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!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

So I have a cold this weekend

This will be a quick entry, but I wanted to get these written down before the alcohol kicked in. I took it upon myself to make a couple of hot toddies. I don't know if they had any actual medical benefit, but it was nice to put a warm drink in my insulated travel mug (the one that reads, "This Might Be Vodka") and sip.

Recipe 1
  • 1 oz rum (I used Plantation 5 year, which is from Barbados)
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup OR 1 T honey (I actually used lemon syrup, but I don't expect everyone to have leftovers from making candied lemon peel)
  • 8 oz hot water

Recipe 2
  • 1 oz gin (Boodles was what I have in the house. I'm fond of Travis McGee)
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 T + 1 t honey
  • 8 oz hot water or lime tea (Numi makes a delicious one, but it's not easy to find in stores)
Recipe 3
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1 T sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
  • 8 oz black tea (I had an assam)

I'm pondering something with lemon ginger tea. Watch this space for more ideas. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

You really don't need the special equipment

The long commute to and from my job does not leave me a lot of time to cook. My weekends are often spent socializing, and in June I was diagnosed with cancer.

As cancer patients go, I am so far one of the luckiest women on the planet. The cancer was not invasive, the surgery had no complications, I do not need chemotherapy. I am getting radiation therapy, but after week 3, the side effects aren't debilitating. We'll see how things are next week.

Between the diagnosis and recovering from the surgery, my creative juices went on holiday. Somewhere in that time, the people at Epicurious started sending out a newsletter and a few weeks ago this recipe caught my eye.

My darling Nexx loves skirt steak, and I thought the combination of white beans and broccolini would be tasty. When I read the recipe, I thought two things. 1) I don't have a wire basket 2) This needs red pepper.

I didn't change anything from the base recipe:
  • 4 garlic cloves, divided (I probably used a bit more)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) skirt steak, cut crosswise into 2 equal pieces
  • 1 bunch broccolini (about 10 ounces), trimmed, halved lengthwise (quartered lengthwise if large) (and I'm sure broccoli would be fine if you sliced it thinly enough)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed, drained

It smelled delcious coming together, though in retrospect a bit more oregano would have been good, and a touch less mustard.

Finely chop 2 garlic cloves. Place in a large bowl or shallow baking dish, then whisk in vinegar, Dijon, 1/2 cup oil, 1 Tbsp. oregano, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. 

Reserve 1/4 cup vinaigrette for serving; add steak to remaining vinaigrette and turn to coat. Let marinate at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. (I think I gave it two hours. A nap may have been involved)

Meanwhile, preheat broiler and thinly slice remaining 2 garlic cloves. Toss broccolini, remaining 2 Tbsp. oil, 1 Tbsp. oregano, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper on rimmed baking sheet. Broil 5 minutes, then remove from oven. Add beans and garlic and toss to combine. Set wire rack on top of broccolini mixture. Place steak on rack; discard vinaigrette.

I just put the steak on top of the beans and broccolini. Everything came out just fine.

Broil steak, turning halfway through, until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. (a little more than that actually. 3 minutes a side gave us quite rare)

Let steak rest 5 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer broccolini mixture to a medium bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp. reserved vinaigrette, then divide among 4 plates. Thinly slice steak against the grain and serve with broccolini mixture and remaining vinaigrette alongside.

It did, in the end, need the red pepper, in our humble opinions. It just added a wonderful dash of brightness and a little heat that was so delicious it brought everything up a level. Overall, something I would make again with my addition.

Next time: a different take on linguine and clam sauce.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It didn't really go with the soup

When I made the curried cauliflower soup several weeks ago, I wanted something fresh and herbal to go alongside it. I thought, "cilantro," which often comes as a garnish on curries. I also figured chicken, to keep things light.

I came across this recipe on Epicurious and was sufficiently intrigued. I love pesto in many shapes and forms. Basil, sun-dried tomato, olive, and a cilantro one seemed like just the ticket. I did however, make one major change, and then when eating the leftovers, one minor one. I'll be interested in what y'all think.

  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/3 cup salted roasted macadamia nuts 
  • 1/4 cup chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin (I went with boneless thighs here. They're cheaper, have more flavor and I really don't like poultry skin)
The big change I made was not switching out the breasts for thighs, but I substituted cashews for the macadamia nuts. I already had to buy the cashews and I thought this would tie the two dishes together.
Combine first 5 ingredients in processor (If you don't have a processor, you can use a blender, but be prepared to dig a lot of the pesto out from under the blades). Blend until nuts are finely chopped. Add 6 tablespoons oil and process until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté until brown and cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. 
Transfer chicken breasts to plates. Top each with some pesto and serve.
As you can see from the title of the post, they didn't go well with the curried cauliflower soup. On their own, they're delicious, but the pesto was a bit thick and it really needed a little bit of acid somewhere. Nexx suggested lime juice, which I squeezed over the leftover. That made a lot of difference and is definitely on the list of things to use when I make it again. Possibly a touch of black pepper as well, but only a touch. I'm excited to make this for friends because it's so different. It's also suitable for the friends I have on low-carb diets, though some Old Bay potato salad with crispy onions might work for those of us who do eat carbs.

If you make it, with cashews or macadamias, let me know!

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