Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.


Posted: March 29th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 27 Comments »

I have a backlog of photos and stuff to post about — we cooked this week and I haven’t been doing the blogging justice.
No more, I tell you. No more.

On Tuesday, we had Ginger Chicken Noodle Rice Bowls. This is something that I love to make and to eat. It reminds me of when I lived alone, because I probably entertained with this 3 or 4 times in the first few months I lived in Williamsburg. And I definitely would make pots and pots of it to sustain me over the week. Plus, Hylton hd a Le Creuset red Dutch Oven, which is the perfect pot to make this in.
I’ve changed up the preparation of this soup into many varieties. I prefer to use boneless skinless chicken thighs, because they’re cheap and aren’t as dry. When I lived alone, a package of chicken thighs could get me through two soup pots, which is the basic reason I love them so much. The original recipe calls for Chinese 5 spice, ginger, cumin, carrots, garlic, stock, vermicelli and scallions. The basic plan is to brown the chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces, in a little vegetable oil, then add 2 or 3 cloves of fine-chopped garlic, an inch of ginger shredded, and the 5spice and cumin, salt and pepper. Once that gets all friendly, you’re supposed to add carrots, shredded, and then stock — when it all comes to a boil, you add in the vermicelli. A few minutes later, the scallions, sliced into matchsticks.
I’ve definitely switched this one up. I now use Garam Masala, which is basically Chinese 5spice only a little Indian-afied. I didn’t use ginger this time, because the ginger root that I had in my fridge was all wrinkly and nasty. And since I used chicken in several preparations this week, we used chicken breasts instead of thighs. This recipe is very malleable.
I won’t lie. I added a little bit of Miss Salsita to the soup pot, because the soup was missing a little something. This is the kind of thing that you can do with this receipe. You can mold it to fit YOUR tastes. In fact, in a flash of brilliance, I added a blob of coconut milk to the bottom of our bowls before I poured in the soup, which lead to something AMAZING!!! I’m glad I remembered this recipe, and that it was as good as I remembered. :) mmmmm

Thursday, we had Honey-Lime Glazed Salmon, with warm black bean and corn salsa. No big whoop. The salsa is amazing – red onion and garlic sauteed for a few minutes, then some chopped red pepper. Once that gets all friendly, you splash in a little chicken stock, let that bubble away with some cumin, red pepper flake, hot sauce, until it’s all fabulous and tasty. And then you throw in some defrosted frozen corn, and black beans.

While all that magical yum is happening, You’re glazing your salmon with lime juice, honey, chili powder, salt and pepper…. and then you’re cooking it on your really hot grill pan, until it’s done and delish. The result is a party. You should most definitely try it.
IF you can read my handwriting….

Friday’s dinner, I have no words for. The closest I can get: Grilled Hangar steak with Blue-Cheese butter. Roasted Asparagus. The rare side of Medium Rare. Drooling.

And yesterday. Yesterday we made a chocolate cake together. Jesse has been cooking wtih me lately, which is fabulous!! And so we made a chocolate cake to accompany our macaroni and cheese. Behold!!!!
Inn’it preeeeety?

Back at it

Posted: March 23rd, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 40 Comments »

After a few weeks of sporadic grocery-ordering and menu-planning, we’re back on track. And we’re probably going to have some input from Jesse coming in the near future, since I’m going to be working after work to maintain the girlish figure while still cooking the delectable foods you readers (and Jesse) have come to expect.

Tonight, we had Rachael Ray’s Honey-Nut Chicken Fingers, with roasted asparagus and brown rice.
Of course, I’m a bit of a weirdo, so I had to mess with things. I couldn’t find Honey Nut Cornflakes from FreshDirect, so I audibled and went with Honey Nut Chex. I don’t have paprika, and don’t really see any reason for it, since I’d rather use cumin just about every time. So…I used the cumin instead of the paprika. And instead of grill seasoning, I used straight-up salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
I roasted the asparagus with just olive oil, salt and pepper. And of course… brown rice is brown rice. We all love it. Jesse and I probably love it more than most. Especially since I make it with chicken broth and water, instead of just water. And because my rice cooker does literally ALL the work. God bless whoever invented the rice cooker. Seriously.
The food was nommy. It was all baked/roasted. I like this, because it means that I can eat some of it for lunch tomorrow as fuel for the “Cardio Body Sculpting” class I’m taking…. oh joy.
We’ll be back with more tomorrow, although Jesse might be blogging in my stead if I’m temporarily dead. :)

It’s good to have friends

Posted: March 14th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 11 Comments »

Friday March 13th was probably the best day ever for me. Seriously.

I rarely say these kinds of things, but this one I most definitely mean. From adorable little girls waving at me on the train to minor and major work successes, to the amazing events that occurred from 4:30 onward.

My former nanny bosses recently opened a restaurant. I heard about it from a Daily Candy e-mail. I knew that they had the space, knew that they were working on the place, but didn’t know the open date until I opened my e-mail on Monday and saw the Daily Candy about Scuderia. I was so excited!!! It was finally happening for them!
Friday evening, Cara called to ask if I wanted to come to dinner with her, and Jesse as well. I was pretty ecstatic and pretty honored because this was FIRST FRIDAY!!!
We went to dinner.
It was amazing.
Cara basically ordered several plates, to pass around, and then we picked our entrees. I’m not going to lie, this is the only way to dine, and the next time I have several hundred extra dollars, I’m totally rolling this way.

We tried the arancine, which were sent over by Alex. The polpette, which were pretty good, although Alex said that the chef had “fucked them up” that night. Tasted like amazing meatballs to me!
The mussels, and the arugula salad, were both delicious. I love arugula, seriously. Especially with sweet cherry tomatoes and salty parmesan. Tomato season is coming — try it sometime. Soooo good.

Next, we had pizzas and pasta. Cara picked the Pizza Scuderia, which is the most amazing thing I ate that night, without doubt. Fig Jam, which I absolutely loved, blue cheese, and speck, which I’ve never had before but deeply love now. I only had 2 pieces, because otherwise I would have ignored my whole dinner. But seriously, this was amazing. If you are ever in New York, if you ever eat at Scuderia, pick the Pizza Scuderia as your appetizer. Sweet plus tangy plus salty/porky = sigh. glee. Love.
We also had the Pizza Piccante, which was nice and spicy, but not TOO spicy, and had a topping of nice peppery arugula, which again, I loved. We also got a pasta with sausage, peas and cream that was tasty at room temperature, and if we had all stopped talking enough to eat it hot, would have been excellent. Not the pasta’s fault.

The entrees came, and I have to say that I picked the best thing on the menu. I know how to order. I will never steer you wrong. Jesse got the grilled rabbit, which I tasted and it was delish. Cara got the mixed fried fish, which had a nive tempura batter and was remarkably crispy. The house tartar sauce that came with was also delicious. And the tempura green beans that came as sides to both her meal and Jesse’s meal were outstanding. My meal, though, was the best choice and that is saying something, believe me. I ordered the seafood stew.
If you have ever heard of cioppino, you will know something of what this was like. The broth was tomatoey, spicy, salty, insane. The seafood was all perfectly cooked, and I defnitely had shrimp, mussels, fish, and possibly lobster, I’m not sure. Cara said that he chef at Scuderia uses the lobster shells and heads to make the base for the broth. It was excellent. It came with two pieces of toasted bread in the bowl, and I only wish I’d had room in my stomach to eat it all. Seriously, it was that good.

For dessert, we had a nutella and mascarpone pizza, and the Coppa Scuderia, which is a PBJ ice cream sundae. It was delicious. My dirty vodka martini was delicious. The wine we drank with dinner was delicious.

Even more wonderful was the company. It’s diffiuclt to explain how wonderful it is to see Cara and Alex in a setting other than employer/employee. It’s wonderful to get to talk to them, and it’s wonderful to see them so happy. They were so excited to see me, to have me around, and Alex proposed having brunch or dinner later when the weather was better, and bringing their daughter along. I’d love to see her, love to see them more. It was so wonderful to eat the food and hang out with Cara and talk to her and see how things were going. I loved it. I love seeing Alex having so much fun in his own restaurant and basically… it was wonderful.

I’m really happy, and I hope that they have incredible success. And honestly, I’m really really effing happy that on the First Friday, I got to eat there with Cara, who I think will become a real friend, and Jesse, who I obviously love a lot.
It was a great night.

Well, that was…..interesting.

Posted: March 10th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 21 Comments »

***Apparently the comment box was not working for some people. Silly Blogger. This time, I’m editing it so maybe it will work. Fingers crossed, leave me love!!!***

I’ll admit it: I’m slightly disturbed.
I’m a pretty savvy cook at this point. In the past year, I’ve cooked a lot of dinners. And I’ve roasted a lot of chickens. And I don’t think I’ve ever really photographed the process. But, tonight probably shouldn’t have been the night that I started taking photos. Or at least, not with this bird.I get what I deserve, I know, when instead of just buying one of the pretty little 3-pound Purdue chickens that are debeaked, fed animal products, and left in a cage all the live-long day, I decided to buy something labeled…… well….
Fowl. That’s right. And it was a MONSTER. I was assuming it was just a chicken who y’know, got to hang out a little bit before it was killed and wrapped and sent to my grocery store. However, I have since realized that this is probably not the case. My first misgivings came when I unwrapped the …. we’ll just keep calling it a chicken, because it’s not a duck or a turkey, and it’s too big to be much else. SO, when I unwrapped the chicken and found the neck attached, but no giblets, I was a little concerned. Then, the skin concerned me. It was very thick. However, it’s been a long while since I’ve roasted the chicken, and the last time I did I had consumed a fair quantity of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka with Alyssa first, so I’m not exactly sure that it’s the best frame of reference. Regardless, I salted it, stuffed butter and garlic cloves and bay leaves inside the skin, and shoved a lemon, an onion, and various herbs in the cavity, as per usual:

When it was time to cook, I heated the oven to 425, with the roasting pan inside. I rubbed the chicken down with olive oil and added salt and poultry seasoning to the outside. Then, when the oven was hot, I put it in, breast-side down, for about 15 minutes, then flipped it to breast side up for 15 minutes. This helps improve the brownness of the skin.
Then, I reduced the heat to 400, dumped the potatoes, carrots and onions in, and sat the beastly birdie on top.
After about 40 minutes (total cook time, 1 hour 10 minutes) I did all my typical tests — stabbed it to see how the juices ran, listened for the crack of the skin, wiggled the leg, and eventually decided the beast was done.
(Why, you may ask, didn’t I just use my probe thermometer, which would have told me precisely whether it was done or not? Becuase the battery finally died and we’re out of AAA batteries, of course.)
I pulled it, let it rest, and added a little flour and stock to the veggies left in the pan, to turn them into a gravy-esque thing.
Here is the beautiful beastie, looking just about right:

See? Golden-brown skin, nice and shiny. Actually, the most gorgeous chicken from the outside I’ve ever created.
But then…. I tried to cut it open, and I couldn’t cut through the darn thing. It took TONS of effort to cut through the legs, the skin was either perfectly crispy or absolutely inedible. It wasn’t cooked all the way through even though it got half an hour at a 25-degree higher temperature than I normally ever roast a chicken at. I’m not sure what this beast was…. but I do know it’s heading toward the soup pot, because there’s nothing else I can do with it. It’s not a chicken. It might be a mutant. It might be a half-chicken, half moose. I’m not sure. But this beast was not a chicken. I know how chickens react.

That being said, one of the more boring things about the “eating alone” tendencies I harbor is this: I could eat the same 6 or 7 things, in rotation, for the rest of my life. Obviously I would like some variety now and then, but basically, if I could eat roast chicken, macaroni & cheese from the box, tomato soup/grilled cheese, chicken fingers, cheeseburgers, scrambled eggs, pizza, and I’m sure there are a couple others, I’d be a happy camper. I’m very basic.

Obviously this would be the most boring blog in the world if I ate those 7 things all the time, so we are always looking for new things to do with food. But, in the end, I’d probably rather roast a chicken sometimes.

A real chicken – no more of this “Fowl” business.

Oh Laurie Colwin…

Posted: March 9th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 18 Comments »

I’m sitting on the couch, post-hot yoga, and it occurs to me that I definitely missed out on one of the finest things about living alone, when I lived on my own.
Eating whatever weird shit you want, without worrying about feeding it to others.

I’m currently eating about 4 spoonfuls of cold rice, with left-over aji verde from Pio Pio, mixed in. It’s delicious. It’s amazing. I’m sad there’s not that much rice left, not that much aji verde left. I’m holding until Jesse gets home, so I can make a pizza. But for now, I’m eating rice with aji verde.

I remember being ashamed about eating those boxed noodle soups by Taste of Thai. I should have just enjoyed it. You are only 22 and single and living alone in New York for a finite amount of time. And that means eating Lucky Charms for breakfast, eating Salsita Chipotle on everything, eating boxed noodle soups and boxed risotto if you really want to. And making wonderful things when you want to, but still. I never got to indulge the ridiculous side of me who loves to eat salad with hot sauce, anything wtih balsamic vinaigrette on it, loves anything ramen-esque (but not ramen) and will eat anything as long as there are scrambled or fried eggs involved. Or cheese. I’ll eat anything cheese-related.

But now, I think about wholesome foods, or at least foods that I can feed to someone else without worrying that he’ll die of malnutrition. Like I won’t make the delicious french fries with cheese and gravy and roasted garlic that I found on Serious Eats until we’re both exercising. Even though let’s face it, that sounds like heaven…..


It is now time to wait, and to make real dinner when I can. nom.

We have had a casualty.

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 21 Comments »

I’m obsessed with cumin, among other things.
I love it. It’s so nice and warm, while not being too spicy. It brings the warmth to indian food that I always try to recreate in my chili, with great success, happily. Cumin = joy.
Or at least, it was…… until tonight. *sob*

I know it’s my fault, but sometimes I overstack things in the spice cabinet – it’s an oddly shaped cabinet with only 3 shelves, one of which is too high for me to reach. So I jam spices in and stack them on top of each other and I opened the cabinet and it happened so fast and the cumin just jumped and…

Well, I’m sure you know how the story ends. Cumin all over the crevice between the mixer and the wall. Cumin smell everywhere but no actual cumin anywhere. The lid cracked, and the cumin spilled out, and the jar didn’t break (happily) but the cumin is wasted and it was just…… Well, we’ll let the picture speak for itself.

Needless to say, I need to replenish my spice stores. Especially since I used up all the curry powder I had trying to salvage the potato-pumpkin Mulligatawny soup I tried to make. Let this be a lesson to all improvisors: Potatoes suck up flavor, and they don’t share. Even if you boil them in some yummy broth that is all curry-fied, they will suck up the flavor and not share it with the party. SO if you are making a soup that involves potatoes, don’t add 4 if you’re planning to puree. Just add 2. TRUST JOHANNA. She will not steer you wrong. So now, I’m hoping that the other woman in my life, Goya Salsita Chipotle (shhh, don’t tell cumin), can save this soup. If she can’t do it, no one can. Well, presumably a long long simmer can, and some tumeric, and I’m not going to lie, I definitely scraped all the cumin off the countertop to dump into the soup pot. I’m hoping. Because otherwise, I’ve wasted the end of my pumpkin, and 4 potatoes, and a box o’ stock, AND my cumin, and my curry powder. Basically….. I’m really hoping for some magic here. Otherwise, my dinner and Jesse’s dinner will be the rest of hte beer and the rest of that tube of cookie dough I haven’t been eating since we got back from the store.

As far as you know.

UPDATE: A good long simmer and a good bit of salt and a visit with Miss Salsita definitely did some magic with the soup. Next time… I’m only bringing 2 potatoes to the soup party. And I’m going to conquer curry paste, by shopping in a neighborhood with no ethnic profile – searching for Patak’s Curry Paste in a largely Jamaican/Caribbean neighborhood is not fun — they had 16 brands of coconut milk, 8 million things with Scotch Bonnets in them, but no curry paste. So… unitl I learn to make my own, I’ll just buy curry paste. And more cumin. :(
The soup is good. Not as good as H&H’s but considering I combined 2 recipes and didn’t really follow either…. I get what I deserve.
Next time, my dears.

Next time.

Apparently I obsess.

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 22 Comments »

I DID make Carbonara last night. It was just about as good as usual – I wish we’d had a different cut of pasta though. I really favor Orechiette in my carbonara, although everyone else says either penne or linguine. Screw them. Someday (maybe tonight) I’ll post the step-by-step. But really, how much do you need to know about Boil Pasta. Crisp Bacon. Sautee lots of garlic, red pepper flake and shallot with bacon, add stock/wine, add pasta, egg yolks and pasta water ,eat as much as quickly as possible.

I mean, other than knowing that vegetarians and vegans are screwed — there’s absolutely no way to make this without animal products or bacon. So people who keep Kosher are screwed too. Sorry guys, I’m usually more sensitive.
Last night I was browsing Tastemakers (I think – I have the site bookmarked, I’ll link tonight) and they had a post/picture of an Indian Potato Soup – with curry, coconut milk, potatoes….. and I nearly swooned.
Today, I was perusing the menu at Hale & Hearty Soup, and saw Mulligatawny!!! Glee!!!! So of course I ordered some and devoured it. Out of sheer glee. And while reading last night, and eating today, I kind of got to wondering whether I could add puree’d pumpkin to a curry-flavored soup… because mashed potatoes and mashed butternut squash have similar textures, and pumpkin is a similar COLOR to butternut squash and…. you can see where I went.
Then, after eating my delicious, creamy orangey mulligatawny soup…. I’m totally hooked. I’m totally figuring out how to make Mulligatawny soup and add pumpkin into it and just be….. happy.
Poor Jesse. Hope he likes orange.

Read this article

Posted: March 4th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 17 Comments »

No really. I mean it. Read this.

I’m afraid this is the next place where crazy stage parents will take their kids – cooking lessons/online cooking shows. Watch the “In the Big Kitchen With Food” thing – just watch how this kid uses a food processor. My food processor’s shredding blade came with orange tape over it that said “WARNING THIS BLADE IS SUPER SHARP AND WILL CUT YOU.” I was afraid to use it for a while. I’m still very ginger when I handle it. This kid is smashing zucchini into it. I’m terrified for his fingers the entire time – all it takes is one slip, and the foodpro tips over and the blade flies out and slices him.

Also – mom is whispering cues from off-camera. Why are you doing this to your kid?!?!?!

Seriously. Take off the “stage parent” pants and just let your kid be a kid. Let him help you bake cookies and accidentally drop the eggshells in – just wash your eggs first. But don’t try and increase his palate or her palate when they have no capacity for it.

And please. No kid really understands the subtleties of foods. I wish they did. But they are pretty much just parroting you back to you. I promise.



Posted: March 3rd, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 21 Comments »

Or…. the workin’ late, feelin’ hungry blues. Packin’ it in and heading home soon, look for a catch-up of last night or perhaps my long-awaited carbonara situation later this eve.

Left-over pasta?
Reheat polenta-beef pie?
Or Carbonara?

Indecision leads
to grumbly stumbly, unless
boyfriend makes a choice.

I love canned pumpkin
enough that I will sneak it
anywhere I can.

A long time coming

Posted: March 1st, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna, Rachael Ray, delish, pasta, pumpkin, sausage | 17 Comments »

Two words for you, my friends. Canned Pumpkin.

I’m sure there are more words I could give you, but these are the vital ones. Here are a few more: Sausage, Sage, Cream, Broth, Penne Rigate. Amazing. Outstanding. Delicious. I’ve been thinking about this recipe for ages. Since June, when I had a chance to make it but missed out because of a random babysitting job.

This is an awesome recipe and it totally goes along with my pumpkin obsession.
Here are a few fun facts about me: I don’t really like all things pork related. I mean, I really really like bacon. I’m not 100% in love with most other pig products, although I will try them, obviously. I’m coming around to sausage, in no small part because of this recipe. Browned sweet italian sausage, onion, garlic, sage, chicken broth, and canned pumpkin. Tossed with whole-wheat penne. Basically, it was intense. I even had seconds. Topped with tons of grated parmesan. Even cold, it’s delish. Make this recipe. Check it: