Archive | November, 2009

Leftover Fruit Cobbler

30 Nov

On my further quest to use up the cranberries (I STILL have more than a full bag left), I got bored and decided to make some form of cobbler thing… I didn’t have apples and was worried just cranberries would be too tart, so I threw in some grapes I had laying around and pears that had been stewing in apple cider since the party.  I also had some of the leftover cider, so I threw it all in a pot with a bit of sugar and let it cook down to a loose syrup consistency.

For the topping, since I neither like nor had oats in stock, I combined flour, sugar, brown sugar, and slivered almonds in a food processor and then combined cold butter in with a fork and my hands.  It didn’t quite come out as the crumble I expected (not enough flour? lack of oats?) but it tasted scrumptious.  I forgot to take a picture of it so about 2 minutes after it went into the oven, I took it back out to take a pic.  It had already melted, but you get the point.  I got to use my new ramekins from Kim, which was OH SO fun!  (I LOVE new kitchen toys!)

I baked it for about 35 minutes and then broiled it for about 30 seconds.  (I’m still new to broilers since I haven’t had a working one in 5 years, so I was cautious not to overdo it… though it probably could have become a little crisper on top).

I then let it cool for 15 minutes and proceeded to burn the heck out of my mouth as I gobbled it down… I’m so impatient! It was worth it though.

It definitely didn’t come out as pretty as I would have liked with crumbles on top, but the taste more than made up for it.  I like things SWEET, and this certainly was.  If I were making it for the masses I’d probably tone down the sugar a tad.  The fruit inside, however, was a perfect consistency and the cranberries + grapes + pears was good enough to repeat!

Since I eyed the entire topping, I don’t really have a recipe.  I also don’t think it turned out pretty enough to make for guests… but for me… it was DELISH

Duck… Duck… Duck… Cranberry

27 Nov

Another great “you know me SO well” housewarming gift came from Kim.  I had noted that I needed ramekins, but was so surprised when the ones that came to my house had frozen Mac & Cheese in them!  (Kim also sent me a jar of pumpkin butter from William Sonoma which is OH SO splendid.)  We defrosted them but needed a protein.  On the end of our new block is a butcher shop and I sent Mike on a mission to pick something interesting out.  I think he got a bit flustered, but he managed to secure 2 duck breasts and 2 duck legs.  I don’t think he realized that a duck breast has TWO, so we had a LOT of food PLUS another set of duck boobs in the freezer for another night.  I was a little disappointed to see that the he got frozen meat from the butcher, but it was still fun and duck, so why not?

On a quest to find a way to not only use the duck but to also use some of the HUGE bags of cranberries I have leftover, I found another Cookstr recipe that seemed adaptable. Sure it called for cherries, but what is a cranberry if not a tart little cherry?  More maple syrup would surely make it palatable!

We even used the middle griddle top that came with our stove rather than 2 big frying pans.

The sauce was very liquidy, but it cooked down into a delicious syrupy masterpiece that smelled heavenly.

The duck must have been thicker than the recipe called for since it took at least twice the time to cook (and I’m still not positive it was fully done, but we’re not sick, so I call it a win!)  The skin got crispy, but not quite crispy enough for some reason.

Most duck recipes called for cooking or braising for hours… so I guess I can’t complain too much for taking the quick way out.  It just didn’t have the pizazz I wanted or expected of duck.

Slicing into it was easy on the breasts… the legs were another battle.

The sauce definitely added some punch to it… though again, not my favorite dish.

Next time I make duck I’ll try one of the longer cooking recipes to see if that makes it better.  I also just realized I forgot to take a pic of the Mac & Cheese. D’oh!  Luckily we have two more so I’ll have to give them their photo op later.

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RECIPES
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Ingredients

4 boneless duck breasts, about 7oz (200g) each

½ tsp salt, plus more to taste

½ tsp lightly crushed black peppercorns, plus more to taste

For the sauce

1 tbsp butter

1 shallot, finely chopped (we were missing this)

1/3 cup ruby port (we used leftover red wine from the party)

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 whole star anise (we were missing this too)

1 sprig of rosemary (we used dried)

½ cup chicken stock

2 cups pitted fresh bing cherries (we used cranberries)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

(If you want to prepare ahead, the sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.)

1. Score the skin of each duck breast with a sharp knife. Season with the salt and crushed pepper. (I made little Xes… still not sure if this was correct)

2. Place the duck breasts, skin-side down, in a large frying pan. Cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes. Turn and brown the other sides, about 3 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a carving board and let stand for 5 minutes.

3. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, about 2 minutes, until softened.

4. Stir in the port, maple syrup, star anise, and rosemary, and boil for 30 seconds. Add the stock and boil for about 3 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Add the cherries, and cook for 2 minutes more, until heated. Season with salt and pepper. Slice each breast on the diagonal into thick slices and transfer each to a plate. Top with the sauce and serve hot.

Pork Belly

25 Nov

I can tell when someone really knows me when they bring Pork Belly to my housewarming as a gift.  Thanks to Lillian and Josh, I got to make an attempt at cooking this delicious food.  Honestly, at first, I wasn’t too sure.   When I took out the pork belly and cut it up, however, there was SO much fat on it that I was wondering if it would even be edible.  Oh how naive of me!

Lillian told me it was salted pork belly (which sent me to Google, only to find out that brining is customary for pork belly and doesn’t impact the preparation… shrug… okay!

I found a recipe that sounded good and mixed pork with fruit (basically, I love just about anything with warm fruit).  I put it all together and hoped for the best.

While I’m sure I could have poured off the rest of the fat from the pork, I decided it was much more tasty sounding to use it to cook the veggies in. And OH was it good!  I had leftover citrus cauliflower (it’s yellow and smaller) and mushrooms to play with.  SOOOO good.

I also had some leftover yummy pasta.  So the plate was delicious AND colorful.

Holy crap did it turn out well!  I think this may be one of my favoritist things I’ve ever made.  I’m sure it’s terrible for me, but I could eat this every single day.  In fact, my mouth is watering for it right now.

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RECIPES
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Ingredients:

  • 6 slices of belly pork
  • 4 medium cooking (tart) apples, peeled, cored and quartered (I didn’t peal mine since I love roasted apples with skin)
  • 2 tbsp plain flour (All purpose)
  • 1 1/4 cup cider
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Fry the pork in a frying pan until crisp on both sides.
  3. Remove from the pan with tongs and arrange in a baking dish. Surround with the apple quarters.
  4. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the frying pan. (or use the rest for delicious veggies!)
  5. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  6. Gradually stir in the milk or cider and bring to the boil.
  7. Add salt and pepper, then pour this sauce over the pork and apples.
  8. Bake in a preheated moderate oven (350°F) for 35 to 45 minutes.

Makin’ Whoopie… PIES

23 Nov

When I had a housewarming at my new apartment, I wanted to make some more interesting dishes.  Whoopie pies had been a topic of discussion a few weeks prior with my cousins who were up in Maine, and when I saw this recipe on Cookstr, I knew I had to try it.

I set it up in stages so I could prepare parts of it a few days early.  I also was anal enough to set up lists of what piece I would prepare when and in what order (see back of the first photo below for the “To Do Saturday” section).

First came making the cookie part.  It’s very similar to most cookie recipes, however, the baking powder and baking soda make for a fluffier, cakey type cookie.  It’s very important to use chilled pumpkin puree (NOTE: Not pumpkin pie filling) so it is easier to work with and makes the domed cookie.

Out of the oven they smelled HEAVENLY.

I really thought we’d have too many cookies (I think I made them extra small, but they were perfect portions for the party) but it wound up working just fine.

On day two we prepared the filling (cream cheese, vanilla, powdered sugar, and butter in the mixer).  Refrigerating it made it too firm, so I was sure to pull it out before layering the cookies for a good 30 minutes.

It couldn’t be easier, you put a dollop of the cream on the cookie and then press the other one in.  They’re actually so moist that parchment paper pulled some of the dough right off, but when they were in the fridge for a bit they firmed up nicely.

I’m not quite sure how, but I completely forgot to take a final picture.  The best I have is the nearly completed pies in the background of my dollop picture below.

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RECIPE
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Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Directions:

MAKE THE PUMPKIN WHOOPIE COOKIES

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar and oil together until combined. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the filling.

MAKE THE CREAM CHEESE FILLING

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth, with no visible lumps. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.

Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. Be careful not to overbeat the filling, or it will lose structure. (The filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the refrigerator. Let the filling soften at room temperature before using.)

ASSEMBLE THE WHOOPIE PIES

Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up).

Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days, on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator.

For the pumpkin whoopie cookies:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups chilled pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the cream cheese filling:

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Fresh Flavors of Fall

18 Nov

Our new apartment is absolutely amazing (have I mentioned I have a pantry, dish washer, 5 burner stove, convection oven, touch screen microwave, and french door fridge?  Yeah… AMAZING!  I still can’t believe we got this place!) however, the one thing really missing in the neighborhood is a grocery store.  I spent the first 2.5 of 3 years of my last apartment in the same predicament.  FreshDirect became a very good friend.  I don’t find it more expensive than grocery stores on most things, and on some things I’m pretty sure I actually save money.  Delivery is only about $6 and I usually find a deal on a DeliveryPass anyway so it’s around $50 for the year.  It sucks that we can’t run out for a dozen eggs or a slab of butter when I realize we’ve run out, but I’m glad to have the FreshDirect solution for most things.

This past order they had acorn squash on sale.  I usually would just roast it and throw on some butter and brown sugar,  however, with my super-duper new kitchen I wanted to do something a bit more special.  FreshDirect had a recipe suggestion of acorn squash with fresh cranberries and baked apples.  Done.  I went to the handy shopping list and got all the ingredients I needed.  My only regret is that I just got one squash and not more! (Oh and if anyone has any great ideas for what to do with the remaining huge bag of fresh cranberries other than making sauce, I’m all ears!)

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RECIPE
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(Since I only had one squash, I cut most of the recipe in about 1/4)

Ingredients:

  • ·      4 small acorn squash
  • ·      2 medium apples, unpeeled, chopped
  • ·      1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • ·      1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • ·      2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • ·      1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • ·      1 tablespoon butter, melted


Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut squash lengthwise into halves and discard seed. Arrange squash cut side down in a baking dish and add 1/2-inch water. Bake for 40 minutes.
  3. Combine apples, cranberries, brown sugar, almonds, orange juice, and margarine in a bowl and mix well. Turn squash cut side up and spoon apple mixture into squash cavities. Bake for 30 minutes.

Pho Sho

16 Nov

Yes… I do know how terrible that title is.  And I love bad jokes (I owe that to my father).

When my coworker said she was ordering from L’Annam, a Vietnamese place on 3rd Ave at 28th Street, I knew I was jumping on the trendy train and ordering Pho.  It also helped that it was a cold, rainy NYC day… so hearty soup sounded perfect.

I’ve had Pho once before, but it was at the restaurant and they served it fully prepared.  I was disappointed by it, but informed quickly that there is something about it when you are served the raw meat that you then pour the hot soup over to cook.  This order provided me with two containers… one of the fillin’s with some cooked meat and some raw meat and one container of hot soup.  It wasn’t quite as hot as it probably should have been, however, it did the job to get my meat cooked well enough that it tasted like fresh roast beef.


It was definitely good, and I loved the thai basil on top, however, I’m still not sure that I get what all the fuss is about.  I mean it’s damn good soup, but why are people so terrified of it?  Because it says oxtail?  I’ve eaten far stranger!

It’s hard to judge a restaurant purely on soup takeout, however, I will say that it I do recommend this place for Pho in the very small comparison test I’ve had.

My first attempt at Osso Buco

13 Nov

I have an affinity for Osso Buco that goes beyond normal.  I try not to think about it too much, as the extra layer under my chin doesn’t need any more fatty goodness and marrow, however, when FreshDirect had it on sale, I couldn’t resist.  I really wasn’t sure how to make it, so I found a recipe with a picture that reminded me of the ones I have preferred (most notably at Montenapo and Becco, as well as the lamb one at Charles).

The recipe wound up being very simple and basic, actually.  The only thing it really requires is time.  2.5 hours of braising made it clearly a Sunday meal.




I paired it with a quick prepare, microwavable side from Fresh Direct (“Sides in a Snap” Mascarpone and Mushroom Risotto with Chives) and a steamed artichoke dipped in Roasted Garlic Butter. Adding roasted garlic to butter for dipping is my new favorite way to eat artichokes.  There are few things I find more easily delightful to make than roasted garlic.


The final meal was a great combination, and the Osso Buco was good, but it just wasn’t great.  I guess I really shouldn’t compare my first attempt with restaurants that are known for making it great… but I still wanted more.  It was perfectly tender but the meat itself just didn’t have the same flavor.  I’m not sure if this was the fault of the cut or my preparation.  But I will try again and work to improve it to ❤ caliber.

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RECIPE
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Osso Buco

Ingredients:

  • ·      1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • ·      2 teaspoons salt
  • ·      1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ·      2 pounds veal shank
  • ·      3 tablespoons butter
  • ·      3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ·      1 cup chopped onion
  • ·      1 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • ·      1/2 cup chopped celery (I omitted due to hatred)
  • ·      2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ·      1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ·      1 cup water
  • ·      1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ·      1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ·      3 sprigs fresh parsley (I used dried. Seemed fine)
  • ·      1 bay leaf

Directions:

1.         In a shallow dish, stir together flour, salt, and black pepper. Dredge meat in seasoned flour. In a large skillet, melt butter with oil over medium heat. Brown meat. Remove meat from pan, and set aside.

2.         Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to drippings in pan. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes.

3.         Stir in tomato sauce, water, basil, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Return meat to pan. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Cover, and cook for 2 1/2 hours.

“Fast” Food near Port Authority

11 Nov

I now live pretty close to Port Authority, which is known for having pretty bad food selections.  I have been pretty pleased with some new offerings in the area (especially Montenapo in the NY Times building).  We needed two quick meals this weekend, so I decided upon Pick-A-Pita (now on 8th Ave between 39th and 40th) and Schnippers (also in the NY Times building on the corner of 8th Ave and and 41st). 

Schnippers is a place that I have been to a few times and REALLY enjoy.  They remind me a bit of Johnny Rockets but not a chain and no singing involved.  Their burgers are great and exactly the way I like them (with lots of extra flavorful goodies on top).  I usually get the Schnippers Classic (cheese blend, carmelized onions, bacon, arugula, and Schnippers sauce) but the Hickory Bacon Blue Burger (bacon, blue cheese, crispy onions, hickory BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato, and Schnippers sauce) always sounded good.  Luckily Mike ordered the Hickory Bacon Blue so I could stick with my Classic.  One bite of Mike’s burger, however, and I’m sold!  The blue cheese was so. good. 

The Classic:

The Hickory Bacon Blue

One of my favorite parts of Schnippers is their sweet potato fries.  They come with a maple dipping sauce and it is SO good I could eat it with a spoon.

They’re also known for having great sloppy joes.

Total Nom Points: 7.5 out of 10

Next up was Pick-A-Pita as a quick lunch before starting to install a divider in the new apartment.  Pick-A-Pita used to be through a freight elevator in a tiny little back kitchen area.  It was always VERY tasty, but there was something fun about going through the elevator to get falafel.  They moved to a new, bigger location on 8th Ave between 39th and 40th, and I stubbornly believed it lost some luster with the move and haven’t eaten there since.  Knowing my party loves falafel, I figured it was as good a time as any to see if their falafel still lived up to expectations now that it wasn’t mysterious.  Luckily, the food hasn’t changed.  The location is actually quite nice with beatiful tin ceilings and a huge mirrored wall.  Tons of open seating and a little more room to maneuver as you pick from their salads.

Both my dad and I got the falafel with hummus pita and Mike went with the Shawafel (half shawarma and half falafel).  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed our pitas.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Nizza Pizza

9 Nov

Continuing our round-up of restaurants within 10 blocks of our old or new apartments while all our kitchen stuff was packed, we wanted to try Five Napkin Burger.  We were going to meet friends for drinks at 9pm, so when we saw a huge line of waiting patrons for Five Napkin, we decided to walk back down 9th Ave and Stumble Upon something.  Nizza was on the same block (9th between 44th and 45th) so we decided to try it.

They had a wine on special and offered me a sample.  I went for it and REALLY liked it.  So much so that I asked the waitress to write it down.  It wasn’t until I was in a wine store a bit later that I realized she only wrote down the type of wine and not the brand (duh).  So all I know was that it was a 2005 Valpolicella Superiore from Veneto, Italy.  We tried another one of this type and it was good, but not as good.  Oh well.  Mike got a Negroni (made with Campari, Gin, and Vermouth). It wasn’t my cup of tea, but Mike seemed to think it was okay.

The bread was warm and came with what seemed like a blue cheese spread/butter of some kind.  It was quite tasty.

They had Braised Artichoke Hearts on the menu.  If you know me, you know I had to order it. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t great.  The heart had some flavor, but overall it was a bland artichoke that the extras added little to.  I am a very harsh artichoke critic, however.

Mike got the spaghetti with sausage and meatballs.  He cleaned his plate before I even got halfway through my entree, so it must have been good!  I think he had some ordering envy again, however, as he drooled a bit when mine came out.

I ordered the Carciofo Pizza that came with tomato, roasted artichokes, goat cheese, parmesan & ligurian olives.  It was delicious!  Perfectly crispy and flavorful crust with great toppings.  Again, the roasted artichokes were pretty bland, but the rest of the flavors were great.  I even was full enough on three pieces to offer my last to Mike, who happily accepted.

Overall, Nizza is a good selection in the over-crowded area of Hell’s Kitchen.  We enjoyed our meal but it wasn’t anything amazing.

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

“Whatever Was Leftover in the Freezer Mish-Mash”

5 Nov

I packed up everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, about 5 days before the move.  I thought I would make a soup with everything left in the freezer, however, I packed my immersion blender AND big pot… so that idea was out the window.  So instead I heated up all the frozen goodies I had left and threw it all together with cheese (because cheese makes everything better).  It actually turned out quite delicious. It included cauliflower, artichoke hearts, and brussel sprouts as well as Purdue Chicken “Short Cuts” (all from the freezer).  I bought some sticky rice for a few dollars at the local Thai restaurant and topped it all with melted cheddar cheese. Put it all together and v’oila! The “Whatever Was Leftover in the Freezer Mish-Mash” was born.

It was VERY tasty (I was surprised by this since I usually am not a huge fan of frozen vegetables).  I will probably make it again even if I don’t have to.  It paired especially well with whatever beer was leftover in the fridge!