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.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh

The blessings of St. Patrick be upon ye! Sprinkles make everyone smile. I brought these cookies in to my office for St. Patrick's Day and someone told me that they made her day. They definitely cheered me up when I made them last night. It's good to just do something childlike and generous. I think it makes a tiny slit in the dark cloud that seems to be hanging over everything these days.

These cookies are super simple to make; I figured they would be given that they come from the Real Simple website. I made a few modifications, but essentially, the recipe is theirs. It makes about 4 dozen thin sugar cookies, about 2 dozen thick ones.

Real Simple Sugar Shamrocks

2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus about a cup more for the work surface
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oven to 350° F. Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the egg and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and add it slowly to the butter mixture, mixing until just incorporated (the dough will be stiff). Refrigerate, wrapped, for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with green sugar crystals or tiny shamrocks. I also experimented and combined some green food coloring with about 1/4 of the dough for green marbled cookies. The scraps can be combined and rolled out again. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are a light golden brown. Cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring to cooling racks. Bring them into your office to share!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Night Beans

We went to an early party this was at a social hall in Staten Island, D's sister-in-law's 50th. We had a nice time, the party was early and, feeling like a bunch of old folks, we went out to Fairway to get the week's shopping done. Somehow it feels nicer to have it all done by Sunday morning. Tomorrow we're going to make huevos rancheros alternativos for breakfast....eggs, cumin pepper black beans, salsa verde, hot sauce and, well, bagels.

This is how I made the

Cumin-Pepper Black Beans.

1 cup black beans
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin
1 whole red jalapeno
1 tsp diced rosemary
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Soak the beans for a few hours. Rinse and boil in a deep pot with just over double the amount of water. Add a whole red jalapeno pepper, 1 tsp diced rosemary, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and salt & pepper to taste. Boil until the beans are tender.

And here's how to use them:

Huevos rancheros alternativos: A toasted whole-wheat tortilla, a dollop of black beans, sauteed cherry tomatoes, salsa verde, sour cream, spicy turkey sausage, eggs, and hot sauce. Makes you think, for a split second, like you're sitting at an outdoor cafe with your friends in San Francisco.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Garden Greens

These greens are not from my garden, although I'm hoping this spring I'll be able to start to grow mizzuna, mache, and other light greens on my porch. These are from the Grand Army Plaza Farmer's Market in Prospect Park. I tossed them with cherry tomatoes and toasted walnuts. Nothing more. Delicious.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Simple Turkey & Spinach Flatbread

This is my favorite quick meal on a weeknight. Nothing about it disappoints. The simplicity of it is what makes it so satisfying I think. Leftovers are perfect for lunch the next day. I found this recipe in a magazine several years ago, and it's the one staple I always return to. The spinach makes the dish taste so clean and fresh. You'll think you're putting in too much spinach, but remember how much it cooks down. If you use organic turkey meat, the dish will taste that much better.

Paprika Ground Turkey Flatbread with Spinach and Cheese

1 lb ground turkey
4 cups spinach
2 medium onions
salt, pepper, paprika
olive oil
1/2 cup jalapeno pepper jack cheese
3 pita rounds/flatbread

Coarsely chop the onions and sautee in olive oil until just starting to brown. Add the turkey meat and seasonings and cook through. Once the turkey meat is starting to brown, add the spinach. Stir in well until the spinach is wilted. Shred the cheese and toast the flatbread. Serve the turkey-spinach mixture on the flatbread and top with cheese. Enjoy! Serves two for dinner, with enough left over for lunch the next day (1/2 a pita each).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Local food makes you feel better

Last week we had a wicked beautifully warm day that made me crave some summery food. I found a recipe for Lemon-Arugula Chicken Paillard on (from the April 2006 issue of Cooking Light) that looked perfect, even though I knew the warm weather was just passing through as a tease. On our weekly trip to Fairway, I threw a plastic box of arugula in the cart. D took it out, examined the price ($4.99) and the source (Mexico) and made me put it back. He said we could make the dish with swiss chard, which was local. Luckily, on Monday night I met a friend for dinner at the Galaxy Diner (a fun place, but the food was way too greasy) right at Union Square, which has a nice green market three days a week. I picked up a quarter pound of local, organic arugula. I'm so glad I did; the recipe would not have been the same with steamed chard. I paired this recipe with a red pepper aioli. Delicious.

Lemon-Arugula Chicken Paillard

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 cups fresh (local!) arugula
2 skinless,boneless chicken breast halves
Olive oil
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (about 6 ounces)
1/3 cup dry white wine

Combine the lemon zest, juice, oil, and garlic in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add arugula; toss well. Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound each piece to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat a grill pan or a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with olive oil. Add chicken, and cook for 4 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan, and keep warm. Add halved tomatoes and dry white wine to pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until the liquid almost evaporates. Serve the two pieces of chicken on the arugula topped with the tomatoes and drizzled with ailoi (below).

Red Pepper Aioli

1 red pepper
2 egg yolks
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
A few drops of Sriracha sauce
1 1/2 cups oil
salt and pepper

Place the red pepper on an open flame or grill (you can do this on a gas stove). Turn the pepper with some tongs to blacken on all sides. When the pepper is fully charred, remove to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the pepper cool until you can handle it comfortably. Using your fingers, remove the blackened skin to reveal the red color underneath. Rinse the pepper under some tepid tap water to remove the remaining charred skin. Coarsely chop the pepper and place it in a blender or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the oil) and puree until everything is fully mixed. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until incorporated. Check the aioli for texture and flavor. If it's too thick, add a few drops of water to thin it down, or on the flip side if it's too thin add more oil. The desired outcome is a fairly thin aioli. Check the flavor and add more salt or chili paste to taste. Drizzle over the paillard dish and serve!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Simplest Crisp

This simple crisp is light and delicious. And so easy to make. I made an apple one last week, and this week, I used an Asian pear that I got at the farmer's market at Grand Army Plaza last weekend. Really perfect.

Fruit Oat Crisp

Serve this crisp with a dollop of plain yogurt, or for a special treat, ice cream or whipped topping.

5 granny smith apples or Asian pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of ground ginger
2 tbsp agave
pinch of salt
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup quick cooking oats
pinch of salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup water

1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt; whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Arrange sliced fruit in any sized baking dish--depending on your taste, you may like a narrow dish or a small deep dish. Season the fruit with cinnamon, ginger, agave and a pinch of salt. In a bowl, combine the sugars, flour, oats and salt; stir in melted butter. Spread mixture over the fruit smoothly. Now, this is the surprising part: Once the oat mixture is set, pour the 1/3 cup of water evenly over the top. Bake in a 375° oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the fruit is tender and the top is nicely browned. The fruit will be bubbling over the oat topping. Serve warm or cooled with yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream. This should serve about four people, or just two people, depending on how much you like it.