Wrap it Up

Posted: June 28, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Last week, I sent out a missive to the internets, wondering what on earth I should do with a massive head of napa cabbage I’d received from my CSA share. This week was a bit crazy, and I didn’t have a chance to actually sort out how to cook it or use it until yesterday. And what I came up with was a riff on lettuce wraps. If you’re not feeling up to eating the monster raw, take heart. I will be trying a whole bunch of other recipes soon to get this cabbage cooked before it goes bad. Kimchi anyone?
Cabbage Wraps

I used a mishmash of items from the fridge, and came up with something lovely and delicious. I would definitely recommend using the tender, inner leaves of your Napa cabbage, since the outer leaves can be somewhat tough. I would also recommend cutting out the central rib from the leaves, as this makes it easier both to roll AND to eat without spraying the filling all over your face.

Napa Cabbage Lettuce Wraps

1. Begin by breaking 1-2 handfuls of rice stick noodles in half, and putting them to soak in hot tap water.
2. Julienne 2 golfball-sized Japanese turnips, chop a few bundles of baby bok choy, and mince 2 cloves of garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over moderately high heat, and throw in the veggies. Season with salt, and saute until they’re starting to pick up some color.
Steps pt. 1

3. Throw in some diced cooked chicken (or shredded, or whatever) and stir around until the chicken is heated through. At that point, add the rice noodles into the pan, with some of the soaking water to make sure everything gets cooked. Add more salt if you need to at this point.
4. Make the sauce. Scoop 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (I used honey roasted, but any kind will work), and 1 teaspoon of red curry paste into a bowl. Whisk together as best you can, and then add a small drizzle of sesame oil. You just want it to thin out the sauce, and add a little depth. When the noodles are softened, add the whole mess in the skillet to the sauce and toss. The heat from the items formerly in the skillet will melt the sauce and help it coat everything. Now is the time to add an additional drizzle of sesame oil, more curry paste, or maybe some soy sauce, if you feel like it needs something.
5. Prepare the cabbage. Peel the leaves off, rinse them under cold water, dry them, and cut out the central ribs. Then, assemble your friends and loved ones, and start rolling!
Steps pt. 2

Cabbage wraps are tasty. There’s lots of green in this dish (as well as protein from the peanut butter and the chicken) and plenty of crunch. The warm filling plus the cool cabbage made a nice contrast, and tasted pretty fantastic.
The stove was on for a grand total of 15 minutes to make this dish, which feels like an instant AND a lifetime as the weather heats up and my kitchen remains windowless. But from those 15 minutes at the stove comes a lovely, crisp, cool-warm-crashing meal that you can cook for 2 or 10 with basically the same items.

And honestly, if I’d thought about it, I probably should have made it for 12 — much less cabbage left to work with that way!

Brunch of Love

Posted: June 13, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I love Brunch. The best thing, I think, about living in New York City is that brunch is a real meal. On Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm, you can go to a restaurant and get foods that are neither on the breakfast nor the dinner menu – and drinks that you would never order if it was dinner.
My favorite place to get brunch is Essex, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Essex serves som great brunch fare – excellent eggs benedict, a cubano that makes even this skeptic’s mouth water. Their Bloody Marys are spicy and strong, and the waitresses walk around with pitchers of mimosas, and up until recently, they didn’t keep count, so your 3 free mimosas were more like “3″ free mimosas.
Shamefully, even though I always say that I’m going to branch out and try some of their other wondrous things, I always end up getting one of 2 things; I love the Southern – biscuits and sausage gravy with fried eggs – and I love love the Mexican Matzo Brei – basically migas, with black beans and chunky guacamole.
I’ve tried a couple of their other offerings, but sadly I was disappointed – I always come back to the two faves, and my absolute favorite is the Mexican Matzo Brei. I generally don’t try to replicate restaurant favorites at home, instead leaving them to the experts. I believe that if you can do something perfectly, I should pay you for that.

However, a few weeks ago I was motivated to attempt to make Mexican Matzo Brei in my own kitchen. I blame the Pioneer Woman, mostly. She had a recipe in her cookbook for Migas, which I decided I would hack, because I didn’t have the patience to fry my own tortillas, and I don’t do cilantro. As I was reading it over, I realized with a start that here was the thing I’d been hoping for all my life! A recipe for Essex’s Mexican Matzo Brei!! I ran to assemble the ingredients, and started cooking.

adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks and Essex restaurant

1. Assemble your cast of characters: 1 bag of tortilla chips, 6 eggs, Shredded “taco” cheese, 1 red bell pepper, 1 jalapeno pepper, 1 fryer pepper(aka cubanelle), 1 tomato, 1 red onion.

2. Dice 1/2 the red onion, 1 red bell pepper, and 1/2 the fryer pepper very finely and evenly. Heat up 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, and add the red onion and peppers. Cook until they are brown, but NOT sweated- we want crunch, not mush.

3. Beat the eggs with  1/4-1/2 cup of milk, salt, and pepper. Crush 2-3 big handfuls of tortilla chips until they’re roughly 1/2 inch squares, not to powder.

4. Chop up 1 tomato and 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed (unless you want the heat) and add the tortilla chips and jalapenos to the skillet. Stir, cook for about 30 seconds, and add the tomatoes.

5. Add the eggs, folding gently to cook the eggs without smashing things up or turning them to mush. When they’re mostly set to your liking (I like mine pretty soft), sprinkle with shredded cheese and try not to drool.

I also served these with some Tasty Black Beans, which I’m premiering later this week on this blog, and some chunky guacamole. While it’s no replacement for Essex, and I’d rather go drink mimosas and not have to wash the dishes after, (not to mention eating a pre-brunch cupcake if the line is long at Essex), I really enjoy knowing that I can have Mexican Matzo-Brei anytime my little heart desires!

Try this, and tell me about YOUR favorite brunch dishes! Maybe we can have an at-home brunch revolution!

Gourmet, Unbound: February

Posted: January 30, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Gourmet Unbound, Johanna | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

My friends, I am back with another recipe for Gourmet, Unbound. IN case you can’t remember, a few food bloggers started a project where bloggers from around the world would cook and write about a recipe from Gourmet’s illustrious back catalogue, once per month. I missed out on the January submissions because hey, the holidays happened, and my life went crazy for 2 weeks. But I’m back with a February Submission that screamed out “COOK ME” as soon as I came across it on Epicurious.

Roast Chicken with Mashed Potato Stuffing and Roasted VegetablesGourmet February 1994.

When this issue of Gourmet ran, I was 9 years old. I was working my way through the 4th grade, and I was blissfully unaware of what would someday become my passion. Well, sort of. My favorite passages in the Little House on the Prairie books were the ones where Laura Ingalls Wilder described the food they would cook and serve. I would grudgingly endure back-to-back episodes of This Old House and New Yankee Workshop in order to get to The Frugal Gourmet on PBS on Sunday evenings. I knew there was something about food that was enthralling to me, but I had no idea that its actual creation would one day have so much meaning and importance to me. The most I did at 9 in the kitchen was set the table, and occasionally flip the French Toast. I was just reaching the “terrifyingly clumsy” stage of my life, where letting me crack an egg was bound to be a mess, I bruised my hip on every doorknob in the house, and I knocked over everything in my path.* So cooking, and reading Gourmet, were not on my radar, so much.

A few notes about this recipe:
#1 – I believe that the supreme being of the universe created potatoes SOLELY so they could be turned into mashed potatoes. I would rather eat a potato mashed than any other way there is, including in latke form and  in soup. There is one supreme mashed potato in my life, and that is my mom’s mashed potatoes. All the rest are a distant second best, and I just need to take one more chance to shout out how great they are, and thank her for making them for me when I’m home. I love you Mom, AND your tatoes.
#2 – I love roast chicken and very rarely follow a “recipe” when I make it. I’m more of a “method” kind of gal. But whenever you are stuffing the cavity of a bird with something you intend to eat, it is very very important to follow all guidelines for cooking times and temperatures, and also to make sure that your bird is fully defrosted before you stuff it.
#3 – My grocery store doesn’t carry parsnips, or celery root. So I roasted my chicken on top of my 12 shallots, and 2 heads of garlic, along with 4 cut up carrots, 3 or 4 cut up celery stalks, and some turnips. And it was great. I’m going to use the leftovers to enrich some stock that I’m making later today. I also didn’t have a shallow roasting pan with a rack. So I just sat the chicken in the pan for the first 30 minutes, breast down. Then I sat the chicken on top of the veggies for the rest of the cooking time, and it all went fine.
#4 – This is not your go-to weeknight roast chicken. That chicken is the one you rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stuff some butter and herbs under the skin, shove a lemon and half an onion and some rosemary into the cavity, and roast breast down in a hot pan for 20 minutes, breast up in a hot pan for 20 minutes, breast down again for 10, and then until it reaches temperature breast up.
This chicken takes time. You have to make garlic mashed potatoes by boiling garlic and potatoes together and then smashing them with milk and butter and herbs and yum. And then you have to stuff them into the chicken’s cavity, and roast the chicken breast down in a cold pan, and then add some root veggies and sit the chicken on top of them  and roast until the thigh makes your probe thermometer beep at 180.

And then, you get to eat the chicken, and the chickeny garlicky mashed potatoes. And the veggies. And everything else. And it. is. goood.

*Somewhere along the line over the last 16 years, I grew up and mostly out of the clumsy stage. And I would love the chance to head back to where my clumsy dropsy skinny 9-year-old self sat, and tell  her not to worry, sweetheart. You’ll figure it all out. And you’ll find something you love, that truly fulfills you. Just hang on. And don’t worry about the bruised hipbones. That stops too.

Quicky Pickles

Posted: January 12, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I love fennel. It’s one of those vegetables that I only came across during the summer, when I was making tilapia en papillote for the first time. We had tilapia en papillote again this past week, and for some fortuitous reason, Fresh Direct sent me two bulbs of Fennel instead of one!!

While wondering what to do with my extra fennel, I contemplated braising, and adding it to a slow-cooked pork shoulder, and in the end, none of them seemed quite right for my extra fennel bulb. And then, last night, I had an epiphany.
One always has some sort of pickled something when eating barbeque. It’s like, a rule. So, while trying to figure out exactly how I’d convert the huge hunk of pig still sitting in my fridge into a variety of dinners and backup items, I figured it out. Quick-pickled fennel!!!

A cursory internet search brought me to a recipe I proceeded to destroy and turn into my own. Based on what was in the cabinets and the fridge, I created my own sweet-spicy Fennel Fridge Pickles!!

1 bulb of fennel, cored and cut into thin rounds or matchsticks, fronds reserved.
1 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon corriander seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all the ingredients except the fennel in a pot, and stir to dissolve the salt and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, and simmer for 3 minutes.
Put your fennel pieces, and the fronds, into a pie plate or a heatproof bowl.
Pour the pickling liquid over the fennel and fronds, and let sit for 3 hours, minimum.
I transferred mine to a clean pint jar, in the fridge, so that it could both stay cool and continue to get the flavors all happy. Remember, these jars aren’t being processed, so they MUST be refrigerated, and vinegar or no, this shit WILL start to go bad eventually. So eat them within a week or two, I’d say.

If they last that long!!

Johanna: The Improviser

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

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.