Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beat the Beat Up!

"Yo, seriously, she's like on a whole 'nother level on pickles." —Jenni "J-WOWW" Huh. Maybe this explains it: "That's why I don't eat frickin' lobster or anything like that. Because they're alive when you kill it." —Snooki

Did you watch Sunday night's double feature?? True Blood vs. Mad Men? It was fabulous. I got nervous when my train back from the beach started crawling along at 5 miles an hour because of "signal problems," but I still made it back with an hour to spare.

You might think that all I do is watch TV, good, bad, or really bad, but you'd be wrong! Mostly all I do is watch TV, particularly the really bad stuff. So what? It's not like I schedule my life around cable programming (except for, I guess, Sunday nights). That's why the DVR was invented. And tonight is no exception with the season two premiere of The Jersey Shore!!! GTL baby! You know that's going to be some quality entertainment right there, so make it legit with my Sleazeside inspired party ideas.

A little highbrow perhaps, but you can't go wrong with the colors of the I-talian flag. "I dance because it's something inside of me. I feel the beat, right? It might just so happen that my fist might pump in the air." —Vinny

"I feel like this is beneath me. I'm a bartender. I do great things." —Angelina "Jolie" Riiight.

"If you're hungry, try a Snickers." —Mike "The Situation" Nuff said.

Baked Ziti: in case you get excluded from other dinners. "You know what? You're excluded from dinner, then. You're excluded from Surf-and-Turf Night. You're excluded from Ravioli Night. You're excluded from Chicken-Cutlet Night." —Mike "The Situation"

Cannoli. Because you might need something sweet. Like Sammi. "Next thing you know, the grill is legit burnt. Smoke. Like flames." —Sammi "Sweetheart"

"I told him to put me down because I'm not trashy. Unless I drink too much." —"Snooki" That totally makes sense!

Snooki's Sucker Punch

1 part cranberry juice cocktail
1 part lemonade
1 part Triple Sec
2 parts vodka
Splash of ginger ale

Add the ingredients to a large red Solo cup in any order. Stir with your finger. Or don't. Repeat.

Friday, July 23, 2010


This weekend I'll be hitting the beach for the first time all summer. That's right. First. Time. And it's nearly August. I'm busy, yo! So peace out until Sunday, the best day of the whole year when I'll be back on my couch with my brand spankin' new A/C cranked up on high watching the season premiere of MAD MEN right after a new ep of True Blood!!! This weekend couldn't get any better! Start pre-partying with a couple of my favorite MM/TB cocktail recipes here, here, and here. 55 hours to go!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Get Your Daily Dose

What do you make with a head of cauliflower? Seriously. I mean, I know that I like it well enough, and have eaten it in the past, but I can't think of a single preparation. It's often relegated to a position between the carrot sticks and broccoli florets on super lame crudites platters, sitting next to a bowl of sour cream dip flavored with...something. Ack. Should I cook and puree it like mashed potatoes? Roast it? Smother it in hollandaise? Make aloo gobi? Yeah, right. I'll be ordering that for delivery from my favorite Indian restaurant.

I never realized that I had absolutely no idea what to do with a whole head of cauliflower until I was staring at one, wondering why I thought it was a good purchase. I mean, I'm pretty sure I've been eating cauliflower my whole life, but I can't actually pinpoint a single recipe. As a kid I ate it as a frozen vegetable that was heated up and served with melted butter. Butter makes everything better, but there must be a more substantial way to serve it.

After a little internet research I decided to try a recipe that I found on Food & Wine's website. It looked pretty painless and more importantly, flavorful, as cauliflower has a delicate (read: little to no) flavor. Cauliflower and pasta alone would be pretty lackluster, but add garlic cream, prosciutto, and Parmesan and we're talking! It's kind of like a healthy mac and cheese (kinda sorta?) except that you don't have to turn on the oven. (The broiler isn't the oven, really.) And...there might be some heavy cream. But you will get almost your entire daily dose of Vitamin C. See? Healthy!

Rigatoni with Cauliflower, Prosciutto, and Parmesan
(Adapted from Food & Wine)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound whole wheat (or regular) rigatoni
One (1 1/2-pound) head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
2/3 cup bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 ounces sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch-thick ribbons
Chopped fresh parsley, optional

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and simmer until thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Cook the rigatoni until al dente, but add the cauliflower florets to the same pot after 4 minutes, then continue cooking with the pasta for an additional 4 -5 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the bread crumbs with the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler. Return the cooked rigatoni and cauliflower to the pot over low heat. Add the garlic cream, the prosciutto, and the reserved pasta water and toss until the pasta is coated, 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour the pasta mixture into a large shallow baking dish, spreading evenly, and sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top. Broil for about 2 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the topping is evenly browned. Garnish with parsley if desired. Serve immediately. Serves 4 - 6.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Big Backyard Barbecue Baby Shower

After recovering from pork fest 2010, I had to gear up for a backyard barbecue baby shower for one of my besties, Amani. Co-party chef, Cheryl, and I made a bunch of tasty salads, kebabs, and bevies for one hot day. Since we didn't use any recipes, I am providing more of a visual documentation of our buffet. I did manage a separate attempt at the orzo salad today because it was actually pretty tasty and would be nice to have waiting in the fridge on a hot day.

Normally I hate pasta salad because the experience of eating it reminds me of eating Twizzlers, but without the "cherry" flavor. Chewy starch that's under-salted and generally under-flavored is not my idea of a good use of calories (unless the chewy starch is covered in pesto). However, using a smaller pasta like orzo and intensely flavored ingredients like sundried tomatoes and Kalamata olives helps to make every bite delicious.

Full disclosure: This second round of making the orzo salad was actually my third. On Friday night while doing prep, I overcooked the orzo while attempting to make 4 full boxes in a single stock pot. (I didn't realize that I wouldn't then be able to lift the pot of boiling orzo. Ooops.) This latest version didn't turn out quite like the first time, or even the second time, probably because I wasn't stressed out that guests would be arriving while I was still making it. Perhaps adrenaline is the missing ingredient.

White wine sangria with peaches, nectarines, and plums and strawberry lemonade. We made a watermelon lemonade after that ran out...

Watermelon feta salad

Cucumber salad with yogurt, mint, and garlic

Orzo salad

The grilled veggies were cooked on separate skewers for even cooking...onion kebabs, squash kebabs, red pepper kebabs...then unskewered for serving.

Chicken and hangar steak were marinated overnight in olive oil, lemon peel, garlic, parsley, oregano, and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. The kebabs were skewered then seasoned with salt and pepper right before grilling.

Summer Orzo Salad

1 (16-ounce) box dried orzo
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered or 5 plum tomatoes, diced
2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped Kalamata olives
1 (8.5-ounce) jar sundried tomatoes packed in oil, finely chopped
1 cup crumbled feta, goat cheese, or cubed fresh mozzarella
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
15 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions, until al dente, about 8 minutes. Strain into a colander and run under cold water until cool. Drain thoroughly.

2. Add the tomatoes, artichokes, olives, and cheese to a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add the cooked orzo, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil. Stir, taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Serves 8.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bo Ssämified

Pork butt with sauces and bibb lettuce waiting to be bo ssämified.

Now that it's so freaking hot that I can barely stand to look at my stove let alone turn it on, I can happily rely on fellow cooking partner-in-crime, Chad, to offer his place (with central air!) to cook and hang out in or to host dinner parties. I think this past weekend was our tour de force.

We've been going to Momofuku Ssäm Bar for holiday and birthday dinners with the sole purpose of ordering the bo ssäm, a do-it-yourself pork wrap sandwich thang that you make from a whole slow roasted pork butt (AKA the pork shoulder/Boston butt/Boston roast/pork butt roast/pork shoulder Boston butt/Boston-style shoulder/Boston shoulder/Boston-style butt/fresh pork butt...) bibb lettuce, and an array of garnishes. It's AH-MAZING.




Ginger Scallion Sauce.

Well, now that there is a Momofuku cookbook you can do it yourself. So we did! (Or if you are lazy, you can order your own Bo Ssäm to go.) It was more of a time suck that anything else. Fortunately the pork butt spends most of it's time unattended. It hangs out overnight in a rub of salt and sugar, then 6 hours in a 300˚F oven, then a quick blast of 500˚F to crisp the skin. (I don't own the cookbook so you'll have to buy your own for the actual recipes.) We also made the accompanying sauces (but bought the kimchi from Koreatown and left out the oysters). Oh wait, I just remembered that you can find a version of the brussels sprouts recipe at Food & Wine!

Brussels sprouts in their natural state.

Brussels sprouts Momofukified.

This is hands down my new favorite holiday meal, whatever the holiday. We were just hanging out with awesome friends from Savannah and NYC, but I would happily stuff myself if someone served it to me for Christmas, Easter, or Thanksgiving. Or next Tuesday night. Anyone?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer Sandwiches

That's what I'm talking about. If I'm going to eat ice cream for dinner it might as well be portable, without the need of a spoon and bowl. The key is a sturdy yet soft cookie. I realize that it's been a million degrees with a million percent humidity so you might not want to actually bake these cookies now (you could just buy some, or just buy some ice cream sandwiches for that matter), but they are amazing! Chocoholics will DIE. I die. They have that deep chocolate flavor that requires a cold glass of milk to wash it all down, so why not have them with some cold ice cream? I recommend making the ice cream sandwiches as you want them because when I tried freezing a whole sandwich, the cookies got a bit too hard to really enjoy properly. You want a soft cookie and soft ice cream so that the ice cream doesn't all squish out the sides. Maybe an open-faced ice cream sandwich is the way to go...

Double-Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside. In a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) summering water, melt 5 ounces of the semisweet chocolate, the unsweetened chocolate, and the butter. Stir until smooth. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the chocolate mixture and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, and mix until completely combined. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt, and beat until just incorporated. Stir in the remaining 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate.

3. Shape 2 tablespoons of dough at a time into 1 1/2-inch balls and place about 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (My dough was pretty soft, perhaps due to the extreme heat, so some cookies were not perfectly round dough balls. See elephantine photo below!) Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until the edges are set and the centers are still a bit soft, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer the parchment and cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Elephant cookie

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Newsflash: It's Hot.

And my air conditioner is about to crap out. Based on my detailed internet research, it's most likely the result of nasty dirt and debris clogging the coils, rather than the compressor not working or a lack of freon. Eight years of cooling down dirty, swampy NYC air will do that. Gross.

Regardless, my A/C is deciding to die at absolutely the wrong time! Going to an appliance store, picking out a new unit, hauling it back home in a cab, somehow removing and discarding the former disgusting unit, installing the shiny new unit carefully and efficiently, by myself, all sounds like a big pain in the neck. (My super is not very agreeable - I'll have to wave a few Abes around to persuade him to help. If I had the Benjamins, I'd be living in a building with central air!) But I bet I'll complain more when I try to fall asleep when it's still 91˚F at 12:36 am!!!

All that to say, there will be no oven turned on. No stove top turned on. No hair dryer use. Nada. Time to look up all of those "no bake" recipe articles (salads, right?) or get thee to a box of cereal and jug of cold milk. Feeling fancy? I "made" this one night when it was too hot to do much of anything else. Avocado and fresh lump crab meat. I might have also added a few fresh herbs, a diced jalapeno, and/or a little mango, but I didn't have any. And it didn't matter. It was delish with just a squeeze of lemon, drizzle of olive oil, and light sprinkling of salt and pepper. I wish I had it right now. But I think it will be ice cream for dinner. All week.

Oh, and here's my favorite quote so far about the weather this week:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

happy breakfast at wimbledon 4th of july!

Too bad there's not an American in the Gentlemen's Singles final at Wimbledon on this fourth of July. (Marathon man John Isner? Roddick? Hello?) At least Serena kicked butt yesterday. Yeah!

I made something that I think can work for you whether you are sitting on your couch with a cup of coffee this morning or going to a bbq later this evening. My mixed berry crumble might seem like dessert but it's not all that different from eating a bowl of granola with fruit. Am I right? Just top it with yogurt (or ice cream!) and wait for the fireworks.

Mixed Berry Crumble

(Adapted from Family Circle)

6 cups berries (any combination of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Zest from one lemon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup whole rolled oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a large bowl, gently mix the berries, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, and zest. Pour the berry mixture into a 2-quart baking dish.

2. In another large bowl, stir the remaining flour, brown sugar, and oats together. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.

3. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the berry mixture. Bake for 45 minutes, until the topping is golden and the mixture is bubbling. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serves 6.