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!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Heart Street Fair Food

Hi everyone! Sorry I haven't posted in a few days, I've been busy traveling and running around! I promise some more recipes are coming your way soon! In the meantime, here's a picture of me enjoying the Mexican Street Fair Corn that inspired the salad in my lentil burger post! Hope you all have a fun Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back to Burgers

During the cold winter season, I found myself making a lot of soups.... and as summer slowly approaches, I've begun my love affair with burgers. I prefer using turkey, vegetables, and beans to ground beef since they make for a lighter, but equally satisfying, patty. A while back, my sister and I came up with a recipe for a southwestern turkey burger over a corn salad.. and this week we swapped the turkey burgers for lentil vegetable burgers and gave the corn salad a different spin. The result was pretty delicious and very blog-worthy!

Ingredients for Lentil Vegetable Burger
1 lb package of french green lentils
1 48 oz carton low-sodium chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 medium sized carrots, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
1 medium sized white onion, diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp coriander
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp celery salt
salt and pepper
olive oil for cooking

Start by pouring the package of lentils into a pan. Throw in the bay leaf and pour in enough chicken broth to just cover the lentils. Bring to a boil, then cover and allow it to sit over medium heat until the beans have absorbed all the liquid. When they have, add more liquid and repeat until you have used the entire carton. By the end, the lentils should be very soft.... if they aren't, you may want to add more stock or some water. Make sure to stir occasionally so the lentils don't burn and stick to the bottom of the pan.

While the lentils are cooking, dice the carrots, celery and onions.

Heat up some olive oil in a pan and cook the diced vegetables until they have softened, about 8 minutes or so. While cooking, add in the coriander, cumin, garlic powder, celery salt, salt and pepper.

Let both the cooked, mushy lentils and vegetables cool. Once they have, combine in a bowl with the two beaten eggs and bread crumbs.
Take large handfuls of the mixture and shape into patties. Heat a tbsp or two of oil in a pan and cook the burgers over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes on each side, until done.

My sister and I love going to NYC street fairs and trying food from a bunch of different cuisines, whether Arepas or Gyros! One thing we always love is the roasted corn ear with all of its wonderful Mexican flavors. Since eating the corn off the cob can get a little messy, why not turn it into a tasty salad to serve alongside the lentil burgers?!?

Ingredients for Mexican Street Fair Corn-Inspired Salad
2 ears of corn
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp shredded cotija cheese (cow's milk cheese from Mexico, available at Whole Foods)
1 tbsp butter

Start by dropping your ears of corn into boiling water and allowing them to cook for 5 minutes. Next, heat some butter in a pan and let the ears cook in the butter for a couple minutes.

Cut the corn off the cob and mix with the lime, chili powder, cheese and salt to make a really delicious street-far inspired corn salad! Serve the corn salad over some arugula, avocado and sliced hearts of palm for some nice color contrast!

Sweat, Veggies, Sweat

As you can tell, the meals I post on here aren't always the most calorie-conscious or healthy ones in the world. I mean, this would be a really boring blog if I only posted salad recipes - and my husband wouldn't have gained some much-needed weight. However, in between all the pad thais and veal piccatas, I find the time to make some nutritious food as well. One of my favorite methods for cooking vegetables is steaming and, with the farmers market down the block, I've come to realize that there's a variety of vegetables besides broccoli that taste wonderful steamed! Below, a combination of kale, swiss chard, garlic cloves and acorn squash .....

How To Steam
1. Fill your pot with about an inch of water
2. Place a steamer basket in the pot. The water should not rise above the basket. If it does, pour some out.
3. Place the lid on the pot and bring the water to a boil
4. Place your vegetables in the pot and put the lid on, letting them steam until done

Vegetables have different steaming times depending on their thickness and size. Since it's hard to say exactly how long vegetables require, check for tenderness by pricking with a fork in vegetables like squash or pumpkin and look for bright green color in greens like kale, swiss chard and broccoli.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Veal Piccata and a Lesson in Deglazing

My husband loves pasta. And veal. And apparently now my veal piccata as well! In the past, I've made him veal schnitzel by coating veal cutlets with egg and flour, pan frying, topping with lemon juice and serving over salad. Seeing as how it was a fairly simple recipe, I thought I should challenge myself by making a dish that requires a more complicated sauce because, honestly, even I need to learn how to "deglaze" a pan!

4 veal cutlets
1 cup flour
5 tbsp olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 tomato, diced
4 tbsp chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 tbsp capers
whole wheat linguini (however much you feel like serving)

Start by cooking your spaghetti following the instructions on the box. Set aside and heat 2 tbsp of olive oil, toss in your garlic and tomatoes, followed by your pasta, 2 tbsp of parsley and some salt and pepper. Save the pasta for later... it will be served under the veal piccata and will soak up all the yummy sauce.

Next, season your veal cutlets with salt and pepper and dip in flour, making sure they are well coated. Heat about 3 tbsp of olive oil and cook the veal for 2 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Remove and cover with aluminum foil to keep the cutlets nice and hot.

With the flame over medium heat, add the remaining garlic, parsley and capers to the pan. Stir, letting the garlic cook briefly, then add the white wine and lemon juice. I'd recommend standing back when you do this, unless you want a steamy facial.

Once everything is in the pan, use a wooden spoon or spatula to deglaze the pan, aka scrape all the bits of grease and cooked-on residue from the bottom of the pan and into the sauce.

After, gradually add the cold butter cubes to thicken up the sauce and let it simmer until it has reduced by half.

Place the veal piccata over the spaghetti and pour the sauce all over everything. Garnish with some fresh parsley and a slice of lemon and I promise you'll be very very happy with the final dish!

Potato Chip Tortilla: A less healthy, more delicious breakfast

My good friend, and devout blog follower, Adam Kotkin recently pointed out that it's been days since I last posted on here... a true statement which I hate to admit. In between a trip to the Hamptons, a wedding and all my aerobic classes, I've been somewhat busy this week! However, I still found some time to cook, so get ready for a few blog posts that will leave your mouths watering!

Earlier this year, I posted a recipe for a potato tortilla which I thought was a great breakfast alternative to omelettes. I was really excited recently when I came across a recipe for a Potato-Chip Tortilla in the May edition of Food Network Magazine. Substituting a bag of flavorful chips for actual potatoes saves both time and effort, resulting in a tortilla that's just as good, if not better, than the original! It may not be the healthiest breakfast, but sometimes you just don't care!

Ingredients *
3 tbsps olive oil
1 white onion, halved and thinly slices
salt and pepper
12 large eggs
1 8.5 oz bag potato chips

* I halved the ingredients to make a smaller tortilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat about 2 tbsp in a skillet over medium heat and cook the onions with salt and pepper until they are soft, about 8 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl, set aside, and wipe out your skillet.

Beat the eggs with with 1 cup of water , season with salt and pepper.

Lightly crush the chips into the egg mixture and let stand for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix in the onions.

Heat the last tbsp of oil in the skillet, pour in the egg mixture and cook until it begins to set, which should take about 5 minutes. Move the skillet to the oven and bake for about half an hour, until the top is a light golden brown. Remove, let cool and serve! I like to eat mine with ketchup....

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Perfect Pad Thai (On Your First Try)

Pad thai is one of my favorite thai dishes, though not something I order often due to its high fat content. (I tend to order the papaya salad instead and steal a few bites off my husband's plate.) Restaurants usually use a lot of oil when making these noodles, so I figured making it at home would let me control how much went into it. What resulted was a version just as tasty as any thai restaurant could have made!

8 oz package of thai rice noodles
1 cup raw chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 tsp corn starch
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
3 minced garlic cloves
3 sliced green onion sprigs
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup roughly crushed peanuts
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 tbsp tamarind paste
1/4 cup warm water
2.5 tbsp fish sauce
1-2 tsp chili sauce
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
lime wedges

So, just a note on where to purchase some of these not-so-common ingredients. Pad thai calls for linguine-size thai rice noodles. I visited three asian markets and all I found were the uber thin rice noodles. I had almost given up when, of all places, I found just what I needed in Whole Foods! They also sold the tamarind paste, an ingredient I've never used (or heard of) before which serves to give the pad thai it's sour flavor.

The first thing you'll want to prepare is the noodles since they have to soak in warm water for about twenty minutes. The noodles should be al dente since you will cook them more later in your wok.

While your noodles soak, cut your chicken breast into small chunks and marinate them in a mixture comprised of 3 tbsps soy sauce and 1 tbsp corn starch.

Next, crush the peanuts (I like to put the peanuts in a ziplock bag and smack them with a can - great strategy for releasing aggression!), cut the green onions into inch-long pieces, mince the garlic, and rinse the bean sprouts. You'll also want to prepare the pad thai sauce by whisking together the tamarind paste, fish sauce, brown sugar and chili sauce.

Before you begin to cook, quickly fry the crushed peanuts by heating up about a tbsp of canola oil, dropping them in your wok and removing after about 30 seconds. Set aside for later use.

Add about one more tbsp of canola oil and toss in the garlic and green onions. Cook for 30 seconds before adding the chicken (and marinade) and stir fry until fully cooked, about 5 minutes.

Add the noodles to the wok and pour the Pad Thai sauce over everything, mixing well.

Finally, add your peanuts and cilantro and mix all together.

Garnish with a few lime wedges and serve!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Food For a Fiesta

While I love to cook and blog about my adventures, I LOVE playing hostess to my friends and family even more. In true 'Cooking With Kessner' style, I make food the focal point whenever I throw a party or host a gathering. Last night, my husband and I threw a small Cinco de Mayo party complete with a Spanish-music playlist, flowing margaritas and a make-your-own burrito station. I think it's safe to say everyone had fun and left full-- while some stumbled out, red-faced, after too many refills.

Next time you're throwing your own Mexican fiesta, or simply making a Mexican dinner, this is what you will need to lay out for your own dinner station :

salsa (Green Mountain is my favorite)
sour cream
refried beans (vegetarian: other brands contain hydrogenated lard. gross.)
shredded lettuce
chopped tomatoes
guacamole (see my recipe in a previous post)
soft burritos or hard taco shells
chicken strips
sauteed onions and peppers

Since most of the above components don't require cooking, here are the recipes for the chicken and sauteed vegetable fillings!

Ingredients for Chicken
4 large chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 tsp mexican chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp adobo (which Puerto Ricans use in virtually everything)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Wash and pat dry your chicken before cutting it into strips. Heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil over high heat. Add your chicken and spices and cook until the the center of the chicken strips no longer appear pink.
(Rocket science, I know).

Wash and dry four pepper and four onions. Cut the peppers into strips and the onions into rings by slicing horizontally. Cook the vegetables the same way you did the chicken (double the spices if you cook the onions and peppers together). Let the vegetables cook until they have wilted down to about a third of their original size. You want to make sure you cook the onions enough to get rid of that strong 'onion' flavor.

and before you know it, your guests will be hovering.....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wastin Away Again in Margaritaville

Though not Mexican, I love a great Cinco de Mayo party .... and no party would be complete without an icy cold margarita! In honor of the approaching Mexican Independence day, i'd like to share a delicious cocktail recipe inspired by my aunt's classic version. Whether you're throwing a party or making yourself a cocktail at home, this drink will not disappoint!

1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup triple sec
1/2 cup frozen margarita mix concentrate
ice (enough to fill blender half way)

Place all your ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth! Add more tequila, or mix, depending on how strong you like your margarita. Dip your margarita glass in lime juice and then into a plate of salt. Garnish with a slice of lime, put on a Mexican sombrero, and enjoy the drink the way my sister is doing in the picture below!


Sunday, May 2, 2010

What do you know, It's a Tie!

Last week, I posted a recipe for an egg cooked in bread dish and asked all of you what you knew the dish to be called. Turns out "Rocky Mountain Toast" and "Egg in Hole" were the two most popular choices, tying with 43% of votes each.