There's this great lunch stop in Toronto called Pita Break, and because there was no ACN this year, I won't be making my annual pilgrimage. Nevertheless, it's that time of year and apparently that mental yearning showed up this week. It's really too bad that I have no idea how to make crispy spicy baby octopus, though, because that's the other dish I'm really missing about now.
Lamb Burgers in Pita with Yogurt Sauce
adapted from a recipe in Bon Appetit (April 1995)
2 cups plain nonfat yogurt
1/4 medium red onion, grated
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound ground lamb
2/3 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
1/4 medium red onion, grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 TBSP olive oil
4 pita bread rounds, top 1/4 trimmed from each (tops reserved)
Mix first 4 ingredients together in medium bowl. Season yogurt sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Mix lamb and next 7 ingredients in large bowl until well blended. Season generously with salt and pepper. Shape mixture into 8 evenly-sized patties. Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in skillet and pan-fry patties, about 4 minutes per side.
Open pita bread rounds; line bottoms with trimmed tops, if desired. Place greens, tomatoes, burger, then large spoonful of yogurt sauce in each round. Serve, passing sauce separately.
Notes: The lamb burgers could still use a bit more spice, I think, so I plan on bumping the cinnamon and cumin up to a full teaspoon the next time I make this. Also, I'd intended to add some feta cheese as one of the fillings and completely forgot to do so. Evenso, very yummy, if not quite as versatile as the choices at Pita Break.
Those who know me well and have heard tales of my personal foodie history will no doubt be shocked to learn that I made lasagne this week. Naturally, I couldn't use the traditional method. That would've just been going too far.
Spinach Lasagne Rolls
adapted from Bon Appetit (March 1990)
1 tablespoon olive oil
10-ounces fresh spinach
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/4 cups grated mozzarella
1 egg, beaten to blend
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce
8 lasagne noodles, freshly cooked
Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach and saute until tender. Cool. Combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, egg, parsley, and garlic in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread 1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce over bottom of 8-inch square baking dish. Pat 1 lasagne noodle dry with paper towel. Set on waxed paper sheet. Spread about 1/3 cup ricotta mixture over noodle. Carefully roll up noodle, starting at 1 short end, to enclose filling. Arrange seam side down in prepared dish. Repeat with remaining noodles. Top with remaining 1 1/2 cups sauce. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.) Bake 35 minutes, sprinkle with additional fresh grated Parmesan cheese, and bake 10 minutes more. Serve immediately.
Notes: Despite a few mishaps due to my lasagne-phobia, this came out pretty darn tasty. For example, I used fresh mozzarella and ended up just chopping it up into the mixture. I might even keep this recipe that way. And the leftovers that I had a couple days later worked out well too. I did use spaghetti sauce from a jar - Prego roasted garlic and herb - I really must develop my own sauce some day in the not-too-distant future....
Quick Chicken Cacciatore
1 boneless chicken breast, halved
2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vermouth (or white wine)
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
handful chopped parsley
Brown chicken in 1 TBSP oil. Remove from pan and season with salt and pepper.
Add remaining oil to pan. Put in pepper flakes and garlic. Saute 2 minutes. Add wine and scrape up chicken bits. Stir in tomato and parsley. Cut the chicken into chunks and add to sauce. Simmer 10 minutes or until thickened.
Serve over noodles (used farfalle) with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Notes: This had a bit more kick than I expected, but it worked out fine, though the sauce was a bit on the thin side.
Autumnal signs were everywhere: the air turned cool and crisp, roadside stands have begun to sport pumpkins and squash, and it was time to have the furnace cleaned. As always, I am tempted by childhood memories to go to the apple orchard nearby and wander through the trees, occasionally picking fruit until I've had my fill of the sun and scent.
Last year my experiment thereafter was to try a couple of new quickbreads, including Fresh Apple Bread. I must have been feeling more brave, or more crazy, or perhaps even more bitten by nostalgia because I wanted to try and make a jam or jelly of some sort. I've never attempted it without parental guidance. But I thought I'd give it a whirl. It sure smelled wonderful while it was cooking, but I'm still awaiting the verdict from my chief taster on flavor and consistency.
Spiced Apple Marmalade
recipe from thatsmyhome.com
One 2-inch cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp cloves
6 cardamom pods, cracked
1 fresh lemon, unpeeled, quartered, seeds removed, thinly sliced
6 medium apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped (6 cups)
2 cups water
1/4 cup orange juice
5 cups sugar
Combine spices in a cheesecloth bag. In an 8- to 10-quart kettle, combine spices, lemon slices, apples, water and orange juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until apples are tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove spice bag. Add sugar. Boil for 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick and clear, or until it sheets when poured from a metal spoon.
Remove from heat and skim off foam. Pour at once into hot, sterile jars. Wipe jar rims clean and seal.
Makes 3 pints.
Notes: I used Jona Gold apples for this one. Had a very hard time following the directions in my canning and preserves book to figure out what they meant by sheeting. I think I might be game to take another shot at trying something else along these lines, though. So many of the recipes sound appealing.
After eating out a couple of very appealing places in New York City, I was in the mood for a home-cooked meal, but the trip home proved I wasn't ready to tackle actually being in the kitchen again. So, from the train station, I went to Max Amore in Glastonbury (9/15). It's a very popular local place. Always crowded. Quite noisy, but with good acoustics so one can hear one's tablemate(s) amidst the din.
Appetizer: Carpaccio Classico -- I have a weakness for carpaccio in many forms. I've tried tuna and salmon variations. But the beef sirloin is always the one that I want to come home to. The first time I ever had it was across the street from Max Amore at J. Gilbert's. Max Amore's version is a stiff competition.
Main Dishes: I had the lobster pasta special, which was quite tasty if a bit drier than I anticipated from its description. My companion had Fresh Black Pepper Pappardelle, prepared with prosciutto, sweet English peas, and a parmesan cream sauce. It was the better of the two dishes.
Dessert: We split the "Baci Ball" -- a hazelnut and chocolate covered gelato with black raspberry cream anglaise. Yum.
My meal was accompanied with a glass of Pinot Noir Mark West 2002, which seemed to suit the various dishes fairly well. Robust with a good balance of flavors.
Lunch date #2 (9/15) -- this time with an editor from Penguin Putnam. She took me to a little local place at 20 Cornelia Street. It's small and deserves its name: Home Restaurant, since it goes out of its way to have a cosy, home-cooking atmosphere. I was lucky to find on special that day a molasses-glazed squab, which turned out to be ever so tender and tasty. My companion had the 3 egg omelet with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and herbs and made a very brave attempt to eat the entire generous portion. We had a slight mishap with dessert, having decided to split the chocolate pudding and receiving instead the butterscotch. Quickly rectified by the apologetic waitress, we then enjoyed our sweet treat before heading back to our respective offices.
A trip down to visit the home office and fit in a couple business lunches, among other things... Had lunch (9/14) with an editor from Harlequin at Landmarc: 179 West Broadway.
It had been a beastly hot day so I wanted something light and refreshing. Instead of a heavy meal, I chose the salmon carpaccio appetizer and a large-sized endive salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and sherry vinaigrette. I discovered I had ordered exactly what I needed. The carpaccio was cool and slightly lemony; the salad had a nice contrasting robust flavor. My lunch-date, who had the endive salad as well, started with the chilled tomato soup that was on special that day and declared it excellent. We ate in the cafe portion of the restaurant (there's also an upstairs) and enjoyed the open and airy decor.
Every once in a while I get to go to a fellow-foodie home and receive the fine gift of being cooked for and indulged in high-class fashion. On this occasion I was treated to Lamb Ragu with Lamb Risotto, and it was very fine indeed. I grumbled a teensy bit about the stock from cube (gentle ribbing, really) but the home-made oil used in the recipe more than made up for it. Unfortunately, I didn't take notes on either the white wine that went into the recipe (which was also taste-tested) or the red we drank with the meal. In any case, bravo -- all hail the cook.
Lemon Pound Cake (from Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook)
1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks)
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp lemon peel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat butter 30 seconds with electric mixer. Gradually add sugar. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time. Add dry ingredients gradually.
Flour pan and spread batter evenly. Cook for 65 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Lemon Glaze (from the Pillsbury Cookbook)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
Remove cake from oven. Blend glaze ingredients. Spoon 1/2 glaze over hot cake in pan. Cool 10 minutes and invert onto server. Cover with remaining glaze.
Notes: I've done this particular combination in a number of shapes but never recorded the recipe before. This time around I used a brand new cake pan and was quite amazed at how well the cake released considering all the nooks in the pan itself. But even with brave (and pretty) Valentin defending, the cake was thoroughly devoured by the ravenous ATD group.
In chorus: "Stuffing is Evil!" But luckily this ends up being a very tasty dressing and there is no making of pockets in pork chops or stuffing involved.
Pork Chops with Pecan Cornbread Dressing and Cider Gravy
adapted from Gourmet (November, 2002)
2 1/4 cups coarsely crumbled (1/2-inch pieces) corn bread
1/2 celery rib, coarsely chopped
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 oz. fresh shiitakes, stems discarded and caps coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 center cut boneless pork chops
1/3 cup unfiltered apple cider
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Lightly toast corn bread in a shallow baking pan in middle of oven until dry and pale golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
Increase oven temperature to 375 F.
Saute celery and shallots in butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in shiitakes and saute, stirring, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth and deglaze skillet by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits. Add corn bread, pecans, sage, parsley, and pepper and toss well, then transfer to a buttered 3-quart gratin dish or large baking pan.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in cleaned skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Pat dry pork chops and season with salt and pepper. Brown chops, turning once, about 6 minutes total, then arrange on corn bread. Reserve skillet.
Roast chops on corn bread in middle of oven until pork is just cooked through, 18 to 22 minutes. After pork has roasted 10 minutes, pour off fat from skillet and heat skillet over moderately high heat until hot. Add cider and deglaze skillet by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, then add remaining broth. Stir cornstarch mixture and add to hot cider mixture. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking, 1 minute and season with salt and pepper.
Serve chops and dressing with sauce on the side.
If you don't have day-old corn-bread, you can use the following recipe for a drier version that can be baked just ahead and used as soon as it cools enough to handle.
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (not coarse)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together egg, milk, and oil in another bowl, then add to cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined.
Pour batter into a greased 8- or 9-inch square baking pan and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a rack, then turn bread out onto rack to cool completely.
This makes enough for 4 1/2 cups of crumbled cornbread (ergo, I used only half for my version of the recipe above).
Notes: In my version, there's double the cornbread dressing per pork chop, and I was pretty happy with that since I really enjoyed the mix. I think I might make a separate batch to add to the Thanksgiving table this year. For reference the next time I make this one: may replace the gravy with a reduction sauce that tastes more strongly of the cider. Found that gravy a touch too mild. Also, this is a recipe that definitely needs time to prepare. Though the steps are individually simple, there are many and the mise en place is time-consuming. Very, very good though. Will make again sometime.
Served with Rock Rabbit 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, which we found surprisingly a bit too sweet.
Attempting ingenuity. I had about a tablespoon or so of duck fat left over from making Duck Breast with Orange, Ginger and Balsamic Sauce and a half a potato from the night before.
1 TBSP duck fat
1/2 russet potato, scrubbed and diced
freshly ground pepper, to taste
Copping instructions from One Potato, Two Potato's recipe for Potatoes Fried in Goose Fat: Melt the fat in a skillet over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add potatoes. Cook for a couple minutes and add pepper. Reduce to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes (shaking pan a couple times during cooking). Remove cover, increase heat to high and cook another minute or two until crisp and brown.
Notes: Homefries are not my forte. My sister does pretty well with them, but mine never quite come out right. These, though, were lovely. Tender and warm on this inside, crisp on the outside and very tasty.
Duck Breasts with Orange, Ginger and Balsamic Sauce
adapted from recipe on http://www.globalgourmet.com/
2 boneless duck breast halves, about 1 pound
For the sauce:
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup chicken or veal stock
1 1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 TBSP unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP orange peel
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat an oven-safe skillet over high heat. Crosshatch skin of duck breasts. Add duck breasts, skin side down, to skillet. Cook until skin is well browned, about 4 minutes. Turn duck breasts over; cook 2 minutes. Move pan with duck into oven; cover and roast for 8 minutes (medium-rare). Remove duck from pan and cover to keep warm. Pour off fat from the pan and reserve for other use.
Return pan to stove-top over medium-high heat, and deglaze with orange juice and chicken stock. Reduce by one-half, about 15-20 minutes, uncovered. Add balsamic vinegar and ginger, cook 2-3 minutes then add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time while whisking constantly. After butter is completely integrated add pepper and orange peel. Turn off heat, cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
Notes: I was surprised to realize as I was typing this up that I completely forgot to cross-hatch the skin on the duck breasts before searing. Evenso, this came out quite delicious and the flavors were well-balanced (though the Duck with Orange Tea Sauce still reigns supreme). This was adapted from an existing recipe in which the duck was grilled rather than seared and roasted.
I also took this opportunity to thaw and reheat the Carrot, Honey, and Ginger Soup that was one of my entries for Is My Blog Burning #14. Spiced up with an extra dash of freshly ground black pepper as it was served, it turned out rather well. I think I can foretell more experiments with making and freezing soups this winter.
Culinary books which sold to publishers in August 2005. Garnered from a variety of sources.
New York chef Sara Jenkins's THE ELEMENT OF FLAVOR, 200 sublime recipes that teach how to coax big flavors from simple ingredients, to Houghton Mifflin.
Cat Cora's CAT CORA'S COOKING FROM THE HIP, fast and easy recipes by a Food Network personality and the first female member on American "Iron Chef," to Houghton Mifflin.
Restaurateur of the Michael's restaurants in New York and Santa Monica Michael McCarty's MICHAEL'S COOKBOOK, recipes from the restaurants and anecdotes about entertaining powerful patrons, to Bulfinch.
Chris Warren's FEASTS FROM PARADISO, celebrating Tuscan feasts and harvest in a calendar year, with a running narrative of recreating traditional caves used for cooking and winemaking, to DK.
Dina Cheney's TASTE THIS!: The Complete At-Home Guide to Tasting Parties, to DK.
A.J. Rathbun's PARTY SNACKS!, a humorous 50-recipe cocktail food cookbook and companion to Rathbun's Party Drinks!, to Harvard Common Press.
Donna Klein's THE GLUTEN-FREE VEGETARIAN KITCHEN, to Putnam.
Julia Child's executive chef and book collaborator Nancy Verde Barr's DIDN'T WE HAVE FUN?: My Years with Julia Child, a fond and humorous appreciation of the culinary maven, to Wiley.
The Editors of Weight Watchers's WEIGHT WATCHERS NEW COMPLETE COOKBOOK: Over 500 Delicious Recipes for the Healthy Cook's Kitchen, complete with Points, CORE recipes, and nutritional information, to Wiley.