Monday, June 28, 2010

on hiatus

dear readers, i'm going into hibernation for a while. catch you later!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

simple. perfect.

Dear readers, I can't believe I've been away so long. But I'm back, with a new, fully functioning laptop (!) and plenty of recipes to share with you...starting with one of my favorites, roast chicken.

A year or two ago, I had never cooked a whole chicken. I've always liked to bake, but didn't really get into cooking until I moved into my current apartment a couple of years ago. Sure, I cooked because I had to eat, but my meat consumption was limited to pre-cut salmon fillets and skinless-boneless chicken breasts. Basically, I wanted my meat as un-scary and un-animal-like as possible. (OCD tendencies against mess in general. I'm working on it.) But I've since mended my ways--and fortunately, because a whole roasted chicken is about the easiest, cheapest and most delicious "homestyle" meal you can cook. It's juicy, crispy, flavorful--nothing like those cottony dry chicken breasts I used to live on. Three secrets: A hot oven, plenty of kosher salt and an organic or antibiotic-free bird. Simple. Perfect. Roast chicken!

Herb-Roasted Chicken

1 3-4 lb. chicken
2 Tbs. fresh herbs
2 Tbs. olive oil
Kosher salt

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, pat dry with paper towels and generously sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff lemon wedges and smashed garlic cloves inside the cavity (my chicken was on the small side so I used half a lemon and 3 cloves garlic). In small bowl, mix herbs (I used fresh parsley and thyme), olive oil, salt and pepper until blended. Rub herb mixture all over the chicken. Roast chicken about 1 hour, or until skin is bronzed and crispy and leg juices run clear. Transfer chicken to a plate or cutting board for carving. Feel smugly accomplished.

Serves 3 hungry souls.

*When garlic is cooked with something acidic, like lemons, it undergoes a chemical reaction that makes it turn blue. Don't freak out. It looks crazy but is perfectly safe and tastes fine.

On the side: Risotto with peas and asparagus.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

what i eat when i eat alone

My Jon is is in the middle of a 2-week family vacation in Italy. Me? Well, I'm surviving. Barely. Take note of recent meals:

1. One Ellio's frozen individual cheese pizza, topped with sauteed peppers and mushrooms, eaten while watching something on the CW.
2. Repeat.
3. Repeat.
4. Chinese food takeout, shared with sister.
5. Grilled cheese sandwich.
6. Mashed-up avocado on toast. (I'm actually not ashamed of this one. It's good!)
7. Tortilla chips and salsa. And sour cream. Sigh.

Friday, March 5, 2010

a peace offering

I'm a bad blogger.

You see, I'd like to post more frequently, but my incredibly slow laptop is getting in the way. And for some unknown reason, the "h" key popped off about a year ago. Lately it's stopped working all together. You'd be surprised how one little, unassuming letter (well, the absence of one) can ruin everything. I've been reduced to copy-and-pasting each "h" individually, or surreptitiously writing my posts at work when my boss isn't looking and pasting them in later. It's all very Harriet the Spy, if Harriet were a cranky 24-year-old with the urge to bake. I haven't felt this sneaky since I was seven and stored Baby-Sitters Club books under my mattress to devour after lights-out. (Seriously.)

Will you forgive me? And will you accept these Meyer lemon tea cakes as a peace offering? They're soft and sweet and light, and go down mighty easily. Until you realize somebody's eaten half the batch. (But don't be like me.)

Meyer Lemon Tea Cakes
adapted from Food Network magazine

For the cakes:
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup granulated sugar
1 to 2 Tbs. grated lemon zest (Meyer or regular)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup milk or plain yogurt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda (only if using yogurt instead of milk)
1/2 tsp. salt

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 to 3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin tin.

In bowl, combine the granulated sugar and lemon zest. Rub the mixture together with your fingers until sugar is moist and fragrant. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, then add the olive oil and milk. Whisk until blended.

Whisk 1 cup flour, the baking powder, baking powder (if using) and salt in a small bowl. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the milk mixture until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin. Bake until the cakes just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and spring back when lightly touched, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan 10 minutes, then loosen the sides with a small knife and invert the cakes onto a rack.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze: Whisk the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and butter until smooth, adding more sugar or lemon juice to achieve the desired consistency. Drizzle over the warm cakes, or dip the tops of the cakes directly in glaze.

Monday, February 8, 2010

invite me over

Have you ever had banh mi? It's a delicious Vietnamese sandwich made with some combination of ground pork, grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables, cilantro, chili peppers, sriracha hot sauce and mayonnaise on a baguette, and it's officially my favorite food that doesn't come out of my mother's kitchen.

I used to think banh mi was something you could only get at a restaurant, like chocolate lava cake and risotto (now two of my favorite things to cook). That all changed with the January issue of Bon Appetit. All I can say is...make this now. And then invite me over for dinner.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2010

Chili mayo:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 Tbs. hot chili sauce, like sriracha

Pickled vegetables:
3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt

1 lb. ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 Tbs. fish sauce
1 Tbs. hot chili sauce, like sriracha
1 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt

4 10-inch individual baguettes or 4 10-inch-long pieces of baguette

Chili mayo: Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. Cover and chill.

Pickled vegetables: Toss all ingredients in medium bowl; set aside.

Meatballs: Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs, about 1 scant Tbs. each. Saute meatballs in oil until brown and cooked through, turning often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 min.

Sandwiches: In medium bowl, toss carrots, cucumbers, rice vinegar, sugar and salt; set aside. Cut each baguette or baguette pieces horizontally in half. Pull out excess squishy bread. Spread with chili mayo. Arrange cilantro, meatballs and pickled vegetables on bread. Devour.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

body and soul

Friends, how are you feeling? Frankly, I've been a little blue. Winter just isn't my season. And after years of being the kind of person who could sleep through just about anything (including thunderstorms, construction sites and Batman Begins--in the theater), I've somehow become someone who wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night, grinding her teeth all the while. I'm tired. If ever there were a time for comfort food, it's now.

This beef stew is just a simplified Beef Bourguignon, that delicious but labor-intensive classic French dish. Start with a hunk of beef chuck (I know it's kind of horrifying how fatty it is, but it's so tender. And you can strain off the fat later), add some vegetables and wine and stick it in the oven for a couple hours, and you'll have the perfect dinner to warm body and soul.

Beef stew

1 beef chuck roast, about 2-1/2 lbs., cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 large or 2 small onions, chopped
4 carrots, cut diagonally into 1- to 2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 sprigs rosemary
about 3/4 bottle dry red wine
1 can chicken or beef broth

1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
about 12 cremini or white button mushrooms, quartered
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

chopped flat-leaf parsley
good baguette

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Season the beef cubes generously with salt and pepper. Pour 2 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil in a Dutch oven. Brown the beef over medium-high heat in 2 or 3 batches, about 5 min. per batch (beef will not be cooked through). Remove the beef to a plate; set aside.

Add onions and carrots to the Dutch oven; add a little more oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 8 min. Add the garlic and tomato paste; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 sec.

Add the rosemary and beef (with any juices that may have collected on the plate). Pour in the broth and enough wine to barely cover the beef. Bring to a boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot (this is called fond and carries lots of flavor). Cover and place in the oven for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, saute the large-diced onion and quartered mushrooms in 2 Tbs. olive oil until browned and tender, about 8 min. Stir in 2 Tbs. flour. Remove stew from oven, place on a stovetop burner over medium-low heat and stir in the mushroom mixture. Let simmer 30 min. If you'd like a thicker broth, mix 2 Tbs. softened butter with 2 Tbs. flour and stir into the stew; let simmer uncovered 15 min. more.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with a nice baguette to soak up all the wine-y juices.

Friday, January 1, 2010

happy new year!

In the spirit of looking forward to new and wonderful things, here are a couple of items we've got kicking around our kitchen:

Preserved lemons, a recipe adapted from Preserved by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton. Lemon wedges are packed in kosher salt and lemon juice, along with some black peppercorns, bay leaves and cloves.

Limoncello, adapted from Giada De Laurentiis. It's just lemon peel soaking in a bottle of vodka, and we'll add a sugar syrup later.

Both were made from these Meyer lemons, and both should be ready in about a month.

Here's to a peaceful, fulfilling and delicious new year.