Sunday, December 27, 2009

Coffee Marinated Bison Ribs

While visiting a friend's farmer's market in Phoenixville, PA, I found another source of grass-fed buffalo meat. It was more expensive than the farm that we visit in Hamlin, PA, but I picked up two packages of buffalo short ribs anyway (about $25). I found this recipe on the web from the February 2008 Bon Apetit and adapted it to use my slow cooker. The recipe is time consuming, but well worth it. Each portion came out to be about $7 with all the ingredients.

Coffee-Marinated Bison Short Ribs


4 cups water
3 cups chilled strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup coarse kosher salt
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups ice cubes
4 pounds bison (often labeled buffalo) short ribs

Short Ribs

2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped shallots
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small jalapeño chile, seeded, chopped
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/4 cup chili sauce or ketchup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

To prepare the marinade

Stir 4 cups water, coffee, 1/2 cup coarse salt, and sugar in large bowl until salt and sugar dissolve. Add syrup and next 3 ingredients; stir until ice melts. Add ribs. Place plate atop ribs to keep submerged. Cover and chill 4 to 6 hours. Drain ribs; discard marinade. Drained ribs can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

To prepare the short ribs

Heat until smoking a deep cast iron pan and add olive oil. Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook ribs until browned on all sides, about 7 minutes per batch. Transfer to large plate. Add onions, shallots, garlic, and jalapeño to pot. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add coffee and broth; stir, scraping up browned bits. Add chili sauce and all remaining ingredients; bring to boil. Transfer all to a slow cooker and cook for at least 6 hours, more to taste. We like our ribs falling off the bone, so we cooked them for about 8-9 hours.

We weren't ready to eat ours right away so I put them in the freezer almost immediately after they cooled with a generous portion of the liquid they cooked in. When we were ready to eat them a few days later, I defrosted them overnight, and then when we got home from work, I put them into a foil covered pan and heated them at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. They were delicious.

White Chocolate Christmas Triangles

Friends of ours had a holiday party and asked that all of their guests bring triangle-shaped foods. Everyone's first thought is always phyllo dough triangles, but I wanted to do something different. I found this recipe after googling for "triangle recipe": Double Ginger Shortbread Triangles, and I sprinkled a little red sugar on the white chocolate tips to make them look more festive. They were a hit and I would definitely make them again.

Double Ginger Shorbread Triangles with White Chocolate and Red Sugar Sprinkles


2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 Tbsp ground ginger

1 T bsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely diced
1 ounce of white chocolate, melted according to package directions (I used white chocolate chips)
crystallized ginger, cut into thin strips


Heat oven to 325°F. Line a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1-in. jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Beat butter, sugar, ground ginger, vanilla and salt in a large bowl with mixer on medium speed until creamy. On low, beat in flour just until blended. Press evenly with floured fingers over bottom of prepared pan. With a knife, cut dough lengthwise into 4 equal strips, then crosswise into 4 equal strips, making 16 rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half diagonally. Prick each triangle several times with a fork. Bake a half an hour or until shortbread looks dry and pale gold. Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes; recut cookies while still warm. Cool completely in pan before decorating. To decorate: Dip short sides of each triangle into melted white chocolate, or spread melted chocolate on triangles. Decorate with a few strips of ginger. Refrigerate to set chocolate.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wedding Favors

So I'm getting married! Wow. I haven't written about this on my blog yet; sadly, I've been spending all of my blogging time on another site, the Off Beat Bride Tribe. I keep a running journal of wedding planning updates there, but the last update overlaps with this blog, so here you have it.

The only person who will truly know what I went through to create my wedding favors will be my BFF/maid of honor, and who I call my Top Chick, but for here will be referred to as M. I had 160 little jars shipped to her place because there's no room for them in my apartment in Brooklyn, and I drove myself, 75 hot peppers, and a food processor to her house this weekend to make my favors. We got up early to go to the green market near her house for 30 bell peppers (I didn't get them at home at my own green market on Saturday because I was afraid they wouldn't keep all week), ran some errands, and I got started chopping at around noon. I was committed to using local ingredients, so everything that went into these little buggers came from either my green market at Grand Army Plaza or her green market in Phoenixville, PA. I was going to use the peppers that are growing on my back balcony, but I didn't get a bumper crop this season, so I had to settle for someone else's.

I chopped half of the hot and bell peppers by hand so that the relish wouldn't be too mushy, and chopped up the other half in the food processor. I was chopping for FIVE STRAIGHT HOURS! Tomatillos go in the recipe, too, and I ran into a huge problem when the tomatillo skins got stuck in her garbage disposal unit. I had to fish around in there with my bare hands to clear it up, and even then, I had to use some Liquid Plummer. By 5:30, the relish was brining and my hands were burning like a &$((##@. I consulted an article on Chow about how to soothe burning hands after cutting chiles (Avoiding Chile Eyeball), and jumped in the car to buy some lemons, lemon juice, and yogurt.

You should have seen me at Target wheeling around a cart resting my hands on two frozen bags of edamame, and then in the parking lot pouring lemon juice over my hands.

It took me from about 8 pm until 11:30 to rinse the brine, drain the relish, wash the little jars, spoon in about 5 teaspoons into each jar, and then pour boiling hot vinegar syrup in each little jar. By the time Saturday Night Live came on, I was sitting on the floor with a glass of wine and each hand dunked into a big bowl of yogurt. Quite a sight (and very difficult to drink the wine). I was only able to do about 115--I ran out of relish. So I'll do the remaining 50 or so as sweet pepper relish this weekend. I don't think I can handle another batch of the hot anytime soon. I guess that answers my question about switching careers.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lemon Pepper Chicken on Shitake Farro

I've been looking all over for farro for about a year. None of my usual spots carries it.

I read about it on someone else's blog, and I had to travel all the way to San Francisco to find it. Everytime I visit my friends in San Francisco, I visit the Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, and I always find stuff that I can't find back East. I usually pack an extra bag so that I can bring back groceries from this place. The last time I was there, I brought back heirloom beans, three different kinds of salt, and mission burrito shells. This time I got the farro, blue cornmeal, and orecchiette (literally, "little ears," or "lambs ears pasta"). We cooked the orecchiette with homemade pesto, inspired by our lunch at Chez Panisse which we visited while in the Bay Area.

I finally made the faro last week, which is actually spelt. I cooked it with shitake mushrooms from the green market, topped with lemon pepper chicken breast strips and lemon-butter sauce with thyme. It was a delicious meal.

Shitake Farro

3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic. each cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup diced red onions
1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
1/4 cup marsala wine
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
3 cups cooked farro

To make 3 cups cooked Farro:
1 cup farro
1 3/4 cups water
pinch salt

First, boil your water so that you're ready to use it in the faro, which you'll toast next. Place farro in a dry, cast iron pan and heat it until it starts to smell roasted, maybe 3-4 minutes. Shift the farro around with a wooden spoon or other cooking implement. Turn off the heat, and then carefully pour the boiling water over the farro. Add salt, simmer and cover and cook until the farro is tender and chewy. This may take 20-30 minutes and you may have to add a bit more water.

Heat oil in another cast iron pan, add the onion and garlic and saute until onions are starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms and stems, season with salt, and saute over medium high heat until mushrooms have released their liquid and are well browned, about 5 minutes or longer.

Stir in the marsala/water mixture and cook until liquid is mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add chopped thyme, and then add thecooked farro and heat 2-3 minutes, stirring gently. You may need to add some water to keep the farro moist. Heat through and you'll be ready to serve.

Lemon-Pepper Chicken
This is the simplest part of the whole dish. You can prepare the chicken en paillard, in strips, chunks, or as whole or half breasts--on the bone or off.

Chicken (enough for your guests, plus some for lunch!)
Olive oil

Heat the oil in a pan until it's smokin' hot. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper, then squeeze the lemon(s) over the chicken when it's just starting to brown. You can throw the lemon (in slices, or chunks) right into the pan with the chicken. Brown the chicken until it's cooked, and until it's cooked to your liking.

Lemon-Thyme Butter Sauce

2 tbsp. ghee (or clarified butter)
(if you're making it from scratch, you'll need abt 1/2 stick butter)
2 tbsp finely-minced yellow onion
2 tbsp finely-minced garlic
6 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp dry white wine
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly-grnd white pepper to taste
2 tbsp cool butter

To clarify butter: Heat 1/2 stick butter over low heat. When melted, remove from heat and set aside for several min to allow the lowfat milk solids to settle to the bottom. Skim the clear (clarified) butter from the top and throw away sediment. (This can be done ahead.)

To make sauce: Heat clarified butter, add in onion and garlic and saute/fry till transparent. Add in lemon juice and white wine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer 2 to 3 min to reduce liquid. Remove from heat and swirl in cool butter till sauce is smooth and emulsified.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Food on the West Coast Road Trip

A relative recently asked me why I hadn't posted in so long.....well, D and I got engaged! And I recently became a replacement for my boss who went out on maternity leave! So I've been busy...and not paying attention to the blog. But D and I are on a trip from Laguna Beach to San Francisco, and we've had an interesting culinary experience along the way:

Plane Food

Korean BBQ

Chinese Food--LA Chinatown

Hawai'ian Restaurant in Pasadena

Laguna Beach

In "n Out Burger


Clam Chowder, salad, and Calamari

Frank and ....whatsername?

Half Moon Bay



Dinner with Friends--Artichoke, pasta, local, bio-dynamic wine

Rainbow Grocery

Chez Panisse


Brunch in the Mission

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Denver-inspired Sweet Potato Pancakes with Honey-Cinnamon Butter and Pecans

I was in Denver, Colorado last week to watch D play a frisbee tournament, but ended up not watching too much frisbee. Another of the players had a 6-year old daughter who kindly accompanied me to some Denver-area restaurants. We joined another friend there for Saturday brunch at a restaurant called Snooze on the recommendation of a co-worker in New York who used to work there. She said, "You simply must try the sweet potato pancakes." So we did. The entire meal was delicious (we all shared the sweet potato pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, and poached eggs with hash and English muffins--the best I've ever had in my life, and discussed in a separate blog entry here). But I was underwhelmed by the sweet potato pancakes, so I just had to try my hand at them.

This weekend, we went to our friend's country house in Pennsylvania and spent time with a mutual friend who was up from Florida. D thought the sweet potato pancakes would be too heavy for a summer morning, but I was determined to make them better than Snooze did. They turned out really well, and we couldn't have asked for better company or a setting--at a lovely table on a porch by a noisy river. I served them with sweet chicken and roast pepper sausage, honey-cinnamon butter, pecans, and maple syrup.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
3 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp nutmeg
3 cups milk, 3 eggs, 5 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup boiled or roasted mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix dry ingredients together (you can even do this days ahead of time, or before a trip to impress a host if you go visiting). Stir in the moist ingredients until well-blended. Ensure that the batter is drippy enough, but not too drippy. Heat a generous amount of oil in a pan and drop in approximately 1/4 cup or 3 tbsp of the batter until browned on either side. Serve with honey-cinnamon butter, a sprinkling of chopped pecans, and heated maple syrup.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Frisbee Kirbys

D has been playing frisbee since he was like 12 years old. He's been to both national and international championships multiple times. This summer, he joined a Grand Masters team--men over 40--in a tournament in Denver, Colorado. I wanted to do something special to support the new team. A few times, I've brought out big containers of cookies or brownies that they guys munched up after their last game. I wanted to do something healthier this time.

For the past few years, from the sidelines I've seen the guys chugging pickle juice from big jars of Vlasic pickles that they kept in coolers. Apparently, pickle juice helps with muscle cramping in athletes. I don't know if it's the vinegar, or a complex interaction of the ingredients, but I knew what I had to do. (info about the benefits of pickle juice in muscles here). So I made a big batch of kirby dills a few weeks before the tournament, and then packed them very carefully in a big plastic container, quadruple wrapped them, and put them in my checked luggage. I had a lot to think about before this trip--a lot of work stuff going on, things to do....but the safety and security of the pickles on the plane was really my biggest concern. They arrived safely with a very minimal amount of leakage and I brought them out during their second day of play. I think they liked them, though I regret not getting a picture of them digging in to the jar from the sidelines.

D's master's team made it to nationals in Sarasota, Florida this year, and I wanted to send him down with another batch of pickles. I bought about 24 persian cucumbers and socked them in ice water for two days, but then I found myself too busy to finish the picklemaking in time enough for me to be confident in their taste to send them down for the team. I cut them up, packed them in a big glass jar, and they stayed behind when D boarded the plane for Florida.

I wish I would have sent them because they were delicious, and they would have been fine after sitting for a few days in his hotel room. Oh well. Now we have a big old jar of pickles to eat ourselves!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Naturally Occurring Salad Greens

Last year, my friend took me to a swanky localvore joint just North of the meatpacking district in Manhattan called The Cook Shop ( and we had a purslane, goat cheese, and blueberry salad. When the waiter put the plate in front of me, I recognized the greens: I had pulled up and disposed of every single one of them from my balcony garden in Brooklyn because I wrote them off as weeds. I vowed to bring them back and cultivate them this year, and it's working. Just the other day, I was able to harvest a handful and toss them in our salad. Delicious. Check out the nutrition benefits of purslane:

This experience definitely made me rethink an article that a friend wrote when we were in college called: Why is a Weed a Weed? I can't wait to have enough purslane on the porch to make my own blueberry and goat cheese salad. I'll be sure to post a photo.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Now that's camping!


Blog-productivity has suffered this summer because D and I have been traveling so much. There's not much to say about this meal in terms of preparation, but it can't go unrecorded. We drove to Letchworth State Park a few weeks ago--about an 8-hour drive from Brooklyn. I was on a work trip and D came to meet me on the train. We drove from where I was staying about 3 hours to Letchworth, and then broke the trip up on the way back by stopping at my parents. Letchworth is known as the Grand Canyon of the East, and it was simply beautiful.


On the way to the campground, we stopped at a supermarket and picked up a grass-fed beef steak, fresh ears of corn, asparagus, and heirloom tomatoes. When we got to the campsite, we set up the tent, made some margaritas, and chopped up some garlic and spices to marinate the steak in (with olive oil, salt, and pepper). A friend brought back some spices in a little decorative container from Zanzibar, and we just used those--saffron, sesame, cumin, and I think some sort of red pepper spice. We put the marinating steak in a plastic bag and tucked it away in the cooler and headed off for a hike.

When we returned, D sparked up the fire, set up the grill, and we laid it all out. One flip on the grill, and voila. Shortly before sundown, we were enjoying this lovely meal under the trees.

Monday, May 25, 2009


We spent a beautiful day in the park and decided to extend the day outdoors and barbeque on the roof for the first time this season. I had marinated some buffalo sirloin cubes earlier in the day so when we got home, we just soaked some bamboo skewers and arranged red pepper, tomato, pineapple chunks, and the sirloin cubes. We invited a friend over at the last minute, and she contributed some tomatillos and green peppers to the mix. We added some fresh local asparagus from the farmer's market and it was a feast.

Buffalo Roofkebabs

1 lb sirloin cubes (you can use beef, we used buffalo)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp olive oil
3 minced garlic cloves
3 tsp minced ginger
salt, pepper, drops of sriracha sauce
1 green pepper, cut into squarish pieces
1 cup cubed pineapple
1 red pepper, cut into large squarish pieces
3 tomatillos and one large red tomato, cut into chunks

Marinate the meat cubes in all of the ingredients mixed to the green pepper for the day (at least two hours). Arrange pieces of each ingredient on bamboo skewers and cook over grill until meat is seared and vegetable/fruit browned. Serve with some veggies or over rice, we served our kebabs with asparagus.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

When in doubt...

...or when creativity eludes, we opt for burgers. We always use local and/or grassfed beef or buffalo. Very little fat, and the taste is so much different (and better) than cheaper burgers. A pound of ground sirloin is around $6, and you get at least four meals of out it (you figure, 1/4 pound burgers, plus we add in a lot of stuff). The mixture is always a little different, but in general, this is how we make it. We had mini-burgers with broccoli, mushrooms, and green peppers on the side.

Simple Grass-Fed Burgers

1 lb ground sirloin
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, diced
splash of soy sauce or tamari
squeeze of barbeque sauce
splash of steak sauce
squeeze of sriracha sauce
chopped green pepper
chopped mushrooms
breadcrumbs (optional)
salt, pepper, paprika

Form into burger-sized patties, cook in olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Serve with veggies and splashes of hot sauce (chipotle and green tobasco sauce pictured here).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Frozen Salmon Dilemma

We read an article recently about the dangers and disadvantages of farmed fish; afterward, we vowed to only eat wild-caught fish. Unfortunately, wild fish are expensive, and there's still the problem with overfishing.... What to do if you love fish? I'm not sure. I guess all things in moderation. I was at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago and saw Wild Alaskan Salmon on sale. I called D and asked if I should pick a few packages up, and I think he was distracted and work and said: "why not?" Well, frozen fish is simply just not something he does, having worked at a fish restaurant in the past, so he was not pleased with the purchase when he saw it: there was freezer burn, the color wasn't right, the texture wasn't right.... Back into the freezer went those fish, and I spent some time thinking about what to do with them. I ate one piece when he was out of town (it tasted fine to me), but then found this recipe from Eating Well (Winter 2004). I modified it a little bit, and the results were delicious.

Salmon Cakes with Creamy Yogurt-Dill Sauce

1 lb salmon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 minced garlic cloves
1.4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup fresh whole-wheat or unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
olive oil
Creamy Dill Sauce (recipe follows)
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spread or spray a light coating of olive oil on a baking sheet. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a cast iron frying pan and saute the onions and garlic until the begin to brown. Remove them from the heat. Flake the salmon into small pieces with a fork. Mix in parsley, mustard, egg, and pepper. When the onions have cooled a bit, mix those in and add the breadcrumbs. Shape the mixture into 8 equally-sized patties. Heat some more olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add 4 patties and cook until the undersides are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a wide spatula, turn them over onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining patties. Bake the salmon cakes until golden on top and heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare Creamy Dill Sauce. Serve salmon cakes with sauce and lemon wedges. We served ours on a bed of wilted baby spinach, pan-fried tomatoes, and a half an ear of corn.

Creamy Yogurt-Dill Sauce

1 cup yogurt
2 tbsp mayonnaise (optional)
3 diced garlic cloves
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
season with salt and pepper

Mix together, chill, and serve over salmon cakes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hmmm, seitan? No thanks.

D and I are flirting with the idea of a raw diet cleanse, but at the very least, cutting down on our meat consumption which has admittedly been really extravagant of late. I picked up some seitan (wheat gluten) at Fairway last week to use as a meat-substitute in my tagine. The flavor was okay, but that's because seitan really picks up the flavor of whatever you cook it in. I'm not crazy about the texture of seitan cubes, and D thinks that its too processed and doesn't fit into our ethos of cooking with whole, unadulterated foods. I suppose we could make it at home, but why? Seitan is a good protein source for those who have entirely given up meat (and apparently, a good substitute particularly for duck meat), and it's low in fat and calories, but there aren't really too many other benefits that make it worth doing this again. Check out some info on seitan here:

Here's the recipe I used, though. I made it up.

Ginger-Seitan Tagine

1 lb package of seitan
3 tbsp sliced ginger (I used matchsticks)
2 tbsp diced garlic
1 tbsp diced jalapeno
2 small onions, or one medium one (sauteed until browned)
1/2 cup garbanzo beans/chick peas
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup currants
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
1 cup vegetable broth
squeeze of lime juice
salt, pepper, paprika

Even though the seitan is pre-cooked, I decided to marinate it anyway in the olive oil, honey, lime juice, salt, pepper, paprika, ginger, garlic and jalapeno. It sat in that mix for a few hours, and then about an hour and a half before dinner, I combined the entire mix with the browned onion, chick peas, tomato, currants, and vegetable broth and placed in the base of the tagine. 400 degrees, an hour and a half later = yummy tagine. I served it over couscous cooked with parsley and scallion, seasoned with only salt and pepper.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spicy Tofu with Mushrooms and Spinach

We've been eating a lot less meat lately, and the tofu from the Korean place a block away is terrific: $1.50 for about 16 ounces of firm, white tofu. I don't know how they do it, but I like it. It's not overpackaged and it always seems fresh. This dish has become a staple because its so easy to prepare the night before and cook up quickly after a long day. I've been using spinach and mushrooms from the farmer's market.

Spicy Tofu with Mushrooms and Spinach

12 ounces firm tofu
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
6 ounces baby spinach, chopped

Slice the tofu into squares that are about 1/2 inch thick. Place the blocks of tofu in a clean kitchen towel and press down gently to try and soak up as much water as possible without breaking the tofu. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, cornstarch, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper. Add the tofu, and gently combine. Cover and place in the fridge overnight. You can marinate for as little as an hour, or as long as 48 hours (I've never kept something marinating for longer than that, but you might try it). When you're ready to cook, take the tofu out and drain, reserving the leftover marinade in a separate blow. Set a wok or large iron skillet over high heat. Pour the 2 tablespoons of the oil in pan and heat until smoking hot. Add the tofu, stirring gently and occasionally until the tofu is browned, about 2 minutes. Remove the tofu and place in a separate bowl. Pour in the rest of the oil, and then add the mushrooms, ginger, and garlic. Stir and cook for about a minute. Add the spinach and the marinade. Cook until the spinach has wilted, and then add the tofu back in. I serve this over soba noodles, brown rice, or if I'm feeling decadent, jasmine rice. Sometimes we even eat it all by itself. This recipe makes enough for two dinners and two lunches for the next day.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Venison Virgin

There's something about looking an animal in the eye before taking its life for food that really appeals to me. Michael Pollan wrote about a meal that he cooked for a group of friends that entailed not only foraging for wild mushrooms, but also stalking and killing a wild boar. What a terrific essay. Pollan explored the conflicting feelings he had as a hunter of excitement, disgust, guilt, and satisfaction. I'm pretty sure the essay was included in his larger work, The Omnivore's Dilemma, but it also appeared in the New York Times ( I don't know if I'll ever be a hunter, but D has a friend who is, and this friend hunts deer with a bow and arrow for meat that lasts him through the year. He generously gave us a pound of venison tender loin. Neither D nor I have ever had venison before, so we decided to prepare it as a tagine with north African spices. I rooted around on the internet and adapted this recipe from the a website in the UK: Seriously Good Venison:

Venison Tagine with Apricots

1 lb cubed venison
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 teasp turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander seed
½ tsp cinnamon
a few threads of saffron
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 bell pepper, de-seeded & cut into chunks
½ head of garlic cloves, peeled & halved
12 dried apricots--the French ones are better than the Turkish ones for this dish
Few slices of chopped salted lime
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 tbsp oil
2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/4 cup water

Heat the oil an a pan and toss the onion, garlic and meat in it till a little brown. Add the spices and fry them too for a minute. Add the bell pepper. Place the meat, onion, and vegetable mixture into the base of a tagine and add apricots, cut in half. Cover with 1 cup of vegetable stock, and pop in the oven at 400 degrees. Let stew for about an hour. Add preserved lime slices 20 minutes before serving. To cook the couscous, stir olive oil into one cup of couscous in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Boil 1 1/4 cup of water and pour over the couscous. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes, or until the couscous has absorbed all of the water. Stir in fresh cilantro and fluff with a fork. Spoon the tagine over the couscous and enjoy!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

From leftover chicken to spicy Asian-style soup

We had friends over for dinner one night and cooked a whole chicken that had been marinated in lemon and parsley. There was quite a bit of meat left on the bird when we were through (four hearty meals and two lunches later: $12, organic, free-range, definitely worth it), and I didn't want to waste the tastiness of the marinade, so I threw the chicken in a pot and boiled it into stock with leftover meat. I didn't want to make the same old chicken soup, so I scrounged around online for something different. I had almost all of the ingredients on hand, but had never made anything like it before. I love anything with peanut butter, but add these flavors and I'm in heaven. Our friend from South Africa brought back a red pepper paste: Hot & Sweet Mazavaroo. I want to use it, but I rarely find the right occasion. The mazavaroo worked quite well in this soup as a substitute for chopped red chili pepper.

Malaysian Lemon Peanut Chicken Soup

1 3 lb chicken (you can use leftover carcass)
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp red pepper chili paste (or if you have mazavaroo on hand...)
2 cans of coconut milk
2 chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 diced red pepper
1/2 cup sliced cabbage
3 tbsp ginger, in slivers
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 cups of water
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp peanut butter
3 scallions; sliced
1 tbsp fresh coriander/cilantro; chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Make stock out of a leftover chicken carcass: this is always going to make better soup than cubed or canned stock. Sautee ginger, garlic, red pepper, mushrooms, carrots, and cabbage in olive oil sprinkled with turmeric. Add the tender, spiced vegetables to the chicken stock, along with the lemon juice, peanut butter, and coconut milk. Add red pepper chili paste, mazavaroo, or any other type of spicy seasoning to your liking--remember, it will get hotter as it cooks and sets. When the soup has simmered for at least 40 minutes, you can serve hot with scallions and fresh cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Creamy Turkish Treat

A friend in London brought a lovely semolina pudding-type dish to the bar mitzvah a few weeks ago. He's the only one who brought homemade food, so of course I was charmed. But it was also super delicious. He hasn't yet shared the recipe with me, but I found this one online, and made it soon after my return. His dish was Turkish, but semolina-type desserts are common in many areas of the world. Apparently, its a favorite among Hare Krishnas. That's cool.

Suji Halva

2 3/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands, soaked in 1 tablespoon boiling hot milk
140 g unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups semolina
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/3 cup currants

Combine the water, sugar and the soaked saffron in a saucepan. Place over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Melt the butter in another saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the semolina, and slowly and rhythmically. Stir-fry the grains for about 20 minutes, or until they darken to a tan colour and become aromatic. Add the flaked almonds to the grains towards the end of the toasting process. Raise the heat under the syrup, add the cardamom and the raisins and bring it to a rolling boil. Raise the heat under the semolina for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Remove the saucepan of semolina from the heat, and slowly pour the hot syrup into the semolina, stirring steadily. The grains may at first splutter, but will quickly cease as the liquid is absorbed.

Return the halava to the stove and stir steadily over very low heat until the grains fully absorb the liquid, start to form into a pudding-like consistency, and pull away from the sides of the pan. Place a tight-fitting lid on the saucepan and cook over the lowest possible heat for 5 minutes. Removed the covered saucepan from the heat and allow the halava to steam for an additional 5 minutes. Serve hot.

I served ours with a bowl of labne, which complemented the custard well.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sustainably harvested fish & chips

Visiting the local chipper is one of my top three favorite things to do when I'm in London. My friends recently moved to a new area, so there was a new chipper to try: The Sea Cow. The old chipper was wonderful: a dingy little place where the fish was dripping with grease and they still wrapped everything in newspaper. I kind of missed it, and in fact, after visiting Sea Cow, one of my friends made a vow with me to seek out a new, dingy chipper for my next visit.

The Sea Cow fit in nicely with my local and sustainably produced food agenda; the ambiance and the tastiness of the food made the trip perfect. Unfortunately, I didn't snatch a "guide to the fish" sheet that was available with the menu, but the menu itself states: "All of our fish is sourced and delivered daily from the coast or Billingsgate Fish Market. We try and take advantage of the seasonality so our menu may change from time to time."

M and I chose the locally-harvested cod and chips--the most traditional of the fish and chips selections. P's mum ordered the Plaice and chips, and P ordered the grilled organic salmon. Everything was delicious. They had a good wine selection (with suggestions about how to pair the wine with the fish) as well. This place is a winner. I would definitely return.

A Welcoming Mezze

Advice for people hosting overseas houseguests: the best way to welcome a travel-weary visitor is with a mezze plate like this one. I recently took an overnight flight to London, and when I arrived late-morning, my friend put this dish in front of me. Delicious whole-grain pita, grape leaves, grain salad, roasted peppers, and the best homemade babaganoush I've ever tasted. Mmmmm. Mezze is such an awesome concept: so many different cultures enjoy some version of the mezze, and there are so many different kinds of dishes that you can include: olives, yoghurt, roasted cauliflower.... (see: Mezze is served as an appetizer to share at some restaurants.

The baba I had could be made with the following recipe:

Garlic-Dill Babaganoush

1 eggplant
1 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
handful of dill
3 tbsp non-fat plain yoghurt
2 tbsp tahini (optional--makes it thicker)
olive oil
lemon juice
salt and pepper

Roast the eggplant and garlic until mushy. Dice red bell pepper. Mix together with the fresh chopped dill, 1 tbsp (or so) of olive oil, yoghurt, a few squeezes of lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Simple. Elegant. Healthy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Bunny

Nothing says Easter better than a bunny. When our friends asked us to prepare dessert for the dinner party we had this weekend, I knew this is what I wanted to make. I used the cupcake recipe from my birthday (see earlier post), used toasted coconut for the fur and jelly belly jelly beans for the eyes, and placed dyed green coconut underneath so it looked like the bunny was sitting on grass. I found instructions for how to make a bunny-shaped cake from good old Betty Crocker:

This treat surprised and delighted everyone. We had a more sophisticated dessert that D. made (a lovely, simple apple tart), but after a few glasses of wine post-dinner, people started to dig into the bunny.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Persephone's Ruin

Persephone is a mythological figure from ancient Greece who was seduced by her uncle, Hades, god of the underworld. Hades lured Persephone to him with a pomegranate. Zeus punished Persephone by banishing her to the underworld for six months a year--one month for each of the six seeds she ate. The remainder of the year she could spend with her mother, Demeter, the greek Mother Earth. For six months of every year, Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter; she celebrates during the other six. This is how the ancient Greeks explain the changing of the seasons, and this is how The Love Bite, my favorite recipe treasure trove, describes the origin of the dish Persephone's Ruin. (See

I've been dying to try this recipe, so when friends invited us up to their country place in Pennsylvania for Easter, I knew that this is what I wanted to make. I had to adapt the recipe a bit because I couldn't get the right kind of lamb, nor could I get pomegranates. While this recipe reads and tastes like a Spring recipe, it clearly isn't because pomegranates are not in season in April in this area.

For all of the many dishes I've served to all of my friends, I received the most--and the best--compliments for this one. One of our friends who is a chef himself said that this was the best dish he'd ever tasted, and that it reminded him of something his mother once said about another dish: "Every bite says I love you." Well worth the effort for that kind of praise.

Persephone's Ruin
Spring in New York version

1 package of phyllo dough
1 stick of butter
1 lb ground lamb
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
smidgen of cumin powder
8 oz goat cheese
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
6 golden beets
pomegranite molasses
olive oil

The day before, place the beets in aluminum foil, drizzle them with olive oil, and season with a little bit of salt and pepper. Bake them at 350 until tender (about 1 hour). Dice the onion and garlic, and saute in olive oil until translucent. Add the ground lamb, season with a bit of salt and pepper and some ground cumin. Cook until just beginning to brown. Place in a bowl with 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses, cover, and put in the fridge.

When the beets are done roasting (you can tell when they are tender enough to poke through with a fork), take them out, let them cool down a bit until you can handle them, and then, running them under cold water, peel the skins off with your hands. Cut the beets into rounds and refrigerate.

The next day, brush a sheet of phyllo pastry with melted butter, place another sheet on top, and repeat until you have 8 sheets stacked. Place the phyllo stack in a buttered loaf pan and press the pastry to sides of pan. Brush the inside with butter. Pre-heat the oven to 400. Mix 8 ounces of goat cheese with 1 egg yolk and beat lightly. Reserve 1/4 of the goat cheese, and spread the rest onto the phyllo pastry. Line the goat cheese with the golden beet rounds, then place the ground lamb on top. Spoon the reserved goat cheese in small clumps on top of the lamb and fold the phyllo dough over the entire mixture. Brush with butter and pop it in the oven. It should cook for about an hour, maybe more, until the phyllo dough has turned a golden brown color.

I served this as a good-sized appetizer to 10 people; it could probably be a nice dinner for 4-6 people, depending on your sides and how much you eat. I also served it with a Cucumber Mint Yogurt Sauce on the side, as the original recipe called for chopped mint on top of an open phyllo dish.

Cucumber Mint Yogurt Sauce

1 cup lowfat plain yogurt (labne or Greek yogurt would be the best)
2 chopped scallions
2 finely minced garlic cloves
1 peeled and finely grated cucumber
salt & pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


My favorite local meat vendor at the green market in Prospect Park, the Flying Pig farm ( handed out a recipe for Cumin-Citrus Pork Cutlets a few weeks ago. I've made the dish twice and it was delicious, even better for leftovers the second day. The citrus part certainly isn't localvore, unfortunately, but I think exceptions always need to be made for lemon.

Yesterday when I defrosted the cutlets, I didn't realize until later that day that it was the beginning of Passover. I have to admit, it felt a bit like a heresy to have pork on the first evening of Passover, despite the fact that I'm not Jewish. Next year, I promise something more seder-like.

Here's the recipe, which the farm found in an August 2001 issue of Bon Appetit. I adapted it only slightly.

Cumin Dusted Pork Cutlets with Citrus Pan Sauce

4 tbsp flour
4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne or hot paprika
1 tsp salt

1 lb pork cutlets or pork strips
olive oil
4 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup orange juice
6 tbsp fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)

Orange wedges

Combine on a plate: 4 tablespoons flour, 4 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Dredge each piece of 1 pound of pork cutlets in the flour mixture. Heat olive oil in large cast iron pan over high heat. Add pork and sauté for about 3 minutes per side, until just barely cooked through. Don’t overcook! Transfer pork to serving plate, cover with foil to keep warm. Add a bit more olive oil to the pan. Add 3 or 4 minced garlic cloves and sauté until golden brown. Add ½ cup good quality orange juice, 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 or 3 lemons), some citrus flesh (chopped up oranges or lemons from the lemon you squeezed), and a pinch of salt. Boil until slightly thickened. Pour sauce over pork and serve.

I've served this dish with any combination of daal, black beans, quinoa, rice, and quinoa, but always garnished with the orange wedges. Dumping all of the leftovers on some greens makes an amazing lunch the next day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Healthy Easter Basket Treat

Any moment now, I expect a package from my mother--her famous peanut butter easter eggs. If they don't come today, I'm going to be really disappointed. Easter baskets have always been a critical part of my life--I remember one year I didn't get one from my mother I was devastated. My argument was that each year until she died, my grandmother (Nana) used to put together an Easter basket for my Aunt Dorry . . . long after Aunt Dorry had her own child and started making Easter baskets for him. I'm embarassed to say that I cried because I didn't get a stuffed bunny. How could my mother think that just because I was a busy lawyer in New York that I wouldn't want a stuffed bunny for Easter? The next Easter, she took me to a small shop in Pennsylvania and had me pick out my own bunny. Last year, I got two bunnies: one that I keep in my office (see below), and another that Sneak appropriated as her companion.

In anticipation of all sorts of Easter sweets this year, I googled "healthy easter basket" and got the idea of making popcorn balls to fill out the rest of the communal basket that I'll put out for friends on Sunday. This recipe turned out really well. I'm already imagining peanut butter ones . . .

Honey-Raisin Popcorn Balls

12 cups air-popped popcorn
3/4 cup butter, cut into chunks
1 cup honey
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°. Put popcorn in a large bowl. Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to stir together the butter, honey, raisins, and salt until the butter is melted. Increase heat and boil honey mixture gently 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the vanilla. Carefully pour the honey mixture over the popcorn and stir gently to coat. Bake popcorn, stirring every 5 minutes, until deep golden all over, about 25 minutes. Let the popcorn stand for 5 minutes, or just until cool enough to handle. Working quickly with lightly oiled or buttered hands, press small handfuls of the mixture into small balls, occasionally loosening popcorn from bottom of pan with a spatula. If mixture cools too much to be malleable or if the popcorn starts to crack instead of press into ball shapes, return it to the oven for about 45 seconds to soften. Put the popcorn balls on prepared baking sheet and let cool completely. Place in an airtight container at room temperature, or wrap individually, and store for up to 2 weeks.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Onions and Snap Peas

The green market in Prospect Park this Saturday was the prettiest yet this season. I didn't have any ideas about what I wanted to get when I went, but I was on the look-out for some snap peas. The Council on the Environment for New York City (CENYC) provides a calendar of what types of veggies are in season in the city's over 45 greenmarkets (, and April is the month for snap peas. None to be found, sadly, so I had to get them on a later trip to Fairway.

I did pick up some fresh green onions and spinach, and then found some inspiration from a recipe from the January 2004 edition of Bon Appétit. We're trying to eat a few meals every week without any meat, so this is the first one for this week.

Stir-Fried Tofu with Snap Peas, Green Onions, and Spinach

3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 12-ounce package extra-firm tofu, drained, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, patted dry with paper towels
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch

3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 cup fresh spinach
1 cup fresh snap peas
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup spring onion tops
2 scallions

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Add the tofu cubes and stir to coat; marinate for one hour, or overnight if you can. Drain, reserving the marinade in a small bowl. Whisk 1/4 cup water and cornstarch into the marinade and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large nonstick skillet over high heat until the pan is smoking. Add the tofu and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat again. Add the ginger and garlic and stir continuously until browned. Add the snap peas and stir-fry for 2 minutes or until tender. Add the spinach and stir into the peas until it is wilted. Add the green onions, and return the tofu to the skillet. Drizzle the reserved marinade mixture over the whole thing and stir-fry until the sauce thickens slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with scallions and serve over quinoa or brown rice.

Postscript:  Wow.  I brought this dish to lunch today, and it was even better a day later.  I am just stunned at how tasty the sauce was.  The dish was not expensive either: $1.89 for the tofu, about $3 for the snap peas, about $3 for the spinach, and I guess about $4 for the rest of the ingredients, portions of which I have in my kitchen already.  So maybe all told, a generous estimate of about $12 for the entire meal, and it made four servings.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stumbling Upon a Tagine

I spent some time in Morocco in 1995 and had a tagine for the first time. A tagine can either be the dish that you eat, or the pot that you cook it in: a shallow dish with a dome cover, most often made of clay. (see: I had tagine with chicken and chick peas made in a super-huge tagine and baked in a clay oven that fed about 50 people in an extended family during a wake in Meknes, and I also had a small, dainty tagine of pigeon in an upscale French-style restaurant in Marrakech--both equally delicious.

I didn't buy a tagine when I was in Morocco because it would have been too difficult to carry home--I already had a set of ceramic tams with me that I carried wrapped in a blanket and fretted over constantly. And while I've thought about asking for one every Christmas since, I know that I just don't have the space in my apartment in Brooklyn. When I visited Kalustyan's a few weeks ago, I stood gape-mouthed at the selection of tagines on display. Surely I could squeeze one of the small ones into my kitchen? I didn't buy one then, promising myself that once we leave the city, I'll get myself a big one.

On a recent trip to Buffalo of all places, though, I stumbled upon a small silicone tagine at a Marshall's discount store. It was $10 and came with a little cookbook. I was traveling home by train, and already had quite a few bags, but I bought it anyway, figuring it could squeeze it into one of the bags because it was bendable and very light. And so I did.

I found this recipe for a lamb tagine on a blog called Five Spice Duck ( and headed to the green market at Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park on Saturday morning. I bought a pound of fresh lamb, some carrots, onions, and garlic. Later that day, I stopped at Fairway and picked up some Israeli couscous (ptitim), saffron, dates, and Turkish apricots. I adapted the recipes that I found online and made this dish for our Sunday evening meal.

Honey-Paprika Lamb Tagine

1 pounds lamb pieces, cut for stew
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Pinch of saffron threads
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste
Salt and pepper
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup diced apricot

Mix together the garlic, honey, olive oil, cilantro, saffron, paprika, cumin and tomato paste in a large bowl. Add the lamb and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or at least for a few hours.

When you're ready to cook, remove the lamb from the fridge and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brown the meat in it's marinade in a smoking hot cast iron pan. Pour the stock into the base of the tagine and add the browned meat with it's marinade, the carrots, onions, and cinnamon and stir together. Place the tagine lid on and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Stir the chickpeas and apricots into the tagine and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid or foil and cook an additional 30 minutes to brown the vegetables.

Israeli Couscous with Dates

1/2 pound dry Israeli-style couscous

1 large onion chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup dried chopped dates

1/2 cup chopped almonds

In a sauce pot, saute the onion in the oil until tender and just beginning to brown. Toast the couscous by stirring in the couscous and cooking and stirring until pale golden. Cover with the broth and bring to a boil and cook and simmer about 10 minutes or until couscous has absorbed the liquid. Stir in the dates and nuts. Remove from heat and led stand covered 10 minutes. Fluff with fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the stew on top of, or to the side of, the couscous and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Postscript:  More stews to come, for sure.  This tagine is lovely; it cleans up like magic and I really think it makes a difference in how the ingredients steam in it.  I think I'll try chicken thighs or a vegetable stew next time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cupcake Birthday

For my birthday this year, my mother sent me a cupcake decorating set: 50 metal icing tips in a case, a guidebook on how to make flowers and other decorations, frosting bags, and all sorts of other accoutrements in a handy plastic case. I took the day off on my birthday and practiced, producing about 5 dozen cupcakes. I brought them around with me all week, including to the bowling alley on Saturday night where my friends joined me for a few hours of bowling. I used the cupcake display rack that my mother got me for Christmas.

Lemon cupcakes are always surprising, so I made two dozen and decorated them with lemon frosting. I ran out of lemon extract, so they would have been more tart had I used it. As they were, they were just subtly lemon-ish. I wanted to make gerber daisies and pansies, but mostly, these turned out like huge, cartoonish flowers. My mother had warned me against using too much of the icing tint as the colors get darker the longer the icing sits. No one complained, though, and in fact, someone asked if I'd make cupcakes for her daughter's birthday in a few months.

When I was young, my mother used to decorate cakes for friends and friends of friends. She was in high demand, and I remember one year I learned how to do type-setting in a class in school and I made her a stack of business cards. I wish I had the entrepreneurial spirit that it takes to start up a home business with things like this. Maybe I just need a business partner.

Lovely Lemon Cupcakes

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp ground lemon zest

3 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners and set aside. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In medium bowl, beat the butter till light and fluffy. With the mixer on high speed, gradually beat in sugar, and continue beating till mixture is very light and fluffy. Lower speed to medium, beat in eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended, then beat in lemon juice and zest. Lower speed to low, and alternately beat in flour mixture and yogurt, beating just till blended. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups of confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp lemon juice

Beat the butter until it's creamy, and gradually add one cup of confectioner's sugar, along with the vanilla and lemon juice. Set aside about 1/3 of the icing for decorative flowers. With the remaining 2/3, add a tint if you like and frost the tops of the cupcakes, once they've cooled. Go back to your 1/3 reserved icing and add more confectioner's sugar until you have a nice, thick icing. Decide how many colors you want (leaves, flowers, etc.) and divide that frosting into small bowls for tinting. Remember not to use too much or the colors come out ridiculous (see below).

I brought these cupcakes to work to share with colleagues, for drinks with a group of old friends, and then to the bowling alley. Surprising that there were still some left.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Carrot Cupcakes

Cupcakes are so much fun to make. They're easy, and it almost doesn't matter how sophisticated the decorations are, they always seem to make people smile. The only drawback is that they are difficult to transport, but it's totally worth it when you set them out in front of people and see their eyes light up. A tiny, individual cake for everybody! I wanted to make "healthy" cupcakes for my birthday this year; carrot cupcakes at least give people a portion of their daily vegetable intake. I adapted this recipe and used a simple cream cheese frosting. I also tried out my new cake decorating implements to make the little carrots. I got carried away a bit at the end, some of the cupcakes have three carrots on them! I also made about two dozen mini cupcakes, which were perfect to bring to a bar for happy hour on Friday.

Moist Carrot Cupcakes

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 cups finely grated raw carrots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Place paper liners into muffin cups.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon.

In another large bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, and oil until slightly thickened. Fold in the flour mixture until incorporated. With a large rubber spatula fold in the grated carrots. Evenly divide the batter between the muffin cups and bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting

16 ounces cream cheese (2 bars), room temperature
1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Whip together all three ingredients until the texture is smooth. Set aside about 1/3of the frosting to color for the decorations, separate that third into two small bowls. Using food coloring or an icing gel, tint the frosting in one bowl orange, the other green.

When your cupcakes are cooled, spread the frosting onto the tops and then decorate. I used the Wilton website to learn how to make my carrots:

I think they came out kinda nice.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Home of the Original Buffalo Wing

Finally, a pilgrimage to the temple of chicken wings, in Buffalo: Frank & Teressa's Original Anchor Bar--they have a cool website with recipes and everything: Kind of unbelievable that I was never able to make it there in all of my years living in Buffalo, and visits back over the years. I had a few hours in the city on a work trip last week, and took the time to have lunch at the Anchor Bar. Table manners be damned, I ordered 10 juicy, saucy BBQ wings and ate as many as I could before popping the leftovers in a container to take away. Delicious! Dripping with sticky, sweet and hot sauce, I licked every finger. I didn't get to eat my leftover wings, though; my co-worker didn't have the time to eat lunch and I gave them to him because he'd never had a real Buffalo chicken wing in his life.

I stopped at the gift shop before leaving and picked up some wing sauce. The gift shop had so many funny wing-themed things, from stuffed buffaloes with wings to big drum-wing-shaped pillows; the weirdest thing was a hard silicone flat chicken wing key chain. It looked like a dessicated hot wing that had been left in the kitchen uncovered for a few days. Imagine carrying that thing around in your pocket every day!

Even though D makes the best wing sauce I've ever had, I'm sure I'll be happy to make wings sometime soon with the familiar taste of Buffalo. As a matter of fact, I wonder what we're having for dinner tonite?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Black Bean Dessert?

The New York Times magazine's recipe page had an article about a father's learning how to cook for his son, who seemed to be allergic to everything. The article was about perfect chocolate cupcakes for just about everyone: (those allergic to flour couldn't enjoy them, for example). I'm unfortunately impatient with allergies, but reading this article reminded me of an old recipe that a friend used to make for black bean brownies. I decided to try them again to serve to D's sister and her husband this weekend. This recipe appeals to me because it uses agave nectar instead of sugar. We like to use agave for all sorts of things: on pancakes with cinnamon and butter as an alternative to syrup, in oatmeal, on granola and yogurt. Agave is a syrup produced in Mexico from an agave cactus: If you're allergic to flour, or if you just don't want to cook with granulated sugar, these brownies are for you. You have to have people eat them first, then tell them the brownies are made with black beans.

Black Bean Brownies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups black beans, cooked
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ cup instant coffee
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs
1½ cups light agave nectar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 11- by 18-inch baking pan (for thin brownies) or an 8 ½ x 11-inch pan (for thicker brownies) with parchment paper and coat with oil.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan. Place the beans, 1/2 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and a couple of spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Blend about 2 minutes, or until smooth. The batter should be thick and the beans smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, remaining melted chocolate mixture, coffee substitute, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer beat the eggs until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the agave nectar and beat well. Set aside.

Add the bean/chocolate mixture to the coffee/chocolate mixture. Stir until blended well.

Add the egg mixture, reserving about 1/2 cup. Mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup egg mixture until light and fluffy. Drizzle over the brownie batter. Use a wooden toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the brownies are set. Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares. It's better if you refrigerate for about an hour before cutting.

I made this batch with the bigger, shallow pan; the next time I make them, I will make thicker brownies. And serve them with vanilla ice cream. Yum.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Nowruz!

Nowruz is a new year holiday celebrated each Spring in many Asian countries including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and India. I think all New Years' celebrations should be in the Spring because that's when everything seems most new, right? Today was the perfect day to celebrate a new beginning, after a ride in the park, and some time just laying in the grass and looking up at the trees.

Fesenjan is a traditional persian dish made for celebrations, so in order to celebrate Nowruz this year, I made the dish last night. Some people might not like the sweet-tartness of the dish, I loved it. Next time, I would definitely prepare some vegetable on the side.

Persian Fesenjan

1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup butter or oil
2 lbs chicken breast, cut into pieces
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 cups walnuts, finely ground in a food processor
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
1/3 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup honey
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste

Sprinkle cut chicken with lime juice, salt and pepper and allow to marinate for a few hours. Over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot heat an 1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) of olive oil until the pan is smoking. Add the chicken pieces a few at a time and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate. Add onions and sauté in remaining oil until the onions are translucent. Stir in ground walnuts and saute for 1/2 a minute. Add stock and browned chicken pieces. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 20-30 minutes. Stir in the pomegranate molasses and juice, honey, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. The sauce should have a balanced sweet-sour flavor. Simmer another 15-20 minutes until the chicken is tender and the sauce is somewhat thickened. Serve with plain white rice.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Pat's!

Next year, I vow to you, loyal reader, that I will make my own corned beef. I don't know what I was thinking. Fairway had piles of corned beef all sealed up in shrinkwrap, $6.29/lb. We opted for Fairway-made, old-fashioned, barrel brined corned beef, $6.99/lb. But it only takes 7 days to make your own. I just have to mark it on the calendar so I don't forget.

No matter, St. Patrick's day dinner was great. D brought home some soda bread (I wanted to forego the bread this year, but hey, it's yummy), and last night, I slow cooked the corned beef in my slow cooker (Guiness, water, beef, pickling spices, onion, carrot, and celery --> crock pot for 7 hours --> drain --> stick in fridge). When I got home from work this evening, I pre-heated the oven to 350, took the corned beef out of the fridge, and coated it with Dijon mustard. Then I mixed 1/2 cup of panko and 5 tbsp horseradish together and pressed the mixture over the mustard-covered beef. I placed the beef in a roasting pan and surrounded it with fingerling potatoes tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, and caraway seeds. After popping that in the oven, I sliced up the cabbage and stuck it in a soup pot with water (enough to cover it), caraway seeds, half a veggie bouillon cube, and salt and pepper and brought it to a boil. D snuck in a quartered onion. When the cabbage was tender, I turned off the heat and turned up the oven to 450 for about 15 minutes. When the panko topping was browned, I took it out of the oven. I let the beef rest for a bit and drained the cabbage. Sliced beef, boiled cabbage and onion, and roasted potatoes--a wholesome Irish meal.