Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pizza at Home

When my husband and I were dating, we made pizza together. Boboli was our pizza crust of choice because it was widely available in supermarkets and was fuss free. Making pizza is low key, intimate and fun - there's no recipe and we can top it with whatever we want. Some times my husband and I would work on a pizza together, other times we would make two individual pizzas and see whose tasted better. We've graduated to using fresh dough from the supermarket now, and it's just as fun! Recently, we made a mushroom with caramelized onions and gorgonzola pizza.

Rolling out the dough was the hard part, but it was nevertheless fun. My husband wanted to throw the dough up in the air like they do on TV, but I advised him that it wasn't a good idea. The way we did it was to stretch the dough while holding it up at the same time so gravity would give us an extra hand in stretching it some more. I think we got the hang of it now.

Surprisingly, I was impressed by the supermarket pizza dough. The pockets of air in the baked crust were just like what we had in serious pizza joints. It wasn't the flatbread-like pizza that we had at Remo's here in CT (and by flat, I mean flat).

Not too bad, huh.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Txikito - the Secret is Out

My husband was craving NY and something new. He did some homework and brought us to Txikito, which features the cuisine of the Basque Country. It's a casual little restaurant on an unassuming block in Chelsea. I had no clue what I was walking into, since I didn't do the research. Let me tell you, I've never had food like this in NY. It made my tummy very happy. I wished I could say the same for our wallet.

Txikito's menu is dominated by small plates at non-small plate prices. My favorite item by far was their squid ribbons with a sweet onion and pine nut sauce (Txipiron "Encebollado"). The lovely ribbons cut from squids were cooked a la plancha, giving it a nice delicate grilled taste. The sauce added the perfect richness to the dish, which looked clean and simple but tasted far more than that. It was so good, I had to hold myself back from ordering another one.

Everything else we had were just as good. The Bouqueron (anchovy), served on bite sized toasts, had just the right amount of sweetness and acidity from a sliver of piquillo pepper. The Gambas Plantxa (shrimp), was tasty and simple in its preparation - I only wished the giant shrimps had a fresher taste. As for the meat dishes, my husband declared that Txikito had the best tongue (Lengua) he's ever had. Morros Prensados (veal jowl terrine) and its delicious fattiness completed his meal.

Unfortunately for us, we're not the only fans of this restaurant. Turns out that David Chang of Momofuku is one too. Look out for the stampede!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Repotting My Baby, Part II

I am happy to announce that the repotting of my basil was a success! Thanks to some Miracle Grow and plant food from my sister, the avid gardener, my basil has gone through a huge growth spurt. It wasn't without some dirty work though.

There were some white bugs living in the Miracle Grow, so I sterilized it by baking it in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes before I used it to fill the new container. The container was much bigger than the original one (see photo below), but it was the only one I had. After I put in the basil and filled in the rest of the container with the soil, I sprinkled on a little bit of plant food and watered the basil to make sure the soil stayed moist. This is what my basil looked like a little more than a week after it was repotted...

...and more than two weeks after...

The yellow leaves were no longer...

...look at it now!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Repotting My Baby, Part I

I was so thrilled to add basil to my family that I've been keeping an eye on this little growing baby every day. After having it for more than a month, I noticed that it was starting to look sad. I had to get down to the root of the problem (pun intended).

The first obvious problem was that the leaves near the bottom of the plant were turning yellow.

I took a look at the bottom of the plant and don't recall seeing roots sticking out of the pot when I first brought it home. I had a hunch that maybe it was outgrowing its original home.

I called my sister, who I think is the other half of my being Martha since she's the avid gardener (and I'm the avid cook), so she can diagnose my plant. The plant doctor said yellowing could mean 2 things: over-watering or it has outgrown the pot. The fact that you can see its roots indicates the latter. I had a much larger pot lying around. All I needed was some soil from the good doctor, then we'll be good to go.

Stay tuned for my baby's new home!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Easy Bone Marrow

If you're cooking for carnivores who would eat any cut of meat (like my husband), have I found something easy and greasy for you and your loved ones. My husband salivates every time he sees bone marrow in the supermarket. I've never made it for him, but I thought it was never too late to start.

I turned to Martha Stewart for a bone marrow recipe. It was so easy, simple and fast. Just be careful when taking it out of the oven as the grease bubbles and splatters. You can see that we used a kitchen towel in our photo above.

My husband really enjoyed the freshness from the parsley and lemon, and the kick from the horseradish in the gremolata.
Toast is the classic accompaniment to soak up the greasy goodness (you spread the marrow like butter onto the toast), but on that night, my husband devoured the marrow with some crackers, a fennel orange salad and baked ziti. The pasta was more for me since I'm not a carnivore.

Let me end this post with a recommendation: moderation is key, so I would not serve this to your loved ones too often.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Won't Miss the Butter Pear Muffins

My father gave me a couple of Asian pears that were past their prime, so I had to find a way to eat them fast. It would be boring if I just chop them up and eat them every day. Plus, the best way of dealing with over ripe fruit is by cooking them (think banana nut bread), so I searched for a pear breakfast recipe that I can serve my husband in the morning (I've been on a mission to get him fat...well, more like less skinny).

Recipes like that were hard to come by, so when I found a Weight Watchers recipes for Glazed Pear Muffins, I went for it. I ordinary don't go out of my way to make something low fat, nor do I like icing or glaze, so I was very pleasantly surprised by how well they turned out.

I was skeptical at first. The recipe did not call for any butter or oil at all. Even Ellie Kreiger's healthy low fat muffins call for at least a couple of tablespoons worth of grease.
The Weight Watchers muffins came out looking dry, but don't let it fool you. The recipe uses sour cream, milk and natural juices from the fruit to keep it moist. Spices like cinnamon and ginger kept it flavorful and warm, and the lemon juice really brought out the fruit and added brightness.

If you know me, you would know by now that I made the recipe by own. Here's what I did:
  • instead of Bosc pears, I used my Asian pears, and removed their skin
  • I like texture in my baked goods, so I added some chopped walnuts (about 1/4C)
  • instead of using water to make the glaze, I used lemon juice to add tang and flavor
  • I wasn't aiming to make it totally low fat, so I used the 2% milk that I had, not the fat free milk called for
  • I grated some lemon zest into the batter for added flavor (about 1 Tbs)
Between the moisture in the muffins and the yummy glaze, you won't miss the grease. I sure didn't!

Friday, April 16, 2010

What's New at Chikalicious

It's no secret that I love Chikalicious, and I'm sharing that love with you again. I was lucky enough to go there not long ago and thoroughly enjoyed my three course dessert. Sadly, I can't say the same for my husband, who I didn't know had a weak stomach for kiwis. One of the items on their ever changing menu was a Short Bread Napoleon with Lavender Kiwis.

As for myself, I had the Pineapple Sorbet with Lemongrass Panna Cotta, paired with a lovely glass of La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti. The lightness of the sorbet was perfect with the richness of the panna cotta.

I was very happy to see that Chika was still working behind the dessert bar even after their very well-deserved success and new ventures (Dessert Club, a deal with a hotel I heard). Not much in NYC stays the same, but I really hope this place does. I'll overlook their hours changed to being closed 3 days a week - Chika needs her rest so she can have more energy to make more delicious desserts! :-)

See past Chikalicious posts:
Chikalicious (this is where I first declared my love for the place after numerous visits)
Chikalicious, Round II

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Savory Bread Pudding

I had half a loaf of very stale French bread, and I hate putting food to waste. What to do, what to do? The solution: rehydrate it. It was hot outside, so I thought a light dinner with Savory Bread Pudding and Asparagus "Fettuccine" would be perfect. Martha Stewart didn't have a recipe for me, so I found a recipe from Food & Wine that was exactly what I wanted - it called for ingredients that I already had in the pantry: frozen spinach, jarred artichokes, milk, scallions and cheese.

It turned out just the way I had imagined. The parmesan cheese added so much flavor, and the mozzarella formed a perfect crust on top of the pudding. Best of all, you would never think from the moist interior of the pudding that the bread was rock hard just 30 minutes ago. I am definitely saving this recipe, which could be a great brunch item too.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Asparagus "Fettuccine"

It's only early spring and the temperature had hit the 80's already...time for a light dinner! Since asparagus is in season, I went hunting for an asparagus recipe. I found a couple of recipes that shaved the vegetable into thin delicate ribbons and paired them with parmesan cheese. I love roasted asparagus, but I was also interested in trying it raw.

Raw asparagus tastes surprisingly smoky on its own, but my husband couldn't tell the difference between cooked vs. raw after I assembled the Asparagus "Fettuccine." For the dish, I shaved the asparagus into thin strips (taking care not to take the first strip, which is purely skin), tossed them with some lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil (organic olive oil we bought in Greece!) and salt & pepper. A couple of sprinkles of parmesan cheese finished the dish.

It was a refreshing dish, but I will definitely use more lemon juice next time to wake up the flavors. I served the fettuccine with a savory bread pudding. The entire meal can be a great brunch too!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pumpkin Pancake from Scratch

More than a year ago, I posted a pumpkin mixture that could be added to your good ol'pancake mix from the box. My husband (then boyfriend) had a box of the dry mix at the time and I wanted to do something "out of the box." This time around, I used a pumpkin pancake recipe from scratch, which is how I like to make all my pancakes.

The pancakes were light and airy, thanks to the whipped egg whites. I jazzed it up by adding cranberries, but felt something was missing. After the meal, I thought about adding zest in the pancakes next time. Little did I know that I had forgotten that I added zest last time in my pumpkin mixture! The zest adds a freshness and enhances the pumpkin flavor. I will definitely add it next time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Foray into Quinoa

Quinoa is a grain-like crop that has grown in popularity along with healthy eating and the organic movement in the past few years. I've never had it until recently at Public in the form of a mind blowingly good hashbrown. Turns out that quinoa is pretty easy to cook.

I made my first quinoa like I did couscous. I cooked it in homemade chicken broth for flavor (according to the package instructions), added some lemon juice to brighten it up and scallions to finish. It tasted more assertive than couscous, which is more like a delicate pasta. You can definitely taste the grain-like qualities in quinoa. I will no doubt have it again.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Coffee Cake Muffin

I've been baking almost every weekend for's something special that hopefully shows how much I love my husband. I wanted to test out our new muffin pan and have some sour cream in the fridge, so I started hunting for a recipe on Martha Stewart's website. My hunt led me to Coffee Cake Muffin. For those unfamiliar with coffee cakes: despite the name, there is no coffee in them - they are simply meant to be enjoyed with coffee. Deceiving huh.

The sound of a cake turned into muffin form was intriguing. Add to it that it had John Barracelli's name on it (the baker behind SoNo Baking Co. in Norwalk, and best known for being under the Martha Stewart umbrella). I had to try it.

Turned out that the recipe was just wasn't mind blowing or spectacular. I thought the 1/2 tsp cinnamon called for in the recipe was just too little, so I doubled it. Other wise I would've had more bland tasting coffee cake muffins than that. I also added butter to the
to make it crumbly, the way my husband likes it. The muffins had the right amount of moisture, but I thought it was a bit too delicate for muffins. I think I'll keep on hunting.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

High Elevation Baking & Cooking

Everything I have cooked with my new oven took longer than the recipes called for (my first and second roasted chicken being the obvious ones). I thought I was going insane, or at least lost my touch with cooking. Then I knew something was really off when I baked my go-to Cranberry Oatmeal cookies, which took about 5 minutes longer than they should have. So we had our oven serviced, but the experts said it was fine but I can calibrate the oven temperature to my liking up to 35 degrees higher. Why would I want to do that? Isn't the 350 degrees displayed on the oven really 350? Yes, but every oven works differently they said. I've heard that before on TV, and still didn't understand. Then my husband suggested that maybe the elevation had to do with it. Bingo.

Little did I know that elevation threw a curve ball in my baking and cooking. Stamford is 360+ft above sea level, compared to only 20+ft where I used to live in NY. Add to it that we now live in a high rise (check out our amazing sunset above). Granted, we're not talking about thousands of feet of difference here, but I will definitely have to adjust my oven to a higher temperature. From what I gather, dough rises faster in high elevation and water takes longer to boil as well. A higher oven temperature will make sure that your dough won't rise more than it should and make water boil in the time that it should.

I've calibrated my oven to 10 degrees higher. So far, I've had success with cooking bone-in chicken breast within a reasonable amount of time. The real test will be another batch of cookies or another roasted chicken. I'll keep you posted!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Dear America's Test Kitchen

Dear America's Test Kitchen,

I am a food enthusiast and a fan of America's Test Kitchen. I would be more than happy to be your Chinese fact checker, a person who I believe you need.

Sincerely yours,
Martha Fung

Tempting as it may be, I didn't send them a letter like that. I love America's Test Kitchen, but their latest Cook's Illustrated magazine put doubt in my mind. To me, America's Test Kitchen is the authority on putting science behind cooking, ingredients and equipment. I never thought they would get facts wrong. So imagine my surprise and disappointment when I found this on the back cover of the March & April 2010 edition of Cook's Illustrated:

Among the list of Asian vegetables presented was Chinese Broccoli (芥蘭), which is a leafy green vegetable with a tough but edible stem. Having grown up with plenty of Chinese vegetables, I knew that wasn't it. What was illustrated was Shanghai Bok Choy (上海白菜). Bok Choy (白菜) translates to "White Vegetable," which is the appropriate name for the illustration.