Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another Barbecue

Another weekend, another barbecue, trying to fit them all in before summer slips away. I invited friends over last night for a low key gathering, and wasn't sure how many people would come, so I ended up with a lot of leftovers, both food and alcohol-wise. I guess that's a good thing, except it means I'll have to move all of it (see below).

I made grass fed burgers using ground beef from Elk Trails with my signature fresh sage (from my deck) and worcestershire sauce combination. I grilled them myself - it was the first time I'd ever personally made hamburgers on the grill, and they came out perfectly medium and yummy.

I baked up the crisp flatbread again, this time using 1 cup local whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup white flour, and mixing in fresh ground pepper instead of rosemary, and I thought it had much better depth of flavor.

For dipping, I made hummus and baba ghanoush. I bought eggplants from a new, mad cheap vendor at the Union Square Greenmarket, but I was unlucky and it turned out they had tons of seeds, so I did my best to remove them to keep the baba ghanoush from being overly bitter. I'm not going to post the recipe I used because it was kind of fly-by-my-pants and didn't come out quite as magical as I hoped. I also ended up with less than stellar corn, that was small and not especially sweet, but people enjoyed it anyway, especially topped with some Ronnybrook butter.

And now, I should probably continue packing, since I'm moving into my new apartment tomorrow. I like to think I don't own a lot of posessions, but I've realized that my obsession with food means I will have to ferry box after box after box of foodstuffs and kitchen accoutrements. Moving is a bitch.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Changing?


Things are changing in the world of the Wounded Chef.


But despite this, I still managed to get some fresh local foods in me. Last weekend, I grilled a chicken breast from Quattro and a red pepper, and so my lunch for the week was sandwiches of homemade whole wheat bread, garlic marinated grilled red peppers, and grilled chicken.



Just now for dinner, I made myself another peanut sauce stirfry with broccoli, pepper, onion, and the rest of the grilled chicken.

And yesterday I helped prepare food for a very vegetarian friendly barbecue. Earlier in the day I went to the farmers market to pick out goods for vegetable kebobs - peppers of varying colors, deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes, onion, zucchini, and mushrooms (from the supermarket because there were no mushroom vendors at the market yesterday). I chopped everything into 2-inch pices and then marinated them for an hour in a marinade using what my friend Cassie had in her pantry - soy sauce, water, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder. Then we painstakingly skewered all of the kebobs,and thankfully someone else did the grilling work. They were a big hit. Thanks to Cassie for hosting an amazing party - the high point might have been when a room full of singers belted out old-school angsty Alanis Morisette songs.
For the party I also made tabbouleh, a Mediterranean dish that is best eaten scooped up with pita chips, crackers, or flatbread. Last night we ate it with pita chips, but I saved some tabbouleh to bring to another bbq tomorrow, so to accompany that, I just made the rosemary flatbread from July Gourmet that Deb recently spoke so highly of. The recipe is similar to that of homemade crackers I've made before, but the addition of baking powder really lightens things up into a beautifully crisp and tasty flatbread, perfect for snacking. My past cracker were heavy and not crisp, no matter how thin I rolled the dough. Although, actually, I almost think this flatbread is too light - I would sub in half whole wheat flour next time to give it a little more flavor and heft.It's is going to be my new base recipe that I use whenever I want to make some kind of cracker.


Tabbouleh

1 cup bulgur
1 1/2 cup boiling water
2 tomatoes
1 cucumber
handful of fresh herbs such as mint, parsley, basil
1/2 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 lemon
2 tsp red wine vinegar
salt
pepper

Pour boiling water over bulgur in a bowl, stir, and let sit for 20-30 minutes until water is mostly absorbed and bulgur has softened. It will still be a little crunchy. Drain any extra water.

Meanwhile, chop vegetables and herbs into a fine dice and combine in a large bowl. Add the zest and juice of half a lemon, along with the red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. When the bulgur is ready, add to the large bowl and stir to combine. It is best if made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for at least a few hours to allow the flavors to mingle.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grilled Pizza with Arugula and Goat Cheese


Another grilled pizza success, using dough balls that I had kept in the freezer since last time I made pizza. I changed up the topping by making simple arugula and goat cheese pizzas. I drizzled olive oil over the top, scattered a handful of fresh arugula leaves, dotted it with goat cheese, shredded some parmesan, and finished it off with a little salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning spices. The peppery argulua wilted down nicely and goes oh so well with creamy goat cheese. As you can see above, I didn't use so much goat cheese - because I find my local Patches of Star goat cheese to be really rich and like it best in small, savored doses.


After making two such pizzas, I ran out of arugula - what to put on the third? Then I spied a mushy Heirloom tomato that needed to be eaten soon in my fruit bowl, so I sliced the tomato thinly and placed it atop all the ingredients on the pizza, minus the arugula. Also delicious - how can anything with crispy bread and sweet heirloom tomatoes not be?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reworked Skirt


I had a pair of comfy stretchy jeans since sometime in college (or maybe longer?), but last year the crotch ripped, so I hid it away into my dresser with plans to transform it into a new creation at some point. I had cut off the legs and tried to reuse them as rags, but the "rags" crumbled and bled when put to work, so those were tossed. Two weekends ago I finally had the free time to finish hand sewing this into a skirt, painstakingly cutting, arranging the pieces, pinnng, trying on and repinning again and again until it looked right, and sewing with good old needle and thread.


Ta da! My new favorite skirt. The length and fit feels just right, although it is too tight to wear on my bike. The great thing is that I hand sewed a loose stitch, because I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to sewing, but it still looks like one of those store-bought faux-faded-and-torn skirts. Too bad I can't wear it to work because no jeans are allowed :-( I am worried about how it will fray when I try to wash it, and tearing over time. But since I sewed it, I hope I can patch it up if need be (??)

This is now the second jeans-turned-skirt I own - the first one wasn't made by me or anyone I know, it was just a skirt my sister found at her college free table, and then gave to me. She gets the best clothes from that free table!

I can't help but think, how very "Fix" of me! It feels great to turn an old favorite into a new favorite, to have pride in something I created, and to recycle fabric instead of buying new, which is better for the environment and my wallet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Busy Night

I came home tonight and cooked for about 2 1/2 hours straight. I didn't need to. I guess I just felt like getting all this food prepared in one go to make the rest of my week easier. And, when I made pizza dough this weekend, I had the foresight to freeze a few dough balls, so I also have my eye on giving pizza another try later this week with the rest of the arugula and chevre. Again no pictures because the camera won't give up its hiding spot.

- dinner tonight: first bruschetta of the season! with heirloom tomato, garlic, basil from my deck, and olive oil on homemade whole wheat toast

- dessert: a decadent peach and nectarine smoothie with Ronnybrook ice cream instead of yogurt

- into the fridge for lunch tomorrow: salad of arugula, radishes, beets, hard boiled egg, Patches of Star chevre, and an olive oil-red wine vinaigrette

- into the fridge for a future dinner: caponata to have with toast and chevre

- into the fridge for a future snack: boiled and balsamic marinated beets

- into the freezer: steamed beet greens, which probably will be eaten in tacos at some point

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dog Ate My Pizza


Yeah, there he goes looking all cute and innocent again until...

First the good news. Last time I tried to make grilled pizza, it was a gummy disaster. I think that dough recipe, which works wonders in the oven, was probably just too thick for the grill. Meanwhile, tons of people out in the blogosphere have made grilled pizza with no problems. So I was determined to try again using a different, thinner dough. I wisely chose the mother of all thin crusts: Heidi's whole wheat pizza dough, also following her grilled pizza tips.

Tonight, I came (home from work), I saw (raw sausage and radish leaves turn into a delightful sauteed topping), I conquered (grilled pizza). However, I was so worried about the giving the pizza ample time to cook through in the middle that I let the first couple pizzas burn a tad, but at least it was edible and delicious, compared to last time. Heidi's pizzas are actually so thin that they don't really have a middle, just crispness, so there was no need to worry. Next time, I will leave my dough a little laxer instead of stretching it out parchment thin as she recommended.

But here comes the bad news. I made three pizzas tonight with my own blood, sweat, and tears (okay more just like a little easy labor with the help of a friend). We ate up two of the pizzas but didn't touch the third. It lay there waiting patiently to be packaged into an amazing lunch for tomorrow. I walked my friend to the door when she left. I was gone for about TWO minutes. I came back upstairs. Huge gasp - the pizza is gone! Without a trace. Because my dog ate my pizza!!!

Devil dog strikes again. All of my hard work wasted on his already-fed stomach. What misfortune will he bring next? Only his pea sized brain can tell. And that's why I have no pictures to show for my work, either, because as you could say, the dog ate my homework!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Veal Chops to Die For

Guest post from my sister Lisa, who worked at Bobolink farm this summer selling bread and cheese, and is in Brooklyn for the week. Dinner last night:
Veal chops with caremelized onion, baby garlic, currants and sage and wine
Salad of baby greens, spearmint and basil
Mashed New Potatoes

Last night I finally got the chance to cook the two veal chops I had fatefully acquired (without paying $40!) from Bobolink Farms where I work. They had been sitting in my freezer for 3 weeks begging me to cook them. But who was I to share them with? There were but two chops.
Long story short, last night there was a gourmet meal, Luke and Lisa style, featuring the chops. I can't even describe how amazing they were. My tongue was at a loss for words. A lot of that is probably owed to Luke's repeated recomendation of "mo' buttaaa!" And the fact that this was one of the happiest little calves in the history of veal, roaming free on the land of Bobolink farm for all its short life. While working at the farmers market in Warwick this past Sunday I was also the joyous recipient of a whole load of vegetables to incorporate. And then my mom's garden in Warwick supplied the rest. So basically this meal was as free as it could get!
Veal Chops with Reduced Wine, Onion, and Sage Sauce
3 small white onions
a bunch of small cloves of garlic
lots of sage!
2 veal chops
some white wine (we used vinho verde - $4 at trader joes)
butter
olive oil

1) sautee onions, garlic, sage, salt, pepper in 1 tbsp each butter and olive oil until caremelized
2) take out of pan
3) add 1 more tbsp each of butter and olive oil
4) cook the chops 5 minutes medium heat on both sides (sprinkle on salt and pepper generously in the first few minutes)
5) remove from pan
6) pour 1/3 cup white wine into pan and scrape around
7) add onion mixture back in and let reduce until thick and delicous looking
8) pour this over the chops
9 ) eat!!
10) ready to die yet? I am

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Dog Days

A simple dinner tonight of pasta caponata and a smoothie, that I forgot to photograph. So here are some pictures of my dog Spencer instead; more on him below.

I first made caponata last week, and munched into it atop toasted whole wheat bread spread with goat cheese, inspired by lunch I had a while ago at Landmarc in the Time Warner Center. Caponata is a Sicilian dish of eggplants, peppers, and/or tomatoes and other veggies, diced and cooked together until soft and mushy, spiced with olives and capers. However, olives and capers aren't local or budget friendly, so I left them out, and didn't find my caponata lacking at all. Instead I spiced it up with lemon, crushed red pepper, and red wine vinegar, which were already handy in my pantry.

Tonight I had tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers from the farmers market waiting patiently in the fridge to become caponata again. But I didn't have enough bread to serve it on, so I decided it would work just as well with pasta. And it did, though I found myself craving a little sausage in there too. Most recipes for caponata call for you to roast the eggplant first, but in New York City's oppressive summer heat, I grilled the eggplant, and it was a much quicker way to tenderize rounds of slightly-chared and oiled eggplant.

For dessert I made a peach and nectarine smoothie with Ronnybrook yogurt. I don't like to eat fruit or yogurt on its own, but I do like them in smoothies and baked goods. So I decided I would buy the ingredients at the farmers market to make smoothies, in a concerted effort to be healthier. Since I'm not a big fan of peach flavor, I also threw in the last of some frozen strawberries that had been hanging around in my fridge for, oh at least six months, to brighten the flavor - but if you like peach, then plain ice cubes will do just fine for cooling down your drink.


And as for the dog days...does anyone have advice for remedying a sweet-turned-vicious dog? We adopted our dog from the shelter and accepted his growling nature toward other dogs as a hazard of his troubled past. Because he's just so darned cute, and, though he doesn't like other dogs, he loves people and is a bit of a whore with seeking out petting from other people on the street.

Until suddenly after two years, for the past two weeks straight he has started growling and trying to bite random people. For no apparent reason. The people he targets run the gamut of teenagers, old ladies, construction workers, and guys just sitting on their stoop. It's scary, and I don't know what to do. And it's so bizarre! It's bad enough that I have to walk this guy every day when I could be getting a few more minutes of precious sleep or gallavanting about town instead of coming straight home after work, that we leave the energy guzzling AC on during the day for him (at 75-77 degrees), and that he gets a full third of the bed at night! And now he's turned into a devil dog! But then he's just so darned cute and lovable with us, and you have to forgive him/forget all his sins...

Grilled Eggplant Caponata
olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
3 green peppers
3 tomatoes
1 large or 2 small eggplants
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt
pepper

Dice onion and mince garlic and sautee in olive oil over low heat. Dice peppers and then tomatoes and add to pan. Let cook over low heat, with the tomato juices simmering away slightly.

Meanwhile, slice eggplant into thin rounds, brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill over medium heat, about 4 minutes on each side, until eggplant is tender with browned grill marks. Remove from grill. After eggplant has cooled a few minutes, dice eggplant and add to the pan, along with the remaining ingredients. Continue to sautee another 5-10 minutes, until vegetable mixture is evenly softened and flavored.

Serving suggestions:
Toast slices of bread, top with goat cheese or mozzerella, and then top with caponata.
Let caponata cool in the fridge, and then eat with pita chips on a hot summer day.
Make 4 servings of pasta, toss pasta with caponata along with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/3 cup grated parmesan for caponata pasta.
As an accompaniment to fish or chicken.

Peach and Nectarine Smoothie
1 small peach
1 small nectarine
2/3 cup yogurt
1 1/2 tsp honey
2 frozen strawberries or ice cubes

Wash and roughly chop peach and nectarine. Add yogurt and honey to blender, followed by the fruit and frozen strawberries or ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Makes one whopping glass or two small glasses.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Perfect Summer Day

Boyfriend makes me blueberry pancakes for breakfast (made with local buckwheat flour, honey, milk, eggs, fresh blueberries, and maple syrup). Early afternoon out on Brighton Beach with friends on the clearest summer day. Lying in the hot sun, gaining a tan, till the heat drives me to stand ankle deep in cold waves.


Back home, some cooking, some cleaning, some preparing for a romantic dinner. A short run around McCarren Park. I haven't been exercising much lately, but these short runs remind me of my past, the dirt path under trees reminiscent of summer runs during college, although those Vassar trees were much older, more powerful, more beautiful, than these few trees trailing around a people-populated park. Finishing my run on the track, the smell of that red rubber reminds me of high school. Seemingly half my high school life was spent on the track, stretching, pep talks, running, sweating, giggling, ogling hot bare-chested teenage boys, running up and down grassy hills, and out onto those sun-dappled country roads before returning back to the track. This track is instead filled with die-hard soccer players, amateur runners, families enjoying their weekend, and lounging hipsters.


Finally, dinner in the waning light on the deck with my loved one: grilled hake (a white fish), marinated cucumber and radish salad, and potato salad. Divine. All made with local ingredients, except for the vinegar, mayo, mustard, and spices. And to drink, mojitos made with mint grown on the deck. No mojito recipe because mine could use some tweaking. I followed a recipe for two glasses, and ended up with four strong mojitos that we couldn't possibly finish on this Sunday night.


Marinated Cucumber and Radish Salad
1/2 large cucumber
2 radishes
1/2 small onion
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
few grinds of black pepper
3 sprigs fresh mint, torn into small pieces (and/or other fresh herbs such as parsley)

Thinly slice cucumber, radish, and onion. In a bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Add cucumber, radish, and onion, and toss to coat. Let marinate in fridge for at least 15 minutes, or longer. Serves 3 as a side dish.


Potato Salad
4 medium new potatoes
1/2 small red onion
2 celery stalks
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar
2 tsp mustard
1 tsp salt
five grinds of black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Chop potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Place potatoes in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and then let simmer 10-20 minutes until fork tender. Meanwhile, dice onion and celery, and combine with remaining ingredients in a large bowl. When potatoes are tender, drain and add to bowl, tossing to coat. Can make ahead and keep in fridge until serving. Serves 3 as a side dish.