Monday, November 28, 2011

Dinner on the Fly: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs.  Do I even need to write anything else?  It is sinful and comforting, ethnic and universal.  Some version of this classic dish has been a part of almost all of our kitchens growing up.  My favorite version of it is the simplest one.  What is your recipe?  Do you make it spicy or give it a twist?

  • 1/2 lb ground beef, pork or veal (or a combination)
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with  parchment paper.  Put all the ingredients a food processor and pulse until blended.  Careful not to pulse too much or you will get a puree.  take about 1/2 a cup of your mixture (small snowball size ) and roll into a ball.  Place each one on the parchment paper lined pan about 2 inches apart.  Keep a bowl of water nearby to dip your hands in so that the meat doesn't stick when you are rolling it. Bake for 25 minutes. then add to your tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce
  • one can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • sea salt
  • black pepper 
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • Parmesan cheese
Heat olive oil in a saucepan on medium low heat.  Add garlic (with cloves intact or chopped if you like your sauce a little more garlicky).  Sautee` until fragrant but be careful not to burn.  When fragrant add your tomatoes and stir.  Keep at a simmer for about an hour.  Add meatballs when done (about 25 minutes into your simmer). Add salt, pepper and parsley before serving.  Top with Parmesan cheese after tossing with your cooked pasta.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    What I am Thankful for

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Dinner on the Fly: Chinese Hot Pot in an American's Kitchen

    Something about this dish will be lost in translation.  My first experience with food and culture in China and Hong Kong has brought me a deeper understanding of both, if not a full one.  I must have tried forty  dishes during my stay and each one was completely different from the last.  Still, I haven't made more than a small dent in understanding the vastness and complexity of Chinese cuisine. There are flavors that I will always remember and look forward to, should I return, not just for the their flavors but for their unique and artful presentation.  Should I return to Hangzhou, I will want to unwrap the lotus leaf that a whole spring chicken has been cooked in to release the fragrant steam and make sure the head is still intact.  I'll ask for the pot of shrimp brought live to the table, then drowned in rice wine so that their fresh water taste mingles with the sweet acidity.  I would like at least two different green vegetables, cooked to a just wilted bright green, pleasantly salting and tinged with garlic.  Let me not forget to accompany it with a cup of Dragon Well green tea, where the leaves float like plants behind an aquarium's glass and it tastes the way grass smells in Spring.

    Is that what comes to mind when you think of Chinese food? If it is than you win the cigar for for being far more worldly in t the realm of Asian culture than I.

    Traveling to a new place and breaking bread with locals was like a reboot to the way I think about food. Hot pot was one of my favorite dishes in China and Hong Kong.  It epitomized the family style way of dining where a dish is always shared and brought to the table when ready, without our western concept of a sequence of courses.  Hot pot was also one of the simplest dishes in concept.  Perfect for the non-Asian-savvy to recreate at home.  It isn't only an ease of preparation and flavors from my trip that I am bringing to my table with this dish, but the intimate circle it creates as we all share in the cooking and tasting of our meal.

    Not to mention it reminds me of a fondue party, which I love.

    This is a hot chili oil I made by heating peanut oil with garlic cloves and lots of tian jin red chilis. 

    Hot Pot (With a Little of Everything Thrown In)

    For the broth: 
    • 1 lb pork bones
    • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed with the flat side of a knife
    • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
    • three carrots cut in rounds
    • 1 small knob of ginger, chopped to equal about 2 tablespoons
    • 5 small potatoes, diced (preferably yellow flesh)
    • 4 diced scallions
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
    At the table:
    • very fresh, thinly sliced raw top round beef (or substitue and appropriate cut of pork or lamb)
    • very fresh, filet of flounder cut into small bite sized pieces (or substitute another white fish)
    • very fresh, sliced scallops (or shelled and cleaned shrimp)
    • chopped shitake mushrooms
    • snow peas (or bok choy)
    Dipping sauce:
    *simple soy sauce is fine here.  I went to one restauraunt and there was a make your own dipping sauce bar so I tried to recreate what I did which was delicious.  I did not measure I just added buy taste
    • soy sauce
    • peanut butter
    • fish sauce
    • minced garlic
    • minced scallion (green parts only)
    • 1 minced dried red tian jin chili

      In a large stock pot, add pork bones, chopped onion, garlic, carrots, ginger and potatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Keep at a gentle boil uncovered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  You want about a fourth of the liquid to reduce.  While still boiling add your soy sauce, fish sauce and scallions.  You want to keep this soup as close to boiling heat as you can because you are cooking ingredients in it at the table.

      The rest of this recipe happens at the table.  It is in the layout.  I used fondue pots to keep the soup at a temperature that cooks your ingredients.  Then I ladled soup into individual small bowls for sampling.  Dipping sauce was in everyone's reach. I made sure my meat and fish were cut small so that it cooked at the end of our chopsticks.  Vegetables were added by the handful, pulled out and served when bright and tender.  It was awkward at first but we got the hang of how and when to reach over one another, whether we dipped our fish, meat or vegetable into the sauce or added the dipping sauce into the bowl and how long to hold our raw ingredients in the hot broth.  Like any firsts, we got the hang of it.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Fundraiser Brunch: Recipes and Thanks

    I have been thinking a lot about what it means to make positive contributions to the world we live in.  That being said I have been wondering in what way I can use my own skills to do that.  What does it mean to live a life that is conscientious in addition to one that balances our joys and our survival?

    So my dear friend, Janice and I made a recent call out to the internet universe (and a few neighborhood establishments) that we were holding a fundraiser brunch to raise money for the Food Bank of NYC.  Food for food, so to speak.  As promised in our menu, below are the recipes of the food we served as well as some photos of the event.  Hope it inspires, both cooking and kindness.

    I want to thank all of you who came out to donate to the cause and show your support for Food Bank of NYC (and for Janice and I).  Thanks also to Veronica People's Club that allowed us to use their space.

    Clementine Blackberry Compote
    • 10  peeled and sectioned clementines
    • 1 quart blackberries
    • simple syrup (1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water
    • orange juice (1/2 cup orange juice)
    This is a simple fruit salad with and orange dressing.  Simple syrup is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water.  Bring your water to a boil.  Once boiling add your sugar stirring constantly until dissolved. Remove from heat and add orange juice.  Allow to cool before adding to your fruit for a lighter fresher fruit salad.  Or add your fruit to the dressing and cook until their juices are released and serve warm.  Great over yogurt.

    White Bean Chowder
    • slab bacon
    • 1 large onion
    • 2 teaspoons dry or 1 sprig fresh rosemary
    • 16 ounces dry white beans, soaked and cooked until soft
    • diced white or yukon gold potatoes
    • salt
    • pepper
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
    • 5 inckh square of cheese cloth
    • 1 quart chicken broth
    In a large soup pot or dutch oven, sautee bacon in olive oil until crispy. Add onions and cook on medium in rendered bacon fat until transluscent. Put your rosemary in a the center of cheese clothe square and tie securely.  Add your broth, cooked white beans, potatoes and rosemary pouch.  Add water to adjust the thickness of your soup.  Cook until the potatoes are tender.

    Salad with Red Grapes and Walnuts

    • 1 head of red or green leaf lettuce (or a mixture of both)
    • 3/4 cup red seedless grapes halved
    • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
    • olive oil
    • white wine vinegar
    • salt pepper
    Wash and dry lettuce completely.  Cut along the vein of the lettuce so that you have two halves.  Then cut in horizontal bite-sized peices.  Toss with grapes and walnuts. Dress lightly with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

    Fritatta with Goat Cheese and Dill 

    Parsley, Sundried Tomato and Salami 
    • 6 eggs beaten
    • chopped parsley or dill
    • 2 small potatoes sliced on the thinnest setting of a mandolin
    • minced sundried tomato, crumbled goat cheese or genoa salami sliced in small strips
    • salt
    • pepper
    Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Heat your oil in a 9 inch cast iron skillet.  Once your olive oil is hot but not smoking layer your potato slices in the hot oil, salting lightly in between the layers.  Cover and cook on medium low heat until the potatoes are tender. Add your eggs.  Once they have set on the bottom, scatter your herbs, cheese, tomato or salami (essentially whatever you are using to flavor your fritatta)  across the top. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook a little longer until the sides of your fritatta begin to set.  Then transfer into the oven.  Bake until the center sets.

    Baked Pecan French Toast with Honeyed Yogurt

    We used a recipe from Ezra Poundcake.  If you haven't been to this blog yet you should definitely check it out!

    Chocolate Mousse

    This is strictly a Mark Bittman's recipe.   

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Printable Weekly Menu Planner Giveaway!

    Happy Fall!

    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.
    1. Double click on the image below.
    2. Click on File tab
    3. Select print.