August 30, 2010

Simple Saturday

Saturday was glorious. Not too hot or humid, we made do with the fans and open windows. I had a hankering for Granita. Then I was lusting after tomatoes. There were also chicken cutlets that had to be cooked, not to mention of a container of ricotta begging to be used so... a little of this, a little of that, and a really wonderful late lunch was had.  

Melted Tomatoes
Roma (plum) tomatoes
Salt & Pepper
Herbs de Provence
Olive Oil

-Preheat oven to 300.
-Cut the tomatoes in half, place on a baking sheet or pan
-Drizzle a healthy amount of oil, then sprinkle on a healthy dose of salt, pepper, and seasoning.
-Bake for 4 hours or until the tomatoes have "melted." That is, the skin has wrinkled, the tomato has deflated and dried out a bit.

*These are excellent cold or hot.
**If you don't have 4 hours. Place tomatoes in a 400 oven for 30 minutes, then down to 325 for another half hour to 45 minutes.
***Feel free to use any seasoning you like by the way, Italian mix, something spicy, whatever you like. I just happen to like the intensely aromatic quality to the Herbs de Provence.

Melted Tomato Cutlets
4-5 chicken cutlets (1/4" - 1/2")
Melted Tomatoes
4-5 tbs Parmesan Cheese
2 cups flour (whole wheat flour is fine too)
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp each salt & pepper

-Preheat oven to 425.
-Season flour with salt & pepper. Dredge chicken cutlets through flour, tap off excess.
-Heat butter and oil in pan until very hot. Quickly sear cutlets, for color, not done-ness. They finish cooking in the oven.
-Place cutlets on baking pan or sheet, cover with a few melted tomatoes, then sprinkle on 1 tbs of Parmesan cheese (or more, you want the cutlet well covered). If your cutlets are thinner than 1/4", skip the pan searing and just sprinkle with salt and pepper, place tomato and parm on top, cook.
-Bake for 10 minutes or until the Parmesan browns and crisps.
-Serve hot or room temperature.

Ricotta Pasta
1 lb favorite pasta (I used a whole wheat thin spaghetti)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
15 oz fresh Ricotta cheese (I used a part skim, because that's what I had, but you can use full or even fat free)
2 cups fresh basil, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs fresh ground pepper
Salt to taste

-Boil pasta
-Combine ricotta, olive oil, Parmesan, pepper, basil, and salt in serving bowl, mix well.
-Do not drain pasta, you want the hot pasta water to thin out the ricotta mixture. Instead, using tongs or a slotted spoon, pull out the still dripping pasta directly into the serving bowl. Mix well and serve. This happens to be excellent cold too.

Mint Tea Granita
5 cups water
6 mint tea bags
2 bunches fresh mint, about 2 1/2 - 3 cups
Sugar or sweetener (I used Splenda)

-Boil water. Place 4 of the 6 tea bags, and half of the mint in a SHALLOW freeze-proof container. If you use a deep dish or bowl, it will take forever to freeze.
-Pour water over the bags and mint, let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, let mint sit for another 5 minutes. Remove the mint and repeat with remaining tea bags and mint (make sure to save a few sprigs for serving). You do this so that the tea and mint doesn't get too strong. You want an intensely minty Granita, not a bitter one. Add sugar or sweetener and mix to combine, adjust to your liking. I don't like mine terribly sweet, just a hint of sweet.
-Once room temperature, place in freezer uncovered. After 45 minutes, take a fork and rake through the entire pan of tea breaking up the ice. Repeat the raking every 30 minutes until the entire container of tea is frozen and broken up. Depending on the container, and the freezer, this may take 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Serve with a mint sprig.
-Serves 4 -5.

*Granita's are a wonderful and easy dessert. You can use watermelon blasted in the blender, a little vodka thrown into the mix. Any kind of juice you like, spiked with any kind of liquor you like. Or like this version, any kind of tea, even iced coffee with cream.

August 27, 2010


My friend, the same one who we celebrated High Tea with, introduced me to Katsudon. It’s a simple Japanese dish that I fell in love with immediately. In fact, I fell so hard for it, that I figured out how to make it myself. I could have just looked at a book I realize, but then there wouldn't have been all those nights of gobbling down those tasty failures! Katsudon (Kaht-soo-don) is a bowl of rice, with sautéed onions, a pork cutlet, and an egg on top. It's simple and so damn good.

This is definitely one of my staple mid-week dinners. It's easy, filling, and of course yummy. It's also a great excuse to make a pot of homemade Miso Soup. That being said, last night we had powdered Miso Soup - like I've said before, we can't all be Martha Stewart all the time.

This is for two people.

Rice (I use a long grain brown rice. Not only is it healthier, we actually prefer the taste)
2 large pork cutlets or 4 smaller/thinner cutlets
1 1/2 cups Panko (I use whole wheat Panko crumbs but they can be hard to find)
1/2 cup flour (can be whole wheat flour too of course)
3 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 large onion, sliced (about 1/4". Not too thin, not too thick)
3/4 cup Dashi stock (this is a Japanese powdered stock base. If you don't have/can't find it, just do what I did last night and use vegetable stock instead)
1 Tbs Mirin (a Japanese sweet cooking wine. If you don't have/can't find, replace with Marsala cooking wine or even a dry Sherry)
1 Tbs soy sauce 
1 Tsp sugar
Vegetable oil (for frying. If you want you can also bread the cutlets, bake them at about 400 until they're crispy and cooked through)
Salt & Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven spice. Easily substituted with ground pepper)

-While rice is cooking, season breadcrumbs with salt and Shichimi Togarashi to taste. Crack one egg and whisk it, adding water. Dust cutlets with flour, then dip in egg, then coat in Panko.
-Heat oil in pan and fry the cutlets, set aside.
-In a pot, add stock, Mirin, soy, sugar, and onions. Cook together until the onions are tender, about 3-5 minutes.
-Slice the cutlets into half inch slices and add them to the pot (keep the slices together though as if still one cutlet), and cooking in the onions and broth for a minute or two. Whisk the last two eggs very lightly; you just want them barely broken up. Pour half over one cutlet, half over the other in the pot. Cover and cook for about one minute or until the egg has just cooked and set.
-Fill two bowls with rice, and using a spatula, place one cutlet with eggs and onions on top. Repeat with other rice bowl. Sprinkle a little fresh chopped parsley, chive or scallion over it and serve. If there is any extra broth, pour over the rice bowl. I usually sprinkle more of the Shichimi Togarashi on top too - I like things a little spicy. 

August 25, 2010

Small Things

Fresh figs.

I couldn't resist sharing my sensual, sweet, and perfect dessert today...

 (mind the pictures, I had to take them with my phone while at the office!)

August 24, 2010

A Celebratory Tea

Four friends met at Lady Mendl's Tea Salon this past Saturday wearing their best summer frocks and pearls. After all, it isn't everyday that three of those friends become Aunties! One of my dearest friends is expecting, she emailed me from Japan while on vacation with her family to let me know - I squealed and jumped about. We went to high school together, then college. She met her husband while abroad in Japan, they've been together ever since. She moved to Minnesota and although I don't get to see much of her, email and phones keep us close.

So when she told us (myself and her two other besties) that she would be here for August, we knew we had to do something to celebrate. High Tea was the consensus. I had always wanted to go to Lady Mendl's and I was so happy to finally have an reason. It was sublime.

Housed in a restored brownstone at Irving Place, Lady Mendl's is exactly what you hope it would be. Gold wall paper, sweet smells, ladies in dresses and hats. We were treated to a five course tea that was one of the best I've ever had. From a Mushroom Puff to start, Tea Sandwiches, cookies and chocolate dipped fruit, one of the most amazing Mille Crepe Cakes I've ever had (if you can, stop by Lady M Confections, no relation to Lady Mendl's, and try some - you won't be disappointed), scones with clotted cream and jam, and of course tea. The whole affair was was well worth the cost which just happened to be very reasonable indeed.

 Mushroom Puff appetizer,

Lady Mendl's famous Mille Crepe Cake,

Four pots of tea for four friends...

Of course, in the end it wasn't about the pastries or the Darjeeling, it was about our friend and the little star growing inside her. We won't be there to see her through the process, but you can be rest assured that there are three Aunties in New York ready and willing to spoil!

August 17, 2010

1 Week, 1 Grill, 8 Friends - Part 2

*Scroll down for part 1*

Although neither of these are grill recipes, we did have grilled veggies on the side at every meal. Nothing like really good thin asparagus drizzled in olive oil, salt & pepper, then grilled until sligtly charred. And now, back to the recipes at hand...

I love fresh guacamole. When you have avocados that are worth the work, nothing is as wonderful as a flavorful fresh guac. The downside is, guacamole takes a ton of chopping and time. Of course, it's totally worth it in the end and if you have a few friends who are decent with a knife, time can sail by. This recipe makes a ton, but then again we were a ton of people. Cut the recipe in half for a more manageable amount.

One word of advice before the recipe. Do not mix this, store this, or serve this in metal. Due to the limes and avocados, it will turn a particularly awful shade of brown that you wouldn't want to eat.

7 ripe avocados
1 1/2 large white onions (very important that you get white, not yellow onions)
5 large tomatillos
2 large jalapenos
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 pint of sweet cherry tomatoes, or 2 large very ripe regular tomatoes
1 tbs hot sauce
Juice of 3 limes
Salt to taste

-Chop onions and Jalapenos very finely (I removed the seeds and the pith from my jalapenos).
-Roughly chop cilantro, cut the tomatillos and tomatoes to the same size. Not too small though.
-Finally chop up avocados, not smaller than 1/2 inch - when you mix it all together they'll mash together anyway, you still want some chunky pieces in the end.
-Add hot sauce, lime juice, and salt to taste. Mix and serve.

This is a really light and perfectly pleasant chili for summer days. I made it with chicken instead of beef, and kept the tomato base simple. Not much more to say except this was great when we ate it, but stellar the next day!

2 lbs ground chicken
3/4 of a 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes WITHOUT basil
1 29 oz. can pink beans (you can use red or pinto too)
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 tsp of garlic paste
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tbs+ olive oil
4 3.52 oz. packets of Sazon
1 tsp hot sauce (of course add more if you want this spicier)
1 tbs red wine vinegar (optional, this really depends on the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. If they are already very tangy, don't use the vinegar. If they are sweeter and more mild, use it)
Salt & pepper to taste

-Saute the onions and fresh garlic in oil until soft and translucent.
-Add chicken and sautee until cooked through. You might need to add a little more oil.
-Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and combine well. Add garlic paste, hot sauce, and sazon mix well.
-Let heat up together to boil then add the beans with their liquor, you don't want them turning to mush. Bring to a boil.
-Taste and add the vinegar (if needed), and salt & pepper to taste.
-I served this with a yellow rice and it was perfect.

1 Week, 1 Grill, 8 Friends - Part 1

I just got back from a lovely, albeit too short (aren’t they always), week vacation. Nothing too fancy, a condo near the beach, a gaggle of friends, and a grill. To the rest of the country a grill is common place, to 99.9% of city dwellers, its like Christmas, rainbows, and chocolate all rolled into one. We ate a lot. We lazed a lot - I have pictures of said gluttony and sloth to prove it. I also have some great recipes to share, just in time for those last summer bashes and lazy Sundays.

Here is part one of vacay highlights.

I've never made ribs before. I asked a friend what to do and she gave me a really basic rundown before I left. Armed with minimal knowledge, I wasn't so sure that her basic simple steps would actually work, haven't we all seen those shows on TV where large-bellied, well-bearded men take all day to make their ribs? Well, I can you tell with confidence, that only don't you need a belly or a beard, you don't even need 24 hours, two will do. She was right.

4lbs of ribs
3 large carrots, roughly chopped
3 large celery stalks, roughly chopped
6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Broth (chicken or beef)
Dried Italian Seasoning
Cajun Seasoning
Plain bread crumbs (I know it sounds weird, but it really made these stellar by soaking up the BBQ sauce)
BBQ Sauce

-Take a large pot, put in the raw ribs, cover with water. Bring the pot to a boil, let it boil for five or so minutes. This renders off a large amount of the fat. Pour out the water. Add carrots, celery, and garlic to pot. Cover with enough broth to cover. Bring to boil - boil for one hour.
-In the meantime, combine three parts Italian seasoning (I know the use of Italian seasoning is odd, but it really added a great aromatic quality to the ribs) to one part Cajun seasoning. Add salt to taste keeping in mind that you will be adding BBQ sauce to the ribs as well. Set aside dry rub, heat up the grill about 15 minutes before ribs have finished boiling.
-Fish out the ribs, pat dry, sprinkle well with bread crumbs and cover in the dry rub. Slather on a thin layer of BBQ onto one side of the ribs and put on the grill, sauce side down. After about seven minutes, sauce the naked side and flip them. Another seven minutes and they're ready to eat. Serve with some extra warmed up BBQ sauce on the side.Yup, it's that easy and they are so damn good...

Gorgeous right?

Another hunger-inducing pic.

A friend made us his Mother's mac & cheese.
Needless to say it was stellar.
Also needless to say, I'm not allowed to have the recipe.
Sigh, secret family recipes, gotta love 'em.

Corn Bread:
I made corn bread three or four times over the course of the week. This is a recipe that a friend gave me, we ate it at dinner, lunch, and definitely for breakfast. I know she got it out of a cookbook, but which cookbook has since been lost to the sands of culinary time. That being said, it is the easiest most versatile corn bread recipe I've ever encountered. It also happens to be really yummy. You can add almost anything you want to this. We were surrounded by the sweetest freshest corn where we were, so I just added sweet, raw corn kernels to the mix. But feel free to add, cheese, jalapenos, nuts, fruit, whatever you want. This will make about nine corn muffins depending on the size of the tins. I wound up making double batches every time though - you can't have just one, especially not when they're warm and slathered in butter.

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup softened butter

-Preheat oven to 400. Spray your muffin tins with some Pam, set aside.
-Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl.
-Mix milk, egg, and butter together in a second bowl. Don't worry about the butter being clumpy, it wont matter when you bake it.
-Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly add the wet. Mix together until just combined then stop. If you're adding anything like cheese or corn, mix it in now. DO NOT OVER-MIX THIS!
-Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes. Ladle the batter into the prepared tins and bake for 15-20 minutes. The tops will be spongy and bounce back. You can also use a toothpick, when it comes out clean, they're ready to be gobbled. Speaking of gobbled, I make these at Thanksgiving too!


A friend was reading this post and the mystery of the corn bread recipe has been solved! Furthermore you'll never guess who we have to thank for this perfect concoction... Betty Crocker! 

August 2, 2010

A Block in Brooklyn

After weeks of stifling, miserable, all consuming heat, Mother Nature gave us a break.

It was beyond lovely this weekend. We turned off the air conditioners, put in the window fans, and even had to sleep under a blanket at night. Saturday morning I took a walk through the 'hood to get some food for the week - to 5th avenue for olive oil and fresh feta at the Greek market, and also to my favorite fruit and vegetable lady who always has a megawatt smile on. Back to 3rd Avenue to the grocery store and down a street that took my breath away... Everywhere I looked there was something beautiful, charming, or funny to look at. It could have been the lovely weather, the sunshine, or just my general happiness about grocery shopping (a task that I love), but I found myself taking out my phone and clicking away at the shutter button.

This is what I saw:

 Sunflowers climbing toward the roof,

A Sunflower saying hello to it's neighbor, (she still has her hair net on!),

 A chipping, peeling, rusting door that I hope they never touch,

This plant obviously brought back from Jupiter,

A riot of pink and yellow,

Said riot of pink and yellow making a break for it,

A chair fit for a princess,

The alien plant's cousin,

A patriot amongst the weeds,

 The newsstand cat, posing.

These simple stuffed cherry tomatoes that just happened to make their way to our lunch table.

Stuffy Cherry Tomatoes

Large cherry tomatoes
Bread crumbs
Grated Parmesan cheese
Seasoning of choice
Olive oil
Butter (or the fake stuff like Smart Balance)

-Preheat oven to 425. Drizzle some olive oil on the baking sheet, set aside.
-Wash tomatoes. Cut off the tip of the bottom end (in other words, NOT the stem end, you need that side intact for balance). Using a small spoon, pairing knive, grapefruit spoon, or any other tool that can do the job, scoop out the seeds and flesh from the tomato, discard.
-The crumb to Parmesan ratio is 2 to 1. So 2/3 cup crumbs, to 1/3 cup Parm for example. Add seasoning to taste. I used a mixed Italain dry herb mixture, but you could use Herbs de Provence, Old Bay Seasoning, or some other mix you like. Taste the mixture, depeinding on the cheese and seasoning you may want more salt or pepper. 
-Stuff the tomatoes, patting down the mixture then topping off each tomato with more crumbs. 
-Before baking, put a small dab of butter on each tomato. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crumbs are golden and the tomatoes have wrinkled but kept their shape.