Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Baked garam masala turnip fries

Ali and I joined the Stanton Street CSA this summer, which brings us farm-fresh produce from Windflower Farm, and our first pickup of the season was this past Thursday. Sadly, Ali was in Chicago for her brother's graduation, so it was just my friend James and I walking over to the garden in Sara D Roosevelt Park for pickup. We got a nice, manageable first half-share, at a size I am sure is to grow as the season progresses: turnips, radishes, bok choy, lettuce, salad greens, garlic scapes, and a basil plant all made their way back to the apartment in our bags.

Though we were excited to jump in immediately and make a veggie-feast for the ages, my dad was also in town, and, he not being one for veggies, we agreed to go out to dinner. To get a taste of our spoils, though, we made these turnip fries in a flash before heading out to dinner. They were like potato fries, only earthier, on account of the truly fantastic turnips we got from the farm. They were fantastic, and, though they were good baked, I have a feeling they'd be even better fried, if you're feeling naughty.


3 large turnips
1.5 tbs olive oil
1.5 tsp garlic salt
1 tbs garam masala powder
Pepper to taste

1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
1. Peel the turnips, then cut to fry size, about 3/8" by 2". If you have one, julienne them with a mandoline.
2. Put the fries in a bowl; toss with olive oil.
3. Put all other ingredients in a bag; shake to mix. Put oiled fries in the bag; shake vigorously.
4. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil. Place the fries on the foil, and put the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, until brown.

Yield: A quick snack for two.

Goat's milk cheesecake frozen yogurt

My best friend James and I dreamed up this recipe during his recent visit to the city. It started, as most meals in our apartment do, with a random walk through the Greenmarket. James has always been one for off-beat foods, especially if they're in liquid form, and so it wasn't surprising that a small stand selling single-serving drinkable goat's milk yogurt caught his eye. He picked one up, and stashed it away in the fridge for a snackable moment.

Goat's milk yogurt, we learned, has both the central pungency of goat cheese and the sourness of a strong greek yogurt. We decided to use it, along with some cream cheese, as an ice cream base, yielding by far the best, most professional and unique frozen dessert our churner has produced yet.

(aka Frosty the Goatman's Zesty Yogurtcake)

8 oz goat's milk yogurt
8 oz cream cheese
zest of 1 lemon
6 oz greek yogurt (we used Trader Joe's honey greek yogurt)
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.
2. Freeze, following directions, in your ice cream maker.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spinach, heirloom tomato, and squash salad

As we were leaving the Greenmarket with our lamb and garlic scapes, we popped into one last stall in search of bok choy to go with them. Jon found a few happy heads of it set among the spinach and arugula, but my eye wandered (as it tends to do) to a small crate full of even smaller squash: inch-long zucchini and yellow squash, green and golden patty pan, and even a few blob-like specimens with gorgeous squash blossoms still attached.

I picked out a choice few, and (as often happens) they waited patiently for a few days in our produce bin before I had a chance to call them up for duty. Our friend Lily came over for dinner one night, while James was still staying with us, and I needed a salad to accompany Jon's reprise of his now-famous scallop curry, this time with butternut squash. I figured that there's no such thing as too much squash, so I sautéed all the little buggers with a bit of olive oil and garlic and tossed them into a salad of spinach, spring onions, and gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. Few things go together as well as zucchini and mint, so I tied it all together with a mint vinaigrette from the copy of Mediterranean Fresh, by Joyce Goldstein, that my friend Margaret had given us.


Time: 15 minutes active, 10 minutes inactive

1/4 lb assorted baby squash
1/2 lb spinach
4 spring onions, sliced
2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
pecorino romano (for grating)

1. Slice the squash thinly, and sauté it with garlic and olive oil until slightly soft.
2. Combine squash with spinach, spring onions, and tomatoes. Toss with mint vinaigrette (see below) to coat, and top with grated hard cheese like pecorino.

For mint vinaigrette:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cups olive oil

1. Boil the lemon juice and chopped mint to create an infusion. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and let steep for about 10 minutes.
2. Strain into a mixing bowl, then add all other ingredients and whisk together.
Note: I don't ever really measure things out when I cook, but these are basically the amounts given in the original recipe. I swapped in apple cider vinegar for the recommended red wine vinegar, because we had it and I like it.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, June 23, 2008

Twice-cooked lamb and bok choy with chili paste

On my first visit to China, when I traveled across the country in 1999 with an amazing program called Where There Be Dragons, I was a vegetarian. Even though I made it out to Sichuan province, I never tried its renowned twice-cooked pork. It was left for some friends I made in Hangzhou, six years and much of a lifetime later, to introduce me to the delicacy. I was there researching a travel guide to the city, and my old friends Jason and Colette put me in touch with Si Meng, a teacher and Chongqing native, who now called the more temperate city by the lake her home. I met Si Meng and her husband, Justin, for dinner one night, and we left on what I thought would be a short walk to the restaurant. Well over an hour later, we had hiked across the hills that line the northwestern shore of the lake, and I was staring at a dingy hole-in-the-wall, known for its authentic Sichuan spices and friendly owners.

The outgoing couple ordered up a storm, but the standout dish was the crispy, glistening pork belly, sliced thin atop a mound of these cylindrical, grass-green vegetables that I'd never seen before. Si Meng explained that these were garlic scapes, the early shoots of hard-neck garlic, which farmers remove to concentrate the flow of nutrients into the developing bulbs. In the States, even as recently as 2005, those bright stalks were discarded, which is why they seemed utterly new. How wonderful for me, then, that they seem to be gaining a wide following now, at least here in New York. Jon and I have found them at the Greenmarket consistently for the past couple of weeks.

We were there last weekend with his friend, James, who was in town for the week from San Diego, and the scapes beckoned to me from their curled abundance on one of the covered stands. I bought as many as I could reasonably justify, and we continued on into the market. There, we encountered the yarn-covered stall of the Catskill Merino Sheep Farm, where we picked up just under a pound of lamb shoulder. If you can cook pork twice and eat it too, why not lamb?

That night, we were off to Homeslice West, but the lamb sat waiting in the fridge for our next dinner at home. The next evening, I adapted this recipe to use our meat of choice and items from our pantry, and Jon sautéed up some bok choy, smothered in his homemade chili paste.


Time: 30 minutes

3/4 lb lamb shoulder (all fat and connective tissue removed)
1 tbsp mirin or white wine
3 slices ginger
2 cloves garlic, flattened
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1/4 lb garlic scapes
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp sambal olek
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1. Place the lamb in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then add wine and ginger
2. Cook the lamb for 20 minutes, then remove from the water and allow to cool (discard the other contents of the pan). When the lamb is cool enough to handle, slice across the grain as thinly as possible in pieces about 2 inches long, removing all fat.
3. Slice the garlic scapes in 1 inch pieces. Julienne the bell pepper and jalapeño.
4. Heat a wok or sauté pan over medium-high to high heat. Add the oil, and when it is hot, add the flattened garlic cloves. Fry the garlic until it is very brown, then remove it and discard. Add the peppers to the wok, and cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic scapes, and cook for another minute.
5. Push the vegetables to the side of the wok and add the sambal olek; heat briefly. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and lamb slices, mixing all well and ensuring the lamb is covered with all the spicy mixture. Cook only for another 1-2 minutes, until everything is heated through.

Yield: 2-3 servings

Eating Out: Homeslice West

A few months ago, an article about underground New York City dining clubs caught our eye. People were charging relatively large sums of money for home-cooked meals and serving them to groups of 20 or 30 against the will of the Department of Health. Obviously, we were intrigued.

We signed up for the mailing lists of all the groups mentioned in the article, and the first one to get back to us was Homeslice West. Billing themselves as "a culinary speakeasy," Homeslice West is the brainchild of Hayden and Becky, two Upper-West-siders from the South who grew up cooking and never tired of it. After falling in love with the city, they wanted to give something back by creating a cozy space in which groups of friends could comfortably mingle and enjoy good food and drink. In creating such an atmosphere, Hayden and Becky have undoubtedly succeeded. The space they used, the apartment of a friend, was nothing but friendly, and most of the diners (average age, about 30) were repeats, greeting each other by name.

The food began on its highest note, and, from there on, was always adequate but often uneven. The finger-food appetizer waiting for us when we entered was a jalapeño-bacon wrapped date stuffed with pecan cream. It was exquisite, perfectly crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. After taking our seats, we were served buttermilk biscuits with honey butter. These were above-average biscuits, at least on par with the fabulous biscuits at Little Giant. The appetizer of rock shrimp ceviche with plantain chips, however, was simply sufficient, lacking anything to set it apart from any other straight-up ceviche. The salad was summer asparagus with heart of palm, in a blood orange vinaigrette. It too was simply adequate.

The entree, pictured above, was a macadamia-crusted mahi mahi with pineapple-papaya relish on black lentils. The lentils themselves were the highlight of the sit-down portion of the meal. Exquisitely smoky, they perfectly offset a quite-good piece of fish. Lastly, the dessert was crispy cake fritters with key lime creme, a shout out to one of the cooks' Florida roots. These were delicious.

Homeslice's food, simply put, did not merit $50 a head, especially when New York restaurants like Little Owl set the bar so high at that price point. On the other hand, dining there was, if nothing else, a fascinating social experience. We'd certainly recommend it to everyone once, and we were encouraged enough by it that we plan on trying another one of the dining clubs sometime soon.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Chili-cilantro flounder and peas with pesto and pistachios

This past Friday I noticed a new stand in the Greenmarket: Pura Vida Fishery. I'm not sure if they're new at the market, or I just hadn't noticed them before, but their catch looked beautiful, and their prices were reasonable.

The fishmonger recommended the flounder, and I started recipe-hunting for something appropriate. I came across this recipe from Apartment Therapy and adapted it to include the remnants of my last batch of homemade chili paste. To go along with the fish, Ali made a fantastic side with some peas in the pod I picked up from the market.

She shucked the peas, then tossed them briefly in a pan with the pesto left over from her tart, a handful of raw pistachios, and some low-fat greek yogurt. The result was sweetly green and herbaceous, the perfect evocation of spring.


3/4 lb flounder
1 jalapeño
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp white wine
1/2 cup chili paste
1 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, with more for garnish
scallions, chopped for garnish
1 cup organic brown rice, cooked according to package instructions

1. Heat the oven to 475 degrees. Pat the fish dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in a glass baking dish.
2. Chop the pepper and garlic, and grate the ginger. Put in a food processor with the soy sauce, white wine, chili paste, sesame oil, and cilantro. Pulse until blended. Pour the sauce over the fish. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through.
3. Serve immediately over brown rice, garnished with scallions and cilantro.


1 lb peas in the pod, shucked
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 green onions, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp homemade basil pesto
1/3 cup raw pistachios
2 tbsp low-fat greek yogurt
1 tsp tarragon
freshly ground pepper

1. Heat the pistachios in a sauté pan for 3-5 minutes, until toasted, then reserve on the side.
2. Add olive oil to the pan, then sauté onion and green onion 3-5 minutes until soft.
3. Return pistachios to the pan, and add peas, pesto, and yogurt to the pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until pesto and yogurt mix and peas start to change color. Season with tarragon, salt, and pepper, and serve.

Sweet potato ice cream

This tasty batch of ice cream came about as the result of a happy synchronicity: on the same day, last week, that I ran around the Greenmarket before work picking out whatever veggies looked especially tasty (a journey that led to Ali's wonderful tart), I discovered that our ice cream maker's bowl was, once again, frozen and ready to go. Just an hour later, we were having our first taste of this ice cream, made from a single sweet potato and a few spices.

The recipe is an adaptation of a David Lebovitz recipe, but I suggest you simply use your instincts when spicing the mix.


Time: 15 minutes active, 40-45 minutes inactive

1-2 sweet potatoes
12 oz whole milk
2-3 tbs butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Quarter the sweet potato. Microwave for five or six minutes. Remove from microwave, and butter the sweet potato as best you can with about a third of the butter. Microwave for another eight or so, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and mashable.
2. Scoop the potato into a bowl, and mash in the rest of the butter. Put the buttered, mashed potatoes in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Purée until fine. Add more milk if mix is too thick.
3. Cool in your fridge or freezer for 20-30 minutes, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the instructions.

Yield: 4-5 servings

Summer squash, spring onion, and heirloom tomato tart

My friend Margaret came over for dinner the other night, and I felt a bit like she'd joined the audience at an Iron Chef taping. Jon had surprised me with produce from the Greenmarket, and I had to figure out a way to use the featured ingredients. Margaret and Jon went along with it, somehow unflinchingly confident that I'd pull together a dinner in the end, using all the things that had caught Jon's eye on his way to work that morning. The last item he bought, a sweet potato, inspired us both to think – hmmm, wouldn't that be good as ice cream? – and Jon took on the challenge.

I began with a version of my now-fallback spinach and strawberry salad, with the addition of pea shoots that we'd bought the weekend before. It went over well, as expected, and I could concentrate my creative efforts on the main course. We had two beautiful heirloom tomatoes, like bruises ready to bleed, and four young specimens of yellow squash. I found this recipe for a summer squash tart, held together with chevre and pesto, and we just happened to have a whole bunch of basil left over from ceviche night. I whipped up some pesto on the spot with that, the last crunchy bits of a block of parmigiano (augmented with cage-aged gruyere), and some raw pecans, in place of pignoli. That got mixed in with a log of chevre from the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company to make a sort of pesto spread.

We've been very good about sticking to whole grains around here, so I scoured the internet for a puff pastry recipe that uses white whole wheat flour, which I've come to love. Nothing doing in that realm, so I just risked it all and subbed it into this recipe for a rough puff. Happily, despite my adventurous streak and my lack of baking experience, the crust turned out delicious. I'm sure it'll come into frequent rotation as our CSA starts up this week, and next time I'll take it out of the broiler 30 seconds sooner!


Time: 50 minutes active, 60 minutes inactive

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb small yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
5 large spring onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp prepared pesto
5 oz fresh goat cheese, softened
2 red heirloom tomatoes, very thinly sliced

For the puff pastry:
1 1/4 cups cold white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. salt
12 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup very cold water

1. Pour the flour and salt onto the cold cubes of butter. Using a chef's knife, cut the butter into the flour. Work until you have a crumbly mixture. Flatten any large chunks of butter with just your fingertips. Add the ice-cold water a little at a time to loosely bind the dough. Mix the dough until it just hangs together. Shape the messy, shaggy dough into a rough rectangle and roll it out until it's 1/2 inch thick. Resist the temptation to overwater or overwork the dough; it will eventually hold together.
2. Fold the dough in thirds like a business letter. Don't worry if it breaks in pieces. Turn the package of dough 90 degrees so the folds run vertically. Square off the edges of the dough as you work. Roll the dough into a rectangle that's 1/2 inch thick, always rolling from open end to open end. Continue rolling, folding, and turning until the dough looks smooth. By four or five "turns," the dough should hang together well.
3. For even more layers, fold the smooth dough up like a book. To do this, fold the two shorter sides into the center and then fold the dough like a book. Brush off excess flour as you fold. Wrap the dough and chill it for half an hour before giving it two final turns. At this point, you can then use the dough, though another short rest will make rolling and shaping easier.
4. Preheat the oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the squash and onion and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash and onion are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, blend the pesto with the goat cheese. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 12-inch by 8-inch rectangle. Lay it on the parchment sheet. Spread the goat cheese all over the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with the squash mixture. Arrange the tomato slices on the tart and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold up the sides, pressing the corners together. Trim any excess pastry at the corners.
6. Bake in the lower third of the oven for about 35 minutes, until the edges are golden and the bottom is completely cooked through. Finish in the broiler for 2 minutes, watching more carefully than I did that it doesn't burn. Cut into squares and serve right away.

Yield: 6 servings

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Eating out: Little Owl

Jon and I have wanted to eat at Little Owl for ages, and Jon tried for weeks to get us a reservation at a good time. Finally, a month or so ago, he lucked into an 8 pm table for this past week, and so we went. It's more than we used to spend for dinner on anything but a special occasion, but we've decided that it's only really worth eating out when we can have truly incredible food (or incredible company).

After work on the first cool evening following a serious heat wave, we walked from our apartment across the 6th Avenue gauntlet of frat boy sex shops and rainbow-flagged cafes to the still-charming inner reaches of the West Village. The Little Owl sits on the corner of Bedford and Grove, in a glass-walled space under the watch of a small sculpted owl that perches on the roof of the building across the street.

We decided that the best way to explore the menu was to share three appetizers and an entrée. The soft-shell crab at Tabla has newly converted me to a fan, and we couldn't resist trying Little Owl's version. They split all three appetizers between us, and plated them in a row on long rectangular plates. The crab was perfectly crisp, with tender flesh peeking out of every crevice, and it stood, statuesque, above a reflecting pool of perfect asparagus risotto, attended by a few cherry tomatoes, cooked to the bursting point. The cavatelli arrived in a small dish, filled to the brim with tomato broth, covered with favas, bacon, and ricotta. I've been excited about trying it since its mention – and gorgeous masthead photo – in the Times article about ricotta. The third dish was perhaps chef Joey Campanaro's most famous creation – meatball sliders, sandwiched between homemade cheese rolls. The photo and recipe in New York Magazine gave us no choice.

Beyond the appetizers, we opted for the special, a generous portion of blackfish on a mound of chive mashed potatoes with truffles and caramelized onions. It was wondrously flaky, and earthy with all the alliums and truffles.

Afterwards, we figured our restraint in the alcohol department merited reward – in the form of a strawberry rhubarb crumble. The slightly sour rhubarb dominated the berries, but a heaping scoop of near-orgasmic mascarpone gelato kept all the flavors in balance. In short, Little Owl blew our expectations out of the water.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ceviche night!

The story of ceviche night goes all the way back to mid-March, when we took a cooking class at the Institute for Culinary Education. Taught by Melanie Underwood, the five-hour course covered a range of ceviche recipes, from tuna to scallops to bass; our station even got to make mojitos from scratch for the rest of the class. The whole night was unforgettable, and apparently so were our mojitos: a woman from our class approached us on the street a few weeks ago, excitedly referring to us as "the mojito couple."

Ever since then, we've been itching to try our hand at a few of the recipes. Could we duplicate what we made in that professional kitchen? Would it taste as good without Melanie's handpicked fish fillets, straight from Katagiri & Co. on the Upper East Side? There was only one way to find out.

Our guest for ceviche night was our friend Elyssa, who came over with a kindred love for cooking and a fantastic recipe for mango slaw. It was sweet and delicious, the perfect addition to our seafood spread.

The two ceviches we made were a spicy shrimp –- which, to be fair, is more of a shrimp salad than a ceviche –- and a "Thai" tuna ceviche. The spicy shrimp dish, pictured at the top of this post, is bathed in a spicy mayo sauce, giving it an unbeatable umami note.

The tuna ceviche, though extremely easy to make, is actually quite complex. Sesame oil, coconut milk, avocado and lime and grapefruit juices all coalesce and become something new. We ate our fish when the juices had only partially cooked it, a taste we prefer as sushi lovers.

To top it all off, Ali made baked quinoa cakes with roasted corn and green onions. Though all reports were that keeping quinoa together would be a serious challenge, her take on this recipe worked perfectly, and the cakes were heavenly. (We each took one for breakfast the next morning, heated up with some honey on top.)

The night was fabulous, a fitting follow-up to our amazing experience at the ICE. There's no food we would recommend more than ceviche for a fun night at home -– what with the communal chopping, and then the slow, quiet "cooking" process, it's the best way we could imagine to spend a relaxed night with a wonderful friend.


Time: 5 minutes active, 30 minutes inactive

3 cups shredded cabbage
1 mango, chopped
1/4 cup greek yogurt
2 tbsp cilantro
1 tbsp jalapeño pepper
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp honey

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate for up to 30 minutes; serve.

Yield: 4 servings


Time: 10 minutes active, 30 minutes inactive

1/2 lb large shrimp
1 qt water
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1 tbsp ginger
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup finely diced yellow pepper
1/3 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
juice of 2 limes
2 tbps mayo
3 tbsp sambal olek chili paste, to taste

1. Combine water, vanilla bean, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic. Bring to a boil, add in shrimp, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove form heat and cool shrimp in a bowl of ice. Once cooled, remove shells and devein. Chop shrimp into 1 inch pieces.
2. Combine yellow pepper, scallion, garlic, herbs, lime juice, mayonnaise and chili paste. Stir in shrimp. Chill about 1/2 hour before serving.

Yield: 4 servings


Time: 15 minutes active, 30+ minutes inactive

1/2 pound tuna, cubed
juice of 1 lime
juice of 1 grapefruit
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp coconut milk
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 basil leaves, chiffonade
6 cilantro leaves, chopped
1/3 cup chopped green onions
4 kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade
1 tsp finely chopped chili
1 diced mango
1 tbsp canola oil
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 avocado, chopped

1. Combine tuna, lime juice, grapefruit juice, sesame oil, coconut milk and soy sauce. Refrigerate 15 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator.
2. Add in basil, cilantro, scallions, kaffir leaves, chili, and mango.
3. Meanwhile heat oil in a sauté pan. Add shallots and cook until crisp.
4. Serve tuna on plate with greens. Sprinkle with shallots and avocado. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings


Time: 15 minutes active, 40 minutes inactive

1 1/2 cups raw organic quinoa
2 1/2 cups water
2 eggs
1/2 cup roasted corn (we had some from Trader Joe's sitting in the freezer)
3 green onions, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Rinse quinoa and cook with water according to package directions (we used the microwave). Once cooled, place quinoa in a medium bowl. Beat together the two eggs in a small bowl and add to quinoa. Stir in thoroughly and add corn, green onions, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
3. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray sheet with cooking spray.
4. Spray 1/2 cup measuring cup with oil. Fill with quinoa mixture. Empty the contents of the measuring cup onto the sheet. Repeat for 5 more cakes.
5. Place cakes in oven for 20 minutes. Flip carefully with a large spatula, working to make sure that parts don't stick to the pan. Spray pan one more time before placing cakes back down on pan. Return to oven for 10 minutes or until both sides are browned.

Yield: 6 servings as a side, 3 as an entree

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Strawberry rhubarb sorbet

Ali and I have gotten in a rhythm of making sorbet or ice cream every week or so, as that's how long it seems to take for our ice cream maker bowl to fully freeze. This past Saturday we found it frozen again, and the timing couldn't have been better – a heat wave was sweeping the city, leaving us sweltering in 100 degree heat. This strawberry rhubarb sorbet, taken from the pages of David Lebovitz' The Perfect Scoop, was the perfect antidote.


1 qt strawberries
3 stalks rhubarb, trimmed
1/3-1/2 cup sugar, to taste
2/3 cup water

1. Cut the rhubarb stalks into 1/2 inch pieces and quarter the strawberries.
2. Combine rhubarb and water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for five more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Combine rhubarb, water, and strawberries in food processor; purée until smooth. Put mixture in the fridge for thirty minutes, then freeze in your ice cream maker.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The best turkey burgers ever

There's something magical about showing up at the Union Square Greenmarket without a shopping list or a recipe in mind. The trip becomes a type of foodie dérive, and we are able to wander the stalls, drooling over the freshest, most local produce in New York without the premise of a specific search. At some point, the things we covet come together on their own and become a meal.

This past Saturday that meal was turkey burgers with Austrian fingerling potatoes and peas. We picked up fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and peas, still in the pod, from a few different Jersey farms, and we got organic jalapeño cheddar and whole-wheat sourdough rolls from Hawthorne Valley Farms, which is upstate in Columbia County. The turkey meat is from Trader Joe's, seasoned with a marinade I came up with on the spot. Most of its components are interchangeable; for the best turkey burger, the cumin is not.


Time: 20 minutes, plus 30 minutes to marinate

1 1/3 lbs ground turkey
1 1/3 tbsp cumin
1 tsp hot paprika
1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
1 tbsp garlic, finely diced
1/2 tbsp ginger, finely diced
1 cup teriyaki sauce (we used Soy Vey)
salt and pepper to taste
a few tomato slices
a few leaves of spinach
garlic mayo (add 2 tbsp minced garlic to 3 tbsp mayonnaise)
organic jalapeño cheddar cheese
caramelized onions

1. Put ground turkey in a ziploc bag with salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, jalapeño, garlic, ginger, and soy vey. Shake vigorously, then let marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Shape meat into four patties, then cook in a skillet until well-done. A grill might be even better, if you're fortunate enough to have one.
3. Serve burgers on whole-wheat sourdough rolls, and top them with jalapeño cheddar, tomato, spinach, garlic mayo, and loads of caramelized onions.

Yield: 4 servings

(inspired by this recipe from The Pioneer Woman)

Time: 15 minutes, plus 25 minutes in the oven

6 fingerling potatoes
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Boil potatoes in well salted water until slightly tender.
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle oil on a baking sheet, and lay the potatoes out on it.
3. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and rosemary, then bake for 20 minutes or so.
4. Finish the potatoes under the broiler for 2 minutes or until the tops have browned to your liking.

Yield: 2 servings


Time: 10 minutes

1 qt fresh peas
2 shallots
2 tbsp minced tarragon
1 tbsp salted butter

1. Shell the peas (make sure to eat a few right out of the bowl).
2. Sauté the shallots in butter until they start to melt a little. Add the peas and cook for a minute or two, just until the color starts to turn. Add salt and tarragon, then serve.

Yield: 2 servings

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Nested eggs benedict

For most of my life, I ate eggs two ways: scrambled, or in an omelette. I've always hated hard-boiled eggs, which seem like another (lesser) food altogether, and I have to admit I was afraid of them sunny side up or poached. In the last few years, however, I've come to enjoy them both of those ways, but it's only recently that I've tried making them myself. I fried my first egg a few months ago, and have quickly become comfortable enough to serve up lightly fried quail eggs atop the second iteration of my warm fava bean salad.

But I hadn't tried to poach an egg until this week. I scoured the internet for advice, and I probably would have gone with the plastic wrap method if I weren't worried about dropping potentially toxic plastic into a pot of boiling water with my dinner. Then, I thought to ask my dad, who said the trick is in the vinegar – adding enough of it to the water that the egg doesn't separate – and in sliding the egg into the water with a gentle touch.

I followed his advice as I set out to deconstruct a dish that somehow I've never actually eaten. I'm no fan of Canadian bacon, generic English muffins, or hollandaise sauce at brunch, so I've so far managed to steer clear of eggs benedict, though I'm sure there's an intriguing version somewhere nearby waiting to be eaten in the near future. Still, I thought that I could take the elements that do attract me – the poached egg in butter atop some carbs – and turn them into an appealing and easy dinner.

What could be more natural than an egg in a nest? So I cooked up some whole-wheat spaghetti, swirled it in a sauté pan with a little butter, salt, and freshly ground pepper, and piled it on the plate. The poaching went as smoothly as I could have hoped for, and I placed an egg inside each little nest and topped it off with a flurry of parmigiano reggiano. A quick sauté of organic baby spinach with olive oil, onions, garlic, and a hearty shake of the compelling but unidentified spice mix Jon's mom brought back from Istanbul was perfect on the side, as a sort of improvised "florentine" accompaniment.


Time: 20 minutes

1/4 package Trader Joe's whole wheat spaghetti
2 eggs
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp salted butter
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
parmigiano reggiano

1. Add 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar to a large pot of water and heat until it's just about to boil.
2. Break eggs one at a time into a small dish and carefully slide egg into the water. Cook for about 2 minutes, then carefully remove and let the water drain off the outside of the egg.
3. At the same time, cook spaghetti until it's al dente. Heat butter in a skillet. Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of cooking water, and add pasta and cooking water into skillet with butter. Season with salt and pepper, then plate with the egg.
4. Grate parmigiano reggiano over the dish to taste.

Yield: 2 servings

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Kimchi pancakes and spicy Korean pickles

We both love Korean food, but we don't eat it too frequently because our favorite spot to get it, Bonjoo, is not that inexpensive – and because of all the meat and white rice that tends to show up on our table there. Neither of us had ever cooked Korean food, though we've been enamored of gochujang chili paste for a while now, but I was craving the flavors of the transected peninsula, and we had a veritable jug of kimchi that had started to leak in the refrigerator.

This was really one of those moments that makes me appreciate the internet. By what other means could I uncover a slate of Korean family recipes to try and replicate in my own kitchen after searching for only a few minutes? I came across Kitchen Wench, where Ellie Won posts gorgeous photos of her cooking, and her exciting stash of family recipes for some of the most inescapably intriguing dishes in the cuisine. Jon and I have been pondering the process of fermenting our own kimchi for a while now, and I have a feeling it's Ellie's recipe we'll turn to when the time is right.

One of my nicknames for Jon is "Kimchi Jon" – since the pancakes we relish are transliterated as kimchi jeon, and since kimchi is one of his favorite foods – so I couldn't resist starting there, incorporating our maturing cabbage into a healthfully whole-wheat batter.

I've always loved the spicy cucumbers that often arrive among the banchan presented with your meal at a Korean restaurant, and I figured that with enough chili powder, salt, and vinegar, even Jon would eat these kirbies, despite his innate disrespect for the vegetable. This recipe came from Merril, at Food to Savor, and I'll definitely be returning to her site for more ideas. We snacked on these pickles all night and the next day at lunch. Jon actually just broke out the last of them now for a snack while he watches the Lakers game.


Time: 20 minutes

1 cup kimchi, liquid squeezed out and diced
1/2 white onion, finely sliced
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 - 2/3 cup water
Sunflower, olive or any other mild-flavored oil for frying

1. Put the kimchi in a bowl, season with freshly ground black pepper and garlic. Add the gochujang and onion and mix together until evenly combined.
2. Add the flour and egg and mix altogether, then slowly add the water, stirring briskly after each addition. Stop once the batter has thinned a bit but isn’t quite as thin as normal pancake batter.
3. Heat up some oil in a large skillet/frying pan over low-medium heat, and once it’s hot, pour a ladle of batter into the pan in the shape of a circle, using the back of the ladle to spread out the mixture and thin out the pancake (you want a nice thin pancake to get a good ratio of crispy outer to soft inner).
4. Once the edges have set and the bottom is nice and crispy, carefully flip the pancake and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
5. Place the pancake on a plate lined with paper towels, allow it to drain, and slice into squares before serving.

Yield: 2 large pancakes – serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as an entrée.


Time: 10 minutes prep, 15 minutes to sit

5 seedless kirby cucumbers
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes (not the American kind)
1 1/2 tbsp gochujang red pepper paste
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Slice cucumbers into the thinnest discs you can manage.
2. Put cucumber slices in a bowl and sprinkle salt over them. Mix the cucumber slices around so salt is evenly distributed. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.
3. Add all remaining ingredients. Toss cucumber slices to distribute ingredients evenly.
4. Taste; add more salt/vinegar/garlic/sugar as desired.

Spinach and strawberry salad

I've made this salad a few times this week, and Jon can't seem to get enough of it. Yet when I told my mom I was making a spinach and strawberry salad, she couldn't quite wrap her mind around the combination. These spring stalwarts are actually a delightful pairing, especially with a quick balsamic vinaigrette to bring them together. If my mom would try it, I'm sure she'd fall in love -- and so will you.


Time: 10 minutes

1 package organic baby spinach
1 pint perfectly ripe strawberries (organic if you can find them -- we couldn't this week)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
parmigiano reggiano

1. Cut the tops off the strawberries and slice them as thin as possible. Add them to serving bowl with washed spinach and sprinkle lightly with salt.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste.
3. Dress the salad, then shave some parmigiano over the top.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sweet potato gnocchi

We've been salivating over this recipe for sweet potato gnocchi since we came across it a few weeks ago, and we decided to dedicate Saturday night to churning out bright orange pillows of deliciousness.

It was easier than we expected to make way too much gnocchi to feed the two of us, so after we played with dough and ate the first results on Saturday, we had two friends over the next night to help us eat the rest of it. Both times, we sautéed the gnocchi in brown butter with sage, but the larger crowd of night two necessitated a trip to the oven for warming -- which resulted in a delightfully crisped exterior worth replicating even when we cook up smaller batches in the future.

We tried twice this weekend to make homemade ricotta according to the recipe from the Times, since it seemed to be the zeitgeist thing to do, but failed both times to achieve the right texture in the final product. It smelled fine and tasted not-awful, but it was way too rubbery. So we resorted to local, organic ricotta from Whole Foods -- theoretically the next best thing. It added the necessary lightness to our dough, and was perfect dolloped atop a plated mound, a deep-fried sage leaf nestled in its peak.


2 large red-skinned sweet potatoes, rinsed and patted dry
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese, drained in sieve, plus 1/2 cup for garnish
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 stick butter
6 tbsp chopped fresh sage plus whole leaves for garnish

1. Place sweet potatoes on plate; microwave on high until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Cut in half and cool. Scrape sweet potato flesh into medium bowl and mash; transfer to large bowl.
2. Add ricotta cheese; blend well. Add Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, salt, and nutmeg; mash to blend. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, until soft dough forms.
3. Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces. Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into 20-inch-long rope (about 1 inch in diameter), sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent (or leave them smooth and simple). Transfer to parchment-covered baking sheet.
4. Bring large pot of water to boil; add salt and return to boil. Working in batches, boil gnocchi until tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 250°F. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until butter solids are brown and have toasty aroma, swirling pan occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add chopped sage (mixture will bubble up). Turn off heat. Season sage butter generously with salt and pepper.
6. Transfer half of sage butter to large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add half of gnocchi. Sauté until gnocchi are heated through, about 6 minutes. Empty skillet onto baking sheet; place in oven to brown. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi.
7. Divide gnocchi and sauce among shallow bowls. Garnish with ricotta, more grated parmigiano, and sage leaves.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Baby arugula and jicama salad

Since Jon was cooking up some spicy chicken and rice, I wanted a salad with Mexican flavors to match. Since I'm still not totally comfortable following a recipe word for word, I did what I always do – my one from column A, two from column B, etc style of cooking.

I was hoping for watercress, mâche, or pea shoots when I sauntered through the Greenmarket yesterday afternoon, but it's not quite yet the season, so I ended up with some tender organic baby arugula from Migliorelli Farm in Tivoli, NY. I picked up jicama at Whole Foods, and some organic chicken chorizo at Trader Joe's, flipped through the Bayless book that we just bought with an old gift card, and threw in the cilantro left over in our produce bin, pepitas I bought in November, and some lime juice. In all, it made for a fresh and fragrant start to one of the more latin-leaning meals we've made so far together.


1/4 lb baby arugula
1 small jicama
pepitas (for garnish)

For the dressing (adapted from Rick Bayless):

1 chicken chorizo sausage, casing removed
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt to taste
juice from 1 small lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1. Peel jicama with a knife and cut into long sticks.
2. Whisk together oil, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, and salt in a bowl.
3. Sauté the chorizo in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir and break up clumps until it's browned and cooked through, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, stir for a minute, then add to vinaigrette and mix thoroughly.
4. Pour vinaigrette and chorizo over arugula and jicama. Toss to coat and garnish with salted pepitas.

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