Friday, August 31, 2012

eggplant croquettes with garlic aioli.

There is something to be said about fried cheese.  Whether they are croquettes, mozzarella sticks, or fried raviolis, it seems that most everyone can’t resist gooey cheesy bites.  As a cheeseaholic, I am particularly drawn to all forms of fried cheese (and non fried cheese, I have never met a cheese I didn’t like), so when perusing my most recent cookbook addition Plenty and saw the recipe for eggplant croquettes with feta, I knew I had to make them (especially since they also involved eggplant!).  This is a healthy version of a croquette (or as healthy as fried cheese and vegetables can be) yet it still brings to mind bar food.  The chunks of smoky eggplant and creamy feta give a bit of texture to each bite and the parmesan gives the perfect amount of salty cheesiness.  The best part though is the garlic aioli.  It makes an unbelievable dipping sauce for the croquettes with the acidity of the aioli complementing the eggplant and feta perfectly.  I served mine with a green salad and it made for a lovely Sunday evening dinner. 

Eggplant Croquettes with Garlic Aioli
Recipe adapted from Plenty by Yottam Ottolenghi

I use one large eggplant instead of two medium ones, which was a big mistake (maybe not a big mistake but a mistake none the less).  When cooking these over the flame the big eggplant charred too fast on the outside before it could fully soften on the inside, so smaller eggplants are ideal.  Or you can just cook it in the oven and then it wouldn’t matter which size you use, they would just take longer to cook! Both instruction sets are below.

Serves  6 (or you can halve this as I did!)

4 medium sized eggplants
2 medium russet potatoes, cooked, peeled and smashed
1 large egg beaten
5 oz. feta, crumbled
¼ cup grated parmesan
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper
About 1 ¾ cups breadcrumbs
Oil for frying

Garlic Aioli

1 egg yolk
2 small garlic clove diced
1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup grapeseed/vegetable oil
¼ cup olive oil

Burn the eggplants.  You can do this by cooking the eggplant over a medium flame on a gas stove, rotating the eggplant every few minutes until the eggplant is charred and collapsed.  This should take about 12 – 15 minutes. If you don’t have a gas oven you can cook the eggplant in the oven.  Stab the eggplant with a fork (make sure you stab all over) and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour until tender.  When the eggplants are cool, make a slit along each eggplant and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh; try to avoid the black skin.  Place eggplant in a colander and discard the skin.  Leave to drain for 30 minutes to get rid of some of the liquid.  Once drained you should have about 1 ¼ pounds of eggplant flesh. Chop the eggplant flesh up so you don't have super big chunks of eggplant!

Place the eggplant flesh in a large bowl.  Add the potatoes, egg, feta, parmesan, salt, and some pepper.  Bring everything togther gently with a fork; you want to keep the mix quite rough.  Add about half the breadcrumbs, just enough so the mix is sufficiently solid to hold its shape but is still a little sticky.  Place the remainder of the breadcrumbs on a large plate.

Take small handfuls of the eggplant mixture and roll it into little logs in your hands (about 1 inch by 3 inches), then roll egg log into the breadcrumbs and place them on a baking sheet.  Repeat this until you have rolled all the eggplant mixture into logs.  Refrigerate the logs for at least 20 minutes but you can refrigerate for up to a day. 
Fill a large pot with oil.  Heat the oil on medium heat.  When the oil is hot, place some of the croquettes in (I did 5 at a time), cooking until golden brown in color (should only take a could of minutes).  Place the cooked croquettes on a paper towel while you cook the rest.  When finished cooking serve with the garlic aioli!

For the aioli: Combine the egg yolk, garlic cloves, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of water, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk all the ingredients together.  Slowly (and I mean very slowly) drizzle in the olive oil while you whisk (I usually dribble in a little and then whisk).  After drizzling in the olive oil, drizzle in the other oil (once again slowly). The whole process should take about 5 minutes.  Once done you should have a slightly thinned mayo. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

kitchen scales.

I have somehow managed to amass quite the collection of kitchen gadgets since moving into my own apartment 5 years ago.  This includes but is not limited to three pasta makers, two thermometers (and I already thinking about getting a third..), three loaf pans, a Cuisinart, and a Kitchen Aid mixer.  How we have managed to store everything is beyond me (this may be why every time we open the cabinets everything comes tumbling down), but somehow everything has its place.  Certain gadgets and tools I reach for repeatedly and the most useful one for me is my kitchen scale.  The electronic kitchen scale has somehow managed to make all of my cooking adventures a little easier.  When weighing out ingredients for baking you can just put the bowl on the scale and spoon in each ingredient by weight.  No measuring cups required! I can easily switch between grams and ounces and I can weigh my batters so layer cakes each have the same amount of batter!  I highly recommend purchasing one, preferably an electronic one (the non electronic ones are cuter but not nearly as useful and usually I am a proponent for cute over useful but occasional useful wins).  Below are some of my picks!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

banana bread.

At Tyler’s cafeteria, they have Free Fruit Friday, which means that on Friday evening Tyler returns home with a plethora of browned bananas and bruised apples.  He usually eats them for breakfast with peanut butter and raisins while watching his Saturday morning “cartoons” (by cartoons I mean home design shows which he loves), but this weekend he requested banana bread and I happily obliged in making it.  Banana bread is one of the most well loved breakfast foods but for some reason you rarely see it at bakeries.  Often bakeries sell banana sweets in the form of cupcakes and frosted cakes (I have a love affair with the banana cake from Billy’s Bakery – heavenly), which is a shame because banana bread is lovely.   My favorite recipe comes from Flour Bakery in Boston - it’s super moist and involves a whole lot of nuts and a whole lot of chocolate (my own addition).  In comes together quickly and tastes just as good the day it’s made as it does the next day (if you manage to have it last that long...).

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread
Recipie adapted, barely, from Flour by Joanne Chang

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
3 ½ bananas, very ripe, mashed (about 1 ½ cups)
2 tablespoons crème fraiche, sour cream, or Greek yogurt (I used yogurt and it worked!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
2/3 cups chocolate chips

Set oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a loaf pan with non stick spray.  In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside. 

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or a handheld mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about 5 minutes on the stand mixer, and about 8 minutes for a handheld mixer; or until light and fluffy. 

With the machine on low speed, slowly drizzle in the oil.  Do not pour the oil in all at once.  Add slowly so it has time to incorporate into the eggs and doesn’t deflate the air you have beaten into the batter.  Adding the oil should take about 1 minute.  Add the bananas, crème fraiche/sour cream/yogurt, and vanilla, then continue to mix on low speed just until combined.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture, nuts, and chocolate until thoroughly combined.  No flour streaks should be visible and the nuts/chocolate should be evenly distributed. 

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hour for a 9 x 5 inch loaf; or until golden brown on top and the cake springs back when you press it.  If your finger sinks when you poke the bread, it needs to bake a little longer.  Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes and then pop it out of the pan to finish cooling.  It can last at room temperature for 3 days, but trust me it wont. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

spicy coconut mussels with lemongrass and lime.

It always amazes me how people consider mussels to be a luxury food; one of those foods you only order when out for dinner at fancy restaurants where the waiters fold your napkin for you every time you get up to go to the bathroom.  Mussels should not be considered a fancy food, I think they should be a food you make to have a weekday evening feel a little more special.  I love mussels because they cook in less than 5 minutes, you can buy a 2 pound bag for 6 bucks, and all they require is a side salad and a baguette to round out the meal.  I have made many sauces to serve mussels in – tomato and wine based, beer and chorizo, but my favorite is spicy coconut mussels.  Coconut milk makes the perfect base for the sauce – it’s rich and creamy and when combined with Siracha you have the perfect amount of spice that offsets with the sweet.  The beauty of this dish is that all the flavors intermingle and bring an amazing complexity.  Cilantro and basil round out the sauce and bring a most wonderful herb earthiness to the dish.  Dinning alfresco only makes this a more wonderful experience but I also love this in the winter time as a cozy dinner for two.

Spicy Coconut Mussels with Lemongrass and Lime
Serves 3 (or 2 generously)

2 lbs mussels, picked over for any open mussels and beards removed (if they have them)
2 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemon grass, outer layers removed, interior minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated (easiest if you freeze the ginger first and use a microplane)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 – 3 teaspoons Siracha or thai curry paste (depending on how hot you like your food)
1 can coconut milk (no lite coconut milk!)
2 limes, 1 quartered and 1 halved
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
15 – 20 basil leaves, chopped

In a large stock pot heat the oil, when hot add the garlic and lemon grass, stir until just beginning to brown and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the ginger to the pot and stir to mix with the garlic and lemon grass, about 30 seconds.  Add in the tomato paste and Siracha (or thai curry paste) and stir to create a paste with the garlic, lemon grass, and ginger.  Pour in the coconut milk and stir (it will turn a lovely pinkish red color from the tomato paste and Siracha!).  Squeeze the lime that you halved into the pot, and then add the honey and salt.  Taste!  If you want it hotter add some more Siracha.  If it needs some more salt, add that as well. 

Allow the mixture to come to a boil and then pour the mussels into the pot.  Cover the pot and turn the heat down to medium.  Allow the mussels to cook undisturbed for about 4 minutes until the mussels open.  After 4 minutes, check the mussels, if they aren’t open, cover and cook for another minute.  When the mussels are open, mix in the cilantro and basil.  Serve with wedges of lime, toasted baguette, and plenty of napkins. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

bar cart love.

I've been hunting for a bar cart for awhile now.  There is something so old fashioned about them.  They make me think of cocktail hour and women in high heels and lipstick and men in suits with skinny ties.  Maybe I've watched one too many episodes of Mad Men, but I'm smitten.  Below are some that have stolen my heart.  Here's to finding the perfect one.

Images via Pinterest

Thursday, August 23, 2012

eggplant, green olive, and provolone pizza.

I’ve been drawn to fall colors as of late – deep emerald greens, navy that appears almost black, rich burgundies, and moody purples.  I thought I desired these colors only on clothing, (I have been eyeing several emerald items…) but I have found my color choices have dictated my produce choices as well.  Apparently, tomatoes are out and eggplant is in.  My heart seems to swell every time I see a beautiful deep purple eggplant and until the boy cringes at the site of them, I will continue to bring them home with a vengeance.  The latest eggplant incarnation involves pizza (apparently, I have yet to meet a vegetable I don’t like on pizza as evident here and here).  This is not a delicate pizza in anyway rather, its bold and substantial which is a nice change of pace from most of the pizzas I make.  The olives pair perfectly with the roasted eggplant; it gives the pizza a wonderful salty briny kick. The provolone gives a nice nuttiness to the dish and it also manages to hold the whole thing together which is necessary when there is no sauce!  Paired with a salad and a cold beer, you have a wonderful meal. 

Eggplant, Green Olive, and Provolone Pizza
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

I changed some things on this recipe.  I decided to cater this more towards people who maybe don’t have grills so I roasted the eggplant in chunks in the oven.  I found the eggplant needed a little more spice and heat so I roasted them with some red pepper flakes as well.  I also roasted the eggplant the night before and I did a slow rise pizza dough so the whole dish could be assembled the night before and the next night the only thing you need to do is bake it!  Cut into squares this also makes an excellent appetizer for a party (as I did this past weekend). 

For the Pizza

2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup olive oil
1 large eggplant (around 2 pounds), cut into 1 inch cubes
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
5 ounces sliced provolone, cut into short thin matchsticks (1 ¼ cups)
18 pitted green olives, sliced (about 1/3 cup) – I also used an herbed olive
Pizza Dough (recipe below for the one I used or you could use store bought)

Preheat the over to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the eggplant with the garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Pour the eggplant mixture onto a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes until the eggplant is soft and slightly charred looking.  (At this point the eggplant can be cooled and stored in the fridge until the next day.)

Increase the heat to 450 degrees (or if you are making this the next day preheat to 450 degrees.)  Stretch your pizza dough into a large round (if using a pizza pan) or into a 12 by 10 inch rectangle if using a baking sheet (grease the baking sheet!).  Top the pizza with the eggplant and olives and then scatter the provolone.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted. 

Pizza Dough
Recipe from Gourmet

1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
1 ¾ cups – 2 cups all purpose flour
¾ cup warm water divided (when you stick your finger it its not hot or cold)
1 teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon olive oil

Stir together the yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, and ¼ cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until the surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes.  (If it doesn’t appear creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.)

In a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the yeast mixture, 1 ½ cups flour, remaining ½ cup water, salt, and oil, and mix until smooth (this can be done in a bowl if you don’t have a mixer).  Stir in enough flour (about ½ cup) for dough to begin to pull away from side of bowl.  (Dough will be slightly wet.) 

Knead for about 8 minutes (can be done in mixer or by hand) until the dough appears smooth, soft, and elastic. Form into a ball, put in an oiled bowl, and dust with flour.  Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.  At this point you can roll out and use the dough or you can put it in the fridge (covered with plastic) and use it the next day.  Continue with the recipe above. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

white on white.

Currently lusting after kitchens with a contrast of white on white (the Counting Crows said it best).

Image via Remodelista

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

after a dinner party.

Our backyard this past Saturday at 2AM after a successful soiree.  It looks so Parisian and urban.  

marinated chicken alla griglia.

I have a soft spot for a beautifully roasted chicken.  There is something about the simplicity of the dish – in my mind you really only need salt, pepper, a little olive oil, and tons of garlic to roast around it (few things are better then roasted garlic on fresh bread) to make a perfect chicken.  On occasion, I desire a little more then the simplest version of roast chicken, which is where this recipe comes into play.  This is the lazy man’s version of the most delicious chicken.  The marinade is the world’s easiest thing to make! Then you put the chicken in the marinade and refrigerate it overnight and the next day it’s ready to cook!  (It surprises me sometimes how wonderful a recipe can be with very little labor involved.)  The chicken that emerges from the oven is beautiful.  It’s moist and lemony with a spicy herby kick to it.  I love it right out of the oven and serving it with a salad and some crusty bread for a super easy weeknight meal. 

Marinated Chicken alla Griglia
Recipe adapted from Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini

Serves 4 with leftovers

4 cloves of garlic minced
½ cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar (I used a combination of both)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup grapeseed or corn oil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
1 lemon thinly sliced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
1 tablespoon honey or sugar (Mike’s Hot Honey is good here!)
1 Four pound chicken cut into 8 pieces (or you can use just chicken breasts or thighs)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken in a large bowl (large enough to hold the chicken) and mix well. Place the chicken in the marinade, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 8 hours, or overnight. 

Remove the chicken from the marinade (don’t wipe the herbs off!).  Season with additional salt and pepper. 
Turn the oven on to broil (or to the highest it will go if you don’t have a broiler).  Place the chickens on a roasting rack and broil them until the skins are crisp, about 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 425 degrees and bake the chicken until the juice runs clear when you stick a leg with a knife, about 20 minutes.   Leftovers make wonderful chicken salad sandwiches! (This can also be done on the grill and should take about 20 minutes as well!)

Monday, August 20, 2012

chocolate toffee cookies.

I have certain foods that I imagine I would crave in certain situations the same way I have certain outfits I imagine I would wear in certain situations.  Usually these are incredibly obscure situations (like skiing in Switzerland with royalty on New Year’s Eve) - the odds of them ever happening are about one in a million (because I don’t ski and I don’t know any royalty) but I like to think I am prepared for all of life’s random possibilities (you can never be too prepared!).   This is why I nicknamed this cookie the breakup cookie.  If my relationship was to end I would drag myself to the kitchen to make a batch (or two) of these.  This is the cookie to end all cookies; it’s safe to say it’s perfect.  There is a whole lot of chocolate, a whole lot of toffee, enough nuts to keep things interesting, and a sprinkle of sea salt.  It bakes up with a crispy exterior, which gives way to a soft and barely cooked interior; it’s as if a brownie and cookie had the most perfect baby.  I suggest pairing it with a tall glass of milk and a large pile of fashion magazines on those days when you need to find comfort in chocolate and sugar (which is something I do on an almost daily basis - no shame). 

Chocolate Toffee Cookies
Recipe via Smitten Kitchen

The salt on these is optional but I highly recommend it, it brings out the subtle flavors in the chocolate and toffee. The dough also freezes beautifully so you can stash it in your freezer and then have fresh baked cookies whenever you need a really need a cookie (or two).   I also recommend stocking up on Heath Bars after Halloween – they are usually absurdly cheap and as long as you keep them in a cool dry place, they will last a while. 

½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup (½ stick unsalted butter)
1 ¾ cups packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 of the 1.4 –ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath), coarsely chopped (7 ounces total if you use the mini ones!)
1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend.  Stir chocolate and butter in top of a double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth (or you can do this in the microwave but watch to make sure you don’t burn the chocolate).  Cool mixture to lukewarm.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes.  Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.

Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts.  Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes (you can freeze it at this point if you want to.)

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with a silpat, parchment, or waxed paper.  Drop batter by spoonfuls onto sheets, spacing two inches apart.  Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you’re using it.  Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 12 to 15 minutes.  Cool on sheets.  (Can be made 2 days ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature.) 

Friday, August 17, 2012

soba noodles with eggplant and mango.

I live in a 600 square foot apartment with a boy who likes to find things that I may not need and bring them home to me, so we’ll just say space is a premium.  I have a soft spot in my heart for cookbooks but until I get the 1200 square foot apartment of my dreams, I need to be picky about what makes it on to the limited shelf space I have.  I recently purchased, after much deliberation Plenty, which was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  This is one of those beautiful cookbooks where each page makes you oh so hungry for vegetables.  Yes, vegetables.  This is a vegetarian cookbook and it’s all about making vegetables the center of your meal which is what I’ve done almost every meal this week.  I made the soba noodles with eggplant and mango the other night and it may have been one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while.  It’s spicy and sweet and it leaves you feeling full in the best possible way.  The best part of the dish is the handfuls of herbs you mix in; it makes the dish taste oh so fresh and summery.  Oh and it tastes even better the second day which means you will have a stellar lunch the next day. 

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
Recipie from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 6

1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 fresh red Thai chile, finely chopped (or a generous tablespoon of Siracha)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 cup sunflower oil or vegetable oil
2 medium eggplants or 1 large, cut into 3/4-inch dice
8 ounces soba noodles
1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/8-inch dice
1 2/3 cup basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some use Thai basil, but much less of it)
2 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile (or Siracha) and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up the oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rise well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible.
In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs. You can now leave this aside for 1 to 2 hours (but can eat immediately!). When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

chicken tomatillo soup.

I’ve been stuck on foods that make no sense given the weather we’ve been having and now I’ve allowed my cravings to take over the kitchen.  I have permitted myself to indulge in all illogical meals, which is how, on a perfect summer evening; I ended up making us tomatillo chicken soup for dinner.  I would like to say that we needed to clear out some of chicken from the freezer to make space (since someone insists on it) so making chicken broth was a logical thing to do.  If you’re going to make chicken broth it seems silly not to use some of the broth to make soup. I happened to have tomatillos in the fridge from the farmers market and a recipe for tomatillo soup so I felt that since all the components were in the house then I might as well go for it and I am glad I did.  The result was wonderful (and oh so quick!) and despite it being a soup, it still tasted summery.  We garnished our bowls with shredded Monterey Jack, dollops of Greek yogurt (I was out of sour cream), and a substantial sprinkling of cilantro. 

Chicken and Tomatillo Soup
Recipie Adopted from Cookstr

2 bone in and skin on chicken breasts
3 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husk removed, coarsely chopped, or 2 cups drained canned tomatillos, coarsely chopped
2 jalapeno chilies, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
4-5 cups chicken broth or water (I would highly recommend using at least some broth)
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
Sour cream or Greek yogurt for garnish
Grated Monterey Jack or Cheddar

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then brown it on both sides in the oil over high heat in a sauté pan or heavy duty stock pot (this saves dishes).  When the chicken is well browned, after about 8 minutes on the skin side and 10 minutes on the flesh side, take it out of the pan and lightly sauté the onion and garlic in the fat left in the pan.  (If the fat has burned, pour it out and add 2 tablespoons more).

Return the chicken to the pan along with the tomatillos, jalapenos, broth and cumin.  Cover the pan and simmer gently until the chicken is done – it will be firm to the touch – about 15 minutes. 

Take the pan off the heat, remove the chicken, and let it cool for 10 minutes.  Remove and discard the skin, pull off the chicken meat, and cut into bite size pieces and discard the bones.  Skim off any fat or froth that has floated to the top of the soup.

Pour the broth and tomatillo mixture into a blender (or use an immersion blender if you have one) and process until smooth.  Return the broth to the pot and add the chicken.  If soup is too thick add a little more broth or water.  Stir in cilantro.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve with sour cream or yogurt and grated cheese. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

peach ginger muffins.

I love making things as complicated and difficult as possible.  If you ask me to bring a dish to a party I will spend several days deciding on a dish (usually the most complicated one) and then I will decide that one dish isn’t enough and I really need to make two things (what if someone doesn’t like the first option!) and then I will fret that it doesn’t look perfect (because appearance is everything).  I apparently like to torture myself. 

This past Friday, it was my turn to bring in breakfast for my group at work.  Generally, this means people bring in bagels, juice, and several types of cream cheese but I refused to do that.  This was my chance to make the plethora of breakfast recipes I have stashed away (because making a dozen muffins for Tyler and me always seems like a silly idea.)  I relished in the thought of making cinnamon buns and breakfast cakes and lots of muffins.  I somehow managed to convince myself that I only needed to make three different breakfast items (I was able to talk myself down from five!) and I knew I wanted to incorporate as many seasonal fruits as possible which led me to these peach ginger muffins.

I adore peaches.  They work amazingly well in both sweet and savory applications but I love them most when paired with ginger.  Something about the spiciness of the ginger plays off perfectly with the sweetness of a peach; it is one of those perfect combinations.  I was drawn to these peach ginger muffins because they incorporated crème fraiche, which gives an amazing tang to cakes and muffins, and I imagined that tang would pair perfectly with the fruit; that thought turned out to be correct.  These are the muffins of my dream, light and fluffy with a generous amount of fruit and spice.  They bake up beautifully golden brown and I found they stayed perfectly moist the next day, which is always a plus in my book. 

Peach Ginger Muffins

Recipie Adapted From Flour by Joanne Chang
Makes 18 Muffins (Says it makes 12 but I got a lot more!)

3 ¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs plus 1 yolk
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 ¼ sticks butter, melted
1 cup milk (I only had skim so I used that but mixed in a splash of heavy cream!)
1 cup crème fraiche (I used a buttermilk crème friche combo which worked perfectly)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
½ - 1 teaspoon ground ginger (depending on how much you like ginger)
3 large or 4 smaller peaches, diced (I removed the skin but I think you could leave it on)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with liners or spray it with non stick spray.  In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ginger.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and then add the sugar, butter, milk, crème fraiche, and vanilla. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and fold gently using a spatula.  Fold in the peaches and crystallized ginger.  Spoon into the muffin tin to fill the cups completely.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the muffin tops are golden brown and let cool for 20 minutes before removing from the pan. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

smoky eggplant puree with pine nuts.

I’ve eaten the same food for lunch and dinner almost every day this past week.  I feel like that statement makes me sound so boring but I’m not, really! (I also feel like that statement sounds shocking coming from me considering I generally loath eating leftovers for more then one day.  On occasion, I have the ability to shock myself.)  It’s just that I happened to stumble upon a recipe for eggplant dip that sounded so simple and lovely.  I was envisioning it being eaten as an appetizer for a Middle Eastern dinner party.  We would slather it on triangles of warm pita and eat it with olives and chunks of feta.  I never ended up throwing a Middle Eastern themed party but I still wanted, no needed to make this dip as the recipe wouldn’t leave my mind until I bought an eggplant.

What happened after making the eggplant dip is that I realized I didn’t need to throw a party in order to enjoy it, because I enjoyed it, all by myself, for almost a week (let’s just say I made a lot of dip).  This dip is perfect in so many ways.  Its creamy but not in the I am so bad for you and your arteries are now crying because you ate some way.  It’s creamy because it’s blended eggplant and a teeny tiny bit of Greek yogurt – so really you’re eating just a vegetable which is the healthiest thing one can eat. (These are things I tell myself while eating to validate the fact that I have eaten three pitas and could eat two more.)  It also uses smoked sea salt, which is so wonderful that it validates the fact that it cost $16 for a container. (I consider this a steal since I saw it at two other stores for $26 -another mechanism I use to validate the fact I bought it.)  Smoked salt add a flavor to the dish that is hard to describe, it makes your food taste as if its been cooked over an open fire - its rather extraordinary and I plan on incorporating it into as many dishes I can.  I plan to make another batch of this tomorrow and I imagine if you did as well, you would be very happy. 

Smoky Eggplant Puree with Pine Nuts
Recipe adapted from Lottie and Doof

2 eggplants (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tablepsoon salt
½ cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0% and it worked perfectly)
1 teaspoon smoked salt
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from ½ lemon)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for garnishing)
½ cup toasted pine nuts
2 teaspoons Urfa chilies (also known as Isot) or Aleppo or smoked Spanish paprika can be used
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water (big enough for all of the eggplant) to a boil.  Add the eggplant and the tablespoon of salt to the boiling water.  Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook at a brisk simmer.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft and translucent.  You can use a pair of tongs to test the eggplant.  Drain into a colander. 

In a food processor puree the eggplant with the yogurt, smoked salt, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. 

Place the eggplant mixture into a bowl and stir in the pine nuts and chilies.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with some extra pine nuts and chilies for garnish and a drizzle of olive oil.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

fresh corn polenta with sausage and tomatoes.

The temperature remains high and all I can think about is fall which is pathetic considering I will be dreaming of summer come November.  The problem is that stores are filling up with sweaters and blazers and dark denim and I want to scoop all of it and wear it immediately (I am currently lusting over a beautiful Rag and Bone blazer and these blue suede JCrew pumps…they make me swoon.)  I’ve also been craving as of late warm plates of food – piping hot bowls of pasta, spicy soups, and rich casseroles.  I think by body is saying “I want something besides tomato salad!!” I reached a conclusion the other night that I can have my cake and eat it to – I can use the plethora of vegetables I have to create a comforting dish of food (and suffer in the sauna like kitchen which is what happens when I turn the oven on for more the 5 minutes in the summer).

So I thought and pondered and looked at cookbooks and decided that fresh corn polenta would fill my need for something warm and comforting and it would still feel like summer.  Fresh corn polenta is amazing – it’s sweet and creamy and it works with a wide variety of toppings.  It’s also a cinch to make and it tastes like epitome of summer and fall (yes food can taste like multiple seasons).  For my polenta topping, I cooked up some sausage for texture and then mixed in some jalapenos for heat.  I also added in some chopped tomatoes for a nice burst of acidity and then I spooned this mixture over my lovely corn polenta.  The dish fulfilled all my cravings and the variety of tastes and textures transformed it into something special.  It’s was the kind of meal that makes you look forward to fall. 

Fresh Corn Polenta with Sausage and Tomatoes
The corn polenta makes a wonderful base for any variety of things.  Works wonderfully with grilled shrimp or you could make it vegetarian my omitting the sausage.  The possibilities are endless!

Fresh Corn Polenta
Recipe from Marcus Samuelson
Serves for as a side, 2 generously as a meal

4 ears of corn
½ cup water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Grated parmesan or cheddar or a combination of both, to taste
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Stand the shucked ears of corn upright in a shallow bowl and cut off the kernel as close to the cob as you can.  Go around again and scrape out the remaining milk in the cobs.  Grind the corn kernels in a food processor until you have a slushy mix.  Put the corn in a large saucepan along with the water and olive oil.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes; don’t let the corn scorch!  Add salt, cheese, and pepper, along with a drizzle of olive oil if desired and the topping if your choice.  Serve at once.

Sausage and Tomato Topping

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 link of spicy sausage, casing removed (I used a jalapeno pepper jack one that I got from the Meat Hook!)
¾ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup diced roasted red peppers
1-2 tablespoons diced jalapenos (depending on your level of spicy)
Chives to garnish

In a sauté pan heat the olive oil, when hot add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.  When brown and cooked through add in the tomatoes and peppers, cooking until the tomatoes have begun to burst about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the jalapenos.  Spoon mixture over the corn polenta and garnish with chives. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

beautiful kitchens.

Sometimes I let myself get lost in thought thinking about the kitchen of my dreams.  It will be open and airy with mismatched furniture and lots of open shelves for plates and glasses.  It will have a center island that will be perfect for rolling out breads and pie crusts.  There will be a surround sound system so I can sing and dance while cooking dinner.  There will be a fancy chandelier and lots of color and art on the wall.  There will be bookshelves galore so I can organize all my cookbooks in a cohesive manner.  I am constantly pinning the looks I love so someday when I can make the kitchen of my dreams I'll have tons of inspiration to look at.  Below are a few of the images that currently make my heart skip a beat.  

1 - Mismatched came sometimes work perfectly.  Image via Desire to Inspire
2 - Soothing blues look amazing with white dishes and baked breads. Image via Big Chill.
3 - I love the look of non kitchen items in a kitchen.  Rugs and fine art belong in kitchens. Image via Velvet Moss
4 - There is nothing more classic then white subway tiles.  It allows you to have an amazing tile floor! Image via the Design Traveler