Lamb Stir-Fry with Pomegranate and Yogurt

Lamb Stir-Fry with Pomegranate and Yogurt

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Día de los Muertos Chicken Mole

I had previously never attempted to make mole because, correctly, I assumed it had a million ingredient,s and that those ingredients would be hard to find in Mexican food-deprived NYC. But I stumbled upon a slow-cooker recipe for mole a few days before our annual Dia de los Muertos party for Xavier's birthday.

It looked too easy (and since when is Martha Stewart a mole expert?!), but I decided to give it a shot. The weather forecast was crappy and my informal, picnic in the park looked like it was going to turn into a 25 person dinner party in my tiny apartment. I threw everything in the blender, pureed it until smooth and tasted the sauce. It was surprisingly good....but it felt like a good base and not a finished product. I poked around online a bit and read a bunch of recipes - some good and some bad. Campbell's soup in mole? No. I landed on toasting 1/4 cup each sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sliced almonds and adding those to the blender to give it more depth. Seeing a great opportunity to use some of my more neglected spices, I then toasted 5 gloves and 1/2 teaspoon each of anise and coriander seeds. So yes, it got more complicated. But it still only involved, toasting and pureeing..and then throwing into a slow-cooker. And the sauce was enough for 8 lbs of chicken.
In the end, it wasn't that much work considering how many people were fed. But next year, I'm hoping for sun. And chips and salsa in the park.

Happy 4th Birthday Xavier!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Slow Cooked Cuban Pork Shoulder

Who doesn't love the idea of a slow cooker? When I think about a perfect crock pot recipe, I picture tossing a bunch of vegetables and a cut of meat into a pot and returning home hours later to a perfectly cooked meal. However, most crock pot recipes suck. They either involve cream of mushroom soup, French onion dip in a packet or an entire bottle of Ketchup. I recently read one for meatballs that suggested combining a jar of BBQ sauce, cherry preserves and frozen meatballs. I'm not kidding.  

On the other extreme, there are some crock pot recipes that require you to sear the meat, roast the vegetables in the oven, toast your spices, make a separate sauce...and only then combine everything into the slow cooker. No, gracias.

This recipe for Cuban pork has only a handful of ingredients and it truly is a 'toss it all in the crock pot' recipe.

I did skip the last part where you roast the pork skin. While I'm sure it's delicious, I don't think I need to incorporate chicharrón into my weekday menus. The only trick to this recipe is to use good limes, and don't skimp. I served it with rice and beans and sautéed greens. If you have some good recipes for the slow cooker, PLEASE send my way!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

White Strawberries

This is the time of year when you don't need recipes. The produce is so good that you can just cut a tomato and serve it as is. Or eat a plane green salad that just tastes like fresh lettuce. In a few months, tomatoes will need to be roasted and salad will need nuts, feta and bacon to give it some character. But for now, cooking is simple and I have been taking advantage of our farm stand to be lazy.

The last few weeks they have had white alpine strawberries, and these little guys haven't even made it home before they were eaten. They are soft and sweet, and remind me that I actually like strawberries. (I think I have been traumatized by one too many bodega strawberries that are hard, white in the middle and sour.) Last week, they actually let us pick our own. Xavier said he felt like he was in Blueberries for Sal. How about that for good parenting? I figured that earned me at least 10 hours of "let my kids watch TV while I tune out and pretend I'm not a mama" time.  Score.

Anyways, buy up that produce! Before you know it, we'll be in beef stew and pumpkin pie territory.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Charred Okra with Tomato, Garlic and Preserved Lemon

To be honest, I don't get that excited about farmer's markets, especially in this city. I like the idea of them, but around here I feel like they are filled with overpriced bee's wax candles and what look suspiciously like mass-produced pies. But last summer a Project Eats stand opened up across the street from me. Project Eats is an urban farming initiative, and they converted an ugly vacant lot in the public housing in front of my apartment into a garden. These guys rule.

Last week they had great looking tomatoes and okra so I tested out Ottolenghi's recipe in the Jerusalem Cookbook.

Like everything in that cookbook, it was delicious.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Roof Deck Dining in Brooklyn

Last Friday was perfect. Taking advantage of summer hours, I left work at lunch and headed out to Brooklyn to visit Rupal. (There were ballerinas dancing outside of Macy's promoting Lancôme's new mascara so maybe I made a quick stop to splurge on overpriced eye makeup.) Anyways, we had agreed earlier in the week to make a meal based entirely on what she was growing on her roof. It had been a hectic few weeks, and the idea of having an entire afternoon and evening to relax was making me giddy.

 First, we stopped at her local wine shop, Passage de la Fleur, the kind of wine shop with a charming owner who makes you feel like you are purchasing something special. Armed with two bottles of crisp, summery wine, our next stop was Rupal's roof where she picked eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, greens, edible flowers, chives and other spices.

Once downstairs again, Rupal poured me a glass of wine and insisted I sit down and look through her new cookbook - Japanese Farm Food. Over the next few hours, she pickled cucumbers, prepared a fresh curry paste, and chopped up vegetables for a salad. I did nothing but drink wine, and drool over the gorgeous food porn.

When dinner was ready, we went back up to the roof and ate the freshest, most perfect meal ever. The curry paste is based on our mutual hero Nigel Slater's recipe:

We then finished with a glass of Amaro that she brought back from her recent trip to Italy. I mean???  It was the kind of night where you can't stop smiling, where you love your city and your friends, where you help yourself to thirds and, of course, solve all the world's problems over many glasses of wine. And to top it all off, I made it back home on the C train in 30 minutes, long eyelashes and all!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Grilled Baby Zucchini

I'm still not really cooking. And for the same fairly lame reasons. Time, picky kids and all those other typical excuses. My shopping trips lately revolve around purchasing food that is healthy, cheap and very easy to prepare. Bananas fall into that category. So does wine.

On Saturday when we headed over to Theo and Emel's to welcome baby Sjor, I brought some wine, but I didn't feel like bananas were appropriate for a summer BBQ. Luckily I have also discovered the packages of baby zucchinis at Trader Joes. They are pre-washed and due to their 'babyish' nature, you don't even have to trim off the stem. It doesn't get any easier than that. Since this was a celebration, however, I decided to rally some of my old enthusiasm for new recipes and try a new marinade.

Slice about two pounds of zucchini in half and marinate with 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, 1/3 cup olive oil and salt. If you have some fresh herbs (not me!), you can throw those in too. Let them sit at room temperature few a few hours and then grill. And then hope that somebody else is cooking a giant leg of lamb!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Grilled Spareribs and Frozen Coconut Limeade

I have done a lot of eating this summer, especially in Lima, but I haven't done a lot of cooking. Between the travel, the park picnics and the unappreciative kids who would prefer plain pasta, it just isn't happening. I had plans over the 4th of July to try some new summer recipes, but between the parades, the parties and the beach, I was too wiped (just like Xavier apparently) But I did, however,  manage to get some boys to cook for me!

Peter made great pork spareribs based on a recipe I researched so I feel I can take some credit. And Ryan made frozen coconut limeade with rum from the Smitten Kitchen blog which I follow so I take credit for that too. Kind of a stretch?

Peter  had made ribs before many times but they never quite worked out. This recipe calls for using a dry rub, wrapping them in tinfoil and baking them at 250 for 3-4 hours. You then smear them with BBQ sauce and finish them on the grill. They were awesome with the coconut limeade which is like lighter, tart pina colada. Summer heaven!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Quinoa Salad With Roasted Carrots and Frizzled Leeks

Last weekend we went to Theo and Emel's to celebrate her arrival to NYC, their new backyard in West Harlem and their daughter who will be joining us at some point mid-summer. It was quite a bash and the highlight, of course, was when Emel picked up her guitar.

I made this quinoa salad that was featured in the New York Times this spring.

I was drawn to it since it incorporates both currants and pomegranate molasses - two items that haven't exactly been leaping off my shelves these days. It's not the easiest salad as it involves multiple steps including frying the leeks, roasting the carrots, making the quinoa, etc. But it's worth the effort as the sweetness of the roasted carrots, currants and pomegranate molasses are balanced by the fried leeks and the arugula.

Anyways, it was a wonderful day. And Theo and Emel will be great parents.  This is Theo last summer with Annecy when she was just a few days old. He's already a pro!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Fresh Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Annecy turned one yesterday. When Xavier turned one, I brought in Day of the Dead decorations from a work trip to Mexico, invited 30 people over, mixed up fresh margaritas, made 3 types of tacos and hunted down black food coloring to make a skull on his cake. I think I even bought him a gift...and wrapped it. Flash forward to second child. Annecy got cupcakes after school in the park with a side of cheddar bunnies and apple sauce. Anyways, I felt that the least I could do was make her first experience with pure sugar worth it!

I'm a 'ditch the frosting, eat the cake' kind of girl so when I say this frosting is amazing, I really mean it. I could eat it with a spoon. (I'm not sure why I used the theoretical there since I did eat it with a spoon!) 

Cream together 8 oz of cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter, softened. Slowly add 2 cups of powdered sugar. Then add 1/2 cup smashed and drained strawberries. Try to get as much liquid as possible out of the berries and then chill to make it firm up. 

Make this frosting this summer!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt Tahini Sauce

I never end up making the recipes in my cookbooks that don't have pictures accompanying them. It's sort of silly since the dish never looks like the picture anyways but it's the picture that grabs my attention. Although on the flipside I adamantly avoid restaurants that use pictures to advertise their food. Always a bad sign!   Anyways, this is my excuse for taking so long to make the roasted eggplant recipe in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I finally decided to give it a whirl since yogurt and tahini are staples in my house. I was surprised at how pretty it was. I guess that is the upside to not comparing your cooking to professional cookbook photos!

It's a simple recipe that involves eggplant, chickpeas, garlic, yogurt, tahini and lemon. I garnished it with some paprika for some color. I didn't find it substantial enough for a whole meal (oink, oink) but it's great with a big salad. I also ate it for breakfast and it reheats well.  But then again I'm probably the only weirdo eating eggplant for breakfast.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pork Rib Roast with Apples

My parents always boycotted Costco. We are a newspaper family and they don’t advertise in newspapers so we didn’t give them our business. But the family is growing and food prices are soaring, so my mom has caved. She recently showed up at my doorstep with a giant Pork Rib Roast and 490 apples. We had no idea what to do with them but we were happy that they would feed an army. 

This simple recipe calls for apples, white wine, pork, salt and pepper. I skipped the gremolata and didn’t miss it. It’s pretty to look at and since it’s a fatty cut, it’s tender and delicious. 

I tried not to think about how we were selling out while we gobbled it down, but I felt undeniably guilty the next day. Maybe this is just the nudge I needed to talk me into paying for a New York Times subscription?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Miso Sweet Potato and Broccoli Bowl

I had a work trip to London last week. Even with my measly per diem, it broke the bank. To save money, I ate bread and drank beer. Or at least that’s how I justified my full on gluten-indulgence. It’s hard to splurge on a crappy glass of wine when it’s five times more expensive than a delicious pint!

This weekend was about reining it in and getting back on track. I got back to my usual routine of healthy eating and gluten-free cocktails. Ha! (Remind me to put up Ryan’s recipe for fresh grapefruit margaritas soon!) My friend Jen sent me this recipe over the weekend and I coincidently had all the ingredients on hand. 

The dressing is fantastic and as Smitten Kitchen says, the saltiness of the miso (and the margarita) mellows out the sweetness of the potato. This is going into weekly rotation around here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Coconut Red Lentil Dal

Reaching the summit at 18,000 feet!
I have a complicated relationship with dal that I mentioned in one of my first posts. It's literally the only thing they serve at the tea houses in the Himalayas so Carolyn and I got our fair share when we hiked the Annapurna Circuit many moons ago. It's a delicious dish but the higher you hike, the grosser the dal gets. Picture hiking uphill for 10 hours and then being served a watered down lentil gruel with sandy rice. It's no wonder we spent $10 a pop for Snickers bars up there!

Anyways, I'm now once again a big fan of dal. It's cheap, healthy, flavorful and it's a great place to experiment with Sriracha art.

I was out of curry leaves so I added some ginger with the second round of chopped onions to get some added flavor. Chilis and cilantro are also good additions. It takes a bit of time to make good dal but it's worth it for the added depth.

Dal at a lower altitude!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Grilled Shrimp with Lime Powder and Cilantro Sauce

My new favorite cookbook is The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia. It’s a compilation of traditional Persian dishes with a twist to include healthier ingredients and a focus on keeping things quick and simple. Of course this recipe is only ‘quick and simple’ if you happen to have dried limes hanging around which I’m assuming most people don’t. (And no…dried limes are not just regular limes that have been “aging” in the back of your refrigerator since your last cocktail party.)

 I happen to have some left over from making Gormeh Sabzi a while back. They sell them at Kalustyan’s among other places here in NYC but you can also get them on amazon like everything else in this world.

 Anyways, they seem random but they are so amazing that it’s worth having them around. They seem to have good shelf life because when I ground mine into a powder, they were still incredibly fragrant.
This is all to say that you should a) buy dried limes and b) make this easy and awesome shrimp dish.
and the c) figure out how to travel to Iran. If this quote doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

“If travel is most rewarding when it surprises, then Iran might be the most rewarding destination on Earth. If you fancy traveling somewhere neither East nor West, and exotic and fascinating, read on…” – Andrew Burke, Lonely Planet Writer

You can get the Lonely Planet guide book on Amazon when you buy your dried limes!