Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mocha Bûche de Noël

I did it! I made a trial run first, and learned from a few of my minor mistakes, but I tackled what I thought might be one of the trickiest things to make - a Bûche de Noël - and I came out victorious. The end result was a delicious and moist chocolate cake soaked with brandy and espresso, filled with a coffee-flavored whipped cream and ricotta filling with small, toothsome bits of dark chocolate, and the whole thing was covered with chocolate ganache. It was a lovely and yummy, and it actually tasted better as it aged in the fridge!

This was my first time making a genoise. I wasn't familiar with this type of a cake, as everything I'd done before had been a variation on the standard creamed butter and egg cake batter that goes into a 9" round pan and bakes for 40 minutes. I didn't know how it was going to roll without cracking, that confounded me. And I was wary of the syrup, having had only a single, and disastrous, experience with soaking a cake (I ended up with a flattened, soggy cake, ew). And I didn't think tiramisu counted, since the ladyfingers were purchased and therefore already a little dried out (did you know ladyfingers were piped genoise? I didn't!). But after all was said and done, it was pretty straightforward.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rich and Delicious Mocha Bread Pudding

Continuing on the coffee theme, here's a rich bread pudding that pairs one of my absolute favorite flavor combinations - chocolate and coffee. I remember the first time I had bread pudding, it seemed like the oddest thing to me. But when I got it, I fell in love - the bread had been transformed from something simple to something decadent, creamy in the middle and crisp around the edges, all full of chocolate but not too sweet. I was hooked.

Make no bones about it, this isn't for the faint of heart, or those trying to diet. It's full of dairy, eggs, bread, and chocolate. It's rich. And it makes a lot! But it is an awesome dessert, and it's done the way I like, which is just sweet enough, but not too sweet. I suggest a little whipped cream for topping, especially if you spike it with something like a coffee liqueur or bourbon. Or, for extra decadence (and as I have done here), some caramel sauce and coffee ice cream.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Coffee-spiked Pork Satay

These are a unique yet simple appetizer for get-togethers or a light lunch or dinner - pork skewers with a simple coffee-spiked peanut sauce. It's not the first pork skewers I have on here, and it probably won't be the last, but what can I say, I dig meat on a stick. I know the dipping sauce sounds a little strange -- coffee and peanut butter, really? -- but it’s a surprisingly nice flavor combination, and if you have a little leftover coffee from the morning, this will all come together super quickly. And after all the work of the holidays, or if you're planning a New Year's shindig, wouldn't we all love something simple and quick?

I know I'm really pulling from a variety of influences here, but don't skip the garam masala. I find the combo of spices is just right to give it a real depth of complimentary flavor to peanut sauce. If you don't have any on hand, try adding just a pinch of coriander, cinnamon and black pepper.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti

Let me start right off the bat by simply saying this: this might be my favorite cookie ever. I love all the tried and true favorites - a good, thick, chewy chocolate chip cookie; a soft and chewy oatmeal raisin cookie; a crisp and delicate sugar cookie; and Newman-O's and Girl Scout Samoas and Thin Mints are oh-so-good. But this cookie fulfills all my favorite things I like about sweets in one go: chocolate, of course, preferably dark; sweet-tart and chewy dried cherries for a little bright-tart flavor, and texture; almonds and almond flavoring, because I'm a sucker for sweet almond treats; cardamom, since I adore it but I find it's rarely used in Western foods; and the fact that these are just sweet enough, but not too sweet. Put those all together, and make it into a cookie that's easy and not at all fussy, and you have a winner.

The base is also really versatile - chocolate, cherry, and almonds with a little cardamom is my personal favorite. But you could use cranberries, white chocolate, and pistachios; a little orange zest and anise seed; really, whatever you like. These last ones I drizzled with a little milk chocolate for a cookie exchange, and you can dip half in chocolate for a nice presentation if you like. But usually, I just make (and eat) these plain.

If you decide to make this with dried cherries, and you have a Trader Joe's nearby, I strongly encourage you to stop there and seek out their dried Montmorency cherries. I've tried various dried cherries, packaged and in bulk bins, but they are usually too sweet and mushy (and occassionally rotten, yuck). I've bought countless bags of the TJ's ones over the year, and they are by far the best AND most reasonably priced of the lot, with the best sweet-tart flavor and chewy texture.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Citrus Cream and Candied Carrot Curls

There's something really cool about getting your own, small, personalized cake. I'm not talking about cupcakes, although those are fine too. But your own small cake, on a dessert plate, maybe with a nice dollop of whipped cream or some glaze dribbling down the sides looking so prettily imperfect.

What a fun way to elevate the homely but honest carrot cake - one of my favorite cakes! - by turning it into a personal dessert. It's easily achieved with oversized muffin tins. Add an unexpected candied carrot curl (surprisingly tasty!) and candied pecan for that extra touch, and drizzle with thick, cinnamony and citrusy mascarpone frosting. The cake, icing, and even the candying are surprisingly easy, and can be done while the cake is baking or cooling. Your guests (or maybe just you!) will delight at having their own adorable little cake, and you'll have a showstopper you can be proud to serve for dessert!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dinner at Tilth

It takes me a while to get around to trying fine dining places. When the weekend rolls around, often all I want is something comfortable, and with a really good IPA on tap. Something you don't typically find at fine dining. Well, after hearing so much about Tilth, we finally decided to get over there and give it a go. I had high expectations, but even so, this place still totally blew me out of the water. What a gem!

Let's begin - first, it's along the main strip in the uber-cute neighborhood of Wallingford, which I lived in when I went to college and have a total soft spot for. It's in a renovated house, and it's a little noisy, a little cozy, but once the food arrives, you won't care.

Our friendly and attentive (but not pushy) waiter recommended splitting 6 of the small courses between the two of us, which I found fantastic, because I love splitting small plates! I can't comment about the wine, because I don't order wine much when I go out, but the food was fantastic.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baby Artichokes with Bread Crumbs and Almonds

I love fresh artichokes. I've grown up eating the giant thistles, steamed until tender, dipping the meaty ends of the leaves into melted butter and scraping off the good stuff. And the heart is the best part, I would carefully scrape off each tuft of fluff, leaving the heart as intact as possible, so as not to waste any. They were always such a treat!

So when I saw a giant package of baby artichokes at Trader Joe's, I couldn't resist. I had never had baby artichokes before, I had no idea what I would do with them, or even exactly how you prepared them, but I took them home anyway.

So after poking around for recipes, and not finding too many, I decided to wing it. A crunchy topping sounded like a good idea, so I grabbed some old bread I'd stashed in the freezer. I was actually going to use pine nuts, but it seems I was out, so I subbed in blanched almonds - which turned out to be a great idea! And of course, lemon has to go in there somewhere. It all turned out really good - and very simple.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Asian-inspired Turkey Burgers with Cabbage Slaw

It's always really nice when you throw some things together in a clean-out-the-fridge kind of moment, mostly hoping for something simply edible, and you end up with something so delicious, you make it again and again. Tonight was one of those nights. I'd had some gai-lan (Chinese broccoli, which is sooooo good) languishing in the fridge. Half of a sad cucumber. An old half-head of cabbage. I knew I needed to use these up, so an a-ha moment came on - I had some hamburger buns and some ground turkey in the fridge that I had randomly picked up but hadn't had any plans for - what about turkey burgers with a cabbage-cucumber-cilantro slaw?

I threw a couple of my favorite Asian condiments, plus ginger and green onion, into my basic turkey burger recipe and was exceptionally pleased. They had a ton of flavor, and were so moist and tender! And these had no cheese, but you won't mind. Slap these on a whole-wheat bun, and you have a super-lean and healthy burger that tastes great. These will definitely go into standard rotation.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Steak and Arugula Salad

Hooray for summer! That means wonderful fresh fruit and veggies, and lots of salads. I love salads, they're fresh and crisp, and you can throw in whatever you've got, and you've got a pretty good chance of it coming out good for little time and effort. Bonus 1: lots of veggies, so lots of vitamins, it's good for you. Bonus 2: no to little cooking! And when it's over 80 degrees inside, because there is no A/C in Seattle, that counts for a lot.

This is one of my favorite salads. It's a snap to put together, and it's got steak and crispy shallots, 2 man-pleasing ingredients. It's budget-conscious since it stretches a steak -- you only need about 4 oz per person. It's pretty simple, so don't skip the crispy shallots, they really add a lot of dimension to the dish.

I'm giving approximate amounts - this is salad, after all - feel free to tweak as you like.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Bounty Hash

I think this is my favorite summer meal. I might declare something else my favorite later on, but for right now, this is it. Light and loaded with sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, delicate fingerlings and herbs, a little bit of crispy bacon for texture and salty pork goodness if you like, and an egg to round it out, it brings together some of the best of summer in one easy, but super delicious, dish. And please excuse my egg; they can't turn out perfect every time!

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Semifreddo with Caramel Sauce

This is such a snap to put together, and has a luscious taste of vanilla and brown sugar. It has all the components of ice cream - egg yolks and cream - but none of the cooling and churning. Plus, my ice cream always seems to turn out icy if not immediately consumed - this stayed nice and creamy. I highly suggest chilling the serving plates - this stuff melts quickly, and it will buy you time to serve to your guests, or at least keep your own serving from melting before you're halfway done.

For something that's even richer than ice cream, it has an amazingly light and fluffy texture.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Buttermilk Macaroni and Cheese

Here's a great way to lighten up mac and cheese a little bit, while improving flavor and giving it a little extra tang: buttermilk. Even the very low fat buttermilk has a thick, creamy texture, so you get a nice sauce without having to resort to a lot of whole milk or cream. Maybe not so great for drinking (people do that, really?), but great in this application: because I'm sure as heck not gonna skimp on the cheese!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thomas Keller's Lemon Tart

What a fantastically, easy dessert: a lightly crisp crust, that crumbles easily but stays in shape while you cut slices, a sweet-tart lemon filling that is light, creamy and a snap to make. The crust is a pat-in-the-pan crust too - so no rolling, no patching, no fighting with the dough, and the filling takes 15 minutes to make, and sets up quickly.

I did make a few minor changes to the recipe - I added a little salt to both the crust and the filling, I increased the filling by 50%, so that it filled the tart completely, and I skipped the broiling part, opting for a smooth, glossy finish.

This is something I'll definitely make again and again.

Here is a link to the original recipe.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Land of Beer and Honey

I've been absent lately, I know. I've been busy, and I have been cooking! But oft forgetting to take pictures. But I also spent a few days in my favorite city, our smaller, cooler neighbor to the south: Portland, OR. Portland has the most breweries of any city in the world! And to those that know me, it should come as no surprise that I love Portland, in good part because of the beer.

We did a lot of walking, drinking and eating, a lot of great food, and a lot of great meals. This time we were most excited for Deschutes - overall, my husband's favorite brewery. While the new-ish place in the Pearl District in Portland is a little cavernous and impersonal, overall, it did not disappoint, and their XPA on tap is quite possibly the best Deschutes brew I've ever had. A very hoppy pale ale, a baby IPA, whatever you want to call it, it was crisp, refreshing, and very well executed Northwest style ale. We came here twice, and left with Deschutes gear as well (we're beer nerds, what can we say?)

We also made a couple stops at Bailey's taproom - a newer taproom, from what we can tell, that has a good foundation - good beer list, good location, good layout - but sadly suffered from lackluster and inattentive service. However, because of the close proximity to our hotel, the sofas with games, and the very well thought out beer menu, we made our way back despite service hiccups.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pancetta Aplenty

Being near Seattle, I have access to an amazing local charcuterie place: Salumi. (And so does anyone else in the US, since they do mail order!) Owned and operated by Armandino Batali (yup, that Batali family), they make some of the most amazing cured sausages and meats you've ever tried. They're also a small restaurant, so if you're in the area (or visiting), make sure you get there. Just get there early - the line can be insane.

Besides sausages and other things related to pork, they also have pancetta. I went a little crazy and ordered some sausages, and a hunk of pancetta. I asked for around a pound, but they'll send whatever they have, so in the end, I got 1.7 lbs. For 2 people. Oops.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Simple Tips for Great Roast Potatoes and Scrambled Eggs

During the week, the only time I can afford for breakfast is usually just making a bowl of instant oatmeal. But on the weekends, I love to have a good breakfast. My dear hubby usually makes the french toast - I'll go into the trick for that another time - but if there are scrambled eggs involved, I'm usually the one on it.

I know people can be picky about their eggs, and there's a lot of hype for the Gordon Ramsey style eggs: super creamy, laden with creme fraiche, they are good but more like an egg pudding than anything else. In the end, I keep coming back to my favorite style eggs: fluffy, moist, and very tender large curds. You don't cook these exceptionally slow, or even on that low of a temperature. The trick, really, is just to stir as little as possible. It makes sense - people like fluffy omlettes, but you don't stir omlettes, you just push them. Use the technique towards your scrambled eggs, and you will be rewarded with large, creamy curds.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beefalo Shepherd's Pie with Potato-Turnip Mash

Spring is here, and while I'm always eager for the fresh and vibrant foods of spring - fresh garlic, asparagus, pea shoots, wild salmon - I usually start to get a little anxious about the going away of winter foods - long braised meats, root veggies, hearty soups and stews, and stick-to-your-ribs kinda meals. So I decided to make perhaps one of the heartiest, most comforting dish I know, and one I'd never made before, to boot - Shepherd's Pie.

This wasn't something I grew up with, or even really knew about until an I was an adult. Poking around online lead to many quick-fix recipes that looked mostly bland or boring, and the good ones seemed to use red wine - something that I was reluctant to use for this dish, knowing I wasn't going to drink the rest tonight (let's just say there was quite a celebration for a friend's birthday last night, and more alcohol was out of the question). So I decided to put my own spin on it, based on what I had on hand, and was quite happy with the way it turned out.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mint White Chocolate Mousse

Mousse is one of those things that will always be a little bit of a mystery - how does something so laden with heavy cream and chocolate taste so light and delicious? It's a amazing what a little air can do.

This recipe is great in that it's pretty simple, tastes really fabulous, and I've never run across another mousse like this! You can make it ahead of time, up to about 12 hours. It will keep longer, but I get a little iffy about keeping it around too long because of the raw egg whites. It is so good - so rich, creamy, and with just a hint of mint.

And if that isn't enough, then make some chile chocolate brownies to go with it, and knock everyone's socks off!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vietnamese Pork Satays

I love the fresh flavors of this dish. Lots of bright ginger, lime, cilantro; fresh and cooling cucumber, carrot and bean sprout garnish; and a tingling of chile sauce for spice and fish sauce for a little kick of saltiness. And then there's pork, and who doesn't love pork? Ok, maybe lots of people, but not me. If you use a lean cut, like tenderloin or loin chops, they're more or less guilt free!

As if you needed an extra bonus, they're fun to eat too, as long as you don't mind a little mess -- heaven knows I'm a sucker for anything that lets you pick and choose and wrap up little bundles of deliciousness. Add as little or as much cilantro as you like, I always like a lot. This is great during the summer when it's hot, mint is readily available, and you want something light and refreshing to eat. Or, like this time, when it's cold and raining, and you're wishing for warmer weather.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pasta with Zucchini and Chicken Sausage

It's no secret that I'm fond of pasta dishes. While I like to cook more elaborately on the weekends for my hubby and I, and for friends and family, during the week I just want something tasty and relatively fast. Pasta dishes tend to come together easily, don't make a lot of dishes, and make enough for leftovers the next day.

This is one of my favorites. It has just a few ingredients, and is relatively lean if you use a good, lowfat chicken sausage (I like Isernio's, which is local, and very lean but still very tasty). This method also taught me to love pasta without a thick sauce like tomato or cream-based - often, all you need is some good olive oil, some freshly grated cheese, lots of fresh ground pepper, and a little cooking water from the pasta to make a nice noodle dish with a veggie and a little meat. When making this, do not skimp on the oil when cooking the zucchini, it becomes part of the "sauce". Leaving it out will leave you with a dry, sticky noodle.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day

I've always had a love/hate relationship with bread. I love good bread. I am very picky about my bread. But man, do I hate making it. Proof, mix, knead, rise, punch, rise, shape, bake. Set aside 4 hours, at least! Make sure the house is warm enough (we keep it chilly in here in the winter). And then, hope and pray it turns out good after all that work. Usually it just turns out ok. Sometimes it's only good enough to stash in the freezer for breadcrumbs (talk about disappointment).

So when I heard about the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day technique, I was hopeful, but skeptical. Now I'm only on my first batch, but so far I'm smitten.

Look at that beauty! It was supposed to be ciabatta. Obviously, it's not flat enough, but that was my fault. But, it tasted fantastic, and really, it took about 5 minutes to make the dough. You can keep the dough in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, and just grab a chunk when you need bread, and then you can have bread in an hour! Just turn and shape the dough a bit, let it rise for about 30 minutes, and let it bake for another 20 minutes. So by the time your soup or stew is ready to go, your bread is done.

Even if this is as far as I get, and all I can make are misshapen loaves of ciabatta, I'm still sold (although there are recipes in the book to make everything from pizza to rye bread to cinnamon rolls, using different master dough recipes, I can't wait to try!). And it's so much cheaper than forking out $4 for a loaf of artisanal bread at the store!

For those interested, here's a link to a youtube video, and here's the book on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Onion Soup with Thyme

I really love french onion soup. But I don't like heavy, overly beefy, salty soup, and I really don't like all that cheese on top. It's just too much, and you end up chewing great hunks of rubbery cheese, which I don't find pleasant. However, I made this onion soup and really loved it. Not only did it take less than an hour, it still had the sweetness of the onions and a little richness from the beef broth, but it wasn't heavy. Floated with two thin, crisp baguette slices topped with a little sharp cheese, it was just right.

Bacon Cheddar Ranch Gougères

If you've never made pâte à choux, and you're reading this, you owe it to yourself to try it. You may know this dough only as the basis for cream puffs or eclairs, but it makes a fantastic savory little cheese ball known as a gougère. It's such an easy, simple dough, and so versatile, no wonder the French adapt it to both sweet and savory dishes. Even when I think I've done something wrong, my dough always turns out perfect: light, crispy on the outside, with a tender, creamy interior.

This time I decided to bring these little snacks down to the lowest common denominator by making a bacon cheddar ranch version. Yeah, you heard me. I'm taking these babies down a peg or two... or maybe I'm making the bacon-cheddar-ranch combo upscale. Whatever happened, it was delicious. If you're making these for hungry guys, you may consider doubling (or even tripling) the recipe: they never last long in my house.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Beet Risotto with Beet Greens

Here's another recipe involving beets that I love. It was actually my introduction to using beet greens, and I love that this recipe uses the whole beet, stems and all. The rice takes on a really vibrant hue, so the whole dish looks hot pink, which I think is really neat. How often do we get to eat fuschia food? There's a nice contrast of textures here: soft onions, creamy rice, nice bite from the beets, and the tender greens. This is a great dish year round - light enough for spring or summer, hearty and earthy enough for fall.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Beet Greens, the Underappreciated Veggie

Years ago I did a shameful thing. I knew the key to buying good beets was to purchase them with crisp greens intact. So I bought beautiful whole beets from the local farmer's market. I made delicious things with the actual roots, but I threw away the tops. At the same time, I was buying bunches of swiss chard and kale. How foolish I was! Beet greens are delicious and nutritious, with a taste and texture similar to chard. And when you consider that you're actually getting two separate veggies from a single purchase, it's very economical, too.

You can cook beet greens like chard or kale: thoroughly wash, trim the woody core, and slice into 1" strips. You can then sautee them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of broth, with a little red pepper flakes, or do what I did, and throw them in a soup for the last ten minutes of cooking. They go great with cannellini beans, rosemary, and if you like, a little Italian chicken sausage, topped with a grating of hard Italian cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Honey "Pearls" and Grapefruit-Ginger Syrup

At least a year ago, maybe even over two years ago, my hubby ordered the powders necessary to make those fancy molecular gastronomy "caviar" or "pearls" - sodium alginate and calcium chloride. And they sat in our cupboard until this weekend, when we finally dusted them off and got to using them.

If only I'd known how easy it was, I would have done it long ago! And for under $20 for both powders, you only use 1-3 grams at a time, so you get a lot of mileage out of your purchase. Plus, it's fun!

I wanted to make honey pearls, to go with a panna cotta, which I'd also never made before. After the one I'd had at Cafe Juanita, I felt I at least had a good benchmark, and would know if what I made would turn out good enough (it did).

It all came together nicely. Creamy, midly sweet, delicate vanilla panna cotta has a bit of tang from the buttermilk, and given an ethereal ring of lightly sweet honey pearls and tangy-bitter grapefruit. All of this is easy: the hardest part was actually getting the panna cotta out of the ramekin!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Larb Gai - fresh and herb-laden Thai chicken salad

Larb, at least as I've come to know it, is a fresh, herb-laden Thai salad, with finely minced or ground lean chicken, lemongrass, mint, cilantro, and lots of lime. Toasted rice powder is a traditional topping, for toasty flavor and a little crunch, but toasted sesame seeds do the trick for me. It's fresh, light, and healthy, and you can put it together while the rice is steaming. You can eat it as a lettuce wrap with rice, or do as my husband does, and mix it all up. It's tasty either way.

This is really made best during the summer, when herbs are fresh, plentiful, and cheap, and the romaine is crisp and sweet. But it had been a while, and I was had a craving for it, so I indulged my need for something so light and fresh tasting.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dinner at Cafe Juanita

This is a restaurant review - no recipes or pictures here, sorry!

For my husband and my collective birthdays (our birthdates are only 2 days apart), we decided on dinner at Cafe Juanita. We both adore Italian food, and while I had been once before, he had never been. My previous experience had been mixed; some items were stellar (the octopus!), while others were too salty (the rabbit plini) or I just didn't care for the dish (the roasted beets - loved them, but having them on a bed of almond butter tasted like eating the guts of a peanut butter and beet salad sandwich. No thanks).

I'm very happy to report that we had a fantastic, fabulous, near-perfect dinner. Which is saying something because I am very picky with fine dining - I expect everything to be perfect. The rest will be a blow-by-blow of each course, which my husband and I shared each of, lest you think I ate 6 courses all by myself.

We started with the carne cruda - essentially Wagyu beef tartar. Finely diced and nicely presented raw beef with a tiny soft-boiled quail egg on top, this had an exceptional balance of richness tempered by a light and lively acidity (orange? lemon? it tasted citrusy but I couldn't quite place it). It came on 3 very thin bread crisps, but I thought paired perfectly with the crackers provided on the bread tray. Now the bread tray actually deserves a little writing on its own: several varieties, thick and thin, very nicely arranged on a long platter, with some fantastic bread and crackers. Unfortunately, I didn't care for the puff cheese twists (a little dry) and the fried pasta dough with thin dried orange, while interesting, was too sharp and hard to truly be enjoyable. But everything else was lovely.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Weeknight Pollo en Pipian Verde

Here's another great weeknight meal - lots of flavor, doesn't make too many dishes, and comes together in a snap. This is a bit of a cross of between a Rick Bayless recipe for Salmon in Luxurious Green Pipian, which uses tomatillo salsa as a shortcut, and the more traditional flavors of a pipian with toasted and ground pepitas, peppercorns, cloves, sesame seeds, and cumin. Adding all those lovely spices and toasting them fresh gives the sauce a really nice base and complexity, but using a good quality tomatillo salsa cuts the time down significantly. I used a combination of Bayless' Frontera tomatillo salsa and a small can of Herdez. Adding zucchini rounds out the dish.

I know, it doesn't look terribly appetizing. But it's delicious, I promise.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hungarian-style Chicken Stew with Tomatoes

I know, I know. My first post here involving paprika really shouldn't be a weeknight dish, or even worse, something totally unauthentic. But it is. Some day, I'll post the real deal, just like my grandma made, with nokedli (Hungarian dumplings, basically spaetzle) and full-fat sour cream and the hour long plus cooking time. But when I asked dh what he wanted for his birthday, he said "Chicken Paprikash... like you used to make." Which means Chicken Paprikash before I figured out the real recipe. The wrong recipe that I used that had canned tomatoes and small chopped up pieces of chicken so it would cook quicker, basically a totally botched version. Later, when I asked my grandmother whether it had tomatoes I got a loud "Nnooooooooooo! No tomatoes!!" with a hint of disgust. So Brian tells me to call it something else, and I did, but in my heart it will forever be imposter's Paprikash Csirke.

However, it's tasty, and sort of scratches my chicken paprikash itch on a weeknight, so I won't feel shame or apologize for that.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pasta with Ham, Edamame, Mint, and Truffled Breadcrumbs

Pasta, yum. This is one of my favorite go-to recipes, as if pasta wasn't easy enough already. And do yourself a favor, don't bother with the jarred stuff when you can make something like this. In the time it takes for the water to boil, you can prep everything else you need.

Cut the ham into irregular, thinnish bite sized pieces. The rough texture of the ham really improves this dish, so don't cube it. It takes a little time, but I think it's worth it. Also, don't skip the truffled breadcrumbs: they give this dish an easy elegance and a nice crunch.

I've made this with edamame and linguine, but you can sub in all different kinds of pastas or vegetables: farfalle, rotini, or orecchiette with asparagus, peas, or use broccoli with basil instead of mint. There are lots of options!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bulgur "Risotto" with Spinach and Bacon

Bulgur is one of those things that I should probably eat a lot more of - it's healthy, quick, and very cheap. However, I can't say I've eaten much of it at all, other than the occassional deli-purchased tabbouleh salad.

Now I can't remember what I saw recently that made me perk my interest in bulgur again, but I recalled a recipe I'd seen long ago - Bulgur "risotto" with spinach and bacon. It had about 6 ingredients (bulgur, onion, broth, spinach, bacon, and parmesan), had a cooking time of about 20 minutes with very little prep work, and I figured that it couldn't be that bad with the addition of bacon and parmesan cheese. I just had no idea how good it was going to be! The bulgur gets wonderfully creamy, and no stirring is involved.

I think it would be a good base for other combinations, like crumbled italian chicken sausage and arugula; broiled zucchini and goat cheese; crisped prosciutto and broccoli raab; kale and lamb.