I can’t believe I’m writing this on the day of the World Cup final—it definitely has flown by even faster than it did four years ago, and what a tournament of surprises: who would have thought that the US Men’s National Team would not only make it out of the Group of Death but that Tim Howard would make a record 16 saves during the match against Belgium? (I’m pretty salty that he isn’t on the best goaltending award shortlist, by the way.) Moreover, who would have expected the epic meltdown that was the Germany-Brazil semifinal, especially considering that Brazil had the ultimate home pitch advantage? Read More
It was with very mixed emotions I said goodbye to Michael a few Saturdays ago—I was off to Pennsylvania for some early-birthday celebrations with my family, while he was getting ready to head to England for a near-week-long trip. This wasn’t the longest he’s ever been away, but it is the furthest, and not having him handy when I was cooking, even remotely, meant that I was really on my own when it came to meal planning that week. And unlike the last time he was away for a long stretch, I wouldn’t have nearly enough time as I have in the past to plan my meals; after all, there was a Clásico to watch, and a barbell to lift, and groceries to buy on Sunday once I returned home from the Stamford train station. Fortunately, I was wise enough to ask for Made in Sicily for my birthday from my family, so I had a quiet ride on the Keystone to flip through its sizable pages.
It’s a pretty exhaustive tome on all things Sicilian that’s heavy on the vegetable, pasta, and seafood dishes, and it made me wish a few times at least that my birthday was a little earlier on the calendar so I’d have more time to take advantage of the many delicious tomato dishes on display. Other recipes definitely intrigued me until I realized the called for bottarga or uni (i.e. sea urchin roe), two ingredients that aren’t exactly cheap here in the U.S., but perhaps if I’m feeling particularly adventurous (and flush with cash), there may come a time to treat myself if only to try it in the future. I settled on a recipe that I had seen before, but never made from this book: a pesto trapanese that was exactly what I wanted: a fresh sauce made thicker by the inclusion of almonds and more refreshing with a healthy addition of mint. It may not need the processing I put it through via the blender, but I prefer a blended pesto over a very rustic one, and I loved how it coated every strand of the bucatini. Read More
In the five and a half years I’ve lived in Connecticut and New York, I’ve been fortunate to be within easy walking distance to gourmet shops that stocked most of the basics we might need for a weeknight meal–in New Haven, it was Romeo and Cesare’s, and in New York I didn’t even have to leave my own building as our apartment was literally above a bodega. I’m going to miss being able to take the elevator down there and swan around in flip flops and tank tops ind the dead of winter while the bundled-up folk give me the side-eye, but now I miss it as an easy resource to pick up a block of cheese, some lemons and limes or a can of chiles in adobo whenever I needed it without adding any significant time to my otherwise epic commute, because it allowed us the freedom to be spontaneous.
Now that we’re in Stamford, things have changed drastically. The closest convenience store to our building advertises their stock of sodas and body oils, which doesn’t inspire the most confidence in the quality of any food they might carry, so if either random inspiration strikes us or we realize that we forgot to get something at Fairway, the closest store we have to walk to is…Target. Read More
Alternate titles for this post included: One stew to rule them all, You call that a stew? THIS is a stew, and finally, The epic stew of epicness. Working in an academic lab here in NYC for the last 1.5 years, I have been exposed to many college students and their requisite speech patterns. One word I hear often (besides random) is ‘epic’, used to mean something impressive. That’s a poor definition, for a more complete definition, read on.
This time around we didn’t use the leeks from the original recipe, but this is a pretty perfect pantry recipe. Michael even substituted out the stock for water and was generous with the salt, which worked really well and didn’t make it terribly salty.
As I’m getting over the last bits of a chest cold, it was exactly what I wanted yesterday.
Usually, once the weather turns balmy my appetite tends to wane a bit and there are days where I don’t crave for much more than a cup of Rita’s Italian Water Ice (mango, wild black cherry or passionfruit, please) and my mind turns to grazing on random, small foodstuffs. The exception to this is whenever I am able to spend time in a body of water, be that a pool–or on very lucky days, the ocean–as when I emerge after a few hours of frolicking, I tend to become positively ravenous.
Memorial Day weekend did not present any swimming opportunities (that came a week later when we visited my parents to celebrate my mom’s birthday), but we ended up doing the walking equivalent on our Met excursion on Sunday, turning me into what Charles Schultz famously called Lucy van Pelt: a fussbudget. Read More
[Editor's note: there are dishes that we have on such a regular basis that we don't think to obsessively photograph them, so they will pop up here and again as simple meal solution ideas that we think deserve a tryout in your regular meal rotation.]
You see, I have these two friends whom I love dearly. One time we visited them and I learned about one of their rituals, hummus night. Something so simple yet so profound. Can adults base an entire nightly meal around a dip? They sure can.
And why not? Hummus is such a versatile instrument that it can play with any other dish or mood. I have a standard base to start with and additions, which get added at the end anyway, are nearly limitless. This will feed four with lots of dip-ables or two with ample leftovers for lunches. The basic formulation is as follows:
- 1 clove of garlic
- Juice of 1/2 – 2 lemons*
- 2 cans of chick peas, rinsed
- 1-3 tbsp water
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Combine the first five ingredients in a food processor or a blender. If using a blender, be aware that the stuff may stick to the sides and you’ll be stopping and scraping often. Once it’s all mixed, add the olive oil to the whirring gizmo carefully to make a smooth texture. Transfer to a bowl and serve with toasted pita, crudités, crustini, or whatever else you can think of.
*I leave the lemons open to the user. This falls to the flavor-building section of the construction. When you go to the store, you see a million kinds of hummus; it has more mix-ins than Cold Stone ice cream. Like said ice cream, I find many of the additions unnecessary, but a few work well. Greenery like parsley or blended arugula work very nicely, sun-dried tomatoes in oil are a great addition (but a bit fussy), lots of lemon, cumin and additional garlic is great. You can kick-it-up to five-alarm status by stirring in pureed canned chipotles in adobo, which tastes amazing but is culinary masochism at it’s best. Peanut butter approximates the traditional tahini, or you can use the real stuff (which I have in the past) to give it body. I like more Mediterranean tastes in mine, but the only way you’ll know for sure is to try a few. Experiment with your dippers as well. If you come up with anything strange and wonderful, let us know!
Hummus is great because it can serve as a great party food, an appetizer, a fast light meal or a member of a dinnertime ensemble. Hummus, in many ways, is like a big bowl of potato chips. You can certainly eat the entire thing in one sitting, or you can leave it out and grab little bits over a period of many hours. Unlike potato chips, though, this is way better for you. So, until next time, friends, cook on!
It was an early holiday miracle: Amtrak delivered us home in one piece, ultimately only arriving a few minutes later than scheduled. For the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it was something to be very thankful for indeed, because we were able to enjoy a quiet Sunday afternoon strolling in Morningside Heights, purchasing a few things for dinner and lunches that week at Westside and deciding on what lighter meal to have after a string of rich dinners and lunches over the prior four days.
Fish was naturally an obvious choice; I was personally in the mood for some whole sardines, but we were going to limit ourselves to the selection available at the fish market at 108th and Amsterdam. They were no sardines in stock that day, unfortunately, but our helpful fishmonger suggested some wild-caught Norwegian mackerel as an apt substitute as it was an oily fish with a taste similar to that of a sardine. Our interests piqued by both the suggestion as well as the appearance of the fish, we ordered one up to be dressed and scaled (though the latter wasn’t necessary, as there were no scales on the fish’s skin to begin with).
We stuffed the fish with some lemon and baked it with some white wine, shallots and thyme, and the final results were nothing short of very satisfying. I’m usually not a fan of eating fish skin unless it’s nearly burnt to a crisp, but here it simply melted in my mouth and was barely distinguishable from the delicious meat. We ended up placing the plate between us and picking the meat off the bones as well as indulging in an arugula salad and this chickpea-orzo salad that comes from Giada’s Family Dinners, albeit with a white balsamic dressing instead of the red wine vinaigrette. While this was not quite the austere fish, brown rice and greens dinner that would have been the ideal cleansing meal, this was a nice transition to simpler fare–and I was able to get a big container of this pasta salad to bring with me to lunch.
I’m also pretty sure that Michael is going to run down to the fish market sometime this week to pick up another one of these beauties to have for dinner this week.
As I sit and ponder these notes, the current temperature outside (per weather.com) is 62 degrees. It’s the third of December! To quote Andy Bernard from The Office:
Global warming, right? I bet it was supposed to be really cold today.
It seems odd, then, to be posting on a nice pot of soup, but with the weather fluctuating so…violently lately, it’s a given on my part that my sinuses will get congested and I will be immediately craving something I can curl up with and hopefully open up some of my passages to boot. The 19th was one of the few seasonably cold days in November, and in an effort to try to think of something to have for dinner, I decided that some chorizo-chickpea soup would be heavenly.
Based off of a Gordan Ramsay recipe for chorizo-fava bean soup in Gordan Ramsay’s Fast Food, we’ve been playing with this recipe from the get-go by substituting chickpeas for fava beans, and have gone from there. The leeks were a last-minute addition in the hopes of using them up from earlier in the week this time around, but now we can’t imagine this soup without them for their flavor and texture contributions.
The other great thing about making soup for dinner is that usually leftovers are involved, and believe me: when you nuke this in your office microwave the next day, your coworkers will be drooling.
Serves 6 as an appetizer, 2 for an entree with leftovers
- 1 Vidalia onion, finely diced
- 2 leeks, washed, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb chorizo, cubed
- 4 cups chicken stock, warmed (either microwaved for 2-3 minutes on high or simmered on the stove)
- 8 sprigs of thyme, plus a few more for garnish
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat, and then add onions, garlic, thyme and leeks, season with salt and sautee until soft (no more than 5 minutes).
Add the chorizo and cook until some of the orange fat starts rendering out, again, no more than five minutes. Add the warmed chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, and serve with crusty bread and goat cheese if desired.
Culinary inspiration can come from unpredictable places. We visited friends over the Fourth of July (we made pizza, see here) and while there, solely through their stories (and a late night grocery store run), they engendered me with their genuine and untarnished love of hummus.
Now, in all fairness, the seeds had already been planted long ago. One of my first cookbooks has a dynamite sun dried tomato hummus recipe in it. I think what I found so refreshing about my friend’s attitude was their unabashed consumption of the stuff for dinner, sometimes more than one night a week. I found this outlook very refreshing: who cares if it’s not typical? If we like it, let’s have it for dinner.
I find myself whipping up fresh hummus very often these days (I’ll post about it soon enough). Unwilling to completely let go, I still feel the compulsion to at least accessorize the hummus, if nothing else. Here, I knew that Beth had some leftover cheese from the weekend, so I added a small amount of meat and a big ol’ veg.
I wasn’t super happy with my last try at Tom Colicchio’s duck ham and I wanted a shot at redemption. I wrapped the breast in less salt and bit more sugar than prescribed and the cured meat came out less desiccated and tough. Lastly, the Jersey zucchini has been pretty great lately, so I threw a bunch of spears into the oven after covering them with grated garlic and salt & pepper. I like having a meal every now and again that doesn’t conform to the standard main-side-salad guidelines. If you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a rut with your cooking, try something crazy. If it comes out weird, at least you learned a lesson… and had an excuse to order pizza. Until next time, cook on!