Thursday, December 30, 2010

marinated green olives

If you plan to spend this New Year's Eve holed up in a cozy apartment, tucked away from the inclement weather with your cat or with a few select loved ones, this small plate will liven up your environs. These marinated olives make a great tapas to serve along with some red wine and rustic bread. The lemon slices add a festive and colorful accent to the dish that makes the olives look even more enticing.

1 cup pitted green olives, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, thinly sliced and then quartered
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano

Combine the oil, garlic, and oregano in a small bowl. Add the lemon slices, muddling some of the juices in the oil as you do so. Add the olives and mix. Allow the olives to marinate for a few hours before serving, mixing them in the juices every so often.

Monday, December 27, 2010

emily's christmas tart

Mirabella's Auntie Emily made this stunning fruit tart for Christmas and I thought it was so beautiful I had to post her recipe here. I'm sure it was delicious, too, by the sound of the ingredients, and wish I could have shared it with her!

This tart just looks so fresh, sweet, and full of dynamic, contrasting flavors. The filling is made of almonds, and the exotic melange of fruits she used includes kiwis, berries, and apples. I love the way the raspberry sauce glistens in the light, intensifying the dazzling array of colors produced by the fruits and berries. It reminds me of some enchanted dish from a fairy tale.

Auntie Emily studying her medicine books with Princess Mirabella
For the crust:
6 T butter
1 T oil
3 T water
pinch of salt
1 to 1.5 c flour
4 T sugar

For the filling:
1 c ground almonds
1/2 c sugar
1-2 thinly sliced granny smith apples
1 c mixed berries
2 thinly sliced kiwis
2 T butter
2 T lemon juice
3 T raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 400. Heat butter, oil, salt, and water in a pan until the butter melts. Set aside to cool. Add 1 cup of the flour and all the sugar to the butter mixture, mix in and then add more flour slowly until the dough forms a ball that doesn't stick to the pan.

Press dough into a 9-inch pie pan. Put in the oven for 5-8 min until crust is lightly brown. Remove and let cool.

Combine the ground almonds and 1/4 c sugar and place into bottom of tart crust. Arrange the fruit on top. Sprinkle with another 1/4 c sugar and 1 T lemon juice to moisten and keep the fruit fresh.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

Combine jam and 1 T lemon juice in a small pan and heat. Brush over the top of the baked tart. Let it cool before cutting, and enjoy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

coconut-almond treasures

I've always been crazy about the combination of coconut and almonds. Almond Joy candy bars and marzipan dipped in chocolate were the inspirations for this homemade candy.

1 cup almonds
2 tbl agave
1/4 cup coconut, shredded
2 cups chocolate chips (I used 60% dark, but feel free to use whatever you prefer)

You will also need:
12 cupcake liners
cupcake pan
double boiler

Place 12 cupcake liners in a cupcake pan. Heat 1 cup of chocolate in a double boiler until melted. Spoon a layer of chocolate into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Refrigerate the cupcake tray until chocolate hardens, about 45 minutes.

In the meantime, blend the almonds until they have the consistency of almond meal (about five seconds). Pour into a mixing bowl. Add the agave and mix to form a paste. If the consistency is too dry, add a tablespoon or so of water. Finally, add the shredded coconuts and mix.

When the chocolate is hard, remove the cupcake tray from the refrigerator and top each piece of chocolate with the almond-coconut mixture, as shown below. Spread the mixture evenly across the chocolate using a spoon.

Heat the remaining chocolate in a double boiler. Once the chocolate has melted, spread it in a thin layer over the almond paste.

Return the cupcake tray to the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens. When the candies are ready, carefully remove the cupcake liners and store the chocolates in the fridge.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

krupnik / polish honey vodka

As far as I can tell there's really no reason not to infuse vodka. Raspberries, lemons, cherries - any of these fruits make a magical vodka infusion, but I think among all the varieties of flavored vodka, krupnik, or honey vodka, is my favorite.

Krupnik is served hot as a traditional Christmas cordial in Poland, but it also makes a refreshing summer drink served cold or over ice. It's an excellent way to turn a mediocre bottle of vodka into a smooth, celebratory drink. I usually buy an inexpensive bottle like Svedka. There's no need to splurge here - the vodka will taste great once it mingles with the honey and spices.

I think Princess Mirabella wants to be a Svedka model because she kept striking poses around the bottle.

2 cups honey
2 cups water
6 cinnamon sticks
10 cloves
1/4 t ground nutmeg
peel of 1 orange
1 t vanilla
5 cups of vodka
cheesecloth (optional)

Simmer all ingredients except vodka in a covered pot for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Return to heat, bring to a boil, and add vodka. Remove from heat immediately after vodka has been added.

Cool the mixture. Once it is room temperature, you may strain it through the cheesecloth. (This step is only necessary if you want the vodka to be clear and uniform. It's perfectly fine to serve the vodka with the spices and orange peel still in it.)

To serve hot:
Reheat the strained liquid, ladle into mugs.

To serve cold or over ice:
Once the vodka has cooled, store it in the freezer. I keep mine in a big mason jar. The vodka tastes best if it's been stored in the freezer for a couple of weeks so that the flavors have time to really blend.

Na zdrovie! Wszystkiego najlepszego w nowym roky!

Monday, December 20, 2010

rigatoni with goat cheese, mint, and peas

A friend of mine recently started a goat farm in the Connecticut countryside, and after a recent visit I came back to New York with more raw goat cheese than I knew what to do with.

In an effort to consume it all I've been adding it to everything I eat and have come up with some exciting results. The following recipe combines the mild, tangy flavor of goat cheese with the bright flavor of mint. This is a great way to use up extra mint if you have some lying around.

I like to call this "inside-out ravioli," because the taste of the sauce reminds me of a ravioli stuffing. The peas hide in and peek out of the rigatoni and the addition of the mint results in a beautiful dish. The goat cheese makes the sauce taste rich, but because I used low-fat milk the sauce feels light and fresh.

4 cups of pasta

For the sauce
2 cloves garlic 
1 tbl butter or olive oil
1/2 cup milk (use whole milk or cream if you want a thicker sauce)
2 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup peas
1/2 bunch of fresh mint
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper

shredded parmesan cheese (to garnish)

Cook the pasta according to the directions. In the mean time, mince the garlic and the mint.

When the pasta is almost ready, sauté the garlic over medium heat in a sauce pan with oil or butter for about three minutes.

Add the milk and the goat cheese, mashing the goat cheese against the pan. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick you want the sauce. (The sauce will not thicken very much if you use low-fat milk, so if you want a thicker, richer sauce, go for whole milk or cream.)

When the pasta is ready, strain into a colander and add to the sauce, along with the frozen peas. Stir until the pasta absorbs the sauce. Remove the mixture from the saucepan and add the mint.

Divide evenly into two bowls, garnishing each portion with a generous serving of parmesan cheese, and serve.

(serves 2)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

açaí na tigela / açaí bowl

I first had açaí na tigela at a small Brazilian cafe in Everett, Massachusetts. It was a delightful experience. I'd had açaí juice before, but I wasn't expecting its frozen, blended form to be so incredibly tasty. The crunch of the granola adds a surprisingly complementary texture to the refreshingly icy-but-smooth consistency of the fruit. The result is something an exotic version of a yogurt parfait. Serve for breakfast or as a dessert.

4 packs of frozen açaí pulp
1 frozen banana
a handful of frozen strawberries (optional)
a splash of orange juice (or any tropical juice)

For the topping
chocolate coconut almond granola (or whatever kind you like)
1 banana, sliced
a few strawberries, sliced (optional)

Cut each açaí pack in half. Blend the pulp with the frozen bananas, strawberries, and juice until the mixture is smooth.

Divide the mixture evenly into 2 bowls and top each serving with granola, half of a sliced banana, a generous drizzle of honey, and fresh strawberries if desired.

(serves 2)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

fig & prosciutto pizza

This recipe was inspired by Figs' signature pizza. I love this combination of sweet figs and salty prosciutto. As you can see from the absorbed look on my dad's face, it's completely delicious:

The recipe is simple. You can adjust proportions according to your taste.

whole wheat lavash
fig spread
prosciutto (thinly sliced)
balsamic vinegar

Spread the fig spread over the lavash and crumble the gorgonzola over it. Toast in the oven or toaster until the cheese has melted. Set on a serving plate and place a layer of prosciutto over the top. Garnish with long slices of scallions and drizzle with a little balsamic.

sesame ice cream

I first had sesame ice cream at Matsuri in Paris, a magical dream-come-true restaurant where sushi revolves around a conveyer belt before your very eyes. When I started searching for recipes, I mostly came across French- or custard-style approaches, which involve slowly heating raw eggs in order to create a thick custard base. I tried a few of these recipes with disastrous results. The eggs cooked too fast and I just couldn't get the consistency right. The actual frozen end product actually tasted good once you got over the frozen-then-blended omelette texture, but I prefer this simple Philadelphia-style no-egg recipe that I came up with.

1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cream
1 cup whole milk

Toast the sesame seeds in a fry pan. Make sure you don't burn them - when they start to smell aromatic you know they are ready.

Blend the toasted sesame seeds with the sugar, cream, and milk until smooth. Refrigerate for an hour and then freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions. Sprinkle with sesame seeds when serving.

miso-glazed eggplant

This dish was my attempt at recreating Nobu's "eggplant with miso." Far from what Nobu's pricey menu would have you believe, this sweet, salty miso sauce is actually easy and inexpensive to make and tastes delicious spread over eggplant, pan-fried tofu, and honestly anything you desire. I usually serve this dish with soba noodles, but it could also be served alongside rice, tofu, and broccoli, or as a side to a main dish.

1 large eggplant
2 tbl sesame oil

For the sauce
4 oz mirin (or rice vinegar)
4 oz sake
4 tbl miso
3 tbl sugar

For the garnish
sesame seeds

Bring 4 oz of miso mirin to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and add the miso, stirring until blended. Return to a boil. Add sugar and simmer until the sauce caramelizes. Remove from heat.

While the sauce cools, slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat oil in a skillet and add eggplant. Sprinkle with salt and stir-fry until soft. Add more oil (or soy sauce) as needed.

Fold the sauce into the eggplant. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions and serve.