Sunday, December 28, 2008

Radish Sliver Omelet

Does anyone else have a hard time making omelets? No matter what I try it seems I always end up with scrambled eggs. It tastes just as good, but doesn't look right. Well that happened again when I tried to make this Radish Sliver Omelet. I should have know that if I have such a hard time making an omelet in a regular pan that I would be even more challenged using a wok!

Still, I love using daikon and the more I work with it the more versatile I can see that it is. I mean radish and eggs? Normally not something I would salivate for but since I know the daikon has a mild flavor I thought I'd give it a try. And I'm glad I did because this is a nice, light omelet that is even kind of fresh in flavor. Perfect for lunch! And speaking of lunch, even though I originally made this for dinner, I had the leftovers cold, right out of the fridge, with an English muffin and it was awesome!

Radish Sliver Omelet
luo bu si jian dan

10 oz. Asian radish (daikon)
salt and pepper
4 eggs
5 scallions, green parts only, finely sliced
3 Tbsp. peanut oil

Cut the radish into very thin slices, and then in very fin slivers. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, mix well, and leave for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with salt to taste. Add the sliced scallions and set aside.

Squeeze as much water as possible out of the radish slivers.

Heat the peanut oil in a wok or skillet over a high flame. Add the radish slivers and stir-fry for a few minutes to dry out some of the remaining moisture. Turn the heat down a little, add the eggs and mix gently to incorporate. As the omelet cooks, gently push in from the edge so the egg forms soft, loose folds. When the underside is golden, turn the omelet over and fry the other side until also golden. Serve with a sprinkling of pepper to taste.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Irish Cream Tiramisu

Ever think about making Tiramisu with Bailey's Irish Cream? When I saw this recipe for Irish Cream Tiramisu in Nigella Express I was definitely intrigued because I thought Bailey's would be really great in Tiramisu. And I was correct. You can usually depend on Nigella Lawson to come up with tasty recipes which are simple to prepare as she does with this one.

Irish Cream Tiramisu
Serves 12

1 1/2 cups espresso coffee, made with 1 1/2 cups water and 9 teaspoons instant espresso powder

1 cup Baileys Irish Cream liqueur

2 7.05-oz packages Savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers) cookies or other ladyfingers

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 lb/2 cups mascarpone cheese

2 1/2 teaspoons cocoa

Make the coffee and let it cool (the espresso powder does mix fairly well in room temperature water).

Mix the coffee and 3/4 cup of the Baileys together in a shallow bowl.

Dip the ladyfingers into this liquid; let them soak on each side enough to become damp but not soggy. Line the bottom of an 8 1/2-inch square glass dish with a layer of ladyfingers.

Separate the eggs, but keep only one of the whites. Whisk the two yolks and sugar together until thick and a paler yellow, then fold in the remaining quarter cup of Baileys and the mascarpone to make a moussey mixture.

Whisk the single egg white until thick and frothy; you can do this by hand with such a little amount. Fold the egg white into the yolky mascarpone, and then spread half of this mixture on top of the layer of ladyfingers.

Repeat with another layer of soaked ladyfingers, and then top with the remaining mascarpone mixture.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to serve, push the cocoa through a small fine-mesh sieve to dust the top of the tiramisu.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Polenta Crostini with Fig and Kalamata Olive Tapenade

Polenta is one of those really fun foods... you can do so many different things with it. A few weeks ago I had a polenta appetizer at a restaurant where the polenta was sliced and grilled and then topped with a mixture of chopped veggies. So when I saw this recipe for Polenta Crostini with Fig and Kalamata Olive Tapenade in The Christmas Table cookbook I knew I wanted to try it out for my family.

It is actually pretty simple to make. Prepare polenta, pour into a bread pan and chill. Something so simple yields a really nice alternative to crackers when serving to guests.

The combination of figs and kalamata olives may be off-putting to some. In face many of my relatives wrinkled their nose when I told them what was in this, but they all tried it and everybody loved it.

Polenta Crostini with Fig and Kalamata Olive Tapenade
Makes about 75

Polenta Crostini
Olive-oil cooking spray
3 cups water
1 cup instant polenta
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, preferably parmigiano-reggiano
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Fig Tapenade

1 1/2 cup stemmed and finely chopped dried black mission figs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. small capers, rinsed and blotted dry
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

To make the polenta crostini, generously grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with olive-oil cooking spray. Set aside.

In a 2 1/2-quart saucepan over medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the polenta, salt and pepper and continue to stir constantly until the polenta has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Adjust the heat to low if the polenta is bubbling too vigorously. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Pour the polenta into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top so it is level. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the polenta to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside until cool, and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the polenta to firm up. (The polenta can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

To make the fig tapenade, place the figs and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until the figs have softened and the liquid has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Transfer the figs to a medium bowl. Add the olives, pine nuts, vinegar, olive oil, capers, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix gently to combine. Transfer a serving bowl, cover, and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld. (The tapenade can be prepared up to 5 days in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator 45 minutes before topping the crostini.)

To finish the crostini, position an over rack 4 inches below the heat source and preheat the broiler. Unmold the polenta onto a cutting board, and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Cut each slice into thirds to form rectangles. Arrange the pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and brush the tops with the olive oil. Broil until lightly golden and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before topping. (The polenta crostini can be broiled up to 3 hours before serving. Set aside at room temperature.)

To assemble and serve, place the polenta crostini on a large platter. Spoon a small dollop of the fig tapenade in the center of each rectangle. Serve immediately, or cover and set aside at room temperature for up to 45 minutes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shrimp with Tomatoes, Oregano, and Feta Cheese

Shrimp and Feta... can you argue with those two ingredients? Tonight I was gifted with a pound and a half of shrimp and asked to make something. As you all know, this is my dream! I found this simple, yet tasty, recipe in my cookbook from the Culinary Institute of America. As suggested in the cookbook, I decided to broil it before serving. It adds a nice color to the dish.

Shrimp with Tomatoes, Oregano, and Feta Cheese
Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 lb. large shrimp (16/20 count), shelled and deveined
Salt as needed
Freshly ground black pepper as needed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne
2 Tbsp. chopped oregano
1 cup Tomato Sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup crumbled feta cheese 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 slices crusty bread

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat until is shimmers. Add the shrimp and saute, turning as necessary until the shrimp are bright pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a plate and keep warm.

Add the onion garlic, cayenne, and oregano to the pan and saute, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce, reduce the heat to low, and bring to a simmer. Season the sauce to taste with sugar, salt, and pepper. Return the shrimp to the sauce and simmer very slowly until the shrimp is completely cooked, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the shrimp to a serving dish (or individual gratin dishes). Top the shrimp with the sauce and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Serve very hot, topped with the chopped parsley. Serve with crusty bread.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oven-Roasted Eggs with Anchovy Vinaigrette

Have you ever heard of roasted eggs? Well, I have not but roasting is one of my favorite cooking methods and eggs are one of my favorite ingredients so within minutes of reading this recipe in The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen I took a carton of eggs out of the fridge and popped them in the oven. I was so intrigued to see what these would end up like!

While the eggs were roasting away in the oven I quickly made the Anchovy Vinaigrette, which is the suggested accompaniment and then did a little research. It seams roasted eggs are part of a traditional Passover meal. I found out that this way to make eggs is very old. But instead of cooking them in the oven, people used to bury them in hot ashes in the ground or stash them in the ashes of a fire place. I can't even imagine how to hook that up but my oven seemed to work out fine.

After finding out all this recipe I was even more curious. The cookbook mentions that the eggs will turn golden and then if you are serving on a platter you should take a few eggs out of the oven at a time. This way some will be lighter gold and the ones that stay in longer will be darker, which makes for a pretties presentation.

Finally after five hours I got to try one! They had a rich, almost smokey flavor. My eggs did not turn out egg-shaped... it seems as if they contracted on one side. Maybe this is because I did not use very fresh eggs as specified in the recipe, but eggs about to expire. It was interesting all the same. I ate two eggs with the anchovy vinaigrette and then realized how rich it all is so I toasted some bread and put slices of eggs on top of the bread and drizzled the vinaigrette on top. Yum!

Sephardic Oven-Roasted Eggs
Serves 5 to 10

10 very fresh AA eggs
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Anchovy Vinaigrette (optional)

Set the oven rack in the middle. Soak the eggs in warm water while preheating the oven to 225 degrees. Set the eggs directly on the rack. Bake 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Stagger the removal of the eggs from the oven if you would like the eggs to have a multihued effect (different golden shades).

Roll the eggs to crackle the shells, then drop them into a bowl of cold water to soak for 5 minutes. Slip off the shells, dry and place attractively on a colorful dish. Serve at room temperature with salt and pepper or the anchovy vinaigrette.

Anchovy Vinaigrette
Makes about 1/2 cup

6 salt-packed anchovies, cleaned and filleted, or 12 oil-packed flat anchovy fillets, drained, soaked in cool milky water, rinsed and drained.
1 garlic clove, crushed to a puree
1 Tbsp. mild wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
7 to 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a small saucepan over low heat, crush the anchovy fillets with a wooden spoon or fork until creamy and smooth. Scrape them into a small bowl or blender jar. Add the garlic, vinegar, and pepper. With the machine on, gradually add the olive oil. Let the vinaigrette stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cool Veggie Pizza

One thing that is present at almost any party I, my family, or my friends host is Cool Veggie Pizza. I had this for the first time at a Pampered Chef party about ten years ago and we have been making it ever since.

This holiday my co-workers decided to have a potluck so I made this. The night before I chopped up the veggies and stored them in separate baggies. I also made the cream cheese mixture. I cooked the "crust" before work in the morning on a disposable cookie sheet. I assembled everything while I was on a conference call just before our lunch! It worked out perfectly.

Cool Veggie Pizza
8-10 appetizer servings

1 can (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent rolls

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1-1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Dill Mix or dill weed

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups of a variety of fresh vegetables: zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, green or red peppers, green onions, seeded tomatoes, seeded cucumbers, etc.

1 oz. (1/4 cup) shredded cheddar cheese, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread crescent roll dough onto 13-inch baking stone and pinch seams together (you can use a cookie sheet as well). Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Blend cream cheese, mayonnaise, dill weed, salt and pepper. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of cooled crust. Coarsely chop chosen vegetables.

Sprinkle layer of each vegetable over pizza. Top with grated cheese, if desired.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pecan Crescents

My grandmother used to make these cookies for us when we were kids. She lived in Florida and us in Chicago so it was always a big treat when she would visit and make all her different cookies. While this recipe may be in a thousand different cookbooks, this is her version.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped pecans but my frugal grandmother would sometimes substitute walnuts. And sometimes she'd only add 1/2 a cup! But they always turned out good even with her scrimping.

You can choose between butter or margarine, but she preferred margarine because it was softer and easier to cream. For butter make sure it is room temperature before starting.

Somehow my grandmother ALWAYS got exactly 40 cookies out of this recipe. The rest of us get a few more or a few less.

Pecan Crescents
1 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups flour

Cream butter or margarine. Work in 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar until well blended. Add 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup chopped pecans and 2 cups flour. Refrigerate dough for one hour. Shape small pieces of dough into crescents on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Dust with confectioners sugar when removed from oven and again before serving.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Grilled Kielbasa with Warm Potato Salad

I know this calls for a grill, but I used a grill pan instead of venturing out in the snow. Also, I substituted red fingerling potatoes which worked out perfectly. This recipe for Grilled Kielbasa with Warm Potato Salad comes from the June, 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine.

I strongly suggest you taste the "vinaigrette" before tossing in the potatoes because I didn't think it had nearly enough cider vinegar for that German potato salad taste. But this recipe does a good job of melding familiar German flavors in a different and easy way.

Grilled Kielbasa with Warm Potato Salad
Serves 4 (Main Course)

2 lb. small red boiling potatoes, halved or quartered if large
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 lb. smoked kielbasa

Accompaniment: grainy mustard

Generously cover potatoes with water in a large saucepan and add 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, whisk together onion, oil, vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a large bowl.

Add hot potatoes and parsley to vinaigrette and toss.

Prepare grill for direct-head cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas). NOTE: Kielbasa can be grilled in a hot lightly oiled large (2-burner) ridged grill pan over medium-high heat.

Cut kielbasa crosswise into 4 sections, then halve each section lengthwise.

Oil grill rack, then grill kielbasa, covered only if using a gas grill, turning once, until sizzling and grill marks appear, about 4 minutes total.

Serve kielbasa with potato salad (warm or at room temperature).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shrimp and Noodle Salad with Ginger Dressing

My favorite thing about this recipe for Shrimp and Noodle Salad with Ginger Dressing is that is uses pre-cooked shrimp. There a SO MANY times I have leftover shrimp OR I buy the wrong bag of frozen shrimp and accidentally pick up pre-cooked... in addition to that, this recipe also uses other "pre-made" items like packaged coleslaw mix and store bought teriyaki sauce which makes it super easy.

I know it is December, and this recipe was taken from the May, 2008 issue of Food and Wine Magazine, but this noodle salad is so yummy that you can eat it anytime during the year. It's served room temperature, which is "cold" to some people so I can imagine it being nice during the summer. That and the original article I found it in was for "picnic salads" so known as a good dish to prepare ahead of time and travel well. However, we had it for a light dinner (in December) and enjoyed it thoroughly. I even have leftovers for work tomorrow.

The only downside to this recipe is that slicing shrimp "lengthwise" isn't as easy as you would think.

Shrimp and Noodle Salad with Ginger Dressing
4 to 6 servings

7 ounces dried udon noodles or fettuccine (fettuccine broken in half)
12 ounces shredded coleslaw mix
2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves
3/4 pound cooked medium shrimp, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon Chinese chile-garlic sauce
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Lime wedges, for serving

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold running water. pat dry and transfer to a large bowl. Add the coleslaw mix, scallions, cilantro and shrimp.

In a blender, combine the teriyaki sauce with the ginger and chile-garlic sauce and puree until smooth. With the machine on, slowly add the vegetable oil in a thin stream and puree until the dressing is emulsified. Season lightly with salt. Add the dressing to the bowl with the udon n oodles and toss well. Serve the noodle salad with lime wedges on the side.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blueberry-Coconut Pound Cake Muffins

Lately I've been making cupcakes for my co-workers. We are all working a lot of hours in preparation for our project launch on September 17th. One of the guys I work closely with prefers muffins over cupcakes. He also really loves coconut. I discovered this recipe for Individual Blueberry-Coconut Pound Cake Muffins from Sara's Secrets while looking for something he may like. The only problem is that this recipe only makes seven muffins so I have to multiply it by 6 to make enough muffins for my entire team.

These went over very well. In fact a few people told me they are the best muffins they have ever had. And I have to agree. Some team members don't like muffins (I can't imagine) but they tried them anyways and gave me a big thumbs up. Even my family liked them and they told me not to lose the recipe because they are so amazing.

I really like that they are kind of like a pound cake because they are heavier. There is alot of cocount so if you don't like coconut you might not like these muffins. But if you do like it, you'll fall in love.

Individual Blueberry-Coconut Pound Cake Muffins
Serves 7

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
2 large eggs
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 7 (1/2-cup) muffin cups (just butter if nonstick).

Beat together butter, sugar, and zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in cream, then flour and salt, on low speed until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut and gently stir in blueberries.

Spoon batter into cups, filling the cups, and smooth tops. Sprinkle tops with remaining 3 tablespoons of coconut.

Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean and edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Invert onto a rack and cool.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Black Forest Cupcakes

One of my co-workers is getting married! Today is his last day in the office before he heads back to India for the wedding. I wanted to make him something special and when I asked him about his favorite cake he said that he likes Black Forest Cake. So I found this recipe for Black Forest Stuffed Cupcakes.

I was no too excited to make these because I'm not big on the whole chocolate / cherry / cream combo. Luckily this recipe is super easy so it didn't take much time. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. My co-workers raved about them and I thought it was really neat that the cupcakes were stuffed with yummy filling. And what can be easier that simply topping cupcakes with cool whip instead of making frosting!

Black Forest Stuffed Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

1 pkg. (2-layer size) chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 egg
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 can (20 oz.) cherry pie filling, divided
1-1/2 cups thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping

PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Prepare cake batter as directed on package; set aside. Mix cream cheese, egg and sugar until well blended.

REMOVE 3/4 cup of the pie filling for garnish; set aside. Spoon 2 Tbsp. of the cake batter into each of 24 paper-lined medium muffin cups. Top each with 1 Tbsp. each of the cream cheese mixture and remaining pie filling. Cover evenly with remaining cake batter.

BAKE 20 to 25 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool 5 min.; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Top cupcakes with whipped topping and remaining pie filling just before serving.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Poached Shrimp (in a slow-cooked onion sauce)

This recipe is sick! And I mean that in the "urban dictionary" way: crazy, cool, insane. It all revolves around this amazing sauce which has the consistency of a thick pasta sauce (which is possibly why they suggest serving it over pasta) with some really creative flavors. The core come from the fried onion paste which is made from caramelized onions. Add to that a bunch of other spices and slow cook it until everything blends together and then serve it with some shrimp... heaven!

Poached Shrimp in a Slow-Cooked Onion Sauce
bhuna hua jhinga
serves 6

2 Tablespoons canola oil

4 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick), coarsely chopped

1 cup Fried Onion Paste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons mango powder or fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, ground

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground

1 teaspoon fine black salt

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)

1 pound large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined but tails left on

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnishing

Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic, and stir-fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic and ginger to a blender jar. Pour in 3/4 cup water, followed by the onion paste and tomato paste. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to form a thick, reddish-brown paste. Transfer the paste to the same saucepan. Pour 1/4 cup water into the blender jar and swish it around to wash it out. Add this to the pan.

Stir in the mango powder, coriander, cumin, black salt, turmeric, and cayenne. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil starts to form a few shiny drops around the edges, 5 to 8 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 cup water, cover the pan, and simmer, stiffing occasionally, until there is a thin film of oil on the surface, 8 to 10 minutes.

Pour in 1/2 cup water and repeat one last time: cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until there is a thin film of oil on the surface, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the shrimp and stir once or twice. Cover the pan and poach, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are salmon-orange, curled, and tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tea and Ginger Simmered Chickpeas

The best thing about this recipe was all the new and neat things I got to try. I was first attracted to it because it use TEA in the cooking. I'm a huge tea fan and I have all sorts of loose-leaf tea around. I usually drink it but using it to cook with sounded to good to be true. Another thing about this recipe is that it is for chickpeas and I always try to find new things to do with legumes. I'd like to eat more vegetarian and tasty recipes are always keepers. And chickpeas are much more "approachable" to the rest of my family than some other legumes like lentils and beans.

So in addition to all the reasons I wanted to try the recipe in the first place, I had a bunch of fun when preparing it because there are some unique ingredients I have not been exposed to before. Like the use of mustard oil. It says you can use canola oil but I grabbed a bottle while I was at the Indian grocer. After I added the cumin seeds I bent my head over the pan to take a whiff and I almost choked! I thought I was smelling for the toasting of the cumin seeds but I inhaled a whole bunch of horseradish smell! Definitely can open up the sinuses.

When I took my first bite of these chickpeas I thought they were bland. So I took a second and scooped up some of the sauce and it was much better. By the third bite the flavors were coming through and after that I couldn't stop until I polished off my whole bowl. I will say that I think this is a bit salty, but I'm not sure if Indian food is supposed to be this way or not. It does call for 1 1/2 tsp. of salt which is quite a lot!

Tea and Ginger Simmered Chickpeas
chai patte waali chana
serves 6

2 tablespoons black tea leaves, preferably Darjeeling

2 tablespoons mustard oil or canola oil

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

2 to 4 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, thinly sliced crosswise (do not remove the seeds)

3 cups cooked chickpeas

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Juice of 1 medium-size lime

Bring 2 cups water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the tea leaves, remove the pan from the heat, and allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes; it will turn the water a deep reddish brown. Strain the infusion, discarding the swollen leaves.

Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin sees and cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Then add the ginger, garlic and chiles, and stir-fry until the ginger and garlic are light brown and the chiles smell pungent, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the chickpeas, cilantro, salt, and turmeric. Cook, making sure every chickpea gets well coated with the seasonings, until the turmeric is cooked, about 1 minute. Pour in the brewed tea, stir once or twice, and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened slightly, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the lime juice and serve.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dal with Unripe Mango and Pigeon Peas

Okay, just the title of this recipe alone has my curiosity peeked. What are pigeon peas and why would anyone want to cook anything with an unripe mango? So I set out to make Unripe Mango with Pigeon Peas (khatte aam toor ki dal) from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer.

Well, I still don't really know why pigeon peas are named the way they are, but I can tell you they they are kind of like lentils. They are yellow and usually come dried so you need to rinse them and cook them with water to hydrate them similar to other legumes. As for the unripe mango, it's not as unappealing as I first thought it might be. The mango adds some tangy flavoring which is really unique.

The recipe is long but it is actually very easy to make. It can all be thrown together once you get the mango, onions, chiles and ginger slices. Everything kind of stews and the way the flavors meld together is amazing. I used 10 chiles as suggested and it was hot! I wish I had prepared some raita (cucumber yogurt) to calm the flavors a bit, but when you eat it with rice, the rice counters some of the heat. But people who don't like things spicy may want to tone it down a bit. I think the heat in this balances well with the tart mango and the spices.

I will admit that when I took my first bite I was super proud of myself because I made something that tasted just like what I'd get at an Indian restaurant. And it was really easy! So I am excited to make a few more things from 660 Curries to see what else I can create on my own.

The book suggests serving with Basmati rice but I didn't have any so I used long grain brown rice instead. Not as authentic, but tasty and healthy all the same.

Unripe Mango with Pigeon Peas
khatte aam toor ki dal
makes 4 cups

1 cup oily or unoily skinned split yellow pigeon peas (toovar dal), picked over for stones

1 medium-size rock-firm unripe mango, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons Ghee or canola oil

2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon left whole, 1 teaspoon ground

6 green or white cardamom pods

1 small red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

8 to 10 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, cut in half lengthwise, each half cut into long, thin strips (do no remove the seeds)

3 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick), cut into matchstick-thin strips (julienne)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Place the pigeon peas in a medium-size saucepan. Fill the pan halfway with water and rinse the peas by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water will become cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear, drain. Now add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are partially tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the mango and 1 cup water to the partially cooked dal. Stir once or twice, cover the pan, and continue to cook stirring occasionally, until the pigeon peas and mango are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

While the peas and mango are simmering, heat the ghee in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the whole cumin seeds and the cardamom pods, and cook until the seeds turn reddish brown and the pods smell fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Then add the onion, chiles, and ginger, and stir-fry until the onion is lightly browned and the chiles are pungent, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the cilantro, salt, the ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir-fry until the ground spices are cooked, about 1 minute. Set aside.

Transfer half the cooked pigeon peas, mango, and cooking water to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour this creamy blend into a bowl. Repeat with the remaining peas, mango, and water. Return all the puree to the saucepan. (If you have an immersion blender, you can puree all the peas, mango, and water right in the saucepan.)

Scrape the contents of the skillet into the dal, and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal absorbs the flavors, 5 to 8 minutes. Then serve.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fried Onion Paste

I made this batch of Fried Onion Paste because caramelized onions are the bomb. It is a key ingredient in many curries and since I'm on an Indian kick it shows up in a few recipes I want to make. You can probably buy this at the Indian grocer, but the thought of slowly cooking onions until they was just too much. I LOVE the smell while it's cooking.

This recipe turned out just fine for me, but it didn't go exactly as written. Maybe I didn't have the burner turned up high enough, but it took closer to an hour for my onions to caramelize than the suggested 25 to 30 minutes. Also, it yielded only about a cup and a half instead of 3 cups. 2 pounds of onions really aren't all that much so next time I'll double the batch.

Fried Onion Paste
pyaaz ka lep
Makes 3 cups

1/4 cup canola oil

2 pounds red onions, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

Preheat a wok or a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Pour in the oil and swish it around gently to coat the bottom of the pan. the oil will immediately get hot and appear to shimmer. Add the onions and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are caramel-brown with a deep purple hue, 25 to 30 minutes. Initially they will stew in the oil, but once they start to cook down in volume, you will need to stir them more often as they start to stick to the bottom. Transfer the onions to a place to cool.

Pour 1 cup water into a blender jar. Add the caramelized onions and puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to make a smooth, reddish-brown paste. (If you wont' be using all of the onion paste, divide it into smaller batches and freeze them for up to 2 months. Leftover onion paste, stored in a tightly sealed container, will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I've made this version of Red Velvet Cupcakes from Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor a few times and I always marvel at it's simplicity. Using the cake mix, pudding mix and sour cream seems so random! And adding the semi-sweet chocolate chips is a hidden surprise. Anyways, it was "Red Shirt Day" today at work (something made up for the hell of it) and I decided to make cupcakes to make it more festive.

These are CRAZY sweet! I like the touch of homemade frosting but personally I am not a big fan of mint. If you feel the same way, you can just omit the peppermint extract and you'll get a more traditional topping for red velvet cake.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
24 paper liners for cupcake pans (2 1/2-inch size)
1 package (18.25 ounce) plain German chocolate cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 bottle (1 ounce) red food coloring
3 large eggs
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

1. Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

2. Place the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, water, oil, food coloring, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.) Place the pans in the oven.

3. Bake the cupcakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before frosting.

4. Meanhwile, prepare the White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting.

White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting
6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped (i used white chocolate chips so I didn't have to bother chopping chocolate)
4 ounces (half an 8-ounce package) reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 to 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

1. Place the white chocoalte in a small glass bowl in the microwave oven on high power for 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until it is smooth. Set the chocoalte aside to cool.

2. Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the melted white chocolate and blend on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds. Add the peppermint extract and 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar and blend on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 30 seconds more. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting is fluffy, 1 minute more, adding up to 1/2 cup more sugar if needed to make a spreadable consistency.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wine Class: The Power of Pinot

Sam's Wine and Spirits has some great wine events. I have been to several tastings before but this time I went to an incredible two-night wine class called the "Power of Pinot". Our instructor brought about 9 different types of Pinot for us to try from various parts of the world. And the second week would be the parts we didn't have time to cover during the first night, with a heavy focus on France.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beef Stew Zuazua-Style

I have been ordering beef dishes with a gravy on them the last few times I have eaten at a Mexican restaurant. They are served with tortillas on the side so it is almost like fajitas where you make your own. So when I read the recipe for Los Barrios Beef Stew Zuazua-Style, I knew I wanted to try and recreate that "beef with gravy" dish myself.

A mistake I made was not realizing how expensive beef tenderloin is BEFORE heading to the store. Even though I cut this recipe in half while making it myself, I still spend $40 just on the meat! I do not know enough about meats to suggest that you substitute the beef tenderloin for another meat, but I can tell you that you do end up cooking the meat for quite some time so it will not end up being rare no matter what you do. The end result was really good and I'm not sure it would taste as flavorful with a different cut, but if you know about it then go ahead and substitute as you see fit.

That being said, I really liked the results because of the wonderful rich flavors. I am not a huge fan or oregano and this recipe calls for A LOT so you might want to adjust the amounts accordingly. But this is easy to throw together and is a nice change from regular tacos or fajitas.

Beef Stew Zuazua-Style
Cortadillo Zuazua
Serves 6

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 lbs. beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
Pinch of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. dried oregano

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large deep skillet or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the beef with the garlic powder and salt and pepper. Add to the pan, in batches, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Drain the juices into a small bowl and set aside. Return all the meat to the pan.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan, then add the tomatoes and onion and cook about 8 minutes. Return the reserved juices to the pan, add the water and oregano, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes longer.

Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Watermelon Flavored Water

I am fascinated by flavored waters. Typically, I use lemons to flavor water. On occasion I use limes or oranges. I have even been know to use cucumbers (inspired by my favorite spas). But I never thought about flavoring water in a way other than by throwing slices of fruit in there. This method has you pureeing watermelon and adding to the water. It seems like the same process for lemonade, but by using watermelon the result is more refreshing (and unique).

Refreshing Watermelon Delight
Refresco de Sandia
(Makes 1 gallon)

2 pounds watermelon
3 1/2 quarts water
2 cups sugar

Remove the seeds from the watermelon, slice the flesh from the rind, and cut it into chunks. Transfer to a blender, in batches if necessary, and blend for a few seconds; there should still be some small chunks of watermelon.

Combine the water and sugar in a large pitches, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the watermelon puree, blending thoroughly. Refrigerate until chilled before serving.

Variation: You can substitute cantaloupe for the watermelon.

The pitcher that I planned to use could not hold a gallon of liquid. I ended up modifying the recipe by using 10 cups of water, 1 pound of watermelon pulp, and 1/3 cup sugar/splenda.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Poached Eggs with Baked Feta and Olives

I think feta cheese and kalamata olives is one of the best flavor combinations that exists. I was intrigued by baking the feta and also the use of egg. I can tell you that the egg added a richness to the texture but also cut the richness of the strong flavors. A perfect combination!

The recipe calls for focaccia but I just used some crusty artisan bread and it was perfect. Also, I had to go out and buy a gratin for this recipe. But it was just an excuse to get some more kitchen goodies.

Poached Eggs with Baked Feta and Olives
6 servings

Six 3-inch squares of rosemary focaccia, halved horizontally

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

10 ounces feta cheese, cut into 6 slabs

Aleppo pepper or ancho chile powder, for sprinkling

6 large eggs


18 pitted kalamata olives

1 tablespoon chopped sage

Preheat the broiler and position a rack 6 inches from the heat. Bring a large deep skillet of water to a simmer. Brush the focaccia with olive oil and broil until lightly toasted. Put a slap of feta into each of 6 individual gratin dishes. Drizzle each slap with 1 teaspoon of the oil. sprinkle lightly with Aleppo pepper and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned and sizzling.

Meanwhile, crack the eggs one at a time into a small bowl, then slide them into the simmering water. Poach until the whites are set but the yuolks are sill runny, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the gratin dishes and season with salt. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper, the olives and sage. Serve with focaccia.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Peruvian-Style Fried Rice

Jaden of Steamy Kitchen recently posted Meat Fried Rice - Four Ways which really got me thinking about how versatile fried rice can be. When I saw this recipe for Peruvian-Style Fried Rice in the May, 2008 issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine I knew I wanted to give it a try. Anything with shrimp and chorizo sounds good to me. This recipe takes a traditional Chinese dish and gives it a Latin spin.

One warning I have for you if you make this recipe is that a large skillet is simply not large enough. I used a large skillet and it was filled up with the onion, shrimp and chorizo. There was no room for the rice! I ended up using a large dutch oven and that worked out really well.

This recipe yields a HUGE quantity - I have enough for about 6 meals for myself here. The nice thing is that it reheats really well. But one can only eat so much of the same thing! The doggies are loving the fact that I have so much left over because they get it (it's not spicy, just a bit rich, but so far so good).
Peruvian-Style Fried Rice
Serves 6

Cooking spray
2 large eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups chopped chorizo (about 8 oz.)
1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups cooked white rice, cooled
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sherry
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over high heat and coat with cooking spray. Pour half of the eggs into the pan, swirling to coat the bottom, and let cook until set, about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat, flip the eggs and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer the egg "tortilla" to a cutting board and repeat the process with the cooking spray and the remaining egg. Roll up each egg "tortilla" and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips.

In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil over high heat. Add the shrimp, chorizo and onion and cook, stirring, until the shrimp is just opaque, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in the rice, soy sauce and sherry. Cook until heated through. Stir in the egg strips and top with cilantro.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tomato-Pepper Stew with Poached Eggs and Harissa

This recipe was featured in a "Travel Israel" section of the May, 2008 issue of Food & Wine magazine. Tomato-Pepper Stew with Poached Eggs and Harissa intrigued my by all the ingredients in the title alone! Anything with tomatoes is okay in my book. Also, while I sometimes enjoy poached eggs when dining out, I have never made them before. Poaching them in a tomato-pepper sauce just sounds amazing, doesn't it?

I was first exposed to harissa (a Tunisian red-chile-pepper paste) last year when I made Harissa-Roasted Turkey Breast from Marcus Samuelsson's The Soul of a New Cuisine. That book focuses on African food so I found it interesting that this recipe highlighting food from Israel used the same unique ingredient. Lucky for me I can now find a jar of harissa at my local Whole Foods and I do not need to make it from scratch like I did last time.

I am really happy that I tried this one out! It is super flavorful and actually quite easy to make. The harissa makes it pretty spicy so if heat is not your thing then you might want to cut it in half. I noticed that if you got a bit of egg with the tomato mixture the creaminess of the egg balances the heat. I ate this with naan and when I took a bite of that it absorbed the rest of the heat. So it's not that bad if you balance it well, but it can catch you off guard if you just take a big mouthful of tomatoes!

This is a recipe that I made for dinner but I ended up with a bunch left over and found out it works really well for breakfast too. As suggested in the recipe, I saved have of the tomato mixture for use on another day and only poached three of the eggs. Considering that you can eat this for any mean and is uses 6 eggs, this is one recipe that can stretch far.

Tomato-Pepper Stew with Poached Eggs and Harissa
6 servings

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. harissa
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
One 28-once can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
6 large eggs
Pitas or crusty bread, for serving

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper, season with salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the paprika and coriander and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the harissa and tomato paste and cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer over low heat until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes, Stir in the parsley and cilantro and season with salt.

Raise the heat to moderate. One by one, break the eggs into a cup and add them to the simmering sauce. Poach the eggs until the whites are firm but the yolks are still runny, about 5 minutes. Season the eggs with salt. Transfer the eggs to bowls along with some of the sauce. Serve with warmed pitas or crusty bread.

Make ahead: The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat before proceeding.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cooking Class: Monet's Table

I recently discovered that the Alliance Fran├žaise de Chicago offers French cooking classes. The first class I signed up for, "Being A Chef: Monet's Table", featured recipes from the cooking journals of Claude Monet which are published in Monet's Table. It wasn't clear if Monet created these recipes himself or if he just wrote down his friends recipes, but they were all in his journal.

During the class we discussed foods that commonly found in Giverny in the late 1800s and common preparation techniques. There were no immersion blenders for food processor back then!

Herb Soup
This recipe is really unique because you basically took a salad and wilted it in butter and then pureed it all together. The main herb used in sorrel which I was unfamiliar with, but after tasting this amazing soup I am on the lookout for a sorrel plant so I can grow my own.

Baked Wild Mushrooms
The simplicity of French cooking was demonstrated with this recipe. Calling for morels, cepe and crimini mushrooms, we were had to improvise on this one. We used dried morels and omitted the cepe entirely. But just baking the mushrooms with a little oil, garlic and parsley was more flavorful than you can imagine. Served with some crusty bread and it was a little meal all by itself.

Braised Sole in White Wine Sauce
The "main course" for which we substituted turbot for the sole. While it came out well, this was the most confusing recipe of all. We braised the fish I learned that you can cut parchment paper the exact size of the pan and use that instead of a lid. This way the "cover" is right on top of the food and all the flavors meld together much better.

Chocolate Gateau
An ALMOST flourless chocolate cake. It rises like a souffle and a little bit of batter made from only 5 ingredients makes an wonderful rich dessert.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Have you guys had an Izze yet? It's a sparkling fruit juice that I am seeing all over the place. I wanted to try it because I like juice and it has a cool bottle design. That was my theory anyways. Finally today I grabbed one while picking up a sandwich for lunch. Personally, I didn't like it. I thought it tasted like a wine cooler from the 80's. Has anyone else tried it? Are any of these new designer fruit drinks out there any good?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Grilled Chicken Thighs

Have you ever grilled oranges? Putting fruit on the grill is a great idea. They were featured as a garnish in photo accompanying the recipe for Grilled Chicken Thighs with Green Olives and Sherry Vinegar-Orange Sauce. Just cut in half, brush a little oil on them and throw them on the grill. They add a lot of drama and color to the dish you serve them with and they actually taste good too.

The page for this recipe Bobby Flay's Grill It! is covered in grease spots. That must mean I had a lot of fun preparing it, right? I like almost all recipes using chicken thighs so I definitely wanted to try grilling them.

Most people may just throw their chicken on the grill or use a store bought marinade, but it is well work preparing this sauce to go with the chicken. My family members were gobbling it up like it was candy! I served this with some Rice-A-Roni and Marinated Grilled Portobello Mushrooms.

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Green Olive and Sherry Vinegar-Orange Sauce
Serves 4

4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups orange juice (not from concentrate)
3 Tbsp. aged sherry vinegar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, plus extra for garnish
3 Tbsp. honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (8-ounce) bone-in chicken thighs
1/2 cup picholine olives, pitted

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft and lightly golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the orange zest and juice and the vinegar and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the broth and rosemary and simmer until reduced by half and slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Strain the sauce into a bowl, stir in the honey, and season with salt and pepper. The sauce can be made 1 day in advance, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat before using.

Heat your grill to medium.

Brush the chicken on both sides with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on the grill, skin side down, and cook until golden brown and slightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the thighs over, close the cover of the gill, and continue cooking until just cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes longer.

Remove the thighs to a platter and drizzle with some of the sauce. Tent loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Scatter the olives around the platter and garnish with rosemary sprigs. Serve additional sauce on the side.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Marinated Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

A simple and easy way to prepare portobello mushrooms! And the interesting part is that you "marinade" them AFTER you grill them. The picture does not due these mushrooms any justice, but I had some technical problems this evening.

I have been finding lots of wonderful recipes like this one in Bobby Flay's Grill It! This one in particular is simple and crowd pleasing (to those who like mushrooms). I can see this becoming a standard side dish which I will prepare quite often while grilling this summer.

Marinated Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
Serves 4

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of red chile flakes
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 medium portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1/4 cup canola oil

Heat your gill to medium.

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, red chile flakes, thyme, and parsley in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. The marinade can b e made 4 hours in advance and refrigerated.

Brush both sides of the mushrooms with the canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the mushrooms on the grill, cap side down, and grill until golden brown and slightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the mushrooms over and continue grilling until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes longer.

Remove the mushrooms from the grill and cut inti 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the mushrooms in a large bowl, add the marinade, and toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. The marinated mushrooms can be made 4 hours in advance and refrigerated. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Grilled Salmon with Cellophane Noodles

My first attempt and cooking fish on the grill didn't turn out so well. The recipe is great and the fish ended up tasting very flavorful, but I didn't realize how flaky the fish would become and it fell apart on the grill. Note to self: do not put fish directly on the grates, use something in between which will be easier to pick up the fish from.

Besides the fact that my fish came off the grill in large chunks, this dinner is great for a weeknight. You get all the flavor and presentation as if you have been preparing a complicated meal, but it all comes together in less than a half an hour.

The noodles on their own are pretty boring. But they add a wonderful texture and it changes up the honey-soy salmon that you may have tasted before.

Honey-Soy Lacquered Salmon with Cilantro Noodles
Serves 4

3 packages (2 ounces each) bean thread noodles

4 center-cut salmon fillets (about 6 ounces each), skin on and scaled, pin bones removed

Extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling

5 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on medium-high.

In a large bowl, soak the noodles in hot water to cover until softened, about 20 minutes.

Generously brush the salmon fillets on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the honey, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and mix thoroughly. Set aside.

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 4 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon honey, the sesame oil, and the lemon juice mixing well.

Drain the noodles will in a colander, shaking the colander a few times to make sure all the water is removed. pat the noodles dry with paper towels. Toss the noodles with the dressing, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Set aside.

Oil the grill grate. Use tongs to arrange the salmon fillets, flesh side down, directly over the medium-hot fire. Grill the salmon until grill marks are etched across the fillets, about 3 minutes. Turn the fillets, skin side down, and brush the salmon flesh generously with the glaze. cover the grill and continue grilling the salmon until it is almost opaque throughout but still very moist when tested with a knife, or an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 125 to 130 degrees, 3 to 4 minutes longer.

Divide the noodles among dinner plates. Using a wide spatula, place a salmon fillet in the center of each plate, on top of the noodles. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cooking Class: Four Regional Cuisines of Thailand

This summer I have singed up for a six-part series on Thai cooking held at Kendall College. The classes will be held once a month for six months. The first class was called "Four Regional Cuisines of Thailand".

Discover the secrets of Executive Chef/Owner Arun Sampanthavivat of Arun’s Thai Restaurant in Chicago. Chef Arun invites you and friends to this one-of-a-kind series of Spice Up’s Adventures in Thai Cooking classes that will be chock full of useful tips and techniques. Starting Tuesday, June 17th Chef Arun will teach a three hour course of his six part installment that covers one subject in depth each month expanding from Four Regional Tastes of Thailand to the Art of Thai Menu Design. With Chef Arun’s step-by-step instructions, hands on guidance and easy recipes, he is sure to have you whipping up dazzling dishes in no time. After just a few classes, your family and friends will be convinced that you've studied at Kendall College. Space is limited be sure to register today

Classic Thai cooking always balances the four fundamental flavors of hot, sour, salty and sweet, with the occasional addition of bitter. Four Regional Tastes of Thailand will be a survey of Thai culinary culture, aiming to take you to explore the exotic tastes of the exotic land of Thailand. Four regional cooking of the classical Thai tastes will be offered; the diversity of flavors, textures, and forms of the Thai cookery tradition.

This class delivered everything I was expecting it to. We started off the class in an auditorium and Chef Arun gave a very informative overview of the different cuisines of Thailand. After about a half an hour we went down into the kitchens and got to work. We prepared four dishes, one from each region of Thailand.

The Central Plains: Mee Kati (Coconut Noodles)
These were rice vermicelli noodles that we died pink! It is the traditional way to serve them and makes for a very elegant presentation. It seems simple, but I think that is the most unique lesson I took away from the class. While soaking the noodles in water, just add some red food coloring.

The North: Nam Prik Ong (Pork Chili Dip)
This one blew me away. I'm not sure what I expected based on the name, but was it ended up being was like a ground meat chili. But very fine and flavorful. It is served with vegetables which was a really unique compliment to the greasy, spicy meat.

The South: Khanom Chine Nam ya (Rice Noodles with Fish Curried Sauce)
Fish curried sauce may seem gross, but I assure you it is simply amazing. The recipe calls for a strip bass and you end up smashing the cooked fish in a mortar and pestle and them mix it in with a curry paste. I never thought I'd be mashing up a fish to use in a recipe!

The Northeast: Kai Yang (Thai Grilled Chicken) and Som Tum (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)
Absolutely AMAZING chicken! There were all sorts of amazing real Thai dishes and I couldn't get over how flavorful these chicken legs were. This is definitely something I"ll be making on the grill this summer. However, I doubt I'll be making the papaya salad because even though it was really great, you had to SHRED an entire papaya! I simply do not have the patience for that. I might give it a go with my mandolin though...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Drinks native to the Dominican Republic

I was introduced to two VERY interesting drinks while in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Mamajuana and Caipirinha.

While it is the national drink of Brazil, the guide escorting us to our resort told us that Caipirinha is a very popular drink in Punta Cana. This is the one drink I ordered most often (besides beer or wine of course). If you like mojitos you will probably like a Caipirinha. Instead of being mint based, this drink features a lot of limes.

THE drink of the Dominican Republic is Mamajuana. Actually, it is thought to be a strong aphrodisiac and we were warned about that from our guide. It is made by placing a bunch of roots and herbs into a jar and then filling it with rum and wine. It sounds nasty but I assure you it wasn't too bad. We ordered one to taste it and it was very spicy and flavorful. It reminded me of something I would want to drink on a cold winter evening in front of the fire, not on the beach!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Blackbird's Kalamata Olive Cake

I had one of the most unique desserts at Blackbird. Even though it has been around for a while, Blackbird is still a really well known restaurant in Chicago and it is even listed on Food & Wine Magazine's 2008 Go List. With unique food such as the Kalmata Olive Cake I had for dessert, you can see why!

The full name of the dessert is "kalamata olive cake with rhubarb, toffee and buttermilk ice cream". I don't know what was more unique, making cake with kalmata olives or making little balls out of the cake!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chicago's Sister Cities Festival

The variety of "sister cities" that Chicago has is quite interesting. My lunch today was from 3 of them! The annual Chicago Sister Cities International Festival is going on this week at Daley Plaza. Apparently there are 27 "sister cities" and while they weren't all represented, there was a good selection of different foods.

There were a group of musicians playing while I walked around - it sounded like Spanish or Mexican music. A "savory" turkey and cheese crepe represented Paris, France. A couscous salad representing Petach Tikva, Israel had with really good black and green olives and LARGE Israeli couscous. And a very refreshing (and not too sweet) mango shake represented Lahore, Pakistan.