Saturday, March 31, 2007

mom's macaroni salad

i can say with confidence i will never eat macaroni salad more delicious than my mom's. her macaroni salad is a staple at all summer family parties, picnics, and many a meal eaten on our deck. because it is in fact delicious and i have so many good memories of summer family get togethers, it makes me happy every time i eat it.

my mom taught me how to make this and although i've almost never met a recipe i didn't modify, i follow her directions to a tee every time. messing with this recipe would be sacrilege.

mom's macaroni salad

2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
6 hard boiled eggs
1 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced celery

1 cup hellman's mayo
1 cup kraft miracle whip
1 tbs yellow mustard

salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp celery salt
paprika, for garnish

cook macaroni, rinse with cold water, drain and set aside. in a large mixing bowl combine: diced hard boiled eggs, cucumber, onion, celery, and macaroni. stir to combine. in a smaller mixing bowl combine the mayo, miracle whip and mustard. add to large mixing bowl and incorporate. add celery salt, salt and pepper. mix. let chill in refrigerator for at least a couple of hours. before serving you may need to add a bit more mayo/miracle whip if it's too dry. sprinkle with paprika before serving.

thanks mom!

Friday, March 30, 2007

restaurant review: pei wei asian diner

p.f. chang's fast casual eatery, pei wei (pronounced "pay-way"), opened a couple of weeks ago in my neighborhood. i didn't really expect to write a review of a fast food establishment but we were so impressed, i whipped out the camera a took a couple of shots of our food (only the chicken lettuce wraps turned out).

pei wei seems to have optimized the "fast casual" dining experience. there are two entrances, two lines and two cash registers; one set for dine in, the other for take away. the menu is posted on *huge* light boxes at the entrance and there's a sign that politely asks that you decide on your order before heading up to the cash register. after you place your order you're given a round tag with your number on it. you then get your drink, have a seat and display your number at your table. when your food is ready, they find you. i much prefer this option to the "here's your order number, now it's your job to worry about hearing us call it out in a noisy restaurant." like p.f. changs, the food is meant to be eaten family style, large serving spoons come with each entree and there are ample stacks of plates at each table. they bus your table for you and the manager offered to refill drinks for us. nice!

on the menu, you'll find a few p.f. chang's favorites, namely the lettuce chicken wraps (pictured) and pei wei (chang's) spicy chicken. entrees range from $6.25 to $9 and are generously portioned. we had the minced chicken with cool lettuce wraps (the chicken for which i caught a glimpse of them grinding fresh in the back - a good sign), the spring rolls (perfectly crispy and served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce - seriously yummy), won ton soup (served with wilted spinach, i really liked this) and the pork blazing noodles (just the right level of heat and very tasty).

when our food was delivered, the blazing noodles arrived with chicken rather than pork and just as we were saying "oh well -pork, chicken, who cares?" the manager came over to inform us that he knew the order had just come out wrong and he had an order of pork heading our way shortly. he was extremely helpful and brought us to-go boxes for the heaps of extra food we had. i commented that i thought the food quality was on par with p.f. chang's and the manager shared that they buy all the same ingredients from the same suppliers as chang's. it shows, because the food was pretty tasty. this definitely is a good alternative when you're craving p.f. chang's and aren't interested in an hour and a half wait on a weekend or if you're just in the mood for good pan asian fare.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

pasta salad with broccoli and peanuts

it's sad to say, but food network has jumped the shark.
not to worry though, there's plenty of excellent food programming out there. just check out pbs for everyday food, gourmet's diary of a foodie, food trip with todd english america's test kitchen, lidia's family table and the travel channel for anthony bourdain: no reservations and bizarre foods.

pasta salad is a great spring & summer food. the bite from the rice vinegar is cut nicely by the peanut butter and i like the very slight heat the chili flake gives it. i changed it a bit from the original version.

pasta salad with broccoli and peanuts
(from everyday food)

1 lb pasta (i used gnocchi shaped by barilla)
2 lbs broccoli (about 2 heads)
3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 c brown rice vinegar
2 tbs smooth peanut butter (use krema!)
3 tbs soy sauce

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 c roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

cook pasta, drain, rinse and set aside
chop broccoli, including stems
heat oil and pepper flakes in a large saute pan
add broccoli & 3/4 cup water and cook covered until tender crisp (6-8 min)
uncover and cook until water evaporates (2-4 min)
in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, peanut butter & soy sauce
add pasta, broccoli, scallions & peanuts

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

straight from satan's kitchen

every year right before easter a colleague of mine supplies all of us with a confection so rich, so decadent, so sweet, and so yummy, we joke that it comes straight from satan's kitchen.
in reality, these chocolate peanut butter eggs are made in the kitchen of a church by sweet old church ladies. the fact that my coworkers and i tease church ladies about slaving in satan's kitchen should give you some insight into the type of people we are.

they weight about a half a pound and even though i always endeavor to do otherwise, i usually eat my entire easter egg in less than 24 hours. i don't have the recipe for these and trust me, it's best for everyone if the contents and calorie count for these eggs are never published. anywhere. under any circumstances.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

zucchini flatbread

the weather in columbus was wonderful today and i was greeted by these happy faces this morning:cooking in the kitchen with all the doors and windows open as i put together zucchini flatbread was heaven. the only thing that could have made it better would have been ingredients that came from the worthington farmer's market, but all things in good time, my friends.

zucchini flatbread evolved from making this recipe. the format/technique can be the base for lots of delectable combinations. both times i've made it i've let it rest in the fridge for up to 12 hours. so even though it takes a bit of time to put together, you can do it ahead of time if that's more convenient.

zucchini flat bread

parchment paper
pizza stone

1 pre-made ball of pizza dough (from whole foods)
1 pkg boursin spreadable goat cheese, divided
medium sweet onion
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 c parmesan reggiano, divided
3 tbs chopped parsley, divided
small zucchini, sliced thinly
small summer squash, sliced thinly
2 small roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
olive oil

let the ball of dough sit out and come to room temperature. slice onion and caramelize with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. meanwhile, stretch dough into a large square, about 15"x15" and place on parchment paper. spread half of goat cheese on half of the dough & spread caramelized onions over goat cheese. sprinkle with half of parmesan reggiano and half parsley:
using parchment paper, fold in half. spread goat cheese on top of flatbread and sprinkle with remaining parmesan reggiano. add slices of zucchini, squash and tomato. drizzle with olive oil and top with remaining parsley.

using parchment paper, transfer to pizza stone and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 min, until edges are browned. let rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

coconut milk - featured product

coconut milk is a trusty pantry staple. it's versatile, tasty and inexpensive. most common in thai, indian, and hawaiian cuisine, the sweet, rich flavor can be the perfect foil to a spicy element. my favorite way to put it to use is in one of the best comfort foods around: coconut rice. i usually choose the lite version because it's not a very far departure from high-test coconut milk and hey, i've got a wedding dress to fit into. coconut rice is a little sweet and rich without being too heavy. here's how i do it:

coconut rice

prep: 5 mins
cooking: 25 mins
nap afterward: at least 45 min

2 cups basmati rice
1 tbs butter
14 oz. can coconut milk
1 cup water
1 tbs cane sugar
1/2 tbs salt

melt the butter in a medium sauce pan and add rice. stir rice in butter to coat and begin to cook a bit. a few minutes later add water, coconut milk, sugar and salt to pan. cover and simmer for about 20 minutes on low. remove from heat and let sit for a few more minutes. fluff with a fork and serve along side spicy black beans, peanut chicken satay or sweet and spicy yuzu shrimp. or if you want to eat it alone and are feeling fancy, toast some shredded coconut for garnish.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

celebrity chef event

tonight i attended capital area humane society's celebrity chef event. not only is it a fun evening, it combines my two favorite things in life: pets and food. this year i was especially interested in going because it was held in the huntington club at ohio stadium, a venue for which opportunities to visit are few and far between.

the concept is simple: charge patrons $35 to sample food from local celebrities (sports, news and politicians) and hot local restaurants & caterers, enjoy live music and a cash bar. not only does capitol area humane society raise a good bit of money but new restaurants get to showcase their food to a few hundred happy people. plus you get to hang out with some of capital area's awesome adoptable animals! being able to make a meal from tiny bites of lots of delicious foods is pretty much my perfect dining experience so i was in heaven.

the huntington club proved to be a venue far superior to the last celebrity chef event i attended at the blackwell. the flow was much better and it never really felt too crowded. i sampled food from latitude 41, z cucina, betty's, jeni's ice cream, vito's catering, wild oats, the greek corner, edible arrangements, and top steak house.

by far, my favorite item of the evening was the butterscotch panacota from z cucina.

another standout was the eggplant tapanade (or was it ragout?) over polenta from vito's catering. it had a piquant element that may have been olives or pimentos. i'd like to attempt a version of this at some point in the future.

also, jeni's ice cream was dishing absolutely huge portions of quite a few flavors. i had the apricot yogurt and it was spectacular (...and then i had the gravel road, but that was it, i swear!). then i gushed like a total geek to jeni about how much i loved the buttercup squash ice cream this winter.
a fun evening for a great cause!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

pad thai - a slight obsession

i'm on a quest for the perfect pad thai. it's almost a guarantee that if i see it on a menu, even if my intentions are otherwise, the words "i'll have the pad thai!" will pop out of my mouth.
much like the search for the perfect pizza, the concept of 'the perfect pad thai' is much too subjective to yield a definitive answer that everyone agrees on. there are variables in the way pad thai is prepared and depending preference, my ultimate pad thai may look nothing like your perfect pad thai.

this being said, the variables are:
composition or ingredient ratio - what's the ratio of noodles, protein, sauce, veggies, egg and garnish to one another?
sauce - flavor, texture and viscosity, how sweet is it, tangy, salty, hot? is it too greasy or worse, gritty?
rice noodles - are they broad or thin? cooked to the correct texture?
protein - is it properly cooked? or is it over cooked?
garnish - are there plenty of peanuts? bean sprouts - are they over cooked or raw? lime for squeezing over?

here's a sampling of the places i've had some good and not so good pad thai:
haiku (short north)- great, but not consistently so. the sauce is a bit on the sweet side and when over applied can be overwhelming and greasy. good composition, i like the mix of veggies and proportion of noodles to the rest of the ingredients.
jason's (dublin) - sorry to be negative, but wow, this was a huge disappointment. they've named their's "columbus' best phad thai" and it didn't live up the night i had it. the whole thing was dry and the shrimp were overcooked to the point that they were inedible. gross. they also served lemon as a garnish. not right.
lemon grass (short north) - ok, not remarkable. too spicy as i recall.
thai orchid (sawmill) - tasty. the sauce is a bit "brown" for my taste. high quality meat cooked properly.
tai's asian bistro (lane ave) - great veggies and good noodle/ingredient ratio. good attention to garnish, even on take out. consistently good. plus these guys are friendly.
china market (north market) - to be frank, don't bother with this place. the orders take forever and the best pad thai in town is a mere 20 yards away.

my favorite pad thai in columbus:
nida sushi (north market) - the noodles are broad and springy, perfect for holding the right amount of sauce. speaking of which, nida's sauce is excellent. the flavor profiles are right on and it's never overwhelming. the sauce is the perfect highlight to the high quality/properly proportioned ingredients. the service is always friendly, fast and they are consistent about getting the "mild, medium, hot and extra hot" levels that they offer just right. the peanuts (i love peanuts) are decidedly present but not too much and the bean sprouts are wilted the perfect amount, retaining a bit of crunch. the egg and shrimp are never burned. awesome. i could eat this twice a week for the rest of my life.
i'm sure other items on their menu are excellent but as much as i want to try them, i'm sure "i'll have the pad thai!" will be all that comes out when i order.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

butternut squash soup

oh how i love butternut squash. the smell of a freshly cut butternut squash is so delicate and delicious, it's almost intoxicating. i could write poetry about butternut squash.
instead, i'll just make this fantastic soup:

butternut squash soup

1 butternut squash, medium
1 onion, medium
couple of tbs olive oil
4ish cups of chicken stock
1/2 tbs marjoram
cayenne pepper, to taste (i use a lot!)
pepper (quite a few grinds)
salt, to taste
~1/4 cup cream cheese

the proportions of this recipe are fluid. don't stress. just put in what you have and it's going to be good.
dice the onion and saute with olive oil in stock pot or dutch oven until soft. meanwhile, dice the squash. here's the method i use: use veggie peeler to peel squash. cut off ends. cut in half lengthwise. scoop out seeds. dice. lather. rinse. repeat.
add squash, seasonings and stock to pot. simmer until squash is soft, maybe 20 minutes.
add cream cheese and use a stick blender to puree. for this version, i used honey nut cream cheese. yum.

this is a relatively low cal, inexpensive, quick and easy recipe. it's a lunch box staple in my house.

peruvian food on line for jay leno

recently while visiting a friend in LA, we went to a taping of the tonight show. before we got into line we stopped at a delicious peruvian restaurant for lunch. i had aji de galina -chicken in walnut sauce. although i could not discern any walnut in the dish, it was excellent. the sauce was rich and creamy and the fresh cilantro on top added the perfect bite of flavor. i also had potatoes with huancaina sauce (smooth and mild cheese sauce) and peruvian beans. the beans were pintos with an added kick of what tasted like vinegar. yum! not only was the food great but the gentleman who took our order was friendly enough to let us sample quite a few things before making our selections.

choza mama
3121 olive ave
burbank, ca 91505

Saturday, March 17, 2007

restaurant review: soluna cafe

soluna cafe is located on the ground floor of the surgical and heart center at grant medical center. the menu seemed right up my alley for lunch fare and it's within walking distance from work so some coworkers and i headed over last week.

first impressions:
  • the interior of the cafe was well thought out and has a nice zen-like feel. lots of natural wood and stone. we luxuriated in each other's company for a considerable amount of time after we ate and lingered a bit more before we left.
  • the service staff is very friendly and helpful. way more cheerful than your average fast-casual cafe staff.
  • i appreciate how detailed their nutrition info online is. being that i watch calories now and then and soup/sandwiches can be deceptively gluttonous, it was nice to know exactly what i was eating.
this being said, i ordered all the wrong things. the southwest chicken panini i ordered was alright (too crunchy, it tore up the roof of my mouth) but i would have been happier with the flat bread and soup. both looked awesome (and lower cal than the panini). had i not been reeled in by the caramelized onions and chipotle mayo, i might have been able to think clearly enough to choose the soup and red grape and goat cheese flat bread.
they serve starbucks coffee and seem to make about 80% of the menu that a stand alone starbucks store offers - bonus.
my coworkers raved about their meals. i'll definitely be going back once the weather warms up and we get back into the habit of walking places for lunch.
and for those of you who are looking to cruise hot doctors, soluna has a captive audience ;)
these pics aren't that great, i hesitate to put my fingers on other people's lunch to style it for a shot.
southwest chicken panini

roasted vegetable soup and red grape and goat cheese flat bread

roast beef wrap with the veggie soup

i said there were doctors...
ahh, zen...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

sweet & spicy yuzu shrimp

sweet & spicy yuzu shrimp

1 lb peeled, raw shrimp
2-3 cups snow peas
2 cups water chestnuts
oil for stir frying (i used canola with a spash of sesame oil)

for sauce:
1/2 c yuzu spread
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs dijon mustard
1 squirt of huy fong chili sauce

for garnish:
grapefruit zest

heat oil and add stir fry ingredients. mix sauce and add to stir fry. cook until shrimp is pink and sauce boils. serve over brown rice and garnish with grapefruit zest

this recipe turned out about the way i expected it would. i was pleased that the sauce didn't over power the taste of the stir fry ingredients and liked the combination of the citrus and heat. if i made it again i'd add some cornstarch to the sauce to thicken it up a bit. the yuzu spread i used for this recipe almost didn't make it to tonight. it was so good i've been snacking on it all week.

Sunday, March 11, 2007



2 lbs ground bison
2 bell peppers (yellow & orange)
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeƱo diced
1 jar cajohn's chili starter
3 cans diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can kidney beans
3/4 tbs ground cumin
1/2 tbs oregano
1 tbs chili powder
3/4 tbs cajohn's krakatoa habenero mash
2 tbs chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

shredded monterey jack
sour cream
oyster crackers
diced onion

saute onions, peppers, garlic, bison and salt and pepper.
add chili starter, tomatoes, beans, habenero mash and spices and simmer for at least 45 mins. garnish according to taste.

a word about cajohn's firey foods:
cajohn's is a fantastic local purveyor of spicy foods. until recently they sold limited products at specialty stores in columbus, via phone & internet sales and out of their very-hard-to-find-only-open-bank-hours production facility in one of columbus' most sketchy neighborhoods. they've won about a billion awards all over the country and just opened a booth selling their entire line in the north market. a few months back we ventured out to their facility and the owners were kind enough to give us an impromptu tour of their production facility and chat with us about the production process. if you've got someone on your christmas list who loves spicy foods, you can't go wrong with any of cajohn's products.
in closing: these guys are nice, they turn out consistent, high quality products and in my opinion they're one of columbus' best kept secrets. now, get yourself to the north market and pick up some cajohn's.

yuzu - featured product

the first time i heard about yuzu was on top chef. i was intrigued because a google search described the taste as being somewhere between a grapefruit and a lime. it sounded delicious, these are my two favorite citrus fruits.
trader joe's has just started offering yuzu spread (analogous to marmalade) so i picked some up.
i had it over a crumpet (also from joes). the crumpet tasted like a cross between pancake and an english muffin. it was slightly spongy with lots of air pockets and crisped up nicely in the toaster.
on to the yuzu: the texture was delicate and the tart and slightly bitter flavor of the yuzu was smoothed out by a mellow sweetness. not too tart and yet not cloying. this is pretty tasty, i'll definitely buy it again.
i plan to use it in a sweet and spicy asian stir fry in the the next few days, stay tuned for that.

Friday, March 9, 2007

pad thai redux

i really like pad thai. like a tractor beam, if i see it on a menu anywhere i'll be sucked into ordering it. i've definitely got opinions about who has the best and worst pad thai in columbus.
but that's another post for another day.
i got to thinking about my love for pad thai and decided to try a dish that combined my favorite parts of pad thai and added some of my favorite ingredients. i'm really happy with the result. the sauce was just the way i like it and i really piled on the peanuts.

pad thai ala kitsune

3 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs vinegar
1 tsp crushed red pepper
squirt of huy fung garlic chili sauce

mix ingredients for sauce and set aside.

stir fry ingredients:
yellow bell pepper
baby broccoli
water chestnuts

stir fry above ingredients and pour sauce over. bring sauce to a boil and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

serve over:

3 cups cooked brown rice

garnish with:

bean sprouts
crushed peanuts
rough chopped cilantro
lime wedges

Thursday, March 8, 2007

laying in supplies

i placed an order for 10 lbs of veal bones with carfagna's today. if i'm lucky they'll be here next friday and i can spend the following sunday making my own veal stock. this will be my first real foray into making homemade stock. i'm looking forward to all the delicious things i can parlay this stock into. first and foremost on the list is demi glace. because i enjoy reading anthony bourdain, i'm going to use his method for making veal stock and demi glace.
due to my slightly compulsive nature, i couldn't bear the thought of putting my mish mash of leftover containers to use in storing this precious stock. so i stopped by my local gfs and purchased some plastic deli containers (in 16 oz. and 32 oz. sizes) and 1 oz. containers for small portions of demi glace. the thought of combining a new culinary adventure and compulsive organization, nirvana!

next, i'm getting ready to launch a new weekly feature. "product of the week" will feature a single product that may be new, unique, interesting or just catches my fancy. where applicable, i'll talk about how to use this product in the kitchen and maybe share some recipes.

stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

jungle jim's

last weekend i had to drive to cincinnati to pick up my wedding dress. i had 30 days after its arrival to get it and after 26 days had passed, i figured it was time to get down to business. what could make me feel better about a five hour round trip errand? a trip to jungle jim's international market!
my impressions:
  • don't event think about crossing the threshold of jungle jim's unless you have at least an hour. not only will you loose all sense of direction upon entering, any grasp on time you had will also escape you. this place is so vast even the most savvy shopper can easily get disoriented.
  • these people do not lie when they say they have the biggest and best selection of international foods. example: an entire room devoted to the food of holland and over 78 varieties of olive oil.
  • food selection was unprecedented, overall cleanliness & organization of the store were not. i can't really blame jungle jim's for not staying on top of facing over 300,000 square feet of groceries. things seemed a bit jumbled/dusty at times but i suspect i've just been spoiled by the pristine whole foods in my neighborhood.
  • i was really impressed by how knowledgeable and helpful the staff was. these guys know their stuff
  • above is a composite of a few of the things i bought. like i said, it was overwhelming & i ended up with quite a grab bag. the best thing i got but the fiance ate before i could photograph them - green sicilian olives.
  • two things i wanted to get but couldn't: fat tire beer (helpful gent in beers explained they don't distribute to ohio - which i knew but didn't want to believe) and cotton seed oil for making uzbek plov (they didn't have it -and as far as i know, cooking grade cotton seed oil is not available in the u.s.)
  • i'd recommend visiting on a weekday. we were there mid-day saturday and it was quite busy
  • i would have liked to taken more pics to publish, but alas, they are forbidden and i didn't want to go to 007-like lengths to take them illegally

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

restaurant review: cafe shish kebab

after receiving two enthusiastic recommendations for cafe shish kebab, i decided to check it out for lunch today.
cafe shish kebab offers delicious turkish cuisine paired with warm, attentive service. the proprietors have taken a modest location in the bethel center (next to panda inn) and transformed it into a beautifully rich and cozy spot that feels miles away from its humble strip mall locale. in a recent update, the walls and bar have been covered in beautiful dark wood. i found the flavors to be spot on, everything tastes homemade, and the food is presented in a thoughtful yet unpretentious manner.
the friend i was eating with and i both ordered from the lunch special menu. for $8.95 this has to be one of the best value/quality lunch propositions in columbus. the lunch special allows you to pick one each from a selection of 3 starters (hummus, salad or soup of the day), 8 entrees (consisting mostly of kebab plates) and the desert of the day. our waitress offered turkish tea and we couldn't resist. the tea was tasty, came in a super cute little glass on a silver saucer and our waitress kept the refills coming throughout the entire meal. cafe shish kebab also serves a delicious bread with dipping oil at the table they call pita, but this stuff is way better than any pita i've ever eaten. it reminds me of the bread served at cafe istanbul for those of you who have eaten there.
i chose the mercimek corba (lentil) soup. it is a pureed soup made with red lentils, potatoes, celery, carrots and onions. the flavor was subtle and delicious and the texture was perfect. after the bread and soup i could have easily been satisfied but still had two more courses coming (tip: show up hungry!). my friend ordered the hummus and it was also really tasty. it seemed to have a bit more of a vinegary bite than your average hummus.

i chose the adana kebab (ground lamb and beef with red pepper) for my entree and was not disappointed. the seasoning was dead on and the meat was high quality. it was served with awesome seasoned vegetables and rice. my friend chose the doner kebab and was also impressed.
for dessert, we were served keskul, a homemade almond pudding topped with almonds and pistachio. it had a delicate texture and rich flavor. awesome!
i'd highly recommend the cafe shish kebab and can't wait to try the falafel, sigara borek (hot flaky fillo pastries filled with feta cheese and fresh parsley) and the haydari (thickened homemade yogurt with fresh dill, mint, garlic and walnut). This would be the perfect place to eat an entire meal of appetizers.

cafe shish kebab
1450 bethel road (bethel center)
columbus, oh 43230
f: 614.326.4668

Monday, March 5, 2007

cuban black bean patties with pinapple rice

this recipe comes from the march cooking light. and because i am powerless to resist the combination of black beans, pineapple and cilantro in one dish, i made it. i did run into a small issue with the cakes sticking to the pan. the directions said non-stick and i, like a fool, didn't listen. the cakes are delicate and with the sticking, i was lucky to get the one in the picture out in one piece.
i love warm pineapple and the smell of pineapple sauted in butter is absolute heaven. i think next time i make the rice, i'll add toasted almond slivers and a small amount of cinnamon. also, i'd leave out the sour cream (the dish doesn't really need it) and instead squeeze a lime wedge over the plate.

cooking light suggests you use boil-in-bag rice and bottled, minced garlic. pardon my snarky-ness but, is it "cooking
light" or "cooking lazy"? if either of those were passable excuses for the real thing, i'd let it slide. but they aren't. i sub'd brown rice and fresh garlic.

cuban black bean patties with pineapple rice

for rice:
2-3 cups cooked brown rice
2 tsp butter
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp salt

for patties:
2 cups rinsed, well drained black beans, divided
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg white
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese with jalapenos
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup cornmeal
cooking spray
1/4 cup light sour cream

cook rice and set aside. melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. add pineapple, saute 4 minutes or just until pineapple begins to turn brown. add rice, cilantro and salt to pan and cover.
place 1 1/2 cup black beans, garlic, cumin, and salt in a bowl. partially mash with a fork. place 1/2 cup remaining black beans and egg white in food processor; process 30 seconds or until well combined. ass bean puree to mashed beans and stir until combined. add cheese and onion to bean mixture;stir until combined. divide into 4 equal portions and shape into 1/2 inch thick patties. dredge both sides in corn meal. heat non-stick pan over medium high heat. coat pan with cooking spray. add patties, cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned.

for those counting, here are the nutritionals (before the brown rice sub): cal: 294, fat: 8.5g, protein: 10g, fiber: 3.5g

red quinoa with tomato and onion saute

quinoa (keen-wa) is one of my favorite kitchen staples. although technically a seed, it functions like a grain and is a great way to add texture and boost the nutritional density of a dish. i used the inca red variety for this recipe. it has a nuttier taste and slightly crunchier texture than standard quinoa (think brown rice vs. white rice).

red quinoa with tomato and onion saute

2 cups grape tomatoes
1/2 medium sweet onion
olive oil
1 tbs red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tbs greek feta vinaigrette

bring quinoa, water & vinaigrette to a boil and reduce to simmer. cook covered for about 17 minutes, or until water is gone and germ has begun to loosen from seed. half tomatoes and cut onion into slivers. saute tomatoes with onions in olive oil. add 2 tbs vinegar toward end of cooking time. serve tomatoes and onions over quinoa, making sure to pour juice from saute pan over dish.

here's the greek vinaigrette i'm referencing in the recipe:
it's so freakin' good. i'm eating it with everything these days. you can omit it if you'd like.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

cote de porc a la charcutiere

i have a small crush on anthony bourdain.

i love no reservations and have read most of his books.
this being said, for some reason i haven't made any of the recipes from the les halles cookbook.
i finally pushed aside the trepidation i feel about french cooking and gave a couple of the recipes a whirl.

the cote de porc was amazing, and was really no big deal to pull off. i did, however, briefly grasp the searing hot handle of the saute pan after it came out of the oven. someday i'll learn...
i served the cote de porc with pommes puree (also from les halles) and sauteed spinach. here's the rundown:

cote de porc a la charcutiere
(from anthony bourdain's les halles cookbook)

1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
4 rib chops of pork (approx 10 oz each)
salt & pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp wondra flour or all purpose flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup dark, strong chicken or veal stock
2 tbs dijon mustard
10 cornichons, thinly sliced
1 sprig of flat parsley, chopped

preheat oven to 375. in an oven safe saute pan, heat oil, then butter. season the chops with salt and pepper, then sear in the hot pan for about 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. transfer the pan to the oven and cook for another 8 minutes. remove the pan from the oven and remove the chops. set them aside on a platter, loosely covered with foil, while you make the sauce.
return the saute pan to the heat, add the onion. cook until golden brown. add the flour and cook, stirring, for one minute. stir in the wine and reduce by half, scraping. add the stock. reduce the liquid by half. remove the pan from heat and whisk in the mustard. add the cornichons, the parsley, and any nice juice that has run off the cooked chops. adjust the seasoning. arrange pork chops on platter and pour over sauce.

pommes puree
(from anthony bourdain's les halles cookbook)

6 idaho potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1 tbs salt, plus more to taste
2 c heavy cream
6 tbs butter
freshly ground pepper

place potatoes in the large pot and add enough water to completely cover them. add the 1 tbs salt and bring to a boil. let the potatoes cook in the boiling water for about 15 minutes, or until they are easily pierced with the tip of a knife. drain the potatoes, discarding water, and when they are cool enough to handle, but still hot, slip them from their skins. in a small pot, combine heavy cream & butter and bring to a boil. return potatoes to the large pot and mash them. pour milk & butter into potatoes in increments and mix well. don't overwork potatoes. season with salt and pepper.

sauteed spinach

6-8 cups fresh spinach
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed with flat side of a chef's knife

heat the oil in a large skillet. add garlic. cook until softened but not burned. remove garlic. add spinach and turn until just wilted. do not overcook.

Friday, March 2, 2007

uzbek plov

this recipe comes from a good friend from uzbekistan (pictured above). she made it for the fiance and i once and we were hooked. this is so good i guarantee you'll want to eat it until you burst or fall out of your chair, whichever comes first. it tastes like pure comfort, and the flavor never seems to dull, no matter how much you eat. each bite as good as the first. the cumin seeds add a fantastic flavor and texture. get over the guilt about how much oil is in this dish. it's worth it. trust me.

plov is the national dish of uzbekistan and is traditionally cooked in very large cast iron pots. dilya tells me it varies slightly regionally and should be made with cotton seed oil (a dark, heavy oil) -which is not available in the u.s.
i begged for a plov tutorial and here's the result:

Plov – Dilya Bahrieva

Sirloin or London Broil (enough to cover the bottom of cast iron pot)

~2 cups canola oil

6-7 cups carrots cut into thin sticks

2 cups thinly sliced onion

3 Tbs whole cumin seeds

1 Tbs ground pepper

½ head of garlic

5 ½ cups rice

Salt to taste

  • Prep time: about 20 minutes
  • Steps 1-10 take about 15 minutes
  • Steps 11-13 take about 15 minutes
  • Steps 14-17 take about 30 minutes
  • Steps 17-26 take about 30 minutes
  • Total time: about 2 hours
1. Heat oil in bottom of cast iron pan (size of medium stock pot w/ lid)
2. Place meat in oil and cook on one side 3-5 mins
3. Turn meat4. Add a handful of carrots to pot. Push them under the meat.
5. Add 2 cups onion
6. Add the rest of the carrots over the meat and onion. Do not stir.
7. Add about ¾ cup water to help steam carrots and onions
8. Add 2-3 Tbs Of cumin seeds and 1 Tbs pepper. Crush a bit with hands to release oils
9. When liquid boils, reduce heat to low and leave uncovered
10.Push head of garlic into center of carrots, allow to simmer
11. Rinse rice a few times
12. Add 3 Tbs salt to rice and add warm water
13. Soak rice for 15 minutes
14. Drain water from rice and add rice to pot on top of carrots
15. Turn heat to high
16. Add salt to taste on top of rice, then gently add water to just cover rice. Oil will rise to top.
17. Cook about 30 minutes, covered
18. Remove lid & push spoon handle down through rice to bottom of pot and rotate to make a hole. Repeat 2 more times, - this is an important technique, it allows steam to rise through cooking food.
19. Turn heat to medium and cook 3 minutes.
20. Remove lid and push rice to center to form dome shape
21. Make one big hole in center with spoon handle
22. Turn flame to low
23. Cook 10 minutes
24. Turn over the top layer or rice and reshape into dome. Oil should be visible pooling at sides of pan.
25. Steam 15 more minutes
26. Serve on platter with rice on bottom, then carrots, and meat on top.