Friday, June 29, 2012

cherry cornmeal upside-down cake.

When I was a child my parents would give me Italian cookies called “breakfast treats” (I think the name validated them as a socially acceptable breakfast) to eat in front of the TV while I sang along to Sesame Street on Saturday mornings.  (I miss those Saturday mornings.)  This helped form my love affair with sugar.  (We’re kind of best friends.)  I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to find ways to eat sugar in all forms (Cookies! Cakes! Crumbles! Pie!) and have it be considered more then just dessert.  In my head if you add fruit to the dessert, it’s no longer really dessert, its just a bowl of fruit with a little tiny bit of cake/crumble topping/cookie (the lies I tell myself). 

This cherry cornmeal upside down cake allows me to live out these lies in a rather delicious fashion.  I increased the amount of cherries (more fruit makes it less like a dessert!) and added a little more balsamic since I love the taste of balsamic.  The cake itself has a wonderful texture from the cornmeal and whipping the eggs whites separately and then folding them in makes the cake super light and fluffy (like a pancake!).  It makes the perfect dessert but it makes an even better Saturday morning breakfast with a cup of coffee (or a glass of milk)

Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 cups pitted fresh dark sweet cherries
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¼ yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup whole milk (I never have whole milk so I just mix a little cream into skim milk!)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350 degrees.  Combine ¼ cup butter with brown sugar and vinegar in a 10-11 inch ovenproof skillet (I used cast iron!) with 2-inch high sides.  Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes.  Increase heat to high; add cherries and bring to boil.  Remove from heat. 

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.  Using an electric mixed, beat ½ cup butter in large bowl.  Add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in egg yolks and vanilla.  Add flour mixture alternately with milk in 2 additions each, beating just until blended and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.  Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry.  Using a rubber spatula, fold ¼ of whites into batter to lighten slightly.  Fold in remaining whites in 3 additions (batter will be thick).  Spoon batter over cherries in skillet, then spread evenly to cover cherries.

Bake cake until top is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Cool in skilled on rack 5 minutes.  Run knife around edge of cake to loosen.  Place large serving platter upside down atop skilled.  Using pot holders or oven mitts, firmly hold platter and skillet together and invert.  Leave skillet atop cake 5 minutes.  Remove skillet.  If necessary, rearrange any cherries that may have been dislodged.  Let cake cool 45 minutes.  Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

cuban sandwich.

A few years ago, when my better half and I were in Florida for spring break (spring break is now such a foreign concept which saddens me) we found a lovely hole-in-the wall Cuban restaurant/rest stop/shack.  It was painted a wide variety of obscenely bright/pastel colors that can only be considered normal paint colors in Florida I fell in love.  (Let’s just say I have a soft spot for bright garish colors that others find tacky.  I also have quite the appreciation for hole-in-the walls (thanks Dad!)).  We stopped short, turned the car around and pulled in.  There was a line of people waiting for their orders and picnic tables with mismatched chairs all around the parking lot. The menu was short and sweet – Cuban sandwiches, fried plantains, and a variety of sodas.  We ordered our meal and sat in the bright Florida sun sipping orange soda.  It is one of my happiest memories. 

The sandwiches we got were perfect in their execution (as were the plantains!).  The bread was crispy and as you ate, you encountered moist roast pork, tangy pickles, salty ham, and gooey cheese.  It was the best Cuban sandwich I had ever had.  I don’t know if it was so good because we were 21 and sitting on the side of the road in Florida or if its because it was that incredible, but whatever the reason I will always compare all other Cuban sandwiches to that one.

The Cuban sandwiches we made last night were stellar.  Maybe they were stellar because I was craving them that badly or because all the components just worked together (I like to think they were amazing because most of it was homemade!) but whatever the reason, I was a happy girl after dinner was over.   

Cuban Sandwiches
Makes 4 Sandwiches

I made my own homemade Cuban bread, pork and pickles.  I urge you to make at least one of the components yourself – it will taste that much better if you do.  Also try and have all ingredients at room temperature, makes it much easier to melt the cheese without burning the bread if you do that!

Also do not season your grill pan with olive oil as my sous chef learned yesterday.  Olive oil has a very low smoke point – terrible to use for grilling!

1 Loaf Cuban Bread (recipe below)
16 bread and butter pickles (or more if you like lots of pickles)
6 thin slices of ham (I used the rosemary ham I find at Whole Foods, not traditional but very good!)
½ to ¾ pound pork sliced thin
Swiss cheese
Yellow mustard, if you choose (Not super traditional but I love it)

Slice your loaf of Cuban bread into 4 pieces.  Spread mustard on the bottom layer of bread.  Top with the thin slices of roast pork,1 ½ slices of ham, 4 pickles (or more), and swiss cheese.  Add more mustard to the bread if you desire.  Heat a cast iron skillet and put butter in the pan.  When the pan is hot and the butter is melted, add the sandwich.  Cook for 3 minutes (being careful to make sure it doesn’t burn) and then flip the sandwich and cook for another 2 minutes until the cheese is melted.  Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.    

Cuban Bread

I halved the recipe because I didn’t need 2 loaves – halving worked perfectly so below is my version for one loaf!  Also this is one of the easiest breads to make, so if you are a beginner I suggest trying it.

3 cups all purpose flour
1 package dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup hot water (120 – 130F)

Place 2 cups of flour in the bowl of your mixer and add the yeast, salt, and sugar.  Mix to combine.  Pour in the water and mix for 1 minute on high speed.  Gradually work in the remaining cup of flour until the dough looses stickiness and/or starts to form a ball.  Once this happens continue to mix for 8 minutes in the mixer.

When you are done mixing, place the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise for 20 minutes until double in size.

When its risen, punch the dough down.  Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal.  Shape the loaf into a long log on the baking sheet. 

Place the baking sheet in the middle of a cold oven.  Put a pan of water on the shelf below.  Turn the oven on to 400 and bake for about 45 minutes or until the loaves are deep golden brown.  Thump the bottom of the loaves to test them – if they sound hollow, they’re done.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

roast pork with garlic and rosemary.

Cuban sandwiches have been consuming all of my thoughts.  It all started with the homemade pickles I posted about on Friday.  I had eaten them on a sandwich of sourdough bread with ham, Jarlsberg, and honey mustard.  The sandwich was really good (these pickles take everything from good to great) but I kept envisioning something else and I finally realized that I was hankering to use them in a homemade Cuban sandwich. 

As I have mentioned before when it comes to cooking (and my endless stream of cravings) I am a go big or go home kind of person. Buying ham and swiss cheese from the neighborhood bodega was not going to cut it in this situation – I knew this required me making everything from scratch starting with the pork.

Traditionally Cuban sandwiches are made with slow roasted pork.  Sadly, working in corporate America 10 hours a day does not allow me enough time to make slow roasted pork on a regular basis.  I knew I could achieve the same flavors from a roasted pork loin.  I used Mark Bittman’s recipe for roasted pork loin with garlic and rosemary as my jumping off point.  I slipped small slices of garlic into the pork before coating it in my rosemary, garlic, cayenne, paprika rub and let it roast.  It came out beautifully and tasted even better - the skin was crackly and the meat tasted subtly of sweetly roasted garlic with just a little bit of heat from the cayenne.  It made the perfect dinner with a side of roasted vegetables but it will be better encased in homemade Cuban bread.  Looking forward to seeing my sandwich dreams come to fruition…

Roast Pork with Garlic and Rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic + 1 clove garlic sliced thin
2 pound boneless pork roast (mine was a little less)
1 ½ cups stock, dry white wine, water (in a pinch!) or a combo of all 3 (which is what I did – you use what you have!)
1 tablespoon butter

Heat the oven to 450.  Make little slits throughout the roast – in each slit slip a slice of garlic.  Mix a liberal amount of salt and pepper with the rosemary, cayenne, smoked paprika, sugar, and garlic and rub it all over the roast.  Put the meat in a roasting pan and put it in the oven.  Roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. 

Pour ½ cup of wine/stock over the roast and lower the temperature to 325.  Continue to roast adding about ¼ cup of liquid every 15 minutes or so.  If the liquid accumulates at the bottom of the pan, use it to baste; if not, add more.

Start checking the roast after an hour (it will probably take more like 1 ¼ hours).  When it is done an instant read thermometer will read 145 -150 degrees – transfer to a warm platter.  Add the remaining liquid from the platter to a pan and allow it to reduce a little.  When it has reduced add the butter and stir.  Slice the roast and serve with sauce.  Save leftovers for sandwiches!

Friday, June 22, 2012

bread and butter pickles

Pickles and I have a bit of a love hate relationship (with there being more hate then love).  I like pickles on Cuban sandwiches (but only if they are super thin) and the little gherkin pickles go perfectly with chopped liver.  Besides that, I don’t really enjoy them.  I have friends who love pickles – who get sides of pickles with their foods and I just can’t understand why.  I find that most pickles from diners and restaurants are underwhelming.  They don’t taste like much which makes me sad. 

Last summer my mom turned me on to the bread and butter pickles from Smitten Kitchen.  I was apprehensive at first but I tried them and found them revolutionary!  They were sweet and salty with the perfect hint of spice and vinegar.  I ate what remained of the jar and patiently waited a year for Kirby cucumbers to arrive at the farmers market so I could make my own batch.  The wait was worth it.  We have devoured them plain and on burgers and sandwiches.  They pretty much work with anything and everything.  I plan to make a second batch this weekend to bring as a housewarming gift - that is if I don’t eat all of them before then.

Bread and Butter Pickles
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

I plan on (and have been thinking for about a week now) about making a homemade Cuban with this.  Need to make roast pork and will then report back!

1 pound Kirby cucumbers sliced ¼ inch thick
1 large sweet onion thinly sliced
¼ cup Diamond Kosher salt (only Diamond!)
½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground tumeric
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon celery seed

In a medium bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion, and salt.  Cover the mixture with ice.  Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.  In a pot, bring sugar, vinegar, and spices to a boil.  Drain cucumbers and onions.  Add to vinegar mixture and bring almost back to a boil.  Remove from heat and cook.  You can store the pickles in an airtight contained for up to three weeks in the fridge.  They will taste like pickles in just a few hours!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

burrata with asparagus, pine nuts, and golden raisins.

Rather suddenly it has gotten very, very hot in New York.  While standing on the subway platform I feel like a cooked egg.  No amount of ice coffee can make me feel any cooler while I wait for the train.  I find the heat to be worse at the end of the day and by the time I get home all I want to do is lie down in our cool apartment and take a nap with a cold compress of my forehead.

The overbearing heat creates a challenging cooking environment - the idea of turning on the oven an unbearable thought.  However, eating raw veggies for the next three months doesn’t fulfill all my culinary desires.  With that being said, I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate a lot of the farmers market produce into a quick cooking dinner that doesn’t use the stove for longer then 10 minutes.  In addition, it needs be filling enough for the boyfriend - he can eat a lot and while I am happy with a few bites of food for dinner, he requires more then that.  A tall order perhaps, but I think it can be done.

I recently came across a dish for burrata and asparagus.  Reading the recipe made me feel as if I was in Italy eating outside under large olive trees.  I knew I had to make it.  With slices of toasted Italian bread drizzled with olive oil and double the amount of asparagus, it would be substantial enough for dinner.  I drizzled the whole dish with a little balsamic and some spicy honey (because really I haven’t come up with anything that it doesn’t taste good on) and had the perfect dinner for hot summer evenings. 

Burrata with Asparagus, Pine Nuts, and Golden Raisins

2 tablespoons golden raisins
¾ - 1 pound slender asparagus
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Salt and Pepper
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
1 ball of burrata (usually 6 – 8 oz in size)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Mikes Hot Honey

Soak the golden raisins in warm water to cover for at least 5 minutes.  Dain the fruit and pat dry.

Cut the woody ends from the asparagus and discard.  Cut the asparagus in 2 inch long pieces.  Bring a pot of salted water to boil.  Add the asparagus to the water and cook until the spears are tender about 2 – 4 minutes. 

In a large skillet over low heat, warm the pine nuts until lightly toasted, shaking the pan occasionally.  Transfer the pine nuts to a plate to cool. 
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add the bread crumbs and cook, shaking the pan vigorously, until the crumbs are light golden and crisp, about 1 minute.  Transfer to a plate to cool. 

Place burrata on a plate.  Strew the asparagus, pine nuts, and raisins around the plate.  Top with breadcrumbs. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey.  Sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked pepper. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

deviled eggs.

There are certain foods that I make, usually for special occasions that people are always in awe of.  I don’t know if it’s because they think they are labor intensive so they are surprised I took the time (like empanadas) or if it’s because no one ever makes them homemade (like bread).  The look of excitement they exhibit when seeing them always makes me laugh (Apparently others get as happy about food as I do!). 

The easiest thing I always end up making that usually elicits many shrieks of glee is deviled eggs.  Deviled eggs are a crowd pleaser.  Probably because they feel old fashioned and because they are the perfect hand held snack.  They are just so darn cute (at least in my own personal opinion).  Also, everybody loves eggs which makes them a guaranteed hit. 

I make my deviled eggs rather simply more so because they are delicious in their original form.  I do have one additional add in and that is smoked Spanish paprika (I use the hot but it comes in sweet as well).  If you have never used smoked paprika, I recommend running to the store now and buying some.  It is one of my most beloved ingredients (up there with chipotles and parmesan) because it brings a level of depth to food that it would otherwise lack.  The heat is gentle and it works perfectly with deviled eggs, giving them a little edge and making the old stand by taste new.   The updated version will have everyone excited.

Deviled Eggs

A dozen hardboiled eggs
½ cup mayo (you may require less so I always start with less and add it in gradually)
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons dried mustard
½ teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika (you can replace this with cayenne)
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the yolks and place them in a bowl and place whites on a platter. Combine the yolks with mayo (start off with less), dried mustard (also the lesser amt), both paprika’s, a pinch of salt and pepper.  Mix together, the mixture should be smooth and not too chunky, if it is add more mayo.  Taste, and add more seasonings as desired.  Use a small spoon to add the filling to the whites.  Sprinkle with more paprika.  (If you a sucker for presentation feel free to use a pastry bag to fill the whites!)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

fava beans.

I fall in the more is better category.  If the cookies are good with chocolate chips they will be better with nuts! dried fruit! toffee!  It gets a little excessive and I usually end up with lots of add ins and little dough.  Restraint is not for me.   (The feelings of more is better goes beyond just food for me, it's pretty much how I feel about everything - one necklace is good, three are better!).  

But all of that changes with the arrival of seasonal produce.  The beauty of the food at the farmers market is that it is so utterly fresh and ripe that it doesn't need much to shine.  A little salt, a little olive oil, and lots of pepper makes all vegetables shine.  This is most evident in the simplest (and in my opinion best!) preparation for fava beans.  

Fava beans if you've never had them are delicious especially fresh ones.  They look like little ears and taste like spring in Italy (pasta with fava beans is a spring staple in Italy).  In this dish, they are cooked with garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil.  The whole thing comes together super quickly. The end product makes a lovely crostini topping or you can eat it right from the bowl as I tend to. Restraint can be wonderful.  

Fava Beans
Recipe adapted from Mommy

2 pounds fresh fava beans (should leave you with about 2 cups after removing from the pods)
Juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water to start (may require more)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, chopped

Place everything in a pot, bring to a boil and cover.  Simmer over low heat about 10 minutes. Taste the beans to check, they should be soft but not mushy.  If not soft, add a little more water and continue to cook until tender.  Add more salt and lemon juice if you desire.

Friday, June 15, 2012

cashew chicken.

I previously confessed about my inability to cook rice.  I tried it again earlier this week.  This time it was slightly less disastrous but it was still less then stellar.  (I am still blaming the pots for my poor performance.) 

What led me to tackle rice again this week was a chicken cashews stir fry dish I had read about. I am kind of determined to try and teach my friends that you can make food that you would normally order out faster in your own kitchen. We don't eat takeout for a lot of reasons but the biggest reason for me is that I find I can cook dinner quicker then I can have it delivered  (and also because I would rather save my money for a second dinner at Per Se...)

This cashew stir fry is kind of amazing. After prepping everything (which takes about 15 minutes) the actual cooking process only takes about 6 minutes!  The dish itself is delicious - crunchy and sweet and a little spicy (from my own addition of Siracha!).  It will be perfect once I can master the rice...this may take a while.

Cashew Chicken

I used more sugar snap peas in my version then the original recipie called for to make this a more balanced meal (and because I had a lot from the farmers market).  Feel free to add in more vegetables, they are good for you!

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons soy sauce (regular or dark)
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons (plus more for the final dish if you’re like me!) Siracha
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil (use only oils with a high smoke point, such as grapeseed)
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 pound sugar snap peas, strings removed, pods left whole
1/2 cup unsalted cashews (if using raw cashews, toast them in a dry skillet for a minute or two prior to tossing them into the stir-fry)

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1 teaspoon Siracha, and sugar. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl combine the broth, the remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice wine, and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water added vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil, tilting the wok to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the ginger and, using a metal spatula, stir-fry until the ginger is fragrant, about 10 seconds. Push the ginger to the sides of the wok, carefully add the chicken mixture, and spread it evenly in a single layer. Cook the chicken, undisturbed, for 1 minute. Then stir-fry until the chicken is lightly browned but not cooked through, about 1 minute.

Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon oil into the wok, add the sugar snaps (or whatever veggies you are using), and cashews, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir-fry just until the sugar snaps are bright green, about 1 minute. Restir the broth mixture and swirl it into the wok, adding it along the sides rather than into the middle. Stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with rice and more Siracha if desired.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

roasted zucchini with goat cheese.

There are certain cooking techniques I constantly fall back on.  I love to top leftover hashes with poached eggs.  I love to shred leftover meat and combine it with crushed tomatoes to turn it into a pasta sauce.  But most of all I love roasting vegetables.  

Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite techniques.  Upon contact with a blast of high heat carrots turn crisp and sweet and kale turns into chips!  Easily the best thing about roasting is that a large quantity of vegetables suddenly turns into a manageable amount (it's a great way to shrink overflowing produce drawers!).  My favorite vegetable to roast is zucchini. If you cut the zucchini into rounds they almost turn into chips (use your imagination here, they are healthy chips!)  Drizzled with balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, and basil it turns into a beautiful side dish.

Roasted Zucchini with Goat Cheese
Serves 2 as a side dish

1 pound zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if your like me and like it spicy!)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 ounce goat cheese
A couple of torn basil leaves

Set oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet and line up your zucchini rounds. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for about 20 -25 minutes until brown and crispy. Top with crumbled goat cheese.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and scatter basil. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

shaved asparagus pizza.

Yesterday, I turned 27.  (Am I now old!?)  I tend to get very pensive around my birthday.  I question everything - Are you where you want to be in life? What have you accomplished in the last year? - it gets exhausting.  So exhausting in fact that by the time the day rolls around all I want to do is take a nap (and eat cake - the only good thing about a birthday is eating cake, lots of cake).  

But yesterday I had a really good birthday.  Tyler took me to Per Se for lunch. It was extraordinary (a once in a lifetime kind of thing which is how I sold him on the idea).  I have never (and probably never will again) experience a meal quite like it.  I mean it said HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAITLIN on the top of our menus (which we got to keep), if that isn’t personal service then I don’t know what is (Thomas Keller you know how to make a girl feel special). 

The food itself was amazing.  But to me, the most amazing part of the whole thing was how beautiful everything looked.  Every dish that came out was simply put, a work of art.  We were both in awe.  You really do eat with your eyes first and in the case of Per Se, I ate beautiful things at first sight.  I also ate a lot of dessert which was the best part of the meal for me – when you think its over they bring you doughnuts and truffles and homemade fudge and macarons! As I said to Tyler, dessert at Per Se is my version of heaven. 

I still can’t stop thinking about how beautiful each dish was.  How carefully constructed everything was.  I am still in awe. It makes me want to cook more beautiful dishes which is how I stumbled upon the shaved asparagus pizza.  This pizza looks like abstract art and it tastes like spring. I am already planning on making it again and every time I do it will make me think of Per Se and how lucky I am.  (I am also lucky because I got to bring home chocolates from Per Se – they are sitting in my fridge, I give them until Wednesday.)

Shaved Asparagus Pizza
Adopted from Smitten Kitchen

I added ricotta to my pizza – I have a love affair with white pizza that dates back to my childhood and this felt like grown up white pizza.  I also added Mikes Hot Honey because I’ve pretty much decided it tastes good on anything and everything.

½ recipe of my favorite pizza dough
1/2 pound asparagus
1/3 cup grated Parmesan/Pecorino
1/3 pound ricotta
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Several grinds black pepper
Red pepper flakes

Preheat your oven to the hottest temperature it goes - place your pizza stone inside and let it warm up - at least 45 minutes. 

Prepare asparagus: I found this part tricky - granted I was trying to check Facebook and shave them at the same time, may have something to do with it... Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and using a vegetable peeler, create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks and don't worry of some pieces are unevenly thick, the mixed textures make the pizza yummy.  Discard tough ends.  Toss peelings with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a bowl.  

Assemble and bake pizza: Roll or stretch out your pizza dough to an 8-inch round.  Place dough on pizza stone (don't worry if it ends up oddly shaped, mine always ends up that way and I love it more when that happens!)  Sprinkle pizza dough with Parmesan/Pecorino then mozzarella, and dollop ricotta around the dough.  Pile asparagus on top.  Bake pizza for 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might by lightly charred.  Remove from the oven and immediately drizzle with honey.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

pea pesto pasta

I am beginning to get overwhelmed.  The sheer volume of produce at the farmers market is so staggering that I have to a limit the amount of money I am allowed to spend each time I go (budgeting is a true test of my will). Even with my budget, I end up bringing home more then I know to do with – potatoes, asparagus, fava beans, cucumbers, cherries, and strawberries! The inside of our fridge currently looks like a small garden.  It’s a beautiful sight. 

Most recently I brought home a pound of peas (I’ll be honest, they were purchased because I have a slight obsession with popping peas from their pods).  After shucking them, what remained was a cup of peas.  I knew I wanted them to be more than a side dish and a one-pot dinner (ok one pot and the Cuisinart) seemed like a good idea for a casual week night evening.  What resulted was pea pesto pasta that was garlicy, sweet, and fresh.  It was light but still felt substantial and a wonderful use of that weeks produce haul. 

Pea Pesto Pasta
Adapted from Gourmet

For this dish, I made my own fresh pasta (I am a sucker for making the most simple of dinners as complicated as possible.  Why use dry pasta when I can make fresh pasta and roll it out, cut it into strips and cook it! Who cares if we eat dinner at 9, it will still be yummy!).  I do not recommend making yourself crazy on a Wednesday night by making fresh pasta – I know for a fact it would be just as wonderful on a penne, gnocchi, or ravioli.  Lets be honest, it would taste good on any pasta so use what makes you happy (or toast, excellent on toast!). 

1 cup peas (fresh is best but frozen works just as well)
¼ cup basil, loosely packed
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic
¼ cup parmesan plus more for sprinkling with at the end
¼ cup of olive oil (some may prefer more oil, I prefer my pesto a little thicker especially in the case of pasta since I can use water the cooking water to thin it!). 
½ pound of pasta
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Cook peas in a pot of boiling water until tender about 2 -3 min. Add peas to the food processor (I would recommend setting some peas aside for texture, about ¼ cup, I planned on doing that but I forgot so everything ended up in the Cusinart and it still turned out lovely).  Add into the food processor with the peas the basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan, and a few twists of pepper.  Turn the food processor on and begin to drizzle in the olive oil. Taste the pesto and adjust seasonings. 

Cook your pasta in salted water and drain when done (setting aside about 1 cup of pasta water).  Over medium heat, return the pasta to the pot as add in the pesto.  Mix it around and slowly add in the past water, mixing as you do, until you reach the desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with more basil and parmesan. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

tacos with carnitas and pineapple salsa.

The taco obsession continues - it has gone from a minor one to a major one.  By the time summer is over, I will probably have put just about every vegetable and meat I can think of on a blistered corn tortilla.  Maybe some people have issues with eating like that (maybe some people don’t know a good thing when they meet it), but until the idea of hand held meals make me run away screaming, I will continue to fold up everything I find into a tortilla. 

The latest version involves pork shoulder taking a little bath in citrus flavored water.  During the cooking process, it somehow transforms into amazingly tender, crispy, salty chunks of meat that falls apart with the most gentle of nudges.  We piled it high into homemade corn tortillas.  As fantastic as it was plain, we decided to add in sliced avocado and spoonfuls of pineapple salsa.  The avocado added a wonderful bit of creaminess and the salsa added the necessary sweet/spicy crunch.  The perfect side dish?  Watermelon cocktails loaded up with gin and lime.  I can’t imagine getting sick of eating like this.


3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt cut into 2 inch pieces
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup lime juice
4 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

Place the pork in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot.  Add the orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt, and enough water to just barely cover the meat.  Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Simmer uncovered for 2 hours.  Don’t touch the meat.

After two hours, increase the heat to medium-high and while occasionally stirring and turning the pieces, continue to cook for about 45 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated, leaving only the rendered pork fat.  Let it sizzle in this fat long enough to brown at the edges, turning pieces gently (they love to fall apart!), only as needed. When pork is brown on both sides, it’s ready!

Pineapple Salsa

2 cups pineapple, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 large radish (or 2 small radishes), diced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped finely
1 clove garlic minced
Juice of half a lime
Salt to taste

In a medium bowl, combine pineapple, jalepeno, radish, cilantro, garlic and lime juice.  Stir to combine.  Season with salt, to taste.  Let sit at room temperature for 15 min to allow flavors to meld.  Serve at room temperature or chilled. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

homemade mayonnaise and egg salad.

Certain foods, no matter how many times I try to make them, always elude me.  Sometimes they come out sticky and messy (like the Italian nut rolls I tried to make one winter where most of the dough ended up glued to the counter).  Sometimes it ends up stuck to the bottom of the pan (almost every time I make rice, I like to think the pans at fault but it’s probably me and the fact that I never make the heat low enough). Or, it separates like homemade mayo always seems to.

However, the mayo issue has been solved!  A few weeks ago, the wonderful people at the NYTimes ran an article in the dinning section about the secret to homemade mayo (apparently water solves many problems).  I was apprehensive I mean water? How could that be the answer to all of my issues?  I decided to trust them (and even make it old school style with a whisk!) and low and behold it came out perfect and I mean PERFECT.  It didn’t break, it thickened beautifully and it was a lovely, shinny, pale color. 

After conquering this mountain, I was at a loss of what to do with it, I was sure it wasn’t going to work and now that it did I was left with a  bowl of mayo and no plan – until I located the plethora of eggs in the fridge.  I made us a beautiful bowl of egg salad.  We consumed it sitting outside in the sun, which made me happy, especially since it had never worked before.

Homemade Mayonnaise
Recipe from the NYTimes

For all you mayo haters (and I know there are lots of you!) try the homemade version. It is so unbelievable different then anything you’ve ever had before.  Not to mention you can add anything to it – The NYTimes article has many suggestions.  I am already dreaming about using the chipotle version to create a Tex-Mex chicken salad…

1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cold water
¾ cup neutral oil such as safflower or canola

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and 1 teaspoon cold water until frothy.  Whisking constantly, slowly dribble in the oil until mayonnaise is thick and oil is incorporated.  When the mayonnaise emulsifies and starts to thicken, you can add the oil in a thin stream instead of drop by drop. 

Yield 1 cup

For the egg salad – I used 4 eggs and mixed in salt, pepper, some dry mustard (about half a teaspoon) and some chives, served on toasted whole wheat. Delicious.