Tapas Tuesday!

August 31, 2011

Tapas and Wine

Well, actually this was from Monday but I ran out of time yesterday and who doesn’t love a little alliteration….

It sounds ridiculous, but in all honesty, with all of the excitement around Tapas or “small plates” at restaurants around the city, I had never thought about it as a way to eat at home. But after Monday’s dinner, I realize how wrong I had been. Two weeks prior, a few buddies and I hit up Tia Pol on the West Side after a ton of encouragement over the years. It was frickin’ awesome and reminded me of the amazing meals Em and I had in Barcelona. So to continue the deliciousness I decided to work on a few tapas of my own.

Sardines, Fresh Tomato Sauce and Egg

Some were super traditional, like the charred shishito peppers (posted about these before) while others were a bit more fun. Take this sardine, hard boiled egg, and fresh tomato sauce dish as an example. I know it sounds a bit weird but the sweetness of the farmers market cherry tomatoes act as a perfect balancer for the fishiness of the sardines. With a little egg providing richness, honestly this was really awesome. With some roasted chickpeas and an heirloom tomato and ricotta salata salad rounding out the meal, it was truly a tapas success!

Heirloom and Ricotta Salata Salad

And you might be thinking, “I barely have time to cook one thing after work, and now you want me to cook 4!”. But with the exception of the tomato sauce that I made from the fresh tomatoes, nothing here took any real time! All of the preparations were simple and relaxing just like the bottle of rioja we enjoyed!


What (a) Disaster

August 29, 2011

WOW

So, like almost everyone in the Northeast, we made our way to the supermarket on Saturday to prepare for Armageddon. Well, Armageddon never came. That is, not in the sense of the Category 3 Rain Storm Irene but the scene at D’agostino…now that’s a different story.

Who eats this much bread?

I had a hard time taking myself seriously but we did indeed end up with some basics to get us through the weekend. The most important…some bourbon!

Hurricane Survival Kit

One quick rant…It’s not really fair to get aggravated with city officials. While the storm ended up being pretty darn manageable, I’m glad they took the precautions to ensure people’s safety. But the weathermen and women? They should all be fired. Not for getting it wrong because I get it, weather is tough to predict. But for being assholes. Stop “selling” the idea of a disaster and report the news. And as my buddy Mark said “when it’s over…Go Home!”

So I hope everyone out there suffered limited damage and has space for all that damn bread.


Seriously Irene?

August 26, 2011

What a bitch!

So Irene is proving to be quite the bitch. A weekend of wine tasting on the North Fork will have to be re-scheduled as I guess were about to get pounded. So it’s time to stock up on food and water (so they say) and check your flashlights and sanity. It’s time for a hurricane in the city…

So with that in mind, this week’s poll is about the “emergency necessities”. Stock up on “dried foods, canned foods, and water” is what I keep hearing…well you know I won’t just open a can of beans and dig in. So which “emergency necessity” should I whip up in a special way – regardless of Irene’s impact. Stay safe and have fun!


Shrimp and Grits Transformed

August 23, 2011

Pan Roasted Pollock with Creamed Lentils and Sweet Corn

This was without a doubt one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve put together in a while; the colors and flavors were vibrant and completely balanced. But my favorite part was where it all started…

I had this unwavering craving for shrimp and grits. But how many times have I made that post! Too many, was the answer I kept coming up with, so I decided to take a little creative license on this one. I had planned on sauteing the ridiculously sweet corn with a few hot peppers and loads of garlic to act as my “grits” with a little pan seared pollock acting as the “shrimp”. I envisioned a more upscale version of the dish served with an orange lentil salad.

But then I cooked up those lentils. And with just a pinch of saffron and a little salt, these lentils cooked up so creamy and delicious that I realized my “grits” had taken a brand new form all together. With some romanesco cauliflower to beef up the corn for a topping, and the fish roasting in the oven with some cherry tomatoes, I had all the flavors I was looking for! I will never stop loving how these ideas develop! So delicious!


Potato Skins!

August 22, 2011

Roasted Broccoli and Feta Potato Skins

Last week was a pretty low on the food production front. With Em out-of-town for the bulk of the week, I found myself eating very little of my own food. But after another great trip to the farmer’s market this weekend I had an idea that would be perfect to get back into the swing of things…

Are you a fan of potato skins? You’ve got to be right? What could be bad about a crispy potato with cheddar cheese, bacon, scallions, and sour cream? Well, rather than repeating what we all know is delicious I decided to make my own riff on the favorite appetizer. I stuffed my halved and scooped out potatoes with rosemary, blanched broccoli (awesome purple variety from the market), and some feta cheese. I read an article last week describing how the easiest way to love broccoli is by roasting it. And it’s so true! The flavor is amazing, and the crispiness of the florets makes it a perfect side, snack or topping. In this case, the blanched broccoli finishes being cooked in the oven as the cheese melts and the potatoes crisp as everything comes together perfectly.

These were really amazing and extremely simple. I rarely touch my microwave but ten minutes on “potato” mode seemed like a much better option than an hour with the oven on. Once the potatoes are cooked through, you simply slice them in half, remove some of the potato filling and load them up before crisping them up in the oven. So for a quick meal when you are in a time crunch, or for when you are cooking for a crowd, these skins are your savior. But you might want to make a bunch of these if you are feeding a group. They are gonna go fast!


Spinach and Feta Omelette Fixer Upper

August 17, 2011

Spinach and Feta Omelette

Loving omelets is a risky move.  On one hand, they are the perfect breakfast; whether they are simply stuffed with american cheese or packed with meat and veggies, the omelette is almost always my first choice off of the menu. But on the other hand, far too often, omelets suffer the fate of a lack of precision rendering what should be light and creamy, a dry and rubbery mess. And unfortunately this happens most often for me, when I fall for the trap of the delicious sounding spinach and feta variety.

I would say for sure, 1 out of 3 omelets I order are spinach and feta. Yet, those same 1 out of 3 are almost always a disappointment. When you think of “spinach and feta” the combination suggests a wonderful balance of salt, sweet and creamy. But when raw spinach and big chunks of feta are thrown into an omelette, the outcome is overwhelming. The feta does not add the creaminess to the omelette that I think is crucial and instead acts as a flavor landmine to overpower the other components when it’s packed in a bite. Then comes the dryness. Feta is not a melting cheese whatsoever. So without the creamy melted cheese to counteract the overcooked eggs (shouldn’t be but so often they are), there’s simply no chance!

But I think I may have resolved these issues last night with my new spinach and feta omelette! I definitely didn’t master this in one try (as you can see it’s probably a little heavy on the spinach) but I have a few tips to guarantee deliciousness. Let’s hope the Lyric Diner reads my blog!

For starters, I blanched the spinach to get rid of some of the “chalkiness” raw or sautéed spinach can sometimes create. But no matter how you cook your spinach, you know water comes along with the process. So after a few good squeezes in paper towels to remove the bulk of the moisture, I went to squeezing even more, but this time with the feta. By mashing the spinach and the cheese together, I was sure I would have a uniform flavor profile throughout the omelette. This method worked perfectly! So what about the creaminess? Well, who said a spinach and feta omelette couldn’t have two types of cheese? Using just a touch of shredded havarti to bind the omelette added just what this breakfast needed!

Oh, and I almost forgot the most important addition. A glass of red wine: the other reason why breakfast for dinner is even better than breakfast for breakfast!


Reasons to Celebrate

August 16, 2011

Pan Seared Soft Shell Crabs with Pineapple Salsa

It has been a summer of celebration. Weddings, engagements, and summer festivities have helped create what has been a whirlwind of a few months. And the good news has kept on flowing. With Em landing a brand new job, it was time to pop a bottle, and eat one of her favorite things in the world: soft shell crab!

And soft shell crab isn’t only Em’s favorite. I love how delicate and sweet these crabs can be when cooked properly. And while I love a deep-fried and crunchy version, I’ve always loved the pan seared version a hell of a lot more. And believe it or not, these soft shell crabs are tremendously easy to cook. They are a bit intimidating but all you need is a quick dredge in a seasoned flour and a 3 minute per side pan sear and you’ve got yourself a perfectly cooked meal! And nothing goes better with these soft shell crabs than a light and sweet salsa. This pineapple version (recipe below) balances the bite of a jalapeno and the brininess of the crab just perfectly. But if you aren’t into soft shells, don’t sweat. This salsa would be good on just about anything!

Pineapple Salsa:

1/2 Pineapple

1/2 Jalapeno

1 red bell pepper

1/2 red onion

3 scallions

8 basil leaves

1/2 lime

In a good-sized mixing bowl, add the roughly chopped scallions, finely chopped red onion, bell pepper, and pineapple, and the minced jalapeno. Squeeze in the juice of a half of a lime. Add the roughly chopped basil and season with salt and pepper. Prepare at least a half hour early to let the flavors meld together.


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