Archive for April, 2011

From Dish Amelia:

Spring is happening in New York. The markets have pretty, bright items and the city is breathing a sigh of relief (and sneezing). It’s a moment to look for the thrilling tender things we’ve been missing for too long. I’m hungry to translate the freshness around me into familiar comforts and new adventuresome fuel. So far I’ve bought some firm stalks of rhubarb, made some vibrant pestos, and kept an eye out in case I see something spring-y that needs my attention. So I was surprised to find inspiration much closer than I thought to look. One day it just happened. I made kasha. I live in Greenpoint Brooklyn, where the hipsters and the Poles reside but don’t collide all that often. There is a little Polish grocery around the corner from my house that I had missed, stocked with things I hadn’t seen before. Grocery stores are some of my favorite places for many reasons, and one is that you might see something different every time, not because they have new things, but because you are looking with different eyes. I had eaten kasha before, in bland, hearty, porridge-like formats alongside beef and horseradish, or with soup, but I had never made it. So, as I said hello to new light green leaves and random days of allergic misery, I messed around with kasha. The egg-toasting is a neat trick, which eliminates any mushy gruel-like tendency and keeps the grains differentiated. The saucy part might not look luscious, or like fresh crisp spring, but I was driven by the earthy part, the part giving forth all that growth. In fact, it’s the earthiest season, ingredient-wise. Lets start from the ground up, y’all. Mushrooms, poblanos (hey I’m a New Mexican), nuts, and kasha seem as earthy (flavorwise) as you can get – and it was, but it also turned out tasting gentle, healthy, grounded, spicy, interesting, bright, sweet, different. Something I was looking for.

For Kasha:

1 cup kasha (This kind of kasha was apparently coarse barley, and looked kind of like steelcut oats, whereas I think buckwheat groats are the hulled version of the little dark pyramidal grains. I am little confused, but I can’t read polish, so moving on…)
2 cups water (or stock)
pinch salt
larger pinch pepper
1 egg lightly beaten

Boil 2 cups of water (or stock). Stir the egg into the kasha until well coated.

In a dry pot, heat the kasha and stir around until fragrant and the granules are crumbly looking. Add the boiling water to the crumbly kasha, salt and pepper, cover and heat on low until tender. When water has been absorbed, let stand for a few minutes.

For Saucy Part:

1 shallot finely diced
1/2 white onion finely diced
1 roasted, peeled, seeded poblano chile (or NM green chile), finely diced
a bit of butter or a T or 2 of olive oil
2 T half and half
2 T dry sherry
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Heat the fat on medium, and saute the onions, shallots, and poblanos together. As the onions and mushrooms wilt and lose their moisture, add S and P and the sherry and half and half. Let the sauciness come together and cook, and add a bit of water if it starts looking dry – about 10 minutes.

Dress most of the cooked kasha with the sauce (I used some of the kasha in other ways, for experimenting purposes).

Squeeze the half lemon over it. I ate it with cucumbers.

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From Dish Danielle:

Pineapple upside down cake happens to be one of Dish Amelia’s favorites from back in the day. I think it has more nostalgic value than anything, but when the Aries time of year heads down the pike and I’ve got the time, I try my hand at this traditional dessert for her birthday. Another important reason for me – a Pisces – to honor Aries this year is because Jupiter happens to be hanging out in Aries right about now. Jupiter is the planet of good fortune: it expands opportunity and benefits while providing wisdom to the beholder (or so says Susan Miller). I‘m all for offering a little something sweet up to the universe in thanks for the supposed ‘financial gains’ I am due to experience this month expressly because of Jupiter’s position. Here’s hoping Jupiter sticks to the grand cosmic plan, and of course, a happy belated birthday to all the Arieses out there.

This recipe was adapted from The Cake Book, by Tish Boyle and John Uher.

Ingredients for the Brown sugar/Ginger topping:
1 large can of pineapple rings, drained
1c boiling water
4 jasmine tea bags
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp butter
½ c brown sugar (this recipe called for light)
4 tbsp crystallized ginger

Boil water, mix in sugar, and allow tea bags to steep for 5 min. Pour tea over pineapples and let sit for 20 min.

Preheat oven to 350. Place butter into cast iron over low heat to melt. Stir in brown sugar, remove pan from heat. Arrange pineapple rings in a nice circular pattern, overlapping them if need be. Sprinkle ginger over fruit. Now make your cake batter:

Cake Batter Ingredients:
1½ c flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
9 tbsp butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1 c whole milk

Sift flour, baking powder, ginger & salt into medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using paddle attachment, beat butter at med-high speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar– mix at high speed until light in color. Reduce speed to med and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides. Add the vanilla extract. At low speed, add the dry mixture.

Now spoon batter in large dollops over the pineapple arrangement and smooth it into an even layer. Bake for 45-50 min until cake is golden brown and springs back when gently touched. Allow cake to cool for a bit before inverting.

Once ready to invert, run a thin bladed knife around the edge to loosen the cast irons grip on the cake. I lay a large cutting board flat over the pan’s opening, and pick up the pan, placing one hand directly underneath the pan with the other firmly atop the cutting board. Now flip!

Bang on the bottom of your cast iron for good measure and hope once you pick it up, it’s left you a gorgeously golden Pineapple Upside Down Cake!

Arrange a candle or two atop and warm up your birthday vocals….

This cake was also served with leftover beet gelato… heh. An SLD bday dessert indeed!

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From Dish Gwen:

A few years ago I was working as a pizzaiola in an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn and one of my jobs was making about a hundred pounds of dough every day. Most of it was used for making pizzas, but a small portion was set aside for focaccia. Focaccia is basically salty, oily bread, and it’s delicious. It’s also pretty easy to make. Unlike most bread, its dough is fairly dry and easy to work with (like pizza dough), and it doesn’t require much kneading. Just a lot of oil, and a lot of salt. And a little love, of course.

I’ve adapted this recipe from the one I used to make at the restaurant, and I think it’s pretty spot-on although I’m giving measurements by volume (we use weight in the professional baking world), and I’m settling for all-purpose flour (in the restaurant we’d mix a special blend of two different flours). This is the home cook’s version, and it’s damn good if I do say so myself.

5 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 ½ cups water (luke warm)
1 tablespoon salt
¼ oz yeast (preferably fresh yeast)
Lots of olive oil, and more salt

Pull out the old KitchenAid mixer and set it up with a dough hook and a big metal bowl. Pour in the water first, saving about a half cup for later. Add the salt, then the flour, then crumble the yeast on top, and start mixing on the slowest setting. Let it mix for about five minutes, and ad the dough starts to ball up drizzle the extra water around the edges to help mix all the flour in. Once everything is well combined, turn off the mixer, let the dough rest for about 30 seconds, then turn the mixer back on for a couple more minutes. Scrape the dough off the hook (preferably with a dough scraper – great tool to have in the kitchen!), cover the bowl with a cloth, and let it all rest for an hour.

Prepare two smaller bowls by greasing them with a generous amount of olive oil (say two tablespoons). Scrape half of the dough out of the bowl and form it into a ball in your hands by stretching the outer layer of dough over itself and tucking it underneath, like you’re making a little sack of dough. Place the ball in one of the bowls and roll it around in the oil until it’s completely covered with oil. Then scrape out the second half of the dough and do the same. Let the two oily dough balls rest for another hour.

Heat your oven to 450 degrees, and take out two bread pans. Place each dough ball in a separate bread pan and stretch them at the corners so they conform to the rectangular shape of the pans. Then poke your fingers into the tops of the doughs so that they are dimpled all over (don’t hold back – you can push your fingers nearly all the way to the bottom of the pan). Once the doughs are covered with dimples, squirt a generous amount of olive oil over the tops (one to two tablespoons each) and then sprinkle with sea salt so that the surface of the dough is nice and gritty (at least a teaspoon of salt on each).

Pop the breads in the oven and bake for about a half hour until the bread is golden-brown on top. Flip the breads over in their pans to let them air out (otherwise the bottoms will get soggy). Once it’s cool, slice the bread up and serve with a big sauce and maybe some spicy meatballs. Enjoy!

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From Dish Erin:

I had a craving for chicken marsala the other night, the only problem was that I didn’t have any Marsala wine. I tried to muster the energy it would take to walk the 2 blocks to the liquor store, but it was pouring outside and I couldn’t bear the thought. It’s often when I need to get creative in the kitchen that I come up with some fantastic “keeper” dishes. Necessity is the mother of invention, and I needed me some chicken marsala.

What I did have was an old bottle of sherry. So here’s what I came up with.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt & pepper
Flour for dredging
Olive oil for sauteing
1 cup sherry wine
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups mushrooms (I used cremini)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 cup chicken stock

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.

Season the chicken with salt & pepper and dredge in flour.

Place in pan and saute on each side, until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and cover to keep warm.

Deglaze the pan with the sherry wine and scrape up all the brown bits of deliciousness. Let the booze cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the butter, shallots, and garlic, cook one minute.

Add the mushrooms and thyme, then stir to coat everything in the butter/booze. Cook for another minute or so while stirring gently.

Add the chicken stock and stir. Add the chicken back to the pan and cook on high (with no cover) for about 4-5 minutes until the sauce has been reduced by half. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Serve the chicken on a scoopful of polenta and pour the sauce over top. Roasted asparagus is delicious with it, too!

The final dish definitely satisfied the craving for Chicken Marsala, and I think it was equally as tasty in it’s own right. The sauce is a little lighter, it would make a great summer dish when the typical Marsala sauce might be a bit too heavy.

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From Dish Nicole:

Back in my college days I use to waitress at a little Asian-fusion restaurant in Buffalo, NY. For the most part we were a busy little place, but during those long Sunday brunches we had a lot of down time. One of my favorite cooks, who we lovingly dubbed Mama Wan, would teach me how to make Thai curries, summer rolls and whatever else I was interested in learning to make. She really knew her stuff and had some serious knife skills. Looking back, “Mama” really started me out on my culinary adventure, enticing me to learn more and more. One thing I have been trying for years to perfect is my chicken lettuce wrap recipe. It was a favorite dish to make way back when and each time it came out slightly different. This was mainly due to the fact that I would throw in whatever I had around the house at the time. But finally I have managed to balance the ingredients in such a way that I am very happy with the outcome. Once you get past all of the prep slicing and dicing it’s nothing but easy peasy light and lovely chicken lettuce wraps in no time. So let the prepping begin:

1 head Boston lettuce leaves
1 package ground chicken
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3-4 scallions chopped
¼-½ c sesame oil
1 tbs low sodium soy sauce
1 ¼ tsp salt
2 carrots peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery finely chopped
½ c diced water chestnuts
1 c cilantro chopped
1 tbs lemon juice (or lime)
1 tsp lemon zest (or lime)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Pinch of sugar (add more to taste)
1 tbs sesame seeds

Soy Vay Very Very Teriyaki- for drizzling or dipping
Crunchy lo mein noodles- to add a little crunch to your wrap

While you are prepping, combine ginger, garlic, scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and ¾tsp salt in a small bowl and set aside (add more or less sugar to taste). Finish chopping up the rest of the ingredients and toss carrots, cilantro, celery, water chestnuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, sesame seeds and red pepper in a large bowl.

Combine the contents of both bowls, coating all of the vegetables with the sesame oil mixture. Next, over medium heat, heat 1tbsp sesame oil in a large skillet or a wok and add the ground chicken. While cooking the chicken chop into bite size pieces with a wooden spoon as you stir. Once all of the chicken is cooked and no longer pink, drain any excess liquid from the wok and return to heat. Combine all of the ingredients in the wok and cook for approximately 1-2 minutes.

Now you are ready to eat! I like to serve the wraps family style and have all of the accoutrements on the table in small dishes. Grab your lettuce and dig in.

*Saucy Little Side Dish; Ginger scallion Rice: A good way to make use of leftover ingredients is to make a saucy little side dish. I took my extra ingredients (scallion, ginger, garlic, salt, red pepper) and added them to my rice cooker with 1c of rice, 2c water and 1tbs sesame oil and had a tasty rice dish to serve alongside the chicken lettuce wraps.

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From Dish Jodi:

The husband was out of town this weekend, so I hosted a handful of ladies at our house. I’m a dinner party addict and have gotten the routine pretty well down. Don’t make anything that needs active attention as guests arrive, clean up the cooking and prep dishes and start the night with as spotless kitchen as possible (because it will be filled with dirty dishes and wine-glasses in a few hours), put away leftovers, but tackle the real cleaning the next morning, while hungover.

Further taking advantage of my day alone, I tried out new LA butcher shop Lindy & Grundy and though I’d called the day before to reserve my leg of lamb, they’d been so busy they hadn’t had time to prep it for me. Owners/butchers/bad-ass chicks Amelia and Erika were so attentive, they said they’d butcher it for me right then and there…so out of the walk-in came a whole lamb, and one of their apprentices hacked it up special for me, even cutting it exactly to the size that would fit in my pot. What a great way to kick off a meal.

I served the lamb with a spread of dips, grape leaves, olives and other middle-eastern inspired fare. I kept the flavors in the lamb within the same theme, but you can use rosemary, thyme, etc…any profile you want.

This dish will totally impress your friends, but is so easy – it’s the perfect dinner party trick.

1 5 or 6 lb leg of lamb (you will probably have to have the shank cut depending on the size of your pot.
Olive Oil
1 bottle of dry white wine
1 head of garlic
4 or 5 sprigs of thyme
4 or 5 sprigs of oregano
a dozen or so cardamom pods
1 T cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Heat oil in a large dutch oven. Smear leg of lamb with olive oil and salt and pepper all over generously.

Sear the entire leg on all sides until brown and crispy. Remove to plate.

Pour entire bottle of wine into pot and scrape up all the yummy brown bits. Break up the head of garlic and put it and the rest of the ingredients into wine.

Bring to simmer then put lamb back in, cover and put in oven for FOUR HOURS, basting occasionally.

When your guests arrive, remove lamb to platter and pull apart with spoon and fork to serve in melty piles. If you’re feeling industrious, you can strain the cooking liquid and reduce it into a sauce, but I’d rather chat with friends and eat appetizers.
Note – also makes good leftovers…

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I’ve said before that I’m not too fond of baking, but there is one exception: I love making birthday cakes. Something about brainstorming the perfect flavors to celebrate a friend’s special day makes me happy, and feels creative in a way that I enjoy. I also appreciate that since moving to New York, my group of friends has never let a birthday go by without someone volunteering to bring the super-sweet piece de resistance. Among us we’ve made cake sandwiches, boob cakes, garden cakes, Hostess cupcake cakes, Princess cakes, American flag cakes…Ok, I’m starting to sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump.

So – for my girl Dish Paige’s 30th birthday this past month, I volunteered to bring the cake, and I instantly knew what I wanted to make, even though I’ve never tried it before. If there’s one cocktail – can we call it that? – that P! loves, it’s the Irish Car Bomb: a half-pint of Guinness with a half-and-half shot of whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream. For those of you who don’t know, you drop the shot into the beer and then chug it, fast, before the cream curdles. I would describe what it takes like but I’ve never had one. I’m a square! Even still, I love going along on the bar crawl when tiny P! knocks back the I.C.B.’s, keeping up with guys twice her size.

It turns out that I’m not the first one to try making Irish Car Bomb cake. Recipe from The Biscuit Pusher – with some modifications – who got her inspiration from Smitten Kitchen.

For the cake:
1 cup Guinness or other good quality stout
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Over medium heat, bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to a simmer. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another large bowl, and using electric beaters if you have them, beat eggs and sour cream together. Temper the egg/sour cream mixture by slowly incorporating the stout/chocolate liquid and beating it together as you go (it helps to have a buddy around for this step).

Add flour mixture and give a quick pulse to combine. Finish by hand to make sure everything is smooth.

Pour batter into a well-greased pan (I used a 9×13 Pyrex but two smaller round pans would work as well – just adjust the bake time). Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.

Let cake cool.

While it’s cooling, make the whiskey and Bailey’s frosting:
3(ish) cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Bourbon (or Whiskey) and Bailey’s to taste

Partially beat together the sugar and butter to make buttercream frosting, and then – in tablespoon measurements – add “shots” of bourbon and Bailey’s until you’re satisfied that both flavors cut across the sugar and fat. Beat to combine the liquid. It can be spread on the cake immediately.

KEEP IN MIND that the alcohol has not been cooked off, and that this cake will have a “proof”!

I’m not going to win any awards for cake decorating, but that’s really Dish Amelia’s territory.

Happy Birthday, P!

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