Snap Peas with Black Sesame

I don't think it gets any simpler. Wash and break off ends of snap peas, and pull off the side "tendrils". Melt butter in a pan on medium heat, throw in your peas and turn up the heat. Roast until sides are just turning color. Add black sesame and a touch of ponzu sauce.


Today's Tenderloin is Tomorrow's Shashlik

Poor hubby is all alone for dinner tomorrow night, while I am in meetings, so I made him something to enjoy without me. Cognac, a little diluted white vinegar, fresh bay leaf, green peppercorns, onions and black pepper marinated pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into large cubes.

If you're making this ahead, add no or little salt to the meat since it draws out the water. It's best to add the salt right before cooking. This is going to be delicious on the grill tomorrow!


Dinner with Friends: Duck Two Ways and the Bouchon Onion Soup

I am disappointed. I generally don't start posts with such pessimism but I think those of you that value your time will agree with me. If you dedicate yourself, truly, and find your hard work didn't produce the product you envisioned, you too, will be disappointed.

I have watched many friends enjoy french onion soup, I never had the pleasure. For whatever reason, I always found something else on the menu to tickle my fancy. Though I never had eaten a full bowl, I vaguely remember trying a bit of the melted cheese from someone else's. Suffice it to say when the opportunity presented itself to cook a comforting meal for friends on a cold day, I saw it a perfect chance to try creating this very hearty soup. That and the urge to use my new ceramic oven-to-table soup bowls.

I am ambitious in my cooking, so I decided if I were to make this soup, I'd make it the way one of the most award winning chefs makes it. I had leafed through the pages of the Bouchon cookbook by Thomas Keller wondering what his bowl of soup had to offer. Mainly, because of the time investment it took (5 hours to caramelize 8lbs of onion to down to 1.5 cups + 1.5 hours to marry the onions with the stock + 20 minutes to assemble and serve the soup) . To make a long story short, I once again watched my friends enjoy their french onion soup, while I sat turning my spoon in my bowl. Feeling very much like I did in kindergarten when I knew I was supposed to finish something, but with no intention to put another spoonful in my mouth. I did, really enjoy the melted Gruyere over the baguette topped with the sweet, deeply flavored onions, but something about the rest of the soup, when the croutons were long gone reminded me of being 7 years old. To add to my disappointment with having the epicurean maturity level slightly older then my daughters, I was in such a rush to serve this soup to a very hungry and early! set of friends that I forgot to photograph it. So there it is, my time invested with no proof of my accomplishment.

I did redeem myself to my inner child with duck two ways. I wanted to try a few different techniques in this preparation so I decided to 1) stuff the legs and 2) make sandwiched duck breast (lovingly called, "the sausage" by friends).
The legs I stuffed with figs and shallots that I let reduce in balsamic vinegar over low heat for about 1 hour, and chopped prunes to balance the acidity of the balsamic sauce. Roasted in the oven with a little orange juice in the pan at 350F for 25 minutes (basting every 5-7 minutes), they came out beautiful, served with parsnip puree.

The "sausage" was two duck breast fillets sandwiched together, skin out, with salt and pepper, trussed together overnight. I browned the sides during the dinner for about 7 minutes, placed in the oven at 350F for about 15 minutes, and let rest for 10. This was probably the most tender and juicy piece of duck I've had. Served with arugula salad and blackberries.

We finished the dinner with a black rasberry-apple tart, rich chocolate ice cream and cognac.


Cranberry Apple Stuffed Pork Loin

I cooked down fresh cranberries (covered with water) until they were just starting to pop, to prevent the fresh ones going bad. So when making dinner I was determined to use this unfinished chutney somehow. With some toasted bread cubes, sage, salt, pepper, chopped fresh mitzu apples and of course the cooked cranberries, I made a stuffing that I wrapped into the butterflied, seasoned (salt and pepper) pork loin, which I in turn wrapped in thick cut bacon left over from Thanksgiving. I roasted this tied with butcher's twine at 375F for 50 minutes or so. Served sliced with the leftover unseasoned cranberry chutney, it was just the perfect amount of tart to balance the imparted fattiness of the bacon and sweetness of the apples.


Thanksgiving Dinner

- amuse bouche of strawberry gelee with tomato coulis, Greek yogurt, whitefish caviar

-goat cheese and pear salad with black raspberry vinaigrette

-butternut squash soup

-cheese souffle

-apple stuffed sage chicken

-roasted vegetable stuffing

-pecan pie


A Food Fiction

There is nothing like food fiction. Some of my favorite books and movies are culinary. It's not for my obvious passion for food but rather the romance of preparation. There is something so romantic about it...

Here's my latest book discovery that I wanted to share with you, Brocolli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar. It is a collection of short stories that take their inspiration from food.

Salmon Sashimi in Ponzu Sauce

help...need new flash :(

Tart Tatin: Apples and Maple Syrup

A bag of honey crisp apples left behind by my mother in law inspired this dish. This was the last hurrah for these apples this season, until next year.

4 apples, peeled and cored
1/2 cup of real maple syrup
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup of butter

crust dough:

1 cup butter
1/3 cup water
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Melt butter in an over proof pan, on stove top. Add in apples sliced into circles, about 1/4 inch thick. Add in maple syrup, zest and lemon juice. Let cook for about 7-10 minutes on stove top on medium-high heat. If there is a lot of juice (read: covers the apples), add in about 1 tbsp of flour after you remove from heat.
Roll out dough 1/8 of an inch thick. Lay over pan contents, tuck the sides in and under. Place into a preheated oven at 400F for 35 minutes or until the crust is golden.

Remove from oven and flip over into a plate. Don't wait too long to do this as the butter cools it'll be hard to remove. How easy is that!?


Olivie Salad (салат оливье)

Many family feuds began over a mixing bowl similar to this one. It's not the bowl, nor the spoon, but rather what's in it that keeps this, one of the most bipolar recipes in Russian cuisine. What's even more interesting is that it originated with a Frenchman, Lucien Olivier. It was invented and served by him, according to some sources, in the mid 19th century in a luxe hotel-restaurant in Moscow. It makes me feel good to say those that argue the content of their version is right are generally so far from the original it's entertaining. The first recipe contained "grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, gherkins, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs and soy beans" (wikipedia:Russian salad).

The generalized common version made in most Russian households retains only two of the original ingredients, hard-boiled eggs and gherkins. Generally there is a pretty consistent agreement that potatoes and mayonnaise (for dressing) are included, beyond that different schools of thought exist.
Pea and boiled carrot people.
Fresh cucumber users.
Apple eaters.
Onion persons?!
I am sure I missed a few... luckily, in the former 15 Republics, the schools of thought enjoyed the separation by geography. They still live in peace and harmony never arguing over the dinner table. Never in fear of designating this half-salad, half-entree as a potluck item to someone. They are unafraid of someone marring into the family and producing a foreign version, because they know there is power in numbers. When reaching for a spoonful, they know that the mayo-veiled components will not surprise them, but delight with comfort of old expectations.

Here, in the melting pot of refuges and immigrants, salad battles rage regularly. It's tough, but occasionally one makes a salad to enjoy behind closed doors, and it feels just like home.

4 potatoes, boiled skins on
2 kosher dill pickles
3 hard-boiled eggs
3 chicken breast fillets, steamed and cubed
1/2 granny smith apple, peeled
2 tbsp mayo
1 tbsp olive oil

Before you start working make sure the ingredients are at room temperature. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/4 inch cubes. Toss the cubed potatoes in a large mixing bowl with a little salt, pepper and olive oil. Do so carefully to keep them intact. Add the other ingredients chopped (this is a small cubed dice, consistent for all ingredients, except potato which is slightly larger). Add mayo and mix carefully until fully incorporated. Taste and add mayo and/or salt to taste. This salad is great fresh, wonderful as leftovers and will generally keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.

- signed "apple eater"
Source: bowl photo apartmenttherapy.com

Cuban Panini, Take 2

In this version, roasted pork loin, smoked Gruyere cheese, prosciutto, pickles and hot mustard, on Brazilian cheese buns from a local bakery.

Much better then the previous cop out to sliced bread...


Apricot Coriander Beef Stew

I bought some beef round for stew, but wanted to make something with an updated flavor, maybe even with a zing. I found a few lamb recipies and adapted parts of about 5 of them together to make an apricot coriander stew. I used both dry and fresh coriander, i.e. cilantro, to reinforce that flavor. I know this isn't for some people, you know who you are :-)

~1.3 lbs of beef round, cut into large cubes
2 cups of low sodium chicken stock
1 orange
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 cup of dry apricots, sliced lengthwise
1 leek
1 head of garlic
1/4 cup of butter

In a heavy saucepan (lidded) melt butter on low heat, add peeled garlic cloves and chopped leeks. I used the white part only since it's more tender. When the leek is translucent, add half the apricots, some pepper, coriander, and meat. Mix all the components and cover with stock. Cover with lid and cook for 90 minutes, or until the beef is very tender (keep checking once in a while to make sure you have enough liquid in the pot). Season with salt and additional pepper to taste.

Add in the rest of the apricots, cilantro and orange slices. Enjoy!


Roasted Chicken Jus Cous Cous with Peppadew

As I was roasting a chicken I was pondering ideas for a side dish, going through my pantry. I found a box of Israeli cous cous and decided it would be a perfect way to reuse the pan sauce from the chicken.
serves 2 people

6 scoops of cous cous
1 1/2 cups of separated pan juices
1/2 cup of water (this really depends on the flavor of the juices, usually they run a little over seasoned, so adjust accordingly)
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Roast cous cous in a saucepan on olive oil for about 5 minutes, mixing frequently. Add the water and pan juice, reduce heat to medium-low and let cool for about 15 minutes. Make sure to watch the water level during the last half of cooking time, you want all the water to evaporate, however you don't want it to do so until the cous cous kernels have fully cooked. There should be no need for seasoning, assuming your chicken was seasoned, but taste to check.

Serve with the warm chicken and peppadews for a spicy kick!

Pumpkin Seeds


Potato Dumplings (картофельные вареники)

In retrospect, this isn't the best photo, but if memory serves me well, I think there was probably 3 seconds between this photo and my husband helping himself to this plate. He is always certain that this isn't his favorite dish, and that the time I invest into making the dumplings would be much better spent on a plum tart, steak or a chocolate brownie. That said, somehow I always end up with a smaller portion and him standing over my shoulder asking if he can eat the filling before I manage to get it into the dough wrapper.

If these didn't disappear so quickly, I would have loved to add a roasted wild mushroom ragu on top....but that's all in retrospect.

You can find the recipe on the process in a previous entry, but here's the detail of the filling:

4 boiling potatoes
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, cut into half rings

Boil and mash the potatoes with butter. Add the roasted onion and season. The finished product should be able to keep its shape well, i.e. denser then a regular mashed potatoes dish.


Winter Squash Vichyssoise

Lots of leeks and squash in the farmer's market today, I couldn't resist.

2 large leeks, chopped
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
2 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 winter squash, baked in olive oil (350F for 40 min)
1 quart of chicken stock
4 tbsp heavy cream

In a heavy pot, bring olive oil to temp and add potatoes, leeks and parsnip. When leeks are starting to turn clear, add stock. Close with a lid and let boil until all vegetables are ready. Remove from heat, scoop in the baked squash, puree with a hand blender. Add seasonings to taste and a few tablespoons of heavy cream. Serve warm with some hearty bread, no need for an entree. I served the soup with balsamic creme freckles and few pieces of the skin from roasted winter squash.


Durian and Bat Nuts

There is nothing better then an epicurean scavenger hunt, and though I didn't intentionally set out on one recently, I found myself looking like a tourist in a Chinatown grocery. I mean, I was camera equipped and somewhat dangerous as I stopped in the middle of narrow, traffic-y pathways of the store. Fortunately, I didn't understand most of what was said in my direction, although I would have loved to be able to ask questions about some of what I was looking at.

Fresh longans, rambutans, loquats, jujubees....butchered duck tongues, de-boned poultry feet, 1001 parts of a cow, 6 varieties of fresh crabs, I didn't know where to turn next. My partner in crime stood with hands in pockets most of the time, and I don't blame her. The unique ingredients and "fresh" handling attribute to an interesting smelling ambient. I would think twice about filling my lungs fully while at this market, but I was too involved in looking at giant okra. It was just about when I caught a giant pine cone at the corner of my eye. The only English label was "Flying Horse" and it was nested in a plastic net. Immediately I started taking pictures of this amazing thing, excited about the premise of coming back to buy one. I mean, who wouldn't want to eat a pine cone! Well, maybe just me.

If you thought that's all the excitement I could handle, you were wrong. I saw something distinctly plastic looking in the produce section. As we got closer, this pile of black plastic, started to resemble bats. Yes, bats. No labels of course, but someone kindly explained, "Nut!". "Nut?", I said puzzled. That's all the explanation I could have hoped for anyway.

Getting back to the comfort of my home and wireless connection, I spent 20 minutes on google to try to find the giant pine cone and bat nuts. You'd think this is tough but google is far more knowledgeable then one expects. Bat nuts came up right away, with PG rated results. These are also known as caltrops and are apparently a flavor cross between a peanut and a water chestnut. Giant pine cone was more difficult to find, but eventually, I did identify it as the Durian fruit, which I welcome you to read about...and even watch, so you can understand why I don't plan on rushing back to the market.

photography courtesy of google.

Amuse Bouche

Nothing like a biting into a piece of jewelry, full of flavor... I love the concept of an amuse bouche. Perhaps because in many restaurants I've had the opportunity to try things that would have otherwise not been available on the menu. It's a great way to experiment with food, though if rewards are great, they are tiny.

My experiment today was to play with the flavor trees I've become fond of on a site I found several years ago (http://www.foodpairing.be/), which I've referred to time and again, in both agreement and disagreement on the "recommendations".
Pictured is a toasted apple, chicken pate, lemon basil and mustard sauce with a potato crisp. These are not typical flavors I'd throw together, however they balanced each other very nicely. I think depending on the flavors of all the ingredients this has a lot of potential of going very wrong too. Take a chance!


Updated Caprese Salad

Served with a garlic rubbed crouton, 25 year aged balsamic and a pepper variety.


The Garden Tomato

Really, I mean the tomato! I am so proud of our garden, even with the rainy summer, the tomato plants are producing. This is an heirloom.
I picked it today after it started very obviously pulling down the rest of the plant with its weight. Over a pound!!!!

Fig and Lemon Tart

I couldn't resist the small crate of fresh figs at the store, and on my way home decided to take inspiration from La Tartine Gourmand and make a tart. I decided to pair the figs with lemon in hopes the tartness will balance the sweet flavor of the fig. The crust was incredible, but I decided I would have enjoyed a savory preparation with the figs. I do have some left so.....

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
grated lemon peel from one lemon
1 large egg yolk

In a food processor or a bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, butter, and lemon peel. Whirl or rub with your fingers until mixture has texture of fine crumbs. Add egg yolk and whirl or stir with a fork until a dough forms. Pat dough into a ball, then press evenly over bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan with removable rim.

Bake crust in a 300° oven until golden, about 30 minutes.

1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp grated lemon peel
2 tsp lemon juice
1 egg
8-10 fresh figs
2 tsp sugar, for sprinkling

Whisk all the ingredients together. Pour into the prepared crust. Layer atop with sliced figs (you can do quarters or slices, up to you). Sprinkle figs with some sugar. Return to the over for the filling to set, about 30 minutes at 350F.


Dad vs. Daughter: Meal #2 - Ratatouille and Roasted Chicken

It's been the kind of weather the past couple of days that makes me want for fall; cool at night and just sunny enough to enjoy in the daytime. The weather plus the bounty of fresh vegetables available in farmers markets made us all want some rustic comfort food. I haven't made ratatouille in some time, and forgot how much like a puzzle it can be. E. watched over husband's shoulder, touching rounds of zucchini I handed to her. I think there is definitely more of ratatouille in her future.

1 Chinese eggplant
1 green zucchini
2 large garden tomatoes, fully ripened

3 tbsp olive oil

Cut all vegetables into equal rounds, salt, and layer in a ceramic baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Bake covered at 375F for 1 hour, then uncover and bake at 300F for 30 more minutes.

Serve warm with
roasted chicken. No need to do anything special for the husband, he loved this the way it is!


Phyllo Day

Leave it to me to defrost 4 times the amount of phyllo dough I needed. I was told refreezing it would be "bad", so I decided to use it all!

The initial premise to defrost came from needing to use a tub of leftover boiled potatoes with mushrooms and dill, so I figured I would rice the potatoes, mix with the mushrooms, and fried onions. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Presto, perfect filling for my phyllo roll!

But...since that only filled half the dough, I made dessert cigars (narrow rolls) with chopped cashews, dry sour cherries, dry cranberries and rose petal jam.

I think I am phyllo-ed out!


Tarragon Corn and Lobster Salad

2 cooked husks of sweet corn
meat from 3 steamed lobsters
2 tsp fresh, chopped tarragon
3 tbsp real mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice

Cut the kernels off cobs and place in a bowl with roughly, hand shredded lobster meat. In a small bowl, mix mayo, lemon juice and tarragon (if you like, add a bit of sriracha hot sauce). Add the mayo mixture to the lobster/corn.

Dad vs. Daughter: Meal #1 - Cod and Eggplant

Today I am starting a new section for the blog. I've been waiting for this moment for almost a year, and now it's here! E. has had enough new foods to be able to share her dinner with us, or rather we can all enjoy the same meals. Now I have both husband and E. to think of, so my goal is to make the meals together, but differentiate some finishing ingredients to satisfy all the palettes.

E. has not yet tried eggplant, and I am not sure how I could have waited this long. It's one of my favorites. I picked up a great, firm one at the market with about 1.5 lbs of cod, which she's tried before. Certainly may not seem adventurous, but when you're 11 months, it's like fugo...almost.

Meal #1: Cod and Eggplant

  • 1.5 lbs of cod filet, skinless
  • 3 slivers of butter
  • salt
  • 1 peeled, cubed organic eggplant
  • 1tsp vegetable oil
  • 2tbsp water
  • 4 tbsp whole milk organic yogurt
Salt eggplant lightly (if bitter, let stand about 20 minutes and drain from released juice, otherwise proceed). Place the eggplant in a saute pan with the water. Mix with a wooden spoon until starting to sizzle, add the oil. Keep mixing until cooked through (about 6-7 minutes on medium-high heat). Set aside to cool a bit. Add yogurt and mix.

On a section of foil, place rinsed and dried cod. Salt lightly and place the butter slivers on top. Close off the foil on top and sides. Place on the grill ~300F for about 7 minutes (This can be done in the oven as well).

  • Serve cod atop of eggplant (make sure both are cooled to eating temp)


additional ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp white miso paste
  • 2 tbsp roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • a little salt

Add minced garlic and cilantro to the eggplant dish (add salt to taste if necessary). Mix the white miso paste with the butter sauce the fish was baked in - serve as finishing sauce for the cod.

No pictures today, but promise for next time.


The Incredible, Edible, Egg...Yolk

E. isn't allowed whites yet, so I have been separating a lot of eggs lately.
Egg white free oladushki (Оладушки ) were on the menu this weekend.
1 Cup flour
1/2 cup whole milk, organic yogurt
1 egg yolk (yes, organic)
1/2 tsp Baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp canola oil, for pan frying (this is more then usual, but because there is so little binder you don't want them to stick)
Whisk together. This should be the consistency of a cake batter. Heat pan with oil until hot, on medium heat, and fry in batches about 1 teaspoon fulls per oladushek (pancake).
Serve warm with a fruit puree, such as E's favorite, prunes.

Dennis Oysters

I have only recently become interested in oysters. I started unaffected by the craze, then slowly started to like them, a few months ago started to crave them, and only about 6 weeks ago decided to really learn about them. My favorite I would have to say are the Duxbury. The cold water there makes for a sweet morsel of an oyster and whatever marine life is in the bay gives it a clean, almost cucumber-like aftertaste (I am sure there is a term for this, so oyster connoisseurs please forgive me). My second favorite would be Wellfleet, however unlike the Duxbury, they have a shallower cup (thus less "meat").

With our recent trip to the Cape, I had the pleasure of frequenting Lamberts Seafood Market and found they only had one variety of oysters. Husband and I asked for two to be shucked on the spot, and agreed, these were better then Duxbury. I came back a few nights throughout the week for pick up a few dozen of the Dennis oysters. Clean, briny, but not overly salty, with a sweet, almost lobster-like aftertaste. I definite winner! Next time I'll remember to bring a shucking knife, instead of using a shrimp deveiner, so I retain all 10 fingers.


Scampi with Cooked and Raw Garlic Scapes

What is a garlic scape? Find out!

Herb Steak with Asparagus in Lemon Infused Oil, Pickled Bell Pepper

Recipe to be posted...sorry guys! No time!

Cognac Braised Lamb Shanks with Pomme Puree

The lamb shanks looked at me through the glass display, perfectly trimmed and pink. I couldn't walk away. I did a play on my favorite entree from Toro, Short Ribs. They were perfect to eat outside in the cool evening breeze.
Recipe coming when I have a little more time.


Lychee Rickey with Frozen Grapes

I've been experimenting with the Lychee (SOHO) Liqueur; a flavor lost about 4 years now, since we brought back a bottle of Dekuyaper Lychee from St. Thomas, never to be seen again in any liquor store.

My first drink (not pictured) was better, in my opinion. Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and a few sectioned pieces, chilled, mixed with Lychee Liqueur. I would say it was almost like a perfumed campari, slightly bitter but very fruity.

This was mandarin seltzer, Lychee Liqueur and some frozen, skinless/seedless green grapes; a loose interpretation of a Rickey cocktail. The grapes are a keeper for other summer cocktails!

Fresh Figs with Prosciutto, Balsamic Glaze

I've been out of commission for a bit and am finally getting back to posting, so I'll start with a ....starter. There were fresh figs at the market, and even though they were good, they were not great. I wish someone would put up signs on previously refrigerated fruit "WARNING: I have been refrigerated and have lost some of my smell and texture, but I am available for sale at $ .....".

The balsamic reduction is with molasses, about 1 tablespoon per cup of balsamic. Set on low heat and let reduce to about 1/4 of a cup or until coats the back of a spoon.

Grilled Eggplant Salad

Grilled Eggplant Salad

  • 2 mini eggplants
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1-2 springs of fresh mint
  • white vinegar to taste
  • salt to taste

Grill eggplants and onions until tender. Let cool slightly and chop into uniform pieces. Chiffonade mint leaves and smash garlic; add to the eggplant and onions. Add about 1 tbsp of vinegar and 1/2 tsp of salt, taste and adjust to get the right combination of seasoning and acidity.