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As Seen at the Market: Pasta with Kale and Butternut Squash

 

Several weeks ago I was speaking to Keren Kurti-Alexander, the Manager at the Cityseed (link) Farmers market about our demos for the summer. I had all kinds of yummy surprises involving fun fruits and vegetables like blueberries, strawberries, and corn. But it was late May and the crops have been slow for his year, and she asked me the question I’ve been dreading ever since I started: “Could you do something with kale?”

 Picture of kale

Panicking, I punted and promised that I definitely would sometime during the season. I could push it off until late fall since it is such a hearty vegetable that always seems to be available and just hope that inspiration struck at some point in the interim. And of course Keren being a nice person said okay, I could do the fun stir fry and make great strawberry breakfast smoothies I was planning instead. But I could tell that in her heart of hearts she was hoping for some kale. I realized that it really was time to get over my kale fear. I’ve been cooking for longer than I can remember… surely I could find a way of making a dish that wasn’t bitter and didn’t look like putrid green slime.

 

Squash:  They're so cute, aren't they?

 

It happened that we had just made some vibrant roasted butternut squash with a bit of butter and sea salt, which made Gabrielle remember that her friend Mia had raved about a pasta she’d had with kale and butternut squash at a restaurant in New York. From there, everything else fell together – I could tell that the colors, textures and flavors of these ingredients would compliment each other perfectly, and I could already see that with a little inspiration and improvisation, we could create something really memorable. The recipe that follows is probably one of the healthiest, tastiest and certainly one of the most colorful pastas ever. Here are the steps:

 

First peel the squash, admittedly one of my least favorite jobs. The skin is tough on this curvaceous vegetable and it is difficult to peel. If you’re wise you’ll get somebody else to do it.

 

Peeling Squash: Seriously, avoid this if you can ;)

Be sure to get all the stringy stuff out of the middle (we use a tomato de-seeder to scrape out the seeds and pulp, but a ice cream scoop, a spoon or your fingers will work just fine)

 

Scooping out the squash

 

Some very silly textbooks would tell you to trim the squash so you have perfect squares and discard the rest.

 

I suppose it's wrong that we've stooped to eating squash that isn't perfectly square.... the horror ;)

 

But seriously, look at the waste. Just cut it up to be as square and uniform as you can and distribute the squash over two parchment lined cookie sheets. It may not be culinarily correct, but we’ll deal I think.

 

And can you even believe that these aren't perfect cubes?

 

Melt some butter, sprinkle some sea salt and pepper and roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes.

 

 salt and pepper squash!

 

Here is the finished product. (The recipe, by the way, calls for three squashes, about twice the amount you will actually need, but trust me you will want left over squash, the smell is so heavenly and it makes such a wonderful side dish to any meal.)

 

Seriously, squash is so yummy i feel like you could eat this instead of squash

 

In the meantime prepare the kale. Make sure you buy kale that is deep green and fresh. Don’t wait until it gets like this.

 

isn't it hauntingly beautiful?

 

Tear the leaves from the tough spine.

 

I feel like you could put this in a horror movie

 

Chop into bit size pieces, and set aside.

 

whatever you say about it, it is super cute and curly though

 

You will need two cups of chopped onions and/or scallions of any sort. We had plenty of spring onions left over from a cooking demo at Wooster Square from Sun One Farms in Bethlehem, so that’s what we used.

 

artsy!

 

Sautee the onion mixture until soft and glassy, about five minutes and add some garlic.

 

 

Add the kale and cook only until it is soft but still bright green. Add two cups of cherry tomatoes and continue cooking for about a minute, or until the tomatoes just begin to soften and are slightly warm but not mushy.

 

this stuff is not good yet, but we're going to fix it

 

In the meantime, boil a pound of dried fusilli or another favorite medium sized pasta, and cook according to instructions. Drain and add an 8 ounce container of mascarpone cheese. Stir well.

 

calories make everything taste good

 

Add the kale mixture to the pasta, and then the squash with the parmesan cheese.

 

omnomnomnomnom

 

Mix well and Serve. This dish is so hearty, it doesn’t really need any bread.

 

we did it! and so can you!

 

Click here to see the recipe on Food52.com. Enjoy!

Grain of Salt: Daily Bread

After watching HBO’s Weight of the Nation (which you have to see if you haven’t yet) our entire family has decided to go on a health kick. Mom has made a brave (and miraculously successful!) first attempt at cooking kale (see post Friday or so), Francesca has taken up Irish step dancing, Isabella has been dragging me on these miserable runs, and dad has agreed to keep on eating whatever we put in front of him.

 

Good things are coming your way

 

But as luck would have it, a week into this health kick, mom was scheduled to teach her famous fried chicken class, with lime creamed corn, buttermilk mashed potatoes with crispy (deep fried) shallots and Jack Daniel’s fudge pie. The foodpocalypse was essentially zooming towards us, with nothing we could do to stop it. The only way for us children to keep ourselves in check was to eat a light dinner, and hopefully only be hungry for a drumstick or so when we got home. So as class time approached, the girls and I ventured out for an evening of Panera (which has healthy options), Froyo (which is not healthy, but is healthier than some things) and nerdy cavorting at Barnes and Noble.

 

And this is what we found

 

It was a lovely time, and we actually ended up learning a lot of lessons over the course over the evening. We learned copious amounts about whales, Irish history, graphic design, and not letting the pigeon drive the bus, and we learned how to fail at moderating ourselves at Froyo World (The toppings are just right there for you to take! These people are marketing geniuses!)

 

Froyo isn't froyo without 5 cherries

 

But of all the lessons we learned, the best was certainly how much you can benefit from being an indecisive nut. We spent such a long time trying to figure out which option at Panera would maximize health and yumminess, that I felt a bother correcting the lady when she thought I said I wanted tuna on honey-wheat instead of whole grain and had already put in my order. By some miraculous stroke of luck, honey-wheat bread turned out to be so soft, gently sweet and perfect that it has since become my default bread of choice. And since mom’s last post was about butter, what could I do but write a fresh baked bread post to match.

 

three's a charm

 

This is the first time I’ve made bread on the blog, so this is going to be a tutorial, not just a recipe. Even if you’re an experienced bread maker, there are a lot of steps that a lot of us just dutifully do, which we ought to try and understand. To begin we have a starter, which is some permutation of water, flour and yeast, as you see above. It actually has little to do with making the bread rise, but instead is mostly about making sure the bread actually tastes like something. The starter we’re making  here is called a sponge, and is made with equal parts flour and water, along with a little bit of instant yeast. As it sits at room temperature for about an hour (or up to 4) the yeast ferments and takes your bread from bland to boss.

 

 

First, we add instant yeast to the water, and immediately whisk it in to prevent clumping. Following Rose Levy Beranbaum (the queen of Bread) I advise you to almost always use instant yeast, which is more convenient for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it can be activated in room temperature water, not just the 90-100° required by active dry (although that temperature will work too – it’s very flexible – just don’t use super hot or super cold). It is also called rapid rise, leading to the misconception that it causes your bread to rise faster, which it doesn’t. But it is very easy to use, and serves our purposes in almost every case.

 

It looks icky but trust me it's good

 

We then whisk in the flour, until we get this nice pasty thing. Rose Levy Beranbaum says that she likes her sponge starters to be more liquidy because the yeast makes more bubbles, resulting in a lighter, more even bread. So that’s what we made. To let the bubbles and flavor develop, we let it sit at room temperature for an hour. We could have gone longer, but I’m impatient. Go until your starter looks at least kind of like this:

 

 

See all the bubbles? That means it’s alive! If that doesn’t happen, start over/buy new yeast. Cover it tightly while it’s fermenting. It prevents the dough from drying out, and also you get to see the plastic wrap dome up as the yeast releases carbon dioxide. Also note that some the gas will bubble up and pop on the surface. Which means it’s working and is also fun to see. Meanwhile get everything else together. First off, we have crisco…

 

Don't worry, every fiber of my being is dying right now

 

…which is usually really bad for you – worse even than butter, which we usually advocate above all else. But in baking, butter can make things harder and drier, which only good when when we want a nice crisp cookie. In this case, when what we were looking for was a moist, soft bread above all else, shortening was the only option. Adding a little bit of fat to the bread tenderizes it, making it soft and addictive, just like you want. And since we’re using it in low quantities, this bread is still healthy and low-cal.

 

This is a picture of honey mixed with water

 

Next we have honey. Sometimes sweet things (sugar, honey, etc.) are added so that the yeast has something to eat and makes more bubbles, but here it’s really just a flavor thing. Before you add all the other ingredients, whisk the honey in with the water so that it’s less sticky, and distributes nicely.

 

 

Finally we have the flour, which gets whisked with the salt. This means the salt doesn’t get added all at once, minimizing its contact with the yeast (otherwise a lot of the yeast will die, which would suck).

 

 

We are ready to mix! Whisk the yeast into the honey-water, then add the shortening, flour-salt mixture and your starter. You can begin kneading it by hand, but please consult The Bread Bible for instructions on how to do that. I’ve found that my best results by far come from using a KitchenAid. Using a dough hook, mix the dough on setting #2 for about 1 to 1.5 minutes, until it looks like this:

 

As you can see, there's little bits of shortening and everything. That's fine.

 

Then we let it rest, covered, for 20 minutes. This lets the flour absorb the water better, and means our mixing time will shorten. Meaning, among other things, we won’t get impatient and make the bread mix on too high a setting, breaking all the gluten bonds and essentially killing any chance of our bread being edible.

 

This is a picture of dough about to rise

 

Then turn the mixer back on and let it mix on setting #4 for about 15 minutes, or until it’s pretty stretchy. Then cut the dough in half, and form it into two rounds, and put on wax paper. Cover with a warm, moist towel, and set to rise in a decently warm place for about 40 minutes. When you’re forming it into rounds, pull the sides out a bit, and then fold them around back, and then tuck the ends under, so the top is nice and smooth, like you see above. Otherwise you can end up with a kind of craggy looking top. Like this silly looking thing:

 

This is picture of a very silly looking bread

 

Yours probably won’t look so extreme, because this dough was super dry… but still, lets not take chances. Once the dough has risen, you can either transfer it to a loaf pan, or bake it on its own directly on the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350°F convection/375° conventional and let it rise for about another 45 minutes, preferably in a warm area, covering again with a warm, moist towel. You’re ready to bake! A loaf in no pan takes about 25 minutes, while a loaf in a pan can take up to 10 minutes longer. To be on the safe side, insert a baking thermometer into the center. It’s done when it reaches between 190 and 200°F. Let cool for as long as you can stand it (at least 10 minutes), slice, and eat!

 

 

You can find my full recipe on Food52 by clicking here. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions. I highly recommend making this bred, whether you’re very experienced or brand new to the process. I think you’ll agree that a slice of this bread is pretty much the best thing since (wait for it…) itself.

As Seen on TV: Thai Scented Asparagus Soup

Cooking for a living has begun to take over all of my thoughts. Isabella’s newly sewn pink dress isn’t an article of clothing, but a piece of watermelon. Everywhere I go I think about new dishes and ingredients, and there is no off button to press. Just dials on the stove to let me make more food. I feel like a composer sometimes, only instead of notes, I hear shallots, pancetta and fried chicken. It’s driving me crazy, really it is. I love love love teaching people to cook… but seriously. Enough is enough.

 

Though as problems go, this is probably a good one to have...

 

 

This recipe was born out of one of these fits of inspiration. We often teach a cream of asparagus soup in our spring classes, but I was making a Thai dish one day and the idea to infuse it with coconut, lemongrass and ginger just jumped into my head.  It has quickly become a family favorite and it worked out so well that I used it for my latest appearance on Connecticut Style. Although a video exists on WTNH, it was very fast, and we thought you’d appreciate seeing how to make this lively Asian inspired soup step-by-step, so here it is:

 

 Good things lie in store

 

We start with the freshest ingredients, which includes, lemon juice, lemongrass, ginger, asparagus and coconut milk,  but there are others as well, including yellow onions and chicken or vegetable broth.

 

Visions of coconuts dance in my head

 

First, we need to peel the lemongrass, an ingredient commonly found in Asian food stores and in some supermarkets, especially Whole Foods.

 

This is the reason, by the way, that thai food is so amazing. This is the secret. Right here.

 

Then you have to cut most of the stalk away. We only want the part of the lemongrass that has purple rings.

 

You want it to look like this, otherwise there will be tons of aweful tough bits

 

Then – and really pay attention to this or the lemongrass with be tough and stringy – you have to smash it hard several times with a knife. Until it looks like this

 

Smashingly beautiful :D I would recommend going even farther than this, because it will assure you have very very small pieces.

 

 

Then put the lemongrass in a mini food processor with a teaspoon or two of oil until finely minced and looks like this:

 

 

Finely Chopped Lemongrass

 

 

Then you need to peel the ginger. You can peel it in many different ways by using a melon baller, sturdy spoon or vegetable peeler. Afterwards, finely  mince the ginger in a mini chopper as well. You can, obviously, do that by hand, it will just take much longer.

 

 

 

 

After sautéeing the onions until they are glassy, add the lemongrass and ginger and continue sautéeing until the ginger and lemongrass start to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the asparagus, salt and pepper and cook for another five minutes.

 

Make sure everything is coating everything so the flavors all blend nicely together

 

 

Add the broth (chicken or vegetable – we like to use vegetable when we’re cooking for a crowd, since then we can make this vegan and everyone can eat it!) and give the mixture a good stir in a large pot, such as a Dutch oven. Cook for 15 minutes and then puree the soup either in a blender (after letting the mixture cool) or an immersion blender right inside the pot, our preferred choice.

 

 

 

Add a bit of lemon, give it a good stir, and serve. The great thing about this soup, next to the amazing flavor, is that it tastes great for several days and can certainly be made the day before company. And there you have it! Serve with a garnish of mint, or chives.

 

 

Click here to get the complete recipe written up on Food52!

Grain of Salt: Lady is a Ramp

A few years ago I read an article in Psychology Today about the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain thet controls rational thought, and how it doesn’t mature until we’re about 25. Not being one to take responsibility for much, I’ve blamed every irrational thing I’ve done since then on my undeveloped mind… especially my tendency to impulse buy. So my prefrontal cortex was hard at work at the farmer’s market last week when I bargained a vendor down to the only $2.60 I had in my wallet for a bunch of 10 ramps without the slightest clue in the whole world what they were or what I was going to do with them. After calling my mother and hearing her speculation on the potential reasons that ramps (also known as wild leeks) “never really caught on” I walked away thinking, “Oh my Lord, what have I done…”

 

 

 

That is, of course, a total lie. I was excited out of my mind. As a student, it’s my job to learn about mysterious things, and since I figured lots of you are probably in the same boat as me, it seemed like a great opportunity to learn alongside you. There’s not a multitude of information about them, but here’s what I was able to discern. Ramps haven’t “not caught on,” it just happens that they barely have a growing season, and they only grow in the Eastern United States. They have a wonderful scent, strong, garlicky and sweet, that reminds me of the random chives my friends and I used to pick in our front yard growing up. Which is a cool coincidence, because they’re completely undomesticated. They’re highly valued among foragers, and apparently a lot of them are very secretive about where they find them (kind of like mushroom harvesters). They’re especially popular in West Virginia and Quebec, and can be found everywhere from South Carolina to Canada.

 

The leaves are ramps, the red bits are rhubarb ;)

 

So how do you cook with them? The farmer’s market told me that you use them just as you’d use leeks or chives. Which is odd, because you use leeks and chives really differently. And predictably, the truth lies somewhere in between. I’d say you use them in about the quantities you’d use scallions, but they have a much smoother flavor than scallions. The best way to cook them is to chop them up and sautee them in butter for about 2-3 minutes until they get soft (about 1 tbsp butter for one bunch of 10-ish ramps) and then use them in a simple dish that will really highlight their flavor, so they won’t get lost, and you get the biggest bang for your ramp buck. You can use the white and green parts (I couldn’t figure out if that includes the red, in between bit – does anybody know anything about that?), and they can go with everything from salmon to soup to risotto.

 

Look mommy – pastagarlicandcheese is growing up!

 

But this being my first ramp experience, I decided to take things as simple as I could, and harken back to one of my favorite childhood dinners. Whenever we were in a rush, or had nothing good in the house for dinner, I knew I could always count on PastaGarlicAndCheese (pronounced as one word, like LMNOP), a simple but dependable combination of spaghetti, olive oil or butter, garlic and Parmesan. And even today, it’s probably my favorite dinner in a lazy pinch. Sometimes, if I’m feeling ambitious, I add peas, tomatoes or whatever I have in the house, but if I don’t there’s really nothing lost. So I decided that since I wanted to highlight the ramps, and I only had the one bunch, I was going to keep the sentiment, but replace the garlic with my sauteed ramps. I also crumbled in some goat cheese for added fancy factor. And oh my goodness was it good. Simple, easy and delicious.

The whole point of this recipe is that there is none. My one bunch of 10 ramps was probably good for 1/3 of a pound of pasta, but beyond that just add however much cheese makes you happy, and then top it with a little drizzle of olive oil. If you want to add other vegetables, just add more ramps so you can be sure you’ll be able to taste them. And if you’re a ramp enthusiast and have something special you like to do with them, let me know and I’ll be sure to try it out!

 

UPDATE MAY 3rd  – Bizarre fact, but the New York Times just published an article on teenage minds! Check out the article here :)

Grain of Salt: The Sandwich on Fire

Happy National Grilled Cheese Day! Since we’re on a Hunger Games kick, this sandwich is also inspired by our culinary book of the month. It’s a hybrid between the fruit-and-nut bread with goat cheese that Gale and Katniss eat at the beginning of the first book, and the apple and goat cheese tarts that Peeta serves at his bakery. If you haven’t read Hunger Games, then this is just an unaffiliated, super classy Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich on Cranberry Pecan Bread with Apples. Enjoy!

 

 

I tried to take a real picture of it… but *somebody* kept eating it during my photoshoot. I got what I could ;)

 

 

A Grain of Salt: Forbidden Love

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We elite, educated, vastly superior Manhattan types are allowed to feel one of two ways about Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We are first and foremost allowed to really really hate it. If you fall into that category you get to say things like “I don’t do Brooklyn” and roll your eyes and dismiss it as hipster hell, and that makes you look nice and discerning, and that means you just can’t lose. But we are also allowed to like it ironically, which means that we can peruse the sandwich shops and Moleskine vendors to our hearts’ content… as long as we remind ourselves constantly that we are ridiculous and that no matter what we may think, we do not want to move there after college. This method is super risky. Liking something ironically teeters ever so precariously on the edge of liking something for real, and to my knowledge there is no New York crime more heinous than liking Williamsburg for real, except for maybe not liking the color black.. or actually being a Hipster.

 

For those of you who don't know, this is a hipster.

 

 

But I’m going to make the sweeping generalization now, that 99% of us educated, elite, vastly superior Manhattan-types are bluffing. Because, like it or not, unironically, through all its superficiality, Williamsburg is kind of the best.

 

 

This is from the bedford cheese shop. Don't go there, you'll want to buy absolutely everything.

 

 

If you’ve ever enjoyed food in your life, I’m going to make you agree with me. Because Brooklyn is a culinary paradise. Just because I’m the last person to say this doesn’t make it less true. When Isabella came to visit me for a much needed sister weekend, we had an eating adventure that would pretty much blow your mind. For that day, she liked food as much as I did. And I almost felt normal.

 

 

Clockwise from top righ: sandwiches that will blow your mind, fashion sketches that will blow your mind, curtains that will blow your mind

 

 

We began our adventure somewhere around lunchtime, and we used a very scholarly method to choose a restaurant. By which I mean we picked the prettiest. At Fabiane’s on Bedford Avenue, Isabella (who is actually kind of a hipster but don’t tell her I said that) sketched while I obsessively took pictures. I think it’s safe to say we were so happy with the atmosphere that we didn’t really care how the food was. That is, until the food came. I could go on for a bit about the Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Pesto Sandwich that came out first, but I’m not going to because the second sandwich was Smoked Duck with Brie and Fig Jam and I bet that will impress you a whole lot more. And well it should. I can’t even remember the last time I had a sandwich that good. Even if you can’t get smoked duck (and I don’t even know where you would) make your next grilled cheese with brie and then put fig jam on it. It will probably change your life.

 

 

Clockwise from left: whisk sign, ball made out of cupcake wrappers (legit), elephant

 

 

With no agenda whatsoever in mind, we set off to wander the streets of Brooklyn. After a brief stint hipster-watching at bookstore Spoonbill and Sugartown (see stalker pic, above), we headed up the street to Whisk, the most kick-a** kitchen supply store you will ever come across. I know you’re really not supposed to use the word “unique” in Brooklyn, but have you ever seen a ball made of cupcake wrappers hanging from a ceiling? No you haven’t.

 

 

Clockwise from left: Bottles, Bottles, Bottles

 

 

We bought mom a pie dish, and then raced out before we could do any more damage. Luckily for me, Isabella’s nose was stuffed up, so we headed next to the Bedford Cheese Shop, where we looked at spectacular packaging and beautiful window displays. We did not buy anything because we couldn’t afford anything. But that was alright.

 

 

 

 

Next we went to a clothing store. Did you know that in Brooklyn it’s illegal to sell gloves with fingers?

 

 

Not really, but pretty much

 

 

While we were in the Bedford Cheese Shop, we had seen this beautiful display of Mast Brothers Chocolate, and I realized that I had read something about their factory being in Williamsburg. And since everyone knows that factory means free chocolate, we decided to head there next.

 

 

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Lo and behold there were about 10 different kinds of chocolate to try, in their beautiful open factory. And Isabella and I received our masters degrees in chocolate tasting from Hershey University over winter break, so we were ridiculously qualified to taste test every single one of them. The chocolates were varying degrees of good, but for the first time in my experience, the chocolate actually tasted like the things it was supposed to have notes of. According to the folks at Hershey, that means the cocoa plants were grown near, say, hibiscus trees, vanilla flowers or cherry trees. (Things you didn’t know!) And while I have no idea what that means in the context of Special Dark, it was ridiculously apparent in the Mast Brothers selection. It was like they weren’t even making it up.

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They also sell art supplies, vintage flashcards, and ironic books there, like "All My Friends are Dead"

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Note – When you go to the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory, Isabella and I command you to go next door and look at the Brooklyn Art Library, an international sketchbook collection for the public to peruse. It’s totally irrelevant to this blog, but it’s my civil duty to let you know. This was our favorite sketchbook.

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The Meatball Shop

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With very little time left, very little appetite (so much sandwich) and a contra dance in Chinatown to get to (not a joke), it was time to grab a light dinner before heading back to Manhattan. And since mom has been on a meatball making kick lately, we felt it was only appropriate to make her jealous by visiting The Meatball Shop. Also, $3 meatball sliders. And you get to check off what you want on the menu with dry erase markers, and then they get your order right! And there was exactly one racy-joke-item on the menu, which is the requisite amount for a place that only serves meatballs. And it’s pretty, and the food was great. The following recipe is from their cookbook, but they give it out on little promo cards, so I don’t think they’ll mind us sharing. Make them, and buy the book. These people are very talented.

And while I’m pretty sure I’m the last person in the New York area to visit Williamsburg, take a visit if you haven’t and decide for yourself what you think. Don’t worry if you like it. Your secret’s safe with me.

Click for pdf!

Grain of Salt: Seoul Food

I don’t know about you, and maybe this is silly of me, but every time I go to an East Asian Restaurant, I always feel like their food is worlds away from my ability level. Especially since I’d never even tried Korean before coming to New York, I felt like that was just something I was going to have to splurge on every once in a while, or else rely on my Korean friends to make it for me. It just tastes like a cleverly guarded secret – the kind that you couldn’t figure out, even if you were lucky enough to find a recipe for it. But luckily enough, I happen to be living with one of those Korean friends, and using my expert espionage skills (asking for her recipe) I’ve discovered, much to my embarrassment, that I just wasn’t asking the right people.

 Serve with white rice (or brown if you're boring like us) and the meal is perfect and complete. I swear you'll feel like you've come home.

 

Like most cuisines, Korean food is based mainly on a few different base flavors. Most of these you can find at your average supermarket – soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic. And if you can only find these, and you use them in the right proportions, your food will still taste pretty Korean, and very delicious. But my favorite ingredient is this stuff called gochujang. This spicy red pepper paste, which you can buy at Asian supermarkets, is like a powerhouse of concentrated flavor, and this is what really makes Korean food taste Korean. When I give a recipe here that calls for it, that’s just an approximation of what a person with decent spicy tolerance can take. But if your spicy tolerance is better than mine (or if you don’t mind suffering for the sake of taste) feel free to go above and beyond. It’s so good.

 

Magic ingredient – cost us only $4.99 and lasts forever... and your Asian store is probably a lot cheaper than mine.

 

Julia’s given me a couple of different recipes, but I’m going to start with this addictive comfort stew called Tak Toritang, which is the first meal she made for us. It’s a classic meat and potatoes dish, that’s boiled in a highly flavored broth so that the chicken gets addictively fall-off-the-bone tender. The flavor profile of this dish really transcends nationality. It reminds me so much of the all-appealing dishes mommy used to make when I was younger – and this, too, is really a perfect winter weeknight dinner food as long as everybody involved enjoys spicy (tone down the pepper paste if they don’t). It all cooks in one pot, it’s super flavorful, it warms you up, and it has that inexplicable “home” taste that you can’t describe… but you know it when you taste it. It’s basically the Asian equivalent of soul food (hence the unbearable title of this post).

 

This is what it looks like as it's cooking. it's even kind of photogenic, as stew goes.

 

More addictive Korean recipes, including some awesome sides, are forthcoming. But make this one-dish dinner sometime very, very soon. If you’ve got the winter blues (or if you don’t) it will make your week, I promise.

(adapted from allrecipes.com )

Beginning of Summer and Graduation

It’s been almost three weeks since I graduated and it’s still barely sunk in. It’s so foreign to me, taking a day trip to New York without feeling guilty for putting off a paper, or going in the car without bringing flashcards. But it’s been an amazing few weeks. Now that I have no obligations, I get to spend as much time as I want playing with my sisters, taking pictures, playing the guitar, manning the cooking school booth at the farmers market and of course, cooking up a storm. In fact, cooking up a storm is the first thing I did when I got home, Sunday, June 6th. The moment my diploma was safely out of reach from any sisters or cousins who might want to color it in, I put on my apron and went to work on final preparations for my grad party.

The highlights of the party were the cheese table (above), and a cookie-candy bar (below) that was as much of a hit with the grown ups as with the kids. Doing tables like these isn’t hard. After the jump are some tips for doing one at your own party.

And for dinner, mom really outdid herself. Among the things she made were Salmon en Croute with dill, lemon and black pepper cream, Beef Tenderloin with Stilton Sauce and assorted grilled vegetables with herbs de provence. But perhaps the highlight was this fabulous, and foolproof, bacon-arugula quiche. It’s one of our absolute favorite things to make here at the test kitchen, and we’re very excited to share it with you. Click for the recipe!

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Better Together

Some things are just a perfect match: Christmas and cookies, French fries and aioli, Paris and hot chocolate. Finding perfect combinations of things is what makes life, and cooking, so fun.

Our favorite combination isn’t technically food related at all. Mothers and their daughters have been cooking together for countless generations. I’m Heide Lang, owner and founder of The Fig Cooking School. And I’m Gabrielle Siegel, high school senior and her 17-year-old daughter. Welcome to the Fig Test Kitchen.

Years ago mothers and daughters found themselves in the kitchen by necessity, but today we cook to bond and pass on family traditions. Together we cook modern creations, like chocolate and dried fruit in philo pockets, homey favorites, like chocolate chip cookies, and traditional recipes, like Oma’s Nokerln, brought over from Eastern Europe. This blog celebrates both the tradition of families cooking together, and the creativity and innovation that should be found in every kitchen. Our motto at the cooking school is “Find your Inner Gourmet” because we know that everyone has the potential to be a great cook with the right guidance and a good recipe.

In the months and years to follow, we will bring you many posts. Some, like this, will be written as a team, others solo. We will share with you our favorite recipes, ideas for improvisation, food shopping tips, and even tasty travel tidbits from the Middle East to the Deep South to our native New England. We also plan to share with you our journey as we teach Isabella (13) how to cook, and even, Francesca (4), the youngest member of our family.

Before we sign off, we’d like to share one last perfect combination with you, inspired by Liuzzi’s, one of our favorite specialty food stores. It’s a great blend of sweet and savory and is ideal as an hors d’oeuvre or even as a sandwich.

Dolce Gorgonzola (sweeter and creamier than regular gorgonzola)

Fig Jam

Baguette

Cut the baguette into ½-inch thick rounds. Spread a layer of gorgonzola, and then a fairly thin layer of jam.

So simple, so delicious.

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