Sunday and impromptu dinners

October 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

Chances for me to cook are pretty rare (even though I love it and find it very relaxing and rewarding), but with a slower work schedule in August and September, Katie and I began to ramp up our time in the kitchen. Since she works at the Sunday greenmarket right in front of the Museum of Natural History almost every week, we thought it’d be nice to focus on using whatever produce she’d brought home that day and supplement it with whatever we picked up at the grocery store or already had in our pantry.

Below is a dish from one of our first dinners, which featured the sweetest summer corn, cherry tomatoes and aromatic basil. Barely even a recipe, I started with a healthy glug of olive oil over medium-high heat and fried some whole smashed garlic cloves to impart their flavor without having any actual chunks of garlic (hate biting into a super pungent bit of garlic). Fished them out after they turned golden and crisp on the edges and then added halved grape tomatoes and sautéed them in the oil on high heat until they started browning and bursting. Next came the corn until it too had some color, salt and pepper to taste (with red pepper flakes because I like the heat, maybe a pinch of sugar to boost the sweetness of the corn) and that was a basic sauce.

After cooking the linguine a minute or so shy of package instructions (it continues cooking when tossed in the sauce), I added the pasta to the corn tomato mixture and about a cup of starchy pasta water to add a little bit of body since it was on the drier side. Mixed everything together some more with a healthy heaping of grated parmesan so the sauce, cheese and pasta water became a nicely emulsified sauce and then added some torn fresh basil and of course, more cheese on top. So delicious and simple to make and a wonderful way to showcase some of summer’s great offerings…

A couple weeks later, I was craving Korean food and beef and instead of opting for Seamless, thought I’d finally try out the Lucky Peach cookbook, Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes. Were the recipes actually easy? This soy-braised short rib dish certainly was and, with the new potatoes and carrots, proved to be a full meal in itself. Would I have to get random-ass Asian pantry items? Not really – as I already always have soy sauce, mirin and toasted sesame oil on hand (the most Asian of the ingredients listed). As with any kind of braise, it takes a few hours at low heat on the stove for the meat to become super tender but damn is the wait worth it (plus it makes the entire apartment smell amazing). I found some super funky napa cabbage kimchi in the fridge and leftover Momofuku ginger scallion sauce to counteract the richness of the beef and parked my ass in front of the television to watch Stranger Things for a perfect quiet evening at home.

Last week, I actually managed to cook three separate times, including the below dinner with Cindy. I missed the salmon dish I used to order from Il Brigante all the time when I worked in the Financial District so made seared salmon fillets with a punchy lemon caper sauce using this Williams-Sonoma recipe as a rough guideline, a classic broccoli salad with mayo-mustard dressing, toasted slivered almonds, grape tomatoes, bacon (of course) and red onion, and my tried and true roasted potatoes with an insanely good truffle mayo I’d brought back from my trip to Paris. Had a nice crisp white wine and have to say even I was impressed with how great of a meal it was.

Then, this past Friday, instead of going out to eat with Cindy and Beth, I managed to leave the office a bit early and put together this eggplant involtini (I’ve been making and modifying this recipe since law school). It’s a lighter take on a classic eggplant parmesan that doesn’t involve all that breading and frying yet still comes out bubbly, cheesy and super satisfying. In an effort to eat more greens, I also made a salad of wild arugula, grape tomatoes, slivered almonds, avocado, shaved parmesan and this wonderful, easy mustard dressing from Bon Appetit. Again, modified it a bit to personal taste (I like a lot of acid in my dressings) and it turned out to be a hit. Plus, I had plenty of dressing leftover for subsequent salads.

Rounding out the meal were some fantastic cheeses and charcuterie from Murray’s provided by Cindy, a couple bottles of wine (whatever I had in our fridge) and then superb Lady M desserts courtesy of Beth. I’ll always love trying new restaurants and bars but it’s been so nice to spend some relaxing time at home, both in the kitchen and at the dining table, in the company of wonderful friends with delicious food and wine. I can only hope this trend will continue as the weather starts to get chillier and I can really bust out the braises, stews and baked goods and crank up the oven.

Recently…

January 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

A full-on late night meal at Empellon Taqueria after cocktails at Wilfie & Nell – spicy cucumber margaritas, guacamole and seven salsas (one of which almost burned my face off), gooey queso fundido with shishito peppers and a trio of tacos (lamb barbacoa, beer braised pork tongue with potatoes and fish tempura)

Afterwards, a stop at Bar Sardine, where I had Cape May Salts for the first time (wish the bartender, who was clearly new, did a better job of shucking though) and we stupidly decided to order a magnum of wine because it was more “economical”

Brie, honey and black pepper croutons at Les Halles in Midtown during Friday night dinner with co-workers – two orders of these would be a great dinner

A lunch of roasted asparagus and broccoli with parmesan to make up for all the week’s indulging

Empellon Taqueria

December 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Caught up with an old high school friend I hadn’t seen in years at Empellon Taqueria, right off Christopher Street in the Village, and had a bit of a taco-fest. After moving to a table further away from a bunch of obnoxious Santa-con participants, we started with a very generous dish of guacamole, a creamy smoked cashew salsa and a spicier, more vinegary arbol salsa (my favorite out of the three) with just-fried corn tortilla chips to whet the appetite. For our mains, we avoided the sweeter, more traditional brunch dishes and ordered a trio of tacos. Probably would’ve been fine with just two, but as former tennis players, we fell into old gorging habits as we reminisced about school and figured…oh, why the hell not?

The tacos were the chicken, black kale, crema and salsa verde; fish tempura, cabbage and lime mayonnaise; and lamb barbacoa, cucumber and salsa borracha. Of all of them, the classic fish taco was my favorite (something about the combination of cooling cabbage and lime mayo with crunchy, crispy fish), though I was surprised by how much I liked the chicken version, which was very juicy and flavorful. Really satisfying (probably even a bit excessive) and definitely warranted a super long walk afterwards.

Also had a rare chance to cook myself a meal this past weekend and went with the classic Marcella Hazan tomato sauce with butter, which made the entire apartment smell like heaven. So easy to make, all this requires is a white onion, 5 tablespoons of butter and a can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (all of which I usually have in the pantry and fridge). Let it simmer gently on the stove for 45 minutes, stirring every once in a while, cook your pasta (I like to use linguine or some noodle-y pasta) during the last 10 minutes the sauce is cooking, and you have a homemade, seriously banging bowl of pasta. I usually grate a bunch of good Parmigiano-Reggiano, add some fresh basil if the flimsy plant on our kitchen windowsill has a couple fat leaves and maybe even some red pepper flakes to add a bit of kick. If you’re a cooking novice or just want to make something that doesn’t require a ton of work, this is a perfect recipe to start with. Go make it!

Kale chips

March 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

A quick and simple recipe for kale chips – a crispy, salty snack that’s actually good for you! This is how to eat your greens.

Baked kale chips

1 bunch of kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 F. Rinse and thoroughly dry the kale, and then remove the stems and tough center ribs. Cut into large pieces, toss in the olive oil so all the leaves are evenly coated. Sprinkle generously with salt. Lie the pieces in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until crisp.

 

 

Shredded chicken for anything

February 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve finally started using my dutch oven and have gotten into the habit of cooking chicken or beef for the week to incorporate into my meals. Case in point: these shredded chicken tacos from the NY Times, which I downsized a bit.

For the tacos, I heated up some corn tortillas and loaded up on toppings like fresh guacamole, salsa, and cheese. Another great use is saving the cooking liquid and letting it cool so you can later skim off the fat that’s solidified on top with a spoon and use the leftover “broth” as a base for spicy soups. I even mixed the broth with fresh lime juice and then tossed it with the chicken, salad greens, cubed avocado and sliced red onion to create an impromptu Tex-Mex inspired salad, bringing me back to the days of the Guacamole Greens salad at Sweetgreen in Washington, D.C. Who says chicken has to be boring and bland?

Shredded chicken

4 chicken thighs
1 onion, quartered
3-4 smashed garlic cloves
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste (be aggressive with the seasoning)

Combine all ingredients in a pot and add water to cover. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Partially cover and lower heat so mixture comes to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until the meat is very tender. Remove from cooking liquid and cool. When the chicken has cooled, remove the skin and shred meat with fingers. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve as you like.

Easy salsa fresca

February 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

Chips and salsa have to be one of my favorite snacks. I can usually just eat it as a full meal. Usually I get the standard Tostitos brand salsa in medium spicy, but today I was craving something fresh and zingy. Plus, I had a large cartoon of grape tomatoes that were looking the worse for wear and needed to be used pronto.

This recipe is highly customizable and based on personal taste. I used handfuls of diced grape tomatoes, diced red onion, red pepper flakes (normally I’d use jalapeno but didn’t have any today), chopped cilantro, a couple squeezes of lime juice for acidity and brightness, a light drizzle of good olive oil, and salt. Cilantro-haters can cut the herb, chili heads can add more spice, and you could probably also add some other fresh-tasting vegetables like cucumber or watermelon. The possibilities are endless for this quick, easy, and healthy afternoon snack.

Chinese New Year 2010

February 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

I always get really homesick when it’s Chinese New Year. Usually we have some family friends come over and we all sit down to eat a huge meal of roast duck, roast pork, dumplings, etc. This year, in addition to celebrating the beginning of the Year of the Tiger away from home, I also had to deal with yet another date-less Valentine’s Day. womp womp.

No matter. To console myself, I made a menu of a bunch of delicious Chinese dishes that would at least make me feel like I was at home and with Jia’s help, we made a truly amazing dinner. Chinese-style eggs and tomato, hoisin glazed eggplant, pork and scallion dumplings (with even the skins made from scratch!), sesame noodles with chicken and cucumber, and the piece de resistance…Chinese BBQ spare ribs.

The big success of the night was definitely the ribs. In the Chinatown in New York, there’s always this one particular roast meats shop that our family visits to pick up spare ribs, roast pork, and roast duck, and I never thought I’d be able to replicate those flavors in my own kitchen. On Saturday night, I came back from a party a little tipsy but somehow managed to remember to create the hoisin-soy-honey marinade, which just goes to show that food is always a number one priority for me. So even with the ever-present danger that I’d drunkenly slice off my fingers while mincing garlic, the ribs made it to the fridge to marinate over night.

The next day, after fretting over the pork and setting off the fire alarm in our apartment, I finally pulled those babies out of the oven. They had that beautiful charred but glossy outer coating, and the meat on the bone was perfectly tender and succulent. They were a huge success with everyone and now, they’ll probably be my go-to barbecue recipe.

So, our 3 1/2 hours of cooking yesterday really paid off, especially since there are plenty of tasty leftovers in the fridge.  Even though we weren’t with family and didn’t do the traditional exchange of New Year’s greetings and red envelopes, we still got a taste of home.

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