January 29, 2007

Red Gold

(Full credit for the title of this post goes to the super-fabulous AM, who is my borrowed big sister. I hope you don't mind GG)

Have I told you about my new favorite ingredient? I purchased it at Dean and Deluca when I was in New York and ever since I opened up the tin and took a good whiff, I've been schemeing about how to cook with it. First, I used it in place of the cayenne in this recipe. Then, I tossed it with cauliflower florets, olive oil and salt which makes a deliously spicy, smoky version of cauliflower popcorn. After that, there were the oven fries. Finally, I made Mushroom Paprikash, harkening back to my Hungarian roots. When I first mentioned this particular incarnation though, M. Pants (aka the partner) wrinkled his nose and thought it sounded odd. I made it anyway. And its bloody fantastic. Absolutely perfect for the chilly weather we've been having. I highly encourage you to pick up your very own tin of red gold and start experimenting, then let me know the results. I need to fill my new smoked paprika fix. Perhaps in brownies with toasted almonds and cinnamon?

Smoky Cauliflower Popcorn
1 medium head cauliflower
olive oil
smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut cauliflower into florets and toss in a large bowl with enough olive oil to lightly coat, salt and paprika, to taste. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes then remove from oven and toss gently. Return to oven and roast for about another 15 minutes, or until cauliflower is cooked through and slightly browned. Taste for more salt then devour!

Mushrooms Paprikash, adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

1 oz dried wild mushrooms
1 lb crimini mushrooms
1 TB butter
1 TB olive oil
2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 bunch chives, chopped
1 lb cooked egg noodles

Place dried mushrooms in a bowl. Cover with very hot water. Set aside for about 20 minutes or until mushrooms are softened.

Wash and quarter criminis. Drain mushrooms, reserving soaking liquid. Remove tough stems from wild mushrooms and discard. Chop mushrooms.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add butter and oil. When hot, add criminis and cook until lightly browned. Add chopped mushrooms, paprikas and salt. Stir to combine. Pour in 1/4 cup reserved soaking liquid and sour cream. Cook until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Add half of chives and stir well. Taste for salt. Serve mushroom mixture over noodles. Sprinkle chives over and serve.

Serves 3

P.S. I switched over to Blogger 2.0. What do you think of the links? Are there any others that would be helpful?

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January 25, 2007

Southern Comfort

I don't know if you've heard or not, but it's been cold in California, really, really cold. When it gets like this, my body goes into hibernation preparation mode and demands warm, filling foods to prepare me for the long winter ahead. (The readers who live where it snows are scoffing at me now, but I'm a Southern Cali girl, I've only been in the snow once. Freezing cold weather is not good for the citrus, avocados or me)

It's traditional in the American South to harvest green tomatoes before the first freeze or even if you have too many growing during the summer. Because we live in sunny, usually freakishly warm California, we have tomatoes almost year round at the Farmers' Market. However, since the frost a lot of people harvested their tomatoes early and brought the remainder of the crops, still green, to sell. It's a hard job, but someone needs to help those farmers make good on a somewhat disappointing crop.

Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches with Chipotle Spread, adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

While I was making these, I realized that if one, who is of the pork-eating persuasion, added bacon to this it would make a good winter-time BLT.

1/2 cup mayonnaise (if its not homemade, I highly recommend the organic mayo from TJ's)
3/4 cup non-fat yogurt
2 chipotles, finely chopped
juice from 1/2 lime
1 large green tomato, sliced thickly
1 1/2 cup cornmeal
3 TB veg oil
6 slices sourdough bread
lettuce leaves

Combine mayo, yogurt, chipotles and lime juice in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pour cornmeal onto a plate. Salt and pepper. Mix well. Using one hand as your clean hand and the other as your messy hand, coat both sides of the tomato slices in cornmeal. Set aside.

Heat veg oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat, when hot, add tomatoes. Fry until lightly browned, about 6 minutes per side. Line a plate with paper towels. When the tomatoes are done cooking, place them on the plate.

Toast bread. When cool enough to handle, spread chipotle mixture on toast. Line one side with lettuce and place tomatoes on the other. We all understand the mechanics of making a sandwich, yes?

Makes 3 sandwiches

If you're feeling particularly in need of comfort serve with oven fries.

Oven Fries

3/4 lb potatoes (I like Yukon Golds)
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425F.

Slice potatoes into fry-like shapes. Toss in a large bowl with as much olive oil as you can in good conscience consume, with salt pepper and/or any other seasoning that strikes your fancy. I like smoked paprika or seasoned salt.

Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in oven for 15 minutes, or until the side touching the pan is browned to your liking. Very carefully, flip fries over and return to oven for about another 15 minutes. Serve with extra chipotle sauce for dipping.

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January 21, 2007

A Cry for Help

Some of the evidence

Dear Reader,

I have a problem. It involves going to the grocery, gourmet shop, nifty Asian/Middle Eastern/Latino market or on vacation and buying interesting food items and then not knowing what to do with them. My sneaking suspicion is that most people who are interested in all things food have similar issues, or perhaps they are brilliant and always know what to do with the strange things they find lurking in their cupboards.

Left to right: Cherry jam, cherry-chipotle sauce, sweet red beans, whole mace (what was I thinking?), lime oil, caraway seeds (purchased to make Irish soda bread which the partner hates), pomegranate vinegar, pomegranate molasses, elderflower syrup and chili oil. Not pictured: squid ink pasta (how long can pasta last in the pantry?), Israeli couscous, whole grain spelt, two(!) jars of lemon curd, walnut oil and frozen wonton skins.

Please help these foodstuffs find their out of the pantry and onto our plates. Any and all assistance is much appreciated. Thank you.


I am running out of storage space

January 18, 2007

New York, New York

View from the top

NB: Prepare for a good deal of reading, I knew that if I didn't get it all down at once, parts would never see the light of the internet.

After spending a week in NYC, life seem much less interesting in pokey old SB, which is probably why it took me so dang long to put this up here. Throughout our week, I had to keep on telling myself how this is just our first trip here and we will return someday to see more. This was especially hard in the Met, where at every corner was a fantastic piece of art that I didn't expect to ever actually see in person. Not only am I a food and book geek, I am also a hardcore museum junkie. Now you know all my secrets.

We did a good number of touristy things; saw the ice rink and tree at Rockefeller Center, went to the top of the Empire State Building, took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, spent hours drooling at MOMA and the Met, etc. I'm just going to focus on the really good bits.

Herring Flight L-R with horse radish and pickled red onion, curried with apple, cured in vodka with *shudder* salmon roe and red wined with sour cream

Our first full day there, our fantastic hostess led us around the city and we somewhat astonishingly ended up at Aquavit for dinner. Maybe its because I am easily star struck but it was one of the top five meals I've had (# 1 being my one and only time at Chez Panisse and #2 at Cesar's). I ordered a flight of herring bites, hot smoked salmon and a stupendous dessert. My herring was good at first but after a while, it became too much. There was a lot of vinegar involved and my palate couldn't handle it all. It was presented beautifully though. While my main was pretty tasty, I seriously coveted the partner's crispy skin striped bass. I loved the texture of the skin with the barely set flesh of the fish and the sweetness of the broth.
Dessert or architectural wonder?
Dessert was my favorite course. The Arctic Circle was a tube of icy goat cheese filled with passion fruit curd. It was crowned with a lozenge of blueberry sorbet and a little crisp. I am normally not a blueberry person but the sorbet converted me. It was intensely flavored and a seriously deep shade of purple. The hidden passion fruit was a pleasant surprise and all though I thought that I couldn't eat one more bite, I managed to get it all down. I'm pretty certain that I won't reach that level of gastronomy, but it is awfully pleasant to visit.

One evening, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on a mission to visit Grimaldi's, based on a friend's recommendation. The place seemed like it was straight of the archetypical pizza joint and that we fell into a scene out of a movie. The tables were covered in red and white checkered tablecloths and were so crammed in that you were literally elbow to elbow with your neighbor. I didn't think places like that really existed. They only take cash and they only serve pizza, not even an iceberg salad. The pizza, of course, is perfect. Thin crust with just a swipe of sauce and few rounds of melted cheese. We got oil-cured olives, anchovies and mushrooms on ours. Before we realized it, all of our pie was gone and we were outside in the cold again.

Our final day in the city was brilliant. We went to the farmers' market in Union Square first off. As soon as we got there, it felt familiar, even though it was more than 2,000 miles away from home. I love the feeling of going to the market, how people seem friendlier toward each other and we're all part of this community no matter how temporary. I wish that I could have bought more to bring home, but I didn't think I could fit much more into my suitcase. We did procure a bottle of cider for our friends from Eve's Cidery and looking back on it, I wish that we had got one for ourselves too. My favorite booth at the market sold lambswool, sheep's milk and cheese and... lamb. I love how everything was used and accounted for. It was bitterly cold out and some of the stands were selling hot drinks. For $1, a hot cup of green tea flavored with honey, lemon and cinnamon was in my cold hands. All of the flavors went well together and I plan on making this again soon. I think it might be just as cold inside our house as it was in NYC outside in December.

We were getting quite chilled so we left the market to go to Once Upon a Tart. I've had their book for a while and it was a treat to see the real deal. For lunch, I had a delicious grilled radicchio and portobello sandwich with goat cheese and then indulged in my very first madeline. While the partner and I swapped bites of the cakelet, his parents insisted that we get a tart too, pear-almond, which I plan on making from the book. I really enjoyed how the food was displayed and presented. There was a good attention to detail but not so much that it would be out of the realm of possibility to re-create the products. I whispered that this would be the kind of place I would like to have one day. From there, we went on to wander Central Park and visit the Met. This day ranks as one of my favorites that I have had the good fortune to spend.
Me and partner in front of Once Upon a Tart


January 08, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

Teeny tiny clementine, hand included to show scale.

Gee whiz, that was a heck of a break.

1. My belated anouncement? My friend/business partner A. and I are starting our own catering company, The Great Caper, hence the new-ish banner. We had a very successful first run on Saturday and we all ready have our second gig at the end of this month. Good things are coming our way.

2. First semester wrap up: I hit my goals perfect attendance, a Serv-Safe certificate and a 4.0. I wasn't doing anything else, so I might as well have entirely focused on school. Hopefully, this trend will continue. Second semester starts in two weeks.

3. My NYC trip deserves it's very own post. It was bloody fantastic. Pictures and details to come.

4. Cookbook collection has reached staggering proportions after the holiday season. Calling for another official break, this time I mean it.

I hope that your celebrations were delightful and thet your new years started out with a few good bangs. Thanks for sticking around and seeing what's to come.