Tag Archives: red peppers

Barcelona's Empanadas with Smoky Pepper Sauce

I must admit I have been avoiding writing about this particular dinner. However, I am a firm believer in resolving problems via confrontation, and thus, it’s time to start avoiding the issues and begin the healing.

Drama aside, I do think that one of the most challenging aspects to cooking is planning and timing (I refuse to type the phrase ‘time management’) . If you’ve ever had a large dinner party, planned a multiple courses or just cooked a multi-faceted dinner, then you know how tricky it to make sure all the components are ready at the correct time, without having food sit for too long, or worse still, having the cook sit around waiting for something to finish wasting time and postponing your dinner. Read More

Rajas and Cheese Tacos

Christmas had come and gone, and in it’s wake our precious New York was buried in two feet of snow and we were limping our way north despite the wintry conditions. As we sat on our train, stuck behind a broken switch, we started leafing through one of our newest acquisitions, a lovely little cookbook on tacos. With lots of time on our hands, we decided on two, if we ever made it back home. Read More

Sticky Lemon Chicken with Orzo Pasta Salade with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, Green Onions and Red Peppers

Christmas comes but once a year, luckily. Okay, I don’t mean that. But it’s hard when you’re young marrieds you can find yourself at the mercy of two families instead of one and the maneuvering gets… difficult. Since we just completed an odd-numbered year, we did Thanksgiving and Christmas day with my parents and Easter and Christmas Eve with Elizabeth’s. My family had a large dinner planned with friends December 26th, so between the Eve and that, a big Christmas feast is right out. So, E and I offered to make the non-feast, far from home on Christmas night.

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Sun-dried Tomato, Cremini Mushroom and Fresh Mozzarella Pizza

[Ed.--Elizabeth found herself craving some bikini-pizza from this post, and so when Michael suggested making pizza to use up some leftover fresh mozzarella an actual pizza was born.]

With the prospect of Thanksgiving looming, we deemed our weekend ought to do without my beloved roasted chicken. One night we opted for a duck ragu, and the farthest possible go-to from that, I guess, must be two homemade pizzas.

The first, the ‘bikini-pizza’ as it were, was a bit wet once all was put upon the dough thanks to lots of fresh mozzarella, mushrooms and a twist with sun-dried tomatoes instead of fresh or canned. I anticipated this and and as such did not blind-bake the crust, giving the entire assembled pizza as much time in the hot box as possible. I covered an up-turned baking sheet with foil so if too much cornmeal got into the oven and burned, I could pull the entire thing out for the second pie. The day was dry and the dough was well-behaved, disembarking the pizza peel with ease. We bailed it after about 13 minutes at 500 F with a couple of spatulas and some oven mitts, as well as a optimally placed cutting board to rest. Read More


Spaghetti with Red and Yellow Peppers

Michael likes to rile me up any way he can (and I respond in kind by calling him Wrong-Way-M60 because last winter he hopped off the train and got on a M60 that took him to LaGuardia instead of home), and one of his more recent tactics to stir up my (completely not-serious) ire is to talk about how bread/pasta=poison. I’m not exactly sure where he got on this particular tangent, but as we were walking towards the A on Saturday I started quoting one of my favorite infomercials ever, nevermind that that it’s not real. It gets the “difficulty in using everyday products” scenes perfectly.


And, of course, there is this amazing bit:

Tracy: [doing commercial] Bread is one of the worst things in the world, but we’ve already needed it–until now. By burning three different types of meat together, the Tracy Jordan Meat Machine takes bread out of equation. Now you’re sandwich is all of the good stuff.  [takes bite] That’s delicious!
Dr. Spaceman: And it’s healthy. Hi, I’m Dr. Leo Spaceman. I’m a working physician with a degree from the Ho Chi Minh School of Medicine.
Tracy: Dr. Spaceman, is it true that bread eats away at your brain?
Dr. Spaceman: We have no way of knowing, because the powerful bread lobby keeps stopping my research!
Tracy: Well folks, bread will never maybe attack your brain again. Because, say it with me, “Meat is the new bread!”

It’s a little scary how we can quote this show at any occasion, especially the first season, but I love to cook while having this show on in the background. I feel like Liz Lemon would approve of the food being made–the more indulgent, the better. While I couldn’t see her making this pasta dish herself, I could easily see her tucking into it because it’s that good. Read More

Fideuà (Noodles with Clams, Perch and Vegetables)

Michael has been teasing me lately that I’m turning into quite the talented Spanish cook due to so many weekends filled with gazpacho, bocadillos, chorizo and the like. This dinner came at the height of my preoccupation with all things Spain, otherwise known as the last weekend of the WC. Michael wanted to head downtown to the Strand to pick up a book for an upcoming trip (the details which will be revealed sooner rather than later), and being that it was the Strand I could not help but browsing through the cookbook section, seeing if there were any decent Spanish cookbooks for sale that I hadn’t seen before.

Clearly, because I went there not interested in buying anything that day, the most intriguing book that either Michael or I found was a cookbook highlighting dishes from Barcelona compiled by the editors at Williams & Sonoma being sold at half-price, calling to me with recipes that even on a cursory flip piqued my hunger. Evil bastards. Naturally I had to own this and even though it took another visit to a competing bookstore to get Michael what he wanted, we both left Union Square satisfied and smiling. Read More

Avocado Salad with Hearts of Palm and Marinated Roasted Red Peppers

Let’s face it. It’s hot. Really, really hot. So hot it dulls the appetite down to a soft hum that’s more the imperative We should probably eat something rather than the typical insatiable urge to feast upon deliciousness until every last morsel is devoured. Furthermore, the thought of even rotating a knob on the gas range feels like some kind of crime against terrestrial thermodynamics, as if someone might catch you adding heat to an already oppressively hot planet and cry “You’re making it worse!!!”

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Queso Mahón con Jamón Serrano y Chorizo

Any excuse to make a trek down to SoHo and indulge in some goodies from Despaña is a good one in my book, and making tapas and watching Broken Embraces following Spain’s advancement to the Round of 16 in the World Cup was nothing short of a perfect reason. It didn’t hurt that I was also glowing after successfully making two dishes from the Barcelona cookbook for my office’s weekly wine & cheese and Michael, miffed that he was unable to partake of this batch, insisted that I make both dishes again so he could enjoy my mad skills at making gazpacho and mojo verde.

Oh, the things you do to keep your mate happy.

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Prosciutto and Manchego Pressed Sandwiches with Roasted Red Peppers

Prosciutto and Manchego Pressed Sandwiches with Roasted Red Peppers

When Michael’s parents were visiting at the beginning of the month, the question of when he started cooking was brought up and for a good twenty minutes he and his parents debated over the exact moment, and the conclusions were anything but firm.  If you asked me when I started cooking in earnest, I’d have to date it from the moment I sunk my teeth into a gooey, delicious panini Michael made for me that contained what was to become one of my favorite foods:  roasted red peppers.

He found the sandwich on the Food Network website–I believe it was a Wolfgang Puck recipe–and I remember going to the Whole Foods in Wynnewood to procure the ingredients:  red peppers, prosciutto di Parma (my first taste of what would also become one of my favorite foods), smoked gouda, and sourdough bread, sliced on-site in the bakery department.  To any sandwich fanatic this might seem to be a non-event, but keep in mind that this was 2003:  Panera Bread was still emerging as a fast casual brand, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a panini on a major restaurant chain menu.  Up until that point grilled cheese sandwiches grossed me out (clearly, my younger palate was too advanced for the likes of processed cheese singles), and to taste the heavenly combination of pepper, meat and cheese, fused together with heat and a little olive oil, was a true personal revelation.  Following that I became obsessed with red peppers, begging Michael to make them for me and finally taking a risk and roasting my own to make a light appetizer in anticipation of my best friend’s arrival one chilly winter weekend.  Seeing how simple it was to do did not diminish the high of making a dish I was proud of, and following my move into my studio apartment across the parking lot from Michael’s for senior year, we started cooking up a storm on weekends, holidays–really anytime we felt like having a great meal.

From then onwards, cooking has become one of those tasks that I have slowly but surely immersed myself into.  Initially I was a essentially acting like a prep chef:  peeling garlic, carrots and the like, while occassionally taking over the pepper roasting controls if Michael needed to focus on something else.  I would spend hours pored over cookbooks, absorbing not only dishes but the elements that went into a kind of cuisine.  The more I read and ate, the more confident I became, and when fate/circumstance determined I would be at home for an undetermined period of time, cooking (and baking focaccia) became a balm to my troubled mindset:  I may not have been successful in finding a job that day but I did make one hell of a salsa/loaf of bread/soup or prepare a spectacular mise en place waiting for Michael to take over upon arriving home.  As much fun as it is to watch Michael work his magic in the kitchen, I had learned that it was even more soul-satisfying to jump into the fray and get cooking myself.

I know I’m not alone in this sentiment:  I follow the blogs and Twitters of countless men and women who feel the same way, and the community of home cooks that has emerged–a fusion of old-school work ethic with modern social media–is one of the the most interesting, vibrant and inspiring that I’ve encountered in the years I’ve followed and researched the food industry.  This omission is what I truly take issue with in Michael Pollan’s recent article in the New York Times Magazine that home cooking is dying out, because if he had, his thesis would have more holes in it than a well-aged Swiss cheese.

But no matter–I was ready to write a screed that threw around terms like “intellectual laziness” and “lousy research,” but what good would that do?  Instead, I want to tell you to keep cooking.  Don’t let one voice discourage you–learn on your own terms, and you’ll come into your culinary fearlessness.  The sandwiches pictured above were made with leftovers of our big tapas dinner from Friday night, and while there isn’t much to them, they serve as a testament to how far I’ve come in conquering my kitchen-related trepidation.

Just keep telling yourself un poco a poco. Little by little.  It’s time very well-spent–even if you’re trying to learn a new technique in order to make a gourmet sandwich.


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