Saturday, February 28, 2009

Figgy Pork

The weather is starting to turn, but I needed one more warm, winter dish before it's all said and done. I got the idea from my new favorite food website: The LoveBite ( There was something I didn't like about their figgy roast piggy, so I went looking for another recipe with the same idea. I'm a big fan of cardamom, so this one was perfect. It was a bit labor- and ingredient-intensive, but good for a Sunday evening meal. And I think it would also be good for a holiday, it's festive enough.

Cardamom Pork Roast with Apples and Figs


3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
1 (3-pound) pork loin, trimmed
Cooking spray
2 cups dried figs, halved lengthwise
2 cups dried apples
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
3/4 cup pear nectar
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth


1/2 cup pear nectar
1/2 cup port
2 tablespoons currant jelly
1/4 cup heavy creamPreparation
Preheat oven to 400°.

To prepare the roast, combine the first nine ingredients in a small bowl. Rub mixture over the surface of the roast and place in a shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Place the figs, apples, and crystallized ginger around roast. Pour 3/4 cup nectar and broth over fruit. Bake at 400° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 145°, stirring the fruit frequently. Remove the roast from the oven and place it on a carving board. Spoon the fruit in a separate bowl using a slotted spoon.

To prepare the sauce, pour any pan juices into a saucepan. Add 1/2 cup pear nectar, port, and jelly; bring to a boil. Cook 4 minutes or until thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Stir in heavy cream; simmer 2 minutes or until sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally.

Serve thinly sliced roast with a side of some sort (I used mashed cauliflower and garlic), a dollop of fruit, and drizzle with the sauce. Apologies for the picture, the colors on this very colorful dish are a little washed out with all the white (white plate, cauliflower, flash...)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Urban Foraging for Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranates are so good. I found a recipe for honey-pomegranate chicken from Cooking Light magazine, but I couldn't figure out where to get the pomegranate molasses. I checked at Fairway and Trader Joe's, but no luck. I googled it along with NYC, and came up with Kalustyan's, at 28th and Lexington. THIS was the place I'd been thinking of when I was looking for tamarind concentrate, but the name just wouldn't come to me. When I walked in, I realized I had been there before--a time that seems so far from now. It was the day of the huge anti-war demonstration after September 11, and I had just been dumped. The guy that I was trying to get with at the time came with me to the demonstration in midtown (it was the first demonstration that he'd ever been to!) and he told me that he only wanted to be friends. It was my first foray into romance after a serious heartbreak, and I think I was overly optimistic. I liked him and that was a big risk. The thing hadn't even gotten off the ground, but I was kind of crushed.

I remember wandering about after we said goodbye at the subway, and I somehow "wandered" into Kalustyan's. I wasn't as into cooking as I am now, so I didn't appreciate what I was walking into. I remember buying some spices for dal, lentils, rice, and halvah--and then subsisting on it for a week while I licked my wounds. It was a strange sensation walking into Kalustyan's again last weekend as I recalled that time. It didn't take long to shake off the bittersweet memory, and before long I was just wide-eyed and gaping at the wonders on the shelves. It was astounding. It made me think about how much I will miss when we finally leave New York. But for now, I thought, I better stock up!

It wasn't hard to find the pomegranate molasses, and about a dozen other ingredients along the way. I also made note of the fact that they sell cookware and posters of spices and grains, and place to find presents. Check it out for yourself: I told some people that I work with about the recipe, and one of my coworkers reminded me of the Afghan dish called fesenjan, which I've seen on the menu at Khyber Pass in the East Village. Now I want to make plans to go there again. In the meantime, I made this for us for dinner.

Honey-Pomegranate Chicken

3/4 cup honey
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 small lemons)
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 chicken breasts, bone in with skin
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
olive oil

Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Pour over the two chicken breasts and marinate overnight. When you are ready to begin cooking, preheat your oven to 425°. Remove the chicken breasts from the bowl, reserving the marinade. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Place the reserved marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture, and cook for 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Place the chicken in a pan coated with olive oil. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes or until chicken is done, basting with reserved marinade every 10 minutes or so. I served the chicken with jasmine rice and spinach, with a garnish of toasted walnuts. If I make this recipe again, I would add more Sriracha sauce and garnish with pomegranate seeds with the walnuts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

End of Winter Stew

I waited for the snow all day, but it never came. The weather people kept saying that we would see snow sometime this weekend, probably the last of the snow for this region. But it didn't come after midnight, it didn't come in flurries in the wind this afternoon, and its not here now. Stew is perfect for a snowy day, so last night I defrosted a pound of bison sirloin that we picked up the last time we were in Pennsylvania and planned to make a stew today. Notwithstanding the lack of snow, here's how I made bison stew in my crock pot.

Bison Rosemary Stew

1 lb of bison sirloin cubes
2 cups beef stock
2 tbls olive oil
12 baby onions
1 cup diced rutabaga
1 cup diced turnip
2 tbs flour
2 large carrots cut
2 stalks celery
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste

Place beef stock in a crock pot and set on high. Add the diced rutabaga, turnip, and peeled baby onions. Season the sirloin cubes with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron pan and add the cubes when the pan is smoking hot. Brown the meat on all sides, but don't overcook it. Add a bit more oil and flour and stir until flour is not white or noticeable. Place the browned meat with flour coating in the crock pot. Sautee the carrots, celery, and garlic until tender and place in the crock pot with the herbs and other seasonings, except the red wine. Leave simmering in crock pot for about an hour, then add the red wine and cook for another 20-30 minutes until the texture is to your liking. Serve with dumplings, white or brown rice, or a nice bread.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day

Our friends Larry and David gave us a subscription to Saveur magazine for Christmas. Well, actually they gave me some striped knee socks with toes and fuzzy balls on them, but they had to have known that if they gave D. Saveur, I'd have at least as much fun with it. We decided to cook our own meal for Valentine's Day, and I chose a dish from the February issue: Vegetable-Stuffed Rolled Flank Steak. We brought our friends' dog to their country house and created the dish there. It was quite an effort, and I don't know if I could have done it without D, but it was totally worth it. This is directly from Saveur's website, which also has a tutorial for the dish. We made our own video while we were cooking, but I haven't figured out how to post it yet. It was almost a perfect weekend, if I hadn't gotten sick on all the chocolates we ate....

and if Emma hadn't been stuck by a porcupine, which meant that we had to take her to the vet.

Vegetable-Stuffed Rolled Flank Steak, from Argentina

cooked meats, which work their wonders without much intervention, are a boon to home cooks. So are inexpensive cuts. Our favorite alliance of these two attributes is matambre, an Argentine dish (the name means hunger killer) that calls for covering a flank steak with vegetables and hard-boiled eggs and rolling it all together. Click here for illustrated instructions on how to roll the steak.

1 flank steak (2 lbs.)
1⁄2 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp. dried thyme
Kosher salt, to taste
6 oz. baby spinach
4 boiled carrots, halved lengthwise
2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and
quartered lengthwise
1 small onion, thinly sliced crosswise
1⁄4 cup chopped parsley
2 tsp. chile flakes
1 1⁄2 cups beef stock
2 tbsp. olive oil

1. Arrange steak on a cutting board so that the long side is parallel to you. Using a long knife, butterfly the steak to within 1⁄2" of the far edge so that it opens like a book. Put steak between 2 layers of plastic wrap. With a mallet, pound to a 1⁄4" thickness. Poke steak all over with a fork. Transfer, cut side up, to a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Sprinkle meat with vinegar, garlic, and thyme. Cover with plastic wrap; let marinate for 6 hours or overnight in refrigerator.

2. Heat oven to 375°. Arrange meat cut side up so that the grain is parallel to you; season meat with salt and arrange spinach evenly over top. Top spinach with carrots, arranging them evenly so that they run parallel to the grain. Place eggs between rows of carrots and scatter onion rings evenly over top. Sprinkle evenly with parsley and chile flakes and season with salt.

3. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll meat forward to form a tight cylinder. Using kitchen twine, tie the meat at 1" intervals. Heat oil in a 6-qt. oval dutch oven over high heat. Sear meat all over until brown, about 10 minutes. Pour in the beef stock and add enough water that it reaches one-third of the way up the meat. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook until very tender, about 2 hours. Let matambre cool for 15 minutes. Slice and serve.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lean Times

Times are so lean, I'm even afraid to spend money on pictures for my blog. While that's not really true (posting pictures is free!), the economic crisis is no joke. The number of my friends who are out work is very frightening, and things don't seem like they are going to let up anytime soon. This soup is super cheap, it's very healthy, and surprisingly good. This recipe makes 4 quarts of soup, and costs no more than $7 for all of the ingredients.

Kale & Cabbage White Bean Soup

1 cup dried white beans (navy or canellini)
6 cups water
1 boullion cube (or 1 cup of organic broth)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 red potato, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 leek, diced
4 cups thinly sliced kale (about 1/2 bunch)
4 cups chopped Savoy cabbage (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, minced

To prepare the soup, sort and wash the beans, and place in a bowl. Cover the beans with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand overnight. Drain the beans the next morning, rinse, and place in a pan with 3 cups of water and a generous pinch of salt, boil, and cook until tender. Heat the olive oil in a stockpot over medium-low heat. Add onion, leek, and garlic and saute until the onion just begins to brown. Add the potato and saute a bit more until the potato is soft. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, kale, cabbage, chopped parsley, pepper. Add cooked beans and about 6 cups of water, along with the broth (I used champignon, or mushroom, broth). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sexy Cake

Last night we had friends over for dinner and I found this cake on The LoveBite, my new favorite website: It was a little dry, but whipped cream on top made it delicious. Poking the top a few times with a toothpick and drizzling whiskey might be a way to make this a favorite. The recipe is simple and surprising: Extra Stout Guinness Beer is the secret.

Chocolate Guinness Cake

1 stick unsalted butter
9oz brown sugar (one ounce over one cup)
2 eggs
3/4 cup guinness
1/4 cup of cocoa
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
handful of semisweet chocolate chunks
small carton of heavy cream
a piece of dark chocolate for decorative shaving

Soften the butter and cream it with brown sugar, then beat in 2 eggs, one at a time. Mix 3/4 cup Guinness with the cocoa and some vanilla (the cocoa won't dissolve, so don't try too hard). In a separate bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add 1/3 guinness mix and 1/3 flour mix to creamed butter and sugar, mix. add more flour and Guinness, mix, add remaining flour and Guinness. Pour the mix into a buttered 9 inch cake pan. Press a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chunks into the batter. Bake in a pre heated oven (375f) for 40 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then invert cake onto a wire rack and let it cool.

We sprinkled a pattern of confectioner's sugar on it and served it with homemade whipped cream and chocolate shavings, but you could also glaze it or frost it, pour some ganache on it, soak it in many ways. The unique taste is what sets this cake apart.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sweet Chile Dipping Sauce

I needed a dipping sauce for the empanadas I'm making for a dinner party this weekend, and had a very hard time finding a good one online. I adapted the following recipe from some obscure website. The original recipe didn't really work out so well, but after a bit of anxiety, and some imagination, I think this will work.

Sweet Chile Dipping Sauce

12 dried chiles, or 3 oz. (use Ancho or California chiles for a mild sauce, Chipotle chiles for hot)
3 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, thinly diced
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbsp. brown sugar
4 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke flavoring
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 can tomato paste
sriracha sauce, to taste
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Place the chiles in a deep saucepan, then pour in enough water to cover. The chiles may rise to the top, but that is normal until they are reconstituted in the water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the saucepan and continue to let the chiles simmer for 20-30 minutes or until they are softened.

Note: reserve the poaching water with the chiles after they are drained. Drain the chiles and let them cool on a board. Then cut out the stem and scrape out the seeds from the chiles. Separate the skins from the meat of the chiles and reserve the chile "meat" in a bowl.

While the chiles are cooling, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté, turning a few times, until the garlic just starts to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic & onions from the skillet.

Add the chiles, garlic, oregano and 1 cup of the chile poaching water to a blender. Puree the chiles until the sauce is smooth, adding additional poaching water as needed to make the sauce the desired consistency. Add the sugar, honey, liquid smoke, tamarind paste, balsamic vinegar, and tomato paste and blend again. Gradually add the sriracha, salt and black pepper until the sauce is hot and salty enough for youl

Keep the red chile sauce covered and refrigerated for up to two weeks. I plan to serve it on the side with pulled pork and beef empanadas.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Go Steelers!

Over one billion chicken wings will be eaten on Superbowl Sunday, 2009. Amazing statistic, and I'm proud to be a part of it. But since I've written so much about wings on this blog, I'm going to forego any comment on the wings we plan to eat (or talk about the risk that I took in obtaining those wings from Fairway) and focus on my other favorite party food: flatbread pizza. We made these one night a few years ago for an Oscar's Party and they were a hit. Super simple and fun for the kids.

Superbowl Pizza

Flatbread (or pita)
Sun-dried Tomatoes
Red onion
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Lay out as many rounds as you like on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil. Cut your onion in rounds, chop your olives and sun-dried tomatoes into small pieces or strips. Grate your cheese. Add rounds of onion, pieces of olive and tomato, top with shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper and pop in the oven at 350 degrees F until cheese is melted. Cut into six pieces for each round and serve.

I used Bulgarian Kashkaval cheese and oil-cured Moroccan olives, but you can use any kind of melty cheese and any kind of olives. You can even use fresh tomatoes. There's no science to this recipe, it's just about combining flavors and colors.