Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cilantro Creamed Peas & Carrots


I made pierogi for dinner last night. Unfortunately, that is a pretty colorless meal. So I decided to throw together some peas and carrots as a side dish. As I was also considering blending some sour cream and cilantro to top the pierogi, I decided to combine that idea with the vegetables instead. It was delicious, although a bit rich - so I might cut down on the cream cheese next time.

The concoction ended up like this: 

Cilantro Creamed Peas & Carrots
2 oz cream cheese
1/4 C fat free sour cream
large hand-full cilantro
1 T grated parmesan
salt, pepper, garlic powder 
Cooked peas and carrots

Blend all sauce ingredients in a food processor until cilantro is well chopped. Heat in a saucepan and add cooked peas and carrots. Top with paprika.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Biggest Crispy Pork Chops Ever

When my husband works late, I eat giant pork chops. It's not a girly emotional eating binge of loneliness, but more of an overcompensation for temporary meat deprivation. It's also about freedom, selfishness, and gluttony. I suppose when you are as anal and people-pleasing as I am, you really need to let loose and go whole-hog sometimes. It's not that he in any way controls what I eat, it's just easier to make a meal for both of us than something special for each of us. Plus, if I left him to his own devices for dinner, he'd surely starve on his diet of Cheeze-Its, cheese and Red Stripe. But, he is working late again on this slightly warm pre-Spring evening. I also worked a bit late, and skipped going to the gym, so I made a small effort to find an activity partner for dinner - without success. I'll be okay. I am perfectly happy chillin' out with my old familiar friend. Giant pork chop.

Crispy Crunchy Baked Pork Chops
2 Large or 4 small Pork Chops, rinsed under cold water
2 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 C Panko bread crumbs
3/4 C Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
seasoning salt
dried basil
dried oregano
dried parsley
dried thyme
1/4 C Grated parmesan cheese
1 T Vegetable Oil

Preheat oven to 425. 
In a ziploc bag, combine equal amounts of panko and italian bread crumbs. Season lightly with a sprinkle of seasoning salt, pepper, basil, oregano, parsley and thyme. Add the parmesan and oil, and shake the bag and mush the crumbs together to incorporate the oil.

Dredge chops in beaten egg, and drop one at a time into bag. Shake to coat and place on a wire rack over a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, in center of oven, to brown the crust. Turn down to 400 and bake another 30-40 minutes depending on thickness. 

I usually check after 20 minutes to get a feel for how fast they are cooking. A meat thermometer inserted should read around 160F for pork. I find that a small digital meat thermometer is indispensable because you don't have to cut into the meat and release all the juices to find out that it is not cooked. Pork always takes longer to cook than I think it will. My two 1-1/4" thick center-cut bone-in chops took 50 minutes to reach 160 - so plan accordingly.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tea at Sanctuary T

I always say that one should not wander Soho looking for food or drink without a plan, or at least an iPhone. Last night I met my friend half-way between Brooklyn and Hell's Kitchen for dinner at Extra Virgin on West 4th street in the village. We took our time enjoying pecan crusted goat cheese salad, steak, mushroom chicken and hot berry crisp with white chocolate ice cream, but still had some time to kill before meeting up with some other friends. We decided to walk in their direction, from the village towards Tribeca. Like I said, wandering with no plan in this area is not usually a good idea. That theory rang true as we passed block after block of nothing, broken up by the occasional packed restaurant with no free bar-seats. We paused to check his iPhone for ideas and decided on the Soho Grand. Unfortunately iPhone can't tell you when Soho Grand has a 45 minute wait for seating and a packed bar.

So we found ourselves wandering around Grand street and West Broadway looking for a spot to kill time. A chalk board advertising "spiced wine" outside a restaurant caught my eye, and we noticed there were plenty of tables available. We were seated at a rustic table between two other parties - a group of four who appeared to have eaten dinner and were lingering convivially over a bottle of wine and a couple on a date having tea and dessert. But this wasn't your normal choose-from-the-tea-box tea. He had a clear teacup with a teabag suspended from a bamboo stick, steeping a deep amber color. Hers was a wine glass containing a flower bud slowly blooming in steaming water. 

 With several menus in front of us, we suddenly realized we had stumbled into a very special place. A place where, if I wanted, I could continue an evening of wine drinking, while my friend on his Z-pak, and banned from drinking, could enjoy the benefits of a therapeutic tea. Since I drink wine all the time... anywhere... whenever I want... I decided to go for one of the 80 some-odd teas. The choice was difficult, but I've been craving Rooibos ever since what we brought back from Africa ran out (American packaged versions are just not quite the same, and hard to find). So, I focused in on the Rooibos section and decided on the chocolate-orange flavored Yaffa Rooibos. My friend went for an Ayervedic blend of 8 herbs.

The tea was presented with the suspended teabag in a clear glass which rested on an egg-shaped wooden plate (I actually have these plates at home, from Crate & Barrel). On the side of each tea was a stick of rock-candy sugar for a stirring rod, and a tiny modern vase containing milk for my Rooibos. Both teas were delicious. The Rooibos was smooth with just a hint of the chocolate and orange. I had no idea there were so many varieties of Rooibos tea. Since we were so absorbed in the menu and tea experience, we hadn't even noticed the name of the restaurant. As we left to meet people at Lucky Strike, we found the name Sanctuary T on the windows, and vowed to come back and explore more of the menu very soon with our tea-loving friends. I'm so glad my Soho wandering theory has finally been disproved - it was the kind of night that reminds me how much I love New York.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fried Eggs over Hash Browns

Trader Joe's Hash Browns that look like the McDonald's kind. Fresh sliced tomatoes with salt just like they do it at the General Greene. Organic eggs, fried sunny side up with runny yolks. All of these things inspired a breakfast I wish I could eat every day.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stir-Fry Corn Babies with Cashew Nuts

My body must be getting used to Bikram yoga. I don't go as much as I should, but at least I'm going somewhat regularly! The usual sequence of events following a class involves holding my s**t together breathing deeply all the way home (for some reason this yoga makes me feel crazy irritable afterwards), pounding a mango coconut Zico, showering (a second time), eating the first thing I see, and sitting on the couch dying - yet, feeling awesomely good at the same time. Tonight, I emerged from the shower and had enough energy and motivation to make something healthy for dinner. Apparently, as you practice Bikram, your body is supposed to naturally crave healthy food. I'm not sure if it was my body, or my brain telling me I have fresh vegetables and brown rice in the fridge. Whatever, it makes sense either way. It's not the perfect meal by Bikram's standards, considering the garlic, onions and salty soy sauce, but it's an improvement. It may be bland, by my husband's standards, but it hit the spot for both of us tonight. I hope I can get through typing the recipe before I collapse... I'm starting to feel my muscles aching now, and I still have to clean the kitchen.

Stir-Fry Vegetables with Cashew Nuts
1 T Vegetable / Canola Oil
1 small Onion, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 large Carrot, cut into sticks
1 C fresh Green Beans, trimmed, cut into 2" pieces (or snap them, more fun)
1 C fresh Baby Corn (large ones cut in half lengthwise)
Salt & Pepper 
Zest of 1 lemon
1 T margarine
3/4 C Vegetable Stock
1 T Lemon Juice
2 tsp Low Sodium Soy Sauce (Kikkoman - with the green label)
1/2 C raw Cashews

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a shallow pan. Add onions and saute about 4 minutes, and add garlic, cooking another 2 minutes and stirring.

2. Add carrots first and cook about 2 minutes while cutting the beans. Add beans for another 2 minutes, stirring.
3. Add baby corn and season everything with salt and pepper. Zest the lemon with a micro-plane over the pan and stir in.

4. Melt a pat of butter or margarine into the pan and then add the stock, lemon juice and soy sauce. Continue to stir from time to time over medium heat, about 5 minutes, while the vegetables absorb the sauce. Taste and season again if necessary. 

5. Add cashews to the pan for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, just to heat them through. 
6. Serve over brown rice, and garnish with thinly sliced green bean.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Best Pumpkin Ravioli Topping

Frozen pumpkin ravioli have become a staple in our household. But I'm starting to get bored with the sage browned butter. Last time I dressed it up with garlic, pearl onions and pine nuts, but I wanted to try something new. I can't tell you how many times I've googled "sauce for pumpkin ravioli", but I really haven't found many ideas. I never have the items on hand for a creamy sauce, so I've stuck to the tried and true browned butter (although I'm not that great at actually getting it "brown").  Last night I searched again, and finally happened upon a discussion on Commenters posted all kinds of ideas for pumpkin ravioli toppings, but generally agreed that browned butter is the best. I decided to take several of their collective suggestions, and add a splash of balsamic, some dried cranberries and toasted hazelnuts. The result looked like Christmas, tasted like Thanksgiving. The balsamic added some tanginess, and the chewy tart cranberries contrasted well with the crunchy toasted nuts. We'll definitely be having this again.

Sage Cranberry Hazelnut Browned Butter
1/4 C Hazelnuts, chopped into halves
Browned Butter (detailed instructions: Simply Recipes,
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Handful of fresh Sage leaves
2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar Di Modena
1/8 tsp Sugar
1/4 C Dried Cranberries
Fresh Grated Parmigiano cheese

Pumpkin (or Butternut Squash) Ravioli, storebought, cooked.

1. Heat a stainless steel pan over medium heat. Add the hazelnuts and stir until toasted. Remove pan from heat, and set nuts aside. Carefully wipe away any bits in the pan with a paper towel.

2. Prepare browned butter by melting about 4T unsalted butter in the pan over medium heat. 

3. Once the butter has becoming foamy (after about 2-3 minutes), add the sage leaves. Cook until the leaves get dark and crispy (about 3-5 minutes).

4. Add 1 or 2T olive oil, a dash of salt, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Add the vinegar carefully, as it may steam and spit when it hits the hot butter. Turn heat to low-medium.

5. Add the cranberries and stir until they are heated through and soften.

6. Remove ravioli from water with a slotted spoon and drop them into the butter pan. Some water may get involved in the sauce, but just turn up the heat a little and let it evaporate as you fold the ravioli gently in the butter to coat. 

7. Plate ravioli using the slotted spoon, and then spoon some butter over each plate. Top with toasted hazelnuts, grated cheese and pepper.

 Add sage after butter foams. That way the sage will have plenty of time to get crispy before the butter turns very brown. Don't let the butter get too brown, turn down the heat if it sizzles too much, you don't want it to start to smoke or to burn.
*Always keep a cookie sheet handy while cooking oil or butter - if it happens to catch on fire, just slide the pan right over the pan to cut off the oxygen.
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