Friday, December 19, 2008

Gingerbread "Men"

Eleven-year-old boys are a lot of fun to decorate cookies with. This year, we made the usual assortment of little and big gingerbread men. Inevitably, some lost appendages due to hazardous conditions (hungry little boys); here, an amputee gingerbread boy is getting a bloody stump. Other cookies became cyclops, got strange diseases that resulted in multicolored spots all over, etc. Another happy, holiday, family experience.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Tangerines on Fire

Tangerines are in season (and quite inexpensive at Costco!), and I was inspired by Alex Guarnaschelli this weekend to turn them into a fancy, yet simple, dessert. Peel as many tangerines (or clementines) as you have guest, plus one for good measure, and separate the sections into a bowl. Heat a saute pan over a medium-high
flame until it is good and hot, and melt a tablespoon or two of butter in the pan. Toss the citrus sections into the pan, and pour a couple of tablespoons of honey over the top. Saute over high heat until the citrus is warmed through and beginning to caramelize. Take the pan off of the heat, pour a glug of Grand Marnier into the pan, and then tip the side of the pan into the flame to set the whole thing on fire. Bask in the adulation of your guests as they witness the pyrotechnics! After the flame burns down, remove the pan from the heat. Pour dollops of flambeed tangerines over scoops of vanilla ice cream and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Late-Summer Green Tomato Pizza

Last week, my friend Alice had us over for a casual night of pizza and movies. Earlier in the day, she had gone to Bari and loaded up on antipasti--the green olives stuffed with anchovies were a revelation! We noshed on prosciutto and Asiago cheese and sipped sherry and dreamed up toppings for pizza. I suggested we try a green tomato and manchego cheese pizza I had seen on Mark Bittmann's blog. Luckily, Alice had a few tomatoes left from her garden. What a simple, but delicious pie! We left out the sage, but didn't miss it. The tomatoes were soft and sweet, with just enough acid to bite through the fat in the cheese. Lovely.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pretty in Pork

Costco has begun selling pretty little racks of pork, and my family is loving them. Last week, I roasted one according to Tyler Florence's recommendations, and it was delicious. This week, I freelanced a recipe with what was on hand. I chopped some rosemary and sage and made it into a loose paste with some olive oil. I massaged the herb/oil mixture all over the pork and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then, I threw some sliced onions and garlic in a roasting pan and gently laid the pork on top of the sliced vegetables. Preheated the oven to 375 degrees and poured a generous glug of apple cider below the pork before throwing the whole mess into the heat. Roast for a hour and a half or so until the internal temperature of the roast is 150-155 degrees--this is key to getting a moist, flavorful roast. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes.

You can even make a quick gravy with the pan drippings and a little chicken stock and flour. Serve with mashed potatoes and braised cabbage and apples for a satisfying Sunday supper.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's for Dinner

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I pulled some chicken thighs from the freezer this morning and brought this together in half an hour for dinner tonight. Trying to work fennel into the menu more often--it is a lovely vegetable that brings an unusual flavor to the table.

When I asked Nick what he thought "orechiette" meant, he said that the pasta looked like turtle shells, so that's what he thought the translation might be. I kind of like his answer, but the truth is that it is Italian for "little ears."

Braised Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes and Fennel over Pasta

8 chicken thighs
2 onions, sliced
2 bulbs fennel, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 can whole tomatoes
1 1/2 cups (or so) chicken stock
1 lb orechiette pasta

Season the thighs with salt and pepper and saute them in a heavy dutch oven until browned on both sides. Make sure to do this in two batches so that you don't overcrowd the pan. Reserve the browned chicken on a plate, and pour the excess rendered fat out of the pan, leaving 1-2 tablespoons. Saute the onion and fennel in the pan for 6-8 minutes until it is wilting and fragrant. Add the garlic, salt and pepper. Add the can of tomatoes--break them up with your hands or the tongs and stir in with the sauteed onions and fennel. Add enough stock to almost cover the veg. Return the chicken thighs to the pot, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 35 or more minutes until the chicken is done--it gets better the longer it cooks. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water on to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Remove the thighs from the dutch oven, and pour the pasta into the sauce. Toss to coat. Serve pasta with the chicken.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chicago Farmstand Dinner

I wandered over to the new Chicago Farmstand late last week when I was downtown for a day of meetings. What a treat! An indoor farmstand full of organic and locally grown produce, baked goods, and canned products. I met the beekeeper for the garden on top of City Hall and sampled their "Rooftop Honey." There were lovely squash for sale, little potatoes, late summer lettuces and tomatoes, and even some fresh cheeses. I left with a bagful of produce and an idea for dinner.

Autumn Risotto

1 butternut squash*
3 leeks, halved and thinly sliced*
2 cloves garlic, minced*
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked off of the stems and lightly chopped*
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream or half and half

*Available at the Chicago Farmstand

Peel the squash and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a 400-degree oven for 35 minute or until beginning to brown.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the leeks in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and saute until it becomes fragrant. Add the rice and saute until it is translucent. Add the chicken stock a little at a time, stirring and slowing cooking after each addition until most of the broth has been absorbed. When the rice is cooked but still al dente, add the roasted squash and the thyme. Add the cheese and stir until melted; add the cream until the risotto loosens up a little and is creamy and luscious. Serve immediately.

Homemade Sliders

Sliders ready to cook
Originally uploaded by mickeynick
We've been on a mini-burger craze lately. I've perfected a method of making them, based on a technique I think I learned from Alton Brown. Basically, take your meat (I like ground turkey, family likes beef), add finely chopped onions and your favorite seasonings, and smush it into a quarter sheet pan that is lined with plastic wrap. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top, and roll over the whole thing with a rolling pin. The meat layer should be as even as possible. Lift the top layer of plastic wrap off, and lightly score the meat, dividing it into 12 square burgers. Top with the plastic wrap again and put the sheet pan in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice your buns (I like potato rolls) and prep your condiments. When you are ready to cook, remove the burgers from the freezer and break apart. Place on a preheated griddle and cook for a minute or two on each side. Serve with oven-fried potato wedges.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yummy Yogurt

Ever since I ready about them in Bon Appetit, I've been anxious to taste the wares of White Cow Dairy in East Otto, New York. So, when we made the annual pilgrimage to the family homestead, I made plans to procure some of their fabled yogurt. We made a trip to Alice Arlow's general store, met Alice, and bought two jars of yogurt. The maple cream, sweetened with a touch of maple syrup, was delicious: creamy, tart, and milky milky milky, with just an overtone of sweet. Here, I served it with a freshly sliced peach from a farmer's market in East Otto. The plain was also wonderful, although a bit tart for my palate. Alice also sold a rhubarb-flavored yogurt, which we did not try. I apologise for not taking the jars back to the store; we will return them next summer!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Outdoor Paella

Decided to inaugurate the new outdoor grill that DH built in June with a yummy paella for a crowd. Inspired by Mark Bittmann, we set forth with some simple ingredients and a handful of wood from the backyard.

Yummy andouille sausage from Paulina Market goes into the pan for a light saute.

Alice browns the chicken thighs.

Frying the sofrito. We had leftover grilled red bell pepper from the night before, which I chopped and added to the pan.

Everyone back in the pan! The chicken and sausage are nestled in with the rice and bubbling stock turned crimson with saffron.

The final dish, just about done, with the addition of mussels, shrimp, and scallops. Oops, I forgot the peas!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Omelet in a Bag

Inspired by his auntie, Nick decided to try to make an omelet in a plastic bag for lunch this morning. He mixed together 3 eggs, 1 tsp. melted butter, an handful of chopped chives, some chopped romaine lettuce leaves (!?), and several chopped kalamata olives. We carefully poured them into a small zipper topped plastic bag, forced all of the air out, and sealed it. Then, we dropped it into a pot of boiling water and let it cook for 14 minutes. We had to keep the top of the bag away from the edges of the pot to keep the bag from melting.

After 14 minutes, Nick took a pair of tongs and attempted to remove the bag from the boiling water. Surprise! The omelet slid out of the bag, which had somehow breached during the cooking, and into the water. I grabbed a spatula and saved the omelet from drowning. It was a little undercooked in the middle, so we had to microwave it for an additional 2 minutes. Nick's verdict: It was good. He said the romaine tasted like spinach.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Last-Minute Summer Cake

Late yesterday afternoon, I got an email fro Ruth Reichl linking to several blueberry recipes, including one for a simple peach/blueberry cake. I had just bought a pint of blueberries at the market, and it looked awfully good, so I stopped at the grocery on the way home from camp to pick up some peaches and a lemon. Threw the cake into the oven at 5:15 pm, took it out at 7:20 pm, let it cool for 40 minutes, and served it for dessert with vanilla ice cream. Less than 18 hours later there is only one slice left!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Again inspired by Mark Bittman, Nick and I decided to try making paletas this week. We got a new blender for the task (thanks, Mom!) and scoured the produce department for ideas. Nick decided to try jicama; I went more traditional with strawberries and fresh basil from the patio garden.

Here they are in the freezer in our new rocket-shaped popsicle molds.

And here is Nick enjoying his first jicama-flavored paleta.

Next time, I'd like to try cantelope or pineapple.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Parmesan Chicken

Nick enjoyed the Parmesan chicken that I made last month. I saw this on America's Test Kitchen; needed more seasoning, but it was pretty good.


Whole Foods had some lovely whole yellowtail snapper last week.

We rubbed it down with olive oil, seasoned it with lemon pepper and salt, and grilled it.

Snapper is such a mild, sweet fish. Next time, I will marinate it in a spicy Thai sauce--it needed some kick.