Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Green Olive Tapenade
Recipe Courtesy of Kiira Leess
1 jar of green olives, drained (although any kind of pitted olive will do)
2 cloves of garlic
2 anchovy fillets
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley
fresh black pepper to taste
In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients. Blitz until a thick pesto-like consistency is formed. Serve with toasted baguette and (optional although, c'mon) creamy, slightly stinky cheese.
Leftovers of this tapenade make a killer addition to a grilled cheese or panini. In other words, consider the possibilities of this condiment endless.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
But I'll make sure they're really good words at that.
So the people over at Ian's Natural Foods were so kind as to send me a package of their Panko Breadcrumbs*. They contacted me after I posted an ode to the Japanese-style breadcrumbs a month or two back and asked if I'd like to try their line of organic products? Why, yes! I'd love to.
A few days later they arrived at my desk.
Now, I think it's obvious by now, that I'm not a huge "breading" fan. Just don't see the need typically. I'd rather have my chicken and the like sans a breaded crust. But when it comes to warm goat cheese salads, often there's no way around that quintessential crispy coating. And panko, my friends, is the hands down winner.
After the blizzard we had last weekend, I found myself without much of anything useful in my refrigerator. I was stripped of fresh produce and I couldn't bare to order in delivery (again. eek!). The grocery store was much too far of a walk for a snow boot-less me so I made the half block trek to the produce bodega and wine store. Hey, a girl's gotta keep warm.
Red bell pepper, a fennel bulb, red onion, a bunch of arugula, and a mini boucheron of goat cheese. Oh, and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, and I ran back up my five flights of stairs as quickly as I could.
Approximately five minutes later, once I'd caught my breath, I started slicing up the vegetables and tossed them into a roasting pan with a healthy drizzle of balsamic, olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes. Into a 400F oven they went for about 30 minutes or so.
I then took slices of the goat cheese and formed them into petite cakes, about the size of a...oh, let's say an oreo. I slipped them into an egg white wash and then straight into the panko. Place them on a plate and into the fridge for at least 10 minutes to firm up.
Remove the roasted veggies from the oven and allow them to cool. In the meantime, whip up some balsamic vinaigrette and rinse the arugula off. Once the veggies are cool enough to handle, toss them into the vinaigrette with a handful of golden raisins (Ok, I know this sounds odd. But trust me. The salty, sweet, savory thang that'll be going on in this bowl will make you smile. Promise).
In a small non stick skillet over medium high heat, add about a 1/2 Tbsp. of olive oil and start frying the little goat cheese cakes up until they're golden brown on both sides. No longer.
To plate, put a handful of arugula on the plate followed by a generous spoonful of the vinaigrette soaked vegetables and two or three goat cheese cakes, depending on your guest.
Comfy, cozy, and accidentally vegetarian, I have a feeling this warm salad will become a winter go to. Grocery store free.
*Ian's Panko Breadcrumbs were genergously provided by the company. To find out where to buy, please visit their website http://www.iansnaturalfoods.com/
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Since I'm unable to embed the video here, please follow this link to watch.
Oysters Danish Style with Cucumber and Quick-Pickled Shallots
Recipe Courtesy of Daniel Boulud, New York Magazine
*I halved the recipe
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shallots, cut in 1/8-inch dice
12 oysters (Malpeque, Winter Point, or Glidden Point)
1/2 cup cucumber, cut into 1/8-inch dice
1 tablespoon sliced chives
2 tablespoons chopped dill, plus fronds for garnish
Salt and ground white pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt (I used fat free)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the distilled vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the shallots, and set aside for 1 hour.
Scrub the oysters well, and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 2 minutes, and remove immediately. Open the oysters, remove the top shell, and run a knife under the oyster to cut the muscle, taking care not to spill the juice. Set the oysters on a flat tray covered with crumpled aluminum foil to keep the oysters level and hold their juices. Chill until ready to serve.
Strain the shallots, and mix with the cucumber, chives, and 2 tablespoons dill; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Mix the yogurt with the remaining dill in a small bowl, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To assemble, top each oyster with a spoonful of the cucumber-shallot relish and finish with 1/2 teaspoon of the yogurt-dill sauce. Garnish with a dill frond.
Serve 3 oysters per guest.
*Special, ridiculous amounts of thanks to:
Neil Hallsworth for Editing and Directing
Robert Donatucci for Wardrobe Styling
The Lobster Place
Manhattan Fruit Exchange
Chelsea Wine Vault
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Allow me to explain.
I love reading recipes. Every opportunity I get to flip through a magazine or a cookbook, I'm there. If not for inspiration, for an idea of what to serve at my next dinner party. I also love trying recipes out. The first time around, it's more likely than not to a tee and the second time around, I wing it. Tailoring it to what I've got on hand or what my personal preferences (or my guests) are. So I follow and then make it my own.
But then I came across a recipe that stopped me dead in my tracks: Anne Burrell's Bolognese Sauce. Anne Burrell is the bleach blonde, spiky haired, loud and somewhat awkward New York City chef and host of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. While TV may not be her strong suit, food most certainly is.
I first followed this recipe about a year ago for a Sunday Night Dinner. Early that morning I stopped by Esposito & Sons for my ground meat, swung by the produce market for the veggies, and I got to it. Let it be known that this is not a recipe for those without patience. This is a four+ hour commitment and one that I urge each and everyone of you to try. There's something incredibly therapeutic about sitting in a warm kitchen, every few minutes checking in on the progress of your Bolognese, sipping a glass of wine, catching up on your New York magazines, all in the comfort of your pajama pants. Let alone the obnoxiously gorgeous scents of reduced red wine, browned meat and veggies, thyme, and bay bubbling away.
The finished product is a devastatingly thick yet glistening, jewel-toned masterpiece that will literally knock you out. Never have you ever experienced Bolognese like this before. This, my friends, is the Bolognese to end all Bolognese's.
So why not take this weekend, as I will once again, as an opportunity to try out this recipe. Follow the directions closely. Do not stray away. And prepare to have your mind and mouth blown away. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
A tip for city dwellers and country bumpkins alike is to go to your local Christmas Tree lot and ask if you can pick up some of the scraps. They might charge you a buck or two in the city (I tried) but the scent alone will be worth it. Take as many branches as you can and stuff them into a galvanized bucket or large vase. If you don't have the room for a tree, this is your next best alternative. Hang some gingerbread hearts, light some votive candles around the base, and voila.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
If there's one season in particular that I can get most people on board to try Swedish food, it's undoubtedly Christmas. No one can turn down a Swedish Meatball. Or potato pancake, apparently. (Although I'm not entirely sure how authentically Scandinavian they are, no one can deny the Swede's love of the potato. So there. There's that.)
So for this year's Swedish spread, I whipped up the following: Mor Mor's Meatballs with Lingonberries, Potato Pancakes with Apple Sauce and Dilled Sour Cream, and Smoked Salmon with Mustard-Dill Sauce. Obligatory Glogg (spiked mulled wine) was kept warm and served sparingly due to extreme potency.
To me, this is the epitome of comfort food. An undeniably delicious balance of flavors that makes you feel warm, cozy, and festive all at the same time. Plus, everything was done ahead of time, making you look like the most calm, cool, and collected of hosts or hostesses even if that might not even be remotely close to being the case.
The Mustard-Dill Sauce ended up being a huge hit and could not be easier to throw together. I took a combination of honey mustard, dijon, and a coarse grain mustard (totaling about a cup of mustard) and stirred in about 2 Tbsp. of sugar and 2 Tbsp. of dill. And that, my friends, is it. A gorgeous accompaniment that packs a seriously sweet heat to smoked salmon but just as delicious on a sandwich or with a piece of chicken or fish. Give it a try and while you're at it, God Jul!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
My Aunt Kari has a tradition every Sunday which is spaghetti with homemade meat sauce. A no frills, comfort-driven meal that leaves empty plates, happy stomachs, and smiling diners. A tradition that I'm promoting to all.
We all know by now, my love of the Sunday Night Dinner ritual. For me, it's an opportunity to try out a new recipe I've been pining and get together with friends. But last night, after a failed attempt to pick up Christmas decorations at Ikea (damn you, Elizabeth, NJ location), and biting cold weather, the answer was crystal clear: spaghetti with meatballs. Mor-Mor's meatballs.
I whipped up a triple batch (and froze lots) of the meatballs while a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes simmered away on the stove with slivered garlic, a dash of red pepper flakes, parsley stems (removed before serving) and a whole bunch of torn basil. Guests walked in, spaghetti went into a big pot of boiling water, and everyone's glass was filled with wine. A generous dollop of fresh ricotta cheese to swirl around in the spaghetti is an almost obligatory addition. At least at my table.
Simple, classic, and cozy we were warmed up (perhaps via some/lots of cab) and certainly well fed in no time.
Even the Italian present was praising the meal.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I was lucky enough to squeeze a Trader Joe's run in while I was home and picked up a few essentials: frozen shrimp, salmon burgers, thai shrimp dumplings, and a bag of avocados. With a wide variety of dinner options, I found myself drafting then re-drafting grocery list after grocery list. Often, too many options lead to chronic indecisiveness. I suffered.
But soon enough, I'd solidified my list for the produce market: orange, ginger, and broccoli. Oh, and a few Honeycrisp apples found their way into my basket as well for dessert.
As soon as I got home, I started to defrost my shrimp under running cold water (not always recommended but works just fine in a pinch) then chopped up some broccoli florets. Lots of broccoli florets. Into a hot pan went about a teaspoon of olive oil (versus take-out which is LOADED with oil), plenty of fresh grated ginger (intoxicating, sexy, gorg), a grated garlic clove, and the shrimp. Broccoli went in seconds after along with a dash of soy and the juice from a whole orange. I added some sweet chili sauce I had on hand but a dash of chili flakes or sriracha would certainly suffice. A splash of water hit the hot pan and I quickly covered it to start to steam the broccoli and finish cooking the shrimp. Less than 5 minutes later, dinner was ready.
I've said it 428 times and I'll say it again: a well stocked freezer (and pantry) makes cooking so much freaking easier. There are always options. And delicious ones at that when all it takes is a quick stop at the produce market (and wine store, of course) on your way home from work. A fresh, home cooked meal can be ready in minutes making you feel extra proud, particularly productive (leftovers for lunch and/or dinner the next day), and certainly nourished. Body, mind, and soul.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Insane? Absolutely. Likely? Not reeeeally.
So yesterday, to keep on with the "throw all caution to the wind and continue to eat whatever you damn well please" we happened upon Craftbar. After perusing ABC Home followed by Fish's Eddy for new stemless wine glasses with my mom, she spotted Craftbar out of the corner of her eye. "How about that for lunch?"
How about that for lunch?! We were seated in a corner booth near the back and presented with their menu printed on brown craft paper for Sunday, November 29th (changes daily). I noted, with a bit of hesitation, that I'd never done any research on the restaurant and/or their menu. Something that I hadn't realized till then was a bit unnerving to me when in reality, it should be thrilling.
We decided to split the following: white anchovy bruschetta with slow poached egg and leeks, Spanish octopus with fingerling potatoes and lemon confit puree, and the veal and ricotta meatballs.
Not often (although more often than not as of late) am I blown away by food. And I mean really, truly, OMFG, I can't believe how unfreakingbelievably delicious everything is that I'm eating. But yesterday afternoon, I had one of those moments. The bruschetta could not have been more perfectly up my alley if it had tried. The briny, slightly sweet white anchovies mixed with the soft, silky slow poached eggs, hints of muted onion via the leeks, all served atop the epitome of perfectly toasted country bread. I could have been served two or three of these and called it a day. A week. A month! This was my perfect bite of 2009. Yes. I said it.
The Spanish octopus, too, was delectable. Not a hint of chewiness, the meat was gorgeously tender and quite substantial when paired up with a piece of fingerling potato, some delicately dressed baby arugula, and a swipe through the lemon puree. If the first dish was an A (are A+'s allowed?), I'd grade this an A-.
Lastly, the veal and ricotta meatballs arrived at our table and they were absolutely just that. Impeccably seasoned, and ridiculously juicy, I don't think I've ever encountered a meatball quite as good. Even the tomato sauce was mind boggling because of it's simplicity. There were very few ingredients going on (that I could detect) but each and every one was of such pristine quality, that little else was needed. If my stomach had allowed me to, I wouldn't have left a drop in the bowl.
But alas, my weekend food fest had finally started to catch up with me. I was officially stuffed. And thank God.
Tom Colicchio, it seems, knows absolutely what he's doing. Not that I ever really had a glimmer of a doubt, but everything was solidified upon dining at one of his many establishments. Craftbar, my friends, is kind of phenomenal. I can't wait until the next time I'm able to indulge.
That is, after this upcoming anti-solid food phase is over.
Recently, they started serving lunch and we couldn't be happier with the addition. The menu consists of a selection of open-faced sandwiches and a couple of other various Swedish treats and I love to accompany whatever it is I order with one of their black currant sparkling drinks. This time around, we had the Swedish meatballs sandwich with beet salad, a salami and cucumber sandwich, and a Swedish hot dog (so not your average dog; snappiest casing, uber flavorful spice combination).
The room is warm, cozy, and inviting and so is the food. A great little escape in the most unassuming of neighborhoods, I urge any and all of you in the area to make an afternoon of it.
30 High St., Norwalk, CT
Well, you see, things, err, changed.
The mother bought a turkey and I was forced to forfeit. So straight to Cook's Illustrated I turned (do you still hate bloggers, Chris Kimball? I'm about to put you on a pedestal) for what I hoped would be a foolproof turkey recipe. It would brine in salt water overnight then would be brushed with butter. Breast side down and into a 400 degree oven, it roasted for 40 minutes and then was flipped (let's just say thank god no one was watching me do this. but, kiira 1, turkey 0) and roasted for another hour until the breast meat registered 165 degrees F.
Then it just sat on the counter for a few hours, covered loosely with foil, while I put everything else together for the meal.
Now look. I'm sorry, but the turkey was freaking unbelievable. Never have I ever experienced (nor thought it was remotely possible) such tender, such juicy, such flavorful turkey. Get rid of every other recipe printed or torn from various magazines (as I just did) and replace them all with this one. You too will be in awe.
On to battle #2: Oysters. Now, I'm an absolute oyster lover. Every Sunday that I get the chance, I love to pop on over to the Lobster Place on Bleecker Street and have them shuck me an oyster of my choosing on the spot. Squeeze of lemon, throw 'em back. But that's not to say that I've ever purchased them and shucked them myself. But after all the hard work and the three little guys that were most unfortunately lost in battle + 1 knife (yikes, Kiira), they most certainly were worth it. Gorgeous and down right truly special tasting, a guest so generously noted "these are the best oysters I've ever had in my life."
That said, I don't see myself shucking my own oysters again any time in the near future.
And now, I'll politely shut up and allow you to take a look at this year's Thanksgiving spread.