Archive for the ‘little extras’ Category

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Share. (REMEDY ISSUE 19)

December 16, 2015

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Remedy Quarterly is an extra-lovely culinary zine that assigns a single word to be the backbone of each issue. Participants are invited to widely interpret words like Risk, Triumph and the latest issue, Share, shown above, into stories and recipes. The founder of this beautifully bound collection, Kelly Caråmbula, is encouraging and enthusiastic towards her writers as she guides the work into a cohesive package. Kelly also edits, designs and tests all of the food preparations to ensure the book goes out exactly as she envisions.

This is my second contribution to Remedy (Issues 9 and 19) and the first where I have offered up not only an essay and a recipe but also accompanying artwork. I cannot take all the credit! My own little voracious offspring agreed that she would add life to the illustrations with all the color she wanted. I told her that the drawings represent our pizza recipe, which would also be in the book, and she was excited because she loves dough… (verbatim).

 

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A ‘bundle’ of issues could be a great surprise for a food lover you love. See the Remedy website for lots of ideas. Happy Holidays!

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Handed down. (EMPANADAS)

March 18, 2015

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I was introduced to empanadas as a late night drunken treat in the deepest depths of Queens. The version we ate were greasy and deep fried, stuffed with ground up meat and some questionable, grizzly bits. Perfect drinking food. I will confess that Janine and I called them “Keebleros” because, in our boozy haze, we couldn’t remember what they were really called. We thought this was hilarious.

Empanadas vary greatly from country to country and are interpreted further still, by region. Colombia and Venezula deep fry their stuffed creations while Chile and Argentina bake theirs in the oven. In general, empanadas can be cooked either way and filled with anything; meat, cheese, egg, spinach, fruit, shrimp or squash, in infinite combinations. A basic (if not totally traditional) empanada is anything that tastes good wrapped in dough, which is almost anything. The key to success is pretty simple. As long as the filling you have created tastes great, your empanadas will be voraciously devoured by anyone you offer them to. Take into consideration, the doughy exterior will tone down the filling, so it’s important that whatever you are stuffing in is seasoned well.

Years after my experience with Keebleros, I befriended the lovely Erica and became close with her family, who relocated to New York from the San Juan province of Argentina. As a result of this friendship, I am introduced to a whole new genre of amazing tastes. Chimichurri! Alfajores! Maté! Malbec! When Christmas rolls around, among the many delicious foods served, one of the family’s traditions is a heaping platter of freshly baked empanadas; stuffed with beef (picadillo), a green olive and a small chunk of hard-boiled egg. Guests are encouraged to eat as many as they possibly can …and to compete while doing it! I couldn’t quite beat out brother, but I held my own, foregoing other dishes so that more empanadas could fit.

Then the learning began. There were years that we helped punch the homemade dough* into submission, years that we browned kilo after kilo of beef, and many lessons about twisting the edges just right. Often times, Erica would arrive at my family’s holiday party with a heaping platter just for us, and it quickly became a ritual anticipated by all.

Because of these awesome memories –and sheer deliciousness– I have adapted the very same empanadas sanjuaninas as one of my favorite celebrational foods too. They are a perfect self-contained party dish. Easy to transport (I should know, I used to fill my pockets with them), and effortless to serve. Heat them if you have the means, but I have never seen empanadas refused neither cold nor at room temp. It is obvious, just by looking, that they are made with love. And so, the excitement continues to generate.

EMPANADAS DE PICADILLO

(Makes about 10 empanadas using 5-inch dough circles)

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

a few dashes of hot sauce (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped

10 small pimento-stuffed green olives

10 Goya Discos para empanadas (1 package), thawed

1 egg, whisked in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Start warming a skillet over medium heat, add half of the oil and the beef. Wait for some sizzling sounds and occasionally break up the beef with a spoon as it cooks. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. When the meat is thoroughly browned, lift it from the skillet with a slotted spoon and put aside in a big bowl.
  • Wipe out the skillet and warm the second tablespoon of oil. Brown the onions (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic and the next five spices until toasted and fragrant, another 5 minutes. Add a small splash of oil if dry.
  • Stir the onion mixture into the ground beef, combining well. Add hot sauce, if using. This is picadillo! Taste for seasoning. If needed add salt, pepper, etc.
  • Lay the dough circles on a work surface and brush half of each with the raw egg mixture.
  • Place a mound of picadillo (about three heaping tablespoons) on each circle. Put one olive and a piece of egg with the meat on each round.
  • Fold the dough into a half-moon shape over the meat-olive-egg pile and press to seal. Gather up small sections from the edge where the two sides meet and pinch them together in one-inch intervals, further sealing the dough. Another option is to push the two sides together by pressing down to ‘crimp’ them with a fork. Repeat with all meat/circles.
  • Place finished empanadas on a baking sheet and brush the tops with the remaining raw egg mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the exterior is golden and crisped.

* I am a busy lady, (frozen) Goya discos are my secret weapon, and puff pastry could be a last-resort substitute. But pleeease feel free to make your own dough.

Here lies post from way back, it talks about a sweet-savory experiment:

RICOTTA AND FIG EMPANADAS

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Five more food photos. (BY ORI)

February 24, 2015

 

 

 

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Homemade pizza with ricotta and sauteed kale.

Salmon tartare, creme fraiche, arugula, buckwheat corn pancake.

Salmon tartare, creme fraiche, arugula, buckwheat corn pancake.

Smokey butternut squash soup with parmesan tuiles and pepitas

Smokey butternut squash soup with parmesan tuiles and pepitas

Spices for mulled wine.

Spices for mulled wine.

Hamachi crudo.

Hamachi crudo.

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More to love. (GRILLED RADISHES)

June 18, 2014

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Radishes are awesome for so many reasons. They add beautiful color and texture to all kinds of dishes and they are full of vitamin C and potassium. Radishes stimulate hunger as well as aid in the digestive process so, depending on the culture, they are served before and after big meals.

Among different varieties of radish, flavors can range from mildly peppery to downright hot and spicy. Cooking the radish however, changes that significantly. When heated, especially grilled, they take on a sweet, juicy consistency that is very different from the crisp raw version.

Synopsis: when looking for interesting veggies to throw on the grill (even on the stovetop grill pan) think radish! Simply slice and sear.

 

 

 

 

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Catchup! (AN OVERDUE POST ON ROMESCO)

May 29, 2014

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Romesco is a smokey condiment of the Spanish influence that can be made lots of ways and most often incorporates some kind of red pepper. It beautifully accompanies food from grilled meats to poached eggs to any raw or roasted vegetables you choose. It is an especially perfect topping for straight vegetables because it adds a touch of decadence to otherwise square stuff; roasted cauliflower, salt boiled potatoes, grilled spring onions, for example.

I do not consider my cooking very decadent. I was raised eating all kinds of tofu and later went to a vegan culinary school (even though I am an equal opportunity eater). Especially on this website, I have geared my recipes towards scoring healthy points, being quick/easy and most importantly towards being ‘damn delicious ways to eat stuff that is good for you’. That’s the mission.

When this blog was formed in the year two thousand and something, I was in the thick of cooking for clients who wanted to eat just right. For many years I didn’t often use bacon and heaps of butter or drench things in cream or deep fry. Don’t get me wrong, these are obviously awesome ways to cook and once in a while extremely useful but I tried not to lean on them, finding other ways to develop flavor and richness.

Now I am back on the restaurant scene. I do not work in a health-food place and I am given the opportunity to roll out lots of small plates with big flavor, no holds barred. I can stretch my style of cooking a little further into the naughty department. Frying* has been my favorite lately. Getting a crisp crust on lamb patties, putting an extra crunch on nuts or, as you will see here, cooking some garlic slices in oil until they are like little golden nuggets. And though this particular recipe for Romesco is, in fact, vegan, lately I am having lots of fun smearing my somewhat austere culinary upbringing with a little bit of pork fat.

ROMESCO THIS WAY

7 cloves of garlic, sliced (plus one whole clove)

4 chunks of bread, about 1 cup

2 whole tomatoes, canned or fresh, chopped

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton)

2 red bell peppers, roasted

40 blanched almonds*

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons of the best sherry vinegar you have

5 jarred piquillo peppers

1-2 teaspoons kosher salt

black pepper to taste

pinch cayenne

oil for frying (canola is fine)

In a small skillet, pour enough frying oil so that it is about an inch deep. Warm it up and toss in one slice of the garlic. When it begins to bubble around the edges, remove from the oil and add the rest of the garlic slices (reserving one clove), stirring frequently until golden.

Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Add bread chunks to the oil and fry on both sides until crisp, remove from skillet onto paper towel.

Discard all but a few tablespoons of oil from the skillet, heat it up again and sauté the chopped tomatoes for a few minutes. Add the smoked paprika and a teaspoon of salt to the skillet and stir to combine with the tomatoes. Cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Now that all of the components are prepped, time for the easy part.

Place the fried garlic, the raw garlic clove, the bread, the tomato mixture, roasted peppers, almonds, olive oil, sherry vinegar, piquillos, remaining teaspoon of salt, some black pepper and a pinch of cayenne into the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth.

Check for seasoning and adjust. Also adjust the consistency with more oil or vinegar to thin and more bread or almonds to thicken.

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Roasted asparagus waiting patiently for romesco and a soft boiled egg…

 

 

 

 

* When I was a culinary student I once got roped into a call for one of the competitive cooking shows…I don’t remember which. When asked about one of my special skills in the kitchen I reluctantly replied, “I can fry”.

** Any almonds would work, roasted, salted, etc. To blanch raw almonds, plunge them in boiling water for 1 minute and drain. When cool enough to touch, slip the skins off… but do it before the skins dry or else it becomes difficult.

 

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Disguise. (SWEET/SAVORY TURMERIC POPCORN)

March 3, 2014

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For some reason I had always meant to make popcorn on the stovetop but never really got around to it. And because of this I refused to wrap my head around the unbelievable simplicity of making it.

Then someone offered me money to make lots and lots of popcorn and, here I am, ready to tell you all about how awesome the results of this quick and easy snack can be. The other upside (what’s the upside?), you can make it as decadent as you want with peanut butter, sugar, chocolate, caramel, etc. or you can cram a whole bunch of healthy stuff on it like coconut oil, flax, nutritional yeast, matcha or turmeric, which is my fave because the color is righteous.

Turmeric is being hailed as such an impressive superfood, I keep a bottle of it handy, working it in where I can. Popcorn is a healthy snack itself, when prepared in the latter of above-mentioned styles. I think it is great anytime but especially before dinner when you have hungry family meowing around the kitchen but the meal is not quite ready… that bright yellow can really distract!

I use a pretty foolproof popcorn-making technique and I am sorry I can not give proper cred where it is due. I saw it once and never turned back. The topping is my invention…but also foggy. Here’s the gist:

SWEET/SAVORY TURMERIC POPCORN

1/3 cup popcorn kernels

2 tablespoons cooking oil

2-3 tablespoons butter or oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

pinch cumin

1 tablespoon turmeric

dash of cayenne

salt to taste

  • Heat a large pot over a medium flame with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and 3 kernels of popcorn inside. Place well-fitting lid on the pot and listen for the 3 pops.
  • When you hear them, add the rest of the kernels to the pot, put the lid back on and remove from the heat. Count to 30.
  • Replace to pot on the flame and, keeping the lid on tight, shake the pot a bit. Listen for lots of popping noise. Continue with some light shakes until the popping sound slows down considerably or has practically stopped.
  • Dump the popcorn into a large bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat the remaining ingredients; butter or oil, maple, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, salt in a small pot and stir, combining thoroughly. Adjust to taste! Make it sweet, salty or spicy as you like.
  • Pour the maple mixture over the popcorn and toss well to coat.
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Balancing it out. (ALKALIZING BROTH)

April 19, 2013

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Remember the science lesson about acids and bases in the form of a number line? Seven is neutral, like water, right in the middle of both states. Anything over 7 is a base (alkaline) and anything under is acidic. Our blood, which our body maintains at a pH of 7.35-7.45, is therefore slightly alkaline. The thing is, many of the foods we eat are acid-causing, even some pretty healthy ones.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, most grains and legumes in excess and without balancing are not the only things that have the power to make us acidic. Some of our experiences like stress, lack of activity and poor diet choices in general can also be culprits of this undesirable condition. And though we need both acid and alkaline to be in balance, when too much acid is present, the body works overtime to keep the blood in its proper state. Foods that are alkaline*, most fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, seaweed, miso, olive oil, for example, are not only important for daily functions, but when ingested regularly will more readily balance out the less than perfect moments in our lives.

All that to say, hey! eat your veggies!

Lately I have been making extra effort to do just that by keeping the fridge stocked with beautiful organic produce and cooking lots of healthy dinners. Also trying to keep my fridge from being a graveyard of dead leftovers or, even worse, perfectly good uncooked stuff going to seed. One of the ways I like to stretch my organic grocery bucks to the fullest is by making stock. All of the lovely and delicately aromatic things that make for a good, clear stock (carrot, celery, onion, leek, fennel, thyme) go into freezer bags until I have stockpiled enough to be dumped into a big pot with some water, simmered until a lightly golden stock is born.

A few months ago, while doing a cleanse, I learned about alkalizing vegetable broth. It broke every classic culinary rule for stock-making which advises no leafy greens, no cabbage, no squash, no root vegetables, no radish. Each one of these things said to make the stock cloudy, sulfuric, bitter, etc. but the recipe included all of these things. The product was delicious, had none of the qualities Escoffier warned about. Now I am happily breaking the rules and adding all of this stuff to the freezer bag to create broths that can double as alkalizing tonic. The broth is dark and rich and can stand alone warmed  with a little extra sea salt (also alkalizing). The recommendation is to drink it several times daily. That is a great theory and I enjoyed it when I was eating strictly, but I am more often using the stuff in soups, stews, curries and risotto in lieu of more boring stocks, giving a nutritional boost and extra flavor.

ALKALIZING BROTH

You can really be creative with the vegetables you put in there, this is just a guideline:

1 onion, quartered

(plus shallot, onion, leek or scallion trimmings)

3 carrots

3 celery stalks

2 fennel tops

4 cloves garlic

2 cups green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, collard, beet greens, etc.)

1/4 head of cabbage + the core

peels, trimmings (no seeds) of one (organic) butternut squash

1 sweet potato, large dice

1/2 cup seaweed (I like kombu)

2 cups mushroom stems (or 1 cup dried mushrooms)

1/2 bunch of parsley or cilantro stems with or without leaves

1 cup of radish (with or without tops) -optional

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

4-5 quarts of water (enough to cover all of the ingredients by a few inches)

  • Place all ingredients in a large pot.
  • Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  • Immediately turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook about 1.5 hours.
  • Strain out the vegetables and save the stock in containers.
  • Freeze what you are not using. Defrost as needed.

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Scrap bag! Red cabbage, mushroom, leek, scallion, celery, sometimes chicken bones too.

In culinary school after  pastry classes when we were ingesting sugar all day long, we were told to go home and alkalize with a hot miso soup. Yea! I give it to my kid too, after parties and stuff.

*A proper alkalizing food chart lives here. These sistas are serious!