April 27, 2010

The Sunday Roast

We had a dear friend over this Sunday afternoon. He decided to stay for dinner and I couldn't have been happier because I had an actual honest-to-god Sunday Roast prepped. It's funny how giddy making a pork roast for Sunday dinner made me. It was oh so June Cleaver and I only lament that I didn't have an appropriately frilly apron to wear... next time, there's always a next time.

The thing about roasts is that they are usually incredibly easy and hard not to love. This one is layered in herbs and stuffed with garlic and the end result is pure Sunday bliss.

Sunday Pork Roast
1 3-4 lb boneless pork loin, well trimmed of fat (but not naked) and tied (don't worry about this, its doesn't have to be any more complicated then tying 4-5 bits of cotton kitchen twine around the meat and cutting them off at the knot... don't stress about trussing if you've never done it)
Garlic cloves, cut into thick slices (I like a LOT of garlic for this, use as much or as little as you like)
Kosher salt (you can use sea salt too)
Fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup or more of Herbs de Provence (if you don't have them, you can use dried rosemary or thyme, or a combo)
1 tsp olive oil
Cooking Spray

-Preheat oven to 450, spray bottom of roasting pan with cooking spray
-Slice 1 inch deep slits into the top of the roast for the garlic and stuff one thick slice of garlic into each slit (you need the slits to be relatively deep, if they're too shallow the garlic will pop out of the roast as you cook it, just like those old fashioned pop-up timers)
-Pour the olive oil onto the roast and spread it around (this is mostly to help the herbs and salt adhere but also helps in crisping)
-Sprinkle a very generous amount of salt onto the roast, 2 tablespoons or so (as always, if using table salt, use less, table salt is actually more salty than kosher). Crack pepper on top of roast. Cover roast with the dried herbs. You want it really well coated, more like a crust than a sprinkle
-Cook roast for 45 minutes at 450, then lower heat to 350 for remainder of cooking time until the internal temperature is 150-155. A 3lb roast should take about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours.
-Let roast sit for a good 10-15 minutes before you cut off the twine and slice into it.

April 23, 2010

I-Talian Wontons

It's a fairly silly name for an elegant dish, but you'll understand shortly.

Although I'm a trained pastry chef, making fresh pasta dough intimidates me. Something about the lack of confines usually provided by a bowl and the fear of over kneading... plus I'm fairly certain that like with fried chicken, you had to of been born into a family that's been  making the stuff for years for it to be truly excellent.

So, you're asking, whats up with the wontons already? Well, it just so happens that wonton or dumpling wrappers are the perfect medium to make fresh, homemade ravioli. It's one of those fabulous dirty little secrets that makes me smile.  Also, whether you find round or square, wheat or vegetable skins, they all work. The only thing that might not work are egg roll wrappers which are much larger and tend not to boil as nicely since they're made to be fried. And as is the case with all ravioli, the filling possibilities are endless. These happen to be shrimp, but chicken, pork, fish, veggies, sausage, mushroom, almost anything you can think of can be made into ravioli, so have some fun with it!

I made a very quick sauce for this out of boxed Pomi chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and a dash of oil. These ravioli are surprisingly filling, you wont need more than 7 or 8 to be satisfied.

I-Talian Wontons

1 package wonton or dumpling wrappers/skins (if you have extra, they freeze very nicely)
2 cups roughly chopped shrimp
1 1/2 cups chopped asparagus
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups ricotta (this can be fat free or part skin too)
1/2 cup white wine
1 heaping tablespoon garlic paste or 2 tablespoon chopped garlic
Salt & pepper

-Sautee shrimp, asparagus, garlic, salt & pepper in the white wine until just cooked through and tender
-Drain any left over liquid and set aside in a bowl to cool to room temperature
-Set a pot of water to boil
-When shrimp mixture is ready, add the ricotta and mix well
-Moisten the edges of one wrapper with a little water and fill with a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta filling. Press another wrapper over it and seal the edges by pinching the perimeter to create the ravioli. If you need a little more water thats fine, but the odd mechanics of these wrappers is that tif you use too much water, the edges won't stick together
-When you have about 5 completed, slide into the water and let boil for 15 or so seconds. Fish out the wontons with a spider, and place on a plate
-Spoon some sauce over and serve immediately

*This will yield approximately 22 ravioli

April 20, 2010

Lazy Day Omelet

There’s no picture to be had, because as the title suggests, I was feeling lazzzzy.

It was one of those nights where you get home more tired than you have any right to be. Your shoulders are slumped, your neck is sore, and your brain feels like cream of wheat. It’s the kind of night when you want nothing more than something warm and bubbly from the oven, but god help you, there is no way on earth that’s happening. Pork lo mein is tempting, but greasy. And while pizza sounds good about now, you weren’t ordering the lo mein for grease related reasons, why would you order pizza? Damn your pesky conscience!

A forage through the fridge reveals eggs, onions, grated parmesan cheese and some sautéed zucchini you almost forgot you had.

You pull out the large non-stick pan. Melt some butter, throw in some sliced onions and let them sweat. Now is the perfect time to find the corkscrew and open a bottle of wine. By the time you’ve opened the bottle, poured a glass, and taken a sip, the onions smell like a little piece of heaven and its time to throw in the zucchini to warm up.

Whisk the eggs. A few drops of cold water, a few more whisks, salt and pepper. Take another sip, no need to rush. Pour the eggs over your lovely zuchs & onions. Let the omelet set. Sprinkle on some parm and then fail miserably at folding one half to the other, just like you always do.

Curse softly.

Sigh loudly.

Take a sip.

Remember you live in Brooklyn so: fugetaboutit

Flop the tasty, yet somewhat messy accomplishment on a plate. Grab two forks and enjoy taking turns at slowly eating the Lazy Day Omelet until somehow your back straightens, your shoulders ease, and your brain returns to its preferred solidified state.

April 14, 2010

A Foodie Musing

My partner in love, life and food aka: hubby, said something both very funny and very true last night. It was a lament for the bygone days of  "the dish."  Foods today, he said, don't have actual names. They're just a list of ingredients, he elaborated. And ain't that the truth? Besides ethnic restaurants or recipes (and even then its no guarantee), the modern-day menu item is simply a clever little summary of what you're about to eat.

Gone, gone, gone, are the days of the Parfait, Reuben, or even the Pavlova! In today's terminology they would be: Cream Layered with Sorbet, Gelatin, and Syrup. Corned Beef with Sauerkraut and Melted Swiss Cheese on Toasted Rye, and Whipped Egg Whites Covered in Fresh Whipped Cream and Seasonal Berries. Now after all that, wouldn't it be more joyous to simply call it a Pavlova? (A dish by the way that was named after a Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, in the 1920's - isn't that a charming little detail?)

So assignment time: name a dish. That chocolate cake that you make for your sister's birthday? It is officially now her cake, Annie's Cake. That amazing dip you bring to every party? It is being reborn as Fiesta-Fun Dip. In fact, I hereby re-name my Egg Salad Sandwich, The Eggy Duchess. Yes, I like that.

Your turn. I'd love to hear your modern list-o-ingredients dish and then its fabulous rebirth! Extra points for frivolity - after all, the only reason we still eat "Steamed Suet Pudding with Dried Fruit" is because its actually called... Spotted Dick.

April 12, 2010

Egg Salad for a Duchess

A dear friend of mine told me to check out OpenSalon because there was a little egg salad contest going on there. I chuckled to myself and wrote, “Sure - but I hate egg salad.”

“Perfect,” she wrote back.

Is it strange that a foodie should hate egg salad? I can't even stomach the smell of a hard boiled egg, let alone chopping it up and adding it to mayo. There was only one thing for me to do: face the fear.

I figured that if I were going to go down the dreaded egg salad path, I'd better make the thing so sinful, so luscious, so positively heart attack-inducing that even I couldn't resist it. 

So this is, by far, the most ridiculous egg salad you're likely to come across.

I'll let you know that I did, indeed, take a bite--but it took several embarrassing minutes of huffing, puffing, hand wringing and cringing to do so. 

In the end, I have to admit: it was great! That being said, the mere knowledge that my nemesis, the hard boiled egg, was in that lovely buttery morsel made it all but impossible for me to enjoy. (My husband had no problems whatsoever gobbling it all down, though.) I know it was a hardship, honey… no, not really, it was pretty awesome.

Egg Salad for a Duchess
6 extra large hard boiled eggs
1 cup finely chopped fresh dill
¾ cup finely chopped fresh chives
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
Juice of 1 small lemon
8 oz crème fraiche
1 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt (pink salt has a subtle sweetness to it that really lends itself to this. You can substitute Hawaiian pink salt too - and, if you do, I like your style. Kosher salt is totally fine, as is table salt. If you're using table salt, though, start with a teaspoon and work your way up - it's more intense than other salts.)
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
*1 tablespoon mayonnaise (I've starred this because of personal taste. Personally we liked how thick this came out; however, if you want the salad a little looser, add mayo 1 tablespoon at a time until you get the desired thickness)
4 Croissants

-Split and toast the 4 croissants, set aside to let cool
-In a large non-metal bowl, add crème fraiche, dill, chives, onion, lemon, salt and pepper, mix well. Adjust seasoning as you see fit.
-Cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge so all the flavors meld
-Meanwhile, peel and chop the eggs (I chopped them fairly small, but you can make it chunkier if you like). If you find that the yolks are on the small side, only use 5 of the egg whites but all of the yolks to balance out the texture and flavor.
-Take out the crème fraiche mixture and gently mix in the eggs.
-If you want the concoction a little thinner, now is the time to add the mayo.
-Serve egg salad on the croissants-and enjoy!

April 7, 2010

Brooklyn is Blooming

This morning I kissed my elderly gentleman caller. You might recall my mentioning him. I see him almost every morning as I walk to the subway for work. We pass each other as he makes his way home from church. He walks with two canes, wears a cap, always has a different church lady with him (he's a terrible flirt), and calls me doll. Today he called me over from across the street, handed me a small vial of holy water, and told me to "keep it with you doll, it'll keep you safe." I kissed him on the cheek as thanks and purposely failed to mention that I'm  Jewish... it's only a mere trifling technicality after all.

Perhaps it's something in the air - something in the blossoming trees, but on his way to work today, my husband also had a Godly moment. He was on the platform waiting for his train. There was a school trip of some kind, the platform was crowded with High Schoolers. Suddenly, they all began singing Amazing Grace in harmony. When they were finished, they sang other church songs until the train showed up. He said it was amazing. I can only imagine it was.

On my way home from work last night, inspired by the smells and sights of Spring around me, I decided to make something I haven't made in a long time: Tomato Soup. Some might think cold nights and snow on the ground, but for me, Tomato Soup screams Spring and Summer. First off, tomatoes are at their best in the height of summer and secondly, I don't like my Tomato Soup hot -  I like it cool. This large pot-worth is good for about eight people or two with days of leftovers.

So in honor of things budding, being protected by kindly gentleman callers, and being blessed by kids singing on subways, here is my Tomato Soup recipe.

Cool Dill Tomato Soup

6 large ripe tomatoes (Vine Ripened, Hot House, Heirloom, doesn't matter. You could even use yellow, orange, or purple tomatoes for that matter -  I would only advise to use all the same color otherwise you might get a muddy-colored tomato soup and that isn't terribly appealing. If you can't get them large, use 7-8 medium, or 8-9 small)
3 large Sweet onions (if you can't find Sweet or Vidallia, use Spanish or Yellow, but less of them, maybe 2 or 2.5 depending on size)
3 large garlic cloves
1/3 cup tomato paste
3.5 cups of low sodium chicken stock (you can use veg stock too to make this completely vegetarian)
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill (a little more a little less is fine too)
2 cups fat free plain yogurt (if you want to bring this to the next yumm level, use creme fraiche instead)
Salt and pepper to taste

-Cut tomatoes and onions into chunks, place in large pot
-Add garlic, tomato paste, stock, salt and pepper (be sparing, you can always add more salt) to pot, mix and let boil
-Lower to simmer and cook with cover for 15-20 minutes until onions are tender and cooked through
-Add yogurt and blend with immersion blender until smooth (you can also use a blender or food processor in batches)
-Adjust seasoning and add chopped dill, mix
-Let rest in pot and serve either room temperature or let it chill in the fridge for a bit until its cool, not cold

*I always garnish my tomato soup with popcorn, but you can use anything: corn chips, extra dill, even roast chicken or shrimp, anything really.