Archive | June 2010

Guest Blogger: Siggy’s Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

I imagine you’ve all been salivating over the beautiful berries at the market lately. Siggy has a simple method to create the classic chocolate-covered summer decadence. What, really, is better than ripe, fresh strawberries bathed in dark chocolate? The chocolate firms just enough to create a contrasting texture to the tender berries so that each bite is a creamy balance of sweet and bittersweet. It’s so simple, but one of my favorite things that Siggy makes. (Hint, hint: Siggy, make these soon!)

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Wash strawberries and dry them

Put good baking chocolate in a heat resistant bowl on top of a pot of boiling water (if you don’t own a double boiler).

Stir chocolate with wooden spoon as it melts.

Once melted, turn off heat and dip/twirl strawberries in chocolate to cover them as desired.

Lay out on parchment paper.

Wait at least half an hour to an hour for chocolate to set.

The Joys of Artisanal Pasta

Sundays have become my favorite day of the week. When I have my way, they involve the farmer’s market, yoga, and then coming home starving to create a meal around the market finds of the day (then later, lately, True Blood with friends).

I was tempted by a new stand at the market yesterday: a handmade artisan pasta seller going by the name of Pasta Puttana. She had maybe eight different types of noodles, varying in flavor and width. The bags weren’t cheap, exactly, at $10 each, but each will make at least two meals, and the noodles are so full of flavor that you really don’t need to spend money on additional ingredients. And what a rare treat it is to have fresh, handmade pasta. I’d say it was worth the $5 for my lunch.

I bought the seasonal herb tagliatelle and approached it with a very light hand. Olive oil, toasted garlic breadcrumbs, poached egg, parmesan, salt and pepper. That’s it. But what a luxurious outcome from these simple beginnings. It tasted like a vegetarian carbonara, with the breadcrumbs providing crunch and depth of flavor. I have to suggest that you seek out some artisanal pasta and revel in it–soon!

Vegetarian Carbonara
1/2 bag (1/4 lb?) of fresh handmade pasta, your choice
1 egg
1 tsp. vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
olive oil
parmesan cheese

Put a pot of salted water on high to boil.

Heat a few tbsps. olive oil over medium-high heat and saute garlic until golden. Add the breadcrumbs until they grow to a deepened brown color and you can smell their toastiness. Take off heat and set aside.

When the water boils, add in the pasta and cook it for about 10 seconds. Drain and set on a plate. Drizzle olive oil and a pinch of salt over it, then add the toasted breadcrumbs on top.

Meanwhile, put a small pot of salted water on medium to simmer. When it begins to simmer, add a tsp. of vinegar. Crack the egg in a small cup and then slide it into the simmering water. Let it go for four full minutes, then remove it with a slotted spoon. Carefully place the egg on top of the pasta. Add salt and pepper, then slivers of parmesan. Serve hot.

Ginger-Cilantro Rice

This is my third summer in Chicago and I realize now that the last two were merely lovely, prolonged springs. Dainty little dandelions. This year, we’ve been getting hit with all the fury the Midwest has apparently been storing up. Downpours and thunderstorms every other day. Humidity as thick as a side of beef. The grass and weeds are so overgrown and virile that it feels like a drive through the jungle on certain narrow stretches of the freeway. This morning on my way into work I saw lightning strike the Sears Tower. Amazing.

This dish has somewhat of a monsoon flair, with flavors like ginger and coconut. It also features one of my five all-time favorite ingredients: cilantro. I remember searching all the small Italian produce stands I could find for cilantro when I lived there, promising my roommate I’d show him what Mexican food could taste like (nothing like the one faux Mexican velveeta restaurant in Bologna). It was a staple in all my early cooking explorations in college, and on my favorite Food Network show at the time: Two Hot Tamales. I know it doesn’t suit everyone. Julia Child hated it. But I think its flavor is fresh and bright–like the citrus of the herb world. It’s been with me in my various kitchens for a long time, and yet I still get excited when I see it in a recipe.

Bon Appetit subscribers will recognize this recipe from June’s issue. Mine is an improvisation with the ingredients I had on hand. I’m nothing if not resourceful, and I hate buying whole bottles of specific oils and vinegars if I’m only going to use a dab for one particular recipe. So here is my improvised (and improved–with peas and coconut) version. You could easily add a few more veggies and a protein to make this a pilaf.

Ginger-Cilantro Rice
1 c. long-grain white rice
2 1-inch-long pieces fresh ginger, peeled, each cut into 4 rounds, plus 1 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
1 2/3 c. vegetable broth
1 c. frozen peas
1 1/2 c. fresh cilantro
1 shallot
5 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. rice or apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. shredded coconut

Combine rice and ginger rounds in a large saucepan. Add broth and sprinkle with salt. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Cover; reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes and then add the peas. Recover and simmer another 3 minutes, or until rice and peas are tender and broth is absorbed.

Meanwhile, combine cilantro, shallot, and minced ginger in a mini food processor. Add oil and vinegar, coconut, salt, and pepper. Blend until almost smooth. Taste it and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Transfer rice to a bowl. Remove ginger rounds. Mix in the cilantro oil and serve.

Mushroom and Leek Mac and Cheese

My friends Josh and Rachel recently had a lovely, teeny little girl named Eleonora, and a friend got together a food tree of people to take turns feeding them during their first few weeks as parents. My contribution was this mac and cheese, because I figured that if I had just had such a life-changing and scary and amazing experience as giving birth, I’d need some carbs and cheese on hand.

I love mac and cheese, and especially love any opportunity to sneak vegetables into it. I got this recipe from Deborah Madison‘s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which is a tome I turn to often to feed the many vegetarians in my life. There’s a unique kick of dijon mustard in the recipe, which adds some pizazz. Really, is there anyone out there who doesn’t like mac and cheese? It’s a hard thing to disagree with.

I used crimini mushrooms here, though Madison doesn’t specify which in her recipe. I think crimini are great cooking ‘shrooms. They open up and ooze out their juices when you saute them, imbuing the whole dish with flavor.

Mushroom and Leek Mac and Cheese
from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

3 tbsp. butter
1 celery rib, finely chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 leeks, white parts only, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1/4 c. flour
3 c. milk, warmed
salt and pepper
1 heaping tbsp. mustard
1 lb. ziti or pasta of your choice
1 1/2 c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 c. fresh bread crumbs

Warm the butter in a saucepan. Add the celery, mushrooms, leeks, and marjoram and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then quickly whisk in the milk. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season the sauce with 1 tsp. salt, pepper to taste, the nutmeg, and the mustard.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter or oil a 3-qt. baking dish. Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until barely done. Drain it in a colander, then rinse under cold water. Combine the pasta with the sauce and cheese, then pour it into the baking dish and cover with bread crumbs. Bake until bubbling and browned on top, 25 to 30 minutes.

Mac-and-cheese lover in the making.

Curry Chicken Salad

As I stood over my cast iron pan yesterday, I got to thinking–What is the deal with onions? They are decidedly savory beings, no one can deny that. Raw, they are pungent and full of vibrato (what would a taco do without them?). Sauteed in olive oil, they are subtle and roundly flavored. But you throw them in a pan with butter, let them sweat it out on low heat for 15 minutes, and they become another thing altogether–voluptuous, sweet, willing. They lose all of their rebellious attitude and become pussycats. And the smell they emit as they caramelize has to be one of my favorites ever.

They were an afterthought in this dish, but a mighty good one. Curry chicken salad is, in itself, no revelation. This version, however, sort of is–like a ray of sunshine. The Greek yogurt and lemon make it tangy, and I think the garam masala adds a depth of flavor beyond your standard curry powder. One chicken breast and one container of yogurt made enough to stretch for probably three lunches. So it’s delicious and thrifty, my favorite combination. It also takes about 20 minutes to make, which isn’t too shabby for a weeknight.

Curry Chicken Salad

1/2 yellow or white onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
1 chicken breast
olive oil
1 8 0z. plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. garam masala
1 green apple, chopped
the juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c. shredded coconut (I used the sweetened kind)
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. almonds, chopped
cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Warm butter over low heat and add onions. Cook slowly until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In the meantime, rub olive oil, salt, and pepper on both sides of the chicken breast. Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast. Set aside and let cool, then dice into cubes about the same size as your apple cubes.

In a medium-sized bowl, add yogurt, lemon juice, and lemon zest, salt, pepper, curry powder and garam masala, and combine. Then add the rest of your ingredients: diced apple, coconut, cranberries, and almonds. When the chicken and onions are room temperature, add to the mix and combine everything. Garnish with cilantro and adjust seasoning to taste.

I served mine on an olive sourdough bread.

The Locavore Way

My cousin Monika has an amazing job in development for Slow Food USA. It’s a New York–based organization that works to promote education and awareness for the environmental, social, and personal benefits of knowing what’s on your plate. You can read her book review for the Locavore Way at their blog. And you should check out the rest of their website. They have chapters in several cities across the country, and you just might luck out and happen to live in one.

Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette

Here is the lemon-shallot vinaigrette recipe from Melissa via Real Simple. It was a really bright and light dressing for the salad we made, which consisted of wild arugula, radishes, and sugar snap peas, aka farmer’s market manna. Note that the shallots are of the Ambition varietal! How could we pass them up? Even the honey in our incarnation of this recipe came from the market.

Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1 shallot, finely chopped
kosher salt and black pepper

1. In a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake together the oil, lemon juice, honey, shallot, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.