Thursday, July 30, 2009

Braised Cod with Chickpeas and Corn

Last week while having a staycation at Meg's, I finally attempted making pavlova's, lemon curd, salted caramel ice cream and a variation on this recipe for Braised Cod with Chickpeas and Corn while watching Season 2 of True Blood, So You Think You Can Dance and Knocked Up. It was a very, very productive week, especially as it was an event week for work! I'm glad her mixer and ice cream maker convinced me to stay, instead of doing an extra 5 flights of stairs up and down daily to get the mail and water plants, and enabled these projects.

First comes the cod, which I have on 4 separate occasions purchased the parsley and lemons to make without taking action. Pretty sick when you think about the fact the cod was in the freezer waiting. This resulted in lots of parsley pesto; it tastes fine but I'm just not that crazy about parsley. This dish was much better than the pesto and worth the wait. Ultimately I substituted basil for the parsley and didn't use cumin.

The fish was firm and flaky and complimented by the chickpeas' slightly crisp outside and soft inside. The brightness of the lemon combined with the spiciness of the red pepper flakes was pleasantly tempered by the corn's sweetness. There was lots of flavor in every bite and it was very filling. I'll definitely make this again...probably when it is colder out. If you have a cast iron pan, you could event do this in one dish!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stanton Social

Deb and I met for brunch at Stanton Social at 11:00a. Brilliantly neither of us checked when it opened (11:30a by the way) but everything worked out fine. We were the first people in and by the time we left around 12:45p they were busy.

I loved the modern art-deco interior, even if it wasn't the most welcoming in the daytime. Between the candles around the perimeter, chocolate suede banquettes and the slightly too loud lounge music it was clear why this is known dinner destination. Our waiter was attentive but I felt a bit rushed throughout the meal, which made it somewhat less enjoyable.

Station Social serves family-style i.e. tapas. We ordered four to split and it was plenty.

Warm Doughnuts with caramel $8
Their doughnuts are actually more like piping hot donut holes served at your generic Chinese buffet - good, light and crispy with cinnamon and sugar on the outside. The caramel sauce was very rich and clung nicely to the doughnuts when you dipped them. This probably better suited to dessert than brunch -- it honestly made my teeth hurt. You receive 6 in an order.

Caramelized Banana Pancakes with candied pecans, vanilla brown butter & maple syrup $8
Our five petite pancakes were beautifully presented in a stack of five with bananas in between each pancake. They were good pancakes, but I couldn't taste the vanilla brown butter or carmelization. The candied pecans, normally not something I love, were awesome. My decision to drizzle a little of the caramel from the doughnuts on top was a tasty one.

French Onion Soup Dumplings $12
These come out in a glass dish with holes for the six skewered dumplings. The whole dish is topped with a lace-like cheese crust that you cut through to take out each dumpling. You end up with a cheese octopus, crouton and soup filled dumpling that you fit in your mouth all at once - manageable but a bit weird. This was a unique presentation of a classic dish that tasted good, in spite of being a bit unwieldy to consume.

Baby Benedict: grilled Canadian bacon & citrus kissed hollandaise $8
Two beautifully plated eggs benedict sit on the plate separated by a small green salad. The poached eggs were perfect and each bite melted in my mouth. The whole construction was fork tender; the bread/muffin actually could have used a bit more crispness. I couldn't taste the citrus in the hollandiase but I didn't mind.

All the dishes were good but nothing stunned me other than the attractiveness of the space. I wouldn't veto returning, especially for dinner, but I have no plans to take initiative to do so. Plus the bathroom strangely smelled of urine, something that should not be the case right after you open (or ever really).

Location: 99 Stanton Street (Between Orchard and Ludlow Streets)
Hours: Mon-Wed.
Cost: $$$

Monday, July 20, 2009


Danielle and I had dinner at Penelope, her favorite restaurant, last night. It packs a pleasing punch in its small interior. The decor is slightly rustic and warm - wooden benches, pastel paint, chalkboards and dimmed light for evening atmosphere. The service is attentive and pleasant without hovering and they don't mind you lingering to chat even with a small wait outside.

Penelope's offerings are simple but innovative American comfort food at great prices. I wanted to order cheese everything on the menu, no idea why, and managed to convince Danielle to split two cheese filled items with me.

Grilled Three Cheese with swiss, fontina, and white american on sourdough $8.50 for an additional $.50 you can add pesto, tomato or artichoke hearts.
The grilled cheese had cheese running over the edges but was surprisingly bland; the artichoke hearts we added were tasty, but did not add the necessary pop in my opinion. Pesto would probably be the best choice for added flavor. That said the hand-made organic bread and accompanying fries were a perfect, crisp golden brown. The sandwich literally melted in your mouth.

Mac & Cheese baked with fontina and white cheddar, topped with tomato. Served with greens. $9.50
The mac and cheese was much more impressive, although it too needed a touch more salt. It came in the bowl it was, presumably, baked in, and was attractively topped with golden brown crumbs and a thin tomato slice. The contrast of the rich crumbs with the creamy contents was a winner and the cheese, being cheddar, had a better flavor. The salad looked pretty, tasted fine and did a good job of clearing my palate between cheesy bites.

I definitely would go back here given the opportunity. I liked the atmosphere and it is a great deal. Maybe I would even order something without cheese... The only bad part was when some girl knocked her wine glass over spritzing my purse with its contents. There was even prompt cleanup then.

Location: 159 Lexington Ave at 30th Street
Hours: Mon-Sun 8:00a-11:00p
Cost: $$ (Closer to $, Cash Only)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fine Cooking I: Week 5 (or the end)

Week 5 covered French Crudités (Vegetable Salads), Sauce Mayonnaise and Variations, Greek Court Bouillon (apparently this is BS), Grilling and Broiling Techniques for Proteins and Vegetables, Marinades, Tenderizing and Flambéing Technique.

We all prepped, chopped, assembled, grilled, carved and flambéed to create the meal below.

Vegetable Salad Plate
We were all assigned different salad recipes. This week the recipes were only ingredients - we had to figure out the proportions on our own. It was intimidating in theory, but actually was not so bad. I wouldn't have felt remotely comfortable in this situation the first week.

The salads included guacamole two ways, jicama, potato, fennel, green/watercress, beet, red cabbage and cucumber. One of the guacuamole's included the green curry paste and it was DELICIOUSLY spicy. I need to find that paste. Our group made the green/watercress salad with a delicious impromptu asian vinaigrette that I only wish I had written down.

I made a beet salad consisting of beets, celery root, chives and homemade horseradish mayonnaise. It needed more horseradish in my opinion, but I was super proud of how it looked! Funny thing. I kept the beets and celery root separate as I didn't want the root turning pink only to have Chef Jane come tell me to combine them asap. Apparently the mixed colors are part of the salad's beauty.
Grilled London Broil
We used a french marinade for our London Broil. Jim's grill marks were divine. To get the proper grid marks, you place the meet at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock. If you are cooking with "serious" meat with fat i.e. red meet, lamb, etc. then you shouldn't coat the grill with fat as it will prevent the caramelization you are seeking. The meat was good, although a little rare for my taste.
Mixed Grilled Vegetables and Fruits of the Season
Unlike "serious" meat, vegetables (and fish) require a bit of oiling to not stick to the grill; they also require a different rotation to get the grid marks correct. You rotate the vegetables and fruits in quarter turns around the clock to get the grid marks correct. Grilling is BRUTAL. The heat overwhelmed me. I like the results, but don't think I'll ever become a grill-master. The eggplant, zucchini and apples were my favorites.
Flambéed Bananas, Haagen-Daaz and Caramel Sauce
I'm really excited to have a caramel sauce recipe. I love caramel and have made caramels numerous times, not that I ever have posted about it, but I didn't have a sauce recipe. I also love ice cream and bananas. You'd think this dessert would be a perfect fit only flambéing did not love me and after flipping a very hot banana into my hand I forgot to burn off enough cognac to make my serving truly tasty. Oh least I wasn't burnt. Next time I won't give into peer pressure and try to aggressively flip the bananas for other people's amusement when I had already flipped them.

To see all the pictures from Fine Cooking I, you can go here. As you can see I took more pictures each week as I got more comfortable with the people in class.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sugar Stacks

One of the many daily newsletters I suscribe to circulated a link to Sugar Stacks this morning. It illustrates the amount of sugar in foods with sugar cubes - a great way to see exactly how much sugar you are consuming visually. The carrot stacks section is awesome too.

Note per its blog: "We don't differentiate between different types of sugar - i.e., sucrose, fructose, cane sugar, corn syrup, honey, etc., although there are differences in how these sugars are metabolized. We just used cubes of white sugar as a visual aid."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Warm Lentil Salad

As you may recall in week 3 of cooking class, I made Warm Lentil Salad. It was good, but I didn't forsee myself making it again. The flavors didn't stand out to me, although I heard other people raving about them. In retrospect, I think I was distracted by the other dishes we prepared and frustrated over the minor difficulties I encountered making the salad.

Regardless, after making it for my Mom over Father's Day and discovering its rich flavor and pretty appearance (if you don't overcook the lentils) I want to make it all the time. It helps that the salad is fairly inexpensive and filling too. When Elizabeth and Megan requested salads or dips for their 4th of July Barbecue this was the first salad that came to mind, so I took a double portion, with slightly overdone lentils, thus the muddled texture, to their barbecue yesterday.

Given that I've now made this three times, a rareity, I had to share the recipe.

Warm Lentil Salad
Serves 6

1 c. French green lentils
1 small onion sudded with 3 cloves
1 bay leaf
3 c. water
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. finely minced onion
2 garlic cloves, finely minced (your goal: the same size as the lentils)
2 tbsp. minced parsley
2 tbsp. minced chives
1 c. finely diced red pepper (your goal: the same size as the lentils)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils, whole onion and bay leaf. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. (suggested way to handle the onion/cloves/bay leaf below.)

2. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are al dente, about 25 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid and discard the bay leaf and the onion. Transfer the lentils to a bowl.

3. Add the oil, vinegar, minced onion, garlic, parsley, chives and red pepper to the lentils and stir. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


The New York Times article "The Perfect Burger And All Its Parts" really brought home how key repetition is to perfecting recipes. I don't repeat things nearly enough... I see it as limiting when I should see it as refining. This is a great reminder.