Saturday, August 6, 2016

It's bean dip, not hummus

I love white beans, though usually I have them in an Italian dish, like one of the many tuna & white bean salads I make in the summer (that's one of Nexx's favorite dishes).

I totally stole this idea from my favorite neighborhood bar, when I saw it on their menu. I've had hummus, of course, I've even made some, and I've had both fava beans and black beans as dips and enjoyed them, so why not cannellini?

Note I do not refer to items that aren't made from chick peas and tahini as hummus. It drives me batshit when people do. It's like calling a round piece of bread with a hole in it a bagel when it wasn't boiled before baking. End rant. 

It was easy to find the recipe that I'm blogging about this week. Giada di Laurentis has some great recipes, and the ingredient list is simple:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons (for those four tablespoons I added truffle oil, though I think I should have used more)
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 pitas
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

I used a bit more garlic than called for (raise your hand if you're surprised). 

Our instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, 1/3 cup olive oil, and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. (I'm lucky enough to have a stick blender and it worked just fine). 

Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the bean puree to a small bowl.

Cut each pita in half and then into 8 wedges. Arrange the pita wedges on a large baking sheet. Pour the remaining oil over the pitas. Toss and spread out the wedges evenly. Sprinkle with the oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until toasted and golden in color.

Serve the pita toasts warm or at room temperature alongside the bean puree.
When I had blended everything, it had tasted kind of bland to me. Totally my bad for not trusting the recipe and giving the flavors time to blend. I added a bit more lemon, and well, I kind of overdid it. I served it with red peppers as well as pita. The picture below is our gaming table set up for company.

My company agreed that it was a bit heavy on the lemon. I think I'm going to need to play with this a little bit before I find it perfect. I really liked the lemon with the red peppers, though.

About truffle oil--it's an indulgence and I don't use it very often, even though it is pretty versatile. Salads, pasta, sandwiches, and you only need a little bit. My current bottle came as a gift for my 50th (how the hell did that happen?) birthday. I poked around Amazon, and this is one of the of the highest rated for under $20. 

Questions, comments? Let's hear them!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Feeling Indulgent

In the case of many ingredients, if you can make a sandwich out of it, you can probably make a salad out of it, or even toss the ingredients with pasta. Today's recipe is a combination of ingredients I've had as a sandwich with a salad on the side.

My ingredients list (this makes four meals, no sides needed):
  • .5 lb of prosciutto, sliced into .25 inch long strips
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 Cup chopped tomatoes 
  • 4 Cups arugula torn into small strips
  • 1 pound orchiette (Orchiette means "little ears." I find it at the grocery store. Farfalle aka bow-ties would also work. Nexx doesn't like farfalle for some reason. Go figure)
  • 1 Tablespoon of chopped garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil or (1 Tablespoon fresh, cut into strips as thin as you can make them).
  • 6 oz shredded parmesan cheese, or more to taste

Zest the lemon, and set aside.

Set your water to boil, add salt if you wish (I always do), then cut up the tomatoes and put them in a bowl. Add the lemon zest and stir gently so you don't break up the tomatoes. I use the pink rubber scraper from this set, it has a slightly pointed tip, so it's easy to get under things, and a scoop feel to it

Chop and add your garlic. Alternately, add a Tablespoon of chopped garlic from a jar. Add to your tomatoes. Next, add your basil and gently stir in. 

By this time, your water should be close to boiling, toss in the pasta, stir, and let cook according to package directions. When I get orchiette, the brand takes about 9 minutes for al dente. Hate hate hate mushy pasta. Sorry, almost had a rant going there. Shred your arugula. Slice your prosciutto, keep it in a loose pile. It's a pain in the ass, but resist the temptation to stack it up and slice it all at once. It sticks together.

Drain your pasta, turn off the heat, but don't shake the water off it like you might do usually. The curve of the pasta will help hold a little water. This will help the other ingredients stick. It's also a lot easier than remembering to reserve pasta water, which I never do. Anyway...

Add your olive oil to the pan and swirl it around. Add your pasta back to the pan, then one at a time, add your tomato mix, cheese, arugula, and lastly the prosciutto, stirring well, still gently. Your arugula will wilt a bit, but will still have some crunch to it upon serving. The prosciutto will get a little warm, but will still retain that deliciously rich texture.

Scoops into bowls. Top will black pepper if desired. Can be served either warm or room temperature. If you do room temperature, you can top it with a few shakes of balsamic if you want a bit of acidity--taste it first, the lemon zest already adds some.

Another alteration is not to add the arugula, but rather place the arugula on a plate and scoop the pasta over it. I prefer it mixed in. If you just won the lottery, you could also add pine nuts. 

Questions, comments, suggestions, request? Let us hear from you.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

舞乙女 (Maiotome): Dreaming of Dancers

The Kate received a bottle of 紅乙女 (Beniotome, "young lady in crimson") sesame shōchū from her colleagues for her recent birthday. We debated what to make, starting with simple cocktails. Then I found this recipe for 舞乙女 (Maiotome, "dancing young lady"), a winning cocktail in 1984 Hotel Barmen's Association, Japan Competition:

  • 20 mL Beniotome (Gold is what was specified)
  • 15 mL Crème de Framboise
  • 10 mL Cointreau (Probably can use other white Curaçao)
  • 10 mL Grenadine Syrup
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice

Wet the lip of the cocktail glass with a lemon. Place the rest of the ingredients into a shaker, add some ice, and shake vigorously until the shaker is too cold to handle. Strain into the prepped glass. It's a short drink, and the aromatics of the Beniotome seems to have a short shelf life, so enjoy relatively quickly after pouring.

Despite its name, the shōchū itself is quite clear, so the crème de framboise and grenadine syrup add a fantastic red colour, and the shaken Cointreau turns cloudy, turning the ruby-red drink into something less transparent.

I didn't quite like the presentation in the cocktail glass, so into an ice wine glass it went for this shot, with some of its ingredients in the background:

I spent a bit of time before making the drink to set up this shot, as to not make the drink wait too long.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

More things to do with things in jars

Hi everyone,

I've been planning to post about this recipe for a while. It's pretty easy, needs just one sauté pan and is absolutely delicious.  It's from the folks at Bon Appetit. Here's our ingredients list:

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • 8 chicken thighs (The recipe calls for bone-in, skin-on, but I've made it without either and it came out just fine)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (which works out to about half a cup.)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (you can also use a couple teaspoons of jarred chopped garlic)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste. (read the ingredients when you're shopping, some have salt and/or sugar, and who needs extra of those?)
  • 1/4 Cup harissa paste (more on that below)
  • 1/3 Cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (which I always seem to forget to add)
  • Lemon wedges for serving. I recommend at least one lemon per person.
About harissa. It's a chili paste that originates from Tunisia. Naturally, it's going to vary in intensity according to exactly where in the region you're getting it. The good news? You can get prepared harissa in a jar from Amazon just use 1/2 a cup or more to taste. This is the brand I use: 

Preheat your oven to 425 F. Heat the oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper (I sometimes use garlic salt in place of kosher salt here). In two batches, cook chicken until browned, about 5 minutes a side. Remove chicken to a plate.

Here the recipe says to drain off all but 1Tablespoon drippings out of the pan. I am not that exact, but if that's what makes you feel comfortable, go ahead and measure. 

Add onion and garlic to the pan, stir frequently (as in don't leave it to sit more than 10 seconds at a time) until the onions are softened (almost translucent and a bit yellow), about 3 minutes:

Add tomato paste and cook until it darkens, about one minute. Add chickpeas, harissa, and chicken broth, bring to a simmer. 

Nestle chicken, skin side up in the chickpeas, transfer skillet to the oven. Roast until chicken is cooked through, about 20-25 minutes. Top with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rerun because coffee

Hi again. We just got back from Coffee-Con in Brooklyn. I lost track of how many different kinds of coffee we tried. Cold brew, different types of brewing supplies, though Chemex was probably the most popular. I went to a tasting with two kinds of coffee and several different things to pair with the tasting from vanilla cookies to tamarind paste. Considering the possibilities, we were actually pretty restrained in our spending. My darling Nexx bought some coffee. I came home with some Colombian Sugar. Yes, I realize that sounds too hipster for words, but a) it tasted delicious and b)It was only $5.

So, after coffee and sweets, we headed home and I got to thinking about oen of my favorite recipes from a while ago:  Coffee Jelly. Set the wayback machine to 2011


Yes, folks, you read it correctly. As I type this, I have coffee jelly hopefully gelling in my fridge. I first had this with my sweetie and a dear friend at a Japanese restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York. It was as delicious as the concept was astonishing.

You may have noticed I don't make a lot of desserts. This is generally because they require more exact measurements than I tend to use. I wasn't exact with this either, so let's see how it goes:

My ingredients (makes 4 half cup servings):

  • 4 oz espresso (purchased from the nearby cafe. We don't own a coffee maker) (this has since been rectified)
  • 12 oz water
  • 1 heaping T of sugar (according to the local authenticity monitor, the sweet in this dessert should be incorporated into the whipped cream topping)
  • 1 envelope Knox gelatin, which works out to about a Tablespoon

coffee filter

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 T of water
Add the coffee, gelatin and water to a small saucepan. Stir on low until gelatin and sugar is dissolved. Strain through coffee filter (You can use your coffee maker for this). Pour into serving dishes. Chill. Write blog entry. Check fridge every 20 minutes until sweetie tells you to calm down and go watch the Criminal Minds marathon on A&E.

I'm leaving the making of the topping to my sweetie. Later this evening, or possibly tomorrow, we will have the results.


The results were delicious

A friend in Tennessee makes this as a special treat for family gatherings. The local authenticity monitor is amused. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sous-Vide Equipment Review

Hi everyone, this is Nexx, and I've been a guest contributor a couple of times, and here's my first post as a contributor. Here's a short equipment review of the Sansaire immersion circulator. As Kate mentioned in the previous post, I'm a huge fan of sous-vide for many types of cooking. I Kickstarted this, but this fantastic gadget has been available on Amazon for some time.

TL;DR: this is a fantastic piece of kit, if a little expensive, but will pay for itself in many, many time-saving ways. I use it almost every time I cook everything, either for its intended purpose as an immersion circulator, or as a handy water pump for other purposes.

The Sansaire immersion circulator is extremely easy to use. Just plunk it in what will become your hot water bath, turn it on, spin the large, well-damped ring to rapidly set the target temperature, and the circulator will quietly do its thing. Quietly is pretty important to me; we live in a small apartment and there really aren't very many places for us to escape the noise.

It's not just useful when heating things; there are times when you have to arrest cooking in a hurry. Just dump the food into a water-tight vessel, put ice and water in the bath container, and let the immersion circulator run while the heating element is turned off.

One of the most underrated methods for cooking frozen chicken is to just freeze it with herbs and a little olive oil in the bag, and then when ready to use, just toss it in the appropriate temperature water bath. It's fantastic for lazy weekday meals, especially combined with frozen vegetables that we toss in the microwave.

Another underrated feature: being able to cook meat to the perfect internal temperature. There are ways to use this method to create something that cannot easily be made otherwise. I've recently made beef steak stew where the beef cubes were left at medium rare using this method.

The Sansaire is not without its flaws, however. I have the Kickstarter edition, and the fit and finish of the plastic cover over the heating element can be a lot better. I also wish it would notify me - audibly is fine, via an app would be better - when the water bath reaches the target temperature. Also, with a larger water bath, it can take a little while longer to reach a higher target temperature, but that can be ameliorated by using a large plastic tub with a lid instead of a stock pot.

Finally, it's not critical that a vacuum sealer is used; Archimedes method works perfectly well. However, if one is to be used, I own a predecessor to this model that seems to do the job. It's also a great stand-alone item.

All in all, the Sansaire immersion circulator is a great piece of equipment, worthy of inclusion in any kitchen. It's stylish enough and with a small enough a footprint to be left out, which means it will get used often if so desired.

The Good
  • The ergonomics is fantastic.
  • Not a unitasker!
The Bad
  • Fit and finish of the heating element cover could be better.
The Terrible
  • The clip to keep it clipped to the vessel is a bit fiddly.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Things to Do with Things in Jars

Hi everyone, 

Many changes over the past several months.  First and foremost, I have a new kitchen, which came with an apartment in a a very loud neighborhood in New York City. I have a little more room to work, which is nice. Counterspace! 

Another foodie change is my darling Nexx Kickstarted an immersion circulator, so there have been some interesting sous vide experiments. Expect more guest posts, but not a ton of them since that's quite the luxury item, and I certainly don't expect everyone to have one. Hopefully, you can expect more posts in general, as my average daily commute is down to 25-30 minutes instead of 90-110.

I get regular emails from a few culinary sources and recently saw one for enchiladas with tomatillo salsa. After a few reads, and some additional internet research I decided not to bother following any recipe and I could do it myself. My ingredients list:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1.25 pounds total
  • 1 jar tomatillo salsa (I see this in most grocery stores)
  • 3 Cups chopped onions (about a 1/2 inch in size)
  • 6 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic (or an overflowing Tablespoon of minced garlic from a jar)
  • 2 Tablespoons dried cilantro
  • 2 green onions cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound of thinly sliced pepperjack cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • 3 limes 
  • .25 teaspoon of powdered habanero chile (more on that later).
  • 16 8" corn tortillas

In a sautée pan (or a frying pan if that's what you have), heat 1Tablespoon olive oil on medium heat. Add your garlic and onions , and cook until the onions are translucent. Toss in mushrooms, and cook until the onions are starting to turn brown around the edges. Sprinkle powdered chiles, stir well, then remove to a large bowl

In the same pan, lower the heat slightly and heat another Tablespoon of olive oil. Stab your chicken with a fork a few times, squeeze half a lime, sprinkle with garlic salt and cilantro then place spiced side down in the pan. Repeat the stab, squeeze, and sprinkle on the other side of the chicken. Cook, turning frequently  until chicken is just barely cooked through.

If you have a meat thermometer, until the temperature is between 145 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chicken to a plate, let rest for five minutes. Have a beverage, use the rest room, read your email, whatever. If you don't have a meat thermometer, cut into the fattest part of your chicken every so often and remove the second  you don't see any pink. I flip every 2-3 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350Fahrenheit 

Cut the tops of your green onions into 3/4 inch pieces and stir into your onions and mushrooms. Cut the chicken into small pieces, between 1/2 and 3/4 inch in size, and place it and any juices that accumulated into the onion mix. Mix well. Have a bite of chicken. Adjust spice level if you feel it's warranted.

I happen to have two 9x9 pans in my apartment, hence the 8" tortillas, so that's how I'll be describing the  next few steps.

Spread a thin even layer of salsa on the bottom of your baking dish.

Layer 8 tortillas with paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds. If you don't have a microwave, place then on a sheet pan (sans paper towels) in your warm oven for a minute or so. You don't want them cooked, just flexible.

Lay a slice of the pepperjack on a tortilla. Trim to fit. Hold the tortilla in your non dominant hand, curling up one side about 1/3 of the way. It should look like a letter J from the side (apologies for not having a picture, Nexx was getting his hair cut at the time and I still only have two hands). Spoon in 2-3 Tablespoons of filling. Gently, as if you were handling a small animal, roll into a cylinder and place seam-side down in the baking dish. 

When the baking dish is full, pour enough salsa to coat, cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, which will give you enough time to slice or chunk some avocados to go on the side. I also drained one can of black beans and mostly drained a can of low-sodium black beans and heated them in a small pot with a teaspoon of vinegar. Two enchiladas per adult worked well.

A few notes:

  • I ended up doing several pans. The first time, I put 4 enchiladas in each. The second, I managed to carefully stuff all 8 in the 9x9 baking dish. Well, mostly. I ended up folding the last one in half and putting it on top.
  • A little cooking spray in the baking dish would not be a bad thing. I just don't happen to have any at the moment. I use it so infrequently that the can I had when we moved had expired.
  • If you have larger tortillas, I would recommend laying them flat on your work surface to fill.
  • Nexx suggested more green onion flavor, and I think he had the right idea, so I will double it next time.
  • More salsa would not be a bad thing
  • I happened to have a jar of Dave's Smoked Habanero Powder. I have no idea where it came from. If you gave it to me as a gift, thank you very much! You could use cayenne pepper, if you don't feel like pulverizing a dried chili.  Alternately, chop a fresh hot pepper--I'm thinking Serrano--or if you want a touch of cumin, regular chili powder.
  • I'm really happy with the recipe in general. We ate a lot of it and I didn't get tired of the leftovers.
Thoughts? Ideas? Let me hear from you!