Friday, January 15, 2010


(Photo above from sometime last year featuring numbers 6, 7, and 10)

People complain because they are poor and can't afford food that tastes good at home.

I resent this!

Here's how you do it:

1. Toasted Sesame Oil: for about three dollars you will buy a bottle of "why everything Korean/Chinese tastes so good". Put it on everything, mix it into a simple bowl of rice (and add a few of some things later on this list), and you're golden. This is the stuff of heaven. A little goes a very long way.

2. Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce: Go to the Goya section of your supermarket. You'll find these here. They are in little cans and cost you about a dollar. In one can lies about 4-5 chipotle (smoked jalapeno) peppers in a thick spicy sauce. Scrape away the seeds and one of these babies + a spoonful of sauce can jazz up anything.

3. Dried Red Pepper Flakes. They'll last forever and just a pinch-full will make pasta and rice and anything suddenly better.

4. Garlic salt. Don't knock it 'til you try it. On that note: create your own seasoning salt. You won't regret it.

5. Seasoned Rice Vinegar. A bottle of this stuff will allow you to make bowls of sushi rice at home, which is a staple for me, not to mention ccountless dressings. A little sesame oil and red pepper flakes and an egg on top and you're gold.

6. Fresh Flat-Leaf Italian Parsley: If you keep it from bruising, a bunch of this will last a long time, and some chopped leaves as a finishing touch will consistently make anything you cook better. Promise.

7. One block of good European-style butter. It might seem pricier, but it WILL be worth it. Make it last: just stir a little chunk into your food. Quality of life will suddenly increase ten-fold. And it won't go bad.

8. Canned tomatoes/tomato paste. Buy the cheap store brand and you have homemade pasta sauce, braising liquid, spanish rice base, etc at your disposal.

9. Decent Olive Oil. Try Whole Foods over Trader Joe's. The difference in color is remarkable. Just a drizzle over pasta and soup works wonders. Whole Foods 365 brand has a beautiful green hue and a huge bottle is $7.00.

10. Eggs. Keep good eggs around and you have the basis for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A poached egg on top of anything basically is just awesome.

On the same thought track, Whole Foods now has a bulk section (read: cheap) for dried rice, beans, fruit, cereal, nuts, etc, and the 4th St. Co-op always did, so no more excuses, k?! Also, Raffetto's on Houston sells hand-cut fresh pasta for 2.50/LB.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Homemade Pizza

You need:

1 Pizza Stone

Bread Flour


NYC Tap Water



Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Crushed Tomatoes

Fresh Mozzarella


Attempts at creating an authentic New York pie at home went surprisingly well! Used Jim Lahey's No Knead Pizza Dough recipe which can be Googled easily. I used dry active instead of instant yeast so I did the prep-work in a little bowl with some sugar and warm water. Watch out, because you have to start it the day before, even though it's very easy. I also put some olive oil directly into the dough. Make sure you heat the pizza stone (mine was 12 bucks from Whole Foods ... and I feel like it will DEFINITELY be worth that price) with the oven or it might crack. Just turn your oven up as high as it can go. Then spread a thin layer of good olive oil on your VERY THIN dough before spreading a VERY THIN layer of crushed tomatoes (fresh out of the can, with some oregano and salt stirred in) on top. Finally, fresh slices of mozzarella and fresh basil (if it's in season, which it wasn't, and so I couldn't find it and even if I had it would have been off the wall expensive). Drizzle more olive oil, salt, and pepper on top. Then try and get that sucker onto the stone alive and without draining all the heat from the oven. Our method involved two spatulas and one corn meal dusted plate. Cook until done. Good luck.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chickpea Curry

Spices laid out for a tomato-based chickpea and chard curry. Although I don't think this kind of curry is supposed to have cream in it, I think it would have benefitted. Also, we had it with rice, but the sauciness would have really been prime with some ghee laden naan.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bleecker St. Pizza, Citrus Season, and more

Pictured above is the Nonna Maria slice, the award-winner from Bleecker Street Pizza. On the corner of Bleecker and 7th is this tiny place - just around the corner from John's, Joe's, and Keste if you want to take a pizza tour. For 3 bucks, it's a good size slice with a crisped crust, yet good foldability, and classic Margherita toppings. Sauce tasted fresh, tomato-y and not too sweet. And of course, it dripped with the essential grease drops, so grab some napkins. I think Brian put it best when he hailed it just a "great solid traditional slice of pizza". I may be a bit out of line quoting that, but it's pretty much what he said.
On other fronts, it is citrus season somewhere in the world, and although I do try and stick to local produce, I have a serious thing for oranges, so I take advantage of our country's expanse over many climates around this time of year and fill my fruit bowl with beauties.
I'm particulary fond this year of Cara Cara Oranges which have a pink-y grapefruit hue on the inside, but are very sweet. They have the easy peel and flesh firmness of a Navel, too, so no giant sticky mess on your hands after. I also have a love affair with Clementines, and the flavor of Tangerines really can't be beat for me if you can mind the seeds, which I don't have the patience for.
All good cooking greens (kale, swiss chard, etc) are prime right now (eat them every day!) and apparently so are pears, although I haven't really found a good pear at all this year, sadly. Know of one?
And finally, while on the subject of seasonality, turnips are so IN. I never ate turnips at home. They are pretty alien to me, to be honest. Must buy some - roast them or something. We'll see.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thanks, banana family.

Rum sauce! Heavy cream, brown sugar, molasses, and rum. What else?

(banana) Bread Pudding with rum sauce

I love bananas for many reasons: their undead-ness, savory to sweet versatility, strong texture, super healthness, attractive addition to every fruit bowl, the list goes on.

Even thought bananas are so lovable, we often find a pile of mushy brown ones sitting on the counter attracting delicate fruit flies. What to do when the garden variety banana bread loses its appeal?

In my questing, I found a few recipes for banana bread pudding. That's bread pudding of the banana persuasion, not bread pudding made with banana bread (although that would probably be delicious).

I used a recipe from epicurious and some homemade bread. Here's one wonderful thing about this recipe: you can use crappy bread, dead bananas, and even sour milk. Still tastes sa goodde!

Cookin' those bananas in butttter: 3 bananas to be exact, with 2 tbs butter and 2 tbs sugar

Ill-fated (depending on your perspective) too yeasty bread

I made some dinner rolls and they tasted way too yeasty, this was the extra dough. Lovely texture so perfect for bread pudding! All the extra crap you throw in masks any weird flavors so just use any random bread lying around.

Be sure to soak those raisins in rum and to let your concoction soak in the custard before baking.

Banana pancakes (cue Jack Johnson...OH DEAR). Secrets: separate your eggs

I'll put up this recipe soon. I got these tricks from Alice Waters' Art of Simple Food (great cookbook!). You get the pancakes nice and fluffy by separating the eggs and beating the whites (you know...stiff white peaks).

Continuing in the theme of bananas foster (of the rum sauce persuasion..which also goes QUITE well with these), place thinly sliced bananas on the pancake after flipping and sprinkle sugar. It gets nice and burned and crunchy.

Fried Plátanos

So facil and so tasty. My not so local CSA has plantains and I'm so glad. So far, I like to soften them by boiling, then fry in vegetable oil (peanut is yummy), smash and salt. Wikipedia of all places has a lovely summary of all the things you can do with this curious vegetable.