Today just called for take-out and daydreaming by the window. Happy Saturday!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
"Non-cooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." -Julia Child
As much as I love Julia Child, I can definitely empathize with the non-cooks out there; we can't always invest a great deal of time in our meals. Yet I want to greatly emphasize that a delicious meal doesn't have to take long. That said, this entry will be short and sweet (especially compared to that last one).
So without further ado, New Chefs presents the last of this summer's seasonal soups! This is an incredibly quick recipe; most of my time was spent cutting vegetables and taking the pictures (with our recently found camera!). The soup is vegan and very healthy- just look over the ingredients and you'll see why. And best of all: there's no cooking involved. All you need is a blender or a food processer (gah! my kingdom for a food processer!!!!).
I was, admittedly, a bit hesitant about this recipe. It was found on Green Kitchen Recipes and seemed almost too simple. But the flavors of the soup work very well together- the sweetness of the cucumber plays with the citrus of the lemon on your tongue. The almond lends to the soup a gazpacho texture without making it as thick as, say, bread crumbs would. Overall, this is an excellent soup for a summer evening, and I daresay I'll be going back for seconds.
- 1 c almonds
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 c green grapes (without pits)
- 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 c water
- 6 ice cubes
- salt and pepper
- Pour the almonds in a blender and blend ~1 min until they are smooth and fine.
- Add oil, grapes, cucumber, pepper, and lemon. Blend for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth.
- Add 1/2 c of water, ice cubes, and about 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. Blend again and taste, adding salt and pepper to your preference, as well as more water to thin the soup.
- GKS suggest serving with sprouts and lemon balm leaves. I just garnished with a sprig of cilantro and a bit of lemon rind, and accompanied the meal with white peaches.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
"The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again." -George Miller
A couple of weekends ago, Adrienne (a fellow Blue Devil) and I caught a Saturday morning train out of the city and rode it all the way to Red Bank, New Jersey. We were visiting Deech (yet another fellow Blue Devil) and his parents. The three of us planned to spend all of Saturday and Sunday lounging by the pool, playing games, watching movies, and more or less being on vacation. What I hadn't planned for was Mrs. DiChiara, who, by being the matriarch of an Italian family of four boys (plus Dad), had evolved into the ultimate cooking machine. Seriously- I have never eaten so much delicious food in my entire life!
The beauty of the Italians is that they have a very apparent love for food. I think back to the best Italian meals I've had in my life: Mom's chicken parm, linguini alfredo a la Giovanni (a foul-mouthed Italian chef from Chapel Hill), Mrs. DiChiara's lasagna... and I realize something. What makes real Italian cuisine so damn delicious is that it comes at you full force: no counting calories or even thinking about leaving the table without seconds. Eat, drink, and be merry! And trust me- when you know how to make a dish that dances on your tongue with every bite, you'd eat the Italian way too.
Speaking of awesome moms, K's mom (Mrs. H) was kind enough to make an awesome donation to New Chefs: an ICE CREAM MACHINE!
This sucker is from 1989. Read that again: NINETEEN EIGHTY-NINE. How completely awesome is this thing? New Chefs is proud to call the Oster Quick-Freeze our first ice cream maker :D (Thanks Mrs. H!)
So here Karl and I are: it's Sunday, and we've got nothing to do but plan our dinner. Could it get much better than this? After perusing Food Gawker for a bit, we came upon what looked like the most delicious sounding ice cream recipe ever: Nutella & Mascarpone Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline. *drool* And following the DiChiara example, we decided to accompany dessert (yes, that's right: accompany it) with Stuffed Shells and roasted zucchini squash.
One thing I really like about making your own ice cream is that it requires patience- lots of patience. But with patience comes great reward. K and I started the ice cream making process early. By early afternoon, we were already shelling hazelnuts, the banging of the meat tenderizer and popping of the shells confusing the dogs terribly. As we waited for the sugar to melt into caramel on the stovetop, we practiced saying 'mascarpone' and stole secret tastes of the delicious cheese. By the time we were mixing in the cream and nutella, we could barely keep our fingers out of the bowl- the flavor had already reached a level of decadence unlike any ice cream I've tasted before. We hastily moved the bowl's contents to the ice cream machine and gave it about ten minutes of ice cold whipping before the motor began to roar with fatigue. However short, that little bit of whipping was all it needed before the cream went into the freezer. Then it was just time to wait...
The afternoon puttered along at a wonderfully slow pace. We lounged and played Yahtzee and napped and before we knew it, it was time for dinner prep. We had a lot ahead of us. Our first goal was to make meatballs- really good ones that tasted awesome just on their own. Then, we planned to stuff each of our giant pasta shells with ricotta, meatball, mozzarella, and a hint of basil. Lastly, we wanted to make a tomato and cream sauce to top the shells off. It was quite ambitious, but we had a vision!
I've come to realize that making a really good meatball takes a certain level of magic. There are so many variables in the cooking- egg to bread crumb ratio, how much you mix the ingredients, frying versus baking- that to get the meatballs just right is tough. That said, here are a few tips that may help: 1) don't overmix the ingredients (a rough mix is best); 2) baking is healthier and much easier than frying; 3) if you trust the source of your meat, I would recommend tasting a small piece of the mixture before cooking it. What better time is there to make sure it tastes just right?; 4) soaking your bread crumbs in a bit of milk before mixing them in will keep them from drying out the mix. And that's about it! Hopefully your meatballs will come out tasting as wonderful as ours did :)
Lucy waited patiently to have a taste of a meatball :)
Once the meatballs were done, we began to assemble the shells....
A spoonful of ricotta...
The shells went into the oven (along with sliced zucchini), and K and I went right to work on the final element of the meal: the sauce.
Now this sauce recipe is one that any aspiring chef ought to know. This is probably one of the first homemade tomato sauce recipes that I ever came upon, and it has certainly stood the test of time- as evidenced by us using it for this meal! The idea is simple: saute chopped garlic and onions in a tbsp of butter or olive oil (or mascarpone in this case). Stir in a can of diced tomatoes and turn up the heat so the water begins to boil off. When there's only about 1/2 inch of water/juice remaining, add the cream and simmer. And of course, throw in appropriate spices (salt, pepper, oregano...). Super simple!
The final meal was fantastic. K and I stuffed ourselves silly, drank most of a bottle of red wine, and still managed to clean up afterwards. The stuffed shells captured that incredible lasagna flavor, but in a neat, "fine-dining" appearance. As we had hoped, layering the cheeses and meatball inside of the shells gave each individual flavor its opportunity to be tasted within the context of the whole bite. And the ice cream...? Oh heavens...I may never eat store-bought ice cream again. The sweet, creamy, decadence that was every bite of this ice cream made me want to melt with joy. I'm drooling just thinking about it!
So take a night and do it up Italiano style. (A bit of a warning though: if you tackle all of these recipes in one night, you're going to feel as full as a caterpillar's sock drawer.) Bon appetit!
Nutella & Mascarpone Ice Cream with Hazelnut Praline
- 3/4 c whole milk
- 1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream (lightly whipped)
- 4 oz mascarpone cheese
- 3/4 c sugar
- 1 egg
- 4 tbsp nutella
- 1/2 c hazelnuts (shelled)
- (another) 1/2 c sugar
- fresh strawberries
- Heat the milk in a pan. While it warms, beat together 3/4 c of sugar, the mascarpone cheese, and the egg in a bowl.
- Still whisking, pour the hot milk into the mixture. Return the entire mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat until it becomes a smooth custard. Once it's thickened, take it off the heat.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl, allowing it to cool. Once cooled, add the lightly whipped whipping cream. Then stir in the Nutella.
- Churn the mixture according to your ice-cream maker's instructions OR put the cooled mixture into a covered container. Place it in the freezer and whip it every hour for 3 hours as it freezes. You can whip it using either an electric whisk, by hand, or in a food processor.
- Hazelnut praline: Roast the shelled hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes at 350 deg F on a foil-covered baking sheet. Rub the dark, outer skin off the hazelnuts once they have cooled. Meanwhile, put the sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. The sugar will begin to caramelize; stir the sugar slowly and constantly, until it caramelizes into a medium amber and is completely fluid. Place the hazelnuts on a (lightly greased) sheet of baking paper and cover them with the caramel. Allow the caramel to set hard before breaking into fine pieces.
- Serve the ice cream with a sprinkling of hazelnut pralines and fresh strawberries.
New Chefs Meatballs
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 c chopped parsley
- 1/3 c parmesan cheese
- 1/3 c minced onion
- 1 egg
- 2 slices sourdough bread (toasted to dark brown, with crusts cut off)
- 1-2 tbsp milk
- salt, pepper
- Place the toasted sourdough bread in a plastic bag and seal tightly. Break the bread up until you've got just bread crumbs. Add the milk slowly, mixing the bread crumbs in it as you go. You want the breadcrumbs to be thoroughly wet, but not in so much milk it's like cereal.
- In a large bowl, combine beef, parsley, parmesan, onion, egg, milk/bread crumbs, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tsp pepper. Mix roughly, spreading the non-beef ingredients throughout, but don't overmix. If you feel comfortable with the cleanliness of your meat-source, taste a small bite of the mixture. This is the best opportunity to make alterations to the flavor of your meatball, so make any changes you deem appropriate.
- Mold the mixture into 1 1/2" balls, placing them about an inch apart from one another on a tin-foil-covered baking sheet. Bake at 375 deg F for 25 to 30 minutes.
Tomato Cream Sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 tbsp basil, chopped
- 3/4 tsp white sugar
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 1 tbsp butter
- In a saucepan, saute onion, garlic, and olive oil over medium heat.
- Add tomatoes, basil, sugar, oregano, salt and pepper. Boil for 5 minutes. Add cream and butter, lower heat, and saute for 5 more minutes.
Monday, August 9, 2010
"An ostrich with its head in the sand is just as blind to opportunity as to disaster."
Oh hai there.
Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better day than yesterday. Being a lazy Sunday, I was able to sleep in (you know you're a grown-up when sleeping until 10 am counts as "sleeping in") and lounge in bed before catching a late-morning bus to New Jersey. The bus let me off in Tenafly, a quaint borough where I've spent many an afternoon waiting to transfer from one bus route to another. Today, however, K drove over from his place in Norwood and met me for brunch and a stroll through downtown.
In all honesty, Tenafly isn't exactly a booming town, and the downtown strip is typically pretty quiet. Yet, as my bus skirted the first row of stores indicative of my arrival to town, my eyes widened from what I saw. I immediately texted K: "Oh my godddddd....tenafly is a goldmine today :)" There, in the parking lot on the edge of town, was a farmers' market.
Before we could adequately shop the farmers' market, K and I knew we needed energy, AKA: coffee. Luckily, in the center of town, there's an old train station turned cafe: Cafe Angelique. We grabbed the last table on the patio (you know how Sunday brunchtime can be), ordered coffees and a croissant each, and kicked back to watch the other customers. To the man in the tight pink shirt: your shorts were uncomfortably short. Fix that please.
K and I wrapped up and began making our way towards the market, noting along the way that most every store we passed was closed for Sunday (clearly not the busiest town). The market turned out to have a pretty good selection, all things considered: a vendor selling coffee, two tents with tons of vegetables, and a guy selling...ostrich meat?!
This friendly vendor (who I believe is named Todd) was representing Roaming Acres Farm, an ostrich and emu farm out in Sussex County. Todd explained to us how ostrich meat, despite coming from a bird, is considered red meat. It is incredibly lean (his filets were 99% fat free) and is high in iron (up there with venison). In fact, ostrich meat is lower in calories, cholesterol, and fat than skinless chicken and turkey. Honestly, if it weren't for the price, I'd consider ostrich meat my meat of choice.
Todd went on to tell us that at Roaming Acres Farm, the ostriches are raised until they're 12-18 months old. Ostriches grow very fast during this time and eat upwards around 4 1/2 lbs of feed every day. This leads to the higher price (we paid $12 for a 6 oz filet), but it means that the farmers don't have to add any growth hormones. K and I were sold. Two filets please!
Dinner was quite the treat; K sauteed the filets for ~4 1/2 minutes on either side in a little bit of oil, seasoning lightly with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. We accompanied the meal with delicious rosemary potatoes, roasted onions and bell peppers, and slices of fresh heirloom tomatoes. Excellente!
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
- 4 medium red potatoes
- 3 tbsp butter (melted)
- 3-4 sprigs rosemary
- salt, pepper, garlic powder, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 deg F.
- Cut potatoes into bite-sized wedges. Toss potatoes in melted butter to coat them.
- Cover a baking sheet with tin foil, and lay potatoes on top in a single layer.
- Remove the needle-like leaves from the stem of two rosemary sprigs and sprinkle them over the potatoes. Lay remaining rosemary sprigs on top.
- Season lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- Cook potatoes for 40 minutes, checking after ~35 with a fork to see if the potatoes are tender.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious." -Tom Robbins
Reader! Long time, no see. A minor tragedy has befallen K and myself: our camera has turned up missing. :( Sad news, and it's provided a bit of setback for NewChefs. My motivation to blog is a bit reduced when I can't show you guys how delicious these meals are. But alas, the kitchen called, and I'm going to make do with pics from Google Images for the time being.
The beet is a magnificent vegetable that has long gone by the wayside. But why? Perhaps it is because when people think beets, they usually think of those bland, purple discs that you often find on the salad bar. Yet the beet is so much more than that!
I admit, I feel the desire to wax poetic- much like the author Tom Robbins, who managed to idolize the beet through most of his book Jitterbug Perfume. I remember reading his novel and wondering what was with his beet fascination...
Fast forward to today: Tuesday. Not much different than any other day, except for the fact that on Tuesdays, a farmers' market sets up shop just outside of my work building! People: find your local farmers' market. These places are just...wonderful. For less than $10, I bought a TON of fresh, delicious veggies. Could I have been much happier? Probably not. (Veggies make me smile.) But the most off-the-wall buy for me was a bunch of beets.
Beets. Beets. Beets. I remember when I was young, if I was in trouble, my punishment would often be to consume some food that I didn't like. I remember eating bowls of collard greens, glasses of tomato juice, and once...a small glass of beet juice. It's a shame that I was so turned off by these foods as a kid! If only I had known the joys of the beet!
Beets have vitamins A, B, and C. The greens are packed with more vitamins than the root, and actually have more iron than spinach! But let's focus on the root:
- Beet roots (the red part) are a great source of choline, folic acid, iodine, manganese, organic sodium, potassium, fiber, and good carbs.
- Beets' iron content, while not that high, is of the finest quality for the body to use in the making of blood.
- Beets have long been known to have healing effects for ailments such as...anemia, atherosclerosis, blood pressure, cancer, constipation, ulcers, kidney ailments, gout, and even varicose veins...among others.
The detoxifying effects of beets are so strong that people who begin consuming beets for the first time may want to ease into it; the juice can cause a mild dizziness from the removal of the body's toxins- though there is nothing to worry about. (Drinking plenty of water will help flush out those toxins.)
So anywho- enough about beets. On to the recipe!
Seasonal Soups: Beet & Citrus Soup
- 2 large beets
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large green onions
- 4 c water
- 1/2 pint heavy cream
- 1 large orange
- 2 lemons
- Rinse beets, removing dirt (but not outer layer). Cut off greens, leaving about 1 inch to prevent bleeding of the beets. Place beets in a large pot and cover with at least an inch of water. Bring water to a boil; boil beets for 20-60 minutes, or until tender with just a bit of resistance. Larger beets will take a bit longer to soften.
- Pour out hot beet water and run cold water over beets to cool them. While running under cold water, rub away the outer layer of the beets. Cut beets into ~1 inch cubes.
- In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cut up the white and light green parts of the green onions, and saute this for a minute in the olive oil.
- Using a blender or food processor (my kingdom for a food processor!), puree the beets in parts. I would advise using a cup of water with a quarter of the beets so that you don't burn out your blender. Place the pureed beets and any unused water in the saucepan with the onions and oil.
- Turn up the heat, bringing the mix to a simmer and stirring regularly. Add the cream and juice from the orange and lemons. Continue to simmer ~20 minutes.
- Serve hot or cold.
Number of times I managed to use the word beet in this post: 37
Thursday, June 10, 2010
"The ear tests words as the palate tastes food." -Job 34:3
New Chefs has been riding high on the 'learn a new word' and the 'bananas are awesome' themes recently, so for this post I'd like to bring the two together. Introducing...
"Heavens to Murgatroyd!" you might be saying. But fear not, readers! The pastelón is your friend. And what a friend it will be...
New Chefs' discovery of pastelón came about when my dear friend Chelsea noticed that plantains were being sold 10 for a dollar at a store in my neighborhood. I was quite hesitant at first. I mean... have you seen what a ripe plantain looks like?!
(the ones on the left there)...
Ripe plantains look alarmingly like rotting bananas. Well...Cavendish bananas...since plantains are technically bananas too. And if I had a banana that ripe, I'd be making banana ice cream out of it as a last resort!
Yet as it turns out, when plantains do get this black, they're quite acceptable for cooking- as are the green plantains. It all depends on which flavor you want. When the plantain is green, it's starchy and works well with savory flavors. When the plantain is black, the taste is much sweeter.
So we had an abundance of plantains... (By the way, plantain season runs from May to September, so you'll have an abundance too.) What we decided to do, thanks to a recipe found on Food Gawker, was make pastelón.
The pastelón, in the simplest sense, is like lasagna- but with plantains instead of pasta. Honestly, I would tout this recipe as the best to hit the site yet. This pastelón has such a unique flavor- perhaps because I don't traditionally eat Puerto Rican cuisine. It's sweet...and yet savory...and the colors, oh, the colors! Whatever the case, I insist you give this a try. Other than the plantains, you've probably got most of the ingredients in your kitchen!
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small green pepper, minced
- 1 small orange pepper, minced
- 1 c chopped cilantro
- 2 tsp adobo
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- 1 envelope sazón seasoning
- 8 green stuffed olives, quartered
- 1/2 c raisins
- 1/4 c diced tomatoes
- 4 plantains, peeled and sliced into strips (try and get them when they're very black)
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp milk
- 2 cups shredded white cheese
- vegetable oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 9 pan with cooking spray or butter.
- Mix beef, onion, peppers, garlic, cilantro, adobo, oregano, vinegar, and sazón in a bowl.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and add meat mixture. Cook the mixture until the beef is brown and the juices bubble clear. Add the olives, raisins, and tomatoes. Mix and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large frying pan, heat up enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom. Fry the plantain slices for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden and a bit crispy. Place cooked slices on a plate with paper towel to drain.
- Piece together the pastelón in the square pan. First, make a layer of plantains. Cover this with half of the meat mixture, then a fistful of cheese. Make a second layer of plantains and cover with remaining meat mixture. Add another handful of cheese and one final layer of plantains.
- Beat eggs and milk together. Pour over the pastelón and give it a minute to soak in. Add more cheese here if you like!
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes and enjoy :)