Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Slow down, you move too fast...

It was Christmas Eve and Shabbat this year, combining two of the oldest traditions in religion. In honor of the coziness of the winter, I decided to do a trial run of my new slow cooker Crock Pot with a delicious cut of Brisket I had ordered from my friends at Holton Farms this summer and frozen. I've never used a Crock Pot before but my friends all swear by them and recently I went to a meal where they'd used it to make a vegetarian Cholent, a stew traditionally made with meat, potatoes, carrots, onions and in Hungary and the "old country" they add whole eggs. I was enraptured by the stew and idea of it simmering all day and melding all the delicious flavors together, layering and deepening. I had to get a Crock Pot.

On my most recent trip to Costco, I picked one up for a job I was working on with the intention of making soup in it. I started making a sweet potato, butternut squash soup in it when I was working on set and got frustrated with the slowness of it. When I want to make soup to be made and eaten in an hour, I need speed. I put in butter, onions and garlic and expected them to sizzle and brown like I normally cook them, but no dice, this wasn't how it worked. In frustration, I put it in a regular soup pot and went on with my business, saving the Crock Pot for another time when I had more time.

I had the urge to give it another try last week and pulled my brisket out of the freezer to defrost. I picked up a bunch of carrots, a nice big onion and about 6 small Yukon Gold Potatoes and about 4 fat cloves of garlic that had been split from a head.

I chopped all my vegetables up and put them in the Crock Pot and browned the brisket which I had seasoned with coarse sea salt and ground pepper and then put that in on top of the veggies. I grabbed a partially empty bottle of Dijon mustard from the fridge and added some whole grain mustard, ground rosemary, oregano and apple cider vinegar and shook it up and then coated the brisket with it on top of the vegetables. Then I added about a half a bottle of Pinot Noir that had been sitting around for a while and smelled like it would lend itself to the cause quite nicely. I plugged in the unit, put the setting on Low for 10 hours and went and watched "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and had a glass of wine.

All night long as I slept the aroma of the brisket floated through my dreams. By the time I woke up, I was starving! In the morning I made Kasha according to the directions on the package and indulged in brisket and kasha for breakfast. It’s not traditional but this is my favorite meal of all time and as far as I’m concerned, can be eaten any time! Sorry there aren't any pictures but some things taste much better than they look!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Everyone loves a Hottie!

So, I was on my way home tonight and stopped in at Whole Foods by Columbus Circle to get something to cook for dinner. This in and of itself is a bit of madness, it being high tourist season and the Time Warner Center is always a bit of a zoo and the Whole Foods there can get so crowded that the line goes almost all the way through the store to the produce section, but I had plenty of time and decided to take my chances.

Breezing through the store was always such inspiration for me when I lived on 57th Street, they really know the lure of visual impact in there and I always got suckered in. I had a short list tonight, just chicken breasts. There was a sampling of Rick's Picks going on and I went over to try some of the new products. I'm a big fan of the Smokra, the smoked okra and it plays a major starring role in my turkey chili, and up until now, was my secret weapon. I got to chatting with Deittra, one of the Rick's Picks staff and she told me about a recipe contest they were doing with the newest member of the family, the "hotties", a spicy sriracha pickle chip, all I had to do was come up with a recipe and send them a picture of myself with my dish. I was practically cooking on my way out the door.

I'm ridiculously lucky to have a wide variety of ingredients left over from my commercial shoots, so I pulled together the ingredients from my shelves and refrigerator and it wasn't long before I had it all assembled and marinated the chicken. I can't even begin to describe how delicious this dish came out to be!!!
Peanut Chicken and Rick's Picks hotties

Marinade:
1/4 cup lime juice
juice from one clementine
2 Tablespoons of Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoon of honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice Powder
1/4 cup of Toasted Sesame Oil

1 cup of Coconut Milk
1/2 jar of Rick's Picks hotties
1/2 english cucumber cubed
buckwheat soba noodles

Marinate about a pound of cubed boneless breast of chicken for 15 minutes to half an hour.

Cook up buckwheat soba noodles according to instructions.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of Coconut Oil in a heavy sauce pan and add chicken to brown it a bit, then pour in marinade, coconut milk and pickles and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Cube fresh cucumber and plate noodles with cubed cucumber, add chicken and sauce and enjoy!

I would have finished this with fresh cilantro if I had it, but I didn't and it was delicious all the same!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pumpkin madness

Fall is falling fast into winter, the brilliant hues of gold and crimson on the trees are slowly descending to the ground and Halloween passed so quickly, it's Thanksgiving now. I got a pumpkin for Halloween and it greeted me every time I came in the door until one day I decided it was time to go. But what to do with a pumpkin? The eco-environmentalist in me couldn't just put it in the trash room next to the recycling, so I looked up how to cook it and came up with some recipes to recycle my jack-o-lantern friend. It was ridiculously easy. I tried two methods, just for kicks, to see which was easier and faster. One method was to bake it at 450 until it was soft and then peel it and the other was to steam it. Steaming was faster since I did it in small chunks, both were pretty easy and the skin pulled right off. I barely had to mash it since it softened nicely in both methods.

Now I had about 5 cups of fresh pumpkin on my hands, so I made a pumpkin pie! Pie is one of my favorite words, it's impossible not to smile when you say it. Mmmmm, pie. The recipe was easy (it says so in the name!) and I decided to do a gluten free crust, using almond flour instead.

Easy Pumpkin Pie with Almond Flour Crust

ALMOND FLOUR CRUST

1 ½ cups almond flour

3 tablespoons Butter

3 tablespoons Sugar

I melted the butter and sugar together in a 9” glass pie plate at 425 degrees and then added in the almond flour and incorporated it and pressed it into the pan, it was a little shy of the lip of the pan.

Filling:

EASY PUMPKIN PIE (Cooks.com)

1 (9 inch) unbaked pastry shell (I used the almond crust instead)

1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin (I used my freshly steamed pumpkin)

1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk

2 eggs

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine ingredients in large bowl, pour into shell, bake 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking 35-40 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

The next day, a friend sent me a link to the New York Times which had published some incredible recipes for fall and I fell in love with a recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Bread Pudding. Pudding is right up there with pie in my favorite words category, it just sounds so nice and cozy. My sister-in-law's mother always uses it as a term of endearment and I think it's perfect. Combine it with the word "pie" and forget about it, that's cuteness and coziness exponential.

I didn't want to use the day old bread recommended in the recipe, I wanted something with a little more pizazz and flavor. I had a bottle of molasses sitting on my counter for a few months now, begging to be used in something, so I looked up a recipe using the molasses and came up with a ginger date muffin recipe from Gourmet magazine in January of 1999. (Oh those glory days of Gourmet, and 1999, can't possibly have been 11 years ago...)

The whole process takes about two hours, which for a multi-tasker like me works perfectly. I can do a load of dishes it took to make it in the dishwasher before the whole thing is finished baking! It's gone over with eye-rolling groans of ecstasy so I think I'm onto something here...

Pumpkin and Chocolate Gingerbread Pudding

First make:

Ginger date muffins – Gourmet Magazine Jan 1999


  • (for bread pudding recipe, I omitted the dates)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

6 tablespoons unsulfured molasses

1 3/4 cups packed pitted dates (about 10 ounces)

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

6 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F. and butter twelve 1/3-cup muffin cups (for bread pudding I used mini muffin pan yielding 24)

Into a bowl sift together flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl whisk together egg and molasses until combined. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in flour and egg mixtures until just combined. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Then:

Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding (Chloe Coscarelli. New York Times, November 14, 2010)

1 cup coconut milk

1 15-ounce can organic pumpkin

1/2 cup brown sugar (can use maple syrup)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cloves

I added ½ tsp cardamom and used a Tablespoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice instead of the above, it's all the same but has a little white pepper to heat it up and accent the flavor

10 cups cubed day-old bread of your choice (about 10 to 12 slices of sandwich bread, depending on the thickness of slices) (used gingerbread muffins above on this version)

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (Guittard and Ghirardelli are among those that are nondairy) (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet on this version)

I also added a package of Heath Bar Toffee Chips which really brought it up a notch

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 14 4-ounce ramekins (single-serving ceramic dishes) or a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish.

2. In a blender, process coconut milk, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt and spices until smooth. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes (crumbled ginger bread muffins) with the pumpkin mixture and chocolate chips until each bread cube is coated. (Add package of toffee chips.)

3. If using ramekins: Evenly sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar into the bottom of each greased ramekin. Fill each ramekin to the top with the mixture and lightly press it down with the back of a spoon. If using a 9-by-13 baking dish: Fill the baking dish with the mixture and lightly press it down with the back of a spoon. Evenly sprinkle about 2 tablespoons brown sugar over the top of the bread pudding. The brown sugar will help the pudding to caramelize on the edges. (Steps 1 through 3 can be done up to three days in advance; store covered in the refrigerator.)

4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until top is lightly browned. If using ramekins: Let the pudding cool a few minutes, then carve around the edges with a knife to loosen and unmold. Garnish with powdered sugar if desired and serve warm. If using a 9-by-13 baking dish: Let the pudding cool a few minutes before serving. Cut into portions, then garnish with powdered sugar if desired and serve warm. The pudding can be baked right before serving or earlier that day and then reheated for 8 to 10 more minutes right before serving. (poured coconut milk over top to serve)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fall Lentils and Quinoa

I can't believe it's been since February since I posted, but that went all too quickly! Now the summer has come and reluctantly is going and fall keeps poking it's head in the door and seems ready to stay. I had dinner the other night with some friends in a Sukkah that my synagogue Romemu built in the little courtyard on 105th St. I didn't have time to shop and gathered together things from my cabinets and refrigerator and came up with the following recipe:


Mediterranean Quinoa with Lentils
Ingredients:

1 cups lentils
1 cup quinoa
1/2 red onion, diced
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil (enough to saute red onion)
Fine Sea Salt
3 small preserved lemons
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1 tsp smoked paprika (or to taste)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chopped roasted garlic (from a jar)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar (more or less, I didn't measure)
Salt and pepper to taste


Cook Lentils and Quinoa separately (1 cup each to 2 cups water each simmered for about 15 minutes until done.)

Saute Red Onion in Olive Oil at low heat with a little sea salt until nicely browned

Chop preserved lemons and roasted red peppers into dice

Combine all ingredients, add seasonings according to taste

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Back to Basics Comfort Food

I got the most fun book last week on a search for my dream job. It's called The Foodie Handbook by Pim Techamuanvivit (I can't even imagine how to pronounce this or how she spelled it as a youngster!) and I like her breezy, fun style. She's touted to be queen of food bloggers and throws around her chummy relationships with A Class chefs all over the globe and I can't help but like her. Here's a link to her latest blog http://www.chezpim.com/blogs/2010/02/crackbars.html

I tried her roast chicken and smashed potatoes today. It was the perfect day for roasting a chicken, it was snowing here in Manhattan, great globs of wet, slushy snow and quite cozy in my sweltering radiator heated apartment.

I began as she suggested by rinsing my little chicken and patting it dry then massaging it with 2 Tbsp of soft butter and salting it generously and a sprinkling of pepper. I couldn't help but add my own touch of squeezing a lemon over it all and cutting it up and stuffing it into the cavity with chopped shallots.

I slid it into the pre-heated 475 degree oven in a shallow roasting pan. Her special method is to roast the chicken for 30 minutes on it's side to get the thighs done first and then flip the bird (I totally cracked myself up when I was on the phone at the time with my girlfriend Joelle and told her I had to flip the bird, she humored me with a chuckle) to the other side for another 30 minutes and then roast it breast up for another 20 minutes or so, until the thigh juices run clear. (I'm not even going there...ok, my mind works in special ways..;-)

This bird was the most delicious golden brown by the time it was all done and then I rested it on it's neck in a shoulder stand to let the juices sink into the breast meat. I had to take photos, it cracked me up in a very bizarre way. (See the above reference to my mind working in special ways.)







Next up, I took about a pound of mixed varieties of baby potatoes and boiled them in water in a skillet for about 20 minutes until they were tender and then drained the pan and smashed them with a large flat spoon and then roasted them with the lovely juices and fat from the chicken and a little dollop of butter. These came out like a crispy, browned pancake and with salt and pepper, were a smashed potato dream.

I used both burners on the stove to heat the roasting pan with the rest of the juices and brown bits left from the roasted chicken and then did a free style gravy with vegetable stock, some apple cider vinegar and some honey to mellow out the saltiness. It was sublime over the mashed potatoes, if I do say so myself...

As a vegetable side, I rinsed some Chinese broccoli I picked up earlier in the week from Chinatown and put that in the skillet with garlic and sesame oil then I let it steam in sake, mirin and Umeboshi Plum Vinegar. Oh it was so good!

I wish I could have enjoyed this meal, but the enjoyment I got making it was incredible. I brought it up to friends of mine who just had a baby and that was even more enjoyable and gratifying. I can't wait to hear what they had to say!