Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meeting The Old Guy on the Block - Turkish Meze

I love eating at and reviewing as many of the new restaurants opening in my neighborhood as I possibly can. This is evidenced in my "New Kid on the Block" posts. But what about restaurants that have always been here? Are there places that are "new kids" to me that are old timers to everyone else?

Eight years ago Turkish Meze opened. Although the menu looked decent and the lunch special looked like an incredible deal, I never went. It's an easy restaurant to forget about because it's not quite on the main drag. I just wouldn't always think to go there because I would forget about its existence. Occasionally I would suggest going there to Sir Pickypants would would turn up his nose saying that Middle Eastern food is "all lamb" and there wouldn't be anything for him to eat. Turkish Meze sat there for 8 long years before we ever set foot in it.

Things changed a mere 3 weeks ago. My building had a block party. One of the items in the buffet was a spicy bulgar salad with tomatoes. SPP could not get enough of it. We even scooped up a plateful and took it back to our apartment with us. One of our neighbors informed us that it came from his restaurant. When we asked what restaurant he said, "Turkish Meze." I felt really bad this point because the owner was a neighbor and a really nice guy, and clearly his restaurant had some good food. We decided to go there the following weekend.

When we went the first time, I neglected my camera, so I didn't review it right away. However, we had such a great meal that we went back the very next weekend. This time I brought a camera and I was ready to show this place off to the world.

There is all kind of Turkey-related artwork on the walls with the booths covered in a colorful fabric.

I love how the tables are set with four mismatched plates. They are such pretty plates too. We flipped them over and saw that they came from Pier 1. If I want a set of my own, I don't have to order them specially from Turkey.

On to the appetizers. Kevin still loves his bulgar salad, which we now know is called Kasir. We both love Ezme, a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, hot peppers, and pomegranate juice. This is served with the most delicious pita bread you ever tasted. When they bring it to your table, you can smell the butter. Since I don't eat much bread anymore, it doesn't really agree with me, but it's worth it!

I wanted to get a photo of the wine in here, but couldn't quite fit it in. Turkish wine is pretty good. The white is very dry and refreshing.

Next up were our entrees. I have a chicken breast stuffed with rice, currants, and pistachios served with spinach and fancily-piped mashed potatoes. The saffron sauce was scrumptious.

Kevin had a chicken curry. This curry is lighter than Indian curries as there are no tomatoes, onions or cream that you might find in a curry dish in an Indian restaurant. The sauce was light and heavily seasoned with cumin.

On our previous visit I had lovely roasted lamb on eggplant puree while Kevin enjoyed a whole branzino.

Finally dessert. Bekir, our host and neighbor was kind and comped us. Kevin had Tel Kadayif, which is shredded phyllo with pistachios, honey, and lemon syrup (similar to baklava). I had almond pudding. It just may be the most delicious pudding I have ever had (and that's saying a lot for me to call any dessert the most delicious X I ever had and it's not chocolate).

We love this place so much that we're really trying hard to make up for the past 8 years of not eating here. I'm wondering if it will offically become our new favorite local restaurant.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interlude - A simple classic

Sometimes you just have to go with the tried and true rather than feel pressured to always invent a new recipe. Some classics never get old.

Seared fliet mignon, roasted potates (thinly sliced and roasted at a high temp with a brush-over of butter and olive oil), mushrooms and onions sauteed with bacon, and mixed greens (not shown).

That's all it takes. Pure and simple happiness. It may not look pretty, but it doesn't have to.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bountiful (or not) Berries #2 - Because My Other Office Needs Love Too

Blackberries are a much less cooperative fruit than raspberries. They grow at extremely different rates. A berry that is overripe and shriveled could be on the bush right next to a berry that is still turning red, unlike the more consistent raspberry bushes. The best and most abundant berries are the ones that grow far away from the paths, making you push past the blackberry briars and scratch yourself up to get at them. You're also risking tick bites, bee stings, and poison ivy. The reward may be a very scant harvest, even at the peak of the season.

As I said in my previous post on wild berries, picking as many as I can on a given day and then freezing them helps increase the supply. To deal with the scratches I have stopped changing into shorts after I ride and do my berry picking with my riding pants still on (although I don't wear the $200 Tailed Sportsman breeches on berry picking days). I make sure I'm well-protected by insect repellant and keep a hat on my head. I've managed to survive the ordeal.

Wild berries can be sour at times, but every once in a while I managed to pick a blackberry that was the essence of everything a blackberry should be. The taste would linger on my tongue that was both a way of extending the pleasure, but also served as a painful reminder that I might not experience such blackberry sublimity every again.

So what do I do with that scanty blackberry harvest in the freezer?

Although I have done no Sweet Treat of the Week this summer, I have done some baking. All of it has been for my part-time NYC office in hopes of making more friends there. What about my regular CT office, where I may not have many more friends, but where everyone expects me to bake for them since I do it so often. Shouldn't I make them a dessert too? How about using those blackberries for them?

Ealier this year I had the good fortune of winning this gorgeous cookbook from Sue in a giveaway.

I want to visit the Blackberry Farm so badly after seeing these beautiful photos. I need an excuse to go to Tennessee. Hmmm...Kevin has relatives in Memphis. Too bad Blackberry Farm is nowhere near Memphis.

So Sue tried the farm's blackberry cobbler recipe. It sounded absolutely wonderful. I wanted to try it.

Did we forget how many blackberries I had?

How about some peaches?

Behold, a peach-blackberry cobbler. Just use the recipe in the link but substitute peaches for some of the blackberries. I used 1 cup of blackberries and 7 small peaches.

I did have to make some other adjustments to the recipe because I was a doodyhead and forgot to give the recipe one last read-over before shopping. I bought regular milk instead of buttermilk and forgot the lime.

The buttermilk was no big deal. I simply added a small spoonful of vinegar to the reulgar milk.

The lime was more troublesome. I think the lime was really what makes this cobbler distinctive. I was fortunate enough to have a half a lemon in the house, but lemons are so much more conventional tasting. Oh well. Giada and Ina would approve of lemon zest!

Sir Pickypants came home and saw the fresh-out-of-the-oven cobbler and asked if he could have any, or if I was saving the whole thing for the office. I said, "You can have some, but you don't like peaches." He said he wanted to try it anyway, so I gave him some after dinner. He ate the crust, had a few bites and said, "You're right I don't like peaches." What a waste!

I brought it into my office the next day. This was my CT office and not unappreciative NYC office. I put that thing out at 8:45 and by 9:40 it was gone. It's nice to be appreciated!

Monday, August 16, 2010

----- Can Chicken

Some people swear by beer-can-up-the-butt method of cooking a chicken. My own brother made it look pretty appealing here on this blog. I should have every reason to want to try it myself.

There is just one problem.

I don't like beer.

Okay. Everyone please pick your jaws up off the floor and hush up with the snarky comments for a few minutes. Yes, I admit it. I'm not a fan of the hops and barley brews. I never got over the "yuck factor" that kids have when they first try beer. I just couldn't acquire a taste for it. Even four years of college couldn't make me like the stuff (although I went to college in the era when alcopop reigned supreme anyway). I know people who loved the taste right from the first try. I'm not one of those people. I just never wanted to make the effort to acquire a taste for it. Why would I? To prove to my beer-loving friends that I'm cool? Because it was the only way to get trashed at parties in college? To make myself seem more grown up (Why would I want to do that?) Unlike wine, I never really felt the same blissful combining of beer with food. It's true I find some beers taste better than others, but none of them really taste good to me.

That does create a bit of a dilemma if I want to experiment with the beer can chicken thing.

Beer, like a few other liquors, isn't objectionable when used in a recipe. There are a few different liquors I like to add to recipes, but would not likely drink straight. I don't object to cooking with beer on principle (beer-battered onion rings anyone?)

My problem is that to make beer-can chicken, I need actual cans of beer. When I buy beer for a given recipe, I buy it by the bottle, usually getting it from a source where I can buy one large bottle at a time (like the fancy ones you see at Whole Foods). If I buy cans of beer, I have to buy a 6-pack. I'm not too keen on buying a 6-pack of beer. My husband isn't much of a beer drinker either. There are some beers he likes, but they're always of the bottled variety.

So what's a disordered cook to do?

Well, first you have to question is the method about beer, or is it about having a fragrant liquid gently releasing steam to cook the chicken evenly from the inside out, keeping the meat moist and adding flavor? Bro's recipe did say that any sort of liquid would likely work well. All I really needed was a liquid and a can.

I found a can in my recyle bin. I cleaned it out and peeled off the label. Let's get those yummy BPAs into my chicken.

Inside the can was wine, a lemon wedge, two lightly-smashed garlic cloves, and a few sprigs of rosemary from my garden.

The chicken was then rubbed with butter, olive oil, sage, and time and then lightly sprinkled with salt. Getting it on the can was an issue. It wouldn't stand up straight.

The chicken came out beautifully browned and the flavor was excellent. SPP was impressed on the first bite. The meat was very flavorful.

One thing that surprised me was that it doesn't guarantee moist meat. My meat thermometer is broken so I erred on the side of caution with the cooking time and cooked a 4lb chicken for 90 minutes. That turned out to be 10 or 15 minutes longer than it needed to be cooked. Some of the meat seemed a little dry. I would not have expected that with the moisture coming up from the can.

One trick I used to remedy that was after the chicken cooked, I spilled the contents of the can into the pan and used it to scrape up all of the chicken drippings. I put that through a fat separator and instantly had a flavorful jus for my chicken. Tasty!

Wine Up The Butt Chicken

1 4-pound chicken
1 cup white wine
2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
1 Tbl fresh rosemary leaves
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl fresh thyme leaves
10 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
Salt for sprinkling

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour wine, garlic, and rosemary in a clean can. Set aside.

Melt butter and olive oil together. Mix in sage and thyme.

Rub the butter herb mixture all over the chicken. Let the chicken sit about 10 minutes if such a thing doesn't squick you out too much.

Place the can on a cookie sheet and carefully stand the chicken up on it as best you can.

Place in the oven and roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until it reaches 165 degrees.

Optional step: Once chicken is cooked, pour the contents of the can onto the baking sheet and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Strain and serve on the side with the chicken.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I was almost not going to post the recipe I came up with this week, because I really wondered if it was too similar to what I’ve made in the past.

*Commence typical dull TERP anecdote*

It all started with dinner on Sunday night. Sir Pickypants and I were having dinner at a local coffee house, Café Mozart. The owner was really pushing the special on us. It was a sea bass in a mango ginger sauce. Café owner had made it himself and was inordinately proud of it. SPP decided to try it. He agreed that it was quite good.

I asked for a taste of the sauce, hoping that the fishiness of the bass wouldn’t permeate. I was interested in knowing just what the sauce tasted like. It was a pretty good sauce. I thought to myself, “I can do this and probably do it better.” I was determined to make a mango ginger sauce of my own this week.

That’s where the ambivalence about this blog comes in. I made another mango sauce quite recently . Not only did I make a mango sauce, but I put it on a pork chop, which is exactly what I planned to do with the new mango sauce. Maybe my readers would be tired of mango sauce.

I decided to put the recipe on the blog anyway because:

1. My last mango sauce had different flavors. It had more of a spicy Latin flare with chipotle pepper and cilantro. This one is a bit more Asian influence.

2. My last mango sauce had ingredients that were seasonal or hard to find such as garlic scapes or the aforementioned chipotle powder. This one had simpler ingredients like mango, onions, ginger, and soy sauce.

3. It’s my blog, and I’ll be repetitive if I want to!

I served it on top of a pork chop that I simply sprinkled with salt and pepper and browned in a cast iron pan and finished in a 400-degree oven.

SPP got it too, but on a piece of red snapper sprinkled with salt, pepper, and lime juice and simply baked for 20 minutes. I asked him if my sauce was better than Cafe Mozart's. Of course he said yes. What choice did he have? I almost felt bad for asking him.

(As you can see, I enjoy playing with camera angles on the new light box)

On the side we had braised bok choy, which is exactly what they served on the side at Café Mozart. Yes, I ripped them off in two ways. I browned it in a little olive and toasted sesame oils and then braised in a little chicken stock and soy sauce.

So here is my recipe. This made way more sauce than I needed for two pork chops and two pieces of fish. I’ll freeze it for future use, but the bulk of the recipe would be nice if you’re making a large volume of protein.

Mango Sauce #2

3 Ripe mangoes, diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 Tbl oil for sautéing
1 Tbl grated fresh ginger
2 Tbl soy sauce
Pinch salt (optional)
Juice of one lime

Heat oil in a large pan. Add onions and cook until soft. Add mangoes and cook until they begin to soften and the chunks start to break down.

Stir in the ginger, soy sauce, and lime juice.

Puree using a stick blender or simply placing it all into a food processor. You want a nice smooth consistency. Keep warm and serve over pork, chicken, fish, or whatever other protein you like.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Brief Interlude in Baltimore – Miss Shirleys

I took a quick trip down to Baltimore this past weekend. It was to attend a surprise birthday party for my oldest BFF. She was kind enough to attend my surprise party last month, so I was very excited to be going to hers.

It was a lovely afternoon pool party at the home of one of her Baltimore friend’s parents, but it’s not what I’m writing about today.

The next day I had a few hours before my train left for New York, so I was happy to have a few hours with my friend all to myself. She suggested we have brunch at Miss Shirley’s. She was quite adamant that I had to try this place and that I would indeed love it.

Miss Shirley was the name of my ballet teacher when I was in elementary school. She was a crusty old broad who chain smoked in class, taught hokey dance routines, and was sarcastic and abrasive to her students at times. She called me her “talker”. Yeah. If you think I talk too much now, you should have seen me as a kid. I made a vow not to let any prejudices about the name get in the way of enjoyment of my food.

The place is lovely from the outside with beautiful flowers planted along the sidewalk. (The birthday girl is the one standing up in green.)

Inside is equally charming.

The menu is overwhelming. I dare anyone who eats there to just try to pick something quickly. Try to pick among things like stuffed coconut french toast with mascarpone and bananas, and almond joy panccakes, and pineapple upside down pancakes, and fried chicken and waffles, and crab benedict, and egg, ham, and fried chicken sandwiches on waffles and margarita omlets. Just try it. I dare you to try to choose within a few minutes on your first visit there. Don't even try to turn the menu over and look at the lunch options. Your brain will explode. Even the "healthier options" are tempting here. You will not be able to choose your meal quickly.

We did eventually have to choose. We couldn't sit there all day. People were outside waiting for tables. We started with some wonderful friend green tomatoes that I neglected to get a photo of. Sorry about that. They were the best fried green tomatoes I ever had.

My main course was a "Southern Slammer" (would I go to prison if I didn't like it?). It was a sandwich of cheese, bacon, egg, and avocado on pumpernickel. I decided to try some hash browns on the side.

My dining companion went for something a bit more classic: Two eggs with bacon, hash browns, and a biscuit.

I also drank a strawberry lemonade with my meal, which I could tell by the taste was made entirely with fresh fruit.

I went back home to NY with a happy heart and full belly. Next time I visit Baltimore, I am definitely coming back here!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lazy Mexican Night – Tortilla Casserole

I should clarify that post title. I wasn’t entirely lazy with this dish. In fact, I started out quite industrious.

You see, I have always wanted to make enchiladas. I have made a few taco variations, but enchiladas never made it onto the menu. I don’t know why. They have many similar components. Enchiladas just get baked with lots of sauce and tacos don’t.

Oh yes, the sauce. Let’s talk about the sauce. I see plenty of enchilada recipes floating around the net and so many of them use jarred enchilada sauce. Is enchilada sauce really that complicated that one needs to buy it jarred?

In my opinion, there are few sauces out there one should ever buy from a jar. The main one is marinara of course. In fact, most sauces one would put on pasta are too easy to make and taste so much better than any jarred pasta sauce that I can’t understand the appeal. I don’t think gravy in a jar is such a hot idea either. When I looked at the components of enchilada sauce, I didn’t see why it shouldn’t be homemade too.

Normally I would have started with canned tomatoes, which I would feel no guilt about, but lately the food police are telling me that canned tomatoes are deadly and dangerous and full of leached chemicals from the can. Thanks guys! I appreciate having to be afraid of a pantry staple. On the bright side, it’s summer and the time has come for the best fresh ripe tomatoes to crowd the farmer’s markets. I can make truly fresh and homemade sauces almost out of the garden. I always love making pasta and marinara, but why not try something a little different and make a fresh enchilada sauce? How about one with chipotle?

I started with a buttload of plum tomatoes.

I scored and blanched them as I would do for marinara. Then I put them through my food mill. I received this food mill as a Christmas gift, but haven’t used it yet because my true purpose in wanting it was to get a perfectly skinless, seedless and lumpless tomato puree. I was imagining marinara when I asked for it, but why not christen it with a fresh enchilada sauce?

Once I had my tomatoes blanched, pureed, seasoned and cooked, I really didn’t feel much like filling and rolling enchiladas. I wanted to take the easy route. I decided on a layered tortilla casserole.

Turkey meat and onions get cooked together first and then I added a can of black beans. (Canned beans are another no-no aren’t they? Yeah, well, I’m too lazy to soak and cook dried beans too. I admit it.)

I put a layer of sauce in the pan, then a layer of tortillas, then a layer of meat. For half of the dish (my half) I layered some cheese (reduced fat because I’m getting rather tubby these days and I need to cut back somewhere). Laziness prevailed again as I bought pre-shredded cheese. The top got a layer of sauce and my half had cheese on top to indicate which was the cheese side.

Yummy, cheesy, and spicy goodness. The fresh sauce hit the spot. Sir Pickypants liked it a lot, but thought it was too spicy. I really have to show some restraint with the chipotle powder. I thought this was even better than I expected it to be. Just because I'm addicted to chipotle powder doesn't mean I should force it on everyone else.

I could see this as a vegetarian dish with maybe a second type of bean and some fresh corn.

Tortilla Casserole

16 plum tomatoes
Olive oil for sauteeing
2 pinches of salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 Tbl (or less) chipotle powder
2 small onions, diced
1 pound ground turkey
1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 8oz package shredded Mexican cheese blend
15-20 corn tortillas (will depend on size and shape of your baking dish)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Put a pot of water on to boil and have a bowl of cold water nearby. Score an x into each tomato skin with a small sharp knife. Carefully drop them into the boiling water and boil for 2/3 minutes or until you start to see the skins peel away. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the bowl of ice water. Remove skins and squeeze out seeds and puree. If you have a food mill, place them in the mill with the fine disc and that will remove skins and seeds for you and puree them.

In a large pan, cook the garlic in a little oil until fragrant. Add the tomato puree. Mix in the cumin, chili powder, and chipotle powder and gently simmer.

In another pan cook the onions in a little more oil until transparent. Add the turkey and brown well. Stir in the black beans.

Put a small amount of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Place enough corn tortillas in the dish to cover the bottom. Add half of the turkey mixture, cover with sauce, and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with another layer of tortillas. Add the next layer of turkey, sauce, and cheese. Cover the top with tortillas and spread the remaining cheese and sauce on top.

Bake about 30 minutes or until bubbly and cheese on top is a bit browned.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Making Friends with Treats Part 2 - Bountiful Berries

Every summer in the fields surrounding the barn where Kevin and I keep our horses are bushes and bushes of raspberries and blackberries. Why go to berry farms and pay to pick berries when I can get berries for free right on the cross country course?

I really couldn't wait to pick enough to make a special dessert from them. When you pick your own berries in the wild, it's truly homemade.

Let's start with the raspberries. Raspberries are a fairly cooperative fruit. They grow close to the trails. All of the berries on the bush tend to emerge from their little pods around the same time, so you can get a decent harvest from one bush.

The only problem is that not every bush is fruitful at the at same time. In summers past I always tried to set aside just one day for berry picking and never found enough berries, because not all of the bushes were ripe. I solved this problem by simply picking as many berries as I could one weekend, freezing that batch, and then picking another batch the next weekend. It worked quite well for me and I had a decent number of berries before the season ended.

So what to do with them? I'm still trying to bribe my new coworkers into being friends with me in my NYC office, so I still want to bake them stuff. It was a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

The recipe I chose was Raspberry Almond Cake from Cookie Pie. It's a great blog with all kinds of simple baking ideas (Beth is the author of You Made That Dessert? after all. She knows that homemade doesn't have to mean complicated.) Raspberries and almonds are so good together and I love almond cakes.

This cake was just really good. It had simple flavors, wasn't too sweet, and was super-easy to make. The hardest part was not eating the entire tube of almond paste prior to baking it. Creaming almond paste is a bit of a challenge too, but hardly an impediment to creating the dessert.

The cake did take a little longer to bake than the recipe called for. I baked it around 50 minutes. I don't know if it had to do with the fact that I put a lot of berries in it. I had so many and I just wanted to use them all. My berries were rather tart, as wild berries tend to be less sweet than cultivated ones, but it worked well in the cake. The cake had the perfect amount of sweetness.

Did it make friends? Sadly, I still haven't won too many people over. It was gone by the end of the day, but only 4 people thanked me or told me it was good. I have to keep working at this!

Just Another Chicken Recipe

Hi everyone! I’m back. I had a glorious vacation. You can read about it on my other blog, or just look at my photos.

I hope you all didn't miss me too much and that you enjoyed Erik's guest blog. Thanks to all who dropped by and gave comment love.

As I do on every vacation, I ate too much. Chincoteague cuisine has been covered before (it doesn’t change much) and I didn’t really try anything new, so there isn’t anything to blog about on that front. I’m just needing to get back to some decent, nutritious, and fresh home cooking.

The morning after I returned from vacation I headed straight to the local farmer’s market and stocked up on veggies and fruits for the week along with my favorite chickens from Feather Ridge Farm and some green beans and fresh corn on the cob.

Every time I buy a chicken, I’m always thinking of new things to do with it. What kinds of seasonings and sauces and glazes should I put on it today?

For some reason I’ve been having a craving for teriyaki chicken lately. I remember discovering teriyaki sauce when I was about 12 and falling madly in love with it. Back in those days, I only ever had the bottled stuff. It never occurred to me that I could just mix some soy sauce and sweetener and ginger and rice wine and get the same effect. Like most sauces on the planet, it’s always better when you make it yourself.

So if I made teriyaki sauce, how would I use it? I had a whole chicken on my hands. I’m not an expert at carving chickens into serving pieces before I cook them. If you’re a regular reader, you know my preferences for chicken is to just cutout the spine and roast them whole. Can I roast a whole chicken in teriyaki sauce? They don’t do that in hibachi restaurants! But I am the DisOrder cook. I don’t do things like everyone else, right? How about I give it a shot?

I mixed a marinade of soy sauce (gluten free), ginger, scallions, rice wine vinegar, agave syrup, and sesame oil. I threw my split chicken in there. (The backbone goes into the freezer for future use in stock.)

I poured the remaining marinade over the chicken in the roasting pan and laid the chicken on a bed of scallions. It roasted at 350 for about 45 minutes. The last 5 minutes I put it under the broiler.

Good, but a bit salty. You can get low-sodium soy sauce, or you can get gluten-free soy sauce, but you can't get both.

Like my photo? Kevin gave me a light box for my birthday. Yay! That's my real reason for this post.

Whole Teriyaki Chicken

1 3 pound chicken backbone removed
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 Tbl rice wine vinegar
2 Tbl agave syrup or honey (or sugar - just adjust sweetness to taste)
2 scallions, sliced

Heat oven to 350.

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a dish large enough to hold the entire chicken. Place chicken in marinade and keep in the refrigerator for at least an hour, turning frequently.

(Better yet, mix the ingredients in a bowl and place them in a large plastic bag with the chicken. I sadly didn't have a bag that size.)

Place chickens on a bed of scallions if desired (use the ones left over from the bunch that you used in the marinade). Roast 45 minutes.

Place under broiler 2 minutes longer to crisp up a bit.