Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crunchy Chunky Summer Salad

You don't win friends with salad, but this might be an exception to the rule. Inspired by a Chow.com article about summery salads, I raided my cupboard and devised a boldly flavored, attractively colorful Southwesternish hodgepodge of a salad, blanketed in a spicy, velvety chipotle dressing.  I really like the crisp, tarty taste of raw tomatillos, but if you find you're not really a fan, perhaps add a bit of red onion instead.

Crunchy Chunky Summer Salad:
Serves 3-4

*2 good-lookin' tomatoes, seeded and diced
*1 tomatillo, husked and diced small
*1 jalapeno, minced
*1 small bell pepper, any color, diced
*3-4 ears corn, husked, washed, shucked
*1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained well
*1 scallion, thinly sliced
*A handful of cilantro, finely chopped

Drain the tomatoes on a paper towel and sprinkle just a touch of kosher salt over them. Shuck the corn into a colander so that the kernels may drain. After everything else has been diced, drained, etc, toss  together in a large serving bowl or ladle it out into smaller bowls, and drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Chipotle Dressing

*1 ripe avocado, pitted
*Juice from 3 limes
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*2 chipotle peppers in adobo
*2 garlic cloves
*Healthy pinches of salt & pepper
*A bit of water to thin consistency

Blitz everything together in a mini food processor, thinning it with a little bit of water if necessary to make it pourable.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday Gravy

Here's another stellar recipe (one of my all-time favorites, in fact) from my pal Michael G., he who provided me with the delicious Olive Oil Bundt recipe that I posted a while back. He related the recipe for his traditional Sunday gravy in anecdotal form, and it's so perfect as is that I'm just going to quote him wholesale.

"Here's how my family makes it (4 generations) every week: Saute two pounds Italian sausages (sweet or hot or both, whatever you like, still in their casings) in a good amount of olive oil (about 1/2 cup) until brown all over. Remove the sausages and set them aside.

Chop two large yellow onions and cloves from one whole head garlic and saute them, adding more oil if needed. Saute them slowly on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or so until they become "sweet", translucent. Do not let them brown. Salt them as you saute them. Add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes, dry oregano and a few basil leaves (never use dried basil!!!). Then stir in two small cans tomato paste and two cans crushed tomatoes. Then fill up the empty cans of tomatoes (both cans) with water and add the water to the pot. Then add the sausages and a dash of sugar. Simmer for about 4 hours, with the lid slightly ajar. Stir every few minutes, making sure the tomatoes do not stick to the bottom and burn. You can add meatballs in the last 30 minutes of cooking. It's important to keep the simmer very low, just a few slow bubbles, and also to stir the sauce every few minutes. When I was little, whenever my grandmother was busy doing something like gardening, she would yell at me to stir the sauce about 3 times an hour."

Very generous of Michael to share this, especially since you couldn't wrest family recipes away from most Italian nonnas with a crowbar.

My variation on Michael's Sunday Gravy (Slight sacrilege. I know.)
Makes enough to feed a small army.

*2 lbs hot Italian sausage
*1/3 cup EVOO
*2 (small) yellow onions. If you like onions, go H.A.M. and get bigg'uns. I have to keep other household half's onion hate in mind.
*1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and chopped finely
*1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
*1 teaspoon dried oregano
*3 large basil leaves
*A couple sprigs of thyme
*12 oz can of tomato paste
*2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes
*Pinch of sugar
*Homemade meatballs (optional, but highly recommended)

Follow anecdotal recipe above, with a few amendments: After the veg has sauteed for 30 minutes or so, add the tomato paste and fry for a few minutes on its own before adding in the crushed tomatoes (and the fresh herbs). Also, I usually just fill one 28 oz can with water and add that in. If you are making meatballs, pour off some of the grease but leave a bit in the pan, add a touch of tomato paste, fry for a couple minutes, deglaze with a small glug of beef stock and add to the sauce.

And once more, for good measure - do not simmer for less than 4 hours. 4 1/2-5 hours is what I shoot for, normally. It's a watery tomato sauce 2 hours in - after it crosses the 4 hour mark, it edges into the sublime.

Also, might be a good idea to put down paper towels around the pot because even partially covered and at a low heat setting, this sauce will spit and splat all around your counter and stovetop when it's a couple hours in. Fair warning.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lemon-Cardamom Shortbread

I love shortbread. I used to carry packets of Walkers cookies in my purse and fuss with the tartan wrapper before movies like a doddering great-aunt, an annoying habit that I've largely phased out thanks to recipes like this that allow me to make my own shortbread. This isn't a traditional Scottish recipe, but it's tasty and simple and results in sandy, buttery, shortbready deliciousness. The lemon and cardamom are completely optional, but the flavors work so very well together in this format.

 Base shortbread recipe cribbed from an old Gourmet magazine, recipe here.

Lemon-Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
Makes approximately one dozen cookies

*1 stick (1/2 cup) of good butter, softened
*1/4 cup superfine sugar (you can blitz regular granulated sugar in a food processor for same effect)
*A pinch of salt
*1 cup all-purpose flour
*1/2 teaspoon vanilla
*1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
*Zest from one lemon

Cream the butter, vanilla and sugar together with a mixer on low. Stir together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add in piecemeal to the buttery mixture until a coarse, crumbly dough appears. With as little handling as possible, form dough into a flattish disk (or ball), wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Then, between wax paper roll the dough out to about a 1/4-1/3 inch thickness and cut with your favorite cutter. I used a circular cutter with a 2 1/2 inch diameter, in this particular case. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and pop in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so while the oven preheats to 375. The bake time really depends on how thinly you've rolled the dough, and what diameter the cookies are, but mine usually bake in about 11-13 minutes. Just keep your eye peeled for when the edges begin to brown, and then take them out. Allow to cool to room temperature, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Blackened Catfish over Macque Choux with Creole Mustard Sauce

Given my feverish love for the greatest of American cities, New Orleans, Cajun cuisine has a special niche in my soul. I get satisfaction out of cooking it not just because the food tastes oh-so-good, but because I feel tangibly connected to the sensory memories I hold so dear from my trips to the Crescent City. This recipe is inspired by some fantastic dishes I had in New Orleans, and may seem a little unwieldy in its length, but the components are all relatively simple and come together harmoniously on the plate.

Blackened Catfish over Macque Choux with Creole Mustard Sauce
Makes 2 servings, with sundry leftovers

Blackened Catfish

*2 catfish fillets (If they are excessively large fillets, you can buy one and then cut in half. Look for ones that are not thicker than about 1/2-3/4 inch thick)
*Creole blackening spice mix, recipe to follow
*A couple tablespoons of a high smoke-point neutral oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable.

Place a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Rinse and dry fillets; rub with a little Tabasco and then liberally sprinkle both sides with the blackening spices and gently pat into the fishflesh. Once the skillet is ripping-hot and beginning to smoke, swirl some glugs of oil around, shake excess seasonings off the fish, and then lay the fillets in. There will be smoke, so prop open a window and flick on the exhaust fan. Fry undisturbed for about 2 minutes until the fish is nicely blackened on one side, and then flip over to cook for about another two minutes longer on the other side. The frying time will ultimately depend on how thick your fillets are/how hot your skillet is, though.

Creole blackening spice mix

This is a hybrid of the recipes for Emeril's Essence and Paul Prudhomme's blackening spice mix, both easily searchable online, plus some personal additions. Try making your own by tinkering with proportions - just cool it on the thyme because too much dried thyme can make the mix taste muddy.

*2 tablespoons paprika
*2 1/2 teaspoons salt
*1 tablespoon onion powder
*1 tablespoon garlic powder
*2 teaspoon cayenne
*1/2 teaspoon mulatto chili powder (toast dried mulatto chilis+some of their seeds and then grind in spice grinder)
*1 tablespoon black pepper
*1 teaspoon dried thyme
*1 tablespoon dried oregano

Mix together and store in a jar.

Macque Choux

Heavily adapted from here.

*A couple strips of good slab bacon
*4 ears sweet corn
*1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
*1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
*1 small jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
*2 cloves of garlic, minced
*Scant 1/4 cup chicken stock
*Scant 1/4 cup evaporated milk or cream
*A couple shakes of cayenne
*A pinch of sugar
*A couple dashes of Tabasco

Shuck and rinse the corn, and then cut the kernels off the cobs. Make sure you catch the sweet, sweet corn milks...you can run your knife diagonally against the cobs to collect more, or wring them Indian-burn-style. You can make this with frozen corn, but fresh is, obviously, worlds better.

Fry bacon until crisp, and then remove and set aside. Add the chopped onion, garlic and pepper(s) and saute in the bacon fat for 5 minutes before stirring in the reserved corn & milky pulp. Cook another 5 minutes or so, and then add in the liquids and seasonings and simmer just south of medium, stirring occasionally, for 30-odd until most of the liquid has evaporated. Crumble the reserved bacon and incorporate it into the choux.

Creole Mustard Sauce

This is something I usually just make by pinches, squirts and splashes, but I've tried to give more-or-less approximate measurements. Play around until it suits your taste.

*3 tablespoons Creole mustard (I, along with everyone in Louisiana, use Zatarain's)
*1 tablespoon lemon juice
*A pinch of sugar
*2 tablespoons evaporated milk or cream
*Pinch of cayenne
*A couple dashes of Tabasco
*2 tablespoons EVOO

Whisk everything but the oil together, and then gradually stream it in while continuing to whisk. S&P to taste. Funnel into a squeeze bottle for easier application.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baingan Bharta

Baingan Bharta is a voluptuously soft and boldly flavored eggplant & tomato dish...baba ghanoush's flashier curried cousin, let's say. When I decide to have a thali/tapas-style Indian dinner, it's a perfect addition among small plates of yogurt-marinated chicken skewers, samosas, naan, and crocks of lentil soup. Madhur Jaffrey's recipe in An Invitation to Indian Cooking provided me with the loose framework for this delicious dish.

Baingan Bharta
Makes 3-5 servings as a side, or part of a tapas-style dinner

*Neutral oil
*1 medium eggplant, between 1-1 1/2 pounds
*1/2 onion, minced
*1 small nub of ginger, a little less than an inch, grated
*2 cloves of garlic, minced
*1 hot green chili pepper, minced
*2 teaspoons ground coriander
*1 teaspoon ground cumin
*1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne, to personal taste
*1 juicy tomato, chopped
*Scant 1/3 cup water
*1 tablespoon of lemon juice
*1 teaspoon garam masala
*Kosher salt, to taste
*A pinch of amchur powder (optional - you can add a touch more lemon juice in its place)
*Plenty of warmed naan

Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the eggplant in half and brush the surfaces of each piece lightly with oil. Place on a baking sheet, cut side down, and roast for about an hour. When done, set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat a bit of oil in a medium-size pot over moderate heat. Saute the onions for a few minutes, and then add the ginger, garlic, and chili pepper. Continue sauteing for another 5 minutes or so, then add the coriander, cumin and cayenne, and lower the heat just a touch as you stir the spiced mix around the pot for another minute or so. Add tomatoes and water; bump the heat back up and cook for a few minutes before scooping the flesh from the cooled eggplant halves into the pot. Stir in the lemon juice, garam masala, and salt to taste. Bring down from a boil to a slow simmer, and let it sit on the stove for about 20-30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. About 10 minutes before serving, add a pinch of amchur powder, if you're using it. Serve with lots of warmed naan to scoop it up.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Saison-steamed Mussels

We had a good 1/3 of a growler left of Victory's Helios Saison and no real designs on drinking the rest over the weekend (especially because other household half got his own growler filled with a double IPA), so I  put it to good use in service of a batch of mussels. It made for a sensational broth, spiked with sea liquor and saison spice. Paired with the last bit of Helios from the bottom of the growler and crusty rustic bread, it was a fantastic, summery dinner.

Saison-steamed Mussels
Makes 2 servings

*2 lb bag of mussels
*2 tablespoons butter
*1/2 onion or a small shallot, minced
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*A pinch of red pepper flakes
*A couple sprigs of thyme
*1/2 lemon, juiced
*15-20 oz saison-style beer (For local folk, the aforementioned Helios is a solid saison and pretty inexpensive for a bomber/growler)
*A handful of parsley, chopped
*Lots of crusty bread, preferably toasted and rubbed with garlic
*Lemon slices

Clean and debeard the mussels (instructions here), making absolutely sure to discard ones with broken shells, or that are gaping open and don't close when tapped or under running water.

Melt the butter in a large pot, and add the minced shallot and garlic when it starts to foam. Saute for a couple minutes and then add the thyme, pepper flakes, and a good spangling of S&P, followed by the saison and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, add the mussels, cover, and then lower heat to a simmer for about 5 minutes or until the mussels have opened (it helps to shake the pot a few times throughout the simmer to move everything around). Discard any mussels that still have their trap shut, and ladle the lot into deep bowls with plenty of the delicious broth. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the mussels and serve with warm, crusty bread and lemon slices.

Bonus recipe - Any leftover broth in the pot? Add a bit of butter and reduce it down until thickened, and then use it to dress fettuccine or spaghetti, with some cut-up cherry tomatoes and lots of parsley (add mussels or bay scallops to make it even better).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Peppercorn Ice Cream

Whenever my husband and I go to  Han Dynasty, one of our favorite local restaurants, we always delight in an array of fiery noodles and meats all soaking in incarnadine slicks of chili oil, but there's no closer, unfortunately - save the requisite fortune cookies that come with the bill. I searched around and came up with the perfect dessert to cap a delicious Sichuanese meal:  Peppercorn ice cream, adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe. If you don't have Sichuan peppercorns on hand, just up the black peppercorn quantity a bit (or experiment with other peppercorns!). It makes for a dreamy scoop...decadently rich and piquant. Enjoy!

Peppercorn Ice Cream
Makes about 2 cups

*1/2 cup whole milk
*1/3 cup sugar
*Pinch salt
*1 tablespoon black peppercorns, coarsely cracked
*1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely cracked
*1 cup heavy cream, divided
*3 large egg yolks

Warm the milk, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and half of the cream in a saucepan. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for about 45 minutes to an hour, and then strain out the peppercorns. Rewarm it over medium heat. Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/2 cup cream into a good-sized bowl set in an ice bath and put a mesh strainer on top. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then pour it all back into the saucepan.

Stir constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the utensil. Just make sure the mixture doesn't boil! When it's done, pour the custard through the strainer, into the cream. Stir the mixture over the ice bath until it is cool.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze it in your ice cream maker for about 15-18 minutes or until properly frozen. Working with a smaller amount such as this, it usually takes less time to freeze than the manufacturer states. Pop it in an appropriate container to ripen in the freezer for at least an hour or two longer.

Friday, June 15, 2012


I'm not about chilled soup. Keep your vichys and gazpachos. Can't do it. However, sometimes even in the heat of summer I get a hankering for a nice cuppa soup, and I've found that avgolemono satisfies the summertime soup craving quite well. It's velvety without being heavy, and the lemon gives it a sunny tang. It's just pleasant, the kind of soup that would smile warmly and shake your hand, but not overstay it's welcome. So if you get a summertime soup craving too, but find the idea of cold soups preposterous, whip up some warm, lemony avgolemono.

Makes 3-4 servings

Recipe pieced together from a number of member contributions on Chowhound and further tweaked to my tastes.

*Olive oil
*2 cloves garlic
*3 1/2 cups chicken broth
*1 bay leaf
*A bushy sprig of fresh dill, finely chopped (a teaspoon or two)
*1/3 cup long grain rice 
*2 large organic eggs
*1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
*2 small carrots, small dice
*1 stalk celery, small dice
*About a cup of leftover chicken meat, say, from Thomas Keller's Simple Roast Chicken, or one large chicken breast, poached and shredded.

Drizzle a small slick of oil into a pot and lightly saute the vegetables for about 6 minutes, and then add the broth. Bring to a boil, add the rice and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 18-20 minutes or until rice is becoming tender, and then add the chicken. Meanwhile, place the eggs and juice in a blender; process until smooth. Ladle some broth from the pot, making sure to leave out the rice and chicken, and with the blender on, slowly add it to the egg mixture to temper it. Slowly stir the tempered egg mixture into the pot, add the dill, and then serve.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Chana Masala

Chana masala...savory, nutty chickpeas stewed in a robust, piquant sauce... is one of my absolute favorite meals. It's almost magical how that one humble can of chickpeas lying in the shadowy corner of the pantry turns into a vibrant, incredibly satisfying dinner through the course of cooking. Perfect budget food too, I turn to it for comfort especially in the aftermath of a particularly spendthrifty spell (say, dearly departed Philly Beer Week). Once you've accumulated all the spices, it's simply a matter of buying a can or two of garbanzos and dirt-cheap bits of produce. I wish I would've known about this dish in my freshman year of college, as it would've made quite an excellent alternative to starving.

Chana Masala
Makes 3-4 servings

Recipe jigsawed together from various sources and tweaked to personal taste, with additional embellishment courtesy of my husband's friend Ryan, who makes one mean chana.

*Half of a small onion, minced (I have to mince mine into near oblivion to appease the other household half, but feel free to chop to desired size, or add in the other half)
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
*1 small red or green hot chili pepper, minced
*1 heaping tablespoon ground coriander
*1 scant tablespoon toasted and freshly ground cumin seed
*1/2 teaspoon cayenne, more or less depending on personal taste
*"Most" of a small can of crushed tomatoes (somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4s)
*1/2 cup water
*2 15 oz cans of chickpeas, drained
*1 teaspoon turmeric
*2 teaspoons paprika
*1 teaspoon garam masala (I highly recommend grinding out your own blend)
*Salt to taste
*1/2 lemon, juiced
*1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
*Cooked long-grain white rice

Heat a slick of oil in a large pan or dutch oven over moderate heat and saute the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli for about 8 or 9 minutes. Reduce the heat a little bit and add the coriander, cumin and cayenne and cook the spiced mixture for another minute or two while casually stirring and scraping the bottom. Add the crushed tomatoes, water, and drained chickpeas; stir in the remaining spices, some salt, and the lemon juice and brown sugar. Partially cover and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, before serving over rice.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mulberry Mule

The mulberry tree on my block shades a deep bruised-purple stain that grows wider as foot traffic tramples fallen berries. Before I realized what a boon it was, the tree remained a disgusting obstacle during the month of June, something that I'd usually cross the street to avoid. Last year, however, in a feverish foraging streak I finally approached the tree and its indigo-hued berries with a newly enlightened eye (and left with stained fingers and a happy tongue). Hopefully you're lucky enough to have a mulberry tree near you; if you haven't already, make fast friends with it.

Mulberry Mule
Makes one drink

*10-12 mulberries
*4 oz ginger beer (I love Fever Tree)
*2 oz vodka
*Juice from half a lime (about an ounce)

Put the mulberries in a shaker and muddle well with the vodka and lime juice. Strain into a glass with ice, add ginger beer and lightly stir. This cocktail is so named for its riff on the Moscow Mule.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thomas Keller's Simple Roast Chicken

Roast chickens go down either one of two ways in my oven - Thomas Keller's beautifully simple, high heat route, or low & slow. Keller's method perfectly crisps up the chicken skin and produces moist meat and pure roast chickeny flavor; my low & slow method is used whenever I want to slather the bird with a thick, tasty marinade that would otherwise burn at high temps. Although I keep meaning to try the Zuni method, I'm perfectly satisfied with roasting chickens by either of these ways 'til the end of time.

(If I'm being honest though, I ultimately prefer Keller's method. The skin. The skin!!!)

Here's a great video of Keller walking through the preparation, although I have added some detail below that I think is necessary for those not working with fancypants Viking ranges, say. Still not sure how he's able to plop the chicken directly onto the root veggies and not get a sad, soggy bottom. However, the vegetables are a necessity - don't skip 'em - because the drippings will smoke you out of your kitchen if there isn't something sponging them up.  I say this from personal (cough) experience.

Thomas Keller's Simple Roast Chicken
Makes about 3 servings

*1 3-4 lb chicken (preferably organic)
*Good amounts of S&P
*A couple sprigs of thyme, leaves minced
*4ish cups of cubed root vegetables, tossed with a little olive oil (perennial favorites are parsnips, carrots & potatoes)

Rinse the chicken, cut off excess fat around the cavity region if necessary, and then dry the bird very, very well, inside and out. I go through tons of paper towels in an effort to get it as dry as possible, much to my chagrin, but it's worth it. Let it sit out of the fridge for about an hour while it continues to dry, to temper the meat. Sprinkle salt and pepper into the cavity and then truss it up (see the video for Keller's little trussin' lesson). Liberally sprinkle kosher salt and pepper over the chicken. Do note, I use a liberal amount by my salt-sensitive-palate-standards, which is substantially less than Keller puts on his, so if your eyes widened while watching all that sodium rain down in the video, feel free to ease up just a touch, too. Sprinkle the thyme over the bird as well.

Line a roasting pan (use one with a rack) with nonstick foil if you don't want to be scraping blackened bits at the sink all night, and then add the cubed root veggies in an even layer in the bottom. Place the chicken on the rack and pop it in the oven for 60-65 minutes, approximately. When the chicken is done, cut the taut skin between the legs and tilt the bird over the pan to let the accumulated juices stream out, and then rest it on a cutting board while spooning the juicy, caramelized vegetables onto plates. Carve that sucker up after about 10 minutes of resting time (I admit, I never make it quite that long) and then arrange chicken pieces over the vegetables.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Honey-Soy Soba and Poached Salmon

During the summer I greatly prefer lightly dressed soba over other heavier pastas, so you're sure to see a number of soba noodle recipes pop up over the next couple of months. This dish just looks summery too, with its shades of green, coral and light brown, and makes for an easy and refreshing supper to take out onto the porch with a crisp saison or pilsner. Leftovers make a lovely chilled lunch the next day.

Honey-Soy Soba and Poached Salmon
Makes 2 servings + modest lunch leftovers

*1 6oz salmon fillet
*3 bundles of soba noodles
*2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
*2 tablespoons honey
*2 tablespoons sesame oil
*1 teaspoon sherry or rice wine
*2 scallions, green parts sliced
*A couple pinches of toasted sesame seeds

Make the dressing by whisking the honey, oil, sherry, and soy together in a small bowl.
Fill a pan with about two inches of water and bring to a boil. I threw some black peppercorns into a muslin bag and put that in the pan with some kosher salt and a couple bags of green tea to steep while it came to a boil, and then removed all the bags. However, poaching with pure water is fine, especially if you have a nice piece of salmon. When the water boils, bring down to a simmer and slide in the salmon. Poach for 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillet/desired doneness.

While the salmon is poaching, boil the soba for 5ish minutes. Drain, rinse, drain again. Toss with the sauce and divide into bowls. Flake up the salmon fillet when it is done and lightly incorporate it into the noodles. Garnish with a spangle of sesame seeds and scallions.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Viet-style Cafe Au Lait Ice Cream

This is simple to make, and perfectly captures the flavor of a Vietnamese-style iced coffee. It's tasty as is, with a shot of espresso poured over it affogato-style, or scooped into a glass of Vietnamese iced coffee in place of the ice. Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz, who else.

Cafe au lait float in the making

Viet-style Cafe au Lait Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart

*11/2 cups sweetened condensed milk
*11/2 cups very strong brewed coffee (Cafe du Monde chicory coffee is preferred; it can be found in some Whole Foods and at Vietnamese grocers).
*1/2 cup half-and-half

Whisk all of the above together in a bowl until well-combined. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker for 20-odd minutes or according to manufacturer's instructions. Scoop it into your container and pop it in the freezer for a couple hours longer to ripen.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mini Crustless Quiches

Quiches & frittatas are my go-to fridge cleanout receptacles. They're fast and utilitarian and tasty, and eminently adaptable.. especially mini-quiches. Example: other household half hates onions, so I can make two batches of filling, and divide my muffin tin into non-onion and suuuper-oniony sections. This recipe specifically pertains to what I made today, but feel free to riff. And double - I only had 5 eggs in the fridge.

Mini Quiches
Makes 6

*Olive oil
*1/4 cup finely diced onion
*4 baby zucchinis, thinly sliced and then roughly chopped
*A couple shittake mushroom caps, sliced 'n diced
*5 eggs
*1 tablespoon slivered basil (or minced chives, or herb(s) of your choice)
*1 glug of milk, about a tablespoon
*About 1/3 cup grated cheese (I used a chive & garlic white cheddar from a local farm)

Preheat the oven to 375. Saute the onion in a bit of olive oil for a few minutes over moderate heat, and then add the mushrooms. After a few more minutes, add the zucchini and continue sauteing for a few minutes longer before removing the veg mix from the heat. Whisk the eggs, the basil, and a bit of the grated cheese in a bowl with a glug of milk and season with salt & pepper. Grease half of a 12-count muffin tin and sprinkle a teensy layer of the grated cheese in the bottom of 6 muffin cups (which will form a little crust while baking), then spoon out the veg mix. Ladle the eggy goo into each of the muffin cups, making sure not to overfill, and then bake for about 16-18 minutes. Leftovers reheat well; I pop 'em in a toaster oven at 400 until warm.

Other ideas: Bacon + leek+thyme; smoked salmon+scallions; sausage+parm+sage; asparagus+gruyere; ham+cheddar+spinach...the variations are endless.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sichuan Soba & Scallops

The first time I made this, tinkering around with proportions, I ended up creating the fieriest dish ever to come out of my kitchen. It was good! - but upon reaching the bottom of my bowl it felt like I had interior sunburn. I've since toned it down, but it still packs a spicy wallop - you are forewarned. You can omit the dried chilis if you want to cut down even more.

gotta get a better lighting source...

Sichuan Soba & Scallops
Makes 2 full servings with scallops + some extra noodles to put aside for lunch

*6-8 sea scallops
*Approximately 10 oz soba noodles (three bundles)
*Neutral oil

*1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (can be ordered from Penzy's, or even Amazon.com)
*A couple dried red chilis (optional)

*3 cloves garlic, minced

*1 teaspoon minced ginger
*2 scallions, white part & green parts separated and sliced
*2 tablespoons light soy sauce
*1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
*A scant 1/4 cup chili oil
*1 tablespoon Chinese sesame paste

Wash and thoroughly dry your scallops, making sure to trim the muscle off the sides if need be. Put water on to boil for the soba noodles. Lightly toast the peppercorns until fragrant in a wok and then grind in a spice grinder, reserving a pinch of fine peppercorn dust. Add a bit of oil to the wok and fry the ground peppercorns and the chilis (if using) for about 30 seconds over medium high before adding the garlic, ginger, and white parts of the scallions. Stir-fry for about 30 more seconds before pouring in the combined liquid ingredients. Lower the heat to the other side of the dial and cook the mixture for about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high and season the scallops with the pinch of peppercorn, and kosher salt. When the skillet is hot add a glug of oil and swirl it around. Lay the scallops in and sear on each side for about a minute and a half.

Drain the soba noodles after 5ish minutes of boiling (or according to package instructions), rinse, drain again, and then toss with the sauce. Ladle into bowls, arrange the scallops on top, and garnish with the sliced green parts of the scallions. You could also garnish with chopped cilantro, sliced fresh Thai chilis, sauteed greens, a fried egg, whatever you want. May the 'ma la' tingle be with you.

Alternately, make it with bay scallops: just saute for a shorter period, about a minute total, and toss with sauce 'n soba

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Veggie Cream Cheese

Really, this post stretches the limits of the concept of "recipe". It's stupid-simple. However, sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest impact, and after my mid-morning bagel breakfast, I just felt compelled to share.

Veggie Cream Cheese
Double/triple/etc as need be.
*A couple tablespoons of slightly softened cream cheese
*1 large radish
*1 sprig of fresh dill
*1 scallion, green part only
*A smidge of good salt
*1 bagel or a large piece of rye bread, toasted

Mince the radish, finely chop the dill and thinly slice the scallion. Mash the veg into the softened cream cheese in a bowl; mix in the pinch of salt, and keep at it until everything is evenly distributed. Slather over your bagel or bread.