A Little About Me

New York, New York
As a newly married woman, it has become my mission in life to learn how to cook. Gone are the days of picking up sushi and ordering curries. In order to jump-start my education, I enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education's Fine Cooking I course where I learned the basics, from roasting to boiling to mousse-making (ok, maybe not that basic)! I've attempted to replicate some recipes - somewhat successfully- and create a few of my own. This blog is for friends and foodies and is intended to document my cooking adventures (and occasional fiascoes). Enjoy the pictures and bon appetite!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Something Else to Do With Eggs

Eggs are, by far, my husband's favorite breakfast food. Every morning, when I ask him what he wants, he mutters the word "omelet." I've tried to switch it up by making french toast and yogurt parfaits, but at the end of the day, all he really wants are eggs. Since I've already mastered making omelets that he rates a "9 out of 10," I thought I'd try making a spanish tortilla, which is similar to an omelet but contains potatoes, no cheese, and is baked in the oven to brown.
1 small potato
1 small onion
5 eggs
1 tbsp milk
pinch of dried herbs (I used thyme, any is fine)
salt and pepper to taste

* Note: Make sure that the pan you're using for this recipe is oven-safe. I prefer to use cast iron skillets.

Before you begin, preheat your oven to about 350 degrees. Start by cutting a potato into chunks and dicing an onion. I would have used a white onion, but red was all I had left. Next, place the potatoes in water and bring to a rolling boil. Let boil for about 2-3 minutes and then strain. While the potatoes are boiling, fry the onions and remove when browned.

Next, place the potatoes in a very hot pan, drizzle with olive oil, and brown. Now that you have both your potatoes and onions browned, set them aside and whisk the milk, eggs, herbs, salt and pepper into another bowl. Once you have are done, add the potato and onion mixture to the eggs.

Pour the mixture into a very hot pan and cook until most of the omelet has set. Next, pop your cast iron skillet into the oven and leave until the top starts to look golden (mine took 20 minutes but time varies depending on the quality of your stove). Remove the tortilla, flip, cut and serve.

Isn't she a beauty?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Merenguitos.... a lesson in how NOT to follow a recipe

Growing up, one of my favorite snacks were merengues, aka "merenguitos," as us Puerto Ricans refer to them. They're light, airy, delicious cookies made from beaten egg whites and sugar and I love the way they melt in my mouth!

I tried to create a batch of my own merenguetios this afternoon and realized that, in order to make them well, you have to improvise a little! The only consistent thing across all the recipes I saw were the ingredients, whereas the cooking temperatures and times varied from 250 to 400 degrees and from 12 minutes to 60 minutes.

2 egg whites (use large, not medium, eggs)
5 tbsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice (recipe calls for cream of tartar, but who really has that sitting around?)

Start by beating the eggs with a hand mixer on high, slowly adding in the sugar, until the egg whites become thick and glossy, forming a hard peak when raised. Another way to tell the egg whites have been sufficiently whipped is to turn the bowl upside down.... if the mixture doesn't budge, you're good to go! Next, add in the lemon and continue to beat.

Continue by placing the dollops on aluminum foil. My recipe called for the cookies to go in for 12 minutes at 350 degrees, but something went wrong because the bottoms were burnt, the cookies stuck to the aluminum and the insides were still raw. This is what they looked like:

I decided to try again, this time setting the oven a little lower (at 300 degrees), spraying the aluminum to avoid sticking, and sizing down the dollops so that they cooked throughout. Since I wasn't sure how long to cook the meringues for, I kept an eye on them, waiting for a light golden brown color to develop. After 25 minutes, they were done, so I turned off the stove and let them cool in there for an hour and, TADAAAAAAAAA

Sara's Pictures

Here are some more photos from the Fine Cooking Class I've been taking this week. Because my new friend, Sara, had an actual camera in class (as opposed to my Crackberry one), I've borrowed a few of her shots for my entry!

Happily pouring batter over cherries to make Clafouti, or custardy tart

Needed a little help getting every last pinch of batter out of that bowl

The beautiful, golden-brown, finished product!

A certain someone did not like the way I smelled after eating an entire bulb of this sweet roasted garlic

Arborio Rice Chicken Soup -- one of the best things we made (shocking, I know)

Birdie Bondage

Cutting the roasted rosemary chicken was not the easiest thing to do

........ and now for some photos I took today using my Blackberry...... not exactly high quality of food porn, but it'll do .............

The most amazing salad Nicoise -- and I made it myself! Nothing like some salty anchovies

Poached Egg; Before

...... and after

Classic French Gruyere Omelet; Before

Gooey Innards

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How I Spent My Week

Here's a look at what I've been learning to make this week at the Institute of Culinary Education

Braised lamb shank, braised leeks, endive salad with shallot vinegrette, warm lentil salad

Mussels in white wine sauce and fresh herbs
The interesting part was initially separating the live mussels from the dead

Spinach salad with curry vinegrette, roasted rosemary chicken, stuffed tomatoes

Seared lamb chops with herb butter, simple salad with classic vinegrette, sauteed broccoli, potatoes with persillade

Spicy Hot Vegetable Soup

Fresh Fruit Macerated with Liqueur

Warm Lentil Salad

I made this lovely warm lentil salad for lunch because I was looking for a meal high in fiber. Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Eating just one cup of lentils gives the body 15.6 grams of fiber (and we all know what fiber's good for)!

1 cup french green lentils
1 small onion
1 bay leaf
3 Cloves (or large pinch powder)
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup finely minced red onion
2 finely minced garlic cloves
2 tbsp minced parsley
2 tbsp minced chives
1 cup finely diced red peppers
12/ lemon

Start by placing the cup of lentils, half an onion (skin removed), a bay leaf, and your cloves in a small pot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes.

* Be sure to test the lentil's firmness before draining, as they may need more time to soften*

While your lentils are cooking, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl.

Lastly, combine the lentils and veggies, toss, and squirt the juice of half a lemon on top for some acidity.

Diced Potatoes Sauteed with Persillade (Garlic and Parsley)

I've had a little difficulty when it comes to making potatoes for Sunday brunch. No matter how I cut, season or prepare them, the insides always end up undercooked. I recently learned that the secret to perfect potatoes is blanching them first. To do this, the potatoes must be diced, submerged in a pot of water, brought to a rolling boil and removed after a few minutes.

Helpful Hint I wish I had known 50 Wasted Potatoes Ago:
Produce that you tend to eat raw should be dropped into a pot of already-boiling water.
Vegetables that you wouldn't normally eat raw need to be brought to a rolling boil.

6 cups all-purpose potatoes
2 garlic cloves
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced parsley
2-3 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and pepper

Start by peeling the potatoes, slicing them in thirds, and cutting them into 1/4 inch cubes

Next, cover the potatoes in a pot of water, bring to a boil, and drain after a few minutes

While the potatoes are boiling, prepare the persillade by combining the minced garlic and parsley. Once the potatoes are done, drain them and put them back into the hot pan, adding the vegetable oil once in to prevent hot oil from splashing all over you and your clothes. (Learned the hard way!) After a few minutes, add the butter and then persillade. Sautee on medium heat for around 5 minutes.

You should end up with yummy, brunch-worthy, potatoes that look like this!