Saturday, November 10, 2012

Free Printable Canister Labels!

These labels are 3 1/4" x 4 ".  So here is how you can print your spice labels below:
  1. Double click on the image below.
  2. Then right click and you should see a window of choices.
  3. Select print.
  1. Double click on the image below.
  2. Click on File tab
  3. Select print

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Coming out of the Bubble: Green Beans and Tofu in Peanut Tamarind Sauce

So this is the week we have all been returning to work, chugging forward with alternative transportation routes.  This storm as thrown us all for a loop and not a moment goes by when I am not floating between the emotions of guilt and gratitude.  We thankfully did not lose power or suffer damage.  The worst we felt in my little hub was the powerlessness of being trapped unharmed between places of devastation.

I am sure that I don't need to tell you, but in case it is helpful, below are some links to how you can help the victims of hurricane Sandy.  

If you live in NYC, check out The Kitchn blog below for updated lists of where donations of food and supplies are being collected and what is needed.

I don't want to take a single moment for granted.  For whatever it is worth I am going to continue to participate in the things I love and let this space be a record of it.  I have refreshed this blog with links to the other things that I do, love and want to share.

I have also thought to appreciate the meals we make on our weekly rotation and not just the very indulgent ones.

Now for the recipe:

It took me quite a while to figure out how to create a successful, tasty stir fry, as simple as it may be.  I would always end up with some of my vegetables very crisp and some overcooked.  My sauces never stuck.  Most recipes told me to remedy this with cornstarch, which, in the past I have tried.  Don't get me wrong, it works.  It will make a thicker sauce but I thought to experiment with some ways of thickening sauces that also added flavor dimension. Here is what I have come up with.
  1. Tamarind Paste - Tamarind is a fruit found in India, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.  The flesh of the fruit has a sticky feel and color of a dried date, and the taste is subtly sweet and pleasantly sour.  You can get a package of tamarind paste at specialty grocers or try the Surfas Culinary District online.  Like the fruit, the tamarind paste will have seeds.  To use it in stir fry sauces I like to soak the dense fruit in a small amount of water.  The paste will dissolve into the water creating a thick, flavorful liquid.  Then you can easily separate out the seeds.
  2. Ketchup - Try it before you turn your nose up.  It not only adds thickness but just the right amount of sweetness.
  3. Peanut Butter - In my mind this is a no brainer.  Think of sesame peanut noodles or thai and vietnamese dishes that feature peanuts or peanut sauces.  I go for this one mostly for flavor but no worries here about whether it will thicken your sauces.  In fact I usually use chicken broth to keep the sauce from getting to thick.
  4. Tomato Paste - Same concept as ketchup only less sweet and more tomato flavor.

Green Beans and Tofu in Peanut Tamarind Sauce


  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste soaked in 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce or blend of soy and fish sauce
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of plum or rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves minced fine
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • sriracha to taste
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer on low.  Continue to simmer on low, stirring with a spoon until the peanut butter is melted.
• I always make extra to add when serving.  It is also great on rice noodles the next day.

  • 1 block of tofu
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 tomato, cut in large chunks
  • 3/4 lb green beans
  • 3 tablespoons of peanut oil
Finishes (optional):
  • lime
  • cilantro
  • sesame seeds
In a large wok, heat the oil on high heat. When the wok is very hot, sautee` each vegetable separately until they wilt and soften slightly.  Stir rapidly.  Set aside in a large bowl.  Add tofu to the hot wok and stir rapidly.  Sautee` until slightly golden on all sides. Add it to the bowl with the vegetables.  Then return them all to the hot wok and add the prepared peanut tamarind sauce. Let the vegetables simmer in the sauce for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add finishing ingredients and serve over rice.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

No Knead Bread: A Step Towards Fearlessness

In my fantasies I am a fearless woman.  I don't cower from confrontation. I go para sailing and zip lining because I am not afraid of heights.

I am a pretty good cook.  It's true.  But in my fearless-woman fantasies I am exacting in my talents.  I can bake beautiful savory tarts and pastry confections.  I complete my dishes with tomato skins that look like roses, edible flowers and powdered sugar graphics.

I am thankful for my fearless-woman fantasy.  Not because I will ever be fearless.  But because I get to walk in her shadow.  I am learning to draw boundaries when pushy people push to far. I am terrified of heights but will step a little higher on a hike if I am holding my husband's hand.  And today I will bake bread.

The owner of this building said her mother used to bake bread in this kitchen.  All three generations of her family lived here together.  Her father would call his grandchildren into the kitchen with a tone of conspiracy when the dough was left to rise.  He taught them to punch the dough when grandma wasn't looking and they would watch it rise higher.  The children giggled because they thought they were being mischievous.  The grandfather laughed because he knew they weren't.

I can't give you a unique artisan bread recipe.  Nor can I give you my expertise on bread baking.  I can share with you my first time baking bread (successfully) and the recipe I used.  A loaf of round, white bread.  The kind of bread with a hearty crust to mop up the last drop of stew in your bowl.  The stuff of really good sandwiches.  The kind of bread I never knew would come out of my own oven.

If you are a follower of the New York Times, Dining and Wine section you may have already tried this recipe.  In fact, I hope you have. Mark Bittman released it in 2006 and you should click here to get it:

No Knead Bread 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nostalgia at Bull on the Beach in Ocean City, MD

My dad ate Richie Sambora's lunch.

I should preface this story by saying that between the ages of eleven and thirteen I was the kind of teenage Bon Jovi fan that would have made the band cower and run Godzilla-movie style.  By thirteen I had covered over all of the pretty pink poppy wallpaper in my bedroom with glossy magazine pictures of frizzy-haired men sporting vests and swinging guitars.  I teased my hair.  I collected buttons with the band members faces on them and I wore them...ALL...on the front of my denim jean jacket.

Around that same time I remember taking the ferry via Cape May down to Ocean City, Maryland with my parents, brother, aunt, uncle and cousins.  Midday, we wandered around the boat in search of some lunch and stumbled upon something like a cafeteria.  At least that is what my grown up self imagines, but at the time there was confusion among the adults as to the system of this on-board eating establishment.  Do we order and take a ticket? Do we pay first? Or do we just choose from what is available on this counter and assume that we pay afterwards?  We chose option number three.

As six of us begin to chow down on chicken Caesar wraps, there are four figures that are walking towards us, seemingly in slow motion.  Two are wearing black T-shirts with the word crew written in large, white, block lettering.  The other two are Richie Sambora (guitarist from Bon Jovi) and Tico Torres (drummer from Bon Jovi).  I can still see the weight of their hair feathering out as they walked. 

"Excuse me, Sir, but you are eating our lunch."

Worse still I heard my own small and squeaky voice.  "Aren't you Richie Sambora?"  Did I have to ask?  His face was pinned to my jacket.  

Vacations growing up were all about visiting relatives which meant that food was at the center.  Dinners were cooked at someones home and lunch was when we were free to roam the boardwalk.  At the time the selection was not as it is today.  Guido's Burritos and Hammerheads have stepped it up by offering boardwalk food appealing to the same crowd but with better ingredients (and thankfully not fried or on stick).  But before these, Bull on the Beach has always been tried and true.  A favorite of my Dad and uncle, it wouldn't have been and OC vacation if we hadn't made it there for lunch.

If they have changed there menu over the years I wouldn't know it.  I have consistently ordered the roast beef or heaping half pound of steamed shrimp.  All of my sensory memories of my summer beach vacation can be summed up on one of their Formica benches.  We always squeezed four or six to a booth in our shorts and bathing suits, salt still clinging to our hair and skin.  I would burn my fingers trying to peel the too hot shrimp and my lips would begin to pucker and wrinkle from the Old Bay seasoning.  The roast beef is so tender and fluffy that it needs no sauce, just a heaping pile of fiery horseradish. This place had set the bar of what a traditional coleslaw should be.  The contents of those little plastic cups are perfectly balanced with not too much sugar or mayonnaise, but instead a hint of black pepper.  A refreshing compliment to the meal.

I am sure if you have been to the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland you have already been to Bull on the Beach, so let's just call this a nostalgic appreciation post.  If you haven't and you are heading down for Labor Day weekend, you should make this one of your top three lunch spots (check out Guido's Burritos and Hammerheads too).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Orange Rosemary Infused Vinegar

This is more beautiful in person.  If I were a better photographer I could show you the confetti flecks of light on the table, how the rosemary presses up against the glass, floating orange zest like a golden, botanical snow globe and flecks of red chili peppers peeking out in between.

The real inspiration for infusing vinegar was this bottle.  We saw it, we wanted it and we needed an excuse to have it.  There is an unspoken rule in our New York apartment that if it doesn't have a function we don't need it.  Frankly because it probably doesn't fit.  But there it was refracting the summer sun onto the tag sale table on the side of the road in rural Pennsylvania.  So we took it home as memory of a lovely out-of-the-city weekend and found a way to put it to good use.

You don't need a beautiful bottle for this but it helps.  This isn't quite a recipe.  You want to heat up your  vinegar so that it is warm but does not boil.  Then pour it over your aromatics.  I used 2 garlic cloves, the zest of one orange, a sprig of rosemary and 2 tian jen chilis.

I would love to hear some of your ideas for infused vinegar...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Make an Extraordinary Salad

Tell me if this sounds familiar.  It is 1:00 in the afternoon, time to stop for lunch and you open your desk drawer to find the same tired menus.  Same options as yesterday: sandwiches that are more meat than bread, oily pizzas, cheese steaks and pastrami sandwiches all made on the same flat top grill with crusty brown bits.  The same places that offer the before mentioned will also offer a salad option and your thinking, 'It would be great to have something healthy and light." So you order the salad and what do you get?  A ridiculous amount of iceberg lettuce topped with processed cheese cubes, deli meat, a dried out hard boiled egg, and maybe, just maybe a whole, pitted, black olive that came out of a can.  Let's not forget the little cup of thick, viscous salad dressing most likely originating from a bottle marked Kraft.

Now tell me, was it worth it?  Do you feel healthier?  In fact, I always marvel at how I feel worse after eating one of those salads than I would if I had had the cheese steak.  Who am I kidding?  I did have the cheese steak.  Do you know why?  Because I was secretly convinced that I do not like salad.  Secretly, because I a a huge proponent of healthy eating.

So where did salad go wrong for me?  I think it started in high school, when salad was for girls who were watching their figures.  I hated those girls.  If I was going to eat a hamburger I wasn't going to apologize for it because I was a girl.  Worse than that it meant that salad was not about the pleasure of eating, it was about restricting that pleasure.

So I would like to change how I feel about salad.  I have been hard at work exploring what a salad can offer and learned that an extraordinary salad is not only worth eating, but that which I will look forward to eating.  In fact, I will crave it.  That being said, there are a few things that need to understood as components of an extraordinary salad.

Components of an Extraodinarily Good Salad:
  1. Contrasting textures: crunchy/creamy or soft - For example, crunchy greens or carrots with soft cheese or avocado
  2. Contrasting flavors: salty/ sweet, crispy/meaty - For example, dried fruit and nuts, or chicken and crunchy croutons
  3. Bright colors: Velieve me if your salad is dark brown and wilted green you are not excited about eating it
  4. You must have a salad spinner.  If this is an obvious fact, you are a cut above the rest of us.  If you are like me you may have thought that paper towels were a good enough drying method. They are not.  They are a hassle and never seem to get the leaves dry enough.  Spin out as much water as possible because a little will ruin you salad.
  5. Whatever greens you are using, if the leaves are large, cut them down the center vein first and then chop into bite size pieces.  That way you can get more flavors in one bite.
  6. No deli meat, no canned vegetables, no processed cheeses and for the love of Pete, no bottled salad dressing.  
Here are some other extroadinarily good salads that you really should try. Click on the link to go to these amazing sites.

  1. Cobb Salad from Smitten Kitchen
  2. Kale Market Salad from 101 Cookbooks
  3. Mark Bittman's Raw Beet Salad
  4. Cucumber Peanut and Basil Salad from Fine Cooking
  5. Raw Asparagus and Mushroom with Walnuts and Miso Dressing from Gourmande in the Kitchen
  6. Wedge Salad from No Recipes
This salad was inspired by one we had at a wedding this past weekend.  The avocados were perfectly ripe and coated the crisp romaine like a dressing.  It had a hint of lime and garlic.

Spicy Lime Chicken and Avocado Salad 

  • 1 head of  romaine lettuce 
  • 2 avocados cubed
  • 1 whole chicken breast, 4 cutlets or 4 to 6 tenderloins 
  • 14 cup of olive oil plus a little more for drizzling
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water, chicken broth or wine
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • half a shallot
  • juice from 1 and a half limes
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of turkish red pepper
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • salt
  • black pepper or lemon pepper
Soak the romaine leaves in a a sink full of cold water or an extra large bowl.  Cut each leaf vertically along the vein, chop horizontally into bite size pieces, and add to the salad spinner.  Spin until dry.  Toss with cubed avocado and sunflower seeds.  Mince the garlic and shallot.  Add to a small bowl with lime juice.  Add salt to taste and red pepper.  Stir with a fork and add the olive oil in a slow steady stream.   Chop the uncooked chicken into bite size pieces or small cubes.  Toss in a small bowl with a drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper and 3 tablespoons of dressing with garlic and shallot.  Add hot skillet and stir.  When the chicken starts to stick add your choice of cooking liquid (water, stock or wine). toss chicken and dressing to taste with romaine and avocado.