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Archive for May, 2009

Cod with escarole, turnips and butter beans

There can be something so luxurious about not going away for a holiday, not having to worry about travel, and enjoying NYC as the locals spill out towards the beach. This past Saturday, the Boy and I spent a leisurely day celebrating life along the L-train, beginning with a trip to the Union Square farmer’s market. I’m a sucker for free samples, and the baskets of fresh produce. We walked away with a cute bunch of baby turnips and three slender heads of escarole (and I washed down the taste of smokra with half an apple cider donut, even though I had just eaten breakfast). Back on the train, we discussed what to make for dinner.

“I’m envisioning fish,” I said dreamily.

“Something pan-seared with skin,” the Boy said.

“Isn’t it weird how we’re totally on the same wavelength?” I gushed.

“Or, um, Gordon Ramsey’s,” he said gently, at which point I realized that we were both picturing a dish he’d cooked on the BBC that morning, in order to save another cocky, clueless chef from himself.

Back in Brooklyn, we took an aimless walk out to the Morgan L stop, then moved back towards home by way of the fishmonger on Grand and Bushwick Avenue. The cod looked the best for the price, so in the end, this dish was as lovely and random as our loping constitutional from Manhattan, to Williamsburg, to Bushwick.

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 ½ pounds fresh cod
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, rinsed and chopped
1 tblsp. fresh thyme, chopped
3 bunches escarole
1 bunch baby turnips
1 15 oz. can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 pinches cayenne powder
salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the fish into evenly sized filets – or ask the fish guy to do it for you. Drizzle with olive oil, garlic, parsley and thyme. Add about a teaspoon of salt, and a dash or two of cayenne pepper. I like to combine my ingredients in a large tupperware, so that after I’m done, I can cover it tightly and give it a light shake. This coats the fish pretty well, and makes me think of Shake n’ Bake (what…I’m from New Jersey). Store in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

cod filetSeasoned cod

In the meantime, remove turnip greens and reserve for another meal. Cut bulbs in half, leaving the skin on, and steam them for 5-7 minutes, until tender. After they’re cooked, sautee them over medium heat in a tablespoon or so of olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper. This shouldn’t take longer than 3-4 minutes, and will give them a much nicer appearance and mouth feel. Reserve to a plate. I have to thank the Boy for his contribution to this step.

Escarole and turnips

In a non-stick pan, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat, and add fish. Cook on one side, then the other, each for about 4 minutes. When cod is cooked through, it will look opaque and begin to flake. Reserve to a plate, and keep the juices separate, but handy.

Roughly chop the escarole into manageable pieces, remembering that it cooks down. In a large, deep saucepan, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat, and add the escarole, stirring intermittently. When greens have begun to wilt, add turnips, and butter beans, and pour the juices from the fish over the mixture. Cover 2 minutes, until beans are warm and greens are wilted, then stir so that heat is evenly distributed. Add fish, and cover for another 1-2 minutes.

Escarole, beans, turnipsFull pan

I would have served this with the awesome San Francisco sourdough bread I purchased, had I remembered to put it out. After I cook, I like to eat standing in my kitchen, taking tiny bites while the wind blows in my hair.

Rachelle and bean

Just kidding.

Rachelle and cod

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Sesame Chicken

Here’s a secret about me…a few months ago I bought the Twilight Special Edition 2-Disc DVD Extravaganza and watched it every night for a week straight while exclusively eating take-out Chinese for dinner — and it kinda felt like Heaven. I mean seriously, sparkly vampires and fried rice? What could be better? Of course subsisting on a diet of deep-fried, heavily sauced, and minimally nutritive food isn’t something I advocate, and so for peace of mind and the sake of my waistline I had to curb my take-out Chinese habit (but my Twilight obsession grew as I quickly devoured all four of the books — do it, they’re so good!).

Still, the specter of that delicious combination platter loomed in my mind, the sweet siren-like smell flooding my senses as I walked past the restaurant on my way home from the subway, screaming to me, “Paige!, come here then go home! Edward Cullen will wait for you, he’ll always be there for you!” Content to blame the food and not my perhaps unhealthy obsession with Twilight for these cravings, I came up with a more nutritious and just as delicious at-home version of one of my favorite dishes: sesame chicken.

For the rice:
1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 cup frozen peas & carrots

For the chicken:
6 tsp. honey
4 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. minced ginger
1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
4 tsp. sesame seeds

2 large egg whites
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast

vegetable oil

1 head broccoli, cut into florets

Directions:
Start with the brown rice because it takes the longest amount of time. Add water, salt & sesame oil to a pot and bring to a boil. Stir in brown rice, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook the brown rice for about 40 minutes (or according to package instructions). About 5 minutes before the rice is done, add 1 cup of frozen peas & carrots (for that real take-out flair!), place lid back on and finish cooking.

Meanwhile, combine honey, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil and sesame seeds. Set aside for use later.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites & cornstarch. Cut the chicken breast into 1 inch cubes. Add to the egg & cornstarch mixtures, season with salt & pepper and toss to coat.

Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet (you don’t need very much oil if using a really good non-stick). Add the chicken pieces to the pan in one layer. Cook until golden brown on both sides and no longer pink in the middle — about 8 minutes (you may need to put the lid on the pan towards the end to cook through or cook in batches if your pan isn’t big enough to hold all the pieces).

While cooking the chicken, steam the broccoli in a pot until just tender – this should take about 10 minutes.

Once the chicken is done, place in a large bowl with the reserved sesame sauce and steamed broccoli. Toss all the ingredients together to coat, return to the pan, and quickly heat.

Serve with the brown rice.

If you like yours spicy, feel free to add some sriracha or chili flakes to the sesame sauce or put on top of the dish once you’ve finished.

Makes enough for 4 people for dinner or 2 Twilight-viewing sessions.

Paige with chopsticksPaige with more chopsticks

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Lemon Cake Pudding

Finally it’s hot. Not yet offensively humid and sticky, but the kind of warmth we’ve all been dreaming of for weeks. I love a long indecisive spring with a slide and a jump into summer. The weather made me make this lemon dessert. It’s two things at once, spring and summer, a custard on the bottom and a light cakey souffle on top. Perfect warm or cold, it is sweet and tart and a snap to make-I hope you try it! Salud!

Recipe:

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs separated (yolks lightly beaten, whites beaten to soft peaks)
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup milk

lemon cake ingredients

Mix flour, sugar, salt, beaten egg yolk, lemon juice, and zest. Add milk slowly. Fold in beaten egg whites. Pour into buttered dish or ramekins (will fill about 6 of these), set in a pan of warm water, and bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes, or until slightly golden on top.

lemon cake with spoon

Amelia with spoonAmelia glasses spoon

The spoon was my grandmother’s from the 30’s.

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Blueberry Mango Shortcake

In preparation for a Gals Clothing Swap that my roommate and I hosted in our apartment this weekend, I wanted to whip up some delicious breakfast-y treats for our guests. We already had our drink menu planned: blueberry mimosas and some strong french press coffee.

My stomach called out for shortcake, but I decided to diverge from the typical strawberry variety (not that there’s anything wrong with a classic shortcake presentation, which I’ve been known to make for friends with summer birthdays). This time, I dreamed up a slightly more unique fruit combination: mango, blueberry, and basil.

In my opinion, you can pretty much pair basil up with any fruit, and it’s going to be delicious. I love salads with chopped fresh herbs, and I’ve been tossing fresh basil and parsley into my greens so often these past few weeks, why not try it with something sweet?

Ingredients:

For fruit:
3 ripe mangos, peeled and diced
1 pint blueberries, rinsed
½-3/4c sugar
2c basil, rinsed, dried and chiffoned.
1 pint heavy cream

For shortcake:

2/3 c shortening
4c flour
4 tbsp sugar
6 tsp baking powder
3 tsp salt
1 1/2c milk

To macerate fruit:

Toss your diced mango, pint of blueberries, and 1 ½ c basil into a medium bowl. (Reserve another at least 1/2c basil to top the dessert before serving). Sprinkle sugar on top—adding more or less to taste. Stir in order to distribute sugar evenly. Cover bowl with saran wrap and store in fridge – for the time being.

Blueberry Mango and Basil

To make shortcake, using a food processor:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss your flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into large bowl. Whisk briefly to combine. Transfer dry mix into food processor that’s on the base and ready to go. Now place shortening in chunks on top of dry mix. Pulse processor 5-7 times to ‘cut’ shortening into dry mix. You want the mixture to look like fine crumbs—then you know it’s time to add the milk. Add milk in a steady stream while slowly pulsing processor—don’t over combine! Do this step in short pulses, and keep checking on the mix to see if it’s ready. If the mix looks a little too wet and sticky when it’s combined, add a bit of flour (I’d start with 1/4c).

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, and knead 20-25 times.

Roll or flatten into ½” shape, and use round floured pastry cutter (2-3”) to cut into individual shortcakes. (If you don’t have a cutter—just use the mouth of a small glass—just be sure to flour it well). This dough should yield about 2 dozen cakes.

Shortcake on Baking Sheet

Place cakes onto greased baking sheet (or cover baking sheet with a Silpat). Bake for 10-12 minutes until dough rises and is golden on top.

Now that the cakes are in—make your whipped cream! Use egg beaters or a wire whisk in a glass or metal bowl and simply whisk the heavy cream until you have fluffy soft peaks. (I don’t add sugar to mine because I prefer it unsweetened—but if you want to add sugar—go for it! Use 1/2c or so, to taste.)

After the shortcake is baked, cook it on wire rack for a few — but it’s always great to serve them slightly warm so the whipped cream melts into the cake. I usually slice them open like biscuits and spoon whipped cream and berries into the middle, then top with a bit more whipped cream and the extra basil.

Breakfast SpreadAssembled Shortcake

YUM!

I had to make sure these gals were well fed while they scavenged for clothes!

Clothing Swap
(if you look ever so closely you may find another dish in the mix!)

Now, it’s my turn to enjoy.

Danielle 1Danielle2

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Dish Paige! has a bi-weekly cooking column on the Bushwick Blog, devoted to the artsy enclave of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Check out her delicious new entry:

asparagus-salad

I think if I could only have one vegetable for the rest of my life, it would be asparagus. This time of the year, I eat it as often as I can, and since Angel’s on Knickerbocker has been selling some particularly awesome bunches of it lately, I’ve been exploring tons of ways to cook it. The other day for a barbecue, I made some bacon-wrapped asparagus bundles (take about 5 spears and wrap in 1 slice of thick-cut bacon, secure with a toothpick and grill on a medium heat), which turned out absolutely heavenly — although for me, wrap anything in bacon and I’m sold!

Searching for more ideas, I remembered a salad I had at Northeast Kingdom last summer that was based around shaved asparagus. Since you peel thin ribbons of the vegetable you don’t need to cook it, which makes this a super quick, super easy and incredibly flavorful dish. Of course, like any salad, the ingredients here are just a jumping off point. Add carrots, nuts, boiled potatoes, whatever you like — go crazy!

Ingredients:
1 pound large asparagus spears, trimmed
1 container cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
cheese (I used queso fresco, but goat cheese or Parmesan would be great, etc.)

Holding each asparagus spear by the tip, shave into ribbons with a vegetable peeler (save and/or freeze the left overs for later use). In a large bowl, combine asparagus and tomatoes. Whisk together lemon juice, oilive oil, mustard, salt & pepper and pour over the vegetables. Plate and top with your choice of cheese.

via Bushwickbk.com

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spring pasta
Spring is an exciting time to cook because this is when you start to see fresh vegetables popping up at the farmer’s market. I’m a big fan of buying local, because whether they’re from the farm stand, the farmer’s market, or your own back yard, local foods are generally tastier, fresher, healthier and better for the environment than most of what you find at the grocery store.

Over the last couple of weeks, the farmers in the New York area have begun bringing beautiful vegetables like asparagus, ramps, leeks and baby greens to market, and as the summer progresses there will be more colorful, nutritious and delicious produce available for cooks like me to incorporate into meals. One of my favorite things to cook is a simple, Italian-inspired pasta using whatever vegetables are in season.

In Italy, they call it “Pasta Primavera,” which simply means “Spring Pasta.” This meal is simple and quick to make, but never fails to please the taste buds and satisfy the stomach. Plus, it’s a light dish that you can eat hot or cold, which makes it perfect for bag lunches and picnics.

This week I bought leeks and asparagus from the farmers market to inspire my dish but most fresh vegetables can be tossed in, and as spring turns to summer you can use carrots, green beans, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini or whatever happens to look fresh. I’ve also added color and tangy flavors to this recipe by bringing in some grape tomatoes – not local, not sustainable, but sometimes we’ve got to make compromises, right?

chopped asparagus, garlic and leeks

Ingredients :
1 leek, thinly sliced
5 or 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into 1-2” pieces (I prefer thin asparagus, but if you’re using big ones, just cut them in half the long way)
1 cup or 5 oz grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons Olive oil
A few pinches of Sea salt
½ cup White vinegar or white wine
Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano cheese, freshly grated (optional)
1 lb Spaghetti, boiled al dente (I use Barilla #5, but you could use a different size spaghetti or even some penne if you prefer)

chopped tomato, garlic and leeks

Directions:

Set a pot of water to boil for your pasta. As it boils, go ahead and get started with the rest of the recipe, and once the pasta is cooked (al dente is always best), strain it and toss it with a pinch of salt and tablespoon of olive oil. Set it aside in a large bowl.

Slice up your garlic and leeks and toss them into about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Chop your asparagus and tomatoes while the garlic and leeks brown, stirring them occasionally to ensure they don’t burn. The pan should give off a steady hissing sound – if you don’t hear this, it’s probably not hot enough. If your veggies are blackening and smoking, it’s probably too hot.

Deglaze the garlic and leeks with white wine or vinegar – it should let out another nice loud hiss when you pour in the liquid. Give the pan a shake to make sure that all of the contents are blended and not stuck to the bottom, and then add in the asparagus and a big pinch of salt. Toss all the contents together, then cover the pan so the asparagus gets steamed.

After about 5 to 8 minutes, eat one of the pieces of asparagus to make sure it’s nice and tender. If it’s too tough, keep the pan covered and give it a few minutes until all the asparagus is soft, but not too soft. The asparagus should be a nice bright green color – if it starts getting yellow or dull in color, it needs to be taken off the heat.

Add in the cherry tomatoes and turn off the heat. Toss the tomatoes in so they mix with all of the other vegetables, and once it’s all evenly blended, pour the contents of the pan on top of the pasta and toss it all together with tongs or two large spoons. Be gentle as you mix everything so you don’t crush the tomatoes or break any of the pasta. Add salt and more olive oil to taste (a pinch or two is probably plenty).

Portion out the pasta into bowls and put the rest into a tupperware for tomorrow’s lunch. Feel free to grate cheese on top or sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley on for color. Relax, eat, and enjoy the fruits of your labor and the flavors of the season!

gwen with pasta

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Turkey Meatballs

Turkey MeatballsI love making meatballs–I find it cathartic, especially on a Sunday afternoon.  It can sometimes take a while to get the hang of the meatball molding, but a trick I like to employ is one taught to me while making matzoh balls for matzoh ball soup by my soon to be mother-in-law: keep you hands moist and essentially ‘throw’ the wad of meat back and forth between cupped hands (at close range) until they inevitably form a tight lil ball.  OK, now that that’s out of the way, this is a delicious comfort meal, and the leftovers freeze very well.  Turkey is very lean, so it requires a lot of seasoning to make it come alive–don’t be afraid to ‘up’ any of the seasonings below to your taste.

Ingredients:
1-1.5 lbs of lean ground turkey
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 heaping tablespoons of flat leaf parsley, finely minced
1/3 cup yellow onion, finely minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2-3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5-6 generous cranks of a pepper mill
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cold water
Combine all the ingredients above, except for the water and olive oil, in a large bowl.
In a large sautee pan (I like to use a cast iron skillet), preheat olive oil over medium-high heat.
Take off your rings and bracelets, roll up your sleeves and get ready to mix/knead with your hands until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.  Add the 1/4 cup cold water and mix again until the meat has soaked up all the water.
By now the sautee pan/skillet should be hot and ready to go.  If not, give it a minute, you want the meat to sizzle when it hits the pan.  Start making the meatballs into golf ball sized balls and place in skillet starting on the outside rim, moving into the center (the center will cook faster so you want to hit it last).  Continue until all meatballs are in the pan.  If you are working with a smaller pan, don’t fret, just do two batches.
Balls in Frying Pan
Continue to cook on one side until you see a brown crust forming on the bottom of the meatballs, about 3-4 minutes.  Flip the meatballs, starting with the first ones you put in the pan, working until the last.  Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes or so (this will vary depending on your skillet & stove) until firm.
Meatballs and Cheese
Serve over your choice of pasta, topped with tomato sauce, a sprinkling of basil and Parmesan cheese.  Mangia!
Erin and Meatballs

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