Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tofutti Salad

OK I've decided it's officially salad week. It's too hot to use my oven but I'm too cheap to turn on my A/C (before July 1st!!). So what?! Check it out.

I used to make this Tofu Caesar salad once a week. Don't be scurred! I know it sounds crazy to make a Caesar with tofu but what's more crazy is making your own Caesar salad without someone to make the dressing fresh...tableside. Is that so wrong? I don't know why I think it's OK for someone else to make a salad with raw egg and anchovies, but when I am actually in control of the ingredients, I don't want to be responsible. Enter: the fake Caesar salad. It's not so bad! Basically, you use all of the same flavor components. You just use silken tofu instead of raw egg and lots of olive oil. Look. (If I can just sound like a politician for a moment. What is up with that word? Look! It's so condescending.) Look. Just throw all of the ingredients into a blender and call it a day. Your friends will never know. And add some extra protein (grilled shrimp, roasted chicken, seared steak) to make it a main salad and not a side salad. And as I stated yesterday, I'm not going to give exact amounts because I think you really need to make a salad according to your specific tastes. But feel free to follow my guidelines.

Tina's Tofu Caesar Salad

1 - 2 garlic cloves (to taste)

8 ounces silken tofu

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

Romaine leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese
Croutons (optional)

1. In a small food processor, pulse the garlic a few times. Then add the tofu, oil, lemon, mustard, Worcestershire, and salt. Process until smooth.

2. Toss the dressing in a medium bowl with the lettuce. Top with the pepper, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and croutons. Enjoy!

(*Note: Make your own croutons be cutting bread into cubes, coating in olive oil, and toasting in a skillet over medium heat until crispy. Toss with salt.)

(**Note: I 've never used anchovy paste, but I think it could be a good salty element to add to this combo. I'll let you know when/if I try it!)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Chop Chop!

It's officially warm and summery in NYC and that means my apartment is hot and muggy. The oven is now off limits (except for a few dire brownie emergencies) and stove top use is limited. I've been thinking about making a Greek Salad ever since I read the latest solution to the perfect chopped salad in Cook's Illustrated and also now that friends Martha and Ted (s'up?!) are enjoying daily Greek Salads...in Greece...I want my own!

Gathering the ingredients is no big deal, unless you're like me and bring your own bag to the grocery store and ultimately bag your own groceries. What's up with that anyway? Now that you bring your own bag, you're the bagger? Or is it just me? It's no biggie unless you're trying to bag and pay at the same time, and end up leaving items on the counter. (Oh. Just me? That's embarrassing.) I had to buy more ingredients today because I discovered that I was missing a few items from yesterday's run to the store. Oh well. By the way, I suggest the little compact bags that fit easily in your handbag (since I always seem to forget to bring a bag with me) so that you always have something on hand to use. Check mine out!

OK back to the Greek Salad. I'm not going to give a real recipe since it's basically up to you how much of each ingredient you want to include. But I will impart a few tips:

  • After peeling the cucumber, halve it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon (see photo above). It helps keep your salad from getting too watered down. Cook's suggests salting the cucumber and tomato and allowing them to sit for 15 minutes in order to drain the excess liquid, but I never want to wait. And it creates another dish to wash.
  • When making the vinaigrette, leave out the garlic if you dislike like it raw, or, just cut it in half and let it soak in the oil and vinegar until you are ready to use. Then discard it.
  • If you're like me and you don't like raw onions, even red onions, just slice a few and let them soak in the vinaigrette while you are chopping the rest of the ingredients. It mellows the flavor.
  • I like my salad chopped so that everything is about the same size. But that's me. Don't do it if you don't want to.
  • Wait to toss all of the ingredients together until you are ready to eat!
  • Pine nuts aren't really traditional, but I like the crunch.

Tina's Chopped Greek Salad

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 garlic clove, minced (optional)
Half a small red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped into small pieces
A handful of pitted kalamata olives
A handful of grape tomatoes, cut in half
Feta cheese, to taste
Fresh oregano, to taste
Pine nuts, toasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinigar and garlic. Add the red onion and stir to coat.

2. Prepare the cucumber, olives, tomatoes, feta, and oregano and then add to the red onion and vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Plate the salad and top with the pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Beef! It's what's for dinner.

Have you seen those crazy print ads? I've often wondered what was going on during the meeting when that ad campaign was approved. Long inhale. "Dude. We'll photograph the beef to look like cliffs, see. And then we can use aluminum foil to look like water and we can use rock salt to be, like, rocks. Get it? Rocks. Salt. Rocks! And...and...the trees can be parsley! We can do a whole series. It'll be awesome!"

If only I had styled my plate of beef to look like the Grand Canyon or something. I could have had a tiny peppercorn rappelling down the side of it. In any event, bloody beef seemed appropriate for another night of True Blood.
Love that show! And now I have to wait two weeks for the next episode. (Annoying!) But if you have missed the beginning of this second season, HBO will be re-running the first three episodes back-to-back next Sunday. Get caught up so that I don't have to worry about writing any spoiler alerts!

Seared Strip Steaks with Balsamic Glaze

1 (10-12 ounce) 1-inch thick, strip steak
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced (optional)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cold, unsalted butter

1. Let the steak stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
Season the steak generously on both sides with the salt and pepper. Add the oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering, about 2 minutes. Then, when the skillet is hot, add the steak and cook for about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.

3. Transfer the steak to a plate while you prepare the sauce. Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the shallot, if using, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the vinegar and scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Cook until reduced to a glaze, about 2 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat and add the butter, stirring to combine. Spoon the sauce over the steak and serve immediately. Serves 1. Well.

*(Note: I usually use a shallot in this recipe but I forgot to buy one. Ooops! That's why you don't see it in the photo.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Brunch for One. Or Two.

While debating whether to go for a bike ride, take a power walk in the park, or just go to the gym, I got hungry. (This happens a lot since I will procrastinate going to the gym for hours.) As breakfast turned into lunch, I decided to throw together a frittata because I needed to clean out my fridge. Frittatas are good like that.

I only had a few eggs so opted to make an individual frittata in my little 8-inch skillet. I sauteed half of a red onion, some ham that someone had given me earlier in the week (people give me weird stuff - what!), and then stirred some leftover ricotta and Parmesan into the eggs before I dumped them into the pan. It turned out to be a bit like a quiche lorraine, which is to say, pretty tasty! It's also pretty filling so you could totally share this with someone. I would just add some nicely toasted bread and coffee (not to the frittata- just on the side-duh!).

Alotta Frittata for One

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced (about 3 tablespoons)

1/4 cup diced ham

3 large eggs

1/4 cup ricotta

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Add the oil to a small ovenproof skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ham and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

2. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, ricotta, Parmesan, and salt and pepper until combined.

3. Add the egg mixture to the skillet and cook on the stove top for 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until firm, about 10 minutes.

4. Turn the frittata out onto a plate or cutting board and serve immediately with extra salt and pepper to taste. Serves 1. Or 2.

(*Note: If you have a skillet with a plastic handle, just wrap it really well in aluminum foil before putting it into the oven.)

Friday, June 26, 2009


Fridays are even better in the summer when I have every other Friday off! WOOT! Today is my day off and even though it is raining (Again! I'm used to it!) I have really big plans, including making a breakfast that is something other than cereal and a hard boiled egg.

I have a love-hate relationship with pancakes. I love blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup. I hate plain pancakes. Yuck. Why I feel there is such a distinction I don't know. I do have a great recipe for blueberry buttermilk pancakes, but I don't usually have any buttermilk in my fridge. Who does? I certainly don't have any now, so I had to do a little research on alternate recipes. Fortunately Cook's Illustrated came through with a recipe that resembles one using buttermilk. They came up with a faux "buttermilk" mixture of lemon juice and milk. It totally works! I always have lemons and milk (as well as the rest of the ingredients) on hand, so this might be my new go-to pancake recipe for those once a year pancake cravings that I get.

Blueberry Faux-Buttermilk Pancakes

(from The New Best Recipe)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1-2 teaspoons unsalted butter (for cooking)
1 cup fresh blueberries

1. Whisk the lemon juice and milk together in a medium bowl or large measuring cup; set aside to thicken while preparing the other ingredients. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to combine.

2. Whisk the egg and melted butter into the milk until combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl; pour in the milk mixture and whisk very gently until just combined (a few lumps should remain). Do not overmix.

3. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon butter and brush to coat the bottom of the skillet evenly. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto 3 spots on the skillet. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon blueberries over each pancake. Cook the pancakes until large bubbles begin to appear
(see photo below), 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Using a wide, thin spatula, flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on the second side, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes more. Serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining batter, using the remaining butter if necessary. Serves 4 to 6.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Like White on Rice

I had never used a rice cooker before tonight. It hasn't been on my top ten list of kitchen gadgets to buy, but since my good friend Chad (What up?!?!) is in the middle of packing and moving, I have become the proud new foster parent of a cute little red rice cooker. All you do is add measured amounts of rice and water, plug it in, and you're good to go. It's pretty cool, although I had this fantasy that it would be done in, like, five minutes or something. It's not really that different from making it on the stove top, except that when I do, I find myself constantly adjusting the heat.

Since I wasn't feeling the greatest, I thought I would just make some white rice and call it a day. But then I saw some tofu chillin' in my fridge and thought, "What the heck." I can always use some protein. Enter: The NY Times Recipes for Health section. (Yes, I'm like a broken record!) But I remembered a tofu recipe that I had made before. I was all over it. The tofu marinated while the rice cooked, and then the tofu took a mere five minutes to cook. Fab. I made a few adjustments, including changing the yield (maybe I should just be eating less?) and subbing out the mirin (cuz I didn't have any). Check it out ya'll:

Pan-Fried Marinated Tofu

1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 pound firm tofu
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
Cooked rice (optional for serving)

1. Combine the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk together well.

2. Drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels. Slice into 1/2-inch thick slabs. Add to the bowl with the marinade and gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes to an hour, or for up to a day.

3. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, nonstick skillet. When the oil is hot, add the tofu in one layer (cook in batches if needed). Cook for 1 - 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn the tofu over and cook another 1 - 2 minutes, or until lightly browned on the other side. Remove from the pan and serve with additional marinade or soy sauce, and rice if desired. Serves 3.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What The?

While eating a plate of fried calamari tonight, my friend Megan told me about her local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery from Farm Spot. (That's how I roll. I talk about healthy food while enjoying unhealthy food!) Because she receives a weekly surprise box of produce that is based on the participating farms and the season, it's possible that she might receive items that she's never tried before or never even heard of before.

Megan's bounty this week included garlic scapes, kohlrabi and escarole, among other items. Scapes. Kohlrabi. Escarole. Really? Really? The funny thing (probably only to me) was that I had just recently prepared a bunch of scapes for the first time. While upstate at my friend Liza's house a few weekends ago (working on a construction project and enjoying the local eggs), I grilled some garlic scapes (courtesy of Liza!) for part of our construction time lunch break. (We're fancy. We don't just break for Doritos and Bud Light!) Scapes resemble scallions in size and shape, but with a garlicky flavor, so I threw them on the grill for about 2 minutes after tossing them with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt. They were delicious!

I'll be honest. I don't know anything about kohlrabi or what to do with it. I think it was a recent featured vegetable in Gourmet, but I could be wrong.

Escarole. I love Escarole. You typically see it in hearty winter dishes like a white bean soup or sauteed and tossed with pasta. I personally enjoy it as a salad, but I'm partial to greens like radicchio and endive so it's not surprising. (Escarole is actually part of the endive family.) Last summer I made an escarole salad every night for about 2 weeks straight. (See, I can be healthy too!) Try it (Megan). You'll like it! Just ask Mikey.

Escarole and Edamame Salad (from Gourmet)

2 cups frozen shelled edamame, cooked according to package instructions, drained and cooled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds escarole, trimmed and cut crosswise into thin strips
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint (optional)
2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1. Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined.

2. Toss together the edamame, escarole, and mint (if using) in a large bowl. Add the cheese and drizzle salad with the dressing, then toss again. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

True Blood Tomato Toast

Tonight's episode of True Blood revealed several apotropaics: crucifixes, silver, having to be invited by a homeowner in order to enter a house, sunlight...all in one episode! However, they didn't make mention of the use of garlic as a device used to ward off vampires. (I seem to recall a reference in season one that suggested that it didn't actually work.) In any event, I decided to make a garlicky bite to enjoy during the episode anyway.

Pan con Tomate is one of my favorite Spanish snacks. I first discovered it in Barcelona (where it is deconstructed and you are given the raw ingredients to make it yourself - ask Gargi!) and then rediscovered it at my favorite watering hole, Bar Jamón. Even though it's not quite tomato season, it's so tasty and so easy, I had to make it anyway. It's perfect with a glass of vino tinto, and perhaps with a bit of Manchego on the side. And, of course, my Bloody Bellini!

Pan con Tomate

Baguette, Ficelle or other rustic bread, cut into a 5-inch piece, then split lengthwise
1 garlic clove
1 large beefsteak tomato, sliced in half
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste (kosher salt can be used in place of sea salt)

1. Toast or grill the bread (or place it under the broiler briefly like I did). Cut the garlic clove in half and then rub the cut sides over the toasted bread.

2. Rub the tomato
, flesh side down, over the bread so that the juices and pieces of tomato seep into the bread. Use a half-tomato for each piece of bread.

3. Drizzle the bread with the olive oil and then sprinkle with salt to taste.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's The Cheesiest!

There's nothing like a fun night out with friends. There's also nothing like the morning after, especially if you make a series of rookie mistakes, like, oh, I don't know...not eating dinner, not drinking water...and possibly drinking too many margaritas...

No matter how old I get (but not as old as you, Jason! - Happy Birthday!) I still make the same stupid mistakes. And what's worse is discovering that what you want to eat is not in your apartment. Yeah, it's really great that I have hummus and quince paste and tofu in my fridge, but I don't want to eat that! Well, not now anyway. There's a time and a place for everything. And it's time for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese! I don't know why I woke up with a craving for that specifically, but it's all I want. Looking into my cupboards and finding dried mushrooms, quinoa and chipotles in adobo is just not cutting it! (And I've done that thing where you open the door again and again and again as if that one thing you want will miraculously appear.) I've realized that since I'm destined to go out again, not drinking water or eating dinner, I better prep my cabinets for the inevitable.

My top ten for that next day:

1. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese: in the blue box - not spirals and not family style
2. Coca-Cola: the classic, regular full sugar and caffeine version
3. Bacon, egg and cheese on a roll: dirty deli style
4. French Fries: preferably crispy, from a diner with lots of ketchup
5. Grilled Cheese: with lots of cheddar, grilled in butter
6. Gatorade: any mysteriously brightly colored flavor
7. Pasta Carbonara: basically bacon & eggs in pasta form - perfection
8. Croque Monsieur: gooey ham and cheese made quickly in the broiler
Saltines: just in case it's a really bad day
10. Vitamins B-6 and B12: for replenishment

I think that I could easily have all of the necessary ingredients on hand without worrying about using them up at any other time. For example, I never drink soda so I could easily keep a can of Coke in my fridge for months. (I'll just have to remember to take the bacon out of the freezer the night before...) And I never plan to make french fries. Those will have to be ordered in.

Off to Gristedes...slowly. Need to shower first. Oh wait, it's raining...again. Back to the couch!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Side Salads

Sometimes all I want is a side salad. Not a full entree like a Cobb or Nicoise. Just a side salad. It's there when you need a quick bite, and then it's gone. Some side salads can act as entrees if they are dressed up with a lot of extras, but mostly they don't have much potential for anything else.

My tangy cucumber salad is refreshing on a hot summer's day (not that we've had any of those!) yet has a lingering heat.

Spicy Cucumber Salad (Adapted from Cooking Light)

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sambal oelek (chili paste), or red pepper flakes (to taste)
2 cups thinly sliced,
peeled and seeded, cucumber (about 1 medium/large cucumber)
Chopped peanuts of cashews (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and chili paste and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cucumber and stir to coat. Serve immediately topped with the nuts, if desired. Serves two. As a side salad.

*Note: Add julienned red pepper or carrot or thinly sliced red onion or sugar snap peas for more color and crunch.

**Note: The dressing can be made in advance, but don't toss with the cucumbers until just before serving, otherwise they may become overly limp and watery.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Breakfast or Dessert?

Muffin or Cupcake? I think there is a fine line between an acceptable breakfast treat and an indulgent dessert and, trust me, I don't have a problem with it. I am totally happy to eat a pain au chocolat or piece of streusel topped coffeecake or a glazed doughnut when offered. (Twist my arm!) Sure, I might ordinarily eat a bowl of Kashi or a couple of scrambled or boiled eggs, but that gets boring. A sweet breakfast is more fun (in moderation). Just like dessert!

This morning while at my photo shoot, the photo assistants whipped up a batch of chocolate chip muffins for a yummy breakfast treat. How cute is that?!? And just like any group of women, no one took one. Until someone did. And then in a flash, all that was left was a bunch of crumbs and the last, lonely muffin that no one wanted to take. Kind of like the first.

They wouldn't divulge their recipe, but I suspect that "the muffins" may have actually been made from a cake mix. Someone kept saying that they reminded her of a Dunkin Hines cake mix (in a good way!), and after I had a little taste, I can't say that she was wrong. Not my cup of tea, but who cares? They made everyone happy. And I think I have a new project: a side by side taste test of homemade chocolate chip muffins and homemade chocolate chip cupcakes. Who's in?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm a Busy Woman

Thank goodness I own this cookbook.

Including Beef Vegetable Bake (love the red nail!),

And Hamburger-Hot Dog Bake,

With a few Pepto-Bismol, I mean, Spiced Steamers to top it all off.

How would I, as a busy woman, ever have come up with anything interesting to make without it? Originally published in 1961, with a second printing in 1971 (maybe it took ten years to finally sell all the initial copies!), this amazing cookbook contains such recipe gems as Porcupine Meat Balls, Beef Balls With Rice, and Ham Balls With Glazed Peaches. I smell a theme party!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Not Your Mother's Leftovers

The other day when I made the Prosciutto Wrapped Fish, included in the recipe was a little herb pesto that was spread on the prosciutto before the fish was wrapped up (sorry you couldn't really see it in the photo!). Since I only roasted 2 pieces of fish, I had quite a bit of the pesto left over. Not the worst problem to have.

Oh, wait. Before I go into my miraculous solution for what to do with leftover pesto (yawn) I have to mention what happened when I was actually making it. I grabbed my mini-prep, threw all of the ingredients into it, and it didn't work. Annoying! After 18 times of unplugging it and plugging it back in, and 17 times of taking the top off and putting it back on, I finally remembered that I had dropped the plastic top a few weeks ago. I discovered that I had totally broken off the little tab that slides into the mechanism that allows the whole thing to turn on. Crap. So I did what anyone in this predicament would do. I shoved the handle of a plastic spoon into the slot to turn it on. Hurray! To make a long story short (too late!) I need a new mini-prep. Waah.

OK so back to the recipe. It's a sandwich, folks. Nothing fancy, but definitely a step up from PB&J. (Not my fave.) Wait, does a sandwich even qualify as a recipe? I say yes, if there is more assembly than a piece of bologna nestled between two pieces of bread. And you have to make the herb pesto for this one. By the way, this pesto isn't made with cheese, so if you aren't into dairy, you should make it and toss it on your favorite pasta, or...whatever, with no need for Lactaid. But then you might not want to make this sandwich the way I did, with gobs of goat cheese oozing out of it. For everyone else...

Tina's Red, White and Green Sandwich

For the Herb Pesto (sans cheese - by way of Mark Bittman):
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Sandwich:
Baguette, Ficelle or other rustic bread, cut into 5-inch lengths, then split lengthwise
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, thickly sliced
4 ounces goat cheese
Herb Pesto
Salt and
freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small food processor, combine the herbs, pine nuts, olive oil and salt and pepper to form a thick paste. Set aside. (Or use your leftover pesto from the Prosciutto Wrapped Fish recipe.)

2. Arrange the bread cut side up. Spread half of the pieces with the goat cheese, then top with the sliced tomato. Season the tomato with salt and pepper. Spread the pesto on the remaining bread pieces, and close the sandwich. Serves 4, more or less.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Drink Blood

If you are a vampire. Otherwise, drink my Bloody Bellini.

Tonight was the Season 2 premiere of True Blood on HBO. In honor of the return of Sookie and Bill (and everyone else, finally!) I decided to create a drink for the occasion. Technically my drink shouldn't be called a Bellini as a Bellini is made with fresh peach juice. My drink is made with fresh blood orange juice so I guess it should technically be called a Mortal Mimosa or Macabre Mimosa or...something. But I like Bloody Bellini. So there.

Bloody Bellini

Fresh Blood Orange Juice
Angostura Bitters

1. Pour equal parts blood orange juice and Prosecco into a champagne flute. Place the flute on a plate or serving platter. Add a dash of bitters. Drizzle a teaspoon of grenadine around the edge of the glass so that is drizzles into and down the side of the glass, pooling at the bottom.
Serve immediately. Serves...as many as you want to make.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gone Fishin'

I eat a lot of fish. I would say that 90% of the time I go out, I order fish. Ask the waitress at Bianca. I always order the salmon even though I pretend that I might order something else. I've even perfected the art of cooking fish in my toaster oven. (Who wants to turn on the oven in the middle of summer?) Sometimes I get a conscience. Which are over fished? What are we supposed to boycott? Will I get mercury poisoning like Jeremy Piven? Check out The Monterey Bay Aquarium website for the latest information and to look up your favorite fish to see how it rates.

In the meantime, I have a killer recipe that is easy enough to make on a weeknight after work (takes 20 minutes!) yet will impress any guest. (OK. If you have a food processor or one of those mini-preps, life will be much easier.) Wrapping fish in prosciutto makes it a bit more elegant than it would be on it's own, and adding a dollop of pesto definitely gilds the lily. Thanks to Mark Bittman and his Minimalist column in the NY Times, I've been making this recipe since last fall. I decided to add a side of peas since I still had about half of a 1 pound bag after making last week's Pasta with Peas. It's like a vibrant green version of mashed potatoes. No! It's nothing like baby food. Try it! You'll like it!

Prosciutto Wrapped Fish (via Mark Bittman)

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (4-6 ounce) fillets of halibut, cod or other white-fleshed fish
2 - 3 ounces thinly slice prosciutto
2 tablespoons butter

1. Heat the oven to 450˚F. In a small food processor, combine the herbs with pine nuts, olive oil and salt and pepper to form a thick paste.

2. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper. Lay two slices of prosciutto on a board, slightly overlapping like fish scales. Smear the prosciutto with a layer of herb mixture, then lay fish in the center and wrap it up.

3. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, then add the butter. When the foam subsides, cook the fish for a minute on each side then roast until tender, 5 - 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Fillets are done when a thin knife will pass through their thickest point with little resistance. Serve immediately. Serves 4. (I will make the whole amount of pesto but then only roast one piece of fish, saving the pesto for other things.)

The recipe above calls for Halibut or Cod and according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium website, one should avoid Atlantic Cod (Pacific Cod is good) and Atlantic and California Halibut (Pacific Halibut is good).

Pea Puree (adapted from Gourmet)

1/2 (16-ounce) bag of frozen peas
6 mint fresh leaves
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan combine the peas with 1/4 cup water and the mint leaves and boil, covered, for about 5 minutes, or until the peas are cooked and tender. Drain well, and in a food processor, puree with the cream and butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Serves 2 - 3.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


After last night's decadent meal I needed to take a break. So where did I turn? Where else! The Recipes for Health section of the NY Times that is my go-to guide for quick, healthy meals. One of my favorite pantry meals is the Chickpeas With Spinach. I always have chickpeas in my cupboard as a kind of emergency staple because I know that I can do so many things with them, even if the rest of the cupboard is bare.

The Times pictures this chickpea recipe on toasted bread, but I like to serve it with Basmati rice for a more complete meal. I also add a little more garlic and heat, but that's just my personal preference.

Oh! I almost forgot, this recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, which is such a small amount that I recommend purchasing the tomato paste that is sold in tube form (like toothpaste) rather than the 4 ounce can that you generally find in grocery stores. I've found that whenever I buy those cans I use a little, have every intention of making something with the rest, never do, then end up throwing it away. So, even if the tube is a little more expensive, you're probably coming out ahead because you don't have to keep buying and throwing away unused tomato paste. OK that's my hot tip of the day. Back to the recipe.

Chickpeas With Spinach

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, or water

Cayenne to taste

1 (6-ounce) bag baby spinach

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes, tomato paste and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring for one to two minutes, until fragrant and the tomato paste has turned a darker color. Add the chickpeas, the stock or water, and the cayenne, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring until each addition of spinach wilts. Add salt to taste (about another teaspoon) and simmer uncovered, stirring often, for five minutes. Add lots of freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt and cayenne, and serve. Serves 2 - 3.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hey, Big Spender!

Mmmmm...beef tenderloin. A little pricey? Perhaps. Delicious? Absolutely! This crazy awesome cut of meat rates highest on my fabulosity scale of impressive cuts of meat that you can cook at home. Because it's not a Rib Eye, dripping with fat, you can cook it yourself without totally dismantling your smoke detector system (well, maybe not all of it). Our fabulous host, Chad, and I were originally planning to cook a small, simple meal when the party expanded. Perfect! A birthday provided a happy excuse to buy some fabulous ingredients to cook well and to celebrate. Happy Birthday, Jen!

While you quickly prepare this dinner (which takes MINIMAL preparation) and everyone is drinking and starving, serve St. Andre and crackers. Is it ice cream or a cheese? You decide.

When you have an event where you need to impress, this beef tenderloin will make your crowd will swoon. Honestly, all you need is about 30 seconds of preparation (as long as it takes to salt and pepper the meat). Then, just make sure that you don't overcook the beef and you'll be a rock star. We totally screwed up my red wine reduction to drizzle over top, and no one was the wiser. That's what happens when 2 people are drinking wine and seasoning at once. You don't really know how much salt and pepper are added until you try to deglaze your pan and the sauce tastes like a salt lick. (Sorry ya'll! But you probably had no idea that you didn't get the red wine reduction anyway.)

For maximum crowd impact with minimal kitchen effort I recommend:

Beef Tenderloin with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus
(Although I've written a proper recipe, this rendition is going to be a little improvisational, like the dinner. I hope you don't mind.)

2 - 2.25 pounds beef tenderloin, trimmed (give or take a few ounces)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper (distributed by one person only!)
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Allow the meat to come to room temperature for 30 minutes before you plan on cooking it.

2. Preheat the over to 425˚F.

3. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the beef generously on all sides with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, add the meat and sear until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 35 - 40 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 135˚F for medium rare. (My trick is just to poke the meat with my finger to test for doneness. Generally you are looking for moderate give. No resistance would indicate that it is overcooked! It just takes practice.)

4. Remove the beef from the pan and let rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce.

5. Return the skillet (without the beef) to the stove top over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the wine, stirring to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and simmer until reduced to a glaze, about 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter until it is melted and the sauce is glossy.

6. To serve, slice the beef into 1/2 -inch slices and top with the red wine sauce. Delish! (Unless you over season the meat.) Serves 6.

For the Mashed Potatoes:
1. Peel a bunch of (yellow) potatoes (about 8 medium) and roughly chop. Bring the potatoes and a large pot of cold water to a boil. Cook until tender, or until a fork pierces easily through the flesh, about 10 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes. Add one stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons) and 1/2 cup (or so) of heavy cream. Mash together and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

For the Asparagus:
1. Prepare one bunch of asparagus (about one pound) by washing and trimming the thick ends. Toss with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Roast on a sheet pan in a single layer in the 425˚F oven during the last 10-15 minutes that the beef is cooking (depending on the thickness of the spears).

Plate the beef with the mashed potatoes and asparagus and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Let's face it. John Hughes cornered the market on the teen angst films of the 80's. (Helloooo. Some Kind of Wonderful? Breakfast Club? Sixteen Candles?) And Pretty in Pink was one of the best movie soundtracks of that time period. (My only problem is that I only have the soundtrack on cassette and iTunes doesn't have the complete soundtrack, so I've had to cobble together a rough playlist, minus a few songs.)

I also enjoy my wine with a pink hue as I described here. And since I'm a huge fan of all bubbly (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava) why not indulge in a Prosecco Rosé? I had one the other night at my friend's birthday dinner party and it was fabulous! (By the way, it's not a girly drink. All the dudes at the table were LOVING it.) I had previously enjoyed the regular Cantine Riondo Prosecco, but didn't know that they made the Rosé version until this dinner.

Since my memory is not what it used to be, it took me a good 20 minute Google search until I could find the name of the specific winemaker (mostly because once I saw the label I couldn't read the "handwriting"). Once I did, I made another fabulous discovery. K&D Wines ships anywhere in Manhattan...FOR FREE! In the past I had ordered from Astor Wines if I was having a party because they delivered for free if an order was over $75. But, sorry, free delivery for any amount, anywhere, cannot be beat! I ordered the Cantine Riondo Raboso Pink Prosecco yesterday and received it today!

I plan on enjoying this gorgeous pink elixir while listening to the smooth sounds of the Psychedelic Furs, O.M.D., Echo, and The Smiths. You should too.