Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just in Time for the End of Crab Season and the Beginning of Cool Weather

Crab Asparagus Soup

Growing up, my dad used to make a delicious soup for us on special occasions.  I'm not sure why it was only on special occasions, perhaps because crab tends to be expensive and maybe asparagus wasn't available often.  But these days if my dad isn't golfing in the morning, he's crabbing so there is always an abundance of leftover crab meat.  A few years ago I had a distinct food memory of this soup so I asked my dad to try and dig up the cookbook with this recipe.  This particular cookbook was ancient - well the 1970s at least - when eating "ethnic food" was Chinese...but I think I'll try to find it and make some additional recipes.

This soup is incredibly easy, probably the most easy soup I have ever made.  However, the resulting dish is so elegant you would be proud to serve it to the most foodie dinner guest.  As my coworker said today as he sipped my leftovers "I would pay for that at a restaurant!"

This recipe makes 6 servings - and I recommend homemade chicken stock to make it really special.

8 ounces fresh crabmeat
1 pound fresh thin stemmed asparagus
1 tablespoon sherry
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
6 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 scallion, minced
1 tablespoon cornstarch (I didn't have this so I just used Wondra flour)
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese chili paste or chili sauce
1 tablespoon of finely chopped chives

  1. Pick through the crab meat to make sure none of the hard membranes are left behind.  Cut the top 2/3 of the asparagus off in 1 inch pieces.  
  2. Boil the asparagus in water for 3 minutes, remove the asparagus and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  
  3. In a soup pot, bring the chicken broth, sherry, and soy sauce to a boil.  
  4. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium high and add the scallion, stir frying for 30 seconds.  Next add the crabmeat and asparagus and stir fry for another 30 seconds.
  5. Add the stir fried mixture to the pot of boiling broth and add chili sauce.
  6. Stir in the cornstarch into a small bowl containing the 3 tablespoons water.  Whisk.  Add this to the soup and allow it to thicken for 1 minute while stirring slightly.
  7. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with chives.

Serve nice, crusty bread alongside to sop up all the broth!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finally Back to Blogging

When I just logged in, blogspot kindly reminded me it has been since March 28 that I last created an entry.  I felt the need to explain to blogspot with the end of law school, the bar exam, work, and of course Ben...I've been a little busy.  But now that life has settled back down, Ben is already one, I should get back to sharing my love of food and cooking for my family.  Not to say that I haven't been cooking all this time...I just couldn't quite bring myself to sit in front of the computer to write anymore than I did studying that whole time.

Banh Mi

So Jordan and I got hooked on the very end of the Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network.  The idea behind it is that operators of food trucks compete against each other for sales.  They are given the same amount of money in each city to buy ingredients and given a set amount of time to get as many sales as possible.  The winner is the one who makes the most money.  Surprisingly to me, one of the biggest successes was a truck called NomNom serving Vietnamese sandwiches called Banh Mi.  I had always been interested in having one because I think Vietnamese food is one of the most underrated Asian foods around.  Pho - beef noodle soup - is my favorite in the winter.

Now, my husband does not share my love of Vietnamese foods.  In fact - he and fish sauce (a common Vietnamese ingredient) don't get along at all.  Even a little bit of this savory sauce added to a dish he can taste.  So when throughout the Great Food Truck Race season he increasingly expressed an interest in trying the Banh Mi, I was rightfully skeptical.  I repeatedly explained that fish sauce was an ingredient in the sandwich, along with pate (another of my favorites and his not so favorite) but he persisted.  So this week, while reading Gourmet, I saw a recipe for Banh Mi.  (NOTE:  while Gourmet has sadly gone out of business, they are apparently publishing montages of previously published recipes in new forms) I had my doubts about this particular recipe - it used chicken instead of pork and included liverwurst.  Now I have never had liverwurst but more importantly - I didn't even know where to buy it.  So I doubled checked the recipe with and read the reviews...not so good.  By the way, the user reviews on Epicurious recipes are invaluable.  So I searched the website and found a new one...and it was far and away a success.  This sandwich has the beautiful balance of tastes: savory, sweet, sour, spicy - that all good Vietnamese food has.  Needless to say, despite the fish sauce, Jordan loved everything about the Banh Mi!

Hot Chili Mayo:
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)*

Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)**
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
  • Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
  • 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. 
Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. 
Press on baguette tops.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easy Asian Inspired Meal

Spring vegetables tend to lend themselves to Asian and Italian foods, in my opinion.  With this month's Bon Appetit I wanted to try a recipe that used the beautiful Alaskan King Salmon I had seen at Whole Foods and the prevalence of spring vegetables (last night was roasted baby artichokes).  So this meal was Salmon with Sweet Chili Glaze, Sugar Snap Peas, and Pea Tendrils.  On the side an Asian Cucumber Ribbon Salad and Soba Noodles.

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1/4 cup Asian sweet chili sauce*
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger, divided
  • 6 6-ounce salmon fillets with skin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry Sherry
  • 3 cups pea tendrils** or pea sprouts** (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bombay Sliders and my favorite salad

This meal is sort of disconnected but it happens to be two of my favorite dishes.  First, Bombay Sliders.  These were in Bon Appetit a few years back and since then I've been making them pretty regularly and have tweaked the recipe a bit.  The second is my favorite easy salad.  The ingredients are few, but specialty, so if you have a local source...try it out.

Bombay Sliders with Garlic Curry Sauce


1/2 cup plain yogurt - I use nonfat, whatever you have is fine.
1/2 cup mayo.  Ina Garten always says 'good' mayo and suggests Hellman's.  I have tried others and now I have to agree its the only way to go.
1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
3 teaspoons curry powder (I use hot Madras curry)
1 garlic clove - minced.

Mix all the ingredients and let sit at room temperature while you cook the sliders.


2 lbs ground turkey (I use 1 lb of ground breast and 1 lb of ground thighs, whatever combo you like is fine)
6 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all the above ingredients and form into slider size patties.  About 2 inches in diameter.  You can either broil or pan cook these.  Broiling is certainly easier.  Preheat your broiler and cook the sliders about 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through.  If you want to cook in a pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat and cook the same amount of time.

Serve the sliders on mini-pita breads topped with the sauce.  Dinner rolls work if you don't have mini-pita breads.

My favorite salad

1 5 oz container mache
1/2 cup Marcona almonds
3 oz soft goat cheese
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Mache is a delicate lettuce grown in a rosette shape.  It has recently experienced a growth in the US, it has been popular in Europe for a long time.  It is a super delicate lettuce with tons of antioxidants and a nutty, mellow flavor.  Below is a link to a story about it on NPR. Marcona almonds are a roasted, salted almond from Spain.

NPR Article

For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Whisk in olive oil.

For the salad, top the mache with crumbled goat cheese and the Marcona almonds, chopped roughly if you want.  Drizzle on enough vinaigrette to moisten the salad and toss.

NOTE:  Don't dress the salad until right before you are going to eat, the mache is so delicate it wilts if you let it sit for too long!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Favorite Weeknight Meal - Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is my go to meal for weeknights when I want something satisfying but with little work.  Just start with a good quality roaster chicken.  I like Bell & Evans but something free-range from your local farmers market should give you good results as well.  This meal takes me about 10 mins to get in the oven and then it requires little other tending.

Simple Roast Chicken
four pound roasting chicken
1 large sweet onion
1/2 bag baby carrots
4- 6 yukon gold potatoes, depending on their size
2 large garlic cloves
1 lemon
2 tbls butter - melted
olive oil
1 loaf of bread - I like ciabatta for this but you can use any type of whole loaf bread you like.


Preheat the oven to 425.

Slice the onion into 1/3 inch rings and separate.  Cut the potatoes into chunks, about 4 -6 pieces per potato.  Put these and the 1/2 bag of carrots onto a cookie sheet.  Drizzle the veggies with olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) and season with salt (about 3/4 teaspoon) and pepper (1/2 teaspoon).

Rinse the chicken inside and out, pat dry.  Season the chicken, inside and out, generously with salt and pepper.  Create a chicken-sized hole in the veggies and place the chicken on the cookie sheet.  Smash each clove of garlic.  Cut the lemon into four wedges.  Place lemon and garlic inside the chicken cavity.  Brush the top of the chicken all over with the melted butter.

Roast the chicken in the oven, at 425, for 1 1/2 hours.  About every 30 mins give the veggies a toss around the cookie sheet.  The veggies will get pretty dark brown as they cook - this is good!  If they appear to be cooking too quickly for your tastes, just remove them and reserve them in a dish.

The chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted in the dark meat registers 170 or a slice made between the leg and the body runs clear juices.  When the chicken is done, place it on a cutting board, cover it with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.  THIS STEP IS CRITICAL TO SUCCESS!  This resting allows for the chicken to cool slightly and for the juices to redistribute into the meat. If you cut into the chicken to early, all the juices run out and they are lost - result: dry meat.

While the chicken is resting, cut your bread in half (if you are using ciabatta) or in 1 inch slices if you are using a bigger bread.  Brush the bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  If you have a grill handy, grill the bread until it is crispy and browned.  If not, just place it under your broiler for the same effect - about 3 - 5 minutes.  Chop the grilled bread into 1 inch cubes.  Place the bread in a layer at the bottom of your serving dish.


To serve the chicken I first cut off both legs and wings, then separate the thigh from the drumstick.  Place these pieces on the bread layer.  Then I slice off both breasts and cut them into 4 -5 pieces.  This allows everyone to have some of each type of meat.  Place this on the bread cubes.  Pour the veggies, pan juices, and any leftover juice from cutting up the chicken over the serving dish.  The bread will soak up all the juice and flavor (sorry Mona and Ash - its a soggy bread dish).

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bon Appetit's One Pot Classics - Part 1 - Pork and Poblano Tamale Pie

Growing up we didn't have any of the traditional dishes that people my age complained about.  Meatloaf, tuna noodle casserole, crock pot dishes were pretty exotic to my sister and I until we visited a friend or started cooking with our roommates college.  So when Bon Appetit had a one pot classics article I was very interested.

Bon Appetit Article

First of all, I've never had even one of these dishes in its original form so I don't have much to compare.  But despite this I forged ahead because I feel my culinary education isn't complete until I understand as many possible cuisines as I can.  I had my first deviled egg just last year so I still have a lot to learn.

The final dish here was amazing, one of the best I've made that only required slight modification from its original form.  I left about half the poblano seeds into the chopped peppers.  The reviews of the dish indicated that it did not have quite enough heat so this really did the trick.  I used a pretty coarsely ground cornmeal so the cornbread topping was really rustic.  It paired perfectly with the fork-tender pork.  Another note here - the pork  (1 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless country-style pork ribs) was something that I was not familiar with.  Just ask your butcher is my advice.  When it was cooked it was like the pork used in barbecue rather than a pork loin. Also, I just threw the charred peppers into a paper grocery bag, this works well instead of having to clean a bowl.

Pork and Poblano Tamale Pie.

6 servings


Pie Filling

  • 12 ounces fresh poblano chilies (about 4 large)
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 2 cups chopped white onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño chiles
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup purchased salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Cornbread Topping

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (preferably whole-grain stone-ground)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 5 ounces), divided
  • Sour cream

Pie Filling

  • Char poblano chiles and bell pepper directly over flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer chiles and bell pepper to large bowl; cover and let steam 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop chiles and bell pepper.
  • Stir cumin seeds and coriander seeds in small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and slightly darker in color, about 3 minutes. Remove seeds from heat and cool completely. Finely grind toasted seeds in spice mill or in mortar with pestle. Transfer to small bowl and set aside.
  • Coarsely puree thawed corn kernels in processor. Cover and refrigerate corn puree until ready to use.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with coarse salt and pepper. Working in batches, add pork to pot and sauté until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to medium bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pot, then add chopped onions and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add ground spice mixture, garlic, jalapeño, and oregano; stir 1 minute. Return pork and any accumulated juices to pot. Add chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits. Add salsa verde and bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer 30 minutes. Add chopped chiles, chopped bell pepper, and half of corn puree to pork mixture; cover partially and simmer until pork is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 15 minutes longer. Season pie filling to taste with coarse salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Pie filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm pie filling, stirring over medium heat, before continuing.
  • Transfer pie filling to 10-inch-diameter 2 1/2-inch-deep ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron). Stir in chopped cilantro.

Cornbread Topping

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk flour, yellow cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and chili powder in large bowl to blend. Whisk remaining corn puree, whole milk, melted butter, egg, and honey in medium bowl to blend. Add corn puree mixture to flour mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup cheddar cheese over pie filling in skillet. Drop cornbread batter by large spoonfuls atop pie filling. Spread cornbread batter evenly to cover pie filling completely. 
  • Bake tamale pie until cornbread topping is deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve tamale pie hot, passing sour cream alongside.

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits is one of my favorite southern dishes.  In Gourmet magazine's last edition, a recipe for shrimp and polenta was posted in the Gourmet Everyday section.  I've been making a version of this dish often since then. It only takes about 20 mins from start to finish, perfect for a week night but the final result is worthy of a weekend meal.

1 lb shrimp - I use frozen (which are often much fresher than the "fresh" ones in the case as these have usually been frozen before they made it to the store) 21-30 count (which refers to a size class - how many shrimp of this size make up a pound)
4 oz of pancetta (Italian bacon) chopped
3 gloves of garlic, minced
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, depending on how much heat you like
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes - with juice
olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil at medium high. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp - about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and crush red pepper to the cooked pancetta.  Cook for 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant.  Then add the can of tomatoes and juice.  Cook this at medium heat for about 5 - 8 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Finally, add the shrimp, cooking until just done, flipping once - about 2 minutes per side.

Finish with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper (probably won't need much salt, depending on how salty your pancetta is).


1 cup coarse ground corn meal (called grits or polenta - depending on the brand)
3 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Boil the water and salt in a saucepan over high heat.  Reduce heat to low - medium/low and whisk in the grits.  Use a wooden spoon and stir the grits frequently while they thicken and the water is absorbed.  I usually allow about 10 minutes of cooking time.  When the grits have reached your desired consistency, add the butter, cheese, and season with salt and pepper.  Beware - cooking the grits too long will create a gummy texture and they will all stick together in a blob.  Now this can be good if you want to shape it and grill it but that's not the point of this dish.

To serve - spoon a serving of grits onto your plate and top with the cooked shrimp and sauce.  I served it with a simple side of steamed broccoli.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Forgo the Melting Pot, enjoy fondue at home!

I have a friend at work that loves to go to the Melting Pot.  I have been to the Melting Pot once or twice, and although my meals have always been good, I just can't help but think it is so easy and WAY cheaper to do fondue at home.  Now I'm sure many married couples have a fondue pot that they got for their wedding and have never really used it, maybe once for a chocolate fondue dessert.  Maybe its because my parents were hippies but I grew up loving to eat a fondue dinner. 

Fondue dinner is so flexible for lots of guests and really doesn't require much work at all.  Here is my approach to fondue dinner, whether for two or ten people.  Choose 5 - 6 vegetables.  Chop up about 1/2 cup of each vegetable (for two people) in large chunks.  I choose zucchini, broccolini, green peppers, green beans, and onions.  The carrots aren't really for cooking, just for snacking.  Arrange on a plate.

Next for the proteins - choose three - five proteins depending on what your guests enjoy.  We have hear peeled, deveined shrimp, mahi-mahi, and grass fed beef strip steak.  Cut into large chunks.  Season with salt and pepper and arrange on a plate.

Next make some dipping sauces!  Here you can go with a combo of pre-made sauces and homemade sauces.  You can base your sauces on what types of proteins and veggies you are serving.  I always have some sort of Asian/teryaki type sauce.  Most of the time I buy this - I like Soy Vay Veri Veri Teryaki.  Or Trader Joe's potsticker dipping sauce.  Most of the times I have tried to make Asian dipping sauces the results have been far inferior to the pre-made.  

I also do a garlic butter.  Melt 3 tablespoons of salted butter in a small skillet over medium heat and add 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Cook until the garlic is softened and fragrant, being careful not to burn it, about 5 - 10 minutes.

I really like a green goddess - type sauce for the veggies.  I take creme fraiche (you can use sour cream) about 4 oz.  (optional - 2 oz. softened cream cheese) and add 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, basil and dill.  Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.  Let this sit for about 30 mins before eating.

I like a curry mayo as well.  Take 2 tablespoons of good mayo, 1 tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt, and 1 teaspoon of curry powder (I like hot Madras curry) and combine.

Finally, a horseradish sauce, either pre-made or fresh using 1 cup sour cream, 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 2 scallions, finely chopped, 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and
salt and pepper to taste.  Blend together!

Here are my dipping sauces.  Bottom left - asian, center - green goddess, top left - horseradish, top right - garlic butter, bottom right - curry mayo.

Finally - the cooking.  I like the traditional hot oil cooking method - which if you keep your oil hot enough you can keep the food from absorbing too much of it.  You can use a flavored bouillon (beef, chicken or veggie broth with various seasonings) instead of oil.

If you use oil, a tempura batter for veggies and some of the seafood is in order.

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Deep Dish Pizza

Some people like to argue whether Chicago style deep dish pizza or New York's thinner crust pizza are better (mainly these people are from Chicago or New York...) but I don't think there is any way to compare them!  They are different meals altogether.  Personally, I have never appreciated true New York pizza that when folded "properly" becomes a conduit for massive amounts of grease to be delivered directly to your mouth...but that's another story.  My favorite is the Neapolitan style with super thin, crispy crust, lightly sauced with very little cheese.  Maybe that will be next Saturday's blog post!

So when deep dish pizza was requested today I spent some time reading blogs and recipes and found there was quite a bit of variation in the approach to all things deep dish - crust, cheese, toppings.  I took a little bit from each of the recipes and here is what I came up with.

Megan's Deep Dish

Ben and I shopped today looking for deep dish ingredients, which can be as varied as what your family can possible love/hate.  I saw some huge, beautiful shiitake mushrooms from a local farm and grabbed them immediately.  I also picked up a red pepper, sweet onion, and basil.  For the meat,  I used Whole Food's in-house made Tuscan turkey sausage...similar to sweet Italian sausage with a bit more heat and sweet red peppers. 

For the dough

3 cups all purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast (these are 2 1/4 teaspoons each)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup of warm water
4 tablespoons butter - melted

In your stand mixer put the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Add the water and butter and knead with the dough hook for about 4 -5 minutes.  If you don't have a stand mixer, mix the ingredients together until they are combined and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.  Either way, the final dough should spring back slowly when you press your finger into it. 

Put the kneaded dough into a bowl greased with olive oil in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour.  The dough should double in size.  Punch the dough down and let it rise for another 30 minutes.

 For the filling: 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, rough chop
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3/4 lb tuscan style turkey sausage
2 small crowns of broccoli, cut into large chunks.

In a large skillet on medium high heat cook the onions and peppers for 10 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook.  At this point much of the liquid will be drying up and the veggies will stick and brown to the pan - this is OK, good flavor.  Let this mixture cook for another 10 minutes, being careful not to let things burn.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add the turkey sausage - removed from its casings - breaking up with a spoon.  Cook just through.

In a veggie steamer, cook the broccoli for 10 minutes.  You can also blanch them in boiling water for 2- 3 minutes, shocking it in ice water afterwards to stop the cooking.

Combine the sausage mixture and the broccoli - check the seasonings.

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 28oz can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons sugar

In a large saucepan, cook the onions and garlic over medium high heat, until softened, about 5 - 6 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.


3 large balls of fresh mozzarella
1/2 lb of fontina

Grate the fontina and slice the mozzarella, very thinly.


Grease a 12 inch cast iron skillet with olive oil.  Press the dough into the skillet. Place half of the cheese on the bottom of the crust.  Add the sausage filling.  Add the remaining cheese. Pour on the sauce.  Sprinkle the final dish with 1/4 cup of freshly grated parm and a bit of dried oregano.

Bake at 400 for 30 - 40 minutes or until the crust is browned and the filling bubbling.

The final product turned out just as I had hoped!




Sunday, February 7, 2010

Baked or Fried? Wing Time!

Of course chicken wings are synonymous with the Super Bowl. And as you can see, I'm blogging during the game so you understand that my priorities are more about 'game day food' rather than the game itself.  On to the food.  A friend at work pointed me towards a posting on Serious Eats this week...baked or fried? was the question...and the answer for this blog turned out to be baked!  I thought I would modify my plans to include a baked vs. fried cookoff of spicy dry rub wings!

I have always enjoyed baked buffalo wings, I like the crispy skin.  Round 2 of  my recreation of Cheep Cheep Chicken's spicy dry rub wings was already on the schedule for tonight.  An Annapolis classic, Cheep Cheep Chicken used to be located in the Market House.  Since the Market House debacle a few years ago, it has relocated to the festival at Riva.  They serve an amazing wing that is seasoned with Old Bay.  The very old and wise proprietor of Cheep Cheep isn't likely going to give away the secret to me, a challenge! 

The first key to success, whether baked or fried, is GOOD QUALITY chicken wings...I like Bell and Evans - available at Whole Foods.  Recently I had a friend ask me why would I buy organic?  higher price, lower quality?  He was absolutely wrong.  Factory farming, whether it is produce or poultry, invites pathogens.   Once you have tasted a local, free range chicken you will wonder what you have been eating for so many years.  Give it a try, you won't be disappointed. 

My Version of Spicy Dry Rub Wings

20 wings (drumettes and other part :)
1 cup Old Bay seasoning
3 tablespoons cayanne pepper
all purpose flour

Begin by separating the wings - cut the drumette from the other part (I have no idea what that part is called) and get rid of the wing tip.  (or save it for stock - see my Italian Wedding Soup posting)  Mix the Old Bay and cayanne in a big bowl.  Adjust the amount of cayanne to taste.  Take 4 - 6 wing pieces at a time and toss them in the dry rub.  They should be fully covered.  Place the seasoned wings into a baking dish.  Repeat this for the rest of the wings.  Refrigerate (marinate!) for an hour.  Before cooking toss the wings in a generous amount of all purpose flour.  Shake off the excess flour before cooking.

To Bake:

Preheat your oven to 400.  Place a thin layer of veggie oil on a baking dish or cookie sheet if you have lots.  Place wings on the dish/sheet and toss with the oil. Cook for 30 minutes WITHOUT moving them!  This lets them get a crispy crust on one side.  Flip and cook for another 15 mins.  Serve!

To Fry

Preheat veggie oil (or peanut oil) to 375.  Cook the wings for 13 - 15 minutes (depending on the size of the wings).  Toss the cooked wings onto a cookie sheet with a paper towel.  Serve!

So the final verdict?  It is so tough to say but after careful consideration, the juicy meat of the fried wing makes it the winner!  The crispy crust on the baked wings was delicious, better than the fried wings...but the flavor and juiciness of the fried wing is unbeatable.  In the picture below, fried on the left, baked on the right.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


After almost an entire day without power (besides the generator used for the tv, internet, and a few lights) I felt that I needed to cook this meal....just because!  I got this meal idea from a friend who has a great blog.  She is a pastry chef but posts lots of non-dessert recipes on her blog.  She blogged her way through pastry school so if you want any inspiration or just want to look at some beautiful desserts, check her out

So the menu was pretty simple, Wellshire Farms Keilbasa, saurkraut, and peiroges.  The only complicating factor was that everything I cooked had to be done on the grill!

Here I am with Molly and Cole cooking up the sauteed onions and boiling the potatoes.  

Margot's recipe for pieroges starts with a pretty simple dough and a very tasty filling including yukon gold potatoes, sauteed onions, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese.  After I boiled the potatoes outside I riced them and mixed the other filling ingredients together.  The dough was the only problem I really encountered.  Margot's recipe said to roll out the dough to 1/8th inch thickness.  This is critical.  Several of my pieroges were a bit thick and the final dough was a bit tough.  The thin skinned pieroges were amazing!

Wellshire Farms keilbasa was a great pick.  Wellshire Farm products are all nitrate free and available at whole foods. 


Here's my final product.  I tried my best to crisp up the boiled pieroges but by the time we got around to eating the temperature had dropped and I couldn't get the grill to make my skillet hot enough!  Still I was very happy with this recipe and I'll do it again...with power and a stove next time.

Check out Margot's recipe at her blog:

Advance Planning

I like to grocery shop on demand.  I don't normally like to figure out what I want to eat until that night, sometimes the night before.  With the realization that a huge snowstorm was coming I was forced to menu plan this weekend in a way that I don't normally do.  Last night needed to be something easy.  Ben was sick and I was on my own to cook and take care of him for a while.  In January's Bon Appetit there was an article celebrating various types of meatballs.  Since I haven't been eating out as much with Ben around, I thought I would make something ethnic rather than a traditional American approach to meatballs.

Hence, Lamb Kofte with Yogurt Sauce and Muhamarra 


This recipe used ground lamb, garlic, tons of mint, cumin, paprika, cayanne to make the meatballs.  The yogurt sauce incorporated tahini (sesame seed paste) and lemon juice.  First the onions were sliced and sauteed in a bit of olive oil.  Then the meatballs were browned up and cooked through.  After the meatballs and onions were done, kept warm in the onion, I added chopped roasted red peppers to the meatball pan and some water to deglaze.  The sauce was reduced and I added pomegrante molasses and chopped parsley.  
Served on some warm middle eastern flatbreads, these were delicious!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Day!

So for our unexpected snow day I felt the need for some cold weather comfort food.  In this month's Bon Appetit there was an article on 'meat and potato' dishes.  I'm not sure I've ever had shepherds pie before this, but the tempting combination of savory stewed meat and veggies topped with a crisped mashed potato crust was too much for this cold day.  Since it was going to be a while to wait for the meal we picked up some beautiful cheeses from Whole Foods.


On the left is a buffalo milk cheese called Quadrello di Bufala.  It was incredibly creamy, aromatic (a nice way of saying it was a very stinky cheese), and tangy.  On the right is a goat's milk cheese from Spain called Cabra Romero.  This one was aged slightly, giving it a more firm, salty taste, and crusted in dried rosemary.  Both were great.  I always go with a neutral cracker for trying new cheeses - I like 34 Natural Crackerbreads.

I love using bison in place of beef in almost every recipe.  I just like the flavor more and the health benefits are nice as well.  During the summer, the Gunpowder Bison Company sells buffalo at our Annapolis farmers market.  In the the winter I have to rely on Whole Foods, that sources locally as well.  For this dish I got a 3 lb buffalo chuck roast and cut it up into 2 inch chunks.  The recipe calls for a dredge in a paprika/flour mix and browning in some bacon fat.  I crisped up some Wellshire Farms slab bacon for this and the bacon gets incorporated to the bison stew portion of the dish.  The standard carrots, onions, celery, and garlic formed the base for the stew.  Red wine, chicken broth, thyme, sage, bay leaves and seasoning finished it off.  After letting it stew for 2 hours I added chopped parsnips and sweet potatoes.  Right before assembling, I added some blanched pearl onions.

On top of the bison stew is a simple mashed potato.  I riced the potatoes and added cream, milk, butter, and a whole egg.  Top the dish with egg wash and freshly grated parm.  I served it with a side of roasted brussels sprouts!  The final product, while not beautiful, was incredibly delicious. 

Bison and Red Wine Shepherd's Pie