Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar the Grouch

It's that time again. Leap year! But since I don't have anything to say on that topic, let's discuss the Oscars and the fact that I haven't seen any of the top ten nominated films. OK. I saw The Descendants which I particularly liked for the Hawaiian music, and the crazy stoner surfer boyfriend who tags along wherever George Clooney takes the fam. But beyond that, I've seen nothing! Normally by this time I would have crammed in every last movie so that I would have been prepared to crush whatever Oscar pool I found myself in. But for some reason, this year I lost interest. Sigh.

Maybe it's my aversion to movie theaters because of my fear of getting bedbugs, or, I've just become even more lazy. That said, there's no reason why I can't still enjoy the red carpet (judging from afar) and then make a plan to see all of the winning films after the fact. Unlike the Super Bowl, there will be no chicken wings and nachos served. Only some bubbles and tasty, moderately healthy snacks. Actually, these peanuts will be perfect for my next Cinco de Mayo party...I should get to work.

Edamame Hummus

1 bag (12 ounces) frozen shelled edamame
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
3 - 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pita chips, crackers, cucumber slices and endive leaves, for serving

1. Bring edamame to a boil in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 4minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water.

2. Pulse the edamame, garlic, tahini, juice, zest, oil, salt, cumin and pepper in a food processor until the mixture is blended. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time if the mixture is too thick. Cover and refrigerate until party time. Serve with pita chips, crackers and sliced veggies for dipping. Makes about 2 cups.

Killer Peanuts

4 cups toasted shelled peanuts
1 tablespoon chili oil or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Add the peanuts and oil ito a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat evenly.

3. Transfer the nuts to the prepared baking sheet, spread out evenly, place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

4. Remove the nuts from the oven, stir with a metal spatula and set aside to cool before serving. Makes 4 cups. Serve with an ice cold drink.

Goldie Collins

1/4 cup vodka
2 tablespoons simple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Ice cubes
Orange peel, for garnish

1. Add the vodka, simple syrup, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top off with Champagne and garnish with the orange peel. Makes one drink.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Box of Chocolate

Happy Take Your Mistress To Dinner day! Not sure that Hallmark is all over it (yet!), but I'm doing laundry tonight and meeting with my accountant tomorrow night, so I might not be THE expert. That said, if you find yourself on a date tonight rather than tomorrow, you might want to consider why. Or maybe I'm just stirring up trouble. (Empty the pockets! Break into an email account!) And if you are the person who has to go out two nights in a row in order to keep the peace but can't really afford two lavish nights out, make some homemade chocolate truffles. For your wife/husband (girl/boyfriend). Your mistress (mister?) won't appreciate the sentimentality. S/he'll want the expensive night out. (Am I right, Big Ang??).

In all seriousness, I highly recommend making your own chocolates (especially from this simple recipe) over buying that pre-packaged box of chocolate. I swear, 95% of the time those chocolates are stale. Even from the expensive chocolatier. Think about it. Do you even know how long ago those things were boxed up? No, you don't. Here's a tip, if you are going to buy a box, go to the counter and custom fill a box. It will cost the same, but the chocolate will be fresher. Trust. And avoid restaurants in February just to be safe.

Chocolate Truffles
Adapted from Martha Stewart

8 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
Cocoa powder (about 1/2 cup)

1. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour over the chocolate. Let sit 2 to 3 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool then refrigerate (uncovered) until somewhat firm, about 1 hour.

2. Spoon mounds (2 level teaspoons each) of chocolate mixture onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Return to the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

3. With your hands, roll the chocolate mounds into balls. Place some cocoa in a shallow bowl. Roll the balls in cocoa, pressing in and covering completely. Return to the sheet pan. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Short Rib Weather

It's finally cold enough to make cold weather comfort food! I mean, what is the point of winter if you can't make soups, stews and braised meats? Or go skiing? (What do people in Florida do all winter?) My fave slow-cooked, braised meat is a pile of short ribs. Fatty and delicious, you can't go wrong with short ribs...especially if they are cooked in red wine. Perfection.

You'll see that I included a few pics of the short ribs as they cooked along, since, for some reason, Whole Foods gave me short ribs that were like, 8 inches long! Usually they are only about 4 or 5. Whatevs. It wasn't a problem cooking them, just fitting them in the pot so that they were nicely nestled into their red wine bath.

I enjoyed a delicious meal with a fab red wine (a much more pricey bottle than the $10 bottle that I cooked with) and then froze the leftover meat and sauce (separately) so that I can eventually make a beefy pasta sauce not unlike this one. But it will all depend on the weather.

Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs
Adapted from Bon Appétit

4 pounds meaty beef short ribs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (about) vegetable oil
1 (750-ml) bottle Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon all purpose flour

1. Arrange the ribs in single layer in 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Mix the rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle all over the ribs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Let the ribs stand at room temperature 1 hour before continuing.

2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy, wide ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the ribs to the pot and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch, adding more oil to the pot by tablespoonfuls as needed. Transfer the ribs to a large bowl or platter.

3. Pour off the extra fat drippings from the pot and discard. Add the wine and broth to the pot and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Return the ribs and any accumulated juices to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven and braise (cook) until the meat is very tender and almost falling off bones, about 2 hours. (DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Bring to a simmer before continuing.)

With bones - before sauce reduction

3. Using tongs, transfer the ribs to a large bowl and cover tightly to keep warm. Skim any fat from the top of the braising liquid. Boil the liquid until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes.

4. Mix 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon flour with a fork in small bowl until well blended. Whisk the butter mixture into the reduced braising liquid. Whisk over medium-high heat until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Return the ribs to the pot and coat with the sauce.

After sauce reduction

5. Spoon the Gorgonzola Polenta (see recipe below) onto plates. Top with the ribs and extra sauce.

Gorgonzola Polenta
Adapted from Bon Appétit

5 cups (or more) low-sodium chicken broth
1 3/4 cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)*
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/3 cup whipping cream
*Sold at some supermarkets and at natural foods stores and Italian markets. If unavailable, substitute an equal amount of regular yellow cornmeal and cook about half as long.

1. Bring 5 cups of chicken broth to a boil in heavy 4-quart saucepan. Gradually add the polenta, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the polenta is tender, stirring frequently and adding more chicken broth by 1/4 cupfuls if polenta is too thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the Gorgonzola and cream. Stir until the cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


It's Super Bowl Sunday and peeps are obsessed. Especially in New York. Who's going to win? Will Madonna's performance be memorable? Are there any commercials left that haven't already been promoted to death all week on TV? What should we eat?? I think its kind of funny that food magazines put a lot of effort into inventing extra special Super Bowl menus and that the morning TV programs are riddled with the latest decorating ideas for your Super Bowl party. Ummm...when it comes to sporting events shouldn't you just order some pizzas and call it a day? Why get themey and make it more difficult than it has to be? (Save that effort for Cinco de Mayo.) Either you're into football and want to watch the game, or it's just another excuse to hang with your friends and to eat some nachos.

Since it's just another day to me, I'm making yet another lentil concoction. (You might be more interested tomorrow after your hefty beer and mozzarella stick intake tonight.) And it's covered in bacon! I know. Delish. Since I eat a lot of lentils, I'm always looking for a new twist in my preparation. Bacon made my quinoa taste better, so I knew it had to add that special something to my lentils as well. And it does. Hope your teams wins.

Warm Lentil and Smoked Pork Belly Salad
Adapted from The New York Times

3/4 pound smoked pork belly, or good-quality slab bacon, cut 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick
1 large onion, halved
4 thyme branches
1 small carrot, peeled
1 cup small green French lentils, cleaned and rinsed
1 small bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 large shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fruity olive oil
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons cornichons or other sour gherkins, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped scallions, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

1. Put the pork belly or bacon in a pot with one of the onion halves, 2 small thyme branches and the carrot. Cover with a quart of water and simmer gently until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep warm in liquid.

2. Meanwhile, put the lentils in a medium pot. Add the other 1/2 onion, 2 small thyme branches and the bay leaf. Add 4 cups water and a little salt. Simmer gently over medium heat until firm-tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain (discard the onion, thyme and bay leaf) and keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in their skins in well-salted water until done, about 15 minutes. Drain and keep warm.

4. Make the vinaigrette: Macerate the shallot in the red wine vinegar for 5 minutes in a small bowl. Add the garlic, Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil to make a thick sauce. Stir in the chopped capers and cornichons. Just before serving, stir in 1/4 cup scallions and 1/2 cup parsley.

5. To serve, dress the lentils with half the vinaigrette, then transfer to a platter or serving bowl. Slice the pork belly crosswise into 1/4-inch slices (save the broth for soup) and arrange over the lentils. Cut the potatoes lengthwise and arrange, cut-side up, around the platter. Spoon the remaining vinaigrette over the sliced meat and potatoes. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon each scallions and parsley. Makes 4 to 6 servings.