Monday, December 20, 2010

Effing busy...(and Happy Holidays!)

That about sums it up! The month of December has been absolutely bonkers...tshirt selling, baking, craziness at my 9-5, holiday shopping, general merrymaking...whew.

My New Year's resolution is to make more time for writing and photography, so as a result I'll hopefully be posting here more. Realistically this is probably my last post of 2010 (and my 45th since I started the blog, hard to believe!) and I thought I'd share one of the lifesaving recipes of my holiday season thus far - Martha Stewart's Easy Chocolate Truffles.  They really truly are easy. On a day when I was baking for 8 hours to prepare for an epic culinary holiday party, focused on egg bread banana's foster pudding and delicate shortbread Argentinian sandwich cookies, making these truffles was a breeze...almost relaxing. I mean it was no nap, but these lovely dollops of indulgent goodness could not be easier to make, and come with a huge payoff.  You can assemble the chocolate cream easily and quickly, then address other things for the 3 hours that it is chilling out in the fridge. I made straight up semisweet chocolate ones, and added some Nutella to part of the batch as well. They can be rolled in cocoa, toasted chopped nuts, sprinkles, whatever.  

Christmas is about 5 seconds away, so let these tasty truffles come to your rescue if you're in need! They make excellent gifts too - just remind the receivers to refrigerate!

Happy Holidays dear readers, and Happy 2011...See you then!

Easy Chocolate Truffles
from M-Stew's Everyday Food

16 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, or a combo, finely chopped (I used semisweet Ghirardelli)
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling
Desired coating (I used the cocoa powder mixed with a bit of sweetened cocoa powder, as well as a couple of kinds of could also use chopped nuts, etc)

Place chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream until it begins to simmer. Pour over chocolate. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand for 10 minutes. Uncover and whisk chocolate mixture until smooth. Mix in vanilla and salt. Pour into a 9-inch pie plate and let cool 15 minutes. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until completely set, about 3 hours.

With a melon baller, 1-inch scoop or a teaspoon, scoop out chocolate mixture and place on parchment paper or foil. Coat hands with cocoa and roll truffles into balls. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.  Roll in desired coating before serving or packing.

To store, cover with plastic and refrigerate, up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Momofuku strikes again!

I swear I am not obsessed peoples…but I probably will not rest until I try every Momofuku bakery recipe that I can get my hands on. It’s a completely rational affliction. The results have been amazing without fail, and the techniques involved are always interesting and different from what I’m used to…I should buy powdered milk?  Okay. These cookies contain more sugar than flour? Fine! Mix the wet ingredients for 10 minutes on medium high? Ummm…sure. But it actually works.  It’s kind of like cookie mad science.

This past weekend I wanted to create a cookie that would keep me and my fellow crafty vendors alive and properly sugared for 8 hours of craft show madness at Bazaar Bizarre in Boston. It had to be something ridiculous and awesome – Momofuku Compost Cookies fit the bill…compost in that you throw in whatever (within reason!) you’ve got left over around the pantry.

FDF1's crafty table at Bazaar Bizarre

I found the recipe a while ago on a blog called Momofuku for 2, which I think I’ve mentioned here before. It’s pretty simple and really adaptable to your particular tastes – a chewy, super sweet but salty cookie full of your favorite sweet baking extras (think chocolate chips, etc) and salty snacks (pretzels, chips, what have you). This likely either sounds completely amazing or totally gross to you…either way you need to try these evil cookies out! 

Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie Recipe
from Momofuku for 2, followed exactly

Makes about 20 cookies, easily doubled

1/2 cup butter, room temperature (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup of your favorite baking ingredients (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and oats...other ideas are milk chocolate, coconut, raisins, marshmallows, peanut butter cups...)
3/4 cup of your favorite salty snack foods (I used pretzels and could also try chips, nuts, crackers...I'd just avoid anything with a strong flavor other than 'salty', i.e oniony or cheesy...)

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color.  Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

On a lower speed, add egg and vanilla to incorporate.  Increase mixing speed to medium-high and mix for 10 minutes (for real!).  During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

After 10 minutes, on a lower speed add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix 45-60 seconds, just until the dough comes together and all dry ingredients have been incorporated.  Scrape down the sides.

On the same low speed, add your sweet baking ingredients and mix 30- 45 seconds until evenly incorporated.  Do the same with your salty additions, mixing until just combined.

Scoop dough into balls (about 2 tablespoons each) and place on parchment lined cookie sheets (about 12 per sheet).  Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week.  Don't bake your cookies at room temperature!  The dough is really creamy and won't hold its shape unless chilled.

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Bake cookies 9-11 minutes - they will puff, crackle and spread.  

At 9 minutes cookies should have brown edges, and be just barely browning in the center.  If they're not, leave them in 1 or 2 more minutes, until the right color is achieved.

Cool cookies completely on cookie sheets - they'll be really soft when they come out of the oven, so you don't want to move them.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don’t Fear the Phyllo.

When I told my mom I was making a phyllo pastry dessert as my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner at my 90-year-old grandmother’s house, she flat out noted that I was definitely going to hate myself for this choice. Her most vivid memory of working with these whispery delicate temperamental sheets of dough is a horribly botched spinach and feta “experimental dinner” (part of her acclaimed early 90s series, when she mutinied against the family’s wishes in hopes of creating a healthier, more interesting and international dining experience).

Anyway, in some ways she was right – phyllo is a huge pain, but not so much that you should avoid it. It’s actually kind of a fun challenge. When you buy it frozen, it generally comes in quantities of 50 sheets because it’s pretty much a given that you’ll wreck roughly 1000 of those (that math is accurate). Once you wrangle it properly (usually with a lot of melted butter) it behaves as it should, and after a short time in the oven becomes a flaky yet substantial treat.

Now I know everyone is over Thanksgiving, including myself. In fact, I’m kind of over autumn at this point – the sugarplums have moved into my head and I’m ready to trade apples, cider, pumpkins and pears for ginger, cranberries, chocolate and mint. But before we do that, check this recipe – a tart composed of phyllo layered with butter, sugar and pecans, topped with pear and apple…and more butter and sugar. If you don’t bore as easily with the seasons as I do, try it out!  If you do, it will still be here next year.

Pear and Phyllo Crisp
adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting (different from sprinkling, no?)
6 sheets frozen phyllo dough (M-Stew says 11 1/2 x 15 inches, mine were a bit smaller, no bigs)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 small firm pears (I used Forelle, Sekel work too)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled

Preheat oven to 400˚ with racked in second to top position (so probably one level above where you usually have it).  Combine pecans, breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, and top with 1 phyllo sheet.  Brush phyllo all over with butter, and sprinkle pecan mixture evenly over top.  Repeat 4 times.  Top with remaining phyllo sheet, and brush with all but two tablespoons of butter (you may need to melt a bit more butter for this...I did).

Slice pears and apples 1/8 inch thick; discard seeds.  Arrange pear and apple slices in a single layer on phyllo, leaving space between fruit and a 1/4-inch border around the edges.  Brush fruit with reserved 2 tablespoons butter.  Sprinkle with sugar, then dust with cinnamon.  Bake, rotating sheet halfway through until phyllo is golden brown and fruit is soft, 15-20 minutes.*  Let cool slightly and cut into pieces.

*Cooking time is going to vary wildly depending on what type of baking sheet you use.  I used a dark sheet and it took barely 15 minutes, even with parchment.  If you use a lighter sheet, it could take over 20 minutes, or you may need to try a higher oven rack.  Know your oven and watch this once it's in - it would be a shame to burn it after all that!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just dropping in with a quick post, because if you're as busy as I am getting ready for the impending poultry-centric holiday, you probably don't even have time to be on the interwebs!  But I do hope you'll read on, because I'd love to share with you my new favorite falltastic drink - a hot buttered cider with warming spices and a healthy splash of lush bourbon.

I thought of doing a Thanksgiving recipe post, but I'm guessing most of you who would benefit have already thought through your menus and planned well in advance.  This naughty hot cider is a simple add on because you've probably got most of the ingredients around at this time of year.  It's perfect for late afternoon/early evening, to keep the mid-day meal's food coma going strong.

So enjoy the recipe - it's something you'll look forward to welcoming back into rotation each year as the leaves start to turn and the air gets crisp.  Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear reader!

Hot Buttered Bourbon and Cider
Bon Appetit, November 1999 (I know, it's been around for almost 10 years and I'm just making it now!?)
Serves 4, easily multiplied

2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter
3/4 cup good bourbon (Maker's Mark is a good choice here)
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Ground nutmeg

Bring first 5 ingredients to simmer in medium saucepan.  Remove from heat; cover and let steep 15 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons chilled butter to saucepan; bring to simmer.  Remove from heat.  

Stir in bourbon and lemon juice.  Strain into large measuring cup.  Divide cider among 4 mugs.  Cut 1 tablespoon of butter into 4 pieces.  Add 1 piece to each mug.  Sprinke with nutmeg.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Brunch Perfection.

I have to say; I think I had the most perfect brunch ever this past Saturday.  The sixteen of us who were present, ranging from a precocious two year-old blondie to my 68 year-old Dad, enjoyed tons of great food, delicious drinks, and most of all each other’s company.  It was the ideal fall day - crisp but not too cold, drenched in golden sunshine from an impossibly blue sky.  There were lots of excursions across the yard with the Polaroid Land Camera (courtesy of my jack-of-all-cameras, Nick).  There were homemade doughnuts, and goetta.  There was a walk, a “senior photo” shoot, and an amazing sunset in a coastal field, where we were all certain we had walked into a Dan McCarthy print.  Later, after a lot of hot buttered bourbon-spiked cider, there was this.  And there was honestly a lot of love.  I think most of us are still reveling in it.  It’s nice when a bunch of friends from different parts of your life all behave like they’ve known each other forever, and just click.  More than nice, actually.

This brunch is my new tradition – to gather the friends that I may not see over the holidays and create our own new holiday, before we all step onto that slippery yet festive slope leading us into the next year.  I try to keep the guest list small, but it’s hard, and it always ends up growing.  Making brunch for sixteen is certainly a lot of work and a definite challenge (just ask my husband about the Great Custard Deluge of 2010), but it doesn’t stop me from trying to do crazy things like make homemade doughnuts, or serve four kinds of brunch cocktails.  Whatever.  I am definitely nuts when it comes to menu planning and entertaining and will likely never change.

I was thinking of sharing my swiss chard, mushroom and cheddar quiche recipe with you, but that is a ridiculous amount of work (see Custard Deluge).  And though it was undeniably delicious, on the morning that I was running around like crazy trying to get everything done for my guests, I was much more thankful for simple recipes, that I could kind of put together and not think much about.

Enter the Roasted Tomato Tart:  Thyme and olive oil oven roasted tomatoes rest on golden puff pastry with just the right amount of fresh parm-reg - it's the lil' slice snuggled onto the right hand side of the dish above.  This is a fantastically delicious savory brunch component, which goes great alongside an egg dish or two, some sweet bits like scones or mini muffins, a killer fruit salad…and some bacon or sausage, of course.  And more fantastic still is that it is super duper easy.  If you can roll out store bought puff pastry and roast a few tomatoes, you are golden.  This is definitely the recipe my guests asked me to share most after the brunch, so here it is darlings.  Actually, all of you readers are just darlings.  Thanks for reading my blog.  See? The love still hasn’t worn off.

Roasted Tomato Tart
By Paul Grimes, via Gourmet, July 2006, with my notes

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17 1/4 ounce package), thawed
2 pounds plum tomatoes (8 large) halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme (dry is totally fine if that's all you have, but cut amount in half because dried herbs go further)
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings plus additional for garnish

Put oven racks in the middle and lower third of oven and preheat to 400˚F.  Line a large shallow baking pan with foil.

Roll out pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch square, about 1/8 inch thick.  Either cut a 10-inch round, or fold in the corners and roll again.  (I usually just fold in and it works fine - no sense wasting delicious dough.  It doesn't have to be perfect - the tart can be more "rustic"). Chill round on baking sheet until ready to use.

Toss tomatoes in the foil lined baking pan with 2 tablespoons oil, 2 teaspoons thyme, a 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper then roast, cut side up in one layer on the middle rack, 1 hour.

Brush pastry round with 2 teaspoons oil, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of thyme.  After roasting tomatoes for 1 hour, move tomatoes in pan to lower rack and put pastry on baking sheet on middle rack.  Bake pastry and tomatoes until pastry is golden brown and edges of tomatoes are slightly browned but still appear juicy, about 15 minutes.

While pastry is still warm, scatter 1/2 cup cheese shavings evenly over it.  Top shavings with warm tomatoes, cut sides down and in one layer, then sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and additional cheese shavings.

*Group photo by Michael Burkardt
*Tree photo by Seth Marois

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A brief hiatus...then chocolate.

Apologies for the dearth of posts lately!  Much has happened since we last met, including this, which is pretty much mind-blowing. Another notable thing that came to pass was the nuptial extravaganza of one of my best friends, a fabulous 3-day event in Brooklyn which is mostly to blame for my inability to post anything new for the past week or so.  The overflow of happiness from that event rendered me unable to do anything that could be described as productive.  That and daylight savings time.  And the thickening of my blood due to impending wintertimes...excuses excuses.

Anyway, another thing there has been a curious lack of on Effing Delicious, besides recent posts, is chocolate.  On a quick browse of past posts I could really only find one involving chocolate.  But those were just chocolate chips, and were greatly out-shined by the star of that recipe - caramelized cornflakes. I admittedly am one of those people who would choose vanilla or caramel in a second over chocolate, and I honestly rarely bake with it - but I still love it. 

This weekend I had my family over for Sunday Dinner (it's what they used to have before the brunch craze, kids!) and decided to make a chocolaty dessert for the finale.  It seemed appropriate on the drizzly cold day nature served up - we combated that inclement gesture with great wine, an autumnal roast, a fire in the fireplace, a cutthroat game of dominoes, and a gorgeous chocolate bread pudding.

Bread pudding is the easiest dessert to make ever...almost shamefully easy.  It seems like you slaved, but really you just whisked some stuff together, poured it over torn up bread and baked it.  This one starts off with lightly toasted cinnamon raisin bread, which pairs with the chocolate to make a rich pudding with layers of flavor.  Any kind of milk will work, so you can make it even richer depending on what octane you use.

So finally some chocolate, peoples.  I hope it makes up for the fact that there's no "New York City Food Tour Part 2", which was supposed to be last week's post.  Sorry, but I was having way too much fun.

Chocolate Bread Pudding
from M-Stew's Everyday Food, with my notes as always

1 tablespoon butter, plus more for baking dish
8 slices (8 ounces) cinnamon-raisin bread
2 cups of milk (any fat-percentage will do - I made mine with skim and it was still decadent)
3 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Lightly butter an 11x7 inch baking dish.  Set aside.  Toast bread (in the oven or toaster) until lightly crisped.

In a medium saucepan, combine milk, chocolate and butter; place over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted, about 5 minutes (may take a little longer, watch it, and make sure the chocolate is completely melted and combined).

Tear bread into large pieces (about 4 or 5 per slice).  Scatter evenly in prepared baking dish.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla.  Whisk in warm milk mixture until combined.  Pour over bread.

Bake until pudding has puffed and is firm, about 25 minutes.  Cool at least 10 minutes and dust with confectioner's sugar just before serving.

The pudding can also be chilled over night, but I think it's best at room temperature and recommend you take it out of the fridge about an hour before you plan to serve it.

Also!  Sorry there is no picture of said bread pudding.  All of mine were terrible!  If you talk to Santa tell him I need a new camera.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fie upon ye, food snobbery.

It has come to pass, even recently, that I have been accused of food snobbery.  This is an accusation founded in my poking fun at Knorr and Lipton just-add-milk-or-water-chicken-flavored noodle side dishes, and “critter wine”.

And yes, maybe I am a tiny bit of a food snob, at times.  But come on!  Not everything I make requires five thousand steps and is from scratch.  I used canned pumpkin a few posts ago instead of pureeing and roasting my own, and I’m currently waiting for a weeknight-storebought-ravioli-jarred-sauce-pre-cooked-chicken-sausage-processed-shredded-mozzerella casserole concoction to come out of the oven, which smells deliciously Chef Boyardee-esque.  Just because I make marshmallows from scratch doesn’t mean I’m not seduced by packaged brownie mix.  I frequently buy bagged salad (even the Caesar kit kind).  I’ve never made fresh pasta of my own volition even after witnessing my Mom and Nonie make it a million times.  And I NEVER make my own pastry piecrust.  Ever.

The aforementioned Mom and Nonie would never allow it.  They’ve always told me that the difference in flavor and texture is not worth the effort – that I should take my time perfecting the filling and let Pillsbury (specifically) handle the rest.  And they are so totally right, in my opinion.  I’ve made pie and tart crust a couple times from scratch, here and there, and yeah…not much difference. (Jus sayin’, graham cracker and cookie crusts don’t count, simply for the fact that they don’t necessitate a pastry cutter, and they require excess amounts of Vanilla Wafers rather that patience).

Proudly buying Pillsbury pastry piecrust is a practice I embrace, even for the most refined of pies – like the tropical coconut custard pie I’m about to share with you.  Buying pre-made crust from the grocery reduces your time and effort dramatically with this one – rather than blind baking the crust for 45 minutes as you would with the homemade, you simply have to unroll this gift from heaven and bake it for 10 minutes.  Then cool it, fill it, chill it and you can return to whatever else it was you were doing…AND have a delicious, toasty coconut silky custard pie at the end.  It’s like having your cake and eating it too…especially if it’s a delicious Funfetti cake-mix-cake, straight from the box.

Coconut Custard Pie
from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, tweaked a bit!

One pie crust (store bought or your own homemade, which is fine, I don't judge!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk (don't decrease the octane here - this is a nice firm fatty custard between the milk and the coconut milk, and you don't want to compromise that texture by decreasing the number of lovely plump fat globules in the mix!)
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted*

Place your pie crust in your desired pie plate and bake as instructed.  If it's store bought it will probably be for about 10 minutes at 400˚...Just read the box!  Convenience!  Homemade it will take about 45 minutes at the same temp...basically until lightly browned.  Set aside and let crust cool completely.

In a medium saucepan off heat, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Gradually whisk in whole milk, making sure to dissolve cornstarch.  Whisk in coconut milk and egg yolks.

Whisking constantly, cook over medium heat until  the first large bubble sputters, about 5-7 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute.  Remove pan from heat and pour into a large bowl (M-Stew suggests pouring the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into that bowl.  Good luck to you - mine was way too thick to make that possible, and the texture didn't suffer one bit).

Pour custard into cooled crust - smooth top with a spatula.  Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours, or loosely covered up to 1 day.  To serve, let stand at room temp for 30 minutes, then sprinkle with toasted coconut.

*To toast the coconut, place it on a baking sheet and bake at 350˚ for about 8 minutes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Deliciously Overcomplicated.

Tonight I’m writing to share with you one of my favorite recipes ever.  My good friend Emily gave it to me ages ago, when I was living in an apartment that really should have been the attic to a beautiful Victorian home.  As you can imagine, because it was built into an attic, my kitchen left a lot to be desired – it was definitely the worst room in an otherwise kind of amazing apartment.  Preparing this dish, a multi-step prep-work-intensive stir fry, in that kitchen was definitely an adventure.  I had zero counter space, terrible lighting and a flakey gas range/oven that would frequently take it upon itself to try to burn the house down.

Nostalgia aside, mentioning the attic kitchen is my way of letting you know that even though this recipe probably seems fussy and like too much work, if I did it in that crazy attic kitchen you can do it too (in your hopefully non-attic kitchen).  Whenever I make it I think of that kitchen and its weird drafty haunted pantry, flame-throwing broiler and iffy plumbing…sigh.

Anyway, the stir-fry – picture sesame-coated thinly sliced chicken tossed with fresh green beans and shiitakes, in a garlicky, gingery perfectly spicy sauce flecked with more sesame seeds, scented with toasted sesame oil.  Yes, the recipe involves making a marinade, a coating for the chicken, a stir-fry sauce and a garlic ginger paste, but it is sooo worth all the complication.  The flavor layering is delightful.  This recipe originally came from Cooks Illustrated, and it honestly has no room to be improved upon that I can find.  I’m sure they made it every which way before publishing, and they are certainly dead on here.

Spicy Stir-Fried Sesame Chicken with Green Beans and Shiitake Mushrooms
from Cooks Illustrated, via Emily Davis, and tweaked a bit by each of us along the way

Chicken Marinade and Coating:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 cup water
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of excess fat and prepared as described 
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds


1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon asian chili sauce (or a bit more if you like it really spicy)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted in a small dry skillet until golden, about 4 mins
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
Vegetable oil
1 pound fresh green beans, cut on bias into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced 1/8 inch thick

Slice chicken breast.  As  you’re doing so, cut with the grain as you normally would.  You’re aiming for ¼ inch slices.  As you make the cut, flatten the slice of chicken so that it smashes against the cutting board with the back of your knife, as you pull the knife toward you.  (This tenderizes each strip, helping them to cook faster and have a much more enjoyable texture!)

Combine soy sauce, sherry and water in a medium bowl.  Add chicken and break up clumps.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for  20 minutes to 1 hour.

Mix sesame oil, cornstarch, flour and sesame seeds in medium bowl until smooth.  Drain chicken in a strainer, pressing out excess liquid.  Toss in cornstarch/flour mixture until evenly coated.

Whisk chicken broth, soy, sherry, chili sauce, sugar, cornstarch, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon garlic in small bowl to combine.  Set aside.  Combine remaining two teaspoons garlic, ginger and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Heat two teaspoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over high heat until smoking.  Add half the chicken in an even layer and cook until golden brown.  Flip and cook until lightly browned on the second side, less than two minutes total in the pan.  Transfer to clean bowl and repeat with more oil and the rest of the chicken.

Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to the now-empty skillet and heat until just smoking.  Add green beans and cook stirring occasionally, 1 minute.  Add mushrooms and stir-fry until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Push veggies to the sides of skillet or wok to clear center.  Add garlic ginger mixture to the clearing and cook, mashing with a spoon, until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds.  Stir mixture into beans and mushrooms.  Continue to stir-fry until beans are tender-crisp, about 30 seconds longer.  

Return chicken to skillet.  Whisk the set-aside sauce to recombine then add to skillet.  Reduce heat to medium and cook stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked through, about 30 seconds.  Transfer to serving platter, drizzle with remaining teaspoon sesame oil and sprinkle with remaining teaspoon sesame seeds.  Serve immediately, with jasmine rice if you like.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pumpkin Two Ways: Fancy, not so Fancy…Part 2!

Part 2: Pancakes! (not so fancy)

So when you’ve got half a can of pumpkin left, from making an amazing cake, and it’s singing to you from the fridge...

“Doooon’t waaaaaste meeeeee….surely I’m saaaalvageablesssss…”

You need to act, and fast!  As promised, here is Part 2 of my pumpkin adventure from the long weekend, just in time for this weekend – Pumpkin Pancakes.  Yes, they incorporate many of the same ingredients as the cake but the trick is, they are acceptable to have for breakfast!  Magical.  And, I promise that you won’t find them redundant of the cake.  As any good pancake does, they retain their savory qualities despite the inclusion of some warming spices and sugar…and pumpkin of course…savoriness that you can easily destroy (or compliment), if you wish, with maple syrup.

Pumpkin Pancakes
by Martha Stewart, tweaked ever so slightly by moi

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk (skim is fine, whatever octane you have handy)
6 tablespoons pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together milk, pumpkin puree, butter and egg.  Fold wet mixture into dry ingredients.

Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Pour in 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.  Cook about 3 minutes per side, or let your pancake intuition guide you - everyone has pancake intuition and I would never step to yours.  Serve however you like.  Makes 8 to 10 pancakes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pumpkin Two Ways: Fancy, not so fancy.

Part 1: Cake!

Exhibit A.  One can of delectable organic pumpkin.  Innocent, yet alluring.  One of the usual suspects as October rolls around, it can be incorporated into a zillion different recipes, from savory to sweet and back again.  Pumpkin found its way into my heart as a kid, when I was the only cousin willing to try the “gross looking” pie, and it is still one of my absolute favorites.  I get really fired up about fall cooking, and the squash family is largely responsible.

Going toe to toe with a legit, for reals pumpkin is a chore.  It can be awesome – I’m sure many of you have toasted pumpkin seeds on your way to making a jack o’ lantern, and perhaps you’ve even roasted the whole thing to make your own puree, because you’re brave.  I wasn’t feeling brave this weekend.  And that is why the lead picture for this post is a can, not a blob of pumpkin guts.  Because sometimes, albeit rarely, a canned fruit or veggie is okay.  Especially in this case, when I could find a nice organic product at the grocery, with ONE ingredient – pumpkin.

This lil can turned into a whole lot of deliciousness.  One half went into a decadent pumpkin spice cake with a caramel cream cheese frosting.  And because I cannot stand to waste food, and the leftover pumpkin was calling to me from the fridge, I found a fantastic way to use the rest…but we’ll get to that later.

For now, it’s cake time!  I found this recipe a while ago in Bon Appétit.  It’s an offering from Sarah Patterson Scott, co-author (with Connie Green) of The Wild Table, a book on foraged food and recipes coming out later this month.  Maybe Sarah expected me to forage for my pumpkin, and for that, I apologize.  But honestly this cake needs no apologies.  The original recipe creates a two layer cake, but I cut it down to one because I was looking for something smaller and more casual, but still all schmaltzy and rich and covered in buttery heavenly frosting, with a feisty hint of citrus.  So the recipe below is tweaked a bit from Sarah’s, but works like a charm.  The frosting is labor intensive as it requires one to make caramel from scratch, but it is well worth it.

So this is Part 1 of Pumpkin Two Ways…fancy.  Stay tuned for Part 2…Not So Fancy! 

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Sarah Patterson Scott, via Bon Appétit


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 of 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel, plus a bit more for sprinkling


1/2 of 1-pound box of powdered sugar
1/4 cup plus a splash heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt (or a smidge more if you want the caramel a bit salty, which I did)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 stick unsalted butter (2 tablespoons), room temperature

For cake:

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan, tapping out any excess flour.

Whisk first 9 ingredients in a large bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat pumpkin, sugar and oil in another large bowl.  Add eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate between additions.  Mix in orange peel.  Add flour mixture, beat on low speed just to blend.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean about 30-33 minutes.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto rack, turn top side up and cool completely.

For frosting:

Sprinkle 1/4 cup powdered sugar evenly over bottom of a small nonstick skillet (you are about to make the caramel, get ready!)  Cook over medium heat until sugar melts (do NOT stir yet - I know it's hard, but you'll wreck it).  Continue cooking until sugar turns deep amber, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute.  Carefully stir in 1/4 cup cream, vanilla, and salt - things will get mighty bubbly here.  Stir until any caramel bits dissolve.  Stir in remaining splash of cream.  Strain into a small bowl, and cool to room temperature.

Sift remaining powdered sugar into a medium bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar, scraping down the bowl with each addition.  Beat in cooled caramel.  Taste, liberally.  Cover and chill frosting until firm enough to spread, about 2 hours.

When ready, frost cake evenly.  Sprinkle cake with a bit more grated orange zest for a punchier citrus flavor, if desired.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New York City Food Tour - Part 1

This past weekend I was in the magical land of New York City.  I had a lot to accomplish in just over 24 hours - seeing a friend off who is leaving for new adventures overseas, catching up with other friends for the first time in what seems inappropriately long...and celebrating one very special lady who is tying the knot with her beloved later this month!

In between all the imbibing, frolicking and burlesque dancing (ooh la la!), I also found time to sample some culinary delights at more than a few gems around this gastronomical wonderland of a city!  All in all though the trip was short, I was left by NYC as I always am...sad that I've never lived there, wondering how I could some day, inspired by everything I was able to take in...and completely in love.  And I'm happy to share these pics with you of Part 1 of my food tour...



Brunch on Saturday morning was at Kevin's in Red Hook, a great artsy/industrial section of Brooklyn often overlooked thanks to its lack of good public transportation.  Kevin's is a small, unassuming place with a yummy menu...we loved the tiny french presses full of amazing Stumptown Coffee.  My model above is demonstrating a perfect pour - thanks Liam!



Later that day we hit the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, the best part of Brooklyn, in my opinion.  This is a massive flea market chock full of quirky antiques, awesome handmade jewelry, and to die for food tents.  The lines were pretty crazy, but we were able to sneak in and grab some amazing fresh juices from the Vaquero Fruits and watermelon...delicious.





We made a special trip to Momofuku Milk Bar.  I insisted, after trying their recipes and completely adoring them.  It was a really interesting place - not like normal bakeries where everything is out to tantalize was actually kind of odd that everything came to us from behind high counters, sometimes weirdly pre-packaged...but not odd in an unpleasant way...just mysterious for a bakery...but I guess they have their own thing going.  The soft serve pictured above is their patented Cereal Milk flavor...also kind of unexpectedly authentic organic Captain Crunch had soaked in the milk they used.  It wasn't love at first sight, but it grew on us.  The buttery sugary Crack Pie, however, was to die for, as well as the rich yet crunchy Banana Cake Truffles.  Our friends also got potato chip ice cream...which was flat. out. terrible.


We had planned to make it a Momofuku-double-feature and head to Noodle Bar as well, but the line was crazy when we got there, and I would have been late for my amazing burlesque class.  So, we headed to Ramen Setagaya on St. Marks and were not disappointed with the giant, delicious bowls of noodles waiting for us there.  Mine was BBQ pork, veggies and a salty egg in a spicy miso broth.  Top notch.  We're planning to head to Noodle Bar next time, so we'll see how the two compare.  I'm excited to try the authentic versions of dishes I love to make at home!


After a hard night of learning five ways to take off satin elbow gloves, then heading out for drinks, my girlfriends and I found ourselves at Pommes Frites in the East Village.  My lovely french fry model Jill here is showcasing the delicious Belgian fries we treated ourselves to, with frites sauce (probably just mayo, methinks).


Our last meal in town this time was Sunday morning, at Pequena, in Fort Greene.  It's a tiny, amazing Mexican place that has a crazy breakfast menu - the stuff of dreams.  The dish pictured above was amazing - two super crisp tortillas cradling fried plantains and creamy cheese, served with fresh fruit, yogurt and honey.  Heaven.

Over all we had a blast this weekend, even if it was really only 24 hours - can't wait to do it all over again at the end of the month...stay tuned for Food Tour Part 2!  Leave me a comment if you know somewhere I shouldn't miss!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A steak for all seasons.

I’m going to tell you about some steak now.  We haven’t beefed in a while, you and I…waxed poetic about the magic of red meat (Vegetarians, cover your ears, I’m legit making carrot soup as I write this, I swear!).

This past weekend I was on a quest to create the perfect menu for a dinner party happening on the cusp of summer and fall.  It’s a tough enough time of year to get dressed in New England (Sandals? Courds? Is it boot time yet?  Do I need a jacket?  Will I look foolish in tights?), and cooking is an equal challenge.  I’m starting to crave roasted root veggies and all things apple, pork and cheese related…but I’ve still got tomatoes, cucumbers and basil coming, and it’s definitely still warm enough to grill outside.   So it’s tricky.

I solved the problem this time around with steak – gorgeous flank steak marinated in a potion with distinctive fall sensibilities: red wine, rosemary, toasted aromatics, garlic…and then tossed onto a hot grill and seared to a perfect medium rare.  When paired with roasted rainbow carrots, an arugula, celery and Asian pear salad, homemade buttery parsleyed garlic rolls, and a parsnip Yukon gold pureed soup to start, I felt it straddled the line and was the perfect transitional meal.  It sounds a little crazy now that I’m typing it, but it really did work rather well.  We topped it off with a ridiculously buttery sugary chess tart, accompanied by a sour raspberry reduction.

The craving for steak was first inspired by this, from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and the chosen execution was adapted from a recipe in an old issue of Saveur.  I took my liberties and changed it up, switching out some ingredients and eliminating others, and was very pleased with the result.  You can prep the marinade and steak early in the morning, or even the night before – it will be best if you let it chill out in the marinade for 12-24 hours.  Then all you need to do at dinnertime is flip it on the grill…in any season really!

Marinated Flank Steak
adapted from Saveur

1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 generous tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 fresh bay leaves

1/2 cup dry red wine (I used a puckery pinot noir)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons worcestershire 
5 crushed cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 gorgeous 2 pound flank steak

Combine peppercorns, coriander, red pepper flakes and bay leaves in a small skillet.  Place over high heat and toast until fragrant, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes.  Transfer aromatics to a hard surface and lightly crush with the bottom of a heavy skillet.  Transfer to a 13x9 baking dish.

Add red wine, red wine vinegar, worcestershire, garlic, rosemary and olive oil.  Whisk to combine.

Poke flank steak all over with a fork, both sides.  Place in marinade, spooning some of the mixture on top.  Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, 12 to 24 hours.

An hour before grilling transfer steak to a plate and set aside at room temperature.  Transfer marinade to a small pot and bring to just a boil - set aside.

On a gas or charcoal grill create medium heat (we use a gas grill, so we set it to medium and presto!)  Grill steak, turning once, brushing with reserved marinade until browned and medium rare - 7 to 8 minutes per side.

Transfer to a cutting board.  Tent with foil and allow steak to rest for 10 minutes.  Slice thinly on the bias and serve with any accumulated juices.

Serves 4.