Saturday, September 29, 2012

cider brined pork chops with apples.

I spent most of this past week talking about pork chops and apples (I am pretty sure after day 2 everyone stopped listening to me).  I don’t know what’s happening to me but I feel as if I am begging for full blown fall to arrive.  I have been craving oversized cashmere sweaters and afternoons spent reading under blankets with mugs of hot tea and warm cookies beside me.  But what I am craving most are the foods that remind me of fall – pumpkin and apples and slow roasted meats and soup.  I have a laundry list of dishes I want to make but the one that tops the list was the aforementioned pork chops and apples.  I love the combination of salty tender meat with soft and sweet apples – it’s rustic and warm and just delicious.  To get the most apple flavor possible into my dish I decided to brine my pork chops the night before.  Brineing if you are unfamiliar with it is a way to keep meat super moist and it involves very little effort. I love to brine with making fried chicken or cooking pork chops!  The apple sauce that is poured over the chops is a lovely combination of sweet with just a little bit of tang from the mustard and vinegar.  I recommend serving these chops with roasted carrots and some gnoochi for that warm and comforting food everyone craves in the fall. 

Cider Brined Pork Chops with Apples
Serves 2

Apple Cider Brine
Recipe from NPR

I prepare the brine the night before and then I add the meat to the brine (refrigerate the brine) before I leave for work so when I come home all I need to do is cook the meat!  I divided the original recipe since I was only serving 2 of us but this can be doubled.

1 cup cold water, divided
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon whole cloves or ground cloves
1 cup apple cider
2 bone in pork chops

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring ½ cup water water, salt, sugar, thyme, peppercorns and cloves to a boil.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sugar and salt dissolve.  Remove from the heat, add the apple cider and other ½ cup cold water, and stir well. 

Put the meat in a non reactive pan or a large resealable bag and cove with the cooled brine.  Cover or tightly close the bag and refrigerate for 6 – 12 hours.  If you are using a resalable bag, rotate the pork a few times to make sure all the meat gets brined.  Before cooking, remove the pork and pat dry with paper towels. 

Pork Chops with Apples

2 bone in pork chops, brined
3 apples, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch slices
½ cup apple cider
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 generous teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  While the skillet is heating up, liberally salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops.  When the skillet is hot and smoking, add the pork chops to the pan and cook about 3 minutes.  Flip the chops and cook on the other side for 3 minutes as well.  Remove the pork chops from the pan, and put them on a baking sheet and cook until the interior temperature reads 150 degrees about 20 – 25 minutes. 

Pour the apple cider into the cast iron skillet, it will begin to bubble and boil.  Add the sliced apples to the cider as well as the apple cider vinegar, and lower the heat to medium, stirring occasionally.  The apple slices should begin to soften and break down, about 5-7 minutes depending on the type of apples you use.  Add the Dijon mustard and stir to evenly distribute.  Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.  Add the heavy cream and stir to combine.  When the pork chops are done pour the apple sauce over the chops.  Garnish with chives if desired.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

casual dinning rooms.

I never thought much about dinning rooms until I moved into an apartment and realized most apartments don't come with dinning rooms (or walk in closets, sigh).  I sometimes dream about having a room to eat dinner in that doesn't include a T.V..   I would much rather eat in a room that has walls filled with a plethora of mismatched art, a set of pink chairs, and bouquets of fresh flowers.

Image via Pinterest 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

kale, leek, and grape flatbread.

I taught my first cooking class the last week which was kind of a big deal for me since it makes this whole cooking, blogging process feel real. I never thought starting this would amount to much more then a way for me to document my creations but slowly it's grown and it's amazing to watch.  I knew in teaching this class I wanted it to feel special and be personal (because the best classes always are) which meant I wanted to provide them with a parting gift as well as a snack to eat while cooking. It needed to be seasonal and elegant and also show a range of skills and flavors (and handheld to!).  This seemed like a tall order but when I thought about it, I thought about what I love to eat and what I love to make and a flatbread seemed like a great idea.  I decided to start with a base of kale and leeks since the sweet, creamy leeks pair well with the heartier kale.  Since I love the combination of savory and sweet I knew II wanted to incorporate a fruity element.  Apples didn’t seem right but concord grapes seemed perfect.  An explosion of tangy fruit in each bite would offset perfectly with the kale and leeks.  To round out the dish a sprinkle of goat cheese to add an extra bit of creaminess and to bring all the elements together. I found the final result to be visually stunning with the green leeks and purple grapes beautifully contrasting the white goat cheese.  The best part was the taste – sweet and savory in every bite which is just how I like it.  

Kale, Leek, and Grape Flatbread

About 5 cups of kale, sliced into ½ inch ribbons
1 leek, white and light green part only, halved and then cut into half moons
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups halved and pitted concord grapes (or regular grapes can be used)
3 ounces goat cheese
1 tablespoon Mike’s Hot Honey (or regular honey with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes)
1 batch of pizza dough (recipe here) or store bought dough

In a large sauté pan with lid, heat the butter and 1 tablespoon oil on medium, until the oil is hot and the butter is melted.   Add the leeks to the pan, and turn the heat to low.   Break up the leeks with a wooden spoon, and continue to cook on low until the leeks are soft, about 10 minutes.  Once the leeks have softened, add the kale to the pan and the additional tablespoon of oil, and stir to coat the kale with the leeks and oil.  Cover the pan and allow the kale and leeks to cook for about 10 – 15 minutes, until the kale is soft.  When the kale is soft, add the salt and pepper.  Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary. 

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. 

Roll out your dough into a rectangle about 9x13 (it doesn’t need to be perfect!).  Place the dough on your baking sheet.  Sprinkle the dough with the kale and leek mixture.  Scatter the grapes atop the kale and leek mixture and the sprinkle with the goat cheese.  Bake about 10 – 12 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and drizzle with honey. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

picture frame walls.

I have an infatuation with collages of all kind.  In college my dorm room walls were covered with torn magazine pages, found post cards, notes written on scraps of paper, and photos from experiments gone wrong in the dark room.  I found it cozy to be surrounded by relics of my youth and the things that made me happy.  As much as I loved pieces of ripped paper taped to a wall it didn't exude grown-upness which means I needed to find an alternative.   The search for something chicer led me to my obsession with picture frame walls since it gives the feeling of a collage but looks far more sophisticated.  The framed fauna above the farm sink in the below picture is an utterly perfect version of picture frame walls.  I am envisioning a similar idea but with pictures of fruits and vegetables because fruits and vegetables seem fitting for a kitchen.  

Image via Pinterest 

Monday, September 24, 2012

farro, roasted pepper, and tomato salad.

I got it into my head this weekend that I needed to cook with farro, which means the boy and I went on a supermarket adventure looking for this grain, which we eventually found in the organic section of Shop Rite next to the rice.  I felt victorious for having located it and promptly brought it home.  (It should be noted that I am a girl who lacks patience, which means when I have an idea/thought/craving I can’t think of anything else.  I am like a dog with a cone on its head.)  The reason for my sudden infatuation with farro stemmed from this recipe that I saw in Plenty (my latest cookbook obsession).  Something about the simplicity of the dish spoke to me but I also felt that I could add some end of season produce into the dish to make it a little substantial ( because I look for every opportunity to add in more farmers market produce).  The farro gives a lovely nutty taste to the salad and it also provides some much needed crunchy texture to the red peppers and tomatoes.  The dressing is perfection – sweet and tangy with the perfect amount of spice.  I foresee farro salads becoming my lunch of choice. 

Farro, Roasted Pepper, and Tomato Salad
Recipe adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Farro is the better cooler sister to quinoa (or that's at least how I feel).  The texture is amazing and it tastes more substantial which I love. I planned on making this for lunch which means I wanted to bulk the dish up with some extra vegetables.  Cherry tomatoes and spinach were my extra vegetable add-ins but I imagine cucumbers or corn would also be lovely.   I also plan on making a more fall version with butternut squash which I will report back on! 

For the Dressing

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from about 1 medium lemon)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey (Mike’s Hot Honey is wonderful here)
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for garnish
½ garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper

For the Farro Salad

1 cup farro
2 cups packed baby spinach
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 roasted red peppers (homemade is best but jarred works as well), diced
10 black olives, pitted and quartered
1 tablepsoon fresh thyme
3 ounces goat cheese

For the dressing: Whisk together all of the ingredients and set aside. 

For the farro salad: Bring 2 ½ cups of water to boil over high heat.  Add the farro, reduce heat to a simmer and cover, cook according to directions on the package, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.  When done, drain in a colander or sieve, rinse under cold water and the return the farro to the pot.  Add the spinach and cover for 5 minutes so the heat of the farro just barely wilts the spinach. 

Remove the lid from the pot and add the tomatoes, roasted red pepper, olives, thyme, goat cheese, and dressing. Toss gently and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with a sprinkle of paprika.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

a weekend up north.

Some weekends I feel a strong desire to escape the confines of the city and head somewhere where I am surrounded by vast amounts of space and fields of green.  Other weekends I feel a strong desire to abandon my kitchen and head home to my parents where I can indulge in comfort food cooked by my mommy.    This weekend I had strong desire for both so the boy and I packed our bags and headed north.  We made a pit stop in the Bronx for some Italian favorites (pizza, pasta, cheese, bread!) and then ventured to my parents home where we indulged in long lazy walks through Stone Barns with the puppies and a family dinner fit for a king.  We returned to our apartment late this afternoon full, content, and happy. 

Image 1 - Zero Otto Nove: La Riccardo Pizza  - Arthur Ave the Bronx, NY
Image 2 - Cannolis from Arthur Ave
Images 3 through 9 - Stone Barns
Image 10 - Family dinner 

Friday, September 21, 2012

roasted vegetable pasta with fontina and basil.

With the sudden onslaught of cooler temperatures, I have had the strong desire to stand over my stove all day in order to make slow cooked tomato sauce or braised meats that emerge from the pot so tender that the slightest prod of a fork causes the chunks of meat to fall apart.  Most evenings I come home with barely enough time to make it to the gym, so unfortunately hour long cooking extravaganzas are regaled to the weekend.  This doesn’t stop me from constantly craving comfort foods.  When those moments arise, this is the pasta I reach for.  It allows me to use many of the vegetables still in abundance at the farmers market to create the kind of warm and cozy food people love.  The roasted vegetables give the pasta a sweet and smoky taste while the fontina gives it the perfect amount of cheesy goodness (because everyone loves cheesy goodness).  In all honesty, this doesn’t even need to be served with anything on the side which is what makes it a perfect weeknight meal (that and the fact that the leftovers make a wonderful lunch the next day). 

Roasted Vegetable Pasta with Fontina and Basil

Feel free to change the recipe and use zucchini instead of eggplant, or more tomatoes and no peppers.  This is the kind of dish where it’s impossible to go wrong, every vegetable works amazingly well. 

Serves 4

1 large eggplant, diced into ½ inch cubes
8 plum tomatoes, quartered
3 large roasted pepper (jarred is fine), diced
4 large garlic cloves, skins on
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons pepper, plus more to taste
½ - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups rigatoni or other pasta of your choice (I used fuselli bucatini)
1/3 pound fontina
¼ cup thinly sliced basil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, tomatoes and garlic, toss the vegetables with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, and the red pepper flakes.  Place vegetables on a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Roast the vegetables for about 25 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the eggplant is lightly browned. 

While the vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of water to boil.  When the water comes to boil, salt it and pour in the pasta.  Cook until pasta is al dente and then drain. Set aside.

When the vegetables are done, place them in the pot that you cooked the pasta in (make sure you squeeze the garlic out of the peel, it will be soft!), turn the heat to low and add the pasta and the roasted peppers to the pot.  Stir so the tomatoes get broken up and almost create a sauce.  Add the fontina and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.  Serve with sprinkled basil.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

sue weinstein's german apple cake.

The boy and I took a road trip this past Sunday to central Jersey for our annual apple-picking extravaganza.  I have a soft spot for apple picking since it brings to mind romantic strolls through lush orchards and sharing cups of hot apple cider.  Our adventure this past weekend wasn’t quite so cool and fall like but the weather was glorious and I still got to indulge in (cold) apple cider, cider cooked hotdogs, several cinnamon sugar doughnuts, and my fair share of apples.  My head was brimming with apple recipe ideas but before I moved on to the savory and more innovative ideas I felt the need to make something rustic, cozy, and, sweet which led me to this German apple cake.  This simple but elegant cake comes together super quickly.  The base of the cake is a subtly sweet and spiced crust (almost like a crisp cookie!), which perfectly encases the softened apples.   I love this as an afternoon snack with a glass of milk or a cup of tea but it also makes for a wonderful end to casual Sunday dinner, which is how the boy and I enjoyed it. 

Sue Weinstein’s German Apple Cake

This recipe came from my mom’s binder of recipes.  (We share an affinity for storing all recipes we come across online and in magazines that are really great in binders as an additional kind of cookbook – making it into the binder is a big deal!).   I added some ginger and a little more cinnamon to the recipe since I thought it could use a little extra spice and because I love apples with ginger.  The original recipie suggests you use the food processor to make the cake but this can easily be made the old fashioned way (by using a bowl and a wooden spoon!)

Cake Batter

¾ cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
4 large apples (I used a combination of several types)

Cinnamon/Ginger Topping

3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Butter well a 9-inch springform pan; set aside.  In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, place all the cake batter ingredients except the apples.  Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Spread evenly on the bottom of the prepared springform pan. 

Peel and seed the apples.  Slice apples into 1/6 inch slices (uniformly thin).  Arrange the slices in layers on top of the crumb mixture.  Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine the remaining topping ingredients in the good processor fitted with the same metal blade. Process until smooth.  Remove cake from the oven after 45 minutes and spoon the topping mixture over the apples.  Return to oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is firm and lightly browned. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

subway tile.

Maybe it's because I spend an inordinate amount of time underground waiting for trains to take me places, but I have a long held love affair with subway tile.  There is something about the simplicity of alternating tiles in order to create one of the most ubiquitous patterns out there.  It's fortunate that both the boy and I love it because I imagine it will make an appearance in our future kitchen.  Hopefully we will have a backsplash similar to the one below because I am lusting over the simplicity of something so white and clean.   (I also find myself lusting over the double wide sink, extra large stove, open shelves with all white dishes!, and butcher block island but that's not surprising.)  

Image via Pinterest 

Monday, September 17, 2012

grape foccacia with rosemary.

I am a girl who has no formal culinary training; I learned to cook while watching my mom, (who also has no culinary training but is the single best cook I know) by relying on my palate, and by wanting to always challenge myself and learn new things.  I have had many kitchen mishaps (causing the smoke alarm to go off is an almost daily occurrence) but when I fail I try it again until I get it right which leads me to discussing this bread.  I have made many breads in my day but this is in a league of its own.  It is a sticky and difficult dough to work with (if your hands aren’t well oiled or floured lets just say you end up looking like a dough monster), it involves multiple rises and lots of olive oil and pitting a lot on concord grapes (which are terribly annoying to pit) but the end result is nothing short of amazing.  The sweet tangy grapes pair perfectly with the flecks of sea salt and coarse sugar and the earthiness of the rosemary balances out the whole thing.  I devoured half the bread in about 10 minutes but managed to save some for the next morning where I promptly consumed it as side to scrambled eggs with goat cheese.

Grape Foccacia with Rosemary
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

You can use regular grapes for this but the concord ones have the most amazing taste and despite all the work involved really elevate this dish.  I plan on using my remaining grapes to make a goat cheese and grape flat bread. The concord grapes can be found at the farmers market!  This is also suppose to make 2 foccacia’s but I always have the worst time trying to divide it so I make one large one which works just as well!

¾ cup warm water (105 – 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons milk, slightly warmed
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups Concord, red or black grapes, seeded
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary needles
2 tablespoons raw or coarse sugar
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

In a bowl of an electric mixed fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the water, milk, sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.  Add the flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the yeast mixture and mix well on low.  Attach the dough hook, raise the speed to medium-low and knead the dough for 8 minutes longer. 

Brush a large bowl with a generous amount of olive oil.  Scrape the dough into the bowl and brush the top with additional oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a cool place until it doubles in size, 1 ½ to 2 hours. 

Brush a large baking sheet with olive oil.  Press the dough down with a floured hand (very floured!)  and pour the dough out of the bowl and onto the baking sheet (I find using an oiled spatula helps get it out of the bowl).  Brush the top of the dough with a little more oil.  Set aside for 20 minutes, lightly covered with oiled plastic wrap.  After 20 minutes, dip your fingers in olive oil and press and stretch the dough into an oblong shape (about 16 inches long).  It will be dimpled from your fingers.  Cover again with the plastic and let it rise for another 1 ¼ hours in a cool place.

Preheat the over to 450 degrees.  Brush the tops of the dough with a little more olive oil and top with the grapes, rosemary, coarse sugar, and coarse sea salt evenly over the dough.  Bake for 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown and puffed around the edges.  Let cool before serving. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

cod en persillade (cod with breadcrumbs).

I had one of those weeks this week where I wondered at times if I would ever make it to Friday.  By the time I came home each evening I was so stressed and tired that all I wanted to do was lie down and try and turn my brain off.  Needless to say, I spent far less time in the kitchen then I would have liked (especially considering I’ve seen the arrival of apples – oh the meals I have planned for apples!).  I managed to make a few things one of them being this unbelievable cod fish with breadcrumbs.  This recipe comes from the Ad Hoc cookbook by Mr. Thomas Keller.  Considering Thomas Keller is known for his elaborate meals, this book is a surprising departure from that.  The recipes in this book focus on technique and elevating simple dishes to a new level and I love looking to it because I know that whatever I make it will be simple yet perfect.  This fish dish is a cinch to make and the crunchy bread crumbs give a wonderful texture to the flaky fish.  The swipe of mustard gives the perfect bite to the dish.  I served mine with some green beans and tomatoes for an easy and elegant week night meal that looked a lot more labor intensive then it was!

Cod en Persillade
Recipe from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

Serves 3

About 1 pound skinless cod (top loin preferable)
1/3 cup homemade breadcrumbs (you can see my recipe here)
1 teaspoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
Canola Oil
Fleur de Sel

Remove the cod from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Check the cod to make sure all of the bones were removed  Cut crosswise into 3 or 4 pieces.  Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl.  Put the mustard in a small bowl and fill a second small bowl with water.

Season the cod fillets on both sides with salt.  Dip a brush into the water and then into the mustard (this will help to thin the mustard out).  Brush the top of each fillet with a light coating of water and then dip the mustard side of the fish into the breadcrumbs to make an even coating.  Repeat with the remaining pieces of fish.

Pour some canola oil into an oven proof frying pan that will hold the pieces of cod without them touching and heat over medium high heat until the oil just begins to smoke.  Lower the heat to medium and place the fish crumb side down into the pan and cook until the crust is golden brown about 1 minute.  Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the fish just begins to flake when prodded with a fork, about 8 – 9 minutes.  Sprinkle the fish with fleur de sel and parsley.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

butcher block and porcelain sinks.

Some days when I have terrible, horrible, no good, very busy non-stop emails/phone calls kind of days (which was today) I imagine quitting my job and spending my day standing over butcher block counter tops and double wide porcelain sinks.  Somehow these kitchen dreams keep me sane.  The kitchen below is my idea of perfection as it encompasses everything I love -open shelves, lots of wood, striped towels, and mismatched art on the wall.  A girl can dream (and then she can reward herself for surviving a terrible day with some chocolate).  

Image via Pinterest

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

corn chowder.

The last few nights I’ve slept like a baby.  Curled up under my blankets with the windows open and a cool breeze passing through the bedroom has me sleeping soundly.  The arrival of September always signifies the beginning of my favorite time of year.  I love the reemergence of sweaters and jeans and the swapping of flip-flops and sandals for loafers and boots but what I love most is returning to the kitchen to cook comfort foods.  There is something nice about spending my weekends simmering stews or baking fresh bread that makes me utterly happy but I get most excited about cooking soup.  I have a long held love affair with soup – it warms your insides up, every ingredient works well in soup, and it’s filling and easy.  This corn chowder is about as simple as it gets and it comes together in under 40 minutes!  All of the ingredients can be picked up from the farmers market (except for a few pantry staples) and it doesn’t even require chicken broth!  I enjoyed a big bowl of it accompanied with a grilled cheese sandwich – comfort food doesn’t get much better then that. 

Corn Chowder
Recipe, adapted from Mark Bittman

This can be altered any number of ways.  If you prefer peppers to tomatoes you can swap them.  Like a simpler version, omit my spice choices.  I urge you to play around, but my version below is an excellent starting point. 

4 ears of corn
1 tablespoon butter or oil or bacon grease
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon smoked spicy paprika (or regular paprika)
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1 cup milk (I used half skim half cream)
Chives to garnish

Shuck corn, and use a pairing knife to strip kernels into a bowl.  Put cobs in a pot with 5- 6 cups of water; bring to a boil, cover, and simmer while you continue. 

Put butter, oil, or grease in a saucepan, and turn heat to medium-high.  When butter melts or oil is hot, add onion and potatoes, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 5 minutes; add tomatoes and cook, stirring, for another minute or two. 

After corncobs have cooked at least 10 minutes, strain liquid into onion-potato mixture and stir in paprika.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.  When potatoes are tender, add corn kernels and milk, and heat through.  Taste, and adjust seasonings.  Garnish with chives and serve. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Tyler and I are adopting the “let’s stuff our freezer to the brim with summer produce so in the dead of winter we have food to eat”.  It’s gotten a little out of hand, we have about 20 ears of shucked corn, several quarts of tomatoes, and bags of green beans and I imagine I will add even more in the next couple of weeks.  I have also begun to make a plethora of pesto, which I have frozen in plastic containers to use for pasta dishes when I desire a bit of freshness.  Pesto is one of those foods that I believe everyone should know how to make (right up there with homemade tomato sauce and roast chicken).  It’s not difficult and it doesn’t really require any fancy equipment but it’s delicious because of its simplicity.  I love it mixed with pasta and roasted vegetables or on a sandwich of mozzarella and roasted peppers (as shown in this photo).  It freezes well (I know many people who pour the pesto into ice cube trays for individual servings!) and it works as a condiment for a wide variety of foods, making it infinitely adaptable (which is always a plus in my book).

Recipe Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

The original recipe called for butter, which seemed unnecessary to me so I eliminated it.  I also decreased the olive oil because of personal preference, but you can adjust according to what you like!  This can also be doubled or tripled depending on the amount of basil you have.

2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 -  ½ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, chopped before putting in food processor
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/3 cup Parmesan or Pecorino Romano

Briefly soak and wash the basil in cold water, and gently pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels.  Put the basil, pine nuts, garlic, ample pinch of salt, a few twists of pepper, red pepper flakes (if you are using), and cheese in a food processor and process to a uniform consistency.  Turn the processor on again and slowly drizzle in the olive oil via the feed tube, until desired consistency (I prefer a chunkier pesto).  If you don’t have a feed tube, pour some olive oil into your processor and process, adding more as you fell necessary.  Taste and add more salt, pepper, or cheese as you desire. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

dressed-up jars.

My wonderful friend Lesley and her equally wonderful Mom went to England and brought my back a present!  It is the most adorable labeling kit for jams and other jarred items.  About five minutes after getting it home, I proceeded to rip open the package and relabel all of my assorted jars (I had previously used masking tape for labels - how sad) and gave all the jars little hats!  Lets just say the fridge looks so much prettier (I never thought the inside of my fridge could look pretty but now it does!)

Even without a super wonderful label kit, you can easily dress up your own jars with some pretty paper and adhesive labels!

Friday, September 7, 2012

corn pesto pasta with bacon and basil.

It shocks me that it took me until now, the tail end of summer, to discuss this recipe.  I don’t know where my head is at as of late, apparently it has forgotten all of my summer favorites, but the farmers market is still filled with corn and tomatoes and I’m happy I am finally bringing it to your attention rather late then never.  This is one of those rather perfect dishes.  It has all of the flavors I love (salty bacon and sweet corn!) and it’s the epitome of farmers market eating.  It’s rich and creamy with out being heavy and the basil adds a wonderful amount of freshness to the dish.  It’s a crowd pleaser (who doesn’t like corn and bacon) and it tastes just as good the next day.  It also doesn’t require anything more then a tomato salad to serve with it.  As I mentioned, its perfect and I would highly suggest immediately running to buy the six ears of corn this requires and making it before corn season is over. 

Corn Pesto Pasta with Bacon and Basil
Recipie from Bon Appetit

I have halved this with wonderful results (just in case you aren’t feeding a crowd!)

4 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into ½ inch pieces
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 6 large ears)
1 large garlic cloves, minced
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan plus additional for serving
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ - 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (I always use less)
8 -12 ounces of fettuccine or really any pasta (its great with fettuccine but I made it with homemade cavetelli and it was lovely as well – I think you can use more pasta as it makes a lot of sauce)
¾ cups coarsely torn fresh basil leaves

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from the skillet.  Add corn, garlic, 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, ¾ teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using) in skillet.  Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes.  Transfer 1 ½ cups corn kernels to a small brown and reserve.  Scrape remaining corn mixture into processor.  Add ½ cup parmesan and pine nuts.  With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth.  Set pesto aside. 

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but fir, to bite, stirring occasionally.  Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water.  Return pasta to pot.  Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and ½ cup basil leaves.  Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, add reserved pasta liquid by ¼ cupfuls to thin to desired consistency (I only require barely ¼ cup as I like it chunky but you can add more!).  Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper. 

Transfer pasta to a large shallow bowl.  Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup basil leaves and reserved bacon.  Serve pasta with additional cheese if desired. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

colorful kitchen cabinets.

While I like to think of myself as someone who loves clean minimal design and lots of white on white, I really have an undying love for color.  Lots and lots of color combined with mismatched dishes and rustic pots and pans.  These multi-color cabinets and assorted cast iron dishes are the epitome of what I love.    

Image via Pinterest 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

leek and corn pizza.

I have been neglecting the leeks at the farmers market.  I didn’t even realize that I had until last week when I spied them nestled between the chard and kale and I couldn’t remember the last time I cooked with them.  It was such a shame that I had forgotten about them considering how much I love them paired with corn (as seen here), that I figured I needed to resurrect the situation.  If I hadn’t had a long weekend ahead of me I would have probably sautéed them and thrown it on some pasta (which would have been lovely), but since I had what felt like all the time in the world, a pizza seemed appropriate.  I sautéed the leeks until they got nice and tender and a touch brown and then added in the corn and some red pepper flakes for some heat to balance out the sweetness of the vegetables.  I decided on a white pizza in order to let the flavors of the leek and corn shine. The creamy ricotta and salty mozzarella were the perfect companion – each bite was both salty and sweet.  We washed it down with watermelon beer and then finished the night with slices of s’mores pie.  End of summer dinning at its best. 

Leek and Corn Pizza

This will make more leek and corn mixture then you will need for the pizza.  I used the remainder the next day atop some gnocchi for a wonderful pasta lunch.  It would also be lovely in a grilled cheese or atop crostini. 

3 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into rounds and then the rounds halved
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste (lots of pepper!)
½ pound mozzarella shredded
1 cup ricotta
½ recipe of my favorite pizza dough (or make the full recipe and freeze halve the dough! Or you can double the corn and leek and make 4 pizzas.)

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees (or the highest it can go) and if you have a pizza stone place it inside the oven (if not just preheat).  Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, once hot add the butter and oil and when the butter and oil is melted and beginning to sizzle, add the leeks, and turn the heat down to medium-low.  Cook the leeks for about 10 minutes, stirring on occasion, until the leeks are soft and just beginning to brown.  Once the leeks are soft, add the corn to the pan as well as the red pepper flakes, cream, and salt and pepper.  Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Continue to cook for another 2 minutes and then set aside.

On a floured surface, stretch the dough out to about 10 – 12 inches (I was able to stretch to about 12 inches). Don’t worry if its not perfectly round!  Place the dough on your pizza stone or on a baking sheet if you don’t have a stone.  Top the pizza with half the mozzarella, then use half the ricotta to place dollops on the pizza.  On top of the cheese, scatter the leek and corn mixture.  Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is browned.  Repeat with the other piece of dough. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

chalkboard walls.

As a girl who loves writing notes and lists to herself (I find post-it notes in almost every pocket I have), the idea of chalkboard paint in the kitchen makes me very happy. 

Images via Pinterest 

Monday, September 3, 2012

tacos al carbon.

Considering I started discussing summer on this blog with taco recipes it seems only fitting that the unofficial end of summer closes with a taco recipe as well (I do love when things go full circle).  Tacos al carbon is essentially a fancy name for grilled meat – in this case it’s skirt steak marinated in citrus and spices and some jalapeno for heat.  The marinade penetrates the meat which acts as both a tenderizer and a flavor enhancer.  The steak gets cooked on an extremely hot cast iron skillet in under 10 minutes and what emerges from the pan is one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.  The steak is smoky and tender and you can taste hints of citrus and spice in every bite.  I love it loaded up on warm corn tortillas with a little bit avocado (or this salsa!) and nothing else (simplicity at its best).  The best part is that since it doesn’t need to be made on a grill, you can have tacos and the tastes of summer year round which will make the cold days of winter that much better.

Tacos al Carbon
Recipie adapted from Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain

Serves 6 (if not 8 depending of what you’re serving it with, this can also be halved!)

½ cup lime juice
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 orange
¼ cup cilantro
1 jalapeno, stems and seeds removed and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 pounds skirt steak       
Green onions (optional)
Tortillas, avocado for serving

To make the marinade, in a blender mix the lime juice, garlic, orange juice, cilantro, jalapeno, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Pour the marinade over the skirt steak and let it marinate for 2 to 8 hours in the refrigerator.  Before cooking rinse of the marinade and let the steak come to room temperature. 

Heat on high for 5 minutes a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron.  Also, turn the broiler on in the oven.  When the skillet is hot (to test drop some water onto the skillet, it should immediately evaporate), add the steak.  Cook on one side for 2 minutes and then turn and cook on the other side for 2 minutes. 

After its cooked on both sides, place the green onions, if using, in the skillet with the steak, and place the skillet under the broiler for 2 minutes.  Remove the steak from the skillet and let it rest for 10 minutes.  After the meat has rested, slice against the grain and serve in warmed tortillas.