Thursday, September 30, 2010

Polenta with Corn and Thyme

CSA corn
Well, summer is over and autumn has begun.  While most people mourn the end of summer, I fully embrace the end of hot, sticky weather.  My favorite season is fall.  I love the colors of turning leaves and I rejoice that the Yankees are once again in the post-season.  True, the chilly nights are a harbinger of things to come, but I also like the winter (I am a winter baby after all).
In the kitchen I start making heavier, richer soups and stews.  I tend to use lots of potatoes (fingerling, yams and sweet), legumes and fall squashes.  But there are a few 'hangers-on' from the previous season-- namely, corn.
This recipe combines fresh corn with polenta, which is an Italian name for ground cornmeal or maize.  You can add some rapini or porcini mushrooms to the polenta if you want to kick-it-up a notch.  Maybe even some blue cheese, if that's your thing.
Apparently this dish is popular in Austria as an early morning treat. I made it as a brunch side dish. Yum. Baby Otis gobbled it up!
Note: this recipe should *not* be made ahead of time. It needs to be served immediately.

Polenta with Corn and Thyme (Courtesy of Martha Stewart)
Serves 4
2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of corn kernels (I used CSA corn, but you can use frozen if you don't have access to fresh corn)
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup of fine cornmeal (polenta)
1/4 cup of grated parmesan

In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablesppon butter (I used salted) over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup of corn kernels and 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is warmed through, about 1-2 minutes.  Add 1 cup whole milk and 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of fine cornmeal (polenta). Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and creamy, about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup of grated parmesan. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper.  Serve immediately. 
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm So Eggcited (and I Just Can't Hide It): Poached Eggs with Yogurt, Sage and Chili Flakes

Poached Eggs with Sage and Chili/Paprika

Eggs. Huevos, oeuf, baitza, bayd, uova, tomago, dalgyal, vejce. I truly love them in any language. They are a binding ingredient in fritters, vegetarian burgers and galettes. They are a key component of Shakshukah. And they make breakfasts substantial. The best eggs come from local farms and are not factory produced. These eggs have a much better flavor, rise higher and often have a richer color (sometimes they are even orange).

Spanish Eggs

While I love a good scrambled egg, here are two omelette combinations that I am absolutely crazy about:

Omelette with Pesto and Asiago Cheese (Inspired by Jack the Horse Tavern, Brooklyn)
Omelette with Salsa Verde and Swiss Gruyere (Inspired by Diner, Brooklyn)
This is another wonderful combination and it comes from The Moro Cookbook. I guarantee that it will impress any egg-lover. This dish is made special by the sweet and crispy sage, caramelized butter and fiery chili flakes (or paprika).
Poached Eggs with Yogurt, Sage and Chili Flakes (Courtesy of The Moro Cookbook)
1 small bunch fresh sage, leaves picked from the stalks
1 garlic clove, crush to a paste with salt
12 ounces of Greek yogurt, thinned with 2 tablespoons of milk
3 tablespoons of butter (original recipe calls for 4, but I think 2 is enough)deddsxz
1 dessert-size spoon of vinegar (any)
4 eggs (I go with organic, free-range)
1 teaspoon of Turkish chili flakers or paprika
sea salt and black pepper (to taste)
Caramelize the butter by putting 3 tablespoons in a small sauce pan over a low heat. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the white bits turn golden brown. The butter will give off a nutty, caramelized aroma. Be sure not to let it get too dark or burn. Add sage leaves and fry quickly for a seconds, preferably until crisp. Remove from heat and place the sage on a paper towel. Set the butter aside.
Place a large pan of water over high heat and bring it to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to bubble, mix the garlic with the yogurt and taste for seasoning. Now return back to the water and add vinegar and a pinch of salt and lower heat so that is very hot but no longer bubbling. With a wooden spoon, stir the water rapidly in one direction. Break the eggs, one by one, into the water.
While the eggs are setting, you can get your plating ready. Lay out shallow bowls and put a large dollop of the garlic-yogurt mixture in the center of each one. Make a small well in the middle of the yogurt for each egg. When the eggs are cooked to your liking, drain them of water and place them in the bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Warm up the butter and spoon it over the yogurt and eggs. Finally place the sage leaves and chili flakes (or paprika) on top. You can serve with french bread or pita. Enjoy!
Serves 4.

Egg poaching tip from Alice Waters:
"Without breaking the yolks, crack the eggs into individual cups or small bowls. When the water is very hot, but not bubbling, hold the cup right at the level of the water and carefully slide the egg in. This gentle entry into the water will help the egg keep its shape. After a minute you can gently stir the water a while to discourage the eggs from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
The cooking time will vary depending on the number of eggs, their size and the temperature they were when they went into the water. On average, a single large egg straight from the refrigerator will take 3 minutes to cook. For a firmer yolk allow up to 5 minutes."
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ina Garten's French Potato Salad (Herbed Potato Salad)

I've tried many potato salads, but this one is by far the best. I'm not the biggest fan of mayo in potato salad (am I alone out there?) so I love (and appreciate) this recipe with its olive-oil based vinaigrette, courtesy of Ina Garten.

Ina is my inspiration when it comes to food and I credit her with helping me transform my culinary repertoire. I grew up on frozen foods (blintzes, fish sticks), iceberg lettuce, and spaghetti which was served (hold on to your hats)…with ketchup!  My parents, to their credit, always made sure we had family dinner, every single night. But the task of preparing fresh, delicious meals required more time than they had.  They worked full-time jobs and had to juggle responsibilities. I also think our dinners were symptomatic of "the times." 

Back in the 80's and early 90's, the variety of heirloom tomatoes and leafy greens that I can now buy ay my local markets (or through my CSA) was much more difficult to find.  The recent explosion of greenmarkets has made cooking with farm-fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients much easier…and there’s better access.
By the time I started graduate school in New Orleans, I (still) only had two spices on my rack: salt and pepper.  And I was a student, so cheap eats is what I did for lunch and dinner on most nights. When I moved back to New York, I worked so many hours and I never had time to cook; I ordered take-out for almost every single meal. Maybe on a handful of occasions I took down my (one) pot or pan, but I was hardly a balabusta!

Then I got married (cookware, finally!), pregnant, and joined a CSA.  I started paying attention to what I was putting into my body.  I began downloading recipes from various food blogs and preparing dishes from highly recommended cookbooks.  I bought fresh herbs and spices. And then, after I gave birth and when the baby was sleeping, I would turn on the Food Network and watch "my stories"—Ina’s Barefoot Contessa in the afternoon and again in the early evening. I became a good sort of way.

Now I cook most meals at home and I have two incredible taste-testers who anxiously wait to try everything that comes out of the kitchen.  I make a lot of Ina's recipes and here is one more. 

The key to this dish is fresh herbs which, thankfully, I keep getting from my CSA.

French Potato Salad (Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)
   1 pound small white boiling potatoes
   1 pound small red boiling potatoes
   2 tablespoons good dry white wine (I always keep cooking wine on hand, but if you don't have any you can add an extra tablespoon of stock)
   2 tablespoons vegetable stock 
   3 tablespoons of champagne vinegar (I have also used 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar)
   1/2- 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I tend to put about 3/4 teaspoon)
   3/4- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste. I would start with 1/2 teaspoon and then adjust to taste.
   1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Start with 1/2 and then adjust to taste.
   7-8 tablespoons good olive oil (the original recipe calls for 10, but I think that's unnecessary.)
   1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
   2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
   2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
   2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
Drop the white and red potatoes (cut in half) into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut them into quarters and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and vegetable stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.
Combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, with more salt and pepper to taste. Toss.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Wave Hill: A Quiet Space in New York City

Wave Hill is an historic 28-acre garden in the Riverdale (Bronx) section of New York City, and it's one of my favorite place to visit. I grew up in Riverdale and Wave Hill is where I got married, so there's a personal connection too. The gardens overlook the Hudson River and the Palisades. And while it is breathtaking in every season, early fall is my favorite time to go. As summer ends and fall begins, the leaves begin to turn the most incredible colors and views are spectacular.
This week I took my son to Wave Hill...

The Wave Hill House, a grey stone mansion built in 1843, is listed on the National Historic Registry. Theodore Roosevelt's family rented the house during the summers of 1870 and 1871, and Mark Twain leased it from 1901 to 1903. This is also where I got married almost two years ago...
                                                                                   *   *   *
These wedding day pictures were taken by Courtney Davidson. It was an amazing night-- we were surrounded by lots of friends and family...and the most gorgeous fall foliage. 

                                                                      *    *    *
Okay, back to our trip this week...

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Childhood Favorites with a Twist: Comte Grilled Cheese and Queso Quesadillas with Papaya-Avocado Salsa

Last Sunday I stumbled upon a collection of recipes that I had clipped from the New York Times Dining & Wine section. The recipes were part of an article titled "Taking Back A Childhood Favorite" [printed on April 11, 2007] and included grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese quesadillas. But the recipes weren't standard or typical; they offered unique and delicious twists on the classics. And they were incredibly easy to make, with a prep time of about 10-15 minutes each.

Recipe No. 1:
Comté Grilled Cheese with Cornichon Spread (Adapted Slightly)
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard 
2 tablespoons mayonnaise 
2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons or other pickles 
4 slices whole-grain bread or multigrain baguette
1/4 pound Comté cheese, sliced 
1 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Whisk together mustard, mayonnaise and cornichons. Spread on 4 slices of bread and divide cheese among bread slices, to make 2 sandwiches. 
2. Melt butter in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Cook sandwiches until golden on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes a side, pressing down on sandwiches with spatula. Reduce heat to low and cover; cook until cheese melts completely, about 2 minutes more. Serve hot.

Note: You can also make this in a Panini press. 
Yield: 2 servings.  

Recipe No. 2:
Queso Quesadillas with Papaya-Avocado Salsa- I made it last night. The original recipe calls for queso fresco, but I opted for a really nice Monterey Jack at the suggestion of my local cheese monger.  The sweetness of the papaya mixed with the richness of the avocado, plus a bit of bite from the red onion, was perfection. You could probably use this as a party dip too!

Queso Quesadillas with Papaya-Avocado Salsa (Adapted)
For the salsa: 
1 cup cubed fresh peeled papaya 
1/2 avocado, peeled and cubed 
1/4 cup cubed, seeded cucumber 
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley (the original recipe has cilantro, use it if that's your preference)
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion 
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice 
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 

For the quesadillas: 
4 6-inch corn tortillas 
1/4 pound of a good Monterey Jack

The original recipe calls for broiler cooking (which I did last night), but I found that the cheese oozed out to quickly and the tortilla got a little burnt.  I made this recipe again for lunch today and used a fry pan, with medium heat, and the quesadillas were perfect. Use a tiny bit (not even a pat, but a rub) of butter and place the tortilla on the pan.  Add the cheese and top with another tortilla, cooking each side about a minute. Remove from heat and place salsa on top. Yum.  Serve immediately. 
Yield: 2 servings. 

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Ina's Scalloped Tomatoes

Tomatoes. These lycopene-rich fruits are global gems. They originated in South America and spread across the globe through Spanish colonization (from Mexico, to the Caribbean, over to the Philippines and Southeast Asia). The Spaniards brought tomatoes back to Europe and they were easily cultivated across the Mediterranean basin. These juicy red fruits even made it over to jolly/rainy old England and then the British introduced it to their territories in the Middle-East. That's probably why you see tomatoes featured in almost every cuisine around the globe: gazpacho, pan con tomate (Catalan), Mexican salsa, Italian sauces and pizzas, stewed in Chinese cooking and used as a base in some Indian dishes. Versatile and ubiquitous...that's the tomato. 
We had a bit of a blight in our CSA share last summer, but this summer we have gotten the juiciest tomatoes I have ever eaten.  We got beefsteak, cherry, heirloom, green zebra, plum, grape and golden tomatoes in our share so far.
My husband likes to bite into tomatoes as if they were apples. I love them in sauces, preferably pureed, and mixed with other ingredients-- in this case, bread.
This recipe for Scalloped Tomatoes is fantastic. It pops with flavor and color. I have made this dish twice and my only caveat is that you should make it on the day you want to serve and eat it.  Subjecting the delicate boule bread to a cycle of refrigeration and re-heating makes it a little mushy. Also, the Parmesan crust on top of the dish doesn't reheat well. So, make this dish a few hours before you want to consume it and all your guests will rave about how delicious it is! 
SCALLOPED TOMATOES (Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch diced) bread from a French boule, crusts removed (Remove the crust from the entire loaf before you start slicing) 
  • 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, cut 1/2-inch dice (I've made this dish twice, and I've used Beefsteak and Plum-- both work)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.
Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.
Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.
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