Monday, October 31, 2016

Rainbow Cauliflower Rice Bowl

How do you put together a colorful plate of food? Here is a simple solution: start with the most vibrant ingredients you can find and treat them minimally. A visit to the farmers market yesterday presented some clear ingredient choices. I bought some farm fresh rainbow chard, green cauliflower and a dozen of eggs. The cauliflower rice bowl concept came from Heidi Swanson's website Cookbooks 101. It's also the project of the week at IHCC: The colorful plate.

The rest is easy. Very little cooking is involved. More time is spent composing this post than cooking the cauliflower rice bowl which comprises of:

  • Steam the cauliflower, which is cut into wedges, until al dente. Chop them up coarsely to the size slightly larger than grains of rice. The shape and the slight crunch of the chopped cauliflower gives it the name cauliflower rice.
  • Cut the red stem off from the rainbow chard. Slice them in bite size and set aside. Cook them briefly with the cauliflower, if you like. I left them in their raw state.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Baby Carrots and Parmesan with Dijon Vinaigrette

You won't think there are easy recipes using simply a handful of ingredients in Ottolenghi's latest cookbook NOPI, but there are. When you get the best and freshest seasonal ingredients, like these yellow and burgundy baby carrots with sinewy roots and bushy leaves like they have just been pulled from the soil, you don't need much help from any supporting actors. I guess, that's the essence of the dish.

However, this recipe calls for truffle oil to make the dressing, which I don't have on hand. I skipped it and went with the simple combination of olive oil, Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Other than that, I stayed true to the recipe. Sprinkle on top some Parmesan or Belper Knolle, a Swiss cheese made from raw milk of the Simmental cow as suggested in the headnote of the recipe, for some salty flavor and finish with some fresh herbs and nigella seeds.

The carrots were cooked in boiling water for 4 minutes. They may be cooked a tad too long, the carrots were no longer crunchy. I really like the crunchy goodness of fresh carrots, especially eating them in my hand, like finger food.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Baked Eggs with Kale and Smoked Salmon

Kale is one of my favorite ingredients. It is on my must-do list to use more kale, especially when they are in season. I got some purplish green, (I believe they are Russian red) amazingly tender and fresh ones from the farmers market. Putting together kale and eggs and smoked salmon are special. Everything in this dish sounds so nourishing and wholesome. The only question left is whether you eat it for breakfast or lunch. I ate it for lunch since it was a rather substantial plate of food.

This David Lebovitz's recipe from My Paris Kitchen of baked eggs with kale and smoke salmon requires several steps:

  • Make garlic bread crumbs in the skillet on the stovetop. One teaspoon of thyme leaves was called for. I was surprised that the thyme plant in my back yard was still full of tender green leaves. I used a generous amount, appreciating the gift from Mother Nature late in the season. Instead of bread crumbs, I used panko from the pantry.

  • Saute the kale in a skillet with some melted butter and garlic until soft. Season with salt and pepper. 

  • Assemble the baked eggs. Kale goes in the bottom of the gratin dish. Lay bite-size smoked salmon above the kale. Next go two cracked eggs, crumbled cheese and a tablespoon of heavy cream. I used ComtĂ© instead of feta for no good reason, just on a whim to use something French. The bread crumbs go on top. I left the egg yolks peeping out, so that I can judge the degree of doneness. I put the gratin in the oven and baked for about 10 minutes. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Miso Soup

How do you know you're inspired by a certain ingredient? You think about it first thing in the morning and you want it for breakfast. Miso soup is not my typical breakfast food and I have not made it for breakfast before. This week at IHCC, inspiration is the theme for our cooking.

In my recent trip to Japan, I started following the lead and advice of fellow travelers. (There were more physicians in our group than any other professions. Disease, wellness and health were very much in the forefront of our minds.) I was skeptical in the beginning to have miso soup for breakfast. Then it became a habit; I had miso soup for breakfast everyday for over a week. I missed it when I got home. So for the very first time, I made miso soup, and yes, for breakfast.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Custardy Apple Squares

This Dorie Greenspan's custardy apple squares remind me of another custardy fruit dessert, clafoutis, in which whole summer fruits, such as cherries and peaches, are generally baked in a flan-like batter. This is the season when there are an astonishing varieties of apple to choose from. In all colors, sizes, taste and crunchiness. I followed Dorie's advice and picked Gala and Fuji. When she suggested that the combination of apples and pears are even better, I put in some Asian pears in the mix for good measure.

The clafoutis is considered my "back-pocket recipe" that I can pull off in a pinch and get freshly-baked desserts from the oven in short order. I did this many times that I'm quite comfortable with this last-minute routine. Make the batter while the dinner table is being cleared or the after-dinner drinks and coffee are being prepared. The batter uses a few everyday pantry items: flour, baking powder, eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla extract. As long as you get enough fresh cherries or peaches (or even frozen one which I had resorted to) available, an aromatic, warm and custardy dessert can emerge from the oven in less than 45 minutes. The same can be said about these custardy apple squares. Dorie added a small amount of butter to the batter, otherwise it is the same method as making clafoutis.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Butternut Squash Crumble

Butternut squash can go so many places: soup, pot pie, quiche, vegetable dish or pasta. It is one of my favorite fall vegetables. Here is another idea.

David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen has a butternut squash crumble recipe that is as easy as pie. It is generally much easier and forgiving to make a crumble than a pie crust for a pie. I enjoy making this butternut squash crumble for its simplicity. Simple enough that you don't even need to follow a recipe.

First, make the squash filling. I like getting the whole butternut squashes from Trader Joe's (at less than $2 each) instead of the pre-cut ones. I used one 2-lb+ squash and cooked half of the recipe. Pricked the butternut surface with a fork, then placed them in the microwave oven for 2-3 minutes to soften the skin. That makes peeling and cutting into cubes so much easier. Cooked the butternut squash cubes in a large pan with olive oil and butter over medium heat. Added salt and pepper and thyme leaves for seasoning. When the squash pieces began to brown, it's time to add the thin slices of shallots until they're soften. Chicken stock went in last and reduced it for about 30 seconds. The filling was then ready to go into a heatproof dish to finish cooking at 375°F oven for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Black Sesame Soba Noodle Otsu Style

What do you cook when you come home after being away for weeks and the refrigerator is practically empty? We had soba noodle in a hot miso soup with some tofu thrown in. That's resulted from finding a box of firm tofu and some miso paste in the fridge. There was also an open package of soba (buckwheat) noodle in the pantry. Voila! Can't think of anything more soothing and healthful that can be put together quickly for a light meal after a long flight.

We went on an "insider's Japan" trip with a Japanese history professor from my husband's alma mater. Every hotel we stayed in Japan served a phenomenal miso soup for breakfast. Miso soup for breakfast is no longer a foreign concept to us. A friend on this trip has explained to us that miso soup is an essential part of her macrobiotic diet.

Soba noodle in Ogimachi Village
My husband and I were constantly at the heel of professor D and peppered him with loads of questions. While in Kyoto, we tacked along to his favorite soba noodle joint. (It's hard to believe that it's easier to find vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto than in Manhattan. There are also temple food served in Kyoto's numerous shrines and temples. I had an entire meal served in tofu in a vegetarian restaurant.) We had a bowl of cold soba noodle in a clear broth for lunch. It was light, plain, comforting and palate cleansing. Now we are home in the U.S, our fascination and craving for miso and soba noodle continues.

Starting this week, we, the home cooks at IHCC, are rotating to a new chef, Heidi Swanson, for the next six months. Needless to say, I'm more than happy to have found this black sesame soba noodle recipe on her blog. This dish can't be more exciting and timely given our recent immersion in Japanese cuisine and culture. Importantly, I'm expecting to get an extensive workout in her supernatural cooking style in the months ahead.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ribeye Steaks & Green Beans with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette & Chili-Gorgonzola Butter

A steak like this does not show up a lot in my kitchen and for good reasons. I follow a primarily plant-based diet. Kale and quinoa will make the cut. Ribeye, not so much. When I first saw this recipe in Curtis Stone's What's for Dinner? There are several components to this steak dish, it's hard to tell whether it's worth the effort. I do know instantly that my reluctant flexitarian and meat-eating husband would absolutely go bonkers with a steak like this. Don't feel bad for him, we do eat out. Nonetheless, he loves a good steak, ribeye and prime rib, are among his favorites. Once every few months or on special occasions, steaks will make the appearance on the table. When they do, I want it to be spectacular. That makes him happy. Who can blame him? My dad is like that too.

Gorgonzola, tomatoes and green beans is a frequently-used flavor combination for steaks. In fact, anything that goes well together in a cheese burger will invariably make a steak sing. The richness of the blue cheese butter melting into the steak is very appealing. A vinaigrette, enhanced by the smoky and sweet flavor of the roasted tomatoes, gives the steak the depth of flavor. The proverbial icing on the cake, or the vegetable complement to the meat, is the grilled green beans. For a vegetables lover, the green beans are must have. The farmers markets are filled with farm fresh and tender green beans this time of the year.

This is a complete, hearty and delectable dish that would satisfy the most discerning tasters, especially those who crave a chunky juicy piece of steak. The steak could have been better if I chose a thicker cut, over 1-inch thick. I like my steak medium rare and any thinner cut would have been too dry and too well done for my taste. Moral of the story: choose the thickness of the ribeye carefully, based on how rare or well done you want the steak to be cooked.

Would have preferred a rarer and thicker steak

This is the last week cooking along with Curtis Stone at IHCC. It is time to bring out all the stops to honor him with the best known Australian food, the hamburger, on steriod -- a ribeye steak dish.

In the last six months cooking along with Curtis, I've cooked more protein dishes than I normally do: grilled rack of lamb, lobster rolls, tuna ceviche and scallops. All equally delectable and fun to do. It's hard to pick a favorite. His recipes are easily accessible for an average home cook. That's his biggest asset!