Saturday, October 31, 2009

Candy Day

Happy Halloween from DA! In New York City, many children trick or treat in their own apartment building instead of outside. We're thrilled to finally live in a large enough building that we can expect a fair amount of little ones in costume. We will be handing out Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Twix, Snickers and M&Ms all of which were chosen because I'd be happy to eat any leftovers. Let the sugar induced coma begin!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mom's Banana Bread slightly healthier

Last week I did a little baking experimentation (always an iffy proposition) with my mother's recipe for banana bread. It didn't NEED any improvement at all. It's moist and tender with a crusty top. But I did want to see if I could healthy it up a little bit without negatively impacting the taste and texture. And...success! I cut down fat by removing an egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of butter and by using reduced fat sour cream. I also added nutrients and a great nutty taste by using whole wheat flour instead of all purpose. Voila: new, improved banana bread. It's my favorite thing to have on hand for nibbling house guests. Perfect for breakfast or snacking.

Mom's healthified banana bread

6 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg white, beaten
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 medium bananas, mashed
2 tbsp rum
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Spray PAM into a standard loaf pan.

Cream butter and sugar using an electric mixer (hand or stand). Add eggs and sour cream. Mix to incorporate. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with mashed bananas, mixing. Incorporate rum and extract. Pour into loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top Chef Redux

If you're a fan of Top Chef and haven't been reading Max Silvestri's Top Chef episode recaps at Eater, you are really missing out. (Disclosure Max and I have met socially and I have instructed him on making his own butter in order to impress chicks). Go there, get your laugh on, and watch out for comments by Colicchio.

Things Fall Apart

As Yeats wrote, "Things Fall Apart. The centre cannot hold." Well, in this case it was the potatoes. Despite a handy step by step guide aptly titled "How to Wrap Fish with Potatoes", the darn tubers just wouldn't stay around the halibut and instead of ending up with this:

I got this:
Still very tasty, but it'd get an F in presentation.

I've included the recipe (from March '09 Bon Appetit) but I've concluded that next time I'll cook the 'chips' separately from the fish, then use them as artful garnish. Same flavor result, less headache. The spinach accompaniment was easy, tasty and not at all obstinate, I'll admit. Enjoy the photo essay chronicling my ill-fated effort to keep the fillets wrapped sans the curse words uttered during the actual cooking process.

Potato-Wrapped Halibut
Bon Appetit March 2009
Recipe by Greg Atkinson
Photograph by Levi Brown
6 servings

4-ounce halibut fillets (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick)
4 3-inch-long unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
tablespoons olive oil, divided
garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
ounces fresh baby spinach leaves (about 16 cups loosely packed)

Pat fish dry; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place large sheet of parchment on work surface. Halve each potato lengthwise. Using V-slicer or mandoline, slice each potato half very thinly. Set 5 to 6 slices on parchment in row, overlapping long sides. Make another row that overlaps short ends of first row, forming 6x5-inch rectangle. Sprinkle rectangle with salt and pepper. Set 1 fillet across overlapped short ends of slices. Fold sides of rectangle over fish, forming packet. Press to adhere. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining potato slices and fish fillets.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in each of 2 large skillets over medium-high heat. Set 3 wrapped fish fillets, seam side down, in each skillet. Cook until golden on bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn; cook until fish is opaque in center, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer to plates; cover to keep warm.

Add 2 tablespoons oil to 1 skillet. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add 1/3 of spinach; toss with tongs until spinach begins to wilt. Add remaining spinach in 2 additions; stir just until beginning to wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Divide spinach among plates with fish and serve.

I suspect my potato slices were just not thin enough despite the mandolin being on the thinnest level that would actually slice.

Halibut pre-portioning

Hopes are high!

It stays as long as I'm holding it together!

But then they go in to the pan

Stay, darnit!

I said stay!

Ugh. Browned and crispy, but not pretty

Time for Plan B. I crisped up the remaining potato slices in the pan and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. They tasted better than anything in the actual recipe.

Yum. Spinach with garlic. The sole triumph of the meal

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Chana Masala Dip

My husband and I have recently taken up bridge. We're aware that it's a nerdy, old-timey pursuit, yet we really like it...maybe exactly because it is so dusty and grandma-esque. On Friday night we had our bridge buddies over, and since I had an extremely ripe tomato, cilantro and garbanzo beans I thought I'd make a hummus-like dip version of the Indian dish Chana Masala to nibble on between tricks.

I was shocked at my guests effusiveness and the quickness with which the bowl of dip was emptied. This healthy, flavorful vegetarian dip is a great, make-ahead appetizer for any party or for your own personal snacking.

1 14.5 ounce can garbanzo beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1/8 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Drain garbanzo beans.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, ginger, and garlic to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, cumin, and pepper; cook 1 minute. Add chickpeas, water, and tomato; cook 5 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat; stir in garam masala, cool.

Transfer to bowl or food processor. Puree garbanzo bean mixture and incorporate olive oil with immersion blender in bowl or in food processor. Fold in cilantro. Serve with pita chips.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gourmet Magazine to be put down

Devastating news. Gourmet will cease publication after its November issue. As many of my readers know, it has been my go-to publication for special occasion recipes, quick weeknight meals and classic dishes. Home cooking will never be the same. A moment of silence, please.