Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Baby Likes Burrito!

OK, this is not food that I made, but it IS food I love. Around the corner from my apartment is a restaurant called La Tacqueria, and one side is a sit-down place with a swanky bar, and the other side is a take-out joint covered in bumper stickers and band graffiti. It's supposed to be authentic SoCal fare, and I love it.

At any rate, my husband and I usually order one small size burrito and because they are so enormous, we split it and both feel quite full. But this time, I split it with my daughter, who ADORED it. I'm so happy; clearly, she is truly my progeny.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer Bliss

Perfect Guacamole

2 ripe avocadoes
1 small tomato, diced small
1/2 yellow onion, diced tiny
2 cloves garlic, pushed thru pres
juice of 1/2 to a whole lime (to taste)
scant 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
kosher salt to taste

Mash together all ingredients except salt. Allow to chill one hour. Add salt to taste.

Perfect Margaritas

1 part Jose Cuervo Gold tequila
1 part Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1 part fresh squeezed lime juice

Pour all ingredients over ice in a shaker, shake to chill, and pour straight up into a martini glass. Garnish with lime or orange wedge.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Today's Grouse: Rental Kitchens

Ahhh, I am enjoying a much-needed vacation at the beach for a week. I'm sleeping well, eating well, slathering myself with SPF 85, and generally not wanting to go home. The sun rises over the Atlantic just beyond the deck, where I sip my morning coffee (honestly I would rather be asleep at 6:30 AM, but when you have a toddler that fantasy goes out the window), and I love watching the water sparkle. The other day I even saw dolphins frolicking!

Ahem. There is always a fly in the ointment. Here, it is the stove. I have attempted to make a few meals for the family here and have been thwarted by a capricious electric stove. Not even the old fashioned kind with real, spiral burners, but the creepy glass-surface kind that gets hot all over when only one so-called burner is on. The main large burner doesn't even heat evenly. The center gets extremely hot very fast, but the outer rings remain moderately toasty. Very frustrating when you're trying to make freshly caught halibut in butter and lemon, or when simmering a ratatouille for an hour while everyone showers off the sand. And my least favorite part: the whole thing stays hot for an eternity after the burner is turned off. I tend to use the stovetop as extra counter space -- a necessity in NYC kitchens that is handy anywhere. But with this monstrosity, where am I supposed to put the (cold) salad when I'm plating the fish and I'm out of counter space? Grrr.

However, I can still make excellent dishes that do not require cooking, and one of them will be my next post.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pea-Potato Soup

This soup is actually quite light, due to the absence of dairy, but still feels rich and comforting because of the potato. It's very very simple to make and very tasty.

2/3 bag frozen peas, thawed
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
2 cups chicken or veggie stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 medium red potatoes, peeled
1/4 tsp salt
fresh ground black pepper
3 strands fresh thyme
1 tbsp olive oil

First, peel and chop the potatoes and boil until tender/soft, but not mushy. Then saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil 5 minutes, then add thyme. Saute another 3 minutes.

By this time the potatoes should be ready. Drain, and place in food processor. Add the thawed peas, onion mixture, wine, salt, pepper, and stock. Process until smooth, but not too long or the potato will get gluey. If you want it really smooth, you'll have to push it through a fine sieve by hand, but I don't have the patience for that.

Taste and add more salt & pepper as needed. Return to saucepan and heat through.

You might want to finish this with a splash of cream, or toss in a double handful of tiny cubes of Canadian bacon, but you might not. It's good as is.

Fantastic Flank Steak

OK meat fans, here's the best damn flank steak marinade you'll ever have the good luck to come across. This was the top-secret recipe created by my grandmother's next door neighbor, with a few changes of my own. It is easy and totally delicious.

3 cloves garlic, put thru press
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp grated ginger
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp white wine
3 oz. tamari or soy sauce

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well. Rub flank steak with a little olive oil and ground black pepper, and tenderize with a meat pounder (I like to place meat between 2 sheets of saran wrap to keep things clean).

Place unscored flank steak in a flat shallow pan. Pour over it 1 recipe of marinade and let stand at room temperature (covered) at least 4 hours, or overnight in fridge. Turn the meat over a few times to make sure the marinade fully coats it.

When ready to cook, pour marinade into a bowl or saucepan, and slide a grill rack under the meat to keep it up off the bottom of the pan. Broil on top rack 4 minutes each side for medium rare.

Remove from oven and allow meat to rest 5 minutes. Slice on the diagonal (across the grain of the meat). Serve hot or cold.

Meat juice may be blended with remaining marinade to serve as sauce for meat and rice. Bring to a quick boil, then just simmer until ready to serve.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


OK, people. My birthday is coming up in less than two weeks. Get your acts together! I like jewelry. It doesn't have to be expensive, custom-made baubles from a boutique jeweler. There is plenty to please me at places like overstock.com, zales.com, and even ebay.com. Here's a hint: green amethyst. Ring. Size 7. Love you!

Zucchini-Potato Latkes

This is a great side dish for summer, especially if you serve a cold soup such as gazpacho with it. You can amp up the protein quotient of the soup if you throw in a bunch of chick peas, and then you have a complete meal!

2 glasses good red or white wine, depending on the season and heat of the day
1 med-large zucchini, grated
2 med. red potatoes, grated
½ med yellow onion, finely diced
1 sm handful fresh parsley, minced
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
about 1/3 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs (Progresso)
salt and pepper to taste
spray oil (preferably olive oil – I use Pam)

Pour a glass of wine. Drink it while grating and mixing. Grate the zucchini, sprinkle with salt, toss, and let sit 7 minutes. Press liquid out through a sieve. Grate the potatoes and rinse with cold tap water. Sprinkle with salt, toss, let sit 7 minutes, and press liquid out thru sieve.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs, yolk, and parsley, plus some salt and pepper. Mix zucchini, potatoes, and egg mixture in a large dry bowl. Resulting mixture should be pretty wet and gloppy. If it isn’t, add another egg. If it seems too wet, sprinkle in more breadcrumbs.

Pour another glass of wine. Drink while cooking. Heat a nonstick skillet and spray liberally with oil. Form patties in the pan with a spoon. Each should be no more than about 3 inches in diameter. Fry about 4 minutes over med to med-high heat, then turn and cook another 3 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure it isn’t burning. You want to fry it slowly enough so that the potato is cooked through; this might be aided by covering the pan. Collect all patties in a heated dish in the oven until all the mixture is used up. Serve with salt and sour cream or applesauce.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Asian-ish Veggies with Almond Sauce

This recipe is incredibly easy to make, and incredibly healthy for you.

2 heads baby bok choy
1 head broccoli
1/2 bag baby carrots
1 pkg sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup chopped red cabbage
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 pgk firm tofu, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp sesame oil
1 pkg soba noodles

1 can light coconut milk
3 heaping tbsp almond butter
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Wash and chop all veggies to bite size.

First, prepare soba noodles according to package directions. To make sauce, combine all ingredients in a saucepan over med. heat, and stir frequently to prevent sticking. Play with the ratio of soy sauce and cayenne to suit your taste. Once combined, turn heat to low, just enough to keep warm.

In a very large saucepan or deep frying pan, saute the tofu in a little veggie oil, and add some sesame oil for flavor. Maybe dash a few drops of hot sauce over the tofu (I find tofu pretty flavorless). When tofu is getting slightly golden, slide into a bowl and set aside. In same saucepan, pour a little water, maybe 1/4 cup, and then toss the remaining veggies in. Turn flame to high, and steam/saute until tender-crisp.

Serve in a bowl, with noodles at bottom, then veggies, then ladle sauce over everything. Yum!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Veddy Veddy Important

Nothing tells a guest you care about them like a well-set table. I am in favor of flower-and-fruit combo displays. If you put them on a large platter, you can easily remove it when the food is served. I like a color theme (in this case, yellow and green), and of course, WINE!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Today's Grouse: My Tiny Kitchen

This kitchen sucks.
It's only 5 1/2 feet by 13 feet.
My total counter space is less than 3 feet wide.
Sometimes I really don't like New York that much.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Lettuce-less Salad with Divine Dressing

This is derived from a salad I've had in many French bistros. All veggies should be very fresh and of course, washed and dried thoroughly.

1 large bulb fennel, diced
2 heads endive, halved lengthwise and then sliced thinly
1 head endive, leaves separated for serving
grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/3 cup broken walnuts
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 firm pear
(if you do not have a good pear, you can use 1/2 an English cucumber, cut into coins and then quartered, it will give the same cooling, neutralizing effect)

2 tbs warmed honey
1 tbs country dijon mustard
small handful fresh parsley, minced
1/4 c. olive oil
about 3 tbs canola oil
1/3 c. rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp white wine
salt & pepper

First, heat the honey so it is easier to incorporate into the dressing. Whisk it together with the rest of the dressing ingredients. It should be thin, sweet and slightly tart from the wine & vinegar. Let stand on the counter for a couple of hours so the flavors meld.

Peel and quarter pear and remove center and seeds. Slice each quarter on an angle so you get bite-size pieces that are about 1/4 inch thick. Grill the raw pear slices in your toaster oven about 2 minutes per side. If you are in a rush, don't bother to grill it, raw is delicious too.

Chop fennel, tomatoes, and endive as directed above and toss with walnuts, pear slices, parsley, and dressing. Arrange 5 whole endive leaves on plate in a star pattern, leaving a space in the center, and fill each leaf with dressed salad. Mound additional salad in center of star. Garnish with blue cheese crumbles.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Today's Grouse: Lettuce

I hate lettuce.

Well, ok, I don't actively despise it; it's more like a low-level antipathy. I don't like all the washing and chopping, and I get irked by its short shelf life. Too many times I have gingerly lifted a soggy bag of liquified lettuce out of the so-called crisper and into the trash.

So I have decided to just make salads without lettuce! What a huge relief to let other people bother with lettuce (which I will eat when someone else does the work) and happily chomp on my tangily dressed raw veggies that actually stay crunchy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dutiful Eater

Dutiful eater, I cook it for thee,
Sauces and baked goods are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,
Lull'd by the stovetop have all pass'd away!

(My apologies to lyricist Stephen Foster...)

There is a great little blog post in the NY Times (my favorite news source) about the top 11 foods we should be eating for our health. I want to make some dishes using these items as the main ingredient -- or at least the main flavoring, since one is a seed and one is a spice.

It will be a bit tough for me to do some of these. I have never liked cinnamon, but perhaps there is a recipe out there that uses other spices as well that I can use to mask that particular flavor. I know I can't get my husband to eat sardines, no matter how artfully I present them. And pumpkin seeds are hard to get fresh, unless I'm willing to carve a pumpkin (and it's not yet the season for that). But I'm going to try. If you know of any great recipes for the 11 foods on this list, please email them to me!

Chicken a la Sianessa

I made this recipe up based on what was in my fridge, and when I served it, I didn't think about plating it in a pretty way -- I had been tasting it throughout the cooking and I was too impatient to eat a plateful to bother with art. So no picture. But trust me, this is really yummy: rustic, comforting, and vaguely Germanic.

5 or 6 med red potatoes, chopped
1 pkg portabello mushrooms, stems removed and reserved
1 pkg chicken stock
sea salt
1/2 tsp or more black pepper (critical!)
olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 yellow pepper, diced
1/2 tsp celery seed (critical!)
small handful fresh parsley, minced
3 or 4 strands fresh thyme
1 sm. onion, diced
1 1/2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breast fillets
cooked bite-size pasta, such as gemelli or rotini

Toss mushroom caps and potatoes with about 1 tbsp olive oil. In a casserole pan, pour about 1 cup stock, and add the chopped potato, mushroom caps, 1/2 the yellow pepper, salt & pepper, thyme and about 1/2 the onion. Cover loosely with tin foil and put in a 350 oven till potatoes are soft.

In a saucepan, saute the remaining onion, the garlic, and mushroom stems. Add the remaining yellow pepper. When onion is translucent, add about 1 cup stock and the celery seed, parsley and more thyme. Bring to a boil, then bring down to simmer. Reduce to about half.

Pour mushroom stem mixture into the food processor, add 1/2 cup cream and puree until very smooth. Push through a fine sieve. Pour back into saucepan and add more salt, celery seed, and black pepper to taste. The celery seed and black pepper are particularly lovely flavors in this dish, so don't skimp!

With a slotted spoon, remove potatoes, mushrooms and bell pepper from casserole dish; set aside. Pour remaining liquid into the sauce. Bring to a low, gentle simmer and allow to reduce a bit to intensify flavor.

While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions.

Now bring out chicken fillets. Place in casserole pan and cover with heavy cream, turning to coat. Sprinkle with black pepper and thyme. Cover loosely with tin foil and put in oven about 14 minutes, turning at least once. To finish, turn oven to broil and remove tin foil. Allow chicken to brown on the outside and get a bit crackly at the edges.

When you're ready to eat, put the potatoes and mushrooms back in the casserole dish with the chicken and put back in the oven about 4 minutes (not on broil!) to heat. When hot, remove all solids and set aside for plating. Quickly pour the remaining liquid from the casserole into your food processor. Pour all the sauce in as well, and process the lot for about 30 seconds.

Because most of this dish is a not very gorgeous beige color, I recommend plating it in an artful way. Toss the pasta in the sauce and make a flattish pile of pasta in center of a plate. Mound potatoes and mushrooms in the middle of the puddle. Then lean the browned chicken with a small drizzle of sauce on top. Garnish with parsley or snipped chives. There should be plenty of extra sauce, and I recommend making it available via a gravy boat, so that it can be sopped up with pasta, bread, fingers, or whatever. My husband literally licked the plate when I made this!

I think this would be really nice with a cold roasted red beet salad. Just roast beets in a 425 oven for about 40 minutes (more or less depending on size). The skins should just slip off, then chill, chop, and dress with a light, tangy, dijon vinaigrette and toss with some diced red onion and maybe a bit of watercress. Yum!

Woefully Remiss

Hi everyone,

I know it's been days since I last posted; I apologize. I spent the weekend in the New Jersey countryside sunning by a pool. But now I'm back, and will have more fabulous recipes and grouses within mere hours. Hang in there!