Saturday, April 7, 2018

Studio Living (1 of many)

Hi everyone. 

I've talked about tuna melts a few years ago, but I didn't put in a recipe for tuna salad, so I thought I'd add a supplementary post. Currently, I'm cooking for one, but I think this will scale pretty well. 

Our ingredients:

  • 1 5-ounce can of your favorite tuna
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonaise (if your tuna is packed in oil, you start with one)
  • I Tablespoon finely chopped shallot (I'm going to use more next time. Onion will also work just fine here and I recommend a yellow one)
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seen
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 short fat bell pepper (I have a fondness for yellow or orange ones)
  • 1/4 cup shredded or thinly sliced cheese (today's was an Italian blend because it's what I wanted to use up)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil

Drain your tuna well, flake into a small bowl and mash with a fork (I usually use a salad fork for this, I find the shorter, thinner tines to be helpful) to separate the chunks. Add your shallot, spices and mayo, mash together until all the mayo and spices are well mixed. 

Set your oven to broil. If you store things in your oven because you have a tiny kitchen, take them out first. Don't ask. Put olive oil in an oven-safe pan or dish. I used a small Pyrex casserole dish (I was not paid to mention Pyrex, but will happily take money for it.)

Cut your bell pepper in half, scrape out seeds carefully. Don't take off the stem because it will help keep the filling in the pepper. Add your filling, then place on your baking dish or on a cookie sheet. One can of tuna fits pretty well in one pepper. Mash down as necessary. Top the tuna with the cheese. Check your text messages, slip on the wet floor when you go back in the kitchen and knock all the cheese on the counter. Yeah, that's a thing that happened, but I was able to rescue most of the cheese.

Put your dish in the center of the oven. Check after five minutes if you want the cheese gooey, about seven minutes if you want it brown and bubbly.

I served this on a bed of spinach because I'm always looking for ways to get more vegetables (you may be seeing this a lot in upcoming posts) and had a few crackers on the side. If you're making more, you can probably do half a pepper per person if you're serving soup or a full-blown salad, but I find this is a great as the star of the show.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Another recipe I thought I’d Saved: Spicy chick peas

I have probably mentioned I’m quite fond of chick peas. I made something like this recipe a long time ago, but did not save it. I’m rather annoyed with myself because one of the reasons I started this blog was to keep track of recipes that worked.

Anyway, chickpeas are cheap and tasty and versatile. I wanted them as a side dish for cumin chicken (that did not come out well enough for an entry) and I’m really happy with these. I’ll be eating leftovers for dinner tomorrow.

  • 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 shallots, chopped fine
  • 1jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
  • black pepper to taste
  • Lime juice to taste
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium for about a minute. Add your shallots, stirring often, until they start to turn brown. Add the chick peas, stir well, then add the chili powder. Let cook for about three minutes. This will give the flavors time to meld and make the chick peas soft and creamy. Stir in the jalapeño and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and add your avocado. Stir well. Taste, add lime juice as desired. Serve.

If I make this for company and use more chick peas, I’m considering putting them in the oven for a few minutes before adding the avocado, it will add some crunch and give the tongue textures to play with. 

I really like the shallots, but may try a version with purple and green onions.

I’m going away this weekend and when ai get back, there may be chili. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Breaking in the New Kitchen: Potato Soup (seeking perfection)

I've moved again, due to life complications. I'm still lucky enough to be in Manhattan, which means I have access to so many wonderful things it can be overwhelming.

I'm in a studio, which I've nicknamed Small Spot. It's a cute place, but my counter space has been reduced by 60-75% and I'm getting used to a whole new setup. 

It's also winter. Grey days and life stress have made me want comfort food and this week it's potato and leek soup. I couldn't find the recipe I made years ago, but the ingredients were pretty simple. So I hunted down recipes, more to get the proportion of potatoes to liquid than anything else.

This recipe is the closest to what I made. It's a modification of a Julia Child recipe (that one is at the bottom of the page), and I think it could do with some more tweaking.

  • 6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4" pieces (most of the recipes I saw said russet, a few friends have since said Yukon Gold)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 T olive oil, divided(because I forgot to buy butter). This was actually truffle olive oil I had been given as a gift.
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts, washed, chopped and washed again
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 T fresh thyme
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • Black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cream
  • 12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
This is a really easy recipe. First, heat 1 T of the oil in a soup pot on medium-low heat and add your garlic. Sauté until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 5-10 minutes. Add the other T of oil and add your leeks, again stirring frequently until soft, about 5 minutes. Add your potatoes to the pot, add 1 T of dried parsley, the thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir well, coating the potatoes with all the other ingredients. Add the chicken broth and turn the heat up until the soup has come to a boil. Turn heat down to medium (there should still be bubbling) and cook for about 40 minutes or until potatoes are easily smashed with a masher or fork.

Turn off the heat, stir in the cream. Let your soup cool for about ten minutes. I mashed the potatoes a bit before a I put in the stick blender, but as you wish. Blend until smooth, totally okay to leave some potatoes unblended. Serve, top with crumbed bacon (figure 3 slices a serving).

While this smelled delicious and tasted okay while it was cooking, the soup came out a lot milder than I liked. Next time I make it, there are going to be more garlic cloves and twice as many leeks. Maybe a shallot or two. I experimented a bit with the leftovers. Sour cream was a definite win in the garnish Department. Some crushed garlic kind of got lost. I tried a heavy hand with herbs de Provence, which was interesting, but not quite there. The winner was shaking crushed dried rosemary into the soup before reheating. I did not measure it, but you could see it throughout.

If you try this, please let me know!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Variations on a Theme: Warming It Up

A while back I made beer-cheese soup using Rachel Ray's recipe and I was very happy with the way it came out. I'm not sure why it's been a few years since I've made another batch. While there's a lot of chopping, this recipe is pretty easy and doesn't take a huge amount of time.

I have access to a grocery store with a fabulous cheese department. Even better, it is easy to get samples. When I ran in for coffee a couple of weeks ago I walked past a table where a man was passing out samples of chipotle cheddar. I fell in love. It's not heavy on the spices, has just the right amount of smoke and I snapped up a 10 oz package.

I didn't decide on making soup out of it right away, but when I did it seemed like a perfect idea. I did have to grab some gouda (also chipotle) from the closer grocery store to bring the cheese up to the 3 1/2 cups. I love the way gouda melts and it adds a lovely richness when combined with cheddar. To review, here's the base recipe:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, finely chopped (Rinse your leeks well. Then do it again)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 12 ounce bottle amber beer, such as Dos Equis (I used an Abita Amber. Abita is out of New Orleans and I like a lot of their beer)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I didn't use this, instead I added 4 teaspoons of crushed garlic)
  • 10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 1/2 cups) (I added more cheese to get it to 3 1/2 cups)
  • Croutons for garnish (I had warm tortillas on the side and some chorizo, green onions, and sweet bell peppers for garnish)
In a large saucepan (I used a sauté pan), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots and leeks (I added the garlic here too), season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. 
Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beer and mustard and bring the soup to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking, until creamy and thickened, about 10 minutes. 
Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the cheese 1 handful at a time until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the croutons.
This recipe makes 3 generous servings, with the addition of the chorizo, it was a great main dish and Nexx let me have my fair share of chorizo.

Questions, comments? I'd love to hear from you. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

I could have sworn I wrote this entry already

It's odd. I could swear I've written entries about tuna and white bean salad before. I've tried at least three different recipes for it. I can't think of a summer where we didn't have it at least twice. It's light enough for a sunny day, filling enough to be a satisfying meal, and the acid from the dressing is delightfully refreshing.

I've tried a few recipes. Several use lemon juice as the dressing, but this one from Giada Di Laurentis is the one I keep going back to, and there's only one thing I change, which you'll read below. 

  • 2 (6-ounce) cans dark meat tuna, packed in olive oil
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannelini white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup small capers, nonpareil in brine, drained and rinsed
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 6 fresh basil leaves
In a large bowl, add the tuna, reserving the olive oil in a separate small bowl. Break tuna into bite-size pieces with a large fork. Add the beans and capers. Into the bowl of olive oil, add the red wine vinegar. You should have 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil - add more extra-virgin olive oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing on the tuna, bean and caper mixture and allow the flavors to infuse while slicing the vegetables. Add the onion and tomatoes to tuna mixture and toss gently.Place the arugula on large decorative platter and top with tuna mixture. Tear fresh basil leaves over the top and serve immediately.
Honestly, you can use any kind of tuna, even tuna packed in water. You'll need 2/3 Cup of olive oil total, whether you get it from the tuna can or from a bottle.
Funny story: In the snobbier grocery store in Stamford, there is a rack of imported canned and jarred fish labeled: "Serious Tuna." It took about five years for someone who worked there to laugh when Nexx and I asked where the silly tuna was.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fishy Indulgence

When I go to restaurants, I like to get something I haven't tried before or something I wouldn't likely make at home. I don't usually try to recreate restaurant dishes, but this entry's recipe is an exception.

From 2010 to 2016, Nexx and I lived in Stamford, CT, which is home to some pretty damn fine food. One of my favorites is Remo's Pizza, if you like thin crust, go here. It's on Bedford Street, but I digress, that's not the place that inspired today's dish.

Another Italian place on the same street used to make a pasta dish I loved. Farfalle, smoked salmon, fresh salmon, and a champagne-cream sauce with chives. I ordered this regularly until they took it off the menu. The bastards.

I'm really happy with how this came out, and it was pretty easy. The only change I think I'd make is a drier champagne.

The ingredients list:

  • 8 ounces smoked salmon
  • 8 ounces cooked fresh salmon
  • 1 pound orchiette (Nexx doesn't like farfalle and I wanted a pasta that would hold a sauce
  • 1 pint (16 fluid ounces) cream
  • 8 fluid ounces dry champagne
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped chives
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Capers for garnish
I cooked the salmon with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper in the immersion circulator for 45 minutes. You can also bake a salmon filet about that size at 350 F for about 25 minutes (check frequently).

While the salmon was cooking, I started the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan on medium-low heat, then gradually whisking in the flour until I had a roux. After that, I added the cream a bit at a time until everything was incorporated and smooth, then stirred in the chives.

Now comes a challenge. How to add the champagne and not have the acid curdle the cream? First, I turned the heat down to low. Next, I popped the champagne and poured it into one of my big coffee mugs. I know that sounds weird, but I had a reason. The way I figured it, if I kept the heat low and added the champagne just a bit at a time, I could easily use the Tablespoon to access the liquid without spilling so to add a little bit of booze at a time. It worked beautifully. I kept the sauce on low while the pasta was cooking, stirring every few minutes.

While the pasta water was boiling, I removed the pin bones from the salmon filet and removed most of it from the skin by flaking it off with a fork. Nexx took the skin, put it in his favorite cast-iron pan and crisped it up with the creme bruleé torch and had a snack. I cut the smoked salmon into bite-sized pieces--between 2 and 3 square inches.

I drained the pasta and returned it to the pot, added a Tablespoon of champagne and stirred in the salmon. Once it was incorporated, I added the cream sauce and then ladled into bowls.

I put black pepper and capers on the table to be added as we liked. Even if you love capers, go easy on them because they could quickly become front and center, and you'd lose the lovely interplay between fresh and smoked salmon.

I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Getting Stuffed

Hi everyone,

This entry is really three recipes in one. My original plan was simple. Stuff peppers with rice, beans, and chorizo, and top them with cheese. I had planned to use red bell peppers because they stand up nicely, but Nexx made a very good case for poblanos. Honestly, I didn't take much convincing. I adore poblanos. Let's start with the stuffing:
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided,
  • 3/4 Cup short-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 Cups water
  • 7 - 8 ounces Chorizo. I used Spanish Chorizo and it happened to come in a 7-ounce stick, I'd love the extra ounce. Spanish is harder in texture and nowhere near as crumbly as Mexican. Either one will do.
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans
  • 5-6 green onions, chopped 
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4 of the largest poblanos you can get your mitts on
  • (note for next time: 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro)
  • 6 ounces Manchego cheese.
  • 3 chicken breast
  • Ground Cumin
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 serrano or jalapeno peppers
  • 2 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
Cook rice on the stovetop or in your rice cooker (when we lived with Austin the minimalist, I used his rice cooker all the damn time. I still miss it). While it's cooking, rinse and drain your black beans. From there, skin and then chop your chorizo into pieces about 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch. I'm 5'3", this works about to be around the size of my thumbnail.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Rinse and drain your black beans. Cook chorizo on low heat for about ten minutes, just enough to get the fat to start melting and make your kitchen smell delicious. If applicable, chase your significant other out of the kitchen. If he's cooperative about it, give them some chorizo.

Drain the chorizo on paper towels, chop your green onions. By this time, your rice is probably ready. Remove the rice to a large bowl and let it cool for about fifteen minutes. 

While the rice is cooling, wash your poblanos. After you wash them, figure out in what position they will be stable in the baking dish. You don't want them falling over in the oven. Cut off a third of the pepper (leave the stem intact) and use a small knife to de-seed and get rid of as much of the rib as you can. Take your time and be patient with yourself. You'll end up with something like this:

Add your chorizo, beans, green onions, and lime juice to the rice and stir well. Now you're ready for the tricky part. Using a small spoon, add the rice mixture to the peppers. The small spoon is key here--you can use it to force the filling into hard-to reach areas and this will help you not to have to force open the pepper any more than necessary. 

Put a Tablespoon of olive oil in a 9x13 baking dish, and spread it around so it covers the whole thing. Cover and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil, top your peppers with about half the cheese, and bake another ten minutes, uncovered until the cheese is bubbly.

I had originally planned these as a main dish, but then I thought some more protein might be in order. Plus, I like to serve meals with a lot of different textures, so I added cumin chicken quesadillas.

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a pan on medium high heat. Salt your chicken lightly and shake cumin over the breasts until you can see about 1/4 of the meat. Add the chicken tt the pan and turn the meat over every 5 minutes until your meat thermometer reads your desired temperature. 

In between checking, cut up your peppers and your onion. You'll put these in the quesadillas.

My meat thermometer says poultry should be at 165 F. I take it out of the pan at 150-155. Juicier and still thoroughly cooked. Let chicken rest for about five minutes. Chop it into small pieces (about 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch) or shred, either works fine. (I like shredded, Nexx does not. It's a continuous bone of contention)

Melt half the butter in a skillet on medium heat while you prep your first quesadilla. Microwave the tortilla for 15 seconds to soften it. Add half the remaining cheese, peppers to taste, fold in half and zap in pan for three minutes a side. Serve.

I should have bought more peppers as we had a ton of filling left over. Actually, we had a ton of quesadilla ingredients over too. To save space in the fridge (when you live in NYC, you're always about saving space), we put the chicken, peppers, and onion into the rice mixture and stuck it in the fridge. The following day, we put it in bowls, topped the mixture with cheddar cheese and microwaved for about 90 seconds.

If you try any of the above, or come up with variations, let me know!