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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