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Carpionata Piemontese

Now I am quietly waiting
for the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

Frank O’Hara, excerpt of “Mayakovsky” from Meditations in an Emergency

This passage kind of perfectly expresses those mean reds I mentioned a week and a half ago that have taken up in casa TMFP. It hasn’t helped that it was a fairly rainy week and therefore the sky grew dark out even sooner than it should, and in one of those rainstorms Michael’s new car was lightly clipped by some jerk near his office. And ugh–as I write this it’s gotten grey and moody outside again. It’s like the weather is gleefully pissing all over my “Operation: Abolish Mean Reds” efforts with every cold, grey, sodden day. It’s why we curled up with the second season premiere episode of Mad Men in all of its angsty glory but at the same time pushed ourselves from a culinary perspective–we may be indulging our grumpiness in some ways, but tasting something new and different could also be the jolt we both need. First up: our anniversary dinner on Sunday and going back to a genuine happy place.

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Steak with Tomato and Red Onion Salsa, Orzo with Spinach and Shiitake Mushrooms, and Spicy Zucchini

I abhor New Year’s Resolutions (I know it’s September, please stay with me, friends). I think the idea that one must wait until an arbitrary day to make a change in life is self-defeating. I read somewhere that the enemy of personal growth is Monday, not because Mondays are bad :( but because we vow to ‘set things right, starting Monday’ and thus never get anything done.

Don’t worry, the self-help portion of the entry has concluded. There is an opposite extreme though, that of someone seeing an opportunity for positive change and going a bit… buckwild I think is the technical term (from the French buquewild meaning ‘holy shit, chill out dude’). So, currently trying to find a balance saddled with a new job that is as fulfilling as it it draining, when I received a cadre of new cookery books from my bro-in-law, yeah I went a little wild. Read More

Ground Turkey with Zucchini and Ramps over Israeli Couscous

What better way to respect the wife’s food skills than riff on a solo piece she executed while you were out of town? Here, I offer my spin on an Anne Burrell Secrets of a Restaurant Chef offering. I replaced the roasted garlic chicken  pieces with ground turkey and the roasted garlic with fresh ramps. The couscous works better in the large Israeli version as the soft plumpness works better here, a nice balance between real couscous and pasta combined with zucchini, sautéed onion and fresh tomato. The prep is as follows:

  • 1-2 lbs ground meat (turkey, beef, pork, veal)
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 tsp whole cumin and coriander, toasted and ground
  • 1 cup wine
  • 2 diced zucchini
  • 2 cups couscous, cooked in boiling water for 5-6 minutes
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 bunches of ramps, sliced finely

Brown the ground meat and add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the toasted, ground spiced and stir to coat. Cook for 30 seconds. Deglaze with the wine and add the zucchini, couscous* and stock. Cook for 15-20 minutes, simmering over medium heat.  Add tomatoes and ramp white parts and cook for 5 additional minutes. Finish with a chiffonade of ramp greens and enjoy!

Don’t like/ can’t get some of the veggies above? Sub out as needed, using common sense as to when to add each replacement in the cooking process. Experimentation, friends… it’s the spice of life! Until next time, cook on!

*Your can add some or all of the couscous. If you like a lot of couscous as a bed, cook it completely on it’s own and serve it beneath everything else, gumbo-style.

Garlic Chicken Thighs with Israeli Couscous Casserole

After the escapades of my first foray into adventurous cooking on my own, I resolved to do better; specifically, I resolved to manage my time so that I wouldn’t be eating dinner at 8 once again. So I kept my time out of the apartment to a minimum and got my chicken into its marinade in the middle of the afternoon, because I was really excited about what I was making on Sunday and I really didn’t want to muck it up. This is a recipe that I had in my head for well over a week, and was one of the main impetuses to go to Despana the day before: it called for a cazuela and I love nothing more than a great excuse to hit up my favorite specialty shop in the city.

In any case, this fixation came about because I happened to pay attention to an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef a few weeks ago. She was making this garlicky chicken over an Israeli couscous concoction and it sounded pretty good to me, especially because it called for several vegetables–thereby making it not nearly as “guilty” an indulgence as, say, aglio e olio.

(I know I keep coming back to that particular pasta dish, but really–it is the easiest dish I know how to make and the temptation to break down and make it in the face of more complicated fare was always present in the back of my mind. I even bought a box of angel hair to keep in the pantry for emergencies.) Read More

Tortilla de Vegetales

I have a confession to make, but I’m not sure how you’ll take it, so I’ll provide a little back story. It started on a Friday night and the conundrum of what to do for food for the week when we were traveling Saturday through Sunday morning (really, we were in Pennsylvania for less than 24 hours) and so Friday we I spent the evening poring through cookbooks and logging some ingredients into our Fresh Direct order.

As I read the list of ingredients from The Book of Tapas, Michael surmised that we were making “a more complicated version of a Western omelette.” Suddenly warning bells sounded in my ear, urging me to proceed with caution. I took solace in the fact that the tortilla we were making was only one of two dishes, and the second was a longtime favorite: Catalan meatball soup.

Why the worry, you ask? I’ll be frank: I don’t like omelets. Read More

Orechiette alla Zucchine

Today marks our second wedding anniversary, so we spent this past weekend celebrating it in the best way we know how: through food. Saturday’s dinner was a bit of an epic meal (so much that we both feel compelled to write about it), but last night I wanted to give a nod to where we spent our honeymoon–mainly because I love any excuse to make a nice northern Italian meal at this time of year. Read More

Coca con Tomate, Calabacín y Queso Mahón

Since we haven’t had Spanish food “in a week” as Michael said to me Saturday, this weekend’s food festivities featured a lot of influence from the Iberian Peninsula, finishing with this delightful coca, or the Spanish version of pizza. The traditional coca is very minimal in ingredients–usually only one or two toppings–but I’ve read that more modern cocas do allow for some liberties in creativity, so taking some ideas from Cucinaria: Spain and Spanish Country Kitchen I decided our first Spanish coca would celebrate the height of the season: tomatoes and zucchini.

It was pretty damn awesome, but fraught with peril and some yelling. Read More

Quinoa Linguini with Zucchini and Gorgonzola

This is one of those phenomenally easy, light and filling recipes that knocks you on your ass, and I must give credit where it is due. This was taken from a recipe from Gina DePalma and made just a little bit lighter with the substitution of quinoa pasta for the farfalle…but to be honest this recipe–filled with flavors from shallots, zucchini and Gorgonzola cheese–would likely make cardboard taste good. I believe the assertion that the best Italian pastas have the most sparing of sauces, and this dish is no exception.

Go get the recipe here.

Go make fun of my original photo (taken within the first few weeks of living in this apartment) here. Seriously, you can rib me for this–especially since the photo above is genuinely so much better.

Quinoa Pasta on Foodista Zucchini on Foodista Gorgonzola on Foodista

Wild Shrimp with Roasted Zucchini, Fennel, Shallots and Couscous

Why can’t we just call this Shrimp and vegetables over couscous?  Anyway…

I’m going to keep this one brief, as I think Elizabeth’ great photo speaks for itself.  This dish isn’t a traditional preparation, per se, but a movement I’ve been trying to make towards what I will call a floating approach to dinner prep (especially weekday dinners).  To me,  floating conjures up images of my scientific instruments operating without a lock-on signal.  I apply this to mean cooking not tied to (or locked onto, get it?) recipes or specific ingredients which may or not be appropriate/available/etc. on a given day or in a certain situation.

Perhaps this is one of those zen things that every enthusiastic cook is moving towards without necessarily realizing it.  As your skills develop, you need to rely less on external references.  Here, the existential conditions of that day/week dictated the outcome.  The Fairway was (and indeed, still is) carrying wild USA shrimp for the amazing price of $8.99/lb.  They are beheaded, but not de-veined or peeled, but the purchase is still very much worth it despite the extra work.  Add to this to a increasingly serious personal mission to eat more veggies (a common desire, especially this time of year I think), I added what vegetables I knew I could get away with and that I thought would go well together.  I oven roasted the zucchini with lots of salt, pepper and cumin (I also roasted the shrimp in the oven, separately, of course) and sautéed the shallots and fennel on the range.  I added some Parm to the couscous and piled on my ingredients.  Done and done.

As much I wish I could, I still can’t quite freestyle like this every single night.  I plan meals too, and unless I want to quit my job and spend everyday going to Fairway and Westside market, things will stay that way.  As a person gains confidence in the kitchen, a small amount of audacity should surreptitiously follow.  There’s nothing wrong with throwing caution to the wind.  The fear of ‘clashing flavors’ isn’t as real as we think and if you’re focusing on what’s in season and looks good instead of what a recipe demands, the benefits to the taste from freshness alone should more than make up for it.  PLUS, food purchased in season is cheaper and more environmentally sustainable.  So there you go, win-win-win.  So be bold, treasured readers- take small steps if you feel timid but above all, cook on!


Duck Prosciutto

Duck Prosciutto

Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Crushed Red Pepper

Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Crushed Red Pepper

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!

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