Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Super Easy Dinner: Pork Chops with Apples and Sage

When I first met the hubby, I was a good baker, but couldn't cook much beyond scrambled eggs. Fresh out of Fordham University (in Manhattan) where I'd survived almost entirely on the offerings of our local diner, The Olympic Flame (not to be confused with The Flame just around the corner), I wasn't aware that any New Yorkers actually cooked for themselves. The hubby, then the new boyfriend, had a few years on me and knew his way around a kitchen. He suggested I cook dinner for him one night - yeah, he's always been like that - and I bought some chicken breasts and lemons and hadn't a clue what to do beyond that. Well, that evening, the boyfriend came waltzing through the door and showed me how to whip up lemon chicken - delish!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Entertaining: Jelly Cake

Every Christmas Eve, my grandmother, aka Grandmommie, throws a dinner party. My entire family comes as do all of my grandmother's friends. Of course, Grandmommie just celebrated her 96th birthday so, over the years, as the number of grandchildren and great grandchildren have increased, sadly the number of Grandmommie's friends and older family members have passed on. However, at 96, Grandmommie has never been one to act her age. In fact, I'm not even supposed to know her age. None of us are. It's probably a punishable offense that I am plastering the big 96 all over the Internet.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Entertaining: Spicy Caramel Popcorn Goody Bags

Until this year, I always depended on my parents or my in-laws to get us in the holiday spirit. They decorated, they hosted, they provided piles of presents. I never considered hosting or putting up a Christmas tree and my husband, who is Jewish, doesn't even remember when Hanukkah is. We depended on our families to keep us in line and tell us when and where to be and we happily showed up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Comfort Food: Potato Crusted Quiche

For three weeks running I've been writing about comfort foods. From Jelly Omelettes to Shepherd's Pie, the hubby and I, in agreement with baby girl of course, have been on a rampage of warming, familiar dishes that make you want to curl up in a big comfy chair in front of a fire. Or, in our case, a long camel colored couch in front of a TV. In the coming weeks I'll be sharing with you my favorite recipes for the holidays and for entertaining, but bear with me one more week for yet another fantabulous comfort creation.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Body+Soul Article is in Print!!!

In my other life I am a freelance writer and this month's Body+Soul is featuring my first food essay!! This particular article is very important to me as I tell the story of my grandmother's escape from Austria during World War II and how some of the only things she and her family could pack were a few special Christmas cookie recipes.

To read all about it and try out these amazing recipes brought to you from Austria, please pick up a copy of Body+Soul's December '09 issue and looking for my article, A Christmas Cookie Story. If you love it, send a letter to the editor and tell them just how much!!!

Click Here: to check out Body+Soul's website. It's a Martha Stewart publication so you know these cookies have got to be good;)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Comfort Food: Shepherd's Pie

I haven't followed a recipe in months! While I am obsessed with reading cookbooks and food magazines and other blogs, they leave me inspired rather than tied to a shopping list full of requirements. These days, unless I'm participating in a Daring Bakers or Daring Cooks challenge, the only requirement I hold myself to is that the food must be fresh, raised without chemicals and as local as I can get it. Lucky for me, I've watched my farmer's market grow from a few fruit and vegetable stands to a cheese stand, a dairy stand, a fish stand, a grass-fed beef stand, a pastured pork stand and many more! I must say, the only thing I'm really missing is some pastured lamb.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm a Featured Blogger on Babble

I'm a serious of fan of Babble. It's an amazing alternative to the sappy, here's how you should raise your kids parenting sites. Babble writers tell it like it is and it's often funny and sarcastic while also being warm and inviting.

Recently Babble launched Nibblers, a go-to food column featuring a bunch of very talented foodbloggers and I'm one of them! Today, my Perfect Turkey Meatballs are being featured.

Click Here: I hope you'll stop by to check out Nibblers and leave a note on what you think!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Comfort Food: Jelly Omelette

A week ago Friday, as I was cleaning out the tub for baby girl's bath, I slipped on a patch of water and fell into the tub. I dislocated my shoulder in the process and then, Lethal Weapon style, proceeded to pop it back in. That's about the only cool thing about this.

Unfortunately, I'll be in a sling for the next few weeks, unable to type with more than one hand, unable to cook and, most depressing, unable to care for baby girl like I usually do.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sandy Sables Cookies

Just in case anyone is wondering what I did with all those left over egg yolks from last week's French Macarons, I made Dorie Greenspan's Sables cookies which are basically a delicate French sugar cookie. Think Pecan Sandy sans the pecans. Perfect with tea!

You might also be wondering why there isn't a picture of these lovely cookies. Well, baby girl is in love with the camera. She can turn it on and take pictures and she usually yells Smile! before doing something funny with it like looking at it the wrong way and fouling up the lens with her delightfully sticky fingers. Last I saw our camera, it was in baby girl's stroller and now it's somewhere else. I'll find it eventually, but that means you'll lose out on my pics!

Click Here: That's ok because here's a link to an incredible article in the New York Times featuring not only Dorie Greenspan's recipe, but some great revelations on what she's learned.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reader Pics: Photo Fabulous Pho

A couple weeks ago I wrote to you about Jaden Hair's amazing Beef Pho, aka Vietnamese beef noodle soup. I gushed and I gushed and this week my friend, Sarah, emailed me that she made it! Yippy! I love inspiring my friends, family and all of you out there to cook delicious things. Here's a picture she took (truly beautiful!! Wish I coulda used it for my original post!) and a little bit about her experience making Pho:

 "I did the parboiling step to get a lighter, clearer broth.  I was able to find the flat noodles in the gluten free section of the grocery store, so you might want to try there (sooo many rice pasta shapes available!)  And because I don't have the tolerance pho fresh chilies as a garnish, I put half a chili into the broth for the last hour of simmering just to give it a little heat.  It was sooo good. Its really raining here today and I'm really really looking phoward to going for a run in the rain after work, coming home and having a hot shower and settling down in front of the fire with a bowl of pho.  mmmm."
Thank you so much pho the inspiration!"
 So, if anyone else has made or is planning to make any dishes I share with you, please please please send me a picture and little bit about your experience to share with everyone.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' Challenge: French Macarons

This is my second challenge with the Daring Bakers and let me tell you, girl's getting an education. The 2009 October Daring Bakers' challenge was brought to us by Ami of the fabulous blog, Baking Without Fear. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts from the Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roasted Game Hens with Bread and Leek Stuffing

As fall moves swiftly into winter, my trips to the market with baby girl are yielding fewer and fewer fabulous finds. The berries, stone fruits, eggplants and tomatoes have all gone into hibernation and, as the days grow shorter, the hens at Bradley Farm are sleeping more and laying less. Never before this year have I taken such advantage of the seasons. Never have I relied on them for my meals in such a heavy manner. And never have I mourned harvest's end as I do now. In some ways, I can relate to our ancestors who must have felt the same grim anticipation upon buttoning their coats against the first chill and finding their zucchini plants sparse for the first time in months.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Vietnamese Pho (Beef Noodle Soup)

Just a few weeks ago, I posted about making puffed pastry during my first Daring Bakers Challenge. I also joined the Daring Cooks because, just like the DBC, it's a great way to get out of my comfort zone and try new things. It's also a fabulous way to meet new people and share an experience since writing is rather solitary.

This month's challenge came compliments of Jaden Hair who authors one of my favorite blogs of all time, Steamy Kitchen, and she's also just released her first cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook: 101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough for Tonight's Dinner. For the challenge, Jaden chose her recipe for Pho, which is a classic Vietnamese noodle dish consisting of rich chicken, seafood or beef broth with lots of fresh herbs and vegetables. If you haven't had Pho, then you're missing out. It's soothing, filling and also very healthy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Killer Sandwich: Robusto on Baguette

Baby girl's amazing nanny has been out for the last six weeks with an ankle injury. While I work from home, meeting deadlines with a toddler running all over town isn't easy. I've been working every minute of her naptime and staying up late into the night. While it's been stressful, there's been an incredible up side to having baby girl all to myself these past several weeks: we've had a great time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Freezer Favorite: Perfect Turkey Meatballs

Growing up, I never ate spaghetti and meatballs, pot roast or macaroni and cheese, which many consider the trinity of family dinners. My parents were more the type to make roast chickens and other meat roasts or steaks and lamb chops with salads and other veggies. So, it wasn't until I got to college that my dumbfounded roommates introduced me to these wonders of American cuisine. At the time, they came from the diner or out of a box, but these days I make them myself from scratch and mainly from local and organic meats, produce and dairy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My First Daring Bakers' Challenge: Vol-au-Vent

I think I may have missed my calling as a pastry chef not so much because of my talent, but because of the relaxed state I was transported to while working on this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge (my first!). The Daring Kitchen, founded by the fabulous Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, started out as a fun challenge to try the same recipe for soft pretzels and compare notes. It's now grown into a monthly challenge among foodbloggers and foodies all over the world who all bake the same recipe and then post their results simultaneously. I'm thrilled to now be a part of this amazing group of cooks and bakers. The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook, Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nancy Silverton's Graham Crackers

Baby girl isn't really a baby any more. Actually, she's nearly two, running, talking, dancing and exerting her will. I finally realized that this week as I jumped into the imbroglio that is preschool applications. You see, in New York City, applying to preschools is a stressful mad rush where parents are expected to write mission statements for their children, the kids are interviewed and there's a very good chance your smiling, sweetness and light of a child may not get in to her first or second choice. Or, should I say, your first or second choice.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stewed Etna Beans with Apples and Herbs

I've always enjoyed bean soups, baked beans and other bean dishes, but I generally used dried beans from the grocery store. This year, as I've become more and more involved with my local Farmers' Market, I've also become more and more adventurous. I'm no longer shy, sticking to what I know rather than asking the farmer how to cook something. Now, I realize going to the market is about more than purchasing food and supporting your community. It's also about building relationships and educating yourself.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garlic and Herb Crusted Pork Loin

Like everywhere else in my life, in the kitchen I've had successes and failures. And, while I generally cook tasty meals, the one I made for our friends this past Sunday was out of control with deliciousness and seasonality. You see, last week the very first signs of Fall suddenly blew through New York in the form of gusty rain storms and chilly air. I was in the midst of planning a menu for a small dinner party and my perspective immediately switched from fresh stone fruits, fish and crisp vegetables to stewed beans, a pork roast and, as I wrote about yesterday, Molasses Spice Cake.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Martha Mondays: Molasses Spice Cake

Brette Sember over at her blog, Martha and Me, has been hosting Martha Mondays for the past couple months where every Monday readers and admiring bloggers like myself all endeavor to cook, craft or do some other fabulous Martha Stewart good thing. Last week, I couldn't resist the task at hand: baking Martha's Molasses Spice Cake. Now, the beauty of Brette's blog is that she's brutally honest. If a project is a disaster, she'll tell you all about it, but if it's a success, she'll be just as enthusiastic. I'm so happy to say that for me - for Brette too - this cake was a smashing success.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tofu Rice Bowl with Ginger and Lemongrass

Maybe it's the economy for maybe it's because baby girl loves them so, but I have been on a serious rice and pasta kick lately. What used to be either noodles and sauce or chicken and rice is now Pork Sausage and Red Wine Meatsauce over Peppardelle or Greek Pastitso (recipe coming soon!). Over the weekend, as I was making La Fuji Mama's From Scratch Tofu, I happily brooded over what I might make with it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

La Fuji Mama's Tofu (From Scratch!)

I've never given tofu much thought. I'm one of the few of my generation who never flirted with vegetarianism or veganism so I'm not intimately acquainted with tofu and its many iterations. But then last week, I suddenly became very interested in tofu. One of my favorite bloggers, La Fuji Mama, wrote about making it from scratch and explained that in Japan, there is a huge selection of artisanal tofu. Most markets have a huge tofu section much like we have cheese departments. Cool, huh?

So, I decided to try La Fuji Mama's from scratch tofu recipe and see what I've been missing. The great thing about making tofu, is it's a fun, inexpensive science experiment with a tasty ending. You just need a few ingredients: dried soybeans, water and nigari, which is essentially concentrated ocean water.

While the organic soybeans were local, I couldn't find nigari at my markets so the hubby, baby girl and I went over the river to Mitsuwa, a huge Japanese supermarket. It's like a mini Japan says my friend who goes there whenever she's homesick. Most labels are in Japanese so I begged several people to help me find nigari and when I told them what I was up to, they exclaimed, "Tofu from scratch. So difficult!" But it wasn't. Time consuming, yes. You need to put aside 2-3 hours. But difficult, not really. And the payoff is a delicate, white mound of delicious, healthy protein that is like a chameleon in the kitchen, taking on nearly any flavor and lending a lovely deep, dense texture to a dish.

La Fuji Mama's recipe is an excellent one. My only recommendation is that you double the recipe as I got just about three servings from a double batch. Just follow this link to La Fuji Mama's lovely site and check out her other wonderful posts while you're there: La Fuji Mama's From Scratch Tofu Recipe

Tune in tomorrow for a report on what I actually made with my handmade tofu: Rice Bowl with Ginger & Lemongrass. It's delish! Meanwhile, check out the beautiful process of tofu making in pictures below:

Making Tofu: A Story in Pictures

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Perfect Summer Shepherd's Salad

This has been one of those weeks I wish I could forget or, even better, start over. Ball up the paper and launch it into the trashcan or select all and press delete! Unfortunately, I have a deadline looming over me, baby girl is sick and our wonderful nanny is off for two weeks. Needless to say, my stressometer has boiled over and exploded.

However, one bright light this week was making my most cherished salad in the world: Shepherd's Salad or, in Lebanon, Fattoush. It consists of crunchy cucumbers, ripe tomatoes and thin slices of scallion with a healthy sprinkling of herbs including purslane which is nearly impossible to find at the grocery store, but is sold at my market by a wonderful man who seemed to forsee my week of hell when he laid out his goods last Friday. If you can find it, purslane has small delicate leaves and it's loaded with omega 3s and antioxidants.

Without further ado, here is a recipe you'll turn to again and again when you're bored of lettuce.

Shepherd's Salad (Fattoush)
(Crunchy vegetables, leafy herbs and tangy lemon dressing make for a glorious mixture of texture and flavor. To step it up a notch, toast some pita bread, break it up and sprinkle it over top. You just might die and go to salad heaven.)

What You'll Need:

For the Salad -
3 large tomatoes chopped into bite sized cubes
4 small to medium cucumbers also chopped into bite sized cubes
3 scallions sliced thinly
2 cups purslane, mint and Italian parsley leaves (equal parts)

For the Dressing -
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp zaatar spice (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a large bowl combine salad ingredients. Then in a sealable jar, combined dressing ingredients. Close the lid and shake. Pour a generous amount of dressing over the salad, I usually do 4-5 tablespoons, toss and serve. While most lettuce salads won't keep, Fattoush will keep in the fridge for a day or two. However, it is best the first day!

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $12.00
• Leftovers – Expect 8 servings or less as it's so healthy and tasty, you won't feel guilty pigging out on it. Yes, you will actually pig out on this salad. All told, it's around $1.50 per serving.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sweet Treat - Peach Crisp

Some kids grow up in houses filled with candy and others grow up in houses filled with healthy food. I was a child of both. My mother, blessed with a fast metabolism, polished off humongous bags of chips and M&Ms in a sitting while my father grew fresh veggies in the backyard and reveled in cooking food loaded with lemons, olive oil and other Mediterranean inspired ingredients.

As a result, I inherited a sweet tooth as big as my salty one. No matter how well or how much I eat, I'm only truly satisfied when a meal ends with dessert. While I could eat half a dozen cupcakes in a sitting (Oh, and I did the day before my daughter was born!), I don't have my mother's otherworldly metabolism so I must control myself. What's more, I happen to enjoy sweet treats that might even be construed as healthy, especially when those treats involve fresh peaches in their prime.

My husband and I recently adopted a nighttime ritual we will sorely miss once peach season ends in a few weeks. Each night, we give baby girl a bath, read to her, snuggle with her and sing, lay her down to sleep and then we dash to the kitchen to pop a peach crisp in the oven. I make a big thing of topping on Sundays to have on hand. The topping lasts for at least a week and is even better after being in the fridge as it will form nice little clumps that turn into crispy goodness when cooked. Enjoy!

Peach and Almond Crisp
(While there is a bit of sugar and butter, I still like to think of this as a healthy dessert what with its almonds, peaches, rolled oats and cinnamon. On indulgent days, I add a scoop of ginger ice cream. If you live in the New York area, Ronnybrook Farm makes an extraordinary one.)

What You'll Need:

8-12 peaches depending on size, pealed and sliced
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter softened
1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
3/4 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. white sugar plus 2 tbsp
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then spread the peaches in a large casserole dish and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. In a separate bowl combine the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Evenly spread the mixture over the peaches and pop in the oven. It's ready when the crust is golden brown and you see some bubbling coming up from the peaches - about 35-45 minutes. Serve the crisp warm.

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $10.00
• Leftovers – As a large crisp, this serves about 8 people, but my husband and I regularly make petite crisps for two (in a small casserole with about 2-4 peaches depending on their size and our piggery). The topping should last through the week if you choose to make a mini crisp each evening. All told, it's around $1-1.25 per serving.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Tomato Salad with Mint

Just a quick one to tide you over before my Peach Crisp Post this Wednesday:

On the East Coast, we are facing late blight, also responsible for the Irish Potato Famine, a disease which is decimating the tomato crops. This time of year, the markets are usually overflowing with tomatoes, big and small, yellow, green, red, purple, but the blight has made them a precious commodity rather than a summer staple.

Needless to say, I am savoring every tomato I eat and today for lunch I made a marvelously tasty little salad I know you'll want to try.

Tomato & Mint Salad
(Mint, red onion and tomato bring out the best in each other. Soak up the juices with a couple pieces of toasted bread and you'll have a very satisfying lunch.)

What You'll Need:
4 heirloom tomatoes either sliced into rings or cut into bite sized pieces
2-3 sprigs of mint with the leaves torn up and stems discarded
Half a small red onion very thinly sliced
Olive oil - the best you have
White wine vinegar
Fresh squeezed lemon juice

In a bowl add the tomato, mint and red onion. Add a splash of lemon juice, a splash of white wine vinegar and a long drizzle of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste, stir and, voila! you're through.

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $6.00
• Leftovers – We got 4-5 servings out of this for about a $1.20 per serving.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Zucchini and Tomato Casserole

Zucchinis are upon us. Big or small and always green, every farm stand and my weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) pickup are loaded with them. I have to tell you, I've always hated zucchini. To me, they taste like algae, but my husband adores them and baby girl isn't anti either. Plus, I've been trying to use up everything I buy so as not to waste money, contribute excess trash to landfills or throw away veggies the farmers have worked so hard to grow. Them's the breaks of a CSA, no?

So, I've been sucking it up, attempting to disguise zucchini as best I can with garlic and olive oil and lemon juice. And then, three weeks ago, when faced with several zucchini and a few tomatoes, I decided to make a casserole. The word casserole generally leads me to think warm, cozy, heavy and meant for cold weather, but this one has greatly expanded my internal definition. As a whole, this casserole is bright, refreshing, tangy, light and soothing. The zucchini? A wonderful addition in structure, texture, and even taste. Zucchini and me, after years of turmoil, have turned a corner.

PS - Did I mention it takes about 5 minutes to assemble and 30 minutes in the oven? Even a mommy with a screaming 20 month old tugging at her leg while yelling, "Up!! Up!!" can make it. Sound familiar?

Zucchini and Tomato Casserole
(Layers of local tomatoes, zucchini, garlic and thyme make this a creative way to take advantage of Summer's bounty.)

What You'll Need:
2 large tomatoes sliced in half inch rings
2-3 small zucchini sliced lengthwise in quarter inch strips
3 large garlic cloves sliced thinly
10 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
1 c. market cheese like Gouda or Gruyere grated on the large side of your box grater
1/3 c. whole wheat bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

In a casserole dish lay down the strips of zucchini so that they touch each other and cover the bottom. Spread out the thyme sprigs evenly on top of the zucchini. Follow suit with the garlic. Place the tomato slice on top so that they are touching each other and cover the dish. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Then gently scatter the cheese over the top followed by the breadcrumbs. Bake until the cheese is melted, the crust is golden brown and you see a bit of bubbling from the veggies - About 20 minutes.

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $6.00
• Leftovers – We got 6 servings out of this for $1.00 a serving.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Best Pasta Ever

I don't know what's come over me, but I've been obsessed with making pasta. It's like a light has gone off in my head that spaghetti and meatballs, while wonderful, is not all there is to Italian cuisine, er, should I say pasta cuisine since pasta isn't all there is to Italian cuisine. A couple weeks ago, I shared my recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara and now today I have to share yet another pasta recipe, which I am sure must already exist somewhere in Italy because there's no way this deliciousness hasn't been replicated elsewhere.

My pasta epiphany occurred the other night because I was starving and didn't feel like waiting 30 minutes for the huge Italian pork sausages from Bradley Farm to cook through. Instead, I removed the casings and sauteed them, mincing them up as I went, with a little onion. Then I looked over at a dejected nearly used up bottle of Pinot Noir sitting on my table and thought, hmmm, let's pour that in too. Oh, and why not add those three beefsteak tomatoes sitting next to the wine? The result was a wonderful, wonderful thing that surprised the heck out of me. Enjoy!

Pork Sausage and Red Wine Meat Sauce Over Pasta
(This new fave requires very little time and produces quite a lot of flavor. It's best served over a pasta like large rigatoni or peppardelle that can hold a meaty sauce.)

What You'll Need:

1 medium onion chopped
1 pound Italian Pork Sausage out of its casing
3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes diced (or a large can diced tomatoes)
About a cup of red wine (or more if you like)
12 leaves of fresh basil cut into very thin strips

1 pound of sturdy pasta like rigatoni or peppardelle

For the pasta: Set a large pot of salted water over a high heat to boil. When it comes to a boil add the pasta and cook until al dente.

For the meat sauce: Place a large frying pan over a medium high heat, add a splash of olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion, stir and cook until soft. Add the sausage and break it up into little bits and make sure it mixes thoroughly with the onions. Once the sausage is nearly cooked through add the wine and tomatoes and simmer until most of the liquid had reduced and the sauce has thickened up. Turn off the heat and add the strips of basil, stirring just until mixed.

To serve, place the pasta on a platter and top with the meat sauce. Buon Appetito!

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $14.00
• Leftovers – We got 4 servings out of this for $3.50 a serving.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What I'm Reading This Week

So I made the most delicious pasta dish of my life yesterday and I want to share it with you, but sadly I was at the doctor this morning - just for a physical! - and I still haven't eaten since you're suppose to fast before they take blood. All this adds up to I'm tired, I'm cranky, I have a massive headache brewing over my right eyebrow and so I'm not posting today - sorry.

However, I do want to share with you what I'm reading these days - cooking wise. From the top on down are:
  • Julia's Kitchen Wisdom - a classic my father gave me for Christmas years and years ago. It's an awesome reference more for those basic techniques I might need a reminder on now and then. I was super bored with making scrambled and fried eggs all the time. I picked this book off the shelf and discovered baked eggs! A revelation I will share with you at a later date.
  • The Gold Cookbook by Louis De Gouy - Last I heard, this has been out of print for a long time. I found it at Bonnie Slotnick's Cookbooks an amazing second hand cookbook shop in the West Village and gave it to my father for Christmas. He died this past winter and so I've been turning to it again and again for it's incredibly fun tone, informative viewpoint on fine cooking in the 50s. It's also an incredibly useful tool for anyone curious about the history of food, the cultures behind a dish and how to tell the difference between a muffin and a crump.
  • Ratio by Michael Ruhlman - I just picked this up a couple weeks ago. Centering around the ratios of ingredients that go into nearly everything we cook, Ruhlman provides the ratio of say wet to dry ingredients in a traditional quick bread so you can invent your own creations. Basically, the dudes giving us all a fishing pole so we can go out there and catch our own fish. Bravo!
  • Vefa's Kitchen by Vefa Alexiadou- I just couldn't help myself, I'd been eyeing this pricey book for at least a few months since it came out. I am really and truly obsessed with Mediterranean cuisine and, while Lebanese food tops my list, Greek food is nipping at Lebanon's heels. This is like the Joy of Cooking for Greek people and I want to become an honorary culinary citizen.
  • A Platter of Figs by David Tanis - The birth of my blog occured on my actual birthday and in celebration of my birthday and my commitment to delicious local food, one of my best friends gave me this. It's an amazing book organized by season and menu. Oftentimes, I'll return from the market with a bunch of stuff and immediately pick up this book to see what David Tanis would do.
  • Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan - Who hasn't heard of baker extraordinaire, Dorie Greenspan? She's amazing and inspiring and the pages of her book are lovingly splattered with flour, butter and sugar. I've made notes, recorded my own recipes inside it's now tattered pages and my daughter looks at the pictures and says, Nummy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer's Finally Here - Bruschetta

We just returned from a week and a half away in the mountains of West Virginia. No Internet. No Phones. No TV. Surprisingly, it was pure heaven. We went to this rustic resort called Capon Springs where the cold spring waters heal all, but the food will give you a heart attack if you stay for too long. While I love homemade cookies, breads, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and butter, by the end of the week I was dying for some fresh veggies.

Luckily, on the way home, hubby, baby girl and I stopped off at a great West Virginia farmstand and bought loads of peaches, tomatoes, corn, green beans and eggplants. I was so impatient for the watery sweetness of a fresh tomato, I couldn't wait to get home and ate the tomato like an apple right then and there. After the crazy cold weather we've been experiencing in New York, I finally realized summer was really here.

The next day, after picking up a still hot baguette from the bakery, I decided Tomato and Chickpea Bruschetta with Kalamata Olives and Feta Cheese was just what we needed. Baby girl's not a huge fan of raw tomatoes yet and for some reason she was boycotting her usual fave of chickpeas too so I tried that age old eat two chickpeas before you get an olive and a piece of cheese trick. It worked wonders until she started trying to secretly spit the chickpeas down her shirt. She's a sneaky little thing. I finally realized that baguette with olives and cheese wasn't a half bad lunch in and of itself so hubby and I demolished the bruschetta while baby girl became an honorary Greek baby.

It was a perfect way to detox from a week of good, but very heavy food!!

Marinated Tomato & Chickpea Bruschetta with Kalamata Olives and Feta Cheese
(Bruschetta is so easy. Use this recipe as an outline and create your own flavor combinations. Word to the wise, bruschetta depends upon the freshest local ingredients. Don't try this in the middle of winter in Maine.)

What You'll Need:

One ridiculously fresh baguette or loaf of Italian bread (if you can find whole wheat, more power to you)
One 15 oz. can of chickpeas rinsed
Two large beefsteak tomatoes chopped
2/3 cup good quality olive oil
1/3 cup good quality Balsamic vinegar
One pound of feta cheese
One pound of pitted Kalamata olives halved

In a medium salad bowl, add the oil, balsamic vinegar and one clove of minced garlic. Don't be shy, you want enough so that the tomatoes and chickpeas are immersed half way. Whisk vigorously and add the chick peas and chopped tomatoes. Stir until it's well coated and let it marinate for about half an hour, coming back occasionally to stir.

To serve, cut the baguette down the middle and then into squares. Brush a bit of olive on each piece, sprinkle with salt and pop into the toaster oven until they are lightly golden. Then arrange the bread on a platter and top with the tomato and chickpea mixture. Finally, sprinkle a bit of feta cheese and a few olives on each piece. Voila! A light and tasty meal with very little effort. This is the perfect dish on a hot, hot day when your air conditioner just isn't doing it and you don't feel like turning on the oven.

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $7.00
• Leftovers – We're still eating them! I had to buy another baguette this morning. 7 servings and counting!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Creamy Carbonara: Hold the Cream

As you probably know by now my husband and I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn during our engagement and a couple years into our marriage. We loved it. We loved it so much that when I was forced to move on up to the Upper West Side to a deluxe apartment in the sky (not deluxe, but it had a killer view!), I was bummed. Really bummed. Perhaps the thing that bummed me out most, aside from leaving all of our friends, was leaving Franny's, an incredible pizza and wine bar which started the upscale pizza trend now taking over Manhattan. About 5 years ago, Andrew Feinberg and his wife, Franny Stephens, created a pizza and wine bar around local, organic ingredients and meticulously made foods. It's truly Almost Slowfood because chef Feinberg cures his own meats and sardines and makes a pizza from scratch like none other.

What's more, Feinberg's such a perfectionist that if he isn't thrilled with a dish, he'll take it off the menu no matter how much two of his regulars plead its pardon. At least that's what the apologetic waiter explained to us all those years ago as we pleaded with him to put Bucatini alla Carbonara back on the menu. If you haven't had carbonara at Franny's and chances are you haven't because it was only on the menu for like a month, then you missed out. Unlike most recipes that call for cream and butter and all sorts of other things to make it creamy, Franny's carbonara was real and true like a Hemingway novel using only eggs, parmesan cheese, guanciale and pasta water.

At the time, I had no idea that's what Feinberg was up to, going back to basics in a hugely exciting way. But then, a couple years back, (after yet another conversation with friends about how friggin good that carbonara was and why oh why couldn't we have some!?!?) I found myself thumbing through Mario Batali's Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home, and I hit pay dirt. There it was, like a sign from the pasta gods, a recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara and it looked easy!

The very next night my husband and I made it and to our delight, it was everything we'd hoped for: al dente pasta lightly coated with a thickened sauce of cheese and egg and accented with bacon. It became a staple in our diets, a once a week meal due to its extreme ease and tastiness. Then something happened, a baby perhaps? and I kinda forgot about it. That is, until this weekend. We're headed out of town for a week and a half so I was doing my best to make dinner without buying anything. All I had was some farmer's market bacon, CSA eggs and a thing of fresh grated parmesan. That's all I needed!

My daughter went wild for it as she does for anything with noodles, but this was especially comforting to her as it was a gentle mix of her favorite ingredients and ours too. After a long recess, carbonara is back on my plate and it should make it onto yours too. Enjoy!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
(Made from stuff you probably have on hand, it's an easy and delicious afterthought leaving you to wonder why you try so hard in the kitchen every other night of the week! -
Adapted from Mario Batali's
Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home)

What You'll Need:

One (4 serving) box of spaghetti or bucatini (if you can find it)
5-6 strips of good bacon (or a big hunk of guanciale or pancetta) cut into bite-sized chunks
4 large eggs separated
About a cup of parmesan cheese
A splash of pasta water

Over a high heat, boil a big vat of salted water. Cook the spaghetti until it's al dente. About 8-10 minutes. Reserve a cup or so of pasta water and set aside.

Over a medium-high heat, cook the bacon in a frying pan until it's gently crisped. Pour out the fat while preserving the bacon and return the pan to the heat. Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan with a splash of pasta water and about three quarters of the parmesan. Stir vigorously and turn off the heat. Still stirring, add the egg whites and mix well and fast so as to avoid scrambling. The heat will cook the whites and thicken the sauce.

To serve, quickly plate the pasta in four bowls and place an egg yolk on top of each portion. Batali thinks it's a nice way to present the dish to guests and I agree. However, if you are skittish about such things, go ahead and add the yolks when you add the whites. It's will be just as tasty!

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $7.00
• Leftovers – Expect 4 servings at $1.75 a serving.

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