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Monday, August 27, 2012

Meeting Another New-ish Kid in Town - Hash-O-Nash

Hash O'Nash isn't exactly a new kid in town.  It's new enough to me since I hadn't visited it at all since it opened.  Sometimes the dinner routine can become a bit predictable and SPP and I end up dining at the same old restaurants.  It didn't help that Hash O'Nash had some mixed reviews on the consumer review sites, so I was a little hesitant to try it.

Hash-O-Nash bills itself as a "Middle Eastern Country Kitchen".  What part of the Middle East is not explicitly specified on the outside of the restaurant.  You have to go in and experience it to get the full effect of everything they serve.   Their menu is huge.  There are two crowded pages of appetizers, soups, and salads.  Then there are two pages of "grill" specialties, and then another full page of "kitchen" entrees. Then another page just for the lunch specials.  I'm glad the server was patient with us, because I had a hard time choosing.  The menu encompasses several countries.  There are dishes that represent Morocco, Jordan, and even Israel along with some American touches.

The kitchen is partially open.  I lost my photo of it, but diners can see the bit spits of meats turning and also the smoker they use.  It's pretty cool.

Decor is simple and warm.  Colors are muted and deep.  Lanterns and rugs hang from the walls.  There are also hookahs in the window, which makes me wonder what really goes on there.  Yes, I know people smoke actual tobacco in hookahs, which isn't desirable, but is certainly legal, but you wonder what the "Hash" in Hash O'Nash" means....

The music was turned up way too loud when we first came in, but I learned that was because they had a belly dancer.  I thought I took her picture, but it seems to have disappeared.  I told Kevin he was free to look, but she could not entice him.  I wanted to tip her for trying, but she went away when she realized Kevin wasn't interested in the show.

Our server actually discouraged me from ordering a salad or appetizer because portions are so huge.  Kevin couldn't resist an order of latkes though, which we shared.  They were nice and fluffy and crispy.  They were everything my latkes are not.


For an entree I had a dish called Fattet Batinjan.  This was chopped lamb and eggplant in a very garlicky tomato sauce, over copious rice pilaf with pita chips and chickpeas and raisins.  The whole thing was topped with tzatziki sauce. If it were a boat, it would be an aircraft carrier.  I took a photo before I ate it and after I managed to attack some of it so you can see what it looked like.

It actually was almost a bit too garlicky though.  I love garlic, but this gave me a serious case of dragon breath.

You can also see the interesting Moroccan red wine I drank in the photo on the left.  

 

Kevin had shrimp kebobs.  He's not that adventurous.  He says he likes the ones at Turkish Meze better, but he had no real complaints.

Desserts were pretty limited.  There was baklava of course, but I declined that one since they didn't say what kind of nuts they use and I get can pretty uncomfortable after eating a walnut baklava.  I opted for a chocoflan instead.  I don't know why a chocoflan was in a Middle Eastern restaurant, but I always wanted to try one (and would like to make one at some point) so I figured there was no time like the present.  

 

Decent, but not mind-blowing.  

I would love to come back here and try one of the many other temptations on the menu.  This is definitely a good addition to the neighborhood.

P.S.  I bought a new camera this weekend!  No more camera phone photos! Stay tuned for a blog with the new camera photos.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Called This Meal Epic. Now It's My New Favorite Word

Good news everyone!  Today's recipe contains no coconuts, mangoes, or caramelized onions!

My job is a short walk across Lexington Avenue to Grand Central Market.  Sometimes I'll cut through there on my way to the train going home.  I make my way down an aisle filled with cakes, cookies, pastries, and pies; with cheeses from all over the world; with hearty cuts of prime meats; with pastas of every conceivable shape and size; with a dizzying array of charcuterie.



One would think it might be a dangerous shortcut.  With such an presentation of deliciousness, I ought to be tempted on all sides.

I'm always tempted, but it used to be that I would never buy anything. There are too many people, too many lines, and too much stuff.  It's overwhelming.  Even if I think I want something, I can never make up my mind (What kind of cheese?  Which chocolate cake?) or else it just takes too long to have someone wait on me with the throngs of hurried commuters all jostling around me.

Among all of the many threats to my health in the market, there are also two produce concessions bookending the temptations. They are both owned by the same company, but one focuses more on whole fruits and veggies and the other sells more pre-cut, snack-sized stuff.  I admit I tend to ignore them.  Why should I pay Manhattan prices for stuff I can buy at home at the supermarket or the farmer's market for much less money?  They also aren't chocolate.

Do you remember how I wanted to cook with figs two weeks ago? Do you think I might have changed my mind when I saw these at both stands?

With a package of figs and a pair of duck breasts I had purchased at the farmer's market over the weekend, I had the makings of a really good duck dish, one that was a little different from the duck dish I made with dried figs over the winter.  (Well, at least I hope it's different.)

My intention was at first to roast the figs, because I never got to roast figs for dinner two weeks ago.  But I had this in the kitchen.

I had purchased way more red wine than I needed for a stewed chicken dish earlier in the week and there was no way the two of us would drink it all.  This was some pretty strong wine too.  San Giovese grapes are the main component of chianti wine.

I thought about topping some simple pan-roasted duck breasts with figs poached in the wine.  While looking for ideas on poached fig recipes, I found that most recipes were for dessert.  It wasn't easy to find something that was savory.  I was on my own. 

I added some salt, pepper, fresh thyme, and rosemary leaves.  That's pretty typical of me, I know, but at least I didn't use caramelized onions this time.  I simmered it until the figs had soaked up that wine-y goodness.

The duck breasts alone seemed a little sparse for a meal.  I wanted to put something substantial under them.  I had a half a bag of Italian chestnut flour.  I came up with a recipe for gluten-free ricotta gnocchi using the chestnut flour and some fresh ricotta that I dared to buy at Grand Central Market.  It looked like really good ricotta, but Susan made me feel a little guilty that I didn't make it myself.


Anyway, it seems once you start daring to actually buy something at Grand Central Market, you can't stop.
Gnocchi were tossed with brown butter and some sage leaves and placed on a bed of sauteed spinach.  I spooned my figs on the duck breasts. 

I finally decided on what camera I want.  Non-phone photos will be making an appearance soon.  This dish at least deserved the light box though.




Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts with Red-Wine Poached Figs and Chestnut Flour Gnocchi in Sage Brown Butter

For Duck

Ingredients

  • 2-4 boneless duck breasts
  • 10 ripe figs, sliced
  • 2 cups red wine
  • A few sprigs of thyme*
  • A few sprigs rosemary*
  • 2 Tbl butter
  • Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Sprinkle duck breasts with salt and pepper.  In a pan over low hear (I like using a cast-iron pan for this) place the breasts skin-side down and cook them very slowly.  Keep the heat low and  let the fat slowly render out, occasionally pouring off excess (SAVE IT).  Turn over to brown the other side towards the end of the cooking.

Place in the oven and cook an additional 15 minutes.

 Put the wine in a deep pan and bring to a boil.  Add figs, thyme, rosemary and a few grinds of pepper and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer over very low heat until liquid is reduced by about half.  Taste for salt and add to your liking.  Swirl in the butter and cook another minute over very low heat.

Serve over duck breasts.

For Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup chestnut flour
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 2 cups good ricotta, excess liquid drained
  • 1/4 cup pecorino, grated**
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 6 sage leaves, cut in chiffonade.
Mix together ricotta, pecorino, and egg in a large bowl.   Gently sprinkle over the chestnut flour and carefully stir it in to incorporate.  Add the nutmeg, salt, and potato starch, adding enough to make a soft, but not sticky, dough.

Carefully roll the dough on a floured surface into a long snake.  You will need to be VERY gentle as this dough has no gluten, and therefore no elasticity.  Cut 1" pieces off the snake.  If you want to be fancy, roll the tines of a fork over them.  I don't bother.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Carefully drop in gnocchi.  They are done when they float to the top.

Heat butter in a small pan over low heat.  Add sage leaves.  Cook butter until it foams up and then foam subsides.  Butter should be a golden color and smell nutty.  Pour over gnocchi.

Serve under duck breasts.

*I know this isn't an exact measurement.  I just cut whatever I can hold onto from the garden.  Adjust this measurement to your liking.
**I'm sure parmesan would be good too

Monday, August 20, 2012

Family Dessert Night

With summer starting to wind down along with blueberry season, I really had a big bug up my butt to make a blueberry pie.  Blueberry pie is my favorite fruit pie (although maybe it's not, since I also love cherry pie).  I have made blueberry pie before, but I was thinking I wanted a blueberry crumb pie.  I wanted blueberry crumb pie with a big scoop of homemade cinnamon ice cream on the side.

I kept hoping a good pie occasion would come up, but so far none had manifested itself.  Back in my old job, when I could transport desserts by car, I would have simply baked the pie and taken it to work.  That's not so easy anymore.  When you commute to work by train, you don't want to have to be carrying anything bulky that could be squished by rushing crowds.  I don't have the means to travel on the train safely with a pie anyway.  (I guess a pie carrier will go on my wish list for Christmas this year.)  I really didn't want to bake a pie and have a whole pie sitting around the house.  I managed to lose 15 pounds this year.  I would like to lose another 20, but my weight have been stagnant for the past 3 months.  I don't need that sort of temptation.

Then a thought came to me.  What if I just had a casual dessert night and invited any friends and family who wanted to come over to simply join SPP and me for dessert?  This would be much less organized and formal than a dinner party, where I would need to coordinate schedules and have weeks of planning.  I would simply bake, and whoever wanted to join me could show up and have some pie.

I did that this weekend.  I invited my mother and her boyfriend and my brother and his family.  It appears that, "If I bake it, they will come."

I was thinking of something as I started this idea up.  I can always bring people to the table for my desserts.  I have quite the reputation as a good dessert maker.  I sometimes think my reputation is somewhat undeserved.

My pastry making talents are really quite lacking.  Almost three decades of pie-baking and I still make piecrusts that are messy patchwork.  My cakes are lopsided.  I don't do fancy decor.  My sister-in-law can make a cake so beautiful you will balk at eating it.  I have friends who have a side business where they create novelty cakes that would make Ace of Cakes weep with envy (we're talking about sculpting a front-loader out of a loaf cake).  What do I do that's so special? 

I guess the first thing I do is that I seek out the best recipes.  Ninety-nine percent of the time I only bake things I want to eat (I have made the odd pumpkin dessert for holidays).  I will scour every cookbook I own plus the internet for that perfect cake or cookie or pie.  When I choose my recipe (or even try to create my own) I seek the best ingredients I can afford or at least the best that are available to me.  I don't skimp on quality. 

The other reason why I am considered such a great baker is much simpler.  It's the fact that I do it -period.  So many people are so afraid of making desserts, or simply can't be bothered.  We live in a culture where misguided folks think Rachael Ray is some kind of culinary guru, so when she giggles and titters, "I can't bake," it seems like a natural,acceptable, and even desirable, trait to never want to try doing your own baking.  A friend of mine told me recently that at her son's class party only store-bought treats were allowed.  Even at school they are filling kids up with HFCS and trans-fat-laden treats to appease some kind of nebulous fear of other people's kitchens. Children may never know just how good a homemade treat can be.  At every party, every holiday, every dinner, I will offer to make a dessert.  I show up with cake made in my own kitchen, and lopsided as it might be, people want it.  Amidst the cake mixes and Entenman's specialties, I end up looking like a genius. 

I don't know how deserved the accolades are, but I figure there is no reason to stop doing what I'm doing.  If everything meets my standards of tasting as good as I want it to taste, and my friends and family still want to eat it, then there is no reason to stop.

So everyone came over and enjoyed my pie with its falling-apart crust and drippy blueberry filling.  The cinnamon ice cream (from Dave Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop) was a complete success though.


 Almost bought a camera today until I realized I wasn't sure what kind of camera I really wanted to buy.  Another phone pic.

Blueberry Streusel Pie

Ingredients
  • 1 unbaked pie crust*
  • 1 quart blueberries**
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbl corn starch
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cover pie crust with aluminum foil and fill with rice, dried beans, or pie weights.   Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake crust another 5 minute or until dry.

Mix blueberries and sugar (you can let them macerate in the refrigerator before you start as I did).  Add lemon juice, zest, and corn starch.

Mix together the flours, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Place in the bowl of a food processor with the butter.  Pulse until you get a nice, crumbly texture.

Place your blueberries in the pie shell.  Cover with the streusel mixture.  Bake about 60 minutes or until streusel is browned and filling is bubbly.

*I will do my best to look the other way if you buy a pre-made pie crust

** The full quart may not fit in your pie shell.  I simply cooked down what didn't fit and made it into a nice blueberry compote for pancakes/waffles/french toast/pound cake or ice cream.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sweet-Spicy Chicken

I seem to be going through phases in the kitchen lately.

I was really really into dishes made with fruit, booze,  and caramelized onions for a while.

Now it seems that I like things that are both sweet and spicy and made with coconut.  I suppose the elements in this recipe might look a bit familiar (I did just make burgers with mangoes in my last post), but I like to think they're tweaked enough to not be like the last few recipes.

I have become so obsessed with coconuts and limes these days nonetheless that this is all I can think of.



I will admit this is an adaption of something I saw online recently, although I don't remember where.

For this dish I coated chicken pieces with chipotle powder, salt, and cumin.  Then I browned them in olive oil and coconut oil.  The coconut oil is optional, but I like the way it boosts the coconut flavor.  Then I added some tequila, lime juice, and chopped mango to the pan.  I put in some coconut milk and let it bubble, and then the chicken simmered a while longer.


I admit this tasted quite a bit like my pina colada pork, but was spicier.  I need to get my cooking brain on a new track.  It was still pretty tasty though.

Still taking the photos with my phone for the time being.

Coconut Mango and Chipotle Chicken

Ingredients
  • 1 chicken cut up into pieces
  • 1 Tbl chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbl each olive and coconut oils
  • 2 mangoes, diced
  • 2 Tbl tequila
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbl dried unsweetened coconut
Mix chipotle, salt, and cumin together and rub all over chicken pieces.

In a large pan heat the oils and add the chicken pieces to the pan.  Brown well on all sides.  You want to really brown the spices.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan.

Add the lime juice and tequila to the pan carefully.  Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom.  Add the mango chunks and continue scraping the pan and getting the fruit well-coated.  Add the coconut milk and mix well.  Bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer and add the chicken back into the pan.  Simmer for another 30 minutes.  If sauce tightens up too much, add a little more coconut milk or even some chicken stock.

Mix together cilantro and coconut flakes.  Sprinkle over chicken before serving. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Still No Camera, But I'll Give a Brief Recipe

I have yet to procure a new camera for myself.  I'm not even sure what kind of camera I want.  Should I try to get back into photography and splurge on a DSLR?  Wouldn't that make my blog that much more appealing if I made the effort to take good photos?  OTOH, big cameras are kind of burdensome size-wise and that can make them awkward when traveling.  On Utah/Arizona trip, Kevin had to go minimalist with his supplies and I had to carry anything he couldn't do without in my backpack because he had to carry his massive camera, tripod, and lenses in a backpack.  I suppose the ultimate deal would be to do what he does and carry a P&S when I don't want a camera to slow me down and get a DSLR for when I want to be more creative.

*Gets out rocking chair*  Back in the days of film, I had a Pentax SLR (Still have it sitting in the closet).  I definitely was more attentive to how I took photos (I had to be because it was totally manual), but probably didn't get out of it as much as I should because I only had one lens.  Still, I took classes, learned how to manipulate depth of field, and was pretty good in the darkroom with the B&W stuff.

I guess I really need to learn more Photoshop stuff too.  I have no excuse not to take good photos when so many of my blogger friends post photography advice in their blogs.

Anyway, my latest recipe is simple and also would be really hard to make look good in photos.

We all know how I am always trying to dull turkey burgers more interesting.  I came up with this method this week after adapting a taco recipe I saw in a magazine.

1 finely diced mango

1 finely diced onion, 1 finely diced jalpeno, 2 cloves minced garlic all sauteed together

1 tsp ground ginger and 1/2 tsp ground allspice

Approximately 2 pounds ground turkey

Form into patties and cook.  Definitely one of my better turkey burgers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Still Loving Garlic

I know I have said that there are times when I should learn how to tone down the garlic, but after all these years in the kitchen, it's hard for me to do without it.

One garlic recipe I have always wanted to try was garlic confit.  Garlic tastes great slow-roasted, so why not try it slowly cooked in oil, leaving me with plenty of garlic-infused oil to play with.

Once I made up my mind to make confit garlic, my next thought was what I could do with it.  How would I use my resulting oily garlic mush?  I could spread it on a cracker.  I could spread it veggies. I could spread it on chicken. 

Then I had an idea.  What if I put it in chicken instead of on it?  Rather than stuff chicken with just plain garlic, I considered mixing it with spinach, a little cheese, and some pine nuts.  I had a savory, vegetable-filled easy chicken dish.

I used frozen spinach instead of fresh simply because it's easier to work with.  I know I could probably get great fresh spinach at the the farmer's market.  Sometimes I want to just create one less step for myself.  Rather than roll the chicken, I cut a pocket inside the chicken breast and smooshed my spinach-garlic mixture in there.  I finished the dish by adding some white wine and a pat of butter, because I always have to do that.



I doused some orange cauliflower in some of the garlic oil and roasted it.  This was a perfect accompaniment. 

Decent dish, but I didn't love it.  I will find some other uses for garlic confit in the future I think.  I know that garlic oil will coat many veggies and roast chickens in the future.

I haven't bought a new camera yet.  Soon.  Soon.
Chicken stuffed with Spinach and Garlic Confit

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated out and peeled
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 spring rosemary
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 8 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed with water squeezed out
  • 2 Tbl pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 Tbl pecorino, finely grated
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 Tbl butter

Place oil, garlic, and rosemary in a small saucepan.  Cook over very low heat about an hour until garlic is very soft and oil is fragrant.  Remove garlic and rosemary sprig from oil and set aside.  Discard rosemary.

Mash or puree garlic into a paste.  Mix well with spinch.  Add grated cheese and pine nuts.

With a small knife carefully cut a large slit in each chicken breast.  Gentle push the spinach mixture into the slit. 

Heat a large skillet with a little oil over medium heat.  Brown chicken breasts well about 8 minutes per side.  Remove from pan.  Add wine to the pan and scrape up any brown bits.  Add chicken back to the pan and gently simmer another 15 minutes, adding more wine as necessary, until cooked through.

Remove chicken from pan.  Swirl butter into pan juices.  Serve chicken topped with pan juices.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back in the Kitchen with a Simple Summer Recipe

Hello Muffins.  I want you to know I didn't desert you.  I was just away in Chincoteague doing some of this.


And this...



And lots and lots of this...




So with a week off from the real world, I seem to have a bit more of my cooking mojo back.

Sometime in the past year I read Dave Lebovitz's book The Sweet Life in Paris.  It was my intention to review it here, but I never seemed to get around to it.  The book had vignettes and stories and some fun recipes.  I highly recommend it.  It's a quick read too.

The book had a recipe for roasted figs.  I thought that was a very interesting idea.  I love fresh figs and I'm sure the intensity of flavor they would get from roasting would be perfect with pork.  I really wanted to try it.

This week was going to be be my week to do so, but there were no figs at all at the supermarket.  I decided to try roasting another fruit instead.  I found some tiny nectarines and roasted them with balsamic vinegar.

I marinated the pork in olive oil, lemon, thyme, and mint.  Once it was cooked I sandwiched slices of it with the roasted necatarines.

Utterly delicious, but I can't wait until I find some figs and try those as well.

My camera broke and I've been using my phone for all photos.  I suppose I should have at least used the light box.  Anyway, I served the pork with sweet potato medallions (sprinkled with salt and smoked paprika) and lemon-butter veggie medley.

Have I been going a little to the sweet side lately?  Don't worry.  A more savory recipe or two is coming.

This is so simple you almost don't need a recipe, but I'll provide one.

Lemon-Herb Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Balsamic Nectarines

Ingredients
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbl olive oil 
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 small nectarines, cut in 1/4" slices
  • 2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
  • Few grinds black pepper

Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice and zest, 1 tsp salt, and herbs.  Place in a plastic bag with the pork tenderloin and marinate several hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove tenderloin from marinade.  In an ovenproof pan brown the tenderloin well on all sides (about 10 minutes).  Place the pan in the oven and roast for an additional 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile combine balsamic vinegar, remaning salt, and black pepper.  Toss the nectarine slices gently in the mixture.  Place on a cookie sheet and roast for 10 minutes.

Serve the pork tenderloin sliced and topped with the nectarine slices.