Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Go Nuts!

This is what I'll be eating from a plastic baggy on the way to the airport in the wee hours of the morning. I know that I recently posted a granola recipe, but I still had the ingredients to make another batch, this time a little nuttier. I kept the wet to dry ratios the same and just added a wider variety of nuts and seeds that I had on hand. (I know, I know. Who really has all of this random crap on hand? If you saw my freezer you'd understand.)

If you compare my original granola photo to the one below, you can actually see how much more sugary that original batch was when I made it with the original amounts of 3/4 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup brown sugar. The sugar crystals are clinging for dear life to the pieces of almond and oats. I prefer it less sweet (as I've written the recipe), but you can adjust it to your liking.

I may not be posting much (or at all) in the next week or so while I'm away, but I'll try to at least upload a photo here and there. Bon voyage! To me!

Extra Nutty Sour Cherry Olive Oil Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raw chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raw cashew pieces
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dried cherries
Yogurt, for serving (optional)
Fresh berries, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F. In a large bowl combine the oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, almonds, coconut, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, and salt. Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown.

2. Transfer the granola to a large bowl and add the dried fruit, if using, tossing to combine. Serve with yogurt and fruit, if desired. Makes about 9 cups.

A Side with a Side of Bacon

I've been meaning to make this recipe for many years...probably since the Atkin's craze when I was low-carbing it each and every meal. As successful as that eating plan can be for weight loss, I would always get dizzy whenever I did a super intense workout at the gym. Low to moderate intensity? OK. High anaerobic intensity? Not so much. Was it because I was waifishly model thin or just because I didn't have enough fuel in my system? I think we all know the answer to that without referring to any photos.

Flipping through my stacks of torn out magazine pages and scribbled down notes, I came across the baked ricotta recipe that would have made Dr. Atkins proud. I finally made it. Although the original recipe calls for the zest of an entire lemon, I've left it out here because it made me feel like I should had added sugar and just made a cheesecake instead. (Not so good for Atkin's unless it was made with Splenda...and without a crust. No thanks.) This baked ricotta would make a great side dish or a light dinner when accompanied by an arugula (or mixed green) salad..and a side of bacon. Right, Dr. Atkins?

Baked Ricotta

16 ounces ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil (for the pan)
Roasted Tomatoes
Mixed greens, for serving

1. Heat the oven to 350˚F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, egg whites, oregano, salt, and pepper. Lightly oil an 8-inch springform baking pan. Pour in the ricotta mixture and smooth the surface.

2. Bake until the ricotta is dry on top but not browned, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, and release from the pan. Cut into wedges, and serve warm with roasted tomatoes (see recipe below) and a mixed green salad if desired.

Roasted Tomatoes

8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Heat the oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the tomatoes on the foil, cut side up.

2. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and oil, and bake 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pasta Imperfection

How was your weekend? Did you spend it trying to make homemade pasta with your new stand mixer attachment? And did that finished homemade pasta resemble something a 4 year old might have made out of Play-Doh? No. Way. Me too! Well, me and my buddy Chad, whose fancy pasta attachment we were breaking in.

It seemed like such a good idea. Let’s make homemade pasta! It’ll be awesome! It’s like magic! You just turn on the machine and drop in the dough and...Ta-dah! You’ve got fresh pasta. I brought along my copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan because it includes a rather in depth discussion about how to make your own pasta (by hand).

The dough is simple: 2 large eggs, 1 cup of flour. Great. Perfect. Easy. We decided to make the dough in the stand mixer because, well, isn't it there to make things easier? You start by mixing the eggs and flour with the paddle and then switch to the dough hook. It worked pretty well...until we tried to crank out some bucatini. All of the strands stuck together as they were coming out of the pasta attachment. We regrouped and switched to the rigatoni plate figuring that the pasta shape would be more manageable. Well...yes and no. Our rigatoni lacked a certain...cylindrical quality. No worries! We’ll just make another batch of dough.

We repeated the dough making process but this time the dough turned out SUPER sticky. WTF?!? We used the same ingredients and measurements! We added additional flour which helped, but it was still sticky. We attempted to make the pasta anyway, but it was just too wet.

Finally (are you still with me??) I decided to go old school and made a third batch of dough on the counter by pouring the flour directly onto the surface, creating a well in the center of the flour, cracking the eggs into the well, and then slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs as I quickly stirred with a fork. My well leaked, but I ultimately made a really nice ball of pasta dough. After kneading it for about 8 minutes, it was the texture of a baby’s skin. (That’s a good thing! It's what Marcella said it should resemble.)

We tried to make another batch of rigatoni and, although we managed to eek out a few more pieces of “pasta,” they were still pretty sad looking. We ate them anyway. (We had also made a Bolognese that was simmering away so that we'd have something to top off our pasta making efforts.) The rigatoni weren’t...bad. But they weren’t good either.

Not to be defeated, we’ve decided that we will try again. "They" say that kitchen temperature, humidity, sifted vs. unsifted flour, and the size of eggs can all make a crucial
difference in the quality of pasta dough that you make. I'm thinking that it must have been the altitude. We were on the 24th floor after all...

1. Looking like actual rigatoni!

2. Our actual rigatoni!

3. Cooked store bought fusilli (background) with our homemade gnocchitoni. Rigagnocchi?

Friday, February 19, 2010


I've really been living up to the name of this blog. I haven't cooked ANYTHING since my enchilada extravaganza of Monday night. (Mmmm...that sounds good for dinner. I wonder if my leftovers are still safe to eat...) In fact, I can't recall making or even eating anything at all this week...until last night.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a friend's house for a little dinner party in honor of a fancy, brand-spanking-new oven! It was super fun and we ate and drank very well. If memory serves, we drank 1 bottle of Grüner Veltiner, 1 bottle of red from Haut Medoc, 1 bottle of red from Priorat, 1 bottle of red from Gigondas...I'm probably forgetting something. (It's all kind of blurring together right now.) We also snacked on olives, Marcona almonds, guacamole, and ham croqeutas before a fabulous shrimp and andouille paella with sauteed dandelion greens on the side. We finished it all off with a tangy lemon tart. I stumbled home without any new recipes, but I did remember to take a few photos. If only they were scratch and sniff...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Easier Than Ikea

In a continuing effort to empty my freezer, which has been overrun with staples like Aquavit and Parmesan cheese rinds, I came up with the perfect solution for the frozen corn tortillas (leftover from Cinco de Mayo) and a cooked whole breast of turkey (leftover from Thanksgiving) that have been stashed there for the last few months. Enchiladas! Please. You can totally make this. It's less a recipe than simple assembly. If you can put together Ikea furniture, you can do this.

All you need is corn tortillas, chicken or turkey, salsa, and cheese. For real. You don't even have to roast the chicken or turkey first. Just buy a cooked rotisserie chicken from your butcher or supermarket. Shred it, wrap it up, and throw the whole thing in the oven. The end. I wish I had thought to make a margarita or three, so you might want to pair it with a Wrinkly Slut, because, well, why wouldn't you?

Easy Enchiladas Verdes

1/4 cup vegetable oil
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups packed grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 (7-ounce) can sliced jalapeño peppers
1 (16-ounce) jar tomatillo salsa
Sour cream for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Using tongs, add 1 tortilla and cook until softened, turning once, about 15 seconds for each side. Transfer the tortilla to paper towels and drain well. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

2. In a medium bowl toss the turkey (or chicken) with the oregano, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the cheese.

3. Spoon 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Add about a 1/3 cup chicken and cheese mixture to the center of 1 tortilla. Top with a few slices of jalapeño peppers. Roll up the tortilla and place seam side down in the prepared dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, chicken and cheese mixture, and jalapeños. Pour the remaining salsa over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and top with any remaining jalapeño slices.

4. Bake the enchiladas until the sauce bubbles and the cheese is melted, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, with sour cream, if desired. Serves four.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Hallmark Holiday!

Individual Flourless Chocolate Cakes
(Adapted from Everyday Food)

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ice cream or whipped cream, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Place four (6 to 8-ounce) ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Set aside.

2. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and mix in 2 tablespoons of the sugar, then stir in the egg yolks and vanilla. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a standing mixer), beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Continue beating and gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Beat until the mixture is stiff and glossy, about 3 minutes.

4. Using a rubber spatula, mix about 1/3 of the egg-white mixture into the chocolate mixture. Gently fold in the remaining egg-white mixture just until combined. Divide among the bowls. (Cakes can be prepared in advance up to this point; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 1 day.)

5. Bake until the tops are puffed and cracked but the insides are still soft (a toothpick inserted in center will come out gooey), 20 to 25 minutes, or 25 to 30 minutes if the cakes were previously refrigerated. Serve warm or at room temperature (puddings will sink as they cool), topped with ice cream or whipped cream if desired. Makes four cakes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow(ball) Day!

In honor of the official New York City Public Schools Snow Day (and my office closing early at 2:00 pm!) I had to make snowball cookies. I remember having snow days when I was growing up so was totally jealous of all of the school closings this morning. Sleeping in...watching daytime TV...pelting your brother with snowballs...drinking hot cocoa...Some years were better than others. The superintendent from California? Score! Two inches of snow would yield an immediate school closing. The superintendent from Minnesota? Not so much. What's a snow day? Two FEET of snow were meaningless.

To be honest this "blizzard" has been a bit of a dud. I expected at least a foot of snow by now. (Get a load of it here.) But I've learned to get used to disappointment when it comes to a NYC snowstorm (except for the occasional STORM OF THE CENTURY). What generally happens with a New York City "snow storm" is that transportation gets all effed up and then you're stuck dodging giant puddles surrounded by thick black slush for the next week. It looks pretty at first and then you just want it gone.

With snow on the brain I couldn't get home fast enough to make my snowball cookies (or Russian Tea Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies or whatever you call them) because I never got around to making my 85 batches of Christmas cookies this year. Annoyingly, I was out of powdered sugar. I quickly discovered on my trek back out into the snow that no grocery store in my hood keeps it in stock. The 24 hour corner bodega, however? Stockpiled. (I guess you never know when you might need it at 3:00 am.) What I should have done is made a bunch of actual snowballs to store in my freezer until July. But then again the snow hasn't melted...yet.

Snowball Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 sifted confectioners sugar, plus additional for rolling cookies
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

1. Beat together the butter and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium high speed (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla, flour, and salt and mix at low speed until combined. Add the nuts and mix until just combined. Chill, covered, at least 1 - 2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Let the dough stand at room temperature until just pliable, about 15 minutes. Roll heaping teaspoons of dough into (1-inch) balls and arrange about 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake until set, but not brown, and the bottoms are pale golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Sift an additional 2 - 3 cups confectioners sugar into a large bowl. Immediately transfer the hot cookies to the confectioners sugar. Gently roll the cookies in the sugar to coat well, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Roll the cooled cookies in the confectioners sugar for a second time to coat completely. Makes about 36 cookies.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lentils. Again!

I'm still trying to use up all of the random crap that's been hanging around in my cupboards. (I also had to head out of town and didn't want to purchase any perishables that may have had the opportunity to turn into an unwanted science experiment while I was away.) The ingredients in this recipe are not unlike those in the red lentil dal that I made last week. You may think that I am boring. I think that I'm economical...and kind of stuck in a rut. But it's tasty, so enjoy!

Curry Spiced Lentils with Cashews

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder or garam masala
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup chopped cashews (roasted and unsalted)
1 cup dried French green (Le Puy) lentils, washed and picked over
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup yogurt, for garnish
1/4 cup chopped parsley, for garnish
Cooked Basmati or Jasmine rice, if desired

1. Place a large pot over medium heat. Add the butter and once it is melted and foamy add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the spice blend (curry or garam masala) and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it darkens, 2 - 3 minutes.

2. Add the cashews and stir to coat them in the onion mixture. Add the lentils and enough water to cover by an inch.

3. Bring the lentil mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, simmering until the beans are soft, 20 to 30 minutes. (Add additional water if the mixture begins to dry out.) When the lentils are cooked through and the mixture has thickened, stir in 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve, over rice, if desired, garnished with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of parsley. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Morning Expeditions

Ever since I made a baked polenta recipe, the result of an expedition to the way-back of my fridge, I've been thinking that I had better do something with the remaining corn meal before it germinates. What else does one use corn meal for but for corn bread? Obvs!

There is a simple recipe for corn bread in The Ski House Cookbook, but it's meant as a savory side and I wanted something sweet for breakfast. So...I just increased the amount of sugar and poured the batter into a muffin tin. Voilà! I definitely recommend eating them while they are still warm, slathered with butter. Mmmm...butter. And then I would suggest a trip to the gym.

Corn Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Butter a jumbo muffin pan and set aside.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, sugar, and butter. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and stir just to combine.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving. Makes 6 jumbo muffins (or about 9 regular sized muffins). Serve warm with butter, honey, or jam.