Wednesday, February 28, 2007

honey barbecue chicken wings

ah, the wings of glory

I feel like I’ve fallen so behind in blogging about items cooked, that I’m a bit at a loss where to start. Do I go back to the last picture NOT blogged about and start in chronological order or do I reverse the order and go back in time? I certainly spend a lot of time thinking about cooking and looking up and concocting recipes, but when it comes to photo editing, discarding, uploading, tagging, naming, describing, and last, but certainly not least, trying to write up a vignette interesting enough for you to read through and not fast forward to the pictures and the recipe – I feel that I fall so far behind, it all takes up so much time, that I’m just barely getting to it all between the cooking and the cleaning and the job. And sometimes food related incidents occur when there’s NO cooking involved whatsoever. Or rather, cooking happens as an afterthought, a side note.

Take, for example, our most recent acquisition of the FoodSaver. We (meaning KS) first got wind of it while in Salem, Massachusetts while visiting friends and my parents. We ogled the shrink-wrapped buffalo wings as if it were the world’s 8th wonder before we devoured them in silence. And when KS claimed he would buy it, I mused and dismissed it as a conversation starter. It wasn’t until we were putting the item into our cart at the ever-so-claustrophobic BedBath&Beyond, that I realized we don’t just talk about buying kitchen appliances together – we actually do buy them. And you know it’s serious when a couple purchases communal kitchen appliances. KitchenAid hand mixer. FoodSaver. Wutshof knives.

So back at home, KS was off last week. And periodically, I’d ring him from work and say hello. And he’d tell me things like “Honey, I shrink wrapped the butter.”

“But wasn’t it already in a card board box?”
“Yeah, but I needed to practice on something.”
”So you picked butter?”
”Uh-huh, and it’s awesome! I’m looking for something else to practice on.”

It was nice to see him put his vacation time to such good use. And now, you should just look at him, he’s a FoodSaver pro!

So when we were thinking about other items to seal, we thought of making spicy baked buffalo wings, and marinade them overnight. This would be a prime opportunity to vacuum seal our wings for 24 hours and let them hang out in a spicy sauce sans oxygen. I’m not sure, if this is actually more effective than letting things sit in a plain Ziploc bag, but after we took the wings out and roasted them, the results was undeniably finger-licking good. We ate our wings in silence, and chased them with an English ale. It was perfection beyond words and we had an electrical contraption to thank for it. So you see, cooking this time came as a peripheral, as an afterthought. But in the end, it all worked out, so perhaps it’s for the best that way, sometimes.

Continue reading honey barbecue chicken wings.

Monday, February 19, 2007

tuscan white bean soup

Tuscan White Bean Soup - with toasted baguette with garlic

I was a bit saddened by this NYTimes article – couples where one person is the alpha cook and doesn’t give up control, watching his partner’s every kitchen move, and sometimes (gasp!) putting them down! This made me sad, for food, to me, is one of many ways we show that we care, extend ourselves, and bond with others. While I am extremely detail oriented and a perfectionist in the kitchen, I am also of the persuasion that I don’t need to be in control in the kitchen all the time. Quite the opposite, I find it quite refreshing to kick back and let someone else do the work in the kitchen. Provided of course, that the person cooking know what he’s doing. Luckily for me, the BF is that person, knowingly navigating the kitchen and teaching me a thing or two in the process.

Which brings me, perhaps, to a bit of a name change here. After I sang him praises and vowed to give him due credit for this entry’s meal, he decided he no longer wanted to go in the disguise of the vacuous and impersonal label of BF, and instead adopt a nom-de-plume of Konstantin Steel (the K, being my Russification of his vision, I’m sure). If you start wonder where on earth he came up with such a name, then I’ll allude to a discussion we once had of what our names would be if we were exotic film stars. His was Konstantin Steel; mine – will remain a deep, dark secret. Ha!

Konstantin Steel's talented hand

But back to all things cooking-related; this week, I’ve cooked almost nothing. Work’s been quite demanding and there was Valentine’s Day in the middle as well. I did accomplish quite a bit last week, on the kitchen front, but I’ve yet to blog about it – I am SO behind (head down in shame).

But KS, my goodness, he was a cooking superstar this week. He picked up my slack and raised it up a notch. So not only did he make me a sublime dinner of Lobel’s steak with mashed potatoes, mushrooms and roasted green beans for Valentine’s Day (I’m still faint from it), but last night, he whipped up this Tuscan White Bean soup that hit just the spot. He even soaked the beans the night before. All I did was chop the vegetables for our customized mirepoix and eat the soup. Not bad for an alpha cook! Not to mention yesterday morning when he made us delecable huevos rancheros, toasted tortillas and everything, and all I did was pour coffee and grab some forks.

the winter of our discontent - satisfied with this bowl of soup

So you see, I relinquish kitchen control quite easily, in fact, KS and I switch the alpha cook roles depending on who is cooking what and who’s specialty it is. Today, for example, I promised to make him those white chocolate, pignolia nuts, cranberry cookies he’s been asking for weeks. While I’d rather not mention repeats here, the cookies were such a hit, I’m still hearing about them two months after Christmas. This will be my alpha cook moment – but last night, I was quite happy in the beta category, playing sous-chef and staying out of the way.

In the end, I think that two very competent cooks can play nicely in the kitchen – it’s just a matter of taking turns, giving up a little control, and most importantly realizing that the person who is cooking for you is crafting a gift of love, and what can be more perfect that that?

Continue reading tuscan white bean soup.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

egg pasta

awaiting the hot water bath

Oh but I died and went to heaven! How on earth did I live in New York, think myself a foodie and not know of the wonderful place that Chelsea Market was!! I mean, really, I am terribly embarrassed and feel like I was a fake foodie, like fraud, having missed quite possibly the most wondrous place of them all.

It all started out innocently enough, when I joked about making homemade pasta with the BF. I kept oohing and aahing at the homemade pasta created here and here, and whining to him about having carb envy. I don’t even like carbs that much and here I was, sitting in bed, looking at people’s floury creations and wanting nothing more than a toy of my own. Back in college a friend of mine had a pasta maker and we spent many a night making our own fettucine, drying in on the handmade drying racks he created, and then cooking it up with our own creamy porcini sauce. Our meals were memorable, if only because we would always start cooking at 11pm and wind up eating sometime around 2am. Even back then, our Chianti came from a bottle, not a jug or a box. We were frugal, but we ate well. And ever since then, I wanted a pasta machine of my own.

Well, all my promises of pasta and such did not go unnoticed. The BF, a man who listens as well as he eats, reminded me one weekend of my aspirations. I, promptly did some research and found a fine looking machine on Williams-Sonoma. Still, I had to consult someone who owned one, and so I asked the inimitable Deb on her thoughts. She quickly told me about her model and that she got it at Bowery Kitchen Supplies, which, I’m embarrassed to admit, I thought was located on Bowery. Not in Chelsea Market, of which I’ve never even heard, or probably didn’t remember.

let there be pasta!

Armed with an address for BKS, the BF and I set out, on what was quite possibly the coldest night we’ve had to date, to purchase the machine and make some pasta. Saturday night, people. To call us nerdy and homebodies would be the ultimate understatement.

pasta machine

When I spotted the building I was excited, but confused. I saw plants in the window, no kitchen things in sight and I thought that we were going to a Home Depot like store. BF warned me that this just might be the kind of place where I lose all sense of grace (as if I had any to begin with) and might have a fainting spell. He wasn’t even close. I had a complete and total meltdown, in that scary, happy way. All these little stores, with all the food stuffs. The seafood place where the lobster looked fresh and succulent. The place with cupcakes so pretty I almost wept, and cookies to commemorate the Super Bowl. The Thai place! The meat place! The place with all the Italian groceries where I went crazy and BF had to restrain me.

“No, of course we need a gallon tub of blood orange pulp! I will make… something out of it!”
”Look at the gigantic bag of porcini mushrooms! If we buy it, it’ll last us 20 years!!!”
“Pizza flour?? Buckwheat flour? Don’t we need it?”
”Lentils!! Do you like lentils? I could make this dish with caramelized onions and lentils, that you’ll love!!”
”Stop, look, there’s a pound of foie gras!! And over there, there’s rabbit.”
”Do you like mascarpone cheese? Because I can make this thing with it, that’s going to be amazing….”

In short, I was dashing madly from one item to the next as if it was my last time buying food. I was excited and almost panicked – what if we never come back here again? I felt as if I was stuck in wonderland, where all my food dreams came true. I never wanted to leave. I could just make a cot somewhere in the corner, by the bread makers and wake up in the morning to the hypnotizing scent of baked bread, my cheek pressed up against the floured glass.

BF could barely tear me away and out of that place. And that was all BEFORE we got to the Bowery Kitchen Supplies, where I almost bought a $300 pasta machine. Why? Because I hadn’t any idea and I figured, since I am buying it once, why not just get the best? Lucky for me, the BF being as practical as he’s diligent talked me out of this crazy notion. And so the pretty Atlas was mine. We barely made it too as the stores were shutting down.

Back at home, I followed the recipe until I got the desired consistency. I covered the bowl and waited an hour to roll. I dried my pasta and waited for it another hour. But when I tried to boil it, it stuck together and I had to manually separate the little guys. First time’s always the hardest. And though the pasta turned out divine in taste, I had to work a bit better to get the look just right. And the next time when we made it last week, the individual pasta pieces were much much better, separate and distinct.

all dressed up and ready to go

I have plans for ravioli, herb printed pasta, and a vegetarian lasagna that will challenge even the heartiest meat lover. I have this machine now and it must justify its existence to me. And I promised someone to share recipe ideas. After all, I owe her a few good ones, since she’s consistently inspired me to make new dishes.

I’ll leave you with this thought – the advertisement on the pasta machine manual features an attractive woman wearing nothing but pasta. The moral, or rather the suggestion is probably that eating pasta made by Atlas, will render you this svelte and this hot. If this is indeed true, I am going to eat pasta three times a day and much like Sophia Loren, I’ll owe everything to spaghetti.

so i you eat homemade pasta - this is what you'll look like...

Continue reading egg pasta.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

blood orange yogurt cake

Blood Orange Yogurt Loaf

One of the greatest thing about the blogging community, namely the food blogging community is that is provides continuous inspiration and reasons for self-improvement.

Aside from sharing content and enabling the flow of information all over the world, you are allowed to learn from the blogs your read and admire. Things that worked for them, things that didn’t. Things that they chose to improve and develop.

Take this yogurt cake, for instance. Featured first by Ina Garten of the indelible Barefoot Contessa, as a lemon yogurt cake, it was reincarnated as a grapefruit yogurt cake with the help of Deb of SmittenKitchen. The pictures looked so good, I think I drooled a bit on keyboard. Oftentimes, I am rendered helpless at mere sight of food, pictorial or otherwise, and I feel compelled to recreate it in my own home.

In this case, I was all set to make the grapefruit/lemon version of this cake because I was curious to see how these two citrus flavors would marry. But then something happened in a local Tribeca corner store: I spotted blood oranges, brazen and menacingly blood red, and had a different plan.

superior citrus

I brought a few oranges home, just enough to make the cake and squeeze some fresh juice for drinking. Because how can I pass up the opportunity? When I can’t stop talking about the blood orange juice from Citarella, available all year round people, and a treat far worthy than ice cream or a cookie; when blood orange sorbet from Ciao Bella (available, alas, seasonally) is my favoritest sorbet in the whole wide world! I am, what I would call, a blood orange junkie.

And I so hoped that the blood red color would stain my yogurt cake to a lovely pinkish hue, but my hopes were for naught – as the loaf stayed a yellowish color, no pink in sight. The taste however, was sharp, citrusy and had a bite to it.

While I dialed up the zest to twice the amount the recommended amount and added a bit more juice and sugar, I think that in the end, what would have made this cake completely irresistible would have been some of the blood orange flesh. Next time perhaps.

I also omitted the glaze, being that I dislike super sugary things and find most sugar glazes unappetizing and a killjoy for me. But most of you out there, I am sure, would disagree.

crumbs

In the end, the cake was devoured as quickly as it was created, leaving behind it a few lonely, unattended crumbs as evidence of the cake’s one time existence. And for what it’s worth, I can’t wait to make this with lemon, grapefruit, orange – you name it. And perhaps this loaf will inspire someone out there to go and concoct a version all their own. Because, as I said before, one of the most beautiful things about the internet and blogging is this forum of sharing, improvement and inspiration. Let us continue to share.

Continue reading blood orange yogurt cake.