Lamb Stir-Fry with Pomegranate and Yogurt

Lamb Stir-Fry with Pomegranate and Yogurt

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Digging into the Freezer

Since the arrival of Xavier two weeks ago, our microwave has probably gotten more use than it ever has. Ryan has been a bit more ambitious than I have and presented me with Chicken Parmesan the other night as I lay comatose on the couch. But for the most part, we have eaten our fair share of frozen Trader Joes tamales while trying not to drop the steaming bites onto Xavier’s head. We have also dug even deeper into the freezer and pulled out a few dishes I had stashed away in the last months of pregnancy in anticipation of Chelsea take out overload. A few nights ago we defrosted one of my favorite soups that I’ll be making many times this winter. It only has four ingredients – pumpkin or butternut squash, coconut milk, Thai chili paste and butter – but it’s incredibly is getting your two week old to pose in soup pot.

Try it out:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes

Every few months I refer back to a NYT article I mentioned a few months ago called “The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating.” I’m not entirely sure why I’m so obsessed with it. I think it makes me feel better when I can check off a few items on the list, feel good about my nutritional habits and then go back to eating ice cream and fantasizing about beer.

Anyways, I can never check off ‘canned pumpkin’ because it is just not something I cook with unless I’m making pie at Thanksgiving. I assume I'm not alone here. However, the article says it’s very high in fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A so when I saw it featured in one of Trader Joe’s nauseatingly cute but apparently effective fall displays, I grabbed a few cans. From there it was a short journey to pumpkin pancakes.

Mix together 1 1/4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt and about 2 teaspoons of any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground clove, and/or ground ginger depending on what you have. In a separate bowl, combine 1 1/3 cups milk, 3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin, 4 egg yolks, 1/2 stick of melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients. Finally, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer (or if you live in NYC sized apartment with your whisk) until they are firm or your hand is tired. Fold into the batter. Cook them up like normal pancakes and serve with maple syrup, a bit of butter and a sprinkling of good salt.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Office Potluck

I work with people from all over Latin America and the Caribbean. My immediate cubicle neighbors come from St. Lucia and Guyana but this office has strong representation from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Ecuador…and Brooklyn. You would be hard pressed to find a Subway sandwich or a deli bought cup of soup in our lunch room. At around 1:30 every day, the line starts to form as my colleagues wait to warm up their elaborate leftovers. There is always a bit of sharing that takes place in the kitchen – half an avocado up for grabs, homemade salad dressing passed around and shared hot sauce for the rice and beans days. For the most part however, we all settle down to our own lunches after a quick “buen provecho.” That is of course unless it’s the much anticipated once a year International Planned Parenthood Potluck.

Some offices do fancy holiday parties at midtown hotels with bacon wrapped scallops and mini puff pastries filled with brie. We do a potluck. Today that meant a spread that included roasted pernil, arroz con pollo, shrimp fried rice, roti, guacamole, empanadas, curried chicken, fried plantains and more. The dessert table continued the global taste bud extravaganza with torta de batata, flan and organic chocolate chip cookies. ( I did say Brooklyn after all.) Even with just a small taste of everyone’s dish, it’s impossible not to overdo it. Luckily I was able to skip one dish this year. The auditors who happen to be in the office today brought Cinnabons.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Oven Baked Polenta Surprise

Like 99% of all New Yorkers, every day I walk by a corner pizza shop on the way from the subway to my apartment. Regardless of how questionable the establishment is, it’s always tempting to stop in for a slice whether it’s 3 pm or 3 am. On particularly grey, rainy days like yesterday, my cravings for gooey cheese go through the roof. However, on the rare occasion that I do get a slice, I’m often disappointed. The cheese is tasteless, the sprinkled parmesan resembles sand and worst of all, I wake up the next morning with no leftovers. (For anybody that knows me well, I have contemplated calling in sick rather than showing up at work with no lunch.)

This is where Baked Polenta Surprise comes in. It satisfies the exact same craving but it’s tastier and gives me lunch for a few days. I never used to make polenta because like risotto and McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, you have to stir it for way too long. But recently I discovered “An Elegant Gruel: Polenta” on New York Times’ Recipes for Health and now polenta is a fixture.

All you do is mix one cup of corn meal with 4 cups of water and a bit of salt and throw it in the oven at 350. Fifty minutes later you have a nice, firm polenta to form the base for whatever you want to throw on top (i.e. the substitute for the pizza crust).

From here you can use your imagination. I like to cook up fresh tomatoes, garlic and spinach, layer it on the polenta, cover with cheese and bake for a few more minutes. Mushrooms and gorgonzola are a good topping too. I can imagine that sausage, tomatoes and basil would be delicious. Ham and pineapple? Not so much.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Early Morning Blueberries

Lately I have been waking up at 5 a.m. I think it’s a combination of flying back and forth between London and New York all summer, fear of bedbugs and a total absence of hangovers. The other morning I was actually craving a hangover simply because I so desperately wanted to still be asleep. Anyways, my early morning activities have consisted of washing down all my spices and spice rack, laundering the sub-leasers sheets and emailing my grandparents. If I’m feeling really wild, I indulge in watching Netflix in bed on my iphone. Crazy stuff.

This weekend I was home with my family in Boston so I decided to take advantage of the peaceful, early morning kitchen and make blueberry muffins at the crack of dawn instead. I followed Smitten Kitchen’s Perfect Blueberry Muffin recipe.

I used those tiny wild blueberries which were amazing – although difficult to stir in without dying the entire muffin purple. I opted for sour cream over yoghurt since good, full fat yoghurt has all but disappeared from the shelves of suburban US supermarkets. (This is a major pet peeve of mine). These muffins aren’t sweet so don’t expect that sugar encrusted NYC deli muffin. Do expect to win major points with your family even if you are 34 years old and have been mooching off their stocked fridge for four days straight.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Love Affair with Lentils

I’m obsessed with lentils. Not only do I include them whenever possible in salads, soups, side dishes, etc. but the word is usually part of my password if you ever want to access my dwindling back account. I don’t think it would work as a little boy’s name but there is definitely a cat in my future named Lentil.

Anyways, after weeks of traveling and gorging myself on Jamón Serrano, deep fried peppers, short ribs, Toast Skagen (fancy way of saying shrimp with mayo) and Swedish meatballs, I was happy to be back at home and cooking up some basic lentils. This is one of my favorite lentil soup recipes. It’s adapted from 101 Cookbooks’ Coconut Red Lentil Soup.

1) Rinse 1 cup of yellow split peas and one cup of red lentils until the water runs clear. Cover with 7 cups of water and bring to a boil.

2) Add 1-2 diced carrots and two tbsp of diced ginger. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

3) In the meantime, sauté another 2 tbsp of ginger, a bunch of diced scallions and 2 tbsp curry powder in a big pat of butter (or two!) for a few minutes. Add 2 tbsp of tomato paste.

4) Add this mixture and one can of coconut milk to the lentils. Let cook for another 15 minutes or so until the lentils are soft. Season with salt.

5) Serve topped with cilantro and green onions. Add Sriracha for extra kick.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Vegetarian Dish Worthy of Name Day

I prepare vegetarian dishes all the time. During the week I usually throw together a grain, some fresh vegetables, and feta and toss it all with vinaigrette. Or if I want something hot, I often make pasta, baked polenta or a tofu stir fry. It’s cheap, makes good leftovers (I’m not a fan of reheated meat), and healthy. However, whenever I'm actually confronted with making dinner for a real vegetarian, I panic.

Meat-friendly crowd pleasers are easy – short ribs, pork tenderloin, lasagna, steak, etc. The meat forms the centerpiece and the salad and other accompaniments simply keep it company. With a vegetarian meal, however, I struggle to find the ‘centerpiece’ or rather, a dish worthy of presenting to somebody other than myself!

Last week I had to tackle this problem head on as it was Zuzana’s name day (a Czech Republic thing). Given the company, I knew I could just get away with serving dessert for the main course (a Czech Republic thing), but I was determined to find my Zuzana Day centerpiece. Luckily, corn and tomato pie from Smitten Kitchen came to my rescue.

Tomatoe Corn Pie adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1) Make or buy a pie crust with a top and bottom. I made mine (using a bottle of wine as a rolling pin) but I don’t think it’s particularly worth the time unless you are really good at pie crusts –which I’m not.
2) Prepare your pie filling: Slice approximately 2 lbs of beefsteak tomatoes into ¼ inch slices and remove as many seeds as possible. Remove corn kernels from 2 ears of steamed corn. Shred two cups of good cheddar cheese (spend the money). Chop up a generous handful of basil (or substitute pesto) and some chives.
3) Whisk together 1/3 cup crème fraiche and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
4) Line the bottom of the pie with a layer of cheese (prevents sogginess) and then add a layer of tomatoes, corn, and herb mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat.
5) Drizzle top of pie with crème fraiche mixture and seal up with top pie crust.
6) Brush top of pie with 2 tablespoons melted butter and poke 4 steam holes in the crust.
7) Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Let stand for 10 minutes when you remove or it will be watery.

Place it in the middle of your table as a centerpiece and toast to Zuzana.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tortilla: Better as a soup than a name

Chucho thinks I should name my kid Tortilla. I have my doubts about that despite my deep appreciation for tortillas. Tortillas can really make or break a meal, and in NYC, it’s unfortunately often the latter. I recently read an article about Tortilleria Nixtamal and I have high hopes that it will up the standards for tortillas in NYC. In the mean time, tortilla soup satisfies my craving without requiring top notch tortillas. It’s based on a Wolfgang Puck recipe (Qué verguenza!) but it really does the trick.

1. Steam two ears of the freshest most flavor packed corn you can find. Remove the kernels and save the cobs.
2. In a food processor, blend a few jalapenos, one small onion, 4-6 garlic cloves and the corn.
3. Cut up a couple of tortillas and sauté in vegetable oil in a big soup pot until brown and crispy. Add the veggie mixture and cook for a few minutes.
4. Add two large chopped and seeded tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and 2-3 teaspoons of cumin. Cook for 10 minutes.
5. Add 6-8 cups of good stock and the corn cobs and simmer until soup reduces a bit and flavors mix. Add salt to taste.
6. Puree.
7. For garnish, service with chopped cilantro, a dollop of sour cream, baked tortilla strips, pulled chicken, avocado, etc.

Eat it. Enjoy it. But don’t name your kid after it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dessert instead of Booze

Most have you have heard my theory regarding sugar cravings and alcohol consumption this summer. I have never liked sweets and didn’t consider dessert to be an integral part of a meal. Now that I’m pregnant, I demand it after every meal…make that after every snack. I think the intense sugar cravings occur because I’m not getting my daily intake of sugar from wine, beer, margaritas, etc. Regardless of the reasons, I have had fun exploring new desserts from foie gras crème brulee (fantastic!) to basic chocolate fudge from Northern Michigan.

So far my favorite dessert however is a Lemon Cornmeal cake with fresh berries. The cornmeal keeps it from being too sweet so I suspect I’ll like it even when I can finally toss back those margaritas again.

Double, if not triple, the lemon zest.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stir fry without the Dreaded Green Pepper

For many years after college, I avoided any recipe that mentioned ‘stir fry’. The name conjured up images of bulk frozen chicken breasts and soggy green peppers doused in soy sauce and bottled garlic. Along with canned Taco Bell refried beans and wilted tortillas, this ‘stir fry’ recipe sustained me through some bleak culinary years in my early 20s.

I rediscovered stir fry when backpacking through rural China with Carolyn in 2001. With limited Mandarin (to say the least) at our disposal, we opted to eat at open food markets where we could point as opposed to verbally order our meals. Upon approaching a stir fry table, we would find countless bowls of fresh seafood, meats, tofu and a myriad of vegetables and spicy peppers. With a few simple hand gestures, we would soon see our picks tossed together in a giant wok and less than two minutes later poured into our outstretched bowls.

The key here is the ‘two minutes.’ Woks should be burning hot and cook the ingredients instantly. Make sure to have all the ingredients chopped and laid out on your “ample” NYC counter space ahead of time.

There are many great stir fry recipes and if you have the time to poke through the Asian markets, there are more authentic recipes to explore. However, this is my favorite standard that can usually be made with the ingredients in my cabinets. I have used pork, shrimp, chicken and beef and it’s always good. Double the ginger, garlic and pepper flakes.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pancakes in Bacon Grease

I have slept at home one out of the last 44 days. Due to a combination of vacation, work travel, and sub-leasing I have done lots of eating – from over-salted microwaved mystery meat on Bolivian airlines to three course meals in Southern France – but not a lot of cooking. The exception to this trend was my annual excursion to Lake George over Memorial Day where 19 New York foodies spent the long weekend testing the culinary limits of a small fire pit designed to grill hot dogs for a family of five.

Divided into three cooking groups, we all took turns wowing the others with beef and chicken fajitas complete with homemade guacamole and warmed tortillas, mixed kebabs with spicy peppers and pitas, fresh feta, cucumber and red onion salad, and the ever popular breakfast burritos.

My favorite camp fire meal by far, however, is still blueberry and banana pancakes cooked in bacon grease. It’s not something I have tried to recreate at home and maybe that’s the beauty of it. The combination of gooey pancake batter, warm fruit and salty bacon eaten with a slightly dirty fork on an even dirtier plate has become for me the symbol of the beginning of summer.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze. Seriously.

When I looked at the weather forecast for New Hampshire last weekend, I decided to replace my plans for spring hiking, tennis and sunny BBQs with plans for baking – with lots of chocolate. Rebecca had recently recommended the Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Peanut Butter cake. When I checked out the recipe, I decided it was so absurd that I just had to make it. The list of ingredients alone was comical: cream cheese, sour cream, butter, chocolate, sugar, peanut butter, half and half, etc.

It took most of the afternoon to put together the three layers, make the frosting and finally top it all off with the glaze. But it was more than worth it. For those of you who doubt the power of cream cheese, powdered sugar, and peanut butter to make an incredible frosting, this will change your mind. If I made it again, I would probably use less sugar in the frosting and maybe use a mixture of semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate for the glaze. Did I just say if, I meant when.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fish Sticks for Adults

Before Gloucester Massachusetts made headlines for its high teenage pregnancy rates last year, it was known for Gorton’s Fish Sticks. The bearded man in the yellow raincoat at the wheel of a fishing boat was on the box of many of my childhood dinners. Ironically, I hated fish until I was in college but fish sticks with their mild (some would say bland taste!) never bothered me.

I have now branched out and enjoy all fish with the exception of salmon and blue fish. I have prepared grilled fish, fish tacos, fish curry, and bouillabaisse (with Dad’s help). I usually lean towards white fish with a fruity kick to it from mango salsa or tamarind sauce. Last Sunday however, after a day of hiking in the Hudson Valley, I had an old fashioned fish stick craving. I didn’t want anything fancy – just a flakey piece of cod with buttery bread crumbs and lemon. I opted to avoid the real fish sticks in the freezer section since I doubt they would live up to my childhood memories. Instead I searched for a recipe of an old favorite involving lots of butter and Ritz crackers. The result looked quite elegant – but it actually tasted like a really delicious fish stick.

Maybe you have to be from Massachusetts to think that’s a good thing?

Baked Cod with Bread Crumbs, Herbs and Lemon (aka Fish sticks)

1. Put fresh cod in a lightly greased baking pan (1.5 lbs for three hungry people)
2. Mix together one sleeve of crumbled buttery crackers like Ritz, one lemon, salt, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and as much melted butter as you feel comfortable with - but no less than 4 tbsp.
3. Cover fish with breadcrumb mixture and then sprinkle generously with fresh herbs. Thyme works well.
4. Bake for 20 minutes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pain Perdu

The French call french toast ‘pain perdu’ – or lost bread – which is clearly a superior name for the breakfast favorite. I tend to buy fresh bread fairly infrequently since I’m not a sandwich person and my Hello Kitty toaster is more decorative then functional. I hate to use a few slices and then see it go to waste. Once in a while though, I can’t walk by the three bakeries lined up in a row in Chelsea Market without stopping for a loaf.

The other day I caved and bought a loaf of fresh white bread to make grilled cheese and asparagus soup for dinner. I was then left with half a loaf of ‘lost bread.’ I don’t have the patience to make homemade bread crumbs or croutons. And bread pudding seemed too wintery. Saturday was around the corner however so I wrapped it in paper, balanced it precariously on top of a flower vase to keep it safe from the mice and made sure I had eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla on hand. (By the way, don’t refrigerate fresh bread as it grows mold more quickly and takes on the smells of the fridge…nobody wants Pain Perdu à la teriyaki tofu.)

Saturday morning finally rolled around and the lost bread was rescued from its flower vase and reinvented as buttery, crispy and decadent Pain Perdu.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Tacos

Arguably it would have been more thematic to make grilled rabbit tacos, but we opted for pork instead. Tacos al pastor have been a long time favorite of mine but good ones are hard to come by in NYC. Mercadito has great ones but at approximately $4 a pop, it’s not a habit I can sustain…especially since my record is 15 tacos.

When Ryan suggested making tacos al pastor this weekend, I balked. They seemed intimidating since I can never quite identify the ingredients that give them that savory and sweet punch. However, we looked up a basic recipe, followed it, and were rewarded with homemade tacos al pastor…that probably averaged $1 a pop.

1) Slice a 3 lb pork loin into ½ inch strips.
2) Puree ½ a white onion, 2 pineapple rounds from one sliced pineapple, ½ cup OJ, ¼ cup white vinegar, 3 garlic cloves, 2 chipotle chiles, 1 serrano pepper, ¼ cup chile powder, 1 tsp oregano,1 tsp cumin and a bit of salt.
3) Marinate the pork – preferably overnight – in the mixture.
4) When you are ready to make the tacos, grill the remaining pineapple until charred and warmed through. Then grill the pork.
5) Combine the pork the pineapple on a large cutting board and chop all together into small, bite-size pieces.
6) Serve with corn tortillas, chopped white onion, cilantro and lime wedges.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Peas and Pepitas

Peas get a bad rap. As I mentioned in my last entry, most of us grew up eating them as part of a frozen peacorncarrot combo or partially rehydrated in “Spanish” rice. Although in my eyes, the worst offense is when they are added to guacamole to either save costs or calories. Ick.

But fresh peas are wonderful and in season right now. It’s a bit of work to pop them out of their shell, but then they take less than a minute to cook. And there is something really damn cute about them. They are a great addition to fresh pasta (with cream of course Zuzana!), salads or on their own. Last night I made them like this:

1) Boil fresh peas for 20-30 seconds and then toss into a bowl of ice water.
2) In the meantime, puree a few dates, a cup of mint, ¼ of a Serrano pepper, olive oil and a bit of yogurt if you want to mellow out the spice. Thin it out with water or olive oil.
3) Toast pepitas. Pepitas is more fun to say than shelled pumpkin seeds.
4) Toss together the peas, pepitas and sauce with a crispy, firm lettuce. *I used butter lettuce and it got a bit soggy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eat your carrots and then you can be excused

Before I was inundated with information about what to eat and what not to eat, I knew I was supposed to eat carrots. The debate has gotten more complicated in recent years as I try to incorporate new foods with supposed super hero powers. For example, I recently read the NYT article “The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating” ( and I now roast beets even more often, drown my oatmeal with cinnamon and hide mounds of dark greens in plates of buttery pasta. I draw the line at sardines though. Blah.

Carrots, however, have been a staple since the days Kraft macaroni and cheese with sliced hot dogs and Gorton Fish sticks filled my plate. Parents of the 70s were big proponents of carrots, although they were usually accompanied by frozen peas. I once hid my uneaten peas up my nose but that’s another story…

I wish I could pop baby carrots like candy as Ryan does or enjoy them roasted with brown sugar like many people do on Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I just don’t really like them, unless, as I discovered last night, they are made into a soup.

1) Chop 2 pounds of carrots and two medium size onions.
2) Sauce for 10 minutes in one tbsp of butter.
3) Add 3 cups of chicken broth and let simmer until carrots are soft.
4) Puree and return to pot.
5) Add ¼ cup of squeezed orange juice, 2 tbsp chopped tarragon, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Keeping salads simple

The possibilities for salads are endless. I have made salads with every possible nut, fruit, and shellfish. I have served them warm and cold. Sometimes I make them with roasted quinoa or couscous to bulk them up. I’m constantly rushing out to buy champagne vinegar, sun roasted currants, or blood oranges. Admittedly, it’s hard to go wrong with salads. However, often times, I do go overboard and end up with something so complicated that ‘salad’ practically no longer applies.

Recently my friend Amie came over with a fresh Greek salad. Ryan had sent her a picture of one we had on our honeymoon to make for my birthday. She nailed it. And it was the perfect reminder that sometimes the simplest salads are the best. Especially when other people make them.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring is coming…cook with cream!

When the evenings start to shorten and I begin to realize that my days of wearing flip flops are limited, I cheer myself up by thinking of all the fall and winter dishes I will make that year. I begin to research lamb stews, braised short ribs, and cream-based pasta dishes. However, by the beginning of February I’m sick of heavy food and red wine and I start to fantasize about cold beers at the Frying Pan, grilled fish and crisp fruit.

The beginning of this week presented us with a hint of spring. I broke out the sandals (a bit prematurely) and bought spring vegetables (a bit prematurely). Last night, however, there was a bite in the air again. I decided it was a perfect evening to pay tribute to the last days of winter. So I headed to the store and bought heavy cream. Now that I can anticipate spitting watermelon seeds and BBQs on Brett’s deck, I suddenly don’t feel so tired of heavy winter food. In fact, I feel a desire to squeeze in a few more dishes before tucking the recipes away until next year.

1) Chop three shallots and sauté in 2 tbsp butter. Add ¾ cup chicken broth and stir for two minutes. Add 1 cup of heavy cream, cayenne pepper, and the zest from 2 lemons and 1 orange.
2) Add sugar snap peas (or another prematurely bought spring vegetable) and stir until heated through.
3) Add a bit of lemon juice and lots of chopped mint.
4) Toss with penne or another fun shaped pasta and serve with parmesan.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cooking Thai for Jackson Heights friends

As soon as I printed the recipe I started second guessing myself. What possessed me to make Thai food for friends that live a few blocks from the famous Sri Pra Phai? I was reassured by my friend Jen's presence. She's from DC and lives close to Thai-phoon and Thai-tanic. Less intimidating. The final guest, Zuzana, was vegetarian but I knew she would be content with dessert if all else failed.

I choose a straightforward recipe and for Zuzana's sake, cooked up the shrimp on the side with some garlic and ginger.

Some recipes are fun to cook and some are a chore. This was messy but highly entertaining - mostly due to 3 full size humans peering into a full size wok teetering on one of NYC's tiniest stoves. The end result was really good - not amazing - but very good. I'm guessing it could have used some fish sauce and some Sri Pra Phai magic.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What to do with beet greens?

I love roasted beets. Beet greens? Less so. But every time I cut them off and hide them in the trash, I have nightmares about Michael Pollon lecturing me about lost nutrients. I would like to think that a desire to be healthy and use all the beet has to offer motivated me to cook them up tonight. In actuality, it's pouring rain and I'm broke.

First, I cooked some fresh linguine. (A New Englanders' interpretation of fresh is that something was once fresh and now it's in the freezer.) I then pulled the greens away from their tough stalk and sauteed them with garlic, salt and red pepper flakes for about five minutes. I then tossed the wilted greens with the linguine, olive oil, lemon and parmesan cheese.

Simple, healthy...and cheap. And now I can indulge in Stieg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" and leave Pollon's reprimanding voice outside my bedroom.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is the effort worth the reward? Peeling a member of the winter squash family.

Some things I have classified as too much trouble to eat: sunflower seeds, crab claws, shell-on shrimp, tiny-size chiclet gum, nerds, edamame, and walnuts (in addition to tasting what I think earwax would taste like). Usually winter squash.

Last night I made this:

I love tofu, red cabbage, AND squash, so to my delight, I came across a recipe that combined all three. It was delicious. (I doubled the amount of sauce, but that is only because I like extra sauce. I also drained the tofu on a piece of cloth with a plate sitting on top of it.. I think tofu tastes better if it is drier when cooked.)

I was surprised that I even let myself think about making it, because I hate peeling squash so much. I even hate watching other people peel squash. It takes longer than I ever think it will take, and invariably, too much of the precious flesh comes away with the rind. And then, after all that work, there is so little to show for it. I often find (well, found) myself standing in the produce aisle in Whole Foods trying to decide if I should spend $2 on a butternut squash or $5.50 on a package of peeled, pre-cut butternut squash. The package almost always won out. But now that I live in Winthrop, there is no peeled, pre-cut squash. There is, however, an abundance of squash (butternut and delicata) stored in the pantry from last year's harvest.

I chose a small delicata squash and asked Kenton to peel and cut it. And after eating this meal, I have decided that winter squash is worth the effort.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Facing down a steak

If steak is on the menu, and I’m not paying, I order it. Some people get cravings for chocolate, peanut butter or Hot Tamales. I get sudden, irresistible cravings for steak. However, I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually purchased steak and cooked it myself. Growing up with a backyard means that I associate steaks with giant grills surrounded my men with a big knifes in one hand and a martinis in the other. I definitely do not associate steaks with a 5th floor walk up apartment and a mini-stove.

But a few nights ago, I gave into my craving and headed to the butcher. Floored by the prices on the Porterhouse, I chose a boneless rib eye steak. I then swallowed my pride and asked the butcher the best way to cook a steak in a NYC apartment. His instructions were flawless.

1) Cover the steak in a generous amount of salt and pepper and let it ‘warm up’ to room temperature.
2) Heat a heavy cast iron skilled for ten minutes with nothing on it.
3) Add a few drops of vegetable oil (not butter or olive oil as it will burn!)
4) When the oil starts to smoke, add the steak and cook four minutes a side for rare…a bit more for medium rare.
5) Remove the steak and let it sit for 6 minutes.
6) Slice and serve. And don’t think about how much it cost.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Experimenting with Asafoetida

When I went hiking in Nepal many years ago, I overdosed on dal. It was served at every meal (and it was usually the only thing served). Upon returning to NYC, I swore I would never touch it again. However, over the years my friend Rupal has served it to me on a few occasions and I begrudgingly admitted to myself that I liked it. When she made it, it was rich and buttery – completely different from the watery and sandy dal lurking in my memory.

A few weeks ago, she revealed her ‘secret’ dal ingredient – Asafoetida – and credited it with adding that rich and buttery flavor I raved about. Yesterday I made my bimonthly trek to the Indian market to buy henna and picked up some Asafoetida while I was there. A quick Google search revealed that its odor is so strong that it needs to be stored in an airtight container to avoid contaminating all your spices. It also has contraceptive qualities and is an antiflatulent. Sold.

I followed a basic dal recipe and spent the early evening chopping chilies, cilantro, garlic and ginger. As directed, I made sure to add the asafetida when the oil was hot and I was careful to just add a pinch. The odor wasn’t as strong as I had expected and powder disappeared quickly in the oil…a tad anticlimactic I suppose.

The dal was soon ready. It wasn’t bad for a first try although the consistency was a bit too similar to mashed potatoes. Come to think of it, aren’t people always wishing their mashed potatoes were a bit richer…a bit more buttery? Next experiment? Asafoetida Mashed Potatoes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Big Apple

I thought it would be appropriate to write my first entry about red apples. I have always avoided them. They bring back terrible memories of cafeteria lunches in 5th grade. In fact, before I decided to give this recipe a shot, I don't think I had ever purchased one. But yesterday I did and the results were great.

Chop and combine 5 endives, 4 red apples, and two tangerines. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and a bit of crumbled blue cheese. Whisk together two chopped garlic cloves and one shallot with champagne vinegar and olive oil. Toss with salad mixture. Eat.