Monday, April 30, 2012

North Fork Bounty - Farmers Market Veggie Pasta

Our recent trip to the North Fork of Long Island was just the thing to inspire some light, farm to table spring dishes. 

For just a brief weekend jaunt, we got a lot done. 

A trip to one of our favorite Long Island wineries,  

Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue, NY, Photo: NK

followed in close succession by the purchase of several bottles of our favorite buttery Chard:

Peconic Bay Chardonnay - La Barrique, 2009, Photo: NK

Next, a quick game of mini golf then lunch at a really yummy retro-diner. Lobster roll, please!

The Modern Snack Bar, Aquebogue, NY, Photo: NK

But our day would not have been complete without several stops at the North Fork's numerous farm stands.

Photo: NK

Most everything looked delicious, but a few veggies really stood out. 

The Take:
MUSHROOMS - Maitake (also known as Hen of the Woods) and Beech Mushrooms

Photo: NK 

Beech and Maitake Mushroom Varieties, Photo: NK

I've been wanting to check out Spring Garlic for some time now. Also known as Green Garlic, Spring Garlic is basically garlic in a younger state that is harvested prior to maturity. It will include a large green stalk and look a bit like a leek or majorly overgrown scallion. Both the bulb end and the greens are edible and can be cooked in the same manner you would a leek or scallion. Spring Garlic is generally milder and less pronounced in flavor than regular garlic, yet a bit more pungent than green onions or scallions.

Now for the challenge:
To create a light pasta dish using all my farm fresh produce, and maybe give me an excuse to open my Chardonnay :) 

Here's what I came up with:

Whole Wheat Fusilli, Spring Garlic, Mushrooms, Asparagus Coins & Oven Dried Tomatoes
Loosely adapted from the FruitGuys Almanac
Serves 2 

1/2 Lb Whole Wheat Fusilli or other pasta of your choice
2 large stalks of Spring Garlic
5-7 Ounces Mixed Fancy Mushrooms (we used Beech and Hen of the Woods aka Maitake) 
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon salted Butter
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons White Wine
4 Tablespoons minced Chives plus several whole Chives reserved for garnish. 
1 pinch Crushed Red Pepper Flake 
Kosher Salt, 1 Tablespoon for pasta water plus more for seasoning
Black Pepper
Optional pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated

*Asparagus Coins (Optionally prepare ahead, recipe below)
*Oven Dried Tomatoes ( Make at least one day ahead, recipe below)

Before you begin, prepare your Asparagus Coins (the day before or day of) and set aside the Oven Dried Tomatoes you prepared the day before. Recipes for both are listed if you scroll all the way down. 

Set a large pasta pot to boil with 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt. Once boiling, prepare Pasta according to the box instructions.

Chop the white bulb ends of the Spring Garlic off. Mince the white bulbs until you have about 2 Tablespoons. Now, slice the green part of the stalks crosswise into rings until you have about 3 Tablespoons. Set aside 1 Tablespoon of the green parts to use as garnish when the dish is complete.

Spring Garlic, Photo: NK

In a saute pan, heat 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil and 1 Tablespoon Butter over medium flame until Butter is melted. Add 2 Tablespoons minced Garlic (white parts) and 2 Tablespoons Sliced Garlic stalk (green parts). Saute until garlic becomes aromatic, about 2 minutes, taking care not to let the garlic burn. Add Mushrooms and Wine and sauté over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms have softened and have created some moisture. Turn off the heat. 

When Pasta has cooked, drain fully (reserving some cooking liquid) and return to pasta pot. To the pasta pot, stir in the Mushrooms, Lemon Juice, Minced Chives, and one or two Tablespoons of reserved Pasta Water. Toss the contents well and season generously with Salt and Pepper to taste. Add the optional Crushed Red Pepper. Finally, stir in the Oven Dried Tomatoes and Asparagus Coins. 

To serve, scoop pasta into bowls, sprinkle with grated parmesan and the reserved garlic greens you set aside. Optionally garnish with a few whole chives. 

Whole Wheat Fusilli with Spring Garlic, Mushrooms, Asparagus & Oven Dried Tomatoes, Photo: NK

*Asparagus Coins
Serves 2
6-8 stalks of Asparagus, bottoms trimmed, tops cut off. 

Asparagus Coins, Photo: NK
Simply line stalks up and slice them into 1/4 inch coins.  
To cook, toss in boiling water for 60 seconds before draining and blanching in cold water. 
Season as desired.

Can be prepared up to 2 days ahead and stored in the fridge in an air-tight container. You can even skip the cooking and serve raw if you like. 

Asparagus coins are great in pastas, mixed into rice, or even as an addition to soups and salads.

*Oven Dried Tomatoes
2 Servings 
1 Lb or more medium or large Tomatoes of your choice, for this recipe Plum or Campari would work best.
Tomatoes Ready to Cook, Photo: NK
Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 250. 
Slice Tomatoes to about 1/4 or 1/3 inch thick. Just be sure to keep them uniformly thick. 
Place Tomatoes on a wire rack over a baking sheet with sides.
Drizzle with olive oil and top with salt, a small pinch of sugar, and black pepper.
Cook for 2.5 to 3 hours until dried and wrinkled. 

Can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. They will lose some of their dryness but will still taste delicious. 

Wonderful tossed into pastas, as a pizza topping, delicious on their own, or even as a crostini or sandwich topping. Can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. They will lose some of their dryness but will still taste delicious. 

Oven Dried Tomatoes, Photo: NK

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Dinner Sandwich - Ribeye with Fried Egg, Mixed Mushrooms, & Parsley Vinaigrette

Americans just love them. And for good reason. Just the other day a major discussion broke out in my office on the subject of the many virtues of the Turkey Sandwich. The participants, myself included, were impassioned. The conversation got me thinking. Sandwiches really are pretty wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I should dedicate my next blog post to them.

As luck would have it, I own a cookbook dedicated totally to sandwiches. It happens also to be penned by the man that among many other culinary achievements, has elevated sandwich-making to an art: Tom Colicchio. 

Photo: NK 

Sure, Tom's a celebrity chef, but a legit one. His original restaurant, Craft, remains one of our favorite places to go for a fancy occasion. Watching Top Chef was and still is a ritual in our house, so several years ago when I heard that Tom would be signing his new sandwich cookbook, 'wichcraft, at our local Williams Sonoma, I got ready to stand in line for the perfect gift for the future Mr.NK.

'wichcraft is a book worth owning if you're serious about sandwiches and want to invest a bit of time in them. The recipes can be intense, even a little complicated, but if you're looking for a standout meal-worthy sandwich or just to jazz up an everyday American classic like the PB&J, it's really worth a look. The photos alone are inspiring, and as with many cookbooks that I love, it serves as a great jumping off point for many adaptations. The recipes can also be naturally simplified using store-bought components.

Photo: NK 
The book signing was quite a funny scene. As you can see, I requested that Mr. Colicchio and his collaborator, Sisha Ortuzar, autograph the book using a certain someone's pet name. Chef Who?, Tom asked with furrowed brow, looking on the verge of mild annoyance. KO-A-LA, I clarified.  Thankfully, Both men very graciously obliged, despite my ridiculousness. Autographs - check! Shame myself in front of lovably ornery celebrity chef - double check! 

Today, we'll be ever-so-slightly adapting Tom's wonderful recipe for Skirt Steak with Fried Egg, Oyster Mushrooms, and Parsley Vinaigrette, as featured in the 'wichcraft cookbook. Splurge on a quality steak for this one. We're using Ribeye because, well, it's my fave. One good sized cut of meat will go a long way here. And as always, all foods are better with a runny egg on top of them.

Ribeye Sandwich with Fried Egg, Mixed Mushrooms, And Parsley Vinaigrette
Adapted from Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortuzar's 'wichcraft cookbook 
Serves 3

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon minced Garlic - we used milder Elephant Garlic, but regular is just fine
8 ounces pre-packaged mixed mushrooms - we used Baby Bellas, Oyster & Shitake varieties
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
1 Lb Ribeye, preferably grass fed, brought to room temperature
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
3 Eggs, preferably free range, organic
3 Ciabatta Rolls or other soft but sturdy bread
*2-3 Tablespoons Parsley Vinaigrette - Recipe Below

*Parsley Vinaigrette
Recipe by Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortuzar
Yield - 1/2 Cup

Text From 'wichcraft Book, Photo: NK

To Make the Vinaigrette:

Combine ingredients in a bowl until fully incorporated. 
Parsley vinaigrette can be made ahead and will keep in the fridge for about four days. 

Parsley Vinaigrette, Photo: NK

To Make the Sandwiches: 

Set your Parsley Vinaigrette aside.
Add Oil and Garlic to your skillet and heat over medium flame.
When garlic becomes aromatic, add the Mixed Mushrooms and cook about five minutes until tender and browned.
Oyster Mushrooms, Photo: NK

Remove Mushrooms from the heat and place in a large bowl. Pour in the Parsley Vinaigrette and stir together to incorporate. Set aside.

Mushroom and Parsley Mixture, Photo: NK

Season the meat on both sides using Kosher Salt and Pepper. Heat a grill pan to Medium High and add the meat. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side to bring it to a perfect medium rare.
Remove Steak from the grill and set over the bowl with the Mushroom and Parsley Mixture. Tom is ingenious, by the way. We do this so that the Steak juices combine with the Mushroom and Vinaigrette. Cover Steak and bowl with foil to keep warm.

Ribeye over Mushroom and Vinaigrette, Photo: NK

Using a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter.
Once butter is hot, add your eggs, one for every sandwich you are making. 
Flip eggs carefully half way through the cooking to seal the top a bit. You want the yolks to be runny in the middle yet set around the edges. Season with Salt and Pepper and remove to a plate. 

Take your Steak and thinly slice the meat against the grain.

Cut the Ciabatta rolls in half and scoop a bit of the bread from the top half.   

To Assemble: 
Lay slices of meat across the bottom half of the bread. 
Top with Mushroom and Parsley Vinaigrette Mixture.

Top the Steak with the Mushroom and Vinaigrette Mixture, Photo: NK

Finish with an Egg on top of it all.

Close the sandwiches and slice in half. 

Photo: NK 

Here it is, ready to go.   

Photo: NK 

I must say, the result was incredibly delicious. The grass-fed Ribeye was amazingly tender, the Ciabatta, soft but sturdy, and the parsley and mushroom mixture added just the right amount of mild, fresh flavor with a hint of vinegar to cut the richness. Try it, and enjoy this and all your dinner sandwich adventures. 

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ingredient Spotlight - Seared Scallops with Orange Beurre Blanc

Beurre Blanc:
A staple of haute cuisine. Fancy, tasty, yet oh so easy.
Photo: NK 
Master this accessible technique and your recipes will get oohs and ahhs in a jiffy. Beurre Blanc, or French emulsified butter sauce with white wine (plus lots of other goodness), is a component that adds luxury and rich, concentrated flavor to many dishes. Healthy it's not, but who doesn't love a heavenly butter sauce with a fancy-sounding french name? It really is as delicious as you might imagine.

Today's beurre blanc gets a twist from tangy oranges and ginger, making it a perfect foil to sweet, sautéed and gorgeously browned scallops. On the side - vibrant green cauliflower simply boiled until fork tender with a hint of lemon, salt and pepper. Pea shoots round out the meal with a fresh, springy flavor and bright green flourish to enhance the presentation. Here's how to execute this easy, delicious, and impressive dinner: 

Sauteed Scallops with Orange Beurre Blance, Pea Shoots and Green Cauliflower
Serves 2

Orange Beurre Blanc
Adapted from Beau McMillan's Recipe - The Food Network

1/2 Cup dry White Wine
1 Tablespoon Sherry Cooking Wine
1 1/2 Shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried Ginger Powder or fresh chopped Ginger
1 small Bay Leaf
1 stick Unsalted Butter, cut into small slices
1/8 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 cup Orange Juice
1 teaspoon grated Orange zest

In a medium sauce pan over high heat, combine wine, sherry, shallots, ginger and they bay leaf. Allow to boil and reduce until consistency is syrupy 

Add the cream and cook until mixture reduces slightly more. 

Turn the heat to medium low and remove the bay leaf. 

Mix in each pat of butter slowly, one by one, taking care not to let the sauce come to a boil.

When all the butter has been stirred in, add the orange juice. 

Beurre Blanc with an Orange Twist, Photo: NK

Keep the sauce warm on the lowest possible heat, stirring occasionally. 

When ready to serve, strain solids out of the butter sauce and drizzle over desired protein.

Next up, prepare the cauliflower followed by the seared Scallops:

Fork-Tender Green Cauliflower
Serves 2-3
1 head of Green Cauliflower
1 1/2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
White or Black Pepper 
Gorgeous Green Cauliflower, Photo: NK
Boil generously salted water in a medium to large sauce pan. 
When boiling, add the cauliflower florets and lemon juice.
Cook until fork-tender, 5-7 minutes, strain, and add a dash of salt and pepper to season.

Seared Scallops 
Serves 2

1 Lb Dry Sea Scallops
1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Trim the muscle off the side of the scallops. 
Rinse with water and then pat until thoroughly dried.
Add the butter and oil into a large sauté pan over very high heat. 
Season the scallops with salt and pepper, and add to the pan once the butter and oil begin smoking. 
Sear the scallops for 2 minutes on each side, creating a nice crust on each end. 
Remove from pan and serve immediately. 

To Finish:
Plate scallops and drizzle with beurre blanc. Garnish with Pea Shoots or other micro-greens, sliced Oranges, and serve alongside the green cauliflower. 


Seared Scallops with Orange Beurre Blanc, Pea Shoots, and Tender Green Cauliflower, Photo: NK

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Easter Hors D'Oeuvres - French Cheese & Charcuterie Plate

Life comes with disappointments. Business deals fall apart, recipes don't work.
You know what's never let me down? A cheese plate.
I've mentioned cheese plates before on NK. I love them. So today, they'll be another one. They never get old. For a refresher of some principles for a winning cheese plate, go here: Cheese Plate How To

French Cheese and Charcuterie Plate Part 1, Photo: NK

For more Easter Dishes including some easy Sides, Salads, and Appetizers, visit NK's latest recipe collection HERE. 

I was bummed this past Friday. I had the day off to get ready for our Easter holiday but It didn't go as planned. My attempt to sleep late was unsuccessful, and I woke up to some stinky work news on my blackberry. Something that I'd been working on for months had fallen to pieces. Not out of the ordinary for my day job, but this was supposed to be my happy day!

Since my mother in law would be cooking for Easter, which happens to be my favorite holiday of the year, all I had to bring was hors d'oeuvres. Grumpy or not, ingredient shopping and prepping were to be the day's mission.

Lovely Easter Tablescape by Mr. NK's Mom! Photo: NK

More than any other culture, I associate the French with cheese, and France has been on my mind lately as the husband and I will be traveling there in May. It'll be my third time and his second. I went when I was ten and again at twenty. Seems that each decade I like to make a pilgrimage, although I am admittedly, a bit late. I loved France both visits, but I feel as if I will appreciate it even more now that I'm older. On the itinerary: a short stay in Paris, a day in Normandy, several days in a cute little town in the Loire Valley, and lots of fromage, to be sure. 

So it only stood to reason that my cheese plate, this year's hors d'oeuvre offering, should be French. As I headed out to buy the ingredients, my foul mood was soon turned upside down.
Seems our little town had come into full bloom just over night:

Spring has definitely sprung! 

Some of the Cheese and Charcuterie Plate Ingredients, Photo: NK
Charcuterie, Part Deux - Pate, Pickles and Grainy Mustard, Photo: NK

French Cheese & Charcuterie Plate

Choose 3 or more types of cheese - Cow, Goat and Sheep
We used: 
Boucheron - Runny Goat, minimal tanginess & pleasant salinity

Ossau Iraty - Firm Mild Sheep's milk from the French Pyrenees
Saint Nectaire - Earthy Tasting Washed Rind Cow's milk

And now for the rest:

Saucisson Sec - French Dried Sausage similar to Soppressata, we like D'Artagnan Brand

Blackberry Jam - goes nicely with the Ossau Iraty, we prefer Bonne Maman brand

Country Pate, also known as Pate de Campagne, a rustic-style chunky pate

Pate Accompaniments:
Frisee is Pretty, Photo: NK
Cornichon Pickles, for the pate

Grainy Mustard, for the pate

Fruit, Starches, and Garnishes:
Grain Bread or Rye, for the pate

Dried Fruit, we used Turkish Apricots

Forelle Pears, because they are gorgeous 

Grapes - for taste, color and height

Crackers - nothing beats Carr's brand

Crusty French Baguette sliced thin

Frisee Lettuce and Parsley 

Design: Half the fun of a cheese plate is styling it. Experiment with varying heights and colors, and always be sure to let your creativity run wild. 

Next up, a delicious Tuna Tapenade Spread for alongside my cheese and charcuterie plate. With tuna, capers, and olives - a trinity of some of my favorite flavors - this spread reminds me of a the components of a very French Nicoise salad, or as my husband cutely pronounces it, A ni-co-ees salad

Ina Garten's Tuna Tapenade with Endives and Sliced Radishes, Photo: NK

Here's the link for the recipe: Crostini With Tuna Tapenade
We served this with endive leaves and sliced radishes because we already had a lot of bread and cracker action going on.


I hope the joys of spring put a smile on all of your faces.
And when in doubt, just eat cheese!

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A Note to Readers

Hi All, 
There have been issues with the blog notification emails of late. If you've not been receiving your weekly post notifications, you may want to try to resubscribe by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the page to the "subscribe by email" field. From there, you will be emailed a confirmation which you must click on. Keep in mind, this confirmation may go to your spam folder. Thanks!  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Restaurant Inspiration - Smoked Salmon & Goat Cheese Toasts over Field Greens

What inspires your recipe ideas?

For me, inspiration comes from so many sources. 
These days, places like Pinterest are a visual treasure trove of food ideas. It took me all of three minutes on the site to become fully obsessed. Of course, other blogs offer amazing ideas daily, and when I am feeling old fashioned, I like to page through my cookbooks, ideally while eating food and watching the Food Channel at the same time. 
Inspiration supercharged.

A Few Of My Favorites, Photo: NK
Photo: NK

Then there will always be my old standby food mags - Every Day Food and Food and Wine are favorites. Gourmet is great when I'm looking for something fancy schmancy.

But by far, my favorite place to gleen inspiration is in restaurants and at other people's tables.

See, I'm a menu snatcher. I grab takeout menus everywhere I go. The best are those that not only list the dish, but include most of the recipe components as well. If something catches my eye, I'll sample it and then take note of the ingredients so I can adapt them on my own.

Today's dinner is wonderful salad inspired by the cute little modern Italian restaurant, Bruschetteria, on Rivington street in the Lower East Side. 

Bruschetteria is a favorite of mine because it offers simple and fresh small plates. It was on a  trip there some years ago that I first tried their Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese on Toast Points over Arugula, Capers, Red Onions, with a Lemon Vinaigrette. I enjoyed it so much that I've been making it ever since. I may be a bit biased because anything with smoked salmon, capers and red onion always makes me a happy woman. 

The adaptations I've made to this dish over the years are largely to husband-proof it. To give you an idea, the first time I made it, the Mr. asked where the rest of his dinner was. He's a peach, right? 

Next time, I added an avocado to make it heartier. He also groans when I give him a salad with only arugula. He'll eat arugula mixed with other greens, but alone, he doesn't like it - "too peppery", he says. I now do a mix of field greens with extra bread on the side - just in case he's still hungry.   

This weekend, after totally overindulging at Easter, we were both ready for something light. When you're feeling the same, this salad makes a great dinner. It's also super as an elegant luncheon dish. Maybe one of these days I will have reason to hold an "elegant luncheon," but to date, I have yet to do so. :)  

Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese on Toast Over Greens, Capers, Olives & Red Onions
Serves 2 - Inspired by Bruschetteria NYC 

What You'll Need:
4 Ounces Organic Mixed Greens
4 Ounces Smoked Salmon - preferably Wild Alaskan 
1/4 Large Red Onion, sliced thinly into half moons
1 teaspoon Capers plus more for Salmon Toasts
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
2 Lemon wedges for serving plus extra for squeezing
1 teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Ripe Hass Avocado, cut in half, pitted and flesh scored into cubes
10 Kalamata Olives, sliced
3 Ounces good quality Goat Cheese, preferably Boucheron, at room temperature
4 medium slices Russian Rye or bread of your choice, toasted

What To Do:

Cut Bread into four even slices, set in toaster. 

Next, place your Salad Greens into a Large Bowl.

Cut Onions thinly into Half Moons. Toss them into the salad greens, setting aside some of the slices to top the Salmon Toasts.

Next, slice each Avocado half in a crosshatch pattern as below. Run your knife along the skin all around to separate flesh. Leave Avocado in the skin until ready to use, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then top with a big squeeze of Lemon.

Ripe Hass Avocados - So Tasty, Photo: NK
To make dressing, toss 1 teaspoon of Capers in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon Olive Oil and 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice. Mix, crushing some of the Capers a bit with a fork to release their flavor. Set aside.

Pop Bread in the toaster oven to toast lightly. 

Toss chopped Olives into the bowl with the Salad Greens and pour on the Dressing. Toss thoroughly to distribute ingredients and dress. 

Next, place Avocado on top of Greens.

Remove Toast from the toaster and spread each slice with a good amount of Goat Cheese. 
Top each slice with a few pieces of Smoked Salmon, extra Capers, a few slices of Red Onion from what was set aside, and another big squeeze of Lemon Juice. 

To plate, serve 2 Salmon Toasts per dish. Perch them atop the salad greens. Serve with extra Lemon wedges. 


Finished Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Toasts over Field Greens, Photo: NK

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