Friday, February 27, 2009

19 Bean Soup

Also known as Pasta E Fagioli. Hearty and delicious:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 cups onions, chopped
  • 1.5 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1/5 cups celery, chopped
  • 3 tbsp garlic (minced)
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cans beef broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • about 14oz various beans, barley, dried peas, veggies, etc. (I just use the 19-variety bag of dried beans from the grocery store)
  • bowtie pasta (your call how much you use)
  • grated parmesan cheese

In a large stock pan, heat oil and saute vegetables and garlic.

Add water, broth, beans, tomatoes and spices. Add any herbs now (I think I used parsley, oregano and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil.

Then just reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours or until the beans are tender, stirring frequently.

Add pasta, and simmer covered, until cooked through.

Salt & pepper to taste & top with grated parmesan cheese.

**I also added barley & 5oz of proscuitto**

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Vegetarian Minestrone

Made this tonight for family potluck. Healthy, easy and inexpensive. Vegetarian (as long as you use water instead of stock) and actually vegan if you leave out the cheese.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cups water (or chicken broth if you're not trying to keep it veg)
  • 2 cups diced zucchini
  • 1.5 cups cannellini beans (canned works fine)
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup of the smallest pasta you can find
  • 1/2 cup frozen white corn
  • 2 bay leaves
  • grated parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Add chopped onion & saute for 4 minutes or until just lightly browned.

Add water(or stock), zucchini, carrots, beans, celery, basil, bay leaf, oregano, salt, pepper, tomatoes, garlic & corn.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover & simmer on med-low for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add macaroni, cover & cook 10 more minutes.

Serve hot, topped with grated parmesan. Look how great it turned out!

Seven-Spice Vanilla Chai

This is so great because it makes my entire apartment smell lovely and spicy. It's an easy thing to throw together when someone calls at the last minute and says they're coming over or just for a nice lazy Sunday by the fire.
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 5-7 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp anise seed
  • 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • 1 black teabag (or 1 tsp black tea leaves)
  • 2 cups water
  • cream, half & half, milk or condensed milk - to taste
  • I also add a splash of vanilla to mine. But it's up to you.

Combine spices & water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil & simmer three minutes. I usually let mine simmer much longer than that. I love the way it smells!

When you're ready to drink it, add the tea & steem for 3 minutes.

Strain into teapot or cups & stir in milk or cream.

Yes I actually took this picture!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fennel Grapefruit Salad with Shaved Parmesan & Micro Greens

I am on a real fennel kick lately. I know it goes well with grapefruit. That's all I know. But I made this salad tonight and it was a real hit with my best friend. But then, it's a best friends job to say they like your food. Well, let me know.

  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 2 grapefruits
  • micro greens (they have these at Trader Joes and most other places. Or just use arugula)
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • raw sugar
  • fresh shaved parmesan cheese
  • fresh ground black pepper

There's no amounts on here - it's up to you. Basically shave the fennel (if you have a mandoline that will be perfect, otherwise just cut it as thin as possible). Then cut the grapefuit into slices (with the rind and white stuff gone).

Whisk the oil, vinegar and a teaspoon or so of the sugar in a bowl.

Place the fennel and grapefruit on the plate, micro greens in the middle. Sprinkle the parmesan on top. Drizzle viaigrette on top and grind pepper over the salad before serving.

Look, I actually took a picture for once:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chicken Curry Lentil Soup

Ok I made this up on the fly last winter but it turned out great. I didn't put down any of the measurements but you don't need them. I'm serious - you don't! Just add the ingredients in the amounts that look good to you. It's a soup, so all you have to do is add more broth if there's too much seasoning, and boil it down to reduce it if there's not enough to it. Ok? Here we go:

  • 1/2 lb chicken breast strips (or any chicken, meat or even tofu would work fine)
  • 1-2 cups lentils
  • 3-4 cans chicken broth
  • minced garlic
  • stewed tomatoes
  • vegetable flakes (you can get big bags of these at farmer's markets!)
  • curry powder
  • 1 whole clove
  • dried parsley flakes

Bring broth to a boil & add lentils. Then just add everything else and taste as you go (except the raw chicken, don't taste that until it's cooked through!) haha

Squash Casserole

I know it doesn't sound delicious, but it is. It's similar to cheesy potatoes but with less carbs. No worries, it's still got a good amount of fat.

  • 4 medium yellow squash (chopped into small squares)
  • one large onion, chopped
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 small container of sour cream (sorry, it's my mom's recipe and this is all she specified)
  • 2 cups Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing
  • garlic powder
  • butter
  • salt

Cut up yellow squash & onion and pan boil, drain well.

In a bowl, mix equal portions of the cream of chicken and the sour cream (ok so there's the amount for the sour cream). Season with salt.

Spray 8x8 pan, top with extra stuffing, dot with butter and bake on 350 for 30 minutes to crisp top & heat through.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

French Onion Soup

It takes a lot of ingredients, but homemade french onion soup is kinda the bees knees. Don't believe me? Try this and get back to me. Last time I made this I was recovering from shoulder surgery, so you'll have to let me know if it's good or if I was just on painkillers.

  • 10 sweet onions (like Vidalias), or a combination of sweet and red onion
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 10oz canned beef consomme
  • 10oz canned chicken broth
  • 10oz apple cider (unfiltered is the best)
  • Bouquet garni: fresh sprigs of thyme, bay leaf & parsley
  • 1 loaf country style bread
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • splash of cognac
  • 1 cup fontina or gruyere cheese, grated

Trim the ends off each onion, then slice from end to end. Remove peel & finely slice into half moon shapes.

Set electric skillet to 300 and add butter. Once the butter has melted add a layer of onions and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat layering onions and salt until all the onions are in the skillet. Do not try stirring until onions have sweatted (shut up, I know that's not a word) down, for 15-20 minutes.

After that, stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany & reduced to approximately 2 cups. This should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not worry about burning.

Add enough wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency. Add consomme, cider and herbs. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Place oven rack in top 1/3 of oven and heat broiler. Cut bread into rounds large enough to fit the mouth of oven safe soup crocks. Place the slices on a baking sheet and put it under the broiler for ONE MINUTE.

Season soup with salt & pepper. Splash in the cognac. Ladle soup into crocks, leaving one inch to the lip. Place bread round, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese.

Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden (1-2 minutes).

Swedish Meatballs

This is another recipe from my mother (which means some of the ingredients don't have specifications for amounts). But this is hard to mess up.

  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup water or milk
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2/3 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp minced onion
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp shortening
  • sour cream

Blend soup with water (or milk). Combine 1/4 cup soup mixture, beef, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, parsley & salt; shape into balls about 1" in diameter.

Brown meatballs in shortening. Pour remaining soup over meatballs.

Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. OR you can bake them at 350 for 20 minutes. Whatever you do, just make sure you pour off some of that excess grease before serving. Over what? Massive egg noodles work for me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Granola Bars

Like granola bars? Hate corn syrup? I'm here for you. These are really really good - and I'm honestly not the trail mix type. They're great and you can change the fruit & nuts to whatever suits you. Great to make before a camping trip. No one will want to eat that crap in the prepackaged individual wrappers when they see you have this action.

  • 8oz old-fashioned rolled oats (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 oz raw sunflower seeds (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3oz sliced almonds (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 oz wheat germ (about 1 cup)
  • 6oz honey (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 3/4 oz dark brown sugar (about 1/4 cup packed)
  • 1oz unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 1/2 oz chopped dried fruit (I used a mix of gold raisins, blueberries & cranberries)

Butter a 9x9 glass baking dish & set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan.

Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla & salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week. I stole the picture. Can you really say you're surprised?

3-Ingredient Sausage Balls

Another of my mom's. Three ingredients. Yes really. It's delicious - feed this to everyone you know. Ok not the vegetarians, but everyone else.

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 10oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1lb package hot sausage (any kind, beef or pork)

Combine everything together (uncooked) & roll into balls (about 1-2 inches big)

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Broccoli Salad...with Bacon

Another mom-recipe of mine! Definitely worth passing on. It's great without bacon, too. There's a healthy way to do this (low fat cheese, sugar substitute, light mayo, etc) or the full on fat way. Your call.

  • 1 large bunch fresh broccoli, cleaned and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped (any sweet onion works well too. Especially Vidalia)
  • 1 pkg. shredded cheddar cheese (I know, that could mean anything. Use what you like)
  • 1 lb bacon, fried & crumbled (you can also use those fake bacon bits you find in the produce section, although who knows whats in that)


  • 1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute...I guess)
  • 1 cup mayo (light mayo works fine too)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar

Just combine & toss with the dressing mix. The end.

Chicken Divan

Chicken casserole with broccoli & cheese. Your mom probably made something similar. This one has an irresistible crumb topping. It's the one my mom makes :-)

  • two 10oz pkg. broccoli or one bunch fresh
  • 2 cups sliced chicken or 3 whole breasts
  • 2 cans Campbell's cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup mayonaisse
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and more if you love cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (any kind is fine, I think my mom uses italian)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • paprika

Cook the broccoli. Then layer broccoli & cooked chicken in a large cake pan. Then, mix the cream of chicken soup, mayo, lemon juice & curry. Pour sauce mix over broccoli & chicken.

Sprinkle cheese on top.

Mix crumbs & butter, place on top. You can just sprinkle the crumbs over the top and then cut the butter into tiny chunks and layer that over the crumbs.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, uncovered.

Sprinkle with paprika.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Homemade Chicken Stock

When my kitchen counter looks like this, you know I'm gearing up for something:

I do this so often that I don't even have a recipe for it. I will provide the guidelines given to me by my mother that were given to her by my great-grandmother, but, as in any good recipe, the rest is up to you. Therefore, this has components, rather than real ingredients.

  • Chicken meat, pieces, bones, skin: You want pieces with lots of connective tissue, bones (especially roasted bones so a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store is great), wings & necks are good as they have lots of skin and such as well. This is going to give you the gelatin that makes for an excellent stock.
  • Herbs: Entirely up to you, but you want to use what you have, what's easy and what's available. Any time I buy fresh herbs and veggies for a recipe, I add the parts I haven't used to my stock bag - I keep a freezer bag in the icebox full of everything from celery tops to parsnip & carrot pieces and leftover parsley. Then when I want to make stock, I just throw the contents of the bag into the pot with the chicken. It's nice not to waste a thing. Some herbs that are especially friendly to chicken are rosemary, dill, marjoram, parsley, thyme, sage and bay leaf. But just use what you have and what you like.
  • Veggies: Contents of stock bag as well as other fresh stuff. Again, up to you but some good things to include would of course be the classic mirepoix of carrots, celery & onion. Also can use turnips, parsnips, leeks, garlic, shallots...
  • Spices: I usually add black peppercorns. You also may want to play with other spices such as allspice and cloves (especially in winter).

Ok. Put whatever chicken you're using into the pot. Today, I'm using a stripped rotisserie chicken from Safeway as well as a big bag of frozen uncooked chicken wings.

Then add enough water to cover the chicken and put it on high heat to bring to a boil. While that's heating up, you want to start adding your veggies. I had a full stock bag in the freezer so I used all kinds of things: celery, carrots, a parsnip, leeks, onions, garlic and a small stalk of lemongrass (what, too much?).

Then add your spices - I put in a pretty generous handful of black peppercorns and called it a day.

Lastly, toss in any dried, fresh or frozen herbs you have on hand. I had leftover fresh parsley that I'd frozen, so I added all of that as well as tons of dried stuff: 3 bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, sage, celery seed & marjoram. In addition, since I'm planning to use my stock for matzoball soup, I added dill seed as well as lots of dill. Good matzoball soup always has tons of dill. But if you were making some other kind of soup, you would include herbs & spices that would work with those flavors. Anyway, when I was done, I had one full pot:

Once you've brought it to a boil, reduce the heat and keep it somewhere between simmer and boiling (depending on how closely you're willing to watch it). It will take at least 2-3 hours to cook, give or take. In the meantime, you'll see all this yellow liquid fat gather at the top:

That, is schmaltz (that's yiddish for "chicken fat"). Rendered chicken fat. Skim that off. You can use it in a lot of different ways. You can fry things in it, saute in it, hell some people even spread it on toast. Mine is going straight into the matzoballs (קניידלעך kneydlach) for my soup. Behold:

Ok, back to the stock. You know it's done when the meat is falling off the bone and everything looks completely pulverized and gross:

Now, just strain it through a very fine sieve, throw out the solids (you may want to resersve some chicken for your soup, or feed the chicken-soaked veggies to the dog) and you should have lovely lovely stock. At this point, you could just use it immediately in a million different recipes (soup, sauces, risotto, etc.) or you could freeze it and hang on to it for when you need it. I'm also not above just drinking it from a mug on a cold night.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

CityZen - Heaven in 12 Courses

Gia-Ninh and I planned a big night out to CityZen to celebrate my birthday this year. This place is so far beyond amazing that rather than describe it, I will show you. We went for the 6 course tasting menu with the sommelier's wine pairings. Once we got there, we found another entree, side and dessert we chose to add to our gastronomic tour of rapture. Then the chef sends out a couple of fun treats to get you started (def: \a-'myuz bush\ [Fr. amuse the mouth] 1: a small bite before the meal begins. 2: greeting of the Chef de cuisine.)

Anyway, before we knew it, we'd had 12 courses with wines and beers and 6 kinds of homemade breads and our heads were spinning. Here is a photo journal of that trip. Sorry the pics are a little dark but it was so dark in the restaurant and the flash photos were even worse. Also we looked really cheesy taking flash photos of every dish.

1. Amuse Bouche - Mushroom gnocchi with dried porcini. Mussel cream.
2. Second Amuse Bouche - Seared Scallop, Braised Fennel, Saffron Butter. 3. First Course - Yellowfin Tuna Ceviche. Spiced Medjool Date, Candied Almonds, Watercress and Sour Orange-Cardamom Vinaigrette. 4. Second Course - Path Valley Farms Sweet Potato Gnocchi. Italian Chestnuts, Staymen Apple, Shaved Truffles, and Brown Butter Gastrique.

5. Third Course - Crispy Eden Farm Pork Belly. Asian Pear Ravioli. Arugula & Apple Sherry Gastrique. 6. Fourth Course - A play on the classic Bloody Mary - Pan Seared Diver Scallops Au Poivre. Horseradish Bread Pudding. Roasted Celery. Tomato Water.

7. Fifth Course - Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster. Matignon. Applewood Smoked Bacon. Parsnip Puree and Red Wine Bearnaise.

8. Sixth Course - Pan Roasted Rib-Eye of Elysian Fields Farm Lamb. Toasted Pine Nuts, Cauliflower Florettes, Crystallized Orange and Zakia's Harissa Oil.

This also came with CityZen's famous Parker House Rolls that are teensy and buttery and come in a little handpainted wooden box:

9. Cheese Course - The Fromager brought over a trolly with maybe 30 cheeses on it and discussed what we like, dislike and made some suggestions. In that time, we noticed tiny handmade fruit purees being placed on the table to accompany the cheeses. And instead of a wine pairing - we got beer! A flight of beers, actually. A Hefe Weizen, a Belgian Ale and a nice dark Stout. Anyone interested in the actual wines and beers paired with all of this is welcome to email me for it. I have the list. :)

10. Intermezzo - Pear Sorbet. Candied Fennel. Molasses Crumble.

11. Dessert - Black Bottom Banana Pie with Tanariva Chocolate Crust and Banana Cream (Gia-Ninh's)

And for me, the Irish Coffee Souffle with Chocolate Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches:

12. Before we left, they brought us a birthday glass of Moscato & this tray of treats including Raspberry Pate de Fruit, Peppermint Marshmallows and Chocolate Hazelnut Candybars (all handmade):

I'm not going into all the detail of how insanely amazingly wonderfully life-changingly good all of this was, but please, if you have a foodie side, consider dinner at CityZen. Here was Gia-Ninh's reaction:

Amazement. Elation. Euphoria.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mom's Cheesy Potatoes

Take this recipe, print it out, have it laminated and put it in a safety deposit box. Because I'm so attached to it I may take it back down and hoard it all for myself. This is one of my most favorite home style treats my mom makes for holidays (and my birthday if I bug her enough). How does one quantify the goodness that is Mom's Cheesy Potatoes? All the good things of traditional homestyle cookery - loads of carbs, fat and sour cream (added with wild abandon! Wild. Abandon.) and a lot of love. This is the stuff of dreams.

Now these are some old school ingredients:

  • 2 lb bag frozen hashbrowns, thawed
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • one 10.5oz can cream of chicken soup
  • dash of pepper
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • one 12oz container of sour cream
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Topping (more old school action here):

  • 2 cups CORN FLAKES, crushed
  • 1/4 cup butter (yes, more butter), melted

First off, how awesome is this gonna be? You can already tell, right?

Mix all ingredients together (except topping) in a bowl. Transfer to an 8 1/2 x 11 pan. Then just sprinkle the crushed corn flakes on top and drizzle with melted butter.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Now go call your mother!

Strawberry-Buttermilk Gelato

Friends, spring is coming. The weather today is proof of that fact. So why not hang on to this recipe for when you take the kids to the strawberry patch in a couple months! PS - I made this a few years ago and was told "it's not really gelato". You tell me.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 cups quartered strawberries (about 4 pints)
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk

Combine sugar and water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour into a large bowl & cool completely.

Place strawberries in a blender and process until smooth. add strawberry puree and buttermilk to sugar syrup; stir to combine.

You guessed it: pour it into your handy ice cream maker for about 20-25 minutes.

Pssst - only 134 calories per half cup and almost 2g of fiber for those of you who count such things. I kind of don't.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Roasted Vegetable & Tofu Napoleon

Tofu gets a bad rap. Seriously. It's inexpensive, it keeps forever, and it goes with everything. It's also high in protein, low in fat, and I think it tastes really good too. Give it a chance. This is the first tofu dish I am posting but there are more to come. Tofu got me through college. Hey, (wo)man cannot live on Ramen alone. I believe I got this from Weight Watchers several years ago. It's healthy, flavorful and sure to please your inner vegan:

  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled
  • cooking spray
  • 1-2 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium yellow pepper
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu
  • 3 tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 9 tbsp fresh parsley
  • 9 large garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/8 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425.

Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.

Slice onion in half and then cut each half into quarters, or smaller. Slice eggplant, zucchini (diagonally), and peppers into 1/4 inch slices. Slice tofu across into 8 slices, about 1/4 inch thick.

Place onions on one half of a baking sheet and peppers on the other half. Place eggplant & zucchini separately on second baking sheet (I actually needed 3). Coat tops of vegetables with cooking spray.

Roast 15 minutes and then rotate baking sheets, roast 15 minutes more. Turn off oven and leave vegetables in oven to keep warm.

Place rosemary, parsley and garlic in a food processor; add oil & lemon juice & blend until smooth - about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

Spread about one heaping tablespoon of herb mixture onto both sides of each tofu slice. coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Place tofu in heated pan and brown both sides of tofu, about 2-4 minutes per side.

To serve, place once slice of tofu on a plate. One top of tofu, stack one slice of eggplant, one slice of red pepper & one wedge of red onion; top with another slice of tofu & then top what with more yellow pepper & zucchini & another piece of red onion.

Drizzle with remaining herb mixture. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Stovetop Mac & Cheese w/ Roasted Tomatoes

I'm not on a diet, but this is surprisingly not too terrible for you considering the fact that it's mac & cheese. It's about 35o calories a serving. I don't remember where I got it, but it's not hard as long as you're willing to roast the tomatoes.

  • 3 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • cooking spray
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3oz sourdough bread, torn into pieces
  • 1tsp butter, melted
  • 12oz large elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (more! more!)
  • 1/4 cup egg substitude (like Eggbeaters)
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper
  • one 12oz can of evaporated, low fat milk

Preheat oven to 375.

Place tomatoes in a 13x9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with black pepper. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.

While tomatoes cook, place bread in a food processor, pulse 2 times or till crumbly. Toss crumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle the crumbs on a baking sheet & bake at 375 for 12 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently.

Cook macaroni in boiling water 7 minutes; drain. Return macaroni to pan; place over medium-low heat.

Add cheese & remaining ingredients; cook 4 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring constantly.

Stir in tomatoes. Sprinkle each serving with about 3 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Coq Au Vin

Classic chicken in red wine, also known as Coq Au Vin. This has a ton of ingredients but none of them are hard to find. It's usually a big hit although I'm starting to stray away from cooking with red wine. I'll still cook with white, but red is so acidic that I think I need to go buy some Prilosec before I make food with red wine again. Too much info? Ah well, it's a free recipe. A free purple recipe, even.

  • 8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 quarter chicken pieces
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt, plus more for chicken
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • one 1lb bag of frozen pearl onions, thawed
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, halved
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled & cut into large rounds (thirds)
  • 3 carrots, peeled & cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2.5 cups full-bodied red wine
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar

Cook the bacon over medium heat in olive oil in a large dutch oven until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Season the chicken pieces generously with the salt & pepper and brown the pieces in two batches in the bacon drippings (mmm...bacon drippings...). Set aside.

Pour off about half of the pan drippings, then add the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Cook over medium-high heat until browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and carrots. Add the 1.5 tsp salt & the flour, stir to coat the vegetables.

Pour in the wine and chicken broth, stir until you don't see any lumps of flour. Add the chicken, thyme, bay leaves, and half of the bacon to the stew. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

Cover and braise until the chicken and vegetables are almost tender, about 40 minutes. Uncover and cook until sauce thickens, about 10 more minutes.

Stir in the parsley and vinegar. Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper, to taste, and search with the remaining bacon.

Balsamic Reduction

Reductions are just what they sound like - you're just going to cook it down until it's a more concentrated version of itself. We'll do a red wine reduction another day - those are great too. But the step-by-step makes it fool proof. This can go over steamed veggies or play around and add it to other dishes (steak & scallops both come to mind)!
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt (to taste)

Add vinegar to saucepan and deglaze by boiling over high heat. Then simmer till it's reduced about 1/4 cup. Remove from heat & whisk in butter & salt to taste.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Where Your Food Comes From (hint: I hope you like corn)...

I just started reading Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and really felt like sharing this (especially considering those wretched pro high-fructose corn syrup commercials that make me want to punch someone)...

"The great edifice of variety and choice that is an American supermarket turns out to rest on a remarkably narrow biological foundation comprised of a tiny group of plants that is dominated by a single species: Zea mays, the giant tropical grass most Americans know as corn. Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the steak. Corn feeds the chicken and the pig, the turkey and the lamb, the catfish and the tilapia and, increasingly, even the salmon, a carnivore by nature that the fish farmers are reengineering to tolerate corn. The eggs are made of corn. The milk and cheese and yogurt, which once came from dairy cows that grazed on grass, now typically come from Holsteins that spend their working lives indoors tethered to machines, eating corn.

Head over to the processed foods and you find ever more intricate manifestations of corn. A chicken nugget, for example, piles corn upon corn: what chicken it contains consists of corn, of course, but so do most of a nugget's other constituents, including the modified corn starch that glues the thing together, the corn four in the batter that coats it, and the corn oil in which it gets fried. Much less obviously, the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di-, and triglycerides, the attractive golden coloring, and even the citric acid that keeps the nugget "fresh" can all be derived from corn.

To wash down your chicken nuggets with virtually any soft drink in the supermarket is to have some corn with your corn. Since the 1980s virtually all the sodas and most of the fruit drinks sold in the supermarket have been sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) - after water, corn sweetener is their principal ingredient. Grab a beer for your beverage instead and you'd still be drinking corn, in the form of alcohol fermented from glucose refined from corn. Read the ingredients on the label of any processed food and, provided you know the chemical names it travels under, corn is what you will find. For modified or unmodified starch, for glucose syrup and maltodextrin, for crystalline fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and HFCS, for MSG and polyols, for the caramel color and xanthan gum, read: corn. Corn is the coffee whitener and Cheez Whiz, the frozen yogurt and TV dinner, the canned fruit and ketchup and candies, the soups and snacks and cake mixes, the frosting and gravy and frozen waffles, the syrups and hot sauces, the mayonnaise and mustard, the hot dogs and the bologna, the margarine and shortening, the salad dressings and the relishes and even the vitamins. (Yes, it's in the Twinkie, too). There are some forty-five thousand items in the average American supermarket and more than a quarter of them now contain corn. This goes for the nonfood items as well - everything from the toothpaste and cosmetics to the disposable diapers, trash bags, cleaners, charcoal briquettes, matches, and batteries, right down to the shine on the cover of the magazine that catches your eye by the checkout: corn.

Even in Produce on a day when there's ostensibly no corn for sale you'll nevertheless find plenty of corn: in the vegetable wax that gives the cucumbers their sheen, in the pesticide responsible for the produce's perfection, even in the coating on the cardboard it was shipped in. Indeed, the supermarket itself - the wallboard and joint compound, the linoleum and fiberglass and adhesives out of which the building itself has been built - is in no small measure a manifestation of corn."

You've got to be kidding...

Roasted Asparagus w/ Balsamic Vinegar

I'm not huge on asparagus. I don't like the bitter taste. But the vinegar cuts the bitter taste and makes it pretty good. Also, the larger the asparagus, the sweeter it is so look for bigger asparagus if you don't like the bitter dark greenness of it. I know I'm supposed to like green vegetables, but I don't have kids so I don't have to eat them. Anyway, this ain't bad.

  • 1 lb fresh asparagus
  • 2-3 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • fresh ground salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 475.

Wash, trim & peel asparagus.

In a single roasting pan, toss the asparagus with the olive oil & vinegar until coated well.

Spread asparagus out in a single layer & roast for 10 minutes until tender.

Season with salt & pepper.

Homestyle Roast Turkey Breast

I'm really trying to upload all the pictures I took of the amazing dinner Gia-Ninh and I had at CityZen on Friday, but we're having issues with them so I will post some other favorite recipes with stolen photos instead. Hopefully the CityZen pics will be up by tomorrow. In the meantime - homestyle roasted turkey breast - it doesn't have to be just for holidays, you can do this anytime you'll be at home all day to keep an eye on it. And you'll find some built-in shortcuts in here.

  • 1 whole turkey breast, bone-in (5-6 lbs)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 can turkey gravy
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325. Rinse turkey with cold water, pat dry. Trim excess fat.

Place breast-side-up, in a roaster pan with rack.

Juice lemon, pour juice into small batter bowl. Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Pour gravy mixture over turkey, coating well.

Bake 30min, baste turkey with pan juices. Continue baking 2 hours 30min to 3 hours, basting every 30 minutes until meat registers 170 degrees in the thickest part of the turkey & juices run clear.

For gravy, strain pan juices, skim off fat, if necessary.

Carve turkey into slices only have it has rested for at least 15 minutes. Serve with gravy.

A 5-6 lb turkey should yield about 10 servings.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chicken Piccata

I haven't made this lately but it's delicious and easy. Lots to it, though.

  • 2 large lemons
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed & trimmed
  • freshly ground salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp drained small capers
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley (dried works too)

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set large heat-proof plate on rack, and heat oven to 200.

Halve one lemon, pole to pole. Trim ends from one half and cut crosswise into slices 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick & set aside. Juice remaining half and whole lemon to obtain 1/4 cup juice; reserve.

Remove the tenderloin from the chicken cutlets. Place each cutlet smooth-side up on a cutting board. Holding one hand on top of the cutlet, carefully slice the cutlet in half horizontally to yield two pieces, each between 3/8 and 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle both sides of cutlets generously with salt and pepper. Measure flour into pie tin or shallow baking dish. Working one cutlet at a time, coat with flour, and shake to remove excess.

Heat heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot, about 2 minutes; add 2 tbsp oil & swirl pan to coat. Lay half of chicken pieces in skillet. Saute cutlets, without moving them, until lightly browned on first side - 2 to 2.5 minutes. Turn cutlets and cook until second side is lightly browned (another 2 to 2.5 minutes). Remove pan from heat and transfer cutlets to plate in the oven. Add remaining 2 tbsp oil to now-empty skillet and heat until simmering. Add remaining chicken pieces and repeat.

Add shallot to empty skillet and return to medium heat. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add stock and lemon slices, increase heat to high, and scrape skillet bottom with a wooden spoon or spatula to loosen browned bits & deglaze. Simmer until liquid reduces to about 1/3 cup (about 4 minutes). Add lemon juice and capers and simmer until sauce reduces again to 1/3 cup, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and swirl in butter until it belts. Swirl in parsley. Spoon sauce over the chicken & prepare for happy time.

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream

Simple vanilla ice cream. No fancy stuff. Good, though.

  • 1 cup whole milk, well chilled
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk milk & sugar until sugar is dissolved. Then, stir in the heavy cream and vanilla (I always add more vanilla).

Turn on your ice cream machine and run that joint. Usually takes about 25 minutes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Creme Brulee

It's everyone's favorite thing to get at a fancy restaurant, but you can do this at home with very little effort. You just need the equipment. Namely, ramekins & a torch. You can buy a set of ramekins for like $5. Really. As for the torch, save yourself the trouble and skip buying a kitchen torch. Mine runs out of butane so fast that it really takes the fun out of it. Alton Brown suggests just using a regular blowtorch. I concur. The process is exactly the same. You don't need a kitchen one. Now, to buy a blowtorch...
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 extra large or jumbo egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (use good vanilla, it will make a difference)

Preheat oven to 300 & prepare some boiling water.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream and 2 tbsp sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally until small bubbles appear around edges of the pan, 5-6 minutes. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and vanilla until smooth & light. Pour hot cream mixture into egg yolks, a little at a time, beating continuously until well blended. The instructions said to strain it through a sieve at this point but I did not. It's your call.

Next, divide among 4 ramekins & arrange them in a baking pan & fill pan with boiling water to halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with foil and place on the middle shelf of your preheated oven.

Bake until the custard is just set, about 25 minutes. Then chill them in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

When you're ready to serve, take them out of the fridge, and sprinkle each with sugar evenly over the top. You really don't need that much.

With a torch, move the flame over the ramekins in a circular motion until sugar melts & becomes golden brown & bubbly.

Shallot Butter

Random, I know. But this can go on so many things so I wanted to share it. Also you can make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. You may drizzle it over steak, try mixing it with rice or serve it with lobster instead of regular drawn butter.

  • 1.5 cups butter (you can use less, I did)
  • 1 cup shallots, finely chopped (about 6oz)

Combine butter & shallots in a small saucepan.

Stir over low heat until the butter melts.

Season with salt & pepper.

That's it! Like I said, make it a day ahead and pop it in the fridge. When you're ready to use it, just stir over low heat until butter melts. You can also add basil or marjoram or any herb you like, re-chill it in the fridge and slice it up cold and add to finish a dish.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Apple Sausage with Roasted Seasoned Vegetables

Made this up one day trying to use up some leftover veggies and a couple of random sausages. Turned out great. Would work for any kind of sausage, and any veggies. Just drizzle with oil & bake. You could also leave the meat out for a nice veggie dish.

  • 1 package chicken apple sausage (or other variety)
  • tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • zucchini, cut into large chunks
  • yellow squash, cut into large chunks
  • sweet onions (used vidalia), also in large chunks
  • spring onions, chopped
  • 1 head garlic
  • olive oil
  • parsley (fresh or dried)
  • italian seasoning
  • crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 425.

Peel all garlic.

Line a casserole dish with foil.

Put peeled garlic in the dish, drizzle with olive oil roast in the oven for about 15 minutes.

While garlic is roasting, chop veggies and meat in same size chunks.

Once garlic is roasted a bit, add everything else to the dish/pan/whatever, sprinkle herbs and spices (try whatever ones you like), drizzle olive oil.

Pull the foil tight and roll it shut at the top so steam can't get out.

Bake 25 minutes covered, then 10-15 minutes uncovered.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Purim is coming up in a month or so - why not celebrate with these traditional jewish cookies? They're delicious! This is my mom's recipe and it uses prunes. You do not have to. Hamantaschen filling can be anything from fruit to chocolate to other fun stuff so try some variations!

  • 3.5 - 4 cups sifted flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • 1/2 lb solo brand prune filling
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp honey

Blend the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add them to the mixture. Mix well.

The dough should be soft. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, mix together all the ingredients for the filling. Cut the dough into half or into thirds.

Roll each piece into a sheet about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into circles about three inches in diameter. A large cup or glass can be used to shape the circles.

Place a rounded tablespoonful of filling into the center of each circle. Bring parts of the circle up to form a triangle, leaving a bit of the filling showing:

Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until delicately browned.

Makes about 3 dozen. My mom made these:

Quick & Fancy: Shrimp Sauteed in Truffle Oil

Made this up. You can throw it together in 5 minutes, even using frozen shrimp from the freezer!
  • medium/large shrimp, butterflied
  • truffle oil (they have it everywhere now. It's expensive but lasts a really long time!)
  • parsley flakes
  • butter
  • lemon juice
  • black pepper
  • salt

Heat butter in pan over medium heat and then add shrimp.

As shrimp begins to finish (they'll curl up a bit), then add the truffle oil.

When the corners of the shrimp begin to brown, you're done. Toss the parsley flakes in, squeeze lemon juice over the top, salt & pepper to taste, and stir to combine.

Goes great over pasta or potatoes, garnished with chives.

Oven-Braised Beef with Tomato Sauce & Garlic

This recipe is perfect for beginners. If you've never cooked in your life, you can do this. It always comes out beautifully and is a real crowd-pleaser during the winter months.

  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 boneless chuck roast (3 to 3.5 lbs). Note: the type of roast makes a big difference. You need a roast that isn't too lean. Look for one with some fat on it and again, it should really be chuck.
  • 2 heads garlic, peeled, but leave the cloves whole
  • 1/2 yellow onion, or a handful of pearl onions (Trader Joe's has bags of tri-colored pearl onions for $2 or so)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • dried rosemary
  • dried thyme
  • lemon pepper
  • you can add any herbs you like, sometimes I also include parsley, basil and oregano

Preheat oven to 300.

Coarsely chop tomatoes.

Put roast in casserole dish with lid.

Pour tomatoes over roast.

Sprinkle meat with herbs & spices (depending on how much you want in there. I think I used about a tbsp of each but I always overdo things...).

Scatter garlic & onions around the roast, and hit it with a little salt & pepper.

Braise covered until fork tender. Takes about 4 hours.