Sunday, August 30, 2009

Travel + Food = Fun

The September 2009 issue of Travel + Leisure is the only edition of this magazine that I've read cover to cover. That's because it's all about Food. If planning where and what to eat in your travels is as essential to you as it is to me, pick up this issue. Or check out the articles I particularly enjoyed on their site.

England's Best Pub Food
must have a scotch egg

Eat Like a Local in Italy
yes, please

Culinary Exploration in Marin, CA

will be checking out Tomales Bay Oyster Company next week

6 Well-Stocked Kitchen Stores
none in NYC, unfortunately

Top 30 Can't-Miss Meals

those meals that, as Michelin puts it, are worth a detour

Happy Reading and Eating and reading about eating!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Zealand's finest

I made this two-ingredient sorbet from Gourmet's July 2009 even simpler by eliminating the need to buy superfine sugar. This icy treat is super tasty and very very green. The fruits' black seeds add a welcome crunchy note.

Kiwi Sorbet
Makes bout 3 1/2 cups

3/4 cup sugar
8 ripe kiwis, peeled and quartered

In food processor, pulse sugar until fine, but not powdered. Add kiwi quarters and process into a puree.

Freeze in an ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and place in freezer until firm: 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Roast is the Most...easy thing to serve at a dinner party

It's official, I've decided the best entree to serve at a dinner party is a roast. Be it chicken, pork, beef or lamb. Prep it and pop it in the oven before cocktail hour, it'll be tender and glistening, ready for the table in about an hour and a half. Plus, I love not having to stand over flames or risk pan spatters. You can be part of the party and also serve an impressive entree.

I was brainstorming what to serve as a main for a wine dinner we hosted last Saturday. It needed to stand up to a big Cabernet and Bordeaux. Candidates were Beef Tenderloin and Leg of Lamb. Since I was feeling daring, I decided to attempt roasting a whole Leg of Lamb for the first time, using Ruth Reichl's recipe from her book Garlic and Sapphires.

It was, as roasts should be, simple and delicious. Use it for a cozy winter feast or for your Easter/Passover table.

Roast Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary
adapted from Ruth Reichl
Serves 8-10

1 6-8 lbs. bone-in leg of lamb
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into 6 slivers each
1 bunch rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 1 hour before starting.

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.

Make 8 small slits in the lamb on each side, and place a sliver of garlic and a leaf or two of rosemary in each slit. Massage the olive oil into the meat and season with salt and pepper.

Place remaining garlic and rosemary sprigs in the bottom of your roasting pan, top with rack and then the leg of lamb. Cook uncovered for about 1 1/2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted away from the bone registers 125 degrees (for medium rare). Remove the lamb from the over and let rest 20 minutes before carving.

Tips for carving: We found it best to cut the meat away from the bone lengthwise in two large and long portions. Then to slice the meat crosswise, leaving all pieces with pink in the middle.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Check out the cute little eggplants and yellow zucchinis (each about the length of my palm) I got at the farmer's market. I broiled them and chopped them into an orzo salad. Mini-veggies!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blueberry Birthday Pie

The first time we celebrated my now husband's August birthday in NYC he asked if instead of a cake, I would bake him a pie: a blueberry pie, his favorite. I had never made a pie by myself, from scratch before, but armed with this recipe from Gourmet Magazine, I set out to do it, and pretty much succeeded. My pies are still not the prettiest (making the edges even is so difficult!) but boy are they tasty -the crust as well as the filling. Try it for a birthday -or any special occasion.

Deep Dish Wild Blueberry Pie
Adapted from Gourmet 2006
Start to finish: 7 1/4 hr (includes making dough and cooling pie)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup)
cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

cup cold vegetable shortening

teaspoon salt

5 to 7
tablespoons ice water

Special equipment:

a pastry or bench scraper

1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
6 cups fresh wild blueberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Special equipment:
a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate (6-cup capacity)

In a food processor, pulse together flour, butter, shortening, and salt just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

Drizzle 5 tablespoons for a double-crust pie evenly over mixture and pulse until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough.

Turn out dough onto a work surface. Divide dough into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all dough together with pastry scraper. For a double-crust pie, divide dough into 2 pieces, with one slightly larger, then form each into a ball and flatten each into a 5-inch disk. If dough is sticky, dust lightly with additional flour. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour
. Pastry dough can be chilled up to 2 days ahead.

Put a large baking sheet on oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

Whisk together brown sugar and tapioca and toss with blueberries and lemon juice in a large bowl.

Roll out larger piece of dough (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round. Fit into pie plate. Trim excess dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out dough for top crust.

Roll out remaining dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round. Cut out 5 or 6 small holes with small decorative cookie cutters or use a small knife to slash steam vents toward center.

Spoon filling with any accumulated juices into shell, dot with butter, and cover with top crust. Trim top crust with kitchen shears, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang of top crust under bottom pastry and press against rim of pie plate to reinforce edge, then crimp decoratively and brush with egg wash.

Bake pie on hot baking sheet in oven 30 minutes, then cover edge with a pie shield or foil to prevent overbrowning. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes more. Cool pie completely on a rack, about 4 hours (filling will be runny if pie is still warm).

Sunday, August 9, 2009


The move Julia & Julia is a must see for anyone who loves food. It made me so happy to be a "servantless American cook" and inspired me to wear pearls in the kitchen.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Not cooking potatoes, we ARE potatoes

Thanks to frequent commenter, dorothy, for calling my attention to an article on the state of home cooking in America. It's one of the best food related pieces I've read in a while, so it's no surprise that the writer is Michael Pollan, author of one of my recent favorite books, The Omnivore's Dilmemna.

Today the average American spends a mere 27 minutes a day on food preparation (another four minutes cleaning up); that’s less than half the time that we spent cooking and cleaning up when Julia [Child} arrived on our television screens. It’s also less than half the time it takes to watch a single episode of “Top Chef” or “Chopped” or “The Next Food Network Star.” What this suggests is that a great many Americans are spending considerably more time watching images of cooking on television than they are cooking themselves — an increasingly archaic activity they will tell you they no longer have the time for.

What is wrong with this picture?

27 minutes. 27 minutes for three meals? That's crazy to me. I can understand 27 minutes for a quick weeknight dinner,

That's just one of the many provocative point Pollan raises in this piece. I encourage you to set aside some time to read, ponder, and enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Guac Stripped Down

The guacamole featured in Gourmet Magazine's June issue has become my favorite way to make guac. Perhaps it's because it has no garlic and thus doesn't linger on one's breath for too long. It is the absolute essence of guacamole with no extras: perfect as a condiment, but even better with plain tortillas or tortilla chips.

Maricel’s Guacamole

Recipe by Maricel Presilla
Yield: Approximately 4 cups

ripe 6- to 8-oz avocados, quartered, pitted, and peeled
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup minced white onion
2 to 3 fresh serrano chiles, minced (including seeds)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Coarsely mash together all ingredients in a bowl with a fork. Season with salt.

Lastly, a tip to keep your guac green that I napped from a cooking segment on The View (surprising AND embarassing). If you have leftover guacamole, store it in a bowl with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the dip and adjoining sides of the bowl. This will keep much more air out than would covering the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and will keep your guac freshly green for days. Though it shouldn't take you that long to eat it all!

Grind it if you've got it

These burgers are more labor intensive than those that call for simply adding seasoning and aromatics to pre-ground beef, but they are sooo worth it. Sublimely flavorful, these patty melts are classic drive-in (or throw-back Shake Shack or In-N-Out) style. This will be my standby homemade burger recipe. It's especially good for apartment dwellers as it requires a pan, not grill.

Special Equipment needed: Meat Grinder Attachment for your Stand Mixer

Mmmmm. Freshly ground meat!

Grind-Your-Own Patty Melts
Adapted From Cook's Illustrated.

10 ounces sirloin steak tips, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 ounces boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1-inch chunks
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 soft hamburger buns
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 slices American cheese
Thinly sliced tomatoes and pieces of lettuce

1 recipe Classic Burger Sauce (below)

1. Process meat in meat grinder, alternating short rib and sirloin pieces into bowl or plate.

2. Transfer meat to baking sheet, overturing bowl (or plate) and without directly touching meat. Spread meat over sheet and inspect carefully, discarding any long strands of gristle or large chunks of hard meat or fat.

3. Gently separate ground meat into 4 equal mounds. Without picking meat up, with your fingers gently shape each mound into loose patty 1/4 inch thick and 4 inches in diameter, leaving edges and surface ragged. Season top of each patty with salt and pepper. Using spatula, flip patties and season other side.

4. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add bun tops, cut-wide down, and toast until light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining butter and bun bottoms. Set buns aside and wipe out skillet with paper towels.

5. Return skillet to high heat; add oil and heat until just smoking. Using spatula, place burgers into skilet. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Flip burgers over and cook for 1 minute. Top each patty with slice of cheese and continue to cook until cheese is melted, about 1 minute longer.

6. Transfer patties to bun bottoms. Spread 2 teaspoons of burger sauce on each bun top. Garnish with Lettuce and Tomato as desired. Cover burgers and serve immediately.

Classic Burger Sauce
Makes About 1/4 Cup

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Serve on burgers.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Real(ish) True Blood

For all the fans of HBO's campy-sexy-scary show True Blood (and you all should be!), you can soon sample your own blood substitute drink, Tru Blood, just like the vamps drink. Try Bill Compton's fave, O Positive. Should be out in time for Halloween!