Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Awesome Orange Balsamic Scallops, Among Other Things

OH this week is Draaaaaginggggg.

BUT.... it's not one of those boring, every day the same weeks. Except for that I took the N to 14th to switch to the Q instead of standing on the smelly 34th street platform two days in a row and it actually worked perfectly. That never happens more than once, without some train doors slamming in your face when you try to transfer. So that was kinda groundhog-day-ish. Other than that....

Had some good meals this week. Real good food week.

Monday, I got a delicious BBQ chicken bowl from Mexicue on 7th Ave. Oh yeah, that was awesome.
Sear scallops in butter. Add 1/4 tsp orange zest to 1/3C balsamic vinegar and reduce over low heat until syrupy.

Monday night, my Fresh Direct arrived 5 minutes before I got home, perfect timing! I was able to make seared Sea Scallops with Orange Balsamic Drizzle.

Risotto with Orange juice, wine, onions, fennel, peas and pistachios.
And I experimented with some Orange Fennel Risotto. That was alright. Interesting. Needs some work. Or not, we can just forget it probably. The flavors were a bit too overwhelming by the 2nd day as leftovers.

Besides having way too much energy this week, Misty thinks the new memory foam kitchen mat is for her. BTW it's super hard to get the hair off of it, not to mention the shards of nylabone.

Tuesday I had a pretty cool ready-to-eat lunch from Fresh Direct. Rosa Mexicano Chicken Veracruz. Tasty. Gave me pretty bad indigestion though, and that made getting through the afternoon tough.

Tuesday night I made a very tasty broiled Salmon Fillet with a crumb topping. Slathering it with mayo to get the crumbs to stick, and seal in the moisture, is key.

Today, I found a lunch option that has always been right under my nose: 'wichcraft at 32nd & Broadway. I somehow always believed that it was just for coffee. Even though I knew what 'wichcraft was. I just NEVER saw anyone buying anything there. Now I know why. It's very good. BUT... SO OVERPRICED. Did I need 6oz of goat cheese in my sandwich? Probably could've got by with 4oz. I appreciate the generosity, but really - a $15 lunch should consist of a seated meal with a server and include beverage and ambience. But this was just a veggie sandwich and a cup of soup. Both delish- creamy goat cheese, avocado, walnuts... cheesy tomato soup... but are you kidding me? They didn't even give me any bread or crackers for the soup. C'mon! Well, now I know. $17 for chips/soda/LOBSTER ROLL at Nauti, Luke's Lobster truck is a better splurge, but they just rarely come around!

Tonight, I checked out the new Shake Shack in Brooklyn (a few blocks from my house) with my friend KK, who was kind enough to come down to Brooklyn to meet up. The vegetarian 'Shroom Burger is so good! Deep fried mushroom stuffed with cheese, and a little thousand-island dressing and stuff. So good. The fattiest mushroom sandwich EVER. But worth every bite and every penny. Although I paid a lot less for it than my lunch.... $10 for the sammy and the fries. I won't count the bottle of wine we split... but that was good too!

Amarula Brownies: Replace water with Amarula Cream Liquor!
Somehow this all left me craving brownies. Alright, I've been craving them for a few days. I couldn't help throwing together a batch of them tonight when I got home. If you use a really shallow pan, they only take about 30 minutes. I decided to use Amarula instead of water, along with some chocolate chips and nuts - cuz that's just how I roll on a Wedesday.

Little Misty probably wishes I spent less time playing with food and more time playing with her! It's only Wednesday honey... if even for 20 more minutes... two more LONG days!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chanterelle & Hedgehog Soup

No, since you asked, this soup does not contain actual hedgehogs - just mushrooms, potatoes, and a little fatty pork (if you wish).

Yellowfoot mushrooms
When I saw that Fresh Direct now has a much wider variety of mushrooms, not to mention on sale for $6 each, I picked up some packs of Chanterelles, Yellowfoots and Hedgehogs. The Chanterelles are not strangers to me, but I've never cooked with the other two. Yellowfoot are sort of like a Chanterelle on top, with a hollow and skinny yellow stem. The Hedgehogs are aptly named for having bumpy spikes under the caps instead of gills. Bumpy foods are funny to me. Fungus amuses me. Good times.

Hedgehog mushrooms
My favorite way to cook with wild mushrooms is to make simple soup. That way you can taste each individual mushroom and enjoy the different textures in each bite. Since I hadn't had two of these mushrooms before, I wanted to try them this way first. I knew they would be find together, no matter the exact flavors, because they are all related in the gilled-cap family.

As mentioned earlier, I do like to use salt pork in this soup. It's a mild and clear soup, so you definitely need a fat element. You can use butter for the vegetarian version. I actually made two pots at once - a veg version and a pork version, for my husband and I. The pork version is addictive, but the butter version is just fine as well, because the earthy mushrooms give the broth lots of flavor.

If you're using mushrooms in soup, it's fine to rinse them despite popular instruction. They're going to get wet soon enough, and gilled mushrooms collect so much dirt when they grow wild in the forest that they are difficult to wipe clean.
The Chanterelles were sweet and meaty, although it's not really their season, so they do tend to be bland this time of year. The Yellowfoot were light and delicate, almost disappearing into the mix. The Hedgehogs were pretty cool - they keep a pretty nice firm texture, and taste very similar to the Chanterelles.

Chanterelle & Hedgehog Soup
6oz Chanterelle mushrooms
6oz Yellowfoot mushrooms
6oz Hedgehog mushrooms
1 C yellow or white onion, diced
3oz Salt pork, diced (or substitute 3T butter)
2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
6-8 C water
To taste: Kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder

1. Clean the mushrooms thoroughly by swishing in water and rubbing off the dirt and pine needles. Lay them on paper towels. Cut any dirty ends off stems and discard. Cut any long stems off the caps and slice them into rounds. Slice across or tear apart the caps into manageable pieces.

2. In a soup pot over medium heat, add the salt pork or butter. Cook pork, stirring occasionally for about 5-8 minutes until it becomes opaque. 

3. Lower heat to medium-low and add onions to the pork or melted butter. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

4. Add potatoes, mushrooms and then water to cover everything in the pot by about an inch. Simmer for 40 minutes - 1 hour. 

5. Add 1 Tablespoon of salt, stir, and taste. Season with more salt as needed, plenty of pepper and a few sprinkles of garlic and onion powders. 

Serve simply alone, or with bread. Keep in mind, the flavor will get stronger when stored overnight - it's usually best the 2nd day.

Misty will only stir for the pork version of the soup. She's never had pork, but her dog-sense tells her to go check it out the minute it hits the pan. Otherwise, she's happy to just stay all curled up.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chocolate Marshmallow Crispy Treats

I never really forgot about Rice Krispies Treats. They were a classic when I was a kid. Then Kellogs started offering pre-packaged treats. Although marshmallows are just what I think of as stupid chemicals anyways, I always preferred the homemade version to the packaged. There was nothing like fresh treats.

In college, a bunch of us would break from fashion studio hours for dinner together at the dining hall. One of my classmates reminded me how easy it was to make Krispies Treats. Just take some of the puffed rice cereal, add some marshmallows from the hot cocoa bar, and some butter from the bread bar, and pop the bowl in the microwave. Stir, eat your chicken nuggets and tater tots. When you're done, fresh Krispie Treats in a bowl are waiting. Or don't wait at all. Just eat them gooey, straight away.

Growing up, we typically had Cocoa Krispies around, since that was my kid-cereal of choice back in the 80's. The original flavor was bland to me, and I would just pour sugar on top. My parents had (and still have) a box in the cupboard just for chocolate and cookies - so the fact that I preferred chocolate cereal was no surprise considering my genes. And they made much more exciting Krispies Treats.

Recently, I've been venturing out from the office for a Starbucks Krispie Treat from time to time. However, they insist on calling them "Dream Bars" which fails to trigger nostalgic feelings such a treat should. I'm sure it's a legal thing, but come on, we all know it's a Rice Krispie Treat. No need to correct me every time I order it, it's really not my problem. We all grew up here, we know what I want... dammit, just let me order it how I want! I do find them slightly 'dreamier' than the packaged version, though, since they seem fresh, and are less densely packed. And they have extra marshmallows hanging out in there.

I can't remember the last time I actually pressed a pan of my own treats. I really can't. Have I even made them since moving to New York? Why not?

I decided to make a pan this weekend, modeled after the airy Starbucks version. But Fresh Direct didn't have original Rice Krispies. It seemed that they wanted me to buy their version of the Krispie Treat pre-made. I'm not falling for that. I bought Cocoa Krispies instead, and created a superior treat dotted with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips.

I had one after lunch yesterday. Two after second lunch. And one for breakfast with coffee this morning. My husband was laughing at me. C'mon, it's cereal, it's totally appropriate!

Chocolate Marshmallow Crispy Treats

3T butter
1 10.5oz bag of mini marshmallows, divided into 4 C and 1 C
6 C Cocoa Krispies or other chocolate puffed rice cereal
1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate morsels

In a large pot melt the butter over low heat. Add 4 C marshmallows and stir until almost completely melted together.

Remove from heat and add cereal, quickly stirring to combine. Add the chocolate chips and 1 C marshmallows and quickly fold in. 

Pour the whole mess into a 13" x 9" x 2" pan (nonstick, or coated with cooking spray). Press down gently with waxed paper or a spatula. 

Cool completely before cutting into bars, if you can wait!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Another Week's Gone By

Here's another 58F degree day changing to 28F degrees... pretty big clouds rolling by.
I can't believe it's already the middle of January. 2012. Seems like a few weeks ago we were just planning our holiday party and looking forward to our New Year's ski trip. Already we're past that and on to planning new vacations and gatherings.

I haven't had anything grandiose to write about. Work is finally calming down. Been going out a lot.  

A night out around Chinatown and the LES.
Tried some cool cocktails at Apotheke, where the bartenders wear lab coats while they concoct the above.
 Since work is slowing down, I have a little more energy to cook dinner. Not to much new or exciting, but at least I'm getting back in the swing. Hopefully new ideas will come soon.

Old stand-by: Beef-less Stroganoff, salad and wine.

I made a naughty chicken cutlet and had some leftover egg and crumbs. Fried fennel root is awesome!

Found a recipe for Spaghetti Squash, Spinach, White Beans and Feta - but overcooked the squash to moosh.

Made a delicious skirt steak marinated in olive oil and cabernet. Garlic sautéed mushrooms and onions on the side. Yum!

Also hung out with Misty alot.

And then hung out with Misty some more. She's so cuddly.
 Hopefully something interesting happens soon! Otherwise you'll be seeing more photos of Misty. It's so fun to sit and pet her that we kind of get lazy about our chores and everything else around here!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tarragon Shrimp Over Herb Salad with Lemon-Fennel Vinaigrette

Haven't you had enough comfort food for a while? Remember salad?
I always say that there's no such thing as a New Year's resolution. I think it's more of a return to the end of some sort of cycle we get stuck in. Gain weight, lose weight. Eat more, eat less. Dine out too much, eat at home more. Spend more, spend less. Abundance and lack make the world go 'round.

After a month or more of eating rich, going out and being social, naturally I feel like taking it easy. For a little while. At least until the Super Bowl - which is a whole other cycle of hot-wings, beer, fatness, yoga, skinniness, repeat.

In the spirit of beginning anew the cycle of healthy eating and self-repair, I will try to share with you some lighter and healthier foods this month. I know I'm not the only one who had a few too many Filet Mignons last month, and probably about 40 chocolates and 20 glasses of wine too many also - but who's counting? And too many for what? We can recover from this, together, I promise you.

This past weekend I completed my Filet Mignon cycle and reset to a salad cycle. I was not alone.

View from Mont Tremblant
I was up in Mont Tremblant skiing and hanging out with a bunch of friends for New Year's Eve weekend. It started with an open-faced Croque Monsieur sandwich topped by a cheese-blanket, accompanied by fries and a cheese-ensconced plate of nachos and a beer. In general, it seems the French Canadians really enjoy a heavy helping of fatso cheese. Kind of explains why I could never give up cheese, seeing as I'm about a quarter F-C myself. Either way, after a couple more rich meals I was feeling kind of blech. What a gluttonous month.

So much beer & chips! Yay vacation!
After a few ski runs on Saturday, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant. We were pleasantly surprised to find rather un-greasy comida delicioso. I ordered a salad - greens with shrimp, pecans, pears and a fig-balsamic dressing. It just sounded so refreshing. And it was - I forgot about salad!

Sunday night, the remaining six of us decided unanimously that we'd like a big, fresh, green salad at dinner. Some pasta too, but definitely feeling the salad. My friend picked up some greens, a mustard dressing, avocado, grapefruit and cashews. So great. We hardly touched the pasta.

So here I am at the beginning of the salad cycle, right on time for new year's resolutions. But it's not a resolution so much as I just feel like eating lighter. I feel in my bones that I miss fresh herbs and crunchy vegetables. So tonight I made this yummy salad with these awesome giant Wild Patagonian Red Shrimp from Fresh Direct. A little tarragon lends freshness. Fennel and baby carrots give the salad some crunch. It's 17F degrees outside and summer in my kitchen.

Tarragon Shrimp Over Herb Salad with Lemon-Fennel Vinaigrette
 approx. 2 large servings

2 T butter
1 lb large shrimp (10-15 ct), peeled and deveined
Salt & Pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T lemon juice
2 T fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

4 C herb salad (or mixed greens), rinsed and dried
1/2 C baby carrots, halved
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced (about 1/2 C)

Lemon-Fennel Vinaigrette
1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 T fennel fronds, (small leafy parts without the stems) chopped 

*Prep shrimp and set aside in a bowl, ready to cook. Be sure to sanitize the counter-top (from any stray shrimp juices) and wash your hands well. Avoid cross-contamination.

Wild Patagonian Red Shrimp
1. Prepare the salad dressing by whisking together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and mustard. Stir in fennel fronds.

2. Slice carrots and fennel. Add fennel slices to the dressing to marinate at least 15 minutes.

3. Season the raw shrimp with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it froths and begins to brown (in about 1 minute) add the shrimp. Cook about 2 minutes and add the garlic. Cook 2-3 more minutes until shrimp are curled and opaque.

4. Remove the shrimp from heat and mix in a dash of lemon juice and the fresh tarragon.

5. Arrange the greens, and carrots on plates. Top with marinated fennel and a drizzle of dressing. Add a few shrimp on top and garnish with fresh tarragon.

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