Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Thailand They Weep

I'm having one of those weeks where budget is a big concern and I really need to conserve and reuse anything in my kitchen than I can.

In this case I happened to have some cilantro, a couple of hot peppers, and a part of a stalk of lemongrass left over from making my spicy Thai-style sweet potato soup. I decided that due to the leftovers, this week was now Thai Week, or perhaps it was Make a Thai Cry week.

What was my "Thai" recipe of choice?

Turkey burgers!

I blended those spicy seasonings into ground turkey in a way that would even make Rachael Ray cringe. Yes, I could have made them into sauce for chicken, but we had chicken for the past two days and we all know how much Kevin loves turkey burgers.

These were actually very tasty. The store was out of dark meat ground turkey, so I had to use that flavorless ground breast and the burgers were still good. I'd love to try them with beef.

I served it with a very nice salad, also in the Thai theme with mangoes and cucumbers and cilantro and lime.

Check out my veggies. I love that mandoline. I think I actually constructed the salad nicely. This would never have been done without the mandoline. I don't have the patiece or the knife skills (or I should say I don't have the patience that knife skills require).
See how pretty?

"Thai" Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey (or ground meat of our choice)
1" piece of lemongrass, cut into manageable bits
1" piece peeled ginger cut in manageable bits
1 chili pepper (I only had jalapeno, but if you have a Thai chile, please use)cored and seeded
1 clove garlic
2 scallions (white part only)
1 small handful cilantro
2 tsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime

Place all ingredients in a food processor or other grinding device (I used the mini food processor that comes with my stick blender) except for turkey. Blend into a paste. Combine with turkey meat.

Divide meat into 4 patties. Cook according to your preferred method of cooking.

Mixed Veggie Salad

1 bell pepper
1 peeled cucumber
2 carrots
1 mango
Butter lettuce leaves
1/4 cup sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbl rice vinegar
2 Tbl honey (NOT chestnut honey)
1 Tbl fish sauce
1 small handful cilantro leaves
Green parts of scallions used above, diced

Cut pepper, carrots, mango, and cucumber into julienne strips.

Mix together the oil, lime juice, vinegar, honey, fish sauce, cilantro, and scallions. Place veggies in the dressing and let sit and soak in for a few minutes.

Serve on top of lettuce leaves.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recommendation for My Local Peeps

I'm not an Ace of Cakes kind of gal. Showy cakes aren't my thing. My primary concern for any party is a cake that tastes good. In fact, I would prefer my guests are more wowed more by the way my cake tastes than how it looks. Even for my own wedding I sought a cake that would taste divine and not look like Bernini threw up on it. I was lucky I found it at Wedding Cakes Online, but that's not whom this post is about.

That's one of the reasons I always like to make my own desserts for dinner parties. I know that when it comes to baking I don't have the most dexterity. I don't do pretty when it comes to sweets. What I like is quality. Any dessert that comes out of my kitchen is made with lots of love and the best ingredients I can afford. I prefer eating one of my lopsided cakes to something from a bakery that looks pretty, but tastes like a pile of sugar. (The other reason is that I'm a huge diva and I want to be loved and admired for my delicious desserts.)

This past weekend I threw a big surprise 50th birthday party for Sir Pickypants. I gathered about 30 of our closest friends and family members to a restaurant and sprung them on him. It was a great night.

When it came to dessert though, I knew it wasn't something I could do myself. I don't have the time or the kitchen to bake that much birthday cake. Also, let's face it, I don't want everyone I know looking at one of my lopsided cakes. I would need to go out and buy something. I needed a cake that would look respectable, but would make my chocolate-loving husband smile with joy over the taste.

Enter Nancy.

Who is Nancy? Well, she's someone I have known since I was in elementary school. Like many old school folks, we didn't see each other after high school graduation. I can remember certain things about Nancy from school. She had a sharp tongue on her when we were little (she and our friend DeeDee were dangerous together!). She and I were in the same Italian class in high school. Signora Miscella, the woman responsible for me being the one person in the world who doesn't mind Giada's accent, absolutely loved her "Nunziata" in that class. (In case you're going to ask, no Mrs. Miscella didn't favor me like she favored Nancy. She picked on me a lot, but once said I was one of her best students, then put on my report card that I frequently disturbed the class. It was weird.) I also had Nancy's little sister Susan in my group for a couple of summers when I worked as a day camp counselor.

When the reunion planning was in full swing and the Harrison High School Class of '88 finally began getting in touch with each other, I learned something. Nancy now had her own business.

Nancy's Cakes specializes in just the kind of cake I was looking for. There are no novelty cakes or overdone sugar mountains. These are just simple cakes with very high quality ingredients. When it came time to find a cake for Kevin's birthday party, there really was no other place to go.

I opted for a chocolate cake with raspberry filling and rich ganache on the outside. The filling had fresh raspberries inside (even got the seeds in my teeth to prove it) and sank ever so deliciously into the cake layers. The ganache was rich without being too thick and heavy. A more perfect cake could not have been imagined.

I know there aren't too many Westchester readers of this blog, but for all of you out there, I strongly recommend you give Nancy a try if you need a cake. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It Just Won't Do...

e, It just won't do
To dream of caramel
To think of cinnamon
And long for you

-Suzanne Vega

Those pesky apples. Apple picking seems like a good idea at first. You take a drive to some bucolic paradise awash in colorful foliage, then pay for the privilege of performing manual labor for a couple of hours. The next thing you know you're stuck with more apples than you know what to do with.

Well, it was my brother who did the apple picking with his family this time and he really went overboard. The silly thing about his apple abundance is that his kids don't like apples. They don't like any fruit at all. (He used to tease me about my being a picky eater as a child. Now I can laugh at him as his kids are pickier than I ever was.) He managed to unload his unwanted apples in the name of kindness and then I was stuck with the bounty.

I thank all of you food bloggers who have been making apples recipes these past couple of weeks. I surfed and debated and deliberated over which one I would use. I wanted to use them all, but even I didn'thave enough apples for that. While I sat around trying to decide which apple recipe was best I caught a bad cold, had a bad computer virus, and went on a business trip. I had little time or energy to bake and then post the results on a blog. The apples languished.

A few days ago the situation was growing desperate. I had eaten a few of the apples, but I still had plenty left and they were starting to go bad. I needed to do something with those apples right away.

Then I had the song go through my head. Cinnamon was meant for apples, but what about caramel? I didn't just want something to do with apples. I wanted something gooey and dreamy. I did some netsurfing and found this recipe for Caramel Apple Cake (apologies to all of my blog buddies whose recipes I didn't use).

This cake was incredibly simple. Once I had whatever I could salvage from the apples peeled and chopped, the batter came together very quickly. It uses vegetable oil rather than butter and I'm loath to use anything but butter in my cakes, but it did make for a fast recipe since I didn't have to spend a long time creaming and fluffing.

So I had my cake to help me think of cinnamon. Indeed as soon as I took this cake from the oven, the smell of cinnamon hit my nose in a way reminisent of my husband's embrace - passionate and yet comforting.

On top goes the caramel sauce. It's a simple sauce of brown sugar boiled with cream and butter. Initially the caramel sauce is more like a sticky frosting, but after a day or so, it settles into the cake more, rendering it beautifully sticky and gooey throughout.

So goodbye
Sweet appetite
No single bite
Could satisfy me

I served it here with a good dollop of whipped cream. Ice cream would be nice too. I think cinnamon ice cream would be great. Caramel ice cream would also be wonderful. Is there a caramel-cinnamon ice cream out there? Perhaps I should invent it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

October is the New November

Over the weekend New York was suddenly covered under a nasty blanket of rain and cold. Ick ick ick. Me no likey! I'm supposed to be enjoying autumn, not bearing a winter blast. I didn't see any snow, but my mountain-dwelling horses did.

Food bloggers have picked up on a cold weather trend. When the cold hits, it's time to bake and it's time to braise. Slow-cooked soups and stews are on the menu when the temperature drops. I'm kind of weird that way that I cook the wrong things because I feel like it. That's why I fry chicken in 90-degree heat and make ice cream in February. I bake on a weekly basis all summer long.

This weekend I did manage to get it right. I really was in the mood for some slow-braised food. Of course in my household, the only thing I can braise is chicken. That's cool. I like braised chicken. For some reason my husband hasn't always appreciated the braised chicken recipes I've made for him. The effort I made making Ina Garten's coq au vin was a total flop. I did another recipe with white wine and mushrooms that also received a lukewarm response. Another braised chicken seemed risky, but I decided to go with my gut anyway. He knows he has two choices for dinner: Take it. Leave it.

It's autumn and it's time for apples, so I decided to start there. My chicken recipe isn't terribly original, but it was good.

Start by browning your chicken pieces well. I used assorted packages of thighs, legs, and breasts.

Next some onions go in that cook till translucent.

Add in some cider, brandy, sage, and chicken stock. (I managed to get a few more leaves out of my sage plant before it hibernates for the winter.) Reduce it down and put the chicken pieces back into the pan till cooked through.

Add a touch of cream before serving. Serve over noodles. NOODLES. Don't even think of serving it over anything else.

When I first added the liquids, I thought the flavors were too strong and aggressive, but by the time the dish was cooked, it was all sweet and mellow. Sir Pickypants loved it. This recipe is a keeper.

Speaking of keepers, in my previous blog I invented a new term for my recipes. If recipe is tasty and interesting and didn't flop, then obviously I want to post it on TERP. So a good recipe is TERP-worthy. Is that like spongeworthy? That's for you to decide.

Chicken in Brandy Cider and Cream Sauce

Assorted chicken parts of your choice
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for sauteeting
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbl chopped fresh sage
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup cream
Cooked, buttered noodles of whatever shape you like

Season chicken parts with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a pan and brown the chicken well (about 10 minutes per side). Remove from pan.

Add onions to the pan and cook till translucent. Pour in the stock, cider, brandy, and sage. Do your best to scrape up EVERY. LAST. BROWN. BIT. FROM. THE. PAN. Thank you. Simmer and reduce down by about half. Return the chicken to the pan and let simmer for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

When chicken is cooked remove from pan and adjust sauce for seasoning. Add cream. Put chicken on top of your noodles and pour that sauce generously over it all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let's Talk Meatloaf!

Yay. While I was away visiting clients in Washington D.C. and Radnor, PA, Kevin got the tech guru in his office to fix our computer. I am virus free and terrified to ever download anything ever again because of obtaining another virus. I want a Mac! *awaits flames from the PC crowd*

Anyway, let's get to what I cooked for Kevin to eat while I was gone.

Meatloaf. Bleah! When I was a kid I hated most things made of ground meat. I suppose I had a little of the affliction that Cathy's son had, because I hated ground meat that cooked long enough for a crust to form around it. I didn't like burgers unless they were either chargrilled (because the smoky taste kind of took over the burger) or served rare (back in those days, it was okay to feed stuff like that to your kids). Well-cooked ground beef was just gross to me in just about any dish. I would eat meatballs because they had soaked up the taste of the sauce sufficiently (unlike many small children, I actually liked tomato sauce on my pasta). Meatloaf was forbidden. I hated the flavor and the texture. The only thing worse than ground beef was ground turkey.

Many years later I'm cool with ground beef in most forms, but I'm still not a meatloaf lover. My husband on the other hand, always liked it. He had that comfort food association with it. However, beef gives him a rumbly in his tummy. He is fine with turkey loaf. For some reason I don't think ground turkey tastes as bad as I thought it did when I was six, but then again, I don't think it has much taste at all. Making a good turkey loaf was one of the big cooking challenges I had to face when I first married Sir Pickypants. I had to make ground turkey taste better and make it taste not too much like traditional meatloaf.

My first special meatloaf recipe was the Feathers and Fruit Loaf. It's moist and flavorful and not too dense, but it's also rather sweet. Sometimes you want something more savory. That's what I was craving a few nights ago when I decided meatloaf would be a good thing to have around the house while I was gone. My inspiration? Mushrooms! I made a turkey-mushroom loaf.

Mushrooms and onions cook up first. (Apologies to the Complaints Department Manager for the onions.)

Add them to the mixture with the seasonings. Serve with roasted potatoes and garlic-butter-roasted broccoli,

It was a big hit with the hubby. He gave me far more praise than the usual, "Very good. Thank you." He really loved it.

This was a TERP-Worthy recipe, so I'm sharing it with you. I used wholewheat breadcrumbs, which gives it a very earthy flavor. If you want something less strong, feeel free to use regular crumbs or bread as you see fit.
Mushroom Meat Loaf

1 lb ground turkey
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
Olive oil for sauteeing
1 cup wholewheat bread crumbs
1 Tbl chopped fresh sage
1 Tbl chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1-2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1-2 Tbl soy sauce
1 egg

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a skillet saute onions until soft. Add mushrooms until they are soft and give off their juices. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl mix together crumbs with herbs and salt. Add milk and allow to soften the crumbs up a bit. Mix in soy and worcestershire sauce.

When the 'shrooms are cool, add them to the crumbs. Give a final taste to make sure it's seasoned to your liking. Add the turkey meat and the egg and mix well. Shape into a loaf, place on a cookie sheet, and bake about 45 minutes to an hour.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Please Stand By

We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by.

When I was a kid watching TV with my brother, whenever the TV would go blank and play bad elevator music and the announcer's voice would tell us to, "Please stand by," my brother would make me stand by the television set. If I didn't literally "stand by", then the show would not come back.

Do they still do that on TV? Am I completely dating myself?

Anyway, I'm experiencing some technical difficulties of my own. My home computer is infected by a nasty and seemingly untreatable virus. We can't seem to find a program to scrub it. I confess I do a good bit of blogstalking and blog drafting during slow periods on my work computer as I'm doing now (Bad Rachel!) but the meat and potatoes of my blog, the fine tuning and photo loading, are done on my home computer. I don't want to do anything that is password protected on my computer until I know that spyware is out of there, so for now, I won't be blogging. I am also going on a business trip next week, so even though the problem will likely be resolved by then, I'll be away.

I will still be visiting blogs in my spare time on other computers and will make myself available on Facebook as well, so don't despair and don't think I've gone away. I'll be back. Hopefully I will be using the inspiration I have found from other bloggers to figure out what to do with the big bag of apples in my kitchen.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Do You Know Why I Love Donna?

Why do I love Donna so much today?

Is it her cooking? Well, that's a bit plainly stated.

Is it her seamless way of blending sex, schmenkes, and food all together in one blog ('cause sex and food are really quite closely related if you love to eat)? Come on! That's why everyone loves her.

Is it that she makes me laugh? So many good blogs do...

Nope. Today it's because of this.

This is pierogi lasagne.

My hubby loves pierogies. He really loves them. I don't have time to make them totally from scratch, but I want to do something a little more special than throwing a bag of Mrs. T's in a pot. This *gulp* semi-homeade *eek* recipe is perfect. It tastes just like butter-soaked pierogies but you have to actually use a fork and knife to eat it.

I made this last night in anticipation of our 8th anniversary tonight. Pierogies take me back to the days when we were dating and often had dinner or breakfast at Just Like Mother's. (For our actual anniversary dinner, we ate at our favorite restaurant in our current neighborhood, Rani Mahal.)

Onions cooking in butter. Life isn't better than this.

Thanks for the recipe Donna. I may have this one stuck to my hips forever, but it's so worth it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Kid in Town Part 5 - La Herradura

Restaurants are cropping up fast and furious on my strip. I've reviewed the three new Asian places and the new barbecue place. (The new bar and grill isn't worth a visit, let alone a review.) Now we have a new Mexican place.

We have a pretty strong Latino population in my town and the businesses are starting to reflect that. We have Latin groceries and a few hole-in-the-wall Mexican and Peruvian places, with a Guatemalan bakery currently under construction. We also have a large, typical Tex-Mex place. When La Herradura opened, I wondered if it would lean more towards the flashy Tex-Mex Americanized Mexican food or towards something more authentic and regional. A few nights ago, I was able to find out.

The owners of Herradura have two other restaurants in neighborhing towns and the buzz seems to be that the growth has worked against the quality of the food, but I'm not picky about Mexican. Give me some salsa and cheese and really I'm quite happy. It would have to be Taco Bell before I'd turn my nose up at it.

Would you believe this place was a very minimalist Japanese restaurant for many years? They did quite a job fixing this place up in a fairly short period of time.

Here is the menu. It's real leather. You can smell it when you open it up. I like the horse theme. The menu advertised beer, wine, and margaritas, but the liquor license hadn't come through yet, so we couldn't get any. Kevin seemed more disappointed than I was.

We started with chips and salsa, which I didn't photograph. The salsa wasn't my favorite. It was a little too salty and a little too garlicky. I like the fact that it differentiated itself from some of the other restaurants in the area, but they needed to tone down the flavors a bit.

They had a really great selection of tacos on the menu, but I opted for chicken in mole poblano sauce. The chicken was nicely chargrilled, but not the least bit dried. The sauce was sweet and smoky. Very well done. Kevin had a shrimp dish, which I also neglected to photograph and he really really loved it. The refried beans were exceptional. Although they were a little runny, they had a little tang to them and were kind of creamy.

The server saw me with the camera and offered to take our picture. Well why not?
Dessert was fried ice cream for Kevin. I had tres leches cake that was totally inauthentic. It was really chocolate layer cake, soaked in something milky, and coated with a kahlua buttercream. It was very good taste-wise, but it wasn't tres leches cake.

We definitely had an enjoyable dinner here, so we will definitely be back in the future.

Soon we'll be getting a new Italian place, yet another Asian place, a new American place, and a yet-to-be-advertised as any ethnicty place. More reviews to come.