Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dinner for One: Baked Eggs and Brussels Sprouts

I have been cooking for two for so long I forgot what it was like to fend for myself.  But I do have many single friends and most cook for themselves.  There is a popular opinion that when you are one person it is easier and just as cheap to get take out and I am still trying my hardest to prove that wrong.  Picture this: it is a Wednesday.  I come home from a long day at the office.  I have two hours before having to run out again.  I am even trying to get in a shower.  Yet, I am the food snob that I am and I want my dinner to be delicious spectacular.  If you find yourself in the same predicament one night, try the recipe below. 

Baked Eggs and Brussels Sprouts
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 brussels sprouts shredded
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Parmesan cheese to taste
  • drizzle of balsamic cream
  • sea salt
  • pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Toss brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic cream in a single serving, oven proof ramekin.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Crack the two eggs over the top.  Sprinkle with more Parmesan, salt and pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes.  

Go have a shower.  Do your thing.  It will be done by the time you get out.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Printable Weekly Menu Planner Giveaway!

Planning my dinners at the beginning of the week has helped me immensely as a home cook.  I still have weeks where I fall behind, but when I am organized enough to take a few minutes at the beginning of the week to write out a meal plan, it saves me time. money and headaches.  It is important to me to cook at home, not only because I love to cook but it keeps us healthy and our pocketbooks happy. 

So here is how you can print your weekly meal planner below:
  1. Double click on the image below.
  2. Then right click and you should see a window of choices.
  3. Select print.

If you have other ideas that help the process of making meals at home easier, please let me know.  I would love to hear from you!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Inspiration Outing #6: Paulie Gee's

This is the one year anniversary of this blog and it seems only fitting that the post should be about pizza. The motivation for starting this blog was to share some great pizza making on my brother's part.  (Check out this post.)  This weekend I had the fortunate opportunity to introduce one pizza-making Paulie to another.

On left is the Regina for all of the traditionalists out there.  On the right, Anis and Anefew for fennel lovers.
This is my favorite pizza in NY.  Brooklyn has no shortage of pizza places and these days no shortage of pizza places that make a neapolatan style pizza in a brick oven.  But none seem to to quite get the balance of crust and toppings as well as Paulie Gee's.  Even the better pizzerias may do a good crust and have some quality toppings but maybe they don't get enough char.  Or too much char.  Or the topping are heavily piled in the middle making the center of the pie soggy.  These are still good pizzas but they are not Paulie Gee's.  What I like most about the pizza at Paulie Gee's is the artful toppings.  They are both simple and surprising.  Take the popular "Hell Boy" pizza.It has most of the toppings you would expect on an Italian style pizza, mild fior di latte mozarella, soppressata piccante, tomato but with the addition of a spicy, hot honey.  Just enough to add an interesting complexity without overpowering the other ingredients.  We sampled six pies that night, all in unique flavor combinations but keeping with the tradition of simple, good quality ingredients.

The two Paulies in front of one beautiful brick oven.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Inspiration Outing #5: Sfogliatelle

This is a dark and sinful breakfast.  This is not your hearty eggs and toast or healthy yogurt and fresh fruit.  This is sugar and creamy, cheesy filling with a flaky, pastry crust.  Then sometimes there are those subtle flecks of citron.  There's the satisfying crunch as you break through the layers (le sfoglie) to the sweet creamy center.  Now there are flecks of sfogliatella crumbs all over your cheeks and down the front of your shirt.  This is where I start bargaining with myself.  Just one more and I will start running every morning before work.  Two and I will take the forty-five minute walk home this week.  I have no will power.  I crumble and sip my cappuccino knowing full well that I won't even so much as double my yoga classes.

The first time I can remember appreciating a sfogliatella was in in Naples.  I had had them before but never did they stand out as memorable as this one time.  It was many years ago and I was visiting relatives and friends in Italy during my August vacation.  I met up with my cousin, Livia and we took the train from my father's hometown in Frosinone south to Naples, where she was living and going to school.  She was opening up her world to me, I got to see her apartment, her city.  I was so eager I had my bag packed within the hour.  Livia was a native Italian, raised in southern Lazio.  Our father's were brothers.  Mine came to live in the US, hers stayed in Italy.  There had always been so much geographical distance between us that I was curious about her daily life, her friends, her routine, her home.

Livia spoke no English but was remarkably patient with my Italian.  I marveled at how easy it was to understand her but I realize she must have made a real effort to speak slowly and simple for her American cousin, who talked way too much in a language that had not been mastered.  We talked about art, food and agriculture.  We giggled about things I don't remember in between.  

Livia promised to introduce me to her favorite Neapolitan foods and the best places to get them.  The first place we went to was a coffee bar right outside the train station.  It was a small bar with a long counter and we ordered two espressos and two sfoglietelle.  The bar was full of stocky middle-aged men smoking and talking loudly with snapping hand movements.  Clearly this place had never had an interior designer, or even a picture on the wall, but still it had an atmosphere simple because it had absorbed  Naples, its people, its sounds, smells and tastes.  As I sipped my coffee and bit into what I will forever consider my first real Napoletano pastry, everything around me seemed to drop away from the pleasure of that moment.  Livia squeezed her coffee colored eyes in a blink and a nod to say "you are very welcome."  

This is me in front of Egidio's off Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.  I have had this sweet in many a pastry shop in NY but this was my first time at Egidio's.  It was light on the cream filling (which was nice actually), minus the citron and had a wonderful light, flaky crust.  Another place in NY with a killing sfogliatella is Paneantico in Bay Ridge.  What can I say?  For good sfogliatella you have got to travel. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Sweet Spot: Chai Tea Ice Cream

A rainy day in March off a street in Berlin is a strange place to have first tried an Indian chai tea, but that is how it happened.  I was young traveler in the nineties with a backpack and a eurail pass, bought with pennies saved from waiting tables. Dewey and fresh-faced, I hopped around Europe hoping to collect adventures like postage stamps and come home more interesting and worldly.

Berlin greeted me with lots of rain and some friendly faces in pubs that sold me bratwurst in cumin-laced ketchup.  I had no agenda and no cell phone, a luxury I can not even fathom today.  Still I managed to meet up with fellow dewey and fresh-faced traveler-come-waitress friend on rainy day number three and we explored the city with ducked heads and hunched shoulders.  When the chill got too much for our thin coats, we ducked into an Indian cafe for some warmth and nourishment.  I don't remember what it was called or where we were but we sat by the water streaked window.  My traveling companion ordered us two cups of chai tea.  The tea was warm and rich with cinamon and clove, and I started to thaw like someone had plopped me in front of an open fire and thrown a fuzzy blanket around my shoulders.

Since then I have had many cups of chai tea on a chilly afternoon.  It isn't just the hot liquid but the richness of the sugar, milk and spices that can be such a comfort.  I have made some pretty successful chai tea cupcakes in the past.  This day I made chai tea ice cream, a twist on my earlier post on the the italian affogato.

It has been raining here but it isn't March and I am not ready for tea.  The sun is out again. I think I will savor the fleeting summer a little bit longer.

Chai Tea Ice Cream
Makes one pint:
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 chai tea bag
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinamon
On very low heat in a saucepan, heat milk and cream with the tea bag.  Heat until the tea is infused into the milk and cream. Let cool to room temperature. In an electric mixer or using a hand mixer, blend the egg and the sugar.  Add vanilla and cinamon to the egg and sugar and blend.  While the mixer is still going, pour in the milk and cream tea mixture.  Add to your ice cream maker and proceed according to its instruction manual.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dinner on the Fly: Baked Eggplant with Tomato, Ricotta and Basil Oil

Are you tired of these super simple recipe posts yet? Just let me know and I will post some twenty-seven step French entree that spins and shoots off fireworks in front of your dinner guests.  It's not that I am lazy.  It's just that these late summer vegetables won't last forever.  I don't want to make them saucy or cook them down to a ragu.  I want to taste them the way they are right now.  I want to savor their bright flavor as I squint into the low, golden sunshine of Indian Summer.  I hope school never starts.

Don't bother making this dish if your tomatoes are not sweet.  They must be red, not orange.  Do you hear me?  Because that is the color of a tomato.  Red.  Ideally you should use a small, fresh eggplant but if you have one of the large purple-black ones from the super market, slice them in rounds, salt them and let them stand for about twenty minutes to half an hour.  This should take some of the bitterness out of them.  Basil is a must here.  If I only plant one herb in the Spring, (which this Spring I did) it is basil.  It smells like the color green to me.  Hurricane Irene uprooted my basil plant (thankfully our only damage) so I pureed the last of its fragrant leaves in olive oil.  That way we could hold on to its flavor a little longer.  The ricotta is homemade which is surprisingly easy and a recipe post to come.  In fact I have a new contributor to this blog.  Janice, will you do the honors please?

I am stopping here.  Let me post this before it is too late.  Run to your farmer's market!  Get the last tomatoes and eggplant before they are gone! 

Baked Eggplant, with Sliced Tomato, Ricotta and Basil Oil
  • One large tomato, very fresh, very red, sliced
  • One small eggplant cut into rounds
  • Olive oil
  • sea salt
  • one dollop of ricotta
  • drizzle of balsamic vinegar or balsamic cream (essentially like a balsamic reduction and can be bought in specialty stores or homemade) I found a great recipe for balsamic reduction however  here.
For the basil oil:
  • One 2 foot overturned basil plant or 4 cups of basil leaves 
  • 1 to 2 cups of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and cut into quarters
  • sea salt
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss your eggplant rounds in a sprinkle of sea salt and olive oil.  You want enough olive oil to coat your eggplant.  The eggplant will absorb your olive oil quickly, so you don't want to let this sit.  Spread them out on your baking sheet with some space between them.  Not much, just enough so that they are not touching. Bake until they are tender and the skins are slightly shriveled.  In a food processor, add your basil leaves and garlic and pulse.  Add your olive oil slowly and in batches in order to get the consistency that you want.  Salt to taste.

Layer your eggplant over the sliced tomato.  Add a dollop of ricotta (preferably home-made but we will get to that later) and drizzle with the basil oil and balsamic cream.