Thursday, September 20, 2012

Appalachian Trail from NYC

This weekend Kyle and I are going to try something new.  We are going to hike a small portion of the Appalachian Trail!  A little known fact, there is actually an Appalachian Trail stop on the Metro-North Railroad about 2 hours north of NYC. 

Rather than re-hash his article, I will let you read this short description by Jeff Thrope for the New York Times.   

We plan on doing the out and back version, I'll let you know how this ends up! 

Meanwhile, here are my preliminary thoughts about food:

Saturday Breakfast: on the train.
Saturday Lunch: Pre-made PB&J, apples, carrots, celery, etc.
Saturday Dinner: Saltines, hard cheese, salami, fruits and veggies, whiskey
Sunday Breakfast: Oatmeal with fruit, Coffee
Sunday Lunch: Anything we have leftover?

This is kind of a conundrum for me, we won't really be going that far or away for that long, but we also will be without a method for keeping things cool or heating them up (the Sunday morning coffee is going to be just a rough grind of bean soaked in cold water overnight... it's an experiment).

Any thoughts on food that would make this easier / more fun?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kale and Garbanzo Fusili with Sweet Italian Sausage

It’s recipe day!  I’ve had this floating in my e-mail since February and now that the weather is getting cooler it seemed like the perfect time to make it.  Originally from remedial eating, the recipe below was inspired by this one.  I used Molly’s recipe as a bare-bones framework and altered it substantially, both due to my taste preference and my constant quest to use all leftovers in the fridge before they turn!  We loved this; it’s a perfect recipe for a crisp fall evening.

Kale and Garbanzo Fusili with Sweet Italian Sausage

) olive oil
) 1 lb sweet Italian sausage (ground, or link with casings removed)
) 1 tin oil packed anchovies
) 4 roughly chopped garlic cloves
) 1 roughly chopped habanero chili (leftover from this!)
) ¼ teaspoon peperoncino
) 1 head roughly ripped kale, largest ribs removed
) 15.5 oz (1 can) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
) 1 cup crushed plum tomatoes (leftover from this!)
) 1 cup grated romano cheese
) 1 lb fusili pasta

everything but the cheese

Put your pasta pot on to boil with water that's "salty like the sea" as my Instructor-Chef at the FCI would say.

Slick a large skillet (I used my cast iron) with the olive oil, when up to heat, begin to brown the sausage. (As you can probably tell in my ingredients photo, I did not do a very good job of slicing through the sausage casings, this was problematic later, do a better job than me!). 

pour them right in, oil and all!

Once the sausage begins to brown a little, pour in the tin of anchovies and let them render down a little. 

dump it all in together

After a few minutes, add the garlic, habanero and peperoncino and let them cook until you can smell the garlic.  At about this time, if your water is ready, put your pasta on to boil.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes and cover up everything with the kale.  This will need to steam for a few minutes until the kale begins to cook down.

Now, pour in the garbanzo beans! All you need to do is heat them up, so this can be just before the kale is done to your liking.

stir it all up, see that yummy wilted kale?!

Strain the pasta, retaining at least a cup of the pasta water.  Then return the pasta to your big pot and pour in your skillet full of sausage, kale, beans, etc.

Pour in your cup of cheese, and then thoroughly mix it, adding the reserved pasta water as needed to loosen it up


Serve and enjoy!  One bowl was filling and it transports really easily to work or school for a healthy, delicious lunch!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

5 Year Anniversary, in a nutshell

Good Morning on this rainy, dreary day!

No recipe today, instead a light recap of our wonderful anniversary dinner.  We went to Chez Jacqueline and had a superb time!  We started the evening, after I got out of work, by going to Marie’s Crisis for a drink.  Marie’s is where Kyle and I met 5 years ago and although we were there too early for any singing, it was nice to have a quiet drink and talk with some regulars.  Then, off to Cornelia Street Café for our friend John McWhorter’s “NewFaces of 2012”.  This hour long performance featured many of our friends singing Cole Porter songs that, for one reason or another, never became mainstream tunes.  It was a delightful collection of songs and Kyle and I each had an equally superb martini while we listened.  After sticking around for a few minutes to catch up with people and take a photo we were off to the next stop, dinner!  Our reservation was for 8:30 and we arrived right on time and fairly hungry.

Chez Jacqueline has such a cute atmosphere, we really felt like we were back in France in a brasserie.  The family style seating and rough country style table tops really enhanced the experience and the crunchy fresh bread was unreal.  I know it’s taboo, and that’s it’s not really French, but I had the French Onion Soup as my appetizer and it was one of the best versions I have ever had.  The broth was so deep and rich it blew any diner versions right out of the water.  Kyle and I each had a steak with green peppercorn sauce and frites for our entrée.  Neither of us was wowed by this, the sauce was good but the steak itself was little disappointing.  The full bottle of pinot noir we were drinking helped, though.  After a crème brûlée for Kyle and the dessert du jour for me (a peach flavored sort of whipped cream… of course I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called) along with an espresso and cappuccino, we had dined sufficiently and were ready to head out.

It was a lovely night together, and I managed to snap one photo as we headed out into the refreshing September air to head home.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts Salad

So, this is a recipe I have had floating around in my e-mail for a long time now.  That’s my system, by the way, for recipes I find online.  I e-mail them to myself and have a “Recipes” folder where I keep them all.  When I began, I wasn’t including the source, but now I do, so I can easily say that this is from Smitten Kitchen!  Whom I love!   Everything she’s posted that I have made has been fantastic!  Exclamation points!

I was wary, I’ll admit, because I have a love-hate relationship with capers and a mostly hate-hate relationship with mustard of any sort.  However, I really couldn’t taste the mustard in a negative way, I was scared it would be too mustardy, but it was just a very subtle hint.  The capers, however, were not subtle.  Next time I make it, I think I will downsize to 1/8 of a cup of capers.  If you love capers, stick to the original.

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Mustard-Caper Butter
 (adapted only barely from Smitten Kitchen)

) 4 garlic cloves
) pinch of kosher salt
) 5 tablespoons room temperature butter
) 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
) 1/4 cup drained, rinsed capers (though I suggest just 1/8)
) grated zest of 1 lemon
) 3 teaspoons dried oregano
) freshly ground black pepper
) 1 lb Brussels sprouts, rinsed and halved
) 1 lb cauliflower separated into bite sized pieces (I used pretty green cauliflower!)

Mix the garlic cloves and salt and mash them into a fine paste in a large bowl (or use a mortar and pestle, which I don’t have).  Plop in the butter, the mustard, the capers, the oregano, pepper to your liking and the lemon zest.  Now mix it altogether into a buttery, capery blob!

Pre-cooked, pretty green cauliflower
Bring a big pot of salted water to boil and add Brussels sprouts alone for 3 minutes.  Then dump in the cauliflower so the two cook together for 5 more minutes.  Taste a piece to make sure they are cooked through and then drain and return to pot.  

Add the butter concoction to the top of your steaming veggies and stir until thoroughly mixed.  Serve and enjoy!  I added a pinch of salt to ours, season yours to taste.

Other than the alterations I mentioned above, I LOVED this recipe and would make it again soon. 

 Bon appétit chickens!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

5 years today with Kyle, happy Anniversary!  Ich liebe dich Kal

Uncle George's in Astoria, NY

Lest you think I am a super chef who whips something together every night, let me clue you in to the truth.  Living in NYC allows you to eat whatever you want, whenever you want.  Even more specifically, living in Astoria means getting to eat Greek food whenever you want.  Kyle and I moved from Manhattan to Astoria in May and are right around the corner from Uncle George’s.  We have been meaning to go there ever since, and finally got around to it last Friday.

Right off the bat they brought us fresh, warm bread and we ordered a kilo of wine.  As it turns out, neither Kyle nor I ever fully got a grasp of the metric system, because a kilo of wine? Is a LOT of wine, approximately a liter (or about a bottle and a quarter of regular sized wine bottles).  SO, this is a picture light post as I tend to just talk and laugh when I drink pots filled with wine.

Yum, and ouch, but isn’t the copper vessel so cute?! 
For an appetizer we got the saganaki, which is fried kefalograviera cheese.  Yum!  I wish I got a photo of the presentation, it was in a cute little cast iron 2 handle skillet and when the waiter got to our table he poured in a little glass of (what I assume was) brandy and flambéed it for us.  To put out the flame he squeezed half a lemon over it and then placed it between us.  It was so cool!


 For my entrée I had one of the Friday night specials, roasted lamb with orzo topped with cheese.

It was yummy, baked and warm with tender lamb that only needed a fork to come apart.  I want to try to recreate something like it at home, I don’t know why I never make orzo?  I love it every time I have it.  I’ve also never made lamb but would be up for the challenge.

Unfortunately, dear readers, half a kilo in I forgot to take a picture of Kyle’s meal, and we focused on eating and talking instead.  It was a wonderful night and I’d recommend that anyone in Astoria check out Uncle George’s for the cute atmosphere and home-cooked Greek experience.

I’d also love to hear about any restaurants that we should check out either in Astoria or the city at large!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Leftovers Supper (or hors d’œuvres for dinner)

Though I obviously love to cook, sometimes it’s nice (especially when it’s NYC summer hot) to not turn on the oven after a day at work.  Kyle and I are particularly fond of doing finger food dinners; it’s a great way to use up the odds and ends from your fridge and very filling and fun.  It’s like eating all the hors d’œuvres at a party!

As an example, this is the dinner we had on Saturday after a long, hot day of biking along the Croton Aqueduct.  I didn’t mention it in the post, but it was SO HOT on our bike trip that we only ate the plums and carrots I packed and drank all the water, the bread, eggs, cheese and salami came back home the way they were packed.  That was fine, because they all became our dinner!

If we go around the picture, starting as near to 12 o’clock as possible, we had 1) a big hearty roll, sliced up, 2) an avocado, halved with some salt and pepper, that we ate with spoons, 3) a big bowl of crisp lettuce that we just ate with our fingers and dipped in -> 4) a delicious dipping sauce I created with a diced leftover scallion from this recipe (see, using up leftovers all over the place!), some olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette and grated parmesan cheese, 5) the manchego and wine cured hazelnut salami we didn’t eat earlier in the day with some baby carrots and finally 6) the soy sauce eggs I made quickly once we were home from the ride.

This was fast to put together and apart from the bread, we finished everything!  I love to make big, elaborate meals, but it’s equally fun to cobble together what you have lying around and have everyone just pick with their fingers.  Plus, did I mention yet? It really cleans out the leftovers from your fridge!

Are there any other easy finger foods / staples that you would add to something like this?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Soy Sauce Eggs

I am just in love with theKitchn lately!  They posted a link to this recipe  last week for Shoyu Tamago (soy sauce eggs) and I have been waiting to make it since.

I won’t re-post the recipe, just follow the link above to get the specifics, but it basically boils down to (haha, egg jokes!) rolling hardboiled eggs in a syrupy reduction of soy sauce.

Here they are, pretty and plain.

Reduce your soy sauce a little and then roll the eggs in it. I happened to use my pan that makes the WORST noise when you shake it, so I opted to use a wooden spoon to roll the eggs.  I think it worked just fine.

And… well, don’t let their ragged appearance fool you.  They look a little rough and you can see where I let the soy sauce caramelize a little and that stuck to the eggs in unappetizing clumps.  But the taste was great!  They were less salty than I expected/ was worried about.  Kyle hates soy sauce and he liked these too.  Maybe by reducing the soy sauce you can pick up more of the flavors that I generally miss due to the sodium levels?  At any rate, these tasted wonderful and I am sure to make them again for a fast and easy unique dish.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Croton Aqueduct Bike Trip!

Go take a bike ride!  That’s my advice.  As I told you about here, this past Saturday Kyle and I planned a mini-trip to the Croton Aqueduct using MetroNorth’s Westchester Trails BikeRental.  We had so much fun!

Since food is always front and foremost on my mind, I’ll share what we packed.  In addition to two nalgenes full of water, we brought some rolls, baby carrots, plums, manchego cheese and my new favorite version of salami, wine cured with hazelnuts!  Into our backpack this went and we were off to Grand Central Station where we bought our package deals and hopped on the train.

Of course, as soon as we arrived at Dobb’s Ferry, it started to pour.  We huddled in the public library for awhile, got a coffee in a local café and I even got my hair cut at a barber shop!  This all killed about an hour, and literally as my hair cut was ending the sun came through and the skies turned a bright blue.  To the bike shop!  Endless TrailBikeworks was so nice, they took our vouchers with no problems and even offered to give them back if it started to rain again so we could use them on a sunnier day.  As it happened, the sun stayed out all day and we certainly feel like we got our money’s worth.

I won’t go into too much depth, but the trail is beautiful and very easy to ride.  We had to skirt a few puddles, but assuming you went on a day without a monsoon, you barely need to look where you are headed and can enjoy the beautiful scenery.  You can even see a castle which was so gorgeous and would be a good spot for a picnic.  The old conservatory is neat too; you can barely see me here waving from in front of it.

After about 14 miles we were pretty pooped so we bid adieu to Dobb’s Ferry and headed home.  Even if you are not a bike person, I’d urge you to at least walk this trail, it’s gorgeous and many joggers were on it as well as families out with strollers and dogs.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Happy Saturday!

This little chef wishes you a happy Saturday! Have you ever seen anything so cute?! Photo Source

Friday, September 7, 2012

Weekend Bike Trip

       One of the things I love about living in NYC is the sheer volume of things to do.  There is no legitimate excuse if you are bored in NYC.  That being said, one of the things I also love 
about NYC is the ability to get out of it fairly easily.  It might be my New Hampshire roots, 
but once the weather gets even a little chillier and summer weekend excursions are all gone by, my desire to be outside goes through the roof.  I want to go apple picking, pumpkin picking, forest walking, foliage viewing, etc.  

       Tomorrow, Kyle and I are trying something new, and taking advantage of one of MetroNorth’s One-Day (Outbound) Getaways.  We’ll be trying the Westchester Trails BikeRental.  This deal includes a round-trip train ticket and an all day bike rental which allows you to “enjoy a ride down the Croton Aqueduct. This remarkable car-free bike path has beautiful views of the Hudson River and historical points of interest and is an ideal day trip for those not up for a strenuous upland tour.”  Not up for a strenuous upland tour? Ha! We’d be up for it, but maybe we’ll start with this…  

The trail is described as being mostly flat, packed dirt, very scenic and 60 miles in length.  I’m thinking we won’t do the full 60, actually I’m certain we won’t.  Maybe 20?

Looks beautiful! Photo Credit

       I’ll let you know how this is, we’re excited!  I am planning a no frills, no effort lunch.  I’m thinking some grainy rolls, hard cheese, some fruit and veggies, maybe chorizo and iced tea.  Yummy yum!

       Have a nice weekend, please let me know if you’ve done any of the MetroNorth excursions or have any other fun fall day trips you recommend from NYC!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

West African Peanut Soup

Just to make things clear, I am not getting into the habit of posting recipes two days in a row.  I will suffer a burnout in an incredibly short amount of time.  It’s not even the cooking, it’s the posting.  I am hoping that as I get more comfortable with Blogger it becomes easier for me to get a post up.

So! West African Peanut Soup.  I’ve had this recipe in my e-mail for a while now, and I have it as originating from which sadly is no more.  At any rate, I tweaked it a little, as I tend to do.  The recipe I had called for canned whole tomatoes, I had crushed at hand so that’s what I used.  I made a few other minor deletions and additions as well.  Overall, this is a soup we liked more and more as we ate it.  I think it was because we didn’t know what flavor to expect, or that what it was what not what we expected, or something.  Once that surprise passed however, we enjoyed the actual flavor of the soup tremendously.  It’s thick, subtle (much more than we had anticipated) and unlike anything we had eaten before.  The scallions really gave it a boost that it needed, and I might forgo the chopped peanuts next time, as they are too bland to really add anything here.  

West African Peanut Soup
) 2 cups chopped onions
) olive oil
) 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
) 2 Serrano chilies, seeded and minced
) 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
) 1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
) 2 cups peeled and chopped sweet potatoes
) 4 cups (32 oz) vegetable stock
) 2 cups crushed tomatoes
) 1 cup peanut butter (we always buy natural, which is less sweet than many people are used to, but has a real peanut taste as opposed to a sugary taste)
) 1 cup chopped scallions
) chopped peanuts
) Sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce)

I peel, chop, mince, seed, grate, etc in advance.  I have these cute little vintage aluminum jello molds from my Nonnie that I use as my little mise en place bowls.  If ingredients are added to the pot at the same time, I put them in the same little bowl, this way it’s one step, one motion and onwards.  Otherwise, I tend to forget the tiny amount of spice or peeled something I put on another counter.

In a soup pot, heat your olive oil and when ready sauté your onions.  Once the onion is almost opaque, add the ginger, cayenne and chilies (right in the center).

Give it a minute or two, stirring occasionally, and then add the carrots to the mix.  

Another few minutes and it’s the potatoes turn.  Finally, after the potatoes have sautéed for a few minutes with everybody else, pour in your stock and bring to a boil.  Give it a minute, and then reduce to a simmer for the next 15 minutes.

After this has simmered for 15 minutes, pour in the tomato puree and combine well.  Use your immersion blender and CAREFULLY puree everything until you have a nice consistency.  I don’t mind chunks, some do, play to your crowd.  

Now add your peanut butter, turn off the heat, and stir for about a minute until the peanut butter is totally incorporated into the soup.

I topped ours with the chopped scallions and peanuts and a healthy glob of Sriracha.  We had two bowls each and I don’t regret a minute of it!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baked Eggs with Creamy Polenta, Spinach & Garlic

I saw this yesterday on theKitchn and knew I had to try it ASAP, I'm glad I did! Creamy, cheesy polenta covered with garlicky spinach and topped with what is essentially a poached egg. YUM! To be honest, I was a little daunted by the polenta as I've never made it before. As it turns out, it's a cinch to make! And, either I had an incredible amount of good fortune, or the rumors online that it's notoriously difficult are overblown.

Ingredients to Serve 4:
) 1/2 cup of uncooked polenta
) 1/2 teaspoon salt
) 1/2 cup grated/shredded parmesan cheese
) 1/4 cup milk
) 1 teaspoon olive oil (frankly, this is to brown the garlic and eventually toss the spinach with, I just kinda eyeballed it)
) 6 cloves minced garlic
) pinch or two red pepper flakes
) colander full of stemmed spinach (I realize this is vague, but the original recipe calls for 10 ounces which is too much math for this chef, so I rinsed enough in my colander until it looked like enough, I'd estimate 1/2 lb?
) 4 eggs
) 4 oven safe ramekins (or mugs, small bowls, crocks, etc)
) 1 roasting pan that will fit your ramekins inside it

2 cups water, 1/2 cup polenta,  1/2 tsp salt

First we make the polenta.  Bring 2 cups of water (double check the amount of water on your specific polenta brand) to boil in a small pot, once it's rolling, pour in your polenta and salt.  Stir this fairly constantly, it was quick to enter into a lava-like state with small burbles of REALLY hot polenta flying into the air.  Just stir.  Depending on your brand and whether you've used instant or traditional polenta, this will take between 5 to 45 minutes. 

Once the polenta is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan and milk.  Keep stirring until the parmesan dissolves entirely and the milk is absorbed.  Now you can put it to the side.

stir, stir, stir your polenta!

Put a teakettle on to boil (or however you usually acquire boiling water) and preheat the oven to 375 F.  In a skillet, brown your garlic and red pepper flakes.  Once they are fragrant, dump your rinsed and stemmed spinach right on top:

browning garlic and pepper flakes

polenta all done on the back left, water heating up on the front left and spinach, garlic and pepper flakes on the front right

Now it's time to get artsy!  While everything is doing its stuff, put 1/4 cup of your delicious cooked polenta into each ramekin.  Once the spinach is done (all wilty and mixed well with the garlic) divide it evenly on top of the polenta and crack an egg on top of each.  Put you ramekins in a roasting pan (heeding directions below) and pour your boiling (teakettle, big pot, microwave, etc) water in to the roasting pan until the water comes halfway up each ramekin.

4 ramekins squeezed into one roasting pan

Now- if all 4 of your ramekins fit perfectly with no wiggle room into a roasting pan (like mine did) you are good to go!  Otherwise, theKitchn suggests you put a dish towel on the bottom of the roasting pan with the ramekins atop it.  This will keep the ramekins from sliding all over when you add the boiling water.  And now look, we are all learning new techniques.

Pop the roasting pan into your preheated oven and set your timer for 15 minutes, after which you will remove the pan and cover it with tin foil.  Before you cover it, the ramekins should look something like this:

Cover with tinfoil and pop it back in the oven for 2 minutes for a nice runny egg (as we prefer) or about 6 minutes to be thoroughly cooked through.  Carefully remove the ramekins from the hot water and give a good crack of black pepper to each.  We had a green salad on the side:

The polenta was unreal, so cheesy and luscious and somehow it had a smoky flavor.  The spinach cut through the rich flavor and the egg yolk worked its way through everything.  I would make this again soon.  I think the polenta would really yield to a lot of flavor choices, so any herbs or flavored liquid other than water would really come through.

Let me know if you try this or have any suggestions, and I know, I'll get better quality picture next time!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Grand Return

And, I’m back!  Like ripping off a Band-Aid, the faster you do it the better it is.

A little re-vamp and a new weekly program and I’ll be up and running, please stay tuned.  In the meantime, this looks delicious and I will be making it tonight.  I'll let you know!