Friday, April 30, 2010

Eggs, Toast, Salad and Rhubarb

I must have inherited the 'don't stop till you drop gene'. I got off work late, I was starting to get a gnarly hunger headache but damned if I wasn't going to make dinner last night. I'd like to think that preparing a meal for my husband and me is always a calming experience but last night, as I was julienning carrots and Chris was about to show me the third picture of the world's smallest horse on my laptop, both of us crammed in the "kitchen", I think I got a little grumpy and maybe even snapped. Sorry hon, yes, the horse is very cute.

A few months ago I got the Momofuku cookbook because it just seemed kind of bad ass. There is almost nothing I can make in it without a kitchen unless I were to go to crazy, extreme lengths that might involve cooking for two days straight. I just don't have the capacity to make my own ramen broth and cook a pig's head with a toaster oven and a rice cooker. 

That said, it is a great book to get inspiration from. David Chang uses lots of eggs and kimchi and sweet and spicy dressings so that's what I did last night.

Here is my Momofuku wanna be, crazy hungry meal, that turned out pretty delicious:

1 head bib lettuce
1 carrot
1 english cucumber
bean sprouts

Wash everything. Tear up the lettuce. Julienne the carrots by thinly slicing the carrot on an angle so you get nice long pieces and then stack a few up at a time and cut them into matchsticks. Thinly slice the cucumber and tear off a handful of cilantro leaves. Arrange everything nicely in your salad bowl.

Dressing (I'm guessing on some of these measurements so taste as you go)
1 garlic clove
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
pinch of salt
2 tbs. sesame oil
1 tbs. rice wine vinegar
juice of 1/2 a lime
dash of soy sauce
1 tsp. agave (or honey)

Mince the garlic and ginger. Combine all the ingredients and check that the seasoning is right. 

Eggs + Butter

I don't like to heft down my big skillet to cook eggs so I do them in a muffin tin in my toaster oven. They are delicious. You don't have to flip anything and I think that if I were having a brunch and needed to cook a lot of eggs at one time I would do it this way. The eggs get perfectly cooked with nice molten centers.

Heat a toaster oven to 375 degrees. Put a teaspoon of butter into each muffin tin well that you will use and put an inch of water in the unused wells so the tin doesn't burn. Place muffin tin in the oven until the butter starts to bubble but try not to let it get brown. Crack your eggs over the butter, one egg per well. Place in the oven and cook until the whites are solid. You'll have to play with the time depending on how runny you like your yolks to be.

Bread + Kimchi

Get a good loaf of crusty bread to sop the yolks up and I even put a little butter on my bread. And serve some kimchi (delicious, spicy, stinky, fermented, Korean cabbage) on the side.


I made dessert! Because the rhubarb was not going to fit in the fridge.

3 stalks of rhubarb
fromage blanc (or greek yogurt)
crystallized ginger

Cut the rhubarb into one inch pieces, put them over the stove or in a rice cooker on the steam setting with 1/2 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water. Cook until the rhubarb is soft and falling apart. Set out to cool to room temperature.

Spoon fromage blanc into a dish, drown in rhubarb and slice and sprinkle one piece of crystallized ginger over each.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dal with Coconut Cream

Comfort food means something different to everyone but for me comfort food is simply, anything homemade. 

I was very lucky to have gone to a school that was on a farm, with a biodynamic farm across the street. We had an incredible school lunch program that was staffed by parents and all organic. The woman who ran the program insisted that no one wear plastic gloves while they made or served the food, she felt it was unnecessary and sent the wrong message.

Last night when I came home I was beat, so I was glad I had planned on making, Dal with Coconut Cream, a recipe by Deborah Madison. It's a simple comforting dish that I find very easy to prepare and it's perfect for the cold weather we've been having. I am a huge admirer of Deborah's recipes and cooking philosophy but something I really love about her cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, are the illustrations. Much in the same way an illustration is a reflection of the person who drew it, a recipe or a home cooked meal is an intimate refection of the person who has made it. 

While it's easy to go out and buy a pre-made meal when you're tired, or not think twice about the person's rubber gloves who is making your sandwich (I once got a grilled cheese with the tip of someone's latex glove in it) or choose glossy photographs over the raw line of an illustration, somehow I think it's better to go for the homemade. Because knowing that your own two hands made the dinner you are about to eat, is the best comfort of all.

This recipe is courtesy of Deborah Madison from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, 1997 Broadway Books.

1 cup red lentils, well rinsed
1 garlic clove
1/4 jalapeno chili, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro stems
2 teaspoons minced ginger
several tablespoons coconut cream 

Combine the lentils, 3 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until they have disintegrated and turned mushy, about 20 minutes. If needed add more water.

Meanwhile, pound or puree the garlic, chile, cilantro stems and ginger together. Add them to the cooked lentils. Scoop the coconut cream off the top of a can of coconut milk and stir into the lentils. Taste for salt and add more coconut cream if desired.

My tweaks for cooking without a kitchen: 

I like to eat this with brown rice so I put one cup of rinsed rice into my rice cooker early in the day, with two cups of water and let it soak. It takes about two hours to cook so my lovely husband turned it on when he got home and by the time I got home, there was just enough time for me to get the lentils ready. 

For the lentils, I have another rice cooker, cuisinart rice cooker and steamer, that I cooked the lentils in and I steamed some green beans on top. For the ginger, garlic, cilantro, and coconut cream, I use an immersion blender to combine them before adding them to the lentils. And I like to throw some cilantro leaves in as well.

Leftovers are great the next day and with the leftover coconut milk I like to make a breakfast smoothie in the morning with coconut milk, fresh pineapple, frozen peaches, a little agave syrup and two tablespoons of ground flax seeds.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baked Apples

It's freezing in New York.

Baked apples just sounded good. 

I was going to take a picture but we ate them too fast. Here is the one surviving apple, maybe it will be spared and eaten with cheese or maybe I'll have to subject it to butter, sugar and 350 degrees like the others, mmmmm.

Many meals begin with a phone call to my mother. What temperature should I roast a chicken at? Can you give me the flaky pie crust recipe one more time?  Last night it was, How do you make those baked apples? Very often when I cook, it's the flavors I remember from my childhood that I want to recreate and my mom has all the answers. 

Baked apples are wonderful little deserts that satisfy the way apple pie does and you can make one, two or as many as you can eat at a time. This recipe is inspired by a recipe for Stuffed Apples from A Feast for All Seasons by Roy Andries de Groot, Knopf 1966.

Baked Apples

2 baking apples 
unsalted butter 
brown sugar
maple syrup
whole wheat bread

Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 350. Core the apples but not all the way through, you want to make little wells. Peel the skin around the opening to the apple. Then press equal parts butter and brown sugar into the apples alternating butter and sugar. Trim the crusts off the bread and cut each slice into a large circle for the apples to sit on. Butter both sides of the bread and put them in the bottom of a baking dish. I use an oven-safe glass baking dish. Place the apples on top of the bread and baste the apples with maple syrup. Place the apples in the oven. If you're using a toaster oven you'll want to put aluminum foil on top so the apples don't burn. Cook for forty minutes or until the apples are tender and the butter and sugar has bubbled over, basting the apples every 5-10 minutes with more maple syrup. I like to make sure I it get on the bread. When the apples are ready the bread will be caramelized and the apples should melt in your mouth. Heaven. But give them a minute to cool. My husband burned his lip on some hot butter.

*A note on the ingredients. Always use the real thing and always use the best quality you can find. Farmers markets are great places to get apples and they will be able to help you find good baking apples. The butter should be from grass fed cows, the sugar organic, the maple syrup grade A dark amber and visit a local bakery for your bread. Last night I used some day old whole wheat sourdough bread and it was delicious.

Tuesday Night Tacos

When I was a teenager, a group of friends over for dinner meant tacos. We would dirty every bowl in the kitchen giving each topping it's own real estate on the table; tomatoes, lettuce, onions, cheese, spanish olives, lettuce, homemade hot sauce and refried beans; it was fresh and delicious and mom didn't have to cook. 

About a year ago a friend recommended the restaurant El Parador, 325 East 34th Street, where my husband and I ate the best fish tacos we've ever had. I've never been to Mexico or Hawaii, where I hear they aren't half bad, but these were really f*#!ing good, especially for New York. Lightly fried mahi mahi, with lime, cilantro, radishes and farmers cheese, flavors I had never had on a taco before. 

Now I think you can put almost anything on a taco (there is a famous truck in LA, Kogi, that serves Korean bbq on a tortilla with an asian slaw on top, yum) but this is how I made them tonight (I was going to get shrimp but when I went to place my order, the fish monger pointed me in the direction of a ridiculously long line, it was 10am! and I think I just muttered "forget it" and ran off to the canned beans aisle, and I forgot to get farmers cheese so I stopped by Murray's cheese in Greenwhich Village but all they had was fresh ricotta, which turned out to be delicious):

Tuesday Night Tacos

1 tomato
1 yellow onion
1 serrano chile
1 avocado
1 lime
1 can organic black beans
romaine lettuce
corn tortillas
Farmers Cheese
sea salt

Beans: Drain and rinse beans. Chop half the onion and three cloves of garlic. Saute them in olive oil until the onions are translucent (I do this in my rice cooker on the steamer setting). Add the beans and half a cup water, salt to taste. Cook until most of the water has evaporated. Periodically mash the beans with the back of a wooden spoon or rice paddle until they resemble refried beans.

Toppings: Chop lettuce and tomatoes and slice the radishes and avocado, put in separate bowls. Chop the rest of the onion and then chop half (or all) the serrano chile, five sprigs of cilantro and some salt into the onion so all the ingredients combine.

Tortillas: My mom would sometimes make her own tortillas, which maybe I'll get to another day, but with store bought corn tortillas they need a little love. The best way to heat them is on a hot, dry (no oil) cast iron tortilla griddle. They should puff a little and I like them with slightly burned edges. I have no stove and no cast iron griddles so I brush the tortillas with water and heat them up in the toaster oven just until they're soft and warm.

Place everything on the table and let the layering begin.

*Note: I like to chop up a little extra lettuce so that when all the tacos have been eaten and there are still toppings left, you can make a little salad and avoid sorting everything into ten different zip lock bags.