Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sausage, Kale and Onion Pizza

This pizza was inspired by the one from American Flatbread that we ate this summer. As usual, I liked it and J was indifferent. It contained some seasoned sausage, kale and sauteed onions. I used mozzarella cheese and some Parmesan. The crust was whole wheat store bought dough.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Falafel Day!

The cake was made by my friends in honor of falafel day that we "celebrated" yesterday. Basically I was going to make J some falafel for dinner last week and he wasn't into it. So we were going to have it for lunch and when that didn't pan out we had friends over for dinner. I used a recipe I found on Crepes of Wrath that apparently came from Angie Ketterman but I had to make so many changes that I'm just going to post what I did, instead of saying that it was adapted.
I had a really hard time at first with these falafel. The mixture was too wet, possibly due to the food processor over mixing the beans (?). So the first time when I attempted to make these at lunch time, the beans would stick together, I didn't have enough oil, and my oil wasn't hot enough and they completely disintegrated and it was a huge mess. Once we bought more oil and used our candy thermometer to monitor the temperature and I added a lot of flour to the beans, we end up with the beautiful falafel you see above.


2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and patted dry
2 small onions, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves plus 1 tsp dried parsley

Canola oil, for frying


pita breads (heated 30 second in microwave to soften)
Chopped tomato
Chopped onion
Shredded romaine lettuce
Tahini sauce and hummus

  1. Combine all of the falafel ingredients, expect oil and flour, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  2. Pulse the mixture until coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
  3. Add approx. 1 cup flour and mix to hold mixture together enough to form balls.
  4. Form the falafel mixture into balls about the size of walnuts and press to flatten.
  5. Heat 2-3 inches of oil (enough to submerge falafel) to 375 degrees F in a deep pot or deep fryer.
  6. Fry about 6 balls at once for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Drain on paper towels.
  8. Stuff each pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and hummus. Feel free to experiment with toppings.

Creamy Carrot Soup

I love pureed vegetable soups. The velvety texture and smooth consistent flavors, even if there isn't any cream, taste decadent and indulgent. The first time I ever had a carrot soup was my freshman or sophomore year in college at a little restaurant in town called California Cafe. I only ever had it once and I don't even know if they make it anymore, but ever since I have wanted to make it myself. I've made 4 carrot soups so far and this one is without a doubt the best one so far. Carrot and cilantro soup had too much tomato and a Mexican flavor. "Best" Carrot Soup had too much onion and at the time I didn't like the tarragon. Autumn Carrot Soup had so many other ingredients that the carrots didn't really feel like the star, and as I said when I made it: it still wasn't perfect. I don't know if Creamy Carrot soup was perfect but I would definitely make it again.

Creamy Carrot Soup (adapted from Serves 3 bowls or 5 cups

1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp butter
2 1/4 cups sliced carrots
1/2 large potato, peeled and cubed
15 oz. fat free low sodium chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
  1. In a Dutch oven, saute onion in butter until tender.
  2. Add carrots, potato, broth, nutmeg and ginger. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Transfer to a blender; cover and process until smooth.
  4. Return all to the pan; stir in the half and half, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  5. Cook over low heat until heated through.

It's bok choy, baby!

I have been wanting to cook with bok choy for a while. This week I found that the newly renovated grocery store is now carrying soba noodles. I figured they would be the perfect vehicle for my baby bok choy. I personally really like these noodles. The dish wasn't quite as flavorful as I would have hoped but it was chock full of vegetables and we even had leftovers.

Soba Noodle Vegetable Stir-Fry

3 heads baby bok choy, sliced
1 sweet onion, sliced
4 cups baby spinach
1 tsbp grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tsp sriracha
1/4 cup peanuts (I would omit these next time)
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp sesame oil
6 oz soba noodles
  1. Cook soba noodles according to package.
  2. Heat peanut oil in frying pan. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes. Add bok choy and cook until almost wilted.
  3. Add ginger, garlic and spinach, and cook until spinach wilts.
  4. Add the sauces and the peanuts and use tongs to coat vegetables in the sauce.
  5. Add soba noodles and sesame oil and tosss to coat. Serve hot.
I would definately use baby bok choy again. It was delicious! The noodles and the sauces didn't come out the way I wanted. I think I need more practice.

Tortilla de patatas

When I (briefly) lived in Spain, the woman who owned the house where I stayed made all my meals for me. Unfortunately we weren't really allowed in the kitchen. I would have liked to have learned how to make some of the more tasty meals. For the most part however, I just wanted to be able to cook for myself.

There were some definite highlights, for which I haven't been able to find a good recipe. And some disasters which I choked down as quickly as possible. Lentejas (lentil soup) was unbearable until she told me that they put cider vinegar on it as a condiment. Another time I was trying to get out of eating this sickening magadalena cookie/cake for breakfast when I saw her eating bread dipped in olive oil and I asked for that instead. She told me she never saw a North American who like that and couldn't believe I wanted that for breakfast (and that's what I had for the rest of the semester with my cafe con leche). Several times she couldn't describe what we were having in specific enough terms, so it wasn't until I went to the grocery store and looked around that I found the ingredient she simply described as "verdura" or vegetable. It turned out to be an Italian flat bean (or runner bean) in the mysterious "tortilla de verdura". I still pine over the tortilla de gambas (shrimp fritters). The gazpachuelo (mayonnaise soup) still makes me want to gag.

While I was in Spain one of the most popular tapas or dinner meals was the tortilla de patatas, known also as the tortilla espanola. Unfortunately for me, we ate it so often I started having to spread some Laughing Cow Cheese (La vaca que rie) on my tortilla. Now that I am home I sometimes crave the foods of Spain. This meal is a combination of several things. I knew J wouldn't just eat tortilla for dinner so I made chorizo (not the Spanish variety), I also made pan y tomate, which is just bread with tomato rubbed over it and a little olive oil. I think this was possibly the best tortilla I've made to date.
Tortilla de patatas

4 medium potatoes (waxy is best), very thinly sliced
6 eggs
1 onion (I prefer sweet onion), chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Heat approximately 1/2 inch of olive oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Gently fry the potatoes until almost soft. The potatoes should be more boiling in oil rather than frying to crispy. Stir so the potatoes don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the onion and continue frying until soft.
  4. Drain vegetables to remove excess oil (it is possible to start with less oil but the result is sometimes burn potatoes).
  5. Beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add eggs to potato mixture and mix. Heat a little oil in frying pan on medium heat (you can also just spray pan liberally with oil to make sure to coat it evenly).
  6. Pour in egg mixture and shake the pan periodically to keep tortilla from sticking.
  7. Once the bottom is set and the sides are started to pull from the edge a bit you have two choices: either move the oven safe frying pan to the broiler and finish the top in the oven (this is the method I used this time) or place a flat plate over the pan and quickly invert, then slide the tortilla back into the pan and continue frying, again shaking from time to time.
  8. Serve hot or room temperature cut into wedges.
Serves 8

I prefer the method I used here, because there is less room for kitchen disaster.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What happens when you use yeast that has expired...

Being a Spanish teacher, sometimes I have the opportunity to cook something for my students. Last week I promised my well-behaved classes that I would make them Pan de muerto in honor of Day of the Dead. Unfortunately I didn't realize until after the dough was supposed to rise that the yeast had expired in August. Being stubborn, I decide to go ahead with the recipe even though this dough hasn't risen in the slightest. So the bread came out badly and I told my students that we won't be having pan de muerto this year. If you want to attempt this, make sure you have fresh enough yeast. My house also tends to be too cold for the dough to rise correctly, so I may be avoiding baking bread until the more humid months (when nobody wants to be baking bread).

Pan de muerto (adapted from azcentral)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg separated
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
  1. Boil milk and remove from heat.
  2. To milk add butter, sugar and salt.
  3. Mix yeast with water. Let stand until frothy. Add to milk.
  4. Separate egg, beat yolk and add to yeast.
  5. Add flour and blend to form a ball.
  6. On a floured pastry board knead dough until smooth and return to bowl.
  7. Cover bowl with a towel and let rise 90 minutes.
  8. Grease baking sheet and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Knead dough again and divide into fourths. Braid 3 parts pinching the ends to close. Form 2 bones with remaining dough and place over braid in a cross.
  10. Cover bread with towel and let rise 30 minutes. Mix cinnamon and sugar together. Brush braid with egg white (beaten) and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
  11. Bake 35 minutes.

My Favorite Meatballs in the Whole World

Italian Meatballs on Foodista
My father is 100% Italian-American. As a child we ate a LOT of spaghetti and meatballs. My parents never ever used jarred tomato sauce or frozen meatballs. I think our meatballs are pretty unique and my grandmother says she always had trouble keeping the kids out of them before she put them in the sauce. They are so good plain that we usually ate them plain or topped with sauce afterward. My parents sometimes soaked them in sauce if we were having a party, but there's nothing like a fresh plain meatball out of the bowl (they have to cool a second) sprinkled with a little Parmesan cheese. I can remember sneaking them out of the bowl as a child too. I've tried baking these as well but they don't get nice and crispy that way. But if you are looking to be a tad healthier, I guess there are worse things than a baked meat ball. These are not the fall apart "dog food" meatballs you get in one of those dives. These meatballs are dense and flavorful. Best eaten fresh or at least the first day. This is not a diet/healthy recipe. So do what I did. Put on a pot of sauce and invite a few friends for spaghetti and meatball night, with a long walk afterward. There's nothing wrong with indulging a little here, especially if you are eating less of the forbidden food because you are having guests.

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (my mother used to use her own home ground chuck)
1 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
cover top with parsley
sprinkle with pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
3-4 eggs
  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Add a little water (1/4 cup) to make moist.
  3. Roll with hands into golf ball sized balls (or slightly larger).
  4. Brown in hot oil.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Pinchos Morunos"

Why is the title in quotation marks? I had intended to attempt to recreate the pinchos morunos we ate in Baltimore last week. Even though I have lived in Spain, I had never heard of pinchos morunos before our meal at Tapas Teatro last week. Pinchos morunos means Moorish thorns in Spanish. However, J later told me that it wasn't as good when he ordered a second plate of them. Nonetheless, I had already planned this weeks meals and that was what we were going to have. They would have been more flavorful, had I marinated over night instead of the four hours when I came home. They also would have tasted better using a grill, as opposed to the broiler, but it's quite cold and dark at night and I'm not going out there by myself. All in all, I thought this meal was great.

I didn't measure and I'm not sure I can remember everything I did but here's a good try:

  1. Create the spice mixture: I ground all my spices in my mortar and pestle, because I only had whole coriander seeds. In addition I added turmeric, salt, pepper, cayenne, cumin, a clove of garlic, paprika and oregano. I mixed the spices with olive oil and I put my large chunks of pork tenderloin in a Tupperware container with the marinade and a few tablespoons of freshly chopped cilantro and lemon juice. I shook the container to mix and I chilled for 4 hours.
  2. I used fat free Greek yogurt, feta, cilantro, and some ras el hanout spice mixture (maybe a pinch for a 1/4 of a cup) and combined them to make something similar to a raita/tzatziki for my pita.
  3. I baked the pita in the oven (brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt) for about 5 minutes until crisp like chips.
  4. I broiled the meat on high, turning once for maybe 15 min total (that may be an over estimate). Once it was done I sprinkled it with more fresh cilantro. While the meat etc. was cooking I cooked 1/3 of a red onion and a whole green pepper sliced on in a saute pan with a little olive oil and a clove of garlic. I served everything with whole wheat couscous.

It was delicious. I know it wasn't any particular authentic cuisine but I don't care.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage

Gnocchi is one of those things that I like but I'm not really sure why. I think when you have the perfect gnocchi there is just something about it that tastes indulgent. The problem occurs when you come across an inferior gnocchi. I try not to be too much of a food snob but unfortunately when you are a foodie, every once in a while you have an opinion. I don't usually order gnocchi out. I have made several of my own versions and I find the best gnocchi to be light and fluffy without being heavy and sitting like a rock in your stomach. It shouldn't be too gummy or chewy either. I tried the dried store bought gnocchi this week but I don't know if I'll bother with it again . It was rather hard for my taste.

Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage (inspired by a post from Morsels & Musings)

3 tbsp butter
10-20 sage leaves removed from the stem
1 package dried gnocchi, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of cinnamon

  1. Place butter into a frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Cook until melted then add sage leaves to pan.
  3. Cook butter and sage leaves for 4-5 minutes or until sage leaves are crisp and butter has turned a medium nut-brown colour.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, sugar and cinnamon.
  5. Pour sauce over gnocchi and toss to coat.
  6. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Victoria Gastro Pub,Tapas Teatro and Issei Noodle

Last week we went down to Baltimore (twice) to my parents and to go to the Jewel concert. The concert was fabulous (the parking was a different story). On Sunday, with my parents, we went to a restaurant in Ellicott City called Victoria Gastro Pub. It was amazing! Compared to some of the restaurants where we live, it was a nice change. The menu changes monthly but we had clams casino flatbread, lobster grilled cheese, honeycrisp apple salad (not really worth it), oysters on the half shell (I didn't partake but they seemed to enjoy them), fried oysters, duck fat fries, veal tenderloin with scallops and fresh corn relish, crab cake, crispy duck breast with sweet potatoes, venison leg with chard and a parsnip puree, lemon basil mojito, and a pom margarita. I think I could have died happy after that meal. Literally I loved almost everything I tasted.

Last Tuesday before the concert we back to Tapas Teatro. I had one of my favorite birthday dinners there with my parents and I really wanted to go back with J. Their menu also changes regularly. The restaurant is connected to the Charles Theatre and you can even take your drinks to go into the theatre. It's a very small place but on a weeknight we were able to snag a table. I think J ended up having a good time. There was even one tapa he liked so much that he ordered a second one as soon as he had finished the first. Here is the list of tapas we ordered and whether or not I would get it again.
Pea Fritters-no
Manchego fried with honey truffle oil-no
Camarones fritto-maybe
Molasses Soaked Salmon-yes! (this was my favorite)
Spicy Chicken Croquetas-yes!
Pinchos Morunos-J ordered 2!
Grilled lamb chops with rhubarb bbq sauce-yes

We also had a glass of sangria and a bottle of Hornsby Cider, both of which were very tasty and the chocolate Royale for dessert, which was kind of a waste but I really wanted something sweet. I always seems to forget to photograph my food in restaurants (maybe because I think it is a little tacky) so I have no pictures but take my word for it, DELICIOUS.

Lastly we were trying to find something interesting to eat last weekend (J had it in his head he wanted to eat BIG GAME, really big like a lion or tiger. I had to remind him it was illegal and offensive but he proceeded to search anyway.) We ended up at the noodle place in Carlisle, PA, Issei Noodle. We really like it there, despite some of the reviews. It's a family run business with very few people working and the only waitress in the evening is the owner/chef's daughter so you have to be willing to lose a bit on service to enjoy the food. Plus it's a noodle place, not a white tablecloth establishment, so some of the online reviewers should calm down a little bit.

This week I decided to go out side my comfort zone (I almost always get the Okinawa Yaki #14). I finally broke down and ordered the Beef Pho. Make sure you order the bean sprout side, it doesn't come automatically-probably because it is hard to get PA residents to try new things. J got the usual #13 Yaki Udon subbing ramen for the udon noodles. I recommend 14 or 8 or maybe 13 and 11 (I think) is also good.