Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I've lately discovered a new fascination with Iranian food. It started with a long weekend spent reading the latest issue of Saveur cover-to-cover, which included a pages-long article about Iranian home cooking, complete with delicious-sounding recipes. Over coffee with a client that same evening, I brought up my newfound desire to make Khorescht, a chicken stew with pomegranate molasses that featured heavily in the article, and she revealed that her Iranian mother had a treasure-trove of home recipes that she could procure for me. It took all my reserve to keep from leaping up and screaming, "YES!" These are the things that excite me--real home recipes made by real home cooks. Especially if they have some sort of exotic, ethnic bent. It's just more interesting that way.
One of the recipes that said client had her mother write out for me that week was for a wonderfully simple yogurt and saffron rice dish called Tahchin. It incorporates just a few ingredients and involves layering the ingredients "like lasagna." Sounded fun to me. I planned ahead a bit, since the recipe called for a roasted chicken breast, skin removed, and decided that we'd have a berbere-spiced roast chicken one night, and then use the leftovers to make the tahchin for the following night. It worked beautifully. The berbere roast chicken is, quite possibly, my new favorite way to roast a bird, and this tahchin was absolutely delicious. I lifted the lid off the cast-iron pot when the requisite cooking time had gone by to be greeted with a fragrant waft of spice and the sight of white rice studded with brilliant yellow and red bits courtesy of the generous amount of saffron that goes into this. I love saffron. Have I mentioned that? Love it. When mixed all together, this concoction is positively heady--a bit tangy from the thick Greek yogurt with an amazing texture due to the crisp layer of browned rice lining the bottom of the pot. Add the chunks of roast chicken, and you've got perfection in a pot. It'll make it into my regular(ish) rotation, for sure. xo
Serves 4, generously
3 cups basmati rice
2 cups of plain Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon saffron, crumbled
3 cups roast chicken meat, shredded into bite-size chunks, skin removed
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Cook the rice in the water for 8 minutes. Drain the rice and rinse with cold water.
In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, saffron, shredded chicken, salt and pepper.
Cover the bottom of a cast-iron pot or Dutch oven with the oil. Place 1/3 of the rice into the pot and smooth over into a neat layer. Place 1/3 of the yogurt mixture on top of the rice. Continue layering as such until all the ingredients are used up.
Cover the pot and simmer on medium-low heat for one hour. At this point, you may place a large plate over the opening of the pot and invert the tahchin so that it comes out in one piece with the crispy layer of rice on top. I preferred to save myself any potential mess and simply mixed it all up in the pot, making sure that the crispy bits were evenly distributed. Serve hot.
Monday, February 27, 2012
A pretty bouquet of flowers I picked up at The Flower Girl in the Earnest Sewn shop on the LES
It was another cooking weekend--this time, I made an insanely delicious roast chicken slathered in Ethiopian berbere spice, olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest. We then used the leftovers to make Tahchin, an Iranian yogurt and saffron rice dish and took a trip to the Film Forum to see Iranian (Oscar-winning!) film, A Separation, which was fantastic. Nothing I love more than a neatly themed weekend.
On another note, I'm off to Paris this week! So excited to visit my favorite city again and eat all the baguettes, roast chickens, and hunks of foie gras I can possibly manage in five days. More soon. xo
Berbere seasoning with chili peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil, white and black pepper, and fenugreek
One of my favorite cookbooks, dedicated to the art of roasting perfect chickens
This morning's breakfast--leftover tahchin (chicken & rice) with fried eggs
One of the most flavorful roast chickens ever--recipe below
Berbere-Spiced Roast Chicken
Adapted from A Bird in the Oven and Then Some, by Mindy Fox
2 large onions, peeled
1 4-lb whole chicken
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Berbere spice (I found mine at Whole Foods, surprisingly)
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the rack in the middle. Cut the onion crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick rings, keeping the slices intact. Lay the onion slices, overlapping if necessary, into the baking dish, cast-iron skillet (my recommendation), or small roasting pan you are using to roast the chicken.
Into a medium bowl, finely zest the lemons, holding the zester close to the bowl so that you capture the flavorful oil that sprays from the lemons as you zest. Cut 1 lemon in half crosswise. Cut one of the lemon halves into quarters.
Pull off excess fat around the cavities of the bird and discard, then rinse the chicken and pat dry very well, inside and out. From the edge of the cavity, slip a finger underneath the skin of each of the breasts, then gently but thoroughly loosen the skin from the meat of the breasts and the thighs. Over the sink or a plate, rub the chicken with the quartered pieces of lemon, then put the pieces into the cavity of the bird.
Squeeze about 1 1/2 tablespoons of juice from the remaining lemons and add to the bowl with the zest. Add the oil and the berbere spice and whisk to combine.
Put about 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture under the space you created between the chicken skin and meat of each breast, being careful not to tear the skin. As you work with the mixture, gently rub your hand over the outside of the skin to smooth out the mixture and push it further down between the skin and the meat. Rub the rest of the spice mixture evenly all over the outside of the bird. Season the chicken all over using 2 teaspoons salt and generous pepper. Put the bird on top of the onions, breast side up.
Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the pan and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Continue roasting, basting with the juices every 20 minutes, until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour more. Remove from the oven and let rest in the pan for 15 minutes, then baste with the juices.
Transfer the bird to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes, then carve, and serve with the pan juices and onions.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Happy Friday! Wishing you all a very fun, relaxing, rejuvenating weekend. I'll be in the kitchen with a recipe for Tachin, a Persian yogurt and saffron rice dish with chicken that I got from a client's mother. After three huge Italian meals out this week, I'm making it a goal to ban butter and red meat from my cooking repertoire for the next few days. Cooking with yogurt sounds like the perfect solution. Time for a mini-detox. And now I'll leave you with my favorite things. See y'all on Monday. xo
Some of the things I'm loving lately:
4. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. Never thought I'd love a baseball novel.
+ more favorite things:
Thursday, February 23, 2012
I love Mexican food and Tex-Mex all day, everyday, but if I had to pick a favorite meal at which to indulge, it would have to be breakfast. No other type of cuisine does breakfast the way they do South of the border: in neat little tacos filled with eggs and meats, with fried tortilla strips mixed with cilantro and cheese, or wrapped up in delicious, portable burritos. Makes the standard plate of scrambled eggs and bacon look kind of sad, doesn't it?
When I read about migas, a dish that's a staple in parts of Texas (Austin being one of them), the description reminded me of what may be my all-time favorite breakfast--chilaquiles. Except migas had even more in it--milk, melted cheese, and tortillas that were fried to a crisp and then added to the pan after the veggies had softened. Dare I say? It sounded even better than chilaquiles. Of course, I had to have a go at it. Since then, I've done a bit of research, and it turns out that chilaquiles are traditionally made without eggs--just salsa, cheese, and fried tortilla strips as the base! So that mouthwatering breakfast I've been making all this time was actually technically migas. Go figure.
In any case, this recipe was absolutely, straight-up delicious. And easy. I whipped it up quickly on Sunday morning, and it started the day (and the week) off right. I love these on their own, but feel free to jazz them up with some homemade salsa, refried beans, any type of breakfast sausage you like, or a good dollop of hot sauce (my boyfriend ate his with some Sriracha). Happy eating. xo
Adapted from The Homesick Texan, by Lisa Fain
1/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup peanut oil
5 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 small onion, diced
4 jalapeños, diced
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack or cheddar cheese (or a combo of both!)
1 cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and peppers
Crack the eggs into a bowl and pour in the whole milk and the cilantro. Whisk until just combined. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Pour the oil into a large cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil starts to shimmer, add the tortilla strips. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the strips are crisp, about three minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and drain on paper towels. Remove all but two tablespoons of the oil.
Turn the heat down to medium, and add the diced onions and jalapeños to the skillet. Cook until onions are translucent, about three minutes. Pour in the egg mixture and add the tortillas. Spread everything out into an even layer, and then let cook undisturbed for one minute. Gently stir the mixture, and once again spread it out into an even layer. Sprinkle on the cheese and cook until it melts. Turn off the heat.
Season the mixture with salt and pepper and garnish with extra cilantro. Serve the migas with salsa, refried beans, flour tortillas, your favorite breakfast sausage, or a good dollop of hot sauce, if you like.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
The long weekend was spent in complete and total blissful relaxation. I cooked a few meals, watched some movies, wandered around the East Village for hours, went for a long run, and ventured out to Bed-Stuy to check out Umi Nom, a Filipino restaurant with quite an impressive reputation (pork belly adobo and pig snout tacos were had). All this mixed in with a good hunk of lazy couch time, the requisite stack of magazines and cookbooks by my side.
It’s all running together a bit, the way good weekends sometimes do, but at some point, I got it together enough to whip up a little snack in the form of these delicious little jalapeno poppers. They’re easy as pie to make—all it takes is some mixing, scooping, and filling along with a few minutes in a hot oven to produce these hollowed out peppers stuffed with a bubbling mixture of cheeses, spices, and cilantro, all studded with satisfyingly meaty bits of spicy chorizo. These were obviously meant to be eaten sparingly as an hors d'oeuvres or appetizer, but we made them into lunch, devouring a few too many in one sitting.
Warning: these little babies pack quite a punch in the heat department, so make sure you’re prepared with a tall glass of ice-cold water!
From The Homesick Texan, by Lisa Fain
12 medium jalapeño chiles
1/4 pound chorizo, cooked and drained of excess fat
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon lime zest
Salt, to taste
Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Take each jalapeño and cut in half, lengthwise. With a knife or small spoon scoop out the seeds and white pith and discard.
Mix together the cooked chorizo, cream cheese, goat cheese, cilantro, oregano, cumin, garlic, cayenne, and lime zest. Adjust seasonings and add salt to taste.
Fill each of the jalapeño halves with about 2 teaspoons of the cheese filling. Place stuffed jalapeños on the sheet and place under the broiler for 8 to 10 minutes or until brown and bubbling.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
I have been on the biggest comfort food kick lately. Maybe it's the winter winding down and the nagging awareness that I only have a few more weeks of icy cold weather in which to enjoy things like mushroom lasagna, veal stew, big pots of kale soup, and this--my latest favorite discovery--chicken spaghetti. Chicken spaghetti is simple country food at it's finest--rib-sticking, a little lowbrow, a lot delicious. And it's mercifully easy. It's even got a shortcut in it in the form of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. Yep, you read that right. I dumped not one, but TWO, cans of the stuff right in there and mixed it all in with the rest of the fine ingredients. And you know what? It was good. Really good.
Along with the cream of mushroom soup, this casserole's got a ton going on--perfectly cooked spaghetti, onions, bell peppers, a freshly cooked chicken shredded into tender little bits, a shake of cayenne pepper for some heat, and a layer of creamy, melted cheese easing into every single bite. This is the kind of casserole that will easily infiltrate a rotation of weeknight family dinners. It's the kind of meal that your kids or husband or boyfriend or girlfriend or whomever may happen to be in your life will ask for time and time again. It's the kind of thing that harkens back to your homemade childhood meals, when times were simpler and kinder. It's comfort food, through and through. No wonder I love it. xo
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, by Ree Drummond
1 whole organic 3 - 4 lb chicken
1 lb spaghetti
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 small onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 4-ounce jar pimientos, drained and diced
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (I used good old Lawry's)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the chicken in a large stockpot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 25 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the water and set aside on a plate to cool. You can take a knife and cut into the chicken--that will release some steam and let it cool faster.
Remove 2 cups of broth from the pot and set aside. Bring the remaining broth back to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook for 1 minute LESS than the recommended cooking time on the box. It should be a little underdone. You'll be putting the pasta in the oven for a good run and you don't want to end up with mushy spaghetti. Drain the spaghetti, discarding the cooking liquid. Place the spaghetti in a large bowl.
With your fingers, remove the bones from the chicken and shred the meat into bite-size chunks and add to bowl. Add to the bowl the cream of mushroom soup, 2 cups of cheese, the onion, green pepper, pimientos, seasoned salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and reserved broth. Stir well to combine, then taste to check the seasonings.
Pour the mixture into a large baking pan and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until bubbly.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Some of the things I'm enjoying at the moment:
+ more favorite things
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
I just got back to NYC from a long, fun, relaxing weekend in San Francisco, with a day trip to Sonoma added in at the last minute. It was 65 degrees and brilliantly sunny the entire time we were there, luckily enough--all the locals were marveling at the weather. SF is even more of a foodie town than New York is, which I loved. At one point, one of our cab drivers went into an informed discourse about the lack of rain this season and the subsequent effects on farmers and their produce. Pretty impressive. Favorite shots from the trip here--unfortunately I was so caught up in ogling all the food and nature, I failed to put myself and/or my boyfriend in a single picture. xo
Some of my favorite spots we visited:
Cotogna: wood-fired pizzas, housemade pastas, and one amazing bowl of green garlic potato soup
Heirloom Cafe: loved the Dungeness crab salad and the burger
Zuni Cafe: famous for their roast chicken
The Golden West: fresh breakfast pastries that sell out almost instantly + amazing sandwiches
Acme Bread: some of the best freshly baked bread in the city
Boulette's Larder: ridiculously good breakfast eggs
Mijita: chilaquiles, good Mexican soups, and fish tacos
Miette: their macarons give Laduree a run for their money
Namu: such good Korean tacos served on a bed of dried seaweed--yum
The Girl and the Fig (Sonoma)
Omni: really beautiful, a former bank building with crown molded ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and mahogany paneling
Ritz-Carlton: in the tradition of Ritz's around the globe, completely luxurious with beds you sink into
Blue Bottle cappucino
Acme Bread--such an awesome bakery
I love linzer cookies from anywhere
Not sure what these are but they were at the farmers' market at the Ferry Plaza and they were so pretty, I couldn't resist a shot
Those funny green bunches were another mystery--they ended up being some kind of ridiculously cool-looking type of cauliflower
Best Korean tacos at the Namu truck at the Ferry Plaza Market
Fell in love with this beautiful horse at Beltane Ranch in Sonoma
Friday, February 3, 2012
So it turns out that my boyfriend and I are heading to San Francisco this weekend for a last-minute weekend away (business/pleasure for him, pleasure/pleasure for me). Although I couldn't be more excited to revisit the Bay Area after staying away for almost 15 years, my grand Superbowl party plans have been dashed. For the past few weeks, I've had nothing but football food on the mind, and I've tested quite a bit of recipes for possible inclusion in my now-defunct party menu. Ah well, there's always baseball in the spring (that is when their season starts, right?).
Rather than let all that effort go to waste, I'll be posting the greatest hits from my testing period here, starting with one of my favorites--hot crab dip. I love this dip. It's creamy and indulgent, a tad spicy, and peppered through with luscious chunks of fresh crab (you'll do well to buy the best crab meat you can find for this). Crab dip is a Southern thing--embarrassingly enough I first heard of it on the show Hart of Dixie, which takes place somewhere in Alabama. Not that I watch that show with any regularity or anything. Ahem. Anyway, it was the hit of a fictionalized football party on one of the episodes, and it sounded so good, that it got my curious little Google fingers going. I eventually found a recipe on Epicurious that looked like the perfect culmination of ingredients, and set about whipping it up one morning. And it was absolutely delicious. I ended up polishing off most of it on my own along with a full bag of crunchy kettle-cooked potato chips. Whoops. xo
Hot Crab Dip
One 4-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning or other seasoned salt
6 ounces fresh or canned lump crabmeat, drained
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place all the ingredients except the crab in a medium bowl and blend together with a spatula. Stir in the crab. Turn the dip into a 1-quart casserole and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until heated through.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
One of my favorite things to eat on weekend mornings are breakfast tacos. They're easy and delicious, and eaten with your hands--what could be better? Besides breakfast burritos, but that's a story (and recipe) for another day. These particular tacos combine eggs, bacon, a chopped green bell pepper for some crunch, and a healthy scattering of shredded Cheddar, all wrapped up in a lightly toasted flour tortilla. But one of the best things about tacos is the freedom and variety of them--you can use whichever ingredients strike your fancy that day to create your own personal taco nirvana. Although I tend to be partial to bacon, try mixing things up by throwing in some good chorizo or your favorite sausage. Throw in some chopped jalapeno for more heat! Vary the kind of cheese you use on top! It's almost impossible to go wrong here. xo
Makes 4 tacos
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
4 pieces of bacon, cooked and sliced
salt and black pepper, to taste
4 flour tortillas
1 cup refried beans, heated
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Heat a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, on medium high, and melt the tablespoon unsalted butter. When butter is melted, add the chopped pepper and saute until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and cooked bacon (or meat of your choice) to the skillet and gently scramble for about 3 minutes or until done to your liking. Stir constantly for the best, fluffy, curdled texture. Taste and add salt and black pepper.
Heat up the flour tortillas either in a skillet or by laying them on top of a gas burner turned on to a low flame. When a tortilla starts to puff (about 20 seconds) turn it over and cook for another 20 seconds.
Take a tortilla and spread 1/4 cup of refried beans in the center of the tortilla. Add a quarter of the scrambled egg mixture and top with 1/4 cup of cheese and salsa. Fold in half and enjoy!