October 31, 2005

Aji de Camarones

Peruvians excel in the preparation of ajies, dishes using their mirasol AKA hot yellow peppers. Of course, I couldn't get those at my local supermarket and substituted red pepper flakes as advised by the cookbook from which the recipe came: The South American Table. I took a few other liberties to make my life easier, such as using pre-cooked shrimp and substituting vegetable broth for making the shrimp broth. Some day I'll have to try this with the genuine ingredients and see how different it might be.

Aji de Camarones
Shrimp in Hot Pepper Sauce

1/2 pound cooked large shrimp
juice of one lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the shrimp in a large glass bowl. Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinade in the refrigerator.

1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBSP olive oil
1/8 tsp sweet paprika
3 shallots, minceed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp ground cumin
2 TBSP milk
1/8 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup vegetable broth
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the paprika, add the shrimp and cook about one minute. Transfer shrimp to a clean bowl. Add the chopped shallot and cook until softened. Add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, cumin and cook for one minute. Add the milk, walnuts and 1/2 cup of vegetable broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens (a little thicker thean whipping cream). Stir in Parmesan and shrimp until heated through. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and serve.

Notes: This turned out to be pretty interesting and tasty. A little scant for two servings. If I had added the garnishes recommended: potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and olives, that would no doubt have rounded it out. The other dish that I made from this cookbook - Pechugas de Pollo al Cilantro - turned out to be a favorite, though if one doesn't like cilantro, one shouldn't try it.

Paired with Aresti Reserve Merlot 1999 - a medium bodied wine with a (perhaps too) strong fruity finish and a peppery hint. From Chile (Rio Claro).

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Braised Duck Legs

Braised Duck Legs with Apple Cider, Squash and Rosemary

2 duck legs
1 TBSP vegetable oil
2 sprigs rosemary, 1/2 TBSP thyme, 1 bay leaf, tied in a boquet garni
3 green onions, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
6 garlic cloves
2 cups mixed dice of carrots, fennel (or other hard squash)
1/2 cup apple jack
1 cup apple cider
1 TBSP red wine vinegar

In a large saute pan over high heat, brown the duck legs in the oil. Skim away any fat, and add the herbs, garlic, green onions, and carrot, tossing. Add the apple jack and cider, bring to a low boil.

Cover pan and cook legs, simmering for 75-90 minutes until tender. Remove lid, and skim fat. Reserve legs to a side plate and strain broth, discarding solids. Return the clean broth to the pot, add the diced vegetables and reduce liquid to a sauce consistency, returning the legs to the pot to heat through. Season with the vinegar, salt and pepper (to taste) and serve.

Notes: This turned out quite well, the fennel and carrots being particularly flavorful. Definitely a keeper.

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October 29, 2005

West Hartford: Murasaki

A couple years ago, while parking en route to Grant's Restaurant for dinner, I noticed the little window-front of Murasaki and thought that I should try to get back there someday and try it out. I'm very sorry it took me so long. It's quite possibly some of the best sushi I've ever eaten. Going the a la carte route, here's what was ordered:

*appetizer -- mussels Murasaki: Steamed pacific green mussels in garlic, tomato, onion and lemon sauce. Served chilled. This was very tasty and quite unlike anything I've ever had before.

*the Murasaki roll: with snow crab, veggies and egg
*toro (belly tuna)
*uni (sea urchin)
*sake (salmon)
*unagi (eel)
*hotate (scallop)
*quail egg on masago (smelt roe)

Unangi is a long-time favorite of mine, and this was even better than usual, the sauce being that much higher in taste and quality. The new things that I tried were the sea urchin, which I liked very much and will definitely have again sometime, and the quail egg, presented raw and nestled in the roe. I thought that last would seem more adventurous but only in thought, not in deed, as it turned out. I'm glad to have tried it out but it wasn't quite exciting enough to order again. The tuna belly was very rich and the price matched. Overall I decided it was a bit on the extravagant side and not quite worth the cost. However, everything was prepared absolutely perfectly, and I have not a single complaint as to the food itself. The service was lovely as well. I'll definitely be visting this place again the next time an opportunity presents itself.

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October 24, 2005

New York: Basso Est

En route to see the lovely and talented Vienna Teng at the Living Room (10/20/2005), we stopped around the corner to try out this nice-sounding Italian bistro: Basso Est (Italian for "lower east"), located at 198 Orchard Street. For a difference of approximately five dollars, we had an experience so much different than the one at the Greek restaurant earlier the same week that it was stunning.

A cosy dining room with open kitchens and additional bar-seating with brightly painted walls gave the restaurant a homestyle feel. Each table is served complimentary bruschetta (the tomatoes had a very fresh taste) by the smiling and eager staff.

Main Dishes: I opted for the ravioli of the day, which was stuffed with sweet pumpkin and served in a butter sauce with fried sage leaves. It was, simply put, exceptional. And I tried the Pinot Grigio-Ca’De Mocenigo-2004-Grave-Friuli along with it which turned out to be a well-matched choice. Michael had the papparedelle with wild boar ragout sauce (Abruzzese style). All the pasta is homemade, and it makes one feel extravagant and indulged. (And tempted to buy a pasta attachment for the KitchenAid.)

For dessert, we selected the panna cotta, which was quite rich and tasty. And Michael sampled the house grappa.

Two thumbs up -- even the menus are delicious (according to the two year old at the next table). Definitely worth repeating the next time there's a show at the Living Room nearby.

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October 23, 2005

Pizza Bianca

Americans consume 350 slices of pizza every second, an amount equal to 100 acres a day – that’s 33 billion dollars worth of pizza annually from the more than 60,000 pizzerias in America.

Neapolitans claim pizza was created in Naples during the 18th century, though there are many versions of flatbreads with toppings around the Mediterranean area. In support of their claim, they can point to the earliest official pizzeria, which opened in 1830 at Via Port'Alba 18 in Naples and is still in business today. By the beginning of the 1900's pizza made its way to the United States, thanks to Italian immigrants, most notably in New York and Chicago, due to those cities having large Italian populations. In 1897, Gennaro Lombardi opened a small grocery store in New York’s Little Italy. Their pizza became so popular, Lombardi opened the first US pizzeria in 1905, naming it simply Lombardi's. It’s celebrating its centennial this year and a short review can be had from Vinography who refers us from there to Slice, an entire blog dedicated to eating pizza. Slice also has a review of the famous Pepe's in New Haven (opened in 1925) where customers waiting to be seated form lines down the block (I ate there with some local friends and the trick was apparently to go to the smaller dining room further back in the lot). One of my personal favorite treats are the pizza rolls at Sergi's in Canton, NY.

Sources: wikipedia.org, pizzamaking.com, vinography.com, sliceny.com

This week I attempted my first home-made pizza, and I felt compelled to do something just a little different, which would come as no surprise to those who know me well. Ergo, pizza bianca instead of the old standby with red sauce and pepperoni. And it would have gone fine, too, except for the mutant crust of doom -- I obviously need some more practice with that.

Pizza Bianca with Prosciutto, Arugula, and Parmesan
adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2003

1 batch pizza dough
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
16 thin slices prosciutto (about 6 ounces)
2 cups (packed) arugula leaves
2 cups fresh Parmesan shavings (about 4 ounces)

Made a single pie on a pizza stone. Prepare pizza dough and press out on stone. Drizzle dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Top each with prosciutto, arugula, and Parmesan. Bake until crust is brown, about 8 minutes. Using pizza peel, remove pizza from oven (leaving the stone to cool) and slice as desired. Transfer pizza crusts to plates. Drizzle each with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and serve immediately.

Notes: Well, it came out pretty tasty, despite the aforementioned difficulty with the dough. Getting it to cooperate is not as easy as it looks, and if you've ever actually watched someone make a pizza, it doesn't look that easy. Getting the right elasticity to the dough is the trick apparently, and one I've yet to learn properly. More experimentation required.

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October 20, 2005

New York: Delphi

This was not the restaurant I intended to go to on Sunday night when I was down in the city catching the Kristin Hersh show at the Knitting Factory (Michael's review). I had done my research and come up with an extremely close by Korean restaurant: Kori. But apparently I hadn't looked hard enough because they are closed on Sundays.

Thus, the thing one always wishes to avoid in New York occurred: the wandering of the streets in search of a decent place to eat. And, as so often happens, we failed. It looked like a likely place. Cosy. Warm. Intriguing varietal menu. However, the food was indifferently prepared, and more to the point, the service was the worst I've had in a while. And it made us late to the concert. When we ordered (two different lamb casseroles), we were told that it would take half an hour to prepare. As it grew close to an hour and we had already been unimpressed by the appetizer (a cheese puff), our moods turned sour. If the food had been exemplary, perhaps that would have moderated the thinnest tip I've left in years.

So... Delphi at 109 West Broadway: not recommended.

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October 16, 2005

Chicken with Spicy Sauce

Chicken with Spicy Tomato Sauce
based on a recipe from Bon Appetit

1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
1 TBSP chili powder
1 TBSP fresh lime juice
2 TBSP garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 TBSP dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 TBSP olive oil
2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves

Puree first 8 ingredients in blender.

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet; saute until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Add sauce from blender. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer covered until chicken is cooked through, turning chicken over once, about 10 minutes. Uncover, and continue to simmer sauce until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes longer. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Notes: The sauce was a bit thinner than I anticipated and in typing this up I realized why -- the original recipe called for a can of stewed tomatoes and I suddenly realized that I was going to use pureed but never ended up adding it at all. I guess that means I'll have to make it again and see how that changes things. In retrospect, I don't mind. This was very tasty, and I'd be perfectly happy also making it exactly this way again. Ah, happy accidents. Served with Campus Oaks Old Vine Zinfandel 2001.

9/10/2006: I made this again recently and this time added the tomatoes which gave the sauce a thicker consistency. I also have a new picture:

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October 9, 2005

Pecan Southern Chicken

Pecan Crusted Southern Fried Chicken

1/4 pound pecans, ground
1 cup flour
1 TBSP + 1 tsp paprika
1 TBSP garlic powder
1/2 TBSP black pepper
1/2 TBSP cayenne pepper
1/2 TBSP dried leaf oregano
1/2 TBSP dried thyme

2 halves boneless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2 TBSP milk

Heat vegetable oil, over medium heat, in a large skillet. Combine the pecans with the flour and spices. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Dredge the chicken pieces in the pecan-flour mixture, coating each piece completely. Dip the chicken in the egg wash, coating completely and letting the excess drip off. Dredge the chicken in the pecan flour, for a second time, coating the chicken completely. Lay the chicken in the oil. Fry the chicken for 7 minutes, covered. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook for 7 more minutes. Remove the chicken from the oil and drain on a paper-lined plate.

Notes: The tenderness of this was perfect. The crust meant the chicken was juicy and tasty. I thought the seasoning just a touch too mild though and will probably increase the garlic powder and cayenne next time.

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October 5, 2005

Apple Cardamom Bread

Sour Cream Apple Cardamom Quick Bread

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups grated apples (I used Cortland)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour loaf pans and reserve.

In a mixer, cream together the butter, oil and sugars. Add the eggs, vanilla and sour cream. Sift together the cardamom, salt, baking powder, baking soda and flour. Mix into the creamed ingredients, a little at a time, until incorporated, taking care not to overmix. Stir in the walnuts and apple. Divide batter between the prepared pans.

Bake for approximately 60 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick poked in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack and turn right-side-up to cool completely.

Makes two 9 by 5 inch loaves. (Or four smaller loaves if you own the same Nordicware pan that I have.)

Notes: This comes out very moist (the sour cream) and tastes rather more of cardamom than apples. I find it goes very well with a piece of quality cheddar on the side. A yummy way to continue to use up my supplies from the orchard.

Posted by Jennifer at 8:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
October 3, 2005

Boston: The Blue Room

In the interest of making Friday night's excursion as rich as possible, I made a reservation at The Blue Room, 1 Kendall Square, for dinner before seeing Neil Gaiman's and Dave McKean's Mirrormask (Michael's review here). I'm hard put to say which part of the evening was better. The food was superb, and the movie was magical.

Appetizer: One Perfect Cheese -- served with an apple compote, and it was absolutely and truly tasty. An aged cheddar and I wish I'd written down what our server said it was because I would love to eat more of it. I reluctantly had the mundane version from my 'fridge today and it didn't even come close to that pervasive rich and almost-nutty taste.

Entrees: I ordered two more appetizers as it happened - the fisherman's soup, which had a lovely texture with pureed fish and saffron and other rich flavors, and a blue squash and feta tart, which had a very light and flaky crust and a contrasting taste that offset the soup very well. Michael had the shrimp and chorizo, which was scotch bonnet marinated (that was a lovely little kick in the taste-buds) and came with crispy yucca.

Dessert: We were tempted by the lemon-goatcheese cheesecake but couldn't resist the molten chocolate cake with the raspberry sauce.

The restaurant itself is very cosy, a long narrow space bisected by the bar. When we first got there it was fairly quiet, but by the time we left, it had gotten much busier, and the low ceilings and exposed brick, while visually appealing, didn't make for the best acoustics in that respect. Still, it had an air of sophistication, but not to the extent that it seemed it was over-impressed with itself. There were nice touches, such as pouring the wine at the table and allowing for a brief tasting first. I must say that our server was outstanding. Everything was well-timed, and we made it to the movie on time even though we were just over half an hour late for our reservation due to traffic.

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October 2, 2005

Forecasting: September 2005

Culinary-related books which sold to publishers in September 2005. Garnered from a variety of sources.

*Bob Skilnik's THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF BEER AND BREWING IN CHICAGO, to Barricade, for publication in Spring 2006.

*Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's MY GRANDMOTHER'S CHINESE KITCHEN: Lessons and Recipes for My Granddaughter, presenting 100 "heirloom" recipes along with family stories about her beloved grandmother, to Perigee, for publication during Chinese New Year 2007.

*Actor Morgan Freeman's MORGAN FREEMAN & FRIENDS: Caribbean Cooking for a Cause, which will benefit the Grenada Relief Fund and feature island recipes from celebrity friends, including Hilary Swank, Tom Hanks, Alicia Keys, and Michael Douglas, to Rodale.

*Dave DeWitt's THE LEONARDO DA VINCI COOKBOOK, a food history with recipes that details the story of Leonardo's career as cook, kitchen innovator, and gourmand, to Broadway. Dave DeWitt's The Spicy Food Lover's Bible : The Ultimate Guide to Buying, Growing, Storing, and Using the Key Ingredients That Give Food Spice with More Than 250 Recipes from Around the World, co-written with Nancy Gerlach was released in May of this year.

*Radio host and cookbook author Lynne Rossetto Kasper, producer Sally Swift and Minnesota Public Radio's THE SPLENDID TABLE GUIDE TO WORK-NIGHT MENUS, a compendium of culinary wisdom culled from Kasper's show, The Splendid Table, to Clarkson Potter. Kasper's earlier book, The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food, published by Morrow in 1992, was a winner of the IACP and James Beard Awards.

*Food writer Adeena Sussman's illustrated history of the post-war boom in mass-produced prepared foods, from Jell-O to boxed baking mixes to TV dinners, to Collector's Press.

*Jane Stern and Michael Stern's AMERICA'S 100 BEST SANDWICHES, serving up favorite sandwiches encountered coast to coast and where to find them, to Houghton Mifflin.

*Walter Staib's BLACK FOREST FUSION: Classic Cuisine from the Heart of Europe, featuring the traditional and eclectic cuisine of Germany's Schwarzwald, to Running Press. This publisher has previously released Staib's City Tavern Cookbook (1999).

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