Thursday, January 31, 2013

mellow yellow.

Currently looking at mellow yellow kitchens in an effort to calm my nerves from another long and exhausting day at work.  On days like this I think a lot about quitting in order to spend my days in front of the stove (and on days like this that image looks super appealing).  I imagine if I cooked in a blue and yellow and white and wood kitchen like the below that I would always remain cool as a cucumber (how could you not when you work in a space so clean and beautiful) rather then the high stress super frazzled version of myself (which is the version I usually am).  Some day I will be less stressed and will be able to cook more.   

On a side note, I am currently working on a little project that I will discuss in the next couple of days!

























Image via Pinterest. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

potato and cheese pierogis.


I have a very specific set of criteria in order for something to qualify as winter comfort food in my book.  It must include a starch of some kind (potatoes, bread, or pasta are all wonderfully acceptable), it must include cheese (because there is nothing I find more solace in during the cold winter months then cheese and chocolate actually, I find solace in them every month), and it must be able to be eaten with just a fork (or your hands).   Only a handful of meals fulfill all my requirements, most notably mac-n-cheese and grilled cheese but, when I am craving something a little less all-American, I turn to the pierogi. The pierogi is a glorious things - a bread like dumpling shell that encases a cheesy potato filling.  It's the epitome of all that is warm and cozy and right in this world.  There are many fancy versions out there, ones that are filled with creme fraiche and caramelized onions but I prefer (for once in my life) the classic version (or classic to me traditionally they have a cream cheese filling mixed with the potatoes but the sharp cheddar is really wonderful.)  These are perfect on a cold winter evening when all you want to do is curl up on the couch and catch up on some bad TV (and comfort food should always be eaten while watching bad TV.)  

Potato and Cheese Pierogi
Recipe via King Arthur Flour

This dough is incredibly easy to work with which makes this a wonderful project for a Sunday afternoon.  

Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream (I found I needed a little more to bring the dough together)
¼ cup butter at room temperature

Filling

1 cup warm mashed potatoes
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste

To Finish

1 - 2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, diced or thinly sliced (I prefer diced)
Sour cream and/or applesauce (optional)

To make the dough: Mix together the flour and salt.  Add the egg to the flour and combine.  The dough will be quite lumpy at this stage.  Work in the sour cream and soft butter until the dough comes together in a slightly rough, slightly sticky ball.  (If it doesn’t come together add a little more sour cream.) 

Using just your fingertips, knead and fold the dough until the dough becomes less sticky but still quite moist.  Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 – 60 minutes, or up to 48 hours. 

To make the filling: Combine the warm mashed potato and cheese.  Stir and mash until the cheese is melted and the filling is cool to the touch.  Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. 

To fill the pierogi: Roll the dough 1/8 inch thick (if you don’t have enough counter space you can do ½ the dough at a time).  Use a 2 inch round cookie cutter to cut circles of dough.  Place 2 teaspoons of filling on each round of dough. Gently fold the dough over, forming a pocket around the filling.  Pinch the edges of the pierogi to seal.  Continue with the rest of the rounds of dough.  You can save the scraps, they can be snipped into small pieces and added to soups. 

At this point the pierogi can be frozen up to 4 weeks, or refrigerated overnight, or cooked in a large stockpot of boiling salted water.  Only cook about 10 at a time so that they have room to float without sticking.  When the pierogi float (about 7 minutes), they’re done.
Sautee the onion in the oil in a large skillet until the onion begins to brown.  Add the drained pierogi and cook until browned and crisped.  Serve hot with additional sour cream and applesauce if you choose. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

practical displays.

Since we've moved into our new place we've come to realize how spoiled we were in our old apartment where we had closets and lots of cabinets and basically a lot more space.  The hurricane helped us eliminate many of our possessions (RIP waffle maker and grilled cheese maker and mini chopper) but I still find that we are owners of a decent amount of stuff.  The lack of closets have forced us to get creative (and basically only buy furniture with lots of storage which is how we came to buy an end of bed storage bench which may be the greatest piece of furniture ever) but it's also forced me to think about how you can display everyday objects in a creative, artistic way.  You don't have to hide all your stuff as long show them in a neat (and orderly!) way similarly to how the pans are displayed below.   It's beautiful and practical and it makes cooking that much easier since everything is in arm's reach.  I now need to find a wall long enough so I can do this in my apartment.    

Oh and I wouldn't mind those slate counters and beautiful wood drawers.  


























Image via Pinterest. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

upside-down blood orange cake.

I've spent much of the last week deep in thought.  Thoughts about life and my career and relationships and traveling and where I see myself in 5 years and 10 years and 20 years.  It's funny how when I think back to 21 I thought when I reached 27 on the cusp of 28 that I would have it all figured out.  That I would know where I was going and exactly when I was going to reach the next step and here I am now, slowly realizing that I am completely unsure of anything and I am slowly accepting that this is probably how the rest of my life will go - always unsure of the next step but hoping I figure it out.  Maybe we spend our whole lives trying to get to a point where we have it figured it out and most likely we spend our whole life failing to get there but it we're lucky the trip will be worth it.

I've come to realize the only things I am sure of is that cooking (and my super awesome dishwasher and #1 taste tester) make me happy.  I figure if I keep trying new recipes and exploring new restaurants and constantly pushing myself, that that is the best I can do.  And with that mindset, that is how I found myself on a bitterly cold Friday evening after terribly long and exhausting day at work, coming home to make an upside-down blood orange cake.  It had been on my mind for over a week - ever since it caught my eye when I was sneakily pursuing the dinning section of the NYTimes at work.  This is the cake dreams are made of (or maybe just my dreams). It's a cake with a personality - some bites sweet, some just a touch tart. It's a cake that's beautiful with it's shades of pink and orange and yellow (blood oranges are gorgeous) .  It's a cake that makes you think which is always a good thing in my book.  


Upside-Down Blood Orange Cake
Recipe via the NYTimes

270 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks + 3 tablespoons) at room temperature
130 grams light brown sugar (about 2/3 cup)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 medium sized blood oranges
122 grams fine cornmeal (about 1 cup)
65 grams all-purpose flour (about ½ cup)
8 grams baking powder (about 1 ½ teaspoons)
2 grams fine sea salt (about ½ teaspoon)
200 grams granulated sugar (about 1 cup)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch round cake pan. 

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons (45 grams) butter.  Add the brown sugar and lemon juice; stir until sugar melts, about 3 minutes.  Scrape mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. 

Grate ½ teaspoon zest from one of the oranges, the slice off the tops and bottoms of both oranges.  Place oranges on a clean, flat service, and slice away the rind and pith, top to bottom, following the curve of the fruit.  Slice each orange crosswise into ¼ inch thick wheels; discard any seeds.  Arrange orange wheels on top of brown sugar mixture in a single, tight layer. 

In a large bowl, whisk together orange zest, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a separate bowl, cream together the remaining 2 sticks (225 grams) butter with granulated sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in sour cream and vanilla.  Fold in the dry mixture by hand. 

Scrape batter into pan over oranges.  Transfer to oven and bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 40 – 50 minutes.  Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then run a knife along pan’s edges to loose it; invert onto a platter and cool completely before serving. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

colorful rugs.

Our bedroom is at the tail end of being kind of/almost put together.  We have dressers! And lamps! And bedside tables on order!  The only thing missing is a couple of more throw pillows (because 5 is clearly not enough) and a rug.  I've looked at my fair share of rugs some very ugly and some very beautiful (and very expensive - some days I wish I didn't always gravitate towards the insanely beautiful and very expensive things..)  The problem is I have a vision and a look and this picture in my head that I can see so vividly that it's hard for me to settle for anything less then what this imaginary image looks like.  

We also need a living room rug and for a while I had no idea what I wanted but now that I spotted this picture I feel myself gravitating towards something as colorful as this. It brightens the entire room in the best possible way.  Oh and that chandelier, feminine and modern.  








































Image via here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

shells with yogurt, peas, and chile.


Has the bitter cold weather made you feel like hiding under piles of blankets and refusing to emerge until the temperature once again surpasses freezing?  Maybe I’m the only one.  I don’t particularly hate the cold but something about temperatures in the single digits and requiring a hat, gloves, scarf, and an extra thick sweater in order to step outside even for a short walk is just unbearable to me.  If I had my way you would find me bundled up under my brand new fuchsia throw with a TV remote in one hand, a cup of super thick hot chocolate (with homemade marshmallows) in my other hand, and several dogs napping at my feet.  (This whole job thing is really impairing my ideal life.)  My comfort food cravings have gotten so bad that I’ve found myself dreaming about pasta which is how I ended up finally making the yogurt pasta dish from the Jerusalem cookbook which I have been obsessing over from the moment I got the book.  This is the kind of thing I love to eat in the winter since it’s not terribly heavy but it’s still comforting.  The pine nuts give a spicy crunch bite, which is something I love in pasta dishes, and the chunks of feta give a lovely salty bite and the yogurt sauce is genius!  It also reminds you a little bit of spring and that winter will end at some point, which is something everyone needs to be reminded of on weeks like this. 


Shells with Yogurt, Peas, and Chile
Recipe adapted from Jerusalem

Serves 6 (I halved the recipe and it served the 2 of us with leftovers for lunch) 

I streamlined things here and altered things to reflect my own flavor preference.  I found that there was a lot of basil in the dish that was almost overwhelming so I added a third of the basil to the yogurt sauce in order to make a kind of yogurt pesto.  I also added in some more Aleppo pepper because I haven’t found anything Aleppo pepper isn’t good on and the extra spice is a welcome addition to the dish. 

2 1/2 cups (500 grams) Greek yogurt
2/3 cup (150 ml) olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound (500 grams) fresh or thawed peas
1 pound (500 grams) shell pasta
1/2 cup (60 grams) pine nuts
3 teaspoons Aleppo chilie flakes
1 2/3 cup (40 grams) basil leaves
8 ounces (240 grams) feta cheese, broken into chunks
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the yogurt, 6 tablespoons/90 ml of olive oil, the garlic, 2/3 cup (100 grams) of the peas, 2/3 cup basil, and 1 teaspoon of Aleppo chilie in a food processor.  Blitz to a uniform pale green sauce and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente.  As the pasta cooks, heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat.  Add the pine nuts and the chile flakes and fry for 4 minutes, until the nuts are golden and the oil is deep red.  Also, heat the remaining peas in some boiling water, then drain.  

Drain the cooked pasta in a colander, shake well to get rid of the water, and add the pasta gradually to the yogurt sauce; adding it all at once may cause the yogurt to split.  Add the warm peas, the remaining basil, feta and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss gently, spoon the pine nuts and their oil over the pasta.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

green.

Could there be anything more beautiful then a kitchen that coordinates with the view right outside your window?  

I don't think so, which is why I am swooning hard core for this green kitchen.  So California.  So beautiful.  Maybe in my next life.   

I am in love.  


















Image via here

Monday, January 21, 2013

blood orange and pistachio salad.


I've been on a citrus kick as of of late.  I've found myself devouring boxes of clementines and including a squeeze of lemon or lime in every drink I have. Citrus in the cold winter months is just necessary - it reminds you of warm places which is why in the depths of winter (and weeks where the high is about 20 degrees), I find it necessary to include some in every meal I have.  My current favorite iteration is a blood orange salad with pistachios.  It’s tart and sweet and crunchy.  The dressing is tangy and light (I prefer a much higher ratio of vinegar to oil in my dressings.  It gives the dressing a wonderful bite).  The whole thing is utterly refreshing but so wintery at the same time.  My favorite thing to serve it with is half a grilled cheese sandwich because everyone needs a little something creamy and cheesy to eat with a tart and virtuous salad (and grilled cheese is just the perfect winter food).  


Blood Orange and Pistachio Salad
Serves 2

This would also be wonderful with the addition of some diced avocado.  

3 cups mixed greens
1 blood orange, pith removed and diced
1/4 cup pistachios, shells removed
1 tablespoon Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (or a handful of shaved cheese) 
Salt and pepper to taste

For the dressing

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Mike's Hot Honey (or 1 teaspoon regular honey with a pinch of red pepper flakes)
Salt and pepper to taste 

In a large bowl combine the lettuce, blood orange, pistachios, and cheese.  Add salt and pepper to the greens (flavor liberally!).  In a small bowl combine the dressing ingredients and whisk to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Pour the dressing over the greens and toss with your hands making sure all the lettuce gets coated.  Serve with grilled cheese.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

open layout.

I'm leaving for a long weekend in Boston very shortly.  The plan while up there is to eat as many homemade Oreo's from Flour Bakery as humanly possible, take several walks around the South End while I hunt for more pieces for our apartment (and possibly some clothing necessities for me), catching up with friends, and finally experiencing some level of cold because it's apparently very cold in Boston.  I've got my warmest scarf, gloves, and hat packed.  Here's hoping I remember how to survive the winter.  

Since we still lack a couch and are probably not getting one for another month (I realize now why people don't custom order things very often...) and we finally had to get rid of our Christmas tree, I finally have some  more room in the apartment to better figure out what makes sense for us.  I am totally loving the open layout and having two defined spaces but I also love the idea of the kitchen blending into a well lived in living-room like the below (much more conducive to entertaining.)  So many thoughts and ideas.  So many options.  Let's see what I find in Boston.  


























Image via Pinterest

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

easy jam tart.


All my virtuous eating lasted about 5 days before I said to myself you can have your cake and eat it to, so I did just that.  If my imaginary roller derby name is any indication (Count Chockilla for your information), it’s clear that I have a strong affinity for the sweet stuff (particularly chocolate but anything would do).  As much as I love over the top cakes, I also love simple rustic tats. There is something about the ease with which they can be made (Tuesday tart day?) and because they are so simple, I find that a slice can make the perfect breakfast, accompaniment to tea, or evening dessert.  My absolute favorite tart recipe combines a generous layer of jam (preferably cherry) between a subtly sweet cornmeal crust.  It’s as easy as can be and it’s also visually stunning with it’s overlapping layers of crust and its coarse sugar coated top, making it the perfect thing to bring to your next dinner party. (A slice always makes a wonderful reward for having gone to the gym which is how I bribe myself to go.)

Easy Jam Tart
Recipe via Smitten Kitchen

1 ½ cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
½ cup (70 grams) stone-ground cornmeal or polenta
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons (4 ½ ounces or 130 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg, whole
1 large egg, separated
1/8 – ¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 ½ - 1 ¾ cups jam (I love cherry jam with the almond extract)
2 tablespoons (30 grams) coarse-crystal or granulated sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.  In a stand mixed with the paddle attachment or in a food processor, mix the butter and ½ cup (100 grams) sugar together until smooth.  Add the egg, egg yolk (keep the egg white from the second egg on hand for later) and almond extract and beat until combined.  Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together. 

Transfer about one-third of the dough to a lightly floured counter and shape it into a log about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until needed.  (Or you can put the freezer to get it colder quicker.)

Transfer the remaining dough to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the bottom.  Press the dough up the sides to the rim of the pan and set the tart on a baking sheet. Refrigerate the dough-lined pan until firm, at least one hour.  (Again, you can put it in the freezer and have it firm up in about 30 minutes.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spread the jam evenly over the dough in the pan.  Cut the chilled dough into very thin disks with a sharp paring knife.  Arrange them slightly overlapped in concentric circles over the jam to form a top crust.  Whish the remaining egg white with 1 teaspoon of water until frothy; brush evenly over the tart lid and then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons (30 grams) coarse sugar.  Bake until the top crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Let cool completely. 

This tart stores beautifully for 3 days if well wrapped at room temperature.  It’s also really sturdy making it the perfect dish to bring to a soiree. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

three-bean chili and cheddar jalapeno corn muffins.

I think the below email that I received today from the boy says all there is to say about this chili (and it also sums up my sentiments exactly). 

Your chili is the bomb.com.  Even better the second day after it marinates over night.  

This is comfort food at its best - super easy, super delicious  and (surprisingly) super healthy.  I promise you wont miss the meat in this and because its vegetarian you can eat it on a daily basis and not feel guilty at all.  I am guessing this will be on heavy rotation for the rest of the winter.  Hibernation food at its best.  

The corn muffins are completely unnecessary, but to me its sacrilegious to eat chili without a side of cornbread. The cheddar and jalapeno add-in's elevate the muffins from plain to special which is always a plus in my book.  

Three-Bean Chili

1 15-oz can black beans
1 15-oz can kidney beans
1 15-oz can pinto beans
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
16 - 18 ounces fire roasted crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or vegetable oil
1 chipotle chili in adobe, diced plus a teaspoon (or more) adobe juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon unsweetned coco powder
1/4 cup cilantro, diced (plus more for garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes - Diced jalapenos, sour cream, cheddar cheese, green onions, cilantro

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot on medium heat, when hot add diced onion and garlic, cook, stirring occasionally until the onion and garlic is lightly browned and softened.  Add the chipotle and juice to the pot and cook for another minute.  Add the beans, tomatoes, chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cocoa powder.  Turn the heat down to medium low and let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.  Garnish and eat! 

Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Muffins
Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

1 1/4 cups buttermilk, yogurt, or milk (but not skim milk here)
2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 1/2 cups medium-grind cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup jalapenos, diced
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon chili powder

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.  Heat your oil or butter in the microwave until good and hot.  Set aside.  Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl along with the jalapenos, cheese, and chili powder.  Add the egg, oil/butter, and yogurt/milk to the dry ingredients.  Stir until well combined.  Portion the batter out into the muffin tin.  Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned and the muffins pull away from the side of the pan.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

boyfriend jeans.

On a completely unrelated food topic, I am currently obsessing over boyfriend jeans (probably because buying a pair is completely impractical for my life). There is something about their loose fit that screams effortless chicness to me especially when paired with boyfriend-esq loafers or single-sole pointy toed pumps (like glitter Manolos! So glad I bought those now.).  They are just relaxed and casual and are epitome of what I wish my life was like.  Maybe if I buy a pair their persona will have an affect on my life.  Probably not but maybe it will make me feel a little cooler.  





Images via Pinterest.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

butternut squash and cider soup.


I leave for Miami in a month, which means my diet should have started about 3 weeks ago but 3 weeks ago was Christmas and New Years and anniversary celebrations and a constant stream of cookies and cake and pork buns.  It seemed to me that dieting during the holiday season was the worlds worst idea, I would fail miserably and would scold myself every time I did fail miserably (I have no self control around the parade of sweets that seems to show up with abandon in December.)  So here I am, now a month before I go away and its time to get a little more serious about things (just a little, because I’m not much of a dieter – I adhere by the rules of moderation eating which has served me well thus far).  My, when I decide to eat healthier should probably eat less cookies food of choice is soup.  It’s filling and warm and you can literally put anything and everything into a pot and make it taste good.  Currently my favorite soup involves a rich base of pureed butternut squash accompanied by a plethora of spices and a generous amount of apple cider. It tastes creamy and indulgent which is exactly how health food should taste.   

Butternut Squash and Cider Soup
Adapted from “The Essential New York Times Cook Book” by Amanda Hesser
Serves 4
1 shallot thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup vegetable broth or water
3 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash
¾ cup apple cider
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne
¼ - ½  teaspoon cayenne
¼ cup fat-free or low fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Cracked black pepper
For Garnish (optional) – Dusting of cumin, a dollop of yogurt, squeeze of lime, minced cilantro.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, add shallot, garlic and 1/4 cup vegetable broth/water. Cook until the shallot and garlic are softened, being careful not to burn them, 3-5 minutes. Add the squash and the remaining vegetable broth/water and bring to a boil. Add cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the squash is soft, about 20 minutes.
With a potato masher, press the squash down until semi-pureed, then add the cider and with an immersion blender puree the soup until smooth (or use a Cusinart). Add the yogurt and the salt, and continue to puree. If soup looks too thick, you can think it down with more broth/water, if you have any on hand, or with more cider. Continue to taste. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and stir.
Garnish with cumin, yogurt, a squeeze of lime, chopped cilantro, and cracked black pepper (if you are using them). 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

good reads.

I just started reading Dearie the biography about the life of Julia Child written by Bob Spitz which isn't surprising because I adore Julia Child and also because at least 1 in 5 books I read have something to do with food.  I'm not sure why I enjoy them so much because usually when I finish reading them I end up feeling a little depressed about my own life (possibly because I work in a cubicle and not on some awesome farm in upstate New York where I tend my own goats and make my own hard cider and have a significant other who can build me a fence in a day and also throw me over his shoulder in order to carry me up the stairs.  I have silly dreams.).  Nonetheless, I end up devouring every food related book I can find.  I sometimes peruse Barnes and Nobel looking at all the food books and making notes in my iPhone about which ones I need to put on hold at the library (I'm fairly certain there aren't that many left that I haven't read but I could be mistaken).  Below is a list of some of my favorites.  Even if you don't love food quite as much as me I imagine you would enjoy these (especially Blood Bones and Butter - it is a beautiful story.)  And now that its winter there is no better time to curl up at home with a really good book.  



Monday, January 7, 2013

hummus kawarma (with lamb).


Apparently, my mom does read my blog! (Yes, I sometimes worry that all the people who I think love me never read it. *Cough* Tyler *Cough*) But mama bear does read it and I discovered this on Christmas morning when I opened one my presents and there lay the Jerusalem cookbook that I put on my wish list!  (I also got the gold wishbone, which sadly looked not nearly as wonderful as it did online.)  I have spent the better part of my evenings reading all the recipes, book marking pages, and making supermarket lists like a mad woman in preparation for an Israeli cooking binge.  I deemed it necessary to start with the most classic of dishes hummus, solely because the first the first time I made homemade hummus, I missed the tiny but very important step of cooking the chickpeas after the overnight soak (I have the tendency to speed read).  I called my Mom in a panic saying my hummus was grainy and chunky.  It was only after her going through all the steps with me that I realized I miss the crucial step of cooking the chickpeas.  Lesson learned the hard way.  (Also throwing out 6 cups of chunky hummus is very messy and very not fun.)  I feel I finally conquered my hummus demons because this hummus is ridiculously good - unbelievably creamy and rich.  The lamb “topping” is also excellent (all those spices!), it takes the hummus from side dish status to meal status.  Throw in a bowl of olives, a chunk of feta, several warm and fluffy pits, and some cucumber salad and you my dream meal. 

Hummus
Recipe adapted from Jerusalem

I decreased the amount of tahini recommended in the original recipe because as much as I love tahini it was too much for me.  I am going to say this again as well, this is the best hummus I have ever eaten.

1 ½ cups/250 grams dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 ½ cups/1.5 liters water
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons tahini paste
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
6 ½ tablespoons/100 ml ice-cold water
Salt

The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight. 

The next day drain the chickpeas.  Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda.  Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface.  The chickpeas will need to cook between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer.  Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy. 

Drain the chickpeas.  You should have roughly 3 2/3 cups/600 grams now.  Place the chickpeas in the food processor and process until you get a stiff paste.  Then with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt.  Finally slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a smooth and creamy paste. 

Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.  If you are not using the hummus until later, refrigerate it but make sure you take the hummus out of the fridge 30 minutes before eating.

Kawarma (Lamb)
Recipe adapted from Jerusalem

This lamb is really good.  It’s sweet but not in a sugary way.  It’s sweet from the spices (most of these spices we usually associate with baked goods in the US so it’s interesting to eat it in a savory application).  I wanted a little hint of heat so I added in some urfa chiles.  (I love a little heat with sweet.) The lemon sauce really ties the whole thing together and the pine nuts give a nice little crunch!

10 ½ oz/300 grams ground lamb
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon urfa chilies
Good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon crushed za’atar or oregano leaves
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

Lemon Sauce

1/3 oz/10 grams flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
½ - 1 teaspoon urfa chili
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 large clove of garlic or 2 small cloves, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts for garnish

To make the kawarma, place all the ingredients apart from the oil in a medium bowl.  Mix well, cover, and allow the mixture to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

Just before you are ready to cook the meat, place all the ingredients for the lemon sauce in a bowl (except the pine nuts), and stir well. 

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the meat, and stir as you cook each batch for 3-4 minutes.  The meat should be very light pink in the middle. 

Place the hummus on a platter and make a hollow in the center of the hummus.  Spoon the warm kawarma into the hollow.  Drizzle generously with the lemon sauce and garnish with the pine nuts.  Serve with toasted pita. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

momofuku pork buns.


Everyone in New York who is remotely aware of the New York dinning scene has heard of Momofuku group of restaurants.  It’s one of those places that most everyone I know has visited at least once or want to visit.  It also elicits a lot of opinions in people, there are some people who firmly fall in the camp of hating Momofuku - they don’t like the food and think its too popular and too expensive for what it is.  Then there are people like me who fall head over heels for all things Momofuku.  I’ve been known to spend a glorious afternoon at Momofuku Ssam indulging in their rotisserie duck over rice served with chive pancakes and a generous pour of ssam sauce.  It its one of my favorite meals best eaten on a lazy weekday afternoon when you have nothing better to do then read a magazine and devour good food. (Ssam is also conveniently located across from Momofuku Milk Bar where you can indulge in one of their cookies for dessert.  My personal favorites include the confetti cookie and the corn cookie.)   I had yet to tackle recreating any of the Momofuku dishes for home consumption, but I knew there would be no better time to do it then for a fancy New Year’s Eve dinner where I could test my hands at the famous pork buns.  I have a slight love (bordering on obsession) with pork buns since they are the cutest looking sandwiches I’ve ever come across and making my own seemed most logical.  These really are delicious – salty and sweet with the perfect crunch from the cucumber.  We managed to eat about 10 of them on New Years Eve and then devoured the rest on New Years Day.  Not a bad way to start a new year. 

Momofuku Pork Buns

Makes 15 Buns

So I did a lot of tweaking to this recipe not because I imagined the original was bad in anyway but more so because I figured the tweaking would make it possible for more novice cooks to make this at home (I’ll include both the original and my changes below).  I also halved the original recipe since the idea of having 30 pork buns in the house and only 2 of us to eat them seemed rather dangerous.  On the plus side the buns do reheat beautifully (wrapped in tin foil and cooked at 350 for 15 minutes keep them on there parchment paper).  Also! I purchased hoisin sauce, which I regret now since I found a killer recipe for it online that is beyond easy. (Can be found here!)  I figured I would provide it to you so you don’t have to purchase it if you don’t want to!  I imagine its about 1000 times better then the store bought stuff (I am still upset I didn’t think to look this up sooner.) 

Buns
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
¾ cups warm water (110 – 115 degrees)
1 ¼ tablespoons grapeseed oil (or pork fat/lard which is what the recipe suggests)
2 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or 2 cups bread flour and ½ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour which is what the recipe suggests)
¾ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
Grapeseed oil

Pork
Recipe adapted from Gourmet

¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
2 ¼ cups water, divided
1 ¼ pounds skinless boneless pork belly, cut into quarters
¼ cup reduced sodium chicken broth or water

Accompaniments: Hoisin sauce, thinly sliced cucumber, chopped scallions

Brine Pork: Stir together kosher salt, sugar, and 2 cups of water until sugar and salt have dissolved.  Put pork belly in a large sealable bag, then pour in brine.  Carefully press out air and seal the bag.  Lay in a shallow dish and let brined, chilled at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. 
Make dough: In a glass measuring cup, mix together yeast, water, and oil/pork fat until yeast is dissolved.  Set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together flour (or flours), salt, and sugar until well combined.  Add the yeast mixture and mix until the dough comes together.  Once it comes together, knead for 8 minutes. 

Coat a large bowl with grapeseed oil; add dough and turn to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size in a warm spot, about 2 hours. 

Roast pork while dough rises: Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Discard brine and put pork fat side up in a foil lined 8 to 9 inch square baking pan.  Pour in broth (or water) and remaining ¼ cup water.  Cover tightly with foil and roast until pork is very tender, about 2 ½ hours.  Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees, then roast until fat is golden, about 20 minutes more.  Cool 30 minutes.  Cut cooled pork across the grain into 2 inch slices.  Cover slices with foil.

Make buns: Punch dough down.  Roll dough into a log about 15 inches long.  Cut dough into 15 golf sized pieces. Transfer to a parchment paper-liner baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap; let rise 40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cut out 15 square pieces of parchment paper (4 inches each). 

Working with one piece of dough at a time, press dough flat and, using a rolling pin, roll dough toward you into a 6-by-3 inch oval.  Brush each piece of dough lightly with grapeseed oil and fold in half using a chopstick.  Place each piece of dough on an individual piece of parchment paper. Repeat process with remaining dough.  Cover loosely with a towel and let rise slightly, about 30 – 45 minutes. 

Set a large steamer in a large skillet or pot with water about ½ inch up the sides of the steamer; bring to a boil. Working with about 5 buns at a time, place buns on their parchment paper in the steamer; cover and steam over high heat until puffed and cooked through about 3 minutes.  Transfer buns to a plate with tongs, then discard parchment paper and wrap buns in kitchen towels to keep warm. 

To serve: Brush bottom half of each bun with hoisin sauce, then sandwich with a slice of pork and some cucumber and scallions. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

mirrored grey.

It only took 3 days into January for the normal crazed long work days to resume (and let's be honest it was more like 2 days since January 1 was a holiday).  The more crazy work gets and the colder it gets outside the more I want to hibernate like a bear under my down comforter doing nothing but reading fashion and food magazines and eating massive amounts of grilled cheese and cookies.  I think it's safe to say I know how I will be spending my upcoming weekend.  

We are still in the midst of a giant remodeling/ongoing purchasing, thus my lack of photos of our new place.  Once we get a couch (really sorry Tyler with how long its taking) and a dresser (still really sad about it showing up broken) I will provide a little look at how things are progressing.  Below is a look at the latest bedroom inspiration but with a lot more fuchsia involved (I can't help my undying love for all things pink).  Loving all the pillows and dying for that mirrored dresser.  Dying.  

























Image via Pinterest.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

mexicali pizza.

I like to think that I am am someone you would want to invite to a party.  I always make sure I RSVP on time and I am always up for party games and to show off my awesomely awkward dance moves.  I'm superb at making a well-edited play list and I always ask what I can bring and even if you tell me you don't need me to bring anything, I guarantee I will still bring you something because I hate to show up empty-handed.  I have an innate fear of showing up somewhere without some kind of offering to the host, it just seems so inconsiderate of me.  So you can guarantee if you invite me to your next soiree that I will probably show up with a box of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or perhaps homemade parmesan crackers or if I really like you this Mexicali Pizza.  This Mexicali pizza is the perfect party food - it's handheld, it provides sustenance to those on are engaging in liquid libations, and its filled with everyone's favorite foods.  It's as if an empanada and a pizza had a baby which if you ask me sounds like a rather tasty baby.  

Mexicali Pizza
Recipie adapted from Mom

I jazzed this up a bit and also streamlined the steps a little.  The additional spices and diced olives give an extra punch of flavor to the filling which is always a good thing.  This can also be made with pizza dough from the store or you can make your own!  My dough recipe is below.  

Dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 to 1 cup warm water (110 - 115 degrees)

Filling

1 pound lean ground beef
1 clove garlic minced
1 (8 3/4 ounce can) kidney beans, drained
8 -9 ounces fire roasted crushed tomatoes (if you can't find fire roasted you can use regular)
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne 
1 (4 ounce) jar pimentos, drained and diced
2 tablespoons diced jalapenos
1/4 cup pimento stuffed olives, chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

To make the dough: Insert metal blade in the food processor bowl.  Add flour, cornmeal, undissolved yeast, and salt.  Process 5 - 10 seconds to combine.  Add oil.  Begin processing and then slowly pour water through feed tube just until ball forms, about 10 to 15 seconds (all the water may not be needed).  Continue processing 60 seconds to knead the dough.  Carefully remove dough and blade from the processor bowl.  Shape dough into a ball.  Cover and let rest undisturbed in a warm draft free space for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.  

To make filling: In a large skillet cook ground beef and garlic over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.  Drain.  Add kidney beas, tomato sauce, chilli powder, paprika, and cayenne.  Stir well and cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring occassionally.  Add the pimentos, jalapenos, and olives, and continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.  Set aside to cool. 

To assemble: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Roll dough to a 15 inch circle. Place in greased 14-inch pizza pan.  Form a standing rim of dough around the edge of the pan.  Cut a 7 inch "X" in center of the dough.  Cut another "X" to form 8 wedges in center.  Spread a 3 inch wide border of meat mixture evenly around the edge of the dough.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Pull cut points of dough over filling; tuck under rim of dough, and press to seal.  Bake on lowest oven rack for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is melted.  Serve with hot sauce!