Archive | February, 2010

Crustlesss Ham and Egg Tarts

26 Feb

I had seen this recipe a while back and was going to make it for the last family brunch, however, my sister doesn’t like ham, so I filed it away.  When I decided to have a brunch for six but knew I’d have very limited prep and cooking time, I pulled this one back out.  It has to be one of the easiest and most impressive looking brunch recipes I’ve ever seen!

You get sliced ham from the deli (go for the better stuff since it’s a big part of the dish) and lay it into greased muffin cups.  My ham was a bit thin, so I doubled up slices to prevent breakage.

Then you crack an egg in each and place a tomato in each cup.

Sprinkle with cheese.

And bake!  Voila!

It not only looked great, but it tasted great!  It looks so fancy, so it’s perfect for brunch, but it’s so quick and easy that it could definitely be an anytime breakfast!

You can find the full recipe at this link.  I went without the chives, and they tasted just fine. 🙂

 

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Tilapia with San Marzano Tomatoes

24 Feb

Usually I find tilapia quite… bland.  So to give it some pop, I decided to throw some San Marzano tomatoes on top with some basil.

Now if you haven’t heard of San Marzano tomatoes, let me open up your world for a moment… I was reading some blogs singing the praises of these special tomatoes for a while and my mom was a fan.  In my perpetual childhood need to deny that anything my mother likes could possibly be good… I was anti for a while.  But then I tried them.  WOW! They’re like the best, ripest, juiciest tomatoes you’ve ever had and they come out of a CAN! (A very expensive can… but worth it)


The parm on top was just perfect (we kept one off for a non-cheese eater).

And yes… again with the rice pilaf.  What can I say? I love them!  Too bad they aren’t too good for you… but they’re not THAT bad for you… right? 🙂


The simple dinner: LAMB!

22 Feb

I have blogged about this recipe before, however, every time I make lamb I am reminded about how incredibly easy and FAST it is.  I was always quite intimidated by lamb (especially a huge rack of it!) but it’s just so easy.  The only thing I forgot was to moisten the corn meal so it stayed a bit dry (and I added all the mustard this time rather than halfing it… which was upsetting to me as a mustard hater but Mikey liked it)


We paired it with a rice pilaf that is always delicious and easy.

And I had some leftover butternut squash soup. But I wanted a veggie…


So what is that? It’s canned peas with shredded cheese. DELISH! (and sooo easy)

Raviolo Inspired by Iron Chef Batali

19 Feb

I haven’t been bashful here about my complete love for food shows and famous chefs.  So when Iron Chef put out a special of Batali and Emeril vs Flay and White House Chef Cristeta Comerford with food from the White House garden I was as giddy as a squirrel with an acorn.  Then I watched Batali make a raviolo (basically a giant ravioli) filled with sweet potato and ricotta with an EGG in the middle.  I swear I swooned aloud.  I quickly vowed to make these.

I couldn’t find much of a recipe (the one on Food Network is more complex and uses spinach instead of sweet potato) so I kind of just made it up as I went along.  I boiled up some sweet potatoes and them mashed them with ricotta, brown sugar, and a pinch of nutmeg and just added items until it tasted right.

I used the same pasta recipe as last time but ran it through on 5 a few more times to make it a wee bit thinner.

Even Mike (“Magic Hands”) got in on the action and helped me with extra hands for the rolling stage.

I then spread the sheet on a floured surface.

Spooned the sweet potato mixture on and used the back of my spoon to make a well.

I then cracked an egg into the well.

Put some egg wash “glue” around the filling and then folded the sheet over to create a pocket. I used my fingers to seal the edges and then used a pizza cutter to slice them apart.

I was soooo nervous that they would fall apart in the pot of water.

Since they were GINORMOUS!

And I had a lot of leftover filling and dough (more than I had eggs) so I made some littler guys without the egg.

SOOO easy and so much fun to make.


I cooked them up and was careful to lower them into the pot and scoop them out. But they all held up perfectly! 

The first night we put brown butter on them, however, we had tomato sauce with the leftovers the next night and actually preferred this.  (We also had some delicious, easy to make, pan seared scallops the first night).

I was SO excited to cut it open. It just oozed out like a perfect poached egg.

It was ALMOST as good as I had imagined.  Next time I will try to see if I can use less filling and still have enough of a well for the egg (they were just TOO big) and leave less side room around the filling where the pasta folded over.  I’ll also be sure to serve it with tomato sauce.

This was so easy to do, yet looked so impressive.  Some day I will wow someone (besides Magic Hands) with this. 

Do not fear the pie

17 Feb

I guess I learned how to make a pie before I learned that it was something to fear. So many people I know say they don’t make pies because they are terrified of making crust. So below I’ve broken down the steps for how to make a pie crust.

Now while I don’t LOVE my crusts, it seems they are quite popular amongst my friends (I just don’t think they have enough flavor). Texture-wise it’s always pretty good… flaky without being too crumbly. But this recipe works well… so I don’t mess with it too much. If you want to make a pie with 2 crusts or a lattice crust, it’s always good to double it. Cut up 1 cup of butter (2 sticks) into small cubes and place in freezer for at least 15 minutes. Prepare about 1/2 cup of ice water and set aside. Combine 2 cups flour with 1 tsp. salt. Remove butter from freezer and combine with flour mixture (see tip below) until it looks like crumbles the size of small peas (don’t be too aggressive with this). Then stir in ice water in by the teaspoon and mix until dough forms. At first it will look like this will never happen, then suddenly: DOUGH! If you’ve doubled the recipe, divide into two dough balls and flatten into pancakes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, 4 or overnight is better.

The secret to pies, as you’ll hear over and over again, is COLD. As far as I have learned, the cold butter stays more solid within the flour mixture and you need those pockets of butter to make flaky dough. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see the little pieces of butter in the dough.

I have heard many pieces of advice about keeping everything cold and it’s all rather daunting if you read it. Personally, I’ve always had success with cutting the butter into small cubes and putting it into the freezer before mixing everything together. A lot of people fear a food processor for the warmth of the blades and other people swear by them. I’ve never had one, so I just give it a quick spin in the Kitchenaid or pull out the pastry blender.

After the dough has been in the fridge, take out a dough pancake and place it on a floured countertop or smooth surface. Rolling out dough takes time and patience but I find it meditative. You want to start in the center and roll out a corner. Then pick it up and turn it 90 degrees and roll it again. Continue this, making sure the surface below is well floured so it doesn’t stick.

Once the dough is at the desired diameter, flour both sides lightly and then fold in half and then half again (you can also roll it on the rolling pin, however, I find the folding method easier).

Pick up the folded dough and lay into a quarter of the pie plate.

Unfold the half.

Then unfold again and gently push the dough into the corners of the pie plate.

You can leave the overhang and fold it over for a fluted edge (another pie post coming soon with that) or you can cut down the edges of the pie for a blunt edge (just rub your hand firmly against the rim and let the edge of the pie plate do the cutting for you).

If you are making a fruit pie, it’s good to add a top (I personally like lattice work).

After you roll out the 2nd sheet, cut it into strips (I use a pizza cutter).  I learned an easy way to make lattice but completely forgot it when I was making this one (d’oh!)  So don’t follow my directions below, follow these and lattice will be a piece of cake (errr… pie): http://smittenkitchen.com/2006/11/latticed-and-loony/

I started all wrong but it worked out in the end.


After weaving all the strips, I cut them down to the end of the pie pan.

Then I added a pie crust rim.

Then I drizzled the entire thing in the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture that went into the pie.

It baked up so lovely.  I will definitely be making this one again.

_________________________
RECIPE
_________________________

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie (see above)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 8 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored and sliced (this sounded like a LOT so I think I went with 3 apples, 1 pear, and cranberries)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.
  2. Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work of crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.
  3. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

Pacific Blues- Napa Valley

15 Feb

This trip was literally our last stop before starting our “eat healthy and go back to the gym” kick.  And we really did it to the max with all our epic eating (especially in Napa).  By the end of the last day, we just wanted a salad before heaing to the airport.  We were recommended to go to Pacific Blues which is in the same complex as Bottega.  It was very casual.

I went with the Cobb salad and it was just what I wanted.

Mike went with the Taco Salad and seemed to thoroughly enjoy.

Tough to judge a place on salads, even if they hit the spot.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Taylor’s Refresher- Napa Valley

12 Feb

We woke up so stuffed from the day before, that our last day of vacation left us without much desire to eat.  We were drinking, however, so we decided we should fill up quickly and then continue our wining.  We saw a very long line at Taylor’s Refresher the day before and when I looked it up, it was #1 on TripAdvisor… so we stopped.

It’s a little highway burger joint that (thankfully) has some heat laps on their outdoor tables.

We went with the garlic butter and parsley fries.  They were better than I even though! Totally delish.

I went with a special “burger” that had either chicken or pork and apple slaw.

Mike went with the patty melt that had a burger with swiss cheese, grilled onions, mayo, and dijon on grilled rye.  I heard no complaints from him.

As a fast food joint, Taylor’s is definitely a winner.  Definitely worth a stop for a quick bite if you’re in the area.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Bottega- Napa Valley

10 Feb

Well… we’ve finally made it.  The #1 question I was asked upon my return to the East Coast was “How was Bottega??”  Well… in case you didn’t get it from the Top 10 Noms of 2009, Michael Chiarello’s restaurant did NOT disappoint.

The ambiance was beautiful, though Mike and I were both surprised that the restaurant was in the middle of what we would term a “strip mall” (though much nicer).  I guess land there is so valuable that all of the places have to be on the same space!

We ordered Burrata Creamy mozzarella burrata with roasted butternut squash, caramelized mushroom & shallots, brown butter vinaigrette, balsamic caviar.  Um… HELLO!  I would like to go back in time so I can eat this again.

But then the entrees came.  Mike got the short ribs.  The flavor of these was so incredible that I had a tough time not asking for additional bites!  They were sensational.


I went with Wood Grilled Grass-Fed Lamb Rib Chops fresh figs with tarragon, fennel seeds, white balsamic vinegar, California olive oil, creamy ancient grain  .  OH SO GOOD! 

The hotel (which made the dinner reservation, and that we REALLY liked) had asked me if we were celebrating anything.  I tried to think of a good thing to say and mentioned we were celebrating our 2 year anniversary (it was 2 weeks prior).  I guess they really took it to heart and even told Bottega who did a lovely yet reserved nod to our celebration on our dessert plates (see photos below).

Looking at the menu is conflicting with my memory and the picture.  I THINK I ordered the chocolate and caramel tortino with espresso stracciatella gelato and milk chocolate peanut butter bar.  But now I see bananas in the picture below.  Hmmm.  Either way, it was REALLY good. If I hadn’t just had the tart at lunch from Mustards, it probably would have shined even more.

Mike got the apple and honey panzerotti with apple grappa mash, vanilla bean gelato, and pink peppercorn apple pearls.  Another hit!

Overall, this meal was just so enjoyable from first bite and every bite there after right up until the very sad moment when it ended.  They took such care with every little detail and it showed in every morsel of their food.  If you go to Napa, go to Bottega.

Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

One year of NYC Nom Nom

9 Feb

Today marks the one year anniversary of when I officially started NYC Nom Nom.

My first blog entries were definitely a “hello cyberspace!” entry without much substance.  It was a simple list of my current favorite restaurants in NYC followed up by my recipe for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars that everyone loves.

My favorite eating moments of the past year were WD50 and Thanksgiving.  I also won TWO meals: one at Fishtail from Foodbuzz and the other at Landmarc from Time Warner Center’s Circle of Taste (and won a cooking class at Williams Sonoma from them too!)  I even got to eat on a completely different continent for the first time.

As for the bad… I had a casualty of bread, had an absolutely terrible meal at a diner that some people love and some people hate, had my gallbladder removed, and was nearly killed by Co.

I also really learned how to cook this year.  I managed to find a love for brussel sprouts and learned how to make pasta.  I no longer can be accused of being such a bad cook that I hermetically seal pots.  I even won my last company’s Top Chef Competition.

It has been quite an adventure for me and I have loved this little side project and hope to continue it for a long time to come.

My friends, my family, and even my mom called ME for recipes and suggestions this past year.  My Grandma even asked me for a cooking tip last weekend when we all sat down to a wonderful, homemade meal together.  My Grandma taught me a lot about food (especially baking) and really taught me not just a love for food, but a love for the traditions of food, especially surrounded by family and loved ones.  She passed away the very next day after our family meal together.  I will be forever thankful for all she taught me and for that last meal we shared together.


Grandma Litty (May 26, 1927 – February 1, 2010) enjoying a banana cream pie on a boat in Colorado- 2007.

Mustards- Napa Valley

8 Feb

When I said I was going to San Francisco on Facebook, it was pretty unanimous that I should also go to Napa.  I had no idea they were so close, but I sure am glad they are!

On our second to last day, we rented a car early in the morning and drove up to Muir Woods (INCREDIBLY beautiful!) and then to Napa.  Our first stop was for lunch at Mustards Grill (recommended by Randi and Chris).

Our waiter was incredibly knowledgable about not only the menu but WINE!  As soon as I told him what kind of wine I liked, he said he had something perfect and he hit the nail on the head! Amazing wine.

He also recommended the “onion rings” which were more like onion straws.  They were actually quite tasty, but I probably wouldn’t order them again.

Mike and I both went with the special.  Mike got the lamb burger special with arugula, fontina, onions, and paprika aioli.  I couldn’t eat it due to the spicy factor, but Mike seemed to enjoy.

One of the specials also called to me as it had a number of my favorite ingredients in it.  Petrole Sole with brussel sprouts, chanterelles, golden beets, bacon, and blood orange vinaigrette.  It was delish!

This was a place that just screamed “get dessert here!”  Oh am I glad we did. Mike went with the rum golden raisin ice cream

But I chose right with a dessert that sounded absolutely irresistible: warm chocolate hazelnut truffle tart!  HOLY CRAP! This was probably one the best desserts I have EVER had. 

I almost picked this plate up to lick it.

Overall, the food was sensational and this was my favorite meal of the trip (up until our dinner that same night!)  The wine and entrees were great but that dessert just shot it over the top.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10