Search This Blog

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fettucini with Spinach Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce

I like the idea of sitting down to a big bowl of pasta. In actuality though, it's usually never as comforting and satisfying as it sounds. It always leaves me feeling overly full but never truly satisfied. But I say usually because when I sat down to this bowl of pasta last week I felt so happy and so satisfied. Might I say it lived up to my big bowl of pasta fantasy?

This recipe idea was born out of one of my go-to, "I only have twenty minutes to throw together dinner" kind of pasta sauces. I was going to saute garlic and spinach in a white wine sauce, add in a little cream or butter and toss with fettucini and a healthy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Nothing wrong with that, right? Nope, but I had a new idea. What if I blend everything together and make a green cream sauce? Why not?

So there it is. A simple béchamel sauce, blended with fresh spinach and roasted garlic. Green, roasted garlic cream. It's heavenly, savory and packed with nutritionally rich raw spinach.

Sit down to this bowl of pasta and feel good about getting in a few servings of green leafy vegetables - even if it is in your cream sauce.

Fettucini with Spinach Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce
If you can't find spinach fettucini, any fettucini or long pasta will do just fine.

2 large garlic bulbs, halved
drizzle of olive oil
1 pound spinach fettucini
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoons cayenne
a couple grates of nutmeg
5 ounces fresh baby spinach

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place garlic cut side up on a large sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and seal well to form a pouch. Roast in oven 35-40 minutes, or until garlic is softened and slightly caramelized.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes to cook off the raw flour taste. Whisk in milk and stock and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Stir in Parmesan cheese, cayenne and a few grates of nutmeg.

Transfer béchamel sauce to a blender with the spinach. Squeeze the garlic bulbs over the blender to add in the roasted garlic cloves. Carefully puree until smooth and transfer back to the pot. Re-warm over medium-low heat. Season well with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water. Toss pasta with the green cream sauce, adding in some of the starchy pasta water if needed. Adjust seasoning and garnish with extra grated Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shaved Brussels Sprouts in Garam Masala Cream

I can't get enough of these tasty mini-cabbages. I like them prepared in so many ways - sauteed, charred, even raw. But in keeping with my hearty, comforting cold weather themed recipes, I am serving them up for this post in a creamy, spiced, indulgent way that even the most ardent anti-sprout people would love.

Oh, and this is one of the quickest Brussels sprout dishes to make. Normally, the spouts are blanched in boiling water, shocked in an ice bath and then charred or sauteed, which can take a little time. For this dish, I slice them thinly with the help of the food processor, simmer in milk for a few minutes, season with a sprinkle of ground spices - and voila! Done. 10 minutes tops.

One fun way I have been infusing flavor into vegetarian dishes like this one is through spices. The kind of spices you add can transform a dish completely. In this dish, I sprinkle in a little garam masala, which is a blend of ground spices commonly found in Indian and South Asian cuisines. The exact spices used varies on the brand or the region the mixture came from but often contains cumin, cloves, peppercorns, coriander, cardamom, star anise and nutmeg. The combination adds an intriguing complexity, without overwhelming heat.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts in Garam Masala Cream
If you don't have a food processor with a slicing blade, carefully slice Brussels sprouts using a mandolin or sharp knife. If you want an even creamier, richer version, swap out the whole milk for cream or half & half.

1 pound Brussels Sprouts, trimmed & washed
2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper to taste
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Use the slicing blade on your food processor, thinly slice (or shave) the Brussels sprouts. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in shaved Brussels sprouts and saute 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add in milk and simmer, stirring occasionally, 7 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in garam masala and serve.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Why does the farmers' market smell so much better than the grocery store?": My web chat with Baltimore 5th Graders

This week I web chatted with a group of 5th grade students at City Neighbors Charter School in Baltimore. Their teacher, Ms. Jessica DiLorenzo, has been challenging the students to start discussions regarding our modern food and farming system and the impact it has on our health, community and environment. The further along the class got in the discussion, the more passionate they became. Many showed interest in making changes in their own food choices, as well as implementing changes that would better their local community.

In effort to augment their classroom discussions, Ms. DiLorenzo asked me if I would video chat with the class to try to answer some of their questions. Naturally, I will thrilled to have the opportunity.

I went in not knowing what to expect, but immediately was surprised by how much the kids already knew about seasonal eating. Some of the students not only were interested in learning more about the topic, but many of them were explaining to me why eating locally grown food was better than stored, out-of-season produce. They explained that the food they had tried from the farmers' markets, or in some of their cases out of their family's backyard garden, was so much more delicious than their supermarket counterparts. They also said that picking food out at the farmers' market - or out of their own garden - was so much more fun than grocery store shopping (more like a "treasure-hunt", one student said). Another student noted that the produce at the green market "always smells so much better" than the produce at the supermarket.

One student described for me and the class how the carrots that his mom grows in the backyard vary from those in the stores. "They just have a green weed-like tops sticking out of the ground that kind of looks like parsley. And they are always really lumpy, like a long, skinny potato." That led into a great discussion on why all supermarket carrots look almost identical to each other and are usually free from lumps and bumps. To note, the reason carrots become lumpy is because they grow around rocks and stones in the ground. The soil used in industrial farming has long ago removed all of these "imperfections" in order to achieve uniformity.

The students raised a lot of really interesting questions, ranging from "why do I write this blog?" and "how did I become interested in seasonal/local eating" to very specific questions like "describe the perfect tomato" and "can you explain the purpose and benefits of composting?". We also talked pretty extensively about the impact of preservatives and chemical fertilizers on our food and on the environment. One of the students, who inquisitively asked how the pickles that her family bought two years were not yet expired, was
able to answer her own question after our discussion on preservatives.

The class is eager and excited to start testing out some seasonal recipes and visit the local farmers' market to pick out produce. I suggested kale chips for an easy-to-make and delicious wintertime snack food - which they made later that week (and sent me this photo of the outcome)! In the early summer, when cucumbers come into season, I suggested trying out making their own homemade pickles.

In the meantime, Ms. DiLorenzo is continuing the discussion with the students and plans to start a blog for the students to chronicle what they learn and experience (both inside and outside of the classroom) regarding sustainable, local eating. They are also researching the various non-profit organizations that help local, urban communities set-up rooftop gardens.

A huge thank you to Ms. DiLorenzo for facilitating this discussion with the students. I hope we can continue the discussion and I hope to hear about the successes and challenges you encounter. I look forward to checking in with the class soon - I learned a tremendous amount and felt hugely inspired by their excitement and enthusiasm.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Zippy Chard and Leek Gratin

I've been eating a lot of vegetarian fare lately. The more I read about the modern food system the more I find myself veering away from eating meat. Not that I have declared myself a vegetarian but I have been challenging myself to make a good percentage of our meals meat-free. Sounds great - even noble if you consider the environmental and animal welfare issues - but how does it work in practice? Keeping a mod-vegetarian diet was pretty doable in the summer months when I crave light, fresh fare, but now that the temperatures have dropped and the gloves and scarves are making regular appearances, I find myself craving hearty foods that are as satisfying as a winter roast or stew. This recipe, and several others that I'm equally excited to share with you in upcoming posts, is one of my favorite vegetarian dishes that won't leave you wondering "where's the main course?"

This vegetarian entree is a lighter and zippier riff off the classic dish Potato Gratin. The potato version has it's place - no one would argue that this decadent, starchy, creamy side dish isn't absolutely divine when done well - but I wanted to create something that could serve as an entree. I replaced the potatoes with loads of vibrant, leafy swiss chard and aromatic leeks. The béchamel sauce is jazzed up with a grate of nutmeg and a generous pinch of cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper gave the dish a brightness that keeps you coming back for "just one more bite". Top it all off with crunchy parmesan panko breadcrumbs and you've got yourself a fabulous version of a steakhouse classic side dish (and you won't miss the steak, I promise).

As a side note, I served this along side a mixed green salad dressed in a light red wine mustard vinaigrette. The light, fresh salad served as a nice yin to the gratin's rich, creamy yang.

Zippy Chard and Leek Gratin

2 big bunches swiss chard
3 large leeks, washed and sliced into thin rounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove bottom 2" of chard stems and discard. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch chard leaves 2 minutes and transfer to ice bath (or place in a colander and run under cold water). Using a clean kitchen towel, squeeze excess liquid from chard leaves. Coarsely chop blanched leaves and set aside.

Heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. Cook leeks over medium heat for 7 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add in chard leaves, stir to combine, and lower heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a separate small pot, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add in milk and vegetable stock and raise heat to medium. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick and creamy. Stir in gruyere and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Grate in the nutmeg directly into the pot and stir in cayenne pepper. Pour cheese sauce over the chard and leek mixture and stir to combine.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in panko breadcrumbs and remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese and toast, stirring constantly, for 1 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer chard mixture to a buttered 8" x 8" baking dish. Top with buttery, panko breadcrumbs and bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Apple in the Rye Cocktail

Creating cocktail recipes is just as fun for me as creating food recipes. While the outcome is totally different I still keep the same principals in mind. I use seasonal ingredients and experiment until I come up with a concoction that is balanced, unique and, of course, delicious. And, just like recipe creation, sometimes I'll fuss around with an idea a dozen times and still not be happy with it. Other times, when the stars are aligned correctly, I nail it on the first try. That's what happened (woohoo!) with this cocktail. That probably speaks more to the complimentary flavor profiles in the drink than my cocktail creation skills, but, hey, either way it worked out.

In the warmer months I love to use clear liquors like vodka and gin as the base for my cocktails, but come the chillier months, I tend towards bourbons and ryes. They have a warming richness and complexity that pairs really well with wintertime flavors and spices. For this cocktail, I chose to use rye whiskey, specifically Bulleit Rye. The rye is spicy and complex and pairs perfectly with the spiced apple flavors in this cocktail.

Apple in the Rye

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey (recommended: Bulleit Rye)
1 oz. fresh apple cider
1/4 oz. simple syrup
1/4 oz. lemon juice
2 splashes bitters
dash of ground cinnamon, plus extra for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker 2/3 full with ice and pour in all ingredients. Shake vigorously for a few seconds and strain into a martini glass. Top with another dash of cinnamon and serve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

After a brief hiatus... Parmesan Broth with Tortellini & Spinach

After going way too long without writing on this blog, I sit here on this chilly early November morning, eating a bowl of warm oatmeal and drinking a strong cup of coffee and have just clicked on the "New Post" button on blogspot. It's been a couple of months and, Seasonal Brooklyn, I've missed you like crazy.

Allow me to explain. As many of you know, my full-time job is the manager and beverage director of a busy NYC restaurant. If you work/have worked in the restaurant industry, or are close with anybody who has, you know that restaurant management can very quickly become an all-consuming, 24/7 job. I'm not complaining -- I love my job and the restaurant - and I feel extremely fortunate to have it, but I have missed writing this blog so very much. So much that I am determined to find more time to dedicate to it.

So why stress myself out with another task, another project, more research, writing, cooking and photographing? Because this site is a journal of sorts to me. I write about and cook what I want to write and cook about. I focus heavily on ingredients and cuisines that are delicious and interesting to me. It's so personal and, hence, so rewarding. Also, writing this blog keeps me on track by pushing me to find the time to peruse the markets and experiment in the kitchen. And the biggest benefit of all of this, besides knowing that all of you wonderful people are reading about my delicious adventures, is sitting down to a home cooked meal with family and friends. For me, that is one of the greatest and most grounding pleasures.

This recipe is a favorite cold evening meal that is simple and quick enough to make even on the busiest of evenings. It's perfect for one of those nights where you want to sit down to a big bowl of soup that tastes like it been simmering on the stove stop for hours. I most recently made this last week, when my husband was feeling a little under the weather. The broth is so rich and flavorful without being heavy and is a great use for all those parmesan cheese rinds (that I know you've been saving and freezing ever since you read my post on Ribollita soup!). Echo the parmesan flavored broth with some cheese-filled tortellini, wilt in some fresh spinach and sit down to be a big bowl of homemade soup -- that took less than 45 minutes to make.

Parmesan Broth with Tortellini and Spinach

1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups high-quality organic chicken or vegetable stock
3 Parmesan cheese rinds
2 springs sage
1/2 pound fresh or frozen tortellini
5 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
Parmesan cheese, for grating

Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Saute garlic until just fragrant. Add in stock and bring to boil. Lower to a simmer and add in Parmesan cheese rinds and sage springs. Simmer, partially covered, for 20-30 minutes. Remove cheese rinds and sage springs and add salt and pepper if needed.

Add in tortellini and simmer until tortellini is done. Wilt in spinach leaves and serve topped with more grated Parmesan.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quick and Easy Baba Ganoush

Ok, so the title may be a little misleading. This recipe isn't really quicker or easier than other baba ganoush recipes. But it's not an all-out untruth either, since pretty much all baba ganoush recipes are quick and easy. I just wanted to get you interested (I was in marketing/advertising in a past life...).

All you need to do to make amazing baba ganoush is char and roast the whole eggplants and then puree the softened flesh with a few other staple ingredients. That's it! The only ingredient that may not be in your kitchen - or on your shopping list - right now is tahini paste. Tahini paste is a, well, paste made from ground lightly roasted sesame seeds. Today, tahini paste is available in the international aisle of most grocery stores, or in Middle Eastern markets, of course.
Making baba ganoush is a great way to use up all those eggplants you're finding at the markets now, plus it keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week, so make a lot of it and keep it on hand for snacking or when guests come over. It's great when used as a dip for carrots or homemade pita chips, or it can be used as a spread on a killer veggie sandwich -- think smeared on seedy whole wheat bread with grilled summer squash, tomato and fresh mozzarella -- yum!

Also, to note, when I make baba ganoush, I usually end up making my own pita chips. I just leave the oven on after the eggplants have roasted and throw in the cut up pita bread. I've included the uber-simple recipe for pita chips below the baba ganoush recipe, in case you're interested.
Quick and Easy Baba Ganoush
Be sure to taste along the way. Your two large eggplants are probably not the exact same size as my two large eggplants, so you may need to add a little more or less of some of the ingredients. Start off conservatively -- you can always add more.

2 large eggplants (look for eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size)
1/3 cup tahini paste
3 garlic cloves, minced (use 1 or 2 cloves if you garlic sensitive)
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of cumin
salt to taste
handful of chopped parsley leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prick the outside of the eggplants. Place directly on top of a gas stove and char, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Place the charred eggplants on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until they are soft inside. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Split the cooked eggplants open and scoop the flesh into the food processor. Puree with all other ingredients, except for the parsley. Taste and adjust accordingly. If the flavor could be a little brighter, add more lemon juice. If you're not getting enough garlic, add more. Could use a little heat? Add another pinch of cayenne. Just be sure to add only a small amount at a time. The line between lacking and overkill can be very fine -- especially when you're working with spices and raw garlic.

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Fresh Baked Pita Chips

4 whole wheat pitas
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut each pita into 8 "slices" (just as you would slice a pizza pie). Gently separate the layers so that you have 16 triangles. Arrange on lined cookie sheets and brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and bake for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fettuccine with Zucchini, Fromage Blanc and Lavender

Andrew and I recently returned from a week long vacation out in northern California. We went sightseeing, we ate lots of wonderful food, we tasted countless wines and we celebrated the marriage of two very special friends. We made it back to New York last week a little tired and slightly beat up -- Andrew's excitement and commitment to celebrating resulted in a painful tailbone injury the last night of the trip!-- but with many, many wonderful memories and experiences. Now that we are back, I'd love to recount just a little bit of our trip.

Whenever Andrew and I travel, we usually end up doing a fair amount of driving. We like to explore and stumble upon things that aren't convenient enough to make it into guide books. This particular day of exploring began with us driving from San Francisco up to Petaluma for a tour of Cowgirl Creamery. I have been enjoying their cheeses since I was first introduced to them a few years ago, and since we were traveling to that general area, why not swing by and take a tour? I love being able to make a connection to the food that I eat and enjoy so naturally I was excited about the opportunity to find out a little more about the Cowgirl cheese making process.

Not only did we tour the cheese making facility and learn how the cheese is made and aged, but we learned about the dairy farms that supply the milk to Cowgirl. I have heard from several cheese makers that one of the most important, if not the most important, variables in the cheese making process is the quality of the milk you are starting with. So I was especially excited when I found out that Vivien Straus was leading our tour. Vivien, whose family started Straus Family Creamery in Tomales Bay 70 years ago, shares a very personal connection to Cowgirl Creamery. It was the Straus' commitment and passion for the organic dairy industry that inspired the founders of Cowgirl Creamery to start a cheese making company. To date, Cowgirl still uses milk from the Straus family's organic dairy farm to make their cheeses. So not only was Vivien familiar with the cheese making process, but she was familiar with the cows and the land from which the milk comes from. She knows the cows are raised, the grasses and herbs that they graze on, and how that diet affects the milk, and hence the cheese. Pretty cool, huh? We left Cowgirl Creamery not only with a deeper sense of connection to the cheese making process, but also with a mini-cooler filled with some of their fabulous cheese!

So off we went, mini-cooler in tow, and took a drive out to at Tomales Bay Oyster Company, where you buy bags of just harvested oysters and shuck them yourselves at picnic tables they have set up right on the bay. We came armed with a sourdough baguette that we picked up in San Francisco that morning and (of course) our cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. As you can see from the below photo, had ourselves quite a memorable lunch.

But, I digress. I do want to include a recipe with this post, and it doesn't have anything to do with oysters, so I'm going to get back to the cheese (I just couldn't couldn't resist sharing that terrific little stop!). Fast forward 5 days and 4 pounds later, we returned to NY with an embarrassingly small amount of cheese left (good cheese goes fast!). One cheese that was not totally consumed by the time we left CA was their Fromage Blanc. Fromage Blanc is fresh, soft cheese that has the consistency of ricotta cheese. It is made with milk instead of cream, so it has a much lighter taste and consistency than that of creme fraiche and can be used in either savory or sweet applications.

So it's Day One of normal life in Brooklyn: I'm on my way home from work at 9pm thinking to myself that the next time we take a vacation I should really make it a point to work in a buffer day to get re-acclimated, unpack, grocery shop, etc. Our little tub of Fromage Blanc was one of the only occupants of our otherwise sad-looking and barren fridge. I considered ringing our favorite local Thai restaurant and ordering delivery, but instead I swung by the market and picked up a couple of local zucchini, a little fresh lavender, and headed home thinking "I'll make something work". For being a throw together meal on a night when I was exhausted/jet-lagged/overwhelmed-at-the amount-of-catch-up-work-and-unpacking-I-had-to-do, it ended up being an excellent meal. And, to think, I was so close to ordering take out.

Fettuccine with Zucchini, Fromage Blanc and Lavender
If you can't find fresh lavender, substitute with fresh basil or mint.

Serves 2

1/2 pound dried fettuccine
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Fromage Blanc
2 teaspoons fresh lavender, finely minced (reserve a pinch for garnish)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
zest from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
salt & pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and begin cooking pasta. While pasta is boiling, saute the zucchini and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until tender. Deglaze the pan with white wine and continue to cook until most of the wine has cooked off. Using tongs, slosh the not-quite-done fettuccine into the pan with the zucchini, taking some of the starchy cooking liquid with you. Stir in the Fromage Blanc, Parmesan cheese, fresh lavender, lemon zest and pine nuts. Add a little more of the starchy pasta water if needed to moisten the dish. Continue cooking until the pasta is al dente. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with a little more fresh lavender.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cucumber Martini

Today marks the first official day of summer and few things feel more festive than toasting the start of the new season with a delicious and refreshing cocktail.

This martini highlights the crisp, clean, decidedly summery taste of fresh cucumber. I'm so smitten with this new drink that I just added it to the seasonal cocktail menu at the restaurant I manage. My original idea was to create a cucumber infused gin cocktail, but after a few experiments, and receiving feedback from an expert panel of taste-testers (read: the restaurant staff), I was surprised that vodka beat out the gin, hands down. When made with gin, the cucumber seemed to emphasize the gin itself (which could be a great thing, especially when you are using a gin that already has some cucumber notes in it, as Hendrick's Gin does). When made with vodka, however, the vodka provided a clean slate to highlight the subtle cucumber flavor. Even those that aren't usually into vodka loved it.

The executive chef at the restaurant, who was part of the taste-testing panel, made a very good observation. She wisely pointed out that this drink would be a great palate cleanser or aperitif. I think her exact words were, "one of these martinis would be the perfect start to a summery meal." I agree with her one hundred percent. Contrary to a lot of fun mixed drinks, the delicate, fresh flavors awaken and stimulate the taste buds, versus overpower them like so many assertively flavored cocktails and spirits tend to do.

So, when you find yourself with an extra cucumber or two lying around (which must inevitably happen to everyone at least a few times every summer), experiment with this infusion. It is surprising simple and only takes an hour to make - and that includes the infusing time! Once you're comfortable making this, start experimenting with other homemade infusions. I think you'll find the process to be much simpler than expected (unless you are my husband, that is, who is obsessed with making the perfect bacon-infused bourbon, which is a very time consuming and complex process). Once you have an infused spirit, it doesn't take much more than a few staple bar ingredients to create a lovely and inspired cocktail.

Plus, how impressed will your guests be when you whip up a few house-infused martinis at your next party? I would be, and I wrote this recipe.

Cucumber Martini

1 martini

2-1/2 ounces cucumber infused vodka (recipe below)
3 slices cucumber, 1 slice reserved for garnish
4 mint leaves, torn
1/2 ounce simple syrup (*technique noted below)
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine infused vodka, 2 cucumber slices and mint leaves in a cocktail shaker. Muddle with a wooden spoon or, well, a muddler. Add simple syrup, lemon juice and enough ice to fill half of the shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Float the reserved cucumber slice on top for garnish.

*To make simple syrup, heat 1 part sugar to 1 part water in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool and then transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Cucumber Infused Vodka

makes enough for 6 martinis
2 cups high quality vodka (I use Titos)
1 cucumber, sliced thinly into rounds

Combine vodka and sliced cucumber in an airtight jar and let sit for 1 hour. Remove cucumber slices and discard. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Broccoli Rabe with Red Grapes and Bacon

I cook with many flavor combinations that are commonly accepted to pair well together. Strawberries and rhubarb. Goat cheese and beets. Brussels sprouts and bacon. These flavor matches are tried and true; however it's always fun and exciting to come up with new, unexpected flavor combinations. A couple of weeks ago my dear friend Angelique and I went to Black Mountain Wine House, one of our favorite local wine bars, and ordered an interesting dish that was comprised of asparagus wrapped in sopressata with a poached egg, arugula and grapes. Not an unusual pairing of ingredients, until you get to the grapes, that is. Not, surprisingly (since their menu of small plates is carefully prepared and well-executed), this dish was great. The flavors were quite balanced and the grapes added a nice contrast and sweetness to an otherwise earthy dish. Plus, I was inspired.

So the next day I picked up a big bag of organic red grapes and got to experimenting. One of the most successful dishes I came up with was broccoli rabe with bacon and red grapes. The slightly bitter broccoli rabe was perfectly, and surprisingly, balanced by the subtle sweetness of the grapes and smokiness of the bacon. It may be unconventional, but trust me, the flavor combo WORKS.

In case you're not entirely comfortable shopping for and preparing broccoli rabe, I've included a few tips so you are well prepared to do both:

Picking out broccoli rabe:
  1. Broccoli rabe is at its seasonal peak, and therefore most tender, in the spring. Look for it at farmers markets.
  2. Leaves should be fresh and vibrant, avoid those that are yellow or wilted.
  3. Stems should be thin and crisp; the thicker the stems the less tender and more bitter the rabe my be.
  4. The buds (or "flourets") should be tightly compact.
  5. If the buds are starting to sprout little yellow flowers, you may want to choose another bunch, as pretty as those little flowers are (a blooming broccoli rabe signifies a more "mature" plant that may be a little more fibrous and bitter). But, the yellow flowers are totally edible, I've eaten them and enjoyed them anyway.
Cooking broccoli rabe:
  1. Cut off the bottom 2" or so of the stems. They are tough and fibrous.
  2. Always blanch broccoli rabe in salted boiling water (the salt helps to maintain the bright green color and it seasons the vegetable) for 1 to 2 minutes, tops. The broccoli should be not be fully cooked after a blanch.
  3. Drain the broccoli rabe and run under cold water immediately to stop the cooking process.
  4. Ring out excess water from the broccoli using a paper towel. This is important. Excess water will cause the broccoli rabe to steam in the pan, rather than saute, and may result in a watery final product.
Once you have the buying and basic cooking tips down, you can do many, many fun things with broccoli rabe. One of my favorites is to simply saute the blanched broccoli rabe with olive oil, garlic and a little crushed red pepper; straightforward but so delicious. Or you can try it in a pasta dish (like in this NY Times recipe for Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe, Toasted Garlic and Bread Crumbs), or served over polenta (as Marcus Samuelsson does in his Lemony Asparagus and Broccoli Rabe recipe).

Either way, try it out, and while you're at it, through some grapes and crispy bacon in their too.

Broccoli Rabe with Red Grapes and Bacon

1/4 lb bacon, diced
1 large bunch broccoli rabe
1 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c. seedless red grapes, halved
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Slice off bottom 2" of broccoli rabe stems. Blanch broccoli rabe in boiling water for 1-2 minutes (broccoli should not be fully cooked). Drain and run under cold water immediately to stop the cooking process. Squeeze broccoli rabe to remove excess water.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon using a slotted spot and place on a paper towel lined plate. Add garlic and crushed red pepper to pan and cook for 30 seconds, or until garlic is fragrant. Add broccoli rabe and red grapes and toss. Cook for 4 more minutes, or until grapes are heated and softened slightly. Stir in crisped bacon, a squeeze of lemon juice (a little acid brightens really up the flavors) and salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spring Garlic Potato Soup

I have to admit that this is the first season I have cooked with spring garlic. And, while I'm at it, I also have to admit that the first time I saw spring garlic at the farmers market I mistook them for spring onions. But now I know better and I know how fun they can be to cook with. Now that I know, I am passing along one of my favorite ways to prepare them.

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I love soups. I find them comforting and, when prepared well, can pack a ton of flavor in every bite. I usually prepare chilled soups when the weather is crazy hot, as it has been in NYC lately, but last night I had this hot soup on the menu so we closed the windows, cranked the A.C. and just went for it. Served alongside multigrain bread and a fresh, herbed olive oil dip, and a crisp white wine and it was just right.

If you haven't seen spring garlic at any markets near you, you can substitute leeks or spring onions. But I really feel that my spring repetoir has been greatly enhanced with this fun little crop. Spring garlic, which also goes by green garlic, is a fresh, young garlic bulb and stalk. It can be used almost anywhere you would use leek, onion, or well, garlic, which is why I had the idea to use it in place of leek in the old favorite, Potato Leek soup.

There is one thing I do want to point out regarding the preparation of this dish. If your spring garlic is a little more on the mature side, it may be beginning to develop the skin around the individual cloves, which can texturally be a little "woodsy" and unpleasant. While doing a little research on this ingredient, I read a curious review that was written in response to another online spring garlic recipe. The reviewer said that he and his wife felt like there were fish bones in their food. I thought that seemed like quite an unusual thing to say but, before when I tasted the pre-strained soup this time around, I totally got it. So, unless your spring garlic is especially young and tender, don't skip the step of straining the pureed soup through a chinois or fine sieve. It just takes a couple of minutes and may make the difference between a memorably delicious soup, and one where people are asking you what kind of fish you put in it.

But I shouldn't finish on that note. Definitely don't let that extra step deter you from cooking with this ingredient; the rich, mildly sweet flavor it imparts in this soup is so worth it.

Spring Garlic & Potato Soup

2-3 spring garlic bulbs (with stalks still attached)
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 lb. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2. cream
squeeze fresh lemon juice
chives or scallions, minced (for garnish)

Slice the spring garlic bulbs and light green part of the stalk thinly (discarding the green leaf ends). Heat butter over medium-low heat in a heavy bottomed pot. Add sliced garlic and saute until it is softened and fragrant, about 10 minutes.

Raise heat and deglaze the pot with white wine. Cook over high heat until wine is evaporated. Add stock and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are very tender.

Remove the bay leaf and puree in blender (since it is hot, be sure to puree in batches!). Pass the pureed soup through a fine sieve or chinois into a separate pot and keep warm over low heat.

Stir in the cream and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with minced chives or scallions and a crusty whole grain bread.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quinoa with Fresh Peas, Cucumber, Mint & Feta

Five years ago, quinoa was relatively unknown outside of health food stores and the Andean region of South America. Today it is available in virtually every supermarket, and for good reason. Due to its balanced set of essential amino acids, is an unusually complete protein source, especially among plant species. It is a wonderful food choice for vegetarians or people like me who are trying to cut back on their animal product consumption. And this little grain does not lack in the flavor department either. It has a mild, nutty taste and, when seasoned well, is downright delicious. I have recently been substituting quinoa for pasta and rice in many of my favorite dishes, but my favorite way to prepare quinoa is in a salad. During the colder months, I toss it with nuts, dried fruit and hardy herbed vinaigrettes (such as my Quinoa Salad with Apples, Cranberries & Rosemary Vinaigrette), but during these oh-so-glorious spring months, I replace hardier ingredients with fresh, sweet, and of course seasonal, ingredients.

The credit for this particular combination of ingredients goes to my mom, Cheryl. She called me last week and told me "you are going to love this salad I just made". So of course I made it two nights later, and (not surprisingly, since my mom has great culinary taste) it was lovely. The sweetness of the fresh peas, the saltiness of the feta, the crunch of the cucumber and the brightness of the fresh mint paired just perfectly together. Dressed with a bit of fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and enjoyed with a glass of dry rose and your have yourself a fabulous springtime meal.

Since quinoa is a complete protein this salad really doesn't need anything else, but if you are feeling indulgent, top with this with a few seared wild shrimp or scallops. Or, since it is served at room temperature and can be prepared ahead of time, it would be a great side dish to bring it with you this weekend to a Memorial Day barbeque. Make way, pasta salad!

Quinoa with Fresh Peas, Cucumber, Mint & Feta

serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

1 c. quinoa
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 c. vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 c. fresh peas, shelled
1/2 of a large cucumber, diced
2/3 c. fresh feta
1/4 c. fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Rinse the quinoa well to remove the waxy coating (saponin). Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add quinoa and toast for about 1 minute, stirring to make sure all the grains are coated in oil. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 13 minutes.

After the quinoa has cooked, fluff with a fork and transfer to a sheet pan to cool.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, cook peas for about 30 to 60 seconds, and then drain and set aside. I know it seems like far too little time, but they cook quickly and there is nothing appealing about a mushy pea (outside of a British pub, that is).

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss the quinoa in the dressing and then gently fold in the peas, diced cucumber, mint and feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spinach Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato, Goat Cheese & Candied Nuts

Ok, so it's been a little while. With the spring season in full swing, the energy level in NYC has noticeably increased. The streets are busier, the winter jackets have finally been stored and green markets are bustling. All of this increase in activity and availability of spring produce has also ushered in the busy season at the restaurant. The outdoor garden is in high demand and the soft shell crabs and rose have been flying off the menu. I'm thrilled that we've been especially busy lately, however I find myself particularly challenged now to maintain a healthy work/personal life balance and, hence, a work/blogging balance.

It's hectic periods like this when I fall into a regular routine of picking up a standard list of items while grocery shopping. Like everyone else, I have a few keys foods that I'm very comfortable with. My produce standards include mushrooms, kale, spinach and arugula. A week doesn't go by without me using one, or all, of these ingredients. The busier I get, the easier it is for me to run to the market, pick up the usual suspects, and throw together a quick meal that I've made a million times before. But the last time I was at the market, I forced myself to pick up a few things that are not on my aforementioned weekly shopping list, including a big green market tote filled with sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes store well and are available almost every month of the year, yet I don't cook with them all that often (but I know that I should). They pack even more of a nutritional punch then the white potato. They are rich is vitamin A, vitamin C , dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates. Plus, just like the good ol' white potato, they can be prepared using a variety of different methods (baked whole, mashed, pureed into a soup, roasted, etc).
I've been on a major salad kick lately, so that's the direction I ended up going in. I roasted the sweet potatoes in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then tossed the roasted cubes with melted butter, brown sugar and cayenne pepper. I dressed baby spinach leaves with an easy rosemary vinaigrette and then gently tossed in the roasted sweet potato, candied nuts and earthy crumbled goat cheese. It turned out to be a perfectly satisfying and balanced meal. And when I say 'balanced', I don't mean in a food pyramid way (meat, veggie, starch), I'm referring to flavor, texture and appearance. I love this salad as much as I do because it is salty, sweet and savory, crunchy and creamy and boasts varying colors and an appetizing appearance. And, as often happens when cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients, it just so happens to be nutritionally balanced as well.

A quick note on the nuts that the recipe calls for: I of course prefer to make my own (my recipe is included below), but sometimes that just doesn't happen. When I don't have the time, I look for high quality brand like Bobby Sue's Organic Nuts. For those of you in the NY area, you can find Bobby Sue's nuts at Whole Foods, Murray's Cheese Shop and a host of other specialty stores.

Spinach Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato, Goat Cheese & Candied Nuts

4 servings

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into cubes
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 c. baby spinach
4 oz. fresh goat cheese
2/3 c. candied nuts (recipe below)
1/4 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely minced
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss cubed sweet potatoes with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast 25 minutes until tender and a little caramelized.

When the sweet potatoes are done roasting, melt butter in a small skillet. Whisk in brown sugar and cayenne pepper. As soon as the sugar and cayenne pepper is incorporated, remove from heat and pour over roasted sweet potatoes. Toss gently.

Make dressing by combining minced rosemary with balsamic vinegar. Gradually whisk in olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss spinach leaves, nuts and sweet potatoes in dressing and serve topped with crumbled goat cheese.

Candied Nuts
1 pound nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, or a combination thereof)
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 egg white
1 Tbs. water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper in small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together egg white and water until frothy. Stir in nuts and toss well to coat. Sprinkle in sugar mixture and toss until nuts are evenly covered.

Spread nuts in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking dish. Bake 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. After they have cooled, break up any nuts that have stuck together.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Monday, April 11, 2011

First Taste of Spring Onion Pasta

Here in New York, we are finally seeing signs that spring is on its way. What has seemed like an endless winter is just now giving way to some much anticipated warmer weather. Soon enough we will have many more options at the market, including asparagus, rhubarb and, one of my very favorites, ramps. Rumor has it that if you get to the farmers market in downtown Brooklyn early enough, you can snag some of the season's first showing of ramps. I, however, have been unlucky, or (more likely) am not an early enough riser to be able to confirm this. What I have been able to find at numerous markets are spring onions. Hopefully you are able to find them too!

To help ring in the start to the new season, I have created a pasta dish that highlights one of spring's first sprouters. As you can see from the photo, spring onions look like an overgrown scallion. The more pronounced bulb can be either white or purple and the flavor is a little more assertive than that of a scallion, however they are milder and sweeter than regular yellow onions. Use them sparingly when raw, or in large amounts when cooked, like in this pasta dish.

It may seem like you are using way too many spring onions (I use 5 onions for 1/2 pound of pasta), but, trust me, it's not overwhelming. Once they are cooked down, they become sweet and mild and really make the dish. Tossed with hearty whole wheat pasta, wilted greens and some good Parmesan cheese and you have yourself quite a tasty and healthy one-dish meal. Bring it on, spring!

First Taste of Spring Onion Pasta

2 Tbsp. butter
5 spring onions, sliced into thin rounds (reserve dark green ends for another use)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 c. fresh greens (chard, spinach, etc)
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 lb. short cut whole wheat pasta (like penne or fuscilli)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in spring onions and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. When the onions are just about finished cooking, drop the pasta in the boiling salted water. Add in garlic and crushed red pepper in with the onions and continue to cook for another minute. Wilt in the greens.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up an bits from the bottom, and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half. Drain the pasta just before it is "al dente", reserving 1 c. of the starchy cooking liquid. Add the pasta into the pan, toss in Parmesan cheese, and continue cooking until the pasta is done, adding in some of the reserved pasta water if it begins to look a little dry.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with a little more grated Parmesan, if desired.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad

Last Friday night we were in very good company. My brother-in-law and cousin-in-law were both in town from Cincinnati and they, along with a couple of wonderful friends, joined us for Shabbos dinner. Not only was I lucky enough to be surrounded by such great people, but I was also treated to a home cooked meal, in my own home, without having to cook a thing!

My husband, Andrew, who had the day off of work, prepared the the entire meal himself (bless his heart!). So, since I was not the cook that day, I can shamelessly say how wonderfully everything turned out. Red wine braised grass-fed beef shank, Isreali couscous, raw tuscan kale salad. When you're entertaining with a meal like that, it's hard to trump the meat. However, the kale salad did garner as many compliments as our slow braised headliner. Maybe it was because people know we are veggie-fanatics, maybe it was because they were shocked that they liked RAW kale so much, or maybe it was just that darn good.

It's surprisingly simple to throw together (the most time consuming part is washing and drying the kale leaves) and when you eat it you can just TELL you're doing something good for your body. And Tuscan Kale (a.k.a. dinosaur kale, lacinato kale, cavolo nero or black kale) is much more tender than other types of kale and is excellent raw. Totally raw, just dressed with a simple and zesty vinaigrette. Really.

Also, as an aside, this salad also makes a great weekend lunch. One my favorite lunches is this salad topped with an over easy egg and a big bunk of seedy whole grain bread. Heaven.

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad

1 big bunch of Tuscan kale
1 1/2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. Grana Padana or Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

Wash and pat dry kale leaves. Halve leaves lengthwise, removing and discarding coarse middle stem. Slice leaves into 1/4" wide strips by stacking several leaves on top of each other, rolling them up and then chopping (see picture above).

Prepare dressing by combing red wine vinegar, garlic and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil and season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. Add kale into the bowl with the dressing and toss well to coat. Add grated cheese and toss gently to combine. Adjust seasoning and top with additional grated cheese, if desired.

Quinoa Salad with Apples, Cranberries & Herbed Vinaigrette

Quinoa Salad with Apples, Cranberries & Herbed Vinaigrette

1 c. quinoa
1 c. water
1 c. vegetable or chicken stock
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp honey or agave nectar
4 thyme sprigs, minced
2 rosemary springs, minced
2 c. apples
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. toasted almonds, chopped
fresh minced parsley for garnish

Rinse quinoa well to remove any remaining saponin. Combine quinoa, water, stock and a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook for 13 minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer to a sheet pan and let cool.

While quinoa is cooling, prepare the dressing. In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey or agave nectar, rosemary and thyme and a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.

Dice the apples and squeeze a bit of lemon juice on them to prevent them from discoloring. Start composing the salad by adding the quinoa into the bowl with the dressing. Stir in the chopped apples, cranberries and almonds. Garnish with minced parsley and enjoy!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Roasted Beet Risotto with Pistachios & Goat Cheese

Roasted Beet Risotto with Pistachios & Goat Cheese

1 bunch beets (about 4 small)
1 white onion, chopped
1 tbsp butter
2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 c. filtered water
1 c. aborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
2 oz. fresh goat cheese
1/4 c. pistachios, shelled and chopped
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place beets (stems and greens removed) in an aluminum foil pouch. Roast for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Allow to cool. Once cooled, peel and chop.

Bring stock and water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep warm. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until tender. Add aborio rice and toast, stirring constantly, until edges of rice are translucent, about 1 minute. Add wine and stir until absorbed. Gradually add in the warm stock, ladle by ladle, stirring frequently. The whole process should take 20-30 minutes. You may not need all of the stock.

When the rice is fully cooked, but still has a slight bite to it, stir in the Parmesan cheese and chopped beets. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with crumbled goat cheese and chopped pistachios.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Winter Panzanella Salad

Day old bread. People all across the world have different ways to use it. You can use it to make croutons or homemade breadcrumbs, turn it into a decadent bread pudding or French toast, use them to thicken soups and stews (as I do in my Ribolitta and Roasted Garlic Soup recipes), or make a bread salad. For most of you that know me, you know I HATE throwing food away. I always challenge myself to use up all the food and produce that I have on hand, and bread is no exception. With it just being Andrew and I, when we purchase a fresh loaf of bread we almost always have quite a bit left over the next day.

Panzanella is a bread salad that originated in
central Italy. It almost always contains cubed stale bread and tomatoes dressed in olive oil and vinegar, but can contain a host of other ingredients as well (basil, cucumber, bell pepper, lettuce, olives, and onions are not uncommon additions). I love making this salad during the late summer months, when the heirloom tomatoes are at their peak of deliciousness and abundance. But I shouldn't get too far ahead of myself. While we've had some (albeit minor and fleeting) glimpses of warmer weather, we are still looking at a good four months before we've reached summer tomato season (I know, that was a harsh thing to say). But, as usually happens to me at the point of the year, my produce cravings are far ahead of nature's seasonal produce schedule. I accept it and, knowing that buying one of those pale red, mealy, artificially ripened fruit that supermarkets like to pass off as tomatoes is out of the question, I amend my ways.

This version is my Winter Panzanella Salad. Instead of delicate summer greens, I use hearty radicchio. In stead of cucumber I use savory caramelized Brussels sprouts. Instead of fresh basil, I use heartier herbs like sage and thyme. I use fresh mozzarella that was made in NY state from
the milk of pastured-raised NJ cows (love that!), and some crisped up cubes of pancetta or thick-cut bacon. Dress it in an herbed anchovy vinaigrette and WOW! A salad that is crunchy and creamy, salty and savory, and just plain good.

In a couple months, I'll probably replace the Brussels with some (maybe grilled?) chopped asparagus. That would be a fantastic modification. And I'll just keep making those modifications as the eagerly awaited new produce begins appearing at the farmers markets.

But until then, this one will do, and it will do just fine. And when I say "just fine", I really mean that this version may be my personal favorite version of a Panzanella salad. Big statement, I know, but I did put a fair amount of thought into it before saying it.
Winter Panzanella Salad

2 tbsp butter
a few sage sprigs, minced
a few thyme sprigs, minced
4 c. day-old crusty bread, cubed
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta or thick-cut bacon, small dice
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cubed
1 head radiccio, torn

1 tsp anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp balsalmic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
a few sage leaves, minced
1 thyme sprig, miced
salt & pepper

Quarter Brussels sprouts and blanch in boiling, salted water for 1-2 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer to an ice bath or run under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add minced sage and thyme and stir a few seconds until fragrant. Pour herbed butter over cubed bread on a sheet pan. Toss in grated Parmesan cheese, season generously with salt and pepper and bake at 450 for about 6 minutes until bread is slightly crunchy. Right after removing from the oven, toss is 2 minced garlic cloves. Set aside.

Coat Brussels sprouts lightly with olive oil and roast at 450 for about 15 minutes until caramelized.While they are roasting, saute the pancetta or thick cut bacon over medium-low heat until crisp.

Make dressing by combining the anchovy paste, garlic and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Stir in herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble salad by combining all ingredients (bread, Brussels sprouts, pancetta, mozzarella and radicchio) in a large bowl. Toss with dressing and serve.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spiced Ginger Tea

Cooking with MAVEA: Seasonal Brooklyn's Ginger Spiced Tea Recipe from MAVEA Inspired Water on Vimeo.

Spiced Ginger Tea

3. cup filtered water
1 1/2" piece fresh ginger
1 (heaping) tbsp black tea leaves
1/2 c. whole milk
2 tbsp honey
dash of cinnamon

Peel and slice ginger. Bring water a boil, add ginger and let simmer for 10 minutes. Lower heat, add tea leaves and let steep for 10 minutes.

Strain into a blender. Add in milk and honey and blend well. Return to pot and rewarm over low heat. Serve topped with a dash of cinnamon.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Braised Fennel with Panko & Parmesan

Braised Fennel with Panko & Parmesan

2 medium fennel bulbs
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. filtered water
1/3 c. panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
parsely for garnish (optional)
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Slice off the tops of fennel (fennel fronds) and the bottom 1/4" off the base. Remove the very outer layer of the bulb and discard. Slice fennel bulbs lengthwise into 1/3" thick slices. Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and, working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan, sear both sides until lightly brown and caramelized, seasoning with salt and pepper as you work. Return all the fennel to the pan and add in the stock and water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and let braise for 15 minutes or until fork tender.

While fennel is braising, heat butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add panko and toast, stirring constantly. Season well with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the braised fennel to a baking dish. Top with the toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Place in oven (or alternatively under the broiler) for a few minutes or until the top browns. Top with a little fresh parsley and serve.

Be sure to check back here or visit to view more of my upcoming recipes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Roasted Garlic Soup with Herbed Croutons

Cooking and eating seasonally becomes a much bigger challenge at this time of year when the green markets aren't enticing us with ripe, fragrant fruit and a plethora of colorful fresh vegetables. A trip to the market now is a much less inspiring scene; farmers bundled up standing behind tables with modest displays of squash, potatoes, dried onions and garlic, and maybe a few heads of hearty kale. I find cooking during these cold winter months much more challenging for two reasons: firstly, there is obviously much less selection and, secondly, the ingredients you do have to choose from often require a lot more manipulation. During the summer you can quickly and easily pick up a few heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and sweet bell peppers and you have yourself a killer summer salad. Winter produce, on the contrary, is not so straightforward. It takes a lot more imagination to take a pound of lumpy potatoes or a cumbersome, thick skinned squash and transform them into a delicious meal.

This recipe takes potent bulbs of produce that are normally used to enhance the flavors of other ingredients and let's them shine on their own. And they do quite a good job starring in their own show, like the understudy that, out of sheer necessity, performed the main role and blew the critics away.

My inspiration for this dish came from Susan Spicer's recipe for Cream of Garlic Soup. The idea is unique and the outcome is a soup that is rich, complex and oh-so satisfying. Don't be afraid that it will be too strong and, well, garlic-y for you. The garlic is roasted until it becomes a beautiful caramel color and takes on a wonderfully sweet, mild flavor.

Now this recipe calls for a lot of garlic; 2 cups (about 5 large bulbs) worth. I've experimented with different ways of roasting the garlic but what I have found works best both ease-wise and time-wise is roasting the bulbs whole and, once they have cooled, squeezing the softened cloves directly into the soup. Its kind of a messy and not so technical approach but it is effective.

Topped with crunchy, herbed croutons and served along with a simply dressed green salad and you have one satisfying meal.

Roasted Garlic Soup

5 large garlic bulbs
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 large (or 3 medium) thinly sliced onions
1 TBSP minced fresh thyme
6 c. chicken stock
1 bouquet garni (parsley stems, thyme sprigs, bay leave tied together with kitchen twine)
3 c. day old bread, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 c. half-and-half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top third off of the garlic bulbs and discard. Drizzle the cut side of the bulbs with olive oil, place on a large piece of aluminum foil and pinch shut, forming a pouch. Roast for 90 minutes, or until softened and caramelized. Let cool.

While garlic is cooling, heat 2 TBSP olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they turn a rich golden brown color (40-60 minutes).

Squeeze the cooled roasted garlic cloves directly into the pot with onions and stir to combine. Add the minced thyme, chicken stock and bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir in the bread, and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the bread is soft.

Remove the bouquet garni and puree in a blender, in batches, until smooth. Return soup to pot, stir in half-and-half and season with salt and pepper. If it seems too thick, thin out with a little more chicken stock. Serve topped with garlic croutons.

Herbed Garlic Croutons

1 c. day old bread, diced
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced

Heat olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and thyme and cook for 30 seconds or until garlic is just starting to become fragrant. Add bread and toss or stir frequently until bread is crispy. Season generously with salt and pepper and transfer immediately to a paper towel.