serve one or two people.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Kale, Yeah!

This morning, I saw a commercial that may well earn a spot in the Annoying NY1 Ad Hall of Fame alongside Pillow Pets and the Sarah MacLachlan abused-animals-wondering-what-they-did-wrong ones. In it, a woman says something like, “Don’t you wish vegetables didn’t taste so vegetable-y?”


Of course, my mind immediately went to Alyce’s “Veggie Rage” post expressing, well, rage at those who would make us feel vegetables are something to be endured rather than enjoyed. (I believe the ad went on to tout some product that made a mix of fruit and vegetable juices taste solely like fruit, but even if I did recall its name I certainly wouldn’t plug it.)

Now, I like a big hunk of meat as much as the next guy—and by "next guy" I mean Homer Simpson marveling at the “wonderful, magical animal” that makes pork, bacon, and ham. But I also appreciate the flavor and texture of veggies in their own right, not when disguised as meat or fruit or what have you. If I’m going to make vegetables, they’re damn well going to taste vegetable-y.

In that spirit, here’s a recipe for kale—much like Brussels sprouts, a super-nutritious green that is often unfairly maligned because people don’t know the simple ways to cut its bitterness and bring out its intense flavor ... which turns out to be a surprisingly great complement to a rich meat-driven dish.

The proportions of this recipe are easily multiplied. Tonight I was cooking for myself; I used half a bunch of kale, which as it turned out could have been two generous servings. Note: A bunch of raw kale looks like it could feed an army, but cooks down to a fraction of its size, so resist the urge to use far less than a recipe calls for.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pork Loin On the Go

Gentle reader, I recently got a real job. Yes, after years of freelancing, I took a staff position, which has brought such magical developments as visits from the money fairy (a.k.a. direct deposit) and the prospect of finally getting my teeth cleaned.

Another plus: I can pick up groceries in the neighborhood where I work, which was not an option at my previous gig in Times Square—an area so devoid of grocery stores, I frequently saw people in line at the Duane Reade with baskets full of staples like milk and cereal. Kind of depressing that in the greatest food city in the world, people are grocery-shopping at a chain pharmacy.

Anyhoo. I have spoken before of how my matrilineal heritage of old-fashioned home cooking involves the use of condiment packets. So last Friday, I took it into my head to marinate a pork loin using ingredients found in my office kitchen, while I enjoyed happy hour with a friend.

(Mind you, if you're not into eating dinner late, you might want to save this recipe for a weekend, since it does take a while. You could also marinate the pork the night before and refrigerate it overnight, but it will still need time to come to room temperature and to roast.)

Here’s how it went down:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Super Bowl Munchie: Red Bean Dip

No, I didn't make this, nor are we affiliated with those who did. It's just awesome. Insane ultimate Super Bowl dip recipe by Holy Taco; get the how-to here.

My co-blogger Alyce and I are most definitely kindred spirits. But since we human beings are all unique, just like everybody else, even the B-est FFs are bound to have certain points of divergence on tastes. Ours, in a word? Football.

See, Alyce believes the point of football is to enjoy the thrill of the game (I assume, anyway ... I never asked, because I get bored as soon as the F-word is uttered). She totally represents for the knowledgeable, engaged, passionate-to-the-point-of-cuckoo female fans (this article seriously pissed her off), and I admire her for it.

However, I have a very different take on the point of football. For me, gentle reader, it means enduring a long winter of Sunday afternoons of endless, tedious Spandex-clad scrums (how the Jets game the other week trumped Mariska’s Birthday Marathon of SVU in The Rob’s priority system is beyond me) in order to reach the second greatest eating day of the year, after Thanksgiving: the Super Bowl.

Ahhh, the ’Merickan glory that is the classic Super Bowl spread: Pigs in blankets. Buffalo wings. Kielbasa. Nachos. Pizza. Spinach-artichoke dip. Seven-layer dip. Sundry other dips. Requisite accompanying chips. And, so much beer. The $25,000 Pyramid category here could just as easily be “Things That Make Kitty Happy.”

Anyhoo. This particular bean dip is super-easy, and makes a large quantity on the cheap (it's easily multiplied for a crowd). And it's actually relatively non-fat-laden, at least as far as Super Bowl foods (or, again, things that make Kitty happy) go.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Roasted Bok Choi

This recipe, like so many great dishes throughout history, had its genesis in one crystal-clear beacon of inspiration: Some food was about to go bad.

In this case, that food was a head of bok choi, which I bought last week and failed to use. I wanted to try roasting it, because the oven tends to be more forgiving to vegetables that have passed their prime, much like dim lighting with humans.

I figured it would go great with the pork dumplings I made a big batch of and froze a few weeks ago. You can plop these right from the freezer into a steamer over boiling water, and they cook in about 10 minutes, so they are awesome to have handy.

Bok choi has stems that are much thicker, and thus take longer to cook, than its green ends. So I debated whether to add everything to the pan at once, or start with the stems and add the greens later. I Googled “roasted bok choi,” but every recipe that came up was for baby bok choi, which have far slenderer stems (hence the name, duh), so I wasn’t sure whether the directions would apply.

Being hungry and impatient, I opted to wing it. I decided I would cook everything together but keep the greens under the stems so they would retain their moisture.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mac and Cheese: Thinking Outside the Kraft Box

In case you have not noticed, gentle reader, my recipes have been on the hearty and rich side lately. That is because right now in Brooklyn, it is about 7 degrees out. Which kind of sucks in a largely car-free culture where you have to walk everywhere. So you can understand why I would be drawn to seriously belly-filling fare these days. I'm calling it Carbopalooza 2011.

This naturally brings us to mac and cheese, another ’Merickan classic. There are almost infinite variations of this dish you can whip up ... though The Rob would far rather have a box of Kraft—old-school powdered cheese-style—than any other incarnation, so, I'm ashamed to say, the neon-orange stuff does sometimes make an appearance on our plates.

This from-scratch baked version, with three cheeses, prosciutto, and peas (yet another spin on my go-to pasta formula), seems pretty fancy but is simple to throw together with ingredients you can get at your supermarket’s deli counter. I made it for a recent dinner with my friend Tom, a good Italian boy who is naturally a fan of the non-box-based cheesy pasta. (I apologize if that was Italian stereotyping and our advertisers pull out like with Jersey Shore. Not that we have any advertisers, but we might someday, and I don't want to have to go back and edit.)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chicken Potpie

Chicken potpie occupies a unique place in the ’Merickan culinary pantheon, in that it is a classic retro-Americana "leftovers dish" yet does not evoke any of the shudders or gag reflexes such dishes are wont to elicit. Compare, for example, tuna casserole—just the name has served as a punch line for decades of family sitcoms, the premise of the joke being that hidden under those canned dried "onions" is everything that was about to go bad in the fridge. Even meatloaf, which has recently acquired new panache in this recessionary era of "upscale comfort food" (more on this at a later date, in my upcoming post about meatloaf) inspires a wide range of visceral reactions in people, many of which are extremely negative.

But chicken potpie grosses out nobody (except perhaps carb-phobic Atkins devotees, but we all know they lead miserable and bitter lives anyway). It is hearty, it is buttery, and it makes efficient and cheap use of leftovers, supplemented by staples you probably already have in your kitchen. Often, I roast a chicken for just myself and The Rob, with an eye toward making potpie out of the leftovers. With the plump roaster I got on sale recently for 99 cents a pound, I was not only able to do that, but make a couple sandwiches' worth of curried chicken salad—oh, and of course, I made stock from the chicken carcass.

Usually, when I make chicken potpie, I put the filling in a gratin pan and lay a crust over just the top of the dish (as opposed to having a bottom crust lining the pan). It's not like this is exactly a "light" dish any way you prepare it, but I find that you don’t really need all that extra crust.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday Night Comfort Food: Baked Chicken With Mushrooms

Saturday night is my favorite night of the week to stay in. All the douchebags are out and about, crowding up restaurants and bars. It's the one night I can actually find an available washing machine in my apartment building’s laundry room. And because I have the day off work, I can leisurely grocery-shop (the Met Foods is rarely crowded on Saturday) and cook dinner.

This evening, I was kind of feeling a mid-twentieth-century housewife vibe (okay, fine, when am I not?). I was also feeling extremely lazy. So I decided to make this update on those classic grosstastic suburban-mom dishes that involve dumping a can of cream of mushroom soup on some chicken and sticking it in the oven. I figured it would be low-maintenance and hearty. And it was.

However. Gentle reader, what you are about to read may shock you. You see, tonight I defied every principle of Brooklyn foodie-ism to prepare a meal that involved—yes—prepackaged, additive-addled food products. Luckily, if your body is a temple of loca-eco-susta-whateverability, you can easily skip said ingredients.