Friday, April 30, 2010

I'd Probably Dress Up in You

Yesterday, I saw that it got up to 84 degrees on one of those bank thermometers: I love it. Love it. Can't get enough of it. Soon enough people are going to start whining about how hot it is, but not me. I'll gladly bask in the sun on a sweltering day. We've got glorious things like popsicles, ice cream, cold beer, sun dresses, salads and swimming pools--all ready to make the heat fun.

By the time lacrosse practice was over, you could see the thunderhead rolling in. I pulled into the driveway and immediatly heard that our downstairs neighbor's air conditioner rattling. I thought, "ah how foolish, it's going to rain and cool off by 10 tonight." It happened before that. It started raining around 8, but the fire display didn't really kick into gear until later when you could swear for a minute or two you were enveloped in the cloud and only luck was keeping you from electricution. It's strangely so soothing: the beat of the rain, the clang of thunder and flashbulb of light. Ah yes, amid oil spills and mine explosions, at least God working as Mother Nature is consistent. You can't stop the rain.

Now that I've discovered a light and tangy (I hate that word) dressing, I predict this will be the summer of salads. The radishes were the best part of this medley. I never used to like them arranged whole with a side of ranch dressing--it's like a bitter bite of garlic. But sliced in this medley, it was just enough. Next time I would have used feta cheese instead of parmesan, and I would have been more mindful of my fingers when running the radishes up and down the side of a grater, but no blood was spilled in the making of this salad.
Cucumber-radish Salad:
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
5 radishes, sliced
1 green onion
handful almond slices
feta cheese crumbles

Slice the vegetables. Toss together with dressing. Enjoy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Good Ol' Gourmet

I found this recipe in Real Simple while on the road. Picking up glossies is my favorite thing about airports. Last week when I went to Columbus, Ohio, I went through Vanity Fair, Vogue and Real Simple. I just love magazines; I love them in newsstands and I love getting them in the mail.

For the past few months, I've been looking for a replacement to Gourmet magazine. I cannot find one. Conde Nast sent me Bon Appetit as some sort of consolation for closing down Gourmet--me no like. It's a fine publication, but it's geared a little more toward families (If I want finger-food recipes to serve my kids, I'll read Family Circle, thank you.). Then its editorials are way subpar. I like Molly Wizenberg's column, but that's about it. The feature stories are less than half the length and not worth reading past the first paragraph. I was thumbing through old Gourmet issues recalling lengthy features that I read, rivetted, the entire way through. Gourmet's writers were people to be imitated, and its photography. I looked at the images, and I wanted to be there, eating with those models. Not so with Bon Appetit. Then there's Food and Wine. Meh. I tried a couple recipes that were only so-so. I have the same critique of its features--too short, too boring, too snobby about wine. Someone recommended Real Simple--it's OK, but I want a food magazine, not a magazine about cleaning my house, dressing fashionably and decorating. Saveur may be the only comparable replacement--I love its photography, but again, it lacks in the feature-writing department. Gourmet had such a well-rounded arsenal of feature writing: political issues, trends, personal narratives. I did not fully appreciate that magazine until it was gone.

Aside from subscribing to Saveur, which I'm still unsure about, I'm considering subscribing to The Diner Journal or Canal House Cooking. As I understand it, The Diner Journal comes out four times a year (with each season) for $36, while Canal House does three a year for $50. Canal House is 100 pages of recipes and photos (omg!), and TDJ is (I take it) more in the vein of a scholarly journal. Can anyone weigh in on these publications or others that have replaced Gourmet?

Meanwhile, here is the recipe for shrimp enchiladas from Real Simple, which were quite good though a touch too acidic and soupy (I blame myself for the soupy part--I was too hungry to wait for the volume to reduce!).

Puerto Rican Shrimp Enchiladas: from Real Simple
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion
1 bell pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
sea salt
1/2 cup white wine
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 pound shrimp
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup whole milk, cream or half-and-half
8 tortillas
mild goat cheese

Chop the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Heat the oil on medium and add the onion and pepper. Saute until the onion is softened a bit, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes and salt. Saute for another minute or two. Add some fresh cilantro (I didn't), the wine and tomatoes. Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the volume has reduced and the liquid is thicker. Add the shrimps, milk, lime juice and capers. Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes until the shrimps are cooked through. Serve with tortillas, mild cheese and garnished with cilantro.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring Salad

It has been an explosion of spring. I came back from a trip to Ohio and the magnolia's were in bloom, along with the crab apples, violets, tulips, daffodils. Our rose bushes have even come back to life. It's as if winter never happened and things could stay this way forever. They won't of course., one swift wind and the magnolia blossoms will drop (many already have). Soon I'll be able to buy locally-grown produce at markets and farm stands, but in the meantime, I'm settling for stuff shipped in from Mexico.

Broccoli, asparagus and radishes. Exactly what the day called for (except that I couldn't find radishes and picked turnips instead). The broccoli and asparagus, warmed just to crisp-tenderness and brilliantly green, played subtly with bitter turnip slices and spring onions. I topped the salad with creamy toasted pine nuts and shavings of parmesan cheese. Drizzled with this Portuguese mayo-esque dressing (Portuguese to make it sound fancy and complicated), this salad, oh this salad. Though the dressing (it required emulsification--a word that draws fear and trembling) required a bit of fiddling, I came out victorious, by adding extra lemon juice. Really, it was a proud moment watching the mixture of whole milk, garlic, lemon juice parsley and olive oil go from just a mixture to a thick, creamy sauce with a few extra squeezes from a lemon. Eric declared the dressing light but flavorful, perfect--quite a compliment. I'll be making it again tonight.
And now to digress to something that is bothering me: my downstairs neighbors. They moved in just a month ago. My landlord called to say someone just signed the lease, and when I came back from out of town, they were there with their stuff in our garage and children's toys littering the yard. They bought a satellite dish, used our washer and dryer for a week (while we were using it! and without asking!!) and watch an excessive amount of TV (though compared to how much TV I watch, almost anything would be excessive), but all this is nothing compared to the sex.

My room is directly above theirs, and I can hear them every time they copulate. Every. Time. The first time I heard it, I came home from the Old Market at probably 1 a.m. Sliding under my covers, I said aloud to myself, "oh my gosh, is that ... moaning?" This is no bed-creaking, panting sex; this is moaning, grunting intercourse. Not only is it gross, it's grossly unnecessary. It has forever ruined Sideways for me because all I can picture is the scene from the movie when Paul Giamatti crawls into that couple's house to steal back the ring--those people are my downstairs neighbors. And they each have children, who I am absolutely positive can hear them. Why, you may ask. Because while it's not quite ridiculous that I can hear them seeing as my room is directly above theirs, but Megan has heard them whilst sitting in the living room. Sunday they did it twice, once in the morning, once at night. They keep me awake flaunting all the copious and apparently very good sex they are having, while I try to plug my ears and imagine myself on a beach, on a hike, anywhere but there.

Asparagus and Broccoli Salad: from 101 Cookbooks
handful asparagus spears
several stalks broccoli
1 tablespoon butter
1 turnip
1 spring onion
parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Eggless Parsley Mayonaise: from David Lebovitz from The Portuguese Table
1/3 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons dried parsely or 3/4 cup fresh

Chop the asparagus and broccoli into bite-size pieces. Melt butter in a skillet. Add the broccoli and asparagus, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute for a few minutes, until vegetables are brilliantly green. remove from heat and place in serving bowl. Toast pine nuts in skillet for a couple minutes, until they are lightly browned.

Chop spring onion. Slice turnips on the slicer side of a grater. Toss onions, pine nuts and turnips with green vegetables. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Meanwhile make the dressing. In a food processor, blend milk, garlic, pepper and lemon juice until the mixture is frothy. If your processor has a hole, use it to pour in the olive oil. Mine does not, so I removed the milk from the processor into a bowl and whisked constantly while ever-so-slowly drizzling the oil into the milk. The dressing should thicken nicely. If it doesn't (which mine did not), add a few extra squeezes of lemon juice. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and perhaps extra lemon juice. Toss over the salad and serve.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sing Me to Sleep

I'm formulating a plan to reward myself in a month once lacrosse and my class is over. It will involve lying in a hammock, gardening, cooking, drinking iced tea and listening to music. Here are a few songs I love right now:
                        Excuses >>> The Morning Benders
                 Dance Floor >>> The Apples in Stereo
            Animal >>> Miike Snow
Bulletproof >>> La Roux
  The Modern Leper >>> Frightened Rabbit

Friday, April 9, 2010

Slow Roast This

It seems the only cooking I have time for these days involves frying and egg or slow roasting. Yes, slow roasting so I can leave things on the stove, head to happy hour at Dario's and return to homemade chicken stock a few hours later. I'm barely treading water, yet I somehow manage to make chicken stock. It seemed like such a waste to throw away a perfectly good carcass (I love that word). I had planned on adding this to a vegetarian lentil stew for a party tomorrow, but the chicken stock would make it, you know, not vegetarian. Details.

Chicken Stock: by Barefoot Contessa
1 pound chicken (she recommends whole chicken, whatever, I used used the leftovers)
1 onion, unpeeled and quartered
3 carrots, unpeeled and halved
2 stalks celery, with leaves cut in thirds
1 garlic clove, unpeeld and halved
1 tablespoon dry parsley
1 teapsoon dry thyme
salt and pepper

Toss all that crap in a big ol' pot. Fill with water. Boil, reduce heat to a simmer and let stew for 4 hours. Pour through a strainer and reserve the liquid, throwing the vegetables away.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Apple-cider Braising

Last night was the first thunderstorm of the year here. It was spring in all its glory: downpour, lightning, thunder, leaky roof, even hail. Before that friends came over and we shared chicken, rice, potatoes, parsnips, fruit, mango popsicles and stories (and maybe a few yoga poses) with Dark Was the Night playing in the background. I finally braised chicken according to Molly Stevens instructions. Four hours passed with barely a blink.
My sister, her college roommates and a few extra friends make dinner for each other every single night of the week (here's their blog, including amazing photography from her friend Ryan). They take turns cooking for each other, so everyone only has to take time and money out to  once a week. My sister once made broccoli, by choice. Unbelievable considering our aversion to it as children.

The apple-cider braised chicken, recipe below, it did take a while. About two hours start to finish, though the last hour the chicken baking (er, braising, which Adam says means that it cooks with juices in a tightly-lidded pot)  and me finishing Night by Elie Weisel and then napping on the couch. Now that I've learned about browning meat before baking it all the way, things are crispier on the outside and juicier on the inside. That apple cider did quite a number on the parsnips, making them ever-so-slightly sweet and of a perfect balence between over- and underdone (so just right).
Gotta love the self-timer function.
Apple-cider Braised Chicken and Parsnips: by Molly Stevens
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 strips bacon
1 pound bone-in, skin-on chicken
3 spring onions plus 1 leek
2 1/2 cup hard apple cider
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 pound parsnips

Preheat oven to 325.

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Cook bacon in oil until its crispy. Remove and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the leftover oil for browning the chicken.

Rinse and pat (completely) dry the chicken. Smear with salt and pepper. Set the chicken skin-side down in the hot oil (I only cooked two pieces at a time). Let sear for a few minutes, turn once the skin has browned and crisped a bit. Brown all the sides and then remove the chicken and set aside.

Chop the onions and leeks. Peel and core the parsnips, removing their woody centers, and then julienne into matchstick pieces. Saute the onions and leeks in the oil leftover from the bacon and the chicken, taking care not to burn the onions. Once they're slightly browned, pour in 2 cups of the hard cider (I used Woodchuck). Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring cider to a boil and let the volume reduce to about 1/2 cup. Add the rosemary at this point, along with the remaining 1/2 cup of cider. Reduce the volume of the cider again to a generous 3/4 cup. Turn off the heat on the stovetop.

Arrange the parsnips on the bottom of the pot (they don't all have to touch the bottom). Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the bacon over the parsnips. Arrange the chicken skin-side down on top of the parsnips. Cover with aluminum foil and parchment paper that is nearly touching the chicken and drapes over the side of the pot (or if you don't have a fire-proof pot, transfer to a baking sheet or casserole). Lid it. Place it in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven, turn the chicken and bake it again for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken has cooked through.

To serve, arrange chicken on a serving platter. Check to see if the parsnips are cooked through, if not, you can simmer them on the stovetop for a few minutes. Then the sauce slightly if necessary. It should be thicker than water but not thick enought to coat a spoon.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Trying Stirring Frying

In all my running about yesterday, I somehow managed to make dinner (though I neglected to clean up) and for the first time ever in my life I cooked steak (sort of). It's not steak in the traditional sense. I didn't fire up the grill--instead I sliced a ribeye into a manageable amount of meat for one sitting-plus-leftovers and made a stir fry. I started watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC, saw him make a chicken stir fry and practically started drooling. (That show is fascinating, btw.)

I admit I was pretty freaked out to be cooking steak. I had a strong aversion to it when I was younger--it just looked so gross to me, though now I think its ribbons of fat and flesh are beautiful. My mom always cooked steaks medium-well to well done, making them pretty tough/practically charred (sorry mom). (She also does this to hamburgers.) I never like steak until I realized I just like steak medium to medium-rare, but cooking it myself, I was a tad nervous I'd make myself sick. In fact, even while I was eating I was like, "oh, does my stomach hurt? Am I OK?" Don't worry, I survived.

Beef-vegetable Stir Fry: from Jamie Oliver
2 cups dry egg noodles (ramen would be good, just without the seasoning)
12 ounces steak, thinly sliced
vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
sesame oil
soy sauce
lime juice
handul baby corns, halved (I freaking love baby corns!)
handful snow peas, chopped (I love these almost as much as baby corns)
handful shiitake mushrooms, chopped (I just now remembered I bought these expressly for this meal and didn't even use them, dang it!)
6 spring onions, chopped
cilantro to garnish

Heat the oil in a skillet or wok. Toss in the steak, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes when the oil is hot. Sear the outside of the steak (or cook according to your preferences). Once the garlic and steak has browned, toss in a few good glugs each of sesame oil, soy sauce and lime juice. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl to set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the directions.

Return skillet to heat and add some more vegetable oil. Toss in the vegetables and saute for about 5 minutes, until they're heated through but not limp. Once the noodles and vegetables are finished combine the two in the skillet and toss to coat noodles with oil. Serve the vegetables and noodles then top each plate with the beef and sauce.