Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Kung Pao Chicken

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

kungpaochicken

Some things are so tasty that people you know demand that you make them over and over again. This is one of them. Both a Chinese-American standby and a classic Sichuanese dish, the Americanized version tends toward the gloppy, sugary and watery, while the real deal is an architecture of flavor constructed around spicy chilis, numbing but floral Sichuan peppercorns, nutty fried peanuts, and tangy marinated chicken flavored with garlic and scallion. My version is close to the real deal but a bit non-traditional, with celery, chilis de arbol, and cilantro. Have with beers — especially if you use the Sichuan peppercorns, steer clear of wine. When half your tongue is numb, wine just tastes really wierd, and for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to happen with beer. This is not a complicated recipe but it does require some fussy sautéing at the last minute, so I recommend you mise-en-place just so you’re not chopping one thing while burning another. All of the more unusual ingredients are easily obtainable in a good Asian market, except for the Chilis de Arbol, which can be purchased here.

Kung Pao Chicken

Marinade:

2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp shaoxing cooking wine
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Sauce:

2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp shaoxing cooking wine
2 tbsp brown sugar

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in to 1 cm cubes
2 tbsp canola oil
15-20 whole dried chilis de arbol, chopped into 1 cm pieces
1 tsp-1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns (start with fewer to see if you like them)
5 large stalks of celery, cut lengthwise in thirds, then into 1 cm pieces
4 cloves of garlic, chopped medium
4 scallions, green and roots removed, cut by slicing once diagonally, then rotating 120 degrees, then slicing, then repeat (the idea is to get thin angled slivers)
Deep fried salted peanuts (some Asian markets like New Kam Man on Canal St. have these housemade) or dry roasted salted peanuts
1 large handful cilantro, washed, dried, and chopped fine

Make the marinade in a medium bowl (I usually make the sauce at the same time in a separate container). Add the diced chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

If you haven’t already, make sauce by combining soy, shaoxing, and brown sugar. Stir well. Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed skillet. When oil shimmers, add chilis and Sichuan peppercorns and agitate the pan for a few seconds until the oil colors and smells fragrant. Add celery and sauté until barely cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Remove celery and spices from pan and reserve. Try to leave as much oil behind in the pan as possible. Add chicken to pan and sauté until browned and cooked through. Add celery back to pan. Give the sauce another stir and pour over the chicken and celery. Add garlic. Cook for another minute until some of the moisture cooks off and the sauce gets a glossy look and coats the chicken. Turn heat off and add scallions and peanuts. Add salt to taste if necessary, and garnish with cilantro. Serve with plain rice. Serves about 4.

Raspberry Buttermilk Whole Wheat Scones

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

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I am not a scone person — they are usually dry, solid, and crumbly, with so much baking powder that they squeak in your teeth!  These are different.  Based on a recipe from one of my favorite bakeries in the whole world, the Beach Pea Bakery in Kittery, Maine, they are light, moist, buttery, and just barely sweet. 

3 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

5/8 cup sugar

1 1/4 tbsp baking powder

2 1/2 tsp salt

6 1/2 tbsp cold butter

1 cup raspberries

zest of 1/2 lemon

2 cups low fat buttermilk

Additional sugar or turbinado or demerara sugar for dusting.

Combine dry ingredients in a stand mixer.  Mix at the lowest speed until combined.

Cut butter into small cubes (I quarter the stick, then chop into 1/4 inch slices.)  Add butter to mixer at low speed, and mix for 3-4 minutes. Remove bowl from mixer, and add lemon zest and raspberries. Then add buttermilk and stir until just combined — do not overmix.

Preheat oven to 400°.  Grease 2 cookie sheets with paper left over from butter.  Spoon 1/2 cup mounds onto cookie sheets, evenly spaced at least 2 inches apart. Sprinkle tops of scones with sugar.

Bake about 20 minutes, until nicely browned and springy to the touch (don’t push too hard!)

Makes 16 medium sized scones.

Lemon Tarragon Potato Salad

Monday, April 20th, 2009

lemonypotatosalad1Every spring, there comes a moment, usually near or on the first really warm day, when my potato cravings reorient themselves.  During the colder days, almost dessert-like concoctions of roasted and then mashed sweet potatoes flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, and butter are like cozy turtleneck sweaters you can burrow into.  More elegant preparations of thinly sliced russets layered with cream and Gruyere are the cashmere  cardigans that dress up a simple roast, and creamy purees of Yukon Golds blended with parsnip or celery root are the… hm — silk long underwear? — that make savory braises and stews that much more comforting. 

But just as we’re relieved to put aside our warmer layers and wiggle our toes in the grass, I’m always excited when the thought of waxy, creamy potatoes bathed in a light, tangy, herbal dressing pops suddenly into my head.  

I make many variations of this — it’s good with peeled or unpeeled potatoes, chives, shallot or red onion in place of the scallion, chervil, dill, parsley or basil instead of tarragon, and additions of chopped hard boiled eggs, blanched peas or asparagus or little slices of cornichon.  You can even add mayonnaise or sour cream or a mixture of the two if you want your potato salad to be creamy.  There are two critical things to get right though — one is making sure the potatoes are cooked to precisely the right texture, and the other is adding a  note of acidity to balance out the starch and sweetness of the potatoes.   Here, I’m using mild rice vinegar and lemon juice, along with some grated lemon zest for extra sunshine.

Potatoes can vary widely in size, shape, and texture, and as a result cooking times can be all over the map.  The size and shape variables can be mitigated by either carefully sorting through the bin and choosing potatoes that are as close in size and shape as possible, or by cutting the potatoes in halves, quarters, eighths, etc depending on their size so that all the pieces are approximately the same size, or into slices of the same width.  I don’t like to leave the potatoes whole, however, because I find that the exterior will usually be waterlogged by the time the inside is cooked through, and because the cut surfaces seem to absorb the flavors of the dressing more effectively.   The next step in achieving potato perfection is to carefully babysit your potatoes as they cook, judiciously poking and tasting, and draining them the second the crunch disappears.  At this point, a fork will encounter a small amount of resistance, and the potatoes should hold their shape well. 

This is good with roast chicken, fish, scallop chips, or anything grilled.

2 lbs buttercream, fingerling, or other waxy potatoes cut into either 1/4 inch slices or 3/4 inch-ish chunks
2 scallions, finely chopped
3 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
2 tbsp rice vinegar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt plus salt for cooking water
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Put potates in a medium pot and add cold water to cover plus 1 1/2 inches.   Add a hefty pinch of salt to the water.  Bring to a boil, and continue to boil “rather hard” as Julia says, until one of the largest pieces of potato breaks apart with a fork and loses its crunch when you bite into the center.  Immediately drain and transfer to a bowl.  Sprinkle with rice vinegar and 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.  Add scallions, tarragon, lemon juice and zest and stir to combine.  Drizzle with olive oil and stir again.  Best served slightly warm or at room temperature.

What to Do With Leftover Roast Chicken, Part 1

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

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Since my son was born, I’ve become an even bigger fan of things I can cook in the oven with minimal interventions before or after, so roast chicken is in even heavier rotation than before.  I used to be at a loss for what to do with the leftover bits, but I’ve come up with a strategy and a few options.  We eat the dark meat the night I roast the chicken, since the white meat is more flexible as an ingredient.  Then I save the chicken in a gallon freezer bag with as much juice and good stuff as I can scrape off the bottom of the roasting pan.  The next day I separate the white meat and the oysters (the little bits of meat from underneath the chicken) from the carcass and put them aside.  The carcass and any other bits, globs, or pieces go into a pot to boil with a few quarts of water, salt, peppercorns, some onion or shallot and whatever other aromatic vegetables I have, like celery, fennel, carrots, and/or parsley.   After it boils, I let it simmer for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, and then I strain out the solids, leaving me with a few quarts of really delicous stock.

I can now make one of the following two meals for two with minimal effort:

Chicken, Avocado and Walnut Salad with Spicy Pumpkin Soup
Hearty Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

Voila, dinner that no one will complain about.

Chicken, Avocado and Walnut Salad

1 clove garlic, smashed
2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
4 tbsp walnut oil
4 cups salad greens, washed, carefully dried, and torn into bite sized-pieces
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 avocado, thinly sliced
2 leftover chicken breasts, diced

Put the garlic, vinegar, and salt in the bottom of a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the walnut oil. Add the salad greens and toss (I use my hands for this.) Top with avocado, walnuts, and chicken.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

1/2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 quarts chicken stock
1 can pumpkin puree
salt and pepper to taste
cream for garnish

In a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan, saute the garlic, paprika and cumin for a minute or two until the raw smell comes off the garlic. Add the stock and the sweet potato, bring to a boil, and simmer until the potato is cooked through. Add pumpkin puree and blend soup together with an immersion blender (or in small batches in a regular blender or food processor, but seriously, just do yourself a favor and get an immersion blender.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a small drizzle of heavy cream in each bowl.

Spicy Sausage, Kale, and White Bean Soup

2 fresh Andouille sausages
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tbsp tomato paste (I buy it in a tube, so I don’t waste it when I just need small amounts.)
1 can white beans, strained and rinsed
2-3 quarts chicken stock
leftover chicken, diced
1 bunch kale
red pepper flakes to taste

Gently heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Squeeze the sausages out of their casing into the pan, raise the heat to medium high, and saute until cooked through, breaking up with a wooden spoon as you go. Add garlic and tomato paste and saute for one more minute. Add white beans and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add kale and red pepper flakes, and simmer until kale stems are cooked through, about five minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve. Slices of baguette or other bread grilled in the broiler and rubbed with garlic are a nice accompaniment.

Obama Shrimp

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

shrimpEveryone should have a few dishes they can make just from things they keep stashed in their pantries.  Case in point, the night of the last presidential election, I was glued to the television all day long and hadn’t shopped for dinner.  I had some frozen shrimp, so I decided to check in with Mark Bittman, whose ingredient lists are usually pleasingly brief.  He has a recipe in his book How to Cook Everything, called “Shrimp My Way,” that he says people go nuts for, and which, besides the shrimp, only needed garlic, a few spices, and olive oil.  Being keen on things people go nuts for, I decided to try it out.  Needless to say, it is fantastic, especially on top of roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, or with a baguette, a nice green salad, an IPA or a nice Torrontes, and OBAMA!!!!

Bittman calls for hot paprika, but I like to use hot smoked paprika — it adds a little extra zazz, and who couldn’t use a little zazz? I buy frozen uncooked shrimp, peeled and cleaned but with the tails on, which is the only way to fly.  Most shrimp you buy will have been frozen previously anyway, so why not buy them that way and have them whenever you want them?  To defrost just put them in a colander and run them under cold water for about 10 minutes.

1/2 cup olive oil
3 or 4 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 to 2 lbs shrimp
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
minced fresh parsley or cilantro and lemon wedges to garnish

1. Preheat the broiler to its highest temperature, and adjust the rack so that it is as close as possible to the heat source.
2. Very gently warm the olive oil over low heat in a large, broad, ovenproof skillet or baking pan. My Le Crueset tarte tatin pan is perfect — heavy, and with 2 handles! A cast iron skillet would also be perfect. There should be enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan; don’t skimp. Put the garlic in the oil and cook for a few minutes still over low heat, until it turns golden.
3. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp, salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. Stir to blend, and then place immediately under the broiler. Cook, shaking the pan once or twice and stirring if necessary, but generally leaving the shrimp undisturbed, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly. This will take from 5 to 10 minute depending on the heat of your broiler. Garnish and serve immediately.

Walnut Oil and Zucchini-Walnut Spice Bread

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

walnut021Roasty, toasty and mellow, walnut oil has recently become one of my favorite ingredients.   It is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, and is polyunsaturated.  Whisked into some aged balsamic vinegar, with a little crushed garlic, it is a fantastic salad dressing, especially for a salad of roasted beets and goat cheese.  It also adds a delicate but warm complexity to zucchini bread.   Just after my son was born last August, my mother baked us a batch of this wonderful zucchini bread, which freezes beautifully, and helped sustain us through the early days and nights as new parents.

Wet Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves

To Finish:
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup raisins
1 tbsp walnut oil

Preheat the oven to 350º. In a medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients. In a large bowl “sift” the dry ingredients together by whisking them gently, then gradually add in the wet ingredients and stir just to combine. Fold in the walnuts and raisins, and then add the walnut oil last.

Grease 2 large or 4 small loaf pans, and pour in the batter to about 3/4 full. Bake 45-50 minutes for small loaves, or 1 hour for large. Loaves are done when a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean (or with crumbs, but no batter.)

To freeze, wrap in waxed paper, then in foil, and then in a sealable freezer bag. Will keep for several months!

Cherry Orange Carrot Cupcakes

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

These sweet cupcakes are fabulously moist and yummy, with dried cherries stepping in for the more conventional raisin, and orange-flavored cream cheese icing to top them off.
Cupcakes
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 cup applesauce
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups peeled carrots, grated (this winds up being almost exactly a small bag of “baby” carrots, which I just dump into the food processor with the shred blade)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries or more as you like
Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
zest of 1 orange
2 tsp vanilla
For Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350. Set paper cupcake liners in 2 muffin pans to make room for 24 cupcakes (my muffin pans have 12 spots each). In an electric stand mixer, combine sugar, oil, and applesauce. Add eggs one at a time. Then add dry ingredients and mix to combine. Add carrots, nuts, and cherries, and mix again. Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/2 cup of batter.
Place on middle rack of oven and bake until set, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow cupcakes to cool.
For Frosting:
Combine all ingredients in electric stand mixer and blend for several minutes until all lumps of powdered sugar disappear.
You can frost the cupcakes by dunking them upside down into the frosting, twisting, and flicking a cute little peak over on top when you pull them out.
I like to put a dried cherry or a sliver of crystallized ginger on top.

Strawberry Shortcakes

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Strawberry shortcakes are a quintessential early summer dessert. When my mother took my brother and I strawberry picking as kids, this was a much-anticipated and ill-deserved reward, since most of the strawberries we picked seemed to end up in our mouths or pelted at one another, rather than in the waxed-cardboard crates we were supposed to be filling. Those strawberries sang with sweetness and tangy flavor, and the sun heated them to a perfect temperature to melt in our mouths. Later that evening, quick batches of biscuit and whipped cream would make perfect companions to our pickings. My mother used to make one large biscuit and present the shortcake like a regular cake. I prefer to bake individual wedges, sprinkled with turbinado sugar for sparkle. Shortcakes will keep overnight in an airtight container. There’s no hiding lousy fruit here. It’s all about the berries. Make sure you get the freshest, farmiest, most juicy and deserving berries you can find, and serve them at room temperature.

For Strawberries:
4 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced. Reserve 6 of the smallest, prettiest strawberries for a garnish. If some have long stems, even better.
4 tbsp maple syrup
For Shortcake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tbsp turbinado sugar
For Cream:
1 cup well-chilled heavy cream
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 425.
Combine sliced berries and maple syrup, and allow to sit at least ½ hour to meld flavors.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl. Add butter and blend with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in zest. In a small bowl, mix egg, milk, and vanilla. Stir into flour mixture until a dough forms. Turn out onto a hard surface and knead for a minute or two until dough is smooth. Form into a 6-inch disk, and cut into 6 wedges. Sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Using a standing or handheld mixer, or a whisk and some elbow grease, whip cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla, and whip until hard peaks form.
To assemble shortcakes, split each one in half with a knife, place the bottom half on a dessert plate, and spoon most of the strawberry mixture on top. Top strawberries with most of the whipped cream, and cover with the top halves of the shortcakes. Spoon remaining berries around the sides and top each shortcake with a small spoonful of whipped cream and one of the reserved whole berries.
Serves 6.

Steamed Lobster with Two Dipping Sauces

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007


My husband and I recently had the pleasure of spending our Thanksgiving in Maine with my family and their neighbors. We had quite a few amazing food moments, few of which I can take credit for, including homemade pork sausage stuffing, homemade mozzarella cheese, oysters on the half-shell with homemade mignonette sauce, my mother’s inspired day-after-Thanksgiving Turkey Tetrazini Casserole, and traditional Ecuadorean Day of the Dead Bread Babies. We did manage to leave the state with a few pinchy crustacean souvenirs and one of my favorite breads in the world, a fougasse from the Beach Pea Bakery in Kittery, ME, which was a perfect meal after some nasty Connecticut traffic.

Cooking lobsters is one of those things that seems intimidating, but it’s actually barely more complicated than cooking pasta. The absolute most important step is the purchase of the lobsters.

The only truly delicious lobster is alive and has been caught within a day, preferably on the North American Atlantic coast. Supermarket lobsters have been stewing in their own waste digesting themselves for who knows how long (like, months), and it shows in the flavor and texture of the meat. Frozen lobster is so tough and stringy it’s not worth the price. Lobsters are sold by weight and sometimes by shell-hardness. The hardness of the shell depends on where the lobster is in its molt-cycle. Since lobsters grow about 20% during each molt, a soft-shell lobster which has just molted will fill up substantially less of the shell than a hard-shell lobster. Soft shell lobsters are generally about $2/lb less than hard shell lobsters for this reason. I seem to injure myself quite a bit less eating soft-shell lobsters — sometimes you’ll barely need a cracker — but some people feel gyped by finding space inside the shell. Either variety will taste amazing, so buy what you like.

Once you’ve purchased the lobsters, keep them in a wet, cool place until you cook them. Putting the lobsters in a paper bag inside a plastic bag covered with wet newspaper and ice is ideal. You should cook them the same day you buy them. I’m a fan of dumping them out in the sink to watch them flop around for a while, and/or “racing” them in the bathtub, or waving them around at squeamish guests, but maybe I’m not the nicest cook. In any case, you should remove the rubber bands from the claws. Use kitchen shears and watch out if you like your fingers!

To cook the lobsters, you will need a pot large enough to hold all the lobsters. A few small pots will work too. You’ll need about 2 inches of water in the bottom of the pot, heavily salted. The water should be as salty as sea water. Bring the water to a rolling boil, and in they go! To pick the lobsters up, make sure they’re right side up, and grab just behind the head. Again, watch out for claws. If you are a wuss, you can use tongs to pick them up. Place into the pot claws first, one atop the other, and cover tightly. Bring the water back to a boil, and boil about 12-20 minutes depending on the weight of the lobster. When the lobster is cooked, an antenna will pull off easily. When the lobsters are done, use tongs to grab them out of the pot and put them in a colander in the sink. Let them drain for a few minutes. If you like you can “start” the lobsters by snipping through the end of the claws and along the underside of the tail with kitchen shears.

Now is the fun part! I like to serve lobster with two dipping options — classic lemon butter, and a very easy Saffron Chipotle Aiolli.

Lemon Butter

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt
optional: chopped tarragon or chives

Combine ingredients in a small warmed bowl.

Saffron Chipotle Aiolli

pinch of saffron threads
4 tbsp Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 small clove of garlic, pressed
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp chipotle powder

Toast saffron threads in a small sauté pan until fragrant. Combine remaining ingredients. Crush toasted saffron threads into mayonnaise and stir to combine. Taste and correct seasoning. Let sit for at least 1/2 hour (this allows the saffron to combine with the mayonnaise, turning it an awesome yellow color.)

I like to eat lobsters beginning with the small legs on either side, followed by the claws and then the tail, since the tail will stay warm the longest.

Chimichurri

Friday, July 13th, 2007

My sister, aka the Socially Responsible One, has a summer internship in Buenos Aires working as an HIV researcher, and she recently graffiti’d me a recipe for the regional sauce called “chimichurri.”

The internet tells me that the ingredients and preparation are open to some interpretation, but knowing my sister for a fabulous palate and a great cook, I decided to make only the barest irresistable adjustment of adding the zest and juice of a lemon.

This recipe makes more than a cup — good for a few days’ use on pretty much anything, but especially grilled steak rubbed with spices, and scrambled eggs. It has a zesty bright flavor that tastes great with some hot July weather.

Chimichurri

All quantities are up to personal taste and can and should be eyeballed:

1 cup parsley leaves, washed and dried
1 cup cilantro leaves, washed and dried
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp chili flakes
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt

Add cilantro, parsley, lemon juice and zest, chili and garlic to blender. Pulse on (my blender only does on/off) a few times to start chopping, then gradually add olive oil and salt and continue to pulse until mostly puréed.