Friday, January 28, 2011

latino brunch and a photo shoot

when i heard that the studio was lit, the only thing that made sense to do was cook and document! friend/colleague mel was generous enough to host and shoot this shindig. and what a shindig it was. i was *pleasantly* surprised to be introduced to this social network that resides in jersey city. as i cooked, a number of friends drifted in and out and soon enough the 6 of us were sitting down to a feast. the feast was a combination of the impressively vast amount of food mel had on supply and a few supplemental materials we picked up at the local deli. on the menu: arepas, guacamole, pico de gallo, eggs, bloody marys and flourless chocolate cake.

let's talk about flours. you've got to have arepa flour, not cornmeal or other corn based flour substances. look at your local latino market or the latino section of large supermarkets. it's pretty common.

arepas with eggs, guacamole and pico

make the
  • once you have arepa flour, just follow the directions on the package. it will be a simple mix of the flour, pinch of salt and warm water. i suggest adding some grated cheese at this point...
  • flatten a small handful of dough in the palms of your hands, and fry on the stove top in a decent amount of heated oil until browned on both sides.
make the guacamole:
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 small tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • salt and pepper
  • mash the avocados with a fork and add salt to taste
  • add tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice. mix well.
make the pico de gallo:
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • small handful cilantro, chopped
  • juice from 1-2 limes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • combine all ingredients in a bowl, allow to sit for a few minutes. you might want to add a tiny drizzle of olive oil...

once you have the components (arepas, guacamole, pico) i suggest layering them with over easy eggs. and more cheese.

flourless chocolate cake
from epicurious

my general rule: the simpler the recipe, the better. nothing fancy required. it's a little bit of a labor of love but totally worth the effort and will blow everyone away.
  • 12 ozs bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 12 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • preheat oven to 350°F. butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan. line bottom of pan with parchment paper or waxed paper; butter paper. wrap outside of pan with foil.
  • stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. remove from heat. cool to lukewarm, stirring often.
  • using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until mixture is very thick and pale, about 3 minutes.
  • fold lukewarm chocolate mixture into yolk mixture, then fold in vanilla extract.
  • using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. gradually add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, beating until medium-firm peaks form.
  • fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. pour batter into prepared pan.
  • bake cake until top is puffed and cracked and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. cool cake in pan on rack (cake will fall).
  • using small knife, cut around pan sides to loosen cake. remove pan sides. place 9-inch-diameter tart pan bottom or cardboard round atop cake. invert cake onto tart pan bottom. peel off parchment paper.
or, just make this cake in whatever buttered pan you have. it might not be as beautiful but will be absolutely delicious. and this cake definitely does not require a glaze. i recommend a nice sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

as a jew, i know how to fry

subtitle: happy hannukah! i mean, chinese new year

subtitle II: i told you i was behind on my posts

the moment my dad realized i had surpassed a good deal of his cooking knowledge took place one hannukah, a couple of years ago. to be fair, the man taught me a great deal of what i know re: food. that is until i took an uncanny liking to watching the food network. then there were the food memoirs. and spending all of my cash eating out...

we were discussing one of the Great Debates: latke making. in fact, i'm pretty sure we have the exact same conversation every year. but let's pretend that the first one took place about five years ago, when i took on the task for the first time. the conversation probably included the issue of hand grating potatoes and how to keep them from oxidizing once they're shredded (place in cold water, then squeeze out when you're ready to use). more recent conversations included frying oils. my dad was shocked when i explained that the reason you had to fry in canola oil was because the smoke point was higher than that of olive oil.

this year i wanted to do something a little different. so i made a combination of potato and sweet potato latkes. and i threw in some chopped parsley for good measure. okay, so these weren't leaps and bounds, but a slight variation made me confident we'd still have something good to eat and i'd simultaneously get the satisfaction of trying something a wee bit different.

the lesson here is that you can use a variety of different vegetables to fry up something delicious. latke, fritter, call it what you will. squash, root vegetable, pome,
it's all going to taste delicious. a few general guidelines:
  • grate your ingredients. you want everything to be the same size/shred.
  • use an oil with a high smoke point! (canola, peanut, safflower, or sunflower will work)
  • don't skimp on the oil. not only do you need to entirely cover the bottom of the pan but the oil should make its way up the sides a bit.
  • make sure to heat your oil before frying, or you'll end up with a greasy mess.
  • dry/drain food as much as possible before frying.
  • don't crowd the pan!
happy frying!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

solstice brunch

subtitle: continuing the backwards holiday march

this particular brunch was made specifically for solstice (part II) but there's no reason it wouldn't work for any other time--special occasion or not. an indulgent king crab leg meal the night before yielded many more leftovers than we thought possible. the perfect thing to pair with those leftovers? eggs! well, eggs and quite a number of other things. hence the necessary trip to whole foods. the shopping trip left us with ingredients for the following: crab quesadillas with guacamole and eggs and a citrus fruit salad.

i love citrus, so this salad gives it something a little bit extra but pretty much just hangs onto the integrity of the fruit. and it's incredibly festive. to make it even better, you really can't go wrong with crab, cheese, guacamole and eggs. it's a match made in heaven (the perfect thing to share).

citrus salad
  • a mix of citrus (we used grapefruits, navel oranges and blood oranges), segmented
  • honey
  • chopped mint
  • champagne vinegar (champagne)
  • whisk together honey, mint and vinegar. start with about a tablespoon of each and adjust to taste.
  • mix with citrus.
crab quesadilla with guacamaole and eggs
  • eggs
  • 2 corn tortillas per quesadilla
  • small handful of cheese per quesadilla (something mild), grated
  • crabmeat
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 small tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • salt and pepper
  • make the guacamole: mash the avocados and add salt to taste. add tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice. mix well.
  • heat both sides of the tortillas in a pan. once warmed, put cheese and crab in between tortillas and heat until cheese melts and tortillas brown. keep warm while you make the eggs.
  • make eggs any way you like (i prefer over easy)
  • assemble: place quesadilla on a plate. top with guacamole then eggs.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

a new year's built for two

seeing as i'm so behind on these holiday posts, we'll just work our way back from most recent back to, well, thanksgiving. that puts us at new year's. welcome to go go zo. no rules.

so this comprises my meal with friend number 2 during our lovely new year's eve in. it's the best excuse to spend an outrageous amount on groceries and not have an ounce of guilt about it. not to mention the 6 bottles of bubbly we purchased in preparation...
for the record, we did not drink them all. and even if we did, i'm not condoning binge drinking. HOWEVER, like i said, perfect excuse.

the menu!:

i think friend 2 dubbed this: scallop surprise. she's usually better with words...
aka scallops with blood orange and fennel salad

adapted from a different scallop project, this version uses blood oranges. there's nothing not to like and it's incredibly easy to make.
  • olive oil
  • 2-4 sea scallops (depending how hungry you are)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 blood orange, zested, then segmented
  • juice of 2 blood oranges
  • 2 tablespoons champagne (in the spirit of the evening), you could also use white wine and/or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon or 2 of chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • slice the fennel and toss with a little bit of parsley and orange juice
  • sear the scallops: first make sure they are dry by patting with a paper towel then season with salt and pepper. heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium high heat and when the oil is hot (don't jump ahead here!) add the scallops to the pan. brown on each side; this only takes a few minutes. remove from the pan and set aside
  • add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, then the shallots. cook the shallots until soft
  • deglaze the pan: add champagne, citrus juice and zest to the pan, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom to release the scallop bits. allow this mixture to come to a boil and then reduce for a few minutes
  • add the parsley to the pan, stir, and add the scallops for a minute to warm
  • serve scallops on a bed of fennel and blood orange slices
  • serves 2

sauteed shitake mushrooms

in the spirit of julia, DON'T CROWD THE MUSHROOMS! the key here is lots of butter, lots of salt and giving the shrooms room to do their thing.
  • shitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • butter
  • salt
  • champagne (or you could use sherry)
  • heat a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large pan.
  • add mushrooms (you might have to do in batches, with more butter for each batch). they should not overlap. important! once you place them into the pan, DO NOT TOUCH! let them hang out (brown) and then AND ONLY THEN, flip them and brown on other side.
  • remove from heat, add a splash of your alcohol of choice and let the alcohol cook off.
  • enjoy plain, or use as a garnish (soup, salad, you name it.)

lobster pasta

in the spirit of the night, we had to go lobster. you could also do this with crab, or even shrimp for a less expensive option. this pasta is delicious and cheesy.
  • 1/2 lb linguine
  • 1 lobster tail with shell (about 1/4 lb)
  • a few shitake mushroom stems
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 cloves chopped garlic garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • cheese! we went with a goat gouda. let's say about a cup.
  • parmesean cheese
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • sautee or boil lobster tail until almost cooked through.
  • remove meat from shell and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • place lobster shell, shitake stems and some salt in small pot of water and simmer to reduce.
  • in the meantime, cook pasta.
  • heat some olive oil and butter in a large pan. add garlic and cook until softened. add cheese and stir. when stock reduces add some of it to the pan. add lobster meat and finish cooking. add parsley and lemon juice. stir again to combine.
  • add pasta to sauce, add some parmesean cheese and stir.
  • serves 2