Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kale Citrus Beet and Burrata Salad

Burrata. One of my favorite Italian cheeses. With it's delicate, globulous mozzarella outsides and its soft, luscious, creamy almost-liquid insides. In the summer I like it with tomatoes and basil, or with strawberries and a bit of balsamic vinegar, but in the winter when citrus is in season I make this salad, it's a perfect mix of wintery earthy beets and summery sunshiny citrus. 
However, this time, the time I decide to document this lovely winter salad, I made a mistake. A terrible mistake. A nearly salad ruining mistake. A mistake it took trips to two different grocery stores to remedy before dinner. I'll start at the beginning, it began on Monday night, at Whole Foods.

Usually I shoot on the weekends, but on Saturday morning I went to Brooklyn to pick up a strawberry plant I'm helping to try to convince to bear fruit by January for a photo shoot, and on Sunday I had to process photos from a Wedding Reception I also shot on Saturday. So on Monday night after I work I hurried over to Whole Foods to grab ingredients to make this salad on Tuesday morning. I was in a hurry, it was nearly 7 and I still had to get ingredients for this and dinner, and walk the two miles back home, and it was cold out and I was hungry.

 I found my way to the cheese case, and spotted the burrata right away, but upon picking it up I discovered it was one large ball of burrata, and I wanted two small lumps, one for each salad (I actually wanted four, to pick out the best looking ones), but right behind the container with one ball of burrata, I spotted a container with two. I grabbed it and inspected the lumps. Indeed there were two, and they were round and plump looking, so I grabbed a second container, which also had two, popped them all in my cart and boogied on out of there thinking that had gone very well. 

The next morning I began to make this salad. As you'll notice, the burrata doesn't come in until the end, so I left it in the fridge, and prepared everything else. At 1PM, with only two hours before I had to leave for a job, I took the burrata out of the fridge, opened it up, and gently lifted one of the lumps of cheese out of the brine. 

The first thing I noticed was how much less delicate than the burrata I usually buy from Alleva dairy it was, but that wasn't much of a concern. I turned the ball over in my hand, and noticed there was no twisty top part. Now I was concerned. I set the ball down, selected a less attractive one, and cut it open. No creamy, curdly cheese ran out of the center. In fact, the center was totally firm, one hundred percent solid, as solid as fresh mozzarella. Fresh Mozzarella. It's always next to the burrata in the cheese case. But I had looked at the container, I had seen it's label saying burrata. 

That's when it hit me. I had only checked the label of the first container I picked up, with the one lump of cheese. I grabbed the lid of the container on my counter and read it. Lioni Mozzarella. My heart sank. But I had no choice, I had to work soon, so I shot the salad with the mozzarella you see in these photos. And then I ate it because I was starving. And then I went to work. On my way home I went to a different Whole Foods, where they were entirely sold out of burrata, but I was not to be daunted. I was eating this salad tonight, darn it. So I went to Fairway, where there were three different types of burrata and a sale on Ritter chocolate bars. So I guess the moral of this story is to always check your labels and that I should go to Fairway more. 

1 orange or tangerine
1 grapefruit
1 meyer lemon
2 burrata balls
8 oz lacincto kale
3 beets
dash olive oil

2 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp oil oil
salt + pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degree celsius. Remove the stalks from the beets, drizzle with a dash of olive oil, and wrap in tin foil. Roast for 40-50 minutes, until a fork can be easily poked into them, but they are not super soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

While the beets roast, make the dressing. Combine the vinegar, honey, and a generous dash of salt and pepper in a bowl, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking, and continue to whisk until oil is well incorporated into the vinegar. Stop as soon as dressing begins to thicken. Set aside.

While the beets cool, wash and dry the kale, then stack the leaves up about 5 at a time, roll them up like a long cigar, then slice across the top to produce thin ribbons. of kale. See here for more info. Place the kale in a large bowl. 

Once the beets cool, chop them into wedges of your desired size (I did 1 inch wedges, but 1/2" would work if you like smaller beet bites), and add to the bowl with  the kale. Add the dressing and toss to combine. Set aside. 

Jubilee the citrus by cutting off the top and bottom, then standing the citrus on it's end and cutting vertically to remove the pith and peel. More info on jubilee-ing here. 

Feel free to pause now for 30 or so minutes and allow the kale and beets to marinade in the dressing, which will turn a lovely bright pink. If you'd rather eat sooner, you don't have to let the kale marinade at all. 

Gently toss the citrus with the kale and beets. Split the salad between two bowls, and add the ball of barrata to the center of each. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lemon Ginger Apple Cider

Hot mulled cider is one of my favorite seasonal treats this time of year. After a cold, dark, blustery, frequently rainy walk home from work, a mug of steamy spiced cider is like a panacea for the soul. 

One of my favorite ciders comes from a juice shop in the East Village called Liquiteria. The Killer XX is a potent, spicy blend of juiced green apples, tart lemon juice, sharp spicy ginger, and a sinus clearing dash of cayenne powder. 

I like to grab a big Killer XX enroute to work on cold days and drink it as I walk my last few blocks. It helps me forget about the cold, fine, almost icy rainy that frequently falls with abundance from the sky in New York this time of year. So I decided I would make a homemade version to share with you, but I couldn't resist adding some cinnamon and cloves to give it a hint of a classic mulled cider flavor. 

I cooked up this batch one gray morning last week after going for a particularly chilly run, and all those warming spices were so, so lovely after huffing and puffing my way along the East River. I've only recently started running, and am not yet accustomed to the feeling of being both hot (because of the running), and cold (because it's about 38 degrees and the breeze off the river is cold) at the same time. I may or may not have warmed my fingers over this pot of cider while heating it up. 

My mother was in town for Thanksgiving, so she, S and I sipped mugs of this cider while deciding where to go that day. While my mother was in town we tried to think of museums and monuments we'd not taken her to before, and consequently we went on a bit of a whirlwind tour of the city, I'm pretty sure in the last week I've been to more museums than I had in the year before. We even went to the Transit Museum! 

I used a blend of juiced apples and store bought apple cider (I used Red Jacket), but you could use entirely store bought cider, or all juiced apples (I approximate about 7-8 apples), or even apple juice, it's a pretty flexible recipe. 

This would be an absolutely lovely cider to sip beside a crackling fire, perhaps after ice skating on a frozen lake, or sledding through fresh fallen snow. Or it would be delightful at a festive holiday party (you could even spike it with a bit of whiskey!). Additionally, it is fantastic served up in a basic mug while you binge-watch Netflix on a cold December evening. 

Lemon Ginger Mulled Cider

32 oz apple cider (or juice of  8 apples)
2 lemons
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp whole cloves
pinch of cayenne 
2 inches ginger
1 tbsp maple syrup

In a medium saucepan, pour the apple cider. Juice the lemons and add the juice to the saucepan. Stir in the maple syrup. Thinly slice the ginger and add to the pot, along with the cinnamon sticks, cloves,  and cayenne pepper. 

Cook over low heat until simmering. Allow to simmer 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, strain out the spices, and serve hot. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rosemary, Prosciutto, and Asiago Pull Apart Bread

Pull apart bread, I could write odes of love to thee. In fact, I could write a book of sonnets about my love of buttery bread held together by cheese, and in this case, cured meats. The way the dough pulls apart into lovely pieces bearing both crispy browned edges and soft, pillowy luxurious insides.

Up until recently I had always made lazy pull apart bread- cut up instant biscuits dipped in butter and tossed with cheese and garlic and whatever other tasty bites I felt like throwing in. But this weekend I decided to go all out and make the dough myself. 

Boy, was it worth the effort. This dough was lovely, light and fluffy on the inside and crisp and crunchy on the edges, with a lovely herb-y taste. Asiago isn't a big melting cheese, but the cheese in between the slices did become soft and gooey, while the cheese on the top became crispy and toasty. 

I expected to find standing all the dough strips up and keeping them together while I cut more to be tough, but they stood up pretty darn well on their own, and didn't lose too much of their filling either. Also, this dough was the absolute perfect amount to fill my loaf pan, so that was wonderful. 

Is there anything really so delicious as bread with cheese? Well, I suppose there is bread with cheese and meat, which is which is even better, so I included prosciutto in this recipe. I love prosciutto on pizza, and this is a bit like  a sauceless, stacked up pizza, so I suspected it would be delicious, and it was.

The meat adds a little salty, smoky bite as you nibble your way through each slice, and the pieces of prosciutto that ended up on top are lovely and crispy and crunchy and perfect. Like well done bacon, only drier and more Italian.

This is definitely a dish to serve piping hot. Ideally, you want to burn your fingers a little bit as you pull the bread apart, for optimal warm and melty bread bites, and because it's next-to-impossible to wait for this to cool once you take it out of the oven and get a whiff of how delicious it is.

This would make a appetizer worth filling up on, or you could pass it around at dinner in place of plain old rolls, at a potluck you could pop it back in the hosts oven briefly than knock everyone's socks off with its herb covered splendor. Or, if you're like me, it makes a delicious snack for three hungry twenty-somethings on a chilly Sunday afternoon. 

Rosemary, Prosciutto, and Asiago Pull Apart Bread

3 Cups all purpose flour
1 Cup warm water
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 C minced fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter

2 Minced garlic cloves
1/3 C Minced rosemary (and other herbs, if you'd like)
1 C grated asiago cheese
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 lb prosciutto, thinly sliced
Hefty pinch salt & pepper

In a large bowl, combine warm water and sugar, stir briefly, then sprinkle yeast over top. Cover with a towel and let sit 5 minutes, until yeast has become foamy.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, and rosemary. Mix well. After yeast has foamed up, add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing after each, then stir with a wooden spoon until dough begins to form. 

Dump dough out onto a floured surface and kneed 5-8 minutes, until an elastic, not too sticky dough forms. Lightly oil the bowl with 1 tbsp melted butter. Put the dough ball in the oiled bowl, cover, and let sit somewhere warm for an hour, or until dough has doubled in size. 

Grease a loaf pan with melted butter or oil.

After dough has risen, punch it down, then turn out dough onto a floured surface, divide dough in half, and roll out one half at a time. Roll dough into a large rectangle. Brush dough with half the 4 tbsp melted butter, then cover with half the grated cheese, half the minced garlic, and half the fresh herbs.

Using a pizza or crust cutter, cut the dough into 3" X 4" rectangles, then stack up the dough squares, and stand them on their side in the greased loaf pan. 

Repeat the rolling out, buttering, and covering of cheese, garlic, and herbs with the second piece of dough, cut it into the same size squares, and stand them in the loaf pan.

Sprinkle any herbs and cheese that may have fallen out over the top of the pan. Allow the dough to rise in the pan for another 30 minutes. 
Towards the end of the final rising time preheat the oven to 375 F. Bake bread for 20-30 minutes, until the edges are a lovely rich golden brown. 
Allow to cool for 3 minutes, then carefully remove from pan. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sugared Cranberries

It's cranberry season! I live just across the Hudson river from a major cranberry producing state- New Jersey. I've expounded before on the beauty and wonder that is rural New Jersey, but there are so many wonderful things that I forgot to mention the cranberry bogs.

S and I love to camp in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. In the summer we tube the Wading River and in fall and spring we hike the sandy roads to check out ruins, abandoned railroad bridges, fire towers, and cranberry bogs. There are bogs right in the state park, owned by farmers who grow for Ocean Spray. 

S and I have even sampled wild cranberries- never from the commercial bogs, but we've each tried one found growing alongside the river. They were bitter, like all raw cranberries, but also lovely and crisp. There is just something special about eating wild foraged fruits, even if it's only one or two berries. 

I like many different cranberries preparations, cranberry sauce, orange cranberry relish (my favorite part of Thanksgiving as a child), tart cranberry pie, but these sugared cranberries may be my all time favorite preparation. 

They're both sweet and tart, juicy and crisp, and the sparkling sugar topping makes them absolutely lovely to behold. Not to mention when you get a cranberry candied at the peak of ripeness and you bite into it, it makes this amazing pop noise, audible from several feet away, which is just too fun. The popping cranberries are definitely the tastiest, too.

These berries are so beautiful, they look a bit like they've been covered in snow or frost, so they seem like a magical pairing for this nippy fall weather.  At first they'll seem too pretty to eat, but after you have one you won't be able to stop. They're the most addicting thing in my kitchen right now, more addicting than the Ben & Jerry's Candy Bar Pie ice cream in my freezer. It's good, but I'd sooner eat a whole truckload of these berry delights. 

These are too beautiful to eat only as a snack though, they would be lovely on a spread of hors d'oeuvres, perhaps served with a cheese plate, or on a lavish dessert buffet. Or you could skewer them with a toothpick to use as a fancy-schmancy cocktail garnish. Or package the sugared berries up in cute boxes and give them as Christmas gifts- my aunt did this one year and I'm pretty sure I ate them all on Christmas Eve. Any way you serve them, these beautiful sugared cranberries will be a wild success. 

1 & 1/2 C Sugar, separated 
2/3 C water
8 oz cranberries

First, a note on sugar: any type of white sugar will work for the syrup, but the type you use for coating the berries at the end will impact the way they look. A very fine sugar, such a sanding sugar will give the berries a very light, thoroughly coated white look, I think of it as looking like frost in the morning. I used plain domino cane sugar which gives a more crystallized, snowy candied look. A larger grain cane sugar, such as whole foods cane sugar tends to look clumpy.

Pour the water into a medium sized saucepan, add 1 C sugar, and heat over medium low, stirring occasionally, until all the sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove from heat and allow to cool about 10 minutes. Once syrup is warm, but not too hot to touch, add the cranberries. Add just 3-4 at first, and stir them around gently. If any split open, wait a few more moments for the syrup to cool, but if they remain in tact, add the rest of the cranberries and give them a gentle stir. Make sure they're all getting wet.

If there is space in your refrigerator, just pop a lid on the sauce pan and put the whole thing in the fridge. Otherwise, pour berries and all syrup into a tupperware with a lid, and refrigerate overnight, or at least 6-8 hours.

After refrigeration, use a slotted spoon to transfer the berries to a cooling rack (I put parchment paper under mine to catch the syrup drips), and allow to dry for 20-40 minutes. 

Once berries have dried a bit (they'll still be sticky and slightly damp- this is fine), place the remaining 1/2 C sugar in a shallow dish, and add the berries, a few at a time, tossing them gently with the sugar so they're entirely coated. Return coated berries to the cooling rack. If your sugar begins to clump, run it through a fine strainer placed over a bowl, and use what sifts through. 

Once all berries are coated, give them another 20 minutes or so to fully set up, then pop them in a dish and serve, or in a tupperware and store in the fridge until you need them. They'll keep around 4-5 days, but I promise they won't last that long, they're addicting!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Spicy Coconut Yam Soup

Tom Kha Gai, or spicy coconut soup, is one of my favorite dishes in Thai cuisine. I love the creamy, gingery, limey broth with soft pieces of onion and tender boiled chicken, it's so warm and invigorating. For this soup I wanted to incorporate some of my favorite Tom Kha Gai elements into a heartier, more filling soup, perfect for brisk autumn evenings.

I swapped the (usually rather sparse) chicken out for plentiful chunks of bright orange sweet potato, added some green beans, and spiced it up a bit with extra chillies and a bit of curry powder. I love sweet potato in soup, it becomes so soft and luscious, and it soaks up all the delightful coconut milk and spices.

You begin this recipe by softening the onions together with the chillies, ginger, and garlic- and the smell of them all sizzling away is just phenomenal. That sharp ginger-onion-chili spice wafts out of the pan and fills the kitchen, reminding me of Balinese sambal sauce, which is made from coconut vinegar, chillies, ginger, and shallots. If I close my eyes and breathe in over this pot, I can almost imagine I'm reclining in a pondok, surrounded by rice paddies, drinking a Bintang and munching on crispy fried duck. Ahh, Bali is heaven.

If you can't find a pondok surrounded by rice paddies, this soup is a pretty great runner up in terms of heavenly experiences. I've been running every day for the past week, and after an especially windy and chilly jog this is the perfect soup to come home to.

From the first sip you can feel its warmth spreading from your core out through your sore, tired, cold extremities, all the way to your finger tips and your toes. The chillies add the perfect twist of spice that becomes a slow burn the more you eat, and the ginger adds a lovely zippiness. 

This is a fantastic dinner or lunch soup, no need to make any sides, a big bowl of this is a whole meal. It comes together quickly, making a great weeknight meal, and it'll fill you up, and warm you from head to toe!

Spicy Coconut Yam Soup

2-3 thinly sliced thai chili peppers (+ extra for topping if you like spicy soup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 inches ginger, grated
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb sweet potato cut into 1" cubes
6 oz green beans into 1" segments
3 scallions
1 can coconut milk
32 oz chicken broth
1/2 lime
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp fish sauce

In a large, heavy pot pour 1 tbsp of olive oil, and add the chopped onions and minced peppers. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, until onion begins to soften. Add the minced garlic and cook another 3-4 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent and the garlic is fragrant. 

Add the grated ginger, stir well, then add the sweet potatoes, followed by the curry powder and fish sauce. Stir well to coat potatoes in curry and fish sauce, then add the chicken broth, and coconut milk. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime in, then bring to a boil. 

Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook 5-8 minutes. Add the green beans and continue to cook until green beans and potato are soft and ready to eat, about 10 more minutes. 

While the soup cooks, thinly slice the white and light green parts of the scallions. 
Once potato and green beans are soft, remove soup from heat and ladle into bowls. Top each bowl with freshly sliced scallion, and any remaining sliced chilies. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

Sweet potato in a smoothie. This is a new discovery for me, and oh, it is a great one. This smoothie is pie in liquid form. It has all the delicious sweet potato pie flavors- sweet, caramel-y dates, earthy sweet potato, cinnamon and nutmeg, and an undercurrent of apple cider, but is made only from delicious healthy ingredients. 

It's Smoothie Week over at Williams Sonoma, and the theme is Weird, Wild, and Crazy Smoothies. I would certainly say throwing a boiled sweet potato in a frozen smoothie is my idea of a wild morning! I've experimented with vegetables in smoothies before, but have always stuck to greens- kale, avocado, and spinach, and I've never made a smoothie with an element I had to cook first before. 

My inspiration for this smoothie was a sweet potato pie from a little Caribbean takeout place in Chelsea that I fell in love with in college, it was rich and decadent with the perfect touch of spice, sweet, but not overpoweringly so. I wanted to channel that sweet earthy-fruity flavor into a healthy smoothie. 

This was my first attempt at putting dates in a smoothie at home, and they added just the right caramel-y sweetness which really helped drive home the pie flavor. I softened mine up a bit by cooking them with some maple syrup first because my blender isn't very powerful. If you have one of those fancy high speed blenders like the Vitamix (which I regularly drool over online), then your dates will probably blend down perfectly smooth without being softened first. 

Boiling the sweet potato first didn't turn out nearly as laborious as I expected it to feel. One potato didn't call for a large pot or much water, so it got to boiling pretty quickly and softened up in less than ten minutes. You could certainly do this the night before to speed up your process if making this smoothie for breakfast, but I did not have that kind of forethought. I popped my boiled potato in the freezer while I prepped the other ingredients and it chilled plenty in that time. And gosh, it was worth it, this smoothie turned out tasting just like pie! 

I'll be putting dates in more of my future smoothies. they'd make a brilliant sweetener for a coconut milk and coffee dessert smoothie, or a chocolate peanut butter shake. The sweet potato was fantastic too, it adds a lovely silky texture to the drink, and pairs beautifully with the sweet and tangy pineapple. The notes of cinnamon and nutmeg shout of pie, and the dates and apple cider add a lovely sweetness. Not to mention its brilliant orange color makes it fabulously seasonal!

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie

1 medium sweet potato
1 C frozen pineapple
1 C apple cider
heaping 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
5 dates, pitted

Peel and chop the sweet potato into 1 inch cubes, add to a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook about ten minutes, or until soft all the way through. Drain potatoes and bring to room temperature on counter or in refrigerator. You can also boil the potato the night before.

If your dates are fairly dry, like my Deglet dates were, pop them in a small pan with 4 tablespoons of apple cider and cook over low heat until the dates have softened, about 3 minutes. If you're using a soft date variety, such as medjool, this will be unneccesary

Add the drained potato cubes, the frozen pineapple, softened dates, apple cider, cinnamon, and nutmeg to your blender and blend on high until smooth. 

Pour into glasses and serve immediately. Enjoy!