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!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Shishito Snack

Whenever my husband and I tire of eating Asian, we usually opt for some tapas. One of our favorite restaurants here in New York City is Tia Pol and my favorite thing there are the flash-fried shishito peppers. The peppers can be described as "mini, sweet-hot, thin-walled green peppers that are popular in Japan." Once in a while, you may come across a hot pepper, so be sure to have a tolerance for heat! My husband learned this the hard way when he stuck an entire hot pepper in his mouth.... now I end up touching every pepper to my tongue in order to make sure he only eats the mild ones!

Shishito Peppers (I found them at the Union Square Farmer's Market)
olive oil
sea salt

Wash and dry your peppers. Pour some olive oil into a sautee pan and heat over a high flame. Toss in the peppers - stand back, they splatter! (I used tongs and a kitchen mitt to protect myself.) Fry until the peppers start to char.

Remove peppers from the pan, place on a paper towel to absorb some of the oil, sprinkle with sea salt and serve hot! (Oh, and fyi, don't eat the stems!)

Tequila Shrimp Tacos

Lunch can often be a boring meal.... a salad grabbed on the way to work, a hot dog picked up from a street cart, a tuna fish sandwich purchased from the local deli. However, the lunch my friend Justin and I put together recently was far from boring. It was his idea to throw together tequila glazed shrimp tacos piled high with a citrus fennel slaw, spicy sriracha mayo, and some tomatillo salsa verde. The result tasted just as good as it looks and the complexity of all the different flavors blended very well. When making these tacos, it's a good idea to keep all the individual ingredients separate, allowing your guests to compile custom creations that suit their tastes.

Cabbage Fennel Slaw Ingredients
1 fennel bulb
handful of fennel leaves
1/2 head white cabbage
1 grapefruit, segmented
1 orange, segmented
1/4 red onion
1 jalapeno
1/4 cup cilantro
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

Start by thinly slicing the fennel, cabbage, jalapeno and onion so that everything is a similar cut and more or less the same size.

Segment your orange and grapefruit and add the segments to the other ingredients.

Throw in the cilantro and fennel leaves.

Squeeze the remaining citrus parts over the slaw, followed by the lime, season with salt and pepper and mix. If there isn't enough acid, add some extra lime juice.

Tequila Shrimp Ingredients
rock shrimp
olive oil
salt and pepper

Rise off your shrimp. In a bowl combine shrimp with a heavy drizzle of olive oil, a few splashes of tequila, salt and pepper. Heat a pan and throw your shrimp in, allowing them to cook evenly until they turn pinkish. Remove and sprinkle with cilantro leaves.

Sriracha Mayo Ingredients
11 oz squeeze bottle of mayonnaise
1 tbsp Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
juice of 1 lime

Combine all the above ingredients for a spicy, yet tangy, taco topper. (This mayo is also excellent on crab cakes!)

On a white corn tortilla, pile on some fennel slaw, tomatillo salsa (recipe previously posted), tequila shrimp and top it off with some of the spicy sriracha mayo. You may want to heat up the corn tortilla in a pan before assembling the ingredients, but either way, it'll be one tremendously tasty taco!

Grilled Fruit and Veggies

Summer cooking is all about grill. Meat, fish, kebobs.... the possibilities are endless. While it's quite easy to pick a protein, I like to make sure there's always a colorful variety of both fruits and vegetables available.

red onions, sliced
pineapple, peeled and sliced
olive oil
salt and pepper

Wash the asparagus. Remove the bottoms, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Slice the red onion into rings, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Peel and slice the pineapple into rings. No need to season.
Place all the veggies on the grill for a couple of minutes and turn until onions and asparagus have charred and pineapple has nice grill mark. Assemble on a platter and enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mexico-Worthy Tomatillo Salsa

While I'm all about making my own guacamole, I haven't quite perfected the art of salsa making (yet). Probably the most unique item Justin taught me how to make last weekend was a tomatillo salsa. Tomatillos, aka "green tomatoes," provided a nice smoky flavor when broiled and make for a salsa just as excellent as my husband and I had on our Mexican mini-honeymoon!

about 15 Tomatillos
4 garlic cloves
2 jalapenos, tops removed
1 white onion, quartered
1 bunch cilantro
juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper

Start by placing the tomatillos, garlic, jalapenos and onion in a baking dish and preheating the broiler. Place the dish in the oven.

After a few minutes, remove the dish and turn all the vegetables around. They should have begun to char.

Return to the broiler and repeat this step about three or so times until all of the vegetables have really begun to fall apart and the tomatillos begin breaking down.

Pour everything, including all the juices, into a food processor and add the cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice. I would start with the juice of one lime then add more as you go to make sure the salsa is balanced and not too acidic.

Pulse everything together and serve! I used the tomatillo salsa verde on a shrimp taco.....recipe to come!

A Very Berry Cobbler

One thing I love about summer is how the cardboard-tasting berries I used to pay $5.99 for in winter months are now only $1.99 and bursting with flavor! With so much fruit readily available, I thought a berry cobbler would be a great dessert (and breakfast, and snack) item to have sitting around the house. True, the recipe does call for quite a bit of butter, but keep in mind that the cobbler can feed ten or more. I chose to use blackberries, strawberries and blueberries but adding raspberries, peaches, apples or rhubarb (fancy, right?) would all work with this recipe too, so long as the measurements are kept the same!

4 cups mixed berries or other fruit
4 tbsp white sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, tightly packed
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups butter

Start by washing your berries then sprinkle with the white sugar and mix well. Set aside and preheat the oven to 350 degrees before continuing on to the cobbler crust.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Now for the unhealthy component....cut the butter into smaller chunks and, with your hands,combine the chunks into the mixture until it incorporates all the ingredients and begins to look like a crumble topping.

Grease a baking dish (a 9 x 13 would be ideal) and press half of the crumble topping into the bottom of the pan.

Next, place the fruit in the baking dish.

Finally, scatter the remaining crumble mixture over the fruit and pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes. When done, the fruit should be boiling and the crumble should be browned.

gooey innards......... mmmmmmmmmm

A Local Summer Salad

This weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of having our good friend and professional chef, Justin, over for dinner. Although I usually take the lead in the kitchen these days, I was happy being his sous chef and learning some new techniques. Justin, who works at Friedman's Lunch in Chelsea Market (amazing brunch, try it asap!), uses local and seasonal ingredients which result in flavorful and fresh dishes. Using a bunch of heirloom tomatoes that he bought in the Union Square Green Market, we assembled a beautiful and fresh tomato salad with a balsamic reduction. Enjoy this recipe..... more dishes are to come!

Heirloom tomatoes
basil leaves
olive oil
2 cups balsamic vinegar
2 cups orange juice
salt and pepper

Start by purchasing a variety of heirloom tomatoes. The more colors and shapes, the prettier your salad will be.

Before you start cutting your tomatoes into smaller pieces, bring two cups of balsamic vinegar and two cups of orange juice to a boil over medium low heat and let it simmer for about an hour to an hour and twenty minutes until the liquid has reduced significantly. You want to make sure not to burn your balsamic reduction, so stick a spoon in the pot and check for a honey-like consistency - thats when you know it's ready!

While your sauce reduces, cut the tomatoes into similar size chunks, thrown in a few handfuls of fresh basil leaves, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

When the balsamic is finished and has cooled a bit, drizzle over the salad and serve. This is such a light and perfect for summer nights salad!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Tagine for Fourteen

Last weekend, something possessed me to cook dinner for fourteen people (only the closest friends and family, of course)! It was not an easy undertaking, but I managed to put out some tasty dishes and, needless to say, a lot of plates were licked clean. While I made a lot of summery dishes (think gazpacho and watermelon salad), I chose to make a somewhat heavier Moroccan Chicken Tagine, with apricots, garbanzos, onions and carrots for the entree. True, this dish might have been more winter-appropriate, but I was tired of grilling.

The one word of advice I can give regarding this dish is to not use a super high flame - I did and burnt the bottom layer of the pot which ended up giving the dish a smoky flavor, (which some people loved and others didn't care for). As long as you cook the dish over a low or medium heat, you should be just fine!

6 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 tbsp flour
2 large spanish onions, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 bag dried apricots
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)
1 28 oz can garbanzo beans
3 tbsp honey
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp each of coriander, cumin, cinnamon,
1 tsp each of cayenne pepper, salt, pepper

Start by slicing your onions..........

and your carrots.....

Over medium heat, pour some olive oil in a large pot. Add your garlic, onions and carrots, cooking until translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Next, add the chicken stock and gradually mix in the flour, followed by the honey, tomato paste, spices and ginger. Finally, throw in the chicken, chickpeas, apricots and can of diced tomatoes. Mix everything together very well.

Set on low heat and let it cook for about an hour, or longer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and the volume in the pot has reduced. When the chicken has fully cooked throughout, taste for flavor and add more spices and honey, depending on your preference. (I added extra cayenne for heat and honey for sweetness).

When all is done and your meal is ready to be served, your dinner guest should look as happy and excited to eat as my father-in-law does in this picture:

...... and this is what an entree for 14 people looks like

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Crab Cakes: An Appetizer turned Entree

I'm not going to lie, it's been a slow summer in terms of my cooking and blogging about it. Due to my injury, I was unable to cook for a little while - let alone move or wet my finger. As it heals, I've been getting back into the groove of things and made some really tasty crab cakes last weekend. My husband and I had planned to go out for dinner that evening, but my at-home crab cake 'appetizer' quickly became our dinner once LeBron came on television to announce his decision. To balance the fried cake, I threw together a half-canned, half-fresh salad and the whole meal was really satisfying (even though Lebron's decision wasn't)!

1 1b jumbo lump crab meat
3 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
5 garlic cloves, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp celery salt
2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 large beaten eggs
plateful of panko bread crumbs
olive oil for frying

Start by finely dicing the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and red bell pepper. Heat some olive oil in a pan and cook the vegetables, adding the celery salt, red pepper flakes and garlic powder. Remove from the heat when everything is super soft and wilted and set aside to let cool.

Place the crab meat on a cutting board and, with a knife, chop the meat into small pieces.

When the vegetables have cooled, mix them in with the crabmeat, season with salt and pepper, add the dijon mustard and mix well.

Shape the mixture into little patties. Dip the patty into the egg wash followed by the panko bread crumbs. This is how I made my crab cakes, but a friend (and professional chef) recently told me it's better if you mix some off the egg and breadcrumbs into the mixture instead of using it as a coating. I will have to give that a try next time.....

Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the crab cakes on medium heat for a couple of minutes, or until brown. Remove and place on a paper towel where excess oil can be absorbed and the crab cake can cool so it won't burn your mouth.

Ingredients for Red Chili Mayo
1 cup mayo
4 tsp chili-garlic sauce
3 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl for a tasty dipping sauce!

Half-Canned, Half-Fresh Salad
1 can white beans
1 can corn,
1 can hearts of palm, sliced
watercress or arugula
1 avocado, chunked
olive oil
lemon juice
salt and pepper

Lately, I've been making many variations of this easy salad which involves mixing some canned items with some fresh items. I like to use some kind of canned white bean, usually garbanzo or cannellini, (excellent source of protein), a can of corn, either baby or whole kernel, canned hearts of palm, ripe avocado chunks and a leafy green, usually arugula or watercress. I toss everything into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and dress with olive oil and lots of lemon juice.

The salad balanced the crab cakes perfectly and the two made for a very filling meal (which we ate in front of the tv that night).