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!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'd Like Some Blood in my Gazpacho, Please

Cooking, while fun, can also be VERY DANGEROUS, especially when you're in a rush and throwing things around carelessly. I've been cooking for about a year now, so an injury was bound to happen eventually. Yesterday, while replicating my dad's recipe for gazpacho, I slammed my knife down on a bulb of garlic, smacking my middle finger onto an adjacent open can in the process. I panicked, cried, dripped blood everywhere and, after a long afternoon in the Emergency Room with my husband, emerged with eight stitches. Despite the trauma, the gazpacho came delicious and I ate it today for lunch (using my "good" hand, of course!).

* To see the damage done to my finger, check out the end of the post*

All the tomatoes in a 28 oz can of Muir Glen Whole tomatoes
1 medium white onion, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups vegetable juice
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil ( I used a little less to cut back on calories)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6-7 basil leaves
salt and pepper
optional: avocado and shrimp

Combine all of the ingredients listed above in a food processor and pulse until the soup is as chunky or as smooth as you desire. (Difficult, I know)

Garnish with avocado chunks and toss in some diced shrimp for a more complete meal!

Photos of My Injury

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Zaatar, Zaatar, Everywhere!

Over the weekend, it became my mission to prepare a meal using as much zaatar as humanly possible since I had recently purchased a bag of it at a street fair. For those of you who have never heard of zaatar, it's a popular Middle Eastern condiment made of dried herbs like sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. Zaatar is very versatile - I've enjoyed it on everything from cottage cheese (sounds weirder than it is) to chicken! For our dinner, I felt like sticking to somewhat of a Greek theme. The end product? Zaatar marinated lamb and vegetable skewers, zaatar hummus, zaatar sprinkled pita chips, and stuffed peppers with orzo, feta, spinach and tomatoes! Everything turned out delicious thanks to my amazing husband who did an amazing job manning the grill!

Lamb Skewer Ingredients
lamb, cubed (figure 3 pieces per skewer)
3 tbsp zaatar
5 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thick pieces

Before you start assembling your lamb skewers, marinate your meat for 4-5 hours in 2 tbsp zaatar, 3 tbsp lemon juice and 3 tbsp olive oil. Cover your meat with saran wrap, stick it in the fridge and get working on your veggies!

Slice your peppers and onions and place in a bowl with the cherry tomatoes, 1 tbsp zaatar, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well, making sure to coat all the vegetables. If you are using wooden skewers, now would be a good time to soak them in water for a while to prevent them from burning and splitting on the grill. Once everything is ready, skewer the lamb and vegetables onto the sticks.

Preheat your grill on medium heat before placing the skewers on. Allow each side to cook for a minute or two and turn so the other sides can cook as well. It's hard to say exactly how long the skewers will need. Just keep am eye on them, turning them every so often to make sure they don't end up charred. At one point, remove a skewer from the grill and cut into a piece of meat to check for doneness.. If you want it more done, put it back on the grill for a couple of minutes.

Ingredients for Greek-Style Orzo Stuffed Peppers
4 large peppers (any color)
1 cup orzo
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 cups spinach, chopped
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Start by cutting the tops off the peppers and removing the membrane and seeds. Place the hollowed out peppers in a greased baking dish with high walls (they'll help support the pepper when it's cooking in the oven.)

Cook the orzo, following the instructions on the box. I like to substitute some of the water for chicken or vegetable broth because it adds a lot of extra flavor. When making orzo, I look to see when all the initial liquid has been absorbed and add more as I go along, mixing frequently. When the orzo is ready, set aside while letting it drain in a strainer.

Next, mash the garbanzo beans into somewhat of chunky paste using a food processors, or your hands, if you're strong enough, which I am not.

Prepare your onions, spinach, tomatoes, oregano and feta cheese.

Heat some olive oil in a pan. Start by cooking your onions, then thrown in the spinach, oregano and tomatoes. Let it all cook for a minute before adding the orzo, chickpea mash, feta cheese, vinegar, salt and pepper. Combine well. Also, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Scoop the mixture into the peppers, cover with tinfoil and place in the oven for about 35-45 minutes, depending on how good your oven is.

While your peppers are in the oven, prepare the pita chips and hummus. For the chips, brush some olive oil onto both sides of the pita and sprinkle with zaatar. These will cook on the grill with your lamb skewers for a few minutes. For extra crunch, I tossed them under the boiler for about a minute.

Next, make your hummus (I provide the recipe in a previous post), only this time make sure to throw in about a tbsp of zaatar and garnish with a few remaining garbanzos.

Once all your components are ready, assemble on a plate and serve! Everything tasted really really good .... so good that these photos hardly do it justice! Hope you enjoy this greek themed zaatar feast! We most certainly did!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Not "Nick & Toni's" Watermelon Salad

One of my favorite East Hampton restaurants is Nick and Toni's due to the fact that they make the most mind blowing savory watermelon salad! Unfortunately, they don't have it on the menu until August since everything is grown locally and used during peak season. Since there is no way I am able wait several months to have my favorite salad, I figured I'd try to make my own version. This recipe is based on the information I was able to drag out of our waiter the last time we ate there! While tasty, I think the restaurant version is much better and would recommend you stop there, if possible, to try it it for yourself!

1 medium red onion, sliced very thin
juice of 4 lemons
1 cup ricotta salata cheese, crumbled or shredded
4 cups diced seedless watermelon
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup mint leaves (I omitted these since they ran out in the market)
3 pinches of sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Start by marinating the onions in lemon juice and a few pinches of sugar over night.

When preparing the salad, combine the marinated onions with the remaining ingredients and you'll have a nice refreshing salad for summer! If you have trouble finding ricotta salata, feta cheese works just as well!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Coooking With (Another) Kessner

I may have not had that much time to cook over the past couple of weeks, but there are a few other Kessner women who have. Over the long weekend, my sister-in-law, Andrea threw together a delicious half-dip, half-salad that went well with all the corn chips we had sitting around. As the mother of three, Andrea doesn't always have hours to spend preparing a meal... her dip was so easy to make, it's perfect for when you just need to make something fast and delicious!

1 can corn
1 can black beans
1 small bunch fresh scallions, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 red, yellow or orange pepper, diced
feta cheese (quantity can vary depending on your taste)
few splashes of balsamic or white vinegar
few splashes of olive oil
salt and pepper

This dip is really easy. Just throw all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix with some oil and vinegar. You can add more or less of whatever you like until it's to your liking! Just serve with some corn chips and everyone will congregate quickly!