Friday, April 30, 2010

Limon and another rave for Graffiti

Last night I went to Graffiti again. It was still mind blowingly good, although sitting side-by-side with Linda in tight quarters made it a slight challenge to catch up as I had to twist my head to make eye contact. Once again the awkwardness easily was ignored given the food and value...and shared bottle of wine. (11/09 Write Up)

The night before I checked out Limon at the recommendation of my colleague and restaurant/wine bar expert, Lauren. It's a tiny, BYOB, Turkish restaurant. Matt and I brought in Honey Moon, which hints at summer and honey. Pretty tasty. I would try it again. I'd also revisit this restaurant though it isn't an immediate must.

We started with complimentary bread that's hot, thick and soft with a nice crust and their hummus, one of the creamiest I have ever had. Next was the Grilled Calamari served over mixed greens with caper lemon olive oil sauce. The calamari was cooked well (still tender with some nice caramelization!) but the vinaigrette didn't have much of a flavor. In fact I forgot it involved capers. Both of our entrees were outstanding though, which made up for the minor disappointment of the "salad."

The Tandir, sliced roasted lamb and fresh oregano with traditional Turkish rice, was heavenly. The tender meat melted in my mouth with the oregano adding some levity and brightness to a potentially heavy dish. The Kofte Piyaz, Turkish meatballs served with white bean salad and Turkish rice, was equally good. The solid meatballs had a strong, meaty flavor and the white bean salad was a light compliment with red onion, tomato and parsley. Lauren's favorite dish is Hunkar Beyendi - chicken or lamb served over puree of eggplant - I'll probably try that if I end up here again.

Afterward, though full, I couldn't resist indulging in 31 cent scoop night at Baskins Robbins. I realize it is probably horrifying but I really like the ultra-fake, florescent Cotton Candy ice cream.

Location: 238 East 24th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, closer to 2nd)
Hours: Mon-Sun 11 a-10:45 p
Cost: $$

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Steamed "British" Pudding

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet. I'm not going to lie... I contemplated skipping this challenge. The image of suet intimidated me as did the steaming, which was a foreign concept for anything other than vegetables. But when I saw the time and thought Esther put into addressing everyone's concerns I knew I had to at least try.

Luckily I had the day off work yesterday to recover from a long weekend visiting a friend in Minneapolis because between putting this together, which took me much longer than 20 minutes, and steaming the three little ramekins for 2.5-3 hours I needed the time. I replaced the suet with Spectrum's Vegetable Shortening to create a vegetarian version with a simple, improvised Pea, Shallot and Mushroom filling.

While totally edible (and I'm proud because for once I chose the savory side!), I'm not thrilled with my results. I suspect I did something wrong as my dough was super, super moist after a mere two tablespoons of water and that can't be right! I used the provided measurements though so what can a girl do? Perhaps I'll try the sweet version sometime in the future and have better success.

In the meantime I'll eat my remaining ramekin tomorrow. It is warm, filling and the crust is nice and flaky so that is satisfying enough for these rainy days.

Pudding Crust for both Savoury Pudding or Sweet Pudding (using suet or a suet substitute)

(250 grams/12 ounces) Self-raising flour (Note* If you cannot find self-raising flour, use a combination of all-purpose flour and baking powder.)
(175 grams/6 ounces) Shredded suet or suet substitute (i.e., Vegetable Suet, Crisco, Lard...I used Spectrum's Vegetable Shortening.)
(a pinch) Salt and pepper (Note* If making a savory dish, can be replaced with spices for sweet if wished.)
(210 millilitres/a little less than a cup) Water (Note* You can use a milk or a water and milk mix for a richer pastry.)

1. Mix the flour and suet together.
2. Season the flour and suet mixture with salt and pepper if savory and just a bit of salt and/or spices if sweet.
3. Add the water, a tablespoonful at a time, as you mix the ingredients together. Make up the pastry to firm an elastic dough that leaves the bowl clean. The liquid amounts are only an estimate and most recipes just say water to mix.
4. Don’t over handle the pastry or it will be too hard.
5. Reserve a quarter for the lid and roll out the rest and line a well-greased bowl.
6. At this point add your filling. a couple of options are give below but have fun and go wild!
7. Roll the final piece of pastry out into a circle big enough to cover the top of the basin, dampen the edges and put in position on the pudding, pinching the edges together to seal.
8. Seal well and cover with a double sheet of foil – pleated in the centre to allow room for expansion while cooking. Secure with string, and place it in a steamer over boiling water.
9. Steam for up to 5 hours, you may need to add more boiling water halfway through or possibly more often. There is a lot of leeway in this steaming time and different recipes give different steaming times.

Pea, Mushroom and Shallot Filling
(This makes way more than enough to fill 3 ramekins. I plan to eat the rest in pseudo-quesadillas with brie and whole wheat tortillas.)

1 bag Frozen Peas
1 tbsp Olive Oil
3 Small Shallots, finely chopped
1 pint Pre-Sliced Baby Bellas, sliced in half away
1 tsp. Dried Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
1ish tbsp Flour to coat mixture

Steam frozen peas. Heat olive oil. Add finely chopped shallot and saute for 3-5 minutes until slightly brown. Add mushrooms and saute 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in thyme, salt and pepper to taste and flour.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Miscellaneous Food & Other Photos

An assortment of photos of things I ate and a few other highlights of the past two weeks are below... Happy Thursday! I'm off to Minneapolis for the weekend.

I visited the New York Botanical Garden and caught the magnolias and cherry blossoms in bloom. Gorgeous. I'm so happy Spring is here! Chives, Ramps, etc. at the market and warmer weather.

Spinach, Fennel, Segmented Navel Oranges and Red Onion tossed with Oil, Vinegar, Orange Juice, Salt and Pepper... At $1 for a piece of fennel the size of my palm at Arthur Avenue's Market I couldn't resist throwing together a lazy variation on this salad, which I've never actually made. Yum.

Dishes from Techniques of Healthful Cooking II: The sweet potato puree and onion marmalade were my favorite followed by vanilla yogurt panna cotta. I had been wanting to learn to make Panna Cotta forever so this meal made me quite happy...just like cooking classes do.

During mandatory work volunteering this past weekend my colleague Lauren surprised me with these vending machine chips. I squealed. I don't know why but I love Late Night Doritos. Cheesburger ones aren't my new favorite but they were fun to try and tasted surprisingly like kosher dill chips.

Obviously I bought the world's largest container of spinach since I was eating yet another spinach salad this week. This one was the Edamame, Carrots, Scallions, Spinach and a tiny piece of Brie Cheese tossed with Rice Vinegar, Sesame Oil, Agave and Salt.

I also found baby artichokes at the Arthur Avenue Market. These babies were $1 a pound, which is amazing. I trimmed them down, steamed them for 8 minutes or so, then tossed with olive oil and roasted 8 minutes. They were so tender. Do you see the half eaten acorn shaped one? Made me think of my sorority and my big sister who first fed me whole artichokes. Wish we had been together eating these!

After two years of debate I finally purchased Chloe perfume. I love it! I'm treasuring putting it on each morning. Thanks Sephora for finally having a 1 ounce bottle and a sale.

Dishes from Techniques of Healthful Cooking Session III

History happening just down the street! They were installing part of the GIANT drill that will create the Second Avenue Subway tunnel last night.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wilted Spinach Salad with Edamame, Red Onion and Black Sesame Seeds

The weekend before last Courtney and I made a fantastic dinner using two of Kayln's recipes:
Roasted Wild Salmon with Soy-Wasabi-Agave Glaze and Green Onions and Wilted Spinach Salad with Edamame, Red Onion, and Black Sesame Seeds. It was probably one of the fastest, tastiest dinners ever cooked in my kitchen! Way to select excellent bookmarks from my list, Courtney!

This salad is exceptional. The caramelized onions' sweetness, the savory-sweet dressing and the toasted sesame seeds' crunch work wonders on the spinach making what could have been another spinach salad a rich, textured eating experience. We used Kayln's recommended substitutions for the recipe: unseasoned rice vinegar instead of white balsamic, agave nectar instead of honey and canola oil instead of peanut oil.

It 100% overshadowed the poor salmon, which was tender and flaky yet a little disappointing. I thought the flavor would pack more of a punch given the straight wasabi... This might be my fault as the rub and Wasabi I had were not the freshest in the world, but I'm going to act like the issue had more to do with the salad being so amazing that the salmon paled in comparison. ;)

I might make the salmon again with fresh Wasabi to see if it makes a difference but repeating it won't be a priority. The salad on the other hand I suggest you make now! I ate it twice last week and wish I could eat it again immediately.

Courtney also shared a delicious Lindt Gold bunny with me. It was promptly beheaded after she left. :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Butterscotch Pudding

I started my second series of ICE classes last Wednesday: Techniques of Healthful Cooking. I expect to learn a lot, even if it isn't quite as structured and formal as Chef Jane's Fine Cooking I. Last week's highlights were discovering I DO like Tamarind, an amazing lamb dish - it's grilled to perfection with a rich, yet healthy marinade - and receiving an explanation for why my soba noodles always cling together like saran wrap.

How does this relate to Butterscotch Pudding? Well, our dessert was Mango Sorbet and Angel Food Cake, which leaves 12 egg yolks as waste. I couldn't bear the thought of throwing them away so I brought the yolks home and made Grapefruit Curd (6 yolks, now frozen) followed by this Butterscotch Pudding (2 yolks). Are there savory uses for the other 4? Please let me know as my methods of using them up = healthy cooking fail. Those last ones might just die a sad, sad death.

Chef Shuna fish Lydon's Butterscotch Pudding is supposed to be the real deal and it is delicious! Its flavor is a mellowed out version of artificial butterscotch syrups and is similar to caramel, both flavors I love. I don't think I've ever had real butterscotch though so I'm not 100% that I was successful in creating the correct flavor. One of my taste testers, a Butterscotch connoisseur, Kimberly, said it was missing something? I'm guessing it needed more salt and less vanilla extract. Regardless, I won't know until I try the real thing. Anyone want to go have Chef Lydon's butterscotch pot de creme? :)

Her thorough instructions caused me to dirty numerous pots, whisks, etc. but resulted in a creamy, lush pudding...very different than my last pudding i.e. chocolate malted soup. Take her note about whisking continuously seriously. I had been whisking for what felt like eternity, stepped away for 2 minutes to see how long I had to keep going and returned to THICK pudding. This could have been a disaster but I started whisking furiously again and was able to save it from the lumps. All in all I'd say this project was a success!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Carrot Cumin Lentil Soup

Okay. My unofficial blog break is over! I went home for Easter and didn't cook a thing all weekend. Last week was using up frozen gnocchi, etc. and so this weekend I was ready to get back to the kitchen with lots of little projects.

Drawing inspiration from this Lentil, Carrot, and Kale Soup with Crème Fraiche and Dill, this Carrot-Ginger Soup and the previously enjoyed Carrot Soup (the Moosewood Cookbook version) I made Carrot Cumin Lentil Soup this weekend. This soup is economical to make, especially if you make the broth from scratch instead of using the pre-packaged kind like me.

It is very filling and nutritious with a rich, warm flavor. The carrots sweetness is toned down nicely by the spices and lentils. The soup has a lot of texture, which doesn't always happen with lentils. Should your lentils disintegrate from a lack of paying attention (my usual issue) and/or you don't want to get carried away dicing I advise cooking everything and pureeing the soup. It might not look as pretty but it will still taste nice!

I can't wait to eat this all week with a spinach salad on the side.

Carrot Cumin Lentil Soup
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 Tsp Ground Coriander
1/2 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, Minced
2 cups Carrots, Diced (I made mine into small dice...just for fun...but that isn't necessary. I'm sure rough slices or whatever you prefer would work.)
1 Small Yellow Onion, Diced
2 Tsp Salt (SHOULD have stuck to cautious)
6 cups Veggie Broth (I used a mix of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's; TJ's is more tomato based.)
1 cup French Lentils

1. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Once hot add the cumin seeds, ground coriander and ginger. Stir then cover for a minute listening to the cumin pop like popcorn. Remove lid.

2. Add the onion and saute a minute or two. Add carrots tossing them with everything else. If necessary add a bit of water to create some steam. Cover the pot, turn the heat down and let the mixture sweat 15-20 minutes.
3. Remove the lid and add the 6 cups of stock and 1 tsp. salt. Bring the mixture to a boil.
4. Add 1 cup of lentils. Stir. Cover the pot and turn down the heat, let the mixture simmer approximately 35-45 minutes or until lentils are tender but not falling apart.
5. Dish and serve in approximately 1 cup portions.