Monday, October 31, 2005


Since I think of food disproportionately compared to other people, this little monologue might seem a little bizarre. I usually sit around and come up with cravings which can only be satisfied by cooking up that particular dish since I'm usually nowhere close to a restaurant of that cuisine.

So, in the past week or so I was thinking abou Mohinga which is a Burmese curry fish noodle soup. Although in Burma it's served as a breakfast soup, I tend to eat it for lunch and dinner.

It really depends how much soup you want to eat. Here's a recipe for about four to six people.

2 lb firm white fish (catfish, bass)
2 t yellow curry powder
1 t turmeric
1 inch of ginger smashed
1 large onion minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 t shrimp paste (if you have it)
4 c fish broth or veggie broth
1/2 can coconut milk (7 oz total)
1/2 can of bamboo shoots
1/2 small head of cabbage finely sliced

2 t Cooking oil

Egg noodles or fresh pasta egg noodles

Garnishes: boiled eggs, peeled and quartered, lemon wedges, chopped coriander, and chopped green onion, and fried onion bits.

Depending on whether you plan to use dried pasta noodles or fresh, start a large pot of water boiling for the pasta (cook according to directions), and boil eggs (10 minutes after boil begins). In a large pot heat cooking oil over medium high heat and add the onion and garlic and saute until transparent. Then, add the curry powder and the shrimp paste and continue to fry for another minute. Add cabbage and continue to saute. When cabbage is softened add the broth, coconut milk, turmeric, clump of ginger and bamboo shoots. Bring soup to a boil and then simmer for 30-45 minutes, depending on how long you can bear to wait for the soup to finish. In the last 5 minutes add the fish fillets. When they are cooked, take them out of the soup and flake them and put back into the soup.

In noodle soup bowls place noodles, then soup, and garnish with boiled egg wedges, cilantro and green onion, and squeeze the lemon slices into the soup.

This soup gets better the next day ...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

snacking on feta

I'm most often pleased when I have at least five different sorts of cheese. The standard wedge of parmesan-reggiano, soft chevre goat cheese, extra sharp cheddar, double creme brie, halloumi, and feta are all cheeses which make my mealtimes and, maybe even more importantly, my snacks extra delicious throughout the week.

Feta is a cheese that I don't often use in regular cooking. It is great on salads, a good addition to omelets, but late at night, I found myself attempting to snack on feta. If you've tried this, you'll agree with me that feta is pretty anti-quick fingered late-night snacking.

Since I bought a bunch of basil from the farmer's market again, I had the easy idea of a basil mint feta spread, with lemon, of course.

Basil Mint Feta Spread

1 bunch basil
5 leaves of mint
half a block of feta
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove of garlic or 2 cloves roasted garlic

optional: 2 T roasted almonds
optional: 3 T creme fraiche or sour cream

I happened to have roasted almonds which I had blitzed earlier to sprinkle over my oatmeal. To do this, toast the almonds on a sheet in the toaster oven on medium-high, and then use a mini processor to roughly chop them up.

I'm not really sure what people did before food processors. Don't be shy about getting one. A small one will cost around twenty dollars, and will save you a lot of elbow grease. Plus, you'll be able to make hummus!

Place basil, mint, lemon juice, and garlic in the processor and blend until semi-smooth. Then, crumble in feta and process until creamy and combined.

If you are going to add in the creme fraiche or sour cream, spoon into processor and blend again.

I served this on my favorite snacking bread "knäckebröd" which is a Swedish crisp bread often made by Wasa, topped with some cherry tomatoes I also bought for a song at the farmer's market. I sprinkled more roasted almond bits on top.

As they say in Swedish varsagod och äta!

Friday, October 21, 2005

pumpkin pumpkin everywhere

A week in pumpkin ...

I'll get around to posting the pumpkin muffins recipe this weekend, but this morning, I increased my pumpkin-quotient and made Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal with Golden Raisins and Baked Apples.

Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal with Golden Raisins and Baked Apples

2 apples
Scotish or Irish Oatmeal
4 T + 1 T Dark brown sugar
1/3 c golden raisins
8 T pumpkin puree (non spiced)
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt

toasted pecans or almond slices (optional)
1/4 c apple cider (optional)

Thinly slice 2 apples and sprinkle with 1 T of dark brown sugar and set under broiler for about 10 minutes, if toasting nuts, add nuts in the oven in the last two minutes or so.

Prepare oatmeal according to original package instructions, preferrably Scottish or Irish steel cut.
When the oatmeal is simmering, add pumpkin puree, and all the spices (cloves through salt), and add the glug of apple cider.

After the oatmeal is ready, place 1 rounded tablespoon of brown sugar at the bottom of each bowl, then cover with spiced pumpkin oatmeal, flood with milk and sprinkle golden raisins and apple slices on top, and nuts if you have them ...

Cold weather is made infinitely cozier through bowls of warm oatmeal.

some fall tapas for some delight

Mmmm, yummy.

I've had my shared of the garlicky delights of tapas, and I have a great fondness for their bacon wrapped figs or dates. While really good, salty, and sticky, the sweetness of the date usually overwhelmed the dish.

Well, whenever you bacon wrap anything, it's going to tend towards delicious. Here's my home version, with a little daub of luxuriant goat cheese. Though thoroughly ungarlicky, these are extremely good. Don't just save these for parties, make a few for yourself for a great in-between-meals nibble.

Prosciutto Wrapped Pear with Goat Cheese

1 large Bosc Pear in 8-12 pieces
2 oz. French soft goat cheese
8-12 pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto
8-12 toothpicks

freshly ground black pepper

Baking sheet or dish

Set the oven to broil.

Soak toothpicks in cold water.

Core the pear, and cut into 8 pieces. Take a half to one piece of tender prosciutto, daub about 1 t of goat cheese, add pear piece, and wrap and pin with a toothpick. Finish the rest of the pieces in the same way. Set aright and place in the oven for about 5-7 minute under the broiler. Grind fresh ground black pepper over the prosciutto wrapped delights.

Careful, though ... the temptation is to eat these right out of the oven, and they're very hot. Just two of these had me tap dancing my way to class today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

swedish + asian = eastern european?

I've hit upon something really delicious. Swedish-asian fusion, I kid you not ... one of my favorite restaurants in New York is Good World Bar & Grill located on Orchard between Canal and Division, or somehow in that junction serves up Swedish fusion, much to my delight.

I had a few baby leeks -- which cook up fantastically fast, and some new potatoes. Of course I've seen the potato leek ravioli in Little Italy delicatessens, and the school cafeteria introduced me to the winter coma inducing pierogis.

These little babies are a little time intensive. Save this for a night when you would enjoy the rhythm of folding dumplings.

Curried Potato and Baby Leek Dumplings with Yellow Coconut Curry Sauce

Dumpling Filling

12 new potatoes
3 baby leeks
1 heaping teaspoon of yellow curry powder
1/4 c milk
2 t butter
1 t sea salt

1 package of Gyoza wrappers
(I tend to buy Japanese because they're thicker and then more chewy)

1/2 can of coconut milk (13 oz)
2 t curry powder
1 t brown sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 t fish sauce or soy sauce

immersion blender

optional: coriander and chives for garnish

Steam or boil the new potatoes until tender. They might cook up much faster than the usual 20 minutes. Mince the leeks and saute in olive oil (3-5 minutes). In a large bowl place sauteed leeks, curry powder, butter, milk, and sea salt and blend with immersion blender. When potatoes are ready add (I left the skins on), and also blend with immersion blender.

While potatoes are ostensibly cooking, place the half of a can of coconut milk in a little pot and bring to a boil, add the curry powder and the sugar and fish sauce mixing well. Let the sauce boil down and thicken. When it is creamy turn off the heat and add the lemon juice.

With filling, take a heaped teaspoon for each wrapper. Pinch skin and fold down, and continue pinching as if making petals that you press down. I'll have to put up instructional photos next time. If that fails, just fold and seal.

Over medium high heat, place dumplings in large saucepan (as many as fit comfortably) with a little bit of olive oil. Heat until bottoms of the dumplings are light brown. Then add 1/3 cup of water and lower heat to about a low-medium and place on cover ajar so that the dumplings steam. Steam for about five minute until water is gone.

Serve immediately, since they don't stay warm long with a draping of the yellow coconut curry sauce. I think this serves about four very hungry people.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

curry in no hurry

In a beautiful little college town named Amherst, MA two of my favorite restaurants: Judie's and Fresh Side; feature a favorite fusion dish of mine called Curried Chicken Salad. Ordinarily, I would wrap these up Fresh Side style in a nice stretchy chewy mini burrito styled way using Spring Roll wrappers (the frozen ones made out of rice), but since I didn't have any, I made a salad instead.

I took a little bit of inspiration from here and there for ideas for my own curry chicken salad. It was fun since it's been a long favorite of mine, but I've never made it before.

Joy's Curried Chicken Salad

2 Large Chicken Breasts (poached or sauteed -- see Pesto recipe for instructions)
1/4 red onion finely minced or 4 shallots minced
5 t curry powder
6 T mayonaisse
1/2 c golden raisins and currants mixed (plumped in hot water for 15 minutes)
1 small banana in coins
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 t honey
1 t salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c roasted and salted cashews roughly chopped

Optional: half mayonaisse and half yogurt (to give it more tang)

In a container which you don't mind a slight yellow tinge (from the turmeric from the yellow curry powder), mix everything except the chicken in. Cut the chicken into bitable pieces, then combine.

Serve on a bed of lettuce with a side of your favorite dressing, or wrap in spring roll wrappers.

Since I'm tentatively trying to start learning how to make Indian food, I bought a slick little spice grinder, and I made my own yellow curry powder today. This is slightly time intensive, but I think it's more a mental thing because Americans have no problems making marinades. This is like a marinade, just a dry rub. Both Thai and Indian recipes roast their spice pastes before using them to get the essential oils of the spice out.

Joy's Yellow Curry Spice Blend

2 T coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
1 t ginger
1 t turmeric
4 green cardamom seeds
dash of cinnamon
1 t fenugreek (I love the way it smells)
2 t red chile flakes
5 black peppercorns

Spice grinder

In a pan over low heat dry roast spices until they are hot to the touch. Don't burn them! Stir so they do not burn. I dry roasted mine for about 10 minutes on a very low heat -- I was afraid of burning the spices. In any event, place roasted spices in spice grinder and blitz. Let cool by spreading out on a sheet of parchment or any other flat surface.

Have you heard of the wonder berry acai? I can't even pronounce it aloud, but this Brazilian berry is supposedly the new most fabulous thing one can eat for your body. Anyway, I bought frozen acai from my organic coop. Here's the smoothie recipe.

Acai Smoothie

1 small banana
2 c juice (passionfruit/white grape)
1 t honey
1 packet of acai (frozen puree)
8 frozen blackberries
8 frozen blueberries

Blend up this baby. No additional ice is needed since the fruit is all frozen. I try not to consume too much smoothie since the sugar content is very high. Also, if you freeze the smoothie (if there are leftovers) it makes a great sorbet.

Smoothies and salads, salads and smoothies. The weather here has gone back up to 80 F again ...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

how to make a little tuna go a long way

In celebration of finding fresh fish I made my two favorites: tuna tartar, and tuna tataki.

Though my mother worries, I cannot stay away from ahi tuna in every shape and form: raw, seared, tartar, tataki, broiled; it's all very very tasty.

There are no pictures of these dishes because I devoured them right away.

Tuna Tartar

1/4 lb ahi tuna diced into small pieces
1/2 ripe but firm avocado diced
1/8 onion finely sliced carmelized
two softly cooked egg yolks
1 T ponzu sauce (Japanese soy/lemon flavored sauce)

Start with boiling the eggs in the water. When it is boiling, let the eggs continue to cook at a simmer for about 3 minutes. Saute the thinly thinly sliced pieces of onion in the least oil possible on the stovetop. Then, dice up the tuna and the avocado. It's possible to put this in a small form, I tend to use little tupperware or bowl, or just use my hands. Form a circular mound of diced avocado, then place the tuna atop that. Crack open the eggs, and using only the creamy yolks, place in the center of the tuna (you'll have to poke a hole and then reform around it. Place the carmelized onions on top, and pour over the ponzu sauce. Find your chopsticks and eat immediately.

Spicy Crunchy Tuna Tataki

1/4 lb ahi tuna
3-4 chives
1 t sriracha sauce (asian chili sauce, can be found in Chinese grocery stores)
1 T Japanese Mayonaisse
2 T tempura flakes

Toasted Nori cut into thin strips (optional)

soy sauce

food processor

Put everything into food processor, and chop until barely combined. Here is an aesthetic choice, you can put the strips of toasted nori on the bottom, a little bit like a nest, or on top. It's really your decision. Form into the traditional pointy mound.


Friday, October 14, 2005

it's still summer here

We read a poem in my poetry workshop called, "Why I Can't Cook Dinner for Your Self-Centered Architect Cousin," the other day which described pesto as "green joy ... a tumbling, leggy dish," by Beth Ann Fennely, which seemed especially good timing because I had bought a bunch of basil from the farmer's market.

Making pesto seems like it'd be a fussy thing, but this is my first time, and I found it really simple with a mini food processor, and the best pesto I've tasted, even pinenut-less.

Pinenut-less Green Pesto

One bunch of basil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 square inch of parmesan
juice of half a lemon
1/4 t salt
1 t extra virgin olive oil

Rip off the leaves, smash the garlic cloves and peel off the skin and the rough end, chop of the knob of parmesan and squeeze the lemon juice into the food processor. Then add the olive oil and salt and blend. I can't say this makes a lot of pesto, but pesto definitely packs a punch for the small quantity it makes.

To be honest, I find most meat cooking a bit intimidating. But, here's a way for even the most intimidated by meat cooks to manage. I take a package of 3 skinless and boneless breasts and saute them in olive oil.

Chicken Breast for Everything

3 breasts (skinless/bonless)
1/2 t salt rubbed on all sides of the chicken
1 T olive oil

Heat the oil in the pan, then add the chicken, and saute over medium high heat. Observe! Do not move the chicken at all until it looks half cooked (about 7-10 minutes), then flip it over, and cook the other side. Do the meat check where you see if it is all opaque and not pink. It's ok to take it off a little bit before it is completely completely white because the chicken continues to cook even after you shut off the burner -- really. I used a few slices for lunch, and will probably end up making a curry chicken salad or a chicken, grape, and walnut salad this week. It also is great if you are having salad for lunch and need some chicken slices to round it out.

For the pasta, I boiled water, used some thin fettucine, and then sprinkled it with parmesan reggiano, olive oil, lemon juice and then I had some summer squash left over from breakfast that I put in.

Sunburst summer squash roasted

Take squash and dice into pieces and put onto a baking sheet with a little olive oil and a good crumble of sea salt. Roast for about 15 minutes.

Sunburst squash are really fun since they're shaped like UFO's. In fact I was calling them UFO squash until I looked it up just now. They're really delicious and I can't recommend them enough if you have the pleasure of finding them at your local farmer's market.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

the fastest way to au gratin

More orange food, should you even need any more convincing than that?

The inspiration of this dish is actually very Japanese (modern Japanese/West fusion -- Japanese are really into the rice gratin, and really into sweet potato) and then with the advent of the Moosewood cookbook style (also pan-everything).

Sweet Potato Rice Au Gratin

1/2 can of sweet potato puree
1/2 onion minced
knob of butter and bit of olive oil
1 cup uncooked short grained rice (I use nishikin white rice short-medium grained)
2 cups of chicken broth or veggie broth
1/2 cup of white wine or dry vermouth, sake or rice wine (I keep a bottle of Nolly Prat stashed for cooking),
Dry vermouth is what Julia Child always cooked with -- what a great lady.
2 inches square wedge of parmesan reggiano
1 cup of milk (any, I used skim)
4-5 slices of good extra sharp cheddar
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 t dried parsley if you have any
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

rice cooker

Cook the rice in the rice cooker with the mixture of chicken broth and wine instead of water (it takes about 20 minutes to cook up). Saute the onion in the butter/olive oil mix (the oil keeps it from burning), then add 2-3 sprigs of the thyme, if you have energy to bother with it, pick off the leaves and throw them in. I tend to half heartedly pick and then just throw the whole sprig in. Add the parsley, and fry it up for a minute or so. Take the cooked winey/broth infused rice, throw it in with the onions and herbs, when it is well mixed, add in the puree using water or broth to dilute to a soupy mix -- not too soupy, not too thick. At this point a good tip is to put the puree and broth/water mix into liquid measuring cup and pour out a little out at a time while coating the rice mix. I would err on the side of less sweet potato puree, since the dish is already going to be so wonderfully heavy in a comfort food fashion.

Then, in a gratin dish, or any dish you have with sides and is bakeable put the sweet potato rice mixture in stirring in the cup of milk and grated parmesan and spread out nicely. Add some slices of cheddar on top with some more thyme and broil until bubbling, and the cheese is satisfyingly browned and chewy, which is about another 15 minutes, but check/know your oven.

Serve with freshly ground pepper. If you'd like to get fancy, do these in small personal sized gratin dishes like the big ramekins. Serves four, I think.

This side dish could lean more towards Western or Japanese. This could very well go along with a bunch of izakaya dishes (Japanese Tapas) or could be readily served in a Vegetarian American meal, or even as a side dish to chicken.

Eat, and then happily sink into an orange food coma.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

trying just to make it through the fall

We've finally hit our cold snap and automatically, I turned to eating the most orangey thing I could think of: Carrot Ginger Soup. I also think this soup is probably a huge boost to the immune system.

Carrot Ginger Soup

2 lbs carrots (freshest you can find)
1/2 large onion minced
1 inch of ginger root
4 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 c water
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
juice of 1/4 of a lemon
1 c milk (any ... even unsweetened soy is fine)
Olive oil/butter

Optional toppings:

a dollop of sour cream
Parmesan Reggiano

Need blender, food processor or immersion blender (I use the last one).

Peel carrots and chop into coins, mince onion, mince ginger and put in a tea steeper. Heat a mix of olive oil and butter over medium high heat then add minced onion, and fry until transparent. Then add carrots, and fry until they turn a deeper hue of orange (about 8 minutes), make sure nothing burns. Add four cups of broth and one cup of water, heat to boil and then lower to a simmer. Simmer for about 30-45 minutes. Remove minced ginger in tea steeper, add perhaps half a teaspoon of ginger back into the soup, and blend -- please be careful, it's really hot. I usually place the lid as a sort of shield while I use the immersion blender.

After blended to a baby smooth texture, add milk, and lemon juice, and reheat. Taste and salt according to your preference.

Serve with some really good bread and maybe a salad.

Enjoy in good health.

Monday, October 03, 2005

one of my favorite breakfasts

My perfect breakfast consists of a perfect 3 minute soft boiled egg with freshly ground salt and pepper, a cup of dutch pressed cocoa, and toast with jam and butter.

Spicy Aztec Cocoa is my favorite from the Lake Champlain brand. I discovered it at Knit Cafe in New York (14th St. between 2nd and 3rd Ave).

I make my own cocoa when this one isn't available.

Spicy Dutch Press Cocoa Mix

1 T Dutch Press Cocoa
2 T Sugar
tiny bit of water for mixing
smidgeon of cayenne pepper
smidgeon of cinnamon

One needs to be extremely careful about overdoing the cayenne. As with all cooking, timing is key. I usually set the water on high with the egg in it, then wait until the water is just about to boil, set on the toaster, heat the milk in the microwave, and after three minutes of boiling, I take the egg out, butter the toast, and mix in the cocoa.

Today I had no jam (I prefer Bon Maman), so I just thinly sliced a ripe plum with a sprinkle of brown sugar and pecans on top of my toasted and lightly buttered bread.

Hopefully good breakfasts make for good interviews (ulp!)