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Archive for June, 2009

Complete Breakfast

Saturday mornings are my favorite time of the week, mostly because the boy and I have settled in to a peaceful routine. We wake up leisurely with no alarm clock, read magazines in bed (as someone who must read tons of screenplays for a living, this is my ultimate treat), then head downstairs for breakfast. It’s the end of the week after days of dinners and most likely dinner parties, but before any grocery store or farmer’s market stock-ups, so we’ve started a habit of making a big ass omelet or frittata with whatever’s left in our fridge and cupboard.

We boil water for tea – for him – and coffee – for me – and chop up whatever we can find. This week I had a small onion that was starting to look sad and wrinkly and bunch of rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes leftover from Thursday’s dinner, so I was inspired to fill this frittata with equally herby and hearty flavor. Feel free to substitute any veggies, meats or cheeses you’ve got on hand. Here is this past Saturday’s amazing earthy frittata:

1 slice bacon, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 medium size crimini mushrooms, diced
1/3 cup already cooked potatoes, diced in about a ½ inch cube
1 tbsp chopped basil
1 tsp chopped thyme
½ cup milk or cream (We had whipping cream leftover from a dessert the night before. Indulgent yes, but whatever; we’re also using egg whites. It evens out, right?)
1 tsp baking powder
8 egg whites
salt
pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Start browning the bacon in a medium sized frying pan. As the bacon starts to render, toss in the onions and cook until softened. Add mushroom and potatoes and cook a couple more minutes until the mushrooms start to soften and the potatoes start to brown.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, create a sluice of the milk and baking powder. Whisk until you’ve eliminated all lumps. Add the egg whites, herbs and salt and pepper to taste and whisk until combined.

Pour the egg white mixture over the veggies in the pan and carefully place in oven for 10-15 minutes. Frittata is done when the top is firm and starting to brown. Slide frittata onto plate, or just serve right from frying pan.

Enjoy the fluffy warm dish with fresh breeze from an open window and a cute boy next to you. Do the dishes later; it’s time to relax.

Jodi with frittata

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Steak Salad

Steak Salad

I’d already finished this month’s recipe when Dish Paige! sent me hers, and was giddy to see that she too had steak salad on her mind. To me, it’s one of those perfect meals that feels light yet hearty, decadent but guilt-free. My version is an homage to a dish local favorite restaurant Dumont used to have on their lunch menu. They’ve since taken it off the roster, but I’ll always remember the first time I ordered it…

It was Fancy Week. Instead of buying each other Christmas presents, the Boy and I decided to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s living life just a little bit more luxuriously. My office was closed and he was on break from school, so the two of us slept late every day, trundling down from our 5-floor walk-up to brave the cold in search of new indulgences. One of the early ones was a weekday lunch at Dumont. The restaurant, which is always crowded as a rock show, was almost empty. We felt sneaky. I ordered the steak salad and it was warm, crisp, salty, and delicious – the two glasses of wine we each drank were just the icing on the cake.

Ingredients (serves two):

Steak:
~8 oz. steak, any cut (go a little bit bigger if there’s a bone; 4 oz. per person is a nice-sized serving)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper to taste
Olive Oil

Rub minced garlic into the meat, along with seasoning. I like just a little bit of cayenne for a kick, but add more or less depending on preference.

Heat 1-2 tblsp. olive oil over high heat. Steak can handle a lot of heat, so when the oil’s hot, add it. The amount of time you cook each side depends on the meat’s thickness; I was working with a 1-inch thick shell steak, so I let it sit on each side for a full 4 minutes. If there’s excess fat, or a bone, do no trim until meat is cooked, since it helps it retain its moisture.

After both sides are cooked, turn heat down to medium and cover pan. For a medium rare 1-inch steak, I let it sit covered approximately two minutes, but the cook time will vary depending on desired temperature. The best way to gauge steak’s doneness without cutting into it is to poke it. Try the forearm test: press down on the fleshy part of your arm just before the crease of your elbow. Rare meat will feel similar; the further you travel down your arm towards your wrist, the closer you’re getting to the texture of well-done meat.

When it’s cooked to your liking, remove steak from heat and let rest, uncut, for at least 5 minutes. After it has rested, and the juices are sealed, slice against the grain for maximum tenderness.

Raw steakCooking steakSliced steak

Salad:
4-5 loose cups of leafy greens
~3 radishes, sliced thin
+/- ¼ cup chopped blue cheese
+/- ¼ cup sliced almonds

Combine ingredients in a large, deep bowl. Wait until everything else is ready to serve to add dressing.

Go ahead and get crazy with the ingredients – Dumont uses walnuts rather than almonds, but I prefer the latter. I thought about adding pears, or avocado. Both would be terrific.

Salad

Salad Dressing:
I was shooting for a steakhouse vinaigrette, so I used:
2 tblsp. olive oil
+/- 1 tblsp. Balsamic vinegar (depending on how much vinegar flavor you like)
½ tsp. dijon mustard
½ tsp. steaksauce (I used Peter Lugers’, but A-1 would be good, as would equal parts ketchup and honey)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a tupperware container and close. Give it a good shake to emulsify. Taste and tweak.

Dressing ingredients

Just before you’re ready to eat, pour dressing over the salad and toss with tongs to coat the ingredients, midtown lunch style. Plate alongside warm meat to keep lettuce crisp. I served this meal with two lightly toasted slices of baguette.

Rachelle with Steak Salad

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ice cream cone cupcakes

This past Friday I was in Philadelphia on business. After a quick stop off at the hotel, my co-worker Jamie and I decided to take advantage of the unheard-of-this-spring sunshine with a little walk around the Olde City before getting ready for our event. Our constitutional brought us past the Betsy Ross House, Christ Church, the US Postal Museum, the Liberty Bell and more than one man dressed as Benjamin Franklin. When hunger struck, we ducked into National Mechanics for a bite to eat. With an amazing steak salad resting in my tum, my thoughts turned to something sweet to seal the deal. Historically, on sunny days my dessert of choice is a cone of Tasti D-Lite with rainbow sprinkles, so I whipped out my BlackBerry and went to the Tasti D-Lite find-a-center page. Well, apparently “there are no locations found within 50 miles of zip code 19106,” so I was forced to wait until we made our way back to the New York City Greater Metropolitan Area for satisfaction. Of course by the time we got back to New York, the sun was gone, the rain started again, and my hopes of walking around with that “ice cream” cone were gone.

Not one to be deterred, and always willing to turn lemons into Lemon Coffee Cake, I decided once I got back to Brooklyn to make Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes to bring some cheer to a dreary day.

For the cake:
6 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
1 package wafer cones (the kind with a flat bottom so they can stand up)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stand the ice cream cones inside the cups of a mini-muffin pan (you can use a regular muffin pan if you don’t have the mini, you’ll just need two of them and will have to be a little more careful when transferring to and from the oven) and set aside. In a medium bowl, lightly combine the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the milk and vanilla extract. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or until blended. Add the butter, remaining 3/4 cup milk and mix on low until the dry ingredients are moistened. Slowly add the egg mixture and beat for about 2 more minutes after all the egg is combined. Fill each ice cream cone with the batter half to three-quarters of the way (a small ice cream scoop is just the right size, amazingly!), place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool the cakes and prepare the icing.

For the icing:
1 lb (one whole box) confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons milk

Combine the ingredients and beat on medium-high until…it turns into icing!

Pipe the icing on top of the cooled cupcakes in a circular motion, reminiscent of soft-serve ice-cream. Top with sprinkles and seriously enjoy!

Paige! with ice cream cone cupcake

Cake recipe courtesy of Joy of Baking.

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Spun Sugar

I firmly believe you shouldn’t cook when you’re angry, but there are times when fits of passion, tedium, delicacy and destruction will do everyone some good. For those in the mood for the making, serving or eating of such, here is a spun sugar translation. I could have made some slinging, slapdash granola and growled and grinned as I broke up the pieces, but I needed something more refined, more precious and more subtle (and still satisfying) to destroy. If you are feeling none of these things, you can at least inject some drama into dessert with some sugar needles as you see fit. In my case, I put it on top of brown sugar ice cream, which was delicious.

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup agave syrup

Prepare an ice bath large enough to put your saucepan in to cool it down. Oil the handles of some wooden spoons and put them on the counter, weighted down on the bowl end by some heavy thing, like a cast iron pot. Put newspapers on the floor since you will be flinging hot caramel all over it. Cook the three ingredients together and let them boil until they read 310 on a candy thermometer.

Hot Sugar

Remove from heat and submerge in ice bath. Swirl pan a bit till it thickens and carry it over to your spoon handle/newspaper staging area. Dip a fork into the caramel and raise it up high, swinging threads of sugar back and forth over and around the handles.

Sugar-dipped forkSpinningThe mess

When you have accumulated enough, gather them up into a ball, a nest, a wreath or whatever, and put them aside. Either use immediately or store in some place you can keep dehydrated, since it will begin to slowly melt as soon as you make it.

Sugar with Ice Cream

Amelia and Sugar

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Cannelloni

In honor of my recent house guests from Germany, I decided to throw a small dinner party to send them off proper. With about 12 guests on the invite list, I needed to come up with a few fabulous recipes that could both impress and satisfy — but that wouldn’t break the bank either…

Here’s what I served:

Menu a la Bye-Bye Germans

-chilled roasted tomato and fennel soup
-Spring Cannelloni with a simple Marinara
-roasted asparagus
-spinach salad
-dark chocolate ice cream (home made!)

The Spring Cannelloni recipe was adapted from Bill Granger’s cookbook, bills food. It’s a genius recipe. It’s simple, yet delicious – and great to find a pasta dish that’s not too heavy. To be honest, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of stuffing lasagna noodles with my own yummy concoctions sooner. After I made this, I realized that in the future, I could experiment with any filling ingredients my heart desires.

My cooking is often inspired by recipes found in cookbooks, magazines, from friends, or online as a starting point for my own renditions…so please feel free to experiment, and enjoy!

Ingredients for Filling:
2 boxes lasagna
1 lb ricotta
1 package frozen peas, thawed
1 egg
Approximately 2 bunches fresh herbs – I used oregano, basil, and parsley – but feel free to improvise (in hindsight fresh marjoram would have been killer.)
zest of 2 lemons
1 c grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste
package of prosciutto, cut into long thin strips (1”), if they don’t already come that way.

NOTE: this recipe fills roughly 2 boxes of lasagna, which is admittedly A LOT of cannelloni. You can either feed a bunch of your friends – like I did – or freeze a tray to enjoy later in the week when you don’t have the time to cook yourself a proper meal! (I recently had some that had been frozen about 3 weeks, and they were still fantastic. No lie.)

To make Cannelloni:

Set a large pot 3/4 full of water (with a pinch of salt and a tbsp of olive oil) to boil on your stovetop.

Meanwhile, make the filling. I have a food processor, which I would recommend using. If you don’t have one, make sure you chop your herbs very, very fine, and mix thoroughly in a medium bowl.

In processor: add the ricotta, peas, egg, 2/3 of your fresh herbs, lemon zest, 2/3c of your parmesan (reserve last 1/3c), and salt & pepper to taste. Process mix until thoroughly combined. (I kept stopping to taste the mixture – adding a bit more salt, pepper, lemon or parm to taste – which I recommend!)

Once the water’s boiling, place the lasagna  into the pot. Check on it after a few minutes, and try gently moving the noodles around, ensuring that they don’t stick together. The olive oil in the boiling water should help keep them separate. Now, fill a large bowl with very cold water next to your stovetop. Toss in 1 tbsp olive oil. Once the noodles are cooked (I cooked them a touch past al dente), carefully place them into the cold water bath so they cool quickly. I used a pair of rubber tongs. The trick is not to rip them when lifting them from pot to bowl.

Pre-heat oven to 350.

After 5 minutes or so, they’re most likely cool enough to roll. Clear yourself a large flat surface. Place a clean dishtowel down, and one by one, arrange the lasagna noodles in a row. Pat a second clean dishtowel down on top of them to dry the noodles completely. Now you’re ready to assemble!

Get 2 rectangular casserole dishes ready, and grease them with butter or olive oil. First, lay a strip of prosciutto onto each noodle. Using a nice wide spoon, spoon out a mound of ricotta/pea mix onto each piece, spreading it down the noodle from end to end. You want a nice layer, but not too thick or else it’ll be tough to roll up. Sprinkle a dusting of grated parmesan on each one. Now carefully pick up one end, and roll them right up, placing them into the casserole dish nice ‘n snug-like.

Noodle with FillingNoodle Rolled

Continue with the above steps until the cannelloni are all assembled. Once they’re all sitting in their pans, feel free to brush the tops with melted butter for a decadent finish. Now bake for approximately 25 minutes, until they’re hot to the touch and starting to golden.

Noodles in Trays

Can you spot Dish Amelia?

Ingredients for Marinara:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves diced garlic
1 can diced tomatoes in their juices
remaining fresh herbs
1/4c sugar

While the pasta is baking, quickly whip up your marinara sauce: place a deep skillet over medium heat. Toss in your olive oil. When the pan’s nice and hot, add your diced garlic. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant, then add your diced tomatoes. Stir to combine and heat through. Chop the remaining fresh herbs into a fine dice. Once the tomatoes are hot, add the sugar—this will cut the tomatoes’ natural acidity. Allow sugar a few seconds to incorporate, then stir in your remaining fresh herbs. Keep it on the heat for another 5 minutes or so, ensuring that all of the flavors mingle, and then set aside for service.

Once the cannelloni is cooked, top them with a small amount of the marinara, and sprinkle with a bit of extra parmesan. Voila!

‘ze Germans!  Licking their platters clean!

‘ze Germans! Licking their platters clean!

This clever entrée is sure to be a hit for any dinner party affair – fancy or casual. It’s certainly got an air of sophistication, and nobody would guess how simple it really is to make.

Danielle with Cannelloni

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pasty

A few weeks ago my Saucy Little Sister, Torey, returned from London where she had been living and studying for several months. And aside from British slang and an awkward approach to crossing the street, she brought back with her a profound love for Cornish Pasties. Not to be confused with decorative nipple wear, “pasty” rhymes with “nasty,” not “tasty,” and pasties are similar to classic savory pot pies filled with meat, potatoes and vegetables – though the shell is a turnover, rather than the shape of a pie pan.

In England, pasties have been a lunchtime staple for generations and serve as an inexpensive, hearty take-away meal. I’m no historian, but I hear they were born during the industrial revolution as a bag lunch that working-class wives would make for their factory worker husbands. Pasties were a whole meal in a pocket, and some women would even put a small dessert filling in one end, baking two courses into a single pie.

In order to get a little taste of Torey’s experience across the pond and to help curb her craving for this exclusively English treat, the two of us rolled up our sleeves and made some of our own. Descended from a long line of pie-makers, we made the pocket with a traditional pie crust recipe instead of pastry dough, and the filling was a mix of winter vegetables and frozen peas (summer may be here, but fresh peas and carrots are still a month or two off). Served with a side of fresh arugula salad from my garden, this was a hearty and delicious lunch that we enjoyed out in the back yard. We also froze some remaining pasties to be reheated on a rainy day.

Pasties with Peas, Chicken and Potato
Makes 8 Turnover Pies

Dough:
3 cups white flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
3 tbsp salt
3 sticks butter (cold and cut into small chunks)
6 tbsp cold water
4 tbsp olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients and add butter, cutting into dough with a pastry cutter or two knives. Do not melt butter or blend it into the flour, or else you won’t get a nice flaky crust. Once the butter chunks are reduced to the size of small marbles, add the water one tablespoon at a time, cutting it into the dough. Form the dough into a ball once the chunks are about the size of small peas and put in the fridge to cool for about an hour (in the meantime you can work on the filling).

dough

Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to about a third of an inch thickness. Cut the dough into large circles, 12 inches in diameter, and place on a baking sheet. Spoon about a cup of filling in a mound onto one half of the dough circle, and gently fold dough over the filling. Dip your finger in some water and dab along the edge of the dough to make the top and bottom halves stick together, then roll the edges together to seal the pocket. Use a fork to gently press the edges flat, and use a sharp knife to poke three or four slits in the top of the pocket (this helps to release steam while the pasty is baking). Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (until pockets are golden-brown). If you plan to freeze some, only cook them for half the time and wrap in foil or plastic.

rolled doughpasties

Filling

2 cups chopped roasted or grilled chicken
2 cups frozen green peas
3 cups white or yellow potatoes, boiled and chopped
1 cup turnip, shredded
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp white pepper

Filling

Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl and spoon onto dough. You can add carrots or other vegetables that you like, and feel free to toss in some fresh herbs or chopped parsley for added flavor.

rolling

Gwen & Torey with Pasties

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Bake Sale!

Bake Sale Flyer

Attention Los Angeles area readers! This Dish, with her crew of other delicious West Coast dishes is hosting our Third Annual “No Cookie Left Behind” Bake Sale this weekend.

Sunday, June 14th we’ll be at Scoops Gelato on Melrose and Heliotrope in Hollywood from 2 -6 pm with an impressive array of sweet and savory baked goods for purchase. All proceeds go to Share Our Strength, an organization focused on combating child hunger in the US.

We’ll have donated goods from local bakers such as Spork Foods, Cakemonkey Bakery and Lark Bakery, as well as amazing pastries and treats baked by us.

This has become one of my favorite days of the year…my fellow bakers are amazingly talented and smart women, Tai Kim’s Gelato shop is a generous and cozy home for our sale, and the sense of community the sale creates is addictive. To me, it’s all the reasons I love living in Los Angeles combined – my friends, sunshine, great food, and great neighborhoods.

Some of last years’ tantalizing offerings:
Bake Sale Table

I’ll be baking my brains out this weekend so stay tuned for some sweet recipes and reportage on the event! Hope to see you there.

Check out http://www.nocookieleftbehind.com for the full scoop!

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