Sunday, November 23, 2008

Boiled Kale on Toast with an Egg

Have you made this boiled kale yet? (Recipe from the first link.) If not, drop what you're doing and go make it now. And if you have, you understand the appeal of this dish, and, well, you should probably go make it again. I know I will.

The genius of this dish lies in the layering. The kale by itself is really good - I usually saute it until it wilts, and eat it when it is still bright green and just a little bitter. When it's cooked longer in liquid, the color fades, to be sure, but so does the bitterness. At the same time, the broth gets infused with the crisp flavor of the kale, the sweetness of the onions, and the bite of the garlic. (And the hot pepper flakes too, if you have them, but I had run out so I added some Cholula hot sauce at the end.) This could be the basis of a great soup. Instead, the kale gets scooped onto garlic-rubbed toast (tangy sourdough from Amy's Bread with a thin layer of goat cheese spread on top, if you are me). The bread soaks up the flavorful broth just enough to soften up without getting mushy, providing a nice textural contrast with the kale. And then on top of it all, there's an egg - poached or fried, whatever you prefer - with its yolk runny enough to mix with all the layers below and tie the dish together. I skipped the cheese grated on top because it seemed extraneous at that point.

Seriously, this is awesome. It's hearty, comforting, healthy, filling... the perfect antidote to the early-onset winter we're experiencing in New York right now.

One more change I made, just for reference - I had some bacon in the fridge, and greens love salty pork products, so I started the whole thing off in the fat rendered out of one piece of thick-cut bacon. And then I ate the bacon. So I guess that lowers the health factor a bit, but at the same time, I got much less than 5 tbs of fat out of it, so what I sacrificed in fat-health-levels I made up for in reduced quantity. At least that's what I'll keep telling myself.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fig, Hazelnut, and Goat Cheese Canapés

Or "How to Win Friends and Influence People in 4 Easy Steps"

Step 1. Acquire the following ingredients:

  • fresh figs
  • a baguette
  • creamy goat cheese *
  • hazelnut praline spread **

Step 2. Cut the stems off the figs and finely dice them. Place in a bowl and add a spoonful or two of hazelnut spread. Stir together until the hazelnut spread binds the fig pieces together in a delicious paste.

Step 3. Slice the baguette into 1/4" slices. Top each slice with some goat cheese and then some of the fig-hazelnut mixture.

Step 4. Serve to anybody whose good side you want to be on, or anybody you need a favor from. After one bite, they will be at your beck and call. On the other hand, once you try one, you might have trouble parting with the rest, so feel free to keep them all for yourself as a tasty snack. Or dessert. Or... dinner.

* I used Le Sarlet, which has a texture like Brie but with the tang of goat cheese. It worked perfectly.
** I used the "brunette" spread from Le Pain Quotidien -- it's like Nutella but without the chocolate, and also, better. If you have fresh hazelnuts you could make your own!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

You learn something every day...

Fun Fact #8925:
Caterpillars can survive in an ear of corn for at least 4 days after it has been picked - even in the refrigerator!

(I guess that's what I get for buying a bag of 3 ears for $1 without actually looking at them. :P)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lamb, Okra, and Tomato Stew

Whenever the question is asked, "how can I meet new people?" there seems to be one consistent answer: join a club. Personally, I've never taken this advice. Joining a club involves going somewhere on your own and meeting new people, and the thought of being surrounded by people I don't know kind of gives me panic attacks.

But last week I stepped outside of my comfort zone to go to a meeting of the Brooklyn Kitchen's Foodie Book Club, and I'm so glad I did! I guess the reason people are told to join clubs is to find other people with common interests (really now), and I'm definitely interested in food, so it was a perfect fit. (My friends, for the most part, are not interested in food at all. In fact, my closest guy friend either eats out or eats frozen tortellini - with no sauce - for every. single. meal.)

The book for last week's meeting was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver which is about one family's attempt to produce as much of their own food as possible for a year, and supplement it almost exclusively with local products. Members of the book club are asked to bring a dish inspired by the book, so I picked up some extra ingredients during my most recent greenmarket trip. I would have loved to include something home-grown but the tiny basil plant on my fire escape is not too happy that the days are getting shorter. Apparently 5 minutes of direct sunlight a day isn't really enough to keep it growing. Anyway, at the market, I saw a giant pile of okra, and I remembered a dish I had at a Turkish restaurant a while back that had okra, lamb, and tomatoes. I thought I'd try to recreate it so I picked up some fresh lamb stew meat from another market vendor and this is the recipe I came up with. Sorry it's so vague - my camera died, so I don't have any pictures, so I wasn't really planning on blogging the dish. But it was well received at the event last night, and Taylor (one of the owners of Brooklyn Kitchen) asked me for the recipe, so here's what I remember!

Lamb, Okra, and Tomato Stew
serves 4-6ish

3/4 lb lamb
1 lb fresh okra
olive oil
1 onion
a few cloves of garlic
4 plum tomatoes
salt and pepper
honey (optional)

knife and cutting board
saucepan or dutch oven-type pot
wooden spoon

Prepare the okra by rinsing it and gently rubbing it try to remove some of the fuzz. Trim the tops leaving a little bit of the "cap" on. Put the okra in a bowl and drizzle some vinegar over them, then set it aside for half an hour (you can get everything else ready in the meantime).

Cut the lamb into bite-size pieces and season with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil, maybe 1-2 tbs, in a Dutch oven or something similar, then add the lamb and brown it on all sides (~10 mins). While the lamb cooks, chop the onions and the garlic. Add to the pan and cook until the onions turn translucent.

For the tomatoes, I chopped two of them finely and two of them in larger pieces, but once everything cooked down together I'm not sure it made a difference, so cut the tomatoes to whatever size you want. You can also peel them beforehand if you are feeling fancy. I didn't bother. Either way, once the onions and garlic are cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, okra (drained), a splash of the vinegar the okra were sitting in, and water to almost cover everything. Stir it all up, season with more salt and pepper to taste, and if you added a little too much vinegar (*raises hand*) you can balance it out with a small spoonful of honey.

When the water starts to boil, cover the pot and lower the heat. Let it simmer for a while, however long it takes to shower and watch the Daily Show - probably an hour. Check to see if the okra are tender and the lamb is cooked through. If they are, remove the cover and turn the heat up a little until some more liquid boils off and it thickens up a little, maybe 15 minutes longer. And you're done! This also works ahead of time -- in fact I'm pretty sure it tasted better at the book club the next day than it did when I first made it, and the leftovers the following day were even better.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cod with Stewed Eggplant

When I first saw this recipe posted at Anticiplate, it really appealed to me, though on the surface it's hard to say why. Couldn't be the cod, which I like, though it's not a type of fish I'd get excited about. Definitely not the cilantro, and I have a love-hate relationship with eggplant. I like the taste, but I hate when it's really mushy, and I hate how much oil is required to crisp it up. I think the reason why this jumped out at me is the combination of coconut milk and heat, which works wonderfully in Thai and Indian food. However, I've never seen coconut milk with Latin-type spices. Maybe it's really common and I've just missed it, which is very possible. Either way, the combination worked really well, and the eggplant didn't get too mushy, and this dish was delicious.

For the fish, I used scrod from the Greenmarket - the woman behind the counter described it to me as being very similar to cod, but milder and more delicate. I tend to think of cod as mild and delicate to begin with, so I worried the fish would have no flavor at all, but it was cheap so I got it anyway. And it was really good! I don't think I'd make a piece of scrod the highlight of a meal, like I would with salmon or tuna. Here, though, the mild flesh cut through the spicy stew in a similar way that rice would have. I think scrod would also be great deep-fried as the fish half of fish and chips. Yum.

Anyway, I followed the recipe pretty closely, with only a few modifications. I replaced the capers and cilantro used as garnishes with some chopped scallions, I used my slow-roasted tomatoes instead of sun-dried ones, and I cut the whole recipe in half. My modified version is below.

Cod with Stewed Eggplant
recipe by Daisy Martinez for Every Day with Rachel Ray

4-5 small Japanese eggplants, diced
1 plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup slow-roasted or sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cubanelle pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 an 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour
2 6-ounce cod fillets
Handful chopped scallions

knife and cutting board
large skillet
saucepan or dutch oven-type pot
wooden spoon

In a colander, salt the eggplant; let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and pepper and cook for 7 minutes.

Pat the eggplant dry. Add to the skillet with the tomato sauce, coconut milk, cumin and water; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover and simmer, stirring once, until the eggplant softens, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the cod with salt and pepper; coat with the flour. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbs olive oil over high heat until hot. Add the cod and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes; flip and cook until opaque, about 1 minute more. Drain on paper towels.

Divide the stewed eggplant among 2 plates and top each serving with a cod fillet. Sprinkle with chopped scallions.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

In addition to the meme bandwagon, I've also recently hopped onto another bandwagon, and a much tastier one at that: slow roasted tomatoes.

I first read about them a year ago at Kalyn's blog, and while I found the idea incredibly intriguing, I couldn't imagine turning the oven on for 9 hours in the summer and then staying home the whole time to make sure they turned out okay and nothing spontaneously caught on fire. Then tomato season came to a close, and I promptly forgot about the idea... until I saw Deb's version. She used cherry tomatoes and claimed that 3 hours was long enough -- a much more reasonable time commitment, and I fully trust Deb, because, let's face it, the woman knows how to cook.

So I picked up two pints of cherry tomatoes from the greenmarket over the weekend, and on a weeknight when I had no other plans, I rushed home after work to prepare my crack tomatoes.

They got a quick rinse, then I cut them in half and drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little fresh rosemary. Three hours later, I pulled this out of the oven:

and I tasted one, and oh my gosh I nearly fell over. Then I ate another one, and another, and then my roommate came into the kitchen and had one, and another, and suddenly I felt possessive of these little shriveled jewels and I cut her off. "Okay, time to put them away!" I said, even though I could have kept eating until the whole batch was gone. Seriously, if you gave me a bowl of slow-roasted cherry tomatoes and a bowl of good chocolate chips, I'd take the tomatoes every time. And I love me some chocolate.

So hurry up and make yourself some slow-roasted tomatoes before the season ends! I know how I'm going to be spending my weekend... and this time, hopefully I'll make enough that they'll last me more than a few days. Coming next, a delicious seasonal dish made even better by the addition of slow-roasted tomatoes!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oh hello, bandwagon. Room for one more?

I feel like everyone and their mother's cousin's brothers-in-law have done this except me, but I am nothing if not a follower.

Wait, that didn't come out right. What I mean to say is that the Omnivore's 100 List has shown up everywhere and I started to wonder how many of the items I myself had eaten, and then once I went through the list I figured I might as well post it here. So here goes.

The Rules:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you've eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.
5) Optional extra #2 [from me]: Italicize the items you haven't eaten but would like to.

(Is rule 5 too much? It might be. But there are some items that I actively would like to try, while there are others (haggis, for example) that I would taste if they were placed in front of me but I wouldn't seek them out. Hence the italicizing.)

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (I think I've had alligator, though)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (in very, very small pieces)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (spicy = good. setting fire to my mouth = bad.)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (hadn't heard of this before but it sounds delicious!)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (I think -- is this different from a "plain" lassi?)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (cognac, sure, but no thanks on the cigar)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (maybe if they were coated in chocolate?)
43. Phaal (see #26)
44. Goat's milk (only had it in cheese form)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (hate gin, hate olives, so...)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (rumor has it this used to be in McDonalds' milkshakes... also I use it at work and have probably ingested a whole lotta dust)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (all of the above!)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill (I mean... maybe? Would really depend on the circumstance)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (I wish!)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

At 62 out of 100, I don't think I'm doing too badly, but there's always room for improvement! Now where'd I put that Kobe beef and Lobster Thermidor...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Apricot and Blackberry Flognarde

I am sure that the correct pronunciation of flognarde is rather elegant, like most French words. However, I have one of the worst French accents ever, so I've been calling this dish a flog-nard. It's kind of fun to say. FLOG-NARD! Also I am maybe 12.

Anyway, this dish came about after I went a little fruit-crazy at the Greenmarket this past weekend. I brought home a pint of apricots, 5 peaches, and a small yellow watermelon, and I'm just buying enough for myself here. Half the watermelon went into a salad with tomato and feta; the other half is still in my fridge. I ate one peach and turned the rest into peach sorbet (recipe coming soon, it was delicious). But the apricots required a little more work. I couldn't resist eating a few straight from the carton -- I loooove me some apricots -- but I really wanted to make something out of them, something like a clafoutis. I had never made a clafoutis before, and I'm not sure I'd ever eaten one before; I just knew that I had seen lots of recipes floating around the food blogosphere and it seemed like a fairly easy dessert that would work well with apricots. Then I discovered that once you take the cherries out of a traditional clafoutis, you don't even have a clafoutis anymore - you have a flognarde.

This recipe came together based on what I had on hand, using a few different recipes as inspiration. At the last minute I noticed a container of blackberries sitting in the fridge about to go bad; they were my roommate's, but I figured she wouldn't mind my using them. Better than throwing them away, right? The combination of apricot and blackberry was fabulous, and next time I might even try to use these fruits together on purpose. (She didn't mind at all, by the way, especially once I told her to eat as much of the finished flognarde as she wanted.)

I wanted to add a small amount of vanilla extract but I couldn't get the bottle cap off. If your bottle is less stubborn than mine, feel free to add some.

Also, I baked my flognarde in a springform pan, because it was the only round pan I had in a reasonable size. It mostly worked, except for a thin layer of custard that leaked out and settled between the bottom of the pan and the baking sheet it sat on. I ate that thin layer anyway -- it was nice and crispy -- but a regular round dish would probably work out a little better.

Apricot and Blackberry Flognarde
serves 6-8

1 pint apricots
1 cup blackberries
3 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
pinch salt

paring knife
two bowls, one large and one medium-ish
pastry brush
10-inch baking dish
baking sheet

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut apricots in half to remove pit. If you have larger apricots, cut them again into quarters or eighths.

Separate eggs, putting the whites in the larger bowl and setting the yolks aside.

Melt butter in the microwave on low power in smaller bowl and brush a little bit onto the bottom and sides of baking dish. Arrange apricots and blueberries in the dish, laying fruit in a single layer if possible. Whisk egg yolks in with remaining melted butter.

Add cream, milk, honey, sugar, and salt to bowl with egg whites and whisk until frothy. Whisk in yolk-butter mixture.

Add AP flour and almond flour to batter and mix until most lumps are gone.

Pour batter over fruit, then place the dish in the oven (on a baking sheet if you want, to catch any leaks or spills). Bake for 30 minutes or until the custard sets.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

greetings from the north

As I type this, I'm in one of the strangest places I've ever been, on my way to what will likely be the strangest business trip I ever go on. I am far enough north that the sun doesn't set, far enough north that the airports look like the yellow submarine,

far enough north that I can make friends with a musk ox,

far enough north that large chunks of ice float in the ocean forming patterns I've never seen before,

and far enough north that if I go outside and don't move or speak, I find myself faced with a silence so overwhelming it's uncomfortable. Tomorrow morning I will wake up bright and early -- "bright" being a relative term, in this case -- to board a small prop plane that will take me from Resolute Bay (where I am now) to Devon Island, where I will spend the next 10 days living in a tent.

I am a little freaked out.

So, you ask, what does one eat while camping out in the arctic? Well, actually, I have no idea. I'm hoping the answer is not caribou jerky and whale blubber, because, ew. (Not "ew" to try, really, but "ew" to subsist on for 10 days...)

I think the real answer is, while camping out in the arctic, one eats whatever is placed in front of her. Someone else will be doing all the cooking and is it ridiculous that I'm a little sad to be missing peach season?

I might be able to post again during the trip, because this camping site will be set up in that strange way where the internet is easily accessible but a pillow is a luxury. Wish me luck...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How Not to Cook a Steak

I've been procrastinating writing this post for the past hour or so, because it's both disappointing and kind of embarrassing.

Over at Smitten Kitchen, Deb asked what what her readers' kitchen fears are so she can help her readers conquer them. Something about the topic must have struck a nerve, because she received over 300 comments. And I became very interested in them, for some reason, and read every single one. The "fears" seem to fall into clusters, and one thing that surprised me was the number of people scared of cooking meat. I generally feel comfortable with meat, although large hunks like pot roast might cause a bit of trepidation -- I've never tried to cook for a lot of people at once, so there has been no need for such large meaty things. But I'm fairly confident that if the occasion required a pot roast, I could make a pretty good one.

Anyway, all this thinking about meat, combined with a grill-free July 4th last weekend, gave me a huge craving for steak. I don't eat much red meat these days -- it's so expensive, and after reading The Omnivore's Dilemma recently, I decided my next steak should be a grass-fed one, and then the cost becomes even more prohibitive. But my craving got the best of me and I decided to splurge on an almost-1-pound grass-fed porterhouse from Hawthorne Valley Farm at the green market yesterday.

I got home and suddenly it hit me - I had no clue how to cook this steak! (I probably should have figured this out earlier.) Reading through Deb's comments from people afraid of cooking meat, I thought, at least that's one fear I've conquered. I've grilled steaks to perfection before, definitely not scared of them. Except that I live in a small 6th floor apartment in Manhattan without roof access and grilling is not an option here. So I started googling frantically to find the best way to cook a steak indoors, and I came across these directions by Leah of Love and Butter. "Perfect," I said to myself, "she even talks about cooking 1-pound grass-fed porterhouse steaks in a flat skillet! I can do this!"

I let my steak come to room temperature, preheated the oven to 450, and rubbed both sides of the steak with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

(Doesn't it just look perfect? Look at that rich red color!)

Leah then suggests searing the first side of the steak for 6-7 minutes and the second side for 2-3 minutes. Since my steak was on the thinner side, about 1", I seared it 4 minutes on the first side and only 1 minute on the second side.

Then I popped the whole skillet into the oven for 4 minutes (again, she suggests 6-7 minutes for a thicker steak, so I thought 4 would be good for my thinner one). A preliminary cut revealed that the steak might have cooked a little longer than necessary for my perfect medium rare goal, but I didn't want to pass judgment until it had a chance to rest. So five minutes later, I finally cut into it to see how I had done.

In case you can't tell from the picture, the steak was... not even close to medium rare. I think it ranged from medium-well to full on well done. I cut it into slices anyway and ate about half of the steak for dinner with some roasted fingerling potatoes and a salad.

Half an hour later, the potatoes and salad were all gone, and the steak was mostly still there on my plate. The tenderloin half of the porterhouse fared better than top loin half, as it was still sort of tender and easy to eat (even though it was so overcooked). The top loin required so much chewing, even when cut into teeny tiny pieces, that I just gave up part-way through and tossed it. I was planning on using the rest of the steak in a salad tomorrow night, but I'm not sure my jaw will be up to it.

So... I'm a little upset. I basically ruined an expensive piece of meat, wasting time and money on something barely edible. Maybe I should have been afraid of it in the first place. Sigh. I will probably try again at some point, once my deflated steak ego returns to its normal size, and next time if I have a thin steak I'll skip the oven completely and just sear it a little longer on each side. I have a hunch this steak would have been perfect if only I had left it on the stove.

In case anyone is reading this who has experience with grass-fed steaks, any advice for next time? Should the cooking procedure be different in any way from that of supermarket corn-fed steaks? I know the fat content tends to be lower; does that make the meat chewier to begin with? Is there a way to tenderize the meat, or is completely unnecessary to tenderize it if you can actually cook it to medium rare?

Here's to hoping I won't have to write another "how not to xyz" post for a while...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cherry Picking / Recipe: Balsamic Black Cherry Gelato

When I was a little kid, my family made a tradition out of going fruit-picking. We'd drive 45 minutes upstate, watching the suburbs give way to farm land, until we started to see rows and rows of evenly-spaced trees. We picked peaches in July and apples in September and even tried berries a few times, but I think everyone preferred the shade provided by larger fruit trees to all the crouching in the hot sun that berry picking involved. While I do love peaches and apples and berries (and almost any fruit, really), my favorite was always cherries.

Maybe it's because cherry season started right around my birthday; maybe it's because cherry trees were the easiest to climb; maybe it's because you can eat a million cherries while you pick them (as opposed to larger fruits, where you really do have to pace yourself a bit). Whatever the reason, I just loved that day when we would all don matching red shirts (to hide cherry juice stains, of course) and drive up north. Last weekend, we decide to revive the tradition. It had been at least 10 years since we last went fruit picking and I'm not going to lie, I was THRILLED.

But I think me and my sister have gotten just a bit faster at picking cherries since the last time. When we dragged our fruit-filled buckets to the weighing station, we realized that the 5 of us (me, my parents, my sister, and one of her friends) had picked 25 POUNDS of cherries. We had about 20 pounds of deep red Bing cherries and 5 pounds of yellow-pink Ranier cherries. Far more cherries than any of us expected or knew what to do with.

That night, we made a cherry cobbler for dessert. (8 cups of cherries down.) In the morning, I made a sauce of cherries sauteed with a little butter and sugar to go over my dad's challah French toast. (2-3 more cups down.) We put a bowl of cherries out on the counter for snacking and kept refilling it. (Few more cups...) And then in the evening, we made gelato, and it was SO good. Four more cups down! Only... 23874235 remaining. But once we split the remaining cherries up 5 ways, the leftover amount seemed reasonable. I've been snacking on mine all week and just finished them today, and I only had to throw out a few bad ones on the way. You can't really get fruit any fresher (or cheaper) than when you pick it yourself, so at least our cherry excess lasted longer than supermarket cherries probably would have.

I had never made ice cream of any sort before, at least not in recent memory, so I really enjoyed seeing this come together. We made a few changes to the original recipe, which are reflected in the version below.

Balsamic Black Cherry Gelato
makes 1 quart; adapted from a recipe from The Ontario Tender Fruit Producers

4 egg yolks
2/3-1 cup granulated sugar [adjust the amount based on how sweet your cherries are]
2 cups milk [we used 1% but it's probably even better and richer with whole milk]
4 cups sweet black cherries
2 tbs good quality aged balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

large bowl
wooden spoon
blender or food processor
ice cream maker

In bowl, whisk together yolks with sugar until thickened and pale. Set aside.

In medium saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to simmer, stirring often. Whisk about 1/2 cup (125 mL) of milk into egg mixture and then transfer back to the saucepan. Cook over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 8 minutes. Pour back into bowl and let cool.

In the meantime, pit the cherries and remove their stems. Purée 3 cups of them and their juices in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir cherry purée, cherries, balsamic and vanilla into milk mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight and up to 1 day. [Or put in the freezer for an hour, if you are in a rush/impatient. Just make sure you take it out before it freezes!]

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Alternatively, freeze mixer in a large stainless steel bowl. After 4 hours, transfer to food processor and blend again. Freeze completely.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Introduction, after the fact...

Hi! I'm Joanna, and this is my food blog, Scalloped Edge.

You probably figured that out already.

I kind of dove right in and started posting recipes without revealing any information about who I am or why I'm doing this, so here goes. I'm 25, living in Manhattan, working full-time as a mechanical engineer. I live with one of my best friends, but we cook and eat very differently and usually completely separately from each other. So most of the time, when I cook, it's just for myself. I don't spend much time on fancy presentations or on making my food look attractive at all, really, because nobody else sees it... but now that I'm taking pictures and blogging about it, I'll try to put in a little more effort. ;) I am currently taking pictures with a 4-year-old camera that's partly broken in a kitchen that has truly awful lighting, and I realize most of my photos kind of suck... I'm just trying to make do with what I have for now.

While I always liked helping my parents in the kitchen -- shaping meatballs and matzah balls was the BEST -- I never really learned to cook without their guidance and supervision until I moved across the country for college. I lived in a dorm for two years where we had to fend for ourselves on weekends, and I quickly became an expert in preparing such delicacies as Easy Mac, Pasta-Roni, Campbell's Soup, and Top Ramen. When I felt like being fancy I would boil pasta and add sauce from a jar. (Fancy because it required two separate ingredients, unlike the other convenience foods that came with their own seasoning packet included. Fancy indeed.)

But that was 6 years ago, and I've come a long way since then, or at least I like to think so. I'm spoiled rotten by food accessibility where I live -- I'm within walking distance of the Union Square Greenmarket, I live a block away from an actual supermarket (not the little bodegas that are on every corner in NYC), and if I walk a few more blocks I can get great fresh pasta, mozzarella, any other kind of cheese imaginable, coffee, raw meat, cured meat, fish, cheap organic bulk goods... you get the idea.

These days, I generally try to cook simple meals using seasonal ingredients. Sometimes I follow recipes and other times I improvise; I don't own a single cookbook, so when I do use recipes they usually come from food blogs or Epicurious. And I fully plan on buying a cookbook or 10, as soon as I can make up my mind about where to start!

I'm not sure if I'll keep doing this, but for now I'm trying to list the kitchen equipment required for each recipe I post because I have a tiny sink and a tiny dish drain and no dishwasher and no one to clean up after me in exchange for my cooking for them. In other words, keeping the number of dishes down to a minimum is a big priority for me.

Most importantly, I love food and I love preparing food and I love eating food. I'm by no means an expert, but I'm learning, and I guess I just want to document the process and join the big happy food blog family!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about.

Thanks to some super helpful advice on my previous post left by Tim of The Second Pancake, my second pizza followed the rule of... well, the second pancake. Tim suggested that I let my dough sit in a warm place until it rose again. I figured that since my kitchen was close to 90 degrees, the counter would be perfect. (Don't ask why I was making something that required turning the oven on in a 90 degree kitchen. Pizza cravings do not listen to logic.)

So I turned the bowl of my salad spinner upside down over the dough and then I successfully distracted myself for about an hour. When I came back, I had a bubble!

Since there hadn't been any bubbles earlier, I figured I was on the right track. At that point, I preheated the oven to 450°F -- a little cooler than last time, since I knew better than to anticipate a perfect thin crust. I also put a link of italian sausage on a baking sheet and let it roast while I prepared the rest of the pizza. I put down a sheet of the parchment paper, sprinkled some corn meal, and then came the moment of truth -- could I turn this blob into a flat dough shape, or would it spring back on me incessantly again?

I felt so empowered as I stretched that dough into shape. There was no resistance. The dough yielded to my every whim, helpless against my fingertips. This pizza dough was my domain, and I was the master of it.

In other words, it worked. Let me say that again: it worked!!

At that point, I spread some leftover tomato sauce over the pie, added chunks of the best smoked mozzarella I've ever tasted (thanks, Joe's Dairy!) and slices of the roast sausage link, and popped the pizza in the oven. Fifteen minutes later, this came out:

And then I ate it. And life was good.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How Not to Make a Pizza

Maybe this title is unfair. Given all the things that could go wrong, this pizza was pretty good. The toppings were tasty, and it looked "real" enough that one of my coworkers asked if it came from the pizza shop downstairs. But I had this idea of a perfect thin crust pizza, one that slid effortlessly onto the pizza stone even though I forgot to buy parchment paper, and... that's not exactly what happened.

I should probably mention that my dough was supposed to be foolproof; I figured I'd try to get the pizza baking part right before I tried making my own dough, so I followed path #10 on Deb's list of 10 paths to painless pizza-making. Luckily, since I live in Manhattan, the question I asked myself wasn't, "where can I find a pizza place?" Instead it was, "which of the 4 pizza places directly on the 6-block walk from the train station to my apartment should I get the dough from?" I chose The Pizzeria because, well, with a name like that, how can you pass it up? The guy behind the counter didn't flinch when I asked for a ball of dough, though he did confirm about 10 times that I really only did want dough.

I got home and immediately put the pizza stone in the oven and turned it up to 500°F, since I had read that hotter temperatures lead to better pizza. In the meantime, I thinly sliced some onions and tossed them with a little olive oil, a splash of balsamic, and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Then I spread them on a baking sheet and put them in the hot oven for about 10 minutes to caramelize. Arugula and basil were roughly chopped, then tossed with sliced sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, and lemon juice.

And then it was time to roll out the dough. The as-purchased dough lump was sort of round and flat already, but it was also HUGE (2 pounds!) so I cut it in half and started to roll one of the halves out flat.

And I rolled.

And I rolled.

And no matter how many times I rolled, the dough kept springing back on itself.

So I tried another method. I picked up an edge of the dough and held it up in the air, so the rest of it would fall and stretch it out. This sort of worked, but for every inch that it stretched, it immediately sprung back and lost 0.9 inches. However, I wasn't about to give up -- my toppings were ready to go, my pizza stone was hot, and I was going to have pizza for dinner, dammit! I sprinkled some cornmeal on the back of a baking sheet, threw my dough down onto it, and just pushed it outwards with my fingertips as much as possible.

Eventually, I got the dough to a respectable pizza size, but it was still a world away from the thin crust I had envisioned. I spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese (I used the Calabro brand, which was FABULOUS), followed by the caramelized onions, then the arugula mixture. A little parmesean cheese grated over the top, and then all that remained was to slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone.

Sounds simple, right? As you can probably tell from the picture, I was not so successful in my sliding transfer. The only way I got the pizza off the baking sheet was with a spatula, and in the process I lost a few pieces of arugula, which fell onto the stone and immediately started to char. I didn't want the same to happen to my fingers so I left them there... and now I have some lovely burn marks on my pizza stone.

After 10 minutes, I faced a tough decision. The toppings were hot and starting to burn, but the crust needed at least a few more minutes. Either I could wait a few more minutes for a perfect crust with burnt toppings, or I could deal with a doughy crust that left the toppings in perfect condition. I went with the latter option. The crust wasn't raw, really, and it was edible, but it was awfully doughy. For me, it was fine, but there's no way I would have served this pizza to anyone else.

I still have half of my original dough blob in the fridge, so I guess I'll be trying to make pizza again soon. I know I can solve the clean-transfer-to-pizza-stone problem with a piece of parchment paper, but any tips for getting the dough to actually stretch out would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Recipe: Asparagus and Polenta with Fried Capers

I might be a little late in posting this, since I didn't see any asparagus at the market on Saturday and there's a chance the season is over already, but in case you can still find fresh asparagus in your area, you should give this a try. (Also, know that I am a little jealous of you. Asparagus season never lasts long enough!)

This meal would have been fairly ordinary if not for the fried capers. I can't remember where I first read about them, but it's something I've kept in the back of my mind just waiting for the perfect dish to garnish with little crispy flowery capers. Well... here it is. The capers really brought this from a little boring to very, very good.

Asparagus and Polenta with Fried Capers
serves 2

1 tbs brined capers
canola oil or other high-smoke-point oil for frying
1/2 lb asparagus
1/2 small yellow onion
1 large stalk green garlic, dark green parts removed (or 1-2 cloves of regular garlic)
1 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
1 2/3 cup chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
1/3 cup instant polenta (or non-instant polenta, if you have it and don't mind lots of stirring)
1 tbs butter (optional)
3 tbs grated parmesean cheese

small skillet
large skillet
slotted spoon
knife and cutting board
cheese grater

Measure out the capers and blot dry with paper towels, being careful not to squish them. Pour 1/4" of oil into a small skillet and heat over medium-high heat. When the surface of the oil shimmers, drop in the capers. The oil will start to bubble so don't stand too close! After about 2 minutes, the outer layers of the capers will peel back so they look like little flowers. (My camera batteries died right as I started to cook, so I don't have a picture, but I found a good one here -- just scroll halfway down the page.) Remove the capers from the oil with a slotted spoon and set them aside to drain on paper towels.

To prepare the asparagus, snap off the woody bottoms and slice into 1" pieces. If your asparagus is really fresh, the woody bottoms might be non-existent. Peel and dice the onion and green garlic.

Heat olive oil in larger skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus, onion, and green garlic with a pinch of salt. Saute for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the asparagus is tender. In the meantime, roughly chop the basil. Add it to the cooked vegetables and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, but be careful not to overdo it with the salt, because the capers are like little salt-bombs.

While the asparagus cooks, you can start the polenta by heating stock or water in a saucepan. When it boils, add the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and continue to stir until the mixture thickens. With the instant polenta that I used, this took a minute or two, but there's a wide range of cooking times with non-instant polenta, so follow the directions for whatever type you're using. Honestly, I think the non-instant stuff tastes noticeably better, but it was about 90 degrees in my apartment and I didn't want to stand over the stove any longer than absolutely necessary.

Once the polenta is cooked, add the cheese and butter if you're using it. Scoop the polenta into bowls, top with the asparagus mixture, and sprinkle some fried capers on top.

[and pretend there is a tasty looking bowl of food pictured right here!]

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Well, I'm off to a great start, aren't I? Two entries in one day, and then... nothing. Silence. For a month. I could make excuses (I was sick, I ate out too many days in a row near my birthday, it's been too hot to think let alone cook) but that's really all they are -- excuses. Not so much legitimate reasons. So, in the hopes of motivating myself a little, I'm setting a new goal of posting at least once a week.

Umm... this one doesn't count.

Anyway, check back this weekend for a post on tonight's highly successful dinner. Two words: fried. capers. Possibly the best garnish ever. Or maybe the best snack ever, depending on your perspective.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Recipe: Radish Risotto

I bought a lovely bunch of these ruby-red bulbs at the Greenmarket last weekend with no real plan in mind. A few of them got sliced up for salads, but I'd have had to eat a whole lot of salad to use the entire bunch that way. So I started researching ways to use a lot of radishes in one go, and I discovered that you can cook them. Really! Cooked radishes! The idea had never occurred to me before - radishes are one of the few foods I'd only eaten raw. Thing is, as vegetables go, radishes are horribly under-utilized. Other than an occasional appearance in salads, they're usually relegated to garnish status. And it's a shame, because according to Wikipedia, a full cup of sliced radish bulbs is only 20 calories. Twenty calories! That's the same number of calories in an equivalent serving of cucumbers. In other words, basically nothing. You can also cook the green tops, which have a little bit of a kick to them that's reminiscent of mustard greens. A bunch of radishes really gets you two vegetables for the price of one.

If you're considering cooking radishes, you should know that a cooked radish is an entirely different beast than a raw one. The bulbs lose their bite, growing milder and sweeter, with a taste similar to parsnips. The color also bleeds and fades. Someone who finds raw radishes too strong might like cooked radishes, but if you like that bitter, peppery, crisp taste, you might be disappointed by the cooked version. I had no idea what to expect when I cooked radishes for the first time, but I figured that just about anything can be turned into a tasty risotto, so I used the bulbs and the greens together for this dish. It turned out really well, and I'm seeing other attempts at cooked radishes in my future.

I'm sending this to Gay of A Scientist in the Kitchen, this week's host of Weekend Herb Blogging. I hope I'm doing this right, since it's my first time trying to submit an entry anywhere, and only my second entry ever!

Radish Risotto
serves 2-3 as a main course

4 cups chicken stock
1 tbs + 2 tsp butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 small shallots (or 1 large one)
1 cup risotto rice (Arborio, Vialone Nano, or Carnaroli)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 bunch radishes with tops (my bunch weighed ~10 oz)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tbs fresh mint
1 tsp grated lemon zest
salt and pepper

2 saucepans (a small one for the stock and a larger, shallower one for the rice)
wooden spoon
knife and cutting board

Heat stock in small saucepan. When it starts to boil, lower the heat to the lowest simmer so it will stay hot throughout the cooking process.

To prepare the radishes, first break off the bulbs. Rinse them well and scrub any parts that look dirty. (Well, you should probably scrub all the bulbs, but it can get fiddly, so... your call.) Cut small radishes in half, medium-sized radishes in quarters, and jumbo radishes in eighths so all pieces are similarly sized. Rinse the radish greens in a few changes of cold water, then cut off any long or thick stems. The greens can be really dirty and gritty so make sure they are clean before you trim them.

Put the radishes aside, then peel and chop the shallots. Heat 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil over medium-high heat in the larger sauce pan. When butter melts, add shallots and cook for 2 minutes until they turn translucent. Add rice and stir so rice gets coated in oil.

Add wine to the pan and stir until the alcohol burns off and the rice absorbs the remaining liquid. When the liquid is almost all gone, add a ladle-full of hot stock to the rice and stir. Watch the risotto closely; as soon as the stock is absorbed, add another ladle-full and stir again. Continue adding stock a little at a time and stirring until the rice is cooked through and creamy, with just a little firmness in the center when you bite into a grain. It should take about 20 minutes.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to stir risotto constantly. You need to keep an eye on it so it never dries out and starts to burn, but I think that one or two good stirs after every bit of added stock is just fine. Plus that gives you some free time to prepare the rest of your ingredients.

After the rice has been cooking for 10 minutes, melt the remaining 2 tsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. As soon as it melts, add the chopped radish bulbs and a pinch of salt. Saute the radishes for about 5 minutes. The bright red color of the skin will start to leech into the white center, turning the whole thing a translucent, pale shade of pink. When this happens, add the radish greens and a little bit of hot stock, then cover and cook for another 2 minutes. At this point the greens should have wilted. Remove pan from heat.

When the rice is finished, remove it from heat. Add the cheese, radish bulbs with radish greens, mint, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. If the addition of the cheese thickens up the risotto too much, add a little more stock to thin it out.

Scoop risotto into bowls and serve immediately.

Recipe: Mint Vinaigrette

I had a bit of a revelation last week: Mint is an herb.

Did you know that? You probably did. You're probably thinking that I'm crazy, that I might as well jump up and down proclaiming, "The sky is blue! The sky is blue! Seriously, have you guys seen it? The SKY is BLUE!!!!" Which might be a valid comment after 32802384 days of rain, but at any other time... just a bit obvious.

So I guess I should clarify my revelation: mint is an herb that can be used without sugar.

I've always thought of mint as a dessert flavoring. Mint chocolate chip ice cream, Andes mints, Thin Mint cookies -- all are minty, all are deeeelicious, and all are sweet. The only times I've bought fresh mint in the past have been when I wanted to make mojitos, which are also sweet. Toothpaste, mint gum, and Tic-tacs prove the point even farther.

Mint has long been one of my favorite flavors. I remember walking around grocery stores as a child, and my mom would direct me to the mint bunches. We'd each pull off a leaf and rub it between our thumb and forefinger, and then our hands would smell like mint for the rest of the shopping trip. And yet... until last week, I never thought of using mint in a savory dish, using it alongside or instead of basil or parsley or sage. I bought a bunch of fresh mint yesterday for just this purpose: I want to experiment, to test the versatility of this herb. (Because that's what mint is: an herb. For reals!)

Experiment #1 came in the form of a salad dressing. Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted a green bean and cherry tomato salad recently that really called out to me, what with the freshness and the bright colors and all. The basic salad dressing in that recipe (olive oil, red wine vinegar, shallot, salt, and pepper) seemed like a good place to start minting it up. I prepped my green beans and tomatoes as described in the recipe, except that I halved the quantities, and here's the dressing I made to go along with it.

Mint Vinaigrette
makes enough to dress 2 salads

2 tbs seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
1 small shallot
1/2 tbs fresh mint leaves
salt and pepper

Tools and Equipment:
small bowl

Pour vinegar into bowl, then slowly drizzle the olive oil in, whisking to emulsify.

Finely chop shallot and mint, then add to bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. [Note that seasoned rice wine vinegar contains salt, so you probably won't need to add much more.]

Let dressing sit for a few minutes while you prep the salad.


The results? Well, I'd say this experiment was a resounding success. The vinegar I used contains some sugar, so I didn't completely break away from the minty+sweet=tasty formula, but then again, this is a salad dressing and not a dessert... so I think that's progress. Either way, the dressing was great, the mint was subtle yet noticeable, and it really highlighted the fresh veggies in the salad. I served it with a piece of Scottish trout, rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper, a dill-y spice mix, and a squish of lemon juice, then broiled for 10 minutes. Together, they made my favorite kind of meal - quick, easy, and delicious!