Monthly Archives: February 2008

A Big and Easy Meal

I’m stressed. I have schoolwork, contract work and volunteer work. To make it all worse I also started the South Beach diet yesterday. Yes I am going no carb for two weeks. I’m being ambitious and cutting out sugar and all alcohol for a month. Yes I can make a month, and my birthday cake and champagne on the 18th are going to be even sweeter. So long story short, I’m stressed and hungry.

I find that the food of New Orleans always feels so decadent to me. However, it doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Moreover I know I can omit the rice and have it fit into this diet. And as long as you are a wiz at chopping or have a food processor, it cooks on the stove and doesn’t require a lot of effort.

Creole White Beans, Shrimp and Crawfish

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Onion
2 ribs of celery
1 red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Cajon seasoning
1 teaspoon parsley
½ teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper
14.5 oz diced tomatoes
½ cup water
6 oz ham, chopped
2 -15 oz cans of white beans
1 lb shrimp
1 lb crawfish tails

Finely chop the vegetables. Sauté them with the olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add the seasoning, tomatoes water and chopped ham. Put the lid on the pot and cook until all of the vegetables are soft and a nice sauce has formed.

Add the beans and seafood. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the seafood is cooked through. Season the stew with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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Sugar High

I didn’t get any chocolates yesterday. This is probably a good thing as I’m feeling really sick today. So I want something sweet to help me feel better and give me energy. I want to taste springtime so I made this cheerful lemon pound cake. It goes great with a cup of soothing tea.

Iced Lemon Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
juice and zest of 3 lemons
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use the wrappers from the butter to butter a loaf pan.

Beat the butter at high speed in a stand mixer till fluffy. Add the sugar and continue creaming the mixture. With the mixer running at low speed, add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla, the salt and the baking powder.

Fold in the flour and the zest, making sure the scrape down the bown. Beat the mixture on high speed until light and fluffy and fully incorporated. Mix in the juice of one of the lemons.

Bake the loaf for 65 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. In the mean time mix the 1/3 cup of sugar with the juice of 1 ½ of the lemons. Set aside.

Cool the cake in the pan for about 15 minutes. Remove it and cool on a rack over a pan. Baste the cake with the lemon sugar mixture, until all of the syrup is soaked up, including the syrup that falls off of the cake.

Mix the remaining juice of ½ a lemon with the 2 cups of powdered sugar to form an icing. Drizzle this icing over the top of the cake. Once the cake is fully cooled, slice and serve or store in the refrigerator.

Valentine’s in New York

Today is Valentine’s Day. It is freezing out. The streets are lined with roses spilling out of the Korean bodegas and everyone seems to be in a couple but me. Therefore I’m going into hibernation mode. Glorious warm hibernation. This dish was inspired by the need to clean out my fridge and cabinets but I think the results turned out so much better than I expected. Serve it with a crisp green salad to convince yourself that you are eating healthy. Also pop a good bottle of wine or bubbly and forget that it is a marketing holiday.

To make regular mac and cheese, omit the Bolognese and seasonings, and substitute elbow pasta for the shells and cheddar for the mozzarella.

Italian Mac and Cheese

1 lb package of whole wheat Conchigliette (shell) pasta
1 stick butter, reserve 1 tablespoon for the topping
1 cup flour
1 quart milk
1 tablespoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon parsley
3 cups Bolognese sauce
8oz grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons French friend onions

Boil the pasta according to package directions. Sit it aside in a colander to drain. Preheat the oven to 350 degrease.

In the same large pot that you cooked the pasta, melt the stick of butter. Once the butter is melted, add in the flour, whisking to combine. Slowing whisk in the milk so that no lump forms. Add all of the seasonings and continue whisking as the mixture thickens. Add in the Bolognese sauce and whisk to combine. Add in the cheese and continue whisking so that nothing sticks to the bottom. Taste the sauce to check for seasoning. Once the cheese has started to melt, fold in the pasta and transfer everything to a large glass ovenproof dish. Melt the reserved butter and mix with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and friend onions. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole, trying to seal to the edge.

Bake the casserole for about an hour till the mixture is hot and bubbly and the topping is nice and golden brown and crispy.

Sweets for the Sweet

I normally am a big curmudgeon when it comes to Valentine’s Day. For some reason I’m optimistic about my love life, this year. Though there is no one in the works, I feel that this spring will bring someone wonderful and new. So for the first time since elementary school, I’m celebrating this silly holiday. I’ve been meaning to make these salt caramels for quite some time now; this is the perfect excuse. Funny enough, they where fast and easy to make!

Fleur De Sel Caramels

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon fleur de sel, more for garnish
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 lb high quality dark chocolate

Line bottom and sides of a glass loaf plan with parchment paper, then lightly spray it with oil.

Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into pan and cool 2 hours.

Chop the block of chocolate into small pieces using a serrated knife and place them in a metal bowl. Fill a small saucepan with water and heat it on medium-high heat. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan and heating water.

Cut the caramel into pieces, you can use a cookie cutter to cut it into small hearts. Lay them out on a large sheet of parchment paper.

Once the chocolate starts to melt, constantly stir it with a sturdy rubber spatula. When you drizzle the chocolate back into the bowl from the spatula, it should sink into the pool of chocolate, this is how you know it is 100% melted. Take the bowl off of the saucepan and place into another bowl containing ice and water. Using the spatula, keep mixing the chocolate so that it doesn’t harden on the edges of the bowl. Keep mixing it till the chocolate, when drizzled back into the bowl, doesn’t sink but piles up on itself.
Dip the caramels into the chocolate, removing the excess dripping chocolate and place on the parchment paper. Sprinkle a tiny amount of salt onto the top, a few grains. Let the chocolate harden and dry for two hours before packaging.

Everyone has the flu

All of New York City is sick with the flu. Hell I think that all of the East coast is infected. I think that when people are suck, it is important to eat home made chicken stock based soups. The enzymes in chicken broth are a know cure. It is disgusting, but all of that nose blowing made me think of split pea. Don’t let that image gross you out, as this is really delicious.

Split Pea Soup

1 lb slit peas
2 ham hocks
olive oil
1 carrot
1 rib of celery
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
red chilly flakes
thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
½ lb ham, chopped
1 carton of chicken stock

Soak the peas, covered in water on the counter, over night. The peas will plump up and double in size. Drain and set aside. In a large stock pot, cover the ham hocks with water and boil for half and hour to remove some of the salt. Drain and let cool.

Finely chop the veggies. In a large stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the veggies and sauté until soft and the onions are translucent. Add in the spices and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Pull the meat off of the ham hock bones, being careful not to remove the skin or fat. Shred the meat and add that plus the bones and the chopped ham to the pot, stir and cook for several minutes. Add in the peas and the stock. Cover and cook on medium for at least an hour, stirring occasionally and checking to see if you need to add any water. The peas will get tender and most of them will break down to for a smooth puree. Cook until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Taste and add salt to taste.

Luscious, Light and Elegant

Cheesecake is one of the easiest desserts to make. As long as you have enough time to cook it and cool it, it requires hardly any effort.

Lemon Cheesecake

1 cup roasted ground hazelnuts
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
16 oz sour cream
3 – 8oz packages of cream cheese
2 cups sugar
juice and rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons lemon extract
5 eggs

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the hazelnuts, graham cracker, powdered sugar and butter in the bottom of a 10-inch spring form pan. Once it is all combined so that the butter is evenly distributed, press it into an even layer at the bottom of the ban and about ¼ to ½ inch up the side of the pan.

In a large stand mixer, beat the sour cream. By starting with the sour cream, the cream cheese will not stick. Add in the cream cheese, starting on low then moving til hi till the dairy products are lighter and fluffier and not lumpy. Add the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and lemon extract. Keep beating until it is as smooth as possible. Turn off the beater and add in the eggs. Turn the mixer on to medium and beat just long enough to combine. It is important to only mix the eggs a minimal amount so that the cheesecake won’t crack when baking.

Place the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour, until the top is lightly brown and the cake is puffy. Chill the cake on a rack to room temperature then in the refrigerator over night.

Savory Pastry Comfort

Watching Jamie Oliver’s new TV show inspired this dish. Strangely, the recipe for his beef, cheese and Guinness pie was never posted on the Food Network, so I have to improvise. This is the perfect food for a cold winter night.

Beef Pot Pie

2 sweet onions, sliced in thin rounds
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 carrots, finely diced
3 ribs of celery, finely diced
3 packages of sliced baby Portobello mushrooms
3-5 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
2 lbs brisket, cut into bit size pieces
1 carbon beef stock
1-2 cups old red wine
olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1 lb grated cheddar cheese
1 sheet puff pastry
Frozen organic sweet peas

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium high in a heavy bottom large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until they turn soft and start to brown. Add the carrots and celery and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and spices and continue to cook. Season the veggies with salt and pepper. Add the beef, wine and stock and cover the pot with the lid. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally for several hours until most of the liquid is evaporated. Cool over night in the oven so that the flavors bloom.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the pot of beef back on the stove to a low boil. Mix in a small hang full of cheese, reserving the majority of the cheese. Fill a glass-baking dish with the beef mixture, covering the top with the majority of the cheese. Cover the dish with the puff pastry and back in the oven till the pastry is golden brown and puffy.

Cool the pie on the stovetop while you heat the peas in a small saucepan with a sprinkle of salt. Serve a chunk of the beef and pastry with a good hearty serving of peas.